Monday, December 31, 2012

Roses in December

"God gave us memory so that we may have
roses in December"

James Matthew Barrie
Just before Christmas, I arrived home one afternoon as the sun slanted low on the horizon, illuminating this indomitable rose. I rushed indoors, dropped my purse and bags, grabbed my camera and took this photo before the last light slipped away. 

Memory is a gift. It's an amazing bit of God's creative genius that everything we see, do, hear, smell, taste, feel and think is stored away inside our brain. Retrieval of all that information is perhaps not as reliable as we would like, but still, with little effort, we can remember both the good, the not-so-good, and the terrible, of the past. Some memories we would rather not have, but there they are, seared forever in the mind. Others we wish we could remember more clearly, wanting to hold tightly to each minute detail. Memory is a fickle thing, often untrustworthy because of its utter subjectivity. Each of us remembers an event differently. Just ask your siblings about certain events of childhood.

As 2012 draws to a close, many of us sift through our collection of memories, holding this one and that one up to the light, smiling a little, shedding a tear, nodding, and sighing, as a myriad of emotions sweeps over us. Marking time by memory, we remember past joys and past sorrows. Today, I'm casting my mind back over the past 365 days, but once that's done, there's a wonderful new year ahead, full of potential and unknown opportunity. 

Yesterday morning we left the house early to take our daughter and son-in-law to catch the 9 am ferry back to Vancouver. Once again, the light caught my attention. On the way back into town, we stopped in Sidney and took a very short walk along the waterfront, out onto the pier and back. I didn't have my Nikon with me, but snapped these photos with my I-Phone. 

A new day and a new year dawn. Behind the clouds shines the light. As I move into 2013, which will surely hold its full allotment of both joy and sorrow, my prayer is that I will remember that the One who is the Light of the World is always with me. I pray the same for each of you, my readers. I want to embrace 2013 with arms flung wide in welcome. A year of abundant life awaits.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Family Gathering

Some came on the 9 am ferry, arriving around 11. Others sailed on the 10 am ferry, arriving around 12. Twenty-seven of us in all. The dining room table stretched to its fullest length. The patio table and our everyday round kitchen table hosted more guests. Since our basement suite is currently rented out, we needed an extra room so, Tim's shop (the garage which our car has never seen), was converted into a Play Area, complete with Lego, and a game console and television. 

Everyone has had their fill of turkey and ham dinners, we thought. So my girls and I cooked a Mexican themed dinner. Deep Dish Tamale Pie, a Mexican Street Salad, a Corn, Black Bean and Tomato Salad, Guacamole, Tortilla Chips and Salsa were on the menu. For dessert I made 4 jelly rolls, filled with raspberry jam, covered with whipped cream, served with a cranberry/raspberry sauce, and topped with a candied orange slice.

We sang Feliz Navidad, opened Christmas crackers and wore tissue paper hats during the meal. Our time together was sweet, but short, as parents, siblings, nieces, nephews and great nieces and nephews headed back to the mainland on the 7 pm ferry after some yummy snacks brought by the mainland folks. I'm so thankful for my family.

There was plenty of food leftover - if you come for a visit you are likely to be served a slice of that dessert. I'll be freezing it.

Linking with Mosaic Monday, hosted by Mary of the Little Red House.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Visit to the Gardens

We celebrated Christmas with our children and grandchildren on Christmas Eve. It was a wonderful time. Christmas Day found the two of us alone for the first time ever, while the children celebrated with their other families. Busy schedules for the weeks before Christmas left Tim and me happy to keep each other company. We enjoyed breakfast in front of the fire, opened our gifts to each other, read, and spent a quiet day. Around 5 pm, we went out to Butchart Gardens.

The gardens are beautifully lit for the holidays. It's a magical experience wandering along the paths at night. The lighted building in the above photo is the former home of the garden founders.

Throughout the gardens there are displays of the 12 Days of Christmas. It's fun to look for them and count along. Here are the Three French Hens, enjoying croissants with the Eiffel Tower behind them. 

 This lovely statue stands near the carousel. He's elegantly decked out for the season.

This archway is part of the rose garden, where the flowers sleep until spring.

After our stroll through the gardens, we went to the Blue Poppy Restaurant for a plate of turkey, stuffing, and all the trimmings. We declined dessert there and came home for a slice of Buche de Noel. 

Our Christmas Day was different, but an air of quiet contentment reigned. Part of our extended family came over today (Saturday) for a dinner. I'll post about that later.


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Boxing Day

There was light, love, laughter, and plenty of food. Presents for all. And the joy of being together. It is a wonderful Christmas.

