If you're anything like me, you're frantically searching for creative, yet affordable, Christmas gift ideas right about now. I'm going to share one with you that's inexpensive, yet valuable, and is suitable for everyone on your Christmas list. In fact, my Mom swears this is the best gift I've ever given her.
All you need is a pretty container, like a glass jar, and several slips of paper. I used two colours to jazz mine up a bit.
Write a brief sentence, or two, on each slip of paper that details your Favourite Memories spent with the person the gift is intended for. Fold them and place them in the jar. You can dress the jar up with ribbon and label it "Favourite Memories", if you like, or keep it simple. That's all there is to it.
Here's an example of what I included in the jar I made for my Dad before he passed away:
"Staying up late to watch western movies,
just the two of us."
It's a fun, personal, and economical way to melt someone's heart that you care about, this year. And, a great way to take a stroll down memory lane.
*For a variation on this theme, you could fill the jar with personal gift certificates that you agree to fulfill upon redemption. Things like foot massages, household chores, or - if you really want to spice things up - sexual favours. The only thing that limits your imagination is the size of the jar you choose.
The temperature dropped down to a miserable -26° Celsius last night (-14.8° F). Before turning in for the night, The Frenchman donated one of his wool sweaters for the feral cat (aka Barney) to sleep on and we left a late night snack out for him. I worried though. To give you an idea of just how cold it is, there is ice forming on the inside of our double pane windows. This, in spite of the fact that we programmed our furnace to keep the house a steady 20° C during the night (60° F). This morning, I launched Project Feral Cat Shelter at first light. Barney has taken refuge inside an old kitchen cabinet that's stored in one of our outbuildings. It's elevated on legs and has one door. It's a small space, which is good, but it's not very warm, even with the bedding that was stuffed inside. I had to work quickly, because I knew that as long as I was in the outbuilding, Barney would be outside hiding in the snow, getting colder by the minute. I was very aware of the temperature because even bundled up as I was in my winter wardrobe, it didn't take long before my fingers and toes were chilled and hurting. The first thing I did was line the inside of the cabinet with pink insulation. I covered that with old rag rugs, securing them in place, then I replaced the wool sweater inside for him to snuggle into. The end result is a small space reminiscent of a genie bottle and, hopefully, it will help Barney retain his body heat. I put a remaining layer of pink insulation on top of the cabinet and threw the old, ratty quilt over top of that, allowing it to fall over the front of the cabinet far enough to partially cover the opening, while still leaving enough room for the cat to enter. The doorway faces a wall and the outbuilding itself provides very good protection from the wind. As an aside, I was thrilled to find that Barney has been using the litter box I placed there for him. Yay! Before I left, I created a feeding station nearby out of a cardboard box that I laid on its side. I put a 6" piece of foam on the floor of the box and covered it with a fake sheepskin 'rug'. Fresh kibble and a container with hot water is inside. According to several websites I've visited, the cat will get used to the routine and drink from the water before it freezes, if I adhere to a regular schedule. A pinch of sugar added to the water adds a caloric boost and keeps the water from freezing as fast, too. I sincerely hope my efforts help keep Barney safe and warm. I'm trusting that all the recent activity doesn't drive him away, although I'm sure he will continue to come for the food, if nothing else. Here are some links that provide helpful information if you're caring for an outdoor cat this winter: - Humane Society - Jean Nash - Alley Cat - Petfinder
It seems we have a squatter. The Frenchman and I noticed, about the same time this week, that a stray cat has taken shelter in one of our outbuildings. With big gaping holes in the roof for snow to fall through and no door, it's not the greatest place, but I guess it's better than anything else it's been able to find. After I'd seen it's little footy prints in the snow and glimpsed it coming and going for a couple of days, I accepted the likelihood that it's here to stay, for the winter at least. It's pretty illusive, so we don't know if it's a girl or a boy cat, but The Frenchman has already named him Barney. It's possible that the cat (pictured above) that I saw loitering in our field this past summer is the same fellow. It's been cold out and is expected to get a lot colder so, at The Frenchman's suggestion, I created a quick and dirty shelter for it. I nestled a small box inside a larger one and packed pink insulation in the gaps. After I taped the edges down, I put an old, clean towel on the floor of the inner box for it to curl up on. When I took my masterpiece outside, I discovered where Barney has been sleeping. There's an old cabinet stored in the shed that's missing a door. It's up off the floor and someone (the previous owners?) had placed an old quilt inside. Pretty cozy, really. The quilt, however is filthy. I left it alone, for the time being until I see which bed he chooses. I'll replace that foul old quilt with something clean, if it opts for its original nesting area, which its likely to do. I also discovered that it has been defecating in the middle of the floor. Nasty. I cleaned that up and I'm hopeful he'll use the covered litter box I've placed there for it instead. It's welcome to stay, but it's going to have to develop some manners. The last thing I did was leave a bit of kibble out for it. I don't want to attract mice, but a little food will help keep it warm. Unfortunately, there's no easy way to leave water out for it without having it freeze. I have to trust that it's been managing without our help, so far, so any little bit of kindness we show it will be a bonus. I do have a concern that it will scrap with our Luna, but if it is the same cat I saw earlier in the year, then they'll have encountered each other before. Luna's keeping indoors for the most part, anyway, now that winter has arrived. Willow tracks Barney's movements outside like a hound dog and barks wildly anytime she spots the cat, so he may decide not to stick around. We'll just have to wait and see what happens.
