Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Creche on our Mantel

... I just want a little closer look ...

Hebe pulled up a chair to take a better look at the crèches.

"I'll be weally weally careful."

The glass is fragile.


Santa is coming to town ...

Santa -- hands down ... now count the Santa's behind us

Hebe couldn't wait any longer.

She has been begging me to get out Santa Claus.

And so we did.

Let the holiday fun begin.

Santa -- hands up!

Post Football Treats - Alex the Bird Whisperer in Victoria

Yesterday, Alex's football team (Mt Doug Rams) won the semi-finals for high school football.

The game was played in Vancouver (at the UBC stadium), so they left at 930 to get to the ferry, with plans to return on the last ferry of the night.  

Unfortunately, the game was late in starting, and thus late in ending, and thus the whole team ended up having to stay in Vancouver for the night.  An adventure.  

Also an adventure because yesterday also marked the first snowfall of the year, so the ground was frozen and icy.  

Brutal to watch (even via the safety and warmth of our own house, watching it live-streamed on the internet).  

Indeed, Alex (sitting in the stands after it was done, watching Terry Fox [who beat them last year] get beat by the Sun Devil for the other semi-final game) was shaking sufficiently that the coaches, worried about hypothermia, sent him off to spend the rest of the time in the hot showers!)  :-)

When Steve got back this morning with Alex (after picking the boys up at the ferry this morning), they discovered a treat in the garage:  a bird.

It was a bit stunned (or tired). Alex was able to get it in hand (a bird in the hand, and all that).

Many worries about how to take care of this little thing (Steve wanting it outside, Alex still a bit frozen from the day before and wanting to hold it but INSIDE). 

All resolved by a couple of blankets for Alex, and some time.... and the bird was finally well enough to fly away again (after spending some good quality time with the bird whisperer!)

Thursday, November 27, 2014

John - National Theatre Live

Dance of death … John by DV8 ...
is a study in dysfunction.
Photograph: Laurent Philippe/DV8

There is a warning with the new National Theatre offering of John.

The National Theatre's website says, "Based on frank interviews conducted by DV8’s Artistic Director, Lloyd Newson, JOHN combines spoken word with movement to create a touching and poignant theatrical experience."

Hannes Langolf of DV8 Physical Theatre in John. Photograph: PR
On reading the Guardian review I can see why they are suggesting that people be aware that the themes are explicit and that people should be over 18 years old.

The show is on December 8th in our community.

Lyn Gardner also reviews the piece in The Guardian


Thursday, November 20, 2014


If you grew up in my house of origin, you always knew when the hunting season started. I don’t think we ever enjoyed a Thanksgiving Dinner with my dad. Mother would cook a big turkey and invite people in.

 “Where is Doral?”

 “Oh, this is the first day of the hunting season. I couldn’t ask him to miss that.”

Richard never knew my dad. Richard was two years old when Doral died. Richard is channeling Doral right now.  Richard has his gun has cleaned, he has his hunting gear out, he has been out tracking animals ever since Thanksgiving – as I said, the day that the Hunting Season begins.

He goes hunting with his father-in-law, Chris Turnbull.  Between them they have enough tags that they can shoot more than one animal. Apparently the white-tailed deer and mulie season ends at the end of November and the moose become the target on December first.  I guess Joan and Miranda will be having Thanksgiving Dinners alone as well.

One late night this week, Richard slipped downstairs to tell me that they had two deer and would be hanging them in my garage. Today on our walk he told me that it is hard not to boast to his friends that he shot a deer on Sunday and was eating it Tuesday night – the tenderest meat he has ever tasted. They are envious.

At this point, my description will get a little gruesome. Language warning.  I have a student staying here who has never tasted wild meat nor seen a deer hanging so that it can age. While I was watching Richard doing some skinning he showed me the deer head – having me touch the place where the doe's horns were just beginning to grow. I was interested.  I wanted to investigate.  How many chances in life will I get to see that.

I couldn’t help but want to show this to my boarder, so the day before the garbage men came, I took Reza out to the garbage bin to show him the two deer heads. We picked them up tenderly and examined the knobs of the horns, the ears, the soft fur, the lashes around the eyes – he in as much wonder as I.

Nature is a wonder thing. As Richard says, a miracle that something that is only two years old has all of the skills to escape most hunters.

