Saturday, December 22, 2007

Two more sleeps 'til Christmas

Menu Choices
Well, I'm ditching the Kahlua Mousse idea for dessert. It's delicious, but too much work. I'm going with simple and easy.

While leafing through my old binder of recipes, I came across a dessert from one of my aunts that I haven't used in years. It's refreshing and light-tasting -- good following a heavy meal -- and very easy to make:


2 envelopes unflavoured gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
2 cups milk, scalded
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups light cream
1 T Almond extract (vanilla, if you don't like almond)
4 cups diced, prepared mixed fruits (or canned, well-drained)

Soften gelatin in cold water. Add hot milk and sugar. Stir until gelatin and sugar are completely dissolved. Add cream and flavouring. Pour into pan to depth of about 3/4". Refrigerate until set. Cut into 3/4 inch cubes. Gently mix with fruit.

Add a few maraschino cherries and it looks quite festive.

As for the sweet potatoes versus yams decision, I've decided to go with a Sweet Potato Casserole with chopped walnuts and crushed pineapple.


. . . is always such a big part of Christmas. This can be both good and bad. I used to get quite frantic over the preparations, making list after list of things to do, what to buy, and worry that I'd forget something. I enjoyed myself, but in a high octane, adrenaline-fueled rush sort of way. It was always a relief when everything was done, the guests gone and I could put up my feet. Over the years, I've mellowed out quite a bit. I still make lists and do the same things, but I'm much more relaxed and able to enjoy each moment with a bit more clarity.

I'm looking forward to picking up my son at the airport tonight. He's promised lots of pictures and stories, so I anticipate a late, late night.

If I don't get back here to post before Christmas, here's wishing everyone a wonderful, happy and safe holiday season.


Friday, December 21, 2007

Winter Solstice - four more days to Christmas

The decorations are up, presents bought, and all I need are a few stocking stuffers. Things seem remarkably quiet for this time of year.

Number one son and his s.o. have asked for my help in cooking their first roast turkey. They're providing the turkey at her family's gathering on Christmas eve. Then they will come to our house on Christmas day for another turkey dinner. In the past, I've tried to suggest a change in menu (duck, anyone?), but no one will hear of it. I'm looking forward to the day when I don't have to do the turkey and just need to show up and eat!

Number two son is currently in New York City with his girlfriend, visiting some of her relatives. They're trying to cram in as many art galleries, museums, tourist must-sees and shopping as they possibly can. He called last night to say they're having a wonderful time. They'd just gotten back from the musical, Wicked and he loved it. He was a bit skeptical going into Wicked (he wanted to see Spamalot) but said he was pleasantly surprised.

They'll be coming back on December 23, just in time for Christmas. Actually, their plane is scheduled to arrive early a.m. on Christmas eve, so it's cutting things a bit too close for my comfort. We're just hoping the weather will hold and they don't get stuck in a storm back east. Luckily, they have a direct flight from NYC to Vancouver, so as long as they get out of JFK, they should be fine.

Here they are when they left on the 16th:

Hopefully, the smiles will be just as big when they get back.

Meanwhile, I've been left in charge of the care and feeding of his two goldfish. Not an onerous task, I know, but I've been admonished not to overfeed them. Their names are Hans and Jurgen (named after German philosopher-sociologists, don't ask) with rather unique personalities - at least for fish. Hans has a swim bladder problem which occasionally causes him to swim and bob around lopsided until he's fed some peas, of all things. I check them first thing every morning in fear I'll find one floating belly-up and I'll need to blame a non-existent cat for his demise. So far, so good.

Today, I need to finalize my Christmas dinner menu and shop for ingredients. I don't want to be stuck in the crush of Christmas eve shoppers. I can't quite decide between my own Kahlua mousse or a store-bought mango mousse cake for dessert; and between a sweet potato casserole with walnuts or yams and pineapple (for some reason, another one of my family must-haves is a sweet potato or yam dish).

Anyways, here I go for one last foray into the crowds.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I give up. No more image in header.

Blogger problems - a rant

Aaaargh! I still cannot get my header image to look the way I want it to look.

