Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A handmade Christmas Greeting ...

I was recently browsing one of my favourite sites - the auction site
(It's a breath of fresh air compared to ebay!) As I was looking for something in the CRAFTS CATEGORY for my Mum. There are quite a few different things in the handmade items category but on that day, I ended up in the handmade greetings cards category.

I have bought from Cobweb-cards before and I can't recommend their cards enough.. something really different available there, a great line of fairies, spiritual, pre-raphaelite, gothic and fantasy 'out there' cards for sure... but then I espied a new seller called paintinglemonjane who was offering made to order cards from £2.99 and I couldn't resist giving them their first sale and trying out what they had on offer. I picked up the listing that was advertised as an A5 card with a wedding image, but it was possible to have whatever image I wanted.

I have been so delighted that it prompted a blog! :D

As the advert said:

Personalised Greeting Cards

made by Helen Jane©
This auction is for a personalised commissioned hand made card, lovingly created for you to your specific requirements. 

Card shown is a decoupaged bride. Embellished with gold borders and a specially created tag
. Card shown is just a sample. Your card can be embellished with whatever you wish and to whom you wish. 

A matching tag and insert is designed to suit your card. No two cards are ever identical. 
Birthday, Engagement, Wedding, Anniversary, New Home, Graduation, Christmas
. The list is endless. You just let me know who your card is for,what sort of things they like and leave the rest to me. I will come up with ideas for your card and let you see a prototype for approval before sending it off to you. Your card can include a verse in your insert or left blank. 

Your card will be sent in a card backed envelope for safe arrival to you.

However, once we started communicating it became clear to me that the service being provided was something extra special. For starters, the service includes a novel 'virtual card' service.. so that the buyer can see the card, have changes made and really get the card that they want, without the card even having been made in reality first. I have to say it was a stand out service and I will buy from this seller again. They say that a picture paints a million words so here is the card and the process of it being built.

I sent three images that I rather liked for the card and the cardmaker let me know what she thought would work best. In this case, we went for the Reindeer and aurora image, which was on an old postcard I own.

I am however - (unfortunately for paintinglemonjane) - a fussy old moo! So, we tried a few variants and had several emails between us discussing elements etc. She dealt with all my requests with patience and dignity - a true professional. The end result can be seen in the slideshow and above. I was delighted with the card and my Mum was totally delighted with it too! Paintinglemonjane even posted it to my Mum for me.

I highly recommend paintinglemonjane, with her shop entitled 'Sweet Smell of Success'. She is also a talented portrait artist and offers graphite pencil and pastel portraits from £20-£40. Click here to view her listings!

Click both items on Auction and in her shop to see ALL the items available.

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All content, unless otherwise noted, is © ArcticRainbow and may not be reproduced in any form without express permission from the author, except for credited links directly to articles or to the main site. (I don't bite...just ask!) :D

Monday, December 21, 2009

Light out of the darkness....

Hi all,

As you can see it has been a whole month since I blogged last. It's been a horrid month one way or another, which I shalln't go in to too much. I've been healthy and fine, but work has been the real bugbear!

Anyway, long story short... whilst I shall miss the income, my temporary contract comes to an end at the end of this year (although I have actually finished now before Christmas) - I shall not miss the job, the place or the mentality of it. Nine months been and gone.. amazing really where the time has gone! The upside is though...that for you, *hopefully*, I shall have more time on my hands to share blogs with you all.... Although as I join the ranks of the unemployed, I shall have to try and find work or a course to go on!

OK.. so December is a fairly active month of course.. many things going on with the run up to Christmas. It all started with the opening of christmas down in town... which I attended, took photographs and video.. and then lost the whole lot on my camera during processing... I could have screamed! So, that was that blog that never was! If I am honest though, last years event was much better and this years, was horrid because the weather suddenly warmed up, the snow melted, it rained and was slushy, wet and slippery everywhere.. not ideal conditions for an open air event set in the main road. There were dances from lots of children dressed as elves, more dances from elves, then more and some more. To be honest it was tad boring this year for me. It's been the same every year.. and needs a new dance routine. The kids enjoy themselves and that is what matters though - its really nice to see their faces, all so new to life enjoying what is new to them.

