Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Over & Out

I'm shedding some guilt and declaring a blog-iday. A holiday from my blog. I feel guilty when I don't blog regularly as I do enjoy it. I enjoy getting visitors and comments. I enjoy recording the little happenings in our lives and our learning. I, however, have learned that I cannot do everything when things get busy.

We're preparing for the holiday. December is a holiday in itself, never mind the whole Christmas thing. We've been enjoying making crafts and a bit of baking. Doing up some cards and having photos done. Sledding and shovelling and taking the dog out in the snow. I'm cleaning the house and keeping the laundry caught up. We're sidestepping the siding/roofer guys that keep clogging up the bottom half of our driveway and then huff and sigh when we ask them to make space for our car. We're wrapping and planning. Packing officially starts tomorrow.

So, for those December birthdays I'm not around for - Happy Birthday wishes to you. And Merry Christmas to those who are celebrating. I am looking forward to the post holiday blog posts from those who wish to share about their holiday happenings. I hope those who are not feeling well perk up soon and those who do feel well continue to do so through to the New Year and beyond.

For us, the holiday will continue through to the end of the month. Family Christmases on the 24th, 25th, 29th, 30th and one to be announced. Some travelling, some visiting, some sight-seeing and lots and lots of family time. There's a shin-dig my brother's been planning for New Year's and then I should be back. With stories!

So, I am off. See you on the flip side! Some pics to send you off...

Nuk lying in a snowbank. She's about five foot above the road at the end of our drive, watching traffic. Silly beast.

Puzzle piece Gingerbread Men ornaments in progress. Hat tip to Jennifer for the idea.

Homemade Christmas Cards. I sent out a whopping 4. The rest are to go with the homemade Christmas gift baskets for those we will see over the holidays.

A December tradition with friends. Graham cracker 'gingerbread' creations. R made a hockey rink complete with boards, goalie creases, face off circles and Zamboni snow banks.


Sunday, December 16, 2007

Self-Portrait & Shovelling & Sentiments

8:30am and I'm heading outside. Welcome to Canada, folks!

It's like shovelling silica gel out there! The snow is heavy, but not too dense. The end of the driveway was a little tricky when the plow went by. Good exercise, though. K and I had to shovel the top of a snowbank 6 feet south a couple of times. As we piled the snow up, it began to slide back at us. Not only that, but the bank at the end of the drive was as tall as I was and I figure that's an unsafe obstruction when I'm sitting in my car trying to pull into traffic.

I love having a lot of snow. First, it's insulating and who doesn't like to be warm?? It reminds me of when I was little, living 'in der valley', the Ottawa Valley, that is. We lived in a tiny town on a dead end in suburbia. I must have been very short as all I remember of winters there are the snowbanks. The plows would pile the snow up well above my head. My similarly statured friends and I would walk to school on the snow banks, enjoying the slide down to street level every time we came to a driveway that had been shovelled. Of course, then we had to climb back up. The exciting part was never knowing when you would plunge, hip deep down into the snowbank. Risk-taking, adrenaline junkie 6 year olds that we were. It's been a long time since I remember seeing snow like that. Today reminded me of taller-then-my-head snowbanks.

Batten Down The Hatches

Saturday was cold, grey and cold. We got together with a few friends and went sledding despite the chilly temperature. It was -15°C and colder at the top of the hill. The kids had a good time, though. We lasted nearly two hours until I couldn't feel my toes. We led an exodus to the local Tim Horton's where hot drinks and muffins helped us to thaw.

Saturday was also calm. It was a little windy at the top of the hill, but that's to be expected. As hills go, it's pretty big. Normally, I wouldn't have been watching the forecast very closely, but we have an out-of-town birthday celebration planned for K tomorrow. So I checked the forecast.

We're in for a storm, folks. Our present location is scheduled to get the brunt of the snowfall. Apparently, it's to be accompanied with thunder (thunder?!), a bit of ice rain and high winds. They're predicting a high rate of snowfall which means driving in our small town will be treacherous. Traditionally, the Old Boys Club here likes to wait until it's stopped snowing before clearing the roads. That will prove to be entertaining at the very least with 40-45cm of snow expected.

With this new found knowledge and very few staples in the house, I called for a grocery run. I told the kids to be prepared for a busy grocery store, however it seems that was unnecessary. The store was eerily vacant. Strange for a small town that normally overcompensates when a weather warning is posted. The Ice Storm of January '98 is still very fresh in our minds.

