Friday, March 31, 2006

An Even Odder Duck

It's agreed then; the consensus seems to be that I am, indeed, An Odd Duck. In my defence and goodness knows but I need one, I think I'm more weird than out-and-out compulsive. I mean to say that when I do publish a blog at 11:37, say, I don't feel compelled (or is it compulsed) to log back in and change it. And I don't really do the balancing of the right and left sides all that much — just whenever the mood strikes. But I will accept that I may be somewhat compulsive and perhaps more than a little weird.

For example: I wear prescription glasses, have since I was about 16 as a matter of fact — except that I don't really wear them. I am not wearing them as I sit here now. I don't wear them when I'm reading, and I don't often wear them when I'm watching the telly. I do wear them when I'm driving because the law deems that I must. But I also am quick to remove them at the slightest provocation. They come off the moment that I come in to the house. When I sit down at a restaurant, they normally come right off — if I haven't already remembered to leave them in the car that is.

To me, glasses are an irksome bit of nuisance. Oh, when I was teaching, I'd leave them on. I found it helpful to see the expressions on their cute little faces — helpful as a gauge but not always helpful to my ego. I even managed, better than many it seems, to be able to handle the nuances of dealing with progressive lenses, at least in that context — usually, but not always. Frequently, when I was required to get down to their desks to squint at something on a map, I would remove my glasses, saying something like, "I can't see with these stupid glasses on." Invariably, they would find that humourous although I have no idea why. The other day, something possessed me to wear them into the grocery store but trying to read labels on shelves through the most appropriate part of the progressive lenses was so frustrating that I soon pocketed them.

Then there's watches. I have three fine, old watches, which I very much like. But not enough to wear them. The first, was a present from my parents back in 1967 when I went away to university. Cuppa had it refurbished about ten years ago for an anniversary present. I very much like and appreciate it, but I seldom wear it. I also have my Uncle Charlie's watch that is even older, I suppose. I tend to grab that one if I feel that I really must keep track of the time if I'm out and about. I also have Uncle Charlie's 25th anniversary watch from Eatons, a famous Canadian department store that was eventually mismanaged out of existence. It is engraved as such and is Rolex-made, believe it or not. I love having it, but I don't wear it. I think I last wore it at Butterfly's wedding two years ago. If I do wear a watch, I am likely to slip it onto the gearshift handle when I'm driving. It just irritates me — the watch, I mean. And if I wear it into a restaurant, it almost always joins my spectacles on the table beside me, and Cuppa will be forced to remind me to gather all of my accoutrements when it is time to depart.

Finally, for now, there is the sad story of my wedding ring. Yes, gasp, I don't wear it either. Not regularly anyhow, for it also throws off my fine and sensitive balance. Lately, I have tried to make an effort to wear it when I think of it, but that doesn't include around the house, and I usually don't remember to slip it on if I go out. I do feel a little badly and guilty about the ring, for I'm very married and very devoted to the lady of my life. Fortunately, she is not an insecure person and realizes that my disinclination to wear my ring represents no statement other than that I'm a pretty weird fellow.

But really now. I'm not the only one with weird proclivities. Who is going to step up to the plate and expose theirs? It really doesn't hurt to go public you know — much.

PS: Please notice the time of this post. I didn't fiddle with it; that's the real time. It's even better than a time ending in a zero. It's just so doggone even.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Buildings from Bicycles

Two local buildings as seen from our little bicycle jaunts. The first lies on golf course while the second seems to serve as a cottage on the lake.


Wednesday, March 29, 2006

An Odd Duck

I'm a bit of an odd duck, I suppose. If you look at the times when I post my blogs, you will see that I almost alway publish on the hour or half hour. When I don't manage that, the final digit is still usually a zero. Only seldom do I forget. I think I have posted 29 times this month, and all but three have had a zero as the final digit.

Obviously, I can't really be hitting the Create Post button so precisely every day, but I am compulsive enough to almost always remember to adjust the time of the post. To me, 10:40 looks much better than 10:39, and 10:30 looks better than 10:40, and 11:00 looks better than 10:30. Yeah, 11:00 really looks good. And so, I make the adjustments manually.

I described this predilection as compulsive in the above paragraph, but I don't know if that's right or not. When I walk on sidewalks I may want to touch the next crack with my left foot if I have just touched a crack with my right toe. And I have sometimes found myself touching an object with my left hand if I have just touched it with my right. I don't do this balance-it-out-thing as much as I used to, but it hasn't left me completely. Is that compulsive, or is it something else?


Trips and Tricks

It's been quite unexpected. Last year, it wasn't until April that we began to get out regularly on the bicycles. I expected to be later here, not earlier, but we've been out in each of the last two days. Although it is still morning, the outdoors is already beckoning today, and tomorrow is predicted to be nice as well. Oh, the trails are still too snowy and mushy, but the roads are fine.

I'm not sure if we'll cycle as far or as frequently here because this area isn't quite as splendid for biking as our previous home, but opportunities still exist. Our normal ride back in Sarnia was 30 kilometres, but we only did a little more than 15 klicks yesterday, and that felt like enough: possibly because it's early in the season, or perhaps because there's no natural stop, rest and turn-around point — at least not in yesterday's direction.

We wondered how our legs would stand up to line dancing last night after biking for two straight days after a long and fairly sedentary winter, but we did fine: perhaps because we have also been doing a bit more walking lately. I dance better on some nights that others. Last night, I felt more rhythmic than I sometimes do and felt the music pretty well for me.

