Some of my favorite things originated in Denmark: wienerbrod*, cohousing, my husband and his family, and, my latest passion, preemie octopi.
The Octo Project started in Denmark in 2013. The tentacles of the crocheted octopi resemble the umbilical cord and seem to calm the tiny babies and reduce their heart rates. One parent reported that her baby had pulled out her breathing tube 3 times in one night but stopped as soon as she was given an octopus. When I saw a post on Facebook about preemie octopi, I knew I had to get involved.
I’ve been crocheting since I was a teenager. I started with granny squares and ugly, ill-fitting sweaters. I moved on to items for my science class. Now I’m obsessed with preemie “octos.” My (weird) skills are finally being put to a good use.
I’m now part of Octopus for a Preemie Canada group. I’ve finished nine octopi so far. It takes me 3 to 4 days to make an octopus as the stitches have to be super tight to make sure the stuffing doesn’t come out. Once I’m done, I sent them off for inspection, washing, and packaging. My octopi are on their way to a neonatal intensive care unit. Maybe to save a few tiny lives.
One of the fun things about my octopi is that I get to name them. I’ve named them after friends, nice nurses at the hospital, the favorite names of my very British sister-in-law, and even Charles Emerson Winchester the Third. (My son’s choice; I think I raised him right.) I want to share that fun.
Everyone that shares this post in the next week will get their name in a draw to win naming rights to one of the four octopi I’ve made for Prairie Spruce. Share this post and put your pick for a name in the comments. When these four beauties are sent for inspection, they will carry the names picked by the winners. ( Yes, one of them is still under construction, but she really, really wanted to be in the picture)
Here is part three of Christmas Past, Present, and Future at Prairie Spruce.
In eager anticipation of living in Prairie Spruce Commons in 2018 I recently asked members of our community to share their vision for “Christmas Future” in cohousing. Responses varied from traditional to more “out of the box” thinking, but all promised to be fun and festive.
Picture a BIG Prairie Spruce Christmas tree surrounded by many helping hands, lots of laughter, conversations, and music. People have brought their hand crafted or store bought favourite decorations and share the stories behind each special piece: “my partner gave me this on our anniversary”, “my grandchildren made this for me in kindergarten”, “this came from the old country”, “this belonged to my mother and it reminds me of her in a special way at Christmas”.
Picture and smell the aroma of a turkey feast with all the trimmings in the common dining room. Other favourite dishes from many cultures, including vegetarian fare like the twelve meatless dishes from the Ukrainian tradition or fragrant curried dishes from India also grace the tables. In-house craft wine and beer is on tap, or festive favourites like eggnog and hot apple cider supplement the specialty coffees and herbal teas being offered. Deserts too numerous to mention are available for sampling on a continuous basis.
Picture people coming together for a house concert, watching Christmas movie classics like “A Christmas Carol”, playing cards and board games, working on puzzles or gathering around the piano to sing Christmas carols. At times the Prairie Spruce choir branches out into the neighbourhood singing Christmas carols and bringing seasons greetings to neighbours, local residents, and businesses.
Picture our own community performances. “One of the things I am nuts about during the holidays is staging “The Sound of Music” sing-long-version, complete with costumes. I can already picture community members in the roles of Captain Von Trapp and Maria and then of course there are the nuns and we can only imagine who will step up (some willing and even not so willing) for those outfits.” It may take a bit of courage on our parts but this promises to be a laugh riot.
Of course, Christmas is also about family and friends. So, in addition to the full community events picture smaller households coming together to share personal Christmas celebrations. At the same time out of town visitors, occupying the guest suites or being hosted within “guest” bedrooms in private units, add to the dynamic of the celebrations and extend the community in special ways. Sometime between Christmas and New Years community members with large extended families occupy the common kitchen and dining room to host their annual all-generations get together. A highlight is impromptu performances of children singing and playing musical instruments. Cohousing community members are welcomed to attend.
Picture other community members returning home under bright stars on a holiday winter night. As they enter Prairie Spruce Commons they hear the sounds of celebration and resolve to meet in the dining room the next morning. There they catch up with friends and enjoy coffee or tea and fresh cinnamon buns and haskap jam made with berries from the Prairie Spruce community garden.
