Thursday, November 30, 2006

Snow Days in Lotus Land

"People get excited about snow around here", commented my co-worker who has recently moved to British Columbia from Ontario.

That was on Tuesday, after a weekend snowstorm closed all the schools down on Monday.

Yes, we do get excited on Vancouver Island when it snows--so excited that we both also had days off work on Wednesday and Thursday when a second blizzard dumped a second foot of snow on top of the first fourteen inches.

Not that Jeff and I weren't "working" after a fashion. I don't want to touch another shovel for a long, long time.

It's pretty and sparkly in the sunshine. It looks nice on the trees. But it's damn heavy and the next house I buy will have a shorter driveway.

Also, next time I hear of inclement weather on the way I will make a beeline to the grocery store BEFORE the snow-storm so I am not stuck in a slow,winding, grueling line-up of grocery carts with tempers fraying all around when the roads are finally clear.

And alas, although I like the IDEA of snow, it has wreaked havoc in my garden, burying my shrubs in an icy embrace, pulling my climbing hydrangea off of its trellis, and cracking off major branches on my lilac tree. I can see other places in my yard where there is probably more snow damage, but I'm waiting until after the snow melts before I investigate.

I've heard that snow is a good insulator and you can actually damage plants more by trying to get all the snow off them. Yeah, that's it. (Really I'm just scared to find out how bad the damage is--I've been watching the news and the Butchart and Van Dusen public gardens are hurting too.)

So anyway, here are some pictures of my week in the snow. And also a few pictures of the beaches of Zanzibar (and my feet in warmer times) for a little contrast. Helps me feel less chilly as I write this. I was there during the African winter. It's much nicer than ours.

Though, durn it all, we're not supposed to get snow like this around here! They're predicting more flurries on the way.

And although we're not as freaking cold as places like poor Calgary, I can still see icicles forming on my neighbour's house big enough to harpoon someone.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Places to Stay in Rome

This is a post mostly for Tai and Pol's benefit (they are the two friends that will be travelling with Jeff and I to Italy this Spring), but anyone up for a little vicarious trip planning is welcome to make a recommendation.

Basically, when we arrive in Rome the first evening (first two evenings actually), we'd like to have someplace already booked so we can have somewhere to dump our luggage immediately so we can put our jet-lagged feet up and have a glass of wine without worrying where we're going to sleep.

So here I am at home, having a Snow Day off work and surfing the Internet looking for suitable Roman guesthouses.

I found a website called and found these places. What do you think? Any other suggestions?

Hotel Gea di Vulcano

Hotel Angel

Hotel Andreina

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Does Anyone Else Worry About Losing Photos?

Once upon a time a friend of mine travelled in France and took many, many precious photos of her time there. She was researching a book at the time and so the photos, as well as being souvenirs, were valuable in other ways too.

She returned home, jetlagged but happy, and her digital photos were promptly downloaded onto her computer. The very next day her home was broken into and dastardly thieves made off with her computer.

*POOF!* The photos were gone forever. No discs or copies had been made.

When she related this story, even though it was some years after it happened, my heart gave a tragic lurch for her loss.

Oh, photos are so precious to me! I am probably the most camera-happy person you're ever likely to meet that is not actually a photographer by trade.

But I've been realizing I haven't been as careful as I should have been with some of my photos. Although I copy my travel photos onto disc right away, my day to day pictures are not always backed up, and recent computer problems have underlined the possibility that I could easily lose some before I get around to sharing them.

I'm just so glad I made physical copies of some of my favourites (or emailed them or put them on my blog) because it seems they have gone *POOF* on me. One was from a night at the Crow & Gate Pub two years ago and I'm just thanking my stars that all my friends have a copy besides the one hanging on the inside door of my kitchen cupboards.

(That's the best place to have photos if not actually on your your cupboards. You open the door to grab some cereal and there are your favourite people smiling at you.)

Anyway, I was talking to Kim today about taking so many photos and forgetting to share the ones that don't always make it to the relevant blog posts. Time passes and I say to myself: 'oh, I already wrote about that event', or 'that happened two months ago so everybody already knows about that' and I don't get around to showing the pictures to anybody.

