A FEW LITTLE SMILES

You may find this post boring, but a few people might think it’s cute, with occasional bursts of funny, so here I go. Although you don’t know them, I thought there could be some interest in reading the following quotes and looking at life, just for a few minutes, though the eyes of small children.

The Players:

IMG_7569Maggie is in Gr. 2, and will soon be eight years old. She a bit of a worrier, a real bookworm, and great kid.

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Ohio Kyle's Wedding 2013-61Noah is 6 1/2 and in Gr. 1. He seems to have had the most quirky observations and interesting views.

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IMG_6388Annie, 4 1/2, is in Junior Kindergarten. She’s a super-cutie, loves learning to read, and marches to her own drummer.

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IMG_6525Thomas is just 2 1/2. He talks a mile a minute, but I haven’t caught him saying anything “recordable” yet. I just thought I’d add his picture.

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Ohio Kyle's Wedding 2013-8-3Nolan is a cousin to the other four. Like his Daddy, Nolan didn’t talk until after he turned three, at the end of August. Now he’s making up for lost time, but he lives ten hours away from us, so I don’t get to hear all of his cute little sayings.

Fortunately, his Mommy has written a few things down and I’ve kept them along with the rest.

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The quips and quotes that follow are in no particular order. At first I collected them on random scraps of paper and when I compiled them into a document I didn’t bother to sort them by date. Sorry about that, but here goes.

* * * * *

I was talking to (my husband) Murray’s mom Fran, known as “Granny Franny” to the little kids. Maggie (4) and Noah (3) were at my house, so she wanted to speak to them.

All was well with Maggie who remembers Fran, but Noah obviously confused the word “Granny” with my own Granny who had recently passed away. When I handed him the phone he said in a casual, conversational tone, “Hi Granny. I thought you were dead.”

* * * * *

Annie (Just turned 2) heard their front door open so she peeked from the kitchen and gasped: “Oh, my dood-ness! Daddy home!!”

* * * * *

Maggie (3) and I were unpacking my Nativity scene. As we unwrapped each piece we named them.

MAGGIE: Here’s baby Jesus.

Then she unwrapped the next piece and exclaimed, “And here’s his nest!”

* * * * *

I was working in the kitchen and Noah (3 ½) was quietly playing with toys in the living room.

Awhile later, I heard a little noise and looked up to see Noah standing in the doorway with his hoodie pulled up around his face and a toy drill held out like a ray-gun, his current favourite toy.

In a quiet, bashful voice he said, “Nan … do you need a superhero at your house?”

* * * * *

Noah had just learned about toilet training and the family was eating dinner when he pushed back his chair, jumped down, and pounded to the bathroom shouting, “I gotta pee! I gotta pee!”

Maggie (4) watched him go, then rolled her eyes and commented, “Well, that was graceful.”

* * * * *

My sister Arlene and Annie (3 1/2) were looking a photo album and came across a picture of my 70+ year-old Mom on a merry-go-round. (That’s a story that I’ll tell you someday.)

ANNIE:  Who’s that?
ARLENE: That’s Grandma.
ANNIE: What she doing?
ARLENE: She’s riding on a merry-go-round.
ANNIE: (leaning in for a closer look): She’s so cu-u-u-te!

* * * * *

A friend had just posted some wedding pictures on Facebook, and Annie was looking at them with me.

ANNIE (3 1/2): Oh, Nan. That lady is so nice and sparkly wif her pretty flowers, and the man is beautiful.

* * * * *

Noah came for an overnight.

ME: Do you want to wear the jammies you brought along or the ones that live at my house?
NOAH: I’ll wear yours. That will save Mommy some laundry.

* * * * *

In the wintertime Noah (5 1/2) and I were having a discussion about global warming and how Antarctica is melting.

NOAH: Do you know how I help global warming, Nan? I turn on the fan when it’s hot. And this season is really helpful too. It’s a lot better when the cold weather comes.

* * * * *

In a store with Annie (4).

ANNIE: What are you doing, Nan?
ME: I’m looking at glitter gel pens for you to use.
ANNIE: Hey! Did you just call me Jelly Pants?
ME: You mean Glitter Jelly Pants.
ANNIE: (Giggling) Annie Alice May Glitter Jelly Pants!

* * * * *

“I was tucking Annie (3) into bed with her baby doll and her monkey.
ANNIE: Nan, can you please give me my baby?
ME: Sure, sweetie.
ANNIE: Thank you, Nan.
ME: (with my hand resting on the monkey) You’re welcome.
ANNIE: That’s not my welcome. That’s my monkey.”

* * * * *

Annie (3) is holding the door open for Nolan (1 1/2).

ANNIE: Here, Nolan. Come inside now.
NOLAN shakes his head and walks away.
ANNIE (rolling her eyes): Oh, for pete’s snakes.”

* * * * *

I took Noah out for his 5th birthday lunch and we got chatting.

“NOAH: When I get big I want to drive a motorcycle.

ME: Ohhhhh … buddy, sometimes motorcycles aren’t that safe.

NOAH: Don’t worry, Nan. I’d only drive it on the sidewalk.”

* * * * *

NOAH (4) holding up a piece of celery: Nan, I think this celery used to be Peter Rabbit’s.
ME: Why do you think that?
NOAH: Because it tastes like bunny spit.”

* * * * *

I dropped in to see Nolan (14.5 months) for a bit this afternoon.
ME: Okay, Nan has to go home now.
NOLAN: (Smiling, as he takes my hand and leads me to the door.) Brrrm, brrrm, brrrm.
He had to cry when I left without him.

* * * * *

“Maggie (5) and Noah (4) playing store:

MAGGIE: Hello Sir, what can I get for you?
NOAH: Quick, I need cake and money!”

* * * *  *

ANNIE: (2 1/2) Nan, I can please watch The Nutcracket?
(She also enjoys eating cheese and crackets!)”

* * * * *

“NOAH (4) squatted down to examine a fuzzy caterpillar:

“You know, Nan, caterpillars lead a really simple life.”

