Thursday, December 30, 2010

Abundance in 2010

Last year at this time I was thinking about my focus word for 2010. We were in a hard place - my husband had lost his job and started up a small company while continuing to look for work in his field. 

The word that kept coming to me, in my reading and thoughts, was "abundance." I listened and accepted. Throughout the year, I made a conscious effort to look for abundance in my life, although there were many times when I just complained. 

Abundant provision:
*  Tim was hired into a new position in March. He loves his new job and there are all sorts of possibilities for the future.
* We found renters for our house in Victoria and were able to purchase a new home here.
* A new job for our eldest daughter 

Abundant sorrow:
* the loss of my 29-year-old nephew Colin in July
* the loss of a tiny still born great-nephew I never met in November
* the loss of my aunt Irene in December

Abundant change:
* moving away from family, friends, church, job

Abundant JOY:
* Our youngest daughter's wedding in September and welcoming Owen into our family
* The birth of our first grandchild, Adria, in December
*laughter and sharing good times and bad with family and friends

Abundant grace:
I think 2010 has been among the most difficult years of my life.  I've not shared all of the events of 2010 - many more joys and many more sorrows have occurred. But throughout the dark days and the bright days, God's grace has been very present in abundance. And because of grace, 2011 can be faced with hope, joy and confidence.

Happy New Year! 2011 is just around the corner!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

It's not over yet!

There's been laughter, tears, lots of conversation, dancing, more than enough food, games, presents, travels back and forth across the water and there's more to come! 

I hope you are all having a wonderful Christmas week.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Presents are wrapped and under the tree. The freezer is full to overflowing with cookies, snacks and baking of all kinds. Today I'll tidy up the house and finish up a few last kitchen things.

Stockings are hung - not by the fire but along the stair rail. We had two new additions to our family this year - one by marriage, one by birth. These new stockings reflect my new, and somewhat unusual (for me) desire for a neutral, calm palette. They're made of canvas drop cloths and embellished with scraps of ribbon, buttons and rosettes - I didn't purchase a single thing.

The labels are stamped onto cotton, backed with fusible web, cut with pinking shears and ironed onto the stocking. Easy peasy. I had fun making these rosettes and I think more will be in my future.

Thank you to all my blogging friends for your encouragement and friendship over this past tumultuous year. I value each one of you. And my wish for you is that you will experience the love, joy, hope and peace brought to earth by the Christ Child so many years ago. Merriest of Christmases, friends.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Bûche de Noël

Anything that can be done ahead gets a star in my book. This dessert is one of them. I found it in a Good Housekeeping magazine from the early 1990s I think. It's become a tradition in our household, usually for Christmas Eve.

This year, we're celebrating with the family on Boxing Day, December 26. And the rest of the meal is going to be very untraditional - paella will be the main course. 

Today was spent in the kitchen - Bûche de Noël, stuffed mushrooms, crostini, chex mix and more. My freezer is jammed full. It's a good feeling. Next week, there will be little need to cook. The week between Christmas and New Year's is a week of celebration and relaxation. It's going to be great!

Click on the links for the recipes.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Mosaic Monday - A Different Sort of Christmas

What else could my mosaic this week be? Yawning, squawking, sleeping, stretching - our new little granddaughter enchants every which way.

Linking to Mosaic Monday at the Little Red House.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

She's Here!

It's been a whirlwind around here. We zipped down to Victoria (2 hours away) yesterday afternoon, had dinner with our youngest (September's bride) and her husband, and as we were finishing dessert the phone call came - Adria Natalia had made her appearance. 

We rushed over to the hospital to sit in the waiting room with other family members for a couple of hours until everyone was ready for visiting. Here's Tim holding the precious bundle.

We spent the night with our eldest daughter and her husband, and spent today alternately visiting at the hospital, shopping and lunching with our daughters and one son-in-law. Then back to the hospital to help with Adria's first car ride - home. Here's the new mommy and daddy dressing her. Travis is putting on a sweater knit for him by his paternal grandmother 27 years ago. 

And here she is, all dressed up and ready for the big world. She's wearing an elf hat knit for her by a friend of Katie's. And the blanket was crocheted by Travis' maternal grandmother, again for his birth 27 years ago. Really, where did all that time go?

We're home now and I'm counting the days until I hold her in my arms once more. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Counting Down

Each day passes and I hang a trinket on my grown-up girl's Advent calendar. Everything that needs to be done is getting done, other things happen if there's time. I have a list and everyday a few more items are ticked off, completed.

Exams are done and I have one more paper to complete. I'm having a hard time focusing on that...

because I think today's going to be a very special day! It might be the day our first grandchild will be born! Things are starting to happen! 

