Sunday, March 29, 2015

Breakfast is Over

The cake is almost gone and the fridge is full of leftovers from our meals out. Carm and I are flaked out on the sofa, exhausted from our late nights. Birthday weekend is coming to a close and none too soon or we'd be having to let out our pants!


Friday night we met up with Bruce and Tina for the annual Keg steak gorge. For the last several years we've been meeting on their birthday (Bruce is the same day) and indulging ourselves. Many of the previous years we've overnighted in a downtown hotel, but this year we came straight home - with a giant container of leftovers.


Saturday night we went to Sol d Acapulco down on the St. Lawrence to celebrate with friends there. Another big meal – crispy schnitzel, German potato salad and cold German beer. A spice cake smothered in blueberries weighted us down further. Seven deer and 12 turkeys were spotted on the way down, just two deer were seen on the way home. None were very close to the road (that we saw!).


Sunday morning my alarm sprung me out of bed, I grabbed a coffee and met up with my brother and his kids at the arena. My nephew Erik had a hockey game so I went to watch. I was glad that I hadn't over-imbibed the night before as a hockey game is LOUD. Yelling parents, blaring horns and wicked cowbells, not to mention the heavy metal played over the intercom. All was good though, but sadly Erik's team lost.


They all came back to my place for some brunch (pizza from the freezer anyone?) and while we were sitting at the table Juliette noticed something running across the field. Once it was out of sight we got onto google and figured out that it was either an otter or a fisher. We are leaning toward fisher. I was so glad the dog's weren't outside as I KNOW they would not have come when called, and the snow was too soft to handle my weight.


If we listened to our intellect we'd never have a love affair. We'd never have a friendship. We'd never go in business because we'd be cynical: "It's gonna go wrong." Or "She's going to hurt me." Or,"I've had a couple of bad love affairs, so therefore . . ." Well, that's nonsense. You're going to miss life. You've got to jump off the cliff all the time and build your wings on the way down. ~Ray Bradbury

Friday, March 27, 2015

Cake for Breakfast Day

Snow – bah humbug! There have been many years when Carm’s birthday has been snow free with crocuses pushing through the grass, ones where we’ve been out in t-shirts and having lunch in the sun. Alas, it is still very much winter out there, with the current temp at –5C and it is in fact snowing as I write this.


I started making his traditional burnt sugar birthday cake yesterday afternoon after I got back from the writing group meeting. There are several steps and since I only make a cake once or twice a year it takes me some time. First sugar is slowly melted until it is a dark golden brown. A volcano of splattering sugar erupts when I add the boiling water. The syrup boils until it is a bit thicker than maple syrup.

Butter is whipped in my stand mixer until it is a fluffy butter colour – oh, it was an almost dead match with the painting we did last fall. Sugar is added, the crystals blending with the butter in a creamy mixture. Now is when I add the cooled syrup and the pale yellow is suddenly transformed into a rich, red brown (almost the same colour as Kabira). Flour and milk mix together and the cake batter is ready. Hurray for stand mixers as there is much beating required.

My oven has only a variable temperature setting – meaning it doesn’t matter what you set it at, it will chose it’s own temp. Not good for cake making, but I kept a close eye on it, adjusting the knob as the oven thermometer varied. I’ve baked dry, crumbly versions many times, but I’m happy to say that this year’s was moist.

This morning I made the icing – heaps of brown sugar, butter and cream that boil on the stove creating sweet fumaroles. At just the right moment the pot is whisked off the stove and a few more ingredients are added. The electric beaters whisk it up until it is just about to turn into fudge. The caramel aroma almost makes me swoon. I stop the beaters and we have 1 1/2 minutes to get it on the cake before it hardens into fudge and is unworkable. It is a two person job to ice this cake!

Remember when your mom let you lick the beaters? She was being a pretty good mom cause I bet she wanted to lick them herself! Carm and I each got a beater and then fought over the pot. yummmmmmm.

It was hard to resist cutting into it right away but we stepped back to let the icing fully set and cool. Fresh coffee was brewed and enjoyed with wedges of splendid sugary cake. Oh… the sugar rush!



I like birthday cake. It's so symbolic. It's a tempting symbol to load with something more complicated than just 'Happy birthday!' because it's this emblem of childhood and a happy day. ~Aimee Bender

The more sand that has escaped from the hourglass of our life, the clearer we should see through it. ~Jean-Paul Satre

Thursday, March 26, 2015

WYL #10 Leaving Home


My Own Place

Palacious, Texas. The t-shirt lay on my bed, a taunting reminder of what was to come. My mom and dad had just come back from seeing the town of Palacious with the idea of moving there so dad could open a private practice. I had turned 19 a month before and had a new job… and a boyfriend. Did I mention I had a boyfriend? My plan was to stay in Ottawa and eventually get married. I wasn't ready to move out on my own, and being ripped from my family was no great hell either.

As it turns out, dad got a better job offer, one that wouldn't take them so far away. Toronto was reachable by bus and they'd still be sailing out of the Trident yacht club on the St. Lawrence, just 1 1/2 hours away. I started to feel excited about having my own place.

