December 15th, 2006
pine boughs

the book is finished.
aside from a few minor changes. and i am starting to feel as if i am being released from it’s grasp. winded. stretched. needing some time to just be. there is much to tell about it later, it was written two years ago this january, rejected six times until it found the right publisher. then two of my manuscripts were accepted basically in the same month. I revised them both over the summer, and since september I have done over 400 illustrations (on top of moving accross the country and not moving into a home for two months). i can’t believe it myself.
the wolf and i go for a walk this morning and it is almost as if i am feeling the wind on my skin for the first time in months. we traipse through the neighborhood and the grounds at the castle, picking up pine boughs that broke off during a recent storm. the first breath of christmas enters my lungs, and i throw the branches over my shoulder. they bounce behind us as we make the journey home. the wolf being a work dog keeps looking up at me and the branches to make sure everything is in line, it is his job to oversee any work that occurs. and i feel like we are a team. partners in harvesting the christmas spirit, in the form of ‘found’ decorations.
i have become accustomed to having this white being at my side on my travels. we are alone for the weekend and I plan for the two of us to decorate the house, listen to x-mas music (lucky for the wolf that he is deaf so he won’t have to hear me sing along at the top of my lungs), read some good books, and bake a little.
we place the boughs on the porch and go inside to warm up some lunch. i have been listening to CBC Newfoundland lately broadcast on the internet. today is a phone in show about people reminiscing about the x-mas wishbook (catalogues), in canada it was the Simpsons/Sears catalogue whose three inch thick x-mas edition was coveted and fought over by children nationwide. while listening to the thick newfie accent of some of the callers, I am overcome with such a strong feeling of missing my mom and nana at this time of year. the tears fall uncontrollably. they were always busy knitting, sewing and baking. x-mas was always homemade for us and had little to do with stores and shopping.
i cannot recall a x-mas as a child that I wasn’t surrounded by fabric scraps and wool for months before. i’ve written before about the handmade socks in the stocking, and slippers and the thick flannel p.j.’s. and the food. all cooked on a big black woodstove. a steamed carrot pudding with a white rum sauce. just thinking about it makes me teary.
no matter how much i try, i cannot get into a christmas that is about going to stores and having to buy things that people don’t really want or need. just give me my crochet hook and some paper scraps.

Dec 15 2006
2:18 pm
Debbie writes:

Thanks for reminding me of the memory. I wish the big Sears book was still around so my son could do like I did. My sisters and I would go through and mark the pages of the special gift that we would like Santa to bring us. Have a happy holiday. :)

Dec 15 2006
3:02 pm
finelyspungirl writes:

Hey Keri, congratulations on the book! Yay for you! And a big hug (from a stranger whom you’ve inspired) for missing your family and sharing with us the lovely ‘homemade’christmases you used to have. :)

Dec 15 2006
3:09 pm
kristine writes:

Thanks for sharing such sweet reflections. I am sitting here with scraps covering the couch making my 4 year old nephew some cloth “action figures”…

Dec 15 2006
3:17 pm
ann writes:

I spend hours on the internet every day and have never felt compelled to respond to a blog. But listen: Over the past few weeks, I have been going through hell trying to decide how I want to live the rest of my life. I was facing homelessness, no job, no money. And I am a well-educated, previously professionally employed person. Someone recently asked me: What do you want to do? All of my life I have been wanting to write and I have been running away from that want all of my life. Now it is time to stop.
Keri, every day I come back to your blog to get some courage. Thank you. And The Sea by John Banville…the best!

Dec 15 2006
4:47 pm
eliane writes:

Thought you might like this one:

Dec 15 2006
6:18 pm
Judy Wise writes:

Every year my maiden aunt would sew pajamas for my 2 sisters and myself for Christmas. Every single stitch sewed by hand. She was a quilter and our pajamas had rick rack and lace … by the time I had 2 daughters of my own she made them 2 sets of identical pajamas on one Christmas; they were 3 and 4 years old and the photographs from that year are my favorite from any Christmas in my life. Thank you for jogging that memory. I love your blog. And triple congratulations on the book manuscripts and illustrations. You stretched and did it. Now the rest and the pride.

