Saturday, December 28, 2013

Focus on life: Week 52

Well... we came to the end of the wonderful 'Focus on Life' challenge. Sally prompted us to talk about 'Goodbye' but that is a word in my vocabulary I use sparsely :) I don't like goodbyes, although logically I agree they are necessary.

However, I'll take this moment to thank Sally for hosting the Focus on life challenge: it has made me look deeper inside myself, reach in and bring my best out, week after week. And I would also like to thank all of you, my visitors - I enjoyed enormously your comments and your presence. The journey is always better when you have company, and you've all been a wonderful company!

My word of the year has been 'Bloom' and I did a lot of blooming in many aspects and directions.

Very fittingly my mom's last packet contained some lovely scraps of leather: in splendid colours, and various shapes. As soon as Christmas Day arrived and I opened it - a number of flowers fell into my lap. One of them - the most beautiful shade of turquoise. Along the flowers - a number of leaves too! Some matching the flowers, some not.

But when I found a turquoise leaf (almost the same hue as the flower), along with a large, artisan ring (not pictured) I knew, I just knew what I want to make them into. And I made them on Boxing Day:

Focus on Life: Happy New Year! The turquoise bloom: leather, antique bronze, Swarovski, ooak bracelet, ooak pendant :: All Pretty Things

This is my farewell for a year of blooming: with a flower and a leaf, and a rose-like clasp (the link on the clasp is adapted from Cindy Wimmer's book: The missing link) in my favourite colour, in my favourite wire (antique bronze).

Offering you my blue flower on this last week of 2013 - and wishing you to have a wonderful 2014!
May all your wishes come true (so be careful what you wish for!) and may you be healthy and joyful!

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

More carols (Madrigal)

Today, not too many words - I'll let you to enjoy a few sweet Romanian carols through the amazing voices of the Madrigal choir.


Friday, December 20, 2013

Focus on Life: Week 51! Togetherness

OMG, it's week 51!! You know what this means?! We're almost done for the year. A year I learned so much about myself (and I was always prizing myself on how aware I am of everything :)) and I became a part of a lovely community of artists. Thank you, Sally, for a well thought challenge!

Week 51... can't say it / write it / think about it without sighing deeply. I did a lot this year, but a lot still needs to be done!

This week's prompt is 'Togetherness' - which only fits perfectly... as all Miss Sally's other prompts.

This is the time we get together more. As my hubby is working weekends, we have a hard time during the year to meet friends, so the 7-10 days between Christmas and the beginning of school / work is the one packed with togetherness. It is rare you'll find us idle from December 25th to January 2nd-3rd.

But for that to happen, there is another togetherness that must become: preparing for the Christmas!

  • first we plan (if you click on the picture to make it larger, you'll see William's plan on the white board :) )

  • then we bake ~ here we make the dough for the sweet bread

  •  and here we have a special sweet with turkish delight

  • then we cook - as you can see, the sausages are done, William is preparing the meat for the cabbage rolls

  •  his way of preparing meat :) 

  •  somewhere in between we get our tree - it has been cut by us for the past 3 years in a row (plus one a couple of years before) 

  •  then we bring the tree home and we try to fit an 8 ft tree into an 8 ft ceiling height room. It's always interesting, and we always end up with a more trapezoidal shape than conic :) 

  •  then we decorate the tree 

  •  ... and after a few more days of cooking and baking we get the letter from Santa and maybe not coal in the stockings :) 

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you are together with your loved ones!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A late bloomer? [Florile Dalbe carol]

Remember my word for the year? It was Bloom and you can read about it in my first article on Miss Sally's Focus on life series: Focus on Life: The word!

For years now I had this nagging sensation I'll have to change something regarding my career. I still love what I do, most of the time - I studied Computer Science out of pure luck (and determination), and I loved almost every moment of my Software Developer, then Designer & Architect career. I still do enjoy creating computer and web applications.

But this is a field where the average age is probably less than 25 :) Which doesn't bother me per-se, but it was obvious I won't be able to do it forever. To be honest, I don't enjoy going 9 to 5 in an office too much since the child has been born and I have been blessed with opportunities to not do the 9-5 every day! in the past 10 years I've been working contracts only, with large portions of working from home, and large portions giving me flexibility on the program.

You know how they say when a door is closed, look for the opening window? That's exactly what happened - late May a door has been closed for me. And knowing my choice for the "word of the year" I thought 'funny, it might not apply to my art & jewelry design only'... Early September that window had opened and at first I thought it's too much, too late, too... but one by one I discovered it might work and I jumped at the chance.

