Sunday, December 17, 2017

THIS JOY BUSINESS

If I were to ask you for a quick analysis on how you were feeling, what would you say: Hungry, Happy, Frustrated, Tired, Excited? In the midst of any or all of those responses, are you feeling joy?



It's Christmas time, the "Most Wonderful Time of the Year" (not including when the kids go back to school) and this is a celebration! We exchange gifts and good wishes, we attend parties and eat. And this joy business is a big deal. 


"Joy to the World, the Lord has come"
"Oh, Tidings of comfort and Joy"
"Joyful all ye Nations rise, join the triumph of the skies"
"Oh, come all Ye Faithful, joyful and triumphant"

Joy feels like: delight, great pleasure, jubilation, triumph, exultation, rejoicings, happiness, gladness, glee, exhilaration, exuberance, elations, euphoria, bliss, ecstasy, rapture. It's like happy on steroids!



But it seems, like Christmas in Who-ville, It's a little bit more.



Joy is also an noun "you are my joy" and more importantly, a verb or an action, one you can choose. You can make a choice, in the midst of whatever you are in, to be joyful. It can be a solid rock, an anchor and a touchstone. 



Dog are very good at expressing Joy. Amelia sure was!




Lulu is downright exuberant when I come home from work. Her whole body wags and sometimes she curls her lip and smiles. Children find joy in all the new discoveries they are having: what ice cream tastes like, Christmas morning, snow. 


I have discovered that it's the hopeless who can not seem to find joy. Nothing to hope for and they see no future possibilities for change.


But let me encourage you. There is always Hope. Christmas is a time for miracles and for the impossible to be possible. Grief, hopelessness and shame are heavy burdens that can be carried by another. It's the foundation of our Christmas celebration, the Christ child who came to earth. "Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28


I wish you all great Joy this Christmas time, that not only do you feel it, but you receive it. Love and Joy Come to You!









Sunday, December 10, 2017

"C' IS FOR CHRISTMAS..AND COOKIES, MOSTLY COOKIES

I finally gave in and started delving into Pinterest. I know, you don't have to tell me, this is a  dangerous and time sucking little APP. 

The cookie recipes!!! I'm outta control!  But who cares? It's Christmas and in my book, time in the kitchen creating for those we love is always time well spent.

I made these chocolate crinkle cookies last night:



They are like little brownies bites, moist and chewy.

In honour of my Italian roots, I made gingerbread latte biscotti.



If you have never had biscotti, these are for dunking into your coffee/tea/hot chocolate. They are super crunchy but that makes them perfect for holding up when you do the dunk.

I still made a few family favourite, including Swedish butter balls, but inspired by Pinterest I changed up the recipe and added cranberry and orange to half the batch.



Time tested family recipes, passed down and shared with sons and daughters (and friends, so Kelly, this is for you!) is just the right thing to do. So, here is a classic that is as old as dirt but tastes way better. Make them big and don't overcook!



I tried my hand at raspberry linzer cookies today. Fussy, but pretty.



And finally, all sugar cookie recipes should include in the instructions: make with friends, that way, everyone can enjoy the fun.

Yes Virginia, C is for Christmas but as Cookie Monster immortalized in that famous jingle: "C is for Cookie, that's good enough for me, Oohhhh...Cookie, Cookie, Cookie starts with C!"








Saturday, December 2, 2017

FINDING HARMONY IN CHRISTMAS CHAOS


Well....you ready? Here we go -It's December and the proverbial  pistol shot has rang out clearly in the crisp winter air. BANG!! 

The Christmas season is out of the gates!

There are presents to wrap, goodies to bake, tacky Christmas sweaters to create, parties and Children's Christmas concerts to attend and don't forget to head to the centre of the chaos, aka the Mall, and get a photo with the jolly old elf himself, Santa. 

This past week was the count down to my Christmas concert with the string ensemble. Dress rehearsal was Tuesday night and chaos is a good way to describe the scene:



Various people talking, instruments tuning up or running through a tricky part. What the heck is going on here?? 

