Sunday 30 November 2014

Erasing the Christian Calendar

The Ontario Public School system was started by Egerton Ryerson, a Christian.  Originally, it was the Protestant system, the alternative being the Roman Catholic system.  When I was growing up, we still recited the Lord's Prayer at the beginning of the day.  We talked about Thanksgiving in October.  We had a Christmas Concert in December.  We talked about Easter in March of April.  Our school calendar was based on the Christian calendar (and still is).

However, in Montgomery County (Washington D.C.) in the United States, the school board has voted to erase the Christian calendar.  In fact, they are erasing all religious holidays.  Since the 1970's, they have recognized holidays like Yom Kippur due to their large Jewish population.  However, in recent years, there has been a push from some Muslim parents for them to recognize Muslim holidays.  The Montgomery County Board will still offer a vacation in December, but they won't call it Christmas.  

Erasing the calendar reminds me of how the Communists were notorious for renaming cities, especially when a leader fell into disfavour.  St. Petersburg, named after Peter the Great, became Petrograd, then Leningrad after Lenin died, and now it's back to its original name.  Yekaterinburg became Sverdlosk after Czar Nicholas II and his family were murdered.  

Just because you rename a city, doesn't mean you can erase it from the map.  Nor can you erase its history.  It's the same with the christian calendar.  Just because you rename Christmas, doesn't mean you can erase it.  Nor its 2000 year plus history.  

war on christmas shutterstock art

Saturday 29 November 2014

How to Plan a Wedding on a Budget

Today we were invited to my sister Laurie's house for my niece Cassandra's engagement party. Cassandra is my first niece or nephew to get married.  I was so excited to hear about her wedding plans.  She knows how to find a deal!  It would be so easy to spend $10,000 and up on a wedding. However, if you shop around like my niece, you can get a lot more for less.  Here are ten suggestions:

1.  Get married in the off season and save hundreds or even thousands of dollars (November to April).

2.  Get married on a Friday or Sunday rather than Saturday.

3.  Get married at a location that hasn't renovated recently.  Rob and I had our wedding reception at the Dundas Valley Golf & Curling Club.  They hadn't renovated in about 25 years, so the prices were reasonable, but it was still neat and clean.  The food was excellent and the view magnificent (it sat on the escarpment overlooking the city of Hamilton).

4.  Cut the guest list.  You save on food, drinks, invitations and even centrepieces.

5.  Buy flowers in season.  Stick to one or two types.

6.  Offer beer and wine rather than a full bar.

7.  Serve a one or two tiered cake and then supplement it with a sheet cake (hidden in the kitchen).

8.  Order single page wedding invitations to save on paper.

9.  E-mail your invitations.

10.  Make your wedding cake the favours.

11.  Serve comfort foods like barbecue chicken or mac and cheese which are often cheaper.

12.  Have bigger tables which require less centrepieces and table cloths.

White Photographie -

Friday 28 November 2014

Professional Blogging for Dummies

At Ollie's Discount Store in Niagara Falls, New York, I bought a copy of Professional Blogging for Dummies for only $6.99 (regular $29.99).  While I have had a blog for three and a half years, I thought it was about time I learned how to be a professional blogger, to make money at my blog.

I was happy to learn that I am already doing some things right.  I post regularly and frequently.  If I can't post, then I save the date and catch up later on.  I always include photographs or pictures in my posts.  Another thing I have been doing lately is listing previous posts which connect with a current post, almost like cross references.  I also have my five most popular posts listed on my home page. Recently, I started including tags in my posts to encourage backlinks.

Here are some things I can do to expand my reader audience.  Firstly, I can provide a link to other blogs, called a blogroll.  That way, I will get fellow bloggers aware of my blog and hopefully invite reader comments.  I can become a regular follower of other blogs and make comments on their posts. I can also link to Youtube for a sound bite occasionally.

I like the author's suggestion of categorizing my blogposts.  It makes it more reader friendly.  That way, I increase the likelihood of a reader reading more than just the current post.  

Of course, to make money, I can sign up with Google Adsense which I am in the process of doing. There are also freelance writing opportunities online for bloggers like Hubpages.

The author, Susan Getgood, also mentions how to monitor and measure the success of your blog, called Google analytics or metrics:  how many people read your blog (page views); how engaged they are with your blog ex. read one post, read multiple posts; how people find your site ex. search keywords; which are your most popular posts.  As the author states:

"Understand though that even a little bit of attention to your metrics can reap big rewards.  Just keep the importance of your metrics in perspective.  After all, you're a blogger, not a calculator."

So, look out fellow professional bloggers, here I come!

To read author Susan Getgood's blog "Marketing Roadmaps" visit:

To order a book, visit:

Thursday 27 November 2014

Foods of the World

Jacqueline's class had a Foods of the World dinner yesterday.  Since her background is half German, she asked me to make schnitzel.  For her British half, she wanted me to bake butter tarts.  Easier said than done.  I have eaten schnitzel several times at the Black Forest Inn in Hamilton, but I've never made it myself.  I went to Zehrs and purchased the porkloin.  When I got it home I realized the due date on it was Sunday and the dinner wasn't until Wednesday.  As Jacqueline said, "We wouldn't want to poison her class!"  So, I cooked it on Sunday night.  Normally, I don't cook with oil because it is fattening.  But that is what was recommended.  So I poured about a half inch of oil into the pan. My friend said make sure the oil is hot.  I waited a couple of minutes and then put in the schnitzel. After eight minutes, it was done.  Perfect!  I packed it in Thomas and Jacqueline's lunches.

