August 29, 2013

Many Milestones to Go Before I Sleep

Our daughter lighting the birthday candles

This week my husband turned 50. This weekend our second son goes off to university. Next week, our eldest daughter enters her last year of high school, and our youngest will enter middle school. I am slightly overwhelmed by it all. I reflect on the fact of my husband turning 50 and think, whoa - my dad used to be 50; when I was a kid life seemed like it would last forever and anyone over 40 was practically ancient. Now that I'm in my 40's, Whoosh! is the sound the years make as they go by.

However, I like being in my 40's. I like how calm I am, and how generally patient I can be. I like my kids being at the age they are at, still young enough to be fun and fully open to life, yet old enough to have meaningful conversations with. Sometimes I look at mothers with young children and think, Oh, I remember that feeling. You are so tired and earnest, and everything your child does now seems so important to his future. I say 'his' because my first born is a boy. I remember with some guilt how much I expected of him at the age of two. Cringe.

When I met my husband, I was nearly 21 and he was 27. While apparently quite opposite in our interests, his being sports and business, and mine being the arts and literature, we fell in love over our shared taste in music, our love for nature, and the British comedy shows like Black Adder introduced to us by our brother-in-law, Brent. In fact, it was Brent and his wife, my sister Clare, who introduced us to each other at the Elephant Walk Pub in Vancouver. When we parted that first evening, and to paraphrase Ring Lardner, we gave each other a smile with a future in it and never looked back. When my mother heard we were dating, I am sure she thought he was too old for me. But when she met my new boyfriend, she told me he was very young at heart. And he still is. He says he certainly doesn't feel 50, except for this past Monday night when he had coached soccer for two hours in the pouring rain. He came in the house looking like something the cat dragged in. And we don't even have a cat.

We had a great party for my husband this past weekend. Several of our friends gathered at our home for an evening of friendship, food and good cheer. My husband was so touched by everyone's generosity, and was thrilled that our eldest son could come home for the event. My husband is having a good year. Besides reaching the half-century mark with great success and blooming health, he trained for and completed a 160 kilometer cycling race in July, knocking a full half hour off his personal best time. He looks and feels great - except when the invisible cat drags him in - and I am proud to be his partner in life, cheering him on. Quite a goal driven person all his life, my husband is mellowing, as I am, with age. He is more concerned with the quality of his life, and his family's life, than the visible achievements he may gain, although he was pretty darn happy to kick that road race's backside.

Speaking of goals, I thought this would be the summer I would train for a half marathon, but no. I injured the inner tendon on my right knee early in July and have only been able to walk. No hiking, no running, all summer long. I've made the most of it, though, enjoying many an evening walk-and-talk with my daughters. Although my knee is greatly improved and I plan to introduce running back into my life this fall, it is still giving me some minor pain now and again. That patience I mentioned earlier is coming in handy. There is always next year, I tell myself. Life is long, and yet it is short, too. We must make the most of it and be true to the gifts we've been given, and that includes the loved ones we have been given. I look forward to life unfolding as my family grows and develops. It is a new stage we are entering, that is certain.

When my husband and I were first married we listened to a lot of Neil Young. One of our favourite songs, 'Harvest Moon' seems apropo to the moment. The video is, too. Enjoy!

The title of this post is adapted from the last line of Robert Frost's poem, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. Have a lovely weekend, all.

August 20, 2013

Dog Days with Bella

Ever since my parents gave away our dog-that-would-not-be-leashed to some farmers when I was little, I have never had a dog of my own. A cat adopted our family when I was eight years old and my parents never looked back. They soon realized that cats are more independent than dogs and do not, in general, require walking in all seasons or hours of chasing a tennis ball thrown for them, nor do they chew shoes or the TV's remote control, but they are comfortable companions and a good family pet. Although I love dogs and have made friends with many, including both the labrador retrievers, Cash and Buster, owned by my aunt and uncle, my husband and I never got around to acquiring a pet, besides a few fish for our eldest daughter, which she tired of fairly quickly. My husband dislikes cats in general, although they seem to love him, but he does like dogs. He has resisted the urge to get a dog because he believes that unless a family genuinely has the time and the energy to care for a dog properly they should not own one. We have been a busy family all these years, coming and going to lessons and soccer practise, and so I had to agree with him. Although I have often thought a pet in the house would be fun and have said so, I decided that unless he was also invested in the idea it would not be worth pursuing. Our two eldest children who are boys, did not ask for a pet. Our eldest daughter did but she was fulfilled by her relationship with various horses at the stables where she rode for several years. Our youngest daughter is a different story. Rarely a day goes by when she does not ask for a cat or a dog. And I think she is beginning to wear her father down.

