Thursday, December 24, 2015

Holiday Greetings to All My Readers

Holiday Greetings from our Little House to yours!
As you all know, I have not written but a few blogs for several weeks now.  Besides the holiday craft shows, we have been very busy here at Little House.  My oldest daughter has moved and moved and moved!! Though we knew that she had a house full of stuff all packed into Little House right along with all of our belongings, we were amazed at just how much she managed to pack into her rooms and spaces. We have been very busy turning her rooms back into "functional" living spaces!
Her downstairs room was turned into a "play den", and a second guest room.
While working on the duvet covers made for last year's Christmas gifts!
All of this has taken place with holiday sewing and decorating to boot!
Christmas decorating: My husband's antique toy rocking horse.
....and Christmas music boxes given to my kids by their grandmother.

These music boxes come out only at Christmas!

...and are then tucked away...

...until next year!
Little cross-stitched  Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus and an Avon music box.

...and another little holiday music box from my favorite aunt, Aunt Catherine.
...and my oldest daughter's latest creche set!

...and nutcrackers on the piano with Christmas Carols and holiday books.
...and this sums up our style of celebrating...Santa and the Christ child!

My Christmas letter details the many changes that have taken place at Little House this past year and as you know, everything with me becomes a story, so read on:

Dear Family and Friends,

Many years ago when I was a psychiatric nurse, I learned that denial can serve a useful purpose.  It buys the time needed for a person to muster the inner strength and fortitude needed to face what appears to them to be too difficult to face.  It might seem to an outsider that instead of working hard to avoid the challenge, it would simply be easier to face their issue and "get on with it".  And so it is with me this year regarding the holiday season!  Here we are well into the Advent Season, and I have at last decided to quit denying that Christmas is almost here and simply get on with preparing for it!
Little House Tradition: a live tree, ornaments, antique balls and red bows. 
I am realizing that denial seems to be a theme in my life, be it Christmas 2015 or growing old!  I am finally realizing the futility of hanging onto my college wardrobe until I lose weight.  Mini-skirts at age 69 might not be as cute with varicose veins and long and thinning, mouse-gray hair! I seem to be operating on Standard Jane Time too, denying that the rest of the world is NOT doing the same!  You may NOT be as old as me in years, body or spirit, but I am finding that turning on Christmas music isn't all that is needed to sufficiently energize me as it used to, in order to prepare for what is still my favorite holiday!

Laugh as you will, I am still finishing the patchwork duvet covers that had only a few day's worth of work left to finish them last year at this same time.  I am however proud to say that I haven't given up on completing them this year in time for Christmas, though in Standard Jane time, that will likely be a few days after Christmas?!
Mary Engelbreit Panel/Patchwork  Duvet Cover for first daughter.
Backside of second daughter's reversible Mary Engelbreit Panel Duvet Cover.

Top of  reversible duvet cover. Whoops, forgot to clear the messy dressers!

Close up of this Mary Engelbreit Duvet Cover.

Jesus is coming soon and as one of my soon-to-be step-grandchildren said, "We hope Jesus has the best birth ever!" Beginnings are good and I am grateful for a fresh new 2016 to start over!! Perhaps a new pair of track shoes under the tree will help me "walk faster and jump higher", or a new thimble or two will help me finish the many projects that I have started, or am I in denial again? Quilts do take longer to finish than pincushions and fleece socks, and this last year we took over 300 pair of socks to market! I am grateful for our dear Savior's renewable birth in my heart and the chance to finish what I've started, and to start even more creations, and get another run at obtaining good health and fortune! Perhaps, now I will be able to set more realistic goals for 2016 and will add a super girdle and box of hair dye to my Christmas wish-list along with the name of a good hand and machine quilter instead of waiting for my youth to return to finish my bucket list!

Now facing another challenge, I am going to attempt to update you on Little House's 2015 year, though our accomplishments seem to all be in the categories of starts, continuances and completions of developmental tasks (no matter how delayed or advanced), as well as participation in therapies.