I like to use the Minima Stretch template because it allows both posts and photos to "stretch" larger or smaller to fit whatever width of the window (i.e you don't get the right side of the page cut-off and have to use a scroll bar along the bottom of the page to view the rest of it). Just a personal preference of mine. Since the problem with the header images, I thought I'd make it easier by just changing to a template that was easier to fix. The header looked fine, but then I found that with a different (fixed width) template the wider photos I have on individual posts got cropped off. So,I've gone back to the original template and come up with a work-around that I'm not entirely happy with, but will have to suffice for now.

I know I complained about this the other day, but it really bugs me.

After reading the help discussion forums, it seems Blogger made a change in the way images load to custom headers. It has caused a lot of folks to have problems with their previously functioning header banners. It's another case of Blogger messing around with stuff that isn't broken and not caring about what the actual users of the service think. Just take a look at one of the many recent threads about the header issue and you'll see the frustration of other Blogger users.

This all just pushes me a little further along the road to switching platforms.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

C* is for Curious

I've always been a curious person. I cannot get enough information, trivia or details. I cannot stand not knowing about something once it enters my consciousness.

Ask me something I'm not familiar with and I'm compelled to look it up. The problem is that it doesn't stop there. Once I find what I'm looking for, it inevitably sets off a chain reaction sending me further into cyberspace, ricocheting from one idea, word or concept to the next, sometimes for hours.

I never end up anywhere close to where I started. Sometimes, I can't even remember what got me going unless I look back at my browsing history.

Who was it that said curiosity killed the cat?

Maybe one day I'll be found dead in front of my computer; hands still on the keyboard; typing one last query into the Google search bar . . . .

Not such a bad way to go.

*Another Encyclopedia of Me blog.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

My Blog - Top Ten + 1

Sorry to those on feeds for so many edits. :(

I've recently been going through my old blog posts and trying to update their tags and labels. It's been a rather onerous task.

When I started blogging in November 2005, I had no idea what or how tags and labels worked, so I didn't label anything. Big mistake. I ended up with a long list of post titles, some of which were less than enlightening (what the heck did I talk about in Odds 'n Sods on a Sunday?). Thus, in order to gain some semblance of order to my posts, I decided that it's worth the effort to label them properly. This has meant going back and actually re-reading what I've written over the last two years.

It's been a bit of an eye-opener. I barely remember some of the posts, yet others are as fresh in my memory as if I wrote them yesterday. I'm not done yet, but a few posts jumped out at me more than others. I've come to realize that the totality of all my posts really does capture who I am as a person.

Naturally, I like some posts better than others and some are near and dear to me for personal reasons. I've decided to list my top ten blog posts (at least for now). I think it also shows my evolution as a blogger. When I get a chance, I think I'll add them to my sidebar. They'll probably tell you much more about me than any "About" page.

So, in chronological order, the top ten about who I am:

I couldn't resist sneaking in an extra post. Guess which one. :-)

Blog and Template changes

I have spent the better part of this evening trying to add an image to my blog header. It should have been easy. But it wasn't.

I wanted to use the same picture that I used on Word Press. On WP it was very easy and it even had a built-in crop feature, so I didn't have to re-size the image before uploading it.

I followed Blogger's edit feature, which seemed simple enough, but it wouldn't center the image properly. After I tried everything I could think of, I looked at Blogger's "Help" section. Well, it appears that I'm not the only person with this problem. They've been trying to fix the situation for a few days now and while their so-called fix helped some, it made the situation worse for others. Take a look at the help group discussion titled My Headers are messed up!

I took the advice of one of the people in the discussion thread and changed the html on my template so it looks better, but it still isn't quite right. I'll take another look at it tomorrow and see if it's worth keeping.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Would you stop the aging process?

Rhea at The Boomer Chronicles posted this question on her site the other day:

If you could pause the aging process, at what age would you choose to do it?

Rhea's response was:
I always liked 24, but now that I’m older, I would be happy to be around 34. I am blessed with good health and a sturdy body, so it’s not about that. I don’t really know WHAT it’s about. I just like the sound of 30s.

The comments that followed were interesting. I was surprised at how many people wanted to be twenty or thirty-something again. Only a few said they wouldn't want to be younger.

I'm pretty sure I don't want to go back to a younger age.

The only possible reason I might want to halt aging would be for the physical benefits -- because I sure wouldn't want to revisit my younger years mentally or psychologically.