With so much to do on top of your already hectic schedule, this may seem a lot like your life during the month of December. No harmony whatsoever!


On the night of our Christmas concert, we all arrive, dressed in black and ready to perform. Suddenly the cacophony called rehearsal has settled down to resemble a song:


Suddenly there is a harmony in there! 

In the midst of the craziness, I hope you can step back and enjoy the glorious memories that are being made right in front of you. Having a good laugh with the person in line at Starbucks with you, watching a classic Christmas movie with the family, finding the perfect present for someone special. 

I hope you find the Joy of the season.

I hope you find Peace.

I hope you find Harmony in Christmas.




Sunday, November 26, 2017

THIS GIRL WAS MADE FOR WALKIN'

According to family legend, my original mode of movement was scooting. Yup, I was a bum scooter. Eventually I developed the fine art of using my two legs in an upright position and started walking.

I've been walking ever since. I confess. The cards are on the table. This girl was made for walkin'!

There was no bussing system in Trenton, so as I teenager I had to walk downtown to find whatever mischief  was to be had. A quick 10-15 minute walk and there was I was, in the middle of the action. Hanging with the other street riffraff, the drug-ees and drug-dealers, the strippers, the mentally unstable. I would walk to meet my girlfriend who literally lived on the other side of town on the Base. She was a good 7 inches taller than I and mostly in the leg region. I  had to trot to keep up with her, my two steps to her one. 

Here I am, nearly 40 years later, still walking. 



I walk the dog. I walk on my lunch. My running shoes are well worn and scruffy. I bounce along taking strides bigger than my frame can handle. 

I walk in the dark and pick out constellations. I walk through sunrises and sunsets. In rain, snow, heat and cold. 

Recently my husband bought the mother of all treadmills. 



It takes up a good chunk of the basement and is really keen on whipping you into shape. There are numerous walking tours you can take, all led by svelte young things that are over the top in the motivation department. Personally I just put it on manual, bring the incline up really high, stick my I-pod in and start walking. 

Eventually my knees and/or hips are going to wear out from all this walking. I will probably be signing up for whatever bionic parts are available for replacement.

This girl was made for walkin', that's just what she'll do. One of these days this girl is gonna walk right up to you!


Sunday, November 19, 2017

SNOW: LOVE IT, HATE IT

I got up this morning and "boom there it is" Our first official snow fall. I walked Lulu with sharp bits of baby ice hitting me in the face. And so it begins. 

I have a weird love/hate relationship with snow:
Love to look at it, hate to drive in it
Love the smell of it, hate how cold it is

You get the picture. 

So, after walking Lulu I made a nice hot cup of coffee and snuggled  in to warm up. 


Blanket (electric) - check
Fireplace - check
Big, fuzzy slippers - check
Pets - check

I sent this pic off to a friend of mine who LOVES snow. This was her response:

Cause she gets out there and enjoys it. While I'm prepped for hibernating, she is just gearing up!

It really is beautiful stuff. I bought this painting for my 50th birthday done by a local artist, Jesus Estevez 


I could have bought something in the sailboat or flower genre but no, I'm drawn to a snowy scene of downtown Belleville.

Some of my best-selling photographs are snow scenes.

Firebush in Snow


Narnia

Ice, Ice Baby


For Christmas I asked for snow shoes (and a kitten, cause I aways ask for a kitten). This year, by golly I'm not just going to be a recluse and watch all the winter drama from my window. This year, I'm going to get out there!! 

Full disclosure: I say this every year. But maybe this year will be different.

Now where are my big fuzzy slippers??


Sunday, November 12, 2017

HUNGRY?

Every time feed Lulu it is a high 5 celebration, or in Lulu's case, high 10. I open the cupboard and drop in some dry food and that's when Lu jumps up and gives me a two paw smack down.

High 5 (x2)! Let's eat! It's gone in about 15 seconds or less so I'm not sure she even tastes it. But we celebrate these moments.

