Saturday, December 22, 2012

Tripping down memory lane

Was wrapping gifts last night and went on the hunt for 'something' to use as gift tags, rather than the usual scrap bit of wrapping paper. I found boxes of unused cards - Christmas, birthday, generic, party invitations, and so on. (Sometimes, hoarding pays off). There were 2 or 3 of some cards from years past, the extras that didn't get sent. My mom used to save the cards that she received from people, and then repurpose the image into gift tags the following year. And so that's what we did with some of these left over cards last night.

In the bottom of the box of left over cards were a handful of handmade gift tags, little hand drawn Christmasy symbols (candy canes, angels) in glitter paint. Made by me, at some point in the past when making my own Christmas gift tags was not out of the ordinary. I don't really remember when that would have been. In the same cupboard I found a bunch of green cellophane bags with glittery ties. Cookie bags for giving cookies for Christmas. Yup, I used to do that too.

My kids, and my sisters kids, have hand made Christmas stockings. Felt, hot glue and lots of glitter paint. Rustic, primitive, but made with love and I can't imagine ever replacing them. My mom has a Christmas sweatshirt with poinsettias and glitter fabric paint that I made for her, that she still wears. Peeking through family photos from the past decade shows her in that shirt each and every year.

I've been trying to recall what it was that changed; what got in the way of these lovely hand made Christmas traditions? Kids getting bigger. Fewer and fewer kid holiday parties (playgroup, playschool, grade school each had a need for goodies to be sent). Sports. As our family transitioned from playgroup to Tier 1/2 soccer commitments for three kids, and a coaching dad, the amount of time left to spend baking and crafting slowly but surely diminished.

This is our second year without winter kid sport and all the bedlam that goes with it. I have not yet gotten back into crafting and baking up a storm. But I have all the ingredients for some awesome gingerbread. Heck, I might even dig out the complicated Martha Stewart recipe that involves a double boiler.

If Christmas is a time for memories, then this year has certainly jogged a few of mine. I didn't have the heart to not put the Landsdowne playschool ornaments, or the collection of second grade ornaments, up on our tree. As much as I thought I'd like a color coordinated, magazine worthy tree, I went with a tree full of memories of my friends and family. Excuse me while I go put the little Christmas village that Katie is so fond of up at the front door, and send D out to buy  lights for around the front entry, replacing the ones that finally kicked the bucket this year. Yeah, I know that they'll be coming down again in a week or so but the house isn't ready for Christmas without them.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Hey, is that the feeder bottom on the ground?

Those were my words last night when I looked out the window on arriving home. Yup, sure enough, the bottom of the feeder is on the ground.

Well, I hope the critter cam caught that. Can't imagine how a screen falling right in front of it wouldn't be caught. And I wonder what the look on the porcupines face will be as he falls out with it.

So, here is what actually happened!:

12:19 Spike is in the feeder and a bunny is underneathL

12:21 bunny has moved on:

12:24 feeder bottom is on the ground, but spike is still inside!

Falling snow will set this cameras motion sensor off, but falling objects not so much!

All Critter Cam images

Friday, November 30, 2012

Canine Visitors

Last night's visitors: coyote, dog, coyote.

There was also a bunny, and apparently the porcupine can fly as he is in the feeder but no evidence of how he got there.

Make your own slideshow with music at Animoto.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Critter Cam

When we first moved out here, deer and coyotes and other critters were a common sight. Sadly, that isn't the case any longer - after all the field full of food is now paved. But, despite all of the construction in (destruction of) the farm fields around us, there continues to be wildlife activity in our yard.

I'd seen those wonderful time lapse productions that Parks Canada puts together from trail cameras in the mountain parks, as well as someones web cam over a bird nest, and figured I should do the same thing! My 2011 Christmas gift from the dh was a Moultrie Trail Camera, and I've been having fun with it ever since. Now that Spike has annihilated one of the two platform bird feeders, I think I've finally found the perfect spot for it, with a view of the remaining feeder and much of the yard.

I'll be updating this gallery over the winter months, with new images of the nightly activities out here. Spike is a regular, making an almost daily (nightly) appearance. He climbs into the feeder after dark, leaves at or near sunrise, and spends his days either under the deck or in a box in the back of our shed!

Last night we also had at least one visit by a coyote.

but judging by how much barking and guarding Kelso did, there were more. I've seen deer tracks this year as well, but not close to the house yet. The deer need about a foot of snow under the feeder in order to be able to eat out of it ;-)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

For Hire

This fall, we have more or less become empty nesters. Child #1 does still live here, but being in the last year of Engineering at the U of A and having a full 7 course load means we rarely see him - usually only in the light of the refrigerator. Child #2 is haf a continent away in Ontario and #3 is off on the left coast.

