Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Christmas Crafts

Some weeks ago, I purchased a copy of Sew Fabulous Fabric which was co-written by my blog friend Ginny at The Flour Loft. There are so many interesting projects in this book that it was hard to decide which to try first, but as it was approaching Christmas, I decided to buy some fabric to make Christmas tree ornaments.

I bought some vintage Laura Ashley fabric on eBay and thought that it would be perfect for these pretty hearts and the little bird design. Having cut out the designs before Christmas, I ran out of time, so I didn't actually finish the sewing until after Boxing Day.


These little decorations are filled with the delightful Christmas scent recipe suggested in the book ~ a blend of orange, cinnamon, cloves, star anise, green cardamon and black pepper. It is a spicy blend that delights the senses.

This was an enjoyable project and I look forward to trying some of the other suggestions in this book, which I reviewed here.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Silent Night


Christmas was a very peaceful and relaxing time, which was just what we needed. We were late getting our tree, which did not arrive until the afternoon of Christmas Eve. Usually, the tree is up and decorated well in advance of the holiday.

Attempts to get out for some exercise were thwarted due to inclement winter weather. After all that snow, we had a sudden thaw, followed by a freeze and now rain; making conditions extremely slippery. I did manage to get out today to take some (indoor) exercise in the form of shopping, but I almost fell on my way home when I slipped on the ice. It is such a mild day that I have been able to throw open the windows and get some fresh air indoors, but any further attempts at going for a walk are going to have to wait until conditions improve.

Tomorrow, I return to work and as I work four nights next week (including New Year's Eve and the night of New Year's Day), I will not be around very much, so I will take this opportunity to wish you a safe and happy New Year. I hope that those of you who are fortunate enough to continue your Christmas break are enjoying the time with your families.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Christmas Eve

One of the joys of Christmas Eve is listening to A Festival of Nine Lessons & Carols whilst busy in the kitchen icing the Christmas cake and doing a bit of last-minute baking.

The service has just finished and I have iced and decorated our Christmas cake. Time for a cup of tea and then I will start on the baking and preparing the vegetables in advance of our Christmas dinner.

I went for a walk this morning and the snow is deep and crisp, though not very even. We have about 50-60 cm of lying snow now and walking is extremely difficult after last night's fresh snowfall. I came back wet and cold, but with glowing cheeks.

I wish all of you and your families a very Merry Christmas. Enjoy the season and keep warm!

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Christmas Unwrapped

I've been making these little hearts during the past week. As usual, I left it too late to start such a Christmas project, so I am probably going to be sewing them until well into January! Still, they add a pretty festive touch to my living room.

The Christmas lights are lit and Christmas Eve is fast approaching, though I'm nowhere near ready for the big event. We had to grocery shop yesterday morning after I finished my night shift (not a good time to go shopping!) and I couldn't get everything on my list, so I'm going to have to go out again.

The gifts are unwrapped; the Christmas cake needs icing and I'm up to my ears in housework, but ready or not, the big day will dawn in a few hours. I do hope that you are all more organized than I: my only excuse is that the night shifts are totally disrupting my life.

Monday, 22 December 2008

The Coldest Night Of The Year

Actually, it is not just the nights that are cold. We have been under a cold weather alert since last Friday and it is freezing. Daytime temperatures have remained well below zero and factor in the wind chill and most people are opting to stay indoors.

We had our third winter storm yesterday ~ no photos this time because the weather was just too severe and I didn't want to go outdoors. The photograph above was taken last Wednesday.

We now have more than 40 cm (16") of snow on the ground and another storm coming tomorrow.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Snow Had Fallen, Snow On Snow...

Yesterday, we had our second winter storm in three days ~ did someone say that it is not officially winter until Sunday?

The weather was appalling ~ I came home from the train on foot with horizontal snow blowing in my face: in these conditions, it was like being stung all over. What with my hat and hood; my scarf and the collar of my jacket zippered up to my chin; I could barely see where I was going. This is the reality of a white Christmas!

Today dawned bright and cold. The current temperature is -16C and the wind chill is -24C. Even bundled up to the eyeballs, I didn't want to spend long outdoors.

The sight of the sunlight on the crisp blanket of snow is breathtaking.