Food...glorious food! 

This week was colonoscopy week for me. Now I won't go into all the details but part of the prep includes very little food. On Monday  I ate light, knowing what was ahead. After supper it was nothing but liquids (juice, broth, water) until Wednesday when it was nothing at all until after the procedure. So for nearly 2 days there was no food going in and LOTS going out. 

Let me tell you I was hungry. And dehydrated. And once I was given the green light, food tasted glorious!

My oatmeal was as Lulu would say a High 10.

Warm with raspberries and a bit of maple syrup...Please sir, can I have some more??

The family took me out for a belated birthday dinner on Friday and at Linguine's I had the Olio pasta.

Rich in garlic, olives, artichokes and mushrooms with penne pasta. 

Heaven!!

Proverbs 27:7 says "One who is full loathes honey, but to one who is hungry, everything bitter is sweet." 

You can apply this to pretty much everything. Christmas is coming and we here in Canada have so much. Sometimes we take it all for granted: food, clothing, gadgets, peace and protection. Hunger for anything is something most of us are not familiar with.

So, if you need a reminder....just go on a fast for a couple days, whether that be food or your phone, car, whatever. 

I guarantee you will find everything seems sweet again. 



Sunday, November 5, 2017

I RAKED, I BAGGED, I MOWED, I'M DONE!

There are certain times in home ownership when you just have to hunker down and get'r done. 

Yard work...for example, particularly in spring and fall. For me, yesterday was one of those days.

I'm blessed with a beautiful back yard so I can't complain too much about having to spend the day out there.

Time to rake the leaves up!


It was chilly but I bundled up and doubled up on sweaters and mitts and got to work raking all these bits of gold up.

Lulu, though not much help in the raking, bagging and mowing department, is very helpful in the assessment and moral support department.

After making a number of piles here and there, the bagging commenced.

I found one last rosebud. She looked a little frostbitten but I snipped her off and brought her inside, hoping she would open up. 


Raking and bagging done, it was time to move on to mowing, hopefully for the last time this season. And here is the final product friends:

My husband helped take down the canopy on our gazebo and other than one last raking job and putting in the spring bulbs my work back here is done. 

A cup of tea and nap were in order to rejuvenate and I'm ready to move onto the next stage of home ownership....

For the next few months it will be me, a shovel and lots of time in the driveway!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

VIVA LA VIGNETTE!!

It's no secret I'm not much of a shopper, but I was out doing just that this week on a few days off and had to admire creative vignettes set up by local store owners. 

"A vignette is a short description, picture, or piece of acting which expresses very clearly and neatly the typical characteristics of the thing that it represents."
It is French in origin pertaining to "little vine", describing the little decorative vines across the bottom of a page, per se. Somehow that has morphed into a description of all sorts of little things. By that description, I guess I'm a walking Vignette!
Clever store owners display little vignettes to grab your tickle your senses. If you are into jewellery, here's one I found in Bloomfield:
Look at all those pretty baubles!
Same store, in the spirit of Halloween, was this spidery vignette, which makes me uncomfortable just looking at:
I can practically feel them crawling on my fingers!
In a store that specializes in Mexican goods was this vignette in honour of the "Day of the Dead", a mexican holiday to honour, remember and pray for friends and family who have passed away.
Might as well throw in a cottage sign, while you are remembering the good family times!
I like my own personal vignettes to include reminders. This one at work includes an old photo of myself and Sam aka Dogzilla, an Angel given to me by a friend after Sam passed away and a turtle, cause I have to remind myself to slow down.
I also like a bit of quirky humour thrown in, so Woody is there too, just hanging out. 
Here is one on the top of my piano. Brahams, Beethoven, Chopin and Bach all sternly assessing my bad piano skills. But Super Grover? Well he just likes to party and have sing-a-longs! 
"Come on fellas! Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall, ninety-nine bottles of beer!!"....look like a bunch of party poopers to me...
Next time you are out and about, check out those little vignettes set up and try to find the story being told. They may be enticing you to buy the pretty baubles or remind you of something or maybe they just want you to relax and not take life too seriously!








