Saturday, 31 May 2014

207 Days Until Christmas

Christmas is never far from my mind. Strange, I know, but when you craft many of your gifts, you have to start early. My crafting has been a bit more limited than my imagination this last year, since I moved and put my back out. So I’ve been reduced to a lot of knitting and crochet, as opposed to larger, busier craft projects.

I still get all the daily e-mails from the crochet, quilting and sewing sites, so my spirit is still with those other projects even if my reality is not.

Today I got the e-mail from Crafty Christmas Ideas, from AllFree Christmas Crafts. There are always great ideas on this site, and I find it fun when I see the banner across the top that states there are 207 days until Christmas. Always good to know, I wouldn’t want to get caught unprepared.

A few years ago I started a new and ongoing project. I decided to make each of my grandchildren an ornament, one for every year since the time they were born. In the beginning, in the planning stages, I was going to give each child a theme, and follow it each year. Things like snowmen, Santas, stars, trees, and so on. But then I realized I would have to come up with 6 different designs every year. A plan doomed to failure I decided.

I started at the beginning and made my first granddaughter her first 3 ornaments, for ‘1998, ‘99’ and 2000. I used a photo from each year on the appropriate ornament. In 2001 I was blessed with another granddaughter, and made 2 ornaments that year and for the two years after that. Then things got busy. Another granddaughter in 2004, and the first grandson in 2005.

I had started late in 2007 and was almost caught up by spring of the next year, or so I thought. I had the final ornaments made, four of each and planned to give each of the kids a box of their ornaments at Christmas in 2008. My daughter-in-law presented me with another granddaughter in May; and my daughter with a grandson in June. Now my count was up to 6 per year.

I gave each of the kids their box of ornaments that year, and added to it for the next couple of years. But then I faltered, and I have a number of ornaments owing. I’ve had ideas, but somehow it gets pushed aside, and becomes an out of sight, out of mind kind of thing. This year I want to make good on my promise, even if it’s just to make me feel better. even though the kids aren’t aware of my intentions. They are used to my crafting things for them.

I have a pretty journal that holds all my Christmas Lists. At the very beginning I have a list of the ornaments I have made, and the year I made them, wouldn’t want to be too repetitive. After that are notes and diagrams, web sites, idea after idea for future ornaments.

At the back I have my gift list, from 2010 to last year. I note all the gifts I buy, and keep it updated as I have already made a good start at my Christmas shopping. A bit anal I know, but it works for me. I don’t forget anyone, don’t repeat giving people the same thing every year, unless that was the intent, and treat all the kids equally, because, believe me, someone will notice if they think they didn’t get as much as somebody else.

I found the pattern I want to make this year. It’s a bell made from an old book, with a pretty ribbon to hang it by. I came upon it on my Christmas Craft site, but the original blog has a lot to offer, check it out.

I’ll keep you updated on my progress.

Friday, 30 May 2014

Information Handbooks

It’s Hockey Night in Canada, again. Well, not in Canada per say, the Canadian team, the Canadiens, were eliminated last night, and the New York Rangers crowned the winner of the Eastern Conference. Tonight it’s game 6 of the Western Conference between the LA Kings and the Chicago Blackhawks.

All this hockey has brought back memories of my years as Hockey Mom. I spent many hours travelling across the city, from arena to arena, to watch my son play. Some arenas were small, local venues with hard wooden seats, no insulation and meagre offerings in a small tuck shop or the vending machines. Other rinks were quite elaborate, warmer, with comfortable seats and a more varied menu in the canteen.

Knowing what we might face before we arrived would determine whether we would stop to eat on our way, or go directly to the arena. Time was always a concern as I often rushed home from work, picked up the kids and immediately took off for the arena. There were many nights I couldn’t afford the time to change from work clothes to something more comfortable, and warmer, so a home cooked meal was out of the question.

It was fast food and a fast trip to the game. Some nights as we crossed the city, I just knew we were going to be late. On those nights my son would reach from the back seat into the hatchback trunk, grab for his gear and dress in the car. Aw, those were the days, and I loved every one of them.

There was another single Mom in our group of parents, and we were friends, as were our boys. We used to laugh and talk about putting out the Hockey Mom’s Handbook of Arena Information. We were quite serious though we never did follow through.

We would have included such things as which arena offered hot food, like hot dogs, hamburgers or nachos. Always nice to know if dinner was light, or a quick bite while on the road. And then there was the hot chocolate, a staple amongst hockey moms. In some places it tasted like it was made from dishwater, the milky and chocolate flavours practically nonexistent. Other places the hot chocolate was nice and creamy.

You can see how such a handbook would be of benefit to the parents making the rounds of not only Toronto’s arenas, but also those in the outlying areas. It’s funny, but as I watched my grandson play hockey this past winter, I couldn’t help but check out the amenities. Old habits die hard.

In my town we have a new arena/community centre. It’s quite the happening place with auditoriums for indoor soccer in the winter, plus two rinks and a series of other rooms for community activities. They have a small canteen on the main floor, I don't know what's upstairs at the main arena level. As I live local and usually bring my own cup of Timmies coffee, (from the drive thru at Tim Horton’s coffee shop), I've never paid much attention.

Being in a more senior age group, the food offerings at the local arenas are not top of my priority list. Now, where the bathrooms are, that’s a whole other kettle of fish. The one nice thing about Timmies is that they are everywhere, so you can always find one if you find yourself on the go, and need to go. LOL.

