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2008 Flashback Advent Calendar

 

December 25, 2008

Christmas is finally here.  And, I'm glad to report that Kona, Meg, Snicker and Onyx returned safely from their North Pole adventure late last night.  All of a sudden they were back, showering both of us with kisses and wagging tails.  They raced around the house making sure all their favorite toys were still here.  And each one of them sat and looked at our Christmas tree for what seemed like 10 minutes.  I'm hoping they approve of the way we decorated the tree, even if we have never gone through the Elfies' decorating class.  There are not as many Christmas ornaments on the lower half of the tree this year as in past years, it remains a bit of a challenge for me to bend over.  But, that should mean fewer ornaments knocked to the floor with wagging tails.  There is always a positive way to look at every situation.

2008 has not been an easy year for the Conrad family, due to my back injury and long recuperation.  But, as a family we have grown closer, and we have also realized the importance of our many friends.  We have much to be thankful for.    

What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future. It is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow with blessings rich and eternal, and that every path may lead to peace.
~Anges M. Pharo

Merry Christmas to all, never stop Believing!!!

There's more, much more, to Christmas than candlelight and cheer; it's the spirit of sweet friendship that brightens all year. It's thoughtfulness and kindness, it's hope reborn again, for peace, for understanding, and for goodwill to all!

 Anonymous quote

On the twelfth day of Christmas my puppy gave to me,
A dozen puppy kisses 
And I forgot all about the other eleven days.

 

 
December 24, 2008

Meg here.  We finished the Elfie in Training test!  There were many, many components, cooking, sorting mail, answering mail, decorating trees, making candy, toys/presents inspections and on and on.  Some of the tests were easy, since we have spent the last 20 some days working right beside other Elfies.  Some of the tests were hard, since we did not get a chance to work in all areas of the North Pole this year.  There was also a test on the traditions of Christmas around the world.  That was really hard, but we all did OK. 

At the end, they asked us if we wanted to try for extra credit.  We are all a bit competitive, so we all agreed.  You won't believe the extra credit test, it was called the "HO HO HO 101" test.  The test required each one of us to call out in our best "HO HO HO".  Can you imagine that, dogs bellowing HO, HO, HO.  Kona tried first, and he had in his mind that "Bark Bark Bark" was the same as "HO HO HO".  Onyx tried next, he had no patience, and again the best he could come up with was "Bark Bark Bark".  Then it was Snicker's turn.  Snick did great, she was able to "talk" in addition to barking, but still could not come up with a clean "HO HO HO".  Finally it was my turn.  As you know, I'm an expert at saying "Hello", and at first that is all I could say.  But, in the end I BELIEVE that I was able to modify my Hello and to me it sounds exactly like "HO HO HO"!

One of the Elfies had a video camera and they uploaded the video to youtube.  Check it out (don't be fooled, one of the Elfies administering the extra credit test sounded exactly like Linda, but it was not her).  Listen in the background, we all were trying to practice our HO HO HOs as we waited for our turn!      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j6YY2bSztgw.

What a hoot!!!  All in all, we all passed the Elfie in Training test!!!  We are so proud.  We are no longer EIT, we are now certified HE, Honorary Elfies.  Where do you think the letters HE go in our names?  How about:

"Kona" - Kona *HE* EAC O-EJC ECC S-TN-E O-WV-O TG-N  CGC
"Meg" - Ch Beacon's Dash of Nut-Meg *HE* AX AXJ NJP EAC O-EJC ECC S-TN-E TG-O WV-E CGC  Can. AGN
"Snicker" - Ch Claymore's Live, Love, Laugh *HE* NA NAJ NAP NJP OAC OJC  OCC O-TN-O TG-N CL2-R  CGC  FFX-AG Can. AGN

"Onyx" - Flashback Back in Black *HE* CGC

By the way, the parade was great, unfortunately, no pictures, everyone was in the parade except Santa and the Missus, and they were both taking it easy, just sitting back and watching. 

We head back late tonight (Santa's planning to depart the North Pole at 8:30pm PolarTime).  See you tonight! 
 

On the eleventh day of Christmas my puppy gave to me,
Eleven unwrapped presents 
Ten Christmas cards I shoulda mailed 
My wreath in nine pieces 
Eight tiny reindeer fragments 
Seven scraps of wrapping paper 
Six yards of soggy ribbon 
Five chewed-up stockings 
Four broken window candles 
Three punctured ornaments 
Two leaking bubble lights 
And the Santa topper from the Christmas tree.

     
  December 23, 2008

OK, now we really know how busy, busy can be.  The preparations needed in advance of the loading of the sleigh are a sight to see.  Loading the presents into Santa's bag takes most of the time, the presents just seem to always find room in the bag.  There must be something magical about the bag. 