Not a flake of snow was flying before 10pm. We had a late dinner and movie with the kids (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix) before heading to bed. At bedtime, it was snowing very lightly. Just enough of a dusting to see swirling patterns of snow on the empty road.

This morning, Sunday, there is some accumulation. And as we pass the 7:30am mark, the snow is coming down fairly steadily. It looks like some shovelling is in order. It also looks as though Plan A, The Birthday Party, will have to be postponed. Plan B, The Wrapping of Presents and The Decorating of the Christmas Tree will be put into action. It's just as well...that will give me time to worry and wonder about my extended family who will be attempting to drive home to this neck of the woods from the Toronto area - yup, directly along the storm route. Fun times, I'm sure.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

We've Been Out And About/'First' Snow

A few weekends ago, we went downtown and caught the local Santa Claus Parade. It wasn't' too cold until about halfway through when the wind picked up. It was only an hour, though, so nothing too unbearable.

On this particular weekend, we had company to join us. I won't point everyone out. Those who need to be in the know, do. It was nice. After the parade, we came home and I started a pot of hot chocolate. Our company aren't hot chocolate people, they say. However, I certainly didn't have any left over so either they are extremely polite or I make a wicked hot chocolate.

There's a newish kennel in town. We're so happy to find a great kennel run by someone we trust with our fur baby. We were very surprised to see the kennels float in the parade. It was a great float.

I normally get very excited about the first snow we get. I was underwhelmed this year, though. So the pics about aren't the first snow. They're more like the third snow. For our first week of 'dusting', the kids were quick to get out there and shovel. Then, the snow was a little more cumbersome. At that point, I began taking the dog out and shovelling in the early morning. The kids and I go out a couple of times a day to freshen up the shovelling or to take the dog for a 'tunnel'. It's very curious. The dog, once outside, plants her head into the snow and then drives her head through the yard with her back legs. After a week of deeper snow, she hasn't let up yet. More evidence that having a dog is like having a toddler forever. At least this one is contained on a leash.

Paper Projects

I've been working hard to finish a paper project. My mom asked me to frilly up some pictures for one of my brothers. I'm a total rookie when it comes to these things, but I can claim some creative abilities which were much more prevalent in my youth. I finally finished it because there are two other projects knocking down my door.

Especially for Penelope, here's a few grainy, blurry highlights of the finished product:

Title Page. The glare is from the page protectors which are finicky to remove and replace.

Downtown London spread. I was a bit nervous to cut up the pictures when doing this project. After all, it wasn't my trip and I wasn't sure which pics were favourites. The pic at the bottom of this layout was sliced in half and there's another on the right that was chopped up into three tiny pieces.

Pop-Up Brother. I cut Dear Brother out of one of the copies of this picture and placed him over top of himself. Clever, no? In all of Dear Brother's pictures, the greens are very green and the blues are really, really blue. Must be that fresh English countryside air.

Pockets. These hold all Dear Brother's ticket stubs, receipts, flyers and pamphlets and other odds and ends you collect on a trip.

Endpage. If you know Dear Brother, you know that he', we'll call it 'self-assured' and 'confident'. He took some pics of his hand holding Stonehenge. Unfortunately, his perspective was off. So R and I played with the pics, cut out bits and pieces and came up with what R calls "How Stonehenge Was Built".

And that's the preview. Hopefully Dear Brother isn't angry that I cut up his pictures.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Oh No. My Ravelry Invite Has Arrived.

So here I am about to start our schoolwork for the day. I check my email for the last time. It's justified, I'm the RSVP contact for two upcoming field trips. I'm waiting to hear from people!!

I'm also waiting to hear from Ravelry.

I was waiting on November 10th. I was #9327 in the queue.
I was still waiting for my invite on November 12th, I was #7397.
And then on the 14th, I was still way back at #6535.
I figured this was going to take forever.
Then, on the 22nd, I was #1840. Getting closer.

I didn't even check my status today. But lo and behold there is an invitation to Ravelry in my inbox. Right now! I'm a little excited. So much knitting motivation has never been collected in one spot before. I'm not even looking forward to making my own page, or keeping track of my stash or showing off my completed projects. No, I want to browse and discover! I want to explore and learn!

Yet, for the sake of my children, I will wait. Because we all know thay really, really want to get to their math lesson. Actually, they could leave the math lesson, but they are looking forward to our reading (Greek Myths). And we did sort of plan the day without a Ravelry interruption. <sigh>

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Fruits of Labour

R has been particularly busy lately. It's a good thing I backed off the book work so he had time and space to create two particular masterpieces that were up to his exacting standards.

