Christmas Treats

Every year when I was young, my brothers and I would spend a day with my Grandpa and Grandma, and decorate a tree outside with treats for the birds. It was usually on a Saturday close to Christmas, to give my parents time to do their Christmas shopping.

We would spend the morning making treats with my Grandma, and after lunch we would go outside with my Grandpa and decorate the tree.

A garland of stale popcorn and dried cranberries strung together was a treat for the sparrows and little chickadees; and peanuts, threaded through the shell and hung, were for the Blue Jays.  My Grandma would mix up peanut butter, suet and cornmeal and we would coat pinecones in this mixture and roll them in birdseed. We hung these on the tree branches with red yarn so the birds would notice them.  We would also hang dried apple slices and mesh bags (like lemon or orange bags) filled with suet for the other birds.  As we were doing this, my Grandpa would talk about the different birds that would come eat the treats, pine siskins, grosbeaks, nuthatches and woodpeckers; he would tell us what they looked like and their funny little mannerisms.

After the tree was all decorated, we would clamor back inside and race each other to the couch, the best place to view the action outside.  After the usual jostling and complaining, we would finally settle to watch with delight as the birds visited the Christmas tree we filled with treats.

This Christmas tradition is one of my favorite memories of my grandparents.  I feel so fortunate that they took the time to do this with us when we were kids.

 

Pinecone treats for the birds:

Mix equal parts peanut butter (use the natural kind with only peanuts listed in the ingredients) and suet (or lard)

Stir in enough cornmeal to make a thick paste.

Press this mixture into the pinecone.

Roll in a wild birdseed mix.

String or tie cotton thread to the pinecone and hang from a tree in your yard.

Enjoy the birds that come visit!

12 days of Holiday Books for Children

The CFL is getting ready for the holidays by compiling a list of our favorite holiday books for kids! Whether reading to a child about your own traditions, or exposing them to different ways of celebrating the holidays, reading together is a great way to have fun and get into the holiday spirit!

The 12 Days of Holiday Books:

1 ) A Porcupine in a Pine Tree- A Canadian 12 Days of Christmas, by Helaine Becker

2 ) Bear Stays up for Christmas, by Karma Wilson and Jan Brett

3 ) Happy Hanukkah Corduroy, by Don Freeman

4 ) The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg

5 ) Seven Spools of Thread- A Kwanzaa Story, by Angela Shelf Medearis

6 ) How the Grinch Stole Christmas, by Dr. Seuss

7 ) A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens

8 ) The Night Before Christmas, by Clement Clarke Moore

9 ) The Latke who Couldn’t Stop Screaming, by Lemony Snicket

10 ) The Mitten, by Jan Brett

11 ) Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Christmas, by Melanie Watt

12 ) The Little Fir Tree, by Margaret Wise Brown

What are your favorite books to read during the holidays?

A Voice for Male Boomers!

Male Baby Boomers’ Midway by Don Clevett

A Voice for Male Boomers!

Between 1946 and 1966 sixty-seven million Baby Boomers were born; for them, midlife is either here or rapidly approaching!  Local author Don Clevett writes candidly about his own experiences with midlife; he deems it a ‘midway’ rather than a ‘crisis’ and encourages his readers to “take control” of this time of life.

Since men are typically reluctant to discuss personal problems with their partners or friends, this book encourages them to learn about the issues surrounding midlife and to share with others.  Female readers will benefit by understanding what men are going through and hopefully opening up discussions with their partners.

The book is available through Amazon, including an e-book format.  Check out the author’s webpage at www.babyboomersmidway.com for further information.

What’s Your Favourite Holiday Tradition?

Every year I look forward to Christmas.  I like setting up the Christmas tree with my family and reminiscing over old ornaments and past Christmases.

For the last 4 years it has just been my fiancé and myself setting up the Christmas decorations.  While I sometimes miss the loud and crazy times, I have come to appreciate and love the quietness of our new Christmas tradition.  I am one of those people who have the “show home tree”.  I have 3 separate sets of tree decorations that I rotate every year.  Each has their own matching color scheme with a few accent colours to really make the tree “POP”.  Having no kids, it’s easy for me to avoid the homemade ornaments and the haphazard look of children’s decorating.  I’ve been told that once I have children, I will love the above-mentioned tree; however, I think I might go with the new trend that’s starting – a small tree for the children to decorate and the main tree for me.

I say “me” but to be fair my fiancé does help me decorate.  He helps me pull out the tree, set it up, and put the lights on.  He is then happy to sit back and put on a favorite Christmas movie while watching me finish decorating. (Side note *** As I re-read what I have written I do realize I sound like a decorating tyrant – but my fiancé isn’t one of those patient decorators.  He’d be more than happy stopping with lights.)  I ask his opinion on the placement of ornaments and he lets me know where I need more, or where I need to take away a few.

After the tree, I set up the Christmas village and my collection of snow globes.  Every year I debate setting up a few of the statues that we have been given as gifts, and every year they go back into the box with the excuse of “no more room for knickknacks”.

