Monday, December 31, 2007

WOULD a rose by any other name smell as sweet???

This morning, we were all sitting around the kitchen table, enjoying a leisurely breakfast. I amused the girlies by reading a part of the newspaper out loud. There was a lengthy article about "celebrity babies", and some of the more ridiculous names that parents had bestowed upon their poor, wee infants. Many of them, we felt, would be hard-pressed to live down their unusual monikers, and would no doubt risk being pummelled on the playground (were it not for their own personal security details, that is...)

Among the list that made us giggle hysterically, and shake our heads, were:

Camera (daughter of tennis superstar Arthur Ashe)

Duncan Zowie Heywood Jones (son of David Bowie)

Fifi Trixibelle, Peaches Honeyblossom,
and Little Pixie
(daughters of Bob Geldolf)

Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily (daughter of Paula Yates)

Dusti Raine and Keelee Breeze
(daughters of Robert Van Winkle, aka "Vanilla Ice")

... to name just a few of the more ridiculous choices.

But the ones that got the BIGGEST laugh from my three girls, were, of course:

Dweezil, Ahmet Emuukha Rodan, Diva Muffin,
and Moon Unit
(children of the infamous Frank Zappa)

Mother: (wiping away tears, from laughing so hard) Oh, my Lord... WHAT were they thinking... Those poor kids. I just can't imagine anything WORSE than being forever known as "Moon Zappa".

Child Number Two: (suddenly quite serious) Oh, I can think of something worse...

Child Number One: (curiously) What?

Child Number Two: (mischievously) BUG Zappa.

Needless to say, she brought the house down...

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Sunday, December 30

It has been quite a week.

We've had our Christmas... which was absolutely wonderful, but exhausting in an extremely pleasant kind of way... There has been plenty of boisterous joy around this house; lots of hustle-and-bustle and excitement.

And, happily, there have been peaceful moments, too. Moments where I have been able to take the opportunity to snuggle with my children and read them stories, or play with their toys, or do a "cwaft" with them. Sometimes, just before bed, we have enjoyed some quiet time, sitting on the sofa together, listening to music, admiring the Christmas tree, and enjoying all of the twinkly lights.

Amidst all of this happiness, it is hard for me to fathom some of the sadness and unpleasantness that fills this vast world of ours... A world leader has been brutally gunned down. A young child tragically lost, quite near where we live. My husband's uncle died, suddenly, of a heart attack on Boxing Day. And, to top it all off, two priests engaged in fisticuffs on the site that is said to be where Jesus once lay in a manger, for crying out loud...

After hearing about all of these things, I felt some of the "lightness" go out of my heart... And so, I went searching for music to soothe the soul.

The hymn "Ubi Caritas" is traditionally sung closer to Easter time; it is taken from the antiphons sung during the ceremony of the Washing of the Feet at the Mass of the Last Supper on Holy Thursday. Christ washing the feet of his disciples is a gesture that I find tremendously moving, as it is an example of such humility. It is symbolic of the fact that no person is "above" anyone else here on earth: we are all equals, and should treat one another as we, ourselves, would want to be treated: with respect, and with kindness.

I heard this piece of music yesterday, and found it so tremendously uplifting, I felt I had to share it with all of you.

Although this is clearly music deeply entrenched in the Christian faith, the basic sentiments expressed apply to all people, regardless of their religious beliefs: Where charity and love are, God is there... Love each other.

Sometimes, it is good to be reminded that we are capable; indeed, responsible; for living in a "Godly" way. And if we all do our very best to remember to treat one another with love, respect, and kindness, with NO EXCEPTIONS... this world of ours will become a better and happier place.

Ubi Caritas
arranged by John Rutter, with The Cambridge Singers

UBI caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.
Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor.
Exultemus, et in ipso iucundemur.
Timeamus, et amemus Deum vivum.
Et ex corde diligamus nos sincero.

WHERE charity and love are, God is there.
Christ's love has gathered us into one.
Let us rejoice and be pleased in Him.
Let us fear, and let us love the living God.
And may we love each other with a sincere heart.

UBI caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.
Simul ergo cum in unum congregamur:
Ne nos mente dividamur, caveamus.
Cessent iurgia maligna, cessent lites.
Et in medio nostri sit Christus Deus.

WHERE charity and love are, God is there.
As we are gathered into one body,
Beware, lest we be divided in mind.
Let evil impulses stop, let controversy cease,
And may Christ our God be in our midst.

UBI caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.
Simul quoque cum beatis videamus,
Glorianter vultum tuum, Christe Deus:
Gaudium quod est immensum, atque probum,
Saecula per infinita saeculorum. Amen.

WHERE charity and love are, God is there.
And may we with the saints also,
See Thy face in glory, O Christ our God:
The joy that is immense and good,
Unto the ages through infinite ages. Amen.

Friday, December 28, 2007

What am I doing New Year's Eve?

We are notoriously "boring" at this house, when it comes to New Year's Eve. Perhaps it is all the tremendous excess that we have indulged ourselves in over Christmas... maybe it's the downright fatigue, after having just "closed the books" on our business year... maybe it's simply the fact that we are parents of small children...

Maybe it is ALL of the above that results in our annual tradition of "staying in" on December 31st.

But, truth be told, it's not so bad, actually. We put a movie in the dvd player, stoke up the logs in the fireplace, snuggle under fuzzy blankets... and ring in the New Year by raising a few glasses of Hot Buttered Rum.

Hot Buttered Rum is one of my specialties. It is said to be the drink that "makes you see double, but feel single"... yet another reason to stay home-- it keeps us out of trouble! It is the ultimate treat-- warm and calorific, and capable of melting all of your troubles (not to mention your skeletal structure) away.

I make my Hot Buttered Rum in the crock pot, and simmer it all day long on the "low" setting. The wonderful aroma is a treat for the senses, and makes us feel festive-- even though, truth be told, The Husband and I wind up the evening by pushing the clock hands forward, then tucking ourselves into bed WELL before midnight REALLY arrives...

We're party poopers, no doubt about it. But, after a few glasses of this heavenly stuff, who cares??!

Colonial Hot Buttered Rum

2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 pinch salt
3 sticks cinnamon
6 whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 cups rum

Whipping cream
a tsp or two of icing sugar
a slurp of good vanilla

ground nutmeg -- for topping

Pour 2 quarts hot water into the crock pot. Add the brown sugar, butter, salt, cinnamon, cloves and 1/2 tsp of nutmeg. Stir well. Cover the crock pot and simmer on LOW for about 5 hours.

Just before serving, add the rum; stir to blend.