1) I continue my reading, blog writing and sewing therapies, along with acupuncture therapy as I discontinue the Marshall Protocol treatment for chronic lyme. Am I well-cured? Perhaps like a ham? I have been in this treatment for seven long years! I am not sure if what I have now are remnants of chronic lyme or just the beginning of old age. Now I am looking for that fountain of youth, or should that be a special psychiatric therapy for chronic denial that everything takes longer than it used to??
2) My oldest daughter and my husband continue to work my craft shows, marketing Little House's wares. This has become a family busy-ness and they are doing a great job!
3) My husband finally reached retirement age and can still work AND start drawing social security. Remember when he was laid off a few years ago, short of retirement?  These are not easy times we live in and though retirement isn't as we planned, how fortunate we are that he is still able-bodied and I am still able-minded? That is a fact that will not ask other members of the family to confirm! I think together, my husband and I make a good team?!
4) My oldest daughter emancipates again from home. Her move continues, and Little House breathes a sigh of relief! Guest rooms will soon be available.  Reservations must be made in advance...and no, we don't serve breakfasts...but perhaps a brunch instead!
Guest room #1. Still need to paint this bedside table.

The rocking chair needs to be repainted too.

Guests will have their own TV.
5) Our holiday celebrations expand when my oldest daughter starts bringing her new boyfriend and his family home for them! Two additional leaves to our family table are now needed to accommodate four more!
6) My husband and I start trying out new grand-parenting roles with potential step-grandchildren. "Spoiling with no consequences" is our new rule of fun!
7) My husband and I start to enjoy a new-found freedom of having no children living at home! Whoops, this means we have to start to do our own cooking as well as start to share our oldest daughter with many others now! Adjustments aren't so easy at our age!!
8) We do, however, start smiling as we listen to our daughter's stories as she learns that parenting isn't so easy.  "What goes around, comes around" it seems! We seem to be growing smarter despite getting more senile?!
9) Our children are now financially independent! Hooray!! Just in time for them to start supporting us in our old age, OR NOT??
10) Our youngest daughter continues to bring her laundry home to do, but we are glad or we might not see her so regularly!

Now you are as up-to-date as we are!...."Oh dear, we hope that you are more up-to-date than us!" ...What I mean to say is that you have now been brought up-to-date with Little House's events of 2015...My crazy dreams and schemes keep on going and I will again be sharing them with you in the year ahead!
Another quilt cut and ready for piecing! ("Leaders and Enders" basketwork.*)

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas/ Happy Hanukkah/ Winter Solstice/ Happy Holiday and may 2016  be filled with many blessings for you and your family!!

With love to you all from our Little House to your house!! Jane, Tom and our  AACs (Alien Adult Children)

* per Bonnie Hunter, infamous and prolific quilter, a serious quilter always keeps a "Leader-and-Ender Basket" near her sewing machine so in her spare time, another quilt top is suddenly all pieced and ready for quilting! I also keep at least one quilt ready for quilting near my quilting machine as well, hoping that there are little quilting elves, like the shoemaker's elves that "make it happen" in the night while I sleep...denial or a good imagination?? "Certifiable?"
...that's already a given!!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Another Holiday Craft Sale This Saturday!

Dear Readers,

I wanted to let you all know that we will be at The Holiday Inn, Rt 7 South, Rutland, Vermont this next Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. along with many other artists and craftspeople!  We hope that you won't forget to stop in! Guaranteed you will be able to find unusual and unique holiday gifts for your holiday gift giving needs!

This is a peek at our booth at our last two shows. We continue to feature unusual pincushions, wool doorstop hens, wool lap robe, wool ornaments, kits for penny rugs and pincushions and hand-knit wool hats,  It is also a great time to pick up fleece socks at a bargain price, guaranteed to keep your feet warm and help you accomplish "great feats"! You may also find many of these items on-line and if you don't, please ask.  I would be happy to send you pictures of what isn't listed in my Etsy shop or by clicking on my fleece sock order site on the right hand side of my website!

I have not been so busy with holiday sewing orders that I have not been blogging as frequently but will soon be back to my regular weekly postings, so keep watching! Sincerely, jane

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Come See Us This Friday and Saturday

We will be at The Lakes Region Farmers' Market Christmas Fair at the Poultney High School Gym, in Poultney, Vermont Friday and Saturday, Novermber 27th and 28th from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  There will be all sorts of interesting home and folk arts there.  It is an event NOT to miss!! There is no entry fee and it is a great place to do some of your Christmas shopping!!

