Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Ebb and Flow



A year ends with gratitude for God's faithfulness through happy times and times not so happy. 

A year begins, shiny with promise. What will it bring? 


"So beautiful is the still hour of the sea's withdrawal, as beautiful as the sea's return when encroaching waves pound up the beach, pressing to reach those dark rumpled chains of seaweed which mark the last high tide.

We have so little faith in the ebb and flow of life, of love, of relationships. We leap at the flow of the tide and resist in terror its ebb. We are afraid it will never return. We insist on permanence, on duration, on continuity; when the only continuity possible, in life as in love, is in growth, in fluidity - in freedom..."  Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea

Happy New Year with prayers for a year filled with love and growth.  

Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas Joy






Distilling the moments...

Little Miss A handing out the presents. If someone said, "I wonder what's in this package?" she put her face close to and said, "it's a surprise!" 

Grandpa dancing with the Little Misses. 

Little Miss S snuggling with her auntie.

Laughter. Together. Glowing fire. Thoughtful gifts. Sparkling lights. Red dresses. Dinner while the little ones napped. Hugs. Cuddles. A late afternoon walk. So much joy. 

Eagle eyes may note that next year there will be another little one to love. Little Miss A's sibling is expected to arrive in mid-February. More joy! 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!






O, come let us adore Him!
Christ the Lord, the new born king.

Merry Christmas. May your celebration be full of joy, peace, love, hope and 
the Light that illumines all.


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Scenes of Christmas



Rain makes December seem darker than it should. Now we turn toward the light - figuratively, spiritually, and spatially. Today I light the last of the Advent candles. Pinpoints of light sparkle on the tree. The garland and tin stars hanging from the chandelier reflect and amplify the light. 
 

Decorations around here are simple and don't change very often. I wonder if I'm getting stuck in a rut. If so, it's a happy rut and I'm not looking to get out of it.
 

This little wooden village was cut and painted years ago, along with the tiny Nativity figures. Joseph stands less than 1.5 inches high (I just measured him.) This year, I placed the village and holy family figures together, on a low shelf where the Little Misses can play with them.
 

I thought the plate wall needed a little Christmas. Letters cut from red cardstock did the trick.

Linking to Mosaic Monday with Mary of the Little Red House

Merry Christmas to my readers and comment writers. I pray that the peace, love, hope and joy promised at the birth of the Christ Child will overflow in your lives this season and throughout the new year. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

A Gift of Snow



It's been a busy week around here. Two days of teaching (including demonstrating how to bake gingerbread cookies - fun) and one day of frantic running around, one day of ferry and car travel (including a zip across the border to pick up a parcel) and then a late afternoon arrival at my parents' home in Chilliwack.
 

And then! To wake up to SNOW! Tim and I bundled up this morning and went out to revel in the lovely white fluffiness of it all. Above is the scene over the Vedder River valley.


Berries under snow. 

As we walked, I thought about all the years in Ecuador when I longed for snow at Christmas time. I missed it so much. Our move back to Canada took us to a beautiful place where snow rarely falls, so I still miss it. When it does snow, it's a gift that I cherish. I'm glad to be on the mainland today because the overnight snow on the Island has already turned to rain.  

Tim snapped this photo of me looking happy in the snow.
 

I showed a glimpse of this project a week or more ago. I did manage to finish it before we left. The pillow cover is from a pattern by Katherine of Sew Me Something Good. It's available on Craftsy, for free. I adapted it slightly, and I might make it again. 

So that's what's happening around here. Tonight we'll be enjoying a turkey dinner with my parents and siblings, then back home through the Valley and over the water tomorrow. How are things going for you? 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

December Note Cards



 Are we in a time warp where everything is speeding up? I can't believe it's time for Vee's Card Party once again. Photography has taken a back seat to other things lately. This first photo is of a lamppost at Butchart Gardens, in front of the bare rose gardens.


Also at Butchart Gardens, a lovely bronze sculpture adorned with a wreath and a bow.
 

Christmas in a teacup.
 

A toy tractor bringing home some Christmas greens. This last is from 2012.

Thanks to Vee for hosting this warm and friendly gathering each month. 

 

 

Monday, December 16, 2013

A Gift of Music



"Don't make plans for Saturday night," he said.

"What shall I wear?" replied I.

"I'm going to wear a suit and tie," said he.

So I gussied up in a wine-coloured dress, a velvet jacket, my pearls with the addition of a brooch (as suggested by Duchess), crystal earrings and a gold and silver bag. The poor picture above was taken in the late afternoon, so it doesn't show off my sartorial efforts too well.

We went out for a casual dinner, then to the Royal Theatre downtown to hear the Victoria Symphony's "Sentimental Christmas" concert.  Such a lovely surprise date planned by Tim.



The first half of the evening consisted of sentimental Christmas tunes from the 20th century - White Christmas, Winter Wonderland, etc. which were enjoyable and had the audience tapping their toes and/or swaying in their seats, especially during the numbers accompanied by the the vocal talent of the College of Performing Arts students. 

