Christmas decorations

We’re fortunate to still have a few tree decorations from my childhood.  Slightly worn, but still they hold the power of memory.


White plastic reindeer.  I have two.



A red Cardinal, also plastic, but with only 1 leg now.  Must be carefully placed on a branch!




A single, simple blue bell.  Quite the worse for wear, with less shine and colour every year.



I got this china bell when Mom and I went to Breakfast with Santa at the Bay.  Probably around 1956 or so. Some of the lettering has worn off.  It used to say “Your Christmas Wishing Bell from the Bay”, now it is just a “Bel”.  Obvious nick in the china, the circumstances of which I’ve forgotten, but I’m going to blame it on my brother!

Wishing all readers a very joyous Christmas!

The ones we miss at Christmas

I love Christmas.  I love the songs, the decorations, the baking, and especially the visiting with family and friends. I’m fortunate to have many great memories of Christmases past.

This time of year we feel more acutely the absence of those who are no longer with us.  For me that’s Dad, Mom, and now my brother Don who died this past January.

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Don and Mom opening presents

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Dad and his first granddaughter

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Mom and I decorating the tree in Calgary with help from my son


Mom and Don having fun

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Don and me

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Me, Mom and Don

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Len, me, Don, Moe


This last picture was taken New Year’s Day 2006.  It was the last holiday family gathering that Mom would enjoy.

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4 Generations

Merry Christmas everyone!

A childhood Christmas memory

My Dad was a talented home handyman.  When I was a teenager he made me a gigantic desk which I still used until a few years ago when it was damaged by some basement flooding.  I have in my “office” a fifties style bookcase (probably from a Popular Mechanics plan)  that’s crammed with genealogy and history books.  Someone else in the family has the matching desk.

But the item I remember most is the wooden giraffe he made me for the Christmas I was 4 years old.  I remember that for several weeks before Christmas, I was told NOT to venture into the basement of our house at 411 Marjorie.  Being a perfect, obedient child I did as I was told!

On Christmas Day, beside the tree (it was too big to go beneath) was a wooden giraffe that you could sit on, with a chalkboard in front. It was blue with orange spots. I was delighted, the way only a 4 year old can be.

I don’t have a picture of it, but I found this picture which is very similar.  Perhaps adding the chalkboard was Dad’s own idea.


When I outgrew the giraffe it was passed over to some cousins.

Merry Christmas to all relatives, friends and readers who take the time to read my musings.



For a change of pace, I am participating in Geneabloggers Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories. Today’s theme is Christmas Recipes.

Croxegnols are a type of pretzel.  All through my childhood these were a special treat at Christmas time, and I believe, but I could be wrong, that it was Mémère’s recipe.  Lately my brother has been making them and sharing with me.

Here’s a pic of my brother and his grandson with the finished pretzels.

Christmas pretzels

In the past I asked my Mother how to properly spell the word, but she wasn’t sure. A search on the internet didn’t produce any information that indicated the same recipe with a spelling that seemed at all similar.  It seems to be a type of bannock, but I’ve never seen a recipe for bannock that called for the pretzel shape.  Was it a French-Canadian tradition or a Métis tradition?  And how on earth did you spell it?

So you can imagine how excited I was when reading The last buffalo hunter by Mary Weekes, a book about Norbert Welsh, to find this passage:

“But de croxegnols.  There was something!  We made that always for the New Year’s celebrations, and on special occasions only.  It was a dough mixture.  Flour and fine tallow mixed with water.  First the dough was rolled smooth, then cut in squares.  Then each square was slit into five divisions, like fingers, and these fingers were twisted into fancy shapes, all criss-crossed.  Then these were thrown into boiling fat.  Some of them were very funny looking shapes when they were cooked, and they appealed to the fancy of the Indians. Many the good buffalo robe I was able to buy at a right price after my Indians had had a good feed on my wife’s de croxegnols!  De croxegnols were something very special.  I remember that out on the plains on New Year’s eve, the children used to get on top of the traders’ houses and run long sharp sticks down the chimneys and spear the fine brown croxegnols out of the pots of boiling fat.  They did this once to my wife, and what a surprise she got, when she saw that her fine brown croxegnols had disappeared.  She was beginning to believe that spirits were around the place.”

That must be it!  The recipe is similar , and the name fits.

Now why was I reading The last buffalo hunter?  Norbert Welsh is not a direct ancestor, but his second marriage was to Pépère’s first cousin, a Marguerite Hogue, who was the widow of a Jean Joseph McDougall, and the daughter of Joseph Hogue and Pelagie Turcotte.  The book is a fascinating oral history of life in the old North West during the late nineteenth century.

Now for the recipe.

4 cups flour

8 teaspoons baking powder

¼ cup shortening (or lard)

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup water (or as much as needed)

Mix dry ingredients.  Cut in shortening, until it is the size of peas and add water to make a sticky dough.  Roll out on floured board to 1/4” thick.  Cut into 1/2” wide strips.  Twist and drop into deep fat.  Let turn to a light golden color, then flip on other side for a second.  Drain on paper towels. Salt and serve.  Can be frozen and reheated.