Monday, January 02, 2017

One Word 2017



Do you have #OneWord for 2017?

What is it?

The #OneWord movement began as far back as 1999 and became a best-selling book. Co-authors Jon Gordon, Dan Britton and Jimmy Page have been living and sharing the power of One Word since 1999. It is a personal choice to find, choose, or receive a theme for the year that is represented by one word. Resolutions don’t work, but many have found that #OneWord gives them the focus and simple clarity to make sustained life change over the coming year.

This post is not about the book. It's about my choice of #OneWord for 2017.

How do I find it?


I don’t want to get so mired down in the process of finding my word and “doing it right” (whatever that means) that I give up, so I’ve kept it simple. I looked at what others have named for 2017: hope, focus, anticipate, soar, fearless, enjoy, attentive, commitment, light, release, embrace and on it goes, as unique and distinct between humans as each individual and different snowflake that has piled up on my driveway. I needed to move them all out of the way to clear a path to sharpening my own focus.

My Word

Previous words in past years have included gratitude, presence, love. Each year the word is different and reflects the context of my current life. A few words that have lingered in my vision for 2017 include: discomfort, remember, tradition, laugh, build… but I have settled on my word for 2017:

Good.

As so many people have looked back on 2016, they seem to continually focus on the bad things that happened, “what a horrible year it was,” and all the celebrities that died last year. News outlets have become fear mongers and purveyors of bad news.

My own mind, negative narrative, self-talk, the inner mean girl, the enemy of my soul or just sub-conscious fears and anxiety like to rise (especially at night) and point out all the catastrophic things that can come of imagined realities. I can focus on worst case scenarios, or I can choose to tell myself the truth and seek out what is good.

One thing I know for certain is this: whatever you are looking for, you will find. 

If you continue to look for evidence that things are bad, there’s plenty out there. I also know if you look for things that are good, there’s even more evidence of that. Here's some initial thoughts:

God is good.
The first words recorded from God’s mouth were “It is good.”
God withholds no good thing from us. (Good by God’s definition, not mine).
God has shown us what is good: to seek justice, love mercy, walk humbly with God.
Look for the good, because whatever you are looking for, you will find.
Good is a four letter word.
Assume good will.
That’s good. 
Be good.

Ways to Keep #OneWord In Mind

There are numerous options, but I have to find what works for my temperament and attention-deficit tendencies.

I love the idea my friend Kendra used last year: Establish a jar to collect good things that happen during the year. Put brightly colored note paper and pen beside the jar and write down the good things that happen each day, each week, or whenever you think of them. Or just put things in the jar that remind you of something good. On the next New Year’s Day, open the jar and read them.

Make some kind of artwork with your #OneWord and hang it where you’ll see it every day. Perhaps a poem, a painting, a carving, glasswork, quilt, 3-D print, Lego build – the list is endless.

It’s a great idea to blog or journal around my #OneWord theme. It’s likely that I will write about the phrases above and other variations on the theme. Perhaps not. Either way, it’s all good.

If you want to know more

There is a book. I haven’t read it. It’s better that I keep things simple. But if you want to check it out, go to getoneword.com

I’m not trying to persuade you to do this or suggest this is an “Easy Button” to life change. It’s simple a clarifying tool that many have found helpful.

I’ll leave you with this video from YouTube. It’s good.



Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Christmas Traditions: New Year's Cookies (Portzelky)



This was my mother's tradition. Here's a link to a similar recipe from Mennonite Girls Can Cook. I like this version, and the four pictures on the page show you the stages and the various ways the Portzelky can look. The name is from Low German origins, but Mom only ever called them "New Year's Cookies." It's basically a homemade donut taste or a deep fried raisin fritter. To. Die. For.

Every New Year's eve, if we were not on the road singing, my momma would make these, then once they'd cooled a bit, she'd gently shake them in a bag to coat them with one part each of granulated sugar and icing sugar. Once in a while, she would make a glaze for them, like a donut glaze, but usually she'd shake to coat them so the family could partake of them one batch at a time - we weren't that good at waiting for the entire pan to be full. She would make so many that she'd use her big blue and white speckled enamelware turkey roaster to store them in, usually lined with wax paper or paper towel to absorb some of the oil.

