31 December 2013

New Year's Resolutions - Camera Obscura

Yeah, it's that time of year again. Will you be making any? Resolutions, that is. Me? Well, like I've said before I do like to think about resolutions...but more as achievable goals, challenges or indulgences. You know - things that can be met in the coming year BUT nothing dramatic or extreme. Don't need any more reasons to be down on myself.

Hey, maybe that should be one of my resolutions for the year of 2014 - be nicer to me.

Hmmm, a tad too "Me Generation?"

Happy New Year!

30 December 2013

Baby, it IS cold outside!

So, we're into the 2nd week of cool temperatures here in Doha. That means 17 to 19 C during the day and as low as 12 or 13 at night. It's great! No there's isn't any snow BUT I have been able to wear turtle necks and sweaters.

Here's one of my favourite renditions of this song...

"Baby It's Cold Outside" Sigourney Weaver... by alienfan

29 December 2013

A cabin getaway

One year, when we're back in Canada, I would like to stay in a place like this for the New Year. And apparently you can! This is an EXP cabin (located in my home province) where you can stay for a $167 a night.

Designed for 2 people, the EXP is composed of one room and it has 2 single beds. It is fully equipped: hot water, heating, full kitchen, bathroom and 2-burner electric stove.

 There are lots of other cabin options too. For more info click here.

22 December 2013

Ain't no chimneys in the projects - Sharon Jones

Fat man's a-comin'! - Santacon

This looks like it was fun! No Santacons in Doha :(

Large mobs of Santa Clauses and converged on London on Saturday to drink and be merry as they celebrated Santacon 2013.

Santacon takes place in 300 cities around the world and aims to spread Christmas cheer, encouraging participants to "be jolly, be nice" as they take to the streets dressed as Father Christmas. (Read more...)

Santacon London 2013 from Ben Peter Catchpole on Vimeo.

20 December 2013

It's Solstice - Know the dark

I have news for you (9th C - Irish)
Winter Ice - Dead Man's Pond

I have news for you -
The stag bells
Winter snows
Summer has gone
Wind high and cold
The sun low - short its course
The sea running high
Deep red the bracken - its shape is lost
The wild goose has raised its accustomed cry
Cold has seized the birds' wings
Season of ice -
This is my news...

All I want for Christmas is a HIVE HOUSE!

We don't own a house. And we still pay taxes even tho we live overseas. Part of why we live overseas is so one day we can buy a house. I've spent the last year watching all these UK based shows on how to build your own and I gotta say I really want to do it. Nothing as big as in those Grand Design shows but something smaller and more funky like in Amazing Spaces. In fact, it was on an episode of that show that I saw the Hive House.

Since it's built in the UK I imagine it wouldn't do too badly in Newfoundland's climate. Additional insulation and a few changes to plumping and wiring to bring it in line with Canadian building codes might be all that's needed.

Come on, Santa! One module a year for the next 5 would get us a decent space to live in.

Read more about the Hive House.  

19 December 2013

18 December 2013

Charlie Panigoniak - Makes my Christmas complete

Do yourself a favour and go to this page. Then scroll down till you hit these two tunes by Charlie Panigoniak. Now press play on the flash player and listen. Santa Kalasi is my favourite!

And now my Christmas is perfect :)


17 December 2013

Community Christmas

Favourite Community holiday episode? Abed's uUncontrollable Christmas. Aved breaks from reality and the only way the gang can get him back is to join him in his world of holiday claymation.

Also, just want to mention that my fellow Canadian, Nathan Fillion, is set to guest star in the upcoming Season 5 of Community!

NBC's Community - Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas from Duke Johnson on Vimeo.

16 December 2013

This is Christmas - England 1944

If you think YOU can make Christmas from nothing think again! During WWII those Brits were experts at recycling and reuse. AND feeding the nation on what was on hand. I must admit I am a little intrigued by the carrot gelatin 'fudge.' And what do you think living in those caves would have been like?!

15 December 2013

Hey Marseilles - Hey Hey

No, it's not a Christmas tune per se, but I like it. And it's got strings and a slight melancholy feel to it - both of which I associate with this season.

