Monday, December 30, 2013

A Tolkien Christmas

Although not every gift I received this year was Tolkien related, there was a definite theme.  This 50th anniversary edition of LOTR was definitely the highlight, but under the tree also was Thorin's Map, (yet to be framed), two Hobbit themed notebooks, and the least desirable, but really very funny Adventure slippers.  Yes, they are slippers in the form of Hobbit's feet, and they are dangerously big.  Manageable, but you'd better pay attention to every single step, especially on stairs.
My husband and I are also big "Firefly" fans, so naturally I now have a t-shirt that has a blazing "Shiny" written across the chest.  Continuing with the 'geek' theme, a "rock, paper, scissors, lizard, Spock" form-fitting t-shirt was also waiting to be tried on.  Everything was a great fit, and I promised to wear it all, (even in public) with exception of the Adventure slippers.  I really don't think they would hold up at all if I did decide to go on an adventure.
My son found me a great pair of much needed oven mitts.  My daughter rustled up a cute, little piggy whisk and 2 mini casserole dishes that I have already imagined a dozen uses for.
On my husband's side of the family, we drew names, and my sister-in-law adopted a polar bear for me.  Alongside that was some fantastic smelling Body Shop products, a weather station, (perfect for someone who is constantly going outside) and a 5 year, memory-a-day journal with a magnificent bejeweled pen.  I have registered my polar bear, and await a photograph.  I can still smell 'Satsuma' on my skin from yesterday's shower.  When it gets above minus 30 degrees, I'll think about setting up my weather station.  And, I seriously cannot wait for January 1st so that I can start a journal that only requires 1 sentence a day, a manageable task, I think.
For now though, before I start all the New Year's Resolutions, (which don't start until all the baking is gone) I'll curl up with a tray of goodies, a cup of tea, and my new book.  A good way to chew up time while the weather is so dangerously cold.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Christmas Surprise

Another Christmas has come and gone.  The anticipation I felt leading up to it was fun but really only when I was observing what my children were experiencing.  As a child, I had nowhere near as much as my kids do now.  That’s what I tell them, that was what my Mother told me, and that was what my Grandmother told her.  I wonder if in upcoming years we would be terribly sad if we could no longer put on a Christmas with all the gifts and foods we have come to expect.  We say every year that it is all too much, and that we need to cut back, but if we were forced to, I’m certain we would look back longingly on our years of plenty and feel a certain amount of sadness.
Okay enough of that, the best part of the season was being together with everyone and although there were a few disappointments with the gifts given, most were received with surprise and followed up with joy.  The most difficult part of the season was when I put an ornament on the tree that holds a picture of my dear cat Junior that passed away this November.  His death wrapped up an era of my life, being that he was the last of my marriage’s first three pets.
On the up side, this was the first time in years that I didn’t have a clue as to what was under the tree for me.  I have been a notorious snoop all my life.  When we were children, my sisters relied on me completely to inform them of what they would be receiving that year.  It got to the point where my Mother could not trust me at all and she decided to have a little fun.  She hid all the gifts in the trunk of her car, locked it and then hid the keys.  She took it one step further and set up some bags in the veranda with some second hand clothes straight out of the sixties.   I was quite upset when I first found them, but as Christmas drew nearer, I overheard Mom say several times that it was going to be a tight year, and that we would all have to be very understanding.  Little did I know it was all part of the ploy.  By Christmas Eve, I had resolved to give my wardrobe a complete makeover and make these clothes work.  I really had no idea what I was going to with the plaid bell bottoms, but I was determined to make my Mom feel  loved.  
I can’t tell you how surprised and overjoyed I was that Christmas when not only did I receive modern, stylish clothes, but also a Sony Walkman and my favorite album on cassette.  It was the best Christmas, and the look on my Mom’s face was one of both triumph and joy.
Now, you would think that experience would have changed me from Miss Snoopy Pants into a person who enjoyed the anticipation and respectfully never snooped again.  However, I inexplicably became worse.  I stopped at nothing to find out what gifts were in store for me.  I’ve dug through garbage to find receipts.  I’ve unwrapped and very carefully rewrapped gifts.  I’ve dug through underwear drawers, found those damn keys after hours of searching and dug through the packages in the trunk of the car. I learned how to act surprised and pleased and have even been able to move myself to tears in the act.  I’m a terrible person, I know.   I’m 37 years old, and this was the first year I was able to stop myself, thereby allowing the anticipation to build.  I wish I could say without a doubt that I am reformed, but only time will reveal that.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The End of An Era

