Christmas comes but once a year …

What song do you sing at a snowman’s birthday party? …… Freeze a jolly good fellow.

What carol is sung in the desert at Christmas? …. O camel ye faithful.

santa and sleighI know, I know.  I couldn’t resist.  We’re getting close to the height of the madness associated with the  Christmas season and my kids have been busy rehearsing for their School Christmas Concert.  It’s a serious affair.  My middle kid is in Grade 5 who have the honour of performing this year’s coveted christmas play, entitled, ‘A Pirate’s Christmas’, during the concert.  Rehearsals have been underway for the last month or so and it’s at times like this that I’m always reminded of the scene from the Richard Curtis film, Love Actually, when Emma Thompson’s daughter arrives home from school to announce she’s got a part in the School Christmas play…..  love actually

Karen: So what’s this big news, then?
Daisy: [excited] We’ve been given our parts in the nativity play. And I’m the lobster.
Karen: The lobster?
Daisy: Yeah!
Karen: In the nativity play?
Daisy: [beaming] Yeah, *first* lobster.
Karen: There was more than one lobster present at the birth of Jesus?

This always makes me chuckle.  In my day, school nativity plays were pure and simple.  There was Mary, Joseph, a ‘tiny tears’ baby doll, 3 Kings, couple of Shepherds, the ‘Angel Gabriel’ (always the second most popular choice after the part of Mary & Joseph was awarded), Innkeeper (and wife), with the rest of the class making up the stable ‘animals’.  The standard ‘tunes’ were customary – ‘Away in a Manger’, ‘We Three Kings’, ‘O Little Star of Bethlehem’ ….. and by the time you were in the ‘top class’ in primary school, you never needed to learn any of the parts as you’d seen it rehearsed and performed so many times since the age of 4, that you knew it off by heart.  Oh, how times have changed …..

nativityBack to recent school events, and there has been quite an intense process of auditioning for parts and judging from the daily ‘feedback’ from my middle kid, there’s clearly a perceived hierarchy associated to the roles awarded – she was desperate to be ‘Prancer’ or “Dancer’ as these were ‘talking’ reindeers.  Auditions mustn’t have gone to plan as she was relegated to being ‘a non-talking reindeer’ – the irony of the part not being lost on us, as the challenge for my middle kid to remain silent for any longer than 30 seconds only usually occurs when she’s fast asleep.

reindeersWhilst a smidgen of disappointment was apparent, she accepted the role with good grace.  We had instructions to source brown tops and bottoms (for reindeers, obviously), and were kindly informed that antlers would be provided.  In the meantime, my youngest kid has been learning all the songs as ‘Grade 2’ are to be the accompanying ‘choral’ voices.  She’s been taking this very seriously, insisting her older sister acts out the play whilst she sings along – and rather like a mini-Simon Cowell, woe betide my middle kid if she doesn’t perform to the youngest’s exacting standards.  My role during all this is rather akin to the UN Peace Talks …..

santa sleighDramatic events transpired during rehearsals earlier this week and the role performed by the reindeers in pulling the sleigh across the stage transporting Santa to his final destination.  Apparently, only ‘Prancer’ and ‘Dancer’ (you’ll remember these as being the ‘talking’ parts), were asked to pull the sleigh whilst all ‘other’ reindeers would follow behind.  This provoked outrage in the muted reindeer community who insisted that Santa would always have all reindeers pulling his sleigh and wouldn’t invoke favouritism.  It’s clearly been a bone of contention.  I didn’t like to point out that the opening scene of a reindeer ‘dancing’ with a beach ball was slightly out of character …..

reindeer protestAll in all, it’s definitely Christmas.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Christmas tree is up, sparkly lights are switched on and there’s an accompanying Christmas moose (the size of a Great Dane) lit up on our decking.  Snow has fallen, temperatures are below -20 and I’ve got the heating on full blast.  It’s certainly a Canadian Christmas.  Ho ho ho ……

🙂

Thanks to google images for the pics in today’s blog

Time flies when you’re having fun …

Time fliesWow!  I’m always staggered how time seems to fly by, and the older I get, the faster it disappears.  Well today is a pretty significant day at our end – it’s 2 years since we boarded the flight from Manchester and touched down here in Edmonton.  Doesn’t feel like 2 years, that’s for sure.  Just goes to show how quickly time flies when you’re having fun …..

