Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Savoring the Moments

Christmas Day has passed into memory. And what good memories we will hold! The above photo looks almost posed, but it was one of those candid moments that turned out well. 

When I opened the door on Christmas morning, this little one shouted out, "Bah humbug!" Her parents had watched Scrooge the night before and coached her on the way over. We all dissolved in laughter, for the mood of the day was anything but Scrooge-ish.

This Nana had very little time to sew, but she did manage a couple of sparkly skirts for dress up play. Towards the end of the evening, the 5 year old suggested a dance party in the dark. So we turned out all the lights, other than the tree and twinkle lights, cranked up Christmas in the Caribbean followed by Snoopy's Christmas, and all of us danced in the living room. Joy!

There were presents and food, laughter and games. And a little coloring.

Quieter days followed, but still filled with family and friends. Brunches, movies, walks in the cold (no snow), and more to come. 

How is your Christmas week? Are you planning anything special for New Year's Eve? 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Merry Christmas!

One last post before I sign off for a few days of feasting and merriment with my family. 

This is a "clearly-for-the-blog" photo op. I made a cheese ball a week or so ago. Did you know you can freeze them? I love things I can prepare ahead of time. The cheese ball is frozen naked, and I'll roll it in parsley or paprika or nuts when the time comes.

Tim had a taste of chocolate bark with peppermint candy canes on top somewhere, and suggested that he would enjoy some more at home. So I made a pan for him. Easy peasy. The hardest part is peeling and crushing those mini candy canes.

There are snacks a-plenty - monkey mix (aka puppy chow) and a cereal snack mix. The mix recipe calls for pretzels, but I realized one day that I always eat the pretzels first because I enjoy them least. So, with that thought in mind, I didn't add any pretzels to the mix. I used goldfish instead.

I roasted the turkey today. It's carved and sitting in the fridge in a bit of pan juice. It's an experiment. The carcass is stripped and making stock in the crockpot. I always find dealing with the turkey a bit of a hassle on Christmas Day, although Tim is the one who deals with it. 

I put my feet up for a bit after lunch (to blog) and when I'm done here, I'll be doing the final cleaning before Christmas. The house is currently awash with dirty dishes, remnants of sewing projects, and wrapping paper detritus all over the living room. The rain pours down outside in spite of the pointed message on the kitchen windowsill. 

Thank you for your comments on my last post. They are very much appreciated. Hard times come and go for all of us, don't they? 

Wishing you all a most merry and bright Christmas!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Gifts I Cannot Give

Gifts are bought or made. I'm ready to wrap them and place them under the tree. Yet. I find myself wandering the aisles. Searching. I pick up a pretty bauble. Set it down. Choose a book. Put it back. Frustration sets in. I cannot find what I want. 

Almost to the point of tears, I realize that what I'm looking for are gifts I cannot give. 

There is much sadness in my world. Oh, there is also joy in abundance, but today the sadness overwhelms me. 

For one who has suffered multiple and deep loss this year, I want to wrap up hope fulfilled in the prettiest box under the tree.

For loved ones suffering physical ills I'd like to hand the gift of freedom from pain. Healing.

To another who wrestles with doubt and fear I'd give simple trust and faith.

There are those who need a bow-tied package of reconciliation, of peace.  

And love. I want everyone to know they are loved, deeply. The presents I wrap and place under the tree are but a token of love. Yet my love cannot give the gifts I want most to give.

I head homeward again, having purchased nothing. The words of the song come to me, 

O Little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie,
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight.

The words "the hopes and fears of all the years" resonate deeply. For the hopes and fears of frail humanity God sent the ultimate gift, the Christ child. Gifts of hope, joy, love and peace. Gifts I long for those I love and the world beyond. God with us. In the midst of the pain, the despair, the doubt and fear. Immanuel. God with me. God with you. 


Friday, December 18, 2015

Around my Home

Afternoon classes are a very good thing when school ends at noon, as it will today. I came home yesterday and lounged in front of the fire for an hour before starting dinner. I can feel my mind emptying of all that's it's been trying to hold in place for the past few weeks. 

This morning I wandered around the house with my camera, snapping bits and pieces of Christmas decor. It's such a pretty time of year. The paper cutting above was done by my eldest daughter more than 15 years ago. I store it in a box that's just the right size.

This ornament arrived in the mail before the tree was up, so I hung it on the soup tureen ladle. It hasn't moved. It might stay there for this season.

