Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Christmas light
Merry Christmas!

May your Christmas be full of wonder and light, happiness, love and everything bright!

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Buna dimineata la Mos Ajun!

The translation should be something like 'Good Morning, Father Eve' (Christmas Eve)

It comes from an old (older than Christianity!) custom in Romania: Day before Christmas Eve (before it was the Eve of Winter Solstice) young boys will start going through the village singing carols. As the morning downs - they will end their caroling with this one (it's already the morning of Christmas Eve!) and go home to prepare for the Christmas Eve jobs (more about these another time :)).

I miss caroling with my friends - so I will give you this: the best interpretation ever of this carol - by Madrigal Choir, the best chamber choir in Romania.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Traditions (part 1)

A few years back, around Christmas, I was worrying we don't do enough for the Christmas Spirit... I was simply fed-up with the commercial part and wasn't sure what to add to make it a true Christmas.

Helping cut our first own-cut Christmas Tree
Little Helper
Yes, we start listening to Christmas carols (both on radio and on CDs) around November 15th. Yes, we decorate: outside & inside. But all these seemed either not enough or not in the right spirit. Of course we send the letter to Santa (email or snail mail).

But somehow I felt the Spirit is still missing. That 'something' special that adds the perfect touch - nothing material or edible...

That's when we started a few traditions.

First of all - it's making the cards. My hubby frowns at the time our son and I spend making the cards. However, it's not time wasted - it's a few hours of quality time spend together: we laugh, we chat, we create beauty. My son loves making cards - we emboss them and strangely enough he seems to never tire of the same stamps we use. Well, we add a couple new ones every year - but somehow we still use the original ones more than anything else. So for a few evenings in late November / early December we clean the kitchen table, bring the box of supplies and have fun.

Our beautiful Christmas Tree!
Voila!
Some years we also make decorations - this year, though, DS doesn't seem that into making any decorations. I will have to figure out if there are any new ones he's still enjoy or if I have to simply accept that making decorations is a thing of the past (and granted - we have more decorations than one tree can hold!)

Then it's the tree itself. Our tradition is to put it up on Christmas Eve - the whole day is actually put aside for decorating the Christmas tree. We have done exactly that for many years - and always we ended up being so stressed and tired and just glad to have the whole thing over. Not exactly the Spirit... So a few years back we have decided that nothing holds us to decorating the tree the day before... how about the week before? The same year (3 years ago) we got ourselves in the car, all 3 of us - it was a very cold December day. Bundled up we drove to a nearby tree farm and... cut our own tree! I loved the whole experience - DH not so much, so we had to take a break for a couple of years.

Nativity Scene at ChristmasBut this year - the weather seems to be on my side - we'll bundle up again this coming Friday and drive to a nearby farm tree... the story about how we pick up a tree - another time.

Suffice to say that I am not missing the Christmas Spirit anymore - between carols, cards, decorations, cookies and the traditional baking we usually find it somewhere :) All I am asking now is for more time!

Do you have a special Christmas tradition? I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Good business practice

Have you ever eneterd a store and upon leaving it you felt you absolutely have to come back?

I don't get that feeling of 'awesome'-ness too often anymore, either because I got used to living in a civilised society or because I am getting tired and there are few things truly surprising me.

Today I had to go to a store close-by, a friend of mine sent me there for a very specific traditional type of food. She told me I won't have trouble finding the food, the label will have the translation on it. After checking 2 ails of small bags of what seemed to be what I was looking for (wheat pearled) and filling my basket with tons of other things I haven't seen in a while (traditional foods) - I gave up and went to one of the ladies in there (it turned our she's the owner's wife) and told her that I don't know how to explain in English what I am looking for, and she smiled and said 'say it in your language' - and when I did so her husband exclaimed 'yes, here!'. He showed me the bags and then started to bring us half of the store - pronouncing each of the food names in a perfect, non-accented Romanian (even when the darn things had the English label, having been produced or made right here, in Canada).

He was so charming - and he pointed out a few traditional Christmas items I was going to buy... not only that, but he knew what is the proper use of each food!

At the end - he thanked us and said Good-bye - in Romanian.

Which brings me to the point - my husband remarked 'he knows how to do business!' - when dealing with people (and unless you are a sequestered monk... you are dealing with people!) your #1 priority should be making your customer comfortable.

It takes so little to express a token of appreciation to your customers - and what best time of the year to do it than at Christmas?

What are your tips? Or what is your best memory of being treated right? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The most amazing Santa

I lived in Burlington for pretty much all my Canadian life (in April we'll have 14 years in the city, while in July we'll have 15 years of Canada) - and it took 13 Christmas seasons to discover an amazing place to visit at Christmas: Royal Botanical Gardens.

The gardens are our home during the summer - we spend countless hours hiking through the gardens / forests, we have thousands of pictures with flowers at different stages, we visit the Lilac festival every year (Lilacs are my favourite flowers, more on this later)... yet somehow I never ever got to RBG at Christmas time.

This year, due to a Facebook post with a picture of a wonderful Santa, we have decided to pay a visit (we live 10 minutes away anyhow). Easy said, easy done - while coming back from a concert we stopped at Royal Botanical Gardens. As soon as we passed the customer service, we met him: a tall Santa, dressed in the most elegant costume, with a wonderful beard and a great smile. He stopped, shook hands with my son, smiled beautifully and continued on his way. I was beyond charmed - I got used to different types of Santa, everywhere - however this one is just taken straight out of those old books of Christmas stories. And you should see his place inside the RBG... his chair... oh, dear!

We passed his shop and arrived in the heart of RBG where they got not one, but two rooms with trains! One display is built around bulbs: to see Thomas The Tank Engine and a couple of other (non-Thomasy) engines choo-choo-ing around white daffodils and poinsettias - that's an amazing sight for an adult, let alone a child! And the display in the back room - with large engines and miniature Go Train and train cars full of gifts... the whole place is magical!

To top it off - in the central garden they have a pair of... reindeer! Real reindeer! And of course, when you ask where do they come from, the answer is - from the North Pole! Apparently there is a farm few km north of here where they raise reindeer. What do they use them for the rest of the year? Nothing - they keep them solely for displaying during the Christmas season. I also learned they are the oldest domesticated animals on Earth (had no idea) and that there are no more wild reindeer anywhere in the world (not even in Finland, where they come from).

We played a few 'did you know... ' games while exiting and because I planned to go to the RBG today but I forgot the camera at home - we got a family membership, so we can come back next weekend and take proper pictures: of that simply amazing Santa, the wonderful trains, and the cute reindeer. Oh - the Koi fish too! William loves watching them :)

Is there another place in the GTA where we should visit now? Before decorations come down?

Credits: the picture is taken from RBG's facebook page

Christmas concert (and a great idea)

Last year our dear piano teacher invited us to watch a Christmas concert she directed - at a church in Caledonia.

It was a kids concert (as in all the 'actors' were children) - with a very neat theme: by some bizarre happening, a bunch of children travel back in time for Christmas, in different ages (the 60s, the 50s, the 70s, 80s, 90s - and the very first Christmas too) - finding the real meaning of Christmas.

