Monday, December 31, 2012

Christmas card

Jonathan and I have had many incredibly blessed and wonderful experiences in 2012! I hope you all have as well. I want to share our Christmas card with you. Enjoy! (Click on the images to view larger.)

Pictures of our year
The descriptions for the pictures (These pages were designed to be printed double-sided,
so the descriptions are on the opposite side of the page from the pictures that they correspond with.)

Merry Christmas, readers, and a very happy New Year! I hope 2013 is an amazing year for you all!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Home for the Holidays!

I'm starting the trip home in about four and a half hours! Yep, that's early (2 a.m. over here in the east), but it means I'll be in Seattle by 12:30 p.m. and home about 7 or 8 hours after that (traffic and weather permitting). I can't wait!! See you soon, everyone from the Okanagan Valley!

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Advent activities calendar

Every December of my life (except, I think, 2010 when I was living in Tanzania) I've had a chocolate Advent calendar. Even last year in Korea I convinced Jonathan that we needed to go to E-Mart, the large Korean chain store, and search the International aisle for Advent calendars. (Yes, we found some.) In all the hustle and bustle of decorating the house this week and getting our things ready to move, I nearly forgot about the Advent calendar tradition. I remembered last night and told Jonathan we'd have to go get a couple tomorrow. (Picture coming! :)

This year, in addition to the chocolate Advent calendar, I want to start a new tradition with Jonathan. A tradition where we take a little bit of time each day of December and spend it doing something together. So we made a list of fun activities to do together. Some of the things on the list are concerts or events that we've committed to taking part in. Others are just fun things I've always enjoyed doing with my family or ideas I read on other blogs and thought would be fun to try. Some will involve more people than just the two of us (our families or fellow church members). Some will be just for us, a time when we can put away other distractions and just spend time together. I love all the ideas and I just can't wait to get started! December is going to be SO much fun!!

December Advent Activities
Dec. 1, Saturday - Read the Christmas story from the Bible
Dec. 2, Sunday - Play with the Topsham Strings at L.L. Bean in Freeport
Dec. 3, Monday - Set up and decorate small Christmas tree
Dec. 4, Tuesday - Decorate our new apartment for Christmas
Dec. 5, Wednesday - Send out Christmas cards
Dec. 6, Thursday - Set up nativity scene (maybe this one this year since my creche is still packed)
Dec. 7, Friday - Play in Handel’s Messiah at the Brunswick church
Dec. 8, Saturday - Attend Talent Show at Penner’s ?
Dec. 9, Sunday - Make paper snowflakes
Dec. 10, Monday - String popcorn while listening to and singing favourite Christmas music
Dec. 11, Tuesday - Make marshmallow snowmen
Dec. 12, Wednesday - Make a real snowman (snow pending, might have to switch)
Dec. 13, Thursday - Make sugar popcorn and watch a Christmas movie
Dec. 14, Friday - Have a sock snowball fight :)
Dec. 15, Saturday - Go Christmas caroling with the Topsham church
Dec. 16, Sunday - Drink hot chocolate & read a Christmas story/book (when we get to Kelowna)
Dec. 17, Monday - Cut down a real Christmas tree in the woods, bring it home, and decorate it
Dec. 18, Tuesday - Make a gingerbread house
Dec. 19, Wednesday - Drive/walk around town and look at Christmas lights
Dec. 20, Thursday - Make and decorate sugar cookies (and/or make gingersnaps)
Dec. 21, Friday - Colour/draw Christmas pictures while listening to a Christmas story
Dec. 22, Saturday - Participate in the Orchard City church Christmas program & go Christmas caroling in the evening
Dec. 23, Sunday - Wrap Christmas presents and put them under the tree
Dec. 24, Monday - Play crokinole and board/card games with family; Later, open Christmas name gifts with extended family and then open Christmas Eve pajamas with immediate family

*Note: I would like to try to blog about these activities. I can't promise I'll blog about each one every day, but I'll try to blog about several together at the very least. Look out for a lot of blog posts coming throughout December! Also, all of these activities are subject to change, especially making a snowman and the ones later in the month when we'll be in BC. I haven't confirmed the activities or dates with my family, but I'm quite sure they will be quite happy to join in in the activities, even if we have to move them to different dates.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Christmas is started!

