/*from pinterest*/
Slow Mail

Slow Mail

There was a time—a long, long time ago—when I used to get home from Wherever, and rush over to the computer. THE computer, because there was only one. THE computer was shared with my hubby and two sons.

I would turn it on, listen for the beeping and humming and whistling of the modem, and watch the little bar move slowly across the screen . . . until it finally (hopefully) said, “YOU’VE GOT MAIL!”

Those were the days of loving this technology.

Now, I avoid email. I have three accounts—one for personal, one for business and another as backup. I suppose I could delete that one, but I can’t bring myself to do it. Not just yet.

I do enjoy the personal account—when there is email from my sisters and cousins. But mostly, that account gets ads: some things I’m interested in, some things I’m semi-interested in, and some things I don’t even remember signing up for.

If I go back even further in time, to when I lived on a little farm in southwestern Ontario, I remember the Mailbox. No, not the InBox, but the actual metal mailbox sitting atop a wooden post at the end of the lane. The long, often muddy, sometimes snowed-in lane. On rare occasions, I GOT MAIL!

Those were exciting times. While I lived on the farm, I had three pen pals. (Not to be confused with PayPal.) A pen pal is someone you met in the classified ads of the London Free Press. If their little blurb interested you (it would be called an “elevator pitch” nowadays) then you could write to the magazine and they would forward your letter. After that, if you were still interested, you exchanged slow mail addresses with your pen pal.

I say “slow mail” but in those days, there was no other kind. I had a pen pal in France, another in Greece, and one in Regina, Saskatchewan. Saskatchewan is a province of Canada, a “prairie” province, also known as “the one in the middle” on occasion.  (Check your atlas.) (Or, more likely, GoogleMaps.)

At the farm, there was also mail in the form of birthday cards. And, at Christmas, there was a multitude of Christmas cards. They were strung on ribbons in the kitchen. I can still remember my mother, sitting at the kitchen table, writing notes in the cards she would send, and addressing each envelope in her beautiful handwriting.

One of the things about COVID is that we seem to be doing more Slow Mail. I got more physical Christmas Cards this year than I have in ages. Thank you very much! It seemed every day, there was another card in the mailbox. The actual mailbox at the front of our house.

In many parts of the city, we have Super Mailboxes. But we still have a mailbox attached to our house. Eventually, I suppose our neighbourhood will get Super Mailboxes too, since most of the stuff that arrives is not urgent—things like flyers, catalogues and “buy this” type of guidance.

You could pick up those items weekly. Or less often.

Or maybe not. In times of COVID isolation, maybe people will start using Canada Post more often. Who knows?

Do you get much Slow Mail? Do you remember a time when that was the only kind of mail? Do you have a Super Mailbox, or do you have a mailbox at your house? Do you think it’s amazing that for about one dollar—much less than the cost of a latte—you can send a hard copy letter or card from Victoria, British Columbia all the way across Canada to St. John’s, Newfoundland?

Outdoor Christmas Arrangement

Outdoor Christmas Arrangement

I’ve always wanted to make an outdoor Christmas arrangement of evergreens and I finally did.

This is a first effort and a “learn-as-you-go” sort of thing for me. I did try to research what to do—and I found many approaches. At any rate, I didn’t have much of a plan and I just went with it.

I guess you can use many types of foundation for your arrangement. Some sites suggested soil; some suggested floral foam taped on top of the soil; some suggested rice husks because they are good at absorbing water. I didn’t have time to find rice husks. Or floral foam. So, I went with one of the flower pots from last summer that had held chrysanthemums. There didn’t seem to be quite enough soil, so I dumped another flower pot on top. I’m in Canada, so the soil was frozen. Of course.I heated some water and dumped that on the frozen soil. That helped, but this was a lot of frozen soil, so I brought the pot in the house overnight. I probably should have had it in the house for several nights to really let it thaw, and next time I’ll do that.

Anyway, the next day, it seemed thawed (it wasn’t, not quite) but I was excited to do this project. I had my pine cones and berries, which I’d found at Michael’s and some other places. I’m always buying stuff like this and never finding the time to actually make anything.

embellishments for Outdoor Christmas Arrangement

It’s late in the season, so I had trouble locating evergreens. I finally found some spruce at Lowe’s. And then some cedar and pine at the Safeway. We have pruning shears in the garage, so I gave each evergreen piece a fresh cut.

