Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Vintage Christmas Swap

The mail truck delivered a parcel to my door this morning. The box was chock full of treasures from Caleen. What fun I had opening each parcel. The goodness just kept coming - vintage ornaments, an old Christmas book, trims, a darling angel, stockings, and a cute snowman. I oohed and aahed over each item and will tuck them away to use next year.

Sometimes Canada Post is a little slow in getting mail delivered. Receiving this post-Christmas present is great and I'm already thinking about how to use these items next year!

Thank you, Caleen.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Cute Packages

I like to share homemade baking with people - my physiotherapist, the neighbours, etc. And I like to give an assortment, but I really hate all the cookies mixed together on a plate. To me, they soon start to taste all the same. I guess that could be solved by eating them all quickly, before they have time to absorb the other flavours!

This year, I made little packages of cookies, just 4 or 5 in small glassine bags. I folded the ends in, then put a strip of printed paper around each one - here I used red gingham paper, but fabric would work, too. A simple label finished them off. My physiotherapist said, "oh, it looks Christmassy, but also like a picnic!"
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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Merry and Bright

What a Christmas! It was full of tender moments, gales of laughter, delicious food and the wonderful company of family. The celebrations just seemed to go on and on. It was a beautiful white Christmas - here's Ashley triumphantly holding up a sprig of rosemary she dug up from under the snow.

Christmas dinner for nine of us - our three children, two spouses, and my parents. Turkey with all the trimmings, then an afternoon spent opening gifts, and a walk in the fresh air.

Boxing Day (26th) was filled with preparations for the next day when 30 of my family gathered at our home for a ham dinner, carol singing, games and lots of old fashioned visiting. Seventeen people spent the night, with others staying at our married children's homes. It was indeed a houseful - full of people, but full of love, too.

Grandma and Grandpa played a round of Guitar Hero, babies were cuddled, a Canadian Christmas explained to two Korean students, the dishwasher ran constantly and oh, what wonderful times we shared!

Almost everyone left for the mainland around noon. My parents leave tomorrow. Today was spent laundering sheets, towels and pillowcases, and slowly getting the house in order again. I'm so tired, and so very happy.

I'm looking forward to a few days spent with my husband - he's taking some time off. We have no real plans, but we'll be in and out, enjoying the season.

I hope you all had a very merry Christmas!
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Friday, December 26, 2008

Boxing Day

Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth,
for the touch of a friendly hand
and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.

Edith Sitwell
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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The First Christmas

"...the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn."

"Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord."

Monday, December 22, 2008

Magical Snow!

Yesterday afternoon my husband and I went for a walk. Snow fell all day, and I was mesmerized by the beauty. Darkness fell just as we headed out for our walk, but I grabbed the camera anyway. Before turning off the automatic flash, I took these pictures and like the way the falling snow is captured.
Walking was an effort, especially where no one else had walked. But oh, the magical beauty. An enchanted white world, enclosed by quiet.

Reindeer antlers...or a tree branch?
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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Winter Wonderland and a recipe

We're snowed in again! There's about a foot of snow on the ground and more falling as I write. A cozy fire in the living room draws everyone there. I went out this morning and took some photos. It was so dark the flash wanted to go off which made for some very dark backgrounds. Above - hydrangea blossoms covered in snow.

A pretty Barberry bush laden with delicate snowflakes.

The red osier dogwood in the back yard with tufts of marshmallowy snow. Our daughter's boyfriend was stranded here last night, he tried going home and didn't make it very far, so he left his car and trudged back through the snow to spend the night on the couch. We enjoyed a fun pancake breakfast.

On this snowy Sunday I'm hoping to get a few things done. I made some Breakfast Egg Strudels for our Christmas morning breakfast. They are great to have in the freezer.

Here's a recipe:

2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese

Melt the butter, add the flour, then stir in the milk. Whisk until bubbly and thick, then stir in the the salt and cheese and stir until melted. Set aside while you prepare the eggs.