It's tempting to dream of the physical benefits of a younger, fitter and, hopefully, healthier body and, at times, I think it would be nice to have young knees, a healthy back, and not have to worry about a family history of high blood pressure.

Yet, there's something to be said for gradually slowing down with your body; the opportunity to feel more relaxed and less compelled to do, do, do things unless you really want to do them.

I've never been one that needed to be the first down the ski hill or be competitive in team sports. As long as I gave it my all, it was enough. It's no different now. Slowing down, just seems like a natural thing to do.

For me, it's not so much about my age as it is about my health. If I can remain relatively healthy, I'm okay with the inevitable aging.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Change of venue

I've been considering migrating this blog from Blogger to another platform. This is, in part, prompted by Blogger/Google's recent change in their comments link and trackback system.

I'm considering Wordpress, Movable Type and Typepad.

My main criteria:

- Easy to import my current blogs to the new site
- Flexibility and ease of use
- Free or inexpensive

My thoughts so far:

I set up a new site on Wordpress and imported my x365 project over to see how it works. The import process was quite painless and I like the look of their templates.

I also like the look of Typepad, but don't know too much about it.

I think Movable Type is more than I need.

I'd be happy to hear any opinions regarding the above platforms and any advice or suggestions. Or should I just stick it out with Blogger?

Monday, December 10, 2007

B is for Broken *

When I was about six years old, I had a walking doll.

She looked a little like this:

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Walking dolls were all the rage in the 50s and mine had been given to me as a Christmas present. She was about twenty inches high and was the most beautiful doll I'd ever owned.

One summer afternoon, when we'd run out of things to do and boredom was setting in, my cousin, Bobby, decided that it would be interesting to try and open up the doll and see what was inside. I thought it would be interesting too, but didn't think it was such a good idea.

Cousin Bobby persisted. He assured me that it would be okay. It would be like an operation and we'd be able to put her back together again. He "promised". What did I know? He was a whopping two months older than me and always took charge about these things. Against my better judgment, I agreed.

We found a pair of my grandmother's sewing scissors and Bobby set to work. With the pointy-end of the scissors, he poked a hole through the rubbery skin. Then snip, snip, snip through her chest. She was full of white cottony stuffing. Next, he twisted off her head. Well, that was interesting. It was mostly hollow but we could see how her eyes rolled up and down inside the sockets.

We were giggling and probably making quite a racket when my grandmother came up behind us. She looked at the doll, took away the scissors and told us to clean up the mess, then walked away. That's when I took a good look at what we'd done. Legs, arms and head had been twisted off and bits of stuffing lay amid the doll clothes that we'd been so careful to remove.

There was no way we'd ever put that doll back together. She was utterly broken and I was heartbroken. For days afterward, tears welled up in my eyes every time I thought about it. It was Bobby's idea, but my own decision to go along with him.

Bobby got a spanking over this episode, but no one spoke to me again about what we'd done. I was never reprimanded or punished. I think the family knew our destruction of the doll was punishment enough.

* Another Encylopedia of Me blog.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Encyclopedia of Me

Lately, I've come across several Encyclopedia of Me blogs. Some of them have been around for awhile and a good number have been abandoned. Still, I'm always looking for ideas to prompt my writing and this one seems to have merit.

As far as I can tell, it originated with a meme dreamed up by Bella Dia in this post and she, in turn, got the idea from the book by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, titled Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life.

The instructions are simple: Write a post per day (or thereabouts) for one month using the alphabet from A to Z as the prompt. It can be about anything to do with your life - past or current. It can be short, long, serious or whimsical. Pretty much anything goes.

Since there seem to be several variations of the original (just do a Google search and you'll find lots), I've also decided to do my own take on it. Instead of one letter per day for a month (and because I think this should be a pleasure, not a chore), I've decided not to have any time constraints -- just A to Z posts whenever the fancy strikes. It may take me a month. It may take me a year. I'll have to wait and see how it all plays out.

Here's my first:

A is for Artistic
When I was young, my relatives thought I was artistic. They gave me gifts of pens and crayons, drawing books and sketch pads, how-to draw anatomy and learn-to-paint books. I don't know where this perception came from because I never felt particularly artistic. Perhaps, my mother was artistic. She died when I was a toddler and I don't have any memory of her. So maybe the family was projecting their image of her onto me.

