Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas Mishaps II

Christmas 1994. The five of us were living in a small town on the edge of the Amazon jungle. It seems odd to write that now, from 20 years distance. Pine trees grew in the mountains and we would bring one down from the capital city, Quito, to fill the house with its lovely scent. The photos here are taken from an album, snapped in situ. Isn't it a pretty tree?

The tree had enough of standing up in the night and decided to lie down on the couch. We set it back up. The next morning, same thing - the tree needed a nap. We set it back up and there it stayed. But wait...there's more!

That year, we enjoyed Christmas dinner in the guest house just across the driveway. While the adults cleaned up the dinner and prepared for dessert, our children and some of their friends went back to our house to play. A huge wind came up and I walked over to check on the kids. 

I looked up and saw debris floating in the air. Debris - like two by fours and big pieces of things. I thought it odd at the time, but was rather clueless about taking shelter. In the house, the children in Cristal's room were oohing and aahing about the tree hitting the transformer creating an enormous shower of sparks just outside her bedroom window.  More cluelessness.

Our neighbours' house is shown in the photo above. We watched the wind lift the roof right off the rafters and carry it across the street before dropping it. Then the rain began. I ran to the door to tell Claudia that her roof was missing. 

"Oh, it's okay," she said, "it's just a little rain. We've put some buckets under the leaks."

"No, no," I said, "your roof is gone." 

Claudia and her husband are German doctors who speak very good English, but communication was clearly missing. I finally took her by the hand and drew her out into the yard to look at her roof, a sight which galvanized her into action, marshaling her family to rescue belongings before the ceiling collapsed from the rain.

We spent the rest of Christmas day cleaning up, moving stuff, mopping up. Our conclusion is that the wind was a tornado with a very narrow swath. The wind blew across the road into a hangar and drove one small plane into another, then blew across the runway and caused a small amount of damage to two military personnel homes.

We are all very thankful to God for protecting life and limb. That Christmas goes down in our family archives as one of the most memorable.  

Back to 2014. I saw these origami folded stars on a German blog and followed the links to create a few of my own. I have more pentagons cut and waiting for folding in odd moments. 

I printed French postal stamps from Just Something I Made onto photocopy paper, and followed the tutorial from Homemade Gifts Made Easy for the folding. The way the stars suddenly crumple into a five-pointed shape is amazing. If you have people around looking for something to do, have them fold a few. 

Wishing you Christmas joy throughout your day!



Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Christmas Mishaps

The Christmas season rarely runs without at least one hitch. In retrospect, it's often the mishaps that make the strongest memories. 

The year Tim and I were engaged, he joined our family for Christmas Day. My mother had prepared dessert ahead and in the interest of efficiency, dished it up into her china dessert bowls (fruit nappies is the official term, I think), and placed the dishes onto a large tray. She thought that the dessert would remain chilled and out of reach of any hungry pets out on the top of the car in the carport.

Queen's Messenger by Royal Albert, long discontinued - my mother's china and always a favorite of mine
 The car was cold, maybe with a bit of ice. The tray was warm. She wasn't back in the house very long before we heard a mighty crash. With a great whoosh the tray had tobogganed off the car top onto the concrete floor. She lost a number of dishes and I can't remember what we had for dessert.

Later in the day Tim noticed curls of smoke rising from the Christmas tree in its usual corner next to the fireplace. Thinking fast he, or my father, grabbed the tree and hauled it out the door before it turned into a major conflagration. That's the first and last time such a thing happened. A "welcome to the family" perhaps? He still married me.

Any Christmas mishaps to share?   

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

My Christmas Kitchen

Cinnamon, almond, and vanilla scent the air of my Christmas kitchen. As the fragrance lodges in the olfactory bulb of my brain's limbic system, memory is awakened. I roll the Ginger Sparklers in a plate of sugar just like I did as a child helping my mother. Sugar cookies, crisp and barely golden. Butter tarts - the only way I will eat cooked currants. Melt-in-your mouth shortbread. My mother made (and still makes) a consistent core of recipes each year, but she also tried new recipes that would fall in and out of favour as the season came and went.

So pleasant were my memories of baking with my mother that when I had children, I could hardly wait until each one was old enough to stand on a chair beside me at the counter top. Great clouds of flour rose up as little hands poured, mixed, rolled and cut. To my own family's repertoire of baking I added Morkakor, a tender almond flavoured cookie topped with meringue, from my husband's Scandinavian roots.