When I was a kid one of our family traditions was to start getting ready for Christmas on December 1. Sometimes we would sneak in a little listen to Christmas music in late November, but for the most part, we started our Christmas celebrations on the 1st. On the evening of December 1, we all gathered together in the living room. Some of us helped Dad drag our fake Christmas tree up the basement stairs and into the living room, while others pulled out a pile of our favourite Christmas CDs and popped the first one into the CD player. Christmas music set the mood while Dad worked on putting the tree in the stand, and the rest of us went downstairs to bring up our boxes of Christmas ornaments and decorations out of storage. We went through the hundreds - it seemed - of strings of Christmas lights, searching for the newer ones that still worked and had the least amount of burned out bulbs. Then Dad wound them around the tree as Mum organized where to put the different special holiday decorations. Once the lights were on on the tree, we each opened our own box of ornaments, the ones my mum and grandma had given to each of us every year since we were born. Stories and memories flowed between us as we carefully took ornaments out of their boxes and found the perfect places to hang them on the tree. Once all the ornaments were hung, one person was selected to put the gold tinsel star on the top. Dad put the lucky person on his shoulders and leaned close to the tree and he or she set the star on the top sprig. Then, with ceiling lights off and just the twinkling of the coloured Christmas lights to illuminate the darkened room, we would perch on couches or beside the blazing fire and sip hot chocolate all stirred around with candy canes and listen as Mum read us Christmas stories. It was magical. The whole family stopping to take a breath from the busyness of everyday life and all working together to transform the house into a place of wonder and excitement.
Q kids in 1992 or 1993 (Haha, look at me thinking I'm so hilarious wearing my stockings & Bryn trying to copy me!)
The first year I went to college, we had to change our longstanding tradition of starting Christmas on December 1. I begged my family to wait to set up the tree until I got home after exams. They agreed and for the most part, we went through the same wonderful process of changing our house from a fall haven to a winter wonderland. By that time, my younger siblings had grown out of their asthma, and we could again go up in the mountains surrounding our city to pick out a live Christmas tree to cut down. Even though we had an abbreviated holiday time, we still packed in all the same traditions.
Getting our Christmas tree in 2009 (Mum's taking the picture)
The past two years, I haven't had even that abbreviated time to celebrate with my family. I've been overseas, doing interesting work and quite enjoying myself. But always, when December 1 rolls around, I feel like something is missing. That joyous occasion of stopping whatever we're doing individually and all coming together to make Christmas come to life.
Christmas Day 2010 - Bryn and me Skyping the rest of the family from Cairo, Egypt
Christmas 2011 in Cheonan, South Korea - Our first Christmas as a married couple!
This year, I again won't have that, at least not on December 1, but I have been able to take part in Jonathan's family's traditions. We hung the outside lights, we helped take boxes out of the attic, his mom told us stories about the different ornaments they have as she took them out of the boxes. And now the living room downstairs is a little bit of Christmas away-from-home! I love it! And, the best part about this year is that I get to experience it all again in a few more weeks when I go home and help my family put up our Q-Christmas tree. Two starts to Christmas this year! Could I be any luckier?! I really don't think I could be!
Kitchen ready for Christmas
Window ornaments
Hanging stockings
Lighted present (made by Jonathan's grandma)
Pretty colourful tree

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The end of Nanowrimo

So remember that blog post I wrote at the end of October? The one where I said I'd take the Nanowrimo challenge and write an average of 1,666.66 words a day or 50,000 words in the month of November? Then there was that second post I wrote a week into November where I talked about taking breaks between writing. So you want to know the truth? OK, here it is. I tried. I tried really hard for about a day. Then I tried hard for another couple days. Then I just simply tried for the rest of the week. Then I stopped trying and just enjoyed November. And that was the best choice I could have made. Because in the whole month of November I wrote a total of 469 words of the novel I thought I would write. (Hey, that's almost a whole essay, right?) But I wrote a lot of other words. Words in e-mails, words in comments on other people's blogs, words on Facebook posts. And I did a lot of things. Came back from a trip to the southern states where I got to see family and friends I haven't seen for more than a year (or two). Cleaned a church member's house and yard almost from top to bottom in four days. Took more pictures than I care to go through of the family of three deer that frequent the yard. Drove to and from the Orono area several times where we're moving to for Jonathan to take his master's. Went to New Jersey with Jonathan and his mum over US Thanksgiving weekend to help his grandparents clean up their shore house from the damage it got during Hurricane Sandy. Helped Jonathan clean the chimney (actually, he did all the work, I just held on to the rope). Helped Jonathan hang Christmas lights on the house. And today, moved the first van-load of things up to our new apartment!

I don't think I could have done all those things and also written a novel. And I'm not really sad that I gave up on Nanowrimo because if I hadn't, I might not have been able to do all those things and more. Maybe I'll actually do Nanowrimo one year. Maybe I'll actually write a novel or a book or even just write up family stories some day. Maybe. But maybe not. At this point in time, I think I need to spend more time with people and less time with my computer. So I'm not sad that my 469 words didn't turn into a book this month. I got to embrace life in other ways and I want to keep on doing that. Nanowrimo, thanks for the challenge, but it wasn't quite what I needed this year. I'm so glad I started, though, to realize it wasn't my main priority.

