As December Arrives

Hello and welcome to my post in memory of Toni Taddeo and the Tuesday 4 kept in her memory.  

December is a month filled with religious significance for so many. Christmas (Dec 24-25) and Chanukah (Nov 28-Dec 6). Christians speak of the light coming into the world at Christmas and Chanukah is the festival of lights when the light was returned to the newly cleansed temple in Jerusalem. So they have a common connection: the light of God in the world. 

Today's post is about December and what it has in store for us.

 


 1.  How much importance do you place on December holidays?  Do you plan and prepare? Is that part of the fun for you or would you rather dispense with it?

December holidays are very important to me (as are Easter and Thanksgiving).  I enjoy Christmas because it reminds me of the birth of Christ and the plan of salvation for all mankind. It is a chance for me to be quiet, spread some cheer and love to family, friends and sometimes strangers.  It is also time to give thanks for what God has done for me.  I also enjoy the happy mood that I sense in people when I go about doing my errands. Most people are smiling and very pleasant at this time of year though it is a bit different in pandemic times since I hardly get out to the shops except for essentials.

Although Christmas gifts are probably the least important of the Christmas preparations, I do love to plan and prepare all year for the small gifts I might want to give.  I like to take time to think about what to buy or make and spread out the purchasing all through the year.  Of course if I'm making gifts it also requires starting much earlier and I'm not always organized enough to get the crafts underway on time.

A gift I finished early this morning.

I also like giving and receiving Christmas cards and mail. This of course needs to be done in advance:  notes and parcels prepared, stamps and cards purchased and everything shipped on time.  As the years go by my Christmas list has shortened.  I think that is true of almost everyone I know who sends cards.

Although I loved inviting guests to dinner during pre-pandemic times, I don't enjoy the cleaning and tidying that goes into getting my small home guest ready.  Under normal circumstances this might not seem like such a big deal but with advancing age and health related issues I find this more of an issue.  Especially since I am in the midst of trying to downsize and get rid of clutter so things are not where they should be, or as clutter free as they will be in due course.  I'm happy to report that I'm finally getting to the point where I see the light at the end of the tunnel in terms of getting rid of excess.  It's taken much longer than it should largely due to my involvement with Kenyan missions needs and my own health limitations.

Last but not least, I enjoy the Christmas carols, concerts and special services at church and in the community when we are permitted to gather. The Covid restrictions have made it impossible except for brief periods of time but I still try to enjoy through You Tube.

 2. Food is a big part of the holiday season.  Which foods and treats do you most look forward to having?

During the holidays we indulge more than at any other time of the year. I'm not really into baking seasonal treats but I do try and make a batch of Dream Bars or Christmas (Almond) Bark. On Christmas Day and New Year's Day we always have a traditional dinner of stuffed turkey with all the trimmings (or glazed ham)  and the popular side dishes like roasted brussels sprouts/beans/mixed vegetables, mashed potatoes, green salad, gravy and buns. etc.  This year I'm thinking we might have something different like salmon topped with cranberries. I have yet to decide.

For dessert we usually have a pie of some sort with ice cream or a Hawaiian salad (one of my all-time favourties). If I have baked any traditional Christmas cookies like Christmas crinkle I will put those out too and maybe some store bought Christmas cake. Drinks are non-alcoholic and include a variety of sodas and fizzy fruit drinks (like San Pellegrino) as well as tea/coffee and store bought egg nog. Snacks include things like: deli meats, gherkins, dips, cheeses and in former days cheese balls and a pineapple appetizer tree.  I grew up in a household where my late mother was very good cook and she loved being hospitable especially at the holidays.  She/we made a lot of food at the holidays and many relatives and friends would drop by at any time, all day long to enjoy food, drink and conversation. I think it is a wonderful way of keeping a sense of community but this wouldn't work where I live now. The large menu ideas I've posted are for when we are having a larger group of people over and we scale it down if there are no guests.

Hawaiian fruit salad, photo credit: Campfire Marshmallows

 3. It is a season for family, friends, guests and giving.  Would you write a bit about how it all comes together for you in December?