The Elfies are planning something new this year.  They are planning a parade.  All of us Elfies in Training will be in the parade, as a matter of fact, everyone here at the North Pole will be in the parade, except Santa and Mrs. Claus.  They expect the parade will last for hours, and will conclude with Rudolph pulling the loaded and ready to go Sleigh.  It will truly be a spectacle. 

No time for pictures today, there are just too many last minute preparations. 

By the way, we did not finish the Elfie in Training test yesterday.  We will finish it today. 

More to come tomorrow!

Believe!!!   

On the tenth day of Christmas my puppy gave to me,
Ten Christmas cards I shoulda mailed 
My wreath in nine pieces 
Eight tiny reindeer fragments 
Seven scraps of wrapping paper 
Six yards of soggy ribbon 
Five chewed-up stockings 
Four broken window candles 
Three punctured ornaments 
Two leaking bubble lights 
And the Santa topper from the Christmas tree.

 
     
 

 

December 22, 2008

We made it!!!  All the hard work of the extra helpers which were recruited (we were four of thousands of EIT) along with all the Elfies has paid off.  We are in position to finish up the rest of the presents with just a few more hours of work.  Everyone at the North Pole had today off, and we are exhausted.  As you can see, Onyx and I found a very comfortable couch to snooze on.  No room for Kona, no room for Meg, no room for Elfies, just the two of us.

Santa and the reindeer spend all their time resting.  Rudolph reports that all the reindeer are anxious and waiting to get back in the air again. 

It's getting late and it's snowing again.  So many parts of the United States have seen snow over the past few days.  With the moon peeking out, I'm sure every town looks as magical as the North Pole.

We'll be home in just a couple of days.  We've really enjoyed ourselves, but we sure miss being home too!

On the ninth day of Christmas my puppy gave to me, 
My wreath in nine pieces 
Eight tiny reindeer fragments 
Seven scraps of wrapping paper 
Six yards of soggy ribbon 
Five chewed-up stockings 
Four broken window candles 
Three punctured ornaments 
Two leaking bubble lights 
And the Santa topper from the Christmas tree.

 

 

     

December 21, 2008

Onyx here, Santa knows High 5, and he knows how to rub bellies!!!

 

We all have really enjoyed Santa’s stories the last few days.  Today he and I spent a great deal of time talking about lists.  At first I was really confused.  Santa just kept talking about making a list.  Making a list of what, I thought.  There is no need for a grocery list, everyone just walks over to the cafeteria for meals.  And all the Supervisor Elfies constantly walk around with their clipboards full of lists, surely Santa has delegated all of that work. 

 

Then Santa talked about checking and rechecking the list.  Being a puppy can be tough.  Everything is so new.  I asked Snick, Meg and Kona about the significance of the list and they acted really weird, especially Meg.  Do you know any reason they might be sensitive about Santa’s list, and checking it twice?

Yes, Onyx, I think I know why Meg, Snick and K are sensitive about Santa's list!  Check out these photos from Christmases past - Les

 

On the eighth day of Christmas my puppy gave to me, 
Eight tiny reindeer fragments 
Seven scraps of wrapping paper 
Six yards of soggy ribbon 
Five chewed-up stockings 
Four broken window candles 
Three punctured ornaments 
Two leaking bubble lights 
And the Santa topper from the Christmas tree.



Christmas 2004


Christmas 2005
     
December 20, 2008

Snick here.  Poinsettias abound here at the North Pole.  They are beautiful, and all the animals here at the North Pole know instinctively not to eat the leaves.  Of course everywhere else, people must be careful so that their pets do not ingest Poinsettia leaves.  The plants are usually not deadly when ingested.  If any part of the plant is ingested by a dog, cat, rabbit or other curious pet, the animal may show signs of oral irritation by shaking its head, hyper-salivating or pawing at the head and mouth.  The plant may cause vomiting.

A charming story is told of Pepita, a poor Mexican girl who had no gift to present the Christ Child at Christmas Eve Services. As Pepita walked slowly to the chapel with her cousin Pedro, her heart was filled with sadness rather than joy.

"I am sure, Pepita, that even the most humble gift, if given in love, will be acceptable in His eyes," said Pedro consolingly.

Not knowing what else to do, Pepita knelt by the roadside and gathered a handful of common weeds, fashioning them into a small bouquet. Looking at the scraggly bunch of weeds, she felt more saddened and embarrassed than ever by the humbleness of her offering. She fought back a tear as she entered the small village chapel.

