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Posts Tagged ‘winter’

I close my eyes and I can see a world that’s waiting up for me that I call my own ……

The rain was endless and it filled our stream alongside the house. The deep vibration of the water pounded on the river rocks. I peered down into my garden and reflected on the hours of contentment my summer garden had provided. I reminded myself that I had to be patient as there was still a winter to endure. It was time to enjoy the Christmas lights that twinkled up from the garden. The tiny soft white bulbs softened the harshness of the bare plants and provided a contrast to the bright green cedar trees.  It is a source of such comfort to look down on that bit of sparkle when you are held up indoors for days on end. But this morning was different…..the rain had eventually stopped. It was time to get outside.

Our first snow…..

A vision of the one I see…..

The first stop was a morning latte and croissant at my favourite haunt. It is a cosy bakery and it is filled with Christmas ambiance.  This obviously has an effect on the patrons as a young boy leaned across at his dad and sang into his ear. “You better watch out, you better not cry, Santa Claus is coming to town.” The conversation then ensued between dad and son was what Santa might be delivering down the chimney that year. The debatable question was how ‘naughty or nice’ he had been throughout the year. This private exchange that I had eavesdropped on really brought home some of the magic of Christmas.

A touch of Christmas….

We can live in a world that we design……

It is the time when the ‘little girl’ in me is ever present. Memories of childhood African Christmases abound. Although so different in many ways, the spirit was the same. It was a time to rejoice in our family and friends. So many of those traditions have continued. Instead of bright African sun warming us as we gathered around our braai outside, we huddle around a crackling fire with the snow covered mountain tops in the distance. We still eat the turkey but instead of salads we have roasted sweet potato. This year the turkey will be cooked outside, very slowly on our barbeque. Some things don’t change! For my own sanity I try to spice things up in the culinary department. Only to be told by the family that they want the ‘tried and tested’ recipes. Not sure what that is supposed to tell me. It does not dampen the spirit…… I rush around and collect greenery from my garden and a nearby forest. Decorations are brought up from the storeroom and deliberated over for the right effect. The Christmas tree is up and the twins have added the finishing touches. It is time to reflect on the season.

The twins add their final touch to the tree.

But it feels like home…..

This year I have tried to be mindful and to keep things natural and simple. I am so grateful for the wealth of nature that surrounds me ……even though it is sodden with rain!  I find such joy in preparing my home for my family and friends. This lead up to Christmas and the anticipation of the whole family sleeping under our roof, keeps me inspired.

May your Christmas be filled with special moments with the people that you love.

 

 

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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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Enough already! I thought I had passed the ‘Winter Test’ this year! We have endured the blasts from the Arctic Vortex, had metres of snow thrown on us and braved the sub zero temperatures!  We had just begun to thaw and had enjoyed a few days out in the garden and have even sipped our first of the season sundowners on the deck. The hesitant sun had begun to warm our frosted lily- white winter limbs. Our mood had lifted and there was a spring in the step. But it was not to last…….

The morning scene.....

The morning scene…..

We woke up this morning and the world outside was all carpeted in snow! Oh no! It was hard to assimilate that we had regressed back into winter over night.

So out came the liquid sunshine, the ‘must have’ vitamin D tablets, at breakfast. I had pushed that right to the back of the tray as I felt they would not be needed for a few months. How wrong I was! Warming Jungle Oats would be at the top of the menu once more rounded off with a cup of hot chocolate. There would be no walk for our canine member of the family either. I just could not get myself out of that door to duel with the wind. Josh had that ‘gatvol’ expression on his face as he went out for his morning ablutions on his snowy patch. He had reveled in the sun over the weekend as he rolled in the grass and luxuriated on his back in the sun. Now all he could do was jump straight back into his warm basket and sulk.

I fumbled in the dark coat cupboard for my tried and tested and ‘very sick of wearing’ blue padded jacket. When I first arrived in Canada I could never understand the reasoning behind having so many coats. I used to listen to locals discuss their ski coats, walking jackets, evening coats, weekend coats and spring coats. What on earth was a spring coat? Initially I decided that this was surely extravagant and I could manage with far less. I muddled on for the first winter and even the second as they were both mild. But then the ‘big guns’ hit us…….this last winter! It did not take me long to realize that my sensible repertoire of 2 coats in the mudroom cupboard was just not enough. I would feel an attack of SADS coming on when I reached into the cupboard and selected one from my meager choice! Then the warm boots were reluctantly pulled on too. Oh for a pair of peep toe sandals!

