Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Rush

Some years I practically hibernate over Christmas, avoiding the malls, the busy streets, the crowded activities and prefer to stay at home happily crafting my own Christmas, trying to lure in my older children with promises of Christmas baking.... But this year has felt like a time of getting the most out of what is out there. Dean and Rhiannon took in the downtown Christmas light up at the end of November. And this weekend was action packed. It started on Thursday when Penny treated Rhiannon and I to a Christmas play at the Alliance Church. It was so very well done - the acting was excellent and of course, the story had a very uplifting message.

Friday found Rhiannon performing with not only the Carriage House Orchestra but also with the Debut Orchestra and the Suzuki group. This year she has moved up to the Carriage House Orchestra which has been an exciting challenge for her. This Christmas they learned 3 pieces from the Messiah which were beautiful and of course included the Hallelujah Chorus and For Unto Us a Child is Born. Even listening to them practise was wonderful. One week I had to help point (help the less experienced players like Rhiannon follow along in the music as they are learning it) and I was lousy at it but to be sitting in the middle of the violins during those pieces was so incredible.

Here she is waiting to go on. I couldn't convince her to tuck in her shirt....

And here is a recording from my seat at the back of the church. You can't see her because she is in the back of the second violin section behind some tall boys but you can hear the effect.

And here she is with the Debut Orchestra. You can't tell its her that she is the one on the far left closest to the front.

Then Saturday I put on a Christmas Party for my dance classes here at the house. Eryn came to help. 10 of my 12 dancers were there and an extra kid besides. We had snacks, visited the animals and watched my copy of the Nutcracker danced by Baryshnikov - well part of it until they started to get too restless. And then we decorated some Christmas cookies and played a rousing game of "Upset the Fruitbasket" which was so fun. While still riding the wave of energy, I suggested after the last one had cleared out that we go do some Christmas shopping. After about 15 minutes in the mall, my exhaustion hit but now I was committed so I dragged myself about for awhile longer, trying to be supportive of Erin.

Sunday we picked up a friend of Rhiannon's and headed out to O'Keefe Ranch to see their Victorian Christmas. We were there right when it opened at 2pm. If I ever go again, I will go later so you can see the lights. We listened to carols, roasted marshmallows, drank hot chocolate and went for 2 hay rides. And Rhiannon and her friend soaked Dean in snow balls.

On our way home we picked up our Christmas tree. Eryn and Tyler came over and we made homemade pizza, decorated the tree and then decorated a slough of sugar cookies. Most of Tylers have happy faces on them which he did mostly to bug Eryn.

Rhiannon and I have a goal to watch a Christmas movie every day. We're not doing so well but we have watched "Its a Wonderful Life" with a young and handsome Jimmy Stewart. Rhiannon had never seen it. I have several more ready to go. Any recommendations for good Christmas movies?

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The Way of the Farm

Last Wednesday was a hard day. I had tried to sell Mila and Blue all summer and fall. At one point it looked like I had them both sold. I was so excited to have our first ewe lambs on the farm - who wouldn't have to be eaten. But alas, the sales both fell through. I would love to keep them but I simply can't as long as we rent here and have limited space. If I kept them, then I would have 7 in my permanent flock. If Brida had triplets, Draga and Eirina had twins and Lifa, Meela and Blue all had singles and all the lambs survived, then I would have 10 lambs and have to feed 16 sheep. Overcrowding would endanger the health of my whole flock. I am keeping Lifa because I need/want another white sheep.

I had to face facts. It was pretty easy to sell them as meat. The slaughter guy came last Wednesday. It was the hardest one yet. Basil was hard but I always knew that was his destiny. These we really hoped to sell alive and to think of them going on. The hardest part was Draga. That ferocious mama was ready to take out the slaughter guy. She knew her babies were in trouble. I tied her up where she couldn't see what was happening and then I sat with her in the snow and stroked her face and told her how much I appreciated her babies and what a great mama she was and how well she grew them and that I was sorry we couldn't keep them. She pushed her head against me and took my comfort.

I have their hides hanging on the fence and this week I am going to start tanning them. It seems only right and respectful of their sacrifice to do that.

And she really did a great job of raising them. They weighed out at 46lbs and 39. And that is awesome and the biggest spring lambs I have raised so far. Of course, Eclipse is still on the hoof until closer to Eryn's wedding.

And that is the way of the farm. As much as I love my sheep, they are not pets but farm animals. The sale of those two sheep more than pays for a winter's worth of hay. Thanks Mila and Blue!

