And the Countdown Begins

This is a family of Christmas lovers. Once we have taken time to reflect on the sacrifices of the military we are ready to plunge into the good will of the season. My grandfather was a soldier and he always instilled in me the reason for Remembrance Day and to never forget its importance. Our being able to celebrate the holiday season as we wish is only one small part of the freedom we enjoy today.

Yesterday was the day for our annual Christmas Chocolate making. My daughters and I have this tradition to make large batches of peppermint chocolates which we use as gifts for numerous people. Teachers, bus drivers, friends, hair dressers and a multitude of others are the recipient of these sweet treats; very few are consumed in-house.

We must look like a production line at Santa’s work shop. Starting at 7:30 am the fondant is mixed and then rolled and flattened into small patties. At times the kitchen was the scene of what appeared to be a snow storm. I was covered head to toe in white splotches and at one time I waved my hand in front of me to clear the snowy haze.

Approximately 66 dozen chocolates were lined up in the cold on tables on the deck. Once they had set enough the next phase begins. Each little treat has to be dipped in melted chocolate and once again returned to the cold.fondant

The dipping is also a messy endeavour and drips of chocolates joined the icing sugar on my clothes and on the floor. Clean-up involves a lot of vacuuming, mopping and wiping down the counters and stove.

 

Don’t get my wrong, once all the work is done and the chocolates are packaged we all agree that it is a fun project and the joy on the faces of the recipients makes it all worth while; plus a wonderful bonding time for Mom and Daughters.

By 3:30 pm we part ways and there is talk of hot bathes and resting. This was the official kick-off of the holiday season.

Advertisements

Naming your Baby

This is for all you folks planning on starting a family. I want to give you my advice on how to choose a name for your little one. First of all, say the name out-loud, include first, middle(s) and last name. If you are all already expecting and the little one starts kicking up a storm, it means they do not approve. By saying the name out-loud you will avoid names that just do not flow well or honestly do not make sense. You can avoid naming your son “Perry Perry” for example.

Next tip, if you want a Bobby or Barbara, use that as their first name, not middle name. My father, sister and “the old guy” are all examples of people being known by their middle name. This creates all kinds of issues with legal documents. Custom officials can be very picky about names on passports. I recall one time when my Father was at a bank and had to sign a document. He turned to my Mom and asked “who am I today?”. Not only did he use his middle name but also he switched around how he identified with his initials. Sometimes he used the first initial and middle name and other times he would use first name and middle initial and a variety of combinations of the same. Today he would likely not be able to get a passport with his variety of names.

Another issue with people using their middle name occurs during a medical emergency. Recently “the old guy” had to be transported by ambulance to emergency and later spent time in the local hospital. Everywhere he went they called him by his first name and he did not respond immediately. Finally, I asked them to make on note on his chart that he identified by his middle name. Near the end of his hospital stay he was answering to both names. Spare your new-born this confusion.

Now the real issue with yours truly. Please do not think the need to use a funky spelling of your child’s name. If there is a readily accepted spelling of the chosen name, go with that. I have never met anyone yet who would automatically spell my first name correctly. As soon as I am asked for my name I start spelling it for them. As I say L. I. L.L, they make note and the pen is posed to make a curvy Y, when I continue with I.E.. This totally perplexes them. You may decide to go with a historic name, a name of a character in a book or even from Greek Tragedy but you must be aware that spelling will be a challenge for their lifetime. When preparing to continue my education after high school I applied for my birth certificate and was shocked to find out that my grandmother had filled out the paperwork for my birth spelling my name with a Y. At this point in my life, all my medical and education documents identified me as Lillie. To make it simple I paid the government to amend my birth certificate. It was so much easier than trying to change my personal history.

Now that I have expressed my opinion on how to name your child I am sure that you will still make your own decisions. Good luck to you and little Igor.

SPRING; WHERE ARE YOU?

Ever the optimist I just planted my canna lily bulbs for this summer. Looking out the window I can see layers of ice pellets that have fallen for the last two days. I tried to shovel the front step and it was like lifting chunks of cement with my shovel. Now there is a heavy downpour making the ice slick but the temperature is rising and hopefully combined with the rain, the ice will soon be gone. My gardens are sealed in the ice cover so as you may have already guessed I planted the bulbs in buckets of dirt in my basement. With any luck they will be well on their way to maturity when the weather decides to match the calendar.

