Sunday, 18 December 2016

Home for the Holidays

It's been party central around here lately, folks. Probably the same where you are. Festive pot-luck buffet dinner. Hockey gang party. Girls' dress-up night; we did a small sit down dinner for eight this year. Good friends, good food, wine, and much laughter. And singing. You might have seen my shaky video of the hockey gang singing "The Twelve Days of Christmas" if you follow me on Facebook or Instagram. Shaky because it's hard to hold the camera steady and laugh at the same time. 

Our singalong before supper at our friends' beautiful log home. Near North Gower, Ontario
Singing before supper. The annual hockey gang party at our friend's beautiful log home. 

Girls' dress up night. Dinner for eight. Barrhaven, Ontario
Les girls.... some of. Three more of us in the kitchen. 
So now that the partying is over, it's high time I buckled down and did some work. Aside from choosing party outfits and shopping, I've done nothing to get ready for Christmas. Yet. And Hubby and I hit the road on Wednesday. For the long drive home for the holidays.

Maritimers heading home for Christmas is a long-standing tradition. I wonder if that's because so many of us have, over the generations, left home and moved to Ontario or "out west" for jobs which have always been pretty scarce on the east coast. For years and years, the annual question Maritimers who live away are asked by family and friends is "Are you coming home for Christmas?"

One year back in the early eighties, long before I met Hubby and started teaching, when I worked in cosmetics at Simpson's on Sparks Street here in Ottawa, my roommate, me, my sister, and two boys we knew from home and who worked in the shoe store next door to Simpson's were all booked on the same flight home. On Christmas Eve. 

We all had to work Christmas Eve, but had permission from our bosses to leave early, in time to make our early evening flight. I remember Debbie, my roommate, and I packed and lugged our suitcases on the bus to work that morning. My sister would meet us at my work and drive us all to the airport. Then it started to snow. Really snow. And all day we worried. And called each other, and the airport. By noon the storm was so bad that our flight to Montreal had been cancelled. If we could get to Montreal (two hours away) we could still pick up our flight to Fredericton. Fat chance of that. Then while we fretted and dithered, the flight from Ottawa to Montreal was reinstated. Phew. 

By 4:00 pm Debbie and I waited impatiently at the back door of Simpson's for my sister. She was late. It was still snowing heavily. The roads were terrible. Downtown hadn't seen a plow for hours it seemed. Carolyn's tiny car bumped and slewed through the ruts made by other vehicles all the way to the airport. We worried we'd never make it. But we did. The flight to Montreal would be late leaving, but was still flying, so we were happy. And in Montreal our ongoing flight was delayed. Twice. I think we finally took off around ten o'clock. But, better late than not at all. Hopefully, we'd still be home by Christmas.

And as I'm sure you've guessed, we were. When we finally landed at the small airport in Fredericton it was close to midnight. There was much laughter and high spirits among the passengers. And our friend Mark who was a great joker and who had a window seat, looked out onto the runway and said to me: "Wow. Look Susan, Santa himself has come to meet us." Ha. Very funny Mark. 

But as it transpired, Mark was not joking. When we stumbled down the steps onto the tarmac, there was Santa. Red suit, white beard, chuckling and shaking everyone's hand. "Welcome home, folks. Merry Christmas." And inside the airport in the arrival lounge, my stepfather, who'd been there for god knows how long, patiently waiting for us

Ah. That's one of my favourite Christmas memories. 

I know, as a travel horror story, this one doesn't have much in the way of drama. I've been on much longer, more stressful flights many times since. In particular Hubby's and my convoluted and emotional journey home from a tiny island north of Broome, in Australia, when my stepfather died in 2008. But, back in 1981, as a recently transplanted Maritimer, newly trying my wings away from home, I don't think I could have imagined, at the time, a fate worse than NOT getting home for the holidays. For Christmas. 

And on that theme, have a look at this lovely, quirky video by Wes Anderson, starring Adrian Brody.  

Of course experience teaches us that there are many worse fates than not being home on Christmas. Obviously. There are those who are experiencing their first holiday season since losing a family member. Like my friend about whom I wrote a couple of posts ago. And of course there are those many, many people caught in tragic circumstances around the world, with no home at all... anymore. 