One of the websites suggested putting the spruce at the outer perimeter of the arrangement. Another site said to use it as a centrepiece. I only had one piece of spruce, so it became the centrepiece. Then I tucked the cedar and pine in around that, starting with the larger pieces and filling out things with the smaller pieces.

The embellishments came last. (I don’t know if pine cones and holly are called “embellishments” but that’s what they’re called in scrapbooking projects, and I do understand scrapbooking—if not, floral arrangements.

After that, I soaked the pot with water, and I hoped the evergreen pieces would not loosen and tip over. It looked quite festive when I finished.

Outdoor Christmas Arrangement

And now it’s snowing. I wonder if this will withstand a Canadian winter?

Next morning’s update

Outdoor Christmas Arrangement

The snow has added its own embellishments and the arrangement seems to be sturdy enough.

Outdoor Christmas Arrangement

Have you ever made an outdoor Christmas arrangement?
How about an indoor one?
Or, like Emily and Noelle in A WEDDING AND A WHITE CHRISTMAS, do you love playing with scissors and glue?

Whatever your craft preferences, I hope you have a Merry Christmas!

Tea kettle from Bigstockphoto.com #434638226
Note: it really is spelled “centrepiece” in Canadian. 😊

Almost Christmas

Almost Christmas

The temperature is hovering around zero Celsius and it’s sunny. It snowed a few days ago and there’s still snow on the ground so, it looks like we will have a White Christmas.

Tonight the temperature will dip to minus 14 Celsius, but tomorrow, for “Christmas Eve Day”, we’ll have a high of minus 5. And sunny again.

The roads outside the city have mostly been cleared so those travelling should be okay, unless they’re trying to get through the mountains. Better to fly.

Closer to home, like in our back alley, the water main is broken. The city crew and heavy equipment are back there working as quickly as they can, trying to get the water back online. The good news is that the Emergency Water Supply is right in front of our house so we don’t have far to walk for potable water.

Emergency Water Supplu

The fridge is full. Tree lights are glowing and glitter is glittering. Santa’s sleigh is loaded and ready for takeoff. The main celebration is about to begin. In preparation for January, I’m trying to taper off my intake of Starbuck’s seasonal drinks. I love this stuff.

Starbuck's seasonal drinks

And so, it is almost Christmas. Are you ready? Or as ready as you are going to be? Of course, you are. It’s time to stop preparing and settle in for the holiday. Whatever does not get done can wait for another year. I’ll be happy to have water coming out of the tap. Kudos to those city workers who are out there in the cold fixing pipes! 

We wish you a Merry Christmas!

To all of you, far and wide, whether you celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah or the Solstice or your own special brand of Winter Wonderful, I wish you the best of the season and a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year and new decade.

For your enjoyment, here’s a video of the Christmas fairies checking out our neighbourhood. That’s me on the right, waving to you. 🙂

And to all a good night!

snowman and house from Depositphotos.com #8086284

Write Chicks

Write Chicks

Last Saturday, some of the “Write Chicks” had a Christmas party. It was hosted by the mega-creative Write Chick, Katie O’Connor. Katie is the Queen of Christmas decorations!

For this get-together, we had a potluck lunch and a Secret Santa gift exchange.

pot luck

pot luck

“Write Chicks” is a group of writers who meet to provide motivation and accountability for each other, and to get “words on the page”. At the party, we tallied up our word counts for the year, and guess what? As a group, these Write Chicks wrote about 900,000 words.

I’m sorry to say that I didn’t contribute many words to that total—but I am definitely motivated for next year.

Christmas Cookies

I love Christmas cookies!

At the party, we also had two contests.

  • Best Holiday Outfit, and
  • Ugliest Sweater

Here are the sweaters and outfits.

Katie O'Connor

Katie O’Connor

Katie O’Connor writes contemporary romance, often steamy ones! Now, she’s also writing cozy mysteries. Find her here

Shelley Kassian

Shelley Kassian

Shelley Kassian writes Romantasy, a combination of Fantasy + Romance. Find her here.

Brenda Sinclair

Brenda Sinclair

Brenda Sinclair writes historical western romance and contemporary romance. She has published over twenty novels. Find her here.

Katie O’Connor, Shelley Kassian and Brenda Sinclair are part of the Women of Stampede series. You can read about the project here

Jenna Howard

Jenna Howard

Jenna Howard loves to write sexy, contemporary romance. Find her here. By the way, I love the Welcome page she has on her website.

