Christmas Nostalgia

christmas-3My mother’s smell is the last thing I embrace as I take my excited but weary self off to bed. She’s been in the kitchen all night preparing food for the next day. My home is nothing but Christmas perfection! My mother reigns supreme at creating ambiance. The tree is stunning and the presents at its base come out at least four feet because of our large family of nine persons. Christmas carols play continuously on the stereo. Milk and cookies have been left out for Santa on the dining table.

I’ve just finished watching “Scrooge” on the TV with my older brothers, and although it scares me so, I love it annually. I make my way through the kitchen and into the family room, which is dimly lit to show the tree and lights around the windows. The outside cold is unfelt by me in my cozy home of family memories. I walk past the candy tree – a fantastic favorite each year. Mom chooses just the right branch; sets it into a small pot of soil; sprays it white with paint or artificial snow spray and we get the delight of decorating it with colorful wrapped candies and ribbons.

The coffee table has been covered with red velvet. A huge tray of fruits and nuts looking like a painting from Rembrandt with two pillar candles on either side which light the pages of the bible sitting open to the part that tells of the Virgin Birth.

The organ top is always the place for the nativity scene, but my mother does not just lay our figurines. She creates an entire village on mountains and hills of snow (white tissue).  Lit little homes and the Star of Bethlehem are prominently shining mounted from the wall above. Our stockings are placed on the floor by the tree.

It’s after midnight. I think of “him” as I slip under the heavy quilt and lay my head on my Christmas Dream Pillow – a special pillow slip made with Christmassy motifs for each of us to dream on. As I fall into my sleep I can almost hear those sleigh bells jingling.

The cold wind blows outside, but I am snug in my bed, next to my warm little sister. Then I think about “Him” and say my prayers, and drift off to sleep feeling truly blessed…

(Based on my childhood memories growing up in the prairie province of Alberta, Canada)

Merry Christmas!

(Photo: Robbin Whachell)
(Photo: Robbin Whachell)

Christmas is still a magical time of the year for me, no matter how old I get. It helps that some of my children still live under my roof, as it urges me to continue on with our traditions. I pray I will keep up with that spirit after I have an empty nest…

It also helps when there is snow! I took this photo in November when we happened to have snow for almost 7 days.  This is the trail to Hoy Creek close to where I live.

Merry Christmas everyone!

(fade to rain…)

Enjoy the Christmas light displays at Trinity Street, Vancouver

My big sister pulled me away from my desk work the other day and on our way into Vancouver for a dinner, she detoured to show me the Trinity Street’s Christmas light display.  I have a friend that used to live on Trinity Street and this annual favourite did not exist like this back then.

When I moved back to Canada in 2011, I noticed a huge decline in Christmas lights.  I’ve seen an increase over the past three years., and I love it.  Seeing Trinity Street was a wonderful treat.

You can vote on Trinity Street Light Festival & Competition for the best light display (House and/or Block) and while doing so, donate $2 to the Harbourside Daycare and Cottage Hospice. The Voting Station is at 2834 Trinity Street.

People are urged to park their cars off Trinity Street, or take transit, and enjoy the lights on foot. It’s the perfect holiday family activity.

Here’s the official Facebook page.

Frosty's House (Photo: Robbin Whachell)
Frosty’s House (Photo: Robbin Whachell)

My mother turns 81 years amazing today!

mom-81-tributeOn December 23, 1933 my mother was born. Happy Birthday to a woman that raised 7 children, and often opened our house to other family when they were in need. She sings, dances, cooks, sews, and can chop wood. I remember coming home from high school one day and my mom had a sledgehammer and was going at my bedroom wall. I thought I was done for… When I asked her what she was doing, she said, ‘We’re expanding your bedroom a bit…” She’s been a construction man’s wife; owned her own restaurant, lived in highway and logging camps in Northern Manitoba as a new mom, dressed as Santa and helped deliver gifts to Native kids in the north, taught catechism classes, became a real estate agent, and has been a lounge singer (and she can yodel). She gave her all to raising us, and I am truly grateful! I love you mom. Happy birthday!

