Black Friday! Cyber Monday! Eeek!

Well it has finally arrived in Canada with all it’s consumerism glut: ‘Black Friday’ and ‘Cyber Monday’. What used to be an American trend has now migrated north like some insidious plague. Black Friday follows the American Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday is right afterwards. But now it’s ‘Black Friday Week’ and it’s only the beginning of seasonal shopping frenzy until Christmas. This morning before 7 a.m., the news reported that in the USA, fights broke out in line-ups and shots were fired……..in a WalMart Parking lot!

Insane.

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The momentum has been building feverishly this week – it reminds me of the children’s Christmas movie “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” where the citizens of the imaginary town of Whoville are in a shopping frenzy spending, spending, spending! Life imitating a cartoon, sadly. Every time I turn on my computer or TV this week, I am bombarded with Black Friday advertisements: “Save 60%! Spend, Spend, Spend!!” Honestly, it nauseates me.

grinch2
Okay, I have to admit, I used to be a “Who” – I used to love shopping for Christmas gifts…. lots of presents for each child so they seemed happy for that half an hour it took to open their presents on Christmas morning. But just as I’ve simplified my life in the past few years, dangerous consumerism seems to have swept North America and even Asian countries like a tsunami. I thought the USA was in dire straits financially? I thought thousands of families have lost their jobs and homes?  Canada hasn’t yet felt the economic impact on that scale yet, but the signs are there.

Homemade Peanut Brittle

Homemade Peanut Brittle

Black Friday is reported to be the biggest shopping day of the year in the USA – people buying sale items as well as regularly priced and even marked-up-for-the-season things. People line up outside stores for hours, often in frigid temperatures, to be the first ones inside, charging through the doors like maniacs practically trampling each other. Cyber Monday is the ‘at home’ shopping online frenzy, I guess. It’s always about the money……
I’ve mentioned in previous blogs that I’m not a big fan of shopping. Thank you for listening to my rant on consumerism today. Bah, humbug?
Now on a completely opposite note, I want to mention ‘Giving Tuesday’ .  If you are so inclined to give rather than take, Charities have gotten together to give you the opportunity to give something back via a donation.

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Snow Day!

 

Last night, we went from green grass to this:
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Overnight we received 23 cms (9.5 inches) of heavy snow that clings to branches, weighing them down…… but also makes the best packing snow for making snowmen!

One of the best benefits of a large snowfall is the probability of a ‘snow day’ for school children.  Most children in our area take the school bus to school so when we get a lot of snow, the school board cancels the buses for safety reasons.  Many rural roads don’t get plowed by 6:30 a.m. when the buses begin picking up kids.

Today, I was lucky to have my 2 granddaughters, Kalia and Livi, spend their ‘snow day’ with us.  Snow always puts us in the Christmas spirit so we chose a few videos to watch:  The Santa Clause and Home Alone.

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Halfway through the first movie, Uncle Taylor suggested that they go outside and make a snowman.  By the time the girls got their snowsuits on, Taylor had rolled a huge ball of snow for the base.  Two more big snow balls, 2 branch-arms, a carrot nose, and stones for eyes and a mouth and 6 foot ‘Albert Einstein’ was complete.  Then they built a ‘snow couch’ to sit on and admire him ……. and just in case Auntie Nellie wanted to come outdoors.

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Last week, I phoned my plow man and asked him to drop off a quote for this winter’s snowplowing of my driveway.  He didn’t get around to it and I haven’t even paid him yet, but he came this morning anyway to plow out my driveway.  That’s country courtesy for you!

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So now the outside fun is done and we’re indoors drinking hot cocoa and watching the other movie while the wet snowsuits dry by the wood cookstove.

And we still might get another 10 cms of snow in the next day……

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November 22, 1963

I was ten years old in 1963. Fifty years ago. I had lived an idyllic, innocent life as a little Canadian girl, up until that day. On Friday, November 22, 1963 it was sunny outside and everything was right in the world to a child like myself. Then the SHTF. I was in school, grade 4, and it was after lunch when there was a commotion in the hallway. The office interrupted our class with a sudden announcement that American President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated while in a motorcade driving through crowds of people in downtown Dallas, Texas. School was dismissed. What was assassinated I wondered? All I knew was that it was bad, real bad. I think I ran all the way home past crying teachers and shocked children standing around hugging…..

