Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Photos of an afternoon in Dundas, Ontario

Yesterday afternoon, I visited Dundas, Ontrio with some family members.  Dundas, formerly, an independent town, is now part of the City of Hamilton.  It was, of course, still decked out in its Christmas finery,

We stopped at Picone Fine Food at 34 King Street West.

Picone Fine Food

Picone Fine Food

We also stopped at Mickey McGuire's Cheese shop at 51 King Steet West.


Originally called Coote's Paradise, the town was renamed Dundas by John Graves Simcoe, (first Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada from 1791 to 1796), to honour of his friend, Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville., a Scottish lawyer and politician who never set foot in North America.

Dundas was aptly nicknamed "the Valley town" due to its location at the bottom of the Niagara Escarpment at the Western edge of Lake Ontario.

- Joanne

2015: The Year Ahead - Anniversaries and Events



The Magna Carta (Latin for "the Great Charter") is considered one of history's most important legal documents.  It was issued by King John of England to a group of rebellious barons on the plain at Runnymede, near Windsor, on June 15, 1215.   Fearing that a rebellion by these disgruntled nobles would mushroom into a civil war, the unpopular monarch affixed his seal to the document.

The Magna Carta primarily secured the liberties of England's privileged classes.  It also effectively ended the era of absolute power for English sovereigns since they were no longer above the law.  It is Europe's first written constitution and has been used to form the fundamental principles of common law in constitutions world wide.  In fact, many of the provisions in the United States' Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution) find their basis in the Magna Carta.


This year marks the bicentennial of the Battle of Waterloo, which took place on June 18, 1815. The battle between a French army and an Anglo-allied army occurred in present-day Belgium (then known as the United Kingdom of the Netherlands).  The above painting by Robert Alexander Hillingford depicts the Duke of Wellington (ArthurWellesley) commanding the British and their allies at Waterloo.  Together with a Prussian army, under Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher, they overcame the French forces led by Naoleon Bonaparte.

The battle marked the final defeat of Napoleon, hence the expression "he met his Waterloo.": After his loss, Napoleon was imprisoned and exiled to the island of St. Helena in the Atlantic Ocean.  He died there in 1821.


On May 7, 1915, the RMS Lusitania, a British ocean liner was torpedoed by German U-boat U-20 off the southern coast of Ireland.  A second internal explosion caused he doomed vessel, with almost 2,000 aboard, to sink in just 18 minutes.  Over 1,190 people lost their lives in the tragedy.

The luxury passenger ship had left New York for Liverpool, England on May 1, 1915 at a time of increased submarine warfare.  Germany had proclaimed the seas around Great Britain to be a war-zone and the German embassy had placed advertisements in newspapers cautioning people about sailing on the Lusitania.  

In attacking a non-military ship with out warning, the Germans violated international law known as the Cruiser Rules, which govern the the taking of vessels on the high seas during war.  It is also true, however, that the Lusitania, launched by the Cunard line in 1906, was carrying munitions and that the British themselves had also been breaching the Cruiser Rules, according to several books including World War One by Spencer Tucker and Pricilla Mary Roberts, The Age of Cunard: A Transatlanic History; 1839-2003 by Daniel Allen Butler,and World War 1 by Rodney P. Carlisle

The sinking of the Lusitania stirred up anti-German sentiment in the United States, especially since 128 Americans had been killed in the incident.  It influenced public opinion to support the U.S. entry into World War I in 1917.


A mushroom cloud billowing above Hiroshima on August 6, 1945

On August 6, 1945, an American B-29 bomber, the "Enola Gay," dropped the first atomic bomb used in warfare on the city of Hiroshima, Japan.  According to the BBC, 60,000 to 80,000 people were killed immediately by the bomb, codenamed "Little Boy.  More died from the effects of radiation and the final death toll has been estimated at 135,000.

On August 9, 1945, the United States dropped another atomic bomb, this time on Nagasaki, an important Japanese port city,  According to the BBC, the second bomb, codenamed "Fat Man," was larger and it killed about 40,000 people instantly.  The final death toll was estimated to be at least 50,000.


On August 14-15, 1945, Japan agreed in principle to an unconditional surrender.  Japan formerly surrendered on September 2, 1945, bringing World War II to an end.


Sir Winston Churchill, British leader during World War II and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940-1945 and from 1951-1955, died on January 25, 1965.  He was 90 years old.  112 nations were represented at Churchill's state funeral and millions watched it live on television.  His body lay in state at Westminster Hall and the funeral service took place at St. Paul's Cathedral.

