Monday, December 13, 2010

Thinking about writing that Christmas letter!

I can't remember if I wrote anyone last year - I think not - shame on me. So I went back through my blog for the last two years, and found this gem from January 2009:

So, what will 2009 bring? Who really knows?
My goals?
Do more photography, maybe even earn a significant portion of my income from it! Actually carry through with a PAD project. Travel and shoot more.
Get into shape! The Wii fit that we got for Christmas is going to kick start that! (So much fun!)
Travel more.
Get somewhere with the house - renovate, remodel, rebuild....pick one!
Shoot more.
Continue to watch the kids grow up, and be amazed at how time flies.
Travel more.
Continue to watch mom thrive under dad's care, continue to be amazed by dad being retired. What will he do next, now that the garage is organized?
Shoot more.
Visit all of the relatives again!
Travel and shoot more!
Grow a decent crop of vegetables.

Enjoy my days. Relish the moment. Do something that matters.


So much time has passed, so few differences in goals!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A night full of adventure

Last night I was invited out to a girls only wine and cheese, and had a really nice time. I got home about midnight and was unwinding on the sofa, playing this stupid game called BubbleXplosion on my iPad, and watching the tail end of Urban Cowboy. Really addictive time wasting game! Anyway, shortly before 1 a.m., my eldest child returns home from a 'Full Moon' party, without his shirt. One of those things that makes you shake your head, but not for long. Sometime after going to bed, I hear the next child arrive home from her evening out, and hear her bring the dog into the house. At 3 a.m. the dog wants to go outside, so I grudgingly and groggily grab my robe and go to let him out. Robe not fully on, I am shocked to see headlights on on my driveway. I know oldest and next oldest are in the house, so I get my robe on properly, then return to the door, suspecting that the youngest has snuck out of the house. I watch in fear/anger/disbelief as this young male approaches the front door, hood up, trying to get the dog not to bark. Thinking this is the youngest trying to sneak back into the house, I steel myself. The door opens, and in steps a young man (not my son) with brownish red marks all over his face. I recognize him as a friend of my eldest son, but cannot figure out why he is walking into the house at 3 a.m. or what the markings on his face are. At first I am thinking wounds, but then realize it could be face paint. Indeed, he confirms it is facepaint, and that he has forgotten something in CBs car and needs the key.

As astonishing and surreal as this is, the nocturnal activity doesn't end there. About an hour later, I hear a very muted and strange moaning sound. Worried that it might be my youngest, the diabetic, I get out of bed again, and have a look around. Because I didn't see him in his bed at 3 a.m. I go to the basement first, to find that he isn't there either. Heart pounding, I come back upstairs, and have another look for him in his bed. He is indeed there. Alright, the moaning is not coming from any of the humans in the house, so wtf is it? Outside to find the dog; instead the noise is much clearer, and is a distant dog bark. But where is Kelso? Rattled and wide awake, I look out the back window, to see the little porcupine in the bird feeder. Wait, there is a large dark shape on the ground too, and it is moving toward the house. WTF? The large porcupine is here too. Back outside to find the dog before he finds the porcupines. Finally, he lumbers up the front step, quite uninterested in being brought into the house. With the dog and all humans accounted for, I risk going back to bed, heart still racing, head pounding, hoping for some sleep, which does eventually arrive.

Will the fun ever stop?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Our daughter returns from her adventure

On August 22, 2009, our daughter left for an exchange trip to Germany for the school year. The exchange was fraught with difficulty from the beginning - we were late to join up so host country choices were limited. Then, after coming to terms with England as her home for the year, a change in VISA requirements resulted in a change in host country. With Germany the only viable option, our sweet young lady decided "I will go to Germany then, because there is no F-ing way I am staying home with you another year".

Such is the precarious relationship between parents and their teens. It is far more challenging to parent a proto adult than a baby, although I am sure that I won't convince any new parent of this!

