Friday, February 29, 2008

Making Winter Look Pretty

Here's what cheers me up. Many bloggers have done the same thing with spectacular results.

Take an ordinary view (in this case, a kind of blah looking winter backyard). Then look for moments or times, or scenes that change it to become something special.

It was morning last week and the sun was coming up. The above photo I took after I had snapped the following 2 pictures. As the sun touched on the brush in the water it was such a contrast in rich shades and shadows...

This is the neighbour's cove, under water. In summer those stumps with the rope sit on a strip of grass bordering the water. Moments after I took this picture a breeze started up and the mirror-effect was lost when the water rippled.

This last photo was taken in late afternoon, shortly before another storm blew through and changed the landscape to more water (the above photos). The frozen lake reflected the light blue sky and produced this pretty pastel landscape. The animal tracks add a nice, final touch.

A Visitor to My Yard

I love birds...they are too messy to have as a pet, however they are funny and engaging creatures. One of the reasons I asked for a better digital camera was to be able to photograph wildlife and enlarge it. This is my first attempt.

The Black-Capped Chickadee

This fellow showed up on the tree in my backyard, along with 2 buddies. They are curious birds and will land on a tree limb to have a closer look at you. This one made a clear whistle noise of fee-bee, with that second note sounding lower than the first. It reminds me of spring....*sigh*....s p r i n g ...

You will see this fellow and his family at your birdfeeder especially in the winter. The following is from the National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds, Eastern Region, "They often feed upside down, clinging to the underside of twigs and branches in their search for insect eggs and larvae."

Hubby's Workplace

This is the Irving Pulp Mill in Saint John, NB (Canada) and is where my hubby works. An EXTREMELY wide angle camera lens would have produced a picture that would have included the Irving Paper Mill located to the left of this photo. The 2 structures are linked as pulp is made in this building and then fed to the adjacent paper mill for processing into products you use on a daily basis: toilet paper, paper towels and kleenex. Hubby is an Instrumentation Technician and works/fixes the computerized controls on the equipment. It is physically demanding work and as about as far from being a soldier (hubby`s previous profession) as one could imagine.

This is an extremely noisy, hot and dangerous environment, with a lot of steam and high pressure in the pipes and valves. Equipment breaks down often because it is old and operated on a 24/7 basis. It is certainly not a place for the faint of heart.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A Very Special Birthday!

Today my daughter turns 14 years old. It has been an incredibly wonderful journey watching her grow from a giggly, happy, baby to an awesome young lady.

A few reflections of years gone by....

My daughter is excellent at self-photos and they often turn out better than anyone else's! Here she was drawing with chalk in our backyard in Alberta. She was about 10 years old.

This was taken 2 years ago...we were fishing at a local pond and she fell in. It was quite chilly that particular day but she stuck it out ~ wet and all.

This beautiful photo was taken by my 4 year old niece two summers ago! With this kind of talent in the family I should just hang up my cameras right now!

Kristen and a friend back in Alberta

Our princess grows up!

Last summer in our New Brunswick backyard

Happy Birthday ~ Love your family

Monday, February 25, 2008

DVD Reviews

I watch a lot of movies. It is a hobby that son and I can enjoy together. He eagerly looks forward to DVD release day at Blockbuster (on Tuesdays) and plans what we will watch. Fortunately he is willing to watch quite a wide selection of subjects which makes my life a little easier. I thought I'd share our opinions...if we have any... of some of these. I'm throwing in a bunch to start the list and then hopefully will update as we get them. I can be YOUR local guide to what to watch - or not!

Let's Begin:

I am a fan of Jane Austen's and of anyone who puts in a true effort to keep to her era. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. Son passed...his range of interests does not include this kind of film! Some might argue that it is presumptuous for anyone to guess why Jane Austen never married but what I got from the film was more of what might have led to her reflections on her society. It was only a short time ago that women faced challenges like Jane, if they wanted to work outside the home...and if she had been born now, she could have persued her dream vocation without all the husband and family issues she wrestled with.
Hubby and I watched this film and we both liked it very much. It takes place in a small sequence of time so you don't wonder how many days/months have passed and everything ties in nicely.
Although this DVD was good, her first Elizabeth movie was better. Here you can see how her position was lonely and I'm not sure how true to actual events this follows. Still, it shows a remarkable woman and her story. She ruled for many years at a very unstable time in history. Geez...maybe she should've taken husbands and cut off their heads if she didn't produce a female heir? Now THAT would've have been very interesting!
An excellent story, showing how she slowly becomes a queen in more than just name and how she comes to realize the burden of the crown. Again, son did not watch...this genre isn't usually of interest to young teens...
Okay this is just a fun movie. You won't lose sleep over it! It does a good job of poking fun at traditional fairytales and you just have to love the moment when potential human love interest puts a screeching halt to her singing moments.