* * * * *

MAGGIE: (Age 5 — staying overnight and looking forward to helping me make food for Thanksgiving the next day.)

“Nan, we’ll have to tell Grandpa and Grandma who prepared the food so they’ll know who to thank.”

* * * * *

NOAH (4): “Hey Mommy, look at this!” (He makes a face) “That’s what I look like when I have a sneaky plan.”

* * * * *

NOAH (4): (handing me a beautifully decorated bottom half of an egg carton)

“Here, Nan. This is a big boat for your bathtub. You can get our rubber duckie out of your cupboard and give him a ride while you bath.”

* * * * *

MAGGIE (5): Nan, do you know why home is the best place of all?
ME: No, why?
MAGGIE: Because home is where the love is, and your place is just like another home.

* * * * *

ME: (to Noah and Maggie) So, you’re going to visit Kylah and Liam tomorrow. Are you looking forward to playing with them?
NOAH: (age 4) Me and Liam aren’t going to play with the girls. We’re just going to be by ourselves and growl at them!

* * * * *

ME: Annie, would you like to have a baby tomato to eat?
ANNIE (2 1/2) running into the kitchen: Yeeeee haw!

* * * * *

NOAH (4): (looking at the big white jug sitting beside the cat’s litter box) What’s that Nan?
ME: It’s cat litter.
NOAH, after some thought: Why do you put oil litter in Agnes’s bathroom?

Come to think of it, the big white jug of litter does look somewhat like the big white jug of vegetable oil his mom uses!

* * * * *

MOMMY: Noah, do you remember about being safe on your bike? If we say STOP!, what do you do?
NOAH: I apply my brakes!

* * * * *

Maggie (excited): When I grow up, I’m going to be a teacher, Nan!
Noah (big sigh): I’m just going to be Superman.

* * * * *

Noah saying his bedtime prayers:
“It’s taking too long for my baby brother to come out … and I don’t know how to look after a butterfly … and I don’t know how catch a rainbow either. Um, I think I’m done, Nan.”

* * * * *

Written on Facebook to my nephew Kyle, RN:

“Happy birthday, Kyle, the guy my grandchildren love to “be”; as in, “Let’s pretend to be Kyle today and we’ll be nurses”. Or, (Noah) “See Nan, I’m Kyle and I’m holding Maggie’s hand and we’re going for a walk”.

* * * * *

Noah and I made crispy butter/chocolate squares called “Bark” — like “almond bark”.

Beth and Jon (Mommy and Daddy) and his siblings came for dinner and at one point I had to leave the table for a few minutes. When I came back, Beth said, “What on earth are we having for dessert?”

I told her I’d made Bark.

“Ohhhhh,” she said. “Noah told us we were having DOG!”

* * * * *

Last night I took the kids home. Daddy was at work so I gave them dinner, and helped them get jammies on so a very pregnant Beth wouldn’t have too. When I gave them hugs goodbye Noah gave me a huge one, then looked at me and said, “I’m really going to miss you, Nan.”

* * * * *

There is NOTHING in the world like being snuggled into cozy, flannel sheets, a grandchild in each arm, discussing why only some dragons breathe fire and whether or not they eat eels.

* * * * *

Noah (nearly 4) and I were discussing the coming of Spring.

Noah: When the ice melts, the monsters of the deep return, don’t they?

Me: Speechless — trying to figure out what the heck he just said.

Noah: You know, Nan. That’s what it says in your movie, right?

Hmmm … I guess I’ll have to take a look at my Planet Earth movie about oceans so I can figure out where that comment came from!

* * * * *

Annie (2 1/2) running in her sock feet, slipped and fell.
Me: Are you okay, Annie?
Annie: I otay, Nan.
Me: So it’s all good, then?
Annie: Ya, Nan, it all “dood” now.

She slipped her purse over her arm, grabbed her little stroller, and went back to playing.

* * * * *

Noah (almost 4), pointing to our road: Turn this way, Nan.
Me: Okay
Noah: And I’ll show you where to turn in your driveway.
Me: Thanks, Buddy, that would be great.
Noah: You’re welcome, Nan. You don’t need a GSP, you’ve got me!”

* * * * *

Noah (4) and Maggie (5) were playing together.

Noah: I’ll be the sick.
Maggie: Okay, I’ll be the nurse.

A little later …

Maggie: Come back here Noah. You can’t go home from the hospital until I touch your heart with this skelokope.”

* * * * *

Annie (nearly two) came running to me, holding out her baby and exclaiming:
“My baby dying, Nan! My baby dying, Nan!”

It took a minute to figure out that her baby was CRYING. Whew!”

* * * * *

Maggie, just home from JK: “So you know what, Nan? We learned about perseverance in school today.”

Me: “You did?? What’s perseverance?”

Maggie: “It’s when you keep on trying. If you can’t do something you don’t give up, you just ask for help. It’s really good to learn perseverance.”

Me: Silence as I shake my head in astonishment.

* * * * *

Noah (3) was chasing kitty Agnes until he had her cornered and quite upset. He called out to me, “Nan! Agnes just ‘snored’ at me!”

* * * * *

Noah – 3 1/2 (very seriously): Mom said I couldn’t have a ray gun for Christmas but Santa doesn’t know that so I hope he brings me one anyhow.”

* * * * *

“NOAH (3 1/2): Mom, what do you think God’s doing right now?
BETH: I have no idea, Noah. What do you think God’s doing?
NOAH: I think he’s eating marshmallows and watching TV. Um … I think he’s watching Max and Ruby.”

* * * * *

“Me to Noah (4): “I love you, Honey.”
Noah: “Don’t call me Honey.” … big grin … “You can call me Peanut Butter.”

* * * * *

NOAH (3): “Nan, I have a rescue ladder so I can get people out of bad things and I can be a hero.”

* * * * *

Maggie and Noah, eating dinner here, raise their glasses to each other and say, “CHAIRS!”