One lady observed a great contrast between Cuppa and me. She noted that Cuppa was beaming and smiling all through the dance, but I was looking very serious and sombre. That's more or less a chronic look with me. If I'm not expressly joking or laughing, I tend to look serious. However, I was really having a wonderful time last night and beaming with pleasure on the inside. In fact, I had a blast. I found myself humming along to some songs, whistling to others, and singing to some. I don't know if anyone hears me over the music and the sound of feet. But, what the heck: it's okay if they do and okay if they don't.

Cuppa and I still don't do couple's dancing very well. With line dancing, you learn the routines, so you always know what to do next, but we don't really know how to properly do regular dancing. We manage to get around the floor in our own way, but it would be nice to do better. So, last night, I asked one of the guys who seems to dance pretty well, if he would ask Cuppa to dance some on Thursday night. She tends to pick it up quickly and could then try to teach me some of the steps.

It seems that he will be happy to oblige: said he doesn't quite know whether to approach married women as it seems to bother some guys. However, he now knows that it's fine with me for him to waltz Cuppa.

Here we are, approaching sixty, and starting to learn how to dance. You can teach old dogs new tricks after all.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Bureaucracy and ... Stuff

Bureaucracy is a strange beast. We have health cards in this province. We use them when we visit the doctor or go to a hospital.

For a long, long time, I carried my red and white health card with me. I did this for so long that it got rather broken down and needed replacing. Cuppa still has that old version of the card, and it's still in pristine condition because ladies don't sit on their wallets as most men tend to do.

Several years ago, and that's all that it was, medical offices began to plead with me to get a new card — one that was in one piece. Being a good citizen and an obliging kind of guy, I did just that. The new cards were green and white rather than red and white, and they included a photo, seemingly a good idea as health card fraud was becoming an issue. It was alleged that out-of-province or out-of-country folk were using fake cards to obtain free health services here. Who knows whether or not it was true?

Then, just this past summer, I was obliged to update my relatively new card. This required filling in a form and getting a new photo — also not a bad idea. Meanwhile, Cuppa held onto her original card to which no updates were required. Ever!

A month or two later, when we moved, we had to notify the bureaucracy of our change of address — another good idea. This required another very official updating of my card. Meanwhile, Cuppa's original card remained the same.

Doesn't this strike you as odd? The newer card, the one with the photo id, must be continually re-processed and updated while those who hold the older, much older, non-photo card need never update theirs. I simply don't understand.

This topic resurfaced in my mind last week when the doctor's office called after a recent visit. They said that my card was invalid. Did I have a new one? I was confused. I recalled getting the new one but couldn't recall what I had done with it. If it wasn't in my wallet, where the heck could it be?

Then, I realized that the new version was probably in my wallet but they hadn't asked to see it on that visit. Turns out that was the problem — an easily solved one. But I had a moment of trepidation when I received that call because I had just submitted my Hemoccult Test. The doctor's office was calling. Could the test have shown a problem? Could I have colon cancer? I didn't really think so, but these thoughts crossed my mind in those seconds.

I did blog about this Hemoccult Test once before. It was over a year ago before anyone was reading my blog. Perhaps, just perhaps, you might get a slight kick reading my earlier account: Getting My Shit Together.


Catching Up

The previous post elicited more comments and questions than I had anticipated. In point of fact, I hadn't really expected any feedback, but you folks surprise me every now and then: like about every 30 seconds or so.

My first order of business is to try to track down Elizabeth. I hope that you read this post, Elizabeth. You have commented a few times recently, but I can't link to you anywhere. Do you have a blog where I can visit you? Meanwhile, thanks very much for visiting and commenting.

There was some interest in techniques and that I used to adjust the photo in the previous post and in what software I use. I think I'll refrain from getting to technical about methods, but I will confess to using Photoshop. It's a hugely expensive program, but I managed to purchase an educational version back in my former life. When Adobe now updates the program, I can purchase the upgrade just like anyone else. The academic version is full-fledged; it's just priced with students and teachers in mind.

Another way to get Photoshop at reasonable prices would be to secure a very heavily discounted, but still shrink-wrapped copy of an older version. Then, you too can upgrade for the price that everybody else pays, perhaps about 20%, give or take, of the cost of the full version.

There are lots of less pricey software packages out there that probably do much of what Photoshop does at a fraction of the cost, but I am unable to advise on any of these products as I haven't used them. Adobe itself, sells a lite version of Photoshop called Photoshop Elements. I hear that it's quite good and, once again, does what most people require of full-fledged Photoshop most of the time.

Having said all of that, permit me to show some photographs from the weekend. The first set, below, was taken at Fulton's Pancake House and Sugar Bush. The idea is similar to Wheeler's that I mentioned not long ago. It's not as nice really but seems to be more crowded, possibly because it's closer to Ottawa. Whatever, people were certainly out in droves last Saturday, partly because the weather was absolutely splendid.

The second photo shows part and only part of the lineup just to get inside the door to the restaurant. That's my family standing at the end of the line, looking toward the camera. The picture below that one speaks for itself; the one of the barns is across the road from the entrance to Fulton's.

After the long wait and a decent if not incredible plate of pancakes, sausages, and maple syrup, we headed to Pakenham. While the ladies shopped in stores such as Traditions (second photo below), we gentlemen roamed around and about snapping pictures like demented fools, including the one of the church (bleow left). The Boy played with my camera much more than I and took the picture of me sitting beside the Mississippi River (what I call The Unmighty Mississippi — the local river, not the other river with the same name). I don't know what I was contemplating other than the fact that we were having a pretty nice day. That's daughter and I in the last photo.

