Monday, December 29, 2014

Family Christmas

We all enjoyed a wonderful Christmas together. 

The morning began with mimosas and fruit and eggs and the most delicious braided bread which I'd filled with marmalade, dried cranberries, pecans, bacon, cheese and sliced apples. (I'll post it later.) We followed with opening our gifts. This was one of my favorite things: a thrifted komono-like jacket which I found at Frenchy's for under $6.  (Do you give yourself a gift?)

I'd invited friends ..... and we like leftovers ..... but I think I overdid it on the size of the turkey. The girls loved it, especially Nagisa who'd never seen anything that big before. I did the stuffing separately but put herbed butter under the skin (hence the dark spots) and filled the cavity with apples, onions and lemons. 

It was a delicious meal made more joyous by friends and family. Here are some pictures.

How fortunate I am to have such love and such bounty. I'm feeling very blessed. 

Although my own children have gone back to their own homes and jobs, the happy season is continuing here at home with relaxation, movies, games and food.  I trust you are continuing to enjoy this wonderful time of year.

Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Tales of Christmas Past - Books

 As far back as I can remember, there was always a book or two at Christmas.  Without realizing what they were doing, my parents instilled a love of reading and of books deep within me -- and this from two people that I never saw reading other than a magazine or a newspaper.

I recall reading a few Little Golden Books as a small child. But I quickly graduated to more mature books such as Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew and Heidi. Then as a teen, I began reading Agatha Christie mysteries. Whatever the book, you'd find me under the covers with a flashlight all through Xmas vacation. Books continue to be a treat for me, my shelves groaning under the happy unslaught. 

Blogger Jo from "A Cup of Jo" had a post yesterday on Jólabókaflóð or The Christmas Book Flood.  Apparently in Iceland, books are exchanged on Christmas Eve; you then spend the rest of the night in bed eating chocolate and reading. Doesn't that sound divine!  

I hope Santa has some books for me this year. (I can always make room under the night table.) And I plan on adding Jólabókaflóð to my list of holiday activities.  But, of course, because we actually open gifts and feast on the 25th, I'll change the date to incorporate Xmas Night & Boxing Night and for that matter ALL throughout the holiday season. 

Happy Jólabókaflóð: and I'll see you under the tree!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Happy Hatty Christmas!

It's winter; so it's cold outside; and you know your Mama always reminded you to dress warmly before leaving the house.  Good warm, dry boots for your feet, mittens or fleece lined gloves for your hands and a hat for your head: you MUST protect those extremities.  

I've been a hat person person since my early 40s.  So, I've had 20 years to amass a wonderful collection of touques (Canadian for ski hat) and other hats. (Almost all come from Frenchies and Value Village, of course; one could not afford them otherwise!)

I like to sometimes add a bit of glam or festive cheer to my hat in the form of a broach or pin.  And after 60 years on this earth, I know what hairstyle suits me and what hat suits my hairstyle.

Here are a few of my winter hats:
The white fleece in the top left corner is super-duper warm; the blue "bowler"is a cute one (Nagisa really likes this style); I have a brown felt hat similar to this next brown wool with the rhinestone snowflake -- both very warm; and then there's one of my favorites -- the red wood with black feathery trip.

This red velour is a find this year; it has a flattened bow at the back and sports a Xmas pin.

But my very favorite hat this season is below. It's not one I can wear often, but it always draws a crowd.
I do love me a good seasonal hat!

Do you have a favorite winter hat?

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Christmas Tree Day!

What a couple of great girls I have here with me.  How many other mothers could get their teenage daughters to actually volunteer to help you wash walls and windows? That's what they did yesterday and today.  So, much, much earlier than I thought possible, I can cross powder room and kitchen off my cleaning list for Christmas.  Only the dining room left.

Perhaps they were just really eager to get the tree.  Well, they were absolutely giddy about getting a Xmas tree. This is Lena's first time being part of the process and it's Nagisa first ever real Xmas tree.  "So big!" she said about our 5 ft tree.  

And what fun we had picking out a tree. We went to a local U-pick where you choose and cut your own, tag it, then you walk to the cabin, pick up some hot chocolate and a cookie and sit on hay bales around a blazing log fire, cocooned by a circle of wee, decorated Xmas trees. It was so pretty.


The tree is home and up but we were all too pooped to decorate. Instead, we prepared a delicious picnic supper and lay around the TV watching "Home Alone".
Cheesy nacho dip and Jalapeno/Mango wings (so spicy!) from M&M's Meat Shop, veggies, orange cake, strawberry Kit-Kat (from Japan) and Milka cookie bar (from Germany).

My bed is calling.  All that cleaning and fresh air has me tuckered out.  Do you have your tree up yet?

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Stir-up Sunday

I was channeling Jamie Oliver last weekend; and I don't know about you, but I didn't even realize that there was such a thing as Stir-up Sunday -- the day you mix your Christmas pudding. I'm a little late; traditionally, it's done the last Sunday before Advent.  But better late than never.

