My Days and Anniversaries

Hi, out there! I’ve been a tad busy and somehow the days just flew by and here we are, a month on from my last post. This after I promised myself to do better . . . oh, well . . .

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Sometimes the cat knows best . . .

By the way, if you are curious about where I am living, go here:

https://www.google.ca/maps/@49.8829593,-120.7609463,7.3z?hl=en

That link should show you the bottom west part of British Columbia, with Vancouver (BC) in the lower left-hand corner and Salmon Arm near the top and east of Kamloops. That will give you the general idea. If you zoom out you can see where we are in relation to the entire province.

And this link is a close-up of our area:

https://www.google.ca/maps/@50.6861583,-119.2831572,10z?hl=en

We live just west of the words ‘Grandview Bench’ and slightly east of the 97B Highway.

And for comparison, this shows the size of our province compared to the UK:

UK-BC Map 01

. . . and where I live should be somewhere along the French coast north-west of Paris and south of London. (now that I think about it, I should live there!)

I thought I’d throw those in here because I’ve had numerous remarks from people who don’t know my province. The towns where I live or have lived are generally quite small and not shown on average maps.

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Hoarfrost on the trees in the mornings was lovelier than this photo can show . . .

Back to what I was saying . . . The days have been cold here, as you can see from the photo, especially the last couple of weeks, but with some nice bits, too. I’ve begun attending a couple of handwork groups in Enderby, a smaller town than Salmon Arm (also fairly small, though) and about 15 minutes drive south and eastish (Is eastish a word? Guess it is now!) from here. And now you can see where those towns are 🙂

My cousin’s wife S and I were out shopping for Christmas and stopped in a lovely wee coffee shop in Enderby. It’s called Country Coffee House and it’s too bad all you lovely people live so far away . . . I bet you’d like it as much as I do. Awesome home-made soups and equally delicious lattés, too. A super-friendly owner/operator and so is the group of crocheters; they call themselves the Happy Hookers and they are, too. I’ve been twice so far and there has been a small baby both times, not in the group, but the mums are friends with the group members, so I got to see them close up. Hard to look and not touch sometimes.

I finally began using one of the balls of yarn I bought on Leka Island in Norway (I was quite disappointed because it was spun in China, of all places, so not actually the Norwegian yarn I’d hoped for. But I never had the chance to shop at an actual Norwegian wool yarn shop, and at least this carries the memories of the little convenience store on Leka and of my time there. I have begun a free-form cushion cover (free-form because I am making it up as I go along; I’ve already had to frog it a couple of times when it wasn’t working out the way I wanted. Price you pay for not following directions . . .) The right photo shows just a bit of the latté I was drinking as I worked. I felt so reminded of Cooper’s Cafe in Skipton, where I met with Lucy’s Knit n Natter group at the beginning of November.

So . . . when S and I stopped in that day in December, I saw the sign about the Happy Hookers and realized they meet the same day as the Sit n Knit group meets at the library, which is a very short block up the street. Crochet in the morning and Knitting in the afternoon! How lucky is that? So three weeks ago cousin M drove me to Enderby in the morning. I had a great time with the group, then had soup and a bun, and left, second latté in hand, in time to join the knitters at the library. I was first there that day, so got to sit in a wing-back chair right next to the electric fireplace!  I’ll have to take a photo of the fireplace and the chairs to share next time I go.

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I love wing-back chairs!

Members of both groups were SO friendly and welcoming! And the groups are open as to what one brings to work on, so I saw both knitting and crochet there, and I think there was a piece of cross-stitching at the knitting group.

My cousin was great about coming to pick me up again when the group was over. Both groups meet for about two hours each, so it makes for a good day out. And the cousins get a day at home without me. We get along fine, but I’m still a visitor . . .

Two weeks later, I spent the day in Enderby again and I’ll go next Tuesday, as well, barring blizzards and/or freezing weather. We’ve not had a real blizzard, but I got up today to a gentle snow falling and I think it’s still coming down . . . still, this winter will be very short compared to winters in Edmonton, and it’s been surprisingly warm for the season, with not much snow until after Christmas. I don’t mind, really. We will need the moisture in the ground this summer when we are back on forest-fire alert. Not looking forward to that, I can tell you!

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This was taken shortly before Christmas! Not the usual here; last year we had about six feet of snow over the winter. This year it only started in January, really.

In other Crafty News lately:

The black and white Did I mention that I bought fabric at some point in January? And then some more . . . no idea what got into me 🙂

The photo in the bottom right corner is what I bought when I was first back here. I’d borrowed a book about making “Inchies” and felt inspired. Inchies are tiny quilts an inch on each side (2.5 cm for you youngsters). Then my cousins gave me a gift certificate for Fabricland for Christmas. And by then I’d borrowed another book, this one on making cloth bags, “The Bag Making Bible”. I fell in love with the bag on the cover, decided to buy fabric to make it, then fell in love with more . . . and the post-Christmas sales were on, from 70% off to “buy one metre, get two free”. The poppies on a dark background really wanted to go home with me and then I saw the black and white with poppies, ladybugs and more . . .

The black and white fabrics are actually going to become bags, but the first fabric I chose pulled at me to make it into a summer dress, and when I couldn’t find more of it in our store here, Cousin M drove me all the way back to Vernon (a half hour or so each way), where I bought the first length, so I could buy more. And while in the store the second time . . . I saw the same pattern, Queen Anne’s Lace, on a blue background (the first, in the larger photo above, has a background of deep red)! And I saw another lovely floral, too, the one on the left of the top small picture. I’ve had my eye open for large florals for some time now, and this is the first I’ve seen of any. The fabrics in the bottom right photo are likely to end up in bags.

I have my patterns traced and ready to use now. And the fabrics have all been ironed (I really, really love ironing, especially fabrics!) But I hit a snag when I tried to decide what dress pattern I wanted to use. At first I was thinking of one of my patterns from Sense & Sensibility, especially the Romantic jumper (see the link) or the Edwardian dress, but somehow I don’t see those as suited to large florals. But I did like the idea of making a sort of sundress that I could wear over a long-sleeved white blouse, partly because I bought a cotton blouse that I really like in Oslo while shopping with my cousin Tove and it would be perfect under a jumper. (In Canada a jumper is a sleeveless dress worn over a blouse, not what we call a sweater, which is a jumper in other countries).

Still in Crafty territory:

I don’t know if any of you will remember the Fair Isle style socks I started before I went away last spring. I was using the recommended size of needles and they were looking all right, with only a few errors in the patterns. (I started these before I had my cataracts fixed and actually thought that chocolate brown yarn was black!) Anyway . . . after reading what Dr. Snail recommended on her blog, The Snail of Happiness, where she said that using the smallest possible needles would result in a thicker, longer-wearing fabric, I decided to frog all five of my partly-completed socks. So far I have only found three of them and above you can see what they looked like and the beginning of wee balls of yarn after the frogging began . . .

I have begun another pair of socks, well, one sock so far, and am still working on the toe. This time I’m making another change: I’m using two strands even for the toe and heel, partly to keep the sock consistent in thickness but mostly to give me the extra cushioning. I love comfy socks, especially in the winter!

