Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas Day in Pictures

Ten of us round the table; another delicious turkey (roasted after rubbing real butter and fresh chopped herbs under its skin) and a surprise dessert delivered by my new boss!

The "kids" interacting after dinner ..... before they were commandeered for dish duty!
Dear friends and wonderful family:  Canada, Czech Republic, Ireland, Korea and Japan are represented in these pictures.

My merry Children reunited for Christmas.

After dinner has been eaten, dishes have been cleared, goodbyes have been said to friends, this is how we usually spend our Xmas night:
My winning hand at Skip-Bo, duck lips, chocolate, wine, pop, cookies and fun and laughter.

This was the best Christmas I've ever had.  And although the day is past, the season hasn't.  Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

May all the blessings of Christmas come your way and the love and the grace of God be felt in your life.

See you next year!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

All I Want For Christmas Are You!

Perhaps a lot of you have seen this video of Jimmy Fallon, Mariah Carey and The Roots singing and playing "All I Want for Christmas".  It's one of my favorites, so I wanted to share it with you. The joy, fun and happiness in everyone else is evident and, of course, Mariah's voice is amazing.

I'm excited that everyone's going to be home this year.  So, I sing along with Mariah as she sings.  (However, my trying to hit the high notes can be extremely  embarassing.  I recently "tooted" in front of my Asian daughters during one of my renditions!  They are very forgiving, but I shall not sing soprano in public anymore!)  

I can't even begin to tell you how excited I am in anticipation of this family Xmas; I'm like the Scrooge character played in the old Alister Sim version of A Christmas Carol:  dancing around the house, laughting and singing and realizing "I don't deserve to be so happy".  

But deserving or not, I shall suck up all the joy that this season can bring.  I resolve to breathe deeply and not stress and take whatever comes in stride and to really ENJOY my girls.  

Cause all I want for Christmas is them!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Thank you! Merry Christmas! OBSERVATIONS

I'm a strong believer in and supporter of The Salvation Army.  They do what few other churches would attempt to do and truly act out "Jesus" in providing for those in need.  I don't have a lot of money to give; so at Christmas, I like to volunteer once a week on the kettles.  (We aren't allowed to sing or ring a bell to draw attention to ourselves now-a-days.  So I always dress low key -- bright red and green with Santa hat and/or antlers -- and sit quietly -- hum Xmas caroles and wear my Xmas sleigh bells on my wrist -- and observe those around me.)  

And if people do put something in the kettle, I always smile and say "Thank you.  Merry Christmas".  I'm shocked by the people who are genuinely surprised and gladdened by those few words.

Besides observing those around me, I gain insight into my own self -- the good, the bad and the ugly!  Last night was my last kettle sitting evening of the season and the best observation evening yet.  Here's some of what I observed.

  • There are more pyjama-clad shoppers out there than I care to see.  I mean really!  Who said it was okay to wear pyjamas outside the home?

  • People buy a LOT of soda pop at Christmas!  I mean a LOTTTTT!

  • I was impressed by the 30 something woman who was out in minus 4 celsius weather in her jogging shorts; but all the better to see those gorgeous toned 'n' tanned legs of hers.  Man, she had great legs!  (As she walked away, I evilly smiled to myself when I saw her celluite.  Okay, okay!  Not one of my prouder moments!)

  • Gorgeous, hunky men seldom look my way.  I guess they're too busy staring at toned 'n' tanned legs in jogging shorts to notice the pudgy woman in Santa hat and sensible shoes.  But I'm not so old that I can't appreciate their beauty and remember my own beautiful youth & the handsome men who courted me ..... all 3 of them!!! (Well, there may have been more, but perhaps not all of them were that handsome!)
  • I kept noticing this one young woman in the lotions and shampoo aisle; she spent about 20 minutes there -- strolling slowly back and forth in the aisle, opening bottles & smelling, reading the back.  My own 20 year old does that.  But it's been a long, long, long time since I spent 20 minutes looking at lotions and shampoos. Ya know?  I'm gonna spend more time in the cosmetics aisle from now on!  I'm gonna sniff more! 
  • I love seeing the happy couples -- young couples, new parents,  seniors.  They hold hands, they share in the bagging of the groceries at the self-check out; they wait for one another (some will sit beside me and chat about "I wonder where she's got to?"); and then they smile at one another when they meet up again.  It doesn't matter that I'm divorced and don't have a mate, I love seeing happy couples.  

