Oxford House Hats

The men and boys of Oxford House, northern Manitoba.
1926 Photo by Rev. J.A.C. Kell

Easter was the time when the Swampy Cree of Oxford House, Manitoba came back from winter camp. You had to find just the right hat to make you feel ready for the season of beginning all over again.

They had gone far into the bush, lived in shacks, shot duck and moose, and fished for themselves and their dogs. They were more healthy and contented when they were out in the bush than on the reserve because they had meat to eat. The missionary had given their fathers their school exercise books and made them promise to have their children look at them at least once a day.

Now spring was here and, with it, came travelers from the south. Eager to make some money, the men and boys tried to make a good impression. Strong and swift-footed, with valuable knowledge of nature and skills as craftsmen, they were indispensable as guides to carry the outsiders’ gear, paddle and portage canoes and navigate the trails through the bush. They would also exchange meat for white man’s food such as jam.

Where Did They Get Their Hats From?
Each man or boy in the photo has his own style and no two hats are the same. I suspect they came out of the bales of clothing which were sent up to the reservation from church congregations in the south who wanted to help the aboriginal people. The influence of the new age of aviation was detectable in some of the hat styles.

Look at this Historical Photo:
Chief Jeremiah Chubb is standing second from the left in the back row. He is the one who “although not musical, played the organ as best he could for the church services” (A Book of Kells).

His right hand man, Bobbie Chubb, is standing — on Jeremiah’s right. He liked to brag and had a good sense of humor, which my mother (the missionary’s wife) adored.

One night when he was at mission house, he told her that his children were not let out of the house at night because he locked the door at 10 p.m. Then he looked at his watch and said: “To-night I have locked myself out.”

Which hat in this historical photo appeals to you most?

What’s your new Easter hat like? What’s its attitude and what does it rhyme with?

Thank you for spending some of your precious time reading this post. Please browse around from tip to toe on the Home archive and, if you will, comment.

Happy Reading & Writing from Cozybookbasics!

Margaret Kell Virany, author of:

A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void.  A compelling account of the unique northern adventures of a romantic, idealistic sailor and his war bride living with the Cree in the roaring twenties. Followed up by their youngest daughter’s confessions of a preacher’s kid.

Kathleen’s Cariole Ride.  A loving tribute to my mother’s bravery in coming alone to Canada as a war bride and living her honeymoon years on a northern Aboriginal reservation.  12 photos.

Eating at Church. One hundred and seventy-five recipes from the labor of love of 58 contributors who belong to two congregations in the Ottawa River Valley that perpetuate a long tradition of delicious, practical, time-proven meals prepared for and eaten with others.

Background information is available on my website; books may be purchased on Amazon.


via Convenient Solution to an Inconvenient Problem

Friendly Fire

Guest blog by Thomas Virany
We were watching CNN at about five p. m. on Thursday, when we heard a loud boom and everything went off. TV, stove, furnace, etc. Oh, well, that happens here sometimes.

But the power didn’t come back on, and I went to see what happened. A friendly Hydro guy came to our house and told me that there would be no power for awhile. How long, oh, maybe two or three hours. Pas de problèmes, as they say here.

He also told me not to go into the backyard, because a hydro pole had fallen and dragged all the wires down. And some more may fall. He asked me to turn off the main switch to prevent damage when the power came back on.

As the house was getting cold, I made a fire in our non-polluting stove we had bought to match our home-made furniture in 2006 instead of a fireplace. We ate what we had, some left-over spareribs, potato chips, fruit, etc. We boiled water on the stove for tea and sat by the fire, as an old (84 and 87) retired couple should.

Meantime, the ground floor and some upstairs bedrooms were warming up nicely. The two-three hours turned into all night. I kept feeding the stove wood. Even after going to bed, I got more wood from outside every two-three hours.  In the morning, still no power but the house was warm.

mar1-blackout3.jpgWe got into our 2003 Prius hybrid car and went out for a wonderful breakfast. We called our children on our ipads and told them, then went home. No power, but a wonderful warm house and I continued adding wood. Lots. We again went out, this time for lunch and more talk with our children on Skype and Facetime.