Spreading Christmas cheer

Christmas is coming and I'm gearing up for all the coming cheer! I've made my Christmas list and my mind is dancing with gift ideas for my family. I just can't wait to get the gifts, wrap them, put them under that beautiful REAL LIVE Christmas tree, and see them unwrapped on Christmas morning.

But at the same time that visions of wonderfulness are filling my brain, I can't forget the others. Those people around the world who won't have snow and colourful Christmas trees and wrapped presents waiting impatiently for December 25. The people who don't even have all they need, let alone anything they want.

So while I get ready for my first Christmas back in North America again, I think of the past two Christmas seasons. The simple ones I shared with just one loved one instead of my whole family. The ones without trees and multitudes of presents, without excess. The ones that were even more abundant than what some people will ever experience. And I take a little bit of time to do something for those people. And you know, it's that little bit of time that makes this season a whole lot sweeter.

"It is more blessed to give than to receive." Acts 20:35b (NKJV)

Here are some ways you can join me in helping someone else this Christmas
Give a child in Tanzania a backpack and school supplies for $7 - Funds needed by December 10th
Pack a Operation Christmas Child box and donate the shipping costs - Needed by November 19th
Choose from a multitude of gift options on ADRA International's Gift Catalog
Buy an End it Now gift to help end violence against women and girls
Pick out a Christmas gift for a special person on your list from the International Children's Care shop or buy the ICC kids a much-needed item
Buy a cookbook written and designed by a Cradle of Love Baby Home volunteer to raise money for the orphanage and two other charities in Tanzania
Make gift baskets to give out to needy families in the community

How else are you helping someone in need this holiday season?

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Day of Remembrance

Okanagan Valley poppy ~ Photo by Glenda Quiring

Again. Another special holiday with many childhood-and-teenage memories flew past yesterday. Just a day in an ordinary week. But to me, it's another tiny hole in my heart. Another reminder that I've missed a small window for having experiences and making memories that I'll never have a chance to bring back again. Another failed promise to myself.

I looked back through this blog today. The second and third posts in my 'holidays' label are about Remembrance Day. The next year I was using a different blog for a class assignment, and on my Remembrance Day post on there I linked back to my post from the year before. And in the post I said, "So maybe next year I'll actually get to celebrate Remembrance Day again...who knows." And next year has become next year and then next year and so on and so on. Every year I make some kind of proclamation that next year I'll celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving, Remembrance Day at home or even just anywhere in Canada again. It hasn't happened yet. So I've slowly stopped saying it. This year I simply wrote on Facebook, "Some year I WILL be back in Canada for Remembrance Day. And some year I WILL spend Remembrance Day at Vimy Ridge." Some year. Not next year, but some year. I still have wants, wishes, dreams. But I don't know when they'll come true. So for now, I compile a list of things I want to do again, some day. And I hope that that day will come soon.

Poppies in our yard back home ~ Photo by Glenda Quiring

But I need to live a life filled with hope, not regret. So I'll forget about the tiny heart-holes and focus on the soon-to-come heart-filling. Right now, I'm looking forward with great anticipation for Christmas at home this year. Christmas with my family, my parents, siblings, husband, grandparents, aunt, uncle, cousins, friends. My first one at home in three years! Maybe I wasn't home for Canadian Thanksgiving or Remembrance Day this year, but come Christmas I'll be in that big pink house on Juniper Rd. that will be filled to the brim with my people. That will be delicious, and I can't wait to savour all the memories to come!

Friday, November 09, 2012

First snow

It's amazing how fast nature can change her clothes. On October 12 dots of soft white clouds peppered the aqua-blue sky, and the westward-edging sun sent a golden glow over the turning leaves outside my window. As soon as Jonathan got home from work I begged him to take the screen off the window so I could get a picture of the glorious fall scene.

Golden afternoon glow on the colourful leaves ~ Friday, October 12, 2012

When I got back from my southern-USA trip, the leaves had deserted the trees, and the woods behind the house looked more open, less dense. Then November 7 came along. The day was dull and Jonathan mentioned before he left for work that he thought it would snow in the evening. I didn't think much about his prediction until that night when Jonathan raced into the room crowing, "I just walked by the window and it's snowing!" I didn't bother trying to pull up the Venetian blinds on the window above my head, but dashed out of the room, Jonathan following close behind me, and tugged on the back door. It opened to a wintry world of flake-dust drifting down to cover the porch and the ground with its white blanket. Winter already?! I couldn't believe it. Winter comes early in Alberta and northern Ontario. Even in southern BC where I grew up, winter can arrive in early-to-mid November. But winter this early in Maine? It's so much farther south... I was definitely surprised that Jonathan's prediction came true, but at the same time, completely delighted.

