29 December 2011

A Night in Prague

Oh my, this looks incredible!

Night in Prague from Metron on Vimeo.
Music: itunes.apple.com/​us/​album/​divenire/​id212970099
at the same Christmas time somewhere in the snowy mountains http://vimeo.com/11841434

Thank you for watching,

27 December 2011

Steel Drums at Christmas? Yes!!

One of my favourite Christmas CD's is my first Putumayo's Christmas collection: A World Christmas. And this is one of my favourite tracks from it. There's just something about those steel drums that get me going!

26 December 2011

Boxing Day - stay in your pjs!

So, if I could do anything on Boxing Day morning it would be to roll over in bed, grab my not so reliable netbook and surf in bed. Yep. And someone, most likely my husband (because the cat still doesn't have opposable thumbs) would get me a hot cup of tea and a scone...and maybe some cheese...and marmalade.

But, unfortunately, I know that won't happen as I'm at someone else's house this morning (through the magic of scheduling I've done this post days ahead of time) BUT in case YOU are lucky enough to be in bed and surfing that large entertainment universe known as the web, here are a couple of Boxing Day presents.

First, a music video:

And second, some beautiful, contemplative, wintry scenes to make you burrow deeper under the blankets...with that hot cup of tea or coffee or whatever. Hey, at least you're in bed!

Winter in Yosemite National Park from Henry Jun Wah Lee on Vimeo.
Shot over the 2011 New Year weekend when a winter storm arrived in Yosemite. Overcast skies the first day, followed by heavy snow on the second day, partly cloudy the third day and sunny the fourth day. You'll see a mixture of shots from the different weather conditions. Enjoy!

Soundtrack: Xibalba by Clint Mansell

Website: http://www.evosia.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/evosiastudios
Twitter: http://twitter.com/evosia

Motion / Timelapse gear from Kessler Crane. Henry is a Kessler sponsored shooter. 

25 December 2011

Happy Christmas Day!

Music Track: Nadal de Luintra by Berroguetto from Putumayo World Christmas

24 December 2011

It's an ad but it's pretty sweet...

I vaguely remember what that long wait for Christmas morning was like. I do remember one Christmas Eve when I was sure I wouldn't fall asleep because I was so excited and then...bang! It was Christmas morning!

John Lewis - The Long Wait from Blink on Vimeo.
Directed by Dougal Wilson

23 December 2011

Turkey Preparation - Bring on the butter!

I've never actually had to cook a huge turkey. On those occasions when it might be called for I'm usually at someone else's house--lucky me! Or on the odd occasion when I've hosted a holiday dinner I've usually chosen to do things like duck or goose (and I've learned some interesting things about both of those birds), but if called on to cook a large turkey I'm not really sure what I'd do...well, that's not true I'd go to the internet for hints like this.

21 December 2011

The Longest Night - The Last Sun

Well, on this the day of the longest night in the year, let's be grateful most of us will see the sun rise tomorrow morning.

The Last Sun from Daniel Kuipers on Vimeo.
Duration - 4:38

A local Norwegian girl rides her dog sled to a vantage point from where she can observe the last sunset of the year, before the winter darkness reigns.

*Nominated - Netherlands Film Festival 2010 (online edition)
*Nominated - Killarney Adventure Film Festival 2011

by: http://www.yfecrest.com

20 December 2011

2000 Miles? More like 6000!

Tree at the Christmas Market - Frankfurt
My husband arrives back late tonight from the far off Qatar. Yay!

Sizzling meats in Frankfurt, Germany
He stopped in Frankfurt for a few days on the way and sent me these shots of sizzling meats and a gigantic Christmas tree.

And so here's one of my favourite seasonal tunes and my Casey Kasem long distance dedication to him: "Can't wait to have you home! The cat is bored with me and, don't worry, Paul is here too."

