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Posts Tagged ‘snow’

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…..

ATT00021

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…..

IMAG0618

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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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All geared up and ready to go!

All geared up and ready to go!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The amazing ski patrol.

The amazing ski patrol.

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hPC2Fp7IT7o

 

The air was crisp and the white snow- covered hills beckoned. It was a fairyland out there! This was our second winter in Canada and I prepared myself for another round of skiing. I had been suitably decked out with all the right gear which included my recent thermals and a helmet. I could not persuade the men in the family to omit this piece of equipment. It pressed my ears and felt like a potty perched on my head.  My snug fur hat would have been my first choice! I felt the excitement rise as I penguin walked out of the club house. With my skis nonchalantly perched on my shoulder, I made my way to the beginner’s slopes.  I certainly had no illusion of my prowess on skis.

There was a flutter of panic as I realized I would have to master the ski lift before I could test my skiing skills. Leaning forward, bending my knees and the stopping method of ‘pizza slice’ was all that I had run through to refresh my mind. I had forgotten about the fact that I would first have to get up the hill! My son kindly accompanied me and explained the process of ‘alighting from the lift.’ Remember to push off from the seat! The first attempt was a snow plough of my head into the snow. The second try involved me falling backwards on my rear.  Fortunately the snow was fluffy and soft. I was not having much success with this jolly ski lift! I must add that I did manage to recall some of the skiing maneuvers from the previous year. I gingerly applied these skills and made my way down the slope. So I had at least accomplished the first hurdle. I could still remember how to ski! The ski lift swung around the corner…..third time lucky! We jumped on and made our way up. My heart thumped as I ran through all the tips that I needed to follow. What was the worst that could happen?

The lift approached the icy landing and I braced myself. I duly pushed off but as my skis touched the landing, I slipped. My tall ungainly frame flew and my right arm cart wheeled round to break my fall. There are few disadvantages to being tall and this was one of them! My arm did not reach the ground but collided with the ski lift instead. I just lay there for a second or two. I knew I had broken my arm as I could feel it…… the numbness and then a warm surge. I had seen enough broken bones in my years as a teacher and one look at the disfigured limb confirmed my suspicion.

The ski patrol strapped me into a toboggan and raced me off the slope. It was a wonderful swift ride with these experienced skiers. They made it look so easy! As I watched them pull me along, I knew what my next snow adventure would be……dog sledding. Yes, I fancied racing through the snow on the back of a sleigh. But that would have to wait……

There is something very humbling about learning to ski. You become childlike again with the lack of confidence and the reliance on others to share their skills with you. Unfortunately I will have to wait for next winter to pick up where I left off. In the mean time I have other lessons to learn…..to accept and enjoy the help given to me by my patient family and friends. My right arm is ‘resting’ in a sling while it heals.  My amateur left arm is having its moment of fame and is the hero of my day!

 

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The ego was still intacked here!

The ego was still intact here!

Christmas sparkle!

Christmas sparkle!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qR2WYVWI65M  

 My world is changing……      

The tinsel has lost some of its sparkle and there are baubles lying around the bottom of the Christmas tree. It is time to remove the wreaths from the staircase and to toss the tree out in the road for collection. There has been laughter, good food and friends and we have indulged in all that is Christmas.  So ‘after this Lord Mayor’s Show’ there certainly needs to be a clean up cart! This involves the unraveling and packing up of all things Christmas.Our second Christmas in Canada has been and gone…..

I know I have found you…….

  I begin by about sorting through the decorations and packing them into boxes. I always add a few to the collection each year. The camels from Dubai, the hand crafted angels from South Africa and the wooden raccoons from this Canadian Christmas. They all remind me of the Yuletides past. There are wreaths to unravel from the front door and all the Christmas lights around the house too. This ‘packing away ritual’ used to evoke pensive thoughts as I contemplated the end of the festivities. Instead, as I systemically place each shiny bauble back, I allow myself the time to indulge in the happy moments of the last few weeks. It is almost as if I have to put them ‘all to bed’ so that I can start the new chapter. All too quickly the New Year will be staring me in the face and I will get sucked into the hustle and bustle of every day life.

You never fade away……

The big snow dump has been part of this Christmas too and our surrounds have been transformed into a winter wonderland. Kids are out on their toboggans and young and old delight in the white covering.  Temperatures have dropped significantly and some brave souls even took part in the polar bear swim in the Ontario Lake! Definitely not my cup of tea! I landed up the other day next to the lake on my backside ‘met bene in die lug!’ The slippery snow got the better of me! It left me with a bruised ego and an aching rear end! So I have come to realize the merit of the ‘penguin walk.’ This unflattering geriatric gait allows you to tackle a slippery pathway with ease. Although I think I need to add some ski poles to the mix for added stability.

It will feel like Christmas all the time……

The boxes are packed and stored away for another year. But all is not lost! Christmas will have to linger in the Morkel household for a little while longer. It is just too cold to get up on the roof to remove all our Christmas lights. They are going to have to twinkle for a couple more weeks. At least they will let us down gently……….

The Joy of Christmas stays inside us …..

 


 

 

 

 

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Urno088IAo

 

I dreamt of Alaska so far away……..

