A Covid Thanksgiving

If you use social media at all, I’m sure you’ve seen a myriad of memes and posts bemoaning the somewhat bizarre year that 2020 has turned out to be.

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2020

Then there are the “If 2020…” memes. At least some of them add a bit of humour to our current predicament. 

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But has it really been that bad? I see posts from people claiming that 2020 has been the worst year of their life. If that’s the case, I’m thinking that perhaps they’re very young or maybe they’ve just lived a charmed life. I can think of at least three years in my life that have been worse than this one, but that’s not what I want to write about today.

Thanksgiving

Today is Canadian Thanksgiving, traditionally a time for families to gather and enjoy a festive meal together. For many of us, it’s a very different and much quieter celebration this year. Here in Canada, we’re experiencing a second wave and many of the new Covid-19 cases have been the result of large family gatherings. Though we live in a rural area where the numbers have remained relatively low, all of our children and grandchildren live in urban settings where that is not the case. As a result, we’ve chosen not to get together to celebrate Thanksgiving this year. In spite of the fact that hubby and I are alone this holiday weekend, I cooked a tiny (8.5 pound) turkey with all the trimmings yesterday. It may be far from an ordinary year, but that’s no reason to completely forgo those things that bring us joy!

Without the happy sounds of children and no one gathered around a board game on the kitchen table, the house is very quiet, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have much to be thankful for. In the solitude of this unusual Thanksgiving weekend, I’ve had much opportunity to contemplate how very blessed we are. Even in the midst of a pandemic such as we’ve never experienced before, there is so much to give thanks for. I’m reminded of one of my favourite passages of scripture, Philippians 4:6-7.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (emphasis my own)

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Though the list of things that I’m thankful for is very long, this image pretty much sums it up for me. In spite of two cancers and several other diagnoses, I feel great and I’m able to live a full and active life. I have access to excellent, free health care. I have a comfortable home that’s in the process of undergoing a complete facelift. My family may be scattered today, but I’m so proud of the adults that my children have become and the spouses they’ve chosen. Of course, I’m also head over heels in love with the seven grandchildren that they’ve added to the clan. As sad as it was to lose my elderly father earlier this year, I’m grateful that he went before the pandemic struck, that we were able to be with him in his final hours, and that we could celebrate his life together with friends and family. And where would we be without friends? I’m so thankful for the ones that God has blessed me with, both far and near. Finally, there’s food. Along with safe, clean drinking water, food is something that we tend to take for granted, but I’m mindful of the fact that, while I can cook a whole turkey for two people, there are many in this world who don’t know where their next meal is coming from and who may be going to bed hungry tonight. No, for most of us, 2020 has not been that bad! 

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The life story of a dress

LogoOn October 2, 1996, Richard and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary with an intimate catered dinner party for ten people including our three teenage children, my bridesmaid, and his best man. I wanted a new dress for the occasion, so a girlfriend and I went to the city to shop. I had no idea what sort of dress I wanted, but I knew that it had to be special. After trying on a LOT of dresses and almost giving up entirely, we found the perfect one. Dark green embossed rayon that draped beautifully, tea length, flutter sleeves, scoop neck. I felt like a princess!

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October 2, 1996 with daughter, Melaina

Over the next few years, I wore the dress for a few other special occasions and then I carefully put it away in storage. I knew that I didn’t want to part with it, but little did I expect that our daughter would ask me to wear it to her wedding on December 16, 2006!

After Melaina’s wedding, the dress went back into storage and rested there for another twelve years. Last Saturday, I wore it again! Very close friends celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary with a vow renewal ceremony and reception. Like Melaina, Dan and Michelle were university students who married during their Christmas break from school. They didn’t have a big celebration or a dance, but thirty years later they had the “wedding” that Michelle had always dreamed of! I knew I’d want to wear something special.

Clothing is generally considered vintage when it’s at least 20 years old. My now vintage dress seemed the perfect thing for the occasion! This time I wore it with light pink pumps, Michelle’s favourite colour, and an emerald necklace that was my mother’s.

Girlfriends! We call ourselves the Rav4.

That’s the “bride” on my left. The flower girl had just knocked her headpiece askew!

I wore the dress again on New Year’s Eve and now it’s back in storage. I wonder if it will appear again someday and what the occasion might be?

How to host a successful clothing swap

logoThey say that you should write what you know, but this time I’m going out on a limb and writing about something I’ve never tried. Everything I suggest here is based on what others have written.

A clothing swap is a party where you and each of your guests bring an agreed upon number of garments and/or accessories to the event to trade with one another and thus breathe new life into your closets without spending a cent!

So, how does this work?

1.  Choose your guests

The first step to hosting a successful clothing swap is to decide who you’ll invite. Include friends of all sizes and shapes making sure that no one feels left out because there isn’t anyone in a similar size for her to swap with.

2.   Choose the time

The best time to host a clothing swap is toward the end of a season when people are likely tired of what they’ve been wearing and ready for a few new pieces to freshen up their wardrobes. They may be planning to clean out their closets anyway and your party will be just the incentive they need.

3.   Set some rules

Decide on a minimum and maximum number of items that each person should bring and include this information in the invitation. You want to ensure that there are plenty of items to trade but not so many that it becomes overwhelming to look through everything. It’s also best to ensure that you don’t have a situation where some people bring lots and others hardly anything at all.

Encourage your friends to bring accessories as well as clothing. Shoes, handbags, scarves and jewelry add to the fun and ensure that everyone, regardless of size, is able to find something that fits.