On Monday I bought more schnitzel.  Tuesday after supper I poured the oil into the pan and waited.  It didn't seem to be heating up as fast so I waited longer -- too long.  by the time I put the schnitzel in, it burned to a crisp within two minutes.  By now, I was really frustrated!  But Jacqueline had her heart set on schnitzel.  So, back to Zehrs I went for a third purchase at the butcher shop.  Luckily, three porkloin pieces only cost $5.97.  I figured that the only thing I did wrong was the oil.  So, I only waited a minute and a half for the oil to preheat.  In went the schnitzel.  Seven minutes later, it came out perfect!

On to the dessert.  I baked 24 tart shells for 10 minutes.  They came out looking just right.  Then Jacqueline and I mixed the filling.  I made sure I didn't add raisins because most kids don't like them. I didn't add nuts because some kids are allergic to them.  I ladled the filling into the shells.  Into the oven they went for 10 minutes.  The recipe said bake them at 450F.  I thought that was too high.  So, I put them on 425F.  The microwave was going at the same time.  I smelled something burning and I thought it was the microwave food, but it was the butter tarts!  Beep!  Beep!  went the smoke alarm. I removed the smoking tarts from the oven, frustrated once again.  AT least they were salvageable, though, unlike the second batch of schnitzel.

The class loved the schnitzel; every piece was eaten.  And Jacqueline's teacher loved the butter tarts; he said he doesn't like them underdone.  So, it worked out in the end.  Now, I'm ready for the next time...if there is one.

Note:  For a good schnitzel recipe, visit

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Let's Burn This B**** Down!

"Let's burn this b**** down!" cried the stepfather of Michael Brown after he heard the not guilty verdict handed down by the grand jury in the killing of his stepson (see the Youtube video at  Others standing in the street took up the chant. By the end of the night, Ferguson was ablaze.

     Martin Luther King Junior would be turning over in his grave.  Take a look at the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950's and 1960's.  I don't remember Martin Luther King Jr. taunting the police when a cross was burned on his front lawn in 1956.  I don't remember Martin Luther King Jr. torching a police car when his house was bombed.  I don't remember Martin Luther King Jr. running away with boxes of donuts when he participated in the sit in at an Atlanta lunch counter in 1960.  I don't remember the civil rights leader lobbing Molotov cocktails into the streets of Selma, Alabama as he marched with hundreds of suit-clad protesters to Montgomery in 1963.  I don't remember the Atlanta native throwing rocks and bottles through Atlanta window fronts as he marched through his hometown.  I don't remember the father of four torching a Montgomery Walgreen's after four young black girls were murdered at the Baptist Church.  I don't remember the pastor running away with a box of tequila from a liquor store, likely owned by blacks, as he protested the lack of voting rights for blacks.  I don't remember the words "Let's burn this b**** down!" being part of the great orator's famous "I have a dream speech" which he delivered from the steps of the Lincoln Monument in Washington.

     But I do remember the 90% of blacks who refused to ride the Montgomery busses after Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white person, an initiative started by King's organization.  I do remember the hundreds of protesters who sat at lunch counters, dignity oozing from every pore, as hooligans showered them with ketchup and mustard.  I do remember the long line of followers who marched with Martin Luther King Jr. from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.  I remember the pastor's prayer as he languished in a Birmingham Jail cell.  I remember the 200,000 plus protesters who marched through Washington D.C.'s streets and then listened to King deliver his I Have a Dream speech.  I remember President Kennedy's famous civil rights speech.  And a little document called the Civil Rights Act, signed by President Johnson in 1964.

     Let's bring back Martin Luther King Jr.'s quiet dignity.  Quiet, but powerful.

March on Washington D.C. courtesy 

Tuesday 25 November 2014

Tickets to the Game

I just received another rejection letter this morning for my chapter book I'm Just Daisy.  I placed it in an enveloppe called "Tickets to the Game" along with the six other tickets.  Why would I call it a ticket when it's a rejection letter?  I read a post online in which the author called her rejection letters "tickets".  Rather than seeing each letter as preventing her from getting published, she saw it as a ticket, bringing her one step closer to the game.

What a great idea!  Since rejection is part and parcel of the writing and publishing world, writers have to get used to it.  Why not see it as a step in the process?  Why not see it as an opportunity rather than a shut out?  As a beginning rather than an ending?  I used one of my rejection letters, which was very detailed and helpful, to write an improved second version of my book.

It's a talent in life to be able to see the good side of something bad.  I could have easily shredded those tickets.  But instead, they are tucked away in an 8 1/2 by 11 envelop.  It's like I'm treasuring them.  They are proof that I've written a book and that I'm getting it out there.  It's like Babe Ruth.  He was the strike out king. of baseball.  But he was also the home run king. I want to be the strike out-home run queen of writing.

So, as I carefully slide my tickets into my envelop, the way Babe Ruth slid into home plate, I am one step closer to the game.  I can actually smell the juicy hotdogs and buttery popcorn.  I can hear the crack of the bat when it hits the ball.  I can feel the rumbling of Yankee Stadium as the fans cheer. Let's play ball!