Katie left us an angry young lady, uncomfortable with her place in life, as so many 17 year old girls are. Life is difficult for so many young girls, especially ones with parents so difficult as us!

Her exchange trip was full of challenges, starting with not knowing a word of the German language, through problems being accepted at her first host family, and a bit of home sickness to boot. She rose to the challenges, and stuck the year out, and I am certain that the young woman that we will meet at the airport in 13 hours will be a much different, and much more secure and comfortable person than the one we said good bye to last August.

I feel melancholy for her having to have the great adventure come to an end. Saying goodbye is difficult, and I am sure she will miss her host family, friends and life. I am certain that she has grown so much from this experience. But I am really excited to see her, and can now say publicly how much I have missed having her here!

Welcome home, Katie!

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Garden Diaries #8

May has come and gone. Very, very wet month; good for the plant life here. Other than the fact that a good deal of the precipitation in May was snow, it didn't slow us down too much. The cucumber plants that I put into the ground mid May succumbed as did the Millwoods Soccer Tournament (canceled due to snow!).

May was a fabulous birding month here. I have set about getting a great shot of every species that I see. I have hundreds of shots of the birds......I have one or maybe two that are great!

The front yard is looking really nice, when the dandelions are beheaded. The hammock is up, tulips are in bloom and the front porch planter is all done. If the rain would stop, I could work outside and admire it all.

Installation of water service, and possibly sewer, as well as reconstruction of the road is on track for next summer, and so any major redesign and installation of hardscaping in the front is now on hold, since digging the yard up twice in two years would be stupid.

Which leaves me with the back yard as my major focus for this year. Planning some nice 'island' garden beds, full of trees and perennials. The new patio and garden wall are a maybe. The clean up of the crap behind the garage is a must. There is virtually no grass at all in the back - moss (which is also dead), weeds and dirt. A fresh start, adding some hardscaping and planters before we reseed the grass, will be a very good thing.

Rainy days - what grand designs are made from.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Happier Than (and as dirty as) a Pig in Shit

I've been gardening, all weekend long. Digging, planting, digging, planting, watering. It is absolutely gorgeous out: 25C, clear blue skies, no wind. The back yard is a hive of activity, with about a dozen bird species doing the mating dance.

We put the sunflowers and sweetpeas in the ground Thursday, all around the perimeter of the 'cage'. Yesterday, after getting my hair cut (too short, says DRB), we went to Millcreek Nursery and then to Salisbury Greenhouse. Bought some lilacs, a rose, a double flowering plum and some perennials. Got them all, plus my glads, into the ground today.

Alex mowed the front lawn, Daryl power washed the front porch office. The forecast for the rest of the week is glorious, and I do believe that I will be ready to plant my planters full of annuals, put the hammock out, and sit back and enjoy the weather! Daryl grabbed this (NOT VERY) charming glam shot of me:

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Garden Diaries #6

The first weekend in May, I was in Calgary photographing the Highland Dance Provincial Championship competition. We came home Sunday night, and I had a good solid week of photography work to do, so the significant snow fall on May 4 was perfect timing!

It is quite lovely out again, so I have spent another day working in the garden. Yesterday I was able to pull the significant number of dandelions from my front planter, and finished just before it started hailing! Daryl planted some of the seeds we bought from the seed bank yesterday as well. Today, I planted an Astilbe, a black Asiatic lily and a bleeding heart in the front planter, as well as about a half dozen gladiolas. Then I raked more twigs and leaves from the front yard and the garden to the east side of the house. It is amazing that I can haul 13 large garbage bags of yard waste to the curb, and still suspect that a visitor wouldn't know I had even started my yard clean up.

There are lots of tulips poking through, and the raspberries out front look great. The irises do too, so that garden should be really nice this year.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Signs that My Children are Growing Up

Things they have said recently!

