Tag: Holiday (page 1 of 9)

Saturday digest: Rosh Hoshanah, family, kitties…

Dear Readers,

Whoa, where the heck did that week disappear to? One minute we were saying, “Hey, Sunday, nice to see you!” and then bam! It’s Saturday again.

L’Shana Tova!

Part of it might have had to do with the Jewish new year, Rosh Hoshana, which started Wednesday night. Karen’s family usually celebrates the holiday together, but this year we were all over the map—Rachel in the wilds of Etobicoke, Mitch in downtown Toronto (accompanied by a rip-snorter of a head cold), Zayde in Montreal, and only Karen and Adrian left to hold down the fort in Ottawa.

Even so, the texts were flying fast and furious: mostly new year’s greetings, but also this gem between Karen and Rachel:


Maybe you had to be there.

In case you hadn’t guessed, Rachel is in white, Karen in blue. And the honey is a Rosh Hoshanah tradition—you dip pieces of apple in it, for a sweet new year.

50 shades of Blue?

Meanwhile, across the pond, Blue the ragdoll kitty was having an adventure. Blue has chronic grooming problems…or should we say non-grooming problems? She seems to have been standing behind the door when the other kitties were learning how to keep themselves clean and tidy, with the result that Wendy has had to resort to periodic visits from a mysterious man we will call “Steve the Groomer.”



“Is that the doorbell? I just remembered an urgent appointment elsewhere.”

But there was to be no escape for poor Blue. Instead, Steve the Groomer quickly immobilized her and slipped a mask over her eyes, then proceeded about his dastardly business:


“But wait! You never told me the safe word!”

S. the G. is nothing if not a professional—here he is, trimming the last bits:


“Don’t bother to trim the claws. I’ll need those. For later.”


“I’ve told you before, this isn’t funny.”


“You’re all dead. Including whoever let that maniac into the house.”

And if you think we are about to say even one word about shaved…kittycats, you are very sadly mistaken.

Meeting the long-lost family


Conrad Bartholomew Augustus Gugy

If you’ve ever dug even a little bit into your family history, you might have wondered, “What became of all the other descendants of Great-great-grandmother Matilda?”

Well, on Tuesday, Karen finally got to meet a long, long, long-lost cousin. We’ll tell you more about it next week, but the short version is that Melanie, a charming and warm lady from Mobile, Alabama, met Karen through Geni, the online genealogy site.

They corresponded for quite some time via Facebook, and this fall Melanie decided that the time had come to visit Canada, home of her Gugy ancestors. (Who also happen to be our Gugy ancestors.)

What is a Gugy? And what right-minded Gugy would marry a Geggie, creating (we kid you not) a Gugy-Geggie family? Stay tuned! Karen will explain all in the week to come.

Meanwhile, there’s coffee to be drunk, lolling to be done.

Have a great Saturday (and if applicable, a sweet new year), and don’t forget to check back tomorrow when we’ll share the week’s best short videos.


Karen and Wendy




Scotland the Brave!

Dear Readers,

Wendy is still on the road—this time reporting back from Scotland the brave, home of our Irving ancestors. But I’ll let her tell you about it… Continue reading

Queen Victoria the Sex-Mad

Dear Wendy,

Here in Canada, it’s Victoria Day—the day on which we celebrate the birthday of the dear old queen who reigned over the British Empire back when that was a thing.

Of course, when Victoria Day does fall on Queen Vic’s actual birthday it’s a matter of pure coincidence, since we celebrate it on the third Monday in May, not a specific date. But whatever. It’s a holiday, and generally signals several things:

  1. The first really acceptable weekend to start gardening: Any earlier is basically an invitation for a killing frost to come along and kill all your tender annuals.
  2. The opening of cottage season: From this date until the Thanksgiving long weekend in early October, many of us quite literally head for the hills.
  3. The first barbeques/outdoor drinking binges of summer: This has given rise to the weekend’s popular name, “May Two-Four,” referring to the many 24-bottle cases of beer that are purchased, with which to toast the beloved memory of Queen Victoria.

Okay, I made that last bit up. Despite the fact that she’s the inspiration for the holiday, I don’t believe I’ve ever heard anyone toast Queen Victoria on this, or any other, occasion.

I think this is because to the modern-day May Two-Four celebrant, Queen Victoria seems like a quaint irrelevance. A relic of an age when sexual repression, stern morality, and far too many crocheted doilies were the order of the day. The Queen herself is now viewed as prudish, dour, stern, and generally kind of a downer.