Whip the cream, adding the icing sugar and vanilla when it begins to stand up in small "peaks", then beat a few seconds more.

Serve the Hot Buttered Rum with a big scoop of whipped cream plopped on top. Dust with a sprinkling of ground nutmeg.

Relax. Enjoy.

Happy New Year!!

From today's Globe and Mail...

"I put my life in danger and came here because I feel this country is in danger."

Benazir Bhutto 1953-2007

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Just ONE more...

I know that Christmas is officially "over", but I just had to share ONE MORE CAROL with you...

My father brought me several beautiful cds of Christmas music this week, and this one is my favourite... As an added bonus, this spellbindingly wonderful choir is Canadian!!

"Christmas Presence"
featuring The Choir of St John's Church,
Elora, Ontario.

There are so many beautiful pieces on this album... including a gorgeous rendition of the hymn that was sung at my wedding fifteen years ago, "Here Amid the Winter Snow"...

But, the piece that made me stop. in. my. tracks. was this one:

"The Shepherd's Carol"
by Bob Chilcott


And may the spirit of Christmas remain with you all year long!

Hoooo, boy... It's going to be a loooong day...

... because we had Big Fun around this house... BIG.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Need I say more?

Christmas Day

"In Dulce Jubilo"

"O Come All Ye Faithful"

"Hark the Herald Angels Sing"

all performed by The Choir of King's College, Cambridge

A very Happy Christmas to you all!

Monday, December 24, 2007

For Christmas Eve

"The Nativity" ("Holy Night")
by Antonio da Correggio, 1529-30

"Infant Holy, Infant Lowly"
performed by The Clare College Singers

Infant holy, Infant lowly,
for His bed a cattle stall;
Oxen lowing, little knowing,
Christ the Babe is Lord of all.
Swift are winging angels singing,
noels ringing, tidings bringing:
Christ the Babe is Lord of all.

Flocks were sleeping, shepherds keeping
vigil till the morning new
Saw the glory, heard the story,
tidings of a Gospel true.
Thus rejoicing, free from sorrow,
praises voicing, greet the morrow:
Christ the Babe was born for you.

This is a traditional Polish carol, and was translated into English by Edith M. Reed in 1921.

"Can Con" for Monday...

It's the Monday before Christmas, and I have saved one of the
very best bits of Serious Silliness for last.

As everyone up here in The Great White North knows, you've GOT TO include a certain amount of Canadian Content when you're broadcasting to a crowd, so here it is, people:

"The 12 Days of Christmas"
as sung by "The McKenzie Brothers":
Bob and Doug McKenzie

Beauty, eh?


Sunday, December 23, 2007

Join me?

Tomorrow is my favourite day of the entire year... Christmas Eve.

And no, it isn't the wonderful anticipation of Christmas Day, and all the good things to come, that makes December 24th the highlight of every season...

Each year, on December 24th, my family and I have always gathered 'round the radio (and now, the computer speakers!) to listen to the live broadcast of the ultimate celebration of the Christmas Season: The Service of Nine Lessons and Carols from King's College Chapel, in my father's "home-town" of Cambridge, England.

We have faithfully listened to every, single King's Carol Service that has been performed, for as long as I can remember. And before that, my father's family in Cambridge would engage in a fight-to-the-(near)-death over the two tickets to the Service that my grandfather was granted each year. I have never actually been fortunate enough to attend in person, but one of my fondest wishes is to do so, at least once in my lifetime. But, until that day arrives, I will be more than happy to tune in to National Public Radio's yearly live broadcast, at 10am (Eastern Standard Time).

In my heart, I will be "there" tomorrow morning. And, if you have enjoyed the musical advent calendar I have been posting for you every day this month, and would like to "join" me, listening to the beautiful words and music of Christmas, here is the link to NPR's website. All you have to do is adjust your time accordingly to coincide with 10am EST, and click on the link, to receive the FM stream. So many of the carols that I have chosen to share with you are ones that I first heard when they were included in the King's College Service. It is a magical hour-- one of great rejoicing, and of quiet reflection. And it puts me in the perfect frame of mind to "make" Christmas for my family.

I hope to "see" you all there-- I'll be thinking of you.

Wishing you all the very happiest of Christmases...

Love and blessings to you and your families,

Candygirlflies xo

December 23

Today, I give you two carols, both of which feature two of our most popular and beloved symbols of Christmas: holly and ivy.

The tradition of decorating the home with evergreens during winter is a truly ancient one. Since pagan times, evergreens have been valued for their ability to retain signs of life in winter-- even, in some instances, producing flowers and berries.

Early Christians displayed evergreen plants in their homes to symbolize everlasting life. Holly, ivy and evergreen herbs such as bay and rosemary were the most commonly used, all with symbolic meanings. Rosemary, for remembrance, and bay, for valour, are still well known. Holly and ivy were a particularly popular combination. The holly was traditionally thought to be "masculine", and the ivy "feminine", thus giving "stability to the home".

The music and most of the text was collected by Cecil Sharp, who heard a woman singing it in Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire, in about 1909. This carol is probably related to an older carol, "The Contest of the Ivy and the Holly", which depicted a contest between the traditional emblems of woman and man.

The Holly and the Ivy
sung by The Choir of King's College, Cambridge

The holly and the ivy,
When they are both full grown
Of all the trees that are in the wood
The holly bears the crown

O the rising of the sun
And the running of the deer
The playing of the merry organ
Sweet singing of the choir

The holly bears a blossom
As white as lily flower
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
To be our sweet Saviour...

The holly bears a berry
As red as any blood
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
To do poor sinners good...

The holly bears a prickle
As sharp as any thorn;
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
On Christmas Day in the morn...

The holly bears a bark
As bitter as any gall;
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
For to redeem us all...

"The Holly and the Ivy" takes a plant deeply entrenched in the pagan past and uses it to portray symbols of Christianity. Holly's "white as lily" flower in the second verse is an allusion to Christ's purity. In the third verse, the red color of holly's berry symbolizes Christ's blood. Holly's thorny "prickle" in the fourth verse is an allusion to the crown of thorns. And the bitter taste of holly's bark mentioned in the fifth verse could be a reference to the drink offered to Christ as he hung on the cross.

