Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Fun

It's always so much fun to spend time with family - especially when they live far away and we don't see each other very often!  Melinda, Tyler and Samuel have been here from Nova Scotia and our days have included:

a quad ride,

a family portrait for Auntie Esther,


helping Grampa,

decorating the tree,

lots of eating,

and tons of hugs!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!!

christmas Pictures, Images and Photos

(image from Photobucket)

May the light and joy that come with the Saviour's birth
fill your heart and your life
with peace and love!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Crockpot Love

In the last week, these two little appliances have been busy!

They've been used for:

- taco dip
- mulled cider
- homemade yogurt
- sauerkraut with pork chops
- apple - turnip puff
- mashed potatoes

I really do appreciate being able to use them to simplify and serve tasty foods with very little fuss!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Gratitude Gifts Today

Yesterday my family gathered early in the morning and then headed to the big city to spend a few hours doing something special together.   The something special was delivering Christmas gifts from Santa's Anonymous to families in the city center.  The smiles, the quiet nods as bags were clutched, the repeated whispers of thank you - thank you, the knowing that for some this will be the only gift - that was our thanks and our reminder of what He gave us - the Best Gift of All.

And so I count on, filled with joy and trusting that He gives all I need -

- time with my family

- gathering first thing in the morning

- safe driving down rutted streets and snowy highways

- looking for the other car of family

- meeting them at the same apartment building

- seeing the 10 bags that had been undeliverable on Saturday, dwindle to only 2

- visiting with my sister, my mom, my aunt

- knowing that Dad was at home, minding the turkey

- catching up on news from my niece, Jill

- stories, stories, stories of everyone's life

- the smell of dinner when we walked in the door :)

- gifts to exchange and receive

- knowing that the missing ones are deeply loved

- my uncle's shrimp cocktail

- washing dishes together

- seeing my mom and my aunt, sisters and good friends, together

- playing games

- reading Mom and Dad's Christmas cards

- naps

- helping Mom learn about the internet

- her joy that music can be found so easily online

- our amazement at 59,300 responses when she typed in "grosbeaks"

- little bites of orange 'honey'

- driving home past farms and houses bright with Christmas lights

- more memories to linger over

- counting 4 more days until His birthday!!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas Music

This is my favourite song this year! The music is wonderful and the message is powerful. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Giving 5

When we've travelled in places around the world (still a sense of disbelief that I can actually say that!), we've seen time and time again how people live in ways very different from ours.  We've seen glimpses of the extremes between rich and poor and the inequities between men and women.  And we've done lots of reading to know that the very worst of those differences includes slavery - people that are working for others under threat of violence in atrocious conditions so someone else can get rich.  It's happening around the world - even in North America.  There is no way I can just sit passively on the sidelines.

Take time to watch this TED video where Kevin Bales explains what's happening and why.

Slaves working in mines in 
the Democratic Republic of Congo
(from Free the Slaves website)

I've been thinking about what I can do to make a difference about this but I don't yet have a clear vision of what that should be.  So for now I'm educating myself, reading, following the talk and praying about my actions.  Free The Slaves is one of the sites I've been following.  More and more, especially during this season,  I've been praying about this, asking God to direct my heart and my giving.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Would You Know Him?

From Brian Andreas at Storypeople today:

One time on Hollywood Boulevard I saw a young girl with a baby. It was a crisp winter morning & her hair shone dark purple in the sun. She was panhandling outside the Holiday Inn & the door clerk came out & told her to be on her way & I wondered if anyone would recognize the Christ child if they happened to meet. I remember thinking it's not like there are any published pictures & purple seemed like a good color for a Madonna so I gave her a dollar just in case.

Ten on Thursday

1.  I am finished Christmas shopping!

2.  I have wrapped only a couple of things.

3.  Two stockings are actually stuffed - that's unheard of for me!  It's usually a late night job on Dec. 23rd.

4.  I'm pretty sure this is the last year I'm going to do stockings.  Now that our kids have their own homes, it's an activity they can do with their own little families.

5.  Christmas caroling, Christmas bingo, Christmas treats, Christmas art, Christmas card making, Christmas letters to Santa - it was quite a day at school today!

6.  Tonight was the first night I've had to wait in a long line at a checkout.  Smart store setup at Home Outfitters as they channel the lineup right between rows of bins with stuff to peruse, think you need and therefore purchase!

7.  There was not a single bag of icing sugar on the shelves at the grocery store tonight.  I guess icing cookies has become a big must-do project.

8.  It took two tries but the family picture for Christmas cards is now in the house.  Costco has some weird formatting program and on the first try, they cut the border off on two sides.   I was somewhat less than impressed!