Richard is taking the hides of the two animals and trying to tan them. I don’t know why. I think it is just deep within him to try something new. I went out to the internet myself to watch a few u-tubes on how to do this, but it looked like a lot of work to me. As well, the man doing it on the internet was dressed in a loin cloth and had a string of hippie beads around his neck.  I just didn’t get it why he needed that kind of costuming for the work.

 I asked Richard if he couldn’t he give me a few sausages so that Reza could say he tasted his first wild meat at my house. Richard said he would supply.

I get a lot of lessons on my early morning walks with Richard – many of them about tracking animals in the snow, or about finding good places to hunt, or about planning the kill so that the meat is easy to load, or about the difference in nomenclature of calf and bull, or doe and buck.

I was asking Richard how he had shaved the fur from the skin so that he can tan  it and he told me that he had rigged together a tool to do that, but it was heavy … not his best invention and so it had taken longer than he had expected, given the weight of his jerry-rigged tool. It had taken three times as long as he expected. Too long.

The last part of my story cuts to our LaRue Director’s Meeting last night. As we were waiting for our hook-up call to Glen and Moiya I mentioned to Wyona and Greg that Richard has the meat from two deer already this fall.

Wyona said, “Yes. I know. We parked in the back alley. I got out of the car to move the garbage can a little to the east so that Greg could leave the car close to the garage. I opened the garbage to see how heavy it was going to be before I moved it. I saw an eye looking out at me.”


A surprise for someone.


Pharaoh's Daughter - Encore

I would have missed Pharaoh’s Daughter but Wyona reminded me that it was showing tonight. Going just seems to be the right thing to do, even though I have few viewing skills with dance. Oh, I did go to the Bolshoi ballet in October – Legend of Love, and got caught up in it. I wanted to listen to the music again and went to order it from Amazon. No luck. I couldn’t find a CD anywhere, which just seems wrong in this day and age when there is a CD for every show.

The Legend of Love was my first glimmer that going to the ballet, even if a person isn’t entranced by it, can make a difference.  When it was over, I thought to myself, you know,  I think I liked that.  I came home wanting to listen to the music again. There were just some charming things about the performance: the man who wrote the music was interviewed. And in that Russian way – so matter of factly, none of the slick charm that I see when watching the Met interviews.  Even his costume was off -- or maybe on.  His suit pants didn't match his suit jacket.  One of the shoulders hadn't been tailored right.  But that didn't matter.  There he was, talking passionately about music ... which is what really mattered to me.

This twist away from perfect imaging and dialogue happened again tonight. The translator stopped French Pierre Lacotte, who restaged this ballet in 2000, to tell him to speak in shorter chunks, that it would be more interesting for the audience to hear the translation that way, rather than in large piece. I am pretty sure that would have been edited out if this had been from another country where the technology is more sophisticated.

Still a dream come true, to sit in my local theatre and see the sumptuous architecture of the Bolshoi Theatre, to hear that haunting violin music at the beginning of the Third Act, so see the muscular legs of the male dancers – as the King of Dance, Sergei Filini, said in an interview – their job is to have a smile on their face and to make you think that what they are doing is effortless. And it worked. The smile didn’t leave their faces and a few times I thought I could stand up in the theatre and make one of those split leaps that would probably carry me right over into the next row. Since only Wyona and I were on a row, I practiced some of the Egyptian arm movements, just the ones that I could keep hidden in the front of my body so no one else would know I just had to try that move.  The result?  A little too much arthritis to get a really good imitation going.

Wyona and Greg went to The Hermitage production yesterday. She said the theatre was half full. There must be more interested in museums than in ballet. I don’t think there were 10 people in our theatre tonight. Who cares. There must be other people in the world who are interested, for it was broadcast in 100 countries and the descriptions of each scene were in six languages, so someone is going to the ballet.

Wyona and I didn’t agree to make this critique, but when the show was over, we could both describe the stunning costuming – at one point she leaned over to me and said, “What do you think is the material in the dress of the woman who is making the introductory remarks?” I didn’t have to even think. “Raised brocade, a silk panel and then the sequins.” Those old Home Economics skills in both of us die hard. We didn’t talk about it, but both of us can probably describe the rings she had on both hands as well.

The ballet was wonderful. The asides (costuming, watching the audience at the intermission, checking out the crystal chandeliers, seeing the dancers warm up, noticing the style of the tux on the conductor, watching the small Egyptian child's feet scamper across the stage) -- all of that also makes the ballet fun.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Hermitage - HD Live

detail from the Peacock Clock
I was ambivalent about going to the HD Live production of “The Hermitage” and had decided maybe my Sunday could be spent more profitably at home.

