Friday, December 28, 2018

The Best Christmas

Recently I watched an episode of the Walton's, yes, I still watch the show in reruns; it was about Olivia's best Christmas with all the family at home after some difficult times just before the holidays. I started thinking about which Christmas was my best Christmas and you know I don't think I have a best Christmas.
Christmas 1957
We put so much pressure on ourselves to make things just right for the holidays but in the end it will be the little things you remember.  Here are some of the things I remember about my Christmases.

Christmas, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1958
When we were little we used our father's black work socks as our Christmas stockings. We would hang them on the end of our bed, we didn't have a fire place. In the morning by magic, they would be laying on our bed filled with candy, oranges, apples and maybe a couple small toys.  We were allowed to open the socks, we didn't have to wait to get dressed or to have breakfast. It was always this little pleasure that started Christmas morning.

Christmas, Foymount, Ontario, 1961
Another memory is of Midnight Mass. When we were younger Mum would put us to bed for a few hours and then get us up to go to Midnight Mass.  As we got older we would be allowed to stay up to go to Midnight Mass. I remember one Christmas, when we lived in St Margaret's, a little radar station in New Brunswick, walking home after Mass. There was fresh snow glittering and the stars that almost sang the night was so clear and bright.  Dad, who didn't join us at church, would stay home and heat a meat pie. When we arrived home we would have some meat pie and once all of us were old enough to go to Mass would open one gift each before going off to bed. In later years, we started going to an evening Mass which was never quite the same to me.
Christmas, Alsask, Saskatchewan
One Christmas in Alsask, Saskatchewan, I remember crawling past my parent's bed very early in the morning to go out and see if Santa had come. Their room had two doors, one into the hallway to the bedrooms and one into the living room, they used to lock the door from the kitchen to the living room so we couldn't sneak out. We thought we had fooled them but my Mum later told me that she and Dad had laid in bed trying not to laugh as we tried to quietly creep by the bed.  You know, I don't actually remember seeing any of the gifts.

Christmas, Great Falls, Montana, 1969
Decorating the tree is anther memory. Dad would put on the lights and then we would help Mum with the decorations. Decorating the tree ended with carefully placing tinsel, one strand at a time. Mum didn't like it on the tree in clumps. One Christmas Eve in Alsask, I remember watching TV and then when I turned to look at the tree, the candy canes had appeared on the tree as if by magic. At first Mum and Dad told us the elves did it and it meant Santa was near so we had better hurry to bed. Only later did they tell us Dad had snuck out while we watched TV and put the candy canes on the tree. We didn't always have a real tree, sometimes it was artificial. When we lived in Great Falls, Montana, we actually had two trees, one in the living room and one in the family room. Once Christmas Day was over, the toys would be moved downstairs to the family room tree.
Christmas, New Maryland, New Brunswick
Christmas dinner was always special too. Mum would have baked likely for weeks. There were mince meat pies, fruit cakes, cherry nut loaf, shortbread cookies, butter tarts and sugar cookies. We got to help decorate the sugar cookies, most of those didn't go on the plates that guests would see but they tasted just as good. Mum and Dad always made meat pies too, basically an Acadian meat pie, they were made with chicken, beef and pork in a gravy.  It wouldn't be Christmas without meat pie.
Christmas, Moncton, New Brunswick, 2008
I don't recall many of the gifts I've received over the years. But have many memories of Christmas morning opening gifts, when we were little, it was big free for all, with six kids there was always seemed there were many gifts to open.  Mum would always make us have breakfast first. When we got older, we would hand the gifts around so that we would see what everyone got.

Once I moved away from home first to university and then after joining the military, the anticipation of Christmas was better than the reality.  But now I realize that it is the time spent with family and friends makes for the best Christmas, they make for the best memories.

I hope you all had the best Christmas!

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Catching Up!

It's been awhile so this post will be a little of this and a little of that.

After the week in Granada, my sisters and I headed to Brussels for my next round of meetings. Since we had already been away for a week, I didn't extend the trip so there wasn't a lot of time for me to play tourist. We arrived in Brussels on Sunday morning, once we got settled into our hotel we walked down to Grand Place and over to see little Mannekin Pis.   There was a folk festival on in Grand Place with bands and these giant puppet characters. Mannekin Pis was dressed in one of his little costumes.

We ate out one evening at the Hard Rock Cafe Brussels.  Now I've been to the Hard Rock in Rome, Berlin and Brussels and will probably add London and Orlando to that list early next year.

Once my meetings ended on Friday morning, we did have the afternoon and went to visit the Atomium, which was part of the World's Fair held in Brussels in 1958.  For me, it was the first time I had been out of the downtown core of Brussels.  We walked through a park and to another wonderful old church.

Once home from this work trip, I wasn't in the office for long before I headed off to western Canada for my nephew's wedding. My brother and one of my sisters flew through Ottawa from Moncton NB so that we would be on the same flight to Calgary. We met in the Ottawa airport where we had lunch together.

