Thursday, December 31, 2020

Hero of This Whacky Year

I have written a bit already about the laudable character that Shauna displayed this year, but for a brief moment, I pause to honour her as my Hero of This Whacky Year.

She was just settling into her new role as executive director (manager) of a brand new retirement home when the pandemic came upon us. 

It is an independent home, not one of the big conglomerates with all sorts of corporate direction and support, so she was largely on her own. The usual, hands-on owner of the facility is a doctor, who was obliged to spend much time at the hospital, sometimes weeks at a time, largely leaving her as sole leader. But she is a clever and competent lady and triumphed through it all.

She managed her residents with understanding and efficiency by explaining and implementing the new rules which seemed to change on an almost daily basis for months. Not all of the clients could readily understand the need for the restrictions, such as no visits into the outside world, no visitors in the home for a time, and then highly restricted visits when the situation ameliorated for a time before the second wave inundated us.  However, Sha worked through the situation with grace and charity.

Under her supervision, the residence did remarkably well. The only COVID case they experienced was with a worker who contracted the virus outside of the residence, caught it early, and didn't spread it to a single person. Of course, that meant a fourteen-day, precautionary lockdown in which the old folk were confined to their rooms, but she, her team, and the residents sailed through what could have been a difficult-to-enforce ordeal. I recall one photo of her delivering meals in an Hawaiian outfit in one of the many special attempts to boost morale.

You already know of her most significant act, that of sending her children to live with their father. Shauna realized how vulnerable homes like hers were, and indeed, there were outbreaks in many of them. Therefore,  for two months, she gave up her children for their safety.

You have already seen a version of this photo of the three of them embracing on the front steps upon their homecoming, but I think it is powerful and worth repeating.

Shauna has been a gem with us as well and may have even been more concerned over our welfare than we have been if that is possible. To wit: just before Christmas, she chose to celebrate her birthday without us and without much ado, with no cake or special meal together but just a brief cyber get-together. Then, on Christmas Day, she kept her visit to us brief and distanced and let ker kids spend the bulk of the day with us after keeping them in isolation for a week prior. She was also instrumental in arranging the sleepovers that we were able to have with both of them, one night with the two of them together, and another with each separately, for a total of three nights. What a blessing!

I think it is quite evident by now that she deserves the title of Hero of This Whacky Year.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020


Yes, I was dismayed, but upon reflection, it made sense.

Given the season, I recently corresponded with a former teacher colleague. We caught up with various people and a few passings.

I then thought to ask about two young teachers who were in my department after I became a department head in the late 80s. I am not sure exactly when they came onboard but soon after if not right then in one case.

I had to pick myself up off the [metaphorical] floor when I was told that they had both retired.

But when I counted back, I realized that they had put in their 30 years, which is the most standard time frame for teachers around here.

Whose old? I'm not old. They're old.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Saint Gibbets Oil

I was surprised when I read Kay's post which picked up on my earlier post about using Alexa to make our shopping list. I was pleased to see that the concept is working well for her too.

There is another thing that I have recently learned to have Alexa do -- have her remind me.

For awhile now, I have had her issue a standard reminder at 9:15 to do my exercises. I don't always comply, especially this week, and I seldom comply right then. But I have learned that I can say to her: "Remind me again in x minutes." Or I may pick a specific time like 10 o'clock.

I am not sure how long after her initial reminder I have to make that request, but I make it right away, to which she complies and replies.

So Alexa is grand, but one item on her list puzzled me on a recent shopping trip: Saint Gibbets. I had no idea what the item was supposed to actually be, and neither did Sue when I texted her from the store.

We still wonder and puzzle over Saint Gibbets.

There was another mysterious item on that same list -- oil -- and we don't don't know what that was about either as we did not need cooking oil or anything resembling oil at the time. I can't remember now whether the two items, Saint Gibbets and Oil appeared consecutively on the list, but they weren't together on the same line.

Whatever the items were meant to be, we have not found ourselves lacking anything that we might have needed.

So, Alexa has supplied us with some fun as well.

Here's one more -- Sekere's -- but we know what that is. When I said 'we,' I had to rely on Sue to figure it out -- Secaris (as in ointment of a kind).