This is may 'late bloom', y'all (as my friend Therese would say): I am going back to school. I'll start with a Master of Applied Science in Computers (it was easier to go through another Master again than try to have my original one recognized). The goal is a PhD in the same Computer Science. I believe I got at the point where I amassed enough knowledge to either share & teach the youngsters or to use it for research.

Since I'll be studying full-time come January (it sounds strange, really strange, as this summer we celebrated 20 years since I graduated university) it'll most likely take a bit off my blogging / art creating time. I hope I'll figure out how to balance all and keep going.

Now I wonder what word will I choose for 2014 - the 2013 word sure lived up to all expectations and then some!

Monique is probably looking for new carols, so I choose this one for you today:

Its title is matching the moment: 'White flowers', which is also the chorus (Florile Dalbe).


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Hallelujah Christmas

I love Leonard Cohen. I have been introduced to his music about 25 years ago - remember yesterday's post? The 2 friends who were tutored by my father? One of them had an (I see now) exquisite taste in music: that's how I came to love Mike Oldfield, Leonard Cohen, Pink Floyd and many others I've never heard before in my little forgotten town I grew up in.

I didn't even realize Cohen is Canadian until we moved to Canada :)

A few years back, when Shrek came out I was ecstatic - my favourite, absolute #1 song ever was sung lovely... and that's probably the main reason I watched Shrek over and over :) OK, maybe not the main reason.

Below you'll find yet another cover of the splendid Hallelujah (it must be the most covered song of all times) - this time with perfectly matching Christmas lyrics:

I've heard about this baby boy
Who's come to earth to bring us joy
And I just want to sing this song to you
It goes like this, the fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
With every breath I'm singing Hallelujah

A couple came to Bethlehem
Expecting child, they searched the inn
To find a place for You were coming soon
There was no room for them to stay
So in a manger filled with hay
God's only Son was born, oh Hallelujah
The shepherds left their flocks by night
To see this baby wrapped in light
A host of angels led them all to You
It was just as the angels said
You'll find Him in a manger bed
Immanuel and Savior, Hallelujah

A star shown bright up in the east
To Bethlehem, the wisemen three
Came many miles and journeyed long for You
And to the place at which You were
Their frankincense and gold and myrrh
They gave to You and cried out Hallelujah

I know You came to rescue me
This baby boy would grow to be
A man and one day die for me and you
My sins would drive the nails in You
That rugged cross was my cross, too
Still every breath You drew was Hallelujah


Monday, December 16, 2013

A cute little video and my love in terms of locations

A new ad for Coca Cola has been shot in Brasov, Romania - I could talk for days about Brasov!

It is in the heart of Transylvania, it is an old, incredibly old place. As a city it has been attested during the medieval times, in 1235 - yes, that would be almost 800 years ago. However, archaeologists discovered traces of human settlements in the area as old as Neolithic age (9,500 BC).

It has been built by German colonists, although today an infinitesimal part of the population is still Germanic (less than 1%) - and you can feel it everywhere!

I have 2 strong links to Brasov: first link is my father, who lives there and has been for about 40 years. I visited him as a child and I fell in love with the city the very first time, and every time. You can breathe the old, the culture, the history. People there are more civilized, the city is in the middle of the mountains, it is a very strong cultural spot.

The 2nd link comes through university. I would have loved to study there (and it would have been nice, as my father was teaching at the Brasov University at the time), but my choice of learning path (Computer Science) wasn't available anywhere but in 3 major cities at the time, and Brasov wasn't one of them (we are talking about the communist period here, pre-1990s). So I went to the capital city... and as luck would have it my room-mates were 2 sisters from Brasov, and another girl from Sibiu (a city very similar in history and geography to Brasov). Not only that, but they had friends from back home, we were all in the same year - and these friends had studied math and physics with my father.

And so, my love for this wonderful, wonderful city grew up and I feel it still part of me :)

You can see the very core of the city in Coca Cola's ad - the plaza is as old as the city, probably; the building behind the red box at 0:23 (and later) is the mayor's former office building. It has been built in 1420!

And this is the ad:


P.S. You can read more and check some gorgeous pictures about Brasov here:

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Winter wonderland

On Friday afternoon it started to snow: slowly, but surely. The weather network insisted there will be a 'storm' with 15cm of snow - which made me rant about what a true storm really means.