It was a charming production - with costumes and songs from different eras, some my beautiful son couldn't relate to, some plain weird for him (like the 80s big hair and fancy costumes). However, we both enjoyed both the music and the production in general.

I was impressed by the technical capacity of the church and by their care of the youth (that's something for another time, but that's what our church - the Eastern Orthodox, as in Greek Orthodox - is missing: how to attract the youth... think 'Sister Act').

Of course, this year we got our invitations again - and today we went to watch the concert again. I was curious of what the theme might be this year. It was interesting - a group of teens trying to buy the perfect gift for a special teacher... and of course, as it should be, they get the real meaning of Christmas and what a Christmas gift should be. Music was again a big part - the whole production impressive.

But what I want to talk about is their wonderful idea. I've seen it implemented it somehow - but not at this level before. Basically they had a Christmas tree with tags (about 80 of them). On each tag there was written a need of someone in their community. For example: a mother with young children than needed to be driven to the church on Sundays; or a senior who needs his driveway to be shoveled; or a senior who needs someone to give him / her a call once a week; or computer skills needed to help somebody integrate... and the list went on. Like I said - I've seen the 'Christmas wish' in the gift-like implementation: with tags for gifts for children or seniors in need. And I like that implementation too - sometimes it's easier to get a tag or two and to get a special gift for a child or a senior. But this Christmas tree went beyond the material: one didn't need to spend any money, mostly some time and energy to help someone else.

That is an IDEA! I've never seen it implemented like that before - and I think every community will need such a tree. There are people out there that might not be able to spend an extra $20 for a gift for a stranger... but will be able to spend half an hour to shovel one's driveway when needed. Or call someone... or drive somebody to and fro places... and so on. And of course, not only at Christmas, that's a daily need in any community.

Credits: Image: Idea go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Santa Claus

Santa at Christmas timeIn our tradition we have two 'Santas': one is Saint Nicholas, which comes on December 6th (when Orthodox Christians celebrate St. Nicholas, the Bishop of Mira) and one is 'Old Father Christmas', which obviously comes on December 25th.

Both use the same guidelines: have you been naughty or nice? If you've been good, St. Nicholas will leave a small gift (and some fruits: apples, oranges, nuts), while Father Christmas will bring the more substantial gifts of the season. If you've been naughty - St. Nicholas will bring a small stick (usually gilded for effect)... while Father Christmas might completely ignore you.

Candles at Christmas timeI don't remember the year when I figured out that parents are Santa's Elves. I don't remember being devastated either (I still don't get the mother in Miracle on 34th Street... I've watched that movie lots of times - still a mystery for me what's in her brain). And, even more interesting - I don't recall ever being ignored by any of the two old men. No matter what my behaviour was apparently it has always been on the plus side.

So I continue the tradition - trying to make the little one behave a bit more during these last few days before Christmas :) And being charmed by his approach to the whole Santa adventure - I am not 100% sure, but it seems he genuinely believes Santa will leave on the 24th and run around the world in his sleigh.

Oh, to be a child! What a marvelous age! If we only could back then not to rush so through the years and decades... but this is for another time and another post :)

Enjoy your Holidays: one moment at a time!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Musical thoughts at night

I always loved music - and I always wanted to take piano lessons. Back when I was growing up taking piano lessons wasn't an option: the city I lived in was a small one, there was only one piano teacher, and our apartment was a 'gargantuan' 500 sq. ft. - where would you put a piano in it?! My mom went through the same troubles at her time - but she was more persevering than I: she actually got a violin and some lessons (not sure for how long, I'll have to ask her).

I remember I had a small wooden toy piano - with one scale, maybe one and a half - and the keys so small... but it was in perfect working condition! I used it almost every day to figure out my songs - I had an old book of songs and the music sheets were quite complicated, but I would play note by note until I figured them out. Until one day - when something broke inside the little piano, and I (the eternal handyman) took the screwdriver and tried to open it... only to hear the actual keyboard fell inside... that was the end of my piano. I can still see it, small and red - and I can see myself, sad as one can be (I was in grade 6, maybe).

Fast-forward to present days - I married my DH, a man with an amazing musical ear! I have a decent one, however - can't compare with his. Then DS came along - and as fate and his guardian angels will have it - he inherited his dad's musical ear. So what does a parent do with a child like this? She takes the offspring to music lessons. An angel must have been on our shoulder that day - we got the most amazing piano teacher you can ever had. Formally trained in old Eastern Europe she understand the perfect balance between technique, theory, and practice, and she can instill it in her students too (without the rigidity of the old methods)! At William's second lesson I asked her, fully expecting a laugh and a 'No', if they take adult students too. Her answer changed my life - she said 'of course!' and the week after I started taking lessons too - and we bought a digital piano, for proper practice (we had keyboards and guitars already).

It has been a long journey (over 4 years now) but one I love like nothing else. Learning to play piano helped me grow like I could never have imagined. I know it helps young people, I just somehow didn't believe it will make a difference in the life on an adult. It does! I am happy with the progress I'm making (even when I work on a small 2 pages piece for months in a row :)) and I absolutely love the mix of theory and technique our teacher is making me learn. And we both keep taking lessons with our dear Lana.

I am going to come back to this subject - it is one very dear to my heart, however I will leave you now with a piece I played in duet with my son 2 years ago, for the Christmas recital. It seems fit with the season :)

Enjoy!

video

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The man who tried to steal from his lord

Long time ago, there was a wealthy and good-hearted lord. One day he called one of the poor man in the village and told him:

- I know your family is poor - and I would like to help you. I will give you a job and I'll pay you well - would you like to work for me?

- Sure, sir, said the man happily - what do I have to do?

- At the edge of the forest there is a lot - I would like you to build a house for me there.

The man left and he started to work immediately. The lord was paying him and giving money for supplies. However, the man thought 'The lord can't see me anyhow, maybe I can fool him!'.

Instead of buying quality supplies he started to buy poor-quality items and he used the money left for himself. When he finished the house looked beautiful on the outside, but he knew very well the house won't keep for too long, since the supplies used were all bad and low-quality.

He showed the house to the lord and the lord told him:

- I know you live with your large family in a very small and old house - I am giving you this house as a gift. That's why I asked you to build it, so you'll enjoy it even more!

The man was sad - he tried to steal from the lord, and he ended up stealing from himself!

This is a great reminder for our daily actions: always do everything like you're the recipient of your own actions.

Credits: Image: Lavoview / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Dogs

So... now with the Auction a success and behind me (almost - there is some clean-up left for tomorrow morning and a few other loose strings, but nothing as substantial as the work we put in last week, especially Friday) I am coming back to normal life.

The house needs tending, laundry is in the washer, the hubby has a long list of To-Dos for me, and the child - well, the child missed me on Friday, basically, since I was in school all last week.

The dog needs food, which means I have to go get some meat from somewhere - we started to feed both home-made food after we had some strange and very expensive issues with the German Sheppard. Funny is that almost a year after the very-expensive issues started, when they piled up one after another, after I started to feed them home-made food the veterinarian said 'Yes, one of the reason for what she has (I can't remember how it's called) could be food allergies.' No kidding! And you tell me after I bought medication for about $700per month  (yes, seven hundred per month) for almost a year?! And you know what? The dog's coat looks healthy again, she gained normal weight (she was loosing constantly, even after I increased her medical store-bought food dosage) and while her other medical problem is not completely fixed (and may never be) - she's not getting worse and her symptoms are not as bad as before.

