Monday, August 31, 2009

The Eejit Challenge

Oh, no. It's Monday already. Didn't we just have Monday? I forgot all about Totalfeckineejit's Monday poetry challenge until I opened Dominic Rivron's blog. The rule, you will recall, is that you write for five minutes. Period. No re-writes. Okay. Here goes:

An hour up the road,
Left my husband on the beach.
Shopped the day away.

I know. It's lame - but it's topical. That's what I did today (see the post below). And it's haiku. I stuck to a form.
Girls' Day Out: The Report


What a lovely day. Jane and I took one of our not-often-enough days out. We drove up to Qualicum Beach, where our favourite consignment store is. This photo doesn't show the consignment store. It is the railway station, which is also quite charming. The photo comes from the wiki site that I've linked. There are photos of the shop, My Girlfriend's Closet, here.

Robin went along for the ride, but he didn't come with us on our shopping trip. When we got to Qualicum, we dropped him at the beach. He entertained himself there for the next three hours. Meanwhile, we went to MGC and I bought two pairs of long pants (one of them French Dressing), a pair of pedal pushers, two tops, a belt (Abercrombie and Fitch), a beaded bracelet, and a pair of shoes for what I would have paid for the one pair of French Dressing pants, had they been new.

Jane bought a sweater and pants, but I was the shopping champion today. Giddy with our shopping triumphs, we headed to the local Quality Foods supermarket, which features a very attractive and comfortable cafeteria-style restaurant. They serve something they call Wicked Chicken Thai soup. That soup, and the shopping heaven that is My Girlfriend's Closet, are the reasons we drive all the way to Qualicum for our getaway days, instead of playing in Nanaimo.

At two o'clock, we picked Robin up and headed back to Nanaimo. On the way home, Jane mentioned that she reads The Turtle every night, and that I have been remiss of late, not blogging every single day. I want it on the record that that was pretty nervy, given that she was the one spiriting me away for a day of frivolity when I could have been at home, sitting here in my big comfy chair, blogging. And then, she was the one who brought Franco and some food and wine from her house to go with the prawn curry that Robin and I made for dinner tonight, so that the four of us could while away a couple of hours out on the deck, eating and drinking and chatting. Nervy. Just nervy. Nice, and a great friend, but nervy. ;>)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Thoughts on Reading the News

At night, in all my dreams,
I fly on strong wings, clean wings,
To search the world for you.
When my babies suckled at my breast
Or clung to me as I went about my work,
And weeping, I caressed their tender skin,
I felt the touch of your hand on my own skin,
Your breath, mingled with my own,
Your lips as they brushed my cheek.

These questions haunt my heart -
Do your gentle hands await me still?
Does your soft voice call my name?
Will there be room in your heart
For the miracles that violence made?

Jaycee Lee Dugard, who was kidnapped eighteen years ago, has been found, alive. While I rejoice at her rescue, I can't help wondering what life has in store for her now - and for the children she bore while she was held captive. I wish her and her family well.

On a lighter note, I'm going to blow my own horn, so to speak. The Town Blogger Team chose my picture of a landlocked ship as one of their Photos of the Week. Cool, no?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Friday Photo Shootout -

Incongruous: discrepant, unsuitable, ridiculous, ludicrous, absurd. (per Dictionary.com)
A word is not a crystal, transparent and unchanged; it is the skin of a living thought and may vary greatly in color and content according to the circumstances and time in which it is used.

- Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (Shamelessly stolen from a comment to another blog)

I've been looking forward to this post all week. I knew exactly what I wanted to photograph. Then I went to Victoria the other day, and I had to amend my plans. I will still show you Nanaimo's incongruous spectacle, but first you must see what I found in Victoria's Beacon Hill Park. (By the way, check out the colour of the grass. A little rain would be much appreciated!) We were driving through the park, looking at the fountains, the green grass, and the beds of flowers in the centre of the park. On our way out, in the middle of a field of knee-high grass, we found these fellows. They were not only incongruous, they were noisy.



Fortunately, I was driving - so I was able to pull over at a moment's notice, leap out of the car, and walk across the field to take a picture of the drummers in the grass. Then my niece got out of the car and walked to the edge of the field, where she stood to take a picture of me taking a picture of the drummers in the grass. Our husbands stayed in the car, shaking their heads. A man - a total stranger - came along and said that he was tempted to take a picture of my niece taking a picture of me taking a picture of the drummers in the grass. Incongruity heaped upon incongruity...

And now I come to Nanaimo's contribution:

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face and a grey dawn breaking.


You'll note that Masefield's wish list did include a grey mist on the sea's face, which leads me to believe that he considered water an essential part of his dream trip. Not so this Nanaimo sailor, who has seen fit to erect a ship - "The Pirate Ship", we call it - in his back yard.



I've never seen anyone actually trying to sail the ship, but I imagine the lord of the manor, transformed at intervals into the swaggering captain of his ship. Can't you just picture him standing in the bow, brass telescope raised to his eye, shouting "Ahoy there, you landlubbers!" and scouring the sea (or the Strait of Georgia, which is about half a mile away) for enemy ships? Maybe he's expecting a really high tide.

For more examples of incongruity, visit Friday My Town Shootout here.
Theme Thursday, and me without a Theme

I was bemoaning the fact that I simply haven't had time to do Theme Thursday this week, when I realized that I have nothing at all to say about limousines, so I had nothing to worry about.

But wait. I met a lady today who showed me some amazing photos. With a little help from Google, I found some photos to share with you. This isn't exactly a limo, but it's a pretty fancy piece of machinery - an amphibious bus! The bus apparently runs from Parliament Hill to the Ottawa River, whereupon it dives in and swims. There are more photos here.

The lady I met today said that she was standing beside the river, waiting for a bus, when she saw the amphibious bus plunge into the water. She panicked, seeing that there were actually people on the bus, fearing for their lives. I think I'd have done the same.

By the way, lots of other people actually did have something to say about limos, and you can find a link to their posts here. Thanks to Betsy for the theme.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Three Word Wednesday, just for fun

This week's words: Fracture, Noise, Vanish. Click here for links to more 3WW posts.

