Sunday, November 29, 2009

Advent Hope

Today is the first Sunday of Advent, 2009. This year, more than ever, hope has become a beautiful word - a word that signifies anticipation for seeing how God will act, comfort that things will not always remain static, and restful trust in turbulence.

Hope, for me, centers around the presence of Jesus, whose birth we celebrate at Christmas. Hope enables me to laugh in the darkness, cry with release, and most of all, to place my trust in He who created me and loves me.

Hope sparkles with possibility.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Christmas Cards

My parents came to visit for my birthday in October and one of the things my mom and I did together was to make Christmas cards. I thought it a bit early, but we had the time. Wow, I'm so glad these are done. Things are really busy for me right now - two finals next week, one research paper due, a couple of smaller essays and another final on the 15th of December. Then I'll be able to devote more than a few snippets of time here and there to getting ready for Christmas - my favourite holiday - or "holy day."
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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

This Time of Year

I've really noticed the darkness this year. It seems more intense than I remember. Last year was colder, but brighter. I think I prefer that. And the snow we had lighted the landscape beautifully. Now, lights are on in the house all day long. On Sunday afternoon I walked downstairs and noticed sunlight on the stairway and my heart gave a leap. I could feel my spirits instantly rise. Alas, the sunshine slipped away within 15 minutes, but it was energizing while here.

I can't dispel the darkness of this season, and I'm tired of moaning about all the dampness and rain. There's a month before the winter solstice and the return of the light. So, instead, I've made up my mind to take a more positive outlook on it. Here are some of my ideas:

- Rather than call them dreary, I'll take a romantic tack and call these days "full of half-light," "misty," "ethereal," or "Wuthering Height-ish."
- While walking I'll pretend I'm a Bronte walking on the moors
- I'll light candles at breakfast, lunch and dinner, and while reading, sewing, or knitting
- Gratitude for a warm house, clothes and food to eat will be part of everyday's consciousness
- I'll admire the sculptural quality of bare branches against a grey sky
- I'll be thankful that I don't have to wear sunscreen (and I'll take Vitamin D regularly)

Do you have any ideas for coping with the darkness of this time of year? I'd love to hear them.
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Pay it Forward

Some time ago I read a post on Jacque's blog in the southern USA which led me to Maggie's blog in Normandy, France. I commented on Maggie's post and as a result, received an interesting package in the mail on Friday. A cuddly and dapper-looking bear, a sign for the WC door, two French postcards and some candy. Thank you, Maggie!

I waited over the weekend to take a photo, hoping for some sunshine. Sigh, it's been in very short supply lately and I resorted to using the flash, hence the glare.

"If you would like to participate in Pay It Forward, just leave a comment on this post.
The first three people to leave a comment will be my next Pay It Forward recipients. You must have a blog so I can read your postings and learn a little about you. That way, I will know what to send just for you! THEN, when you receive your package from me, you post pictures of what you received, just as I have done, and wait for three comments on your blog...and the game continues on.
If there are any questions you can ask me anytime! It really is a whole lot of fun! Let's see how far this PAY IT FORWARD can continue."
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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Time for a Creative Break

As many of you know I'm a "mature student" - which means I've raised my children, got them through potty training, elementary school, the agonies of high school crushes, graduation, university degrees, two are married and all three are independent, relatively well adjusted considering who raised them, and wonderful people. And after all those years of being a mom, I'm back in school, studying to attain a French degree and a teaching certification. It's going well, another 18 -20 months should see it finished (at least the degree part). I'm working hard to complete three courses before Christmas - Anthropology, Psychology and Early French Literature.

I have to keep telling myself that getting through school is what's my priority for time. But sometimes, I just HAVE to make something! I try to confine my creative puttery endeavours to the weekends, but alas, I fell by the wayside this morning. After finishing the study questions for a chapter on Mesoamerican Civilizations, I did a little stitching and stuffing. I stamped some linen with botanical images, stuffed the squares with rose petals and lavender from my summer garden, and took a few photos. Took about 45 minutes and it feels wonderful!

I have a confession to make. I really don't like the scent of lavender. Everyone waxes poetic about it, but to me it's medicinal, too strong, and acrid. I much prefer citrus, or roses, or almost anything (except musk.) But I don't mind a tiny tiny teeny bit of lavender fragrance wafting from my linen closet - a hint that someone is caring about the little things in this household.

Oh, and the other night I started glittering some tree shapes for which I have great plans - they've been lying on a paper on my office/studio floor since the weekend - waiting in all their glitteriness while I turn my back to them and focus on the computer and my books. Patience, little trees, I'll get to you soon.

