Nutcrackers

The Christmas Specials on television

Christmas Specials adorn the networks this time of year - but if you really want to binge on unstoppable Christmas Romance specials - tune in to the W Channel

Have you been watching your favourite Christmas specials on television this holiday season? Do you have one that is an absolute "must see" each year? Is there one that you wait until the family is together to ensure that you can all watch it together?

For years and years I would always watch the famous original "A Christmas Carol" on Christmas eve. It became quite a ritual. I've not done that for many years now. The other true favourite was always watching "The Sound of Music" during the holidays. There are so many timeless favourites to behold. "The Polar Express" has to go done as one of the modern-day classics. I remember seeing it for the first time in an Imax Theatre. The sound of the train whistling and the steam engine rolling on the rails was thunderous.

The past three years Kathy and I have come to like tuning in to the wonderful series of Christmas "movies" on the W Channel. There is a nightly feature of a wonderful group of holiday movies that just bring you to a feel-good state of mind before heading off to bed.

Neil Pasricha's "The Book of (Holiday) Awesome" points to "flipping channels and stumbling on that one Christmas special you loved as a kid, as one of those awesome moments of the holidays.

I agree wholeheartedly. Cheers to the season.

@fergdevins


Oven window

Looking through the little window in the oven

To accompany the fresh smell of your newly positioned Christmas tree - baking in the oven is one of those familiar treats of the season

Ah, the lure of Christmas and holiday baking. Do you recall those days of walking into the house after school and having the wonderful aroma of mother's, or grandmother's baking filling the home?

There were so many holiday treats to be made. Shortbread, Christmas fruit cake, banana cake, cherry centered shortbreads, chocolate shortbreads, jam cookies, Christmas pudding, homemade nuts and bolts. Each and every day would be a new set of delightful treats. We were always allowed to try a few, with the remainder being hustled off to the freezer. Naturally, a few samples would be consumed from the freezer in the days leading up to Christmas Day.

Neil Pasricha's reference in his "The Book of (Holiday) Awesome", pushes us back to reflect even further in history to think of when ovens did not exist and when families would have gathered around the fire to amaze at what was being prepared.

Regardless, this time of year brings that moment of intrigue when preparation for holiday feasts and dining are prepared.

Cheers to the oven and the joy that our home cooks prepare for us each Christmas and Holiday season.


Christmas Tree

The Smell of a Fresh Christmas Tree

A post from 2017 - we had just brought the tree in...a special time of the season for sure

Growing up in a small town dad would often take us as kids out to some remote gravel road, over high snow banks, blazing a trail into the woods to chop down our annual Christmas tree. There was nothing like working our way back out of the woods to the car, tying the tree to the roof and heading home for hot chocolate. Smiles, in the later years it was a nice glass of home made egg nog with spices and rum.

Ah the Aroma

Once at home there would be that awesome smell of the fresh cut tree, after we placed it in the stand.

In Neil Pasricha's "The Book of (Holiday) Awesome", he points to the smell of a fresh Christmas tree as one of those awesome moments of the holiday season. He talks about not having a "real tree" but having a "fake one". However, he does speak about visiting neighbours who did have the freshly sawed tree in their living room.

Tree in Place

My son and I brought our tree in this afternoon. Naturally (sorry for the pun), it needs to fall out and prepare itself for our annual decorating ritual. I just walked past the tree to take this photo and oh yes, the smell of the Christmas tree is certainly prominent on the main floor of our home.

Find A Tree - Cut or Cut Yourself

Here's to the boy scouts, churches, markets, greengrocers, grocery stores and corner stores who continue to bring the fresh Christmas trees to our city neighbourhoods for enjoyment. Of course, there are also the many tree farms surrounding Toronto where families can continue the traditional rituals of  "cutting down your own tree" if desired.

Enjoy that fresh smell in your home, one of those early aromas of the season.

 

@FergDevins


Advent Calendar Traditions

Continuing on my seasonal posts of Holiday Awesome - inspired by Neil Pasricha's "The Book of (Holiday) Awesome".

Traditions continue in the Devins household with our advent calendar

The Advent Calendar is one of those holiday season traditions that help us with the countdown to Christmas Day. The advent calendars have become a tradition that offers a token of joy during the 24 days leading up to the last "opening day" being December 25th. The origin is traced back to some point in the 19th century. It was originally a Protestant tradition when religious families would mark a line for every day in December until Christmas eve. Advent calendars were a countdown to the coming of Jesus Christ into the world.

