Monday, December 31, 2007

A Few Photos

... from Christmas

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Television that's Good for the Brain?

Speaking of brain power (which we weren't but I've been thinking about it lol), maybe television can help. I know that's not the usual take on this supposedly mindless activity, but bear with me, will ya?

The Cuppa and I have been catching up on some programs that we missed over the hols but recorded on our handy dandy little machine. The programs that we regularly record include British series such as Waking the Dead, Judge John Deed, Inspector Lynley, and Midsomer Murders (among others). In this round of catchup, we have been privileged to watch two episodes of Midsomer Murders, each episode being composed two separate hour-long segments.

We found ourselves, not for the first time, being totally confused by the first episode that we recently watched: The Fisher King. In this, a typical case by the way, we were so quickly introduced to so many characters that we easily lost track. It's not so bad when you can see who Detective Chief Inspector Barnaby and his assistant are talking to, but when they just reference these suspects in passing dialogue, it can become mighty confusing.

So, I decided to take notes in our next episode, Sins of Commission. It's a good thing because, in total, we were introduced to 15 characters (16 if you count one person who changed identities and not counting the regulars), mostly in the first hour. Dems allotta characters, eh? So, you can perhaps see why one might become a trifle lost when someone whom you've barely met is referenced as Sam Callahan or Neville Williams later on. You tend to think Sam Who or Neville Huh?

But the notes helped. It seems to me that they helped me engage my grey matter by forcing me to focus more clearly. Even before I referred to the notes, I found that my brain was working harder to recall the particulars. In other words, the experience became more active rather than simply passive, and that would seem to be good for the noggin rather than bad.

As I said, within reason, we watch as much British television as we can. I think it all started when we chanced upon Cracker many years ago. It was great stuff which blew North America TV out of the water (poor metaphor, I know). If you ever have a chance compare the British Waking the Dead to the American Cold Case, two programs based on similar premise. In point of fact, there really is no comparison. Waking the Dead is deep and variable while Cold Case employs the same banal and predictable formula every darn week. The ghosts (you know what I mean if you watch it) and the music do help to make Cold Case watchable, but I think that most would agree that it's pretty thin.

Over the years, we have watched Prime Suspect, Inspector Morse, Frost and others, some of which I've listed at the outset. At one time A&E was a good source for such programs, but it doesn't seem to be any more, but PBS still has its share. I think we pick up Midsomer Murders on our local PBS-like (but not PBS) station, but I'm fairly confident that it can be found elsewhere. Now, in Canada we have BBC Canada to help to feed our addiction for these types of programs, and if there's a BBC Canada, there surely must be an American version too? Hint, hint.

FYI: here's how describes the program that I've gone about today, Midsomer Murders.

The programme possesses a unique style. It is almost entirely set within the closed, backwards-looking fictional English county of Midsomer. Midsomer is a world whose inhabitants are a collection of wealthy, amoral and snobbish eccentrics often obsessed with the fairly small lives they lead in these isolated communities. This provides for an enormous amount of friction between them which is observed with a self-mocking, sardonic humour.

The show often highlights the facade put up by people. To the eye Midsomer is a picturesque, peaceful and prosperous county but in fact behind the well-trimmed hedgerows and cricket on the village green is a society brimming with all kinds of vices. Barnaby by contrast offers a stable homelife and an exceptional morality.

Each story is built up carefully, with underpinning currents and unsolved mysteries adding to the bemusement of the detectives. There are usually a number of false leads, such as those who have committed petty crimes, or harbour some dark secret that they attempt to conceal from the world. Despite the sinister, atmospheric edge that runs through the show, it maintains a constant humour.

One feature of the programme is the extremely large number of deaths, especially considering that Midsomer is a small, rural county. Because of the slightly bizarre nature of the place, this does not seem entirely improbable. The show at times even plays on this lack of realism, with characters within it often commenting on the astoundingly high numbers of deaths.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Being Wise on a Snowy Day

It's back — winter and snow, I mean. After huge mountains of white were reduced to only large mountains of white by a day of rain on Sunday, we had a new fall yesterday, with more expected in the next few days. Which means that after week of respite it is high time for AC to get out and shovel.

