Thursday, December 30, 2010

Mittens, Mittens, Mittens & More...

How can two pair of mittens take that long to make? Well, one reason is that instead of just four mittens, I knitted seven mittens to get the two pair. Now why would I do that? See that first mitten on the left? That's the original. But when it was complete, even with the embroidery, I decided it was too big. So then I knit the two mittens on the right, the darker grey ones. They looked better to me.

When that pair was ready, without the embroidery , I started on the second pair, the lighter grey ones. I finished both of those mitts and even embroidered both. But I wasn't happy with them--they seemed too big, so I took them all the way apart and knitted them over. The first one finished in the smaller size is on the left here. Much better! So the one on the right was also completely disassembled, and reknit to match the one of the left.

I wasn't happy with the diamond design so
I took that apart, stitch by stitch, and designed a floral decoration. Did the darker mittens first, and wanted something different for the second pair, the lighter grey mittens. So, another floral design.

I just now finished that embroidery. You know what? I'm not really happy with it. It's not graceful enough. Am I going to pick it out and redo it?

I think I'll go make some cranberry vinaigrette for today's salad: spinach, onions, dried cranberries and sliced almonds.

Sunday, December 26, 2010


Suzanne, who writes the blog "SuzieFoods," commented on the sesame bagels. Bagels are not hard to make, and you can avoid the huge, high calorie version in the supermarkets, etc., by making your own. Here's the recipe:

Bagels (8)
3/4 cup water
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour
1 TB wheat gluten (optional)
1 TB sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp yeast
2 TBS bran (optional)
2 TB flax (optional)

Process all ingredients in breadmaker, or make the dough by hand. When dough is ready, form into bagels. Let rise for about 20 minutes. While dough is rising, prepare a large saucepan with about 2 inches of water into which 2 TB of molasses has been dissolved. Simmer bagels, four at a time for 30 seconds per side. Drain on a rack for about 5 minutes. Place on a cookie sheet and bake at 375º for 20 minutes. Cool on a rack.

This, like all recipes I use, has been "tweaked" from the one I got somewhere. The original recipe called for 1 TB salt. We just don't like that much salt, so I don't use that much.

To form the bagels, I roll the dough out on a pastry sheet, cut circles out with a clean, empty tin can. (I actually weigh each bagel to get them quite uniform.) I pick up each circle and poke my thumb through the middle to make the hole and then kind of pull it into shape around my thumb. The rest of the dough gets rerolled and cut into circles. The last bagel just gets shaped into a circle. (It's always the least attractive of the bunch!)

Don't boil the bagels, just simmer them gently, 30 seconds on one side, flip and simmer 30 seconds on the other side. Drain them. I dry them off with a clean tea towel. Sprinkle with sesame seeds or poppy seeds.

Vary the recipe by adding raisins and cinnamon, 1 tsp will do, to the dough. This tastes really good with apple butter.

You'll notice that there is no added oil in the dough or the handling.


Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

I wish each of you a Blessed Christmas day, and a year to follow filled with the true joy and peace of the Saviour's advent and what it means in our lives.

Last night we spent the evening in front of the television, for me, a very rare event. From 8p.m. to 9 p.m. we watched the Christmas program from the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City. It was lush and beautiful. A huge choir, a massive orchestra, dazzling decorations and great musicianship on the part of all. Natalie Cole was the special guest, and she really surprised me. She was gracious and charming (except for the huge amount of blue eyeshadow). In addition to singing, she recited the Christmas story from Luke 2 with beautiful expression. A truly enjoyable performance all the way round.

Then from 9 p.m. on we were treated to a marvelous performance of The Messiah, from King's College, Cambridge. This was the finest performance I've ever heard. The orchestra was small: 5 first violins, 4 second violins, 2 violas, 2 cellos, 1 bass, a harpsichord, small organ, 1 bassoon, and (if I figured it out right) 2 oboes. One of the oboes was blond--the oboe, not the oboeist, and I've never seen that before, but I'm pretty sure it was an oboe. This small group was joined by 2 trumpets and tympani when needed. This orchestra was the Academy of Ancient Music and the choir was the King's College choir: 35 young men and boys. And, of course, there were the four soloists. Every musician there was top notch. The piercing purity of sound from the boy sopranos always thrills me, and last night the whole ensemble was the highest musical treat of this season.

