Wednesday, 30 November 2011

to simplify.

a simple advent. that's all i want for christmas this year. oh and to get le boy's jumper (sweater) done in time. but how do we prepare? how to get it all done? the baking and the making and the visits and the work and the decorating and the events? how do we keep the event of jesus coming to earth as the central idea of our days? how to keep from becoming caught up in the busy-ness of it all and forget the business of christ?

by stopping. and stilling. by bending low and thanking god for humble beginnings and babe-grace. by putting the needs of others ahead of our own. by focusing on the truest thing we can, the sacrifice of praise for he who would sacrifice it all.

this year we have chosen to remain in one place. and we are delighted at the prospect of standing still. for years we have each travelled, across land and seas to be home with our families, and those are times we cherish and times, i'm sure we will miss this christmas. but we are also learning how to be our own family. to establish and develop our own traditions.

it's slow around here at the moment. a joint stiff with swelling and pain, and a girl who is always eager to do one more thing can be a challenging combination. i am learning. i am preparing for a season of slowness. of incremental progress, measured by the degrees i can bend my knee. of being patient and pacing myself. of learning how to pace my days, rather than fill them to the absolute brim.

trees will be trimmed this weekend, rows upon rows of double moss stitch knitted, and we will begin our advent study. in the midst of it all, i pray we prepare not just our home, but our hearts for the coming of christ.

Saturday, 26 November 2011


i've recently downloaded a new app. 1000 gifts - based on the book 1000 gifts, by ann voskamp, which i'm currently listening to and LOVING. a great[ful] way to list daily thanks, on the go and with your phone. love it.

and so here's mine from today.

how she's always been right beside me.

candlelight illuminating humble (homemade) table.

pillows from old jumpers, now a cozy corner.

new wool waiting for fingers to fly. 

woollens wet on the line - waiting to warm.

a thoughtful gift from my most recent visitor.

 as we enter advent, remembering who HE is! (printable here)

get the app here. 

one thousand gifts app

Wednesday, 23 November 2011


i wrote a little about preparing the other week. i am grateful to have had the time to ready us for the operation. it all went smoothly and life here, while quiet, is very peaceful because of those preparations. i rest easy knowing there is food is the freezer and wool ready for the needles and period dramas queued for watching. i rested easy because marvellous came and gave up her week to love on us and care for us. i am amazed by the endless stream of visitors we have had, who take time out of their busy weeks to travel to a small suburb in london so that i may have company. we are filled with visits and doctors appointments and naps. and yet despite all this preparation. despite the prayers and cooking and the finishing up of things and the emails and people from abroad. we weren't quite ready. and i suppose we never are. 

change, big or small, demands attention and time and energy. and there are always bits for which you are not prepared. the pain. or the feelings of being unwell. the kindness that has been shown you. the unexpected care packages. i was not prepared for any of these things. and yet, in his grace, we are given what we need, as we need it. and so the medication does a great job of numbing the physical pain and the care package takes away the sting of separation from family. i am learning to ask for and receive help. i am learning to allow others. to count my thanks. to be patient. to heal.

we are never completely prepared. we cannot be. there would be no painful healing, no growth, no unexpected delight.

"Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. Malachi 3:1

Monday, 21 November 2011


we're pretty quiet around these parts these days. warms drinks and food. enjoying the relief of the pain medication. lots of ice packs. naps in the morning, afternoon and evening. welcome visitors bearing gifts of food and wishes of speedy recoveries. this recuperation thing is exhausting. i'm grateful beyond words for the kind care of le boy and marvellous. i spend much of my day in a room with a small print of 1 thess 5:18 it's a very good reminder.

we're moving slowly. and we are living grateful lives.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011


we've got a large open space in our living room. the room is shaped in such a way that all the furniture needs to go on the edge of the room, i know, it's a design no-no, but really we're not able to do much else. so the centre of the room needs something to fill it. i have a love of reclaimed things, (which is awkward when combined with my love for ikea) but rarely do i approve of the price tag associated with such items. so when i saw this on one of my favourite online shops i thought - i can do that...

and so began my obsession with pinterest and pallets. my pallet board is here. and i found some ideas i liked.

but how does one find a pallet?

firstly, i should say that pallets are pretty big, about nine square feet, so one wouldn't fit in our car. but when you start looking, suddenly pallets are everywhere. i've seen at least five in people's trash in the last couple of weeks. what is most fortunate is that we live down the street from a carpet warehouse (bizarre, i know, but that's london for you) and i was pretty sure if we asked nicely they'd let us have one. so i dispatched le boy one morning, and indeed, he was allowed to take his pick!

