Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Ending and Beginning

"For last year's words belong to last year's language,
And next year's words await another voice,...
And to make an end is to make a beginning"
T.S. Eliot, "Little Gidding"

The house is quiet and I hear the drumming of rain outside. My mug of tea is almost done. Last night we took down the Christmas tree and other decorations. Some years we wait, but I felt like making a clean start and I have yet to replace the items that normally stand on the mantel and other surfaces. There is beauty in spareness. 

Tim is at work for most of the day. This evening we'll enjoy a quiet dinner together - a seafood dish - and perhaps watch a movie together. Staying up to welcome the New Year might or might not happen. It will come either way. Tomorrow we'll enjoy getting together with our local family for brunch. 

When I was much younger, I calculated the age I would be at the new millennium. It seemed that I would be ancient! Now we're 20 years on and I'm even more ancient! 

In 2020 I hope you laugh until you cry, and that you will be comforted by friends and family when sorrow comes. I hope that you will eat well and move with energy. I hope that you will know how beloved you are and that God our Father longs for you. I hope that you will learn something new, smile often, and read books that take you to amazing places. I hope you see the world with eyes of wonder. 

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 27, 2019

Beautiful Days

The house is quiet just now. My parents left for the ferry this morning after breakfast. Our youngest and her little family are visiting with our eldest across town. Our son is up island with the in-laws. 

There's a jigsaw puzzle not nearly completed on the dining room table. Turkey bones simmer on the stove and the whole house is filled with delicious smells. Tree lights twinkle. Outside, a great swath of dark birds, too far away to identify, wheel and turn against a grey sky. I nibble on a piece of candied orange peel and a few pistachio nuts. 

Tim and I took a long walk late morning, then came home for a bowl of turkey soup. I decided to transfer my photos to my computer and see what I took. 

Above, Auntie Katie holds Iris while the cousins surround her with lots of talking. Iris took it all in stride and responded with smiles and giggles. 

Food is a big part of our Christmas celebration, and there was lots of it. Christmas dessert was inspired by my cousin, who posted a very similar looking plateful a few days before Christmas. Stacks of stars cut from angel food cake sit in a puddle of creme anglaise, with raspberry compote, a cardamom-infused orange slice, and a scoop of whipped cream. It was light and delicious. 

I'm very glad to live in Canada and get Boxing Day as a holiday as well. It carries the festivities onward. I always feel that the entire week between Christmas and New Year's is a time of celebration, of a time when family and friends get together, of cozy evenings of laughter, or quiet pursuits, and plenty of cookies and warming drinks.

Last night we watched Little Women (the Susan Sarandon version) at home here. I cried, as I always do, when Beth dies. Afterwards, Tim made us hot chocolate. 

This morning before my parents left, we took a few photos. There they are with their newest great-granddaughter. Iris is truly the star of the show this year. 

Then I remembered that I wanted a four-generation photo of the women in the family, and although some of us felt a bit scruffy, we took this one. How special it is. 

And here's Grandpa Tim with Iris. She's such a pleasant baby and we're all so happy for her parents (and for ourselves). 

There's more feasting and celebrating to come. I relish it all. The quiet days of January are near, but for now I revel in a full house, and the closeness of family. And I revel in the continuing message of Christmas - God is with us. 

Friday, December 20, 2019

Friday Five Before Christmas

This is me right now. School ended around noon, with the staff serving waffles to the students. Two weeks of being mostly at home lie ahead. Hooray for home! l have a long list of small tasks to accomplish over the next few days, but I'm taking an hour or two this afternoon to sit, think, and write this post. 

What a grey, grey day. On my way home from my shopping trip I stopped by the beach for a quick look and a photo. There is much log debris in the water, likely from the wild wind we've experienced recently. Rain is falling as I write and it's cozy to be inside with the twinkling tree lights and the fire.

Several years ago I stitched four cream silk hearts and beaded them with tiny gold beads. When I bring them out each year I remember the four little babies lost by one of my daughters. Time eases the pain, and it's good to remember, even when tears prick my eyes. 

