Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Quilts: Warmth, Love, Smiles

Memories are like a patchwork quilt, each section is sewn together, to be wrapped around us for comfort and warmth in the years to come. Author Unknown

Yes, with temperatures dipping to -30 degrees, I'm thinking quilts. It's one way to take the shivers out of our extremely cold winter days. I love quilts anyway - curling up under one, reading books with a quilt woven into the story and seeing patchwork quilts on display. It's true, quilts signify comfort, warmth and love; three things we all enjoy and thrive from. Every human being has the right to feel safe and loved.

Which reminds me of the refugees moving to Canada and other countries to begin a new and better life. What a blessed opportunity for them and for the people who are supporting them. I've heard some heartwarming stories about how much these people appreciate and enjoy their new home, and the friendships that have blossomed between refugees and their sponsors. They're making memories that will bring smiles and feelings of well-being for many years to come. By offering people from war torn countries a safe place to live, we're sharing with them comfort, warmth and love. It saddens my heart when I hear of political leaders closing the door to people in need. They somehow fail to remember that there's most likely an immigration story in their own family's history. Someone opened a door for their ancestors, a door which they're now slamming shut.

From Swatches to Quilt
We are a nation of immigrants, a quilt of many colors, and we've managed over more than two centuries to create a way of life that allows for a reasonable degree of upward mobility, that prizes individual liberty, promotes freedom of religion and genuinely values equal rights for all citizens. Jay Parini
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/j/jayparini743241.html?src=t_quilt
We are a nation of immigrants, a quilt of many colors, and we've managed over more than two centuries to create a way of life that allows for a reasonable degree of upward mobility, that prizes individual liberty, promotes freedom of religion and genuinely values equal rights for all citizens. Jay Parini
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/quilt.html
We are a nation of immigrants, a quilt of many colors, and we've managed over more than two centuries to create a way of life that allows for a reasonable degree of upward mobility, that prizes individual liberty, promotes freedom of religion and genuinely values equal rights for all citizens. Jay Parini
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/quilt.html

Another quilt story can be found in one of the chapters in my book, Hutterite Diaries. It's about lap quilts we make for Alzheimer patients each winter. Here's an excerpt:

Sewing lap quilts is an ideal project for Hutterites for a number of reasons. Hutterites are avid sewers; consequently, there are always lots of leftover pieces around that are “just too good to throw out.” What better way to use them than in quilts! Furthermore, we were in the middle of winter, where there’s more time for indoor activities like sewing. There’s just something warm and cozy about a few women getting together to create quilts with the wind howling a sub-zero song outside. Most importantly though, this is a very worthwhile project and benefits residents of senior homes for years to come.

When my book was published a few years ago, one endorsement was especially heartwarming and fits with this post:  
Linda Maendel’s  clear vision and her loving heart wrapped me in a fine quilt of story as I read. Of all of the books on Hutterites that I have seen, this is the one that I cherish.” —Joe McLellan, author, the Nanabosho series
I scrolled through previous posts and found quite a few about quilts. I've added them here, in case you'd like to read some of them again: 
Do you have a quilt or refugee story to share? I'd love to hear it!

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill - Julie Klassen

About the Book:

The lifeblood of the village of Ivy Hill is its coaching inn, The Bell. When the innkeeper dies suddenly, his genteel wife, Jane Bell, becomes the reluctant landlady. Jane has no idea how to manage a business, but with the town's livelihood at stake and a large loan due, she must quickly find a way to save the inn.

Despite their strained relationship, Jane turns to her resentful mother-in-law, Thora, for help. Formerly mistress of The Bell, Thora is struggling to overcome her losses and find purpose for the future. As she works with Jane, two men from her past vie for her attention, but Thora has promised herself never to marry again. Will one of them convince her to embrace a second chance at love?

As pressure mounts from the bank, Jane employs new methods, and puzzles over the intentions of several men who seem to have a vested interest in the place, including a mysterious newcomer with secret plans of his own. With the help of friends old and new, can Jane restore life to the inn, and to her empty heart as well?