Mom and I started looking at apartments and saw all manner of accommodations, including some pretty creepy places. We settled on a bachelor apartment on Argyle Street. I'd be able to walk to work and it wasn't far from the university where Steve was studying.

It was in a gritty 10 story building and supposedly had a pool on the roof (I never went there and you'll soon see why). When you first came in the door, to the left were two closets opposite each other and a small bathroom at the end. The main room was MAYBE 10x12. Along the wall backing onto the closets was a tiny kitchen: fridge, sink, 1 or 2 feet of counter space and a narrow stove. It had an avocado green carpet that must have had more dirt in it than the Grand Canyon. I had my single bed sitting without its legs, lengthwise along one wall with pillows to fashion it into a daybed. Across from that was the desk my dad built. There was a dresser at one end of the bed (closest to the door), and a small shelf with my radio on the other end. There was barely room for the brown Ikea chair at the end of the desk. To give you an idea of how small the apartment was: sometimes I'd pull the mattress and baseboard apart to make a giant bed. The large rectangle reached the base of my desk and left no empty floor-space.

At the end of my desk, near the kitchen, I had my budgie cage hanging from the wall, a box with the hamster cage on it. The guinea pig lived in another box on the floor, and the rabbit in a laundry basket - the plastic kind with holes in it. I really should have skipped all the rodents and gone straight for a cat.

My sheltered up-bringing in middle-class neighbourhoods did not prepare me for living around people yelling and fighting with police arriving to take them away. Nor did it prepare me for creepy men knocking on my door telling me 'they know I'm in there'. No. I wasn't prepared. And you can see why I never went on the roof!

It was my first home and I made the best of it. I desperately missed my family, and my boyfriend was usually too busy with his studies to spend much time with me. Work was my only distraction and since most of my co-workers were middle aged men with families, the socialization didn't extend beyond work hours.  Of course my family visited from Toronto from time to time. At bedtime we'd pull the bed into one giant sleeping surface and lie ourselves out as if we were in a tent. A chorus of "good night John boy" would cause us all to giggle.

I wasn't making much money, but that didn't stop me from buying things to make it feel like 'my place'. I had red plastic plates, and glasses with splashes of red. My bed had a black, brown and white Mexican blanket and the throw pillows were black faux fur. The chair was brown fabric, and the wooden furniture was all light wood. It was a cute little place. I was lonely though. I think if I would have had a TV it would have been a bit easier.

By the time summer arrived, I was sick of the fighting and noise, plus I had a motorcycle which gave me more freedom, so I found a new apartment in a residential setting. And my boyfriend Steve moved in with me. Life was looking up!


Leaving home in a sense involves a kind of second birth in which we give birth to ourselves. ~Robert Neelly Bella

Monday, March 23, 2015

Not Pathetic at All

Some people need the excitement of travel or eating in fancy restaurants, or maybe flying lessons or learning how to paint to make them feel fulfilled. I live a simpler life… a new vacuum did it for me today! Yesterday I finally got the cordless vacuum that I'd been wanting since before Christmas. Carm barely had a chance to bring it in the door and I had it plugged in, checked the time - it needed 24 hours for its first charge - and sat back to wait. Anticipation grew at the thought of tracking down those dust  bunnies with a vortex of air rather than an insipid broom. The hours ticked  by, the clock seeming to slow the closer we got, until VAROOOM! I was off to the races. How well would it pick up and would it hold a charge long enough for me to give the whole house a cursory pass?

It made it with some juice to spare. Granted I didn't do every square inch, but I did get the hair collecting areas. I feel like celebrating!

My mouth had a full on assault today. I was pinned down to the dentist chair with technician on one side and dentist on the other. Hands flashed in and out of my mouth and I couldn't help but think that I was going to feel it later. Don't ya hate to be right. I tried to appease my bruised orifice with an apple fritter from the bakery that makes the best fritters anywhere. It helped, albeit only temporarily.

It is sunny again today but cold. The windchill this morning was -25C. Yup. Spring. Right. While the rest of the world has suffered warmer temps than normal we've had the coldest winter ever (or so it seems). We are going to have a glorious summer, I just know it.

There is still much to appreciate on a cold day - I'm in a sun spot with dogs cuddled around me (Kabira's ear keeps flopping onto my keyboard). A different kind of relaxation is experienced in the cold - it is a forced retreat that has less 'to-do' around it; an awake hibernation.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

First Full Day of Spring

Blue skies and warmer temperatures escorted spring in yesterday around 6pm. It must not have been to its liking though as Spring is no where in sight today. The snow is struggling to be rain, but I'm afraid Winter still has a grip.


Spring must have brought us some good luck though as this morning we finally were able to snag a water front site at Presquile! We won't be there for 5 months but it is like a hopeful beacon in the future. This year we found it harder to get a site even though we got up at 6:30 to try countless times.