Well -they were partially wrong. There was a bit of a storm - by the end it stopped snowing, on Sunday morning!, we had about 30 cm of snow. I still think it's not a huge deal, but after seeing the roads - I came to the conclusions that even us, Canadians, have no clue how to drive in snow! I wonder if there is any country out there where they don't shut down at the first 10 cm of snow :(

On the bright side - we had a neighbour who pulled out his snowmobile and is having fun around the white streets :)

This is how our front yard looked late last night: quiet and covered in the snow which was still falling (at times in squalls).

The colourful tree you see on the right is "William's tree". It has a nice story - when we found out we'll be parents, that fall we planted 2 blue spruces in our backyard. It just felt right to bring more nature in a world where a new child will be born. It was truly a team effort - at the time I was about 3 months along and we had some visitors who wouldn't see me with a shovel in my hand (although I managed to put in some shovel time :) ).

We moved from that house about 2 years later - and there were many times when I considered pulling William's trees out and moving them with us. But we would move in late November and I was worried they will not travel well... and while I am one of the most logical persons I met, I can also believe in 'things'... and had I known I caused harm to that tree I would have been unhappy. The tree stayed behind and while I haven't been to the old house - yet - hubby drove a couple of times by and brought me the news that our tree grew and is a nice and tall affair. Happy!

The spring after we moved in the new (which is actually very, very old) house, we bought another blue spruce and put it in at the corner of the lot. We had bought a much smaller (as in young) one - for years it seemed it grew 5 mm a year (not really, but the growths was incredibly slow). Which was fascinating for us, especially for the child, who'd measure himself against "his tree".

This year is the first year when the tree surpassed the owner in height. And it is the year we have decided to decorate it - and that's what you see: the decor on William's tree. And on the bench - we put the bench in this fall, it is, in fact, a swing-bench and we've used it a couple of times. It helps this is an old neighbourhood - both in how long ago the houses were build, and in the age of inhabitants. Old in this case equals calm.

This is how the place looked like after 24 hours (and still falling) of uninterrupted snow!

If I'll ever manage to take the cables out of this picture, I'll make it my Christmas Card :) Maybe next year we'll decorate the magnolia too!

And because we've been missing carols and songs for a couple of days - this is not a carol, but a superb song by one of the country music groups I adore, Alabama.


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Holiday Ornament Swap

Sally Rusick of Studio Sublime organized a lovely event:  a Holiday Ornament Swap.

As luck would have it, I was paired with the talented Lori Finney. She's not only creating gorgeous beaded items, she does it for a great cause, the National Inclusion Project. This organization's mission is "To bridge the gap that exists between young people with disabilities and the world around them. We partner with communities and inclusive programs creating awareness about the possibilities that inclusion can bring."

Not only talented, but Lori leaves about an hour an a half - let's say 2 hours because it snows - away from me. Why do I tell you this?! Because I am very sad to say, but our good ol' Canada Post failed miserably this time. Due to some completely unforeseen conditions (like being dead sick for almost a week) I delayed the finishing of the ornament and I sent it last week, thinking as we are only 2 hours away, 10 days is more than enough to get it there, right? Wrong! Can you imagine a postal service who cannot deliver a letter (letter!) in 10 days?! To add insult to injury the same postal service just announced they have revenue loses (you'd think?! with such record, no wonder!) and they'll cut jobs, services (they will not deliver to each house anymore, they'll implement community postal boxes) *and* they'll raise the stamp to $1 (right now it is 63 cents). I think I'm going to build myself a delivery company :)

Anyhow - the rant is off... sorry, Lori, again!

Moving onto the pleasant business - I've received Lori's ornament a few weeks back and I am still in awe!

It's hard to take a picture of pure sparkle, but I keep playing with my icicle and cannot stop smiling. As I already told Lori, I'm thinking of setting it on a simple chain and wear it! It's crystal clear and so lovely! Add that gorgeous snowflake disk and you have perfection! Thank you, Lori, I'll cherish it forever!

I've had a hard time deciding what to make. I thought of this and that, but there was nothing that would define me. And I wanted it to be truly unique and beautiful. And one day it just hit me... so Lori's ornament's journey began.

First, I took a sheet of copper and snip-snip-snip it into shape. Then I took copper washers and stamped them. More copper washers and the stamped one - all soldered to the shape. Filed everything, tumbled and buffed. Then came the fun part. I have tried to use glass - not really like enamel (which is very fine powder), but small pieces of glass who would get melted much like enamel. Problem #1 - the darn thing won't stick. After some quick email conversations with the lovely lady where I go to learn new techniques or just my future (she 'reads' in the coffee - long story, for another time) I tried again. Nope, not much improvement.