and this is what we started with.

it was in pretty good condition, considering it's former life as a warehouse storage item. but pallets are made from rough wood and have some not so nice parts (read: big splinters). i'll outline what we did but i didn't take step-by-step photos because, well, i wasn't planning on a tutorial and i'm a bad blogger and i had paint all over myself and it was cold and really we all know how to sand and paint, right?

pallet transformation:

materials needed:
wooden pallet
sandpaper (coarse and fine)
paint for interior wood & brushes
pre-painting wash solution


  • start by wiping down pallet with wash solution, we found some handy wipes at the hardware store, but even just rag with some water and vinegar would do the trick, allow to dry 
  • sand entire pallet with coarse sandpaper, this will take quite a bit of time, but is worth doing well so that you get a good finish 
  • wipe down again to get rid of all the dust (very very important!) 
  • paint your first coat and allow to dry. because the wood is untreated it sucks up quite a lot of paint, consequently we painted it on quite thickly - if you are going for a fully professional look it's better to do light coats and more of them, but i'm ok with (and indeed want) a slightly more rustic look, so as this gets used, i'll be happy for paint to chip etc. 
  • sand with light sandpaper (this allows the second coat to bind well to the first) 
  • paint second coat and allow to dry 
  • attach wheels, we used castors from ikea, 2/£10, easy to attach and they have brakes so the coffee table doesn't go flying across the room! 

total cost: £35

paint & supplies - £15
castors - £20 
pallet - free! 

pretty great savings. and i LOVE LOVE LOVE it. a lot. 

i'm linking up to take it on tuesday.

Monday, 14 November 2011

monday musings.

to say we're in a bit of a big week is an understatement. if i'm honest, things might be quiet here this week, but for good reason.

  • marvellous arrives tomorrow 
  • i'm getting work squared away for 2.5 weeks off 
  • surgery on thursday for a knee that isn't working the way it should
  • job interview for le boy on thursday (yes that's the same day as surgery) 
  • i'm getting laundry done and the house tidied and meals in the freezer 

it's a lot. but there are so many blessings. 

find printable here.

  • marvellous arrives
  • i'm fortunate to work for an employer with generous sick leave 
  • my surgeon is the best, and this is pretty much the appendectomy of orthopedic surgery
  • le boy has a job interview, in a difficult economy 
  • we've spent the weekend getting caught up on laundry and making food and sorting life here and there
  • i'll spend the next week with two people who love me better than anyone and i'm already grateful for their grace

Friday, 11 November 2011

the act of remembrance.

They shall grow not old,
as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them,
nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun
and in the morning
We will remember them.

This was my brother
This was my brother
At Dieppe
Quietly a hero
Who gave his life
Like a gift,
Withholding nothing.
His youth...his love...
His enjoyment of being alive...
His future, like a book
With half the pages still uncut –

This was my brother
At Dieppe -
The one who built me a doll house
When I was seven,
Complete to the last small picture frame,
Nothing forgotten.

He was awfully good at fixing things,
At stepping into the breach when he was needed.
That’s what he did at Dieppe;
He was needed.
And even Death must have been a little shamed
At his eagerness!

Mona Gould

{a repost from the archives, food friday will return next week}

Thursday, 10 November 2011

baby blessings.

i'll start by saying - we're NOT pregnant. we don't intend to be for a while. but as it turns out, everyone around us, is pregnant. i've lost count, and really this makes me extremely happy. i get to knit super cute baby items, i get to hold and play with new babies, i get to give the babies back. someday, someone will hand a baby back to me, just not soon!

and so, i'm always stuck with a little conundrum - what to get the wee babe? there are a ton of cute things out there, but i can make stuff. and i like making stuff. and i like that it's fast. baby knitting, is so so so fast. i love it. in fact, i've been pre-baby knitting. the other night le boy asked who the latest item on my needles was for, and i said, i don't know, but there will be someone. the littleness of it all is super cute. and the quickness of it all is super gratifying. plus, i love knowing that new babes are wearing something made with a little bit of love.

i found this darling printable on the 'on to baby' site - the follow on site from the weddingchicks - we used wedding chicks for all our stationery at the wedding and i LOVED it. as a cute little gift i made booties with some matching note cards. one of which i used as our card, and a few others for them to use as notes from the babe.

the bootie pattern can be found here.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

operation: preparation

we have grace of time right now. we have the grace of knowing what is coming next. we have been allowed to prepare.

