Friday, December 31, 2010

A Mother's Perspective

When I retired from teaching a few years ago, my then 89-year-old mother was visibly disappointed...

It makes me feel old to have a daughter who is retired, she tells me.

Well, I've taken early retirement, I remind her.

She's adjusted to my retirement now. But as my birthday looms, the birthday when the government deems me old enough to receive an "old age" pension, I ask my mother if she needs anything at the drug store. I'm planning to go there on "Seniors Day."

But you're not old enough to get a seniors' discount, she tells me indignantly, as though being a senior is a right only she can claim.

I want to laugh, but instead I say: You only have to be 55 to get it.

Should I be concerned? Or thankful?

Thankful that however old I get, there is one person who thinks I'm still young!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

RIGHT isn't the same as PERFECT

How do you know you are marrying the right person? I once asked a friend who was engaged.

(Young and single at the time, I was determined to learn all I could...)

She looked at me for a moment, then replied: I don't believe there is a Mr. Right... There are probably a large number of men in this world I could be happy with... But I've decided to marry this man.

I stared at her in disbelief: I was looking for Mr. Right!

Where did my idea of "Mr. Right" come from?

Was it from meeting so many nice men I instinctively knew were NOT "Mr Right" ... for me?!

Or was it the novels I had read as a child... and the movies I had seen... love stories where the hero and heroine found true soul mates. The RIGHT one was so obviously RIGHT!

I felt that God might have some certain person for me to marry - and I prayed about it from time to time. Not everyone in my church agreed with me though. I remember discussing this with a 50-something-year-old bachelor who emphatically stated that God was NOT concerned about UNIMPORTANT things like marriage.

I would never pray about marriage, he sputtered. I only pray about IMPORTANT issues...

Like what? I remember asking.

Like world peace and world hunger... things like that.

I thought a lot about what he said. And I looked at his life...

I eventually came to the conclusion that the personality and character of the person with whom I would spend my life, the person who would join me in setting the tone of my home, and in raising my children was extremely important... In fact, he would be my children's role model for life!

There was also a Biblical example, a story in the Bible where God helped someone find THE ONE.

The story puzzled me though: a servant was sent to find a wife for his master's son. He prayed for a sign, so as not to err ... and God pointed him to THE ONE. Amazingly, this young girl agreed to go off with him, a stranger she had never met before...

What bothered me was the second part of the story... Although God had clearly chosen the young man's wife, later in life, conflict arose between the couple. Parents of twin boys, each favored a different child and got caught up in the boys' sibling rivalry. In the end, the family was sadly divided...

My question was: If God chose the two to be RIGHT for each other, why were they in conflict? Shouldn't MR AND MRS RIGHT have a PERFECT marriage?!

Now, after many years of marriage, I think that the answer is that MARRIAGE ISN'T A DESTINATION, IT'S A JOURNEY... a journey that requires people make thoughtful choices, not only before they decide to get married, but also throughout their married life...

Like my parents, who loved each other but were very different. They struggled through much of their married life, each wishing that the other were more like them... But during the last 20 years of their 50-year marriage journey, they found true happiness in each other. The key that transformed their marriage was their conscious effort to avoid criticism and show appreciation every day.

And what about my friend - the one who said she didn't believe there was a "Mr. Right"?

A few years ago, our paths crossed again. Grandparents now, both she and her husband were doing well. Their life has had its share of tragedy: one of their three children died in a traffic accident... But she and her husband were still together, and they looked happy...

I can only assume that, not necessarily looking for MR. RIGHT, she had nonetheless made the RIGHT choice!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Online Prayer Resource

I read recently about a multi-faith website called Spirituality and Practice.

I went to it, looking for articles on prayer. I had read that the site had an e-course on prayer using scripture, a practice I find helpful. Was there more for me to learn?

Instead, I found myself turning to a meditation on simplicity! Maybe that is what I need to think about during these winter months when I spend so much time indoors! (Clutter - physical and mental - has been a recurrent topic on my blogs, as I do yearn for a measure of simplicity!)

Here is the link, in case anyone else feels an inner urge to reflect on simplifying his or her life...

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Creating a Personal Travel Souvenir

Problem: Now that I take digital pictures, I rarely print them up or have them developed. Instead, I upload them to a memory stick and view them on the computer. But hidden away in digital form, they are all too often forgotten. I haven't created a photo album for years. (Which is a pity...)