Then I got sick and couldn't get to Dee's studio to get from her what I'm doing wrong. Almost 10 days passed until I was able to get there - and understand how to successfully 'stick' the glass where I wanted it :)

Back in my own studio - more filing and buffing, more soldering, buffing, tumbling. The last part came - epoxy and a couple of crystals... And by now you're probably wondering "what in the peaceful world did she make?!"


OK, ok, sorry - but I did make the envelope too :) Just recently I figured out that finding a nice looking envelope is more time consuming that making your own. With the help of an old envelope, a ruler, some nice scrapbook paper, and a cutter - I ended up with this sparkly cutie.

What was in the envelope, you ask? This:

Well, in my defence - this is handmade too! Stamped and embossed by William, and put together by me (including the snowflake punch :) ).

OK, seriously now - this is the ornament:

The glass has some nicer colour in real-life (it looks muddy in here, and a couple are muddier than I would have preferred), and the 2 crystals (the O in Lori and the 0 in 2013) are sparkling nicely.

I hope the envelope will get to Lori soon - I was quite happy with the idea. Maybe it's not perfect, but it's sure made with a lot of love!

Until then - I would like to wish everybody Merry Christmas! Or if you don't celebrate it: Happy Holidays! Or simply: a wonderful winter! :)

Thank you for stopping by and please make sure you check everybody else, including my wonderful partner, Lori.

Lori Finney and Alicia Marinache <-- you're here

Friday, December 13, 2013

Focus on Life: Week 50 - a pop of red

Sally Russick of The Studio Sublime is hosting a year long challenge which is... sublime... as you'd expect with such a studio name. The challenge is named 'Focusing on Life' and every week Sally is sending a prompt on what should we focus the following week.

And this is how, ladies and gentleman, we have arrived to week 50! It is sobering to think we have 2 more weeks and then we start a New Year! so we'll not think of that :)

This week's prompt is 'A pop of Red' ~ which is so perfect, as this is the season for red and green, isn't it?

I still haven't decorated anything, the cleaning part will be done this weekend, and hopefully the tree next one. So I don't have (as of yet) any red popping for Christmas. Except 2 little things :)

One is another Christmas tradition: decorating the gingerbread house. As much as I want to make lots of things from scratch, I draw the line to certain items, and the gingerbread house is one of them. I can cook, I cannot bake that much - my idea of following a recipe is to read it once and then work from memory. That works (most of the time) with cooking, as you see what's happening and can correct while 'driving' around... in baking - not so much :) So we'll stay with the ready-made gingerbread houses (or components).

Focus on life ~ A pop of red :: Gingerbread house making, a Christmas tradition :: All Pretty Things
What to do next, what to do?!

Focus on life ~ A pop of red :: Gingerbread house making, a Christmas tradition :: All Pretty Things
Adding 'lights' to the house - a very delicate process!

Focus on life ~ A pop of red :: Gingerbread house making, a Christmas tradition :: All Pretty Things
And now - can we eat it?!
No, we didn't eat it - it's wrapped in front of the fireplace...

The second one is a true pop of red:

Focus on life ~ A pop of red :: The poinsettia, a Christmas tradition :: All Pretty Things

We can't have Christmas without the poinsettia, can we?

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays (although I understand this year all the other winter holidays have passed already... however, if you celebrate something during this time, I hope you're having a grand celebration!)

And please make sure you visit the others red-pops - it should be a bright get-together this week!

Pantene Fashion Color report - Spring 2014

The new Pantene Fashion Color report is out for Spring 2014:

Pantene Fashion Color report
@ by Pantene

I like this palette - I love the soft pastels and some of the bold colours too. My favourite is the Placid Blue, it is soft and calm and makes me want to sit down and relax, watching clouds running on the sky!

I'm also partial of the Purple Orchid, bold and vibrant and full of life, the Dazzling Blue - it is dazzling!, the Hemlock green - soft and lovely, a little bit too soft, maybe, and the Freesia yellow - now that's a way to put some energy into a palette!

Oddly enough, I love the Paloma grey - instead of bringing down the whole combination, it brings a touch of elegance, even warmth. Same for the Sand beige, I really like it.

The 2 colours I don't like are the Cayenne red and the Celosia orange - I find them a tad fade and without 'spice' - which is truly unusual, since the Cayenne is supposed to be full of spice!

Which one is your favourite this spring?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Artisan Whimsy - first catalog

The Artisan Whimsy community - through its fearless leader, Melinda Orr - published the very first edition of artisan jewelry catalog. Filled with jewelry pieces from various members of the community, the catalog is a joy to browse and a perfect place to start shopping handmade for the Holidays!