Of Lineups and Waiting Rooms

This weekend the weather was actually fabulous ~ the sun came out and warmed things up. I didn't get to see much of it....something to do with lineups and waiting rooms, both of which I hate.

The Weekend Part I: Saturday and the Lineup
Saturday I crawled out of bed at 6 am for a special event. Wrestling - the entertainment kind that Hulk Hogan and The Rock participated in - is coming here. We decided to buy tickets for son's birthday. Now, the tickets were going on sale at 10 am on Saturday and could be bought on-line, in person, or by phone. We never have much luck with computers or phones so I hauled out my foldable chair and went to get in line. I was about 35th in line, and did meet some nice people...although a little freaky on the INTENSE FAN side...but my son has done a good job of training me. With all those little updates and stats he likes to tell me, I was able to spout off names and dates with the best of them. I did NOT, however, have PSP video or cellphone recordings to play and play...and replay again. So I know that I am no psycho fan (*whew*).

At 10 am hubby called on the cellphone. (The people in the line up were permitted a 60 second time advantage over the computers and call-ins. Yeah, like that bought us a lot of time to secure seats! This great advantage was the only length of time WWE would allow) We decided hubby would try online and see if he could get tickets ahead of me; the long-suffering mother who had waited in PERSON, at the VENUE....cold, hungry and thirsty...for 3 HOURS!! Guess who got tickets FIRST???? Not me! Even with 4 windows open at the venue and with hubby's transactions crashing twice, he still beat me to it!

So, fair doesn't seem like the word of the day. What then becomes the worth of waiting in line? On the offchance the phone or the internet doesn't work? Is there no "reward" for people who take the time and effort to stand in line the old-fashioned way? Something does smell rotten here. I reached the box office just after hubby completed sale of the tickets, so I ensured it went through. Anyone behind me was about out of luck for getting good seats; they were mostly gone already.

The Weekend Part II: Sunday and the Hospital ER

How to improve on Saturday...why, just read on. Saturday for son...and Sunday for daughter! Daughter and I need to see doctors. We moved here in June 2007 and no family doctors are available and there doesn't appear to be any coming on the horizon either. So normally we have to go to the after hours clinic. There's a catch to that, of course. You are only permitted to talk about 1 thing and it has to be a small item. The clinic doesn't touch many subjects or handle the lengthy subscriptions on their "forbidden" list. Sedatives, antidepressants, etc, are on the banned list. In this province of Canada, apparently, whoever gives you an original prescription for one of those drugs, has to also be forever and ever, amen, the one who rewrites and refills that prescription.

Now, where was I? Right...back to whining...having started at said after-hours clinic, I was directed to the emergency room at a local hospital....that isn't the REAL emergency room it's more like cold out-patient care. Given the burden on our health-care system it wasn't a place I really wanted to go to. But daughter has had problems sleeping for years and it is getting worse. She's exhausted and is struggling to stay awake at school and wakes up as tired as when she went to bed. She has always been this way; I remember years ago when I'd put the 2 kids to bed for the night...son would drop off to sleep and be out until morning. Daughter though, at the tender age of 3, would be playing with her Barbies for another 2-3 hours most nights. When she learned to read, she'd be up reading. It hasn't changed and now she's using over-the-counter medications and ear plugs to help. Except they aren't.

I figure time to visit the specialists. Off we go. The ER definately looks at us strangely because we are the only NON-SICK patients in the place; or at least we WERE until we breathed in all those sick germs... We waited a good 3 hours at least. Then our attending physician was a female whose command of the English language faltered a bit. As in communications did not go well and she had a difficult time understanding why we were there. By the time the doctor and I were done discussing MY situation I was ready to go on a rampage out of frustration. It didn't improve with daughter's case!

