Tuesday, December 01, 2009


In November, my friend Randi and I (and 15 others) dashed out of town on a Friday evening to a writing retreat in Ymir. What's in Ymir, you ask? Not much, which makes it ideal for the space and time needed to write. What we know about honest-to-goodness writers (I've read it in all the books) is that they will do a lot of activities before they actually write. I heard that a lot of housework gets done once a writer has made a decision to sit down with their pen. I have been known to contemplate waxing the floor at such times. Knowing this in advance, I left distractions at home such as books I am reading, the iPod, and the Nintendo DS. I heard that there was free Internet service but that is what writers need for their research, right?

Ymir is about 25 minutes from Nelson, on a clear day, without a snowstorm. And that is what happened on this day - my first drive in winter for the 2009 season. We landed at the Ymir Palace with our packed dinner, and chatted with new arrivals as cooked and ate. Here it is....

The young owners renovated the place, him working as a treeplanter and her commuting to work in Nelson, and investing all their money into their B & B. Inside, it is especially engaging when you walk the halls imagining the former brothel.

Yep, I learned lots about the B & B, my natural curiosity and all. I talked to the owner, his parents (visiting from Ontario with no winter tires), and the other attendees who had heard other parts of the story.

On Saturday, Randi and I decided to go for a walk. Winter had arrived in Ymir, with only Brooks on my feet, our route involved avoiding snow and ice. The residents, it appeared, were gone. We saw 4 people on our outing - a shop owner, and 3 Nelsonites.

Alongside the Salmo River, we found a map of all the old mines in the area:

I saw something I had never heard of before:

A stamp mill is a process for extracting minerals from rocks. (Thank heavens for the Internet so I could do my research.)

We went for a walk in the park:

The Ymir Store covers it all - it has a lunch counter, coffee shop, movie rental, grocery store, gift shop.

Back at the Palace, we had a grand feast of spaghetti with our crew of writers. We laughed. We poured wine. Later, as we sat around, I poured over Judy's memoir graphic novel - what a life!

And we decided that we had to see the Ymir Hotel, having heard of its specialness from the crowd that went for dinner the first evening. I had been there when it was hangout for motorbike riders. (What I have to say to that experience was, if you are going to have car trouble, there is no one more enthusiastic than a biker.)

Hans, the owner, was in the bar when we arrived. We ordered drinks. And looked around. Hans is an art collector - paintings and carvings and .... well, it is hard to say because, I was so busy looking at this and that. "Can we look upstairs?" Our writing pals had instructed us on what to say.

"Yes, I left the lights on for you." Huh?

The next two floors are full of artwork. Like this...

And this...

They are everywhere. We asked many questions of Hans, past his closing time of 9 pm. He didn't seem to mind. Back to the the Palace.

"We should finish this white wine," Randi suggested. I agreed.

In retrospect, it seems that Ymir may not be the ideal place to write for a weekend. There is much, too much going on.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Lest We Forget

This morning, Rose and I went to the Remembrance Day event in downtown Nelson, as did hundreds of others. Quite an amazing turnout. At first, there was a sea of umbrellas; around 10:30, there was a downpour. The rain stopped for a few minutes; there was snow, and finally, the weather cooperated.

We saw two bands, including 11 bagpipers (if that is what they are called), and four planes flew overhead at 11:11. There was an immense amount of gratitude for the freedoms we have every day.

When I returned home, I got a telephone call from Janine, who was remembering this anniversary date of me (and my children) leaving Manitoba - 15 years ago. We are leaving on this day, I said to my friends and family back then, "so you won't forget us." I liked the deliberateness of marking the date.

This year I will make a total of 3 journeys back to Manitoba, more than any other in the 15 years of moving away. It has been a grand reconnection. Last visit, I bumped into 4 people who I had not seen in 15 to 20 years; and I thought about what changes and what does not.

During my visits with dear friends and family, I watched the sky, the landscape, and especially the horizon. Mountain life excludes horizon views. I looked for what others may not see - those that live there (and what I did not see or appreciate when I was there) and beyond how others think of Manitoba. I pulled out the LPs and found one I bought many years ago.

I played the song by Deborah Romeyn - Nothing Like the Freedom. Here are some of the lyrics.

There's nothing like the freedom
Looking over miles and miles of land.
And it's something about the prairies
that strangers just don't understand.

And it's something about the space
like it never ends
Highways go forever and don't look back
You can almost see your life behind you as you pass

And here it is if you want to hear it - Nothing Like the Freedom.