19 December 2011

Big Joe and Phantom 309 - A Christmas Story

Twig Tree c. 1985
So, in sorting through the old photo box I came across a shot of, if not my first twig tree it's pretty darn close. I recognize the apartment as one I lived in back in the 80s during the years out West. The same apartment where I first started listening to Nighthawks at the Diner around Christmas time. (That and Jethro Tull's Aqualung...I don't know, I guess it's the flute. I didn't have much in the way of Christmas music back then.)

Nighthawks at the Diner is one of those albums that never fails to transport me to the same place no matter where I may actually be living. And that place is a crowded, friendly, intimate, somewhat smokey, club/lounge/bar called something like the Bluenote Cafe, that serves after-hours booze in those small stainless steel tea pots and plays host to an eclectic array of musicians and performers.

And while it's never been billed as a Christmas story, the story of Big Joe and Phantom 309 always struck me as one. It's the kind of ghost story you might tell at Christmas. Just listen to the lyrics. It's a story about a guy trying to get back to his home town. He's hitchhiking and gets stuck for a few days at a lonely crossroads. He's cold, wet, and probably pretty miserable but then, out of the dark cold night shines the headlights of a big rig...and it stops. The door opens and the driver, a big friendly man, welcomes this cold, wet guy into his bright, warm cab and they drive through the night sharing stories and cigarettes. And then, well, I don't want to spoil it for you but it all feels pretty darn Christmas-ee to me.

18 December 2011

Mummers Parade

Source: Order your own mummer here
Mummers in Newfoundland are one of the many traditions brought over by the hundreds of English fishermen who came here to work in the 18th C. The tradition involved dressing up in old sheets, blankets, curtains, pillow cases, buckets, (basically, whatever you can put your hand to), disguising your identity (this is key), then going door-to-door and performing an old Christmas play in return for food and drink. The hosts would often try and guess the identity of the performers which, in small fishing communities usually wasn't too difficult.

But things took an ugly turn in the 19th C when some individuals took advantage of the traditional disguises to work out political or personal vengeance (see Mummers on Trial or Mummering, Violence and the Law...). Mummering was then banned.

While the tradition continued on in smaller, isolated communities it died out in the larger communities, particularly St. John's, until a revival in the 70s. There's been a Mummers Play, a song, a radio documentary, however, in a city of 200,000 door-to-door mummers aren't always a welcome sight even with the catch phrase "Any Mummers Allowed?" Soon after I moved here in the mid-90s, I experienced a mummers' invasion and I gotta say, as a CFA (come-from-away), I was just a little nervous. The mummers were friends of my room-mates but I didn't know and so made sure to be holding a heavy skillet (behind my back) in case things got out of hand which, from my point of view, seemed likely. We survived.

The most recent incarnation of the Mummers has been a Mummers Festival which includes a parade through the streets of St. John's. It happened yesterday. I wasn't there as I had some urgent cooking matters to attend to...with my heavy skillet.

17 December 2011

Christmas cards sent (✓)

No digital card this year. Too busy with other stuff (like the upcoming move...ack!) so, I bought cards. Two small boxes of cheap and cheerful cards which I managed to finish and send off earlier this week (although there were some addresses I never found for which I apologize). And then I got to add another check mark on the List of Things to Do for Christmas.

BUT I had mixed feelings about it.

Aside from the green-ness or un-green-ness of xmas cards there was the cost of the stamps (Oh my god, when did postage become so expensive!?) and the line at the post office (Puhleeze, put more people on counter service at xmas time, Canada Post!) but, also, because it seemed kind of impersonal. I found myself writing and addressing over 25 cards and envelopes and putting the same message in pretty much all them. And that seemed wrong. (Isn't that what you did with the digital cards, you may ask....yeah, well, that's not the point of this post so keep reading.)

When I first started sending out Christmas cards it was with my Mom. Not that we did it every year, but I do remember a few instances of sitting down during an afternoon or evening and I'd address the envelopes and she'd date and sign the cards. It was fun and something I continued to do (on occasion) when I was on my own. I would often include a short note (or not so short) catching people up on my life and asking them about theirs.

But then came email and digital cards and, well, things changed.

Yes, I felt pressed for time this year and posting cards seemed faster but, well, there is another reason.

