Monday, December 29, 2008

Skating on the Lake

We have been making the most of this time off - trying to do things that we can only do now. Dean has taken Rhiannon sledding a couple of times, they've been to the matinée at the cheap theatre and today I took Rhiannon skating on the lake. It is only the fourth time in 15 winters that I have lived here that it is possible to skate on Kal Lake. It was a beautiful winter day and thanks to the -27 weather we have survived, -7 felt positively balmy! We were the only ones out and as we drove there, it started to snow huge flakes.

Here she is starting off on one of the cleared spaces.

And this picture doesn't really need any comment, does it? Her face says it all!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Young Photographer

Andrew really does have a good eye for photos. Since he was a little boy, he has appreciated a 'view'. It was something that we have always enjoyed together. He has often pointed them out to me. He especially seems to like the sunset view from his bedroom window. He shares what he considers to be the best of his photos at deviant art. You don't have to be a member to view them. Just follow this link. Knight in skinny jeans indeed... now if he would just pull them UP!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Crafting

As the rosy light of the dawn spreads across the sky this Boxing Day morning and the rest of my family still sleeps, I finally have time to read all the blogs I like to read. I am finally well-rested after late nights spent crafting and my marathon on Christmas Eve. Yesterday I had a 3 hour nap and then still went to bed at 11 and woke up 8 hours later. Ahhhhh, I needed that!

I am sitting here sipping delicious tea that a certain Pea sent me for Christmas (spicy orange mandarin... yum!) and I have time to show you what I made over Christmas.

This was my first completed gift. The pattern is from Son of Stitch and Bitch. I had to rip it 4 times. The first time I had completed up to the mouths of the skulls and realized that it was big enough to be the beginning of a sweater... and the other times, I just won't go into. Suffice it to say that once I started for the last time, it took me more than 20 hours to complete. It is the hardest thing I have ever knitted and by the time I was done, I had a puncture wound in my thumb! And I will complain about the pattern. There are several errors in it that contributed to my ripping. Luckily Kaetlyn loves it! Whew!

After I completed Kaetlyn's hat, I went crazy making things for my brother's children. I drew my 16-years-younger brother, Evan, for gifts this year. He sent me a ridiculous list of expensive store bought things. So I got him a store-bought gift but I couldn't resist making things for all his kids. I wish I had taken a picture of the sweet wee hat I made for his baby daughter or the little pouch I made to put it in from this how-to here. Or the elf hat I made his son from a pattern in "One Skein Wonders: 101 yarn store favourites". I adjusted the pattern to include some of my own designed fair-isle knitting... (thanks Elizabeth Zimmerman for the inspiration) And I sent his oldest daughter a little lip balm made from a recipe in "Dining on a Dime Recipe Book" And his wife I sent some hand cream from a recipe in "Organic At Home". And of course, a large portion of home made peanut brittle. It seemed like I couldn't stop making things for them all... I finally shipped it off on the bus on Dec 23... I also made hand cream, moisture bars (also from Organic at Home) and lip balm for stocking stuffers and gifts for several of my friends. After the first batch, I started experimenting with different essential oils. I made Dean an "orange and cinnamon" scented hand cream (he loves it) and my mil a lavender and bergamot scented one. Erin got 'citrus blossom' which was sweet orange, lemon, pink grapefruit and linden blossom... and many other combinations for others - too many to mention here.

After I finished all that, this was my next completed project... the night of the 23rd. I had started her several days before - I would work on her in the morning before Rhiannon got up for an hour or two. This is made from a Wee Wonderfuls Make-A-Long pattern for "Olive". However, her name is Melissa! And she was from Santa to Rhiannon who was so thrilled to receive her! She tells me that she can't thank me enough! Sweet! What every crafting Santa loves to hear!

Then on the morning of the 24th after only a few hours sleep, I started this. It is an Amy Butler pattern from her book "In Stitches" (it is one of the ones I showed you in the summer, Amy). It is an "Oversized Laundry Bag". Some might say a boring gift but luckily Erin loves it. I love the details that Amy Butler puts in her patterns. It might just be a laundry bag but it looks fantastic! You might remember that it matches what I made her last year. Between the outer layer and the lining, there is a layer of canvas and some very stiff interfacing in the bottom. It is beautiful and very sturdy. I even made the drawstring myself and I didn't need to purchase anything at all to make it. I had everything already in my stores! Once I finished that about about 10pm Christmas Eve (I worked on it between completing a season's worth of baking with Kaetlyn, cleaning the kitchen, living room and bathroom and decorating the Christmas Tree), it was time to start on Rhiannon's gift!