This year, the pain is eased even more (not just for me, but for the whole family) by the arrival of another baby, to another daughter, last June. I talk with Iris on Skype frequently and she talks and laughs with me. I can hardly wait to cuddle her in person. 

Three years ago I posted about a cluster of three houses inhabited by three mice. This year a young hedgehog has joined the group since I couldn't find another mouse. The names of these woodland creatures are the middle names of our grandchildren who enjoy playing with the scene when they visit. 

The baking is almost done. I love being able to pull cookies and treats from the freezer. Yesterday I made Chocolate Cherry Biscotti, and I just have to dip them into chocolate. A few gifts to finish, some wrapping to do, and soon it will be Christmas! 

If I don't post before the 25th, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas. Thank you for reading my rambling thoughts throughout the year. I appreciate the friendships made through blogging very much. 

Monday, December 16, 2019

Preparations and Planning

Outside my window there's a bit of drizzle and plenty of grey. Not so indoors where the tree lights twinkle and the fire glows. I started this morning off with list making - menus, shopping, projects to finish. I like a freshly sharpened pencil and a cup of tea to help me think. Ideas flow freely, but it's nearing time to make some decisions and settle on things. I'm happy to report that in between writing the list and writing this post, one item has been checked off! 

Yesterday we celebrated a 9th birthday for this sweet girl. She's fun and feisty, and growing up all too quickly. She had a friend party on Saturday and a family get together yesterday afternoon. 

On Saturday I baked cookies and pulled together something quick for dinner. Shrimp in a garlic sauce with zucchini noodles and a few tomatoes, served over creamy polenta. Easy and satisfying, and there were leftovers for Tim to take to work today! Win win.

Most of the decorating is done. We did the tree last night. My, but it smells good. Fresh and clean, like the outdoors. On the piano are the paper trees I made over 30 years ago, looking a little aged, but pretty as can be with twinkle lights strewn through them. 

In the evenings that draw in so quickly these days, a cup of tea and a cookie by the fire is cozy and warming. On the plate are Rugelach, Cranberry Orange Shortbread, and Peanut Butter Squares. There's plenty for you, and more teacups in the cabinet, so feel free to drop by. 

Back to the list before I go to school to deal with lively students who are more than eager for the Christmas break to begin. 

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Of Christmas Reading and Sewing

I fell asleep last night to the sound of a soft rain falling. This morning is dark, with continuing drizzle. Outside my window shapes and colours are muted and grey. The wooden box holding greens sits on the patio table. It's an old box that once held odds and ends in my son-in-law's father's shop. Sturdy and honest - a useful box. I'm happy to give it some more time to shine.

With the dull light outside, it is very cheering to light the Christmas pyramid and watch the deer spin around in their wooden forest while I finish my breakfast tea. I have no classes until after lunch on Mondays and Thursdays and how I treasure these slower mornings at home. This morning I made granola - Tim's go-to breakfast on workday mornings. It's not my favourite thing to do, so I like to get it done quickly. 

Plans for the rest of my morning include some sewing. I had a dreadful shock on Monday when I planned to sew - my machine would not work. At all. I suspected an electrical problem with the cord, so I took it to the repair shop. They agreed that the cord could be the problem, but couldn't diagnose it. So I brought it home and in the evening Tim cut off the plug end, shortened the cord about 3 inches, put on a new plug and voila! I have a working machine. 

My machine is 37 years old come January and I love it so much. I've tried others, but always come back to my old red Husqvarna. It's stitched everything from maternity clothes to wedding gowns, baby garments, gifts galore, quilts, and curtains. I suppose I should resign myself to the fact that it won't last forever. 

December reading. Old favourites. Along with these I enjoy reading the Christmas chapters in Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books, and the ones in L.M. Montgomery's Anne series. I've taken a few Christmas novels from the library, but they are as saccharine as Hallmark movies and I can't take too much of them.

Speaking of Anne, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It tells the story of Marilla with sympathy and is in harmony with Montgomery's character. It begins with Marilla as a young girl and the story occurs over several decades. If you're an Anne-girl lover, you'll enjoy this easy novel. 

Greenery inside is brighter than outside today. And I did mention that I was planning to sew, so I'll get right to it. 

Have a lovely day!

