Christmas Tree

The Smell of a Fresh Christmas Tree

Scouting out the Scouts, picking out your tree, unleashing it's binding, letting it fall, placing it in the stand - Ah...the Aroma

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. Dad reminds me of times when he'd be in snow so deep that he'd have to put me on his shoulders or I would not have been able to walk back out of the woods. 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 homemade egg nog with spices and rum.

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 Clark and I brought our tree in last Friday. Naturally (sorry for the pun), it needed to fall out and prepare itself for our annual decorating ritual. The scent of a freshly placed tree is a sure signal of great memories to be made for the season looming ahead. This year will be one where only Kathy, Clark and I truly get to enjoy the glow of our tree. That doesn't prevent us from getting our tree in place and decorated.

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 pine scents and aromas of the season.

@FergDevins


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...so many cranes in Toronto...wonderful to see how some of those with the spirit of the season at heart have lit up the horizon with lights on their cranes - well done!

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.

It is also wonderful to see so many "surprise trees and lights" in parks and on boulevards around the city this season. It is a demonstration of community spirit and people reaching out so make this season just a little more special in the face of the pandemic. Thanks for your community spirit everyone.

@fergdevins


couple walking

When Strangers Wish you Happy Holidays

This season perhaps opens up a few more casual gestures of good will in our streets, towns, villages and cities. With masks on, and social distancing the norm - we have lost a bit of the seasonal joy and greetings that would normally bring more neigbourly practices to our streets and pathways. It is unfortunate that we may have lost a bit of the magic when passers-by greet each other with a season's greetings. A small gesture this time of year, or any time of year brings positiveness into our midst. Ho Ho Ho - Hello !

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. Understandably in pandemic times, there is bound to be less casual greeting on our streets and paths.

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 there is probably a lot on people's minds these days with these challenging times, but we can still keep with the #joy of the season and a little #goodwill greeting along the way.

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.

Keep the distance and keep spreading the joy of the season.

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

@fergdevins


Cookies, Chocolates and Candies Everywhere

OK OK - we we need to give ourselves a little bit of wiggle room during the Christmas and holiday season for a few seasonal treats - we are thankful for the special rationing of Christmas fruit cake and that special blend of nuts and bolts made by mom - just simply incomparable. What's your favorite treat of the season?

Today's post through a thought generated by Neil Pasricha's "Book of (Holiday) Awesome" reminds us of the careful attention we need to pay to the next month and our diets. But the season won't break the belt line - indulge a bit for goodness sake.

The holiday season just seems to bring a lot of extra "eats" into play. Cookies, Chocolates, nuts and bolts (thanks mom), candy canes, Swiss Chalet Festive Special, shortbread, rum balls, Christmas fruit cake, Christmas pudding all seem to make their way to our dining room or coffee tables.

We can resist, oh yes we can. We can also enjoy a small indulgence here or there (or not). Although it might seem somewhat artificial in sweetening up the season. It can be truly awesome.

I must say I am enjoying the Starbuck's Ginger Break Lattes this season. Non fat, no foam, no whip cream, nutmeg on top and just one pump or syrup. Vincent on Mount Pleasant remembers my name and order - how bad is that - HO HO HO.

Watch that sugar intake. Happy Holidays !

@fergdevins


Santa

Santa Claus is Coming to Town

No doubt the jolly big soul with the red suit, white beard and "ho ho ho" will be making guest appearances in many communities this weekend - whether socially distanced or through virtual broadcasts. Certainly, Santa Claus brings much joy, smiles and great memories of Christmas's past to family and friends. Safe travels Mr. Claus and good luck on your final stretch of checking those lists for who has been naughty or nice.

Continuing along my daily blog posts inspired by Neil Pasricha's "The Book of (Holiday) Awesome", I am actually going to post a personal memory today. It relates to Santa Claus Coming to Town.

I have heard of numerous Santa Claus parades and tree lightings taking place, with Toronto's parade coming to us December 5th - virtually. I know that my hometown of Kenora had their annual tree lighting at Main and Second Street last week. A virtual tree lighting illumination Canada wide is scheduled for the 17th.

Thank you to the volunteers and organizers who are adapting their plans so that communities and their Santa Claus parades can continue as a remarkable tradition. I'm not quite sure how the jolly old man in the red suit can make it back and forth to all of these communities, and keep an eye on his workshop at the North Pole. However, that is all part of the magic of the Christmas season.