The trumpeter deserves special mention as the trumpet was (I'm guessing) a three foot long horn with no valves! His playing was impeccable and thrilling; I was in awe. Such talent! Yes, I know: talent, but hours and hours and hours of work to reach that lofty height of ability.

When I was in college in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the playing of the Messiah by the college orchestra and choir was always the real beginning of the Christmas season. It was performed at the beginning of December in the Civic Center. Downtown was all decorated for the season, and there was almost always snow to make everything look "Christmassy." But we had a choir of 500, an orchestra of 50, and an audience of 4 to 5,000. It was a BIG, HEAVY interpretation. One year I was principal of the second violins and I was scared stiff!!!

This version last night from King's College was light, precise and still robust. What a treat!

Now I'm just hoping we can catch the service of lessons and carols from King's College, Cambridge. That is always a treat of the same dimensions.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Turn of the Year

Just now, at 8:51 a.m., the sun is clearing the horizon. But the good news is we have just turned the dark corner of the year, and from now on until the June solstice the days will lengthen! I don't mind the short days so much because of all the cheerful lights and decorations we put up to celebrate Christmas. Here's the bright garlands and poinsettias atop the kitchen cupboards. The miniature white lights defeat the long nights. And, of course, the prize for having short days and long nights this time of the year is enjoying the super long days of summer when it stays light outdoors until around 11 p.m. and the sky brightens by 5 a.m. I understand that in the tropics the sun rises all year at 6 a.m. and sets all year at 6 p.m. I would so badly miss the long summer evenings! I'm happy to trade them for these very short days and long nights.

Over the weekend I did some baking for this
week, but not the usual Christmas goodies. First up was a batch of sesame bagels. These are 1/2 whole wheat, and we like to eat them for breakfast with a bit of ham and cheese.

Rising in the background are some "special" buns. This recipe started out as "Finnish Cardamom Loaf" and has morphed into these yummy buns with half white and half whole wheat flour flavoured with cardamom and containing a small carton of glazed fruit peel. For some reason these yeast buns take
a terrifically long time to rise, usually two or three hours. I don't have a clue why that is. I used to put the fruit peel into the dough when the breadmaker reached the "add" stage. Now I knead it into the dough when it is removed from the breadmaker. That seems to shorten the rising time a little bit.

Next up is a batch of three coffee tins of "Heirloom Boston Brown Bread" from the More with Less Cookbook. There's no fat or sugar in this recipe. Just whole wheat, yogurt (supposed to be buttermilk), baking soda, raisins and dark molasses. Makes a lovely, healthy snack, with a bit of cheese or some cream cheese and jam. Those are the finished "special" buns on the right.

Did you ever have one of those dracaenas we call "corn plants" bloom? The first time this plant bloomed I was astonished! I didn't know they ever did that. This is the second bloom for this plant in the last eight years. The flowers are not impressive, but at night they put out lots of aroma which I find irritating. We've moved this plant to the sewing/computer room for now. We needed the extra space in the living room for the Christmas tree, and that puts the evening perfume away from where we are sitting reading.

We have another one of these "corn plants" in the bedroom, and that one doesn't bloom, but sprouts new plants from the roots in the pot.

These plants keep growing taller and taller, until they begin to fall over, or take over the space where they are. Then I take a big, sharp knife and chop through the stem a foot or two down from the top. The bottom of the plant is discarded, the top dipped into "stimroot" and replanted in some fresh soil. It's as if the plant doesn't even know it's been hacked off. It stays as fresh looking as ever and just grows upward again. They are very easy house plants and don't mind having less than full sunlight. I water them about once a week in the summer and once in two weeks in the winter: about 4 cups of water with a little bit of fertilizer, and they're perfectly happy to provide greenery inside year round.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Getting Ready for Christmas

This time of the year everywhere you go people ask, "Are you ready for Christmas?" My usual answer is, "I'm always ready for Christmas." Years ago we decided that a Christmas celebration was not about splurging on a plethora of gifts, but should be centered about the celebration of Christ's First Coming. How to do that? For me the biggest pleasure of the season is the music. There are wonderful pieces of music that are played and sung only at this time of the year. This year, surprisingly, I haven't heard "O Holy Night" yet at all. That particular song I think should be heard only once in a season, and not heard at all in a shopping mall. The reason I haven't heard it yet this year is because I haven't been to any malls, just groceries stores.

