Friday, December 10, 2010

Getting Creative

I've spent the morning sitting in front of my homemade sun lamp and getting creative and inspired. I usually look inward for this kind of activity, but today I thought I would check in with the rest of the world.

I tried googling "things I haven't tried." It didn't get me too far. It did yield one site that I think I'll follow via RSS for awhile AND this eery and inspiring video. The music really makes it.



Later on, I came upon a host of Bucket List(wikipedia) sites that tried to tell me the 10-150 things I could or should do before I die, or if I had 24 hrs to live, etc... I learned a few things as I looked through these lists. Foremost among them was: make your own damned list! the number of people who just copy and pasted was ridiculous. Don't mistake me. I think that a lot of people share common interests and sometimes we need to be inspired by others, but when "eat jellied eels from a stall in london" yields 4090 results in google, the time has come to call "plagiarism."

Now, I'm not making a bucket list. I don't want a list of things I'll die wishing I'd completed. I'm trying for a list of things that I can actually achieve -- today, this week and this month. And what if I were to make a bucket list?

Everything!

Huh?!? That was easy. Now, I'd better get started.

Just to take care of some business...

  • Dec 6th - Walked a brand new route home from work. Sounds stupidly simple, but the new views of buildings you always see from the same side really got me into a philosophical mood.
  • Dec 7th - Signed up and paid for SCUBA certification http://www.padi.com/scuba/ Anyone want to guess where I'm going yet? I don't remember who I've mentioned it to, so you can "guess" and I'll still be impressed :)
  • Dec 8th - Took both of my kids to the doctor when nothing was wrong. We booked a time and spent it talking about some of the health choices we've been making (just to kind of be productive about it). I told the Dr. that I figured she could use some good news for a change instead of dealing with problems all day long. I loathe medical appointments and don't want to pass that on to my kids.
  • Dec 9th - Drank a freakishly sweet and flowery root beer (a root beer review website, if you can believe that). James, occasionally gets me to try new drinks that he's into. If this was ever one, I don't remember (and for my purposes, that's just as good)
  • Dec 10th - Made a one word bucket list. I didn't mean to. It just happened. I think that makes it O.K.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Revisiting a Week of Firsts

In a lot of ways my life is a mantra about trying new things, but I don't often think about it and I certainly don't put pressure on myself to perform new things on a particular schedule. This was a hard week. I found that I had put a lot of pressure on myself. Not only to try 'new' things, but pressure that the newness in some way be special. I found myself pre-judging everything as too mundane, (even though I apparently said something about that in my last post) or too close to something that I had done before. I believe Wendy thought I was an idiot much of the time as I struggled with finding something suitable. It's a good thing that she was around, though.

Twice I was in the final throes of desperation. It was approaching 8 or 9 pm and I hadn't chosen a new thing to do, yet. Wendy's stellar memory would recall several things I had done that day. "But, I wasn't trying to do those things," I would whine. Yes, I can be a whiner -- and sadly, that's not something new for me. But, you know that, don't you?

Broadway Roastery "Melange"
with Silver Buffaloberry

  • Nov 25th - Xbox Kinect. Something I've really wanted to do.Had a lot of fun with Anna and Ian and got a good sense of the tech. I think I prefer the Move's strengths, but what I'd really like is a combination of the two.
  • Nov 26th - counting in mandarin. Learned that my powers of memorization have vastly decreased. I'd like to forget that ;)
  • Nov 27th - winter berry picking: Silver Buffaloberry which lead to (what I recollect as) the first time I've combined berries with coffee. It was an interesting experiment. Definitely an art for art's sake kind of thing.
  • Nov 28th - 4 Spanish apps for iPhone. Filled 1st blueboxes. Learning about recycling.
  • Nov 29th - Spanish Lessons (via spanishpod.com)
  • Nov 30th - disassembled camera lens
  • Dec 1st - new cheese: La Tentation de Laurier
  • Dec 2nd - ebay purchase
  • Dec 3rd - Made "pan" porridge. Gave Blood. I really enjoyed giving blood. I had James for company which, I'm sure, made all the difference.
  • Dec 4th - All You Can Eat sushi at Wasabi(urbanspoon.com), in Regina. Leo's RCM Silver Medal Ceremony. While this may seem like something that Leora did, I can tell you that as a parent, it's definitely all about me!
2010 RCM Silver Medal Recipients -- Voice

