Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Thank Heaven.

This piece is somewhat of a "theme song" in our household...

Today is the birthday of one of my favourite novelists, Colette, who was the author of the story upon which one of the greatest films of all time was based. "Gigi" was released in 1958, and starred the gorgeous Leslie Caron, Louis Jourdan, Hermione Gingold, and the one-and-only Maurice Chevalier. Among the many honours and awards "Gigi" received, it earned nine Oscars in 1959. If you haven't had the great good fortune to view this luminous, uplifting film yourself, I simply cannot recommend it highly enough.

File this one under "Ab-so-lute-ly Typical"...

I know exactly how the girlies and I will be spending this snowy, blowy afternoon!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Back soon...

We are enjoying the "boredom" here, actually.
After last year, I'll take boring any day...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

May it be so. For all of us.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends - hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism - these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility - a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

... the Change that we seek.

"What Washington needs is adult supervision."
--Barack Obama

Congratulations, America. And God bless you, Mr. President.

I think... I hope and pray... We are finally in the right hands.

Monday, January 19, 2009

How I will always remember him...

Mr Bush? You will not be missed.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

File this under "I. CAN'T. WAIT."


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Found today, in the garden...

Buddy, if you're going to borrow my Noro Scarf...

The least you can do is shovel my driveway.

Dig in, Frosty...

Monday, January 12, 2009

Welcome to Monday.


Sunday, January 11, 2009

W. W. B. A. D???

What would Barbara Ann do???

Yesterday, I went out to purchase new figure skates.

Confession time, here: and those of you who have strong, pre-conceived opinions about what a Good Canadian should (or should not) be... you're probably not going to like this.

I haven't been on skates since I was a teenager. Well, in my early twenties, anyway. Which is more years ago than I care to count.

I know, I know... there are even TELEVISION COMMERCIALS on our Canuck stations extolling the virtues of skating-- especially skating together, as a family... preferably on one of our "outdoor rinks" (in most case, a local pond or lake... and in our case, THE DRIVEWAY...)

Hey! It's fun!! It's inexpensive!!! It's GOOD FOR YOU!!!!

Well, I buy all that. In fact, I was a fairly decent skater when I was a kid, forced into lessons by my wise and well-meaning parents. Several times a week, I was crammed into layers of winter gear, laced into a tiny pair of scuffed-up, second-hand figure skates, and pushed through the door in the boards of the Stratford Arena, down on Riverside Drive. There I would spend hour after hour, patiently waiting for an instructor to find the time to tell me what the heck I was doing wrong. My legs became horribly tangled-up during cross-overs (I was crossing-over with waaaaay too much enthusiasm, and losing my balance). I could not transfer my weight between two feet and succeed in propelling myself backwards along the ice, with all my fellow skaters-in-training (I wasn't sticking my bottom out far enough, and as it turns out, it's impossible to skate backwards if your posture resembles a ram-rod).

It took perseverance, that's for sure. Not to mention Buns of Steel, to absorb all of the falling-down I did.

But, I performed in one skating exhibition, and somehow managed to earn several badges, which still sit nestled in a corner of my jewellery box.

Unfortunately, however, I just couldn't get past one thing about skating.


No matter how fast I skated, or how hard I worked at improving.

I got cold.

I froze, in fact. I can still remember that awful feeling of standing on the ice, waiting and waiting for it to be MY TURN with the instructor, while my toes turned to ten little popsicles inside my skate boots.

I think it was 'round about that time that my sights turned to a "career" in ballet. Which was performed INDOORS. Under HOT LIGHTS.

'Nuff said.

That didn't stop me from admiring those who COULD skate, though. I remember watching all the major figure skating championships on television, sitting cosily on the couch with my mother. Indeed, "The Battle of the Brians" was a year I'll never forget. That, and the magnificent Olympic silver medal performance of our own Elizabeth Manley, right here on Canadian ice...

My mother's enthusiasm for the sport was undeniably contagious. Still is. And it was she who first introduced me to the wonder that is Barbara Ann Scott.