We are on another winter storm watch ~ our third storm is expected tonight ~ and yet another storm is forecast for Tuesday!

I love this photograph of the snow on the evergreens and the lantern. Now that I am back indoors, I can really appreciate it!

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

After an overnight snowfall, the landscape has been transformed to a blanket of white. About 10cm of snow has arrived so far, but there are further storms on the way.

I took the opportunity this morning to get outdoors and enjoy the sunshine and take a few photographs of the neighbourhood.

Boots have a hard life here so I have several pairs. I opted for the long ones this morning because many of the roads and paths have yet to be cleared.

Looking at the photographs, it really doesn't look like that much snow has fallen, but there will be new pictures added, time permitting, after the next storm.

This is one of my favourite houses on my regular walking route. It looks so pretty and festive at this time of the year.

And this garden is just along the street. I love the sight of mature trees in the older neighbourhoods because they give such structure to the gardens.

It is always a pleasure to get out and take photographs on days like today, but I can't say that I am feeling that enthusiastic about going out again when I have to go back to work!

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Berries

This photo was taken last month just as the last leaves were falling. I love the contrast between the evergreen boughs and the berries ~ a beautiful reminder of the Christmas season.

I am certain that many of you are too busy to blog much these days; I know that I am. I had a giveaway here and there were only four entries: the winner is Fiona at Gingham and Flowers. Congratulations Fiona!

In the spirit of the Christmas season, I will be sending a little thank you to the four ladies who entered.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Magic Slippers

I am embarrassed to admit how long it took me to finish these little gems. I knitted them about three weeks ago and they waited forlornly for me to stitch them together and buy the buttons. I even went to the store to buy buttons and came back without them!

My dear friend Tracy at Pink Purl kindly shared some of her stock of yarn with me and gave me this pretty pink. I thought that the pearly buttons would be a lovely finishing touch. The photos are not great because once again, I had to use the flash on a dull day, but I wanted to share them with you, as they are winging their way home to the U.K. today.

I hope that my little niece Katy will love them ~ I am certain that big sister Jessica will be eyeing them, as pink is her favourite colour! I wonder if she clicks her heels together, whether she could be here with me for Christmas?

Postscript: if you are reading this, don't forget to visit here to enter my giveaway.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Rose Heart Swag

This was the view from my window as I sat at my sewing machine yesterday afternoon. It was actually snowing, which is why the photograph looks a little blurred. I decided to remain in hibernation and start a project that has been on my list for longer than I can remember.

The problem with starting this project was partly my inability to find calico anywhere. I came across an old dress in a thrift store and thought that it would be suitable for recycling into velvet hearts. It wasn't actually a quality velvet, but some synthetic immitation which proved difficult to work with both cutting out and stitching; but I persevered.


In place of calico, I used an old pillow slip and added body to it with interfacing. This was much easier to sew and I was relieved to have completed the worst part of the project first. I am not a particularly fast worker when it comes to sewing, so I was pleased to complete this rose-scented heart swag in an afternoon. There is a pleasant scent around my home at the moment.

I'm really happy with the result, but must apologize for the awful photographs. With this dull and snowy weather, there is no hope of photographing in natural light.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Seasonal Affective Disorder

There is something about this season that can best be described as Seasonal Affective Disorder. No, I'm not talking about the kind which is considered to be the winter blues; although I'm certain that I have this type during the dark months of the year: I'm talking about the mad frenzy of activity involving cleaning everything in sight!

It strikes without warning every year ~ normally around the end of November/early December. I suddenly remember just how little time I have to get organized for Christmas and I start ripping cupboards apart and emptying bookshelves.

I decided today that enough is enough and I'm not cleaning anything ~ once I put my cleaning tools away after cleaning the bathroom! I have the sewing machine set up after rushing to finish those Christmas gifts that were started in October (I spent yesterday afternoon making three more drawstring bags) and I'm going to start some Christmas projects of my own.

First though, I am going to make a cup of tea and indulge in one or two of those delicious Danish Butter Cookies whilst watching the snow falling outside. At least I managed to grab a photo yesterday while the tin was still full ~ it doesn't look like that now!

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Hibernating

Wouldn't it be lovely to be tucked up inside this cosy house? I imagine myself sitting inside waiting for callers to drop in and buy some flowers for Christmas. Naturally, all of the Christmas preparations would have been organized well in advance and the cards written and sent. If only life were that simple!