There is nothing like the freedom. The message that was delivered at the cenotaph today. A day of remembering.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Heading East - A Journey in Pictures

Leaving the Kootenays on a perfect fall day.

The Rocky Mountains

Descent into Calgary. brrr....

Somewhere on the prairies....

Compress and Decompress

Packing to take this journey to Winnipeg, I thought about the tasks involved. During the last few days, I considered what clothes to bring, and what to leave, especially as I am wanting to pick my outfits. (I am presenting at the Pan Canadian Symposium for Career Development and Public Policy.) I eventually decided on the bigger suitcase, and a wheeled carryon as I did not have a direct flight, and would be spending a few hours in Calgary. All of my belongs for 8 days I was piling into those two pieces of luggage. From an apartment full of my everyday needs, I was now compacted into these two bags.

When I arrived at the airport, and went through security, I was instructed to bring out the computer and any fluids (I had ink), and lots of my items were spread in plastic tubs. Through the x-ray, and then I was back to putting everything back together.

Before I got on the plane, a Dash 8, I realized my carryon would not fit in the overhead compartments nor under my seat so I Sky-checked my bag, taking out the computer and my Nintendo for the hour flight to Calgary. I organized and reorganized. And when I arrived in Calgary, I put everything back into the carryon.

My layover in Calgary was 4 hours so I decided to go to the food court and had to go to the outer area. i then had to go through security. Again, my belongings were pulled out of their storage spaces, for the security people to see. This time they found scissors that I had brought in the knitting pouch. I understand that they will be donated to a church.

Back in the waiting area, I thought of the travelling experience. Compression and decompression. And that's the way I will live for the next 8 days.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Gap

It has been a long time since I posted on this blog. August! What has happened since then - where have my travels lead me? To an internal place for sure as I move through changes in my life.

In August, I went to Winnipeg for my daughter's birthday (yahoo for money cakes!). September I went to Creston for the Fall Fair (cooler than you might imagine). And in October, I was off to Lethbridge for Thanksgiving at the 3rd Annual Euchre Tournament.

Here is some of the Gap in pictures. The garden was a happy place this summer, with all the sunshine. Through a dizzying number of trips to the various greenhouses, I ended up with 14 tomato plants, a bit excessive for one person. On the other hand, it was great year for tomatoes.

Here's one harvest day:

In this picture are Golden Pear, Romas, San Marzano, and my favourite - Grape, which are very full of flavour.

The strawberries struggled to start - I planted 10 plants in two containers, and two plants survived. They grew with the heat of the summer, lots of green leaves, but the fruit didn't come until September. Here was my breakfast on September 16th... The plants were mostly unharmed by the frosts, and are still blooming!

Today's soup had carrots straight from the garden. Yum!

September was a delight of warm weather. Unfortunately, the week before we went to Lethbridge, the weather turned nasty. Apparently, it was a Canada phenomenon. The temperature was suddenly cold, and with precipitation, it meant that there would be snow over the passes. So the rush was on for snow tires.

It did offer photographic moments...

The Rocky Mountains

On the way home - Crowsnest Pass

The temperature, thankfully, has risen, so now the trees are changing colours in all their glory. The fall clouds are dancing around; I am not finding this amusing. I am leaving on a plane in 6 days from Castlegar (nicknamed Cancelgar for its reputation of changes in flights when the clouds get socked into the valley).... TBC

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Nature's Perfection

When I was 22 and Ryan was 18 months, we made our first trip to BC. One of my most memorable moments was finding a basket of cherries and sitting beside an Okanagan lake. There was nothing else that I needed. Life was perfect.

And so it is a wonder that this year is the first time that I have spent any time in a cherry grove. (Is that what they are called?)

Last Sunday, two ideas blended into one. One was about being on vacation in my own backyard. The second was going to the cherries. My destination - Creston. I called ahead to 3 orchards to find the cherries with the least amount of spray. But first, I had two ideas - visiting my nephew Josh which is always a delight and the second was to get some of that homemade caramel.

After talking to several people, I found Josh in the lumber yard. Success! But the second errand was a bust because it seems the tourists had found the caramel before me. But I saw a sign. U-pick cherries. Since I had an hour and a half to hang out in Creston before Josh was released from work, I decided that it was time to do my one-new-thing-a-day.

Me hanging out with cherries. They are definitely in their prime, as you can see....

