Thursday, December 31, 2009

Best of 2009

Back to Gwen Bell's Best of 2009 blog questions - 

December 18 - Shop. Online or offline, where did you spend most of your mad money this year?

There are a lot of places that I like to shop!  But I think my mad money can very nicely be spent at the scrapbook store.  Paper, cardstock, ink, transparencies, diecuts, metal pieces, journal blocks, adhesive, pens, cutting blades, albums, ribbon, punches - so much to choose from and so much to smile about!  Yes - my extra nickels and dimes (and maybe a few toonies) are nicely spent on scrapbooking supplies.

And a close second would be Chapters or any bookstore :))

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

More Sewing

I love the idea of new pyjamas for Christmas so I made bottoms and combined them with tshirts for our 4 girls (that includes our daughter-in-law too).  Fitting adult women is a bit more of a challenge than doing toddlers :)  So there are a few improvements to make for next time but for an attempt without any fitting at all, the results turned out okay.

And in true "Crystal form", I had more ideas and ambition than time so Helayna and Meadow's are still under construction!  Maybe for Ukrainian Christmas!

These will go with the Jillian Jiggs pig that Heather made for Helayna and Miss M will have a monkey pair (that will match her brother's blanket - she will think that's pretty cool, I'm guessing).  And I should get right to work on some other ideas I had that would be great for next year.  What do you think the chances are of that happening?!!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Gratitude Gifts Today

During this Christmas time I am blessed with these gifts:

- hours spent with family

- quiet mornings

- quilts

- the lights on the Christmas tree which bring warmth and cheer to the whole house

- packages under the tree

- choices that are appreciated

- helping to put a smile on a face

- dark chocolate almond bark

- Christmas carols still playing through the house

- the laughter that comes from playing together

- Grampas and Uncles that play and toss little ones high

- cabbage rolls (thanks, D!)

- opening food and drink gifts from friends

- books

- canned apple pie fillings (thanks, N!)

- pictures on canvas frames

- the curiousity of a little man

- swimming with our grandchildren

- admiring how comfortable they are in the water

- holding Blake as he kicked and enjoyed his first experience in the pool

- having a brand new recreation facility within driving distance

- the happiness these two radiate as they share life now

- family pictures taken in front of the tree

- leftovers :)

- traditional foods prepared with love and enjoyed by all

- hoarfrost covering the trees and making the whole world beautiful

- patterned papers

- photobooks (my very first one!)

- the creativity of our family members as they created and repurposed gifts this year

- cameras

- watching our children become families of their own

- phone calls to loved ones who are far away (miss you, M!)

- Skype and watching Samuel on Christmas morning

- cats who keep the mice away (I hope!)

- safe travels and clear roads

- unexpected meetings while shopping

- time for reflecting and thanking the One who has blessed us so abundantly

Monday, December 28, 2009

Simple Woman #69

For Today . . . December 28, 2009 (last entry for this year!)

Outside my window . . . the weather has cooled off - it was -12 degrees C during the day today.  After yesterday's fog, the trees were covered with fluffy, white hoarfrost.  It was a winter white day - sky, trees, ground - everything was white!

I am thankful . . . so thankful for the gift of His son that God gave to us, as we remembered his birth over Christmas.

And I also am thankful . . .  that Melinda, Tyler and Samuel are not traveling this Christmas, especially with all the  security commotion and delays that have been happening the last few days.  

I am praying . . . for my Dad as he had another bout with kidney stones and the pain is always excruciating for him.  

I am thinking . . .  about my word for 2010.  Read Ali Edwards' post to learn more about choosing your own word.

I am creating . . . December Daily album layouts to record the things that happened through this month.  I got a little behind so have some catching up to do now.

I am celebrating . . . Merry Christmas all this week!

From the kitchen . . . Turkey Barley Vegetable Soup, Biscuits, Eggnog Ice Cream and White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies.

I am wearing . . . black cords, black vest, red sweater, and my favourite Lisa Leonard necklace ( a gift from Heather last Christmas).