There are many other carols and songs that feature holly and ivy. Another one of my favourites is The Sans Day Carol, which originates from Gwennap, Cornwall. The title of the carol refers to St. Day, a Breton saint who had an early "cult" following in that part of England. It is a lovely compliment to the traditional "Holly and the Ivy", and uses much of the same symbolic imagery:

The Sans Day Carol
performed by The Clare College Singers

Now the holly has a berry as white as the milk
And Mary bore Jesus who was wrapped up in silk.
And Mary bore Jesus Christ our Saviour for to be

And the first tree in the greenwood it was the holly
Holly, holly and the first tree in the greenwood it was the holly

Now the Holly bears a berry as green as the grass
And Mary bore Jesus, who died on the cross.
And Mary bore Jesus Christ our Saviour for to be...

Now the Holly bears a berry as black as the coal
And Mary bore Jesus, who died for us all.
And Mary bore Jesus Christ our Saviour for to be...

Now the Holly bears a berry as blood it is red
Then trust we our Saviour who rose from the dead.
And Mary bore Jesus Christ our Saviour for to be...

Friday, December 21, 2007

December 22

"The Nativity"
by Federico Barocci (c. 1535-1612)

"The Nativity Carol"
by John Rutter, with The Cambridge Singers

The New Benylin Formula...

As I have been blogging ad nauseum for the past several weeks, our entire family has been ill... pretty much steadily, since just after Hallowe'en. We've managed to run the full gamut of ailments, from gastrointestinal eruptions, through strep and ear infections, right down to bronchitis.

The good news is (... and dare I tempt the fates, and actually put these words out there in the ether??!!) MOST of us are FINALLY feeling BETTER.

The bad news is, the one family member who is much improved, but still lingering in limbo, hacking and barking up a lung... is my dear husband.

And when I say hacking and barking, people, I truly mean it. In fact, there aren't enough picturesque and disgustingly descriptive words in the English language to adequately do justice to the flamboyant hacking and barking that The Husband has been doing.

Usually at night.

And, as all you women out there know, MOTHERS NEED SLEEP. Because, if mothers aren't rested and happy, well then, the rest of the family has no choice but to abandon all hope, and go straight to wrack and ruin.

The Husband has very kindly been sleeping in the spare bedroom... thus enabling Me, His Wife, and The Domestic Goddess, to get the few hours of sleep that I so desperately need-- especially at this intensely hectic time of year.

But it's not just the night-time that is the problem. It's the small issue of all the REST of our waking hours, too. After three-and-a-half weeks of explosive vocal eruptions (usually when I least expect it-- like, for example, when I'm writing, or taking something INTENSELY HOT out of the oven), all of his racketous "throat-clearing" is beginning to Get. On. My. Nerves.

And so, today I went shopping. I went shopping for ANY and EVERY cough medicine that we don't already have in our house. Because surely SOMETHING on the drugstore shelves will work to calm his throat and save my sanity... And it would be extremely helpful if we could discover this life-saving elixir before all the guests arrive for Christmas, and rapidly begin to wish that they could just get the hell out of our germ-infested house and go HOME.

My husband stood before the kitchen counter, where I had lined up the multitude of apothecary bottles for his perusal. He eyed them suspiciously:

Him: (waving a large spoon in my direction) Hey, so which one of these should I be taking, do you think?

Me: (looking up from my computer and sighing loudly) Well, Dearest, it depends on the degree of awfulness you are currently feeling, doesn't it? Figure out how you feel, then read the labels on the bottles, and choose the one that you think is right.

Him: (musing aloud) I dunno.... I've got this little tickle, and then it feels all choke-y, and then I (ERUPTS IN A SPASM OF COUGHING)

Me: (exasperated, but as sweetly as possible) Look. You can figure this out by yourself, can't you? I mean, in your head, without telling me all about it?? I know you've been sick. Trust me. I WANT you to feel better. I love you. But I also need to get some work done, and I can't concentrate.

Him: (ignoring me) I'm not sure... There are so MANY to CHOOSE from... Hmmmm.... THIS one says "dry cough", but then THIS one says "chest congestion". I have BOTH. Is there one here for BOTH???

Me: (thoroughly fed up, now) LOOK. Just PICK ONE. If you are having trouble, just go "eenie-meenie-miney-mo", and eventually you'll whittle it down to one that WORKS. It's NOT that difficult!! TRUST ME, if there had been a bottle with "For Bloody Annoying Neurotic Husbands" written on it, I would have bought THAT ONE. But, they didn't!! So just CHOOSE ONE , already!!

Oh, man. Wouldn't THAT be a dream...

Hey, if they've got special formulas for children, then how come they don't have medicines designed specifically for MEN?

December 21

"He'll Be Coming Down The Chimney"
with The Guy Lombardo Trio

It's the Final Day of School, everybody!!
Time to get that last-minute shopping done!!
Go, GO, GO!!!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Of Christmas Lists...

This afternoon, I finally sat down to finalize the menus for the holiday week, since the entire family will soon be landing on our doorstep for Christmas: my mother and father, my brother, my sister, her husband, and their two little boys.

I plan to do a massive grocery shop late on Saturday night-- I find it works best if I arrive at the store about an hour before closing time. Then, it's just the check-out clerks, the stock personnel, and ME. The peace that I enjoy, with my ipod firmly clamped in my ears, by FAR outweighs the slightly disturbing fact that I am the oldest person in the entire store-- not to mention the only Geek in town without "plans" on a Saturday night...

I thought for a moment, then began to write the grocery list:


And then I paused...

Because the fact that those were the FIRST THREE THINGS I came up with surely says a LOT about Christmas With My Family...

December 20

Dormi, Jesu!
(The Virgin's Cradle-Hymn)

Words by S. T. Coleridge, arranged by John Rutter
sung by the Choir of King's College, Cambridge

Dormi, Jesu! Mater ridet
Quae tam dulcem somnum videt,
Dormi, Jesu! blandule!

Si non dormis, Mater plorat,
Inter fila cantans orat,
Blande, veni, somnule.

Sleep, sweet babe! my cares beguiling:
Mother sits beside thee smiling;
Sleep, my darling, tenderly!

If thou sleep not, mother mourneth,
Singing as her wheel she turneth:
Come, soft slumber, balmily!

The lyrics of Dormi Jesu were taken from an original Latin verse found under an engraving by Hieronymus Wierix, titled "The Virgin Sewing While Angels Rock Her Son to Sleep". English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote a poetic version of the Latin verse, which he then published in Sibylline Leaves under the title The Virgin's Cradle-Hymn, in 1817.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A little Sondheim for The Wife...

The wonderful Carol Burnett singing "Not Getting Married" from the Stephen Sondheim Broadway extravaganza, "Putting It Together".