Monday 24 November 2014

Getting a Book Published Through a Sponsor

When My Dad published his book, Meet Me at the Lakeview Casino ( he did so with money given to him by the Women's Institute of Grand Bend.  They were interested in promoting local history and they had just received a generous donation from an elderly resident named Mrs. McElroy.  My Dad wrote a letter to the Institute president who put it to a vote.  The committee voted in favour of the book, with about a three quarter majority.  Published in 1999, the book sold enough copies in the first two years for the Women's Institute to recoup their initial donation.

I'm thinking maybe this is the route I should pursue for my books.  I looked up Ontario Historical Societies and found a list of almost 400.  My chapter book I'm Just Daisy, based on the life of my British Home Child great-grandma, would be perfect for a British Historical Society.  My chapter book On Prussian Plains, based on my mother-in-law's family, would be suitable for a German Historical Society or cultural club like the Germania Club in Hamilton.  After all, the Germania Club is where Rob's mom met his dad.  It's also where they celebrated their wedding reception and 25th anniversary.

It's time to write letters and make contacts.  Wish me luck!

Sunday 23 November 2014

Sledding Party at the Farm

While I was shopping in Niagara Falls, New York, Jacqueline was at her friend's farm for a sledding party.  She was so excited to go!  All the girls in her class were invited and about half showed up. I can only imagine what happened.  I'm sure they hopped on their sleds and slid down the rolling hills. Then they all piled on one sled and slid down the hill, laughing all the way to the bottom.

I'm sure they spent some time in the barn visiting with the dairy cows, playing with the cats and kittens, and climbing up into the loft.  They likely visited the old portable where the chickens now live.  Maybe they found a brown egg or two to collect.

They might have swung on the old rope tied to the massive tree behind the farmhouse.  Or maybe they jumped on the trampoline.  Inside, they took off their wet hats, mitts and snow pants and warmed their hands by the fire.  Around the table, they sipped on hot chocolate.

Jacqueline came home, her hair damp, her clothes full of burrs, smelling like the barn.  She loved it! There'e nothing like an old fashioned sledding party!

Saturday 22 November 2014

A Christmas Book Basket

A few weeks ago, I saw a great idea on Pinterest for Christmas.  Gather a collection of 25 Christmas picture books.  Wrap them up.  Put the collection under the tree.  Every day in the month of December, have your child unwrap one book and read it to him/her.

Now, it gets expensive to buy 25 picture books.  But I did go shopping with my friend Heather in Niagara Falls, New York yesterday.  I bought a couple of hardcover books for $3.99 at Ollie's Discount Store. Two days ago, I visited Brantford Public Library's Catalogue and requested 22 Christmas books, many of which Jacqueline has never read.  I couldn't believe the selection they had.

It remains to be seen whether I will wrap them since that costs more money and is time consuming. Besides, I will be returning the library books in three weeks.  But I will put the collection in a basket or box and set it under the Christmas tree.  I look forward to Jacqueline delving into the basket.

Here is the list of books I bought or borrowed for our Christmas library this year:

1.  One Splendid Tree (Marilyn Helmer)
2.  Christmas from Heaven (Tom Brokaw)
3.  The Christmas Tapestry (Patricia Polacco)
4.  A Charlie Brown Christmas (Charles Schulz)
5.  How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Dr. Seuss)
6.  The Polar Express (Chris Van Allsburg)
7.  My Pen Pal Santa (Melissa Stanton)
8.  Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus (Christopher J. Piehal)
9.  Boris and Stella and the Perfect Gift (Dara Goldman)
10.  Christmas in the City (Loretta Krupinski)
11.  Cobweb Christmas (Shirley Climo)
12,  How Many Miles to Bethlehem? (Kevin Crossley-Holland)
13.  The Finest Christmas Tree (John Hassett)
14.  The Tale of Baboushka (Elena Pasquali)
15.  The Great Reindeer Rebellion (Lisa Trumbauer)
16.  The Message of the Birds (Kate Westerlund)
17.  Jackie's Gift (Sharon Robinson)
18.  The Little Crooked Christmas Tree (Michael Cutting)
19.  The Carpenter's Gift:  A Christmas Tale about the Rockefeller Center Tree (David Rubel)
20.  The Night Before Christmas (Clement C. Moore)
21.  Mortimer's Christmas Manger (Karma Wilson)
22.  Aunt Olga's Christmas Postcards (Kevin Major)
23.  Arthur's Christmas (Marc Brown)
24.  Can't Wait Til Christmas (Mike Huckabee)
25.  The Christmas Cookie Sprinkle Snitcher (Robert Kraus)

Here is the original link:

Christmas book basket courtesy

Friday 21 November 2014

Nanowrimo Rules!

"Thirty days and nights of literary abandon!" (Nanowrimo slogan)

This year, I'm participating again in Nanowrimo (, a marathon of words for the month of November.  Now that I have some experience under my belt, it is getting easier.  I know what to expect; that's half the battle.  I have an outline to work from.  That organizes me.  And I'm writing about a topic that I've written about before.  They say write what you know.