  • Dec 5th - started research into a PS3 project that I've been wanting to do. Backed out of a physical "play" situation due to feelings of inadequacy. This last one is so unusual that I can't think of another time it's happened--certainly not as an adult. I thought I should include it, because I've learned in my time with Wendy that not everyone feels that newness is inherently good. Maybe this is why.
What did I learn?

I'm a newness snob. I found that the most difficult thing so far is trying not pre-judge what I'm doing. I constantly tell myself that something isn't new if it isn't immediately exciting, if I've done something "sort of" like it before, or if I think a lot of other people have done it. That last one is a real killer: not only to do something that I've haven't done, but also that no one else I know has. You can guess how big my list would be if I adhered to these ridiculous criteria.

Paying attention is tricky. I sometimes 'caught' myself doing new things without realizing it. Other times, I didn't notice and it took an outside perspective to bring it to my attention (Thanks, Wen). It made it impossible to participate knowingly. You'd think that it would improve some 'in-the-moment' quality, but I'm trying for more of an awareness approach right now.

There is new and then there is NEW! While I'm trying to just be aware and engage in the most general sense of newness, there is very clear a qualitative difference. I don't know all the variables yet. Fun helps as does risk and/or lack of familiarity. That's all I've got right now. I know it seems pretty obvious, but I'm just collecting data right now.
An unrelated picture that turned out really well

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Firsts

We've already discussed how February is a terrible month. We need not get into the details again. I do want to add that, as you might expect, it's not entirely February's fault. I guess it's been a case of shooting the messenger. Things start building up all through the winter. I distract myself and deny, but by February, I can't maintain the illusion that I'm happy and it all goes down-hill from there. So the shortest month gets the short stick, or short shrift, or something amounting to "up yours."

I know--I can be cruel that way. I'm really my own enemy. And, I've been improving how I handle things during the winter, but I'm still not able to manage it with any real grace. I can't shake the feeling like I'm faking it. Volleyball was one of the activities that I typically engage in to get some exercise (which helps a lot). Unfortunately, I felt compelled to withdraw from the team that I have been on for the last 3-4 years. Another crutch I've employed has been to do a theatrical production in the fall. Sadly, Gateway has gone out of business and Summer Players doesn't do anything big until auditions in the new year. 

Do not fret. I have plans. Big plans. Most exciting is my planned vacation for February. The last (and first) major international travel I did was in 2002 when I did my trip to Italy. Brad and I are in the midst of planning a sequel to this adventure. We are honing the details and I'll let you know what my plan is shortly. In the meantime, I've got to kill a about 11 weeks.

Firsts. There is something buoying about the first time we do something. It may be the act itself that thrills the senses. Or, perhaps, it is the post game. The perspective that thinking about it yields, leading to a greater satisfaction than we felt at the time. I've always had a thing for newness and I am now making a formal commitment to it. Until my trip I will observe and participate in the 'new' whenever possible. I will try to formally do a new thing each and every day. I will attend to this thing and reflect on it. Then I will report back to you. 

Naturally, things need to be kept sane. There is no time in my life for 11 weeks of a new country every day. First Ireland, then France, Japan.... No. Down that path madness lies. I need to keep it simple. Some days may be spectacular in their trail-blazingness. However, most will be seemingly mundane. I'm not independently wealthy or quitting my job to backpack the globe. I believe that the true jewel in this mining process will be to discover the newness of everyday.

Yesterday, I played with a friend's Xbox Kinect. Tonight, Leora is teaching me to count in Mandarin. I've already discovered that my brain is way worse at memorization than I remember. Ha!