I’m so glad I knitted some mitts for myself while I was in Yorkshire, too. I’ll share the story behind those in another post, though. They are wonderful to wear right now, but not quite as warm as I’d like, due to the fineness of the yarn. So I’m planning on making some larger ones to wear over them next year if we get another really cold spell . . .

The last photos today are of my trip up to Stirling, the campsite (with the blue tent I borrowed from my housemate of three days), my wee sheep companions  Flora and Anastasia seen here peeking out of my sandals, where they stowed away so they could see Runrig for themselves (another story that will have to wait) and a couple of shots from Friday and the first night’s concert. I have no photos of the Saturday at all. I’d misplaced my iphone (thought I’d lost it) and used only the camera. Those are among the photos I accidentally deleted in late September. I’ve been afraid to look at my iphone photos until today, worried I might not have any from the gig. So I’m quite happy to have these, at least.

Music is still a major part of my day, as you likely expect. Runrig are having the most fabulous “Poll of Polls” on Twitter right now. I missed the first couple of days, but have taken part every day since then. Each day they take the songs from one of their fourteen studio albums, divide them into three or four groups and have us vote for the one we like best in each group. The winners move up to Round Two and eventually we will know which song is the all-time favourite of Riggies around the world. It’s been lovely, revisiting the music itself and also remembering those two nights last August. It was exactly six months ago on the 17th and 18th of this month, only a couple of days ago. That was the first anniversary I had in mind when I began writing this post.

The others are what would have been my Mum’s 96th birthday tomorrow (Wednesday) and my Aunty’s 99th birthday on the following Sunday. It’s hard to believe they will have been gone three years and four years, respectively, this April. interesting that they were born four days apart and died two weeks apart. Bittersweet days, for sure, as I remember the companionship we shared for so long. I miss them both so much. April is also the first anniversary of my last Auntie’s death and she would have been 94 this coming May. I was lucky to have as much time with each of them as I did, though, and that is what I shall focus on this year.

Here’s a Canadian song for you, sung by Bruce Guthro of Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, who was lead singer for Runrig for the past twenty years. He has a lovely voice and this is an old favourite song of mine in any case. Farewell to Nova Scotia

Another of my Canadian favourites: Lucille Starr (born in Manitoba, but grew up in BC. Quand le Soleil dit Bonjour aux Montagnes, also known as The French Song back then.

More Canadians:

Kate and Anna McGarrigle singing Dancer With Bruised Knees

One of Kashtin’s most beautiful songs, Ishkuess

And, of course, Buffy Sainte-Marie. This is No No Keshagesh  and

Darling, Don’t Cry

I’ll leave you with Judy Collins and Cook With Honey

And I’m off to listen to more Runrig and then vote . . .

All the best to each of you. See you soon!

The Last Two Weeks (but who’s counting?)

That’s right, my friends; last week was pretty busy, so I scrapped the post I’d begun. And now in less than a week I shall be in the air. The changing time zones have me a bit confused at times (pun intended). I do know that when I land in Glasgow sometime close to 9 am on Monday the 14th of May, it will be close to 1 am here in BC.

I’m going to keep this short; I just want to touch base for a few minutes. There may not be any photos; for one thing, I left the battery charger for the camera I’m borrowing) at home, so it was out of energy before we arrived in Princeton and those photos are all of the landscapes on the way down. For another, the cell phone camera was also worn out. I charged it up, then left it in my sister’s car . . .

Catching up: I’ve begun packing up things that will go into my storage unit for six months, in between the various creative activities. Nearly two weeks ago, Cousin S and I went to Vernon and spent close to three hours shifting boxes and bits of furniture in the medium unit so that I could put most of the items from the small unit into it and free up a bit of money. I do wish I’d been able to do it a year ago, but the fire hazard kept us from wanting to breathe deeply or even be outdoors on the bad days. Still, it’s done now. I was quite pleased not to be sore except for the odd twinge here and there, after a couple of years of a very sedentary life.

The three of us went on Sun, Mon & Tues last week and got the job done; a few things had to come here for storage (lawnmower, garbage can, two large pieces of driftwood . . . all hard to pack in a smallish space). So much relief all around. There isn’t much room left in the medium unit, though, so some boxes may end up staying here. I’d hoped to avoid that.

We were in Princeton, BC, for most of three days for our Auntie’s service. It was good to see family again; some I hadn’t seen for over 50 years and some I had heard so many stories about I feel I know them, but we’d never actually met. I am lucky in that I like my out-laws as much as my in-laws! (and I like my in-laws) Most of us met up at the Brown Bridge Pub on the Friday night. I had a glass of dry white wine in honour of my Auntie and a very good bowl of Pad Thai. My Auntie would have loved that evening; she was so outgoing and family-oriented; I like to think she and maybe her siblings, too, were hovering around us that night.

I stayed with my RN sister in her hotel room, so we sat up until 3.30 the first night catching up and talking about a million subjects. That was great!

There was something else great, too: I finally got to meet one of our second cousins from Norway (that means our parents were cousins; in this case, her Dad and my Mum). We hit it off right away; she is so bubbly and energetic and I am quiet and intense most of the time. If I can get to Norway this summer I will definitely be adding a visit with Tove to my list. Even better, I was telling her about the upcoming Great Adventure and when I mentioned a concert in August, she asked about the band. I was SO surprised (and excited) to learn she knows Runrig and one of her close friends from Germany will be at the same concert! Runrig is huge in Germany and Denmark and their concerts sell out quickly in both countries. Anyway Tove is putting me in touch with her friend and perhaps we will be able to meet up.

The service was held in a very small church and it was nearly full, mostly with family, who came from the coast, from Alberta and Saskatchewan, along with Tove from Norway. A few of Auntie’s friends came, too, including the ladies who ate with her at the assisted living place that was her last home. Lunch was provided by the Church Ladies in the traditional fashion; a great variety of sandwiches followed by a marvellous selection of baked goodies. I do love the old ways!

Later we went up to our cousin L’s place to hang out in the house and backyard and later to enjoy a barbeque. More visiting, of course.

The next morning, we were invited back to cousin L’s place for brunch. There was not only plenty of food left from the barbecue, there was an entire Seven-Layer Salad that had been forgotten in one of the grandson’s travel trailer! I’d forgotten how delicious those are.

We left Princeton and Tove came with us as far as Kelowna, where we found a hotel for her not too far from the airport, as she was flying home Sunday morning. the long ride gave us time for more visiting and sharing of stories. Her grandfather Paul was our grandfather’s brother. He and his family also came to Canada, but stayed only a few years; his wife was very homesick and they went back to Norway.

Crafty activities: I’ve been working on the Clover socks every spare chance I’ve had, mostly in the car en route to Vernon or Salmon Arm for shopping. Pictures coming soon (or after I get to Scotland lol). I’m not a fast knitter and now I’m on the ribbing, so that’s even slower. But I’m pretty pleased with them!

Since arriving home on Saturday I have completed the two ends for my moss green Meg shawl, found a pattern for a rectangular panel, made that and joined the three parts. Today I will work on the border for a bit.

There has been much other craftiness going on here, too, but I’ll leave that for another post.

I was very excited to stop in Armstrong on one of our trips to Vernon and pick up some Great Britain Pounds Sterling; I haven’t even taken time to admire them; just packed them up right away. A first for me . . .

