Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Goodbye 2009




Quite frankly, I'll be glad to see the back of 2009. I made a list of the positive and negative aspects of the year in my journal yesterday and the negatives are big ones. Our extended family has been plagued by marriage problems, cancer, other health issues and disappointments. My husband's job loss in May sent us reeling and we continue to come to grips with the whole issue.

On the other hand, we have much for which to give thanks - a wonderful family, children who love the Lord and have purpose in life, each other's love, God's grace, health and much more. It takes effort to focus on the positives at times.

A year is really an artificial division of time, and yet the turning of a calendar page seems to bring with it new hope and a sense of anticipation about the future. Looking ahead can be frightening or exciting. I choose to look towards the light, placing my hope and trust in a God who loves me even when I don't feel his love or sense his presence. I will trust because to abandon my trust and give into despair is a thought too terrifying to consider.

On another blog today I read this quotation that I leave with you - a hope and a wish for 2010

"May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you're wonderful, and don't forget to make some art - write or draw or build or sing as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself." (Neil Gaiman)


(edited to add: Yes, that is my husband looking off into the distance like an intrepid explorer. This photo was taken a couple of years ago, between Christmas and New Year's, at East Sooke Park, one of our favourite places to hike.)
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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Mellow

The Christmas decor doesn't come down until New Year's here. Greenery, pinecones and candles lurk in corners to delight the viewer (me, mostly).
Spending time reading and relaxing. We went to the mainland on Sunday for a big family gathering and came back yesterday. I'm so tired today and happy to just sit around.

Looking at Christmas pictures - my girls and I warming our backsides by the fire.

Enjoying the simple prettiness of stars indoors and out. I'm hoping you are having a mellow week, too, full of relaxation and family love.
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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Boxing Day, ahhh




And so this was Christmas....celebrating the birth of Christ with family and friends....Christmas Eve service with carols and scripture....dinner accompanied with much laughter.....Celtic readings around the table....presents under the tree....games played by the fire....cookies, nuts, candies....the delight of walking into a warm house after a walk in the frosty air....thankfulness for being with those I love....mugs of spiced apple cider....relaxing and enjoying after all the preparations



Today, as the sun finished its low arch across the winter sky, my husband and I went for a walk up Christmas Hill. Such an apt name just now. Slanting light highlighted the gnarled branches of this Garry Oak surrounded by long, pale, dry grass.


An arbutus tree stands silhouetted against the quickly darkening sky. A wind that nipped our noses and stabbed through our jackets urged us to not linger long to enjoy the view. Up and over the top we went, descending the hill via dark paths alternately frosty and wet. Ferns shivered in quiet hollows. Home again to be welcomed with a rush of warmth and the promise of a quiet evening.

On Christmas Day I practiced taking photos with my newest toy - a cute little tripod. The sunshine lighted the living room, casting shadows on this simple arrangement. In the background you can see another of my gifts - a Barefoot Contessa cookbook.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

All Done!


Wrapping presents happens in stages for me. I do the wrapping first and write the recipient's name on the back in light pencil so I don't forget who gets what. Then a few days later, or as time allows, I work on the tags and the embellishing. This year is very simple, white wrapping paper (recycled print roll ends from my son-in-law's engineering firm), green tags, and jute string. For my three girls I embellished one gift a bit more - with these paper birds found yesterday on Sandy's blog, Quill Cottage.

I had some paper prepared for another project - music paper glued to cardstock on either side, and it was the perfect weight for these birds. Sandy shared the pattern for a large bird, which I made, and for a smaller bird. If you go to the link, scroll down past the other wonderful ornament tutorials to find the birds.

Not being one to stop when inspiration strikes, I created small nests from brown paper bags, set the birds atop, added a spray of cedar and a couple of pinecones and voilĂ , there are now three woodsy-themed gifts that look just lovely under the tree.

Merry Christmas to each one of my readers. You have encouraged me with your comments and given me links back to your own blogs of inspiration. I appreciate you all. May this Christmas be filled with the hope, peace, love and joy of Christ's presence.
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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Quick and Fun Gift to Make

Some time ago I saw that Junie had made this "Five Stones" game. I thought it a fun idea and tucked it away in my brain for future use. This was the year I brought out the idea and did something with it.