First, there was the fun and traditional letter to Santa. Letters to Santa are chatty, not list-ish. R went all out. He detailed his extra-curricular activities and told of our holiday plans. He went on for two pages. He included in the envelope a portrait of Santa that he had drawn and coloured. He wrote Santa's address in alternating black and red letters beside yet another picture of Santa. He drew a detailed Santa stamp. It was the most elaborate masterpiece he's created to date, me thinks. Such motivation and focus have rarely been seen.

Then, there is Evil Gum Stick Man. Evil Gum Stick Man has escaped his gum package and has attacked a poor, unsuspecting gum stick. The yet un-named gum stick did manage to escape in a subsequent episode. Over two days, R produced a few pages of the Evil Gum Stick Man story. He then treated those who crossed our door step with a guided reading of his newly produced comics. This was a pleasant surprise in every case as R is not normally one to produce such things, let alone share them spontaneously.

New Books

Over Canadian Thanksgiving, I ordered some new books for the shelf. I had tucked a bit of money away every once in a while over the summer. I was surprised to see I had as much to spend as I did. I bought an internet-linked Introduction To Music, The Story of Inventions - amusingly written and illustrated, a Puzzle Adventure/time travel book (R's favourite) about Ancient Roman culture, Alexander the Great from the Usborne Famous Lives series and a guide to the night sky in the hopes that I can answer a few more of the kids' questions.

I have been on the lookout for a book like The Usborne Art Treasury. It tells about an artist and why they were remarkable.

Then, it goes on to give an art project idea where you can explore the particular style or medium of the aforementioned artist.

K got busy right away sculpting foil and pipe cleaner figures after the work of Alberto Giacometti.

Sweater Sampler

Not having a knitting mentor, I have always been a little leery of delving into colour work. I finally got over myself long enough to begin this little sweater for K's 18" doll. I just picked from my stash instead of buying something new. I'm not happy with the shape of the yoke but I am pleased that most of my colour changes were smooth. I followed the pattern exactly. I was surprised by the number of ends to be sewn in after I was finished knitting. In the end, a good experiment and lots of room for improvement.

Friday, November 23, 2007


Some personal thoughts from me today. I've been off the blog for a few days, although checking in at my favourite haunts to keep up with what's been going on.

I've hurt my back. Not fun. It's most noticeable while sitting at the PC, so I've been curtailing my computer time. I'm not convinced I've actually done damage, but there is definitely something going on back there. Back in my past life when I was power-lifting and weight training, I was very familiar with the feeling of incredibly fatigued muscles. The last few days, I'm feeling the constant burning of muscle fatigue in my upper back which gets really old, really fast.

Some good lessons this week in accountability and responsibility and giving things a chance. Had to solve a problem at K's swimming lessons. K was miserable and didn't want me to rock the boat. If it were me, I'd have left it, but it wasn't me, it was K . In the spirit of modeling good problem solving skills and standing up for your kids, problem was successfully solved. The kids and I have been discussing and discussing various issues surrounding behaviour and attitude and responsibility within our family. I feel like nothing is sinking in. I feel very discouraged. But I know that this shall pass and we'll be back on track very soon. Really. Right?

I feel my panic rising as December approaches. I've learned to not freak out until December, at which time I distract myself by preparing for the holiday. Clever, no? Since Brian and I have been together, I have been celebrating Advent each year. Not being terribly well-schooled in my Christian faith we probably don't do it any justice. However, I like having the four weeks to welcome and celebrate the winter season, to prepare for our Christmas celebrations and to focus on family and tradition throughout the month. The kids always surprise me with their generosity and I'm interested to see what they will come up with this year. That all said, the advertisements and flyers and the special sales and the overwhelming garish glitz of commercialism send me into a panic. Every year. Without fail. I've learned that Christmas lists are a must for our kids in order to avoid a plethora of situations. We are very blessed and spoiled to have been born into the families we have. But I stress over all of this.

This week I attended a short talk at our local library (Crystle In India), before going for coffee with a friend. Friend really needs to get blogging as she is so wonderful to talk with. I learn so much from her and she is very inspiring and motivating. The kids and I went to visit Jennifer this week as well. She showed me the nitty-gritties of how to emboss and the kids spent some time with her teenage son who was gracious enough to entertain them. I could go on about what a nice boy her son is, but that would make me feel old, embarrass him and I'm sure Jennifer already knows. I did a little work on my very first scrapbook. And I've set up two field trips for the kids. I have some creative ideas brewing...if you want some of your own, think about making some ornaments with your kids and get inspired over at Jennifer's.