Tonia and I had discussed going. She reminded me that she has not been to St. Petersburg. She said maybe this would be her virtual chance and that she was going.

She called a few hours before the performance and said that she had been reading Wyona’s five pound (weight not money) The Hermitage: The History of the Buildings and Collections. V. Dobrowvolsky et al. 2007. I pulled out my own copy of that book and began to read while enjoying my breakfast and soon I decided that I couldn’t think of anything more important than joining Tonia at the show.

Luckily Charise came along and sat by me.

 If I closed my eyes for just a second to recover for the splendor on the screen, or from my lack of an afternoon nap, she nudged my arm to keep me awake.

 Our theatre had the biggest audience of all of the events we have gone to. We slipped in late, but there were a few more theatre-goers who came in later than we. One was a family who sat in front of us: a mother, a teen-ager who sat apart from them and a younger boy and a girl. Now there is a commitment to the art of the world, I thought, adding in my mind what it must have cost their budget to come to the performance that day.

Michaelangelo's Crouching Boy
The curator of the The Hermitage (rhymes with massage) was the voice-over for part of the time. His father was the curator before him and he says that he walked the halls of the museum as a child – it was the place of his childhood. That theme carried us through the museum.

Tonia told me that she skimmed the book, trying to get a broad idea of what the film would be about since she had no idea what to expect.

 I went straight to the details, reading about the initial mass acquisitions by Catherine the Great who gathered so much of the initial collection. 

Both Tonia and I were semi-prepared for the film event.

Eighty-three minutes of film for $15. A splendid afternoon.

Now I am going again Tuesday night – not only to see what I missed when my eyes gently closed, but because I have gone back to the text and read the first four chapters – The History of the Hermitage’s Development; The History of the Winter Palace; 15th to 20th Century French Collections; and now I am on the English Collections. I am already at page 106.  Not bad for a person who wasn’t even going to go.


Pharaoh's Daughter - Bolshoi - HD Live

Pharaoh's Daughter is being danced by the Bolshoi in HD Live on November 20th in our city.  Here is what Brown Paper Tickets says about it on their website:

Time: 2 hours and 40 minutes with 2 ten minute intermissions
Music: Cesare Pugni
Libretto: JeanHenry SaintGeorges and Marius Petipa
Choreography, sets and costumes: Pierre Lacotte
Cast: Svetlana Zakharova (Aspicia), Ruslan Skvortsov (Lord Wilson) and Nina Kaptsova (Ramze, Aspicia's slave)

Young Englishman Lord Wilson is travelling through Egypt when a powerful storm breaks out. He is forced to take shelter in the nearest pyramid, where the daughter of one of Egypt's most powerful pharaohs lies entombed. Lord Wilson falls asleep and begins to dream that the princess has come to life.

The plot of this lavish production is loosely based on Théophile Gauthier's novel Le Roman de la Momie. French choreographer Pierre Lacotte was exclusively commissioned in 2000 by the Bolshoi Theatre to resurrect Marius Petipa's mighty Egyptian fresco, and he succeeded brilliantly in giving new life to this forgotten masterpiece. With its exotic setting, impressive parades, spectacular variations and crowd scenes, this grand 19th century Orientalist fantasy is one of the most remarkable productions in the Bolshoi's repertoire.

The main roles are here danced by Bolshoi principals Svetlana Zakharova, Nina Kaptsova and Ruslan Skvortsov.


P.S.  I found a 2005 review in the New York Times of this ballet that gives some interesting historical information about it.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Two Child Stroller

The last time Michael, Alice and I headed out to the park I wheeled a one-person stroller and the seat in that stroller was highly competed for. Alice needed it because she can’t really walk to the park yet. Michael needed it because Alice had it. He was even willing to fold himself up into a bundle and ride underneath the stroller where extra packages are usually stored. That was a feat in itself, given his extra-ordinary length – but desire can trump comfort, at least in this case.