As if to mark the event, some of my Canadian appliances are starting to play up.  I always remember my Gran saying that modern appliances never seem to last half as long as they used to – I think she never did replace the original oven that had been put in her house in 1954, and as for the vacuum – it was probably one of the original models of ‘Hoover’ ever manufactured and even outlived her.  It would have been of archeological significance had she still been alive today – she sadly left us in 2000.  And now I find myself sounding just like her.  Let’s hope her penchant for ‘Baileys’ (other irish liqueurs are also readily available), and the copious quantities she actually consumed, aren’t as contagious.  Mind you, I am noticing a tendency to stock up on toilet rolls (just in case we ever run out), which was another thing she was renowned for.  At this rate, I’ll be able to support the whole of south-west Edmonton for at least 72 hours should there be a national shortage ….BaileysAnyhow.  It’s the kettle.  It’s not been well for a few weeks and has suddenly given up the ghost, despite no end of coaxing and cajoling into operation.  It’s probably taken umbrage from excessive use, and now refuses to even turn on.  Now I know for a fact, that I had to buy it after we arrived on Canadian soil – so less than 2 years usage doesn’t sound that much to me.  Mind you, I’m a Brit, and I take my tea-making very seriously – and the poor appliance has probably given up from overwork.  My husband would no doubt empathise ……

So I thought I’d treat myself and upgrade to a newer model (the kettle, not my husband).  My list of requirements isn’t long.  It’s a kettle.  I just want it to reach boiling point as quickly as possible – so I can focus on the really important aspect of steeping the tea leaves for the required duration to produce the perfect brew.  It’s an art form.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.Canadian TireOff I trotted to the local Canadian Tire emporium, trying to stifle the excitement of obtaining an appliance which can rapid-boil in the least amount of time.   Life in the fast lane when you’re in your 40’s, eh!

Imagine then my horror and utter confusion upon entering the store and facing a shelf-full of kettles, to find none of them ‘advertising’ the rapid-boil facility.  In fact, I struggled to find anything remotely referencing this key attribute.  Top of the list as the feature of choice was a ‘variable temperature’ option – some of which declared you could programme up to 6 different settings into the kettle.  I must admit I was bemused.  It’s a kettle.  The last time I was in school doing science, the boiling point of water was 100C and to the best of my knowledge, this hasn’t changed since.UK TeasMy tea drinking has largely centred around black teas – moving over the years from Typhoo (you only get an ‘OO’) to Tetley, then Yorkshire Tea, and now mostly Earl Grey (for the more discerning palate). All of which the perfect brewing temperature is 100C – it’s the ‘steeping’ time which is the more variable element.  So completely flummoxed as to the need for variable temperatures in a kettle – and programmable ones at that – I grabbed the boxes from the shelves hoping for some enlightenment.  Now I know it’s probably not news to you, but it was certainly news to me, to discover that correctly brewing more delicate types of tea – especially green tea – requires lower water temperatures.  Who knew?  I didn’t.  Not only that, but brewing delicate teas in too-hot water can create a bitter taste. If you frequently brew green and white teas, investing in an electric kettle with variable temperature control saves you the bothersome process of first boiling water, then waiting for it to cool to the correct temperature.  My (flippant) answer would be, to drink black teas and then you’d never have to wait …..Variable kettleNeeds must when the devil drives – and a replacement had to be procured quickly for me to maintain my ‘black’ tea drinking frequency.  I went for the simplest version with no additional features other than the ability to boil water.  It’s marginally faster than my previous one – but who’ve guessed that procuring a kettle would provide a cultural insight into the boiling requirements of Canadian consumers.  We may be two years in, but I’m still learning new things every day.

List of attributesLet’s hope the next appliance to fail isn’t my husband.  My list of desired attributes may be unattainable …..

