Calm During the Storm

November 27, 2014


The first big snowfall of the season come and so with it the Santa Claus parade welcomed the nice old man in town. The local radio station immediately switched to its Christmas music playlist, gently reminding me what Bing Crosby (and I) is dreaming about. The neighbours already have their Christmas lights lit and flyers for Holiday deals and magazines full of magical scenes of happy families and perfect Christmas sets clutter the letterbox every day. The cranberry bliss bars and snowman cookies are smiling at me through the Starbucks window while the stores are packed with Christmas decor since the day after Halloween. Bloggers are eagerly sharing Christmas crafts and recipes and my email box will soon explode from offers for Holiday events happening all over the country...   
In other words, the Holiday Hustle is officially under way and whether we are ready or not, Christmas is coming. 
It is, in fact, my favourite time of the year, "the most wonderful time of the year, the hap-happiest season of all..." And it's not because of all the above mentioned reasons which are more likely to cause me stress and strive for the best table setting, the best dinner, the best gifts... a la Martha Stuart sort of celebration. No! I love this time of year because despite the general consumerism and corporate pressure to "buy" the perfect Christmas, I know that the Holiday season is all about giving, being with loved ones, helping the less fortunate, sharing love, warmth, big hugs, family time, cozy company right when we need it most. I love this time of year because it makes me take a deep breath, brew a cup of my favourite coffee, slow down and pay attention to what brings me joy and what matters most in my life. I don't always have a plan. But I don't always need one. Sometimes I just need to breath, trust and stop obsessing over doing it all and falling pray to perfectionism, comparison, hectic pace, shopping madness. Whatever I get done will be more than enough. Yes, I will bake the most delicious Christmas cookies, I will weave the most beautiful Christmas wreath, I will write the most heartwarming messages on the Christmas cards, I will cook for my friends and family and set a beautiful Christmas table, I will speak hours on the phone with my mom, sister and little nephew on the other side of the globe, I will visit Irene (who doesn't have a family) in the retirement home, I will attend parties and Christmas markets, I will read and sing carols...
But I am clearly doing that out of a desire for genuine connection with myself and others rather then to look good or out of the sense of obligation. Holiday seasons should give us great breaks and great times. It should be filled with simple quiet moments and little chances to unwind, relax and communicate our core values. We need to focus our energy on enjoying the people in our lives and feasting on each other's touch and treasured thoughts. We may beautifully wrap the gift of kindness, faith, forgiveness, hope and gratitude and gift ourselves with it before giving it to others...
After all, I might actually have plan to help me celebrate this holiday season. I might even have a list to follow this Christmas. Perhaps these "items" I can keep on my list all year long.

There is freedom and calm in simplicity.
And there is calm during the storm.  




Thank you to all of you who commented on my Christmas Cards here on the blog and on my Facebook Page. Thank you to all of you who share my Etsy shop with your friends and readers. Your support is greatly appreciated.
A set of five of my cards is ready to be sent to Jane from Blondie's Journal as she is the winner of the giveaway.





Letters Mingle Souls (a giveaway)

November 18, 2014



All of us at some point in our lives have experienced the joy of stumbling upon a vintage shoebox of old postcards, letters and notes. I don't think anyone can deny there is something magical and special going through a well-crafted handwritten message, salutation or love letter that instantly reveals the personality of the sender not only by his or her cursive script, mistakes, scrabbles, but also by his or her choice of words, choice of subject, choice of card. All of them - forgotten or unknown relatives, old friends and romantic souls - are like characters of a book, a novel, ready to be published and shared with the world. In fact, one of my all time favourite books is a lovely, heartwarming novel written as a series of letters, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. If you haven't read it yet, treat yourself to this book. 
As I have mentioned multiple times already, I am a firm believer in the importance of hand-written cards and letters. It is a life wisdom to invest time and effort to select and buy a thoughtful card, to pick up a pen and express yourself on the paper, to sign the card "Someone who thinks you are very special" and to go to the post office to adorn the envelop with a postage stamp and then to send it to fly. It all requires a certain discipline, a sense of caring for others and a kind of mindset that my aunt, who loves to write cards and still does, possesses. I used to do that for many years. However, I am guilty for falling into the trap of writing not so personal Birthday wishes on my friends' Facebook timelines and quick thank you e-mails on my computer. I can't remember the last time I wrote a letter to someone... Yes, I still send cards for Christmas, but I think-that's it. And it makes me worried about the decline of letters and notes crafted by hand rather then keyboards buttons; about the vanishing of those shoeboxes filled with hand-written memories and legacy of ancestors. I love the efficiency of emails and texts, but we all know they lack the personality and intimacy that only handwriting can create. We've somehow given up beauty for speed and artistry for efficiency. I know cards might be expensive, but we can't measure with money the excitement and the warmth that goes throughout our bodies once we find an envelop with special unique handwriting on it among bills and flyers in our letterbox. Then going inside, while sipping hot coffee, we open the envelop and immerse ourselves in the feel of the paper and the soul of the writer...    


