One More Christmas Celebration

….just when I thought I was done

I mentioned in one of my recent posts about Christmas that a very good friend of ours who almost always spends Christmas Eve with us couldn’t come over this past year. My daughter arranged for the three of us to get together last week for lunch.

I packed up all the gifts that I had for her, put them in my car and then headed out for Montgomery’s Inn where I volunteered to help put up an art show. I’ve never done a professional exhibit before and I found it exciting helping the artist decide where and how to hang her work. The artist’s name is Sharon McManus and I will probably share more about her work after the official opening this Saturday.IMG-0021
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When we finished hanging all the pieces I made my way to Arlene’s place. We met in her condo where she still had up all her Christmas decorations, including her white tree that she’s had since the 60s.

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Andrea arrived soon after and we all went down the street to the local Sushi restaurant. We toasted in the New Year with a little saki and warmed our tummies with a bowl of ramen.

When we went back to the condo and Arlene opened her gifts. She loves Henkel Trocken and it’s become a tradition to place a bottle in her Christmas stocking. IMG-0036
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Before we left she made us coffee and we shared a muffin and some cookies. Andrea also taught her how to use her camera on her phone so we played around posing for pictures.

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I think this is pretty much the end of our Christmas season, although my niece and her husband celebrated Orthodox Christmas a couple of days ago.

There are still a few remnants of Christmas around the neighbourhoods and some of the lights will stay up well past Valentine’s Day but for the most part the decorations are starting to come down and the greenery is starting to whither. Some people are sad that the holiday season is now over. As for me I’m looking forward to some rest and returning to a more normal routine of eating. How about you?IMG-0106
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The Third Day of Christmas Celebrations Amidst a Plumbing Disaster

…..on Boxing Day the sewer started backing up into the basement

Soon after doing the laundry we noticed that water was coming up through the sewer drain in the basement. Luckily it was only a large puddle around the drain and it was easily soaked up with rags but soon after when someone showered it happened again. We decided to carefully ration the water until we could get a plumber to the house. We called the next morning but because it wasn’t an immediate emergency we had to wait one more day before the plumber could get to our house.

On the 28th a camera and a plumbing snake were lowered into the drain. At 41 feet the camera came across the problem. The clay pipe at the Y junction had collapsed and only a small area was letting water get through. That meant that paper and some ‘matter’ was building up at the break and water was having a hard time passing through. Plumber Joe was able to clear the blockage but it was only a temporary fix. The pipe had to be removed and replaced. There was only one problem; the broken pipe was in the middle of my neighbour’s driveway and her car was sitting on top of it.

Now that might not seem like a huge problem but the car hadn’t been moved in almost two years and no amount of pushing would move it back the three feet we needed to get to the problem. We tried calling CAA but they didn’t show up and when I called they said that our coverage didn’t cover moving the neighbour’s car. Now what?

The next morning we figured out why we couldn’t put the car into neutral. Newer cars are all controlled by the electrical system and since the battery was completely dead we needed to give the car a boost. Eureka! We got the car started and backed it up the three feet that we needed. Unfortunately by the time we called our plumber back he was already on another job and couldn’t come till Monday, Dec. 31.

Our third day of Christmas was suppose to happen on the 28th but due to a miscommunication my sister’s family was planning on arriving on the 29th. At the time I thought the plumbing was going to be fixed on that day so I wasn’t too anxious about having eight adults and a baby in the house. When they arrived I explained the situation and asked them to use the bathroom sparingly. In the end we decided to go out for dinner instead of eating at home. Before we left we opened more gifts and phoned the restaurant to make sure that they could accommodate our large group.P1070339
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In the end it turned out that the restaurant was a good option all around. There were no dishes for me to wash (couldn’t run the dishwasher), everyone was able to order according to their dietary needs and likes,  we arrived after the rush, the service was great and we were able to spend time talking to one another without worrying about our plumbing problem. My sister and her family all live out of town and my nephew had flown in from California. If we hadn’t gotten together that day it probably wouldn’t have happened. Thanks for small blessings.

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Christmas Day Two

…..after Christmas Eve the festivities continue

Christmas Day this year was a very relaxed day. We opted to forgo the turkey dinner and order in Chinese food. After a bit of a lie in I convinced my father to go for a walk with me through the neighbourhood and check out the decorations. We donned our Santa hats and off we went.P1070333

Our daughter and daughter-in-law arrived later in the afternoon and we opened more presents. Everybody was on board with Chinese food, especially my father, and we ordered for a pick-up. I don’t know if you’re aware but Chinese food restaurants are very busy on Christmas Day. Eating at home was less hectic than eating out and much cheaper.