We stopped at the corner of 24th street and 27th avenue for there was a bull-dozer there, expanding the large hole in the two lot area that has been cordoned off by a high orange wire grated fence. Engineers were measuring spaces with long surveying tape. The dump truck was backed into the lot next to the excavator and the operator was swinging his cab in 360 degree circles, digging at some spots and tamping down others, getting himself in just the right position to eat away at the dirt. When the dump truck was full we waved him good-bye and continued to the park, picking the blue dried berries from hedges, and jumping in the ice-covered puddles of back alleys. Both of us were amazed by a fence, the posts of which were red brick and the fencing between which were huge wagon wheels – 15 of them. I casually wondered where all of the chassis must have gone but no use asking Michael that question.

We talked about the sizes of the dogs who were also out for walks. And we were the first to see Sage and Ramone, two full-sized poodle dogs who came to the park directly from their morning at the groomers. “They need a run after their trims this morning. Come and feel how soft the top knot is and how wonderful their fur feels,” said the owner. We also learn where the owner puts the poop from his own dogs that he has been picking up from their run and we learn why the poodles are using their noses to sift through the grass. “Oh, they are looking for rabbit poop to eat,” he said, trying to get them to move on.

Michael and Alice explored the playground equipment. Alice knows how to climb up the stairs of the slide and between its slope and the nylon of her snow suit she goes shooting off the end of it, laying in the gravel as though she is a snow angel, then getting up and running for its slid stairs again.

She will swing forever in the baby swing. Michael is not ready to sit on the big swing, but he will lay over its seat, balancing the weight of his upper body and his lower body, hanging there, occasionally propelling his feet through the gravel to get a little swing to the left or the right, or twisting in circles so that the chains become tight and will swing him around, jerking his body as it gets fully open and then twists itself half way up again.

I am enjoying the symmetry of the park: the ball diamond and its bleachers now ghostly in their isolation. I also enjoy they texture of the boards of the skating rink now in place, their knots and rough texgure now squaring off the area of ground waiting to be flooded for winter skating.

I notice the gravel in the play area is full of small sticks, different lengths. I pick up a big one and begin to draw lines in the gravel. That looks like a game that Michael wants to play so he takes the stick and I follow behind him, skipping back and forth over the lines he is drawing. I am singing, “I had a little teddy bear, his name was Tim ….” Michael can’t help himself and he draws the lines all over the play area, for now he is the puppet-master with a crazy grandmother skipping and singing behind him.

I can’t help myself but I finally must stop skipping.

I begin to clean up, gathering the small sticks that I have been jumping over and around. Now I am collecting them into bundles, taking them across the alley to the compost bins that are lined up behind each home there. Michael sees me and wants to join in the clean up. He wants me to pick the sticks up and carry them just to the edge of the alley. He will take them the rest of the way. That makes me laugh and I cooperate.

I can’t get the kids to leave the park. Well, that should read, I can’t get Michael to pack up and leave the park. Alice is compliant. I make many attempts to start leaving but he looks so sad and says “No grandma,”. Why should I persist. What could be happening at home that is more fun than walking barefoot in the gravel, for now he has his boots and socks off.

Earlier in the morning, on our 6 am walk, Richard told me that this was the first morning where the temperature had dipped below zero. I am sure it must have been warmer by the time Michael had his shoes off in the park, but I do wonder.

We head for home. Today we are using the new two-seat stroller his mother bought. Michael hasn’t used the seat of the new two-person stroller so that he can sit by Alice yet. It is just that having the option of going there, makes it so that he isn’t compelled to need her seat.


Things Our Family Does Differently

A few months ago we came to the conclusion that it was going to be hard for some of the younger children and the teen-agers, even, in our family to post on a public blog.

In an initiative to find a less public space, we started a small blog, just for them and for their aunts and uncles.

Every month Catherine Jarvis posts a question to the group of us, and then anyone who wants can respond to the question.

Her first question was "What did you want to be when you grew up."

That question produced a flurry of answers,  None of my grandchildren would have known I wanted to be a spy.

Nor that Mary wanted to own a pet store -- though she didn't put that up on the blog.  I just remember it from the past.

The question the next month was, "What does your family do that is different than other families?

I thought I would bring one of the posts that answer that question, from that quieter blog, out to this one.  After all, it has to do with Christmas and that splendid time of year is beginning to be on people's minds.

Here is what Rebecca wrote as an answer to the question, "What does your family do that is different than other families?".

Christmas Gift for Alex when he was a baby
This hung on his wall for many years.
Our family did things differently.

Our family sang together.

And we grew up with a song my dad invented and would sing to us:  the Ballad of Billy Goat Gruff.