I know lots of people will not agree with home-made food for dogs - however, we fed our dogs home-made food before coming to Canada and always had the healthiest dogs ever. If you think - it's very unlikely you know what's in the human food, but try to figure out what exactly they put in the dog food! Good luck. Everyone is asking - how do I know if they get the proper nutrients. Well - I am using common sense, the dogs will tell me. It worked for 2 dogs before - can't be failing me now :)

To end on a happy and funny note - with barely 3 weeks before C-Day, I'll leave you with this cute video:

Cute dog waiting for Santa

Friday, December 2, 2011

Sleeping Beauty

As I don't have time for words right now (see previous post - one more day!) I will leave you with a picture. Is it the set I have donated for tonight's auction and I will come back with an update on the story. Unfortunately my light box still hasn't arrived so I didn't have the opportunity to get more prettier pictures.

I'd love to hear your comments about the set - how do you like it?

P.S. If you are in Burlington tonight you can view it at Glenview PS Holiday Auction!

Sleeping Beauty necklace & earrings set - Sterling Silver, Swarovski crystals, Swarovski Heart::All Pretty Things

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Fading tones

On the BeadFX blog they have started a new series of contests - one that I simply love.
Every month they'll post a challenge and give people about a month to finish it.

This month they are using another wonderful website - Design Seeds - you take your schema from any of their amazing posts and use it as your inspiration.

Fading tones - Sterling silver, freshwater pearls & Swarovski crystals elegant necklace::All Pretty ThingsSince I have a big pile of fresh water pearls in my stash right now (I love pearls and I love the amazing colours you can find - so every time I get to the store in Toronto I buy more strands... need to use them!) and some Swarovski crystals from the last 2 projects - I put them together in the 'Fading Tones' project. Inspired, of course, by the Design Seeds' Fading Tones schema.

It is a lovely piece - to be worn in the afternoon or on the evening. Will dress up a pair of jeans with a white shirt into an evening on the town. Will dress up a black dress for a night at the theatre or opera or for a special dinner. It will be a great accessory for the Christmas dinner or for the New Year's Eve party. And it is definitely something to consider for a one-of-a-kind, breathtaking bride necklace.

Versatile & elegant - it is a must-have in your jewelry box!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Phew...

I am probably going to loose my mind. I am working with a group of wonderful volunteers for my son's school Auction  (Glenview PS)... and the work is brutal. I basically moved into school since last Friday! I go in with William and come out with him.

Between logging items, making auction sheets, making baskets and making Gingerbread houses with each class - there is not much of my sannity left. My family is ready to declare mutiny, I believe - it's a good thing the dogs are still getting fed, the boys can go through the cupboard now and then (although both DH and DS are critically attracted by the chocolate they found in there... ignoring the healthy snacks).

Lesson #1: if you ask (nicely) people will respond.
Lesson #2: if you make a personal connection people will respond better.
Lesson #3: there are still nice people in this world.

The story behind #3. On Friday or Monday we were franctically working in the office when a gentleman came in and asked who's in charge with the auction. He was sent to us and he told us he just walked by, saw the auction sign in front of the school and he asked us what kind of help we need. For a few moments we were speachless - how many times you get someone to walk into your office and ask what kind of help you need? When we recovered - we gave him one sign (his business has the front on the main street in the community) and we thanked him a lot. He came back the next day - with a wonderful Muppets themed busket; some kids will enjoy it this Christmas!

Even if he wouldn't have donated anything - the simple gesture of coming in and asking how he can assist us was wonderful. A precious moment I will cherish for a long time!

Disclaimer: He didn't ask for anyhting in return - all I know right now is that he works for Preston Insurance here in Aldershot, on Plains Rd (phone # 905.527.8450). My opinion is purely subjective and based on my feeling he's a gentleman with a heart. In a world increasingly busy and crazy, when people tend to care less for others we need more people like him. From the bottom of my heart - I thank him.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The wise man and the ring

A young man came to the wise man:

Princess bracelet - Sterling silver & glass beads, chainmaille :: All the Pretty Things- Oh, wise man... I feel so small, so insignificant, nobody values me and I feel I don't have the energy to do something well and good. Please help me - how can I become better? How can I change other people's minds about me?

Without even looking at him, the wise man said:
- Sorry, my child, I can't help you right now, I have a pressing personal problem to solve. Maybe afterwards. After a short pause he added: If you could help me, maybe I will solve my problem faster and then I could help you too.

- Errr.... sure, I'll gladly help, said the young man, feeling yet another person doesn't care about him.
- OK, the wise man said, then taking a small ring off his finger he gave it to the young man. Here, take this ring and go to the market. I need to sell it at once, but you must get at least one gold coin for it. If you can't get a gold coin, don't sell it. Go now!

The young man took the ring, got up on his horse and ran to the market. He started to show the ring to everyone, but nobody will want to buy it. Some would think the ring is pretty, but when they heard the price they'll laugh in the man's face. Some wouldn't even look at it. After he tried every single person in the market, the young man got back on his horse and returned to the wise man. He was tired - not so much from the trip, but from his failure.

Winter wonderland necklace - crystal & Sterling silver, wire wrapping :: All the Pretty Things- Sorry, wise man, nobody would want to buy it for that price. I could get 2-3 silver coins on it, but nothing more. I don't think it's that valuable, so I couldn't make anyone to pay such an over-price.

- You're absolutely right, my friend. First we need to find out the real value of the ring. So please go to the jeweler, show him the ring, and ask him what's the value. Don't sell it! Bring the ring back.

The young man galloped away. The jeweler examined the little ring for a long time then said:
- Tell the teacher if he sells it now I can offer him only 58 gold coins.
- What? 58 gold coins? the young man exclaimed
- Yes, said the jeweler. In other times you could get 70 gold coins on it, but if he's in a hurry I can offer only 58.

Elegance necklace: Freshwater pearls & Swarovski crystals:: All the Pretty ThingsThe young man thanked the jeweler and quickly returned to the wise man, relating him the story.

- Please sit down, said the wise man. You are like this ring, a unique and valuable jewel. And just like with the ring - it takes an expert to recognize your value. We all are like the ring: valuable and unique, riding the life markets and expecting non-expert people to recognize the value in us!

Remember this story when you feel let down: you know your real value, and nobody can take it from you, even if they won't recognize how precious you are. You work carefully every day to shine the jewel within you and to add more value to it! You are precious and unique - love yourself.

Lesson from the past

I vividly remember my high-school history teacher. She wasn't a great history teacher (mind you, the subjects we studied back then will make a Western-raised child think it was some sort of strange boring science fiction), however she taught us (at least me) one great lesson.

The journey of 1000 miles begins with one stepWe were in grade 12 - preparing for the University exams. Back then you had to take 3 exams - one for a different subject - in order to get into University. There were a fixed number of  'places' and they will average the grades on the 3 exams, and start from the highest average down the list. When they counted as many places as they had available - that was it: you made it or not.