Roy & Rosemary concert adds sparkle to Christmas

Feeling like I needed an injection of Christmas spirit, I took in the Roy & Rosemary Christmas Spectacular on December 6th held at the beautiful St. Andrew’s Wesley United Church downtown, and being new back to Vancouver, I had no idea what to except. I only recognized two names on the lineup, those  being Juno award-winning musician and actor, Jim Byrnes and reality TV star (Real Housewives of Vancouver), Mary Zilba.  I’d recently seen Zilba when she debuted her yoga line, Lotus Activa at Vancouver Fashion Week, so I was a bit confused as to her participation in this event.

But back to our headliners… Just who are Roy & Rosemary? Well on top of being a very handsome looking couple, Roy Tan’s a pianist with an amazing voice, and Rosemary Siemen’s is a spunky violinist who plays on a 300 year old fiddle which she said was likely played before King Louis the 14th.  Roy & Rosemary call themselves the “Bogart and Bacall of Hollywood’s soundtrack virtuosos.” They’ve performed at Carnegie Hall; Disney World, a Miss America gala, for Donald Trump at his Mar-A-Lago estate in Palm Beach; at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics; as well as the Beijing Summer Olympics. They have appeared on Entertainment Tonight, Canada AM, Breakfast Television, and Urban Rush.

Eli Bennett performs Winter Wonderland... (Photo: Winter Wonderland)
Eli Bennett performs Winter Wonderland… (Photo: Robbin Whachell)

With the concert’s ‘sparkle’ theme, Rosemary dazzled in shimmering gowns throughout the night. One by Vancouver designer Jason Matlo, and two were styled by  The shows lighting, decorations, and video backdrops added to the holiday dreamy feeling. The dynamic duo have a great chemistry and their music (classical and pop) was indeed spectacular.  The Roy & Rosemary fusion performed with their own orchestra, with some songs accompanied by the  gospel choir Topline Vocal Collective,  and three fantastic ballet dancers who made the best use of the center aisle of a church and short stage space that I have ever seen.

It was a treat to hear Jim Byrnes perform. A first for me to see him live. He has a deep resonance in his voice that has made him the legendary blues singer Canada cherishes and loves. Listen to Byrnes sing, “River” during the show.

It wasn’t until the ultra-beautiful Mary Zilba came out on stage in a dazzling silver gown and took a microphone did the thought finally come to my mind. “Mary Zilba sings ?!”  I had no idea… And sing she can! Zilba has a great voice and wonderful stage presence. I then learned she had performed with Rosemary at at St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, and they screened the tape to prove it while they performed an excellent rendition of Ave Maria. The threesome have also recorded a Christmas CD together. Later in the concert Zilba sang “Do You Hear What I Hear.”

Mary Zilba sings Ave Maria (Photo: Robbin Whachell)
Mary Zilba sings Ave Maria (Photo: Robbin Whachell)

A fun part of the night was when Roy & Rosemary took requests from the audience of Christmas carols and played them impromptu.   If all that wasn’t enough, other artists who performed were Warren Dean Flandez, R & B singer from CBC’s Cover Me Canada, and Eli Bennett, 35 time award winning saxophonist and 4-time Leo-Nominated film composer.  Both delivered lively performances and it was great to see such fine young talent. Listen to Eli Bennett perform Winter Wonderland.  The night was a perfect mix for starting off the holiday season. It had glowing Christmas lights, beautiful sounds, dance, and the benefactor for the evening as The Canadian Mental Health Association. Oh and even Santa and Mrs Claus made an appearance.

After the show all the cast interacted with the patrons in the foyer of the church where people were able to purchase their CDs.  Fashion designer – artist Malene Grotrian‘s paintings were also on display before and after the show.

