16 December 2015

Christmas at the Office

Presidents Holiday Reception

Despite working right up until Christmas eve, there are a few more celebratory moments at work to break up the meetings and time at the computer. We had a Christmas lunch with the teachers after Fall term classes ended. The Activities committee did an amazing job of transforming our Board room into much less of an office space and more comfortable for a Christmas celebration. This year, instead of a potluck, we all chipped in our money to order in an Indian buffet from Rajdoot and it was delicious!
photo by Roberta Wallace
photo by Roberta Wallace
I didn't participate in the gift exchange this year ( no time to prepare anything for that) but on the same day, our new Faculty - Continuing Education - was also having a Christmas get together and so we dropped by the end of that event. They had a fun photo booth, a hot chocolate bar and a snacks and candy buffet including "Grinch mix" and "Elf poop". They had snack cups or bags you could fill with your munchies so I prepared a few salt water taffies to take along with me that night to see The Mousetrap at Vertigo Theatre.

The last Christmas event I attended was the Presidents' Holiday Reception (pictured at the top).  Our admin staff had just gone out for a Vietnamese lunch that day so I didn't go as much for the appetizers but there were some lovely sweet treats -  fruit, tuxedo cake pops, mini smores cupcakes, salted caramel mousse - too many to try all the choices. Another Hot Chocolate bar with assorted toppings - whipped cream, marshmallows, crushed candy cane, mini gingerbread men sprinkles  - all provided. 

I missed going to the Finance Department's Christmas open house - they line their hallways with crockpots and hot plates of goodies, fill a table at the front with Christmas cookies and invite everyone to drop by and for a toonie, join in mingling with others from the University - even a visit to Santa is included. I was attending a workshop all that afternoon so didn't get to stop in this year. 

It might not be the big corporate galas held in downtown Calgary or include the Christmas bonuses but we do find moments to celebrate the season here at the University. 

15 December 2015

Christmas Lights

Lion's Festival of Lights (2007)

I LOVE Christmas lights. They are one of my top happy-making things. So far this year, I've just enjoyed the lights in the neighbourhoods as I've driven to and fro but it is worth it to make a special effort to go and see some of the more spectacular displays.  Growing up and living in the northwest corner of Calgary for most of my life means that I had plenty of opportunities to drive past the Lion's Festival of Lights over the nearly three decades they have been on display. 14th Street became one of my favourite routes to take during the month of December and I would drive past as often as possible. Now that I live on the south side of the river, I never get the chance and have to plan a special trip if I want to see them. 

Zoolights are another opportunity to see great lights. I used to be able to convince my neice Madi to do things like this with me. (Wasn't she a cutie) What a fun tradition to have in Calgary. With over 1.5 million lights and 200 displays, there is a lot to see and to do. 

The Airdrie Festival of Lights are a display I've only made it out to a couple of times and both times it was bitterly cold.  A perfect excuse to stop by the bonfire and have a cup of cocoa when you are there. It makes a good road trip with some Christmas carols to make the journey cheery but not a drive that is as easy to make now that I don't live on the north side. 

So last year, I joined friends in a drive through the displays at Spruce Meadows. A few displays, some with music and action,  but the highlight is all the trees to drive past!

Even though those lights are all magical to see, none of these would be my favourite light display. My favourite isn't something that is representative of a scene or highly "designed". My favourite is the enthusiastic home owner who  gets creative in their own front yard. Lots of lights, lots of fun and I have to pull over and take a closer look. Like this very small front yard from a couple of years ago. I found it by just driving a different route home every day and there it was - on a street with only a few lights in a neighbourhood with a lot of renters and seniors mixed together, this little patch of Christmas light heaven. 

As we drove around tonight delivering cookies, I didn't stop to take any pictures but saw a few homes where I will make another trip past before the season is over.

Here's the picture of our cookie delivery packages from yesterday's post. It was wonderful seeing all the people willing to bring in homemade cookies to share with others at what is always a busy time of year.  Most of our Young Women were involved either in rehearsing for the Nativity Pageant or school work but it was a great chance to visit with Kira.

If you want to go find some good lights, check out the Calgary Herald's map (or add your own if you take time to light up your home for others to enjoy!)  Another map can be viewed here.  You could always grab your hot chocolate, head out for the drive and when you find your favourite decorated home, drop off a homemade certificate awarding them Best Lights Display or a plate of cookies!