Today, I have been hibernating. Hibernation mode set in after a brief outing to buy milk etc when I discovered that it was -12 C outside with a wind chill of -21 C. (For those readers who prefer fahrenheit, this is around 10 F with -6 F wind chill). Whichever way you look at it; it's freezing! Once back indoors, I was determined not to venture outside again today ~ or possibly until the spring...now there's a thought. We had some snow yesterday and we are expecting more this week.


Participating in NaBloPoMo significantly increased the total number of posts on my blog. Today's post marks 150. As I didn't do anything in the way of celebrations at 100, I thought that I should mark this event. If you would like to enter a little draw for this calendar, please leave a comment on this post. I'm going to leave this open until Tuesday 16th December, although this will mean that it may not arrive until the New Year, as the last mailing dates are this week.

Monday, 1 December 2008

I Survived NaBloPoMo 2008!

I survived! I can hardly believe that I managed to post 30 times in 30 days. At times, it was touch and go whether I was going to make it, especially as I was working night shifts throughout the month and I was also sick last week.

The interesting aspect of this challenge is the increase in my blog readership. I have gone from about 12 visitors per day to 22 and their average length of stay is about 2.5 minutes. This would suggest that my visitors are finding something of interest and actually staying long enough to read my posts. My main question is why are these visitors lurking and not leaving comments? Although my readership increased significantly, the number of comments on each post has remained the same. I'm wondering what would encourage these readers to come out of the shadows....

From a personal point of view, I have enjoyed the challenge and it has stimulated the creative mind. Thank you to those blog friends who have supported my challenge with their words of encouragement ~ I couldn't have done it without you. I have found things to blog about that I may not have blogged about in the past and I have thought about what I can blog about every day. Would I do it again? Probably, although not until late in 2009. Watch this space.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Advent

Today marks the start of Advent, an important season in the Christian Church. In these days of commercialism and bustle, it can be difficult to take a moment to reflect on the true significance of the season: Advent is about Hope, Joy, Peace and Love.

Each Sunday in the season is marked by the lighting of a candle, traditionally in the form of an Advent wreath until all four candles are lit in the week before Christmas. Readings and reflections focus the mind on waiting and preparation for the Nativity.

May this Advent season bring hope and fulfilment to all of our lives.

*Photo: stock photography

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Wintersong


With the wintry weather that we have been experiencing during the past week, it seemed a good time to listen to some seasonal music. I had Wintersong on my wish list over at Amazon for quite a while, before I discovered a copy at the library and downloaded it to my iPod and I have been listening to it this week.

The title song in particular is so beautiful and full of emotion. I don't think that I fully appreciated the sense of loss until I saw the lyrics written down:

The lake is frozen over
The trees are white with snow
And all around
Reminders of you
Are everywhere I go

It's late and morning's in no hurry
But sleep won't set me free
I lie awake and try to recall
How your body felt beside me
When silence gets too hard to handle
And the night too long

And this is how I see you
In the snow on Christmas morning
Love and happiness surround you
As you throw your arms up to the sky
I keep this moment by and by

Oh I miss you now, my love
Merry Christmas, merry Christmas,
Merry Christmas, my love

Sense of joy fills the air
And I daydream and I stare
Up at the tree and I see
Your star up there

And this is how I see you
In the snow on Christmas morning
Love and happiness surround you
As you throw your arms up to the sky
I keep this moment by and by

Sarah McLachlan



Friday, 28 November 2008

A Year In Provence


I am a huge fan of travel diaries and tales of those who have moved abroad to experience another culture. As someone who has made such a transition, I am always intrigued by the adventures of others and no more so than in Peter Mayle's account of A Year In Provence.

Needless to say, I own the book, but we also have a copy of the entire television mini-series produced by the BBC on DVD. This is a series that I can enjoy time and again because of the many details to be observed, especially in the portayal of the characters. In the television version, the late John Thaw is Peter Mayle and Lindsay Duncan is Annie. The year opens with their move to the south of France just in time to experience the force of the Mistral in winter with no central heating and frozen water pipes.

