December 24, 2014

A Merry Christmas Boogie

Dear Friends,

It's raining cats and dogs here, but far away at the North Pole, Santa and his reindeer are gearing up for their gift giving frenzy ride tonight in any and all weathers.

I heard this song, ' The Reindeer Boogie' for the first time last night on CBC Radio 2 when I was making dinner. The girls and I broke into a kitchen dance party. We might not have snow this Christmas Eve but we do have some Hank Snow. And, we have our eldest son, his girlfriend and our niece arriving tonight. Our college kids have been home for a week already.

Wishing you all the blessings of Christmastime with your friends and family.

All our best!

Rebecca and family


Or, if you can't see this one, try clicking on this link:

December 16, 2014

Happy Trails

One day this December we had a weather window 
in the middle of a wall of rain
V and I went Christmas shopping
but took an hour's break to walk on the Vedder River Trail
about a half hour's drive from our home

Some of our most beautiful days here 
come when the weather clears 
and we are left with open vistas
and gentle signs of life's ongoing abundance
and generosity to us mere mortals

Seeds cling in the wind and wait
for spring
They are winter's strange flowers
I love them for that

In late fall and winter 
leaves are stripped from the trees
but light shines between the bare branches
widening the view and revealing
the trees' graceful reaching limbs
casting long afternoon shadows on the trail

The trail is shared by walkers, cylists, dogs and horses
Wild rabbits and nervous birds hide in the camouflaging brush
Trail etiquette dictates all creatures yield to each other
keeping the peace and opening faces
to smile and greet all travellers on the trail 
no matter what their mode of transport

At the end of the hour the light waned
I took one last picture
of trees and river, shrubs and grasses
yielding to the twilight
in peace and harmony
striking a chord of joy and gratitude
in my heart

Though the year be dying
and the days be at their shortest
the sporadic gifts of light in December give hope
to all around
sustaining us 'til spring comes again

December 4, 2014

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I know it has been an age since I posted something on this blog. Life has been rather full of late and although ideas and a desire to post have floated around incessantly in my head I have not had time to sit down and get to it. A couple of Saturday mornings ago I sat in my favourite coffee shop and wrote the draft of a post in my notebook. Did it get typed and posted? No. I have done this twice now. Like Charlie Brown I can't quite get it together. 'Good grief!'

I do have at least one rather good excuse, though. Some of my regular reader friends will remember I began working on a novel on November 1st, 2013. I am happy to report that my novel's first draft was completed on November 25th of this year. I was, needless to say, relieved and delighted. When I originally wrote about completing NaNoWriMo (see linked post above for an explanation) I thought I only needed to write about another third to complete my draft. I was wrong. My word count ended at 103,000 words, more than double what I had written as part of National Novel Writing Month. Still, I was happy with the outcome and look forward to the editing process. I have been advised by an editor friend to let the manuscript rest for a while so I can look at it with fresh eyes. Completing my first draft was a Christmas gift to myself, I suppose, and one I was happy to unwrap early, for now I can concentrate on making the house clean beautiful and the upcoming Season as delicious as possible for my family and friends. My husband also just started three weeks of holidays from work so I know much will be accomplished in the way of tedious long-neglected tasks around here. My three living-away kids will be home for varying lengths of time for the Holidays and even though I will be spending a lot of time ferrying my youngest daughter to her rehearsals for the production of the Addams Family Musical to take place in January, I will enjoy every minute of having a full house once again.

The first Christmassy thing I do every year is bake fruitcakes. In the early days only my husband and I enjoyed eating these boozy, rummy fruit and nut cakes. Then, I began sending my parents one, too and they asked for the recipe. This year I received a message from our twenty year old son which said, "I am looking forward to eating Christmas cake with a glass of port." My eldest daughter now enjoys the cake as well, so it looks like we will have no trouble consuming the two large and three small cakes I have baked this year. Today I will bathe the cakes in rum and rewrap them in cheesecloth to marinate for another week when I will bathe them in rum again. They end up very well preserved by Christmas week. I have also already made a double batch of another family favourite: cheese ball. I coat the cheese balls in chopped walnuts harvested from the tree in our back yard, and serve it with a variety of crackers. We have already attended two events at which cheese ball was our contribution to the food table; we are becoming rather predictable at parties.

Christmas is not Christmas in our family without certain food related traditions, but new additions are always welcome. Last month, my youngest daughter and I made Maple Toffee Popcorn for the first time. It was absolutely delicious and would make a great gift for gluten-free friends. We will be making a big batch again. I will make fruit and nut chocolate bark as well, but I will leave the rest of the baking to my husband and daughter who has been away at college and surviving on stove-top cooking. She is longing to bake when she comes home next weekend.

Last Friday we and our eldest daughter attended the year-end concert at our son's university. He is in his second year studying violin in the Orchestral Performance program and we are always happy to go to any concert in the university's beautiful concert hall. Our son had worked very hard to get a top seat in the orchestra for the second half of the concert when they would perform Shostakovitch's Symphony No. 5. Shostakovich is one of his favourite composers and the piece is also a favourite. The first half of the concert featured an extremely accomplished young pianist performing Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 23, but it was the second half which earned a standing ovation - or perhaps a cumulative effect was the cause. Either way, the concert was wonderful and we and everyone else in the packed house were so proud of all the young musicians up on the stage in front of us. When we came out of the hall at the end of the concert snow was falling in earnest. A group of students had run outside to play in the snow and were visible from the floor-to-ceiling windows in the lobby. I love snow, too, but driving in it is not my favourite activity. After dropping off our son at his dorm building we drove to our eldest daughter's apartment and said goodbye to her. We made our way slowly and carefully all the way to Langley where the snow had come and gone already leaving the roads bare for the rest of the journey home.We munched on chips and listened to the radio to keep ourselves awake, arriving at home well past midnight, but we both felt it had been worth it.

Speaking of fine young musicians, I am a new fan of twenty-six year old pianist Yuja Wang. I am happy to share a video of her playing one of my (and her) favourite composers, Chopin. Have a listen during this month of hustle and bustle of the Holiday season, and I guarantee it will help you catch your breath. Until next time, enjoy December as it speeds by at its customary alarming rate. I know I am.