🙂

Thanks as ever to google images for the pics in today’s blog

A Casino, a Caesar, and a Cetera …

30 years ago

There are songs that come on the radio that immediately take you straight back to a particular time and place – and films too, which from just one or two famous quotes, you can ‘name that film’ in an instant.

I was only 14 when the immortal lines, ‘wax on, wax off’, were muttered and a then-young Ralph Macchio took the lead role in the film, ‘Karate Kid’.  It was the sequel to the original film that had the hit song, ‘Glory of Love’, by Peter Cetera – which I remember we used to play on continuous loop using a tape player during lunch breaks at secondary school.  Someone had managed to get a recording off the radio (along with ‘I just died in your arms’ by ‘Cutting Crew’) on a Sunday evening as they listened to the Gallup Top 40 countdown.    Those were the days of high entertainment, I can tell you.  Every time I hear either song, I can picture the old school music room now, hear our warbling renditions and the cobbled together worn-out tape that was endlessly played……

Glory of love

Never did I think in the heady days of 1986 at a high school in North Manchester, that 30 years later – not only would I be watching Peter Cetera perform live in concert, but I’d be sat watching him crank up the vocals in a casino in Edmonton, and we’d be living in Canada too.  Yes – really.  It’s funny when you look back and reflect on what you thought you may be doing later in life – only to find its something so different, you’d never even imagined it in the first place.

My parents have been visiting us from the UK and suggested we took advantage of a rare ‘night out’ – just the husband and I.  One of the drawbacks of living abroad is that where we go, the 3 kids go too – so, given the prospect of a rare ‘night out’, we decided it had to be somewhere we would never be able to go with ‘kids in tow’.  Hence, after a trawl on the internet for ideas, we noticed the local casino was hosting an evening of entertainment with Peter Cetera (ex-frontman of Chicago ……. ‘If you leave me now’, ‘You’re the inspiration’, ‘Hard to say I’m sorry’ ….. need I go on?)

casino-scene

Now, I’m not a regular to casinos – in fact, the one in Edmonton we went to is owned and located on a First Nation reserve.  It’s a large complex, complete with restaurant, slot machines, poker tables, bar areas – all before you finally walk into the concert venue.  Upcoming advertisements for future concerts included the likes of Olivia Newton-John, Boyz II Men, and ….. oh yes, this musical …..

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Now, I’m not even sure how to operate any of the slot machines, but in for a penny, in for a pound (or a ‘loonie’ if you’re on this side of the pond), and we thought we’d try our luck.   Our approach isn’t considered or based on any rationale whatsoever.  It’s purely a matter of pressing a random selection of buttons on the slot machine and seeing what happens – which unsurprisingly, soon materialised as a quick way to relieve us of our initial $20 bill.

images

So, for our final press, I went for the big hit – a high risk, high loss but also potentially high gain strategy.  Still slightly unsure how everything worked and what constituted a ‘win’, when lo and behold, the machine started counting in the opposite direction.  And continued counting upwards.  We looked in slight disbelief as our initial ‘investment’ of $20 was reached …. and still it climbed.  And climbed.  The machine passed $30 …… then $40 ….. then $50.  By this time, I was laughing hysterically – and in disbelief.  It finally stopped at $54 and invited us to ‘try again’, or ‘collect’.  Let’s just say, we cut and run – took the money and ‘invested’ it in several rounds of drinks.  One of which was an ‘albertan caesar’, which is an amazing tomato/clam-based drink with vodka, all manner of ground pepper and tabasco, garnished with pickled beans and, would you believe, an actual rasher of bacon stood up in the drink.  Only in Canadia …..

bacon-row1_wm

And what about the concert I hear you ask?  Well, Peter Cetera was in fine vocal form.  He delivered a superb performance – his voice sounded identical to when I first heard him back in the early 80’s, the music was polished and his band were all accomplished professional musicians in their own right.  Each had played with some of the biggest and the best names in music pop history – and rather like the Jools Holland band which I’ve watched perform in an open-air gig back in London, you could just listen to them alone.