I have a great, wouldn't trade it for anything, full time job. I have a great husband (everyone tells me so ;-) ). But, I'm used to a much busier, more hectic life. There was a time, not so long ago, that we had about 100 kid related sport activities a month, not to mention work and school and volunteerism. I'm just not getting the hang of what to do with myself now - how many episodes of Storage Wars can one watch? Watching Hoarders for the shock value isn't floating the boat.

Sure, I could go all Martha Stewart around here. Spend countless (more) hours on Pinterest and Design Seeds. We've even been talking about renovating the small bathroom ourselves; I'm worried that we'd get that started but not finished though.

I could (and should) be volunteering more. And I will locally for sure. I really want to travel, too. And I may have found a way to do both at once, with The Giving Lens. Problem is that the cost of the workshop and airfare comes close to being the amount of my property taxes (which sit unpaid at the moment).

And so, here I am, offering up my brain, time and skill set and looking for suggestions of how to fill the void in my brain and my pocketbook!

  • Skilled Photographer
  • Pretty good photo editor
  • Not bad at writing
  • Knows a thing or two about running a business

Saturday, October 13, 2012

We Can Do Better

This weeks sad news about the cyber bullying that led Amanda Todd to take her life  and the organized institutional bullying of Malala Yousafzai that caused her to be shot make me believe that we can all do better.

 I believe that I've given my children the courage and independence to stand up for themselves, the honesty and integrity to stand up for what is right, the tool set to make good decisions. I trust them to use those tools, but there are moments that I wish I could turn back time to when they were little so that I still had ways to protect them, and could make sure that I really teach those lessons well.

We are surrounded by tragedies that we cannot control or influence. Try as we might, we cannot yet live disease free, we cannot prevent all accidents from happening. BUT we can, and we MUST, treat each other - everyone, everywhere - with respect, with open minds and open hearts, with the understanding that things are not black and white, not right or wrong, not a binary switch. We must stand up for one another, stand up against bullying, stand up for everyones right to exist without fear.

I used to hate Camera Phones!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

As the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend comes to an end, I have much to give thanks for. 2012 has not been one of my favorite years. It's had many more stressful, difficult and sad times than most. The year started with promise, with exciting new work responsibilities and road trips, but threw us all a big curve in March when my mom was admitted to the hospital. 

Mom has emphysema, and has been on oxygen full time for about 7 years. She had noticably deteriorated in the six months prior. My sister had been trying to get mom on the phone for the better part of a day, and when we still couldn't find them the next morning I gave their neighbour a call. Sure enough, there had been an ambulance at the house the evening before. Why they didn't give me a call sometime in those 12 hours still remains a mystery. We phoned around to hospitals and finally tracked them down. When I walked into the emergency room where mom was, the first thought that entered my mind was this is what death looks like! The next five weeks were full of big ups and downs, from the day the doctor told me not to expect another 24 hours, to (a week later) getting the okay for mom to attend her 50th wedding anniversary party! (Yes, I was taking care of the details of a party between hospital visits) She was released from hospital a week after that, and has been doing just fine ever since. I'm thankful for these bonus months with mom. 

My sister and niece have had some very troubling times as well. Things are looking up for them, and I'm thankful that they both came for dinner this weekend. 

This year also saw a couple of friends/mentors/bosses leave SmugMug, and that was hard to work through. I'm thankful that they have both moved on to new adventures, are happy and remain friends. 

Edmonton saw a couple of really wild summer storms. In mid July, a hail storm seemed to find our property and sit on top of it. We had 45 minutes straight of hail (like nothing I've ever seen before) and our gorgeous garden was completely wiped out! We don't water our gardens quite the same way we did on our city lots, since we truck water in. We had had one of the best springs, with plenty of moisture and warm temps, and our garden was going to be spectacular. Absolutely everything was going to bloom, and bloom big. And the hail ripped it all to shreds. I was devastated. I am thankful that gardens are renewable resources, that I have another opportunity again next year, and that the frost stayed away long enough that some plants had a second chance to bloom! 

 We are test driving empty nesting, as we only have one at home at the moment. I'm thankful that we are finding ways to spend time together now that the years of 'kid driving' and 'kid sport' are done. 

Our daughter is off at Queens and our baby is in Vancouver at a rugby academy. Our oldest is in his final year of his engineering program and has 7 courses this semester. I'm thankful that my kids are healthy, pursuing paths that make them happy and growing into seemingly well adjusted and happy young adults. 

I'm thankful that our old dog is still keeping us company. 
I'm thankful for friends, old and new. 

I'm thankful that I don't feel my age most days. 

I'm thankful that my husband of 27+ years still looks at me with a silly grin! 

Happy thanksgiving! I think I'll be thankful for the new year as well!

Monday, August 13, 2012


So, back in 2010 I wrote several blog posts about landscape plans. Grande, glorious plans that never came to be because of lack of will and lack of funds.

