Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Say It With Flowers

I hope that everyone enjoyed a wonderful Christmas. Ours was quiet, which was just what we needed after a few hectic weeks. Amongst other things that I enjoyed were these beautiful flowers. In previous years, I have had time to do some pretty table arrangements, but this year, I just put them in a vase.

Once again, the only snow to be seen was on our Christmas cake, but that will no doubt change as we head into the New Year. For now, we are still enjoying the cake and trying to stay warm on what has proved to be a bitterly cold day. The temperature this morning was -17 C and the wind chill made it feel like -24 C. Now that is cold!

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Christmas Eve

After weeks of anticipation, Christmas Eve is finally here. We are not expecting a snowstorm, although I will probably give my snow globe a shake every now and then!

Season's Greetings to all of my friends in blogland. May each of you have a very Happy Christmas and a peaceful and joyous New Year.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

The Bauble Trees

There has been an outbreak of baubles in our neighbourhood and it seems that at almost every turn, there are bauble trees!

I must admit that I am amazed that these remain unscathed throughout the Christmas season, although I did notice a couple that had found their way onto other trees across the road.

They are such a cheering sight on these cold, dull winter days. On the day I took these photos, the sun did put in a brief appearance, but most days have been overcast and bitterly cold. The wind chill was -18 C when I went out this morning!

Monday, 21 December 2009

Winter Solstice

Ring Out Solstice Bells

Now is the solstice of the year,
winter is the glad song that you hear.
Seven maids move in seven time.
Have the lads up ready in a line.

Ring out these bells.
Ring out, ring solstice bells.
Ring solstice bells.

Join together 'neath the mistletoe.
By the holy oak whereon it grows.
Seven druids dance in seven time.
Sing the song the bells call, loudly chiming.

Ring out these bells.
Ring out, ring solstice bells.
Ring solstice bells.

Praise be to the distant sister sun,
Joyful as the silver planets run.
Seven maids move in seven time.
Sing the song the bells all loudly chime.
Ring out those bells.
Ring out, ring solstice bells.
Ring solstice bells.
Ring on, ring out.
Ring on, ring out.

Ian Anderson

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Advent 4

We light the fourth Advent calendar for Love.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Christmas Reading ~ Part Two

The second book in my Christmas reading this year is Christmas At Thrush Green. I always enjoy Miss Read stories and this new novel is no exception.

I think that there is something magical about escaping to a country village at Christmas and if I can't do so in reality, at least I can in the pages of this book. As Christmas approaches, we join the villagers in their preparations for the Nativity play. There is a real sense of tradition ~ in following in the footsteps of the generations in their Christmas celebrations.

I remember spending Christmas 2004 in a little village in North Yorkshire and attending a magical carol service at the village church, which may be familiar to some of you from the television series, Heartbeat. Yes, we went to St Mary's Church in Goathland, otherwise known as Aidensfield.

Walking from the church afterwards and looking up into the sky, which was clear and full of stars. Hearing the ground crunch under our feet and then driving across the Moors to the cottage where we stayed is a memory which will last a lifetime. And in many ways, this is what Christmas is about ~ renewing those traditional celebrations and adding another layer to existing memories.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Have You Been To See Santa This Year?

If I want to see Santa, I just have to walk around the corner and there he is!

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Festive December

Ginny at Sweet Myrtle is hosting Festive December and I had told her that I would participate, but with all the chaos surrounding the season, I have failed to post even once this month! Anway, I thought that it is time to rectify this.

I love getting out favourite Christmas decorations and this little house is definitely one of those pieces that I search for as soon as the boxes come out. It certainly adds a little festive cheer to my December.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Christmas Reading ~ Part One

Christmas is a time of both past and present and often the two are imperfectly blended. As we step into its nowness we often look behind.

At this time of the year, I love to indulge in a little Christmas reading. It is one indulgence that I don't have to feel guilty about, as it is calorie-free!

This year's delights include two books that are new to me. The first is Alistair Macleod's To Every Thing There Is A Season ~ A Cape Breton Christmas Story.

I thought that I would share a little about this with you. He writes in the introduction about the beauty of the Island (Cape Breton):

'Inland were high hills and a loch running in from the sea that looked like a sleeve of gold in the afternoon sun. There were trout and salmon streams lined by sweet-smelling alder, water meadows and valleys graced by elms as stately as those in the shires of southern England. The coast was rugged with grey granite or red sandstone cliffs, splendid with promontories, fog-bound in spring when the drift ice came down from Newfoundland and Labrador, tranquil in summer, and in the autumns thunderous with evidences of the power of the Lord.'