There had been a lot of snow already in Airdrie, Alberta but by the time we got there, thankfully, most of it had gone.  The wedding was on Saturday and we arrived Thursday night so on Friday we went to the Calgary Zoo to see the pandas that are currently there on loan. The pandas were resting which I hear they do quite a lot.  We did see many other animals including the lions who had just be returned to their exhibit after meat had been hidden around for them to find.

The wedding on Saturday was a small but fun affair. My nephew and his new wife did a lot of the arrangements themselves with help from family and friends.

One of my nieces with her partner 

One of my sisters, with her daughter and son-in-law

The bride and groom with the groom's sister and mother.

Me, my brother and sisters (less one)
We weren't flying out until Tuesday so we decided to drive to Banff for the day on Sunday.  You can see the mountains from Airdrie but you need to go a bit further west to really see them. It was quite a scenic drive; only takes about an hour and half to get there.  Once we arrived we got a quick lunch at MacDonalds and then walked around and did a bit of shopping. We even went to the Fairmount Banff hotel as they have the best views of the Bow River off the back terrace.

Downtown Banff

View from the hotel
Since getting back from that quick trip, I've been back doing agility. We had a trial the past three weekends.  Keltic is still looking for that first Masters qualifying score; I know it will happen but I hope it doesn't take another year. Beckett has been whittling away at the number of qualifying scores he needs for his Silver Expert Snooker and Silver Expert Jumpers. Well, last weekend we got the last two qualifying scores we needed for the Snooker title.  And now we only need one more qualifying score for Expert Jumpers; once we get that final qualifying score, it will also give Beckett his Silver Versatility title for having achieved Silver Expert in four events.  A Silver Expert title means that you have 25 qualifying scores in that event except in Steeplechase which requires 50 qualifying scores.

That's it for agility for 2018, looking forward though to a good year in 2019.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Magical and Mysterious - The Alhambra

To finish up on my post of Granada, Spain and the visit to Alhambra and the Nasrid Palace, as our tickets for the palace weren't until 6:30 pm, we took a relaxing morning at the hotel. We had breakfast and then packed as we would be leaving for Brussels, Belgium through Madrid very early the next morning.

We walked up to the old historic center of town and had tapas and wine for lunch, then caught a bus up to the Alhambra.  Our visit started with the gardens, in an area called the "Generalife".

The word used for the area "Generalife" comes from the Muslim Jennar al Arifor or Garden of the Architect. As you can see it was an overcast day when we started and it did start to rain just after we arrived. The gardens were lovely all the same.

After touring the gardens and the villa, we headed to the Alcazaba or the citadel. By now the rain had stopped and it was quite hot and somewhat humid.  At the citadel, you have to climb up a tight winding staircase to get to the top of the fortress.  I'm not sure what was worse, going up or coming down.

There is also a large building, the Palace of Charles V,  that has a rotunda inside and a large chapel on site to explore.

Heading into the fortress, Alcazaba

Not at the top yet

At the top

Looking back down over the Alcazaba

Palace of Charles V

Inside the palace

Chapel inside the Alhambra

After we finished touring the grounds, we still had some time to go before the timed entrance to the Nasrid Palace.  We found a small hotel, called the American Hotel, that also had a very small restaurant and had some dinner. The restaurant was at the front of the hotel and so the waiter didn't have to go down the hall past the reception desk, there was a small hatch in the wall of the dining room connected to the kitchen. He just passed the orders to the kitchen that way and they would ring a bell when there was an order ready.

After eating we walked back the palace entrance area and waited for our time to enter.  The Nasrid palaces only have limited tickets available and some people at my workshop were disappointed not to be able to get tickets; they still were able to get entrance tickets to see all of the other areas.  We occupied ourselves while waiting watching the cats.

The palace was pretty amazing.  The tile work and the carved stone work must have taken a huge amount of  time and labour.

You are asked not to touch anything, I put my had on a plain column and was even asked to remove my hand from that.  They did have replicas of stone work and tile work that you could touch.

Yes, we could sit in the chair.

 The Court of the Lions (Patio de los Leones) and fountain was spectacular. It was too bad that we couldn't get closer or that the fountain had to be roped off. The fountain is a replica now, all of the original lion carvings are in museums. We were only allowed around the outside of the patio under all the arched areas.

Spectacular roof 

View of Granada
Some Christian paintings on the ceiling

Palace baths

Everywhere you looked there was something to see, it was really impossible to take it all in.  I can hardly imagine what it would have been like to have been someone of wealth who had lived there during the reign of the Nasrid dynasty.

After leaving the inside of palace, there are more royal garden areas to walk though with fountains, waterfalls and ponds.

It was a long day but certainly one that was well worth it and that I will remember for quite some time. The pictures just don't do it justice.  If you get a chance, you should visit.