Friday Two Cents: Scotland Inspired Christmas Creation


With the Christmas season upon us I indulged on a yearly tradition of setting up my Christmas town at school. A couple of students asked how long I have been setting up the town at the school. I told them it is the 9th year I have set it up, yet I started building the town about 10 years prior to that starting with only 5 buildings that I hand painted and with a simple train. Today it has grown to over 50 builds, all hand painted and some that I built myself.

This year I added a new building or to be specific buildings and hill.  I had built a hill with a tunnel for my castle, but this year I wanted to add something new, something that I was inspired to create when I went on my trip to Scotland.  My trip to Scotland was filled with endless wonders, from the beauty of the Highlands to the wonderful interaction with the people.  With all those experiences, the one thing that suck out for me was the rich history created or forged by the Scottish people. I am talking about the endless castles and medieval ruins everywhere you go.  From Edinburgh Castle to Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland is replete with castles dotting the landscape.  My exploration of these historical sites inspired me to create a new castle and hill for my Christmas Town. 

New Castle/Citadel

Stage 1) I began by creating the basic shape of the hill and buildings using plastic cardboard.  I wanted a hill with a tunnel and a multi-layer hill design similar to the castles I saw in Scotland.  I also created the basic shape of the main buildings for the castle.  I wanted one large structure and a couple of smaller buildings again similar to castles I saw.   

 

Stage 2) I then got plaster of Paris and coated the entire hill and buildings. It did not look pretty but I knew that I would be adding more and moulding the plaster to what I had in mind. This stage was the most time-consuming and labour intensive.  I could not simply scrap or chisel away.  I had to be careful not to press too hard or the plaster would crack.   Instead I used coarse sand paper to help smooth and shape the hill and buildings.   The buildings required two layers of plaster to get the right look but the hill took several. 

 

Stage 3) With the building shape relatively done the hill required more attention.  I did not simply want to use plaster to create a wall around the compound, therefore I created one with grey pebbles.  I used the plaster as mortar and created a multilevel wall with battlements. I also moulded and carved the sides of the hill to resemble a cliff face making the entire structure look like a citadel.

 

Stage 4) I then painted the buildings and the citadel with a base white. Once dry I began painting the buildings and citadel the way I envisioned.  If you look closely you can see that I incorporated three stones from Scotland (near Eilean Donan Castle) into the citadel final design. 

 

Once done, I brought in the new citadel into the school as part of my Christmas town set.   Everyone loved the new citadel and castle.  Thank you Scotland for the inspiration.  

 

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Friday Two Cents: Don’t Stress: Laugh And Have Fun


 

‘A day without laughter is a day wasted.’Charlie Chaplin

 

  Well this week I was able to put up the Christmas tree, string the outdoor lights and put out my nativity scene for the upcoming Christmas season. Yet one thing that always makes the season more enjoyable is the music of this wonderful holiday.  We in Toronto are quit fortunate to have a radio station (CHFI 98.1 FM) that plays Christmas music all day long.  They started last weekend at the beginning of the Santa Claus parade and will continue until December 26, Boxing Day. 

  Christmas music has always been a big part of Christmas for me.  I think because I use to play in several bands and we were always playing the songs for about a month and half before Christmas to help us prepare for our concerts.  However, about 10 years ago I discovered some alternate Christmas songs that I have to listen to that makes my Christmas complete.

Stressed Out Christmas

  They are a collection of songs preformed by Bob Rivers and once I heard them, Christmas hasn’t been the same. For some reason these songs connected with me. Perhaps it’s because I find that with everyone is running around trying to get things done, buy stuff and it places a lot of stress on people when there shouldn’t be.  I think people need to not take things too seriously. Everywhere people are worried about getting the perfect gift, have the perfect dinner and the perfect tree. These songs help me to see that there is some fun and laughter in this season.  We do not need to take things too seriously; relax, enjoy life, laugh and have fun.   Those are some of the important parts of Christmas.
  Therefore in the spirit of bringing some laughter and fun back into Christmas, I have attached a YouTube video/song of my favourite alternate Christmas song by Bob Rivers.  The tone is from the song “Winter Wonderland” but the lyrics have been changed into a new song entitled, “Walkin’ ‘Round In Women’s Underwear”. 
I hope you enjoy it as much as I do and remember to have a little laugh every once in a while. 