After toodling around downtown Pakenham, which only consists of a few shops, we headed to the inn on other side of the Mississippi where several artists were displaying their work. It was a nice spot with a great view of the river (first photo below). The inn has a teahouse in the nice weather, and we plan to go back for another visit then. The second photo shows Cuppa and I sitting on the verandah.

The final photos were also taken at the inn. The first is of The Boy sitting on a bicycle frame to which a little sled-like runner was attached. The one of Cuppa and I was taken by a marvellous old tree: an almost dead tree that had sent out some new branches. These branches have seemed to take root where they have touched the ground. It is quite a marvellous and inspiring tree that proves, "Where there's life there's hope."


Sunday, March 26, 2006

The Rectory

Cuppa's birthday week has concluded, except for the finishing of the birthday cake and the enjoyment of gifts and memories. Yesterday was the actual birthday, and it was another fine day. The weather cooperated rather wonderfully in the last few days; we didn't have to bundle up very much and were able to enjoy spring, which was very much in the air.

I will leave most of the telling to her, but I would like to share these two photos with you to illustrate one of my interests — working with photographs. They are actually the same picture: the rectory of the big Catholic church in Pakenham. The first version (above) is the adjusted version. I have also included the original (below).

I rather enjoy adjusting a photo to the way that I would like it to look. Yesterday was somewhat cloudy, but I think the adjusted version has a bright and sunny look to it, which is what I wanted to achieve in this photo. Sometimes, a few little tweaks can improve a photo quite a lot; at other times, improvements are more difficult to attain. In most cases, I don't want to alter the photo drastically by doing impressionistic and avant-garde modifications, but I do find that most photos can be improved a little, even if only by moderate cropping, which is part of what I did to this photo.


Saturday, March 25, 2006

Birthday Flower

Almost six decades ago, a fine flower was born on this day. She continues to blossom in beauty and add fragrance to my life. I love this woman.


Thursday, March 23, 2006


In the post just below, I mantioned our trip to Wheeler's, the maple sugar farm and tourist operation that Cuppa and I found (not that I suppose that it was actually lost) the other day. At the time, I had wanted to post more of the numerous photos that we took that day. I managed to get one up using the older Hello system, but I find that the mood passes, especially when one is thwarted a number of times. (That's also why writing down blog ideas doesn't work for me; I have to blog a topic or idea while it is freshly on my mind, or it becomes stale, and I lose interest.)

BUT I did get the following photo up. At Wheeler's, they had a world map with pins sticking into it representing people who had visited from all over the world: Siberia, Africa, you name it. People have come from far and wide to this little maple sugar operation off an unpaved road in rural Ontario. Amazing.

Then, I focused on Australia and, then, one particular corner of Australia, the northeast coast — Queensland, by the Great Barrier Reef, and then on one city — Townsville. Depending on how you calculate it, Townsville has a population of only about 100 000 to 150 000, and it's on the other side of the globe — about as far away as you can get from here. Yet, I have several recent connections with the place. A couple of years ago, my daughter visited Australia and spent some time in Townsville. Now, my friend's son, a fellow whom I have twice taught is attending college in that city; and, a blogger from there, megz_mum, has lately chosen to drop by Raindrops on occasion. Quite a connection really.

So, I don't know if I was terribly surprised to find a pin in the map representing Townsville. In a way I was, and in a way I wasn't. It's a small world after all (la la la).

For your convenience (see how considerate I am?), I put a dab of yellow on the Townsville pin. But isn't it somewhat amazing to also note all of the other connections on this map?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Being Proactive

Blogger seems determined to be a wee bit of a pain today. I surmise that I was able to upload the above photo because it is parked somewhere else on the web, but I cannot seem to upload directly for the moment. Ah well, the price is still right. It's an old shed or small barn located at the destination that we eventually reached yesterday. (The photo has some artistic filters applied.)

Yesterday was another cold and windy day, but it was sunny and, after retrieving my hat which I had left at another restaurant last week, we headed off to The Leather Works for lunch. It's on the other side of the river from The Dam Cookery which I posted about in January. (It's the building to the right of the photograph to right which I grabbed from that post.)

After lunch we went for a drive without too much of a destination in mind. Eventually, after navigating bumpy and rutty rural roads which suffered greatly this winter, we arrived at Wheeler's, a maple syrup operation near McDonalds Corners, which is pretty well a relic name where nothing is any longer located.

Yes, it was very isolated and rural, and the last road that we had to navigate to get there was not even paved. But what a treat when we finally pulled into the complex. They had a fine little museum and a large restaurant. Both were new and impressive log structures. It was mid-afternoon, and lunch was over, so we had the place to ourselves and enjoyed a long, informative chat with the proprietor's daughter who also gave us a bit of a tour and sold us some extra light maple syrup.

She told us that the sap hadn't really begun to run much yet this year because the temperatures have been too cold. Sap runs best when days go slightly above freezing and the nights go below. The days have simply been too cold so far this season. Nevertheless, it was a most delightful find.

I guess that's pretty well how life works though. Good things don't just show up and arrive on your lap. You have to take some initiative. When you do get out there, you may be delightfully surprised by what you find. I guess that it's called Being Proactive.

Photos still aren't posting, so I'll have to try again on another day, but there are some on Wheeler's site.


Monday, March 20, 2006

Happy Equinox

Today, the Equinox, makes us all somewhat equal. Theoretically, all locales on this terrestrial ball receive 12 hours of day and 12 hours of night. I don't suppose that this is exactly true, for Old Sol must hover over the equator at a very specific moment before continuing north. However, it's substantially true enough, and it is also true that the day for which we in the colder climes have been yearning is upon us. Officially, it is spring.