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After dinner clean-up was very easy. We packed up the leftovers and gave some to all the parties present. All of us had another meal the next day.

Later the girls and I dressed warmly and took the dogs for a walk and checked out the lights around the neighbourhood.IMG-9951
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Three Days of Christmas and Two Birthdays

….the holiday season is always busy

Now that my children have all grown up and moved out Christmas has become more complicated. This year we had three separate Christmas gatherings.

Christmas Eve is usually the day that we celebrate with the immediate family. Every other year our oldest daughter and her wife join the Italian side of the family and come to our place on Christmas Day. This was one of those years.

Our son didn’t join us this year. We were very fortunate to see him twice in the same year. The first time was in the summer when he was able to combine business with pleasure and in October we went to London where he lives. This Christmas they decided to visit Azadeh’s family in Iran in early December and then they were invited to join her uncle and his family in South America.3c3bb126-6c0f-41a0-a112-85ce0017246f
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On Christmas Eve our daughter, Gaelan and her husband, daughter and mother-in-law joined us for our traditional German Christmas. Platters of cookies, plates of cheese and meat, crackers and bread and a variety of nibbles were set out to graze on. My husband also made a pot of meatballs and a tourtière.

We always open our presents on Christmas Eve. My husband has always liked this German tradition and adopted it as soon as we were married. Having a three year at the party made this year’s

evening extra special. Winnie loved opening presents and helped hand out the Christmas stockings. When all the presents were opened she carefully packed all her gifts into a very large bag that I had purchased to wrap her art tray. The other kid at the party was my 92 year old father. He really got a kick out of his stocking this year.

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Day 2 to be continued ………

A Green Christmas in Toronto

….no White Christmas this year and no snow in site

For some the prospect of no snow this winter would be heavenly but for others like me it would be disappointing. Others just want snow for Christmas and then it can be snowless for the rest of the winter but for many, winter in Canada wouldn’t be winter without a good snowfall or two or three. Those people include skiers, snow boarders, chalet owners and of course children who dream of a snow day when the schools are closed (a rare occurrence in this neck of the woods).

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were both clear and cold with no snow in site. On the upside there was no wind and it was very comfortable for walking. I convinced my father to dress warmly and get outside for a walk through the neighbourhood  on Christmas morning. We donned our Santa hats until my Dad decided his wasn’t warm enough and we took a leisurely walk along Lakeshore Drive and up Ninth Street, which my father fondly calls Santa Alley.

It was fun greeting other walkers with a Merry Christmas and stopping here and there to take a few shots of peoples’ decorations. Here are some of the sites we shared together that morning.P1070324
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Right now it’s 4 degrees Celsius (39 degrees Fahrenheit) and the high on Saturday is going up to 9 degrees Celsius (48 degrees Fahrenheit). As for snow there’s none in sight until January 6 and then it is only snow showers.

My Personal Christmas Challenge

….every year for as long as I can remember I’ve struggled to get ready for Christmas

I used to blame being a full-time teacher as the problem. December is always a busy month with interviews, concerts, parties, more assemblies and when there’s time shopping for Christmas presents.

Now that I’m retired things haven’t gotten much better but for very different reasons, especially this year. One thing that has helped somewhat is being able to do 80% of my shopping on-line. The one thing, however, that I didn’t count on was illness.

Twelve days ago my sister from Calgary came for a three day visit. Our first day started off nicely with a lunch with both sisters and my Dad that I wrote about in my last post. Dad had been under the weather with a cold and cough but he felt he was up to a short visit to our local ‘seniors’ mall where he wanted to use up his credit at one of the retail outlets. It’s not really a senior’s mall but there is a high high proportion of white haired people that sit around the mall drinking their Tim Horton’s coffee. So Cathy, Dad and I drove to the mall and tried to find Dad something from the store that would fit him. He had a credit in the first place because this particular store doesn’t give refunds, only exchanges or credit towards other merchandise. Unfortunately, Dad is a large man and the merchandise fits on the small side. I think between the two of us we exhausted our Dad by making him try on at least a half dozen sweaters or more.