On the piano is the old International tractor, a hand-me-down from friends at least 25 years ago. It's weighty. Made of metal. Tim made the little trailer for it. 

Did you notice the little lights? I'm so tickled with them. They are tiny wires with built-in LEDs. Battery-powered. So delicate. I noticed Tim playing with them - he's the one who arranged the lights on the paper trees.

There we are, the three of us. I'm on the right, the bossy big sister. I'm guessing I was 5 in this photo. My mother always sewed beautiful Christmas dresses for my sister and me. These were red skirts, blouses and white pinafore aprons. I remember the aprons. Memories.

From my windowsill. A wish. Unlikely to be fulfilled. We've had just one white Christmas in the 14 Christmases spent here. 

Time to finish my tea and then think about what to do with my day. I am going into school to input a few grades and enjoy lunch with my colleagues. Then....? We'll see.

Linking with Five on Friday, hosted by Amy.  

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

By the Water in December

There is a lot to be done. Papers to grade, gifts to wrap, a house to maintain. But. This morning, as dawn creeps over the land, I drive to Island View Beach for a solitary walk. 

Glaucous-winged gulls. Buffle head ducks. Common Golden-eyes that look anything but common with their striking white markings. Crows. 

The night's frost lingers on the logs. Dawn stains the eastern sky. Last week's fierce storms threw up massive piles of debris. 

All the wind and rain and still the weeds, sere and brown, stand. 

Driftwood is irresistible to children and adults alike. I wonder who created this shelter?

More light in the sky. More grasses to bend before the wind.

I turn towards the car and the wind, formerly at my back, buffets my face and chills my ears. Gloved fingers sting with cold. One last photo - a tangle of seaweed caught on a bit of sand.

It's evening now. A full day has passed. Fatigue set in a few hours ago. But looking at these photos from the morning, my senses remember.  

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Laughing at the Rain

An early Christmas dinner. Parents and siblings came over from the mainland, my parents, sister and brother-in-law on Friday night, my brother and sister-in-law on Saturday.  

Around midday, while the wind rose and the rain pelted hard against the window, we ate and drank and laughed and talked. Lights twinkled on the tree, candles burned low, and the air caught a faint scent of fresh fir and cast it about the rooms. It felt like Christmas, festive and cozy.

We were warm and dry and happy while the storm raged, but kept an eye on the ferry website. Sailing after sailing was cancelled. In the end, there was no way across the water that night. 
Oh joy! An impromptu sleepover! When was the last time my parents, together with all of their children, spent the night under the same roof? We snacked, watched Christmas with the Kranks, and laughed some more while the wind howled and tore more than half the branches from my pots of greenery on the porch. 

Tim and I slept soundly in the living room, awaking only when the gas fire started at 6:30. How lovely to open my eyes to that soft glow. One more run to the ferry with the walk-on passengers and soon the house was quiet again.

In church this morning, a sweet little sheep sang and clapped and gazed at the angels. 

Then down to earth with a stack of marking. A cup of Holiday Chai tea in a pretty cup with a cookie (or two) alongside made the task more pleasant.

The series of storms that kept us all on our toes this past week seems to have eased to intermittent rain showers predicted this week. The last week of school. I'm looking forward to a couple of weeks at home. 

How's the weather been treating you? 

Friday, December 11, 2015

Friday Thoughts

Are the days flying by at your house, too? I almost hesitate to hang another ornament on my grown-up girl's Advent calendar. I want these days to linger, allowing time for reflection and quiet. 

Instead, I find myself needing to deliberately quiet my mind while my hands stay busy. There are deadlines to meet, parcels to post, papers to grade, and lessons to plan. Can a deeply spiritual Advent season, such as I long for, be created in a busy life?

Yes, I think so. I've crossed some things off my list. Handmade cards have been a pleasure for me, but this year, I made a few then decided there were other, more important things to do. I'm baking less. 

I try to read something during my day that I can pull out of my brain at quiet moments. Recently, it was this, from the Celtic Book of Prayer, "Do you have only one minute? Hem it with quietness. Do not spend it in thinking how little time you have. God can give you much in one minute." 

"Hem it with quietness." Isn't that lovely? And so I breathe deeply, thanking God for the day, the moment, the people I'm with (even squirrelly Grade 8s), for beauty, for hope and love and joy and peace. For Him. For family. And I am quieted even in a busy classroom. 

And so another week ends. Stars hang on the mantel and in the sky, in between roaring wind and rain. We take our moments as they come, one by one, like pearls off a string. 