I very much enjoy being hospitable over Christmas in particular.  Since Covid all this hospitality and visiting has completely stopped. I'm not sure I will pick it up again if ever we get a chance to do so because of decreasing energies and all the work it takes to prepare and clean up afterwards. I actually prefer one on one hosting so this part may continue.

 4. Life changes and traditions alter due to those changes. Has anything changed for you and if so how? If not, would you mind sharing your traditions with us?

Christmas has always been about spending it with family, particularly my late mom and sister and also my special needs niece. I can no longer visit my mom and my sister physically and so things have changed a lot. Now (my brother and nephew and) I like to focus on making Christmas special for my niece.  But for two years now we cannot even visit her in person. Last year, it was because Covid travel advisories strongly urged us not to travel.  This year, the atmospheric river and storms have totally decimated parts of the province and shut down the major highway connecting Vancouver to where my niece lives. There will be no travel in the foreseeable future. It is quite devastating but not as devastating as the many who lost homes and businesses and the few who also lost their lives due to the flooding and landslides.  Christmas has also been about hospitality to friends and to newcomers to Canada. This too will change drastically as I explained above though I do hope to continue something on a much smaller scale. 

 

In about the year 2007 I started a tradition of helping the grassroots villagers near Kericho, Kenya. I try to help them all throughout the year but at Christmas it is nice to remember them with a bit of money so they can prepare a Christmas meal.  This is usually a modest meal compared to our feasts in North America.  It includes chicken; either in a stew or as the main part of the meal served with greens and ugali (a very thick porridge made of maize flour). A more luxurious meal includes mbuzi (goat). If you would like to join me in helping feed a village family in Kenya this year, there is a link at the side bar on the right of this blog for your donations. Thank you in advance.



I'm linking up with Tuesday 4 today. Thank  you for stopping by!

Last Friday in November

I made this Christmas floral display illuminated by small lights for a cosy glow at night.

This first set of sky photos was taken on Tuesday when I went to the hospital downtown for a scheduled appointment.

(I apologize for the messy sizing and photo alignment today. I had a lot of trouble with blogger).



 
This week I tried a few new chicken dishes. I made a prawn salad in between to cut the heaviness but the hearty chicken dishes have been good during our cold, stormy weather.


Creamy Tuscan Chicken

Sesame Chicken

Prawn Salad


These last few photos were taken today during a short break from our relentless storms.


Thank you for stopping by.

Joining with Skywatch Friday today.






 


What's Up in My World

It was a real treat to go to a restaurant on Monday night. I had so many errands to run and I didn't want to make a late dinner so I opted to go to a local Vietnamese restaurant. 

This dinner consists of pork brochette, roll dip, crepes and fried rice and though it was a tad over done it was still very delicious. (Click on each photo to enlarge).


I also made a library run. I picked up these three books which came up early on my hold request. I'm still working on 2 other books. I hope I can finish them all before someone else makes a request for them. That's always the challenge with popular books.


While at the library I took notice of their digital language services. Some day I've got to investigate further and use the service. 

Likewise with these free creative lessons also on digital offer. 


I haven't done anything crafty for awhile so I started this doily.  I love making doilies and have missed doing so. 


I've also been using the Instant Pot for cooking dinner these days. It keeps flavor in and makes cooking so much easier. 

Pot roast, cabbage, carrots, onion and potatoes with gravy.

Chicken (cooked in IP) served with roasted fries topped with chili, green salad.


I think I mentioned before that I try to follow the Fly Lady house cleaning routine system.  I've never been one who liked a lot of structure and routines but I found that with everything I want to get done, I needed more structure to my days.  The daily and weekly routines keep me fairly busy.  At the same time I'm also downsizing, decluttering, redecorating, bringing paperwork up to date, enjoying hobbies, working on Kenyan missions, following through with all the doctors appointments and doing all the things that arise with daily household and family life.
 
I've also started Christmas preparations slowly but surely. Last week I prepared most of my Christmas cards, printed recipes to include with some of the cards, made frequent trips to the post office to pick up parcels and send mail, purchased some artificial flowers for my yet to be made holiday bouquet.  I've also been scouring the on line shops for the last few gifts I want to send to loved ones and friends.  Hopefully I'll be done with all but three cards and gifts by the end of November.

