Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas!!

We're taking off tonight to start our Christmas off with a get-together at our brother and sister-in-laws' new little cozy home. Then it'll be off to my husband's family where we'll gather as one big family with lots of yummy food, little kidlets running everywhere, and quiet conversations on their soft brown leather couches. I'm bringing The Hobbit to get started on my yearly read through Tolkien's MiddleEarth writings. 
We'll be celebrating Kilmeny's 2nd (I know, I can't believe it either!) birthday out on the farm. 
And then getting back in the van and  driving a few hours South to celebrate the New Year with my family and I'll finally get to meet my new little niece. I'm so excited! 

The Christmas anticipation has finally caught up with me and I remember why I love this time of year so much.
I've got a lot of bustling to do to get us all ready and packed, and finish up a dinner for a client. But I just wanted to pop on here and wish all of you a very Merry Christmas!! 

I hope that you can find some quiet in the midst of all the busyness to be still and ponder and glory in the gift that became ours in Bethlehem that night.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Book Party

I was very honored when Krista of Rambling Tart asked me to write a guest post for her blog. I've loved her blog for a long time and was beyond thrilled when I got to meet her this past year. I decided to write about the Book Party we host each year, the one constant tradition we've had despite spending the last three Christmases in different parts of the country.

From the post:
"The next year found us living in Montreal, Quebec. We got together with a few friends and the second Book Party was held, this time featuring homemade doughnuts. Everyone gathered in the kitchen, eating the hot glazed doughnuts made from a family recipe. We heaped our plates with vegetables, baguette spread with goat cheese and olive tapenade, filled our mugs with hot apple cider and retreated to the living room. Curled up on the soft couch and chairs, we discussed books, music, culture, and food. Originally all from Alberta, the Book Party again met our need for companionship in a home away from home. Everyone left with a new book to read and invigorated by the conversations. "

Read the rest of the post here. 

Tell me about your favorite traditions and Christmas parties, here or there

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Deep breaths and Apple Butter

I wrote this post a couple of weeks when I was feeling pressed in at all sides and just needed to process some thoughts. This is the edited version. The other version got copied and pasted to my journal. I still need this reminder. It's getting closer to Christmas, I still have some gifts to put together, baking to do for a customer, and all the regular stuff of the every day. Dishes, laundry, meals, tidythehouseagain. If I'm not careful, I'll miss it. Those precious moments, the crazy late nights, the beauty that is right here but I can't see it because I'm living three days ahead. Take a deep breath. We're running out tonight after supper to pick up two last gifts and making an event of it by cashing in a coupon for Coldstone Creamery. The girls will be out late, in their jammies, we'll eat ice-cream in December and we're making a memory. Now off to finish up stuff before the girls wake up! =) 

I took some time to breathe today. 

 I poured my coffee into my New York Starbucks mug (never mind, that it wasn't piping hot anymore, it was coffee), topped it off with some cream from my in laws' Jersey and got a piece of biscotti. Of course, I ended up pouring some of the coffee into an espresso mug for my little Kilmo-girl and we shared the biscotti. 
I carried the mugs into the living room. We sat on the floor, munching the biscotti and sipping coffee until it was all gone. I had to fight the urge to grab my planning notebook so I could jot down some gift ideas for Christmas and maybe even finish my menu planning and shopping list. But I didn't.

I just sat there, cross-legged and quiet. I listened to the prattling of my little girl and watched her big eyes get even bigger as I gave her some biscotti. I sipped my coffee and she sipped hers, the smile growing across her cheeks as she mimicked each of my actions. 
I took deep soul breaths and just lived those moments. And let everything else slide away.

I don't have all the answers for the questions that keep swirling in my head. I don't have the time each day to do all the things that I think I should or all the things that I would like too. I don't know how to always balance all the roles I play or even have the headspace to give full attention to all of them.

And will  I ever really know the answers? And maybe that is the point. That I don't need to know all the answers. I can't resolve everything or make everything all better. That  is a burden not intended for me to carry.

I take deep breaths. And I give myself some room. Room to be quiet and not get everything done each day. I give myself time. Time to just sit on the floor and look deep into the blue eyes of my baby, eyes just like her Daddy's. Time to stack the blocks and sort them according to color and cheer when my little toddler signs all the colors. Time to simmer some rosemary apple butter and let its aroma fill the house.