Victoria Chatham

Victoria Chatham

Victoria Chatham writes “history, mystery and love”. You can find her here

A.M. Westerling

A.M. Westerling

A.M. Westerling writes historical romance “from Vikings to Viscounts” and she is the winner of the Best Holiday Outfit. I love the necklace with the flashing Christmas lights. You can find her here.

Both Victoria Chatham and A.M. Westerling are authors with Books We Love.

M.K. Stelmack

M.K. Stelmack

M.K. Stelmack is a contemporary and historical romance author who writes for Harlequin Heartwarming about “Home & Heart, Family & Friends”. You can find her here.

MK is the winner of the Ugliest Sweater contest. (Points also for the tinfoil hat and earrings.)

Suzanne Stengl

Suzanne Stengl

And this is me. The Sweet Romance author. I’m still hobbling around with my cane, but next year, I get a brand new hip.

Thank you, Santa!

The Christmas Chronicles

The Christmas Chronicles

This year, Netflix produced “The Christmas Chronicles” and it’s the best holiday movie I’ve seen in a long time.

There are nights when I can’t sleep and Netflix is my drug of choice. So, on one of my sleepless nights, I scrolled through the Netflix offerings and found this Christmas movie starring Kurt Russell as Santa. And what an excellent Santa he is! Cool and macho and I love that coat!

I’ve watched the movie twice more with Rolf and we are both hoping we’ll be able to buy this one on Blu-Ray and put it in our Christmas Collection.

The basic premise is this: two siblings are left alone on Christmas Eve because their mother has to work in the Emergency Department at the hospital and their firefighter dad died last year. Teddy, a teenager, is unimpressed with having to babysit his younger sister Katie, but she concocts a plan to catch Santa on video and Teddy helps out.

The two kids end up in the back of Santa’s sleigh and cause Santa to have a near crash with a Boeing. Santa loses his hat, his bag of toys and his reindeer. The rest of the film deals with finding those items and saving Christmas.

There’s a car theft, a car chase, a reindeer chase, and Santa ends up in jail where he performs a blues “Santa Claus is Back in Town” with a cell-full of accompaniment. The police get the Christmas spirit and release Santa. Eventually, all is put to rights, the good guys triumph and the bad guys get coal. And the ending has a surprising and charming cameo that I know you’ll love.

I’ve read some of the serious critic reviews and many of them like to diss the movie. But on sites like the Internet Movie Database (imdb.com) the user reviews are mostly positive. When I looked this morning, the overall rating was for 7.3 out of 10.

For me, the movie was heartwarming and enjoyable, even without eggnog. Don’t pay a lot of attention to the naysayers. Watch “The Christmas Chronicles” yourself and make your own decision. Bah Humbug to the critics.

Have you seen “The Christmas Chronicles” yet? Do you like binge-watching Netflix movies? What’s your favourite Christmas movie?

Image from imdb.com

Simple Gifts – Child’s Artwork

Simple Gifts – Child’s Artwork

A child’s artwork, particularly a very young child’s artwork, can make a great Christmas gift.

All you need is:

  • The masterpiece — or a section of it
  • A clip frame (see Michael’s or similar craft store)

The clip frame looks like this:

Put it together and you get this:

child’s artwork

This little artist is not yet two years old, and already So Talented!

(Yes, I know, I may be somewhat biased . . . )

When my kids were little, and all these colourful pieces of artwork came home, they ended up on the fridge and on various bulletin boards. After a month or so, new artwork showed up and replacements were made. Nowadays, many fridges no longer have a metal front. Hence, magnets on the fridge are no longer an option. That’s just sad.

Another use for these artwork pages would be as notepaper for a letter to be sent in the mail. The Mail, as opposed to E-mail or text. Mailing an actual physical letter is a cumbersome process. It involves finding an envelope and a stamp and finding a writing instrument such as a pen, pencil or crayon. It also necessitates a trip to the post office or a mailbox. And so, it’s not often done anymore.

I imagine at some point, they will invent transporter beams and these pieces of art could be sent using that technology. In fact, while they are developing the technology, artwork might be the thing to practice on.  If anything goes wrong with the transmission, there is always more artwork!

And in the meantime, I think it’s fun to preserve a few pieces with this simple framing method.

More ideas for Simple Gifts

  • A Bottle of Wine – find it here
  • Soup Mix in a Jar – find it here
  • Cookie Mix – find it here
  • Tea – find it here
  • Poppycock – find it here

I hope you are enjoying the lead up to Christmas. Happy crafting!

artwork by Bob