I have visions of these canna standing high above a copper boiler; rescued from a flea market years ago, surrounded by white million dollar bells draped over the side of the boiler.

Last week we purchased a lovely outdoor sectional to spend the summer reading and resting, during the all too short summer months we are allotted. We left the cushions covered with the plastic to protect them from the forecast weather. Yesterday I had to go out and retrieve one of the cushions from the other side of the deck. Oh yes, freezing rain, ice pellets and plain old rain were not enough; wind had to show up too with this weather mix. To not be left out, the weather network is showing snow to arrive in the wee hours of the morning. Mother Nature has a wonderful sense of humour.

Saturday I attended a fitness conference in Kingston and the MC noted that only Canadians would show up during this spring-winter storm. Some of the attendees travelled from Peterborough, Ottawa and Montreal. Kudos to true Canadians who are not intimidated by Mother Nature.

I am itching to get outside for a walk but will content myself; as I did yesterday; to stay dry and safe inside. This is a day to enjoy the extra cup of coffee and binge watch television. There is a batch of soup in the freezer to round out a comfort day. Don’t fret, I am sure that spring will arrive…sometime.

Good-bye Winter

It is no secret that I love winter. There is nothing cozier than sitting by the window, with a good book and watching the snow swirl around outside. Going for a walk during a snow storm is invigorating. However; this winter-lover is ready for spring. I have already been outside poking at the flowerbeds, checking to see what has survived the cold of winter. Recently I observed a few brave sprouts peaking out of the soil. I cautioned them to not be in too big of a hurry as cold days are still in the forecast. Like teenagers eager to grow up too soon some of these plants will not be denied the right to be first blooms of spring. I raked the debris off my chives and oregano. The taste of spring chives and oregano enhance salads and stews. Soon I will be able to plant my other herbs on the deck and I can create my own salad dressing. No two dressings are the same and the taste is amazing.

This week I observed a splotch of red in the otherwise brown and grey treeline behind our yard. The male cardinal was checking out our yard. We are blessed with many species in our yard. Blue Jays, doves, chickadees, woodpeckers and to my annoyance squirrels all come to check out our feeders.

The most interesting little bird will arrive later with the flowers. Hummingbirds hover over our deck and stare at their reflections in our windows. One silly, little guy hit the window last summer and knocked himself out. Fortunately he was only stunned and after a few moments shook himself and flew off.

This spring we want to create a new flowerbed but recognize that this is a big job for us to tackle. For that reason we have contacted landscapers to develop our new bed. The plan is to keep it low maintenance perennials; allowing us the ability to care for the garden over the summer. We have asked for colour and plants to attract butterflies and repel rabbits. It is exciting to look forward to the completed project.

The Proven Winners Container catalog for 2018 has arrived and we have poured over the ideas for our planters on the deck. We love lots of colourful plants on the deck. Our neighbour once commented that looking at our deck from her back yard it looks like a greenhouse. Armed with the catalog we will go to a local greenhouse and show Lisa what we want to create. She will source out the plants in her greenhouse and make suggestions of substitutes for plants she does not have or might not be suitable for our climate. Back home we will follow the layout in the catalog and plant our containers.

Once all the containers are in place, the furniture cleaned and placed we will be able to sit back and enjoy the spring and summer weather. This will be our go to place to enjoy lunch, drink our coffee or other beverages, read, entertain friends or just sit and take in the beauty. Welcome spring!

Traditions

I recently heard a psychologist discussing the drive some people feel to purchase the perfect gifts for Christmas, with little regard to cost. This psychologist maintained that people remember the traditions of Christmas long past the euphoria of that perfect gift. I began to think back to my childhood and she was right as the memories I treasure are not of any particular gift but rather the traditions my family followed.