Nanowrimo is all about quantity.  Write now, edit later.  I do have to admit that I'm cheating this year:  in the past I've written the standard 50,000 words. This year, I'm only writing 30,000.  That is because I am writing a middle grade chapter book, not an adult length novel.  Besides which, it seems so much more manageable to meet a 1000-word-a-day rather than a 1700-word-a-day quota.  Right now I am sitting at just over 22,000 words, over a third of the way to my goal.  I find that if I keep a day ahead of where I'm supposed to be, then if I miss a day, I'll still be on schedule.

Even though this is my fourth time participating in Nanowrimo, it is still exhilarating.  I love the research process.  I love sitting down at the computer and filling the blank page.  I love setting the context.  I love finding "le mot juste", even if it takes me several minutes.  I love weaving historical details into each scene.

A project that started in San Franciso Bay area in 1999 with 21 participants has now blossomed into 400,000 members as of 2013.  I first took part in 2009.  Would you like to join?  It's well worth the time and it's a great workout for your brain!

Note:  For more information, read my post "Nanowrimo:  A Marathon of Words" at:

Thursday 20 November 2014

Six Feet of Snow in Buffalo

I remember the winter of 1977 when Southern Ontario was buried under giant snowdrifts for weeks. But it seems like that winter pales in comparison to what Buffalo is facing this week.  My nephew Cody posted a photo of several people trying to clear the rooftop of a house in the American city. The house, surrounded by snow coated evergreens, is covered with a massive snowdrift.  The adults who chip away at it with shovels are dwarfed by its sheer size.    

The picture shows us how powerful nature is, and how powerless we are.  Standing on that rooftop must be a humbling experience.  It will probably take the Buffalonians all day to clear off that roof. But I'm sure they'll never forget this snowfall.  It will be etched in their memory.  They have the photograph to prove it.

Wednesday 19 November 2014

Dancing around Christmas

Kirk Cameron, the actor who starred in "Fireproof", has a new movie out called "Saving Christmas". I'd like to see it but it isn't playing in Brantford.  It's pretty sad when I can watch "Dumb and Dumber To", but not "Saving Christmas", even though the Christmas season is approaching.

"Saving Christmas" is about getting back to the true meaning of Christmas.  Remember the old TV show special "A Charlie Brown Christmas" (1965)?  Charlie Brown, frustrated with the materialism of Christmas, directs a Christmas pageant.  But he feels like he's failed when the centrepiece for the whole play is a sad little evergreen tree with a bit of tinsel draped over it.

It is Linus who reminds him about the true meaning of Christmas.  A spotlight shines on Linus who, holding his blue "companion" blanket, takes the stage.  His speech opens with the words:  "And there were in the same country shepherds, abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night." A hush falls over the audience as we ponder Linus' message, that a baby, born in a lowly manger, has come into the world to save us.

How could we, like Charlie Brown, get it so wrong?  The word is CHRISTmas.  We should celebrate Christ.  And yet we dance around the word the way children danced around the forlorn fir tree. We don't even call it Christmas anymore.  The stores advertise "Happy Holidays" and "Seasons Greetings".  Or even "Happy Hannukah" which doesn't fall at the same time as Christmas and isn't even the biggest holiday of the Jewish calendar.  To counter the political correctness campaign, I make a point of saying "Merry Christmas" as loudly and as often as I can.

I'm just as guilty as the next person, however, about turning Christmas into an assembly line of decorating the house, writing Christmas cards, baking dozens of cookies, shopping shoulder-to-shoulder at the mall, wrapping endless gifts, stuffing stockings, stuffing the bird and stuffing my face.

How can I strip it back to its original meaning, the way Linus did?  I need to return to Linus' text, Luke 2: 8.  Then I will feel His presence -- the true meaning of Christmas.  To listen to Linus' speech, click here:

Tuesday 18 November 2014

Farewell to Autumn

It was only a couple of weeks ago that Jacqueline and her two girlfriends went trick or treating, orange sacs under their arms, leaves swirling around them down the moonlit streets.  This morning, Thomas cleaned snow and ice off the car. Jacqueline's door was frozen shut.  My teenager even wore a coat! When I dropped Jacqueline off at school, she went directly into the portable because the temperature was so low.

I came home and browsed on Facebook to find a photograph of a ripe red apple still hanging from the tree surrounded by a winter wonderland in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia.  I feel like that apple.  I still want to cling to the tree and hang on to autumn.  I'm not ready for the fierce winter winds, the frigid temperatures, the icy roads.

I want autumn to last forever.  I want to enjoy the coloured leaves on the trees, the flocks of birds soaring through the clear blue sky as they fly south, the gold chrysanthemums in the garden.  I want to rake leaves and bake pumpkin Bundt cake and watch the harvest moon rise over the horizon.  I want to enjoy the stillness of the season.  

As the ripe red apple still clings to the tree, snowflakes fall.  Farewell to autumn.

Monday 17 November 2014

A Moving Box, a Dumpster & an Automobile

For twenty years we had a little old lady living across the street.  She kept to herself, cut her grass, pruned her trees, tended to her flowers, and kept her house in tiptop shape.  She passed away and new neighbours moved in last year.  What a switch!  The Christmas season has arrived and most people decorate with a string of lights or a reindeer in the middle of the lawn.  Not the new neighbours -- they have a different style.