I am reading . . . Downtown Owl by Chuck Klosterman, the January book club selection.  It's a story of smalltown North Dakota during an eight month period in the mid-80's and follows a high school football player, a brand new high school teacher and a retired widower.  And I'm still sloughing through the last 150 pages of The Lizard Cage :(

I am hoping . . .  to do some sewing, bake some cookies and entertain more this week.

I am hearing . . . the CTV news.

Around the house and yard . . . lots of snow outside and a lovely clean and tidy house inside :)

One of my favourite things . . . playing card and board games during the holidays.

A few plans for the rest of the week . . .  swimming with the grandkids tomorrow, having friends over, finishing my December Daily album, sending some thank you cards and letters, and a New Year's Day celebration with my family. 

Here is a picture thought I am sharing . . . a mosaic of some of the ornaments on our Christmas tree.

Thanks to Peggy at The Simple Woman for the original idea of these daybooks.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Sewing Projects

When we drew names for this year's Christmas gift exchange, the decision was that gifts had to be handmade or repurposed.   It quickly became evident to me that the person I was creating for would love a handmade quilt (having given away all 3 that she'd made herself!).  I already had a stack of cotton Christmas squares purchased a year ago in Pendleton, Oregon and so the decision to sew was  a very logical one.

I called a friend of a friend, spent a day with her -

came home with a stack of quilted squares -

and started sewing squares together -

and then rows of squares together -

and pretty soon I had a great big bunch of cloth on the side of machine -

and a beautiful Christmas rag quilt was sewn!!



Heather was absolutely surprised when she opened it on Christmas Day - and Silas cuddled right into it!

It was my very first quilt and it turned out just the way I hoped.  I called it "Wrapped In Love" and it really was inspired by Heather and her example of sewing for her sisters and brother.  And I agreed with her sentiment of "I really wanted to give it but I really wanted to keep it too!!"

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!!

Merry Christmas
from our family to yours!

May you celebrate the birthday of our King
with joy in your heart,
love in your life,
His light in your soul
and the door of your life wide open to His guiding.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Alexis Cole

I recently received a copy of Alexis Cole's Christmas CD, The Greatest Gift,  in the mail and I am happy to tell you that it's wonderful!  If you like jazz and Christmas music, I'm sure it will become a favourite
of yours too.

Alexis has teemed with her Dad and a host of other musicians and technicians to produce this album.  It has a mix of familiar carols and some new, original songs as well.  I like the way they've redone
traditional songs and given them a very jazzy feeling.  Some instrumental pieces are also included - the sax, percussion and flutes are outstanding.   At times the music is reflective, at other times it's very upbeat and one piece has a distinct Asian feel (love track 5).  The instrumental work is outstanding - even to my relatively untrained ear :))  My very favourite song, and the one that I keep humming after it's done,  is the last track, "Jesus Is The Best Part of Christmas."

What I absolutely love about this project is that Alexis is donating 100% of the proceeds from
this album to World Bicycle Relief!    Their mission statement is "providing access to independence and livelihood through the power of bicycles".  Established in 2004 after the tsunami in Asia, 24,000 bicycles were shared in Sri Lanka and the project has now expanded to several African countries.    While visiting Kenya and Tanzania this fall, I saw firsthand how having a bicycle impacts lives and provides opportunities to people.  Instead of walking and having to carry everything, people are able to ride to work, to school, to medical care, and can haul food (even milk in cans!), water, building materials, charcoal and another person.  This project is really and truly making a difference in the lives of people!  Check it out and consider giving the fund your support.

And so I am happy to recommend this CD tell you that I will be purchasing some of them to share with music lovers that I know.  Please look for Alexis' album and try it for yourself.  Here's one song for you to enjoy!