They are lost in my computer's picture file vortex forever.

So, my long-winded point here is that I want to share these pictures (and others I'll be posting soon in random re-cap posts) so that all my dear friends who care to have some of them can right-click and nab themselves a copy.

Then when Spider Girl's computer goes bye bye next time, she won't work herself into such a froth. :)

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Numa Numa Bunny

As evidence that my friends and I are moving up in the world and hob-knobbing with the soon-to-be-famous-and-noteable, here are Kim (her blog explains it all a bit more) and I pictured posing with minor cardboard celebrity (and Arctic hare) Smilla Vanilla .

You can see Smilla's musical debut (with co-star Uni-Brow Bear) in the brilliant and avant garde Numa Numa video made by Kim and Shawn last week. Filmed on location (apparently) in, um, London, Paris, Cairo, Las Vegas, and of course our very own Hollywood North---the Comox Valley!

I'm sure that it will go on to become an integral part of the socio-cultural online phenomena that is the Numa Numa song's legacy.

Especially if y'all go to the video link and *cough cough* leave nice ratings and comments about it. :)

Yes, I'm sure the young lads from the Romanian pop group O-Zone are grinning their heads off about this somewhere.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Evil Scrabble Players

Look at these letters!

EI EI O! What is this, McDonald's farm?

And the remaining letters......those stand for AAAAIIIIIIIIIIIIII! (My sound of frustration as I am royally trounced at Scrabble by my friend and her mom who play to win.)

My kingdom for a consonant!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Storms, Snarl, and Wowie-Shazam

Okay, this is a post about this and that.

First of all, the weather has been more than a wee bit blowy around these parts. This is a tree that just up and fell over onto the road about a block away from my house. during the windstorm night before last.

Another huge chunk of tree was sheared off by the wind in the children's play-yard at work. Nobody was nearby fortunately--we were all sensibly inside due to the torrential rainfall.

I just read an article about a woman who has received a large sum of money for funding a completely outdoor year-round daycare in Scotland. The seventeen toddlers attending will play, nap, do chores, and use the composting-toilets, all outdoors. The only shelter will be a small wattle-and-daub structure with no walls.

Hmmmm...I realize the value of fresh air and outdoor play, but frankly I'm skeptical about how this will work out. Maybe in the summer. Maybe in Hawaii. But winter-time in Scotland? Good luck with that, dearie.

The storm that hit yesterday caused a lot of road wash-outs and landslides near places on the Island like Gold river and Sayward. Some loggers at the company Jeff works for (he is an accountant there) had to spend the night in their pick-up trucks after they were trapped behind a landslide during a snowfall. They were rescued this morning by helicopter.

Another group of employees (and Jeff's boss) had to walk three kilometres out of the bush in another place until they reached the road and were picked up by a passing Hydro crew.

Back at the office, Jeff had to make a series of phone-calls: "Uh, about so-and-so...he's going to be late coming home tonight...."


In other news, Tai and I and Jeff went for a spin around ToysRUs the other day. Everybody should have a play in a toystore once in a while.

Ostensibly, we were there to find a Marbleworks game for my preschool, but it turned out our real mission was to find Tai a Transformers toy named Snarl. He turns into a wolf. 'Nuff said.

Ya shoulda been there, Kim.


And here is the new colour in my kitchen---the brightest Mexican yellow I could find. You can see my kitchen coming a mile away. (I decided that the modern sophisticated look I considered briefly would simply clash too much with my aura, so I went with this instead.)

The colour swatch had a really stupid name("Instant Delight"), but when I showed my selection to my friend Pol she blinked and commented enthusiastically, "Wowie! Shazam!"

So that is the colour's new name: Wowie-Shazam .

I put Tai's painting by Brian Scott that I'm storing for her up on the kitchen wall and it rather suits the background I think. Perhaps I could store it long-term, my friend?

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Remembrance Day

As Remembrance Day was this past weekend, I decided to post some photos I took at the war cemetery above Omaha Beach in France two years ago.

