Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Happy Thrifting Day

A few days before Christmas,  I decided to take a boo into the thrift stores one last time before the holidays.  There hasn't been many finds for me lately as they seem to be fittingly filled with Christmas decor.  Mind you, I did score some amazing cards recently,  in brand new boxes for $2 a box.  I'm set for next year now.  :)

So the first three stores I hit were a bust.  Well, other than an old set of poker dice made in Britain that I found for $0.50.  I wasn't sure if they would have a use but figured I would find the right person in our family to adopt them.  Turns out that Rob was beyond happy when he came home and spied them.

My last stop was the Value Village.  Not much in the kitchen goods and then I decided to take a peek at the wool selection.  I am very glad I did.  It was the balls that were perfectly wound with a ball winder that caught my eye.  Must be a serious knitter to have them so nicely rolled.  Although they were packaged in plastic bags I could see that the ball bands were neatly rolled and placed in the centre of each ball.  Could those few visible letters mean it was Cascade yarn?  You know, the good brand that I buy at the good yarn store.  I decided to buy the lot for a whopping $11 which included tax.

Once I got to the car I quickly opened up the plastic to investigate.  Sure enough it is Cascade 220 100% wool.  I have some of this in my stash and have paid around $10 a ball.  Some of the ball bands have no price but others have a price tag reading $8.95!


Look at all of this amazing pink!


These little balls could make an awesome pair of mittens.


I'm not supper crazy about the "dusty rose" colour.  It always seems quite "old lady" to me.  But, just because it isn't my favourite colour, it doesn't mean that everyone hates it.  I'm thinking I might mix it up with the red and grey to give it a more current flair.


The Value Village may be high priced on some items but they don't know good wool.  You would think that the price tag would have tipped them off.  I figure that I got about $60 worth of wool for $11.  Now that is what I call hitting the thrifting jack pot!  I'm ready to make some awesome woolies for girls for next years charity efforts.  :)

Jen

Sunday, December 28, 2014

2014 in Review

As 2015 approaches, reflections of this past year are running through my mind.  It was a busy year with some ups and some downs.  That is after all,  just the way life is.  But all in all I can't complain and have to say that it really is a beautiful life.

It was a strange year on the crafty front.  I have to say that the knitting rocked.  I may not have really widened my knitting horizons but I did get lots of it accomplished.  More important than the accomplishment was the enjoyment and relaxation that knitting provides for me most every day.  My knitting for charity always fulfills me but this year I was also able to knit for some people in my life and that felt really good too.


Then there is the scrappy front.  I usually post my top 10 favourite pages at this time of year.  Hmmm I'm not sure that I even created 10 LO's this year.  I will share my favourite page though.  Loved everything about this one.


Looking onto 2015, what are the plans and the goals?  I stopped making huge resolutions a few years ago like treadmill 5 times a week and eating more fruit and yogurt.  Who am I kidding, about 14 days in I'm going to be wanting the Starbuck's scone and some time knitting instead!  But, I do have a few thoughts for this new year.

Firstly, I want to scrapbook more.  I want to get back into my love of everything paper.  I want to create beautiful pages again.  I want to wake up some mornings with the excitement that it is "an artists day", which means I might wear P.J's all day and just create.  I want to lose sleep again being a tortured artist, where my mind spins all night with creative possibilities.  I think to get my mojo going again, I need to fully set up my studio again.  I need my supplies surrounding me to inspire me.  This might be happening soon.  I also want to begin my art journaling project.  I have been collecting ideas and memorabilia and I just need to get going on it.

Second on the list is to be a more responsible consumer.  This means being more conscious of what I buy, where I buy it and even how it is packaged.  I strive to buy less.  I really don't need much these days.  I often buy things that I don't really need or I get tired of.  Buying home decor is a weakness of mine. I never throw anything out and things always get donated, but still there is an improvement needed here.  Can I live a more minimal lifestyle? Can I buy less Pyrex?  LOL  Maybe not?  I love buying things at the thrift stores.  I like the idea of giving something a second life.  I like buying something that is old and is no longer available.  I love that many of these items are made in the USA or even Canada!  I love that these items were made with pride and have quality to them. They also don't come with a bunch of packaging.  Oh packaging.  There are so many ways I could improve my footprint that I will leave on this earth.

