Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The F-Words of February (Foolishness, Frozen, Feathers, Flames, Flowers & Frank)

Our rainy, foggy, milder weather of last week was short-lived, and we got hit with another 10cm (4") of snow on Sunday. This was nothing much compared to some of the large snowstorms we've had over the winter, but after our taste of spring, it was disappointing - unless of course you're a snow-crazed Jack Russell Terrier named Benny, who is out to kill every single shovel-full of the evil white stuff.

That's Benny's favourite winter activity. He could spend hours out there devouring snow, shivering and peeing. Inevitably, after we get him inside to warm up, he'll throw up on the nearest carpet. A small dog's belly can only hold so much water.

Here's how he looked just before we got him to come inside on Sunday. (please click to enlarge)

As usual, we took a few walks around the pond and came upon a few sights. The water refroze around this log, creating an interesting wake when it drifted in toward shore.

This adorable Mockingbird watched closely as I inched toward it to take a few shots. It didn't sing for me, but did flit about on different branches to get a closer look. I took a few shots, thanked him for his cooperation and moved on. (please click to enlarge)

Later in the day, we were treated to another lovely sunset. The sky became a fiery mass of orange and gold, melding with soft shades of mauve and yellow. (please click to enlarge)

Across the lake, rooftops and trees created a sharp silhouette against the colourful sky. (please click to enlarge)

Continuing around the pond, the setting sun painted a blend of delicate pastels on the icy surface below. (please click to enlarge)

A pair of regal Canada Geese afloat upon the lovely, mauve water. (please click to enlarge)

Earlier in the week, after the day's thaw refroze, I came upon these leaves trapped under an icy veneer. It reminded me of those elementary school projects of preserving leaves between sheets of wax paper. (please click to enlarge)

Guaranteed to warm my heart on even the coldest February day, were these lovely Valentine's roses from Frank. (please click to enlarge)

And here he his playing around by hiding behind the flowers, while I play around by hiding behind Photoshop. (please click to enlarge)

Thursday, February 19, 2009


According to the website WhatIs.com, Serendipity is defined as "the act of finding something valuable or delightful when you are not looking for it."

Last Saturday, Don (my kids' Dad) and I attended a family Bar Mitzvah. We were invited separately, but since neither of our significant others was able to attend, we went together. One of my Montreal cousins is the maternal grandmother of the thirteen year-old birthday boy. He, his parents and two siblings live in nearby Toronto, and we see them from time to time, at family occasions such as birthdays and Hanukkah.

The event was pleasant enough, and the luncheon which followed provided a wonderful opportunity for relatives who had not seen each other for a few years to get together and catch up. My Aunt Blanche is a very young 97 year-old, and she traveled in from Montreal to celebrate her great-grandson's special day, and to spend time with family whom she had not seen for awhile.

After the meal, several of us gathered at my cousin Marcy's (Mom of the infamous wallet-thieving JJ) house. We chatted, laughed, took multi-generational photos and enjoyed a relaxed, lovely family-oriented afternoon. This also happened to be Valentine's Day, and since Frank and I had plans for dinner, we said our "good-byes" fairly early. But not before Marcy and I had a most interesting chat in the kitchen.

She told me that she had stuck around until the end of the luncheon because the family wanted to take some photos before Marcy was to take her mother, (my Aunt Blanche) home with her. As the crowd thinned, Marcy recounted a warm conversation she had with the paternal uncle of the Bar Mitzvah boy - an extended family member whom she hadn't seen in several years. She told me the gist of their conversation and repeated several times that he's such a nice guy. She referred to him by his name, Carmi. It tickled my brain with a vague familiarity, and I figured that I must have met him at some event over the years, so I just smiled and nodded. It was only when she said that he and his family were on their way home to London, Ontario that the realization hit me like a lightning bolt.

