Monday, December 22, 2014

The problem of christmas gift giving

Many people are swept along by the flood of frenzied gift-buying at this time of year.  They are more than willing to go into debt to buy all the presents they think they need to buy for everyone.

Once-upon-a-time people either made their own gifts or bought something simple (and often very practical) and children only received one or two gifts from their parents. These days we are spending much more at Christmas, buying the latest technology and toys and we buy lots and lots.

Our children have never been so spoilt and by the time they reach their teens, they have everything they want. In fact our children have a ever growing expectation of receiving gifts but are not being taught the importances of giving.

When the giving is over, we find that the gifts haven't brought us any further joy or "sought-after satisfaction". Many are put away and forgotten about, others become broken, batteries run flat and for many (surprisingly) are sold on eBay and turned into cash.

According to the USA National Retail Federation, it is projected that Americans will spend more than $600 billions this Christmas. With a population of 316.1 million, that is $1,898.00 per person in the USA. However, just to put that into perspective, Americans have already spent $7.4 billion on Halloween a month before and another $50 billion at the four day long weekend sales starting at Thanksgiving. (source, source) A lot money has moved from the pockets of families, many will still be paying for all of this expenditure throughout 2015.

Whilst Australia spends much less (at around $475 per person or $7.8 billion + $3.7 billion on travel during the festive season) we are still spending far more than many can afford. (source)

And did you know that there is a new and growing trend of "self-gifting"! Buying yourself the perfect gift because no one else can!

I enjoy the tradition of gift giving at this time of the year, especially when it brings joy to others.  However, buying gifts should never place the purchaser in debt or mean that they struggle for months later.  It is about time we started a movement where we encourage others to limit spending, to go for simpler more practical gifts and only spend what one can afford. Instead of giving gifts, why not give of our time and our skills via coupons:
  • offer to mow the lawns/gardening
  • breakfast in bed
  • bake a casserole, frozen meals
  • bake a cake, muffins, biscuits (cookies)
  • make homemade jam
  • make homemade soaps
  • off to do some mending, sewing, knitting
  • ironing
  • piano lessons
  • house cleaning
  • babysitting
  • walk the dogs etc.... 
These are often gifts that children can partake in and are inexpensive and bring so much joy to the receiver.

The other option is a big basket of groceries, some meat, food for the pantry, laundry and cleaning products etc...  All would be gratefully received by many.

The birth of Christ has been hijacked by all and sundry and turned into a commerical circus. We don't know the date of Christ's birth and no where in the bible does it mention observing His birth plus many of the traditions surrounding Christmas are based on pagan events. The truth is, we should remember His birth all year round, not just on one particular date in the calendar.

However if Christians do choose to get together at this time of the year - remember to stay focused on Christ (as we should all year round), enjoy the time with family and friends (as this is always special) and make sure that gift giving is not the main event of the day. Give gift giving meaning, not by how much you spend, but by the thought and love that goes into it.

But most all we need to remember that the most perfect gift, the one that is most precious and everlasting, cannot be bought in a shop, placed under the Christmas tree and its value is beyond words. It comes from above.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. 

James 1:17)

Friday, December 19, 2014

Art Friday: Creating stories around paintings

The breakdown" by Yelena Bryksenkova
Art Friday: Paintings that tell a story

Have you ever looked at a painting and just wanted to create story around the imagine?

The one above is perfect for this sort of story telling. Why is she so upset, has she just received bad news? From whom? Or is she just lonely and living in a new city with no friends around? Maybe she is just tired after a day at work and dreams of something better.

This is Anne Powers, 30 years old, single and works at the Franklin Community Library. She loves her job, she loves the people she meets and reading to the children on Thursday afternoons, but she is exhausted with her life. Not only is she working full-time, she goes to the gym 2 evenings a week, completing a short course in creative writing, volunteers at church on Monday nights, cares for her elderly parents and just broken up with her boyfriend. Life sucks and Anne is feeling very fragile as if she is about to break into pieces. To make matters worse, her cat Emma died last week from old age - she is now alone and doesn't know what to do next. 

Anne is just too tired to even make a proper meal and turn the lights on this evening. 

If only her friend Isabelle would call, Isabelle is such a good friend who lifts her spirits and makes her laugh. Isabelle was so kind the other day, she brought Anne a lovely pot plant to cheer her up and a bowl of radishes. "No, I will call Isabelle and perhaps she can come over and we can sit and watch old movies together, eat popcorn and laugh". Anne realises there is no point in moping about she needs to take control of her life and start sorting things out. Perhaps she taken on far too much.  But first, she plans to visit animal rescue tomorrow morning and find a new furry friend to keep her company. Perhaps she might buy two kittens this time . . . 

This is a great exercise to do with children. Not only does it get their creative juices going - being creative is very good for both young and old, but it also makes them really look at the painting and see the detail.  Each of us will come up with different stories which is why this can be so much fun to do.