This brings me to my third and last goal... be a greener person.  This is always something that I have rolling around in my head but I know I can do much better.  Where we live we have a huge recycling program and we even collect "organics".  87% of our waste is diverted from the landfill.  I need to use this program to it's fullest.  Some things get put in garbage over organics in the name of convenience.  I can improve.


But I need to go further than this.  I need to look at packaging before I buy something. Like those little puddings that have about 4 mouthfuls and then the plastic container goes into recycling.  Not worth it.  I can also cut down on packaging in the cleaning department by making more of my own cleaners.  I have an amazing book of recipes that I need to use more.  It is a step in the right direction to buy green cleaners but if I make my own I am not using all of that plastic.  Well, these thoughts are just the tip of the iceberg on how I can live a greener life.  But, any small step in the right direction is a good thing.  I hope to improve.

So that's it for 2015.  I realize that #1 of "scrapping more" may cause some conflict with #2 of "buying less".  LOL  Back to my old dilemma of buying too much scrappy stuff.  I really do have so much to use up and hope to make a serious dent in the supplies I have.  Wish me luck as often my inspiration comes from a trip to the scrapbook store resulting in a bag full of the new stuff.  ;)

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year!

Jen


Saturday, December 27, 2014

How Are Your Holidays Going?

Have you hit the holiday burnout point yet?


Our days have been quite relaxing and low key and so we are just enjoying each day.  Lady, on the other hand, looks like she is trying to recuperate.




Keep it jolly!

Jen

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Santa's on His Way

I'm thinking that by now Santa and the elves have packed the sleigh, the reindeer have been watered and fed and the big journey is about to begin.  I remember the excitement of Christmas Eve as a child.  Laying in bed and wondering what I would find in my stocking that hung on my bed post and what gifts I would find waiting for me under the tree.  As a mother, I got to enjoy it all over again through the eyes of my girls.  Lisa was the calm one.  Just taking in every minute of it and enjoying the moment.  Diane... not so much.  There were usually some tears before sleep would finally come to her.  That worry that she wouldn't get to sleep in time, Santa would arrive, find her awake and then leave without dropping off the goodies.  Yeah, I think that if Elf on the Shelf was around back in the 90's it would not be a good idea in our house.  Diane would view that little elf as a total enemy watching her every move only to report back to Santa.  Lisa would have loved it and would be outwitting that little elf every step of the way.  LOL



Thank you to all of you who visit my little blog and for the lovely comments that I receive through the ordinary days.  I wish you all a wonderful holiday surrounded by the people you love with only laughter, smiles and happiness.


Merry Christmas!

Jen

Monday, December 22, 2014

Winter Solstice Celebration Recap

We gathered on Saturday for our holiday celebration night.  It was the night before the official Winter Solstice, but it is this night, in fact, that is the longest.  I had most of my favourite people in this world with me and so I was one happy lady.

The tree was sparkling,


and there were lots of presents waiting to be given out.




There were even gifts for the furry four legged members of the family.


There was an assortment of appetizers to munch on before dinner.  Some savoury and made with the real healthy stuff like cream cheese, sour cream and lots of cheese. There were some sweets too.  Goodies I had been hoarding in my freezer like fudge made in Ontario.  Then there were the staples of Christmas,  like chocolates bought in bulk from the Bulk Barn.


We had roast beef for dinner.  Rob slow roasted it on the barbecue and injected it with garlic butter and wrapped it in bacon.  T'is the season for healthy eating... NOT!


Rob even shared his last two cans of the much coveted LeSieur peas.  These were brought from Quebec by Andrew,  Chantal and Thomas last summer. It was a small way of having them with us.  It's the only thing that would have made the night better.  We had ice cream cake and more sweets for dessert.