Churchill's funeral train of Pullman coaches

Photo Attribution: Ben Brooksbank


On February 21, 1965, Malcolm X (born Malcolm Little), an influential American black leader, was assassinated at the Audubon Ballroom in New York City.  As he was preparing to address the Organization of Afro-American Unity, a ruckus broke out and he was gunned down by three members of the Nation of Islam.  Malcolm X had recently repudiated the teachings of the controversial black supremacist organization, which called for the separation of blacks and whites. He was 39 years old at the time of his death.


On March 8, 1965, about 3,500 United States Marines arrived in what was then known as South Vietnam.

U.S. Marines landing at Da Nang


Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music, the famous film starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, was initially released in the United States on March 2, 1965.


On August 11, 1965, race riots broke out in the Los Angeles neighbourhood of Watts.  The rioting last until August 17th and there was about $40 million in property damage.


On August 15, 1965, The Beatles performed the first stadium rock concert before over 55,000 at Shea Stadium in New York City.


New York City, November 1965

On November 9, 1965, there was a great power outage in Ontario in Canada and in the U.S. states of New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Vermont, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.



Argentina is scheduled to hold general elections on October 25, 2015.  There will be a second round on November 24, if necessary.  Primary elections will held on August 9, 2015.



On February 15, 1965, the red and white maple design replaced the Red Ensign as the official flag of Canada.

The 42nd Canadian general election to elect members to the House of Commons is tentatively set for October 19, 2015.  However, Governor General David Johnston could call the election earlier on the advice of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The Calgary Stampede will take place in Calgary, Alberta from July 3, 2015 to July 12, 2015.

The Canadian National Exhibition (also known as the CNE or The Ex) will be held from August 21, 2015 to September 7, 2015 at Exhibition Place in Toronto, Ontario.

The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), the leading public film festival in the world, will take place in Toronto, Ontario from September 10, 2015 to September 20, 2015.


The 68th Cannes Film Festival {Festival de Cannes) will be held in Cannes, France from May 13, 2015 until May 24, 2015.


On September 10, 2015, Queen Elizabeth II will become the longest-serving British monarch ever, surpassing Queen Victoria's reign of 63 years, 7 months and 3 days.  Victoria, who was Elizabeth's great-great-grandmother, died in 1901 at the age of 81.

A general election will be held in the United Kingdom in 2015.  The election will be held on May 7, 2015 unless the House of Commons votes to have it at an earlier date.


Israeli's will go to the polls this year.  The election is set for March 17, 2015 and will determine the fate of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition government.


Milan, Italy will host Expo 2015.  The universal exposition will take place between May 1 and October 31, 2015.  Its theme will be Feeding the Planet, energy for life.


On January 1, 2015, Lithuania will officially adopt the euro as its currency, It will become the 19th Eurozone country.


Legislative elections are scheduled to be held in Mexico in July of 2015.  Voters will elect 500 deputies to the Chamber of Deputies for the 63rd Congress.


June 30, 2015 mark the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson's signing of the Social Security Acts of 1965 into law, establishing Medicare and Medicaid.

Pope Francis will visit the United States in September of 2015.  He is scheduled to attend the World Meeting of Families conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania from September 25, 2015 to September 27, 2015.  The conference is held every three years in a different city, organized by the local Catholic diocese and the Pontifical Council of the Family, to focus on marriage and family life. The three-day visit is expected to include a public Sunday mass on the Ben Franklin Parkway.

There will be various elections in the United States and they will be mainly held on Tuesday, November 3, 2015.. There will be some state legislative and judicial elections and least three states, Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi, will hold gubernatorial elections.  There will also be mayoralty races in such major cities as Charlotte, North Carolina, Dallas, Texas, Chicago, Illinois, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Phoenix, Arizona, San Francisco, California and a number of others.



TENNIS:  The Australian Open will be held from January 19th to February 1, 2015 at the Melbourne Park in Melbourne, Australia.


THE 2015 PAN AMERICAN GAMES - The Pan Am Games will be held in Toronto, Ontario and surrounding area from July 10 to July 26, 2015.

HORSE RACING:  The 156th running of the Queen's Plate, the first jewel of Canada's Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Horse Racing, will take place on Sunday, July 5, 2015 at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, Ontario.  The Queen's Plate is the longest continuously run stakes race in North America.