My Thoughts: 

I can appreciate the time, effort and research that obviously went into this book. The fact that Ivy Hill is based on a real place in England that the author has visited, is a charming idea. However, the story did not hold my interest, and the only thing that kept me reading was this review. There's was just nothing about the story that kept me turning pages, or even wanting to know how it ends. I would have loved to be drawn into the mystery, but it didn't happen for me. I also didn't get a good sense what a coaching inn was about; the daily routines, or even the tasks that Jane filled her day with. If you like a slow-paced, uneventful read, you may find this book more captivating than I did. I know others have written glowing reviews about it; unfortunately I couldn't.


Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Flowers in the Dead of Winter

Watching blossoms unfold is always a wonder, but never more than when the temperature's hovering around -30°C, which is where we're at right now. Oh, I should add, with the windchill, that means it feels like -40°C. Yes, extremely cold! But, I still wouldn't want to live where there is no snow - my winter has to have cold, blizzards and lots of snow.

Anyway, we started this Amaryllis before Christmas; the children excitedly rushed into my classroom each day to see how much our plant had grown. The first flower brought squeals of joy just before Christmas. I came to school almost every day over the break to check on it. There was pure awe on theie faces when they saw all eight flowers open after the break.  I'm not sure I ever saw an Amaryllis that had all eight flowers open at the same time, so I was in awe as well. 

Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful: 
they are sunshine, food and medicine to the soul. -Luther Burbank

Did you get an Amaryllis this year? They're a beautiful Christmas plants, and come in a variety of colours. I had luck with getting my orchid to bloom again, so am excited about trying to get our Amaryllis to bloom again next year as well. Thankfully, I found a website with tips to do that. In case you want to try that too, click here.  I'd love to hear from anybody who has ever got an Amaryllis to bloom again. 

my orchid

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Meet the Hutterites Helping a Refugee Family

It's heartwarming to see how my friends at Green Acres Colony are helping a refugee family from Syria. It seems like such a warm relationship these Hutterites and Syrians share, and they obviously learn from each other as well. This family has been living in Manitoba since last summer. First they lived in Wawanesa, a small town near Green Acres Colony, but I believe they recently moved to Brandon because of the dad's job. This cold, blustery winter must be quite an experience for them, but they seem to be embracing it.

I can't even imagine living in a refugee camp, and am so grateful that this family and many others are getting another chance at making a better life for themselves, and that so many people are supporting them with this new start in a strange country. At the same time I'm hoping that many more will find it in their hearts to reach out to people all over who are suffering and need our assistance. Every human being has the right to live in a safe and peaceful place and experience the love, compassion and kindness of their fellow human beings.

Photo published for Christian community welcomes Syrian family to Canada

Read about it and watch the video here.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

A Jar of Tiny Pfeffernuesse

This is a jar of Pfeffernuesse cookies one of my students brought me just this morning. It was full. I don't have Pfeffernuesse on my Christmas wish list, but after not being able to stop eating them today, I know I should have. I haven't had these scrumptious German treats in many, many years. I was introduced to them when I was at the Deer Spring Bruderhof, a Christian Community in Connecticut in 1987 -- the only Christmas I ever spent away from home.

So you can imagine the flood of memories this small jar of Pfeffernuesse brought back this morning. I simply could not resist, 8:00 AM or not, I opened the jar and enjoyed one of these delicious morsels, and quickly put the lid back on. I had a class to teach. However, my mind took me many miles away to the community nestled in the hills near Norfolk, Connecticut, all those Christmases ago. Pfeffernuesse, a symphony orchestra, and experiencing a different but meaningful Christmas with dear people, helped tremendously to ease the ache of missing my family that Christmas. I had wonderful time with my host family, the Warners, and often wonder about them. Too bad we've lost touch over the years.

Kandra, the little girl who brought me the cookies, most likely had no idea that her jar of tiny cookies would send me on a trip down memory lane, to the time when I first enjoyed Pfeffernuesse and saw a live symphony orchestra. I'm still dreaming of seeing another symphony orchestra someday. That is on my Christmas wish list.

