Saturday, December 31, 2016

Christmas Eve and Morning

On New Years Eve, I finally get around to posting of Christmas Eve and Day.

We have always gathered on Christmas Eve. In the past, it has been for snacks and family time. This year, our feast was to be held on the Eve, but aside from that, it was pretty well the same.

This was on and by the table as we consumed the turkey and the rest. Kind of nice, don't you think?

Another tradition that goes all of the way back to our kids being little is the kids opening a present on Christmas Eve. They always know what it will be — pajamas. And we always take a photo.

Of course, a newer tradition is to track Santa's progress from the Norad site.

Some years there are cats. Sid is one who is quite comfortable with lots of activity and hordes of people.

Another tradition is to leave cookies for Santa. JJ also decided to leave lots of notes. Not pictured, but another new tradition is putting out reindeer food. I don't think we needed this new tradition, but there we have it.

Christmas morning brought the usual fare of gifts and happiness. The cat was still very involved in the process.

JJ got a pair of those sneakers with wheels.

Yours truly makes one of his appearances on this blog with a toque and gloves of his favourite hockey team.

Of course, I could go on, but I promised to keep each post down to a moderate number of photos.

However, I will add this long clip just in case you have time on your hands. It is the story of The Shepherd that used to play a long time ago on Christmas Eve as we drove across province to be with family. We revived it on this Christmas Eve this year, and it took the place of me reading The Night Before Christmas.

The story is of a pilot lost on Christmas eve over the North Sea. His instruments fail as his fuel runs low. He is in great peril until he is guided to safety by a shepherding aircraft. But just who was this shepherd?

Someone has added photos to this narration by Al Maitland, the fellow who always narrated the story over CBC radio as we drove in the dark those many Christmases past. I think it best, however, to close you eyes and just listen.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Danica's Concert

Danica has moved on to a different school this year. Her previous school accommodates JK to Gr3, and then they move on to this Gr 4-6 school. With the kids being older, the celebration is more subdued. One day they had the classroom open house about which I previously posted. On the final afternoon before the break, they had a sing along led by the small choir.

Since Danica had joined the choir, we attended the event, but since the choir is small, we didn't have to fight the good fight for seating.

They choir was on the stage waiting for the rest of the school to arrive.

They rest of the school filed into the gym.

Time for the small choir to begin.

The audience could sing along by following the screen behind the choir.

The rest of the school took a few songs to warm up but then they joined in heartily: very heartily. Even with the words being timed onscreen, they tended to race ahead. The teacher had to implore them to keep time as it was throwing the choir off.

It didn't help a whole lot, but it was good to see everyone get into the spirit anyway.

And then we were done.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Craft Gifts

Although there would be other presents for the parents, Sue also had the kids do a Christmas craft one afternoon after school. The project was to decorate glass balls for the parents' Christmas trees. Each parent would get two balls from each kid.

There doesn't seem to be much more to write, so I'll just present a few photos and skip on out of here.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

JJ's Concert

Just as soon as we left Danica's open house, we had to skedaddle over to JJ's school for his Christmas presentation.

Things were different this year. Rather than hundreds of parents showing up en masse, and lining up at the door for a long time in cold weather to ensure good seating, there was a different plan.

We were given specific times to attend. Mind you, even then, we arrived a bit early, but hot chocolate and cookies were on offer outside the door.

Inside, classes were stationed in the hall. We would stop at each station and listen to one song. JJ's was the very first station, just inside the door. You can see the next class waiting in the background. You can also see that JJ refused to wear the towel on his head after he was teased by a friend, even though most wore theirs. Probably the teasing friend hadn't even brought a towel. Such is peer pressure.

Just before the song.

Let the performance begin.

JJ shares a post-song moment with his friend.

We moved through the various stations until we ended up in the gym where there were multiple classes that danced enthusiastically round the gym to the news of the saviour. This is Danica and JJ's friend highlighted amongst the many others who were dancing in a big circle around the gym.

It was a good way to do the Christmas assembly. It was much quicker than the usual performance where class after class is herded into the gym, and it really reduced the waiting time for the parents who could show up close to the event and not scramble for a decent seat.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Danica's Open House

After the birthday party (previous post), the next event of Christmas week was Danica's open house at school. Parents arrived and aside from the greetings, the main activity was a craft: making a little stocking sort of figure.

Danica and her friend greeted us happily at the door.
We all got our hugs.
All of us.
OK, we get it. 😄
It takes many helping hands to complete a craft.
We did it! 🙌

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Birthday

Starting with the visit from the refugees last weekend, about which I have already posted, times have been busy. Many photos were taken, so I am going to be doing some family-themed updating this week. I will try yo keep the photos down to a manageable number since I know there's a threshold and people don't see them when there's too many but just keep scrolling. But they are all family-oriented, so most folk will probably scroll quickly anyway, and I'm good with that as this is mainly for my record.

You have already read of Ben, Mary and their help with the refugees; the next item on the agenda was Shauna's birthday, so here we go ...