GOLF:  The Canadian Open will be played at the Glen Abbey Golf  Club in Oakville, Ontario.  The tournament will be take place from July 20 to July 26, 2015.

CANADIAN FOOTBALL:  The 103rd Grey Cup will be held on Sunday, November 29, 2015 at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg, Manitoba.


TENNIS:  The French Open (also known as Roland Garros) will take place at Stade Roland Garros in Paris, France from May 24, 2015 until June 7, 2015.


TENNIS:  The prestigious Wimbledon tournament will run from Monday, June 29, 2015 to Sunday, July 12, 2015.  It will take place at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in London, England.

GOLF:  The 144th British Open will be held at Old Course at St. Andrew's, Scotland from July 16 to July 19, 2015.


NFL FOOTBALL;  Super Bowl XL1X (the 49th edition of the Super Bowl will take place on Sunday, February 1, 2015 at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

GOLF:  The 79th edition of the Masters Tournament will be held from April 9, 2015 to April 12, 2015 at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia.

HORSE RACING:  The 141st running of the Kentucky Derby, known as the "Run for the Roses," will be held on Saturday, May 2, 2015 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.

AUTO RACING:  The 99th Indianapolis 500 will take place on Sunday, May 24, 3015 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana.

GOLF:  The 115th United States Open Championship (U.S. Open) will be played from June 18, 2015 to June 21, 2015 at Chambers Bay in University Place, Washington (southwest of Tacoma).

BASEBALL:  The 86th edition of the Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be hosted by the Cincinnati Reds at the Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, Ohio.  The game between the stars of the American League and the National League will take place on Tuesday, July 14, 2015.

TENNIS:  The U.S. Open will be held from Monday, August 31, 2015 through Sunday, September 13, 2015 at the USTA Billie Jean King Center in New York, New York.



The 57th annual Grammy Awards will take place at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, United States on February 8, 2015.

The 87th Academy Awards are scheduled for Sunday, February 22, 2015 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, Los Angeles , California.

On March 15, 2015, the city of Hamilton, Ontario will host the 44th annual Juno Awards to honour the best in Canadian music.
The 69th Antoinette Perry Awards for Excellence in Theatre, better known as the Tony Awards, will be held at Radio City Music Hall in New York City on June 7, 2015.

WHO TURNS 50 IN 2015?

Shania Twain, Canadian country-pop singer,, born August 28, 1965 in Windsor, Ontario, Canada

Charlie Sheen, American actor, born September 3, 1965 in New York City, United States

Lennox Lewis, retired boxer, holds British and Canadian citizenship, born September 2, 1965 in London, England, United Kingdom

Kyra Sedgwik, American actress, born August 19, 1965 in New York City, United Stated

Peter MacKay, Canadian politician, born September 27, 1965 in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, Canada

Patrick Roy, Canadian former hockey goaltending star, current NHL coach, born October 5, 1965 in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada

Christy Clark, Canadian politician and current Premier of British Columbia, born October 29, 1965 in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada

Ben Stiller, American actor, born November 3, 1965 in New York City, United States

Katarina Witt, retired German figure skater, born December 3, 1965 in Berlin, Germany

Elizabeth Hurley, British actress and model, born on June 10, 1965 in Basingstoke, England, United Kingdom

Kevin James, American actor, born April 26, 1965 in Mineola, New York, United States

Linda Evangelista, Canadian model, born May 10, 1965 in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada

Todd Bridges, American actor,born May 27, 1965 in San Francisco, California, United States

Steve Yzerman, retired Canadian hockey player and current NHL general manager, born May 9, 1965 in Cranbrook, British Columbia, Canada

Julia Ormond, English actress, born January 4, 1965 in Epsom and Ewell in Surrey, England, United Kingdom

Robert Downey Jr., American actor, born April 4, 1965 in New York City, United States

Michael Bay, American film director and producer, born February 17, 1965 in Los Angeles, California, United States

Sarah Jessica Parker, American actress, born March 25, 1965 in Nelsonville, Ohio, United States

- Joanne

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Reflections and Quotes at Christmas

O Holy Night

O holy night!
The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of the dear Saviour's birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till he appear'd and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!

Fall on your knees

O hear the angel voices
O night divine
O night when Christ was born
O night divine
O night divine

These are the words to my favourite Christmas hymn, "O Holy Night."  When that song is sung, I am touched by its beauty and its joy.

