Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Thursdays on the Bench

Here we are on the last day of 2009. Time flies by much too fast these days. I hope everyone is still enjoying a happy Christmas holiday. I know the kids are, Hubby too has had the week off between Christmas and New Year's Day. We went skiing on Wednesday to Snow Valley in Barrie. It was a great day! We were supposed to go on Tuesday, however, at -20 C with the wind chill we wimped out!

I have to admit that for reasons yet unknown to me, I have never looked forward to New Year's. I tend to feel sad and blue and spend a lot of time thinking about what's going to happen in the new year. I always pray for a good year but that's relative to what happens. So I will try to not think about it. We always spend New Year's at home; eat Chinese food, play games, watch a movie and wait for midnight. Sunshine has always invited everyone to her home for New Year's and we (I) have always politely (I hope) declined. This year will be different! We are going to Sunshine's home for New Year's and I know it will be fun. Well, wonders never cease! The only setback is that I have to be up at 4:30am to go to work on the 31st. I also have to be up at 4:30am on New Year's Day. Just stay up!!!! Pretend you are in your twenties again and you don't need sleep. I have never been able to nap so I know I will be tired. At least I know I will be the designated driver and that's a good thing. Oh well, it's only once a year and when you spend it with family and friends it's perfect. I plan to bring Toasted Almond Caramel Dacquoise for a dessert. Sunshine, if you are wondering what it is you will find a picture on the front cover of Canadain Living Feb/10 issue.

I would like to apologize for the lack of a 'Bench Talk' on Monday past. Our excuse is, "It's our Christmas vacation." I had a house full of company and bench talk was on the back burner as I tried to spend as much time as I could with my baby brother (25 years old!) and his girlfriend. It was two years ago the last time we got to spend time together. I drove them to the airport yesterday morning :( and don't know when we will see them again. I hope you understand. It's been an interesting adventure sharing with you on our blog. We started in the spring of this year and it's interesting to look back and reread some of our older posts. A lot has happened with the four of us this year. It's different now that we are all working. (working is a good thing) It's harder to find time to get together and we have appreciated having the blog which at times has helped us to stay in touch.

(Carolin) I watched Julie and Julia again on Boxing day and enjoyed it just as much as the first time I watched it. I laughed and laughed while watching Julie worked on her new blog. And relived the excitement when she got her first comment that wasn't Mommie!

I think it's very appropriate that we will spend the last day of the year together and bring in the new. I sure hope all of us will be together tonight. We will pray for those who are less fortunate than us and as much as that sounds like a cliche we mean it. There is one of us who is not happy and settled and we wish for peace.

Again, on behalf of the four ladies and our families, may the New Year bring you much peace, love and JOY!

And I look so forward to sharing with you all.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Luke 2 - The Story of Christmas

On behalf of the "four ladies." and our families, we wish you all the Merriest of Christmas' and a Blessed New Year!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Bench Talk: Christmas Joys

A few years ago, a friend at work gave me a little book. It's title, "The Little Book of Christmas Joys". It's filled with 432 things to do for yourself and others that just might make this the best Christmas ever!

The authors are Brown, Brown and Peel and it's published by Rutledge Press.

Each Christmas it is lovingly set out on the coffee table for anyone to peruse during the holiday season. I love to read it while enjoying a cup of tea. It is filled with wonderful traditions shared by the friends and families who came together to write it. Let me share some with you and please feel free to add any of your own!

1. Be the first to wish everyone you meet a Merry Christmas.

4. Don't count calories from December 15th through January 2nd.

8. Be nice to sales personnel.They're often wearier than you are.

44. Before going to bed on Christmas Eve, read by candlelight about the birth of Jesus in Luke, chapter 2. Then join hands with your family and sing, "Silent Night."

60. Never write the word Christmas as Xmas.

109. Remember that the more a toy costs, the more likely kids will want to play with the box it came in.

123. Listen to the Barking Dogs "sing" "Jingle Bells." Once.

169. Stock your freezer with meals for the holidays by doubling or tripling recipes for spaghetti sauce, casseroles,and other foods that freeze well.

240. If you're feeling harried, go to a church, sit in the sanctuary, and reflect on the real meaning of Christmas. You'll leave feeling more peaceful.

319. This Christmas, give yourself the gift of living in peace with those things you cannot change.

334. Give a pint of blood; it's the gift of life.

413. Remember that peace on earth starts with peace in our homes and in our hearts.

419. If your family doesn't celebrate many Christmas traditions, let this be the year you create some.

429. Don't forget to put out Santa's milk and cookies

430. Don't forget to hang the mistletoe.

431. Don't forget the batteries.

432. Don't forget whose birthday we're celebrating.

Merry Christmas!

(Carolin) I am not sure just how to top this. I too own this little book and it always brings a smile to my face when I read it.