Dec 15 2006
6:50 pm
Velvet Brick writes:

blessing to you and white, Keri…
loved the trip down memory lane…boughs and all

Dec 15 2006
8:48 pm
Gayla writes:

Oh wow congrats Keri! I am super thrilled to hear about your book. Your wolf is beautiful.

Dec 15 2006
9:22 pm
dukeo writes:

dear keri,
what an accomplishment!! congratulations!! you never cease to be an inspiration, a beacon of light in the dark – if you could finish your book and all the illustrations with everything you had going on in your life than there is no excuse for someone like me not to create as i know i should.
i was moved to tears reading about your christmases with your mom and grandma. i miss mine so much at this time of the year.
my grandma gave me homemade christmases and taught me to knit and sew ( and so much more). i will always cherish the handmade gifts and appreciate having experienced the real spirit of christmas through her love. thank you for sharing your memories. merry christmas*

Dec 16 2006
9:56 am
Hal writes:

As the years go by, I am moving more and more towards the hand-made Christmas and away from the store. When I see on TV footage of people nearly rioting to get a cheap plasma screen TV or video game, it makes me sad and wonder what’s going on out there. It also makes me glad that I am not among them. One of the hand-made things that I am going to give my wife this year is your Artist Survival Kit. She is an artist ( and I know that she’ll make good use of those tools. Thanks’ and have a wonderful holiday.

Dec 16 2006
12:52 pm
&rea writes:

Hi Keri,
Wow, I am so surprised that you mentioned CBC Newfoundland on your blog. I’m originally from Newfoundland (currently in Calgary, AB) and I can’t make it home this year for the holidays. This blog is beautiful.

Dec 16 2006
12:52 pm
&rea writes:

Hi Keri,
Wow, I am so surprised that you mentioned CBC Newfoundland on your blog. I’m originally from Newfoundland (currently in Calgary, AB) and I can’t make it home this year for the holidays. This blog is beautiful.

Dec 16 2006
12:52 pm
&rea writes:

Hi Keri,
Wow, I am so surprised that you mentioned CBC Newfoundland on your blog. I’m originally from Newfoundland (currently in Calgary, AB) and I can’t make it home this year for the holidays. This blog is beautiful.

Dec 16 2006
3:55 pm
janice writes:

…oh the simpson/sears wish sister and i would play “pick”: if one was sitting on the left side, they would get to pick first, then your sister..until you picked everything on the page and them giggle fits would ensue…
i, too, listen to cbc on my computer and the beauty of that is i get to pick which region i want to listen from and i listen to the Halifax broadcast everyday…the familiar accents, hearing that traffic is backed up on Barrington, or that the the NSCAD is having a Gallery showing…it does get me teary eyed and thankful that my office has a door.
the homemade…i miss that too. my grandmother would make my sister and i each a long gown for our Christmas concert…and then there is all of the homemade food…shortbreads, cream puffs, homemade fudge and caramels slowly cooked on the stove….the turkey, the gravy & mashed potatoes..
as the only sister (of 4) that moved away to the Prairie, I am painfully and emotionally aware of what I am missing.
Each year my sister’s and I exchange handmade gifts…a tradition we started a few years ago and I must say it is my favourite part…
simple and meaningful…it feels so much better…i don’t do malls.

Dec 16 2006
11:24 pm
susanna writes:

Congratulations on the book, Keri! That’s great news! CBC Newfoundland? I’m going to look that up tomorrow morning. My mother-in-law is giving me a subscription to Our Canada magazine? Have you heard of it? You would LOVE it! My mom recently sent me her recipe for carrot pudding and white sauce…mmmm…it reminds me of home, too.