He writes about life in an extended family, as an eleven year-old boy of the 1940s: awaiting Christmas and the sense of excitement and anticipation as the big day approaches. It is a fascinating insight into a bygone world and a story that is best read aloud. I know that this is one book that I will enjoy reading every Christmas.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

After the traumas of last week when the tree came crashing down, we finally got it back in an upright position and I was able to start decorating on Sunday.

Considering the problems we had and the number of times that this tree was handled, I don't think that it looks too bad.

To get into the Christmas spirit, we went to Carols In The Park last night. The weather was wet, so I didn't take the camera. We arrived to find a steaming cauldron of cranberry punch on a huge bonfire, which was a welcome sight, as I had been cold all day. I managed to come away smelling of woodsmoke after getting too close to the fire!

Considering the dismal weather, the turnout was not bad and we spent a festive hour singing a mixture of traditional Christmas carols and popular songs, accompanied by the Salvation Army Band. Towards the end of the event, the rain finally stopped and there were lots of cheery Merry Christmases echoing in the night air as we made our way home.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Advent 3

The third Advent candle is for Joy.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Light In The Darkness

One thing that I love about living in my neighbourhood is that the houses are so beautifully decorated for Christmas. I did post a photo of the house across the street recently, but I felt that it didn't really do it justice.

I had an opportunity to take these photographs, including one of another house along the street.

On these dark winter evenings, a beautifully decorated house is such a welcoming sight. I know that winter does not officially arrive for another ten days, but the wind chill today is -21 C and we have had snow flurries during the past two days.

Enjoy your weekend!

Monday, 7 December 2009

It Isn't Quite Like Christmas In Connecticut

Last night I enjoyed one of my favourite Christmas movies, Christmas In Connecticut. This is such a delightful story starring Barbara Stanwyck as Elizabeth Lane, a features writer for Smart Housekeeping Magazine. She writes about homemaking and lands herself in hot water after she bases her articles on her fictitious life on a farm in Connecticut.

We all aspire to the perfect Christmas and I know that I always hope to recreate some of the wonderful ideas that I read about in those glossy magazines.

Now picture the scene ~ we bought our Christmas tree on Friday and I strung the lights on Saturday evening after work. I hadn't got round to digging out the ornaments, so it was still awaiting decorating. I got up this morning and it was leaning ~ we adjusted the tree base, but later on, I came back from some errands to find that it was leaning again. Not to worry, I could adjust it again later when help was available.

I was sitting studying this afternoon when there was a sudden crash and all that was missing was the lumberjack shouting 'Timber!' Yes, the tree came crashing down amidst a flurry of needles and a large pool of water (I watered it this morning!) After trying two different tree bases, the tree has taken up a horizontal position on the living room floor until we can get a better base tomorrow.

I'm left wondering why my Christmas isn't like Christmas In Connecticut...

Christmas Amaryllis

The plan was to have a beautiful flowering red amaryllis for Christmas. I have bought bulbs as gifts before, but never actually planted one myself. I read the box and the instructions were to allow 6-10 weeks for flowering, so I planted it six weeks before Christmas.

Within days, it had already got to the stage of the first photograph and inside two weeks, it was pushing ever upward ~ so fast that I could almost watch it grow.

Now, with almost three weeks to go until Christmas, it has burst into flower. I'm hoping that it will still be flowering at Christmas.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Advent 2

We light the second Advent candle as a sign of preparation.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Mix And Match

I was recently shopping at one of those big box stores when I spotted some flannel sheet sets for a bargain price. I was hesitant to spend the money because they were sealed in plastic bags and I couldn't assess the quality, but I thought that for only $35 a set, it was worth taking a chance. They proved to be exceptional value for money, with beautiful soft flannel and sheets that actually fit over the mattress and box-spring without having to virtually rip them in two to make them reach!

Sadly, the sets don't include a duvet cover, so I was left wondering what to do about this when I spotted this floral design at that big blue and yellow store...I never would have considered combining stripes and florals until I saw some lovely combinations on other blogs and I have to admit that I am feeling pleased with this effect.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009


December is upon us and the first comment I have to make is that I survived NaBloPoMo!!! Yes, I posted every day for the whole of November.

I'm not sure how I managed it and it was touch and go at times when I was too tired to make the effort and I realised that I hadn't posted that day, but I didn't want to give up on this challenge.