As she approached the alter, she remembered Pedro's kind words: "Even the most humble gift, if given in love, will be acceptable in His eyes." She felt her spirit lift as she knelt to lay the bouquet at the foot of the nativity scene.

Suddenly, the bouquet of weeds burst into blooms of brilliant red, and all who saw them were certain that they had witnessed a Christmas miracle right before their eyes.

On the seventh day of Christmas my puppy gave to me, 
Seven scraps of wrapping paper 
Six yards of soggy ribbon 
Five chewed-up stockings 
Four broken window candles 
Three punctured ornaments 
Two leaking bubble lights 
And the Santa topper from the Christmas tree.

     
December 19, 2008

K here.  The history of the Christmas tree is fascinating. 

Christmas trees have a long history that predates Christmas. Long before the evergreen tree became a symbol of the Christmas season, it was a symbol of hope and joy. To the Vikings (not the NFL team), it was a reminder that the darkness and cold of winter would end and spring would return. One legend credits Reformation leader Martin Luther with beginning the custom of the indoor decorated Christmas tree in sixteenth century Germany, and most historians agree that the custom of decorating trees did begin in Germany. In 1841, German-born Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria, popularized Christmas trees in England by displaying one at Windsor Castle. The first mention of a Christmas tree in America was in the mid-1800s, but the custom did not gain widespread popularity until the early 1900s.

Of course, there are Christmas trees everywhere here at the north pole.  You just could not believe the number of different ways they are decorated.  The other day I saw one that was hanging upside down from the ceiling.  It had lights and ornaments and garland, it was pretty cool.  And, I bet it would be a great way to display our tree to keep those darn flat-coat tails from knocking ornaments to the floor.  What do you think?

On the sixth day of Christmas my puppy gave to me,
Six yards of soggy ribbon 
Five chewed-up stockings 
Four broken window candles 
Three punctured ornaments 
Two leaking bubble lights 
And the Santa topper from the Christmas tree.

     
December 18, 2008

Meg here.  Santa is an amazing man.  Here we are just a few days before Christmas and Santa has promised each of us he would spend a few minutes with us individually.  I got the 1st chance.  He told me this has been a tough year throughout the world, including at the North Pole.  But, even in tough times, he believes that there is much to be thankful for.  Santa is very thankful that he has had so many helpers this year.  And, he is thankful that the Elfies are very good judges of character.  They were very selective in whom they invited to help, and the helpers have been great!   

As it turns out, Santa is quite the storyteller.  The Elfies had already told Santa that we tried on his suit, he asked me how I liked his spats.  I was a bit embarrassed, but Santa let out a great big Ho, Ho, Ho and he told me he was joking with me.  He then told me the story of the tradition of Christmas stockings.  Do you know why Christmas stockings are hung by the fireplace?   

The tradition of the Christmas stockings began in an ancient time, with a kind noble man who had three daughters. The wife of the nobleman unexpectedly passed away and the daughters and their father were left in a state of sorrow. The daughters had to do all the work in the house. When the daughters became eligible for marriage, the poor father could not afford to give the huge dowries to their husbands.

One evening the daughters, after washing their stockings hung them near the fire place to be dried. St. Nicolas, being moved by the plight of the daughters came in and put in three bags of gold, one in each of the stocking hanging by the chimney. The next morning the family noticed the gold bags and the nobleman had enough for his daughter’s marriage. The daughters was married and they lived happily ever after. Since then children have been hanging Christmas stockings. 

It is believed that a child who misbehaves during the year will not get a gift in their Christmas stocking.  The gift given by Santa Claus would be something to eat, a thing that makes a sound and gives a pleasant view to the eyes or gift which has a lovely fragrance.

Pretty cool, isn't it???

Love Meg (who is thankful for her home, both her human and dog family, her littermates and all her friends, and of course swimming)

On the fifth day of Christmas my puppy gave to me,
Five chewed-up stockings 
Four broken window candles 
Three punctured ornaments 
Two leaking bubble lights 
And the Santa topper from the Christmas tree.

     
December 17, 2008

Santa's back!!! 

And his pockets are full of treats!!!

 

On the fourth day of Christmas my puppy gave to me,
Four broken window candles 
Three punctured ornaments 
Two leaking bubble lights 
And the Santa topper from the Christmas tree.

 

     

Kona - Elfie In Training

December 16, 2008

We have to tell you, the Elfie In Training curriculum is comprehensive and honestly, quite challenging.  Crucial to the curriculum is the definition of the course objectives that usually are expressed as learning outcomes' and normally include the program's assessment strategy. These outcomes and assessments are grouped as units (or modules), and, therefore, the curriculum comprises a collection of such units, each, in turn, comprising a specialized, specific part of the curriculum. So, a typical curriculum includes communications, numeric, information technology, and social skills units, with specific, specialized teaching of each.