But I don't mind shovelling. In fact, my perverse side rather enjoys it ... up to a point at least. It's good exercise, and it's usually not too much of a strain if one applies a modicum of common sense. You do need to be cautious, however, because snow-shovelling can be dangerous: hard on the heart. During the pre-Christmas accumulations, for example, a 45 year-old man in our town dropped dead in his driveway after shovelling.

That's why Cuppa worries and frets when I get out there. But while nothing is completely safe, I don't think she needs to worry much because I try to exercise caution and vigilance over my body as much as possible. When I feel that I'm beginning to breathe too hard, I pause and lean on my shovel. Sometimes, to reinforce the necessity of taking it easy, I actually put the implement down and/or move back into the edge of the garage and lean against the car. I catch my breath a little before re-commencing to push more snow around.

I try my best to enjoy what I am doing: the exercise, the invigorating air, the chance to wave at a neighbour or two. I think that's a key: to see it as an enjoyable opportunity and not just an odious chore to be dealt with as quickly as possible because I'm pretty sure that's when the catastrophes occur. Snow-shovelling and many other chores really can be enjoyable if we go about them in the right frame of mind.

I learned some this from my father. He had a bad hernia, but he'd get out there frequently and just sweep the snow aside. While that approach wouldn't have worked with our excessive pre-Christmas dumping, it often worked for him during ordinary winters. While I don't have a hernia, I try to follow his example by attending to the snow frequently. On one or even two days a week or two ago, I went out at least three times, so that no single shovelling event became too onerous. Fortunately, nice neighbour with the snow blower came to the rescue the few times that the load got a bit beyond comfort level.

Maybe, there's a certain wisdom that comes with age (not that I'm terribly old, but, at sixty, I'm no longer young either). I find that the younger set doesn't always get it that less can be more. For example if one needs to shift a load from here to there, making two trips carrying fewer bags or boxes can actually be easier than overloading oneself so that it can be accomplished in one trip, thereby possibly saving a whole minute or two. It's the same with shovelling snow. Three light shovellings can be a lot easier than one big one, especially if you slow down enough to enjoy it.

So ... I don't think Cuppa needs to worry when I head back out there to do my duty in a little later this morning. But she will.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas Eve in Anvilcloudia

While this, the 23rd, isn't likely your Christmas Eve, it's ours this year, and tomorrow, the 24th, will be our Christmas Day. That's because of travelling and flight times, not necessarily because we can't wait to tear open our gifts. Soon, we will head to Thesha's for a brunch, and we'll do a big snack-spread this evening with cheeses, crackers, dips and many etceteras. Tomorrow we will open gifts and devour the turkey.

So it is that the timing has worked out well for my last Christmas Music post. I've seen this video on two blogs already, so you probably have too, but for those who haven't seen and heard, Celine Dion's O Holy Night is pretty awesome — traditional but wonderful nevertheless. Enjoy, and have a great Christmas at your house.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

It Continues to Snow

We just made a whirlwind trip to the cottage and back. We left, somewhat unpreparedly, on Monday and returned on Wednesday with the A-Team in tow. Yet another snowfall caused us to depart back home somewhat abruptly that morning, but we made it back in one piece and none the worse for wear about four hours later. The above photo shows the road just outside the cottage upon our departure. The one below looks back toward the cottage from the same spot. Note: In part, I post these because some dear readers expressed their appreciation of my previous winter photos, and I do like to suck up be considerate of the clientèle.

Getting into the cottage on Monday night was a wee bit of a problem, however. You see, on Sunday, Cuppa had called the gentleman who is paid to clear the snow from the driveway, and he had assured us that it would be done by Monday afternoon. When we arrived, however, not only had the driveway not been ploughed of its knee-deep snow, but the entrance was totally blocked by the leavings of the township ploughs.

Note: for those unaccustomed to real winter, this (being plowed in or out) is a perpetual and unavoidable scenario. It happens here in the city too; no sooner do I get my own driveway shovelled, but the town plough happens by and leaves me a pile at the entrance about a foot high and four feet wide. The additional problem is that this machine-dumped snow is almost invariably quite heavy. No one is to blame, and there's no sense in getting strung out over it; it's just the way it is.

In the event, the girls shovelled enough snow for us to get the car off the road, and we then lugged our very full carload of stuff down the knee-deep snowy lane to the cottage. Snowshoes helped the process a lot, but it took one long trip down in the knee-deep snow to locate and make use of them.