I've met Santa in Toronto on several occasions. One of the most memorable was when Santa was attending a Variety Village event. He asked me if we would be attending the parade. I advised that we would be attending and that we would be above the old Shopsey's store at the turn from Yonge Street to Front Street. Santa asked me the names of my children. He advised that if Kathy and I and our children were at the end of the terrace closest to Yonge and Front that he would shout out a greeting to our family. Well...you can just imagine. As the parade was winding down, there was great anticipation for the arrival of the final float. Kath and I quickly gathered up Helena and Clark and took our position nearest Yonge and Front Street. As Santa's float made the turn he was greeting all the mom's and dad's and then said "and a big hello to Helena and Clark...Merry Christmas!". The look on the faces of Helena and Clark with just one of those truly magical moments of Christmas.  They were simply awestruck in the moment.

We have had many awesome moments through all those years of attending the Toronto Santa Claus parade. That year took the prize for an all-time great in the book of awesome. Thanks to the Toronto committee that has kept this fine tradition alive all these years - even through these challenging times.

Santa. Wherever you are this fine Friday eve. Wishing you safe travels and well wishes for a great holiday season. Ho Ho Ho !

@fergdevins


Baby in the mall

Crying Kids in the Mall - Not Yours ! Amen...

OK - I know that Mall visits are limited - but I always got a smile on this story line - Gotta feel for those "new parents" or the parents with "that kid" that starts to holler, whine, complain, moan, scream...just as they are headed towards Santa and Mrs. Claus at the local mall. Not to worry mom and dad, for those of us who have had kids...we've been there done that. Somehow Santa usually, most times, gets that child back under control once they approach the big lad in the red suit. Enjoy the mall and more importantly enjoy those kids - no matter what the mood beholds.

The next post of Holiday Awesome that I am drawing from Neil Pasricha's "Book of (Holiday) Awesome is all about the crying kids in the mall. Of course, the awesomeness that he points to is that the kid is not yours.

Calling on all parents. Don't feel bad about the child crying in the mall. Those of us that are parents can quickly tell you that we've been there and done that. Don't be embarrassed, don't rush off with the child, don't hide in the washroom until soothers are in place. Just let your child wail away until consoled and carry on with your Christmas or Holiday shopping.

The fact is you are probably bringing joy to many of us that have fond memories of our own children at that age. I do recall so many seniors that would have commented: "I remember those years of joy". I know, I know, that moment of wailing in the mall is not a current moment of joy for the current parent. However, the point I'm making is that those around you are likely not as fussed or embarrassed as you being the parent. We all sympathize and have a little smile inside to share with you.

And Santa's lap...always good for a loud wail now and again...smiles.

@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, ageing 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 shovelling 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 shovelling 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 courtesy shovelling of 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 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 shovelling "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


Light Them Up

With December 01 upon us, neighbourhoods are lighting up across the nation. Our tradition for our family is usually to light up the outdoor lights on American Thanksgiving. However, I have noticed that a lot of people were working on their lights over the weekend. With a freshly fallen snow on the ground today in Toronto, the city will be aglow tonight has neighbours Light Them Up.

One of my most favourite tasks of the holiday season is to put the lights up on the trees outside. In recent years the task has become quite enjoyable.  Our extended autumn delivers fairly mild weather for stringing the lights. One custom that I have adopted is to place the lights on the outdoor trees the weekend of the Toronto Santa Claus Parade. I maintained that tradition this year, the day of the parade. Even this year, although the Toronto parade will be aired "virtually" on December 5th, I chose the traditional November weekend to hang and test the lights.

Neil Pasricha's reference to this task is on page 7 of his "Book of (Holiday) Awesome" . He refers to the awesomeness being the fact that you are "plugging in your Christmas lights from last year and having them all work". I must admit that up until two years ago, this was always an issue for me. I was a late convert to the new LED light systems. The original old-style lights were far more fragile and breakable than the new LED versions. The LED versions are also much easier to string and remove for storage as well. They are also getting more brilliant as the years pass by.

I am sure that I will still be faced with the surprise of half strings undone when I go to light up the indoor lights. I still have lights from many years of adding strings to the indoor tree. Hey!  Maybe this year is the year that we should finally make the transition to LED lights for the indoor tree as well. (NOT) Has anyone made this transition and have feedback on that front? Does the tree glisten with the new as well as the old light systems?