I grabbed Marcy's arm and may have used just a wee, tiny, excited expletive. I repeated his name. Then I probably repeated the expletive, once again. She looked at me as if I was nuts. I realized that I hadn't remembered him from family mentions (or menschens as Carmi tends to write). I recognized his name from his blog - Written Inc - a place I visit regularly. I know by the names in his comments section, that several of you who are reading this right now, also visit him.

I quickly tried to recall details that I knew about the man whose blog I've been visiting for over a year. "He has a son!" I said.

"He has two sons and a daughter." came Marcy's reply.

Hmmm maybe I didn't exactly recall... "OK, he's from Montreal originally. He commented on my blog about some landmarks that I mentioned in a post."

"Yes, he's from Montreal."

"He's a really, really nice guy. He has a kind, caring heart and he writes very well. And he's a good photographer."

"Yes, he's a sweetheart. I just looove Carmi. And yes, he's a writer but I don't think he's a photographer. Maybe it's not him He's got lighter hair than his brother (father of the Bar Mitzvah boy). Does that help?"

"Hmmm, I don't know. I thought he had dark hair but it's so hard to tell with those little avatar photos."

And so it went.

I figured I'd send Marcy the URL to his blog when I got home but when I checked his site later that evening, he had written about returning home from a family Bar Mitzvah in the nearby big city, and I knew without a doubt that it was the same Carmi Levy.

We exchanged a few emails and expressed our surprise, and ultimate disappointment at being so close and yet so far from actually meeting. He and Marcy had already secured one another's contact information and have since reinforced the bond of friendship that they had known years earlier. We all determined that sometime in the future, we will undoubtedly get together, as it would seem that Fate has dictated we must.

I wore an amused smile for the rest of the weekend.

Below are a few photos from last week. After several very cold days, temperatures rose suddenly overnight. Following a lovely sunrise, it rained a bit later in the morning, after which fog began to form and thicken throughout the day. I went out around the pond a few times to enjoy and photograph the mist. I hope you enjoy it too. Please remember to click on each photo to enlarge.

I awoke to see a brilliant golden orb peek through my window. I took less than five minutes to get my early morning act together and head outside to the pond where this view greeted me. (please click to enlarge)

Moments later, I made my way around to the opposite shore of the pond where I could see that a soft fog had begun to form on the surface of the water. (please click to enlarge)

As the day progressed, it rained and the fog thickened. The air remained humid, and the water droplets hung heavily on the branches. (please click to enlarge)

A curved tree reaches out over the pond as if to peer out into the fog. (please click to enlarge)

The fog creates a soupy background for this tree. It slowly seeps forward to envelope its branches. (please click to enlarge)

The gentle slope of the shoreline balances its trees at precarious angles, allowing some to dip their branches into the fog-covered water. (please click to enlarge)

Trees intertwine as if to orient themselves against the misty background of the opposite shore.

The fog-covered pond seems to provide a layered backdrop for these lonely branches. (please click to enlarge)

Unconcerned with the reduced visibility, a lone duck preens on the still-frozen surface of the pond. (please click to enlarge)

Perspective changes greatly at times. The fog seemed to make this ordinary portion of the pathway appear new to me. (please click to enlarge)

Old leaves which still cling to this tree create a colourful contrast to the hazy background, while droplets of rain dot the branches. (please click to enlarge)

This view is from the dock, beneath the weeping willow. The sun rose from behind it early that morning. It's opposite in perspective from the first photo in many ways. (please click to enlarge)

One last stroll around the pond. Late in the day, snow has almost fully melted and the fog feels even moodier in the near-darkness. (please click to enlarge)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

An Upside of Down

"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

Last week, on the bus, I saw a woman whom I found disturbing. As I watched her, she angered me, though my ire eventually dissolved into a sad awareness that her mental stability was most likely precarious at best. Clearly, she'd had a very difficult life - at least her last twenty years or so. I judged her current age to be late fifties to early sixties. After she paid her bus fair, she took her seat up at the front, opposite from, but close to the driver. She was speaking with irritation in her voice, and I thought she was still conversing with the bus driver, but he was not paying any attention to her.

