Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Christmas draws closer ...

Christmas preparations 

Spent Sunday afternoon and evening wrapping presents
and decorating the parcels.   Had some trouble getting
started however because Phoebe demanded was in need of 
attention and was not inclined to listen to reason and 
allow me to work unimpeded.

Since wrapping presents one handed, with a cat slung
over your shoulder snoozing is awkward ... to say the
least ... I had to be firm and put her down near by to
nap on a chair ... instead of me.

Wrapping paper around the boxes doesn't take too long
to do.   It's making the bows and decorating in general
that takes time ... and is the fun part.    Unfortunately my
glue gun died awhile ago and I forgot to get myself a new
one so all the bows and decorations had to be "stuck"
on the parcels with tape, white glue or tied on with fancy
string or ribbon.    Frustrating at times and I'm not sure
how durable these things are going to be so when they
are being given out I'll be warning the recipients to be
careful with how they carry or transport their gifts.

At least I did remember to buy a new glue gun the next
time I was out shopping.   Better late then never.

Don't think that I ever showed off the new addition to the
library which my DH made for me in August.   I've had this
design stuck in my head for ages now and somehow, for 
some reason, this summer he and I got to talking about it
and the next thing he knew he was going out to buy the 
materials and putting it together.

Four bookcases set edge to edge with a large sheet of 
plywood on top and with a raised edge of trim to finish 
off each side of the table top.   It gives me a whole lot
of space for my bigger books on the shelves of the four 
bookcases plus the top is perfect for working on my jigsaw 
puzzles,  crafting ... and for wrapping Christmas presents.   

I had to haul all my wrapping paper, trims, adhesives, 
decorations and ... um ... oh yes .... the presents ....
from the top floor of the house to the basement ... and 
then back up there again when I was done but it was 
fabulous to work on that table and not have to bend over.  
And that table top is a HUGE workspace.

On the 7th of December I took the train down
to Toronto to meet my friend Darlene and we
spent the day wandering around the city 
looking at the Christmas decorations.

The above trees are in the atrium of the building
where Darlene works (she was on vacation that
week).   Note the sheets of sparkly lights draped
across the balconies.   Very pretty, nicely done.

We went to Yorkdale mall for the morning and
checked out the stores and their displays there.   The
above arrangement was in Pottery Barn.  We were
disappointed in the lack of decorations at Yorkdale 
in the mall's common spaces.   All the shops there were
decorated but the mall itself only had Christmas 
decorations around the area where Santa was located.

Dull!  Boring!!!  Bah Humbug Yorkdale!!!

We went to Allen Gardens in the afternoon and were
much happier with the effort made there to join in the
spirit of the season.    Poinsettias everywhere, in a 
multitude of colours.    Mannequins dressed for winter
in dresses made of foliage and flowers were scattered
around the main greenhouse. 

Anyone for a sleigh ride?

Another greenhouse had fanciful birds perched in
trees and plants, some sitting on "nests" with 
Christmas decoration "eggs".

I guess it makes sense that a Blue Jay would lay a blue

It was lovely to spend an hour or more wandering
around enjoying the plants and the Christmas 

Once it got dark we walked to City Hall where the skating
rink was in full use, the Christmas tree was lit up and 
everything looked lovely.

The Eaton Centre mall had it's giant reindeer
set out along it's main hall.    They are amazing
to see in person.

The CN tower was lit up with Christmas colours
which looked great.

Didn't buy anything (except for brunch and
dinner) during our day out except when I found
this hardcover edition of the third book in 
Deborah Harkness's All Souls Trilogy which
was on sale for just $10.00.   I did buy this when
it first came out in hardcover a year and a half
ago because I LOVE the series and this author!

But I had to grab this copy because of the sticker
on it which said "Signed Copy"!!!! 

Yup!   There you go!   Signed by the author!!!
Me want!    Me grab!!!    Me very happy!!!

This is baking week.   I've been at it for three days so
far and will keep at it until I run out of time.   Stay 
tuned for further reports.


Saturday, December 05, 2015

Lo, it's Christmas time!!!

I mentioned in my last post that we'd gotten our
tree up a few weekends ago.  But before we could put our 
tree up we had to go out and buy a new one this year 
because the lights on our not-quite-four year old tree 
were failing all over it.  I was very annoyed because these 
things ain't cheap to begin with and I loved my not-so-old 

So we drove to Canadian Tire and checked out their
tree selection and ended up bringing this one home.
I would have preferred a tree with coloured lights
but pre-lit trees seem to be decorated with white
lights more often then coloured.   I liked this tree
because it looks quite real and we were not interested
in driving all over the province looking at the
many different christmas trees that are for sale in 
other stores so this is the one we bought.

Hope it'll stay hale and hearty and lit for more then
three seasons.

This one is the typical three section tree with each
section inserted into the previous one and the bottom
section inserted into the stand.   Then, because it is
brand new and had been stuffed into a relatively
small box by some kind of sadistic mechanical device 
I had to "fluff" it before we could start decorating it.