They are in grand abundance. Though I could have picked my minimum of 5 pounds by standing still, I wandered back and forth down my lane, camera in hand, and chatting with a couple from Alberta who were planning on picking 50 pounds. And then I looked up...

When I went inside, I had picked 8 pounds of cherries. Here is my day's harvest...

Then I was off to pick up the cherries from Margo's Farm - here I met Margo and Dorothy who had lots of ideas of what to do with the bounty. I bought 10 pounds, four of these were for people back home, and the second 6 for me. On the drive back, I did some quick arithmetic and realized I had 14 pounds of cherries. For one person. For one person who is leaving town in 6 days. One person who has already stacked a lot of to-dos in that time. And has no freezer space.

I gotta go and have a snack.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Thai Tom

Each of the two times we walked by the place, it caught our attention. First for all the action. It reminded me of a night club with music and people spilling out of the door. A fast-moving woman bustled through the door with a wooden plaque in hand, thrusting it towards newcomers in the queue. What also caught out attention was that it was always busy.

Our last dinner in the "Yu Dub" district of Seattle, we decided to check out the big attraction. We were the third party in line, as we were presented with the menu, scuffed from much use, and a taped announcement at the bottom that prices had been changed to $7.50. The queue moved quickly and we were first in line when the server brought out pen and paper and asked what we wanted to order.

As we walked in, I was struck by how small the place was; a narrow walkway separates small tables against a wall and the counter seating. The counter forms a "L" shape around the kitchen galley where three people work with orchestrated harmony. But harmony is hardly the word to describe the frenetic pace as the chef moved between 4 to 6 woks each sizzling with individual orders, with music to match.

We were ushered to the end of the counter; on my left, the woman who had brought us the menu tallied bills and handed the orders to the chef. We were elbow to elbow. Another server swept the dishes to and from the customers, and wiped down the tables. A total of 5 staff, who were always on the move.

From my perch, I saw the award for the "Best of" in 2009. But my eyes were quickly averted to the chef who was stirring, adding, and shaking the pots on the open flames ahead of him. When an order was complete he would pick up the wok with his right hand, the serving dish in his left, turn around to the counter, slide the food into the dish and then turn to the awaiting assistant and flipped the now-empty wok into the waiting hand. This move I watched again and again, as we would watch a knife juggler. What I noted on watching the second time is that the ladle that was always in each wok was also a part of the toss, both held together by some scientific force, for there was always an instant when it wasn't be held by anyone.

The assistant walked back to the dish pit to the third team member, picking up a clean wok/ladle and bringing it back. This helper keep a sharp eye on the cook, replacing any empty food containers, chopping when necessary. Every once in a while, these two would break into laughter. Which was a delight in itself.

Because sitting at the counter, I was feeling the heat, and getting caught up in the busyness. It was intense.

Our food arrived. My choice was Swimming Rama, a combination of spinach, chicken, in a wonderful sauce. It was incredibly tasty! And so was the Pad Thai that BJ ordered. One of the women that ordered ahead of us had soup, which was made the same way that ours was. Fresh. On the spot. Individually seasoned. Great quality at a great price!

Thai Tom was definitely one of those "finds" that inspire!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Ellensburg, WA

After I planned my trip to the Pacific NorthWest, I decided to follow I-90 in Washington to Seattle and then head to Bellingham. I have done this route many times, and have made good time going across the flat land, where there is always a passing lane. I had a conversation with my friend BJ about stopping for those unbeatable Washington cherries, and found 3 routes to get to the coast. The one I chose took the longest time.

And so that is how I passed one more time through Ellensburg, which has got to be hands-down the windiest place on the planet. Every time I have driven through there, it has been a hold-your-hands-on-the-wheel experience. It got me to considering some ideas. Here are some thoughts about Ellensburgers:

1. If you want to set up a hat company, this might be the place. Lots of repeat business.
2. There are no windmills in Ellensburg. How come someone hasn't thought of this? It could be the windmill capital of the world!
3. There might be more transplanted Winnipeggers there than we know. After all, we are drawn to the familiar.
4. I suspect laundry dries fast in Ellensburg. And clothes pins may be in demand. See #1 above.

So if you love the wind, this is the place to go....

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

It's a Green World

Two days from the longest day of the year, and it is still a novelty to have so much light at the end of the day. I saw our neighbours building a fence, and the children are hanging about outside. Perhaps they are celebrating the absence of rain, which has been hanging about for several days. To the delight of transplanted prairie folk, we have had several thunderstorms. Our world is green! The garden has been growing well...