And now, moving South American Chiefdoms and States....
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Monday, November 16, 2009


I have always been attracted to colour themed collections. And what is prettier than this? I'm enthralled. Laces and buttons and ribbons, oh my!

There's a giveaway at Robin's Egg Blues that you don't want to miss.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Weekend Wrapup

Our weekend was filled with quiet delights - fires that crackled companionably, puttering around the house, a long walk in the dusky afternoon. Fireside companions on Friday night were our eldest daughter and her husband. We played a game of Trivial Pursuit - won by the ladies, but just barely.

Chocolate fondue in front of the fireplace - mmm good. Just good chocolate melted with a bit of butter and cream. Apples and bananas are the vehicle for getting the chocolate to the mouth. I could eat the chocolate by the spoonful!

And today we shared dinner with our youngest daughter and her boyfriend. Roast chicken, lemon spinach couscous, steamed broccoli and these wonderful Thyme Creamed Tomatoes, from Laura Calder's cookbook, French Taste. They were scrumptious - like candy, Ashley said. These are almost the last tomatoes from our garden. I have a small bowlful left and then, no more until next summer. But I think this recipe would improve even supermarket tomatoes.

I've posted the recipe on my recipe blog. I found French Taste in the library, and it's chockful of good recipes - I want to try them all!
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Thursday, November 12, 2009

An Autumn Road Trip

A beautiful rainbow greeted me when I opened the blinds yesterday morning. Sunlight glinted off the wings of the seagulls drifting on the wind. A perfect day for a road trip - and that's what we had planned!

Our first stop was at the Malahat view point overlooking Saanich Inlet. I never get tired of looking at sky, water and trees.

Neither does Tim. See how it was bright enough to make him shade his eyes? We love every bit of sunshine we can get at this time of year.

Nanaimo was our goal. We completed a little business then set out to walk along the waterfront. Interesting scupltures but I couldn't find any description. I didn't look too hard because rain was falling.

At the end of the fishing pier people were hauling in crabs.

This gull was looking for handouts.

We ate lunch at this bistro built on pilings out in the harbour. I had a BLT with yam fries, Tim had a jerk chicken jalapeno burger with regular fries.

The best part of the meal....

The view! On a damp, cloudy day, beauty is subdued but always present. I need to remember that in the cloudy days of life - to look for the beauty that is always there. To be intentional.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Making Stuff

Every year I plan on what I'd like to make for Christmas. For me, handmade gifts are the best. I love receiving them and giving them. In about August or at the latest, September, I start thinking about what I'd like to make for gifts this Christmas.

This year there was too much drama going on in our household for me to think about Christmas as early as usual. But I still have lots of ideas swirling around in my mind and I have a few projects on the go. I've learned that it's no good to get all flustered about undone projects, but just to let them go until later. Gifts can be given all year round.

An alternative to making everything myself is to purchase gifts that are handmade by other artists and crafters. These gifts are much more personal, and often of better quality than mass-produced items from overseas.

If you click on the image to the right (the one on the left is just an image, no link), you'll find a directory of handmade items compiled by Michelle at Wee Folk Art. Maybe you'll find something you've been looking for there.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

November Evening, Bavarian Apple Tart

We've had a lovely Sunday. Our son and his wife came over for lunch and after they left Tim and I went for a long walk around the bog. Today a bit of sun shone in spite of the dreary forecast. A heavy carpet of leaves underfoot gave the signal that soon all the leaves will be gone from the trees.

Yesterday we went to friends' for dinner and I took along this Bavarian Apple Tart. I don't know how authentically Bavarian it is, but it sure tasted good. Buttery, creamy, crunchy and full of fall apple flavour. You can find the recipe here on my recipe blog.

I added some Thanksgiving-themed flashcards to my Etsy shop. I had them made for Canadian Thanksgiving but didn't get my shop started on time. They can be made into a garland, used as placecards, or used as conversation starters. The schoolmarm in me just likes the idea of flashcards, words neatly printed on cardstock, themed and organized. I tied them up with vintage rayon binding and added a couple of felted wool leaves and a copper wire tendril. Pretty as can be.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Thinking Ahead

The trees are looking pretty sparse around here. Leaves scuttle along the street like crabs at the beach. They tumble and toss, clicking and scratching on the pavement. Wind howls around the corners of my house today, shaking the windows and the trees. Soon all the leaves, now hanging tenaciously to their branches, will be shaken loose. Ah, November.

November is also the month to think ahead to Christmas. I noticed in the newspaper flyer last night that baking supplies are on sale this week. All kinds of advertisements are beginning. I've started my Christmas crafting. Before the blogging world gets into the full swing of Christmas, I have a story to share about Christmas Shoeboxes. I'm in the process of filling mine right now and was thinking about the following story. It's longer than my normal posts, but very meaningful to me.