Fluffing the tree took a long time.   Opening the new
tree like an umbrella, pressing branches down into place
and separating branches from one another and flatten-
ing branches etc.   Making sure that there are no empty spaces
through which you might be able to spy the tree trunk 
or (horrified gasp!!!) plugs and wires.  And you just cannot 
rush these things because a well fluffed tree is crucial to the
end result of a realistic appearance.   

Do I sound as demented to you as I sound to me?


So a few days after the tree had been put up I was 
sitting with a mug of tea in hand admiring our
handiwork.  DH was sitting across the room 
from me with his mug of tea.   I idly glanced towards
the top of the tree and then did a double take.

"Where did that come from" I asked the only
member of this household tall enough to place a
small plush cat on top of our seven and a half 
foot tall tree without a ladder.   Said member of
the household just grinned at me.

We've been without a star for the top of our tree for quite
a few years now.   Ever since our last star refused to 
light up during a previous decorating session we've been
trying to find another one that we both liked without 
any success.   Usually I just plop one of my hand made
gold bows on top of the tree and leave it at that but 
this year I hadn't gotten around to doing it yet.

So DH decided to take matters into his own hands and
you see the results above.

I like it.

We're cat lovers here, and we have an orange cat so
I guess it's rather fitting to have an orange cat on top of our

Meanwhile, the christmas cards have begun to 
trickle in and I'm happy about that because I
love christmas cards.   And so does a certain
previously alluded to orange cat.    His name was
in the hand written greeting inside the card so
of course he had to read it for himself.

The very first card to arrive this year was this hand
made beauty from Andrea at The Craft Room.  I love
it so much and have placed it on display on a shelf of the 
bookcase in the living room where it can be seen and
appreciated.   Thank you Andrea.   Your card making 
skills are as amazing as your stitching and finishing 

A landmark week at work for DH as he 
celebrated 40 years working for the same
company.   Yes, I said 40 years!   Hard to
believe isn't it?    

That kind of anniversary is certainly going to 
be a thing of the past as it seems that most
companies don't want to be bothered with
long term employees and most certainly not
with employees over say 50 years of age.

But DH has made it to 40 years and he's 
happy with that but has also had enough
of it.  He will be retiring at the end of 
March ... and is counting down the days.

My currant read is The Accidental Empress which 
is a historical fiction by Allison Pataki about the
life of Elisabeth of Austria known as Sisi who was
married to Emperor Franz Joseph at the age of 16.

It's funny but I ran into Sisi in two other books that
I'd read earlier this year .... The Fortune Hunter
and The Courtesan.   Both books are featured in
previous blog posts.   Sisi is a major character in The
Fortune Hunter but just appears briefly in The Courtesan
but she made an impression on me so when I came
across this book I had to get it and find out more about
this fascinating, tragic woman.

It's heavy on the romantic aspects of the Empress's life
and some of the criticism that I've read on Goodreads 
from other readers is that it doesn't delve deep enough
into Sisi's real life history, tragedies, trials and troubles.
But I am enjoying the book and I think I'd like to find
other books about her to add to my library which are
perhaps more inclined towards a truthful portrait of the
woman instead of a simplified, romance heroine style.

I'm obsessing over a TV program called Escape to
the Country which I am watching on Youtube.   It
is a sort of home search show that takes place all over
 The British Isles with breathtaking scenery,  a bit of
touristy information about the featured area, and 
a bit of the local history.   I'm telling you, if I ever
win the lottery I'm gonna get myself a house in the
countryside of The British Isles.   Deciding on where
exactly may not be easy but that would be a problem
I would enjoy solving very much.

Then I'm gonna want a house in the country in Belgium,
Austria, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark ....

(voice trails off listing every country in Europe)


Monday, November 23, 2015

Where oh where does the time go?

I visited my friend Linda in Port Perry
a month ago and during one of my 
walks along the shores of Lake Scugog
I took some pictures of the last of the
seasonal plants.   I love taking pictures
like these that almost seem to have a
texture to them.

And fluffy seed pods are a great 

The days were overcast (until the day I returned
home, of course) but that's okay.   Any time I
can walk near a lake and watch the birds and
breath in the air is fine by me. 

Another day, closer to home.   Glen Williams
is just a 35 minute walk from my front door
and is such a pretty village.   Took this
picture from one of the bridges that spans
the Credit River, which twists it's way 
through the village in two spots on the
main road.

One of my favourite houses in the village.   I think
I take it's picture every time that I do a walk
through of the area with my camera.

On Remembrance Day I joined my neighbour and
three of her kids to walk down to our town's cenotaph
to observe the wreath laying ceremony. 

Love the tradition at the end where members of the
crowd can come forward and leave their poppies on
the base of the monument if they wish to.

On the weekend of the 14th I took the Go bus down
to Toronto to spend the day with my friend Darlene.
We walked through the Jane/Bloor village section
of the city and poked around in the shops located
there.   It's a very European section of Toronto with
lots of fabulous bakeries with glorious displays of
fresh baked pastries and breads and cakes.