Barbara Ann Scott began skating at a very young age with the Minto Skating Club of Ottawa, Ontario. She was only eleven years old when she won her first Canadian national junior title. Two years later in 1942, when she was thirteen, she became the first female to ever land a double lutz in competition. From 1945 to 1948, she won the North American Figure Skating Championships. In 1947, she became the first North American to win the European and World Figure Skating Championships, making her a Canadian national heroine. After her great victories, her hometown presented her with a new convertible as a gift, but she had to turn it down in order to retain her amateur status so as to be able to compete in the 1948 Winter Olympics in St. Moritz, Switzerland. At those Winter Games, she became the first Canadian to win the figure skating gold medal.

My mother followed Barbara Ann's career with zeal. She had the time to. As a young girl, she was bedridden for nearly a year with Rheumatic Fever, an illness that we seldom hear about now that antibiotics have become a standard course of treatment for strep infections. Not only did my mother comb newspapers for any and all tidbits of information about her heroine, she also became the proud owner of one of the "Eatons Beauty Dolls" that were made in Barbara Ann's likeness.

Oh, how I admired that doll: her lovely, lacy costume with the feathers and frills around the hem, the tiny, perfect teeth, and the weeny pair of skates on her feet... She was placed behind glass in a case in my bedroom when I was young-- and very occasionally, I was allowed to hold her gently in my arms. My mother's fastidious care of the doll has kept her in perfect condition all these years, and I wept when she lovingly presented it as a very special gift to my eldest daughter on her tenth birthday.

Once again, the Barbara Ann doll sits in my bedroom on a high shelf, to keep it safe from little hands... And I wondered what on EARTH Barbara Ann, herself, would have thought if she could have seen the figure skates that I purchased yesterday.

We set out for Canadian Tire, the Mecca of CCM products in our little town... The two eldest girlies were bought beautiful skates with white boots-- the very kind I had worn as a child, and craved to have them perfect and unscathed by black scuffs and blade scratches... Wee Three was bought the tiniest little pair of hockey skates you've ever seen, her father reasoning that skates without toe-picks would be easier for her to learn on.

Then it was my turn. But, unfortunately, because we are somewhat late about visiting the January Sales this year, there were no white boots left that fit this old girl's feet. Pretty amazing, considering I take a whopping size nine-and-a-half... I nearly gave up, but the girlies protested loudly. They want to skate as a FAMILY, without Mother sitting up in the stands with her knitting (hey, I need to keep WARM, remember???!)

So I ventured a little further into the Canadian Tire stock... And I was somewhat shocked to come up with a pair of THESE:

I have NEVER seen figure skates like this before in my entire life. And I'll bet Barbara Ann hasn't, either. They are made by Reebok, and tighten up using a new-fangled hydraulic system-- with the turn of a button, tiny metal threads pull tight around my instep and ankle, automatically adjusting to produce a perfect fit.

Best of all, though?

THEY'RE INSULATED. For optimal foot-warmth.

My tootsies have never felt this comfortable in a pair of skates... And even though the boots are a little stiff, and my ankle can't bend quite the way it used to in my old boots... It doesn't matter one whit.

I'll be with my girlies, out there on the ice. I'll be warm.

And, I sure as shootin' don't think I'll be attempting to land any double-lutzes any time soon.

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Stratford Adventure

This is the film we were shown repeatedly during our school years, to teach us some of the history of our home-town of Stratford, Ontario.

Even after all these years... I feel such pride to have been a tiny part of it all.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

A Life Lesson we never grow out of...

Although, by middle age, I have the feeling that indulging in too many Christmas Treats might have something to do with the not-being-able-to-reach-one's-feet-thing, too...


(Exit, CGF, as she straggles off to shovel the driveway. Again.)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Well, there's that, too...

Twelfth Night is past, and all of the Christmas paraphernalia has finally been put away for another year. I spent a significant chunk of this week de-frocking the Christmas tree, and carefully re-packaging all of the delicate ornaments that I have collected over the course of our family's history... All that remains today is to finish up the actual "cleaning"-- sweeping up all of the glittery dust, removing the pine-sap marks from the ceiling in the living room (??!), and vacuuming the endless, ENDLESS trails of tree needles from the carpets, the floors, and all those remote little hard-to-reach corners of the house that would seem to be the most ridiculously unlikely places for Christmas Crapola to have collected.