Snowy morning ~ Thursday, November 8, 2012 (Photo by Jonathan G.)

The snow stayed all of Thursday, although driving rain off and on all day tried to melt it away. By today it was all gone. But that first snow-sighting, it was magical. For two seasons of winter I've been overseas. The only snow I saw two years ago in Tanzania rested on the far-off dome of Mt. Kilimanjaro and, on occasion, the jagged peak of Mt. Meru towering over the ADRA campus. Last winter in Korea we had changed our calendar over to December before the first snow arrived, but by then the weather was already bitterly chilly and the cover of snow on the ground was a relief. We experienced several good snowfalls that year, but I felt that all of them were tainted with the noise, hurry, and grime of the big city. So this year's first snow was special. The pure white covering of nature right outside my window thrilled my soul. Although the snow is gone now, I'm anxiously awaiting more, the kind of snowfall that sticks and stays. The kind that means winter is really here for good. The kind I haven't experienced for the past three years. I'm ready for a real winter this year. And Maine looks quite willing to deliver!

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Inspiring photographs

Usually it's Jonathan who blogs about photography. I like photography, but it's not one of my hobbies or passions. But tonight, I feel compelled to mention a feast for the eyes that I have been enjoying recently.

For the past several days, whenever I'm trying to write something for NaNoWriMo all I can think of is "Why hasn't someone else (like my favourite Canadian young adult authors Jean Little, Kit Pearson, or Sarah Ellis) written this story already? I would LOVE to read what they have to write about this subject." And I've realized I would so much rather read my ideas in already-written story form than create the whole storyline myself. Writing a novel is completely exhausting. So I've been taking lots of breaks. And what have I been doing during those breaks? Why, looking at awe-inspiring pictures by photographers from around the world.

Paul Nicklen / Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2012

Before our recent Southern-USA Trip, my brother posted the message, "This should be right up your alley." on my mum's Facebook page with this link: Winners of the 2012 Wildlife Photographer of the Year. I clicked the link and was blown away by the amazing pictures as I scrolled through the post. In the few days I've been home, though, I've gone farther than that 'This is Colossal' post, and have looked through the full gallery online. If you're at all interested in photography or just enjoy seeing some really great wildlife pictures, I'd encourage you to do the same. (I'd love to post more of the pictures on here, but I'm not able to download them. You just have to go look yourself.) These photographs have inspired me in so many ways. I've especially appreciated the short write-ups about each picture. Where each photograph took place. How the picture came to be. How long the photographer took to carefully set up each shot. How quickly the perfect conditions disappeared, sometimes leaving the photographer with only one amazing shot that made all the trouble worth it. Each story and picture is so incredibly fascinating and inspiring!

Richard Peters / Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2012

Some of my favourite pictures were in the Young Awards category. Photographers, as young as 10 and under and up to 17 years old, submitted pictures and won awards for their work. They inspired me in a special way because I remember writing stories starting at nine years old. (I thought they were masterpieces; reading them now, I realize they were not.) But seeing something a young person creates, takes the time to think carefully about and loves into existence, that's impressive and I appreciate the efforts these young people have gone through with their photography.

All the galleries have set my travel-instinct alight again, and my soul is filled with desire to see the spectacular settings featured in each picture. But more than that, my heart is aching to do something similar to these noteworthy photographers. To set another person's soul ablaze with inspiration. To light a candle in someone's heart that leads them to learn more about something they're passionate about, to recover a forgotten hobby, to follow a long-lost dream. That's what I'm trying to work on this month with NaNoWriMo. Even if all I manage to create is a short story, a page, a paragraph that inspires someone else, it will all be worth it.

Some of the other great pictures I love (sorry, I just couldn't stop adding pictures):
'Porcupine watching' by Vladimir Medvedev (Russia)
'Last wild picture' by Steve Winter (USA)
'The tourist tiger trail' by Melisa Lee (Malaysia)
'Relaxation' by Jasper Doest (The Netherlands)
'Living on thin ice' by Ole Jørgen Liodden (Norway)
'Hare in a landscape' by Robert Zoehrer (Austria)
'Evening rays' by Claudio Gazzaroli (Switzerland)
'Midnight feast' by Thomas P Peschak (Germany/South Africa)
'Bumper life' by Pål Hermansen (Norway)
'Midnight snack' by Alexander Badyaev (Russia/USA)
'Aurora over ice' by Thilo Bubek (Germany)
'The great Maelifell' by Hans Strand (Sweden)
'City gull' by Eve Tucker (UK)