Mom preferred to use Crisco Shortening, as less was absorbed by the dough as it cooked and she could filter it afterwards and re-use it. She would melt and heat the Crisco over the gas burner in her large stock pan and fry about a dozen at a time, turning them halfway through. Getting the heat setting just right was critical. Too high and the outside would be too dark while the inside remained gooey. Not hot enough, and you'd end up with the fritters absorbing too much grease. Mom usually had the right touch for the temperature!

I don't make these. I've never attempted. Now that I limit my consumption of wheat, I wouldn't likely even eat them, should I attempt to make them. However, since they were such a sweet, delicious memory from my childhood, I still think of them every single New Year's Eve without fail, and of my mother with great fondness.




Photo 1 Credit: allrecipes.com
Photo 2 Credit: foter.com

Monday, December 26, 2016

Christmas Traditions: Remembering the Past

2016: Rebecca's first Calgary Christmas, discovering Betty Lou's Library

It's my tradition to look through past memories during the quiet days after Christmas celebrations are over and before New Year's Eve/Day festivities begin. Wandering through my digital photo library today, I pieced together a chronological list of past Christmas locations and activities. Where digital records don't exist, printed photographs may, but this is not the day for locating them. If you celebrated with us and know which year and/or have photos, I'd welcome them! In the meantime, here is a brief not-quite-thorough summary of the last 59 Christmases.

2016, Calgary: Rebecca's first Christmas in Calgary and her first white Christmas
2015, Calgary: first Christmas Eve/Day without Andrew (he came for New Years)
2014, Calgary: first Christmas with Henry and our sons; my first real tree
2013, Hawaii: scuba, snorkel and explore the Big Island with Andrew
2012, Calgary: facing a “new normal” as a widow
2011, Calgary: first Christmas with Brad and family in 17 years
2010, Calgary: actually shop Boxing Day sales
2009, Calgary: celebrate at home, ski Sunshine w/friends, then Mt. Baker w/Andrew and friends
2008, Calgary: celebrate at home, then ski Revelstoke with Andrew and friends
2007, Hawaii: multi-island cruise with family and in-laws, prep for January house move
2006, Calgary: host the in-laws after nephew’s wedding
2005, Calgary: recover from big theatrical production
2004, Calgary: to Valleyview with in-laws right after
2003, Calgary: Hueftle family visit
2002, Calgary: first Christmas after Dad Nickel passed
2001, Calgary: after Thanksgiving in Missouri
2000, Rainbow Lake: prep for January move to Calgary
1997, through 1999, Rainbow Lake: and elsewhere (no digital records)
1996, Rainbow Lake: first Christmas in the north after August move, first Christmas after Mom died.
1995, Calgary: only Christmas at Templeby Crescent after February move
1994, Calgary: in temporary downtown high rise apartment after October move
1993, Calgary: prep for house sale
1992, Calgary: with a brand new baby boy on Rivervalley Drive
1991, Calgary: last Christmas on 48 St NE, prep for move in March
1987, through 1990: Calgary, Nebraska, Missouri: no digital records
1986, Calgary: first Christmas on 48 St NE
1985, Lloydminster: in temporary rental; prep for January move to Calgary
1984, Lloydminster: prep for (temporary) March move to Marshall, SK
1983, Lloydminster: first Christmas on Alberta Crescent
1982, Lloydminster: first Christmas in second apartment
1981, Lloydminster, first Christmas living in Canada in first apartment
1980, Lloydminster: got engaged
1976, through 1979: Springfield or Omaha
1958, through 1975: traveling/singing with family
1957, Springfield: my first Christmas, four days old



Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Eve

"One day, every trembling heart will face the same way."

This year we sang in choir for two of the four services at our church. My son and daughter-in-love are here, having arrived in time for my birthday and returning to their home on Christmas night as other family and a wedding commitment follow soon. We are quietly celebrating together with Henry's sons, another soul-daughter, and a buddy of one son whose own family doesn't have a Christmas eve tradition. He was with us last year too, we're so happy to make this an annual thing!

Rebecca is thrilled to have her first Christmas in Calgary, and got her wish that it would be a white christmas! It's been snowing all night and all day, snowfall warnings in effect, but it is so beautiful.

