Friday, August 27, 2010

Thank you from Laura De Thorne


Beautiful British Columbia
Today does not seem like a day to leave you.
Not with the sun winking its promise like a toonie on the horizon.
Today would be a day to walk along your skunk cabbage-kissed capillaries
In search of ephemeral treasures,
Like the bountiful mother log heavy with emergent life,
Or the plump red orbs of raspberry—
That delectable union between earth and sky, soil and sun,
The age-old promise of harmony hidden within us.
Today would be a day to wade hip deep in your waters,
Skipping stones like woes across your serene facade,
Waking up mements and memories long submerged.
At night we would crul up on your shore
Lapping up heat from cracking embers,
While children’s gleeful cries
Narrate the distant lightening display
Framed by your mountainous countenance,
Our own faces glistening with streaks of toasted marshmallow
Like foam from a distant sea,
Each day a destiny carried and carved by your waters,
Waiting patiently, like the stars, to unfold.

--L. DeThorne

Nanny McPhee and The Big Bang (Movie II)

For all of you with kids you may be going to his movie in the next few weeks.  Staring Emma Thompson, Colin Firth and several child stars, the first movie was entertaining.  The idea that a nanny becomes more beautiful with every good choice that each child makes bothered me, as it reinforces the historical stereotype that beauty is better than any other look, but it a kid's film.  Why not suck them into this belief early.  But I digress.....

The important bit is that everyone who visited Greg in London will recognize portions of the movie that were shot in various locations.  One day when I left Greg's flat during the summer of 2009, I saw a crew setting up a film shoot in the early AM.  A visiting friend of mine and I were headed out for a day of activities and turned left onto Regent Street heading towards the Regent Park Station, when we saw various vans, large wires, cameras and a caterer organizing on the North West side of the street (just south of Park Crescent).  Greg had mentioned that many film crews came to film in this historic part of London so we briefly stopped to watch the goings on.  From our side of the street we could see an old, old motorcycle and side car with three people in long robes and costumes sitting atop.  There was no one available to speak with so we watched for a few minutes and continued on our way.

After a full day of touring, we returned to see the remnants of the days work being packed into large, white moving trucks.  I happened to ask one of the people on the set what was being filmed and he said, "Nanny McPhee part two".  If I had known it was Emma Thompson on the motorcycle I would have waited.  And do you know how long I have had a crush on Colin Frith (a.k.a. Mr. Darcy the BBC version)?  Missed my brush with fame there.

(Taken from

If you have a chance to see the movie, or are taking your kids, when you get to the part of the film with the old tall stone terraced houses with old wood doors, when the motorcycle with side car is in the film, know that you have probably walked that street before.  Regent Street.  Greg and our old neighbourhood.


Two Moons in the Sky

David Doral, Bonnie, Moiya and I climbed into her hot tub last night. All of us had an iced mug of cold water close to where we were sitting and we were singing as the night began to fall, “A little green frog / sitting in the water / a little green frog / doing what he outer.... David was full of memories of Alana and Daphne, jumping in and out of the water and ducking under the 3 streams of water that make a fountain in her tub. Moiya was telling David about the changing colours in the water, the magenta, the lime green, the baby blue and showing him how the water jets work in the tub. She has some water toys floating in the water, ones that come from the movie, Finding Nemo.

David has not been brave enough to see more than 10 minutes of the movie, since the terror of seeing the shark overcomes his desire to finish the film. But he has had a number of 10 minute starts on the movie.

Moiya and I sang along with the song, but noticed that whenever one of us made a variation in the tune, either ducking under the water to say glub, glub, glub from a submerged position, or hiding or hiding a water toy away from David in our swim suit, that we were doing it at exactly the same moment, not knowing the other sister was going to do the same thing. Genetics drives people in previously unimagined ways.

Moiya taught David to blow air out of his nose underwater. That task was almost as full of terror as seeing the shark come onto the screen in Finding Nemo.

I can’t believe we missed staying up to see Mars last night. Apparently at midnight it was visible to the naked eye – “two moons will be in the sky” a newspaper article said.

