This and That – 2021, Trees and a Virus

This


I put all the Christmas decorations away last week – everything but the Christmas tree. The tree takes up quite a bit of space in the living room – so I scooted it out to an adjoining area. Now it is out of the way, but still clearly visible when I sit in my favourite chair!

I think it will stay there for quite a while. The lights make me happier and I need all the happy I can get to dispel the gloom of Alberta winter nights and mandated Covid social limitations.

We’ve turned the corner on sunlight, of course. The shortest day was December 21, and we are gaining almost a minute a day of daylight right now. We’ve also had a few weeks of mild weather. That is to say, temperatures have been such that I’ve traded heavy winter mitts for light ones when I go for a walk.

We’ve spotted the moose, a few times, though not in our yard. They have been favouring the lands west of us. We’ve been seeing more non-local vehicles drive up and down our road lately. I suspect they are hoping they will see the moose too.

That

As you can see, we’re still in Alberta. We haven’t made the annual snowbird trek to Arizona yet. Travel outside of Canada is not advised and we aren’t allowed to enter the USA by car.  In one of those strangely odd ‘rule loopholes’, we are allowed to fly there, though. That makes Arizona happy because they need the tourist dollars.

The Car Guy is ready to pack his bags and board a plane. I’m not so enthusiastic. For whatever reason, I’m just not keen to get into a metal tube full of people wearing masks to fly to a State where a different group of politicians is making rules that also ignore the concept of good ‘risk management.’

The Other

2021 – A new year, a new crop of memes and jokes – and names to remember. Covid-19 is now more commonly called SARS-CoV-2. You might remember that it became politically incorrect to refer to it as Wuhan flu or China virus, but you might be forgiven if you call the new variants UK variant and South Africa variant. Remembering their real names,  20B/501Y.V1, VOC 202012/01 and 20C/501Y.V2 is just a bit much.

There doesn’t seem to be a run on toilet paper so far.
We got a message from our nephew a while back. He wanted to thank the person who responded to his desperate search for yeast – and he thought it was funny that the yeast came wrapped like a nickel bag of dope.

 

This was funny when I saw it a few months ago. I’m not aware of anyone in our family who would bring weed to a family gathering (thought it is legal) – but family gatherings were illegal this Christmas.

At Home Dining – We Up our Game

The Eating Bar in the Kitchen: every day dishes; cutlery we got as a wedding present (51 years ago); mismatched drinking glasses. In the background on the right – the box with the new kitchen taps act as a reminder that The Car Guy has to either install them or call the plumber…

For most of the last 270 days, our evening meal has been consumed, in our home, at the kitchen island Eating Bar,  by a Party of Two.

What with Lockdowns; Mandates of how big our social bubble can be; living in a rural setting (a bad mosquito season this summer); general caution by others for (and by) people in our age group; the threat of  Fines for non-compliance; and Snitch call lines – well lets just say our social life has been very ‘quiet’.

Christmas Day Dinner was no different and when I asked The Car Guy if he wanted to ‘up our game’ for dinner for two, maybe use the ‘good dishes’ and newer cutlery, he gave me that look that said “We’re having left over ham from Christmas Eve’s Dinner…”

So I imagined left-over ham on the good dishes on place mats and newer cutlery and Canadian Festive napkins – and said “Yeah, it doesn’t make much difference does it…”

The next holiday dinner is today – Boxing Day. At this point in time,  we have eaten left-over ham at two dinners, two breakfasts and two lunches (because a ham of any size is the definition of eternity). Boxing Day we are serving what we affectionately call New Food.

To celebrate, we invited a guest and I set the table in the Dining Room. (How many of you have Dining Rooms? How many times a year do you use that room? We travel through ours many times every day because it is the only way to get to the kitchen from the rest of the house.)

Boxing Day Table set; guest is already here.

The good plates, the good cutlery, the good crystal glasses, a centre piece and Bruce the Moose as our guest. We are all set to ‘Up’ our Dining Game!