For The Husband...

by Ira Gershwin and George Gershwin, 1938
sung by Jessye Norman

It's very clear
Our love is here to stay
Not for a year
But ever and a day

The radio and the telephone and the movies that we know
May just be passing fancies, and in time may go
But oh my dear
Our love is here to stay
Together we're going a long, long way

In time the Rockies may crumble
Gibraltar may tumble
They're only made of clay
But our love is here to stay

Wet Wedding

Fifteen years ago today, it was pouring rain in Stratford, Ontario.

I know this, because I was all dressed up in a white gown and veil, with beautiful little gold shoes on my feet, waiting for my father to pull the car around to the front door of the house I'd grown up in... And, even with all my experience in theatrical costuming disaster-control, I had no FRIGGIN' idea how on earth I was going to make my Grand Entrance as "The Bride" at our historic Anglican church, without looking like a drowned rat.

It seemed to be the "finishing touch" on a string of days that had been fraught with near-disasters... "Stressors", I believe the professionals call them.

I was stressed all right. Everything seemed to be ass-backwards that week. To begin with, there had been an incredible (and unheard-of) snowfall in downtown Vancouver, British Columbia, where my then-fiance and I were living. My plane home was cancelled, and I arrived nearly two whole days late to help my mother tie up the loose ends of all the wedding plans.

One of the first details was the seemingly simple task of picking up the ticket package for our honeymoon at the local travel agent. Apparently, a ticket package that I could prove we had paid for, but that NONE of the agents seemed to know anything about. Yup, they had completely lost our file...

Then, off to the jeweller's to pick up our wedding bands-- which were perfect in every way, except that mine was about three times too big. The reason?? Apparently the jeweller who was to size it down didn't believe that the size "4" I had clearly requested was large enough to fit a grown woman. He figured I must have meant at LEAST a size "7". Me and my scrawny fingers...

Yes, there were indeed a multitude of little inconveniences that week, but I prided myself in remaining calm, and not losing my temper. That is, until I was denied a marriage licence at City Hall. Because, unbeknownst to me, 1992 was the year that the government decided to change the law. THAT year, BOTH members of the intended union were required to be physically present in the clerk's office, and able to sign all the paperwork. With witnesses. And MY groom-to-be was still in Vancouver, working, where he had to remain until 36 hours before the marriage actually took place.

I confess, when I was denied a marriage licence that day, I actually felt something go **SPROINGG!!** inside my head. I took a deep breath. And then, I lost it. I know for a fact that I frightened that poor girl standing behind the counter...

It took a priest to calm me down, in the end. Bless his heart to the highest heaven, our minister (who was to perform the wedding ceremony in three. days. time.) helped me to pull myself together, patted down my extremely ruffled feathers, and assured me that there WAS, INDEED an emergency telephone number for the "head office" in Thunder Bay, that could be used in just these sorts of extreme circumstances...

And even though I had stopped sobbing and shaking, I was still hysterical enough to tell my clergyman that licence or no licence, we were GOING AHEAD with The Wedding that Saturday. The Show Would Go On, and my "husband" and I WOULD USE those honeymoon tickets and reservations... If we had to get married again once we got home, in order to make it legal, well then, so be it.

Needless to say, our minister got on the phone. And apparently, he STAYED on the phone, until precisely twenty minutes before our ceremony took place. Wisely, he did not tell me about this until well AFTER it was all over...

It rained on my wedding day. And on the night of our rehearsal, too. My future husband and I walked through our parts on the wedding eve, listening to the torrential downpour pound on the roof of the church... and we sang the hymn that we had so carefully chosen, "Here Amid the Winter Snow".

Hah. Winter sludge, more like.

"Never mind!!" everyone told me. "It will be just FINE! You'll see!! They say that rain on the wedding day is GOOD LUCK!!"

We were lucky, all right. The honeymoon tickets had miraculously re-appeared. The rings were the right size, and our best man and maid-of-honour had been threatened with instantaneous death should the precious metal circlets be lost overnight-- particularly the minuscule size "4".

It looked like all systems were "go".

But I couldn't relax... I couldn't sleep.

After all of the rest of the family had gone off to bed, my brother discovered me sitting at the kitchen table, in the wee hours of the morning. He asked me what the matter was, and I replied that I just couldn't stop worrying about that first looooong walk down the aisle, with everyone looking at me. Would I trip? Would I cry?? Would I bolt for the front, and forget to walk in time to the music???

My darling brother had abandoned his university campus for the weekend, right at the tail end of his Christmas exams, not only to attend my wedding, but to serve as the organist (I'm telling you, people, that boy will do anything for his sister). It turned out, he had the key to the door of the church... and so, at one o'clock in the morning, we donned our rain gear and headed back there, so that he could run through my wedding "march" (the minuet from the opera, "Bernice"), and I could practise breathing deeply, smiling, and gliding down that loooong piece of blue carpeting.

By about 2am, we had everything pretty much down pat.

But before we headed home, he had one more "gift" for me-- a musical gesture that I'll never forget.

My brother sat at that beautiful pipe organ at the front of our church, pulled out all the stops and cranked up the volume as high as it would go... And let me tell you, people, "Bang! Bang! Maxwell's Silver Hammer" has never sounded better, not even when it was played by The Beatles, themselves.

Some Serious Silliness, to send me off happily into my newly married life.

Yes, it was raining.

But I was laughing.

December 19

I Wonder As I Wander
performed by The Cambridge Singers

I wonder as I wander out under the sky,
How Jesus the Savior did come for to die,
For poor orn'ry people like you and like I,
I wonder as I wander, ... out under the sky;

When Mary birthed Jesus 'twas in a cow's stall,
With wise men and farmers and shepherds and all,
And high from God's heaven a star's light did fall,
And the promise of the ages, ... they then did recall;

If Jesus had wanted for any wee thing,
A star in the sky or a bird on the wing,
Or all of God's angels in heaven to sing,
He surely could've had it... 'cause he was the King.

This carol is attributed to American folk singer John Jacob Niles. In his words:

" 'I Wonder As I Wander' grew out of three lines of music sung to me by a girl who called herself Annie Morgan. The Place was Murphy, North Carolina, and the time was July, 1933. The Morgan family, revivalists all, were about to be ejected by the police, having camped in the town square for some little time, cooking, washing, hanging their wash from the Confederate monument, and generally conducting themselves in such a way as to be considered a public nuisance. Preacher Morgan and his wife pled poverty; they had to hold one more meeting in order to buy enough gas to get out of town. It was then that Annie Morgan came out-- a tousled, unwashed blonde, and very lovely. She sang the first three lines of the verse of 'I Wonder As I Wander'. At twenty-five cents a performance, I tried to get her to sing all the song. After eight tries, all of which are carefully recorded in my notes, I had only three lines of verse, a garbled fragment of melodic material-- and a magnificent idea. With the writing of additional verses and the development of of the original melodic material, 'I Wonder As I Wander' came into being. I sang it for five years in my concerts before it caught on. Since then it has been sung by soloists and choral groups, wherever the English language is spoken or sung."

