Thursday, December 22, 2011

Little Christmas Eve has Sherlock Holmes weather

Hector and I habitually went out this morning to get the newspaper in the mailbox. I told him: "It's Sherlock Holmes weather!"
What on earth is Sherlock Holmes weather? To me the fog and mist with a warm glow from street lights and house windows was a reminder of Victorian London streets.
What about the popular Christmas song "Let it snow!" ? It says: "Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful. And since we've no place to go, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow."
What exactly does "frightful" weather mean? When it snows at The Duck and Cherry, Arnfinn is thrilled. Lots of snow means skiing for him. The more the better. He is not a fan of Sherlock Holmes weather, which tends to melt away the new fallen snow we had yesterday.
Christmas Eve is tomorrow. It's true what Arnfinn said this morning: "Christmas comes and goes quickly." I am desperately trying to make Christmas linger longer.
Today is "invasion day" at The Duck and Cherry. Eight of our nine children and their families arrive the next hours, pluss an American couple, we do not know as yet, who would like to celebrate a Norwegian Christmas Eve.
Pictured above is this year's ginger bread bakery. I only burnt my finger once, as I glued the pieces together with melted sugar.
Now on to my chores before all the people I love the most enter my kitchen.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Invasion of the Cookie Monster

Christmas in Norway has many traditions.One is to bake 7 different kinds of Christmas cookies. I used to bake several different kinds, but noticed that the family has certain favorites. Now I bake what I know they love the best. Everyone's favorite is "Pinwheel Cookies", recipe from an old 5 Roses, A Guide to Good Cooking, which was given me by my Canadian sister-in-law.
Yesterday I decided to bake chocolate chip cookies and literally turned into the cookie monster himself! I cannot resist warm, soft and chewy chocolate chip cookies, accompanied by a large glass cold milk. Mmmmm!!! Yummy!
The Duck and Cherry smells of Christmas. The tree is straight from the woods, cookies in the oven and the Christmas meat is thawing for our traditional dinner come Saturday.
And to top it all off, the ground outside was sprinkled with a powdered sugar coating during the night. Time to welcome Bing Crosby into the living room.

Today's water color is one I made for a Christmas song book I was asked to illustrate a few year's ago.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The joyous queen of to-do-lists

I am a self-proclaimed queen of to-do-lists.
I actually enjoy staring at my lists of short- and longtermed projects, activities, chores and assignments.
Crossing off completed tasks brings joy, joy, joy!
Sometimes (read quite often) I jot down things I have already done. Why? Oh, it's very encouraging! Then I can look at my list and tell myself: "Heidi, you have really gotten a lot done today!"
It's very uplifting.
Today my list is full of preparations for the Holidays. All in all, the hours of the days before Christmas Eve will probably not cover the time all my scribbled necessary pre-Christmas chores will take.
Solution? I will write down some things on the lists that are just fun!
Man is that he may have joy! And I believe Christmas is especially a time to pick and choose fun things to do.
The dust bunnies will obviously have to hibernate.

Today's water color was painted in 2011 and is called "Winter Party".

A zillion and one goals!

Hector, the Wheaten Terrier, has set goals for the year 2012.
1) I will have all four legs on the floor when I am very happy.
2) I will not steal everything in sight (and out of sight) and bite it to pieces.
This note with goals is now posted on the refrigerator door and I will keep reminding him about it. The goals are sensible and hopefully reachable.

Have you set your goals for the new year?
I remember Tiffanys goals when she was little: learn the alphabet, tie shoe laces etc. I would prefer secretly keeping goals, but have found out that in order to grow and progress, I sometimes have to report to another person. So I have both: the reportable kind and a few I keep to myself. But all in all, goals are important and I enjoy setting them and working at improving my life.
That's so great about this life, isn't it - everyday we can learn something!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Prepared is everything!

People come and go at the Hotel Duck and Cherry. We love it. This weekend, in-laws from northern Sweden came by and spent a couple of days with us. Our lives are enriched by friendships and relationships.
I believe, that good friends are an important part of preparedness. Being in need goes around in circles. Friends are important when you need someone.
William Shakespeare declared one of his wisest sentences when he wrote: "Being prepared for everything, is everything!" Preparedness is more than storing extra wheat and dried beans. That's what the ten virgins discovered, too.
Now in this specialest of special months - December - I would like to prepare for the celebration of the birth of the king of kings!
Be wise like the wise men in my water color, and look for the star!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Are summersalts on the ice necessary?

Walking Hector has turned into a life threatening experience!
Yesterday the world around The Duck and Cherry turned into an ice skating rink. Yes, its light, lovely, and serene, but soooo slippery!
The first fall was hilarious. One of those flips on the ice that hits you by the ankles and throws you into a horizontal position on the ground in no time at all. I wished AFV was there with a candid camera. Culprit: Hector and his long leash.
The second fall was far worse. I fell on the ice as Hector and I had our afternoon walk. The back of my head hit the icy ground, shaking the largest pine trees on the road behind the house, by the sheep fence. I thought I might faint, but picked myself up and tried to continue on the way back home. It was getting dark and a lady emerged in the mist. "What a nice dog you have", she said cheerfully.
I answered: "I'm sorry, but I'm crying. I just hurt myself."
I am grateful nothing broke on my fifty pluss body. But I am left with a lump on the back of my head, a headache, a body that feels like it's been beaten, and a red left jaw, that hurts when I try to move my jaw (which is when I eat, yawn, or speak!). Arnfinn thought it might be a difficult day for me, as speaking is part of opening my jaw - and subsequently painful. Funny you, Arnfinn!
Oh, well. "This too shall pass!" - which is my own proverb, and one I tell myself, when days are tough.
And it usually does.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

I will buy that ugly tree!