In order to find the proper inspiration I needed to stir my weary stumps and break out the ancient, over-used monstrosity we call a vacuum cleaner (along with all its frightening attachment accessories), I turned to my music collection. When it comes to heavy-duty housework, I usually choose something loud and raucous-- generally of the Aerosmith or ACDC variety-- to get myself moving. But not today, however. Today, I needed something light and airy, to match the mood created by the enormous, lacy snowflakes that have been descending outside my window all morning...

Not the "Snowflakes" from "The Nutcracker", however. Too typical. Too overplayed during the holidays.


Instead, I chose the Scherzo from Felix Mendelssohn's exquisite ballet score for "A Midsummer Night's Dream".

The first few delicate notes rang out, but before I was able to reach the broom closet, Wee Three skidded, top-speed, into the kitchen, froze for a moment in the middle of the floor as she listened... and then rose up onto her tippy-tippy toes.

I watched, entranced, as my littlest girlie moved to the music, clearly enraptured by what she was hearing. Faster and faster she whirled and twirled to the beautiful melody, occasionally leaping into the air as she spun, her whole face lit up with the joy of it all.

I was suffused with delight as I watched, and thought of how wonderful it would be if one of my children could realize the dream I once had, to excel in the art of classical dance. Of what a gift it would be, to be able to interpret the beauty of music in movement, and bring stories to life on the stage.

"Oh, my sweetie!" I exclaimed as the piece ended, and my wee girl finally paused, laughing and gasping for breath.

"That was BEAUTIFUL! Isn't it fantastic, that feeling you get when you just can't help dancing to the music??! Did you HEAR the little fairies flitting about in the forest? And the donkey braying, hee-HAWWW, hee-HAWW... That music tells the story of a play by Shakespeare-- a beautiful, funny story... I could just see you acting it out a little bit! Were you pretending to be like Titania, the Queen of the Fairies?"

Wee Three stopped laughing, and gave me an enormous hug-around-the-knees.

"NOPE!" she called, as she skipped out of the room, "I just like spinning awound and making mysewf really, really DIZZY!"


There's that, too, I guess...

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Lord help the sister...

We were about halfway through breakfast this morning when I glanced over at my eldest daughter, who had clearly dressed for school with special care. Christmas has come and gone, and she has been looking especially swish of late, courtesy of my extremely generous mother, who loves nothing better than to dress her granddaughters up to the nines at every opportunity.

Something else caught my eye, though-- something glittery. I noticed that she was wearing a fine gold chain around her neck, that was strung with tiny seed pearls.

Mother: (admiringly) Hey, looking GOOD today! VERY nice. You are certainly turning into quite the Young Lady these days... Where did that pretty little necklace come from?

Child Number One: (fluttering her long eyelashes and looking very pleased with herself) Thanks. Grandma and I bought the clothes, and then Auntie gave me the jewellery... I thought it would all go well together.

Child Number Two: (gleefully, unable to resist) Yeah. It goes ESPECIALLY well with that big ZIT on your FOREHEAD.

To her great credit, Child Number One did not attempt to flatten her younger sister with one punch... Instead, she sighed heavily, and with a shake of her head, returned her attention to the peanut-butter-toast on the plate in front of her.

Mother: (softly, to her long-suffering eldest daughter) Don't worry... Once upon a time, I had a little sister just like that...

... And she grew up to be a pretty terrific Auntie, who just happens to give great necklaces.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The girlies are back in school...

Now, to start shovelling out this bear pit we live in...


Thursday, January 1, 2009

Ring In The New!

Bell Harry Tower, of Canterbury Cathedral, England,
once called "the finest tower in Christendom".

Ring Out, Wild Bells
by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out thy mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

"Ring Out, Wild Bells" is a poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Published in 1850, the year he was appointed Poet Laureate, it forms part of In Memoriam, Tennyson's elegy to Arthur Henry Hallam, his sister's fiancé, who died at the age of twenty-two.

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