* * * * *

Maggie (4 ½): “You can’t smile or play if your heart doesn’t beep“!”

* * * * *

I lifted Noah (3) out of a shopping cart today and he said, “You’re just like a crane, Nan!”

* * * * *

Maggie (4) dressed up as a bride: “Noah, I need you to be my Handsome Prince.”
Noah (nearly 3) wearing hard hat and tool belt: “I don’t want to be a Handsome Prince, Maggie, I’m Bob the Builder.”

* * * * *

NOAH, (5 1/2): Mommy, isn’t it disgusting? I don’t even like Annie!
ANNIE,( 3 1/2): Don’t you say disgusting to me. I’m beautiful. Do you like me now, Noah?
NOAH: No.
ANNIE: You should. I’m nice.

* * * * *

And a few from Maggie when she was young – four years old and under:

  • When her throat was sore she said, “My neck hurts on the inside”.
  • When her mom was expecting #3: “Mom, are you tired of carrying that baby around?”
  • She knew the names her parents had chosen, so when I told her that Mommy had the baby she asked, “Is it an Annie or a Levi?”
  • When Maggie was at our house one day, I called her mother. When I got off the phone Maggie asked, “Was that my friend, Mommy?”

* * * * *

ANNIE – Dec. 2012, Age 3 1/2

“This is not dangerous, Mommy. You can’t fall anywhere!” (she says with a pair of scissors in her hand and another pair on top of the stool)

Annie 1.

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* * * * *

Annie 2Annie (3) drew this picture.

It’s the Beaver and Wally (from Leave it to Beaver) in their room with spider webs everywhere and the spiders are trying to take away their clocks (the things that look like stoplights) and give the clocks back to “the people”, whomever they are.

What an odd, hilarious masterpiece. :)

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*****

Annie (4) was sitting at the kitchen island, quite intent on colouring a picture of a kitten, when she looked up and said, “Noah (6) can’t be in my secret club because he eats boogers”. Then she went right back to colouring.

* * * * *

Annie (just turned 4) stayed overnight, and the morning was full of her observations:

  • I told her that I would make breakfast and wondered if she’d like a cup of coffee.
    ANNIE: No thanks. Kids don’t actually drink coffee because that would make them die, I think.
  • “I heard someone say ‘exquisite’, Nan. Isn’t that a BEAUTIFUL word?”
  • “We watched-ed some doctors on Mommy’s iPad give a person a new heart. Maggie (7) and Noah (6) thought it was disgusting but I thought it was so interesting.”

* * * * *

Annie (4) was at my sister Arlene’s house and two of her three grown sons, Jeff and Chris, were also there.

After awhile Chris went downstairs.

ANNIE: Where’s the boy that doesn’t look like Jeff?
ARLENE: He went down to the basement.
ANNIE: No, I mean where is the boy that doesn’t look like Jeff or Chris?

Patrick, number three, was at work!

* * * * *

Nolan (just about to turn 3) came from Virginia to visit for a few days. My parents dropped by, and when they went out to the yard where he was playing, he looked at them and shouted, “Grandma! Grandpa!” He went running toward them but kept going, straight into the house.

A minute later he came back out, holding up a framed picture of the two of them.

“Look!” he exclaimed as he ran over to hold up the picture beside them. “The same. They match!!”

* * * * *

We were in Virginia, visiting Nolan (3) and his parents. They live on a university campus, and one of Nolan’s little joys is to sit in Daddy’s lap and “drive” once they turn off the street and into the huge parking lots.

Today his mom, Sarah, took us out for the morning and when we were almost home, Nolan piped up from the backseat, “Me drive, Mommy?”
SARAH: “No, not today. You can drive with Daddy.”
NOLAN: “But we on CAMPUS Mommy!! I can drive on campus!”

During the same visit, we  were invited to visit with one of Scott’s profs, and Nolan was pleased because his assistant always has lollipops on hand.

When we arrived, Nolan looked around and asked, “Where’s Gretchen?”

Told that she had left for the day, he lifted his shoulders and held out his hands in and exaggerated shrug and said in a sad little voice, “Oh, well … accidents happen.”

* * * * *

Nolan (just turned 3) is going through a growth spurt — shoes two sizes bigger in just two months, and growing taller too.

SARAH: “You’re growing up too fast, Nolan,” and then she pretended to cry.

NOLAN: “Mommy don’t cry, it’s not sad, me big…be happy mommy,” as he touched her face and gave her a hug.

* * * * *

Nolan: 3 yr. 3 mo.

NOLAN: Mommy, I have a baby in my tummy.

MOMMY: How did it get in your tummy?

NOLAN: Me eat it.

And a little later on …

NOLAN: Mommy, I have a baby in my tummy and it’s going to crawl out soon. It hatch out of an egg and be a tiny, baby boy!

MOMMY: Wow, Nolan, that’s crazy!

NOLAN: Yes, Mommy, it is! I am going to make him a tiny bed too!

* * * * *

And the grand finale, from our son Andrew. He’s twenty-six years old and a high-functioning young man with an intellectual disability. He calls every afternoon for his daily check-in, and on this particular day he was quite pleased about the day-long First-Aid/CPR course he’d just completed. He also wanted to ask about his Grandma who was in the hospital.

ANDREW: How’s Grandma Stewart doing?
ME: Well, they did surgery on her broken hip this morning, and she’s doing fine now.
ANDREW: How did she break her hip?
ME: She fell.
ANDREW: That’s what I do.
ME: You fall?
ANDREW: No, I keep my eyes open when I walk around town. If people fall down I help them. You know, give them CPR and stuff.

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Putting Up

img_7086This afternoon I was cutting corn off the cob so I could make a nice summer salad. We’re at the tail end of a very hot, very humid stretch of weather right now and the corn/humidity combo made me think of the food I grew up on. Back then, my mother either froze or canned every bite of food we ate. I have no idea how she and all the other women managed to do this, but that’s how it was.