Planning for Company

It is only fitting that right before Thanksgiving I post this blog about planning for company, though the occasion wasn't Thanksgiving. Last week my cousin came to have lunch with me. Having company is becoming a more special occasion now that I am retired and can take time to plan a luncheon menu. I thought perhaps I would serve tuna or chicken salad, with boiled eggs and would also take a special shopping trip to find and purchase some new delectable taste treats for her visit.

Once again I returned to my trusty computer for how to boil the perfect egg! You would think at age sixty-nine I would already know how to do this, though it was only a couple of years ago that I learned about "perfecting" boiled eggs, I had just boiled them before! Just think, if I had had a computer in my young years, all of the boiled eggs in my life would have been perfectly cooked with no gray or green edges to their yolks and if I had learned while my memory cells were still intact, I would now be able to do it without looking it up each time!

I lived in the day of encyclopedias and trips to the library, and now I have a library on my tablet and on my computer in my dining room next to the kitchen. Julia Child should have had such resources at her finger tips!! I have no need now for my vast array of cookbooks or memory for that matter, as whatever I need to know is found faster and easier on my computer than in books or for that matter waiting for my memory cells to connect!! I still keep my cookbooks as all books are my best friends and you know what they say about new friends being silver, but the old ones, gold!...And about my brain connections, I am glad for them whenever and if ever they occur, but depending on them is another matter!

Fingerling potatoes...this variety came in one bag!
Having company is definitely the time to be sure that my meal preparation is done to perfection and as I said, I used this opportunity to wander the isles of the grocery store looking for interesting new things to serve. It was not only entertaining, it was physical therapy for me, walking and walking as I imagined all the possibilities for our lunch.

I found some interesting tiny potatoes in the produce department that are called fingerling potatoes and in one bag there are several varieties, including some that were dark blue, sure to impress! I also found tiny cut carrots.  I am excited about vegetables of all kinds lately, learning that they can be fixed in other ways besides just boiling them. I came home with several bags of treasured finds so I could offer my cousin a smorgasbord of choices.  She was traveling from over an hour away to pay me a visit, and I wanted to be sure that she was well fed!
Mini-carrots and colorful veggies!

My mother, who taught me to cook was limited to recipes hand-copied and stuffed in a recipe box, many of which were sent to her in snail-mail letters by her mother and sisters. She also had recipes clipped out of magazines and had a few recipe books as well. It seems like a strange way of learning about new recipes doesn't it? I remember her thinking that vegetables were to be boiled and meats roasted and cakes baked. There are no such limits with my cooking, and I have mini tutorials at my finger tips!!

Perhaps these fingerling potatoes quartered with sliced onions and other vegetables in my refrigerator would make a good sort of vegetable casserole that, I think, tastes like "Veggie Pizza", very delectable when dotted with a bit of sweet sausage and covered with melted mozzarella cheese! It makes a very colorful mixture, and would be made even more "gourmet" by adding blue fingerling potatoes to add to our lunch and the left overs would serve as dinner. I like to imagine myself as a modern day Martha Stewart preparing a great lunch and dinner all so efficiently and effortlessly and what fun I would have impressing my cousin with more than my sewing!  I saved a fingerling potato to show my cousin how cute they are and just in case she would prefer a diet-sized baked potato instead, that could be baked in only minutes! All meals, I think, should be generously seasoned with a bit of humor!
"Veggie Pizza" ready to bake, later covered with melted mozzarella cheese!

Other lunch option a diet sized baked potato? Humor is everything!
I love to create casseroles just like my mother did. They became her most popular and creative way to stretch meals to feed her growing family, I think many of them were ways to use up whatever was left over in the refrigerator and I guess I "don't fall far from the tree". Her casseroles all seemed to have unique names to convince us they were delicious like New Joe's Special, though I thought it anything but!!  It looked like slop and tasted like it too, though perhaps with my newly acquired taste for vegetables, I would like it now, as it was spinach cooked with hamburger and if my memory serves me well it had green pasta too. No doubt if I take a few minutes on-line I will be able to find it again. It was, after all, supposedly a famous dish served by a well-known restaurant in California, or so my aunt claimed in her letter!

