Thursday, December 31, 2009

Now That It's New Years Eve ...

... Here are a few Christmas Pics

(I know I'm late, and I could do and comment on many more, but time is flying in what promises to be a busy day, so here's a somewhat hurried and incomplete post with apologies to Thesha who got left out here but not on Facebook. Happy New Year!)

For Christmas I remembered my tie and my seasonal suspenders, so I donned a white shirt for Christmas dinner which we had on Christmas Eve. I can't remember when I actually dressed up for Christmas Dinner like this. We actually had two dinners, the second on Christmas Day because there was plenty remaining for a reprise and even for subsequent meals. We're not a large clan, and we do get a pretty big bird because we all enjoy the main meal(s) and the leftovers.

Nikki Dee also got dressed up for the dinner, but as soon as she was put into her red dress, she became very anxious to be whiskered like Santa. The resourceful Cuppa found a way to make it happen for her. What a funny, little girl.

Here she poses with Daddy, who is also Santa-hatted. By some miracle, she condescended to actually look at the camera for a second.

We remained in our comfies for all of the unwrapping on Christmas morn. To me, it looks like Zach is thinking that Daddy should open the presents more carefully in order to recycle.

Cuppa, also in her comfies, did her usual thing by taking scads of pictures. We have a system: she takes 'em and I process 'em. Doesn't seem fair, eh? Actually, I had my camera out and took my fair share. Otherwise, I couldn't have taken this one, huh?

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

What's Been Keeping Me Busy

Just in case anyone might want to know what's been going on here in Anvilcloudia, aside from Christmas that is, for the past week, here's the news.

My computer is about a week old, and it's taken a lot of time to get it the way I want,and I'm not done. I'm plugging away but getting distracted a lot. It's okay because there is no rush. Although it came just in time for Christmas (or close enough), it wasn't exactly a gift, for I had been saving up for a long time, and this simply seemed to be the right time to make the purchase. Both Cuppa and I were running fairly old machines, and I could visualize them both flaming out at about the same time and was anxious to avoid that scenario by upgrading at least one while the upgrading was good, so to speak.

After almost a decade of using laptops, I reverted to a desktop model. You get more bang for the buck that way, and I am appreciating the bigger monitor (22 inches), even though my laptop had a 17 inch screen. Apparently, those who declare that size matters, are correct. We are now like many families and seem to be at the point where both Cuppa and I will each continue to have our own computer. Since I expect that hers will always be a portable laptop, I felt free to tie myself down with a desktop model with the multitudinous wires that it entails. Let's just say that I won't be moving it any time soon if I can possibly help it.

I was able to afford a pretty high end machine, partly because I over-saved. Computers prices have dropped considerably since my last purchase, and I had set aside more than enough money to buy one with lots and RAM, speed and storage space. Therefore, it will take two months rather than one month for it to become an obsolete, old clunker.

Technology changes fast, not just the computers themselves, but the software. Today, I purchased and downloaded Photoshop, and despite having used previous versions for years, I felt like a tourist in a strange land because CS4 is so different than CS2. It keeps life interesting though. I ordered a Photoshop book and will manage to muddle my way through.

So, other than the usual Christmas busyness, that's what I've been up to. I must hie to bed now, but I promise to bore you with some typical Christmas pics very soon. It had better be soon because it's almost New Years for goodness sakes and it will soon be very old news.

Monday, December 28, 2009

A Final Nod to the Ghost of Christmas Past

Standing in the grocery store checkout line just before Christmas, I couldn't stop my hand reaching out and grabbing a can of cashews to place into my cart.

Dad wasn't much of a shopper. In fact, he may have been the only person on the planet who is worse at it than I am. But for many Christmases in the eighties and nineties, he made sure that there was a can of cashews under the tree for me. I'm not sure when it started and stopped as dementia may have prevented him from continuing the tradition in his last few years. Perhaps Mom covered for him then; I simply don't remember.

His last Christmas with us, and I use the word, with, very loosely, was eleven years ago, and if I was ever gifted with the traditional tin of cashews since, I certainly don't remember: not after Mom's last Christmas seven years ago, for sure.

I had really forgotten all about it, but this year, my memory was triggered whilst standing in the checkout line, and I reached for both the can and the memory. It's just a small thing, a very small thing, but it warms me somehow.

Note: This should be my final Christmas Memory post for this year, which I think is the rather remarkable fourth post about my reveries. Thinking about the past is, undoubtedly, a sign of my own aging, although I hope it's a long while before I really consider myself old. I also hope that more memories will surface next year. Actually, I already have one in mind; I was going to post it this year but didn't get around to it, and it's past time to move on.

PS: After playing on the word, hooking, in the last post, think of what I could have done with this one. But I resisted. Aren't you proud of me?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

I was Once a Hooker ...

... and I think I was Happy enough whilst doing it.