I am honoured to be part of both this wonderful community and the catalog: please check it out

More caroling (Madrigal - Astazi S-a nascut Hristos)

Going back to the beauty of carols and Christian music - another short and quite happy (unusual for our carols) one, with the Madrigal Chamber Choir. The pictures are from the Carpathian Mountains, with views of monasteries, churches, and snowy villages.


P.S. The title of the carol if 'Today Christ was born' and talks about the baby Jesus's birth, calling us (in the chorus) to "Praise, sing, and be happy!"

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Back to Caroling (Christmas in Maramures)

Nativity quilt :: All Pretty Things
Yesterday, as much as she liked both my wooden bracelets and my eggnog, Monique was not happy with me interrupting her caroling program :)

I am not sure if I should continue with the Byzantine-like old Romanian carols - we've had an interesting conversation on how both the language (which is Romanic, we are "Romanian" after all!) and the music style reminded her of the Latin liturgic music (which is quite normal, again, we are Orthodox, but we've borrowed a lot from Catholics).

I found this wonderful video:

While the music is not as beautiful as in other carols, it shows the customs in the country, customs I grew up with. We didn't get dressed in the popular attire, as I grew up in a small city, but people in that part of the country (north-west) still do on a daily basis. On Christmas Eve we would go caroling through the city: to teachers, friends, and complete unknown people (well, someone in our group would know them, it was a small city where everyone would literally know everybody else). They will invite us in the house and offer us sweet bread, apples, nuts, and pretzels. By the end of the evening we'd be so well fed it was hard to move anymore :)

You see the farmer's wife making the bread in an old oven - they still use it in parts of the country. And that bread is the yummiest bread you've ever tasted! There is also the tradition to make a cross over the bread before cutting it - and you see her doing that (in some places is still the head of the house, the husband who is cutting the bread).

I understand from friends back there that slowly this style of life is disappearing - which makes me sad, it definitely had a charm and a special link to ancestry, there are pre-Christianity traditions still alive there... which will be slowly dying.

More reason to cherish a video like this :)

I hope you enjoy our journey through old traditions from Eastern Europe.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

No carols today :)

There is one things I am absolutely crazy about: eggnog. We don't have it as eggnog in Romania, we do have something quite similar. But it's not Christmas related.

When we moved here and I started to mix out traditions with what's customary in Canada, I adopted the eggnog quite quickly. Then I was sad for a full year, as eggnog is not to be found nowhere until late November. each late November I would start packing the fridge... yeah, I'm that crazy :)

This year I've decided we can make our own, what could be that complicated about?! Well - for one finding a recipe is complicated. All I could find was using 12 eggs and 4 cups of milk... I understand why it's called eggnog, but 12 eggs is a bit too much :)

After checking with my favourite group (the Creative Bead Chat on Facebook, the Artisan Whimsy otherwise) I found one lady who suggested some improvements and gave me eye-balling measurements. I am all for being creative when cooking, so I threw things in the mixer and here is what resulted:

Christmas traditions: eggnog and colours :: All Pretty Things

I admit that was very very yummy, and William loved it too! He wanted us to buy some eggnog last week, when we did the grocery shopping and I said we'll make our own. He shook his head and said "mommy, please don't exaggerate with making our own everything! if I don't like it, promise me we can come an buy it!". I promised him that much - but after tasting it tonight I asked him: so, buy from the store or make our own? "Make our own, hands down!". Victory on the make-from-scratch front :)

Since it's already in the picture - I'm posting a better one for the bracelets:

Cheerful bracelets: copper, wood beads, happy :: All Pretty Things

I had these wooden beads for over a year now, moving them from place to place as I was trying to come up with ideas on how to use them. Until last Sunday, when I suddenly had an idea - and they became these overly cheerful and summery adornments. I love them so much, they are so bright and happy, making me smile :)

See, it's not all music - it's colour and happiness too!

Monday, December 9, 2013

A beautiful carol (Madrigal - Trei Pastori)

Today we continue our musical journey with a special old carol. This is traditional, 2 millenia oldand speaks about ancestral customs: three shepherds get together and decide to make a crown for baby Jesus. Probably part about the 3 wise men, part about the first who ever heard about Jesus' birth, the shepherds - the song has been transmitted from generation to generation and it's sang quite similarly in all 3 different parts of the country (an amazing happening, if you think each part has been occupied by different Empires at various times, and otherwise are quite different in slang, customs, and even traditional clothing!).