Last night we all four went to the Flames game vs. the Canucks and enjoyed high energy play with a home team win. Perfect prep to launch us into Christmas weekend with joy!


Andrew has taken ill, having been going a blistering pace with two jobs and attending university, plus recovering from concussion and whiplash from a major car collision eight weeks ago. His immune system must have noticed things had slowed down and decided influenza could come to visit. Bummer. Some turkey soup, tylenol and a good nap are the order of the day. In the meantime, Rebecca and I are sitting quietly listening to holiday music, sipping wine, as she works on a cross-stitch project.

My dear husband has his own long-standing family Christmas eve tradition: ordering take out Chinese food for Christmas eve supper. "I don't want you to have to cook, nor anyone to have to clean up after." We just want to enjoy each other and celebrate the season together over a meal.

Our tradition afterward is to gather around the tree and share gifts, beginning this year with my decidedly new tradition of giving tree ornaments that suit each person. I began last year by proposing to Andrew that we exchange ornaments annually that remind us of a memory we have shared together. This year I've added to my tradition the beginning of what will be annual, giving each person an ornament that reminds me of something I know about them, their interests or their personality.

Then the longstanding tradition from both families is to exchange gifts and perhaps play a few games or watch a favorite Christmas movie.

Tomorrow is our second year to serve as emcees for the annual Christmas Dinner at the church. One of our catering staff organizes volunteers who prepare a turkey dinner with all the trimmings, games, activities, and small gifts for about 300 people: anyone who is alone on Christmas day or can't afford to make a turkey dinner of their own. The guys from Teen Challenge come, single folks, bus loads from homeless shelters, and anyone else. Last year there was a musical family who sang and led us in carols. There was also a photographer who took Christmas portraits of all who wished to have one.

The snow continues to fall. I am grateful for the presence of Christ and the love of family and friends. I pray God's peace and joy will be yours in abundance this weekend and throughout the coming year. Thank you for being part of my life. You bless me in ways you will never know.






Thursday, December 15, 2016

Christmas Traditions: Christmas Village


The miniature Christmas village looks like something out of another world, depicting scenes of time gone by that I never experienced. Numerous companies offer varying sizes of these houses (Lemax, Department 56, Thomas Kincade, Hummel, David Winter and other licensed brands), some lit from within by candles, as mine are, while other collections are lit with electric lights. Accessories can become very elaborate, along the lines of model railway collections. This tradition is shared by many collectors and is something which can be passed down through the generations.

The beauty of collecting individual houses, people, trees and other decor is that, each year is an adventure. You can set it up in a different way or different location. I began my collection of houses years ago, entranced by the beauty of those offered by PartyLite, a candle company. My friend Pamela was a distributor. I bought most of my buildings over a few years and have continued adding accessories ever since.

I enjoy the process of unpacking these treasure each year and adding additional pieces by shopping after Christmas on the deeply discounted sale days. I did have a few years when I didn't have the heart to bring out this collection, either because we didn't have room or our Christmas season was so busy that decorating became a chore instead of a delight, but that's another story all together.

So for today, I'd love to share my village with you. Here is a little closer peek at my town:


The sign and lampost welcomes you when you first arrive in town. The fiddlers moved to town last year after Christmas from The Christmas Store. Join in with the carollers to sing a glad noel! Once your voice is warmed up, head over to the bakery, straight ahead, and chat with the baker before you grab a sweet snack to take home for dessert!


The Candle Shop (left) was PartyLite's tribute to their own origins in a small building. Beside it is the Plum Tree Orchard (right), where the shop keeper is sweeping the doorstep. Visiting with her is the guy on the Harley Davidson motorcycle, my tribute to my own motorcycle guy - with whom I love to visit!


In the center of town is the landmark church and steeple. Out front, a miniature nativity, minus the shepherds. Beside the church entrance, a dog in a santa hat patiently awaits his master's return, perched in the sidecar of his motorbike.


Beside the church is the school house, with the schoolmarm being courted by the town's eligible bachelor. Sleds are propped up beside the school and the sledding hill is just to the right. Behind both, a small cottage sports a rotund Santa trying to sneak undetected into the chimney.


The sledding hill, with snowmen builder and other children patiently waiting their turn.