One element that was new this year was some kids doing a bit of circus like acrobatics...all standing on top of each other in a pyramid. Given the weather conditions, it was immensely brave of them! The one thing I did miss were the Saami girls.. as there were none this year.. and so no dancing from them. Santa was there though.. the REAL Santa too.. in his sleigh pull by a Reindeer. Darn it, I just remembered that I had taken some lovely close ups of that Reindeers face too.. oh fiddlesticks! Oh well, can't be helped! I snapped an image from the local you can see what the elves dressed like. Elves dress in grey or red, those dressed in grey were the ones doing the acrobatics.

Moving on, December 6th was the Finnish Independance Day, naturally a flag day and if it is a weekday, then it is a day off. Sadly this year it was a Sunday.. so no such luck! People light blue and white candles on that day and many watch a Presidential ball on the television. (Here is a link to my blog for Independance Day 2008, which explains more.. CLICK HERE

This was the view outside on that day. You can just see the Finnish flag on the flag pole.

December the 13th was St Lucia's Day. Again, I planned a blog for that.. and it never happened, time was against me. Here is the link to last years blog for that too....CLICK HERE

However, I read an article in the local newspaper and it was so sweet and evocative that I thought I would share some images and info from it.

Its tells of 'Children at a nursery waiting restlessly on the stairs for the parade of Lucia to come..their cheeks red with excitement whilst older high school students lean, relaxed, on the balustrades.....The hubbub and buzz stops when the lights go out. Two tonttu (Elves) descend the stairs with lanterns in hand... 'Shhh! - Lucia kommer!' they say in Swedish... 'Lucia tulee' they say in Finnish... (Lucia comes)

Heads turn as if pulled by a connected yarn ...towards some white dressed characters. Lucia is in front of the procession. Her face sinks within the darkness, but in their hands are a candle. There on the steps the group sings Lucia's songs. A belt of stars shine brightly in the sky, its message silently twinkling of 'Santa Lucia' (as they sing her name). They sing many songs in both Finnish and Swedish and between the lit candles of songs of joy, peace, love, courage and honour. Small groups continue with the candle sticks into the foyer. The lights are extinguished, the main lights come on and the atmospheric moment is over'.

Doesn't it sound SO lovely?

Now.. I have to tell you that my husband always jokes with his dry wit...that they must look really lovely whilst being chaperoned by at least two burly men carrying heavy duty fire extinguishers!! :D

Pretty girl, Ellen Husberg was crowned Finland's National Lucia this December 13th. This image from the yle website.

Lucia's role includes visiting old peoples homes, childrens schools and other establishments. In the early morning of St. Lucias day, girls will dress up and bring cakes and drinks to their parents.

Here is a clip of Ellen Husberg at a Radio station, whereupon another Lucia comes (Looks to be a member of the station crew actually), sings to her and offers cakes. I always love the song they sing! (Swedish language but still of interest even if you cant understand it!)

Here are some links to read up more about St. Lucia.;273;14384;14387;32;6850;2231;6854;7392

It is now Winter Solstice time, Kaamos beauty surrounds us. Now, just like the snow that surrounds me...there will be a 'flurry' of winter blogs to present... so watch this space!

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Is it really that time again?

Well, I hope that you are healthy and happy out there.... I am getting over a cold that has been through the whole family and I now have the mother of all tickly coughs left to show for it. I don't have my tonsils anymore, so I often have that problem. That and losing my voice. (That's when the flags can be seen flying from our roof!)

How is it where you are? There are lots of bugs and supposed piggie flu here. There is actually supposed to be more up here in Lapland than down south. I don't know how true that is as in reality 'they' are not actually testing for it, just happily giving out the vaccines and the tamiflu. Someone I know recently had the vaccine, got ill with it then had the tamiflu afterwards to sort it out! I know of a few teenagers that have had a rough ride with the vaccine too. I've wondered about why there is more swine flu documented up here and have considered that it can't be helped by the amount of awful spitting that people do up here - personally I find it disgusting - but its a big thing here - especially with the younger generation - I'm sure it can't help!