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I grew up in a city in Canada near the American boarder. When we got a television in the 1950s, our television antenna picked up mostly American TV stations so we were bombarded with U.S. news, media, and programming. I think we thought that we were almost American too. We could identify with Americans because we lived similar lifestyles.
On November 22, 1963, when President Kennedy was shot and killed, the entire world grieved. Up until that point in time, I had never known grief or violence or that there was a negative force in this world. My innocence was shattered. When I got home, my Mom was crying – I had never seen her cry before. Neighbours phoned and dropped by the house for the rest of the day and into the weekend. Our black and white television set remained on for a week as all the stations broadcast the CBS news feed 24/7. Over and over again, they re-played Walter Cronkite announcing the death of President Kennedy.

JFKWalterCronkiteAnnouncement

It was unbelievable, stunning, shocking – JFK seemed like a nice young guy interested in bringing civil rights to all Americans and landing a man on the moon.  How could this happen?

I don’t remember much else about that day except it was a very, very sad day.  Over the years, I’ve had an opportunity to revisit the gruesome events of that weekend before the American Thanksgiving:  poor Mrs. Jackie Kennedy standing beside Lyndon B. Johnson as he was sworn in as the new president, her outfit still splattered with her husband’s blood  (she reportedly left it on purposely to remind people what ‘they’ did to Jack).   Watching her trying to open to wrong door of the hearse as her husband’s body was being loaded from the airplane …… my young ten year old heart felt her pain.

A few days later, on Sunday, I remember vividly like it was yesterday:  I was playing downstairs when my Mom started screaming and yelling “they shot him, Oh my God, they shot him”.  I ran upstairs and she was standing in front of the television with one hand over her mouth and the other pointing to the screen saying it over and over again.  Jack Ruby had just shot alleged JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald in a Dallas Police Station on live TV in front of viewers throughout the world.  It was shocking.  Up until then, nothing like this had ever happened on TV – someone being shot and dying right before our eyes opened another pandora’s box of the media world.  Later in the week, there was a funeral for President Kennedy and months of reports from the media.   In the ensuing years, conspiracy theories have abounded about the John F. Kennedy assassination.  In high school, my annual ‘speech’ in English Literature was about the Kennedy assassination and the conspiracy theories surrounding it.

In 1963 I was just a little kid.  I had no outside knowledge of politics, privileged Kennedy life, or anything else.  But I understood that President Kennedy was a Dad of two little children.   It was a few days before his little boy’s birthday.  And I was sad.

JFK's kids dancing in Oval Office

JFK’s kids dancing in Oval Office

If you weren’t alive on that monumental day, it would be hard for you to imagine the impact that this event had on the world…….. and me.  I still feel emotional when revisiting my memories of that time.  One never forgets a moment in time like that….. it’s burned in my memory.

 

The Secret Wish

My dear, sweet Grandmother lived until 102 years of age (1904-2006).  She witnessed the most incredible changes in the history of mankind:   she was born in the horse-and-buggy day where most people still lived on farms with no electricity or indoor plumbing and used hand tools.  She saw the introduction of the automobile in the early 1900s followed by airplanes in the skies…….. and watched a man walk on the moon in 1969.   She bore witness to 2 World Wars.  My Gramma lived when electricity was discovered and distributed to homes across North America!  She raised a large family through the Great Depression.   My Grandmother watched the revolution of television followed by home computers and the internet (even though she never had a computer).  She gave birth to a large family in an old farmhouse with no modern conveniences.  My Grandmother was an amazing woman – my cousin Marc describes it best “Her door was always open, they were not rich, but there was always a pot of barley soup on the stove. She raised her own 11 children and many grandchildren and even great children were always at the farm.” Whew!  What a time in history to have lived!

my Grandparents

my Grandparents

I knew her for my entire life but I had no idea that she harboured a personal secret wish:  to simply find her long lost sister Alberta (‘Bertie’).   Alberta had moved to the United States to work when she grew up in the 1920’s and my Gramma kept in contact with her until the 1960s.  Alberta had two children, Frederick and Lloyd and had two husbands.  Then they lost touch.   Recently I discovered that, when she was 100 years old, my Gramma told her daughter that she wished she could find out about her sister ‘Bertie’:  “the best gift I could ever have would be to find out where ‘Bertie’ was, if she was dead or alive or her last known address.  I know it is in Norfolk” (VA, U.S)…….. Sadly, we were never able to fulfil her secret wish before she died.