I am nearly finished Jon Sayer‘s Batdig and still enjoying it thoroughly. I’ve rationed myself quite strictly, but do want to finish it before I leave. I really need to know how it all turns out! I’ve enjoyed finding an in-joke or two along the way, but I’m not telling you where; you’ll have to read it for yourself. The second book, Kirkenes Blue, will be waiting for me when I return. A side note: my cousin Tove happened to mention Kirkenes during one of our conversations, so I showed her the books.

Well, the last time I began a post and waited to add photos and music, it ended up retiring to my drafts folder, so I am simply going to publish this as is.

I hope to post again before I leave; if not, I shall have time in the evenings, I expect, once I am in Glasgow. All of you are in my thoughts, whether I post or not.

Edit: I just remembered the music I had planned to share once this Auntie was gone. So here it is, as I remember my own Mum, Dad, Aunties and Uncles: Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin singing (in the film A Prairie Home Companion, which I love) Goodbye to my Mama

Have a wonderful May; for many reasons, it’s always been an inspiring month for me.

Gerard Manley Hopkins was one of my earliest favourite poets and I still have the book of his poetry which I bought while I was at Uni back in the mid-60s; it was the first book of poetry I bought for myself. When I think of May, I think of this poem:

Spring

A Sad Day . . .

I haven’t posted much recently; just getting ready for the Great Adventure and all that.

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Taken at lunch during my visit in August, 2017

But this morning I had a phone call from my RN sister to let me know that our last Auntie passed away today at 6.35 am, in the hospital. One of her daughters and one of her sons were with her and it was peaceful, which is good. She went into hospital last Thursday with a bit of pneumonia in the bottom of one lung as well as feeling very tired. She has had a bit of a heart condition for some time. She would have been 93 next month and we are all lucky to have had her in our lives for so long. I spoke with her on the phone nearly every night since I went to Tacoma and the calls were always different. We shared such a variety of interests and life experiences. Plus she had so many stories to tell about her youth, growing up with my Mum and the rest of her family.

All the women in our family did some sort of handcraft; the doily was made by this Auntie, the bit of blue is a detail from a small afghan made for her by my Aunty in Edmonton and the runner on her dresser was woven by my Mum. The wee wooden sign is typical of the humour enjoyed by all our family and especially the women . . .

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This is a photo of a photo. I took the original when she was visiting Mum and me at Mum’s house in Edmonton, so back before 2006. The china cabinet belonged to Mum and Dad and held a few of Mum’s keepsakes. The wooden plant stand to the right was made by my Dad, who could make pretty much anything. The rocking chair is the one that belonged to my Great-Grandmother, mother of my maternal Grandmother who died in her early 40s. My Great-Grandmother, my Mum’s Aunts, my Mum and myself have all rocked in this chair, holding our babies. It was located in one of Mum’s Uncle’s basement in pieces and my Dad lovingly restored it. The tooled leather seat is the original; the only new bit is one arm spindle, which was missing. Dad made a new one that matches so well it’s hard to identify which it is.

IMG_1918This pitcher belonged to that same Great-Grandmother, who helped to raise the younger kids after their mother died. I heard so many stories about her as I was growing up. The girls, especially, would stay with her for a week or so in the summer and if they were very good during the day, the big treat was being allowed to brush Grandma’s hair before she braided it and got ready for bed. It’s hard for me to imagine a child finding that to be a treat these days.

One of my favourite stories from the days when mum and her siblings were growing up was of the time Mum’s next older sister (Mother to the cousin I’m currently living with and married to my Dad’s next older brother), Mum and this Auntie were up on the roof of what was called the bunkhouse. In the summer, the boys slept there and all the kids played there at times. The main house had one bedroom, which was the parents’, a kitchen off the main living room, where the six girls (one had died at age 10) shared two double beds and the three boys slept on a pull-out bed in winter, when the bunkhouse was too cold. Anyway, the three girls were up on the roof hammering some shingles back on (they had blown off in one of the frequent storms of the ’30s). This Auntie was a few years younger and not so obedient as her sisters might have wished. She was sitting there and reading a book, deaf to all entreaties that she help with the job. So the other two worked right up to her, hammered a nail or two through the leg of her shorts and went on to finish the job. Then they climbed down and took away the ladder, with this Auntie seeming oblivious to everything and immersed in her book. Of course, it wasn’t long before she went to get up and discovered her predicament. I gather she raised quite a fuss before they relented, brought back the ladder and set her free again. This was a cross-stitch kit that Mum had. You will see on the roof of the wooden bridge (meant to represent the bunkhouse, of course) that there are two ‘M’s, actually Scorpio signs, I think. Anyway, they were what Mum had to hand and she stitched them on as symbols for herself and this Auntie, as both their names began with ‘M’. This story still makes me smile.

 

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Also taken during my visit in August

This Auntie and one of her brothers went to Norway almost exactly 20 years from when I am going to the UK. They were there for the big 17 May celebration, Constitution Day. They went to Lillehammer and saw the house where their father was born and lived, I think until he and two brothers emigrated when he was nineteen. I have been told that we still have family living in that house, although the cousins my Aunt and Uncle visited are now gone.

They also went to Trondheim. Their Mother was born there or near to there and the family lived in the area until they emigrated in 1900. My Grandmother was only nine at the time. While in Trondheim, my Auntie and Uncle met the minister of the Nidaros Cathedral and got to walk down the aisles and sit in one of the pews. We think the family may have attended church there.

My Auntie was only one year older than I am when she made that trip, which encourages me. She spoke so often of wishing she could make one more trip back and even though we both knew it was not possible, we would pretend it was and talk of where we would go and what we would do. I told her she would have to be prepared to camp out at the rock concert but that there would be a Ceilidh the night before and she could dance at that and then again during the concert (my ticket is for standing, not for a seat). She loved to dance so much and would have had a wonderful time. I told her that I would take her with me in spirit and would visit on my return so she could see my photos and hear my stories. I wish with all my heart that was still possible. We talked sometimes of the fact that she might die while I was away or even before and had an agreement that if so, she would accompany me even though I would not see her. I truly hope that is possible.

I am so glad that the last words we exchanged before she went to hospital and again while she was there (during a short conversation on my cousin’s mobile) were “I love you so much.”

She ‘kidnapped’ me once when I was new and I shall share that story another time. In spite of the inevitability of this day, I still feel sad. But she was ready to go and I am also content. It was the passing she wanted and what more can any of us ask for?

Only a little music for today:

Sissel Kirkjebo of Norway singing Going Home

and Runrig of Scotland singing their own Going Home

Take care of yourselves, my friends. You are in my heart today especially.

Happy New Year, my friends!

For some of you I know the first day has come and gone and it’s business as usual again. but I am still up and it’s not yet midnight on the first, so I’m sort of still on time.

I hope you all had a good Christmas; it’s different for everyone and it’s different every year, but still . . .

IMG_5930Our tree, an artificial one, which the cousins bought two years ago after Spooky had moved in. A real tree would prove too much temptation, was the idea. This year the tree was not on the dining table, but next to the tv. It went up on Christmas morning and was put away at the end of Boxing Day, after Spooky had managed to get up and knock off one of the ornaments and was looking seriously like he wanted to climb the tree.