Last Thursday, our friends on the farm asked us if our youngest would consider looking after their little Jack Russell terrier for the weekend. Of course, she said yes and her dad said yes, so Saturday morning, our little friend Bella came over to stay the night. Bella is one year old and is the friendliest, sweetest, jauntiest little pooch. When we visit the farm where she is so lucky to live a wonderful life she trots up to us, her little pointed tail wagging like a windshield wiper, and her funny pointed ears on high alert. She loves to play and chase and jump, and she is a very social little creature who will jump right into our car and make herself at home. She did the same at our house, sniffing every corner, eating every crumb on the kitchen floor, and testing us to see which pieces of furniture we would allow her to jump up on. Well trained by her family, she listened to 'no' when she tried the coffee table and was ecstatic when we said yes to the sofas. She did not damage anything except the plastic milk jug and the old stuffed animal we gave her to wrestle with. Our youngest looked after her every need, taking her outside to play, feeding her at the appropriate times, making sure she had fresh water in her bowl, and giving her affection and care every minute. We accompanied her on her walks with Bella, but other than that our daughter took full responsibility for her little charge.

By the evening, our daughter was exhausted, and the pair, dog and girl, went off to bed. A little after 10 o'clock, they came back upstairs to the living room. "Bella woke up and now she won't settle". I sent the sleepy girl back to bed and kept the dog who promptly settled in beside me and fell back to sleep. After a while I went to bed, and she did not follow me. When my husband came to bed he placed the sleeping dog back with the girl and all was silent until midnight when a neighbourhood dog began to bark. On the farm where she lives, there are no other dogs, so Bella is not used to hearing barking at night. She has incredibly sensitive ears, which perk up at the slightest foreign noise. By one o'clock our daughter was in our bedroom. "Bella woke up because that stupid dog is barking and she won't sleep." I knew that Bella slept with her two adult owners, and before I could say 'leave her with us' Bella had jumped up on our bed and settled down next to my husband. The neighbour's dog barked for two more hours, and sleep was sketchy the entire time as Bella found it hard to sleep. She kept poking my husband with her claws and whimpering slightly in response to the constant barking from across the road. I took her from him about three o'clock and she settled in finally, burrowing down into the blankets and snuggling next to my thigh, where she stayed until the morning. The experience reminded me of sleeping with my children when they were babies and the nights could be long ones, but sweet with the warmth of a little creature appealing to me for security and comfort.

Bella and I settling in for a good read - she was soon asleep

The next day was spent similarly to the first day of dog-sitting, except for a long afternoon nap for all concerned, and for the fact that my husband was home from work. I had a meeting in the afternoon so I was not included in the siesta, but coffee kept me awake enough. I was relieved to know that I would be able to sleep through the night later on when the dog would be at home on the farm. Later, after her owners had fetched Bella and I was saying goodnight to my daughter, she said almost weepily, "I'm happy in some ways that she has gone home because I am so tired, but sad, too because she was so much fun to take care of." The next morning after a great long sleep for all of us, my daughter and I admitted to each other that we missed the perky little thing nosing around and jumping up on our laps for a morning snuggle and a good petting. "She is a lot of work, Mom, but she pays you in cuteness," she said. Then she turned to me with those big brown want-a-puppy-dog eyes and said victoriously, "And Dad had fun with her, too, I know he did!"

The top photo is a meme my daughter put together for her Facebook page. She took a photo of our little friend Bella and paired it with something I said when I was sweeping the floor under the table and pretending to be the voice of the dog.

August 14, 2013

Hollywood North goes Bucolic

I suppose it was bound to happen sooner or later. We are within a relatively short distance from 'Hollywood North' after all. Ten episodes of a new television show are going to be made here in our town as well as in other locations around the Fraser Valley. The park on one side of our main street has been transformed by a long row of false-fronted buildings in order to give the appearance of shops on both sides of the street in a 'bucolic small town in Idaho'. Filming is due to begin in the first week of September and happen here intermittently over the next several months.

A temporarily widened sidewalk was poured as well.

The park's flowers bloom behind the framing for the false storefronts

Other filming for movies has happened here in recent years as well, a crash scene from the third X-Men film probably being the most internationally noteworthy. Of course, First Blood, starring Sylvester Stallone was filmed in Hope, a town not too far from here in the early 1980's, and they have been milking that noteriety ever since. There was even a huge public outcry in that town when the district announced it was replacing the famous 'Rambo Bridge'. The popular ABC show Once Upon a Time is filmed in Steveston, which is also near Vancouver, and that little seaside community will probably never be the same. Of course, it remains to be seen whether the show being filmed here will enjoy the popularity of Once Upon a Time. Its director, M. Night Shyamalan has not enjoyed much success in recent years with his projects, but Matt Dillon, the star of the new show is already garnering much attention around here. He is the sort of actor who, in his younger cute-boy days, graced the covers and pin-up centerfolds of teen magazines such as Tiger Beat, but, fortunately, was taken quite seriously by the acting/directing community for his work in the film adaptations of S.E. Hinton's novels The Outsiders, Tex, and Rumble Fish and went on to star in notable films such as Drugstore Cowboy and later, Crash, There's Something about Mary, and Beautiful Girls. 