If you are feeling overwhelmed and stressed by all the hustle and bustle of the season, or if you are tired from all your Christmas shopping, take a minute to quietly reflect with me.  Stop and relax for a bit.  It will do you good.  Close your eyes for a moment.  Think of a starry night and listen to the sound of angels singing . . .

Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth; that can transport the sailor and the traveller, thousands of miles away, back to his own fire-side and his quiet home!

- Charles Dickens (1812-1870), English writer
From The Pickwick Papers

I sometimes think we expect too much of Christmas Day. We try to crowd into it the long arrears of kindliness and humanity of the whole year. As for me, I like to take my Christmas a little at a time, all through the year. And thus I drift along into the holidays — let them overtake me unexpectedly — waking up some fine morning and suddenly saying to myself: "Why, this is Christmas Day!" 

~ David Grayson, (pseudonym of Ray Stannard Baker (1870-1946), American journalist and author

We hear the beating of wings over Bethlehem and a light that is not of the sun or of the stars shines in the midnight sky.  Let the beauty of the story take away all narrowness, all thought of formal creeds. Let it be remembered as a story that has happened again and again, to men of many different races, that has been expressed through many religions, that has been called by many different names.  Time and space and language lay no limitation upon human brotherhood.

New York Times. December 25, 1937

The poet Henry Woodsworth Longfellow wrote the beautiful poem "Christmas Bells" in the midst of the American Civil War, at a time when there wasn't much peace in the United States.  His eldest child, Charles Appleton Longfellow (1844-1893), joined the Union side of the conflict and was severely wounded in battle on November 27, 1863.  Charley, 19, a lieutenant in the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry, was shot through the left shoulder while participating in the Mine Run Campaign in Virginia.  He narrowly missed being paralyzed.

Charles Appleton Longfellow

H.W. Wadsworth

On December 1, 1863, Longfellow, a 56-year-old widowed father of six (his wife Fanny had been fatally burned in an accident in July, 1861), received a telegram informing him of the wounding of his son.  With a heavy heart, but after receiving a more positive report on his son's condition, Longfellow wrote "Christmas Bells" on Christmas Day, 1863.  The well-known carol "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" is based on the poem.

  Christmas Bells

    I heard the bells on Christmas Day
    Their old, familiar carols play,
        And wild and sweet
        The words repeat
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

    And thought how, as the day had come,
    The belfries of all Christendom
        Had rolled along
        The unbroken song
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

    Till ringing, singing on its way,
    The world revolved from night to day,
        A voice, a chime,
        A chant sublime
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

    Then from each black, accursed mouth
    The cannon thundered in the South,
        And with the sound
        The carols drowned
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

    It was as if an earthquake rent
    The hearth-stones of a continent,
        And made forlorn
        The households born
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

    And in despair I bowed my head;
    "There is no peace on earth," I said;
        "For hate is strong,
        And mocks the song
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

    Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
    "God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
        The Wrong shall fail,
        The Right prevail,
    With peace on earth, good-will to men."

- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), American poet
From the poem Christmas Bells

With all the strife in the Middle East and Ukraine, and all the many egregious acts of terrorism, it's difficult to find much peace in the world.  However, the person who has inspired me the most this year is a Muslim teenager from Pakistan named Malala Yousafzai.  Malala almost lost her life due to her relentless advocacy of female education and human rights.

Malala comes from a region of northwest Pakistan where the Taliban has attempted to prevent girls from attending school.  Her family runs some schools in the area and she wrote a blog for the BBC (under a pseudonym) providing details of her life under the Taliban.

On October 9, 2012, the then-15 years old, Malala boarded her school bus and was shot three times by a gunman.  She was left unconscious and in critical condition.  She improved enough to be sent to a hospital in Birmingham, England for recovery and rehabilitation.

In July of 2013, Malala addressed the United Nations and called for worldwide universal education.
On October 10, 2014 (almost two years to the day of her shooting), 17-year-old Malala became the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate when it was announced that she was the co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize with Kailash Satyarthi, a children's rights advocate from India.who is an activist against child labour.


American journalist Jimmy Cannon (1909-1973) once described Christmas as "a holiday that persecutes the lonely, the frayed, and the rejected."  It is true that for many, Christmas is a lonely and difficult time of year.  Although 'tis the season to be merry, the true joy of the season has to be natural and spontaneous, not phony and contrived.

Jimmy Cannon

Isn't it funny that at Christmas something in you gets so lonely for - I don't know what exactly, but it's something that you don't mind so much not having at other times. 