But I don't need an Alexa list on this shopping day as it is a pickup order since we are back into lockdown although that isn't quite the right word. Let's just say that things are highly restricted and that we shouldn't be meeting others or having them in our homes. We will continue to make an exception for the grandkids as long as their mother feels that they have been isolating themselves sufficiently. In this case, Danica will becoming for a sleepover either tonight or tomorrow.

Monday, December 28, 2020

So That Was Christmas

Let us be as brief as possible about Christmas Day.. 

I awoke extremely early which peeved me because that was the second consecutive short night. This was hours before the scheduled online rendez-vous at 6. Sue arose just in time, but the kids didn't. Incredibly, they slept until 7:30, probably because they were tired after celebrating Christmas on the previous day at their Dad's.

Eventually we opened stockings etc over Facetime, which had to be restarted time again because our internet connection which was once of sufficient bandwidth is now stressing under greater, modern demands.

But we managed, and then the kids came over shortly after lunch which is where the pictures begin -- all from Sue's phone because, as previously disclosed, dumb-dumb accidentally formatted his memory card, The phone pics are fine, however; they don't have to be high art, but just a record, which they are.

We opened the family gifts together. Among other items, I got a lensball and Danica got a sweatshirt. Of course, there would have been more photos on my camera.

We played games at several intervals.during the day, specifically Sorry and Uno.

We had Mom's lasagna for supper.

Christmas Crackers are a tradition. Shauna had brought homemade, reusable ones for the first time ever. They don't actually crack, however. Danica was happy with hers, but Buppa puzzled over his,

There followed, the post-Christmas dinner writing in the book: another tradition. Allowances must be made if it is not be quite to the Queen's standard, but we try.

They both slept over, and both stayed up later than grandma who crashed very early and grandpa who did hang in until a reasonable bedtime.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Christmas Photo


Sue has some on her phone, and maybe I can reclaim the photos on the card at some point when things are not so hectic here.

Friday, December 25, 2020

Our Eve

For those who are at loose ends today, I present you with a brief recap of our very low key Christmas Eve.

We began with chicken parmesan leftovers during which we began to watch Scrooge.

As I have posted previously, we earlier watched the much older Alistair Sim version, but we always watch both at some point over the holidays. 

Near the end he me The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come, a very sombre fellow.

Of course, Scrooge is reborn after his long night and he tells the boy to buy the prize Christmas turkey from the shop around the corner.

And so we have observed the rite of watching A Christmas Carol one more time. If only Charles Dickens could see what has become of his quickly written serial. Mind you, he would be best pleased by the fact that he couldn't watch the as, alas, it is an old and somewhat damaged DVD. We were able to view most of the film, however.

Finally, we readied the stockings for Christmas Day. Hey! How come Sue's is much more loaded than mine?

We shall open stockings etc with the kids over Facetime. In fact, we have probably already done so by he time that you read this. They will later come by for the family exchange of gifts, a meal, and probably many games. (Remember that they have been isolating just so we could have this visit.)

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Christmas Eve

It turns out that my observation that the frying of our tree being a fitting end to 2020 was premature, for our SiL (he's still technically that) has rehabilitated it. It was more than burnt wires, but other parts too, but he has able to replace all, and the tree shines brighter than ever. Although the bulb was still in working order, he replaced that as well with a halogen one that won't heat up and burn our house down

SiL bought the parts and did the work as a Christmas present, for which we are thankful and joyful.

We have our tree back, and perhaps this presages that in 2021 our lives may also be restored to something resembling what they were.

I note in passing that the background light that you see through the window (above) traditionally stays on all night on Christmas Eve rather than shutting it off at bedtime.

So all is calm but all (or at least some) is bright.

Wherever you are, I hope that both Christmas Eve and Day bring you a measure of joy. It has been a difficult year for many, but we can also be thankful for all of the good that we continue to have as we anticipate better times ahead.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Christmas and Lockdown

When a provincial lockdown is announced on Christmas week, which even in normal times is always a busy shopping week, this is what you see at the grocery store at 7:50AM.

That's right! Lockdown will begin right after Christmas and probably last for 4 weeks. While grocery stores like ours will remain open, they will be limited to 50 customers if I understand correctly. 

While the new rules aren't in effect just yet, I joined the line 10 minutes before the eight o'clock opening to try to be sure to be within the first 50 shoppers. Thus I could count on getting inside relatively quickly, for it is winter after all which makes protracted waiting time rather unappealing. When I saw the line I estimated that there were fewer than 50 customers in it, so I joined.  

