In the fall, I decided that this would be a good year to stay home for Christmas. I invited my daughters and their families, but it was not to be. So we hung our stockings at my daughter's apartment and nodded off at a nearby hotel.
Christmas in the city is exciting and fun. We arrived on Christmas Eve, did a little shopping foray down the street and back. My younger daughter is "with child" and had a queasy stomach and her two year-old was running out of steam so the shopping trip was short and slow. Just perfect, in fact, as the sun decided to come out and hung low in the afternoon sky for a short while before disappearing below the horizon. Such is winter at this latitude.
I did have a chance to nip into the Indigo bookstore, which was crazy busy, and pick up a copy of Susan Branch's book, The Fairy Tale Girl. (I feel like Susan and I are kindred spirits, both artists and authors.)
The city is such a busy place, especially noticeable when you come from a quiet village. (That's my daughter turning to see if I got side-tracked by a jewelry story window. I sure did!)
Little tummies need constant filling with fruit and protein, and grown-ups need stops at Starbucks for hot chocolate for energy to keep shopping. The French says "prepared with love."
Small apartments require small trees, and though we decided this year (again) not to exchange gifts with each other, none of us ever seems to comply. As someone said, "There are a lot of presents under that tree for a family that isn't giving presents." Christmas day is also my son-in-law's birthday. The most popular person was, by far, my two year-old granddaughter.
On Christmas morning we woke up to SNOW! This is the view from our hotel room window, looking at hospitals and the alley. My husband was thrilled to watch a medivac helicopter lift off the roof of the hospital in the dark.
With temperatures hovering near zero, the streets were as slick as waxed floors. Going down this little hill could have ended in a crunch but we turned and drove the other way instead. The stop sign should have been farther up the hill.
On Boxing Day we visited with our "kids" some more then drove home through intermittent snow and rain. Where I live it doesn't snow often so most drivers here on the west coast are totally flummoxed by snowy weather and roads with even an inch of snow on them.
My husband and I both grew up on the Canadian prairies where winter lasts a long time and the weather conditions have to be pretty bad before you let them stop you from doing what you want. Driving here on the coast is a bit frustrating because of the other drivers. So a one and a half hour trip home took nearly three hours.
We learned to be prepared for anything and never leave home in the winter without the proper gear in the car. Once we are snug in our little house, the fat flakes can come down as much as they want to and we can enjoy how pretty it all is.
With snow falling outside, it's the perfect time to do a little painting. My Christmas cactus suffered this year and I don't know how to revive it. I'm hoping that it gets enough light but the days are short and grey here in this season. I thought I might as well use it as a sketching subject. I've been practising with waterbrushes, which are so much fun. I have some ideas for book projects that include illustrations...but more on that later.
Before I take my tree down and tuck away all the festive decorations for another year, I thought I would give you a quick tour of my house. The whole season seemed to come and go quickly this year, since I had lots of work to do all fall. My mom has been in hospital too, in precarious health, so that has been on my mind.
The Christmas village sits atop the piano. Oh dear, I see a tree has toppled and that policeman must be looking for someone to haul it away. The music is my husband's favourite so I bought the sheet music for him to learn. After one lesson, he quit, deciding it was much easier to let me play it for him.
My sparkly blue and white theme acts as a counterpoint for my olive wood crêche, hand made by an Israeli man with whom I used to work. It is one of my most treasured Christmas decorations because it reminds me of that night so long ago when a young lady and her husband trudged through a town looking for a place for their baby to be born.
For years I said, "One day I'll have a white tree." Then, one day I saw one on sale for such an excellent price that I snapped it up and decorated it with sparkly blue and green decorations. I still have my green tree and all the old-fashioned ornaments from over the years. Perhaps next year I will put it up, too.
Blues, white, sparkles, candles, and shells sit atop my antique writing desk. The sand in the jar is from Sanibel Island, Florida, and the painting is one that I did of the South of France, very near where I lived several years ago.
I clipped this silk magnolia blossom to the top of a lamp along with a sparkly bird. When the lamp is turned on the effect is quite striking, don't you think?
Christmas cards find a place in a cut glass dish on my silver chest (which has books in it) along with my piano lamp, which had to move to make room for the village. You can see the snow outside the window and the dried blossoms of my hydrangea bush, snoozing away until spring comes again.
Now it's snowing again. The year 2016 in nearly over and it's time to look forward to another new year, full of possibilities and opportunities.
I hope your year was a good one, that your Christmas holiday time was filled with love and friendship and remembrance of the real reason for the season, Jesus Christ's birth. As we look forward to a new year, I wish and pray for you, good health, great success, and dreams that come true.
I have lots of exciting plans and changes for my business and my website this year. I think you will love what is coming up. To be sure not to miss all the news and creative ideas, join my email list today HERE. I will let you know when each new blog post is up, plus all the other fun things that will be happening here.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
During this season of parties and events with friends and family, it's fun to enjoy the efforts of hosts in decorating their homes. Last week I had the pleasure of being a guest in the home of Wilf and Karen. We have been friends for many years and have spent many pleasant hours in this home that Wilf built. Karen's decorating style is "a little bit country", which suits its country location.
