The Traveling Christmas Stockings

Does your family have a tradition involving Christmas stockings? Growing up, I can’t really recall ever having any type of stocking at Christmas. When I met my husband Steve, I was introduced to their Christmas stocking tradition. His Mom, Marjorie prepared the stockings for everyone – she used the white tube socks and filled them with fruits, gifts, nuts, and the year’s coin set. Every single year, we would look forward to the traditional sock.

This year I decided to quilt some stockings. I ordered some printed fabric and planned to quilt most of stocking and add a few beads here and there. Upon hearing my quilter sister Monique suggest that quilting wasn’t necessary if beads would be applied, I opted for the beaded look.

Fabric I received the fabric in late July and my plan was to work on them starting in September. I was asked to travel to Buenos Aires for 9 weeks and left Ottawa early August and decided to take the stockings which would give me something to work on while there. 

Working on these stockings became a nightly ritual. I would finish dinner along with a bit of evening work, then I would work on the stockings. It was no-nonsense work but at the same time, it was almost spiritual. My mind would wander and create future plans, review the past year, dream, think and just relax.

During one of my weekend afternoon walk through the markets I discovered there were many beads stores. I found beautiful colored beads and small elongated beads that made me consider beading wings of some of the birds on the stockings.

White beads became snow flakes and red beads in various sizes simulated holly berries. More of more often I’d stop by the shops and acquire some new colored beads or thread.  When I left Buenos Aires, I believe I had spent at least 35-40 hours per stocking, and enjoyed every minute of it. I had most of the bead work done on 4 stockings, and a few wings.

The weekend before our cruise, Steve and I had the pleasure of taking part of our friend’s 40th birthday party in Prince Edward County, Ontario. I knew we would have some free time, so I brought the stockings along and managed to add a few hours of work to them.

I also brought them with me for our week cruise. We had time in the evening and I even spent a few hours in one of the ship’s bar listening to live music. These stockings have had a long travel to get to this day.

From Ottawa to Buenos Aires and back, from Ottawa to Prince Edward County and back, to Miami, Grand Cayman Island, Cozumel Mexico, Belize Island, Roatan Honduras, Miami to back home, these stockings have traveling more than 25,330 kilometers or 15,740 miles. 

And now, they are completed. Filled with little gifts, they are ready to be handed out to our next generation. I have discovered the joy of handwork, the joy of quietness, the joy of giving… and a new tradition has taken form.

Happy holidays to all of you, and I hope that this time allows for times with family and friends.

Don’t sweat the small things… celebrate them!

So here I am, Sunday night in my fun aqua and brown office decor, sitting in my familiar chair, using my familiar keyboard, and looking at my familiar screen. The smell of my cooking spaghetti sauce wafts upstairs as I play my new Tango CD.

Hard to believe, less than 48 hours ago I still was in Argentina. As the planed prepared for a on time take off, I looked through the window at the city that took on smaller and smaller dimensions as our altitude increased. I learned a lot about Buenos Aires, the culture, the art, the dance and the music. I also longed for the simple little things that make my life that much more interesting and fun. Please understand, this is not because I was unhappy in Buenos Aires… in fact, my last week was bittersweet. I was but days away from my old life, but rather liked this new life I was getting to know.

What are the types of thing I missed most? Well, other than the obvious ones, my sweetie, my girls, my family members, my friends, my coworkers… Those are given – but the ones that seemed to some as a surprised we little things… simple things… nonetheless, things I value greatly…

Gourmet things like my Kraft Soft Peanut Butter with less salt; the smell of my house as we walk in the door; the crunch of the leaves under out feet as they flutter to the ground aided by a fierce wind; the sound of our Kimmy cat at the foot of our bed; the warmth of Steve’s hand on my back when I fall asleep…  small things that together, add up to a charmed life.

Sure, the book tells you not the sweat the small stuff – that works well in business – go for the 80% rule, which means aim at getting 80% of issues addressed, questions answered and things planned and considered… the small items will get corrected in due time, but their impacts are minimal.

YET, I am here to suggest we CELEBRATE the small things… for many people SMALL things are ALL they can celebrate. Someone who walks two more steps than the previous day; someone who can remember one more face; someone who understand one more sentence or someone who can save one more meal for their family. Let’s celebrate small stuff….

A stranger’s smile on the subway; the sound of a chipmunk calling to its mate; the smell of sweet late flowers blossoming in the sun; The wonderful taste of mashed potatoes and turkey; the sounds of a wonderful piece of music; the light shining through a window and the solemn sound of honking geese leaving the North for a warmer climate.

Let’s be grateful for the helping hand of a friend; the kind compliment of a sibling; the smell of fresh ground coffee in the morning and the gentle wind through the trees. Let’s appreciate the phone call from a distant relative; the moldy small of the old book; the softness of your oldest pair of pajamas or the soft warming taste of a warm tea. Let’s remember the kindness of others, the support of unknown individuals and the focus of hard working folks doing their work day in, day out.

Let’s be grateful for our personal security, our safety in our cities, our abundance of products and our unconditional love given to us by family and friends. Let’s not sweat the small issues,  but let us CELEBRATE the small things!! They bring fun to a dreary day, support on a tough time, colors to an overcast day, joy in the ;east expected moments…

And know – if though it may not seem as such right now, they ARE THERE!!! Leave the details of your day, and seek those small things that make you smile, that make you dance, that make you dream, that give you hope… AND CELEBRATE THEM!