Whilst ‘Peter’ certainly looked and sounded as though he hadn’t changed much since the 80’s – it felt like a complete lifetime ago since I was in that school music room back in 1986 listening to him on the radio.  Who’d have thought 30 years later, I’d be in Canada, in a casino, with a caesar, and watching Cetera himself …. 🙂

Thanks as ever to Google Images for the pics for today’s blog …

Should I stay or should I go now?

ClashStayorGosingle

It’s a pretty momentous day for Britain as we go to the polls and cast our votes as to whether we stay in or move ourselves out of the European Union.  Now, as a point of note – and this has been commented to me on several occasions over the past few weeks – if we do choose to depart, it doesn’t mean we’ll be picking up anchor and sailing ourselves over to another continent as we’ll no longer be part of ‘Europe’.  Mind you, judging from the news coverage of the Euro 2016 football, plus our consistent track record of coming bottom in the Eurovision Song Contest (key indicators I’m sure you’ll agree), I’m pretty sure the rest of Europe wouldn’t object if we did …… maybe that’s where we’ve gone wrong?  It may possibly have been a better option to ask the rest of Europe if they wanted Britain to stay.  I think we all know the answer they would give us  …… 😉

brexit-shutterstock2

Talking of news coverage, I’m only glad we haven’t been in the UK for the full media run-up.  It seems that whatever decision is made will either prompt the ending of the world, trigger World War 3, spark financial ruin or promote another series of Big Brother.  On a more negative note (!!), it could just be like all the preparations that were undertaken as we moved into the new Millennium, when, – guess what? – nothing happened …….

British news does get coverage over here, and indeed, it has been taking more and more of a prime slot as we’ve moved closer to the event.  Almost everyone I’ve spoken to over the last week, has made reference to it during conversation, and it’s notable to me that British news gets such high billing on the media platform.  That said, so does Trump and all the American antics associated with the presidential elections – another key event which is scheduled to take place later this year.  It certainly seems that 2016 is a pivotal year in world history ……. let’s hope it’s remembered for promoting fundamental change and improvement, rather than complete catastrophe.

logo-fort-edmonton-park

I was reminded about Britain’s illustrious past only last week during yet another school trip to the Edmonton heritage park, ‘Fort Edmonton’.  Named after, and housing the original fort which was constructed during the height of the fur trade when Edmonton was first established back in 1846, it reconstructs a further 3 distinct time periods in Edmonton’s history – 1885, 1905 and 1921.  I was accompanying the Grade 1’s, and they were spending the day exploring the 1885 street, with all the various buildings and ways of life that existed during that time.  It’s wonderfully done – with fully functional houses from the time, and staff in costumes depicting the era.

school house

One of the first places we saw was the schoolhouse.  All the class were asked to take a seat at the desks, girls on the right (hats could be left on), whilst boys to the left (hats removed as a sign of courtesy).  And no talking.  The very first action was to all stand and sing the national anthem, to which the entire class starting reciting and singing, ‘Oh Canada’.  The school mistress brought them to a halt after 2 lines of the verse and admonished the class by stating that whilst melodic, this was not the Canadian national anthem of the time.  Could they now recite, ‘God save the Queen’.  Rather like a familiar tune coming over the airwaves on the radio, my youngest kid remarked, ‘oh, I know that one!!’, whilst her fellow classmates looked slightly bewildered around her.  I couldn’t have been prouder …..

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After this, they were instructed to draw the national flag on the chalkboards in front of them.  As expected, they all started to illustrate the Canadian flag with the red maple leaf.  Unimpressed, the schoolmistress was aghast that a piece of broccoli was on the Canadian flag, and could they all please behave and draw the Union Jack.  A knowing smile resonated from my youngest kid, and I did chuckle ……

stayorgo

Britain has clearly left marks on the world and today’s vote will no doubt have repercussions no matter what the decision is for decades to come.  The well-known song, ‘Should I stay or should I go now?’ by The Clash back in 1982 had the following refrain, ‘if I go there will be trouble, and if I stay it will be double’.  Let’s hope it doesn’t come back to haunt us ……

🙂

Thanks as ever to Google images for the pics in today’s blog …

What on earth am I doing here ???