In the end we weren’t able to use up his credit in this particular store but the manager assured us that in another mall there were three different stores that would honour his credit voucher. Before we left the mall we went to the drug store and bought Dad some cough syrup to tame the rattle that came from his chest. When we got home he excused himself and went down to his apartment in the house and sat in his special chair to rest.

Later that night while while watching TV we heard my father call us from his basement apartment. When we went downstair we saw he was in distress so we called 911 after consulting with TeleHealth. Very quickly a firetruck and two ambulances arrived at our door. I couldn’t believe all the people who were trying to fit into my small house with all their special equipment. To make a long story shorter it was decided that Dad should go to the hospital due to his age and low oxygen levels. The fire department left first when they were sure that Dad could walk out of the house on his own and the one paramedic team handed over the reigns to the other team at shift change.

In the end Dad stayed in Emergency in an isolated room for fours days until they were sure that he wasn’t contagious. We waited for a single room in the hospital but all the beds upstairs were full. On the fifth day a room opened up but the attending doctor felt that Dad was well enough to go home and rest there. Turns out he has RSV, a respiratory viral infection. It is very common amongst children but can be quite dangerous for people in their 90s.

So with going to the hospital every day and having my sister here, nothing much got done. Cathy did volunteer to help me put up the Christmas tree but when she left on the fourth day the tree was still outside. I didn’t even have my door wreath up.IMG-9880
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Once Dad got home I had a new set of responsibilities. Ironically while my Dad was in the hospital my neighbour next door was also admitted and she has a new cat. Now I had to feed the cat and take in her mail and go shopping for my father. A few days after he got home I took him to the bank and while he was there I treated myself to a Christmas planter to put in front of the house. Things were starting to look up.IMG-9882

I was on a roll. My husband helped me bring in the Christmas tree and we got it set up in the living room.IMG-9886

The next day I pulled the old door wreath out from under the stairs and decided it needed a bit of cheering up. I put a new ribbon on it and added some white flowers to freshen it up. Then I added some battery powered LED lights for fun.IMG-9888
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This whole time I could feel that I had a cold coming on. Not surprising with all the illness that had surrounded me in the last week but I felt well enough to go to a party Monday night and to make bread dough at the Inn the next day. I knew I would only be there for a few hours. That evening I even attempted to bake some cookies and I packaged up a small gift for the bakers that I work with.

From here things went downhill very quickly. That night I woke up with a very sore throat; something I don’t experience very often and in fact the last time I felt that bad was when I was in high school and I ended up with Strep throat. The next morning I texted my baking friends and told them I wasn’t coming in. My husband drove me to the doctor and sure enough the tests came back positive for Strep throat and a sinsus infection. I left the office with  a few prescriptions and headed straight for the pharmacy and then to bed.

Since Wednesday I’ve been taking it easy and doing things in small spurts but I was surprised how much could be accomplished with taking baby steps. I managed take all my decorations out and over the next three days I slowly started to place my treasures around the house and put lights and ornaments on the tree. Late Friday afternoon my oldest daughter arrived and helped me finish the tree and together we strung the outside lights on the Yew in front of the house.IMG-9925
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It truly feels like Christmas now. Only the stockings need to be filled and a couple of last minute gifts need to be purchased.

Bringing Home the Tree

…..a tradition that happens sporadically 

Is it a tradition if you don’t do it every year?

This year we decided as a family to cut down our Christmas trees. We’ve done it in the past and always get a lot of joy out of it. Two years ago there was a ton of snow on the ground and this year there was next to nothing. Nonetheless we had a lot of fun and I discovered a new landmark that I didn’t know existed.

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The tree farm we used this year was a smaller place, owned by an older couple. There were no sleigh rides or wagons, hot cocoa or tree balers. It didn’t matter though because we were able to walk through the grounds at our own pace and not worry about hoards of people all eyeing the same tree. The dogs were also allowed to run freely. We just had to make sure that they didn’t wander off because there are coyotes in the area.

I don’t think the place even had a name. We just looked for the signs directing us to ‘Cut Your Own Christmas Tree’. From Toronto we drove westbound along the QEW and Hyw. 403 until we reached Hwy. 6 going north. From there we drove till we hit concession road #6 and went east. Luckily we had our daughter, Gaelan on the phone and she directed us onto the property.

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In the next post I’ll describe the surprising landmark that we discovered while out ‘hunting’ for the perfect Christmas tree.