The line in front of me

I was back near the road, but people kept coming and coming and lining up behind me.

Once the doors were opened, we moved along right smartly, and I was soon inside. I asked the manager who was counting at the door what number I was -- 41. I had estimated well.

When I first joined the line, I texted the above photos to the family, and Shauna asked if, given the situation, I would also pick up ingredients for her Christmas lasagna. Of course, I would, and so she texted her list. That left me sorting through two lists as I ambled about what quickly became a pretty crowded store. Two lists would be a challenge because my poor little brain finds it difficult enough to work through a single list. However, I managed to fill both of the lists well with some back and forthing throughout the store. Of course, one-way asiles made the task even more burdensome when I had to backtrack every time I missed something.

Speaking of backtracking, I was all done except for the ricotta cheese but realized that it was way back on the other side of the store by the produce section and not in the dairy section. So back I went resignedly.

Overall, I would say that I settled in well and to some extent almost enjoyed the challenge. The crowds were what they were with everybody masked and rather calmly going about their business, so it went pretty smoothly all things considered.

But since it had taken me quite a long time to get all of the goods corralled into my burgeoning cart, by the time I hit the lineup, it stretched up one asile and down another. This was before it even reached the normal collecting area.

Up one aisle

Down the next aisle

But all of the cashiers were at their stations, and the lineup moved along at a pretty good pace.

I had already decided to use our accumulated points for the Christmas order, and they came in extra handy considering that I was adding Shauna's order to our already big order.Therefore, I ended up paying only $8 on a $238 order, so was rather grateful and  will consider the outing a successful part of Christmas.

However, I have already booked a spot for Express Pickup for the pre New Year shopping next Tuesday because the lockdown will be in full effect, and then we will also have the New Year rush for provender. To secure a pickup time, I have put a few things on the list for now and chosen a pickup time. This has reserved me a spot, and over the week, we can contemplate all that we really need, and I can add those items to the list up until Monday. The procedure should work well, just as it did back during the first wave.

By the way, when I left the store, the lineup was just as long as when I had entered, and I was glad that I had arrived early.

Now, Sue and I are able to take a few days to relax and gather ourselves before the kids visit on Christmas Day.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

The Plan

So . . . what is our plan for Christmas?

Well, it won't be quite the same old thing, but we do have a plan that I think will work.

For the past few years, we have had Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve, in the form of Chinese takeout. By doing that on the eve, the kids have been free to go to their dad's around noon on Christmas Day. Sue and I have slept over and opened stockings and gifts with them first thing in the morning.

This year, things will be reversed, and they will do eve and early morning with dad and the step-family. Once they get to Sha's we will open stockings etc together via streaming.

Later, they will come over here where we can distance a little better if distancing is necessary, and we will exchange family gifts and share a meal. Shauna is going to make a dish of her scrumptious lasagna.

We feel that we can meet this way because we know where the kids and Shauna have been. Both of their schools have been virus-free as has Shauna's workplace. To be extra careful, Danica and Jonathan are isolating as much as possible for the week as they are off school. In fact, they took last Friday off school as well, so that they could isolate for a full week before seeing us at Christmas. I think that should be sufficient. Of course, they will have some family contact this week, but it will be quite limited overall.

We are only five people in a region that has a low incidence of COVID cases, so I don't think we are taking much of a risk although there is always some risk in life, even in normal times.

To further boost confidence, I have learned that nearby Ottawa (the boundary is only a few kilometers away) has done well since becoming a bit of a hot spot not long ago. As of Sunday the city had no COVID cases in ICU and only 20 in hospital. The hottest spot in Ontario is the Toronto area, especially on the western side, and there are not big numbers for the most part between here and there.

That is the basic plan, ladies and gentlemen -- to still get together moderately at Christmas -- but also to be flexible and willing to alter it if it seems to become prudent to do so.


Having readied the above, we have news that our province is going into a 28 day shutdown for any non-essential service, beginning December 26. This should not affect our plans, which remain intact with 4 days to go.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Merry Christmas or Happy Whatever Works Best for You

I has a vision for a Christmas card, but it was not to be this year. I envisioned taking Sue out to pretend to hang decorations on a snowy bough in the park. But it has been rather green here for the most part.

So this is it, I'm afraid.