Just recently I learned the true meaning of the word JOY. I always associated the word with happy, I am joyful was just another way of saying I am happy. But the word Joy does not mean happy. To be happy we rely on something external to make us feel good. Being with our children or laughing with friends can make us happy. Joy is much bigger then happy, Joy comes from God. To have joy we must have a relationship with our saviour. That is why there are people who have had rough times in their lives but they seem to still walk with a smile on their face. Joy does not depend on external things happening to you, true joy is totally from GOD. So now go back and read your Christmas Cards and when the card says have a JOYful holiday season. What it is really saying is have a GOD filled holiday season.

I wish you a JOYFUL Christmas and New Year!

(Sunshine) Life is too short to live with constant regrets and anger in our hearts. I have witnessed many people in my life who unfortunately really understand what the true meaning of suffering is. It is difficult to continue on when your heart is so heavy. Letting God help you through that suffering and knowing that there is so much more out there in the after life is what allows these individuals to go on. Going on when your heart is so scarred and you are left here is so very difficult but through the lord anything is possible. Make today the day that you decide to be all that you can be here on earth, to live a life of joy even though there is so much sadness. We must recognize the gifts that we are given and be thankful for God's love.


Friday, December 18, 2009

Thursdays on the Bench

(Carolin) Well another Thursday comes and where is Cathy to do all the work? Cathy, Catttthhhhyyyyy, Cathy are you out there? What has happened to our beloved Cathy?

I guess we will just have to talk about her since she is AWOL!

How is the Christmas shopping, wrapping, baking, list making coming along? I am starting to feel a little overwhelmed. I have had a busy work week. I did a hot food special everyday. It was great for my bottom line but was a lot of work prepping every night. But I think it gave me a good indication that I should do something different everyday to help with sales. Over the Christmas break I will work on a menu. I also have to prepare a year end report to give to the Principal. He has a board meeting the second week of January and has to present numbers then. He has mentioned having me at the meeting to answer questions and I hope at that time to get some better idea of a time frame for the new kitchen and I really want them to initiate a contract. If they don't I will head over to the lawyers and get one made up.

I went to the little ones Christmas Concert last night. The little kindergarten kids are always so cute, surprising it was not bad. They kept it moving and besides all the choirs at the end it was entertaining. It was nice to see the little one is a pretty dress for a change. On our way home we picked the teenager up from her work. And meet some of the men who go to the pool regularly for the adult swim. They kept telling me just how great she is. And the have all told her supervisor how friendly, and helpful she is. It was very nice and I hope she remembers those compliments on the days when things are not so great.

Well that's about it for me I am looking forward to having the next two weeks off and getting my house organized. We have our small group coming for a Turkey dinner tomorrow night so I need to get my turkey in the brine tonight. Thankfully I am just cooking the turkey and stuffing they are bringing the rest.

(Sunshine) I am officially off for the holidays. The Christmas shopping that I have done is non existent. I have not bought for a single person yet. I finally decorated the inside of my house yesterday. It is not as much as I usually do but there was limited time to do so. After school I picked up Little Miss Sunshine, went to Cathy's house to deliver some last minute cookies from the cookie exchange. I had not even entered Cathy's house when Teen Sunshine called and needed to be picked up. We said good buy and off we were again. By the time we got home it was about 5:15. I made dinner, had dinner and headed of to the school with the two girls to help with the helping hands drive. I got home at about 9:oo and that's when we decorated. At about 11:30 I was too tired and Little Miss Sunshine and I went to bed. Mr Sunshine and I have been like two ships that pass in the night. He has been very busy and in and out of town and I have been busy with work and the kids and everything else. I can't believe that Christmas is next week. It is time to relax and enjoy the holidays but, already my days are all packed with things to do and people that I am catching up with. I have a friend coming in from Calgary and another from England who I will be meeting up with during the holidays.

The family room is at a stand still as Mr Sunshine has been really busy at work. Will it be ready for New Years????????????

I am going to relax a bit now before my busy day starts. I have a hair appointment at 12:00 and then the girls get picked up and we have to go to the mall to get two birthday gifts and then they have a birthday party to go to. I really should clean instead of relaxing.

Talk to you soon.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Christmas Memory

When I was young my grandparents had the most beautiful Crèche I had ever seen. Each Christmas season they would set up Wiseman, multiple animals, a Sheppard, Joseph, Mary and of course the most precious baby Jesus you have every seen on their console TV. . I loved this nativity but alas I was never allowed to touch it.
“It is too special,” my grandmother would say.
“It's cost was too high for a child to touch,” my grandfather would grumble.
But I, when know one was looking would sneak a cuddle with baby Jesus.

