Winter at its best

Winter is not my favourite season, but sometimes it’s spectacularly beautiful here on the Canadian prairie.


With a houseful of grandchildren for the past week, we were very thankful for sunshine, mild daytime temperatures, and fresh powdery snow that made outdoor activities not only possible, but a great deal of fun.

With shovels and brooms, a skating rink was cleared on a pond just outside town.


Even the littlest one helped out.




Many hours were spent tobogganing on a hill just three blocks from the house.

By late this morning, most of the family had packed up and left for home. Only our two Vancouver grandsons and their parents remained. If you’ve been following my blog for very long, you may remember how much I enjoy exploring the old abandoned buildings that are scattered across the prairie. Until today, that was a summertime activity, but when I discovered that 8-year-old Nate shares my passion for old abandoned houses, a plan was hatched and off we went to find a few.

Our first stop was an old farmstead a few kilometres from town.




The last time we were there, the old shed was still standing, but not anymore.

When the sun is shining, there’s beauty even in decay.


Next, we walked down the field to check out the old threshing machine in the edge of the trees.






Sharp-eyed Nate spotted this tiny one room house beside the road not far from the old farmstead. I’m sure we’ve driven by it many times without ever noticing it. In the summer it would be completely hidden by leaves on the trees.



A little further down the road we spotted another old house that we’d never noticed before. We had to walk across a snowy field of canola stubble to check it out.


Two stories tall with a cellar below, it would have been quite a place in its day. It’s a very solid structure built of logs overlaid with wooden slats. With doors and windows still intact and shredded curtains hanging in some of the windows, it’s in better shape than many of the old buildings we’ve found. Peeking through the kitchen window we spotted a calendar on the wall dated September 1963. Presumably that’s when it’s last residents moved out. I couldn’t help wondering why they left a sink full of dishes behind! If only these old walls could talk. What stories they would tell!

If winter was always this beautiful and this much fun, I might not mind it so much! The last of the family leaves tomorrow morning though and the forecast is calling for much colder temperatures a week or so from now. We haven’t made any plans for a winter getaway to warmer climes, but it might soon be time to look for a last minute deal!

A cardigan by any other name

parmesan sweater“Is this my parmesan sweater?” our 5-year-old grandson asked his mom one day this week when he was getting ready to head off to kindergarten. He meant cardigan, of course!

Photo: Melaina Graham

A cardigan is a great third piece in a Canadian winter wardrobe; a button-up sweater that’s easy to put on when it’s chilly and take off when it isn’t. Most of mine, like Simon’s, are neutral colours that can be worn with almost everything else in my closet, but I’ve been striving to add more colour to my wardrobe, so I bought this one earlier this winter.


The rich teal of the Deco Cardigan from cabi’s Fall 2019 Collection has always been a favourite colour of mine. In fact, it’s one of those universal colours that look good on everyone. The sweater’s shape and the design of the cable pattern make it very flattering and the cotton/acrylic blend is comfortable and easy care.

Deco Cardigan

Richard usually takes the photos for my Fashion Friday posts, but since this will be the last one of 2019, let’s bring him out from behind the camera today.

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Next Friday our house will be full to overflowing with all our kids and grandkids here with us! So, from our home to yours, a very Merry Christmas! Fashion Friday will pick up in the new year with a 2019 fashion review and some goals for the year ahead.

Environmentally conscious shopping

LogoIncreasing interest in sustainability, climate concerns, and other environmental issues is having a significant impact on the fashion industry which is said to be responsible for 8 to 10 percent of global carbon emissions, more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined! It’s also a huge consumer of water. It takes approximately 1800 gallons to grow enough cotton to produce just one pair of blue jeans!

The industry has been increasingly coming under attack for what is known as fast fashion. Fast fashion, or disposable clothing as I like to call it, refers to a phenomenon that sees retailers introducing new products as often as multiple times a week. Garments are manufactured quickly and inexpensively allowing consumers to fill their wardrobes with trendy styles without spending a great deal to do so. These clothes are usually characterized by shoddy workmanship and low quality fabrics and quickly end up in the landfill.

Fast fashion’s target market, young, style-conscious shoppers on a budget, are also among those most concerned about the health of the planet. As environmental consciousness increases, their buying habits are changing. Dwindling sales forced fast fashion chain Forever 21 into bankruptcy at the end of September and is resulting in the closure of up to 350 stores internationally including all 44 locations across Canada. Some see this as signalling the end of an era in shopping.

One of the noticeable effects of this shift is a change in attitude toward second-hand clothing. The stigma that was once associated with wearing someone else’s hand-me-downs is rapidly disappearing. Now it’s the environmentally conscious thing to do!