So now I can sit back and relax (in between studying!) and think about Christmas, which is fast approaching. I haven't written a single card and I feel overwhelmed by the prospect of trawling through that card list again and sending cards to people who don't make the effort to keep in touch. I spent $50 on postage stamps and then realised that sometimes, it is time to let go. So I am thinking that this year, I will review my list and send cards to those people who are really important to me. Do other people feel like this?

The picture at the start of this post is my Advent calendar. I love opening the little windows every day on the approach to Christmas and although small, this is such a sweet design. It is from Rachel Ellen Designs and is a 'stained glass' window. I had a similar one last year and it was such fun. I delayed opening the first window until I had time to scan the card into the computer to share with you, so now I'm off to open that window...

Monday, 30 November 2009

Thank Goodness For Flannel Pyjamas!

On these cold, dark evenings, I like to get snuggled in at home and enjoy a bit of comfort and warmth. There is nothing quite like the touch of flannel on your skin when the thermometer starts to dip and I found this great pair of pyjamas to lounge in last year. Featuring Snoopy in his hat and scarf and a scattering of snow, they are quite seasonal.

In keeping with this month's gratitude theme, hosted by Ginny, I would like to add, thank goodness for flannel pyjamas!

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Advent 1

A solitary candle lighting the darkness. Advent is the season of waiting and preparation for Christmas.

The first candle is a symbol of hope.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

In The Dark

I haven't had much success with night-time photography. I thought that I would try a couple of photos of the lights in our neighbourhood, but I couldn't find the tripod and as I was taking them at dusk, I was dodging the cars in the evening rush-hour!

The garden of the house looks so pretty with all of those Christmas lights ~ I am going to try to get out and take some better photos soon.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Taking Chance

My plans for yesterday didn't quite work out. I had intended to spend much of the day studying, but after a 12-hour shift on Wednesday at an observational placement, which was a complete waste of time; I couldn't seem to find the motivation to pick up my books. Instead, we ended up watching a very emotional film, which we have seen before.

Taking Chance is the true story of Lt. Col. Mike Strobl's narrative of his voluntary mission escorting the body of a fellow Marine Lance Corporal Chance Phelps, who was killed in Iraq in 2004, on his journey home. Mike volunteered for this duty when he realised that they were both born in the same home town in Colorado, but it was only once the mission had begun that he learned that Chance grew up in Wyoming and that it was his family's wish that he should be buried there.

I cannot find the words to describe the emotions that I experienced watching this film. In a way, it is about bearing witness to the fact that there are service personnel dying every day in conflicts around the world and especially in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The respect shown and the sense of sadness that total strangers experience when they discover that they are accompanying a deceased soldier on his journey home is remarkable.

Although some may be put off by the content of this film, if you have not seen it, I would encourage you to watch it. We owe so much to young men like Chance, who gave their lives in the service of their country.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Warmest Thanksgiving wishes to my American readers, in particular to my dear friends Tracy at Pink Purl and Heidi at The Cranberry Chronicle. As they originate from adjoining states, it could be said that they are neighbours!

I know how hard it is to be far from family and friends at times of special celebrations such as this and hope that the message of friendship across the miles will warm your heart and brighten your day.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Christmas Cheer

I won another giveaway! Heidi at The Cranberry Chronicle is giving away some beautiful handmade coaster sets. In view of the season, I asked to be included in the draw for the poinsettia ones. If you want to participate, Heidi is having another giveaway this week.

An envelope arrived yesterday and these beautiful Christmassy coasters were inside ~

~ accompanied by a note from Heidi on a card depicting Auguste Renoir's painting of The Cafe.

The attention to detail continues on the reverse ~ just look at that beautiful gold fabric.

Thank you Heidi for bringing some seasonal cheer to the dark days of winter.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Armchair Cookery

I read a feature about Delia in a magazine and it mentioned that she had a new Christmas book. I love cookery books and Christmas cookery books are so inspiring. I can sit and study them for hours and just savour those gorgeous photographs!

I came across a copy of Happy Christmas for one third of the list price, so I decided to treat myself to a copy. I haven't had a lot of time to enjoy it, but I have left it out so that I can sit down and dip into it whenever I have a few minutes to spare.

Another favourite is Nigella Christmas. I saw her Christmas cookery programme of the same name on television last year and this book is beautiful. How I long to collect the reindeer crockery and have my own set to use at Christmas! This dream is a little impractical, as most of it is sold in the U.K. and the shipping is prohibitively expensive. No matter, I can dream and maybe one day I will stumble across a whole set of it...

Monday, 23 November 2009

Seasonal Delights

I love this time of the year, when the Christmas catalogues arrive in the mailbox and I can sit and dream of all those pretty gifts and home ideas. Lakeland always produces lovely catalogues and these are a favourite of mine.