I long to give my summer sandals an airing!

I long to give my summer sandals an airing!

So as the sun breaks through those clouds and the snow begins to melt yet again, the prospect of spring becomes a reality once more. We can look forward to new growth and new life! But in the meantime a couple of mallard ducks have set up home down at the river at the bottom of our garden. There has been much courtship and spring shenanigans going on.  It looks like there is soon to be a batch of baby chicks. What a lovely way to celebrate Easter!

Our mallard ducks make whoopee in our stream.

Our mallard ducks make whoopee in our stream.

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The other day I relented and had to face facts! I do not need the extensive summer wardrobe that I brought over from South Africa. So a big clear out took place. Shoes, hats, dresses all flew out of my cupboard and onto a huge pile in my bedroom. There I said my fond farewells to some of my favourite summer ensembles………my white linen dress, my shell t-shirt and some of my Woolies favourites. It was a sad moment as I have always taken great delight in choosing my outfit for each day. I find it artistic as well as therapeutic. It is all about coordinating my accessories and the chosen items of clothing. That spotted navy scarf will just do the right thing with the white crisp shirt! I found all of this especially useful in my ‘teaching days.’ In my mind, a pop of colour and an interesting accessory would at least capture my pupils’ initial attention…for about 5 seconds that is! Then it was up to me to sock it to them with interesting content and a captivating presentation to hold their easily swayed minds. 

A Canadian sunset from our deck..

A Canadian sunset from our deck..

So to get back to the decluttering process….  I just cannot wear my selection of summer attire in the few weeks that Canadians call ‘summer.’  After all we only have 3 short months! The other point is how much ‘coordination of the wardrobe’ is required when I spend most of my day in the garden with my hands deep in the soil? Although I still manage to match my wellingtons with my sun hat and I always add a string of pearls to the mix.  I suppose there are some things that just don’t change…..

 

A bit of this and that.....

A bit of this and that…..

All this might sound trivial but the real point of the exercise was to make way for the extensive winter wardrobe. During our first winter I was the proud owner of a thick padded navy jacket with a fox fur trim. It served me well and kept out the howling, icy winds. The problem was that I wore this coat continuously for almost 7 months straight. Need I say I am tired of it!  So this year I have made space for a few more additions to the coat repertoire. There should be room for something in  a blaze of tartan and possibly a touch more fur! (I never thought I would say this but it is so warm!)

The sun beats down on my face as I lap up every moment of its warmth. I have to make the most of it while it lasts. There is still time…… 

I can feel the vitamin D soaking in.....

I can feel the vitamin D soaking in…..

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(This song was written and first played by the Zombies in 1968. This rendition is by Dave Matthews, a South African, who now lives in Seattle.)

 

It is another day of temperatures below zero! I mumble as I sit down in the mudroom. (This is a room at the front of most Canadian houses and it has all the coats and winter garb.) I pull out my blue fur- trimmed coat and my thick boots. I am sick of this outfit!  I have forgotten what my feet look like as they have been all trussed up in heavy boots for months! Each morning we look out for any sign of some reprieve……..another day of rain and grey skies. Oh no!

Even the locals are ‘gatvol.’ Sometimes I have to resort to my local dialect as there is just no other word that best described this feeling.  I could think of a few other choice words which could best describe this k…k weather but I am sure that this blog would then be blocked!  But there is hope……. 

 

One of the joys of winter!

One of the joys of winter!

 

 

Spring is slow at gracing us with her presence. You have to look hard for it as it pours most days!  My tulip bulbs are sprouting and their glossy leaves have broken through the earth. Thank goodness! They survived the beady eyes of the squirrels during the fall. This was when all the delicately juicy specimens were gathered up as their stash for the winter.  Somehow the new bed that I had created in the garden was overlooked by the vigilant gatherers. The resident rabbit is the next threat. The new growth is just too much for him to resist. Luckily Josh keeps a watchful eye from the window. He performs a war dance whenever any livestock dare to trespass on our verge. So for the moment the bulbs are safe.

I resort to the indoor tulips!

I resort to the indoor tulips!