I know I have so much to be thankful for, and each moment, more seem to show themselves to me. How could I ever thing that life is nothing but spectacular – never easy, a given or a piece of cake… but always, it is to be celebrated… Look for these details, look as hard as it might be, and when you find one, look at it, figure it out, admire it, and be thankful for it… In no time, this will become a standard thing to do day in, and day out…

Making the Best of a Situation

My childhood friend Monica and I undertook a one hour train ride to visit a location called Tigre just 18 kilometers from downtown Buenos Aires. When we boarded the train, every seat was taken so we settled on standing in a general open area. At one of the stops a young man came in, and proceeded to play his small guitarlike instrument while playing Peruvian flute at the same time.

His music was very folkloric and reminiscent of documentaries of llamas climbing the cliffs of Machu Picchu or old women weaving or knitting colorful hats. After his first song, passengers applauded and smiled at him. He continued entertaining us and after a few more songs he walked around presenting his bag for donations. Almost everyone gave him some money.

As we rode during his songs, I thought to myself how he managed to take an opportunity and make it work for himself. One could tell he was of lesser fortune. His clothes were worn, his instrument was taped and well used. His hair was disheveled and his eyes seemed to show a hard past. He smiled as people gave his money.

I thought about how he managed to turn a talent into something he could share while earning money. Instead of just sitting on a street corner and begging for coins, he used what he had and offered to entertain people in exchange for a few coins. To me, this is the big difference between those I see asking for money and those who try to make the best of a situation.

Granted not everyone can play music, or sing or dance… (yes, the tango dancers of Thursday did pass the fedora) but I want to believe that everyone has something to offer. I once saw an older man reading poetry on a street corner. His voice was perfect and he read with such enthusiasm and with a slight Shakespearian style. After each poem he would look around and smile at those standing around. Most donated some coins, bills and returned the smile.

I expect there is always something we can share with people. An exchange seems to me to be a fair thing when people want something from others. In my opinion people who take a challenging situation and somehow are able to make the best of it deserve more than an applaud – they deserve admiration and respect.

PS – His music was very enlightening and entertaining. I wish I had a better picture of him but this is what I can share with you now.

Visiting the departed

Today I decided to visit the Recoleta Cemetary, resting place of many generals, presidents and very-loved Eva Peron (Evita). It took me about 20 minutes to get to my destination with the help of the hotel’s map and my notes. It is a location that once was a vast garden, but now is home to hundreds of family mausoleums, many adorned by eleborate statues and monuments.

It is quite large and contains so many different types of resting cocoons, many with stained glass windows and ornate doors. Sadly, I also saw quite a few in severe need of repairs. Ceiling pieces covered the coffins (yes, coffins), windows broken and doors semi ajar for everyone to see. Several locations showed partially damaged coffins with one specific location displayed a crushed coffin whose cover had been split and the remains of a skeleton viewable to anyone who glanced in.

Aside from these exceptions, the majority of the mausoleums were ornate and unique. I searched for more than an hour trying to locate the one who belonged to the family of Eva Perron (Evita) and finally I was able to find it. It wasn’t ornate like many housing generals and famous doctors and even presidents, but it was apparent that her memory is being kept alive by those who decorated the door to her location with flowers.

Eva Peron's resting place

It was quite something to be standing in front of this resting place.

As well, there are many feline residents who have settle in and roam freely and comfortably amongst the many hundreds of visitors who enter the cemetary doors each day. 

   

 If I had to pick one statue that moved me the most, it would have to be this one – a child in woman’s arms alongside an infant.

I took many pictures which I shall feature in an album and I hope they convey the majestic and ornate resting places of so many men, women and children.

My introduction to the blogging world!

Bonjour, Good day and Hola!

 I am pleased to finally enter the world of blogging. Never at a loss for words, this medium will  allow me to share experiences, thoughts, questions and of course, my pictures. I so enjoy taking pictures of everything and anything. Pictures to me are a way to capture a moment in time, a point of view, an insight into what moves me.

Today I find myself in Buenos Aires, Argentina for a work project. I had about 72 hours to prepare after I accepted to join the team and I have to admit the week itself was quite… exhausting. Not so much because of time lag, we are but an hour ahead of my usual home location. Not because of long hours, I actually worked about the same as usual, 10-12 hours. But because I find myself working mostly… in Spanish!

I studied Spanish in high school then I spent three summers in Spain with two girlfriends of mine. By the time I left Spain for the last time, my Spanish was sound. Since then, I’ve taken every opportunity to practice. My many trips to Texas, California and Denver (yes, Denver) provided many of these opportunities.

I’ve discovered my brain cells are somehow challenged quite a bit – not so much for understanding the spoken Spanish or written,  but speaking Spanish! Wow… I have forgotten many many words, and my conjugation of verbs likely has made some chuckle.  They tell me I have a pronounced French accent! Given this is my mother tongue, I’m not surprised! I know that by the time I leave, I will have improved my use of this beautiful language.

Today I spent more than 5 hours walking around a neighborhood called “Once” which means 11 – Loads of every store possible, and more! Of course, took loads of pictures and my purchases? well, only one thing I could not resist! A treat called Churros, sort of a donut-like long pastry covered in cinnamon and sugar! JUST ONE!!

I have a lot to say about my first work week here, but will keep that for later blogs. Hope everyone has a great weekend! Ciao (which replaces Hasta Luego or Adios here)