Christmas morning we had to wait until my father had returned from the barn chores and had eaten his breakfast. It was the only time of the year that Dad decided to partake of a second cup of coffee. Oh, how he loved watching his three children squirm in anticipation of getting to tear into the colourfully wrapped parcels beneath the tree. It was a real tree, I might add. We would trek off to the woods and try to locate that perfect tree. One year Dad was busy at work and my brother and I chaffed that we would not get the tree in time to decorate for Christmas. Off to the woods, carrying an axe, my brother and I found what we felt was the perfect tree. We chopped it down and found it was too heavy for us to carry even between us so we dragged it up the path to the house. This was not a white Christmas year and the fact that we slugged the tree through the mud resulted in a very dirty tree. Dad stood the tree up against the clothes line and washed our perfect tree before it could be taken inside. This tree was often discussed around the family dinner table.

Real stockings were put out for Santa to fill but Mom grew tired of sticky, hard candy getting stuck in the toes and replaced the stockings with agate pie plates. A real treat on the plate was a juicy, big orange. Oranges were not a common item in the house. Our Grandfather would buy us a case of mandarin oranges each year. Large bowls of fresh fruit appeared on the table Christmas Day.

Special food was part of the traditions in our house. Our home was the gathering point for aunts, uncles and cousins. We raised our own turkeys and a large bird was always saved for Mom to roast in her large kitchen oven. She would serve carrot pudding with hard sauce, mincemeat, cherry, pumpkin and apple pie.

At the end of Christmas week the same family members would once again arrive to celebrate the New Year. My grandfather would go into Kingston to the fish market and buy large containers of fresh oysters. Mom would turn these little gems into a large kettle of oyster stew. The stew was served with cheese, crackers and pickles. Only one person around the table made a meal of the cheese, crackers and pickles. Apparently oysters are not everyone’s cup of tea.

Once the ‘old guy’ and I had a family of our own we started some of our own traditions. After church on Christmas Eve, pyjamas would magically appear on the kids beds. Breakfast was always turnovers; a tradition we carry on even today.

Special Christmas ornaments, handed down through the family are unwrapped and placed on the tree and around the house. There is nothing of great value, except in the memories of family.

The wonderful thing about traditions is that they can be started at any time. Whether it be taking a drive around the community to take in the glory of all the lights of the season, cooking a special recipe that only appears at Christmas, donating to the local hospital, church or mission, to assist others or something that is only special to your family, you too can create a tradition.

Take some time this year to start your own tradition and have a Merry Christmas.

The Magic of Christmas

I have been indulging in syrupy, romantic, feel good Christmas movies. This past week-end I noted to “the old guy” that the movie plots were:

  • boy meets girl
  • they hate each other
  • boy and girl fall in love
  • a crisis tears them apart
  • the miss-understand is resolved
  • boy and girl fall hopelessly in love and they live happily ever after
  • THE END

Not to sound like I really don’t enjoy these movies I must back track and tell you how I love the settings. I think each movie begins with an aerial and street shot of the same cozy, Christmas town with a different name. Christmas decorations abound everywhere to create the setting and it always ends with a gentle snow fall, even in California. There must be snow to be a Christmas movie. A recent movie focused around Christmas magic and involved a mysterious Christmas Stocking that kept giving clues to happiness for the distressed family.

This movie made me think about the true magic of Christmas. For me the magic is the decorations, food, music and general love and good will that envelopes people. People are more willing to donate to food banks and various charities this time of year. Everywhere folks are wishing each other “Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, or Season’s Greetings”. There are many variations to avoid upsetting anyone who does not celebrate Christmas but you still want them to feel happy and included in all the euphoria.

The distressing issue around this Christmas Magic is that like a light switch, it turns off after the end of December. After Christmas decorations are tenderly wrapped and stored away for another year I encourage us all to remember there will still be people in need of a food bank and charities needing cash to support hospitals, research and assisting those in need. Help keep the magic all year and have a Merry whatever.