So....I've elected NOT to get a) the flu - any kind of it - LOL! b) the H1N1 (swine) vaccine c) or the tamiflu - no matter how pretty its chemical formulas pattern is . I don't believe in it personally. I suppose it is a difficult call for parents of young kids though. However, I myself still would not give it to my child. I do not believe it has been tested enough. I have had the regular vaccine for flu though - many weeks back.

It seems to me that so many here call a good old fashioned cold the flunssa (flu) when it's not. Flu (to me anyway) is totally debilitating - something you cannot continue with, everything aches and you have a heck of a temperature too. It's waaaay different from the common cold and even that is bad enough. (That's why it kills nasty invading green aliens in the movies! LOL)

OK, enough of that... I just hope you ARE well.

At work the Christmas Tree has been up for the past week or so, decked out with lights and a lush amount of snow :D The external doorway has candle lanterns hanging from it - sorry the picture didn't turn out well, so I don't have one of that to show. It's actually quite hard to photograph in dark snowy conditions and still capture 'the ambience' without it all going fuzzy. There is a lot of talk about seasonal get togethers and the time ahead of us. I actually MISSED the works do when I was ill - which really miffed me as I organised the whole event! Oh well.

If you are wondering what the grey unit is next to the tree it is the battery warmer that cars can plug into on a timer - ingenius.

Yes, people are full of that merry seasonal word - the big tree is down in town again, set in the middle of the roundabout awaiting its decorative lights and the village's opening ceremony. This is the link to last years blog!

.....Anyone would think it was CHRISTMAS! :D

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Sunday, November 1, 2009

Hyvää Halloweenista Happy Hallowe'en...

I hope that you all had a nice and safe Hallowe'en/Samhain! :D

I was making and baking most of the day and wore myself out - not having the time to blog this yesterday!

It is obligatory in this house to carve a pumpkin lantern, although in previous years here, I have had to make do with a melon as pumpkins were not in the shops! I made pumpkin cookies - a firm favourite in this house and pumpkin pie. I used up the last of the pastry by making jam tarts and some beefy dog treats for Dexter.

Jakes girlfriend Minna said it was the first pumpkin she had ever even held, let alone seen cut into a lantern in the flesh, although she had seen it on TV. It goes without saying that she hadnt eaten the cookies or pie before either. It is interesting how cultures differ.

More and more Hallowe'en IS being adopted here though. The Tiimari store has endeavoured to include a Hallowe'en range, although I dont think it has taken off very much - up here anyway. (Question to my Finnish readers - What is it like down south?)

Having said that, I am really pleased to announce that after five and a half years of living here in Lapland, we got our FIRST ever Hallowe'en witches this year! As you may have read, Witches fly at Easter here... So it was actually quite a shock to have these three girls, two - sisters perhaps - dressed in Tiimari red witch outfits and another cute little devil! Overall a totally different feel from the Easter Witch outfits and thankfully - for me - very much like Hallowe'en should be! Granted they arrived the day before Hallowe'en LOL.. which was part of the shock, but they still got rewarded with plenty of sweets for their trouble and their daring in coming out in the cold dark snowy night to ask 'Karkki vai kepponen?' (Sweets or trick? in Finnish)

Don't they look great? They made my day!

I've heard of some people refusing kids anything - telling them to just come back at Easter instead, that Finns do NOT do Hallowe'en - but I would not be so harsh - they are kids after all and just out for a bit of fun. In the UK it really is trick or treat and the tricks are NOT nice! So, they are lucky to be refusing in Finland - or they might find their bins turned over or their windows egged and floured!

We also had three lads on Hallowe'en itself, but they were not really dressed up apart from a painted on moustache (?) and purely opportunists in my book - probably heard from the girls that this was a good place to visit! Still, they were not to be refused some sweets. My eldest son had answered the door and said, 'Oh we dont have any sweets' - the rotter! So the kids ran off and when he came inside and told me what he had done I was really quite cross, so much so that I made him go out into the snow to find the boys and make them come back! (LOL....'Big Witchy Cackle!')

In actual fact, I think my pumpkin looks more scary today than yesterday... LOL...

Ok, so what else.. Oh yes, Dexter, our Husky had his second birthday last sunday. I meant to blog this then, but time just escaped me. I cannot believe where the year has gone since I blogged his 1st Birthday images!