Below is a very poor shot of the table decoration cousin M made by putting a string of faery lights inside a huge ;brandy snifter’ made of  strawberry glass. It’s so lovely, but the photo doesn’t do it justice., really.IMG_5924

Our Christmas was good; quiet, but the usual feast. I found stockings at a dollar store and used them as ‘carriers’ for a couple of small gifts for the cousins (and myself), including a chocolate ‘orange’ in the toe.

And the cat instructed me to wrap and deliver three packages of nuts to ‘the staff’ as he likes to think of us.

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The Lord and Master of the House

We also had more of this between Christmas and New Year’s Eve:

And I received this as a sort of joke gift, but I really like it:

It’s an alarm clock with two features I need: (a) the sound changes every few seconds, becoming more and more insistent and (b) if set correctly, it will roll off the table and ‘run away’ if you don’t shut it off promptly . . . and ‘hide’. Of course I don’t use the ‘run away and hide’ option! I shot a couple of short videos of it ‘running’ but can’t share them here. Too bad. 🙂

I don’t know if anyone will remember when I was on a basket-making binge early in the summer, but I finally dug out the largest one; it’s meant to be a workbasket so I can take my projects with me in the car and not have the needles poking through the plastic (and the annoying rustle of plastic bags). Besides, I’m working away from using plastic whenever possible. Anyway, the large photo is of the basket body and the other two are the straps, which will cross over the centre of the bottom and be held in place by a third piece (not shown ’cause I forgot to take a photo). They will let me carry the bag slung over one shoulder.

I haven’t finished stitching on the handles yet, but am telling you to increase the ‘guilt factor’ I’m SO good at beginning things, not so good at the final steps.

And in the meantime, I had another “great idea” I thought I’d make some popcorn and cranberry strings, but quickly realized I didn’t have enough time and there was nowhere to hang them. So the idea morphed into just feeding the birds . . . with bird balls.  So I popped a LOT of popcorn, added both bags of cranberries and melted a pound of lard and poured it over the lot. Mixed it will by hand, then realized it wasn’t going to form nice tidy balls, so I packed it firmly into my spare yoghurt containers, with the string in the middle (see the photo of the strings). WE shall put them in a box on the back porch tomorrow to freeze, then decant them one at a time into a mesh bag to be hung in one of the trees. I only hope the birds like them, as cousin M is not enthralled with the idea. He has read up on bird feeding and has his own ways. I, on the other hand, leapt before I looked, as they say. Oh, well, as I say . . .

They do look rather pretty, though, don’t they? We have been feasting, too, did I mention that? I was too slow to get a photo of the bird and the side dishes. But I did take pictures of the baking . . .

The first three pictures are the shortbread I made on the 31st. I had another bright idea, this one a success: I melted two squares of unsweetened dark baking chocolate and the same amount of semi-sweet; this in a mug. I had to add a bit of milk to make it soft enough to dip the shortbread into. In the end, cousin S simply used a table knife and frosted them while I phoned my Auntie. She made the cute face on a couple, too; only this one remained by the time I had the camera out. 🙂 The next picture and the last two are of the same ‘tart’ in the old-fashioned sense. In it are some of the last of the Macintosh apples from the tree here. There is one more tart in our future, I think and then we shall have to resort to frozen cherries, also from our tree. It’s a hard life we lead here, believe me. 🙂  The remaining two pictures are of some of the butter tarts I made from a recipe my sister J sent to us. I like it best of all I’ve ever eaten. These are the first I’ve made and it was surprisingly easy.  It’s a pity I’m giving up sugar on the 8th, isn’t it?  but I know I’ll be healthier and my food won;t ‘go to waist’ as much in future.

Cousin M loves old things as much as I do, although his are less of a sentimental nature and more of an investment. Still . . . I thought I’d share these photos of a lamp with cast iron work that dates to the 1880s. I’m sorry the pictures are poor; my camera phone is an old one and not the clearest or best for photography. Its reservoir is also strawberry glass, more lovely than you can tell here, even with the light behind it.

I have pretty much finished one side of the pocket scarf but can’t remember if I shared this photo or not. The other two pictures are of the knitted tea cosy, which I have been stitching up the sides. I won’t finish that, as I want it to fit the teapot my sister has; it used to belong to my Aunty in Edmonton and, since I have her wee coffee percolator, I wanted my sister to have the teapot. she prefers tea and I mostly drink coffee.  Or at least I used to. I don’t know if you can tell, but the cosy is of green cotton like the yarn used for dishcloths. I took a close-up to show you the stitching; it makes ridges down the sides.

We had to go to Vernon just after Christmas and the cousins needed to stop off in Armstrong on the way back. The landscape pictures show how misty it was that day.

They dropped me at my LYS and I was so careful watching my step as I entered that I missed the sign on the door saying they were closed for inventory until the New Year.  However, they recognized me and remembered that I was not local, so offered to let me buy the yarn I had on hold. I was waiting for an order to come from Scotland, but that may take more weeks, and, as I was in the neighbourhood . . . so now I have the dark chocolate brown I need to complete the pair of Fair Isle style socks, if you remember.

. . . and two balls of green, dark and light, which I had meant for a pair of rather special socks. I’m now deciding if I still want to do that or if I’d rather have a nice waistcoat to keep me warm.  I do like the paper bags they pack the yarn in, don’t you?

I’ll stop here. I’ll need more to write about in a few days. I haven’t finished the post I’d intended for today, nor the Big News post, so you shall just have to keep on Anticipating.

And for those of you on the other side of the equator, here’s what I woke up to this morning, on the first morning of a new year . . .

So lovely, but it can go away now, any time soon will do . . . I’m not quite ready for spring, but spring like weather would be rather nice. It went to -18 C last night, but warmed up a bit today.

This is the purple poinsettia we gave to our Auntie in Princeton. I sent my cousin there some money to pick up a blue one, but those had sold out, so she chose this instead.

Auntie M Poinsettia Christmas 2017

I wish you all the very best in the coming year; whatever that may be for you.

Much love from here and may this be a year when we share the Light between ourselves and with others.   ~ Linne

Passing on the Light 01

Day 9: Christmas Eve traditions

Today, well, earlier today, when today still meant Friday, my cousin M took me to Vernon to have my photo taken and to do some errands. On the way there and back I mostly knitted on one side of my sister’s scarf, working up from the darker pocket. I chose to use moss stitch for a nicer finish to both front and back. This is K2, P2 for 2 rows, then P2, K2 for 2 rows. It went fairly smoothly; until I noticed a section where I had .that I had just done six rows without changing the beginning. Oh, well, it has now become a ‘design element’ in the best tradition of knitters everywhere. There is no way I am frogging anymore unless I really make a mess of it!

And while I was knitting, I was thinking about a few things, including some of my own family’s traditions, especially for Christmas Eve.

In 1975 I learned of an old house that was being torn down soon and that people were welcome to salvage whatever they could. I was lucky enough to gIt was oveet a complete built-in dining room buffet, complete with drawers, glass doors, and more. Friends helped me take it apart. But the big score was an old Chesterfield, likely from the 1920s or 1930s. It was over  six feet between the arms and on Christmas Eve it was perfect for all of us to sit on; sometimes up to four adults and four children.