Farewell, I've got to get back... to the newture. Aww crap. That's way too close to "neuter", which isn't what I was going for, at all.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Laundry Options

The clothes-line that I installed this spring was a great success. There was a certain art to finding enough sun this year, but we managed to run our 70s era dryer only a precious few times during the summer and fall. You might have noticed that it's gotten rather cold outside. Cold enough that hanging our laundry on our spiffy new outdoor line has become impossible.
Happy Days of Summer... Sniff
Now that we've gotten used to not running the clothes dryer, I just had to find a way to continue the energy savings during the winter. We already had a stand model that we've used off and on since we were married. It looked like this thing on the right. Well... almost. Ours was rusted in several places, two of the bars had fallen off due to failed welds and the piece that bridges the lower middle part had mysteriously gone missing. So, yeah... it falls down a lot--especially when you have two cats. Clothes don't dry too well on a concrete floor.

a clever disguise
After a couple of attempts after the snow first fell, Wen and I just couldn't bear it any longer. So, I bought another new energy efficient dryer. The 'man' in me wanted some great natural gas powered extravaganza. Unfortunately, I have certain duties as the poster boy for 'responsible children,' so I opted for a less flashy version that I think will still get the job done.

See how it is hangs quietly--out of the way. Unremarkable. It would never bother anyone. In fact it can be lifted right off it's wall bracket and stored in a corner or closet somewhere... forgotten. But, don't turn your back on it. It's got fangs... it can leap... look at the bones!
... but would you listen??? Nah!
I think it will prove to be a real asset to our chore slaying arsenal. Without wind and sun to help fluff the clothes, I plan to put them through the dryer for 10-15 minutes just before they get folded. 

I know, it's not quite as exciting as reading about climbing mountains or melting aluminum. But hey, it's what I've got. 

Monday, November 08, 2010

Wonders... created and natural

5 sec exposure and an inactive crowd made for a cool shot
Although I have been a bit down for the last couple of months, it isn't as though there haven't been highlights. A big part of my coping with the bad weather of summer and the stress of putting on a new roof, guests and plumbing turmoil is diving into frivolous asthetic pursuits.

fireworks over the Broadway bridge
In early September there were some really terrific fireworks on the riverbank, just off Broadway Ave. I knew I needed to have a little fun, so I put on my Quester's robe, pulled up the hood and did a little climbing. Of course I took my camera gear. It was quite crowded and I enjoyed my strangely visible anonymity as I scaled the brickwork to my perch. If you've played Assassins Creed, you'll have a vague inkling of how cool I felt. As a side benefit, I got some nice pictures.
Album: Fireworks

Leo's Favs... OAK!
In the following weeks, I enjoyed more sun than we saw all summer. It coincided nicely with the turning of the leaves. Combined with sunrises and sunsets that are at times when I am actually awake, I managed to have quite a bit of crunchy fun with some good quality light. The photo set below was the fortunate result of being on campus while there were scads of overpaid students wandering around with gas powered leaf blowers. I thought with frustration about how they would take the leaves away now and then fertilize and water the grass all next summer. It did, however, make for a cool photo op.
Albums: Autumn colour and Leaves

Thursday, November 04, 2010

The Trouble with Dribbles

My sister-in-law was visiting this summer. You may remember that I posted some great pictures of her children as part of my summer update. The visit was not without its tribulations.

Teela: There is a bad smell in your basement
Me: Yeah, it's your room. The one with the toddler and the baby sleeping in it.
Teela: My baby doesn't smell like THAT!
Me: If the diaper fits...

Note the suspicious looking pipe...
Sewer, diapers -- it's all the same right? Two days after the above conversation, we found water on the floor of the guest room.

Me: Are we sure this is water?
Teela: #$@!

We quickly packed our guests off to Liz's house and I tore apart our beloved and oft used guest room. I ripped open the sodden drywall to discover some mold and quite a bit of trouble. The biggest problem was that there was no sign of where the water was coming from.