For years Samaritan's Purse has organized Operation Shoebox to help send a little Christmas love to children who might not have any other Christmas celebration. Filling the boxes is fun, and we do several every year. I was so privileged to be able to give out some of the shoeboxes one year in Ecuador, in a different way. Usually they are passed out at events planned in the neighbourhoods. One year, a double supply of shoeboxes arrived in Ecuador (a long story, has to do with customs and no boxes the previous year), and our church allowed individuals to take the boxes and pass them out. Along with the boxes we'd collected bags of groceries.

How to decide to whom to give the shoeboxes? We put four of the boxes and two bags of groceries in our trunk and headed home after church on Sunday morning. We lived out of town, in a neighbourhood that had huge houses with pools, tennis courts and triple garages hidden behind tall brick walls, side-by-side very humble two or three room wooden houses. The class difference in Ecuador is enormous. As we drove around, we noticed two young boys in a field. They were looking after a couple of cows pastured there. We had two boxes for boys about their age, so we stopped. Like any child should be with strangers, they were a little hesitant. I explained that these boxes were a Christmas gift for them and handed them over. A bit bewildered, they politely said, "gracias," and went back to their work.

We had two boxes left and the groceries. No one seemed to be out on the roads that day, which was unusual. Continuing our drive we noticed a woman walking along the road. We stopped the car and asked her if she had any children. She said, yes, she did, two girls. Their ages were the same ages on the boxes we had left! We gave her the boxes and the bags of groceries (her home was very close). She kept asking why we would do this - we explained that we just wanted to show her that God loved her. With tears in her eyes she told us that this would be the only Christmas the family would be able to celebrate - these boxes would be the only gifts her children would receive. We left her smiling.

Driving home we passed the two boys in the field. There was no hesitation when they saw us this time. They had opened their boxes and were examining everything. They had candy in their mouths and jumped up, waving and calling out "gracias, gracias," over and over.

These scenes are repeated over and over in the world because of Operation Shoebox. If you ever wonder if they make a difference, I'm here to tell you that they do. I just wish everyone who fills a shoebox could see the joy they bring.

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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Last Roses, Candlelight and Winners!

These three roses are the last on my bushes until next summer. They are a little beaten by the wind and rain, but beautiful. Now on these dark evenings I light candles - on the dinner table even if we're just eating soup and sandwiches, on my kitchen windowsill while I clean up or bake in the evening, on the coffee table while I sit in the living room and study or knit. The little light that a candle throws dispels a lot of darkness and draws a circle of coziness around itself.

Both the roses and the candles are symbols of what I'd like to be - beautiful in character in spite of difficulty, and a bit of warmth and light in a cold and dark world.

And now...the winners! After choosing random numbers with the help of the computer, Manuela is the winner of the pillow, and Brenda of the journal. Both of these ladies have lovely blogs and I encourage you to check them out. Thank you to all who entered. I only wish I could send something to each of you. I do treasure my readers and each comment is like a gift to me.
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Monday, November 02, 2009

Birthday Celebrations

I do love getting together with my family. We had a very celebratory weekend - my parents came over from the mainland. On Friday they took Tim and me out for lunch. I had a very delicious roasted beet and bacon-wrapped scallop salad. On Sunday we went to our eldest daughter's home for a triple birthday celebration.

Cristal was born just two days after my birthday on a warm November morning in the Ecuadorian jungle. I was so happy to have this beautiful baby girl, and so terribly sad that no one in Canada knew about her. There was no telephone, and we had to wait until the next evening for a ham radio patch. Then we couldn't find anyone at home, my parents, Tim's parents, Tim's brother, until finally we got through to my sister. Then, just hearing her voice on the radio plus all the raging post-partum hormones rendered me incapable of speech. But at least Tim could talk and convey the happy news!

Oh my, that story just popped out of my fingertips onto the keyboard. Anyway, back to yesterday. From top to bottom, left to right you can see my parents, Cristal and her husband, our son Travis and his wife (who brought a wonderful cake), and Ashley with her boyfriend. Beloved people. (Tim was there too, but he's not in these photos)

And here are the birthday girls - Katie, Cristal and me. Big smiles, lots of laughter and fun. I am blessed with my family.
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Sunday, November 01, 2009

Handmade Holidays!

A wonderful month of ideas, tutorials and inspiration is beginning at Sew Mama Sew. This site is one of my favourites and if you haven't checked it out and love to sew - as a beginner or more experienced - be SURE to check it out.
There will be new posts every day of the month, with giveaways galore.

And don't forget to check out my giveaway which closes tomorrow night!

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-...