Sunday, December 08, 2019

Light in the Darkness

Four o'clock on Sunday afternoon and the curtains are drawn against the darkness while the lamps glow and the fire flickers. The second Sunday of Advent. One by one the days slip by as we move towards Christmas, the celebration of Jesus' birth, and the solstice, when the earth tilts once again towards the light. I think the early church fathers chose well when fixing a date to celebrate Christmas. 

This week I've sent off a few Christmas cards and completed most of my shopping. We tend to keep it simple, but I do enjoy giving gifts that I hope the recipients will appreciate. 

No tree yet, probably next weekend. We get a real tree and don't want bare branches by Christmas Eve. I also enjoy the slow unfolding of this season of longing and waiting. 

Last night we enjoyed the company of friends around the table. One of my favourite parts of having guests in is setting the table. I do it early in the day so that I have time to putter and arrange things. I used the burlap placemats made by my eldest daughter several years ago, the Christmas plates, and vintage damask linen napkins from my mother-in-law. Candlelight softens everything and adds such a warm light. I also sprinkled on table confetti in the form of small brass stars. I've had them for years and like that they are not disposable. 

Comments were mostly impossible on my last post, and I myself am not able to see the comments on the blog, although I can in Blogger itself, so I'm not sure what went wrong. Earlier posts are still fine, and I'm hopeful that it was a one-time glitch. Thank you to those readers who emailed to let me know. 

How are your plans coming along? I'm hoping to begin some baking this week, and we'll be celebrating a grandchild's birthday next weekend. 

Monday, December 02, 2019

Glittering Illuminations with the Grands

not my tree - from the Carousel at Butchart Gardens

A tradition with our grandchildren is some concentrated time spent with them together in the month preceding Christmas. Our youngest, almost 6 months old, and living elsewhere, couldn't join us this year, but perhaps she will in the future. We've done several overnights, visited various attractions and have always had a good time. 

Our time this year began with crafting a set of three paper houses (one is a church) with each child. A friend of mine has a fancy Cricut and cut the houses for us, so we folded and glued and the children were thrilled to get three LED tealights to put in the houses. 

After lunch and some play time there was cookie decorating! Sprinkles everywhere! We played Blokus (the kids came up with some creative new rules), built forts, and watched a very short movie.

During crafting time the children each decorated a snowflake. Butchart Gardens was next on the list and the snowflakes were exchanged for hot chocolate at the coffee shop. Best of all, the beverage was served at drinking temperature so there were no burned tongues! 

The Gardens are full of Christmas magic. One attraction is the elaborate train track set in a wintry landscape. Young and old stand mesmerized watching the trains go round, through tunnels, and up and down snowy hills. There are a multitude of scenes to admire.

Sunday was the official Light Up for the gardens, so we had our hot chocolate and watched the train, then went up to the Carousel for a ride - Nana rode a zebra - and then counted down with the crowd until the switch was pulled and the darkness transformed into a glittering wonderland. 

Those Three French Hens sitting in front of the Eiffel Tower enjoy their tea even more under spotlights! We wandered through the gardens looking for the Twelve Days of Christmas, and there was much singing of the song en route. 

Here is the Sunken Garden. I heard young Felix explaining that "the Sunken Garden is the masterpiece of Butchart Gardens" and I laughed to myself as I heard his mother's voice in his words. 

It would take much better photography skill than I possess to do it justice. Instead, I set my camera mode to "Glittering Illuminations" and was rewarded with okay photos, and an overkill of star-shaped bokeh. 

And here they are, some of the people I love best in this world, walking into the Italian Gardens, nearing the end of our garden jaunt. 

On the way home, Sadie sang the Canadian Twelve Days of Christmas song, and we all joined in. It begins with "On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...a porcupine in a pine tree." There is a book by Helaine Becker, and it's very cute. 

And now it's Monday morning. Some house tidying to do, and a little bit of Christmas preparation before I head off to teach classes. Wishing you all a most lovely day, and a new week of joy. 

edited to add: A number of people have mentioned that they are unable to leave comments on the blog. I'm not sure what's happening, but I'm looking into it. When I go view my blog from a web browser, I can't even open comments to read them. Grrrr. 

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