A plumber arrived and promptly chipped a hole in our floor.
Plumber's Gift
Culprit.
I imagine you can tell, it was not a pleasant sight. Nor did it smell nearly so good as a baby's diaper. As it turns out, the problem had been brewing for a long time and it was likely only the extremely wet conditions this year that lead to its discovery. A hole had eaten its way into the bottom of the pipe and so a lot of water was seeping out under our floor. The wet season meant that the soil couldn't sustain its historical levels of absorption. Hence our problem.

Our $120/hr friend replaced the elbow in the pipe, patched the concrete and collected his reward. I slapped up some drywall to make things livable and we invited Teela, Merlin and Viola back to finnish their visit.

The next time we smelled something strange, I didn't try and blame the baby. Rather than send Teela packing again, we just stopped using our kitchen sink for two weeks. Apparently their were more holes further along the pipe.

I could go on describing the months of dehumidifying, washing dishes in basins and wheedling with insurance adjusters, but the memories are nicely starting to fade, and I think I like it that way :) Let us just say that we have some new pipes in the basement, the drywall, studs, insulation, baseboards and paint have all been repaired and I have started working extra shifts at the library to help pay for our plumber to travel to New Zealand.

Insurance covered the damage to the walls and tile, but none of the plumbing stuff.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

High-School Yearbook

Facebook causes you to come into contact with people you haven't seen for a long time. The consequence is you are often confronted with 'friending' a person that, for all intents and purposes, is a total stranger. Old-school as I am, I do not just click "confirm" without any sort of confirming process to go along with it. Last week required one such confirmation where (as I often do) I turned to my stack of yearbooks. I have them all from 7-12. They have sat on various bookshelves gathering dust for more than 20 years now. As I flipped along, looking to see if I even knew the person who wanted to be my friend, something grabbed my attention. Writing in the margins and over some of the pictures. Sarah, my serious high-school girlfriend, had written some things by photos of herself (mostly self deprecating) or me (glowing praise).

There was another hand at work on those pages. It wrote "nice hair," on some outrageously tall dos, made fun of a kid who played the bagpipes, made insinuations about several girls levels of sexual activity, joked that the male athlete of the year was on steroids. I was irritated that someone had defaced my yearbook when we were passing them around to be signed. There was an "L" on someone's forehead and a can of beer drawn in someone's hand. Then I noticed "Don't mind the lisp...FAG!" scrawled across a guy's picture. What? I wanted to take the book and rip it up and burn it. I was so angry. Angry and ashamed because the handwriting was mine.

Before this repulsive revelation, my memories of school were pure joy. Angst over girls. Captaining various sports teams. Excelling in my class work. Camping, parties and friends. Now this. I have always been somewhat oblivious. And I have always tended to conveniently forget some of the less pleasant moments of my childhood. Now I have a permanent record.
I was mean.
I was jealous.
I was thoughtless, careless and hurtful.
I thought that I was a gift to the world because I was good at everything. But I hurt people and, far from caring, I didn't even take notice.
Please allow me to indulge in the past tense here. Please.

This tale might have seemed just if I were to have discovered that the person wanting to befriend me on Facebook was one of the people that I had silently, cowardly maligned. As it turns out, I couldn't find a record of the person at all. No great step forward. No healing. Just shame as I moused over a few inches and did what comes a little too naturally to me. I clicked "Ignore."

Monday, September 27, 2010

Debate Camp, 2010

It's official. Everyone in the family (except for me) is now a debater. Teenage battles are coming, and I am beginning to be afraid.

This weekend, we went on our annual trip to Hitchcock's Hideaway (our previous trips here and here). We saw Tim and Sherry and the boys as usual. Below, Ben and Jonah are engaged in a deadly battle at sunset. They are boys after my own heart AND I didn't even need to supply them with swords! Who says the education system is failing our children?