With all these activities I can honestly say I'm never bored. I just wish I could accomplish things a lot more quickly than I seem to do.  But slow progress is better than no progress. 

How about you dear reader?  What is keeping you busy these days? Have you started Christmas preparations? Do you have a lot to do? 

I don't really have a lot to do to get ready for Christmas. I could get by with preparing a simple meal and putting up  minimal decorations. However, I like to reach out to others at Christmas and try to make a bit of an effort at the holiday.  After all they only happen once a year.  This means remembering people with cards and notes and often making hand made gifts if time permits, otherwise I look to buy something suitable.  Some years I give fewer gifts than other years.  A lot of that depends on what my loved ones need or what they may be going through.  Much of the time most of us in the family really don't need more things when we already have so much compared to those in the Kenyan villages where I've seen first hand the suffering and the hardships.  There is a great need for even the most basic of things (food, medicine, education, books, pens and so on).  One year I was fortunate enough to be in Kenya during Christmas month and I enjoyed visiting several villages and taking basic food supplies to many widows and orphans.
 
I would love to do a bit more baking at Christmas but I don't like to bake if I don't have more people to share it with so the past few years I've only made Christmas bark because we always eat chocolate and nuts. Since the pandemic began I have only visited with 5 people:  my nephew and his girlfriend (we visited outside in the park), my brother and his wife (we had dinner at a restaurant) and one friend (we've met for coffee a few times which we usually drink outside the coffee shop).  Of course I've mingled with others at the post office, the pharmacy and the grocery store but my world has become very small and I take all the precautions.  I have been fully vaccinated and all of my contacts have been fully vaccinated too. I'm due for a booster shot early in December.

Last but not least, I want to mention that I've put a new Pay Pal link on the blog for those that are able to donate to Kenyan missions. Perhaps some of you are thinking of a Christmas gift to the missions. It will be a huge blessing to those in Kenya who have no social safety net. You simply need to click the red flower on the side bar and it will take you to the right place. My friend Jo says to tell everyone that "it's dead easy!" Thank so much for your consideration.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American readers 🦃🦃🦃🙏🙏🙏
and 
Happy Season of Christmas preparations to all. 🎄🎄🎄🎄🎄






Update on Janet's Business

Hi friends and fellow bloggers,

I said in an earlier post that I would be updating the work we are doing with Janet in Kenya to give a progress update on the business she is trying to establish.

Here is a photo of the shop we rented. There is a shop/store on one side and her home on the other side. 

Janet at her new shop.

So far we have paid 2 months rent, a bit of food, a new, inexpensive telephone with camera and stock for the store. By far the most expensive thing is stock.

For now Janet is selling maize (corn) that she grew on the family farm before her brother chased her away. She was able to gain access to the maize. Other than that she has stocked the shop with all kinds of hair pieces and yarn for hair weaving. My apologies for the quality of the photos but Janet and her daughters never had a phone of their own so they are new to taking smart phone photos.  The phone is also quite inexpensive so the camera quality is not that high.

 

It took awhile to get everything set up because the space had to be readied for display, someone in a larger city had to purchase the stock and send it to her because it cost too much for her to travel there and back.  It takes all day to travel to the supplier and back and one has to pay for transport for 2 people to be able to carry the stock and food and sundries.  It also took awhile to buy the phone, have it shipped to her and time for her to pick up the phone, charge it up and figure out how it functions.

 

This is the supplier in Nakuru, Kenya
.

The store needs more stock.  The potential customers are asking for hair products she doesn't have yet. Some of these items are pictured below.  The products like oils and conditioners are more expensive, particularly if she is going to have enough stock on hand for sale. If the funds allow she could also diversify and sell some daily essentials which people need in the village.  Things that won't go bad due to lack of refrigeration.


I will send another month or two of rent by the end of this month.  At end of January I will send another two months rent.  This is so Janet can have some breathing space while she tries to get her business off the ground and save enough to pay rent, food and stock.