I am delighted with the new growth and the number of seeds that have pushed their way out of the ground. And then on my way home, I round the corner on my back lane and see the Italian neighbours' garden, and the plants have grown to such a degree that I cannot see the earth anymore. I decided to go to Nelson Farmers' Supply and find some of their "magic," having concluded that it must be coming from a bottle. After much pondering, and questioning, and reading labels, I picked an organic fertilizer. I read the instructions and it said not to use it with bare hands, not to ingest it, not to get it in the eyes. And my plan was to put it on my vegetables? My good idea soured. And I thought of patience and virtue.

And appreciating what I have. And there is plenty of activity in my own garden. One of the tomato plants is called Moneymaker; here is what it is doing today...

Green, green - all around. On Saturday, an old friend, two new friends and I went to the annual Strawberry tea at the Ashram, which is on the east side of the lake, and requires a ferry ride. The Ashram grows a great deal of its own food, and prepares it for winter. On our tour, we got to see some of the storage area...

Abundance is all around. Light, green, fun with friends....

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Hands in the Dirt

Almost any garden, if you see it at just the right moment,

can be confused with paradise. 
-Henry Mitchell

It is official. The flurry of putting all the plants in the garden is done! Before I left for the coast, the weather was too cold, and then in days, it was time! Indeed, the season was shortened with the insistence of winter wanting to stay on, so when there was the opening, there was no time for hesitancy. While I was gone, most of the gardens got planted. I finished mine in May, barely; I planted it on May 31st.

I have dedicated my small plot of land to vegetables, with some flowers to attract bees. Though my garden is not done in the Intensive Gardening style, it has some of the earmarks. The tomato plants are planted in groups of two, fairly close together, the same varieties clumped together. The plants with seeds have very close rows with little room for walking between. 

This year, I measured the plot space - it is 5.5 feet by 12 feet. What is planted this year is:
- 14 tomato plants (let's just say that I was inspired)
- 4 cucumbers
- 4 celery
- 4 orange peppers
- 1 row of carrots
- 1 row of romaine lettuce
- 3 rows of beets
- 1 row of spinach
- 1 row of leaf lettuce plants
- marigolds (to repeal the insects away from the tomatoes)
- snapdragons

Here it is:

The cucumbers are delighted because (a) there has been nothing but sunshine and heat since they went into the ground, and (b) the fence that fell down with the winter snow was not put back up. 

Most of the flowers and strawberries have been put in pots on the patio. Out of the 10 strawberry plants that came from the greenhouse, only 2 have survived (that had to do with the hot time when I was on the coast). That same greenhouse (I actually got my plants from 6 places altogether) had this beauty...

This is the fifth year I have planted a garden on this plot of land, and looks like the best to date. And I am not the only one who thinks so; there are a lot of birds that I have seen hopping all over the tamped area. Hmmm.... Probably time to go dig out those extra seeds.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Aimee and Patricia's Day Adventure

Aimee (and Josh) are embarking on a new adventure. With two job offers, they are heading for Winnipeg at the end of this month. And so, as we thought of the leavetaking, Aimee and I decided to go to places that she has wanted to see on the lower mainland but it didn't happen. After I arrived at her place in record time, we brainstormed how we would spend the next couple of days. We were restricted by time because Monday morning Aimee had to work, and I had to line up in the passport office. (7 am my colleague suggested, and then I would be out of there in ONLY 4 hours!)

We decided on Victoria. For the ferry ride (Aimee's never done it) and to see the city, where Aimee has never explored.

By sunset, we were crossing the Georgia Strait on our way to Katherine and Marcus' home. Katherine took us out for some fine pizza, and we toured the city; we were bedazzled by lights on the legislature and cruise ships. We settled into our beds 17 hours after I had left Nelson.

Katherine and Marcus filled our heads with ideas of what to do in Victoria. We aimed to do it all... First of all, we captured our big adventure:

And then we went to Fisherman's Wharf, found a Harbour Ferry and found ourselves landed at Inner Harbour Centre. There were many others who thought this was a great idea. We viewed vendors and saw the tail end of a street performer:

At this moment, she was instructing the middle volunteer not to look up.

Here's our "we were here" shot...

The Photographer

Our Harbour Ferry operator showed us a seal in the water, and then directed us to a few that hang around the pier. This fellow made an offer - "I show you my belly; you feed me herring."