But only a person in the depths of despair neglected to look beyond winter to the spring that inevitably followed, bringing back colour and life and hope. ~Mary Balogh


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Friends there's somethin' been hauntin' me

Music again - I was listening to “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia” and at the point in the song where Andy is lying in a puddle of blood, I was reminded of a song that I used to listen to from the time I was 10 until the ancient portable record player shocked me every time I touched it. The suitcase record player had been my parents, probably from the late 50s or early 60s. It stood on a stand in my bedroom that housed a small collection of records. The 45s I remember are: Gordon Lightfoot’s "Pussywillows, Cattails" and on the other side was "Black Day in July" (I really liked that one). Another was "Snoopy and the Red Baron", oh, and I couldn't forget "Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weenie Yellow Polkadot Bikini". There was a record collection of 78s that I'd sometimes listen to, and surely more that I no longer recall. I loved those songs and must have worn a groove into the vinyl.

When the mood was right I'd cue up 'The Drunken Driver' and play it over and over. The words 'puddle of blood' stuck in my head and would reverberate until all meaning was gone. I loved how he sang 'blood' and would try to copy him. I've thought about the song on and off over the years and finally looked it up on Youtube today: Ferlin Husky - The Drunken Driver (1954):  It may be one of the most depressing songs ever to be recorded (gives a bit of insight into me I think!). Well, maybe "Tell Laura I Love Her", also from that era tops it - thankfully I didn't have a recording of that one, but I do remember slow dancing to it in Junior High!

It is no wonder that Leonard Cohen seems up-beat to me after an introduction to music like this!!!

Here's something to perk you up: Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder:  - Yee Ha!


It was still slightly below freezing today, but no wind, and with the sun - oh boy it was nice. I took the dogs out for a short outing - they could easily walk on the snow crust and before I knew it they were down by the creek. The snow just barely held my weight so I carefully made my way closer to them till they were in calling range. They were following the scent of something or other, but thankfully they know that I usually have a treat or two for them in my pocket, making me slightly more interesting than the tracks. It sure was nice to be in the strong sun!



Friends there's somethin' been hauntin' me and I just got to tell you bout it
I saw an accident one day that would chill the heart of any man
And teach them not to drink a drop while the steering wheel's in their hand
~Ferlin Husky - Drunken Driver

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


The sun was shining but with the thermometer showing below zero and the branches on the trees shaking outside didn’t seem like a good place to be. So we did the next best thing and belted ourselves into the car. We’ve been making our summer reservations for camping which is making us yearn for those sultry days at the campground – we just had to have a drive by at one of our favourites.


On our drive south towards the St. Lawrence we kept our eyes on the alert for deer – you may recall that the last time we drove these roads we hit one. In fact, there and back, we saw three, but hit zero. The whole area is absolutely crawling with deer. There must be coyotes and wolves too as the area is sparsely populated with little farmland and lots of treed areas.


Deer… Lyme disease… TICKS. I’ve found two tiny ticks crawling on the wall inside the house. I had hoped that the bitter cold winter killed them all, but alas.

Of course we had the radio playing and when Axel Rose sang “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” we looked at each other and laughed. Years ago, one of my brothers was staying with us for a few days. Olaf was 15 or 16 years old when he excitedly got out a cassette of this great new song. As soon as it started playing Carm and I laughed and told him that great new song was new when we were kids. It was written by Bob Dylan and has been covered many times, my favourite is by Eric Clapton. Isn’t it funny how these moments stick in our heads – we laugh every time we hear the song and may tease Olaf about Axel Rose every time we see him?

The photo is of my brothers and I around the time Olaf was 16 (I think).


I chose the quote today with Dire Straits “Brothers in Arms” playing. The soulful guitar settled in my head and like a Leonard Cohen song, slowly pulled my mood down. It really is a beautiful song but it is so mournful…The first quotes were hopeful about spring, but gradually they became more morose, until I ended up with this one.


Nothing is as tedious as the limping days,
When snowdrifts yearly cover all the ways,
And ennui, sour fruit of incurious gloom,
Assumes control of fate’s immortal loom

~Charles Baudelaire

Monday, March 16, 2015

I am smiling next to you

I made myself watch the Juno's Sunday night since I've been out of the music 'scene' for so long and have no idea who the new artists are and which music I might like to add to my mp3 player. It was clear fairly soon into the program that my brain is no longer plastic when it comes to music. There was some music that I could grow to like but how many times will I have to listen to something before it is comfortable like the old tunes I normally hear? The music from my youth has made a cosy home in my head, leaving little room for more modern riffs – I’ll have to get a screwdriver and hollow out some space ;-)  I watched the whole thing… watching all those young kids bounce around the stage a reminder that I was once young too. (seriously, one kid was 16!).

One thing that I should have done given my lousy memory, was take notes so I would know what to buy online!


Today we went somewhere we’ve never been: The Moose Creek Mall. It isn’t as exciting as you might think as there is only half a handful of stores but now we’ve been there!


Before we moved to this house, in the spring I’d get it in my head that we needed to move so we’d drive around for miles getting a feel for the land. We retraced some of those tire tracks today.



Along with the trip to Moose Creek was a stop at the St. Albert Cheese Factory for a lookie loo, and oh those hamburgers smell good. The factory burnt down early in 2013 and they have taken the opportunity to erect a pretty fancy building complete with a walk around viewing platform over the factory floor. Oh, and a little cafeteria to get a (not so) light lunch.