Colin, reading 'Freakonomics' while sitting in the sun in the backyard yesterday, watching a female Pileated Woodpecker: "It's so awesome that we have cool birds like that in our yard".

So, does that mean that you are over hating living in 'the middle of no where'? ;-)

Katie, on Skype this morning: "Mom, how often did we fight?" Um, like every day! "No, I don't remember ever fighting with you" Really - well I am so happy that you don't remember! Onward.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Garden Diaries #5

Thursday, I visited three locally owned landscaping businesses, with the intent of hiring a crew to work on my landscaping projects. The first project requires some major equipment that I don't have access to - large branch chippers, scrub cutters and a skid steer or cultivator. The first business didn't offer those services, and couldn't recommend anyone else. Fair enough. The second business was a bad choice on my part, I know, but they don't even know what I wanted since they did not acknowledge me at all! The third one is really the subject of this post because the guy I talked to would have willingly had me sign up for his $600 an hour design service, glowingly told me about all of the big wigs he has done jobs for, pointed out that he has $6M of equipment sitting on his lot, but would not send his $85 an hour crew and skid steer over to my house. "no, I need to see the project first" Fair enough, when can you drop by (my house is about 5 km from his shop). "Oh, well I'll be there some day" Uh-huh. I'll expect you then.

So instead of having his idle equipment bring home a little bit of revenue, it sits there depreciating. I subsequently went to the local Home Depot and found that I can rent a really large chipper for $100 for the day, a really large rototiller and a chain saw to take out the scrub. I can do the work myself. His crew can go work paving over some large lot residential home of my neighbors. And I will probably save a bunch of money in the process.

There truly is a new standard in business and a new norm to customer service.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Garden Diaries #4

Well, not much work as the weather has turned. However, I have been able to 'illustrate' (well, okay, rather poorly) my grand plan for the yard. You can see the details in this gallery.

Daryl got a kick out of the inclusion of Kelso here:



Weather is supposed to warm up Thursday. I would love a couple days rain. Happy gardening.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Garden Diaries #3

"At our old house" - a phrase used by the kids fairly regularly, although as time has gone by they talk about it less and less. We do have lots of fond memories of 225 - we designed it and built it, and we worked our butts off landscaping it! I had a gorgeous, if somewhat overgrown and informal, flower garden there. I would nip outside every opportunity, which of course was nap time! Pulling weeds and transplanting plants made for very happy days. Some of my favorite garden photos from there:


I've been working at recovering old photos from old dead hard drives, and have found some fabulous photos of the kids. Snapshots, but really, that's what I wish I had more of - those wonderful candid moments.

Among the great pics of the family, there are my garden pics too. I think that they are what is helping to inspire me to turn 104 into what I have envisioned all these last 6 years. The plan exists, in my mind, but two things have kept me from bringing it into existence. The first is money - and I still don't have that. The second is the time to do the work myself, and I finally do have the time.

Today, I did more pruning and scrub removal. It has occurred to me that I can do this with my hand pruning saw - no chain saw required. As well, despite all the nay saying about taking out trees, if I do it when Daryl isn't watching, he doesn't notice! :-) Kinda like when I was 12 and got my ears pierced, without my mom's permission. It was weeks before she noticed!

There are a few old, large hard wood trees to take out still. I will need help with those. The next major step will be to have the garden cultivated - not sure if we will need to hire someone for that.

And then, well, it'll be time to plant!

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Garden Diaries #2

Yesterdays success, and the fact that my old tired bod didn't ache all over today inspired me to continue giving trees haircuts. Today's victims: the patch along the east side of the property, where we were once thinking raspberries would grow. Got rid of lots of scrub, but got pretty scratched up in the process. I finally realized that one reason that this is currently an enjoyable task is that the mosquitoes aren't out yet! I can sit on the ground with no danger of a major allergic reaction! With that in mind, I hope to get all the pruning done over the next week and hopefully beat the little buggers in the process!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Garden Diaries #1

Today was a great day, above average temps, clear blue skies and nothing official to do until 4 p.m. Most of the snow is gone, the ground is thawed enough to do basic garden clean up. I have decided that I will have a great garden this year, full of thriving flowers and vegetables. So, I carpe diem'd and spent the day in the yard!

