Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year

We had a wonderful Christmas, thank you for asking.  A house full of laughter and children and food and fun and love. Skating on an outdoor rink. Flying kites in a brisk winter wind. And, yes, I'll have a second helping of turkey and gravy. What else could we ask for?

The Boxing Day jigsaw puzzle is a bit more challenging this year; however, great progress was made last night and hope springs eternal.

Tonight is the annual Appies Party at the local pub. Bring a plate or two of your favourite snackies, accept a pool or Wii challenge, belt out an oldie at the Karaoke machine after you're well lubricated. All in all, a neighbourhood get-together of the best kind. Hopefully we can move into the new year healthier than we (and by "we," I mean "him") did last year.

So much to be thankful for. So much to look forward to. Life is a rich banquet and we are feeling very blessed.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Moral of the Porcupine

 It was the coldest winter ever. Many animals died because of the cold.  The porcupines, realizing the situation, decided to group together to keep warm. This way they covered and protected themselves; but the quills of each one wounded their closest companions. After a period of time, they decided to distance themselves one from the other  and they began to die, alone and frozen.  So, they had to make a choice: either accept the quills of their companions or disappear from Earth.  Wisely, they decided to go back to being together. They learned to live with the little wounds caused by the close relationship with their companions in order to receive the heat that came from the others. This way they were able to survive.  The best relationship is not the one that brings together perfect people, but when each individual learns to live with the imperfections of others and can admire the other person's good qualities.

The moral of the story is: "Just learn to live with the pricks in your life."

Monday, December 16, 2013

It is a busy season

December has always been a busy month, for various reasons at various times of my life.

Sometimes it was the pressure to get choir songs practiced, Sunday School crafts prepared or Cub/Scout public service events organized.

Other times it was an effort to keep ahead of the overwhelming snowfall, getting cattle and sheep fed in frightful temperatures, making sure the chickens didn't freeze to death (never mind the eggs) and dealing with whatever plague was making the rounds of the community.

These days, the busy-ness is a combination of trying to keep ahead of the chaos that is the newspaper business leavened with the quiet work at home that keeps me sane.

I've often made Christmas cards in past years, not so much lately. This year, I took possession of the dining room table right after Thanksgiving and set to making watercolour cards.

I've dabbled in painting off and on for years but never took any instruction that would have made the process more productive and enjoyable. The autumn before last, I took a 3 month course of instruction from Gail Shortt in Vernon. I tried to keep in practice but know full well that I'm a deadline-driven person - without a goal to work towards, I tend to lag even at things that I really enjoy. Even gardening has a deadline - the death of winter, the rebirth of spring.

Working two cards at a time and setting the task of three different scenes to focus on, I produced just over 30 cards. My easel is an adjustable wood bed tray I picked up at JYSK for $14. It's perfect!

I'm an impatient painter and so you'll often find my hair dryer close by. And yes, a glass of wine sometimes.

Never got bored by the repeating theme. I'm the same with weaving and quilting - I like to explore the endless possibilities of a self-imposed restriction of pattern, like variations of rose path weaving or nine-patch quilting.

My watercolour skill level is such that each repeat of the same theme can only be an improvement on the last effort! It's good discipline and practice.

We don't get too hung up on Christmas trees. There have been some stunning ones in our lives - our log house on the ranch up north had an 18 ft. open ceiling peak, so we often had 16 ft. trees. It took over 2000 lights to cover one of them. Other years, if we were traveling south to spend the holiday with family, we didn't bother with a tree at all.

These days, with no little ones around, I balk at a tree. Bryan decorated one outside at the end of the driveway, so I felt obligated to do some decorating. Why cut a tree and bring it inside when we already have a tree in the house? 

Yes, it's a ficus tree, and it's a big 'un (it will have to be sold with the house on the day we have to move!) and currently sports 300 LED lights plus a few dozen of my antique glass balls and other special little ornaments - the branches are softer than a conifer so I didn't want to overload it.

My little pocket camera doesn't do night photos very well - or I'm an inept photographer - so in my efforts to take pictures of the yard lights (not good) I discovered a time lapse function that's provided endless entertainment.