Vegetables can be very delicious when fixed in interesting ways and I have at last added them to my personal food pyramid, replacing many a cookie and cake.  Garnishing them with melted cheese seems to make anything delicious and I can imagine it looking a bit like a glaze or frosting! Sugar, I have learned too late, increases inflammation and has other deleterious health effects, and isn't one of the basic food groups after all! This has been a sad discovery!

In my bags were also nice multi-grained thin buns and I would use them as a "vehicle" to eat our chicken or tuna salad and as all vehicles they would be literally round like "wheels". I was clearly over-thinking this meal! A small snack-sized container of fresh fruit would be just the right amount of grapes and strawberries to garnish our green salad, that I bought all prepped and bagged. Lovely British "biscuits" were the perfect accompaniment to orange sherbet for dessert. Orange and brown, I thought perfect for a fall-colored dessert! My mother's spirit must have been loitering about as no company meal, she taught me, would be complete without way more than could possibly be consumed!

I looked forward to seeing my cousin, as I love to share memories of our common relatives and I smiled as I remembered our eldest step-aunt who was a spinster librarian by trade and kept her company menus well-ordered in her personal Dewey Decimal Card File at her home! She was ahead of the now infamous Side Tracked Home Executive sisters who organized their whole life on 3" x 5" cards, they called the SHE system.  Their system was for organizing their life as well as their housecleaning.  I had bought all their books and my family remembers the cute little wall hanging I made with our initials above the individual pouches to hold the cards that assigned each of us cleaning tasks for the week. I remember now that my family was less than cooperative and our house didn't seem to get any cleaner...but that is another story!!
Aunt Alice before she became a librarian and kept records on a 3 x 5 card file.

My aunt's card file was used to record what each of us liked to eat. She forgot that being of "the Martin clan" however, we were raised to be polite instead of honest and so our answers to her questions were always positive. Our "yeses" got us into trouble as I remember too well on a 100 degree day in Cleveland, Ohio, with no air-conditioning or fan, she served us boiled hot dogs, boiled vegetables, along with the hot vegetable water to drink so as to not waste any of their leached vitamins and for dessert we had hot stewed fruit! She was then almost blind which was perhaps fortunate for us, as we were able to switch our portions, so I ate my husband's stewed fruit to keep him from having to make bathroom stops too frequently, while I kept "regular" while "on the road"!

She relied on snail-mail letters and had carefully budgeted her company meal in advance and didn't wander about the grocery store whimsically picking up this and that the night before. A simple e-mail two days before let me know that my cousin didn't like cottage cheese. I simply used my computer to inquire about the negatives only!

It was only a year ago that I my eldest daughter helped prepare a lunch for company, but I have since reclaimed my kitchen and now use company as the excuse I need to try out some new taste treats!!  I did note that one of my more regular luncheon guests is insisting on only stopping by now to chat and not eat and it does give me cause to wonder about my menu choices?

After this lunch was planned, I realized my cousin is the same one that when visiting me as a child, was used to participating in sandwich competitions, where everyone fixed their own sandwich, most often starting with peanut butter? Perhaps my mother and my aunt didn't miss having a computer after all? Using their brains they had us kids fix our own lunch and not bother with all this fuss!
My daughter's recipe of a special peanut butter dish!

Although this event was big for me, Thanksgiving is the all-time feast of the year, and how fun it will be to get really creative and plan for this holiday and Pinterest is offering me all sorts of new menu ideas! Bon Appetite and Happy Thanksgiving!

....and here's to remembering you, Mary Margaret (another cousin) who always had peanut butter sandwiches instead of turkey and the trimmings for Thanksgiving! (If you would like to read about our family sandwich competitions see blog, A New Easy Recipe and read about my daughter's unusual open faced P.B. combo. It would have won our cousin sandwich competitions face-down! Pun intended!)
Read all about how to make it on A New Easy Recipe Blog.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Sale Tomorrow: Vermont Farmer's Market Craft Sale

Little House will be at Vermont Farmer's Market Craft Sale at the Holiday Inn in Rutland, Vermont. Do stop by and visit us!! It will be open from 9 A.M to 4 P.M. My daughter, Hannah will be there showcasing our wares.  There is a full sock rack of 301 pairs of fleece socks, as well as our wool pincushions and house decor.  See you there!