This year marks the first time that the girls participated in all the events as advertised. Previously, Wendy helped run the workshops and we just messed around. This time, I was left to my own devices while everyone else did debate. The results are typical...


So far, I don't appear to have hurt myself, though I was precariously near a sand cliff doing dive-rolls in the twilight.

I've been really enjoying playing around with over-exposing some of my photos. If the look bothers you, you may wish to forgo looking at the rest of the pictures I took. However, I think I've come up with the picture for my next rock album. Ian, you can play drums.

Now I just need to learn an instrument.

Failing that, I may star in a new vampire movie...

The girls and their friends from school also managed to escape their academic confines for a brief foray into the blustery waves and an ill fated session on the teeter-totter.


Here is the full photo set.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Mountain Trip, 2010 -- Three Isle Lake

Day 1 - Aug 12

I had an early morning. My flight ($157) to Calgary was scheduled for 8:30am. I got to the airport in plenty of time. I was only somewhat put out when my army boots beeped and I was searched (Wen scores points for her foretelling of this event). Army boots? Hello? I thought Harper was all "support the troops". Sheesh. My enthusiasm remained high seeing as how I got to use my iPhone as boarding pass for the first time. Thats right. Got an email confirmation the day before after which I checked in from home. Then I was texted a QR Code that I flashed on my screen at the security station and the departure gate. Practically geek nirvana. I was seated in Row 8 :) The flight was over all too soon -- a little less than an hour.

Dave at the trail-head
Dave and Suzanne were right there to pick me up from the airport and we hopped in their car for the 1.5 hrs to Athebasca Lake. We did stop briefly for a supply of dark chocolate and chewy things.

The hike from the parking lot began pleasantly enough around 12:30pm, but after a couple of hours I was wheezing like an asthmatic watching the Beijing olympics. Although I do plenty of walking and run several times a week, I guess there is no substitute for a lengthy hike in a fully laden backpack.

Before I continue the story, I should tell you that Dave purchased himself a SPOT(wikipedia) shortly before the trip and made the subsequent map available to all. I think it is an awesome implementation of GPS tech. Try the "terrain" setting on the map and then zoom in to your heart's content. Currently there is only one other trip logged on his spot site, but I expect that will rapidly change. I tried to link the map directly, but their crappy code clipper doesn't yield a functional map (at least in my draft).

Moving on...

We arrived at Three Isle Lake Campground in high spirits. We had a fair share of sun during the afternoon with increasing cloud and bouts of rain.

One Hail of a Night
Q: What's the best way to end a long and arduous hike?
a) Set up Tent in a furious hail storm.
b) Set up tent backwards in a furious hailstorm
c) Freezing outside your backwards tent, whilst carving channels in the tent pad in an attempt to drain the inch of water which surrounds your backwards tent.*



*Dave and I have set up many tents before. In fact, Dave lives in a tent for most of the summer as part of his job. It was a new tent. Let us leave it at that.


Dave's horrible night

We managed to boil some water on the camp stove under the quasi shelter of some leggy pine trees near our tent. I had a tasty freeze-dried pasta and some coffee. We dropped our food off in the bear lockers and went to bed at 7:30pm.

Having paid my dues during the climb to get to the campsite, I was quite happy to have lugged a pair of long underwear up the side of the mountain. That, three shirts, and Wendy's fleece kept me toasty warm all night.

Even with one eye, the look says it all...
The Dr. was not so lucky. Dave managed to get a substantial amount of water into his pants during the set-up of the tent and with his body fat hovering somewhere around 0%, he had a terrible night. The sound of a lighter's flint striking, followed by a couple of seconds of butane hissing was repeated endlessly throughout the darkness as he tried in vain to heat up the air and drive out the moisture in his sleeping bag.

We had both been excited that our first night there would be the peak of this year's Perseid meteor shower. Sadly, It rained nearly all night and was overcast. The temperature dropped to near zero. I was rewarded for my persistence, however, when I got up for the second time at around 3am. There was a lull in the rain and a small break in the clouds through which I managed to glimpse a single Perseid. It was all I would get. After such a rough start to our trip, I was happy to have even that.