It's unexpected moments like this one, receiving a jar of cookies that add wonder and delight to this special season. I hope your Advent and Christmas bring you wonder and delight, in the most unexpected ways, just like my jar of Pfeffernuesse.

My heartfelt thanks to Kandra, and her mom. You made my day! And inspired me to bake Pfeffernuesse cookies real soon... that is, if you will share your recipe with me.

Monday, 12 December 2016

Treasures of Yesteryear - the spinning wheel

 The spinning wheel is its itself an exquisite piece of machinery. 
My head daily bows in reverence to its unknown inventor.  
Mahatma Ghandi

There are few Hutterites left who know how to use a spinning wheel. But back in the day, almost every household had one and it was being used. My mom tells me, since she was the oldest in the family, she started helping her mother with spinning as a young school girl. Back then, you didn't go to a store to buy wool; you simply spun your own. Later the wool was put in big skeins and dyed; then used to knit winter stockings and mittens.

A few years ago we invited a Hutterite grandmother to our school. She's one of the few Hutterites who can still spin. She lives at a near-by colony and gladly came to demonstrate this lost skill. As her daft fingers worked at the wheel, our students stood round her, wide-eyed with wonder, watching the bundle of wool in her hands being spun into a spool of yarn. This was almost as magical as Rumpelstiltskin spinning straw into gold! To be sure, soft, warm wool was like gold for our grandparents; more so than it is today, when we can easily buy stockings, mittens and gloves. Really, how often to we stop to think, when we wear woolen items, where they come from (beyond store), how they're made? I know I never do.

Today, if there's a spinning wheel left in a home, it's been relegated to collect dust in the basement or in the attic, or some other forgotten corner on the colony. A few years ago my sister, Elma rescued one such treasure from the basement of a friend. It now stands in the office of our house, in need of repair. When people see it, they're taken back in time, when things were much slower paced than today. When grandma would sit at the spinning wheel, humming to herself or telling stories to grandchildren, as she made sure there was wool around to keep the hands and feet of her family toasty warm.

Do you have any spinning stories to share?

I was inspired to start a new blog series, Treasures of Yesteryear, when someone sent me a message through the blogger contact form, asking me about Hutterite antiques. If you can think of such items I could feature, please send me a message or leave a comment. Thanks!

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Oh, the Weather Outside is Frightful...

But staying home is so delightful!

A winter blizzard has lingered for two days over a large area in Manitoba, including where I call home. Schools and highways are closed all over the place. Normally our school stays open, since we're all right here on the colony and can easily walk to school. This time is different. Our snowblower found a very inopportune time to take a break, and our bobcat can't keep up clearing the sidewalks, driveways and roads. So walking to school can be quite an adventure, and almost impossible for little ones. With all the snow that is being dumped, and gusting wind, we decided it's best to cancel classes here as well. I didn't mind in the least. In fact, it was quite delightful to be at home with a storm raging outside.

I found plenty of activities to fill the days with: First I sewed a dress, then I knit a scarf. It was also a perfect opportunity to light some scented candles, turn on some Christmas music and wrap gifts. As you can see, I also fit in a bit of blogging.

My two nephews stayed at our house yesterday, so you can imagine the challenge to keep those two rambunctious boys occupied - toys can only do the trick for so long. (I know, toys nowadays are over-rated. When I was a little girl, my toys kept me much busier and happier for longer periods of time. There were puzzles, board games, dolls, tea sets, etch-a-sketch... remember those? But then, I never had tech toys to mess with my ability to play with real toys.) Anyway, back to today. Thanks to my nephews' Grandma Waldner, who gave them a Gingerbread Train Kit, there was something else to keep them busy. For a while, anyway. My sister, Sonia was the brave soul who went to work with two little boys as 'helpers'. How do you tell young children to stop eating the candies, taking a bite out of the cookies or licking icing, while trying to build an edible train?

Not easy. But she somehow managed:

Let it snow! 
                               Let it snow! 
                                                             Let it snow!

I'd love to hear what you do when you're storm-stayed?