So here we were: a bunch of grade 12 kids, all with dreams and hopes and all overly stressed out.

As such, we would care less about history and other mundane subjects: our focus was mathematics and physics (for engineering or accounting) or chemistry and biology (for medical school) - the main streams. Our teachers knew very well we won't focus on their subjects. One day the history teacher (a lady well in her 50s, maybe even 60s - she had been my parents' teacher too) came into class and discovering us in a frenzy (can't remember the exact reason) tried her best to calm us down. We were not be calmed down, though, and one of my colleagues exclaimed, thoroughly frustrated: I think I'll quit, I don't know enough to make it, what's the point?

Oh, to this day I recall her smile and her answer: My children, the very step you must take in order to succeed is to make an appearance! If you go and write the exam, you might pass it. If you don't go - you will fail for sure!

I didn't pay much attention at the moment - however a few months later I was finding myself after the very first exam, Geometry. That has always been my best subject in school, I loved Geometry (and still do); but the subjects on that exams were simply brutal (to give you an idea - my mom was a high-school Math teacher and a very good one, when I got home and showed her the subjects she couldn't solve all of them... she solved 3 out of 5, started some ideas on the 4th, and she just couldn't figure out how to start the 5th one!). So here I am - two more exams ahead of me... and I knew I wouldn't get good grades for the first... heck, I didn't even know if I will get 50% on the 1st one! Walking through the park, trying to clear my head - at first I decided there is no point in getting up next morning and going to the 2nd exam (Algebra). Then I remembered my history teacher and her idea - yeah, I might have done badly on that first day, but if I don't go tomorrow I will fail for sure!

Needless to say - I went to the next 2 exams. The Algebra was hard, but decent, and the Physics (my least favourite subject) had some grade 9-10 questions... it was so easy I couldn't believe my eyes!

That was the last time when I considered quiting anything. That was my very first lesson on how to approach life - always be present! Every now and then, when things get hard I am tempted to give up, then I remember her smile and if it's something important - I will keep doing it. I might not succeed all the time, but no one will accuse me for not trying!

Do you have an important lesson you learned in your life?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Another first :)

Next week, in the December issue of SNAP Mississauga I will have my very first printed paper ad!

For a sneak preview check Made By Hand's picture.

Oh, exciting times...

Colours (Yellow)

Sunny Day - Polymer Clay bowlYellow is such a complex colour - my favourite hue of yellow is the one fluffy baby chickens 'wear' on their first few days of life. I used to hold them few hours after they would come out of their eggs and there is such a comfort in that memory!

Yellow is a warm colour, without being dangerously so (like red) - it brings thoughts of happiness and joy. It is full of positive energy and being the colour we associate with sun and light, it brings clarity. Paint a colour in a sunny warm yellow and you'll get a clear and alert mind, with better concentration skills. During the dull cold winter days - surround yourself with yellow to get rid of those 'winter blues'.

Yellow is associated with wisdom, optimism, enthusiasm, creativity, joy and many other positive energies.

Sunset - Polymer Clay bowlOne of the most magnificent colour combinations I have ever seen is its complementary schema: yellow and purple. Imagine a field of purple and yellow crocuses or yellow daffodils with the purple bells. There are lots of examples in nature (especially in the spring) - I believe Mother Nature knows something!

Another splendid yellow hue would be gold - we've talked about it in the orange article.

What other combinations can we use?

Pot of Gold - Polymer Clay bowlTry the analogic schema for a spring or citrusy theme: yellow with green-yellow and orange-yellow. Combine it with gold for a hot and elegant summer day feeling. Add some red accents for a bright and happy schema. Try some nice browns and reds for a rich autumn theme. Used in pale accents can subdue a darker or richer colour and balance the combination.

Remember to wear some yellow this winter - you'll bring a smile not only on your face, but on everyone's face!

What is your favourite colour? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thoughts

Polymer clay bowlI've been quite busy the past week and I'll get even busier coming week. No, nothing artsy (if you don't count my new beautiful sweater I have just started with high hopes that'll be done by Christmas - ambitious hopes!) - just working at my son's school where we prepare for the Holiday Auction set for Dec. 2nd. Things are going OK, but there is lots of work. Today I've been logging items - you'd think there are about 2 million of them, however... when you consider the time it takes to figure out in which of the side of the auction to put it (Live, Silent, Holiday Shop), if it needs receipt, where is the description sheet and so on... it's a miracle we managed to log all items in just under 6 hours.

When I talk to my mom and tell her about the volunteer system in here she's always amazed and quite a little jealous too! See - she's a former high-school teacher and she knows the educational system back in the country from inside out. As a teacher she can appreciate what a difference the help of parents could make. She's used there with just demands and the 'I sent my child to school, it's the school's / teacher's responsibility now' attitude. She dreams of what could have been done while she was teaching those kids if they had the support of the parent community. And not only the educational system - here in Canada we run a lot on the support of the community and volunteers. It's amazing how many things are done through the kindness of strangers and we should stop and think and be grateful we live in a normal society. Sure, many areas could use improvement - but let's be honest: we are a society of caring people.

And for that I am thankful!

Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Conversations

I have the strangest conversations with my 8yo (soon to be 9). They take place in the car, while we drive to and from some activity, or right before bed-time.

There are sometimes personal, sometimes touching and most of the time I am truly surprised at the maturity he shows.

#1 took place in the car this afternoon - we talked earlier about how Santa likes to check with parents about the gifts children ask for, to make sure they are appropriate - out of the blue, in the middle of a totally different idea came the question:

Wordle: Untitled- Mommy, does Santa ever die?
- ... err... why do you ask (that's how I get out of trouble most of the time, by stalling)
- You know, what if he suddenly dies before Christmas - who's going to deliver all the toys? He's been alive for a long time. Do you think he has a son and he transfers all the duties to his son?
- Maybe... that sounds like something a responsible Santa would do
- Do you think he will ever die?
- I am not sure, he might be a truly magical person...
- That would be so cool! Can you ask him?
- [almost chocked on the water I was drinking] Me? When? What?
- You know, when you talk to him... when he's checking about the gifts with parents... can you ask him?
- What? if he'll ever die?
- No, that would be really rude. If he has a son and if he hands his duties over to his son.
- Umm... sure... I will try to remember.

#2 took place at home, right before bed-time. We were talking about how he likes something (broccoli & Brussels sprouts) and his friends at school think that's weird, but he learned that it's OK to have different likes; and if one of your friends doesn't like what you like, it is OK, we are all individuals and we can ignore when someone is trying to make us feel bad for a personal like or dislike.