THE storm has arrived. It must be Monday. The people who know these things are warning that we will receive 25 cm. (9.8 in.) of snow by Wednesday and that all that white stuff will be whipping around in 60 km. winds (37 mph). By Thursday, they say the temperature will drop to -23 degrees below freezing, with a windchill factor making it feel more like -33. Yikes! I am profoundly grateful that I can cocoon inside and wait it out. My husband, on the other hand, has to go to work. I worry about him being out there in this kind of weather, but he seems to enjoy it. (He's French. 'nuff said. *grin*) The Frenchman delivers propane and, out here on the prairies, that's how a lot of people heat their homes. So, when they run out of fuel, it's kind of important that they get more and that's where my husband comes in. He's kind of like the cavalry. In weather like this, I drink a lot of green tea and bake goodies for my husband to take with him in his lunches. You've gotta do your best to stay warm and find ways to laugh, 'cause if you don't you might cry. Join me for a laugh, won't you? Linda and the latest member of her herd,Johnny Cash Cat, will have you grinning today and Debra's collection of goofy cats will be sure to get your giggle on. Enjoy! Happy December, everyone.
I really challenged myself this year when I chose my Annual Word - Courage. Next year, I think I'm gonna go for something a little easier, like "sloth" (kidding. sort of). My word has shown up in my life in various ways, as I've found they usually do. However, when I chose that word I had something specific in mind and I've been dancing around it like a prima ballerina until last week. I would very much like to develop and grow a profitable business with my photography. There, I said it. That was going to take a lot of courage and it's taken me nearly an entire year to finally take a bold step and actually approach strangers with a proposal. At the risk of jinxing things - I had a very positive meeting this morning and, if everything continues to go well, my line of greeting cards will be offered for sale through the regional hospital gift shop. The real victory, of course, was in stepping outside my comfort zone - Waaay outside - by risking and having faith in myself and my product. I expect to hear from them in the next day or two, after they consult with another team member who was unable to attend this morning's meeting. I'm optimistic and excited about the opportunities this may open up for me. This is how the empire is built, my friends, one little brick at a time. Thank you, as always for all your words of encouragement and support along this journey.
"I will go before you and make the crooked paths straight."
When I started
blogging, over six years ago, it was a fairly solitary pursuit done in
relative anonymity.Initially, I had one
faithful friend, bless her soul, who stopped by and left supportive comments so
I wouldn’t have to face the echo of my own voice alone.She kept me company until someone else showed
up and eventually, more people began to stop by to visit me in my virtual home and she
slipped quietly out the back door.
It’s been an
interesting journey, so far. My blog
has been hugely cathartic for me, on a number of occasions, helping me to sort
through difficult emotions, make choices, and come to terms with situations
beyond my control. There’ve been moments
of frivolous fun and celebration, as well.
I imagine myself at
some point in the distant future, an old woman sitting alone with porridge on
my chin, reading through years worth of accumulated blog posts, a vast
collection of my own memories. Blogging
has been a way of charting my course through life, in recent years, my own personal Captain’s
Log, if you will. I don’t have children,
so perhaps, in a way this has been an unconscious way of leaving my legacy
It’s odd to me that
I would take so well to this particular form of journaling and on such a public
platform. Over the years, I’ve attempted
to keep a diary and have successfully maintained a routine of sorts for short bursts of time with different methods of free form writing. Perhaps it’s a byproduct of aging, but more
and more I find that I need to write my truth, to get it out in print, in order
to fully exorcise whatever demons or fully realize any revelations I’m currently
encountering. Just this morning, as I
was clearing away my breakfast dishes, I was turning the details of a
particular set of circumstances I’m currently struggling with over in my head
and the thought came to me, “How can I write about this?”