If you have been following the blogs of many Canadians and also of the more northern-dwelling Americans, you have, no doubt, noticed a tremendous longing for spring lately. What surprised me to some degree was to read that megz_mum from the land Down Under was quite looking forward to the changing of the seasons: the cessation of torrid summer heat and beginning of more moderate autumnal temperatures. I guess that pretty well proves that we all look forward to changes.

While I greatly appreciate that this is a pivotal day foreboding warmer weather and the bursting forth of life, I am also pretty darn mindful that real spring weather has not yet followed the sun, not for us anyway. By the same token, however, I have also been witnessing the waning of winter for the past week or two. Indeed, its grip has been loosening. Even when it has been cold, as it has been in the past week, there is a different feeling in the air.

Whatever your take on the seasons, and regardless of my rumblings and ramblings, it is time to lighten up, and I have done so with my blog template. I hope you like the look. I do, but, when I completed Cuppa's, I thought that I might prefer her version even more.

Ladies and gentlemen, I wish you ...


Saturday, March 18, 2006

Pass the Shillelagh Please ...

... and please, please beat me with it if I ever think to do this again!

Do you notice the greens that The Cloud and The Cuppa are wearing in the photo? It was St Paddy's Day, and we were invited to a dance at a local club. Of course, since we're still trying to fit into a new community, we agreed to join the party. We really shouldn't have. No really.

To begin with, the proprietors crammed at least two hundred of us into a space in which half as many might have constituted a fire hazard. And yes, there was a dance floor — that was approximately, to be slightly generous, the size of a used postage stamp. And, yes, some of the more confident dancers did utilize the allotted space — a little. By taking teensy weensy steps and keeping their elbows in, they managed to do something that vaguely approximated dancing. However, I couldn't help but observe that nobody ventured onto the floor often or for significant duration.

So, we sat there, in a corner at the back of a table which was in a corner at the back of the room. We had an over-priced drink, a mediocre meal, and attempted a wee bit of shouted conversation in the noisy din, but that attempt was mostly fruital.

The night was scheduled to last for seven hours. We arrived an hour late and departed more than three hours early. So, we weren't really there all that long though it seemed like an eternity.

I wondered if anyone was truly having fun? Is everyone else pretending, or am I the only grouch in the crowd? Perhaps those who were out with a group of old chums might have enjoyed themselves moderately, but I truly doubt anyone had the time of their lives.

Hey, I'm just calling a spade a spade, even if the spade was a really a shillelagh last night.

(I understand that Cuppa is blogging this in the next room. I rather think that she will supply a more detailed, more colourful, and more delightful account. Do check in with her.)


Friday, March 17, 2006

No Daffodils In Sight

What a difference one year makes, especially if you change locations as we did when we moved from western Ontario to eastern Ontario last September. A year ago on this day, I posted a photo of daffodils just breaking through the ground. That occurred despite the fact that it seemed to be colder than usual last winter. However, that was western Ontario (next door to Michigan), and we are now in the eastern part of the province (with New York State about an hour or two) to the south.

According to Environment Canada, this was the warmest winter ever in southern Ontario and Quebec — or at least the warmest since proper records began to be kept in 1948, the year after I was born.

The winter in Southern Ontario and Southern Quebec was the warmest since national records began in 1948. The average temperature was 4.8 °C above normal, an amazing departure from average conditions.

In fact, the Ottawa region, where we now live, was one of the many cities of those that they cited as experiencing its warmest winter ever.

Despite these record temperature, our lawns remain snow-covered (see photo), and the daffodil bulbs must surely be at least a week or two away from shooting through. How far behind would we be if this had been a cold winter rather than the warmest winter on record?


From last year's post, Through the Detritus:

We all go through winters of the soul: sometimes short, sometimes long. If we have planted daffodils in our hearts, they will emerge when we need their smiles most. They will loom when we least expect them because they simply know that it is their time to reward us for planting them. They will emerge, even though we have not yet been able to tidy away all of the decaying debris of our soul's winter, and, by so springing forth, they inspire us to clean up our old messes — to rake up and dispose of the old detritus.

It is a good thing to plant seeds whenever warm summer breezes caress our lives: good seeds that can sprout when our winter-shrivelled soul's need is greatest. Plant a full garden for all seasons: daffodils for spring, daisies for summer, and asters for the autumn, but first and foremost, plant daffodils. They will suddenly illumine your soul when it seems that the dark has come to stay. And perhaps you will find that when your garden blooms, it somehow also touches and lifts spirits other than your own. And that is a good thing.


Thursday, March 16, 2006

Drinking Fair Trade Coffee

Last evening, we had occasion to be in town somewhat early for a meeting and found ourselves looking to kill some time over a decent cup of coffee. I was pleasantly surprised to spot the outlet pictured below or one very much like it.

I had heard of Bridgehead once before, actually from a textbook from the World Issues geography courses that I was once taught. In a section on global disparity, the free trade concept received some attention, and Bridgehead was one of the free traders that was mentioned. The following blurb from their own website introduces them well enough.

We are a specialty coffee company that offers 100% fairly traded and organic coffees and teas. We link customers with small-scale farmers in developing countries through fair trade coffee and tea. And we are committed to providing excellent quality products from responsible and progressive sources at reasonable prices.

