Monthly Archives: December 2004

A fascinating evening

Last week some friends called and asked if we could come out for supper;  their daughter who is just finishing up a degree in international relations was at home and would love to meet Patrick and talk to him since he is going to be taking the same program.  We had not been out to their home for years.  And they have never been to ours – a condition which I need to remedy.  I just am not a big entertainer. 

It is funny how there are people, with whom one is an acquaintance, that are just easy to visit.  These folks live very simply in some respects.  He is a well known artist and she is one of my children’s teachers.  They have no TV that dominates their living room.  No cell phones.  He thinks he might be able to make it to retirement age without wearing a watch.  They live out on the old family homestead(her parents) in the old farmhouse.  Every spare inch of wall is covered in art work – upstairs and down.  Some of it is his, some is from other artists.  On the wall behind the dining room table is a large painting of Adam and Eve – not in your typical tropical garden but on the shores of a sandy beach of a northern lake. 

Conversation was easy around their table.  Even our children were at ease and joined in.  It ranged from school stuff – she is an English teacher – through the gamut of international affairs to how poorly Paul seems to have esteemed women. 

The evening ended with us going out to the studio to see a large painting of his which has just returned from touring Canada.  Miles is an artist who pays esteem attention to detail.  In his landscapes, one can distinguish the individual leaves on the trees, the blades of grass, the flowers in the field of canola and the pebbles on the beach.  The large painting that has been touring is a political satire  Sic Transit Gloria Mundi (Thus Passes the Glory of the World)  about 5′ by 7′.   In a deteriorating neo-gothic structure can be found the caricatures of all many recent world leaders; certainly most of our Canadian politicians.  As well there are people who have been an influence in his own life and in the Prince Albert art world.  It was fascinating looking at the painting with him and hearing him tell what the caricatures signified. 

So, in spite of being heavily medicated for my cold, the evening passed most pleasantly and quickly. 

Then Leo says, “We really should have them over.”  And I think yes but I don’t know if I am up to that kind of entertaining.  I would definitely have to spend a long time cleaning up the house.

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I hate colds

For the first time in a long time I am feeling totally lousy.  I have a cold, cough, red and sore nose, headache and all the rest of those things that go with a cold.  And I had to work.  Had to change my mask every few minutes today.  After awhile, cough lozenges all taste horrid. 

At least I know this will pass in a few days.  Meanwhile – medication and early to bed.

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Turkey and our Christmas at Bobadi

Over at his blog Randall extols the wonders of turkey.  And in his comments, Marc tells how, as a Dutch boy, he never got too excited about the bird.  This interchange brought to mind my only experience with the Dutch and the turkey.  So I will attempt to tell you the tale as I sit here eating a leftover turkey sandwich – the best form of turkey in my opinion.

We were in the Congo and feeling a bit nostalgic as Christmas approached.  You can do strange things when you begin to feel that way.  So for a couple of years we did – a strange thing.  We ordered a turkey.  Turkeys are not native to the Congo.  Ours had to be flown in from South Africa.  We weren’t the only ones who chose to spend a small fortune to have a meal of this traditional fowl.  That was in the days when for a price we could order almost anything from that land to the south.  The cost was astronomical for a rather small bird – about 7 or 8 Kgs – that had obviously, from it’s flavour, had it’s diet supplemented with some sort of fish meal.   But it was not tough.  The Congolese chickens, on a diet of seeds and insects scratched out of the ground, were incredibly tough.  Not roasting stock at all!

In previous years our Christmas fare had become home cured ham.  It started out being grown at home – in our backyard.  It was butchered at home – by Leo. (Who would have known that being the son of a pig farmer would reap such benefits!)  It was cured at home – taking up a good part of the refrigerator for 10 days while it sat in brine.  And then it was smoked – hanging in a half barrel rigged up to allow the smoke from the mango wood to penetrate it.  This was a lot of work.  It paid off in fantastic ham if all went well.

The chance to buy a turkey seemed like a good idea.  Less work for sure.  More expensive though if labor costs weren’t figured in – and my labor was cheap.

This particular year we were invited to spend part of our Christmas vacation with the Catholic fathers and sisters at the mission of Bobadi.  The fathers were Belgian, the sisters were Dutch.  The Dutch sisters were notoriously liberal for Catholics and wonderfully hospitable.  They were our friends.  They also were loved by my children whom they tended to spoil.  They almost destroyed Leo’s memories of the grim sisters who ran the boarding school where he attended school for a couple of years. 

The only complicating factor to the invitation was that we had this turkey which we had been anticipating eating for our big holiday meal.  We decided to suggest that we contribute it to the festive meal we knew they would prepare for all of us to eat together.  We decided to offer it and send the turkey out ahead of us with the father who came in to see us with the invitation.  We would have to travel out as a family on our motorcycles and didn’t think the turkey would fare very well strapped to the back of the bike with our luggage.

The offer of the turkey was accepted with much delight.  They would give it to the sisters to prepare.  I suggested that we usually prepared it with a stuffing, not realizing what an unfamiliar dish this was to the sisters.

We arrived and that night sat down to a wonderful meal.  Like us the fathers and sisters tended to save the special treats for Christmas.  So there were real potatoes and an abundance of local foods as well as homemade chocolates, cookies and other sweet things.  The sisters had done an amazing job of roasting the famous turkey.  And for stuffing – prunes and raisins.  Unusual for us but it was great. 