The years roll on. Most of my baking is solitary as my children are grown and bake on their own, filling their own kitchens with cinnamon, almond, and vanilla. Other little hands pat the dough (and sneak a little to eat raw). Nana invites them to bake, although she hasn't done so yet this season. The tins pile up on the counter and are taken to the freezer to pull out and enjoy with a cup of tea or as a bit of dessert.

Yesterday I took a tray of baking to school to share with my colleagues. Cranberry Orange Shortbread, Chocolate Mint Sandwiches, Pecan Toffee Bars, Almond Cheesecake Squares, Ginger Sparklers, and Rugelach. And marshmallows.

A snow storm of icing sugar on Saturday resulted in pillowy, white, vanilla-flavoured square marshmallows. This is my new recipe for this year. Sweet and delicious. Just one is enough. I'm looking forward to popping one into a mug of hot chocolate. I used Martha Stewart's recipe, available by clicking on the link.

I'd love to hear about your Christmas baking traditions. Do share.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Blogging Investigations and a Birthday Party

this photo has nothing to do with the text below, but I like it
 Last week I did a little research into why word verification (WV) was showing up on my blog (and many others) when the settings said it was not. 
Apparently Blogger has installed WV to prevent spam. There's no way around it if you have a pop up comment box.

However, I noticed that those with embedded comments did not have WV. So I switched the settings and voilà!, WV disappeared.

I also discovered that if you are a registered user, that is, you are commenting using your Google account, you don`t have to enter the WV code, just hit Publish, as per usual, and the comment should post.

A sweet little Miss is turning 4 and celebrated with a dance party. Music, costumes, a wonderful instructor, and little people dancing with abandon. It was marvelous, full of exuberant joy. 

Joining with Mosaic Monday, hosted by Judith of Lavender Cottage. 


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Christmas Scenes: A personal photo challenge

Lights everywhere! This truck let its festive side shine! Taken at night. No flash needed - there was enough light on the truck!

Little Miss A as a sheep in the church Nativity play. She was a little dazzled by all the people and didn't crack a smile the entire time. Oh, so darling. She looked in wonder at the star, sang Go, Tell it on the Mountain with hand motions, and wondered what Nana was doing on the floor with her camera.

I took this with my Sony using the telephoto lens and I'm happy with the result given the low light and wiggly sheep. I'm also pleased with the touch of bokeh on the angel's wing behind her.

Bells and baubles, with more lights.

This is the final Personal Photography Challenge. Donna, our leader and teacher who is always willing to share her knowledge and encourage us along the way, has had to close her blog due to family needs. Donna, if you're reading this, you are in our hearts and prayers. Thank you.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Garden Visit

A friend invited me on a walk through the Horticultural Garden not far from our home. We've been inundated with rain lately but the skies let up a bit on this afternoon. There's still lots of green - our grass always stays green in the winter and tends to go brown and dry in the summer. 

In the Japanese Garden, water plays a major role. The raindrops falling on the water are visible; luckily, the shower didn't last long.

Raindrops on bare branches remind me of crystal drops - nature's decorations.

Another view of the Japanese Garden - trickling water, curving bridge, greens and browns in harmony.

The Beauty Berry bush is bare of leaves and the bright purple berries are stunning on their own. 

A little surprise - snowdrops blooming already. I wonder what will happen when the weather gets cold again? Shivery blossom warning ahead!

On the Christmas front, parcels and cards are mailed, most gifts purchased and ready for wrapping, a few projects still on the sewing machine, and most of the baking done. A little bit every day and things are moving along well. How are Christmas preparations coming along for you?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Little Things

There's a Pineapple Express howling out there this morning. It's a warm wind from the tropics blowing rain in from the Pacific - temps of 12 degrees Celsius (gets up to look at the thermometer for the Fahrenheit reading - 63). Those snowmen would soon be puddles if they lived around here.

Each year we receive fewer and fewer Christmas cards. Some newsletters arrive although email is more common. I've taken to displaying cards from years past here and there. I do have a stack of cards to prepare and a few to mail (most will be hand delivered).

This postcard is from France, purchased in Paris by our youngest. The date is indecipherable, and in beautiful script the writer acknowledges receipt of a letter from a friend and begs pardon for not sending one earlier. 

Although it's early to wish you Bonne Année (Happy New Year), I will leave with Bonne Journée - have a great day. I'm off to teach French again.