I told my ladies that if Mr Ploughman gave us some sort of lame excuse like a flat tire in the morrow that we'd know he was lying. His eventual excuse was a weak variation: "Sorry I couldn't make it yesterday, I had some car trouble." Uh huh! We believe him, don't we?

Anyway, we survived to eat many snacks, play various games around the kitchen table, and go out for a snowshoe walk. I took the next two photos on that walk. The second illustrates that if you do fall on snowshoes, it's very difficult to get back up without assistance.

When we got home last night, I had my driveway to shovel out, and I see that I will have to repeat the process this morning.

Monday, December 17, 2007

More Snowy Pics

Yesterday, I posted this photo of the disappearing bbq, taken mid-morning.

Here it is early in the afternoon.

And by mid-afternoon.

In the evening.

The snow is piling up like crazy. I went out shovelling three times.

The last time I went out, I took some night photos.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Djawanna ...

... come over for a bbq?

No, I didn't think so. Or should that be, I didn't think snow?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Great Grandma's Christmas Smocking

For many years my mother smocked Christmas balls like the one that you see above. I haven't counted them, but she must have done a dozen or more. She smocked two sets, one for us and one for her. But she was also thinking long range as there would be sets enough to eventually be passed on to her two granddaughters. And since my mother has since shuffled off her mortal coil, her eldest granddaughter has inherited one set. Meanwhile, Cuppa and I hope to use the other set for many years before it makes its way to the next generation.

Floating things sure attract The Bonny Wee Smudge's attention, and she became quite interested in these balls the other day. I held her up close while she gazed and tried her best to grab. She doesn't know that she is being mesmerized by the handiwork of her great grandmother, but I think it's pretty neat and thought I would steal the photo and clip from Thesha's blog to make mention of it. I'm sure that no one will mind: not Thesha, Smudge, or Great grandma.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Speaking of dark chocolate (as I was just a few posts down), I am thrilled to report that I have added two more bars to my collection (see photo in previous post), which has not yet been consumed (at least in its entirety), I hasten to add.

But it does pain me greatly to tell you of this because I have already done so — written it up, I mean. For whatever reason, however, Blogger refuses to let me back into that post either to edit or publish, for it disappears from the screen immediately subsequent to me catching a brief glimpse. Go figure, eh?

Anyway, I now am the proud owner of two fine chocolate bars — Wild, 68% cocoa ,and Maracaibo Creole, 49% cocoa — that were created in Ludwig's country basement or kitchen or wherever. We met him at the MERA art/craft event way out in McDonalds Corners this past weekend. I'd show you the picture that I took for the previous blog attempt, but it also seems to have vanished — from my computer as well as from Google.

Ludwig is a former pastry chef at the prestigious and old-classic Chateau Laurier Hotel in Ottawa. Now, he resides in the boondocks, earns his living in the tourist sector, and makes his own chocolate bars in the winter. Man, can he wax ever so eloquently on this, his favourite, topic. But I won't even try to repeat the lecture (said AC to a great sigh of relief from his adoring public).

The variety of life and human interest and activity sometimes stuns me. How does someone become interested in and get passionate about making chocolate in his house in rural Ontario? But, when the time comes, I will enjoy the fruit of his love and labour and rejoice.

PS: If you click on McDonalds Corners (here and above), you will be taken to a Google Map (I think), which is scrollable and clickable. I tried to embed it in the first attempt at this post and assume that's what went terribly haywire, so I'll just link this time. (Note: for whatever reason, you may just see a blue pin and nothing else if you click. That's because it's very zoomed-in. Just zoom out a lot to see the general location. I think Google Maps may not be quite ready for prime time as far as saving, linking and embedding, but they could become a great tool at some point.)

Monday, December 10, 2007



Cuppa and I were asked to babysit the little one for a few hours. Although it's a tremendous chore, we acquiesced. Not only did we acquiesce, but we also agreed to do it. It went well including meal time (above). While I have given The Bonny Wee Smudge the occasional bottle, I think this was my first spoon feeding of her. We did well together.

Below: she has been making a very cute face lately. It seems to involve a goofy wrinkling of the nose and an odd, little smile. while the next picture doesn't quite get the best rendition thereof, it gives a bit of an idea.