Day 2 - Aug 13
I woke up full of hope. It was hard to drag my butt out of the tent at 7am. It was cold outside and there was no sun penetrating the billowing clouds. The saving grace of this morning was the hot oatmeal that I made and this picture that reminds me of the cave of caerbannog... even before reading Vin's great stat sheet on the infamous bum nibbler.

Dave wasn't making any sudden moves to come out of the tent so I passed oatmeal and coffee under the fly of the tent and waited for heat and caffeine to work their magic.

It took until 10:15am, but he finally emerged from the tent. I won't say in good spirits, but certainly willing to make a foray out into the day. There was some discussion this morning about whether we should just bug out and call it even. We elected to go for a short hike. If the weather didn't break (it was still drizzling) we would pack up and head for home.


Wet and Alone -- The Theme of Day 2
I figured we would be out for a couple hours and made the mistake of failing to take any food. 4 hours later, I was quite wet and miserable. Dave eventually left me behind continued up the side of Mt Worthington for 20 minutes or so, on his own. Only the incredible array of wild flowers managed to keep me entirely from despair as we trudged back toward camp. It was still raining but we were both now too tired to contemplate packing up the campsite and hiking 10k down to our pick-up location.

Back at camp, we spent the next 1.5hrs staring at tiny breaks in the clouds and willing them to pass in front of the sun for 10-30 seconds at a time. It continued to rain even as the elusive sun taunted us. We debated for far too long over if our clothes were getting wetter with the rain or drier with the sun. Eventually, we gave up, ate and I decided to go to bed -- even earlier than the previous day.

I took one last trip down to the lake and was shocked to find that the sun at last was out. It was 6:30pm and we spent the next hour taking photos as the sun slid right down the side of the Mt. Worthington.

No meteors on night 2. It rained sporadically instead. We were both much drier and had a better sleep. As a special treat, we decided to turn the tent fly the right way round.

Day 3

I woke in time to catch the sun as it rose and burned off an ethereal layer of fog that had settled around the lake. I was finally able to see why the heck I had wanted to come camping in the first place.
The weather ended it's vendetta against us and behaved for the rest of the trip. It was sunny off and on throughout the day, but never got so hot as to make it miserable up on the heights.
We broke camp before we set out on our main expedition. We wanted to get the spectacular view from Mt. Northover. It took until 1:30pm to accomplish this goal.
Three Isle in the distance
I made it past the most frightening part of the traverse -- a knife edged ridge covered in crumbling rock. None of the pictures we got were able to do it justice. This one is close. I'm the little spike way up on the right. Now, just add the feeling to the pit of your stomach that suggests you may require a helicopter and stretcher to get off the slope and you'll get an idea of the steepness. I was quite intimidated which, I think, says it all. I was most glad to have Suzanne's hiking poles to give me a few more points of contact on that particular section.

With the money shot behind us, the trip back to camp was a lark. We played games, jumping along rocks, sliding down the last of the melting snow and taking pictures of alpine flora. Compared to the day before, the warm, dryness left me with lots of energy and, if we had another night to camp, I would have been tempted to try another climb. As it was, all that was left was to pick up our garbage (which we had to pack out) and our gear and meander down to Kananaskis Lake for pick-up.

Dave Eyes the Opals
We sat and had a last coffee as we waited for Suzanne to arrive and take us back to civilization. The Opal Range turned golden in the distance and we talked about what we could manage to do next year to top this trip. It had the right amount of everything. The small struggles we endured only managed to pull the successes into greater focus.

Here are my photos and Dave's. I've worked very hard to get the numbers down. Between the two, there are about 150 pictures (just so you know what you're getting into).


***edit Sept 15/2010***
Dave has put up his recollection of the journey for anyone interested in another (sometimes more technical) description.
***end edit***

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Saskatoon Ex

As foretold, Leo, Anwyn and I went to the Ex per usual. The Weather was fantastic. I posted several pictures to Facebook and Buzz, but it's taken me until now to get my Pentax pictures in order and have enough time down off my roof project to put this blog together. Enough with the excuses. Commence with the pictures.