I've already mentioned the annual community Christmas concert that the Arts Academy produces, which is always well attended and much appreciated. Then last week Saturday we went to the Red Deer Symphony Christmas Concert, which was a real delight. For some of the numbers they included members of the Rosedale Valley Strings, a student group. So much fun to watch how seriously the young students attend to their music! Many were very fine players, as we found out from several solo parts that some of them played, and played very well.

But we do make some preparations for Christmas in our home. One of our traditions is to put up a Christmas tree each year. When the kids were little we used to go to the mountains to cut our own tree. That's always interesting--you spot a wonderful tree, slog through the snow banks only to find that it's missing limbs on one side. But, wait, there's a better one; which turns out to have a major defect also when you reach it. Finally you all agree on a "suitable" tree, that is, the nicest one you can find. Dad cuts it down, stuffs it into the trunk, and we all head home for some hot chocolate.

Well, we don't have to go to the mountains anymore. We just go to the other side of the dugout where we have a three acre pie-shaped field with anywhere from 400 to 1000 spruce growing. They're planted in the fall as 12inch "sticks" and left to grow from year to year. We do sell many of them to people who want to have a nice spruce on the yard, or a triple row of them as a windbreak. They go at about 5 to 6 feet, and the tree mover comes with his truck to dig, transport and plant them.

Each year Jim decides which of the trees out there will be our tree for Christmas this year. I like to get it up and decorated by about the 10th of December, but this year was delayed quite a while by that miserable cold I had. So this Wednesday he went out and cut down the choicest tree in the field. It was big! It was a much bigger job cutting it down than he figured on. It almost finished him for the day.

I went out to take a picture of him cutting it down, but he was already at the end of the driveway, hauling it to the house. I gave a hand and together we dragged it to the back door. Later we pulled it inside where it completely blocked passage through the laundry room. We left it there for some hours to melt off the snow
and ice, and then he pulled it into the living room and set it up on the stand. Had to cut off another bottom branch to get it into the stand.

Later that day I started putting on the lights and decorations. The two long strands of lights we usually use weren't enough for this big tree, so I got out the old lights and started checking the strands for burnt out bulbs. This is so frustrating: one or two bulbs are gone on the strand, so the whole strand doesn't work. You need to replace each bulb one by one to try to find the culprits. The first of the old strands was finally in place. And I worked on the second. At last that was all lit up. I carried it to the tree and started putting it in place, and it went out again. Rats!!!! Rats!!! Rats!!!

That, unfortunately, was the point at which Jim stopped by to ask how it was going. He found out that lights are a pain, and the tree is too big! Oops! This was his baby, his specially wonderful tree that he had raised and spent his
morning chopping down. He retreated to the t.v. room and found something interesting to watch.

By the time he was back upstairs again, the lights were in place and the storm was over. All that was needed was to hang every sparkly Christmas tree ball and ornament that we've collected over the years, including the one ornament that has survived somehow from the very first Christmas we had together. I hang it in a prominent place on the tree, and enjoying remember those early days, long ago now. When the tree comes down I wrap it tenderly in padding and put it into its own little box, hoping it will survive another year in storage.

Also on the tree this year is a ceramic bell that actually
tinkles when disturbed. This was one of a set that hung on Christmas trees during my childhood. My sister inherited most of those precious old ornaments, but was kind enough to share this one with me. So it is also a treasure on the tree.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Time Out

I've had an unintentional time out for the past week, due to a very sore throat, and other symptoms, runny nose, coughs, stuffed up head, etc. Not a pretty picture.

When I got home from the rural quilting group last Thursday there were two boxes of fabric samples for me to dive through. It's always so much fun when my friend leaves a gift of samples. I sort them into piles according to colour and theme. There were even some fleece squares in there. I save out what appeals to me, what I think I can use, and then pass the rest on to one of the two groups I quilt with. So the past week, in between sniffles and coughs and sneezes, I was taking fabric samples off the cardboard headers and organizing them into washing loads. There were three or four loads, I think it was four. Then into the dryer, and then carefully laid flat while still damp, awaiting ironing. Final step: all sorted by colour and theme, and grouped into projects. Some of them just put into the proper colour bin for a resource. Right now my sewing room floor is just about invisible, covered by stacks of fabric. Tomorrow I should be able to get them all organized into the proper bins and boxes, and stashed away in the closet again.

