Wednesday, December 31, 2014

An End Before a Beginning

Here we are at the end of 2014. It's been a good year - we welcomed a darling grandson, Felix, enjoyed watching the Little Misses grow, celebrated my father's 80th birthday, spent time with family and friends and delighted in spending time together in God's beautiful creation. 

We arrived home via the ferry this afternoon, unpacked, bought a few groceries, and napped. This evening we're getting together with friends to welcome in the New Year. It will be a quiet get together, but not lacking in fun. 

For a photo collage of the year, I went through photos and picked out sewing and crafting projects. There weren't as many as I'd like to see and more sewing is one of my intentions for 2015. 

 Although our marking of time on calendars seems a little artificial to me at times, there is something appealing about a fresh start. Resolutions are rarely part of my New Year, but changing over to 2015 provides an opportunity for reflection on the past and intentions for the future. I'm thinking, pondering, dreaming, and hope to share some of those thoughts with you in the days to come.

Thank you for your visits, comments, emails and interactions in 2014. I'm looking forward to the same thing in 2015. Happy New Year!  

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

City Views and Country Views

Pale pinky skies. Early light glints off skyscrapers in downtown Vancouver, seen from our daughter and son-in-law's apartment.

I open the fifth floor apartment window, carefully hang the camera around my neck and lean out to take photos from different angles. The view straight ahead - white church spires draw the eye upwards.

Driving eastward from Vancouver we walk along the path at Fish Trap Creek in Abbotsford, just behind the home we lived in while Tim completed his masters degree.

Cold blue skies and even colder wind made the walking brisk and a little short. The geese and ducks seemed happy enough.

Further east yet to Chilliwack and a mid-afternoon walk with Tim and my father. Mist rises from the river, gulls ride the air currents and the mountain tops are white with fresh snow.

Mount Cheam leans over the town, pristine white.

Crystal clear skies. Blue shadows and white snow. Awe-inspiring in spite of the chill.

Dinner tonight with my parents and siblings. The scent of roasting ham fills the house along with the wine-poached pears cooling on the counter. Home again tomorrow and then, a new year. 

Wishing all of my readers a most joyous beginning to 2015.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

It's a Lovely Christmas

Three days of Christmas celebrating with family and friends, a little too much good food, glowing lights, excited little ones makes for one tired Nana. I sat on the couch yesterday evening while the Little Misses A and S gave me a new hairstyle - Nana's crazy hair. They were mostly gentle and I quite enjoyed the attention, the giggles and the interplay between a 4 year old and 2.5 year old.

Today has been delightfully slow. A late breakfast, then a trip downtown followed by a long, brisk walk along the water. Wind whipped our hair into more craziness as we filled our lungs with clean fresh air.

Bright sun, already low on the horizon at 1:30 glinted off the water in squint-inducing, blinding light.

Lush green moss covers a leaning tree trunk with softness.

Such a beautiful hour or two between the rain showers. Home again where the fire flickers and the couch compels a bit of reading and rest. Ahhhh. Lovely days.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

All is Calm (mostly)

All is bright. While dusting and vacuuming this morning, I noticed the light casting strong shadows across the rooms. From darkness to light - that's what Christmas is all about. Welcome, Jesus, Light of the World.

This year the stockings are hung with care - on the stair case! Eleven of them are a graphic illustration of how our family is expanding. 

Gifts are piling up under the tree, to be opened on Boxing Day (we alternate Christmases with in-laws), but we'll have a short get together this evening after church. And so it's back to the kitchen where things are not calm just now with lists of things to make. 

Wishing you the most merry of Christmases - may your season be bright!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Almost Christmas

Most of the work is done. Presents are wrapped (but not tagged), cookies are baked. Some sewing projects were ditched and others completed. Now come the final preparations - ironing the table linens, cleaning, last minute cooking.

There is joy in these days of preparation - tree lights twinkle, music fills the rooms, good smells waft from the kitchen. 

I saw these tea towels last year and admired the snowflake pattern. When they appeared again this year, I bought a set and cut them in half to use as Christmas napkins.

Red ticking plus white linen in the fabric stash were turned into a tablecloth for our breakfast area.  After a couple of recent sewing disasters it was good to have a simple project that turned out just fine.

The angel said to the shepherds, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. .... Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

Wishing you all a joyous and very merry Christmas!