I saw a Christmas card (the one below) at the airport as I was leaving my hometown (first real visit back there in quite a few years and it was fantastic!) and one look magically transported me to my Christmas past.

Winter Walk (Montreal) - Andris Leimanis
It brought me back to being a kid and being downtown Christmas shopping with my Mom. The hustle and bustle of crowds, the snow and cold air. And that one night, close to Christmas, Mom would drive to the swanky neighbourhood on the mountain to have a look at the Christmas lights and decorated houses. And then I remembered how exciting it was to get a Christmas card in the mail and how, after opening them and looking at the pretty picture and reading the message inside, we'd hang them up around the apartment. And each one of those cards was evidence of another person in our life that knew us and cared and, well, it was nice.

Which brings me to my collection. Of Christmas cards. Yep, it goes back almost 20 years. I keep the cards I've rec'd over the years and store them with the decorations. I usually take them out and put them up around the house every year (very few of them are printed versions of digital or email cards I'm sorry to say), but because we've been living away I hadn't seen my little collection in five years. So, last year, when I brought them out to put up around the house it was like an amazing trip down memory lane as I opened each card to have a look inside. And that action brought each individual front and centre in my mind even if the card only had a signature. And THAT is why I sent cards this year. Even if the message was short and not unique it means that each family member and friend who receives one has a little piece of me in their Christmas.

Selfish, really. But I'm not apologizing.

16 December 2011

A Paul Reid Christmas

Ok, this one is so full of schmaltzy nostalgia and vintage goodness it may illicit a tear or two....and maybe some derisive laughter. I won't judge whatever your reaction.

The cover I remember - go to GoodReads
If you grew up in Montreal in the 50s / 60s then you'll probably remember Paul Reid's Christmas Special. For me it is a throw back to a time when I was a tousled haired tot and the adults around me smoked cigarettes, drank cocktails, and reminisced about their childhood often mentioning things like 'the Depression' and 'the war.'

My father, with his trusty reel-to-reel, recorded one of these CJAD broadcasts and one of my earliest Christmas memories is of being set up down in the den, in my pjs, cuddled into a blanket on the sliding rocker (next to the reel-to-reel) and with the lights sparkling on the aluminum tree I listened with rapt attention to Paul Reid tell the story of The Littlest Angel.

CJAD will be broadcasting this special again several times this holiday season beginning today. So try and catch one of the broadcasts or listen to this sample:

15 December 2011

I ♥ Hand Bells

The first time I ever saw a performance with hand bells was at a Christmas church service when I was a kid. I was completely mesmerized. Not just by the sound but by the bell ringers movements and the special gloves they were wearing. I tried hard to pin down one bell sound to one bell but couldn't...it just all seemed so magical!

Now you can't tell me if you hadn't witnessed this it wouldn't have brought a smile to your face and some holiday spirit to your soul...especially for that one lone bell ringer. I bet when all was said and done he rang his bell with a bit more enthusiasm!

14 December 2011

Social Media Lights up Christmas Tree!

Apparently, the light display on this Christmas tree at Union Station in Toronto relies on social media!

When the lights flash white, social networks like Twitter and Facebook are humming with Christmas chatter. Green means Christmas is being mentioned in the news. Red means blogs and forums are abuzz with yuletide musings. Blue with flashing strobe lights means people are posting messages at http://www.christmasspirittree.ca/, the home-page for the tree, which features live video streaming, or sending a text message to 70734. 

Read more here...

Watch live streaming video from canadiantire at livestream.com

13 December 2011

Favourite Christmas tv episode moment so far

Some of you might not be fans of Modern Family, but I am. And this is my favourite Christmas episode moment on tv this holiday season so far. It's the scene where Phil and Manny go to meet the guy with the baseball card Phil is trying to buy for his father-in-law. Manny accidentally tasers Phil and hilarity ensues.

I just love earnest, goofy Phil. And this perfectly captures the insanity we can experience when we become too focused on getting that perfect gift.