That's about all the got done this past week, other than the necessary: meals, a little cleaning now and then, and the laundry. But I did read four books. Now I feel totally unexercised and eager to get back at my hill hikes and weight lifting. Probably will feel like starting all over!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

F.O.: Hat #3

This past week I finished the third hat begun on our holiday trip. Again, an original design.

This post will be mostly pictures, showing how I grafted the two parts of the hat together.

I first knit the crown according to a method published some time ago in Threads. I cast on 29 stitches, the radius of the crown, and knit a triangle, decreasing on both ends of
the needle every other row. When there is only one stitch left on the needle, pick up stitches along the left side of the triangle, in this case, 28 stitches. Knit another triangle, decreasing in the same manner down to one stitch. Repeat the pick up stitches, etc. Do this until you have the number of triangles you want, in this case, six. For the last triangle, pick up and knit in one stitch from the right hand side of the first triangle every other row of the current triangle, and decrease it with the current decreases. That binds the triangles together into a crown.

This second photo shows the band which was knit separately.

For the band I cast on 27 stitches, and worked in the following pattern:
a three stitch I-cord, p 3, k 6, p 3, k 6, p 3, end with a three stitch I-cord. Every eight rows I cabled the two k 6's.

Because they were knit separately they had
to be joined somehow, and I decided to graft
them together, rather than sewing them together.

Picture #3 is taken during that process. The work is done on the inside of the hat.

The left needle holds the crown stitches, which had been picked up from the outside of the triangles forming the crown. The right needle holds the one stitch in use from the

Because the band has an I-cord edge I am able to pick up the inner half of the I-cord stitch without disturbing the cord itself.

Picture 4 show the left hand needle picking up the inner stitch from the I-cord, which is then purled together with the next stitch on the left hand needle.

Are you still with me?

Here you can see the two stitches
underneath the current stitch.

Now it's a simple thing to pass the 1st stitch on the right hand needle over the second stitch, binding it off. Proceed in this fashion until all the stitches on the left hand needle have been joined and bound off. Tie in the loose end after drawing it through the last stitch, and the hat is completed without tedious sewing!

Here's the finished hat. Kind of interesting, I
think! I like it, but, unfortunately, it was a bit too small to wear comfortably. So I gave it to one of my quilting friends whose head is smaller than mine.

I also gave away the first hat I knit on our holiday trip. It was also rather small, and I gave it to another friend on whom it was a better fit. I don't mind giving these things away. The fun for me is in the designing and the working out of the design.

Now I have to get busy on some mittens for two of the dear granddaughters who have birthdays in December. Remember the waistcoats from last year? Mittens will knit up so much more quickly than they did!

Monday, November 29, 2010


Yesterday marked the first day of Advent, a very special season. Jan on organ and myself on violin played an arrangement of "O Come, O Come, Immanuel" for an offertory. It was somehow very special--quiet, contemplative and moving.

For me, Advent begins with the annual Christmas concert put on by the Arts Academy. It always has a nice variety, some choir, some instrumental, some literary. This year's concert, performed last Friday and Saturday evenings, was a huge success; people loved it and made many very appreciative comments. Our new mayor gave a hilarious account of his grandmother's "encounter" with their family's artificial Christmas tree. Stuart McLean, beware! I enjoyed playing violin in a quartet, leading a group of young violinists in three rounds, and playing in the group that accompanied some of the choir pieces, including the finale: The Hallelujah Chorus, from the Messiah by Handel.

Now I'm eager to get out the candles, lights, decorations. I missed my chance to put up the icicle lights on the eaves of the house, so we'll be a little less sparkly this year.

I wish you all a blessed Advent season, full of love of family and friends.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends and relatives! Don't eat too much!!

Do you remember when the stores put up their Christmas decorations the day after Thanksgiving? Now it's called "Black Friday" because people are out in droves snapping up bargain Christmas presents, and it's (supposedly) the day that stores' bottom lines reach a healthy black balance. Some of my Canadian friends are down in Montana today shopping for bargains.

We are finally out of the deep freeze!!! The thermometer stood at -10º this morning. It felt positively mild! On Tuesday Alberta was the coldest place on earth, except for the South Pole, which beat us for the record by one measly degree. I was at the town quilting club when Jim told me that, so we all had a good laugh.