First they hauled in a gigantic Moving Box to fill half of their shared driveway.  We thought:  It's probably temporary.  But that wasn't all.  Next, they moved in a dumpster.  I was thrilled at Halloween when a truck came to haul the full dumpster away.  But no, he replaced the green dumpster with a red one. But that wasn't  all.  Next, they moved in an automobile which straddles the sidewalk.  What ever happened to the bylaw that you had to have your sidewalks cleared within 24 hours of a snowfall?  How about a car?

If this isn't in violation of a bylaw, it's got to be in violation of a fire law.  There is no more than a foot between the Moving Box and the house.  The front door is at the side of the house.  How do the neighbours get in and out of their house?  Firefighters, with all their gear, would never be able to get in and out of there.

And what about the neighbours?  The elderly lady next door, who shares the driveway, has battled cancer.  Her husband passed away from cancer about five years ago.  We only see her when she goes to church on Sunday or when she lets her little poodle outside for some fresh air.  When she opens her front door, what a beautiful view she has!

What ever happened to common courtesy, to consideration for others?  A little consideration goes a long way.

Sunday 16 November 2014

Advent: The Season of Anticipation

Today at church Jacqueline and I helped the Junior and Senior Kindergarten Sunday School students put together advent wreaths (  We gave each student a green wreath cut out of styrofoam-like material. Then, we gave them candle #1, HOPE, which they had to colour purple.  Next was candle #2 PEACE which they had to colour purple as well.  Candle #3 was JOY which they coloured pink.  Candle #4 was LOVE which they coloured purple and Candle #5 was JESUS which they left white.  Some of the students were already had their candles coloured and glued on.  Some needed help with the colouring and gluing.  Some needed help reading the five words.  But all were immersed in the activity, their little fingers working busily to finish the task.

The season of advent brings back great memories for me.  The anticipation of the coming of Christmas, the coming of Jesus, makes it so exciting.  I remember the Christmas wreath at our home church.  I always looked forward to the lighting of one candle, followed the next week by two, and so on, building up to the Jesus or Christ candle on Christmas Eve.  One of the Advent Sundays was also a white gift Sunday where we would wrap a canned good in white tissue paper, twist it at the ends and put it under the Christmas tree at the front of the sanctuary.

As an adult, we celebrate Advent at home as well, following Rob's German Lutheran tradition.  My mom gave us her old wreath which she used to hang on our front door.  I bought a holder which fits four candles which sits inside the wreath.  We sit it on our dining room table.  For each of the Sundays of Advent, once it gets dark, we light a candle on the wreath, and sing Christmas carols (English and German).  At the end, we take turns saying a prayer and blowing out a candle.  As toddlers, our children cried when they had to sit still for Advent.  As preschoolers, they suggested we sing Happy Birthday (the only song they knew by heart).  As older children, they loved the tradition.

In two weeks, we will light the Candle of PEACE.  I can already feel the anticipation.  Maybe some of my Kindergarten students will post their wreaths on their fridge doors.  Likely some will have an Advent wreath at home.  Maybe they'll even sing. I'm sure Jesus will smile when he hears their little voices.  

Saturday 15 November 2014

Technologically Challenged

I am a dinosaur.  I don't own a cell phone.  I've never sent a text.  The only reason that I joined Facebook three and a half years ago was so that I could connect with other writers.  However, it's been a great forum for my blog.  Now, I'm looking for more blog followers and hits.  This week, therefore, I decided to become a full fledged member of the social media world.  My teenage son can do these things in his sleep, but for me, it's a monumental task.  But I was bound and determined to do it.

I started out with Twitter.  I signed up and opened an account -- without any tears!  I sent my first tweet, successfully.  Then I went crazy and sent several other tweets.  Next I turned to Pinterest.  I signed up, opened an account and pinned my first photo.  I even tried Google +, but Thomas told me that it was a waste of time, so I gave up on it.

My next task was to sign up for Google Adsense (  I've been blogging for three and a half years, why not make a bit of money at it?  Once again, I signed up successfully.  Now I just have to wait up to a week to be approved.

I have always wanted to write more articles.  I discovered Hubpages on the Internet.  Why not sign up to write Hubs?  So, I gave them a list of information as well as my Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest accounts and signed on the dotted line.  I wrote my first Hub, "Open Adoption:  Uncharted Territory", which took an hour and a half to complete.  Then I pressed a button -- and it disappeared!  I didn't cry, I didn't throw anything.  I just calmly started to rewrite the article.  This time, however, I saved it in Microsoft Word, just in case.  The second time around I was able to successfully submit the article. I was told it would take 24 hours to proofread before it would be published.  I don't care -- I'm a Hubber!

Besides Social Media, another way I can increase my blog hits is to use tags.  Again, how hard can it be to learn? So, I googled it.  I was pleasantly surprised to find out how simple it was.  Each time I write a new blog post, I have a box to the right of the text with the word Labels at the top.  I click on it, a box opens, and I list the words that I would like highlighted from that particular post.  Then, when I publish my post, voila!  The highlighted words appear in orange at the bottom of my post as "tags".

I thought, I wonder if tags are the same as "hashtags"?  I guess they are.  I was so proud of myself that I bragged to my daughter Jacqueline that I had learned how to use hashtags.  She laughed and explained to me that a hashtag is something you use when you text.  She said:  "Stick to Facebook, Mom.  It's more your speed."  