in a week i will benefit from decades of research and medicine, i will have medicine repair what cannot heal naturally. my knee, injured in a skiing accident, has kept me much more sedate than i would prefer. i long to run hard and fast (for me) along the pavement. i long to sit cross-legged on the floor. i will, in time. i will have surgery to repair what cannot be healed all on its own. ligaments do not naturally heal. but they can be healed with invasive and intense surgery.

isn't that what god does on us? there are parts of us that cannot be healed with just time, or tenderness. there are parts of us that require much more. so while we favour that part of ourselves, learn to protect it from harm, learn to not sit cross-legged, it never actually heals, it cannot heal on its own. and we require god-surgery. on our souls.

i said that god has given us the gracious gift of time. i go in for surgery in a week, but we've known about this for months, we've known about the long recovery. we've been able to make provisions for that time. marvellous is offering up herself to us that week - we are humbled by her willingness to leave life and come walk with us through the early stages of healing. the slowcooker is working overtime as i prepare meals to be frozen, and i get the house in order. le boy is making minor adjustments to our living space that will make major adjustments to my (our) quality of life. our friends are praying and planning for food and company. we have been provided time to prepare. 

and god gives us this time before be have soul surgery also. he allows us time to clear our schedules and simplify our lives. to prepare for the healing. for the recovery. years ago, before i spent time sorting through who i was called to be, god made space. a job that allowed me time off for appointments, a friend to live with who was supportive, an income that provided. i trained a marathon that year. i was broken of all my defences. and because i no longer could shield the parts of me that i protected, i handed them to him and he was merciful. 

he is always gracious. and he has provided for preparation. 

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

hilton head - three.

i know, it's sad. three months after we've been back and i'm still working on posts about honeymoon. but life is crazy and i took a month of that to write about being a newlywed, every-single-day. which i think means i'm only two months behind! there. i feel better. i've recently discovered the joy of picnik online - and the multiple photo spreads that are available - hold on to your seats...really this is for us to remember all that we did!

so, while it's hard to believe that it was three months ago, and we were in the heat of our lives (ok, not so much me, i grew up in ontario, i've done disney in august, i knew heat like this...) we're back in hilton head. oh how wonderful it was!

i was super glad to have a classy hat. on this particular day we went to a local church for their sunday service. it was the sunday before school started so they dedicated the teachers and the students, and it was a really neat thing to see! we went for lunch at the salty dog cafe. we understood it was a HHI institution - we now know why. oh. my. word. GOOD! of course, i had the crab cake sandwich. unbelievable. i'm not sure i'll ever get crab cakes that good again - i guess we'll just have to go back!

one of the best nights was when we hopped on our bikes just as the sun was setting and headed to the beach. the water was so warm and it was still humid as anything, but it was so lovely to swim as twilight settled.

dinner that night was at the beach shack - you know i re-visited those fish tacos. so so good. even the second time around!

most of our days can be summed up by this collage: ride to the beach. set up camp. sit.

beach walk = photo shoot.

and while i thought this might be the last - we did do a day in charleston and really that deserves it's own post. so i'll leave you here. i know, the suspense is killing you.

Monday, 7 November 2011


it was a weekend of projects and friends and relaxing and it was wonderful. all of my photos are of half-finished things, so not yet ready to post.

but i wouldn't leave you empty handed.

on saturday after i had spent time painting and sewing and cleaning and organising, le boy was tasked with dinner. he pulled a ziploc bag out of the freezer and asked if this was the spaghetti sauce? i glanced up from what i was doing and said, oh yes! umm, just kidding. i talked myself out of a meltdown - it wasn't the end of the world, but man was a hungry and a little annoyed, it all got better with food, even if it was inventive!

now, i know this has happened to all of us, and i know you're saying, brie, come on, a sharpie would solve this. but now, where's the fun in that? so to avoid eating brisket over pasta for a second time (although, actually, it was pretty good!) i've downloaded, printed and cut out these freezer labels. courtesy of our favourite, martha.

i used a few sheets of sticker paper and voila! amazing.

i'll be back later in the week with an update on our kitchen organisation project. it also involves labels and food storage. and a printable!

for now, download, print off and keep these handy in the kitchen. save your marriage, save yourself.