We left more confused than when we went. We were given some phone numbers and clinics... and there might be referrals but no follow-up care, as I understood her, with those specialty clinics/doctors. Daughter might be referred to a pediatrician who could then refer her on to the sleep disorder clinic. We're not sure. The doctor seemed to change her mind a lot. Neither of us are clear on what my situation is. Neither path I'm supposed to take has any one is monitoring my medications or what they are for (like...high blood pressure! Which was VERY low yesterday, given the circumstances...). The physician was horrified when she found out no one is monitoring my health and multiple medications. When I requested she solve my problem though...she had no help to offer. So actually I'm still VERY agitated and frustrated by spending our day in the hospital yesterday. On a gorgeous day...with a bunch of sick, sick, SICK adults, kids and BABIES...breathing in all that air...

We have no private health care in Canada. There is no where to go. The doctor's lame suggestion to us? Try to "sneak" along with a family member who does have a family doctor and see if they will see us! Yes and that is exactly why there is this registration list you have to call when you get to this area. So you can be added to the approximately 5,000 people in this area (alone) without a family doctor. Because you aren't allowed to see specialists, etc, directly without that doctor "feeder". Son's psychiatrist wants him to have a family doctor and keeps pushing me to find one. Other than bopping little shrink on the head with an old-fashioned phone or stick, which would make ME feel better, what does he expect me to do? Wave my magic wand? Son is on medication that needs to be monitored but goodness, no one in this province has looked at him, let alone check his blood pressure, kidney function, etc.

Ok, ok...I have to calm down. I have a bunch of numbers to call and sort out what exactly I have to do so we get the attention we need. Here we the 21st century (or is it 22nd now?), an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and I'm doing my best to support that belief - where every person is entitled to health care... HA HA HA HA HA!! That's the joke for this Monday!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Storm Update

Well another record rainfall last weekend; 60mm fell. That came a few days after the downpour record of 80mm which I mention in an earlier post. Our house stayed dry and warm...although I was checking all through the night, so I was tired and cranky! What a relief.

The word is not that wonderful for another home on our street. Conversation through "someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows the owners..." is that the sewage backed up into their home. Apparently it started with an onimous burbling noise and then all hell broke loose, in the form of sewage spewing forth from the toilet, etc. Renovations, or repairs, started right after the first storm with the huge hoses sucking stuff out. Those same hoses appeared again after the second rain (mentioned above). The huge garbage bins that appeared in the driveway are now full of discarded gyproc and wood. My heart goes out to the homeowners; it is such a horrible, nasty thing to happen to your home. I don't know if there was a backwater valve on their sewage line or not. We are going to install a second one backwater stop valve, within the house, on the off chance that the first one ever fails.

Now, as this area slowly heads toward springtime, there is a danger of flooding due to ice. It always happens this time of year when the thaw starts. There was a warning issued last week because the warm temperatures start the rivers and streams flowing until the chunks of ice pile up into a natural dam. Then the water backs up and looks for other ways to continue flowing. The years we lived an hour up the road, in Fredericton....I remember some serious flooding on a few occasions!

For now though, the last gasps of winter insist on hanging on. We're due for 2 cm of snow tonight; hardly worth shovelling for. This is one winter I will be very glad to see the end back and shoulders will thank Mother Nature when the shovels are put away. Wait a minute. That means....that means.....crap! Mowing again!


The Ultimate Deshedding Tool!

Here's the proper way to deshed a dog:

1. Take one dog (in this case, Jasmine, our husky-border collie)

2. Add one "Furminator" - yes, that is the REAL name of this gadget!

Here's another view of this wonderful deshedding tool

And voila! The yield from a 10-15 minute "brushing".

p.s. yes, we still have the dog. Some might think I brushed her away after all that fur!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Ice Fishing

A few posts back I showed you the ice fishing "village" close to where I live. Today's presentation is a closer look at this neat village. First though, we had to actually get out, intrepid mother that I am....I sent my son out on the ice first! I did feel a bit nervous following him and leaving the safety of solid ground.

There are 3 streets of fishing shacks on the ice, each with a cute name. Wharf Lane, Bait Boulevard and Smelt Street. I counted 38 shacks on one street and estimate approximately 100 shacks on these 3 ice lanes. There were 2 official shacks on the back lane; the administration office and the fishing derby office ~ keeping in mind that these offices are actually shacks too.

