Friday, February 28, 2014

C'est L'hiver!

My country is not a country, it's the winter
My garden is not a garden, it's the plains
My path is not a path, it's the snow
My country is not a country, it's the winter

Mon pays ce n'est pas un pays, c'est l'hiver
Mon jardin ce n'est pas un jardin, c'est la plaine
Mon chemin ce n'est pas un chemin, c'est la neige
Mon pays ce n'est pas un pays, c'est l'hiver
~ Gilles Vigneault

(According to The Canadian Encyclopedia, when the song Mon Pays was composed in 1964, it wasn't intended as a Québeçois anthem. That happened later. It was written to express "nationalism, solidarity and connection to the northern landscape" and it is Mr. Vigneault's original intention I prefer to convey.)

It's been a pretty cold winter here in the great white north. Bitter cold, windy and snowy. There have been days when I've opted to bundle up and take Benny for a brisk walk in the frigid temperatures. There have also been quite a few more when I've decided to wimp out and just stay indoors. It's those days which prompted the photos below - all taken from the comfort of home.

blurry zeph
Cats are the ultimate narcissists. You can tell this by all the time they spend on personal grooming. Dogs aren't like this. A dog's idea of personal grooming is to roll in a dead fish." ~ James Gorman
Zephyr knows that it's a day for relaxing at home and enjoying a long bath.

one brown egg
A hen is only an egg's way of making another egg. ~ Samuel Butler
Eggs, anyone? One brown egg amid the white. Something about it begged to be photographed and so I did eggsactly that. I crack me up.

Tomatoes and oregano make it Italian; wine and tarragon make it French. Sour cream makes it Russian; lemon and cinnamon make it Greek. Soy sauce makes it Chinese; garlic makes it good. ~ Alice May Brock
Not to be upstaged by fewer than a dozen eggs, my pal Bud finds his way into most of the foods we cook around here. The eggs were probably an eggception (okay, I'll stop now).

blue jay through glass
"Hear! hear!" screamed the jay from a neighboring tree, where I had heard a tittering for some time, "winter has a concentrated and nutty kernel, if you know where to look for it." ~Henry David Thoreau
We're getting "the look" from this Blue jay because this is all that's left are those itty bitty seeds. The hoards of jays who frequent our feeders have already gorged on all of the sunflower seeds and peanut bits. I'm not kidding when I say that we have a lot of these bossy beauties coming around each day. There are probably close to (if not more than) thirty of them who screech, tap and demand their meals. I hear them early in the morning, every single day, tapping at the wall outside my bedroom window. They sound like woodpeckers in slow motion. They also tap outside of the kitchen. After a bit of research and and awareness of the damage they're causing to the paint, I learned that blue jays eat the paint off of houses in order to get calcium in their diets. They seem to need more of it than other birds because they're the only ones who are attacking our house. It's known to happen in particularly cold, snowy winters when they can't get at some of the natural grit that offers their needed intake from the soil. The solution? Eggshells. And for a group this size, we're going to need a lot of eggshells. I've started collecting them but we don't eat all that many eggs. I'm considering asking the local deli/bakery if they can save theirs for us. The raw shells need to be placed in the oven for about a half hour to minimize the risk of the salmonella poisoning, then crushed up into pieces smaller than a dime and offered up on a silver platter (or any old plastic plate will do) for these spoiled brats of the avian persuasion. I'll let you know if it works.

plant in window
My fake plants died because I did not pretend to water them. ~ Mitch Hedberg
This isn't fake. It's a real Jerusalem Cherry Pepper plant which we picked up at a local store. It was looking pretty tropical sitting in the window soaking up sunshine. But I'm not falling for it, Mother Nature. Just out of view, to the left, was a thermometer which read -27C (-17F).

jerusalem cherry
We humans are the greatest of earth's parasites. ~ Martin H. Fischer
Unfortunately, our enjoyment of that plant was short lived. Peering closely at it one day, I saw tiny, red insects had set up shop in it, and the underside of the leaves were housing hundreds of their little eggs. You can see a few of them here, if you squint. Into the trash it went but I kept the pot to hold my cooking utensils.

Hairy Woodpecker6
Even the woodpecker owes his success to the fact that he uses his head and keeps pecking away until he finishes the job he starts. ~ Coleman Cox
This little lady would have probably enjoyed adding a few of those insects into her diet. She's a Hairy woodpecker. What do you suppose she's looking at?