Monday, December 06, 2010

More About the Fall

I am glad to see the 'Stretched and Ripped Off' a ways away now. It was a challenging summer in some ways and the summer left abruptly, much sooner than it should have, that's for sure! But we made plans to make up for our missing holiday. We bought a new van - a Toyota Previa, which I am in-love with. And the next day we loaded it up with a huge turkey, a huge leg of lamb, pumpkin, tomatoes, bike and suitcases and headed down to Nanaimo to my sister Katie's place for an extended Thanksgiving.

Let me tell you, Katie and Brent are great guests but they are even better hosts! The weather cooperated. In Vernon it was sunny and + 20 degrees leading up to our holiday. When we drove out of town on a Wednesday afternoon, the sun was shining and the sky was blue. We stayed at Doug's in Mission that night and caught the 10am ferry the next morning. There were dolphins or porpoises leaping and doing flips in Horseshoe Bay. It was misty but the sun was peeking through every now and then. I loved smelling the sea air again. Andrew and I spent most of the time outside on the decks.

So we got to Katies around noon on Thursday. The weather in Nanaimo was pretty good, too. There was some rain, of course but that didn't stop us from enjoying time outside. There was glorious sunshine, too. Katie and Brent got right into the summer holiday mood. N and M took Friday off of school and Brent even took the day off of work. We went to Coombs and snooped around the shops, ate handfulls of bread and icecream, even though it was kind of cold. We stopped in Parksville briefly on the way home and I got some yarn and a not-as-good-as-expected yarn store to make Elizabeth a toque. It was super windy at the beach but we hung out for a little while.

Laura came that night and we had Basil's tasty leg which Brent cooked to extreme perfection - pretty good for the first time cooking lamb! It was all soooo good! Saturday we hiked around Piper's Lagoon in the rain. Laura has posted some awesome pics here (we left our camera on the table at home...). And the next day just Laura, Katie and I hung out at Sugar Loaf which I had never been to before. The turkey was fantastic, of course. Brent was involved, after all. I made a pumpkin pie from my pumpkin - two actually in pie crusts that Sarah had left behind. I made it with one of my french cooking pumpkins - a Galeux d'Eysines to be exact. It is the same as these but mine are a paler orange and not as warty with wonderfully textured, thick flesh.

Dean watched a lot of imax on Brent's surround sound and ate a lot of bacon that Brent cooked up and layed around reading his book. Rhiannon disappeared into her cousins' bedroom and surfaced occasionally to play wii. Drew tried out the skate park that was close to Katie's place, read his book, helped Brent make popcorn, watched girl movies with us and slept alot.

It was just an awesome visit. I am so blessed to have such great sisters and this great sister in particular. It was exactly what I needed. We stayed up late talking and watching movies that no one in my family would ever watch with me and laughing and laughing and laughing about the past, about each other, about other silly things. It was just so good. I went home feeling grateful and filled up and not ripped off at all.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Holiday Reading

3 posts in a row, could I be back in the saddle? Perhaps... except this is a post I have been meaning to write since the hot, sultry summer. It happened that Rhiannon had run out of things to read and was requesting my help to navigate our overloaded bookshelves and recommend some books. I came across a book that had been given to Dean long before by someone who had weird ideas about his reading proclivity. It had won a children's literature award and was considered juvenile fiction. Rhiannon started reading the book and enjoyed it.

There are two times of the year when good novels are a 'must' for me - summer on the beach or sitting in the backyard when it is too hot to work in the garden or do any of the many other chores I have and Christmas - especially between Christmas and New Years on the blissful cocooned days after the storm of getting ready for Christmas. So I am making these recommendations now. I picked up Rhiannon's book and started reading it myself, just to check it out and because I, too, had run out of something to read. And I got hooked. I loved the story and went on to read the rest of the series, even when it meant buying the last book in the series in hardcover.

So here is my holiday reading recommendation sure it was meant for the beach but it will work for winter holidays, too. Megan Whalen Turner's Thief Series that stars with this book, "The Thief". We loved the whole series. There is also "The Queen of Attolia", "The King of Attolia" and "Conspiracy of Kings". They are very will written by a master storyteller. "The Thief especially has an awesome ending. Rhiannon and I marvelled about it for days. One of the things I really liked about it is that because these books are considered juvenile fiction, although there is a wonderful romance as part of the story, there is no explicit sex because I would prefer not to read about that. It was just very well written and very compelling.

They are set in the past, based loosely on a fictional, Byzantium Greece. I just might read this series again, I loved being in the story so much.... and I never do that.