So that takes care of when you’re out driving, but what about when you’re in a store? Some stores keep a bathroom stuck back in a store room and designate it Employees Only. How rude.

But other stores, like Michaels, the craft store, have a public washroom. Always nice to know.

In Canadian Tire you have to go to the Service Department, logical as that’s where customers have to sit and wait. Sears stores usually have a public washroom, as do Zellers, Target and WalMart.

An important piece of information, for those of us who use public facilities, is who has the best toilet paper? There’s a topic for a handbook, because let me tell you, some of the stuff they give you to use is just…‘crap’. It’s thin, but stiff and rough.

Don’t get me started on those new and modern, self flushing toilets. They can be down right scary if they suddenly flush and you’re not prepared or caught by surprise because you’re still seated…but that’s a story for another day.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

An Affair to Remember...Romance

Today is Wednesday and I got waylaid yesterday with other things and forgot about the blog. Most of the time I write ahead, so I don't find myself in this last minute crunch to post on my scheduled day, not that I pay much attention to schedules.

My son and a friend both dropped off fresh rhubarb so I needed to bake. I made a double batch of muffins and some rhubarb crisp. My daughter came for lunch and took it all with her, for the grandkids.

It was nap time after that and when I was back, checking for e-mails I found my writer friend had challenged me to finish the genre stories we had started last summer. I've shared a number of them in my blog, and was surprised how many I had left to complete.

The list to check as done...horror, science fiction, western, fantasy, and erotica.

To do...romance, inspirational, thriller and humor, not counting nonfiction.

Each of the genre prompts comes with a photo. I was immediately struck with the black and white photo of a bridge on a foggy night. By two am I had the rough draft for a romance story. Black and white seemed to be the theme. Here it is, remember it's a the result of a tired mind, and is as yet unedited.

An Affair to Remember

The day had been unseasonably warm for October, but now, with the sun setting behind the hills, the air had cooled and a dense fog had rolled in off the river. As she followed the path into the park she shivered, could feel the mist settle its dampness on her coat, its droplets in her hair. It was not a night to be out, she thought, as her eyes searched the bridge ahead, barely able to see the lamp post in the eerie grey atmosphere. What was she doing here?

She felt foolish, and if she was honest with herself, a little afraid. Afraid he wouldn’t show, and afraid he would. Who did this kind of crazy stuff? Not her, at least not usually. Subconsciously, she had been waiting for this moment. It hadn’t been a constant on her mind, but was something, she knew, that had directed all her actions, played into every decision she’d made.

“Damn old movies,” she muttered. The bridge wasn’t a glamorous spot, not like the top of the Empire State Building in that old black and white film, but it was their rendezvous spot, and her destination.

She slowed her pace, remembering when they had made this date, one year ago, almost to the day. It had been a time of emotional upheaval, of endings, of change, not a good time for a beginning.

For so many years it had just been she and her Dad, her mother having died when she was a child. And then there had been Nathan, the young man who had come to work in her Dad’s store for the summer, and never left. He had been the son her father always wanted, and for a time, she had resented his usurping of her role as the only child in the family.

Poor Nathan, she thought. Too old to be adopted, her father had pushed them together, making no secret of his desire for them to be a couple, for Nathan to be his son officially. But, she realized, you can’t fall in love on demand, no matter how hard you try. If it hadn’t been for her father’s accident, it might never have happened. There are different kinds of love, and caring about someone, liking them, needing them, does not mean you have the forever kind of passionate love that lasts a lifetime.

She loved Nathan like a brother, and laughed, for that was really what he was, even though they had tried to be more; and failed miserably. When her father had been hurt in an auto accident, had nearly died from his injuries, she and Nathan had been there for him, and each other. The slow slide into a more personal relationship that they had avoided for years had been given a jump start into love and an engagement. If her father had had his way they would have been married with a house full of kids by now. Instead, they had gone back into slow motion, content with the way things were, never making final arrangements for the wedding.

The bridge looked empty. She couldn’t see anyone, hadn’t passed anyone on the path. The fog surrounded her in its silence, giving the park an unworldly look and feel. She had been so sure he’d come, and now, on seeing the empty railing, knew she’d been a fool to ever have thought he’d been serious.

Sam had been her boyfriend in high school. Sweethearts, but not soul mates she’d finally had to accept. If they were meant to be together, he’d have been on the bridge waiting, eager to see her after a year apart.

Last year, standing by her father’s casket at his funeral, she had seen Sam enter the room, looking so handsome, so confident and self assured. She’d felt her heart break even more at the mere sight of him. It had been years since she’d seen him and all the emotions of her youth had come flooding back. Breaking up after a silly argument, they had both had too much pride to make the first move, to be the first to say “I’m sorry.” It had been easy to avoid contact with each of them away at school, hundreds of miles apart. She had come home after her father’s accident, and Sam had stayed away, making his life somewhere else. With someone else?

Overwhelmed with the shock of seeing him, she left Nathan on his own and took off out the back of the funeral home to the small private garden. Sam found her there, and for a few minutes he was a stranger, and then he was the old Sam she had known and loved. He asked her to meet with him, to talk about old times, and she’d said yes, so eager to see him, to be close to him again.
The moment Sam had taken her hand, giving her his condolences on the death of her father, she had known. She still loved him, would always love him.