They appear to be a small outfit. If I am reading their website correctly, they have only five coffee shops, all in the Ottawa area. The one that we entered on Elgin Street was full of university types. Many were diligently labouring over their laptops; others were poring over printed essays — apparently reading and editing.

The coffee was very robust, more so than I am used to. I was appreciative of about third of a cup before it was time ago, but not so appreciative that I was inclined to carry the rest with to the meeting which I was about to attend because it was a little strong for my acquired taste. I did have the feeling, however, that I was consuming coffee as it was meant to taste, and I also felt that my choice was doing more good than harm to both humanity and the environment. Would that we more often had the opportunity to make such choices.


Wednesday, March 15, 2006


The guano stare of vacuity.

As I remember it, that's a line from a poem called Tuscan Villa. It's a work that we were forced to study in English in my final year of high school — back in 1735 — so I may not be remembering correctly. However, I use it here to reference some images that are missing from my template today, for I am forced to endure a minor irritant in blogland today. It has to do with my web host, with which I park images that go in headers or my current silly portrait photo to the side. That's right, if you're visiting on Wednesday or even partway through Thursday, neither is there.

My web host has screwed up. Without warning, they billed my credit card for my annual fee last Friday, and, without warning, they discontinued my service sometime on Tuesday evening. I guess the left hand wasn't communicating with the right hand, and neither of their hands were communicating with me — the loyal customer.

After a few phone calls and a few holds and trying to communicate effectively with someone whose first language is not English, they promised that they would renew my domain license and restore my service in 24 hours, which is certainly big of them. I didn't seem to get much of an apology either!

It's okay, I suppose. I'm not a business; my livelihood won't suffer. Besides, it's more or less a discount host; the price is right, and the service is pretty reliable, so I can't complain too much.

But I thought that I'd let you know about the somewhat vacuous look.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Human Calendar

Memory is such an odd thing. Ask me to recall something from an open-ended question such as, "What was the last book that you read," and I'll struggle. Plop me in front of a television and turn on a program that I have seen but once and not necessarily recently, and it will be familiar to me. This past Christmas season, we were listening to Stuart McClean on The Vinyl Cafe on the radio. It was a program that I had heard only once twelve months previously, yet, as it unfolded, there was some parts that I could predict, even before they happened. (Well, when else would you predict: after something happened?)

There is a doctor in town. He has an unusual name. I taught a fellow with that name more than twenty-five years ago on the other side of the province, so I presume it is he. I can tell you the course and his seat — grade twelve geography, seat one in row five. I have taught thousands of kids and suppose that I forget most, especially names, although I remember his for whatever reason.

Cuppa has a different sort of memory. It will take her a lot longer than me to recognize a program that we have seen previously; sometimes, she remains unconvinced, even at its conclusion. But she tends to recall names really well and who gave what to whom at Christmas and what she had for lunch when we were last at a certain restaurant — seventeen months ago!

However, we all pale in comparison to The Human Calendar who can recall with clarity and detail what she did on many days of her life. Give her a date, and she'll tell you about the weather, what she was doing, and, perhaps, something newsworthy that occurred.

"It's like a running movie that never stops. It's like a split screen. I'll be talking to someone and seeing something else. ... Like we're sitting here talking and ... in my head I'm thinking about something that happened to me in December 1982, Dec. 17, 1982, it was a Friday, I started to work at (a store)."

Oddly enough, she can't remember the function of all five keys on her key chain, and she's not very good at faces, rote memorization, or school. Yet, her ability to remember dates plagues her.

"Some people call me the human calendar while others run out of the room in complete fear," she told researchers. "Most have called it a gift, but I call it a burden. I run my entire life through my head every day and it drives me crazy!!!"

The story appeared in The Toronto Star today. I didn't get a lot of hits when I searched for it on Google News, so it may not yet have spread far and wide.


Monday, March 13, 2006

Somewhere, A Bell Tinkles

I don't do this often, almost never in point of fact — piggyback on someone's blog. But I was just reading Forward Ho's recent entry, When there are clouds in the sky you'll get by, and one of my own foibles sprang to mind.

In case you don't know, Valerie has recently lost her husband, who was younger than I. It was sudden and unexpected. Since then, most of her writing has focussed (yes, it's okay to double the final consonant in Canada) on her loss and the many adjustments that she faces. It's worthwhile reading because reliable sources inform us that "No one is going to get out of here alive." If we are of a certain age, which is perhaps younger than most might think, it is beneficial to do a little mental preparation for the passages that are looming: either our own or our loved one's.

My how you ramble, AC. Stay on topic, young fella!

In this particular post, Val wonders over the elusiveness of many of her friends. Where are they? Why aren't they calling?

It caused me to think just how easy it is to let things slip. It's not that we forget completely, but when we remember, we seem to say something like this to ourselves: "Yes, I had forgotten that; I must remember to do it." And, of course, we promptly lose track of that thought for another long interval. We don't mean to, but we do.

It wasn't terribly long ago, only a few years in fact, that I did that to my mother. She had her kitchen floor replaced, and I said that I would hammer the molding (trim) back in for her. I never did! Occasionally, I would re-remember, and mention that "I must get around to that sometime," but I never did. Not ever!

On another occasion with another project, however, I put a timeline on the task: mostly because I could tell that she was quite anxious about it. She wanted a room painted, and I promised to do it: "By the end of next month." That's all that it took, for by the middle of that month, I was there, ready to proceed.

It's not a difficult concept is it? The exalted THEY say that something is not a goal until you put a timeline on it. It seems to be true, and it took me over fifty yeas to really get that. It's not exactly a hard concept, but it's really the only way to deal with those things that easily slip through the cracks.