This is the tree in motion:

and this:

The most important part of the holiday preparations is baking cookies. Some of the ones I bake aren't special because they're exotic or difficult to make, but simply because I only make them at Christmas ... on purpose.

One type I make every year are pinwheel cookies. I used to make them a lot when the kids were small but now they're mostly just a seasonal thing.

I'm not the best chocolatier but I can temper it well enough for this recipe.

The dough is split in half - one left white and the other blended with the melted chocolate. Then the layers are rolled out ...

... then rolled up, wrapped in the waxed paper and put in the deep freeze overnight. When it's time to bake them, the rolled are cut into 1.5 cm slices and baked on a cookie sheet.

Do you know what these mean?

Sugar cookies. A mini ice cream scoop make the job a snap.

A quick dip into the confetti balls.

Flatten them with a fork. These also work well in a cookie press but that's too fiddly for me.

The convection oven works great for multiple sheets.

Cookie goodness.

Next up ... gingerbread men!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Just Saying

It's been a very busy few weeks. Regular newsy updates will resume once I have regained a normal work schedule and a sense of humour.

Meanwhile …

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Can you help?

I know this blog hits an international audience, and I'm counting on that.

If you feel moved to help this little fella and his family, that would be wonderful. More than wonderful, it would be spectacular.

His mom and dad are friends of one of my co-workers, also a parent of very young children, so we are quite attuned to the situation.

I know there are children in need all over the world, in your community and perhaps even in your family. We can't help them all but we can help one. If you feel this is the 'one', then bless you.

Three year old Eli Johannson of Vernon, BC is currently fighting an
aggressive form of childhood neuroblastoma in BC Children's Hospital.

Community rallies behind child

Vernon’s Eli Johannson was like any other three-year-old boy, going to preschool, running around the playground, and loving airplanes, until he was diagnosed with high risk neuroblastoma cancer.
“He has an 11-centimetre tumor in his abdomen, and the cancer has spread to bones and bone marrow,” says his mom Faith on a fundraising website www.gofundme.com/5e33to
“He is currently undergoing treatment at Vancouver’s Children’s Hospital, where our family will be required to stay for upwards of one year. Treatment includes chemo, tumor removal surgery and bone marrow transplant using his own bone marrow. He also requires blood transfusions regularly.”
To help the family during this difficult time, the community has stepped up and to date has raised more than $18,000 towards the goal of $25,000.
“This is an incredibly stressful time for this young family, with a new baby, and it’s even more critical for both parents to be there,” said relative Linsey Johannson. 
“We are raising money in an effort to help them stay in Vancouver together as a family for the course of the treatment.”
Excel Fitness is also hosting a silent auction in support of Eli Friday from 5 to 8:30 p.m. 
Along with the auction, there will be by donation events: kids bully prevention by Pacific Top Team BJJ at 6 p.m., zumba with Sareena at 6:30 p.m., introduction to taekwon-do by Jungshin Taekwon-do at 7 p.m. and Dance like Brittany Spears with Sarah at 7 p.m.
Another fundraiser takes place Dec. 19   A Night In Gold for Eli. The event includes dinner, entertainment, a surprise celebrity guest, live and silent auctions at the Best Western Vernon Lodge from 6 p.m. to midnight.
Tickets are $75 and available at Coldstream Video, City Furniture, Squires Four Pub and MTS (4500 29th St.).
Additionally, donations can be made at BMO, which is accepting cheques in the name of Eli or Elijah Johannson. 
There is also the option of e-transfers using the e-mail address healelij@gmail.com or direct deposit at the branch: transit 07700 account 3970-670
Eli is also participating in a worldwide study with 90 other children, with the hope of coming up with a new protocol for childhood neuroblastoma in Canada.
The Vernon family (which includes dad Iain, mom Faith and Eli’s baby brother Soloman, who was just four weeks old when this started) is very grateful for the community’s support.   


