Tag Archives: Christmas

Life, Calvin & Hobbes

Hi everyone!  In case you’re wondering, yep, I’m still here; real life has been busy, busy, busy!  By the time I’ve gotten time to write anything this past fortnight, I haven’t had the energy to do so.

I’ve been busy preparing my manuscripts and graphics for publication, in the midst of preparing and then sitting at a crafts fair for 2 days, selling my wares, and then bringing home a bug that stayed for a couple days as an unwanted guest.  I’ve also had more blood tests (all-clear on those, thank goodness!) in connection with the surgery I had in October; thankfully, the medication that I now take seems to have found an accurate balance from the outset, so that’s a relief.

In between the publishing process phases, I’m preparing my other books in various ways – adding new blurbs, etc., so I’m working with several checklists at once, and, I must say that the motivation is approaching “Christmas break” in my mind… it’s like teachers trying to motivate kids to focus in the week before holidays – ain’t happenin’ all that effectively!  But, just one step after the other, and I’ll get there eventually.  Before Christmas, that’s my only goal right now…

Speaking of Christmas, here’s a few Calvin & Hobbes cartoons to bring a smile to your face!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

 

Advertisements

6 Comments

Filed under Articles, Humor, Images, Musings

Christmas Cheer

Merry Christmas, everyone!  Here are a few cartoons to bring a smile.  I hope your Christmas is relaxing, refreshing, and cheerful!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

2 Comments

Filed under Images

Musings on Christmas Shopping

Recently there was a very black day; a Black Friday, to be precise.  The shocking images coming from America of people who (for the sake of giving them the benefit of the doubt, I’ll assume are fairly sane otherwise) put aside every shred of human dignity to fight over an object they don’t really need just because it’s on sale (and which was most likely marked up in price beforehand…).  This, the very day after they spent time remembering everything they have to be thankful for.  Such behaviour is inconceivable to me.  What possesses people to stampede, trampling others for baubles and trinkets?  The introvert in me rather asks why anyone would want to go shopping on the busiest day in the year… heck, I even avoid shopping on normal Saturdays because of the weekend crowds!  That scourge of marketing tactics is making its way over to Europe as well, but what’s odd about the European version is that there is no “Thanksgiving Day” as it’s strictly an American holiday, so the Black Friday on the following day is completely artificial timing.

bulach-market

Bülach Christmas Market.  Credit: ZVV.ch

Personally, I much rather prefer staying home and enjoying a day of rest; it saves me money, time, stress and injury.  If I do any special shopping on the day, it is done online.  Besides, it’s around this time of the year that Christmas markets burst forth; nearly every town in Switzerland has its own market, some larger and more elaborate than others.  This past weekend, we went to one of our favourite local Christmas markets in a town called Bülach.  Vendors might be individuals, or groups such as youth groups, or mom-and-pop co-op businesses.  We tend to buy specialty items, such as gourmet cheeses, smoked meats, spices, honeys direct from the beekeepers, and homemade spiced oils.  Other items I like to look for are nice olive-wood spoons for the kitchen, or handcrafts that I don’t make myself (e.g. metal or glass crafts).  There’s also an Iranian vendor; I always pick up a kilogram of Persian rice (it’s got a basmati/smoky flavour) and an assortment of dried fruits from him.

Besides food items, we look for Christmas gifts for each other; that goes something like this:

 (Me to my husband):  “That’s a nice ring…” (Try it on; it fits).

(My husband) “Go away.”

“I’ll just walk on to the next booth.”

“Don’t look.” (He buys said ring, or something else besides, then joins me at the next booth.)

Along the way, we head toward the whisky shop and the conversation gets reversed – once he’s picked out a possible whisky he’d like to add to his collection, he leaves the shop, and I buy it plus stocking stuffer samplers (Schätzli, if you’re reading this, forget you saw that last sentence…).

In two weeks our own town will be having its market; it’s a time to get out, meet up with friends and neighbours, chat until it’s time to warm up with a glass of Glühwein (hot spiced wine) or hot chocolate, and find our favourite items, stocking up until the next year’s market days.  The walk home is crispy cold, topped off with a hot tea and a cat on the lap; life doesn’t get much better than that.