I just love earnest, goofy Phil. And this perfectly captures the insanity we can experience when we become too focused on getting that perfect gift.

12 December 2011

Sauron's Holiday Parade to Mt. Doom

No, not really. It's the Krampuslauf Graz, a parade in Austria that celebrates the folkloric creature known as the Krampus...Santa's other helper.

I had no idea! Learned about it yesterday in an article from NPR (in case you didn't see my tweet yesterday) -- I mean this is the kind of parade that would definitely get me out in the cold!

Krampuslauf Graz 2010 SD from Foto Jamnig on Vimeo.
Krampuslauf Graz

11 December 2011

One by one we are all becoming shades...

People forget that ghost stories were once a big part of the Christmas season. Not surprising when you think of long nights spent by the fire. But it's not just the spooky kind of ghost I'm talking about. There's just something about the season that brings up memories of our past and with them a ghost or two. "That’s because in your mind Christmas isn’t just a day or a celebration -- it’s every remembered Christmas too, including all the missing faces who were at your table once along with the bright new faces who gather there now, all rolled into one." (Source - IrishCentral.com)

Have you ever seen The Dead? I'm not talking a zombie flick, I'm talking about John Huston's version (his last film) of the short story by James Joyce. The story is set around the turn of the 19th C and takes place at a Christmas party in Dublin, Ireland. During the evening's festivities Gretta, played by Angelica Huston, hears a song that transports her...somewhere. Once home she finally confesses to her husband, Gabriel (Donal McCann) the reason for her melancholy...she is haunted by the death of her first suitor, Michael Furey. He died after spending the night in the rain waiting to get one last glimpse of her before she left Galway for a convent in Dublin. After she's cried herself to sleep, her husband Gabriel, gazes out the window at the falling snow. His thoughts, as written by Joyce, lead to one of the most beautiful (and one of the most celebrated) paragraphs ever penned:

One of the many beautiful images from the final passage of The Dead
A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead. 

Read The Dead in its entirety here or watch selections on You Tube.

10 December 2011

The Truth about Christmas Carols

I used to love going carolling around Christmas time. It always sounded so different out in the cold night air. I used to sing with a couple of choral groups and always loved the Christmas programs. I became very interested in older carols and went researching them at my university library. What I remember learning most was that carols weren't just sung at Christmas. There were carols for pretty much every season (gotta love the library). But tv can also be educational and recently, while watching a BBC special called The Truth About Christmas Carols (2008), I learnt some other surprising facts:
Coventry Carol by Mediaeval Baebes on Grooveshark

09 December 2011

Lunar Eclipse Tomorrow!

Get up early? Well, if you get up early enough and the skies are clear you might see a lunar eclipse! Below is a beautiful time lapse of last year's lunar eclipse during the Winter Solstice. Talk about a blood red moon! When I was in Qatar several years ago I witnessed one of these and it was really quite eerie...

The 10th is a Saturday, so either stay in bed long enough to allow the eclipse to mature, or get the wide field telescope and long telephoto lens ready.

The partial eclipse begins to be observable at 5:45 a.m. when the umbra, the Earth's shadow's core, crosses the moon's edge. The moon goes absolutely curtains under the umbra in total eclipse from 7:05 to 7:57 a.m.

The eclipsed moon gets its color from the refraction of sunlight bending through the Earth's atmosphere, which is in turn tinted by the global amount of dust suspended up high. Astronomers like to say the colors are the result of the sunrises and sunsets all around the world put together at that moment. 

Read more here.

Winter Solstice Lunar Eclipse 2010 from William Castleman on Vimeo.
Time lapse video of Winter Solstice Lunar Eclipse on December 21, 2010 from 1:10 AM EST (6:10 GMT) to 5:03 AM EST (10:03 GMT) from Gainesville Florida. This is the image stabilized version of the video originally posted on December 21, 2010 at: http://www.vimeo.com/18046748 The music is Claude Debussy’s Nocturnes: Sirènes.