"And, oh yeah, I'll bring my friends."

We went to the mall (bought a beautiful purse), tried to find the restaurant Katherine had showed us the day before but were unsuccessful and then headed for the ferry. We picked up dinner in Sidney at a great Thai restaurant, and then headed for the ferry line up, our intent to eat our meal on the ride across the Strait. Except, taking the 7 pm ferry was a popular idea and it got filled before our turn, and so we sat in Swartz Bay for 2 hours.

Aimee and I are well practiced in wait lines as you may recall - HERE. We were still a long way from home - 5 hours. And 6 hours after that, we were up and ready for a new day.

I figured we were on Vancouver Island for 24 hours. Our adventure, it seems, fill every single moment!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

A change of pace

I am more of what you might call a night owl. So when I travel, I usually leave at a sane time in the morning (9 or 10 am or even later). When I was planning this long weekend (I know this isn't a long weekend for Canadians but I took a couple of extra days off) to visit Aimee before she makes her big move to here, I decided to leave early in the morning.

We were up bright and early, Julia and I, and set out on the road at 6:36 am, which is truly insane. Except there are some perks:
- There aren't very many other people on the road at that time.
- The sun was quite glorious, showing off all the beautiful spring-green in the trees.
- I arrived on the lower mainland early and got to Aimee's place at 2:30 - my personal record.

I had some concern that I would be too early for the Copper Eagle Cappuccino and Bakery but they open their doors at 6 am. Still, I missed the usual queue. And found the perfect bread for my roasted vegetable and feta salad. This salad is a knock-off of one I found at the Kootenay Co-op, and it is very tasty. And nutritious.

I brought all my food along on this journey, including a green smoothie which, I discovered, is a great thing to take on the road as it provides all the alertness required.

I was able to avoid the lower mainland traffic even though it is a Saturday and this was not a rush-hour time. It was all grand because the weather was absolutely inspiring!

I didn't find my road companion until the lower mainland. A road companion is someone who is travelling at a similar pace as you - sometimes they pass you and then you pass them. Today, it was a black 4-Runner who I might add was a very gracious passer. These are the things that amuse one on the road when alone for many hours. It is a bit disturbing actually.

The trip also involved a new strategy I have been working on. I have been thinking about what to do about Julia's litter as I don't really think it is good to keep adding it to the landfills. So in the winter, I changed her litter to a type that is wood pellets. When the wood pellets get wet (you know what I mean), they turn into sawdust. Which is very much like nature. So I am thinking that since I live in the middle of lots of nature, I would put the sawdust back into the wilds. This litter by the way works like a charm.

So yesterday, I packed it up and put it in my new recycled garbage bags. The ones that decompose, not made of plastic. In it went into the trunk with all the rest of the travelling goods, as I thought I would find a place along the road today and dispose of it. Good plan...

When I stopped in the midst of a forest, I grabbed the bag out of the trunk and it immediately fell apart. Apparently, the bag already began decomposing. And sawdust interlaced with kitty doo, fell mostly inside of the trunk. It had scattered on the suitcase, and fell into the well where the spare tire lies. Picture it??

I picked up as much as I could by finding a real plastic bag and a cloth that I used to clean the windows. These were not the greatest tools. But, hey, when the homesteaders made their way across the land, they did what they had to do. It was a long and laborious undertaking, and some of the litter actually got to go into the forest.

Back on the road, I pondered my solution. Princeton. I found the car wash rather quickly, and got a great deal at the vacuum station. $1.00 until you were done... A very good deal.

And that, was my day - so far! More adventures coming...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


If you loved to do treasure hunts when you were a kid, I found a new hobby for you! Geocaching.

The idea behind geocaching is to find hidden objects (caches) that have been planted around the world, share your experiences with others online, and connect with the larger community. Once you have found a geocache, you sign the logbook and return the cache to its original location.

What you need to find the caches is a good sense of adventure and a GPS.

At this time, there are 804,108 caches around the world. To start the process, a person puts their postal or area code onto a website and then the program searches for caches in your vicinity. In our neighbourhood, there are 149 caches hidden.

If you want to see how it works, here is the getting started part of the official website.

Now, where did I put my GPS?

Sunday, May 03, 2009

The Earth Day Pledge

Oprah had a special on Earth Day, which included an interview with Jacques Cousteau's grandson. The discussion was about the masses of garbage in the oceans. It was the first time that I saw pictures. The focus was on the biggest of the garbage swirls in the Pacific Ocean though all of the oceans have such a gathering place, due to the oceans' movements.