Nonetheless, I am still pleased that I have navigated through the Social Media world successfully. My next task is to set up an official website which will provide links to my writing (blog, newspaper articles, short stories).  Can I do it?  Will I succeed?  We'll see.  If I'm successful, you'll see me doing a happy dance. Thomas and Jacqueline, however, will not bat an eyelash.  I'm still their "dinosaur" mother.

Friday 14 November 2014

Christmas Decorating chez Jonasson

I always said that the person I married would have to be tall, intelligent and make me laugh.  Of course, it also went without saying that he would have to make a good father.  One of the things I love about Rob is his joy for Christmas and the Advent season.  With snowflakes falling outside, today is the perfect day to put up the Christmas tree.

The tradition is that Rob puts up the Christmas tree (  When we were first married he did it himself.  It was particularly sad sixteen years ago when, after six and a half years of marriage, we celebrated another Christmas without children.  That all changed when we adopted Thomas, and brought him home only three weeks later.

Now, Rob and Thomas put up the tree.  Four and a half years later, we were joined by another baby, Jacqueline.  At first she just got in the way when Rob decorated the house.  She actually undid the work that Rob did, taking off every last candy cane that Rob hung on the branches, taking each one behind the chair and eating it.  But after a few years, Jacqueline started to help, too, hanging ornaments on the branches of the tree.

Then our black cat with mint coloured eyes named Midnight Mint joined the family.  And like Jacqueline, she hinders the decorating process.  After Rob carefully hangs all of the ornaments, she proceeds to climb up the middle of the tree and hang from the top, knocking every last one off.

So, today the tradition continues.  Rob will put on an eclectic mix of Christmas music, everything from "Give This Chrismtas Away" from the Veggietales Story of St. Nicholas to the Motown Christmas CD.  Thomas will stand with branches in his hand.  Jacqueline will sift through the cardboard boxes for her favourite ornaments.  And Midnight will hide under the couch ready to pounce.  It's Christmas chez Jonasson.

Thursday 13 November 2014

Swastikas, U-boats & Bulletproof Cars

Here are ten facts you may not know about World War II.

1.  World War II was the bloodiest conflict ever.  It cost more money, damaged more property and killed more people than any other war in history.

2.  For every five German soldiers killed, four died on the Eastern Front.

3.  It is estimated that 1.5 million children died in the Holocaust.  Approximately 1.2 million were Jews and tens of thousands were Gypsies.

4.  Eighty percent of Soviet males born in 1923 didn't survive World War II.

5.  Over 2 million German women were raped by the Red Army.

6.  Max Heiliger was the fictitious name the Nazis used to establish a bank account in which they deposited Jewish money, jewelry and gold.

7.  The word Nazi derives from a Bavarian word meaning "simple minded".  The word, originally used as a term of derision, was coined by journalist Konrad Heiden.

8.  The swastika derives from a Sanskrit word meaning "hooked cross".  Symbolizing fertility and good fortune, it has been found in the ruins of India, Egypt, Greece and China.

9.  Out of the 40,000 people who served in U-boats during World War II, only 10,000 returned.

10.  More Russians (civilians and military) lost their lives during the Siege of Leningrad than did American and British soldiers combined during World War II.

11.  The SS ran a brothel in Berlin for foreign diplomats and VIPs called The Kitty Salon.  Twenty prostitutes were hired and trained specifically to glean information from their clients through innocuous conversations.

12.  After the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt requested a bulletproof car.  However, presidents were only allowed to spend $750 on a car.  The only one available at that price was Al Capone's limousine, absconded when he went to jail for tax evasion.


Siege of Leningrad photo courtesy

Wednesday 12 November 2014

TNT, Blood Banks & Canaries

Here are ten facts you may not know about World War I, the Great War or the "War to End all Wars".

1.  An explosion on the battlefield in France was heard in England.  Over 900,000 pounds of explosives were detonated simultaneously in 19 tunnels.  The British Prime Minister heard it at 10 Downing Street in London.

2.  Twelve million letters were delivered to the Front every week.  It only took two days for a letter from Britain to reach the Front in France.

3.  "Canaries" were women who worked in factories with TNT, which gave them toxic jaundice and turned their skin yellow.

4.  World War I sparked the invention of plastic surgery.  Harold Gillies, a surgeon, saw how shrapnel could damage a soldier's face beyond recognition.  He pioneered techniques in facial reconstruction.

5.  The youngest British soldier was only 12 years old.  Sidney Lewis was one of thousands who lied about his age to enlist in the army.

6.  World War I nearly caused financial ruin in Britain.  In 1918, the cost of bullets fired in one 24 hour period was four million pounds.

7.  Blood banks were developped during World War I.  A U.S. Army doctor established the first blood bank on the Western Front in 1917.  Blood was kept on ice for up to 28 days, used in life-saving surgery.

8.  Nine out of 10 British soldiers survived the trenches.  The typical life of a British Tommy was one of boredom and routine.

9.  It cost the U.S. 30 billion dollars to finance World War I.  And they didn't even officially join the war until 1917.

10.  Sixty five million soldiers served in the First World War.  Ten million soldiers lost their lives in the conflict.  Almost seven million civilians died in the war.