I wanted to reminisce about hooking this Christmas stocking earlier, but it was stored at Thesha's, and I was unable to retrieve it to take a picture. So, when it came out of hiding on Christmas Eve, a miracle occurred (as befits the season), and I managed to remember to snap a photo. As best as we can reconstruct the past, I would have hooked this item in the mid-eighties, so it is the best part of twenty-five years old. It is hooking too, as in rug hooking and not as in knitting.

Thesha, our oldest, received a kit in late childhood or very early adolescence, and made a very nice stocking for herself. She followed this us with one for her younger sister, Althegal, although, if memory serves, it was Mom who finished it. Next year, we think that Mom bought a second kit and hooked a stocking for me. Come one more December, memory tells me that I didn't want Cuppa to be left out, so I took up the cause and laboured on a stocking for her. I can remember sitting in our brown reclining chair in the family room by the side door and hooking happily.

My stocking and Cuppa's follow the exact same pattern, but we both free-styled at the top where the pattern simply called for plain white. Although I certainly didn't mind the exercise, I must confess that everyone in the family has since renounced hooking. I mean, it was fun while it lasted, but hooking is not something that you want to make your life's work. At least we didn't.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Good Day Anticipated

This day, on years that it occurs, is certainly a favourite day of the season — a highly appreciated day anyway. Sometimes, it doesn't transpire in the way that I will describe because we have company in the house (and that's okay too), so it goes differently then, but we're back to just Cuppa and me this year. Yes, I speak of The-Cooking-of-the-Bird day.

Some years ago, in fact many years ago now, Cuppa decided that in order to relax and enjoy Christmas Day more, the turkey should be cooked ahead of time. It works well and never seems like warmed-up leftovers — not by any means. I pound the dried bread into stuffing crumbs while being serenaded by Christmas music, and Cuppa does all of the important skill-based stuff. If all holds true to form, as the day unfolds, I will at some point around midday head out into the cold and bring burgers and fries home for lunch. We seldom do this fast food meal but it always seems good and right on this day of the year.

It's a quiet, togetherly sort of day, and I like it.

I don't know if I'll be posting again before Christmas, so I take this opportunity to wish all a very Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Special Moment

Come on, now. You have to admit that I've been pretty good lately about not inflicting too many grandchild photos and videos upon you, but I really can't resist posting this one.

To set the scene: I was relaxing after Thesha's birthday dinner. Nikki Dee had just spent about ten minutes demonstrating certain intuitive motherly traits by covering me with layers of tissue paper. The tissue paper from Thesha's gifts had been scrunched into a bag, but Nikki Dee had commandeered them one by one, unfolded them, and lain them on my chest. The video clip begins with her beginning to remove these same coverings ...

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Thirty Years Later

Thesha celebrates her seventh birthday (above), and here she is thirty years later (below). That wheel of time will simply not cease its turning.

Congratulations, Thesha!

Friday, December 18, 2009

There is Hope

It's been a tough few weeks, but things are looking up around Anvilcloudia. Yesterday, we went into the city to do some shopping, and neither of us crashed. I was not in the position of barely being able to shuffle my feet around the stores but actually had some energy. After all that, as I was preparing a sandwich for light supper after lunching out, I actually caught myself whistling and feeling somewhat enlivened. Last night at bedtime, I began reading A Christmas Carol out loud to Cuppa. I had printed the thing off, from The Gutenberg Project, some time ago, but wasn't able to read it to her due to continual coughing fits (for puzzled newcomers: AC reading to Cuppa is our sometime, bedtime ritual). Today, the thought of shopping for a turkey and other necessaries doesn't daunt me out of hand. My nose has stopped running, and my throat is no longer screamingly sore — just somewhat sore. Finally, I am beginning day four of an antibiotic regimen and have some confidence that my infected ear will mend and unplug itself by Christmas. Phew!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Short Story Made Long

That dadblasted Jinksy just had to post about her memory of Christmas Trees, and that got me into exploring my own memories. In the exhumation process, I thought, "I'll bet we have old pictures that I could post." That, my friends, caused me a few hours work: searching, scanning and fixing (a little) old photos. So, rather than a ten minute piece of prose, it became a project of several hours duration. It's okay, though, as I, bit by tiny bit, endeavour to add old photos to my what I call my heritage folder.

I suspect the following picture dates to 1956, but it is possible that I could be a year out on either side. Most of the tree is visible along with my maternal grandfather and my uncle (his son) in the frame. Grampa is holding the hockey stick that I must have received earlier that Christmas Day as I sit cross-legged on the floor. I had forgotten all about that print hanging on the wall. I liked it, but I don't think it came with us when we moved to Ontario in 1962.