 

Imagination versus Curiosity

In a recent article that I was sent, the writer; Paul Lima; says that a freelance writer should ABC (always be curious). The point he makes is that a writer should always ask questions whether it be of a person they meet while walking the dog or at a social outing. I totally agree that a story can be found by asking the right questions but I realize that for me there is also the quirky ability to look at something ordinary and see a story. Case in point, I recently was taking a blouse off a wooden hanger when the hanger fell to the floor. When I picked it up I noticed that the initials EH were on the hanger. EH was my grandmother, a women who has been deceased for over 60 years. How this wooden hanger found its way into my closet I am not sure. I know that it has been there for over 40 years but this day I saw it as a story. What kind of clothes have hung on it over the years? Did it once hang in a closet in my grandparents farm-house, holding one of my grandmother’s cotton house-dresses or was it a place of honour for a black or maybe blue, crepe dress for special occasions. It would have been worn for church, a wedding or a funeral, as these are the only places my grandmother would have gone to dressed up. Perhaps the dress would have been accessorized with a string of pearls and a lace trimmed handkerchief would have peaked out of the long sleeve. I do remember finding a faux Persian Lamb coat in a cardboard wardrobe and this hanger would have been strong enough to support a heavy coat. What kinds of stories could this hanger tell about the clothes that graced its shoulders?

Was the hanger shocked by the clothes that I use it for? There would have been nothing prim and proper hanging off it over the past years. Styles have changed so much since my grandmother first hung this wooden hanger in her closet.

The point that I am making is that an ordinary clothes hanger may have its own story to share with the world. I wish that I could ask it (ABC) to tell me about its life but alas it is only a wooden hanger.

Paul Lima is correct is telling freelance writers to be curious but sometimes a crazy imagination can produce a story too.

The Great Key Hunt

In our house the keys have a specific home to enable us to always grab the keys when we need them. The exception to this is when we back the car out of the garage to allow us to get at the lawnmower and look after cutting our lawn. My habit has been to leave the keys on a shelf on the garage until the lawnmower is returned to its rightful place.

Yesterday when I went to retrieve the keys from the shelf they were nowhere to be seen. I asked “the Old Guy” if he had picked them up and he advised me that he had not seen them. That is when the ‘great key hunt’ began. First we checked under the wire shelving and generally looked around the garage. We checked the recycle bins. No keys were found. Next place to check was the car, no keys. Checked under the car.  Returned to the car with the “Old Guy” in the backseat and myself in the front, checking between the driver’s seat and the consul. No keys but we did recover a pen, a missing camera lens cover, container of dental floss, not sure why dental floss was there, and a small cardboard box.

From the car we moved into the house and checked all the rooms. No Keys! We then walked the yard thinking the keys may have been in my pocket or on the mower and dropped somewhere along the path the mower took. No Keys! Checked under the shrubbery thinking they may have dropped from the a fore mentioned pockets or mower. No Keys! At this point “the Old Guy” made me stand still while he patted me down, just like when I go through security at the airport and trigger the alarm with my artificial hip. I told him I had already checked my pockets.  No Keys!

Returning to the garage I remembered that I had been eating a nectarine and perhaps I had tossed away the pit and keys together. I held my nose and emptied out all the garbage. No Keys! “The Old Guy” went in the house and did the same with the kitchen garbage. No Keys!

Two hours had passed and we were both frustrated. Replacing car keys is no longer as easy as going to the hardware store and having a copy made. Key fobs are fancy and costly to replace. I decided to clear my mind and wash the car; after all it was still on the driveway. I let my mind wander trying to remember the exact steps I took after parking the car; but no epiphany.

After washing the car I once again walked the lawn and basically retraced all the previous places. I asked my neighbour to watch along the property line as she was cutting her lawn. By this time we were both tired, hot,  totally frustrated and resigned to accept the keys were lost.

I retreated into the air-conditioning and stretched out in the recliner. In need of a tissue I reached into my pocket. Being sweaty the tissue was wet and I pulled out a small piece about the size of a quarter. I reached again and was rewarded with another small piece. Not to be denied a tissue I pushed further into the pocket and realized that the pocket widened at the bottom and I was able to clutch the whole tissue. But wait, what was that sharp object in the nether regions of the pocket? I looked at over at “the Old Guy” and said “oh my god”. “No, don’t tell me” he said. I tugged on the sharp object and there they were. The keys ! I can’t believe that after two checks of the pockets they did not yield this hiding place. This pocket is obviously a great place to secure things but only if you remember putting something there.

I told my neighbour the keys had been located and where. Her chuckling response was “I think you just had a seniors moment”.