If you are touched to help Janet for Christmas, we would appreciate any contributions toward buying more stock so she can accelerate sales. If you have any questions, please let me know. I hope to have related updates in the near future about both Janet and several other Kenyans we are helping.  But this update is priority.  

The Pay Pal link button is located on the right side bar. Simply click on the photo of the flowers or you can scan the QR code if you have the app. I can't actually advise on using the QR code so let me know if you need something specific. My email can be found at my profile page.If you really want to help but you feel your donation is too small please know that even $20 US dollars goes a very long way toward paying a month's rent (half), buying basic food for Janet and her 4 daughters for 2 weeks or helps to fill the store shelves.

Thank you so much for your visit and your consideration.


Reading Challenge 2021 - Progress to Date

 

These are the books I've read in 2021. I met my reading challenge long ago and didn't set a new one. I'm reading now for pure pleasure rather than meeting a goal. I have no new number of books to read in 2021 or pages to complete. This year seems to have been the year for reading biographies and autobiographies. I read 8 of them and that is far more than usual. It was also a year for reading resource books on sewing projects and books written by Indigenous authors.  They were all very good too. The two books that show only a generic Goodreads cover are: Joseph William McKay - A Metis Business Leader in Colonial British Columbia & Merchant and Mills Sewing Book by Carolyn N.K. Denham.

There are approximately 6 weeks left in the year.  I'll be interested in seeing how far I get for the rest of the year because soon I'll be too busy with cleaning and Christmas preparations and there will be less time for reading.

Did I have a favourite book this year?  Not really.  though I have to say Gail Tsukiyama's books are always a delight and I really enjoyed reading Youngblood of the Peace.  Youngblood is about the life of a priest who used to preside in the far north of British Columbia where many of my relatives live. Everyone knew him and I heard about him a lot as a child so it was very interesting to finally read his life's story.  I'm so glad a northerner took time to make sure his story is documented.  It made me appreciate how much the early missionaries went through to "Christianize" people.  I also enjoyed Edward Rutherfurds' book, China. I've enjoyed all the books I've read by this author so far. Last, but not least, The Dictionary of Lost Words was a very interesting book and kept me entertained.

I hope you are enjoying your reading. I'd love to hear what book you enjoyed most this year, or any other year. Maybe I can still find it before this year is over.

Happy reading.

p.s. If you are interested in the Kenyan missions, please see my update from the last blog post.

Sad Happenings & Christmas Loading

I'm checking in after several days recuperating from double ear infections.  The ears seem to be getting better but I've had to reschedule my ENT appointment at the hospital. They don't see patients who exhibit cold or Covid like symptoms. Thankfully I have been rescheduled before the end of this month.

I have sad news. 

Pastor Jonah (in Kenya) lost another family member. Rebecca was his aunt on his father's side and the eldest remaining member of the family on his father's side. She was a strong, fearless woman who did her very best to keep her extended family on the straight and narrow path and to encourage them all to live in unity. She had been battling a number of health issues including Covid 19 at the end.  She didn't want to be a burden on her family and when she found out they were planning to sell family land to meet the hospital bills she refused further medical interventions, primarily oxygen, to hasten her demise.  Kindly keep this family in prayer. Medical costs in Kenya are beyond the ability of many, many families. This woman's husband is a retired police officer. In Canada, police officers get well compensated and have a decent pension but in Kenya that isn't the case though things are slowly changing for some. The family is raising funds for the accumulated hospital expenses (accrued over many months of going back and forth to hospital), mortuary fees and funeral expenses. For now they have raised enough to pay the hospital costs.

On this side of the ocean, I learned from the brother to a long time pen pal and prayer partner of mine, that my friend Arlene is in critical condition in the hospital. Due to several underlying health conditions, she cannot have surgery and she has directed that no interventions are to be made. Arlene lives near Orlando, Florida where she moved to be closer to her brother as she got older.  Her brother is now overseeing her affairs and readying her for hospice care. Arlene was a very dear friend.  We met on line on a Christian website where I met many lovely people who were sharing their knowledge with one another as well as praying for one another. After some time the website developers switched their website to paid church membership only, meaning only churches could join.  Arlene and I were no longer able to stay on the website but we remained friends and  prayer partners.  She prayed so many times for different needs in Kenya. In fact I was just going to write to her and update her on different things when I received the sad news from her brother. In the last 2 years I did not burden her with prayer requests due to her age and failing health but she did ask me from time to time about things and I liked to share any good news with her.  Update:  Arlene died on Friday morning Eastern Standard Time, November 12, 2021. Her brother Stuart informed all of her email contacts. I'm grateful he had access to her email otherwise I would not have known.