Don't Kill the Box Elder Bugs!

This season we have had an infestation of box elder bugs...For those that are not familiar with them, they are big and ugly and similar to beetles that crunch when you step on them.  Just last night my oldest daughter related the worst experience of her life: when drinking a soda from a can, a box elder bug had crawled into the can and when she drank, she felt it go down her throat and then crawl back up!! How disgusting is that?!! I am glad that I wasn't there to witness it. I might have died or worse, made her panic such that she would have!!

The other day I found one in the bottom of our new washing machine after I had put the load in the dryer!! I am checking to be sure that I have none in my shoes before I put them on each day!!

I have a special rubber-thong-sandle fly swatter but we have made a new ruling...NO box elder bugs are to be killed!!....Squashing them makes too big a splotch, making it necessary to repaint or re-wall-paper!! So instead these ugly bugs are getting treated like an endangered species! They all are to be escorted out of the house or vacuumed up or are getting to live a long and natural life in our house!!

Apparently they are not bugs that exterminators are allowed to kill for they are quite harmless... unless you drink them! Clearly the exterminators haven't had my daughter's experience! But I say that such a warning should be issued: No open soda or beer cans should be left unattended until box elder bug season is over!!

Saturday, October 31, 2015

A Straight but Twisted Book Review for Your Halloween Treat

Wool sculptured pumpkins See my Etsy shop for holiday gifts.
I am an avid and prolific reader and of late, I have been choosing my books according to their price range.  Free is best and next to it, an occasional 99 cent or $1.99 book downloaded on my tablet is best for my budget and already stuffed bookshelves! Rarely do I bother to pay more as there are plenty of books out there in this range waiting to be read. Being an unpublished author, I feel it is my duty to oblige authors who offer their books at discount to become better known, though many of them are already top writers.

I wrote this review as a test to see if I could get it all straight. It was a mystery with lots of twists and turns, not always the easiest of reads for a person with a Lyme Brain and it is a documented fact that I have such a brain. I am proudly certifiable and this Halloween I have no need of mask or wig and furthermore, I have brain scans to prove me half zombie!! Keeping names of characters straight can be a challenge for me, but seeing as how it is a mystery, I will keep the mystery and not use the names of the characters, just in case you decide to read this book. Being the curious person that I am, I couldn't put this book down once I started it! It is called The Villa in Italy, by Elizabeth Edmondson. She has written many mystery novels!

This is the mystery of four apparent "strangers" named in a will of a woman who owned a villa in Italy. None of them knew the deceased woman. Her will was anything but straight forward. The four individuals that gather had to find the hidden codicil in a puzzle-answering-sort-of-way, exploring why this unknown woman knew of them and had listed them in her will. Of course, the reader wants to also know what part of this glorious estate is left to each and why.

Although most book reviews don't tell the end of the story, without naming names I am going to outline the entire mystery, though it shouldn't spoil the book in any way. You will soon see why. The villa in the end is given to her granddaughter that she had never met and the land to the man who was the grandson of a lover of hers, who had killed the granddaughter's bad brother, who turned out to be the granddaughter's father's wife's son, who was actually fathered by his mother's lover, who was the husband of her best girlfriend who was trying to hide from him as he was a mean and evil person. She couldn't divorce him as it would expose her best friend's father's wife of infidelity, who she believes is her best friend's dear, but unloving mother.

This same best friend had a brother who married this granddaughter's sister, who is actually only a half-sister, as their father had an affair with a woman who was the daughter of the mysterious woman with the villa. Her daughter, a scientist during World War II had helped develop the atom bomb and wouldn't marry the father of her child as she preferred to be a career scientist and and later died of a radiation burn and was comforted and attended in her dying days by her scientist friend, a colleague, who was also invited to the Villa and named in the will, though he doesn't know that the villa belonged to his friend's mother.  He finds his religious faith while he is at the villa and is happy to leave science and the horrors of his creation and its destruction behind him.

