December 27, 2011

Like A Bird

Like our beautiful backyard birds (in this case the cardinal), we will be flitting from house to house and feeder to feeder in the days ahead.  I'm not sure if I will be posting.

I hope you all continue to enjoy your holidays and are able to spend time with family and friends. I am looking forward to a wonderfully creative new year. I wish you all the same. I can't wait to get back to my paintbox. :)

(The photo was taken by my daughter Chloé.)

December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

December 24, 2011

Winter Wonderland

I was feeling a lot of pre-holiday stress yesterday and decided to take a short walk with Meeko in the forest at the end of our street. We can't walk there except in wintertime because it is very swampy.  So it was our first walk there this winter. There wasn't another footprint except for rabbit and deer tracks.  We weren't able to go the whole way because it's still not entirely frozen, but what we saw was magical and I wanted to share these photos with you.  The walk transformed the way I was feeling. I hope it helps you too.

This is where we had to stop. You can see Meeko is looking a little wistful.

This week has definitely included all kinds of stress. My Mom had surgery on Wednesday but is now home and is doing really well. If she is feeling up to it, our whole family will be travelling next week to have a late Christmas dinner with her. The mother of a very dear friend is also in hospital this week.  My heart is with her and her family. I know of other families dealing with difficult situations and I am thinking about them too.

I hope I say this right. I really didn't know what this blog would do for me when I started it.  I began it mainly as a way to make sure I kept painting.  I'm not sure that I expected so many visitors from around the world--really nice people. There have been encouraging words about my paintings, nice words about my developing photography skills, thoughtful words (and rainbows!) for my Mom, shared feelings and thoughts about gardens, dogs, food, art, children, music, computers, cameras, rocks, rain and many things.  I have visited many of your blogs and been inspired by your art, your photos, your homes and your lives.  Somehow this blogging experience that started out feeling scary, cold and impersonal has turned out to be quite the opposite. I have a sense of community with people that has nothing to do with where I live. I have friendships with people I've never met. It has given me a sense of the world being a smaller, kinder place and I like that very much.
Kathleen xx 

December 23, 2011

Christmas is Near

On Wednesday night, we had this--freezing rain.
Difficult for walking and driving but pretty for photos
This morning, we woke to a blanket of snow. :)
Enough to cover the grass...finally!
And make a certain dog named Meeko very happy. He reminds me of a rabbit when he runs.
The decorations are up. This one made Meeko bark. He doesn't like change.
I went with simpler decorations this year.
A lot stayed in their boxes.
This always comes out.  Beautiful  Mexican crêche figures--a gift from my sister Nancy years ago.
Why is it that the funny little decorations tug at your heart?
I made this reindeer out of toilet paper rolls, paint and twigs
with my daughter Emma when she was three. I still love it.
A little indoor ice
And some indoor warmth

Warm wishes to everyone in their holidays preparations and celebrations. 
To all of my blog readers
near and far, 
to friends, to family--a big holiday hug.  ♥   

December 20, 2011

Family Traditions

You know you are dealing with a family with a serious baking habit when you see 10 kg (22 lb) flour bags on the counter.  Both of my daughters bake regularly, but the past few days it has been me up to my elbows in flour.

I am making our tourtières as I have done every year for the past 24 years--in honour of my husband's French-Canadian traditions.

I always make more than one type and make enough to share with my own family in Ontario as they have grown to love these tasty pies.  With a salad and condiment, a tourtière can be a lovely and simple winter dinner. We like a non-traditional choice of condiment--Indian chutney.  My husband's childhood choice was Heinz ketchup.

This year I am making three kinds: a meat and potato combination, a savoury veal-pork pie and a vegetarian version (with tvp) for my eldest daughter.  I love to decorate them with cut-out pastry, so each has its own personality.  The dove-decorated one is my favourite so far. I have four made and have five to go.

I actually had made tourtière before I met my husband as I was always interested in French Canada and used to watch a show by a French-Canadian chef Jehane Benoît when I was a teenager--not the interest of every young girl growing up in Toronto.  I studied French in high school and university. In fact, I am the only bilingual member of my family, although I still have an anglophone accent all these years later.

I wonder how many of you make foods that honour more than one Christmas tradition in your family.

December 18, 2011

My Letter to Santa is Answered

Santa sent an early gift--a bit of sunshine and a whisper of snow.  I must have been a good girl this year.  I certainly tried. And there is more in the forecast for this week. :)

It wasn't enough to make snow angels but it was enough for snow pictures.