There's nothing quite like a warm hearth on a chilly winter day.
Karen has decorated the mantel with a collection of festive touches including a gold, mercury-style glass candle holder, red and gold berries in the swag, and red candles.
A vintage Christmas tree decoration box sits next to a crock and an antique oil lamp at the base of the fireplace.
Old-fashioned and whimsical tree ornaments appeal to all ages, but especially to Karen and Wilf's two young grandsons.
It doesn't take a lot to turn an antique trunk holding an old radio and a shabby chic lamp into a setting for a Christmas vignette. Add a cross-stitched picture and a fun moose snow globe complete the effect.
A true country Christmas corner features an antique tin wash tub on an old sled and a garland of wooden hearts.
A trio of Christmas characters guard a shelf with painted wood letters spelling JOY. The candle snuffer with a checkered handle waits to be put to work at the end of the evening.
Karen's pride and joy is her porcelain Christmas village complete with glowing lights, busy characters, and snow.
Many thanks to Karen for allowing me to feature her charming home.
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Last week I had the pleasure of being a guest in the beautiful home and Maria and Yuri designed and built. Maria has what she calls "a knack" for decorating. And how!
Maria's Christmas decor with a silver and white theme, and touches of gold, that suited her home perfectly. Sparkle set off the neutral decor palette. See what I mean...
Tree decorations and ornaments in white, silver and gold. Here are some close ups of the individual touches.
Don't you love the little ram?
A frosty evergreen spray rests on a cream and gold brocade tree skirt.
Long glass teardrops and shimmering tassels hang from lower branches. A hurricane lamp chimney hold a collection of shiny gold balls.
Sparkle everywhere in gold and silver.
Sparkling sprays and sprigs intersperse with glittery ribbons.
On the top of the tree, a sequined star shimmers.
Maria placed this trio of trees before a tall mirror near the front door, doubling their dazzling effect.
Simple, silver-spangled twigs accent a resting reindeer in gold. (How do you like my alliteration?)
This elegant, old-world St. Nick carries a basket of glorious goodies on his back and stands guard next to the base of the tree.
Take a close look at this side-board collection and you'll find some simple ideas that I'm sure Maria wouldn't mind if you borrow. Tall, plain glass vases hold both black and silver twigs, hung with silver baubles. Cream candles on mercury glass holders and long-stemmed candle holders topped with silver balls sparkle in the light of a berry-festooned garland.
A collection of plain white candles sits on a silver charger, sprinkled around with various sized "gems".
A pair of pale gold reindeer camouflage a stereo speaker.
Coordinating wire trees grace each end of the fireplace mantle.
An alcove next to the fireplace gets its own Christmas treatment.
This pair of silver wire trees sits on the floor next to the fireplace, and opposite the Christmas tree. The perfect counterpoint.
Notice how Maria has balanced her decorations without having them be identical.
Wide windowsills avail themselves of glass snowflakes and silver and glass candle sleeves.
A festive centrepiece nestles amid silvered cane balls, sparkling gems, and sugary snow.
With a quick look at the living room sectional, festooned with elegant throw cushions, you can see how Maria's Christmas decorations tie in beautifully with the decor of the home.
Many thanks to Maria for allowing me to feature her home and decorations.
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It’s winter here now. A few days ago it snowed—a lot. Then the winds came. The sky cleared and the temperature dropped. And still the wind blows. A lot.
At this latitude, the sun gets over the mountains just before ten o’clock in the morning and disappears by 4:00. It’s dark a lot at this time of year.
Winter is hard. Yesterday I went grocery shopping. When I finally found a parking spot in the dark (at 4:30) and beat the wind into the store, there were no carts. I stood beside a mother with a toddler on her hip and looked at three carts chained and padlocked to a steel bar. You can only shake your head.
I trudged around the parking lot until I found a cart shed with some buggies in it and heaved two of them through the snow and ice into the store with me. Another mom, with one child on her hip and another at her knee, sagged with relief when I offered her my extra cart. I saw a car accident happen on my way home.
Once home again, I fought to bring my boxes of groceries in against a vicious wind that threatened to rip the front door off every time I opened it. Going back for another box, I fell on the ice and bruised a knee. Admittedly, I have a bleak view of winter. I don’t enjoy winter sports and though cozying up by the fire with a hot chocolate and a good book is a wonderful vision, it’s never the only thing you have to do.
A good friend of mine has cancer. A neighbour just lost his job. Someone I love is pregnant and feels sick all the time. Another is struggling with being physically able to do her job well. There is no money for health care and an older couple I know is feeling desperate. My mom is in hospital.
In life, stuff happens; stuff we don’t want to have happen. It’s like winter comes, it won’t leave, and there is no summer in sight. We cry out, “God, why is this happening to me?” Or, sometimes, “God, why are you doing this to me?”