I have a pretty old-fashioned approach to some things: food and holidays are two of them. So on Christmas Eve I tried to make something special for dinner; after that, any last-minute preparations for the big day were taken care of; then we sat on the big couch with hot chocolate and some of the Christmas baking and admired our tree, full of hand-made ornaments. No tv and only rarely did we have batteries for the little transistor radio. When we did, Christmas music was lovely in the background. But the best part was when it began to get late. We would all hang our woolen work sock stockings near the fireplace (in Victoria) or the old Franklin stove (in the old log house) and then we would read the original Christmas story from the Bible, followed by The Night Before Christmas poem. Last of all, the boys put out a plate of Christmas baking and a glass of milk for Santa. One year they left carrots for the reindeer, too. In the morning, there would be only crumbs on the plate and a milky glass next to it.

Finally the boys were tucked up in their beds and our fun began! Into each stocking went a Christmas orange, a handful of nuts in the shell (therefore stretching out the fun of eating them), another handful of hard candy and licorice (one of my favourites) Some years there was chocolate, too. But the part I liked best was taking the small gifts out from their hiding place and wrapping each individually. I am a savouring sort of person myself, so I like to extend enjoyment for others, too. In the basement floor of two of our department stores was a section much like the dime stores of old and the dollar stores of today. I would have bought several small items there, things like Silly Putty and crayons, balsa wood airplane kits, perhaps a small top or other toy. I usually bought a magazine like Owl for each of them, too, rolling the book and then wrapping it. Small rubber balls were always a favourite, too. One year there were wooden recorders; another year it was friction cars; do you remember them? You would roll them back and forth to wind them up, then let them sail across the linoleum, often making a siren noise as they went. Very popular with small boys!

Often last-minute wrapping followed, especially of the gifts that were from Santa. I remember the first Christmas with my husband; he bought a ride-on horse with springs suspending it from the frame for the youngest, who was three at the time.  That was hard to hide! We kept it in the studio and one day the wee boy got in and we heard him bouncing away on the horse. He was soon removed and the door kept locked until Christmas Eve.

The last of Christmas Eve we spent quietly on that old Chesterfield, talking and making plans for the future. My husband would get out his guitar and sing, I grew up with home-made music and it was so nice to have it in our own home. This is when I liked to have the first of the eggnog with a little rum or brandy to spike it and the shortbread I made with oat flour. So good!

Simple traditions, really, but I loved them. I hope one day to be able to repeat some with my grandchildren.

Did you have a tradition that you loved on Christmas Eve? Was it from the family you grew up in or did you make your own?

Well, it’s late and I’m ready for bed, so no pictures today, either, sorry. But there must be music:

My Favourite Time of Year by The Florin Street Band This is a group new to me. I like their voices very much.

I wish you some time for reflection and remembrance today. Love to you all. ~ Linne

Day 6: Little Christmas

Back when my youngest son was about three and a half, we had a rather epic Christmas and not in a good way. His brother, then eight and a half, had been so excited at the thought of Christmas and Santa coming that the wee one got all excited, too. That Christmas morning they emptied their stockings and played with the toys they found there, eating their orange and nuts and candy all the while. We had breakfast and then I got the turkey stuffed and into the oven, after which we opened our gifts. There wasn’t a huge pile that year, so it was all over rather quickly. The poor baby, already tired from staying up late, too excited to sleep, suddenly had a meltdown. He cried off and on for the rest of the day, it seemed. It was our first Christmas with my husband, the boys’ stepfather and he was concerned, as was I. We sat up late after the boys had finally gone to sleep and thought about what might have caused the reaction and what we could do to make things better the next year.

I had read about Little Christmas, which is celebrated by many Christians as the anniversary of the coming of the Magi, with their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. At the time I wasn’t aware that many Mennonites and Lutherans (my family heritage by way of my parents, you may recall) mark that day, some with church-going, all with a special time with family and friends.

Christmas gifts of the Magi 01

Gold, Frankincense & Myrrh

We decided to make that a part of our own family tradition and it worked out very well. In fact, my older son and his wife and six children still celebrate Little Christmas yearly. Not sure if the younger son and his family do or not.

What we did was to hold back one gift for each of us, plus all the gifts for family and friends who lived close enough to join us. The boys’ Dad, his wife and their two children always came, and my sister J when she was still in training to be an RN and several other friends as well. Sometimes we invited friends who had no family or not much budget for holidays. We didn’t have much, but always made sure there was a gift under the tree for everyone we expected and sometimes a couple of extra gifts for the unexpected, too.Once I began making Christmas cakes from my own recipe, the gift was often a small cake, as I baked a variety of sizes. More on the cakes another day . . .

A note on those cakes, though: Mine were dark like the one at the bottom above and as full of fruits and nuts as the two on the right, even a little bit fuller. I added the top left photo because I saw it and immediately thought what fun it would be to make a few of these and put the names of my =Virtual Village friends on each little house front. One thing . . . I never iced my cakes or added marzipan. They were plenty rich all on their own . . .

Back to Little Christmas . . .

Each year I would make a complete traditional Christmas turkey dinner again (we loved leftovers and with two growing boys those never lasted long. Also it let us send home small care packages with those of our friends who didn’t make their own dinners, and so had no leftovers to enjoy.

People came in the early afternoon and we had oranges, nuts, candies, and all the Christmas baking I could manage and I somehow managed a lot.That will be another post, too. There was always eggnog (my own recipe, of course) and sometimes mulled wine (glogg in Norway, I know now and sorry, I don’t know how to insert the special letter o with the line through it)

We opened gifts one at a time, passing each from hand to hand to be admired. When it had returned to the recipient, one of the smaller children fetched the next package and my husband read out the To and From information and it  was then duly delivered to the next person. The boys’ other parents and their children always brought gifts and so did others who came, so this took a while.

Then the women (it was the olden days, ok? and I love this tradition in any case) would get the last of the dinner preparations underway and the men usually took all the excited kids for a long walk. In Beacon Hill park when we lived in James Bay, Victoria and down our country road once we had moved to the rented house in the country further north of the city. The Caleb Pike House was built in 1883 by hand.

Caleb Pike house 01

This is how the house looked a few years ago; it is now a community heritage site. It looked a bit different in our time there. The front door was red, for one thing and there were trees and huge lilacs around it. I was married in this house and I have many good memories of our years on this property.

After dinner we sat around visiting and sometimes my husband would play his guitar. Later, once dinner had settled a bit, there would be more cookies and cake and, of course, more eggnog.

The advantage, we found, to celebrating Little Christmas was that by the time it had come and gone, the boys had had nearly three weeks of Christmas activities and excitement and were ready to move on. Never another meltdown! And it gave us a special tradition with the other parents, as they were very busy on Christmas Day, visiting each of their own parents separately (all were divorced), not to mention other relatives. And on Christmas night, the fun was not over; there was much to look forward to still. Also for gifts I was making, there was time to finish the ones that needed more work.

I will resume this Christmas tradition once I am settled again, even if only for friends.  I forgot to mention that we always celebrated Little Christmas on the 6th of January, which is why I chose today to write about it. It’s only a month away!