I hope friends were able to string lights prior to today. This ice pellets, freezing rain and snow would be a challenge for sure. The rule in our household, as dictated by my dearly beloved sweetheart wife, is that the lights are allowed to be turned on the day that our neighbours to the south celebrate American Thanksgiving. Thus, Thursday, November 26th was the tree lighting at the Devins.

Wishing you all well in your plans for tree lighting this Christmas season. Ho Ho Ho.

Instagram @fergdevins

Twitter @fergdevins

 


Fairmont YVR Christmas Tree

Hotel Lobbies and the Joy of Christmas

Soon after Remembrance Day in Canada each year, hoteliers spark up their lobbies for the Christmas Season. It adds one of those joys of the season for travellers who are away from loved ones as the holidays approach. Thanks to hoteliers around the world for sharing this joy with us.

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

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 inconvenience of snow, slush, slow roads, heavy traffic and grumpy winter travellers.

Travelling 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 hard work does bring joy to travellers at this time of year.

Although your visitors at hotels around the world will be severely reduced in this COVID year, your guests will undoubtedly appreciate the spirit of the season that you bring to your public spaces.

Simply - awesome work.

@fergdevins

 


From the Book of (Holiday) Awesome

I am going to "re-blog" this series that ties to the work of Neil Pasricha and the Book of Holiday Awesome. Thanks for the inspiration Neil, and for those who enjoyed these posts. Back due to demand...happy holiday season planning everyone. @fergdevins

The Holiday season and the celebration of Christmas

Firstly, for me as a Christian, it is truly the Christmas season. I have also had many Muslim, Jewish and Hindu friends suggest to me that they also look at this coming time of year as the "Christmas Season", with other celebrations of faith and community included. I sometimes find it humorous when companies or individuals try to neutralize the season to be non-faith based. "Holiday Greetings", "Season's Greetings", are often phrases we might here. As a close Muslim friend of mine stated,  "get over it, it is Christmas!". Whatever your faith, it is a time of year to be grateful for all that we have and to work towards greater peace, harmony, and joy amongst all human beings. During these COVID-19 times, we will be gathering less and distancing more. However, there are so many social channels for us to help replace the face to face with virtual gatherings. Here's wishing everyone a safe and secure Christmas and Holiday season.

A Time With Family and Friends

Regardless of faith or your own beliefs, it is a wonderful time of year where family and friends rejoice. I was truly taken by the work of Neil Pasricha and his "Book of (Holiday) Awesome".  As Neil works on his mission to help people live happy lives, his work in this book is certainly a written legacy of happiness. So...virtually create your own bits of #awesome this holiday season.

Neil Pasricha's Work

I reached out to Neil in November of 2017 and asked for his permission to post and share some of the content from his wonderful work throughout the holiday season. He graciously accepted my request. Thanks, Neil! For true joy and guaranteed smiles, check out Neil's works at Amazon.ca.

Time for Awesomeness

So, over the next number of weeks (commencing November 12th and ending December 31st) I am going to share excerpts from Neil Pasricha's work "The Book of (Holiday) Awesome".

I hope that it may warm your hearts and make you think a bit of how you might spread a little Holiday Awesomeness as we wrap up 2017.

Here we Go

The first thought of awesomeness from page three of Neil's book is related to "Getting a Christmas card from someone you thought you lost touch with". Realistically, we are all probably a little less involved with the physical handwritten Christmas cards as the year's progress. There are so many "online" options to choose from. Many just simply post an electronic message to their "contact list" and email blast away. I'm still a big fan of personalized outreach on special occasions. It is wonderful to share a Christmas message that is personalized so that your networks can relate to you and your family and loved ones at Christmas. However, there truly is nothing like receiving that direct connection from someone you have not heard from in a long time - whether that is a physical greeting card or email.

As Neil points out, "life is short and always wavering", thus friendships are worth sustaining, worth investing in, "worth enjoying and worth savouring".

So here we go - post one of the season is up and running. Follow more posts via The Devins Network on Facebook, Instagram , Twitter and LinkedIn.

Through my networks, I hope to add a little spice of happiness, from the inspiration that Neil Pasricha has provided through his work.

Have an Awesome Holiday Season everyone - May the Christmas Spirit be large in your lives!

@fergdevins