I'd like to give a special Christmas greeting to family members scattered far and wide who read my blog. It's kind of daunting to know so many of you read my words (and don't comment) - thank you, Mom, Mum, Auntie Betty, Auntie Ruth, Caroline, and Teresa. I'm so glad to be part of our wonderful family. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas Mishaps II

Christmas 1994. The five of us were living in a small town on the edge of the Amazon jungle. It seems odd to write that now, from 20 years distance. Pine trees grew in the mountains and we would bring one down from the capital city, Quito, to fill the house with its lovely scent. The photos here are taken from an album, snapped in situ. Isn't it a pretty tree?

The tree had enough of standing up in the night and decided to lie down on the couch. We set it back up. The next morning, same thing - the tree needed a nap. We set it back up and there it stayed. But wait...there's more!

That year, we enjoyed Christmas dinner in the guest house just across the driveway. While the adults cleaned up the dinner and prepared for dessert, our children and some of their friends went back to our house to play. A huge wind came up and I walked over to check on the kids. 

I looked up and saw debris floating in the air. Debris - like two by fours and big pieces of things. I thought it odd at the time, but was rather clueless about taking shelter. In the house, the children in Cristal's room were oohing and aahing about the tree hitting the transformer creating an enormous shower of sparks just outside her bedroom window.  More cluelessness.

Our neighbours' house is shown in the photo above. We watched the wind lift the roof right off the rafters and carry it across the street before dropping it. Then the rain began. I ran to the door to tell Claudia that her roof was missing. 

"Oh, it's okay," she said, "it's just a little rain. We've put some buckets under the leaks."

"No, no," I said, "your roof is gone." 

Claudia and her husband are German doctors who speak very good English, but communication was clearly missing. I finally took her by the hand and drew her out into the yard to look at her roof, a sight which galvanized her into action, marshaling her family to rescue belongings before the ceiling collapsed from the rain.

We spent the rest of Christmas day cleaning up, moving stuff, mopping up. Our conclusion is that the wind was a tornado with a very narrow swath. The wind blew across the road into a hangar and drove one small plane into another, then blew across the runway and caused a small amount of damage to two military personnel homes.

We are all very thankful to God for protecting life and limb. That Christmas goes down in our family archives as one of the most memorable.  

Back to 2014. I saw these origami folded stars on a German blog and followed the links to create a few of my own. I have more pentagons cut and waiting for folding in odd moments. 

I printed French postal stamps from Just Something I Made onto photocopy paper, and followed the tutorial from Homemade Gifts Made Easy for the folding. The way the stars suddenly crumple into a five-pointed shape is amazing. If you have people around looking for something to do, have them fold a few. 

Wishing you Christmas joy throughout your day!



Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Christmas Mishaps

The Christmas season rarely runs without at least one hitch. In retrospect, it's often the mishaps that make the strongest memories. 

The year Tim and I were engaged, he joined our family for Christmas Day. My mother had prepared dessert ahead and in the interest of efficiency, dished it up into her china dessert bowls (fruit nappies is the official term, I think), and placed the dishes onto a large tray. She thought that the dessert would remain chilled and out of reach of any hungry pets out on the top of the car in the carport.

Queen's Messenger by Royal Albert, long discontinued - my mother's china and always a favorite of mine
 The car was cold, maybe with a bit of ice. The tray was warm. She wasn't back in the house very long before we heard a mighty crash. With a great whoosh the tray had tobogganed off the car top onto the concrete floor. She lost a number of dishes and I can't remember what we had for dessert.

Later in the day Tim noticed curls of smoke rising from the Christmas tree in its usual corner next to the fireplace. Thinking fast he, or my father, grabbed the tree and hauled it out the door before it turned into a major conflagration. That's the first and last time such a thing happened. A "welcome to the family" perhaps? He still married me.

Any Christmas mishaps to share?   

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

My Christmas Kitchen

Cinnamon, almond, and vanilla scent the air of my Christmas kitchen. As the fragrance lodges in the olfactory bulb of my brain's limbic system, memory is awakened. I roll the Ginger Sparklers in a plate of sugar just like I did as a child helping my mother. Sugar cookies, crisp and barely golden. Butter tarts - the only way I will eat cooked currants. Melt-in-your mouth shortbread. My mother made (and still makes) a consistent core of recipes each year, but she also tried new recipes that would fall in and out of favour as the season came and went.