First Ride of the Year
The girls enjoyed themselves, but I don't think it was as fun for them as last year. They both got more nauseus and were more easily tired out. Yes. Old age. Sadly, it affects us all -- Even ten-year-olds. The super passes that we bought for them still paid off (especially since one of them covered my gate costs), but not by the huge margin of last Ex.


It's not always easy to get the sun to go where you want it. On this occasion, it was more accommodating than usual.


There were still plenty of laughs and screams to be had. They just have to make sure to take something to settle their stomachs before next year's excursion.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Summer "Restfulness"

We'll play a little catch-up, here... There is a serious lot of activity here. Take what you will.

Things have been pretty busy around my house. Since we've been back from Ottawa and Kitchener, Leora and Anwyn have completed another level each in swimming. They love the pool so much they would have lessons in the morning and then we would take in the "loonie swim" after 6pm. Since the whole family could swim for $2 it seemed like an easy way to kill some time. The below album is from an occasion where we went to George Ward outdoor pool with Erin and her boys Michael and Chandler.

Swimming

The girls and I managed to sneak away for the day to the Pollard family reunion right at the end of July. It was fun and they wanted to stay longer. As usual, we stopped to enjoy my favourite time of day.

Pollard Reunion

Jodi and Brad were in town following our excursion. Jodi and I played Rock Band and ate Pizza until 2am. James came over for an hour and rocked out with us. We spent the next day out at Pike Lake where Brad and I showed off our super suits. Really, they just keep us from getting cold way too fast, but they are quite fun to wear.

As usual, Brad and I managed to find some time to play a dozen rounds of Chez Geek, drink insane amounts of coffee and make an incredibly hot fire. This time we did a redux of our Aluminum melting (660C or 1220F). We made a sand form and did some of our own designs. No Questers were harmed during the casting of the liquid metal.

Jodi and Brad were gone for less than 24 hours when we picked up Teela, Merlin and Viola from the air port. Wen and I have always prided ourselves on making a restful environment for guests, so we were mortified when, after a couple days of visiting, we had to evict them due to a heinous smell in the guest room. It was not so much Viola's diapers as it was the sewer seepage that backed up into their room. We shipped them off to stay with Liz while the contractors and insurance agents were here, tearing up our floor and walls. I may say more of that one day. For now you'll have to settle for pictures of Teela and her kids. Oh, and Jodi's sister, Dana dropped by to visit with her kids, too. 

Nope, not busy. Not at all.

That will do, for now. Tomorrow I go to the Ex with the girls and the day after I'm going to Canmore to See Dave and do a little mountaineering. I really have worked, too. A couple of days. Honest!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Marshmallows and Vampires

Leo and Anwyn have been spoiling for a good back-yard fire. Between travel and bad weather, there have been precious few opportunities. Since there was only a little rain today I thought I'd take my chances as they lay.

We invited Matt and Molly over for a couple of hours and stuffed ourselves with puffy (sometimes recently flaming) confections. Everyone seems to have their own way of enjoying marshmallows, but there is a certain... inevitability that Anwyn has managed to capture perfectly.



Sometime after our discussion of the dangers of "chubby bunny", Wendy noticed that there was a certain discrepancy between Leora and Matt that shouldn't go undocumented.

Vampires vs Werewolves
Before dropping my niece and nephew off at home, I decided to share my love of sunsets with them at one of my favorite viewing spots. The kids played Matt's latest made up pen & pencil game while I indulged myself in three of my obsessions; photography, sunsets and children -- at the same time!