So, “Christmas Future” in Prairie Spruce Commons cohousing is something we look forward to. It promises to create many fond memories and new traditions. Of course, Christmas is just one of many holiday traditions we expect to observe in cohousing. As an inclusive and diverse community founded upon the values of respect, caring and sharing we anticipate community members will be eager to share other personal traditions as well. As I think of cohousing I am reminded of a song by the group Timbuk 3 “The Future’s So Bright (I gotta wear shades)”.
This is the second part of the three-part series on Christmas past, present, and future.
In my head I keep hearing Tevye, from Fiddler on the Roof, sing “Tradition”, but my mind keeps changing it to “Transition.” This Christmas is all about transitions.
I am currently living in a rented house with my husband and in-laws as Prairie Spruce is built. Almost everything I own is packed away in the garage – including all our Christmas decorations. I’m not feeling too festive right now.
Our son, Erik, is away at school in Vancouver and won’t be home until Dec 17. I’m like a little kid – only ONE more sleep until he is home. It just feels a bit odd not having him around to help with decorating and Christmas baking.
But there are a lot of good things about this Christmas too.
Our rented house is going to be Christmas Central pretty soon. Eva, my mother-in-law, has done an amazing job of decorating the house. There are little Danish nisser everywhere. They look a bit like elves but are small creatures more closely related to trolls. Years ago on the farm, they would cause all sorts of troubles (think gremlins). The farmer’s wife would put out a bowl of rice pudding for them, and all would be well.
Everything in the house is red and white and beautiful. There are already jars of Christmas cookies sitting on the counter. Sadly, they are taped shut. Probably a good idea.
Once Erik gets home, we have plans to go out shopping for new clothes for him. Normally this would not be something I look forward too, but this momma is missing her boy… a lot. It will be great to spend time with him and I might just be able to guilt him into helping me mark exams, although I’m not holding out a lot of hope for that.
Thomas, my brother-in-law, will be arriving a few days after Erik gets home. In the past, Thomas stayed with the in-laws and we would see him a bit over Christmas. It was a bit of a hassle as Henning and I would work all day, and then either drive out to the farm near Edenwold for the evening or make supper for everyone at our house. Now we will all be together every night, and we don’t have to travel. I’ll still have to cook sometimes, but there will be plenty of help around. It’s really starting to remind me of Christmas when I was a child – busy, and lots of family around.
On Christmas Eve, we will be joined by my mom and her significant other. They will stay in our bedroom overnight. So we will kick Thomas off the futon, and he will kick Erik off the couch. I told Erik he could sleep in the bathtub for one night. Erik is over 6 feet, so I think we will find an air mattress for him.
Murray and Lois, fellow cohousers, will be joining us too. They have some Danish in their background, so it is fun sharing a traditional Danish Christmas with them. We have roast pork with crispy, crunchy skin, caramel potatoes, red cabbage, and perogies. The last part is my influence. I grew up in Yorkton – that should be explanation enough. We will eat huge amounts of rice pudding because somewhere in the bowl is a whole almond. The person who finds the almond wins a prize. The normal tactic is to hide the almond in your mouth and not let anyone know you have it. That way the rest of the people keep eating and looking for the almond. We go to evening service at church and then end the night with singing and dancing around the Christmas tree. This is the second year they have celebrated Christmas Eve with us. The more the merrier.
Maybe all these transitions will lead to new and wonderful traditions. Gone are my humbug feelings, bring on the holidays….
This is the first part of a three parts series on Christmas – past, present, and future.
When I was a child in the late forties, what comes first to mind thinking of Christmas was all the paper stars with electric lights hanging in everyone’s windows from the first week of December.
In Copenhagen, we lived in an apartment directly across from a five-story apartment complex. The lights were dazzling to a seven-year-old’s eyes. Every home also had an advent wreath made with fir branches with four white candles hanging in red ribbons from a hook. One candle was lit every Sunday until they all were lit on the fourth Sunday before Christmas.
The month of December was busy with baking of spice cookies, shortbread cookierings (meant to be used as decoration hung on the tree with red ribbons), klejner (a deep-fried twisted cookie), and different kinds of yeast bread filled with dried fruit.
A nice memory also was the evenings spent with aunts and cousins making paper decorations to be hung on the tree. We made braided hearts and cones of colored paper, and long rows of paper circles joined together as garlands. We cut out angels from white heavy paper and made stars out of narrow strings of paper (these were difficult to make but well worth it. While we children were cutting, braiding and gluing, our aunts were busy making table decorations with evergreen branches, silk bows, pine cones, and a big candle that would last the whole month.