Tunnelers of WW1

Secret tunnelers of World War I courtesy

Monday 10 November 2014

Blood Swept Lands & Seas of Red

This Armistice Day, the Tower of London moat was a sea of red (  To honour the 880,000 plus British soldier swho served in the First World War, the same number of ceramic poppies was placed in the moat over the past few months.  The display, titled "Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red" was created by artist Paul Cummins and theatre designer Tom Piper.  Prince William and Princess Kate visited the display when it first opened this past August.  It remains open until November 11 to honour the soldiers.  Each night, people gather at the Tower of London to do a roll call of honour followed by the playing of the Last Post.  After Armistice Day the display will be taken down.  All of the poppies have been sold to raise money for military charities.  What a great way to honour the sacrifice of these brave soldiers!

Sunday 9 November 2014


"It did not take long before the first heavy grey stones came tumbling down and the children of the village amused themselves as they threw the stones into the many coloured windows.  When the first rays of a pale and cold November sun penetrated the heavy dark clouds, the little synagogue was but a heap of stone, broken glass and smashed up woodwork." (Eric Lucas, Kristallnacht)

Shards of broken glass lay in the streets.  Storefronts were shattered.  Synagogues were stripped. Schools were vandalized.  Homes were ransacked.  Cemetery headstones were toppled.  The date? November 9 & 10, 1938.  The place?  Nazi Germany and Austria.  The event?  Kristallnacht (

Murdered German diplomat Ernst Vom Rath courtesy

It all started over the murder of a German diplomat in Paris by a Polish Jew whose parents had recently been deported from Germany.  Hitler gave the order to Gauleiters and Stormtroopers to riot in German and Austrian cities.  Dressed in civilian clothing, they wielded sledgehammers, destroying 7,500 businesses, hundreds of synagogues, 29 department stores, countless Jewish schools and homes.  Local police and fire departments were told not to interfere.

Damaged berlin synagogue courtesy

Thirty thousand Jewish men were arrested and jailed.  At least 100 Jews (and some mistakenly identified non-Jews) were murdered and dozens of others committed suicide.  German newspapers were ordered to downplay "The Night of Broken Glass".  However, as for the foreign correspondents, "no German Jewish event between 1933 and 1945 was so widely reported" as Kristallnacht.

Most of the arrested Jews, who were sent to Concentration Camps, were let go on the condition that they leave Germany and Austria.  The Nazi government fined the Jews one billion marks for the death of the German diplomat.  They used it as an excuse to seize Jewish property and insurance settlement money received after damaged incurred on November 9 and 10.  Many historians consider Kristallnacht to be the start of the Holocaust.

Shop owner cleaning up broken glass courtesy

Saturday 8 November 2014

The U-boat: That Dastardly Villain

Here are ten facts you may not know about the U-boat.

1.  Germany turned out over 1000 U-boats during the Second World War.  Most of these were built between 1941 and 1945.

2.  Hamburg turned out a third of Germany's U-boats.  The city was heavily targetted by Allied bombers.

3.  Seventy percent of German U-boats were lost, missing in action or scuttled at sea.  The Allies' organized convoys and improved submarine tactical countermeasures caused this high percentage.

4.  The first ship to be sunk by a U-boat during World War II was the HMS Indomitable.

5.  U-boat stands for the German word Unterseeboot.  Winston Churchill declared:  "Enemy submarines are to be called U-boats.  The term submarine is to be reserved for Allied underwater vessels.  U-boats are those dastardly villains who sink our ships while submarines are those gallant and noble craft which sink theirs."

6.  Karl Donitz, "The Father of the U-boat Weapon", was instrumental in organizing Operation Hannibal, evacuating hundreds of thousands of East Prussians across the Baltic Sea fleeing the Red Army.

7.  Most U-boats were sunk not by ships but by aircraft.

8.  British Commandos hijacked a German U-boat which had an enigma ciphering machine on board.  This gave them vital information about the Nazis which helped them invade the Normandy beaches  on June 6, 1944.  Without this information, D-Day likely wouldn't have taken place until 1945.

9.  U-boats were under the jurisdiction of the Kriegmarine, the German Navy.

10.  Boom nets, mines and waves were just some of the obstacles faced by U-boats.


German U-boat later sunk in Churchill River, Labrador courtesy

Friday 7 November 2014

Britain's Secret Weapon

Here are ten facts you may not know about radar.

1.  Radar was first developped in the 1930's in Bawdsey, England.

2.  Radar is similar to a bat using sound to see in the dark.

3.  Radar operators during World War II were able to spot objects up to 200 miles away.

4.  A semiconductor crystal was a key component of radar.  Certain universities worked to perfect this crystal including Purdue, Bell, MIT and University of Chicago.

5.  Radar was the secret weapon used by the British during the Battle of Britain.

6.  Radar operators were sworn to secrecy, not even revealing their work to their parents.  They often said they were doing "wireless" work.

7.  British Commandos raided a Nazi radar station in Belgium in 1942.  They dismantled the system and brought it back to Britain to study.

8.  During World War II, radar was able to detect the location of aircraft, vessels and even V-1 rockets.

9.  Over 4000 personnel were involved in radar operations in Britain.

10.  At its height, radar operators could see almost 2000 aircraft on their screens at one time.

Note:  For more information, read Gwen Arnold's book Radar Days (

Canadian radar operators courtesy  

Thursday 6 November 2014

Lend Lease

Here are ten facts about Lend Lease program, an American aid program which helped the Allies.

