Friday, December 31, 2010

A Toast to Old Times

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely you’ll buy your pint cup!
and surely I’ll buy mine!
And we'll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
since auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine;
But seas between us broad have roared
since auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And there’s a hand my trusty friend!
And give us a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
Robert Burns, 1788

I seem to have a perennial list of new year's resolutions: lose weight, exercise more, earn more, socialize more. The fact that my list looks so similar year after year could be interpreted as failure, but I prefer to consider myself a 'work in progress'. Each year, the good and the bad adds to my magnum opus. So I remember the times of 2010 and the people. I toast them now and always, and I'll do my best to keep them close and, hopefully, "We'll take a cup of kindness yet" for old times' sake.

Happy New Year Everyone!
May 2011 be filled with blessings for you and yours.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Splish, Splash

Splish, splash, I was takin' a bath
Long about a Saturday night, yeah
A rub dub, just relaxin' in the tub
Thinkin' everythin' was alright . . . . . .

Yes, I was a-splishin' and a-splashin'
I was a-rollin' and a-strollin'
Yeah, I was a-movin' and a-groovin'
We was a-reelin' with the feelin'
We was a-rollin' and a-strollin'
Movin' with the groovin'
Splish, splash, yeah

Splishin' and a-splashin'
One time I was splishin' and a-splashin'
Ooh, I was movin' and a-groovin'
Yeah, I was splishin' and a-splashin'
Bobby Darin and Murray Kaufman, 1948

My heart pumped and my pulse jumped.

It's so exciting going through the car wash. This is how Jonah must have felt . . . except that I know that I'll be spit out of the belly of the beast in a few short minutes.

I've always found car washes to be thrilling. Today, with camera in hand, I learned that they are also beautiful.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Celebrating Life

May happiness follow your little boy
Wherever life may lead him,
May wonder always walk with him,
May goodness always greet him,
May smiles and laughter light his way,
May love surround him every day.

Today we celebrated the arrival of little Will into our family with a baby shower at his grandma's house. He is precious, just like his cousin. No doubt, he will be a bundle of joy for his parents and for us all.

Although he was born two months ago, I consider him a Christmas baby so I made him a Christmas blanket to keep him warm and wrapped up some favourite Christmas storybooks to stir his imagination.

And now for something completely different:

Would you trust this man? He'll answer to any name and he'll do just about anything for anybody. He was honoured with a nameplate for his desk at a local support agency and posed for this mug shot.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Standing By

Then come the wild weather, come sleet or come snow, we will stand by each other, however it blow.
Simon Dach

See those little white dots among the towering pines? Sleet rained down on southwestern Ontario, but it did not chill the spirits of the Time Traveller and I as we joined friends for a delicious Thai lunch. Certainly a change from turkey. ;-)

Monday, December 27, 2010

It's Cold Out There!

I really can't stay - Baby it's cold outside
I've got to go away - Baby it's cold outside
This evening has been - Been hoping that you'd drop in
So very nice - I'll hold your hands, they're just like ice
My mother will start to worry - Beautiful, what's your hurry
My father will be pacing the floor - Listen to the fireplace roar
So really I'd better scurry - Beautiful, please don't hurry
Well Maybe just a half a drink more - Put some music on while I pour

Baby it's cold outside
Lyrics and music: Frank Loesser, 1944

We are far better off than folks on the east coast who are getting hit hard with winter storms, so I really shouldn't complain, but I can almost hear the birch tree sing, "Baby, it's cold out here!" The cold temperatures cause me to pick up the pace as I venture between warm spaces, so I am almost trotting between car and mall and back again. Hopefully, my body is burning great numbers of calories after the recent feasting.

Sunday, December 26, 2010


"Sire, the night is darker now, and the wind blows stronger;
Fails my heart, I know not how; I can go no longer."
"Mark my footsteps, good my page. Tread thou in them boldly
Thou shalt find the winter's rage
freeze thy blood less coldly."