Music for today:

Some Jazz Christmas instrumentals

Some Classical Instrumentals

and The Pogues’ classic from their days with Kirsty MacColl:

Fairytale of New York for Jon of WritingHouse  🙂 (by the way, did you know that Shane McGowan turns 60 this Christmas Day?) Terry Woods was a favourite of mine long before he joined The Pogues (that’s him playing the cithern, I think it is)

IMG_5616Are you ready for Christmas yet? I’m not, but today I did make progress on the second end for my sister’s pocket scarf (that’s it on the left):

Oh, look! Guess what I bought today? At the dollar store and it’s for an upcoming project. More on that once we’re done with the holiday postings. IMG_5617 And I forgot to share with you what I baked yesterday: Cinnamon Rolls with my own special tweaking, of course. I used half whole wheat flour, half white, then added a cup of wheat germ. Turned out we were out of raisins except for a measly 20 or so, so I scattered them evenly along the inner edge of the dough to be ‘surprises’ for the lucky ones who bit into them. Nothing like planning ahead, is there? Here’s a before baking and after icing (I made runny lemon icing this time)  pair of pictures:

Wish I could share the with you; they are scrumptious! It helps to let the dough rise twice before turning it out to form the rolls, I find, at least with whole wheat flour in.

IMG_5613Our lovely Mount Ida as seen around noon today:

I hope you all had a most productive day today, assuming that’s what you would like, of course. I’ll see you tomorrow. If you weren’t around yesterday, do pop back to the Day 5 post and enter the giveaway!

Much love to each of you  ~ Linne

 

Day 4: A new twist on a scarf

Well, this one won’t be finished on the 4th of December, but at least I’m starting it on that day. It’s five minutes to midnight already. I spent two hours or more on the phone with my friend in Tacoma, had supper, then another hour and more on the phone with my Auntie. It’s been a bit busy ’round here today, well, in a way.

Anyway,, here I am and I have something cool (I think) to share with you.

First, though, you may remember these:

They are the tuques I have been knitting for my RN sister J’s two wee grandsons. They are one and nearly four years old. J bought me yarn last summer when we were still in Edmonton so that I could make a tuque for the older boy (the little one had not yet been born). Anyway, I started it, then we both moved back to bC and my things went into the storage where they have languished since. I felt badly about the tuque, though, so when I saw this yarn on sale, I bought two skeins, one in a light grey-blue and one in a medium grey-blue. The pattern is a traditional NOrwegian one; the original was of a boy and girl holding hands and I adapted it to be two boys; then I ended up making a dozen boys all around the tuque.

IMG_5311This is what the pattern looks like.  I like the simplicity of it. And then I decided to make one tuque dark with a light pattern and on the other to reverse the colours.That way, I would end up with similar amounts of leftover yarn. You see, I already had an idea . . .

I decided to make a sort-of-matching scarf for my sister to wear when she takes the boys on outings. She doesn’t know about this blog so I am safe in sharing this here. lol

But first I have to finish telling you about the tuque adventures, if you can call them that.

ON the left is the crown of the smaller tuque and on the right the larger one. You an see how ‘ruffled’ the lighter one is. I wasn’t really happy with that, and we both thought it would look too ‘girly’ for the parents. So I frogged it back to this: IMG_5595

 

 

 

Not my favourite thing, frogging . . .  But I did manage to make the darker tuque’s crown look much better so I have hope that I can do a better job on the lighter one, too. Anyway, I then began using the leftover yarn to make this:

On the left is the back, on the right is the front and the top centre picture shows how I finished the back. The other photo shows the top as you look down on it. Any idea what that is? No? Well, I’ll tell you . . .

This is going to be a ‘pocket scarf for my sister. They are quite easy to do.

I cast on 44 stitches, knitted a few rows of garter stitch and then joined them into a circle. This is an easy way, I’ve found, to begin a piece that will be knitted in the round. Otherwise there is a strong chance of the initial stitches becoming twisted on the wire of the circular needle. Later, I will stitch up the small gap in the first rows. I then knitted the pattern in the round. You can see that I made the back different. This was just me ‘winging it’; you will be familiar with my happy-go-lucky approach by now, I think. Of course I didn’t write down what I did (too busy knitting!) so I’ll have a bit of work to make the back of the other end match. And that’s what’s neat about this scarf, I think. This half has a dark background with a light pattern to match the older boy;s tuque. The other side will have a light background with a dark pattern to match the younger boy’s tuque. You may be able to see that I knitted the top part of the back in ribbing and then cast off the same way. I hope that will keep the opening from gaping. I will knit the other pocket, then resume knitting a simple flat piece on both pockets to form the scarf body. When I am nearly out of yarn I will graft the pieces together and that will determine the length of the scarf. The pockets can be used to hold a wee one’s mitts, extra tissues, or whatever she likes. I plan to put a pack of tissues in one pocket and  a $5 bill in the other so she can take the older boy out for hot chocolate or something else. Maybe to buy a small book or toy.

Did you notice the patterns on the pockets? I put a small boy on each side, holding the hand of his ‘Dancing Granny’. That pattern I got from a library book on Norwegian style knitting. These boys make my  sister so happy that I feel this symbolizes the relationship very well. (the coloured yarn is my stitch marker for the centre of the pattern) IMG_5602.

I do hope she likes it, but one never knows. She will definitely appreciate the intention, anyway.

I am keeping this post short. Don’t faint!

But I do have to leave you with a couple of pieces of music:

First, in Gaelic, “In The Bleak Mid-Winter” Such a lovely voice and arrangement!

And here is Enya, singing “The Spirit of Christmas Past” . . . and . . .

Sissel singing “I am Singing a Christmas Song” with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. A wonderful Norwegian soprano with a beautiful voice.

I became rather sidetracked by some of the music I found and now it’s nearly 3 am. So I’m off to my bed now, friends. Have a lovely day, wherever you are and do take at least a few minutes to relax and enjoy the coming of the Christmas season.  ~ Linne

 

 

 

Day 2: Christmas Gifts

I do have to apologize for not having photos to include in most of these posts. My printed pictures are somewhere in the storage units and I have nothing of my own traditions on the laptop or iphone.  I do have some family photos and have found a few historic ones as well and that will have to do for now..

Old Traditions:

When I was young, we usually received one gift from our parents and one from Santa Claus. They were always wrapped in brightly coloured Christmas paper, with stick-on bows and sometimes ribbon, too. Our names and the name of the giver would be on a tag; Mum bought them in large packages. Two each doesn’t sound like much, but with nine children, there was a good-sized pile, even in the years when there were no parcels from Uncles and Aunts or from Mum’s Dad and his wife and second family of four boys. But some years there were those extra parcels and how exciting that was!