We found out that turkey is not commonly eaten in Holland.  The sisters had seen them but had never eaten it before.  Since they tend to be large it apparently was only used for large gatherings – and of course by the Americans residing in Holland.  So they had a first experience preparing and eating turkey and we had a first experience eating a turkey stuffed with fruit.

We went back to ham as our traditional Christmas meal the next year.  It has retained a special place at our table every Christmas eve.  Oh, we have turkey too but ham is necessary.  I just don’t cure it at home any more.

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Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to everyone. 

Tradition in our family has always been to celebrate big on Christmas Eve.  We did again last night – turkey, ham, tourtiére, rice pudding, etc, etc.  Going to the Christmas Eve Candlelight service.  Returning home to read together the Christmas story from Luke as a family.  Then opening the pile of gifts under, around and in our tree.  Last night we were 16 – all my seven children, two spouses, my mom and dad and my aunt.

The highlight of the day was my dad coming out of the long term bed at the hospital to share the evening, meal and church service with us.  Two of my boys went with Leo to pick him up from the hospital.  Rachelle contributed her expertise as a special care aide to help them transfer him from the car into the wheelchair on the main floor.  He seemed to have a great time.  It was well worth the effort it took to get him moved from place to place.  And taking him back to the hospital and leaving him there was made easy by the wonderful nursing staff who welcomed him back to his “home” there. 

This morning Leo and I got up early to be part of the early morning ‘Julötta” gathering.  This is a remnant of Swedish tradition and a bit crazy in today’s busy world on a morning when most people need to be at home with their families.  So Leo who is French Canadian brought us a devotional – drawing from his Catholic background with it’s devotion to Mary – about how God chooses ordinary people to accomplish his purposes.  Just ordinary people who hear God calling them and respond; letting God work out some amazing plans for his world.

Now all is quiet around the house.  Naps are being taken.  We have lots of leftovers and snacks so I am free from all the stuff that keeps a mother busy at this time of the year.  Tomorrow we do more entertaining.  That will be good too but for now I need the quiet. 

All has taken place at my house in such an atmosphere of happiness and peace.  My oldest son had a near miss yesterday am when he totaled their car in Saskatoon.  But he and their dog were unhurt and they were able to bring their second vehicle and get here right on schedule.  It is not always peaceful in a house with seven siblings.  These days have been – God is good.

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Vacation day two

It was my second day off before Christmas.  Spent some time shopping, some time baking and some time wrapping presents. 

Then I decided that since I am on vacation I should do something fun.  So I decided to pick Kieran up and take him with me for a couple of hours – just to get to know him better and stuff.  We would go visit my dad at the hospital and then I would take Kieran to my house for supper.  Kieran, by the way, is 17 months old.  Just old enough to walk and young enough not to want to walk when he can be carried.  And also, by the way, he has the greatest smile.  (Not that I’m biased)

So I waited till Kieran woke from his nap, picked his mom up from work, drove her home and picked him up. 

This weather is just about too cold to transfer a child seat from one car to the other but we did it. 

Then we went to the hospital to visit my dad.  Well Kieran’s smile is about enough to warm up anyone’s day.  We had a little visit.  Kieran ate an orange and toddled around dad’s room while we talked.  He sat in Great Grandpa’s lap for a few minutes but seemed a little nervous – just like sitting on Santa Claus’ lap – pretty scary.  He did like the walker – thought it was a neat toy I think.

Then we went home for spaghetti. 

Kieran has discovered the Christmas oranges – those sweet little Chinese or Japanese mandarins that are a must have at this time of the year.  He had already had one during our visit.  When he saw the box of oranges in the kitchen, he did not want anything else to eat. 

Then Grandpa Leo was asked to watch him for a minute while I did something – for a minute.  The next thing I knew there were howls of pain.  Kieran had decided to sit on the edge of the laundry basket and took a spill right into the corner of a coffee table.  Took a little chunk out of his head.  Blood streamed down his forehead and there was a lot of noise – don’t blame the little guy. 

My first outing with my grandson and he is injured.  How will I ever live that one down!  I wonder if they will let me borrow him again?

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Sad story

Depression is really a horrible illness.  It is sad when it destroys lives.  Darren links to a sad story.

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Goings On

When you have a bunch of kids that are somehow attached to you, there is always someone coming or going.  Or something either wonderful or catastrophic going on.

Today at our house we have had a court case won.  Yippee!  My son had a little incident with the law back one weekend when I was away with another child at a soccer tournament and Leo was away working.  The rule was no parties.  We just forgot to tell all the other kids in town.  So about 200 kids dropped by.  Uninvited.  Noisy.  They didn’t all get in the house of course – thank goodness!  The cops came and the kids who were outside left.  But they came back so our son called the cops again.  This time he was charged with violating the noise bylaw.  He felt this was wrong since he was the one who called the police; so chose to go to court and fight the charges.  Today was the third attempt to get the case heard.  And the charges were dropped.

And tonight – we have a coming , a homecoming.  Patrick returns from the Congo.  Hope he has had enough of the hot tropics cause boy is he in for some cold!

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