But my favorite observations are always the children.  They're usually the ones to tug at Mom or Dad's sleeve to let them put some money in the kettle.  
  • One young man who was about 12 years old put money in the kettle on the way in.  I smiled and said "Thank you.  Merry Christmas" and he just beamed!  "Mom!  She said Merry Christmas!"  He was so impressed by those words that he put money in again on his way out.  Now I'm a mother of girls; and most of the 12-14 yr old boys I've been around are usually loud, obnoxious & quite annoying.  It's lovely to be reminded that they also have a sweet, soft side to them and a privilege to be on the receiving end of that.  

  • My favorite of the night:  A young family were at the self-checkout.  The little 5-6 yr old boy put some change in the kettle, I said my usual, and he went back to Mom telling her that I'd wished him a Merry Christmas.  Then while his parents finished the groceries, he stood across the aisle from me and entertained me.  First he smiled.  Then he used his mittens to smack himself in the face, making me laugh.  Then he began to hop as he smacked.  Then he started to do a silly dance and wag his head back and forth.  Then he began to sing, dance, wag his head and occasionally smack himself with his mitttens.  I'd laugh, he'd laugh.  What a little clown he was; and what a great ending to my night.

Have you been observing lately?  It's a most educational tool!

Monday, December 10, 2012


My littlest bambino came home from university last night, and I was at the airport to greet her "with bells on". She came home to a fully decorated home, or as she not-so-sweetly puts it "Ahhhh!  Christmas threw up all over our house again this year, Mom"!  But she loves it.

And she came home to a spic & span, totally cleansed house.  Not only did I "wrap up" the Xmas wrapping (because Santa's workshop was set up in the rec room ..... which happens to be where she'll sleep for the next 3 weeks), but I worked hard all weekend to cross all my cleaning chores off the list.  All shelves were washed down, usual knick-knacks put away & Xmas set out; bathroom the same; the crystal, etc in the dining room the same; kitchen & pantry cupboards inventoried and cleaned; linen closet tidied & re-arranged; and all ducks put in a row.  I wanted it all done before she got here.

At 10 pm Saturday evening as I was wiping down bulkheads and light fixtures, I said to myself :  "It's late; go put your feet up for the rest of the night and you can finish this next weekend.  Why is it so important to get it done before Libby comes home?"
So, I took a glass-o-wine break and I thought about it.

I thought -- yes, Christmas is a great excuse to give the house a good going over; but it's more than just that.

I remembered how as a young adult, while I was just learning to live on my own and balance my bank account, how much I loved going home for Christmas.  I remembered how reassuring & de-stressing it was to walk back into "normal" -- a home that was decorated and clean, where there was food in the fridge and toilet paper on the roll, where there'd be laughter (and the occasional squabble) and all the things I loved.  I especially  remembered one time when only my Dad picked me up at the airport; and on the drive home he said what my Mom could never say.  "Sandra, your Mom is so excited to have you home.  She's been cleaning for days and has baked all your favorite things."

Wow!  How special that made me feel.  

And I thought, I want my girls to have that "normal".  I want them to know that when they come home they have "a soft place to land".  The house will be all prepped and ready for our favorite holiday, with their favorite foods, and lots and lots of time to spend together.   I want them to feel loved and cherished.

I want them to know that they're sooooo special to me, that I'd treat them like I was expecting the very very best, really really super important company.  

The only difference will be that they have to do the dishes!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Christmas Time is Comin'

I've missed sharing with you lately.  Life has been a flurry of Xmas dinners, lunches & teas; craft shows, parades & concerts; letter writing, card addressing, gift wrapping & parcel sending.  And although it's certainly not stopped, I'm finding some time to breathe and enjoy this beautiful season.

