11 December 2014

Winter Weather

A snowy reminder of summer lounging
A snowy reminder of summer lounging
(I'm back. Computer problems too late at night kept me from posting for a couple of days. I've added three posts tonight.)

It is another crazy winter that we are having. The dump of snow in September disoriented all of us and destroyed so many trees in our city. And then it all melted away and we enjoyed fall temperatures a short time only to have the temperatures plunge 30 degrees in November. For those of us who have lived in Calgary, we know there is no such thing as 'normal'.  Last year, the cold and snow began and we didn't seem to get a break for months on end. But here we are December 11th and the temperature is +11!

I get the immense pleasure of interviewing the new students as we prepare to start each term of study in our English as a Second Language program at Mount Royal University. I warn the new students in September to prepare right away for winter weather, knowing that one day they might wake up for class and find a blizzard happening. It came true much earlier than I expected for them this year, but I also tell them about the relief that a chinook can bring. I tell them to watch the western sky for the tell-tale cloud formations that form the chinook arch. I tell the Korean students to listen to the snow as it crunches underfoot. One of my favourite sounds. During the years I lived in Korea, it was a sound I missed. That along with the sound of leaves crunching. The humidity is so different there that those sounds don't really exist. At least, not where I spent my time.

I'm not a skier. I don't ice-skate. I really don't take advantage of the winter weather like my brother-in-law and nephew do. Like so many Calgarians do. But if I had to choose between winter and summer, I'd take winter every time.

Photo by John Brosz on Flickr (CC by

A fresh blanket of snow is beautiful. The winter light hitting the ice crystals can look magical. And I can stay indoors with a cup of cocoa and a book and a blanket and enjoy the winter weather. This chinook is great and I don't mind if it stays a while longer so we can enjoy the Nativity Pageant and visit Zoo lights and other outdoor festivities with a bit of comfort but I hope that by Christmas morning, there is a fresh layer of white snow covering the ground creating some of that magic again.

Here are a couple of 6 second Vine videos for the season. Click to play on a loop and click the audio in the top left of each video to hear the music.

The song for this post seems obvious.

Another version sung for Australian TV with Canada's own Michael Bublé. (featuring hockey and the RCMP). 


And a version that is just for fun!!!

10 December 2014


When I was serving a mission in Korea, we didn't have Christmas decorations for our apartment. Our solution was to cover the ceiling of our front entry area in snowflakes. It was fun to have others add to our snowflake collection through the season. I still think it is one of the prettiest and easiest ways to decorate a window or a beam.

There are a lot of ideas for decorating with snowflakes on Pinterest. So if you have some free time and want to get others involved, here are some patterns and ideas for you to try.

Click on the picture to go to some easy-to-do DIY ideas.
Here's a pretty mobile made with small snowflakes.

Click the picture to see the patterns for these snowflakes.
There are definitely more advanced than the snowflakes in my Korean apartment. 

Click the picture to see the patters for these snowflakes.
Lots more to try!

And here's the song for the day. (How many times can you say "falling" in a row?) This has had 86 million views. Really. Maybe every ESL class around the world has played it.

I prefer the snowflake reference in this song!

09 December 2014

Christmas Cards

Merry Christmas!

It seems like a lot of people have taken to Facebook to confess that they won't be sending out Christmas cards this year. My confession, and it won't be news to anyone, is that I have never sat down and written out and mailed Christmas cards. Oh, the good intentions are always there.
"This is the year that I will send something out," I tell myself.  I buy the cards. Sometimes I even fill them in and address them. But even at that point, my plan to write out a letter to accompany them - or insert a photo - all those typical year end "this is what our family accomplished and this is what we look like" type letters are where I stop. For many years, I fell back on the excuse, "when it isn't just me... then I'll do it". I didn't think I should be sending out Christmas cards until there was news that was worth sending. Or I didn't know how to write about myself that didn't sound boastful - I went here or I did that. It seems better for those letters to be about your children and your family than about yourself. So went the self talk that kept me from sending out even a card in the mail that said Merry Christmas. That isn't my default response anymore.  Now, it is time that typically gets in the way. The excuse that seems to trump all others.  I mean, here it is the second week of December, and there are no decorations to enjoy, no baking in the freezer, no shopping and wrapped gifts ready to distribute.

So there it is. You may yet receive a card from me in person, but that is the extent of it. Unless some kind of miracle happens, (and I believe in miracles - so one day, it may!) it probably won't be this year.

I should have no expectation of receiving a card in the mail from any of you. But I do receive them. And I love it. Getting something personal in the mail is a treat! So thank you truly if you have continued to include me in your Christmas card list despite my negligence. And maybe one day, I'll have my act together and send something to you in return!

In the meantime, here is the picture I would have used for my card. It is a tiny artwork by my great grandmother, Elezebeth Grace Mulholland Toone.  Merry Christmas to all of you!

Finally, here's one creative family's year end letter in the form of an adapted REM song.