And on a different note: The lovely Tish of A Femme d'un certain âge asked me to take part in a series on giving gifts that cost nothing, zero, zilch. My contribution is being featured at her blog today. Tish writes with wit and charm touching on fashion, etiquette, life in France. Go for a visit, you'll love her too.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Third Advent Sunday - Gingerbread

Preparation. Heart and home. Waiting. 
On this third Sunday of Advent we enjoyed the company of our two daughters and their husbands. On Saturday we had dinner here - Roasted chicken with pears, roasted potatoes, broccoli, and for dessert Gingerbread Cake with Lemon Sauce. We then took a short excursion to see the Bethlehem Walk, an amazing production put on by the church we attend here that features the Nativity and the hamlet of Bethlehem. Home again for apple cider, popcorn and a movie - "While You Were Sleeping" - one of my favorites.

Another tradition we have is decorating gingerbread cookies. Years ago I wanted every gingerbread person perfectly outlined with neat eyes and buttons marching down the center of his jacket.

Tim would egg the children on to create all kinds of personas - pirates with patches and one leg, strange creatures, wonky characters. This year, everyone brought a batch of gingerbread cookies in their own shapes. Cristal and her husband made gingerbread frogs,princes, and stars. Ashley and Owen had sailboats, stars and people. I made hearts, camels, reindeer in addition to the traditional gingerbread men. 

And so, I've changed. These cookies will never decorate a cookie plate at a church or community function. Few will make it out of this house. It's not about the cookies - it's about the fun we have while decorating them. I don't really care what the cookies look like. The laughter around the table is more important.

But we missed Travis and Katie's presence. They stayed in Victoria since the baby is due tomorrow! 

This post is part of Floss' "A Pause in Advent" and I'm also linking to Mary's Monday Mosaic at the Little Red House.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

There will be time

It seems like a number of us out in blogland are feeling a wee bit pressured. I know that I am. There are things that I want to be doing and things that I have to do. And the list of things I'd like to do is not going to get accomplished this year. And I'm learning that that's okay. 

It's more important for me to enjoy the moments that I can, to take time to sit, visit with my husband, think about what's important in my life, focus on the birth of Jesus and prepare my heart than it is to bake more cookies.

Whenever I think about running out of time I think of these lines from my favorite poem by Al Purdy that I've shared before and do so again in the hopes that YOU will take the time to breathe, to focus and to enjoy this most beautiful of seasons. Meanwhile, I'm off to write a French Literature final exam. Then just one more essay (for an English class) and I'm taking a break from studies.

from On the Flood Plain

"Whatever I have not discovered and enjoyed
is still waiting for me
and there will be time
but now these floating stars on the freezing lake
and music fills the darkness
holds me there listening
--it's a matter of separating these instants from others
that have no significance
so that they keep reflecting each other
a way to live and contain eternity
in which the moment is altered and expanded
my consciousness hung like a great silver metronome
suspended between stars
on the dark lake
and time pours itself into my cupped hands shimmering"

(and just to let you know - the photo is from 3 years ago because the angels are still waiting for their moment around here)

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

A Christmas Meme

I don't know if I've ever done a meme, but Vee had this one up on her blog and I thought it kind of festive. So here goes:

1. Hot Chocolate or apple cider?
2. Turkey or Ham?
3. Do you get a fake or real-you-cut-it-yourself Christmas tree?
4. Decorations on the outside of your house?
5. Snowball fights or sleddin’?
6. Do you enjoy going downtown shopping?
7. Favorite Christmas song?
8. How do you feel about Christmas movies?
9. When is it too early to start listening to Christmas music?
10. Stockings before or after presents?
11. Go to someone else’s house or they come to you?
12. Do you read the Christmas Story? If so when?
13. What do you do after presents and dinner?
14. What is your favorite holiday smell?
15. Ice skating or walking around the mall?
16. Do you open a present or presents on Christmas Eve, or wait until Christmas day?
17. Favorite Christmas memory?
18. Favorite Part about winter?
19. Ever been kissed under mistletoe?

(It's an easy copy and paste.)

1. Hot Chocolate or apple cider?
Hot chocolate, please.

2. Turkey or Ham?
Turkey, with lots of stuffing, and gravy. But this year we're making paella.

Do you get a fake or real-you-cut-it-yourself Christmas tree?
Always real, but we go to a nursery to get it.

4. Decorations on the outside of your house?
A few lights and a simple Nativity scene but not this year - too busy renovating

5. Snowball fights or sleddin’?
Sledding - maybe.

6. Do you enjoy going downtown shopping?
I do, when I know what I'm going for and have time to enjoy the scene.

7. Favorite Christmas song?
Secular: Walking in a Winter Wonderland
Sacred: Away in a Manger

8. How do you feel about Christmas movies?
I like them if they aren't too corny. Borrowed Hearts was a made for television movie that I like. And some of the old classics like The Bishop's Wife.

9. When is it too early to start listening to Christmas music?
Umm, Valentine's Day?

10. Stockings before or after presents?
Before. Upon waking. Then breakfast. Then presents.

11. Go to someone else’s house or they come to you?

12. Do you read the Christmas Story? If so when?
Yes. To myself and together sometime when we're all together. 

13. What do you do after presents and dinner?
Play games. Talk. Go for a walk.

14. What is your favorite holiday smell?
The woodsy scent of a fresh Christmas tree, and cedar boughs.

15. Ice skating or walking around the mall?
Neither. But I'll go for a walk around the block.

16. Do you open a present or presents on Christmas Eve, or wait until Christmas day?
Again, it depends when we're all together. I like to wait until Christmas day.