This is all bosh, of course.

Except for the doilies. Those were definitely a problem.

Victoria and Albert: Let’s get physical

alt="IMAGE-Albert-Prince-Consort"But Queen Victoria herself was actually a hot-blooded, passionate woman who’d been fortunate enough to marry a man she quite literally just couldn’t get enough of.

Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha was Victoria’s first cousin, and she fell madly in love with him the moment she set eyes on him.

He was rather a handsome devil, wasn’t he?

By the way, it’s rumoured (though far from proven) that Prince Albert did indeed sport the piercing named after him. Apparently the piercing’s small gold ring was attached to a fine chain, which allowed Albert to rearrange his dangly bits so they didn’t spoil the silhouette of his breeches.

As we used to say in journalism, “Interesting if true, and interesting anyway.”

In any case, his new bride thought he was pretty hot stuff, little gold ring or no.

Here’s her description of their wedding night:

“It was a gratifying and bewildering experience. I never, never spent such an evening. His excessive love and affection gave me feelings of heavenly love and happiness. He clasped me in his arms and we kissed each other again and again.”

So…they didn’t just hold hands and smile sweetly at one another, then?

From her personal diary:

“My dearest Albert put on my stockings for me. I went in and saw him shave; a great delight for me.”

Queen Victoria had suffered a stifling, odd upbringing by a controlling mother and her personal secretary, who kept the young princess isolated and controlled 24 hours a day. This warped her personality in some ways: she was a willful, stubborn woman who firmly believed that she was the centre of the known universe…and she had a temper to match.


She was also very enthusiastic about sex, to the point where poor Albert would at times find it necessary to take refuge in the privacy of his own room.

Servants of the day reported that Victoria, feeling thwarted, would fly into tantrums and pound on the Prince Consort’s locked door, demanding to be let in at once!

“Albert, let me in, you Teutonic tower of testosterone!” I can just imagine her shouting. In German, because that’s the language they spoke at home.

By the way, this “secret portait” was the one she commissioned as a private gift for Albert in the early years of their marriage. It doesn’t really match the traditional image of Victoria as a stout, stern widow, does it?

Of course, all this passion had a few down sides. For one thing, the couple had nine children—and Victoria really wasn’t crazy about kids. Especially babies, whom she considered ugly and frog-like.

Plus, they got in the way of her sex life.

As well, when poor Albert did eventually die at the age of 42, Victoria went into a period of deep, extreme, obsessive mourning…that lasted for 40 years.

I sometimes wonder if it wasn’t really just the ultimate temper tantrum: Albert was gone, but rather than grieve his loss and gradually adapt to her new life without him, Victoria just kept pounding away on that locked bedroom door.

She really just couldn’t take “no” for an answer.

In fact, these days Victoria is known more for the length and depth of her mourning for Albert than for the vibrant, intense woman she was before his death. It’s a pity, really.

So I say, let all Canadians raise our beer bottles high today, in honour of the real Queen Victoria: not the dumpy, frumpy lady in black, but the passionate, complicated woman who married the hot German dude with the unnaturally smooth breeches.

Happy Victoria Day!



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Weight loss after 50: What’s your Easter weakness?

Dear Wendy,

Well, it’s here again. Easter Sunday, which in this house used to mean hiding caches of foil-wrapped chocolate eggs around the back yard, then sending the kids out with their baskets on an egg-hunting free-for-all.


I’m ready to go. Just point me at the chocolate.

These days, we still celebrate the holiday with chocolate, though probably not as much of it; and our kids no longer leap out of bed at half-past-oh-God-what-time-is-it? to rush down to the dining room table in search of their giant chocolate bunnies in nests of shredded paper.

Still, there’s no denying it: ’tis the season for chocolate.

And even though those foil-wrapped eggs aren’t exactly Godiva quality, there’s something about the way they melt on the tongue…let’s just say that I find them hard to resist.

So I won’t even try.

Yes, you heard me. I know, I’m watching my weight, and chocolate isn’t exactly diet food, but I figure that if I can’t allow myself a bit of chocolate on Easter Sunday, I’m doing something very wrong.

After all, holidays happen, and food is an integral part of most holiday festivities. If I had to sit out the fun, pinching my lips together to keep myself from popping one of those delicious little morsels into my mouth, I know how I’d feel: isolated, left out, and pissed off.

