Monday, January 31, 2011

Christmas Pillow

Here is a photo of my beautiful pillow my sister-in-law made for me for Christmas. She's very good at making home made gifts and those are the best kind to receive because they were made out of love! Another year she made me a beautiful quilted tree skirt. The picture doesn't do it justice compared to seeing it in front of you. My grandchildren also bought me a Grandma pillow one year that I love.  I may leave my pillow out all year long!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Oh Deer!

At the back of our apartment we have a very steeply upwards sloping garden, dotted with a few apple trees. Behind the thin line of trees at the top there is a meadow, then a stony trail which leads on into the forest. Quite often deers come out of the forest and across the meadow and find their way into our garden. Whether it's for the fallen apples or not I don't know, but there they are.

Well, yesterday was such a day, a young male and a female. They stayed in the garden for most of the day, feeding, sleeping and more feeding. Too good a chance, so I fitted the Nikon 55-200mm lens and took quite a few photographs. As fellow photographers will understand most of these weren't very good, but a few of them were'nt bad. I post a couple here.

This is the female, pausing a moment from her constant feeding. She was also keeping a close eye on the young male, whether she was it's mother or mate I do not know.

This the young male, still with his immature furry antlers. They came really close, only 15 feet or so away and didn't seem unduly timid.

London calling
I also played a game of London with Tina. We both really like this game and I agree with several posters on BGG that the game tends to run to a pattern. Buy boroughs, get cards, lay cards, when you have an almost empty hand run city....repeat. I also tend to focus on cards that produce income in the early game and on cards that reduce poverty in the middle, late game. Neither of us relied on loans a great deal, I only took one and Tina none at all. I find the school invaluable and the hospital very useful as well. The game was fairly close, I ended up on 96 pts and Tina on 78 pts.

Happy Gaming!!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Visit the North Pole

We all know that the north pole exists.  In fact it has been shifting for some time now.  But the North Pole I want to talk about is the one in Alaska.  When you think of booking your next vacation, instead of some place warm, why not go to the North Pole.

Just outside Fairbanks, Alaska, lies the sleepy little hamlet of North Pole.  It's "where the spirit of Christmas lives year 'round."  Drop on by their website and recieve a warm welcome from their mayor.  This small town of 2200 people is filled with all things Christmas.  What fun would it be to have your mail stamped from the North Pole this holiday season.  You can even visit Santa and his elves in his Santa Claus House

This quaint little town has a unique history.  It's a major power hub for the region and has a nearby Military base.  Taken from their website:

In February, 1952, Dahl and Gaske Development Company bought the Davis Subdivision and the balance of the homestead, except for a few parcels.

Dahl and Gaske, who had bought the Davis homestead and subdivided it, thought if the growing settlement there were named North Pole it would attract business. They reasoned that some toy manufacturer might be induces to locate a plant there so his products could be advertised as having been made in North Pole. Also, someone might start a Santa Land which would become a northern version of Disneyland.

They approached Bon Davis to petition the United States District Court to change the name from “Davis”, which had been the official name since 1949, to North Pole. Bon Davis thought that their idea was far-fetched but acceded to their request. U.S. District Judge Harry Pratt held a hearing and issued a decree making North Pole the official name.

When it was proposed that the two subdivisions be incorporated into a city known as North Pole, residents of Highway Park rallied their forces and soundly defeated the measure at an election. They wanted no part of North Pole, incorporated or otherwise.

Those living in North Pole clung to the idea of incorporation. Another election was held after the proposed boundaries were reduced so that only the original Davis homestead and part of the one belonging to James Ford were included. Incorporation carried at that election and North Pole became a first-class city on January 15, 1953.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Salvation Army and Christmas

General William Booth

Each year during the Christmas season, we see the red kettles of the Salvation Army and the volunteers ringing the bells to collect donations for needy families, seniors, and the homeless. Money donated helps with Christmas dinners, clothing and toys for those in need. The Salvation Army endeavors to bring spiritual light and love to those it serves at Christmas so that the real meaning of the season is not forgotten.

I was curious to find out how the Salvation Army began and it all started with William Booth, the founder and first General. He was born in Nottingham, England on April 10th, 1829 and died August 20th, 1912. His father was a wealthy man, but made some bad investments that landed the family into poverty. His father then became an alcoholic, had gone bankrupt and could no longer afford his son's school fees. At the age of 13, William was sent to work as an apprentice in a pawnbroker's shop to help support his mother and sisters. This made him aware of the poverty in which people lived and how they were humiliated and degraded because of it. When he was a teen, he became a Christian and spent much of his time trying to persuade others to become Christians.