He would change up the lyrics from time to time, but we all could sing along with the chorus of Billy, "who lived on the hill where there wasn't enuff green grass for gramps, dad, or billy goat gruff"

For Alex's first Christmas, my brothers and sisters got together and made this gift.

Everyone made up a different verse, and Mary and Leo illustrated and framed it.  It hangs on the wall of our house.

Here are some more closeups so you can see the wonderful lyrics!

Enjoy.  It won't take much reading to see that we could all use some good help writing limericks.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Fun on the Strand and Tottenham Court Road


When Wyona heard you were in London, she gave me a message to send to you, since she and Greg just came home from there in October.  Greg went to more shows than she did.  He saw Forbidden Broadway first, a show that mocks all of the other musicals.  So he went to see all of the musicals that were mocked so he could further understand Forbidden Broadway.  She says to see it the last day of your trip if it is still running.  Other than that, here is her list of must sees.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Matilda -- not cheap.  You might get a balcony seat if you are with another person.

Squeeze over in that balcony for at one point the spotlight comes on it and 6 other singers have slipped in there with you for one of their parts.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  Just fabulous, she says.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.  Don't miss it.

Once.  Now I think you saw once in NY, didn't you.  But once may not be enough to see Once.  It is on Tottenham Court Road.


Les Mis.  Just pay the 65 pounds, get a seat front and centre.  This will be a better and cheaper show than the one Wyona saw in Ottawa.  She has been known to just get a ticket and go to this one by herself in London. Or she might get it ahead and then give it to one of her guests.  Just see this show.

Book of Mormon: the musical.  Skip it, she says.  Just loud and vulgar.

And that was the message I got on the phone -- from her to you.


Catherine in London

I saw Billy Elliot last night.  Got the front row seats, but couldn't see the footwork very well so might go back again at a future visit to see it from a bit further back.  Really enjoyed the dancing.  Very cute kids in the lead roles and of course really emotive--loved the dark moments as much as the humorous parts. Favorite parts might have been the female duet when the dance teacher reads the letter from his mom, the dance by Billy Elliot when the riots are taking place, the ballet interlude when you see Billy Elliot as a child dancing with himself as an adult, and of course the final curtain call tap dancing finale.  Hard not to smile at that.


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Two More Chances

Tonia, Wyona and I went to see the encore of Of Mice and Men tonight. 

Lurene asked her mom why she was going to a performance that was going to be sad. 

That is the question we have to face with many shows, in fact just about all of them that we see. While there is sadness, more than a tear of two at the end of this performance, the theatre is the best place for me to “see who were back then, and to infer who we are now”. 

The three of us were ready for a break at the intermission. We had been informed by Rebecca that the interview with Anna Shapiro at the intermission would be telling so we got back to our seats in 15 minutes but we took some time to stretch our legs.W

asn’t that interview-film just the best – those images from the 30’s – the haying; the children standing outside of the wire fences, looking at the bunnies; a mom walking behind in a black suit, just like the one my mother used to wear.

Evocative of the early prairie years. 

And the clips of interviews with Franco and O’Dowd telling us why they had re-read Steinbeck when looking for ways to colour their charaters. 

 ... scene in the bunkhouse ...
The prairie feel of the opening scene was captured by that small brook and the men sleeping out under the stars.

 I couldn’t help but think of the many nights I have laid out and enjoyed the quiet of the night, its blackness and the crisp feel of a small wind floating by.

I thought the bunkhouse was going to be my favorite set. 

Lennie begs for the story of how their lives will go.
But it was the scene in Crooks’ house where I felt the most warmth – that space beside the manure pile, now peopled with dreams of life’s changes.

Eventually didn’t we have Crooks, Lennie, Smiley, George, the boss and Curly’s wife – all gathered together in the place that was off-limits to five of them.  And each of them with different dreams. That scene was such a charm.

Curly's wife -- she doesn't have any other name
I had to come home and look up the word bindlestiff. There wasn’t enough in the context of the film for me to make a smart guess.

Apparently he is a robber. “A bindle is the bag, sack, or carrying device stereotypically used by the American sub-culture of hobos. A bindlestiff was a robber preying on hobos and the bindle's contents.”

Steinbeck, in explaining some of the text of Of Mice and Men, says that he was a bindlestiff himself.