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Getting started

Remember how I said I was going to do NaNoWriMo this year and write 50,000 words in the month of November? Yeah, so do I. Want to know how many words I've written so far? OK, here it is: 0. ZERO?! Yes, exactly zero words written so far. November 1 was Thursday. That morning I said goodbye to my friend, Shae, and her adorable baby boy and spent the rest of the day driving from Orlando to Atlanta with a stop at the Tanger Outlets just south of Atlanta. I enjoyed watching the scenery change from flat Florida to cotton-covered southern Georgia to metropolis mid-Georgia. I had fun browsing stores that I haven't set foot in for more than a year. I ate more Olive Garden salad and bread sticks than I ever have before, while my family and I talked over the take-out boxes in our hotel room. And then the rest of them watched a Christian movie while I chatted with Jonathan online. It was late (or ummm, really early) when we all finally went to bed. So zero words written on November 1.

The next day didn't fare any better. We all woke up around 5 a.m., took the shuttle to the airport, got our boarding passes, and got through security before saying goodbye and heading to our separate terminals for our flights to Portland, Maine; Spokane, Washington; and Ottawa, Ontario. When I met Jonathan in Portland, we went to a few places, and then ate lunch at The Green Elephant Vegetarian Bistro before driving back to Brunswick. I dozed off during the drive home and staggered into bed as soon as we arrived at the house in the mid-afternoon. I slept off and on for the rest of the evening and night, probably about 15 hours in total. No time for any writing in that haze of a day.

Saturday, November 3 went much the same way, writing-wise. Went to church and met my brother, Tyler, his girlfriend, Amanda, and her sister there. Ty's been visiting in Maine while the rest of my family has been hanging out in the south. The give of us hung out for the rest of the day, going for a hike after potluck, then coming back to the house for a small snack (that turned into a bigger snack as Jonathan and I kept finding more food to share with our visitors). Then we drove up to Amanda's grandparents' house for a game night and had a great time and lots more yummy food. Jonathan and I left at 11 p.m. and got back at 11:45. We headed right for bed after a quick stop to take out contacts (me) and brush our teeth.

So today is four days into this month-long writing challenge and here I am, sitting at my desk and staring out at the bare trees that were covered with leaves when I left Maine about a week and a half ago. And I still don't have anything more of a plot for the couple of story ideas that have been bouncing around in my head for several years. Not even a single word written down. Guess today's the day to actually get started. Here I go...

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Taking the plunge

For several years I have written on this blog and my creative writing blog that I'd like to join in with National Novel Writing Month. Every November writers around the world type their hearts out as they create a 50,000+ novel in a month. It's always sounded so intriguing to me, but I've always had more pressing things to accomplish (like cuddling orphans in Tanzania or teaching English in Korea). But this fall I haven't been doing too much of anything. Well, I've managed to keep myself busy, but let's just say I haven't been doing too much of anything truly important. I'm living in Maine, but not actually allowed to work in the U.S. yet. So I've done some work online for my dad's company, helped my mum out with some projects. But I'm not really what you'd call busy. So this year it is. I will take the plunge. I've calculated it out and to accomplish this goal I'd need to write an average of 1,666.66 words each day in November. That is totally doable and a much easier goal to accomplish than 50,000 words in 30 days. (One semester at Southern I was supposed to write a 1,000-word journal entry each week. I would inevitably leave it to the last minute and then rush into the library an hour before class and crank out 1,000-1,200 words before dashing off to class.) So with all this extra time I have lying around, all these days with no purpose and nothing much to complete except for busy work, I will write my first novel. It might not be very good (it might, in fact, be quite awful). It might actually turn into a short novel, and several short stories. But that's OK. Because I've committed myself to writing at least 50,000 fresh and new words starting on November 1*. Wish me luck because I'm sure I'm going to need it.

*I sure hope I can start on November 1. I'm leaving in about half an hour to drive down to Tennessee for Southern's alumni weekend where Jonathan, my sister Bryn, and I will be playing in the alumni orchestra concert on Saturday night. I'll be visiting with my parents, my sister, my brother and his family, and several members of Jonathan's extended family. Then my parents, Bryn, and I will be headed down to Florida to see my older sister and my good friend from Tanzania and her adorable baby boy. I won't get back to Maine to start writing in earnest until the afternoon of November 2. Here's to hoping I start writing something worthwhile starting November 1 or at least go crazy with writing a bunch of short stories that will equal 50,000 words.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Married life

While I was going through my teens and early twenties, my mother often commented that she was so glad to be happily married and forever finished with dating. I never really understood her. I liked the place in my life I was in. I liked getting to know other people, being friends, thinking about more. Although I never dated many guys, I did enjoy being in the dating part of my life. Then I started seriously dating Jonathan, got engaged, and got married. Almost immediately I realized what my mum had meant. Now I'm absolutely thrilled to be finished with dating and on to married life. And I'm sure my kids will never understand me when I tell them that. At least until they're married...