About half an hour later:

- Mommy, if a child comes from school with an A- and his/her parents instead of praising the child proceed to tell him how he should have gotten an A or A+... can they ignore?
- Huh?
- If the child...
- Yes, I got the child story - what is the question?
- You know how we talked about how you are an individual and you can ignore what other people think about you... should the child ignore the parents in this case? 'Cause they truly don't appreciate you trying very hard and instead of focusing on the positive they come hard on you with negatives.
- [darn...] Well... you shouldn't really ignore your parents. Instead you should try to make them understand your point of view
- Yeah, I didn't think it's a good idea to ignore them
- Sometimes parents can be a little too...
- Mean?!
- No, they might ask too much of their children
- They over-estimate the child!
- Not necessarily; just ask too much. In that case, you need to make them understand what you think. How you tried your best at the moment, how you improved - try to make them see the positives. It goes like this: if you care about the person that's making some negative comments - you should first try to explain your position, try to understand each other
- But what if they don't get it?
- Well... sometimes it's OK to just walk away and accept that sometimes there truly are multiple poits of view. And try to understand their position too. You don't have to agree - just to accept it. You'll have to learn to gauge when it's the appropriate time for each...
- OK, that sounds good.

He went back to his Lego... and left me wondering: was that the correct answer? I don't want to raise a little anarchist... nor a complier w/o thinking. It is a fine line - and my answer was also based on the absolute knowledge that tomorrow morning he'll gather his group of friends and pass the advice to them.

Oh, the miracles of parenthood! Any words of wisdom from out there?

Happy Thanksgiving (US)!

Today is Thanksgiving in US - and we are wishing our many many great friends down South a very memorable day! May it bring you happiness and may you be healthy and celebrating with your dear ones!

Happy Thanksgiving!  Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Christmas - just around the corner

Christmas ★* 。 • ˚ ˚ ˛ ˚ ˛ •
•。★ Countdown ★ 。* 。only 31 days
°  ° ˚˛˚˛ * __Π____*。*   ˚ to go ......!
˚ ˛ •˛•˚ */________/~\。˚ ˚ ˛
˚ ˛ •˛• ˚| 田   田 |門|


I had to use this pictogram, it's way too cute.

Ho!Ho!Ho! Christmas is here!Anybody here remembers the days when we used the big mainframes to print knitting or point needle patterns using just lines and Xs and Os? I vividly recall a pull-over I knitted when I was in grade 5 or 6 - it had the most beautiful butterfly and the patter has been printed like the image above, by a family friend, at the computer centre in one of the big plants of the city.

<side note> Back in those days (we are talking cold war here, and one of the Eastern Block countries, one of the closest to Russia too) the 3 plants in the city could be transformed in a blink: from making pants into making uniforms, from making bridge parts into making rocket parts (yes, they actually built them) and from making auto parts into making tanks. In high-school we had periods of couple of weeks every 2-3 months when we will go and work in those plants ('volunteer' work, of course) and my friends whose parents were working there (1/3 of the city was working there, of course) would get a ride on a tank (no, I am not kidding). </end of side note>

Side note aside - It is quite frightening: we have just one month and a bit over 4 weeks until Christmas - which also means... the year is over. Have you started to decorate? I haven't and the next 2 weeks are quite busy... which means I will have less than 3 weeks to focus on decorations. Plus making all the gifts I want to make. Plus baking (and that's not my strength to start with anyhow!). Plus...

I could be stressed out, I think. But there is no point in doing that. Time will pass no matter if I worry about it. So I will instead focusing on how to make the most out of the Holidays.

First of all - by smiling and keeping a low-stress profile around the house (harder to do with DH, he's the one that needs more calming than anyone in the household). Filling the house with carols: both traditional and North-American. Playing them on the piano as a family is always fun - and we do that more as the holiday approaches. Cleaning the house went low on my list - I do a decent job, but I don't go to the extremes I used to (like cleaning the grout in between the kitchen tiles - seriously?! they look nice when clean... but it keeps for less than a week :) neah, I have better things to do with my time). I will have to get the card making supplies out soon; and the decoration making supplies too.

So: deep breath... in... out... and off I go - tackling the to-do list of today.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Life

Life is a collection of moments - some bad, some good, some excellent... and all precious.

For all out there needing a prayer and a thought today I send you my cute Angel

Thanksgiving AngelBelieve that life is worth living and your belief will help create the fact. ~ William James

Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment. ~ Buddha

It's not whether you get knocked down, it's whether you get up. ~ Vince Lombardi

Today is the day the Lord has made, rejoice and be glad in it. ~ Psalm 118:24

Monday, November 21, 2011

Doplhin

Dolphins are one of my favourite animals - if not *the* favourite one. I never got the chance to swim with them, it's on my 'bucket' list, ranking higher than visiting historic Europe :)

Some things are hereditary - and dolphins love might be one in my family. My mom is crazy about them, I love them, my son is dreaming of the day when he'll become a marine biologist and make his own lab, with a huge aquarium for... dolphins.

For his nameday last Monday you might remember I made him a panel with, of course, a dolphin swimming nicely in blue water. Blue and dolphins - that's a calming vision!

This is the panel - I am still learning to do the 'seams' properly (if one knows a way of making stained glass without the soldering - please let me know!), but I love it no matter what :)

What is at the top of your own bucket list?

Bird Kingdom (Niagara Falls)

My son loves animals - he so far has no dislikes in the Animal Kingdom. Cockroaches? Bring them on! Tarantulas? No biggie, mommy, can we have a pet tarantula? Snakes? Oh, his #1 lately (since the spring, when he had a chance to hold a garden snake). Turtles? Always been in love with them. Dogs? It's a good thing there is a city limit on the # of dogs a household can have. Cats? They're soooo cute, mommy, can we get one?

You name it - and he'll be willing to have it as a pet.

We (the parents) are still debating if we need one more pet in this house. Grandma is trying to convince us we don't :) Until then - we visit all sort of museums, zoos, exhibitions - and every time we leave the place with the same thought in the child's mind: we need a new pet.

Sunday we discovered one more animal place in the neighbourhood: the Bird Kingdom, the largest free-flying indoor aviary in the world, located in Niagara Falls. I am not sure when they open, first time I saw the building was in the summer (and we go to Niagara quite often), so maybe it's a new one.

All I know is that I was charmed (forget about the child, he was mesmerized) - so much so that we went through the whole thing twice! I have never seen so many beautiful birds all in one place. And they were completely free to roam around... I felt I was in a colourful tweeting jungle! Oh... and the chirping and singing!

The birds living in their natural habitat is not the only exhibit. There are also a collection of saltwater fish, spiders, bats, snakes, skinks, and reptiles too, all of which make their home in the same tropical environment the birds flourish in.
If you need about 90 minutes (that's how long one tour takes :)) of peace and beauty: make a visit to Bird Kingdom in Niagara Falls. You won't regret the money spent. The children will have lots and lots of fun: they can pet Lola - a huge albino Python - and Fernando - an iguana. They can feed the colourful and noisy Rainbow Lorikeets. And nothing compares to the flutter of a bird's wings when they pass you... maybe the flutter of a butterfly wings - and for that you can just visit another of our beloved places (just minutes away): the Niagara Falls Butterfly Conservatory.

Enjoy your aviary visit!

Note: I am in no way affiliated to the Bird Kingdom, and I get no monetary rewards from this article. We have simply enjoyed an afternoon of fun and I wanted to share the experience :)

P.S. Tip: if you order your tickets online you save about $3 per ticket.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Princess

Like a mother - it's hard to order your kids in terms of favourite... however I do have one that's my absolute #1.