I was reminded of this memory just a few short weeks ago while out shopping at Costco with a friend. There they had a Nativity scene all set up. It had everything as I remembered my grandparents having, but was even more beautiful. The Wiseman wore what looked like spun gold robes. There was a Sheppard and animals galore. Joseph's clothes shimmered in the light, Mary glittered in all her holiness and baby Jesus, well, and he was the most peaceful baby you have ever seen. This Crèche brought back all the memories of my childhood Christmas’s. I could invision just where I would put it. I would set it up on the beautiful fireplace mantel my late brother had made us. I would place each piece lovingly in their spots and of course give baby Jesus a quick cuddle. I would make sure it was far enough back so little hands would not get too close. There it could sit in all its glory and we could all admire it from afar. I looked at the price of the Crèche then at my cart of groceries, trying to decide just what we really didn’t need so I could buy this most beautiful Christmas decoration. But, I didn’t see any way to convince my family that we didn’t need to eat for that week. So suffice it to say I went home with a bag full of milk, eggs, cheese and chicken and no Crèche.

Last week I decided it was time to get the Christmas decorations up. So up came the boxes from the basement and the job started. My youngest daughter came home from school and saw the boxes.
She excitedly asked “is my favorite decoration out yet.
“Not yet” I said.
Then again on the second day she came home and asked, “Is my decoration out yet”. “Not yet” was my reply.
Finally, on the third day she came home just as I was at the bottom of the last box. And there it was. We together lifted out the box, which was getting tattered from over 20 years of Christmas and a few kids. We carefully unwrapped each figurine. Then found the manger and she set up her favorite Christmas decoration, the nativity scene. I watched her work and was reminded of the Crèche I admired just a week ago. Ours was a third its size. There was only one animal left. All the Wiseman have had their heads glued on more times then I care to count. Joseph's coat had lost all its shimmer from one two many little hands and Mary no longer looks holy with a chip on nose. Baby Jesus has lost all of his peacefulness, actually he no longer had any paint left on his face. I guess it was one too many cuddles. I watched for a few minutes more then gave a sigh and walked away.

Later on that evening I found the youngest laying on the floor playing with Joseph, Mary and Jesus. I looked at her cuddling Jesus, and it was then that it hit me.

The miracle of my Lord's birth was not gold spun, or glimmery and shinny. He was born in a simple stable He was born so all my chips could be mended, to heal me of my brokenness. Jesus came to earth to cuddle Me, to make me feel wanted. He came to earth so I could live, not to be admired afar but to be touched and played with, and loved.
My grandparents have since past away and I don’t know what ever happened to their Crèche. But I now know that my ‘discounted, after Christmas sale’ Crèche bought so many years ago is the most beautiful Christmas decoration my family owns.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

How to remove underarm stains and odour

I have a question. What is the best way to remove underarm stains and odour? I have begun to notice yellow stains and odour which will not wash out. I only wear the shirts once before placing in the laundry. I try to do the laundry every week, however that could stretch to a week and a half before the piles get big enough for a load. I have tried, 'spray and wash, and the 'pc' brand stain remover. I have also tried all of the various oxy-cleans. I have soaked for the 10 minutes and even longer for the oxy-clean and still the yellowing and odour persist. I have used Tide, Sunlight, PC brand and am now using ECOS, which is a green product.

I have been advised by some people to change my deodorant as the aluminum content is causing the yellowing. What do you suggest? I would like my clothes to look and smell clean after I wash them. Is is the deodorant or my diet or age (Carolin, I'm not harping on my age, I'm just wondering if this is a natural occurrence, chronologically speaking).

Please, any and all advice is gratefully accepted.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Bench Talk - Favourite Cook Books

This week we would like to list some of our favourite cookbooks. With Christmas fast approaching we are usually looking for something new to cook or we pull out our tried and true family favourite recipes.

(Sunshine) On Friday we had our annual cookie exchange. We met at my house and we had a fun evening. Mr Sunshine had rented the movie, "Julie and Julia" for us and we watched it that evening. I watched this movie again on Sunday with my daughter and I loved it. It inspired me to get cooking in my own kitchen before the movie even ended. Mr Sunshine made a ham. I have never had ham before in my life. It was pretty tasty. Tomorrow night we will make a roasted stuffed chicken with seasonal roasted vegetables and gravy. I also made some homemade chicken soup and some rice balls. It seems as though I was either in the kitchen or folding laundry all day. I spoke to Cathy today who said that she had the actual book by Julia Child that her mother gave her many years ago. This is what has inspired our topic for today. It was actually Cathy's idea. Hey, what are you doing making rice balls I though we were doing that on Monday. I enjoyed the movie as well and will watch it again. I don't think I have ever made a Julia Child recipe but who knows what the future might bring. The critics had penned the movie to be a horrible waste of time. But I should know that if the cirtics don't like it then I will like it.

Cathy here, I was just sitting eating breakfast and happened to look over at my cookbook shelf. I have a baker's rack in the kitchen filled with cookbooks of all types! I love cookbooks! I can sit with a cup of tea and read a cookbook. It's like I can actually taste the recipe as I read it. So, as Sunshine said we watched, "Julie and Julia" on Friday past. I knew mom had handed down to me her french cookbook but I never paid attention to the author. Well, wasn't I surprised to see it was the actual cookbook from the movie, (not the actual cookbook movie, the penguin paperback). When Sunshine called later in the day I told her about it. Isn't that neat!