Dec 17 2006
9:12 am
Kaye writes:

Keri ~
Congratulations for completing the book! Your Living Out Loud was our long-time group of creative cyber friends’ selection this year. We “work” though a book together as often as we can. And I have to admit, facilitating LOL was my favorite to date.
I plan to hand make little books with your Survival Guide as its contents for our next exchange. They are going to love it!
I can just picture you and White Wolf making your neighborhood rounds. Our furfriends can be a lot of work but oh how they repay us in spades!
I guess remembering Christmases past with those who are not longer with us could be bitter sweet. My mother passed away a couple of years ago and I sort of expected to feel an empty space.
But it did not happen that way. I still feel her presence with every one of her recipes that I cook, with every corny joke and giggles attack. I feel her spirit as I go about creating memories for my children and grands just as she did. Not just at Christmas. She is always with me. She is part of me. A very good part. Bless her soul.
And bless your Mother’s and Nana’s sweet souls, too. They are ever in your heart. Easy to understand whence your giving nature came.
Blessings ~ Kaye

Dec 18 2006
1:23 am
Alex writes:

Yay!!! Another book! Its been a hard wait but I am sure it will be weill worth it!

Dec 18 2006
6:15 am
spiral / cate writes:

well done on the latest book. i thank you for your perseverence and learn from your dedication.
warmest wishes for these colder days.

Dec 18 2006
9:31 am
ama writes:

it’s so nice that you make home-made gifts. i’ve always set a goal for myself every eid to do the same, but in the end the only thing that’s home-made is the card on the store-bought present.

Dec 18 2006
11:59 am
Swirly writes:

Congratulations. So proud of you!!

Dec 18 2006
12:55 pm
chickengirl writes:

I can’t wait to see what you have in store for all of us. Congrats on the book and I’ll be the first to go out and get my copy :-)

Dec 18 2006
4:21 pm
shelley Noble writes:

Congratulations on completing the book, Keri. Well done all around!!
Your Christmas is the Real Christmas. All of those lovely, warm holiday moments and memories live on in everything you do, all your life.
Sending much love to you and the dear white.

Dec 18 2006
7:46 pm
Dominique writes:

Congradulation for your book Keri. I just wanted to wish you a very merry Christmas. I am sure you will make it magical for those around you, in your very own way :) One of my favorite ways to make gifts, is to bake something…cookies, butterscotch, cakes…If you were one of my neighbors, and that by some chance i’d have met you on the street and talked a bit with you once in a while, i’d take a guess and knoc at your door to bring you ginger cookies…but since it is not the case…I’m sending you a whole buntch of mental ginger cookies in an imaginary metal box…hope you like them! Joyeux temps des fêtes!!! ^_^

Dec 18 2006
11:55 pm
jenny vorwaller writes:

for what it is worth, and i know it is hardly not much at all, through a computer…
{h u g}
merry christmas keri, hope you have those paper scraps and nothing but goodness this year.

Dec 19 2006
1:15 pm
Connie writes:

Congradulations on your book!!!
My husband and I finally decided to stick to our guns and do christmas the way we have always wanted to. We baked cookies to give as gifts, or we are giving away things of ours that we know others would appreciate. I realized how much more effort and love goes in to making your own gifts.
It has been great, except I am not really sure how to respond when people do not really appreciate my gift or think it lesser then- for the very reason I think it is wonderful.
It hurts my feelings and I know I shouldnt take it personally, but it is hard.
Has anybody had this experience? and does it keep you from giving homemade gifts?

Dec 19 2006
5:05 pm
Angela Rockett writes:

As always, a wonderful post. I really enjoy your writing – it really places me in the moment you are sharing.
Merry Christmas!

Dec 19 2006
8:52 pm
4 writes:

Dear Keri
I am so happy that you finished another book! Congratulation!
Your words always encourage me to write, just write … not for money nor publish. THANK YOU!
Merry Christmas!
Kisses & hugs

Dec 20 2006
2:59 am
Alex writes:

Dear Keri, You are such an inspiration! I can’t wait for your new book! And how lucky is the wolf with such fun weekend plans coming up?! :)

Dec 20 2006
4:17 am
amy writes:

First, congratulations on the book.
Keri, you are so lovely…thanks for sharing your ruminations of the season. I appreciate it so very much.
May you find peace and the precious spirit of your mom and nana at this time, in special ways.