I do believe that
we are not alone on this journey. All
along our path we encounter different characters, whether for good or
evil. Some challenge us and some offer
respite from the hardships we may be facing.
Occasionally, we happen upon a little roadside inn and once ensconced in
the common room, warmed by a roaring fire, a hot meal, and the rowdy talk of
fellow travelers, one voice may rise above the others and command attention
merely by the nature of the tale they have to tell.
There are many in
that room who prefer a quiet table in the corner and I find no fault with
that. I tell my tales, not for
accolades or sympathy, but rather because I have to give voice to what is crying out to be
heard. I tell my tales for that one
person in the room who recognizes herself in me and needs to know she’s not
alone, that others bear wounds and scars as a testament to their days on the
trail, as well, and that though the road is fraught with danger, another has
walked a similar path and made it out alive.
I want to thank everyone who left notes of love and support here for all of us these past few days. I really can't express how deeply felt your words have been. We miss our wild imp of a kitten like crazy, yet we're accepting that there are simply no explanations for why some things happen. She will forever live in our hearts. Luna, our adult cat, is the only one who seems truly and unabashedly grateful that the kitten is no longer here to torment her by chasing her incessantly or leaping out at her from around corners. She has been especially affectionate and playful now that she has resumed her role as Sole Feline of the Manor House. I don't blame her. Winter has officially arrived with our first major snowfall of the season. The air smells brand new and fresh and the nights seem lit with a subtle glow now that everything is covered with a pristine blanket of white. The scene outside seems to mirror the tenderness of our hearts, right now. Amid all the loss, a tenacious ember glows with gratitude and respect for the fleeting nature of all things. The road curves, the story changes. Life goes on.
We're grieving and in shock over the sudden loss of our spunky little girl, Teddy Pinkleton. Her heart stopped on the operating table during routine surgery this morning and our vet was unable to revive her.
What they don’t
tell you about being the child of a violent household is the vivid imagination
you’re forced to develop. All the ways
in which your mind draws pictures to fit with the sounds you hear just beyond
your bedroom door.
Like the way the
shower curtain must have hung bunched against the corner of the bathroom wall,
at the point where the tile meets the painted wall. How it must have slumped inside the white
porcelain bathtub, limp and incapable of providing much in the way of
protection. How the square tiles must have gleamed under the yellow glare of
the bathroom light that night.
You picture your
mother pressed hard up against the farthest corner of the bathroom shower
stall, trying and failing to merge the molecules of her body with those of the
ceramic tiles. Was she standing with her
head turned away and her shoulders up around her ears? Were her hands up to protect herself when she
cried out your father’s name, infusing that one word with all of her desperate prayers
for mercy? Were her eyes closed in an
attempt to shield herself from the horror or were they fixed on the barrel of
the gun that my father aimed in her direction?
It’s never been
this bad before. This is something new. He’s ratcheted it up a notch, your father.
You know it’s bad
by the tone of his voice and it’s only years later that you learn to assign a
dictionary definition to that particular way his voice changes from angry to
rage. You know, even in your child’s
mind, that he’s not capable of rational thinking when that happens and it
scares you into stillness. You picture
your father’s body blocking the only exit out of that small space.
not alone. You hear the voice of your
brother, sixteen at the time, and you don’t think you’ve ever heard anything
more courageous or dangerous in your young life. You picture him entering the smallest room in
the house, injecting himself into the battle between your warring parents and
you know a fear like you’ve never experienced before. That he would enter that
room voluntarily is a form of crazy daring you can’t begin to make sense of and
your breath stops.
Sitting on your bed
in the dark, with your legs tucked up as tight as they will go, your forehead
rests on your knees that are softened by the fabric of your flannel nightie and
your arms wrap themselves around your shaking limbs like binding twine. You’ve braced your body, as best you can, for
the impact of what must surely be coming. You breathe through your mouth and
stretch with your ears to hear what you don’t want to hear rapidly unfolding on
the other side of your bedroom door.
You hadn’t fully realized
how far things had escalated until you hear your brother’s voice coming to you,
soft and muzzy through the wall.
“Put the gun down,
Dad.” And, your mind frantically scribbles
him in, with swift, jerky lines, standing between his step-mother and his dad. You imagine him looking in your father’s eyes,
unblinking, ignoring the gun barrel that waves like a matador’s red cape mere
inches from his chest.
“Put the gun down.”