So, that's my ramble for today. I'm going to be posting a few Short Pictorial Stories in the Life of Us over this evening and the weekend. Nothing too ambitious or deep, just some things we've been up to over the last little while that I don't want to forget about. I know you're intrigued. Hurry back.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

I'm ready.

I'm ready. I've been preparing for a while. Now I have to jump in and just do it.

For a bit more than a year, I've been periodically dabbling in some paper craft. I dread to say 'scrapbooking', because that sounds like such a pigeon-holed word. I'm not into the frilly frou-frou that the word can sometimes call to mind.

I've purchased some of the basics upon the advice of my very artistic, very experienced, artist friend, Jennifer. The nice thing about Jennifer, is that she never tells you how to do something. She'll show you a technique, she'll tell you about something she's done, she'll suggest a path, but she won't say you have to do it this way. Jen also has a beautiful home filled with creative inspiration, makes time fly when you're spending time with her and has 4 handsome men in her life that lend themselves to amusing and interesting anecdotes.

With my basic supply of paper, ink, stamps and some other odds and ends I am going to attempt to create Christmas cards. I even attended a Card Making Session this very weekend with the talented and aforementioned Jennifer with the hopes of kick-starting my creativity. Not one to start out small, I am also undertaking a gift project, funded by and on behalf of my mother (a small scrapbook detailing a trip taken by my brother) as well as a birthday project for K. I figure the birthday project should have an imposed timeline just to up the ante a bit. I'll start in about two weeks and hope to be finished by the 23rd of December. Wish me luck. To muddy the waters a bit, I'll throw in a few more Sunday afternoon 'crops' (I think that's that you call them...) at my house. My mom and sister have been joining me the last few Sundays to create various projects using my collected supply of paper, inks and stamps. It's fun.

Even my wonderful husband, B has been getting in on the action. We've been watching eBay for good deals, Brian snipes them for me and then I wait patiently at home for the delivery man to arrive. He arrives consistently a half hour before I am dressed and ready for the day. Lucky him.

So hopefully I'll have some nice visuals for you soon. Pretty Christmas cards, manly scrapbook layouts and K's birthday timeline. If I don't, someone please email me and tell me to get my butt in gear. Really.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Step Into My Frustration

A little bit of history before I explain. We rent our home. It is in a complex of rental townhouses. Management and maintenance have always had a bit to be desired. However, this situation suits our needs for the time being. The kids have their own bedrooms, it's not my parent's house, there's a garage, we're in town and grounds keeping including snow removal is included.

Imagine my surprise when we received a form letter explaining that wintertime snow removal services would no longer be continued. (Actually, some of my surprise stemmed from the fact that we had been given adequate notice, but I digress.) This is a disappointment. Having year-round grounds keeping services included in the rental agreement was a deciding factor for us. It makes the cost, compared to the other options, worth it. Not that we are unable to shovel our driveway, in fact, the kids and I quite often will shovel our driveway as well as the neighbour's.

The reason we were given was that the cost of upkeep has risen and so that we continue (?!) to receive value for our rental monies (!?!?) this cost cutting measure would be taken. I guess the regular rental increases haven't been keeping up with the expected expenses. Curious.

So would someone please explain to me why, why, why, were the contracted groundskeepers here yesterday with leaf blowers. Yes, leaf blowers. For an entire morning, leafs were blown around the property to collect in the communal green. Then, for some reason, it was necessary to then mow the leaves. I would say that they mowed the grass, but since the grass has not been growing these last few weeks, I think that would be inaccurate.

Today, all evidence of this prudent and economical use of our monies is gone. The wind has continued to send leaves to the ground. The green is leaf strewn as are the front yards and back yards. Am I surprised? No. Just more convinced that the people running this place are lacking. I know it doesn't seem like much, but it seems kind of frivolous if management is trying to be economical.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Scarf & Mitts

This morning I finished mitts for K. They go with a scarf I made late last winter, shortly after receiving my Knitting Page-A-Day calendar. There was a neat pattern for a linen stitch scarf. K had some personally chosen variegated yarn in my stash, so I knit the scarf up very quickly. Linen stitch is great - you only have to knit half the stitches in each row!

