Friday, December 30, 2016

A Different Sort of Christmas

We did something different for Christmas this year. In place of purchasing gifts for our adult children (there were presents for the grands), we booked four nights in a stand-alone chalet at Mount Washington, about 3 hours of driving north.

"Spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with your in-law families," we said. My parents came to spend those days with us, and we had a lovely time. 

So on Boxing Day (Dec 26) we packed two vehicles to the roof and beyond and drove north. On our second evening we feasted on cheese fondue, with crusty bread to dip, along with steamed vegetables and cooked meatballs. It was reminiscent of being in the Swiss Alps. And the snow fell in great, fat, drifting flakes; in hard, swift pellets; in steady crystal twirls. And the snow shone in between the snow. 

"Why does this woman like snow so much?" some readers may ask. 

I grew up where winters lasted far too long. By February I was sick of snow, sick of cold, and just wanted to escape to warmth and sunlight. 

Then I moved to South America. For 20 years. I can't tell you how much I missed the rhythm of the seasons. I even missed the snow.

Then we moved here, to southern Vancouver Island, where it snows very little, if at all. And I longed for snow. I still do, every year, and am thrilled when it comes, for I know that it won't last long at all. This year we've had snow here at sea level and we knew there would be a lot on the mountain. There was. 

This was our view at 7:46 this morning. Until that moment we hadn't been able to see the distant mountains. 

8:01 am. Faint pink drifts in to dismiss the blue of night.

8:11 am. A bit of yellow comes to warm the pink.

8:21 am. The sun lifts itself above the horizon and glows on the mountain peaks.

8:29 am. The rising sun washes most of the colour from the sky and pours it over the landscape.

8:37 am. The sun rises steadily for her short, shallow winter arc, and day's brighter blues will dominate the landscape.

By 10 am we were packed up and on our way home, with memories and a few other things to remind us of our time together in the snow. There will be more snow tales to come. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Week Between

Our view this morning. I can hardly stop looking out the window. 

This week between the years is a slow one, filled with family times, quiet celebrations, or louder ones when the littles are involved. Eleven of us are tucked into a cozy chalet in the mountains, playing games, talking, walking in the snow. Some will ski, others will throw snowballs.

I put my order in for snow in August. We've been blessed with it in abundance. Yesterday's arrival was a bit hair raising, but everything made up on sleds to the chalet and we are tucked in with plenty of good food, books, and crafts. 

I can't quite understand those who give a sigh of relief late on Christmas Day and say, "it's over." Advent is the long run up to Christmas and then the festivities begin. Perhaps this is an old-fashioned idea, but it's one I embrace. At home, the tree will wait and we will enjoy its lights, the candles, and the quiet scenes of Christmas until the New Year begins and beyond. This is the season to celebrate!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Almost There

There was little making going on this year, but I did finish up two little nightgowns and a pair of pajamas. Several years ago I made one of the bunnies-in-a-bed for Miss A. I've been collecting the Altoids tins and made a few more this year. Miss A has expressed that her bunny would like a friend, so that's one. The other two are for Miss S. For Mr. F I've created a little train station for his mini Thomas and Friends. 

I made each of my colleagues in the modern language department (there are three of us) these cosmetic bags and placed a L'Occitane hand cream in them. A quick and easy gift. 

And now, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, filled with love, joy, peace, and hope. Thank you for your many kind comments and visits this year. You inspire me, and I'm so thankful to have made friends through blogging.  

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Glimpses from the First Day of Winter

There's not much winter happening outside around here. Our beautiful snow has melted and the temperatures feel positively balmy. Relatively speaking. 

How are you doing? Are you almost ready for the big day(s)? The angels on the armoire look ready to burst into "Joy to the World."

Here's a picture, taken in the dark hours of early morning. We're turning now, slowly, imperceptibly, but irrevocably, towards the light. The focus is on the garland, stars and ornament hanging from the chandelier above the dining room table.

Another view, with the focus on the china hutch. There's nothing like taking photos to make one realize that there are a few pieces missing here, probably in the dishwasher. 

Notice the crowded scene on the bottom? I artistically arrange the nativity set to fill the space. But a six-year-old grand thinks that everyone wants to get close to Baby Jesus and she rearranges my set(s) to reflect that. Would that we all crowd around Jesus, not only at Christmas.