I was sitting a few seats back, across the aisle. In front of me, was a young man in his late teens or early twenties. He spoke to her, and I realized that they were together. He was offering suggestions on how they would arrive at their destination on time for an appointment. He was encouraging her to consider transferring to a different bus at some point, rather than remain on this one. She scowled at him. "We can't take another bus. I only have two more tickets and we need them to go home."

He stood and walked over to her and tried to explain something. She told him to get away from her. When he sat back down, she berated him. "It shows how stupid you are. I can't walk in this cold and you want me to spend more time out there? It's all your fault that we're late anyway. You always make me late. Just wait until I tell (insert any of about four different names she used as the object of that threat)." And then I felt the icy fingers of her words grasp my own heart when she hissed "I should have put you in a group home."

The young man had Down syndrome, though from what I could tell, he was high-functioning, and he impressed me with how well he handled his mother. She never once threw him off-balance. He turned to the side and smiled at her. He told her that she didn't understand what he was trying to say, and his face showed subtle signs of amused superiority. Finally, he stood up, gently insisted that she show him her transfer and then pointed out the time stamp which would allow them to continue riding any bus for the next couple of hours. He named the bus line that he thought they should take next, and calmly continued to speak over her protests until she understood. The driver, who was now listening to their conversation concurred that his plan was sound.

She sat quietly for a few seconds and then continued her steady complaints about the weather, his tardiness and his intelligence. Perhaps his diminished intellectual capacity buffered his self-esteem from the onslaught of venomous words. Perhaps her own decreased mental ability was what triggered her tirades and gave her words malice. In any event, the boy appeared unaffected by her behaviour. On the way to his seat, her son shook his head, smiled and said "You see? Sometimes I am just smarter than you!"

I wanted to hug that boy.

Below are a few photos taken over the past week from before and during our recent thaw. Please remember to click on them to enlarge.

My backyard feeder has been filled countless times this winter - sometimes as often as three times a day, depending on the weather.This isn't a very sharp image, but I did like that I happened to catch this little bird as it was about to land.

At Frank's place, an early morning walk revealed a fresh snowfall, as a peek between these two trees would indicate. (please click to enlarge)

The bright morning sun created sharp shadows like this one of a cedar branch. (please click to enlarge)

More shadows from the cedars as they lean into early morning chitchat with one another. (please click to enlarge)

The creek was crisp, clear, cold and beautiful. (please click to enlarge)

On the opposite bank, at a bend where the water ran swift, small icicles had formed on the overhanging shelf of snow. (please click to enlarge)

The next day, we stopped the car on our way to take a look at a pretty little spot - one of Frank's favourite fishing holes of yesteryear. (please click to enlarge)

Back home again, the weather warms, and shoreline trees reflect in the melting pond. (please click to enlarge)

A subtle fog rises from the lake for a muted, smoky effect. (please click to enlarge)

Sun and shadow combine to create soft shades of blue, pale green and gray upon the icy thaw. (please click to enlarge)

Late in the day, the sun drops to meet the horizon and paints the landscape with golden warmth. (please click to enlarge)

Gilded pine needles absorb the sun, and glow with the promise of spring. (please click to enlarge)

Monday, February 9, 2009

You're Gonna Make It After All

Thanks to everyone who played along with "What's In A Name", and to those of you who left such lovely comments on my previous blog post. Those comments have now been posted and I'll reply to them shortly.

It looks like between all of you, you knew all but one character, and some of you were stumped by a few. The answers, as well as a few new photos are below. Please take the time to click on some links. You may just find a new blog to love.