He got a couple of new toys one rope bear, which no long looks like a bear..LOL.. and a squeaky mouse with a long tail, which actually is still intact - as he has fun tossing the tail up and making it squeak. We bought that because he has a wicked fondness for hunting voles in the forest and doing the same to them! Poor things...

Oh and of course he had his birthday dinner and candle - when we sang 'Happy Birthday' to him.. all the time he was just looking at his dinner thinking 'Cant I just eat it???' :D

I am glad to say that it is back to being pretty in Lapland. We have had some beautiful sunrises and sunsets this past week or so. It truly is one of the things I like most about living here. These photos I took when we were driving home, so please excuse the mucky windscreen! Beautiful colours, almost sci-fi ish and showing us the arc of the planet - up here at the top of the world... lovely!

The other images I have taken, I have put together as a slide for ease. Enjoy and have a nice week!

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Lapland - it ain't pretty all the time folks!

I took these two beautiful photographs, on the 8th October. It was the day after our Fluffy died. It was a beautiful day and I found myself thinking it was a gift, serving as a reminder that life goes on...

However, I thought I would show you the flip side! This is the yucky season part 1.. the part two is at the start of spring...on the other side of snow time.

As you can see it has been foggy, icy, melty, misty, slidey, slippy, sloppy, wet and yucky! (Pretty much matches how I have been feeling of late I guess!) *THANK YOU ALSO TO EVERYONE WHO HAS SENT ME MESSAGES OF CONDOLENCE ABOUT FLUFFY, VIA THE BLOG OR PRIVATELY - IT WAS MUCH APPRECIATED. LOVE YOU ALL....*

Nice huh?

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Snowy, Fluffy sadness

Wednesday brought much sadness into our home, as we lost our darling dog Fluffy, who was a much loved member of our family. She was 11 years old and had been suffering from cancer of her leg for some time. She was the most beautiful and unusual of souls, a family protector and loving, affectionate friend to the end.

It was during the early summer when we noticed there was something wrong with her paw. The local vet gave her three courses of antibiotics. The first helped, but then it got worse and the vet said that Fluffy would need to have a toe amputated. So we saw another vet in Rovaniemi who performed the procedure and took samples for testing. We had to wait a few weeks for that to come back, as it had to go to Germany of all places - and when it did, it confirmed our worst fears - that our sweet Fluffy had cancer. The vet explained that the type of cancer she had was likely to reoccur in the area of the original site, but it would not move to internal organs. He suggested a total leg amputation or putting her to sleep as an option.

Fluffy just after her op.

The latter was an absolute no-no. We discussed the amputation, but felt that it was such a radical move when she was aging. We wondered if she would cope and decided that she would. We booked the appointment for the operation, but by the time it came to be, Fluffy had three other sites of cancer on her leg and the worst had appeared - literally overnight - on her shoulder. This made it absolutely impossible to remove the leg, as the cancer was so invasive there already.

Again we were offered the option of putting her to sleep, but at that point she was not in pain and was still Fluffy, playing, eating, drinking, going for walks - albeit more slowly. We just couldn't do it to her. In most respects she was still normal.

Fluffy loved the snow, being half Samoyed she was just made for it, with deep, dense, luxurious hair and when we moved to Finland, she delighted in it. We hoped that she would continue to live long enough to see her favourite element of snow once more, but at the time that seemed almost impossible.

Then my Mother told me of someone in my home town who had been using Manuka Honey from New Zealand for their dog and whilst very expensive, we decided to give this a go - anything was worth trying for our Fluffy. It is made by bees that feed on the flowers of the Manuka bush - the New Zealand Tea Tree which is related to the Australian Melaleuca tea tree. Manuka honey therefore has anti-bacterial properties. It can be used as a topical antibiotic and antifungal for wounds that fail to close. Instead of buying ready made cream, we bought 'Spirits Bay' plastic jars of Manuka Honey from the UK and Mum posted it to us. Each jar was £28 and had a UMF (Unique Manuka Factor) of 20. Here is a site that will explain this fantastic helper from Mother Nature - there are three reviews worth reading.