A compound fracture, the doctor was saying.
The mother turned pale, and she fainted,
Turning slowly as she crumpled to the floor.
A noise like gargling came from her throat,
And her eyes were half closed against the sight
Of white bone protruding through flesh.
The child and the doctor exchanged wry glances,
Smiling at the fragility of a mother
Whose legendary stoicism could vanish
At the sight of a little blood.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009



BetterU Tuesday, and a fine day it was
.


I spent the day in Victoria.

Fortunately, I weighed myself first thing this morning. I have lost two pounds this week (jumped right off that plateau, I did! I believe (though I'm tired and a little hazy) that the official reading is

July 25 X- 17

which makes my total weight loss to date 23 pounds.

As I said, it's a good thing I weighed myself this morning, because I fear I may have put all that weight back on today (all 23 pounds). This is what I did:

I ate my usual porridge before we left for the city.

We met my niece and her husband at their hotel, and R and I drove them down to Dallas Road and around to Oak Bay, because this was their first visit to the island. The threatened rain had not come to pass, so we had perfect, perfectly comfortable weather. We looked out across the Strait of Juan de Fuca, strolled along a path by the yacht club, looked at the beautiful homes.

Then the men said they were feeling a little lunchish. We drove back to town and across the bridge to Esquimalt, where Spinnakers pub is.

For lunch at Spinnakers, I had the luscious spinach salad (same as I ate last week) - but my niece was having clam chowder with her salad, so I asked what the soup of the day was.

Mushroom pesto - it's a cream-based soup.

Oh dear. I ordered that to go with my salad, and I ate it all. Every bit. I refrained from licking the bowl, but that's because I had a truly beautiful slice of artisan bread that I could use for mopping - but no, I had already slathered butter on the bread. Never mind. I did my best with the tool (spoon) at hand.

Things were still under some sort of control at that point, but on the way out, we stopped at the little counter by the exit and bought a few handmade truffles - with lavender and black pepper, a new one with tequila, lime & salt (quite surprisingly delicious), and I forget what else. So we had three tiny truffles each.

After that, we drove downtown to have a look around the Provincial Parliament buildings. There was a whole lot of traffic. It turned out that the ceremony surrounding the opening of the new Parliamentary session was going on. A red carpet had been laid on the front steps, and both the Canadian Forces band and the RCMP band were playing. Hot damn. They were putting on a show for us!



Because of the ceremony, we couldn't go inside the building, so we settled for smelling the roses. Someday our digital cameras will 'photograph'
fragrances along with images, but in the meantime, I'll just tell you that every rose I sniffed was fragrant. Maybe it's something to do with the air in Victoria.


After our stop outside the halls of power, we went across the road to the BC Museum. We decided to go to the IMAX, which is inside the museum. After all that stressful eating and rose sniffing, we felt like sitting down for a while. We watched a film about the Sea of Cortez. It was so relaxing, I think we all dozed off at one time or another.

After the movie, we made tracks for Sidney, so our guests could catch the ferry back to Friday Harbor in the San Juan Islands, where they are spending a few days on a friend's boat. We got to the terminal with time to spare, so we scooted into town (Sidney, I mean) to make a pit stop at the local supermarket for - Nanaimo Bars.

Do you know about Nanaimo bars? They are made from cream and sweet butter and chocolate and sugar and coconut and more calories than anybody trying to lose weight has any business taking in. My friend Joyce won a prize years ago for the best Nanaimo bar recipe, so that's the one I'll link you to. It's here.

I ate one on the way back to the ferry. It was my first Nanaimo bar in years.

I checked Facebook, and I see that my niece and her husband have arrived back in Friday Harbor. We got home at 7:30 p.m., and I'm sitting here feeling larger than life.

Tomorrow, back on the wagon. Better still, I'll just follow the wagon down the road. I could use the exercise.

Monday, August 24, 2009

In response to a challenge,

I square my shoulders, flex my typing fingers, and leap into the fray. At least, that's what I'm going to try to do. The challenge is at Totalfeckineejit's blog, which I just read. I was still working at 7 pm my time, so I didn't see his post until just now - so I guess 9:23 p.m. will have to be my "as close as you can get" time. I'm supposed to write a poem and not take more than 5 minutes to do it. Heh. Here goes.

Today out on the road I saw
two cars sporting stickers that both read
"I know how you feel; I just don't care."
It was all I could do to keep on driving
In the face of such a sad reflection
on what we have become.

Oh dear, there's my five minutes gone. I should have stuck to haiku.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

So much for my career as a technical writer.

There are things - I suspect, many things - that are much easier to do than to describe. I just took it on myself to help a poet of my acquaintance create a bloglist on her new blog at WordPress. Now, I don't have a blog over there, though my character Marie does. I hadn't seen any reason to create a bloglist for Marie, because her reading habits are virtually identical to my own (and a good thing, too. I would have to give up sleeping if I had to read for two.)

Anyway...

I find WordPress rather ungainly, so in order to explain how to create the bloglist, I had to do it myself, with an e-mail open in another Firefox tab, and type the steps into the e-mail as I went along. This was the resulting letter:

............................................................................................

"I've managed to create a bloglist. I'll go through it again and type in the steps.

1. Go to your Dashboard.
2. Choose Links (over on the left)
3. A little menu will appear under Links. (Edit - Add New - Link Categories)
4. Choose Link Categories.
5. Click on Add Link Category.
6. Just below that choice, there is a window where you can give your new link category a name. I created one called Bloggy Links.
7. Click on Add Category.

There. Now you have a place to put your links. Next.....

8. Go back to Links. You should be on a screen that reads Edit Links.
9. Click on Add New. A new screen should appear, headed Add New Link.
10. Fill in the name of your link, e.g. Amazing Voyages of the Turtle.
11. Fill in the URL of your link, e.g. http://sandarastraveljournal.blogspot.com
12. Scroll down to the header Categories and click the box by the category you have just created.
13. Go way over to the right-hand side of the screen and click on Add Link.
14. Bob's your uncle.