The girlies liked their Millionaire Squares and Cherry Balls.  The evidence is in this picture or possibly the girls are just hamming it up to make their mama feel like she really nailed the celebration this year.  ;)


We had some drinks and chatted and mocked each other here and there because it's one of the ways this family shows their love for each other, all while listening to cheesy Christmas carols playing in the background.





Rob packed up care packages of left over goodies for our guests.  I got my Christmas hugs from my girls.  They are stingy in the hug department and make me wait for special occasions.  :(  It was a great celebration.

I love our new tradition of having our family celebration on Winter Solstice.  I get more time with my family by celebrating a few days before Christmas.  It frees up time for everyone on Christmas day so it is not so hectic on this day. The girls can spend more time with their men and enjoy the other side of the family.   I think that everyone has a more relaxing holiday experience.  The season has many days so why cram everything into one day.  I think we will be celebrating Winter Solstice for many years to come.  I am so grateful for the wonderful people in my family that I get to spend special days with.

Jen

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Oh Christmas Tree

I'm joining in again today with Sian's Christmas club, where we share the story of Christmas.

I often chuckle to myself when I think of the tradition of putting up a Christmas tree each year.  Think about it.  We move furniture around to accommodate placing a tree in our most used room of the house, the living room.  Then we spend hours unpacking little decorations that we store lovingly all year long.  Then we spend even more time putting all of these delicate little beauties onto each branch.  In a few weeks time we dismantle all of this, only to do it all again next year.  It really is bizarre but I wouldn't have it any other way.

When I was growing up, we always had a real Christmas tree.  I think that the majority of people did in those days of the late 60's and early 70's.  We would put the tree up around the 20th of December. We lived in an apartment, which was very dry.  My mother always said that the tree dried out fast and so it was better to wait until close to Christmas to put it up so that we could keep it up through the holidays until January 2nd.  As you can imagine, the tree selection was getting pretty slim this close to Christmas day and so we were known to usually have a typical Charlie Brown Christmas tree.  Each year we would laugh at how close we had actually come to Charlie's tree.


Susan with her dollhouse. 1964

Then there was the Christmas light issue.  My mother was a safety bug.  Yes, she was the mom who wouldn't put the lid of a can into the garbage without making a loud family announcement.  "I've just put a can lid in the garbage can.  Don't put your hand in there or you'll slice your hand off".  It was a pretty dramatic statement when in reality it may have resulted in a little cut on the finger. I guess that you have already figured out that there were to be no Christmas lights on our dried out Christmas tree.  The fire risks were too high in my mother's mind.  Not only were we risking our lives but the lives of all of the other tenants in our building!  In my mother's defence, the big lights did get hot in those days, although I'm sure if we just had them on while we were in the room, we all would have avoided the fiery death that my mother feared.  All our neighbours in the building had lights. ( I have noticed in close inspection of these two early photos that there are lights on these trees!  What changed? Was this earlier apartment less dry?)


Susan and Me on my first Christmas. 1964

What our tree lacked in actual beauty, it more than made up for in charm.  We had a mix of beautiful glass ornaments along with some handmade school ornaments.  There were a few new ornament purchases through the years but all in all, our tree pretty much looked the same from year to year.  The decorating always began with the signature silver garland of this era and ended with silver tinsel on the branches.  I was the kid that threw handfuls of tinsel on the branches.  There was none of this placing one small strand on each branch.  My mother was fine with this.  Our family tree was to be as her children wanted it to look.  Looking back my favourite memory of our tree was it's smell.  Oh the smell of a real Christmas tree!  For me, that is the smell of Christmas.


Andrew's "cheetah" under the tree.  1974

Flash forward to my grown-up years.  In my early years with Rob we had a real tree.  I insisted on it because for me, that was what Christmas was all about.  Each year Rob would try to convince me that we should buy an artificial tree.  He grew up with an artificial tree and said that they were very convenient and easy.  About three years in I finally caved.  Maybe it was the year we had Diane.  I would have been a young, tired mother of a two month old baby.  My resistance must have been down. And so we went along year to year with our five foot perfectly shaped fake tree.  Most years I would at some point through the holidays reminisce about the joys of a real tree and the smell of Christmas that we were missing out on.