It has been my job to buy a Christmas tree for the family every year. It's a chore I am happy to do. Christmas with all the trimmings is a joyous festival to me.
When we lived in Okinawa, Japan, I would stand in line with little Tiffany for three hours, waiting for my turn to buy a pine tree imported to the island for the military personell. It was worth it. Christmas would have come with or without that tree, but it sure made a decorative living room to have one.
After that I have bought Christmas trees for our family's celebration in several different countries. Sean and Linnea soon became my co-partners in seeking out a tree, even though they had a hard time agreeeing which one to choose.
I believe my favorite story is from Norway. I decided a few years ago to travel way out into the countryside, into a wooded area, where someone sold freshly cut trees. I looked around at the various trees he had for sale, short and tall, skinny and fat....and which one did I choose? The ugliest one he had! It had no top, it had been chopped off. It was thin on one side, kind of misplacement of branches, one could say. It was not a picture perfect tree by any means. Why did I buy that one? For some strange reason, I looked at it, and felt sorry for it. "No one will ever buy that tree," I thought. "I have to bring it home and give it a good Christmas."
I bought it - and I paid a good price for it - brought it home, and did extensive trimming and fixing of the branches to make a cone shaped tree with a top. It was so lop-sided, I had to tie it to the stairwell, so that it wouldn't topple over.
So, it wasn't the perfect tree. Who cares? It was my tree, I chose it. It has made a fun story for my husband to tell friends over and over again.
Christmas is about feelings, isn't it? Feelings about tradition, creating joy, love, peace, and harmony in our homes. And hopefully these feelings will spread from our homes, and out the front door and into the neighborhood and eventually into the world.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Dancing in the first snow

I am sure Hector danced the whole walk last night. Why? There was snow! White fluffy, newfallen snow. It made the evening walk light and cheery. It made my puppy exhiliratingly happy. It kept his paws clean.
I am painting a summer fairy today, with butterfly and all. My head is switching back and forth between the white snowy view out the window and the water color pad with flowers and summer colors on the table in front of me. Confusing. But I can do it! If a brain can switch between languages in the same sentence, it should be able to switch seasons at the wink of an eye. If I can remember my name, I'll be OK.

Today's water color is a winter fairy called Nora Sofie.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Why Christmas music?

It's the month that I call Christmas! First of December starts the official Christmas music month at the Duck and Cherry. Every year I buy 1 or 2 (or more) Christmas CD's. This year Michael Bublé's new CD is part of our collection of Christmas music.
This collection is carried down in a large basket and put on the floor in front of the stereo for easy access all month long, and we put some CD's in the car to listen to when we run errands.
Yesterday Linnea, our son-in-law Thomas and I were part of a large choir at a Christmas concert. We have been practicing since September. It was wonderful. The church was full, people were happy and the spirit was strong.
There is something special about Christmas music. It lifts the feeling in our hearts to new dimensions, it makes us want to be good and kind, it takes us back to cherished memories from a childhood Christmas, from our youth or maybe Christmas last year.
Why Christmas music? I dare you to try it, if you haven't been smitten yet.
Christmas music truly touches my heart, and I am so grateful for the good spirit it brings and the knowledge that Christmas is all about Christ.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Dogs and their owners

Ever seen the Disney movie "101 Dalmatians"? I love the part in the park, when different people walk their dogs - and each dog owner and his or her four-legged friend look alike. But, have you noticed? This is often true.We have a town architect who walks by The Duck and Cherry with his two long-legged elegant Afghans. You should see him with them. They look like they're related! Their hair even looks the same.On our street there's Albert, the St Bernard. His family consist of large people, friendly and good-natured. Next door there's Madonna, a little Bichon Frisé, fits right in, too. The neighbor on the left has a Chow Chow called Thai. His owner is happy and strong-willed just like him. Her hair is not quite as bushy, but nevertheless....Clutch, the black Labrador across the street is perfect for his beautiful dark-haired and sporty "mother". The list goes on and on. A short-legged Dachshound, a funny Cairn Terrier, etc. etc. Dogs pass by The Duck and Cherry every day, on both sides of the house.Right now a looks-like-perfect dog lies on a quilt on the floor next to me. He is quiet and calm - resting happily. Enjoy it while you can, I tell myself. It usually does not last for long. Being a one year old Wheaten terrier is certainly challenging. Any little noise or movement triggers the playful, crazy puppy.I tell my hairdresser, Christine, that I don't like having every hair in place. Hector's woolen fur coat is like that, too. I like him like that. He is loving, obedient and playful. I like that too. A good combination. I wouldn't mind him calming down a little though. In another year maybe....