Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Looking Back Over a Great Year

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On this last day of 2013, it is pleasant to count all my small accomplishments of the past year. One project which became a wonderful learning experience in many ways was the Art Jewelry Elements weekly earring challenge, which I joined in April for the second quarter. Here's the total inventory I was able to make (minus Weeks 43-47, which were gifts, for which the photos mysteriously disappeared).

For details on the bead artisans, you can check back on my blog for information, or the AJE Pinterest board. I know if there is another challenge from AJE in the new year, I will be applying again.

I am also looking forward to a few special projects I have planned, starting in January. I hope you will continue to follow along with me as I learn new ways to take various handmade components and motivate myself to create some beauty in my world!

I wish everyone many Blessings for the New Year!

Friday, December 20, 2013

♪ AJE Earring Challenge (Still Playing Catch-Up): Weeks 48-50 ♫

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So here it is, almost Christmas, folks. The decorating is all done, special food prepared, seasonal music enjoyed, friends visited, perhaps even some gifts bought and wrapped? I've been busy with all that, too; unfortunately I've not been making much jewelry. But I will share three wonderful pairs I sneaked in, mostly because they involved ZERO creativity on my part, but instead rely on the loving care and talent donated by some very special artists.

I've used the amazing charms I received/bought on the Art Charm Swap, added my favorite headpins/earring hooks by Soul of Somanya and voilà: 100% handmade awesomeness.

First up, wonderful wire-wrapped hearts by Alicia Marinache (link to her post showing all the pretties in their wondrous variety). In Alicia's own words: "Asymmetrical, made of antique bronze, with a sparkle of colour in a small jade charm. A charm in a charm :) They are all unique in their own way, exactly like love is: cheerful, and happy, and colourful, and never the same!" I received one on the swap and made it my mission to secure another! They are paired with African headpins in oxidized brass which I formed into earwires.

The second pair features the blissful bead-weaving of Nancy Dale (link to Nancy's post, where she describes her inspiration for these beauties): "Prospective beaus in romance novels are quite consistent about bringing the lady in question blooms of one sort or another... I love Forget Me Nots!  Delicate, and a glorious shade of blue, a matte sort of white, with just a touch of a lemony yellow… Made with size 11 and 15 seed beads, in the closest blue I could find to the real thing, five petals surrounding a Swarovski 6mm chaton crystal." Naturally, I very much wanted a pair of these as well :) I felt the simple sterling earwires, also purchased from Soul of Somanya, were the perfect accompaniment.

This third pair showcase the awesome rustic-styled charms, all handmade by Terri Del Signore (link to her post). I have once again dug into my stash of Ghanian handmade headpins to form the earwires, this time in antiqued copper. Here is how Terri described her approach to the theme of the swap, which was love: "The ceramic cross bead... represents the ultimate sacrifice done out of love! The copper hoop, also made by me, is a circle that has long represented the idea of 'never ending'. The two combined represent my faith and that I can think of no greater love than the never ending love of God!"  And what a fitting theme as we celebrate His birth!

I hope everyone is enjoying moments of Peace, Love and Joy in this busy season. May this year-end provide renewal and appreciation of our many blessings!

**Blog hop linkies below the video so you can check out what everyone has shared this week! Also check the AJE Pinterest board for lots more.**

Of course, I can't leave without adding a favorite French carol, here sung by Ottawa's award-winning The Stairwell Carollers (more amazing a cappella works on their Youtube channel):

Thursday, December 19, 2013

♪ Il Est Né (He Is Born) ♫

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The closer I get to Christmas, the more I find to share of the awesome magic that happens this time of year! The latest is this sweet wooden DIY Nativity Scene from über-creative Jamey of Victoria, B.C.'s Dabbles and Babbles... pdf template included!

Wouldn't that be fun to paint with kids or grand-kids?

To continue in my series of beloved Christmas carols, here is an unusual jazzy setting of Il Est Né by the utterly charming Petits Chanteurs d'Aix (from Provence, France). The visual effects of falling ornaments and giant snowflakes is quite distracting, but the beautiful voices and cheerful arrangement more than make up for it. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

♪ The Huron Carol ♫

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This is one of my favorite Christmas carols. Originally written around 1642 for the Huron (Wendat) people of North America by French missionary St. Jean de Brébeuf, Jesous Ahatonhia ("Jesus, he is born") was used to express the Nativity story in word pictures more familiar to his adopted flock.

Church of St. Joseph, Sainte-Marie-Among-the-Hurons,
a reconstruction of the French settlement,  near  Midland, Ontario

An English version written in 1926 (NOT a translation of the original words and often viewed as patronizing) is the one I grew to love as a child, and still sing alone at home as well as in worship music. (There is also a French version but I believe that was just composed in the 1970s.) Many beautiful recordings exist, but I am sharing this version by Canadian Cree entertainer Tom Jackson in honor of his annual cross-country "Huron Carole" Tour, raising funds for and awareness of hunger in Canada. *Sorry folks, this year's tour ends tomorrow, Dec. 19 in Victoria, BC. I'm hoping I'll catch it next year.*


Donations can still be made to the Christmas & Winter Relief AssociationAnd please remember, your local food banks need you, not just at Christmas but year-round.