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

December 18

The Star Carol
by John Rutter, with The Cambridge Singers.

Sing this night, for a boy is born in Bethlehem,
Christ our Lord in a lowly manger lies;
Bring your gifts, come and worship at his cradle,
Hurry to Bethlehem and see the son of Mary!

See his star shining bright
In the sky this Christmas Night!
Follow me joyfully;
Hurry to Bethlehem and see the son of Mary!

Angels bright, come from heaven’s highest glory,
Bear the news with its message of good cheer:
“Sing, rejoice, for a King is come to save us,
Hurry to Bethlehem and see the son of Mary!”

See, he lies in his mother's tender keeping;
Jesus Christ in her loving arms asleep.
Shepherds poor come to worship and adore him,
Offer their humble gifts before the son of Mary.

Let us all pay our homage at the manger,
Sing his praise on this joyful Christmas Night;
Christ is come, bringing promises of salvation;
Hurry to Bethlehem and see the son of Mary!

Monday, December 17, 2007

December 17

It's Monday again, folks! Time for some more Serious Silliness...
In honour of Child Number Two, I present today's selection:

"All I Want for Christmas
is my Two Front Teeth"

with one of my FAVOURITE funny-men,
the one-and-only Danny Kaye.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

My favourite part of "White Christmas"...

With the splendiferous Danny Kaye, and Vera Ellen!

The best Christmas comic EVER:

Need I say more?!

December 16

" The Adoration of the Magi" by Eugenio Cajes (1620s)

"Who Comes This Night"
sung by James Taylor

Saturday, December 15, 2007

December 15

"White Christmas"
sung by Louis Armstrong

There is just over a week left 'till Christmas, and in this part of Ontario, Canada, we are all hunkering down and preparing for another big blast of winter. According to weather forecasts, we are expecting up to 25 cm of White Stuff over the next 48 hours, accompanied by your usual howling winds, and treacherous driving conditions...

Unfortunately, the threat of the impending storm has put the kibosh on our fifteenth wedding anniversary plans. The grandparental babysitting team has (wisely) decided not to make the two-hour trip in to stay with us, so that my husband and I can go out for a leisurely afternoon of shopping, followed by a celebratory dinner.

Ah, well. Never mind. We will hunker down here at home in front of the fireplace, and have a less-formal, more relaxed evening, instead.

And so, here is the incomparable Louis Armstrong, singing "White Christmas"-- or, should I say, "White Chrizz-mizz".

This is a lovely change from the familiar Bing Crosby version. It's a wonderfully intimate, "smoochy" rendition, so get a hold of the person you love the best, dim the lights, and take a turn or two around the kitchen floor!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Charles M. Schulz would be proud...

From this week's "Betty" comic strip:

Because "THAT'S what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown..."

We just need to be damned good and sure
that our children know it, too.

December 14

"Carol of the Bells"
sung by the St. Olaf Choir

Hark how the bells,
sweet silver bells,
all seem to say,
throw cares away

Christmas is here,
bringing good cheer,
to young and old,
meek and the bold,

Ding dong ding dong
that is their song
with joyful ring
all caroling

One seems to hear
words of good cheer
from everywhere
filling the air

Oh how they pound,
raising the sound,
o'er hill and dale,
telling their tale,

Gaily they ring
while people sing
songs of good cheer,
Christmas is here,

Merry, merry, merry, merry Christmas,
Merry, merry, merry, merry Christmas,

On on they send,
on without end,
their joyful tone
to every home

Ding dong ding ding... dong!

"Carol of the Bells" (also known as the "Ukrainian Bell Carol") is a Christmas carol adapted from the Ukrainian "Shchedryk" by Mykola Dmytrovych Leontovych, which was first performed in December 1916 by students at Kiev University.

"Shchedryk" tells the tale of a swallow flying into a household to proclaim the plentiful year that the family will have. The title is derived from the Ukrainian word for "bountiful." In the Ukraine, the song is sung on the eve of the Julian New Year.

The English language lyrics were written in 1936 by Peter Wilhousky. The song reminded Wilhousky of beautiful ringing bells and he captured that imagery in his lyrics.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

December 13

"I Saw Three Ships"
Sung by The Choir of Clare College, Cambridge.

This is a lovely arrangement of the traditional carol, which dates back to 17th Century England (most likely Derbyshire-- where my father was born. Not in the 17th Century, however... He would want me to point that out).

There are many versions of the carol, and it is often found in books of nursery rhymes. The lyrics used here can be found in "Christmas Carols, An­cient and Mo­dern", by William Sandys, published in 1833.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

December 12

"Joys Seven"

arranged by Stephen Cleobury,
and performed by The Choir of King's College, Cambridge.

December 11

"The Huron Carol"
performed by The Elora Festival Singers

'Twas in the moon of wintertime
when all the birds had fled
That mighty Gitchi Manitou
sent angel choirs instead;
Before their light the stars grew dim
and wondering hunters heard the hymn:
"Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born:
In excelsis gloria!"

Within a lodge of broken bark
the tender babe was found;
A ragged robe of rabbit skin
enwrapped his beauty round
But as the hunter braves drew nigh
the angel song rang loud and high:
"Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born:
In excelsis gloria!"

The earliest moon of wintertime
is not so round and fair
As was the ring of glory on
the helpless infant there.
The chiefs from far before him knelt
with gifts of fox and beaver pelt:
"Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born:
In excelsis gloria!"

O children of the forest free,
O seed of Manitou
The holy Child of earth and heaven
is born today for you.
Come kneel before the radiant boy
who brings you beauty peace and joy:
"Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born:
In excelsis gloria!"

The words of this Christmas hymn were written in 1643, by Jean de Brébeuf, who was a Jesuit missionary at Sainte-Marie among the Hurons, near Midland, Ontario, Canada. Brébeuf wanted to tell the Christmas story in a way the Hurons could understand, so he composed this Christmas carol, using the native language of the Huron/Wendat people. The song's original Huron title is "Jesous Ahatonhia" ("Jesus, he is born"). The melody is a traditional French folk song, "Une Jeune Pucelle" ("A Young Maid"). The essential message - of the miracle and promise of new life and new hope in the midst of dark and bitter winter - was very "acceptable" to the Huron people, and is one we can all share today.