Comic Strips: Just Misunderstood


 

The December newsletter has been sent out and with it the latest instalment of, The Craziest Things along with it. This month explores a Christmas tradition from a new politically correct point of view.

Many of us have grown up singing and hearing the song about Santa Claus making a naughty and nice list. We all know the verse “He’s making a list. Checking it twice. Going to make sure who’s naughty or nice.” Many of us today sing it and tell it you their children. Many even use it to make sure their child acting good at least for the month before Christmas. But in this modern world of political correctness, how would the naughty and nice list hold up?

Well you’ll just have to read the comic and see what my take on it may be.

I hope you enjoy the latest instalment of, The Craziest Things; Just Misunderstood.

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Friday Two Cents: Teach The World


With the Christmas season upon us I indulged on a yearly tradition of setting up my Christmas town at school. A couple of students and the principal asked how long I have been setting up the town at the school. I told them it is the 8th year I have set it up, yet I started building the town about 10 years prior to that starting with only 5 buildings that I hand painted and with a simple train. Today it has grown to over 50 builds, all hand painted and some that I built myself.

Many have told me that once the town goes up then they start to feel that the Christmas season has arrived. I too feel this once I put up the town, my tree and my nativity scene, which are all up now, the feeling of the Christmas season is upon me. Yet with this feeling of joy and happiness there comes a bit of melancholy. Not because there are those who do not have much, I do feel for them but mostly for the people who have too much. For them Christmas is about acquiring things, or making sure that they get the perfect gift for someone so that you can look good; in other words, excessive consumerism.  
Mind you I do go out and get presents for my family, but I always add a personal note letting them know I care about them. Yet as I walk around the malls I have to laugh to myself. I do love to shop but shopping for me is looking at all the people as they scurry around obsessed with getting stuff. I love their reaction when they get the thing and when they cannot. They seem to miss the point of the whole Christmas season and spirit.  
Christmas for me is about giving thanks for what I have like my health, family and my passions. It’s not about getting or giving stuff; it’s about appreciating the time you have with others, about giving yourself to them to help them feel happy too. For me the tree, the nativity scene and the town is a symbol that everyone in my life is truly special to me. From my immediate to my extended family, close friends, friends/colleagues and even the students and their parents. Everyone that has touched my life is special to me. That is why I cannot get into this consumerism that seems to be everywhere.
I think the best way to sum up how I feel is a song I heard on a local radio station, CHFI 98.1, which is playing Christmas music until Boxing Day. It is by ‘The Tenors’ – Santa’s Wish (Teach the World). I placed a YouTube link below for you all to see it and I think if you do, you too may feel the same way.

 

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Friday Two Cents: Christmas Poem


twoCentsOldNew

Year after year I struggle to pass on the true meaning of Christmas to all I know.
But how do I do it? With words, stories, play or a Christmas show.
Yet I am not sure if people do hear.
The message that I pass on year after year.

 

The message that Christmas doesn’t come from a store,
That Christmas means a little bit more.
Christmas is about love for everyone big and small,
That you cannot find it in any shopping mall.

 

It comes from within you and you have a lot to share,
But people do not know this and it seems unfair.
For Christmas love comes from your heart,
You have always had it from the start.

 

So how can I help you see the joy the season brings?
Is in songs that famous people sings?
No, I saw a poem that speaks of this love.
It dropped in my lap like a sign from above.

 

It is touching and it inspired me write a few things I wanted to say,
For it speaks of how I feel about Christmas Day.
So please enjoy the poem and read it out loud for all to hear,
Happy Christmas to all and have a Wonderful New Year.