On a more commercial front, it is always amazing each year, to see the new creativity that arrives on the shelves of gift shops and grocers as the advent approaches.

For a few years, I enjoyed sharing a tea with my daughter through mutually benefitting from gifting the David's Tea holiday collection. Naturally, if you search Google you'll find a wide and fascinating array of the best advent calendars of 2018. Chatelaine also offered up their choices for 2018 at "Best Advent Calendars".

This year my advent calendar is in tribute to our Toronto Maple Leafs. I arrived home from a business trip December 1st to find my advent calendar waiting for me on the kitchen table. It is a "limited edition" run full of assorted Lindt chocolate samples for the season. For every Toronto Maple Leafs advent calendar sold, the Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment Foundation will gain a $1.00 to invest in their community initiatives.

So, I'm counting down to Christmas with my Toronto Maple Leafs advent calendar and counting down to see if they will keep pushing for top of the league, to close out this calendar year. Go Leafs Go !

I hope you and your family are enjoying your own special choice of advent calendar as the countdown to Christmas this December has begun.

 

Ferg Devins

 

 


Christmas tree decorations

That Old Box of Christmas Ornaments

Ah the memories that can be evoked by a simple token ornament for the tree - enjoy !

In today's post I refer to Neil Pasricha's "The Book of (Holiday) Awesome" and his reference to "pulling out that old box of Christmas ornaments from when you were a kid".

Whether it is the angel atop your tree, the "baby's first Christmas" ornament, the family pet, Mickey Mouse lights, your miniature Christmas Village, your favourite Nutcracker, a favourite ornament from a family member, the neighbour's ornament from year's gone by - memories adorn our Christmas trees each year.

That box of ornaments you pull out each year is a wonderful reflection of memories over the years that bring joy to the ritual of tree decorating.

As the scouts, markets and churches fill their parking lots and locations with the annual harvest of Christmas trees, may your own preparations to pull your box of decorations bring you much joy and awesomeness this holiday season.

@fergdevins


Fairmont YVR Christmas Tree

Hotel Lobbies and the Joy of Christmas

Over the next couple of weeks I’ll have a few snaps to share as we journey from Vienna Austria to Nuremberg Germany visiting the “Christmas Markets” - looking for those lobbies of awesomeness

Keeping consistent with the Neil Pasricha, "The Book of (Holiday) Awesome", my post today is reflecting on the joy of Christmas while traveling.

When travelling on business, it was always interesting to see various states of decoration as the month of November progressed. It was particularly gratifying when met with a winter storm in November, to see a Christmas tree or decorations in the hotel lobby upon arrival. The warmth of Christmas decorations helped dismiss the incovenience of snow, slush, slow roads, heavy traffic and grumpy winter travelers.

Traveling to British Columbia in 2017, I arrived late on Sunday night and bunked in at the Fairmont Hotel at the Airport in Vancouver.

To my absolute delight, there was an "upside down" Christmas tree hanging in the lobby. There were also several other trees and decorations in the main lobby area. It is just such a wonderfully welcoming feeling to see these lobbies decorated for the season.

I truly think that hoteliers worldwide should take a bow for the work that you and your staff put into decorating your properties for the holiday season. Just know that the hard work does bring joy to travelers at this time of year.

Simply - awesome work.

@fergdevins

 


Queen's Band Macy's Parade

Love a Parade

American Thanksgiving, no matter where you are in the world, will always be a morning to watch the famous Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. It is a spectacular production that has withstood the test of time.

In 1983, I was fortunate enough to have marched in the parade as a member of the Queen's University at Kingston - Queen's Bands. The photo atop was our pipe band contingent. Oh my gosh my feet were sore after marching around Manhattan with that bass drum strapped on.

Whether participating in or spectating at, a community parade is just simply one of the events of the holiday season and Christmas festivities that leaves us feeling awesome. Although not one of Neil Pasricha's references in his "The Book of (Holiday) Awesome", I did want to refer to the joy that a parade brings to the community. It is certainly a cultural event - lining up along the street, hand warmers engaged, hot chocolate in hand, lawn chairs in place.

Thanks to the magic of google you can find a lot of Ontario based parades and Christmas events at https://www.todocanada.ca/Christmas-Lights-Santa-Claus-Parades-Toronto-GTA/ - in 2018. Thanks to @RetroFestive and Damien Nelson, I had included a list of LINKS to Santa Claus parades in provinces across Canada last holiday season. Some seem active but you might be forced to “google Santa Claus Parade” nearest your community. Here's hoping that you and your family have an opportunity to take in the festivities and appreciate the fine work undertaken by parade volunteers and supporters coast to coast to coast.  Enjoy !

