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Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

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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January is my time to dream……. The nights are long and the polar cap blows its icy winds. It is all too easy to snuggle up in front of a crackling fire. My mind is preoccupied by my dreamy thoughts where I look forward to the year ahead. There will be no thoughts on New Year’s resolutions either. Oh no, that is not for me! No thoughts on cutting out chocolate or on how I am going to be able to brave the cold for that much needed walk. January is my reprieve and my time to ponder. It is my La La Land month and I visit it with much zest and enthusiasm.
It had been a busy and special Christmas with our house bursting with our family. It was wonderful to have them all home with us and under our roof. Two active toddlers kept us all on our toes as we ran after them and attended to their needs. There was never a dull moment. We dreamed up indoor activities to busy these little tykes. One being a slide around the house on the indoor snow sledge. The kitchen was a hive of activity too. Our table was full and so were our hearts. When the house eventually emptied it seemed to echo. There was less of everything…..less laughter, less music and less food!

 

My kitchen helpers.....

My kitchen helpers…..

Lemon anyone?

Lemon anyone?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
This deprivation made me plunge headlong into dreamland. There were French lanes and intimate coffee shops. In my mind’s eye were quaint shop windows with French bakeries and French delicatessens. That was it, a trip to France! I scolded myself as I thought of the practicality of seeing this dream come to fruition. The brain went into overdrive. There was a plan. What about a trip up to Quebec City? It was only 800 km away instead of 6000 km and it would certainly be kinder on the coffers. A few phone calls were made, an Airbnb booked and we hit the road.
I must add at this point that I do not speak a word of French. We have heard that the Quebecois are understandably fiercely proud of their heritage and their language. Therefore I needed a quick crash course on a few fundamentals. The long car trip was the ideal time to practice and I rolled my tongue around the que’s and the de’s.
Un, deux, trois, quatre…..
This was hard and I just wished that I could make my words sound like my French teacher! It would have to do and I spent the rest of the trip reading up on the places to visit in Quebec City. Chateau Frontenac along the frozen Saint Lawrence River, Place Royale, Basilique Notre Dame de Quebec, La Citadelle and the historical Old City caught my eye. I also found our period house ‘La Victorienne’ in Rue Saint Jean where we would be spending the next 4 days.

 

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It was as I had envisaged it. There were narrow cobble streets to explore, French food to savour and plenty of French culture to soak up. I was in heaven!

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A painted mural in the Old Town.

 

 

 

The Plains of Abraham where the English and French battled it out.

The Plains of Abraham where the English and French battled it out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

January is the month to dream and to look forward to the year ahead and the journey within.

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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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The turkey has enough butter stuffed under the skin to make Nigella blush and the gluwein is simmering away on the stove. Our tree sparkles from the front room……

The trees lay stacked up on the side of the road bursting with the promise of Christmas. The Douglas Fir, White Pine, Scottish Pine and the Blue Spruce….the choice was endless. Which one would it be this year? We had driven along Highway 8 through the greenbelt along the escarpment. The vegetables stalls had given way to the sale of Christmas trees, no more pumpkins and asparagus but rows of fuzzy green. Much thought and effort goes into the right choice of Christmas tree here in Canada. Families deliberate over how tall it has to be, the shape and whether it will shed its leaves. We stop the car at a nearby diner to grab a coffee and notice a little boy as he gazes up at the tall frame of the chosen tree.
“Dad, this is the one!”

The excitement and wonder beams from his face. The practical dad contemplates how he will tie it onto the roof of the car. He paces out the length and works on his plan. Mother has a faraway look on her face as she recalls the Christmases past and is envisaging this tree with the family decorations. There were heirlooms that are brought out each year and a few new additions to add to the sparkle. My coffee steams as I make my way through the brisk air. I pull my hood over my head and feel the fur trim snug against my face. My thoughts go back to 3 young boys that gathered around our tree back in South Africa. It will be the turn of our grand children soon!

Our Christmas Tree

Our Christmas Tree

The bare deciduous trees that shook off their leaves in the fall are tinged with snow. The evergreens cling onto the soft white powder like a cake does to frosting. The sun slips down behind the hills early as we wend our way back home. The snow illuminates our path and the houses twinkle with Christmas lights. Bright white lines the roofs, iridescent blue around the doorways and soft red sparkle in the shrubs. Fresh garlands accentuate   the wooden slatted porch and rustic White Birch reindeer guard the front door.