The granddaughter's girlfriend is rescued by her friend's father who is ready to expose his wife's infidelity, divorce her and leave his unhappy marriage, and he uses this threat to insist that his daughter's friend's husband not contest the divorce that his daughter's friend has long wanted, thereby restoring her peace and even her livelihood by leaving his company for her to manage in his retirement. The granddaughter's friend's mean husband had fathered the granddaughter's brother who is instead really her father's wife's son, though her father didn't know at the time he married his wife that she was pregnant.

Another woman invited to the will reading was a well-published author, who had found and rescued the mysterious woman with the will, though she didn't recognize her picture as when she found her, she was covered in a pile of rubble from a bombing in England and had to be dug out. Fortunately this author woman had powers to hear voices that others did not hear and hence tipped off rescuers to her whereabouts and that is why the mysterious woman with the will named her in her will and while at the villa, she is stimulated to write again having given up writing following a break up with her girlfriend. She was also rewarded by the mysterious woman's young editor friend who encouraged her to write again by promising to publish her next book. So if you will, the mysterious woman of the will saves this author's life just as the author has once saved hers.

The woman who inherits the villa undergoes a transformation, and falls out of love with the brother of her best friend who married her sister, though it is really her half-sister.  All this happens as she begins to fall in love with the man who inherits the land, though both are temporarily content with their own healings brought about through their personal and renewing discoveries while at the villa and are more ready to move on with their lives with new found career changes, making them complete and happy as they proceed to allow their love relationship to develop more perfectly.

The father of the granddaughter who inherits the villa appreciates that his daughter doesn't want to carry on the family business and is delighted that his daughter's best friend will continue to manage his company, which not only will not only support herself following her welcome divorce, but it will also help support his two daughters, the younger one too ditsy to run a company and the other a contented artist sort. His ditsy daughter is the one married to his other daughter's best friend's brother and they are happily expecting their first child, likely to be raised, with love, to be another ditsy-sort of person.

The  granddaughter of the mysterious woman now sees her friend's brother for the shallow person that he is and is happy and ready to move on in her life, appreciating how lucky she is that he prefers her half-sister, who is the one that is ditsy and rather dumb, that she thought was the preferred  and best-loved daughter of her mother, but she now appreciates why her mother never really loved her, as she wasn't her mother at all but instead she is the daughter of the scientist who gave up her rights to her custody so her father, who had an affair with her, could raise her daughter, while married to the granddaughter's half sister's mother.

I am hoping that I didn't spoil the story for anyone that wants to read it! I think that I haven't spoiled the mystery of how this story unfolds, though I am reassured that I got it all straight, I think?  You will have to read this story to check to see! The good part is that this story all ends happily, which is a good thing as I don't think you would like to read my re-write of the ending if it hadn't!!

My husband suggested that perhaps the convoluted twists and turns might be why it was offered as a free book on Book Bub, and suggested that I might want to invest more in my reading books in the future...but I think that this provided much mental exercise and intrigue for my Lyme brain and just as Book Bub Club knows, I might now have to try another of this author's books at regular price!!

It is a good Halloween selection for you...and can be downloaded very quickly right after the last trick-or-treater leaves your door!!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Pilgrimages of All Kinds

It is nice to have directions in our pilgrimages.
I have a friend that just walked  part of The Camino in France and Spain on his way to Santiago. In support of his journey I watched the documentary film about this pilgrimage called, Walking the Camino; 6 Ways to Santiago. I prayed for him as he traveled, requesting that his journey be a personally meaningful experience for him. Pilgrimages, I have learned, are wonderful journeys undertaken as a quest or a pursuit to find or obtain something. Often they help us to get in touch with God and "His" purpose for our life. How important it is in today's busy world, when it is so easy to forget the real meaning of our lives, to take time for such pilgrimages.
This pilgrimage, like our lives is often a rather lengthy journey!
Take time to enjoy the scenery along the way.

Years ago I used to take a yearly pilgrimage to the eastern Canadian Catholic shrines. An elderly Catholic woman made it her life's work, in gratitude of a healing she had received, to arrange a three day, two night pilgrimage and gathered any interested Catholics from parishes in the state to fill a tour bus. We would go "off-season", which decreased the costs of our lodging.  She arranged for English speaking masses and other devotional services, as well as scheduling our lodging accommodations at the Madone House at Cap de la Madeleine at Trois-Rivieres, Quebec.
The pilgrim accommodations across the street from Cap de la Madeleine. 