AND the band is called Hey Marseilles which seems to be an appropriate follow-up post to a yesterday's video featuring Hey, Rosetta! Don't you think?

14 December 2013

Going Home for the Holidays?

Ah, yes. That time of year when the annual dilemma rears its head. Holiday travel. When I was in my 20s it always meant going home. And because I was young and underemployed my travel budget always meant taking the cheaper forms of transportation, usually the bus. This often resulted in some tale to tell upon arrival like the kindness of the stranger who helped me with my bags or the really cool guy I chatted with all the way through Manitoba. But, let's face it, holiday travel isn't always fun. There was also that year I got flung out of the toilet when the bus took a rather sharp turn and the year someone tried to steal my bag, etc.

Bonfire Night - Edinburgh
The expat lifestyle means that going home for Christmas is again the annual dilemma. Living so far away tho there are more miles to cover and, the real killer, a 6.5 hour time difference. Well, you only need to do that a few times before it loses its appeal. Especially as you get older and sitting for long periods becomes uncomfortable, and you need to pee more often, and sleep deprivation makes you emotionally volatile.

Moon and Minarets
Of course, we could travel elsewhere. To places that are not home but do require less time confined to a plane. One year we did go to Edinburgh for Hogmanay (whee!) and another year to Istanbul (awe-some!) but then there are the years, more common now, when we decide to just stay put.

Yes, I admit the allure of travel has become somewhat tarnished for me but I will also tell you this. The closer to Christmas Day or New Year's Eve you get as you travel, the more palpable the excitement. People often seem to have a little extra patience, a few more smiles get sent your way, and lots are chattier. I know it's not all nostalgia and good cheer but you have to admit there is something 'in the air.'

For all of you who have made the decision to make the journey home this year here's a little something...

11 December 2013

American Routes: Christmas in New Orleans 2005

Looking for some out-of-the-ordinary seasonal listening? Well then, you should check out this episode of American Routes. What is American Routes?

American Routes is a weekly two-hour public radio program produced in New Orleans, presenting a broad range of American music — blues and jazz, gospel and soul, old-time country and rockabilly, Cajun and zydeco, Tejano and Latin, roots rock and pop, avant-garde and classical.

And the episode in question is THIS one from December 2005 - the first Christmas after the devastation of hurricane Katrina.

After the Storm Christmas - American Routes
I stumbled across it after finally watching the first episode of Treme's 4th and final season. And then, hoping to immerse myself in all things N'orlins, darlin', I started googling. I came across a reference to something called "Treme Explained." WHAT a treasure trove of info! As well as discovering how I'd messed up the lyrics to John Boutté's theme for Treme (it's BUCK jumping not BUG jumping...well, at least I knew it was about dancing) I also found the link to American Routes. And so, so, so much more.

I know this kind of thing isn't for everybody but it is for me! I guess that's why I have a degree in Folklore.

Really?! - Yes, really.

10 December 2013

Castle's Secret Santa Christmas

I like Castle. What can I say? I've always liked a good murder mystery. AND I have been susceptible to the charms of Nathan Fillion for years now. From his dark and broody Caleb in Buffy the Vampire Slayer to his rebel Browncoat character of Malcolm Reynolds in Firefly the guy is just soooo likeable!

Anywho, Secret Santa was a great seasonal episode and had the added bonus of progressing the romance between the Beckett and Castle characters.

And I learned that there are such things as Santa schools! Who knew?

08 December 2013


Yeah, you may have noticed the lack of effort in the posts the last few days? It's because I've been suffering with the cold/flu Doha thing. It starts with a slight tickle in your throat or sinuses and the next thing you know you feel like crap and you are so congested you can't see straight. If you are lucky you will be well in a week if you are not lucky it will develop into a sinus or respiratory infection. That takes longer to recover from and you will almost assuredly be prescribed antibiotics. Respiratory infections are like the common cold here. Well, at least it's not MERS!

So to pass the time between sneezes and nose blowing I've been sitting on the couch sewing a few Christmas crafty things and rewatching the first 3 seasons of Treme. The 4th and final season started last week and I want to immerse myself in the story again before I watch the final 5 episodes. 

I surely will miss these glimpses of New Orleans, its people and, of course, the music. It's a city that's pretty much at the top of my Places to see before I die list. 