So. Having gone through all that, I realize that (a) You could just put your blogroll in the category WordPress calls "blogroll" (go figure), where they have the links to WordPress.com and WordPress.org. If you want to do that, you can just skip steps 1 to 7 and pick up at 8.

OR.....I see that you could actually start at #8 and just scroll down to the bottom of the Links screen, where there's a box labeled Add Category. - which, you will note, is #7 on my list. You could then - again - start at #8. Is this beginning to sound like The Ring of the Niebelungen?

All of this is to say that WordPress has a lot of redundancy built in, and you should play around with it to see which road to Rome you prefer taking.

If I have confused you beyond hope, do call me at xxxxxxx, and we can get together in person, if you like. Good luck. May the force be with you. (This is all much easier on Blogspot - or maybe I'm just used to it.)"

......................................................................................

I have probably driven this poor lady around the bend. I could, of course, have simply deleted steps 1 to 7 and re-numbered the rest, but damn it, I had gone through that whole rigmarole, and if I had to do it, so did she!

I don't know what I'll do if she asks about posting photos. I did manage to put some family photos on Marie's blog, but I have not figured out how to arrange them on the page. They go where WordPress thinks they should go. Period. Live with it.

I am reminded how much I like Blogspot. I speak Blogspot.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

So Little Time -

- so many things to do. I was called in to work yesterday, so I missed my chance to take pictures of signs for the Friday Photo Shootout. I also missed hearing a friend of mine perform at last night's concert downtown.

Never mind. The wolves are kept from my door for one more day.

Today, I had errands to run in the north end of town, so I used that as an excuse to go see The Time Traveler's Wife - all by myself. I'm glad I did. The movie is nowhere near as beautiful as the book, of course - that almost goes without saying - but I enjoyed it, nonetheless. When it was over, I sat and watched all the titles, because I like to do that. It seems rude to leave the theatre without at least glancing at the names of all the people who worked to create the film I've just seen - and generally, the music is still playing, so it's a shame to walk away.

Tomorrow, Robin and I have the day off together. I imagine there will be some exercise on the agenda, and maybe a visit to one of our nearby Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. (In England, there are places that are so designated. I've always found that very charming.)

I had an e-mail today from Kim Goldberg, whose poetry reading I attended - several months ago, now. She has a new book coming out, and she has started a blog to celebrate it. I wish her well, and I hope you'll stop by to visit her.
The link is here.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Today, as a reward for my diligence,


I treated myself to a walk downtown for the Summertime Blues Festival performance. I had spent hours at the computer - not blogging, not on Twitter - but writing. By five o'clock, the temperature outside was beginning to come down, and a walk sounded like a good idea. I got to Diana Krall Square just as the music started, but then there was a bit of delay after all, so I wandered into the library to amuse myself. Right away, I saw a poster advertising an event that I couldn't resist - a (free!) evening of storytelling at Theatre One called

"A World Full of Story" With the Around Town Tellers.

There was only one problem. The event was scheduled to start at 7 p.m. I was a 45-minute walk from home. I couldn't just stay downtown and take in both events, because (a) I hadn't eaten yet! and (b) I didn't want to walk home after dark. I needed a car.

I checked my clock. It was 5:35. I cast one last look at the band, which had started playing again, and I set off for home. I wanted to hear the concert, but I'm afraid that if the choice is between blues and words, words will win, hands down. If the concert had been, say, chamber music, the choice would have been harder.

Off I went, then, up Bastion Street, down Wesley - where I snapped a photo of the lovely mural that graces the corner, to my house (6:20 arrival). I grabbed a car and drove to the closest supermarket. I bought a Weight Watchers dinner, took it home (6:35), tossed it in the microwave, and ran for the shower. Five minutes later, I was clean, dry, and eating my dinner. Five minutes after that, I was out the door. It wasn't great for my digestion, but I didn't care. I arrived at Theatre One a little bit late. The first storyteller was just beginning to speak. Rather than interrupt her story, I sat on the steps at the back of the theatre and listened from there. When she finished her story, the tale of a young woman who cheats Death by selling her words, I sneaked in and sat down in a proper chair. I never found out the name of that storyteller. Actually, the only name I got all evening was that of Terry Mack, who played one of her Native American-style flutes between stories. During the tea break, I asked Terry's permission to photograph the flutes (and her), and she graciously gave me her card. She sells the instruments through her company, Peaceful Spirit Flutes. They are truly beautiful.

The next storyteller told a story from the Talmud. Then came a memoir of a childhood in France - and a recitation of two Robert Service poems, "The Shooting of Dan McGrew" and "The Cremation of Sam McGee". There was an Egyptian story about a hippopotamus who fell in love with the Pharaoh's daughter, and a Korean story about a very clever thief.All the storytellers came up to take a bow at the end of the show.

I think my diligence was well rewarded. I had a great time tonight, as did the entire audience and the storytellers themselves.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I did not like The Half Blood Prince;
I did not like it then or since.


n.b. In case I am not the last person to see this movie, I have tried not to put any spoilers in this post.

Today's Beat the Heat technique was to head for an air-conditioned cinema to see the latest Harry Potter film. I looked longingly at the start times for "The Time Traveler's Wife", but I have also been wanting to see the HP, and my husband was much more likely to enjoy that than TTW. So, in we went. After the obligatory half hour of previews, the movie began. It was slow and dark, except for some nauseating special effects and some rather charming teen romance moments.

First, the special effects: It occurred to me that these movies are aimed at children and young adults. In fact, when we walked into the theatre, Dr. David Suzuki was on screen, giving advice to students on how to minimize their impact on the environment (use both sides of notebook paper - turn off your computer when you aren't using it). The stomach-turning scene in this movie made me wonder about the popularity of nauseating special effects among the young. Could that be an important part of our development? Perhaps it's like a baby discovering his toes and becoming obsessed with them for a while. Maybe at some point it's important to kids to say Oh, cool! I have a stomach - feel it churn! If that's the case, I suffer from arrested development. I have never enjoyed being sick.

Then, there was the teen love stuff. It really was charming. I have no complaints about it, except that it's disconcerting, the way these children have morphed, virtually overnight, into hormone-soaked teenagers. And I know that the suddenness is more a function of my age than theirs. It's not their fault.