This gift idea comes from "Creative Family" by Amanda Blake Soule. It is a pencil roll made of pink wool felt. Rhiannon loves these super thick and very vibrant wooden colour pencils (that put Laurentian to shame - if you don't know them, get down to an artists store and get youself some!) You can see them here. They are Ferby Coloured Pencils by Lyra. We have been accumulating them from Opus in Kelowna. She had 40 of them but I managed to find 5 more colours she didn't have. We had worked together on a roll that fits 30 of them earlier in the fall. So here you see the 10 that don't fit in the first one and the 5 more I got her for Christmas along with space for 5 more. On the other side of the top it has her name in machine embroidery.

I must say that I love my old Bernina for this feature. I had the amazing good fortune when I was 21 and setting out to buy my own machine to get one out of the "Buy and Sell" in Vancouver. An old but top of the line Bernina that was exactly the same as my mother's (she had bought hers 20 years earlier). The woman I bought it from had used it only once to sew a button on. It is a wonderful old, mechanical machine with no plastic in it. I have never had it serviced. The tension is always perfect. And when I use the embroidery stitches like I did here, it is like having my mother sitting beside me... I remember the things she made for me and my siblings with the same stitches on them.

I finished Rhiannon's pencil roll at exactly 2:18am... I guess that was Christmas morning...And that completes my Christmas crafting. Don't worry, I didn't neglect the men in my life. For Dean we all went together and put money on a guitar (the V shaped one) he has been dreaming about and for Drew we all went together and bought him a digital camera (canon) for his creative expression - he takes amazing landscape/scenery photos - takes after his Auntie Laura.

And now my tea is cool and almost gone and the rosiness has faded to daylight and there are chickens and sheep who will be very excited to see me...

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

We went from 0 to Christmas yesterday. I had almost no baking done but by supper we were over-loaded. I started yesterday morning at 5:15 am and I was finished by 2:18am. I couldn't help but ponder what I could accomplish in my life if I could get that much done everyday...

This is a photo that Andrew took of the moody weather yesterday.

Along with baking, I had cleaning and presents to finish making. And our tree wasn't decorated yet, either. We had a lot of fun decorating, cleaning, making and baking yesterday. That is heaven for me - to have all 4 of my children around me all working and playing together.

Here is what a nose ring is really good for... Kaetlyn decorated that heart when she was 3. Sparkly fabric paint makes everything look good... Most of our decorations are homemade and we love putting them up, laughing about some of them, marvelling at the charm of others... bickering about who gets to put it up, what part of the tree has too many decorations... and laughing a lot.

Is Kaetlyn drilling something there? Um... no... My electric beater broke some months earlier and I just couldn't bear the thought of mixing shortbread by hand...neccessity is the mother of invention, right?

I only have one problem now: I can't get the drill to let go of my mixer attachment...

And in the end, all efforts are completed and the magic of Christmas descends on our home.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Winter Wonderland

So everyone, everywhere in Canada knows that this is a coooold winter - much colder than usual and here in the Okanagan is no exception. The weather we are having reminds me of growing up in Prince George. It is the coldest weather I have experienced in the 14 years I have lived here. But all this snow and cold does have its upside. We have had glorious sunshine that makes everything just look so beautiful. We are usually socked in with 'valley bottom' cloud about this time of year for days on end. I have to admit, the sunshine is nice! Here are some images from our winter wonderland.

The beauty bush becomes a winter cave....

The sun low on the southern horizon.

Waxy, red barberries under the snow

My sleeping garden.

Hope you can find the beauty in this snow and cold weather... that's all the pictures I could take.... my shutter wouldn't open anymore in that cold...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Holy Night

Oh Holy Night
The stars are softly shining
It is the night of our dear Saviour's birth
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till he appeared and the soul felt its worth
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices
As yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!

Fall on your knees!
Oh hear the angel voices
Oh Night Divine
Oh night when Christ was born
Oh night divine

One thing that having animals does for me is that it makes me go outside when otherwise, I would stay huddled inside. Last night was one of those nights. I fed the sheep and chickens and changed their water under blazing stars on the longest night of the year. In the crisp, quiet cold, under the clear stars, I couldn't help but feel the sacredness of the moment. And I couldn't help but think of all the people in the Northern Hemisphere who celebrate this time of year in one way or another and all that combined energy that makes this cold, dark night so sacred.

Whether or not you believe in Jesus and whether or not you believe he was born, one thing is for sure, the biblical account of his birth did not happen in December. There would be no shepherds out with their flocks in December. Shepherds stay with their flocks in the spring during lambing season and when the lambs are small. Yet the birth of the Son is celebrated at this time of year when for us in cold places, when our Earth begins its journey back to the Sun.

For me, the natural world is sacred. It is there that I have had my spiritual experiences and there that I find the symbolism that sustains me. And to me, with my ENFP brain that sees connections in everything, in that cold night as I walked slowly back to the house under bright stars, I couldn't help but see parallels. For Christians Christ was born to end the dark night of sin - of separation from God. In the New Testament He proclaims himself as the Light and the Way. In my own anticipation of the rebirth of the sun and the return of longer days, warmth, gardening and the beach, I felt a deep excitement for the birth of the Sun anew. I couldn't help but see deeper and think of the 'dark night of the soul'. And think of how each of us when we dare to face the dark and the cold within ourselves and heal old patterns are also born again into the light. For me this has also been a cycle - not as regular as the the Sun's return every year and not as dramatic as the birth of Christ. Yet, for me, as significant and the journey I am on - to see myself and to love and accept myself. And to enter into that place is to enter into the Sun or the Son. Its all the same to me.