On other matters he goes on to say that “in every bit of honest writing in the world there is a base theme. Try to understand men, if you understand each other you will be kind to each other. Knowing a man well never leads to hate and nearly always leads to love. There are shorter means, many of them. There is writing promoting social change, writing punishing injustice, writing in celebration of heroism, but always that base theme. Try to understand each other.” (— John Steinbeck in his 1938 journal entry)

That might be the best answer as to why I go see shows like this.

 I highly recommend a fabulous production to you. Of course, take your kids.   Book either Nov, 23 or 24th if it is showing near you.  Fabulous seats are available at the Crowfoot Crossing Cineplex.  In our theatre there were only about 20 people.  The three of us spread out along the row with our candy, popcorn and drinks as though we were in one of the boxes at a famous theatre.  And we had just about as much fun as if we had been in the Longacres Theatre enjoying the evening.



This is a 3D model of a plant cell from the Carter-Johnson House.

 Homework can be fun.

 This is really Duncan's science project.
I am wondering if this household had to make a trip to the store.

Or, ... could they pull all of those ingredients out of one cupboard.

I would like to be there for the cutting of the cake.


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Better Cupcakes

Tonia came to my house one night, bearing gifts: the beautiful cupcakes from Craves.  

tasted a few of them.  

They came exquisitely wrapped, a beautiful variety in each package, and so tasty.  

Later that week I was talking to my friend, Marilyn Gilson, on the telephone and she said that she had made some cupcakes for a wedding, since the bride suggest those instead of a wedding cake.
I can see why there is a charm to the cupcakes.  I asked Marilyn about the cupcakes and here is what she told me, sending me both a preamble and some nice recipes.
"The start of my search for better cupcakes came with reading an article in Meridian magazine by Dennis Weaver – he said you have to add substance to cake mix cupcakes, mix-ins, flavor, nuts, chipits etc. but nothing specific.  Finding the site on-line telling that the best of the best cupcake ‘stores’ use cake mixes as the base adding sour cream, extra ingredients, oil etc – made me think a cake mix cupcake could taste good.  I also had had the experience of being asked to make cupcakes for Darlene Proctor’s granddaughter – for her wedding reception, that were a complete failure until I phoned the manufacturer and found out we have a high altitude and must add extra flour to the mix. And the amount of extra flour changes for each kind of cake mix.  I will say those were labour intensive cupcakes requiring many extra steps and I did have to buy a whole new set of ingredients because the first effort went into the “garbage”. The final product was extremely good though. I have no idea where that recipe is.  But here are some others."
Creamy German Chocolate Cupcakes, my favorite, made with a Duncan Hines Swiss Chocolate Cake Mix.  I liked it best with the filling inside the cupcake, others liked it best with the filling added on the top of the batter giving a chewy top.  Problem with that was the filling did not distribute evenly on top of the cupcake during the baking.  Filling in the middle – oh yes how do I make this come out evenly. . . .
1.      Filling: beat together till light and creamy: 8 oz, Cream Cheese, 2/3’ds cup of sugar, 1 large egg, 1 tsp. vanilla.  Add and stir in ½ cup mini chocolate chips, ½ cup flaked sweetened coconut. Set aside.
2.      To the cake mix add: 2 Tbsp. Flour, 1 small instant chocolate pudding, 1 Tbsp. cocoa powder
3.      Add 1 ¼ cups water (you could use half sour cream) ½ cup of veggie oil, 4 eggs slightly beaten 1 tsp. vanilla . Mix according to directions on cake mix box.
4.      Filling in the middle—drop app 1 Tbsp. batter into each of 24 paper lined muffin cups, add a spoonful of filling and top evenly with remaining batter.
5.      Bake at 350 degrees app 25 minutes.

Chocolate Mint Cupcakes: made with Duncan Hines Devils Food Cake Mix
1.      To the cake mix add: 1/3 cup flour and 1 Tbsp. cocoa powder – mix well
2.      Add 1 cup sour cream, 1 cup vegetable oil, 4 eggs lightly beaten, 2 tsp vanilla, ½ cup liquid – water or milk.  Mix as directed on the box
3.      Place a spoonful of batter into each of 24 paper lined muffin cups.  Place a mint patty into each cup. Continue to divide the batter evenly among the 24 cups (app 2/3rds full)
4.      Bake at 350 degrees 18-22 minutes
Carrot Cake Cupcakes:  an easy recipe from my friend Linet Meeks
1.      Mix together, 2 cups flour, 2 cups sugar, 1 tsp each B. Powder, B. Soda,  ½ tsp salt, 2 tsp. Cinnamon, ¼ tsp. nutmeg if desired.
2.      Add 4 eggs beaten lightly with 1 cup veggie oil, 3 cups finely grated/shredded carrots mix with hand mixer on low 2-3 minutes,  Can add chopped nut if desired
3.      Makes 24 cupcakes or 9 x 13 cake.  Bake at 325 degrees, cake: 50 – 60 min, cupcakes: 20-22 min?
I used Cream Cheese icing on all of these, butter icing would be good..  Have fun!
Marilyn Gilson