Happy dating anniversary, Jonathan! The three years since we lay side-by-side (but oh so careful not to touch) on that large chilly rock at Southern's Goliath Wall watching the Orionid meteor shower in the early morning dark have been the best of my life. And the nearly fifteen months since our wedding have been the best of all! I can't wait for as many more years together as God sees fit to give us! I love you more than all the meteors that fall during our meteor shower.

Us then - at the SAU Fall Fest a week or two after we started dating
Us now - on our Mexican-themed anniversary picnic

*I wrote this post way back in June when it came to my mind one evening. I carefully saved it away as a draft in my not-often-used blog, intending to post it on our first wedding anniversary. But then Jonathan posted his own blog on August 1st, and I completely forgot about my own until I happened across it when I started using this blog again a couple months ago. Not wanting to wait another year to post it, I decided that our dating anniversary was the next best idea and slightly changed the message to fit the event. Sorry you didn't get to read this on August 1, Jonathan, but I'm happy you can read it before our second anniversary.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Canadian Thanksgiving, a week later

On Friday morning I had a wonderful surprise. During breakfast my mother-in-law suggested to me that we have a Canadian Thanksgiving dinner in my honour the coming Sunday evening. I was quite surprised, mostly because Jonathan and I had already celebrated my Thanksgiving, not in the traditional sense, but in our own special way. The idea to have a special meal, though, was such a kind thought, and I was eternally thankful and immediately said so. Soon we were in the midst of discussions about what to have for the meal and what groceries we would need to get before the weekend.

On Sunday morning we bustled around putting together many dishes for the meal. Then we left everything in a nearly-finished state, a casserole in the oven ready to start baking at the appointed time, and took off for the cabin. We spent the afternoon bringing items inside to close off the summer season and winterizing the small chalet so that it will be ready when the snow comes. A few hours later, when we were done at the lake, we dashed back to the house and finished the few things left to do for the meal. Then all four of us sat down at the table to enjoy the first of two Thanksgiving dinners we'll have together this year. It was a fabulous feast! And then we spent more time together playing games (one of my favourite family-togetherness activities), Spot It and Apples to Apples. We had fun. We laughed. We bonded. And I gotta tell you, Canadian Thanksgiving might be even more magical than Christmas! (OK, not quite as magical, but almost. :) Thanks for the special time together, Mom and Dad in Maine! It was a great week-after-Thanksgiving surprise!

Our version of Canadian Thanksgiving dinner
The spread (That plant at the end was not to eat, although it looks quite delicious in this picture)
Four of the Gerrans clan - We forgot to get a picture of all of us together before starting the meal, so we did one before dessert
Dessert traditions - homemade cheesecake and pumpkin pie 
I'm not such a fan of pumpkin pie, so I made my traditional Q-cheesecake for half of our dessert spread. Yum! Thanks, Mum, for the recipe!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Flannel sheets

I did laundry yesterday. Hardly blog-worthy, I know. But I did our sheets and in the evening, before putting them back on our bed, Jonathan mentioned that maybe we should dig out a set we got last fall but haven't used yet. I was happy to oblige and I knew exactly where they've been hanging out since we stuffed them away last November. "Now I'll actually have room for my feet," I said as I pulled the packaged sheets from under the desk I'm using. When I hopped into bed that night the soft flannel sheets embraced me. "It's like being hugged by a giant teddy bear!" I exclaimed to Jonathan who was already settled in.

Mmmm, flannel sheets. So delightful! I haven't used flannel sheets for at least three years. We brought along to Korea one set of the cheapest-but-most comfortable all-season sheets we could find. And I definitely didn't need flannel the year before in Tanzania. So the last time I used flannel sheets was probably in 2009, the last time I was home for Christmas. It's good to have the flannel back in my life. And I think fall in Maine is here for good! (Until winter shows up, at least...:)

L.L. Bean's Ultrasoft Flannel sheets - Seriously ultrasoft!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Canadian Thanksgiving...

...Maine style!

That's right. This past Monday another Canadian Thanksgiving arrived, the sixth in a row since I last celebrated it at home. In fact, the sixth in a row that I have been living in a foreign country for. And the seventh in a row since I have had Thanksgiving at home with all of my grandparents, parents, and younger siblings together. You'd think, after six or seven years, I would get used to the loneliness and intense homesickness that overcomes me during the entire Thanksgiving weekend. But I'm not, and I don't think I'll ever be. I used to write on this blog, "Next year I'll make sure I'm home for Thanksgiving, for Remembrance Day." I've long since given up saying that. I honestly have no idea when I'll next be able to be home for Thanksgiving. (I am going to give it a concerted effort for next year, since at this point we're planning to be in Maine for Christmas 2013.)