"A good handwritten letter is a creative act, and not just because it is a visual and tactile pleasure. It is a deliberate act of exposure, and a form of vulnerability, because handwriting opens a window on the soul in a way that cyber communication can never do. You savor their arrival and later take care to place them in a box for safe keeping".
Catherine Field




After sharing my Holiday cards last Christmas here, on the blog, I received a lot of asking and suggestions to make them available for purchase online. So, the last couple of weeks, I have been finally working on putting together an Etsy shop where I can offer a selection of cards that feature my original photos. The shop is called SylviaSimpleLife, of course, and for now I am listing  36 different Holiday Cards printed in Canada. All images are carefully selected in order to convey a message of a simple and handmade Holiday season. They are blank on the inside as I wish it's going to encourage the sender to skip the generic Holiday greetings and hand write more personal and special sentiment to family, friends and perhaps strangers.









I am inviting you to celebrate with me as I am giving away a set of 5 cards of your choice. 

1. Visit  SylviaSimpleLife Shop and click on the little heart on the top of the card you like. 

2. You can also favourite  SylviaSimpleLife Shop  and share with me your favourite cards. Each card has a title which I have tried to keep short and simple. 

3. You have more chances to win when you share my shop or this post on your social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterst, etc.) and let me know in the comment section below. 


The giveaway is open worldwide and I will announce the winner on Wednesday, November 26, 2014


I sincerely hope you like the cards and choose them when you send a little handwritten joy someone's way this Holiday season. 




Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support!






Sharing with The Homemaking Party






Pears

October 30, 2014



It's unbelievable how fast this month has already gone like an autumnal leaf falling from the tree. October with its raw beauty, gentleness and fruitfulness has jumped into my box of memories almost unnoticeably. Life is brief, life is quick, life is sweet... and the older I get, the briefer and sweeter life seems to me. 
While strolling at the farmer's market the other day, I found myself drawn to a large display of pears. Someone had arranged piles of shiny yellowish Bartletts next to a wooden crate of egg-shaped green and almost red Anjous, and placed bags of elegant golden Bosc nearby. I didn't need time to decide which ones to buy as I always prefer those naturally beautiful cinnamon-brown coloured, rough textured Bosc which russeting makes them perfect not only for eating and baking, but for earthy autumnal decoration as well. My mouth watered as I was storing my rustic pears into the basket. I caught a thought crossing my mind. The sweet pear is the ripe pear, isn't it. And the pear unlike the apple doesn't ripen on the tree. The fruit is harvested when it is mature, but not yet ripe. Once the pear is picked, it needs time and patience for its sugars to develop; it slowly reaches a sweet and succulent flavour as it ripens from the inside out. Isn't our life similar to the life of the pear. We grow while we are close to our roots, but we become truly independent as we detach from "the tree" and take our own paths. We mature and get wiser as we get older, but we realize the sweetness of life only with time and patience as we evolve from inside out. When we become in tune with our inner authentic selves, we are more aware and attentive as we notice and savour the sublime in the most ordinary moments. Life, then, seems brief and quick, yet sweeter, juicier and flavourful...

What do you like best about pears? 





Pear Puff-Pastry Galette


Ingredients:

1 sheet of defrosted puff pastry
2 pears, thinly sliced
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp. ground pecans


Directions:

Preheat oven to 375° F. Unroll the puff pastry on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
In a bowl, combine butter, brown sugar, ginger, vanilla and cinnamon and mix well. Generously brush the top of the puff pastry with the butter mixture. Mound the pear slices in the centre of the pastry, leaving 2-inch (5cm) border all the way around. Pull the pastry boarder up and over outer edge of the pears, leaving the pears at the centre bare and pleating pastry as you pull it up. Brush the top of the pears and the pastry with the remaining butter mixture and sprinkle with ground pecan. Bake in centre of the oven for 25-30 minutes or until the pastry is golden and the pears are tender. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream , if desired. 


Enjoy and share with someone you love.       




Thankful

October 15, 2014


Feeling grateful, thankful and blessed...
Thanksgiving time arrived with the gift of family togetherness, home cooking, nature wandering, canoeing, hiking, laughter, music, reading, affection... and lots of food. 
Arrowhead wilderness in Muskoka was welcoming, cozy, beautiful and peaceful. The natural world as one of my greatest teachers always helps me cultivate my own voice of wonder, wisdom, humility, and gratitude. Every encounter with the absolute perfect silence, the fine reflection at calm water, the gorgeous leaves and their crunching sound under my boots, the fresh smell of autumn in the air make me thankful for all my senses, my body, my every breath. 
And then came the FOOD - planning it, cooking it, setting the table, serving the meal, eating it and sharing it with people who make you feel good inside and give you a bit of themselves when you are together. Turkey, stuffing, gravy, roasted veggies, cranberry sauce and potatoes - the essential elements of our Thanksgiving dinner. Of course, the pumpkin pie was expected. But somehow this humble sweet strudel that my husband makes with so much love and care; this simple traditional Bulgarian pastry with phyllo dough and fresh pumpkin filling (called tikvenik) convinced me that this would be a perfect way to make this year's Thanksgiving celebration an extra special one.
As we relished in the softest, flavourful and utterly delicious taste of baked pumpkin, walnut nuts and cinnamon, we gave thanks for all that we are and all that we have.   