1) Otis Campbell, played by Hal Smith was the town drunk on The Andy Griffith Show, also known as Mayberry. He regularly drank to excess, and when even he deemed himself intoxicated enough for arrest, he used his own key to put himself in jail. Equally absurd was Detective Barney Fife's (Don Knotts) ineptitude in handling his gun. As a matter of safety, Sheriff Andy Taylor (Andy Griffith) insisted he keep his lone bullet in his shirt pocket.

Many of you knew who Otis was, but Dawno was the first to get this answer correctly. Dawno is a long-time writing board (Absolute Write) friend of Frank's, and she makes beautiful beaded jewelry which she sells on her Etsy site. You can find her wonderfully-crafted pieces by following the link from her blog.

2) Consuelo Lopez, played by Elena Verdugo was Marcus Welby M.D. (Robert Young)'s loyal nurse, secretary and confidant. The show also stared James Brolin as Dr. Steven Kiley.

Also new to my blog is The Accidental Bavarian who was the first to guess this answer correctly. She has an interesting blog which covers her travels with her husband through much of her home state of Washington, and beyond. She has traveled to 38 cities in 6 countries. I'm glad to see that one of her favourite destinations is Niagara-On-The-Lake right here in Ontario, as it's also one of mine.

3) Pinky Tuscadero, who was played by Roz Kelly appeared in the show Happy Day as a love interest for The Fonz (Henry Winkler). The character's sister Leather Tuscadero was played by rock singer Suzi Quatro known for a few songs, my favourite of which is Devil Gate Drive.

The Accidental Bavarian was also first to name this character but next was NJ of The Path of Least Resistance. She is a fellow Canuck and an empty nester who lives in Napanee, Ontario. NJ likes to knit, and she takes some lovely photographs. Her blog gives us simple, warm and inviting glimpses into her life.

4) Agnes DiPesto played the quirky receptionist to private detectives Maddie Hayes (Cybill Shepherd) and David Addison (Bruce Willis) in Moonlighting. The character, who usually answered the telephone in rhyming lines was played by Allyce Beasley.

Dawno was also the first one to name this character, but a close second was Tired Dad a first time commentator over here, and a blogger after my own heart. His site, A Tired Dad's Ramblings always includes a Pun of the Day, for those of us who are gluttons for Punishment.

5) Gil Chesterton. Nobody knew this food critic from Frasier, who was played by Edward Hibbert.

6) Jenny Piccalo was Joannie Cunningham (Erin Moran)'s best friend and partner in crime on Happy Days. As Suldog stated in his comment, she wasn't actually seen on the show for years, but for the last few seasons, she did become more than just a reference, and was played by actress Cathy Silver.

Leah was the first to answer this one correctly. Her blog, The Goat's Lunch Pail is a treat. Leah is a fine writer and photographer who has also shared some delicious recipes with us, so I know she's a great cook too. Join her for Gratitude Monday, Photo Finish Friday and everything in between. You won't be disappointed.

7) Georgette Franklin was Ted Baxter (Ted Knight)'s dizzy, soft-spoken girlfriend who eventually became his wife on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. She was played by actress Georgia Engel during the last several years of the show's existence.

Once again, Dawno was first to identify this character but Russell of Iowa Grasslands dropped by shortly afterward, and also named her. Russell's blog is warm and welcoming. He lives in an old farm house out in rural Iowa with his wonderful dog, Bailey. He teaches law at a community college, has an affection for farm machinery and is a fine photographer. You'll always feel comfortable over at his blog so do yourself a favour and give him a visit.

8) Joe Gerard, played by David Groh, was of course married to Rhoda Morgenstern (Valerie Harper) of The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Rhoda fame. As with many real life couples, their marriage ended in divorce, which gave a bit more flexibility to showcase the Rhoda character, and her sister Brenda (Julie Kavner, also the voice of Marge Simpson).

Accidental Bavarian and Leah did answer this one correctly but Suldog came along with the right answer shortly afterward. If you've never read his blog, do yourself a favour and subscribe to it right now. I guarantee you'll be entertained. Sully's stories are chapters of his own life, or are about family members who he brings to us in living colour. He's warm-hearted, clever and very funny. Just don't give him an award - it's kind of like feeding a gremlin after midnight. And don't let him fool you into sending naked photos of yourself. He's also very sly.

