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Archive for the ‘Festivals’ Category

Have you ever wondered what a ‘bored housewife’ thinks about when she is completing all those mundane jobs around the house? There is nothing quite like a having your hands in the sink with dirty dishes or having ironing up to your eyeballs! It is the trigger for your mind to go into overdrive and to a most wonderful escape.

I am often asked the question: Don’t you get bored at home? Yes, I certainly do! There is nothing quite like coming to the harsh reality that you are no longer a useful member of the workforce. Someone who contributes to society and gets affirmation from job satisfaction and the people that work alongside you. Oh and don’t forget the remuneration at the end of the month too! I miss all those aspects of having a formal job.

Instead I am a domestic executive who runs a slick show. The washing basket is empty, the kitchen cupboards are well stocked and the freezer is groaning with enough to feed us till the New Year. The house is relatively clean too considering we have a Jack Russel that sheds at least a 1000 spikey white hairs daily. My job is not confined to the internal workings of the house alone. I even managed to run the Christmas lights up the outside staircase myself this year. I did contemplate our ladder and a more daring venture up the roof but decided that Christmas with a broken leg was not a good idea. My family would have been mortified! Who would have filled the domestic executive position? I somehow think that there would not have been many takers!

But back to the Christmas light chore …..I quickly realised that you needed to test the string of lights before you painstakingly thread it around the bannister. It is infuriating when you realise that they just don’t shine! So it was back to the drawing board. Extra bulbs were sourced and we were in business. There were many ‘choice words’ that filled the air during the whole process. But fortunately there was no one around to hear them.

The creative jobs and the challenging ones don’t require me to go wandering off in my mind.  I am totally engaged. The dressing of the Christmas tree was one such task that I just loved. I decided on a woodland theme being that we are tucked away in our forest. So all the creatures that frequent La Ravine are represented. Then I added a vintage display of old family photos. It is fascinating to note the family traits that have passed along the genes. That strong chin is ever present!

My woodland Christmas tree….

So what are my plans for the New Year career wise?

My trajectory looks rosy as there are opportunities to develop my creativity and to explore the thoughts that drift in and out as I go about my daily chores. The domestic executive has the elevated position of being a domestic goddess and I am loving it!

Best wishes go to all my family, friends and the readers of my blog for the holiday season. I hope that you get to put your feet up in front of the fireplace or barbeque depending on whether you are in the Northern or Southern hemispheres. Thank you for taking the time to read my blogs as this allows me the indulgence of putting those wandering thoughts into a written piece.

The domestic goddess with my granddaughter, Kate.

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I got these fresh eyes, never seen you before like this…..

It is January and a time for a few New Year’s resolutions or just plain turning over a new leaf. I have never been partial to drawing up a list and then going on a guilt trip when one falls by the wayside. So instead I hope to look at my life and the people and places in it with a pair of ‘fresh eyes.’ I am not even sure what it could entail although I have a few ideas up my sleeve.

One thing I hope to keep fresh in my heart is the gratitude I feel for my family. The Morkel clan are a strong group of individuals with definite opinions and ideas. One is reminded of this when they all come together over a holiday and we get to live under one roof. The family dynamic takes time to formulate as everyone has been living and running their lives independently. Then suddenly they are all back home and I have to remind myself that I have grown up children. I look around the table at our gorgeous brood…..and know that my job is done.

Time to look with fresh eyes......

Time to look with fresh eyes……

It’s like the first time when we open the door……

Those of you who follow my ramblings will have walked the road through our recent move to Vancouver and the rejuvenation process of a long in tooth 70’s style house.  Well this door is still open! The creative juices were fired into action when our new car began to slip down our steep driveway and into the garage! That was all we needed! We had only just replaced the two cars that had met their demise after their collision with a gigantic moose! The men rushed up to the road and came up with a plan. The wooden ‘chocks’ were brought out and our precious vehicle was propped up against them. Discussions ensued and plans of heated driveways, steel ramps and raised levels were bandied about. So there is sure to be a fresh look at how we access our house in the near future.

My God, you’re beautiful……..

We have a beautiful piece of riverine forest here in Vancouver but it comes with its responsibility and needs constant attention. There are branches that fall and leaves that block drain pipes. I would not have it any other way though…..As part of our revamp of the property, we called in the assistance of an arborist to assess our handsome trees. Regrettably we have to fell two old Hemlocks. They stood tall at the entrance to the house for the last 80 years. These stately gentlemen are diseased and threaten to fall on our newly renovated house. Can you imagine it? After all the toil of these last few months, I shudder at the thought. Hopefully we can honour them in some way. Possibly a useful bench made from their wood positioned in the place where their roots once grew. So I will be needing my fresh eyes and possibly a fresh back as I tame and enhance my forest garden.