PS  From Arta -- I am going to post these recipes over on the Larch Haven Foodblog as well.

Trip Reflections

Santorini ... or ... Mykonos?
Moiya is doing the right thing.

After a glorious Shuswap sunset she goers to her own iPhotos and begins to sort through lovely days in the past.

Anyone who has been to Mykenos or Santorini will still feel the charm of the white walls, the spring sun sun and the miles of streets to walk when one has debarked.
David Wood, Arta Johnson, Margaret Oldham
I am always amazed at how a photo of the past can bring me right back to that place: -- the narrow, slanted streets, the buildings so close, the steep stairway behind us.

The lovely blue of the window and shutter on the left of the photo is replicated all through the town.

Thanks for the memories, Moiya.


A Glorious Evening

Photo: Moiya Wood
Moiya suggest that at the Shuswap there are some glorious evenings.

 Then she sends a picture to back up her assertion.

 I give it to her!

 An evening that should never end.


Monday, November 10, 2014

Doral Pilling's Life Story - on dropbox and available to all.

Well, the tapes arrived, and Steve spent a morning ripping them (why is it 'ripping' to make a copy rather than 'shredding' or 'chopping' or 'dicing'?).

Then we figured out how to upload them to dropbox, and make a shared file.


Anyone who wants access to the dropbox, just say.  it is free!  My view is that anyone who wants access can have it! (there is no copy costs, no shipping costs... ah the joys of the internet!)

If you want a copy, just email me at:, and give me the email address that you like to use (i.e. you might prefer to use a personal email address rather than a work address), and I will invite you.

If you already have dropbox installed on your computer, it will just show up as a folder.  If you don't have dropbox yet, it will ask you if you want to install.  If you do, both you and i will get a little extra storage room.  If not, i think you can still access it without installing.  Your choice either way!  :-)

I have also started an "index" file in the folder:  it tells you roughly where each tape starts in the written copy of Doral's book.  That way, you can more easily listen to the tapes to find passages you particularly love.  How fun it was last night (while uploading the files) to listen to Doral talk about courting Wyora!

There are 10 files there, in two formats:  MWA and MP3.   The MP3 version is compressed, so of a bit lower quality, but easier to play on an iPod.

there you go!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Twenty-Fourth Avenue Lamp Post

Richard and I pass by the light post on the corner of Crowchild and 24th Avenue every morning – pass by it twice, going and coming. The light post and the area around it are my personal project, I tell him. When I walked to work I began to watch the signs that were plastered to that post: lost cat, sorely missed, reward; Halloween Cabaret run by the Nursing Faculty, all welcome; Moving, student furniture, take a phone number from the strip at the bottom of the poster if interested; vote in the fall by-election, choose Jim Prentice. That post is our neighbourhood current events bulleting board – there is inform anyone who has 30 seconds to read while waiting for the pedestrian light to turn green for them. In the past I took it on myself to tidy up the messages, carefully picking off the packing tape that held some messages on that post long after their due date had expired.

When I circled the base of the lamp post telling this to Richard, I could see some garbage, a few pieces of metal, a bolt and nut, an apple, an flattened beer can and some rice cakes. I explained to him that there are a group of street beggars that come here just as the university staff are leaving for home. They have signs that say “need money, spare change, God bless” and the men walk up and down the lines of the cars, able to intuit just when the line will change for that set of cars and to set themselves up going the other direction next. I told Richard that in my reading, the pan handlers have certain territories and fend off newcomers who want to move in. I also wondered how it is that they could always find a piece of cardboard and have a felt pen in their pocket.