Linen stitch give an almost woven look to the right side of your work. The back looks somewhat like seed stitch. I like how the colour pools and flows yet is still distinct.
When it came to the mitts, it only made sense that the stitch pattern should match that of the scarf. Not so simple as the scarf. I only mangled the project a few times. And I did have to knit an extra mitten. My first attempt was too small. I was unsure of the gauge due to my stitch selection. Sure enough, it was off. The first mitten turned out to be a 'hand girdle'. Once I stressed and obsessed my way through the first correctly sized mitten, the second knit to finished in about 4 hours. Hm...I'm not sure if that's fast or not. It was certainly faster than the first mitten.

I am a fairly rookie knitter...if I choose my pattern carefully, I can fake talent. My inexperience certainly shows in these mittens. Completing the thumb was most difficult while maintaining the stitch pattern. I did a bit of darning where the extra stitches are to be picked up when knitting the thumb. I have not mastered perfect thumbs by any means. The result is wearable, or so K tells me. She seems quite happy with the results.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

In Memory of RCMP Constable Doug Scott

It was a sombre day today in our town. Today was the funeral of RCMP Constable Doug Scott, 20 years old, shot and killed on duty in the small northern community of Kimmirut. Thousands of police officers of every kind descended upon our fair town to pay their respects to the Scott family.

Since the kids and I have been discussing this tragedy, I though we would attend the police procession and part of the funeral. It was a beautiful fall day which allowed many to attend.

Shortly before the procession began, a large tour bus slowly made it's way through town. When I saw the number of cameras and reporters chasing it, I knew it must be conveying the Scott family to the church. I won't wax philosophically about that, I'll just say that I'm sorry the Scott family couldn't fully experience the honour procession from the sidewalk as we did.

We parked ourselves at City's center, the cenotaph. Traffic had been blocked off throughout town for hours.

From here, we could look up the hill to Courthouse Green where a large screen had been set up.

We watched a slide show of Doug's life.

Crowds lined the streets that the procession was to travel. The police officers were not only Brockville's finest, but also from the Kingston force (80km west of us and the police force employing some of the Scott family) and the RCMP.

Then, the procession started. The police bikes were from all over the province and beyond.

We saw bikes from Peel, Waterloo, Quebec, Ottawa and from the North where Doug had been assigned. We figure those bikes and officers must have been flown in.

There were OPP (Ontario Provincial Police) bikes and a large number of RCMP bikes.

A group of 6 mounted officers preceded the hearse, which was surrounded by more RCMP.

The horses (and R) were quite frisky in the brisk fall wind. It took some wrangling to keep them in check.

The pipers of the OPP played. It was the largest group of pipers I'd ever seen in my 3o-some years of parade attendance.

Then, the RCMP began to file past. There were hundreds of officers. Group after group after group, all respectfully turning their heads to the cenotaph as they passed.

Veterans and retired police officers attended and marched alongside even more RCMP.

RCMP from all over the country were represented. They just kept coming around the corner.

I'm not sure how Toronto got on today without all of these officers who were in our town today. In the rows there are about eight officers across. A hundred officers fit in a very short amount of street.

Once the procession began, it filed past steadily for fifteen minutes.

Until it finally stopped. Officers were waiting for those at the front of the procession to file into the churches so they could continue up the square to the Courthouse Green.

All the people who turned out for the ceremony filled the streets in front of the Green.

We stood quietly under a tree amid a field of Mounties and we listeneded to two of Doug Scott's colleagues from the RCMP detachment in Iqaluit give the eulogy. There were a few laughs and the kids suddenly understood that Doug was just a regular guy, doing his job when his life ended.
But they also understood that he was part of a larger community that stretches across Canada.
It's hard to covey the amount of people that filled the churches and the Green. The photos below show the Court House on the left and then pan across the Green, filled with hundreds of RCMP, the OPP pipers, at least a hundred police motorcycles and hundreds of members of the public.

Throughout our stay downtown, we were befriended by a lovely man from Edmonton. He is a grandfather and the father of a Mountie. He found himself on this side of the country and he extended his visit to include the memorial service. He gave the kids a pin from a similar service he attended out West. It is an RCMP 'We Remember' pin. He took our picture and asked the kids to write to him in Edmonton so he could send some pictures to us. We had some nice conversation with him. As we were leaving, the kids ran across a street (normally teeming with traffic), dodging through a large group of motorcycle cops to tell Mr. Davidson that they had enjoyed chatting with him and thank-you for the pin. They look forward to writing to him. I know that it's connections like this that make these events memorable and meaningful for the kids.