Even after Jean de Brebeuf's death in 1649 at the hands of the rival Iroquois, the destruction of the Sainte-Marie settlement, and the dispersal of the remaining Huron people, the survivors of the brutal attack still celebrated the nativity each winter and kept the carol alive through the oral tradition. Almost 100 years later, another Jesuit priest heard the carol and wrote it down. It was translated into French under the title "Jesus est ne." In 1926, poet J.E. Middleton wrote an English interpretation that is widely known today.

I highly recommend the spectacular book, "The Huron Carol", which is beautifully illustrated by Frances Tyrrell. It includes the music for The Huron Carol, the only surviving verse in the old Huron language, and two verses from the eighteenth century French translation.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Little Cat

On Friday night after dinner, I sat in my kitchen and composed this piece... It wasn't meant to be posted, but it turns out, I hit the "publish" button instead of the "save", and so it appeared on my blog for a short time. When I realized my error, I took it down, but not before Emily had had a chance to read it!! Thank you, Emily, for your comment this morning-- I'm so glad you enjoyed hearing about Little Cat, and the baking. Here it is again, because I am so flattered that you asked.


This week, I finally found a few moments to myself, and sat down to take a look at the upcoming events on our family’s calendar.

It was more than a SLIGHT shock to my system, when I realized that Christmas is just about two weeks away.


There’s still decorating to do!! Shopping to finish!!


So, I finally started: today was stollen day.

My family has our own special recipe for stollen bread... and I HAVE to say “bread” after I use the word stollen, because this is not exactly an authentic German stollen. It is a beautiful, light, fruit-riddled Christmas bread, that was undoubtedly inspired by German stollen. All throughout my childhood, my mother made it for us. And my grandmother made it for her… and my great-grandmother before her. I am so pleased and proud to carry on the tradition, and can’t even begin to tell you the immense waves of comfort that wash over me, when I smell the scent of a fresh slice, toasting in the oven, just waiting to be smothered in melted butter… People, to me, the smell of my family’s stollen bread means Christmas.

I haven’t always baked this bread for my own children… I confess, I relied on my mother to bake the yearly batches of stollen bread for our family, right up until about five years ago. I can time the date of my “stollen initiation” to the Christmas that Child Number Two was just one year old.

That Christmas, the last of our family’s Very Important Cats had fallen ill… and, according to the daily updates from “The Family Seat” in Stratford, it was going to be our beloved, elderly furry friend’s last struggle.

My father always referred to her as “The Little Cat”. The Little Cat had come to us as a tiny kitten, with her eyes barely open: painful evidence that she was far too young to be taken from her mother in the first place. But MY mother took one look at her in that pet store, and saw that she was suffering from mites and fleas and any other number of illnesses… and adopted the tiny little runty thing on the spot. Before long, The Little Cat had grown in all directions, and expanded to the size of a tabby-coloured football.

She had an absolutely delightful temperament, and was, for nearly two decades, my mother’s firm companion. They would sit together every afternoon, my mother and The Little Cat, each on their own chair at the kitchen table, “having tea”. Acutally, it was my MOTHER who was having tea and crackers-and-cheese, and The Little Cat was keeping her company. My mother would talk gently to her, and The Little Cat would “meow” her soft responses. Every now and then, she was given a tidbit of cheese… But, it was AFTER the “formal” tea that Little Cat would receive her treat. My mother would turn her back on the tea table, and Little Cat would reeeeeaaaach up (as soon as she was certain the coast was clear), delicately dip her paw into the tiny milk jug, then lick it clean. She was always discreet, always a “lady” about it, and rarely left any mess as evidence of her crime. When The Little Cat had had her fill, my mother would quietly sterilize the jug.

My father, of course, pretended to be above all of our cat “nonsense”. In spite of having grown up with cats himself, and having once entertained the idea of becoming a veterinarian, he loudly “disapproved” of his family’s cat-cuddling adoration. However, on more occasions than I care to mention here, I caught him talking to our cats and giving them loving pats on the head, when he thought no-one was looking. I understand from my mother that once we three kids left home, it was HIS lap that The Little Cat chose to settle down on, once the evening meal was over.

My parents have always been stiff-upper-lip kind of people. They are both intelligent, classy, generous to a fault, and compassionate. However, they have never been what I would call “overly-emotional”. They have both, in their own lives, weathered a few storms… But I think part of what got them through a lot of difficulties, was that they were able to somehow keep their feelings from spilling out into the open. They seemed to be able to achieve a kind of “distance” from whatever was troubling, and somehow managed to “rise above it”. Perhaps it was their medical training that helped to hone this skill. I’ve no doubt that they shared their feelings and leaned on one another, in times of great stress. However, they always appeared as Pillars of Strength for their children. Through the entire course of my childhood, I can never remember them ever wavering once—not even for a moment.

That Christmas that Little Cat was sick, I dressed my two little girls up in matching outfits, and my husband and I took them to have their photograph taken with Santa Claus. The local mall was crowded that night, and we were in the middle of a tremendously long lineup…

My cell phone rang, and when I saw that it was my parent’s phone number, I answered the call. When I heard my mother’s voice, I knew that the worst had happened.

“We took her to the vet,” she said, “and… and we decided it was best that she be put to sleep. We couldn’t let her suffer…”

And then, for the first time in my life, I heard my mother’s voice crack.

It was a terrible moment.

Once our very short conversation was over, I turned to my husband, and told him the news.

“I… I need to go Home.”

“We can’t go home. We're in a line up! The girlies want to see Santa!”

“Okay, right then, I’m going to take the kids, and go Home first thing tomorrow.”

“You can’t go tomorrow! We’re supposed to go to MY mother's place for dinner tomorrow!! What am I supposed to tell the folks???”

“Tell them… tell them that my mum’s best friend has just passed away, and that the kids and I need to be with her. You don’t need to tell them that her best friend was our Little Cat.”

The next day, my sister, who was heavily pregnant with her first child and extremely hormonal at the time, came north on the train to meet us. We met her at the station, and drove the rest of the way to Stratford together.

She squeezed into the front seat of my car, looked at me, and burst into tears:

“This is a Family Crisis, isn’t it?” she sobbed.

“Well, if it isn’t, I don’t want to see one,” I replied grimly.

My parents were in sore need of a visit that day, but we could tell that their minds were elsewhere, most of that morning. So, I decided to try and get them both “back on track” as quickly as possible. There was no sign of a Christmas tree in the house, and baking had yet to be started.