While in the car we listened to Silent Lucidity and I remembered that I had done a post about the song a long time ago – and so I had: Feb 2011.


I will be watching over you
I am gonna help you see it through
I will protect you in the night
I am smiling next to you, in silent lucidity


Sunday, March 15, 2015

I felt that…

It was proven once again today that I am not crafty. I don't have the patience to work out the small details (or the big ones for that matter). I'm more interested in the end product than the process. But I had some poodle hair, and Trudie had given me some raw wool and I wanted some felt.

The instructions seemed straight forward enough, at least how I remembered them from the last time I tried to felt (note to self: re-read instructions before starting). I laid out a thin, but lumpy layer of sheeps wool in one direction, then another one in the other direction (next time comb them out instead of just laying out a lumpy mess). I topped that with some black poodle hair and then poured boiling water over the whole mess. I pounded it with an adapted sander that Trudie lent me. Then some more boiling water (remember to drain the old water first, otherwise it just overflows the countertop and makes big puddles on the floor to step in). Then I plopped some of Spikes hair in globs and started the process again. The result is one big ugly mess of hair that looks like a tiny skinned fuzzy cow. Very pretty (not).


I did learn a few things though. I'll use the slicker brush to straighten up the sheep wool and then use thinner layers. I won't use as much poodle hair and will go for more of an even tweed look (the blob look doesn’t do it for me). I think a thin layer of wool on top of everything will keep the poodle hair from frizzing as much as it does.

It is hovering around the freezing mark today and the sky is thick cloud with a whitish grey hue. It looks like the sky is one of those old bleached, grey army blankets, thick enough to smother. Precipitation in various forms materializes out of the cloud cover. It feels cold and damp. I'm grateful for a warm house and wonder how people in leaky old houses get by.


Since he had his hair cut, Spike is prancing around the house more than usual. I think he is glad to be rid of the heavy winter coat. Kabira meanwhile is still bundled in her winter outfit and shivers when we take it off for the laundry. I guess when you are 9 you feel the cold more. Bella though, doesn't seem to feel the cold, even though she is almost 10 and currently sporting a short clip.


I had to get up in the middle of the night a few nights ago - I had a craving for a super green smoothie. I needed a big influx of green. 1/2 English cucumber, 3 or 4 cups of baby spinach, 1/2 frozen banana, coconut water - all blended together in my super duper Ninja. Elixir.

The life so short, the craft so long to learn. ~Hippocrates

Thursday, March 12, 2015

WYL #9 Just for Laughs

This is a true story with no embellishments – it didn’t need any! As Joe Friday would say: ‘names have been changed to protect the innocent.’ Only I didn’t change the names, it didn’t seem to make any sense as you’d surely guess it was me. I was 10 or 11 when the story took place.


Mother's Day

Drawn by a circle of kids peering into a large cardboard box, I squeezed in to see what the excitement was about. A sleek grey mouse was running around the bottom of the box in a desperate attempt to escape. My pet collecting gene was instantly awakened. I had to have it.

"What are you gonna do with it?" I asked, glancing around the circle to ascertain the captor's identity.

"Keep it I guess, or maybe just let it go. Why? Do you want it?" her friend Dianna's older brother replied.

I quickly wracked my brains. I wanted the sweet grey creature so badly, but how would I convince my mom to let me keep it? Mother's Day… it was coming up in a few days… maybe I could give it to my mother! How could she refuse? With a certainty I didn't really feel, I negotiated with the boy for the frightened animal.

With the box awkwardly held out in front of me, I made my way home, and with a quick glance at the kitchen window to make sure the coast was clear I hurried into the garage. Setting the box on the floor, I sat on the bench to take stock. The little mouse couldn't live in a box, it was bound to chew its way out. Plus I needed something fancy to present it to my mom. My eyes fell on an old birdcage that had been my great grandparents. With chipped paint and bent bars it didn't look like the palace I was hoping for but it would have to do.

Back in the house I tip-toed down the stairs to the workshop. I felt certain that there was some spray-paint on one of the shelves. Gold! I thought a gold cage would be pretty. Over the next few days I sprayed the cage until the dull gold paint turned it into (in my eyes), a fairy-tale castle. I couldn't wait for Mother's Day to arrive.

On the auspicious day, as soon as I thought it was late enough to get up, I crept out to the garage to retrieve the precious gift. With gloved hands I transferred the skittish mouse into the renovated cage and tiptoed up the back stairs to the kitchen. My sister Kirsten was waiting, as excited as I was about the new addition to our family. I had barely set the cage on the floor when the mouse, who we had now named 'Snoopy', escaped. Keeping as quiet as we could, we cornered our new pet and stuffed it back into the leaky cage, plugging the holes with crumpled paper.

Leaving Kirsten in charge of Snoopy, I practically sprinted down the hall to my parents bedroom and asked Mom which she wanted first: her present or breakfast in bed. With some trepidation she asked for her present, perhaps being somewhat alarmed by the commotion she heard a few minutes earlier.