I am usually looking for some new recipes when I am entertaining. I have been searching for some drinks and h'ors d'ourves to serve on New Year's Eve. I don't know that I have a favourite cookbook. I enjoy looking at new things in magazines. The LCBO magazines are some of my favourites. I have tried several recipes from their magazines and they are all great. Sometimes I am inspired by something that I see on TV. So a lot of time I search for recipes on the Internet. I actually made Beef Bourguignon twice a few years ago. It took hours to make but it was fantastic! I to really like the LCBO magazines but I don't think I have ever made anything from there recipes, I just like to look at the pictures.

When it was announced in the news that Julia Child has passed away they published her original recipe for beef bourguignon and I made it. Yes, it took a long time but boy was it ever good! You and Sunshine have raved about this recipe so I might have to get the recipe and give it a try.

As far as favourite cookbooks go, I can always count on finding the answer to my questions in, 'The Joy of Cooking'. I think everyone should own a copy. I own cookbooks for all different foods from all over the world. My family likes to tease that they have never had the same meal twice! When they really enjoy a meal and they ask it I could make it again, I try to, however, I always find a way to tweek it and make it different! They enjoy it all and as Hubby also enjoys cooking from different ethnicities we enjoy varied and interesting meals! ( I know I will now have to listen to the grief the ladie's will now dish out to me!)Bloggers just so you know, Cathy says she does all this cooking but we have never had any of it. So we question if she really does cook or just talks about it!

For our old family favourites I pull out my personal recipe cards where I have some of my favourite recipes of my mom's and of my mother in laws. I usually refer to those cards for the holidays. I remember the recipes pretty well but I have found over the years that if I refer to the cards, somehow the recipe turns out better. I look up recipes for rice balls, stuffing, and home made chicken soup and sushi. I also get a lot of recipes from a friend of mine who is an amazing cook! Everytime we are invited for dinner my mouth waters before the food even gets to the table. She always makes something that I would not normally make and all of her dishes are so delicious. I have acquired recipes for chicken Marsala and an amazing farfale pasta from her. I prefer to cook something that I have already tasted somewhere. I find that when I just try a totally new recipe it is usually a lot of work and it is not so tasty. I am so happy to say that I have finally done my mom's lasagna justice! For several years I have tried to make lasagna like my mom used to make. I was always unsuccessful. Well, earlier this year, I finally succeeded! It was a lot of work and the girls and Mr Sunshine helped a lot but in the end, it was so worth it. You also made it I think last new years cause your Dad gave it a two thumbs up and insisted that we all eat it! I made it a day when my mom's sister was over and she gave it a big thumbs up. I hope that I can reproduce it again. I love to cook when things turn out well. I am very disappointed when the food is just ok. Well, I hope that New Year's Eve will be successful. I know that we will have great company, I hope that the food is up to par.

It's a really great feeling when you can duplicate a favourite recipe! My dad's roasts are great and I still haven't duplicated them yet! I like to have time to cook. I like to peruse my cookbooks and take all day to cook. I really like the cookbooks from 'Canadian Living' Magazine. They always have easy 'down to earth' recipes. I have a cookbook called 'Treasury of Country and Heritage cooking'. Mom has it too and we find that anything we cook out of it looks just like the picture and tastes great! My other cookbooks are international in flavour from Jamaica, Japan, China, Mexico, Thailand, Australia, France, Italy to name a few. I also have some vegetarian cookbooks and a great one for baking that Sunshine gave me a few years ago!

(Carolin) I too have a couple of shelves full of cookbooks in my kitchen. I have one book in particular that I use all the time. It is red and falling apart but it is always trustworthy. Its a Betty Crocker Cookbook the 1987 revised copy. I have bought a later version but it was so full of mistakes and the recipes were just not the same. So though it is falling apart I still use it all the time. I also have a Better homes and Gardens All-Time Favorite Cake and Cookies recipes book that is taped at the spine but it is a trustworthy book for cookies. Because I make so many cookies this is the book I get most of my recipes from.

I subscribe to Canadian Living and have always enjoyed there recipes. Some of them have become family favourites. Like Sunshine I have a book of handed down recipes and dishes my family likes but I don't have official recipes for. That little book comes in handy especially this time of year.

I wonder if the girls would like to have a get together over the holidays with our families and make it a Julia Child's night where we each need to make one of her dishes for the evening?

I'm think it's a great idea, I wonder what Carolin will think?

I think we should get together at one of your house and you should cook a Julia Child recipe and I will judge since I have never cooked any of her recipes and don't own her cookbook. You guys do the work and maybe I can corner Mr. Sunshine to help me with my year end report for the school!