9.  I am so thankful for Christmas cards that contain letters and pictures.  It's such a treat to get those envelopes throughout December.

10.  Mel, Tyler and Samuel have arrived safely in Alberta :)  and will soon come to our house.  :))

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Bit of Baking

In the freezer:

Butterscotch Confetti Squares (gluten-free)


Chai-Spiced Snickerdoodles (gluten-free)

Peanut Blossoms



On the to-do list:



Chocolate Peppermint Crinkles

Chocolate Dipped Peanut Butter Krispie Balls (gluten free)

Lazy Buttertart Squares

Pistachio-Cranberry Bark

Poppycock (yes, we go through lots of this!)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Gratitude Gifts Today

Inching along the road to Bethlehem, the way is getting crowded with other things and I was reminded this week that I am the one who must slide past the trimmings and the fluff to put myself in quiet spaces as I really prepare my heart for the birth of our Saviour.

 How can I be a reflection of Him when my mind is full of lists, tasks and panic?

How can I serve Him when I am busy serving my own expectations and competing for a place in the world's melee?

 If I can make time to shop and wrap and bake, first I must make time to reflect and study and pray.  And when that realization struck me full on in the crowded aisle of Costco last week, I knew exactly what had to change.  And it was my attitude and my priorities.  So following an Advent reading list and softly putting carols on to play in the background has brought me back to the road and the way is clearer and the heart is calm.

And the counting of His priceless blessings continues!

- church bell pealing across the village on a frostly winter morning

- sun streaming in through the windows

- first light of the sun gilding snow and bare trees

- 3 candles lit

- 3 banners hung showing the path

- friend who plays the organ so beautifully

- choir music filling the building

- gathering at a friend's apartment for snacks

- colored lights brightening the night

- a finished project hung

- time to create

- Christmas baking and once a year treats

- hot tea in a favourite Polish mug

- counting down the days until they arrive home

- energy of little skaters for 3 games in 3 days

- Christmas fabrics going from bolt to project

- gifts to give loved ones

- a daily journal album to record the moments of December

- a giftcard saved from last Christmas and used now

- new lamp tables for the living room

- so much good food - what abundance with which we are blessed

- that I can sew and make cute things to share

- the reminder to look for strange, unusual things because that's how God works

- the question to ask:  are my expectations in line with God's or am I off on such a big tangent that I don't even see Him or the opportunities He places in my path?

- the ability to adjust my path during this season of waiting

- the task He gives me - to share the news of His coming

- that the day we celebrate Him is coming soon!

Advent 3

This message was in my inbox this morning and it spoke volumes to me.  As a child, I remember my mom always reading the Christmas story before we opened gifts and she still continues that tradition.  It will be part of our family's celebration time this year too.

Playing With The Box

"Reprinted with permission from the PCCWeb Daily Devotional <>"

1 John 4:19 - We love because he first loved us. (NIV)

2 Corinthians 9:15 - Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! (NIV)

Several years ago, during the opening of Christmas presents at our house, my son and his wife had bought a very special toy for their son, and they were very excited in anticipation of his opening it. He was only about a year and a half old at the time, and he needed a lot of assistance in tearing the wrapping and opening the box. After the toy was pulled out, he unexpectedly turned and began playing with the box, crawling inside it or tearing more paper off it. How disappointed they were when he disregarded the toy.

In many ways, our celebration of Christmas is exactly like that. God has given us a tremendous gift in Christ, and instead of enjoying Him, we turn and concentrate our attention on the box and the wrapping paper: Christmas concerts, decorating, and housecleaning, baking, entertaining, shopping, and travelling. In so doing, we often wear ourselves out, and even begin to approach this time of year with dread in our hearts. Imagine how disappointed God must be!

In our household, we follow a tradition that my father started: before we open our presents to one another, we read the story of Christ's birth from Luke 2:1-20, and have prayer. It's our way of reminding ourselves that the reason we give gifts to each other is that God first gave us the gift of His Son. We thank Him for being born into a lowly estate on this earth, coming as a baby like us, and becoming subject to the same conditions of life that we face. All of this was so that He would be able to give His perfect life as a sacrifice on the cross for our imperfect lives and sins, and set us free from guilt and shame. What a gift it is to have a good relationship with our Creator!

Whatever it takes, and whatever method we may use, let us devise ways to remind ourselves to focus on God's gift of Jesus at this time of year (and always!) and to avoid focussing solely on the box and the wrapping paper.

