A Country Christmas

There is just something special about the Christmas season!

  There is also something so busy about it!

We try and fill the 31 days of December with all things festive – baking, decorating, entertaining, shopping, concerts, school and church musicals, parties, correspondence, wrapping, connecting, and the list goes on – all in 31 days!

Add on top of all of the above – our busy work schedules – with the pressures as great in this day and age as they ever have been!  How to balance it all and still come out of this month with the joy that this time of year is meant to celebrate!

 I love this season – it is a beautiful time of year with the gorgeous lights, and greens, and the excitement of getting together and eating great food and laughing with family and friends.  I would not change it for the world!

Maybe this is why I love the country Christmas theme so much – in my mind I see Christmas as a time of year where we can slow down, and enjoy the simple things in life – like family, friends, music, good food and the beauty of nature.  I suppose so much of this is in my imagination – to create this open door, candle lit, snow covered picture requires planning, and lots of hustle and bustle and work!

How do we balance all of these expectations in 31 days?  The age old question that many people are asking I am sure.  Maybe there is no answer other than to realize that Christmas is about creating memories – and there is no simple way around that.  It requires planning and shopping, and decorating and it is tiring!

But at the end of the day – what better way to be rewarded than to see the joy on children’s faces on Christmas morning, or the laughter that spills out from the turkey laden dining table, or the comfort that family and friends feel when they nestle into a cozy living room with a twinkling tree, glowing candles, and drink hot apple cider and nibble on the home baked goods that you thought you would never get baked.

Christmas memories are forever – and there is no season that perhaps requires as much work as Christmas – but it is a magical time of year that brings great joy to so many – even if they have no idea how much work is required to create a laid back and relaxed country Christmas!

I find my joy in creating joy for others – creating memories – in seeing the beauty of the season in the faces of those who appreciate the creativity required to make these memories special!  It is worth all of the hustle and bustle and work!

After all, anything of great worth and beauty was not created without work – think of the great music and art compositions that we enjoy – or the books that are written that take our  souls to another place – all enjoyed with little effort – but  created with great effort!  Creating a Christmas celebration can be a work of art – a memory that touches the very core of who we are as families, and as communities of friends.

If you put the work into the creation you will be rewarded – the beauty of creating the memories and the traditions that touch the heart and soul of who we are is worth every effort!

I realize that as I write this post that this time of year is difficult for many people- those who have no families, those who have no home – those who are suffering in different ways emotionally, and physically.  This can be a lonely and desolate time of year – especially with so much emphasis on belonging.  I am reminded that the very one whose birthday we celebrate came in poverty – with no pomp or circumstance.  And I am reminded that we are called to care for those who are hurting, to feed those who are hungry and to give of ourselves in love.  I am reminded that we must open our hearts and our homes and give of ourselves and our resources to care for the weak and the poor.  May this work of art – this tradition that we create each year – may its beauty reach those who need it most – and may the love and joy that we have in our hearts overflow to others – not just in our families – or our communities – but those in our cities, our countries and all over the world.

This comes at the end of this post not to be a P.S. – but to be the final word  – the benediction so to speak to all of our Christmas thoughts – our Christmas plans.  May our hearts be open to sharing our wealth – our love – and our joy!

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Dill Pickles

According to the internet dill pickle’in should be done anytime from the first of August through the middle of September – and so we are right on time!  My sister Carol and I decided to make dill pickles – something we have not done in many years.

Mom used to pickle, can, freeze and preserve and all that good stuff!  That is the way she fed a family of six on a budget – and we were all the better for it – such great home made treats!

And so yesterday Carol and I got the “hankerin” (is that an actual word?) to start in.  We went out to Niagara-on-the-Lake and bought the small cucumbers and the fresh dill weed, coarse salt and vinegar and settled in to try our hand at making dill pickles.

Carol remembered so much of what mom had taught us about sterilizing the jars, and then sealing them at the end of the process by boiling the jars in hot water for 10 minutes.  Seems like a strange thing to do – but the jars seal tight – and that is so important in the pickling process.  It is really a very easy process – surprisingly so – and now we have several jars of dill pickles that will be ready in a few weeks.

If you don’t have maison jars you can use recycled jars such as tomato sauce jars from the grocery store.  They work just fine and although they don’t have that “Martha Stewart” finished look there is just something about recycling jars that makes it seems so right!