It is very hard to believe that nearly 2 weeks has gone by since I lost my best fur friend, Junior.  A cat of 20 years, 17 of which belonged to me.
When I went to the Saskatoon SPCA 17 years ago to adopt a kitten, I walked out instead with a 3 year old cat that everyone there could only describe as 'special'.  That particular shelter never kept animals for more than 3 months, and if by then they were not adopted out, euthanasia made room for the constant inflow of animals in need of a home.  But for Winnie, (his name at the time) they felt they needed to wait, and made an exception.  They even had him in a special display cage at the front desk so he could meet and greet everyone. 
It wasn't long before I had him moved into my little apartment and had renamed him Zeke Jr.. I named him after the black cat I was given when I was born and whom I had until I was 17 years old.
My new cats' name was quickly shortened to Junior, and although it seemed very natural to me, whenever I introduced him to someone over the next 17 years, they would get a chuckle out of that name.  It didn't occur to me that when talking about 'Junior', people are usually referring to their biological son. 
Junior and I lived happily in Saskatoon for a time, and I enjoyed walking him around the city on a leash or carrying him 'koala bear' style on my hip.  He made an excellent companion, and either people were super friendly and wanted to be introduced to him, or they thought I was some nutjob, and kept their distance.  Either way, it was a win-win for me.
I moved back in with my parents on the farm for a short time before moving to Rainbow Lake, AB where my fiancĂ© lived.  We were married shortly after, and Junior became 'our' cat.  He was even in the wedding photos, and has been a part of every milestone in our lives thus far. 
He had no trouble adjusting to all our moves, which we did several times within Rainbow Lake, and then after 5 years up North, we came back to civilization and lived in Lloydminster for 5 years.  This is where we had our two babies, another big change that did not upset this cat in the slightest. 
His personality could be summed up in two words, calm and friendly.  I have no doubt that is why he lived to be a healthy 20 year old cat.  If cats are naturally Zen creatures, Junior was a Master.
We moved again, to Cold Lake, AB this time.  This is when Junior became, uncharacteristically adventurous.  He would sneak outside, (always with one of the kids) and worse, he would leave the yard.  I would have to go searching for him in neighbors yards.  I usually found him grazing on some grass, and he always willingly came to me.  When I would find him, he'd look at me as if to say, "Oh, hi.  You're out for a stroll too?".  I even once had to bail him out of jail.  Someone had called animal control, and Junior was impounded.  It cost me $50 to get him back, but I was so grateful he was safe.  After that, I had to have a serious talk with my two young children about keeping an eye on Junior, and not letting him escape the house.
Our last move took us back to our home town in SK.  Again, he had no problem making the move, and adjusted quickly.  Everyone who met him could not believe he was an 18 year old cat.  His health was perfect, his fur was soft and shiny, and he was very active. 
He kept all his dignities until his very last day, and when his kidney disease got the better of him, I chose to help him go gently into the next life.
I haven't adjusted to his absence.  When the house is quiet, everywhere I look, I can clearly picture him either sleeping in one of his many favourite places, or walking up to me to be picked up or cuddle up next to me.  He was a people cat.  He was my cat, my companion, my friend, and the world doesn't seem quite as friendly a place without him.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Halloween Overload