Rosemary Apple Butter (makes about 2 1/2 cups) {adapted from here)
  • 10 apples of your choice, peeled, cored and roughly chopped.  (I used Jonagold and Spartan and just cored, and chopped them)
  • 3 cinnamon sticks or ground cinnamon, a healthy sprinkling
  • 1/2 cup apple cider or water
  • juice from one lemon (or just lemon juice if you're all out of lemons)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3 sprigs of rosemary (or more depending on how big they are) (or just a healthy sprinkling of rosemary, use your own judgement)
Place all ingredients in an oven safe pot on high heat. Bring liquid on the bottom of pot to a boil and the simmer for 45 minutes stiring occasionally. Remove rosemary stems (you want some, not all,  of the pieces of rosemary to fall off and remain in the sauce....this will happen naturally as your stir) and discard cinnamon sticks.
Remove from heat, blend, if desired for a smoother consistency. Place in 9x13 glass pan and let bake in a 200 degree oven for 4 hours or until it reaches your desired thickness. Stir occasionally.

When done remove from oven and store in jars for 1 week or longer if you go through the canning process.


Monday, December 19, 2011

still counting...

I haven't sat down and recorded the gifts for some time now, it hits me when I stop and drink them, the beauty that happens right now all around me. And I want to make note of them but I don't always. So here's too grabbing a few minutes and jotting a few of them down. Because I don't want to forget all that I've been given. 

the fact that both my girls do often nap at the same time each day 
dirty dishes and dirty counters and dirty floors because real life happens here, every day
piles of laundry 
my two healthy, beautiful little girls 
family to give too
 books to read again and again (and again and again)
hot tea and shortbread
people to bake for
realizing that being happy is better then being perfect
a husband who encourages me to just live now, in this moment
my Mum's voice on the phone and sharing real life with her
snow-covered fields to pull my little girl's sled on 
the oh-so-Canadian sound of pond hockey
the sparkle of Christmas lights throughout the neighborhood and around our door
quiet moments of snuggle time with my baby 
singing to my toddler as she goes to sleep and the way her skin is soft and smooth
small celebrations of new recipes turning out great 
making my Nana's fudge, a time honored recipe
quiet and peace even in the busyness

Friday, December 16, 2011

Little Bits of Christmas

Our decorating style is simple. Intentional. Lots of inspiration taken from the outdoors. And some whimsey touches just for fun. 

We decorated our house almost a month ago. We'd spent a good portion of the day shopping, stocking up on things we needed, hitting a 50% sale on candles at IKEA, and browsing Bombay and Urban Barn. All of our purchases were in the living room when my husband said to me, "Let's decorate. Tonight." 
And I said, "Tonight? Okay!" 

We pulled the bins and boxes out, we put the Christmas music on, and we had fun. This is the first year that I've had all of my stuff in one place and it is so incredibly special to be able to decorate my own little home. 
We piled pinecones into a trifle bowl, we filled a silver tea tray with candles, we heaped a fruit bowl with pinecones and a berry wreath and stuck a big candle in the center. We wrapped a garland around the railing and plugged in the twinkle lights. We hung our stockings on empty nails and draped crochet snowflakes across the doorway of Kilmeny's rooms. We put candles on every available surface. 

We ordered in pizza, making a new tradition for when we decorate the house. We let Kilmeny stay up later then usual to play with the pinecones and hear her say ' awww, cute!' at all the new pretties in the house. 

And it does feel like magic when we turn all the lights off and just sit and be. Letting the candles glow provide all the needed illumination. I'm all about simplicity this year. Not wanting to get caught up in all the stuff, stuff, stuff everywhere. The piles of gifts and excess of expenditures. I'm all into intentionality and purposeful giving. 

What pretties are you enjoying this year? What's your decorating style? (Because I love being inspired by others!)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Life. On Purpose

I get panicky sometimes. I feel like there is so much swirling around me and I just want to stay still and remember these moments forever. I am often reminded to treasure these days, these times because they go so fast.

And I want to stay and watch the afternoon light play across the face of my little four month old. Sleeping on the couch because she wouldn't sleep anywhere else but after some snuggle time with Mummy, she fell asleep and I gently lowered her on the couch. I love the way she frames her face with her arms. She's my thumb-sucker, that's for sure. She loves to comfort herself with her thumb or sometimes her whole fist. Must be a second-born thing. I was the same way. 

I want to watch and memorize the way my almost 2 year old dances every time she hears the music. I want to learn the melodies that she moves with. The way she closes her eyes and sways gently matching the emotion of the music. Or the way she leads out with her hand and twirls around the living room. Or the way she boogies it up when the music plays faster. 

I want to always be able to soothe my little baby the way I can now. Holding her all wrapped up like a little sausage, swaying back and forth, forwards and backwards, in a darkened room trying to get her to sleep. The way she pops her head up with her eyes so bright, just when I think she's asleep. And she's so cute and adorable and I'm so tired and frustrated but I kiss her and rock her some more. 