John and Annie are both charmed and bewildered by the characters they meet in their new home, especially by their neighbour Rivière, who makes frequent gifts of dead foxes! They are frustrated by French workmen, who promise to do the renovations to their 200 year-old farmhouse, then disappear for weeks at a time. Their limited amount of French makes for some very funny conversations as the workmen speak no English.

By the end of the year, they are seduced by their new way of life and they have been accepted by the locals as part of the family.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Post Script


Just to clarify, today is Thanksgiving in the United States. We actually celebrated Thanksgiving here in Canada six weeks ago. The reason for the different dates is explained here!

*Photo: Microsoft Clip Art

Thanksgiving Wishes


Today is the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States. I would like to take this opportunity to wish all of my American readers, whether at home or abroad, a very Happy Thanksgiving.

Special Thanksgiving messages go out to Tracy and Heidi at this time. I know how hard it is to be far from family and friends at holiday times ~ a time when the heartstrings are pulled ~ but I hope that you are still able to enjoy the day and talk to loved ones far away. May you and your families have a wonderful day filled with joy and love.

*Photo: Niagara Falls, 2007

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Book Order

The bookcases at home are groaning under the weight of books and in danger of collapse. Added to which, we have lots of books in storage because we have nowhere to put them. The shelving that houses my books had become a real eyesore and I had been muttering to myself to ages that I really needed to reorganize it.

I found time (!) in my busy schedule to pull down the books, dust the shelves and reorganize them in such a way that I could find the books I wanted. Prior to this, there were so many books stacked on top of the shelved ones that actually removing a book from the shelf posed the very real possibility of total collapse.

What prompted this sudden urge to tidy? Well, I was looking for Susan Branch's Christmas From The Heart Of The Home and discovered that the edge of the dust jacket had been ripped because of the way I had stored the book. I was quite upset at my own carelessness, as I take great pride in my books and the pristine condition in which they are kept. I never bend down corners and I get irritated when I borrow books from the library and see how they are misused and abused.


Now I can delight in admiring my newly organized bookcase. That just leaves another two to sort, one of which is even worse than the one that I have done. I'm not sure what I'm going to do about the dangerous swaying of the bookcase though.

(In case you are wondering, the seagull in wellington boots lives on top of the bookcase!)

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Cold Comfort


I can hardly believe that I am sick for the second time in a month. By the early hours of yesterday morning I was fighting to stay awake and feeling like taking to my bed, but I couldn't because I was at work. I was so congested that I had taken a NeoCitran (hot lemon) around 4 a.m. which was a big mistake because it almost knocked me out. I was sitting there and every few minutes I would be jolted awake when my head nodded.

There is something about shift work ~ I am certain that it affects my immunity, which is hardly surprising because I don't get sufficient sleep working these unsocial hours.

So I have decided to be kind to myself ~ keeping warm in my flannel pyjamas and staying indoors avoiding the cold weather. As I am so close to completing the NaBloPoMo challenge, I am going to continue my daily posts, but it may be a few days before I manage to visit my blog friends.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Thought For The Day


Age doesn't protect you from love. But love, to some extent, protects you from age.

Jeanne Moreau

Photo: Cobourg Beach, September 2008

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Stir-up Sunday

I had thought about making a Christmas pudding this year, but have been unable to find vegetable suet and as time is at a premium, I have cheated a little.

The Sunday before Advent is traditionally known as Stir-up Sunday and is the time to make Christmas pudding, because it allows sufficient time for the flavours of the ingredients to develop before Christmas Day.

I saw this little lovely in a local shop and couldn't resist it, especially as it comes in its own pudding basin and not one of those nasty plastic bowls. I am looking forward to tasting it ~ if it lasts until Christmas, as there are mutterings at home about the necessity of a taste test!

Saturday, 22 November 2008

First Snow

This was the scene that greeted us yesterday morning as we prepared to go to Mississauga for my show. I have to admit that I am like a child when I see the snow, although I prefer to be able to admire it for a few minutes before retreating indoors to the warmth! I'm not a fan of travelling in such conditions.


These photographs were taken in the garden and certainly give the impression of a significant snowfall, although there was only about 8 cm.

This is the house across the street from us. Isn't it gorgeous?


The fir trees look like they have been frosted and should be on top of a Christmas cake.

And I love the contrast between the red of the branches and the snow on this shrub.