Kirsten and I proudly carried the golden palace into the bedroom and set it on the bed.

"Oh my!" my mother exclaimed (because really, what else could she say!).  "He is lovely. Why don't you keep him in your room for me?". The scruffy mouse with its beady little eyes and creepy hairless tail sat looking at us. It didn't have a sleek coat, and didn't smell very good either but my mom received her gift with the grace befitting a queen.

The smelly grey field mouse attracted the attention of Puff, the intrepid hunting cat, and with the spectre of escape, the next day mom got Snoopy a more secure home.

Snoopy's story does have a sad ending though, as do all stories with small animals. Mom was out gardening one day and thought that Snoopy could use some fresh air, and so could my smelly bedroom. She set him down and didn't realize that the shade had retreated, leaving him in the sun. In her naivety, she thought that he was running around enjoying the sunshine, but he was really trying to escape the deadly rays. He didn't survive his excursion.


By the end of this story you will most likely agree with me that my mother was a saint. Sadly this wasn’t the last incident that she had to put up with…

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Flying fur or the spring unpuffing

The fur was flying today as I Edward Scissorhanded my way to two sleek poodles. I have huge bags of long fur saved because I will eventually try some felting. Not sure what the poodles think of their near nudity, but they are bound to be cold tonight!

Kabira watched on, perhaps wondering why she didn’t have so much hair to keep her warm over the winter. Her outfit lay in a heap out of hair’s way – she tends to stick close to Bella when she’s on the table and her fleece outfit is like velcro.

During a rest between dogs I sat outside in a t-shirt and BARE FEET eating my lunch!!!! The tinkle of melting snow, accompanied by the joyful sound of small birds, serenaded me as I ate. Carm shovelled the remnants of snow from the deck and the dogs smiled. It was glorious, fantastic, wonderful. 




It's spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you've got it, you want—oh, you don't quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so! ~Mark Twain

Monday, March 9, 2015

To boldly go

Stayed up late (or was it the regular time on the old clock?) watching Stargate Atlantis and then old episodes of Star Trek. The difference between the two shows is phenomenal - sets are primitive and hokey beyond laughter on the old sci-fi show. Even the music is laughable - except the main theme of course, that's just a classic ;-)

Before the science fiction overdose we watched the first half of 'Side Effects', a thriller about mental illness drugs. Note to self (and anyone else planning to watch the movie): don't watch the second half first. It is a really good movie if you watch it the right way around! Suspenseful, and a good reminder that the pharmaceutical companies (of which I have had a recent run-in) don't always have savoury practices. 

The sun is shining and the snow is melting!!! Yay! After weeks on end of minus 20C and colder, the warmer air is as welcome as a new bride into her husbands arms.


We are all connected; To each other, biologically. To the earth, chemically. To the rest of the universe atomically.
~Neil deGrasse Tyson

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Don't super-size me

Don't you hate it when you have a drawer or cupboard neatly organized and you use up one of the products and someone buys a really huge one (much too big for two people) and it doesn't fit in its designated spot anymore so you have to reorganize, but it is never quite as neat and orderly so every time you open that drawer you feel a little bit of angst over the disorder? I do.

I saw a tiny patch of grass yesterday!

Saturday evening, before supper, I sat down to watch some TV. Lasagna made with spinach and butternut squash oozed onto the screen, delectable pillows of meat tenderly wrapped in dough were quickly sautéed and then slathered with a garlicky soy sauce. Burgers stuffed with cheese that dripped out onto the flat white sheets, I mean… plate. My mouth watered with anticipation… the pornographic images burned into my brain… and tried to figure out what I could make that would assuage my lusty appetite. Simple lentil wraps were on the menu and somehow they didn't add up.  It was like having the menu changed from Jason Momoa to Jason Alexander…ohhhhh… I feel lightheaded…

I wracked my head thinking about a nearby burger place but everything good was just too far away… the lentils would have to do. And with some Franks Red Hot sauce and slices of avocado it wasn't too bad!

We watched a sweet movie that had lots of Salsa dancing in it. We might be inspired to start practicing again, or at least to talk about it.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

we disappeared into landscape

Its not a good thing when you can see the wind. From my cosy spot on the sofa Friday afternoon I watched it whipping the snow into a frenzy. Gusts of snow skated across the field - not like beautiful figure skaters, but like speed skaters trying to get Olympic gold.

Friday morning we decided that we wanted to go for a drive - it was sunny, but still really cold so outdoor activities weren't appealing. A twenty minute drive brought us to Liquidation - a warehouse of castoffs from Costco, Lands End, and who knows where else. It is a hit or miss affair on finding something but we go more for the outing than anything else. We did pick up a few things that we recognized as having come from Costco - the markdown is 50%, just enough to tempt us into buying things we don't really need. (wrong - I do need those candles for the camper - honest!).

After nearly drowning in all manner of stuff/junk we crossed the road to the greasy spoon - lunch time - what a coincidence, we timed our outing perfectly. I’m not sure what it is called (or if it even has a name), but they have a donair plate special that is worth the drive. The owners are Greek and according to the waitress, all Greek food is cooked 'in-house'. That explains it. Like every other visit, the waitress was friendly and efficient making the visit all the more pleasant.