Happy cooking everyone!!!! Bon appetit

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Thursdays on the Bench

(Cathy) Hello fellow bloggers! So, we finally have snow! It's beautiful and it's melting already. It's actually raining right now and there are deep puddles everywhere. I really hope the snow will arrive and stay in time for Christmas. Well, as it was the first time ever it has ever snowed in our fair city ever (did I say ever?) there were so far over 50 accidents on the roadways! Why? Who are the drivers who lack common sense and continually refuse to slow down? Do you think the accidents are caused by people who have never driven in the winter before? Or is it just a false sense of overconfidence or just plain stupidity? It's sad that we always comment the same way each time we experience the first snowfall. (Sunshine) Well this year I got a set of snow tires put on my vehicle. Well I can tell you driving in the slush and snow today that they made a world of difference. I too, have snow tires on my car so I didn't find it a problem for driving and fortunately for me I don't have to drive far.

I was helping out at the school this morning. (I just remembered that this is being posted for Thursday and I am writing this on Wednesday). The radio stations advised that school buses were canceled for just a few districts. It was very well stated on the radio and repeated many times. I arrived at the school only to answer never ending phone calls asking if school was closed. There were many kids kept at home with the reason that the weather was too harsh! Wow! I can hear the stories now from people who grew up a few generations ago and had to walk miles and miles and over and over snow drifts up to their chins! Oh well, people are people and life goes on.

Well I was watching the TV from about 4:00 am this morning. Miss Teen Sunshine's buses were cancelled. I had to call Carolin's teenager to make sure. Once we established that they were both not going to school, I was focusing on the school that I work at and our buses were also cancelled. It didn't look good out there so I told Little Miss Sunshine that she could have a snow day if she wanted to. She was unsure but I was steering her towards staying in for the day. I called her school and told them that she would be staying home due to weather. At a bout 8:30am I called my school to double check that we were closed for the day and I learned that we were actually open. I had little Miss Sunshine get dressed and left another message at her school stating that she was in fact coming in. We arrived at her school about 15 minutes late and off to work I went. It was very slow and slushy outside with with my new snow tires it was more then manageable. I had mixed feelings about having a snow day. Firstly Sunshine get used to teen Sunshine having snow days cause the school she goes to will call a snow day at the first sighting of a flake falling from the sky. I wanted a snow day cause there is so much that needs to be done at home but on the other hand a snow day means NO MONEY! By the end of the day I was glad we didn't have a snow day I had a very busy day, I was short about $5.00 from braking my highest number is sales. Before I left for work I gave the teenager a list of chores to do, decorate the Christmas tree, wrap gifts, tidy house, make dinner etc...

I wonder if the ladies have finished their baking?????? Mine are baked and bagged. O.K. I'm bragging. It's just that I am always in a panic over our annual cookie exchange and it's nice to be ready this year before our get together. Little Miss Sunshine and I baked last night. She seems to have a real knack for baking. I tryed two new recipes and they are both just OK. I am still having trouble with the packaging. They are all wrapped but I am not happy with how they look. I may have to change something tomorrow. I as well am done for Friday night. I doubled the batch of cookies for work and put a bunch aside for what I needed this week for other events. I will package them on Friday. I can tell you the kids at school all liked the cookies. I have a question about the cookie exchange. Where is it this year?

Well now, the rain has stopped and the sun is trying to peak its way through. Let's hope that the rush hour drive home is calmer than this mornings drive was. The drive home was much better. The school yard was filled with water and slush. I left in such a hurry this morning that I did not have time to dig out my winter boots so I left with my running shoes. Well needless to say my feet were soaked all day long. The school yard was filled with huge snow man size snow ball all over it after school. There must have been about 40 or 50 huge balls out there. The kids must have had so much fun making them. I was watching some of the kids on there recess making snowmen and it did look fun. The weather was great for making snowman. The little one wore her snow boots for the first time and when she got home last night her feet were all wet. She did say walked through a puddle but I am thinking of returning them.

Oh, yeah, I finished reading Lawrence Hill's book, "The Book of Negros". I really enjoyed it and recommend it to anyone. It's funny because I have never heard anyone speak of this book and as I was reading it people would come up to me and say that they had read it and really liked it, too!

I should leave some room for the ladies so I'll leave you now. I have a busy rest of the week with more baking, a school concert, tree buying and house decorating. It has been busy here as well, Monday night was are only free night, the teenagers music night is tonight and the husband and I are tossing a coin to see who has to go! I think he should since he is on the afternoon shift wen she has her spring and last high school concert (yea!!!) so he wont be there for that. She said neither of us have to go but I have a feeling if one of us doesn't go we will be hearing about it years from now. She is in only one band this year so I am hoping she will find out when she is on and then I will show up for that and not have to stay for the whole thing. I know bad mom but I don't care I have been doing Christmas concerts now for 14 years I never have been fond of them. I have to go to the little ones concert next Thursday night. The one nice thing about hers is it is entertaining watching the kindergarten kids cause you never know what they will do.