When you go to Christmas markets, or street markets at any time of the year, what do you look for?  What do you end up buying?  Does your town have a Christmas market?  What makes it special for you?  I’d love to hear about your own experiences in the comments below!

10 Comments

Filed under Articles, Musings

Musings about Advent

For those of you in highly commercialized countries (I won’t name names, but the initials are USA, for one…), before Thanksgiving is past, Christmas decorations have hit the shop shelves.  Before Christmas is really digested, Valentine’s ads appear.  I hope that you’ll bear with me, as I contemplate a holiday between your Thanksgiving, and Christmas:  Advent.

In today’s global village, people around the world are aware of holidays such as Christmas and Easter, though it might not be a part of their indigenous culture or religion; they may even celebrate them, though that be more of a marketing incentive rather than a religious one.  I grew up in Kansas, and though we were aware of Advent as an event leading up to Christmas, we never celebrated it – we rarely, if ever, had an advent calendar, or advent wreath of candles.  Here in Switzerland, Advent is like an extended Christmas; our personal advent calendar contains small gifts, and of course chocolate; this year, with a teenager in the house, I also included gag gifts. Our particular form is the Tischibo bags, hung from a rustic red metal heart frame with hooks.

What is the history behind Advent?  What is its true meaning?  Advent, which comes from the Latin Adventus (which is actually a translation from the Greek word parousia), had two meanings:   In relation to Christmas, it is the inner preparation for remembering the first coming of Jesus as a babe into the world as a human, so that he could fulfil God’s plan for salvation for all.  For Christians, the second meaning is a time to reflect on, and prepare for, the Second Coming of Christ, which will be the end of time for Earth (no one knows the day or hour, and so the Bible tells us to be prepared – like someone on call needs to be ready to go when the call comes).  As an event, it begins on the fourth Sunday prior to Christmas; this year that would be the 27th of November, as Christmas itself falls on a Sunday.

There are several expressions of celebrating Advent:  The calendar, the wreath, and  devotions.

The calendar was first used by German Lutherans in the 19th century, and usually begins on the 1st of December.  They can take on any form imaginable, from a simple paper calendar, to gift boxes, or gift bags labelled 1 – 24.  Consecutive numbers are opened one per day from the 1st to Christmas Eve.  Sometimes the calendar includes a Bible verse and a prayer or Christian devotion for that day of the Advent.  There are even some towns that become living Advent calendars; this tradition began in Stockholm, Sweden.

The wreath, usually a horizontal decoration placed on a table, is made of evergreen boughs (real or synthetic) with four or five candles, representing the four Sundays prior, and Christmas day.  The four are usually red, with the white Christmas candle centred.  One candle is lit on the first Advent Sunday, with an additional candle lit each week.  The concept originated with German Lutherans in the 16th century, though the modern form didn’t catch on until the 19th century, likely in conjunction with the calendar.  For a detailed history of the wreath, click here.

The devotions are readings from the Bible accompanied by a prayer, to prepare the heart and mind for the Reason for the Season – the coming of Jesus as a man to Earth.

If you’ve never made an Advent calendar or wreath before (there is still time to prepare one!), or you want to try something new, below are a few examples I’ve collected from Pinterest.  Please share in the comments below what kind you use, or what your traditions around this time of the year are!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

9 Comments

Filed under Articles, History, Images, Musings, Research

‘Tis the Season

Sometimes despite the best of intentions real life takes over.  I’ve been silent in cyberspace for nearly a fortnight as real-world events took precedence over the virtual world.  I try to post only when I find something interesting to share or to write about, and can take the time to make it worth my time and yours; but we all know those times when our energy and concentration power are required by more pressing events or situations, and so I hope you’ll pardon me for having been silent.

With Christmas approaching, perhaps your thoughts are turning toward the season of giving, of slowing down to spend time with friends and family, and perhaps it’s also a time of contemplation about the past year and the future:  What would you change if you could?  How can you move forward and learn from mistakes or challenges, and take positive steps to see things change for the better in the coming year?  I don’t mean New Year’s Resolutions; those rarely hold for more than a week or two, because they are purely decisions of the head, and if our hearts are not in agreement with those choices, it’s only a matter of time before they fall flat.  If it’s a decision of both head and heart, why wait until the New Year?  The old adage holds true:  “We cannot be guided unless we are moving.”  The greatest journey begins with the first step, followed by the next, and the next… eventually we’ll arrive at our goal, but only if we step out first.