Add to all that the EIT curriculum includes both singing and dancing!  We all can handle the academic portions of the training (of course, dogs are very intelligent), and we've spent much time practicing the singing and dancing.  Check out the links attached, and you can see our progress to date. 

Our final EIT test is on December 22nd.  We are confident, but still need to work more.

The music is starting, gotta go dance!!!

Love, Snicker, Meg, Onyx and Kona

On the third day of Christmas my puppy gave to me,
Three punctured ornaments 
Two leaking bubble lights 
And the Santa topper from the Christmas tree.

Meg - Elfie In Training

Snicker - Elfie In Training

Onyx - Elfie In Training

 

   
December 15, 2008

K here.  There are all kinds of Elfies here at the North Pole.  There are of course people Elfies, but I’ve also seen mouse, chippie, reindeer, bear, kitty, monkey, penguin, pelican, elephant, duck and bunny Elfies.  Each one is more beautiful  (and festive) than the next.  But today, I saw an unbelievably  cool Elfie, it was a llama Elfie. 

As I’m sure you know, llamas are one of four main species of New World camelids (the others being the alpaca, guanaco and vicuna).  The high dependence of Incan Indians of South America on llamas and alpacas for food and fiber is analogous to the Plains Indians of North America and their relationship to the bison. 

Llamas are first and foremost pets and companions. They are ideally suited to this task because of their predictable low-key temperament, intelligence and ease of maintenance.  Wilderness packing is probably the second greatest demand for llamas. Llamas make ideal pack animals for the western mountainous regions of the United States because of their inherent thriftiness in this climate, their low-cost maintenance and their durability as pack animals.

I had the chance to spend a great deal of time with the Llama Elfie today.  He is white, and breathtakingly beautiful. 

Check us out.  His harness is red too!!!

By the way, llama Elfies are not called llamies. 

On the second day of Christmas my puppy gave to me, 
Two leaking bubble lights 
And the Santa topper from the Christmas tree.

     
December 14, 2008

Onyx here.  I tell you, sometimes Snicker, Kona and Meg seem intent on spoiling my fun.  So here we are, we were all trying on parts of Santa's suit and having a really fun time.  By the way, the hat is quite warm.  But, as you can see when I put it on, I almost lost my balance, the hat must affect my inner ear. 

Anyway, I decide to try on Santa's coat.  Snicker, Meg and Kona went ballistic!  They were all barking at the same time, they said it was OK to try on Santa suit "accessories", but we surely could not try on the coat.  Why not???  Santa's not due back until the 17th, he will never know the difference.  I'm sure I could ask one of the Elfies for help in putting it back on the hanger.  Santa's a cool dude.  You don't think Santa would mind if there were a few black dog hairs on his coat, do you?  Do reindeer shed?

The Elfies came back to check on us, and they were not mad that I had tried on Santa's coat.  "I told you so!", I said to the other three.  The Elfie helped hang it up, we put all the other parts of the suit back where they belonged.  For just a few minutes we thought about trying to get all four of us into Santa's pants, but decided against that idea when the Elfies told us it was time to leave. 

Elfies are very polite.  They always say thank you and please, they are always smiling, and they almost always are humming and/or singing.

More on that later.

Love - Oeit

On the first day of Christmas my puppy gave to me,
The Santa topper from the Christmas tree.

     
December 13, 2008

Meg here.  Check out these leg things.  Santa wears these over his pants and shoes.  The Elfies calls these spats.  They explained that spats are a type of shoe accessory still used as a traditional accessory in many marching band uniforms.  Spats continue as a distinctive feature of the Scottish dress of Highland pipe bands.  Spats are also used in certain industries for safety reasons. In foundries molten metal pourers often wear leather spats to keep splashes of molten metal from burning their feet.  Many welders wear leather spats for protection from sparks and metal splash. Some chainsaw operators wear protective leather spats to prevent injury from accidental chainsaw contact with the foot or ankle.  Personally, although they are fun to try on, I just don't think they work on dogs!

I just love Santa's hat, it's killer.  Don't you just love the way I look in the hat.  Now I realize that flat-coats typically don't wear clothes, Kona has a Polartec coat, but even Kona does not have a hat.  If I was going to wear a hat, it would be just like Santa's!!!

                           

     
     
Friday, December 12, 2008

Snicker here.  Well Kona filled you in a bit on our castle dressing room exploration!  It was so much fun to play with Santa's suit.  As you can see I liked his belt and his gloves.  Santa has quite the belly, I needed to wrap his belt around me a couple of times.  His gloves are very soft, they fit me well.  But I did have a bit of trouble keeping them on.