I heard about this pilgrimage through my participation in a Catholic Women's Guild at my church. Several women started telling stories of their experiences while on this pilgrimage. It was clear listening to them that they enjoyed their trip so much that they returned year after year. I couldn't wait to sign up!

Though I went by myself the first year, I wasn't alone. A few of my friends from church were there and it was a real opportunity for me to meet and make new friends. I was assigned a bus seat mate/ roommate, and I had a great time! My husband supported me by taking over with the kids and driving me to the location where we were to board the bus and then picking me up afterwards.

This pilgrimage stopped at The Shrine of the Sacred Heart in Montreal, where resident monks greeted us and lead us through their outdoor Stations of the Cross. One of my friends pointed out the curled toes of their sandals as they spent so much time on their knees praying.
This is a picture of Father Frederick.

"Our Lady of the Cape" statue at the Rosary Church at Cap de la Madeleine.
We then stopped on our way to Cap de la Madeleine in Quebec to visit the museum and tomb of Father Frederic, one of the priests most instrumental in establishing what has now become the old Rosary Stone Church there. Being a Catholic convert, I had no idea how much Catholics revere tombs and relics of those they consider to be saints! They also love stories about modern-day miracles!

Miracles were have said to have happened at the Cap de la Madeleine during the time when missionaries were establishing the church there. The river is said to have iced-over at a rather unseasonable time so building materials could be transported over the river to build this church. Later the beautiful statue of Our Lady of the Cape was said to have opened her eyes, and another time shed tears. It is now the location of not just this beautiful little Rosary Church but the Baslique Notre Dame du Cap.
Baslique Notre Dame du Cap (Our Lady of the Cape).
The inside of the Baslique Notre Dame du Cap.

The following day we would take a full day's trip to Saint Anne de Beaupre! Its lovely chapels, statues and artwork are more than inspiring! Many other religious buildings surround this beautiful church and each is steeped with stories of the many healings that took place there! On the hillside surrounding St. Anne's are little French gift shops as well as a special French auberge that became a most welcome place to sit and rest our feet while having a nice warm lunch.
Saint Anne De Beaupre.

Rounded structures back of St. Anne's are small altars behind the main altar.
Main statue of St. Anne holding her child, Mary in front of one of the altars.
This is the altar where St. Anne's holy relic (arm bone) is displayed.
The ceilings of each of the smaller altars is done in beautiful mosaic work.
This is the ceiling of St. Anne's, a lovely mosaic depicting the life of St. Anne.
Crutches left behind by people that were healed at St. Anne's.
The Interior of St. Anne de Beaupre showing the main altar.

The crypt church in the basement of St. Anne's, 
Scala Santa, Holy Stairs to be taken on your knees while praying. Very hard!! 
My young daughter left her picture at the feet of this statue of Jesus. Many do..
On the last day we would return through Montreal and stop at Notre Dame Cathedral. It is one of the most beautiful cathedrals I have ever seen.  It is no less than breath-taking!

Notre Dame Cathedral in Montreal, breathtakingly beautiful!
Same picture with different lighting.
A closer view.

The back of Notre Dame Cathedral in Montreal.
We would then go on to St. Joseph's Oratory where we spent the rest of the day visiting the tomb of Brother Andre as well as the rest of the Oratory.  Brother Andre is now a celebrated saint. He was a simple man, who due to lack of education and skills became a simple doorman at the Oratory and greeted the many visitors.Taking his job quite seriously he would pray for those that had come, by requesting the intercessory prayers of St. Joseph while blessing them with the special "Holy Oil of St. Joseph". Pilgrims soon noted that Brother Andre blessings and prayers seemed to have healing power. It wasn't long before a special station was needed to accommodate all those who came to be blessed by this humble and holy man. Again walls of crutches and braces were left behind by people who had been cured.
St, Joseph's Oratory, Montreal, Canada.

Statue of Brother Andre, now officially canonized a saint.
The tomb of Brother  (Saint) Andre.

The actual heart of  Brother Andre at the Museum of Brother Andre.

Saint Joseph's Oratory is now home to a unique international creche collection. It is so beautiful to see the Holy Family done to match every skin color and culture!! There is also a special Hall of Lights that is lit and warmed simply by the many candles lit there, in remembrance of special prayer intentions.
One of hundreds of special creches from all over the world.