Thanks to Adam at Two Sheps That Pass, a marketing and consultation company, who contacted me and sent the CD  to review.  This was a first for me!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Gratitude Gifts Today

In this week of reflection, calm and excited waiting, I am thankful for these gifts:

- waking up

- the quiet, inside and outside, as more snowflakes drift down

- our living room restored with furniture back in place

- bright red new slippers

- friends gathered in front of the fire

- wood from our spruce bluff to burn

- laughter, sweetly ringing

- libraries

- music playing softly

- fat, juicy oranges

- Christmas mugs and plates

- efficient clerks at the post office

- amazing, beautiful books arriving in the mail

- wrapped gifts under the tree

- Christmas Carol Charades

- yummy chicken wings

- a delicious chocolate at the motor vehicles registration place

- eggnog

- ornament reminders of people and places

- supper baked in the oven

- phone calls with our daughters

- tidy countertops

- Christmas napkins

- Jill's granola recipe

- filled jars to share with friends

- photo cards

- sharing Christmas greetings

- getting to an appointment early :)

- laughing at myself

- dusting finished

- winter wonderlands

(outside our living room window)

- choir singing

- cranberry juice + ginger ale

- eating Christmas cookies

- the first taste of summer's dill pickles

- mini mandarin oranges

- Christmas tea

- online instructions for photography

- creating small things to give to loved ones

(a CD calendar for my sister)

- free online templates

- our Christmas tree

- the star at the top of the tree

- taking time to remember

- lists

- only 3 more days!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Simple Woman #68

For Today . . . December 21, 2009

Outside my window. . . more snow!  It was snowing early this morning and it's continued all day.  The roads were already heavy and this will bring the snowplows out again!  
The temperature is -12 degrees C so it's definitely winter here.

I hope the weather and roads will improve so travelers can get safely home this weekend.

I am thankful . . . that God sent His son, Jesus, to bring His light into our world.

This was the theme at the children's Christmas concert and a choir concert yesterday.  

It is true indeed!

And I am also thankful . . . for traditions that make the celebrations rich with memories and the lingering of those loved ones who are gone to Heaven.
I've thought of my grandparents so often over the course of this Advent.

I am praying . . .  that I will live in the light of Christ, even when Christmas is past.
And that my actions will be his hands and feet here, in this time and this place.

I am thinking . . . about some games to play when our small group meets at our house tonight.
And the charity I want to name for our giving tonight. 
I got the idea right here!

I am creating . . . more pages in my December Daily album.  
Hopefully I'll have some pictures to share tomorrow :)

I am celebrating . . .  with songs in my heart.

From the kitchen . . . Hot 'N Spicy Wings, Shrimp with Seafood Sauce, Quiche Tarts,
Pinecone Spread with Crackers, Hummus and Tortilla Chips,
homemade Carrot and Cucumber Dill Pickles,
Vegetable Tray with Dip
Poppycock and Assorted Cookies.
(snacks for our little party tonight)

I am wearing . . . brown cords, brown long-sleeved tshirt, and a green fleece jacket.

I am reading . . . Star Bright by Andrew M. Greeley(a priest), 
a modern parable about an Irish American who falls in love with a Russian student
and takes her home for Christmas.  

I am hoping . . . to be ready for company in a few hours!

I am hearing . . .  Christmas carols.

Around the house and yard . . . still deeper snowdrifts!
Less dust as I've done some cleaning 
and our old furniture back into the living room.  
And the Christmas tree is gracing the living room :))

One of my favourite things . . . at night, turning all the lights off and sitting 
in the glow of  the Christmas tree.

A few plans for the rest of the week . . .  company tonight, some sewing to finish up,
lots and lots of wrapping to do, stockings to stuff, food to prepare, 
Christmas Eve candlelight service, and our family home for Christmas Day!

Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you . . . a little snippet of Christmas at our house.  There are even more cards now and I added a green tree and a green pillar candle.  

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Santa's Anonymous

As I was growing up, my parents demonstrated a strong example of helping others and looking for ways that we could assist in the community.   For many Christmases, my extended family has chosen a charity and donated to them.  We've given blankets to firefighters, made baby kits to send overseas, collected things for teen moms, given money to drill wells and this year are making thermal mugs of joy.  It's a favourite part of our celebration!

Last year my sister and some of her family helped Santa's Anonymous deliver toys in the city.  The stories they shared made me want to participate so yesterday we met up and three of us spent a few hours  taking bags of toys to registered families.    

We signed in and stuffed 10 bags from the warehouse into our car.  What a huge amount of organization goes in to sorting, wrapping, labelling and bagging before the volunteer drivers appear!