I'm a big fan of the Christmas pudding. I found a great (healthier??) version many years ago -- it has grated carrot and potatoes inside. My Ex and I loved it; but like most things containing candied peel and raisins/currants, my kids were pretty "nhaw" about it -- they'd eat it, but it wasn't a favorite.  So, I haven't made one for a few years.  

But my international daughters are so avid for anything Christmas, that they were very excited about the prospect of a Christmas pudding -- something neither of them has had before. And I was fortunate enough to find a lovely pudding mold at a consignment shop on Saturday. I wasn't sure if it would be stick proof; but it was pretty.

Sunday involved a lot of measuring and mixing and stirring (and tasting) on the girls part.  But we stirred up that pudding, popped it into the very well buttered mold, and steamed it for about 2 hours.

It emerged glorious! The pineapple relief on the pudding came out well (although you can't really see it in the photo). And it was so fragrant! Yum!  
However, it's safely tucked away until its big appearance after Christmas dinner when it'll be served with a butterscotch-like sauce.

So, how about you?
Do you (still) make Christmas puddings?

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Jolly Season has Begun!

Long time, no blog.l  But I've been busier than a one-armed paper hanger (as they say).  Here are some highlights from my wonderful weekend.  

Saturday the girls and I joined my good friend Diana and went to Mahone Bay for their annual Father Christmas Festival.  We visited the market which is held in an old barn: downstairs was full of the most delicious food stuffs -- crisp golden buttery shortbreads, mince pies, breads, jellies, wines, etc etc.  But upstairs is the "Magic Xmas Kingdom":  each year is a different theme; this year's theme was "Global Christmas".  

As you walked upstairs under a canopy of white, you entered through Ellie the Elephant's mouth; her trunk is placing the star on top of the tree, and there's a beautiful little village on her back with little fairies hanging above.

This is the friendly, talking elf that greets you at the top of the stairs.  He loves getting his picture taken.  

And here are just a few of the beautiful Father Christmas figures representing various countries.
  The very centre of the room had a 350 deg display of Father Christmas, various female figures, a swan, etc all in white. It was quite stunning.

The open section over the Market held this display: 2 skaters which spun round and some beautiful balloons overhead.

There was a whole story line with the display, but I was so busy looking and taking pictures that I haven't read it yet. 

After a walk about town, we headed to the Christmas Craft fair in Lunenburg and lunch at Sweet Indulgence. And after that particular lunch (Bailey's cheesecake), we needed a walk about Lunenburg. So, we took the girls to the Parade Square to see the over 100 Xmas tree display by various businesses and groups in the area. 

We were home by 4:30 pm and then out for our town's Christmas Parade.  All the international students walk in this parade; and it was a lovely parade this year followed by some fantastic fireworks.

Fireworks over the LaHave River.

What a great way to begin our Christmas season.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Snow and Licorice Tea.

Cool boots huh! Sadly, not mine.
The weather has definitely taken a turn towards winter here on the South Shore of Nova Scotia.  The winter coat, hat, gloves AND boots have come out.  And this morning, there was snow on the ground.

The students are in a state of bliss.  So many of these kids never see snow at all. Mind you, we just had a sprinkling, not the amounts that the city saw and no where near what Buffalo NY is experiencing. Poor people! I'm praying for their safety.

Like so many people, my thoughts these days go towards Christmas. I'm in a great spot this year as I brought gifts home to my family when I visited this summer (no expensive post), I have one student's gifts purchased, something in mind for #2 student and my kids are happy with cash to spend as they like. So, other than a number of Xmas activities with the students over the next 4 weeks, I have time to think about things like baking and tree decorating TV Xmas movies and the heady anticipation of most of us being together this season .... 

.... time to focus on the most important aspects of Christmas: family, love and the Christ child.

It's quiet here at the office; just me listening to intermittent hammering downstairs from the carpenter who is himself listening to the country music radio. Quiet and warm and peaceful; just me and my Maria cracker and my licorice tea.  

Monday, November 17, 2014

How to lose 40+ lb instantly!

In my never ending search for simplicity and clarity, I spent the weekend power purging the "wreck" room -- a roughly 20' x 24' room. I moved every piece of furniture, opened every drawer, box and suitcase; rearranged, dusted, washed, boxed and bagged.  I worked in increments of 2 hours with a 20-30 min break (for old tired bones and feet, ya know). I ate healthy snacks (Is caramel corn healthy?) and drank lots of water.  And then I treated myself to a healthy yet instant meal from the supermarket after which I indulged in a much deserved epsom salts bath complete with Corona 'n' lime, relaxing music and candle light. I was almost looking like my old self by the time the girls got home from the city. 

