Thursday, August 28, 2014

Preparing for Winter

December 5th, 2011

The boardwalk at the Port of Orillia, covered by early winter snows.
Port of Orillia Boardwalk
We've spent the last half of November getting ourselves ready for winter. Typically we get snow "up here" anywhere from the first of October (fairly rare) on into the late spring.

A rather large tabby cat wearing a santa hat and collar, and looking decidedly unimpressed.
Unimpressed fat tabby.
Most often, the "stick around" kind of snow arrives here by late November, early December. Right now (Dec. 5th) we have bare ground, and green grass, although we have had a snowcover (twice) during November.

So far we've seen perhaps an inch or so the first major "snow-down", and about two inches the second time around. But, the mild weather and abundant rainfall have cleared away the snow and we're left with bare ground, and I seldom complain about that sort of thing (since I seriously don't like shoveling snow, and don't like wearing boots, and just generally don't like the winter much.)

Bare streets in winter, and retro style street lights with snowflake lights.
This is one of the seasons I call "the dirty season" - as much as I don't like snow or cold weather, the snow at least covers all the bare patches, fields and gardens, and clings to trees like white cotton stuffing during the winter months, making for a pretty scene, almost everywhere you go. Without its snow-skin, the countryside and town look dull and brown, except at night when Christmas lights blaze out from houses, street lights and plazas.

That creates a nice festive mood, even without the snow, and because we've had a lot of wet days, the pavement and small puddles reflect the lights giving the town a glow when viewed from the hills surrounding the city-center.

Our sad little Christmas tree from 2010.
Since y'all know by now that I really dislike winter and tend to hibernate once the snow starts piling up, I am at the moment, pretty happy. So far, I haven't had to shovel any snow and haven't had to trod around in my winter boots when I do have to go out. I personally could go right through the whole winter (yes, even Christmas) without any snow. Well, okay, we could have a "few" falling snowflakes on Christmas Day, as long as it melts once it hits the ground.

The little Christmas Tree was our small "rushed" put-up from 2010. My husband spent most of the Christmas season in hospital for heart surgery, and we ended up having our Christmas after December 25th. This year, I haven't put up a tree at all. We don't really have Christmas parcels for under the tree anymore. The grandkids are all at the stage where you just don't know what to buy, and they'd rather have money or gift cards.

The new van sitting in a snowy driveway.
New (well, used actually)
My husband and I don't really buy individual gifts for each other anymore either, we usually buy something big for the house instead. This year, we had to get a new van. That's a pretty big gift, and although I don't drive at all (so really more for him), without him to drive me places I can't walk to, I'd have to bus it.

The old van, crushed by a deer.
Deer Damage
On one of the days we had snow, he managed to get hit by a deer on his way home from work. It was dark, and the deer came bounding out of the forest along the edge of the road right into the passenger side of the old van.

The deer itself took off, so we don't know how badly it was hurt, but the insurance company called the van "totaled" and we had to buy something else. Too bad they don't give you enough money to actually buy something else. The "new" van isn't brand new, but it's pretty nice and it certainly looks brand new and it came with all the bells and whistles we didn't have in the old one.

A tray of cookies ready to bake in the oven.
Preparing to bake.
One of the things I tend to do right about this time of year is start my Christmas Baking. I used to start at the beginning of November, back when we had a lot of family and friends and business acquaintances that we gave cookie boxes to at Christmas.

It took a couple of months to make enough cookies - I had about 30 varieties of cookies and baked goods, and because I made 8 to 12 dozen of each, it took forever. Now, we give out a lot less cookie boxes, and so my baking has been pared down to the point where it usually only takes a couple of weeks of baking.

A tray of cookies baking in the oven.
In the Oven
The cookies that take the longest are the iced cookies decorated by hand (you'll find the story AND recipe for those in the Baked Goods section of my blog).

Baking the cookies doesn't take long...decorating them takes about a week. These pictures are of a batch of chocolate-white chocolate-butterscotch chip cookies. These cookies are very rich because of the butterscotch chips (um, don't mind the dirty oven...the short story is the stove came with the house, and I'm still trying to figure out how to use the self-cleaning part. I never had a self-cleaning oven before and can't find the book).

One of the floats from the 2011 Santa Clause Parade in Orillia.
Christmas Float
The other thing we've always done during November is head downtown for the annual Santa Clause Parade. We've been pretty lucky most years, with the weather being sunny and mild temperatures, and much of the time "sans snow", although there have been one or two parades where I remember snow actually falling during the parade.

This year, the day dawned gray and damp, and stayed that way. It was chilly, but it didn't rain or snow and so the kids still had a great time. One of my granddaughters is usually in the parade (with the Air Cadets), but when she was small she was enthralled most of all by the Pipe & Drum bands - I mean literally "enthralled" - it was like she had been put under a spell (she's still like that) whenever she heard the bagpipes.

Shriner's in their little cars at the Santa Clause Parade in Orillia, 2011
Shriners at Parade
A five year old girl wearing pink snowsuit enjoying the Santa Clause Parade
At the Parade
This year too was the first year we had our step-granddaughter at the parade. Our other grandchildren are all in their teens, so it was fun to watch this 5 year old enjoying the parade - we haven't had a small child around for quite a while. The parade came and went, as it always, and regardless of the weather, a good time was had by all.

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