Chloé made the two pictures above. The rainbow is for her grandmother.

Meeko ran in circles until he had to lie down.  He also had a mouthful or two because snow isn't just fun to run in, it's good to eat!

I hope there is snow in your forecast this week whether outside your window or in your holiday dreams.

December 15, 2011

Do we have to make our own?

First of all, it is so dark today that our exterior Christmas lights turned on at 9:30 a.m. this morning!  They are on a timer with a light sensor and usually go on at about 4:00 p.m. when the afternoon light starts to fade.

And, then, to top it off it is raining. No, not raining. Pouring. All day long. Remember when I posted about loving the rain a couple of months ago?  Well, I don't when it's December 15th and dark and cold and Christmas is only a week away.

So what do you do when the snowflakes are lacking?  I guess you make your own.  I found the paper snowflakes by the computer upstairs. Emma was making them in between homework assignments. If she didn't have so much to do still at school, I would commission her to make me a whole backyard of paper snowflakes! I found some snow in my kitchen cupboard--coarse salt. (Thanks for the idea Sonia!)

Next, I gathered all of the winter paintings I could find.  Some of the paintings I did a long time ago.  The tiny blue one was done earlier this year.  It was one of those magical winter mornings when the trees, shrubs and perennials were all covered by snow.  The dried queen anne's lace stems looked like they were each tenderly holding their own snowball.  Wouldn't it be lovely to wake up to one of those mornings sometime soon?

Dear Santa, 

I don't want a lot for Christmas.
Just a little bit of sunshine and a few snowflakes please.

Love, Kathleen xx

December 14, 2011

Christmas Spirit

This is a hard thing to say but I have a love and hate relationship with Christmas. I love it. I truly do. But there are moments and even some days when I hate it.  Those are the days when I feel that I am totally behind in my preparations, when I feel that my list of things to do will never get done (it never does), when I worry about traveling in bad conditions (our families are not nearby) and when everything else in life is preoccupying me.

Maybe that's why I love the movie 'National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation' with Chevy Chase so much.  I can really identify with his attempts at creating a perfect Christmas for his family.

One solution is definitely to try and do less.  I suppose scaled-down preparations, fewer presents and a less grumpy mother at Christmas could be a gift. :) Also to concentrate on what's truly important.

We do have our tree up now and it is exquisitely beautiful--I think our nicest yet. We go and cut our tree down each year, a tradition started a long time ago by my Mom and Dad.
Somehow we managed to find the time amid school projects, commitments and my husband's insane work schedule to cut our tree down on Sunday.
The decorations aren't quite finished so the boxes are still out. My elves go to high school during the day.
Did I mention that my elves are pretty?
Actually pretty goofy. :)
I own over 1200 Christmas songs.  (So you see that I do love Christmas.)  I listen to all sorts of genres.  Here's a song that I keep playing lately.  It's by a Canadian country singer named Jessie Farrell.  The song is called 'Christmas in My House'. The message is a good one for people like me.

Another song that I really love is by American singer/songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter. It's called 'Christmas Carol' and it's from her album 'Come Darkness, Come Light'.  There's a sad undertone to it but it's really quite beautiful. It's a song about trying to reconcile her sense of Christmas as an adult with fuzzy childhood memories, commercialism, environmental change and world events. I couldn't find a video of it  but here are the lyrics and I encourage you to buy her song and listen to the lovely lyrics along with her soothing voice.

The week before Thanksgiving Day 
This town puts up its old display 
Streetlights hung with candy canes and bows 
The earlier it gets each year 
The scarcer is my Christmas cheer 
I guess I just like taking these things slow 

I really don't remember much 
Of Christmases growing up 
Except the year the Beatles came to play 
On my record player that came from Sears 
That White Album filled my ears 
In 1968 on Christmas Day.

I haven't been to church since God knows when 
I'm not someone who usually attends 
Truth be told there's just two wishes 
On my list every Christmas 
Peace on earth and a snow storm now and then

Now I pray that peace comes in our time 
It's hard enough to keep from crying 
When every bit of news just breaks your heart 
The same old stories, same old songs 
We dust them off when Christmas comes 
And for one day we just try to do our part 

And around here winter seems to come 
With rain and mud and bits of sun 
It's not exactly Currier and Ives
I don't mind cold if it brings snow 
Alberta Clippers come and go 
But a dusting would make everything all right

Perhaps a Christmas eve from long ago 
Delivered Christmas day with knee-high snow 
It's something lost but not forgotten 
Like candy hidden in a stocking 
That makes me every year wish it were so 

Because Christmas is for children's joy 
For every single girl and boy 
That's the truth we come to understand 
But the memories that don't let go 
Like Beatles songs and falling snow 
Can make us feel innocent again 

And maybe next year we won't go insane 
When they rush to hang the bows and candy canes 
Because peace will shine in me and you 
From Bethlehem to Timbuktu 
Even if the forecast is for rain 

Because peace will shine in me and you
From Bethlehem to Timbuktu 
Even if the forecast is for rain

Here's hoping that you find whatever makes sense to you as the Christmas spirit in the days ahead, no matter what is happening in your life or the world around you. 