Canada Immigration

It’ll come as no surprise to my regular blog readers, that this week’s blog is the sequel to last weeks’ edition of ‘Parlez-vous Anglais‘.  For those of you wondering how on earth I fared in my English test, then please read on ….

As a prequel to applying for any additional residency visas, one is obliged to go through an exhaustive English test. In my case, I spent all of last Saturday at MacEwan University School of Aboriginal Studies (you couldn’t make it up, this stuff just writes itself) for a gruelling set of tests.  Biometric authentication(!) was the only way in, and candidates were stripped of everything except 3 HB pencils, sharpener and an eraser.

IELTS

Entering my first lecture theatre in 20 years along with 70 other ‘foreigners’ from about as many countries was quite the experience. The doors were locked and examination conditions were enforced with draconian vigour. One chap near me was the first to be shouted at, for having the temerity to turn over his answer sheet before being instructed to do so. The timid Iranian girl next to me nearly jumped out of her burqa.

The invigilator/dragon began barking instructions at us for the listening phase of the test. Thirty minutes of capturing numerous details from a CD playing different conversations. I thought I was onto a winner, when the second exercise involved answering questions on ‘driving in the UK’.  Tempted to start answering before the CD had started playing, I held my nerve and listened with interest as a lady speaking the Queen’s english and voicing a BBC-type accent reminiscent of those adopted by the corporation pre-1980’s, began a conversation on the CD with a hesitant gentleman asking inane questions to which she patiently gave a response.  It was during the conversation when the topic turned to the ‘free-flowing traffic in Manchester city centre’, that I was tempted to object and claim this was falsely misrepresentative, but I resisted and distracted myself by watching the bemused look on the face of the fella from the Ivory Coast sitting alongside.

There followed 60 minutes of a written multiple choice paper with another familiar (to me) subject. A detailed comprehension exercise on the 3 Peaks Challenge up Snowden, Scafell and Ben Nevis. Having finished early I began musing what a Korean sitting in Canada with very little English would be making of this challenge. Judging by the wailing coming from the girl behind me, not a lot.

Canada Flag Sign

Another 60 minutes (no bathroom breaks permitted), and a chance to shine by writing 2 essays on given subjects. My piece on writing a complaint letter came naturally, and I had to curtail my enthusiasm and not get too carried away with the second topic entitled, ‘Some people believe family are more important than friends.  Discuss.’  At the end of this session, “PENCILS DOWN” was screamed. Mr Ivory Coast was clearly finishing a word off, but in so doing earned the full wrath of Dragon lady. She flew at him from the lectern, grabbed his pencil and forcibly scrubbed over his last 2 paragraphs. As he’d only managed to write 3, I thought this a little harsh.

After the 3 hours duration, we were almost finished and answer papers were rigorously collected, collated, checked and counted.  We had been provided with detailed instructions at the start of each session and throughout the morning, on how to complete each answer sheet – starting with inserting our name, candidate number and today’s date at the top of each and every page.  A written example was shown to us on each occasion on what to do.  At the very end of the morning and after checking the papers, one of the invigilators approached a Middle-Eastern lady sat in front of me and began insisting that her name was not ‘John Smith’, even remonstrating by showing her her passport in front of her and imploring her to remove all such reference and put her actual name on each sheet.  At this point, I realised that I was sat in a room where English truly was a foreign language to the majority, reflecting that my worries about what the content of each module would be and my ability to answer them all correctly, was minuscule compared to most of the others in the room.

snoopy

With a thumping headache and ballooning bladder there was only the final test of the day to be faced. We had to depart the lecture theatre and navigate our way to a different part of the University.  I was mistaken as a member of staff on several occasions by my fellow foreigners, whose ability to understand what on earth was happening next, let alone where they needed to move to, was clearly beyond the realms of their English comprehension.  We made our way across campus, where we waited in an ante-room and were called one at a time for the verbal interview.  I dutifully took my British passport (the only one in the room) forward and was again finger-printed before entry to a different cell with a different menacing invigilator.