Sometimes ago I tried my hands at chainmaille. Chainmaille, for those of you who don't know, is a very old technique: it's how they made the knights armours centuries ago. It is the art of connecting metal rings into sheets of 'fabric'. In our times some innovative people revived the technique to be used in jewelry making. Connecting jump rings into various forms to create wearable art is relaxing and the end results can be stunning!

It is not necessarily easy - think hundreds of jump rings: open / close / repeat. But it's definitely fun. I'll get back to the actual technique in another post.

Princess bracelet - Sterling Silver, Glass beads, chainmaille :: All the Pretty ThingsToday I would like to present my 'Princess': a Romanov Chainmaille bracelet made of 400 silver sterling rings and beautiful green beads. I have been in love with Romanov-style jewelry for a long time. And I love the 19th century fashion (sometimes I believe I was born in the wrong era... not complaining - just dreaming :)).

Put the two together and here we are: with an elegant bracelet (it has complementary earrings) that will make you look like a Princess. It is an extremely versatile piece - and one that will start conversations. Pictures don't really do it justice: you have to feel the way the silver hugs your wrist to understand the beauty and elegance of this bracelet.

You can wear it for the after-work meet with your friends or you can wear it to complement your New Year's Eve dress. It is a magnificent addition for a special occasion: think pearls instead of the green beads and you have an amazing bridal set. Or coral beads for brightening up the little-black-dress. Or - think Swarovski crystals - and you got yourself the perfect addition for that night out at the opera / theatre / I-feel-wonderful-evening :)

Can you tell I simply LOVE this piece? How do you like it? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pirates' Treasure

A good few years back my mom sent me a handful of broken old jewelry. Non-precious - the costume jewelry so in fashion many years ago. They were beautiful pieces - either missing a pin, or a stone, or completely unpaired (one earring and a pendant).

Pirate's Treasure - gel candle, vintage jewelry :: All Pretty ThingsWhat do you do with such a bunch of items? Well - you know the saying: one's trash, someone else's treasure. Why not build... a treasure?

That's how the 'Pirate's Treasure' came to life - a gel candle with sand on the bottom and pieces of precious treasure on the bottom. It invites you to dream of adventures, of handsome Johnny Depp pirates, of sandy beaches. And... it's a great conversation starter - even for kids. The ones in our household are charmed of the Treasure candle - they ask to see it every time they visit: girls with a misty look into an imaginary future; boys with dreams of swords and eye-patches. It's wonderful to watch their expressions :)

What do you dream of when you imagine the treasure?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Angels (revisited)

I have finished my second stained glass project (a beautiful dolphin for my son's room - he loves sea life and his namesake was on Monday, so he got this dolphin frame as a gift) and the lady at the stained glass store / class asked me what do I want to do next.

Angel
An older angel - painted on glass
Made with love, in Santa's Shop for my son :)
Well - it's Christmas time so... an Angel seemed a good idea. It took me about half an hour to go through all the books with angels and other Christmas ideas. Of course I got derailed a few times - I almost changed my mind twice; I found this gorgeous landscape with Christmas trees in the snow... decided it'll be too much for just my 3rd project. Back to angels - a cute little one 'jumped' at me from a book. I told myself: it's small, I can do it in no time. It took another 10-15 minutes to pick the glass! Seriously, if someone has a good idea on how to pick the colours... you think it should be simple - but it's not, currently it's my biggest challenge. Try to decide on the colour of the cheruby face of the little cute angel :)

Anyhow, almost one full hour into my session (which runs for 3 hours a day) I had 3 pieces of new glass (I was supposed to use some extras from the dolphin on some areas) and the pattern. Off you go to cut, grind... repeat. The face went OK. The left side of the gold hair - perfect. The right side of the gold hair - had a sharp convex curve. Concave is fine, we can deal with concave. Convex (inside curve) - a completely different story. First cut - broke the tip of the hair. Into the trash it went. Second cut - completely broke the piece in 2... Down into garbage again. Asked Beth (the teacher) for help - she smiles, makes the cut and... oops - third piece down into the trash. By now I feel a little bit better (it wasn't only me!) and Beth is annoyed (how dare you broke on me... in front of my students?!). Forth try is a charm - with a lot of griding :) After this little hiccup - all pieces go just fine... until the last 2 pieces - imagine 2 small triangles, about 1/2" in height, and maybe 1/4" in width... you have to cut & grind those 2 pieces to get into very tight little spots... and foil them on top of that all!

Anyhow - my little angel is almost ready, it's waiting for me to put him/her/it (?!) wings and a base (it's going to be one of those tea-candle holder).

Until I can show you a picture of it - enjoy another angel's voice:

In the arms of an Angel

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

DIY - Christmas ornaments

My light box is still somewhere in traffic and I still have no way to take proper pictures of my new pieces... however... for all you crafty hearts (and hands) out there - I stumbled upon a very interesting article.

I haven't started to decorate the house yet - I don't even have the lights outside (sigh!), we just got the eaves troughs up today (the forecast for the rest of the week is close to 0... guess who's going to freeze up the ladder tomorrow?!) - but we will soon. With decorating always comes the craft time - we make decorations or ornaments every year - you have to see our Christmas tree. Interestingly enough my son knows exactly when he made each of the ornaments! So we'll keep making them, I'm not complaining :)

Yes, the article - I'm getting there... it has no less than 101 (one hundred and one) handmade ornaments... each one with instructions and pictures.

101 Handmade Ornament Tutorials

Out of those 101 you must find a few to like enough! I like #25, 'though I haven't decided yet which might be might my favourite project.

Which one is your favourite? Would you try some? Are you still making ornaments with your kids?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Butterfly kisses

Every time I look at the pictures of this little project I have the Bob Carlisle's song playing in my mind :)

A few years back I found this pair of ceramic objects: a box with lid, and a small cup. I have no clue what they could have been originally intended for - they were so delicate and beautiful I had to have them. I had no idea what I could use them for - one of those projects that you grow into, like many of my home decor ones :)

Butterfly KissesI kept them on the bookshelf in the bedroom - admiring the pair every day. Being winter, I would dream of spring and flowers and butterflies... hmm... butterflies... I adore butterflies... That was my 'aha!' moment - since I had no idea what the 2 ceramic pieces were, they could be everything (the beauty of lack of knowledge is that it frees your imagination!). So the miniature bird bath became just that: a miniature gel candle, clear like a bird bath... and with a delicate visitor: a bright happy butterfly! The small box became a surprise box - you open the lid... and find a new small candle inside, with just a bit of colour and a fresh scent.

That's how my Butterfly kisses were born - and it's one of my most beloved projects... well, I love mostly everything I ever made, but some pieces hold a special place in my heart - and this is one of them.

Enjoy it :)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Christmas decorations

... or what to do with extra ornaments

Usually around November 15th we start thinking about decorating the house (outside & inside).
It is a long process - and a fun one. The tree is the last to be decorated - in our tradition we should be decorating it on Christmas Eve, but after doing that for the first few years of our live in Canada, we decided against the idea. Christmas Eve is filled with so many activities - by adding the tree decorating we just managed to stress ourselves and make the day miserable.

