So here is a family Christmas tree story.

Mom’s Life of Crime

When my mother was still living in Dumfries, Scotland, her father had always brought in a tree that they had dug up the first year they moved to the town, in a tub. After Christmas, it would go out in the shed until it could be planted across the road on the edge of the farmer’s field across the road (now all houses). Towards the beginning of spring, it would be replanted across the road, and before the next Christmas, dug up, again. When my Grandfather died in 1945, my Mom and grandmother had to move out of the manse and into a flat farther away. The tree stayed where it was.

My grandmother had cancer by then, the flat was small, and money was tight (both because of my grandfather’s death and the post-war prices) so a tree was really not an option.

In 1950, Mom really wanted to get a tree for what was likely my grandmother’s last Christmas. So she went to where someone was selling Christmas trees but they were WAY too expensive. So my Mom embarked on the only criminal act in her life.

After dark, she went back to the tree lot and broke some of the lower branches of several trees where they would probably be cut anyway. She took them home, tied them together with ribbon, and her mother had a Christmas tree for what did turn out to be her last Christmas. She died in November of 1950.

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Happy New Year! (and belated Christmas…)

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Christmas Presents

This year, instead of the usual calendars and home-made cards, I’ve been rather Scroogie when it comes to non-family. However, I have reserved my home-mades to family. I did give the my two nieces and nephew a donation in their name to a couple of causes and organizations that they wanted to support. They will also get a small gift for under the tree. My Mom will be getting the “Roses” sign I made in my craft class.

The couples in my life will be getting paintings inspired by another projects I started in my craft class. It isn’t done yet (I don’t think). but here it is.

Here are some details from this.

My niece and her boyfriend will be getting this painting (for some reason, the shape went wonky when I photographed them so they are a little cropped).

My brother and his girlfriend are going to get this painting.

And my sister and her husband are getting this painting. Of the three, it is my favourite and the colour is slightly greener… It is difficult to get it right in my editing software.

Photo Hunt: Card(s)

This week’s Photo Hunt challenge is “Card(s)”.

The obvious choice for me is two Christmas cards sent to my grandparents and my mother during WWII. They were sent by a young Polish airman that they met during a seaside vacation near Blackpool. The airman’s name was Alojzy Dreja. He was billeted at the same hotel my grandparents were staying at, near Blackpool for his training. Since my grandparents and mother spoke no Polish and Dreja spoke little English, they had to find a common language to converse in. In those days, Latin was still taught in most schools in Europe and even my mother could hold her own in Latin… So, they all spoke Latin!

The cards are hand painted by a fellow airman and included a letter and a folded paper envelope containing a Polish Christmas wafer. The only thing missing is the envelope that everything arrived in. Although the wafer is now completely crushed, it is entirely there. They were mailed December 27, 1940 which makes them 71 years old this Christmas!

Even more interesting, Alojzy, it turns out, survived the war, remained in Britain, married, and had a family. His son is Chris Dreja of the British band, The Yardbirds. Chris was able to confirm to me that Alojza was his father and I was recently contacted by Chris’ daughter, Alojzy’s grand-daughter, for information.

Alojza Dreja on his wedding day.

Thank God that’s over…

Not complaining… Christmas was great… Well… As usual, despite the fact that I could have gone shopping any time over the weeks leading up to it, I didn’t. Despite my taking the 23rd and 24th off to “go shopping” I really didn’t do any “shopping” until the morning of the 24th… and pretty well all in one place. I bought gift cards, either for specific stores/restaurants or gift credit cards. When I DID try and shop for some little gifts for the neighbourhood kids, I did so at the dollar store but they were already putting up their St. Valentine’s Day stuff. I mean VALENTINE’S DAY, for Pete’s sake! Not only were the Valentine’s Day things going up but most of the Christmas stuff was packed away.

I got the full week before Christmas and New Year off, a combination of public holidays and paid time off from my company. What did I do? I slept, for the most part. I fell back into my up late and sleep through the day.

In between, I  spent the morning of Christmas Day at the hospital for an embarrassing problem which wouldn’t have (or might not have) been a problem had the stores and/or my doctor’s office been open, fielded crises both within and without the family (people just can’t accept that other people have the right to feelings and opinions — not EVERYTHING in a family is the WHOLE family’s problem — not EVERY situation requires EVERYONE to take sides!), and hoped for snow.

But I’m glad it is over.

I have yet to take the tree down!

My TV that I bought just over a year ago died yesterday and I couldn’t remember where I bought it nor could I find the receipt so the only thing was to buy a new TV. Luckily, I did have yesterday off which came as a bit of a surprise because I actually started working before I found out. Since the TV I picked still had the Boxing Day prices on it, I got a deal, so that was a welcome. Of course, the new TV is twice as large as the old TV so I may have to put it on the opposite side of the room!

Artist's interpretation of television's size

This evening, I went out and got the replacement recycle bins after some helpful Hanna (I suspect that it was the mother of the neighbour, who doesn’t live here but likes to interfere) took the ones that had been assigned to us which had an old unit number on it. I had found one of my indoor ones halfway up the street on someone else’s porch. Now I have ACTUAL recycle bins, with OUR unit # on them, which fit into the new cabinet I bought for our porch. They fit perfectly and, unlike the old indoor bins we were forced to use, aren’t split. I bought new indoor bins, got the kitchen waste bins and during the recent melt managed to get the cover on the air conditioner (just in time since it snowed last night!).

I’m exhausted but hopefully all this means that I can now be more organized inside and outside the house, and will make things easier, all round.

Photo Hunt: Circle & Merry Christmas, Happy Solstice

A year comes full circle.

Part of this image is a photo, so it counts…. The rest is done by hand on my Bamboo Tablet.