Last weekend, we did one of my favorite things and got the Xmas tree.  We didn't trek through the woods; we drove around the corner and bought the 1st one we liked.  And I did what I always do on tree day:  played Xmas music, had hot chocolate and ...... cut too many branches off the bottom of the tree!  
Natsumi was so excited!  She's only ever had a table top tree in Japan; so she was thrilled at the prospect of a 5.5 ft tree.  She thought that carrying it home in the trunk was hilarious.

Then we brought up the boxes and decorated the house.  (The tree will be finished tonight.)

One of my favorite Xmas spots is always the collection of miniatures on my top-o-the-stairs bookshelf.  Each year, something is added to it.  This year, it's the "triangular shaped" Santas shown 2nd from the left on the bottom. 

I've been keeping up with your blogs and enjoying your decorating, travels, food, etc. -- even if I haven't commented and you've no proof that I've been to visit.  I've been there ... in the shadows ... smiling .... and yawning.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Perfect Guide To Holiday Etiquette

I shall soon be back in operation and posting irritating & annoying pictures of people you don't know doing things you don't really care about.  Such is the way of the personal blog (and the magic of $2.49 US a month).

In the meantime, let me entertain you with this hilarious but somewhat off-color guide to holiday etiquette that I managed to save last week.


Monday, November 26, 2012


I'm unable to post anything with pictures because Blogspot says I've used my space quota and must pay for an upgrade.  Can anyone out there help me?  

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy U.S. Thanksgiving !


Monday, November 19, 2012

I saw Santa!

They say that Christmas is no fun unless viewed through the eyes of a child.  I say that seeing Xmas through the eyes of a bunch of international students is almost as good.  What a great bunch of kids we have in our district this year -- all 75 of them.  They love learning about Canadian culture and customs.  And for some, especially the Asians, Christmas is not something they've experienced other than on a very small scale. 

We spent 5 hours this past Saturday at MicMac Mall where the students were supposed to be shopping for their host families.  (I'm not sure many of us wear American Eagle or Hollister!!!  But I also saw a few bags from The Body Shop and Homesense.)  It was nice day for everyone -- students and chaperones -- to just let them loose to wander and meet other friends who live in Halifax.  I ate a Laura Secord ice cream with my co-ordinator and spent at least an hour at Starbucks chatting with the other chaperones.

At 4 pm, we headed across the bridge to Halifax to stake out a spot for the annual Xmas parade.  Again, they had an hour or so to wander downtown Halifax which has a lovely street-shopping vibe.  Some of us bought flashing Rudolph noses ........  and some of us needed instructions on how to wear them! 

Each time a marching band or musical float went by, the Latino students went wild; they sang and danced.  Each time a group of pretty majorettes went by, a couple of the Korean boys hooted and hollered louder than usual ... and then they'd look around and notice others noticing them & they'd blush. 
There were husky dogs adorned with Xmas lights pulling sleighs; policemen on horses also draped with lights; a couple of Grinches handing out high-fives; wonderfully dressed jesters; Shriners and angels and snowmen and trees and so on and so on.  
Some of the less appropriately dressed students longed for Santa to come.  Minus 3 degree next to the Halifax Harbour makes for minus 13 degree temperatures, so tights, shorts and fleece hoodies don't really cut it!

You'd think they'd sleep on the 1.5 hour drive home.  No!  There was singing competitions between the front and the back .... with a  couple of "Shut Up"s yelled out from the vastly out-numbered sleepy kids in the middle.

Ahhhh, out of the mouths of babes!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Land of Ice and Fire!

It finally arrived!

I've read the first 5 books and am anxiously awaiting the sixth.  Have seen the HBO series and am anxiously awaiting the next installment.  You never know where George RR Martin's mind will go next; but it's a journey I love being on with him.

Any other avid fans out there?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

November Sunshine!

This was my one weekend with nothing planned, sandwiched in between 3 busy weekends in a row and the count-down to Christmas.  But when you wake and the sunshine is streaming in your bedroom window and the temperature 10 deg C (50 deg F), how can you stay at home and organize your linen closet or bake some casseroles or wrap Xmas gifts?  The sunshine is calling you out for a last, long, lingering date before the ice and the snow and the cold force you to be window friends, gazing at each other and making promises about spring.

A quick call to a friend, a tank of gas, a couple of apples and a pocket full of peanut butter-ginger chews, and out the door we went, heading to Kedji Adjunct for a great hike.  