That may soon change.

Before booking my recent trip to London, England, I did a lot of online research, using the Trip Advisor website. So after returning home, I posted a review of the hotel we had stayed in. We were very happy with our choice - and since people usually only write to complain about bad experiences, I thought a positive hotel review could be helpful to others, like me.

After uploading my review, I was pleasantly surprised to receive an online gift coupon for a 20-page photobook from Shutterfly (an online photo developing company in the US). I would only have to pay for shipping - and any extra pages I decided to put in the book.

I quickly decided to take up the offer. Uploading and arranging the photographs was fun.

I was even able to use photos on the front and back covers of the book... which arrived a few days ago.

Now I am thinking of creating picture books of other memorable vacations I have taken!

Monday, December 27, 2010

FRENCH toast?

CANADIAN bacon - in Canada - is called "back bacon."

FRENCH toast - in France - is "grilled bread" (pain grillé).

In FRENCH Canada, it's known as "golden bread" (pain doré).

My Afghani students laughed when I told them that a knitted or crocheted blanket was called an "afghan."

they wanted to know... I had no idea. Were they originally made from yarn from AFGHANISTAN? (Just as cashmere sweaters were named after wool from nearby KASHMIR.)

In Hebrew, turkeys are called "INDIA chickens."

I asked a Turkish student what turkeys are called in Turkey. He also replied: "INDIA chickens."

I wonder what "INDIA chickens" (turkeys) are called in INDIA...

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas in New Zealand

A Christmas card from a friend in New Zealand reminded me that some places have warm... even HOT Christmases!

Now, wouldn't that be nice?!

Saturday, December 25, 2010


Two of the books I am currently reading have struck a similar note: a call to celebrate.

In her book, Knit Together, subtitled Discover God's Pattern for Your Life, author Debbie Macomber talks about the importance of having a mission statement and goals. She then encourages the celebration of every small success...

(I have been reading her book slowly, as I reflect on what my goal and mission can be at this stage of life..)

In another refreshing book, eat the the shoes, subtitled Giving Yourself Permission to Lighten Up, religious writer Joyce Meyer talks about her tendency to be serious. So, for many years she was reluctant to celebrate her birthday... Like many of us, she let the day slide by. But around the time she began writing this book, she realized that celebrating her birthday was a way of expressing thanks to God for His gift of life and provision over the years. So she celebrated, privately and with family and friends, for a week, giving herself permission to do as much or as little as she wanted... And in the end she felt refreshed by having given herself permission to relax and be happy...

So, at this season of the year - and at this season of life - as I look at the Christmas tree and its many gifts - I am reminded that the true gifts are the family, friends and faith God has given me.

So I am thankful for Christmas and its tradition of giving gifts - because it reminds that everything I have - family, friends and faith - is a gift from God!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Mug Rugs

I have had a lot of fun this past week creating Christmas "mug rugs" out of scraps of fabric left over from one of my first quilting projects: this Christmas runner.

This particular design called for more than half a dozen different fabrics. So for many years I've had the leftover scraps sitting in a bin downstairs.

It was fun to see the scraps disappear as I created random designs.

My quilting did take me away from other tasks - like sending Christmas cards. (Why does the month before Christmas seem to fly by?!)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

These Shorter Days

One of the harder things about winter (for me) are the shortened hours of sunlight.

At 7 am, there is a pinkish-bluish tinge in the horizon...

The sun is beginning to rise...

At 7:30, it's still gray. In my working days, this is when I would arrive at work.

By 8 am, it is light...

But daylight is short lived... Eight and a half hours later, the sky becomes dark again.

At 4:30 pm.the sun is disappearing...

By 4:45 in the afternoon, indoor lights are on! (In my working days, this is when I would arrive home...)

Little wonder I felt that winter days passed me by!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A New Crochet Project

Working on the "mystery" afghan project got me crocheting again... So when I saw another free pattern online, for an afghan made of variegated and plain yarn, I thought I'd love to try...

I have completed a few squares...

But the rest may have to wait till Christmas is over.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

My Favorite Kind of Christmas Shopping

When I was a child, I used to spend hours looking through Sears and Eaton's catalogs - choosing the perfect gifts for myself and others...

I could never afford them, of course - but I loved to dream.