Their feelings, so long denied, had stormed back, leaving them unsettled and unsure. They had met again, under the guise of old friends; and it was then that Sam had made his incredible plan. Both of them were involved in a relationship, and she was grieving for her father. Emotions were not to be trusted, but needed the test of time, and distance.

They were to meet here on the bridge where Sam had first kissed her, in one year’s time. If they were truly meant to be together, they would have ended those other relationships and been free to start again, together. If either one of then didn’t show, then that was the end of it, proving the old saying about absence making the heart grow stronger, just that, an old saying.

She stepped onto the bridge, moving to lean on the railing, pretending to watch the water below her, lost in the fog. She and Nathan had ended their engagement, amicably, for he had harboured the same doubts as her. She sold him the store. It had always meant more to him, and she was sure her father would have approved. It took most of that year to finalize the details of the estate, and the sale, but now it was done and she was free.

During all of that time, she had kept this day in her mind, playing it out over and over again. When she was grieving, it gave her comfort and strength, something to look forward to. When she was sad and lonely, it gave her hope.

Now that day was finally here, and she was standing on the bridge all alone, enclosed by a damp and dreary darkness. The droplets of mist on her hair ran onto her face to mix with the tears.
She wiped the moisture from her face, her shoulders shaking with the effort to catch her breath. All her energy drained away, and if it were not for the railing, she would have collapsed, fallen to the cold, hard ground. Until that moment she hadn’t considered that he wouldn’t show.

Sam wasn’t going to come. She could picture just how it happened. He must have returned home, been greeted by his current love and shaken his head in wonder that he had been so foolish as to suggest they play out some scene from a movie. “An Affair to Remember” she thought; a tale of a love tested by time and turmoil, and in the end, true love prevailed. If she was to follow the script, she would search for Sam and ask him why he didn’t show. In the movie it was the woman who had stood up her true love, but she’s had a good excuse. She’d been running to the meet, and was hit by a car, left paralyzed.

She didn’t think Sam was lying on the side of the road, hurt, unable to get to her. This was not some story made for the big screen, each scene creating tension until it came to the happy-ever-after, the end. This was real life, her life, and she had just received another of those hard knocks. Forget all that ‘when one door closes, another door opens’ stuff, Sam was to have been her open door. No matter what, she had made the right decisions, maybe for the wrong reasons, but right just the same. She and Nathan loved each other, like siblings, and marriage would have been a mistake, would have made them miserable. This way they could remain friends, and Nathan would go on running the store, while she had her future open and empty, she realized, ahead of her.

She realized how cold and damp she was when she shivered and sneezed. It was time she went home, though home was a temporary thing. She had stayed with Nathan, in the house she’d sold to him along with the store, her belongings all packed and ready to move. Move, move where, she now wondered. The world was a big and scary place when you had nowhere to go.

She pushed back from the railing, and turned to leave, shoving her hands in her coat pockets. Head down, her steps slow and reluctant, she walked off the bridge.

The fog muffled the sound of running footsteps, but not voice calling out to her. “Hey, where are you going?” Sam yelled as he raced onto the bridge from the other side.

She turned, saw him slow to a determined walk, and stood her ground, not quite believing that he was there.

“Where were you going?” Sam asked. The smile that had lit up his face dimmed the closer he came to her. He realized she had not moved; had not spoken a word. “Did you change your mind?”

“I thought you’d changed your mind and weren’t going to meet me,” she said as she reached out to touch his cheek with her fingertips, as if she needed the reassurance that he was real.

“You’re not going to believe this, but I had a car accident. I was hit by a car, but fortunately for me, I was still in my car at the time.”

“That’s a really lame excuse, you know, the old ‘I was hit by a car’ story.”

“It’s the truth. Nothing less than being hit by a car and paralyzed would keep me away,” he said. Sam saw the light come back in her eyes, saw her mouth twitch, holding back a smile. “Would you come looking for me, hunt me down until you got the answer to why I didn’t show?” He took hold of her hand, covered it in both of his and raised it to his mouth, placing a kiss in the centre of her palm before enclosing it in a fist.

“I would have never stopped looking,” she told him, “not until I found you.”

With his arm around her, he led her to the railing. “Remember when we were here the first time?” he asked, a devilish look on his face. “We were playing a game of Truth or Dare.”

“You dared me to kiss you, if I remember right.”

“And you did.”

“Play it again, Sam?” she laughed.

“Oh, switching movies are we?” Sam said. “You know that’s one of the most misquoted movie lines of all time? Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca.”

“Ilsa had a similar line in that movie. “Play it once, Sam. For old times sake”.”

“I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” Sam quoted another line from the movie as he pulled her into his arms, and lowered his mouth to hers in a long awaited kiss.

The End, she thought, kissing Sam back, wrapping her arms around his neck, the damp fog and chilly evening air forgotten. The end, no more searching for that missing piece of her heart, it had just been returned.

...what can I say, I love old movies.

Monday, 26 May 2014

How Times Change

I was sitting here reading an old book by one of my favourite authors, Nora Roberts. It was given to me when my friend cleaned out her office and downsized some of her book collection. I started to read it the other night, and soon recognized that I’d read it many years before.

I kept reading because, well, a good story is a good story, even the second time around. And I am a notorious re-reader.

But it’s not the story that strikes me right now as the changes in lifestyle, in technology, in the laws.