Both of these wonderful ladies will be greatly missed for the wonderful care they displayed to their loved ones and to humanity in general.  They both had kind hearts and those of us who loved them have the hope of seeing them again some day.

 ~~~

Though I have received this sad news in the last few days, I have been keeping busy with the day to day needs here at home too.

I've only been running out to purchase groceries or to  pick up parcels. 

I'm also trying to get my calendar organized with all the various appointments and follow ups so that I can assess when I might fit in a cultural event or two before Christmas. I bought a pass to the Christmas Market and I can go anytime after the middle of November up until Christmas. A friend and I have made plans to go together once she is on school break and I'll probably go once or twice alone. This will be my first year attending the Christmas Market which is held outdoors.  I have some other ideas for things I'd like to do but it will depend on how I'm feeling. I've already missed the concert I booked for last Sunday so I don't want to book and then miss out again.

Some of you may have seen my post for Tuesday 4.  The topic related to Thanksgiving and Christmas. I think that subliminally I was thinking about holiday foods and also the cold weather makes me want filling and warming foods.

So today I cooked a ham dinner with potatoes au gratin and roasted cabbage.

I have enough left over for at least 3 or 4 meals, 2 of which will be ham soup with beans/lentils or split peas.This kind of soup is just the thing needed for cold, wet days and nights.

Wednesday was a very nice, dry day but prior to that it rained buckets for several days.  It's going to rain again all week but next week the forecast is for dry weather. I always look forward to a dry day here and then once the rainy season has started.


~~~

The Christmas card list is getting drawn up. I've got letters and a few parcels to prepare and I also need to draw up a list of small monetary gifts I'd like to send to several people in Kenya including Rose and her new born baby to be. 

 ~~

I also need to stay alert for Rose's delivery. Some of you might remember when I wrote about Rose and her pregnancy complications.  She had been doing fine and was at home but doctors are concerned about her ability to give birth without complications arising.  So she has moved temporarily from the village area where she lives, to the town of Kericho where she is staying with a friend until it is time to delivery the baby. This way she is close to a well equipped hospital in case special interventions or a C - section are necessary. I would like to add her to the Christmas list because she will need to stay in hospital for several days necessitating a larger than normal hospital bill for a typical expectant mother. In addition, the new baby will need some things.

 








Tuesday 4: November is Here

Welcome to Tuesday 4 begun by our friend Toni Taddeo and kept up in her memory.
This week let's talk about November!

 


 

1. Besides Thanksgiving is there anything about November you like/dislike?

What I like about November is we are getting close to finishing the year. I'm always eager to finish one year and start the next as I set small goals, sometimes larger ones each year. What I dislike is the dark, rainy and generally cold weather. It takes me awhile to get used to weather transitions and I do really enjoy the early part of fall season before the more constant rains begin.  In fall 2021 it seems we've had much colder and wetter weather than we normally do.  I also dislike that I usually feel behind in Christmas preparations no matter my good intentions and early start to Christmas shopping. I did really enjoy the month of October with the lovely fall colours. Though November is not my favourite month largely due to wet and often windy weather, I try not to dwell on it.  It is part of living where I live.Whenever I do catch myself thinking negatively,  I try to change the thought patterns by remembering all the blessings I have.


2. How is November weather where you live? Does it suit you?

The weather is usually too wet and cold for my liking though when I first moved to my city none of this bothered me. I've lived fine with the weather for decades but I've  noticed that as I grown older and have some health challenges, the weather is really not good for me.  It's not likely this will change soon because I'm not the type to pull up stakes and move to a foreign land. I am just more comfortable with the Canadian system health care wise and otherwise. 