Back home, we removed the grate off the top and roasted some chestnuts in the stove’s steel pan. Still no electricity, but lots of hydro trucks. School next door closed.

Just about suppertime, the electricity came back on
and we went back to our normal life. TV, cooking, telephone,
etc. Other than some expense of money, we got through
the day conveniently, thanks to the stove and car.

Mar.2018blackout2We felt independent of the government; only deprived of some usual
services for awhile. Pas de problèmes.

Happy Reading by Flashlight & Fire from Cozybookbasics!

How did you cope with a blackout? Please leave a comment; we’d love to hear about it.

http://www.cozybookbasics.wordpress.com  www.amazon.com/author/margaretvirany



memorialgardenIt’s hard to be optimistic these days so I look to Voltaire who said at the end of his book, Candide, “We must cultivate our gardens.” After examining all the religious and philosophical explanations of the “best possible world” he adopted a farmer role model’s rational, hard-working, practical path.

  • In northern climes we cling to the prospect of Spring to cheer ourselves up. Everywhere, north and south, we look to children symbolically as our gardens, as the hope for a new and better world.
  • The slain children of Stoneman Douglas high school are our hope for the future. They are buried now, as seeds in a garden.
  • My gardening successes are modest. I planted a herb garden with a geranium in the middle of it. The important thing was that it grew on the bus-stop corner of my front lot.
  • Federal government employees rushing to get on the bus to work dropped their cigarette butts there. The sidewalk plow spattered it with small gravel stones on its way by in winter. The dandelions, plantain and crabgrass that love bad soil and neglectful gardeners had a field day.
  • So for a year I covered it with newspapers weighted down with rocks. Eventually new soil appeared.
  • Someone stole the bloom from the geranium the day after I planted it but I consoled myself thinking it was a young lad seeking to please his girlfriend. I pruned the plant. He had left two buds and the plant revived and carried on.
  • Then I planted parsley and chives so the commuters could have a healthy snack and so could anyone else who wanted to pinch something.
  • Seed catalogs arrive in the mail at this time of year in Canada. Farmers and gardeners plan their cultivating while the blizzards roar outside.
  • Political, grievous events like the Stoneman Douglas epic tragedy render us hopeless but we have to look ahead to building something good that will help others in our open little spaces.
    Let us all turn burial plots into gardens and cultivate them in the name of the fallen heroes!

Would you like to grow a memorial garden? What will it look like? Please write your comments in the box below.

Happy Seed-catalog Reading from Cozybookbasics!


http://www.margarevirany.com  www.amazon.com/author/margaretvirany


One person's mental illness leaves a whole family feeling broken

Families across America and beyond are left numb and shocked by the preventable deaths of 17 students at Stoneman Douglas high school, FL, conceived in mental illness.

Cozybookbasics expresses profound sympathy to everyone in the wake of the terrible massacre in Parkland, FL on Feb. 15, 2018. We pray humanity can recover from this terrible blot and pledge to try to do better.

Do you think we can? We’d love to get your comments below.

Heartfelt Mourning from Cozybookbasics

http://www.margaretvirany.com  www. cozybookbasics.wordpress.com  www.amazon.com/author/margaretvirany

'How to Be Happy' course attracts 25% of PhD students at Yale University, Jan. 2018

Happiness students attend Prof. Laurie Santos’ class at Yale University. NYT photo.

 Yale University PhD students who say they are “anxious, stressed, unhappy and numb” get seven points of daily advice (below) from Positive-Psychology  professor Laurie Santos’ How to Be Happy course. In an interview (New York Times, 26/01/2018) she says they have been seeking mental health counselling at near crisis-level.  “They became that way in order to focus on their work, the next step, the next accomplishment.”