Most of the planning is purely for fun ~ in these thrifty times, I am not planning on spending much money this year.

The English Home was a bit of an indulgence though ~ I couldn't resist the traditional Christmas scene on the cover, so I treated myself to this one. I love the idea of a real fire, but for the time being, I will have to make do with reading this.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Thought For The Day

'I will rise to taste the dawn, and find
that love alone will shine today.'

Ken Wilber

Saturday, 21 November 2009


If you are anything like me, you have numerous projects awaiting your attention and this is the latest one. I would like to say that it is finished, but this is actually a photograph of the packaging!

I bought this cross-stitch kit with the intention of stitching it for Christmas. The appeal of this one was the fact that it features an English Robin and you will know from a recent post that it is my favourite bird. I also liked the holly berries and the Norman church in the background ~ a traditional English scene. It would be nice to have it completed before Christmas, but as I am so busy, I don't think that it will even be started this year. So for now, I will store it away with my other projects to await a day when I have time to sit down and sew.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Ring A Ring O'Roses...

Whenever I see Cadbury's Roses, I think of Christmas.

With their jewel-bright wrappers, they will always be associated with the season ~ shiny baubles hanging on the Christmas tree and twinkling fairy lights. Watching old movies on the television and fighting over who gets the last caramel! At least these days there is less competition and I stand more of a chance of being able to choose.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Christmas Robin

The English Robin is a garden favourite of mine. I make the distinction between this member of the thrush family and its American cousin, which is closer to the size of a rather fat blackbird! The joke in our house is that the robins around here are on steroids!

I spotted this sweet little mug on eBay. I was hoping to catch one of those Emma Bridgewater mugs, but they are so expensive. When I saw this one and no-one else placed a bid, I got it for the bargain price of £2.99. It arrived safely wrapped in layers of bubble wrap and a substantial box and now I can enjoy using it during this Christmas season. It is actually a Denby mug ~ another of my dreams is to own a whole set of Denby, but I think that will have to remain on my wish list for a while longer.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Feeding Time

Feeding my Christmas cakes with brandy has become a weekly ritual. For really moist flavourful cakes, I find that it is best to bake them in late September/early October and then liberally feed them each week. The air is filled with the aroma of spices and fruit cake, mixed with brandy.

I leave them uncovered until the brandy has soaked into the fruit, then wrap them up again in greaseproof paper and foil. The first of the cakes is going to be served before Christmas, so I want to get it as moist as possible before I have to start the icing.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

You're A Midwife Aren't You?

Some time during the past week there was a shift in my thinking. For a long time now, I have been in a kind of denial about midwifery, then someone asked me this question.

I think this came about because a) I don't practise midwifery in Canada and b) I can't officially call myself a midwife here because I am not licensed to do so.

This left me in a kind of limbo where I call myself a Registered Nurse who trained as a Midwife in the U.K.

All of a sudden, I am on a course working with midwives from across the globe and we are talking about midwifery and our varied experiences.

To be honest, the past few weeks have been absolutely exhausting as the course is really intensive. I have a pile of work on my desk and another pile of reading that is about 6 inches high!

For those of you who are wondering why I am taking a midwifery course, it is a requirement in Canada that internationally trained midwives complete a bridging programme in order to be eligible for registration.....

The good news is that I passed my mid-term exams. The end of term exams are tomorrow, so now I really should get back to that reading....

Monday, 16 November 2009

Lake Erie Adventure

We found ourselves on the shores of Lake Erie on Thursday after a meeting I was to have attended was cancelled at the last minute. This is an area of Ontario which is new to me, so I was interested to see it.

Lake Erie is divided between Canada and the United States and the opposite shoreline is Ohio. Though the smallest of the Great Lakes, it is renowned for its ferocious storms, due mainly to the fact that it is shallow (for a lake).

We visited Erieau in the region of Chatham-Kent. This gives the impression of being a holiday resort, as there are lots of rental cottages and many of the homes are already battened down for the winter.

It was another glorious day. We have been so lucky with the weather during the last week or so. It was mild enough to be outdoors for a few minutes without a jacket.

We journeyed on to Port Stanley and had lunch at this little bistro/restaurant. It was getting late, so we didn't have time to explore the village, but we intend to go back in the future and have another look.

This is one of the more unusual cottages overlooking the shore.

It was a wonderful day and a real adventure. Sadly, we had to return to reality and go home, but I look forward to more days like this next year.