If you’ve been reading my blog for very long, you know that I’ve been an avid thrift store shopper for years. I much prefer smaller not-for-profit stores to ones like Value Village where the prices are higher and very little of the revenue goes to charity. Most of my second-hand clothing comes from two small volunteer run shops, one in the town where I live and the other just a few kilometres away. Here I’m wearing a couple of recent purchases.


When I put my tall winter boots away last spring, I knew that they were nearing the end of their life, but I was hoping to get one more season out of them. The first time I wore them this winter, however, my feet got wet! Clearly they needed to be replaced, but the closest shoe store is an hour away. I decided to check out our local thrift store and luck was with me! I snagged this like-new pair for just four dollars! They’re even dark brown, one of this seasons most popular colours. I bought the cardigan for three dollars.


I’m wearing the two thrifted items with the comfy corduroy pants that have been a workhorse in my wardrobe for several years, a sleeveless V-neck top recently purchased at Cleo, and a black pearl necklace from a previous cabi season. No fast fashion for this frugal fashionista!

For 18 tips on successful thrift store shopping, check out this post.

Reclaiming Christmas

The fact that the world has ‘stolen’ our Christian holy days and turned them into commercial extravaganzas has been one of my pet peeves for a very long time. Walk up and down the aisles full of Christmas decorations in any store and what do you see? Santas, reindeer, snowmen, and Disney characters galore. What do any of these have to do with the real meaning of Christmas? Look at the outdoor decorations in your neighbourhood. You might see a nativity scene, particularly in front of a church, but where is Christ in most of those decorations? What does an inflatable penguin or puppy have to do with Christmas? I don’t know either, but you can get one for just $19.98 CAD at Walmart!

Don’t even get me started on that stupid Elf on a Shelf! Whoever thought that one up did nothing but add more meaningless stress to an already over-stressed season for anyone who bought into it.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a total Grinch! I love Christmas lights. After all, it was Christ Himself who said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 NIV

Though standing a tree in the house and decorating it with lights and ornaments often strikes me as a weird tradition, I also love the Christmas tree that stands in front of our living room window. Many of its decorations point to the true meaning of Christmas. That’s very intentional. It’s one small attempt at reclaiming Christmas.


Although a beautiful nativity scene also has a place of prominence, our home isn’t completely devoid of the fun side of Christmas. Santa and one of his reindeer stand atop a cabinet in the living room. Surrounded by teddy bears and twinkly lights, he’s checking his list and preparing for his round the world gift giving flight, but it’s the little Santa bowing over the manger on another shelf that holds greater meaning for me.


So what is the real meaning of Christmas? “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people,” an angel told some shepherds keeping watch over their flocks outside Bethlehem that night so long ago; a night that would forever change the world. (Luke 2:8-10 NIV) That night the mighty Creator of the universe chose to come to earth in the form of a tiny babe, to live among us, and to show us who He really is. That night, He began His journey to the cross where He would pay the penalty for all our failures and give us the gift of eternal life with Him. There is no better gift than that! It costs nothing but the willingness to humble ourselves and surrender to His leading in our lives. That’s what Christmas is really all about! That’s true love and that’s why I want to reclaim Christmas. I can’t take it back from the masses who celebrate by overindulging and running up their credit card bills, but I can keep the love of Christ at the centre of my Christmas season.

When we were teaching in Japan, I asked one of my adult students why so many Japanese people celebrate the birth of a God they don’t believe in. “We love to decorate and we love to shop,” she told me. Perhaps that’s why most people celebrate a holy day that has no real meaning to them.

Why do you celebrate Christmas? What does it mean to you?


‘Tis the season

LogoFashion Friday is putting in its appearance much later in the day than usual. In fact, I wasn’t sure that it was going to happen at all this week. We arrived home last night after a whirlwind trip to Vancouver (the second in seven weeks) to assist my 96-year-old father with his move into long term care and to deal with everything in his previous apartment. Though he wasn’t very happy about having to leave the assisted living facility where he lived for the past six years, it was actually exactly what he needed and he seems to be settling in well.

We were thankful to make it home in time to attend the first event of our Christmas season this evening. I was especially glad that I didn’t have to think about what I was going to wear. Last year, I planned my outfits for each Christmas event in advance writing down exactly what I was going to wear including shoes and accessories. It made the season so so much easier that I decided to do the same thing this year. Though I hadn’t quite finished doing this when we got the call to go to Vancouver, I did have this evening’s outfit planned. Here’s what I wore.


I decided awhile ago that I’d put together outfits for each event this season from what was already in my closet rather than buying anything new. The dark green sequinned top added a festive look to this evening’s simple black outfit. I added an emerald necklace that was my mother’s, sparkly earrings that I bought last year, and a silver bangle.


One thing to think about when planning an outfit for a special event is what you’ll be doing. Since I would be sitting at a table for tonight’s dinner and the entertainment that followed, what I wore from the waist down was less important than what would be seen above the table. I’ll wear something entirely different when we go dancing tomorrow evening.