(To be honest, this post was inspired by some truly awesome photos of Christmas Dinner posted by friends and family. By virtue of extremely good taste in decorating and/or more people in their family bubble, they had what looked to be a festive and fun Christmas Day.

The reality for many seniors (like us in Alberta and maybe elsewhere) Christmas was somewhat more subdued. Maybe this is because as Covid time passes, it is getting harder and harder to emotionally ‘kick it up a notch’. We are surrounded by a society where government is ruling by keeping people in a blind, perpetual fear.

We are asked to put ‘safety first’ but ignore the inner voice that asks, “what about the collateral damage?” So, we do things as safe as we can, we keep the people near us as safe as we can, but it is a task beyond our ability to make sure everyone else and everything we do is absolutely safe.

Many of us seniors have lived through two pandemics already. Some served in a war or two. We learned to drive before seat belts and air bags. We rode our bikes without helmets. We got chicken pox, measles and mumps. Between 95 to 99.9% of us seniors will chalk up another win in the pandemic column!

So, this year is different, and we can live with that in good humour and good grace. But next year I hope we’ll see a full complement of people at our ‘turkey or ham’ table!

 

 

 

Christmas Tangle 2020 – Carrot Noses and Glitter

My Annual Drawing: Christmas Tangle 2020. Inspiration for this years tangle came from the Golda Rader blog.

This:

What the Snowmen know to be true:
A person is snown by the company they keep.
Boldly go where snowman has gone before.
Dance like snowbody’s watching.
Keep your ice on the prize.
Mother nose best.
Snowman is an island.

That:

I don’t want Christmas season to end, because it’s the only time I can legitimately indulge in my particular addiction: glitter.
– Eloisa James –

The Car Guy is a man of many talents – one of them is wood-working. Recently he has branched out into projects using pieces of wood inlaid with epoxy resin.

In order to keep down the costs of epoxy trial and error, he bought a few small molds to make snowflakes. Then he discovered glitter… We not only have enough glitter snowflakes now for a small avalanche, snowflakes have been slipped into every Christmas card we have sent out. Glitter has been added to epoxy drink coasters too.

I have fond memories of the Glitter phase that our children and grand children went through. They all grew out of it. I expect The Car Guy will too – until next Christmas.

The Other:

I’d like to end this post by wishing you all a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

If, like us, your government has decreed that you cancel any  ‘gathering of the clan’, I hope you find a way to make this Christmas a good one anyway.  You might want to consider purchasing some glue and some glitter.

Digital Marble – Christmas Tree Ornaments

A Digital Marble (Amazing Circle) made from a photo of a decorated Christmas Tree.

Original photo

Photo manipulating programs have a polar coordinate filter that can turn a photo into a circular shape that is reminiscent of a fortune teller’s orb or marble – or a Christmas Tree ornament! They are also commonly called Amazing Circles.

I’m very excited with my marble photos, though I will soon have so many of them that I expect the novelty will wear off – for you. I don’t think I will tire of it soon because each one is so unpredictable. I never know what will be inside the marble photo until it is complete! Here are the directions for making these using one purchased program and one freeware program.

1. Photoshop Elements 10:

a. Open your picture in Photoshop Elements or Photoshop and enhance it as desired. I usually adjust the lighting levels and sharpen.

b. Crop it to a square, or a ratio of 1:1

c. Click on Filter – Distort – Polar Coordinates – Polar to Rectangular – OK

d. Click on Image – Rotate – Flip Vertical

e. Click on Filter – Distort – Polar Coordinates – Rectangular to Polar – OK. Then I opened FastStone Image Viewer to add borders and text, and also to resize it to fit my blog. This finished marble is 778X778 pixels.   (photo above)

2. GIMP: is a freely distributed program.

The technique for making Amazing Circles is similar to above.

a. Enhance the photo as desired.
b. Choose the Crop Tool (looks like a knife, sort of). Select a Fixed Aspect ratio of 1:1 and select the area you want to use.
c. From the menu bar, choose Filters- Distorts- Polar Coordinates. Uncheck the “To Polar” button. Okay.
d. From the menu bar, choose Image- Transform- Flip Vertically.
e. From the menu bar, choose Filters- Distorts- Polar Coordinates again. Check the “To Polar” button. OK.
f. The resulting circle may not have the background color you desire. Use the Color Picker Tool to select a color from the image. Then use the Paint Bucket Tool to fill the background.