Sunday, October 22, 2017

THE WAITING GAME

This is Amelia (God love her, I sure did). She was the best dog I ever had and I waited a long time for her. 


As you can see from this pic, Ami was waiting....who knows for what, probably food or a walk, but clearly she's waiting...just like the rest of us.

Have you noticed that? You spend a lot of time waiting for something? Waiting for a change, for something to happen, for someone to show up, for that perfect job/partner/whatever?

I know I do. There are people who will tell you to stop waiting. If you want something go on out there and get it, make it happen! You can spend your whole life waiting!

But there is also a lot of sense in waiting too. If we rush into something without assessing the pros and cons, the results can be messy all round. Because, it's not just about you. You and your actions affect a lot of people and situations around you. You have that kind of power!

I read a C.S. Lewis quote today that said "I am sure God keeps no one waiting unless He sees that it is good for him to wait." 

Sometime we are kept waiting to teach us patience, sometimes it is because there are many other pieces to the puzzle that need to align to make a perfect picture. Sometimes....who knows??

But this I've seen in my life: there are those who wait with great frustration, always grumbling cause things are not the way they should be and there are those who wait with expectation and patience. The former are generally miserable their whole lives, the latter enjoy the ride. 

We all have to play the waiting game, at one time or another, whether you are a go-getter or a patient one. I hope you can enjoy the Waiting Game and all your dreams and wishes come true in perfect timing. 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

IN SEARCH OF THE GREAT PUMPKIN



Do you remember Linus waiting in the pumpkin patch for the "Great Pumpkin" to arrive? Can you believe this was created in 1959?? Me neither. Linus firmly believed that the Great Pumpkin would rise out of the pumpkin patch and deliver toys all over the world to good girls and boys..

Well, Linus, I wasn't too keen on waiting all night in a pumpkin patch so I headed to the next best option - Pumpkinfest in Wellington!  If the Great Pumpkin is gonna be anywhere, it's there.


There were some mighty big pumpkins there and they take this business seriously. 


Trimming and a-cleaning are required before an official weigh-in to see who will be the "Great Pumpkin" winner. The biggest I saw weighed in over 1000 lbs.  That's a lotta pie. 

But don't worry, if anybody can utilize a good gourd, it's Wellington on Pumpkinfest. 


Pumpkin tarts, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin bread..if it can be made out of pumpkin, it was there to be had. 

The day starts off with a parade (I missed the parade, dang it, I love parades) and then the whole town just gets into the spirit.


Almost every third person, big or small, young and old, were wearing these little pumpkin toques. Best...Hat...Ever.

So, like Linus, I'm now a firm believer. The great pumpkin is out there. He's either showing off his accolades picked up in the Wellington beauty contest on Saturday or yet to be discovered, somewhere in the most sincere pumpkin patch prepping for his Halloween flight. 

Now can someone please pass me the whipped cream?

Monday, October 9, 2017

RAINY DAYS AND MONDAYS DON'T HAVE TO GET ME DOWN

It's Monday and we are at the end of our Canadian Thanksgiving weekend. The weather was balmy and warm until this morning when, thanks to Hurricane Nat, we are getting a good drenching. 



"Hanging around, nothin' to do but frown
Rainy days and Mondays always get me down" ☔️ 


That's what the Carpenters taught me way back in 1971. 

Well, it's Monday and definitely rainy but it don't have to get me down! For one thing, I have the day off work. Can't tell you how many times I've stared out the kitchen window at the office on a rainy day wishing I was home puttering and cooking. Today, my wish has come true!



It's a perfect soup making day. We went to the orchard on Saturday and I had a big bag of cortlands to contend with so I made a roasted squash and apple soup.




Garnished with goat cheese and candied pecans, this soup has a bit of zing thanks to the apple in it. It's thick and autumny-warm going down.