JJ is designing a card for his mother.
The cake came in the form of a yule log.
As Mom prepared to blow out the candles, Danica beat her to it, which she thought was quite hilarious.
A family snap from around the table.
Gift time: Shauna laughs over the gift. She had somewhat cheekily suggested that Grandma crochet her a candy cane afghan, which would be a monumental undertaking. So, Grandma has actually begun although it may not be completed until next birthday.
One down: x to go.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas

Well folks. It's Christmas Eve and time to roll out my annual Christmas card. You have seen the photo before but not with the text superimposed.

As is usual for the past decade or so, we will spend Christmas Eve at Shauna's and sleep over. In the morning, we shall gather by the tree and open presents.

What will be different this year will be having the Christmas feast tonight, on the Eve. Traditionally, we do it late afternoon on Christmas Day, but the kids will be going to their dad's at noon. Such is life, and we roll on and make the best of it.

So by default, I wish you a Merry Christmas because that is the greeting of my tradition. But I also don't hesitate to also wish Happy Holidays, or Seasons Greetings, or Happy Hanukkah, or Happy Winter Solstice or whatever fits for you.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Yesterday Morning

Snow wasn't in the forecast, but when I looked out my window yesterday morning, it was falling nevertheless.

I decided to grab my camera and just shoot from the window.

The tree just outside my window with its snowy branches.

Off to my left, beyond the garage roof, there was more of the same.

Of course, what had really caught my eye was our neighbour clearing his car off, so he could head to work. Lucky fellow.

This gives the context, but I needed a tighter shot.
Better but not there yet: I like the fire hydrant with the arm sticking out to help in finding 
the hydrant in deep snow, but it wasn't quite what I was looking for.
Finally, the shot that I wanted: nice and tight on the action.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

In the Spirit of Caring and Giving

We had a good experience on the weekend when a last minute message from our great (as in grand although they are also great) nephew and niece made a special request.

Here they are, Ben and Mary, our great nephew and niece.

You see, they have been quite active in their community, helping Syrian refugees get settled into their new country. But a family of 4, suddenly had to be at an embassy in Ottawa early on Monday morning. They live 5 hours away, so could they come here on Sunday and stay overnight?

Well yes, they could.

So, our small house suddenly had 9 extra people, 3 of whom were Sha and our two grands, 2 being Ben and Mary, and 4 being the refugee family. Of course, Sha, Danica and JJ just came for dinner and a visit and didn't spend the night, but the other 6 did and were on their way after morning breakfast.

What I wanted to say is what special people both Ben and Mary are. They give to their community and help those in need. They both took a day off work and drove these folk to and from a fairly distant city. Of course, these two wonderful people would have done this at any time, but it seemed like a nice story to share on my blog at Christmas.

It was also nice to meet this refugee family who are settling in very well. They are all doing really well in picking up English. Three of them had learned some of our language previously, but the little 5 year old, couldn't speak a word 6 months ago and now talks perfectly, or close to it.

Their story, or part of it, is that there was a multiple day battle over and around their apartment building. The family huddled in an interior room for several days, after which they woke up to find dead bodies strewn about outside. They decided that they must leave Syria, and it was 2 years ago that they fled to Turkey before ending up here in Canada 6 months ago. When they fled their homeland, they thought that they'd return in 3 months. I don't expect that they will ever return now.

They are a lovely family who are already becoming good Canadians.

Of relevance to Syria and refugees, I am embedding this saddest video ever of recent times in Aleppo where the children have stopped crying, which shows why we might want to open our hearts and countries.

After having prepared this blog, I found this long article about Jim Estill who has spearheaded the relief to refugees such as those who visited us. He is from Guelph, which is where Ben and Mary live, so it is all connected. He as well as people like Ben and Mary are doing remarkable, humanitarian things. In the spirit of caring and giving.

Like Scrooge at the end of A Christmas Carol, they keep Christmas in their hearts all year round.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Happy 44th

You know you're getting on in life

when your daughter has her 44th birthday 

 As she does


So in honour of the day

here she is now (or close enough, left)

and about 38 years ago, give or take (right)

She was a good kid then

and is a good woman now 

She overcomes quite a lot

but remains strong

Saturday, December 17, 2016

A Few Seasonal Decorations

I confess that I don't really know how to do macro photography although these are just close shots and don't really qualify as macros.

What I mean, is that I know how to focus and press the shutter, but that I lack some sort of a sense in how to set things up properly and what to do in post. Of course, it doesn't help that I don't try it very often, so I haven't been able to learn much through experience.

I have tried to set up a few shots of Christmas decs, but I have a lot to learn.

This first setup is on a little table in the hallway that I moved to a better spot (at least supposedly so) for the picture. Then, I painted in what I thought was a seasonal background in post, but it's not a very good piece in conception. It is sharp enough because I used focus-stacking (which I won't explain now), but the presentation is certainly lacking.

My next effort is almost as bad but adding the words redeemed the result a tad.

Finally, I shot two candles and their holders and used soft, glowy processing, and I like the result better. It's not perfect but seems closer to being adequate. I wonder if I'll ever get this type of photography? Possibly not, for we each have our strengths and weaknesses.

But it did give me the opportunity to show you a few of our Christmas knickknacks.

Maybe I'll try some more in due course.