In the book, written in 1990, a young woman’s life is being threatened by a man, identity unknown. She is being watched over by a police detective. The beginning of a romance is inevitable. In the scene I just read, the couple are at a social event when she receives an anonymous and threatening note. They rush from the room to the lobby where he, the detective, is “digging for change” and she sits and waits, “shaky, she pulled out a cigarette.”

He’s looking for change for the pay phone, as they didn’t have cell phones, and she’s lighting up in a public space, now against the law in many places.

Anything I’ve written has been contemporary, but in creating a character’s history I’ve had to look back to when they were born, when they graduated high school, finished university, and so on. Current characters would have cell phones, new and modern cell phones with access to the internet and the ability to take instant pictures.

We’ve seen it in the movies and on television, the police or agents have constant contact with their team and their headquarters, Information is at their fingertips in an instant. Gone are the old days of digging for change and looking for a public phone. 

My grandmother was ninety-nine years old when she died, in 1999. I used to marvel at the changes that had occurred in all those years, and now find myself in the same position. She saw many changes in technology in her lifetime, but nothing like what I have seen in mine.

I remember when television went to colour, lived through lp’s, 8 track, cassettes to CD’s and beyond. Same with disk players, beta and VHS to DVD’s. Whenever a new technology was developed it was expensive to buy, but if you waited the prices finally came down.

Remember how expensive it was to buy a tape player, how costly to buy the VHS tape of your favourite movie? Now you can buy a DVD for a few dollars, and your personal collection can be vast and not cost you a fortune. Unless you upgrade as things change. I finally got rid of my tape player and all my VHS tapes; have replaced some with DVD’s but now there’s this new Blue something or other.

The computer is just as bad. I have a new Notebook with Windows 8. It’s still sitting on the table waiting for me. I’ve kept the old one, the familiar one, using the excuse that I needed the familiarity of it to do the edits I was working on. A feeble and not entirely truthful excuse. I’m intimidated by the new one.

But waste not want not, I need to get going on it, learn the new programs and get to work. It seems I’ve made a lot of excuses lately, letting the new book sit unfinished, the Notebook sit idle, and my mood linger on the sad and depressed. Okay, we had a bad winter, and spring has been forever coming to stay, but that was then, and this is now. Get over it I tell myself, get back to work.

I need to make a daily to do list like my friend. At least then I would be reminded of what I need to do, and what I have accomplished. There’s a reason to do lists work, it’s too easy to bounce around from one thing to another, forgetting what needs to be done.

With the good weather these last few days, plus the impetus of getting my garden started, I’ve accomplished more this week than in the weeks preceding. I have a work of art started, finished the baby cocoons I was crocheting, and actually was back working on the book.

And I took the time to read a novel that reminded me that with time, comes change.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Down Memory Lane

I woke early yesterday and resisted the urge to go back to bed. With errands to run I decided to be one of those people, those early-at-the-store-as-it-opens people, not the late mover I usually am. Who knew there were so many people who were up and at it so bright and early?

My aim was to tour the garden section of the local Walmart, looking for black wrought iron trellises for my garden area. I say ‘area’ but what I really mean is the strip of garden along the side of my building, the only spot of ground that I have to play with. I know what I want, can see it clearly in my mind. I’ve even measured it off on graph paper and am trying to make my vision fit the small squares on the paper that represent my garden. I’m one step closer, which is why I was going to the garden centre. 

My garden had grown wild before I moved here last year and was full of weeds and perennials that were fighting for space. My son and daughter-in-law came on Friday and cleaned out the existing garden They took nine buckets of perennials home to plant in their country garden, not including the few samples I gave away. I wanted a clean slate, did not want to work around any of the existing plants.

The sun was shining when I left home, but it was still cool enough for a light jacket. I easily found a parking spot, grabbed a coffee at the McDonald’s inside and made my way through to the garden centre. I have to admit, first off, I am not a flower person, never have been. I like an arty garden, a space where I can be creative melding plants with man made statues, trellises, or other garden ornaments.

My vision is to create three small vignettes, one for each trellis, and each with some arty addition. I want an old wooden chair, with a basket painted to match, the basket overflowing with ivy and blooms. And I want a bird bath, with a stone statue of a bird on the ground below it. And maybe for the third trellis I’ll have a base holding a glass sphere or maybe a sundial.

For me, the plants are inconsequential; it’s the art of it that matters. It’s the decorating of it, just as it is for the patio area by my door.

My dream garden has a winding dry creek bed with lots of rock, statues, greenery, and a curved bridge so you can walk across it. I had this garden once…a couple of decades ago.

I remember digging up the garden in a winding path from the stoop where I hung my laundry, across the back of the large patio, and in front of the privacy fence that ran at right angles to the patio. It was a large ‘L’ shaped garden, with the creek made up of the smaller stones, graduating to larger rocks and then the greenery. I had a cedar in the corner, which added some height and led the eye gradually to the fence. I had poppies and lilies and other plants along the fence, and smaller plantings mixed in with the rock.

All of that I could and did do for myself. It was my vision after all and I was not a stranger to hard work or getting dirty. But to make it perfect I needed a bridge to join the patio to the yard. I needed a bridge to make it really look like a creek had ‘once upon a time’ flowed beneath it.