But I've got leftover turkey too so why not soup that up as well? 




Lots of big chunks of turkey with carrots and mushrooms to start. Sadly, I had no celery on hand so I made due with other left over vegetables from Thanksgiving.




This goodness is simmering on the stove and will be perfect for supper. 



Now it is almost 3:00 and what I call "3:00 syndrome" aka Need-a-nap time is setting in. And, since it's Monday and rainy and I'm lying here on the couch and not sitting at my desk, a nap is just the ticket. 



Rainy days and Mondays - they can have their perks. 


Sunday, October 1, 2017

THE POWER OF COMMUNITY

Have you ever watched Gilmore Girls? Yes, ladies, I see those hands. One of the endearing things about the show is the quaint sense of community in the little picture perfect town they live in. Everybody knows everybody, and there is always some sort of festival going on. 

There is a lot of power in community! If I were to give you a definition (and I am) it would be "a social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share government, and often have a common cultural and historical heritage." 

This past weekend I saw a lot of community power going on: We had Porchfest for one thing.


We Bellevillians could walk, ride or bike to different houses and check out live music. My friend Ted was jamming on the bass at this hot spot. Kids, dogs, people all enjoying the sense of community.

My work community is made up mostly of women, which means lots of mothering and good food. If you want to grow Community somewhere, start feeding people!


The Social Club board is highly focused around eating- chilli fest and potlucks but there is always fun to be had, like Halloween Bingo (for Sue, our longstanding employee cause she loves Bingo). 

In the office we have one area where plants are thriving. Someone stuck this sticky note on one of the plants:


Because we can have fun in Community and at work we need to have a good laugh every now and then. 

My Church community was also connecting in a big way this weekend with a Conference and special speakers.


When a community starts to form around common ideals and goals it births a culture where people begin to feel a part of something and connected.

Finally, last night we took part in a celebration of life for my brother in law, Wyatt, who passed away in early spring.


Friends and family gathered together for a barbecue to remember honour Wyatt's life. This community of family was there to support, encourage and strenghten.

If you find you and your TV are just not cutting it, get on out there and see what's going on in your Community. Check out events, head to church, gather your family and friends together. You will find a sense of connection and power is in the air. And, probably, some good food!





Sunday, September 24, 2017

TO MARKET, TO MARKET TO BUY A FAT PIG

Not only did a buy a fat pig, as in sausages, I bought everything else for a fresh Market Meal!

But let me start at the beginning. I love going to the market each week to pick up fresh fruits and vegetables. Then I had an idea....why not create a dinner out of all things Market Fresh?


There was salad of market greens topped with roasted mushrooms and red peppers, Baba Ghanoush for dipping radishes, cucumber  carrots, broccoli, and some funky white turnip (that was a big hit), barbecued honey garlic and spicy sausages, roasted potatoes and beets,  garlic bread, cheese biscuits and pholourie, little spicy balls of chickpea dough. 

Dessert consisted of Raspberry pie, churros, fresh berries and, well I cheated a little here, banana bread from my freezer.



I invited some friends to help me taste the wares and review the bounty. The winners were everything, but coming in at first place were the funky white turnip, roasted beets and potatoes, sausages and pholourie.

It was a lot fun deciding what to buy for the Market Meal. The options were endless and the people friendly and knowledgeable about their products.

This is Justin, the sausage dude. He knows how to treat pigs right!

You pay a pretty price for the mushrooms from these guys but they are worth it I tell ya, worth it.


This is Bya, ladling out the Phlorourie for us. I also bought the little cheese biscuits from here and had to resist the roasted chickpeas - I'll save that one for next week. 

We also checked out the "authentic Russian food" from this very authentic Russian lass:


I'm planning on making this an annual event opening it up for everyone to explore the market and bring a dish of their own creation. 

So come on everybody! To Market to Market to buy a Fat Pig - Home again, Home again jiggety jig!