The next picture is obviously from the same Christmas, but includes my father. The tree, looks a little sparse and uneven, so you'd think it must be real, and you'd be correct. I doubt that artificial trees existed in 1956, and if so, they'd probably have been a lot more expensive than a real tree. In fact, I don't recall my parents ever using an artificial tree until they toned Christmas down a little later in life and decided that a little, artificial one would do just fine. That decision took place after another big move. Oddly enough, Cuppa and I decided that a little tree would suit us just fine after our big move a few years ago.

In the photo (still the one above), the construction set that I remember has been erected to my right (your left). I had recently described it to Cuppa, and, voila, there it is. In the photo below, it is 1958, and I am older. I think I was quite taken with the my wave, but somebody should have told me that it didn't suit me so well: too much forehead there. Maybe I was channeling Elvis.

However, I'm supposed to be talking about Christmas Trees, and I'm being diverted by other things that I am seeing in the photos So, let's talk about trees. Aside from the fact that they were real, which I have already mentioned, I have one specific memory of actually getting a tree and bringing it home. It's just an ordinary memory, nothing special, except to me for some reason.

It was in the evening, possibly when I was ten, the age of the above photo. I remember walking a few blocks with Dad to a corner lot one evening. I presume it was after supper because he'd have been pretty ready for a meal after walking home after a full day of being on his feet at work. Maybe I remember because the guy who sold us the tree had a funny voice. I think he'd had an operation and been given some sort of mechanical device to help him speak. My father was very polite and gave no indication of anything unusual, but either he or I mentioned it on the walk home.

I don't remember that walk home, but I do know that we took the tree up the backstairs to our second-story flat. We would have left the tree outside to settle for a few days before bringing inside to decorate. The next photo is the 1960 tree with my Dad and Uncle Charlie ...

... and here's my best friend, Nelson, by the same tree. (Nelson and I reconnected ten years ago. I wonder if her still reads this blog? He did for a long time but never chose to comment.)

Finally, here's one with of mother decorating the 1961 tree, the last tree before moving from Montreal in 1962.

At some point in time, I became the main decorator. At least I was for one year. In the year that I am remembering, I was an older teenager and was put in charge of decorating the tree one Saturday when both my parents were at work. I had mentioned this to a girl friend (but not girlfriend) the previous day, and she offered to help. This was not to be permitted, however, because it was thought that nature might take its course with no adult to chaperon. Given the times, it was probably the correct decision but most likely unnecessary as I was not really attracted to this girl, and I never had any indication that she was attracted to me. However, I guess you never know.

Finally (PTL, eh?), to wrap up the narrative, Cuppa and I soon started to use artificial trees after we were married. Since, we always drove back home for Christmas, it was seemed only sensible thing to put up an artificial tree early in the month and also not have to worry about watering it while we were away.

I think I have a way of making a short story long — but only when I write, not when I speak.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Old Dogs, New Tricks

One of the things that I wanted to do when I retired was to take a crack at Crossword Puzzles. I did make a brief, abortive stab but found the exercise too frustrating. When Sudokus came along, I did a lot better, which caused me to think that people would naturally tend toward one type of puzzle more than the other. My feeling was that some people are logical problem solvers (ie Sudoku), while others tend to have more associative brains (ie Crosswords).

While I still feel that way, I recently decided to give crosswords another whirl after seeing how D2 attacked them when we were visiting in Vancouver. Now, D3 is the real puzzle person in the family, but while she was doing something else, D2 picked up a puzzle, and Cuppa and I tried to help. What I saw D2 doing was to quickly move on to another clue when we were stuck. She didn't spend a lot of time labouring over one clue. We either got it or moved on.

I thought, "Hmmm, maybe that's the secret. Maybe I'll try again." So, I did try it, and it went a lot better. Then, I decided to draw Cuppa into the scheme and asked for her help. It turns out that she helped a lot, for she is quicker to find the associative leaps that are troublesome for my linear and logical brain. Meanwhile, I seem to be able to contribute from the store of trivia that is somehow locked within my cranium. I guess that I'm saying that between the two of us, we manage to put together one brain that can do these dastardly puzzles.

This is often our new bedtime ritual. We do a puzzle; she goes to sleep, and I come here to post about it. Here's tonight's solution.

We've been doing puzzles from the newspaper, but we've recently discontinued our subscription, so we'll have to look for a decent book at the bookstore. I picked up a Dell puzzle book at the grocery store the other day, but they seem too easy. Can you beat that? After a few weeks of trying crosswords, we're getting picky.

We'd still drive D3 nuts though. As an expert, she never cheats. Neither do we exactly, but after having gone wrong a few times in the past, we do like to confirm our answers when in doubt. Most of the time, I am able to flip to the solution and focus on the right spot without seeing the surrounding answers, so it works pretty well for us novices. And we're already checking less than we were.

I guess it is possible for old dogs to learn new tricks ... even if they do bend the strict rules just a tad. At least we're exercising our brains, which is rather the point.