It is most certainly not my best card ever and not even the best of this series, which I have shown here previously. But it is red, and red goes with Christmas more than any other colour IMO.

I used that photo in the Christmas card and letter than I emailed yesterday. I usually keep my Christmas wishes brief, but given the year that we've been through, I found myself rambling on and on and on this time.

Of course, I will spare you that long rehash since I gathered my material and thoughts from my blog posts of the past year, and most of you have read them. It was good to jog my memory like that. I always seem to need a little nudge for my memory to kick in. Once I am nudged, however, I do remember without having to actually re-read an entire post.

This probably won't be my final pre-Christmas post, but I wanted to get it out there before we got too close to the day.

So ... Merry Christmas to you. My particular season is Christmas, and so that is how I say it, but I am not offended by any form of seasonal greeting, so please insert whatever works for you. I mean well by my greeting and wish you well over the holiday and beyond.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

No More Turkey for Us

Do we get marks for trying? E for effort if not excellence?

Yes, we do try and try again as the saying goes. But don't expect us to try again again, if you follow. No! One again is enough.

You may recall that we were less than enthused about our Thanksgiving turkey dinner ordered from a local hotel. It was expensive enough, and we didn't much care for it.

Being slow on the uptake, I suggested that we order two servings of the Christmas dinner offered by a local service club. Well, bless their hearts for trying, but it wasn't very good with thin, runny gravy, lumpy potatoes, and hard carrots.

The stuffing wasn't bad, and the meal was not terribly expensive, and considering that they were amateurs, I am not really complaining, 

What I am doing, however, is saying that we won't do it again. 

It doesn't work. Perhaps our past, home cooked, turkey dinners were just too good by comparison. Also, turkey dinner, whether for Thanksgiving or Christmas is meant to be a family feast. Turkey for two just isn't right.

That is a double strike if you will: poor fare plus missing family.

The meal came warm although we still needed to nuke it a bit..

I could tell that I wouldn't like the carrots, which pretty well have to be roasted into some blackness for my taste, so I didn't even put them on my plate. Sue tried them and didn't like them at all.

So, no more ordering turkey dinner. After all, we have our own butterball.

After dinner, we did reclaim some of our annual Christmas experience by watching the old, Alastair Sim's version of A Christmas Carol. We have watched this faithfully for decades. 

Later this week, we will watch the George C Scott version.

The only other movie that we will be almost sure to watch is White Christmas although in this house, we tend to watch it closer to New Years.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

A Fitting End to 2020

This has been our Christmas tree since 2005 when we first moved to the Ottawa Valley. It's a small, pre-lit, fibre optic tree that does its job without taking up much room in our smallish place.

However, it hasn't quite made it through its 16th season, which seems like a fitting end to 2020. It had a good start, but then some wires burnt out. Perhaps someone can salvage it at some point, but I am afraid that we will need to go through the rest of the season treeless.

Fortunately, we have many other decorations that you have see here and here (and there are more), so we are not bereft of Christmas cheer.

It is somewhat fortuitous that I took the above photo because I have never photographed the tree seriously before. In actual fact, this is handheld, so not as serious as it could be either. But I think it came out well enough.

At the same time, I also shot a little video. Once again, I was lazy and didn't use a tripod, but it is what it is. In the background the rotating light in the porch is also active.

Friday, December 18, 2020

A Thrill and a Letdown

Shauna dropped by on Wednesday after work to show us her sparkling new Honda CRV. It was still afternoon, but we are very near the solstice, so the dark comes early and lasts long, and, therfore, the pics are lacking.

How exciting for her, but how disappointing the next morning when she had trouble starting it.

It has been very cold which plays havoc on car batteries. Our 11 year old CRV has been kicking up a bit of fuss when trying to start it in the past few days. The neighbour has had issues with her car and a friend with his.

This is a typical winter pattern, but one doesn't expect it in a brand new $6mln (or almost) vehicle, especially not in a Honda. We are on our second CRV, and the first might still have been running if it hadn't been for a significant mishap. The second one we bought used, and it is perking along pretty well in its 11th year.

Apparently, Shauna's woes have something to do with the fob and not the battery. I don't know about these things as ours still starts with an old-fashioned key. Can you imagine? It's like I come from 1947 or something.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Fairy Tree

Fairy Tree, or would you prefer faerie tree? I am adaptable, and you can have it as you like it. 