Does this ring your bell at all?


Sunday, March 12, 2006

Excellent Photos

You know that I like posting photos. I have neither the creative eye of some nor the technical expertise of others, but I enjoy it regardless. I have mentioned Doris previously and also posted a little memoriam for her mother, Mabel, when she passed away in January. Doris is a superior photographer and could probably have been a pro; she has just sent me two photos of Cedar Waxwings, taken ysterday at the Botanical Gardens in Montreal, and I can't resist posting them for you right away.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

The Lifting of Spirits ...

... and bodies.

I told you how the day began in the previous post — breakfast on the porch. The day kept on getting nicer and nicer, probably up to the mid-fifties, maybe as high as sixty. Speaking of high, that's how silly Canadians react to such days in March — we get high on warmth, sunshine, and life. In happens every year, you know, or seems to. We get an incredibly nice day which people causes house-bound northerners to flock outside in droves. Yes, it is enough to lift the spirits of we sombre Canuckleheads.

We went for a little drive with daughter and stopped at The Goose and Gridiron in Merrickville for refreshments. But, as I say, we were high with the weather: so high that Cuppa and daughter were somehow buoyed to the top of the sign. I, myself, didn't make it that far. I couldn't get past the roof of a neighbouring establishment.

Oh, I know that it won't last. In fact, although it will be even warmer tomorrow, it will be rainy and overcast. And then, it will get colder again, not freezing cold but not at all like this either. But that's okay; we've had a taste, a harbinger of even better things to come ... eventually.


March Preoccupation

It's true! Many Canadians bloggers are quite preoccupied with the notion of spring these days. While most of us gladly tolerate or even actively embrace winter, it lasts quite long enough, thank you very much. Come March, we begin to get just a teeny bit antsy for spring. We shouldn't really because the truly nice weather is still a long way off.

It's happened in this house too.

The cat got me up to feed him tuna at 6:30 this morning. I went back to bed, thinking that he would be satisfied for the nonce. I suppose that he was in a way, but he did make the choice to prowl, roam and cavort around the bedroom. He was on the bedside table, on the bureau, and here and there on the bed. Cuppa gave up the attempt to sleep at around 8:00 o'clock, which meant that he was happy to accompany her downstairs, no doubt in search of more tuna.

Another hour later (yes, I did manage to sleep in after all), he was back upstairs with me. I looked at the clock, felt somewhat embarrassed by the lateness of the hour, and trundled downstairs ... and found Cuppa sitting out on the porch. Yes, she had joined the Great Canadian March Preoccupation With Springtime and was sitting on the porch.

It's closed in but unheated, and it was only about 50F outside, but there she was. I joined her, and it was really quite tolerable: felt good really. As you can see in the photo, there is still abundant snow out front, but some has melted, and our hearts yearn for the next season.

There is something to be said for a genuine four-season climate, but no season is quite as anticipated and welcomed as spring.


Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Anything But Fruital

Surely everybody has watched the original Dick Van Dyke Show, the one that started (and perhaps finished, I don't remember) in black and white lo these many years and included a young Mary Tyler Moore? Cuppa and I used to watch it when we were first married back in 1969. Even then, we were watching reruns although it is possible that new episodes were still being produced — I can't remember that either.

Ever since that long ago epoch, we have freely used a word that was coined on that show: fruital, which I choose to spell with a 'u'. It was used in an episode where a lovestruck teenage youth began to moon over Laura, the character that Mary played.

Aside: I was in high school when the show started, so I could and still can, if I jog my memory, certainly understand the attraction.

In that particular episode, the boy wrote Laura a note in which he acknowledged that "My love is fruital," a rather obvious malaprop of futile. That word has stuck with us, and we still use it almost four decades later.

And it pretty much describes our day, or at least many of the events of the day.

When we moved here from Sarnia, I used my feeble brain for once and loaded up on wax guards for my hearing aids. I change them when I change the batteries: every ten days, give or take. Now, six months later, I'm finally beginning to scrape the bottom of that previously well-stocked barrel.

The nearest audiologist to us works about a half hour away on the fringes of Ottawa. However, I speculate that he may not take his work all that seriously, for when I arrived at the office, he was out, for coffee and/or a chat, I surmise. His young and inefficient secretary couldn't help. I could leave my hearing aids (does that make any sense?) or try again later. Fruital.

I chose the latter option, but he was at a meeting (yeah sure he was), but once again, I could leave my hearing aids and/or make an appointment. At that point I thought, "Not in my bloody lifetime, friend jerk," and off I went. Fruital. (There are two audiologists in a town about a half hour south of here, and I'll give them a call tomorrow.)

But wait! There's more. However, I will slip into my short version mode since you possibly want to read another blog or two today.

Cuppa tried on jeans in an over-heated Sears store for about an hour. She decided on a pair from the sale table. They weren't perfect but adequate for the price. After surviving a rather long and slow lineup at the Cashier, she discovered that one-half of the sale table wasn't on sale. Guess which half? Fruital.

We headed to the only refreshment place closeby in an attempt to regain equanimity after the Sears debacle: Starbucks. Bad idea really: we never seem to have much luck there. In the event, we ended up paying twelve bucks for two drinks and one little, brownie type of dessert. I know that millions feel differently, and you probably do too, but I think Starbucks is an over-priced outfit that serves incredibly mediocre fare. Fruital.

She tried both Sears and Winners for table decorations. She had seen them at both places previously. There was nothing today. Fruital.

We couldn't find any relevant travel guide books for our trip at the end of next month at Mountain Equipment Coop. Fruital.