Frosty Morning Moon
The moon puts on an elegant show, different every time in shape, colour and nuance. ~ Arthur Smith
Could it be the moon rising in the middle of the day. This was the view out of our kitchen window, one afternoon. Strangely, I'm never certain whether to call that the front or back window. Ordinarily, I'd say it's the front because it's the side of the house which faces the road. There's a small deck just off of the kitchen but it's not where we generally sit because the other side of the house (the side that I would typically call the back of the house) faces the lake. There is no entrance on that side other than sliding glass doors which lead into the house from the deck. To me, that's the back of the house. But folks around here tend to refer to that as the front because it faces the water. What would you consider the front of the house - the side with the main entrance or the side with the view?

sunrise bedroom view
There was never a night or a problem that could defeat sunrise or hope. ~ Bern Williams
And now that we've pondered that little mystery, here's the early morning view as seen through the lake-facing window. Whether it's called front or back, there's no denying that it's a beautiful scene with which to greet awakening eyes.

More photos coming up.. when they do.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Dear Deer

Dear Deer,

As you well know, Canadian winters are long, cold, snowy and quite unappealing in many ways.

You may also know that this, our first winter up north is reported to be among the worst experienced in the area. I see this as both a plus and a minus. The minus part is obvious - read back to long, cold, snowy and quite unappealing.

Looking at the plus side though, I figure that if this is one of the worst we can expect, subsequent years ought to be a breeze! Also on the plus side, is sharing our space with what I believe are among the most beautiful creatures on the planet.

deer scarface
Yes, that's you with your beautiful eyes and inquisitive looks.

You with your elegant legs which stomp the ground in protest when I stand a bit too close, and which are ready to run at a moment's notice.

You with your mouths which look like they're smiling when chomping down on the apples we offer, and which so eagerly eat the feed we leave for you.

deer one antler2
You who come running when you hear the food being scattered.

deer at steps2
You who announce your presence with a wee snort when my back is turned.

deer sweet doe
You who listen so intently when I tell you how very beautiful you are.

deer snowy
You with your snorts and bluster and hoofing and stomping.

deer three amigos2
You - all of you are making this winter among the finest in at least this one way.

deer munchies2
You've given me more than you've accepted.

Thank you, dear deer.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Remembering Family

In every conceivable manner, the family is link to our past, bridge to our future.
~ Alex Haley

This Monday will be Family Day in Ontario. It's a time meant to be spent with family members. I will at least try to spend time on the phone with my boys who both live a fair distance from me, now that I'm out in the country. On this Family Day weekend, I'd like to tell you a bit about my grandmother and mother - both of whom are long gone.

I never knew my maternal grandfather. He passed away several years before I was born, so my grandmother, who lived with us, had always been a widow to me. Having settled in Montreal, she met and married her love - my grandfather, a Polish-born man who knew a fair number of languages, and developed his career as a court interpreter. I remember hearing stories of how he would come home from work exhausted at the end of the day. Granny would be anxious to get out of the house and check out one of those new picture shows at the local movie theatre. His disappointing but understandable reply was an incredulous "Why on earth would I want to do that? I see more than enough drama all day long in court."

Granny was a native-born Russian who moved to Canada when she was just a few months old. She was a short, stocky woman who walked with a limp from an injury she sustained in a car accident sometime before I was born. In her later years she struggled with failing sight and hearing, but maintained her strong sense of humour. She loved to watch wrestling (wrasslin') on television and she could often be seen feigning her horror by holding her splayed fingers over her watchful eyes, while loudly expressing her disgust for the brutality that she opted to see.

She was fiercely proud of her family, and she experienced hardships that no parent should ever know. She had five children and was pre-deceased by three of them - one in infancy. Surviving such losses is unimaginable to me, yet Granny was content to be surrounded by her remaining family in her declining years. She became a great-great-grandmother before her death at aged 96 in 1973.

Granny up on our apartment balcony in Montreal.

My mother viewed herself primarily as a care-giver for my sister and me, Dad and Granny. She had a selfless, giving nature and she was happiest when she was doing for others. For a number of years, she worked in our family-owned business - a small but busy variety store. Mom could be found behind the cash most days. She also handled the bookkeeping for the store and prided herself on her excellent math skills, a gift I did not inherit. Mom had a way with words as well. Her vocabulary (or Vocal Berry as she often referred to it) far surpassed her education, and she was proud of her ability to spell exceedingly well. Mom could read music, and played piano quite beautifully. Though I inherited her piano, her musical talent sailed right over me and landed squarely on my younger son Alex's hands.

Toward the end of Granny's life, my mother found a hobby to help dissipate some of the stress she felt from caring for her ailing parent. She learned how to paint. I don't believe that she took more than a year or two of art classes, but she quickly discovered different techniques and soon developed her own style. She put her oils away shortly after my grandmother's death, and despite our encouragement, she never did pick up her paintbrush again. There would be many times over the following years that she might have benefited from its therapeutic effect but it was not to be.

