I find myself hesitating, trying to find the right words. Is the greeting “Merry Christmas” still appropriate, during such a grim year?
My inspiration comes from my granddaughter, as I watch her picking herself up from falling, and setting forth once more with hope and determination towards a target.
She falters, wobbles, but never loses hope. She’s going to make it across the room. Way across the room to a favourite toy, to the ornaments and lights on the Christmas tree, to the loving outstretched arms of her parents or grandparents — or to the sleeping dog (who may or may not spy her just in time to make his escape before she grasps his ear or tail).
She is a bundle of hope, faith and perseverance. And every time she gets up or steadies herself, she’s filled with joy.
Our world may not be a very merry place this year. But this Christmas season – this tough Christmas season — I wish you hope, faith, perseverance and joy.
May the words become actions and may the actions create reality for each of us.
Trying hard to find “the Christmas spirit”, but I still haven’t found it. It usually lands in my heart just before Advent — but not this year. Must have something to do with missing loved ones and not going to church at all, due to the pandemic whose name I shall not call, except to say: “That damned pandemic!”
Yes – a person can both swear fervently and love going to church too.
So, to lift my spirits, I went searching for blog posts of last year and the year before – when I did have that Christmas spirit. Sharing this one with you now:
Here, for your viewing pleasure (I hope), are some images from our home in the week before Christmas. We started decorating a few weeks ago.
The thing above is our unusual Advent calendar.
Before Advent officially began (December 3 this year), we wrote notes/quotes and put them in the tiny drawers. Important reminders of love, slowing down and appreciating our blessings.
Next, we brought out an oldish but favourite Christmas book.
Inside are pop-up scenes marking the 12 days of Christmas, which traditionally don’t begin till December 25.
Then the tree got properly decorated…
Except for the lower branches. We ran out of lights, planned to replace them before adding more decorations, but forgot.
Then I assembled this centrepiece — using birch-bark candles by the talented artist Jean Long, pine cones, baubles, whatnots….
And Santa’s sleigh, of course.
Husband had already filled this very old basket with logs for the fire….
Finally, the table was set with Christmas plates ….
And then I apparently ruined the “tablescape”.
Husband asked: “What on earth is that?”
“Those are real autumn leaves and real fake berries,” I replied.
“Hmm,” he said.
I didn’t tell him I planned to replace the leaves with green sprigs. A woman must retain some mystery, after all.
Wishing you a good week before Christmas and – whatever your special celebrations or preparations — I wish you all the spirited best of the season. You may interpret “spirits” however you prefer.
This piece from a few years ago made me grin, so as we head towards what may well be a strange Christmas season for many, I wanted to make you smile too. If you laugh at me, that’s even better!
Photos by Hamlin Grange
How hard could it be to make your own Christmas arrangement? Looks easy enough in the magazines, and on the internet, right?
It’s almost Christmas and my family is full of women who cook and bakeAND 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’. This stuff is a lot of work!
Note from Cynthia: What a gift! Felicity Sidnell-Reid — author, poet, radio host and retired educator — reviewed not just one book, but all 4 in the Myrtle the Purple Turtle series for children. Huge thanks to Felicity and to Chris the Story Reading Ape, who first published this excellent review.
What makes a picture book special? Perhaps, in this case, it’s a “marriage of true minds” between two authors who love children and the bond they have developed with their illustrator, Jo Robinson.
The series is dedicated to building children’s self-esteem and confidence, achieving self-acceptance and celebrating difference. Myrtle’s adventures illustrate the importance of friendship, of supporting those who are facing difficulties, of giving and receiving help and encouraging empathy.
Myrtle and the Big Mistakeis the fourth book in this successful series which takes on important topics in a way that engages the hearts and minds of young children, but also appeals to older siblings, parents, teachers and grandparents, offering opportunities for discussion about problems that many children face every day and giving young listeners an opportunity to develop their own ideas about how to tackle these.
Myrtle is a loveable character, self-aware and serious but at the same time friendly and curious. Each story extends Myrtle’s experience of the world and expands her community of friends. In the first book she is hurt when a bullying stranger turtle claims she can’t be a turtle since she is purple. She longs to be green like others in the Big Pond. Her friends however point out that each of them is different —one is a brownish colour, one has spots, another has a differently shaped shell and that they all love her purple shell.
InMyrtle’s Game, the turtles’ favourite game is a form of water-soccer. When they discover that some of the woodland animals play a similar game on grass they encourage Myrtle, their best “blocker” to ask if she can play. When the team tells her that turtles can’t play soccer, she and her friends get together to help her to become an even better player. After training hard, she asks if she can try out for the woodland team and they admit she is a good goalie so she plays with them, cheered on by her turtle friends. As she leaves the field she invites the team to come over and try playing water-soccer with them in the Big Pond.
In the third story, Myrtle Makes a New Friend, a fox family moves into the neighbourhood and some turtles become suspicious and angry. Adults say things that make Myrtle and her friends afraid. Myrtle is nervous but, when she meets young Felix Fox; he is hiding behind a bush and crying because he thinks that all the children will hate him. Myrtle kindly insists that this is not true and says she will be his friend. When Myrtle tells Felix, she is going to be late, he gives her a ride on his back to school, where Myrtle is able to introduce him to the others as her new friend and he becomes part of their play group.
The fourth book examines the fallout, when one of Myrtle’s classmates mishears and spreads a false story about another member of their class. This time Myrtle immediately steps up to defend her friend, Snapper, and tells the gossiper that the story is untrue. But the gossip spreads quickly and Myrtle and her friends have to track down the source of the story, Garret the parrot, and set the record straight. Garret tells all the animals he is sorry and that he made a big mistake. Still feeling bad and unhappy he is about to leave, but before he can fly away, Myrtle and Snapper to his surprise invite him to play. Children are engaged here in understanding complex problems and solutions, allowing them to sympathize with the characters and appreciate Garret’s remorse and his honesty at the conclusion to the story.They can also share in his relief and the happiness of the group of friends as they all go “off to play together”.
Myrtle, and her friends, new and old are deftly developed by the authors into characters who are hard to forget and easy to love. Jo Robinson’s well designed and colourful illustrations capture the emotional moments and turning points of these appealing stories. Young listeners will want to hear these tales repeated over and over again and will, no doubt, be anxious to hear the about Myrtle’s further adventures.
Note: The books in the Myrtle the Purple Turtle series make excellent Christmas gifts and are available at both Amazon (links above) and Chapters Indigo