But this year, like last year, I celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving in Maine. Last year Jonathan and I went on a paddle-wheel boat tour and reveled in the fall colours painting the shore. Later in the day we went back to his parents' camp, and Jonathan took me on an impromptu catamaran ride, my first ever! I had to give up making a real Thanksgiving meal to go out on the cat, but I did so with no hesitation. Sailing in October beats out a pretend (not at home) Thanksgiving meal hands down! So last year we had a great day together, despite it not being quite the same as celebrating at home.

The Songo River Queen on Long Lake in Naples, Maine
Us in a cracked mirror on the paddle-wheeler
Shore from the boat
Tiny lighthouse (for you, Mum)
Autumn island

And this year, while I was again in Maine instead of BC, was equally as wonderful! It started with a drive to the camp, then a boat ride to take the boat out of the lake. The day was glorious. Blue skies, large white clouds, warm sun, no strong breeze, stunning colours nestled in between the evergreen trees. Perfect for an autumn boating expedition! Later we walked around downtown Portland, ate a meal at Flatbread Company every bit as filling as a Thanksgiving dinner - cheese and herb flatbread, lemonade (cold for him and hot, of course, for always-freezing me), and brownie sundaes for dessert. Amazing! Then it was off to do a bit of shopping together, but mostly window-shopping. We bought an unfinished wood chair and a can of stain to complete our table-and-chairs set, then a canister of herb tea after trying on some clothes we didn't buy. There was nothing traditional-Thanksgiving about our day. But it was special, set-apart, and that's what made it Thanksgiving to me. Jonathan took off work, we spent the day together, and we had fun doing it! It was perfect.

October sailboat on Panther Pond
Perfectly adorable '59 wooden boat that came up to the boat launch while we were there - I fell in love!
Beautiful building in Portland
Cold lemonade, hot lemonade & two brownie sundaes - dessert was gone too fast to get a before picture... :)

Next year, maybe I'll have the homemade Thanksgiving meal with all my family that I've been longing for since 2007. Maybe I won't. But either way, I'll find a way to make it special!

Friday, September 21, 2012


This blog was whipped up quickly in a frenzy of blog-mania among my friends during my first year at Southern Adventist University. In hindsight, the title I came up with five years ago - Everything from EH to ZED - has been quite appropriate. Since its creation, this blog has mostly just been a place for me to record random thoughts and happenings in my life. An interesting news story that caught my attention, a few pictures from a trip, a rant on something going on that I didn't agree with. All sorts of miscellaneous things, just about anything and everything you could think of, have been posted on here.

For the past two years this blog has been largely neglected and probably mostly forgotten by those who used to read it. It's my oldest blog, but has the least views of my four blogs. Now that my mission stints are over, at least for the time being, I have plans to revive this blog and use it as my primary blog again. But the random title and haphazard previous posting are bothering me. I want this blog to mean something. To show who I really am. To inspire, both myself and others. I want this blog to have a purpose.

So I'm thinking about rebranding it. Giving it a title that has a meaning (and maybe a new URL to go with it). Giving it colours and a design that flow together well, that inspire me when I decide to post a new blog. Giving it more purposeful and focused attention. If, the next time you come back here, you find this blog with a new name, a new design, and fresh updated colours, know that you're coming back to a new creation. I hope you'll enjoy it. I hope I can make it all that I envision it to be. But most of all, I hope you'll come back. Because a blog isn't much of a blog without its faithful readers. And I'm not much of a blogger without your support.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Gift of Nature

Early this morning, when the room was still inky black and the shapes around me barely visible, I woke up. For a few minutes I tried to turn over and go back to sleep, fluff my pillow and go back to sleep, yawn and go back to sleep, until I finally realized I felt completely awake, not sleepy or snoozy or drowsy at all. So I just lay in bed, listening to the sounds around me. Jonathan breathing softly beside me. The odd creak somewhere in the house. The breeze pushing through the Venetian blinds and gently tossing the cord against the slats. The stillness enveloping the room and the world outside.

As I lay listening, the ink faded to slate and then brightened to silver. A solitary honk sounded outside. Immediately I pictured a Canadian goose flying above the house. The honk came again, closer this time, not from the air, but from across the yard. A minute later a rustling in the grass accompanied the nearing honks. Suddenly they came from directly outside the open window. By the time I won the fight against my body to get up and peek through the window, the honks were fading into the distance.