While walking one summer's day, a few years back, I saw several Monarch butterflies flitting about, one of which obliged me by pausing just long enough to be captured in a couple of photographs. As it turned out, one of these images was quite similar to a favourite painting that Mom did, which hung on a wall not far from my computer at my old place and which will find a similar place of honour here at our new digs. My mother evolved as an artist during the difficult period of my grandmother's decline. Much like a butterfly emerges from a cocoon, Mom was transformed. There is no telling what talent or beauty might free itself from darkness.

mom dad and me
Mom and Dad, and their shy daughter - yours truly.

This Valentine's Day, Mom would have celebrated her 100th birthday. She has been gone for over twenty years now but her colourful artwork continues to brighten the walls of family and friends. Below are a few of her paintings which I inherited.

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Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

This Monarch paused on a purple thistle just long enough for me to focus and snap the shot. I rotated this image by 90º so that it seems to mirror the butterfly in my mother's painting above. Is it life imitating art, or the reverse?

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This is one of her first paintings. She used a palate knife to create this stucco effect, a technique with which she continued to experiment on many of her pieces.

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Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Mom got most of her ideas from photographs. She'd mark pages in magazines which had images that she felt she'd like to paint one day. She preferred nature scenes over most.

Another favourite subject was children. Mom loved the work of artist Edna Hibel who is known for her series of Mother's Day limited edition plates, each depicting a mother and child. Since imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, she reproduced the above plate entitled "Colette and Child" on canvas in 1973.

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This painting of a young girl and her dog was styled after a photograph found in a magazine - quite possibly National Geographic.

Of course no post about the women in my family could be complete without including a brief word about my only sister, Andrea. She's my sister, my friend and the only person who remembers some of the same things that I do. I will write about her more extensively one day but for now I'll just include a photo of the two of us circa... a long time ago. Thanks, Andi - for scanning the slides and sending these old photos.

My big sister and me.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A Tall Drink of Water and Posts of the Week

You're one tall drink of water, but I got to tell you, you don't look too bright.
~ Neil Gaiman

One of Uban Dictionary's definition for a "tall drink of water" is:
A man or woman that is tall, gorgeous, and super delicious. Like on a hot day, a tall drink of water is absolutely appealing.

My Zephyr is a handsome boy. And he's rather tall as cats go. And his purrs are a deep, soothing rumble of delicious love. So he could well be defined as the feline version of a tall drink of water but the Neil Gaiman quote above describes my boy rather well. He's sweet, beautiful and oh so loving but most wouldn't describe him as bright.

The cats always have a full bowl of fresh water handy (unless Benny decides to empty it instead of his own) and there's another bowl for the aforementioned canine beastie, so there's no shortage of liquid refreshment around for the critters. That didn't stop dear Zephyr from looking to a more awkward source of water - my near-empty not-so-tall glass of water.

silly zephyr4
Will your face even fit?

silly zephyr2
Yes, I guess it will.

silly zephyr
Okay, that's a bit too close - your chin is in the water. Try using your tongue.

silly zephyr3
Atta boy, Zeph!

silly zephyr5
Sweet success.

Zephyr might have to give you change if you offered him a penny for his thoughts but to me, he's my beautiful, loveable, tall drink of water,

❀    ❀    ❀

And now, without further delay, here are the Posts of the Week. The icon below is yours for the taking if your blog post is named as a POTW.



When Do You Feel Most Beautiful?
by Michelle
at House of Lime

The Seaman and the Admiral
by Jackie
at Teacher's Pet

Dear Tavin
by Brian
at WayStationOne

by Tabor
at One Day at a Time



Winter Bench
by Andy
at Eye Candy

Frigid Views
by Barb
at One Good Thing

Close Up of a Nuthatch
by Bob
at Birds and Nature in the Forest of Dean and Beyond

Faces of India
by Indrani
at I Share

Stretching Out
by Laura
at Pretty Pix

Roofline and Wine Bottles
by Lisa
at Lisa Gordon Photography



Pay it Forward Weekend
by Linda
at Olde Baggs 'n Stuft SHirts



Early Television History and Significance of the Tonight Show
by Cloudia
at Comfort Spiral



Stoner Bowl
by Betsy
at What Makes You Think I Have Cats?

The Portland Strangler
by Chicken
at The Chicken's Consigliere

Winter Carnival of the Insane
by Jim
at Suldog


Please drop by their blogs for a visit and leave a kind comment if you have the time. Also, please feel free to add your own choices (for any blog except this one) for a specific blog post in the comments section below, where others can see them.