Kona neglected to tell the whole story about our dressing room exploration.  As you know, Kona really doesn't like to be yelled at, and actually, we were yelled at when we were first discovered in Santa's dressing room.  An Elfie (who did not know we were given a tour and permission to hang out for a while) heard noises in the dressing room and caught us red footed, we were all trying on different parts of Santa's suit.

Did you know when Elfies get really mad they hold their breath, their faces turn as red as Santa's suit, and they start yelling in their native Elvish language, Fan-Eltharin?  The Elfie that discovered us started yelling, we just froze, we had never heard any Elfie yelling, much less yelling in their Elvish tongues.  (That's Elvish, not, hunk, a hunk of burning love Elvis!)

The Elfie was not really mad, just surprised.  When we explained that we have only been here for 12 days, and we were just anxious because we had not seen Santa yet, he understood.  He helped Meg and Onyx trying on pieces of Santa's suit, wait until you see them!

Later . . .  


 
Thursday, December 11, 2008

Kona here.  You've heard references to Santa’s castle over the past few days.  Well, I’m going to tell you a little more about Santa’s castle.  Santa’s castle, actually the castle complex is in the center of town.  It is so much more than Santa’s home.  It is a central gathering place for all group activities here at the North Pole.  Lots of Elfies and others congregate in the castle square before they begin and after they finish their work shift, and at times, they gather in the square at break time.  When not working, the square is a place to meet friends, tell and listen to stories and to just be among others with similar focus, to bring joy to the world. 

But, Santa’s castle is the location of Santa’s home.  One of the Elfies offered to give us a tour of Santa’s home.  Mrs. Claus was out working (her approval is required for all foodstuff prepared at the North Pole).  She is a great cook.  And yes, she also has approved fruitcake receipes (does anybody really eat fruitcakce???).  As you can imagine Santa’s home is very comfortable, a Christmas tree and fireplace in almost every room.  In the back they have a barn where the transportation Elfies make the final adjustments to the sleigh and reindeer.  There is also a dressing room in the barn where Santa gets dressed to begin his deliveries to all who believe in him. 

Guess what we did?  Once we were done with the tour, we asked if we could just hang around for   a while.  The Elfie agreed.  We went back to the barn and snooped a bit back in the dressing room.  We found Santa’s suit!!!  We were just so excited, we decided to try on some of his clothes.   

How do you think I look as Santa?  Do you think I can fool anyone and make them think I’m the
real Santa?

More from the dressing room exploration tomorrow.

 

 

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Hi, it's Onyx.  Everyone here has put in long hours over the last 10 days.  The good news is that we are almost caught up.  We still have lots to do, but with 14 days before Christmas eve we are on schedule to be done the morning of Christmas eve!  This is just an amazing operation.  The factories are working 24 hours a day, everyone knows when to sleep, when to eat, and we all still have loads of fun.  I was the eit rookie worker of the day yesterday and I received a small wreath to wear, what do you think? 

Check out the Elfie sleeping quarters and one of the gingerbread cookie kitchens.  I asked for their gingerbread cookie receipe, and I've copied it below.   

Just wait until you hear what happened at Santa's castle.  Kona will fill you in tomorrow.

 

Gingerbread Cookie Recipe Ingredients:
bullet1/2 cup Butter Shortening
bullet1/2 cup Sugar
bullet

1 teaspoon Baking Powder

bullet1 teaspoon Ground Ginger
bullet1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
bullet1/2 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
bullet1/2 teaspoon Ground Cloves
bullet1/2 cup Molasses
bullet1 large Egg
bullet1 tablespoon Vinegar
bullet2  1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour

Gingerbread Cookie Recipe
Time:
10 min
Serves:
6


Gingerbread Cookie Recipe Instructions:
bulletHeat oven to 375 degrees.
bulletMix shortening in a mixing bowl on high speed for 30 seconds.
bulletAdd sugar, baking powder, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, and cloves.
bulletMix until combined, scraping bowl occasionally then mix in the molasses, egg, and vinegar until well combined.
bulletMix in as much flour as you can with the mixer then stir in remaining flour.
bulletDivide dough in half. Cover with plastic wrap, and chill for at least 4 hours.
bulletGrease a cookie sheet with butter shortening.
bulletOn a lightly floured surface roll the dough to 1/8 inch thick for 2 and 1/2 round cookies.
bulletCut dough with your cookie cutters. Place cookies 1 inch apart on baking sheet.
bulletBake round cookies for 6 minutes. The edges of cookies should be lightly browned.
bulletCool cookies for 1 minute on cookie sheet then transfer to wire rack and cool completely.