Tomorrow night we are going to see performances for the So You Think you can dance tour. Little Miss Sunshine won the tickets in a school raffle. The show starts at 7:30 so it will be a late night. This Weekend we are in Kitchener for a music concert that Miss Teen Sunshine is in on Saturday afternoon. So between the cookie exchange on Friday, soccer and the concert and My sisters birthday on Saturday and the hard wood floor going in on Sunday. It is going to be a very very busy weekend. I can't wait for the holidays. Sounds like your house is like ours busy, busy. I think that is the part of the holidays I don't like. I wish we could spread out the joy a bit more. It would be nice to have a winter concert maybe in January instead of just before Christmas. And last night the husband tells me that Chrysler has scheduled the next two Saturdays for production! Man I hate that company, I know hate is a strong word but we have dealt with this crap for 23 years. Make the employees work the two Saturdays before Christmas when we all know they will have family stuff and then lay them off for a few weeks in January! He did say he would try to book the Saturdays off but I wasn't to hold my breath.

I am sending out my Christmas cards tomorrow morning and I desperately need to do some Christmas gift shopping. Wow the time is really flying by. I have started mailing and handing out mine but still have to get more stamps and write a few more.

I am really looking forward to seeing the girls on Friday night. What should I prepare for us to eat and drink? Any suggestions? Oh I guess that means we are going to your house! Good stuff looking forward to seeing all the work that has been done. And why do you ask what to drink we all know you will make a cranberry punch. Perhaps I will just go pick up potato skins I say at Costco they looked good. Keep it simple!

Have a good week all!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Bench Talk: Favourite things about Christmas

Christmas carols are playing on the radio and everyone is buzzing with their lists of 'things to do'. Christmas trees are for sale on the lots and Christmas cards are arriving in the mail.

What is your favourite thing about the season of Christmas?

Come and share with us.

Merry Christmas!

What is my favourite things about Christmas, well let me think....

I like Christmas carols but not so much the radio stations that only play Christmas songs this time of year. It seems to me that they play the same 20 songs over and again. So I usually listen to my CD's that way I can switch it up.

I love to receive mail (the old fashion kind) and so this time of year is great. I love getting cards and Christmas letters. I also like watching the old Christmas movies, Holiday Inn, Bells of St. Mary, Bishops Wife (the original) and of course It's a Wonderful Life.

I love to have the house all decorated and festive but I am finding it a bit hard this year. The tree has been up for a week and I just got around to getting the lights on it yesterday. There is still two box's in my dinning room full of decorations. I am not sure if I will bother putting them up or just take the box's back downstairs.

I like to see a blanket of white outside but only when I know everyone is home and not driving in it. I heard we are to expect some snow this week.

(Sunshine) I love snow at Christmas time especially on Christmas Eve. The big beautiful snow flakes that stick to your nose. It may sound strange but I enjoy being outside and shoveling the snow and chatting with all of the neighbours. Everyone comes out of their houses and we all end up helping each other. Little Miss Sunshine starts out with her little shovel but eventually she ends up tobogganing on the hills on the front lawn. She laughs and giggles and she really enjoys it. Miss Teen Sunshine enjoys shovelling and she usually just picks up a shovel and starts on her own.

The kids love to toboggan at the back park. They slide down and walk back up the hill and then we walk home (sometimes we drive back home) and have some hot chocolate.

I love Christmas music. Miss Teen Sunshine who is always singing anyways converts to singing Christmas songs this time of year and I love to listen to her. Little Miss Sunshine has also started singing. She tries to emulate her sister.

I enjoy all of the family get togethers and all of the yummy special foods. It is a Christmas Eve tradition to have 13 different dishes prepared for that evening. This includes the appetizers and desserts. We all contribute to the meal so that no one is stuck doing everything on their own.

Before dinner is served we go around the table and give thanks for the gift of being together and for anything else that anyone wants to contribute.

We open our presents after the stroke of midnight but first we have the youngest person bring baby Jesus from room to room singing a traditional song and then we lay him to rest in the manger.

On New Years Morning we go over to my mother in laws house and have traditional foods that all have a very special meaning. Later that day we go to one of the aunties homes and drop in and see a lot of people that we don't normally see during the year.

My favourite things are friends and family coming together. Everyone is off from work and we all have time to just enjoy each other's company.

Receiving Christmas cards is also one of my favourite things. A lot of the cards come with pictures of friends and family and I enjoy seeing how everyone has changed from year to year. I just ordered my Christmas cards and I will pick them up tomorrow and start to mail them out.

I started giving calenders as gifts about 10 years ago. Each month has a different picture of my family. My mother in law and my sister always say that that is their favourite gift each year. They are already bugging me to make sure that I do one this year. Every year I tell them that I may not do one as I am so busy and with these digital pictures its a lot of work to get them done. Really I am just bugging them. The calenders are one of my favourite things too.