The choir singing it is called "Madrigal" and is the best chamber choir Romania ever had. Amazing musicality, amazing voices, and an amazing conductor - the one who created the choir exactly 50 years ago (the choir was assembled in 1963 - happy Anniversary!)

The pictures are from various parts of Romania - mostly the hills and mountains, and the unique Monasteries of our Orthodoxy.


Sunday, December 8, 2013

Christmas traditions

Every year I go through the same pattern: first I loath the idea of getting the house ready (the organizing and cleaning it spotless prior to decorating), then I start baby steps (which usually show nothing for a week or so :) ), then we slowly get into the spirit:

  • we make cards - although this year the child was not very co-operative, he did the embossed face and let the assembly to me :) "team work" he called it!
  • we put the lights up - this year the weather was quite strange and we ended up on the ladder just this past week
  • we slowly decorate the inside: first I see the face of my desk, then I fill my desk with flowers (I have a hot house living on my desk right now), then - depending on weather - I pretend to clean up the windows (this year is more pretend than clean, it's brutally cold out there and I can't go on the outside), then I decorate the windows (while the boys cheer me up, apparently window decorating is not a male activity).
  • we bring the ornaments downstairs and we bump into them for about a week - while I put decorations up and before we finally get the tree
  • we go to the farm and cut our own tree - the boys want a 9 ft tree, I insist on a 7 ft - we usually end up with an 8 ft that scratches our ceiling (we live in an 8 ft tall house :) )
  • we decorate the tree - the boys put the lights up, the big boy then sits on the couch, while the small boy puts a number of ornaments in... then he arrives on the said couch while yours truly finishes the decorating. Yeah, I have great helpers :) 
  • we start the baking and cooking and celebrating :) 
I'm sure I forgot some steps - but that's in a nutshell :) 

Here you have the child helping with the making of the sweet bread (under the watchful eye of Cora, who's probably thinking "what got into them?! they better give it to me instead of beating it up like this!" :) )
Christmas ~ making the sweet bread :: All Pretty Things
Making the sweet bread
For Paula who asked a couple of days ago - this is how the ornament curtains looks like (it's from last year, I'm debating if I should bring the ornaments down today and start it for this year or I should wait one more week):
Christmas Ornament curtains :: All Pretty Things

Christmas Ornament curtains :: All Pretty Things

Christmas Ornament curtains :: All Pretty Things

Christmas Ornament curtains :: All Pretty Things

Christmas Ornament curtains :: All Pretty Things

How do you prepare for the Holidays - being them Christmas or something else (isn't it funny there are so many various celebrations around the same time?!)

Saturday, December 7, 2013

I present you...

If you've followed me for a little while or you know me personally - it's not secret I love country music. I love music in general (good music), but country is in my top 2. There are endless number of incredibly talented singers (and many more who don't make it to the top, I'm sure). Out of them all there is one who's very close to my heart for many reasons:

  • he's Canadian (adopted, like me :) ) 
  • he has the loveliest husky voice (yes, I believe the study who says men with husky voices are sexier is true)
  • he has the cutest accent 
  • he is of Celtic / Scottish ancestry
  • he writes / sings the most touching songs
  • he is down-on-earth (like most if not all country music stars)
Have you figured out who he might be? The one and only Johnny Reid! 

Tonight we've seen him in concert, for the 2nd time - a Christmas concert, of course. I can't tell you how touching and perfect the whole one hour and a half has been!

Johnny Reid in concert ~ Christmas 2013, pure bliss :: All Pretty Things

Johnny Reid in concert ~ Christmas 2013, pure bliss :: All Pretty Things

But I can invite you to listen to hone of his Christmas song I love to pieces - it will never grow old for me:


Friday, December 6, 2013

Focus on life: weeks 48 and 49

Sally Russick of The Studio Sublime is hosting a year long challenge which is... sublime... as you'd expect with such a studio name. The challenge is named 'Focusing on Life' and every week Sally is sending a prompt on what should we focus the following week.

Another double week - for another good reason: last week we had the Auction at William's school. It was a great success, but as usual, it meant for a week I was unavailable for pretty much anything (the last 2 days I kind of moved into the school - I'm lucky we live right across from it). 

Week 48 was titles 'Giving thanks: what are you thankful for?'