I like to do a small gift at the table for our Christmas dinner guests. Each of the male guests at the table will receive one of these. I used five different wool fabrics for the stones and filled them with flax seeds.

The bags are also made of wool with an ultrasuede tie. I thought all the grey tones gave this a most masculine air, in contrast to most of my sewing and crafting. These were simple and fast and here's where you can find the Five Stones Tutorial and instructions for playing the game. It's like jacks. This game is also called Cinco Marias in Brazil. It seems to be played, with varying versions, around the world. I copied the Brazilian instructions and the Israeli instructions onto a card to tuck into the bags.

I thought it might be too simple, but my husband and I played last night and there were little "stones" flying all over the place. It's a fun thing to have on a coffee table or to take on a trip to entertain children of all ages!
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Monday, December 21, 2009

Men in Tuxedos

I'm 99.9% certain that none of the men in my family read my blog. Any who do might want to stop NOW.






 Don't men in tuxedos look wonderful? This photo of my son and husband was taken about 3 years ago at our son's wedding. I think it's a shame that they don't have opportunity to wear tuxes more often.

A couple of years ago I made my husband a tuxedo apron. He asked for an apron to wear once in awhile at work when the management put on special coffees for the staff. I came up with this idea, and he loved it.



 This year, for Christmas, I made three of these aprons. One for our son, our son-in-law, and our daughter's boyfriend. They all like to cook. When I asked my husband to model this yesterday afternoon for a photo (on a dark and rainy afternoon), he insisted that it wouldn't look authentic without a kitchen tool in his hand. Hence the barbecue flipper.

And on another note, Robin's Egg Blue is having a wonderful giveaway, all themed in her signature colour. Check it out. You'll be inspired.



Sunday, December 20, 2009

Advent Joy



I know what people think about shepherds. Crude, smelly, and not very intellectual. Our life is ordinary, even tedious. It’s hot in the daytime and cold at night. Sheep are stupid animals – they get themselves into a lot of trouble if there’s no one watching them. You can’t be a shepherd and be lazy. It doesn’t take much education, but it does take skill and perseverance. We shepherds usually work as a team and keep an eye out for each other’s sheep. It’s more efficient that way.

I like the nights best of all. We find a bit of shelter from the wind, perhaps against a big rock, and build a fire. We talk about a lot of stuff. Mixed in with the chitchat some serious debate goes on. Philosophy, you might call it. Life, love and politics. It was a night like that that changed my life.

The fire had died down and I lay on my back, wrapped in my cloak, watching the stars. They were so far away, and so beautiful. Conversation dwindled to silence. My eyelids sagged, weighted by sleep. It was the light that woke me. From out of nowhere appeared this – this glowing being. I know it was an angel, but to this day, I can’t completely describe it. I jumped to my feet, and so did the others. Then I cowered in fear, blinded by the intense light. I was certain that I would be struck dead.
Instead I heard a voice say,
“Don’t be afraid. Listen to me. I have good news for you.”

The angel went on to tell us about the birth of a baby, a Savior, the Savior we’d waited for. He said it was news of great joy for the whole world. Before I had time to think about what he said, the sky filled with more angels, and music. It was as if the stars and angels whirled and danced together.

The sight tore at my heart and caused such an ache of longing deep inside that I clutched my hands to my chest. The song was perfect, the most perfect thing I’d ever heard. It made me long to join them, to raise my cracked warble in the same harmony of praise to Almighty God. Tears ran down my skin and I knew that the message of the angels was for me. God was sending His Son for me, into my stinky, dirty world.

Then, just as suddenly as they came, the angels left. The stars had hardly changed position. The small fire still burned. Everything was the same, and everything was different. We stood there, our hearts thumping wildly.
“Did you see…?”
“Could it be?”
“Let’s go!”
The angel had told us where we could find the baby and we stumbled over rocks and tufts of grass in our eagerness to get there. We stood outside the stable, hesitant for a moment. A man appeared, tired, but smiling slightly. None of us knew what to say to him. Then Jethro stepped forward.
“Please,” he said, “we want to see the Savior, the baby.”
And then we all spoke at once, blurting out bits of our experience. The man didn’t seem too surprised and beckoned us to enter.