In his master's steps he trod, where the snow lay dinted;
Heat was in the very sod, which the saint had printed.
Therefore, Christian men, be sure, wealth or rank possessing,
Ye who now will bless the poor, shall yourselves find blessing.
"Good King Wenceslas" lyrics by John Mason Neale, 1853

Long shadows and freezing temperatures marked St. Stephen's Day. I did not venture out to join the crowds at the malls. Instead, I found warmth in an intimate chapel service. There may have been 18 faithfully gathered -- even the minister took the day off after the hectic Christmastide. Appropriately, the lay reader's 'reflections' reminded us that miracles do happen with small acts of kindness.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Let your heart be light
From now on,
our troubles will be out of sight

Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Make the Yule-tide gay,
From now on,
our troubles will be miles away.

Here we are as in olden days,
Happy golden days of yore.
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Gather near to us once more.

Through the years
We all will be together,
If the Fates allow
Hang a shining star upon the highest bough.
And have yourself A merry little Christmas now.
Lyrics: Ralph Blane; Music: Hugh Martin, 1943

I'm told that "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" is one of the saddest Christmas songs ever. I suppose it must be one's perspective because I don't feel the sadness. I am blessed to be surrounded by my family this Christmas.

And Cat is enjoying her first Christmas in Canada. She was very excited by all the treats Santa brought.

Merry Blessed Christmas Everyone!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Heavenly Peace

Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon Virgin Mother and Child
Holy Infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace

Silent night, holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight
Glories stream from heaven afar
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ, the Saviour is born
Christ, the Saviour is born

Silent night, holy night
Son of God, love's pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth
Fr. Joseph Mohr, 1816

Finally, as time for bed nears, a sense of peace settles over our souls. All is quiet. All is calm. It has been a busy few days. This afternoon I was still wrapping presents and baking shortbread for a special someone.

Shortbread is a Christmas tradition in our family. Grandma taught me at a young age how to make these cookies that were Dad's favourite (she was a kind mother-in-law). They were also a favourite of Santa and so my brother and I made sure to leave a plate of cookies and a glass of milk at the front door on Christmas Eve.

The recipe is a winner. It is so simple, it feels so satisfying kneading the dough, and it is pure pleasure when you bite into the cookie and the butter melts in your mouth. I still remember working with my grandmother at her dining room table. I used to think that I was decorating the cookies when the time came to poke columns of holes with a fork. I have since learned that these holes have a structural purpose: without the 'decoration', mountain-sized air pockets will form in the cookies. With just butter, sugar and flour, these are heavenly bliss incarnate. Good night. Merry Christmas. And may the vision of shortbread dance through your head.


1 cup butter
1/2 cup icing sugar
2 cups flour

1. Cream butter. Add icing sugar and beat well. Add flour and mix. It will be crumbly.
2. Form into a ball and knead for about 5 minutes. Crumbly texture gives way to a velvety look.
3. Transfer dough to a small cake pan (about 6" X 9") that is lightly greased and floured. Pat the dough down to an even depth. With a dinner knife dipped in flour, score the dough lengthwise and crosswise. With a fork dipped in flour, puncture holes into the top surface.
4. Bake at 350F for about 15 minutes. Remove from oven when edges are light gold in colour. Remove from oven and cool 5 minutes. Use a sharp knife to cut along the scored lines. Tastes best the following day.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Santa Sightings

You better watch out
You better not cry
Better not pout
I'm telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town
He's making a list
And checking it twice;
Gonna find out
Who's naughty and nice
Santa Claus is coming to town
He sees you when you're sleeping
He knows when you're awake
He knows if you've been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake!
O! You better watch out!
You better not cry
Better not pout
I'm telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town
Santa Claus is coming to town
J. Fred Coots and Haven Gillespie, 1934

The day before Santa begins his big ride around the globe, I caught a glimpse of him meeting children at his mall 'getaway'.