We even visited a couple of the Christmas 
bazaars being run in a few of the local churches
in the area which was fun.   In one lovely 
church we were admiring the interior of the
main part of the church from a doorway and 
one of the parishioners offered to give us a 
little tour, which we were delighted to accept.
I love when that sort of thing happens.
This is St. Olave's Anglican church.

We also walked through High Park which is Toronto's
version of Central Park in New York.   Most of the
leaves on the trees there were gone but the willow
trees next to Grenadier pond still retained their 
Fall colour.                                   

Since High Park is just a short walk from Lake
Ontario we just had to go there as well and walk
along the boardwalk for a bit.   This is looking
west,  with our backs to downtown Toronto.

It does look cold and gloomy in that picture
doesn't it?   But we had a nice walk and
were quite comfortable, though we were
warmly dressed.

City Hall, downtown Toronto.    The Toronto
sign was put up for the Pan-Am games that
Toronto hosted this past summer.   It was
decided that since the sign was such a hit with
tourists and Torontonians alike it should be
kept up once the games were over.
Note that it is lit with the colours of the
French flag.   This was the Saturday
after the Paris attacks.


The highlight of our day was in the evening
when we attended the lighting of the 
Christmas lights at Dundas Square in

Live music, dancers and acrobats and lights.
Lots of lights!   In fact the name of the event
was Illuminite.  This is the second year in a
row that we've gone to this show and it was
quite amazing.

This year the show stopper was when four of the 
dancers plus the piano and the piano player were
hoisted in the air by a crane where they (the dancers, I 
mean) danced and spun and tumbled in midair.

I'm sorry that my pictures weren't very good but
at least you get an idea of how it all looked.  We
were told that there were about 12,000 people
in attendance, filling the square and spilling onto
Yonge street which was closed to traffic for the

Books read, or in this case being read by
me in the past month or so. 

The Nightingale is a story that takes place
during WWII in France during the occupation.
I've read a number of Kristin Hannah's books
and this one is one of her best so far.

Amendment:   Nov 26th
Sat for two hours this morning reading this book.
Could not leave it alone.   My bed is unmade and
I'm still in my PJs.    I read it to the end and I 
cried and cried.   It's rare that I shed a tear over a
book, no matter how well written or how much I
loved it.    This is a haunting, powerful story which
resonates in this day and age.   

The best by far that I've read by Kristin Hannah it 
takes her to another level as a writer.   I highly
recommend it but warn you to read it with a box
of kleenex close by.

The Courtesan takes place in China in the late
1800's and is based on the life of a woman who 
lived during that time.  It is Alexandra Curry's first

A young adult novel with an interesting,
thought provoking twist.   I'd been wanting
to read this one for awhile and when it's 
sequel came out a short while ago I got
them both and read them one after the other.
The first book "Every Day" I enjoyed more then
the second book "Another Day" which was the same
story but told by another character's point of view.

David Levithan is a very popular writer of
Young adult novels.

I've been spending my crafting time working on
scrapbook albums that I am making to give as
Christmas gifts.  One is done and the other is
in the beginning stages.    

In spite of the bags of extra time I expected to have
to prepare for Christmas because I'm no longer 
working the days and weeks leading up to December 
25th are flying by just as fast as when I was working!   
This amazes and frustrates me to no end.   

Oh well.    The tree is up and decorated and so is 
most of the house so I need to begin my cards next.


Thursday, November 12, 2015

Fall 2015

My favourite season is Fall.    I know, I know ....
Fall means that winter is not too far away.   Even so.
I love Fall!!!    

And in the Fall there are certain rituals that one must 
partake in to be able to say that one has sufficiently 
and fully experienced the season.   Visiting a farm
to pick apples or search for pumpkins is one such
ritual and I was lucky enough to be able to do just
that at the beginning of October.

My neighbour Amy and three of her kids headed
out one afternoon in search of apples and were 
kind enough to invite me along.  It was a gorgeous
though cool Fall day and we wandered around the
Halton Hills area (by car) looking for places to stop.

The first place we chose to stop at was a small farm 
where Amy picked up a huge bag of apples.    You 
have no idea of the selection of apples that are 
available until you go to an apple farm and see all 
of the varieties on offer.   

Our next stop was a larger place called Andrews
Scenic Acres and here there was a wider range of
produce and products for sale.   Plus the added 
fun of a Halloween maze,  pumpkin patch,   animals
to see and pet and photograph,  dahlias galore to
pick and the added bonus of glorious, fresh air
and sunshine and the scent of Autumn in the air
and bright blue sky overhead.   In other words

In the store were all kinds of yummy
things from indian corn, to maple syrup, 
to fresh baked goods (salted chocolate
chip cookies anyone?) to jams and 
jellies and on and on and on.

One of the farm's residents.  Love
those gorgeous feathers!

And oodles and oodles of dahlias!

In every shape .... 

and colour that you could imagine.

All available to pick and take home with
you,   which we did.

There were trails to follow all around the property
and the sunflower patch was huge and at it's peak. 
We walked all over and took lots of pictures.

It was such a fabulous day.   Did I mention how much
I love Fall?

Brought these beauties home to remind me of
the day (plus a bag of those afore mentioned
salted chocolate chip cookies).

The Phee approved.