07 December 2013

Local Hero - Another less than typical holiday flick

If you haven't seen Local Hero (1983) you should. And Christmas is a great time to watch it. Not only because the scenery is beautiful, the story funny but poignant but there's even a sort of miracle...and shooting stars!

This movie also has an amazing soundtrack. And I once sat on a ferry that was slowly navigating its way from Vancouver to Victoria, BC through freshly covered snow clad islands, staring out a huge window while listening to this on my walkman (old version of ipod...iphone). It was one of those rare but perfect moments.

You can watch the entire movie here...

06 December 2013

The Holiday - Festive Romantic Fun

This is now one of my festive favourites when it comes to escapist holiday viewing. The romance, the settings, the cast. The running away....

Ok, I admit, from the moment I saw the trailer I was smitten with the cast--I  Rufus Sewell--but, Jack Black? As a romantic partner for Kate Winslet!? Hmmm...

However, he totally won me over with his portrayal of a very sweet, clever, and down-to-earth musical composer guy, Miles. Hey Jack, why don't we see more of this kind of casting for you?

Also loved Eli Wallach as the aged, forgotten Hollywood writer, Arthur.

05 December 2013

This time of year is often full of memories - Alive Inside

Memories of Christmas' past -- it's one of the things I love and hate about this time of year. But imagine if you were losing your memories...the bad and the good. Isn't it nice to know that the sound of music and song can bring them back? Provide some comfort and warmth?

I saw first hand how music could do this during my mother's own battle with dementia / alzheimers. When she got agitated I'd pop on her headphones and play The Inkspots which never failed to calm her down and make her smile. I've been following the Alive Inside project for a while now and was happy to read this morning that it's made it to the Sundance Film Festival!

I'm thinking of working on my own playlist of favourite tunes just in case. I will definitely include a few Christmas tunes...The Christmas Song by Nat King Cole, White Christmas by Bing and the version of  Baby, it's Cold Outside by Sigourney Weaver and Buster Poindexter on SNL...oh, and 'Zat You, Santa Claus? by Louis and James Andrews Christmas in New Orleans, and...hmmm, I can see this might end up being a pretty long list!

What would yours include?

04 December 2013

Jingle Cats

These hanging metal cat heads with marble eyes are supposed to scare away birds from your garden. That's not why I bought them--good thing too because they don't--I bought them for Halloween. Thought it was appropriate outdoor decor, right? But I liked them so much I decided to keep them up year round. And to make them a little more seasonally festive for the holidays I added the hat and bells.

I'm afraid to tell you we did the same thing to our real cat last year. 

03 December 2013

Holiday Viewing in Cinemas - Philomena

Well, here's one movie I hope gets here in time for the holidays! Love Judi Dench and Steve Coogan. Read a review here.

01 December 2013

Panettonne means a Buon Natale!

Love, love, love panettone! I didn't really start eating panettone till we spent our first Christmas here so it became our "Christmas in Doha" tradition. Panettone was not part of my growing up holiday experience and not something I was much aware of back home.  But here in Doha they seemed to be abundant starting in late November / December. Even little individual serving sizes (gained a few pounds that year). So, last year, our the first festive season since the Qatar return, I was looking forward to some yummy, buttery, fruity chunks of panettone (I pour Calvados on mine)...but there was narry a one to be found! So, so, so sad was I :(

Panettone - Yay!!
But not so this year! My husband spotted some in Carrefour the other day and snagged  a big one for me, I mean, us. This is a quick snap of it before I tore into it.

And because I, whoops, we have already started in on it I just had to buy another one ;)

Putting ♩♪ up the ♩♬ 'Chrichmush' Tree ♪♬

Tree done! And complete with demon guard dog.
When I was about eight years old I took on the task of the Christmas decorating. Mom was working and often tired and me? Well, I had the enthusiasm, and energy, of a kid. The only rule was I had to wait until December 1st. And on that day I would race down to the basement and start pulling up boxes. The first to come up was the tree. First you had to remove all the branches from the box sorting as you went. Each tier of the tree was marked with a different colour at the base of the branches' metal tips.