What did we do for entertainment before these two little charmers came along? Little Miss S is sitting well these days, looking Christmassy in her red jumper. Little Miss A is wearing a dress made by her great-grandmother for her aunt a long while ago. 

One never knows which particular gift will strike a responsive chord. This year, Miss A took the instruction booklet that came with one of her toys and sat down on the stairs to read it. She read it out loud to herself, deciphering the pictures in her own imaginative way. So delightful. 

It's still Christmas around here. Fun times are planned for this week, including my family coming from the mainland for a midday dinner on the 29th. We will be 27 in number. I'm off to prepare some desserts! I hope your Christmas is continuing!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Merry Christmas!

"Joy to the world, the Lord is come"

As Christmas approaches, I'll be stepping away from the computer a little. Postings may be scattered. Before I tackle my last list of preparations, I'm wishing you all the very merriest and blessed Christmas celebration.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Dinner à deux

This week has been a whirlwind of trying to complete projects for gift giving. I knew I had three days, because tomorrow and Friday I'm in the library at school again. Friday's just a half day. 

Today, around 4:00 pm, I checked the last item off my list. And started to think about dinner. Tim eats just about anything I cook, and the past few days have been fairly minimal in the cooking department. So this evening, I decided to make a bit more of an effort. 

A friend gifted me with the pretty red bird and snowflake fabric. I can't bear to cut it yet, until I find just the right project. I thought it made a rather festive tablecloth. We've had no snow here, although it's falling in many places around us.

After dinner, we watched a sentimental Christmas movie, then went for a walk. The driving rain and wind has ceased, for now. A relaxing evening was just the ticket. Tomorrow night I'll begin wrapping gifts and tying up the loose ends. 


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Living as Light

"The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned." 
(Isaiah 9:2)

"Love is a weapon of light, and it has the power to eradicate all forms of darkness." 
(Yehuda Berg)

"Light shines in the darkness..."
(John 1:5)

"You're here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world."
(Matt 5:14 the Message)

I've been on a couple of cave tours. One essential piece of equipment is a headlamp. The guide had us stand still, and then we all turned out our lights. My eyes strained, searching for some pinpoint of light, however small. None appeared. Nothing was visible. What relief when we turned our lights on again. One small light illumines a great area.

How can you, how can I bring a speck of light into our dark world? A smile for someone who has none, a hug for someone in sorrow, a prayer for comfort, a bill dropped into the Salvation Army bucket, patience with a child, sharing what we have. 

As the days move towards the celebration of the coming of the Light of the World, I want to not only receive light, but be light.

Vee's Note Card party is on today. Click on the link to see what creative bloggers have come up with this month.

One more week

Around 8:30 last night Tim and I went for a walk. A light rain began to fall. The rain thickened and when seen through a street light, looked like .... could it be? .... Yes! Snow! At the return point in our walk, fat flakes splatted against our jackets. 

This morning, you can see the snowy scene above. Not very impressive. We'll take what we can get. It's chilly out there. A good day to stay indoors, finishing up some gifts and doing some baking. That's on my schedule for today.

I looked at this old toy tractor, all metal and rubber, and the wooden trailer fashioned by Tim years ago, and thought it might add a fun touch to the Christmas decor. It normally sits on the piano, but the light is dark there and the music stand blocks the view a little. So I moved it to the dining room table for a photo op, and then thought how it looks like a snowy road.

One week until Christmas! Are you counting the sleeps in anticipation?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Celebrating Two

Little Miss A turned two yesterday. When asked recently what she would like for a present, Little Miss A's reply was "I think milk." After a pause, she added, "maybe some cookies." So the birthday party theme was Milk and Cookies. Friends and family gathered to celebrate. Big kids and little kids played in the Kinder Gym at a local recreation center.

She insisted on wearing her pink rubber boots to the party. Little Miss A has a fashion sense all her own. Presents were not nearly as important as blowing out the candles and drinking some chocolate milk.

In the wake of the tragedy in Connecticut, I realize once again how precious, and how fragile, life is. My heart aches for those who have lost beloved children, sisters, mothers, aunts, and grandmothers. Yet, life goes on. We grieve loss and we celebrate life. How full of paradox is this life we live.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Buche de Noel

It's no secret that I'm a francophile. I have a French degree, love visiting the country of France, reading about France, speaking French, and eating French food. Close to 20 years ago I found a recipe for Buche de Noel in a Good Housekeeping magazine. I've made it every year since. Although the recipe was found in an American publication, I've compared it to French recipes and it's very close. 