I recently watched a TED talk by Brother David Steindl-Rast, of the Gratefulness movement; for him one of the keys to finding moments of gratefulness in everyday life is to “Stop. Look. Go.”:  To pause in our hectic lives and take a moment to smell the roses; to open our senses to the world around us and become grateful for the things we take for granted, such as clean, flowing water on tap (even cold and hot), or for the roof over our heads.  The more we look around, the more we’ll find to be grateful for.  The “Go” part of that equation is to act on that gratefulness – passing it on to those around us.  Positivity and smiles are contagious, and they are magnets that draw people; negativity and scowls are also contagious, but they will repel and isolate us.  We all have times of trials, difficulties and challenges; how we choose to face them decides whether they master us, or serve us.  One example from my own life was this past summer, described in the article, “I got Staffa’d“; I chose to be grateful in the midst of it, and it made it much easier to master it.

Whatever you’ve got planned over the coming weeks, I’d encourage you to take a moment to stop, look and then go; become aware of things in your life to be grateful for, look around and see how you can bless others, and move forward with a fresh awareness of the beauty of life.

Ps.  If you’d like some ideas for advent calendar- and stocking-stuffers, click here.Gratitude

5 Comments

Filed under Articles, Musings

Just Around the Corner

Christmas is just around the corner, and I’m enjoying the different pace of life that comes with the season; my husband’s work is winding down toward the end of the year, which means he can come home earlier than usual (he works 10+ hours a day, so early is 7:30 pm!); and people seem to relax around this time of the year, too – they’re less stressed, more genial, and become more aware of their fellow man – which is as it should be all year round.

It’s cold outside but still no sign of snow, though the sun coming through the windows and threatening to melt our chocolate Christmas tree ornaments doesn’t deter me from listening to Christmas music!  My favourites this year are the new Pentatonix album,  “That’s Christmas to Me”, and Idina Menzel’s “Holiday Wishes”, both on Spotify.  I take more time to read, to watch films, to slow down, to do crafts, to simplify life.  One thing I simplified recently is our CD collection; I eliminated several hundred (!), because I found them on Spotify (if you don’t know it and love music, welcome to “life just got grand”!  Check it out on http://www.spotify.com); we have the premium version, which means no adverts, and the artists get paid for their work (which is important to us).

Being the crafter I am, I figured that that amount of CDs would come in handy for something; I’m using some to make coasters, but keep my eyes open for other up-cycling ideas.  I sleep very little (I jokingly refer to myself as “half-vampire” as I only need about 4-5 hours a day), so I have a lot of time on my hands, which I enjoy as fully as possible in all of the above!

Below is a panorama of where I now sit; my work space is at the top of a short flight of stairs, and just behind my computer is a round window that looks out over our town and toward the international airport at the other side of the valley.  Just behind the computer you’ll notice a cat hammock; it’s one of two on that railing, and it’s usually full… our cats enjoy watching the sunrise through the round window.  To the right of my desk is a set of drawers, atop of which is a cat bed; it’s also usually full, with Allegra.

Whatever your circumstances, whether you’re alone, or with family or friends, my wish for you this season is that you can find time to enjoy your own company.  If you’re alone I know it can be difficult at such times in the year; I’ve been there, and spent a fairly dismal Christmas alone in the middle of nowhere one year; but it can be a time of discovery, if you choose to let it be.  Go somewhere out of the ordinary, even if it’s just a new corner of your own town; shake things up, or come to rest – whichever you need most.  And whatever you do, wherever you are, remember the Reason for the Season.

Merry Christmas!