Pumpkin Strudel 

Ingredients:

1 (1 lb) package phyllo pastry
2 lb (1kg) sugar pie pumpkin
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cup walnuts (chopped)
1 cup sunflower oil
1/2 cup of water
2-3 tbsp powdered sugar ( for sprinkling)


Directions: 

Bring the phyllo dough out of the refrigerator in advance. Cut pumpkin in half and remove the seeds. Remove the skin of the pumpkin, cut it into small pieces and shred.
In a large saucepan, sauté the pumpkin in 1/2 cup oil. Add 1 cup of brown sugar, half cup of water and cook by stirring constantly until water evaporates and pumpkin is tender (approximately 10 min). Add walnuts and cinnamon. Remove from the heat and  set aside to cool.
Heat oven to 350 °F.
Unfold the phyllo pastry. Take one single sheet and drizzle it with 1 tsp oil. Spread about 1/3 cup of the pumpkin filling across the width of the bottom side of the sheet. Roll the sheet loosely into cylinder/cigar-like shape. Place into a greased baking dish. Repeat with the rest of the pastry.
If a rectangular baked dish is used, place the rolls parallel to each other. If it is a round baked dish, arrange rolls into a spiral from the edge to the centre.
Bake the strudel until golden, approximately 40 minutes. When ready, remove from oven and cover with clean cloth to soften.
Serve warm or at room temperature. Sprinkle with powder sugar if you wish.


Enjoy and share with someone you love.



I am sharing this post at Home Sweet HomeFeathered Nest Friday



Autumn Mood

October 9, 2014


"When the birches in the hollow turned as golden as sunshine and the maples behind the orchard were royal crimson and the wild cherry trees along the lane put on the loveliest shades of dark red and bronzy green, while the fields sunned themselves in aftermaths, Anne from Anne of Green Gables exclaimed on one Saturday morning, "I am so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.  Look at these maple branches. Don't they give you a thrill--several thrills?".  

Ah, Lucy Maud Montgomery, you are absolutely right, October is a beautiful month in Canada, filled with colours, magical light, harvest abundance and all the simple pleasures one's heart needs. I love Autumn. I really do! The quiet gracious dance of the falling leaves gives me a thrill every time I witness their movements - they seem as alive in their ending as I feel alive right now. My soul is ready to welcome fall in.
There were some days, some tasks this season that seemed like big insurmountable mountains to climb. I have experienced a great disappointment in confronting unfair decisions, bureaucratic barriers, and confusing and unclear procedures... There was sadness and hopelessness and suffering... But in the mist of all this, there is learning, transformation and growth.
Challenges and heartaches can bring affirmations of unexpected depth, a healthy sense of vulnerability, knowing that life is both hard and good, beautiful and ugly, hurtful and healing. Being alive and living life means showing up not only for the pleasant moments, but staying open for the inevitable difficulties and losses as well, because... it will change; nothing is permanent. By its very nature, life means change and we can not always control the reality. The only thing that depends on us is how we react to it - our attitude. Finding fulfilment in life, I believe, comes from cultivating and nurturing our acceptance and open attentiveness to the full spectrum of life, our ability to embrace with grace and gratitude joy and sorrow, fear and courage, darkness and light, indifference and kindness, bad and good moments. No challenges should prevent us from our strive towards beauty, truth and freedom; they only teach us how to be less naive, more thoughtful, stronger and resilient when we meet them next time.

This perfect October morning, I found myself walking down the pathway quickly pulling the dog. Nature has already painted everything in copper, dark red and gold. Leaves were slowly floating on the water's surface. With all the worries that had occupied the back of my mind, I failed to experience the glamorous autumn landscape. When... suddenly, a big orange-brownish butterfly appeared in front of my face. While circling in the air, its subtle autumn colours blended with the pretty falling leaves from the trees. The monarch butterfly was involved in a very gentle beautiful dance while occasionally returning to me. By performing its pirouettes, the butterfly was seeking my attention. It was this moment, when nothing else in the world matters, the universe was collaborating with me again. It was a silent private conversation between me and the monarch butterfly who was probably having its last autumn dance before migrating thousands kilometres from our city to the hibernation site in Mexico. She wanted me to know something. She wanted to gift me with the most caring, warm and assuring HUG of the universe. "You are alive, Sylvia! You are healthy. You are loved. You are a fighter for light. You are OK! Let it go and breathe into your faith of goodness in life. Dance with the leaves!"
Coming back home, I diced fresh-picked apples from the orchard. I put them into dough and gently kneaded it with my floured hands. I formed wedges and put them into the oven. The room was concurred by the smell of baked apples and cinnamon. I made coffee. I sat on the sofa. I gulped down a sip of the hot reviving brew and took a big bite from the buttery flakey warm apple honey scone.... and said to myself "I am so glad I LIVE in a world where there is Autumn!" 






Thank you my dear friends for your endless support and words of encouragement. 
Happy Thanksgiving Day to all of you who will celebrate this weekend! 










Inspiration

Blog Archive

 

All content copyrights to Sylvia's Simple Life © 2011-2014
Blog design by: Broken Road Creative