From my journal then:
"Near Omaha Beach, where the Americans landed on France's shore and so many were mowed down, it is tranquil and pretty. A few of the houses near the beach are thatched. An ancient stone church still stands, somehow untouched by the war. Nearby we saw a few pieces of ruined landing craft, but the evidence from June 6th,1944 is scarce. The memorial at Omaha is a low-key stone monument (some people in the group expressed disappointment that it wasn't somehow MORE). The beach is peaceful and sandy.

I tried to imagine the boats landing and the soldiers arriving and the roar of the guns...I tried...but I just couldn't seem to register the tragedy that happened here sixty years ago.

A few children were digging in the sand with pails, and I looked around until I found a small broken seashell. I held some of the fine light sand in my fingers and let the wind blow it away. I felt faintly sad.

The next place I went, the War Cemetery itself, made more of an impression on me, although I still felt far away from the reality of the thousands of graves. The white marble markers --9387 of them--reminded me of sculpture--precise and geometrical and sanitized. Sparkling white against impeccable green.

Manicured trees and shrubs here and there softened the effect. It was quite beautiful in a serenely overwhelming fashion. There was a sprinkling of Stars of David among the Christian crosses.

I read the names and U.S. divisions on some of the graves as I wandered. No birth dates, only the date of death. Most of them from June 1944.

Looking through the pine trees, down over the cliffside by the cemetery, I could look right down onto Omaha Beach where they died. The thought that repeated in my head was "Oh, that June was a BAD month." A few of the dates showed some men made it to July, fewer to August."

While in France Jeff and I made some other World War II historical stops in some little Normandy villages: Port en Bessin-Huppain, where the secret wartime fuel line called PLUTO stopped (Pipe Line Under the Ocean); Sword Beach (where the Canadians landed), Benouville (where the liberating British paratroopers landed--home of the Pegasus Bridge); and Gold Beach where the British came ashore.

At Gold Beach, the old German "pill-boxes" where the German soldiers pointed their gun muzzles seaward were still there. Today you can climb steep metal ladders down into the dank, litter-filled pits they are now. Andrew, the nine-year-old travelling with our group charged happily down into them, but they looked awful to me.

Instead I wandered into a field of yellow canola flowers across from the beach. Much nicer than haunted pits.

This Remembrance Day Jeff and I took my Mom out to lunch. Dad was invited but he decided to stay home--he was feeling very emotional after watching the Veterans ceremony on television. He told me he kept thinking about his father's medals.

I was very lucky to have no one in my family die in the wars.

My mom's father was in the Airforce, patrolling way up north in the Aleutian Islands and my grandfather on my father's side was stationed in Belgium. I learned that some of the china plates treasured from my childhood up in the china-cabinet (like the one with the legend of Pandora's Box on it) were shipped home to my grandmother during the war. How they managed to travel all the way to Canada without breaking we'll never know.

Although no one died, the war changed my family in other ways. My grandfather brought home a war "bride" that was not my grandmother, for instance, and changed her life forever. I never met my grandfather and he left our family when my own father was just a young boy. Very, very sad.

Not a tragedy like someone dying fighting a war, but still sad.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Kitchen Idea and the Answer to My Little Blog Problem

My friend Pol (she of the graphic-designer eye) has some inspiring software that is great for home inspiration ideas.

She sent me this picture today after I asked for kitchen ideas. She even kindly added in a bowl of virtual peaches.

I've really admired that dark contemporary look in other people's homes, but I just plum never envisioned it in my own kitchen.

It's a bit of a switch from the orange-and-plaid look, I'd say. The only thing is I'm not sure if I want to stain my oak cabinets...but I have to say I'd consider it now....

What do y'all think?


Oh, and Blogger finally got back to me about my blog problem. The reason I see a big blank spot at the top of my blog before the text starts (on one computer but not the other which sits right beside it---yes, HIS and HERS computers are a necessity in my home) is that I haven't yet upgraded to the new Internet Explorer. How annoying.

So if you are one of the ones who see my blog with a large zen introduction, it can be remedied apparently.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


I came home the other day to an enormous pile of rubble in my kitchen.

While I was off having fun at the UnBirthday Party this weekend, Jeff was ripping up the old crackling vinyl imitation-parquet floor to prepare for the installation of the new floor.