Then I spotted him in front of a government building. Thankfully, political correctness hasn't dimmed the fun here. This traditional Santa brings cheer to all who pass.

And then a non-traditional Santa appeared briefly beneath our Christmas tree. This furry rendition evoked many 'Ho-ho-hos' as we attempted to outfit her. Getting the beard in place was mission impossible.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Wassailing in Blue

Here we come a wassailing
Among the leaves so green,
Here we come a wandering
So fair to be seen.

Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail too,
And God bless you and send you a happy New Year.
And God send you a happy New Year.

The Time Traveller brewed some fine Amarone that we bottled today. Cat is definitely in the holiday spirit.

Is it any wonder that there is so much wassailing going on when the landscape is so blue? No, I do not have a blue filter on my camera. This is a typical winter day in Ontario. It's beautiful, in a stark, study-in-blue sort of way.

If not for the trees, it is difficult to differentiate the snow from the sky. Thankfully, the roads were clear and we had a lovely drive in the country.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Winter Solstice

In the bleak midwinter, frost wind made moan,
earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
in the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, heaven cannot hold him, nor earth sustain;
heaven and earth shall flee away when he comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
the Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
but his mother only, in her maiden bliss,
worshiped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
if I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
yet what I can I give him: give my heart.
Poem by Christina G. Rossetti (1830-1894); Music by Gustav Holst (1874-1934)

The snow sparkled this morning under a bright blue sky. Thankfully, daylight hours begin to lengthen tomorrow. Now that's cause for celebration!

Monday, December 21, 2010
Mea Culpa
I cannot blame poor health for the lack of a post yesterday. At the end of the day, I didn't have a photo and I was too lazy to go out and find one. Shame on me.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Resounding Joy

Joy to the World, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

A special candlelight carol service this evening had the bells ringing. Ding, dong. Ding, dong. With the addition of cellos and trumpet, I was in heaven. I wasn't the only one in a joyous mood: the congregation's united voice singing Joy to the World resounded off the old stone walls. I love it when everyone sings their heart out because then no one notices when I sing off-key.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Friendly Cheer

City sidewalks, busy sidewalks
Dressed in holiday style.
In the air there's a feeling of Christmas.
Children laughing, people passing
Meeting smile after smile
And on every street corner you'll hear:

Silver bells, silver bells
It's Christmas time in the city.
Ring-a-ling, hear them sing.
Soon it will be Christmas day.
Jay Livingston and Ray Evans, 1951

It was mighty chilly outside, but there was lots of warmth inside as my good friend and her daughters made a wide detour on their way home from university to join me for lunch. I love tea in bone china with Empress strainers, cozies and trivets (the food is very good too!).

A couple of mighty Clydesdale horses delighted many Saturday shoppers with a tour of the town's 19th-century core.

Along main street, the local business association provided hot apple cider and wandering a cappella carollers to entice shoppers out of the malls and into locally-owned stores.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Soul Warming

Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, love divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and angels gave the sign.

Worship we the Godhead,
Love incarnate, love divine;
Worship we our Jesus:
But wherewith for sacred sign?

Love shall be our token,
Love be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign.
Christina Georgina Rossetti, 1885

A number of very caring church ladies sewed 60 lap quilts and presented them to residents of a long-term care home. Each and every quilt was bestowed with love and blessings. All faces beamed with joy, whether giving or receiving such a thoughtful gift. The beautiful quilts warmed everyone's soul, even those observing from the sidelines.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Simple Pleasures

Come they told me, pa rum pum pum pum
A new born King to see, pa rum pum pum pum
Our finest gifts we bring, pa rum pum pum pum
To lay before the King, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

So to honor Him, pa rum pum pum pum,
When we come.

Little Baby, pa rum pum pum pum
I am a poor boy too, pa rum pum pum pum
I have no gift to bring, pa rum pum pum pum
That's fit to give the King, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

Shall I play for you, pa rum pum pum pum,
On my drum?