good answer

This test was verbal, and recorded. I was asked to speak for 2 minutes on my beliefs on the importance of being able to speak a second language. Maybe it was the last straw, or the levels of exhaustion, but I put forward the view that a second language would be unnecessary if only people took the trouble to learn English properly. I was just getting into my stride when she cut me off with the 2 minutes elapsed. With a face like thunder she posed question 2. Could I talk about a time when I had been forced to use a second language, and how did it make me feel. By this point I was beyond caring, so I talked about the time I had been thrown into a foreign country with no preparation to live amongst non-English speakers. She seemed to be warming to me at that point, and with a sympathetic smile asked me which country it had been. All goodwill evaporated when I told her it was Canadia.

Interview over I was ejected from the room (not backwards and bowing like the Thai chap before me), and await my results which will be issued to me via traditional Canada post after 13 days. I fully expect to be deported soon after.

🙂

National pride …

Happiness-in-one-picture

Canada has just been ranked 6th in the ‘World Happiness Report’.  The survey measures the wellbeing of residents in more than 150 countries, based on six key factors: GDP per capita, healthy life expectancy, having someone to count on, perceived freedom to make life choices, freedom from corruption, and generosity. The report found that happier people earn more in their lifetime, are more productive and are better citizens.  Given that the UK was listed as being 23rd overall, it made me wonder whether I’ve felt the difference in overall ‘happiness’ since moving over to Canada 18 months ago?

happiness quote

Absolutely.

That’s not to say I was ever ‘unhappy’ in the UK.  Not at all.  I love it.  It’s my birthplace and will always be ‘home’.  But do I feel happier in Canada? ……… yes.  I could cite a million reasons why I prefer living in Canada to being in the UK – and on many dimensions – practicality, affordability, opportunity, environmental, lifestyle, friendliness, community.  The list could go on.

Building national pride was always strong in the UK, and likewise in Canada, they do the same – but probably more so.  Even in the schools, every Monday morning bang on 8.30am, the kids all listen (and sing along to), the Canadian National Anthem.  Back in the day, I always remember doing the same when I was in primary school but in later years, this was less so.  Comes to something when my youngest kid can recite the words of the Canadian National Anthem but struggles with the English one.  That’s what happens I guess when you relocate …

diversity

Diversity is much more pronounced where we live than I’ve experienced previously in the UK – and everyone is completely embraced and incorporated into local communities and made to feel welcome.   My kids have a plethora of friends at school from all nationalities.  In my middle kid’s class alone, they have kids there from Jamaica, Pakistan and Greece.  My youngest kid has been doing about ‘where we were born’ and Texas, China, Africa and Korea – plus the UK, obviously – have provided a rich source of material from which to understand different customs, traditions, language and geography.  In my days at primary school, we’d be hard pushed to find anyone who had been born outside a radius of 15 miles from the school!!

HeckleFlag

In ‘social studies’, the teacher recently gave an assignment to my oldest kid requiring the class to each draft a speech on the topic of ‘what makes you proud to be a Canadian’.  Given the range of nationalities in the class it was with some interest that I was keen to see how she tackled this challenge.  Apart from the obvious fact that my kid isn’t Canadian, that’s not to say she doesn’t feel Canadian.  I thought you may be interested to see what she wrote …..

Even though I am not Canadian,
There are some things about them that I know make them special.
For example, how they survive all winter in the cold, cold temperatures
and the strange accent that they speak with, even if they do mispronounce a few words.
The way they mix sweet foods with savoury foods and how apparently they think bacon is finger food.
With a Tim Hortons on every corner, you will always see them sipping a cup of coffee.
Where they have the best hockey in the world and were actually the ones that created
basketball.
These Canadians love poutine but not as much as their maple syrup.
With the maple leaf on their flag and the anthem that tells the world who they are,
These are the things that make a Canadian
special.

Tim Hortons

For a 12 year old, I thought it was an interesting insight into Canadian national pride.  She tells me that they had to memorise their own speeches and perform them in front of the class – getting a few chuckles from her classmates during her rendition.