While we were at the cash paying the bill we found out about the Golf Show that was taking place in the city. Thankfully our day was already well underway and there was no time to indulge ourselves in a nap ;-)

In 1989, when I visited Jordan with my dad, we discovered the street vendors with slowly turning skewers filled with cooking meat. The fragrance of the cooking meat would draw us in with our mouths watering and tummies grumbling we’d use sign language to order. It was a bit like a donair, or perhaps a shwarma, but either way we’d be weak-kneed with delight.


A bit of a segue… I’m not a huge Sasha Baron Cohen fan, and with this in mind we sat down to watch ‘The Dictator’. It was as outrageous as anything else he has done with its childish physical humour and potty jokes. Still, if you looked past all the lame jokes it was a pointed jab at both the US and Middle Eastern countries. Neither was given more slack than the other and I’m pretty sure if you were to tally up the jokes the two sides would come out even – evenly lambasted that is. Carm thought it was stupid but funny… I thought it was pretty stupid…


The desert could not be claimed or owned–it was a piece of cloth carried by winds, never held down by stones, and given a hundred shifting names... Its caravans, those strange rambling feasts and cultures, left nothing behind, not an ember. All of us, even those with European homes and children in the distance, wished to remove the clothing of our countries. It was a place of faith. We disappeared into landscape. ~Michael Ondaatje

Friday, March 6, 2015

WYL #8 Reflections on Friendship

I don’t need to say much about this week’s writing group topic. I chose to write about one particular friend, but there are others I could have written about with equal affection. Friendship is a gift to treasure.

The journey down memory lane was augmented by the stack of photo albums that I went through to find photos for this post. I couldn’t chose just two or even three, and even though I went overboard there were still dozens more good ones to chose from.

I lift my glass of bubbles to you Cynthia in thanks to all that you brought to my life. I hope to see you again soon.


Roly Poly Fish Heads

I had a wonderful surprise when I checked my email after getting back from the Hot Springs. I jumped out of my chair and did a quick twirl and even though it is uncharacteristic of me I may have squealed. We were camped in Banff, Alberta, 5000km from home, and it turned out, just over the mountains from Cynthia. She had travelled from Australia to visit her mom who lived in the town down the valley from where we were and saw on my Facebook page that we were nearby. Arrangements were made and she and her spouse, Martin, finally arrived.

I almost tripped running down the stairs to greet her and couldn't pry my eyes away - was I just dreaming her? We were soon talking as if we'd never been apart, and I was reminded how much I had missed her refined silliness and worldly innocence.

We had met in 1981 on my first day of work at Industry Canada (or whatever it was called then). I had just turned 19 and knew nothing about the technical environment which was to be my career. Cynthia was the pro. I'm not going to say we hit it off right away, but we were friendly. Our first outing together was to Brandy's, a local bar. We sat with our our glasses of cheap wine trying to find common ground and then a man at the bar sent drinks over to us. We both thought it only happened in the movies and had a good laugh. The seeds of friendship were sown.

For the next few years we were both busy with boyfriends, and a long bus ride made it hard to get together outside work hours. When my relationship was over I moved downtown not far from where Cynthia lived. Our friendship began to grow and crazy, zany things started happening.


We cooked Easter dinner at my apartment that year - rabbit stuffed with a wild rice dressing and some sort of vegetable on the side. Dessert was lemon pudding cake which my cat partially consumed while we were eating. We dressed up in old bridesmaid dresses and drank too much wine. We laughed at anything and everything.


Many Saturday nights would find us at my apartment cooking a multi-course meal.  We'd spend days planning the menu and writing the grocery list. Saturday afternoon we'd shop and then we'd crack open the recipe books and a bottle of wine or champagne. (it was Cynthia that introduced bubbles into my life). By the time supper was ready we'd be tipsy and exhausted from laughter. We must have had some failures, but I only remember the fantastic successes.


We didn't just cook. Many times we would go out to a restaurant, Cynthia often treating as I never seemed to have any money. One of our favourite places was a little hole in the wall Chinese restaurant. We'd eat big bowls of noodle soup and other tasty morsels. Another favourite eatery was a fancy Moroccan restaurant. Couscous with tender vegetables dressed in a fragrant sauce would make us swoon, although it might also have been the handsome waiter that we'd bat our eyes at.


In the summers we went camping. I'd rent a car and we'd cram our camping gear among the coolers. One year we decided to forgo utensils and eat like cavemen. Food tastes better when you are camping, and when you are eating it with your hands it is even better (try it sometime!). Gin and Tonics signalled the division of a lazy afternoon and dinner preparations. Our campfire grill would be burdened with huge steaks, bacon and eggs, chili and other things that I can't remember.

In 1987 I met Carm and after a few months we moved to the country. As often as I could talk her into it we'd drag her out for the weekend. Shopping and cooking was our entertainment. One memorable evening it was far into the night and we were giddy with hunger. Giggling at our cleverness we plonked a bowl of soup in front of a starving Carm - he doesn't like fish, and the staring eye of the fish-head that completely filled the bowl threw him into a fit.