6 eggs, beaten lightly with a fork
2 Tablespoons minced parsley
2 Tablespoons minced green onion or chives
1 cup diced smoked ham
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
pepper and salt
1 Tablespoon butter

Melt the butter in a skillet. Add the eggs and scramble until set but still moist. Stir in the remaining ingredients and add to the cheese sauce. Let cool slightly.

8-10 sheets phyllo pastry
1/4 cup butter, melted

Place one sheet of phyllo on work surface. Cover remainder with towels to prevent drying out. Brush sheet lightly with butter. Fold in half, brush with butter. Spoon about 1/3 cup of egg mixture along narrow end of phyllo, leaving a 1-2 inch border. Fold sides over to enclose filling. Roll up. Brush top with butter.

Now, you can either bake them or freeze them. To freeze them, I place the rolls on a baking sheet lined with waxed or parchment paper, set the pan in the freezer until the strudels are frozen, then place them into a ziploc bag.

To bake before freezing, bake at 375 degrees 15-18 minutes.
To bake after freezing, do not thaw, but bake at 375 degrees 35-40 minutes.

These are so good with fresh fruit on the side and some cinnamon buns.
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Thursday, December 18, 2008

December Pleasures

These December days seem to rush by. Baking, shopping, decorating, crafting - all these good things can squeeze out the best things. This year I've been consciously trying to concentrate on the smaller moments, the everyday sweetness that crowds my life. Here's a list of what I'm enjoying right now.

Check out Melissa's post at the Inspired Room for 20 Little Things she treasures at this time of year - and Mr. Linky for a host of other sites to explore.

1. SNOW! I love the way it brightens up our landscape, usually dark green at this time of year. Snow fell last Saturday night and more yesterday.

2. Filling the freezer with cookies and goodies. I've got about 10 kinds of cookies and 4 savoury treats tucked away. I love filling a plate with an assortment when company drops by or just for my husband to enjoy. (and me!)

3. Christmas music - TransSiberian Orchestra's Lost Christmas is a current favourite. Josh Groban's Noel. Also some older CDs - Twila Paris, Michael Card, Neil Diamond.

4. Warming cups of tea and hot chocolate shared with my family.

5. The dance of flames in the fireplace.

6. Soup for supper! Satisfying and simple.

7. Anticipation of family get togethers.

8. Time spent at my sewing machine or in the living room stitching.

9. Wrapping gifts for the people I love - anticipating their pleasure when the gifts are opened.

10. The soft lights of the Christmas tree.

11. Driving home from an evening out and seeing festive light displays.

12. Candlelight - on my kitchen windowsill, on the dinner table, in the living room. Just lighting one candle makes me feel cozy.

13. Walking outside on a blustery day and coming in to a warm house.

14. Saying "Merry Christmas" to store clerks and winning a smile.

15. My Advent readings, which help me focus on God's wonderful gift of Christmas, his son Jesus.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

A Pretty Little Christmas

Heather at Pretty Petals is hosting a pretty Christmas party today. Hope on over to see some of the prettiest Christmas ideas ever.

I've taken some photos of little things in my home that add a festive touch. I hope you enjoy visiting. I think a bit of greenery goes a long ways - and tuck bits and pieces here and there. In the top photo I have a large vase filled with gold balls. A sprig of cedar adds contrast.

A perky bow tied to our old oil lamp is a fun touch.

On a kitchen counter top I have this metal plate with a few Christmassy things. Yesterday, while preparing for dinner, I went out and picked some parsley, stuck it into a glass of water and added it to the scene.

On Friday I made some candied orange peel (recipe on the Whole Foods site). It was easy to make. A few pieces on a plate with a bit of cedar looks so pretty. Last night for dinner I made a gingerbread cake and served it with whipped cream, then sprinkled some slivered candied orange peel on top. Mmm.

Napkins set diagonally can be used as placemat. I rolled linen napkins then tied them with velvet ribbon and a sprig of cedar. Simple and pretty.