Hormones and nausea aside, though, my primary problem with The Half Blood Prince is that it seems like a series of vignettes, rather than one coherent story. Also, it lost me several times - If I had been watching it at home, I suspect I would have left the room, looking for a book to read. Furthermore, if I were reading a book, and I found my attention wandering the way it did during this movie, I would toss the book aside and check out another author.

p.s. My husband agrees with me on all these points. Maybe I should have dragged him to The Time Traveler's Wife.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The song of the eagle is sweet...



...which has always baffled me. They are such huge, predatory birds - Wouldn't you expect them to have a cry that sent chills down the spines of anything within range? No. "Tweedle-dee-dee," they sing.

Today, when I was walking on the beach at Florencia Bay, I thought a lot about that, as we seemed to have arrived just in time for an eagles' concert.

The trip to Florencia Bay (in Pacific Rim National Park) was a last-minute idea based on a look at the weather forecast for today. Basically, it was going to be HOT in Nanaimo, so a trip to the west coast sounded like a fine plan (to one of us, anyway). It usually takes three hours to get to Florencia Bay from our house. Today it took closer to four, because the last 48 kilometers of the twisty-turny road were under construction. Three times, we had to wait around for a while and then follow a pilot car through a particularly dicey part of the project.

As we drove, we wondered why the road work was being done now, at the height of tourist season, instead of in, say, September - but when we saw how extensive the project was, we understood. It's a constant battle to keep this road in good repair. It seems that the work is no sooner done in one spot than another piece of the road starts sinking. This particular effort is very ambitious.

Eventually, we came to the end of the project and proceeded to the beach. I had been a little reluctant to make the journey, as I had one or two things to do (like write!) today, but once I stepped onto the beach, I knew I was in the right place. I walked and thought and listened to the surf and listened to the eagles and took pictures of the amazing patterns created by water and light and sand.


The ride home was a little quicker than the ride out, because it was late in the day and road work was winding down. I had a supermarket chicken Caesar salad for dinner. I bought it in Port Alberni, lest I eat the seat covers before we got back to Nanaimo.

Oh - I almost forgot. It's BetterU Tuesday. No joy in Mudville, I'm afraid. I gained half a pound at the beginning of the week, and I've still got it. My BP is fine - a little lower than last week, but I'm no lighter. Could I have found the dreaded plateau? I hope not, because I hate being hungry, and if I cut my intake any further, I'm going to be hungry all the time.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

My brain is so full of a number of people -

I was true to my word. I stayed away from Blogland and Twitter today, until I had worked on my story for what seemed a respectable period of time. Of course, in the meantime, life came rolling along and took me away from the computer altogether, and by the time I got back, the day was nearly gone.

Never mind. It felt good to write. It felt good to think inside a story. I've been doing that to some extent by writing Marie's blog. This was just one more way of getting out of my own head and into a character's. No, that's not right. It was a way of grabbing another one of the characters in my head and talking to her, one on one. Angela, the heroine I found at Creative Writing Prompts, is nothing like Marie. Maybe I should let the two of them meet somewhere - in a bar, over Scotch, maybe. They could compare notes. I could eavesdrop. Marie is very left-brain oriented ( so she must originate in my right brain, right?) - and Angela, who looks rather like Julianne Moore, is creative and a little crazy. Come to think of it, Angela would drink the Scotch, but Marie would want a very dry Bombay martini, thank you.

While I was away today, John Hayes's Robert Frost's Banjo celebrated its first anniversary in high style. Happy anniversary to John and Eberle and RFB.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Blogger, Interrupted
.
Sandra enters, whingeing.

No real problem here - just an attempt on my part to quit playing around and do some writing. Real writing. Blogging feels like writing, you see. My fingers move on the keyboard, and words appear. I even try to maintain some control over spelling and sentence structure. But I don't have to worry about keeping my story straight. Not really. What you see is what you get, and what you get is generally whatever is on my mind at the moment. It's different when I'm trying to write a story. I have to make people up, and then I have to remember whom I've made up, and try not to turn my blondes into redheads in the course of the story, unless there's Clairol involved. And then I have to make things happen to my people. It's all very complicated, you understand.

Of course you understand. Some of you are real writers who write real books, not wannabes like me. And the problem is, the more I blog (and read blogs and Tweets and so on and so on) the less I write.

Jamie Ford quoted Orson Scott Card today, on Twitter: ""Writer's block is your subconscious mind telling you 'this sucks!'"

So today, I decided to spend a lot more time writing. It was Kathryn Magendie's doing, really. She said "Trust me when I say that if you really want to write a novel, or stories, then you must practice your craft and the only way to practice is to just sit down and write." And that's what I did. I went to Creative Writing Prompts , chose a prompt at random, and started writing a story that began Catching the signal from one of her friends, Angela brushed her skirt, took a deep breath, and walked toward where he was sitting. I'm still writing it. I have no idea how this story is going to end, but I have characters - Angela among them - and a couple of things have happened. I am determined to finish this story.

This is the thing. I love words. That's a good start, isn't it?

Also, I love stories. And furthermore...I love to tell stories. My purse is full of little scraps of paper on which I have written words and lines and ideas for stories. There are pieces of stories lying around everywhere. They are crap. Even I know that.

Here, then, is my promise. From now until November, I shall stop procrastinating - at least about this one thing - and write every day. On any given day, I shall not blog until I have made a sincere effort to write something that has a plot and characters.

Come November, I shall have had enough practice at daily writing that 50,000 words will be a walk in the park. :(right)

After November 30, it's all a blur. My crystal ball is on the fritz.

Sandra
exits, still whingeing, but with her shoulders back and a determined look on her face.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Friday Photo Shootout - Relaxation

You can find more FPS posts here.

I spent most of today in Victoria, which isn't really my home town. However, the part of my heart that was left after San Francisco got through with me is in Victoria. I live in Nanaimo, but I love Victoria.