Then we drove around the snowy streets looking for the addresses on the bag labels -

and carried the bags into each family.

Every single family was home so we could leave their gifts for the children to enjoy this year.  (If they aren't home, the bags go back to the depot and they try to deliver again the next day.)

Here the 3 of us are with the last bag!

It was a marvelous experience!  I think some of the families have moved here from other countries and they were all so, so appreciative of this bag of cheer for their children.  Some of the little ones came dancing down the hallway out of their apartments, so excited to see the delivery.  I asked little C if she thought they'd save the gifts until Christmas Day and we both agreed that we wouldn't be able to wait!  I'd want to rip right into that bag and see what was there!

When I saw all the volunteers at the warehouse, helping with parking, hauling bags to cars (lots of hockey teams helping as porters), recording the bags taken, preparing maps, driving around the city and making Christmas fun for more families, I know I saw Jesus yesterday.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Best of 2009

December 17 - What word encapsulates 2009 for you?

My word of the year for 2009(as part of an Ali Edwards challenge for a new year) was TRUST .   I defined it more specifically -  to trust God that I am right here where He wants me to be, doing what He created me to do.  It truly has amazed me this year with just how often, in so many different experiences, this word has been uppermost in my mind and reinforced to me.

 When stress starts to mount, I remind myself to trust God in all situations, with all problems and worries.   Sometimes I have to remind myself over and over again, even in the same day, that God has always cared for me and He has never failed to provide everything that I need.  Why would He suddenly do things differently now?  I have this picture in my mind of a Heavenly Father who delights in each of His children, just the way I do as an earthly parent.  I love to see my children, talk with them, watch them, help them, protect them and encourage them.  My God does the very same with me!  So I can trust Him just as a child trusts a parent, completely and without reservation.

Two years ago when I decided to leave fulltime teaching, the word 'trust' took on new meaning.  Before that I had been prone to rely on myself, my pay cheque, my ideas, my job but then my professional life, as I had known it for nearly 14 years, was over.  As a substitute teacher now I trust that God will send jobs my way and when He doesn't, as happened this week, I know the other plans He has for me are more important at this time.

These are some of my favourite Scripture (NIV) verses about trust:

Psalm 13:5
But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.

Psalm 91:2
I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust."

Proverbs 3:5
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;

John 14:1
Jesus Comforts His Disciples ] "Do not let your hearts be troubled.Trust in God ; trust also in me.

Trust isn't just a word for one year - a word to be replaced by a different or better one in the next year.   I chose it because I knew I needed to live it, breathe it and dwell in it - this year and always.    

These are some reminders of trust from my last year:

- trusting that God would be with Darrin and Kelsey as they were married and would share life

- trusting that our two new grandchildren would be healthy and strong

- trusting God to see Tyler through medical school and clerkship

- trusting that Melinda would have support and encouragement as a new mom

- trusting that visiting Africa was part of God's plan for us

- trusting God for safety while traveling - flying, driving, sailing, walking/hiking

- trusting God to show me how to help others this Christmas

- trusting that God will provide jobs and income, not just for me but for our family members as well

I could go on!  I'm trusting Him for tomorrow and for always!  

Ten on Thursday

1.  The weather has moderated a whole lot and it was above zero today!  Only in Alberta!  And of course now the weather forecast is for freezing rain - it goes from one extreme  to the other around here.

2.  Have you ever heard of a cookie stamp?  Apparently you press it down into the cookie after it's rolled and it "stamps" a raised design into the cookie top.   The ones shown are flat but some come with a wooden handle too.  I think I might like something like this!

3.  Speaking of cookies!  When we were making perogies the other day, Naomi told me that she's noticed I don't like to roll things out - and she was right!  So I decided to challenge myself, use the rolling pin and make these cookies that I've been talking about for a long time.

They turned out wonderfully and I made friends with my rolling pin.  I doubt if pie crust is on my radar yet though!

4.  One of my favourite Christmas baking projects is to make  fudge puddles.  The recipe was clipped from Country Woman magazine in 1992 so it's an oldie but they still taste great.

