Aldona at Large: Oh By Gosh, By Golly

It’s time for mistletoe and holly. Or in other words, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, the winter solstice or—for you Jerry Seinfeld fans—Festivus. Whatever your celebration, it’s also a time of year that requires plenty of stamina and the planning skills of a brigadier general.

Take Christmas dinner. From the time I was 21 or so, most years cooking the turkey has been my job. I recall a hilarious 1980 piece by the late American humourist Erma Bombeck, who wrote: “Amateur cooks since the beginning of time have asked, “when is the turkey done?” and I would answer them, “any time it wants to be.” She went on…“I have seen 30 pound birds cook in two hours…I have also seen ten-pound turkeys cook for eight hours and still look like you’re carving a ham.”

Amen, sister, and haven’t we all been there? I’m a decent cook, but nobody is spared the Revenge of the Turkey. I remember one holiday plunging the knife into a glistening, perfectly browned bird and unleashing a hemorrhage, and another time when the bird came out so dry that it practically imploded like the one in the film National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Worst of all was the year my brother Pete cooked the turkey at his place, and used a trendy French temperature method whereby you set the oven at 180 degrees and cook the bird until it too registers 180 degrees. Unfortunately, he neglected to take out the giblet bag from the neck cavity. All of us desperately tried to ignore the stench emanating from the kitchen until his upstairs tenant banged on the door and demanded to know what the heck that terrible smell was.

So imagine my joy when this year, my daughter and her spouse said, “Let’s change things up. Do you mind if we host Christmas dinner at our place?” (Insert Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” here.) Apparently, we’ll have festive karaoke singing and a holiday photo booth as well. All I have to do is dress up, and appear at the door with a bottle of vino and a side dish. Now THAT sounds like a real holiday celebration to me, and I fervently hope it’ll become the “new normal.”

Of course, we all know that the big day, whatever yours happens to be, is just the climax to weeks of festivities. Here’s a little photo recap of some of the recent goings-on around here:

Our Holiday Open House drew hundreds of jolly merrymakers like Shari-Lyn Safir and Midge Cooper.

Poor Walter, our maintenance supervisor, kept putting out more chairs to accommodate the capacity crowd for that evening’s very entertaining and informative Edwards Lecture given by horticulturist Dan Benarcik of Pennsylvania’s Chanticleer Garden.

The silent auction of celebrity-designed wreaths was also big hit. Our sincere thanks go to all who participated, and to those who bid.

A few nights before the Holiday Open House, I attended the annual Toronto Master Gardeners holiday party, which is a great opportunity to catch up with some of my favourite coHorts. Here, Meryl Burston, Katy Anderson and Anna Leggatt share a laugh.

Meanwhile, back at my house, I cooked and baked up a storm to welcome TBG staff and Board members to our holiday celebration. (I wish I could have invited the volunteers as well, but my house just isn’t big enough for 400.)

Here, some of our wonderful staff members listen as the announcement is made that, together with several Board members, we’d raised nearly $400 to help needy families this holiday season.

I’d only just recovered from the party at home, when our volunteer receptionists kindly invited me to attend their festive and fun annual holiday luncheon and Secret Santa gift exchange.

Here, Sandra Althoff opens up her present. (I scooped bright red mittens with a white maple leaf.)

Parking Lot Update

This week, soil was put on top of the completed biofilters, and the concrete curbs installed. New electrical bases are in place and light poles will be installed in the next week or so. More good news: the asphalt from the old parking lot has been pulverized and will be re-used for certain parts of the paving (the rest will be a permeable surface).

Things that make me happy

Photo: Landscape Ontario

The halo of the week goes to the good folks at Landscape Ontario, some members of which took it upon themselves to volunteer to transform St. James’s Park, where the soil had been compacted and the turf had been ravaged by the recent Occupy Toronto demonstrators. Two hundred strong, they aerated, added good soil and put down some 10,000 rolls of sod—all for free. Way to go! To see stop-motion photography of the two-day blitz, click here. To get all the nitty gritty, visit and read Robert Ellidge’s piece, or check out Mark Cullen’s informative article in the Toronto Star.

As the holiday season revs up and the year winds down it’s a perfect time to take stock. It’s been a busy and productive year at Toronto Botanical Garden. As ever, I would like to thank our excellent staff and devoted volunteers, who have done such an outstanding job. Three cheers, too, for our stalwart Members, Friends, and the many generous supporters–be they private, corporate, civic, foundation-based or institutional—for their encouragement and support.

Best wishes to you and yours for a happy, healthy holiday season and an optimism-filled New Year.



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