Tree up I would start sorting through the lights. Ah, the lights. The tangled mess that came out of the boxes every year even though we swore we would put them back more neatly. But I was young with small fingers and vast amounts of determination and patience and so they got sorted. That sorting included figuring out what strings needed new bulbs as these were the years when the string didn't work unless ALL the bulbs did. Usually there were enough working bulbs that you could at least make sure every string did actually work before putting it on the tree.

Next came the decorations. Before removing each one carefully from their musty smelling egg like cartons the hooks had to be found and untangled (they were usually in the same state as the lights). Each decoration was prepared and then carefully placed on the tree. At first we would make sure that even the back of the tree got a few and then we'd get tired and just want it finished! Then there was nothing left but to turn on the lights, well, the one string that worked, and take in the sight. Garland and tinsel came later--after the lights were sorted.

Christmas Tree 2013
Well, this is our tree this year - not yet decorated. I gave up on the bougainvillea twig tree idea as you may recall. And while in Carrefour a couple of weeks ago I gave into the temptation of the Christmas aisle and bought a small fake tree. Also--I have to confess--I put it up the same day. But I did hold out on most of the decorating. THAT will get done today.

Cat helps with raising of tree

29 November 2013

Holiday Music Samplers - Noise Trade

Not sure what sort of tunes you want to listen to this year? With the explosion of new holiday music it's nice to know you can get your hands on some samples for free (or what you can afford as tip). Go here for more...

27 November 2013

Words of the Angels - Trio Medieval

The women who make up this Trio Mediaeval are amazing! I have a soft spot for medieval music and this time of year often sees me shuffling through my music collection to find tracks from the Mediaevel Babes and Hildegard von Bingen. I hadn't heard of this trio before but wow!

The visuals for this track tho are a little on the weird side so don't watch.

Close your eyes and listen.

Bougainvillea Twig Wreath and Tree

Backyard Bougainvillea Wreath
Yep, more bougainvillea 'crafts.' I've never done this kind of thing before but have long been interested in basket weaving. Really wanted to learn how to work with willow but not having any at hand I figured I'd use what I did have. It was definitely a learning experience. The lesson learned? Bougainvillea is a mother$%#@*! to work with!!

The wreath is made from some of the longest offshoots I pruned. I collected them and one by one wound them round together into a wreath shape -- while they were still supple. Then after a few days of drying out I added a bit of festive garland. The Christmas tree in the centre is made from more bougainvillea. I took some of the straighter lengths and dethorned them, then cut them into twigs of various lengths. I then glued them onto a centre twig. And after a couple of days drying time I painted it. Put the two together and hung them out in the backyard. Very festive!

I also did another one of the little trees with a few more paint touches (metallic) and some little coloured bells, for hanging inside.

Little twig tree #2

24 November 2013

Never gift tease a younger sibling

So, it's a month before the big day and I've got some advice for those big brothers and sisters out there who might be planning something wicked for their younger siblings. Don't do it. I'm telling you now you WILL regret it. I will use this cautionary tale as an example of what I mean.

You see, when I was about seven years old my brother, who was 16, pointed out a present under the tree that was meant for me. From him. It was large (very exciting) but was very light in weight. I couldn't wait to open it! But I was a good girl and waited till Christmas Day...when I was told that it had to be the last gift I opened. I was so excited! What could it be?

I tore through my other few gifts till I could get to THE one. I couldn't keep still with the thrill of it all! I began to unwrap it. Under the Christmas wrap was more paper, but it wasn't Christmas wrap...just plain white tissue paper. Under that layer I found a slightly smaller package. Ooooh, a mystery! And so I began to unwrap that one.

Well, probably about 10 minutes, and several smaller packages, later I was down to the last small box. I tore it open almost missing what was inside. It was one single lite brite peg (don't remember the colour). Now, I'd been wanting a Lite Brite and so I was very excited if somewhat confused. Where was the rest of it? In another box? Down in the kitchen, perhaps? Or up in my room?

Nope. My brother explained to me that he hadn't saved quite enough money to buy me the whole thing so I would have to wait till next year.