It is Yuletide in Canada and a time to make memories with family and friends. There will be a special place near our tree this year for those who are no longer with us. They will be  greatly missed.

I wish you all a joyous Christmas!

A white Christmas.....?

A white Christmas…..?

 

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I turn 60 today! A milestone in anyone’s book and it comes with feelings of trepidation. Somehow the dreaded SIX has just come around too fast and I don’t feel quite ready for it. It is not the usual fears of the body starting to issue screams of protest when I attack yet a new outdoor hobby or the laughter lines that just seem to grow. It is the dread that I suppose I will now have to grow up!

When does one refrain from wearing your much loved blue jeans? Is there some special code of dress that I have to adhere to at this stage?  Maybe a twin set and pearls is more fitting. But the Woodstock Era with its flower power accessories still run deep in my veins. Can I still don my purple tights with white spots or better still the Christmas ones covered in reindeer?

Out paddling on Lake Ontario.

Out paddling on Lake Ontario.

 

Can I still jump up and dance when I hear a favourite song on the radio? (I know this childish act is usually a source of embarrassment to my family.)Is there still room for a good sulk? Will I be allowed to play pot-hockey in the kitchen when I find the house chores tedious?

I stumble into the bathroom and turn on the light. It is one of those awfully bright ones that does not lie. Yes, the face is gently showing the signs of the time and the grey hair is competing like a champion. It is inevitable and I accept it all gracefully……. not too gracefully as I shall continue to ‘put on the face’ each morning. Fortunately my sensitive eyes don’t allow me to use much ‘toorgoedjies’ which is probably a blessing in disguise. I prefer my morning ritual to be as fast as possible so that I can begin my day. So no pink blushing cheeks or purple eye shadow……..a sweep of cover stick and a dash of lipstick will have to suffice. The time has come for ‘less is more.’

'Twinset and pearls' but without the 'toergoed.'

‘Twinset and pearls’ but without the ‘toorgoedjies.’

It is liberating when you don’t concern yourself too much with what others think or say and you can merely be comfortable in your own skin. I have definitely been there and have the t-shirt and I wear my badges with honour. But having said this, I do not intend to just sit and watch my garden grow. Complacency is not something that I visit too often. I wish I did, as it would certainly do wonders for the old blood pressure spike! There is just too much out there to tempt me…….. a whole world still left to explore, books to read, music to listen to and people to meet.  It is good to be alive and hope that I don’t grow up any time soon.

 

You don’t have to try so hard
You don’t have to give it all away
You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up
You don’t have to change a single thing

 

......with a little help from my friends!

……with a little help from my friends!

 

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The soft flakes waft over us as we pull our fur hoods closer to keep out the chill. I turn my face towards the soft caress of Mother Nature…I love the feeling of falling snow especially when you are dressed in snug attire. 


Baby it's cold out there!

Baby it’s cold out there!

The front doors are the first to beckon us in with their inventive displays. Vintage wooden skis, bright red mitts and ice skates are expertly placed with gleaming ornaments. They serve to wet our creative appetites as we brave the elements in the queues outside. We are out in the cold weather and are visiting the open Christmas houses for charity with a group of kindred spirits.

Eventually the wooden door creaks open and the magical world of Christmas is there to greet us. The wait was worth it! As I step inside, the inner child is evoked and I stand in awe for a few moments…….

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The aroma of fresh cedar wreaths and pine tree swags fills my breath. I slip off my boots and notice the crackling fire. Oh to just sit a while next to the warmth! Cozy throws have been strategically placed to lure one closer. All too soon the spectacle of the gleaming Christmas tree, all adorned in white and silver, distracts me. The lights twinkle and reflect the beauty and magnificence of a ‘real tree.’ Each ornament especially chosen reflects the owner’s personality and their nostalgia of bygone Christmases. I waft through as if in a trance…..arrays of delicious colourful cookies tempt me and the aromas of cinnamon and cloves warm the cockles of my heart. The gleaming ornaments shine, lights sparkle and wreaths dangle from tartan ribbons. Christmas is here to enchant us!

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The day sped by and we eventually peaked into 6 of the 10 houses. I could not wait to get home to apply some of the effects that had been so artistically created. 

That evening, as I gently wove my garland around the staircase, I could not help but reflect on our wonderful African Christmases that our group had once had back in South Africa. One thing is for sure if the spirit of Christmas is there, it does not matter where you celebrate! A wonderful Christmas to all of my family and friends wherever you might be…..

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