He spent several years as a Methodist minister but felt that God wanted more from him. He resigned and started preaching to crowds in streets and to the poor and wretched of the good news about Jesus Christ and His love for all men. He had found his destiny and formed his own movement "The Christian Mission". The mission began to grow but not without opposition from some. His wife wrote that he would 'stumble home night after night haggard with fatigue, often his clothes were torn and bloody bandages swathed his head where a stone had struck'. In time people converted, but it wasn't until 1878 when "The Christian Mission" changed it's name to the "Salvation Army" that things began to happen. The idea of an Army fighting sin and Booth's fiery sermons drove the message home and more and more people were able to leave their past behind and start a new life as a soldier in the Salvation Army.

 The early years were lean ones, but the Army persevered. In the early 1880s, operations were extended to other countries, notably the United States, France, Switzerland, Sweden and others, including to most of the countries of the British Empire: Australia, Canada, India, South Africa, New Zealand, Jamaica, etc. During his lifetime, he established Army work in 58 countries and colonies, travelling extensively and holding, "salvation meetings."

In 1909 on a motor tour in the United Kingdom, he discovered he was blind in his right eye and the sight in his left eye was dimmed by cataracts. A surgeon at Guy's Hospital removed his right eye. Despite this setback, in 1910 he continued campaigning in Holland, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland and Italy, finally returning to England. He was 83 when he died. At his funeral procession were 10,000 uniformed Salvationists.
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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Christmas Cakes

I enjoy watching the Cake Boss! He's awesome at what he does! The work that goes into his specialty cakes is unbelievable! Here is a video of the making of an office party Christmas cake. He has made it into gift boxes with all of the accessories. He is so creative...and can you imagine trying to deliver these specialty cakes!!

Found at TV News & Reviews

Cake Boss Cake found at

I also found some beautiful Christmas cake photos to share. If any are copyrighted I will gladly remove them. I just thought they were so pretty and wanted to share how creative you can be in making a cake! If you click on the pictures of the cakes, it will take you to the website they were found on. Don't they all look so......SWEET...... ! :)

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My first venture into DSLR photography

Lucky me, I got a new camera for Christmas.....a Nikon D3000, which is an entry level DSLR . It has plenty of features for me though, my last camera was a digital compact which took good enough photographs but I wanted to have more control and options available to try different things. Luckily I have got a programme so I can play around with the images I produce and either enhance them or, as Tina says, cheat.

Here are a couple of the first images I have taken using the Nikon. The seeds photo was taken using aperture priority. I used the RAW format and post processed them on the computer. There is so much to learn with this programme, luckily there are hundreds of tutorials and tips out there on the internet to help the beginner like myself.

I shall post new photos as the year progresses so you can see if I get better or!!

On the gaming front, Tina and I had a game of Khan yesterday. It plays OK as 2 player, but I would think it gets a lot more tactical with more players. The production of the game is first class, I have seen some comments on BGG that the art and names of the rulers etc aren't strictly right for the period...but this is a game right, and how many gamers are fluent in ancient mongolian?

Happy Gaming......and photography!!!

Sunday, January 16, 2011


Well, it seems to have been snowing for a while.  It's funny how images of snow, sleigh rides, and getting outside into the crisp air brings a smile to our faces during Christmas.  But when the holiday season is over we get sick of it pretty fast.  In about a month or so it will start to warm up again and those below freezing temperatures will be a long forgotten memory.

Snow, ice and Christmas often go together, although why it should is a bit strange! There is no snow or ice in the Christmas story told in the Bible. However, snow does fall in Israel. Bethlehem and Jerusalem are on a range of hills that go north to south between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan valley. The top of these hills are about 1600 ft (500 m) high. The hills often have very cold weather from November to April and snow can often fall. So, although the Bible story may not have snow in it, Jesus may well have seen some snow in his life!

The reason that we think of snow and ice at Christmas is portably down to the Victorians! Although Christmas was taken over from the Pagan winter solstice festivals in Europe, it was the Victorians who gave us our 'traditional' Christmas in Europe and the U.S.A. At the start of the Victorian era, (1837) Britain was in a mini ice age that was from about 1550 to 1850. During this time, in London, a winter fair was held on the frozen River Thames!

One of the main reasons that the Victorians put Snow and Christmas together was the book 'A Christmas Carol' written in 1843 by Charles Dickens.