While I enjoyed the tunes, the music that has echoed in my mind and heart since then are three pieces - the haunting loveliness of Greensleeves (What Child is This?), the joyful precision of Bach's Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring, and the forceful energy of Bizet's La Farandole (from the L'Arl├ęsienne Suite.) Music is such a gift.

What are your favorite Christmas pieces? Popular, classical, carols?

 


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Weekend Celebration



The Little Misses' parents were invited out on Friday night so the girls came to our house. Grandpa read them stories, they played with toys and ran in circles through the living room, the entrance hall, kitchen, dining room and round again. And again. When it came time to put Little Miss S to bed, she didn't want to go. "Run, run," she said. Alas, Nana hardened her heart and put her down.
 

On Sunday, Little Miss A turned 3. Already! Her talented mother created a balloon-themed party.
 

She thought of so many things that could be balloon-shaped - cookies, peanut butter sandwiches, tomatoes, melon balls, small cheeses, and more. It was all delightful. 
 

With three focused breaths, Miss A blew out the candles. One. Two. Three. And we all wish her God's blessings. 
 

Katie created this lovely piece of art from an old window frame. I love it. I took one photo with no reflection showing, but I think I prefer this one with the balloons hanging in the window. The day was Merry and Bright, indeed.

What's the mood around your place these days? Not too busy, I hope. What gets done, gets done, I tell myself, as my list of tasks seems to grow instead of shrink. Take time to enjoy the moments, I remind myself. Each one is precious. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Light - A Personal Photography Challenge


Donna, from Cottage Days and Journeys, has another blog where she posts a monthly photography challenge. It's fun, can be frustrating, and is always a learning experience.
This month's challenge was light. Well. It was extremely frustrating for me to not take the photos I envisioned in my head.  I did learn a lot, so it's not entirely a washup. I chose to focus on trying to capture candlelight. Sigh. It's so romantic.
 

 For this photograph, I wanted to highlight indirect light. I used my tripod, set my camera to a long exposure, and had all the lights out except for candles on the mantel. The candles is off scene, but the light glows against the angels. I had to sharpen the photo a bit because even with a tripod, the photo was a little blurred. 


This was just serendipitous. I was shooting while standing on a dining room chair, in macro mode to focus on the pearl garland. I like the capture of the lights from the Nativity Set in the background. 
 

Candles in a row on the table. The matching pinpoints of light on the edges of the tart pans occurred happily unplanned. This was also in macro mode. Other than the first photo, I wouldn't know how to reproduce these effects. 

Check out the posts at Donna's Photography Challenge Blog to see what others have learned about capturing light.
 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Walking Through a Winter Garden



Butchart Gardens is all decked out for the festivities. A friend and I walked through the gardens today. 
 

Swags of cedar tied with red or blue or gold or silver bows, depending upon which section of the garden you find yourself, adorn gates and handrails. 
 

The rose garden is bare, but the archway has been festooned with greenery and bows.
 

Not much is blooming just now, but this viburnum showed a little bit of colour. 
 

The Gardens display the Twelve Days of Christmas. It's fun to wander through and look for the various characters from the song. Here is my personal favorite - the Three French Hens. Don't they look like they are having fun? Did you spy the Eiffel Tower in the background? At night these displays are wonderfully lighted. But photos are better in the daytime. 
 

The Japanese Garden has no decorations and today I found out why. It has to do with the electricity needed to power all the other displays. There just isn't enough for this garden, too. But it's still beautiful. I do love this stone pathway.

The Gardens supply umbrellas for their guests, which is a very good thing as the skies drizzled down on us for much of our walk. Afterwards, we went to my friend's house for tea and cookies. Thank you, Sandi.

What local attractions do you like to visit in December? 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Preparing



I am so enjoying this Advent season. As I focus on anticipation and preparation, I find joy in the process. Last night I baked. Cranberry Orange Shortbread and Ginger Sparklers. There are two definite camps in our family regarding Ginger cookies. Some, like me, like them snappy and crisp and they are called Ginger Snaps. Others, like everyone else (except maybe our youngest, I'm not sure which camp she's in), like them soft. Since I'm the cookie baker, I alternate between soft and snappy.
 

Larch cones, holly and fir cones in a tea cup - a little bit of seasonal decor in the china hutch.  I'm not really a fan of red, but I'm liking it this year, with lots of white and a very little bit of fresh greenery.
 

Most of my sewing can't be shown in public yet. But yesterday I began a project for myself. It won't take too long to finish. But last night, I ran out of both butter and white thread. Two basics. So I quit baking and quit sewing and read. 

Tell me, do you prefer Ginger cookies snappy or soft? What are you preparing?

Monday, December 09, 2013

Gathering Close




When Tim suggested we get together with our in-town children for a walk and supper, I jumped right on board. Cooler than usual temperatures had us planning a somewhat shorter walk. Around 4 pm at Mount Doug Park, the sunset in the west stained back to show pink loveliness in the east. Of course, to be honest, some of that pink might be due to smog over Vancouver and Seattle. 
 