So pleasant were my memories of baking with my mother that when I had children, I could hardly wait until each one was old enough to stand on a chair beside me at the counter top. Great clouds of flour rose up as little hands poured, mixed, rolled and cut. To my own family's repertoire of baking I added Morkakor, a tender almond flavoured cookie topped with meringue, from my husband's Scandinavian roots.

The years roll on. Most of my baking is solitary as my children are grown and bake on their own, filling their own kitchens with cinnamon, almond, and vanilla. Other little hands pat the dough (and sneak a little to eat raw). Nana invites them to bake, although she hasn't done so yet this season. The tins pile up on the counter and are taken to the freezer to pull out and enjoy with a cup of tea or as a bit of dessert.

Yesterday I took a tray of baking to school to share with my colleagues. Cranberry Orange Shortbread, Chocolate Mint Sandwiches, Pecan Toffee Bars, Almond Cheesecake Squares, Ginger Sparklers, and Rugelach. And marshmallows.

A snow storm of icing sugar on Saturday resulted in pillowy, white, vanilla-flavoured square marshmallows. This is my new recipe for this year. Sweet and delicious. Just one is enough. I'm looking forward to popping one into a mug of hot chocolate. I used Martha Stewart's recipe, available by clicking on the link.

I'd love to hear about your Christmas baking traditions. Do share.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Blogging Investigations and a Birthday Party

this photo has nothing to do with the text below, but I like it
 Last week I did a little research into why word verification (WV) was showing up on my blog (and many others) when the settings said it was not. 
Apparently Blogger has installed WV to prevent spam. There's no way around it if you have a pop up comment box.

However, I noticed that those with embedded comments did not have WV. So I switched the settings and voilà!, WV disappeared.

I also discovered that if you are a registered user, that is, you are commenting using your Google account, you don`t have to enter the WV code, just hit Publish, as per usual, and the comment should post.

A sweet little Miss is turning 4 and celebrated with a dance party. Music, costumes, a wonderful instructor, and little people dancing with abandon. It was marvelous, full of exuberant joy. 

Joining with Mosaic Monday, hosted by Judith of Lavender Cottage. 


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Christmas Scenes: A personal photo challenge

Lights everywhere! This truck let its festive side shine! Taken at night. No flash needed - there was enough light on the truck!

Little Miss A as a sheep in the church Nativity play. She was a little dazzled by all the people and didn't crack a smile the entire time. Oh, so darling. She looked in wonder at the star, sang Go, Tell it on the Mountain with hand motions, and wondered what Nana was doing on the floor with her camera.

I took this with my Sony using the telephoto lens and I'm happy with the result given the low light and wiggly sheep. I'm also pleased with the touch of bokeh on the angel's wing behind her.

Bells and baubles, with more lights.

This is the final Personal Photography Challenge. Donna, our leader and teacher who is always willing to share her knowledge and encourage us along the way, has had to close her blog due to family needs. Donna, if you're reading this, you are in our hearts and prayers. Thank you.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Garden Visit

A friend invited me on a walk through the Horticultural Garden not far from our home. We've been inundated with rain lately but the skies let up a bit on this afternoon. There's still lots of green - our grass always stays green in the winter and tends to go brown and dry in the summer. 

In the Japanese Garden, water plays a major role. The raindrops falling on the water are visible; luckily, the shower didn't last long.

Raindrops on bare branches remind me of crystal drops - nature's decorations.

Another view of the Japanese Garden - trickling water, curving bridge, greens and browns in harmony.

The Beauty Berry bush is bare of leaves and the bright purple berries are stunning on their own. 

A little surprise - snowdrops blooming already. I wonder what will happen when the weather gets cold again? Shivery blossom warning ahead!

On the Christmas front, parcels and cards are mailed, most gifts purchased and ready for wrapping, a few projects still on the sewing machine, and most of the baking done. A little bit every day and things are moving along well. How are Christmas preparations coming along for you?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Little Things

There's a Pineapple Express howling out there this morning. It's a warm wind from the tropics blowing rain in from the Pacific - temps of 12 degrees Celsius (gets up to look at the thermometer for the Fahrenheit reading - 63). Those snowmen would soon be puddles if they lived around here.

Each year we receive fewer and fewer Christmas cards. Some newsletters arrive although email is more common. I've taken to displaying cards from years past here and there. I do have a stack of cards to prepare and a few to mail (most will be hand delivered).