 

Some of the most memorable gifts were a pair of skis for my two oldest brothers; That was when we lived in Chase, in the old house that had been a hospital once (see Day 1 for the photo). that house was at the top of a hill that went down toward the Shuswap Lake and the road that passed by the front of oour house was perfect for ‘skiing’ down. Pretty much what happened was that we strapped the skis on over our winter boots, stood up and slid as far down the hill as possible without falling down. The ski poles helped, of course. Skiing was a family tradition for Mum, although I didn’t know, or else just didn’t appreciate, that at the time. But now I know that her Dad skied to school every day and pretty much everywhere he went in the long Norwegian winters. My Auntie told me recently that he brought his skis with him to the States when he emigrated at nineteen and still had them when she was growing up in south-western Saskatchewan on a wheat farm near the small town of Tompkins. All the kids learned to ski on those skis and they are now in a museum in another town near there. I have the name written down, but can’t find it at the moment.

Above is a picture of a Norwegian woman in a bunad (traditional clothing) on skis; to the right are two pictures of King Haakon and Queen Maud; the top taken in 1906, the bottom one, which includes Prince Olav,  in 1907. My grandfather would have been 16 and 17 when these were taken. I couldn’t find any photos of a young man on skis from that time.

IMG_4428

Above are my Mum’s parents; the picture was taken either for their engagement or wedding, most likely in 1911 or 1912. He would have been 21 or 22; she was 20 or 21. I love the hand-stitched clothes my Grandmother wore in those days. And my mother looked just like her; it’s one of my favourite photos.

Other gifts I remember: that Christmas in Chase I opened my gift from Santa and watched as the others opened their gifts. But there was nothing for me from my parents. In vain I looked under the tree, on the tree branches, behind the tree. Nothing. I feared that I had been forgotten (certainly possible when there are so many children, I thought). I didn’t want to call attention to the fact in case my parents really had forgotten me, as I knew it would upset them. Imagine my relief when I was told to go into the dining room and look on the shelf of thwe pass-through (the window through the built-in buffet where food was passed to the dining room). And there I found a wee terrapin in a glass bowl. How happy I was! We had taken a trip to the coast to see relatives the summer before and I had been quite enamoured of a terrapin I saw in a store window. Somehow my Mum and Dad had managed to buy it, smuggle it home in the trunk of the car and then care for it for the months until Christmas. He survived for several years and I enjoyed feeding him every day.

Another gift I remember, but with some shame, was a kit to make my own perfmes. There was an instruction book and several small vials of scent. I was to mix the various ingredients as instructed; one drop of A, three drops of B and so on. But this is where I first encountered the perils of ‘winging it’. I mixed several things together by ‘instinct’ and the result was awful. Not something I could undo, either. This gift was from my Mum’s next older sister, my cousin M;s mother. She loved me as much as Mum did and I have always felt badly that I didn’t properly appreciate the gift she had chosen with such care.

 

New Traditions:

The biggest change I made during my sons’ growing up years was the way I wrapped presents. Instead of buying Christmas wrap, I chose to use brown paper, which at that time I could buy in a roll. I would tie the present with red, white or green yarn, sometimes with two colours. Then I would tuck a small bunch of greenery and berries into the bow. Usually I used bits of the bottom branches of the tree itself;

 

IMG_4634

Auntie A., cleaning the catch.

New Traditions:

The biggest change I made during my sons’ growing up years was the way I wrapped presents. Instead of buying Christmas wrap, I chose to use brown paper, which at that time I could buy in a roll. I would tie the present with red, white or green yarn, sometimes with two colours. Then I would tuck a small bunch of greenery and berries into the bow. Usually I used bits of the bottom branches of the tree itself; we always cut a very large tree, then cut off the bottom foot or so, so that I could use the trimmings to decorate the mantel of the fireplace, tops of bookshelves, sometimes even making a wreath for the front door. I would add a sprig of holly when I could get it, and when we lived in the big log house north of Victoria, we had two large holly trees by the front gate that gave us not only leaves, but lovely berries, too.

Some years I bought white tissue paper for the wrapping, but still tied with yarn and added the greenery and berries. That sort of simple wrapping, done at so little cost, gave me a deep joy. And the piles of gifts under the tree looked so lovely. I wrapped all the gifts we were giving in the  same way and those stayed under the tree until the recipients had come to visit or we had paid them a visit.

I never was a fan of plastic toys or ‘collectibles” with a tiny budget, I wanted to make every penny count. Toys that would be played with for a few hours and then discarded just didn’t fit the bill.

My choice for my sons and other children has always been books and something creative. Some years it was Tinker Toy and Meccano or Lincoln Logs; other years a kit to make something. Star Wars spaceships and other models. were popular. A silk screening kit one year, too. Books were given every year and I still have all of them. Once I start going through the things in my storage I may pass them on to my sons. Or I may keep them for the grandchildren to read when they visit. We’ll see. Some of the books I remember are the Dr. Seuss classics and Hope For the Flowers, Also Pat the Bunny and Goodnight Moon. I had read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy to the boys several times before they wee old enough to read for themselves. The first time I read those, the eldest boy was 4 and a half and the youngest yet to be born. I have several sets of those, so they will each receive copies one day.

AS to gifts I received, the two that stand out the most both came from my husband. ONe year it was a portable sewing machine that he traded for. It had belonged to my friend who now lives in Tacoma and it still works perfectly, although it must be going on 40 years old or more. The other was a silver flute in a case. I had mentioned casually one spring that I’d always wanted to play the flute and so he saved enough to buy me one and arranged with my RN sister to give me a set of lessons to get me started. I still have it (in the storage of course) and even though I never  progressed very far, I still enjoy playing it when possible. Anther thing on my long list of “things I will do once I am settled”  🙂

One of the funnier gifts I received from my older son was a whiteboard with a marker, meant to hang in the kitchen and hold notes about groceries to buy and the like. We always tried to guess what was in our parcels, so he took a very large bos, managed to stick pieces of string to the inside corners so that the whiteboard hung suspended in the centre, then wrapped the entire box beautifully. It was so light I simply could not guess the contents.

The best gifts I think I ever gave anyone? Well, I bought a silver serving spoon with a gold-plated bowl for my Mother one Christmas while I was working at the little antique store. I never dared tell her how much I paid for it, though.I bought it because she had the lovely china bowl that her mother had called her ‘berry bowl’ In it the spring strawberries would be  put, half of them mashed well with sugar to produce a syrup and then the rest added whole. They were often served over a slice of sponge cake with whipped cream from their own cows on top. But Mum never had a special spoon for that  bowl and I wanted her to have one. She gave the spoon back to me a couple of years ago, when we were no longer making desserts like that. (She gave all of us back the things we had given her over the years and we all treasure those items). My RN sister J has the bowl now and I plan to give her the spoon once it surfaces.The bowl had floral decals around the sides and te edges were trimmed with real gold. The spoon looks perfect with it.

The other gift I gave was something I made myself. It was a Cowichan style sweater for my husband. The best part was that I designed it myself, using symbols that had meaning for him. I wish I had a photo to show you. Mum gave me one that she had taken, but I don’t have it here with me. I worked hard on that, knitting during the day when he was at work and hiding it before he arrived home. Still he was able to guess that he was getting a sweater. My joy was in the fact that he had no idea that it would be designed especially for him. He still wears it, too. He and his wife live on a concrete sailboat and are spending the winter toward the north end of Vancouver Island, so I’m sure the sweater is put to good use.

Our family never had a lot of money, but we made up for it with thoughtfulness and creativity. If you have stories like that to tell, please feel free to do so in the comments. If you are posting about them yourself, do leave a link in the comments for others to see.

