Ice & Snow & Winter Blues

It is barely into January, just past Christmas, and already I am longing for spring and green things and eating fresh from the garden.

Fall 2013 001

Like much of North America, we had a very cold, snowy December. Much colder and snowier than the previous couple of winters. And ice. The big ice storm that crippled Toronto and other places. Today, a flash freeze warning because after the chinook-like above 0*C temperatures and high winds last night, we are headed back into a deep freeze tonight. The kids didn’t have to go to school, but I had to go to work. It was hard to get going in the dark morning.

At work, the roof is leaking and plaster is falling off the ceiling. Lots of excitement. Which I came home to as well. Water leaking in the kitchen because the ice dammed up under the shingles on our 100-year-old-plus saltbox addition. Thankfully, at work, there were a lot of capable volunteers around to work on a solution. And thankfully, at home, my husband is not afraid of hard work, and scooped off sheets of hard-packed snowice.

So what to do to chase the winter blues?

I tend to work on a lot of creative projects, full of colour.

I sew frilly aprons.

Frilly Apron

I make cards.


I crochet. (See another post- Crocheting Dutch Doilies).

The pattern for this can be found at

Flowers in the Snow- I found the pattern for this Norwegian afghan online (
I need 192 medallions before I can piece it all together. Right now, I have 102…

I also paint and renovate.

(You really don’t want to see photos of that— you know the saying–  sometimes things get worse before they get better…)

My teenagers are really into real fruit smoothies, and that’s all they want for breakfast lately, so I oblige. No mother ever said no to healthy eating (at least, I hope not!). Lots of colour & nutrients there. A great little pick-me-up during porridge season.

I also pore (pour, poor ?) over seed catalogues, carefully selecting this summer’s crops. (My favourite company is Vesey’s in Prince Edward Island). I love the colour of food I can grow in my own backyard!

And doing all this can help me forget a little the stress of winter, and maybe even make me look forward to winter come next fall. (Maybe).

What do you do to combat the winter blues?


The Tree

This is a guest post that originally began as a Facebook post, by my husband, Winston Visser.

As 2013’s days are numbered, I reflect on a year of loss, transition and opening to other possibilities: My father died at 84, sadly, after several months of worsening health physically and mentally; the practice of my vocation ended, painfully; and my perspective on future possibilities improves, slowly.

During this season I remembered events past. Once upon a time, sometime between 8 and 11 years of age, I trudged through the snow with my father to the tree lot behind the back pasture. We were searching for the perfect Christmas tree in my mind’s eye. We inspected one sparsely branched spruce after another. None looked like the one in my imagination. Christmas Tree

Then, I saw it, in a small clearing, “The Tree” of my dreams! It was 30 feet up! From that perspective it looked perfect. Dad tried to argue me out of it. But I remained rooted in my choice.

So, with axe and saw, we hacked till, with a crack, it fell to be cradled by the snow. Six feet from the top, Dad cut then set it upright. It no longer looked perfect. It was more “Charlie Brown” than “Country Living”.

Disappointed, I wanted to look some more, but Dad said, “No. We’ve done all that work, plus wasted some 24 feet left to decay in the woods.”

So we dragged it home, set it up in a stand and spruced it up with lights, tinsel, bells and a star way on top. These filled it out a bit, bringing it closer to “The Tree” of my dreams.

Most years of my youth included such “uncouth trees”, natural, not nurtured on a lot, disappointing, yet with some decoration: acceptable.

Charlie Brown Christmas Tree

It could be seen as the story of your and my life: looking for perfection. Then disappointed because it’s not.

Or it could be that each of us is a Charlie Brown Tree, far from perfect.  But once decorated (“clothed” as the Apostle Paul writes) in Christ, perfect in God’s eyes as we’re ever going to be.

May we have eyes to see self and others as God does, throughout every season of loss, transition and possibility!

Enjoy these last days of 2013 living into the possibilities of 2014 including loss and newness.

Blessings to one and all!

January’s Jigsaw

I got a jigsaw puzzle tradition from my mom. And there has rarely been a year since I lived on my own when I have not followed the tradition.

Every year, after the Christmas decorations are put away, when it is cold and snowy and I’d rather be by the fire, when the sunshine beams in the windows brilliantly, I make a new jigsaw puzzle.

First, I pick out a puzzle with a good image that won’t irritate me when the puzzle-piecing gets hard. Like this:

Then I choose a nice bright place to work in natural light. Usually that means the kitchen table, but given the table’s constant use, it is not always the best pick. (And since I have children, you will notice that the natural light in this photo has long since disappeared). I have to adapt to working on a large piece of cardboard or wood.

I pick out all the edge pieces, like this:

And then I randomly choose a colour or zone of the puzzle to work on next. Right now, it is the sky:







By now, I have most of the pieces sorted according to colour or zone.









I continue on this way, picking out areas, placing pieces, until I am all done! This particular puzzle, although only 500 pieces has turned out to be rather challenging because some of the pieces have the exact same cut and will fit in more than one spot. The colour variations and patterns then become the key thing to look at.







How satisfying it is to place the last piece! (Sorry, I just started this one, so no pic).

I have done various things with completed puzzles. Sometimes I break it all up in  haste, and put it in a bag for Goodwill because it was such a miserable thing (think not-interlocking-pieces-that-fall-apart-whenever-you-look-at-them) to work on.

Other times, I put them back in the box for another time. I made a Norman Rockwell puzzle three times, I think. Then I gave it away to another puzzler. I couldn’t handle making it again, great as it was.

Another thing I have done is glue the completed puzzle together and frame it. Then they have memories to go with it. This puzzle was given to me from a dear friend in university. And it was framed by the handyman whom I house-sat for when they were down south in weather like this. It has been on one wall or another for two decades:

The sunflower puzzle was incredibly challenging, and since I am not an expert puzzler, my Mom and brother finished it for me. And my Dad framed it, so I guess you could say it was a family affair!

Here is a close-up of it. Don’t you just love it? It was also a gift…

So, I’m not sure what I’ll do with “Family Picnic” yet, whether it will go back in the box or not, but so far my January jigsaw has been as enjoyable as ever!

Christmas Cards

Christmas cards hang in many places in our house. With my husband’s “high-profile” job, a lot of love comes our way this time of year, and we are grateful. It is adds a lot of cheer and warmth to our home to have all these visual reminders of care right where we can see them. During the year, we sometimes (sadly) forget all the friends we have!

It is always something we talk about at the beginning of the Christmas season- where are we going to display the cards this year? We are amazed at the variety and type of cards that we see- glittery, handmade, gilt edges, from nearby and faraway- rarely do we receive two of the same card in one year.

Last year, I wrote about My Favourite Christmas Card

This year, two of my children did artwork in school that was then reproduced in greeting cards for Christmas. One of our friends sent us a card with the artwork of my daughter (so thoughtful!). I think you’ll agree, it is perfect: