Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas 2015

This year, was an unusual year. It will probably go down in history as the warmest Christmas in Ontario history. I'm fine with it. I'm old and don't need snow ever again. On the other hand, we're all waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Our activities began with the annual cookie making and gingerbread house creating. A friend came over and we made "martini" cookies. The only part of this activity that had a martini in it was my tummy...oh, and of course the shape of the cookie cutter.

This was followed by the annual gingerbread house creation. My daughter and I agreed that despite the weather, we miss the tropics, hence this property, complete with pool, palms and clothesline. Of course, no house is complete without a gingerbread family (courtesy of my daughter).

We visited the Primrose Donkey Sanctuary for the annual carolling with the donkeys. This was actually one of the cooler days of the month, but nonetheless, the donkeys sang their hearts out.

One evening, we strolled downtown to enjoy our lovely annual Christmas light display.

Afterward, we admired the store fronts, the beautiful town hall, and the gingerbread houses. The houses were fabulous but we were satisfied with ours. One particular window caught Carmen's eye.

Christmas Eve was an interesting time. We walked on the beach and hubby barbecued our lunch. Then we enjoyed the festive evening with family. No frightful weather, no delightful fire, no snow. It was fine with me.

On Christmas morning, all the eager ones were awake bright and early. They ate and opened gifts....exhausting.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all....goodnight.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Krampus, The Tale and The Movie

I grew up with German stories and folk tales. Most of them were scary, and as I have determined in my later years, were designed to encourage children to behave. There was Peter, to whom terrible things happened because he wouldn't get his hair or fingernails clipped. Of course Jonathan didn't eat his food and finally died. The little girl who played with matches burned herself. Those were just a few. It was all nasty, horrible stuff.

Thankfully, what I never heard about was Krampus. My son first brought this character to my attention. "Tell me about Krampus," he said.

"What, who?"

"Krampus", he repeated.

The puzzled look on my face probably said it all. I had never heard of Krampus. He seemed disappointed. On the other hand, he was twenty five years old at the time, and I was unconvinced that he'd be damaged for life.

Research has told me that Krampus is a hairy, horned beastly figure that punishes children at Christmas. It is said to have originated in Alpine countries. There's often a parade, which includes celebrants dressed as the beast. At one time, the Krampus figure was found on greeting cards and other paraphernalia. Apparently, it has become less frightening and has appeared more friendly in recent years, being more humorous than fearsome in order to promote tourist approval.

So when it was announced that this Christmas, there would be a movie entitled "Krampus",  I made a date...with my son. The film would be in theatres on December 3rd. We went today.

The movie began with a family awaiting the arrival of an unruly bunch of boisterous relatives. I was immediately reminded of the Griswolds and Cousin Eddie's family in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. There was even a dog. The difference was that this crew was neither endearing, nor funny. The family is having a meal and are bickering and being rude and insulting to each other the entire time. The son, Max, gets disillusioned about Christmas, rips up his letter to Santa, and it's then when a terrible storm, power failures, and odd happenings ensue.

There are some good actors in this movie. I particularly enjoyed the oma character who spoke German but for some inexplicable reason suddenly became fluent in English. She tells the story of her childhood encounter with Krampus at which point the movie changes temporarily to an animated "Nightmare Before Christmas" type of thing. Come to think of it, if someone were to put together several Christmas movies, add some lines from Air Force One, and some other assorted phrases, and cliches, that would describe the dialogue in Krampus.

The anti-Santa is somewhat frightening but then the whole story turns hokey when the writers invoke every child's greatest fears to help with the scare factor. I'm fairly certain that Krampus has nothing to do with clowns, Chucky dolls, evil gingerbread cookies, armies of nasty snowmen and the like, but then I might be mistaken. After all, what do I know about Krampus?

Of course, the American solution to every problem becomes evident before long. There's a Hummer belonging to the redneck type relatives. Inside are weapons (not of mass destruction, but none the less an assortment of guns). These prove to be pea shooters against the evil that tunnels with heads, dolls, clowns, and other nasty toys. Soon...all hell breaks loose, both literally and figuratively.

The ending is a bit unusual. Yes, there's a dream sequence. I don't feel I'm giving away the plot by telling this secret. In fact, the plot is pretty much non existent except for an hour and a half of a frightened family fighting against the latest in terrorism which has arrived in their midst.

So what was the best part of the movie? The best part was seeing it with my son. We shared a lovely lunch, chatted, shopped a bit, and saw the film.

I thought I'd surprise my son with some Krampus playing cards, a novelty item in his Christmas stocking this year.
 It appears that I am a bit late. He's already cornered the market on the Krampus merchandise. When I dropped him off he showed me his Christmas ornament and a book containing a collection of old postcards and of course, the real story of Krampus.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Toronto Christmas Market

It was promoted as the "Toronto Christmas Market" with free admission from Tuesday to Friday. Weekends would cost $5 per person. There would be vendors, entertainment and food galore.

On Thursday, we decided to attend. The price was right and the weather was perfect. It would be an outing for us and a place where we could even bring the dog. The Distillery District, a historical part of the city often used to film t.v. programmes would have more to offer than usual during this season. Parking was relatively simple and close although I doubt this to be the case on weekends. We entered and first saw the magnificent and very tall tree which graced the property.