Now, my husband was not into the arty garden thing, and his ability to ‘see’ my vision of the garden was limited. He didn’t get why the bridge was an essential part of it. So he was not inclined to help me build it. Okay, I thought, I’ll do it myself. And I tried, I really did, but whatever I attempted was going to be amateurish, as I had no skill with a saw or hammer.

But I gave it a try, and it looked awful. The old boy had to show me how easy it was if one knew what they were doing. I got a beautiful arced bridge and my garden was complete. He could never understand my need to be creative in everything I did, and would have been shocked if I’d told him he did the same with his huge vegetable garden. All those structures he built to support vines were more than just functional, though he’d say he didn’t have a creative bone in his body.

While a dry creek bed type of garden is not in my future, I can still try for the arty aspects. But now I need help with the digging and planting. Instead of the father, I have the son, who looks so much like his Dad when he shakes his head and listens to my vision of what I want.

The more things change, the more things stay the same. Oh, well.

My intent was to write about the enjoyable day I had wandering the garden centre, planning and revising my future garden. 

Instead I’ve had a trip down memory lane and a quiet little cry remembering those olden days and a man, a father, who died too young.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Reality is Relative

I watch a number of television shows on the Lifetime Network, and one thing I find most annoying is the repetitive commercials advertising other shows on that same channel. Especially when I think that show is loud and extremely irritating. That sounds very opinionated, but come on, have you seen the ads for the show ‘True Tori’?

Tori Spelling, from 90210 fame, has a new docu-drama during which the cameras document, in almost real time, the inside look at a Hollywood marriage in crisis. Apparently the husband, Dean McDermott, cheated on Tori, and was recently in treatment for his…issues. The show is about their everyday life and how they are dealing with the stress on their relationship. The ads show these show biz parents crying, screaming and fighting on camera, while their kids sit in the background to watch and listen.

Who would do something like this to their children? Was their other show not enough to inflict on the viewing public?

I never watched the other show, titled 'Tori and Dean: Inn Love' which aired on the Oxygen channel. I had to look it up on the internet.

This show was to follow the couple in a business venture as Innkeepers. They were to purchase, renovate and run a B&B, outside of Hollywood somewhere. When the show started in 2007 they were newlyweds, hence the too cutesy name. I read one article that said they never actually purchased the inn, but leased it. I’m wondering how much of the show was staged and scripted; they are both actors after all.

When the original premise didn’t work they walked away from the inn and returned to Hollywood. By the time the show ended in 2012 it had been all about pregnancies and babies, and the couple’s lifestyle with four children.

‘Tori and Dean’ was cancelled by one network and has resurfaced on another as ‘True Tori’, which I would think doesn’t bode well for Dean’s future on the show.

I don’t like reality shows like this, can’t seem to understand why people would want cameras following their every move, or why viewers would want to watch. I guess it’s much like watching a video of a behind the scenes story, straight out of the Enquirer. Smut and more smut about famous people with too much time on their hands and too much money.

Or maybe it’s Hollywood types who just crave the limelight, and need to be in front of a camera, no matter what it’s filming.

Myself, I like a good fictionalized crime story, and will watch a re-run of an old favourite before I’d waste my time on some faked diva drama. But I suppose I’m in the minority, or there would not be shows like this or ‘Keeping Up With the Kardashians’ on TV.

Thank goodness for my PVR, where I have hour upon hour of crime shows I can play to my heart’s content.

Don’t get me started on the Maury Povich who’s-cheating-and-who’s-the-daddy type of shows, I’ll tell you what I think and you won’t need a lie detector test to know it’s the truth.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Paper, Paper and more Paper.

So, I had my blog for yesterday written ahead of time and pre-scheduled. It’s the one about Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. I was making a point about the fact that I tend to be the recycling depot for my friends and their cast off craft supplies. It was a valid point.

Then yesterday I get an e-mail from a friend asking if I wanted any of this paper stuff that she’d cleaned out of her stash during her office renovation.

Of course I said yes, I’ll take it all. Okay, okay, I’m a wuss, I’ll admit it. It wasn’t the word ‘free’ that got me, it was the word ‘paper’.

I love paper. I go crazy in office supply stores, and a craft or art store is absolute heaven for me. I am a mixed media collage artist and that means paper, layers of paper, bits torn from magazines, saved from the mail, gift wrapping and anything else I think will add colour or texture.

I confess, I am addicted to and a hoarder of paper. 

I wasn’t really being greedy, I’ll share. The old style fan out printer paper I’ll give to the grandkids. During the summer there could be rainy days where they’ll find themselves indoors looking for something to do, and like me, they just might want to be creative and pick up a pencil and some markers and draw.

The binder paper and notebooks I’ll keep. I still like to write longhand at times and keep a clipboard of paper handy for notes and ideas.

I’ve been itching to do some art work since I hand painted my brother a pair of minion shoes. It was having that brush in my hand again.

I have this idea that involves paper, some drawing, maybe some painting. It was something for the family, and I wanted each family member represented by their favourite colour. Sounds crazy I know, but I haven’t gotten it worked out in my head yet. I asked my son and his gang what their favourite colours were when they were here on the weekend, and he immediately asked why, of course.

He’s seen me through too many ‘never to be completed’ works of art. For example there’s the piece of wood and jar of nails sitting in the corner that I found in his garage and just had to have. I had an idea.

I don’t always like to talk about projects in the early planning stage, but knowing I have a pile of coloured paper coming my way is making this new idea come together.