This little tune (fish heads, fish heads, roly poly fish heads, eat them up yum) inspired our hilarity.


Lives change, even for friends. Cynthia met a man from Australia and moved there temporarily. On their return to Ottawa we picked right up again. The meals got more elaborate: a whole roast pig one summer and the next a whole lamb and various feasts in between.


Sadly, in 1998 Cynthia and Martin packed their things up for Australia again. In 2000, Cynthia returned to visit her sister in Toronto.  I met her there and we took our nieces, who were both 3, to the Royal Winter Fair. We had a fantastic time, each moment precious as we knew it would be a long time until the next visit. And so it was - 12 years.

I've talked about what we did and I hope you can tell from my story how much she means to me. Cynthia is one of those special friends that can step out of my life and when we are re-united it is as if she has never gone - we pick up our friendship without hesitation. She is a friend that I love for her strengths, humour, beauty and wisdom, and also for her weaknesses. Unconditional love joins us.



I realize that much of what we did together was based on food and wine, or at least that’s what it seems from what I wrote! I didn’t include the time Cynthia and Martin helped plant a thousand saplings while I stayed in bed recovering from food poisoning the night before. I didn’t include the countless hours that we spent at work discussing standards and data management theories. I didn’t talk about our ‘all day pink’ lipstick or the time we played in a golf tournament. I didn’t include the parties we hosted together at my place (oh, that’s food and wine again)…

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Hope is the thing with feathers

Last evening I was working in the kitchen when WOW, out of the corner of my eye the tree line to the east lit up as if someone had flipped a switch. The sun was just over the horizon and the clouds had parted for a show of colour. I went to the front of the house in time to see a spectacular sunset with vibrant pink reflecting onto the snow.

We drew our seats closer to the centre of the circle in the writing group today as the roster has dwindled due to the lucky people who have gone south. We sat in the cold corner of the library with the large windows drafting cold air onto our shoulders. The reflection from the snow casts a harsh light... and at least I was giving thought to the lucky warm travellers.

Grace's avian friends went home today. I'm not sure that there is any sorrow in Grace, she doesn't seem to give them any notice either way.


'642 tiny things to write about': "British scientists germinated 200-year-old seeds from a Dutch merchant who'd collected them on a trip to the Cape of Good Hope. Though they've identified many of the sprouted plants, one remains a mystery until it flowers. Describe the flower and give it a name."

"The earth lay about its green stem like a crinkly black crinoline on a skinny girl. The stalk grew taller and taller until it the tip of the bud was soaring over the other plants. A white floret started pushing its way free of the gauzy veil that cradled it. As the first rays of the morning sun struck it, brilliant white petals spread their wings and the outline of a white dove emerged. Juxtaposed against the TV screen rolling an endless reel of unrest and war, Good Hope Peace Flower was the only nomenclature it needed."

Pretty lame ending, but it was fun to write as it is totally out of my normal topic.


Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune--without the words,
And never stops at all,

Emily Dickinson

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Frosty wind made moan

I've not been feeling creative the last few days. I'm trying to get my story written for Thursday's class, but my head seems to be wrapped in cotton wool so I'm not getting very far. I have the basic story written, but it lacks emotion and interest.

I'll try to exercise the creativity muscle by writing from '642 tiny things to write about': "There is a note on the table, and lots of blood. What happened?"

"Carm reached into Grace's cage thinking that he'd bring her over to the window. Like a cobra striking its enemy she grabbed his hand with bone crushing strength, her sharp beak breaking the skin. He snatched his hand away and slammed the door in her face. Blood poured from the gash on his finger and seeped through the paper towel he had wrapped around the wounded flesh. He grabbed the nearest pen, dripping blood all over the paper as he quickly wrote 'gone to get bandages' on a scrap piece of paper."

!!!THIS NEVER HAPPENED!!!! It is fiction!!!

The weather is starting to warm up to bearable temperatures. It was the coldest February on record here, and I'm not surprised - there was week after week of temperatures below -20C overnight, often with wind chills in the -30s. Daytime temps weren't much better. There were several days that I was going to venture out for a snowshoe only to check the thermometer and see the snow skating across the open fields. No thanks.

I had been thinking about an high school friend that I'd long lost touch with as I was writing the last WYL topic and out of the blue a letter from her showed up. We've exchanged a few emails, and although she lives in another city we will hopefully meet in person. It has been over 15 years since I last saw her and much has changed in both our lives. Have you ever reconnected with someone from your past?


In the bleak midwinter Frosty wind made moan, Earth stood hard as iron, Water like a stone; Snow had fallen, snow on snow, Snow on snow, In the bleak midwinter, Long ago. ~Christina G. Rossetti

Monday, March 2, 2015

WYL #7 Ages 13 to 18

This is another topic in the Write Your Life program that ended up being a “this and then that” summary of my life. It was good practice trying to write it in an interesting manner, however I need lots more practice before I’ll be satisfied. I did leave out at least one key theme – sailing – as I am saving that for a story or two by itself.