Monday, December 14, 2009

On Repeat, In a Big Way

Does the above picture look familiar to you? The hobo guy on The Polar Express is sure becoming familiar to me, for I'm seeing a lot of him. And Shrek the Halls too. The benefit of the latter is that it's relatively short. The benefit of the former is that there are a few parts that cause Nikki Dee to become a trifle apprehensive, so I get a number of lap requests. Cuddling on my lap, however, does sometimes lead to odd positions.

Yes indeed, SILly couldn't help himself and brought home a huge HDTV — "for the family," don't you know. I must say that with the very fine surround sound that he already had set up, it makes for quite a fine viewing experience, and Nikki Dee now frequently asks for "Movie?" She leads me by the hand, and we head downstairs to the rec room where I am fortunate enough to view Shrek or Polar Express one more time.

Once those films are put away until next year (as I trust they will be in a few weeks), I wonder what the next repetitive attractions will be. Lion King, perhaps?

One hardly needs to go see movies on the Big Screen anymore because everyone (except Cuppa and me) has one in their own house — where the popcorn is cheaper. Still, it's not like a date, so I'm sure we'll still be heading to the local cinema for our usual dose of three of four movies per year.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Passing Thoughts of a Sweaty Sicky

Call this post a stream of consciousness — of sort anyway. Or call it a lousy post if you insist.

  1. Last weekend it was green. This weekend, it is white. Very white. I like white. Some don't.

  2. Whatever this virus is, Cuppa and I are both dragging. As I sit here typing, I am almost in a puddle although the indoor temperature is less than 19°C/66°F. That should not cause one to boil. At the same temperature the other night, my teeth were chattering with chill whenever I had to get up.

  3. My throat has been very sore, and my left ear has been plugged for a week. Should I be worried? Should I go to the doctor who will say, "There's nothing we can do. Just wait it out."?

  4. I had a few hours of sleep last night, which is much better than none, but I'd really be grateful for just a little more.

  5. Cuppa and I dragged ourselves out to two stores yesterday. The intent was to do some Christmas shopping. We gave up in no time flat and came home empty handed.

  6. We didn't drag ourselves to the store today but did manage to go and give the grands a hug.

  7. Speaking of hugs, that's all we may be giving out for Christmas at this rate. Do they count?

  8. I finally wrote my Christmas letter and addressed Christmas cards. I guess I actually addressed the envelopes.

  9. I did not make my own Christmas card this year. I seemed to stop that practice when I started doing Christmas letters.

  10. I didn't write Christmas letters for a long time because I didn't want to write one of those self-congratulatory, braggadocios, nausea-inducing letters. I hope I am succeeding.

  11. For about a week I forgot that I had been reading Dan Brown's latest, The Lost Symbol, and I am not keen to resume. Make of that what you will.

  12. On the other hand I did just finish reading How Jesus Became Christian, by Barrie Wilson. Recommended for really open-minded searchers but not for most Christians who are happy in their beliefs. (That's not a slag if that's what it sounds like: just a frank statement.)

  13. My inlaws are heading to South Korea and China for three weeks. In my present state of health, I am happy not to be them right now.

  14. I would not be terribly keen to visit those places — unless someone were to top up my bank account with sufficient funds to cover business class flights among a few other comforts.

  15. They are going to visit their grandchild in Korea. I feel for them having Jinu so far away. I am so blessed to have my own grands so near.

  16. Grandparents I know will be snowbirding in Florida this winter, and they have a grandkid about the same age as Zach. We left Nikki Dee for three weeks when she was little. That was more than long enough. I'd rather hug my grand and endure winter than sit on a beach or play golf.

  17. I received a Christmas card from Donna, a Texan blogger. I appreciate it as I have a few others over the years. I have sent out a few in the past, but I decided not to send to bloggers this year. Please don't feel hurt.

  18. AC is so old that he remembers his mother putting two cents postage on Christmas cards: four cents if she sealed it. I don't know what it costs to send a card now. I think it's fifty-one cents.

  19. AC remembers stopping Cuppa in her tracks when they were first married by predicting that bread would soon cost more than a dollar a loaf. Oh for dollar-a-loaf bread nowadays.

  20. I just lifted up my arm. With these sweats that I've been experiencing, I really shoulda showered today. Fortunately, Cuppa's nose is too stuffed to notice.

  21. We will be having a sleepover at the kids' place tomorrow night for babysitting purposes. They will be partying late, so we'll crash there rather than stay up late — real late.

  22. I shovelled three or four times this week, but only one time might be considered heavy. Good Neighbour must also have come by with the snow blower once.

  23. It's the heavy stuff that the tractors dump at the end of the driveway that is the most difficult to manage.

  24. Some bloggers mentioned that my blog was loading slowly all of a sudden, so I did archive all music except the last one for now. I hope that helps. I assume that these folk were on dialup.