What was the best gift you ever received?

What was the best gift you ever gave?

I am writing this in the evening of the first of December. (Well, I see now that it’s actually past one am on the second). May you find peace, joy and inspiration today, wherever you are and no matter what your circumstances.

By the way, I didn’t add a music link yesterday, although I’d meant to. So I shall add two for today.

I watch this video whenever I’m feeling low or discouraged. Do let me know if you like it!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f4CG18FPCj0

The next is a song written and sung by Bruce Guthro, who hails from cape Breton Island but now lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He has been the lead singer for Runrig since 1998 and still pursues his solo career as a singer/songwriter at home in Canada.

And I found this again; a Christmas song by another great Canadian group, the Barra MacNeils. They are also from Cape Breton Island. So here’s a bonus song to get you in the spirit . . .

Day 1: Happy December, everyone!

Today is the first day of December and so begins the wonderful lead-up to Christmas. Inspired by my friend Selma of Eclectic Home & Life in the UK, I am going to try and post every day until the 24th. As life sometimes serves up a few curve-balls, though, I am not making a solemn promise, except to try this. I have no pictures yet of Christmases when I was still at home with my parents and siblings, so this post is photo-light.

Traditions

I know that there is a lot of commercial push to get rid of our traditions and do new things all the time, but I choose to honour the past and also to add some new twists from time to time. After all, every tradition was new at one time, I expect.

Today I am going to write about some of the traditions that I grew up with and some of the changes that came along.

The tree:

We always had a real tree. My Dad worked in the bush as a logger for most of my early years and he would cut a tree and bring it home shortly before Christmas. Once the tree was securely fastened into the tree stand, the strings of coloured lights were placed. This was after we began renting houses with electricity, so I was likely about ten or eleven years old. The bulbs were the large ones some of you will e familiar with. I don’t recall ever seeing the tiny twinkling faery lights on our home trees. But my last Christmas at home for many years was the year I left for university when I was only nineteen.

My parents bought ornaments in their first years together and those went on the tree every year: fragile birds with spun glass tails that perched upon a spring with a clothespin-like clip to hold it to the branch, lovely balls and teardrop shapes with conical bits that thrust inward, formed of crinkles that caught the light. some plain glass balls of bright colours, some globes, some bells; of these, some had stripes around their middles. There were garlands of tinsel draped around the tree, criss-crossing back and forth. The last thing to go on were the silver icicles, We children, at least the older ones, were allowed to help with the decorating once we were old enough to be careful. When we helped drape the icicles on the tinsel strands, we had very different styles. I always (and still) liked to place them one by one, savouring the moment and making it last as long as possible. I’m like that in nearly everything. Others liked to sort of toss the icicles, sometimes in bunches. and get the job done.

Every year there was at least one or toddlers and nearly always a cat ad a dog, too. AS you likely know, this is perilous for Christmas trees. We had a couple of trees fall over after someone tried to climb them or simply grabbed at the branches for balance.But Dad was resourceful. One year the tree was stood firmly in the middle of the playpen and all the breakable ornaments hung out of reach. After that, dad alway used fishing line to tie the top of the tree to a hook in each wall (the tree stood in a corner of the living room from then on). The tree sometimes was pulled a bit, but it never fell down again.

The Stockings:

As far as I can remember, we always hung stockings on Christmas Eve. Not the fancy stitched or quilted or knitted ones seen today. We used our Dad’s grey woolen work socks clipped to a string across the fireplace with some of Mum’s wooden clothespins. Our names were printed on the pins so that we would get the correct stocking in the morning.

The year I was eleven we had moved to Chase and lived in a house that had been the original hospital. It was three stories tall and had a basement that none of us ever saw. I suppose the stairs were a bit unsafe.

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How it looked in Sept of 2016; not much as I remember it, of course.

That Christmas my two oldest brothers woke up in the middle of the night, went down and collected their filled stockings and then emptied them on the ends of their iron frame beds. I never heard them, but our parents did. I gather that they had to put the contents back into the stockings and were told, no doubt in very stern tones, to wait until our parents were up in the morning before venturing downstairs again.

A few years later, in out last house in Salmon Arm, one child decided to maximize their haul. They asked, and were given permission, to hang two stockings. In the morning, we all were eager to see how the ploy had worked. How exciting to see that both stockings bulged with packages! Disappointment followed swiftly: one held the traditional items; the other had brown-paper wrapped bits of coal, rusty nails and the like. It was full, though!

The next year the same child tried a different tactic. Figuring that two stockings might have been seen by Santa as rather greedy, they asked to hang a different stocking. Again permission was granted (to much private amusement for our parents, I’m sure) and one of Mum’s nylon stockings was borrowed. Again, in the morning, we were filled with anticipation. And, again, the stocking was full to the top! In the bottom were the traditional items and above them was a very long balloon blown up and tied and even sticking out a bit above the top. After that, there were no more attempts to get more than a proper share of the Christmas bounty.

The traditional items in each stocking never varied: a Christmas orange in the toe, still wrapped in that green paper, some nuts in the shell, a good handful of hard candy, striped, solid, twisted, even some licorice. And then there would be a coupleof toys or maybe coloured pencils, sometimes, as we grew older, cologne for me and maybe a tube of Brylcreem or a small bottle of Old Spice aftershave for the two oldest boys. Thai was in the days of the Elvis-like ducktail hairdos, slicked back and held in place by a good layer of Brylcreem.

 

Christmas and family:

I was the oldest of nine children and my parents took in foster babies once the youngest child was four. So that last year I was at home we had ten children under our roof from summer on. I went home for Christmas that year after the mid-term exams were done. It was the last Christmas ever shared by our whole family.

Because I moved to Vancouver Island to attend university and stayed on after I dropped out, and my parents moved from Salmon Arm where I am living now, to Kamloops a year later, then a few years after that to 70 Mile House a bit further north, because I didn’t have much money and mostly because I chose a life much like my parents had lived in their early years (but which they had worked hard to leave behind), I didn’t get home very often. Travel in winter was difficult and my sons’ Dad and I didn’t drive.  I never shared another Christmas with my family until I moved to Thorhild, an hour’s drive north of Edmonton in 1999 to help when my Dad became ill. He passed away that September,but Mum and I put up their small tree (an artificial one by then) and we went to Edmonton for a few days and had Christmas dinner with my youngest sister. her husband and my second-youngest sister. We had Christmas at the house of the youngest sister for most of the years to come, although Mum and I always baked up a storm for the holidays.

I had hoped to cover a few more topics, but my laptop is acting up (Windows wants to do some ‘update’ or other and won’t let me pick a convenient time), so I will leave the rest for tomorrow and maybe a few other days, too. Perhaps shorter posts will be best.

 

Feel free to share any of your own memories, traditions, thoughts, etc., below. And don’t worry about length. Heaven knows I’ve posted far more than my share of over-long comments on some of your blogs!

I hope some of you will post frequently this month, if not every day. The world can use a great outpouring of good and happy thoughts these days. Advent begins on the third this year. Do you have any favourite Advent traditions?

Have a wonderful day today. (it’s technically the first, but it’s only 2 am here; I haven’t gotten to bed yet). Love and Light to each of you.