There were so many delicious things in the freezer and on the long shelves lining the basement. Here’s what I can remember, but I’m sure there was more.

JAMS AND JELLIES:

  • strawberry
  • raspberry
  • rhubarb
  • pear
  • currant
  • peach
  • cherry
  • grape

CANNED FRUIT:

  • applesauce
  • peaches
  • pears
  • plums
  • yellow cherries
  • red cherries
  • grape juice
  • raspberries

CANNED VEGETABLES:

  • corn
  • pickled beets
  • pickled corn
  • chili sauces and relishes
  • pickled cucumbers of every kind: sweet, dill, bread and butter, etc.
  • tomatoes
  • tomato juice

CANNED MEAT:

  • sausages
  • beef in broth for stew
  • chicken

IN THE FREEZER:

  • peas
  • beans (yellow, green, and lima)
  • carrots
  • beets
  • corn
  • peaches
  • sour cherries
  • all of our meat

This astounding feat was accomplished by my mother, alone at first, and then with the help of her daughters when we got a bit older. I’d often wake up in the morning and see bushels of peas or beans sitting in the shade of our two big chestnut trees, ready to be podded or snapped after breakfast. While we worked we played “I Packed My Trunk” or “Twenty Questions” to keep  us older ones entertained while we worked, and the younger ones played nearby. Sometimes we were excused from our jobs before we were quite finished. I’m sure it’s because we whined about helping and to mom’s ears it probably sounded like the stationary equivalent of, “Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?”

But the podding and snapping was only the beginning of mom’s work.Vegetables had to be taken into the kitchen, blanched in a pot of boiling water for a few minutes, and then plunged into cold water before being put into plastic freezer bags.

Peaches also had to be blanched so the skins would peel off easily before they were pitted and packed into jars. The jars filled a canner so big it covered two burners on the stove, and there they boiled for a long, long time. Tomatoes had to be prepared in the same labour-intensive way. Jams could only be made one small batch at a time, with constant stirring while they cooked.

So, where am I going with all of this? The corn. In my memory, corn days were always hot and muggy. Bushels and bushels of corn were picked from the garden and husked. Then the whole shebang was put into large pots and blanched for several minutes. After that, the ‘fun’ part began.

Grandad and Granny, and my Great-Aunt Ada, who lived on the farm with us, plus children who were finally old enough to be trusted with sharp knives, sat outdoors in lawn chairs with large wash pans in their laps and the messiness started.

A cob of corn was held in one hand. With the other hand, the knife was moved in a sawing motion toward the cutter, removing several rows of corn at a time. Then the dull side of the knife was run down the area that had just been cut to remove juices and little pieces of corn still clinging there. The cob was given a bit of a turn and a few more rows were cut off, until the cob was empty.

On and on the process went, and the cutters were soon covered in bits of corn and sticky juice. If you wore glasses it became nearly impossible to see through them after awhile. One lucky person took the full pans of corn into the house and filled plastic freezer bags. That was a clean job.

By the end of a canning or freezing day, the house was hot and steamy and I’m sure my mother felt bedraggled. Somewhere, in the extra hours of the day, she also managed to prepare three large meals for my farmer father and get laundry and cleaning done.

By comparison, my life is a cakewalk. I’m sitting in a comfortable air-conditioned house as I write. I can put up fruits and vegetables if I please. If not, I buy them. I go to a nice job in a clean environment, and when I’m not working I can mostly fill the hours as I choose.

IMG_6792I hadn’t started out to say this, but hats off to my parents and all the others who through generations past, worked hard to feed their families in such a wholesome way, simply because they had no other choice. It really wasn’t easy, but it sure tasted good.

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OH CANADA! OUR HOME AND NATIVE LAND.

Canadian-Fall-VanDusen-Gardens-Vancouver-British-ColumbiaToday is Canada Day. It’s the day we mark our 1867 Confederation, and the day we celebrate Canada’s uniqueness. Because we share North America with the United States, it’s easy to think that our countries are the same, but that’s not the case.

I have many friends and relatives living in the States and I love to visit, but it feels a bit different than here, especially when I go blind trying to figure out exactly how much of that plain green money I have in my wallet!

When I return home — the moment I cross the bridge from New York into Ontario — I feel the different-ness more acutely. And in a good way. No, we’re not as big and as bold, and we’re not as flashy as our neighbours, but we’re Canadian and we have a great country too. We have two official languages, our money is drop-dead gorgeous, and we can spell words with an extra “u”. Did you notice, favourite neighbours?

In honour (<– see??) of Canada Day, I wrote the following list to celebrate all of the things I love about my country.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

REASONS I LOVE CANADA

POUTINE!

CANADIAN TIRE. I mean, what other store is equally appealing to men, women, and children. And it’s entirely Canadian. No one crosses the border to get better deals at the Canadian Tire outlet mall.

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BUTTER TARTS!

Need I say more?
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RED AND WHITE. Great colours, although I’ll admit they don’t lend themselves to kitschy home décor in the same way red/white/blue/stars/stripes do.
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MOOSE(S) and BEAVERS. What’s not to love about such noble animals representing your country? And you can make a deep-fried fair food that resembles the tail of one of them. Great, eh?

Even President Obama eats Beavertails!

Even President Obama eats Beavertails!


EH. Suitable for all conversational situations. “How ‘bout them Maple Leafs, eh?” “That’s a nasty cut you’ve got there. You’re going to need stitches, eh.” “Yes, I’m a lawyer, and I specialize in mergers and acquisitions, eh.”

Try to imagine life without it.

CANADIAN TIRE MONEY. More immediately gratifying than points. What’s better than paying cash getting cash back? Sure, it only works in their store, but I love buying stuff with Canadian Tire Money.
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Loonie-Toonie

And speaking of Canadian Tire Money, don’t you just love our CANADIAN MONEY? Loonies and toonies can add up with the rest of your pocket change at a great rate, and before you know it you’ve got $10 or more. Beautiful discovery, especially when you stop at Timmy’s for a coffee. And the paper bills! Or, even better, the vinyl ones. Every colour of the rainbow and now virtually indestructible. Yay for Canadian money.