When we got home, the eavestrough man called to say that our drainage problem was pretty well unfixable. Fruital.

Not so fruital: finding a useful travel guide at Chapters and, especially this: having a very nice visit with daughter over lunch. Made it all worthwhile really. Ah yes, when you've got a kid like that, life is anything but fruital!


Tuesday, March 07, 2006

A Day's Work

On a bit of a whim today, I styled a new template. I had long contemplated doing an alternate winter design and realized today that I'd best get at it before winter left us. In point of fact, it does seem to be over in the southern and northwestern states, but we still have a way to go here in the capital of Canada.

In case it's not totally clear on your screen, the background tile consists of snowy grasses. There may be some tweaking to do here and there, and I haven't really looked at it closely in Internet Explorer yet, so it's quite possible that some major mods might be necessary. What I have done for the first time is use an image map to make the imaged title clickable.


Monday, March 06, 2006

Being Called to Bed

It was almost ten o'clock tonight, just about an hour ago. The Cupster and I were sitting downstairs in the living room watching Words Into Music, a documentary about the recent inductees into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. We were watching the segment about Leonard Cohen, which k.d. lang would finish with her rather sensational rendition of Cohen's Hallelujah.

It was then that one green eye peeked around the stairs, and it was then that the cat meowed at us.

This was neither a general nor indiscriminate meow, doncha know? No, it was the cat's call to bed. As I have previously mentioned, we generally all go to bed together, and he is beginning to let us know in no uncertain terms if he is ready for bed but we appear not to be. That's right, Mr Cat has taken to meowing to us that it is time to trundle off to bed. Just the other night, he sat at the bottom of the stairs, plaintively looking upwards, and insistently beckoning us with his meows.

Tonight, when he repeated the behaviour, from part-way up the stairs this time, we knew that it had been no fluke. After about five minutes, he tired of waiting and headed the rest of the way without us. Sure enough, we found him hunkered down at the foot of the bed when we ascended the stairs and poked our noses in the bedroom doorway a few minutes later.

I suppose that his calls were rewarded because a tired Cupster soon joined him. Normally, I go to bed with Cupster and read to her for a while. But we just finished a book and don't have another at hand. Any suggestions?

(There are two more cat photos that you might have missed on The Cupster's blog.)


Sunday, March 05, 2006

In Silly Hats ...

... at yesterday's Tapping Out Party.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

The LDMSPA Tapping Out Party

That's where we spent part of our afternoon (see above photo): at the LDMSPA (which stands for Lanark District Maple Something or Other) Tapping Out Party. That's when they tap the sugar maples in order to catch the sap and make maple syrup. Of course, it's too cold for much sap to run yet this year, but schedules are schedules, and the show must go on.

As soon as we approached by foot up the driveway, we heard music: a delightful group of musicians, including a fiddler. You really want to have a fiddler around these parts if you possibly can. The Ottawa Valley, or just The Valley, locally, is known for that. As you can see in the photo below, onlookers could sit on planks supported by bales of hay. Quite wonderful. That's the sugar shack on the left.

We next chanced upon a little area where these two homespun comedians held sway. They had all sorts of funny little items, mostly for kids, that I won't elaborate on here, and they were both quite besotted with the lovely Cuppa. In the photo above, she is pretending to carry two buckets of sap, the way they used to do it. (They have plastic piping running through the bush these days.) The guy on the left seized every comedic opportunity to hug Cuppa. It got a little much after a while, but we were both good sports about it.

They used to boil the sap in kettles like the one below. It would hang from a tripod of three wooden beams. It would take about two days for them to make syrup from the sap, and they would only get about one gallon of syrup from ten gallons of sap. Now they can do the same thing with greater quantity in about an hour.

A closeup (above) of the guy who really took a shine to Cuppa. Too old to do much harm, I figure. Besides the mighty and rugged Anvilcloud was close at hand to protect his woman's honour if need be.

Then, we went on a sleigh ride, pulled by the two Belgians. I have never been on a sleigh before, several wagon rides but no sleigh rides. These two creatures effortlessly pulled the sleigh and it's dozen or so riders uphill in sticky snow with amazing ease. Too bad Cuppa didn't have an apple (below).

That's the synopsis of our afternoon of getting in touch with the rural parts of our rural county. Quite a treat really!


Mutual Adoration

Should I be jealous?

Friday, March 03, 2006

A Conversation ...

... between two adults fast approaching sixty although it sounds like they should be closer to ninety.


Cuppa: I wonder where that stone house of Fran's is? Can you place a house by a bridge? What bridge is it do you think?

AC: Huh? Who's Fran?

Cuppa: She's the woman we were talking to at the dance.

AC: I thought her name was Doreen?

Cuppa: No, the other one, the one at the door: Fran.

AC: Fran?

Cuppa: The one with the stone house by a bridge. Can you place where it is?

AC: Fran?

Cuppa: You know, the gray-haired lady we were talking to at the door?

AC: Oh, that's Fran? She's Gerald's woman.

Cuppa: Oh, is that who he is? I don't remember names very well.

AC: You remembered hers.

Cuppa: Who's?

AC: Fran's!!

Cuppa: Who? Who's Trends?

AC: Fran, you silly, the one we were just talking about.

Cue the laugh track and enjoy the release of many endorphins.

AC: We'll have to drive by.

Cuppa: Where?

AC: The bridge.

Cuppa: Why?

AC: To see if we can find Fran's house!!

An even greater, right from the gut, deep and wonderful laughter and the release of gazillions of jolly endorphins.