Merry Christmas to me…

(and belated Happy Birthday)

I bought myself a present for Christmas and my birthday – this year’s and next years, possibly.

Canon EOS 60D w/ EF-S 18-200IS

Canon EOS 60D with 18-200 mm lens. I haven’t used a 35 mm camera in… almost 30 years. had to replace my Canon digital point-and-shoot but having had two in the last. 10 years which lost resolution within a couple of years, I wasn’t prepared to spend more money on another. The one I have is serviceable for stuff I can’t use a bulky camera or when resolution doesn’t matter so much.

Now that the 35mm ones have larger viewfinders and also have view-screens which you can use while shooting, I feel comfortable in finally getting one. It wasn’t cheap but with the package deal, sale price and rebate, with tax I got the package, a battery, and a camera bag for what the regular base price without tax of the camera and lens would have been. I have a friend who bought the 20D about 4 years ago and I’ve been impressed with the images she has produced using it. My brother-in-law also has a Canon but I am not sure what model he owns.

I have also ordered another gift for myself… a much more modest gift. I found a copy of “A Woman’s Journey Round the World, from Vienna to Brazil, Chili, Tahiti, China, Hindostan, Persia, and Asia Minor.” (1852) by Ida Pfeiffer.

Ida Laura Reyer-Pfeiffer (1797-1858)

It pays to ask…

This evening, while I was driving my mother and her friend to the theatre, the friend (who lives in our co-op) told me that there were certain people upset over the decorations that had been put up on the co-op office for the “Christmas” season. She stated that the Muslim people in our community, which is about half the population of the co-op, were upset that both Hallowe’en and Christmas decorations had gone up.

As I am on the Board and we have a General Members Meeting coming up, she “wanted to give me a heads-up that there were people who would be bringing the matter up at the meeting”. She said that they were upset about Co-op funding going into Christian decorations on property that was for “everyone’s use”. She said that they had been particularly upset about Hallowe’en but were now “really upset” about the Christmas decorations.

I said to her that if anyone was upset, they had every right to approach the Board and let us know of their feelings. I said that the Board didn’t authorize the decorations and that no co-op money went into buying these decorations. Nor did we know who put up the decorations. She said that SHE didn’t like having the decorations up on property owned by the members. We were getting into a rather heated discussion in the car and she kept saying that “they are upset” and that “they can’t get onto the Board to change things” and that “they feel helpless”…

I fumed all the way home. Not because of the fact that someone might be upset about the decorations but that, again, no one was coming to us to express their own feelings but that I was, as usual, being approached by a third party over issues that I can’t do anything about unless someone approaches me directly.

Finally, I decided that in order to take the bull by the horns, I needed to speak directly to one of members of the supposedly offended group and find out 1) if there was any discussion about the decorations 2) if so how upset were people and 3) if people were upset, how we could rectify the problem.

I am glad I did.

This was the first she had heard about the “problem”. No one was “talking about it”. No one was “upset”. Further more, members of this same community who are on the Recreation Committee were wanting to plan a Christmas party for all the members of the co-op… Now… to make this completely clear… Muslim community members were wanting to plan a Christmas party for ALL members of the co-op…

Someone please tell FOX News that Christmas is alive and well in multicultural Ottawa!

My Pandora Charm Bracelet

My sister gave em a Pandora charm bracelet for Christmas. I hadn’t heard of them before and never had a charm bracelet when I was growing up so it was new to me.

When I was in Pickering/Toronto over the New Year holiday, I kept hoping to get out and buy myself a charm or two to go on it (Mom’s Christmas present was to go out and buy myself something). However, going ANYWHERE in the area of Toronto entails a LOT of driving and none of the malls near where I was had a store that sells them. I ended up having to wait until yesterday to pick some up.

I bought 4 plus a number of “spacers”. Since the charms slide on the bracelet rather than clip to it, I will have to get some clips to hold them in place, in the section.

My friend, Bob, has bought me one, as well, which is on its way to me.

My bracelet so far...

There appear to be plenty of knock-off charms around but there are a number of authorized dealers that you can buy online from. The biggest in Canada is apparently Posh.

There are Muran glass ones (like the green one on my bracelet), animals (I bought a hedgehog), inlaid ones (the flower/moonstone one), and dangly ones (like the one at the right). There are also ones with enamel inlay, gemstones, gold ($$$), and wood inlaid ones.

My niece has a Pandora one, as well as a Thomas Sabo one. The Thomas Sabos clip onto a chain and are more like the traditional charms I remember from my childhood. They have a wide range of designs but while there are many I like, a lot of them are more “girly” than I would want. They appear to have only one style of chain to select from, as well. The Pandora ones have gold, silver, and a leather one.

You can make a wish list and list the opes you have but so far I haven’t discovered how to share the list.

The Polish Christmas Cards

One of the many family keepsakes that I value are two beautiful hand-made Christmas cards.

As some people will remember, during the war, my mother and her family became friends with a young Polish airman who was serving with the Polish air force with the Allies. Alojzy Dreja corresponded with my grandparents until near the end of the war when my grandfather died and my grandmother and mother had to move from the Manse. Presumably, his letters were not forwarded to their new address.

For years, I wondered about him and wondered if he survived the war.

The cards also contained a letter from Alojzy, as well as a Polish Christmas wafer. That latter sadly, though for years was intact, has been crushed. We still have it wrapped in its original paper envelope.

Envelope with Christmas wafer

Alojzy did survive the war, settled in England and married.

I managed to track down his son… Chris Dreja of The Yardbirds who very kindly sent me  a photo of his father, taken on the day he married.

I will be taking the cards and wafer to my friend Krys’ house tonight for her traditional Polish Christmas celebration.

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