Professor Laurie Santos' course in How to Be Happy attracted one-quarter of the students taking PhDs at Yale University in January, 2018

Professor Laurie Santos, Yale University photo

Her course advises:

1. Meditate for 10 minutes a day

2. Get eight hours of sleep

3. Do something calm

4. Think of five things you are grateful for

5. Perform an act of kindness

6. Form new social connections

7. Don’t procrastinate

  • “The students want to change, be happier themselves and change the culture here on campus,” Santos says. “It is not easy. It is the hardest class at Yale. To see real change in their life habits, students have to hold themselves accountable each day. It takes practise but it lasts forever.
  • “Three things students usually equate with life satisfaction (high grades, prestigious internship, good job) don’t increase happiness at all. Intuitions about what will make us happy are totally wrong (e.g. winning a
  • “If they take the advice to heart it will change our culture in a big way. If we see good habits, things like students showing more gratitude, procrastinating less, increasing social connections, we’re actually seeding change in the school’s culture.
  • “In high school they had to deprioritize happiness to gain admission, and adopt harmful life habits that have led to the mental health crisis we’re seeing at places like Yale. They had to do things that made themselves really unhappy in order to get there.”
  • The Field of Positive Psychology & Behavioral Change does not focus on what goes wrong but on the characteristics that make human beings flourish. To critics who say it is just an easy A, she points out:

1. The course is relaxed, low pressure

2. Social pressure attached to taking it with friends pushes students to work hard without provoking anxiety about grades

3. She encourages them to take it pass/fail so they won’t be anxious. She doesn’t monitor assignments

4. The course ends with a discussion of treatment efficacy. Did the therapy actually work? Every student must complete a Hack Yo’self Project.

5. It is not easy. It is the hardest class at Yale. It takes practise but it lasts

6. To see real change in their life habits, students have to hold themselves accountable each day.

Happiness courses began at ivy league colleges after Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi published Flow: the Psychology of Optimal Experience, a seminal work in the field of positive psychology, in 1990. People were “happiest,” he found, when they were able to spend their work or their leisure — ideally both — fully engaged in what they were doing, to the extent that they actually lost track of time, or forgot to eat. Whatever people did that gave them the best sense of happiness usually involved being challenged enough to stretch their skills, keep them totally engaged, and unaware of the rest of the world.

The How to Be Happy course will not be offered next Fall because the classes of other professors have emptied and they are unhappy.

What do you think of this course? The comment box below is for you to use. The blog post is just a start so we can talk about what hits  you.

Happy family-value reading & writing from Cozy Book Basics!

http://www.amazon.com/author/margaretvirany   http://www.margaretvirany.com

A tiny 2-inch pop-up Valentine, circa 1920

A tiny 2-inch pop-up Valentine, circa 1920 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Come with Kathleen as a Valentine’s treat

Because her story is so sweet.

Kathleen was a British high school girl in 1917 when her father brought a Canadian sailor home for tea. The suspenseful excitement of falling in love, marrying and then living amongst the Swampy Cree in Canada’s northern wilderness is captured in Kathleen’s Cariole Ride: A True Love Story from over the Ocean and in the Bush after WWI. Their daughter’s loving book takes you deeply inside the raw emotions of their own letters. The highlight of their (and their foetus’) adventures was a five-day sub-zero winter trek and a difficult birth.

Final Proof of a paperback edited with phone help from Createspace

Final Proof of a paperback edited with phone help from Createspace

Remember! A book makes a heartwarming, non-fattening, long-lasting gift for Valentine’s Day. It’s a joy for me to meet and chat with people in the friendly, creative atmosphere of the Russell Flea Market on Sat., Feb. 10th, while signing copies. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could join us?

Does this story remind you of an event in your family’s history? If so, we’d love to hear about it in the comment box.