This isn’t a new technique. It has been around for a few years. Click on this link to see a large number of Amazing Circles that have been submitted to flickr.

Christmas Tangle 2019 – Red Berry Tree

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow –

May the Christmas season
fill your home with joy,
your heart with love,
and your life with laughter.

From Margy and The Car Guy

All my favourite holiday Quotations: Christmas Quotations

Previous Christmas Tangle Posts: 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014

My very first Christmas Post: The Annual Christmas Letter. (This year I will mention that The Car Guy and I are observing our 50th Wedding Anniversary!)

Perhaps my best Christmas Story: Home – The LEGO Businessman and the Oranges

A Gallery of my Christmas Tangles:

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Literary Origami – Book Fold Angel Decorated

The Book Fold Angel is finished. I added curly paper hair, a halo, and a ribbon around the neck.

How to Make the Curly Hair

A paper strip with three lines of print and a gluing tab on the right side. When the paper is curled there will be three curly locks!

I used two book pages to make the hair. I trimmed the margins off of the top, bottom and one side of the page, and left a small margin on the other side (for gluing.)

Then I cut between the lines, leaving the gluing tab uncut until I got to the third line. Then I cut through the gluing tab too. This gave me strips with three lines of print to each strip.

I used scissors to curl each line, just like you do with curling ribbon. This gave me three curls per strip.

I folded the gluing tab so it was at a 90 degree angle to the curly bits. Then I glued the tabs to the head of the angel (used a glue gun).

The Halo

The halo was a plastic ring that I wrapped in ribbon. I glued a toothpick to the ring, then stuck the toothpick into the head after the hair was finished.

OOPS!

If you want the hair to match the colour of the Angel, use pages from the Angel book. I didn’t do that, unfortunately. I used a different book. My first batch of hair was much whiter in colour – and I didn’t really appreciate the effect that had until after I had glued some of the hair on. For the second batch of hair, I used a page from a book that had slightly yellower pages. When I mixed that hair in with the white hair, it all kind of evened out. Sort of… Over time, I expect the whiter hair will turn yellow too.

I’ve learned that mistakes can often be as good a teacher as success.
– Jack Welch –

Book Folding Directions

Here is the ‘how to’ folding post: Literary Origami – Book Fold Angel.

Here is the ‘how to’ for book folding in general: Book Folding 101.

Santa Claus – About the Reindeer

The Original Eight Reindeer

Santa Claus began his association with Reindeer in 1821 – an event that was chronicled in a narrative published by a New York printer in a booklet called ‘A New Year’s Present’:

Old Santeclaus with much delight
His reindeer drives this frosty night.
O’er chimneytops, and tracks of snow,
To bring his yearly gifts to you.

This rather sketchy introduction became the legend we know today in the 1823 poem “A Visit from Saint Nicholas”. Written by American writer Clement Clarke Moore, the poem is now better known as “Twas the Night Before Christmas”. Mr. Moore not only described what Santa looks like, he gave names to all the Reindeer:

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name.

Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on Dunder and Blixem!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now, dash away! dash away! dash away all!

In later years, Dunder and Blixem were renamed Donner and Blitzen in some countries.

Enter Rudolph

Rudolph was introduced in 1939 in a booklet for the Montgomery Ward department stores. It was written by Robert L. May.

Rudolph’s story was made famous in a song written by Johnny Marks. Sung by Gene Autry in 1949, it became a No. 1 hit that year.

Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer
Had a very shiny nose
They day if you ever saw it
You would even say it glows…

Why do some people say there are Twelve Reindeer?