We applied the Manuka Honey to Fluffys cancer sores and to the bumps that were under the surface and bandaged her up. She also thoroughly enjoyed eating it daily. We also gave a little bit to Dexter, our Husky, so he didn't feel left out. It worked. Gradually the largest sore on her shoulder closed up. Amazing. It certainly perked her up and helped her. We knew we were fighting a losing battle though, after all this was cancer. The big, dark, horrid b**st**d of C.

She bore her illness with dignity, she was an excellent patient, putting up with washings and dressings and having to wear a Tshirt over it all. Although her walks with her beloved Daddy and brother were getting shorter all the time, once in a while she would do the whole long walk and still thoroughly enjoyed it. She still ate and drank as normal. She was still relatively happy in herself.

We discussed several times as a family, that in the event of her pain becoming too great that we would have to give her the final ultimate gift of release. No matter how hard that was. The vet had said that this type of cancer can, with effort on the part of the human, be handled quite well, but would in all likeliness suddenly change.

And so it did. Wednesday morning we woke to find Fluffy in a lot of pain. We gave her her normal painkiller. Then another, yet still she was unable to find a peaceful spot. My husband called me at lunchtime to discuss the situation.

Around lunchtime the snow started. Well, actually it was a blizzard. By the time I came home from work, we had several centimetres of snow, at least 25. I knew it was for Fluffy.

I took her outside into the front garden and she buried her face into the snow and just wanted to lay there. She was so pleased to see the snow! We had managed to get her from this summer to snow time, I was so pleased about that - for her.

By the time I got home she had just had her fourth painkiller and we were by that time concerned that it would also be causing her stomach pain. She looked so sad, something she had not presented previously. She was dragging her leg, whereas before she had been able to put weight on it slightly.

I knew. I said it was time. Our youngest son (Fluffys best friend) was adamant.. no, not yet. Our elder son thought that she might be having an off day and be better the day after, as had happened once before. My husband was unsure of which way to go, but we knew this day was different. With each minute he was thinking more and more as I was - hard as it was. We discussed the fact that because Fluffy had had more medicine than usual, that we were nearly out of fact just two left... and we doubted that the vet would prescribe more if she saw her. Finally, with much sadness, we all agreed and called the vet.

We had previously arranged with Annukka our vet, that when and if the time came, that she would come to our home, rather than us have to take Fluffy to that 'scary place' that she didn't like. We would rather that she left this world from the comfort of her loving home, with all her normal things around her.

We all kissed and hugged her and gave our tear filled goodbyes and I asked Fluffy for forgiveness. She was anaesthetized (as it is done prior to any operation) - this we asked for - to save her from any further pain, then, when she was fully asleep, the vet euthanized her.

God, we were so upset... naturally we still are. Its taken me a few days to get my head straight enough to do this blog for her. We always will be sad and upset about her passing, as Fluffy was special. Our younger son especially has taken it very hard as Fluffy has been his best friend and confidante since he was five or six years old. They were like twin souls and he is naturally left bereft and empty. I feel so much for him. We are all feeling it, going through a gamut of emotions, the worst of all being guilt - but his pain is so sad and nothing can help it, for his Fluffy is gone and he misses her so much.

Many may not understand this kind of loss. I make no apology for it. For I, We, loved our dog - we adored her. She was more than a dog. She was our friend who was like a human, just wearing furry fluffy clothes. She was one of us, she was family. We are less of a family without her and the world is a worse place without her.

The last photo that I took of Fluffy was quite rightly, with her beloved best friend.

Fluffy was buried the following day at the local pet cemetery. Our son refused all offers of help and carried her across the deep snow and then laid her down into her final resting place, then covered her over with the prepared soil. We left special candles on her grave. So gut wrenchingly sad.

This is a compilation of Fluffy photographs....

Goodbye our darling girl. RIP forever baby. Sleep well, be whole again. Wait for us on the Rainbow Bridge.

(With thanks to Anita for this wonderful Rainbow Bridge link): It takes a while to load, but is certainly worth viewing.

This is how we would like to remember her. Beautiful, Elegant, Snowy, Fluffy.

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All content, unless otherwise noted, is © ArcticRainbow and may not be reproduced in any form without express permission from the author, except for credited links directly to articles or to the main site. (I don't bite...just ask!) :D