Monday, 31 December 2007

Life As A Journey

I've put the kettle on and made a cup of tea. I thought that we could use my seasonal Wedgwood mugs ~ I bought these some years ago, but they got forgotten about in a box and I am sorry to say that they have never been used. They were a bargain buy from Winners and I fell in love with them when I saw them; dusty and ignored on the shelf. If you prefer, we can have a cup of mulled wine or a hot chocolate, as they each have a recipe on the back.

I have lots of seasonal nibbles on hand so it is hardly surprising that I have an expanding waistline! I have eaten far too much and done too little in the past week. The break from our normal routine was much needed. We have both enjoyed this period of rest and relaxation and don't want this time to end.

This evening, I will be cooking dinner: a recipe for roast pork from Delia Smith's Christmas and we will share a bottle of wine and enjoy a quiet evening at home. For me, this is a time of reflection ~ I offer thanks for the many gifts life has given me. I prefer not to dwell on those things that have not gone well in 2007, but rather look forward to 2008.

However you decide to celebrate, I wish you a safe and happy New Year. Thank you for sharing this journey with me and I look forward to continuing in 2008. I hope that you have time to share a toast to 2008 ~ Happy New Year!

Thursday, 27 December 2007

Christmas Memories

Yesterday, we went for a walk in the Beach area of the city, but once we got down by the lake, we discovered that it was very cold and damp. Instead of walking along the boardwalk as we had intended; we stayed on Queen Street and walked along browsing in shop windows.

Many of the stores were closed for Boxing Day, but a newsagents was open and we went in to get out of the cold. What should catch my eye as I walk in the door but this book: Christmas Memories by Susan Branch. It was reduced to one third its original price, making it far too good a bargain to pass by.

Christmas Memories is a keepsake book with space to record favourite aspects of Christmas ~ family photographs and special memories of each year. I look forward to turning it into a treasury that we can look back on as the years pass.

Speaking of memories made me think about Christmases past and what evokes those feelings from childhood ~ the excitement as the day approached and the sense of anticipation. I think that for me it is the aromas of Christmas ~ the smell of Christmas cake baking in the oven; the herbs and spices associated with Christmas meals.

I spoke to my sister on Christmas Day and she told me that my nephew awoke at 4am and was excited to see that Santa had visited. Needless to say, she was not too happy to be roused at such an hour, but it brought back memories for me of the time when my brother and I were caught opening our presents in the early hours of Christmas Day ~ how can anyone as young as 4 years' of age be expected to wait until dawn! Happy Days!

A Lucky Sixpence

The Christmas celebrations are winding down and I have a few minutes to do a quick post. Outside, the snow is falling and it looks more like Christmas than it did two days ago. We have had a quiet time at home, with time to read; go for walks and enjoy spending time together.

This year, I bought a Christmas pudding and it came with a sixpence attached to the wrapping. The tradition of putting a coin into the pudding has a long history and is intended to bring good luck to the finder. I hesitated to actually put it in the pudding, with visions of an emergency visit to the dentist, but I will keep it and hope that it brings good fortune.

I haven't seen a sixpence in many years and I suppose that I am giving away my age here when I tell you that the tooth fairy used to leave sixpence under my pillow when I was little. Happy days!

Talking of tooth fairies and dentists, look what Santa brought! A Cadbury selection box full of English chocolate treats and a tin of Cadbury's chocolate biscuits ~ yummy!

And some of you may remember my Christmas cake ~ here it is iced with marzipan and Royal icing. I was really late icing it and we were in such a hurry to try it that the icing was not set properly, but it tasted delicious anyway.

I do hope that you have all enjoyed the festive period and are looking forward to spending more time with family and friends next week for New Year.

Monday, 24 December 2007

Christmas Knitting

Some weeks ago, I bought some yarn and decided to do a little Christmas craft project. This may not have been a bad idea at the time, but needless to say, I have been so busy that it is only at the eleventh hour that I have managed to complete it.

Little winter warmers to adorn our Christmas tree ~ tiny mittens and bobble hats!

A warm wool sweater with a Christmas tree motif.

And a red sweater with a snowflake design.

I knitted some others too, but as they are green; they don't show up too well on photographs against the green of the tree.

This was a fun and relatively fast project to do, but next time I will have to remember to start my Christmas crafts in July ~ then I won't be finishing them on Christmas Eve!


Saturday marked the Winter Solstice and the ancient festival of Yule. This feast marks the elder moon: the last moon of the year. It is a celebration of the sun and rebirth after the shortest day of the year. At the time of the Winter Solstice the earth's northern hemisphere tilts back towards the sun.