Where are your favourite lights??

14 December 2015

Christmas Baking

304 Shortbread cookies
A wonderful part of the holidays is all the delicious food. The aroma of Christmas baking, of a full turkey dinner, the chocolates and candy...the reason for so many New Year's resolutions.

So the enjoyment of Christmas baking started for me with my trip to visit my brother's family in October up north in Manning, Alberta. There was a Christmas cookie exchange on Saturday morning and we stopped in to see the Legion hall with tables of cookie sheets (fairly picked over) with a fantastic variety of cookies.  You could fill a paper bag and pay by weight - a good way to get a first taste of some cookie classics. On the table by the weigh scale, was a large pickle jar of tiny shortbread cookies in the shape of snowmen, candy canes, stars, trees and gingerbread men. For a toonie you could guess the number inside. Later that day, that big pickle jar was sitting on the dining table at my brother's place - his youngest - Lorena guessed the closest and won the whole jar!  It became far too easy to just snack on a tiny bite-sized snowflake or candy cane shortbread as we played games, made crafts or just sat around visiting.

When we were saying our goodbyes, Lorena brought over a car care package for us with a ziplock bag of cookies decorated with a snowflake and an envelope of "Things to do when you BORED on your rode trip" with some mad-libs to do on the drive home.

This Christmas I am still incredibly behind in any Christmas decorating, baking or shopping. My favourites to make are caramels, shortbreads, cheese balls and fruit slush.  I also like to bake up some orange cranberry muffins.

Our family tradition has been making and dipping chocolates but it gets harder to do over the years and so far, it isn't happening for us this year. The weather is a factor - the fondant is usually made on a very cold day and so far this year, the weather has been too warm whenever there has been time. My favourite part of the dipping is when we are done and we dip mandarin orange pieces into the melted chocolate. Yum!

Tomorrow, I'll be heading out with the Young Men and Young Women of the Wildwood ward to deliver plates of cookies to some members of the ward. It is our "hug on a plate" to let them know we love them. Follow the link below to find a cookie calendar from The Globe and Mail. Do you have a favourite recipe you save for this time of year?

The 24 Cookies of Christmas

13 December 2015

Christmas Carols

I love when we begin to sing Christmas hymns in church and it is always a treat to watch the Christmas Devotional Broadcast the first Sunday of December and hear the beautiful music by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. If you missed it, you can still watch the recording here. Enjoy "The Carol of the Bells" one of my favourites!

Today is a popular Sunday for evening Christmas Music Concerts and I know there were a few happening here in Calgary. I attended our Stake Concert after joining Jill and Ingrid and guests for a very yummy dinner. There were 14 musical numbers not counting the congregational singing. Fantastic selections - two performances with strings, one piece on the piano, solo or small group numbers accompanied by piano or guitar, and 5 choir numbers from 4 different choirs.

Some old favourites in the program - Elder Linford singing "O Little Town of Bethlehem", two trios with "Go Tell It On the Mountain" and "Do You Have Room?", an operatic version of "Bring a Torch, Jeanette Isabella", and the Fourth Ward Choir singing "O Holy Night" and inviting the congregation to join in for the final verse - powerful!  The new favourites included two I've never heard before - a traditional Scottish/Gaelic number called "Saviour's Lullaby" which the YSA Choir sang and  a ragtime piano piece called "Graceful Ghost Rag" (mis-titled in the program) played by Jack Liu. Maybe not the most seasonal of pieces but so much fun. Here's a version to listen to.

When we go out to deliver plates of cookies this week with the youth, I hope I have a car that isn't afraid of a little carolling to go along with the cookies but I'll have to wait and see on that. A big part of Christmas is the music and tonight was a perfect way to enjoy the spirit of the season. Even if I haven't decorated yet, I can still fill my home with Christmas music.

If I were in Salt Lake this coming week, I would want to attend the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's Christmas concert.  But since I'm not, I can always enjoy last year's concert broadcast on PBS.
Last year's special guests were Santino Fontana and The Muppets from Sesame Street.

Broadcasts are scheduled for Dec 21 at 8pm, Christmas Eve at 8 pm and check local listings for Christmas Day.  Here's a taste from that concert - the finale with We Wish You a Merry Christmas.

nRelate - All Sections