My friend who accompanied me said she felt Vancouver was a hidden goldmine of  musical talents, and if this concert was any gauge of that, I’d have to say she’s right. I look forward to exploring more of its music scene.

Check out the pre-concert rehearsal with Jim Byrnes, Roy & Rosemary HERE
Roy & Rosemary on Facebook

Jim Byrnes with Maria Zalba
Rosemary with Jim Byrnes (Photo: Robbin Whachell)
Warren Dean Flandez with Rosemary  (Photo: Robbin Whachell)
Warren Dean Flandez with Rosemary (Photo: Robbin Whachell)
Roy Chan away from the piano to sing "Believe" (Photo: Robbin Whachell)
Roy Chan away from the piano to sing “Believe” (Photo: Robbin Whachell)



(Thank you to Kitsilano Kitty’s Closet and Helen Siwak)

Song, “I Am Malala” sure to inspire young girls

I-Am-MalalaI have no doubt, “I Am Malala”  will inspire all those that hear it. Showcasing talented young performers of different ethnicities who rap and sing to the hip and upbeat tune that provides a  powerful message. I’ve had this song on replay of late, even though it was released a year ago. Check it HERE

Malala Yousafzai is said to currently be the world’s most famous teenager.  Malala  became the youngest recipient in 2014 to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

they say the harder the culture, they say the harder the girl
i say the smarter the girl, then the stronger our world

The Pakistani child education activist who was shot in the head by the Taliban put aside the idea of ‘victim’ and went on do great things. She should be an action figure!

“Empowerment of and investment in girls are key in breaking the cycle of discrimination and violence and in promoting and protecting the full and effective enjoyment of their human rights” – United Nations Resolution 66/170

Take a listen.  Here are the LYRICS:

Look, i wanna make a nation proud
one day we’ll say things loud and be free
with the power of our speech
we can change our world and how it’s perceived
we’ve got doubts and beliefs
but not one thing’s truly out of our reach
don’t tell me the sky’s the limit
cause nothing can pull me down when I dream
i’m working on turning ‘em into a reality and opening eyes
and sharing a vision with every person
who had chose to be blind
i wanna focus their minds
to show that despite we’re broken inside
we can stand powerful together without a cloak or disguise
i hope in the future that I can look back
on a new generation that’s peaceful
that’s grateful they’re equal
cause those before made a change for the people
with paints and an easel we picture perfect
drew our attention to making the most of our time
creating more than useless inventions
i’m only young so I guess it’s down for you to decide
would you choose to fight for what you believe in
would you do what is right if I needed you
would you stand tall with me right here by my side
be the change you want to see, take a look through my eyes

I am Malala
I am infinite hope
I am Malala, I am, I am, I am
I am Malala
I am infinite hope
I am Malala, I am, I am, I am
I am Malala

they say the harder the culture, they say the harder the girl
i say the smarter the girl, then the stronger our world
from a country where we made fortunes
of others misfortunes and betray our own people
then we mourn for a portion of time
always taught to fight for my rights
Malala fought for education then she fought for her life
it’s hard to strive to be better
when oppressed by the suppressors
treated like the lesser, just be clever
ignore the ignorance from the ignorant
society is ridiculous but it’s the world that we living in
chauffeurs our drive and denies our desire
being silent doesn’t help, it adds fuel to the fire
how can somebody young like me even find any truth
when nobody’s looking for truth in the youth
life isn’t a choice, so who are we to say what’s void
and Malala gave a voice to me cuz…

hard work and talent equals infinite growth
in school a child and a teacher equals infinite hope

Santa Comes to Vancouver

It’s beginning to look at lot like Christmas!

The skies cleared for a wonderful dry day on December 7th for the 11th annual Santa Clause Parade in Vancouver, B.C.   The 2014 Rogers sponsored parade started at  West Georgia and Broughton and concluded at Howe and Davie Streets.

A family friend took this wonderful capture of Santa in the parade. She also took this almost ‘spooky’ Santa photo at the Christmas displays at Stanley Park where you can see people looking on.