We both feel mom would be so pleased that we had taken this project on (you know you really never grow too old to want to please your mom) and we have a renewed sense of wanting to get back to “living off the land” and getting back to the “homemade’ roots of our growing up days.

You just never know – we might pull out the sewing machine soon – that would really take us back to our roots – and it would reawaken the creative spirit that has been dormant for far too long.  I think “homemade” is beginning to sound more and more attractive!

Good Bones

This week my niece Laura and her husband Eric closed on their new home.  New to them that is.  The home is actually several years old – and has been owned by two other families previously.  The most recent owners  – an older couple with a grown family lived there for 40 years.  The grown children were selling the home following the passing of both parents this  past year.

Having been through this with my own parents I know just how tough it is to sell the family home – even if in our case one parent is still with us but no longer able to live in the house.  And although for us it was the family home – it was not our growing up home – I never lived in this home.  But still – there were many family celebrations there – many Christmas dinners, and Thanksgiving dinners and birthdays – and it contained all of the “home” furniture and fixins that make a family house a home. In our case there were many family homes – as we moved more than once when we were children- but each home became the family home so easily – because home is where you nest – where you build your life – and this can be done almost anywhere.  All it takes is a bit of nesting attitude and a few familiar things.

For Laura and Eric their new home has great bones – it has a great structure and a good layout – beautiful original hardwood floors, spacious rooms and the potential for updates and upgrades that will make this a great family home for years to come if they wish to make it so.  It is amazing what a bit of paint, a bit of carpet, and new wood trim will do to spruce this place up and not only clean it up but give it their own specific style.  And so before they move in at the end of this month there will be much cleaning, and painting and fixin up.

And so over we went yesterday with our diet coke, pizza, jube jubes and peanut M&M’s and had a fixin up party.  Wood trim was pulled off in preparation for new trim, wallpaper was stripped and walls cleaned and prepped for painting.  Even grandpa worked with Laura removing light switch plates and pulling down old wall paper – just like the good ole days when he and Laura would have many work parties at his place where Laura learned all the tricks to doing these kinds of tasks with perfection.

Laura and Eric were surprised with a beautiful bouquet of flowers left from the previous owners  with a card that blessed them and wished them as many happy memories in this home as they had in the previous 40 years.   What a wonderful way to pass a home on to new owners and new traditions!

It was a great day – a day to celebrate new beginnings.  This house has good bones – all that is necessary to make this house a nest – a special home for Laura and Eric.

 It was a beautiful day!

Happy St. Patricks Day

Every 17th of March Ireland celebrates Saint Patrick’s Day, a national holiday, and holds festivals and special events to commemorate the Saint who reportedly banished snakes from the Emerald Isle. Saint Patrick is also the Patron Saint of Ireland and influenced the migration of Christianity to the country.

Traditionally, people wear something green on Saint Patrick ‘s Day, which is known in the Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the U.S. and other countries that celebrate the day as “the wearing of the green.” Regardless of cultural background, everyone wears green because on this day, everyone is considered to be Irish.

In Ireland, however, the wearing of the green is not customary. Instead, Irish will wear shamrocks to symbolize the teaching of the holy trinity by Saint Patrick. A shamrock is a green plant, also known as a clover  and a small bunch of shamrocks is pinned to the breast of one’s coat.

Last Spring I was very fortunate and had the opportunity to visit my niece Sarah in Ireland.  What a beautiful country – and because she is still there I feel I have a bit of Irish in my blood!

This is beautiful St Stephen’s Green in Dublin – a stunning park in the middle of the city.

And below the windy Wicklow Mountains – a little later in the season these mountains would be lush green with purple lavender growing in abundance.  So beautiful!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone – and a special shout out to my sweet niece Sarah!

 

 

Grandma Buffam

My Grandma Buffam was an amazing woman. She had eight children, including two sets of twins – my dad being one of the twins. We did not live geographically close to my grandma, so my memories of her are from the visits she would have with us – and the packages that would arrive in the mail – full of new hand sewn clothing, or quilts that she would make for us – I still have a quilt she made and sent when I was 5 years old.  The quilt is well worn because we actually used these quilts as blankets and not as show pieces as they may be thought of today.

There is much to say about her – resourceful and resilient – she raised a family both in the city and on a farm and during tough financial times.  She lost her last two babies (second set of twins) when they were just a few days old – a very difficult time for her. She was a wonderful cook – and taught my mom so much when my mom was first married.  She was hospitable and generous  – always had an open door policy and all were always welcome for dinner – my dad tells stories of people coming in and out of their home – and I have heard dozens and dozens of stories of how the Buffam household was where the party was – everyone always wanted to be invited.  It was always homespun – it didn’t have to be fancy in order to open your table to more guests – everyone was always welcome to join just as they were – she would always just set another place at the table.

