Saturday, November 30, 2013

Last Day of November

The annual Noel Bazaar was held in Kelvington today so I drove north this morning to join my brother-out-law Walter at his table, where he was selling my sister-in-law's wild rice and wild rice products (dried soup mixes, flour, pancake mix).

There are only two farmers' markets left in Wadena this year so I will make sure there is "jimikrakcorn" there for those who look for it. But I am definitely getting lazy, and not feeling much like baking during the evenings or weekends. (I hear all my friends and relatives: "getting" lazy?)

Last Saturday, Scott and I drove cross-country to Faye and Rick's for supper. As always, we ate a stellar meal and enjoyed their fine company. Today they were taking Faye's mom to the bazaar and then out for lunch at the Kelvington bar. I was fortunate enough to be invited along. Here's Faye with her mom:

Back at the bazaar afterward, I had planned to do some Christmas shopping. But somehow I'd run out of steam. I did grab my wallet and make a perfunctory tour of the tables, but only picked up some of Aunt Marj's lefse and one of her apple pies. She threw in a bag of cookies (she is a generous lady and always good to me and everyone else).

I had a cookie when I got home. Delicious! Thanks, Marj! I'm having lefse for supper and apple pie for dessert. And wine for the beverage portion. I've been unable to entice Alison (my walking companion at work as well as my newspaper-mind mentor and employer; when I ran into her this afternoon she was heading to the office) over for wine and grub, alas, so am imbibing on my lonesome own. 

Scott's on top of a roof north of town, I hear. He will be cold and starving when he gets home and so I've browned some meaty ribs and thrown them into a pot on the stove with onions, cabbage and tomatoes. Not for me! No thank you. But he'll be happy. Maybe.

If not ... he knows where the lefse and apple pie are. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Pyjama Day

Towing the truck 

Days! It's been days since I've posted an entry! The time, she flies.

See that red and white half-ton? It's been sat in the middle of our farmyard for the past year. Finally yesterday Mr Man decided to move it out of sight, probably so he doesn't have to move snow around it all winter. Now it can go kill the grass underneath it, somewhere else.

That was yesterday. You know, Sunday, when many people in this country take the day off and laze about. Not farmboys though. Mine was out with his little brother taking care of cattle for several hours, then in town shovelling snow at the current construction site, before cleaning up in the late afternoon and heading to his sister's in Kelvington to watch the Grey Cup game. (Does anyone in Saskatchewan not know that the Roughriders won? Didn't think so.)

I stayed home for what our friend Faye aptly described as a "pyjama day." After Friday night and most of Saturday at Everett's, watching Dr Who (two more seasons to watch before the new season begins, and a number of Christmas and other specials; but now that the kid doesn't live in the same house as me, it's not so convenient), I stood looking out the windows late yesterday afternoon and had to talk myself into going for a walk. It was melty out and so I definitely should've (I'd been a lazyass since my last day off, Wednesday), and nearly let myself off the hook yet again. But I took an inward listen after asking my body the question: What do you want to do? The answer was a firm Get Out and Walk.

So I left the kitchen-cleaning and halted the baking of caramel corn, and cooperated. The way I see it, if I want my body to be healthy and fit (i.e., to do what I want and expect it to do), I have to do my part. I can't keep making demands of it, and not keep up my end of the bargain. And out I went.

In the good news department: Aunt Shirley phoned yesterday and said Joanne B will be moving back to the lodge in Invermay. This will put her back in home territory, where she will be happier and it will be easier for family and friends to go see her.

Oh, and my son prepared for my overnight visit by stocking up on a variety of treats (damn pretzels! I may have OD'ed on them) and making something delicious for supper Friday night. I couldn't eat the half of it but did taste everything he served up, at least.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Uff Da

For years I've been purchasing shampoos from health food stores in the hope that they have fewer harmful chemical additives than the products that come off grocery- or drug-store shelves. I've perused their ingredients lists and thought, Hm ... this doesn't look much better. What am I actually buying, here? What am I absorbing through my scalp over and over again? Just because the manufacturer claims this stuff is free of poisons,  and I'm paying a premium price for it, doesn't mean I'm getting the natural product that I want.

At the Christmas market in town several weeks ago there was a lady from Norquay, Sask., with a table selling her homemade personal care products. I bought all her shampoo bars the moment I read their ingredients list:

- olive oil
- water
- coconut oil
- sunflower oil
- sweet almond oil
- soybean oil
- castor oils

Excuse me? No disodium sulfosuccinates? No olefin sulfonate? No decyl polyglucose? No sodium lauroyl sarcosinate? No sodium benzoate? No — ?