The first task was to turn the compost over. On Friday, the compost pile was absolutely vibrating with buzzing bees. I knew the best opportunity to turn the compost would be before it was warm enough for the bees to be active, so headed out about 8:30 this morning, despite the fact that the noisy teenagers that live here kept me up until 2:30 a.m. I was surprised and pleased that the composting is working and we have some actual rich loamy usable compost.

I want to get the wood pile moved, and so Daryl is building me a nice structure for it. Since he was busily building that, I picked task #2: clean up/prune trees in the front yard. I don't think I really set out to give the whole yard the hair cut it received, but am thrilled with the result. I really cleaned up the largest willow, getting rid of all of the suckers and other saplings growing at it's base. Did the same for the other 2, and then tackled the dogwood shrubs, cutting them back significantly and taking out any unrelated shrubs.

I love how the 'forest' handles regrowth - how these shrubs are thriving in the remnants of old dead trees, and how, because they have been protected from the lawn mower, evergreen seedlings can flourish.

There is quite the pile of tree branches for me to deal with, but day one of Garden 2010 was a success. Now if only I could find someone to do the inside the house work for me while I enjoy myself playing in dirt! :-)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Still Searching for my Personal Nirvanah

The addiction began in February 1994. After discussing the merits of a beach vacation with other moms at the Peanut Butter and Jam playgroup, we headed to Kihei, Maui. This was my first tropical vacation, and we had an amazing time. Colin was 3 and Katie was 1, and mom came with us. Two weeks of sun and sand, beautiful scenery and I was hooked.

We visited Kihei again in 1996, with the Sr. Burd's, and 5, 3 and 1 year old kids. Weather wasn't nearly as good and the Sr. Burd's didn't like chilling (literally) on the beach, and so we looked for a new paradise.

In 1998, it was Club Med in Ixtapa, Mexico and the addiction changed to include not just tropical beaches but All Inclusives!

In March 2000 we returned to Kihei. Alex came down with Chicken Pox, and came home to be diagnosed with diabetes. We have not returned but I can hear Hawaii calling my name!

In 2002 we had an amazing, fabulous time at Club St. Lucia. Saint Lucia is a paradise and everyone in our family would rank our time in St. Lucia as the best family vacation ever, I believe. Saint Lucia also calls to me.

2003: California for both San Diego and Disney.

2003/04: Sirenis Resort at Punta Cana, D.R. Our first time traveling at Christmas, another tradition I would love to keep. This is where the biting insect troubles begin. Our first day at the resort, a rain storm clears the beach. Daryl and the kids go out into the surf. I watch from the comfort of a beach chair, oblivious to the sand flies biting me to bits. Covered head to toe in tiny, itchy bites that blistered and popped before drying out. :( After this trip, mosquito bites at home became a problem, swelling and blistering. Deep Woods Off became my best friend.

2005/06: Grande Bahia Principe at Punta Cana, for Christmas and New Years. A good trip, but it is here that the bug bite allergy causes a problem. After the '04 trip, I knew to wear repellant in the evening, but didn't realize I was at risk daytime in the sand. Pool side sun loungers became necessary, after a day on the beach resulted in some very large, ugly bites that got infected. A trip to the resort doctor was needed for IV antibiotics. I am not anxious to return to the D.R.

2007/08 New Years Eve at the Grande Bahia Coba on the Mayan Riviera. Pretty resort but much too large, and resort food continued to be disappointing. Good news this trip - very few bugs. Bad news, coldest weather on record for that area in 30 years. This trip was one of the least enjoyable, and my love affair with All Inclusive resorts came to an end.