Cute Face

After supper we put her in a walker sort of thingie that doesn't really allow her to walk. but it helps her to stand and bounce around a little. She was very content in there for the longest time and began to play Peekaboo with us. That was a first for us; Smudge initiating the game and covering herself up. What fun we had together.


Sunday, December 09, 2007

Chocolate and Moderaton

Honesty forces me to admit that I sometimes have a bit of a problem with food. By and large, my basic diet is sound. For example: I eat decent meals with enough fruits and veggies to be a fairly good AC. It's just that when I do permit myself to indulge, I am quite likely to go too far and overindulge. Open a bag of chips, and I will most likely fall headlong into wanton gluttony. Well, maybe I exaggerate a tad, but I'm sure you take my point.

Christmas season can be difficult for me because there seem to be delicious goodies staring me in the face every time I glance around. While I am in some control so far this year, I am forced to admit that the season in young and that I was a anything but in control last year. If there ever was a season of chocolate, baking, and salty snacks begging to be wolfed, Christmas is it. I like all of those things, which is fine, but I like them a little too much.

However, with all of the talk of the health benefits of dark chocolate, I sometimes purchase a bar, and I'm happy to report that I do seem to be moderate in my intake. I guess that my mind is able to designate these purchases for moderate, healthy use, and I am therefore able to exercise a modicum of restraint. The odd thing about such moderation is that I really like dark chocolate and prefer it (to some slight degree anyway) to milk chocolate, yet I still seem able to keep a grip. (Note: 72% cacao is about my limit, however; 85% is more bitter than I prefer.)

Could it be that I'm growing up?

Naw ... Pass the chips, will ya?

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Lghting up the Night

... and our hearts

Have I ever mentioned that living in this town and in this area is sometimes very much fun? Yes? Are you tired of it already? Is enough enough? Well, brace yourselves then.

Friday evening found us in nearby Almonte for their Light up the Night ceremony. Apparently they have done this for seventeen years, but it was out first visit. As we headed toward town, I noticed a searchlight in the sky and then another. I scratched my head until the much smarter Cuppa speculated that it must have to do the Light up the Night theme. It had.

We arrived, found a stage set up at one end of the main street and began to listen to the music as various performers and puppets made their contributions, reminded us yet again of the abundance of local talent (Some of the performers and kids set to welcome Santa are on the stage below. Note two puppets on the right.)

When we paused to look behind us the whole street behind us was filled with fellow onlookers. (I know it's a poor photo, but perhaps it conveys some of the crowd that stood behind us.)

The music and ceremonies went on for about an hour and half or more, and, although it wasn’t particularly cold outside, my feet began to grow numb inside my uninsulated boots. Why oh why, hadn’t I worn my genuine winter boots? But hark! Just as I was beginning to grow faint and lose hope, lo and behold Santa appeared. Good. We could go home to warm up.

Wat! Not so fast! For there was to be one more event — the grand finale as it turned out. In the form of the Hallelujah Chorus accompanied by fireworks. It was quite chilling but no longer in terms of weather. In fact perhaps thrilling would be a better word than chilling. I managed to capture some of it in the clip below. Does it chill or thrill you just a bit too?

Christmas Joy

Joyeux Noel

Thursday, December 06, 2007

My Early Morning (and Gina's Teeny Manolo)

The Anvilcloud clan is not generally thought of as early birds. It's not that we don't enjoy the occasional tasty dish of worms ... but we still don't exactly fly into action with gusto in the morning. Not even the cat. Who hates birds anyway.

Today, however, necessity found us heaving our bodies into vertical positions at 5:30 in order to be into the city by 7:30 so that good, old AC could lie half naked in uncomfortable positions on uncomfortable tables whilst medical technicians applied cold gel and cold wands to his body for nigh unto two hours. Oooh my aching back and freezing nipples. Now I ask you: isn't something like that worth getting up for?

We were on the road into the city by 6:30 after stopping at Tim Hortons for coffee and a breakfast sandwich. Did you know that the Tim's Drive Thru is backed up to the road at that early hour? And did you know that the highway into town was already a virtual parking lot? Did you know that we could have taken the back roads in, but AC figured that highway traffic would be minimal at that early hour? If you didn't know those things, you perhaps now know that AC suffers from poor judgment.