Adjacent to the children's sledding hill is the Toy Shop, busy with activity, the last one I can light with a tealight inside. The water pump stands beside, the carollers sing at the lampost and dad with son on his shoulder, goes for a walk over to the hockey rink.


The centerpiece of any young boy's town, a pick up game of shinny hockey. Only one net, dads watching nearby, broken stick on the ice. A great afternoon so nice even the dog likes to watch.


Finally, behind it all, the stone wall lines the road where the romantic couple glide along on the blades of a swan sleigh, approaching the romantic covered bridge. A lovely day for a ride in the countryside behind the village.

Thanks for coming to visit! Do you have a Christmas Village tradition?





Saturday, November 26, 2016

Christmas Traditions: Edible Holly



Sometime in the early '90s, at a Christmas fundraiser for charity put on by our department in Nova Corporation, one of my colleagues introduced me to this amazingly delectable treat. It's been part of my annual tradition ever since. I'm not all that fond of baking, so this one is a no-bake, high reward choice to satisfy one's sweet tooth and give a bright, visual appeal.

I've taken these to parties and they disappear fast. Although at one party, some thought they were just decoration and didn't eat them until I explained they were edible. A personal favorite of mine! Similar candy coating as what is used in marshmallow Rice Krispie treats, but a more buttery flavor.

Edible Christmas Holly 

1/2 cup butter
31 marshmallows (regular size, not jumbo. I recommend Kraft Brand for consistency)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons green food colouring
4 cups corn flakes
Red hots or cinnamon hearts (available at Bulk Barn or saved from Valentine's Day)

Instructions: 

  1. Melt butter and marshmallows slowly over low heat, stirring often.
  2. When fully melted, remove from heat.
  3. Stir in vanilla and green food colouring until well mixed and green color is evenly distributed. 
  4. Add cornflakes, turning and stirring until cornflakes are well coated and evenly colored by the marshmallow mixture. 
  5. Working quickly, drop by large spoonfuls onto wax or parchment paper. 
  6. Before the candy sets, add a "clump" of three red hots to each cluster (simulating holly berries) 
  7. Chill. 
Note: These are best if kept in the fridge and served cold as the clusters get too soft and sticky when left at room temperature.

Alternate Serving: After step 4, instead of making clusters, let mixture cool slightly, turn it out onto parchment paper and shape into a round wreath, using your hands (slightly buttered). Add clumps of three red hots around the circle. Add a decorative bow of ribbon or frosting. Chill, then slice to serve.



Saturday, November 19, 2016

Traditions: Best Christmas Chocolates (Not Made by Mom)



And now, on a lighter note:

Since Remembrance Day is over, my son’s birthday is past, my husband’s birthday present has been selected and wrapped for presentation tomorrow on the official day and the USA Thanksgiving does not factor into my Canadian lifestyle, I can now turn my thoughts toward a Christmas theme. I hope to write a few blogs in the coming weeks regarding holiday traditions, in an Advent countdown, of sorts. As time allows, I will post and discuss my own favorites – because, after all, this is my blog – but you, of course, are welcome to disagree agreeably regarding your personal preferences and traditions.

Christmas Tradition #1: The Best Christmas Chocolate (not made by mom)

Hands down, Quality Street.


 Introduced to me by my mother-in-law for my first Christmas in Canada (1981), Quality Street imported chocolates and caramels have been a staple on my coffee table ever since. As soon as that 725g tin is available on sale, I grab one. Or two. Or a few for gifts. Or a case (a back up supply in case of the Apocalypse).
A magical brand, Quality Street has held a special place in the hearts of the public, in Britain and around the world, since it was launched in 1936. The name, Quality Street, was inspired by a delightful play by J.M. Barrie (who also wrote Peter Pan). The two figures on the original tin were originally inspired by the two principal characters, Phoebe Throssel and Valentine Brown, but later became known affectionately as Miss Sweetly and Major Quality. The play was first performed in 1902 and later, the film version starring Katherine Hepburn became the perfect launch to the brand. Imported from England, Quality Street is now enjoyed in over 50 countries around the world.(text from this fan site and the “guide” inside my first tin of the 2016 season) 

There are other wonderful chocolates out there like Lindt, Ghirardelli and Olivier’s handmade (Calgary only, sorry folks), but my sole reason for preferring Quality Street is this: You know what you’re getting. I don’t necessarily enjoy every single chocolate in the stash, which are different shapes colorfully wrapped in various colors so that each one is quite distinguishable long before you bite into it. However, QS kindly provides a handy legend in the tin to advise what flavor each of the 12 colored shapes contains. To see pictures, click here.