At any rate, when I was in school, certain teachers persisted in this same notion. I still didn't get it. I didn't have the drive to spend endless hours sketching and painting like my friend Kathy. Now, Kathy was talented. She drew constantly. Her books and papers were filled with doodles and wonderful landscapes. She used every available piece of paper, including the margins of notebooks. You can imagine my shock when one of our teachers chose me along with Kathy to decorate and paint the classroom windows one Christmas. I felt like a fraud beside a real artist.

Around the same time, I realized that being smart – as in intelligent - was more highly valued in my family and at school than being artistic. I tried my best to prove that I was more "smart" than artistic. This tactic, more or less worked. I left behind my art supplies and went on to university and took mostly sciences. I occasionally took out my sketch book and made half-hearted attempts at drawing. Nothing was ever quite good enough for my liking. More often than not, pages were torn out and thrown in the wastebasket. I was my own worse critic and could never get past the self-editing (I now realize this had a lot to do with my inner competitive nature - but more about that another time).

Later, I married and had children. Lo and behold. D, my first-born, from the age he could hold a crayon in his little fingers, loved to draw and colour. When he learned how to draw a car, he drew pages and pages and pages of cars of every size, shape and colour imaginable. When he learned to draw people (well, cartoon people), he doodled caricatures and cartoons everywhere. When he was given colouring books by well-meaning friends and family, he always came up with atypical colours (what, you've never seen a tree with purple leaves?), and more often than not, coloured and drew extra "stuff" outside the lines. Clearly, he was more artistic than I ever was. I let him and his imagination be.

When he got to elementary school, his teachers noticed his artistic abilities and his artwork was often posted on the walls and bulletin boards. In about grade 6 or 7, he was asked to paint a winter scene on the classroom window. No other instructions, just a winter scene. Because he was a huge hockey fan, he decided to paint a hockey scene. Hockey is a winter sport, right? Well, it turns out he painted a scene of a hockey fight – complete with a bloody-nosed, bruised and cut combatant. The picture was deemed inappropriate and his teacher and principal told him so. He was forced to wash off the offending painting and not allowed to do another.

D was mad. He couldn't understand why his teacher hadn't been more specific in his instructions and/or at least give him another chance. If he had wanted a picture of children frolicking in the snow, why didn't he just say so.

Now, D was and still remains a strong-willed and independent free spirit. He's not one to go down without a fight. In this case, he couldn't really do much about the windows. The teacher had made up his mind and that was that (although D confided in me that he was tempted to erase all the windows in the class when no one was around). I asked him if I could speak to the teacher about it. He flatly said, no because he'd already tried and it wouldn't help.

Then, for the remainder of the year, he mounted his own silent protest. In some ways, I think it was a subconscious reaction. He doodled and sketched in the margins of all his school notebooks, assignments, and even test papers, if he had extra time. And guess what he drew? He sketched cartoons and caricatures of people fighting – the bloodier and gorier the better.

His teacher was not pleased. The teacher spoke to him about it. We spoke to him about it. He was given detentions. He didn't care. He thought he'd been treated unfairly, and felt this was his only way to express his displeasure.

Eventually, he got over it, but sometimes I blanch to think what some child psychologist might have thought about those bloody pictures.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Odds 'n Sods on a Frosty Friday Morning

She's back!!
Wooohooo! I just had to say it. Ronni Bennett is back today at Time Goes By.

This morning, I clicked on TGB to read more comments about her departure. The last few mornings on TGB, there has been only a brief post about the latest story at the Elder Story Telling Place. Today, there was an actual TGB post. At first, I thought it might be a guest blogger. But no, the first few lines sounded like Ronni. I quickly scrolled down to the by-line and there it was, "posted by Ronni Bennett". She's written a lovely, heartfelt post about her feelings and decisions over the last few days.

I was always hopeful she'd be back in some form or other, but wasn't sure when or where. I'm so very glad she's back now. We can never have too many voices speaking out about injustices and the important human issues we face today. The comments on her blog this week, show just how far-reaching one voice can be.

Christmas Shopping
Well, I've put off thinking about it for as long as I can. The calendar tells me that I have just over two weeks to get ready for Christmas.