A visit to the park must include swinging. The girls are pushed by their fathers, and both are looking in the same direction at I-don't-know-what.
 

Double slides are so much fun that even Nana slid down, holding Little Miss S's hand.
 

I'm usually the one behind the camera, but this time, Tim had it. I'm loving this photo of me with my two darling grand girlies. No, we didn't coordinate our pink outfits ahead of time. 
 

Home to Roasted Potato Soup, an Antipasto platter, and the first servings of Christmas baking. Tim lit a fire and we spent the early evening watching the girls race around the house, playing catch with Uncle Gerry. Oh, the energy! Oh, the fun! 

A couple of people asked how I got the overhead table shot in my last post. I just stand on a dining room chair and take the shot straight downwards. The pearl garland in the last post is draped around the light fixture and I focused on that to get the blurred table background. In the above photo, I focused on the poinsettia. 

Sunday, December 08, 2013

On a Winter's Night



OK. So it's not winter quite yet. However, the weather around here belies that fact. Chilly wind and below freezing temperatures have us bundling up to venture outdoors, and upping the cozy factor indoors.

Six of us gathered on Friday evening for dinner. One couple brought appetizers, another brought a salad and beverages. We provided the main course, paella, and bread, along with spiced wine poached pears for dessert. We laughed, we ate, we drank, we talked around the table as the candles burned low and the pearl garland in the light fixture overhead gleamed. 


Simplicity of white and red. Gathering together in the warmth of friendship is an age-old defense against the cold outside.

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

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Brrrrrr!



We had snow this week, on a day so gray that this photo, taken at midday, looks almost monotone. The snow is mostly gone, not melted, but blown away by chilly winds. The chill continues - unusual for our area. I'm not going to tell you the temperature because many of you will just laugh at me for thinking it cold. The sun shone today, bright and warm through the window.

We chose our tree today. Gloves, warm coat and stomping through a little snow reminded me of my growing-up years further north. I rather enjoyed it. The tree stands now in the corner beside the fireplace, bare, but smelling wonderful.
  

We had a few friends in for dinner last night. I made Paella, with seafood, chicken and chorizo. It was yummy, and not much remains of that big dish. One dish meals like this, rounded out with bread and salad, make entertaining fun and easy. Do you have any go-to dishes that you prepare for guests?

I hope you're staying warm. This cold front seems like it's affecting a LOT of the continent.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

A Cookie Tale



Trust me. These are pretty cookies. You can see the original photo here, on the Food Network page. 

I've had my eye on these cookies for quite awhile. Today seemed like a good day (more about that later) to bake them, my first baking of the season. 


First attempt on the right - a deformed star. Second attempt on the left - a cookie press star. So far, Cookies 2, Lorrie 0. This is the stickiest, most unmanageable dough I've ever worked with. I started with waxed paper as recommended, moved to parchment paper, then the cookie press. The kitchen looked like a Siberian snowstorm with icing sugar everywhere. I finally gave up. These will not be star cookies.
 

Instead, I rolled them into little balls, flattened them with a wet glass and carried on. Not as pretty (especially in this photo, taken as the afternoon darkened.) But they taste pretty good. If you make them, beware. Or maybe you have. I'd love to know how you fared. 


This is why I thought it a good day to begin baking. SNOW! Flakes fell slowly for several hours, but not much stuck. There's a little white frosting on the trees and plants. The brave rosebud looks a little chilly. Most of you would laugh at my excitement over the snow. I find it beautiful. Tonight, we'll go out for a walk. I hope it snows some more. 

Love snow or hate it? Any cookie tales to tell?

Advent, then Christmas







A comment on my post yesterday got me to thinking. I observe Advent - the figurative time of waiting for the coming of the Christ Child that begins four Sundays before Christmas Day. It's an old tradition, one of preparation, of anticipation, of longing. Yet, like most North Americans (Canadians and US citizens), I have called this season Christmas, from the first of Advent to New Year's and Epiphany. I'm going to change that, at least in my own mind. 

In our western culture, we tend to avoid waiting for anything, wanting instant gratification, instant joy. "Why wait? Do it now" is an advertisement I used to hear. But as I read in a beautiful blog post by Sarah Bessey yesterday, "Advent is for the ones who know longing."

As I observe Advent, I wait for the time of celebration to come. I wait in the physical here and now, knowing that on Christmas Day there will be feasting and joy, gifts and light as I delight in the observance of Christ's arrival to the dark world. I also wait symbolically, knowing that this world is often a dark place, full of sorrow, pain and suffering, a world which needs the light and salvation promised by Christ's birth. I wait in a future sense, knowing that one day, some day, all things will be made right.

Friko commented on yesterday's post, "...I come from the land of a long run-up to Christmas, a long festive and contemplative period."

Christmas joy is coming. It's just around the corner. I can wait. I can contemplate. And so, it's beginning to look a lot like Advent around here. Angels line the mantel, ready to trumpet the good news.

Happenings Around Here

Not quite two weeks ago there was a baby shower. The mother-to-be is our youngest daughter. Her elder sister and sister-in-law and I ho...