Thursday, 29 December 2011

Snow Brings Out the Kid in Us

It is cold and snowy for the first time this winter, and that seems to be bringing out the kid in people, (including me). As I was walking to work this morning (in minus 28 celsius temperatures with the wind chill), I saw this wonderful snowman in someone's front yard, with the most amazing carrot nose. 

Mr. Snowman looked rather owl-like from the front and seemed to be thinking about something. He definitely had personality. 

At noon I went for a walk with a colleague from work. It was such a beautiful day with all the sunshine making such beautiful blue shadows on the snow. We walked to a little park nearby. It almost looks like we are in a field in the country, but we were actually in the middle of downtown Gatineau with lots of buildings close by. 

In the middle of the park there were some small hills and children engaging in that most classic of winter activities - tobogganing! 

They were having such a good time sliding down the hill .........

....then running back up again. They did this over and over without tiring. 

Ah! It is great to be a kid in the winter time.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

A Busy Christmas Eve

I spent my Christmas break in Toronto visiting my family. On Christmas Eve, I wanted to pick up a few last-minute presents, so my son Brian and my grandson Max and I went to the Eaton Centre in downtown Toronto. The Eaton Centre is so over-the-top as an example of the excesses of capitalist consumption that I actually rather enjoy going there and pointing at all the evidence for the decline of western civilization. But it was rather quiet this Christmas Eve - fewer shoppers than I expected. I took this picture of Max in front of a large reindeer decoration, with a huge Christmas tree behind him. All very shiny and glittery. 

After that, we went back to Brian's house and it was time to decorate the Christmas tree. 

With a little help from Brian, Max put up some of the lights. 

Here is Max learning the joys of untangling the lights. 

After the tree was all decorated, Brian and Max made some sugar cookies. 

Brian rolled the dough and Max used cookie cutters to make circles, diamonds, bells, trees and other shapes. A very efficient assembly line. 

My daughter Sarah and her partner Steve arrived later for Christmas Eve dinner. Here Max and his Aunt Sarah are both wearing Santa hats while playing with toys (getting warmed up for tomorrow morning!). A good time was had by all!

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Happy Winter Solstice

Today is the first day of Winter and the shortest day of the year, but in some ways it is also one of the most hopeful because from now on the days get longer. So Happy Winter Solstice everyone! This photo was taken when I was at my home in the country today and you can see that the sun didn't get very high in the sky even though it was the middle of the day. 

This winter is turning out to be very atypical, weather-wise. It has been quite warm for December and the Ottawa River is showing no signs of freezing over. I took this picture of the river today - it looks like it would in November or October, not the first day of winter. It was quite beautiful with waves rippling gently on its blue-grey surface. If I had had a boat, I could have gone for a ride!

The problem with this kind of weather is that we can have nasty storms, like the freezing rain storm we had yesterday. The roads and sidewalks in Ottawa were treacherous with a coating of ice - very difficult to drive or walk on.

So it doesn't feel very Christmas-y, because there is no snow and it isn't cold. But some people are not deterred by the lack of appropriate weather for the season. Like these people who have plastered their house with lights and decorations. It is so "over-the-top" - I love it. The whole mess is so wonderfully tacky. 

There is some sort of giant blow-up Grinch in a Santa outfit on the porch. And there is a toy stuffed reindeer dangling from the porch roof. 

The front yard is a garden of lit-up candy canes. 

But my favourite decoration in the confused mess is this wonderful flat cut-out wooden Santa. It is so retro in the midst of the more recent vintage decorations - more like something from my childhood. 
Season's greetings, everyone. Hope you have fun, whatever you do. And rejoice - the light is returning!

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

After not having internet access for 4 days, I am finally able to get online (Bell finally repaired the problem) and blog again. So I want to say Season's Greetings to everyone. This is a precious photograph to me, of my brother Paul with his new drum set and me and my sister Marilyn with new dolls on Christmas morning, many, many Christmases ago. I have fond memories of my childhood Christmases - the food, the cold weather, the relatives visiting, the boxes of presents that came in the mail, the traditions. We had less then, so all sorts of things were precious and only to be had at Christmas - for example, a box of chocolates was a rare treat. Now, we have treats every day, all year long. Here's to getting back to simplicity, and the continuation of loved traditions. Cheers, everyone.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Great Music at Lunch Time

One thing I like about the complex of buildings where I work (Place du Portage in Gatineau Quebec) is that I can go for a walk at lunch time even when it is raining outside, as it was today. I walk around inside the shopping centre downstairs, and see if anything interesting is going on. Today, I heard some great music as I was walking along and had to go see what was happening. It was traditional French Canadian music being performed by a man playing guitar and a woman playing violin. They were playing really, really good stuff.

The group is called Chakidor, and is made up of guitarist, André Varin and violinist Valérie Pichon. I was really impressed by them both, but especially by the violinist. She could really let it rip with her violin. They had these great posters with life-size portraits of themselves and the name of the group on top. 

There was a large crowd of people, listening to the music and stomping their feet and practically dancing along. It was so much better than sitting around eating soup and a sandwich!

Everyone was having fun, including the musicians. I wanted to buy one of their CDs (which were being sold nearby), but the line-up was too long. I did look up their website later and I also saw a YouTube video of a performance they did at a festival in Taiwan. Cool! What a great lunch-time treat!