Christmas decor for widowsFrom my mom I got the tradition of buying (or making) a few new decorations each year. Right now I could probably easily decorate 2 full trees and still have enough decorations :) What to do with all those glass spheres nicely coloured (mostly red)? A few years back I came with an idea - let's make a 'curtain' out of them. My DH wasn't very enthusiastic; he's the type that needs to see how things look like before he can decide if he likes them. Knowing that I rarely get discouraged :) So here I was, with one of the boxes of extra decorations and a couple of gold & silver gift ribbon packs - tie a length of ribbon to the ornament, up the chair, clip (I used those miniature clothesline pins from the craft or Dollar store), off the chair... repeat.

Christmas decor for widows
In no time at all I had this beautifully glowing curtain - and once we pull the curtains it gets this nice sheer diffuse effect, a miracle!

As I still had more - I started to fill the rest of the house: the chandelier received a sudden 'boost' in the form of ornaments; vases full of ornaments dropped everywhere; crystal bowls filled with candies and ornaments; and my favourite: the wire tree I found in an antique shop a few years back.

Christmas decor for chandelierChristmas decor for tableChristmas decor for tableChristmas decor for wall

How do you use your extra Christmas ornaments? I'd love to hear your thoughts

Friday, November 11, 2011

Remembrance Day

Yes, I am a bit obsessed with this day - why? would you ask.


WWII Soldier
My grandfather on the front lines in WWII
His job was to measure the cannons'
trajectory.
 Well - the answer is simple: my grandfather fought in WWII and while I didn't hear one peep from him about how it was I still have his decorations and I still remember the look on his face when he heard a military patriotic song not very long before he passed away (I already wrote about that moment here).

To add to that - as you already know - I grew up under a communist regime and I have a deep respect for freedom; a respect one that has never encounter any real restrictions will never quite understand.

With these 2 thoughts in mind I left this morning to watch my son's school assembly for Remembrance Day. I knew it will be an emotional time - the teacher in charge with the preparations is always finding a way to shutter your inner, he's absolutely amazing. He started the assembly with a song that I love: A pittance of Time by Terry Kelly and immediately after he announced we have a surprise visit, from a real veteran - then proceeded to introduce the grandfather of one of the children (or maybe one of the parents - I just couldn't focus on words once I saw the gentleman) which came in, all dressed up in uniform and lots of decorations.

It is very hard for me to explain or express the emotions that I encountered that moment - I was able to watch the rest of the program (the children of all grades read poems, some written by themselves; or sang songs)... however at the end we were able to approach the gentleman and free to talk to him as well. That's the moment I completely lost my fight with composure - I tried hard, but I simply could not shake the feeling that this could have been my grandfather, whom I haven't seen in over 25 years and I miss dearly. Add to that the notion that my grandfather would have been 100 this year and you have a wonderful mix. I don't know what he might have thought of the crazy woman crying, I don't even know if I was able to mutter the words 'Thank you!'. I hope he knows I do appreciate his sacrifice and all veterans' and soldiers' sacrifices each day when they are away fighting wars.

I hope that I will be able to instill in my own son the respect for freedom and for all fighters for freedom - without him having to go through harder times than current ones.

God bless our vets and troops - we will remember! Thank you!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thoughts on Remembrance Day Eve

Europe is soon going to wake-up and celebrate this very special day.

We will remember you
As we prepare for Remembrance Day - a few thoughts to remind us who we are and where we go:

Very little is needed to make a happy life. It is all within yourself, in your way of thinking. ~ Marcus Aurelius


There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. ~ Albert Einstein

This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we know what to do with it. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

There is no security in your mansions or your fortresses, your family vaults or your banks or your double beds. Understand this fact, and you will be free. Accept it and you will be happy. ~ Christopher Isherwood

Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared. ~ The Buddha

Our true home is in the present moment.
To live in the present moment is a miracle.
The miracle is not to walk on water.
The miracle is to walk on the green Earth
    in the present moment.

~ Thich Nhat Hanh

Our goal is to discover that we have always been where we ought to be. ~ Aldous Huxley

Happiness is not in another place, but in this place … not for another hour … but this hour. ~ Walt Whitman

While we remember those who made possible for us to live our lives let's respect their sacrifice by living a great life, full of light and happiness.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

(5 o'clock) Tea party

Tonight the radio plays all the songs I love - I feel loved :)

The piece today is a gel candle, in fact more than one. Many years ago I discovered an antique shop very close to home. One of the myriad of store had a collection of tea cups - those cute ones you saw when your grandma was preparing her afternoon tea with her friends. I simply had to have them - they were no sets, just lots and lots of cups with their matching little plate. Since I didn't know what they'll be good for, I had to stop at 5 or so - all delicate porcelain, with beautiful designs.

Tea party candle
They've patiently waited a long time until I found their purpose in my artsy crafty life: I will make them into beautifully scented and lovely shaded candles. In fact, once they were done I fell in love for the second time: the richness of the colour would fool anybody into thinking that's some real tea to be tasted with cookies this afternoon!

The original ones are long gone - one of them to a former school teacher of my son's who's collecting tea cups and was completely blown away by the gift. I had no idea she's a collector, nonetheless I was happy with the result :)

I keep getting cups whenever I find a beautiful one - one cannot ever have enough beautiful things around them!

What would be your tea flavour? Or maybe you're a coffee lover? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

P.S. They'll make wonderful gifts for a Victorian-themed party guests: imagine your wedding table decorated with these beautiful candles your guests get to take home at the end of the day!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Colours (Red)

Being the week of Remembrance Day, the colour to talk about this week is Red.

Red bowl
Red is one of the most energetic colours, and the warmest of the warm colours. It is associated with blood and fire, meaning Love and War at the same time. It is a colour of extreme energies: positive (love, positiveness, courage) and negative (war, rage, devil) as the same time.

Red is a highly visible colour: stop signs and fire tracks are red for that reason. In lighter hue it usually has the positive symbolism, while the more deep & dark hues (associated with blood) will bring to mind more of the negative symbols.

In design should be used with care, as it ca overwhelm the design with its power.

Ice & Fire jewelry set
I a monochromatic scheme red will be combined with lighter & darker hues, and various saturation. The monochromatic scheme is elegant and classic - and has a soothing effect (something you might want with reds :)).

If you prefer some contrast try the analogous scheme (combine red with red-orange and purple) - be careful of the combination, you need a good balance of the 3 colours, as it is quite difficult to match the purples with red. The complementary scheme is a very high-contrast one (red-green) and can be used successfully if one the complementary colour is in much less volume than the main red. If the 2 colours are 50-50 balanced you'll end up with a Christmas design (which is very good if that's what you meant to do!).

Another scheme to be tried is the triad (with yellow & blue). It's probably a good idea to use the triad with the more subdued shades of yellow & blue (yellow-orange & teal) for a better balance between the 3 very rich colours.

Lest we forget
Whatever scheme you choose - remember to wear The Poppy this week: its deep red will remind you of the sacrifices our grandparents did.

Their courage and will made it possible for us to live in freedom.

Lest we forget!