  25. I'm getting a bit woozy, and my heat is dissipating somewhat, so I'm going to head to bed.

  26. Actually I'll be kicking the cat off the Lazy Boy and starting the night off there. At some point, I will move to the guest bed. If Cuppa and I sleep together right now we'll keep each other awake with our coughing.

  27. I'm so glad I have now mentioned the coughing system, which I had neglected to mention. Until I mentioned it. Just now.

  28. I'm really going to stop now.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Christmas Memory

Thinking about Christmas music, as I have been, recently, this memory surfaced. I retrieved this photo from my boyhood album and am endeavouring to piece together the story from my fragmentary memory as best I can.

One Sunday morning in Novemeber of 1963, Sunday School teacher, Norm Butler, informed his class of truculent and recalcitrant sixteen year-old boys that the group was to present a piece in the Young Peoples Christmas program. He passed around a passage, an audition of sorts, for us all to read, and I flubbed my reading rather badly. Notwithstanding, he informed the class that he was choosing me to perform the reading. He said that I had been nervous during the audition but that I had a good speaking voice.

Now I wonder whether I wasn't, in point of fact, the least awful choice out of a group of miserable teenage boys. It was a tough group that, apparently later worked to get Norm tossed as our teacher. I didn't know about it at the time, but we soon had a new teacher, and I found out later that some sort of rebellion had transpired. Poor Norm; he was a good man trying his best with a bad group; almost anybody would have has a tough time with that group.

I don't know why but I never thought to renege from the task that I had been given. I wasn't exactly a good church boy at that time, but I went along with it and performed my reading about Silent Night and how that carol came in to being. It was Norm who took that photo of young AC rehearsing the reading.

I read my piece, went home and thought no more of it, but come the next Sunday received some praise from Norm who said the he and others of the audience thought that my reading was the highlight of the evening. While I still feel a little warm over that bit of praise, I am also realistic enough to realize that being the highlight of what was, doubtless, a very amateurish evening of poor performances was not a exactly a monumental accomplishment.

Wow! I just remembered something that I had long forgotten about that night. My class friend, Al Bowen, played Silent Night on his trombone after my reading. He was the other, not too-evil-boy in that class. Al went on to become a well known, devout pastor in Toronto, while I went on to obscurity and agnosticism. How's that for diverging paths?

There are several versions of how Silent Night came into being, but I think I can remember almost verbatim one line from my two-page reading. Apparently, on Christmas Eve, "the organist of the church, Franz Gruber, made an alarming discovery. The organ would not play." My piece went on to say that the Silent Night was composed as a song that could easily be sung sans organ accompaniment. While those exact facts are certainly in dispute, at least the broad strokes are more or less correct. Following is some of what Wikipedia has to say.

On December 24, 1818 Joseph Mohr journeyed to the home of musician-schoolteacher Franz Gruber who lived in an apartment over the schoolhouse in nearby Arnsdorf. He showed his friend the poem and asked him to add a melody and guitar accompaniment so that it could be sung at Midnight Mass. His reason for wanting the new carol is unknown. Some speculate that the organ would not work; others feel that the assistant pastor, who dearly loved guitar music, merely wanted a new carol for Christmas.

Later that evening, as the two men, backed by the choir, stood in front of the main altar in St. Nicholas Church and sang "Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht!" for the first time, they could hardly imagine the impact their composition would have on the world.

Karl Mauracher, a master organ builder and repairman from the Ziller Valley, traveled to Oberndorf to work on the organ, several times in subsequent years. While doing his work in St. Nicholas, he obtained a copy of the composition and took it home with him. Thus, the simple carol, began its journey around the world as a "Tyrolean Folk Song."

See Wikipedia for the full story.

What pleases me most about this memory is that a young AC was there in a small way for poor, beleaguered Norm Butler that night. The adult me, who became a teacher, feels bad for whatever he endured as a teacher of that class.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

I Hope You Like It

Thank goodness that winter has arrived (with a bang) because I was getting worried that Santa wouldn't be able land his sleigh. Now that I have completed my first snow-shovelling of the season, I feel like playing another Christmas song. How about Boney M doing Zion's Daughter?

I think it was two Christmases ago that I saw their CD in a local pharmacy, and I knew that I had to take it home. We had had the record a long time ago, and we played it so much that I grew weary of it. However, after a long hiatus, I found that I was missing their style of Christmas music, so I was delighted to bring Boney M back into our home.

They are Nikki Dee's favourite group too. It's this music that she is recently insisting upon as soon as she climbs into our car. In her case it's just Jingle Bells, but here I am offering Zion's Daughter. While I'm glad to have all of the traditional selections and styles of Christmas music, at this time in my life, I really like to find tunes that are different and unique, and this song by Boney M is just that for me. I have never heard this song anywhere else and have never heard their sound replicated in Christmas music.