Both photos were taken by Vicki Brophy.

(Photo: Vicki Brophy)
(Photo: Vicki Brophy)

Perry Bellegarde elected AFN National Chief

Chief Perry BellegardePerry Bellegarde, chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations has been elected the new national leader for the Assembly of First Nations.

Voting took place in Winnipeg, Alberta and as of late Tuesday, 406 chiefs and proxies were registered to vote.

One of the three candidates needs 60 per cent of the ballots cast to win, and Bellegarde took 63%.

The last chief to hold the title was Sean Atleo, and the interim leader was Ghislain Picard.

The more than 400 registered voters represent 63 per cent of 639 chiefs across Canada who are eligible to cast a ballot.

Belegarde will have an extra six months added to his three-year term as the organization restructures.

National Chief Perry Bellegarde after being elected in on December 10, 2014  (Photo: Facebook)
National Chief Perry Bellegarde after being elected in on December 10, 2014 (Photo: Facebook)

“It is absolutely essential and in the interests of all Canadians that we address and finally begin to close the long standing and unacceptable gaps between First Nations and non-First Nations people in Canada,” says a statement on Bellegarde’s website. “First Nations do not seek better education – we seek the same. First Nations employment opportunities need to match those of other Canadians. First Nations health resources need to mirror those available to non-First Nations people while being culturally-based and appropriate.  And First Nations must be economically self-sufficient based upon our inherent Aboriginal and Treaty rights.

“When First Nations statistics are applied to the United Nations Human Development Index (HDI), the living conditions of First Nations people in Canada are ranked as 63rd in the world while living conditions for Canadians overall are ranked as 6th. This difference can no longer be tolerated.

“Chief Bellegarde has dedicated his entire life for the time when First Nations people in Saskatchewan are living under the same conditions and enjoying the same opportunities as everyone else. As National Chief, he will bring this passion to all First Nations in Canada.”

Bellegarde taking the oath as the new AFN National Chief
Bellegarde taking the oath as the new AFN National Chief

Michaëlle Jean named Secretary General of the International Organization of La Francophonie

Jean delivering her candidacy speech in Paris, France.

Canadian statesperson and former journalist who served as 27th Governor General of Canada is the incoming Secretary-General of La Francophonie and is expected to take office January 1, 2015. She will be the third person and the first woman to hold the position.

The Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF), or less formally as La Francophonie is an international organization representing countries and regions where French is the first (“mother”) or customary language; and/or where a significant proportion of the population are francophones (French speakers); and/or where there is a notable affiliation with French culture.

The organization comprises 57 member states and governments, three associate members and twenty observers.

Michaëlle Jean was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. She immigrated to Canada with her family in 1968, fleeing the dictatorial regime of the time.

After earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in Italian and Hispanic languages and literature at the University of Montréal, she pursued her master’s studies in comparative literature and taught at the university’s Faculty of Italian Studies. Three scholarships allowed her to pursue her studies at the University of Perugia, the University of Florence, and the Catholic University of Milan. She is fluent in five languages: French, English, Italian, Spanish, Creole and fluently reads Portuguese.

The Michaëlle Jean Foundation (FMJF) supports youth arts initiatives that transform young lives and revitalize underserved communities across Canada.

During her studies, Ms. Jean worked for 10 years with Quebec shelters for battered women, while actively contributing to the establishment of a network of emergency shelters throughout Quebec and elsewhere in Canada. She later ventured into journalism and became a highly regarded journalist and anchor of information programs at Radio-Canada and CBC Newsworld. She also took part in documentary films produced by her husband, filmmaker Jean-Daniel Lafond, including A State of Blackness: Aimé Césaire’s Way (La manière nègre ou Aimé Césaire, chemin faisant), Tropic North (Tropique Nord), Haiti in All Our Dreams (Haïti dans tous nos rêves), and Last Call for Cuba (L’heure de Cuba), all of which earned awards both in Canada and internationally.   Read more