Mary nodded, pa rum pum pum pum
The ox and lamb kept time, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my drum for Him, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my best for Him, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

Then He smiled at me, pa rum pum pum pum
Me and my drum.
Katherine K. Davis, Henry Onorati and Harry Simeone, 1958

There's one question reverberating among family members that can't seem to be answered: "What do you want for Christmas?" There are no wish lists like we used to make as kids with the Eaton's catalogue open in front of us. There are no needs (except for a pair of winter boots, that Mom and Dad gave me this week as an early Christmas present) and no desires. We all are as content as Cat with a plastic bag and old newspapers. How fortunate we are!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Snowy Tracks

Thumpetty thump thump,
Thumpetty thump thump,
Look at Frosty go.

Thumpetty thump thump,
Thumpetty thump thump,
Over the hills of snow.
Walter "Jack" Rollins and Steve Nelson

Beside the car this morning we found mysterious tracks. At first, I suspected that our heavy-footed visitor was Thumper.

But similar tracks followed Frosty this evening, so now I'm on the lookout for Hocus. Perhaps he's looking for a neighbourhood snowman to top with a magic hat. Anything is possible at Christmastime.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Snowy Reflections

When Christmas bells are swinging above the fields of snow, we hear sweet voices ringing from lands of long ago, and etched on vacant places are half-forgotten faces of friends we used to cherish, and loves we used to know.
Ella Wheeler Wilcox, "Christmas Fancies"

Snowstorms seem to be raging on every side but all is calm, albeit cold, in my hometown. In the warmth of the ancestral home, I take great pleasure in sitting in the darkened living room, with only the Christmas tree lit, and listening to Christmas CDs. This comfort zone leads me to reflect on, and be thankful for all my blessings: family and friends . . . . . and Cat, of course. My gratefulness brims over my eyes. Thank you!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Angels on High

Angels we have heard on high
Sweetly singing o’er the plains
And the mountains in reply
Echoing their joyous strains

Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!

I've been very fortunate to celebrate Christmas Eve in Bethlehem with a host of nations. The carol was sung in the numerous languages of the congregation and, although few could sing in more than one language, the church swelled with the chorus: Gloria, in excelsis Deo!

Today we decorated the Christmas tree. "Angie" has graced the tree every year since I was one or two.

And the tree is still decorated with boxes of glass ornaments, now considered antique. I suppose that makes me an antique too.

Sunday, December 12, 2010
Cold Strikes
Sorry, there was no photo of a good memory for Sunday's post. I will remember, however, Cat curled up with me on the pink wool blanket as I slept through the day with the first head cold of the season.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Best Gift Under the Tree

Christmas gift suggestions:
To your enemy, forgiveness.
To an opponent, tolerance.
To a friend, your heart.
To a customer, service.
To all, charity.
To every child, a good example.
To yourself, respect.
Oren Arnold

The best gift: Cat.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Sugary Snow

Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.
Norman Vincent Peale

While the Time Traveller shoveled a mountain of snow in his hometown a few days ago, mine remains relatively snow-free. Today's sugaring was a happy sight. It makes the cold beautiful.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

It's a Secret

Much of my day was spent making a gift for a special someone. I can't tell you more because it would spoil the surprise. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Bearing Gifts

We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar
Field and fountain, moor and mountain
Following yonder star

O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to thy Perfect Light
Reverend John Henry Hopkins, Jr., 1857

Forgive me as I sing Christmas carols (off-key). I spotted these regal kings on sale in the mall today and knew that I would treasure them in future Christmases. Truth be told, it was the noble camel that clinched the deal.

Mom added the St. Nicholas ornaments to my collection. St. Nick holding the cardinal is particularly sweet.