Its human nature to miss what is under your nose……

The beauty of the Vancouver mountains still makes my heart leap. Mount Seymour, Grouse Mountain and the Lions Peaks are all in my view as I drive back up from the North Shore. I see their rugged snow-capped peaks and I have to pinch myself. I actually do live here.

Jack and Kate in our back garden enjoying the Vancouver snow.

Jack and Kate in our back garden enjoying the Vancouver snow.

 

 

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The vision of the snowy coy wolf played over in my thoughts. It had slunk through our garden that afternoon and played havoc with our resident squirrels. It was 3 am and besides my lupine visions the anticipation of the family visit made sleep impossible.

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Our resident coy wolf

“That’s it, I give up!” Sleep was not about to quell this excitement. My hand turned the door handle and I crept out of the bedroom.
I might have mentioned before that the men in my house are phlegmatics. Thank goodness they are made this way, as it keeps this mother in check! But it has its drawbacks…… in that there is always another day to get something done. The word ‘hurry’ does not exist in their vocabulary when it comes to certain things. Wave a cricket or rugby ball in front of their eyes and we have a whole different story! I must add that when they do get to the ‘difficult jobs’ they are all done in record time. But I have to be patient and to wait for the spirit to move them. This is indeed my repeated life lesson!
One of the ‘difficult jobs’ that I needed help with, was to move the contents of the guest room down 2 flights of stairs to the basement. This was all in preparation for the arrival of the rest of our family which included our 16 month old twin grandchildren, Jack and Kate. It was count down as there were 4 days to go before their visit. This somewhat impatient Nan had plans that were not about to materialise without drastic action. So I began to softly move what I could. The side tables, bedside lights and bedding were part of the cargo. I crept up and down the wooden staircase. I was not deterred by the announcement by my now awake- family that they were going to call the ‘WHITE COATS’ to come and fetch me. Apparently this 4am furniture removal around the house was enough to signify that this mother was losing it. This Nan was on a mission! All it needed was a couple more trips down the stairs. The downstairs suite was taking shape….
I sat down with a steaming cup of coffee and admired my handiwork.
The larder is full, Christmas lights are strung up, stairs have been made twin- safe and all the relevant furniture has been moved. We await touchdown at Pearson Airport with 2 little scally wags as part of their precious cargo. These grandparents are ready for action!

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Kate and Jack up to mischief….

This comes with warm wishes for a special holiday season with your family and friends. May you be restored and ready to jump into the New Year with renewed vitality. This Nan is going to lie on her back for a few days in the New Year to recoup!

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Every generation blames the one before……

It is just a rusty old tin. Inauspicious with its peeling paint and dented sides.  It once held the weekly cookies and young hands manoeuvred the lid off as quietly as possible to avoid the eagle eyes of a vigilant mother. It has an important portfolio now even though it appears insignificant. It perches alongside with all the grander inhabitants of the work bench. The shiny drill and the sharp saw compete for the honour of being just ‘the right thing for the job.’   But this revered receptacle has tradition on its side and is aptly named The Poppie Tin. It began out of necessity about 30 years ago when The Honey Do List was initiated in the Morkel household. A few ‘jewels’ handpicked by my dad started off our collection and it has been added to by the engineers of the family that never miss a valuable find. It contains screws that fit, bolts that are just the right size and bits that I have not worked out yet. One thing is for sure that it comes to the rescue of my ever increasing list of Mr Fixit chores!

I know I am a prisoner to all my Father held so dear….

Do I really have to do this again this year?

Do I really have to do this again this year?

As with everything here in Canada there is a time and a ritual to the different seasons of the year. The pumpkins have been thrown out to the bottom of the garden. Halloween is over and this mother witch has packed away her broom for another year ….that’s what they think! The witch and her wizard of course……have been busy with the ritual of winterising the house and surrounds. Piles of leaves stand ready for collection, water pipes are drained and the larder is filling up with Yuletide delights. There is a strong feeling of Christmas in the air. My neighbour has even hung his Christmas lights! Clever man that he is! I can see us shivering along the roof as we hang our strings of sparkles. But one thing is for sure, come rain or snow……those lights will go up!

A winter Christmas.....

A winter Christmas…..

Say it loud, say it clear you can listen as well as you hear….