It's sort of like the Starfish Story (this excerpt from 'Sara and the Starfish'):

An old man had a habit of early morning walks on the beach. One day, after a storm, he saw a human figure in the distance moving like a dancer. As he came closer he saw that it was a young woman and she was not dancing but was reaching down to the sand, picking up a starfish and very gently throwing them into the ocean.
“Young lady,” he asked, “Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?”
“The sun is up, and the tide is going out, and if I do not throw them in they will die.”
“But young lady, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it? You cannot possibly make a difference.”
The young woman listened politely, paused and then bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it into the sea, past the breaking waves, saying, “It made a difference for that one.”

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Laughter Helps

You can safely assume that anyone who wears a Hallowe'en costume to work that includes this:

has a sense of humour. Those are 'pointe shoes' for my 'tutu.' (and that's the only photo of this costume that the world at large is gonna see … only family and co-workers have been subjected to the visual assault, and yes, those are grey longjohns under the tutu and the long curly wig was the same colour as my socks.)

So for your amusement and pleasure, and assuming that if you don't live on the North American continent, you probably don't get Soup to Nuts cartoon in your newspaper, I give you these:

It's grey and rainy/snowy outside so this afternoon I'm curling up with a quilt project and thermos of coffee.

Et vous?

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Creative Artistry

A few weeks ago we were driving through the foothill country of central Alberta. One of our stops was the Sundre Museum. And while the displays inside were worthy of the visit, this newest installation outside the main building was what caught my eye. 

As you can see, the imagination going into this installation is amazing. All sorts of artifacts that would otherwise be relegated to a dusty storage shelf or otherwise dismissed as just more junk have found places of honour due to some person's fabulous creative mind and eye for … well, how would you describe it? Pieces aren't slapped in just anywhere - they are chosen for fit and form and balance.

There are other components to be installed, such as a man-gate at this point.

Every time I look, I see something else I missed at first glance.

I'm in awe.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Cleaning - Literally and Metaphorically

It's the day after the Thanksgiving Day weekend. For those not of the North American persuasion, Canada celebrates the holiday in October, the US celebrates in November but both are primarily a thanks-for-the-harvest food fest.

We had an ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS weekend - cannot emphasize that enough

I stopped at The Pumpkin Patch on St. Anne Road on my way home from work Saturday. The pumpkin field is enormous, probably 80 acres, planted in a variety of pumpkins, squash, melons and ornamental corn.

Looking north down the field along one of the strips between corn swaths.

Families come to select their pumpkins for pies, decorations and jack-o-lanterns.
Very amusing to see a child lugging a pumpkin almost the size of his head.

It was a perfect day to be in a pumpkin patch.

The weather was sunny and stellar, a perfect crisp autumn extravaganza. Family and friends were here Sunday for a roast turkey with all the trimmings. 

Bryan with neighbours Adrienne and Ken, enjoying the sunshine before dinner.

Becca, Terry and Grandma.


There was fellowship around the fire in the backyard enjoying post-prandial beverages along with pumpkin and cherry pies (of course there was whipped cream, silly).

PK and Grandma, wrapped up against the wind that moved in later in the day.

Gypsy and Becca, sharing a moment by the fire

So now that the weekend is officially over, I'm spending my day-in-lieu cleaning house ... or was until about 1/2 an hour ago. Deep cleaning, moving furniture and everything. I'm mildly appalled at the condition of this place but freely admit I was slacking off all summer, so it's to be expected.

Deep cleaning the house also entails a great deal of sorting and tossing or filing. I'm a pack rat, particularly of 'ideas' - things culled from magazines, books, the internet and so on. There often isn't an appropriate place to keep these treasures so they tend to travel in a herd from place to place around the house. One day (yeah) I'll get a handle on them.

In the sorting phase of the den (terrible name for a small room that contains two easy chairs, a TV for watching DVDs - as we don't have television service, by choice - my current quilt project and a bookshelf, of course) I came across a quotation my daughter had been struggling to recall for weeks now. And so I will share and then sign off to get back to work:

Life is a journey to the grave 
with the intention of not arriving safely 
in a pretty and well-preserved body, but to skid in sideways, 
thoroughly beaten up, totally worn out and loudly proclaiming, 
"Wow. What a ride!"