This is the second lane, Bait Boulevard and Smelt Street is visible in the distance.
The catch is mostly smelt although there are Hake in the area as well. The fisherman are given information sheets from the administration office that lists what dates and times of day are best for what fish. The source of the information is a mystery however and the administration office wasn't open to ask. As that vehicle went by you could hear the very distinct noise of ice cracking ~ NOT a reassuring sound!

These are 2 examples of shelters with stovepipes. I didn't find anyone "home" in these so I'm not sure what the chimneys are attached to inside. You would think that something requiring such a pipe would create enough heat to melt the ice the hut is sitting on...wouldn't you? Interesting.

A lot of shacks had windows close to the ground, like these. The holes are cut along the window, allowing natural light and helping the fishermen to see what they are doing. Beats a flashlight, eh? Each shack also has an unique number on it ~ assigned from the administration office when the shelter is registered.

This shack is very similar to the first fisherman whom we visited. My camera battery was dying by then so I didn't take a picture of his hut but this will give you an idea of what the outside looked like.

This gentleman was kind enough to show us around his hut and to answer our questions. It was cold inside his shelter but not nearly as chilly as outside. The fish smell was too strong for my liking but no one else seemed to notice. He'd been fishing about 2 hours this particular day and was just threading his hook. There were three square holes cut into the floor.

Here's a closer look at the hole he was fishing from. Each evening the open water source freezes over and has to be rebroken before fishing. The thickness of the ice measured 16" the day we were there but for the fishing hole itself, only the surface freezes. While we were standing there he dropped his line into the hole you can see and within a minute caught a fish.

Here our host shows one of his bags of smelt he'd caught that day. Some of the fish were still alive but I didn't ask how long they survive out of the water and in the cold bag. He told us that these fish taste "sweet" and they debone very easily. I wrinkled my dainty little nose and thought of the grease-soaked fish and chips that I prefer.....

Once we said good-bye to him we found another fellow fishing. According to his buddy, this particular man is the top fisherman of the fishing derby for the last few years running. In this hut there was a small heater working and he'd been fishing for almost 2 hours and had the 2 bags of fish hanging on the right. When more than a bag of fish is caught the fish are shared among extended family. I gather 2 or 3 bags of fish is just too much for 2 people to eat. I told this fellow he certainly looked like a fisherman in cognito with his camouflage outfit on!

Perhaps this guy catches so many fish because of his bait? His buddy looked at his worms with disgust ~ these worms are dug up at low tide...and they have a mouthful of teeth and they bite ... he's holding a margarine tub with these worms from the shore. Geez doesn't that sound like fun? Walk out on the low tide muck ~ in the middle of freezing winter ~ to dig in cold, wet, mud for the privilege of pulling out worms that bite you.

The next 2 photos show the smaller sized shelters used for ice-fishing.

Then there's this freaky shack! There is just no way either son or I could fit in here! Maybe this is for kids? A very short adult??

This is son's favourite home because he loves frogs. The sign beside him reads, "Frog parking only. All others will be toad!"

This hut not only has a framed window BUT there are blinds on it!

I hope to get pictures of this place when the ice starts to melt. Of when these huts are sinking into the ice and the water is bubbling up through holes in the ice... I will definately get a zoom lens for that though as I'm not adventurous enough to risk a polar swim!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Let's Celebrate!

YIPEE!! Hubby is now OFFICIALLY a second-year Instrumentation Technician! He passed his first year apprenticeship exam with a whopping 85%!! This is a happy place tonight!


Friday, February 15, 2008

Hubby's Apprenticeship Exam

Well....we don't know the results. There were 100 questions and you must answer 70 correctly to pass. Which translates into answering a maximum of 30 incorrectly. Hubby was definately uncertain about 17 questions; ones dealing with subjects not taught at technical school nor in any of the material he was given by the Community college here to study from.

He should know the results by the end of next week. I don't care about fabulous marks just.let.him.pass.!!!!! This will be the first weekend in months that he has not studied or worried about studying.

For family and friends, if you don't hear we don't know. Trust me, it'll be on my blog and spreading by wildfire once we hear. Either way that man put an awful lot of preparation into writing the exam and if anyone deserves to pass, it's him!!

~ Valentine's Weather Update ~

Does anyone want to see what 78.9 mm of rain immediately after 10-15 cm snow looks like? (That is 3.2" rain and approx 5"snow for non-metric folk)...

