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Archive for January, 2014

 

The street lights catch the sparkles of snow like slivers of diamonds. We are out walking Josh late at night all bundled up in layers. Sometimes cabin fever just takes over and you just have to get out.  I kick the mounds that have built up over the last few months and watch the light. Part of it fascination for the crystal formations and part frustration at the length and severity of our winter here in Canada.  The almost weekly dumps have had us digging ourselves out of our driveways and adapting our lifestyle to the impending weather changes. It is definitely a case of…..enough already!

Enough already.....

Enough already…..

It is amazing how the human spirit can look for the positive in any situation although sometimes I am pushed to do so. I find it does cheer me up to dig deep for those positives when the vitamin D levels are somewhat depleted. So today I need to remind myself which things still make me rejoice when that Arctic Vortex comes whistling down upon us here in Ontario. Hopefully this reminiscing will see me through till spring!

I ran into my supermarket the other day for a few supplies and was greeted by a wonderful surprise. Some enterprising young entrepreneur had managed to ‘force flower’ some tulips in a hothouse. Oh happy day! Just to see the splendour of the iridescent pink and the promise of spring. It lifted my spirit immediately and I now have one proudly displayed in my kitchen. One glance in its direction is all it takes. It is to be the medicine for my soul till spring arrives. 

Our icy stream at the bottom of the garden.

Our icy stream at the bottom of the garden.

My garden is a blanket of white with heaps of snow along the driveway and pathways. Snow moguls cover the shrubs all cocooned and safe and bulbs wait patiently under the surface for the first glimmer of spring. I dream of my summer garden as I perch myself at my writing table which overlooks the front garden.That anticipation of new growth is a wonderful ‘pick me up’…..like having a healthy smoothie in the morning!

Thank goodness for technology as we have a warm house and a few added perks that help to make winter bearable.  One of our cars parks outside over night. As you can imagine, it is freezing to get into  if you happen to be the first to drive out in the morning. But thanks to advancement, you can start the car with the push of a button while you are in the house……..no hijackers yet in our area! It purrs away for a few minutes, turns on the steering wheel and seat warmers and is deliciously cosy. Early morning drives in this vehicle are no problem.  Nothing quite like the experience of warm hands and a warm butt in this weather either!

A fine merlot in the snow....only in Canada!

A fine merlot in the snow….only in Canada!

So we continue to savour the delights of winter….a glass of a fine merlot at the fire, a good book, a hearty meal and the company of friends and family.  But never far from our minds is the memory of the warmth of the sun on our backs…….

 

(A special thank you to David Morkel for the props and photography. He now knows his mother is crazy!)

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It is a new year and resolutions abound! You cannot get away from it at all. Bill boards offer special deals at local gyms and televisions scream at you to try their ‘fat reducing products.’ A few weeks ago they were encouraging us to partake of all the festive goodies now they are trying to get us to shed the excess. That’s marketing for you! It is obviously effective, as I have heard from a reliable source that you cannot move in our local ‘sweat room.’  It is crammed with ‘do gooders’ and the regulars wait for the rush to wear off…….as it usually does.

Our resident red squirrel

Our resident red squirrel

As the grey days of January chill us to the bone, it is refreshing to experience the spirit of hope and renewal. A few animals have begun to venture out again having been snowed in for weeks. I have moved my writing table to the front room where I watch the comings and goings in my front garden. My resident red squirrel has a skip in his gait. He enthusiastically scurries about collecting up his stashed summer loot. He has taken to sitting at the front door on one of my chairs……utterly at home. He peers in the windows and has noticed my new position. He cheekily makes eye contact and flicks his tail my way. Maybe he has noticed the red fox that has been lurking around. Apparently they are partial to a bit of squirrel meat!

Our red fox

Our red fox

But the little creature that enchanted me the most is our resident ladybird. She has set up home in the kitchen on our window sill. I first noticed her in October last year before it became cold. She came inside and stayed! I did try to coax her out through the window but she was having nothing of it. I say ‘she’ as I like to think that a female has joined me in this all male household! Apparently she is an exotic and is known as the Multicoloured Asian Ladybug. They were brought into the US and released in Washington in the 1920’s to control the aphid population. They made their way up the coast and many have set themselves up here in Ontario. What a resourceful and resilient creature. She disappears for weeks at a time and then pops up to renew her acquaintance with the household. The French champagne brought her out last time. This lady has taste!

Lydia the ladybug

Lydia the ladybug

So we navigate through another new year with resolutions, renewed enthusiasm and the anticipation of the year ahead. A holly branch from our garden surprised me the other day. I had picked the stem 2 weeks before Christmas and it stood in water in the kitchen over the festive season.Well, it is covered in tiny white flowers…..and it has no roots either! Surely this burst of new growth is indicative of the exciting times that lie ahead!

They appeared out of nowhere.....tiny white flowers.

They appeared out of nowhere…..tiny white flowers.

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With a little love and some tenderness we will walk upon the water and we will rise above the mess….