Grandma baked, and sewed, and gardened, and canned and preserved and did all of those things that Martha Stewart holds dear.  And she passed these things on to her children and in turn her grandchildren, although I don’t think for a minute we do what she did as far as domestic pursuits.

She was married to my grandpa, a minister – and back in those days there was not salary enough in that job to be able to keep a house and a family going – and thus the farm that helped to subsidize the household income.  My dad tells farm stories – in fact it is a bit of a trademark for him – we were raised on these stories – we would beg for him to tell  us a new farm story at bedtime.  There are many friends who have heard these stories, and whose children have heard these stories – and there was always a lesson in them it seems – or at least my dad always found a lesson in them!

My grandma was a liberated woman for her day – a school teacher and a leader – she was strong – and didn’t let any grass grow under her feet – and she was straight forward – she would tell you what she thought.

My dad tells the story of Aunt Belle  – she lived with them for a time period when my dad was a youngster. She would help grandma with the twins when they were born – her focus was on my dad and grandma would focus on his twin sister Gladys. Aunt Belle was also a tell it like it is woman – family trait I guess – didn’t have a soft spot for spiritual things as did my grandpa and grandma.  But she was always surrounded by it.  My grandma would finish a task and say “thank the Lord that is done” and Aunt Belle would say “thank the Lord nothing …you did it yourself” – and my grandma would respond “Aunt Belle….there will come a time when you will want to thank the Lord too”.  I’m not sure if she ever did or not but I’m sure you could not live with my grandparents for long without having a real sense of their beliefs.  When we were cleaning out my parents home we came across a pair of mittens that belonged to Aunt Belle – in fact I think she knit them.

I brought them home and in this very cold winter have been wearing them.  They are the most interesting mittens – they have a thumb and an index finger!  I love that they belonged to Aunt Belle!

My Grandma was very creative – and started to dabble in oil painting  – in fact she so often would bring her paints and canvas when she visited and we would have so much fun not only watching her, but she would set us up with canvas and paints and teach us to paint!  What fun!  I can still remember the smell of the oil paints and it brings such great memories!  I loved painting with her – it awoke the spark of creativity – or fed the flame of it!  Thank you Grandma!

I have a few of my grandma’s paintings in my home – and love the fact that not only were these painted by her – but they were also in my parents home for a time as well.  I know – I love my traditions!

This is a painting that she did especially for me – I love the colour of the background – and guess what – flowers – who would have thought!

The best thing about my grandmother’s oil painting?  She began to do this later in life – what an inspiration – it is never NEVER too late to take on something new and to follow a passion!  Thank you Grandma for inspiring me!  Beautiful!

Traditions II

Family Traditions …..weddings of the past….

Recently I posted a picture of three generations of wedding dresses – a picture taken at the time of my niece Laura’s wedding.

As a quick follow up I thought I would post pictures from those weddings….and here they are.

My mom and dad were married well over 50 years ago… the wedding was simple but elegant..or so the pictures show..I was not there of course ….her dress very beautiful….and her bouquet a gorgeous bundle of red roses had satin ribbons trailing down with tiny rosebuds tied on the ends…it was more beautiful than any bouquet I have ever seen.  My dad always wears a suits well …still does to this day.  This was a very fine made suit from my uncle Wilf’s store – and my Aunt Lena altered my mom’s dress – the lace inset with the satin scalloped edging was her design and handiwork  – and in my opinion this makes the dress.  Such a handsome couple!

My sister Carol was married close to 25 years ago….her dress very similar in style to moms…a modern version…or should I say a later version as it was 25 years ago!  She carried a bundle of white roses and asked for white trailing ribbons with rosebuds tied on the ends just like mom had done….traditions are so important and although others would not know of this nod to the past our mother did….and that is what was important.

I remember so well making her veil and completing it the night before….crazy we were! Such an 80’s style veil and the hair as well!  But very beautiful she was….and still is!

And my sister Sandra, married in the era of the hats …. very trendy….she made her own wedding dress ….and it was perfection….she is an excellent seamstress….no doubt about it.  And she was a very beautiful bride…as you can see!

It is always fun to take a walk down memory lane….beautiful memories!