Do you have your breakfast plans sorted? I made these Breakfast Strudels, a tradition in our family since 2004, and tucked them into the freezer to pull out on Christmas morning. They are creamy packets of scrambled egg in a cheesy sauce. Click on the link for the recipe.

Are there enough sweets at your place? Nah, didn't think so. I made a batch of Peanut Butter Squares, reminiscent of those infamous peanut butter cups. They went together fast!

Today is a quieter day. I have some hand sewing to do and plan to put on the last episode of the newest Gilmore Girls while I stitch away. Some last minute wrapping, then a house cleaning. What are your plans? 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Going Home for Christmas

What defines home? There's the dictionary definition - where one lives - but there's a more abstract construct as well. Earlier this month my siblings and I, along with our spouses, gathered at my parents' house for an early Christmas dinner.

I've never lived in this house and have made my own home(s) in several places. But coming back to Mom and Dad's place has a sense of coming home, no matter how old I am, nor how established I am in my own life.

"What can I bring to help with the dinner?"

"Oh, nothing. Your father and I have it all under control."

 And so they did. While the snow fell outside, we were warm, enjoying turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, roast vegetables, salad, and trifle for dessert. 

These two. How I love them. How glad I am to go to their house. It's still home. There's a sense of letting go of care and basking in their love. Home is a place of acceptance. Of being known and loved. 

My mother sets a beautiful table. She made the quilted tablerunner as well. Each Wednesday my parents volunteer: my mother makes quilts for the MCC, and my father works in the thrift store warehouse.

 My mother's original set of china is Queen's Messenger, by Royal Albert. I've always loved the delicate colours.

And here we are: my parents, me, and my two siblings. At home. 

In a few days my parents will join Tim and me at our home for Christmas. And when my mother says, "What can I bring?", I say "Absolutely nothing. Just yourselves." 

Monday, December 19, 2016

Christmas Cards and More

Far fewer Christmas cards arrive in the mail nowadays. I think it's a combination of lack of time, rising postage costs, and the ease of digital communication. However digital we may be, there's still a frisson of delight when a hand-addressed envelope is plucked from the mailbox. 

Amy of Love Made My Home has organized a Christmas card exchange for a couple of years. It's a fun way to connect with another blogger, and to receive a real card in the mail. I was partnered with Kathy of Compassion Knit and received this cute and playful card.

For now the cards stand on the hall table, in front of the Advent Calendar, which, as you can see, is rapidly filling up. The paperwhites are just beginning to open and their lovely sweet scent wafts upwards as I climb the stairs.

These days fill up, as December tends to do. Last week we attended Miss S' preschool concert. She's looking a little tired and wired here, and the gym lighting cast rather harsh shadows on her face and that of her Grandpa's as they sat on the floor enjoying their snacks.

Later in the week we celebrated Miss A's birthday. It was pajama day at both her school and her cousin's preschool, hence the flannel party attire. Pretty rainbow cupcakes not only looked good, but tasted yummy, too.

Little brother enjoyed riding on Grandpa's shoulders, just like his father used to do. 

We had guests for breakfast on Saturday - Miss S and her parents. I've wanted to try these French Toast Cubes for awhile, and this was the day. They made a fine accompaniment to eggs baked in ham cups and English muffins, and fruit. The sweetness can be controlled by the amount of cinnamon sugar, and although the recipe, here, suggested dipping them in maple syrup, I decided that would be sugar overload. There's certainly enough sugar around these days!

Thank you for your kind comments on my little story in the previous post. Miss A was over yesterday and got right to playing with the scene. 

Ironically, as most bloggers stop posting as we draw nearer to Christmas, I'll likely put up a few more posts than usual. It was lovely to wake up this morning, knowing I would be home for the day. 

Happy pre-Christmas week!

Friday, December 16, 2016

A Winter's Tale

Once upon a time, in the land of Silvertray, three white houses, each with a red roof, stood in the forest. 

One fat snowflake fell,

then another and another until cold, white snowflakes covered the ground. 

The three white houses looked at each other and admired how beautiful they were with their curved windows, their heart cut outs and their shiny red roofs.