Gingerbread Cookie Recipe
Cooking Time:
bulletCooking time 10 minutes.
bulletStore in a airtight Jar or Tin if any left.

 

     
Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Meg again.  As can be expected, everyone here is constantly decorating, decorating trees, decorating the walls, decorating cookies, decorating presents, and yes, at time decorating each other.  Four of my Elfie friends ambushed me this afternoon and decorated me with this wreath.  I've seen these kind of ambushes happening before (OK, one time I've joined in), and the best plan is to simply stand still and let them finish their foolishness.  Everything up here is done with a smile on your face and the sound of laughter is always present (pun intended). 

  Actually, I think I look pretty festive, although the wreath tickles my neck and it's impossible to take a step without bumping into the bottom of the wreath.  There is no way I can run, and you know how much I like running.  Check out the left side of the wreath (side opposite the bow), I knocked off one of the apples.  Oh well, can't be helped. 

Snicker, Kona, Onyx and I went exploring in Santa's castle yesterday.  We found something very interesting.  I don't have time to tell you about it today, check back tomorrow. 

Actually, we plan to go back later today and explore some more.  We may have more to report tomorrow. 

We all miss you, is our tree up and decorated yet???

Love ya, SMOKeit

P.S.  Don't tell the Elfies we are planning to explore Santa's castle, they may not think that is a good idea.   

 

     
Monday, December 8, 2008

Snick here.  One of the most surprising things I've learned here is the amount of presents that are made by hand.  I'm sure it is part of the reason there are so many Elfies here (and perhaps part of the reason they are behind schedule this year).  Take candy canes for instance.  You would think they could design and build an automated machine to make candy canes.  But, check out these photos.  They mix up the candy cane ingredients by hand.  OK, there is a machine that twists the canes, but look, they have to pour in the red and white batter by hand.  And, then they pile them into a wheel barrow or pail and take them over to the packaging department.  (Packaging is done with an automated machine.)

You might wonder what I'm doing in this photo, it's break time, I grabbed a few candy canes (rejected because their shape was not perfect) and I'm meeting Kona, Meg and Onyx for treats!

Listed below is one of the Elfies favorite candy canes recipe.

Santa's Victorian Candy Canes

A candy thermometer
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
1 teaspoon red food coloring

1. Mix the sugar, corn syrup, water, and cream of tartar in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan.
2. Stir until the sugar dissolves.
3. Place a candy thermometer in the mixture, and cook without stirring until the thermometer reaches 265 Fahrenheit.
4. Turn off the heat and add the peppermint extract.
5. Divide the mixture in half by carefully pouring part of it into another pan.
6. Add the red food coloring to one of the pans.
7. While waiting for the candy to cool, grease three cookie sheets (two as working space, and the third to provide a non-stick surface for the canes to cool).
8. Butter your hands, and use a buttered spatula to cut off a portion of one of the clear taffy. Have a helper do the same with the red taffy.
9. Pull and fold the pieces repeatedly on your cookie sheet until they appear glossy, then roll them into an 8-inch long coil.

10. Give the head of the cane a twist before setting it aside to cool on the third greased cookie sheet.

Makes: 6 medium sized canes

     
Sunday, December 7, 2008

O here, it is finally my turn to write.  At times, I find it really hard to be patient.  WOW!  Talk about sensory overload, this place rocks!  I'm sure you heard that the reindeer and I have become best buddies.  They are just the coolest animals.  They have a flight school for reindeer up here.  I was able to sneak a couple of pictures as they were training, don't tell the Elfies, this is a top secret training facility. 

Alas, they will not teach me to fly, only reindeers get that opportunity.  But I have been able to help in other ways.  We don't have forklifts up here, they just make too much noise, and as I understand it one time the Elfies got caught racing the forklifts, Santa was mad. 

This time of year we have lots of pallets of presents to move.  I get to help them move them.  Most of the "present movers" are sled dogs, but  I tried out and won a spot.  I wear a harness, and all the pallets are on sleds, so it's pretty easy to move them around, they just hook them to my harness with a caribeener, and off I go.  When we go on break, I get to run around out in the snow.  This place is too good to believe. 

Still no Santa, we sure can't wait to meet him.

Time to go!   - SMOKeit

Just in case you have not figured it out, Snicker Meg Onyx Kona elfies in training!!!