My eyes were drawn to the baby, so helpless, lying in a manger. His mother watched us carefully but said nothing as we crowded nearer. I even dared to reach out and touch his soft, tiny head with my rough fingers.

I knew that I couldn’t keep this news to myself. It was too wonderful, too amazing. My family and friends had to know about this birth. I told everyone I met about the baby. And then I went back to the sheep, to the hillside and the night fires, but I wasn’t the same person inside.

God, who lived beyond the stars, was suddenly close. That night I caught a glimpse of His glory. Now, when I go to the Temple and hear the priests’ monotone reading of the glory of God, I think back and even now, my breath catches in my throat.

copyright Lorrie Orr 2009
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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Sewing with Tears



I know Beth dies in this movie, but it catches me every time. The love between these sisters and their parents is so wonderful. All the Christmas scenes are beautiful in their simplicity. I've been up in my sewing room today, working on a few gifts. I think having the movie playing slowed me up a lot - but the loss in efficiency was worth the pleasure I got.

Some interior shots in the movie - the dance that Meg attended is one, were filmed in Craigdorrach Castle, right here in Victoria. Tim and I visited the castle a year or two ago during Christmas. It's beautifully decorated and delightful to walk through, imagining the life in those far distant times.

I'm feeling much better today, but still being a bit careful about what I eat.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Whiling Away Time

After teaching three days this week, I baked all day yesterday and my freezer is now officially full. Last night was a potluck dinner with some friends. I don't know if I ate too late, or if something was iffy, but I woke up in the night with a bellyache. I slept in a little, and then dragged myself to the mall and finished up my last little bit of shopping. Lunch was a mug of organic chicken bouillon and two crackers. Then off to a physio appointment - ah, bliss. Now I'm feeling like something the cat dragged around the yard, and am just putting in time. I don't feel much like wrapping gifts right now. Another mug of chicken bouillon sounds good. A good sleep and tomorrow I hope I'm fine.
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Monday, December 14, 2009

Simplicity

I had great ideas for things to post for Christmas. My idea book is full of sketches of crafty items and decorating ideas. They are going to have to wait for another time. And I'm okay with that. I'm content to do what I can and let the rest slide.

This morning I was called in to substitute teach. I was glad for the work, and glad it came this week when my exams are finished. I'm teaching tomorrow, too. I'm sorry for the teacher who is ill, but happy to be in the classroom again.

Last Saturday night my husband and I attended his company party. It was a small party, just the two of us. Many of you know that he lost his job last May. In September he started his own home renovation business. It's been going reasonably well, but slow recently, and he's continued to look for work in his field at the same time. In November I realized there would be no company party this year (not that they are that great, but it was something to get dressed up for and a night out). We had a gift card from a local restaurant and decided that would be our outing. We got dressed up, had a lovely dinner together and came home and watched "The Shop Around the Corner," an old Christmas movie. It was a fun evening, something to anticipate and enjoy.

I'm learning so much about how my actions can alter my attitude, and how attitude can be adjusted by sheer will power. There are days when I could easily sink into despair, full of questions that have no answers. Tears flow easily, and all too often. But most nights, before we go to sleep, my husband and I tell each other five things for which we are thankful for that day - they can be as small as an evening walk together, or a particularly tasty meal, or as grand as being thankful for each other and for our children.

Sometimes, an attitude adjustment is a matter of picking myself up by my shoulders and giving myself a little push in the right direction. And so, I'm finding that all the things I love to do, the crafting and the cooking, the wrapping and the planning are not as important as enjoying the moments. I'm content, most of the time, and surprisingly mellow about just letting life come. It's a good place to be.
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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas Love

Have you noticed that Christmas is always different? As much as we like to celebrate with the same traditions, sing the same songs, eat the same foods and do the same activities, each year is unique. Children grow. People change. Loved ones pass on. Circumstances alter. And that's the way it should be. Change is part of the universal human experience. Some changes are welcome, others not so much.
Christmas is a season full of high expectations. We want to feel loved and to express love. Some years are easier than others.

I was reading a Victoria magazine from December 1994 and found a quotation by Phyllis Theroux that expresses a way to approach the ever changing nature of years passing. She writes, "Christmas is one holiday I have learned to receive like a gift that varies in size and significance one year to the next."