There are many associations between the festival of Yule and Christmas. A sense of completion of the cycle of the year; of wholeness and of birth.

We celebrate the birth of Jesus and remember a star shining in the east ~ a symbol of hope; candles and evergreens decorate our homes and a Christmas wreath ~ a symbol of the life cycle of the year and the seasons.

Candles light our homes on dark winter afternoons and evenings and the Yule log burns in the hearth. These symbols of fire and light remind us that the sun will return.

May this winter season be a time of celebration for you and your family. A time to contemplate the wonder of Christmas and the hope that it brings. May you have light in your heart and your home. May the many blessings of Christmas be yours to share with those you love.

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Normal Service Will Be Resumed As Soon As Possible

Those of you who read my other blog will know that I have had computer problems for the last 48 hours. I had been looking forward to doing lots of posting after my last show on Friday, but could not even get online. The problems have finally been resolved, but to be honest; I have spent so long today trying to resolve the issues that I don't feel like posting. However, normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

Some of you may have noticed that my blog banner has gone from being so small that it was virtually invisible to being so large that it filled half the page. This is a Blogger issue ~ apparently, in their wisdom they decided to make blog banners a standard size, which totally ruined many banner photographs. They did not consult their users about this and believe me; there are a lot of angry people out there. During the time that I have been unable to post, they have obviously changed it back again ~ at least they appear to have listened to the complaints of their customers.

Monday, 17 December 2007

Christmas Sparkle

A trip to the newsagents this morning was richly rewarded by the arrival of two magazines that I have been looking forward to buying for several weeks. The first is the Christmas issue of Country Living magazine, which has been on sale in the UK since November, but takes a while to land here in Canada. I am delighted that it actually put in an appearance before Christmas, so there is time to enjoy it before the actual event next week ~ normally, it arrives after the festivities have ended.

The second is a magazine that I read about at Pink Purl. Whilst my french is probably not up to this, I am looking forward to browsing through the pictures and seeing some French style: Marie Claire idees. This is packed with festive goodies and projects.

I have been experiencing a few problems lately with loading photographs to Blogger. Added to this is the issue of my blog banner shrinking ~ can anyone offer a solution to this one? I tried deleting and reloading the photograph, but it has not made any difference.

I'm going to put my feet up and enjoy my purchases this evening. After an hour of digging our car out of a snow drift this afternoon ~ I was on brushing duty clearing more than a foot of snow off the roof ~ I think that I have earned it!

After The Storm

This morning, we awoke to much brighter conditions than yesterday. We managed to get a few photographs while the sun was shining. This is the garden of our building ~ in places, the snow came over the top of my boots, so I got quite wet trying to reach the trees!

The house across the street and a close-up of the snow on the branches.

We still haven't worked out how to get our car out, as we have a Mini and the snow is at the top of the wheel arches!

Sunday, 16 December 2007

The Winter Storm Continues...

What a difference four hours makes. We have had significant hourly snowfall, with a lot of accumulation on the trees in the garden. They are now weighed down by the weight of the snow.

Four about five hours, the snow was coming down at about 5 cm per hour. By 1pm, it was fairly deep.

I missed a photo opportunity when I saw two skiers going down the road ~ by the time I got the camera, they had disappeared.

Update: by evening, we had an estimated 28 cm of snow here in the city. Far short of the 45 cm forecast, but more than enough to keep people busy digging out tomorrow.

The Weather Outside Is Frightful...

We are in the grip of a major winter storm. Last night the forecast was for 45 cm of snow ~ a record amount for the city at this time of year. This morning, we awoke to less than anticipated, but it seems that the worst of the weather is just beginning.

We did venture outside to try to get some photographs, but with near blizzard conditions, it was never going to be easy. We discovered that the snow is deep enough to make walking difficult, as none of the paths have been cleared. They are forecasting 3-4 cm of snow an hour for the next 5-6 hours, with ice pellets and freezing rain to come.

Whilst we were outside, we heard thunder! The weather outside really is frightful, so we headed back indoors as fast as the conditions allowed. Our plans for the rest of the day involve keeping warm and dry and enjoying Sunday lunch.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Four Letter Words

Found in today's Toronto Star. I suspect that many of us are going to be indulging in these activities in the next two weeks! (Click on the image to enlarge).