A single recipe makes 4 - 5 dozen but I decided to double it so I ended up with 10 dozen of these little guys!

5.  When all was said and done today, I had several cookie tins full of good things.  Some of these are going to be shared as gifts and some will be used when we entertain in the next few weeks.  I still want to make gingersnaps and shortbread.

6.  I also made a few of these Brownie Wreaths, as found on the Better Homes and Gardens website, to give away to friends and family.   This one went with the plate to a silent auction.


7.  And at that silent auction, I found this new little piece to add to my holiday decor.   It's got glitter on it and is quite cute ;))

8.  I'm working on my December Daily album, inspired by Ali Edwards, and loving the little snippets of time that I sneak here and there to do pages.  I'll share some of it soon.

9.  I found an online calendar template tonight and started creating a little paper project for a gift.  I love being inspired, dropping everything else and going off to create!  Pictures to follow in a day or two - after I give it away :)

10.  I saw Oprah's show tonight where she interviewed Stephanie and Christian Nielson.  If you aren't aware of their story, go to the Nie Nie Dialogues to read it.  Make sure you take tissues - I was crying (as were many others in the audience) as they were interviewed!   Stephanie is a burn survivor and one special lady.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Best of 2009

December 14 - Rush - What gave you the biggest thrill this year? - Walking through Times Square in New York City was an incredible experience.  I kept thinking "Wow - this is really it - this is what everyone talks about - this is the Big Apple!"  It was more vibrant, interesting, colorful, surreal than I ever imagined. And it was really cool :))

December 15 - Best packaging - our new grandsons, Samuel and Blake, came packaged as the sweetest little guys.  Perfect from the top of their heads to the bottoms of those tiny toes, we are so blessed by their presence in our family!

December 16 - Tea of the year - Chai Masala, brewed at home.  And a close second would be the fruit tea that I brought home from the Czech Republic - it's got chunks of dried apple, oranges and spices and is so delicious.  I should have brought more home with me.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Menu Ideas

This was last night's supper - featuring the perogies that Naomi, Meadow and I made.  They were delicious!  I had some spinach and pomegranate seeds in the fridge so I searched online for a recipe and found this fabulous salad.  It's on the menu for Christmas dinner!  I highly recommend it for great color and an interesting mix of textures and flavours.  I  used a raspberry vinaigrette for the dressing.  The protein was grilled  lemon herbed steelhead trout.   All around, an excellent supper, worthy of repetition :))

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Gratitude Gifts Today

These are my gifts today:

- crisp fresh sheets

- a quiet morning with sun shining on the snow

- paths - and the reminder of my path in life

- my Christmas quilt hanging in a central spot

- Bananas Foster and Cranberry candles burning bright

- a warming trend after a record-setting period of low temperatures

- mixing ingredients and watching each one change the whole mixture

- tasting fresh baked cookies, still warm out of the oven

- full cookie tins

- a day spent with Naomi, Meadow and Blake

-  lots of cuddling with a smiley little boy

- reading stories in the tent with Meadow

- watching little fingers mix and stir to create her own mixture

- wearing an apron crafted years ago by a loved one

- potluck suppers

- watching little ones gather onstage

- Christmas dresses

- sweet little songs sung with enthusiasm

- the excitement of Santa arriving

- watching as she gathered her courage and sat on his knee

- working with Naomi to make an ethnic family favourite, perogies

- memories of years past

- Christmas ornaments hanging on trees

- colored lights hanging along the eaves of houses

- safe travel and a reliable vehicle

- finding gifts for a little one listed on  the Angel Tree

- online shopping

- packages coming in the mail

- finished projects in the workshop :)

- planning for Christmas gatherings

- birds, puffed to keep warm, gathered outside my kitchen window

- bushy tailed fox ambling along the road

- evergreens with snow caps

- crisp juicy apples

- the sound of my scissors cutting long swaths into the flannel

- chats with my sister

- fresh made cranberry sauce

- a long forgotten reminder of my Gramma and her love of ceramics

- finding the same verse in Sunday's lesson, in my devotion book and in an online message - I hold it close to my heart this week