I can’t believe I’m actually including these photos!


A kaleidoscope of memories colour my teen years. Many of them are unrelated to each other and are just random moments of no real consequence. Others have impacted me more deeply.

Like many people, every moment in my adolescent years was not sunshine and butterflies and these incidents influenced who I have grown to be. I have learned to stand up for myself, be forgiving, and have learned that I am not to blame, and have therefore learned how to reject guilt. I learned how lucky I was to have loving parents who supported my growth and provided a stable foundation. These traumatic events were woven through my days of being a normal teenager so I'll tell that story and leave the details of the rest to my memory.


We moved from the prairies to Ottawa, Ontario in 1976 - I was just about to turn 14 when I flew into Ottawa with my dad. I didn't know it then, but I had just spent my last summer enjoying the wonder of Alberta's open grasslands. While I was staying at my Aunt Rena's farm and with my Uncle Graham, Mom and Dad, my sister Kirsten, and our cat Foo Ling made the long drive east. My mother was 8 months pregnant with my brother Olaf, and the cat yowled for the 4 day trip. I was glad that I flew!

It was a dark and rainy night when we touched down - not the best time to see your new city. However, our home glowed with the care that Mom always showed, even my room was unpacked with a welcoming light burning, and the radio playing Elton John and Kiki Dee 'Don't go breaking my heart'.

We were only supposed to be in Ottawa for one year, so my parents rented a townhouse which ended up being in the worst areas of town. Next door another family had also recently moved in, the youngest daughter, Heather, was my age and out of necessity we hit it off. I don't know if you know what 14 year old girls are like, but I think Heather and I were typical foolish girls who got into more trouble than either of our parents knew (or will ever know!). Going into grade 9 was nerve wracking as I was awkward at that age, however, I was able to hang onto the coattails of Heather's outgoing personality.

Patty and Colleen were part of our crazy giggle of girls and we had all manner of fun. It wasn't unusual for us to take the bus to the local library on a Friday night. Or maybe we'd go swimming and then go home to watch 'the Love Boat'. We'd have sleep overs and go to school dances - who doesn't remember cuddling up with some boy - the crush of the week - to the last strains of 'Stairway to Heaven'?


Black 'tribal' pants were all the rage, as were clunky platform shoes - they were ridiculous - and I had both. I remember shopping with my mom for a dressy blouse to wear with the outfit - I picked a glossy black and silver striped top. Not only good for dances, Patty and I painted our faces with KISS patterns, tucked in our tribal pants, slipped into a glossy tops, and stuck tinfoil to our boots. ( I wanna rock and roll all night and party every day ~KISS)

I have a photo somewhere if me sitting on the floor of Patty's father's car dealership and grinning from ear to ear. Why? I had a lion cub in my lap. A LION CUB!!!!


I participated in the Canada Day celebrations for both years that we lived on Penny Drive. I sang in the choir (which is a hoot because I have a horrible voice), and we marched with provincial flags. Unfortunately it was in the years before VCRs technology so my prime time appearance wasn't recorded.

I spent two years at Sir John A. McDonald before we moved again, not very far, but past easy bus service. This move was hard… very hard… I was on my own, with nobody's coat tails to hang onto. The school in Kanata was full of cliques and it took me a while to find one that I fit in with (I was never one of the popular girls). June and Jennifer were goofy and fun and through them I met Steve, who was to become the first real love of my life.

I wasn't the best student, but managed to get through the last few years without too much trouble. English classes did trip me up one year though - it and math were not my best subjects. Toga parties, homework, skiing, sailing, and all the other things that teenagers do filled the rest of my time. It was a wonderful, carefree, time of life.

In grade 12 we got to choose two work experience locations. I had been considering going into air traffic control as my career, so for my first stint I chose the Ottawa Airport tower. I spent 3 days at the tower learning what it took to become an air traffic controller. I got to see how the radar worked and how much concentration it took to keep flights in order. I even got to give instructions to a plane taking off from Ottawa. I decided that it wasn't for me.

I chose my second experience in the hope of getting a summer job. I spent a full week at Stittsville Kennel and Saddlery which melded into an additional week over the march break - this time paid. It was an old style kennel with little cages and runs. In the mornings I'd let everyone outside and clean the cages while they were out. Next, I'd make a huge bucket of soaked kibble and divide it into paper dishes. The feed room was old, and had holes in the ceiling that rats tails would sometimes hang out from. I'd grit my teeth and not look up. As soon as the dishes were in place, I'd let the dogs back in, and then go outside to clean the runs. There was a mountain of poop on that property, but it usually didn't bug me too much.

I continued at the kennel for that summer and the next. By the end of my time there I knew I wanted to go to school and get a "real" job - probably precipitated by the last few weeks of work when we had a few dogs that would COAT their cages in excrement, and I'd be gagging while I washed it off. Pe eww

At the end of grade 13 I still didn't know what I wanted to "be", so I planned a gap year to figure things out. I was sitting in June's kitchen lamenting my indecision when her father passed through. Fate was on my side that day and I left my high school years with a job in IT/computing.