Pioneering Spirit

As usual, the rest of the photos can be had for your leisurely dilection by clicking below.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Waterloo, part 2 shouldn't be the Fellowship of the Ring, but it is

One of the big events that we had planned for our visit was a trip out to what we like to call the Gutoski land holdings. A number of years back, Gus' father, Tom, managed to get a sweet deal on a hundred acre wood of his very own. Greta just wouldn't shut up about how great it was. Wendy was so excited about it that I couldn't sleep the night before. That last bit is entirely fabricated and only and excuse to segue into my next story.

I called my nephew, David, up and asked him to give me a midnight tour of the University of Waterloo campus. He was nervous that he couldn't live up to my expectations from some of our previous adventures. "Can Bri come, too?" he asked. Naturally I didn't mind if his girlfriend was there. I don't know Bri well, but she puts up with David's weirdness, so she gets a BIG benefit of the doubt. I went over to their apartment to pick them up. Bri gave me a hug. Strange.

After a struggle to find parking near campus, we had a lovely walk in the dark. David pulled something out of his pocket and handed it to me. It was a heavy, golden ring, and yes, it was inscribed with words hauntingly familiar. "It's the ring Bri got me for our engagement."

"Your WHAT?"

"Hmmm. I guess you forgot to tell him, David."

I picked my jaw off the floor and grinned, giving them both a hearty "congratulations." And I thought it was only the Diakuw 'grapevine' that was broken. How is it, James Clan, that I can hear the story of Wendy and the cactus a million times, get invited repeatedly to do tricks on the trapeze, but no one thinks to mention that their (grand)son is getting married? Fortunately, I like surprises.

We spent a couple of hours walking, talking and locating an on campus geo-cache. I'll give David points for the geo-caching fun, but Bri takes home the high score for getting her fiance The One Ring for their engagement.

I was tired after a night of wandering but we were up and away all too early. The washing-up was so dismally real that I was forced to believe the party of the night before had not been part of my bad dreams, as I had rather hoped ;) On we go...

invictus
The drive to the Gutoski land holdings is substantial (1 1/2 hrs), but there is a balm for this hurt. It is called Mapleton's Organics -- an organic family farm turned rest stop. There I feasted on a double waffle-cone containing a scoop of espresso and one of dandelion. It was heavenly. An added attraction (and fee) is the living maze of cedar trees which we dared to enter. The reward for cheating (no names shall be mentioned) or success (I'll admit to that) is a small playground pirate ship on which I was certainly the captain of my fate.

We arrived at the hundred acre wood and hiked down to the cabins. There were three tiny buildings (each with a wood stove for the winter) in which we slept, a covered food preparation area, generous deck seating and an outdoor composting toilet. All of these features look out on the only thing that really matters...



The waterfall is what you do there. When you aren't doing it, it's because you are eating, playing cribbage, exploring cavelike sinkholes, reading, or sleeping. The falls are about 80m from the campsite and the soothing roar filled our ears for 3 days.

Sometimes it was too dark to play in the waterfall. Gus' parents had an ancient collection of sparklers which the girls delighted in. Especially once I illuminated their minds with the wonders of 10 second shutter times in the darkness.


I was seriously impressed with Leora's reverse writing so it would read correctly in the photo. I don't think I would have fared so well.

Against our wishes we eventually had to leave. The rain that started in the early morning, reminding us that we were in danger of overstaying our welcome in such a pristine environment. It also meant it was too miserable to stop at Mapleton's again for a second round of cones.

This post is getting ridiculously long.


The day before we departed we managed to get a tour of a local family's home. They call their place Little City Farm. You can read the blog or website if you are curious about details. Essentially they seem to be just a little further along the continuum from where Wen and I find ourselves. That and maybe a bit more comfortable with clutter. They were kind and generous with their time and we all enjoyed dreaming about living "the simple life." You know, what our grandparents called "hard work!"

Little City Farm
What a fabulous vacation. Thanks to Lee, Sandi, Greta, Gus, and Max for sharing your homes and time with us.

For the insane or photo obsessed, you can see a couple hundred of my vacation photo's from Ottawa and Waterloo, and the Children's portion of the Ontario Museum of Civilization.