Well, you get the drift.

Just plain ingredients whose names I actually recognize. Woo hoo!

The shampoo suds up and does a great job. And it's inexpensive, too, compared to the big-batch commercial so-called healthy shampoos I've been using till now.

Check it out for yourself at her website: Uff da.

I will be ordering more when these are gone, and trying her other products, too.

Sunday, November 17, 2013


a nice white wine for your evening glass
Not too dry, not too sweet. So perfect, it's hard to stop at one glass.
But yay, me! I have been doing it.

Thank you to the clerk at the Wadena liquor store for recommending this wine to Scott. He has been spoiling me with it.

Speaking of perfection brings to mind the discomfort of imperfection. 

Newspapers have what we call "production day," and on that long busy day I read most every printed page, determined to catch errors of spelling, punctuation, phrasing, design … anything that may have been missed during the first proofreading or inadvertently changed during the transfer of a file's content to the page.

On "publication day," which follows, I scour the issue that has been mailed out to subscribers, almost holding my breath in dread of spotting an error.

And usually I do find at least one imperfection, and shake my head, and grit my teeth. How could I have looked right at this and not seen it? My “eagle eye” is not perfect. Sigh.

Readers "out there" are every bit as critical; no matter how minuscule the oversight, they note it with some measure of glee or annoyance.

They don't know how many imperfections were corrected before the text ever got into print, and how much rewriting was done, and how much factchecking there was, and how much headscratching, and how many small decisions had to be made. They would be surprised and perhaps even impressed, if they knew, at the level of attention to detail in the news office. Instead, some hold any mistake up to the light and almost seem to scoff; they have caught us falling short of perfection!

They have no way of knowing how much sifting, sorting and repair has been done before the newspaper went to press. They see a finished product that has been sweated over behind the scenes, under the pressure of a looming weekly deadline. They never see the work in progress or realize how much fine-tuning was required. 

Maybe that’s because, like successful recording artists, we make it look effortless. “I could do that!” the audience thinks. "That's easy!"

I wonder if I will ever accept errors and oversights with a glad heart, or at least a balanced one. Mistakes are a cost of living, and they are to be expected; we have to continue doing our best in spite of them. That’s what human fortitude is all about: not letting failure, or imperfection, get you down or keep you there. If you learn something every time, your game should only improve.

Besides, if we were perfect our heads would swell and we would become top-heavy and tip over. It never hurts to stay humble.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Red Dress Project

There are some 600 missing and murdered women in Canada.

Oh wait. Six hundred missing and murdered First Nations and Metis women. Their numbers are by far the highest, when it comes to counting up missing and murdered women in this country.

It's hard to believe, when you don't know any of them or their families personally. It's all too easy to think "These things don't happen to me or the women I know." Consider yourself fortunate, then, that you haven't lost a friend or a sister this way, or your mother or daughter.

The Red Dress Project attempts to make the public aware of the extremely high incidence of violence against Aboriginal women here. The artist collects donated red dresses and hangs them in public places.

Right now the project is at the University of Regina.

Read more:


Monday, November 11, 2013

Only Able to Imagine

Left on the kitchen table with carnations and napkins

Darn! Guess this means there will be no cellphone call late this afternoon, saying "Is there anything you need from town?" to which I might reply "I am craving potato chips. How 'bout it?"

The sun is shining and the snow is sparkling. I went to bed last night and snuggled into my pillow, aware how fortunate I was to be tucked up all safe and warm in my own bed, with all my family and friends safe, while people in the Philippines are cold, hungry, grief-stricken, fearful and in shock.

It's Remembrance Day here in Canada, and I'm thinking of my great-great uncle, who died when the SS Caribou was torpedoed by a German submarine off the coast of Newfoundland in 1942. I'm thinking of my great-great aunt Alma, who was a nurse overseas during one of the world wars and must have seen some terrible suffering. I'm also imagining what it must have been like to be mothers and sisters and wives in those days when so many men and boys left for the battlefields. How sick at heart they all must have been as they watched their loved ones go, then waited at home, praying for good news, which all too often never came. I can't bear thinking much about it, or the fact that war and killing and rape and violence are still common around the planet.