I'm not buying wrapping paper as such again this year. It seems like such a waste to buy something just to throw it away. Instead my husband brought old blueprints from work and we're using those, along with a roll of brown kraft paper, and whatever bits and pieces of wrapping paper I have left over. Tied with a ribbon and a pretty tag, I don't miss the printed papers.
Gold and sparkly tree ornaments catch the light.

Bells hung on the door knobs add a jaunty sound to entrances and exits.

Some folded paper, glitter and button ornaments I made and gave away. But I'm thinking they are so pretty that I want to make some for myself.

For more of my home decor click here. May your Christmas be pretty and bright!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Snowy Sunday

This is the view we woke up to this morning. Although the weatherman has been predicting snow for a couple of days, I was quite skeptical - usually the predications amount to naught. But last night around 9 pm we noticed the snow falling. We had guests for dinner and after they left and we cleaned up the kitchen, we bundled up and went for a walk.

The wind was really howling and we hunched down into our coats and scarves for the return home facing the wind. The streets were a bit slippery and I took one hard fall. We saw one little fender bender - one car slid backwards into another on a hill.

I'm sure most people aren't as crazy as we are about snow. I grew up with snowy winters and then spent 21 years in the tropics without snow. Here on southern Vancouver Island we get very little snow, but I'm always excited to see it, even though it kind of hampers regular life. The snow here is not like snow in northern BC and driving really is treacherous. (And people are not used to driving in snow and don't have proper tires.)

Church is cancelled today because of the snow. We had a leisurely breakfast, and my husband is out shoveling. Our son and his wife are walking from their home (about 25 minutes) for lunch - tortilla soup! My oldest daughter called all excited about the snow, and our youngest is thrilled, too.
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Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Little Sewing

My sister's birthday is this week. We'll be going on a trip together next year and so I made this little bag for her. Perfect for keeping small things organized. I filled it with some small items and sent it off.

I used a home decorating fabric sample for the bag - I love the rich colours.
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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Holiday Home Tour

Tracey is hosting a Holiday Home Tour today. Welcome! Come on in. Here in Canada we usually take off our shoes at the door, but you can keep yours on if you like. The above picture shows the entrance-way and the staircase.

My mantel is decorated with cedar boughs, pinecones, candles and mercury glass.

I found these antique-looking tree toppers and thought they'd add a bit of height to the mantle. I love the way they gleam in the candlelight.

More of the mantle - with paper cut trees that are now at least 20 years old. I fold them carefully every year and lay them flat to store them.

Angels sit atop the armoire, mixed with greens and candles. Some were gifts, some purchased, and some I made. Angels speak to me of singing and joy, of good news, and light - all part of Christmas.

My tree is up but not yet fully decorated. I had an artificial one up for a ladies' event a couple of weeks ago, but that came down the next day. If I get the tree decorated on time, I'll include a photo. Meanwhile, these are some vintagey decorations I made from old music paper, glitter and old buttons. These were for a gift, but I'm thinking I might have to make some for myself.

An old German hymnbook and Book of Common Prayer tied together with a red ribbon make a simple vignette on a side table.

Moving into the dining room, I've hung some stars and beads from the chandelier.

On the dining room buffet is our hand-carved Nativity set from Ecuador. This is the first decoration we put up each year. This year I taped some paper stars behind the scene.

On the kitchen windowsill are more cedar boughs and some silver ball candles. I love lighting candles on winter evenings. They add such a warm glow to any space.

From a hook over the kitchen sink dangles this little painted ornament.

Here's what our Christmas morning breakfast table will look like. All blue and white and wintery.

On a shelf in the family room is a wooden village that I painted years ago. More greenery and a matted Christmas card surround the village.

On the dry sink I have a quilted mat and dishes of candy, or a tray of mugs and hot chocolate.

Even the laundry room gets a touch of greenery.

On the living room coffee table is a silver tray with cedar and holly surrounding four fat white candles that I light for Advent. This photo was taken during the first week, which is why only one candle is lit.

Thanks for coming by. Have a wonderful, joy-filled Christmas.

Of Spare Rooms and House Guests

  If you've ever read L. M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables , you'll remember the importance of the spare room. It was a long-...