Saturday, April 28, 2012

Magnolia Obsession

Vernon is awash in magnolia trees, currently in full glorious bloom. 

If a person is going to have a seasonal obsession, this isn't a bad one!

I do not, however, have the courage to show you the baby magnolia in my yard. It's a brave little tree but it will be a few years before it's worth bragging about .... if ever.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Potatoes, Compassion and Music Legends

I've been on a "Keeping Up Appearances" jag lately. Todd got the complete boxed set for Mom a few years ago. I brought them home and since Bryan's gone up north, they've been my evening companion.

Outside the series, I've come to admire Patricia Routledge, who became famous in North America as Hyacinth Bucket ("pronounced 'Bouquet' "). I love her as Kitty

An absolutely favorite sketch by the comic queen:  "What would the Queen Mum do?" Indeed.

If you like Kitty 3, take a gander at the Kitty 1 and keep on watching.

And then find her video of The Beggar's Opera - she was a wonderful singer in her day. 

Early morning contemplation

So, on the way to work this morning, I see erratic wheel markings on the road just past Cedar Hill. They veered off to the left side ditch, and then much dirt and scuff marking on the pavement just past the ditch entry point. Maybe trying to avoid a deer? No blood and guts on the road so no hit. Or maybe some hanky-panky? Amazing how much speculation one can derive from random rubber on the road.

Weather has been very conducive to spring garden work. Once we returned from the spring snows of Alberta (shudder) I got to work with a vengeance, fully repentant of my earlier whining about the weather here!

The vegetable garden is completely dug over, the weeds removed and ready for planting. The new moon is tonight, Apr 21, perfect timing for planting potatoes, which I'll be doing this afternoon. I bought a few each of some heritage and unusual varieties: Mozart (red skin, yellow flesh), Russian Blue (inside and out - used to have them in High Prairie), Banana (ditto in Valleyview), German Butterball and another one I can't recall at the time.

Compassion 101

Buying seed potatoes led to the last in a series of interesting personal exchanges.

The heritage varieties are quite expensive - but if all goes well, they're a good investment as you can (hopefully) have some left the next spring for replanting (unless someone eats every single one in the bin and then you have no more Russian Blue .... but I digress). 

Banana potoes, Russian Blues and Russian Reds

I selected my veg seeds as well and went to the till. The woman at the check-out looked at my small bag of potatoes and then at me with a hint of anxiety.

"I'll weight these for you first and let you see the cost, shall I?"

"Of course," I said.

She weighed them, I looked at the cost and then said, "Yes."

"Yes, you'll take them?"

"Well if I didn't want them, I wouldn't have bagged them."

The woman almost started to cry.

"Let me hug you! People have been yelling at me all day when I tell them how much their bag of potatoes will cost." And then she went on to tell me a bit about how miserable the customers have been. And how much stress she's already dealing with, including her adult daughter who has Stage 4 colon cancer.

"You're the first person who's just calmly said yes."  

And I thought to myself, I'm glad I'm her last customer of the day. At least she can end this day on a good note.

Thursday had been particularly difficult at work, and attitude (both co-workers and clients) exacerbated rather than alleviated the situation. I had my moment of pique at 2 pm when a full page ad without copy or graphics - or the sales person present in the building at the time - was put on my already very busy desk, to be done for 4 pm deadline.

At 4:30 pm, I was the one calming down the hyperventilating sales person, telling her to breathe, I wasn't going anywhere and we'd get it done and to the paginator. Which we did. What point was there in yelling? Everyone was already unhappy. Might as well just get the blessed thing done.

It takes so very little to lighten a bad situation. Compassion costs nothing but time and effort. The older I get, the better I understand this and have the tools to make it work.

There has to be an up side to getting old!

The day the music died ....

Levon Helm died this week and fans of The Band are sad. 

Levon Helm

If you know who The Band is/were/are, Levon was the lead singer. Four of the five original members are Canadian, and so for that reason if no other, co-worker Roger Knox and I were amazed and somewhat disgusted when no one else around here knew them. Come on! 

Robbie Robertson!!! 

"Up on Cripple Creek." 

"The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down"  


Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks.

Of course, I shouldn't be all that surprised. No one around here except Lynne and Roger knows the McGarrigle sisters or Kate's children Rufus and Martha Wainwright; Susan Aglukark; Long John Baldry; Jill Barber; Amos Garrett; Matthew Good; Sarah Harmer; Ronnie Hawkins; Paul Horn; Mendelson Joe: Oscar Lopez; Nancy White;  Blackie and the Rodeo Kings; The McDades and Shannon Johnson; Bill Bourne (Bourne and McLeod), Corb Lund and the Hurtin' Albertans,  Kashtin ...... 