Looking at what needed to be done down there was extremely overwhelming. It's something I've been contemplating and procrastinating about for almost a year. I thought about yard sales ...... but I can't carry those boxes up and down stairs alone.  I thought about at least trying to sell some of my Xmas goods at a local sale .... but the tables were gone when I called one.  I'd tried to get my daughters to give a list of what they want .... but nothing has materialized to date.  And then I realized that as I age, my energy and health keeps deteriorating; so it was never going to get any easier. 

This weekend, I had 2 full days, some energy and the willpower to tackle the job. And I'm so glad I did it. Saying goodbye to new and/or nearly new Xmas goods (that would have brought good money at a yard sale) was the hardest things to let go of. Parting with the books was kinda hard. But finally letting go of the clothes "that will fit me when I lose 20 lb" ..... that was easy. It's just NOT going to happen.

What a sense of accomplishment! In total, 4 bags of Christmas, 4 boxes of books and 16 --- yes 16 --- black garbage bags of clothing and knick-knacks have left the building, Elvis! 
(Psst: A lot of them are actually lining my upstairs hallway waiting their turn to get packed into the trunk of the car and brought to some happy local thrift shop.)

Ahhhh!  I feel lighter already -- mentally as well as physically. 

And I can find stuff. 

And my body didn't fare too badly given all the ups and downs on the stepladder and the climbing stairs.  

Except for my poor tootsies.  About 2-3 years ago, the fat pads from my feet migrated to my waist and hips. I'm not into crocs and support hose yet (the future looms big!), but a foot soak and some soft slippers are my best friends. Next to that Corona and caramel corn, that is!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Lest We Forget ....

I have a German student this year, my sweet darling Lena. She's been asking questions about Remembrance Day -- what happens on that day? How do we honour the fallen? Do I have anyone who was directly connected to either of the wars. She said that she finds it wonderful and new to be in a country where we celebrate our military and honour those who have died defending our country and our freedom. Her grandmother's brother was killed on the Russian front and his body never recovered: her grandma cried one year after reading his letters. He was just 22 years of age.

Germans don't study German history at any time in their education because of the guilt and shame they still feel to this day. Do you want to know Germany remembers the wars?

Each year, holocaust survivors come to German schools and speak to the Grade 10 and up students about their experiences in the concentration camps -- about what was done to them; how horrible it was; how horrible it still is for some in remembering that they survived while thousands didn't. Lena heard 2 Polish survivors last year and cried throughout the talk. 

It has given me a whole new perspective on "Lest We Forget".

Our brave guys may not have come home, but we hold our heads high for them and we honour them by remembering their sacrifice. Not only do we have the blessing of being victors, but we also have the blessing of pride because of what these brave men (and women) have done and continue to do.

Thank you: we will not forget.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Body Talk

Rabbit, Rabbit!
I know, I know; I'm late by a few days. But I've had a flu bug for the past week and my body has found new places to ache. Yes, in addition to my usual chronic back and shoulder pain, I now have pain in other areas. Like my knee. 

What's with the knee hurting? I haven't done anything to that knee that would make it want to treat me this way.  At least, not in almost 40 years. (Minor car accident in 1978; hit knee on gear stick.)  I've thought about this a lot; and I have developed a theory that any place that was hurt or damaged in some way in my youth WILL exhibit arthritis in my older age.  That's the only explanation I can come up with.  

Yeah, I know! But lately it's not using very nice language.
It was raised better than that!

"I treat you well," I tell my body. "Other bodies would be proud to be treated the way you are! I don't binge drink or do drugs. I don't race cars.  I eat healthy food; for goodness sake, I'm almost vegetarian these days. And I give you all the dark chocolate you could possibly want.  (Yeah, sometimes just to shut you up.) I breathe deeply; I get bi-weekly massages; we have lengthy, rejuvenating epsom salts baths together with candle light and wine, I would remind you! I pray and meditate. I try to give you gentle exercise so you don't hurt: you know, an occasional walk, a little yoga. What more could you want, for goodness sake? Blood? You've got it!"

You know, this feels like a huge betrayal to me. I'd break up with my body ................ but I'm not a quitter.  We're in this together for life.  But if we could only just learn to be happy as we grow old together.

I found this site How Can I Love My Body When it Continues to Betray Me?   It made some very valid points -- like my body is doing the best it can do and how I need to look for things about my body that I can love and really shift the focus on what it does well. Okay:  here goes.
I Love my Heart.
It works really well, my heart. Day after day for the past 60 years, it has done it's job faithfully.  Even though it overflows with love for certain people, it can miraculously always find room to fit in someone else.  It contains a huge space for love of life; and the love of laughter space is enormous.  It even has a fair size space for forgiveness and one for mercy.  As well, it's open to receiving as well as to giving.  
Yup, I LOVE my heart!

And ya want to hear even more good news?

Therefore, in reverse: 
Behind every kind of pain, there is some beautiful thing!  




  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...