Monday, 24 November 2014

Scroll Saw Art

As part of a woodworking course, our high school students have produced beautiful pieces. Right now they're displayed at our school. But I have a feeling some will be wrapped in pretty paper and be placed under a tree soon. I wouldn't mind having my name on any of them. Well done, guys! (Yes, it's all guys in this class. And yes, we do sometimes have girls doing woodworking as well. Just not  this year.)

Which one is your favourite? Mine is the one with the ducks.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Christmas in Canada - Amy Newmark, Janet Matthews (Giveaway)

About the Book:

The Christmas season is a magical time of year. This collection of entertaining stories will touch your heart and spread holiday cheer with its tales of family, fun and traditions all across Canada. From winter storms to farmers' parades, from carolling to cookie baking, from family gatherings to welcoming new immigrants, you'll delight in these heartwarming stories of goodwill and giving, from one coast to the other.

My Review:

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, even though our Christmases here in Canada are not too much different from other places in North America. Well, except for the fact that mountains of snow and temperatures dipping to -40 degrees are our wintery realities. And we like to cope with them, by sipping on steaming beverages from Tim Hortans.

The stories that touched me the most were of people opening their homes to neighbours and complete strangers, at times willingly, other times just because it was the right thing to do. As is evident in some of these stories, when circumstances like ice storms force people to forsake family traditions to do something completely different, wonderful things can happen - some of these ended up being coined as 'the best Christmas ever'.

In exchange for an honest review, Shelton Interactive and Simon and Schuster provided me with a complimentary copy of this book.

They also kindly offered another copy as a giveaway - just in time for Christmas. For a chance to win it, please leave a comment telling me about your favourite Christmas tradition. (Facebook comments count as well.) The winner will be determined on November the 27th, via and will be notified by email. Please leave your address with your comment. I will also announce the winner right here on my blog.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Home for the Holidays - Siloam Mission Fundraising Banquet

When we first got the invitation, a line on it that really struck me was, 'Our fingerprints remain on the lives of those we touch.' What a perfect and beautiful quote for people working for and supporting places like Siloam Mission!

Our colony has supported this homeless shelter for many years, but it's only been since last June that I've been involved on a personal level. Candace Cancade came to our colony to share about the work they're doing. That day she also came to our school to do a presentation, where she invited us to come for a tour. We accepted the invitation and went there, on our annual school field trip and Candace herself, and John Jansen gave us a tour. I didn't really know what to expect, but what I saw blew me away. I was probably walking around with my mouth hanging open as my eyes and mind were trying to take it all in: classroom, kitchen, dining hall, fitness room, clinic, sleeping area, stocked storage rooms.... Everything neat and tidy and waiting for the patrons.

Banquet guest gift at each plate     
But of all the rooms we saw that day, the art room had me mesmerized the most. There was gorgeous art work on tables, walls, easels, on the floor and standing in the windows - all done by patrons of the mission, people who call this place home. I was touched beyond words that the patrons have this tremendous opportunity of being able to create these pieces and are taking advantage of it. Some even sell their work as picture frames or cards. I walked out of there, knowing I wanted one of these beautiful pictures hanging on my wall. Shortly after, it was arranged and I bought a lovely winter scene.

A few weeks after that tour, when the kitchen at Siloam Mission was being renovated, we prepared and served one of the evening meals. Again, I was impressed how well organized and efficient that kitchen crew was. It was a joy working with them and especially knowing that together we're making a difference in the lives of people in need. I'm looking forward to volunteering there in the future. Thank you, Candace and John for opening that door for us!

This is getting rather lengthy, but I wanted to provide some background information, events that led to us getting two tickets to this Gala evening. What my colony ended up doing was buy a table, so eight more could go. The Convention Centre banquet hall was gorgeous - classy, elegant, sparkly. I couldn't help standing for a few minutes and marveling at this splendour. It was a wonderful way to get into the Christmas spirit! Another nice touch at each place, was the set of cards featuring art work by Siloam Mission patrons!! All of us enjoyed the entire evening, the decor, fabulous food, fundraising auctions, entertainment, part of which was the Silverwinds Colony Choir and mingling with friends and strangers while savoring scrumptious hors d'oeuvres.

It was a four-course meal; the type where you have to figure out which fork to pick up first. No, we don't dine like that every day, for most of us, it was the first time. Some of us were actually able to give pointers on fine dining etiquette... thanks to being enlightened to such grand occasions through books. (: Here's what the menu looked liked:

As splendid as everything was, for me it all came down to the quote I started out this post with, 'Our fingerprints remain on the lives of those we touch.' And that's what this was all about, making a difference in the lives of people who are in need; giving them hope, a new purpose in life. It was heartwarming to listen to people who have been touched by Siloam Mission and who now serve there. Also to get a sense of the history of the place, the dreams that have been realized along the way and the grand dreams that the people running the place still have. Dreams that all of us can help make a reality.

Every year thousands of men, women, and their families face the holiday season coping with poverty and homelessness. You can make a difference in their lives. You can help Siloam Mission and other homeless shelters make sure everyone can feel at “Home for the Holidays.”

When I ponder homelessness, I always think about 'Many Mansions' by Moe Bandy. I love that song and am touched each time I hear it.

"Hope is a thing with feathers that perches on the soul,"
Said the homeless young man standing there strong against the cold
I reached into my pocket said, "A penny for your poetry."
But when I handed him a dollar bill he was shaking his head at me
And he said these words to me

"In my Fathers house are many mansions,
Though tonight some make their beds along the streets
Where I’ve seen lives still by winters bitter chill,
In my Fathers house there’s a mansion for me."