If worse comes to worse, I know how to use up all that extra paper. There is something I've always wanted to try...making my own hand made paper. I have many books on the subject...of course. Molding and shaping handmade paper, the various textures, just think of the possibilities.

Oh boy, I think I just wrote myself into a new summer project. Maybe my friend will want to come over and play. 

Whatever happens it's her fault, after all, she started it by cleaning out her office. How dare she?

Monday, 19 May 2014

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

I’m all in favour of waste management. I recycle what I can, hell, I even recycle my K cup plastic containers, and that requires a level of dedication.

But, I think I need to add another “R” to that list. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and RESIST. That’s now my personal mantra.

When I moved last year I found boxes, and I mean boxes, plural, in multiples, of…stuff…that other people had cleaned out of their cupboards and closets and into mine. It’s what happens when you’re a crafter. People think you can use their scraps of yarn, ribbon and other bits and pieces left over from their craft projects.

I had so much stuff accumulated that I had to be ruthless in sorting through it all. I had to reduce all the stuff that was recycled to me, had to resist the urge take everyone’s cast offs in the hope that I would reuse it. How’s that for a sentence?

I got thinking about this yesterday when a friend dropped over, carrying a big bag. She’d been cleaning cupboards, it is spring after all, and she had some of that damned stuff she thought I might like. Not craft supplies this time, but bird feeders.

I held strong, I didn’t succumb to temptation, and I sent her on her way with her bag still full. I feel so relieved, and so proud of myself that I did not give in.

Somewhere, some place, someone else will make use of that bird feeder, but it won’t be me.

Now if it was yarn or fabric, I’m not sure I could have held strong.



Sunday, 18 May 2014

Church Bells

When I woke this morning I saw bright sun shine streaming in my windows. Were we finally to have a clear spring day after a week of cloudy skies and intermittent rain?

I looked at the thermometer hanging outside and was surprised to see the temperature was a chilly forty degrees fahrenheit. As it was 6:15, I decided it was too early, too cold and went back to bed.

Hours later, and a few chores completed, I made my morning coffee and checked the temperature again, as the sun was still shining and the sky a bright and beautiful blue. The temperature was now seventy so I grabbed my fleece jacket and my coffee and ventured out the door.

I was in for a treat I knew as I sat in the chair and closed my eyes. The church bells were ringing. Maybe in summer when the windows are open to the breeze I might hear the bells peal and remember, but for today it was a special surprise. The old music played, one tune into another, not classical I'm thinking, maybe hymns?

I take a moment, feel the sun on my face, and listen to the bells, the birds and the sounds of the neighbourhood waking up on a sleepy Sunday morning.

What a perfect way to start the day.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Bad Hair Day

As agile as I might seem when doing craft work, I am all thumbs when it comes to hair. I have never managed the art of using a blow dryer or a curling iron. So it’s no surprise that I have let my hair grow long, to the point where all I need is an elastic band or a clip to hold it back.

I was disgusted with myself for taking this cop out, for not caring how I looked. I would see other “older” women, maybe mature is a better word, with the same style and couldn’t help but think how unflattering that style was. I needed some hair around my face to soften the look. I decided I needed bangs.

Yeah, right.

Here’s the thing, I have a bit of a phobia. I hate hair salons, feel very tense and uncomfortable in one, and always have. I’ve tried different places over the years, thinking if I had one stylist, I might be more at ease. Problem was I never went often enough to build on that relationship. Sigh.

Last week I decided to trim the bangs I’d had a while ago, (when I had once before thought I needed bangs), and I started to snip away.

I pulled the hair together between my eyes and started to cut, snipping away a little at a time. The problem was I couldn’t quite get it even, so I had to snip some more.

When I looked in the mirror I had to laugh. I was transported back, remembering a time my mother had cut my bangs, shorter and shorter until they were more than halfway up my forehead and finally even. I wish I the picture of that horrible look, I can see it so clearly in my mind.

My grandfather was taking our photos, my sister and I dressed in matching grey dresses with a bright red sash. I was not a happy camper, and my facial expression showed just how unhappy I was with the whole thing…haircut, posing and photos.

As mothers I think we are doomed to repeat some of the evils done to us by our mothers, onto our own daughters. I also remember cutting my daughter’s bangs, and being determined to get it right. I’m sure my mother said the same thing to me as I probably said to my daughter. “It’ll grow back.” Not really reassuring words at the time.

I learned a few lessons the day I cut my hair. One, when you lean forward, and raise your eyebrows to look up so you can see the hair you’re cutting, it’s not an accurate measure of how long those bangs will actually be. And two, cutting your hair wet, it dries shorter. I look like some hausfrau from the forties or fifties.

Next week I’m going to a hair salon, I’m going to be brave, and I’m going to get it all cut off short. At least that’s what I’m thinking today. I’ll keep you updated.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

The Tree Felling

What’s that old saying or question, something about if a tree falls in the forest and there’s nobody there to hear, does it make a sound? Let me tell you that when a tree falls in town, it makes a lot of noise…trucks, cranes, chainsaws and mulchers. It was an interesting thing to watch, so organized, every man doing his job…that of cutting down the tree beside my place.

It was determined that the tree was dead, the large limbs and branches at the top a constant danger as any strong wind could have them breaking loose and flying down to the ground below. The ice storm had started the tree on a path to its downfall, but a few days of high winds had sealed its fate.