 

I dreamt so much as a child. These wild and wooly dreams were often escapades into a fantasy land. I think Enid Blyton played a huge part in the content material. The Faraway Tree was by far the firm favourite. As I recall…… you clambered to the top of the tree and with each visit, a different land appeared. Imagination took me to some of these exotic destinations which later became part of my Buckett List. The list was largely in my head, as I had no idea what a Buckett list was.  I was surely too young to have one anyway! Although at that age, it was probably just the sense of adventure that conjured up these vivid thoughts of visiting far away places. On one such nocturnal journey, I visited the beautiful Alaska.

 We flew into Anchorage and all that I had dreamt about became a reality. The melting snow cascaded down the sharply chiseled mountains that surrounded the city. The ice -blue tinges shone through   glaciers as they groaned down the mountain face. They were forever on the move, melting and freezing as they were subjected to the elements. I stood at the bottom of this ancient mass of ice and felt very small in the grand scheme of things……. Then a ski lift took me up to the top of a mountain and I surveyed the world from above. The thread of trees wove their green path through the expanse of white snow. The silence was broken by the call of a bald eagle. It swooped overhead on the lookout for the ‘catch of the day’. This mighty bird had impeccable taste and found the local salmon to be most agreeable to the palette.

The fresh seafood crumbled open under the drizzle of warm lemon butter. We sampled the most delectable morsels from the sea and my favourite …. the white Halibut cheeks. Can you believe that these fish weigh up to 160 kilograms? No wonder that the ‘piece de resistance’ is the plump rosy cheeks! We were also treated to crab legs…..bright orange muscular ones. They appeared to have trained for a half marathon! Then there was the king salmon, served on a cedar strip with brightly coloured garden vegetables. The fresh pine aroma permeated through this delectable flesh. Both unusual and delicious!

It was time to visit these Piscean beauties on their home turf and we flew up north over rough terrain to a small fishing village. One out of 5 Alaskans can fly a plane and it is a necessary mode of transport in a country that has many rivers and over 3 million lakes!  So the salmon was duly caught, weighed and released. It was a beauty and it glistened silver in the afternoon sun. It swam off to drop its eggs and to surrender to the circle of life.

It was time for us to get back to our lives in Toronto.

 

Live every day like the first or the last one, with nothing to lose and heaven to gain.

 

Here’s to Alaska…..

Here’s to the people.

Here’s to the wild.

Here’s to the free

 

Up close to a glacier.

The closest I got to a moose!

 

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“Give the girl correct footwear and she can conquer the world.” Bette Middler

If shoes could speak.......

 

They were slipped off at the front door and stacked neatly in a row as this was the custom in Canada. No shoes were allowed in the house!

They sat there like faithful hounds waiting patiently at the door for their owners. There were a few that frequent daily lectures; others sprint off to the Go Train each day and one pair had recently walked the streets of Rome. Some of their owners had their feet firmly planted on the ground, while others drifted about in their search for answers. All were in various stages of ageing, but still managed to go about their business of protecting the human foot with dignity and dedication.

You might have gathered that I have a shoe fetish and made sure that I renewed my stock before I left the South African shores. When you know shoes, you also know exactly what you like and where to find them. So thank goodness for Queen Victoria who invented the lady’s boot, way back in 1840. I was going to need every colour and style I could find for those long Canadian winters. I did not need any encouragement to go out and acquire a few more pairs. This time I had to make sensible buys encompassing the attributes of being durable, waterproof and glamorous. So if I had to trudge around in the freezing cold, why not do it with a bit of style? I did manage to fulfill two of the criteria but the melting snow managed to leak through and soak my already cold feet. So much for the glamour part! But in true form I went into the `boer maak `n plan’ mode and a can of waterproof sealing spray did the trick. We were back in business.

The shoes at the front door were being gathered up by their owners as they ventured out into the cold night. It had been a wonderful party. The warm South African spirit of our hosts prevailed as we mingled and were treated with fine food and music. It was time to slide our feet back into our shoes and make our way home.

 This girl has her correct footwear and is ready to conquer the world!

 

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It was 4am in the morning and I woke up bright eyed and bushy tailed. It is always a special time of the day as I can sip a cup of tea quietly and just contemplate. It feels like the whole world is asleep and I am the only one who is watching the dawn break.

It could not be further from the truth as the whole of Canada would be watching the sun come up today. It is Groundhog Day today and legend has it that the groundhog can predict if spring is on its way. A festival is held in Wiarton in Ontario to honour this day and this includes dances, pancake breakfasts and parades. News reporters from all the local channels cover these events and it was reported that the shadow of the groundhog was NOT seen this year so we will have an early spring. Hoorah! Not that we deserve one as we have not paid our dues. Even us newbies know that this winter has been mild and not what we were expecting.

Weather is such an integral part of our daily lives here as it defines how we dress, get to work and spend our spare time. It comes as no surprise that the weather channel is the most watched one in Canada! We have new words that have become part of our vocabulary like wet snow, dry snow, freezing rain and cookie dough snow. Each of these snow types requires different apparel anything from track shoes to water resistant snow boots. I even packed in my green Wellington boots from South Africa. No chasing over green fields with a Labrador at my side or trout fishing, these are my big guns! They take in the squelchy roads with ease. One then understands why the Eskimos have over a 100 words for snow. The word ‘kripya’ means snow that has melted and then frozen and ‘pactla’ is snow that has been packed down. I am adding these words to my repertoire of experiences as I land on my rear in one of the 100 snow conditions. This takes place when my over zealous Jack Russell gives a sudden burst and chases a squirrel up a tree. It is a humbling experience!

A family of groundhog

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