The way my little inquistive, doesn't-miss-a-beat, toddler is constantly 'helping' me. She runs for the other broom and helps me sweep the floor, the look of delight on her face outweighing the initial sigh of frustration as she sweeps right through my dust pile. Or she stirs up a bowl of dishwater while she's standing at the sink with me, filling the measuring cups up and dumping them in her bowl. Or how she runs for her doll when I put my baby to sleep and stands in the room with me, holding and rocking her dolly. And whenever my baby cries, she is right there with the binky. And when she cries, she asks for chocolate. (I seriously don't know how she made that connection. )

And oh, the words that she is amassing on a daily basis. And the way she copies us. "Help, you?" "Hold, you?" "Change, you?"

And the way we can relate, standing in a circle, relating story after story of our tinies. The laughter fills the room and my brother-in-law says it best, "oh the times, oh the times!"

They will go fast, I have only to look at my own younger brothers ( no longer little) to be reminded of this fact. It's about living each day intentionally. Making the most of each beautiful moment. And living in it. Not worrying about how I will remember everything and the memories I want to make and preserve. Holding the relationships with an open hand, drinking deeply of our times together.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Penguins and Cookies

I said, "Let's go make cookies."

She said, "Penguins?"

I said, "Cookies."

My plan for the afternoon was simple. Bake up a couple batches of shortbread. Since we spend the holidays with both of our families, I don't do a lot of Christmas baking. We get lots when we go home and I always do some for our annual Book Party. But some shortbread is always done. And it seemed like something simple and easy to do with Kilmeny 'helping'.

But she was still stuck on the penguin. And right there, I had a choice. To actually put into practice what I've theorized  about over the years, that sometimes saying 'no' is more for the mum's convenience rather then something that is actually forbidden.

I said yes. I made her a penguin.
I smooshed some cream cheese into an olive, placed it on a slice of carrot, put some carrot into another olive and stuck the whole thing together with a toothpick.

It was totally worth it. And totally adorable.

She thought it was oh so cute and the look of delight on her face when I let her have it at her little table on a real, grown-up plate was priceless. 

It's those little things that build memories. My girls are too young to build gingerbread houses with me and we don't decorate sugar cookies together yet or cut out glittery snowflakes to hang from the ceiling. And what I think would make a great memory might not mean the same to them.

Kilmeny might not remember me making her a little penguin but I will. And hopefully it will help me remember to say yes and choose to seize the moment and make a memory.

Here is our traditional shortbread recipe. I did make this up yesterday after the penguin was made and eaten. The shortbread pairs very nicely with an eggnog latte, candles, and Michael Buble's Christmas album. If you wanted a recommendation. 

Melting Moments Shortbread

1/2 c cornstarch            1 c. flour
1/2 c icing sugar           3/4 c butter
Mix together, form into balls, flatten if desired.  Put tidbit of maraschino cherry or gumdrop on for colour if desired.  Bake at 350 for 10 minute or until just golden brown. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Beauty and Post-nap Cuddles

Almost every afternoon a little ritual takes place in our home. We read. On the couch with pillows and blankets until we're all cozy and comfy. 
I have been collecting children's books for a long time and still do. I find it very hard to pass them by at thrift stores and garage sales when it's just a few dollars (or pennies!) for a classic book.

One of my favorite books is Miss Rumphius by Barbara Clooney. When I was younger, I thought I would be just like Miss Rumphius - work in a library, travel to faraway places, settle into my own home by the sea with a cat and plant lupines every spring. And have children over for tea and stories. via Breanne on Pinterest

"In the evening Alice sat on her grandfather's knee and listened to his stories of faraway places. When he had finished, Alice would say, "When I grow up, I too will go to faraway places, and when I grow old, I too will live beside the sea."
"That is all very well, little Alice," said her grandfather,"but there is a third thing you must do."
"What is that?" asked Alice. 
" You must do something to make the world more beautiful." said her grandfather.  "

And if there's one thing I want my girls to take away from our afternoon cuddle time, it's just that. 
Doing something to make the world more beautiful. 

Of course, one of the main motivations for our time on the couch is to cuddle with Kilmeny who can be a complete grouch when she wakes up and the cuddle time helps smooth the transition from sleepy to awake.
I get to introduce the girls to some of my favorite children's books, they get to learn lots of new words and we all benefit from the beautiful illustrations and well-written stories. 

It's just one of those little things that help me stay sane on the crazy, overwhelming days- to gather my girls close and read stories. And drink some tea. 

What little things are you enjoying? 


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