Thursday, March 02, 2006

Sweet Potato Soup Recipe

Granny has requested the soup recipe that I mentioned a few blogs back: the one that I scalded myself with and the one to which I added part of my own precious flesh. I have made this a number of times, and it's always a tasty hit. I found the recipe in Crazy Plates by Janet and Greta Podleski (of Ottawa, I might add proudly). I have taken to doubling the recipe since it's so good and it doesn't require much more work.

  1. Mix the following ingredients and roast at 425°F for 25 minutes, stirring once halfway through:

    • 6 cups cubed sweet potatoes, 1.5 cups coarsely chopped onions, 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 clove garlic minced

  2. Transfer to a soup pot; add the following ingredients; bring to boil and then simmer,covered for 10 minutes.

    • 5 cups low fat chicken broth, 1 tbsp each grated orange zest and gingerroot, 1 clove, 1/2 tsp each garlic and salt, 1/4 tsp black pepper

  3. Puree batches with blender or food processor.

  4. Serve with a swirl of sour cream (low fat) and garnish with fresh cilantro if desired. (I usually do the sour cream but have never used cilantro)


Giving a Hoot

owl in the treetops

You may recall me mentioning that we spotted a bobcat on our first evening at Riverwood. Except for the usual birds — mostly chickadees — that was the extent of our sightings until our penultimate day at the cottage.

While snowshoeing in the woods behind Pinefort Knoll, Cuppa caught a glimpse of something in the treetops — the owl in the photo — but I'll bet you devilishly clever, little bloggers figured that out already. I didn't have my camera or its zoom lens, but Cuppa got this picture with her little but rather wonderful camera. The owl sat there staring quizzically at us for a minute or so, periodically rotating his head — investigating sounds no doubt. In fact, he soon glided off in the direction that he appeared to be monitoring.

Although it's rather hard to estimate the size of an owl in the treetops, we agree that, to us, he seemed to be about two feet tall if we were to count his tail feathers, which only seems to make sense after all.

Life is perplexing. How does a solitary owl get out there in the woods? How the heck do they get together and mate when they seem to be so solitary? How and where do two two-foot owls have sex? How do they go about raising little hooters (so to speak)?

I'm not really keen enough to research owls right now. It gives me more pleasure to wonder about such questions.


Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Mel, Butterfly, My Mother and ...

Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, and Mardi Gras

It was when I was reading Mel's, It Was Just Tuesday a Second Ago, this morning that I was reminded to look up shrove as in Shrove Tuesday. Like Mel, I was brought up Pentecostal and am, therefore, not steeped in liturgical traditions such as Lent. In fact, I had forgotten that yesterday was Shrove Tuesday, or Pancake Tuesday, until my daughter, Butterfly, invited us over for a pancake supper.

It was on the way over to her house that I cogitated about the meaning of shrove. In my reading of fiction based on Old England, I recalled coming across shriven. The context seemed to have something to do with confession and forgiveness. I deduced that shrove must be the past tense of to shrive. I resolved to look it up on the net but forgot until I read Mel's blog.

Well, oddly enough, Wikipedia confirmed my suspicions. (It is odd for me to be correct.) Shrove is the past tense of shrive, and it does have to do with people confessing and being absolved of their sins. In the case of Shrove Tuesday, it was in preparation for Lent.

For some reason the appellation, Shrove Tuesday, sticks in my mind, but to Cuppa, Pancake Tuesday, is the more common name. To my French SIL, Mardi Gras is the name. I never realized before discussing it with the kids last night how appropriate Mardi Gras is, for it literally means Fat Tuesday in French.

Why Fat Tuesday, you ask? Because, according to Wikipedia, on the last day before Lent, people, in an attempt not to have food go bad during the restrictive Lenten period, would eat up all sorts of perishable food that could not be consumed during Lent.

Why Pancake Tuesday, you ask? Because, according to Wikipedia, two such perishable food items were milk and eggs, two prime ingredients of pancakes. In fact, somewhere I think I read (but I can't find it again) that recipes for pancakes appeared in as early as the fifteenth century.

Where does my mother (see title), fit into this? Tangentially really, but according to Wikipedia again: "In the Canadian province of Newfoundland, household objects are baked into the pancakes and served to family members. Rings, thimbles, thread, coins, and other objects all have meanings associated with them. The lucky one to find coins in their pancake will be rich ..."

Perhaps that is where my mother's birthday cake tradition originated, for she would wrap coins in tin foil and insert them into birthday cakes. I have never known anyone else in the world to do this, but I now surmise that someone in our line of forebears adapted the tradition from inserting coins and other items into the Shrove Tuesday pancakes.

There is also some interesting information about Shrove Tuesday and some of the traditions on the religions part of BBC site.

The First of March

This is how much snow we have at the front of the house on March the First. If we were back in Sarnia, we would be seeing grass, would have been seeing grass for most of the winter. It's not that it's always that way there, but it has been this winter; our friends have even been out cycling a few times.

Here, near the capital, we are in the same province and more east of Sarnia than north although we are somewhat north — less than two hundred miles though. But what a difference location makes. According to reports, and I believe them, this has been a milder winter than average. On top of that, we've experienced numerous melting rains. Yet we've had enough of a snow base to maintain a total snow cover for more than two months now, and the end is not in sight.

Don't get me wrong. I don't dislike winter, but, come March, I am ready to move on. I'm ready, but the weather man sure isn't.

Oh, and don't worry about poor Cuppa, who appears to be shovelling snow. She's just posing, faking it as it were. I resist further comment.