1.  The Lend Lease Act was passed in March of 1941.

2.  The program helped the U.S. transfer war materiel to a beleaguered Britain during World War II.

3.  Industrial machinery, raw materials, fuels and food products as well as transportation were the main components of Lend Lease.

4.  In 1943-1944, about a fourth of British munitions came through the Lend Lease program.

5.  After World War II, large amounts of Lend Lease materials were sold to Britain at ten cents on the dollar to be paid off over 60 years at 2% interest.

6.  The last British payment on Lend Lease materials was on December 29, 2006.

7.  Lend Lease supplies were transported by American ships with British military escorts.  It was the greatest and most dangerous sea lift in history.

8.  Lend Lease brought the United States that much closer to entry into the Second World War.

9.  The Neutrality Act of 1939 banned European belligerents from purchasing American supplies.  Lend Lease was a way of getting around this Act.

10.  While most of the aid went to Great Britain, some was extended to the Soviet Union as well.

Franklin Roosevelt at desk, signing Lend-Lease Act (AP Images)

FDR signs Lend Lease Act courtesy

Wednesday 5 November 2014

The Spitfire

Here are ten facts about the World War II aircraft, the spitfire.

1.  The Spitfire was the only British aircraft to be in continuous production throughout World War II.

2.  R. J. Mitchell designed the Spitfire at Supermarine Aviation, starting in 1938.

3.  The name Spitfire comes from Old English meaning strong or fiery.  Other names considered for the bomber were Snipe and Shrew.

4.  The plane weighed 2400 kilos and had a top speed of 582 kph.

5.  There were 20,000 Spitfires built and they remained in service until 1955.

6.  The Spitfire helped Britain win the Battle of Britain even though they were outnumbered in aircraft capacity 2000 to 700.

7.  The Spitfire has been mentioned in movies like Battle of Britain, Malta Story and Reach for the Sky.

8.  There remain 50 Spitfires in the world in operation.

9.  Many pilots were unfamiliar with the Spitfire's innovative retractable undercarriage.  Early accidents were often the result of pilots forgetting to the lower the wheels before landing.

10.  Rather than carrying bombs, some of the Spitfires were modified to house two small barrels of beer.


Tuesday 4 November 2014

Thomas' First Driving Lesson

It seems like just yesterday that I attended my first in class driving lesson.  It was February of 1983.  I remember that my brother Bill had brought home chicken pox from school and given them to me. But I was bound and determined not to miss any of my driving lessons.  So I went anyway.  Luckily, I had a moderate case.  By April, my sister Lisa took me for my first in car driving lesson.  I drove around the parking lot of Limeridge Mall in our family station wagon.  

Now it is Thomas' turn.  Sunday morning I took him to Lynden Park Mall and he drove our Focus around the back parking lot three times.  He was so proud of himself that he didn't make any mistakes.  Tonight, I drove him downtown for his first in class lesson.  Mike, a nice man with a cowboy hat, registered Thomas.  I peeked into the classroom -- it was packed!  Most of Thomas' classmates are boys.  I don't know whether that's a coincidence or not.

So, he's officially started down the road to his licence.  I don't know whether I'm ready for the questions:  "Mom, can I have the car for school?"  "Mom, can I have the car for a date?"  I don't know if I'm ready to sit in the passenger seat, pressing on an imaginary brake as Thomas narrowly misses a curb.  I don't know if I'm ready for the worrying, the staying up late waiting for him to come home.

But getting your licence is a rite of passage.  All of my siblings and I started at 16.  We loved it!  And the younger you learn to drive, the easier you pick it up.  I know too many people who started later in life and turned out to be nervous drivers.  So,buckle up, Brantford, Thomas is coming!

Note:  Visit for tips about teaching your teenager how to drive.

Monday 3 November 2014

The Tree Canopy

1.  Tree canopy in autumn.

2.  Tree canopy in spring courtesy

3.  Tree canopy in autumn courtesy

4.  Tree canopy in Northern California courtesy

5.  Autumn tree canopy courtesy

6.  Blue sky tree canopy courtesy

7/  Road canopy courtesy

8.  Black & white canopy courtesy

9.  Japanese Maple canopy courtesy japanesemaple.jpg.

10.  Palm tree canopy courtesy

Sunday 2 November 2014

Moist Pumpkin Bundt Cake

2 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup canola oil
3 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 can (15 oz) solid pack pumpkin
confectioner's sugar

Preheat oven to 350F.  Combine sugar and oil.  Add eggs, beating well.  Combine flour, soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and cloves.  Add egg mixture alternating with pumpkin.  Transfer to greased 10 inch Bundt pan.  Bake 60 to 65 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Cool 10 minutes before inverting on a wire rack.  Dust with confectioner's sugar.  Yields 12 to 16 servings.

Moist Pumpkin Bundt Cake Recipe

Saturday 1 November 2014

November for Beginners

Snow would be the easy
way out -- that softening
sky like a sigh of relief
at finally being allowed
to yield.  No dice.
We stack twigs for burning
in glistening patches
but the rain won't give.

So we wait, breeding
mood, making music
of decline.  We sit down
in the smell of the past
and rise in a light
that is already leaving.
We ache in secret,

a gloomy line
or two of German.
When spring comes
we promise to act
the fool.  Pour,
rain!  Sail, wind!
with your cargo of zithers!

Rita Dove