This is what I love about November though it mostly this is what it looks like in October


3. When do you plan for Thanksgiving? Eat home or out? Menu?

Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving in early October and that suits me very well  because there is a good break between Thanksgiving and Christmas. We always eat Thanksgiving dinner at home and it is a traditional holiday meal.  It  consists of either a turkey with stuffing and cranberry sauce with mashed potatoes, gravy, one or two salads, 2 or 3 vegetable dishes (usually corn niblets, green beans and roasted Brussels sprouts).  If we want a change, we will have a roasted, glazed ham.  Dessert is usually a pie (apple or pumpkin) with ice cream or whipped cream. There are also lots of condiments like pickles and so on. At Christmas there will be crudities and a cheese, meat and fruit platters so we can graze on leftovers for a few days and perhaps cookies or fruits as additional desserts.


4. When do you begin your decor and plans for Christmas. It "officially" begins after Thanksgiving and the Macy's Parade when Santa arrives at the end.

I think about Christmas and possible gifts for much of the year.  Though my list of gift recipients is not so large it does include all immediate family members and a handful of close friends. In particular, I have to get creative when it comes to suitable gifts for my niece for all holidays and celebrations so my mind is always working to try and make things special for her.  I also like to send cards. Since the advent of email, smart phones and high postage costs, I have tried to limit the cards but I am old fashioned and cannot resist on sending 'just one more'. I officially don't start with decor until the end of November and sometimes even well into December. In a more 'perfect world', I would have the decor up by the middle of November to enjoy through the season.  Though I love the sparkling, twinkling lights and decor over Christmas, I like to take it all down as soon as we've entered the New Year. I find that by then everything looks tired and worn, but I also got this tradition from my mom and maternal grandfather, who both loved to start the New Year with a completely fresh slate.



Joining up with Tuesday 4 this week. Check it out!

 




First Sky Photos in November

 Happy November!



Things are still busy at my end but I'm also feeling a bit sick and it has been raining a whole lot. Pouring rain in fact.

I'm on some new medications and it is upsetting my stomach and making me feel nauseous now and then. I'm on the lowest possible dosage and trying to adjust to it but it is slow going.  Other than that, the medicine seems to be doing what it is supposed to but doctors want me to work up to taking more as I'm not anywhere near a full dose yet. I would hate to have to stop it taking it. For now I'm not complaining too loudly to the doctor.

I've been busy with multiple appointments and follow ups with insurance people regarding my accident. I guess I'm about half way through this process and I don't have the energy to do much about the follow up just now. It will all get done soon enough if I just put one foot in front of the other.

Given the pouring rain I haven't been able to get out and take photos but there was a slight break in the sky on Thursday so I captured these 3 photos to share (click on each to enlarge).



In other news, I wanted to update about Janet and her girls in Kenya; the separated woman who was chased away from her ancestral (birth family) home by her brother.  We have now managed to assist her with 2 months rent, an inexpensive smart phone, a bit of food money, a simple solar light system, and a bit of funds to stock her new store. Pastor Jonah ordered the phone for her and she was expecting to collect the phone on Wednesday, Kenyan time.  Janet and her eldest daughter are travelling to Nakuru, Kenya on Thursday, Kenyan time where they will visit wholesalers to try to find appropriate stock for the village store. I know her eldest daughter has her own thoughts about what her mother should stock but I am trying, through Pastor Jonah, to get them to buy what is most practical for the majority of potential shoppers. Later when they have started to gain footing they can expand to others things. It's a bit tricky as the eldest girls have minds of their own and they are putting pressure on the mom during her most difficult time. Please keep them in prayer. There are some other developments concerning the brother but I will leave that update for when I have concrete information to share. If anyone would like to donate (Pay Pal link on right side of blog) to Janet and her daughters, they still have many needs: rent, air time, food,transportation, school fees and clothing among them.

Over the next month I've got a lot going on, some of it fun.  I hope to share here as time goes by and if I'm permitted to take photos at events.


Joining in with Skywatch Friday.

Take care.

Snapshots over the Week

I had a good week. Though I got off to a slow start I made up for it by the end of the week.  I had what is probably my last appointment wi...