 

 

 

     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Meg, here.  Today it is my turn to send a message home.  The Elfies gave me a skills assessment test before they assigned me to work on an Elfie team.  The test came back showing I have an overwhelming interest in swimming.  If I knew that is what they were looking for, why didnt they just ask me?  I didn't need to take a test.  I love swimming!  Swim suit tester positions were all taken, I got the chance to test fishing games!  This is hard work, see how hard I am concentrating, I have to make sure all the fish bite.  Honestly, at first when I was told I would be testing a fishing game, I expected to be fishing in a small round hole in the ice.  Ive been fishing way more times on ice than on water.  I do remember way back (when only Kona and I lived in the Conrad household) when one hot summer day we took the boat and went fishing on Cedar Lake.  I remember Kona and I had a blast, but I dont remember why both of you seemed to have a miserable time.  Can you remember what happened that day?

Les, here.  Yes, Meg, I clearly remember that day .  When I go fishing by myself, Kona is the lucky dog to come along.  I dont feel comfortable taking 2 dogs in the boat, Kona can behave.  It was a hot summer day and Linda decided to come along.  She was not planning to fish, but instead brought along a book or two or magazines or something else to read.  It will come as no surprise to those who know Meg, that Meg is a bit obsessed with water, specifically swimming.  In the car, Meg seems to be able to smell water while sleeping in her crate.  She pops up to look out the window as we drive by water and then she starts to whine. 

So, we find ourselves at Cedar Lake, a bit apprehensive as we launched the boat.  Linda and Meg sat in front, with Lindas arm tightly around Meg's neck.  We motored out to a popular section of the lake, other boats were there too.  We anchored and I began to fish.     

Thats when Meg discovered that Kona likes to lean a bit over the edge of the boat while I'm fishing.  He wants to be the first to see if Ive caught a fish.  While he was doing his standard "lean over the edge" that day, he lost his balance and fell into the lake.  Hes fallen into the lake a couple of times before, its not a big deal.  Kona wears his harness and I just lean over to pull him out of the lake.  (I may not have mentioned this little fact to Linda before.)  Linda freaked out a bit. 

Here is where a situation that wasn't exactly going well, quickly took a turn for the worst.  While Linda was yelling for Kona to swim back toward the boat (he already knew that), Meg decided to jump in and join him.  I can just hear Meg thinking, If Kona gets to swim, I get to swim too!  So here we are, in the middle of the lake, both dogs are in the lake swimming, Linda screaming at me, and Im still fishing.  And we all are creating quite the show for the boats around us.  I carefully reel in my lure, making sure I didnt hook either Meg or Kona, throw my rod and reel to the floor and start grabbing harnesses to "fish" you two dogs out of the water.  Again, Kona is not that heavy, and he has been through the routine a few times, he knew the drill.  Meg did not, and as a wet flat coat, she is heavy.  Im sure Meg would have preferred to swim for a couple of hours, but I got both dogs back into the boat, I was soaked, Linda was ticked, you 2 could not figure out why you couldn't swim longer and the relaxing day on the lake quickly came to an end.  Meg, that is the last time you were in my boat. 

     
Friday, December 5, 2008

Here is the e-mail we received today.

Hello MPLS Conrads, Snicker here.  The North Pole is so very cool.  We work almost all day and night, but we take lots of breaks, and there are unlimited treats at all the breaks.  I had some choices on where I could work, I decided to help in the jewelry department.  Here it is December 5th and the Elfies are still designing jewelry.  Since I was new in the department, they asked for my suggestions.  Check out the pictures attached.  I love this necklace.  Dont you think that this necklace, in and of itself will pull the country out of the holiday doldrums?  Wont everybody buy one of these necklaces? 

I havent seen much of Meg the last day or two.  She is working on the other side of town.  Onyx spends all his spare time hanging around the reindeer.  He runs down to the reindeer coral on every break.  When he gets there he just seems to relax, he feels so comfortable with the reindeer, and they seem to have accepted him with open antlers.

Could I ask a favor?  I was telling the reindeer about the silly antlers Kona and I had to wear some past Christmases.  Could you post some pictures onto the Flashback web site?  Id like to show the reindeer how handsome we look in our antlers (I remember, I did not like wearing these antlers).

Time to go, we will check back tomorrow, Snicker, AKA Ch Claymore's Live, Love, Laugh.

Live with a heart full of dreams
Love from the depth of your soul
And embrace every moment of laughter

 

 

 

     
  Thursday, December 4, 2008  
Well, we found out how the dogs will check in with us each day, we get an e-mail from the North Pole!  We understand that the Elfies use e-mail extensively, they even have a web site, www.northpole.com.  Apparently, the Elfies and our dogs can communicate with each other, the Elfies do the typing.  They also indicated that they will be able to send 2 or 3 pictures per day.  We'll do our best to post them daily.

Below is the e-mail we received today.