But today we were able to go for a walk, finally. I didn't do the hill hike, because Jim was walking into town to the library, so I went that direction with him. Ten pounds in the backpack is no problem. I forget it's there. So when I got home I tried out twenty pounds in the backpack. It's perfectly doable--the question is how far I could go. That's what I intend to find out in the next few weeks. Hope the good weather holds!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Cold Turkey

Here's where the thermometer stood at 5:15 a.m. today. Can't get much lower than that! Now, midmorning, the temp has risen all the way to -31º, but the weather website informs us that with the windchill it feels like -43º. The sun is out in full force, and it looks like a gorgeous winter day, but I think we'll stay inside!

Now, about the turkey: I'm probably preaching to the choir here but want to say, When you've taken the meat off the bones, don't throw away a valuable resource! Put the bones (and skin and scraps) in a big stock pan, cover them with water and simmer for about 2 to 3 hours. Strain the stock and bottle it in hot, sterile jars. Screw the lids on and let them stand on towels on the kitchen counter. You'll hear that lovely "ping" when the jars snap shut. Let them cool. Write on the jar lid the contents and date, et voilá, wonderful
soup stock, ready to use. Perfectly low sodium, no pernicious additives!

Okay, now take the little bits of meat that were on the bones, carefully separating them from the gristle, fat, skin, etc. When you have all of that, form it into a log, take a knife and slice it up quite fine. Now spread a piece of waxed paper on a cookie sheet, arrange the little turkey bits on that, and put in the freezer for a few hours. When it's frozen, crumple it up into a container, and you have the makings for some pots of chicken noodle, or chicken vegetable soup, whichever you prefer.

On a cold day, there's nothing better than a bowl of hot soup!

Monday, November 22, 2010


I had hoped to hike the hill today, but it was -23º with wind this morning, and the sun was hiding behind the overcast. It was a day to "hunker down" inside and do some sewing.

Our town quilting club is doing a "Block of the Month" (BOM) this year. I missed a few meetings because of our holiday, so on Thursday I got started on this project. Got the first block almost finished. Saturday we had a full day retreat for the town club, and Janis brought the other four patterns that had been handed out. By Saturday evening I had three blocks finished. It takes about 2
hours to cut and sew a block. Today I finished the other two patterns that I had. This project is turning out well.

For the background I chose a fairly busy print, and for the stars some quite dark, more subdued prints. I'm please with how it looks.

I think it should be sashed with the background fabric, in order for the stars to "float" on the background. So I'll ask Janice for the rest of the patterns at our regular meeting tomorrow. That way I can cut out all twelve blocks and find out what I need to buy to finish the quilt.

My sister took those two "chilly" pictures from the last post and put them on her screen, just to remind her to be thankful for the warm Arizona weather she enjoys each winter.

Thanksgiving is coming up this week for the American half of our family. So here's a recipe that goes well with a turkey dinner. It's called "Side Dish."

Peel and slice 2 large Sweet Spanish Onions to measure 6 cups.
Sauté in 1/4 cup butter until tender.
Spoon into a 1 1/2 quart casserole.
Combine 1 can cream of mushroom or chicken soup
with 3/4 cup milk and 1 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce.
Pour over onions.
Top with 1 1/2 cups croutons.
Sprinkle with 3/4 cup grated Cheddar cheese.
Bake at 350ºF for 30 to 35 minutes or until bubbly.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.

I made this for dinner today, as we were having leftover Thanksgiving turkey (shoved into the freezer after our Canadian Thanksgiving dinner in October.) Since it was just the two of us, I used only the following: just one onion cut up, 1/2 can of creme of mushroom soup (a left-over from the fridge), no milk, and a little Worcestershire sauce. I sprinkled the top with crumbs mixed with 2 tbs grated parmesan and about 1/4 cup grated cheddar. Tasted real good!

Friday, November 19, 2010


Last time I said that winter had arrived. Well,--it stayed! It dug in with a vengeance, and we're stuck in the deep freeze.

Just as a corrective to the green pictures in my last post, here are two pics taken yesterday morning around 9 a.m. The first is the view from the living room looking south at the greenhouses and the sales building. If you check the brown fence to the right of the sales building, you can actually see the flakes coming down.

Our country quilting group meets every Thursday, but when I saw how much snow had accumulated I called our leader to check if the meeting was still on. She had had several calls, but thought the group would go ahead. I told her I would not come, as I didn't want to get stuck in our driveway. The plow had been by earlier, but our driveway had some drifts. It really did seem the sort of day to spend at home by the fireplace, knitting, reading and drinking hot chocolate.