Did anyone catch it?


The Blackberry Bushes

August 26, 2010

The vines on the blackberry bushes are hanging low, loaded with succulent fruit. Connor came over to wake Ed Saiedi so they could fill their buckets with berries to put on waffles. I handed Ed a long-sleeved shirt, partial protection against the vines that have a mind of their own, popping out to scratch my hands and arms when I fill my bucket.

A little later I leaned over the rail of my porch to ask a question, and heard an expletive from Ed, one uttered slowly with a long slide on every vowel. From the middle of the lakeside hill, he had slipped, sliding down a few yards until he was stopped by the vines that now entwined him.

“Hold everything, I will come down and help you disengage,” I called and as I was running down the spiral stairs I was thinking of Br’er Rabbit’s taunt to Brer Fox, “Cut off my legs! Do what'nsoever you want to do with me, Brer Fox, but please, please please? Don’t throw me in that briar patch!”

Later in the day Phillippe, the other student who came home with Connor told me that after the blackberries there had been another “incident”. The three men had been out fishing, Phillippe holding the rod. He tugged on his line and the hook came out of the water, swung through the air and lodged in Connor’s neck, a centimetre or two off of being in direct line with his Adam’s apple. They couldn’t get the hook out and went to Glen who took a picture and then drove Connor in the Dr. in Salmon Arm for a moment or two of day surgery.

By evening there was a report that there was a blackberry pie at Glen’s house, where I am sure it is still safe, since everyone there, but Connor, is on a diet.

I have no idea if a piece of the pie might have slipped past the bandage on Connor’s Adam’s apple.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Changing The Look Of The Blog

Blogger provides a variety of different blog templates. I am going to update the blog with one of them, let me know when I find one that is preferred.


Monday, August 23, 2010

Before you buy the tree, dig the hole.

I bought two trees without preparing a place for them in the soil. Those trees lasted two years, one of them in Wyona's garden, before they found their final resting spot. I heard the phrase, "Dig the hole before you buy the tree" plenty of times in those two years.

In the finest tradition of what I learned about planting the Italian plum tree and a cherry tree, I began to think first of where to plant the new grape vine I intended to buy.

Joaquim and I tried to dig a hole 2 feet x 3 feet x 2 feet, sift the gravel out (my lot is on an old stream bed) and put back the sandy soil in the hole for the grape vine.

Four hours later we had succeeded. He did all of the pick-axing, and the shoveling of the rocks onto the grate. I moved the soil through the wire mesh and to the wheel barrow. I carried the left-over rocks to a place where I shall build a rock wall with them.

Joaquim says it was easier digging a fox hole when he was in the Spanish army, than digging that hole for the grape vine.

My last vine, a red seedless grape called Candice, is moving up the side of the house and now I am out looking for a green variety, but have not purchased it yet.

I only have the hole dug.


A Lovely Read

Arta here.

I just went out to read Tonia's blog.

For excellent Shuswap text and beautiful photos click on the hyperlink.

Thanks Tonia.

Jumping Pine Cones

Bonnie called us all to her bedroom, saying that we had to hurry for there was a natural phenomenon that we would not want to miss.

We knelt on her bed and looked out of the window. She said we were to watching for jumping pine cones. Her first idea is that there were a myriad of frogs on the ground making the pine cones jump.

Sure enough, there were pine cones leaping all over the ground.

My theory is that a squirrel was up in the tree by the new sand pile and was throwing the cones down near the fireplace.

You might have your own theory if you ever get to stop by her window and observe the jumping pine cones.


Bumbleberry Pie

David, Bonnie and I were invited to David and Moiya's for bumbleberry pie.

I asked Moiya what the definition of such a pie is. She said it is a mixture of summer berries.

As far as I could see the pie is a flakey pie crust, a cream cheese bottom, strawberries in a sweet red glaze, a layer of blackberries, freshly picked by David and 2 inches of whipped cream.

We all agreed that no bakery has such an offering on its shelves.