These photos are from last year's dessert. So far, I've made the roll, filled it and frosted it. Next week I'll make the meringue mushrooms and the chocolate bark. It's such a pretty dessert, and not too heavy - just a filled sponge jelly roll. Best of all, it can be frozen for several weeks and taste fresh as can be. This will be our Christmas Eve dessert.

This week has been busy, busy, busy with teaching French. One more day to go. In the evenings, I managed to put together a Buche de Noel. Click on the link for the recipe. The meringue mushrooms are not included, and are easy enough to leave off. If you want to make them, do an internet search. 

Do you have a traditional Christmas Eve or Christmas Day dessert?



Growing up, we were not very close. Although just 13 months apart in age, our personalities are very different. As a child she played outdoors while I had my nose stuck in a book. She is blond, I am brunette. She is outgoing, I am much less so. She loves being out and about, I'm more of a homebody. I was a bossy older sister and not very nice at times. 

Now, mostly grown up, we have much in common and can enjoy each others' company. Today is my sister's birthday, and I'm so proud of her. She's been dealt some tremendous blows in the past few years, yet she smiles and carries on. Her faith in God is strong. In 2009, the two of us, along with our mother, went to Europe. Here, my sister and I are in Bratislava, standing close together.

Happy Birthday, Sis, I love you.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Little Bit of Christmas

I send out fewer and fewer cards each year. Email greetings seem to be more the norm these days. But it's so nice to check the mailbox in the afternoon and see an envelope addressed in a familiar and loved hand. Last night I spent some time writing greetings and addresses. Hot cocoa followed. I'll be teaching French again today but will get these in the mail after school.

On this dark morning in December I lighted the Christmas Pyramid, sent last year from Berlin. Round and round the deer twirl in their wooden forest, illuminated and energized by candle power.

Time to get to school. Whatever you do today, I hope you enjoy the moments. Take time to breathe. Look about you. Smile. And have a little cookie or piece of chocolate.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A First Time for Everything

As I was closing the blinds in the living room yesterday afternoon, I noticed this most amazing colour in the sky. As any good blogger would do, I grabbed my camera and snapped a photo. 

My dining room table is piled with Christmas stuff - decorations mostly. I was planning to clean it all up last Thursday before going to the mainland for the weekend. However, I was called in to teach that day. I rushed home from teaching, packed my bags and we headed to the ferry. On Sunday, I arrived home to find a message on the phone asking me to teach Monday, and now today. I'm glad for the work, and trying to not let the stuff I want to do at home overwhelm me with urgency. What needs to get done, will get done.

We have the most Charlie Brown-est of Charlie Brown trees this year. The plan was to have it up last week, before going away. But natural trees (that's what they are called) didn't arrive until Thursday, the day we left. 

This year was a first for me - buying the tree ALL BY MYSELF. It was weird. When our children were young, going to get the tree was a special outing. Since they've grown up and left home, Tim and I go together. Not this year. The nursery closed at 5:30 and Tim couldn't get away from work. We did decorate it together, while Christmas music played. There were once 5 of those little felt angels. Three have gone to other homes. So Tim and I placed these two remaining ones close together on the tree for company.

Memories surge at this time of year, don't they?

So I ask you, what have you done recently for the first time? And is your house all decorated for Christmas and are you totally organized?

Sunday, December 09, 2012

A Weekend on the Mainland

The ferry has just set sail across the strait. Outside, all is steely water and grey fog. We're heading home after a wonderful long weekend on the mainland. 

Friday was spent with my parents in Chilliwack. My mother and I did a little crafting and a lot of talking. Dad and Tim went vehicle shopping - just looking. In the evening, my brother and his wife came over for one of my Mom's wonderful meals.

Saturday morning found us driving into Vancouver to visit Ashley and Owen. They rely on public transit or Car-to-Go for their transport, and were happy to take us up on the offer of a ride to Ikea where we did a little shopping and returned to their suite with a tree strapped to the top of the car. 

In the evening, we took the Sky Train and bus downtown to the Vancouver Christmas Market. Last year, Owen and Ashley enjoyed the markets in Berlin, this year, a little flavour of Germany came to Vancouver.

There are many small booths filled with delicate ornaments, toys and delectable food items. Several of the booths are staffed by German citizens who come to Canada for a few weeks in December. Delicate ornaments, wooden toys, and plenty of lights made for a visual feast. We sampled the gluhwein, shared a dish of raclette, and a cone of roasted chestnuts. 

The week awaits. But the memory of the weekend will stay for a long time. 

Joining Mary at the Little Red House for Mosaic Monday.