I've really enjoyed decorating for Halloween this year.  Plenty of pumpkins again, no snow, and a fantastic new marker to work with.  What more could you ask for?  Now for picture overload.  Enjoy, and have an awesome Halloween!
An adorable cluster of Halloweenery.
Did this last year.  Loved it.  Did it again.  A witch needs her apothecary.
Thank-you to my baby sister for growing 2 of the most adorable little gourds.  And then giving them to me!  Cuz she loves me.
Pumpkin carving in the shop = much easier clean-up.  Yeah!
A dry run of my Daughter's wolf costume.  Not bad for my first time.
That marker went a long way...
Favorite pumpkin face.  Ever.
3 dimensional cookies?  Why not?
New this year is the bat weathervane.  Love it.
Nothing says Halloween like dead flowers?
Ha Ha wind!  In your face.  No candles to blow out this year!
And here we are all lit up at night.  Maybe not quite as charming as individually lit jacks, but wants to spend the entire evening relighting candles?

The stairs.  Don't you just love rats?

Due to the forecast for too much wind on Halloween, I decided not to fight, (as much) with trying to keep candles lit.  I ran around the house, grabbing every pumpkin I could find, and scribbled away.
More scribbling...
And more....

I whipped this little guy up out of 2 by 4's, latex paint and a twig!


Monday, October 21, 2013

A Sweet Treat

These chocolate cupcakes were a real hit this past Saturday evening after we finished decorating the house for Halloween.  My daughter, who has taken an interest in the kitchen, helped with the decorating.  I stayed patient as her small hands tried to put even pressure on the pastry bag and helped her figure out how to fill in the spaces.  She listened carefully, tried her best and did an awesome job.  I definitely see cake decorating in her future!
Those little ghosties are a Wilton treat, but they could easily be homemade with a bit of fondant and a candy corn.  I was just too lazy and decided to pay the $4 for the dozen.  The colorful leaf quins are crunchy little delights, or at least they were until they sat overnight under glass.  The display was lovely and kept my nosey cats away from our dessert, but the humidity ruined them making the leaves soggy.  I have to say the texture was much more appetizing when those candies were crunchy.  And it wasn't just the texture that was lost, the colors bled and ruined the contrast of the brightly colored leaves against the bright white icing.  Just something to keep in mind if you're ever planning on making a treat similar to this in advance.
Nonetheless, they disappeared quickly leaving room for a new creation.  I think some bat and ghost cookies are in our near future.

Monday, October 7, 2013

A Hat For The Cat

My daughter is crafty and has recently taken up sewing.  Junior, my 20 year old black cat was her first victim. 
Dressing up animals is obviously adorable, and other than their scorn for us, I don't know why we don't see more animals in stylish numbers such as this rustic, felted chapeau with a little black pompom on top. 
He wore his new hat willingly for a while, but kept flicking his ears back under the flaps.  Eventually it tilted sideways, covering one of his eyes and even though the one-eye-hidden-behind-a-hat cat glance is very mysterious and sexy, it proved to be too much for him and he worked his way out of it. 
I am sure this is just the first in what will be an entire fashion line for our feline friends.  Junior is our most willing model, able to put up with almost anything for the sake of looking good.  I also think it is fair to say that he is among the oldest in the business, as he is pushing 100 plus in human years.  That in and of itself is no small feat.  Here's to Junior! (raise your glasses please),  To his good looks, good health and good humor!

Friday, October 4, 2013

A Grizzly Scene

As interesting as I found this scenario, I also felt very confused.  I was very happy to see a healthy, well-fed Mama snake in our yard.  At the same time, salamanders are adorable little critters, and I've come to love interacting with them so I felt very sad for this poor, dying one. 
It definitely is not a fair fight here.  Salamanders are a whole bunch slower than a snake and definitely weaker.  The only thing this amphibian has going for him is the fact that he rarely comes out during the day and prefers to stay hidden under a rock until nightfall when the dew starts to settle.
It was my daughter and I who got an unexpected lesson in ambivalence that day.  The fact that it was too late too make a decision about whether or not to save the salamander was a good thing.  We walked away saying, "That mama needs all the energy she can get.  We will save all the salamanders we can from the shop, the garage and even the road.".  And so, we were good.  We placed Mama snake where she was better hidden from our local hawks, because she could barely move herself and would make easy prey.  I guess you could argue that we shouldn't have done that, and that now some poor hawk would be deprived of his lunch because we had stepped in. 
It's moments like this I love to remind myself that I am also a part of nature, and if I wasn't supposed to be there to make a decision, I wouldn't have been.  Humans are way too hard on themselves for their role in nature and the world.  Be peaceful, kind and do your best to use only what you need.  You can't go wrong. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Pumpkins Everywhere!