First, I announced that I would be going out to fetch a fresh tree, which we would then decorate. My father, ever the one to be In Control of things, began to dither about whether it wouldn’t just be BETTER to wait a bit, and perhaps drag out the old artificial tree they had in storage, closer to the day…

“Dad,” I said gently, “You can be an old phart about this if you want to, or you can come with me and help me choose. But you MAY NOT come with me, AND be a phart. Please, please put your coat on, and come.”

Once the tree was up, and the children and my sister were decorating it, I turned to my mother.

“Mum, we should bake the stollen,” I said, propelling her towards the kitchen. “Please, show me how.”

And so, we spent the rest of the afternoon together, carefully weighing all of the candied fruit and nuts, proofing yeast, mixing and kneading and pounding down dough… It takes quite a while to accomplish this bread, but once it’s out of the oven, and you are slathering the still-warm tops of the loaves with butter, then sprinkling them with drifts of sugar… Let me tell you, all of the effort becomes worth it. The slow-and-steady process, handed down through the generations of my family, was a tremendous comfort to all of us that day.

Tonight, my kitchen looks like a bit of a disaster area… There is a thick dusting of flour across all of the surfaces, and tiny squashed currants litter the floor… But my six loaves of stollen bread are puffing up into gigantic beauties over there, in the warmest corner of the counter, by the stove, and are nearly ready to be placed in the oven.

Late on Friday night, another beloved family pet passed away. I cuddled Cookie the guinea pig in my arms as she died, and later thought about how strange it was that I had been "thinking up" the Little Cat post in my head that afternoon, as I baked stollen bread.

It's been a difficult couple of days for the girlies and me. Lots of complicated questions asked, and many turbulent emotions to deal with. Death is never an easy thing, and this is a "first experience" for my children, and for me as a mother. It has been a hard lesson to learn, but it's an important one.

The wonderful experience of having pets, caring for them, and loving them, is something that every human should know. It enriches our lives so tremendously; it makes us better people. The joy that they bring us makes enduring the pain of having to say goodbye to them, when the time ultimately comes, worth it.

December 10

It's Monday!

Today's selection is one that I WISH my siblings and I had been able to listen to when we were children... It's perfect.

It's Canada's own Barenaked Ladies, and their classic rendition of "Jingle Bells".

Sunday, December 9, 2007

December 9

Adoration of the Shepherds, by Gerard van Honthorst

Today's music is "The Shepherd's Pipe Carol",
performed by the choral ensemble, Polyphony.

Saturday, December 8, 2007


Ten Good Things About Cookie

1. Her fluffy bum. Her fur got so long that we had to give her haircuts!

2. We liked it when she would snuggle up with Cupcake in their little igloo when they were both smaller.

3. She could always cheer us up when she ran and jumped around the cage and did the Cookie Crazies.

4. We liked it when she would push the pile of timothy hay around with her nose, and then lie down in it.

5. She loved to go outside on the grass in the summer, and mow the lawn. She always ate the grass right down to the roots!

6. When she climbed up on my tummy and kissed my cheek.

7. She always talked to Cupcake, and we liked listening to their squeaks.

8. How she climbed up the bars in the cage to look at us, and we could see her teeth. She looked like she was smiling.

9. She always squeaked for her dinner, and when she heard someone come in through the back door.

10. We liked it when Georgia the cat would snuggle up next to us when we were holding Cookie. Georgia was never mean, and they liked each other.

Cookie the Guinea Pig
November, 2003-December 7, 2007

Loved by three little girls…
And their mummy, too.

For anyone out there who is dealing with a child’s grief upon the loss of a pet, may I humbly recommend Judith Viorst’s wonderful book, “The Tenth Good Thing About Barney”, which my dear friend, Travellor, referred me to, late last night.

December 8

Sarah McLachlan singing, "Christmastime is Here"
... accompanied by Diana Krall on piano.

Friday, December 7, 2007

December 7

I chose this selection upon the request of Child Number Three...
It's her new "fave-wit" Christmas song!

Dear old Gene Autry singing, "Up on the Housetop".

Enjoy, kiddies...

Thursday, December 6, 2007

COULD do...

This afternoon, a good friend and her three kids dropped by for a visit and a cup of tea after school. The mummies were feeling a bit "weakened"... I'm just getting over this nasty cough, and now my friend is beginning to feel croaky and crummy... Hot tea (preferably laced with Glenfiddich) was DEFINITELY in order.

The three eldest children, ages 11, 10 and 7, disappeared downstairs to the game room, to play a rollicking game of air hockey. The younger three, aged 6, 4 and 3, tootled downstairs for a time, as well, to play with the massive train set that The Husband had spread out on the floor last weekend.

Sadly, our moment of Blessed Silence was quickly broken, when the tiny trio re-appeared in the kitchen, claiming "boredom". I set them up next to us at the table with pencils and paper, scissors, stickers, glue, stamps and a stamp-pad, hoping that they would play "cwafts" for awhile. But, typical of most tired, slightly-cranky children, the just would NOT settle down to their task.

My friend, who is an absolute gem, and a spectacular mother, grabbed a stray piece of string, tied it in a big loop, and began showing the little girls her considerable skill at "Cat's Cradle".

Her tricks were quite mesmerizing, actually. The girlies were riveted...

... right up until the time came for her to show the children how she could intricately wind the string around her fingers, and have a "volunteer" pull on the tail end... The string was SUPPOSED to "magically" unwind from her fingers, and leave the audience awe-struck.

She tried once, with no success.

She tried a second time, and STILL, the damned string would. not. budge.

The third time, she beckoned to my own Wee Three to be the "assistant".

My littlest girlie climbed down from her perch at the table, where she had been half-heartedly cutting-and-pasting pictures from the Sears Christmas Wish Book...

And when, a THIRD time, the string WOULD NOT CO-OPERATE, she looked my friend RIGHT in the eye, brandished her little blue safety scissors, and said:

"OR... I could just SNNNIP IT!!"

December 6

"The Candlelight Carol"

music by John Rutter, and performed by The Cambridge Singers.

How do you capture the wind on the water?
How do you count all the stars in the sky?
How can you measure the love of a mother,
Or how can your write down a baby's first cry?

Candlelight, angel light, firelight and star glow
Shine on his cradle till breaking of dawn,
Gloria, gloria in excelsis Deo!
Angels are singing; the Christ Child is born.

Shepherds and wise men will kneel and adore him,
Seraphim round him their vigil will keep;
Nations proclaim him their Lord and their Savior,
But Mary will hold him and sing him to sleep.