This summer was on track to be the best for our flowers in the past ten years, with all of our perennials thriving and set to provide loads and loads of blooms. And then it hailed - worst hail storm we have ever had - and the plants were ripped to shreds.

Another grandiose plan was hatched. Build a dry creek bed and water feature in the back yard, repositioning all of the boulders in the 'rock garden'. Sadly that just isn't in this years budget.

But all is not lost. A couple of weekends of work, 4 yards of gravel, 3 trips to garden centers, and we have a really beautiful front garden.

When we bought this place, the entire length of the drive way was lines with spruce trees, right up to the front walk. It was a bit overwhelming and unwelcoming and made the front yard kind of dark. Before we moved in we had two spruce removed, creating a 'garden' and letting light into the front yard. That space was covered in bark chip ground cover and with time became really scabby looking. Not welcoming and not the kind of first impression you'd want to make. Then, in late 2009 the gas company installed a new line and dug up the space. Despite saying they'd put it back to the way it was, they left it rather disheveled, with ripped landscape fabric and uneven surfaces. This is what I was thinking we would do with it in April 2010:

I'd wanted to put some kind of screen in front of the house and a path leading away from the sidewalk that runs right in front of Katie's window. But we really needed a dog friendly solution because this is Kelso's space. We managed to get a bob cat in and take off all the old mulch, landscape fabric and mess.

And then we didn't do anything else! The exposed tree roots started to sprout little trees. Those dang black poplars from the other side of the driveway had roots all the way over here, and those things started growing! We could have had a whole new forest here. Instead, Daryl and I, a couple shovels and a sawzall dug and cut them out.

I gathered a bunch of old retainer wall bricks that had been left behind by previous owners and built a small shrub bed at the north end (away from the house). I transplanted cotoneaster and some roses from other places in the yard and hoped they'd grow!

Two winters and a summer of dog lying in dirt/snow/mud and we could not avoid finishing the space this year. But, true to form, we debated ad nauseum what to finish it with: bark, gravel, slate, rubber? Again, dog friendly, mess resistant, weed repellant. Fortunately we had a really nice evening early this summer with our friend Donna, who is also a gardener and had just installed a dry creek in the front garden at her house. Inspiration!!!

So, a couple of weekends of work, 4 yards of gravel, 3 trips to garden centers, and we have a really beautiful front garden!!!

The green grass and trees definitely help as backdrop, but I'm pretty sure this will look fantastic in all seasons!


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

It Will Work Out: It Always Does

2012 has not been a stellar year. Lots of challenges, few of them good, most of them well outside of my/our control. Ill parents, family drama, changing of the guard at work. No control over the events or the outcome, but still they all created chaos and stress.

 Daryl and I left town on June 29th, our wedding anniversary, for my company retreat. Driving south, watching gorgeous scenery pass us by, I had a renewed sense of optimism, of moving forward, of shrugging off the past six months and embracing July 1 as the beginning of great things. I started projects I had not been able to get to, with all the chaos of the first six months, including redesigning my photography web site. We had a really fantastic time in Park City, with great friends and doing great work. We came home not to a mess (always my biggest fear leaving the house in the hands of the proto adults). All seemed to point to grand things.

 And then the sky let loose - the fiercest and longest hail storm I've ever seen, one early morning last week. It completely obliterated our garden - everything from the tomato plants that actually were thriving, to our raspberry patch, and every blooming flower that I had in the yard. All hope of gorgeous photography back drops wiped for this year, in only 45 minutes. How to find the silver lining? If the plants aren't going to bloom, well then how about a major garden redesign in good weather?

My imaginary garden design includes a dry creek bed running along the north south axis of our yard, on the west side, in perfect view from our kitchen. This creek bed would be planted either side with stunning perennials and be the perfect backdrop for photographs. This isn't a job that can be a DIY project, as it involves some grading, earth moving and lots and lots of hauling rock. I found a brilliant contractor, and I intend to hire him. Sadly, it won't be this year as there just isn't the disposable income for this project.

So here we are in middle of garden season, the middle of what should be fantastic photography season here, in the garden I've worked so hard to make ready, with nada - no garden, no backdrop, and no project to keep my mind busy and my heart happy.

Not to mention that the hail storm also damaged one car and our roof, and those repairs will need some cash. July has not proven to be the start of something beautiful or a new beginning. More events over which I have no control but which cause me stress.

Daryl and I talked about this in the shower this morning - yes, after 27 years married we not only still talk to one another but we shower together! Imagine that! It's tough to acknowledge that, despite your best efforts, you aren't in a financial position to make each others dreams come true, that things just aren't quite what you imagined they would be by now. It was a relief to acknowledge that so much of the stress is caused by events we cannot control. And, to realize that It Will Work Out: It Always Does.