08 December 2014

Christmases Past

Where is this? Is it the Puzey farm?
The post today is just some random photos from the Puzey family scans. And I have a lot of questions about them.

I have 12 other posts partially drafted but many are waiting for me to get my own Christmas decorating and other activities underway. I'm hoping to take care of the tree Wednesday. Here are a couple of pictures of trees but I'm not 100% sure about them. 

As for this first picture, I don't know where this linoleum and border stenciling was. I wonder if it was the Puzey house before the bookshelves were added. I really have no idea. 
Christmas at the Toone's

I love this picture of the the presents under the tree on a Christmas morning. Who was the dolly and the bassinet for? How about the tricycle? I think it is the Toone home because of the location of the piano but I can't be sure. 

Okay - this is the picture I have of Aunt Sandy with a tree. I don't know who the other two people are. Any idea?

Grandpa,me and Michael.
Grandpa Fred with his first two grandchildren.  I look positively bored in this one. Michael looks so sweet. This is our Brentwood home - with the Rocky Mountain mural on the wall. I remember that chair had very scratchy fabric. 

A family portrait. 1972?
Where were these two pictures taken? A church building but I can't tell. For some reason I think it was Claresholm but I don't really remember going there for Christmas dinners. 

I need a good caption for this one. Anyone?
Same corner as above. I took this one of my crazy cousins and sister. I thought this was an awesome skirt Janelle was wearing. Fun!

I was looking through some old photo albums tonight for a particular picture and I made another discovery I'll share in a future post. A mystery has been solved! 

Tonight, I had a lovely dinner this evening with my aunt and uncle, shared some family history stories and pictures from my recent trip to the UK.  I realized I never carry my camera anymore because it is too bulky and I don't use my camera phone because I typically have no room to take any photos with it. I am missing out on photo opportunities all around me. I was able to check out Aunt Sandy's advent calendar and discovered what the missing ornaments on my calendar ought to be.  A bird, two fish and another small tree. Hooray! I copied a template of the shape of these and will make them in felt and add them to my calendar. The meal was yummy, and it was very cozy sitting by the tree with the fireplace going. My fireplace DVD is a sad imitation. 

So today's musical interlude is actually a lengthy one.  It is TWO HOURS of Christmas classics accompanying a fireplace video.  Put this on full screen and maybe you will feel toasty warm as you enjoy the fire's digital glow. 

07 December 2014

Christmas Calendars

It isn't Christmas in my house without this calendar on the wall. (The picture isn't from this year because it doesn't have as many ornaments on it yet.) I wrote about this important tradition in a previous post.This calendar was made by my Grandma Puzey (no idea when but I don't remember a time we didn't have it) and I have always had some favourite ornaments that I look forward to adding to the tree every year. Maybe you can guess which ones. Can you see these: the Santa face, the candlestick, and the little tree?  The blue and white ornaments are fillers - until I can make some proper replacements for ones that went missing long ago.  

Other ways to mark the days that I remember using were burning a candle and reading scriptures or singing a carol or occasionally a store bought calendar with candies or pictures in windows. What do you use to count down the days?

Another way to count down is online. There are lots of websites, blogs, and pages of different popular culture that share new content daily in the lead up to Christmas. These are just a few.

Sherlockology (based on the BBC Sherlock series)

The Economist  - this one has one of the site's most popular infographic from the year each day

Project Britain  - Learn about Christmas traditions around the world.

Back in 2006, I was looking forward to once again following the advent calendar of Leslie Harpold. I had been counting down to Christmas with the aid of her very fun interactive calendars for a number of years (she started in 2001) and she was the first individual I consciously followed online that I had never met in person (as opposed to using the web to look up information from organizations or businesses).

This is the last image Leslie ever posted on her website. She was 40 years old, single, living in New York  and posted her writing, images and favourite links on her website, www.harpold.com - which only exists now by means of using the wayback machine. She died in her home over complications from bronchitis. (Yes, Mom - I take it seriously when you are sick! - glad you are well now)

Each new day,  her advent calendar would include a happy Christmas memory, a holiday link and something special. It might be a game to make your web page snow. or a recipe for sugar plums. 
I have meant to do something similar ever since then and have gotten as far as an interactive calendar page with no content (instead of a tree, I used Christmas presents) but I've settled for writing blog posts this year. So today's post is not such a happy Christmas memory, but they are memories and ones that have stuck with me. 

I'll end the post with a song that Leslie shared as one of her "something specials". It is a song by Canadian Ron Sexsmith. And one that I can play on repeat. 

The lyrics are as follows:

Maybe this Christmas will mean something more
Maybe this year
Love will appear
Deeper than ever before
And maybe forgiveness will ask us to call
Someone we've loved
Someone we've lost
For reasons we can't quite recall
Maybe this Chistmas
Maybe there'll be an open door
Maybe the star that's shown before will shine once more

And maybe this Christmas will find us at last
In heavenly peace
Grieve for the least
For the love we've been shown in the past
Maybe this Christmas
Maybe this Christmas

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