Bonnie said that she would take David's piece, but he overheard her and said that he wanted a piece of his own.

There never was such a tasting party.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Summer Ironies

1. Why we had to have two fridges?

Milk is the answer. We had so many kinds of milk this year. 2 %, goats milk, rice milk, lactose free milk, chocolate milk, half and half, whipping cream and double cream. By the time all of that was in the fridge there was no room for vegetables.

2. Why there was a surge in the electrical bill?

Adults with their personal computers, WII games, Play Station, DS, IPod, Cell Phone, U-Tube, fans for the heat, videos. Wouldn't have wanted to miss any of the amenities of living at home while we were on holidays!

3. Menu planning

There was the lactaid crew, the goat's milk, the soy group, the vegetarians, those following Jewish Kosher food practises, Mormon food practices (though we seem to have given up on the Jello-moulds)the non-alcohol drinkers (is it OK to have beer in your bread?), those with nut allergies, ...

4. Dalton's broken arm...

It got him out of dreaded beach time -- not so much the beach but the flying creatures at the beach which he was now unable to swat with his heavy cast.

5. Rhiannon's Therapy mixed in with therapies for everyone under 12.

People taking turns, either getting or giving therapy -- like a random drawing from the hat if you were to be the analyst or the giver of help with reading, speech work, food tasting parties, learning how to get along while playing games.

I wouldn't have wanted to have missed any of the above.


10 summer highlights

In no particular order:

1. The pig roast... Arta keeps hoping this will NOT be an annual event... the salads were amazing, even though Steve kept chanting the line from Simpson's "You can't make friends with salad! You can't make friends with salad!")
2. The baptism down by the lake. Who ever thought Arta, Mary and Richard would be on the same program giving church talks?!
3. Hot bread coming out of the oven: whole wheat, white, german rye, sesame/bran, orange, russian black bread, country seed, whole wheat raisin bran, etc.... the day before leaving, Fania admitted that she hates arta's bread.... or rather... hates how the bread undid two months of hard work at the health club.
4. The annual meteor shower party.... maybe there weren't quite 80 meteors per hour, but the sky was astonishing, as was Wyona's serenade of musical theatre.
5. Campfire at the beach.... and sorrow when the campfire ban was put in place.
6. The evening stakeout (complete with waterballoons) to catch the racoon who had been terrorizing the compost bin. Arta was NOT going to be defeated!
7. changing the course of the little canadian stream (architectural work)... Rebecca did not enjoy stepping on a nail there, but was happy her tetanus shots were up to date!
8. Watching the small people learn to take off their life jackets and swim on their own
9. Alex (and nathan) going off to extreme fitness/torture camp: torture to have to get up early in the morning, and the further humiliation for Alex of having Fania send him to camp with his sandwich wrapped in what he called "toilet paper" [translation: a napkin]
10. Having Doral and Kelvin hang out at the lake for longer than a week.... and then play games with the kids.
11. hanging out with family and friends... LOTS and LOTS of family and friends.
12. Playing "werewolf", settlers, and D&D, bridge, kick the can & sardines, boardgames, 'the word game' ("I am thinking of a word that rhymes with....")
13. The mirror ball dance parties (at Wyona's and Arta's)
14. Ice cream (in its D-Dutchman, soy dream and goat milk varieties)
15. Birthday parties: Andrew's, Naomi's, Leo's, Nathanial's, Miranda's)
16. Storms (the lightning for Miranda's birthday, and the storm that smashed 5 of rebecca's pots)
17. Sitting on the porch, enjoying the blessed katabatic winds in the evening
18. Flashlights moving from house to house and people found their way back to where they would sleep for the night
19. 24 hour open kitchen
20. The snorefest: thank you to Kelvin, Doral, Steve, Rebecca, Ceilidh, Dalton, Thomas, Arta, Duncan, Alex, Meighan, Kiwi, Leo, Mary, Naomi, Rhianon, Xavier... we don't know about Fania, whose door was closed
21. Hanging out in the emergency ward with Dalton waiting to get a cast on his broken arm (which no one believed was 'really' broken.... When Dalton phoned Arta to tell her, Arta asked Dalton if Rebecca and Dalton could swing past the grocery store on the way home to pick up some crow for Steve)
22. Taking a loaf of bread to the beach, and letting the kids rip off pieces and drench it (and themselves) in honey
23. The year of almost no hornets, blackflies, wasps, bees, or other stinging beasts of torture.