The second picture is taken looking west from the living room. That mound of white is on top of the brown railing, and is high enough that you can't even seen the road from the house. The snow outside the window is about 2 feet deep, slightly above the bottom of the window.

But Shirley phoned back about an hour later and said her husband had to come into town and he'd come pick me up in his truck. So I was able to get to the meeting after all. It was so good to see my friends there again. They've been holding meetings for several weeks already, but I missed them all. Around 4 p.m. Shirley brought me back home. Very much appreciated!

Tomorrow the town quilting group has an all day retreat, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Jim will bring me there and pick me up when I'm ready to come home, which I'm pretty sure will be before 10 p.m. I'm looking forward to receiving four more patterns for the block of the month our club is doing this year. We always have a very good time together, with lots of funny stories and shared laughs.

I did manage the hill walk three times this week, so at least I have a beginning. I've timed it, and can make it to the top of the hill in 28 minutes, and back home in 26. I'm pretty satisfied with that time as it's somewhere close to 3 miles round trip, with almost half being uphill. My main concern is to get used to carrying weight in the backpack.

Current temperature: -21ºC, with no significantly better weather in sight until about next Wednesday at the earliest. These are the dark, cold days before Christmas. Makes you want to put up the lights and get out the candles!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Winter's Here!

Winter arrived today. And today I started my "training regime" to get ready for a hiking holiday in Chile next March.

Last night when we went to bed we noticed that it had started to snow. A really severe snowstorm was predicted; the temperature was falling. It was still snowing when we got up this morning, and with the cold north wind it was pretty nasty. M and I did not walk today.

But by 1 p.m. the wind had died down and the snow was just lazily drifting here and there, so I decided to go. My plan is to walk to the top of the hill every day with a backpack loaded with weights. I started today with just 5 lbs, and soon realized that was no challenge at all. Tomorrow I'll up it to 7 lbs, the next day to 9, etc. My goal is to be able to do that hike with a 20 lb backpack without puffing.

The lay of the land here is just perfect for this training exercise. Our place is at the low point on the road, which slopes up quite moderately for almost the whole 3/4 mile to the intersection. After the corner there's a little downward dip, and then the road begins to climb again for the next 1/2 mile, culminating in a really steep grade for the last 1/8 mile or so. This picture gives an idea what the last stretch is like. Of course, today there was snow and a north wind. (We're facing north in this picture.)

At this point I am puffing the last 1/8 mile. We'll see how long it takes to get into condition!

Of course if the road is mostly uphill on the way north, it's mostly downhill on the way back home, not like the proverbial walk to
school that your grandparents had: 3 miles, uphill both ways!

So here's the view once you've started back. This picture must have been taken in July, as you can see the yellow of the canola field.

The intersection is just at the point where there are trees on the right hand side. You can't see our place from here, as it is down the hill from there another 3/4 mile.

The harvest here was wonderful, with high yields, 70 to 80 bushels an acre for canola, when 60 is considered quite good; 90 bushels an acre for peas when 60 is normal. The wheat was also abundant, but not of high quality. Most of it will go for feed wheat, which, fortunately, is at a pretty reasonable price right now. So in spite of the disappointingly delayed harvest season (remember it wouldn't stop raining in September?) it all turned out well. Many reasons for thanksgiving!

The first snow in '08 was also on November 16. Other years we get it in October, but our area actually had lovely fall weather while we were away.

I like to hang the "icicle lights" on the peak of the house sometime in November, as we usually get a spell of good weather at some point in that month. I'm afraid that Monday was that day this year. Our high was +7, and the afternoon was lovely. I spent Monday cleaning the house, doing laundry and running errands. Oh well, that had to be done.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

All the Way Home

It was so too bad that the battery on my camera was dead while we were at Trudy and Irv's. I would have loved to have a picture of us together. She did get out her camera as Jim and I were leaving, and I hope to have a copy of that picture some day.

We got as far as Fargo, North Dakota that afternoon, and checked into a motel, had some dinner at a Perkins Family Restaurant. We've found them quite reliably good. We both had the pot roast dinner, which was tender and delicious.

There was a good hard frost overnight, with a clear sky and sunny morning. We drove west on I94 as far as Jamestown, and then north on 52 to the Saskatchewan border. The farther north we drove, the more snow we saw.