Santa_Secret_Wish

Santa’s Secret Wish

Author Unknown

 

On Christmas Eve, a young boy with light in his eyes

Looked deep into Santa’s, to Santa’s surprise

And said as he sat on Santa’s broad knee,

“I want your secret. Please tell it to me.”

 

He leaned up and whispered in Santa’s good ear

“How do you do it, year after year?

I want to know how, as you travel about,

Giving gifts here and there, you never run out.

 

“How is it, Dear Santa, that in your pack of toys

You have plenty for all of the world’s girls and boys?

Stays so full, never empties, as you make your way

‘Round the world, in each house just a moment to stay.

 

“From rooftop to rooftop, to homes large and small,

From nation to nation, reaching them all?”

And Santa smiled kindly and said to the boy,

“Don’t ask me hard questions. Don’t you want a toy?”

 

But the child shook his head, and Santa could see

That he needed the answer. “Now listen to me,”

He told that small boy with the light in his eyes,

“My secret will make you both sadder and wise.

 

The truth is that my sack is magic. Inside

It holds millions of toys for my Christmas Eve ride.

But although I do visit each girl and each boy

I don’t always leave them a gaily wrapped toy.

 

“Some homes are too hungry, some homes are too sad,

Some homes are so desperate, some homes are bad.

Some homes are broken, and there children grieve.

Those homes I do visit, but what should I leave?

 

“My gift bag is filled with the happiest stuff,

But for homes where despair lives toys aren’t enough.

So I tiptoe in, kissing each girl and each boy,

And I pray with them that they’ll be given the joy

 

“Of the spirit of Christmas, the spirit that lives

In the heart of the dear child who gets not, but gives.

If only God hears me and answers my prayer,

When I visit them next year, what I will find there

 

“Are homes filled with peace, and with giving, and love

And boys and girls gifted with light from above.

It’s a very hard task, my smart little brother,

To give toys to some, and to give prayers to others.

 

“But the prayers are the best gifts, the best gifts indeed,

For God has a way of meeting each need.

That’s part of the answer. The rest, my dear youth,

Is that my sack is magic. And that is the truth.

 

“In my sack I carry on Christmas Eve day

More love than a Santa could e`er give away.

The sack never empties of love, or of joys

`Cause inside it are prayers, faith and hope. Not just toys.

 

“The more that I give, the fuller it seems,

Because giving is my way of fulfilling dreams.

And do you know something? You’ve got a sack, too.

It’s as magic as mine, and it’s inside of you.

 

“It never gets empty, it’s full from the start.

It’s the center of lights, and of love. It’s your heart.

And if on this Christmas you want to help me,

Don’t be so concerned with the gifts `neath your tree.

 

“Open that sack called your heart, and then share

Your joy and your friendship, your wealth and your care.”

The little boy’s eyes was so bright with a glow.

“Thanks for your secret. Now I’ve got to go.”

 

“Wait, little boy,” Said Saint Nick, “please don’t go.

Will you share? Will you help? Will you use what you know?”

And just for a moment the small boy stood still,

Touched his heart with his hand and then whispered, “I will.”

 

 

Friday Two Cents: Christmas Is Alive And Well


twoCentsOldNew 

This past week I was supplying in a school that I was in from the beginning of the school year.  I was in the third kindergarten class of three in the school.  I supplied in the first for two weeks and then the second for eight.  The classes are different but the curriculum and program by the teachers are the same.  But that is not what I want to talk about, but what the entire school was doing for this final week before Christmas break.  

We had school this week for four days, Friday being an unpaid Professional Activity (P.A.) Day, therefore Thursday was our last day before the break.  Yet everyday this week we went to the gym and had an assembly that was open to the parents.  The assembly was a time for the school to sing Christmas carols. 

Each kindergarten class would prepare a song that they would perform in front of the school and parents.  The class I was in, performed Wednesday and I have to tell you they were not in sync for the actions and words and they sang a bit off-key, but it was adorable non-the-less.  Every kindergarten performed and it was all the same but all adorable. 