OK. That might be more than 10, but maybe some of you can add more of your own? It is time for me to go turn up the kiln.....

rebecca and arta

18th Annual Roots and Blues Festival

Janet and Glen have been going to the Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival for several years. Many local folks volunteer at the festival, which brings between 20-40,000 visitors a year to the area. Next year, we are either wearing volunteer T-shirts, or are going to buy the early bird tickets like Glen and Janet. The Early Bird Pass costs $115, and gives you 2.5 days of fabulous eclectic music... singers and bands from all over Canada and the US. Alteratively, $70/day at the door. Janet and Glen are experts. They have the brains to get there early and lay out the tarp so no one takes their place. They have all the equipment: the tarps, the regulation size low chairs which enable you to sit close to the stage, the cooler full of drinks and snacks....

Every adult can take in a child (12 and under) for free. We took both kids for a few hours the second day. Alex, of course, looks like he is more than 12, so he got "ID'd", and then got given an adult band on his wrist, so no one else would challenge him. The festival caters to families during the day.... a kids area with a climbing wall, 5 small alternative stages, a sand pit, a painting tent, cool sprays of water to run through when the heat starts to get you down.

During the evening, there are still plenty of kids around, but there is additional action: clouds of smoke billowing skyward from various locations, tendrils of it carried on the winds. Alex wanted to know what the 'wierd smell' was. Arta had to tell him "marijuana, a remnant from your grandmother's generation." The music gets louder, and the light show a bit 'strobe-ish'. You can feel the throb of the bass guitar in your spine. Alex did ask if it was possible he might have a seizure. :-)

Arta was not the only one who thought she could see fireflies... from the stage, two spot lights pointed out above the crowd. It caught the silver in the wings of the moths as the floated through the beams of light. As beautiful as the meteor shower the night before. Where else in the world could the twilight capture the silhouette of Mount Ida and the stars as they began to emerge in the sky.

Bonnie got three backstage passes, so she, Arta, and Alex went backstage where they saw Fred Penner warm up... we was the act before Gord Downie (lead singer from Tragically Hip, out promoting his solo work). Penner looked out at the audience and said, "Hey, Look at you! You all grew up!" Arta is still laughing on reporting that. 75% of the audience could remember him from their youth, and they sung along with him as he strummed "The Cat Came Back", which morphed into another tune ("Hit the Road, Cat, and don't you come back no more, no more, no more, no more..."). Alex reports that being back stage was not such a big deal (for free food, they had only nuts and dried fruit and pop... he had been hoping for more). He did, however, want to keep his lanyard with the laminated pass (the one that says backstage pass), because he is sure his friends will not believe that he really DID get to go backstage.

signing off,
Rebecca and Arta

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The August Long Weekend Pig-Roast

Here are a couple of pictures from the August Long Weekend Pig Roast. I ran into Cohl Robertson, doing some grocery shopping, and he said he had been out at the Cabins that weekend, but was unable to attend the event. Sadly, I have no pictures of the pig being roasted, but I do have some shots of the attendees, enjoying dinner and a game of tag. For those of you that attended, and those who missed it, here are some pictures.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Four-Sided Open Fire Pit

July 21, 2010

A few years ago Kelvin and I took a course through Continuing Education at the University of Calgary entitled Landscaping Your Home. What I remember is that the architect instructing the course said that among the best items in his back yard is a small portable BBQ that their family uses nightly in the summer, roasting wieners, marshmallows, corn, potatoes or just sitting around it, telling stories before the family went to bed.