There seems to be a trend to the pattern of home renovations in my household.

1)I go off somewhere.

2)Then I come back.

Renovations are suddenly in progress, or even sometimes complete.

Once I went back-packing in the British Isles for three weeks and came home to a completely renovated bathroom. There was even a new cedar ceiling and wall installed.

And a few years back, I toddled off to Italy alone and returned to an amazing renovation of the master bedroom closet: there were double rods and cubbyhole shelves and sweet little drawers . I'm quite sure that it was that closet that helped sell our old house.

It makes me want to go on vacation! (Don't worry, Jeff gets to come along sometimes!)

Well, I was only gone overnight this time and so the process is still in full swing. The roar of a belt-sander upstairs fills my ears as I write this. It was apparently a very annoying glued-down floor to take up and its left behind a lot of annoying stuck-on debris..

The photo above I took of Jeff is after a marathon bout of floor-ripping on his hands and knees. He wanted me to explain that if I posted the photo as he may look a little rough around the edges.

"Was there blood, sweat and tears involved?" I asked sympathetically when I came home.

"No blood fortunately", he answered. "A lot of sweat though. A few tears. And lots and LOTS of profanity. You can't have home renovation without profanity." :)

Ah, that may explain his sense of renovation timing.

Perhaps its due to my delicate sensibilities (oh, my ears!) that he waits until I'm out of the house before he starts these projects.

Last week Jeff, Kim, Baby Zoe, and I toured local hardware supply stores to find the best deal for laminate floors. As you can see from the photo above, we made a day of it and even camped out comfortably in the aisles a while. The wood we eventually chose was a quarter of our maximum planned budget so I'm quite pleased about that.

My own home renovation role seems to be Chief Wall Painter. It is almost time to change the look of my Cantaloupe and Plaid Kitchen (the previous owner's vision and not my own, although its coziness appeals to me about half the time) and I'm open to ideas.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Friends in the Moonlight

It's been a very happy Full Moon week.

First there was Halloween on Tuesday, which I celebrated as Samhain, the Celtic New Year. There was drumming around the bonfire, winking jack-o-lanterns, and the traditional walking of the labyrinth in my friend's frosty meadow.

Then there was a meeting of my women's circle on Thursday--ginger tea and singing and spontaneous circle magic to celebrate the good side of the dark time of the year. A marvellous evening!

And then, just this past Saturday, it was time for my most favourite people in the whole world to meet for our annual UnBirthday celebration.

Ah, the UnBirthday weekend. Several years ago the four of us (me, Tai, Kim, and Pol) decided to forego the exchange of birthday presents in favour of a special time together, celebrating all of us at once with an always amazing dinner (this time Indian food at The Great Escape in Cumberland) and a sleepover party.

We even stayed up later than usual this time. After dinner and a long evening filled with much laughter and conversation and goofines (and limoncello and cheese fondue), we were sitting around in our pyjamas at Kim's house looking through old photographs of ourselves from fifteen years ago. There were some pretty hilarious ones (remember, that was the late eighties) and also some very beautiful ones.

For instance, there was one of Tai dancing in a blue dress in a sunny meadow of sea-grass that was so gorgeous it took my breath away. I need a copy of that one. In fact, turns out there was a whole stack of photos we all wanted copies of.

In particular there were pictures from a long-ago evening when my friends and I painted our faces in wild pagan swirls and spirals and draped ivy in our hair and generally got in touch with our inner nature-spirit.

"Why don't we take more pictures like that again!", said Kim.

Oh yes! Let's! It's two o'clock in the morning and there's a brilliant clear full moon waiting for us outside.

There was a mad rush to the bathroom mirror and on went the wildest eyeliner and darkest lipstick we could find. Hair was piled and braided on our heads this way and that. Pol painted ivy on her face, Kim drew curlicues below her eyes worthy of the Sandman comics, Tai painted fierce streaks on her cheeks, and the phases of the moon appeared in blue on my forehead.

Out we rushed into the night to giggle and pose in a sustained flurry of camera flashes beneath the ancient pear tree in the backyard. Oh, my friends and I can have such outlandishly fun times!

Thursday, November 02, 2006