Hubby and I don't go home for the holidays every year. And I'm grateful that we can make the trip this year. Grateful for family that we'll spend it with. And grateful for all the years, and all the Christmases, spent with family and friends who are no longer with us. We'll be thinking of them. And no doubt swapping stories about them. And raising a glass to them, I imagine.

Now I really must go. I've baking to do. Tourtières do not make themselves, people. And I have to start packing. Depending on the weather we may leave a day early. Because...well... freezing rain... snow... you know, the usual. 

I don't know if I'll have time to post again before Christmas. So let's just say our seasons greetings now, okay? From our home to yours. Wherever that is. Whatever holiday you celebrate... I hope it's wonderful.

Linking up today with Saturday Share Link-up at Not Dressed As Lamb  and Thursday Favourite Things at Katherine's Corner

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Resisting the Siren Call of the Couch... Staying Fit After Fifty

It's winter. And it's snowing, or raining, or freezing raining depending on where you live. And cold. So, what should you do when, like the song says, "the weather outside is frightful... and the fire is so delightful?" You may not want to hear this... but... resist, my friends. Resist the temptation to hunker down and stay indoors. Resist the urge to curl up on the couch by the fire with some shortbread and a good book. Resist the temptation to NOT go outside... until April. 

Cross country skiing on the Osgoode Trail, Osgoode Ontario. Gortex jacket, and fleece from Mountain Equipment Co-op. Turtleneck by Columbia. RayBan sunglasses.
Last winter on the Osgoode Trail near our house. That's Hubby in the background.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Wrap It Up... The Season for Layering

Now that it's December I'm thinking of layers of all sorts. Sometimes I dream of the chocolatey, fudgey, mocha, whipped creamy layers in concoctions like this one. A small 'sliver' wouldn't upset the fitness regimen too much. Would it? Of course when you pile that 'sliver' on top of tourtière, roast turkey and stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, mincemeat tarts, and other seasonal fare... I might have to crank up the exercise bike a notch or two. Or ski a couple of extra hours a week... or a day. Ha. 

Chocolate truffle layer cake from Food and

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Just sayin'. Thoughts About Grief.

You know, normally I'm not at a loss for words. On the blog or otherwise. But this week. Meh. Not so chatty. You see, the young son of a good friend just died. He was fourteen. And we're all kind of gobsmacked. 

His mum is a good friend of mine. She's much younger than me. In fact we met when she was hired as a new teacher and I was a fifteen year veteran. Her desk was next to mine. That year we bonded over grade nine English lesson plans and moaning about our wardrobes. I left the next September to take a headship in another school, and we have met every few months for lunch or dinner since then. We've sipped wine or coffee, and yakked, mostly about work and clothes, for almost twenty years. Since then she's married, become a department head herself, then a vice-principal, and now a principal. And she's had three lovely sons. She calls me her "mentor" and I'm flattered to be thus characterized. Flattered because she's smart and kind and funny and a seriously hard worker. She didn't need me to get where she is. But it's nice to be thought of that way. 

So what exactly does one say to a much younger friend when one has no idea how they must be feeling? How it is to be so devastated by loss. How it is to even have a child, let alone lose one. What to say, or do, when one frankly has no clue how to be helpful. No clue at all.

Late fall on the trail

Saturday, 3 December 2016

If Wishes Were Dresses ... Festive Dressing Decision Time

So... the other day, when it was still November, I was on my exercise bike pedaling my butt off (not to mention other body parts that have grown in girth lately.) And I was flipping through magazines and Pinterest, and dreaming of wearing something like this dress to the deluge of festive parties that I will be attending this year. Okay, maybe not a deluge, exactly, but more than two. 

Sigh. If wishes were dresses this would be in my closet right now. A lovely full-skirted, red, satin dress with high heels and an edgy leather jacket to keep it from looking too ladylike. But... wishes are just wishes, and there is no lovely, full-skirted, red dress hiding in my closet.

Red full-skirted dress, black leather jacket, black hose, red fur bag, from winter 2017 issue