Monday, November 7, 2011

New adventures

Tomorrow’s life is too late. Live today. ~ Martial

Today I had planned another article - however... it'll have to wait a couple of days. Right now I feel like a kid in the candy store :)

Long time ago - after arriving on this side of 'the pond' - I made myself a promise: that I will always try to follow my dreams, however ridiculous they might seem. It took years to start trusting myself (for those who don't know me or haven't read some of my past article: I have been raised in an Eastern European country under a communist regime - something that will not boost your confidence unless your parents were 1st or 2nd level party members... and mine weren't members at all!) and to start keeping that promise, however about 6 years ago I began my journeys. I picture my life as a huge tree: I have the roots (those 7 first years, the foundation), the trunk (my early years) and then there are the branches - I can go on any of them, and I can branch from there too... I ca neven go back and choose another branch; don't have to live my life on a straight line (that would be really boring).

Stained glass bird
I started to learn new things - not as often as I wish, but often enough. Some I found I have talent and I developed a passion for (take trapshooting); other - talent or not - I scratched: they needed either too much of my time & energy, or some other adjustments I cannot make yet (take horseback riding: I tried it for about 2 years... for more I really need my own farm). On my list of to-learn are most of the arts & crafts: music (started playing piano 4 years ago), jewelry (with various techniques, I try to learn one new every few months), pottery (still on the to-do), painting (I need to get back to it, have been away for too many years), quilling (this one my mom came with the idea - I tried it, but I don't think it's for me), and many more.

I had to scratch wood-working off (I have developed a asthma a few years back, wood dust is all I need in my lungs) and I am still trying to figure out how to try my hands at black-smithing (any ideas are welcome).

And today, with the gift certificate Santa left for me 2 years ago (yeah, it takes some time to get to my list) I started a new adventure-branch: stained glass. So far - so good: I always loved glass and today I found I also enjoy working with it.

To a new adventure! Let's see where it can take me :)

Have you started to cross things from your own 'bucket list'? If not - what keeps you from starting right now?

P.S. The little bird (my mom called it 'The peace dove') is my very first try. Not perfect - but really cute :) Hopefully soon you'll see my next one!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

How to clean your silver jewelry (update)

Last weekend I was talking about How to clean your silver jewelry. In the meantime, having to clean a bracelet of mine (really really old), I found yet another way to clean it - and a wonderful one at that! I have tested it: it really works :)

The method is very simple and involves no brushing your jewelry or items with anything. It is based on a chemical reaction between the tarnish and baking soda, pretty much the same reaction that makes tooth paste work (after all, tooth paste is... baking soda :)).

ToDo list - How to clean your silver jewelry :: All the Pretty Things
First - take a container that's large enough to allow your piece to comfortable lay on its bottom. Line the container with tin foil (you need the real aluminum) and lay your silver piece on top, making sure the silver touches the aluminum.

In the meantime, boil some water with salt (exactly like you'd prepare pasta) - enough water to completely cover the piece in the container. Once the water is boiling remove it from heat and carefully pour the baking soda (about 1 cup of baking soda to about 4L of water); make sure it is completely dissolved. Be careful - the soda will frost, and might spill.

Pour the baking soda & saline solution over your jewelry piece and watch (literally) how the tarnish is getting removed.

This is by far the best way to clean your pieces. Why? Because it is a chemical reaction that leaves the silver untouched, by simply removing the tarnish. A short chemical explanation is: the tarnish is a chemical mix between silver and sulfur (called sulfide, in our case - silver sulfide). Other metals combine with sulfur, and aluminum is one of them. The attraction between aluminum and sulfur is greater than the one between silver and sulfur, thus the sulfur is leaving the silver, and no silver is being harmed in the process.

Chemistry was my favourite subject in school :) can you tell?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Made by hand art & craft show

Today I visited my sister-in-law - she participated in the 'Made by hand' art & craft show in Mississauga, ON at the International Centre.

Having my chatty and shopping-friendly child with me transformed the visit into a true adventure. Almost every booth was greeted with a 'oooh, can we get this?! pleeeaaaase! pretty please with a cherry on top?!'. It's lovely to see the boy's enthusiasm and sometimes I give in, the pleasure on his face is priceless.

Wordle: MadeByHandShowI have developed a system to survive these journeys of ours: first we make sure we have a budget (cash only, cards don't come out unless there is an absolutely unbelievable deal - so far never happened!), then we go around the whole area ones and make a mental (or written) list of what would we like to get... and only after that we go directly to the few booths we 'need' to buy stuff from. The system works on 2 levels: first it teaches him to plan his shopping list, and (maybe more important) gets him tired if the show is big enough so by the end he will cut that shopping list in two by himself just to see himself out of there. But hey, can't complain, at least he's there with me for hours and hours.

What's probably more lovely than seeing him having fun buying is the pure goodness of his heart: he buys some things for him, but he always (seriously, always) buys at least one item for everyone else in the family: he manages to find something for grandma, daddy, and mommy; and most of the time he'll add gifts for his current best friends. Plus he's getting better at fooling even me - he asked a lot for a little painted rock and he got it... just to get home and give it to me: 'I wanted it for you, mommy!'

We met some wonderful people and I would like to mention a couple:
  • Christine Marie Ford - she graciously spent tons of time with my son, showing him various leather-bound notebooks and making him a wonderful deal; her quilted work was quite amazing!
  • Michelene Sutherland - my son really really wanted to have one of her monsters and I was trying to reason with him that he has so many plushes he could start a store (great idea, if I think twice!). You could see he's disappointed, but he never made a show in public so he accepted it. Michelene watched us going away and he called after us - offering him one of the BeSpoke monsters. I didn't really heard what she said - the idea was that because of something she won't be able to sell it so could he have it and take good care of the monster? It simply warmed my heart - she was so kind and very diplomatic. Thank you, Michelene, Monster is sleeping with his new master :)
All in all the day was quite wonderful (although very very long). I even found a big bag of lavender - just what I was looking for :)

And if you're curious about my sister-in-law's crafts - you can check them here!

One more reason to be happy today: we are getting an extra hour of sleep! yee-haaa!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Angels

Switching back to the fast-approaching Christmas (51 days to go... but who's counting?!) today I will present you with a beautiful set of candles - gel candles.

I fell in love with the idea of making gel candles - I am not using them to light them up as much... but as decor. They are a perfect medium to use colour and the perfect medium to suspend or drop all sorts of decorations in.

Angels
I was searching for an idea to make a gift for a good friend of mine for Christmas when I found a set of angel Christmas tree decorations in a store. Those heavy (gyps molded) ones - which I don't put them in my tree; its branches droop under their weight very quickly. However, I simply loved the cheerful cheruby faces and they made me smile. Being so have they were perfect candidates for the gel inserts (I'll tell you the story of the ornaments candle another time :)).

That's how my Angels came to life: one of them is happily playing the harp, the other one (pictured here) the concertina.

If you focus hard enough you will hear their song: Hark the herald angels sing!

It is one of my favourite Christmas decorations and it must be my friends' too - they haven't lit them yet :) and it's been 4 or 5 years already.

Do you have a favourite Christmas decoration? I'd love to hear your thoughts - thank you for sharing.