Thank you for dropping by Cozy Book Basics. You may find other stories you like by clicking above on ‘Home’ and scrolling down to browse through the archives. My writing grew out of a paradoxical parsonage childhood being nurtured by incongruous parents. To find out more, follow this Amazon link to A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void,  Kathleen’s Cariole Ride and Eating at Church. Please join me on Goodreads or check out my personal author page also.

Happy Reading & Writing from Cozy Book Basics!

http://www.cozybookbasics.wordpress.com   margaret@kell.ca

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Journalism vets and student figure out what's becoming of journalism

From left, Anita Murray, Patrick Langston, Gabrielle Van Looyen, Russell Mills and Joe Banks

Veteran journalists in Ottawa Saturday looked for ways to fix the urgent ‘news desert’ where readers are stranded. Last fall Postmedia Network Canada Corp. and Torstar Corp. swapped 37 community newspapers and four free commuter papers – and then shut most of them. Low advertising income has killed others, and the government won’t help. They can’t go back to an old business model and the advertising industry has troubles, too. Absentee chain-store owners, not the shop keepers on Main Street now make the buying decisions.

Revenue, Content and Awareness
“Some start-ups succeed,” Algonquin College journalism professor Joe Banks told the panel of four and audience of 20 hosted by the Media Club. Assuming you have no external sources of revenue, here’s his formula for “How to Make a Print- & Online-Newspaper without Breaking the Bank‘:
1. A staff of you, at least to start, or volunteers
2. Understanding of your readership
3. No office overhead (just your cell phone, your home and your car)
4. Locally provided content, freelancers (paid for at fair market rate of 25 cents a word or more depending on experience), or contributors (members of charitable organizations)
5. Revenues strictly from subscriptions, local advertising, Google AdSense. Display advertising service requires sales staff, unless web-based
6. Design templates found for free online
7. Adobe Creative Suite (includes In Design, Photoshop) and a Content Management System as tools
Ryerson University in Toronto is mapping the ‘desert.’ Although Post and Torstar said they would close only those papers competing with existing papers, the wide area of West Carleton, for example, has none.

Veteran journalists discuss how to fix 'news deserts' in Canadian communities with no newspapers

From left, Miss Gower; panelists Glen Glower, Patrick Langston and Theresa Fritz

Panelist Glen Gower is owner/editor of StittsvilleCentral.ca (pop. 26,807), an independent news and information source that attracts 20,000 visitors monthly. Its mission is to focus on the people who care about the community. He started it as a blog running two or three articles a week Unlike a print newspaper, it never runs out of space. FaceBook posts his good visual material and content prominently. But he says, “You have to be in their face” around town so I put up posters, particularly in the ‘hub,’ a local coffee shop.” He put $1,000 into the site and buys sponsored keywords on Google to get advertising.

2018 Predictions: More Social Media, Audio & Uncertainty

“You can’t ignore FaceBook,” said panelist Anita Murray, a career journalist at the Ottawa Citizen for 25 years. She and Patrick Langston, a freelancer at the Citizen and for a number of magazines, invested $50,000 in building and designing an Online website, All Things Home, a process that took a year. “We post daily to our FB page and find their ads cheap ($10.)” But they also rent a booth at the Home Show and are trusted members of their community. “We wouldn’t get big construction company advertisements without a sophisticated website but we also get in the door to talk to builders and suppliers who know us and where we live,” panelist Langston said.

“If you’re too lazy to read the paper, we will read it for you” is the FB etc. promo for Carleton University’s one-hour radio show and pod casts that have started coming out at the same time as the campus newspaper The Charlatan. The show has hosts, a narrative, guests, music and background analysis, senior student and Media Club award winner Gabrielle Van Looyen told the group.

Banks said FB no longer runs news and social media can be dangerous. Journalists must be careful not to libel anyone; the insurance is expensive. In his village, a man posted an accusation about a neighbour with whom he’d been feuding. Banks told him to take it down but it was too late. People worried they were no longer safe. Banks looked up statistics proving Osgoode was the safest place anywhere and posted them with the message that there was no danger.