He says. Calmly, firmly, with only the
barest shake in his voice revealing the abject fear he must be gripping like
the leash of a snarling dog in his clenched fist. He speaks like one addressing a madman and he
His is the only
voice of reason in this house. His, the
only sound of authority. This is why you
love him so much. This is why he will
forever possess the largest part of your heart.
You can count on him to keep you safe, no matter what madness
I've enrolled in a writing e-course offered by Laurie Wagner that she calls Telling True Stories. I'll be sharing the product of my work each week that results from the writing prompts she gives us.
So guess who made her first bellyflop into the hot tub the other morning...? I scooped her up an instant later and toweled her off, but you can tell from this photograph (taken with my phone) that she's still trying to wrap her head around what happened. This is her second dip. Earlier in the week, she took a flying leap from one chair to another in our living room and landed in the coffee cup I was cradling on my lap. Fortunately, it was only hot and not scalding. She's wicked cute and is quite the handful. As she grows and gets better at jumping up on things, Luna is having a harder time finding places to go to get away from her. It's also becoming quite evident that, of all our animal companions, this one will be the counter surfer, the one begging at the table for food. She can't seem to get enough in that tummy of hers, a symptom of her days spent out in the field as a mere waif. (Yes, we've had her dewormed). If you partake in the festivities around All Hallow's Eve, may you have fun and stay safe. Keep your critters indoors.
weekday morning I unconsciously wait for it to arrive. The school bus. It comes to pick up our only neighbour’s
eldest boy to deliver him to Grade One.
I check the clock on the stove when I see it approaching down our shared
gravel road and mentally note whether it’s early or late. I indulge a guilty pleasure watching it pull
out of their driveway and disappear over the little rise in the road.
What it means is that I’ll have the freedom
to work outside in our backyard and not hear him yelling “Hey!” over the fence
at me until I either walk away or acknowledge him. It means he won’t automatically scale the
fence and trot over, at the slightest hint of encouragement, trailing his
younger brother and their ill-mannered dog behind him. He’s not a bad kid. In fact, I think he has an above average
intelligence. He just doesn’t respect
the boundary of our property line and intrudes on me without invitation.
wonder if his mother is as pleased to have him gone for the day as I am. Given the way I hear her shrieking
profanities at him through their open windows, I suspect she is. She’s not the sweet young thing she presents
to the world.
first announced my intention never to have children when I was a pre-teen. It was met with nods and knowing smiles. It’s
not that I don’t like kids, it’s just that I find it exceedingly difficult to
relate to them.Oddly enough, they
gravitate to me like cats who zero in on the one person in the room who’s
allergic to them.It’s uncanny.I’ve been told by other adult observers, it’s
because I don’t talk down to them.Personally, I think it’s because they’re sadists.
people bring with them noise and messiness and chaos and, in truth, I’m a
hermit at heart. I like my life to be peaceful. Time spent in quiet solitude is
as essential to my existence as the air I breathe and my home is my sanctuary.
implies that it’s ‘unnatural’ for a woman not to want to reach that highest
ideal of ‘Motherhood’ and to engage in the sacred ability to create life (cue
the heavenly choir). My decision not to
have children was a conscious one.
Perhaps, it’s because I grew up in a home where violence prevailed. Or, maybe it’s my innate aversion to the pain
associated with childbirth. Regardless of
the source, the older I get, the more I know that it was the right choice for
I've enrolled in a writing e-course offered by Laurie Wagner that she calls Telling True Stories. I'll be sharing the product of my work each week that results from the writing prompts she gives us.
With my groceries stowed in the trunk of my car and the cart returned, I climbed into the driver's seat, bum first, scrunched up and sliding in to avoid the brunt of the enthusiastic greeting I knew was coming from my dog. A black haired, German Shepherd crossed, with of all things, an English Springer Spaniel, most people think she's a Lab. It's the same routine every time I get in the car with her. I could be gone 5 minutes to check our post office box and she always behaves as though I've been gone for days. With her back feet planted on the rear seat for balance and her front feet resting on the centre console, she lets me know how happy she is to see me by wiping her wet nose on my cheek and licking my ear, simultaneously. All the while, her rear end is swinging in wide arcs with each wag of her tail. It's an assault on my personal space and it's hard not to laugh. Once I'd settled in my seat, I reached up with my right hand to press her face against mine, enjoying the silkiness of her fur beneath my fingers, and turned my head to the left to avoid having my glasses knocked off my face and smeared with nose goo. My gaze fell naturally on a pretty young woman two stalls over and one up from mine, also seated in her car and facing me. Her manicured left hand dangled out her open window, dropping ripped paper on the ground. As I watched the white confetti tumble and scatter in the wind, our eyes locked and I wondered if she realized how ugly she appeared to me in that moment. I felt myself go still inside while I continued to stroke my dog's fur, her big head next to mine and her breath coming in hot puffs on my cheek. It felt uncomfortable to simply sit and stare, rude even, yet I couldn't seem to stop. I wanted her to feel uncomfortable, too. I wanted her to know that I'd seen what she'd done and that it wasn't okay. I know that, on the scale of human suffering, littering ranks pretty low, but it's a 'thing' with me. Always has been.