The disappointment was keen, I gotta say. Now, I know I did eventually get a Lite Brite because I remember playing with it. I even remember it underneath our Christmas tree one year (I had used one of the blank black sheets to write "Merry Xmas") but when I got it or how or even who gave it to me I don't recall. I only remember that moment when I fought hard to hold back the tears because I was CRUSHED! (And, to a lesser extent, I didn't want my brother to feel bad.)

So, if you, or anyone you know, is thinking about playing a little mind game like this on a younger sibling, I'm here to say -- DON'T!
Silent Night...

Because if you do, well, not only will you get to the top of Santa's Naughty List, you'll ALSO make him angry.

And you don't want to see Santa get angry.

You wouldn't like him...when he's angry.

23 November 2013

Zentangle Christmas Tree

Zentangle Christmas Tree, 2012
A zentangle tree I did from last year's festive crafting extravaganza!

Ok, maybe extravaganza is a little exaggerated but it does seem I did do a lot more crafting last year.

More examples of said activity using toilet paper rolls and, of course, bougainvillea twigs, to come.

21 November 2013

Lighting the Serpent - Solstice fun

Serpent Mound
About a month till Winter Solstice, sigh. Like many of you, I also like to celebrate the Winter Solstice. Back home I usually invite people over for dinner on the 21st to celebrate Solstice rather than on Christmas Eve or Day. So, I won't deny that there's a little bit of the pagan in me and that this is the time of year I feel it most.

Of course, my current location means we don't really get the long winter nights (or the winter weather) that I'd be 'enjoying' back in Newfoundland. Here, at this time of year, the sun rises around 6 am and sets around 5 pm. So we do get a few additional night time hours, compared to summer, but I highly doubt there will be any Solstice celebrations.

If YOU live somewhere where there are some then YOU could go to one for me! And light a candle or dance a jig or whatever your inner pagan desires.

My choice, if wishes were fishes, would be Lighting the Serpent - A Winter Solstice Celebration.

Here's a bit of Nordic Stomp for your musical enjoyment while you ponder the possibilities of attending a Solstice event...

20 November 2013

Christmas Stencils and Glass Wax

Wow! I wish I had some of that glass wax! From the very early years of my life I think I can recall the same sort of thing done with spray snow on our living room windows. Later were the years I remember carving Christmas words like "HO HO" and "XMAS" into the frost covering the inside of our front bedroom window.

Or maybe it was "Help."

19 November 2013

The weather outside is frightful....?

So many you out there reading this blog (according to the stats anyway) are living in places where the weather is turning colder and snow flakes have started drifting past your windows...or soon will be. And that's often part of what makes this time of year feel festive, right? "The ♪ weather outside ♫ is frightful but ♫ inside it's so delightful..."

Now, here in Doha the weather turns as well. But here it goes from the incredibly, hot, sometimes humid, heat that requires huddling inside air-conditioned interiors to much more reasonable temperatures that make you want to actually go outside. And sometimes there may be some rain. I remember several years ago the day, I believe it was in November, when it rained off and on ALL day. It was quite exciting! Well, two days ago we had a similar kind of day. Overcast all day with occasional heavy downpours, which, by the way, can make driving on dust-turned-to-silt roads quite tricky. Also causes a lot of short circuits...like the one to the pump that supplies our place with water.

What I didn't realize until today was how extreme the weather got. This is footage of a waterspout just off Qatar's shores near Ras Laffin. Look!!

There was other extreme weather in Saudi where heavy rains caused flooding and a tower was hit by lightning...read more here.

So, even in this region, at this time of year, the weather can indeed be frightful!

And today's forecast is calling for more rain...BBC Weather.

18 November 2013

Ahmad Tea - Holiday Inspiration

Searching for tea the other day this box caught my eye. It seems somewhat Christmas-ee with the green and red and gold (scanner didn't really pick up on the gold of "English Breakfast" but you get the idea).

I'll take my inspiration where I can find it.  And I take my tea with milk...cardamon, if you have it :)

English Breakfast Ahmad Tea featuring Hyde Park, London c. 1850

17 November 2013

Holiday Bazaar at CNA-Q - November 23

Hey, if you are in Doha and want to check out some great gift and decorating ideas then come to the Holiday Bazaar at CNA-Q! Last year I got some beautiful ceramic bowls from Turkey.

16 November 2013

Christmas came to Carrefour!