17. Favorite Christmas memory?
Opening stockings on Christmas morning with all the children piled on our bed.

18. Favorite Part about winter?
The first snowfall.

19. Ever been kissed under mistletoe?
I don't think so - I'll have to remedy that!

I'm also linking this post to Sharon's at My Country French Home. She's asking for those who have their tree up to "show that sapin!"

Mine's simple this year. And you can see that I don't have all the curtains up yet. And no tree skirt. But little by little we're getting there.


We put up the Christmas tree last night. Always real. A Charlie Brown variety - no pesticides, locally grown. I turned the lights on the tree this morning to dispel some of the gloom of this wet, windy day and was struck by the reflections in the rain-spattered window.

Yesterday we received word that one of my aunts, my mom's sister, passed away, suddenly but not unexpectedly. And at the same time, we await news from our son and daughter-in-law about the impending birth of our grandchild. I am struck once again by the juxtaposition of life and death in this world we live in. One life diminishes, another begins. I am so thankful that I can put my hope and trust in the God who created heaven and earth, who counts each sparrow and who cares for each one of us.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Milner Gardens - Mosaic Monday

Milner Gardens is just a few miles down the road from our house. When we moved here, Pondside encouraged me to read Veronica's Garden, which tells the story of Veronica Milner who loved this garden and developed it. It's a fascinating story with connections to royalty and a world that I know of only from books. After Veronica's death the gardens were given to Vancouver Island University. 

On Saturday night Tim and I bundled up and went for a stroll in the gardens. Christmas lights decorate the pathways to the gardener's cottage filled with teddy bears, to Santa's den, and to the main house, seen above. Built in the 1920s and renovated extensively in the 1960s, the house is charming. Not a mansion, but delightful. And it's where Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip once spent a restful few days. Princess Diana and Prince Charles have also visited, to stroll on the lawns and relax in the drawing room during a busy Canadian tour. It was fun to wander through the house and along the paths. Stars shone as we walked back to the car and we were glad to have a cup of hot tea when we arrived home.

I'm looking forward to going back in the warmth of a summer's afternoon to look at the plants and trees in the daylight.

Mary at the Little Red House is hosting Mosaic Monday once again.

Second Sunday of Advent

Advent - a time of preparation. In the heart and in the home, a time to prepare for the celebration of Christ's birth. What's most important is to ensure a balance - for me that means taking time to be quiet and still. And then to get on with the tasks I've planned. Stillness before activity works best for me.

Preparation around our house traditionally means lots of baking. Yes, it's just the two of us, but the children will be coming for visits and I like to have cookies and snacks on hand. I don't double the recipes as in years past, but there's still a good selection in the freezer.

My husband is one of the fortunate ones who hasn't gained a pound in over 30 years. And I do feed him well. But he has cookies everyday, so I bake year round. At Christmas I bring out special recipes, like this one. It's called Toasted Almond Chip Balls, but we call it Mary's grandmother's cookies because a friend of ours gave it to us and said it was from her grandmother. Whatever the name, they are delicious. And easy. And they keep well in the freezer.

Toasted Almond Chip Balls

2 cups flour
1 cup chocolate chips, chopped (or use mini chocolate chips)
1 cup chopped toasted almonds (toast for 8-10 minutes at 350 - then cool)
1 cup butter, room temperature
1/4 cup white sugar
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons almond extract

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and knead well. Use two hands. It's lovely and therapeutic, and would work well with children, too.

Form into 1 inch balls. Place on parchment lined baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until lightly golden. Roll immediately in sifted icing sugar, then place on a rack (or brown paper) to cool.

For more Advent posts please visit Floss at Troc, Broc and Recup'.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Christmas Mantel

Today a friend from Victoria came for a visit. It was a good excuse to clean the house. I know that it will soon be dusty again because as I write, Tim is pounding and sawing away on the hardwood. But walking through a clean and organized house is, for me, like taking a series of deep, slow breaths. I feel calmer, more peaceful, appreciative of the gleaming floors, the dust-free furniture, the shining taps. 

I had a few extra minutes before my friend arrived so I grabbed a bag and my clippers, went a little way down the street and picked up fir and cedar branches that were blown off the trees in our recent windstorms. 

After she left, I could have returned to my studies, but decided instead to turn on the Christmas music and do a little decorating. Just the mantel for now. I should be able to get to the dining room on the weekend. 

When Tim walked in from work I had the candles burning, the fireplace glowing, and a wreath on the door. He said it was beginning to look like "our" house at Christmas. A very good feeling. 

Mercury glass ornaments and tree toppers, pine cones from Ecuador, votive candles, cut paper trees, a silver jug filled with greens and behind it all, a chalkboard with Love written on it. Simple and pretty.

And a shot from further away. I'm linking to the Lettered Cottage's Holiday Home Party featuring mantels from all over.

Days at Home

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