For those parades come and gone, thanks to the organizers, for those yet to take place - put on your woollies !

@fergdevins

Santa Claus Parades Across Canada in 2017

British Columbia

Alberta

Saskatchewan

Manitoba

Ontario

Quebec

Maritime Provinces and Newfoundland and Labrador

Territories


Devins Network blogs Crane with Christmas Lights

Construction Cranes with Christmas Lights

A special glow on city streets as the setting sun retires each day during the holiday season...

The title of this post says it all. What a joyful sight it is to see construction cranes in cities and towns with Christmas lights strung across the structures. Someone must have to take credit for starting this idea, and it is so wonderful to see that so many construction companies have adopted this celebration of the season.

Like Neil Pasricha mentions in his "The Book of (Holiday) Awesome", "they're not selling anything. Nope, Christmas lights on construction sites just smile down on the city and cover us all in a warm and festive light"

Thanks to those who have taken the time, the expense and the risk of adorning cranes with these special Christmas and holiday treats on our cityscapes and town horizons. You certainly help put a punch of awesome into our happiness this season.

And...given that it is American Thanksgiving November 23rd, I am now permitted (thanks, Kath) to turn on the light lights and hang out the outdoor decorations. Bring on the season. Let's keep it awesome.

@fergdevins


couple walking

When Strangers Wish you Happy Holidays

Continuing on with my little rant video on Instagram about the lack of "morning hellos" returned my way, it is pretty special when a strangers wishes you "happy holidays" - isn't it !?

On a walk with neighbours, the other day, we were remarking about how fascinating it is to pass people on the street and see the percentage that returns "Hello" along the way. Our finding is (in Toronto) that it is less than 50% that respond back to hello, good morning, hello there, good afternoon, hi. Sad, isn't it !? The next time you are out for a walk, in the park, with the dog, in the neighbourhood - do your own little audit and let me know.

However, this post is to continue my string of posts related to "The Book of (Holiday) Awesome" by Neil Pasricha. Neil's "page 14" reference to awesome relates to "When Strangers wish you happy holidays".

So, picking up on my intro, how awesome is it when someone actually initiates the greeting. Given what I stated in the opening paragraph, I am delighted. It is so nice to have another person just make that eye to eye, voice to voice, and make a connection with me. OK, I'll give those that wish to put their head down and walk without interacting your time of day. I respect that but wouldn't meditation along be better than just ignoring all of humankind that you pass by?

Perhaps this little post might make each of us a little more aware of the opportunity to greet our fellow community members with a "Happy Holidays", or "Merry Christmas" or "Good Morning", just because there is nothing wrong with all of us spreading a little goodwill in our day.

Wishing all the strangers reading this post "happy holidays".

@fergdevins


snow shoveling

Snow Shoveling Etiquette this winter

That neighbourly moment truly appreciated when you go to shovel the front walk...and it is already done for you! There are lots of folks who struggle with winter, aging neighbours, sickly folks, bad backs and those who are just too busy getting their day started to worry about the snow that has fallen. A little wintry support can go a long way.

Greetings friends and family across this great nation. By the looks of the Global News weather reports, some of you are facing snow, others still waiting. I thought that in the context of my string of blog posts inspired by Neil Pasricha's "The Book of (Holiday) Awesome" that I would post about shoveling etiquette.

Neil Pasricha refers to the awesome moment being "When the neighbour shovels your little patch of the sidewalk".

It is that wonderful surprise when you turn the corner after shoveling the back driveway and realize that your neighbours have already completed your front walk! How about that neighbourly support. It is truly wonderful and only something experienced through the snow. It's not like they pop over to rake and bag leaves in the fall. Have you ever had a neighbour drop in when you have a branch down after a wind storm? But, that winter magic of a snowfall just brings out the goodwill in all of us.

My son and I actually look forward to "the big dump" when we can lend a hand and fire up our snow blower to help out folks along the street. Ok ok, so the boys get to play with their toy. It is gratifying to blow the snow, shovel the walk and see the smile on the faces of neighbours as they awake to find the snow shoveling "done".

Long range forecasts today are suggesting a much snowier winter in Canada this winter. Tune up those snow shovels and get out and surprise your neighbours.

@fergdevins