Saturday, December 08, 2012

Winter of the Interior

There's no snow on the ground but the air is raw and the wind chill. It feels like winter outside. Sometimes, even in the midst of warm summer, winter comes to the soul. I'm guest blogging today over at Inscribe Writers Online about my winter of the soul. 

Thursday, December 06, 2012

A Christmas Mantel

Have you ever done one of those questionnaires that help you to figure out what your decorating "style" is? I have. The results are always inconclusive. Sometimes I like the rustic woodsy look, sometimes I'm classic traditional, sometimes cozy cottage. There are so many wonderful looks out there.

These days I'm liking simple more. Pared-down, but not austere, clean, with natural elements. I think my mantel reflects that. I layered a sanded door from the china cabinet I painted a few months ago. My husband thought we should just throw the doors away, since they are not going back onto the cabinet. I rescued them, knowing they would come in handy at some point. 

Cedar clippings from the yard, which will be replaced once again before Christmas since they dry out in a hurry indoors, big pine cones from Ecuador, a candlewick embroidery projects done years ago, candles, and bits of mercury glass. 

You'll notice that to jazz things up a bit, I added borders to the photos with Photoscape. I haven't finished decorating yet, but I'm not in much of a hurry. We like to leave everything out until the 1st of January and enjoy it after the celebration of Christmas Day. 

Is your home decorated already? Have you figured out your decorating style?

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

On a Wednesday Morning in December

The wind threw the rain at our windows all night long. It was very cozy to lie in bed and listen to the storm. This morning I did some photography for my Etsy shop. The sun was not shining, but the rain held off so I took my camera and props outdoors. My fingers were frozen before I was done. 

The simple arrangement above is from my yard. I snipped bits and pieces here and there. This table sits just outside the glass doors and we can view it while eating indoors. Makes for a bit of seasonal cheer. 

I listed some journals and purses in my Etsy shop this morning. They were leftover from the art show. Here's a link to my shop: Fabric Paper Thread. I am always appalled at the cost of Canadian postage. I feel apologetic even putting the amounts out there. But such it is.

I also baked cookies this morning. Once the dough was mixed and shaped, I snapped photos and created Etsy listings in between switching out baking sheets. These are such addictive little morsels - Toasted Almond Chocolate Chip Balls. A little bit of crunch, buttery sweetness and just a hint of chocolate. So delicious with a cup of tea. Clicking the link will take you to the recipe.

How's this Wednesday morning shaping up for you? I hope to get to reading a few blogs later on. Meanwhile, lunch to eat, things to sew, .... it's December, you know.

Monday, December 03, 2012

On the Third Day of December

Close to 15 years ago I was working in the kitchen of our home in Ecuador and overheard the following conversation from the living room:

Child: When Mom and Dad die, I want the Nativity scene. I'm the only son.

Another child: No way, I get the Nativity scene. I'm the eldest.

Yet another child: Why should you guys get it? I'm the youngest. I want it.

I laugh about this every year when I put out the hand-carved walnut creche. Good memories. Thus, to avoid squabbles after we are gone, before leaving Ecuador, we gifted each child with their very own hand-carved creche. 

Which still doesn't solve the problem of what will happen to it after we are gone. But then, I really won't care, will I?

I mark the days of Advent on my grown-up girl's Advent Calendar, set in the front entrance.

This morning, on the Gladsome Lights blog, I read this poem. Then I copied it into my journal. Now I share it with you to ponder. 

The Bright Field

I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
the treasure in it. I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying

on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

R. S. Thomas (1913-2000) Welsh poet 


Sunday, December 02, 2012

A Good Day for an Ark

 Dreich: a combination of dull, overcast, drizzly, cold, misty and miserable weather. According to the Urban Dictionary, at least four of these adjectives must apply for weather to be truly dreich. 
I read the word in Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher. I knew what it meant from the context, but thought I'd look it up to see if the description would fit yesterday's weather. Yes, it would. It was a truly dreich day. But there was beauty in it as well.

I stopped along the road today, protected my camera with my scarf and took a few photos. The snow geese are what drew me. Those white blobs are up-ended geese on the pond/lake. I had to use the full zoom on my camera to get them, hence the indistinct quality. 

When I got home and looked at the photo, the colours jumped out at me - the lingering red on the trees, the white barn, golden grasses and bright evergreens. 

I spent the afternoon baking - a good way to chase away the day's "dreich-ness." 

Linking with Mosaic Monday, hosted by Mary of the Little Red House. 

Living Alongside Medieval History

  Several people have asked why we chose Leiden for our visit to the Netherlands. We've found it's easy to stay in the large cities ...