One year early into our new millennium, I whined particularly loud and long for a real tree.  I was relentless, if not even a bit childish.  ;) I even mentioned it to some of Rob's co-workers who then guilted him about being such a scrooge.  They told him that he needed to get his wife a real Christmas tree.  Hey, peer pressure worked and off we went with a grumbling Rob to get our real tree.  I was beyond excited and even the girls, who were in junior high at this point,  seemed interested about this new tree experience.

Our tree came home around the middle of December and sat in the backyard until the 20th of the month, when we were ready to decorate it...  not too early, so we could enjoy it through the whole holiday season.  Oh it was beautiful!  It had such a wonderful shape.  Almost perfect but just imperfect enough to be real nature.  I lovingly decorated it.  That was the year that I decided on a red and gold theme, other than the special ornaments that held meaning.  After the decorating was done I sat back and looked at my amazing tree with it's twinkling white lights.  But yes, the best part was the beautiful smell of Christmas that filled the room.


Our real Christmas tree documented in the scrapbook.  2001

Flash forward to the next day.  Suddenly there was the small sound of sneezing.  Just a "kerchew" here and a "kerchew" there.  These sounds were not only coming from Rob, but Lisa too.  Then there was the sudden blowing of noses and that red glazed look of their eyes.  Hmm  Maybe that was why Rob was grumbling so much about getting the real tree.  Oh yeah, there was that one allergy test five years previous that did say something about a reaction to Spruce, Fir and Evergreen... you know those Christmas tree trees.   Then I remembered that one year that I bought a "spruce" candle to burn through the season and had to throw it out because Lisa (my seasonal allergy girl) was reacting.  What kind of mother was I?  It is one thing to make my husband deal with allergies but not my little Lisa!  I was a monster!  ;)  Rob and Lisa struggled through Christmas with lots of kleenex and come first thing in the morning of December 26th, I undecorated the tree and Rob dragged it to the curb.  But for those few short days I spent lots of time secretly admiring my tree and smelling that amazing aroma.... until the two sickies would catch me and scowl at me and my tree.  ;)

And so the story goes that we went back to our artificial plastic tree.  But, I stopped whining about it. I still get my "Christmas smell" fix.  Each year I go to the greenhouse and spend some time in the "fresh evergreen" cooler section.  Rob stays outside and waits for me.  Also, our grocery store sells Christmas trees and has them all standing outside at the door.  I never pass by without taking the time to stop and smell a tree.  I always tell Rob that it is a good thing that I love him.  If not for him,  not only would I have a real tree each year but there would be about four cats batting at the branches and at least one would be trying to climb to the top.


Lisa and Diane in front of our fake tree. 1996

Thank you Sian for hosting the Christmas Club.  It was so much fun.

Jen

Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas Baking

So does it count as "baking" if the only oven used in making two different recipes was the warming of a crust in one recipe?  There was a day when I loved to spend an afternoon in the kitchen baking up a storm.  Now, not so much.  But, every Christmas I pretend to be that domesticated good mom and make the girls each their favourite Christmas treat from when they were little.  They can enjoy a bite at dinner and then bring the leftovers home to their own places.

Lisa's favourite is Millionaire Squares.  They get their name from the richness of the square.  They have a crust made from crushed oatmeal cookies.  The middle is a chocolatey fudge mixture.  Then you sprinkle some reserved crumbs from the bottom mixture on top.


Diane's favourite is Cherry Balls.  These babies don't involve any baking at all.


Here's the recipe if you are looking for a quick and festive holiday treat.

Cherry Balls

Mix up:

3 cups of icing sugar
1/2 cup butter
3 tsp. milk
1 tsp. almond flavouring
2 cups coconut

Drain a jar of maraschino cherries.  Next wrap the mixture from above around each cherry.  Next roll each ball in graham wafer cracker crumbs.