Thank you

Saturday, February 8, 2014

A Million Little Suns

The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found?
~ J. B. Priestley

As what seems to be the norm for me lately, I can't swear that these photos are all from the same day. We've had so many snowy days that they all seem to blend together.

Still, snow out here in the country doesn't get old as quickly as snow in the city used to. It stays white. It stays fresh. It stays. Well that last part is a bit much.

I'm told that this winter is the worst the locals have seen in a very long time. That's encouraging because for a first winter, I'm not finding it all that awful. The cold is unpleasant but the worst of that is mostly overnight. And of course, we have our beautiful deer come visit us daily. Winter in the city was never like that. Bundle up and join me while we wander about on this snowy day.

snow across the bay
The lake is frozen solid in the bay, with thigh-high snow piled upon it. Snowmobiles have created many paths through the weeks, as have the deer as they make their way to and from neighbours. Those two blobs over on the left of the dock frame are all that you can see of a couple of wood chairs. The sky is beginning to show some blue but snow continues to whirl and swirl with the wind.

snowy day
A slightly different angle allows you a peek at our barbecue. It's doing a heroic job of holding up all that snow.

front deck table
Outside the kitchen window, a small cafe table and chair are also doing their best with their snowy burden.

chickadee dee dee
The Chickadees don't mind the snow, as long as we put out the usual Birdie Buffet. This one is eyeing the freshly scattered seed.

snowy day3
This was certainly an earlier time in the winter. Our snowbanks are ridiculously high now.

snowy day5
These neighbours only live here through the warmer seasons. No need to plough their driveway in winter.

snowy owl - not really
This first time I saw this owl from a distance, I briefly thought it was the real thing. I suppose if I had seen it with that snow on its head I might have known better.

winter afternoon
I like the rustic look of this garage down the road from our place.

snowy birch
A single birch shows off its own winter white.

clothesline icicle
A large dollop of snow melts and refreezes on the clothesline.

deer hello
And no winter post could be complete without one of our sweeties who come to visit daily. Hello, deer!

Join me again soon for some more photos.

The snow is sparkling like a million little suns. ~ Lama Willa Miller

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Flowers, Foliage and Friends

Every now and then I have a bunch of photos left on my hard drive which never got posted in their time. These were taken during my last couple of weeks living at my old home. The weather stayed warmer there and flowers lasted longer than they did up here. It was as if summer had lived on when everywhere else had turned to autumn.

So enjoy a reprieve of the season with these summer-like images before yet another snowfall arrives. There's a big one due today.

forsythia budding in October
When forsythia are in bloom, we usually know that spring has finally arrived. This typically occurs in April or May. The unusual thing about this particular plant is that it was photographed in partial bloom on the 17th of October. Don't try telling the blossoms or ants that they're out of season. It doesn't appear that they would believe you anyway.

spindleberries in sunlight
The spindle berry is one flower which is at its peak during the autumn season. This bud is green throughout the summer and slowly turns pink in early autumn. It eventually splits open to reveal the bright orange berry which fades very slowly throughout the winter. You can often see the orange seed wearing a snowy winter coat well into February. Right now, in this October 29th image, they're at their colourful prime.

chicory in autumn
One of my favourite wildflowers it chicory. Its brilliant blue petals contrast nicely with the autumn leaves behind it. This too, was near the end of October.

late bloomers
Pretty pink flowers which kept blooming late into October at a local butterfly garden.

wabukayne gold3
Maple leaves shine brilliantly against the deepening blue sky.

october holdout
Another sweet yellow October holdout.

And the sunflower - a little worse for wear but always lovely from every angle.

morning glory2
One of my favourite vine-growers - the morning glory. I think I'll have to plant some of these next year.

Without petals
Even flowers which have lost their petals can be lovely in autumn.

wabukayne oak
The mighty oak is especially beautiful in October.

decorative cabbage
A decorative cabbage catches the sunlight and produces a brilliant magenta glow.

autumn fluff
I don't know what it's called but it's fluffy and wispy and it caught my eye.

fiery leaves
Backlit by the sun, these leaves almost seem to be able to catch its fire.

lady bug on the boardwalk3
A tiny ladybug making her way along the boards of the pond's dock. This was one of the last walks I took at my old place.

so long neighbour
My ex-neighbour (that still tugs at the heart) and still-good-friend Caroline's house. I already miss our morning walks and chats and our weekend drinks and laughs. I think you're overdue for another visit up here, Caroline!

That's it for now. More coming up soon.