There were two large trucks, one with a crane and the other with a bucket lift. The back of the second truck was like a dump truck, as it would be filled with the mulch created by the machine that was pulled behind.
One man operated the crane, moving a steel rope that a second man in the bucket would secure around limbs at the top of the tree. The chain saws roared as the limb was cut off and lowered to the ground. The two man team repeated this action until they lifted the top of the tree off, then a large section of the trunk and finally the remainder of the trunk, leaving a short stump behind.

A two man ground crew used chainsaws to cut the smaller limbs off the large sections, hauling them over to the mulcher and shoving them in. I was amazed at how large the pieces were that could be mulched.

The trucks arrived with a roar at 11:22 and were done in about two hours, leaving behind a stump and a pile of logs to be cut into firewood. The area was raked clean and left as tidy as when they arrived. The huge logs were cut into manageable pieces that day and the next, and hauled away to be split into firewood. There’s not enough of a stump remaining for me to make it into a fairy house, but if they leave it as it is, I’ll cover it with a pretty pot of flowers.

All in all, it was an impressive thing to see.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Old and Outdated

I don’t consider myself a hoarder, more of a waste-not-want-not kind of person.

I frequently use a gel for back pain. I received a small sample of Voltaren through the mail, and it’s proved to be effective. I’ve had it in my purse to remind me to buy more…but I keep forgetting. The other day I was in the bathroom getting ready to go out, dreading the pain that a day of shopping usually causes when I thought about that empty tube of gel in my purse with regret.

Then I remembered a jar of Icy Hot gel that was stored in the cupboard. I reached behind me and grabbed the jar of bright blue gel. Before I moved to this new place, I remember that this jar was in the fridge, one of the reasons I kept forgetting about it. The jar got pushed to the back and it was that old ‘out of sight, out of mind’ kind of thing.

The first thing I noticed was the direction, Keep Open Container in the Refrigerator, oops, didn’t see that when I moved. Can gel spoil, I wondered. With the strong menthol odour, I thought not, but….

So I was going to slather some of this gel across my lower back, but quickly decided against using it, at least if I was going out. The strong smell might not be pleasant for others, especially in the close confines of the car. I guess that was one reason I liked the other brand, it was odourless.

Just out of curiosity, I checked the expiry date, and was totally blown away. JUNE 1995. What? No way have I been hauling this jar around for nine years, packing and unpacking it through numerous moves. And not just the moves, did I never clean out my fridge?

I’ve learned two important things from this experience: 1. Putting something in my purse as a reminder, does not guarantee that I’ll see it and remember, and 2. I need to clean out my fridge more often, and pay attention to what’s lurking in the back.

Maybe I should give sticky notes a try, as a reminder. Now if I can only remember where I put them.

Monday, 12 May 2014

"With This Ring..."

Wedding Ring  noun  a ring of gold, platinum, or silver, given by one partner to the other during marriage.

Traditionally, wedding rings shared between the bride and groom on their wedding represent their never-ending love. Rings are worn on the third finger in the belief that the vein there runs directly into the heart.

The rings symbolize eternity, where there is no beginning, no end. It is supposed to mean that love moves in an endless circle for better or worse, and the couple are united through good times and bad. Much like the vows taken, “With this ring I thee wed….”

I was married and even though I am now divorced, I believe in the meaning of marriage, of two people loving each other and sharing a lifetime together. And I respect the ring as a symbol of it.

I had a beautiful engagement ring with a solitaire diamond, and a plain wedding band. My work being what it was, I only wore the band when I was on duty, as the raised stone often caught on things. Years later, I got a wide gold band that I thought looked better alone.

I was out one day and noticed a woman who had rings on every finger, not unusual maybe, but this included the left hand, and included her wedding rings. I don’t know why I was so…offended? I don’t know what it was exactly, or why, but it bothered me. I’m probably being old fashioned, but given the meaning of those rings, I would never have worn another ring on that hand. I guess, in a silly way, the rings and that hand represented my dedication to my marriage, and I would never have cheapened it by wearing costume jewellery on the same hand. That’s what the other hand is for. Now, an acceptable deviation from that would be to wear a ring on the middle finger that also represented the marriage, something like an eternity ring given to celebrate an anniversary.

I know, I know, I have some strange ideas. Does it make me sound rigid and opinionated? That’s alright; we’re all entitled to our opinion.

This episode made me look at women and their rings more closely. I have a friend, widowed for more than 20 years, and she wears a mixture of ‘good’ and costume rings. A neighbour has been a widow for 5 years, and still wears her wedding rings. We got into a conversation about this and her thoughts were interesting. At her age, over 65, she was not interested in a relationship or in ever getting married again. In her mind she was still married, was still her late husband’s wife.

She told me of another woman who took off her wedding rings, after a decent interval of grieving, because she wanted men to know she was available, wanted a man in her life, and wanted to be married again.

We look at a person’s left hand to see if they are married, though women are more consistent than men in wearing a wedding band. I read it all the time in books, where a man is attracted to a woman and checks out her hand to see if she’s available. Then there’s the cliché tan line on a man’s ring finger, indicating an attempt to hide his marital status, for an extramarital dalliance maybe?

A ring doesn’t guarantee the wearer a true, forever kind of love, nor does not wearing a ring lessen a couple’s commitment to each other. I like the idea of wearing a ring that boldly states you are connected to another person. There’s a comfort in the simple stroke of the thumb over that ring, or the constancy of seeing it on your finger that reminds you that you are not alone.