I stayed in bed, warm and cozy, drifting through the early morning sounds until another one, again outside the window, jerked me back from my wandering thoughts. Just a slight sound, but there was something vaguely familiar about it. I turned toward the window, listening intently, but the sound grew fainter. Sighing, I flipped back onto my side, and the sound came back again. This time I was sure I knew what was making the soft crunching. Grabbing my glasses, I slipped out of bed, ignoring the morning chill, and crept to the window. As silently as possible, I slid one slat upwards, then gasped at what I had known all along was outside my window.

A mid-sized fawn covered in faded white dots stood frozen in place, velvet head turned toward me, and stared into my eyes. I dared not move a muscle and stared back into her chocolate eyes. For a minute, we gazed at each other, both alert and watching, neither making a move. Then a small noise from inside the house shattered the still, and the fawn sprang away from her breakfast of leafy ferns, around the corner of the house. Still entranced, I held the slat up for a second longer, craning my neck sideways to try to catch one more glimpse of the deer. As I moved back to the bed, I stopped at the back window, glanced out and spotted two fawns standing near the overgrown garden plot. A sigh of joy escaped my lips, and I scrambled out the bedroom door and into the living room to peer out a larger window with a better view. The two fawns wandered around the garden as I watched in awe of their elegance and grace. Soon one trotted behind a bush and disappeared into the woods, white tail held high. The other stopped and turned, looked back at the house, then jumped sideways, startled by something unseen by me, and bounded into the trees, too. Knowing the two deer were really gone now, I stumbled back into bed, snuggled under the warm comforter, and nestled into my pillow, all the while thanking God for his early-morning Sabbath wake-up surprise sent especially to me.

In the afternoon I watched brilliant orange butterlies defy the strong wind and flit around patches of yellow flowers on a rock overlooking the sea. At one point, a small furry rodent ran from one patch to another, then blended into the grey dirt. A large dragonfly, wings glinting shiny in the sun, landed on Jonathan's leg, content to be shielded from the buffeting wind for several minutes. Overhead seagulls soared, occasionally dropping to the sand below for a bite to eat. A shadowy cormorant bobbed in the waves, then dove underwater. Later Jonathan and I wandered along the beach, stopping to snap pictures of crabs, sand dollars and interesting shells, bird footprints, spray flying backward from the waves pushing into shore.

And still later, as we pulled into the driveway, we startled a mother deer and her two fawns. They dashed behind a curve of trees as Jonathan slammed on the brakes. He inched forward, and we watched fascinated as the deer foraged leisurely and then strolled into the brush. A perfect Sabbath day packed full of God's gifts in nature.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

10 Things I Love About... Mum!

May is Family Month here in South Korea. Saturday, May 5th, was Children's Day. Last Monday, May 8th, was Parent's Day. And in North America, today is Mother's Day. So I figured this is a good month to resume my fun TTILAY posts. Here's the third edition!

10 things I love about my mum are...

1. She loves traditions.
We have a yearly family tradition of getting PJs for Christmas Eve - this must have been Christmas 1992 or 1993
2. She always finds the most fun toys.
My cool Fisher Price camera - a toy that delighted me for many years
Our Fisher Price airplane that took us on so many amazing trips :)
3. She's full of interesting and creative ideas.
She always comes up with such fun and creative ideas for our Christmas cards and pictures - in front of Dad's shop in 2005
4. She loves her parents (and the rest of her family) and does many things with and for them.
Gramps and Gram W. at their house after Grandpa's birthday party ~ Oct. 3, 2011
A trip to Art Knapps with her parents for some spring flowers for their yard ~ April 2012
A recent visit with her aunt at the nursing home
5. She loves taking pictures: of people, animals, flowers, scenery, well pretty much everything!
Self-portrait in 2011
Just one of the awesome pictures she has taken (to see TONS more, check out her blog)
6. She knows how to be goofy.
For her December photo challenge
5-years-old Glenda - She wasn't really trying to be goofy here, but was actually
trying really hard to smile. Hehe, I think it's so cute I just had to add it.
7. She's good at the element of surprise.
During Christmas-tree hunting 2003
8. She loves to read and has instilled that love in all her kids.
Her newest favourite book
9. She loves flowers.
Showcasing her Valentine's Day flowers ~ Feb. 14, 2012
Iris's (I think?) starting to bloom
Finding a way to make even a drooping tulip look beautiful
10. She loves my dad.
During Christmas-tree hunting 2005
11. She's always there for me! (Just couldn't stop at only 10.)
Sitting right up front and center at my wedding ~ August 1, 2011 (Photo by Glen Durrell)
Special hugs after the ceremony (Photo by Glen Durrell)

Mum, for all these reasons and so many more, I love you! I really wish I could be home to give you a hug and a kiss this year, but this post will have to be an e-hug-and-kiss from me. Happiest of Mother's Days from Seoul!!