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.


Friday, 21 November 2008

The Seagull's Laughter


I am always on the hunt for an engaging movie and I spotted this one at the library. Now, I must admit that I am not a fan of subtitled films, probably because I rarely sit and watch t.v. without a craft project in progress and I cannot have busy hands when I have to stare at the screen.

The Seagull's Laughter is in its original Icelandic and tells the tale of Freya, who left her native country when she married an American serviceman and returns in 1953 as a widow. She moves in with distant relatives who find her something of a mystery; especially 11 year-old Agga. She attracts a lot of attention from the men of the town as she vamps around in her fancy and impressive wardrobe of clothes.

The film is based on the Icelandic sagas of strong-willed females and the result is engaging and funny. It is quite a while since I have enjoyed a foreign film as much as this one. If you are looking for something a little different, this could be the movie for you.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Sheaves Of Barley, Wheat & Oats

There is something about the symmetry of this display which is pleasing to the eye. At the top of the display there is the spikiness of the barley. Slightly below this there are the ears of wheat.

Finally, we come to the barley.

There is much to be said about the beauty of nature, but these photographs speak for themselves.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

A Little Piece Of Home

Last week I mentioned how much I enjoy walking through the neighbourhood to the library. Today, I thought that I would take you on this walk. At the end of the street, I turn left and walk along this street.

The neighbourhood dates from the early 1900s and the houses were built to create 'a little bit of England far from England.' This is why I enjoy this walk so much, as it reminds me of home.

Many of the houses are half-timbered and some of them look like small manor houses.

The leaves are almost all gone now and there are piles of them at the side of the roads awaiting collection.

There is something about the stark beauty of trees in winter.

On this day, the sun had disappeared behind the clouds, so I had almost given up hope of getting any bright photographs when it suddenly appeared again.

The past 24 hours have been very cold with quite severe wind chills. Far too cold for this time of the year. It may not officially be winter for another month, but there is snow on the way.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

The Royal Family

The Royal is primarily an agricultural show and there are plenty of animals to see. Many of them are in pens, making it difficult to get close to them or to take photographs, as so many visitors are trying see them. One section that actively encourages getting up close and personal is the Petting Zoo.

Of course, this area is primarily for the children, but who can resist stroking an llama? Naturally, these animals are used to being touched but they also respond to food. Feed nuts are provided (at a price), so the person with the food gets the most attention!

Talk about eating out of the palm of your hand!

And a walk around the vast (and extremely cold) cattle pens offered a chance to photograph this beauty. I love cows' faces ~ this one had such expressive eyes and long eyelashes.

A visit to The Royal allows everyone to become an honorary member of the 'Royal Family'.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Royal Agricultural Winter Fair

Yesterday we visited the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. This annual event takes place during the first two weeks of November and is always held after all other Canadian agricultural fairs have ended.

The Royal as it is affectionately known, started in November 1922 and this fall fair brings the country to the city. Each year participants come from across Canada and the world to compete in this combined agricultural and equestrian event.

The produce section is always one of my favourites: I love to see the award-winning vegetables and marvel at what nature has created. The colours of the squashes are so vibrant and the Indian corn is displayed so well.


I always marvel at the quality of the vegetables. They look so much better than much of what is on offer in the produce aisle of the local supermarket.

I can never see too much orange, yellow and gold at this time of year, as the season turns towards winter and colour is rapidly disappearing outdoors.



Of course everyone stops to stare at the giant pumpkins: this one at 1124 lbs won 2nd place. The first place winner was much harder to photograph and not nearly so attractive!



It seemed fitting that as thoughts turn to winter, it should be starting to snow as we left the fair. Only a few wet flakes mixed in with rain, but there is a definite chill in the air and we are expecting some light snow tonight.

There will be more photographs from The Royal in future posts.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Thought For The Day


It is never too late to be what you might have been.

George Eliot

Photo: Nova Scotia, July 2006

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Chili Cook-Off

Strictly speaking, this is not a Cook-Off (competition), but I liked the title! I thought that I would share this recipe with you for a tasty weekday chili that is quick to prepare and delicious to eat. Start with about 1 lb of ground beef/mince and brown it in a pan with 2 tablespoons of chili powder; 1 teaspoon of garlic powder and 1 teaspoon of dried thyme. (Adjust seasonings to your taste).

Next, add two peppers chopped and cored. I like to use a red and a yellow because I like the colours!

Add to this a large can of chopped plum tomatoes; partially cover the pan and turn down the heat to low. Cook until the peppers are tender.

Finally, add a can of red kidney beans to the pan (rinse them first to remove that awful 'glupy' liquid). Continue to cook until the kidney beans have warmed through.

And there you have it ~ one pan of chili that has taken minutes to prepare from scratch and is a tasty meal for a winter's night. Bon Appetit!

Friday, 14 November 2008

Sex And The City

Yesterday I was speaking about finds at my local library. I was in there last week and I saw this movie sitting on the shelf. Now I must be one of the few people who never even saw one episode of the television series, so I wasn't sure whether to borrow it, but I thought that I might as well ~ it was an excuse for a girl's night in (sad I know, but the apostrophe is in the right place!)

Of course, I had to time it for when I was alone and the opportunity presented itself earlier in the week. I was glad that they did a synopsis of the characters at the beginning so that I knew who they were. I have read some bad reviews of Sex And The City (the movie) but I have to admit that it was pure escapism and I enjoyed every minute of it!

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Library Love

As I have been a huge fan of my local library for as long as we have lived in this area, I read Jessica's post with interest. I must admit that it had never occurred to me to blog about the library before, but I now realize that not everyone would think of being a member of the library or know what it has to offer.

I first discovered the library on my exploration of the local neighbourhood. I joined the library because I have always loved books, but also because it is free and cheaper than buying them. That is not to say that I don't buy books: my groaning bookshelves tell their own story!

What I discovered was that I could use the Internet for free too ~ useful in the days before we had a home computer. I could do online research; catch up with e-mails to family and friends and work on updating my resume/C.V. whenever I fancied a visit.

Not only could I access a huge source of books, both fiction and non-fiction and on every subject that might interest me: I could also borrow DVDs, videos and CDs for free. There is even a selection of magazines and periodicals to take home on loan for up to 7 days.

Now that we have a home computer, I can sit in comfort and log into the library site and surf away to my heart's content; reserving books for pick-up when they become available. Recent requests include Creating Vintage Style which I read about on Jessica's blog and Cupcake Heaven which I believe I came across in a magazine feature: both are eagerly awaited. If I go online as soon as I read the reviews, I often manage to place a reservation even before the books are in circulation and I am the first person to borrow them: all the excitement of reading a new book without the expense! I get a phone call from the Toronto library telling me that the book(s) are available and I have 7 days in which to collect them.

I read book reviews in magazines and on other blogs and if they sound of interest to me, I visit the library site and request them.

Best of all I get fresh air and exercise because unless I have particularly heavy books to carry; I walk to the library through the beautiful streets of the neighbourhood and dream of owning one of those spectacular homes.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

iPod Help


Generally, I would not consider myself to be technically challenged, but ever since I received my iPod as a birthday gift last year; I have struggled to add music CDs to my library of playlists.

Now I know that my friends in Blogland are intelligent and helpful, so today's post is an appeal for help. Please can somebody explain to me how I go about adding a CD to my iPod? I can get the file to import to iTunes and it appears under the heading of 'Devices' but I am stumped when it comes to moving the file from here to the playlist.

Many of you have playlists on your blogs, so I have every confidence that someone out there can give me the information that I am seeking. As I have just requested a few CDs from the local lending library, I would like to be able to add them to my iPod before I have to return them!