On the 22nd of December, we would go out and buy our fresh Christmas tree to be decorated next day. Because we always used live candles on Christmas Eve on the tree, it was important that the tree be fresh and watched always when the candles were lit. In my whole life, I have never seen a tree burn down, but you had to be to be careful and be prepared with water and a fire extinguisher.
We had very few, but precious, glass ornaments to hang on the tree, but gladly hung our paper hearts and cones to be filled with candy, peppernusse, nuts and raisins, and not least the shortbread cookierings with red ribbons. All these were decorations to be eaten. As the crowning glory on the tree was the silver star on top, and the garlands of Danish flags wound around the body of the tree.
Coming home in the dark, after the four-pm church service on Christmas Eve, hopefully the snow would be falling, but often not, more likely rain, we would be met with this wonderful aroma from mom’s cooking. She would go to church with us Christmas day.
Our Christmas meal consisted of either goose, duck, or a pork roast with the rind sliced, salted and cooked real crisp. Caramel potatoes were served with white potatoes and brown gravy. The vegetables were pickled red cabbage and peas and carrots. For dessert, we had rice pudding which consisted of rice, milk, whipping cream, chopped almonds, and warm cherry or strawberry sauce on top. In one of the bowls, a whole shelled almond was hidden, and the lucky one would get a prize.
After we had had our fill, it was time to dance around the tree. It is not like dancing, but we would hold hands and form a circle as we sang our favorite Christmas songs and walked around the tree looking out for signs of trouble with candles and paper decorations.
When we were tired from all that singing and walking, we were given gifts. We did not get many, but what we got were precious. Of course, we told our parents our most wanted wish. We were seldom disappointed. We always knew where they came from. My parents never went for the Santa Claus story. It did happen when we were the whole family of aunts, uncles and cousins gathered at grandma’s place that Santa put in an appearance, so we all played along. My best gift would be the money I received so we could go to the used bookstore and I could choose whatever books I liked until the money was gone. Then I was in Paradise.
Regina, Canada, Christmas 2017, Glaedelig Jul Eva Mortensen
Cohousers are all about community, neighbourhood and lowering our carbon footprint.
As our beautiful building takes shape in Regina’s Canterbury Park neighbourhood, we are getting to know our neighbours.
A sweet arrangement has been made with our neighbours to the east at College Park II Retirement Residence (CP2). We do volunteer work at CP2 in exchange for use of their space for our meetings.
My chosen volunteer work at CP2 is watering trees and picking up garbage from the front and back gardens of this two-block property.
Trees are essential members of any neighbourhood. I notice happiness in getting to know and care for these young trees. Two of our tree neighbour species are Bur Oak and Little Leaf Linden.
Bur oak is a slow-growing, tall deciduous tree with a mature height of 30 to 45 feet and a spread of 20 feet. It has an annual growth rate of 2 to 12 inches and a lifespan of 100+ years. It is native to the eastern prairies.
Little-leaf linden (Tilia cordata) is a medium to large shade tree with a symmetrical canopy that looks at home in formal or casual landscapes. It is easy to care for and needs little or no pruning. In summer it produces clusters of fragrant yellow flowers that attract bees. In late summer, dangling clusters of nutlets replace the flowers.
Earlier this fall Brenda and I were visiting in Vancouver where Nicole my goddaughter introduced me to the Treegator watering system. Treegators are everywhere. I ordered one and tried it out the other day when it was still warm.
As a wildlife photographer I really don’t have many skills. I haven’t got a lot of patience, I haven’t got a lot of photography experience, and I like to be moving around. But on a recent trip to a vacant farm yard somewhere in Saskatchewan I finally figured out wildlife photography. You have to have wildlife subjects that want to have their pictures taken. In fact in the case of the attached picture of the moose they run right up to you, pose and give you a perfect photo, well at least by my amateur wildlife photography standards.
Then less than an hour later while walking across the same vacant yard you notice a mule deer about 25 yards away watching you walk towards her. Again as an amateur wildlife photographer with your camera now safely stowed in the truck 25 yards behind you, you do the only sensible thing to do, which is to turn around and walk back to the truck to get your camera to take some more photographs. This of course works because you have a subject that wants their picture taken. The attached mule deer photo is one of several that were taken with a co-operative wildlife subject.