The one in the Pacific Ocean is the size of Texas, and at some point is 90 feet deep. This I cannot fathom.

And it is mostly full of... plastic. Plastic bags, plastic lids, plastic packaging.

Recently, I read that in the 60s, there were no plastic bags. I wonder what we put our trash in, or our sandwiches that we took to school (waxed paper I think), or how we carried around all our things. Where did we store our lettuce when we picked it out of the rest of the bunch?

One of the still photographs on the Oprah special was of a carp that had died. Its body was opened and inside they found all sorts of plastic including a plastic lighter (Bic style).

How did it all get in the ocean? Winds swept plastic bags. Other items were dropped on the ground and were washed with the rain into rivers and lakes that found its way into the open water.

Apparently, Americans use 300 billion plastic bags a year, which is about 300 per person. Almost one a day.

This had quite the impact - especially since I only watched 22 minutes. I watched the rest of the show later.

Which brings me around to my Earth Day pledge for this year. I don't use plastic bags to carry home the groceries - I have a grand collection of cloth bags. But I do put my lettuce and vegetables inside clear plastic bags. I am going to wean myself off. Wash the ones I do have so I can reuse them.

But I need a solution once they are done. Any ideas will be appreciated.

And when I see a plastic bag blowing in the wind, I will rescue it.

Wow! How our world has changed since 1957 when plastic bags were invented.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day 2009

Happy Earth Day!

Each year, I take this day to decide on one change I can make to walk lighter on this planet. What kind of practice can I start that shifts my way of being in the world? Each time I take out the compost, I am delighted that I have been able to live in places where I have a place to put compostables.  This I have done for over 20 years.  Considering that 40% of landfills are full of compost, recycling it into the earth makes a lot of sense to me.

Part of this day, I was listening to stories of what other people are doing in the world.

  • In Invermere, BC - the local high school (David Thompson Secondary) has decided to expand their lunch program where they create their own meals to include growing their own food.  They have built a greenhouse for year-round growing. 
  • A new movement in Nelson called Edible Nelson are encouraging people to turn their lawns into vegetable gardens.   At this website people can register their names if they are looking for a yard to share or if they have a yard to share.
  • Ontario has introduced legislation today to ban the use of cosmetic pesticides on lawns. 
  • There are many Earth Day events happening including on Saturday in the Kootenays.
  • Here's what is happening more nationally.  Here are the 10 top actions to honour Earth Day.
  • Starbucks is offering a free cup of coffee for whoever brings in their own cups on Earth Day.
As for me, I haven't picked my Earth Day good habit yet.  Any ideas?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Easter Sunday in San Francisco

Easter Sunday in San Francisco began innocently enough. After the traditional Easter egg hunt (isn't it curious where the last one is hiding), Ryan made breakfast, and then we set out to explore the city. Our plan was to check out Chinatown, which is apparently the largest Chinatown outside of Asia as well as the oldest one in North America.

We caught the F-line which took us down Market Avenue to Grant where we walked up to Chinatown. We ate at a sushi place, with a definite Easter-egg-shape to the dinnerware...

Perhaps we should have taken the before picture?

We walked and shopped, and landed in a gelato place where we had a lovely visit with a newbie to SF - John. He told us a good deal about mechanical engineering. While I was sitting, I noticed that my knee was feeling a bit wonky.

We said goodbye to our new friend. We had 2 hours before our arranged Skype-date with family in Winnipeg.

At first, it was all pleasant, though I was walking slower with the tender knee. The sidewalks are mesmerizing in that they sparkle in the sun, like diamonds....

As we walked along, we decided on a splendid plan. My last time downtown this trip would be punctuated with a ride on the cable car. We walked several blocks and I dug out my $5 bill. After a wait, the cable car came up the hill, but it was full. The operator shouted for us to take the next one. Ryan checked on his iPhone; we had 8 minutes to wait. The weather was a bit chilly so we stayed in the sun. The next cable car came along, and it was full and didn't stop for us.

We abandoned the idea of the cable car. A bus. We walked several blocks to the bus stop. And waited. Ten minutes later, a bus arrived. Full. It passed us by.

Here is a place we passed along the way....

Our next plan was to walk to Fisherman's Wharf and catch the F-line home. So we walked and walked (I more like hobbled and hobbled). We piled into the streetcar, and I met 4 lads from England who just came back from Alcatraz. Several blocks down the road, our driver said, "End of the line. Everyone off."