9) Gladys Kravitz was everybody's favourite snoop. She was the busybody neighbour who lived across the street from Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery) and Darrin Stephens (Dick York and Dick Sargent) in Bewitched. Gladys was always peeking through the curtains at the Stephens household because she knew something strange was going on - something she told her husband Abner (George Tobias) every chance she got. In his comment, Suldog suggest that Gladys had been played by two different actresses, just as the character of Darrin had been portrayed by two actors, and he's right. The first performer, Alice Pearce passed away in 1966, and the role was taken on by Sandra Gould.

Dawno, Leah and Suldog all answered this one just before Daryl came along and also replied correctly. Daryl's blog, Out And About In New York City is a daily stop for many more than 45 of her readers, despite what her hubby seems to think. ;) She's a talented photographer and artist who has regular photo themes such as Waiting Impatiently, Sky Watch, Wordless Wednesday and Thursday In The Hood. She also entertains us with Toonsday Husbandisms - her cartoons featuring her hubby, which has women everywhere nodding with understanding. Daryl is a polished gem in city of New York. Give her a visit and see for yourself.

10) Dr. Alfred Bellows was the NASA psychiatrist on I Dream Of Jeannie. Much like Gladys Kravitz in Bewitched, Dr. Bellows, who was played by Hayden Rorke, was convinced that Major Tony Nelson (Larry Hagman) was crazy, and was forever trying to figure out what was going on between Tony and Jeannie (Barbara Eden). He never did though, and Major Nelson's job as an astronaut remained safe.

Dawno, Suldog and Tired Dad all answered this one, but then along came Phyllis. So many contaminated foods have been responsible for various illnesses throughout the world recently, particularly salmonella. How are we to know which products are not safe for consumption? Phyllis' blog eFoodAlert.com has all the answers. She posts daily updates of food product concerns, wherever they occur around the world. Her tag line says "Your dependable, independent source for food safety news and information" and you can count on Phyllis to live up to that statement. Mark her page as "must-read" if you have concerns about food safety in your area. Oh yeah, she also happens to be my cousin.

11) Earl J. Waggedorn was the best friend and downstairs neighbour of Corey Baker (Marc Copage), the only child of Julia (Diahann Catroll) on the sitcom of the same name. Julia was a nurse who worked for Dr. Morton Chegley (Lloyd Nolan). Earl J. Waggedorn was always referred to by his full name. He was never just Earl. The adorable red-haired kidlet was played by Michael Link.

Only one person knew this character, and I'm so impressed! Sully, you didn't let me down. I expected my sister to know this character name, but she didn't play. I'm glaring at you, Andi! ;)

12) Kelly Kapoor is the somewhat unstable, immature, shallow chatterbox who works as a customer service rep in the current television program The Office. She's played by actress Mindy Kaling who also writes and produces the show.

Accidental Bavarian and Suldog both got this one correct.

Thanks again for playing along everyone. Below are some recent photos. Please remember to click on them to enlarge.

Until a couple of days ago, we've had quite an accumulation of snow. I live in a townhouse with a single car garage, so our driveways are narrow. This will give you an idea of how high our piles have grown with the numerous snowfalls.
(please click to enlarge)

A branch which extends over the pond after yet another overnight accumulation.
(please click to enlarge)

On the weekend, the temperatures warmed up and everything began to melt. When the night air dropped down again, thin layers of ice formed on the recently thawed surfaces.
(please click to enlarge)

A near-full moon as seen late in the afternoon - before the sun even set.
(please click to enlarge)

The setting sun shone brilliantly as if to remind us that Spring isn't too far off. It peeked at me from between these evergreens.
(please click to enlarge)

A late night walk takes us around the pond which began its melt earlier in the day. These ducks were relaxing on the surface of refrozen glass ice. The Honda dealership across the road joins their reflections.
(please click to enlarge)

Zephyr sits close to Alex and watches me as I prepare a blog post. How long do you figure it was until that bottle cap was on the floor?
(please click to enlarge)

Skittles moves in even closer to one of his favourite people.
(please click to enlarge)

Over at Frank's place, Lucy, his African Grey helps us play Cribbage. (please click to enlarge)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

What's in a Name (Do You Remember Them?)?