Today's trip wasn't meant for relaxation. We had errands to run. We spent the first part of the visit sitting in the passport office - but I had a book to read (Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife, which - at least so far - is just as good the second time around as it was when I read it on the plane coming home from England - maybe three years ago? Has it been that long? Really?). So even the passport office experience was fairly relaxing.

Then the fun started. We headed down to Dallas Road, where we sat for a few minutes beside the duck pond. There were no ducks. Hmmmmph. Geese, seagulls, but no ducks today. Nonetheless, the pond was a very relaxing place.

After our few minutes of meditation by the pond, we met a friend for lunch - at Spinnaker's, our usual haunt. We lingered over our meals. Mine was a spinach salad with hazelnuts, blue cheese, and a delicious vinaigrette, so it was worth lingering over. While we ate, we gazed out over Esquimalt harbour, where boat after boat sailed by, filled with people who like to do their relaxing on the water.

As we left the restaurant, I stopped to smell the roses - really. Often, these days, I am disappointed when I lean over to smell a rose. So many of the hybrids have little or no scent. Not at Spinnaker's. I bent to smell a red rose, and then I called everybody else over to smell it. It was fabulous. The nearby pink rose was also fragrant.

Even the drive back to Nanaimo had its moment of relaxation, when we pulled over at a viewpoint atop the Malahat Pass and spent a few minutes enjoying the view.

Thus, my busy day became a day of relaxation, punctuated by moments of business. I liked that.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Theme Thursday - Festivals

Festivals are erupting all over the island, and Nanaimo is in the middle of it all. This is the one that I'm really looking forward to.

Blues, Blues, and more Blues.

Meanwhile, we went out yesterday afternoon to have an early dinner at the Lighthouse Bistro and wait for the beginning of the Snowbirds' flyover. I thought perhaps this was part of one of the festivals, but it seems not. It was a fundraiser for a group working to combat Crohn's Disease.

Whatever the reason for the flyover, the atmosphere downtown was certainly festive. I took this shot of the top of the bistro, just after we went outside (at five minutes to six - perfect timing). Within a minute, we heard the planes approaching. I tried in vain to take some film of the show. My camera isn't really up to following planes across the sky - or I'm not - so the result was less than satisfactory, and I settled for still photos.

These guys were the warm-up act. I photographed them after they finished their flyover.

I realized as I uploaded the photos to my computer just now that I had taken 54 shots. It's a wonder I saw any of the show at all.
A few minutes into the performance, I glanced back up at the bistro's cupola, and this is what I saw:
Apparently somebody has friends in high places.

The performance went on for, maybe, twenty minutes. I could see people lined up along the rail, all the way around the harbour. I did take some photos, but it occured to me that folks might object to having their photos blogged without their permission (and I have no idea who they are, so permission is out of the question.) Thus, you'll have to take my word for it. The walkway around the harbour was full of people. It was really quite summery and fun. I remarked to Robin that it was great to see folks out walking around, all with one happy purpose - to see this lovely and impressive show. There was lots going on in the sky, but in between passes, I took one shot of the water below the bistro, because it was shiny and I love shiny stuff.

When it was all over, we made our way through crowds of pedestrians to our car, then through more crowds of both pedestrians and crawling vehicles to get home. It's probably just as well we don't have festivals every day. Nobody would ever get anywhere.

As I couldn't film the Snowbirds, I found a You Tube film to demonstrate their performance. Very exciting stuff. I'll make that the finale of this post. Happy Festival Season, everybody.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Have I lost it completely?

Before you answer that, let me tell you what inspired the question. I'm thinking about NaNoWriMo, trying to do a little (a lot of) mental preparation for the month-long write-a-thon that is looming larger and larger, sounding like a freight train approaching, making me wonder What Was I Thinking? I can't start writing, but I can do character studies, outline, etc. In the meantime, I wrote part of - and abandoned - a short story about the daughter of my main character, set some years after the book I'm planning to work on during NaNoWriMo.

I was thinking about that character, Marie Bennett, and how exploring her life from her point of view - reminiscing with her, getting into her head, might be a good way to prepare myself for writing about her mother. It might also get me off my butt to finish that simple little story.

It has become evident to me, lately, that I like to blog. I like the interface, for starts (It's much more interesting than the blank page that faces me in my word processing program), and I like having a mental picture of the folks that might read what I have written. I have bloggy friends now. I look forward to reading your comments and to checking your blogs to see what you've been doing or thinking.

So.....I got inspired. I decided that Marie should have a blog of her own. There she could talk about herself, complain about her husband, remember her childhood - all the things that bloggers do all the time. So I channeled her, and she started her own blog. It's called Life After Death: An Orphan's Story - and why she chose such a morbid title for her blog is beyond me, but she did, and there you are. She put it on WordPress, because it could be marked Private. There are family pictures in there, and the family looks remarkably like some popular Hollywood types like Nicole Kidman, Liam Neeson, etc., which could be really embarrassing, were somebody to stumble on the blog. Marie has been blogging for a couple of days now, and nobody has commented yet, which is not surprising, given the Private label. I guess if Marie wants comments, I'll have to leave them myself. I can feel my personality shattering like a Corningware plate, shards flying off in all directions.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tuesday is BetterU Day -

and I am pleased to report that I have lost another pound and a half. My weight is now X-14.5, and my BP was 117/79 yesterday. Much better.

I glanced back at last week's report and saw what an eventful day last Tuesday was, with the release of Euna Lee and Laura Ling, President Obama's birthday, and Rebecca Woodhead's accession to the Ms. UK Twitter throne. Today should have been much more leisurely, but it has torn past with really unseemly speed, and I am left feeling groggy and inclined to have a nap. I must not do that, or I won't sleep tonight.

I did have my walk, and R and I went to the north end to buy a new box fan, then to the south end to have the water pump on our car replaced so that it would stop leaking antifreeze.

Just a few minutes ago, we ran outside to investigate a huge noise. It was the Snowbirds flying overhead. They will be performing here in Nanaimo tomorrow night. I guess this is just practice. It was impressive, nonetheless. Tomorrow, we plan to go have an early dinner somewhere from which we can watch the show.