07 December 2011

The Nutcracker with a Canadian Theme

Born from a collaboration with Kleinburg’s world-renowned McMichael Canadian Art Collection, and with well over 100 costumes in richly coloured fabrics, The Nutcracker, a Canadian Tradition brings out the magic of Canada. 20th Century landscapes make up the stunning 30-foot backdrops, including Franklin Carmichael’s Church and Houses at Bisset (1931), Tom Thomson’s Snow in the Woods (1916) and L.L. FitzGerald’s Trees and Wildflowers (1922). Read more....

05 December 2011

Frankfurt Christmas Market

My husband will be in Frankfurt for a few days on his way home for Christmas. He has strict instructions to go to the Christmas Market. Wish I could be there with him!

04 December 2011

The CP Holiday Train

Well, it's been many years since I lived in a part of the country with a train service...or train. Newfoundland tore up its tracks years ago...shame, really. But if you live on the mainland of Canada and you've done any amount of travelling, chances are you've been on a train.

I once lived close enough to train tracks to hear the whistle in the distance and, on quiet nights, be lulled to sleep by that distinct sound the train makes on the tracks...chu, chuing, chu, chuing (ok, I don't really know how to spell that sound). And although I've never seen it myself I have heard of CP's Holiday Train, the annual train that's decked out in Christmas decorations and lights that travels through Canada and the US picking up food bank donations as it goes. Check out their blog or the schedule to see where it will be next!

Interesting Christmas wrap...haa! Get it! I made a funny! Cause rap starts with an r but it's Christmas and we're all crazily wrapping gifts....

Ok, I may be getting just a wee bit out of control here.

03 December 2011

Talented Mike Feehan & Melting Snowmen

Picked up this month's issue of our local free arts mag, The Scope. Love the cover (see below)!

Check out the artist's blog at MikeFeehan.com.

Source: MikeFeehan.com

02 December 2011

Ice Festival in Harbin, China

It doesn't happen until early January, but soon thousands of sculptors and volunteers will begin to create this ice city. I remember a winter festival with lit ice sculptures at Angrignon Park when I was a kid but I don't think it would have quite compared to this...!

Of course, all I keep thinking about is the amount of water they are removing from the river (pssst...just look at the pretty lights).

BBC Wild China: Harbin Ice Festival from George Chan on Vimeo.
The Harbin Ice Festival is one of the highlights in the BBC series WILD CHINA. It takes ten-thousand people four weeks to build this winter wonderland, which draws spectators from all over China and the world.

30 November 2011

Eggnog Alternative - Ponche de Creme

Years ago, one of my brother's got me into drinking Christmas eggnog. So good! I thought his secret was the sprinkling of fresh nutmeg on top but it may have been the rum. He used quite a bit! Have no idea what rum he used but it was during the years that he and his family were going to Jamaica so chances are it was Appleton. Although I've tried making it myself over the years, my brother's eggnog was the best.

Being somewhat calorie conscious I hardly ever drink it now, but I have been thinking about it an awful lot lately. Probably that eggnog latte I had at 2nd Cup last week. Anywho, in looking up recipes I came across this Trinidad and Tobago tradition for something called Ponche de Creme. These are the ingredients:
  •  4 eggs 
  •  1 tin condensed milk (390g) 
  •  1 carton evaporated milk (250ml) 
  •  1/2 bottle rum (approx 1 1/2 cups of dark or white) 
  •  3 tbsp Angostura aromatic bitters 
  •  1 tsp grated nutmeg 
  •  2 tsp lime rind (optional) 

So, if you're looking for something a little different this year try it out. I think I'm going to. Just need to get me some bitters.

28 November 2011

A Hankering After Ghosts

Apparently Charles Dickens was fascinated by the occult and ghost stories. But is it possible he 'stole' one of his ghost stories from someone else? Find out at a new exhibition at the British Library about the author called, A Hankering After Ghosts.