Here is a before shot, taken last weekend. Those little specks in the sea of white is hubby walking our dogs across the frozen lake. Note the little bare tree sticking up from our barbecue; use it as a landmark for the second photo below.

This is what the lake looked like yesterday. The raft is exposed again and you can also see our dock, partially submerged in the murky water. That discolouration comes from the road and ground sediment washing down with the rain into the lake.

Remember the stick from the barbecue in the before picture? That's the lonely little tree on our yard, to the right of the beached raft. Beyond it is where a creek runs into the lake ~ the same area that hubby fell through the ice 2 weeks ago. The creek becomes quite the raging little river during storms hence the bigger discolouration area that is visible.

The following two photos show the area adjoining the neighbour's property to ours. Normally any runoff travels through a pipe under the ground and empties into two manmade channel near the bottom of both of our properties. Our channel is visible immediately below the clump of trees in this next photo. The area above the trees holds the underground pipe. As you can see, it couldn't handle the volume of water and a "ravine" was made by the water rushing down.

There was a lot of snow here; you can see my footsteps from last weekend, where I tried to walk up the side of the house to the front. The snow got so deep I had to turn around and go back the long way around the house to get up to the street. This extra channel was created in the space of a few hours when the heaviest of rain fell and had to go somewhere. The force of the water was terrific to open that much area from our road down to the lake.

We were extremely fortunate that the water that entered our basement was NOT sewage backup. That means it isn't covered by insurance though...luckily, the damage appears to be minimal. Daughter and I vacuumed up the wet carpet as much as possible and mopped up the water in the bathroom and unfinished room. We rolled the carpet back to ensure it dries properly and will replace the thin foam backing. It was a small area that requires attention and is being dried out as we speak. The insurance company told me there are 55 claims in our area and one other home on our street has major damage. In another home their wood laminate flooring has already warped and buckled. Our industrial carpetting can take a beating and bounce back. I think...

Of course the fact that it is snowing AGAIN and is supposed to turn to rain AGAIN stinks!!

A special thank-you and blessing to my in-laws. Yesterday I'd planned on cooking them a nice meal but after discovering the mess downstairs, I called to cancel/postpone our evening. My mother-in-law brought US a home-cooked meal with dessert!!! Considering it was shopping day (ie, no food left in the house) and I hadn't been able to get to the store, that meal was just the nicest thing anyone could have done for us. Nanna, you're the best!!

Back to whining ~ the kids' school "celebrated" the dubious honour of its' 6-1/2 day of snowdays so far this year, with yesterday's closure. That is over a week of school closed due to weather this year and WINTER ISN'T EVEN OVER!! The road conditions are so slippery and icy that there is great concern the kids will be injured - or worse - getting to and from the buses and homes. Believe me, my kids sincerely thank the school district for their concern and planning...!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Our Basement is Wet ~ Very Wet

Part of the basement flooded. It kind of looks like it came up through the toilet and the shower however it is gray water and not that nasty sewage stuff.

I am busy "wet vacuuming" the carpet, moving things and cleaning up.

The best news? Hubby doesn't know yet.

Happy Valentines......

A Tasty....Treat?

I saw this ad in the latest People magazine I read. It is the first time I have seen a taste test in a magazine ~ sure, I've seen many "smell" tests but never anything to stick in your mouth. Would you try this?

I was curious how it was presented however; was it a liquid you squeezed into your mouth? A thin, hard candy? To try it out I went in search of a model to demonstrate this ad for us. Aha! A willing tester! daughter!

She was certainly intrigued and decided to try it. Step 1 was peeling the top label off which she is doing quite intently in this shot.

The peeled label had a very thin envelope on the underside, shown here by our fabulous model.

What came out of that envelope is a very thin...piece?...sheet?...of something that dissolves on your tongue. This is the same kind of strip that kids' medecines have these days. To make it easier on your child to take the horrible medicine. Yup, that's a good sign, isn't it? Our taste tester is still eager to proceed at this point.

...and, BINGO!! Ad aim accomplished! RATS! Now daughter wants me to PURCHASE the grape juice! Here I was, poised with the camera to take a picture of her with her faced scrunched up in horror at the taste...and boy, was I fooled!

Final results?
Advertisement = 1
Mother = 0

I'm off to the store now...