This postcard is from France, purchased in Paris by our youngest. The date is indecipherable, and in beautiful script the writer acknowledges receipt of a letter from a friend and begs pardon for not sending one earlier. 

Although it's early to wish you Bonne Année (Happy New Year), I will leave with Bonne Journée - have a great day. I'm off to teach French again. 

Monday, December 08, 2014

Memories on the Tree

On Sunday afternoon we drove to the tree lot. We like natural trees, aka Charlie Brown trees, that are not too dense so that the ornaments hang well and the effect is airy. This year, as well as last, we found our tree at a Gravel Mart. This enterprise does other work throughout the year, but cuts trees for Christmas during December. I asked the fellow when the tree would have been cut. "Two or three days ago," he said. "And I'll be cutting more this week."

This evening we decorated the tree. These ornaments hold memories - the brass bells were purchased in a store in Riobamba in the Andes Highlands many years ago. Others were cross-stitched, crocheted, or crafted by friends and family. Tim and I chose the Noel heart in Leavenworth, WA one year. When the children were at home, we gave them one an ornament each year. They took their ornament box with them when they left home. I'm glad I thought to get some for us as well, or our tree would be completely denuded.

It's hard to believe that we're just two decorating the tree once again. Those years of child-rearing, teenage negotiations, and young adults living at home flew by faster than Santa's sleigh on Christmas Eve. Wonderful years with wonderful memories. These are wonderful years, too, and e create new traditions for the two of us.

My grown-up girl's Advent calendar is one of my new traditions. Eight ornaments have been hung. One by one the days pass, full of activity and opportunity. 

A reader asked what ornaments I hang on the calendar - here are a few of them - a vintage earring, a chandelier crystal, a country angel. Felted hearts and simple baubles. More memories in the making.

Do you keep the same traditions year after year? Have you added any recently

edited to add: Maggie pointed out that word verification is turned on here, however, upon checking my settings I see that it shouldn't be. I'll look into the matter later on, for now, I'm out the door to teach French. Anyone else having this issue?

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Christmas in the Village


On Friday night four of us, two grandparents and two little misses, set out for a Christmas adventure. The Saanich Historical Artifacts Society (last seen here for an outdoor wedding reception) is all decked out for Christmas with lights, static displays of times past, .... and a small scale train.

there are no photos of us on the train

We all straddled the train (padded seat!) and each little girl snuggled against a grandparent. An engineer handed out peppermint candies. Then slowly the train inched forward, faster now, but not too fast. Round the park - twice! Through the tunnel, past Minnie Mouse and Pooh Bear, "oh look Nana, stars on the barn!," across a bridge lighted on either side. Chug, chug, chug. The whistle blew at the crossing and we waved to the people standing alongside the tracks. Choo! Choo!  

The moon danced between the clouds and trees, reminding me of a line from a very UnChristmassy poem "the moon was a ghostly galleon tossed among cloudy seas."

Home again for stories and pajamas and the making of marshmallow snowmen - not really a success as far as product goes, but lots of fun in the process. Then two little misses snuggled in their beds and Nana and Grandpa sagged onto the couch, thankful once more that parenting is for the young.

Linking to Mosaic Monday, hosted by Judith of Lavender Cottage. 

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Snowshoes on the Porch

Tim told me he purchased these snowshoes at Northern Hardware in Prince George some time during high school. That would be the early 70s. They were stored all the years we were in Ecuador and Tim's been trying to get rid of them since we moved back to Canada. But I have visions of decorating a family room in a woodsy-rustic style some time and have managed to hang onto them. 

I saw this idea via Pinterest and thought, AHA! A use for the snowshoes. So today, in the rain, I decorated the front porch. Cedar clippings are from the hedge, and a little holly from the bush nearby.

This is the first year we've had this little porch which is much larger than the sloping square stoop previously here. I don't know why contractors put power meters on the very front of houses. So unsightly. I pretend it's not really there. 

Inspiration struck again when I thought of the Ikea lanterns that are seldom used. I lit the candles for the photo, then again just before Tim came home. 

Greenery, pine cones and gold balls in a planter.

A simple wreath on the door as the finishing touch. I guess my look this year, at least for the outdoors, is rustic woodsy! I'm liking it a lot.

Do you decorate with a theme? Have you ever snowshoed?

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-...