It tells the story of a mean old business man called Ebenezer Scrooge who hates Christmas. During the night of Christmas Eve, he is visited by three ghosts, one of Christmas Past, one of Christmas Present and one of Christmas yet to come. They show him how mean he really is. He realises that making friends is more important than making money. When he wakes up on Christmas Day, he is a changed man and give lots of money and presents away. (If you don't know the story, I recommend that you read the book or see a film of the story! A very famous film of it was made in 1951 [4 years after Britain had some of its heaviest snow of the 1900's], but my favourite version is the Muppet's Christmas Carol!!!)

When Charles Dickens was a child, Britain had very heavy snow falls around Christmas, so when he wrote 'A Christmas Carol' he put lots of snow and ice in it! He also put snow at Christmas in some of his other books like 'The Pickwick Papers'. Charles Dickens' books were very popular (and still are!) so when the Victorians read the books, they thought of snow and Christmas together!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Scotweb - Gifts for all Occasions

My spouse's family is Scottish.  We had the opportunity to visit Scotland for our honeymoon five years ago.  I fell in love with the people, the landscape and the food.  I must admit, I like haggis, even if I know how it's made.  We hired a car (same as rented) and drove around the coastline, sightseeing and stopping every once in a while.  We took a tour of Dunrobin castle and the Glen Morangie brewery as well as staying at a little Bed and Breakfast run by this quaint little old lady who came over from France during the war. 

Even though it was in July, the temperature at night was in the single digits.  I was wondering why there were two quilts on the bed when we went into our room.  Needless to say, I found out that night why they were needed.  I should have picked up a nice hand-knit cable sweater from Scotweb.   When we got back to Canada, that's exactly what I did.  I ordered one online and received it about three weeks later.  It came with a tag saying it was knitted lovingly by a woman in Scotland.  Now I wear that sweater, think of Scotland and all the memories there.

Scotweb is actually a great place to pick up gifts for that favourite Scot in your family or that special someone who loves celtic art or music.  Not only do they have kilts from any tartan, and warm wooly sweaters, they also have stuff for the ladies.  Or you can pick up a mug with your family's crest on it or even something for the wee pooch.  From kilts to music, toys to art, there's always something at Scotweb.

I'd love to visit Scotland during Christmas.  There would be plenty of parties, laughter and a bit of drinking.  I would remember to bring my kilt and have a great kitchen party.  Of course, I have to remember to bring my sweater.

Christmas Passed

The tree is taken down, the cards are filed, and the decorations are put away.  The Christmas season is finally over at my house, and now we can get back to our regular routine.  One thing about life, it's full of routines.  I, particularly, have a morning routine:  get up, breakfast (usually a bowl of cereal), go to the computer, check email, read news and comics and then Facebook games.  I have everything timed, even when I grab my shower, so I'm not late for my classes.  This routine will change slightly when I'm finished school and start looking for a new job.

The holidays offer a routine as well.  Routines give us structure and comfort, and we sometimes feel out of sorts when our routine gets interrupted.  Despite its hecticness we can still find a bit of solace in the everyday routines we've created.  We don't put up our decorations until advent starts and we don't take them down until Epiphany.  I try to get my shopping done before the week before Christmas but there always seems to be some last minute thing to rush out for.  There's our Christmas eve service at the church and I'm usually working at the hospital over the Christmas break. 

Christmas day has its routines, as well.  We end up going over to my parents' house for Christmas dinner.  The same dinner has been made for as long as I remember: turkey with stuffing, and boiled vegetables, usually consisting of potatoes, turnips, carrots, and cabbage.   I remember, one year, my mother wanted to change it up a bit and asked up to prepare one part of the meal and we would get together and serve dinner.  While the meal was good, afterwards she felt that she missed part of her Christmas routine.  So, things went back to "normal" for the next year.

So, take comfort in routines.  Routines give us order, and can even help us cope with the hecticness of the season.  First cobwebs, then cables, routines are there, creating memories of Christmases passed.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Enya-The Spirit of Christmas Past

Just plain beautiful! You will need to pause the music player.

Christmas during the Middle Ages

Reformation and Counter Reformation in Europe....Image via Wikipedia
Protestant lands in blue.
Catholic lands in olive.
Christmas during the Middle Ages was a public festival that incorporated ivy, holly, and other evergreens. Christmas gift-giving during the Middle Ages was usually between people with legal relationships, such as tenant and landlord. The annual indulgence in eating, dancing, singing, sporting, card playing escalated in England, and by the 17th century the Christmas season featured lavish dinners, elaborate masques and pageants. In 1607, King James I insisted that a play be acted on Christmas night and that the court indulge in games. It was during the Reformation in 16th–17th century Europe, that many Protestants changed the gift bringer to the Christ Child or Christkindl, and the date of giving gifts changed from December 6 to Christmas Eve.

