A Good Home

Christmas Thanksgiving

Whether you celebrate Christmas, the Solstice, or another special/sacred time this December, I wish you joy, peace and good health.

Entry Hallway Table at Christmas

For our family, this is a sacred season. And fun. And a bit hectic with the cleaning up, the grocery shopping, the card-sending, the present-wrapping, the phone calls. And then comes a time of peace. A time of reflection and thanksgiving.

We give thanks for those who never stop working to make our lives easier – the nurses and other health workers in particular right now. The supermarket workers, the people who pick up our garbage and recycling, the postal workers, those who deliver packages. The faith leaders, the caring neighbours – people who never seem to stop helping others.

We thank those who work through the holidays to keep homeless people safe, to keep some families and individuals fed and cared for.

For our own family, friends and neighbours who are always there for us, even when they can’t be with us in person.

For my blogger friends – some who have helped bolster us with prayers and good wishes through challenging times.

For readers of my books – whether it’s the Myrtle the Purple Turtle books created by Lauren and me, or more recently, Twigs in My Hair, the gardening & nature memoir created by Hamlin Grange and myself. Thank you.

I wish you peace and joy this season. And good health – always good health.

I give thanks to God for this holy time. For the blessings that surround us.

The world may have seemed even scarier in recent times. But always – always – there is something and someone to be thankful for.

Merry Christmas! Happy holidays!

Cynthia.

A Good Home

The Un-Domestic Diva at Christmas

How hard could it be to make your own Christmas arrangement?  Looks easy enough in the magazines, and on the internet, right?

Christmas Arrangement - viaGoogle Images
Photo – via Google Images

It’s almost Christmas and I’m surrounded by women who cook and bake AND do great home decor. My sister, daughters, mother-in-law,  sister-in-law, girlfriends: domestic goddesses, every one.  Some even sew and knit.

I,  meanwhile, am a failed domestic diva.  I baked a cake – once.  I failed knitting – twice.  I try – Lord knows I try – but I’m still an exceptionally underachieving cook.

But it’s Christmastime, after all. A time of great hope.

Angel and Ball
Angel and Ball

So I decided to make Christmas stuff. The kind of stuff that won’t give my family indigestion,  catch fire and burn (as the solitary cake did), or that anyone needs to wear. (That sock I tried to knit is indescribable AND a family joke.)

In the past, I used branches from the trees in my garden,  tied together with a big red ribbon – and called it a Christmas bough. Hanging on the front door, it was only seen from a distance,  or when we had visitors. Very polite visitors.

But this year, I decided to go big or  ….  no, I was already home, so let’s forget the rest of that saying.  I decided to be ambitious.  To arrange greenery in containers. One in the plant-stand outdoors, one in a container indoors. Artfully composed,  of course.

Did I mention that I failed BOTH art and photography in school?  Something to do with composition.

Christmas Greenery
Christmas Greenery – First Muddled Attempt

I collected branches of everything that grew right next to the verandah of our home. I’m under a kind of house arrest, you see  – mandated by my doctor because I overdid it with the book-related activities and also started a new medication with woozy side-effects.  I figured that as long as I went no farther than the verandah, it would still qualify as “resting at home”.

I put a double layer of plastic in the bottom of the containers, and placed the wet florist foam on it. (The foam was wet, not the florist.) Then I stuck branches of stuff into it. Spruce. Juniper. Euonymus.   Boxwood. And pine cones on sticks. I stepped back to admire my handiwork.

It needed something.  Aha! More red dogwood sticks.

Blog Photo - Chirstmas Arrangement Outdoor

It still needed something.  But I was worn out and achy and very woozy.  I wisely took to my bed.

Two days later, I felt brighter. Contrast, I thought! I need contrast!

So I fetched some “brownery” –– brown-leaved branches from last Christmas, forgotten in a tall container in one corner of the verandah.  But when I cleverly tried to add them, the florist foam had frozen hard due to cold weather and the brownery crumbled, leaves falling from brittle stems.

I searched the house and found a little fake bird and some loose pine cones and judiciously placed them among the greenery.

Birdie Bird
Birdie Bird

But it still needed something. I just never  figured out what.

As for the inside container?  There was a coup de grace: garlic. Yes, garlic on stems.  Harvested from our garden this fall, it’s surprisingly decorative,  will deter vampires and spice up my cooking efforts after Christmas.

Garlic Bulb
Garlic Bulb

But that bit of creativity wore me out completely.  So I stuck some shiny red Christmas ornaments on branches in the container and called it a day.

Indoor Arrangement
Indoor Arrangement

PHOTOGRAPHS BY H. GRANGE

Lord, give me strength. Clearly, you withheld the talent.

~~

This post is dedicated to everyone who struggles with domestic arts. And to all domestic goddesses: you give me something to aspire to. Or maybe that’s ‘perspire’. 

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A Good Home

Autumnal Tasks (reblogged)

Autumn is here, rustling all of the leaves

Soon ’twill be time to take care of the eaves

Last time we didn’t, we paid a big price

The eavestroughs were clogged, a magnet for ice

~~

And speaking of leaves, I’ve had cause to wonder

Why don’t they stay near their trees over yonder?

Why does the wind blow them into our place

Why, when around them is so much free space?

Photo by Hamlin Grange

And speaking of wind, there’s a shutter gone loose

Far up near the roof, nearly high as the spruce

And if it should fall, it may land on our heads

Or just fly away as we sleep in our beds

~~

And speaking of beds, there’s the garden to tend

And errors we really must hasten to mend

Those wild strangling vines and the tough creeping Jenny

You put up with one and you end up with many.

~~

And speaking of errors, that tree we bought little

Has outgrown its place — but is fit as a fiddle

Too big to dig up but too nice to chop down

Which leaves us between both a smile and a frown

~~

And speaking of digging, some pesky wild thing

Has me gathering stones, and I’m ready to fling

It’s digging  our daffodil bulbs from the soil

It’s making a mockery of all our hard toil

~~

“You terrible wretch!” all my dignity’s lost

(Those bulbs must be planted before the hard frost)

“You do this once more and I’ll wring your foul neck!”

But Squirrel just smirks and says: “What the heck?”

Cynthia Reyes.

A Good Home

The Little School that Could

You may remember the village in Malawi that got its first school after a Jamaican-Canadian woman met a young Malawi vendor in a market in Cape Town, S. Africa and discovered that he yearned to become a teacher and educate his village.

Well, that young man Chimwemwe Musa (who goes by the name “Happy”) recently completed his teacher education and is now a fully qualified teacher! Guided and supported by the retired educator whom he met by chance in the Cape Town market, Happy and his community have been on a life-changing journey.

And the school that Kamala-Jean and Happy co-founded has kept growing and growing to educate not just the community’s children but also its adults.

Kamala-Jean and Happy

The women learned how to sew and now use their skills to make school uniforms and other clothing. And the men have been learning cabinet-making. Here are some of their creations:

I am happy to share this good news story because good news it is!

One of the things that have impressed me throughout is the respectful partnership between Kamala-Jean and Happy.

She’s been the one raising funds for these developments here in North America, while he’s often the one with the knowledge of what would work in his local community. Together they discuss the ideas for the development of Happy and his community, communicating often and listening to each other with trust and respect.

Congrats, Happy and Kamala-Jean!