Nowadays I do a different kind of "dreaming" about gifts: Terry never knows what to give me for Christmas, so I solve the problem for him - I shop online ...for myself!

When the gift arrives, I wrap it - unopened.

So we both are surprised on Christmas morning!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Mystery Afghan: DONE!

I finally finished the Mystery Afghan that I started in September...

Does it vaguely resemble the original pattern?!

I wanted to finish it before Christmas! And it's a little bigger than I expected.

The lesson I have learned from all this is that, if I were to do another "mystery" afghan (where I don't know what it will look like in the end), I would include fewer colors of yarn! But initially, I was using up scraps...

I did use up a lot of yarn I had lying around before having to purchase more.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

What is Sabbath Rest?

One of the Christian disciplines I have struggled with over the years is keeping the 4th commandment: Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. (I have written about it before.)

It is very counter-culture to rest on the Sabbath (whether our Sabbath is Saturday or Sunday). I am guilty of treating the 4th commandment more like a suggestion than a rule or a guiding principle...

But in the Bible this commandment seems pretty serious. When it is first mentioned in Genesis (chapter 20, verses 8-11), it is followed with an explanation:

Six days you shall labor, and do all your work,
but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God.
On it you shall not do any work,
you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates.
For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day.
Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

When this same commandment is mentioned again in the book of Exodus, a consequence or punishment has been added.

(I can almost hear an impatient Moses answering - for the umpteenth time - "Yes, this is a serious commandment... Don't mess with it! Let me tell you how serious..."

You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you.
Everyone who profanes it shall be put to death.
Whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people.
Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the LORD.
Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death.
Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever.
It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.

I actually wasn't planning to get this heavy when I started this post... I had forgotten just how harsh Moses' words in Exodus were!

But to get back to what I was originally planning to say, it has always been hard for me to differentiate between rest and work...

I remember, as a teenager, having a lively discussion with my Sunday School teacher about whether playing baseball or going to the beach on Sundays (to relax with friends) was, in fact, keeping the Sabbath holy. What about doing homework and studying?! That was work!

I also remember my mother and I debating whether knitting was relaxation or work! I considered it a hobby - and therefore, relaxing - but my mother told me: My father would have considered it work and would have forbidden it.

I reasoned: In a day and age when you had to make all your clothing, maybe it was work. But for me, knitting, like drawing or painting a picture, was a relaxing pastime.

On my last trip to Israel, visiting Jewish friends on the Sabbath, I was reminded of what an observant Jew would consider as work on the Sabbath: ringing a doorbell (but not knocking), answering the phone, writing anything - and, of course, cooking (but not removing food or dirty dishes from the table)...

Observing the Sabbath Day of Rest has never been easy! (There seem to be so many rules!)

So - after all these years - I still struggle with the question of What is work?

Six days a week, I would have no problem saying what part of my day is work... But on Sunday (my Sabbath) - trying to do nothing but relax, THE ACT OF RELAXING ironically, suddenly becomes HARD WORK!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

People Who Make Their Beds...

Terry reads the newspaper from cover to cover every morning - and from the living room lazy boy, occasionally tosses comments at me across the room: information he thinks I should know...

One such recent comment referred to bed making, a chore I've never really liked. Perhaps it was the "hospital corners" my mother insisted on (in those days before fitted sheets). Perhaps it was straightening all the layers of bedding, topping them with a bed spread that needed to be wrinkle-free. I remember my mother's daily reminders to make my bed! And the ultimate bribe: You can go out to play when your bed is made... (Occasionally re-worded as a threat: You can't go out to play until your bed is made!)

These days, however, bed making doesn't seem like such a chore. And most days I actually look forward to making my bed: If the rest of the house is untidy, at least a hastily-made bed makes me feel that I am still in control of my life! (And I really have no idea why!)

So this morning, as I quickly spread the winter duvet over the sheets - an easy task - I remembered that Terry had recently shared some random information about people who make their beds...

But what was it? I remember laughing as we discussed this strange statistic....

Do you remember what you read about people who make their beds? I asked Terry, secretly hoping it was that they were smarter or more organized... or, better still, had better memories...

People who make their beds are cuter, he replied with a smile...

No, really...

Don't you remember?! ...People who make their beds... live longer!

(Really?! ... I wonder where that idea came from!)

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Special Treat

View from Parliament Hill in Ottawa...