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DEMOCRACY. We get to choose our leaders, and then we get to complain about them for the next four years without fear of retribution.

THE QUEEN. Even though we’ve been freed from Britain, we can still lay claim to the Queen and all of the goings-on over there. Kind of like a rich distant relative you can name-drop when it’s convenient.

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And again: POUTINE AND BUTTER TARTS. Love, love, love poutine and butter tarts, both distinctly Canadian. I think I’ll harness up the huskies and dog sled it out to the nearest fast food igloo to see if they’re serving poutine today. If not, I’ll strap on my snowshoes and head to the trading post to pick up butter tart ingredients. What a way to celebrate, eh?

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CANADA!

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A Super Awesome Day — and it’s only 10:30 a.m.

I wrote the title to this blog about a week and a half ago, but that’s as far as I got. Now that the pictures are uploaded, I can show you what a wonderful visit Noah (6) and I had when he was here for a sleepover. He loves to go into the forest that surrounds our house so we can discover things, so after we finished breakfast that’s what we did.

The first thing Noah did with the binoculars is turn them wrong-way around so he could check out his boots.

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Then we walked across the yard to look at a little toad hole we’d seen the evening before in the roots of a big old stump. The hole was still there, but Mr. Toad wasn’t around. Just some fungi he’d been sitting on.

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On the other side of the stump we found a small, pale blue eggshell …

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… so Noah climbed up on the big stone nearby to see if he could find the nest where the shell had fallen from.

IMG_6980Stella waited around for awhile, but then she headed into the forest on her own.

IMG_6977When we were finally ready to join Stella, Noah took his binoculars to see if he could find her.

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Together, the three of us decided to follow a golden pathway made by the morning sun.

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Unfortunately, the mosquitoes were so bad we decided to try a different exploration. Although Noah has never seen it, there is a big lake a short walk from our house, so we set out to discover that.

The walk to the lake goes down a big, big, long, long hill. This isn’t even half of its length. Going down was easy.

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We stopped to look at a dove sitting on the power line. Binoculars come in handy for things like this.

IMG_7022We saw some pretty flowers …

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… and we saw an animal running into the thick cedar woods that border the road. Noah thought it was a fox. Golden retrievers have occasionally been mistaken for foxes by small boys.

We picked little pieces off red clover and sucked out tiny bits of nectar.

IMG_7005We also looked at the little sumach seeds and compared them to the big, dry brown seed cones left from last year.

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All the exploring took quite a bit of time, but we reached the lake at last. It’s the reedy end of a very big lake, but it didn’t take Noah and his binoculars long to discover two swans floating together on the far side.

IMG_7011We checked out the bulrushes, the shallow water, and the algae, and then we turned toward home. We knew it would be a long hike back up the hill.

Then, to our surprise, we discovered a pet owl in the backyard of the house nearby! “He’s a fake,” Noah told me. “But he looks pretty real.”

IMG_7017The trip back up the hill was slower, and I had to take Noah’s hand for part of the way because he was sure he couldn’t make it. The long trek was worthwhile, because when we were nearly home we discovered a few more things:

Some cool grass …

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… that Noah chewed on “like a farmer”,

IMG_7026 a daisy,

IMG_7030goat’s beard,

IMG_7031and some wild strawberries that grow at the end of our driveway. No blossoms this year, for some reason, so no berries either.

IMG_7032It was starting to get quite warm by the time we got home, so we were happy to get back into the shade.

IMG_7033I was ready to hang up my hiking shoes, but Noah was anxious to keep going. On the back porch we found a slug who had left a silvery trail on the concrete. I guess slugs don’t know about taking the most direct route between two points.

IMG_7037And last of all, Noah discovered an Emerald Ash Borer. We’ve seen these gorgeous, nasty, little bugs before, and Noah and I have looked up pictures of the damage they do to ash trees.

Noah has been trying and trying to think of ways to keep the bugs away from trees. Last week he thought that coating all the trees in lemon juice might make them taste too awful for the bugs to bite into. This time, he came up with the best idea ever. If we can get one skunk stationed beside each ash tree on our property and train them to spray the bugs when they land, then we’ll have the problem licked. I think that just might work. Don’t you?

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Reaching the Front

“A young person’s death is much like a shipwreck at sea. An old person’s death is a ship coming into port at last.”

B0002732I was at a funeral today. That fact alone is enough to make me feel introspective, but when the person being remembered is someone I’ve known my whole life my introspection is pushed into high gear.

I’ve written before about growing old, and I would have to say that from my vantage point, planted right between fifty and sixty, I’m already not a big fan. Although I don’t feel half my actual age, here’s the thing.

Remember the days when little boys used to play with armies of toy soldiers, lining them up in rank and formation on the hearth rug while mother churned butter or kneaded bread? Neither do I, but you get the picture.

It seems to me that generations are lined up something like those little soldiers. As a child you’re way back in the ranks — surrounded by so many others you can’t even see the front, let alone imagine you’ll be forced to take your place there someday. When you reach young adulthood, you’re still not aware of being part of this army, but one day you will realize life truly has been formatted in generational lines. You will understand how the game works. That’s where I am right now.

One by one, mighty soldiers in the front lines of my life have fallen, and a few days ago another good woman fell. Many of those now gone weren’t even related to me, but in many ways and for many reasons they formed part of that line. The very line I felt was protecting me. Yes, there are some gaping holes back where I’m standing because life isn’t always fair, but it’s mostly the front lines that have suffered.  For me, there have been so many in the generation ahead that it’s taken awhile for the holes to really show, but now I can see through the last line standing ahead of me, and I don’t like it one bit.

I have no fear of leaving this life, but I have a great fear of leaving it too soon. I’m very greedy about that and I lust after the gift of living, healthy and whole, to see my grandchildren grown up, and maybe even know great-grandchildren.