Richard told me that the signs are used over and over again, and are just the right size to fold up, slip in their pockets, and then in a position to whip out again when needed. I told him that my colleagues at the university used to worry about the men they would see there, and would either save fruit from their own lunches are sandwiches and offer those instead. Then the light changed for us, that early morning, and we walked on, adding a different subject of conversation.

I walked alone the next morning and when I came to that spot, I cleaned it up, shoving the garbage into a plastic bag I found there, and cleaning the site up. So I was surprised to find it dirty this morning. “Look, 2 blackened bananas, a sandwich still in a plastic bag, some rice cakes and an empty juice bottle.”

“Yes, and look here at the electrical box that holds the buttons to activate the walk sign. There are pennies sitting on the top of this one. I guess they kept the silver change but don’t have use for the pennies.”

“I do, I said, sweeping them off the box and into my hand. “But they are right. Sometimes merchants won’t take the pennies anymore. I will. There is nothing that will brighten my day more finding five or 10 cents,” I said, slipping the change into my pocket and gathering up the food that hadn’t been useful to the beggars.

We slipped the food and plastic trash into the first recycling bin that we passed.

I love my neighbourhood.


Saturday, November 8, 2014

Of Mice and Men

The New York Times, Photo by  Sara Krulwich

Rebecca took her family and went to the HD production of Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men.  

"Why do you always take us to the sad shows," the boys opined.

I don't have an answer to that question.  Why does she do that?

It is hard to find classic comedies.  I will give Alex and Duncan that.  But they do know that they exist, for Duncan saw One Man, Two Governors, which became his all-time favourite show.

Should you take your kids to this production?

Catherine reminds everyone in our family that the book is on the high school curriculum  so it is not that show carried themes that kids should be protected from.

I went out to find reviews.  Getting waylaid, instead, I reading the ones about the performances, I became interested in this discussion in The New York Times about how the filming came to pass, why it was produced this way, what are the obstacles to overcome to get it on screen and delivered to the rest of us.  I think it peaked some of my interest in marketing and manufacturing films from my Film Festival Class days.

The Encores of Of Mice and Men in our community are on November 13th, 23rd and 24th.

If you read the  above article, take the following quiz, for which there are no prizes being offered. Just the joy of seeing if you can beat the questions which will serve as secondary fun if you can't get to see the show.

1. Why is Mr. Franco called a multi-hypenate?

2. How many high definition cameras are used when filming the show?

3. How is the series trying to overcome the lack of a good marketing structure.

4. How many Tony nominations did this show win?

Keeners might look at Ben Brantley's April 16th review in The New York Times as well.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Voices from the past? Audio tapes of Doral Pilling

I got a wonderful treat in the mail today: a package with 10 audio CDs in it:  the archive tapes of Doral Pilling!


I tossed one of them into my machine (it is around the part where he just starts to talk about shuswap).


anyone who wants a copy, let me know.  I will look into duplication costs and we can split it!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

these are a few of my favourite things ...

As a teen, I regularly attended a church group called Mutual. Our Mutual leaders organized a "Favourite Things" party.

We were to ...

  • wear our favourite clothes, 
  • bring our favourite thing,
  • and bring a favourite food item to share.

As I reflect back on that party, I imagine what it would look like now.

For me:

Now (mid 2010s)
Then (late 1970s)
a t-shirt and yoga pants pyjamas and a housecoat
spicy black bean soup       a box of Fruit Loops
a whiteboard and some markers                 a bag of jewellery

It was a party for women, teenage women and their female leaders. There was one exception. We had a special guest appearance from our Bishop, Bishop Val MacMurray.

We could have our photo taken with him. I did. I have that photo in my photo album. Seeing it snaps me right back to that moment, a moment when I felt connected to my peers, my leaders, and my Birkenstock-wearing Bishop.

I heard he passed away last year.

They say you can't take anything with you when you go. I hope there is one exception. I hope he got to take his Birkenstocks with him.


Val MacMurray at the Favourite Things party
This is a blogbomb by Rebecca (blog version of photo bomb?  sticking myself in the middle of Bonnie's post?)  I remember that party, and I remember Val.  Indeed, I still have the photo from the party.  My favourite outfit was my swimsuit and a housecoat.  Can't remember what my favourite food or 'thing' was back then.  but if i were to cast my mind back, i would pull up the taste of apples and red liquorice.

Val and Maryanne MacMurray were awesome.... they both made space for an opening in my imagination of what was possible in the world.  I am so happy I had the chance to have part of my life woven into part of theirs.