So we all piled off our double car and crammed ourselves onto the next single car.  2 l/2 hours after the decision to go home, we arrived.  We had a delightful visit. With webcams, you can:
  • show your new purchases or gifts
  • give a tour of your home
  • make distorted pictures of yourself that makes your mother laugh and laugh
We said farewell, and got in Ryan's car for our trip to Trader Joe's, my first for this visit. Apparently, Trader Joe's closes early on Easter Sunday; I swallowed the disappointment and focussed on dinner. Part of the trip was to pick up our dinner and so I suggested that we go to the King of Thai Noodles; Ryan declined as he goes there frequently. His idea was for me to do take out. Groovy to me. Ryan parked outside, and I hobbled to the restaurant and to the server. "The kitchen closes at 9 pm." I looked at the clock - it was 9:05. The server offered to go and talk to the cooks, but it was a no deal.

And that is how we ended up eating crunchy tacos for our Easter dinner. At home, I opened the Taco Bell take-out bag, and sat in front of HDTV with an ice pack on my knee. I was grateful.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Touring the Bay Area

The second day of my Easter break was spent touring. We headed north over the Golden Gate bridge into Marin County. We decided that this was a good place to turn off...

The first stop was in Corte Madeira where we visited Book Passage...

This is a lively bookstore that hosts several writers' conferences every year, many readings, and keeps a buzz on much that is happening. I think I saw a picture of Obama in the masthead.

Next, we set out for Oakland. On the way, we passed this place.

In Oakland, we found the clothing stores I had originally seen in magazine advertisements over 20 years ago, and a mighty fine pastry shop close by where we picked up cookies.

Then we found the freeway, with impressive greenery...

We wound our way again to the ocean to see the sunset, but the clouds stole the view. We walked for a while along the boardwalk as the wind was cold. It reminded me of a comedian who made a comment about a man who could withstand gale-force winds. He said, "It isn't THAT the wind blows, it is WHAT the wind blows." In this case, it was sand being pelted on the sides of our faces. I, of course, was wearing capris.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Beach Day

April 10th

We arrived to the beach late, due in part to a headache and secondly, because we chose a beach miles away from here. The plan was to go to Half Moon Bay but we landed further down the road in Pescadero State Beach, about 44 miles along Highway 1, which winds its way along the ocean.

"Do you want to go for a walk?" Ryan asked. Seasoned to the northern California weather, he had brought the kind of clothes that I left at home - the coverings that I was pretty much done with after a long and hard winter.

"Yes!" I was excited to walk along the ocean. I was grateful for the extra fleece I had brought. Fleece is not the best fabric for wind; if I was writing the text for the tag that went on clothing, I would say... for indoor use only.

Later, I found this suggestion on the state park website:

Seasons/Climate/Recommended clothing
The weather can be changeable; layered clothing is recommended.

Good. I was now in 3 layers of clothing. My first clue to our beach experience was in the outdoor loo, the kind without plumbing. The wind was whirling around in there; no place I would say to expose skin.

When we meandered our way through the sand dunes to the beach, it was a busy weather day. Closer to San Francisco, we had seen surfers.

Glad I didn't spend a lot of time doing the hair that day.

The beach, as you may have guessed, we had to ourselves.

Luckily, we found shelter in a beach house...

And saw the sunset (very thrilling event for someone who lives in the mountains)...

Ryan, the-fellow-who-never-does-the-same-road-twice-if-he-doesn't-have-to, decided to follow the country road through the hills to get to the interstate. This was a l-o-n-g road that had many curves through dark forest - the kind of place where you probably wouldn't want to get stranded. After several miles, it was too much for my already queasy stomach; I was green. I offered to drive and that definitely helped, but I was quite relieved to be on the interstate - going in a straight line.

I notice today that there is barely any wind - I better get outside before it changes.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

April Begins

Thursday morning we woke up to... yep, more snow. This winter is getting old; the conciliation is that it has to leave. So it was with a new adjusted attitude that I set out my door with my camera. The snow flakes were intriguing in that they were in a cluster, like a group of teenage girlfriends at the mall.

A bit like a feather bed, I thought...

When each cluster of snow flakes landed, they collapsed like this...

It was all short lived. By the time that I left work, the snow was not only gone, but the streets were totally dry. Friday the car went into the shop because of this...