Days like today help me buckle down and work hard at things I want to accomplish. Things like my writing. And I realize anew how important it is to develop and nurture relationships. I like to think that parts of me will live on in the words I’ve written and the relationships I’ve maintained no matter when my time comes to pass through the thin curtain separating this life from the one beyond.

Given good health and a sound mind though, I’d welcome the chance to put into port with a smile on my face at the end of a full and satisfying voyage.

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Come On An Adventure With Me!

72355_10151331585342197_770629944_nFor the past few months, my cousin has been sharing emails with me, written by her niece. Each of them is entitled “Tavelogue Supreme” and I can’t think of a more perfect description.

Several months ago, following a summer of tree-planting in Western Canada, Angelina set off for her personal adventure of a lifetime, beginning in Southeast Asia. While many others have taken similar trips, it’s Angelina’s clear and beautiful writing style that sets her experiences apart.

I asked for permission to share some supreme travelogue quotes to give you an idea of what this young woman, traveling alone, has experienced.

I ended up getting into phnom penh at 1 in the morning, Pheakdey (an acquaintance who had spent a year in Ontario) came and rescued me from homelessness on his motorbike. (motorbikes through phnom penh are the best ever. I just hang on side-saddle and am constantly amazed that we’re not getting hit/run over. Pheakdey hardly even stops at all, just honks and keeps going through traffic.)

* * * * *

537437_10151211761732197_120463469_nToday I wandered around town, took a river taxi for 50 cents, ate some fried squid, now i’m about to go out and find dinner. Street food is crazy cheap. I can eat my fill of authentic delicious thai food for under 2$!!!!  Having fun, but Bangkok makes me tired with its busy-ness. And i’m shy so far: it’s hard to meet people even in a hostel setting. I’ll get better though!
* * * * *
To close i’ll share with you a few selections from my list of crazy things I’ve seen on motorbikes. I update regularly.
1) a dead pig (of course)
2) a huge rectangular mirror (the guy holding it could see all the traffic behind him)
3) a family of 5
4) and my personal favorite, an IV drip bag. Seriously. There was a lady on the  back holding it up above her head for the passenger in front who needed it. I could hardly believe my eyes. ONLY IN SOUTHEAST ASIA.
 update on weird things I’ve eaten:
-snake
-fried tarantula.
(never again)
* * * * *

I have been on a train since 1 in the morning! Just crossed the Malasian border, heading to the island of Penang (food capital of Malay!) to meet up for a few days with a friend I met at the building centre. The street vendors there are supposed to be legendary. Like I need to eat more on this trip but you only live once. :)

421560_10151303699112197_1244652419_nI finally tore myself from my tropical island a few days ago, it was difficult, the sea is alive and breathing, a million shades of blue – and the sunsets! but my time is running out. I can’t lay on a beach and eat seafood and go scuba diving forever. But…i am now a advanced open water diver! I LOVE the ocean. I dove to 30 meters, I dove at night, (when you wave your hands at the bottom, all the phosphorescent plankton glows neon and swirls around! so cool!) and I did a navigation dive which mainly consisted of me being lost underwater and crying into my scuba mask at -25 meters. I did 10 dives in all.
Just snorkeling on Koh Tao was the most amazing thing, thousands of crazy looking fish to stare at. My favorite is called the juvenile harlequin sweetlips, which sounds like something you wouldn’t want to name your daughter- but google it! it has polka dots.  … Once I swam into a school of little fish so thick I couldn’t see the other side, it felt like those national geographic pictures. but I’m living in it!!!!!
Another of my favorite sights was flying fish- while sitting on the edge of the scuba boat, I noticed them flying away from the wake – they can fly SO FAR! I was astounded. At least 30 meters.
My days consisted of learning dives and hikes and sea kayaking and snorkeling, my evenings were usually spent on the beach with friends watching the fire twirlers and jumping fiery jump rope. so exotic.
* * * * *
482260_10151308977722197_628814880_nBooks I’m reading:
‘Vagabonding: an uncommon guide to long term travel.’
Just finished this one. It was wonderful and very thought provoking. It talked a lot about the value and purpose of travel.
Typhoon and other stories – Joseph Conrad
Just started. 4 short stories about life at sea. It had a sweet cover of a ship tossing on a stormy ocean which was 75% of the reason why I bought it. :P also i want to live on a ship someday!
* * * * *
 Thinking of you all chilly in canadian weather makes me a bit jealous, i am currently exuding a considerable amount of sweat and laying against my dampish backpack on the floor of the kuala lumpur train station waiting for the overnighter to Singapore. also I can smell my own feet.