Each creche depicts The Holy Family in their own culture.
The life-sized creche.
Hall of Candles is lit and warmed by candles.
Statue of St. Joseph surrounded by votive candles.

Renewal was the purpose of our trips and though each trip was essentially the same, every one was different according to the changing needs that we brought with us.  Enlightenment came in different ways as. We always returned home tired, but re-inspired and ready to live out our faith in fresh new ways. Each of us was strengthened to face whatever life brought us. Sharing our own personal stories and ways that we had been blessed brought encouragement to others and became bonds of friendship. We were filled with new appreciation of God's love for each of us.

I never returned empty-hearted or empty-handed either. Souvenirs filled my bags: books, prayers, statues, prayer beads, all blessed but best of all were the stories of my trip! It was as though I had been in a time warp. Despite being gone for such a short time, our pilgrimage had taken us to a bit of heaven and we returned happy and "centered" in our faith.

As I read One Million Steps, the story of one person's Camino journey, in support of my friend's pilgrimage, I realized that each of our lives is a pilgrimage. A person doesn't have to leave home, to make a pilgrimage, though they are truly wonderful opportunities. Any of us can take the time to reflect and pray for a renewed spirit and draw closer to God. While our lives are filled with the seemingly small and mundane commitments, we can choose to view them as "steps in our life's pilgrimage". Whatever we live-out and lift to God in our everyday life becomes "our personal and Holy way" to God.

Pilgrim resting his tired feet during his Camino Pilgrimage.
Pilgrim in wheelchair being pushed by his best friend and helped by others too!
 Camino sign with well-worn boots. Our bodies often become like these boots!
Pilgrimages are about perseverance and patience, asking and thanking God and taking time to recognize the many blessings we receive as we journey through life. The very actions of our everyday life, be it loving our spouse, mothering our children or grandchildren, caring for an ailing relative, pursuing a career or just being there for our friends or neighbors and/or doing the various tasks we undertake in our jobs are ways that we can honor God.

Needle-arts, my way of meditating. Each stitch  a step in my pilgrimage.
Needle-arts fits right into these sorts of meditative practices. Making stitch after stitch as we create a quilt or crochet or knit an afghan, or scarf is no different. Every activity we undertake can be "our way" of connecting to our creator. I have a little sign over my sewing table that reads, "I saw that. (signed) God". I laughed when I saw this thinking that He IS indeed watching over my sewing. I have come to realize that while no one but God can make or do anything perfectly, it is my job to do my best and thinking of God sitting right there on my shoulder, along with my mom, watching my every stitch or action is a way of making me accountable to not do less than I am capable of doing. There is much truth to the old adage that "anything that is worth doing is worth doing well".  It is part of our life's pilgrimage to be all we have been created to be.

Mother Teresa taught her sisters that "doing small things with great love is" what our lives are all about! It is important for me to remember that even the smallest task done well is of consequence to God.

However much I plan and scheme and rush about, I need to also appreciate that my life is a marathon, not a sprint! It is about taking time and pouring my heart and love into each day's goals and accomplishments, however small. While taking deliberate journeys to sacred places can be very transforming, pilgrimages aren't so much about where you go, as much as they are about taking time to reflect and re-fresh our perspective where ever we may be. Our life's pilgrimage takes place wherever we are and opening our hearts in our work and relationships is what makes our pilgrimages satisfying and rewarding,.. thanks be to God!

This blog is dedicated to my friend, S.N, and to my readers, with a special prayer that their life's pilgrimage be filled with purpose and joy!

(Note that these pictures are not my own, but rather pulled from images on line at these various pilgrimage sites. I credit the individual photographers for inviting us all to take whatever sort of pilgrimage best suits us. I especially appreciated the picture of the pilgrim in a wheel chair.  I took a friend of mine in a wheel chair on one of my pilgrimages. I am not so very strong myself, but miraculously a bee flew up my dress and stung me several times...bee sting therapy can eliminate pain, and so I miraculously had little discomfort on that trip and my joy doubled to share it with my dear friend, besides which, we got access to special places that I wouldn't have otherwise seen!