Since it's my day off and I have access to wheels today, I'm heading out for my first round of shopping. If all goes well, I'll get most of it done today. Experience has taught me that I'll either whiz through and accomplish a lot, or I'll come home tired and defeated. I may need to make the the liquor store my last stop of the day. Come to think of it, wine works as both celebration and remedy, doesn't it?

College Newsletter
My annual nursing class newsletter arrived by email yesterday and I'm glad I made the time to submit something this year (I talked about it in a previous post). I've only skimmed it, so far. I look forward to sitting down with a glass of wine and reading it at leisure. This year, twenty-seven have submitted updates. Not bad for a class of only thirty-odd.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Ronni: In appreciation . . .

It's been a couple of days now and I'm slowly coming to terms with Ronni Bennett's decision to shut down her blog, Time Goes By. It was a shock to me and many of her devoted readers. The last time I looked, there were over 100 comments to her "resignation" post.

And 'shock' is the right word. I couldn't believe it. Even as I read Ronni's entire post explaining her reasons, I couldn't quite wrap my brain around the idea that she wouldn't be posting at TGB anymore. I guess I had come to expect that she would always be there, expressing my precise thoughts and feelings about aging, health care and other important societal issues much more coherently than I ever could.

When I started blogging two years ago, her site and voice was one of the first that made me sit up and shout, "Yes!!" Finally, here was someone willing to write about a segment of the population that society wants to ignore.

She taught me a lot. I thought I was pretty unbiased and unprejudiced in my view of aging. Yet in reading TGB, I found I was as guilty as the next person in the use of lazy language to describe elders. Ronni showed how our use of language can and does perpetuate stereotypes of old people and I'm doing my best to break old habits. She's written about practically every aspect of aging, from health care to housing to finances; and railed against society's fixation and obsession with youth.

She wrote with conviction, clarity and passion with just the right touch of humour and the occasional caustic bite.

On a personal note - and she probably won't even remember this - she helped a novice blogger learn the hows and whys of blogrolls and atom feeds.

I began writing this post with the title "Say It Isn't So", somehow thinking that it was all a bad dream and Ronni didn't really shut down TGB. Now that I've had some time to think about it more rationally, I realize that she has more than enough reasons to retire her blog now, and that it's only selfishness on my part to expect her to continue. I really do understand why she feels like closing the doors.

So this post has become "In Appreciation . . ." for Ronni's four plus years of blogging, her dedication to causes and issues that need addressing, her mentorship of countless fledging bloggers, and her brilliant writing.

I'll miss Time Goes By, but I think we'll still hear from Ronni Bennett. She'll be fighting the good fight somewhere else, hopefully back in the blogosphere where we'll read her again.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Photographs and Memories

Vancouver 2nd Beach July 1915

I found this old black and white photo in a bag of old pictures that an aunt gave me many years ago. I remember briefly flipping through them at the time and thinking I should find out more about them. I put them away in a drawer and only recently took another look.

Most of the pictures didn't have any identifying information. They were snapshots of a time and place vaguely familiar, yet mysterious at the same time. I'm sorry I didn't sit down with my aunt (who died several years ago) and go through them one by one.

However, this particular picture had an inscription on the back:

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You can see where the original writing has faded and someone has written over it in a darker ink. The closer I looked at this picture, the more I recognized the girl in the picture as one of my aunts (not the one who gave me the photos).

I thought of her back in 1915 and imagined her on a family outing to Second Beach. I wondered what she did dressed in her sailor outfit and broad-brimmed hat. I wondered if they picnicked or went swimming. It's still a popular beach in Stanley Park and I remember taking my own sons to that same beach when they were young.

What prompted me to take a closer look at those old photos and post this one here was a story on the Elder Storytelling Place titled Photographic Remains by Susan Gulliford. She laments the trend of throwing out old family photos and thinks it's like dumping one's family history. I agree. I think there's something to be said for remembering where we came from and the journey we and our families took to get where we are today.

So, in that regard I'm slowly scanning and copying those old photos to disk. It's a long and laborious process, but I think, worth it. I'm also going to take them around to the few older relatives still alive who may remember the people, time and circumstances of the pictures before it's too late - and they remain nothing more than a curiosity of times past.