Because really, denying myself the occasional treat would mean that I’d crossed the line from “watching my food intake” to “policing myself”…and is that really how I want to live the rest of my life?

I’ll answer that: Nope, it is not.

So. Chocolate it is, then. But here’s the deal I make with myself: I’ll eat the minimum amount I need to feel satisfied. And as I always do, I’ll write it down (okay, to be strictly honest, I’ll type it into my food tracking program on my phone).

By the end of Sunday, I expect I’ll have exceeded my usual calorie allotment by a few hundred calories…and that will be okay. Because on Monday, I’ll be back in the saddle again, my chocolate-noshing day behind me. At least until next Easter.

I know you’re a fan of jelly beans around this time of year. How will you be handling your holiday treat situation? Inquiring minds want to know!




What I did on my Christmas Vacation: a photo essay

Dear Karen,

Now I’m back from Whistler, it’s time for me to do a Holiday Re-Cap.  First of all, we had a wonderful time; the entire family was with us, which doesn’t happen often enough as far as I’m concerned.

So, here we go!

We arrived on the 20th, to snow, snow, snow, everywhere we looked.


First sign of snow, Canadians slap on their skates and head to the nearest body of frozen ice – who cares if it’s a water hazard in a golf course?

The next day, we happened upon an outdoor wedding in Rebagliati Park, so named for the winner of the first ever gold medal in Olympic snowboarding.  Ross is a Whistler native, so it’s only fitting he gets a park named after himself.


No amount of thermal layers can hide the shivers of the bride.  Everyone else looks fine, so I guess it’s okay, then.

To continue the Olympic theme, the rings are still in the village and of course, we had to have a photo taken in front of them.


Gillian poses modestly before the Olympic Rings.

We were going out for Christmas Day dinner with some friends, so decided to celebrate the Danish way, on December 24th.  The opening dish was shrimp open-face sandwich and from there, we progressed to wine, main course and more wine.


Christmas dinner!

We walked a lot, before I had an unfortunate run-in with the tarmac and caused great personal and emotional injury to myself.  I’d decided not to strap on the skis this year, primarily because my back has been playing up but also because I wanted to keep my pregnant daughter company while the rest of the family schussed down the slopes every day.

Huh.  Funny how that turned out, eh?


Think this looks like a nice winter walk? Think again: we were walking on frozen slush. It took us 2 hours to do 4 km walk.

And then suddenly, the snow disappeared and rain showed up in its place.  The snow was still on the mountain and I’ve been told the skiing was great, but down in the village?  Meh.  Not so much fun.


Look closely and you’ll see raindrops falling with gay abandon, off the eaves of this bridge. Isn’t it supposed to snow 12 months of the year in Canada? This was more like a Spring Day than December.

On our last day, Lars and I took a Farewell, Whistler walk, and of course, the sun chose that moment to come out and greet us.  It was spectacular and annoying, at the same time.


All the kids gone? Flight in a few hours? Skis put away? Great! Let the sun shine and the snow fall on the mountains now! This day was a cruel joke.


Remember the outdoor wedding and the freezing bride? Bet they wish they’d chosen today to get married instead. 2 weeks later, all the snow is gone and it’s practically warm outside.


Wendy looks back…way back…

In the quiet moments of our holiday, I used my time wisely, going through cases and boxes and trunks of family memories.  I’ve had these boxes sitting in my storage for the past 12 years, and I decided it was time to take a gander and take a look inside.  Let’s thank our lucky stars both sides of our family were inveterate photo-takers and diarists, because almost every photograph came with a line on the back and often an entire paragraph of explanation, to guide us a century later.

I won’t show you everything today, but as the theme of this letter is Christmas, I’m sending you 3 photos of us as children, visiting Santa in his Grotto.  I’m still dubious about the weird monkey he insisted we sit with, but otherwise, I think we all look pretty jolly!


Before her brother and sister came along to ruin her fun, Karen got Santa all to herself, as this photo shows in 1960.


Lucky me, I go to visit Santa and I’m forced to hold the hand of the creepiest toy in the world. I bet I had nightmares that night.


A little older and no godawful stuffed toy to hold. Thanks, Santa.

And finally, a propos of nothing really, a Public Service Announcement:


Never, under any circumstance, place your candle on top of the hot fireplace, thinking it’d look pretty there. It will turn into a molten goo of black and ickiness and you will regret it. Just saying.

That’s it.  Christmas is over, the decorations are stored and now we look forward to 2014 and all it brings.



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