Give it a try and let me know what short story you write!

We are never too young to be storytellers :)

In today's Art Friday I have included paintings that are perfect for story telling. It doesn't matter that the story is different to what the artist intended, that makes it all the more interesting. 

By Satomi Ichikawa 
This would make a great story, let your imagination run wild - any thoughts!?
Why is she sitting there - waiting for who?
By Michael Sowa - this requires a very good imagination! Up for the challenge?
"At the tram stop" by Paul-Gustave Fischer
Painintg by James Tissot - What is this girl up to?
By Alfredo Rodriguez - did he strike it rich or perhaps his family suffered great poverty in his absences, did he return?

Painting by Kevin Walsh - new migrants just arriving or perhaps leaving. Where are they heading, why. What will their new lives be like. Perhaps they are running away from a secret, an Agatha Christie murder!!
by Carlton Alfred Smith (British, 1853-1946), "Recalling the Past"
One for the children

Mama Mu by Swedish Jujja Wieslander - this one will certainly get you thinking - a cow on a bike!!   

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Thoughtful Thursday: Hug time

Give someone a hug today.

Hugs offer so much encouragement and love.

Hugs are medicine to the soul.

Hugs are special. 

Hugs say far more than words and leave a lasting memory.

So why is hugging so important? 

Hugs make us feel good
Hugs can lower blood pressure
Hugs alleviate fears and anxieties
Hugs are good for our hearts
Hugs helps in maintain good health and wellbeing
Hugs are a natural stress reliever

Hugs reduce stress in babies
Hugs can have a calming affect
Hugs are a way of showing love and affection
Hugs makes sickness feel a little better
Hugs creates security and safeness
Hugs can make a bad day good.

A hug says "I love you"

So . . . who are you going to hug today?

Don't forget, even your pets love a hug. 


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The setting sun at the seaside

There is something very special about watching the sun setting over the ocean. I don't get to see this magnificent view very often as I live inland, so when I do, I am in heaven so to speak!! Here are some photos I took a few weeks ago of a beautiful setting sun. I do hope you enjoy them. I find sunsets very peaceful.

Did you know there is something like 22 to verses in the bible about the setting sun and around 99 verse about the sun. Its beauty isn't random, God created this amazing view and so often we rush by without even seeing it.

From the rising of the sun to its going down The Lord’s name is to be praised. (Psalm 113:3)

Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also. (Genesis 1:16)

The sun also rises, and the sun goes down, And hastens to the place where it arose. (Ecclesiastes 1:5)

As a child, after Sunday morning meeting we would come down here and walk along the jetty, often with our Aunt. As a child I strongly disliked this walk as I was afraid of falling through the cracks and slipping into the water. We walked long this after the sunset had finished, and now as an adult, it isn't scary at all!!!

Hope you enjoyed these photos :)

The most suitable footwear for the beach. In Australia we call these "thongs" (much to the horror of my American brother!!), in the USA and Great Britain they are better known as Flip-Flops. In New Zealand they are known as "jandals" devised from "Japanese sandals" and proceed "jendel".  Interesting the word thong came from the Old Norse work "thvengr" meaning strap and the word "flip-flops" only started to be used in the 1970s, perhaps not to be confused with the female under garment.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Homemade Harissa makes for a happy husband

What job/task/activity do you do that you do for your husband because it makes him happy?

Mine is making Harissa. 

I don't like making it, it makes my eyes hurt, I start to cough and even though I wear gloves I can still taste chilli on my hands. And, I do not like hot chillies and I don't eat Harissa. I can't even eat what I make.

However, dear husband loves my homemade Harissa so I make it for him and it makes him happy.

I think one of the problems with modern marriages is that many wives no longer do special things for their husbands just to make them happy.  Sadly, we live in a very selfish world where we no longer think its important to "think" of others, in particular our spouses. 

The recipe I used was similar to this one, however I used many more chillies than the recipe recommends:

And like any cooking - the dishes need to be done, but at least with Harissa, there isn't very much to wash. 

I do love the red colours when completed. Its very Christmasy. 


Monday, December 15, 2014

When your child becomes vegan

Dear blogging friends and family,

Its hard to believe that it is almost the end of the year - where has 2014 gone:). Do you think it goes faster as you get older!?

I thought I would share with you my "vegan" journey because you too might have a son or daughter who becomes vegan or vegetation and it can be daunting at first. Or, they may become gluten intolerant, unable to consume dairy or many other food allergies and as a parent they are all tackled the same way.

My youngest son (now 22) came home 2 years ago and said he was vegetarian, one year ago he moved to vegan. As a parent I had two choices - support his decision or not. I decided to support him and learn as much as I could about being a vegan as I simply didn't know anyone who was vegan except for Sandy at "Vegans Eat Yummy Food Too". 

My idea of vegan was lots of lentils, chickpeas and not a cupcake in sight and it never looked very appealing, I discovered this isn't entirely true!!