Tossed out of her position as managing editor of 11 Metroland community newspapers in Almonte, Arnprior, Vanier, etc., with a staff of 21, Theresa Fritz is surviving by freelancing but still is passionate about community newspapers. She thinks you can survive if you have a local connection with a local business (in contrast to distributing flyers.) She thinks a proposed venture for a chain of four papers to be brought out twice a month has dim prospects. “People have an expectation of what they’ll get. What is their long-term viability? How do you ask people to pay for something you’ve been giving away?”

New Models as the Way out of Media Mistrust. Who’s going to save society?

Why not have a community radio station? Create a community hub. Libraries are starting to lose their way but could play a new role. In Weare, New Hampshire, the people approached the librarian after its newspaper closed. Mike Sullivan responded to the people who came, all of them interested in the community. He became a podcaster so they could stay connected with it.

Whom can you trust?
Seventy-three per cent of Canadians trust their media, in contrast to only 47% of Americans. 78% of Flippinos and 77% of Cambodians are also very trusting of their newspapers. Align yourself with the community association. They have infrastructures you can build on.

What builds trust?

“At a community newspaper you get involved in a whole bunch of stuff, all the things that don’t involve you personally but are going on. If you are seen at them, it builds trust in people, said Fritz. They know where you live and will call you at home. You become their best friend and a hand to hold. You can go out, walk the streets and see pictures of people you know in the newspaper. If you see 200 people, they see you too. One man who went to the strawberry social and got his picture in the paper told me, “I mailed it home and now I feel like part of this

Lay-offs hurt journalism itself. The Ottawa Citizen used to employ 200 newsmen and is now down to 50. That’s that many fewer journalists out being seen with their families in the community.

Murray: Does the buzz you get from seeing someone you know’s picture in the paper build trust? Does it transfer to the Web?

What is the ideal sized community for a newspaper?
Banks: I suspect trust in the media is more rural than urban. Urban people have much more media to consume. Rural people go more for tradition and urbanites more for what’s new.

Student: I think you’re saying people have less trust in bigger media.

Banks: I think a population of 400 – 150,000 has the right mix for the distribution of the product.

Prospects for Unemployed Journalists

Banks: Young journalists are in huge demand from corporations to work as social media co-ordinators and analysts. They are offered twice as much as they would get as journalists.

Regrets (in Jest) but Resolve

Banks, looking at Russell Mills, his former boss and publisher of the Ottawa Citizen when the Internet was formed: “You should have grabbed the Internet. You could have but the journalists were too afraid of change to do it at the time. Then we would still be in control of the news. Right now we are losing young graduates to corporate non-journalist jobs and veteran journalists to abrupt unemployment.”

Murray: But don’t forget, websites will always need news-gatherers too.


Happy Reading & Writing from Cozy Book Basics!

http://www.margaretvirany.com  www.amazon.com/author/margaretvirany





How to choose books for your unique avatar

What would  you choose if you wanted to take a picture of  a few of your favorite books, not more than seven inches wide when stood together? The names of two websites I like,  ‘Books ‘R Us’ and ‘Books Tell Us Why’, gave me the seeds of this idea for a new avatar. It would be right for the task, less random and superficial than a mug shot.

My books are shelved up- and down-stairs all over the house so it was a good exercise. Digital,  thumbed-over, dog-eared, faded, curled, moldy, soiled, frayed, ripped, incomplete, taped, sagging, spineless specimens wouldn’t do. I needed color and titles that would be attractive. What photogenic line-up could be readily assembled ?