Jesus said, “I have told you all this (what’s going to happen) so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart (and cheer up), because I have overcome the world.”
You mean it isn’t God who is doing this to me? Then who is?
In a metaphor using himself as a shepherd, us as sheep (the resemblance is not lost on me), and the force of evil (Satan) as a thief, Jesus says, “The thief's purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them (us, the sheep) a rich and satisfying life.”
For years, Jesus’ comment to take heart because he had overcome the world perplexed me. What about my problem that won’t seem to go away? What about when life is anything but rich and satisfying, when it’s actually poor and unsatisfying, or downright awful?
What exactly am I to do?
In another scripture, Jesus said this: “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled; do not be afraid.”
It brings me to this question: How much of what we suffer is simply fear? When things don’t work out like I want them to, I have a choice. I can move into fear, or I can move into Jesus’ peace. When I trust that his goal for me is a rich and satisfying life and that he’s working against the force of evil that wants to take that away, I can have peace—his kind of peace.
I have learned that the more I believe in God’s plans to give me a rich and satisfying life, the more it happens that way. Things will still come along because we live in a world where evil also dwells, yet we can live in peace in the midst of it.
In the midst of winter there is a warm, safe place to be. At the same time, I can know that summer isn’t far away. Through whatever comes along, I can take heart and cheer up because the overcomer is on my side working always to make my life rich and satisfying.
Is this easy? Sometimes; sometimes not. Still, when I see that my only two choices are fear or peace, and I get to choose, I’ll take peace.
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For several years each spring I had the privilege of having a relative come for a visit. For her, this was an inexpensive getaway, and for me, a chance to spend lots of time with one of my dearest friends. I miss having more females in the house since my daughters left home, so having her come to visit provided the opportunity to compare clothes, do our hair, have afternoon tea, and watch chick flicks.
I am a reluctant hostess. I require lots of time alone to think and stay focused, and as a business owner with my operations centred in my home, having guests is a disruption I can seldom afford.
Usually, talk about acts of graciousness applies to the hosts, but little is spoken of regarding the gracious guest. Synonyms for graciousness include friendly, favourable, polite, kind, mild, gentle. I would add, with regard to being a guest - adaptable, accommodating, accepting, cheerful, thankful and helpful.
As a guest it is important to consider the feelings, habits and schedules of your hosts and adapt yourself to them as much as possible. Seek to please wherever and whenever you can. Offer to help, mean it, and do a good job of it.
During one of my guest’s visits, I experienced a particularly busy and stressful season in my business. She asked how she could help me the most. I replied that if she could take over some of the meal planning and preparation it would be a huge relief to me. Though she readily confesses that she is no cook, she cheerfully took on the task without complaint and we accepted her efforts gratefully. She also made sure to give us time alone and with each other. I thank her to this day for her willingness to adapt herself to our needs.
Another important aspect of being the gracious guest is in thankfully accepting what is offered. Your standards at home may differ greatly from those of your hosts, but remember that they have honoured you by inviting you to spend time with them in their home. To criticize, pass judgement, or “turn up your nose” about how they live is the utmost in bad manners.
By accepting what you are offered with grace and charm you eliminate the possibility of hurt feelings, and you will succeed in preserving a valuable friendship. Keep your moods and opinions to yourself unless they are cheerful. No one wants to spend time under the same roof with a disagreeable person.
The best part of being a gracious guest is that you will always be invited back for another visit. Because of her graciousness, kindness, and lovely disposition, my guest is welcome in our home any time. In fact, we hope she comes again soon to brighten our lives.
What you believe has a powerful impact on what happens in your life. If you believe that you can, or you can't, you're right. Adopt the following beliefs as your own and see results.
I take responsibility.
You are in charge of your life. Hold yourself accountable for the outcomes you create. Celebrate the fact that you have the power to determine your own future.
I apply effort.
Figure out your definition of success so you know what is worth working for. Give yourself credit when you're making progress rather than comparing yourself to others.
I leverage my strengths.
You have your own individual strengths that you can draw on. Figure out what you're good at and what you want to do. Let that knowledge guide your choices.
I listen to feedback.
Ask for feedback so you can enhance your performance and show others that you respect their point of view. You grow faster when you gather solid input that you can translate into action.
I ask for help.
Expand your capabilities by building a sturdy support network. Work with a mentor. Divide up household chores with your spouse and children.
I connect with others.
Moral support counts too. Surround yourself with loving and encouraging family and friends. Participate actively in your faith community. Join a club with members who share your interest in solar power or badminton.
I recognize opportunities.
Stay alert for promising openings. You may meet a new friend while you're standing in line to buy your morning coffee.
I try new things.
Be open to experimentation. Go kayaking one weekend instead of playing tennis. Bake your own bread or knit a scarf. You may discover hidden talents.
An upbeat attitude increases your happiness and productivity. Question your old assumptions so you can replace them with a new sense of certainty about yourself and your future. Adopt empowering beliefs that build up your confidence and prepare you for greater success. Start today. You'll be glad you did!
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