"Sleep is a silent pleasure behind doors with deadbolt locks.
But it’s a concrete nightmare chance you take on the streets
In a cardboard box.
But I know about the eye of the needle, what will come to pass
When the least of us shall be first and the first now shall be last
Who’s homeless now I ask?"

Saturday, 8 November 2014

"To Remember is to Work for Peace"

- a line I've heard a number of times in the last little while. Just recently, I saw it on a thought-provoking tribute to
conscientious objectors, on this Facebook page:

The above mentioned post, is a reminder to pause and reflect not only on the ones who lost their lives on a battle field, but also those who  bravely stood up for what they believed and many times were ridiculed for it, labeled as 'cowards'. I believe it took every bit as much courage to stand firm for their convictions of peace and love, come what may, as those who chose to bear arms and fight. But rarely are conscientious objectors mentioned on this day set aside to remember. I sometimes get the feeling, because they didn't choose the battle field, their sacrifices don't matter. They do matter, at least to those of us who believe as they did. And they too need to be remembered.

Among those who chose not to fight, were Hutterites, Mennonites and many others. To read about Hutterites who because of conscience sake could not sign up to fight, click here: Sentenced to Alkatraz. Duane C. S. Stolzfus has written a very detailed account about this heart-wrenching, historic event.: Pacifists in Chains, a book I highly recommend.

In the name of remembering the brothers who dared to take a stand for 'love thy neighbor'. May they always be a source of inspiration as we continue to work for peace.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Tall, Bare and Striking

Last post I said 'we're into the grey and dreary days of late fall.' And it's true, for the most part. However, yesterday as I walked home form school, I was reminded that this time of year can have some striking scenes as well. Here are some pictures to prove my point. This scene changed in mere minutes...and it was overcast again. In the second picture you can see how the shadows are not as sharp anymore. I wish I would have taken two pictures of the second shot. It was magical how quickly the scene changed from striking to...well, not so striking, (for lack of a better term) as clouds moved in front of the sun behind me.

I love the trees against the dark sky in this picture and the long shadows of the trees behind me. It's strange
how at first glance, they seem to be the shadows of the row of poplars along the road.

 I feel like making a poster with that one.

and today, we're into grey again

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Falling For Fiction

Here in Manitoba we're into the grey and dreary days of late fall. Our colourful leaves are all gone from the trees, and most have blown away or have been raked. So, there are not that many left on the ground either. All we have left is bare trees and right now grey skies. But there's beauty in shades of grey as well, just not as vibrant and striking as our eyes like. We've even had a hint of winter - snow flurries for most of the day, but most melted as soon as they hit the ground.

A few days ago one of our first graders came in to the school and announced, "The trees are just about all clean now." I never looked at it this way, but it somehow makes sense. At least it did for one little boy.

Dreary days are perfect for curling up with a book after school or in the evening. They are also superp for writing. I'm working on a book with Herald Press and right now am in the editing stage. I've never worked with an editor from a major publisher before. Besides finding it very enjoyable, I'm also learning a lot about the publishing process and about writing and editing, of course! I promise to talk more about that, hopefully in the not so distant future... I may even have a cover reveal soon. Yes, very exciting!

I've always loved reading fiction, but these days, I'm also dabbling with writing fiction. It all started after an interesting workshop with my local writing group. We have fiction writers in our group, so to hone our fiction editing skills, we had a former member and fiction writer come and share some fiction writing/critiquing strategies. We were then given an interesting assignment. All of us took two slips of paper and wrote a name and an occupation on each. We put them all together and drew one. From the slip that we drew, we're to write a fiction piece, which we'll share at a future meeting. I can't wait!

I've never written fiction before, at least not as an adult and have actually always adamantly maintained, "I don't do fiction," whenever someone suggested I try that genre. However, working on my first attempt at fiction, has me rethinking this. It's quite different than writing non-fiction, but it's fun. With non-fiction, of course, you know how the story goes, so you have a pretty good idea what's going down on paper. Not so with fiction, for one can never tell beforehand where your imagination will take you. Sure, before you start writing, you have the characters, a plot, and a general idea about what you'll do with it, however, some very interesting things happen once you start penning your story. Some unplanned characters show up and unforeseen things happen... which makes for some exciting finger dances on the keyboard.

I promise, I'm not going crazy... at least I don't think so. I'm just taking a trip down fiction lane and am finding it rather enjoyable. Where this will lead to, I have absolutely no idea right now. I will have to finish this piece first and then determine if there's some serious fiction in my future. Came across this quote today, and thought it's a good fit for this post.

All fiction has to have a certain amount of truth in it to be powerful.
George R. R. Martin

Your turn. What are your thoughts on writing fiction, or my attempting it? Would especially appreciate feedback from fellow Hutterites. Have you tried it? Perhaps you can even share some sage advice with me. Whatever your thoughts on this topic, I'd love to hear them!

Monday, 27 October 2014

Guess Who Noah's Boat - Matt Mitter

About the Book:

Children will love this interactive new telling of the Noah's ark story. With fun, rhyming text, each spread asks kids to guess which animal is heading toward the ark. The answer is revealed under the cleverly designed flap. With eye-catching illustrations and easy-to-understand text, Guess Who Noah's Boat is sure to become a favorite.

My Thoughts: 

 I love flap books, even though they never seem to last long; because children love opening and closing them, they soon become tattered and spoil the book. The flaps in this one though are sturdier than most flap books I've seen. The book is just the right size for little hands. However, I was a little disappointed, that there are so few pages. There could easily be at least three or four more, so children can spend more time with it. As it is, you start turning a few pages and you're at the end.


In exchange for an honest review Kregel Publications provided me with a complimentary copy of this book.