Update: music archived for another year.

Considering the style of music, I am shocked to discover that the original members of the group were all West German and find it even weirder to learn that the name came from an Australian detective show called Boney. There is much more information on Wikipedia.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

A Magical Snowy Christmas

We now have a wee bit of snow on the ground with, perhaps, a dumper coming tomorrow morning. It's arriving a little late this year — late for this area at least. This will be our fifth winter here in Eastern Ontario, and in other years we've had snow by now: sometimes quite a lot. I don't mind the snow, but I also don't mind that it has taken its sweet time getting here this year as it might feel shorter on the back end when it tends to overstays its welcome.

Snow at this time of year takes me back to a Magical Snowy Christmas five years ago. At that time, we still lived in Sarnia at the southwestern edge of the province, about a seven hour+ drive to Ottawa. It was about a week later than it is now when we drove partway to Eastern Ontario before stopping at the cottage. We intended to stay there for a week or so and enjoy a winter holiday before continuing the journey. Sarnia is almost as far south as you can go in Canada, and it isn't terribly cold or snowy (in Canadian terms understand), so we looked forward to enjoying a more wintry time at the cottage. We were not to be disappointed.

Once we were within about an hour of the cottage we began to notice some accumulation, which seemed to grow deeper and deeper the closer we came to our destination. The cottage region had received a significant snowfall over the previous night, and let me assure you that freshly fallen snow in the woods is, indeed, magically delightful. So, it was upon recalling that winter, I perused my archives, found the above photo of Cuppa in the snowy woods a few days ago and set it as the background wallpaper on my computer. Since I still can't stop thinking about it, I thought I'd share it with you too.

We had a lot of fun that week, even when Cuppa lost her snowshoe and got stuck in the drift along the riverbank. She required assistance, but I took enough time to get this photo before helping my lady in distress.

It was a memorable winter retreat that year, which we've never managed to duplicate. Perhaps, I will post some further recollections in the coming days.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Another Christmas Song

I wrote weeks ago about updating my iPod with Christmas music. I had almost 250 songs, which I pared down to closer to 200 by eliminating some versions of the same song. I don't know how many renditions of Silent Night I deleted, and I still have a number remaining on the poderoo.

However, I am still such a sucker for Christmas music that I like to purchase a new album every year. Last year, it was Sarah McLachlan's, Wintersong, a beautiful album. This year, I couldn't make up my mind when I was browsing in the record shop (yes, I still call them records). Two that caught my eye, Bocelli and Enya were very expensive: almost $23 each.

I decided to give iTunes a try (where you can purchase the albums for $11.91 or individual songs for $1.29) and was able to listen to clips from both albums and several others. I picked only two Bocelli songs because many were traditional tunes that I already have versions of. I simply don't desire any more renditions of White Christmas, Silent Night or Adeste Fideles, for example. But I did download two that sounded good from the brief clips that iTunes enables.

One of his songs, God Bless Us Everyone, is new to me, and I like it. (Although it is the same title as the song that I presented the other day, it is a totally different piece.) The piece de resistance is What Child is This with Mary J Blige. I really like this wonderful tune (to Greensleeves — see info below) no matter who does it, but this performance is incredible in my tiny and humble estimation, and to me, it's Blige's efforts that make it so special. I say this, not generally being a fan of Blige or even of Bocelli for that matter.

Oddly enough, they also sang this for the first time on Oprah the other day. You see, Bocelli had recorded his part and sent it to Blige to make of it whatever she would. The duet was, therefore, created without them ever singing together — until the Oprah show. I find it amazing and have embedded a clip below. I figure if iTunes can offer little clips, so can I. From comments the other day, I assume that some of you don't have Flash enabled, so I'll offer two ways to listen and hope that one works for you.

Note: music now archived until next Christmas.

From Wikipedia

"Greensleeves" is a traditional English folk song and tune ...

A broadside ballad by this name was registered at the London Stationer's Company in 1580[1] as "A New Northern Dittye of the Lady Greene Sleeves"...

The tune is found in several late 16th century and early 17th century sources ...

There is a persistent belief that Greensleeves was composed by Henry VIII for his lover and future queen consort Anne Boleyn. Anne rejected Henry's attempts to seduce her and this rejection is apparently referred to in the song, when the writer's love "cast me off discourteously." However, Henry did not compose "Greensleeves", which is probably Elizabethan in origin and is based on an Italian style of composition that did not reach England until after his death.[2]

The hymn What Child Is This? by William Chatterton Dix, set to the "Greensleeves" tune, is used across the Western Christian Church.

In Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor, written around 1602, the character Mistress Ford refers twice without any explanation to the tune of "Greensleeves," and Falstaff later exclaims:

Let the sky rain potatoes! Let it thunder to the tune of 'Greensleeves'!