Monday, August 10, 2009




Blogging in the Shallows


I can't believe I'm talking about this. Any time now, it'll be all over the headlines - SANDRA BACK IN REHAB!

SANDRA TAKES A PUNCH AT NOSY REPORTER!

SANDRA GOING BLONDE?

SANDRA ADOPTS TWELVE BABIES FROM SIBERIA! ...

Nonetheless, shallow as it may be, I must tell you. Today, I took my virginal feet to Merle Norman's Parksville salon, and I gave them into the care of the lovely Janice, who knows me already, because she is in charge of controlling my unwanted fur. I told her it was my first time. She was shocked. I told her I was frightened of having somebody come at my feet with sharp objects. She understood, and she used only an emery board, not clippers or scissors. I told her I had heard horror stories about people getting - EEK! FOOT FUNGUS! from pedicures. She reassured me. I had chosen this particular place to deflower my feet, largely because I knew that it was scrupulously clean, so I believed her.

While Il Divo sang in the background, my tootsies were soaked and scraped and massaged and oiled. Then I chose a coral nail polish, and Janice painted my toenails. It's amazing how much better they look than they ever have when I attempted to do it myself. I said so. Janice explained that it's hard to aim right when you're twisted up like a pretzel to reach your feet. True. True. It's not that I'm inept. It's perfectly understandable.

Oh - at this point, I said something about my nail polish getting thick toward the end of the bottle, and Janice told me a trade secret. I'll share it with you. If you keep the rim of the bottle clean by wiping it with nail polish remover before you put the cap back on, your polish will stay thin right to the bottom. There. A million dollar hint. Literally. You'll thank me later. I'll thank Janice.

When my pedicure was over, I was fitted with a pair of soft little black sandals. They're only 1/4 inch thick. Janice made me close my eyes while she slipped them onto my feet, so that I wouldn't try to help - because that way lies disaster. I'm still wearing them - two hours later - along with the tissues that were folded and woven around my toes. Oh - another hint - the tissues work much better than the foam things ("One size fits none", said Janice), mostly because they don't hurt. I may never put shoes back on, though I think I'll shed the tissues shortly.

There you go. It's over. I have soft feet and pretty toenails. And in the end, I think the process was less a deflowering than a reflowering. (I hear you can have that done in California, by the way. Life is strange.)

Sunday, August 09, 2009

EXTRA! Kim Richardson is having a Blog Anniversary Give-away. Check it out at Writer in Waiting. You can enter to win a very cool prize.
In C

(Inspired by hearing the musical composition of the same name on the CBC. Click here for a description)

This afternoon, beside the road,
enveloped in C that rushed at me
from four thrumming corners,
long,
like a train on the prairie,
all ground, no figure, I heard
a sudden eruption, like geese
tumbling southward in autumn,
a sea change,
and there they were,
a migrant
flock of chaos fleeing southward
in clumsy formation,
honking,
the contrapuntal beat of wings
figure
against the ground of sound in C,
against the sky in black on grey,
disappearing,
leaving no trace of their passage.




Saturday, August 08, 2009

Julie & Julia & Me - An Afternoon at the Cinema

It must be the impending pedicure. I'm feeling terribly self-indulgent today. I started the day by putting all my photos on a flash drive, which took forever but left my laptop clean as a whistle (well, once I had defragged it). I figured that was enough serious stuff for today, so after my walk, I went to a Subway close to Woodgrove Mall, and I had one of their low-fat subs. Then I strolled into the theatre for the 1:20 showing of Julie & Julia. The theatre was nearly full.

I turned off my cell phone as soon as I sat down, and my cell phone also functions as my watch. Therefore, I can't tell you for sure how long it was before the main feature actually started, but I would be very surprised if it was less than half an hour. Preview after preview rolled by. Some of them actually looked interesting. There's a very silly Sandra Bullock movie that I'll probably watch just because it has Sandra Bullock in it, and a Jennifer Aniston flick that looks like my kind of thing (unashamed fan of the sappy chick flick that I am). There was a movie about the end of the world that made me think of the trailers that theatres used to show, back when Todd-A-O was new, hot stuff. The movie appeared to be mostly about its special effects. Maybe it has a plot. I don't know. It certainly has special effects, though.

By the time Julie & Julia started, the personal space I had snagged for myself (an empty seat on my right, two on my left) had shrunk to just the space on my right. Fortunately, the couple who came in and sat to my left didn't bring popcorn. One of the reasons I generally like to watch movies at home is that I really, really dislike sitting in the middle of a bunch of people who are crunching and slurping whatever they've bought at the concession stand. It spoils the movie for me.

Which brings me to the movie. I loved it. Really I did. I laughed. I cried. But I also recoiled in disgust at the scene, early on, in which Chris Messina, playing Julie's husband, slurps, smacks, gobbles and crunches his way through several servings of bruschetta, talking the whole time. Frankly, if that couple on my left hadn't been there, blocking my way, I might have left the theatre. I'm glad I didn't, because the movie as a whole was a pleasure to watch, but that was a close call.

Meryl Streep is fabulous. Stanley Tucci is adorable. The younger couple, when they aren't eating, are cute. I will watch (most of) the movie again.

Oh - and I will never look at cannelloni quite the same way again.

*********

For a little more self-indulgence, I took the coupon that someone had given me, entitling me to a free mini-facial at the Premier booth in the mall, and I got my mini-facial. It was sort of like agreeing to listen to a time share spiel, I'm afraid. The facial was luscious. The product is great. It also turns out to cost somewhere between $90 and $120 a jar for each of the ten or so products (except for the jar of Dead Sea salt, which is on sale today for only $39). Way, way, way out of my league. The salesperson/aesthetician was shocked (shocked, I tell you!) to hear that. They don't put prices on anything, so I had no clue until the end. Oh, well. My face feels great, and if I had $200 to blow, I would consider the eye serum and cream, because they really did produce great, virtually instantaneous, results.

All in all, a delightful day. Bon appetit!

Friday, August 07, 2009

Friday Photo Shootout - Power!

Friday? Already? This calls for some creative photography. Ahem.