I know that a lot of you folks who so kindly read my blog and comment regularly were born in North America during the 1940's, 50's and 60's. If you're at all like I am, television became a big part of your daily entertainment throughout those latter decades and beyond.

If you heard the names Lucy Ricardo or Hawkeye Pierce, you'd immediately be able to tell me that they are characters from I Love Lucy and M*A*S*H respectively. But how familiar are you with television's more obscure roles? Those background characters who appeared routinely, but never obtained starring role status. They have hauntingly familiar names but if you heard them today, could you connect them to their television show? Of course Google could probably provide you with all of the answers, but please try using your own brain power to remember these names, and the shows which gave them life. So, how many do you know?

I'm going to turn on comment moderation so that your answers won't appear below until a few days later, so that everyone has a chance to play. Have fun!

1) Otis Campbell

2) Consuelo Lopez

3) Pinky Tuscadero

4) Agnes Dipesto

5) Gil Chesterton

6) Jenny Piccalo

7) Georgette Franklin

8) Joe Gerard

9) Gladys Kravitz

10) Dr. Alfred Bellows

11) Earl J. Waggedorn

12) Kelly Kapoor

For those of you who are too young to remember, or don't wish to play along, here are some photos taken over the past few days. Please remember to click on them to enlarge.

A typical shot of Benny while out walking. He's the canine definition of perpetual motion. If he's not chasing sticks or wayward clumps of snow, he's wrestling with his own leash, achieving his dominance over it. Crazy dog! (please click to enlarge)

Although many snowfalls have dusted this oak, it still manages to cling tenaciously to a couple of its leaves. It shares the mindset of a Jack Russell Terrier. (please click to enlarge)

In summer, this picnic table is an inviting place to sit and watch the animal life on the lake. It's just a tad less hospitable in winter, but still nestled in a scenic location. (please click to enlarge)

This branch hangs a bit heavy after repeated snowfalls. It gently sweeps the snow below it as it sways back and forth in the breeze. (please click to enlarge)

Another popular spot in summer. Young and old tend to stop by that rock at the bottom of the hill, to watch the water (or ice) in any season. (please click to enlarge)

Amid the usual cluster of Sparrows, Cardinals, Mourning Doves, Juncos and Chickadees, this little bird and its mate were new visitors to my feeder. I believe it's an American Goldfinch dressed in its winter garb. (please click to enlarge)

I keep a heating sheet on the roof of the house to prevent a buildup of ice under the shingles, as we experience thaws and refreezes. This ice was formed after snow melted and dripped off of the roof, and refroze onto the downspout and wood pieces below. (please click to enlarge)

Before plugging that sheet in this year, the late-day sun reflected off of icicles which hung in front of my son's bedroom. This was taken through the screen and two panes of glass - hence the multiple reflections. (please click to enlarge)

And here's Ymir (a.k.a. Frank) - the Norse frost giant, doing a fine imitation of his pal, Thor. (please click to enlarge)

As the day winds down, the sky came alive with soft hues of peach, pink and mauve. Winter sunsets are often so striking. (please click to enlarge)

The setting sun reflects in the snow and ice as seen from behind a park bench overlooking the pond. (please click to enlarge)

Behind the weeping willow, the sky has changed to deeper shades of purple, pink and gold which bleed into the snow below. (please click to enlarge)

I'll release comments in few days along with the correct answers for the names listed above. Thanks for playing!