For us as for many people Christmas time is a time to spend with family and friends. Usually the “family” is the five of us, the rest living far, far away over the ocean. This year we have been very happy to have one of my Melbourne cousins here for Christmas. She arrived on Christmas Eve from New York but had already spent a few weeks visiting warmer parts of north and central America.
On Christmas Eve she and I did a few last minute errands and while we were out she was delighted that it started to snow, really snow. After supper we all went to the carol service at our church. The next morning we had a leisurely start poking in our stockings, eating pancakes and then opening the gifts from under the tree. We headed off mid afternoon to spend the rest of the day with some friends who made us feel part of their family. We finished the evening doing Karaoke, all of us, not something that happens every day. In fact it only happens with these particular friends.
Then next few days were also spent visiting friends and enjoying conversation, food and fun. The children have tobogganed, seen a play, watched Oliver (A11’s Christmas gift) and made snowmen. We all spent one day in Montreal, visiting the Biodome and wandering in and out of shops on Rue St Denis. We left my cousin there for a couple of days and had a quiet day yesterday, sorting and putting away the debris of our merriment and gift giving.
After days of requests from B7 the children and I headed out to buy a Christmas tree last Saturday. We did not venture out to a Christmas Tree farm, miles out of town, as we did one year. That time we drove out to a farm with friends so we could have the whole experience: riding on the cart out to field, tramping through the snow, choosing the tree, drinking hot chocolate and collecting greenery for a wreath. It was freezing! By the time we had walked down one row of trees we were so cold we didn’t care which tree, we just wanted to get back where there was a fire. Hot chocolate did not go very far in warming us up or in giving me the warm happy feeling of going out into the forest and bringing back a tree. This is why I don’t leave the city to buy my tree any more.
Last weekend we found our big Balsam fir tree fairly quickly. As we have cathedral ceilings and very little furniture in our living room I like to fill it with a big tree. I put it in the van and tied the back door down as it wouldn’t shut. On the way home we made two quick stops leaving B7 and A11 in the van as I couldn’t lock it. After the second stop L13 and I came back to the van and it wouldn’t start. I tried a couple of things, and checked the manual. The temperature was -17°C outside and the van, having been open for a while was not at all cosy. A11 and I managed to shove the tree a little further into the van so I could at least lock it while I called Andrew for assistance. We waited in a coffee shop, thawing out with hot chocolate and coffee until he came to save us.
Our tree is now decked out in bows, bells and baubles collected and made over the last 17 years. Its lights are turned on around 4 o’clock each afternoon as it gets dark and there is a growing number of gifts around the base. B7 has set up his train track to surround the tree.
Choosing a tree in Australia was a slightly different experience. We did go out to a Christmas tree farm, not far from where we lived, but we chose from rows of pines not firs. There were a few other subtle differences also. That is our little Miss L in the photo with my dad.
In Laura Ingalls Wilder’s book The Long Winter, Pa tells his family what he heard from an Indian in the General Store,
“..that every seventh winter was a hard winter and that at the end of three times seven years came the hardest of all.”
We are wondering whether we are in for a Long Winter here as we don’t remember having had this much snow by mid December in the the seven winters we have spent here. On Saturday night the snow started falling and continued until Sunday evening leaving us with another 37cm. Last night there was more so we are well over half a metre.
Remember how the picnic table looked:
This is how it looks now:
While it was snowing on Sunday afternoon we shoveled twice but before I went to bed I looked out to see if the plough had been by. There was a big wall of snow and ice to clear before either of us could get a car out. You can imagine how pleased we were the next morning to see that our neighbour across the road had cleared an opening in the “wall” for us with his snowblower.
The task of clearing the road goes on throughout the storm and for days after. Once the roads are clear the paths and bus stops need to be done. Eventually the ploughs and giant snowblowers come back along the streets cutting into the snowbanks and blowing snow into large dump trucks to be carted to the snow dump! Snowbanks along the side of the road make the road narrower and when they are higher than the cars, as they are now, visibility at corners gets a little tricky.
‘Tis the season for concerts around here but we are definitely in the home stretch now. The children have a few more performances, both instrumental and choral. Two weeks ago Stellae Boreales had their first big concert for the year. All of the members had been selling tickets for a month or so and we had media coverage in local papers and the Ottawa Citizen. A11 and L13 were interviewed here at home several weeks before the concert and the article appeared in a few community newspapers.
Many of our homeschooling and church friends were there that night to encourage the girls even though the weather was snowy and the roads slow. It was a wonderful concert. The program included pieces from both the intermediate group and the senior group as well as two pieces from the complete ensemble. Two guest cellists and a Chinese pipa player performed also.
Since then the girls have played at a Christian Women’s Club morning and a friend’s Art exhibition at a local gallery. L13 played with the senior ensemble at the National Gallery donor event and tomorrow night A11 will play with her orchestra at the NAC; they are providing pre-concert entertainment before “The Messiah”. A week ago the OYOA had their Christmas concert where A11, L13 and their friends P and H were all performing in different orchestras. L13 hobbled onto the stage as she had sprained her ankle the night before jumping off a snow covered ledge! Fortunately the musicians sit down in orchestras so she was able to perform. The four girls performed together at P and H’s church Christmas banquet also.
Each Sunday during advent Junior Praise, the children’s choir all three children belong to, has been providing a song and some readings to accompany the lighting of the Advent candles. The children also sang and played for our Seniors at their Christmas banquet. L13 organised the program and all the members of Group of Four participated with voices, instruments or both.
Just because most of the concerts are over doesn’t mean the practising has stopped. In January our violin teacher has her Christmas recital where all her students play solos so there will not be a holiday from violin, but I’m sure there will be a few days off.
This morning I finally got back to lap swimming after three weeks off with a cold. It was a bit of a struggle to get out of bed and if I’d had to clear the driveway first I probably wouldn’t have bothered. But A11 accompanied me and it felt good to be swimming again.
After several hours of snow last night the trees were laden. It was rather pleasant to watch the sun rise as I swam up and down the pool. Through the floor to ceiling windows I could see it make gold edged silhouettes of the snow covered branches. When we left the pool it was -1° outside, not cold enough to freeze our wet hair!
It was actually a couple of weeks ago now when we had our first snowfall. It came on a Wednesday, I know this because on the Tuesday night before it came all of us were out in the backyard, in the dark, with rakes and bags, getting the last of the leaves up. We had 40 yard bags full of leaves and pine needles lined up in front of our house ready for the last collection of green waste. Wednesday morning everything was covered in a few inches of snow.
The first two pictures below are taken from my back door today. We have now had two big snow storms and we have well over a foot of snow. Everything looks beautiful but I will have to venture a little further than my back door and try to get some better photos.
Below is the view from my front door, in the last picture you can see the snow banks either side of our driveway. It took all of us quite some time to get all that shoveled up. But we are not complaining. We didn’t have snow stay on the ground last year until mid January, so our chances of a white Christmas this year are looking a lot better.
Here is the finished lighthouse made by A11, H10 and B7. There was quite the negotiation session at the end in order to make a decision about adding the colour to the roof, but I think everyone was happy with the finished product.
L13 and P12 were very happy with the “Little House” when they finished. You can’t see it very well in this picture but there is a chimney which is made from chocolate rocks held together with brown icing mortar.
Entries close tomorrow and judging is next weekend. I’ll let you know how they go.