Most people that know me understand that I love the Fall and the pumpkins that I grow.  Most people also know not to ask me for pumpkins.  That doesn't mean that I refuse to share.  But to assume that because I have a lot of them, and therefore it should be easy to give several away would be the wrong assumption.  The people that I have shared with, very much deserve to be given a small part of my pumpkin family.  To those of you I haven't shared with, either you haven't visited and therefore haven't been offered.  Or if you have visited and left empty handed, well, tough break.
I am very much attached to each and every pumpkin I've grown.  This year, the number grew from last year's 100 to more than double at over 225.  It was still only half of what I was hoping to grow.  There are plenty of bare places in the yard begging to be adorned with a group of pumpkins for the Fall season.
The tire swing path complete with an antique lantern and that little red wagon was the one my baby sister used to deliver papers with.

I bought the 'Welcome' sign a couple of years ago and didn't know what to do with it.  I came up with this idea, collected the parts and enlisted my husband's help in putting it together.  I painted it up, and voila!  The wooden bird was put together from some scrap wood laying around the shop.

The view from our upper deck, down our driveway to the road.  This was the perfect place to set all the sugar pumpkins to cure.  They did so quickly and I only lost 2 to rot.

Another view from our upper deck looking over into the east side of the yard where we have our fire pit in a nice little sheltered area.

 A nicely weathered bench that I picked up at a garage sale years ago serves as the perfect place to display a few specimens.  The big one is a 'Giant Max'.  The deeply ribbed green one is called a 'Blue Doll'.  And the others are sugar pumpkins.
A lot of the pumpkins in these photos are very green, and have since transformed to their destined deep orange color.  And since it has turned cold and covering them all has become very tedious, I have moved many indoors.  I will have to do an indoor photo shoot soon.  And yet another when they all take their places for the Halloween display.  I really hope we have mild weather for that day with no snow on the ground.  I'll keep my fingers crossed until then...

Thursday, September 5, 2013

A Bread Disaster

September 5, 2013 - The third day of school.
My daughter wakes up, kisses me good morning, (while I'm still in bed) and promptly heads off to the kitchen to prepare her lunch for school.  I can only assume she is in a rush to beat me to it as she has insisted, since we bought her new lunch bag, that she wants to be responsible for this task.
I really had no problem with her taking this on as long as she would allow me to scrutinize her choice of foods.  She had no problem with this, so it was on to learning how to slice bread. 
I'm very fussy about my bread.  I really can't stand it when someone messes up my nice, straight cut.  But, for the sake of my daughter's education in the kitchen, I will put my fussiness aside. 
Although she did a decent job of it on the two mornings I was supervising her, today, when she took the loaf on herself, it was a disaster.  Bread crumbs.  Dog food. 
I walked into the kitchen and she immediately started apologizing, insisting that she forgot how to go slowly.  I said, "KK, what a mess.  Here, slice 2 more pieces for Jared's lunch".  She was very excited to be put back in the saddle so quickly.  And I am rather impressed with myself for not using this incident to my obvious benefit, the taking back of my motherly duties.
So it continues, the very quick aging process of my daughter.  I'm sure I am handling this as most Mothers would, with both fear and excitement.  There are days I'm very proud and eager to teach her everything she is ready for.  At other times, I purposely hold back, thereby maintaining what defines my current role as a mother in this house.  Always, I am slowly redefining what it means to be her Mother. 
Two steps forward and one step back makes one step at a time.  I can handle that. 
Most of the time.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Mystery Plant