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I’ve had to fast track it through Malaysia, which makes me very sad. I love it here. The culture is so different from Laos/Cambodia/Thailand, as those are all Buddhist countries. Malaysia is mostly Muslim. I woke up in Penang the other morning at sunrise to hear the call to prayer, and the trains here have ‘ladies only’ coaches. There are also apparently some religious police patrolling around to nip any ‘inappropriate behavior’ between couples in the bud. Kindof wish we’d have that in the toronto subways sometimes.
Example of the cultures blending and western influences: I walked past a textile store selling dozens of muslim headscarves that was blasting Bryan Adams, of all artists. So funny.
And the food is inCREDIBLE! By far my favorite. I love Indian food. waking up for a breakfast of roti chanai -crispy and buttery, dipped in curry sauce, (for 50 cents!!!!) is the best day-starter. you can watch them make it, right in front of you with the most deft, practiced motions. I’m learning to eat with my hands (only the right one!) and usually food is served on a banana leaf. The naan is cooked on the side of a clay charcoal oven.
After Penang, I headed to the Cameron Highlands to check out the tea plantations. They were gorgeous – field after field of emerald tea, at crazy angles on the hills. masala tea is my favorite.
And a few days later:
I haven’t sent the note above this one yet because I got distracted by Singapore. It’s so modern and the buildings are all artsy and uniquely designed. I am also jealous of the subway system they have here. I climbed up to the Skypark viewpoint the other night at sunset … and it looked so futuristic and alien-city-esque. …
I met an English teacher from Alberta last night, she told me that the city was lacking a warm heart, was more showy than livable. … I’m sure there are warm pockets, but I don’t think I’d ever want to live here! I’m vey glad to visit, though.
I’m sitting in the Singapore national library with a huge stack of books on Nepal beside me. I feel kindof like i’m cramming for a test.  My flight leaves tonight at a 11:30 and I get to Kathmandu at 2pm tomorrow!
485912_10151327944107197_1934575557_nHere’s an excerpt from the book I’m perusing:
‘the Himalaya is a case of seeing is believing. Whatever you heard or read is going to fall a long way short of the sheer power of reality. –Michael Palin
I’m kind of nervous, can my brain handle all this magnificence and do it proper justice on such short term notice? I hope so. I’ll let you know in real life, cus I’m coming home soon!!
Lots of love,
Angelina
Books I’m reading:
A Short History of Nearly Everything: Bill Bryson
His writing is so down to earth and I love it so far!!!
* * * * *
i LOVE kathmandu. Its crazy and busy and crowded with narrow streets and much honking, but oh so interesting! And i met the BEST person ever to explore with! ill fill you in.the first night i arrived, pestered non-stop by taxi-guys and people trying to get me to stay at their guesthouses.
i ended up wandering hungry in Thamel (backpacker area of kat) with my bag still on my back. all i wanted was some good cheap dahl baat. i asked a nepali lady who was selling coin purses in the streets where to find food, she took me to a little place where I got my fill of rice & lentils and vegetable curry for about a dollar. then she invited me to stay at her place for the night. i thought, why not, it’s about time to follow my whims again, there’s no one else with me to tell me I’m crazy!That’s how I met shita, the cutest little Nepali guide and friend one could ask for. :)
It was past sundown and on the way, there were people on the street selling vegetables by candlelight, (so nicely dark here at night! outside of thamel, that is) I had no idea where we were going. finally she opened a little door in a sidestreet and beckoned me in. I ducked into a tiny dark hallway and followed her up the stairs (my backpack was scraping the ceiling).at the top, there was another door that opened into her apartment. the room had one window and one big bed, her husband and two little boys were already snuggled in under a bunch of blankets. she made me sit down. I stashed my bag in the corner. It looked massive in the little room and I immediately felt materialistic.
her husband got up and made us tea. all the while I’m thinking, so where am I actually going to be sleeping in this situation..? The bed wasnt THAT big. good thing I’m 100% low maintenance cus I ended up sleeping in my clothes at the foot of the bed, literally spooning this woman who i had just met on the streets of Kathmandu. when we woke up, her little boys (5&7) were climbing over my legs and staring at me. uh mom, why is there a white girl in my bed? they were so cute.
I guess she kind of adopted me then or something. She and her husband treat me like a daughter, and I’ve spent all my time here so far letting her drag me all over the city, past the tourists and ticket counters, and into the real kathmandu.  We stop at little tea places for milk tea and lassi and 10 rupee plates of potato curry.
the locals always look at me weird cus im out of place. which is good. I’ve had so few conversations in English since I’ve been here, (therefore I’ve been journaling twice a day..) she knows maybe 20 english words, but it’s been the absolute best thing ever.
* * * * *
Angelina's mom.