Wishing you all a weekend of wonder, with moments hemmed in quietness. 

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

The Christmas Train

Last Friday night we went on an outing with the grandchildren. The Saanich Historical Society and the Model Train Association share a space not too far away from us. We managed to put three car seats into the back of the SUV, buckled everyone in and off we went. 

There are four trains that trundle along a track, taking passengers through the woods, over and under bridges, into tunnels, and along a pond. Children and adults alike are enchanted by the ride. The photos don't show well because of the dark. Above is the engine of one train complete with Christmas tree. Ours didn't have a tree. 

Grandpa and Mr. F waiting patiently in line. The train conductor handed out peppermint striped candies which helped the wait pass more quickly.

Here's a photo of a bridge with the lights reflected in the water. Mr. F perched in front of me on the ride and every time we went over a bridge he would clap his hands and say, "oooh!" So sweet. 

After the ride we wandered through the village. Above is the tiny church, complete with a manger scene. 

We arrived home a bit chilled and enjoyed hot chocolate and cookies before bed. The two Little Misses are very adept with a mouse and played the ornament smashing game on the Jacquie Lawson Advent Calendar. 

It was a sleepover night and everyone went down well, or so I thought. There was no noise from Mr. F., in his own room, but after an hour or more, I thought I heard something from the girls' room and upstairs I went. 

There they were, two little tousle-haired darlings, on one bed, giggling like teenagers and taking turns throwing a small blanket over each other's head. Cousins having fun. It took me back to some of the fun times I had with my own cousins. I settled them down once again and off they went to dreamland - until 6:22 am!

Frosty the Snowman on Netflix kept them happy until Nana made breakfast - sausages and snowman pancakes and fruit. All three of them are in constant motion and the only decent photos are these, taken while they were in their chairs at dinner before we left for the trains.

I went to sleep that night with a heart full of contentment and joy. The house felt full, too, with three little people. Just as it used to be. 

Are you planning any special outings during the Christmas season?  

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Lights in the Rain

Grey skies open into rain just as I drive into the parking lot of Butchart Gardens. Oh dear. I grab a clear umbrella from the stack and carry on. 

The gardens have something to offer at every time of year. Today's stroll provided vistas of quiet green and brown highlighted by thousands of sparkly lights. These photos were taken between 3 and 4 pm so the lights are somewhat dim.

Throughout the gardens, scenes from the Twelve Days of Christmas are tucked into corners. One of my favorites is the three French hens, seen above enjoying tea and pastries with a lighted Eiffel Tower in the background.

In the mosaic at the top, five golden rings float on the pond.

Garlands of cedar adorn pathways and statues, like this elegant bronze horse. 

With the help of BeFunky, I can envision the bridge (seen above and below) in the snow. This is likely the only type of snow I'll see this winter, although I always hope for some of the white stuff. 

Here's another view of the bridge, with true colors and a snowy background frame.

This curving path of stepping stones is one of my favorite places in the gardens. 

Although I ended up with frizzy hair and damp feet this solitary walk in the gardens was perfect for relaxing my mind after one busy week in anticipation of another of the same. 

How are you relaxing these days? Is is raining or snowing in your corner? 

Linking to Mosaic Monday, hosted by Judith. 

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Busy Hands, Wandering Mind

A morning at home. The wind races around the house and through the trees. I light a candle, make a cup of tea and open the recipe box. Does anyone use recipe boxes anymore? Mine is made by my husband from a piece of scrap oak after I complained about the smallness of store-bought versions. That would be about 38 years ago. 

Is there any season so prone to memory as Christmas? Recipe cards written in so many hands - sister-in-law, friend, mother, daughter. Some doodled upon - ahem. Recipes from my childhood, my husband's childhood, from friends scattered around the globe.

I thought, briefly, about naming this post "Tying.one.on" but soon thought better of it, not wanting the kind of traffic that phrase might bring. As soon as I publish this post, I'll be tying that apron around my waist and starting the Christmas baking. No, that's not quite true - earlier this week I did make Cranberry Orange Shortbread.

I dig through the cookie cutter box. Which ones shall I use this year? Will the little gingerbread man and woman make the grandchildren smile just the way their parents once did? I think so.

While my hands measure and sift, roll and cut, and the smell of freshly baked cookies fills the air, my mind will be wandering over the years, remembering, smiling, and being thankful. 

Have you begun your Christmas baking? Do you have food traditions handed down through the years? 

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