My first photo represents the primary source of power at our house. I'm a little unclear about how it gets in there,

but all we have to do is plug our appliances in - and most important of all, plug our laptops in - and presto! we have power.

Just recently, I bought a new microwave. It claims to have 1200 watts, whatever they are. It cooks my morning porridge in 2 minutes, rather than the 4 that my old microwave took, so I guess there's a lot of power in those watts.

When we want to get somewhere fast, we drive our huge gas guzzling Buick, which we converted to propane some years ago. The engine is still very powerful.

But if we want to harness the power of our own muscles, we differ in our approach: My husband loves his bicycle. When he was a child, he wore several bikes out, and he's pretty close to wearing this one out, as well.

I, on the other hand, prefer to move under my own, unaugmented power, so I use these.

There you have it - the secret of our power. Use it wisely.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Theme Thursday - Kiss





Brian Miller of waystationone has been Tweeting and blogging about his upcoming birthday. He has been threatening to sneak a peek at what his sons have bought him. I keep telling him that the surprise is the best part of the experience. I may have threatened to slap his hand if he cheated, but maybe not. I know I was tempted.

Our conversation brought to mind a story my older sister, Gracie, told me about a long-ago Mother's Day when she got a surprise.

Heh. I can hear her now. If she reads this, she'll be saying, "Hey, watch it! It wasn't that long ago!" - but her children are adults now, and the story is about when they were little kids like Brian's.

It seems that as Mother's Day approached, her 6- and 9-year old daughters wanted very much to buy her a present, so the day before Mother's Day, she asked their dad to take them shopping, and he did. The whole family went to the mall, and after only a few minutes, the girls and their father re-appeared, bearing a very large plastic bag. Both girls were giggly and jittery-squirmy and could hardly bear not to tell their mother what they had bought her. Several times, they said "Mommy, do you want to see your present?"

"No, dear. It's not Mother's Day yet. We have to wait."

Eyes wide, jumping up and down, they insisted - "But it's the most wonderful present in the world!"

"I'm sure it is, dear - but we have to wait for Mother's Day."

"Ple-e--e-e-e-e-e-ze, Mommy."

"Not yet, dear."

Rinse. Repeat several times over the course of the evening. (My sister is a Mean Mother.)

Anyway, Mother's Day finally arrived. First thing in the morning, the girls appeared in their mother's bedroom doorway. "Happy Mother's Day! Please, Mommy, can we show you your present now?" They were jumping up and down again.

"Okay."

The girls disappeared for a moment, then reappeared, bearing the large gift, now wrapped - after a fashion.

"Oh, Mommy. You're going to love it. It's the most wonderful present in the world!"

"I'm sure I will. Thank you."

Gracie tore open the package while her daughters looked on. Then she grabbed the girls and gave each one a big hug and a kiss. She had tears in her eyes.

Her present was a

huge

Styrofoam

chicken.

To this day, Gracie says "You know, that was the most wonderful present in the world."

Now do you see what I mean, Brian?
Parenthetically, but gratefully -


Before I start writing my Theme Thursday post, I would like to reproduce the poem I talked about yesterday, the one that took me on a sentimental journey. I wasn't sure about the legality of lifting poems from Rattle magazine, so I used a brief quote and a link. Meanwhile, I e-mailed Tim Green. Tim referred me, in turn, to the poet, David Lee Garrison, who kindly gave me his permission - so here it is, for posterity (because my memory isn't what it used to be, and tracking it down at a later date might be problematic).


Bach in the D.C. Subway


by David Lee Garrison

As an experiment,
the Washington Post
asked a concert violinist—
wearing jeans, tennis shoes,
and a baseball cap—
to stand near a trash can
at rush hour in the subway
and play Bach
on a Stradivarius.
Partita No. 2 in D Minor
called out to commuters
like an ocean to waves,
sung to the station
about why we should bother
to live.
A thousand people
streamed by. Seven of them
paused for a minute or so
and thirty-two dollars floated
into the open violin case.
A café hostess who drifted
over to the open door
each time she was free
said later that Bach
gave her peace,
and all the children,
all of them,
waded into the music
as if it were water,
listening until they had to be
rescued by parents
who had somewhere else to go.

Reproduced by permission of the author.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Sehnsucht

I first encountered the word Sehnsucht many years ago, in a song by Tchaikovsky, a setting of a poem by Goethe. The song was sung by Rossano Brazzi's character in the movie Little Women. I hardly remember the rest of the movie, but that song enchanted me.

Here are Goethe's words:

Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt
Weiß, was ich leide!
Allein und abgetrennt
Von aller Freude,
Seh ich ans Firmament
Nach jener Seite.

Ach! der mich liebt und kennt,
Ist in der Weite.
Es schwindelt mir, es brennt
Mein Eingeweide.
Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt
Weiß, was ich leide!

Source: Wikipedia.

Wiki also provides this translation:

Only one who knows this longing
Understands what I suffer!
Alone and separated
From all joy,
I look to the vast horizon
On every side.

Oh! He who loves and knows me,
Is far away.
I feel dizzy, and it burns
my insides.
Only one who knows this longing
Understands what I suffer!

(Yes, I know. It sounds much better in German.)


Browsing Rattle's site last night, I came across another poem. It was written by David Lee Garrison, and it can be found here at Rattle's blog. You'll have to scroll down a bit to find the poem. It's called Bach in the DC Subway.

Do you remember the story? The violinist in the subway was Joshua Bell. Click here for the Washington Post's coverage of the event, with video.

One line of the poem brought me to tears. Garrison says

"all the children,
all of them,
waded into the music
as if it were water"

Wouldn't it be wonderful to rediscover the openness that children have, that allows them to accept the incursion of the extraordinary - of magic - into their lives as their due? Wouldn't you love to wade into music as if it were water, without needing to analyze its components or think about it at all?

I'm there again, in that longing state. I'm suffering from Sehnsucht. I want to push aside the layers of age and fatigue and habit and insecurity that, for the most part, keep me walking the straight and narrow. I want to find fairies in the garden, hear the voice of the stream, use my superhuman powers to save the world. There was a time when I could do all that, wasn't there?