We were momentarily weigh-laid by this sign!
I loved that the outside planters still held beautiful, cascading, spongy-succulents, green and blooming on Nov 10th in amongst the Xmas lights.
Inside the old schoolhouse was wonderful:  Large rooms led into small rooms, each  filled with little stalls for individual crafters.  (I talked myself out of buying the gorgeous watercolor in the lower middle; Santa already has my Xmas stocking filled!)  Most things were really very reasonably priced; and such talent!  There was also a little room full of books and magazines, a large room full of yard sale items and an even larger artist's gallery room.  And the girl's bathroom  reminded me of my first school in the early 60's with little narrow wooden stalls and short tiny wash basins.

I made a few yard sale purchases and choose "5 paperbacks for $1".  As well, I  purchased 2 pairs of these gorgeous mittens made from recycled wool sweaters as well as 2 cedar-smelling "Tussy Mussy" packets -- one for under my pillow (to keep me dreaming of "visions of sugar-plums") and one to add to my Toronto daughter's package to remind her of of Nova Scotia Xmas trees and "home for the holidays", neither of which she'll enjoy this year.  :( 

We arrived at Kedji Adjunct at 2 pm and, although still bright and sun-filled, we were glad of our hats, gloves and fleece jackets.  We opted for the full 8.7 km (5.5 mi) hike.  We kept a good pace, but we stopped near the seaside and on the last leg of the boardwalk to use the view-finders, rest a little and just marvel at the beauty around us. 

Thank you God for lungs and legs that still work and for eyes, ears and noses to drink in your creation!

On our drive home, we stopped in Liverpool for a hot cuppa to warm us up AND some of the best pizza on the planet.  What a great day it was!

Monday, November 5, 2012

What I'm thinking......

  • I'm thinking how lucky I am to have such wonderful international students.  We had a day of wandering and eating in the city on Saturday -- little unique shops on side streets, some of the best sushi I think Halifax has to offer (B-Well Shushi Cafe on Quinpool Road); Korean b-beque (2 hours of a carnivores delight plus the girls did all the grilling for me.)  What a fabulous day we had!

  • I'm thinking about Remembrance Day which reminds me of my paternal Grandpa.  He was such a joy to be around -- happy, lively, loving.  After I moved away from home, whenever I'd go home to visit, he'd dance and sing his way over to me and continue his dance and song while he pinched my cheeks and kissed me.  He wouldn't talk about the "great war".
Thank you Poppy for your sacrifice.

  • I'm thinking about Christmas -- not a lot yet, but I'm beginning my thought-organization process:  letter writing, card addressing, gift wrapping, who I've still to buy for.  If I organize my schedule, I find I have time to enjoy the other wonderful things that pre-Christmas has to offer.

  • I'm thinking of sleep.  Gaining an hour is great when you're young.  If you're like most post-menopausal women my age, you wake at the same time; so readjusting to the time change is a sleepy pain in the butt.
I wanted to fall back into bed.
  • I'm thinking of lunch.  I've got half an hour to go:  I've packed  homemade beet salad, coleslaw and a mini-slider; dessert is Difuku, a Japanese sweet rice ball -- sweet red bean paste encased in pink-colored sweetened rice.  (Very tasty .... and I've talked myself into believing that it's not dessert at all but a very nutritious "ending" to my meal.)

And that's what I'm thinking.  Gotta go.  It's almost time for lunch!

What's on your mind?  

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

It's gonna be a wet Halloween!

No!  Not that kind of wet!

It's gonna be the kind of wet night that puts you in mind of:

It's gonna be the kind that's perfect for spooking and creeping and being thrilled and/or scared; the kind of night where only the brave walk down dark lanes to the kind of big old Victorian houses that this region is full of.

But NOT a perfect night for trick or treating.  Sandy is only affecting us slightly; we're very fortunate!  Still, we're having heavy rainfall and winds in southern Nova Scotia (and there's thunder rumbling outside); and both are just supposed to get worse as the evening progresses.  So all the wee gobblins and ghosties --- little ones and international ones --- are going to get awfully wet tonight if they even venture out at all.  