Taken on September 3, 2013
I was told when I bought this plant that it would never reach it's bloom stage in our climate.  Last year when I planted cardoon, it did get big, but no where near blooming.  This year, although it went into the garden later than last year, it  has shot up and produced these artichoke type blooms, which are as spiky and unfriendly as they look. 
This plant has been around since ancient times, but very few people I meet have ever heard of it.  It's always the first plant they notice in the yard, and we always go for a visit and I almost always make the mistake of telling them it's related to rhubarb.  But it is in the artichoke family, also known as an artichoke thistle. 
I think I've made the mistake, because when the plants are young, you can harvest and consume the spines , just like rhubarb.  I haven't tried this because I want the plant only as an interesting specimen.
I tried to grow my own plants from seed this past year, but was unsuccessful due to the problem that my cats loved to eat them.  Even after I moved them out to the greenhouse, they wouldn't recover. 
Maybe I will be able collect seed from these blooms and try again next year.  If I get enough of them going, I may even look into a recipe for those spines and give that a try. 
At the very least, I expect that these blooms will dry nicely and work well in a dried arrangement or a bowl filler.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

First Day Of School

Tuesday, September 3, 2013
Doesn't everyone look happy on the morning of the first day of school?  Look at the faces in this photo.  Even the dog looks depressed.
I must admit to experiencing mixed feelings.  I was looking forward to the peace and quiet of the day.  Todd had left in the morning for his week away, and the kids were off to school.  So I had no one to distract me as I went about the typical day of a housewife.  Weeding the garden, laundry, etc.  But as I was going through these mundane chores, I had a rather uncomfortable feeling come over me.  With my family being scattered, although it was peaceful, I no longer had the safe feeling that comes with us all being under one roof.
I pondered this thought throughout my day, and even ventured out into the future to imagine what it will be like when the kidlets leave home, and go God-knows-where in the world.  There are too many unknown factors, of course, to get an accurate picture of this future, and so feelings about it are unattainable.  I've heard very different stories from people who are going through the empty nest syndrome.  Some seem to find a renewed sense of wonder in their lives.  Others seem so depressed, that they would do anything to have their children home again.   I think most are somewhere in between. 
I imagine myself travelling the world when my kids leave home.  I dream of Scotland, Italy and Greece (in that order), but once again, who's to say?  I've seen what life can do to "plans".
I guess this has to be one of those "let go" moments, and just do whatever seems to come naturally as the time passes.  Today it is the chores of a large yard and garden in the fall, combined with housework and breaks of reading, writing and maybe one of many hobbies will get a little of my attention at some point.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Happy 8th Birthday Jared!

It is hard to understand where the time has gone, but my little guy is turning 8 tomorrow, and going into grade 3 next week.  He says he is not looking forward to all the hard math he will have to do.  But he is excited about recesses and gym class.  So as far as that goes, he sounds like a typical little boy.  He also adores LEGO and anything to do with Star Wars, and again, typical.  What makes my little man stand out from the crowd, is that he is exceedingly funny.  I can be in the worst of moods, and with perfect timing, he will give me one of his off looks, and without being able to help myself, I will burst into giggles.  He's always trying to get a laugh out of someone, especially his sister.  He can almost always set her to giggling and leave her wanting more.
I could go on and on and in detail about all of his redeeming qualities, but in this moment I am feeling grateful for his sense of humor.  I hope to give him an awesome birthday tomorrow, and can hardly wait to tuck him tonight, so I can decorate the house and surprise him as soon as he wakes up. 
 Happy Birthday Jared, my special little Man!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Migration Time

I'm not at all knowledgeable when it comes to birds.  I have bought books to help me recognize who's who, but find it far too tedious to scan through all the pages and find a likeness.  And really, from this distance, it is very difficult to see any details.  But none of that matters, because as a flock, any kind of bird is impressive.  I was lucky enough to be standing by my window with the camera this morning when this group decided to abandon my front yard for a few dead trees we have at the back.