Friday, 4 November 2011

food friday :: bangers & mash

it's the ultimate british dinner. bangers & mash. (translation: sausages and mashed potatoes, smothered in gravy). and it's exactly the kind of food you desire as you walk home from the train station on a cold and rainy thursday night. it's also exceptionally budget friendly. a few months back we bought 24 sausages for £8, which means that this meal might have cost £3 total. but being budget friendly does mean that taste was sacrificed. bangers and mash is a british institution - friends of ours served it gourmet style at their wedding last year - and it was DELICIOUS!

the key to this simple, but incredibly satisfying, supper is ingredients and taking your time. and this is sure to be met with lip-smacking approval from any man who happens to reside at your house. which always makes it a winner in my book!

gourmet bangers & mash with red onion gravy
serves 2

this recipe is easy to scale up to feed larger groups, if pan space is an issue, consider browning sausages in the oven and then using the drippings in the gravy.

4 gourmet sausages
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup red wine
2 medium red onions, thinly sliced
1 cup chicken stock
1 sprig rosemary, leaves picked and roughly chopped

4-5 medium potatoes roughly chopped, skins on
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp heavy cream

salt & pepper

heat olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. once shimmering, add sausages, being careful of spatter. cook over medium/low heat, being sure to get brown and crispy on all sides.

meanwhile, bring a medium pot of salted water to the boil and add potatoes. cover and boil until knife-tender.

once sausages are browned, remove to a plate and add wine to pan, deglazing with a wooden spoon - be sure to get all the crispy bits on the bottom of the pan into the sauce, that's where the flavour is! once deglazed and slightly reduced add onions and allow to sweat over medium-low heat for 10 min. add chicken stock and rosemary, and allow to reduce by half. season with salt & pepper. once reduced return sausages to pan to warm.

drain potatoes and roughly mash with butter and cream. season with salt & pepper.

serve sausages on a bed of the mashed potatoes with onion gravy ladled over top.

be prepared for minimal dinner conversation as everyone is too engaged in eating!

Thursday, 3 November 2011


i'm a big believer in christmas cards. truthfully, i've not been great at the whole thing in the past, but i love love love sending cards, receiving cards - looking at people's cards online. living abroad means that we need to be even more on the ball. i've recently made our christmas cards and while i'm not going to show you just yet what we've chosen. i will point you to the fabulous site where i got my download.

becky higgins. there's a photo scrapbooking idea that she came up with called project life - so super cool and i think it may just top my christmas wish list - i would love a way to keep all the memories that i shoot with my camera in a more tangible way!

on her free stuff page - free people - you can download lots of goodies, but particularly at the moment, christmas and holiday cards!

i gave myself a crash course on using picnik premium to add a photo to our selected card and i just love how it turned out! (ps, with picnik premium you can do layering, so you don't need to have photoshop or elements - i got a one month subscription for less than £3, if i like it, i'll upgrade to the yearly subscription, plus i love how it integrates with my picasa pool for the blog!)

we have a couple of 'family guidelines' when i comes to our cards - first, we don't say 'happy holidays.' we are big believers that christmas is about christ. so the card must say 'merry christmas.' second, if possible we'd like a place for a scripture verse. finally, we wanted a meaningful picture - we have dozens to choose from this year, so that was easy!

i've placed my free order with snapfish (new customers get 40 free prints) and paid the shipping. i plan to write the cards when i'm laid up with the knee and need a distraction.

i'll post our card later, but for now - enjoy deciding which you'll choose!

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

day in autumn:: {november}

it is hard to believe that november is upon us. an aunt of mine once decided to take the month as it came, eating when hungry, sleeping when tired. there is something about november that can be draining. maybe it's the quickening darkness? that in the northern hemisphere we're plunged into winter?

here we're preparing for what i've affectionately called my 'planned convalescence'  it's rather strange to know you're about to be laid up for many weeks. i'm trying to get in all i can while i've got the chance. to rest and prepare my body for healing. to prepare our house for a period of quietness. wool has been ordered. marvellous is coming over. the lovefilm queue has been updated. i'm stocking the freezer. and piling up the books.

::intentions for november::

  • leave an extra 15 minutes for getting ready in the morning (stop the rush!) 
  • take this month just as it comes
  • be gentle with myself in the lead up to and after the surgery
  • exercise every day until nov 17
  • drink 2+ liters a day of water - the heating in my office has been turned on, bad news for the skin!

By Rainer Maria Rilke 1875–1926
Translated By Mary Kinzie  

After the summer's yield, Lord, it is time
to let your shadow lengthen on the sundials
and in the pastures let the rough winds fly.

As for the final fruits, coax them to roundness.
Direct on them two days of warmer light
to hale them golden toward their term, and harry
the last few drops of sweetness through the wine.

Whoever's homeless now, will build no shelter;
who lives alone will live indefinitely so,
waking up to read a little, draft long letters,   
and, along the city's avenues,
fitfully wander, when the wild leaves loosen.