And the Heavens Roared

Last night the heavens opened amid flashes of light and claps of thunder. It is the first big, summer thunderstorm in this area. Many others have happened throughout the province over the past few months. We have experienced heavy rain and wind but mostly the thunder was no louder than a hungry stomach.

The storm brought back memories of my childhood. While I snuggled down in my bed listening to the cacophony of rain and thunder and watching the room light up with each lightning bolt I was catapulted back to an old farmhouse. When an electrical storm approached my parents would wake us from our sound sleep and tell us to dress. We would be instructed to sit in the middle of the living-room well away from electrical outlets and all windows were closed to prevent drafts.

We would sit like that until the storm moved on and then would be allowed to return to bed. Blessedly as children sleep came quickly.

For years I have feared thunderstorms and when high wind accompanies the storm I would hold my breath in fear of what might happen. When the ‘old guy’ and I lived in the country we built our dream house in the woods. Wind became a bigger fear for me and our life there was not without incident.

Shortly after moving in rain and wind arrived as we slept. Why do these things seem to like to interfere with my sleep? I heard a thump outside the window and decided that something had blown over outside. Now my head was beneath the window and when I woke in the morning I peeked out to see what a blown over and much to my surprise I was greeted with the branches of a large tree tickling the side of the house. The tree had fallen parallel to the house. It was a narrow escape and the only good thing was that we now had additional fire wood.

A second wind storm twisted the top off a majestic pine tree and deposited it across our backyard. Once again firewood was harvested. It seems that wind is as dangerous as the feared thunderstorms of my childhood.

For health reasons we sold our beloved home in the woods and moved into a sub-division. The small flowering crab tree in the backyard the small red maple in the front-yard do not pose a threat other than they might be destroyed by the wind but definitely will not damage our home.

Now, back to last night’s storm I feel that I may have overcome some of my fears and only cringed a couple of times when the storm seemed extra close. I listened to the rumble of thunder move away and sighed thinking it was over but like a large jungle cat on the prowl the storm would turn back and roar loader making its presence known once again.

I may have overcome the desire to get out of bed, dress and sit out the storm but some fears linger on. I wonder if my parents had any idea of how traumatic it all was for their children.

Peggy the Pig

Finally a hot summer day without rain. With friends we set out to explore and look for antiques/collectibles/junk. At one of our stops we were greeted by free range chickens who flapped their wings and clucked chasing after us. We thought they feared we would steal their feed.

Antiques/collectibles/junk was stored in silos, barns and outbuildings. This was a former farm converted to a great place to explore and look for that special, unexpected treasure. Old, rusted farm tools, signs, boxes and so much more to try to visualize in your home.

SAM_1830

I ventured into a barn filled with stuff piled on top of more stuff. Cupboards, tables, benches and old baby equipment lined the abandoned stalls. Cats, kittens and bunny rabbits slept quietly among the clutter. Pigeons and raccoons scurried above my head, so this is not for the faint of heart. A new door was open, leading to a hay mow and I could see more treasures in there. With a little effort I was able to hoist myself into the mow and was delighted to see more wooden boxes and furniture. Turning one corner I stopped in my tracks and stood still in shock. Laying across the straw path was a large pink and dark, grey spotted pig. Flies crawled and hovered around her eyes and snout but she never moved. She was breathing so I did not fear that I found a dead critter. I later learned this was Peggy, a family pet who apparently would not have minded if I stepped over her or even on her.

Walking back across the yard I found a beautiful seed mill that sent me hurling back into memories of childhood. The mill is about the size of a small trailer and was used to clean grain before it was planted in the fields. The wooden sides were red, painted wood with a fancy scroll design much like some German folk art. This was a much hated job during the Easter break from school where we were sent to the barn to clean the grain. I took it upon myself to explain to the folks standing around how this piece worked. Grain was poured into a hopper on the top and when the mill was turned on the grain was shaken through a set of screens to remove the chaff and small weed seeds. To demonstrate I did a shimmy. Apparently the watchers did not understand and asked me to do the shimmy again…….hmmm.

After all the shaking and shimmying takes place the clean grain is removed from the mill and bagged for transport to the field.

We went into the house and the silly chickens tried to follow but were chased away by the owner of the business. A few treasurers were purchased but the highlight of the day was Peggy the Pig.