2014-01-16 Library Panorama

Our library, with my work space up in the “eagle’s nest”

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Articles

Creative Writing over Christmas Holidays

I don’t know about the rest of you, but Christmas has snuck up on me this year!  Between publishing two books in November and all of the work involved in that process and the aftermath (promotion, etc.), I came up for breath last weekend, as I wrote about last week.  I took a short break, and now I’m beginning work on the next project (diving into research and scene layout).  But with Christmas coming up, it’s time to shift down a gear or two, and enjoy the season.  If you are a writer like me, writing can be addictive; it’s a good habit to write something every day.  But who says it needs to be a book manuscript, or whatever your next project or usual format is?  If you write poetry, try your hand at calligrams; if you write short stories, try writing an ambigram.  If you write constantly, take a break and read a book that has absolutely nothing to do with research or preparation for your next project!

Here are a few different styles to choose from, just to shake things up a bit:

  • Flash fiction (300-1,000 – word stories)

    One of my first calligrams; not very neat, but cathartic!

    One of my first calligrams; not very neat, but cathartic!

  • Short stories (fiction or nonfiction – limit yourself, e.g. to one page)
  • Nonfiction
  • Anecdotes
  • Jokes
  • Profiles
  • Travel writing
  • Children’s books
  • Screen writing
  • Play writing
  • Poetry
  • Freelance
  • Novel
  • Novella
  • Memoir
  • Autobiography
  • Biography
  • Song writing (lyrics, if you can’t write/read music)
  • Calligram (do a Google Image search to see examples)
  • Asemic writing
  • Book report
  • Fan fiction
  • Letter
  • Journal
  • Dialogue
  • Creative doodles (with or without words)
  • Cartoon strips
  • Ambigram
  • Micography (Microcalligraphy)
  • Concrete poetry (or any number of poetry styles – check out a small list here)
  • Haiku

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Images, Lists, Nuts & Bolts, Writing Exercise

Back in the Land of the Living

Last week I took a much-needed break from the computer after launching my latest novel, The Cardinal (Parts One & Two)!  It is such a complex story with rich landscapes that it deserved the room to breathe and unfold, and so it became two novels, though that decision didn’t come until well into the second draft.  When it was all said and done, I had formatted two books, twice each (one format for Kindle, one for paperback), designed four covers, written countless versions of blurbs, etc., and gone through the publication process four times.  Trust me, I’d seen enough of my computer at that point to have a love-hate relationship with it for a while.  During that break I managed to read five books in a week, not a single one of them research-related for the next project!  I’ve since made peace with my computer, and I’m beginning work on the next novel – this time, back to the 18th century to complete the Northing Trilogy.  I’m looking forward to exploring this new aspect of characters I already know well from the previous two novels; it will take me through the grime of workhouse orphanages and the salty brine of the British navy in the mid-18th century, and already the research questions accumulating portend at least one trip to London, which is one of my favourite cities anyway, and I’m sure you’ll hear more about that in the months to come.

The Culprits

The Three Culprits: Gandria, Caprino and Allegra (top to bottom)

With all of the push and shove of getting the books ready to publish, Christmas has snuck up on me!  It hit home this weekend, literally, when we put up the Christmas decorations:  Here in Switzerland it’s usual to put the Christmas tree and decorations up on Christmas Eve, so we’ve struck a compromise between our varying cultures and aim for the first Advent; it’s also a pragmatic compromise as, if we’re going to go to all that effort, we might as well enjoy it a bit.  We went to the first Christmas market of the season, complete with hot wine punch, roasted chestnuts, and Christmas shopping.  If any of you have cats, you’ll empathize with me on one point:  As we walked through the market, again and again we saw things that we liked, “But…”  A nice wind chime made of drift wood, stones and feathers in perfect balance?  Cat toy.  Ditto for the man-sized candle holder made of stones & driftwood.  Scratching post.  Now mind you, our cats are well-behaved, and they only scratch on their scratching post; but there’s probably too little of a difference to their perspective between the allowed version and the decorative, expensive version…  Any cloth craft item is like catnip to our calico, Gandria – she carries off anything cloth she can get into her mouth (she’s even learned how to unzip my husband’s backpack; her favourite thing to steal is his tissue packs).

All of that just to say this:  I have now re-entered the land of the living after having been sequestered with my book manuscripts in the final polish and publish phases.  I’m more than ready for holidays, and blogging, writing, researching, plotting… in short, starting the next manuscript.

2 Comments

Filed under Articles, Humor, Publications