Our family history reports that my Grandmother had 7 or 8 siblings but I never really thought about whatever happened to them.  I met her brother Kermit and her sister Gladys because they lived down home in the same town as my Grandmother  (a.k.a. ‘Mom’ as we affectionately called her).  I feel guilty now for never inquiring about her siblings and parents…..    My Grandmother’s parents, William and  Ellen,  moved back to New Carlisle, Quebec on the Gaspe from Shirley, Massachusetts in the U.S. when my Gramma and her sister Bertie were just babies in the early 1900s.  They cleared the land and built a home where they raised their family.  The foundation of that century homestead still exists.  Our family historian, Auntie Mary says that when her mother was a teenager, her and Bertie moved to New Brunswick to work.  Then Mom’s Uncle John and Aunt May brought Bertie back to the U.S. with them to work.  My Gramma moved back home where she married and lived for the rest of her life.

1930s Only picture of my great-grandmother

1930s Only picture of my great-grandmother, back left

When technology and computers were developed, my Gramma often wondered where Bertie was and said she’d love to find her again.  But it was not to be during her time on this earth.   Then, a few years ago, my cousin Marc was playing around with a free trial of Ancestry.ca and my Auntie Mary wondered if he could “find Mom’s sister on that thing?”  They typed in Alberta’s name, her birthday, and the names of her two husbands and incredibly, her name popped up in someone else’s family tree!  My cousin sent a message to the person who entered the family tree information and it turns out HE was Bertie’s son!  Marc wrote to him saying It is hard to believe that my grandmother searched half her lifetime and even on her deathbed and we have finally found you and your family”.  Now our family has been reunited once again.  My dear sweet Grandmother who spent her life giving, has once again given us another gift of dozens more family members by her simple, solitary secret wish.  I can’t wait to get to know my new cousins and even meet them some day – we share the same great-grandparents.

My Aunt Mary said it best:  “it’s never too late….. better late than never”.

3 Generations - early '70s

3 Generations – early ’70s

First Fire

Today I made my first fire this fall season in my wood cookstove.  It was -10C (14 F) outside when I woke up so I figured it was about time……  The pellet stove downstairs has already been burning for almost two weeks.

First Fire

First Fire

Last week I spent an afternoon finally cleaning out the soot from the chimmney sweeping (thanks Darin!) – a bad wind storm was forecast and you never know when the power is going to go out.  I took out all the burners to clean the soot off the inside, scraped the soot off  around the oven, washed all the nickle plating and enamel, emptied the ash bucket, then wiped a coat of olive oil on the cast iron cooktop.  I dusted the Ecofans, kettles and put fresh water in the hot water reservoir.  My arms were black and I needed a shower badly when I was done!  But my ‘Sweetheart’ looked brand new.  I didn’t need to replace any gaskets this year but I did need to repair with stove cement a couple of cracks in the large firebricks inside the firebox.  They cured for the weekend and today I tested it out by burning the papers (old bills and receipts) that I had been accumulating in the upper warming oven all summer long.  Even that small amount of burning paper created a welcome heat.

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After walking the dog, I went straight to the woodshed to grab a box of wood to make a fire.   Of course, then I had to make soup.  I boiled up some chicken bones I had been storing in the freezer to make the broth then added some leftovers.  I went outside and dug up some Thyme and planted it in a pot to bring inside for the winter.  My recipe for Chicken Soup is here.

making soup

making soup

The soup is simmering on the back of the cookstove and the kettle is on for a tea.   Ahhhh, my day is done……….. okay, well not yet.  But I’m enjoying the warm-fuzzy feeling that a wood fire wraps around my entire home.

 

 

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