Marley's Ghost - Project Gutenberg
To mark the bicentenary of Charles Dickens’s birth, this exhibition explores the many ways in which Dickens used supernatural phenomena in his works, while placing them in the context of scientific, technological and philosophical debates of his time. Dickens’s interest in the macabre was apparent from an early age. As an adult he was caught up in ‘mesmeric mania’ that swept Britain and developed an interest in the ‘power of the human mind’. He believed that all supernatural manifestations must have rational explanations, but his investigations into animal magnetism and psychology showed him that science could be as chilling as any ghost story. As a result he became wonderfully adept at suspending readers between psychological and supernatural explanations in his fiction.

Guardian Review

26 November 2011

The Family Stone - A New Christmas Classic

Ok, I admit it, I'm a mix of emotions when it comes to Christmas. I can, at the same time, over-decorate and devour all the holiday schmaltz you can throw at me while also being incredibly...non-committal. Why? Because Christmas is a time of contradictions. The season holds the potential for miracles (not the Jesus kind but the kind that seem to be life changing / affirming) but can also pack an emotional wallop. Christmas is a season when it feels like the whole world is in love with everything and everyone, but there are also incredibly poignant and painful memories. For me it's often of the people that I can no longer share this unique time of year with. So, at the same time as it reaffirms family ties Christmas can also throw into relief those ties that were never solidified or that have slipped and disappeared.

That's why I love this movie, The Family Stone. It uses the quintessential picture-perfect Christmas card backdrop (notice them in the opening credits) on which to display it all: the miraculous, the tedious, the horrific, the hilarious, and the tragic. And that's why this movie is one of my 'new' Christmas classics.


24 November 2011

And what to my wondering eyes did appear...

Lots of snow, slob ice, and me with no snow tires!!

Yep, this is what I woke up to this morning. You can't really tell in this shot but it's still snowing and will continue till around noon. I'm really hoping we get that thaw tomorrow so I can get the car up to the tire place.

First substantial snowfall - Nov 24, St. John's, NL

22 November 2011

Nicholas was Older than Sin...

Well, I guess this is kind of a cross over (or self referencing ?!) post. You see, a few weeks back, on my Halloween blog, I posted about Neil Gaiman and included an audio clip of him reading "Nicholas was"-- which, you may have guessed, is about Old St. Nick...or Sandy Claws...I mean, Santa Claus.

I figured the creepiness of it made it ok for the Halloween blog BUT as it is about Santa, well it's perhaps more appropriate here. Instead of that same audio clip, however, this time I bring you a great little animated short I found by some very clever and inspired people. I love it and hope you do too...

39 Degrees North: Christmas Card 2010 from 39 Degrees North on Vimeo.
We started down a rather unconventional route for our Christmas card this year and there was simply no turning back. The pull of the dark side was just too strong. Here's our adaptation of a wonderful poem by the fantastic Neil Gaiman. www.39degreesnorth.tv

08 November 2011

Pining for the Scent of Douglas Fir

I've been revisiting the town of Twin Peaks over the last month (a friend lent me their Gold Box DVD set) and gotta say, even tho I haven't seen it since the original broadcast back in 90/91 I was blown away. Oh sure, Season 2 gets a little bogged down and muddy, but still, what a trip!

And as I was already travelling down memory lane it's not surprising I got to reminiscing about my days in Calgary and my times in Banff. Sigh. I used to love to hike around Vermillion Lakes and the Lower Hot Springs. One of the favourite hikes was from Moraine Lake up to Larch Valley but I have fond memories of the hike from Lake Louise to the tea house too. Sigh.

Me and family near the Tea House at Lake Louise - c. 1972
Of course, with Christmas on the horizon and my mind full of hikes through pine scented mountain woods what's a girl to do? I'll tell you...I've lit my Thymes Frasier Fir candle (smells like a Christmas tree...really!!) and am cutting myself a piece of cherry pie, pouring myself a hot cup of joe, and settling in to watch the final two episodes of Twin Peaks.

"Thru the darkness of Future Past / the magician longs to see
one chants out between two worlds / Fire - walk with me."

05 November 2011

Gram Rabbit's California Christmas

I know it's from last year, but this is my first new Christmas song for this season...yay!