She laughed a small laugh, and lowering her eyes, she rolled up her window. Addressing her friend in the passenger's seat, I could make out the words on her lips, "That woman's watching me." I turned away with a sigh and did my best to just shake it off, but like dog shit scrapped off the bottom of my shoe, the stink still lingered.
I've enrolled in a writing e-course offered by Laurie Wagner called Telling True Stories. Over the next several weeks, I'll be sharing the product of my work here that results from the writing prompts she gives us.
What if I were to tell you that I adopted a 16 year old girl. What if I told you she didn't speak English and her name was Celine. What if I were to tell you she nearly died 3 years later before finally being diagnosed with diabetes. What if I were to tell you that she made a full recovery and was thriving with twice daily insulin injections. What if I were to tell you that I took her for an annual check-up one beautiful summer day and that during the performance of a routine test her thigh bone snapped in two. What if I were to tell you that I'm still haunted by her screams of pain. What if I were to tell you that I was faced with a terrible choice and that she died in my arms that day. What if I were to tell you that Celine was my beloved cat.
I've enrolled in a writing e-course offered by Laurie Wagner that she calls Telling True Stories. I'll be sharing the product of my work here that result from the writing prompts she gives us each week and this is the first of those.
I'm in full-on procrastination mode today. I had determined that today would be Tax Audit Day, another day that I dedicated to moving ahead with the compilation of copious documentation that one hopes will prove that my husband and I are not, in fact, tax evading criminals. *sigh* I just can't face it today. Perhaps, today would be best spent nesting and mentally preparing for tomorrow, which I will deem to be Tax Audit Day, Take 2.
Do you remember when Oprah used to host her annual Favourite Things episode and there would follow an entire hour dedicated to consumerism and everyone in the audience would be going out of their minds at the sheer dumb luck that they happened to be there for the taping of this particular show and everyone watching at home in their ratty old sweatpants and fluffy slippers eating bon bons in front of the t.v. set would be like "Crap! Why couldn't that be me in aisle six, seat nine, cashing in on all this great loot and wondering how in hell I was going to get a mini fridge home on the plane."?
Okay, maybe that was just me.
Well, anyway...if I were Oprah and it was me choosing a few of my favourite things, these Solmate socks would definitely be included.
They're a thing of beauty, a work of art. And, they're cool. Well, they're warm, but really, really neat and cozy. I feel like a character in a Dr. Suess cartoon with these socks! I mean, can it get any better than that?!
I ordered them a week ago and they arrived, without incident, after crossing an international border and everything, just in time for a drop in temperature to Stupid Degrees Below Zero so I could prance around my home in them crowing about how much I love my new Socks!
The packing slip detailed a very gracious return policy and included a lovely hand written 'thank you' on it. It's the little things, friends.
The prices for their products, knit using recycled cotton yarn, are reasonable, I think, and who can resist their tag line: "Life's too short for matching socks." I concur.
**Incidentally, I am receiving nothing but pure joy by promoting this company and like all happy customers are wont to do, I'm simply sharing information on a good discovery and helping to support a business that I think is doing everything right.
Oh, did I also mention that partial proceeds from their dragonheart vermont sock goes to a breast cancer survivor group?
Several people on my Christmas list will be getting socks in their...ahem...sock.
All content and photos are original to Carolynn Anctil and A Glowing Ember and are copyrighted, 2006 - 2013. Please do not copy, or download any content without express written consent. All content and photos remain the sole property of Carolynn Anctil and A Glowing Ember forever unto eternity. Don't take what doesn't belong to you. Karma will kick your ass. Don't say I didn't warn you.
I'm a Superficial Dabbler - I know a little bit about a lot of things and I'm an expert at none of them. I’m a city girl with a country soul, a curious nature, and a very short attention span. I believe that animals are angels wrapped in fur, come down from heaven to model unconditional love. I'm also profoundly blessed to be married to the man I prayed for and God provided.
I have decided not to display the awards that I receive. If you like my blog, leave me a comment. I read and appreciate them all. It's the connection with the friends I make here that I treasure the most.