On Christmas day I receive phone calls from friends and relatives that I don't usually talk to. That is also a lot of fun. I also connect with my mom's family over seas.

I love to drive around the neighbourhood and see all of the beautifully decorated homes.

Watching the kids open their presents and looking through the presents that Santa has left in our stockings is also a lot of fun. The expressions on the kids faces are still priceless.

Cathy here; I LOVE CHRISTMASTIME! The Christmas season for me starts with the arrival of Santa in the Toronto parade. This is near the middle of November. I will start playing Christmas Carols and singing (much to the chagrin of my family!) My mom and sister and I will go shopping for all our presents and enjoy having lunch out. I have my Christmas cards done and will package up the gifts that are being sent out of province.

I love sharing stories and traditions with my friends. Christmas brings out the kindness in people and you see people smiling and laughing more. There are more gettogethers and of course we have the annual cookie exchange! I'm baking tomorrow with my mom. We are also trying some gluten free cookie recipes. My cousin's wife sent me some great info and we are going to experiment with some recipes. (thank-you L! They did go to market on Saturday.)

The first Sunday in Advent the family got together to bake the Christmas Pudding. Once all the ingredients are mixed there is always the annual debate over whether or not it needs more rum! It always needs more rum!

My sister's birthday is in mid December. We have always put up our Christmas tree then. Now, we all meet at our folks place and put their tree up and have dinner. Around that same time, Hubby and I with the boys will go and pick our tree. Actually, each boy takes a turn each year picking out the tree and each year I have to refer to my pda to see who's turn it is! Whomever gets to pick out the tree, the other gets to put the Star on top! Don't laugh, it works!

The first Saturday in December is our annual Family Christmas party. Everyone who can meets at my aunt's party room and we have a blast! We also arrange a meeting in the middle of summer but Christmas is a must! Everyone has something special they make and as we only get it once a year it is really something to look forward to. We play games and sing and just have a great time sharing the old family stories together. We all hope by getting together like this, it will give each younger generation a real feel for their 'roots'.

My Hubby is german so on Christmas eve my folks and sister and family all get together for a traditional german meal. Hubby makes the bowla which is fruit punch with a kick! After church the kids all get to open gifts from the german and french side of the family. (this helps to alleviate some of the craziness come Christmas morn). Christmas morning dad makes ackee and saltfish with journey cakes, yum! We make a traditional turkey with all the fixins and enjoy the day together. Each year we alternate at whose home we celebrate. We all sleep over from Christmas eve to Boxing day. It's fun for the kids and everyone can celebrate with no worries.

Wow, this is a long post! I hope you have all enjoyed us sharing with you our favourite things about Christmas time!

On behalf of the ladies, may we take this time to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Thursdays on the Bench

(Cathy)Hi all, I hope everyone had a good week. Let's see, what's new for this week? It's December and still no snow here. I'm good with no snow till Christmas morning. I would like to wake up Christmas morning with a blanket of white. I still have flowers blooming in my garden! I did receive my first seed catalogue in the mail two days ago. It's neat to start planning planting for next spring when I still have blooming plants in the garden.

My cousin is flying down to Jamaica to participate in the Reggae Run in Negril. He is running to raise money for the Canadian Diabetes Society. His dad, my uncle, passed away from the disease a year ago. I know he will do great!

I finally received from the library, "The Book of Negros", by Lawrence Hill. Some of you might remember that Carolin blogged about this book a few months ago. I am about a quarter of the way through and it is great! From what I have read so far I highly recommend this book.

Is anyone out in blog land on a gluten-free diet? My sister and nephew are trying an elimination diet to try to clear up their eczema. They have already tried eliminating all dairy, but no change. We are hoping they will have success with the gluten free diet. The only thing is, now that it's Christmas time and we are baking..... I have been researching gluten free cookies. If anyone has any cookies that they have tried or the name of a gluten free flour that they like, please let me know; thanks. (Carolin) I know there is gluten free stuff but I have heard they don't taste to good. As a life long suffer of eczema. For me the biggest stresses is perfumes. Scented anything, I try to buy unscented laundry detergent, I don't use fabric softener, no house hold candles or those glad plug in things. We have a water softener that helps and especially this time of year lots of moisturiser. The only soaps I can use that are affordable are pears (but is very hard to find now) and I have been using the dove baby wash that is not too bad. I had to use it for the little one when she was younger and the classroom would have the kids wash their hands a few times a day. When she used the school industrial soap she would have red chapped hands. Another biggie for me is touching raw vegetables and fruits. Things like oranges and carrots are big no-nos. Someone else in my family has to peel them or I try to wear gloves when I have to peel. Is it an allergy to the surface of the raw fruits and veggies? I never had an allergy problem before. The last 2 years or so I have developed some allergies. Yes to the touch and if I eat them raw mouth will swell up. But fruit and vegetables cooked are fine.