These allusions suggest that the song was already well known at that time.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

I Confess, I Doubt

It was noon, and I was a might peckish, so I asked her if she fancied soup and grilled cheese. I didn't expect her to say, "Yes," but I thought I'd to her the courtesy of inquiring. To the plebeian me, that particular lunch represents haute cuisine, but it is not her favourite. Cuppa would normally prefer of lighter noon meal: crackers and cheese, for example. As expected, she did reply in the negative because it sounded a bit heavy to her and because she wasn't really hungry anyway.

Like most normal people, Cuppa tends to lose her appetite when she's ill: not so much me though. Tempt me with any of my likees, and I will probably wag my metaphorical tail and commence to salivating in anticipation. You see, I am not normal, and my appetite often doesn't diminish significantly whilst experiencing a bugarious smiting. Of course, it does abate to some degree, I am still very tempted by such delicacies as grilled cheese and soup.

It was 3:00 AM, and after three hours of tossing and turning, I gave it up and got up. I was sick and needed sleep, but it wouldn't come. In this, too, I am not normal. It seems to me that most people sleep more, not less when they're ill — at least in my limited circle. Cuppa has been so poopdicated and out of it at times recently that she has pretty much spent several days in bed, almost unable to open her sore eyes.

Whereas most normal mortals sleep more, possibly much, much poor when they're ill, I tend to experience the reverse phenomenon and be more wakeful that usual — if that's humanly possible. Frankly, that rather peeves me because who wouldn't want to escape into sleep when they're feeling miserable, not to mention how repose might accelerate one's recuperative process. I mean to say that it's the most natural and normal thing to do. Whatever I am, however, I seem not to be entirely normal.

What I wonder about whilst awake is why in this year of all years the clan is suffering from the attack of the bugarious smiters so much. I mean to say that we're all being more careful than ever and washing our hands frequently and furiously like demented fools because we are told that it's the best form of prevention from the dreaded H1N1 virus. Perhaps, they're right; perhaps, it's true, for no one that I know has contracted it. Meanwhile, however,we have succumbed to every other virus that we've come within miles of.

My feeling is that even if hand washing is a good thing, and it certainly is, it nigh unto impossible to wash them frequently or thoroughly enough for it to do all that much good. If sickness surrounds us, it is pretty darn difficult to escape unscathed. At least, this is what I conclude from the clan's recent history. We lather up because it can't hurt and it might help, but I am beginning to doubt that it helps a whole lot.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

A Small Town Parade

Is it just me, or is there something inherently heart warming about a small town parade, particularly a Santa Claus parade? In the big cities it's all about the dazzling spectacle, and there's nothing at all wrong with that. In the towns, however, it seems to be about spirit and joy, and there's just about everything right about that.

I posted photos of Nikki Dee at the parade several days ago, but I thought I'd now show you some pictures of the parade itself.

There were critters: a cow, dogs, horses, and goats (if I recall). Here is one of the dogs and one of the horses.

There were no really big bands. Our two high school bands went by on floats ...

... and there were two small highland bands. (There are many Scottish and Irish roots in this area.)

There were no American-style marching bands to speak of. For whatever reason, we don't do marching bands in schools up here. Some communities do sponsor Drum and Bugle Corps, but this form of musical expression simply isn't as prevalent here. When we lived in Sarnia, a border community, two or three big high school bands from Michigan would make the effort to play in our Santa parade, and we'd always be impressed.

Several groups of dancers, representing local clubs and academies, sashayed by.

Most floats, and I used the term lightly, were pulled by trucks, tractors ...

... or even buses (although the bus itself was the float in this case).

Even the genuine floats were pretty rudimentary.

But there was spirit, camaraderie and joy. Everybody and their dog enjoyed it ...

So did Nikki Dee.

Friday, December 04, 2009

A Scroogian Blessing

One of our Christmas traditions is to watch Scrooge (A Christmas Carol). Since our family is somewhat divided on the relative merits of the older Alistair Sim version (1951) versus the somewhat newer George C Scott version (1984), we generally end up watching both. There are other versions, but it's between these two for us. You can watch the first ten minutes of the Sim version on YouTube. I am prevented from embedding it, but this link will take you there. I imagine that the whole film is available, one segment at a time.

As much as I like that version, I seem to prefer Scott's version as seems a little more updated for our times. I suppose it helps that it's in colour, but the older film can also be obtained in colour, so that's not the whole difference for me. In case you have never seen it, here is a clip from the film, the part where Marley's ghost appears. Although I could embed this one, I'll leave it up to you to view or not as I don't want to cram too many accessories into one blog.