After the tests, we put in a day of shopping, and Grandma Cuppa is now sound asleep while I do my AC thing. n fact, the old granny-girl barely stayed awake for her bedtime story. Hmmm ... or did she ... must test her in the morning.

I write all that because I didn't just want to tell you to visit Teeny Manolo and not say anything else at all. Gina asked me to link to Teeny Manolo so I am. She's a nice person, one of my longest Blogger acquaintances. As such, she's one of only two bloggers who will receive real Christmas cards from me this year. Mostly because I only know the addresses of two! :)

So, go read Teeny Manolo, will ya?

Disclaimer: I don't read Teeny Manolo, preferring to stick with Gina's other blog, Just Another Day, but what the heck, check out Teeny Manolo anyway.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Looking Out

Looking Out ...

I always close my den drapes at night, but with the snow and lights, I haven't tonight. I don't think I know how to do night photography, but this is more or less how it really looks.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Dear Aunties ...

... you need to hurry to Ontario to have Christmas cookies with the Smudgeroo ...

... and Christmas tea with the Mom (and Dad).

A Helping Hand

It's only the third of December, and it's not even officially winter, but this morning must have been my sixth shovelling, and some other kind, anonymous soul (the neighbour you will see in pictures below I expect) has done it at least one other time.

Some folks were already out there when I made my appearance this morning. There were at least two snowblowers blowing: one helping out some of our less healthy neighbours. But I got out there using the old-fashioned method and had most of the driveway cleared before friendly neighbour #2 asked if I would like her to finish it for me. Yes, I liked. Not that I wasn't enjoying myself in my own peculiar way, but too much snow shovelling can be hard on the heart, and one has to also exercise caution while exercising the body.

Although I would no doubt feel differently about shovelling if I had to do it at seven o'clock in the morning to get to work on time, I don't mind the chore when I can take my time. It's partly a matter of attitude. We can make choices. I could choose to regard shovelling as intrusive and holding me back from other things, or I can relax and enjoy the air ad the exercise, and that is what I chose to do.

But I think neighbour was having even more fun with her new blower .

My Little Printing Press

Merry Christmas

I spent part of the weekend printing Christmas cards. That's our 2007 version above, or at least the outside part. I took it a few winters ago, near Christmastime at the cottage and decided to press it into service this year. I had done my own cards for a number of years before regressing for the past few, but I decided that it was high time to put some of my remaining card stock to use this season.

If you had told be a few decades ago, let's say in 1980 before household computers began to become part of our lives, that I'd soon have my own printing press in a small corner of my den, I would have looked at you askance. But I do. If you had told me that I'd have a digital darkroom that produced better results than the local photo processors ...

I think Gutenberg, Man of the Past Millennium, would have been pleased.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

A Nipping in the Night

I just read here about a feral cat in Tennessee who had a peanut butter jar stuck on its head for 19 days. When it became too weak to flee, a family was able to catch it, remove the jar, and give the poor thing some nourishment. These critters are astonishing at times and have their unique ways, and that thought has prompted me to blog about our own little fellow and his shenanigans in the wee morning hours last night.

Often The Rocks goes to bed before I, but last night he stayed up with me. When I went down to the kitchen for muffins and milk, he came too and insisted on a saucer of [cat] milk. Usually that suffices and he heads to bed, but not last night, for he was able to pry a second serving out of me later.

Still later, getting on to about 1:30 AM, he was still up and about and clearly manifesting a desire for yet another dollop. Thought I: that's enough, you'll be fine. Thought he: I am determined to get me some more milk (we never give him much at once if you're concerned about his girth — which you should be). After various rubbings, meowings and cajolings hadn't worked to get Papa AC moving to the kitchen, he slipped under the computer desk and proceeded to nip at my feet.

I laughed, and we escorted each other back to the kitchen for the third and final offering. Then we both joined the somnolent Cuppa in bed.

In all of these years, he's never resorted to the tooth to get my attention, but he was of a one-track mind last night.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

What Fun!

I wish I could embed this, but go here to see Cuppa, Anvilcloud and Rocky do a Christmas Elf Dance for you. I think you'll chuckle, and then you can make your own dance.