We caught on TV last night the last hour of the movie, "Christmas Vacation". That movie is so funny! I have never seen all of it, in fact I don't think I have ever seen the beginning of it. We have that movie borrowed from the library right now, but just haven't had a chance watch it yet. I really like that movie. However, every Christmas season I always manage to see the last hour. The radio stations are playing Christmas music and just today our satellite provider has on a station with nonstop, commercial free Christmas music with the fireplace as a background, very nice.

Well this has been a crazy week and I really need to get to bed. I am in the final count down to the little ones school annual Christmas Breakfast. As the others ladies know by now I totally freak out over this breakfast.( you, freak out, never... :)! ) This year is worse as I am not at home during the day to get stuff done. I am staying at the school tomorrow afternoon (early dismissal for parent teacher interviews) so I can cook 13 dozen muffins (all from scratch because I am a fool). The sausage is done, which reminds me I should take it out of the freezer tomorrow morning and put it in the fridge. The bacon is done, the tickets printed and being sold, the lootbags are stuffed, the door prizes wrapped ( I cut down this year and only have 35 door prizes). I will go shopping on Friday to buy the eggs (30 dozen) and all the fresh fruit. I did try to get some parent volunteers to come on Friday an hour before school is out to help cut the fruit and put it on the trays. But to no avail. So I guess that will be me, again. I think this is the part that frustrates me as there is no one to help me. I have some time early Friday night. I have put up a teacher/ volunteer sign up sheet in the staff lounge a few weeks ago. When I went to check on it on Friday it was gone, I assumed the VP had taken it for her morning staff meeting. Then today I find out she thought I had taken it. So someone, who knows who, has taken down the sheet and we now have no teacher volunteers signed up! Yesterday morning I get this along with more things to follow up on, which in the past had never been my responsibility,things like asking the church to use their chaffing dishes, making sure the gym has been reserved for Friday afternoon set up. I end up getting in a tiff with the High School VP over the gym, finally I walk away thinking this is not worth it! Take a deep breath. I can help you. Just say the word.

Tonight when we got home from church and I started making another 70 cupcakes my husband says maybe next year I should consider holding the World Vision fundraiser till after the breakfast as I am about to lose my mind! I think I need to go to bed now as I have to head to the bakery for 6:30 am to pick up bagels. I can't wait for this week to be over :(.

Oh ya, I have two interviews tomorrow with music and french teachers for the little one. We have the younger one's interview tonight. Both subjects she is failing, surprise. I had each of them corner me in the office today asking me what can be done about the little one's mark. How am I supposed to know? First of all her talent is in visual arts not music, she has very limited short term memory. And if you stand in front of the class talking and talking in a language she doesn't know of course she will tune you out. Now don't get me wrong, I think a second language is great, but if you are struggling to speak your mother tongue what is the use with another one? And music is great (the teenager is proof of that) but music appreciation would be nice. Let's teach them all kinds of music and how to express themselves through music instead of memorizing notes and playing the awful recorder! And what about the concept of combining music with visual arts, letting the kids express how the music makes them feel, and what they see when they hear a particular piece of music? I'm just saying; now, good night all. I hope that you can find some time for yourself around the Christmas break. You have done an amazing job but you need a break.

Its been a busy week. I had Little Miss Sunshine's interview tonight after school She has the same teacher that she had in grade 2 and she really likes him. The little one had the same teacher for grade two and three it is nice when that happens cause they all ready know the kid and family. I am familiar with his style, so no surprises. Soccer takes up 1 week night evening and the games are on the weekend. Teen Sunshine has a part in another play so she is busy once again with rehearsals after school. (yea for Teen Sunshine!) Mr Sunshine has been travelling a lot lately. I don't think that he has been in town a full week for a long time now. He is always flying somewhere. The family room needs so much work and I feel as though we are running out of time. I was so hoping to have it ready for the end of the year, but I don't know if that will happen. I am busy with work and the kids and anything related to the house. I have not even started my Christmas shopping yet and I have no idea what kind of cookies I will do for the cookie exchange. Me either, I am leaning towards a Voortmen Green and Red sugar cookie. They are my favourite. Once I figure that out, I have to find the time to make them and figure out how to present them. Don't get me wrong, I actually do enjoy all of this. I am just making a list for myself of what needs to be done. The house seems to be a constant mess and when I am not working or sleeping I seem to always be cleaning. I miss my friends as I feel as though I never see them anymore. The best part of the cookie exchange will be getting together that night. I really would like for us to get back to a monthly schedule for next year. It's hard to believe that a year has gone buy without a single ladies night. We need to do better next year. IT will also be great to see all of our family. Last week we got together with my side of the family and it was a lot of fun. We had Mr. Sunshine's family over at the end of November and it was great to see them too. I am so looking forward to the Christmas break!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It's me again, I found the greatest cookie bags at, "Dollarama", lol. Just had to pass that along!