Oh, my - I am thankful for incredibly many things:

Focus on life: week 48 ~ Giving thanks: for family, friends, pets, nature, love, light, health, and happiness :: All Pretty Things
  • for family and friends (friends are not pictured here, but they are a large part of my giving thanks!)
  • for moments of quiet: on the shore, hiking the trails, watching a dragonfly and so on
  • for the food on our table every day and on special days
  • for the beauty surrounding us: the flowers, the colours, the music, the life 
  • for the opportunity to live in a gorgeous city, next to the largest collection of lilac trees in the world
  • for the opportunity to travel - and to learn (like we did this summer when we attended our first re-enactment ever! and we did it in style, at the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg's battle!)
  • for the lovely pets and their unconditional love (that black thing next to my hubby is our chocolate lab, she's always willing to hug someone in the house!)
  • for our health and happiness 
  • for the daily smiles 
  • for the light and peacefulness in our lives
  • for our believes and customs and traditions
I've learned to be thankful for everything, to embrace my day, to find the moments of beauty and cherish them. I've learned to do that every day - and I am trying to (I confess there are days when I'm feeling 'meh', but these periods never last for too long). Thanksgiving Day is everyday in our household :) 

For Week 49, as we rapidly approach Christmas, we have... sparkles! I am supposed to 'add a little sparkle' ~ which I did a little bit, in the ways of taking down the flower decals from the windows, and putting Christmas decals on... but it's next to impossible to take a picture of them: they are transparent during the day, and there is never enough light at night! 

What I can show you is how the house sparkled last year - it'll be a similar setting this year, we're very conservative that way :) 

Focus on life: Week 49 ~ Add a little sparkle! Christmas decor :: All pretty Things

There will be light everywhere: I am burning about a pack or two of candles from IKEA, every time I light them up there are 12 to 14 tea candles on. Light is such an important part of any celebration, especially Christmas and Easter.

There will be ornaments everywhere: not only in the tree, where you expect them; but at the windows (I make curtains of ornaments), on the chandelier, in bowls and on silver trays.

There will be Santas and Snowmen in any size, medium, and colour :)

There will be music - on the radio, played by us on the piano, or sand by us.

There will be cards displayed - to remind us of the loved ones who are far away.

There will be nativity scenes: in 3D or in icons ~ as we celebrate the birth of Jesus, we are thankful for the light He brought in our lives.
P.S. The Nativity scene you see here is the first one we bough when we arrived in Canada, 16 years ago. Those are the original items, we only broke 2 animals: the cow and the donkey - both an accident many years ago. As monetary value goes - the set has no value. As sentimental value - it is truly priceless, it is the symbol of our new beginning in our new country, and a symbol of continuity (something the new generations don't really value much these days, when everything must be new, new, new). Over the years, at various points, William added animals from Lego or Playmobile to complete the manger scene.

Everything will glitter and sparkle - and that's probably why I love Christmas so much!

I hope you found (or you will soon find) the sparkles in your life!

Please make sure you visit everyone else ~ and I hope wherever you are and whatever you believe in, you're celebrating in style!

Traditions in the Orthodox Christianity (St. Nicholas)

Saint Nicholas - one of the most beloved Saint in Orthodox Christianity ~ All Pretty Things
Saint Nicholas
Today is a very special day for the Orthodox Christians (Greek, Romanian - and some others) - it's Saint Nicholas.

Saint Nicholas, Archbishop of Lichia is celebrated on December 6th. St. Nicholas lived at the end of the 3rd century, beginning of the 4th - he was born in what today is Turkey. His name means 'the man who belongs to victorious people', from nike - victory, and laos - population, people (both in Greek). Although born in a very affluent and rich family, after the death of his family he gives his inheritance away and was chosen to lead the Mira Lichia diocese. He participated to the first ecumenical synod of Nicea, in year 325, arguing very hard against the heresy that Jesus wasn't God's son, but just a man with super-natural powers. He was so worried about this heresy, that he slapped Arie during the synod. Thus the custom to bring a stick for the ones who are not listening, as a warning.

Another custom of St. Nicholas celebration was to receive a branch of an apple tree. You put it in the water and if it bloomed by Christmas it meant St. Nicholas put in a good word toward the forgiveness of the Christian. From this custom - most of Romanian Carols have a mention to 'white flowers' (which I have to admit I was totally taken aback by, why would you sing about flowers, pure white, in the middle of the winter? I always thought it's somehow a mix of the snow crystals - which look like flowers... but it's not!)

Saint Nicholas - one of the most beloved Saint in Orthodox Christianity ~ All Pretty Things
Saint Nicholas
The true Santa Claus is St. Nicholas. Everybody knows Santa, with its red costume and jolly face was a creation of 20th century (and Coca-Cola :) ) - but the name Santa Claus comes from the Danish Sinterkloos (Saint Nicolas). Sometimes it's called St. Nick - for the same reason. Tradition says St. Nicholas saved 3 poor sisters by throwing a bag full of money through their window, during the night. That's why in our tradition, on the night of St. Nicholas (December 5th) the kids (and not only) receive gifts. The kids polish their shoes and put them by the window (or door) and in the morning they find a gift: if they've been good, chocolates, and fruits, and a small gift; if they've been naughty - the stick! this Tradition morphed into the stockings idea of Santa Claus.