A peel of laughter resonates from the car as I slip and catch myself just in time. The ice is thick in the driveway and each walk to the bottom is a trip of concentration and careful placement of my new snow boots. Designer…… ‘nogal’ with very becoming soles as thick as tractor tyres. I would not say that they are the most flattering pair of shoes in my repertoire. But this is Canada and we adapt or die!

A stormy day at the lake...

A stormy day at the lake…

With some peace and some harmony…..

There is an audience inside the car. They are appreciating my performance while I negotiate the driveway….of course I am trying to have a conversation as well. It just does not work for me! I hate to admit that I cannot do 2 things at once. There is no place for those who feel they are just too feminine or just too gracious either. Soon enough the ice gets you and before you know it, you are flat on your rear. What a great leveler this weather can be!

 

I have a hand for you….. 

I passed my ‘snow squall driving test’ the other evening which left me bursting with pride. I need to set the scene for you……. The sun had already set (not that we see it that often at the moment.) It was a blustery evening and the snow was drifting all over the road. The temperatures were nearing minus 30 and I was traveling an unfamiliar route. Suddenly I realized that I had taken a wrong turning. It was time for the infamous U-turn. I put the flicker on and just did it! Some kind soul waited patiently for me to perform my act of dexterity. The turning circle in our vehicle is somewhat under developed. This is purely my observation. Need I say then that this fact caused me to mount an ice heap! It was purely a design flaw. I stopped and regained my composure. By this stage quite a queue had formed. They politely waited for me to perform another antic. I had to get off this mound of snow and ice! After a few manouvers, which I will refrain from expounding upon, I drove off the icy mountain. Thanks goodness for the 4-wheel capabilities and the snow button.….whatever that does.

 We are treated to a Canadian sunset!


We are treated to a Canadian sunset!

I want to love you the best that I can……

And so we battle on through yet another Canadian winter……our third. It is apparently the worst recorded since 1986. I am pleased though as I can officially say that we DO know what it really feels like ‘to be cold.’ No longer will I have to endure the words: “Just you wait till February hits you.” We are grateful to the local knowledge that is graciously shared and this has equipped us to cope with most eventualities. Although I think I need to get a bit more detail on how to dismount an ice heap.

Can I say that I have done it and have the T-shirt?

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The icicles twinkled as the morning light shone across the deck. It had been a rough night. An ice storm had ripped across Ontario and left a path of destruction. We were reminded once more of the power of nature. The beauty of the ice crystals masked the scars of ripped branches that were strewn across the back garden. I opened the back door to examine the debris of trees and twigs and gasped as the cold wind rushed in. Ice crystals cracked and popped in the branches as the trees swayed to and fro…..a phenomenon I had never observed before. It was like the distant sound of rattling gunfire!

The iced leaves on our emerald cedar hedge.

The iced leaves on our emerald cedar hedge.

My morning kettle purred on the stove as I awaited that first sip of satisfying sustenance. All is well with the world when there is a cup of steaming tea! Suddenly everything electrical stopped…..the internal fan, the furnace and my beloved kettle. The world was silent. The next 24 hours were reminiscent of our regular power outages in South Africa. The only difference was that I was unprepared for this debacle and it was minus 10 outside! My first thought was that we needed to think of a way to stay warm. The reports were that ice storm had wreaked havoc with the local power lines. There goes my cup of tea!

The telephone broke the silence. “Are we still on for tonight?” The reality hit me!  I had been so taken by the force of nature in my back garden that I forgotten I had 30 people arriving on my doorstep in a few hours for some ‘Christmas Cheer.’

I asked myself the question: Do I go ahead with this? I have always been partial to a social gathering and allowed myself a 30 second rethink of the situation.

The cupboards were raided for supplies of candles. Thank goodness this household loves this waxy standby……festive reds, icy whites and angelic creams! So out they came and were strategically placed on every surface around the house. A pyromaniac’s delight! Some smart thinking had also resulted in a couple of long life torches. What a win! I felt pleased with the result. The Christmas decorations twinkled in this soft lighting and it looked festive and ready to receive our guests.. We had light and ambiance. Great! We were almost there. What was next on the agenda? I suppose we needed some FOOD!  

This proved to be more of a challenge as we could not deliver any ‘hot food.’ All the dainty phyllo pastry morsels would have to take a back seat.  Fortunately the larder was bursting with an array of snacks …it was Christmas after all! I was grateful for my passion for exotic cheeses as this would have to satisfy the more discerning pallet. So that was the menu sorted! Of course the fridges had loads of liquid ‘Christmas Cheer!’  There was also a pot of aromatic Gluwein which I managed to heat on an emergency hot plate. The aroma of the cloves and cinnamon wafted through the air and soothed my jarred nerves.  It was going to be just fine…..there were even a few bottles of bubbly firmly planted in ice buckets filled with the snow. As they say in the classics…..’n boer maak ‘n plan.

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As I walk around and switch on my lights, turn up my music and sit by my flickering fireplace, I am grateful to have the power back on.  In the brief 24 hour period that we were off the grid, we certainly went into survival mode.  We were reminded of our essentials……we needed to eat and keep warm. Somewhere in between all of that we also managed to throw in a party! Ingenuity and the underrated little ol’ battery saved the day.

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                                       Let us celebrate and roar…..it is a new year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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