After the performances we sat and the music teacher lead us in singing some Christmas carols.  It was surprisingly enjoyable.  The fact that a public school would sing carols was refreshing but also it reminded me of when I was in elementary school and we would do the same.  Today there is so much political correctness in whatever we have to do in the school that I am beyond sick of it. 

I started my school life in public school and I truly did not enjoy it.  I had bullies and the teachers where not that enjoyable or inspiring.  The only thing I enjoyed was the Christmas assemblies were we sang carols.  In the fourth grade my parents had enough of the poor teaching and other issues in the public school system and I went to the Catholic School Board for the fifth grade.  There I flourished and I can remember every teacher and what they taught and inspired me to do.  And of course Christmas was always celebrated without question, right up to my final year in high school.  So celebrating Christmas has always been important to my community and me. 

But since university and working in the public school board they have taken all the fun out of the season.  I cannot even say Merry Christmas to people without being told to say Happy Holidays.  I understand that there are other cultures that do not celebrate Christmas and I have to be sensitive to them but you know what, why aren’t they sensitive to me.  They have the right, which they make abundantly clear that their culture and traditions are important to them.  Well I say right back at them, I have the right to celebrate my own traditions too and that is singing Christmas carols, assembling my tree and Christmas town and train set and wishing people a Merry or Happy Christmas. 

People have to remember that rights go both ways.  I will respect your rights but you also have to respect mine. 

Therefore, to celebrate my traditions, in the spirit of exercising my right,

I would like to wish a Merry Christmas to all and to all a Good Night. 

Traditions are great, especially those you can share with others


With Christmas Day tomorrow, I thought it nice to show a Christmas tradition I started with my family but has changed over the years. 

It started about 15 years ago when I bought a train to go around my Christmas tree.  I didn’t just want a seasonal train but a HO scale model for the tree.  My family and I loved it right away and I also wanted to just have a few builds too. I love building models and creating things, so I did not want to buy ready-made builds for the Christmas town.  Instead I got some blank plaster homes and buildings that I had to paint. 

The first year I started with a train station and three houses. Then the next year I added more and more every following year.  I continued to add until I currently have 56 buildings.  They range from a black smith, dress shop, bank, fire hall and even a castle.  It got so large that it takes up about 2.5 square meters around my tree.  Everyone that cames over to my home loved it and they always enjoyed watching the trains go around the town and the tree. 

However, about four years ago I was blessed with a beautiful little niece.  I could not bring out the town and train for fear that she would break it or worse swallow a small piece.  So I decided to not to put out the town or train.  I was a little disappointed but my little niece’s safety always comes first. 

I told my co-workers about my decision and they suggested that I bring the town and train to the school to show the children.  I asked the principal and she thought it was a great idea, so I did.  The town is too large to place on the floor around the tree and there are hundreds of children in the school, so I decided to place it on a table in the main entrance for the whole school to enjoy. 

Well let me tell you, the children were beyond excited to see the town and train.  They and their parents loved it.  They would come up and say how much they appreciated me bring in the town for them to enjoy.  They were even more impress when I told them that I had hand painted every building in the town and that it took about 10 years to get the town to the size it is today.

Ever since I first introduced the town and train to the school, the children and staff ask if I will be bringing it in for Christmas.  Of course I say ‘Yes’.  Now it is something of a tradition for everyone at the school.  Fifteen years ago, I started a tradition with my family of a train and small town around my Christmas tree.  Now it has grown to involve my family and hundreds more children. 

This year I wanted to share my tradition of the town with you all so I took some photos of the town and train.  I also asked the children to paint a background for the town.  You can see it on the wall behind.  I then asked the music teacher from the school, if I could have a song sung by the school’s children’s choir.  She was more than happy to give me one.  With the song and photos in hand, I created a short slide show for you all to enjoy.

I hope you all enjoy this little Christmas tradition from me.  Merry Christmas to you all, and remember.  Traditions are great, especially those you can share with others.

Click on Link to download the Powerpoint Show.  TownandTrain02

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