Angelina’s mom.

And now the present. Out of NOWHERE 2 days ago my dear mom decided to come to do Annapurna with me. I called home (for the first time since ive been gone) in a small fit of loneliness, and told her that if she ever does anything else super crazy in her life this should be the time. the next morning I woke up with an email saying her flight was booked.

 

Let me just go on a bit about my mother. this woman is the original adventurer. opinionated, spunky, fun –  from growing up Amish and riding horse and buggy & being a cow milker extraordinaire in virginia, to summers of flying to northern Ontario to live on a reserve. not to mention marrying my canadian papa and having 5 kids. She understood my wanderlust from the start.

 

I’m sure she worries a little as I’m gallivanting across the globe to treeplant and travel, but she gets it. and she’s COMING! she’s never been been overseas. I’m so excited for her cus I know she’ll love it, and I’m excited for me, cus now I have someone here who knows me and that I love, that I can share all my discoveries with.
I wish I had some poetry for you but it’s late and I’m not going to turn the light on and hunt for my poetry book. I’ll leave you with a realization.I really do love being on my own while i travel. It’s hard sometimes, but it gives me such freedom to follow my own whims, and almost always they lead me to the most beautiful places. And when they do, the victory is all mine. I realize that may be selfish – i’m sure my independent streak will dim with a little time, or I’ll meet more people who have whims like mine. but this is true for now.That being said, I still can’t wait for mom to get here!!!!!! :D
Love you all infinitely,
Angelina
Ps. I’ve been buying way to many potentially genuine yak wool products.
pps. I saw a man with TRIPLE PLAID the other day. Skirt, shirt, AND scarf. best of all he pulled it off brilliantly!!
ppps. I had over 10 cups of tea today.
* * * * *
And the most recent installment in its entirety.. Can you see yet why I’m envious of this young woman?
Hello dear friends,
I am surrounded by mountains in Jomsom, Nepal: day 10 of the hike. It’s been an overwhelmingly beautiful past week and a half. Around every corner is a new stunning sight (the diversity is unbelievable … from waterfalls to snowy towering peaks to the mustang table lands.) and besides the obvious mountains, all the travel guides forgot to mention how interesting and lively the little villages scattered along the circuit are. walking —– tasting the air, feeling the wind off the mountains, having the freedom to go as slow as you want —– is the only way i know to adequately drink it all in. I would recommend this hike to ALL of you, it is probably the coolest thing i have ever done in my life. and its not even over yet!
Along with mom, my good friend Jacob came out of nowhere (actually, china..) to join the hike. such a random menagerie of people, I love it!!!  We’ve been going i’d say an average of 15ish k per day. I like to take the walks slower, with longer days, so i can stare in wonderment at more scenery.
Two days ago we crossed the Thorung La Pass – 5400m above sea level, and the days leading up to it were so, so cold!!!!! mom & i snuggled up together under as many blankets as we could get from the teahouse owners. i didnt ever want to get out of my clothes, and no hot water….i think i wore the same thing for a few days and nights straight…oh well. all in the family, the mountains didn’t care. :)
Mom and Jake did wonderfully on the pass, but I got pretty sick: near the top, I actually threw up from altitude sickness. it was scary and exhausting i was very happy to be done when we finally reached Muktinath, over a kilometer below. the Nepali guides said that i had it worse because i had a cold – makes sense, flying right from singapore to nepal!
We are hoping to be done the loop before the 30th, and it’s looking very very good!!! we woke up today and started hiking at 6, and got a solid 20 k out of the way by midafternoon. we left muktinath, through the big brown mountians of mustang, and hiked towards the Daulaghiri range (sp..?)(mt, daulaghiri being the worlds 7th highest peak!)…and now the trail is running along the kali gandaki river, which trickles through a huge wide bed of stones that ALL look like what I’d want to add to a rock collection. they have little fossils in them and ultra cool patterns! the river will get narrow and deep tomorrow, i’m sure.
there’s still SO much more to see. Annapurna 1 hasn’t even came into view yet! this was a quick message, i could wax poetical on all the sights i’m seeing but i must go eat dinner and explore a little more. i will write more, or TELL you, in person – ill be home in a WEEK! crazy. please come see me when i am home! ill be off again to the west at the end of April.
Much much love to you all!
Angelina
ps. mom tried brushing her teeth the other day with Bengay muscle rub instead of toothpaste….ahhhh hahah! oh mom.
Envious as I feel of this amazing experience, I know I don’t have the personality nor a deep enough desire to ever have carried off a trip like this. Instead, I’m thankful that through the wonder of modern technology I can be an enthusiastic armchair tourist as Angelina travels.
I hope you’ve enjoyed these tidbits about her  journey as much as I’ve enjoyed going along though full emails over the past few months.
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Once You’ve Learned How …

Once you’ve learned how to ride a bike, you’ll never forget.

And once you’ve learned how to ice skate you’ll never forget either, thank goodness!

(Apologies in advance for the quality of the photos. I knew better than to try skating while using my good camera, so my phone did the job instead.)

When I was in my teens I spent many Saturday nights skating at Cedarena. This unique outdoor arena has been a beloved fixture in the hamlet of Cedar Grove (near Markham, Ontario) since 1927. It’s nestled in a cozy valley, sheltered on thee sides by cedar-covered hills, and on the fourth side the Little Rouge River provides plenty of water for flooding the natural ice surface.

July 2012

Despite all my happy memories of the place, I haven’t been back in twenty-odd years. Haven’t skated in that long either. I always have good intentions, of course, but the winters just seem to slip by.

Since becoming a friend of Cedarena on Facebook, I get regular updates, so when Rink Manager Gary posted that this might be the last weekend of skating, I decided to grab my skates and go!

July 2012-19

But it was unthinkable to go alone. I decided that grandkids Maggie (7) and Noah (nearly 6) should be introduced to the magic.

I tried to tell the kids about Cedarena, but it was obvious I hadn’t explained very well, because when we pulled into the parking lot — a well-lit field filled with vehicles — Maggie exclaimed, “Ohhhh, there are other people here too! This is going to be way funner than I thought!”

July 2012-16

We followed the winding path down the steep slope to the old wooden building which is warmed by a wood stove and lined with low wooden benches for changing into skates. My heart thrilled to find that it hadn’t changed a bit.

July 2012-10

The narrow benches on the outside, just wide enough to perch on for a quick rest, were exactly the same, as were the two steps down to the ice. The old-fashioned music playing over the speakers, and lights strung above the surface, created the same ambiance. Soft flakes falling from the dark sky made the place beautiful.

July 2012-1

There was one thing I hadn’t counted on though. I’ve always skated with figure skates but this time I wore my daughter’s hockey skates. Oops! With a tipsy seven year old hanging on my hand I pushed off, trying to use the absent toe pick, and I nearly landed both of us on the ice. I had to learn to skate like a boy in a big hurry!  Pop and Noah skated together and we all had a whale of a time.

July 2012-3

The temperature was a perfect 7C (44F) — just cold enough to put colour in noses and cheeks, but warm enough to stay outside for a long time. We laughed together when they fell, and cheered when they didn’t. When Maggie got her confidence up we left the safe spot in the middle of the ice and skated around the perimeter with everyone else. At one point she gave a loud shriek when we came up behind a slower skater. “They should put brakes on these things!” she yelled.

Of course, we had to have hot chocolate …

July 2012-12

… and then they begged for more skating, so we did, but it was obvious they were fading, despite their protests to the contrary. Two exhausted kids slumped on the benches while we changed, and then we gathered our things up and left. But not before taking one final picture.

The building hasn't changed -- 2 x 4s covered with siding, the same wooden benches and the alcove jutting out with its own little bench. The wood stove didn't use to be protected by chains. We all knew enough to stay away from hot stoves back then ...

The building hasn’t changed — 2 x 4s covered with siding, the same wooden benches and the alcove jutting out with its own little bench. The wood stove didn’t use to be protected by chains. We all knew enough to stay away from hot stoves back then …

By 9:30 p.m. we walked back up the long hill to the car and both kids were in awe of being up at that late hour.

“That was the most fun I’ve ever had in my whole entire life!” Maggie said.

“That was super-amazing-million-billion fun,” Noah added.

They were both starving, so we called ahead and asked Daddy to get PB & J sandwiches and big glasses of milk ready for a bedtime snack. Five minutes later they were both fast asleep.

I’m so glad the kids had fun. So did Pop and I. And do you know something? It was the most super-amazing-million-billion fun I’ve ever had in my whole life.

The magic of Cedarena lives on.

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