Candlelight, angel light, firelight and star glow,
Shine on his cradle till breaking of dawn,
Gloria, gloria in excelsis Deo!
Angels are singing; the Christ Child is born.

Find Him at Bethlehem laid in a manger:
Christ our Redeemer asleep in the hay.
Godhead incarnate and hope for salvation:
A child with his mother that first Christmas Day.

Candlelight, angel light, firelight and star glow,
Shine on his cradle till breaking of dawn,
Gloria, gloria in excelsis Deo!
Angels are singing; the Christ Child is born!

Just GUESS what Child Number Two wants for Christmas this year...

Shoot. Me. Now.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

December 5

Because this week in Canada, there has been snow falling,
from coast, to coast, to coast!

Harry Connick Jr., singing "Sleigh Ride".

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Do the best you can, with what you've got...

When my husband and I met, I was a nearly completely inexperienced cook. Not absolutely completely inexperienced, if you consider throwing together "student fare" to be "cooking". My university roommate and I worked wonders with a small appliance called a "Hot-pot Express"… It was basically a glorified, wide-topped kettle that you could cook soups and things in, as well as boiling water. We were connoisseurs of Kraft Dinner. Regular experts with a package of Ramen noodles… But to tell the truth, we didn’t actually eat a whole lot during those years. My student days were "lean years" in more ways than one. Truth be told, I worked so damn hard, half the time I forgot to grocery shop, let alone eat.

So, when my then-fiance and I moved in together, I really didn’t have much of a clue what I was doing in the kitchen. We had re-located to Vancouver-- he with a brand new job, me having given up any and all professional work to follow him and "start fresh". I spent my days, in our small apartment at the tippy-top of an office building in a nastier part of the downtown core, wondering what on earth I was going to do with my life… and what the hell I was going to make for dinner.

I made a lot of mistakes in those early days. Just ask The Husband. When I say "a lot", I mean, A LOT. In the very beginning, the main error I made was that I honestly thought I could learn to cook well, simply by studying recipe books. I poured over the classic, "The Joy of Cooking", for HOURS… but the fact of the matter was, when the authors would instruct me to perform basic tasks, like "truss the chicken", I didn’t have any smacking idea what Ms.Rombauer and her cronies were talking about. Those were the bad old days BEFORE the Internet, people... I couldn’t just whip over to the computer and Google the word "truss". Actually, come to think of it, had I looked up the word "truss" on Google, I probably would have discovered a LOT more than I had bargained for…

The months of "Joy" in MY kitchen were hardly joyful. They were frustrating. And wasteful. And, more often than not, quite nauseating. On especially disgusting occasions, like, for instance, the night I made a meatloaf that was riddled with FAR too much rosemary, and turned out as flat as a pancake, my beloved would catch my eye across the candlelit table and whisper huskily, "It’s a White Spot night, Sweetie…" And we would grab our coats, bolt for the door, and whip over to our favourite family restaurant, "The White Spot". The White Spot and their hearty, down-home cooking undoubtedly kept us from starving for the better part of a year or two.

The "Fanny Farmer" cookbook was a revelation to me. FINALLY, after months and months of attempting recipes that were clearly beyond my meagre skills, I found an enormous tome that was chock-full of instructions on how to accomplish the very simplest culinary task. My cooking slowly began to improve. The spark of real enthusiasm was ignited.

And then, I discovered James.

James Barber. Better known as “The Urban Peasant”.

James had a television program that aired nearly every day. And from the first time I saw his beautiful, Santa Claus-like beard, and voluptuous physique (that clearly belied the fact that he was enamored of good food), I was hooked. Because he not only SHOWED ME how to prepare simple, delicious, healthy meals, he showed me how to do it with FOOD THAT I ACTUALLY HAD IN MY FRIDGE. And for those ingredients that most people might not keep around the kitchen, he listed ideas for SUBSTITUTIONS!!

One of the things I will never forget about his show, is the way he would stop in the middle of his preparations, his twinkly eyes locking on his camera-audience. He’d smile at "me", and say, “Remember! You do the best you can, with what you’ve got!!” I was pretty certain that he wasn’t simply referring to whatever food we happened to have in our kitchen at the time… I believed that he was talking about my rudimentary skills, too. James gave me confidence. And, over time, he gave me skill, as well.

James inspired me to taste food as I was cooking it, to be imaginative, and to experiment with recipes. In his opening segment, there was footage of him snooping through the produce department of our magnificent Granville Market, simply for pleasure… and so, I began doing the same. What fun it was to do my weekly shopping in a place that excited the senses, instead of slogging through a dreary supermarket! Imagine my delight, when I actually SPOTTED him at Granville Island once or twice, meandering through the stalls that were laden with fruits and vegetables and baking and cuts of beautiful meat and fish... I was never brave enough to approach him-- he always seemed far too enraptured and "in his own world" to be interrupted by the likes of ME…

One day, however, I actually got to meet him. It was in a completely different environment, however. It was a few years later, once I had re-started my theatre career, and was up-grading my skills in my spare time, by apprenticing with an old-school milliner in a beautiful hat studio in Gastown.

I was working alone that afternoon, and was sitting at the sewing machine, carefully stitching away, while the shop was empty. Then, suddenly, James Barber, in all his benevolent glory, strode into the shop with his lady-friend, and began leisurely admiring all the hats that were on display. He had a very good eye for design, and for style… After a time, he asked me if the lady could try on one of the enormous, wide-brimmed hats-- I remember it had a most beautiful long black feather on it, that stretched out and peeped over the edge of the brim, the very tips of the frond draping slightly over the wearer’s eyes. I helped her to position the hat on her head, and James had been exactly right in his choice-- the style was charming on her. Even more charming, he led her by the hand to my work-table, had her sit down in my chair, and said softly, “Now. Just imagine… you wearing this hat, and us, together, eating an absolutely splendid meal…”

He bought her the beautiful hat. She blushed and beamed…

And I now have a lovely memory of a man who “kept me company” during those early years, when I was feeling quite lost and unsure of myself.

I was deeply saddened to see his obituary in The Globe and Mail this morning… James Barber died of natural causes, at the age of 84, at his farm on Vancouver Island. But what lightened my heart was when I read that he was found sitting at the dining room table, an open cook book in front of him, with a pot of chicken stock on the stove.

He died happy. What more could one ask for than that?

Thank you, James. You definitely did your very best, with everything you had.

December 4

"Santa Claus is Comin' To Town"

sung by (sweet baby) James Taylor!

Monday, December 3, 2007

December 3

Because I think we need to do the
Seriously Silly Music on Mondays...

Here are The Muppets, with "Christmas is Coming".

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