The enduring appeal of the Huron Carol continues with this recent translation of the lyrics into Mi'kmaw, sung a capella by the Eskasoni Trio of Nova Scotia and offered as a free download at this link. (Hauntingly beautiful.)

Mi'kmaw is a commonly spoken First Nation language here in Maritime Canada.

*Wli Nuelewi aq (Merry Christmas)*

Monday, December 16, 2013

♪ Unique Hungarian Christmas Tree ♫

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This is an amazing Christmas tree on display in Budapest, Hungary. A beautiful design AND it will be recycled for a special group of children (see below):

"This year the Palace of Arts in Budapest celebrates Christmas with an 11 meters high Christmas tree. Hello Wood, a local architecture and design studio, has built a special installation made out of 365 sleighs – it will stand in front of the Palace of Arts until the end of the holidays. After Christmas, the temporary structure will be disassembled and the sleighs will be donated to the little inhabitants of the SOS Children’s Village in Hungary."

You can see more photos here, including the lighted tree at night. Here you can view a video of the installation.

And because I can't resist the beautiful Christmas music of Europe, here is a Hungarian carol (and lots of nativity pictures... my favorite):

Mennyből az angyal (Angel from heaven)

Mennyből az angyal lejött hozzátok
(The angel came down from heaven to you)
Pásztorok, pásztorok!
(Shepherds, shepherds!)

Hogy Betlehembe sietve menvén
(Passing in haste to Bethlehem)
Lássátok, lássátok.
(Behold, behold.)

Istennek fia , aki született
(Son of God who was born)
Jászolban, jászolban.
(In manger, in manger.)

Ö leszen néktek üdvözítőtök
(He will be your Savior)
Valóban, valóban.
(Indeed, indeed.)

Mellette vagyon az édesanyja
(Next to him is his mother)
Mária, Mária.
(Maria, Maria.)

Barmok közt fekszik
(Lying among the cattles)
Jászolban nyugszik
(Resting in the manger)
Szent fia, szent fia, 
(Her holy son, her holy son.)

*Translation by Angela Kovács

Saturday, December 14, 2013

♪ Waiting for the Baby ♫

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Christmas is so close now... today Hubby brought in our tree. Every year he orders a tree from people he knows well, so as to be certain it is legally grown and cut, and to support the local growers. It was supposed to be "around 6 feet tall". Well, someone was feeling generous: our LITTLE tree is well over nine feet LOL, so  a bit of judicious trimming with the reciprocating saw was required. But every year we put it in the stand and remark, "It's the best one ever!"

I've been slacking off the jewelry-making but exercising my creativity in the kitchen. We are VERY restrained when it comes to gift-giving. Even when the four boys were young, the tradition of Christmas presents was conscientiously controlled, lest it become a monster. The one place where we do allow a bit of extra spending is on our special Christmas food. Over the years we have narrowed the sweets to our five favorites, and the closest family, friends and neighbors receive trays as seasonal gifts.

Gumdrop cake, turtle bars, shortbreads,
peanut butter "cups", and marshmallow squares.

This is my sister's tray, ready for pickup. She gets the "perpetual tray" option: when it is empty she can return it for refills ad infinitum. Looking forward to Christmas dinner at your house, Sis!

This year, I have been enjoying a wonderful selection of carols over on Alicia's blog. She has shared several beautiful traditional Romanian colinde; do have a listen if you haven't yet had a chance! I promised Alicia I would share a few of my favorite chants de Noël in my first language, which is French. I have read that in modern France, Christmas music is not that big a deal... but here in Acadie (the French-speaking parts of Maritime Canada), we love our traditional carols. Here is one that always tugs on my heartstrings, as it sounds like the most gentle lullaby. The chorus translates:

  This Child, the most beautiful of children,
    Calls to you with joy and elation
      To His cradle, to His cradle,
       Bring the gifts of tenderness.
       To His cradle, to His cradle,
       Bring the gifts of tenderness.

L'Enfant, des enfants le plus beau,
Vous appelle avec allégresse
À son berceau, à son berceau,
Portez les dons de la tendresse.
À son berceau, à son berceau,

Portez les dons de la tendresse.

There are many professional recordings of this carol which are musically "perfect", but I chose this charming version because I connect with its live performance by soloist and choir, accompanied by pianist. It is most similar to what we sing every year at Midnight Mass. The slide show of the cutest crèches (mangers), made by children for a Sunday School project, is a touching bonus. (Thank you Youtube uploader "Impactsupporter"; if I knew the name of your choir I would love to give you credit for this beautiful performance.)

If you have a favorite Christmas carol in any language I would love to listen to it on your blog. Let me know!

Sunday, December 08, 2013

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