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

BetterU Tuesday - and Celebrate! Celebrate!

First of all, Happy Birthday to President Obama. May he live long and prosper.

Also, it appears that Euna Lee and Laura Ling, the American journalists who were arrested in North Korea in March and sentenced to twelve years' hard labour, have now been freed, thanks to the intervention of former President Bill Clinton. Woo-hoo! My good wishes go out to all of them, as well.

Later: I found this on Twitter, a much re-twitted, very poignant tribute. I thought you might like to hear it.



Next, the BetterU report. It appears that my holiday did not completely undo all my efforts. My weight this morning was X-13, which makes my total weight loss to date a very respectable 19 pounds. I just used the Search function to find my older reports. I put in "BetterU" and got a string of posts in what appeared to be no particular order. That's very odd. At any rate, I think I lost a pound on the holiday, despite my excesses. I'll check my BP again this afternoon to make sure that yesterday's scary (144/79) reading was a fluke.

This was the first day I've gone back to walking since we got home - I don't do well in very hot weather, so the only time I walked while we were away was at Wellman Lake, where it was cool (and mosquito-ridden). There was the one-hour circular walk through the woods, and then another walk around the lake to a friend's house. That felt much longer, but I don't think it was. I think I had just been burning the candle at both ends, and it was catching up with me. So today I walked for just under an hour, and it was lovely. I stopped to take lots of pictures, and also to eat a handful of blackberries.
At the beginning of the walk, I noticed that my green island had gone all brown in my absence, and that disturbed me. I know it happens every summer, but it always comes as a shock.When I walked off the path to take this first flower photo, the grass crunched under my feet.

As I walked, though, I saw that there was a lot of life still happening, despite the drought.


I have three photos of this purple bloom, all taken in an attempt to catch a shot of the bee who was scurrying over it - but every time I went to focus, the bee would run around behind the flower. No co-operation at all. However, I did find a bee later on - one who had the courtesy to stick around and have his picture taken.Can you see him? He's somewhere in that sea of yellowness.

I also found cat-tails. There was a time when I would have cut some and taken them home, sprayed them with hair spray and kept them over the winter. That was in the old days, when I had hair spray. Now, I think I'll just settle for enjoying them in their season - and here at the Turtle.

More congratulations are in order. I can't believe I almost forgot to say: Congratulations to Rebecca Woodhead on her victory in the Ms Twitter UK contest. <> Your highness! < /bowing >

And.....ta-da!.....I just made an appointment for Jane and me to go for our pedicure on Monday, (my first ever). I feel girly, oh so girly....

Altogether, you know, this is shaping up to be a pretty splendid day.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Phew! That was a busy day.

Actually, this was a day spent mostly in my chair, twittering and trying to catch up on bloggy friends' posts. I had a mission - to see Rebecca Woodhead into her rightful position as UK Ms. Twitter. Her mission, you see, was to prove that the pen is mightier than the pin-up, recently amended by Rebecca (with tongue firmly in cheek, I suspect) to literacy & libraries will triumph over lipstick & liposuction - both of which battle cries I found most inspiring. At this point, with approximately 14 hours and 45 minutes left in the competition, Rebecca has a solid lead of 1,205 votes over her nearest competitor. I'm not taking any chances. I'll keep voting until bedtime, then start again in the morning and keep voting until they slam the door of the voting booth.

The above photo is one of those that I took as we left the prairies and settled into the welcoming arms of the Rockies. I'm still basking in the relief I felt.

When I wasn't voting or tweeting today, I was out shopping. We needed a new microwave, and I bought that. I also ran some more errands. It was weird to drive a car after a couple of weeks barreling around in the Turtle. The steering wheel seemed a little loose in its moorings, but I know that was just because I've been driving a truck.

In preparation for tomorrow's (shudder) BetterU weigh-in, I tested my blood pressure at London Drugs. Holy Hannah. Must. Cut down. On. Salt.

Never mind. Things are returning to normal - except I just talked to Jane, and we've set the wheels in motion for a Girls' Day Out Including Pedicure. Aaaaaah. Now there's something to cure what ails me.


Sunday, August 02, 2009

Friday Photo Shoot-out (Sunday edition) - Outdoor Food

I had an excuse. Honest I did. I had no internet coverage on Friday (or Thursday), and I didn't get home until 11 p.m. yesterday. So, this is what I did.

The last couple of times that our friends Franco and Jane have gone away in their RV, we have invited them to have dinner with us on the night they get home. Jane decided that we had a good thing going there, so she invited us to have dinner with them tonight, and we did. I rather thought we would be eating outside, but it turned out to be slightly cooler in the house, so that was where we ate. After we had finished our first helping of the dessert/cheese course, I grabbed the platter and took it out to the deck so I could photograph it. The result was rather impressive, I thought. We all agreed that it looked like a cover shot for Gourmet magazine or some such. Well, maybe not that grand - but it was a lovely platter, and it looked really good on that table. Our enthusiasm probably grew out of satisfaction with the meal, which was luscious.



Please note the figs, fresh from Jane's garden. The round cheese is a delicious Havarti, and the hard cheese is something similar to Asiago, but I can't remember what it is called.

Our homecoming dinner is now an official tradition.

Turtle at Home


When we got to Hope, B.C. yesterday, we called the kids to say we would be arriving in Burnaby in a couple of hours. Erk. They were in Seattle. There had been a mixup regarding dates.

That being the case, we headed straight for the ferry and got there 20 minutes before the 8:15 sailing. The boat ran a bit late, and by the time we got to the island, disembarked, and drove home, it was 11 p.m.

And what was the first thing I saw when I checked my stack of mail? A postcard from Ireland. Thank you to Premium T. That was a lovely welcome home.

I photographed T's postcard inside an acrylic frame on the vertical, which resulted in this odd, slipped assemblage. I hope you don't mind, T. When I'm feeling less hot and tired, I'll re-do it, without the frame. On the other hand, I'm rather taken with the angles. Hmmm.


Now I must do some serious unpacking, then check to see what the Friday Photo Shootout was - maybe I can do a late entry.

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