Prayer: Lord, thank You for first loving us and giving to us, so that we can be motivated by Your love to pass on that love and giving to others. Help us in our desire to honour You as our first priority within all the festivities of this season. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.

written by:  Robin Ross <>
Mission, British Columbia, Canada

star on our tree, 2009

Saturday, December 11, 2010

December Fun

One of the best parts of the Christmas celebrations that I remember was the school concert.  Days and days of practise, lines to learn, costumes to wear and a packed gym out there, somewhere in the dark, made for magical memories.  We went to Meadow's preschool concert this week and enjoyed the little snowmen.

They sang several songs and then a special visitor stopped by, to the little ones' delight. 

I love those little hands that just had to touch him!

It's winter in Alberta so the hockey arenas are busy places!

Returning to the Warburg arena for a tournament is like a step into the past!  Several of the boys that Darrin played with over the years are now dads and coaches of a new generation of players.  And us - well, there are a whole bunch of hockey grandparents in the bleachers now!!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Christmas Stories for Little Ones

One of my very favourite gifts to give at Christmas time is a book!  There are so many good ones to choose from and I never have trouble walking out of a bookstore or book fair with an armful of beautiful ones.  Here are some that I can recommend for Christmas.  Happy reading!!

For the Littlest Ones

Welcome, Baby Jesus - a little board book that's just perfect for Silas (who is 2 and a bit) as he sits on the hearth of the fireplace.

Biscuit's Pet and Play Christmas - a touch and feel board book which Blake, our 17 month-old grandson loves right now.

Who is Coming to Our House? - the animals in the barn clean the barn and prepare for mysterious special guests in this quiet and lyrical story of the first Christmas, a favourite of Samuel, our 19 month-old grandson.

Elmo's 12 Days of Christmas - a Sesame Street re-telling of the Christmas carol.

For Biggers

God Gave Us Christmas - Little Cub asks Mama who gave us Christmas so they go on a journey to discover God and the answers to more questions like 'Is God more important than Santa?'  I love this for its answers to many questions that come up as children get older and families focus on the real reason for Christmas.

Bearnstain Bears Christmas Tree - as Papa searches for the biggest and best tree, there are many mishaps along the way.  This is also available as a video.

Humphrey's First Christmas - told from the perspective of a camel, this shares the Wise Man's journey and the meaning of giving gifts.  Meadow and I enjoyed it together recently.

The Sweet Smell of Christmas - a Golden scratch and sniff book (there are 6 scents inside) which is a favourite of Helayna's right now.  What kid doesn't love scratch and sniff books?!

And for every adult:  William Kureluk's "A Northern Nativity", which is written as a series of 12 reflections on where the Christ Child might have been born if He came now.  The cover illustration shows Him in an igloo and others include a granary, a truck stop, a city mission and a fisherman's hut.  I have used some of the readings at Christmas gatherings and they were well received.  This is a beautifully written and very thought-provoking book - one that should be in every home, I think.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Gratitude Gifts Today

The second week of Advent begins with the message of John the Baptist preparing the Way and calling us to repentance, a complete and utter turning around of our life.  Leaving behind the sense of entitlement and selfishness that we have, proceeding to go completely in the opposite direction, we give Jesus our lives and go with Him.  And when we receive that Gift of repentance, we also receive the gifts of sharing - doing what God wants us to do - and the gift of ethics - being steadfast in sharing what the world needs, which is more of Him.   (my thoughts after Pastor Scott's sermon on Sunday)

And more of Him means that I have more for which to give thanks!  Sweet, sweet blessings!

- a few extra minutes to linger in a warm bed

- hot Tuscany Pear rooibos tea

- a good hair day

- lunch ready to grab and go

- a dishwasher and a sink, both full of clean dishes

- poppycock

- a pink and orange sunrise streaking the sky

- great lesson plans

- attentive students - even on a Monday morning

- hot chocolate + coffee + hazelnut coffee creamer at recess

- no supervision :)

- discussing books

- conversation with colleagues

- plans for Christmas

- concerts where little ones can shine

- time to browse

- giving out happy faces for good behaviour

- hearing good news while visiting in the aisle at Wal-Mart

- little pink grippy socks

- a cleaned out hallway closet

- Pumpkin Pie Fruit & Grain Kashi granola bars

- butter in the grocery store cooler (seriously, it's been so hard to find for the last 3 weeks!)