I've had the good fortune to see this painting by Gentile da Fabriano (1425) of St. Nicholas hanging from a window grate as he secretly deposits sacks of gold for three daughters of a poor man so that they had dowries. While he hangs outside the window, the daughters and their father prepare for bed. I was captivated by the originality of the scene. Another version of the story has St. Nicholas dropping the gold down the chimney and it lands in a maiden's sock that was hung to dry. Ho ho ho.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

That's What Christmas is All About

(8) And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
(9) And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
(10) And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
(11) For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.
(12) And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
(13) And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
(14) Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace and goodwill towards men.

Gospel of Luke

It hard to believe that 45 years have passed since I first watched "Charlie Brown's Christmas" -- and I still love it. I think it may be the only Christmas cartoon that quotes from the Bible and says directly, "That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."

Around Charlie Brown's Christmas tree, transformed by love, the Peanuts gang sings "Hark the Herald Angels Sing". What a euphoric carol calling for Peace on Earth and Mercy Mild. Some things are timeless.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Touched by a Grinch

And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow,
stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons.
It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags.
And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before.
What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store.
What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.
Dr. Suess

This year I can enjoy all the Christmas television specials. All those simple tales filled me with good feelings as a kid and so they live on in my heart. One of my favourites is Dr. Suess' "How the Grinch Stole Christmas".

This evening I was introduced to Jim Carrey's "Grinch". While it was spectacular in costumes and affects, it pales against Chuck Jones' animation and nothing beats Boris Karloff's baritone narration. "Grinch" has a somewhat nastier undercurrent, perhaps because the world is somewhat nastier than decades past. All the more reason to watch the old cartoons and sing along with the Who of Whoville:
Welcome Christmas, Dah who dah-moose!
Welcome Christmas, While we stand,
Heart to heart, And hand in hand.
Fah who for-aze, Dah who dor-aze . . . good night everyone!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Frosty Travels

Making a quick tour of points East this afternoon, the Time Traveller and I found ourselves beneath the Christmas tree of Vineland Estate Winery.

After tasting some wine and cheese upstairs, we descended into their wine cellar where wines were paired with chocolate. I enjoyed their Chardonnay and Riesling. We also enjoyed our 'taste test' of an wine aroma kit. If you want a fun evening with friends, I suggest investing $169 in one of the Wine Awakenings kits. Better than an hour of Trivial Pursuit, an hour of testing your ability to differentiate the aromas found in a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay or Pinot Noir would be edutainment paired with good wine and a few nibbles.

From the vineyards, we headed to the water to a beach that my grandmother used to take us as kids in summertimes long ago. Today, a cold winter whipped up the white caps.

And the water was coooold. Notice the icicles under the rock. Brrrrr.

Then we climbed the escarpment and I introduced the Time Traveller to Beamer Falls. Lots of water cascaded down, leaving icicles on the stone face. The vibrant reds and yellows of Fall have morphed into tawny browns and greys. Ah, the many faces of Mother Nature.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Gathering of the Clan

There's more, much more, to Christmas
Than candlelight and cheer;
It's the spirit of sweet friendship
That brightens all year.
It's thoughtfulness and kindness,
It's hope reborn again,
For peace, for understanding,
And for goodwill to men!

The extended family gathered round a crackling fire and an abundant table to wish one another a merry Christmas.

My aunts are very creative. Their handmade Christmas cards are made with such love. I was touched by the thoughtfulness of Aunt S, who included a gingerbread camel in her annual hand-painted Christmas ornament. 2010 is already a Christmas to remember.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Revisiting Cream Cheese

Philadelphia cream cheese could not be easily procured in Egypt, so it's been many years since I've baked with it. Today's project was mini pumpkin ginger cheesecakes, the recipe for which appeared in an earlier post. Cream cheese sure is yummy. With each quality control taste test, my left brain sent warnings to my right brain regarding waistline disasters. Those disasters notwithstanding, these mini cheesecakes turned out pretty good.