These freeze really well.


Enjoy!

I'll leave you with a photo of little Thomas looking pretty excited that Santa will soon be here.

Jen

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Camera Man

Rob's been taking photography classes.  His current course is called "Portrait Lighting".  As the name suggests, it's all about taking portraits and the effects of lighting.  I'm super excited that one day when we have beautiful grandchildren, Rob can get some quality photos of them.  But for now, he is stuck with me as his model.

Each Tuesday, Rob comes home with homework assignments that are due by email on Monday.  We usually wait until Sunday afternoon.  Then Rob sets up a studio.  Sometimes it's in the kitchen, sometimes it's in the living room and last time it was in the basement.  We have to improvise with supplies and so shades are taken off of lamps, boxes are used to raise the lighting, the bedspread was even pulled off the bed and draped over the television when we needed a white backdrop.  A wardrobe change of a white blouse to a black shirt may be needed and I was once asked if I could look normal in a photo and hold a lamp at the right height, at the same time.  Apparently I can't.  Last week's homework meant a trip to the fabric store to buy a big piece of black fabric needed for a backdrop.  It is always an adventure and I enjoy every minute of it.

It is a given that at some point during the shoot I will say to Rob, "Camera man, my filter please."  It actually sounds like, "Camewa man, my fiwter pwease." It's an old SNL joke about Barbara Walters wanting that misty effect for her close ups to make herself look younger.  Well, I never got a filter but there were lots of other lighting effects.

Sometimes I have to move my head.


Sometimes half of my face is in shadow.


Sometimes half of my face disappears.


Sometimes I have a shadow under my nose.  I think this is called the "butterfly" effect.


Sometimes I look bored. Oh, there's the bedspread.


And sometimes I look really,  really bored.  ;)


I look like I'm outside but I'm really in my basement with a garage flood light behind me.  It's magic! 


The dogs are usually milling around me during these shoots so at the end I scoop them up to get a photo of me with my fur babies.




(I over edited these two.  Sorry Rob but this is how I'll want these for later scrapping.)

And one last one with me and Lady only having half a face.  This could almost make it on Awkward Family Photos.  It is a bit dramatic for a woman with her little dog.  ;)


It's been a lot of fun and I will be sad when this class is over.  Next up for Rob might be "Macro Photography" which is actually taking photos of little things. Shouldn't it be called "Micro Photography"?  I don't think it will be half as much fun for me.

Jen

Monday, December 15, 2014

Looking Festive

We are well on our way to being prepared for the holiday season.  We have our Winter Solstice celebration this weekend so there is lots to get done this week.  I like a week in the calendar that has things to get done on every single day.  It always feels good to feel productive.

This past weekend was a productive one indeed.  After some grumbling from both Rob and myself, we finally got the tree up.  We have squished it to fit into the living room this year.  This meant dragging everything up from the basement as well as a big mess of glitter after the decorating was done.  But in the end it is all worth it, when you dim the lights and enjoy the glow of the tree... so worth it.


I only have a few new additions in the ornament department this year.  This tree is pretty full.  However,  I couldn't resist this little deer when I spied it in the Banff Christmas Store last month.


The bird tree has been up for about a week already and it seems that quite a number of new birds have made their way to these branches.  I finally have the full look that I was going for.  And I really do think that there is room for a few more, even if Rob doesn't agree.  ;)


It wouldn't be Christmas without a red poinsettia and the burning of a cinnamon candle.


I've been snacking on these little wonders.  I call them, "a taste of Christmas".  They're from Hickory Farms and they sell out quickly so we always make sure we pick up our share as soon as the kiosk opens.


I have been doing some wrapping but still have more to do.  I always think that I like this task until I actually sit down to do it.  Then the boredom sets in.


And in between the hustle and bustle of the season, I am knitting like a mad woman.  I am knitting cowls and matching mittens for two of Diane's friends.


Hoping you are feeling festive and enjoying all of the small traditions that this festive season has to offer.

Jen


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