This has been quite a journey and one that I have enjoyed and found very educational. I have not converted to veganism, however we have made changes to the way we eat which I will explain later.  

So what have I done:

  • I borrowed many cookbooks from the library and read them with great interest and based on recommendations (thanks Sandy), I went and bought a number of books and started my own library. I bought cookbooks for our son so he too had his own collection. One of our favourite cookbooks would have to be Chloe Coscarelli's "Chloe's Vegan Desserts".  She is young and knows how to make vegan baking very appealing. Her Italian cookbook is also very good for vegan and non-vegan alike. 
  • I visited numerous blogs (some better than others) and gathered lots of ideas to share with our son. I learnt how to make substitute mayonnaise, parmesan cheese and only the other day I made macaroni cheese vegan style and it was very good (my son's girlfriend was very impressed). I learnt how to cook without egg, which I discovered is very handy when you run out of eggs and can still whip up those delicious chocolate cupcakes. In fact I have tested my vegan cakes at work and I am yet to find one person that would have ever guess the cakes were dairy free. One of my favourite website is:, full of many great recipes that taste great, including the chocolate brownie recipe (did you know that Lindt's dark 70% chocolate is vegan?). 
  • I started to visit health food stores and look at vegan options and discovered Nutritional Yeast and all the things it can be used for. In fact thanks to this knowledge I was able to help a woman at work who is gluten and dairy intolerant who really missed cheese - nutritional yeast when added to meals, tastes like cheese. 
  • I discovered the many items from the supermarket that are "accidentally" vegan - including a mayonnaise, biscuits and pastry. For a young lad, this is great news.
  • I have "liked" a number of vegan Facebook pages, especially those that alert people to new vegan products at the supermarket or those with interesting recipes such as the very yummy date and chocolate balls (that are dairy free, gluten free and sugar free). This has been very useful. Through one Facebook page I discovered a Coles brand of plum pudding for Christmas, which made our son very happy as he loves plum pudding. 
  • I started to take more notice of labels on products and that was educational on its own!!
  • I watched a number of DVDs including a well know one called "Forks over Knives" and learnt a lot. 
  • Pinterest is a great source for recipes and I have created a vegan folder where I add recipes I like. 

On the home front we switched from butter to a dairy free option (I still have butter in the fridge as its great on roast potatoes) and we now drink Soy Milk (particular because both sons drink soy and its easier to have only one milk in the fridge).  In the freezer I have dairy free pastry sheets and I stock dairy free ice-cream for husband and son. It is easier than I thought and no longer as daunting as it first was. It just requires thinking outside of the box and no it isn't all about chickpeas and lentils and there are endless cupcake recipes to choose from. 

Whilst my husband and I still eat meat, the amount we eat has shrunk and we often have meatless meals. We are also happy to eat a vegan meal when our son is at home (he usually works evenings so not home for dinner very often).  At Christmas we plan to make a vegan cheesecake for all to share and for main course we will have the ham and something vegan as well. 

I think it is very important to support one's children and to learn as much as possible to help guide them down healthy paths. As you can see from the pictures below - these look like very yummy and tasty meals and all vegan.

Have a wonderful week ahead :)


Friday, December 12, 2014

Art Friday: Busy hands

"The Sewing Circle" by Daniel Ridgway Knight (1839 - 1924)

Art Friday: Busy (and creative) hands

Women have had busy hands since the time of the Bible. Women, once all their chores were done - could be found sewing, knitting, quilting, gift making, embroidering, weaving, lace making, mending . . . the list was endless. Whilst women did these crafts for pleasure, many were knitting jumpers out of necessity, sewing clothes for the family to wear, making quilts to keep everyone warm, mending well worn garments. These days, most of us undertake these crafts for pleasure and no longer because we have to. 

Do enjoy these paintings of women with "busy hands". 

"Grandmother sews pants" by Adolf Humborg is one of my favourites.  Grandmother seems to have a very wiggly boy of her lap who thinks this is all so much fun and can't stop laughing. His sister watches with great amusement! 

Also, I would like to wish my dad a very happy birthday today - he is turning 81 and doing so well for his age. He is certainly a man with busy hands - always doing something. 

"A Little Girl Knitting" by Jonathan Guiness 
by Dong Ming Lu, China
"Grandmother sews pants" by Adolf Humborg (1847 – 1921)
by Carl Larsson
"After the Rain" by Peter Taylor Quidley
"Bobbin lace maker at the window with view on the beach" by Edward Antoon Portielje
"Gitte Learning To Sew" by Knud Erik Edsberg (1911 – 2003, Danish)
"Penelope" by Charles Francis Marchal
"An Idyllic Afternoon with Cat" by Jonathan Pratt (1835-1911)
by Lado Tevdoradze
"The knitting lesson" by Charles Moreau
Girl knitting, 1901 Anders Zorn
Knitting in the fields by Charles Sprague Pearce



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