I often walk near Parliament Hill - the seat of Canada's federal government - but I don't usually go inside the buildings... (There are free tours, but I haven't taken one in years!)

Recently, however, I was invited to breakfast in one of the Parliamentary dining rooms...

I felt a little out of place in these elegant surroundings, here in my city... yet a world away from my daily life!

(I suppose every city has different "worlds.")

As I returned to mine, I couldn't help but notice that here on Parliament Hill, they had construction woes too! (That's something we have in common!)

There goes the sidewalk!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Mug Rugs

A few weeks ago, I made a few Christmas coasters...

Now I have discovered a new concept: mug rugs. Slightly larger than coasters, but smaller than place mats, they are big enough for a mug plus a cookie or two!

Now that I've heard about them, I see them all around on Flickr and quilting blogs...

There was even a mug rug swap on Flickr!

Must try - perhaps with some unfinished squares I didn't know what to do with! I'll have to look for suggested dimensions... This blog shows how they are made - looks like they are about 13 inches by 6.5 inches before they are sewn - so they would probably be about 6 inches by 12 inches finished!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Mystery Afghan Update

I am trying to finish my "mystery" afghan and move on to other things... (I have some new crafting ideas on my mind!)

It's not my favorite kind of weather, so I may as well do creative things indoors!

After completing most of the squares, I broke away from the original "mystery" afghan pattern and created two afghans ...

The first one is finished, though I may need to add more border...

Now I'm working on the second one...

It has taken a while for me to figure out how I want the squares to go...

But now I think I have it. I have decided to add a border of black around each piece, to make the joining more seamless...

Only 8 more small squares to sew together before it's done.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Virginia Johnson in London

It's always fun to encounter "fellow Canadians" when out of the country.

I've never met designer Virginia Johnson, but I've shopped in her Toronto store...

So when I came across a display of her scarves in Liberty of London, I felt Canada-proud!

Monday, December 13, 2010

It's Been A Year...

It's been a year since I underwent PKR Laser eye surgery to correct astigmatism and near sightedness... I now have 20/20 vision in my right eye - a little less in my left.

The first month was full of uncertainty - but now everything is healed - and I am REALLY HAPPY that I had it done!

A year ago I wore bi-focals that cost hundreds of dollars to replace (once I made them extra thin and added non-glare coating)...

Now I buy cheap reading glasses... I have half a dozen pair lying around the house! My latest $4 investment have a leopard-skin look and sequins on the side - so I affectionately refer to them as my Dame Edna glasses!

(My only doubt now is whether I should have had one eye under-corrected for reading... But since I didn't know how the surgery would turn out - everyone heals a little differently - it seemed too much of a risk at the time!)

Now - if anyone asks about laser eye surgery - I always say: DO IT! It's definitely worth it!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Memorable Sermon

I hear a lot of sermons in any given year, given that I go to church most Sundays... And although I believe that I learn something from most sermons - even those I can't remember by the end of the service... I have heard a very few memorable ones... Those that I not only remember, but reflect on long after Sunday is over.

I heard one such memorable sermon last Sunday - in it George (our minister) talked about death and judgment. Those aren't hot topics in my sermon list! But this sermon wasn't full of fire and brimstone... In fact, it reminded me that I need to seek true intimacy with those I love, as well as with God.

So if you haven't heard a really good sermon recently, I offer you this one.

(As one friend commented, I don't always agree with what George says, but he always makes me think.)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Yes, We Do Have Snow...

Winter has finally arrived, before Christmas, making some happy.

Personally, I have no problem with a green Christmas!

The weather is colder too, so the snow will probably stay!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Adding Fiber...

Adding fiber to my diet is something I only became aware of when diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, about five years ago. My doctor sent me for a course on managing diabetes - and one of the interesting things I learned about carbohydrates (which turn to sugar in the blood) is that they are offset by the fiber we eat.

(I also discovered - as I tried to increase my fiber intake - that I have a hard time digesting certain types of fiber... such as ground flax seed. But that is another story!)

So I was pleasantly surprised last week to discover a FREE online guide to increasing one's fiber intake... Originally printed as a book, The Full Plate Diet is now available for FREE downloading!

I printed the whole book, though I could have browsed through it and chosen only relevant pages (not pictures of smiling people or pages of credits at the end). One of the most useful pages to look at - and print for easy reference - is the list of Top 55 Fiber Foods (page 159).