When my youngest daughter found out that Wayward Pines was going to be filmed here, she immediately leaped to the conclusion that she would somehow be a part of it. She spent the last year taking acting classes with the performing arts school in our area, and I would say she has a fairly pronounced case of the acting bug. Last Saturday, we arrived a few minutes early to a casting call held in one of the conference rooms of a local hotel. Originally, I was not going to put myself in for an extras role, but in the end I decided to have my photo taken along with my daughter. If she was called back, I would have to accompany her during filming anyway, so why not give it a try? The worst that could happen would be that they would ask me to lose ten pounds. Or maybe twenty - Hollywood is Hollywood. The line-up was already out the door, but my daughter and I, along with everyone else, were given forms to fill out and a take-home information sheet outlining the requirements of extras. We met an older man we knew who was also trying out - his son works in the movie business and had encouraged him to come - and chatted with him while we waited. After about 45 minutes we were given a number and asked if we were mother and daughter. A short wait later, my daughter and I each held a sheet of paper with a large '70' printed on it, hers with an 'A' attached to it, and mine with a 'B' while we had our photos taken. The casting staff were friendly but expedient and we were moved along quickly to make room for number 71. As we went out through the doors of the conference room, we walked alongside the line-up, which extended by then to the side entrance doors of the hotel itself. People - the tall and the small, the old, the young and the middle aged, but not many children -  had come from all around for the casting call and I was relieved we had decided to come when we had.

I imagine we will find out quickly if we are to be called back, with filming starting so soon. Extras are paid, but I have no idea how much. It must be enough to make it worth standing hours in line for. Or perhaps people see it as their way into the glamourous movie business. I am not at all sure if I want to be an extra. From what I have seen it involves a lot of 'hurry up and wait'. Each day, according to the requirement sheet, extras must arrive with three possible outfits for their role, and wearing the one they deem the best of the three. They must have their own touch-up makeup if they are women and have freshly washed and styled hair, pressed neutrally coloured clothing, as well as various choices of hats, scarves and handbags. That sounds like a lot of work for me, although I think I can manage the clean hair and the hats. My daughter only sees the positive side of the situation. She just wants to have the experience, and since we live only a few blocks from the film site, I don't mind accommodating her for the few days of filming per month. For her sake, I hope she is called back at least.

This morning, my daughter and I went for a walk downtown. I brought along my camera to capture the work-in-progress that is the fictional town of Wayward Pines, the setting of a mystery show involving Secret Service agent Ethan Burke (Matt Dillon) after he is in a car accident and becomes trapped in a strange, but bucolic (there's that word again) town with no money, cell phone or I.D., and as he tries to leave he realizes he is immersed in a conspiracy. The place was buzzing with men and women dressed in hardhats, work boots and orange safety vests, with machinery, onlookers, and a general vibe of excitement and of working to deadline. Apart from the Fall Fair parade, Pioneer Avenue does not normally see so much action. Our town is, in fact, quite bucolic, and its citizens are not used to fighting for parking spaces along our main street - until now.

Some of the architectural details are prettier than those on the
real buildings across the street

Painting begins

Parking is presently at a premium on weekdays

Our newspaper office will be transformed into a quaint coffee shop.
Some pieces of playground equipment await their placement on the set.

August 7, 2013

Midsummer Blues... and Reds, Greens and Browns

Midsummer is a time when I seem to drift in the doldrums. August seems an endless string of blue-beaded days: blue skies, blue water, blue mountains, blue berries, and just a little blue in my soul. I know very well that I have absolutely no real reason whatsoever to feel blue, but for some reason I do, just a little tiny bit. Usually there comes in late July or August a respite from these doldrums. The refreshing winds of change, in the form of a holiday away, fill my little sails with renewed energy and hope and I am carried along to some other shore where blue is still the colour of the day, but not in me. I am suddenly filled with sunshine yellow and the spongy, mossy green of life.