This routine has become our Christmas tradition. It may not be the tradition that I grew up with, but it works really well for us.  While I like the loud, chaotic pace of my extended family, I love the nice, quiet evening I get to spend with my partner.

 

Literacy and Health: What can we do?

On the 27th  of November, the Northeast Edmonton Literacy Network hosted a workshop entitled ‘Literacy and Health – What is the Connection?’

The workshop provided an opportunity for health care providers, literacy and community service organizations, and literacy learners to come together to discuss and engage in activities focused on health literacy challenges.

Isabelle Tapp, a CFL learner and literacy advocate, was the first speaker at the workshop. Following her, we heard from Mayor Mandel and Nancy Becker, Health Literacy Consultant from Alberta Health Services.

Isabelle spoke about her own experiences dealing with literacy challenges. She called upon health practitioners to be conscious and more respectful of the health needs of people with low literacy levels by using clear and plain language.

This is Isabelle’s story:

“I’m Isabelle Tapp, a mother of two, and I’m like most of you in the room. And I have a learning problem. One of the things that I became very good at through my life was hiding this problem.

Six years ago, I found a paper about tutoring. I picked up the phone and dialled three numbers and hung up. I did that many times and finally called. My reading is now up here, and my confidence is up here. And because of that confidence I am able to talk to you about how literacy and health are connected.

I didn’t know that cough medicine could last for a long time. I would throw it out after 3 months. I didn’t know that you had to take the whole prescription. I would quit taking the pills when I started to feel better. Nobody told me you had to finish all the pills in the bottle.

Sometimes I hate seeing doctors. When most people go to the doctor for the first time, they just have to worry about being sick and meeting a new person. I had to worry about knowing what it said on my medication bottles. I had to worry about whether to tell them about my problem. And then there are the forms. They hand you a clipboard, and it’s like staring down a long hallway with no end. It’s so embarrassing to have to ask for help.

When this happens, I have to swallow my pride and ask other people for help. I don’t want to ask my family. That’s like asking for money.  Plus, I don’t always want them to know my health issues. I want to have my privacy. I wish so much that it was different.

When my daughter actually told my doctor that I had learning problems, I wish he would have said “I’m glad you told me. I want to help make this easy for you”.  But instead he gave me that look, you know the one, the pat on the shoulder and he rushed out the door. That’s when you sink in the chair, feel small and wish things were different. Sometimes it feels like they think I’m not smart enough to know. I hate that. If they ask if I understand, I just nod and say “yes”. Sometimes they don’t even ask.

I wish they would see me the same as everyone else. I wish they would make sure I understand my health issues. Then I would sit a little higher in the chair (instead of hiding under it). Everyone should understand what’s happening inside their body when they leave the office. No matter how well they read.”

Isabelle is not the only one. Listening to her sharing her frustrations with the health system brought to mind the 60% of adult Canadians (reported by the Canadian Council on Learning in 2003) that lack the necessary skills to manage their health adequately. The questions remains, what can you and I do to make a difference?

‘Tis the Season for Lifelong Learning!

Winter holidays provide an excellent opportunity for families and friends to spend time together. There are many fun learning activities that families can do.

Literacy is one of the greatest gifts that adults can share and benefit from with their families.

Mother and daughter baking cookies

Try the following activities to encourage family literacy over the holidays:

  1. Make a list, check it twice: As a family, write out lists together – wish lists to Santa, shopping lists, or even New Year’s resolutions!
  2. Watch a book: Many classic holiday stories have been adapted for the big screen. Read these stories with your kids first, then watch the movie; Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and The Grinch Who Stole Christmas are classic favourites.
  3. Signed, sealed, delivered: Do you have a stack of holiday cards that need to be prepared? Ask your family to help you write out greetings and addresses, or stamp envelopes.
  4. How many shopping days left? When shopping for gifts or holiday party supplies, ask your kids to count out the change required to make your purchase. You can practice numeracy skills by keeping track of spending before you reach the cash register.
  5. Dear Grandma: The holidays are a great time to write a letter or email to a loved one. Have everyone in your family contribute at least one paragraph on what they have accomplished over the last year.
  6. Holiday scavenger hunt: Create a list of holiday and winter-related items around your home. Give the list to your family and have them find all the items on the list.
  7. Jack Frost nipping at your nose: On cold winter days, snuggle by the fire with a good holiday book and a cup of hot chocolate. Don’t forget the marshmallows!
  8. Make reading a key ingredient: Following a recipe is a great way to practice reading, comprehension and math skills. By baking holiday cookies or cakes, you can get the whole family involved.
  9. Sing Christmas carols: Get together with your neighbours and go door-to-door singing carols. Singing encourages learning patterns of words, rhymes and rhythms, and is strongly connected to language skills.
  10. Play for Literacy! Put on your pajamas and have a family game night. Each family member chooses a game, such as a board game or card game, then have fun playing all night long!