So I focus on my own little life, reminded how lucky I am to have it where it is, how it is. I can spend the morning in my fluffy green housecoat (first time in 10 years I've had a paid holiday, by the way; that alone is something to do a jig about), worrying about no one dear to me. I can spend an hour getting the Wadena News (follow @wadenanewsed) set up on Twitter; I can plunge my hands into warm sudsy water in the kitchen sink, and look out the window at the birds flitting to and from the feeders in the trees. I can slide a roaster into the oven with a homegrown chicken, for supper. I can pour chilled white wine into a crystal goblet, and make brownies for dessert tonight. My sons haven't had to go to war.

Life is good.
I wish it was this good for everybody.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

What's the matter with you? It's Winter

It's another cool and snowy day, but I have ski pants so you'll hear no complaints from me if I get out there before dark.

I'm not one of those who whines about the cold, then goes out dressed like a teenager or a fashion plate. I've learned my lessons: frozen ears, fingers, toes; misery in vehicles that hadn't been warmed up yet; impatient while my son Emil, on crutches or with walker, took longer getting into a building than is necessary for the more able-bodied.

And why?

When I was a teenager, looking unstylish mattered to me. Meh. To hell with that. Now I value comfort more than appearance. It took long enough. Some of us learn everything the hard way.

And when I was a bit older, it was only that I didn't know about the magic of ski pants. For warmth, they beat long underwear, hands down. And they aren't worn indoors, so your jeans don't feel tight (thus convincing you of weight gain or the need to slim down) like they do with long underwear beneath.

Sure ski pants are a pain in the butt to pull on every time you step out the door, and to peel off each time you come in again. That's also the case with the jacket, the lined boots, the scarf, the tuque and/or hood, the mitts. You feel buried alive sometimes. But these essentials are the cost of living in a country where cold weather is the norm for a good part of the year. Quit bitching, and dress for it. It's the only way to enjoy winter instead of suffering it. Because when you're warm, winter is beautiful.

This has been my annual holier-than-thou public health announcement. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

It Was a Rodeo

Darkness was beginning to fill the cool, moist air, and these three young calves couldn't figure out where the boys wanted them to go. It's not that they wouldn't comply. It's that they were confused; their mothers had already been herded to a pasture closer to home, and these three had gotten separated from the rest.

Here Bruce and Scott are trying to get them to step between the fenceposts to cross through the ditch, over the road, and to a stubble field on the other side. Half the battle was that the calves are accustomed to an electric wire between those posts, and they weren't too anxious to take a chance of getting shocked. You could almost hear their brains: "What? What? Why are they trying to get us to touch the fence? I'm not doing it!"

I was enlisted to help, but am not too adept at chasing cattle so the most I could really do was bring the truck up to where the boys had had to gallop on foot after the beasts, which can run pretty darn fast when they decide to throw their heads up and bolt.

In other news, we got snow during the night. About 15 miles north of us, they got six to eight inches of it. I wore my ski pants and Sorels to work today.

Friday, November 1, 2013

No Alice

It  happens to everyone, they say, sooner or later.
I got this book home and, before even cracking the cover, remembered I'd tried reading it before and not gotten very far. I was bored with it.

That's not to say it isn't a good book; it may be. Just that it didn't speak to me then, and it didn't speak to me last night, and it's going back to the library without my giving it another thought.

Too many books, too little time, that's what I say. Too many books that do speak to me, to waste my time ploughing through books that don't, just for the sake of saying I gave them every chance to engage me.

One book that did engage me, though it didn't satisfy, was the memoir Joan Didion wrote about coping with the sudden death of her husband. I read it in the year following Mom's passing. The loss of a husband is surely a different thing than bereavement after a mother's dying, but also Didion's husband's death came as a sudden shock, while Mom's — although the diagnosis of terminal illness was earthshaking — was a death that gave us time to say our goodbyes and express our depth of caring for each other. There wasn't unfinished business, unless a sense of being robbed counts as that.

Didion's book was a disappointment only because it didn't help me put anything into perspective or give me ideas for coping, as I'd hoped it might. Her struggle to balance again wasn't similar to mine in any way I could see. Didion wasn't "wrong" by any means; she just wasn't speaking to me at the time.

And that's what it's all about with books, isn't it? One day a book seems so dull you have to force yourself to turn to the next page; a couple years later it moves you like a dance tune. It all depends on where the reader is, in her own story.