- ideas for appetizers

- Bob's work at tidying up his shop

- phone calls to our daughters

- Meadow's voice sharing her hockey tournament schedule

- roast beef with beet relish

- whipped shortbread cookies

- the creche' out on the table

- my favourite Christmas quilt hanging up again

- lights in the night and the beauty they bring to the countryside

- a printer

- copy and paste functions on the computer

- kiwi

- wrapping Christmas presents to mail

- pondering the message of John the Baptist that "one who is greater than he is coming soon"

- that my repentance means now I serve Him daily

- Christmas carol messages "O Come, O Come, Immanuel"

Monday, December 06, 2010

Giving 4

My friend, Linds, recently wrote about China Kidz, a hospice and palliative care home for children in China.  It's amazing to read what one couple is doing to make a difference in the lives of the weakest little ones.  I'm sending some grippy socks and bibs for little Angel and Isobel to help them through the cold winter.

Meadow was happy to help me work on the bibs last week.  She was busy pinning and unpinning and then collected all the little scraps, twisting and turning them into little packets that I stitched up for her.  She alternated between calling them ice packs and hot packs!  What fun it was to cut and stitch with her, as she asked questions and we enjoyed each other's company.  I hope she will grow to love fabric and stitching as much as I do.

 Earlier in the day we'd gone to the fabric store and I told her it was like a candy store for me.  When we pre-shrunk the fabrics in the evening, she was sniffing them and telling me that they didn't smell like candy.  The next day she kept asking why I liked fabric better than candy and reminding me that she "actually liked candy better"!  What fun times our grandchildren provide for me!

Sunday, December 05, 2010

The Stories

Somewhere in the last few weeks, I found a place where Lain Ehmann shared a list of journaling prompts (although for the life of me I can't find the exact link now) and I decided to use them throughout my December Daily album.  I thought it would be fun to share them here and invite you to reflect and tell your stories of December and Christmas along with me.

1. The last significant purchase I made was … 8 - half metre pieces of fabric and 7 fat quarters at the fabric store in Winfield.  Meadow had fun picking them out with me and I'm hoping to make some Christmas bunting banners and other little projects.  Watch for the pictures - but some of them are going to be gifts so there might be a little waiting involved first!
2. The top three things on today’s priority list are … taking the recycling and garbage to the local landfill, ordering our family picture Christmas cards, and making poppycock.
3. My favorite thing to drink this time of year is … hot apple cranberry cider - it's like dessert in a cup :)   I still love chai lattes of any kind and my homemade (from a heritage recipe)  cappuccino mix.  And today I bought 'A Raspberry In Paris' and 'Tuscany Pear' rooiboos tea.  I think the names of them caught my travel fancy!
Let me know if you decide to join in so I can come and read your stories!

Friday, December 03, 2010

The Current | Three

listening: "A Joyful Noise" by Jo Dee Messina

eating: a piece of "Hottie" chocolate bar - organic dark chocolate with chili pepper and cinnamon - I can only eat a little square at a time!

drinking: Bora Bora Mango rooiboos tea

wearing: black yoga pants, black and pink tshirt and hoodie - with a black down-filled vest too!

feeling: just a little tired after staying overnight with Meadow and Blake last night while their parents were away.  It's different - but lots of fun - to be with two little ones for 36 hours straight!

weather: the thermometer was at -6 degrees C for most of the day but it felt alot colder.  

wanting: to do some Christmas baking tomorrow.  I think I'll start with Butterscotch Confetti Squares and Gingersnaps.

needing: to get out my Christmas dishes and linens.

thinking: about when and where to get our Christmas tree.

enjoying: a stack of new Christmas fabrics that are waiting for attention.

wondering: just how to proceed with a Christmas bunting banner that I want to make and how to make some of  Ann's advice a part of our celebration.  I think we will have cake for Christmas breakfast with Samuel!

"Just Waiting for the Little Ones"

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Giving 3

When I found the World Bicycle Relief organization last year, I was thrilled!  After being in Africa, we knew exactly how valuable a bike could be and we'd seen lots of them being used in very inventive ways.  Giving a person a bicycle means that they can get to school quickly, loads can be carried easily, jobs can be taken further away and completed and they have a whole new-found mobility.  For only $134 you can help a girl in Zimbabwe get to school every day!   I am so, so happy to be able to give to an organization that is impacting people in such a positive way with a very simple vehicle, for just a few dollars.   Ride on!!

from their blog

bicycle taxi in Lake Nakuru town
(the passenger sits on the padded seat - 
it's amazing to see!)

distracted driver talking on his cellphone!

in Tanzania near Arusha


As I ponder how to write about the next giving we will do, I must ask you to go to A Holy Experience and read what Ann has written today about The Greatest Giveaway.  That woman writes with such wisdom - I know God is using her to touch my heart and I pray that yours might be moved too.