The windshield was originally hit by a rock a month after I bought it, on that damn Hope-Princeton. It was truly a reminder about impermanence as I washed and polished and shone my brand new car. The remarkable thing about the rock chip was that it stayed that way - for close to 8 years. And then this winter, it decided to spread its wings. With a brand new windshield (I can see clearly now - very), my plan is to stay away from other cars on the road.

The excitement of spring is everywhere. The cat lies on the windowsill by the open window; she dashes around as the birds land on the various trees. And today, we woke up to beautiful blue sunny skies. In the afternoon, the fireman and I swept off the walkways.

And here is the last of this year's snow...


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Bear Country

It is curious that, in the middle of our immediate world, there is much yet to learn. So here I am in the middle of bear country and I know very little about bears. This week I stumbled upon people who make a point knowing about bears.

When the AGM of the Kaslo Chamber of Commerce started, I was talking to a couple and so we all sat down together. After the short, well-planned AGM, we started talking. Julius and Kristin who own Grizzly Bear Ranch,offer grizzly and black bear-viewing holidays in the midst of pristine wilderness. They are quite committed to learning about bears, and being respectful to all the wild animals that share their space.

Here's what I learned about bears:

- It is difficult to tell the difference between a male and a female bear. One of the ways to tell is how they pee. Males stream at an angle while females are more or less vertical.

- Bears mate from mid-June to mid-July. Once the egg is fertilized, the embryo has a "delayed implantation." In November, if the bear is in shape (has enough reserves), then the fertilized egg implants in the uterine wall and the embryo grows for approximately 2 months. The babies, usually 2 to 3 in a litter, are born in February while their mama is hibernating.

- Each mother bear has 6 teats - 4 on the upper chest and 2 on her abdomen. The bottom 2 allow the cubs to nurse when she is "sleeping," and her arms are enfolded to keep her warm.

- During the hibernation period, the bear's body recycles nutrients which allows it not to lose muscle tone. Julius and I had a discussion about what would happen to humans if they slept for 5 or 6 months - our muscles would atrophy.

We had a lovely evening, visiting with Kasloites in the new Kaslo Hotel, recently renovated though the building has been around since 1896. With views facing Kootenay Lake, it is a compelling draw.

The next day I was scheduled for the Kaslo Career Fair, so I decided to stay overnight. I stayed at Rocky Ledges Bed and Breakfast, which is just south of Mirror Lake, about 15 minutes from Kaslo. My gracious hosts were Maggie and Steve. Like Julius and Kristin, they are in their second year providing accommodation, having moved from far away and falling under the spell of the Kootenays.

When we arrived at the B&B, it was dark, but the next morning, this is what I saw out my patio windows...

On a warmer day, I would have been tempted to stay put.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sunday Wandering

For the past several days, I have been staving off a bug of some sort. The most irritating part of my day is a headache that is chasing me, and finding me it seems, around each corner. On Wednesday, I cancelled the gym and came home and slept. On Friday, I spent the day taking headache medications, and it did take the sting out of it, but I had another nap after work.

So I am not sick. And I am not well. When I talked to my mother on the telephone today, she asked in a most motherly caring way if I had anything to eat. I hadn't. Because the way this all is affecting me is a general lack of energy - not wanting to shop or prepare food. When I told her that I thought a walk was a good idea, she said to walk myself to a place that served food.

I went in the car. Immediately what I saw was two things:
- the weather was beautiful
- the gas tank is low

So I decided to go to Castlegar, a 40-minute drive from here. Because I took the back entrance into the city, I saw Bagels and Brew; it was the perfect spot. I chose a spot near the window and ate soup and... yes... a bagel. I read. I wrote. I then remembered their Centennial Walkway.

The walkway runs alongside the Columbia River. When I got to the park, I chose to walk down along the water instead of the paved pathway. The river is low, as many are this time of the year, before the runoff. The Columbia, though, is one river that is in a hurry.

At this point, the river is flowing both ways.

I found the worn path through the trees, perhaps first made by deer and other wildlife. The path winds its way following the river to Zuckerberg Island. There are two ways to get onto the island - one via a built-up road, and the other by suspension bridge.

What I noticed from this angle was how the water that normally edges this embankment is gone. I had a hypothesis, and walked onto the bridge. Here is what I saw...

The land on the right side of the photo is the "mainland" and the land on the left is the island. In the distance, there is a rocky shore. Yep, just as I figured. Zuckerberg, at this moment in time, is not an island.