I think with such great photos I will be able to join my cohousing communities elite photography group, well my fingers are crossed anyways.
There is something unique about being a community moving into a community. It seems many of the neighbours in and around Canterbury Park are aware of and interested in Prairie Spruce Commons Cohousing. Somehow, I feel larger than myself, or even my family, as I anticipate moving into Prairie Spruce Commons and the Canterbury Park neighbourhood. It is as though I bring the whole Prairie Spruce community with me, and this is like an open door when I am meeting the neighbours.
I have been slowly getting to know our future neighbours and neighbourhood. As a photographer, I am regularly consulting with Laurie at Bird Film. It is fun to stop in at Bib and Tucker and see what new styles Gaynor has on display, and Elyse at Stapleford Health and Rehab did her magic on my shoulder.
Our unit is at the south end of the Prairie Spruce building and the residents at Cedar Wood Manor on Broad Street will be our closest neighbours. Walter, Emmerson, and Vic (not their actual names) have a close-up view of the construction from their lawn chairs at the back of the building. They are out there most days and can give a report on the progress. It is nice to sit with them on a sunny day, see the building taking shape, and hear their perspectives on the construction and the neighbourhood. Recently I was standing looking at the east foundation (adjacent to College Park II) and met Alvin (not his actual name) who also lives at Cedar Wood. It was inspiring to hear his pride in his son who has recently graduated in medicine and is doing his residency in Prince George.
And then there is the natural world neighbours. The copse is a small group of trees at the intersection of College Street and Halifax Street, and was part of the original Anglican Diocese of Qu’Appelle. I am grateful that the copse is being beautifully restored by Vince and Joe Fiorante.
In this time of being part of a community moving into a community there always seems to be some new opportunity to get to know one another, and ourselves, in fresh ways
Sunday July 23rd was a lazy, hot, Saskatchewan Summer day. The brilliant blue sky had hardly a hint of cloud to impede the bright yellow sun bathing the cities and countryside alike in its warm glow.
This was the day twenty-two members of the Prairie Spruce Commons cohousing community took a brief hiatus from the mildly oppressive heat in Regina and headed out to the inviting micro-climate of Katepwa Lake, and Dave and Lill’s lake cottage. Everyone was in a celebratory mood and the time was right for a festive summer social.
Folks started to arrive via carpools around 2:00 p.m. They unpacked their potluck food and refreshments, ice coolers and chairs, and of course “Conan the Beagle”, and arranged themselves in friendly visiting fashion under the shade of nearby Ash and Maple trees.
Once everyone had arrived we took a brief time out for Lill’s “tour”. It started with the inside of the cottage where Dave could be heard saying “please move all the way in folks, away from the door, so everyone can get in”, just like in a “real” organized tour. Then it was on to the lake shore, the boat dock, and an assortment of water craft laid out for the visitors to use, and of course more trees.
After that everyone chose their favourite leisure activity, whether lying in the hammock, sitting and visiting, walking the dog, lying on a blanket, or using the paddle boat, and wiled away the afternoon. The snack table and beverage station were near at hand and kept well stocked but it wasn’t long before tummies started growling.
So, we fired up the barbeques (Murray had brought an extra one to provide added grill space) and it wasn’t long before everyone’s preferred form of protein was grilled to perfection. The splendid array of colorful gourmet potluck salads and desserts covered an entire picnic table. Then in typical cohousing fashion everyone settled in for the common meal and more socializing. Coincidently July 23rd was Dave and Lill’s wedding anniversary and the community honoured them with a song and a special cake for dessert. There was even time for a cake cutting “photo op”.
By 8:00 p.m. supper lethargy was wearing off and some folks started thinking about the return trip to Regina. As efficiently as they arrived they swept up their belongings, packed them into vehicles, collected their passengers and headed for home. A few people stayed to watch the beautiful sunset across the lake. It was the perfect finale to a wonderful time spent with cohousing family and friends.
There is a lot of action on Badham Boulevard lately. Since Marc’s photo essay, the big backhoe has been digging.
On any given day, there is one, or two, or more, Prairie Spruce members at the site, watching the backhoe. It is really exciting to see the manifestation of our vision. Watch our Facebook page for updates and videos.
When a group of Prairie Spruce members gets together, great things happen…and you’re invited!
Please join us for our Ground Blessing Celebration.