 

The morning greets us with an abundance of bird calls….robin, thrush and the splendid red cardinals. The woodpeckers often disrupt the melodious calls with their beating thuds against the bark. They busily make new homes for fussy females and the pending brood. The majestic birds of prey have made their weary journey back across the sea. They can be seen gliding overhead and filling up on local delicacies like squirrel and the odd mouse. Our resident red -tailed hawk has appeared. He was less noisy but probably still exhausted after his long commute. He is sure to be squawking away in the elm trees and creating havoc once he has regained his strength.

Our magnificent cardinals.

Our magnificent cardinals.

 

 

Spring is a time to renew, recover and replenish. Nature does it and it enthuses us winter-weary humans to do the same. The excitement is tangible. A mere glimpse of a ‘patch of blue’ draws people outside and into the street.  Enthusiastic neighbours gather round and wield their power hoses. The clean up has started! Driveways and front steps are washed and the residue salt and grime disappear down the drains. Sleek new road tyres are fitted to the family cars and the robust winter tyres packed away.  Our basements are bulging with all the winter paraphernalia! The mud room gets a facelift and all the heavy coats and skis make way for bathing costumes and sandals. Hoorah!

All this adds to the delight and realization that SPRING is almost here!


 

 

 

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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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Josh has his own walkway!

Josh has his own walkway!

Get out as much as possible! Ha! Ha!

Get out as much as possible! Ha! Ha!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All that I am, all that I ever was……..

It has been a grey week where the sun has not showed its face from behind the clouds at all! I begin to understand the meaning of ‘winter in Canada’ as we fight to stay warm. We heed the advice of ‘getting outside as much as we can.’  Even then we go for days with this grey hue all around us. Then you just need to add some rain to the mix! To be cold is one thing, but to be wet and cold is a whole new ball game! I comfort myself indoors with my emails from friends and family back in South Africa as they recount their sun- filled picnics and barbeques. Oh happy days! My stash of ‘Ouma rusks’ are a constant source of pleasure as I am confined indoors.

Just know that these things will not change for us at all……

So one gets on with the process of acceptance of how things are. It is cold……..dam cold! The ingenuity kicks in and we develop coping strategies. Fortunately for us, our concerned Canadian neighbours have taken us under their wing. They fill us in with many tips for surviving a cold winter. They range from the right boots to wear on black ice to safety tips for ‘blonde drivers’ in white -out conditions. I dread the day when I have to put these into practice! But for the most part, we have thought up some of our own too. A domestic pet is quite a challenge, as you have to cope with their ablutions when they are cooped up all day. If you have a pup you can teach them to ring a bell that hangs at the front door. They knock it with their snout and then you respond accordingly. Unfortunately we tried that with our Josh but as the saying goes…..you can’t teach an old dog new tricks! So we had to think of other ways to meet his daily needs. The problem was that this fussy little canine preferred to relieve himself on grass. Oh my hat! I ask you? Where do you find a patch of grass when there is a foot of snow outside? The snow shovel came out and we cleared him a little patch near the side of the house. He is now happy to oblige on his spot of Canada Green.

If I lay here, would you lie with me and forget the world?

Depression is the real scary part of winter. The television and radio carry adverts and hints on how to cope with this dreary time. We have much to keep us entertained indoors from interesting reads, challenging puzzles and home theatre. Josh, our Jack Russell, is not partial to the confinement of winter.  He jumps deep into his basket and rearranges his blanket over his head. This is his fleeting form of hibernation. I must add that this state of being is quickly interrupted with the ring of the doorbell. We have had to think of ways to ‘entertain’ him. (I never thought that my day would consist of dreaming of ways to improve my dog’s psychological wellbeing!)We now dig a pathway through the snow on the deck so that he can still see his nemesis, our resident squirrel. His relentless occupation of getting his teeth into Mr. Squirrel keeps him entertained and his spirits up.

Show me a garden that is bursting into life…….

So I page through my gardening manuals and read up on plants that can withstand these freezing temperatures. I dream up ideas and designs for my garden here in Canada. We planted a whole heap of spring bulbs. They are resting under the snow in my front garden. Soon they will be triggered into a burst of new life. I will see their bright colours in the sun!

Venturing out with friends...a trip to the city.

Venturing out with friends…a trip to the city.

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