What I did want to say is that I really like the feature song from this film: God Bless Us Everyone. For a long time, I thought it must have been an old song that had gone out of fashion, but I eventually discovered that it was made for the film and hasn't gone anywhere since then. In fact, I've never heard it in any other context, and I don't know why since I think it's very good. I am presenting it to you below, and you can also hear it on YouTube although, apart from a static photo of Scott, there are no visuals.

Note: Music now archived until next year.

If watching Scrooge isn't one of your traditions, perhaps you might try watching one or t'other version this year and see if you think it should become one. There are other good Christmas movies such as It's A Wonderful Life and Miracle On 34th Street, but, as much as I like them, for me, they don't quite achieve the exalted Scroogian status for me.

I have told this story and presented this clip in other years, but what's the harm in repeating myself? Besides, I am primarily intending to present the song to you (which I have also done previously). I would like to offer more Christmas music from my library over the next few weeks.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Rockin and Snoozin to Jingle Bells

On Sunday afternoon, Cuppa and I were left to babysit for a few hours while all the kids made a Costco run. Cuppa took care of Zach and some meal preparation while I tended to Nikki Dee outside. She was content to enjoy swinging for quite a long time. She chatted some, we counted some, and I began to sing some. I sang Jingle Bells, and, oddly enough, my rough voice didn't keep her awake. She must have dozed out in the fresh air for at least 20 minutes, perhaps a bit longer, before rejoining us.

Although it was I who was singing Jingle Bells on Sunday, the version in the background is by Boney M. This is her favourite Christmas song. She listens to it over and over.

Just a note: YouTube is smart enough to recognize this music as Jingle Bells, by Boney M, licensed by Sony. I presume that posting a short clip like this is okay, but who knows if it will still be there when this blog goes to press in the morning.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Last Man Standing ...

... is Now Lying Down

You know, I wasn't really bragging in my previous post when I mentioned that I seemed to be the only one of the clan not smitten by the current bugarious smiters. Really, I was just stating a fact. There really was no reason for the universe to decide to execute retribution upon my poor beleaguered bod. Really.

What can you do, eh? The bugarious smiters have struck where they always do — in my throat. Whatever else is to eventuate during my bouts of affliction, I can almost take it to the bank that The Grief will begin in my throat. It's very sore, and I'm very tired. Just for you, however, I'll be glad to post a blow-by-literal-blow description of Bugarion's progress into other regions of my bodily temple ... if you ask nicely.

However, whilst lying in a futile recuperative effort this afternoon, my spirits were somewhat buoyed to hear a blessed sound: a train whistle! Not long ago, I posted that the local trains stopped running sometime last spring and that I didn't expect them to ever recommence. Apparently they have, however, for Thesha heard one or two the other day, and I just heard my first. This is good: right? Just as long as one doesn't live too near the tracks, I suppose.

Because my blog got spammed today, I have enabled comment verification for the nonce. I don't love comment verification and think it unnecessary for the most part, but I think I should adopt it as a temporary measure and apologize for the inconvenience. I hope to be able to remove that restriction in a week or two.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

A Great Time!

A whirlwind visit ended yesterday when we drove the girls to the airport. Cuppa and I came home rather despondent and poopdicated, but when we got a call from Mom to see if we could pick up Nikki Dee at Day Care, where she goes twice a week, we perked up a bit. She was the tonic that the doctor might have ordered for flagging spirits as she screamed our names and ran to us in enthusiastic abandon when we entered her classroom. She jabbered in good spirits all the way home and for as long as we stayed for a brief visit with Mom. What a kid! It's so good to see her feeling better after several sickly and sometimes whiny weeks.

We've all been rather down with it here lately although I keep shaking my head and knocking on wood because I am the only family member not to be overtaken by the cough and cold. I have endured persistent sore throats, but that is not uncommon for me, so I've pretty well been the only semi-healthy person in two families.

So it was that I was facing a dilemma as the darkness began to descend late last Saturday afternoon. We had been having our annual tree-decorating get-together at the kids' place, but it was also Santa parade day in our town, and surely Nikki Dee would like to attend. For sure, Cuppa and Daddy weren't up to it and Thesha hadn't exactly been a picture of health lately either. However, just as I was internally deliberating whether I could manage Nikki Dee on my own, Thesha declared that she felt she should find the energy to take Nikki Dee. I quickly agreed to tag along and help out. I am so glad we both made the effort because the kid loved it, fussing when it was time to leave even though the parade was over.

Main Street always looks fetching at night because they light up the street all year. However, it looked especially inviting just before the parade commenced.

As we settled in and her friend joined her, Nikki Dee, somehow, ended up in his wagon while he stood and roamed. Both were happy with these arrangements.

The parade began and Nikki Dee was in her element. She waved excitedly and rocked in the wagon to the music.

She craned her neck in anticipation of the next float and had a blast.

It was heart-warming and both Mom and I were thrilled that we made the effort.

I'm sure it made Santa's and Missus' day too.