That was a good testimonial for me, and I bought a four-sided pit which has moved its way around my yard from one summer to another. I decided to put it by the zip-line this year, and started my second fire in it tonight. My first fire of the year is the one we had while waiting for the racoon to appear at night.

Tonight Duncan helped start the fire. I had read in a book that fires can be built in the shape of a tepee or in the shape of a log cabin. We gathered twigs to begin the tepee shape and then moved to the log-cabin shape. Being less than ten yards from the basement door made it possible to go back to the kitchen for many of the articles we forgot to bring on our first trip to the fire, one of them being what every campfire surrounded by 2 to 8 year olds needs – a bucket of warm soapy water and a towel, for there wasn’t one set of hands that didn’t need to be plunged into that pail more than once during the night.

Duncan consumed marshmallows and graham wafers while he was getting the roaring fire going.

Alex has decided that pressing chocolate chips right into the marshmallows and then roasting them is the gourmet’s so’ more.

Meighan wants to roast and build some mores, not eat them. David was amazed to discover that you can stick your finger to your cheek with just having too much marshmallow on it.

I had to ask Bonnie Wyora not to let any of the kids see her do her ghost gum.

I am saving that for tomorrow night.

Grandma listens to a D & D Campaign

This morning there was a D & D campaign running at our house. Three Bates (Nathan, Alicia and Gabe) arrived to join Dalton, Ceilidh, Xavier, Naomi who were already up. Alex was sleeping downstairs in a bed next to table. He was able to put his clothes on under the covers, and nonchalantly squeeze out from beneath them. He left a pile of them on the floor in this attempt.

I was running as well to clear the D & D table, clean the floor, make the beds so there would be some semblance of order on the side of the campaign. Estefania was on duty was sweeping the floor, gathering clothes as well and then heading upstairs making cupcakes to feed the campaign participants. When I went upstairs she had Rhiannon on the counter, a bowl of cupcake batter set between the baby’s legs and she was letting the 2 year old crack the eggs into the mix.

The level of excitement was high downstairs. Two and three conversations going at the sme time, all seemingly able to get enough from each of the streams of information that they could fully participate in the game. No one asking whose turn it was next. Gales of laughter, multiple sets of die rolling on the table. I am surprised that the characters often speak in dialects and deeper tones than I usually hear from these people.

The conversation was going as follows:
Let’s do a quest that we will most likely die on.
What is the most dangerous quest.
Let’s go in a cave where there are dragons.
Let’s go where the girls are. They are awesome and can do anything.
The voices over talk each other but somehow they decide the order or their turns and they talk about their characters and what it is that they can do.
I climb up a dragons’ back.
You take five points of damage.
Why hit me? I am a priest.
Poke his eyeball out? That looks like a move.
Two dragons come out and shoot lightening all across the room. You must all roll the die under fifteen
to miss it.
If you die in this area, someone may come to revive you.
Come on! That was so cheap.
Why are all of these enemies male?
How terribly evil. I loathe you.
I’m healed now.
Just because I was friends with you when we came does not mean I am friends with you now.
I need to do a charisma check.
I am considering that in my head, all of the evil possibilities.
Some of the sentences are followed by an demonic laughs.

Xavier sits close by; alternately swing his stuffy in the air and catching it, then clasping it closely to his chest in fear, Five year old Naomi squeezes a chair between the thirteen year old and the twelve year old cousins. Her stuffy is placed on the table, close to her.

Gabe jumps out of his chair every time a train goes by, runs out the door to look out over the hill at it as it passes, returns and takes his place again.

Ah, the joys of D& D.

Am I Smarter than a Skunk

When I arrived at the lake, Joaquim, who has been the keeper of the compost all winter, told me that here is a new problem with it. An animal is coming at night, opening the bottom door of the compost, taking out what it wants and tosses its own refuge around the yard. Joaquim reported that he knows that whom ever it is, doesn’t like corn husks and yellow onions for they have been tossed aside while other tasty morsels have been consumed.