All Inclusives certainly have their benefits. The kids clubs are fabulous with younger children. Proximity to other families with teens is another. The ability for the kids to forage for their own food, yet another. But a resort cannot provide the glimpse into the real local conditions: it isn't the way to find a permanent bit of paradise.

So when the opportunity arose to spend a week in the village of Sayulita, Mexico for SmugMexico 2010, I was thrilled. I work for a wonderful company, SmugMug, and really enjoy my job. SmugMug is renowned for customer service, and have a philosophy that is completely in synch with mine, so doing my job is a pleasure. The fact that SmugMug believes in treating their employees with a corporate retreat is an amazing bonus!

I had never heard of Sayulita, and would never have found it on my own. I doubt I would ever have ventured out of a major resort city in Mexico on my own, so am so grateful to have had this opportunity. Sayulita is a gorgeous village; the rental properties amazing, the beach beautiful, fantastic restaurants, safe and friendly and inexpensive. Sayulita could be my personal nirvanah. There is only one thing that keeps it from being so, actually. Biting insects! Despite my best efforts to keep slathered in DEET, the little buggars got me 4 times on the first night, and another three times later in the week. The bites follow the exact same pattern of swelling, blistering and popping. I feel ill as my body goes into histamine overdrive. Antihistamines help, but make me dopey and nauseous. Tequilla helps too. :D

And so the quest continues, to find the perfect location for a long term, semi permanent, tropical beach to call my own. Only thing necessary is for it to have no biting insects! I am open to suggestions, and quite willing to do mas research over the next few years. Will it be on the Caribbean Sea, or the South Pacific? As my dad says, only time will tell.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Making Feb. 1 the Offical Start to My New Year

I made the usual list of goals to kick off 2010. I went so far as to set Immediate, Mid and Long Terms goals for myself.

With January coming to a close, I must say I am disappointed with the direction things have taken!

One of my short term goals was to get rolling with the remainder of our renovation, hoping that we could have our upstairs bathrooms redone before spring, and the new garage and studio space finished (at least the exterior) by July 1. I set these dates because I didn't want one to interfere with the other, and more importantly because I wanted things to be in place for a party the July long weekend.


You see, Daryl and I will be celebrating 25 years of marriage this year, and I want to have a party :) His parents are celebrating 50 years, so we actually were planning a combined party weekend. Until someone decided to ask the Sr. Burd's for an invitation list. After a bit of mulling it over, they have let us know they do not want a party. Period. :(

We had the contractor that we hired to renovate the basement quote the baths. His quote came in on the high side. Now, if he had been 50% higher than expected we probably would have said, okay, let's get this ball rolling. But he wasn't. His price is between 75% and 100% higher than we were budgeting and expecting. WOW. I don't think the features that I was requesting are really $500 per square foot. Of course I really won't know until I get another quote, but that process will certainly delay my timeline, and make it more or less impossible to do both projects this year, even if I could find the money.

So no reno + unwilling participants = no party.

Another of my longer term goals for this year is to participate in a photography workshop in Alaska this summer. It will require both $ and a level of fitness that I haven't had for a few years ;-). So to meet that goal I am trying to get fit. D gave me a trial at a personal trainer as a gift for Christmas. I had my first session yesterday, and it is a great feeling to be exercising and looking for muscles under all this flab. I am really surprised that I am not at all sore today, and that has me questioning whether I could do more than what the trainer thinks I can. Once again, this service is much more expensive than I had really thought it would be, and so I am again left trying to decide if this is the right path. I have two sessions next week, and then signed up for a 6 week strength class. February will be my month of fitness trials.

There is one short term goal that I made for myself, that I will finish in January. Reworking annmcraephotography.ca is almost finished. A few final touches and I will be ready to start the advertising process to generate business this summer sports season.

So, with January almost done, and my hopes for new baths, a garage and a party all but foiled, I say move along. February 1 can be the start of my new year.