I was out grocery shopping yesterday and look...Christmas came to Carrefour! Yay!!

Christmas ailse at Carrefour - Doha, 2013

15 November 2013

Elves are real...in Iceland

Heard this story about elves recently on Q Radio. Apparently, work had to stop on a construction project because someone forgot to consult the local elves. Hmmm.

I think most Icelanders today believe in elves the way most Newfoundlanders believe in fairies. Sure, there may be a small number who still actually do believe but I'm guessing the majority say they believe because hey, it's cute, quaint, and good for tourism.

13 November 2013

Airport - Not your usual holiday flick

I know, I know. You're thinking..."Airport?! Seriously? A Christmas movie?" Yep. It's the snow. Yes, the story is set during the Christmas season (all those travellers) and includes plenty of drama, romance with a sprinkling of comedy but what really makes this a Christmas movie for me is that snow storm! Makes me feel chilly even here in the desert.

And keep in mind that this Airport movie (based on the novel by Arthur Hailey) is the original from 1970. Not any of those hack repeat follow-ups or comedy spoofs. This one is the real deal. And it's got everything! Extreme weather, drama, romance, comedy AND a cast of thousands (you'll be amazed at who you might recognize). My favourite male character is cigar chompin' Patroni as played by the hunky George Kennedy. Yeah, I know some of you out there might be more into Burt Lancaster or Dean Martin but it's George that does it for me, sigh.

Of course, there's also the beautiful Jacqueline Bisset (Stewardess Gwen) and Jean Seberg as the very capable Tanya Livingston but who REALLY makes this movie for me is the amazing Helen Hayes. I. love. her. I want to be clever Ada Quonset when I get old (AND a Snoop Sister). The only slightly sour note in this otherwise great 2 hour get-away is Maureen Stapleton. As the wife of our would be bomber I think that, later in the film, she takes the dramatic acting just a tad too far. But then again, this has been described as a melodrama.

Oh yeah, the other star of this movie is the music. The main theme always sends a shiver of excitement through me. It was the composer's (Alfred Newman) last score.

DeerStein poster by Albert&Marie

I like this! It's green, it has trees, a deer, that little bear, and the geometric 60s like feel...what's NOT to like? I wish there was a real one. I mean a real 3 dimensional ceramic white and green beer stein. But lacking that how 'bout the poster!

11 November 2013

Jingle Bell Rocks - A Documentary

This looks really interesting!

Jingle Bell Rocks Trailer HD from EyeSteelFilm on Vimeo.

Vintage Holiday Wrap and Tree Raising at Rockefeller


Oh, I love how people collect things and then put it all online for someone like me to stumble across! Sooo many ideas so few brain cells left to hold them all. This is my latest discovery thanks to xtinalamb and her flicker collection of vintage wrapping paper.

AND watch this year's Christmas tree go up in front of Rockefeller Center!

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

09 November 2013

Bougainvillea Twig Tree - Ouch!

Bougainvillea Twig Tree 
I mentioned yesterday that I constructed a twig tree of bougainvillea branches last year? While pruning our incredible never-stops-growing bougainvillea last fall I had put aside a ton of branches (still have lots!) to make this thing with. I even spray painted it white!

As I also said yesterday, I'm not really sure I'm up to recreating this thorny monster again. Although some of it, in a much shorter form, still exists as a cat climbing deterrent in our back yard.

So, if you have any ideas about what I could do instead, let me know.

08 November 2013

Punjabi Jingle...

Yeah, AGAIN, I'm not in Newfoundland. But I'm not in Pakistan either. Or India. However, I am in the Middle East -- back in the Gulf region. This is the closest I could come up with trying to combine the festive holiday with some local flavour.

We're coming up on another Christmas spent here instead of travelling back home. That means I might actually get around to a few posts this time. Last year I was too busy making a twig tree out of bougainvillea branches. That was prickly! But it did work well and tied in with my twig tree tradition. Not sure what I'm going to do this year as I don't think I have it in me to deal with more thorn laden bougainvilla. There's an IKEA here now so maybe I'll get some ideas there. ALMOST bought a 2nd hand fake pine but someone got to it before me :(

But maybe that's a good thing.