Gone are the bright annuals from along the side of the road. Instead coloured piles of leaves decorate our walkways. The change is evident and the feeling of expectation reigns. As we change our clocks back to daylight saving time, we move into the final ritual of the year. We will celebrate Christmas. I reflect on all my past Christmases especially my earliest memory which was when I was 3. I remember waking up at some ungodly hour. I dressed myself in my new Christmas dress. What a feat that was as it had buttons going down the back! I crept down the passage and proceeded to wake Mother and Father Christmas. Need I say that my zeal and a 4am wakeup call was not well received by my sleeping parents. Broken hearted, I crawled back down the passage and jumped into my bed. Note to self……remember this incident when the twins decide to do an action replay of this event on their Nan.

Mother and Father Christmas get in some early party fun.......

Mother and Father Christmas get in some early party fun…….

One feels your roots and recalls so much of your long forgotten childhood when traditions and rituals are followed. Some might seem insignificant but there is comfort and pleasure in repeating history, knowing full well that it is what makes us all unique. Whether it is the Gluwein served on Christmas Eve or the Ice Hockey Game that is part of the proceedings on Boxing Day……it is a time for us to practise those customs. Need I say that I love Christmas! Preparations are well on their way in this home. We have the added excitement that all our family will be with us here in Canada. It has to rate on the scale of happiness as being right up there!

The toddling twins.....

The toddling twins…..

 

Say it loud, say it clear
You can listen as well as you hear
It’s too late when we die
To admit we don’t see eye to eye

 

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It is time. It is time to bid summer farewell. The trees at the bottom of the garden are changing colour. Iridescent green has given way to a hint of gold. Each day we notice a few more leaves have succumbed to the transformation. Some are further along the path and have curled up and fluttered across the deck. There they await the Fall clean up in the ever increasing pile.

The first signs of Fall...

The first signs of Fall…

I have always been fascinated by trees. In South Africa I could rattle off the names…..White Stinkwood, Ficus Ingens and Acacia to name but a few. But here in Canada I am a mere novice and a maturing brain does not permit me to commit so many of these names to memory! This does not deter me appreciating them. They stand tall and stately at the bottom of our garden and along our meandering creek. As I observe their changes, they prepare me for the different seasons.

There is a flurry of activity as the squirrels gather up their supplies in our garden for winter. They are strategic about their placing too. The larder is scattered around and some have even been dug into the pots at the front door. I do hope they are plotting the whereabouts of these nutritious nuts and that the position will be recalled after their long winter sleep. I find myself committing to memory some of their hideouts along with all the other irrelevant things that we mothers are required to memorise.  For example……where are my socks?

Josh squirrel hunting.

Josh is a keen observer of his environment too!

The animals are not the only ones who have read the signs. The builder next door is racing ahead to get the walls up and the roof tiled on his new dwelling. There is a bulldozer across the street digging a huge hole. Road works are being completed down the street and everyone is resurfacing their driveways.
Across the way a tree was felled…..a majestic maple tree. I heard the squeal of the saws all day as they worked at reducing this beautiful specimen to pile of logs. I felt sick as I looked across and decided to walk over once all the workmen were gone home. There was a huge sign FREE FIREWOOD. I wanted to pay homage to this gracious lady. I stood a while, moved closer and ran my fingers along where the blade had sawn through the golden wood. The moisture that had been drawn up by the roots clung onto the wood in vain. Amongst the pile was the largest of slices. My fingers traced the growth rings……..she had seen 50 Canadian winters! This maple syrup- producing grand dame  had once had a twin. Inside the tree were 2 separate crowns that later decided to collaborate and had become one enormous tree!
Need I say that I am partial to twins, as we have had a double feature in our family too.

Our wiggly twins....

Our wiggly twins….

As I gazed across at the sad pile I decided……this baby has to come home with me! I scurried off and fetched the wheelbarrow along with my long suffering male contingency. We loaded our slice of gold up and gently wheeled her back to the safety of our back garden. No fireplace for this beauty! She will be well cared for and is at present attending the Morkel Spa where she is being exfoliated and oiled.
She will rise again on her new legs and will grace the Morkel household in the Great Room with her beauty.

The Morkel Spa hard at work....

The Morkel Spa hard at work….

 

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It’s a little bit funny, this feeling inside…….