Dec 20 2006
4:41 pm
Megan writes:

I can’t wait for your book! Congratulations.
I’ve so wanted to somehow get back that special Christmas feeling from my childhood–the sweet smell of caramels bubbling on the stove, and homemade flannel pjs, handmade dolls and their delightful little clothes and quilts, making christmas tree decorations from felt and yarn and Elmer’s glue, and the construction-paper-chains–and oranges and nuts in the toe of my stocking. Lovely!
Again, congratulations and Happy Holidays!

Dec 21 2006
7:31 am
Homa writes:

I love you!

Dec 21 2006
11:01 am
Dale writes:

Congrats on finishing your book! Our family, and many others across Canada, used to order from the Eaton’s catalogue. The National Library of Canada has a website where you can search the pages of old catalogues from the 1880′s to 1970′s, including Simpson’s and Eaton’s. For a nostalgic trip down memory lane,

Dec 21 2006
2:10 pm
linda writes:

i love your work and it is inspiring to know that you are pushing through the exhaustion to get to the thing you know you love doing…keep remembering that piece…the work is your work, feel the joy of it, the beauty of it the play of it, the whimsy ofit and hopefully, in return you will feel the magic it brings to so many of us!
YEAH! on another piece of magic.
can’t wait to see it, hold it and take it in…i promise to honor it a bit more now!
merry, merry and by gosh, by golly have a holly jolly xmas.

Dec 22 2006
2:47 am
pixie writes:

i always love your warm and scented memories and sentiments. you have lived a life that is so different from the way i grew up and so close to how i want miles to experience life and holidays and winter. all of your stories mean so much to my life and my family’s. thank you, sister. xoxoxoxoxoxo kiss the wolf’s lips for me…

Dec 22 2006
4:49 pm
nadine writes:

Just a quick note to wish you and Jeff a magical, peaceful Christmas. Thank you for sharing your journey.

Dec 22 2006
7:59 pm
~Michelle~ writes:

Lucky the wolf is deaf! My doggie loves to sing and I cannot even listen to some music, let alone sing, for fear she will set up the most gawd-awful racket by enthusiastically joining in.
I cannot buy meaningless consumer goods either, but I did enjoy buying imported foods from the gourmet foods aisle and setting up little gift baskets for my loved ones.

Dec 22 2006
8:11 pm
NessieNoodle writes:

First, Congrats on the compeletion of your book. that is wonderful…
Second. The last paragraph sums it all up for me. I am having the hardest time this year. I go to the store look at the “stuff” and leave empty handed each time. why do we torture ourselves with all of this…
I am with you crochet hooks and scraps all around!

Dec 24 2006
4:25 am
Sophie writes:

Stoped by to wish you, your husband and the white wolf a Very Merry Christmas!!!

Dec 24 2006
10:26 am
m writes:

merry christmas from Edinburgh!

Dec 25 2006
4:47 pm
[a}ma writes:

Merry xmas

Dec 25 2006
9:27 pm
Ash writes:

Merry Christmas Keri…
Greetings from India!

Dec 25 2006
11:41 pm
littlepurplecow writes:

Handmade gifts are the best. And I was indeed excited to receive “Living Out Loud” in my stocking this morning. Thanks for taking the time to make it. Merry Christmas.

Dec 26 2006
10:49 pm
mel writes:

Hi Keri,
I’m new to your blog and greatly enjoy it.
We gave our 6-year-old daughter “Tear Up This Book” as a stocking stuffer, and she loves it.
Please do more children’s books.
Season’s Greetings.

Dec 29 2006
3:41 pm
Brianna writes:

Happy new year, Keri!

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