Besides all the usual designer stores, the bakeries, and galleries, which are a regular part of the Distillery District, there were huts displaying Christmas foods and wares. They even advertised beer, amarulo, cider, hot chocolate, and other assorted drinks. Unfortunately, these were not available for imbibing while we were there...later in the day, I think. Good thing it wasn't cold!

 Hubby wasted no time checking out the assorted wursts, marzipan, and Christmas stollen. Then our puppy showed us that she could do the same ear tricks as the stuffed dogs. Clever.
There were things to see, things to do, things to taste, and all in all it was a lovely day of enjoying the outdoors. I spied this little bird pretending to be part of a display as he flitted from branch to branch nibbling the bright red berries. I was finally able to creep up close enough for a photo.
Of course, my favourite part of all was checking out the gingerbread house and pretending I was the witch from one of my favourite fairy tales, Hansel and Gretel.
Before we left, we had the privilege of hearing a talented quartet called the Candy Cane Carollers. Their voices were a joy to listen to and a culmination to a nice experience.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Grinch Trees and Other Greenery

Tis the season isn't it? I've been slow on the uptake this year...both with my blog and with any form of shopping, but I'm gradually getting there. I may not manage to come up with gifts for everyone this Christmas. If I don't, there are always some scraps of paper around for promisory notes. Perhaps I can even get each person to fill in the blanks with what they'd like. Yes, I believe this is a much better idea than giving gifts. it isn't. Gifts are always better although the best gifts in my mind are experiences which create lifelong and hopefully good memories.

So this brings me to the current seasonal blog about some smaller experiences.

I saw a post on Facebook that went something like "Isn't it more fun spending $97 to make something yourself rather than purchasing it for $10?" It's amazing how true some of these jokes can become.

My first effort trying to get into the Christmas spirit went something like this. I stared at the ever enduring fall flowers in the assorted planters around the exterior of the house. Perhaps, considering the mild weather this year, they'll last through December I thought. The big purple cabbage like plants looked healthy, but purple. The orange and brown chrysanthemums were not quite the colour of the season, but maybe a bit of spray paint or glitter plus a few bows and boughs would solve that.

After hubby mentioned that he could trim the bottom branches from our pine trees, I thought better of my original laziness. I'd seen many planters at stores costing in excess of $30 and all they consisted of was a bunch of branches, some twigs, a couple of pinecones, a bow, and sometimes, some large Christmas balls on sticks. I could do that. In fact, I probably already owned most of those things.

I spent about ten minutes pine needle arranging, during which time I particularly enjoyed the injections of sap into my body through my hands and arms. After accomplishing pretty much nothing, I realized that my Dollarama pine cones were too small, I had tossed out my artificial berry branches in an effort to downsize, and my Christmas balls on sticks were the wrong colour...and too small. On the bright side, I did have some sinamay for the bow. This venture would require shopping.

Nonetheless, here's the result. Quite attractive I'd say.

It didn't cost $97 but once one considers the time, the tree branch trimming, treks to the store to repurchase what was given away, antihistamine for the aforementioned sap issue....well....

Attempting to combine the joy of creation with the spirit of the season, a friend and I registered for a class at a florist. It was a Grinch tree making class and seemed reasonable at $55 for the session and materials. Besides, who wouldn't want a Grinch tree?

By the time we arrived at our work stations, people had already snatched up the best colours of wire, ribbon, ornaments, and the like. On the other hand, it was going to be a Grinch need for perfection or matching of baubles.

I stared enviously at the woman next to me who had clearly also made a planter at home, and having a better memory than me, remembered the agony of the pine. She had brought lovely orange garden gloves. Oh well, I preferred to become one with my tree. I wanted to feel the love as I created the mind.

Imagine my surprise when there was no tree at the work station. There was a Santa suit tin can containing wet oasis, some cedar and pine, a ribbon, some wire (mine was now ugly metal since that was what was left) and other assortments of goods. Of course, there was the option of purchasing more elaborate decorations but since I'd had previous experience (a fairy April 20th), I knew better and declined.

The demonstration consisted of putting the branches in the oasis, wrapping with wire, bending, decorating with balls, and voila, a tree....simple. Some branches were a bit scruffier than others. I trimmed my loose tree hairs, giving it a nice haircut. I then tried to pry my sticky fingers off the clippers. When I attempted to separate enough of my fingers from each other, so that I might pick up and admire my creation, my mind wandered as I wondered whether tree sap was one of the ingredients in crazy glue. A song came to mind. "I wander as I wonder....." or is it "I wonder as I wander"?

I heard my friend's voice and I snapped back to reality. "I need purple things on my tree. Maybe I'll buy this." she announced as she held up something akin to a giant piece of fan coral but sparkly and purple. Thankfully, I talked her out of it. I know, I know. I shouldn't have. It was her "experience".

After a few hours of creating, off I went, proud of my accomplishment yet again.

My Grinch tree currently adorns my living room.  I haven't had the heart to put it outside. In fact, since my summer plants are still thriving on the porch, and might be there for the season, I suppose the tree had better stay where it is for now...unless that is, I need the spot for pens and scraps of paper so that people might write their wish lists on promisory notes this Christmas.