December 12, 2011

For Ginger

Well I guess life won't throw you one curve ball when it can throw you two.  I got a very sad email from my parents saying that they had to say goodbye to their 12-year-old (almost 13) Golden Retriever today.  Ginger was operated on this past summer for a tumour and bounced back rather beautifully. Unfortunately it returned recently and in a way that did not leave treatment options.

You know the old adage 'A picture is worth a thousand words'? You just have to look at the above photos sent by my Mom and Dad to know the dog that Ginger was.
Ginger was a gentle soul, a worrier (oh my, did she worry) and a devoted companion.  She was beside herself when my father went anywhere without her. She did not like when anyone was in the lake--kind of a difficult attitude for a cottage dog. She loved her people and they loved her. She liked being with the other dogs whenever there were family gatherings and was always a very gracious host.

Ginger and I developed a special bond this past summer when she realized that I always have dog treats in my pockets (a necessity for the owner of a wayward puppy).  All of a sudden, she was trying to outspeed the younger family dogs when I asked for a 'Sit' or 'Lie Down'.  It was pretty cute.

Marlowe, Ginger and Meeko.  Not in the photo: Mabel.
A huge hug to my Mom, Dad and sister Karen.  Ginger was so loved and well cared for.

And if they could be there with you right now to offer a little canine comfort, I know that her buddies Meeko, Marlowe (my brother's family dog) and Mabel (my sister's family dog) would be.

I think it is hard to hear of a pet dying without feeling the weight of all past pets.  So in this moment, my thoughts are with Ginger but also our childhood dogs Peppi, Mitzi and Toby, my cat Mackenzie King and my sister Karen's cat Whiskers.  I give thanks to all pets everywhere for the wonderful comfort and companionship they bring us.

Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened.
Anatole France

*  *  *  *  *

I wanted to close this post with four lovely photos kindly sent to me by Émilie who is from Brittany, France. As she said, these rainbows are not in the sky but they are beautiful all the same. Beautiful indeed.

Mucha stained glass in Prague, Czech Republic
Windows in Manchester cathedral
Painted horse in Rotterdam
Cathedral in Jumièges, Normandie
When I look at these photos, they say to me that rainbows are all around us.  We just have to look for them to find them.  And I guess on some days it may be a little harder to see them.  Merci Émilie!

Thank you to all my blog readers for your kindness and thoughtfulness. You warm my heart.

December 9, 2011

Walking in the Snowflakes

Mister Meeko and I went for a walk in the snowflakes.  It's quite mild today, so the walk was a little bit wet but quite enjoyable.  Very pretty too.

It didn't start out entirely smoothly. I got to the park and realized that my camera didn't have a memory card in it so we went back to the house.  I'm so absentminded lately. Meeko was a little surprised to be returning home so quickly.

Mr. Snowflake.  Did anyone notice the little hair trim in time for Christmas?
Once I had my memory card, I took quite a few photos.  Unfortunately, I couldn't use about half of them as they were out of focus.  Yes, I forgot to bring my glasses again. It's also complicated taking photos with a dog on a leash. Meeko is very good about stopping.  He's getting used to that.  But while I am taking my time composing my photo, he's thinking, 'While she's doing this, why don't I just go waaaay over here and sniff that.'

I did manage to get quite a few pretty photos.  In a few photos, you can see white lines.  They are the snowflakes falling.

The one below is without a doubt my favourite. I guess those are snowflake drops? It wasn't raining.

And finally, we got back from our snowy, wet walk.  Both Meeko and I have naturally curly hair that gets curlier when it is rainy or snowy. (I guess owners do resemble their dogs!) Here's my curly boy at the end of our walk.  You're just going to have to imagine what I looked like. :)

The photo is a little hazy as by this time my lens was a bit wet!
Have a good weekend in the sun or the snow, the warm or the cold, depending on where you live!


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