We are expecting a major winter storm tonight with a forecasted snowfall of 25 cm. I think that we may be spending the rest of the weekend at home.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Lights, Camera, Action

The Christmas tree is up and partially decorated. I spent some time getting all of the lights sorted out and putting them on the tree. It really amazes me that I must have strung almost 300 lights, yet it hardly looks like there are any on it! I believe that I once read that you need about 100 lights per foot to make an impact! At that rate, I would have needed about 600 lights ~ not sure where I would have put all the wire though.

We don't have a mantelpiece as such, so the top of a bookshelf has to suffice. It is where we put our stocking hangers and a few pretty poinsettia lights and candles.

This is our collection of Christmas ornaments ~ an angel and two snowmen, which are fun. The stocking hangers are on the left of the photograph. Some of you may remember the clock from a previous post here.

And this was the view from our windows this afternoon. It started snowing late morning and we had big flakes by early afternoon. There was already some snow on the ground from the last snowfall, but all footprints were quickly erased. The snow is set to continue into tomorrow, but I don't think that we are expecting all that much.

I had to get the camera out to capture this shot, as I keep missing the snowfall. Each time it snows; I think that I will go out and take some photographs later and somehow, I never seem to find the time. Life has been fairly hectic around here for the last couple of weeks and it looks like it is set to continue until closer to the big day. Having predicted that it would probably be another green Christmas; it is beginning to look like we may be in for a white Christmas after all.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

A couple of weeks ago, Paul and I went to Broadway Gardens for their craft show, where we bought this delightful fibre-optic house. I couldn't resist lighting it up when we returned home and it looks even better in the dark. Just the sort of place I would want to return home to on a dark winter's night.
I've been adding little Christmas touches here and there and two pieces that were purchased this year are the cute little snowman candle lamp (glad to say that he is not melting into a pool!) and my snowflake sign. These pieces were both bought at a show we attended in October ~ the Heart of Country Show, where some of you came to visit me and buy my products.

This was the same show where I bought my wand. Paul kept reminding me that I was there to make money; not spend it!

The Christmas decorating continues apace ~ we bought our tree on Sunday and I started decorating it last evening. I have the door wreath, but have not had time to trim it yet. At the present rate of progress, Christmas will arrive and I'll still only have half the jobs completed.

Monday, 10 December 2007

The Christmas Nativity

A tradition of schools in generations past has been the school nativity play. I heard on BBC Radio 2 this morning that only 1 in 5 schoools will produce a nativity play this year and I think that this is a sad reflection on today's politically correct society.

School heads are so concerned about being offending other religions that they no longer celebrate the true meaning of Christmas with the traditional end of term production in which the children take the starring roles in their school nativity play.

On a lighter note, I am going to start re-reading Gervase Phinn's delightful book A Wayne In A Manger. Gervase Phinn was a North Yorkshire schools' inspector for many years and he has produced some wonderful tales of the children he met during this time. Naturally, as an inspector, he got invited to many schools for their nativity plays and this book is an anthology of his favourite infant nativity plays.

Much of this book is in Yorkshire dialect, so those of you who are unfamiliar with it may have some difficulty understanding, but the title of the book refers to an incident when the vicar asked the children the name of the baby whose birthday they were celebrating. One child was insistent that 'It were called Wayne' and nothing could shake his belief and the vicar was becoming increasingly short tempered; insisting that the baby's name was Jesus. The story goes that the child insisted that the baby's name was Wayne: 'I know 'cos we all sang about it in assemby: "A Wayne in a manger, no crib for a bed."'

Christmas Wishes

I wasn't sure what to write about today until I visited Beverly at Tea Time and Roses and read this post. She writes about longing: waiting and wishing for something and how when it finally happens; sometimes it is in a totally unexpected form. If our hearts are not open to allow our dreams to be realized; we can miss an opportunity that presents itself because it is not in the form that we expected. To quote from Beverly's post: 'Sometimes we want something so badly, when it does not match the vision in our heads, we toss it aside even though it screams everything we ever wanted.'

At this time of year, it is easy to get caught up in the frenzy of Christmas preparations and to forget the true meaning of Christmas. It is also too easy to feel deprived if we can't afford all that the retailers are telling us we need or should want.

We all have hopes and dreams but time teaches us that our lives do not always turn out as we expected. The important thing is to remember that we should be open to these opportunities ~ they may come in the form of a chance meeting with a stranger; an act of kindness to someone in need or the support of a loved one who believes in us.

Three Christmases ago I saw a shooting star on a lonely hillside in North Yorkshire ~ it was a couple of nights before Christmas and we had been out for the evening. Driving home to our rented cottage on the Moors; we stopped to stare at the magnificence of the night-time sky. Away from the light pollution of the cities, we were able to see more stars than I could have imagined. The sky was inky black and the stars shone brightly ~ it was cold and we did not linger long, but just as we were about to return to the car; a bright light shot across the sky.