Receive Christmas, the celebration of Christ's birth, as a gift. What a beautiful thought. I am able to celebrate this season because I have been given the precious gift of life. I want to savour each moment of it, live fully in the present and embrace it, even when life doesn't always go according to my dreams and plans.

"Every good gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, in whom is no darkness or shifting shadow." James
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Saturday, December 12, 2009

It's been a long week


I've hardly sat down at the computer this week. My husband and I were over on the mainland last Sunday and Monday, then I was busy finishing an assignment and studying for my French Literature final yesterday. It's done! Yeah, no more exams....until next year! Driving home from the exam yesterday I cranked up the Christmas music and was in a festive mood by the time I got home!

Our tree this year is light and airy, or as the nursery we bought it from said, "uncultured." So we have an uncultured tree. The ornaments hang freely, the fresh fir smell wafts from the branches, and it speaks to me of light and simplicity. I'm looking forward to quiet evenings of knitting or reading (or wrapping presents) accompanied by twinkling tree lights and a crackling fire.


Today I'm baking gingersnaps and other things. These aren't a particularly Christmassy cookie; I make them all year long. But they round out a cookie plate nicely and they travel well.  My husband says they are best in pairs.

We disagree over the best gingersnaps. I like the ones that actually snap, with a bit of crunch to them. He, and the children prefer the softer ones which we call Ginger Sparklers. I alternate between recipes, and I notice that it doesn't matter which one I make, they all disappear. And it's not me eating them all (in pairs.)

I hope to put up the recipe on my recipe blog today. (Edited to add, here's the link to the Ginger Snap recipe)
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Sunday, December 06, 2009

Advent Peace


Peace is sadly lacking in our world. Has there ever been peace on earth? Somewhere, a conflict is always brewing. I think of the angel's message to the shepherds on that long ago Christmas night ..."and on earth, peace among men..."

I'm glad that because of Jesus' birth, because of God's love,  I can have peace in my heart. And I want that peace to extend beyond my personal experience to those I love, to those I meet each day, even in passing.


Thursday, December 03, 2009

Paper Trees

I'm studying for a couple of finals. One is done, two more to go. I tell myself, "Lorrie, if you study for 90 minutes, then you can go and decorate the mantel." So I study, then I decorate. And after the mantel is done, I go back to studying and reward myself with a promise to decorate something else. It's a bit piecemeal, but the decorating AND the studying are getting done.

Yesterday afternoon the sun shone. Oh, delight! The sun cast long shadows into the living room and I noticed them on the mantel that I'd just finished. The white paper tree is one I made years ago, but the smaller music paper tree I just made. I wanted a few more trees in my decor but didn't have the time to intricately cut them.

So I cut three trees from a very simple pattern (scratched out on a folded sheet of paper). I stacked them together, and

then I took them over to the sewing machine and stitched them. This photo shows stitching from top to bottom, but it's much better to do it from bottom to top, since it's important that the bottom be level so they can stand. I added glitter to some, but really, I prefer them plain. They are pretty either way.
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Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Time to bring out the Advent Calendar

This year is the first in 28 years that a child has not shared the excitement of Advent with my husband and me. So, instead of our traditional and colourful Advent calendar, I decided it was time for a new, grownup girl's way to count down the days until Christmas.

I saw one on Martha's blog that immediately appealed to me, and I decided to make one of my own. An old picture frame from the thrift store, a piece of thin plywood covered with a suede-like fabric, tags from the office supply store, numbered with a stencil, and upholstery tacks from the hardware store were all it took. And some measuring. Serious measuring. I don't like measuring seriously. I prefer to "eyeball." But I'm pretty proud of myself for doing the hard math for this project.

Then the fun part - finding bits and bobs to hang from the tacks for each day. I have them in a pile on my work desk upstairs just now, but one by one, they will find their way to the calendar. This first one is a rhinestone clip-on earring that my sister-in-law found in Alberta. Its sparkle reflects the anticipation of this wonderful season of the year.
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Circling Spring Break

Some of the names and geography of the west coast of Canada can be confusing. For example, we live on Vancouver Island, but the City of...