Winter comfort #1: the hot water bottle

Winter in Canada can be quite the marathon, so it’s important Dear Reader to have those little comforts to help get you through.

Which brings me to my good friend, the hot water bottle.

Snuggled up on the couch, tucked into my jacket, and popped into the bed to warm it up. My hot water bottle never ceases to put a smile on my face.

I’d like to say that I was the first to think of it, but containers for warmth in bed have been around since as early as the 1500s.

Originally they had hot coals in them but they soon evolved to hot water – which had the advantage that they could remain in the bed with you while you slept.

Before rubber was developed to withstand heat, early hot water bottles were made out of such materials as zinc, copper, glass or ceramic. As a result they often they had a cloth covering on them to prevent them from burning.

As does mine; and the fuzzy cloth covering really just adds to the whole loveliness of it all.

The Freedom of the Highway

There’s something about getting on my bike and heading out on the open road with no destination in mind.

I like to call it the ‘Freedom of the Highway’ and there is nothing quite like it to melt away the stresses of the day.

The road lays out before me, the bike is humming along, the sun is lighting up the fields and mountains, and the smell of summer is in the air.

Particularly heading west from Calgary, there is a moment when the city falls away and suddenly the Rockies appear in all their magnificence.

Just like my first week in Canada, that moment never fails to take my breath away.

Lilacs: spring is here

Lilacs are in full bloom right now in Calgary and they are aflower on every corner. There is even one right outside my house wafting it’s delicate aroma to guests as they arrive.

It seems that the ugly duckling shrub that received my disdain throughout the winter has now blossomed into a magnificent swan.

I am so glad that I didn’t chop it back! Especially after learning that lilacs flower on old wood – which means it produces more flowers if left unpruned. In fact, unpruned lilacs will flower reliably every year- as opposed to a pruned plant that will often produce few or no flowers for five or more years.

I have an almighty bunch of lilacs in my kitchen right now and it reminds me that no matter how dark – or how long – or how cold – the winter is the spring will always follow.

The Loonie: good luck or just superstition?

The Loonie – or the Canadian 1 dollar coin as it is more officially known – is a gold-coloured coin that was introduced here in 1987. It has an image of my local favourite bird (the loon) on it – and hence the name. It’s nickname caught on like wildfire right from the start- and in fact the name has been so catchy that the 2 dollar coin is also commonly known as the Toonie.

Did you know that the design for the Loonie was never meant to be a loon?  – it was actually meant to be more similiar to the previous (silver) 1 dollar coin but the master dies were actually lost by the courier company on it’s way to the mint. Woops! – that must have been a tough phone call to make…  But thanks to them a new design was created to avoid possible counterfeiting and voila: The Loonie.

In recent years, the loonie has become associated with Canada’s winning hockey and curling teams and it is fairly common practise here to bury a loonie under centre ice. It is viewed as a good luck charm in international competitions and there is even a famous Helsinki Loonie.

The legend of the lucky loonie is alive and well and even as recently as the 2010 Winter Olympics there were 3 loonies placed in the floor of the curling venue before the concrete was poured. Myself, I like to think that the coin itself has just a little bit of that bird’s magic.

What do you think? Is it good luck or just plain old superstition?

Loon: your warbling makes my heart sing!

Would you believe that I saw my first loon of the Spring today out on the Elbow River!?

The sun was shining on an idyllic little bend in the river when I spotted it’s sleek black head and spotty body. There it was  – in amongst a flock of mallards and a gaggle of geese – just one solitary loon floating down the river. Loons mate for life, so I knew that even though I could only see one there would surely be another not so far away.

Now being an Aussie, I have certainly had all sorts of exotic and amazing favourite birds to chose from, but I have to say that this Canadian beauty is my local favourite and one that always gets my attention when it makes an appearance.

It’s warbling reminds me of my first Canadian summer and how one particular morning – when the mist was wafting off the lake just so – the loon’s low cry floated across the lake to me and with it was the promise of a new life in this majestic land.

Word of the week: Flurry

Flurry. Now there’s an interesting word. It has so many different meanings.

Now first thought in this snowy climate of Calgary is a light brief snowfall – soft fat snowflakes floating gently by the window. In fact, there are flurries expected this afternoon. A fresh snowfall is always so beautiful and it even muffles sound. There are actually those mornings here when I come outside to a fresh blanket of snow and not even so much as a peep from the world. Peaceful, gentle and quiet.

And yet flurry in the other sense is the complete opposite. The bustle of commotion and agitation. The image of a mall on Christmas eve comes to mind. People hurrying to and fro taking care of business. Close your eyes for a minute and hear that sound. Shoes clacking on concrete floors, eating, talking, buying, shopping, waiting, looking, phone’s being answered, texts being sent. Phewee.

Now sometimes I’m certainly the one hustling about: ten things on my mind, distracted and racy. Clack clack as I flurry my way down the sidewalk. But what I really prefer is to be the ‘observer’ of the flurry. How about that? Just kick back at a little cafe table somewhere, perhaps a piazza in Rome with an ice cold Chinotto – served just right in a tall glass with ice and a wedge of lemon. Sign me up.

So which one are you going to be today? Is your mindset closer to a mall on Christmas Eve or kicking back in a piazza in Rome?