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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Christmas in the American Civil War

Christmas in the American Civil War (1861–1865) was celebrated in both the United States and the Confederate States of America although the day did not become an official holiday until five years after the war ended. The war continued to rage on Christmas and skirmishes occurred throughout the countryside. Celebrations for both troops and civilians saw significant alteration. Propagandists, such as Thomas Nast, used wartime Christmases to reflect their beliefs. In 1870, Christmas became an official Federal holiday when President Ulysses S. Grant made it so in an attempt to unite north and south.

Soldiers not actively campaigning celebrated Christmas in several ways. Union soldiers would use salt pork and hardtack, which  is a simple type of cracker or biscuit, made from flour, water, and sometimes salt. Others were treated to special meals; a captain from Massachusetts treated his soldiers to foods such as turkey, oysters, pies, and apples. However, many soldiers received no special treats or privileges. In one incident on December 25, 1864, 90 Union soldiers from Michigan, led by their captain, dispensed "food and supplies" to poor Georgians, with the mules pulling the carts decorated to resemble reindeer by having tree branches tied to their heads. In some units, celebrating Christmas was not allowed. On December 25, 1862, soldiers of one unit were punished for celebratory gunfire for the holiday, when actually the gunfire was for a funeral salute.

Carols, hymns, and seasonal songs were sung during the period, with some, such as "Deck the Halls", "Oh Come All Ye Faithful", and Mendelssohn's "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing" (1840), still sung today. American musical contributions to the season include "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" (1850), "Jingle Bells" (1857), "We Three Kings of Orient Are" (1857) and "Up on the Housetop" (1860). Although popular in Europe at the time, Christmas cards were scarce in the United States, and would not enjoy widespread use until the 1870s.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote his pacifist poem, "Christmas Bells" on Christmas Day 1863 at the news of his son Lieutenant Charles Appleton Longfellow having suffered severe wounds in November during the Mine Run Campaign. The poem was set to the tune "Waltham" by John Baptiste Calkin sometime after 1872 and has since been received into the established library of Christmas carols. The carol does not include two stanzas from the original poem that focused on the war.

For children, Christmas was altered during the war. Presents were fewer, especially in the devastated South. In We Were Marching on Christmas Day, author Kevin Rawlings notes that some southern children worried about the Union blockade, and one little girl, Sallie Brock Putnam, plotted the course Santa Claus would have to take to avoid it. Sometimes fathers on both sides were allowed furlough, and children were said to react to their fathers as if seeing "near strangers". Excuses for a lack of Santa included Yankees having shot him.

Santa distributes gifts to Union troops.
Nast's 1st Santa cartoon, 1863.

A silk greeting card. 1860

A husband and family
 separated by war. 1862

 The lyrics of this beloved carol date
 back to the American Civil War.

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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Christmas Recycling

Well, the holidays are past us and we breathe a little sigh.  Most of us, myself included, have been super busy getting ready and celebrating the holidays.  Now that the kids are back in school and things are getting back to "normal," what to do with all those cards you received from friends and relatives this year?

There are a few things:

You can recycle them, but putting them into your recycle bin seems a shame for such beautiful cards. 

Use them as gift tags for next year.  Take some pinking shears, or just use regular scissors, and cut out gift tags for next year's gifts.

Make them into post cards for next year.  This takes a little more organizing but it's fun.  Cut off the cover of the card.  Just make sure there's no writing on the back.  Center the picture on the front and cut out a rectangle.  Make sure the size is compliant for the postal service.  Here are the standard sizes:

Minimum postcard dimensions 3 ½” x 5”
Maximum postcard dimensions 4 ¼” x 6”

Just pen a quick greeting on the back, put on your address and a stamp and you're ready for next year!
And for the ambitious: make a holly wreath.  Taken from the Good Housekeeping website. 

Recycle holiday greeting cards into holly leaves for this one-of-a-kind decoration. Using a holly leaf stencil, trace onto old cards and cut out holly shapes. With a glue gun, glue a toothpick onto the backside of each of the leaves to form a 1-inch pick at the "bottom" of each leaf. Take a 10-inch Styrofoam wreath and insert these leaf picks around the shape until it is completely covered, fanning and overlapping them as shown. Cut out more holly leaves as needed to cover the wreath with regifted greetings.

Some ideas to keep Christmas in your home and in your heart.
Happy Holidays!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Happy New Year

May your new year be happy, safe, and be filled with hope and peace. 

Saturday, January 1, 2011

North Point's iBand

This is!!!! Isn't technology just amazing!!! Definitely worth watching! You will need to pause the music player on the left side of page.

I'm linking this post to Natasha's Pinning and Singing Party. Thanks Natasha!