It should go without saying, but make sure to stipulate that everything must be clean and in good condition. It’s also a good idea to remind your guests to empty all pockets so that they don’t inadvertently give someone a cash bonus or find themselves trying to track down lost ID after the party is over!

4.   Set the scene

Presentation is important. If possible, have a hanging rack available as well as a table or two so that items can be organized and displayed attractively. No one wants to feel as if they’re digging through someone else’s laundry!

Designate one or two rooms for changing and have at least one full length mirror available. It’s also a good idea to have a belt or two on hand for your guests to use when they’re trying things on. Belting a loose-fitting dress or top might be just the thing to make it work for one of your friends.

5.   When your guests arrive

Start by going over some basic ground rules and then let the fun begin. Set a time limit for the swap so that when it’s over you can all relax and enjoy some wine and cheese or whatever you decide to serve. It is a party, after all!

Depending on the size and make up of your group, you may want to consider dividing the time into five minute segments allowing each person to choose only one item per round.

If two or more friends have their eye on the same thing, have a predetermined method of determining who gets it. Having them each model the item and letting the group vote on who wears it best can be fun, but if you’re afraid of hurt feelings, flipping a coin might be a better idea.

No one should go home with more than she brought.

6.   Serve snacks

Wait until the swap is over to bring out the goodies. This helps keep things moving along during the exchange and also helps prevent spills. Keep it simple. You might even want to ask each guest to bring something to share.

7.   When the party’s over

Choose in advance a local charity or thrift store that will appreciate the overflow from your swap. Give each guest the option of taking home anything she brought that wasn’t chosen, then pack up the leftovers to be donated.

Have you ever hosted or attended a clothing swap? Do you have any tips or suggestions?

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Grocery shopping Mexico style

As we were preparing for our latest travel adventure, many people back home on the cold Canadian prairie had a hard time understanding why we would go to Mexico and not spend our time at a beach resort. To me, the answer is easy. First and foremost, the friends that we’re visiting don’t live at the coast. Secondly, this trip is giving us a rare opportunity to see “real” Mexico and to learn how the people of this country live.

Shopping here is absolutely nothing like shopping in Tijuana or on 5th Avenue in Playa del Carmen. Market areas aren’t inundated with cheap trinkets and we aren’t constantly accosted by aggressive hawkers. Everything here has set prices, so there’s no need to barter.

Wherever I go in the world, I like to see how and where the locals buy their groceries. Here in Coatepec there’s a Chedraui supermarket within walking distance that sells groceries, clothing, and household items; much like Walmart or Superstore back home. Chedraui is a huge Mexican supermarket chain that originated in nearby Xalapa. A person could easily do all their grocery shopping there, but Richard M and Colleen buy most of their food from small street side vendors and marketplaces that remind me of how we shopped in China. They also shop at tiny hole in the wall family run shops like the one just up the road from here. With it’s rough cement floor, shelves lining the side walls and a meat counter at the back, it’s smaller than our single car garage at home. In all of these places, the products are fresh and locally grown or produced. I’d forgotten how much I enjoy this kind of shopping!

So, let’s go grocery shopping…

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There are also vendors who regularly come through the neighbourhood or to the gate selling foodstuff. Today we had delicious tamales for lunch that were purchased from one of these pedlars. Yum!

To Xico for lunch

After starting my day with a zumba class, I was ready for a hearty lunch. We caught a taxi in Coatepec and headed for Xico, a smaller town about 9 km away. Here’s the sight that greeted my eye as I stepped out of the car!

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Turning around, we crossed the street and headed down the newly restored pedestrian avenue lined with colourful homes and shops. It felt a bit like a step back in time.

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Toward the end, road construction was still underway.

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The restaurant that was our destination was located near the end of the street. Fortunately, shortly after we arrived, it was time for the construction crew to take their afternoon siesta. The machines shut down and the workers gathered in the shade across the street from where we sat in the sunshine on the outdoor patio. Again, I had to remind myself that it’s the middle of February!

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There’s very little English in use in this part of Mexico. Richard M and Colleen function fairly well in Spanish and are able to help us order from the Spanish only menus. There have been a couple of surprises, but they’ve both turned out rather well! On our first morning in Coatepec we went out for breakfast. I thought I’d ordered an omelette, but it was actually fried eggs in a very tasty sauce. Today, I was expecting a shrimp sandwich, but it turned out to be an absolutely delicious omelette! If the surprises continue to be this yummy, I hope there are a few more of them!

Welcome to Coatepec!

great-wallWhen we climbed the Great Wall of China with fellow Liaoning Normal University English teacher, Richard M, and his wife, Colleen, almost four years ago, we had no idea that someday we’d walk the streets of Coatepec, Mexico with them! Richard and Colleen are now enjoying  retirement in this colourful town of approximately 50 000 people located about 300 km east of Mexico City. We arrived the day before yesterday and after talking until almost one o’clock in the morning, decided that we didn’t have to do all our catching up in one night!

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After being out and about exploring Coatepec yesterday and then again today, we can easily see why Richard and Colleen love it here! Dressed in shorts and t-shirts, I have to keep reminding myself that it’s still February, but climate isn’t the only reason to like this place.

The people are warm, friendly and very welcoming; the food is fresh and delicious; and the architecture is gorgeous. A beautiful park at the centre of town is a vibrant gathering place.

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Come take a look around with me…

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