I took over the job, wondering what kind of animal we were working with, but knowing that I am smarter than a skunk, the animal I decided as I was fighting here, I placed three rocks in front of the compost sliding door and go to sleep for the night.

In the morning, refuge all over the lawn again. The skunk has moved the rocks away and dug under the bin as well.

“Are you sure it is a skunk,” someone asks. “I have heard possums are strong.”
I change direction and call it a possum. And I put rocks around the compost – I put the rocks two high at the compost door, then empty more vegetable matter into the bins, water it down and wait for morning.

The compost is spread all over the ground again, the rocks have been removed from the door and there is also a small hole dug on the other corner of the compost.
I loose my cool. I get Kelvin’s father’s day gift from the garage – a mover. I take it down to the west of the house and begin to take apart my rock wall, now carrying rocks over that even I can’t lift and make a wall two rocks high around the compost.

The next morning we change from calling the animal a possum, to calling it a racoon, since the rocks have been moved again. Laura De Core, Bonnie’s colleague, is here from Florida. She claims she is a farm girl and willing to help me with the mess.

At first I decline, but then tell her yes, if you were raised on a farm you may have more skills than I do on this matter, since I am a city girl. She comes down to the compost, dressed for the job. She is dressed in an old jean skirt, a stained long-sleeved man’s shirt, oppy old straw hat, mired shoes. “You look just like my mother,” calls a voice over the banister, yelled out from the onlookers on the balcony.” Laura decides to take this as a compliment; though I am dubious thinking it may also be a taunt.

Her 9 year old son, Nate, has an idea. A sleep over under the porch to catch the racoon in his act of compost thievery. We spend the afternoon bringing up the air mattress from the tents at the beach. We fill water balloons hoping one of us will be able to strike him when he strikes us at night. A bottle of ketchup is brought down, for someone thinks to squirt him with ketchup will send him running.

By now Laura and I have built a free standing rock wall, 3 large stones high right around the compost. Fearing that our compost is so fortressed that the racoon won’t be able to get into it while we are sleeping we bring down some fresh compost buckets, deciding to leave them out on the ground but with the lids still on. “The racoons will know we are camped out if we have left one of the lids out to decoy them in.” So there is no entrapment in our act.

As I am going to sleep and the dark has fallen, I hear one little voice ahead of me say, “Grandma, I am afraid.”

“Fine. Hold my hand,” I said.

“I am not afraid,” said Duncan, “but what if we are right in the same path that the racoon takes when he comes at night to get at the compost.”

Trust me. When I hear the racoon approach I will wake you and you will get the first hit,” I replied.

We finally settled down for the night. Not the best sleep I have ever had. I woke about every hour to cover someone else up.

When morning broke we had outsmarted the racoon. The first night in seven nights that he had not made a hit. It took one rock wall, two adults and three 9 year olds sleeping on the back porch to lick the problem of compost spread all over the lawn in the mornings.

The Comet Swift-Tuttle

Wyona invited us to her annual “The Swift Tuttle Comet Party”. Eleven kids (Alex, Duncan, Nathanial, Alicia, Chelsie, Sabrina, Andrew, Gabe, Audra, David, and Zach) and 9 adults (Charise, Zoe, Marcia, Teague, Cheri, Wyona, Arta, Steve, and Rebecca laid out on the lawn to watch the skies as soon as twilight fell.

Wyona hosted us by laying out blankets, mats, air mattresses and sleeping bags. She provided Sound Surround Music – tunes to watch the skies by.

The treats she passed out were Mars bars.

No single conversation dominated the air for there was sound coming from every family cluster, so much so that at times I wanted to cry out, “Quiet, I can’t hear the stars”, but I couldn’t raise my voice above the others.

Air mattresses bounced, children hopped from one bed to another, and David’s $15 globe provided a bead on where we should be looking for the sights in the skies. The globe lights up to show the constellations in the sky.

We were seeing the Perseid’s Meteor Shower and most of the hits come from Perseus who is just under that “W” Casseopia.

The shower will be peaking on the 13th and 14th.

Happy meteor watching to all.