PS 7:30 pm - I didn't get back to work. I was kidnapped and taken away to Vernon to purchase stringers and risers for the outside steps and then dragged to a Mexican restaurant for supper. So see, it isn't my fault I didn't finish the housework today. Oh, and the laundry is in the dryer because it got rained on outside on the line. Again, not my fault.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Catching Up - A Photo Record

It was our 29th wedding anniversary in late September, and so we treated ourselves to a stay at Sparkling Hill Spa Resort - a world-class destination in our back yard, so to speak.

Sparking Hill Spa Resort, south of Vernon BC
Definitely a destination if you're visiting the area.

Our stay included full access to the various steam rooms and saunas, pools and perks.

The meals were remarkable. The people we met (guests and staff) gracious and interesting.

View from the room to the east, Coldstream Valley in the distance behind the trees.

There are deals, it can be affordable and we will be back.

Returned home, saddled up the bikes and headed for what was supposed to be a leisurely tour through the Slocan Valley.

Torrential rain (turning to snow at +1700m passes) hijacked our plans. We did ride further east to the Kootenays and up the valley past Invermere to Golden, and there aren't many photos because we did more riding than stopping, and more drying-out of gear than going-out-on-the-town at our overnight stops.

On the road again. Bryan's 500cc Piaggo scooter on the left.
He's ridden it to Calgary and back, and 1400km on this trip.
The photo is deceptive - there was rain shortly after we stopped here in Castlegar.

The mightly Columbia River in Castlegar. Nice view from our room.

"What shall I make for supper tonight?"
We went for Indian - butter chicken nom, nom, nom.

One of the check-it-off-the-list items was to FINALLY see the pedestrian bridge in Golden, built in 2009. I'd seen a documentary film about it while visiting Bryan's mom one time, and then decided it was worth a look. Unfortunately Golden is almost always a point along a trip to somewhere else and never a destination in itself. The bridge was worth the stop, but the remarkable roast lamb we enjoyed at a Greek restaurant in town will guarantee a return visit.

Kicking Horse Pedestrian Bridge over the Kicking Horse River in Golden.

The bridge was built by volunteer craftsmen from around the world and completed in 2 weeks.
Great documentary video about the build available on youtube.

Subsequent development of Spirit Park makes it a truly lovely spot.

Yes. Fresh snow in late September ... and not much below the altitude we'd been riding at the day before
(1775m at the  Kootenay Pass Summit on Hwy 3).
As the trip was shortened due to inclement conditions, we arrived home Thursday night. I still had several days of vacation and so we took to backyard tootling.

On Friday we went over to Edge of the Earth winery, just east of us between home and Armstrong. It's one of the smallest vineyards in BC and this year produced four wines: ortega, marechal foch, foch port and the best pinot noir ice wine in the world.

A great day of browsing and shopping. Good wine from Edge of the Earth and
good reads from a used book store close-out sale.

Port. Yes, I've found a port I like.

Much greater surprise - found a marechal foch that I like!

I needed some photos for the cover of our weekly real estate supplement, so detoured slightly on the way to town a week ago Thursday. At 7:30 am this time of year, the light can be breathtaking, and the wet weather made for interesting conditions. In fact, the city of Vernon was completely buried in fog at this moment.

Early October morning, on the way to work.

We had another busy and very enjoyable week with company. My dad came out from Alberta and stayed with us for five days. Steve from up north and his girlfriend Val stopped over on their brief motorcycle ride through the area. Always interesting to mix up people who otherwise would never have a reason to be in the same place at the same time!

Dad and Bryan saw spawning salmon up at Adams River, checked out the local places of interest. He and I went on our own Sunday drive and included a visit with some of his cousins in the area.

All in all, a great time.

It's Thanksgiving this weekend in Canada and so we have family coming for the annual feast of roast turkey and fresh pumpkin pie.

Harvest greetings and blessings to you all!