After I’d made my choices and taken the shot, there seemed to be some categories and sense to it all. If you want to show who you are  by presenting a few books, for an avatar or any other reason, here are my tips. You have to love them because they are all of these things:

  • Useful: An indispensable reference book for your favorite passion or hobby
  • Fun: An entertaining, exciting novel or fantasy book that carries you away to another world
  • Shocking: A nonfiction exposé that stimulates your curiosity and thirst to get at the truth about what really happened
  • For the mind and soul: A book that is a mentor and idol to give you an intellectual boost and spiritual understanding
  • For social identity: A biographical history of a person or group  who align with your  own career path, background and type of  companions
  • From your family: A history or autobiography written by you or a relative

My books in the photo above are, from left to right:

  1. A collection of recipes which reflect my childhood and perpetual delight in good food, especially when cooked by loving people and served at communal events like harvest suppers, strawberry socials and silver teas. Someone suggested to me that ‘Who Cooked the Last Supper?’ might have been a better title than ‘Eating at Church.’
  2. The Black Tulip by Alexander Dumas. Hundreds of others would have done but only this one had a red cover, gold lettering and the sentimental value of having been a gift from my son when he was a boy.
  3. The Pagan Christ. As a willful (but good) minister’s daughter, I was always interested in the pagan customs and natural images unsuccessfully squelched but peculiarly integrated into Christianity.
  4.  Northrop Frye Myth and Metaphor: Selected Essays 1974-88. My class notes of his lectures are included in those now appearing online for public access at http://www.fryeblog.blog.lib.mcmaster.ca/, Robert D. Denham library collection.
  5. Sweet Sixteen, the story of the 16 irrepressible woman journalists who formed the first Canadian Women’s Press Club while on a privileged train trip to the St. Louis World Fair in 1904. I  belong to their renamed club.
  6. A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00440DQNA), the 20th century family memoir I wrote about my parents and me.

Are you books? What favorites would win your book contest? We love to get comments and browsers so please make yourself at home!

http://www.amazon.com/author/margaretvirany    www.cozybookbasics.wordpress.com      www.margaretvirany.com



The magic of writing a memoir is like pulling a rabbit out of a hat, only in reverse. That’s my new theory. When my mother posed for this picture in 1928, just after marrying, coming to Canada and starting life on an Indian reserve, she had no idea I’d write a book from her love letters and adventures some day.

Imagine my joy at receiving these emails from two of the first avid readers of Kathleen’s Cariole Ride in its paperback edition. They’re from Catherine and Fred Dunlop, my second cousins who have a beautiful farm and family.

Here’s what Catherine says about the book, so eloquently:

“Margaret – I have just finished reading this wonderful book and I still have tears in my eyes, it is so well written. Mental images appear with the flow of your words and they transport me, it seems, right into that setting.
I am not a writer, but I am a voracious reader and I so enjoy how you can make a scene come to life with just descriptive passages. I laughed, I shook my head in disbelief many times and, as I said, cried when I had finished. I cannot say enough about this wonderful gift of love to your parents. I am going to order several today. I want to put one in our local library and I also want to give each of our children a copy. Uncle Jack baptized all three of our children.
I often called Uncle Jack ‘the oldest teenager I know’ and he seemed to enjoy that. We also had many discussions around theology topics. He was a man thinking unlike many of the ministers of his time. Aunt Kay was always so quiet and reserved but, once, she and I were talking out in my kitchen as I was cutting meat and she seemed vitally interested in my life, asking me questions about how I was coping with motherhood and a busy husband. Her way of saying “I know exactly what you are going through”?
Anyway, thank you for writing this story, THEIR story, so beautifully.


And here’s what Fred, who sent the photos, had to say:

“Good morning Margaret – we found this picture of your parents in a family trunk that mom had put away. The picture is in a frame made of rabbit skin. Mom has written on the back of the picture Rev Kell, Aunt Kathleen, Oxford House. Manitoba, 1925 (about)

Some people just have all the luck when it comes to parents and cousins, so I have a grateful heart I wanted to share with you.

Thank you for dropping by. This blog for all lovers of life and language aims to be useful and entertain. To order a copy of Kathleen’s Cariole Ride, please click here.

Happy Reading from Cozy Book Basics!