The snow has melted and left us with these feelings of expectation. Each day we look for the signs. We scrutinise the grass for sprouts of green and dig around the shrubs just in case new life might be hiding there. The temperatures are deceptive. We are teased with blasts from the polar vortex followed by the odd warm spring day. But we don’t mind as the warm days are such a reprieve. We have bravely packed away all the heavy coats right to the back of the closet. It is a point of no return!

Nature reminds us that new life is on its way. We spotted the sleek mink at the bottom of our garden. It dived excitedly into the clear river and inspected the bounty of food. Tiny minnows darted for cover. The graceful creature swam with purpose and was soon sunning himself on the rocks, content and delighted with his discovery. Not sure where Mrs Mink was hiding out as she was missing out on all the fun. Through the winter we would often see the tell-tale signs of tracks up from the river into our back garden. One of those was the Eastern Cottontail rabbit. It has been around throughout the winter and provided much amusement in an otherwise seemingly lifeless vista. According to Germanic myth Eostre, the goddess of spring, created a rabbit by transforming a bird. Ever since this unusual conception, all rabbits and hares have laid eggs during the week of Easter to thank Eostre and to celebrate their ancestry.

Our cheeky Easter bunny

Our cheeky Easter bunny

Our graceful mink

Our graceful mink

See I’ve forgotten if they’re green or blue….

Our regular pair of Mallard ducks are back and have been setting up a nest for the new arrivals. The handsome male with his luminescent green head is a sight to behold! His head catches the filtered light through the leafless trees. He waddles up and down gathering twigs unaware of the human appreciation. Every now and again he looks up as if to keep an eye out for Red Tailed Hawk. He is splendid with his large frame of about 60 centimeters. This king of the food chain reigns in our back yard and sends many shudders down the backs of our array of ‘kleinwild.’ The vocal and fearless Red Squirrel stamps his feet and flicks his tail. The hawk does not flinch as he knowingly takes in this tiny pile of cheek…..all of 250 grams of body weight. He gets away with it as the hawk realises that this little creature is but a mere aperitif!

The Mallard couple

The Mallard couple

A scrap of cheek....

A scrap of cheek….

King of all he surveys....

King of all he surveys….

And you can tell everybody this is your song
it may be quite simple, but now that it’s done
I hope you don’t mind, I hope you don’t mind that I put down in words
How wonderful life is now you’re in the world.

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter!

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It is FREEZING here and my thermometer on our deck reads minus 20 degrees centigrade! The weatherman adds another dimension to this bone chilling report by explaining that with the wind chill factor, it should feel closer to minus 30! I have developed my own parameters for measuring how cold I am….one being that if my nose hairs start to freeze then I need to get my little behind inside!  I just cannot get my head around these temperatures. I do believe they exist but have developed certain coping mechanisms to make ‘it all go away.’ It is a case of adapt or die…..

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Canadians dream up all sorts of activities to hurry this brutal winter along. One such activity is the Polo Bear Dip……

Crazy Polar Bear Dippers on New Year's Day.

Crazy Polar Bear Dippers on New Year’s Day.

It was New Year’s Day and the sun shone out over Ontario Lake.  Today was the big day that 700 dippers would plunge into the Ontario Lake. As I watched these frozen bodies descend down to the icy shore many questions filled my head.

What could have possibly possessed them to do this insane act? Was it the indulgences from the night before that gave them the courage? Did a group of friends set up the challenge? Where they just trying to test their endurance or bravery? Whatever the reason, it was for a good cause as the funds generated would help supply clean drinking water in developing countries. I hate to admit it publically but another question popped into my head….

Would I take the plunge next year!

 Many of the winter activities do test the endurance level like skiing and ice wall climbing. As you can imagine they all require an element of fitness and in my mind, bravery. For those of us that prefer something more sedate, you can try snow shoeing. Slip on a pair of ‘paddle like shoes’ and head for the hills. The layers of snow buffer the sound and the tranquility up in the forests is food for the soul.

As winter progresses the ice layer thickens on the rivers and harbours. This is when the ice fishermen appear.  They bore a hole through the ice and drop their fishing line into the icy waters. Once set up they erect a small tent over the area for protection. I can imagine that these fishermen have a huge reserve of patience and endurance! But believe it or not, there are still fish to be caught here in our Canadian waters. I think I would have migrated to warmer lands if I had been a fish!

Patience and a loyal dog....

Patience and a loyal dog….

So with the era of the polar vortex firmly in place we strive to get out there. We are constantly exploring new ways to outfox and to take pleasure in winter. Thank goodness for wood burning fires, glowing saunas, hot tubs and a glass of red wine!

 

I just want to see you be brave…..

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