Sunday, November 27, 2011

Ambleside and Advent

Sunlight is precious here in the Pacific Northwest, especially at this time of year. This afternoon some friends and I drove to Ambleside Park in West Vancouver to walk on the beach and catch the last of the sun's rays over the water. Here are some images I captured. Enjoy and have a wonderful first week of Advent!

The patience of a fisherman....he had some crab traps out too.

This one had to be thrown back because it was too small. Claws still look pretty wicked, though.

I loved the whorls and textures of this piece of driftwood - Mother Nature's sculptures.

And here's a man-made sculpture: Overflow IV by Jaume Plensa.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Waiting for the stars to come out

"Some of us believe that God is almighty, and may do everything; and that he is all wise, and can do everything; but that he is all love, and will do everything - there we draw back."

This quote from Julian of Norwich ties in neatly with a poem by Canadian writer Jean Little that a friend of mine passed along to me this weekend.

November can be a trying time for people - I know it is for me - the days are short and dark and cold - and the brightness of lights and decorations often only remind me of family and friends who are too far away, and of Christmas wishes that won't come true for too many.

But this poem helps, especially knowing that Jean Little wrote it at a time in her life when she knew that she was going completely blind. She tells of its conception in her memoir, Stars Come Out Within.

Creator God who simply spoke
And mountains heaved and morning broke
Creator God, who with a word
Fashioned ocean, cloud and bird,
God who could have, from afar,
Made people for this minor star
Using just the power of speech,
Remaining distant, out of reach,
God I love and praise who came
Yourself to hold and mould our frame
Forming us from common soil
With joy and playfulness and toil,
Saving this shaping till the end
Thinking perhaps to find a friend
For converse and for company
Finding instead your family,
Teach us who draw back so much
That love comes close enough to touch
When, failing, in despair, we ask
To pass to other hands the task
Of healing, so beyond our power,
Remind us in that anguished hour
That you who fashioned us from dust
Are with us still, have earned our trust,
And share with our humanity
Not only lonely agony,
Not only morning, star and bird
But, if we take you at your Word,
Love that's not just dutiful,
But jubilant and beautiful,
Love that sings while suffering
Because love cannot help but sing.
When the world's pain becomes so great
We rage or weep or turn to hate,
Redeem us even as you planned.
Give us the grace to understand
You have us still within your hand.


Friday, November 11, 2011

Circle Craft

I took advantage of this holiday Friday to check out Circle Craft's annual Christmas Market (on now until Sunday November 13). Over two hundred artisans from all over British Columbia and the rest of Canada gather under one roof to exhibit and sell their finely designed, high quality wares.

In all the years I've lived in Vancouver, this was my first time to go. Since art and design are so much more prevalent in my life these days, I went more to look than to buy. There were many items that were true works of art, such as these handtooled leather book covers from Sandstone Crafts in Salmon Arm. Unfortunately for me, they had the prices to match.

But I was pleasantly surprised to find some old friends whose goods I can actually afford.

Milsean (booth 300) operates out of Aldergrove, BC, where I lived for many years. The old firehall at 264th Street and 29th Avenue is now the family-run factory where they make their famous demerara butter crunch, Leprechaun's Gold, Blarney Stones, and other delectable goodies. Out front there is a tea and coffee shop, decorated in the same caramel and chocolate tones as the candy - quite simply the best place in town to sit and while away the afternoon.

At Circle Craft today I was pleased to see that they still have the same good deals on their 8-oz bags of sweet things: $25 for three gold foil bags, perfect for gift-giving. They also offer ten of their 1-oz bars in a drawstring gift bag for $15.

Tuscan Farm Gardens (booth 641) was there too, and it's great to know that their new location in Abbotsford is once again open to the public, with a garden, shop, and soon-to-come bed-and-breakfast. Their handcrafted toiletries, honey and teas are infused with homegrown lavender and other herbs. Tuscan Farm Gardens is part of the Passport to Christmas farm tour in the Fraser Valley, so if you are out that way this November and December, be sure to drop by.

Sweet Thea (booth 312) is a new discovery - most known for her wedding cakes, she also makes tarts, pies, and festive breads like stollen. I bought a stollen from Thea, who advised me that over time, the sugars in the fruit will gradually seep to the surface, making the bread more and more moist. Look for her at various farmers markets and bazaars throughout the coming seasons.

If you have a bigger budget, I highly recommend you try Chocolatas (booth 409). Years ago, Wim and Veve Tas opened their home-based chocolate factory and shop in Abbotsford to my girls' club. Wim himself showed us how he makes his chocolate and let us taste as many as we wanted. His creations are almost too pretty to eat, but when you do eat them, they literally melt in your mouth, and feature daring flavours like black pepper and Earl Grey.

So if you are looking for some pretty, unique, and relatively inexpensive Christmas gifts, check out these BC-based exhibitors, as well as Manifest Design (booth 500), the Montreal jeweller where my mom bought these beautiful earrings set in adonized aluminum at the Rue des Artistes jewellry fair in the Old Port last summer; and the clever and whimsical photo art at Alphabet Photography (booth 217).

Other attractions at Circle Craft are the live entertainment stage (today's line-up included highlights from The Nutcracker ballet); a food area; and Totally Amazing Glass live demos.

I'm going to hide my stollen now so it can ripen in peace for Christmas! 


Sunday, November 06, 2011

Thank you, Miss Ramos

This is one of those thank-yous left unsaid until too late.

I just got the sad news that one of my dearest teachers and mentors passed away last night.

Miss Ramos was in charge of our Grade 5 homeroom - if memory serves me correctly. What I remember most clearly about her are her sweet expression and her smile, and the way she would listen attentively to everything I confided to her during our regular, one-on-one chats (for which she always obligingly pulled me out of math class).

Hindsight, as they say, is 20-20. It's only now that I'm starting to appreciate how privileged I was to have the teachers that I did - intelligent, talented, creative, sensitive women, strict but fair, funny and kind, courageous - and unforgettable.

Thank you, ladies. Your reach extends further than you know. The lessons you taught are now being passed on to a whole new generation of young women on the other side of the ocean.

But part of me will always stay a little girl, learning in your classroom.

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