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Wonderful Horses at the National Gallery

On my walk to work earlier this week, I noticed something in front of the National Gallery of Canada on Sussex Drive that I hadn't seen before. I went back this morning to confirm what I had seen. It was a wonderful sculpture installation of horses.

There were a whole row of them - eleven in all. This work is by the marvelous Canadian sculptor, Joe Fafard. The horses were installed by the National just recently, at the beginning of December.  

I tried to get a closer look at them. These are the horses at the front. 

Each horse is different from the rest. Some are red, some yellow and some black. I liked the horse on the end - he looks a little wilder than the rest. 

I gave up trying to photograph them from the sidewalk on Sussex Drive and tried to get even closer to see if I could get all of them in one picture. But this was awkward because I was standing on a ramp going down to the indoor parking and I had to watch out for cars. 

I took this picture from the other side, standing in front of the Gallery and looking out to Sussex. I think they look even better viewed from this side. Interesting that the horse that was red on one side is black on the other. 

They really look like they are in motion, don't they?

I also love the way they are so solid looking and yet almost ethereal because of the cut-out patterns on their bodies. 

Aren't they fabulous?

Monday, 12 December 2011

A Treasure from Childhood

Inspired by my fellow-blogger, Natalie, who has been posting about her childhood secret spy diary (I love it) - I present a wonderful treasure from my childhood - my Autograph book. This is not the kind of autograph book that was used to collect signatures from famous people. Rather, it was used to collect very silly sayings from friends and family. When I was very, very young (back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth), this was a fad. Every one of my friends had an autograph book and we all wrote stuff in each others' books. And I still have my book from 50 years ago, somehow preserved through numerous life changes, marriage, children, moves, separation, deaths. It is a little the worse for wear, but miraculously intact nonetheless. 

The book is about 4 in. by 5 1/2 in. When it is opened, you find little gems like this one, written by my sister Marilyn - "If you someday plan to kiss him, Be sure not to miss him." 

We would take our books to school so we could write in each others' books at recess. I actually managed to get my teacher, Mrs. Read (what a great name for a teacher), to write in my book. Her entry is very school-teacher-ish - "May your life always be as humourous as the sayings in this book." She was my favourite teacher in grade school, and I was teacher's pet that year.  

Some of the poems are silly in a typical childhood way - "When you get married and get a divorce (spelled "divorse" here), Come to my stable and marry my horse."

This poem was written by one of the rare boys in my book - "Roes (he meant roses) are red, violets are blue, it easy to hide from a dope like you."  Our insults were just silly fun when we were kids. I suspect childhood is not so innocent now.

Some of them are very strange, like this one - "When you get married and have a husband and he ask for a drink, take (him) by the coler (collar) and throw him in the sink." Wise words to prepare us for adulthood. 

Some of the innocence is amazing to look back on. This one says "High on the Mountains, green grows the grass, Down came a billy goat sliding on his over coat." I can just imagine us all giggling because we knew what word rhymed with "grass". 

There are dozens of entries in my book. This is on the last page and two friends were vying for the coveted honour of being last to write in the book. The first entry says - "By hook or by crook, I be the last in your book (I hope)." The second was written by a different friend at a later date and says - "By pen or by quill I'll be darned if you will." It all seems so quaint now, compared to kids today with their iPads and cell phones. But what a treasure nevertheless!

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Snow in my Garden

When I got home to my place in the country this weekend, I found a fresh blanket of snow everywhere. It wasn't deep but it covered all of my yard, including my garden. This copper sculpture at the far side of the garden was made by Peter as a grave marker for our cat, Titi, when she died. I like the way it stands out against the blue-white snow.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

My Office Christmas Party

The group of people I work with had a Christmas party today at a wonderful place called Les Brasseur du Temps in Gatineau, Quebec. The Brasseur du Temps is a micro-brewery, a restaurant, and there is also a museum that shows the history of beer-making in the region. The building is historic - built in 1910 - but has recently been completely remodeled.   

On entering the building, one sees this life-size cardboard (or wood, probably) greeter, showing you the specials on a chalkboard.

My group's party was downstairs in a special function room. To get there, we descended a long winding ramp that leads to the museum area, with lots of interesting plaques and paintings on the walls. 

This is one of the decorations along this corridor. I love these old views of an earlier time. 

Another part of the museum area has glass display cases with brewing materials of various kinds. 

People stopped to read the plaques and view the display cases as they walked through the museum area. 

However, we were there to party. So we got to the function room and ordered up pitchers of the Brasseur's beer. 

The back of the Brasseur looks out on the Ruisseau de la Brasserie (Brewery Creek). The function room had an outdoor patio area which was shut down for the winter. But I thought the view was wonderful. There were even ducks swimming on the creek. 

Back at the party, we were trying the Brasseur's many types of beer (they brew 8 to 12 different beers). I was sharing a pitcher of "Et la lumière fut!" with several other people. We also ordered this wonderful plate of natchos. Yum! 

In addition to food and drink and conversation, we played a goofy game. Here is the prize I won, held by a colleague of mine. Isn't it silly?

The party ended and I walked back up through the museum corridor on my way to the exit. I had to stop and look at the displays again. In particular, I liked three displays dedicated to different beer companies. This is the Carling display. 

This is the Dow display (never heard of them, but lots of great stuff in the display window). 

And here is the Molson display. 

Beer and hockey! How Canadian can you get!

This antique Molson Christmas card was in a corner of the display case. A fitting end to my post about my office Christmas party.