18 months into our venture in Canada and we’re loving every second.  They say happiness is in the eye of the beholder and I can certainly say that it doesn’t get much better than this.  I’ve even been starting to support the Canadian team in the women’s world curling championships ……  🙂

 

Thanks as ever to Google images for supplying the pics for this blog ….

Seasons Greetings from the cold north!

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It’s been a bit of a chilly week here in Edmonton.  Temperatures are usually around -4 to -6 for this time of year, but this week we’ve had the delights of -19 and at one point, -24.  Now I know it’s going to get a lot colder as we move into the New Year, but still – boy, is it a bit brisk.

On the last day of school, it was pyjama day so all 3 kids trampled off to school with their PJ’s on underneath ski pants, boots, thermal coats, hats, gloves and scarves.  It was so cold that they didn’t even get ‘recess’ – which given the scant nature of their PJ’s, I was somewhat relieved.  That said, there’s no doubt about it – every year it’s a white christmas here, and it certainly feels it with the snow, the ice, the cold, and the numerous christmas decorations.  Now talking of which …..

Once we pass Halloween, it seems to be a ‘free for all’ on the Christmas decorations front.  With the dark early nights, cold temperatures, and snow all around, the colour from the displays definitely brightens things up as you drive through the City and residential streets.  We’ve even joined in, and have added to our range of Christmas cheer this year in the form of a moose.   No, not a real one, but standing on our decking about the size of a Shetland Pony, beaming out white Christmas lights.   Ho, ho, ho …..

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Ever wondered about the definition of a ‘white’ christmas?  Well, I know in England it’s determined by the UK Met Office who only require one snowflake to be observed falling in the 24 hours of Christmas Day somewhere in the UK – whether or not a single snowflake melts before it hits the ground.  I remember every year just wishing for a ‘White’ Christmas to be declared – but they’ve been few and far between and seemingly unlikely this year too.

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It’s a different story here in Edmonton.  A ‘white’ christmas is one where there is at least 2cm of snow on the ground at 7am on Christmas morning.  This year (and I assume each and every year), we’re safe on that score.  Now, this doesn’t invoke a sense of expectation or excitement when the prospect of snow is somewhat a ‘given’, so there’s an additional element built on top as to what constitutes a ‘perfect’ Christmas?  Any ideas?  Well, the formal definition is that along with the criteria being satisfied to declare a ‘white’ christmas, snow needs to be falling at the same time ….. a-ha!  Let’s see if we’re in luck this year then …..

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Now, on the topic of frozen ice….. Edmonton is home to a huge Ice Castle currently under construction in Hawrelak Park, a beautiful location down in the River Valley.  Billed as the largest ice structure in North America, once completed, it’s going to be open to the public and along with the castle itself, will also include slides, waterfalls, tunnels and caves which you can explore.  Every metre of the castle is made up of at least 400 icicles which have been grown from over 3km of water sprinklers.  We’re booked to explore it in early February so the kids are extremely excited about going inside.  Here’s a pic amidst ongoing construction as we walked past earlier today …..

2015-12-24 11.41.52Edmonton isn’t called the ‘winter city’ for nothing.  Along with opportunities for ice and snow sports during the day, there are lots of shows to go and see in the winter evenings.  We’ve been on numerous excursions this week, ranging from the ‘Singing Christmas Tree’ show (brilliantly light entertainment and it was, literally, a choir nestled amongst lights and tiers resembling a Christmas tree), the “Festival of Lights’ at the local zoo (only the snow leopard and reindeers were out and about that night), the theatre play – ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens and excellently performed by a professional cast in a  beautiful theatre, followed by the British panto, ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ at Fort Edmonton which was in 1920’s style.  Quite a cultural and eclectic mix of events and activities over the past few weeks – but great fun and well worth seeking out and visiting.  The challenge will be maintaining the momentum and managing expectations for Christmas in Edmonton next year!!

So, as it starts to get dark here on Christmas Eve, I’m off to pour myself a glass and toast to everyone’s good health.  All that remains on this cold and snowy evening, is to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 🙂

Christmas goat

Final photo courtesy of google images …