"But," said the first white house, "we were made to be lived in, and there's no one here."
"We need someone to turn on our lights. What can we do?" said the second white house.
"Let's advertise," said the third white house.

So the three houses sent an advertisement to, that said:

"Three cozy houses in a forest need someone to live in them. Must like winter." 

 Then they waited. Still the cold snow fell until drifts of white completely buried the forest floor.

And the three white houses were lonely. They wondered if anyone would ever come to live in them.

One day the first little house heard a squeaking noise and saw a tiny black nose peek up from under the snow. The second little house saw another tiny black nose peek up from under the snow. Then the third little house saw another tiny black nose pop up from under the snow.

The three white houses watched as the three tiny black noses twitched and wriggled. Snow flew up into the air as tiny little feet kicked and kicked until three tiny brown mice popped out on top of the snow.   

"What beautiful houses," said the first tiny brown mouse, whose name was Alexander. He wore a red bow tie.
"They look so cozy," said the second tiny brown mouse, whose name was Natalia, who had a blue ribbon around her neck.
"I wonder who lives in them," said the third tiny brown mouse, whose name was Victoria. She wore two minty green ribbons around her ears.

The three white houses with red roofs were so excited that they almost burst their doors.

"NOBODY lives here," they said all together.
"Would you like to live in us?" said the first white house.
"Please open my door," said the second white house.
"You can turn on my lights," said the third white house.

"REALLY?" said Alexander, Natalia, and Victoria. 

"YES, indeed," said the three white houses with red roofs.

Alexander moved into the first white house. He had brought his red wagon with him and he used it to haul logs from the forest.

Natalia moved into the second white house. She brought her polar bear snow globe to shake when she wanted to see snow fall.

Victoria moved into the third white house. She brought her sled with her and all the mice took turns pulling each other around in the snow.

And so the three white houses sighed with contentment. 
"We're so happy to have someone to live in us," they said.

Alexander, Natalia, and Victoria played in the snowy forest every day. When night time came and they got cold, they each went into their own white house with a red roof, turned on the lights, and spent a cozy night.

The End

This Christmas Tale was inspired by three metal houses recently purchased. I thought to create a scene for the coffee table that the grandchildren can play with. It was such fun to come up with the ideas and the props. 

I'm linking to Five on Friday, hosted by Amy of Love Made My Home. For the Five item tie-in here are 5 things I'm thankful for today:
1. School is out for 2 weeks.
2. The Christmas tree is up and twinkles merrily.
3. School is out for 2 weeks.
4. The sun is shining. I don't mind these chillier temperatures when it's so bright outside. (by chillier I mean just below freezing - not so very chilly by some standards, but rare enough here)
5. School is out for 2 weeks. Don't get me wrong. I love teaching, I love the students, but it's been a trying few months in some areas and I'm glad for a break. 

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Winter Wonderland

On a misty, grey Saturday morning, Tim and I crossed the Strait of Georgia for an early Christmas dinner with my parents and siblings. As the crow flies, it's a distance of 133 km, or 82 miles. As the weather goes, it's like moving from one climate to another. Mist and rain soon gave way to fat snowflakes splatting against the windshield. 

We arrived at noon and the snow continued through the afternoon, into the evening and through the night. In the mosaic above two photos show the amount of snow on our SUV, one taken in the afternoon, the other this morning. 10-12 inches of beautiful, white, fluffy snow.

After clearing off the snow, we set out for home. All of these photos were taken as we drove, through the windshield, or out the side window. I'm utterly enthralled by the beauty of snow.

Snowplows and sanding trucks worked through the night to clear the highway. Wreaths of cloud clung round the blue and white mountains with beauty that made me ache with the longing for words to describe it. 

In the opposite lane I managed to capture the snow plow barreling along, throwing up great waves of snow mixed with sand from the road. 

A feast of delight for the eyes and the soul.

Crossing the Vedder River.

And then, one last gift before we left the snow for brown and green fields and the grey ocean. A pair of snow geese, necks stretched long in flight, beating their wings as they flew overhead. Edited to add: Thanks to Sara, I checked and these are indeed Trumpeter Swans and not Snow Geese. They are so lovely, aren't they?

Linking to Mosaic Monday, hosted by Maggie of Normandy Life. 

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