And so this song that I started my post with came to mind and I sang it as I walked back to the house and it seemed loaded with just the kind of parallel symbolism that was going through my mind.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

For Auntie Amy

And this is what you do when you have no one to play a duet with you... play both parts yourself. Rhiannon wanted me to record this for you, Amy. So here it is:

Friday, December 19, 2008

What To Do When.... spend all your money on your bike and then quit your job and don't have enough money to get a ski pass....

Um... yes, that is our driveway.... our flat driveway....

Monday, December 15, 2008

Meet Frosty

Before the temperatures dipped to the -21 they are this morning, when a Northern girl like myself knew that snow at these temperatures would be no good for snowmen, Rhiannon and I managed to make this wee snowman. The snow was on the edge of not being sticky - those snowballs took a long time to roll. Frosty has black walnuts for eyes from our own yard, a carrot left over from the farmer's market and organic juice sweetened cranberries from Rancho Vignola for a mouth. And a Bryer's ice cream pail for a hat with mountain ash twigs for arms which you can't really see in this picture.

And for those of you who can't make it to Rhiannon's recital this Friday...

Friday, December 12, 2008

Christmas Funny Bone

We have been communicating with each other through e-mail about our Christmas plans. H ere is an exchange between Rhiannon and Drew that just cracks me up! Andrew wrote the original e-mail and Rhiannon answered in the large italics and then Drew responded again. Don't be drinking anything while you read it....

edited to add: for those of you who don't know, Rhiannon is 8 and Andrew is 15.
* * *
Hello family,

there's not much that i want that is under the budget, soo,
Hoddie's what is that ? a Hoodie, a zip up sweater with a hood , socks , boxxers , jeans ,you want clothes for christmas,get real.i am being real rhiannon i need clothes handle grips for my bike ,of course you wan't that. cellphone minutes for telus thats a bit expencive for me to buy for you.don't you think?and no it is not to expensive because it can be as little as $5, gift card for sun country cycleand where would we get that ?and you would get that at suncountry , any cunninlynguests C.D ,i'm not gonna get it if it has screaming music.its not screaming music rhiannon it is rap money umm,andrew thats not really a christmas present and you can earn it yourself.its always nice geting free money rhiannon .... i cant really think of anything elsoh come on.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Gardening Year in Review

Last year for one of the first times in my life, I didn't have a hard time letting go of summer. Was it because I knew I would meet up with the sun again in Mexico in November? I don't think so, I think it was because I really felt I got everything I could out of summer - lots of swimming in the lake, lots of fruit, lots of satisfying garden, a bounteous harvest and a freezer and cold storage room full of summer tastes.

This year, I had a much harder time saying good bye to summer. The evidence is in the fact that there are still about 15 tomato stakes left in my garden and that I just planted my garlic last week.... I think I didn't get all I wanted out of summer. The strawberry, raspberry, cherry and apricot crops didn't do so well and mostly I have the leftovers of the previous year's great harvest of those things in my freezer. And with the super hot and then unseasonably cold weather, the above picture represents all the sugar pumpkins I got out of my garden along with the only Queensland Blue. Its a good thing I set out to grow a year's supply of squash or I wouldn't have any!

And this picture makes me laugh. I have never successfully grown onions but that didn't stop me from deciding to grow a year's supply of them, too. I had more than 52 onions started indoors at the prescribed 10 weeks before planting outside, which I have never done before. However, the results were not much different than usual. Most of them I didn't even bother to pick. This here one that is sitting on my window sill beside a chestnut, is my biggest onion. Most of them were about a third of that size. So, this year my goal is to learn HOW to grow onions. Clearly I don't know. It is my winter reading project that will start just after Christmas.
Tomato production was down this year, too. Although I had a few more plants than the year before, I didn't get near the same amount of tomatoes. It was that weird weather. And then I get shade sooner in the fall thanks to that hedge of elms I dream of cutting down... I had to buy some local tomatoes to add to my canned stash. But I am full of tomato dreams for next year already. I grew some really great tomatoes this year despite all that. I have decided there is little point in growing any tomato that isn't huge. Ahhhhh... it is hard to write about it and remember those gorgeous tomatoes with their striated orange, yellow and red.... they were sooooo delicious....

This is what keeps me going through the winter. This is a transplanted aloe vera plant that turned out to have a bunch of calendula seeds in the soil and they popped right up! I love that!

And this is one of my pomegranate trees who lost all of its leaves by July. It is sprouting leaves and branches. (you didn't kill it after all, Mary Sue;)