Deep, deep sigh. At least look them up on You Tube., The Band, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down ('The Last Waltz') Robbie Robertson, Broken Arrow Rufus Wainwright, Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk kd lang, Hallelujah (written by, of course, Leonard Cohen)

I'll just plant my potatoes and pull weeds. That will restore my equilibrium.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Mishaps, Mariachi and Musk Ox

April Fools morning - Mother Nature's idea of a great joke.
I've been having technical difficulties (mishaps) with the blog this past week, which is one reason the update is so long in coming. It didn't help that Nature thumbed its nose at us rather appropriately on April Fool's Day.

The day before, this had been the site of a very pleasurable afternoon in the spring sun.

At least the heather provided a lovely touch of colour!

The lot beside our driveway has been cleared of all the lovely mixed-species bush that we'd been enjoying, as construction begins on the last house in the subdivision.

 The snow was all gone by the end of the day, at least around here. We went to Revelstoke to visit Mom G - she still has over a metre of snow in her backyard! More than we ever had here at any time during the winter. Gotta love Revelstuck.

Let's backtrack a few weeks. Three weekends ago, we went on a Sunday drive in the Celista-Magna Bay-Scotch Creek piece of the world. It's on the north shore of the main arm of Shuswap Lake. If that sounds confusing, you have to understand the convoluted nature of Shuswap, tucked in and around the mountains. Google Shuswap Lake and you'll see what I mean.

We had two little dogs with us - Socket and the last of her puppies, as yet unnamed (or at least not with a name that can be used in polite company). I've taken to calling her Little Girl and the new owner (yes, she'll be gone in another week when the buyer returns from vacation) can christen her with a new name.

Anyway, we stopped just outside Celista for a pee break and walk along the shore.

You can see how beautiful it is and why we love it here so much. This is looking west, sort of.

And looking east-ish, down the lake towards Scotch Creek. Eagle Bay and other vacation communities are across the lake to the right of this shot.

There was lots of interesting sniffs for the girls!

The following weekend, we had some culture on Friday night in the form of fabulous mariachi music. Ken Smedley is the artistic director of the George Ryga Centre in Summerland. I won't go into that whole story right now, but Ken and his partner spent time in their lives living in Mexico. Their son is in Los Dorados and is probably the reason they come on tour through the Okanagan.


I don't care why they come through. I just know we'll go listen to them anytime they're in the neighbourhood! There were several people in the audience who'd been to Mexico, the couple beside us just recently returned.

"Are they as good as the mariachis you heard in Mexico?" I asked.

"They're better!"

Bryan and I like to be tourists in our own backyard. One Sunday we took off to the south end Kelowna with Carmelis Goat Farm as our designation. As former dairy goat farmers ourselves, we have a keen interest in such things.

 The taster-lady was every bit as informative and entertaining as any of her counterparts at the many vineyards in the valley. We started with the mild cream cheeses and worked our way through the inventory to the hard ripe romano-type cheeses. It was a successful visit as we had a laden bag heading back to the truck.

St. Hubertus Winery is in the neighbourhood. We had a pleasant tasting here as well, and toted a box of bottles back to the truck. 

 I guess more time has passed than I thought! We've been to a lot of vineyards lately. Last Monday, Bryan had an appointment in West Kelowna. We travelled down on Westside Road, and when he was done, we took in a few places along Boucherie Road.

First stop was Volcanic Hills, where Bryan found 'his' Gewurztraminer and we both fell in love with a Cab-Sauv that was sharp and spicy.

Volcanic Hills is where the red pin is sitting. Little Straw is up to the left.

Then we crossed the road and spent some time at Little Straw. And there we REALLY fell in love, with both a blended white they call Tapestry,

 and their Old Vines Auxerrois. That one (or 3) is (are) sitting downstairs in a cool, dark place for about five years. There are some nice vintages nestling down there.

Little Straw also has a nice summer bistro which we are definitely taking some (or many) friends to.

The most recent of our culinary and cultural adventures was Saturday night at the North Okanagan Community Living gala. The dinner was a five course delight, of which my personal highlights were the gin and grapefruit sorbet - the 3rd course and palette cleanser between the fish and main course - and the musk ox tender loin that graced the main course plate.

We came home with a few baskets of wine from this venture, including some nice Ex Nihilo stuff that's joining its compatriots in the cool dark hiding place.

There are so many beautiful places to visit, people to meet and great food and wine to discover and savor. Life is very good indeed!