Now I am reading through it, and as I do, I put some pages in a binder and others in a recipe folder.

Still others have ended up on my fridge door - as reminders of what I should be eating more often.

So, my plan (in a nutshell) is to eat more high fiber foods, especially fruits and veggies. (I have discovered, for example, that avocado and broccoli top the veggie list. And that raspberries and blackberries top the fruit...) I'll keep monitoring my daily blood sugar levels - I do a daily test before eating anything every morning.

Then I'll wait and see what happens: Hopefully my blood sugar levels will improve!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

When Did It Happen??!

I recently came across some of my children's elementary school pictures. Examining them, I tried for a moment to recapture the sense of who they were then - seeds of their present adult selves. It's hard to remember all the stages...

Then not long afterward, I was sent this 85-second video clip of a baby changing into a 10-year-old.

Now that I'm looking back, my children's childhood years seem to have passed just as quickly!

Thanks, Ayalah, for passing it on!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Hanukkah Song

Hannukah is a Jewish feast celebrated more elaborately in North America than in Israel, where - for me - it slipped by barely noticed as there were no days off work or school...

There were jelly donuts (called sufganiot in Hebrew) and potato pancakes (latkes) to eat... (food fried in oil - as this is the celebration of the miracle of a day's supply of oil in the temple miraculously lasting 8 days.) This occurred when Jerusalem was under siege, about 100 years before the birth of Jesus.

Hannukah is not mentioned in the New Testament - at least, not by that name - so Christians normally don't know a lot about it. However there is a reference to Hannukah in the New Testament - in John 10:22 it is referred to as the Feast of Dedication - another name for Hannukah. Jesus observed it. (Thanks, RM, for that bit of information.)

This year, Hannukah ends on December 9 - the holiday follows the Jewish calendar... But before it ends, I thought I'd pass on this new Hannukah song... Its catchy tune keeps going around in my head!

(The singers are an a cappella group from Yeshiva University in New York City.)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

All So Different!

I don't know why I expected to have children that resembled me - in appearance and/or lifestyle... I don't look a lot like my mother, and although we share some interests - like travel and crafts... (And we both were drawn to the same profession, teaching) we are oh-so different!

Yet, strangely enough, I did expect my children to be a lot like me...

And, of course, they're not!

Daily I am reminded of this... Like this week, reading my son's blog about a movie I haven't seen, wondering how I (a non-sports non-opera fan) have a son who LOVES BOTH SPORTS AND OPERA!

But I did find it very interesting, so I share it here!

Monday, December 6, 2010

My Latest Sewing Accessory...

My latest sewing accessory is ...this topless thimble, a gift from a friend.

I had never seen one before - but I love it!

Thanks, Kendra!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

More Neighborhood Changes

Another house is moving from our neighborhood...

It's become an epidemic trend!

Before the first gaping hole on the block is filled with a new house... We'll have another gaping hole! Moving houses must be big business!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Fig Preserve

I was recently given a gift of fig and black currant preserve from Madeleines Cafe in Toronto... (The official name is Madeleines, Cherry Pie and Ice Cream). And I guess the madeleine referred to isn't the owner, but the dessert.

The preserve was delicious... Just as I remember it from my last visit.

It brought back memories of this quaint cafe - with its china tea cups - the friendly owner/chef and the breakfast we had there!

I think that the owner said that the figs were from British Columbia... I didn't know they grew figs in Canada!


Thank you Natalie and Aaron for the gift and the memory it brought back!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Rhubarb... In November?

My rhubarb begins to grow in May... and by the end of July it has died down again... Which is a pity, since I really love rhubarb.

I thought that all rhubarb was like that - an early spring harvest.

But walking in my neighborhood last week - the last week in November - I was surprised (even shocked) to see... rhubarb growing. Did the plant think that after one snowfall (that disappeared after a few days) spring was about to arrive?

Before I had an opportunity to take a picture, snow fell again - and it too has since melted...

I'd like to think that this little rhubarb plant knows something that I don't: namely, that we are going to have a mild winter... mild enough for rhubarb!

Now, that's the kind of Canadian winter I would truly LOVE!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Road Construction Update...

The construction is finished!!

It is such a pleasure driving down the street - without worrying about gaping holes or construction vehicles that might block the way!

(They are still working on the landscaping - hence the pile of dirt on the road...

You don't appreciate something until you lose it...!