- Kate L. Bosher (1865-1932), American novelist

I am not alone at all, I thought.  I was never alone.  And that, of course, is the message of Christmas. We are never alone.  Not when the night is darkest, the wind coldest, the world seemingly most indifferent.  For this is still the time God chooses.

- Taylor Caldwell (1900-1985), Anglo-American author
From My Christmas Miracle

Number 16 would like to wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas!  May you find find peace in your heart and in your soul.

- Joanne

Saturday, December 13, 2014

All About Christmas Trees

                                  O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree!
                                  Thy leaves are so unchanging
                                  O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
                                  Thy leaves are so unchanging
                                  Not only green when summer's here,
                                  But also when it's cold and drear.
                                  O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
                                  Thy leaves are so unchanging!

This is one of several versions of the English lyrics to "O Tannenbaum" ("O Christmas Tree"), a Yuletide song based on a traditional German folk song.  By the beginning of the 20th century, the song came to be sung as a Christmas carol.  "Tannenbaum" means "fir tree" in German - Tanne ("fir:") + Baum ("tree").  The modern lyrics were written by Ernst Anschütz, a teacher, composer and organist in Leipzig, Gerrmany.

According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, "evergreen trees, wreaths and garlands" were used by the ancient Egyptians, Chinese and Hebrews as a means of symbolizing eternal life.  During the winter solstice, pagans decorated their dwelling places with tree branches as a reminder of the spring to come.  

Tree worship was prevalent among European pagans.  Britannica says that even after the advent of Christianity, the custom of decorating a house or barn with evergreens to ward off the Devil at the New Year continued in Scandinavia.  Trees were also set up to feed birds at Christmastime.

The tradition of decorating Christmas trees originated in early modern Germany.  The trees were originally decorated with edible ornaments such as gingerbread, apples and nuts.  A figure of the Baby Jesus was placed at that top of the tree.  This eventually changed to an angel or a star to represent the Star of Bethlehem that the Wise Men followed.

The first Christmas trees appeared in Britain in the 1830s.  They were popularized by Prince Albert, the German husband of Queen Victoria.  In 1841, Albert had a Christmas tree set up in Windsor Castle  In 1848, the Illustrated London News published a drawing of "The Queen's Christmas at Windsor Castle."  The drawing later appeared in an American publication, which helped spread the custom of having Christmas trees to the United States and beyond.

Victoria and Albert Christmas tree drawing

Christmas trees in Victorian England were festooned with little gifts and toys.  They were also decorated with candles to represent stars.  These, of course, were replaced with electrical lights, although candles are still used in some parts of Europe.

German settlers brought Christmas trees to North America as early as the 17th century. The tradition of Christmas trees was introduced to Canada by Brunswick soldiers in the Pre-Confederation winter of 1781.  They were stationed in the Province of Quebec to defend the colony from an American attack.  General Fredrich Adolf Riedesel, a German, was the commander of these mercenary soldiers who had fought alongside the British in the Revolutionary War.  He and his wife, Baroness Frederika von Riedesel (also known as Lady Fritz), hosted a Christmas Eve party at Sorel in which they served traditional plum pudding for the English and entertained their German guests with a small candle-lit fir tree adorned with various fruits and candies.  Below is a drawing of the Von Riedesel family at Fort Sorel.

By the 19th century, Christmas trees were very much in vogue.  The had become popular in in Austria, Switzerland. Poland, and the Netherlands.  Christian missionaries from the West introduced Christmas trees to Japan and China in the 19th and 20th centuries.  They had ornaments of detailed paper design.

Did you know that the sparkling tinsel wrapped around Christmas trees also originated in Germany. Tinsel was first made in Nuremberg in the early 17th century.  The tinsel, made from strands of silver, was first used for decorating sculptures.


Below is a photo of the Christmas tree in London's Trafalgar Square.  It is a gift from the people of Norway to the people of Britain, and has been  token of  the friendship between the two countries since 1947.  The tree is taken from the forests surrounding the city of Oslo and every year there is an official ceremony to light it up.

Trafalgar Square, London, England

Below is a photo of the U.S. national Christmas tree at the White House in Washington, D.C.

The U.S. national Christmas tree in Washington, D.C.

The most famous Christmas tree of all may be Charlie Brown's tree from the 1965 animated Peanuts special A Charlie Brown Christmas.  There's something sweet about it, isn't there?

- Joanne