Greetings from the North Pole!!!  Traveling through the portal was quite a thrill, you should have seen our tail feathers flying in the wind!  Beats the mini-van any day.  It's cold up here, yesterday was   -14 degrees Celsius (around 6 degrees Fahrenheit).  You just cannot believe the number of Elfies here, and reindeer too!  We can remember past years how funny we looked wearing reindeer antlers, reindeer are quite handsome animals!  They can be a bit standoffish, but they've got a lot of work ahead of them.  Even now when they are standing around, they look a bit like we do as we approach agility start lines, their feet start to dance, and they bellow an unbelievable beautiful call.   

You are never going to believe this, Santa is not here.  Apparently Santa has gone global, he's got present manufacturing facilities around the world.  He's off checking the plant in northern Iceland today.  The Elfies don't think he will be back here until December 17th.  We were a bit disappointed, we hoped to meet him today.  But, we can wait.

The Elfies put us right to work today.  Kona worked in wooden train quality inspection.  You can see by these pictures he is well suited for that job.  You won't believe what the rest of are doing! 

Got to go, it's time for our break, treats for all!!!

Did you figure out what SMOKeit means???     

 


Read this!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

You will not believe what we saw this morning when we woke up!!! 

We were up early, isnt it a drag to get up while it is still dark outside?  Our house was eerily quiet.  We went downstairs to find the dogs and then saw something on the wall we have never seen before, just above the baseboard.  It as a little door, decorated in a Christmas theme, with the word BELIEVE on it.  And then we saw a piece of paper on the floor.    

Elfie portal?  Who has ever heard of an Elfie portal???

So now yesterdays Elfie meeting makes sense, they must have heard about being behind schedule, and they were meeting to decide if it was safe to invite Kona, Meg, Snicker and Onyx.  I BELIEVE, but this is just unbelievable!

This Elfie portal must be like platform 9 1/2 in the Harry Potter books.  I remember Harry, Ron and the Weasley twins, they just took a few steps back and then ran full speed into the wall.  Before you know it they were on the train to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. 

I can tell you this, if you find an Elfie portal in your house, do NOT try to run full speed into the wall, Ive got a bump on the top of my head and no hair to cover it up!

SMOKeit what do you think that means???

     
OKAY, now something really weird happened today.  As I reported yesterday, the Elfies have returned.  Yesterday they were scattered around the house, sitting on picture frames, on the upstairs banister, on our knives, in some of their usual positions.  But this morning, we woke up and experienced something we have never seen before.  All the Elfies were sitting in a circle on the fireplace hearth.  We have never seen all the Elfies together like this.  Look at the photo, they were all in a circle around a piece of birch, almost as if they were having a meeting.   

Now, Elfies never let you see them move, that is part of their magic.  They typically move at night, under the cloak of darkness.  Sometimes there will be a couple in one room, but never 8 of them together in the same room.   

This is unprecedented.  As Santas helpers, they distribute themselves around the house so that they can keep an eye on everyone and everything going on, anywhere in the house. 

 WHAT IS GOING ON???


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

 
     


Some of the Conrad Elfies
Monday, December 1, 2008

Happy December to all.  We woke up this morning to quite a surprise.  The Elfies have returned!  Their appearance this year is a bit early.  They typically come St Nic eve (December 5th) but they are here today in full force.

I think everybody knows about Elfies, but, I'll explain just in case.  Christmas Elfies (el-feez) are the diminutive magical creatures that live with Santa Claus in the North Pole and act as his helpers.  Santa's Elfies are often said to make toys in Santa's workshop and take care of his reindeer, among other tasks.  

Christmas Elfies and fantasy Elves are not the same species, despite them having near identical names.  Christmas Elfies are more similar to pixies and gnomes than fantasy Elves. 

Elfies have been coming to the Conrad household as long as we can remember.  They keep an eye on the kids and the dogs (and I suppose Linda and myself too) and report back to Santa.  Of course, Elfies are magic, and quite mischievous.  From day to day they will appear in different places in the house, you never know where they will appear next.  They love to play on the banister, and if you are not careful, you could accidentally touch one of them.  If touched, they will remain magic if you quickly place your index finger on the tip of your nose and turn around in a circle 3 times.  Over the years we have all been caught accidentally touching one of the Elfies. 

Some of the places they appear can be quite frustrating (I suppose they are "testing" us).  One year one of them appeared in the empty Mr. Coffee carafe, no coffee that morning.  Another year one of them was sitting on the back of the coach holding the TV remote control, boy were the kids mad! 

I'll update this blog throughout the Christmas season, check back often!

Snap, Crackle and Pop
Fantasy Elves

The Keebler Elf
Another Fantasy Elf
     
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