Our child recognizes the beauty of mixed cultures, especially toward Christmas. His name day can be celebrated 3 times in the Orthodox calendar, we do celebrate the last one, on Nov. 14th, the day before the fast starts. He also looks forward to the small gifts of St. Nicholas - makes the wait to Christmas day a bit easier :) It's not the gifts, and he knows it (St. Nicholas brings chocolates and fruits only), it's the beauty of the celebration he looks forward too. The anticipation of cleaning his shoes, and mommy's, and daddy's and getting up early in the morning to check if Saint Nicholas stopped by!

Below you can hear a beautiful carol - for St. Nicholas - with gorgeous byzantine icons (the ones our church utilizes mostly). Monique, I am sure you'll enjoy this - and as Christmas approaches I'll share more traditions and Romanian carols; I find them to have a special beauty - although William says they are mostly sad. Yes, that they are... because they speak not only of Jesus' birth (a time of celebration), but prepare us for what follows (the hardship of His family having to run away, the killing of the babies, the miracles, and then the final sacrifice).


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Our musical journey continues

I can do this year round - I simply love Christmas! For us (for my family present and past) it has always been about cheer, decorating, lights, tree, friends, fireplace, eggnog, carols, cards, and the list can go on and on.

If I wouldn't know for sure it's going to become a bore (do you remember Donald Duck's three nephews? when they wished every day was Christmas and they got their wish?) I would sing carols every day. But I realize it's special because it's just once a year - so for us is about 40 days, from the beginning of the fast to a few days after Christmas: the house is getting dressed (in a continuous move, it really happens over a few weeks, until we are done by decorating the tree), brighten up with lights, there is cooking and baking happening, there is card making, caroling (both by the radio and ourselves), special concerts, and then the house is full between Christmas and New Year with family and friends.

Below is a wonderful clip - from the perfect cooperation these 4 gentlemen show, to the beautiful music, to the actual video-recording (I really like that train idea! I think this year I'll bring the toy train nobody played with in years just for that :) )

Enjoy! (and bear with me - it won't be all Christmas carols until Christmas, I'll take breaks here and there :) )

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Holiday musical cruise continues

This video will definitely date me - but that's fine, I am a Star Trek Next Generation 'child' through and through. I grew up with Captain Picard (and care very little for Captain Kirk, although I recognize the genius of William Shatner :) ) and there aren't many episodes (if any) I haven't seen from the STNG series.

Keeping with the Christmas theme, I stumbled upon this video today and I just had to share it, it's too funny!


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

We're interrupting the musical journey...

... for a very important announcement!

The new Bead Chat Magazine, December edition, has been published. There are tons and tons of beautiful designs, extraordinary information, tutorials, ideas, including the monthly 'Did you know...?' hosted by yours truly (sometimes with William's help :) )

You can read all about it right here:

Monday, December 2, 2013

We continue the musical journey...

Usually I start listening to Christmas carols mid-November. This year I've had a crazy November (and it doesn't seem to have slowed down yet)... actually I was surprised to find out yesterday we have moved into the last month of the year! And a tad desperate as well, as nothing is prepared for Christmas: neither the house nor the kitchen nor the spirits. But we'll get there!

To help myself with the process - I started my Christmas carols regimen and I figured out I should share favourite songs and favourite artists with you. Today, I'll give you one of my favourite actress / singer, Julie Andrews. We had the opportunity to see her (and Christopher Plummer!) in Toronto, right before Christmas - although she couldn't sing for the entire concert, she delighted us with her beautiful and perfectly amazing voice.

Sound of Music is one of the 2 movies we watch each and every Christmas (the other is 'It's a wonderful Life', of course), I could never grow tired of that movie! And I look forward to seeing her every January 1st (on PBS) on the New Year concert from Vienna - another staple in our family.

Our budgie, Stevie, appreciates her beautiful voice too: right now I have 5 CDs playing randomly, one is hers and the only one Stevie chirps along (I'll have to record him, it's very funny).


Sunday, December 1, 2013

December has started...

Welcome to December! We're now about 3 weeks to Christmas - scary, eh?!

To start the season properly, we need some Christmas cheer and I always find Acapela to be best for Christmas songs.