I made a Christmas wish that night and I am still waiting for it to come true, but I try to remember to be open to the possibility that it may not happen as I expect and to keep believing. I have the support of a very special person who believes in me and who has supported me on my journey and for this I am truly grateful. I know that without him, I would not have made it this far.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Seasonal Delights From The Hedgerow

The post brought a lovely surprise last week ~ our first Christmas card of the year with this lovely view of the medieval city of York; portraying York Minster and the City Walls ~

~ and a box of delights: Sloe Gin Truffles. Sloes are the fruit of the blackthorn, which is commonly found in English hedgerows. It grows in woods and along field verges. Sloes ripen from mid-September until late October and they have traditionally been used to make sloe gin. The clever people at Sloe Motion came up with an idea to use the sloes after they had been soaked in gin ~ coat them in Belgian chocolate and turn them into Sloe Gin Truffles!

I first discovered the delights of these fruits of the hedgerow when we had a most memorable meal at the Blacksmith's Inn; a cosy country pub in North Yorkshire. It was a cold December night, a couple of days before Christmas and we were returning from another British tradition ~ the pantomime at the York Theatre Royal. We were served these truffles after dinner and as neither of us could face eating them after dessert; I put them in my purse and forgot about them. Little did I realize at the time, quite how delicious they would prove to be.

My friend Janet visited this summer and offered to bring anything I wanted ~ I asked for these; only to discover that they are seasonal and were sold out. Janet remembered my request and found these at Culpeper in York ~ I don't think that she reads this blog, but thanks Janet and I promise to let you know how good they are!!!

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

White Christmas

Last night I decided that it was time to get into the Christmas spirit and watch an old favourite of mine ~ White Christmas. I have lost count of the number of times that I have seen this film, but I remember watching it as a child and dreaming of a white Christmas.

Growing up in the U.K. we never had a proper white Christmas. On rare occasions, there was a light powdering of snow, but nothing significant. Even here in Toronto, we have had two successive green Christmas Days and it seems that the likelihood of having snow at this time is diminishing. This probably has a lot to do with climate change, as our winters generally have been much less severe than even five years ago.

Having said this, we will probably be in for a bad one this year, but hopefully, all our Christmas wishes will come true.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

A Believe Tree

A few weeks ago, when Paul and I went away for Thanksgiving, we browsed around Tweed, Ontario and discovered Home Tweed Home. This store sells a selection of gifts and I was in my element browsing around their shop. My attention was drawn to the Christmas corner, where I discovered a little tree sitting on the shelf ~ A Believe Tree.

How could a girl resist such a cute little tree? It came already decorated with snowmen and tiny parcels wrapped in tinsel; a star at the top and a little embroidery at the base.

Just perfect! I thought that I was being highly organized buying Christmas ornaments so early, but I have done very little in the way of preparation since. I hardly have a minute to spare these days and there aren't enough hours in the day ~ even on the days when I am up at 5 a.m.

I did manage to write some Christmas cards and they made it into the box on time yesterday to catch the last mailing date for the U.K. Hopefully, my family and friends will actually receive a card this year; even if I don't manage to send anything else before the big day.

Anyway, I am sure that Father Christmas will put in an appearance whether I am ready or not ~ after all, I BELIEVE!

Monday, 3 December 2007

Advent Party At The House In The Woods

Over at Britt-Arnhild's House In The Woods, there was an Advent party on Saturday. The party was an invitation to all who wanted to let Advent be what it was meant to be ~ not Christmas in advance; but a period of waiting and preparation for the holiday to come. This banner was designed for Britt by Phyllis.

Britt opened her door to all who wished to join her and lit Advent candles to welcome us. Invitation required a word about how we would change the world to make it a better place this Advent and the hostess gift a Christmas book suggestion.

Whilst I did not manage to visit in person on the day; I did pop along to leave a book suggestion in advance. My suggestion was Heaven Scent by Julia Lawless. This book is a wonderfully festive collection of craft ideas that are intended to encourage creativity and imagination and to restore the true spirit of Christmas gifts. Unfortunately, I believe that this book is now out of print; though I was fortunate enough to locate a copy last year via abebooks. I had a quick look on their website this evening and it is still possible to find copies available.

I wish that I could claim that I have had time this year to make a collection of gifts inspired by this book, but I am sad to say that I have not. What I am doing is trying to avoid the commercialism of Christmas and to concentrate on what is important ~ spending time with family and friends. I hope that you will join me.