I shall be spending my day at work - snug and dry - with my radio blasting and a hot cuppa chai at my side.  And I shall be periodically stopping to pray:

"Please Lord!  Stop the rain so the trick or treaters can come out ..... and I won't be forced to eat any more of those mini bags of chips or fun size Caramilk bars!"

Monday, October 29, 2012


How ironic!  Look what's in my Autumn flower box.

Petunias blooming after Saturdy and Sundays beautiful sunshine.

Meanwhile, Nova Scotia is just beginning to feel the effects of Hurricane Sandy.  The winds are picking up and the rain is "pecking" as we say in Newfoundland (sporatic drizzly rainfall).  We'll be hit with the worse of Sandy tomorrow and early Wednesday, but so far, it doesn't seem like she'll hit us full force -- just lots of wind and rain.  We are some of the fortunate ones.

But let's move away from the impending storm and check out  Friday night's Halloween party with the international students.

Thursday night, the girls and I carved pumpkins.  I printed off some pictures from the internet, but they took those ideas and made them their own.  I was so impressed.  Natsumi carved a beautiful homage to her beloved Japan, painstakingly drawing the islands, tracing them on to her pumpkin and then carving around them -- 3 hours of steady work.  I thought it was beautiful.

But it was Elly's pumpkin that won 1st place at the party.  
Nooooo!  Don't eat Korea!

Here are some of the other pumpkins entered.  The cat (lower right) won 2nd place and the owl 3rd.

And here are some of the great costumes:  Elly is the one with the great legs in the upper left picture; Natsumi is the surprised pirate in the upper right; and I am the cowgirl with the natural blond braids!!  

They danced like crazy (Gangnam Style; Moves like Jagger) and sang along with all the Taylor Swift.  And then we had the most awesome pizza! Liverpool is a tiny town with just a few shops; but they have one of the best pizza joints I've ever come across.  Lots of fun.

And thank goodness they got to have that fun because if Sandy has her way, it may be the only Halloween many of them will experience!

Disclaimer:  I would like to apologize for myself and all the other Sandys out there who have nothing to do with this monster storm.  I'm praying she gets blown out to sea and does no more damage.

Stay safe and dry everyone!


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Thrifty Thursday - Oct 25.12

I spent last weekend in the city with my parents; Mama had a cornea transplant, and thank you God that everything went well and she's safely and happily back home in Newfoundland.  

Friday night, I stayed at a B&B downtown; I had a coupon that needed to be used before the end of the year, and I thought it would be good to go back to a quiet place after the anxiousness and stress of my Mom's operation.  I was right! 
It was a lovely place with a comfortable bed, a mini fridge for my  wine and a radio already set to a soothing, oldies station.
I lay back in the bubbles and listened to Elvis and Pat Boone and Rosemary Clooney .... and I said a little prayer of thanks as the tension melted away.

On Sat afternoon while my Mom had a nap, Dad and I went to ValueVillage.  Thank goodness for fathers who love thrift stores!

This was my big prize for the day:  a Chinese collapsible brass tray table for $24.99.  I've wanted one of these since the 70's:  better late than never!

Do you pray before you thrift shop?  I do!  And God answered my prayers big time on this trip.  I needed/wanted a good pair of brown shoes:  I found brand new Clarks slip-ons for (again) $24.99!  Brand new, people!

And just 'cause He loves me, He threw in another pair of very, very comfortable black suede-like wedges with a pretty flower detail on the back ($12.99).

I got 2 shirts for $2.99 each.  And because I couldn't find my new brown cardigan that I bought last winter, I thought I should buy this nice brown one for $7.99.  (Whereupon, of course, I found my former brown cardigan the day after I arrived home!  C'est la vie!)

My Dad insisted on paying for everything including my Skinny Vanilla Latte from Starbucks -- "To say thank you for my giving up my weekend to be with them."  I would never have stayed away; but it made me feel like a little girl again to have my Daddy buy me treats.

(Grown up treats are a tad more expensive than the popsicle and penny candy that satisfied me when I was 10, aren't they Daddy!)

How was your thrifting this week?


  Sorry! I thought I could return to a normal schedule. But my sense of 'normal' has changed. After the past 5 years of various ailm...