Some people say there are actually 12 Reindeer, but these people simply misheard the lyrics of Rudolph’s song:
‘All of the other reindeer is NOT ‘Olive the other reindeer’,
‘Then how all the reindeer loved him’ is NOT ‘Howe the reindeer loved him’,
‘As they shouted out’ is NOT ‘Andy shouted out’.

Are the Reindeer male or female?

A viral factoid (circulating since the year 2000) suggests that Santa’s reindeer are all female because male reindeer lose their antlers by December. Reindeer experts say that while most male reindeer do drop their antlers by early December, some younger bulls keep theirs well into spring. Of course, a discussion about the gender of normal reindeer is probably a waste of time. Santa’s reindeer can fly and that suggests they are an entirely different species.

A Bit of Photoshopping

When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
– Twas the Night Before Christmas –

I like taking photos of the moon. Sadly, Santa and the Reindeer have never crossed over the moon when I was looking at it. Happily, a bit of ‘photoshopping’ fixed that! I took a photo of the moon on a slightly overcast night, then created a new layer in Photoshop Elements to superimpose Santa and his reindeer – Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen and Rudolph.

What would Santa say as he disappeared into the night!? Happy Christmas to All and to All a Good-night!

For the Young and the Young at Heart

If you want to see Santa and his Reindeer in action on Christmas Eve, visit the NORAD Tracks Santa website. The long history of this excellent outreach program is told in the story here: North American Aerospace Defense Command Tracks Santa.

The Piano Guys – Christmas Songs Linked to Holiday Light Display (Video)

In these videos, The Piano Guys instruments are linked to 500,000 Christmas lights through 4,900 digital channels.

The Light Show was created by:
Production/Controls: Jason Ellsworth and Kyle Ottman, AlpenglowAnimated
Electrical and Lighting: Drew Buck, NightVisioninc
Additional Programming: Tom BetGeorge, MagicalLightShows

Literary Origami – Folded Book Angel

Folded Book Angel

This is one of the easiest Book Fold Projects I’ve found so far. If you would like to try it, the instructions are below. (Be sure to read the Book Folding 101 post first if you have never folded a book.)

1.  The book – mine was almost 180 pages long (90 leaves). If your book has more leaves you will get a ‘denser’ body.

The first six leaves formed the left wing. The last six leaves were the right wing.

2. I used six page leaves for each wing. All the rest of the page leaves were for the body. You can see that the folds on the left wing were made on the other side of the leaf than all the folds for the body and the right wing.

3. This is how the book looked when I was working on it. The top of the book was on my right.  I used a dark piece of cardstock to help make straight folds. I used the stick to make the folds crisper.

4. Side Page Marks for the left wing (front of the book). Measurements are in inches. You may want to vary these to achieve a different look. If you want to work in metric, .5 inches is equal to 1.27 cm – so you will probably want to do some rounding…

First page:   .5 inches from the top of the book.
Second page:   1 inch from the top of the book.
Third page:   1.5 inch from the top of the book.
Fourth page:   2 inches from the top of the book.
Fifth page:   2.5 inches from the top of the book.
Sixth page:   3 inches from the top of the book.

5. The Angel body. My side page mark was 1.25 inches from the bottom of every page.

6. When I had only six pages left in the book, I did the right wing. The marks on these pages were done in the reverse order of the front wing – so I started with the mark that was 3 inches from the top of the page and ended with the mark that was .5 inches from the top.

7. The head – I stuck a styrofoam ball onto a thin wood skewer. The skewer was off centre.
– I carefully cut one of the ‘body pages’ out of the book with an exacto knife and tore it into suitable size pieces.
– I dipped each torn piece into white glue mixed with water (about 4 parts water to one part glue – and you don’t need very much of it!)
– Then I molded each paper piece onto the ball. When it was dry, I did a second layer where needed.
– When everything was dry, I slid the skewer down the spine of the book.

8. Decorating the Angel – I haven’t done that yet!