Friday, 9 May 2014

Velma is Ailing

If you’ve been a steady follower of my blog you’d know about the ongoing vehicle woes that have plagued me all winter, the extreme cold, the constant snow, the dead battery. It was hard not to take it personal, like the car had it in for me, or just had a nasty streak and liked playing jokes on me.

I, being the bigger person, okay, the only person, decided to name my car…as a friendly gesture. So, my van is named Velma. Velma, the Van, I never thought of the alliteration when I decided on the name, it was always the car. Was that the problem, Velma didn’t like being referred to as a car?
I hate to say it, but Velma is ailing again. Initially I thought I could hear a little something when I started the engine, and when I gave it some gas. But the ‘purr’ has gotten louder, not yet a ‘roar’, but heading that way. Velma needs a new muffler.

I’m afraid Velma has reached that stage in our relationship where she’s going to start demanding more and more of my attention…and money.

I guess that’s what happens with age, our parts get old and worn out. I know just how Velma feels, if it’s not one thing it’s another, one body part or another causing some difficulty and needing repair.

For both of us, it’s a good argument for routine maintenance, for taking care of ourselves so we don’t have worse problems later.

Velma went to stay at Uncle Brad’s (her personal physician/mechanic) for a sleep-over and came back purring. I wonder if it would work for me, not a trip to Brad’s but a day at the spa. Maybe I should check it out.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Under Suspicion

A friend and I met last Thursday, for lunch and a writer’s blab, as we do every week. Sometimes we just talk writing, and other times we work, writing longhand or on our laptops. This was a longhand session, sort of, maybe more of an organize-my-notes kind of session.

I’m writing a new book, inspired by a phrase my son gave me last fall. I liked it and have used it as the title of the new work, “Where the Forest Meets the Corn.”

It’s a murder mystery, and though I know who the killer is and why he kills, I didn’t do the “Plotter” kind of preparation that I usually do. This has been a work in progress in more ways than one.

As I was making notes about things I needed to add, things I needed to change, I had an idea I was unsure of and wanted to talk it out with my friend. So, there we were in the coffee shop, at noon, surrounded with the lunch time crowd and I’m talking about this dilemma with my characters.

There are these three girls who were BFFs all through school, and now, five years later, two of the three are still friends, one has moved away, and separated herself from the group. For the two who are still friends, living in the same town where they grew up, murder happens. One of the girls is murdered, and there’s my query. Would the remaining friend inform the old friend now living out of town?

This is the question I put to my friend. Would she inform an ex-friend? We talked about it like it was a real event. What this remaining friend was like, why the third girl had separated from the group. We decided the remaining friend would not call the third girl, old resentments being what they are. Problem solved.

Unbeknownst to me, a young man was sitting at the next table and had apparently been listening to our conversation. When I spoke of murder, his behaviour changed and he quickly finished his lunch and left the building. My friend had been watching him and his growing sense of alarm.

Hello…it’s fiction, it’s not real. Honest, I haven’t murdered anyone, well, not personally anyway, on paper doesn’t count.

I guess I’m going to have to be careful what I say in public, and heaven forbid anyone see the stuff on my History and Favourites list, that might be a bit disturbing. Research, I swear, it’s just research.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Weather...always a surprise.

I left for an appointment the other afternoon, looked out over the yard, facing east, and enjoyed a moment of sunshine and blue skies. It was a surprise when I turned the corner and saw the black, threatening clouds and no sun to the north. As I made my way to the car it was as if I had walked into a shadow world, yet only a short distance away there had been sunshine.

I’ve seen this unusual phenomenon before. Driving home from a lunch with my brother, I looked in my rear view mirror and saw ominous dark skies in the west and thought that he was heading into a storm, where I had clear skies going east. The storm that day moved in my direction as I went through rain at one point, then hit dry roads and back into the rain in a very short distance. How strange that in the same neighbourhood, some houses would get rain and others not.

It’s like the lake effect for snow. If you watch the TV news from Buffalo, see their Doppler reports, you see how the snow is heavier on the south side of Lake Ontario. I’ve always been glad I lived on the north shores. But if you travel north from here, there is another lake. Rice Lake is not as big as Ontario, but is still large enough to affect the weather. On a drive north, (a distance of 45 Km) to the city where we frequently go to shop, it can be like passing through different time zones.

In winter, with a prediction of clear weather, we’d head out, going north to shop. At the eastern end of Rice Lake we might hit a snow storm, that at times has been bad enough to have me turn around and go back home. The skies ahead were a pale gray and looked to me to be full of snow, and I just knew they were waiting to dump a pile of the white stuff on me if I continued on my journey. Sometimes I’d battle ahead and drive through the storm and hit clear roads.

April was an interesting month, not so spring like as we had snow, but true to itself with the “April showers bring May flowers” description of old. But if May is going to bring flowers, the weather had better warm up some more. It’s still cool, and when it rains that dampness just adds to the chill.

It doesn’t matter what the weather, it’s always a ‘hot’ topic for discussion. When will the snow end, the rain was fierce, the cold…too cold and for too long. When it warms up we’ll complain about our allergies kicking in when it’s time to cut the grass, that it’s too hot, that we need rain for the gardens, you get the picture.

We love to complain about the weather, and it always gives us something to talk about.