From a cached version of the Nestlés website, the most popular flavor was allegedly the Purple One (hazelnut in caramel). This is my least favorite, which I eat only when there is nothing else left. Though this site and another site both disagree with that and with each other about the order in popularity of each flavor. And I disagree with them all. So I will post my own, most favorite to least favorite:

1. Toffee Finger (gold cylinder): The center is the epitome of toffee, a softer mix of the original Macintosh’s toffee and covered in milk chocolate. Slightly thicker than a golf pencil, easy to bite with tasty melt-in-your-mouth goodness.

2. Toffee Deluxe (brown rectangular cuboid): This is a softer toffee wrapped in delicious milk chocolate. I choose this only after the toffee fingers are gone, but alternate it with my #3 choice.

3. Toffee Penny (gold round): An original Mackintosh’s Toffee the size of an old fashioned English penny (hence the name). This sends me back to when I was young and my family toured/sang in Canada. We’d buy the rectangular Mackintosh's solid toffee bars in the plaid wrapper and “Whack a Mack” against the car dash to break the solid bar up into chewable pieces (or when we were forced to share with our siblings). Nestlé has recently reintroduced this bar in Canada. But the Toffee Penny is a perfect, bite-size mouthful of goodness and sticky-pull-out-your-fillings buttery-caramel goodness.

4. Hazelnut Triangle (bright green triangular prism): This is a hazelnut chocolate, and a close tie with my #5 preference. Depends on whether I want plain or flavored chocolate on any given day.

5. Milk Chocolate Block (dark green “brick”): This is a brick of tasty chocolate. I went on a Google rabbit trail to try to describe the actual shape, which is similar to a bar of gold. For you geometric nerds, the closest description I could find is a trapezoidal prism or a frustum of a rectangular pyramid.

6. Chocolate Fudge (pink rectangular cuboid): Fudge-y center covered in milk chocolate. Some older guides (and Wikipedia) call this a Vanilla Fudge. It’s the over-looked, average, middle child of QS chocolates, even mom can’t remember their name.

7. Orange Crunch (orange octahedron): Little pieces of crystallized orange in solid milk chocolate. Almost crunches like toffee crumbs. It’ll do in a pinch.

8. Coconut Éclair (blue rectangular cuboid): A poor man’s Mounds/Bounty bar. Coconut flavored filling inside chocolate. A little dry. Sticks in the teeth.

The rest of these I could take or leave in any order, depending on the day and my mood. Except for the last one. I always leave The Purple One to the very last. 

9. Caramel Cup (gold foil): hard chocolate outside, liquid caramel inside. Messy and unattractive. Sticky sweet. Think melted Rolo with soft shoulders.

10. Chocolate Strawberry (red wrapper, circular): These are the cream centers you hated biting into from the cheap box of mixed chocolates Uncle Rufus got at the dollar store. Even the dog didn’t eat this one. But QS did tint it pink to simulate an exciting tinge of strawberry.

11. Orange Creme (orange foil, circular):  Same as the Chocolate Strawberry but no attempt at disguising the white cream. Just say no.

12. Hazelnut in Caramel (purple, brazil-nut shape): The Purple One. This is a hazelnut in runny caramel wrapped in chocolate (originally it was a brazil nut, hence the shape). See #9 re: the runny caramel. The chocolate is too hard to easily bite and so the runny caramel always squirts out in unbecoming ways. The hazelnut is the consolation prize. As previously stated, this is a last resort when chocolate desperation sets in.

I’m quite certain, if you’ve ever enjoyed Quality Street chocolates, that you have your own list of priorities and very justifiable reasons for your classification system. You may even disagree with my geometric labels on the shapes of the candies. Feel free to agreeably disagree in the comments.

But most of all, enjoy everything in moderation. Including moderation.

You're welcome. And Merry Christmas.