I didn't see it, but Sue did after we had walked on the bridge that you see in the background in order to take the historical plaque photos that I posted here, yesterday.

Surprisingly, the faerie parts are not buried in snow in mid-December.

Someone derived some pleasure from doing this as we did from seeing it. I wonder how many people have actually noticed it. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

The Plaque has been Installed

I had never quite forgotten about the proposed plaque over the past two-and-a-half years, but I had certainly pushed it to the back of my mind.

But just a few days ago, the following photo appeared on one of our community fb pages -- the curator of our museum posing with an historical plaque about the bridge on which it is displayed.

The main photo on the plaque (see below) shows a photographer standing on the bridge taking a photo looking upriver toward downtown. As you can plainly see, it was a railway bridge and was used as such for more than one hundred years and was still used by trains for a few years after we moved here in 2005.

If you choose to click on the following image, it should expand enough so that you can read the description. Among other information, we learn that the base photo was taken in 1905 by a photographer who photographed another photographer taking a photo looking upriver toward town hall. The person who took the photo also shot wide enough to also capture the full scene. I love it. Maybe I should replicate the photo someday.

Back in 2018, the museum curator asked if I would scan the original photo. She already had it in mind to have this plaque made, but she just had a print and would need it scanned in order to make the display. It was a long image which wouldn't fit in my little scanner, so I scanned it in two parts and then put the two halves back together using modern software.

I thought that the photo possibly was not originally sepia but just faded from b&w, so I did some conversion and also cleaned up the image a little although the original is certainly an absolute treasure.

Finally two-and-a-half years later, I was looking at this finished product on fb.

Of course, I had to visit the display in person and asked Sue to take this photo.

I wish that someone had thought to colour correct the inset photo of a train on the bridge. It has a blue tone which doesn't fit with the rest of the plaque, and that gnaws at my photographic sensibilities (said half jokingly and half not). 

Back in 2018, I had done a number of scans for the 200th anniversary calendar for 2019 and used the same photo with that colour cast removed. 

In that calendar, for every month we juxtaposed a photo from the past with one of the present. In this case, the bridge is now part of a recreational trail that wends its way through several counties. On the day that I took the modern photo, we gathered several people who were affiliated with the museum and had them walk along the bridge. The composite depicts past and present use: a train of the past and pedestrians of the present. But you can see that this version of the old train photo does not have that blue cast.

I will leave you with another image from the calendar, this one from the main bridge looking downriver back toward the same railway bridge as above, which is faintly visible in the distance. There was quite a change in land use along the riverbanks over the century or so that separated the two photos.

I enjoyed doing the work of designing the calendar and am now pleased to see that the historical plaque has seen the light of day. In particular, I love the convergence of a modern photographer in 2018 editing a photo by a photographer who himself (likely a he) photographed a photographer way back in 1905. As I mentioned above, it now occurs to me to replicate the photo in the present, but on a very frigid day like today, I will shove the thought to the back of my mind for now.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

My Photoshoot with Santa

I received a text from Bob Santa yesterday morning, asking if I could  take some photos of him in his full Christmas regalia. I knew that he would want me to use his camera, but I took mine along too and got a few shots of my own. Little did I know at the time that Santa is a twin.

First, we went to the Julie and Dancing Unicorns sign where Sue and I had recently posed. What a fine Santa whose beard is entirely his own!

But that was Santa Bob. His twin brother Santa Robert also showed up.

I managed to snag just one photo of the twin santas just to prove that I write the truth. However, I was never able to tell Bob Santa and Robert Santa apart.

We went to a few more spots as Santa was ... err Santas were ...  looking for the reindeer. It is important to keep track of their hooven whereabouts at this time of year and to make sure they are in flying shape for the big night that is impending.

Whether the reindeer were found or not remains Santa's ... err Santas' ... secret, but I did get another photo of one or t'other.

It is Santa (I can't tell which one, but the other twin was searching elsewhere) asking Roy Brown* if he might have seen the usually trusty steeds.

Soon, I lost track of him/them. I expect that the reindeer were found and something magical happened, for there's a special kind of thing that happens between santa(s) and reindeer at this time of year.

* Roy Brown was the Canadian pilot officially credited with shooting down the Red Baron. He was born and raised here in Carleton Place, and this statue was officially erected just last week. Someday, I will show you the whole setup, but this was all about Santa ... err the Santas.