They were all just pecking away on the front lawn, when suddenly something startled them and they 'flocked off'' to the
 backyard to settle in a few dead trees.  We plan to take these trees down this fall, which is good, because I'm running out
of firewood, and Autumn is the best time to sit around a fire. 

Sorry about the reflection, but this flock was way too skittish to put up with me outside among them. 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Boating The Whitesand River

My Dad had a speedboat when I was little, and I fondly remember going boating on the river which was only a few miles from our farm.  This was the first time since I was a kid, (under 10 years old) that I've been on the Whitesand, and I can honestly say, I really didn't remember a thing. 
I don't think those banks have changed that much, but they didn't feel familiar at all.  There are a couple of new houses, and a bible camp that's been there several years now.  However, the dam, 6 miles from the launch, has been there forever, and I don't even remember that.  Being that it is a major landmark of our particular area, one would think that it would stand out in my memories, but no. 
Now, when I really think back, all I truly remember is my Dad at the wheel with a proud smile on his
face, (he loved that boat), and my hand dragging and splashing in the wake along side. 

I wish I could say that I didn't feel a pang a of jealousy whenever I see this home of a friend of mine, but there it is.  The view from her deck is incredible!

My favorite view off the boat, the wake.

I really don't remember there being Pelicans along the shores of this river when I was a kid, but there is quite a large group
of them now.  They are very peaceful to watch.

I just had to include this picture.  No, I did not Photoshop those sparkles in.  Lovely, aren't they?

A Visit to Moose Jaw

Near the beginning of August we took a mini vacation to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, a city not far from Regina and only 2 and a half hours from home.  What a treat!  We fit a lot into the short time we were there, and have several hundred photos to look back on.  Here are just a few...
This gigantic moose is in front the Visitor Information Centre welcoming all the travelers.
Yes, we got to play with these ridiculously adorable, 1 month old Burrowing Owls. 
Meet Cricket and Cocoa, ambassadors for their endangered species here on the
 Prairies.  They will spend their lives travelling and meeting people all over the prairies
in hopes of educating whomever they meet about how to conserve their habitat.  
Near our campground, there was a tree that had grown in a very unique way.

Also near our campground, just across the river was a very busy train station. 
This rickety looking bridge is still being used today.  My timing was off,
and I didn't have my camera with me when there were cars on it. 

The Sukanen Museum was absolutely wonderful!  40 acres is home to a Pioneer
Village.  This is the School House and it was brimming with wonderful antiques!
There were even books on the desks, and an in-house outhouse!

The Phone Company.  My Grandmother worked as an operator in a place that
must have looked much like this one.
The cash register at the Hardware Store.

This lovely home was fully furnished with more antiques than
you could shake a stick at!   I could have moved right in.

I had to include this old drill press from the Blacksmith Shop
because my husband commented on it saying that he had used
the one at the farm just last week.
The family enjoying the sunset on the river.

There was some graffiti under the train bridge.  Hopefully my creative
photography doesn't get us into trouble.
Moose Jaw is home to 15 Wing Military Base and The Snowbirds.  We were
hoping to catch them practicing, and although we could hear jets taking off
while we were in our campground, we didn't see any.  The locals told us that
The Snowbirds practise daily.

I took so many photos of this beautiful 1913 Steam Locomotive.
It rests in the Moose Jaw branch of the Western Development
Museum which carries the theme of transportation and how we
came to be where we are today.  We all loved it, even the kidlets
found it fascinating.

This old train station is displayed complete with ticket booth, schedules, luggage
and even your waiting bench.  I'll soon be looking into travelling by train for
one of our vacations.  I think the perspective would be a wonderful experience.
Is there anything more classy than these beautiful wooden boats?  My husband
can't decide if he would rather build one or restore an oldie to her original grace.