This summer there is no wind of change to fill my sails and carry me off to those far distant shores, so I have to make my own little daily breezes. I have to find joy and beauty, colour and refreshment in what I see before me. Every morning I get the chores done: the majority of the cooking, the laundry, the watering of the garden, phone calls, the important emails, the cleaning all happen early in the day when I seem to have the most energy. Sometimes a walk with my youngest daughter into the town to do some errands must also be accomplished before the heat of the day sets in. Then, it is time for lunch and a bit of a break in the day when I sit with a book or a magazine - or my PC - and a cup of tea. When the caffeine from the tea takes effect, I get up once more and get back to work. There is always more food preparation to be done; I think I spend half my time thinking about and preparing meals. This year, we are part of a veggie garden co-op and I am always looking for new and exciting things to do with Swiss chard, beets, kale and zucchini. Carrots, peas, cucumbers and potatoes are easy, not to mention the bounty of berries, peaches and nectarines available from the markets at present. After supper is the time to visit with the family, go for a walk, and later, watch a movie or TV show to wind down. In all this activity and routine I try to find ways to make the days better. Often I pack a picnic, pick up whomever is off work at the end of the day and go off in search of a good spot to sit by the water. The water is warm by this time of year and swimming is a glorious way to wash off the cares and the grime of the day; two of my kids work in a busy cafe and my husband is flat out busy, working up a sweat at the hotel where he is employed. On my husband's days off we try to take a little road trip, often to a favourite swimming place or hiking trail, sometimes to a town or city not too far away from here where we can find some unique places to have a coffee and a treat or search for books or collectibles.

A couple of Sundays ago, we went for a short road trip to a town west of here called Mission. Our teenagers had to be at work by 3:30 p.m. so we had a few hours to enjoy together. Mission is the home of the beautiful Westminster Abbey , which some of us have also visited recently, and also the western-most station for the West Coast Express train which many commuters use to come and go to work in Vancouver. Most of the shops in the downtown core were closed, it being Sunday, but we found a fantastic antiques/collectibles shop to spend an hour in. The place was packed with everything from old pulleys and wagon wheels to vintage milk glass bowls and complete sets of fine china displayed in gorgeous antique sideboards, thousands of records, hundreds of old books, and seemingly millions of light fixtures hanging from the ceiling beams. We had a great time hunting through the maze of treasures. I had my eyes open for transferware, which I collect, and books, which I also collect. I cannot afford to spend much on either, but I seem to do alright. That day I found some transferware, but it was not the sort I wanted. Still, I hunted on, looking for some little thing I could take home, and found it in a small, hardbound copy of a book from 1889 called Dick's Common Sense Letter Writer. Inside, were examples of acceptable correspondence covering everything from Letters of Introduction, Recommendations of Character and Ability, Letters of Love and Courtship, to Letters of Invitation and Acceptance. My favourite letter that I have found so far is under the heading, '218. Invitation to a Friend in the County to Visit the City':


A family conclave decided this morning that you had been permitted to vegetate in the country quite long enough. We therefore propose to capture you next week and compel you to come to the city, to dance, to visit opera, theatre, concert picture galleries, stores, and indulge in every other kind of delightful dissipation which we can think of. We warn you beforehand that we have made all preparations for your coming, and that we will not quietly submit to any refusal. Don't dare to disappoint us. Name your day and train, and a deputation from the family will meet you at the depot. 

Your loving friend,


If I were Lizzie, I could easily imagine my response to such a letter and would send the following reply post-haste:


Yes, please! I will catch the West Coast Express from Mission this coming Friday at 7:30 a.m. and will arrive at the station in Vancouver by 9:30 a.m. I very much look forward to a culturally rich and happy time with you all in the city. Thank you so very much for your kind invitation, which is timely to say the least.

Your equally loving friend,


The letters in Dick's Common Sense Letter Writer are enough to transport me to another time and place when correspondence was the way people separated by any distance was conducted. Before telephones, before email and texting with emoticons and abbreviations for everything, there was the letter, and how such letters were written was of great importance. The book cost me all of two dollars, but in addition to providing me with amusement it will serve as a souvenir of our visit to the shop where I found it and remind me to go again some day.

Even though I found no transferware that day, I decided to take out some of my collection this morning and photograph it. I love these dishes and while some have been gifts from friends and family, I have found most of them in thrift shops and yard sales for a few dollars each. I have done a little research and found out that transferware dishes were the first 'pretty crockery' available to the average person. They really are just monochromatic images transferred onto plain ironstone pottery before the glazing process and final firing, but I enjoy their history, and relate to that little lift it would have given those hardworking women of old to sip their afternoon tea from a cup decorated with some romantic pastoral image...just a little breeze in their sails to carry them through the day.

For more summer blues, head on over to Stella`s Virtual Cafe where she has a couple of delicious blueberry themed recipes.

And, if you would like to check out UK artist Paul Scott`s blog to see what he does with the transferware he collects, visit his site: Wonderful!