Coming into Saskatchewan on this road, Hwy 39, is disturbing because the landscape has been all dug up for several kilometres and not restored. It's been this way for years, due to the mining activities here, and it is a shame on the province that it hasn't been restored. If this were your introduction to Canada you would say, they certainly don't take care of the earth!

By the time we came to Weyburn it was dark and we were ready to get off the road. Found a nice room in a Travelodge that had a hot breakfast at the restaurant included.

We were on the road again quite early, before 8 a.m., contending with heavy fog. For hours Jim drove carefully through the fog. It wasn't a pleasant experience. Finally, about 11:30, west of Kenaston, the fog lifted and the day grew bright with blue sky and white, snow covered fields. All the shrubs and trees were made beautiful with hoar frost.

In Rosetown Jim found a Globe and Mail from Thursday and a new Time magazine, so I took over the driving while he relaxed and read.

West of Rosetown there was no snow on the fields, just a real fall scene with dry fields and leafless trees. Twice we were so fortunate to have a really long, wide load turn off the road ahead of us, just as we got near. You know how hard it is to pass one of them on a two lane road? I was really glad I didn't have to try.

We reached our home town about 4 p.m. Alberta time, 5 p.m. from the time we started this morning, and stopped at the grocery store before going home.

The sun was shining its late afternoon gold on our home as we drove up, thankful for a wonderful holiday, and very thankful for a safe return!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Travelin' On

Another beautiful, unseasonably warm day. Forecast high for this area is +75º. We traveled west through Iowa on 2 lane roads up to I80 West, to I29 North to Sioux City. Took a room in a Super 8 and had a bite to eat in the Wendy's right across the road.

Our first rainy day (other than the half day of rain at Natchez Trace Resort when we didn't plan to drive anyway.)

In Sioux City, we visited the Sioux City Museum, currently housed in this old mansion. They are getting ready to move into a new building downtown. It was a small museum, but it was o.k. The more interesting story was that of the mansion itself.

In the late 1800's John Peirce was a financier active in Sioux City. He had this "palace" built in 1891. The recession of 1893 wiped out his fortune, and by 1900 he gave up on Sioux City and made plans to move to Seattle.

Being deeply in debt, he conceived the idea of raffling off his house to help pay his debts. He sold 40,000 tickets for $1 each, with the drawing taking place on December 24,1900. Several days later it was discovered that he had already deeded title to a New York millionaire in partial payment of his debts. The lottery had been a scam!

Here's an example of some of the fine woodwork in the house, illustrative of the time and care that went into a fine house in that time.

By noon of Wednesday we were headed north to Sioux Center, Iowa, the home of Dordt College, founded by my dad's cousin, Rev. B. J. Haan. We had been there sometime in the 70's and found that this small center had grown remarkably. We went for lunch to Casey's Bakery, a long-standing tradition in Sioux Center. I bought 2 dozen cookies for my cousin Trudy.

We are on the way to see her and her husband. I haven't seen Trudy for more than 50 years, and have never met her husband.

We found their farm by about 3 p.m., and were happy to meet with Trudy and her husband Irv. We had a great visit, staying up until after 11 p.m. getting acquainted and reacquainted. She was taking care of their little 6 month old great grandchild, who is just just the smiley-est little baby, full of good cheer, in spite of missing most of her nap that day. It's always a treat to be around little ones!

Too bad that my camera battery had died and needed to be recharged.

Irv took Jim on a tour of his farmlands, and Trudy and I walked around the buildings on the yard, checking on the many little calves, few pigs, and dairy cows. Then Jim had the car serviced at the local small town, and we took off around noon.

This was a beautiful sunny, but cool day, quite windy. But so cheerful after yesterday's drizzle. It was also a day spent mostly on Interstate highways, so I started working on the band for the 3rd hat. Yesterday I had knitted the crown, following a method that was published in a Threads magazine some years ago. I'll show the hat when it's finished.

Monday, November 8, 2010

More Good Times

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 7 (Daylight Savings Time Ended)
Spent about 5 hours driving west and a bit north through Illinois and into southeastern Iowa. Part of the drive was through Amish country, and there were a few of these horse-drawn buggies on the road. The highway was a narrow, two lane road without paved shoulders, and many little hills, so caution was needed.

We arrived at Honey Creek Resort State Park on Rathbun Lake around 2 p.m., and were happy to find that a special deal was
being offered: two nights for the price of one
including bike rental and use of the waterpark. I took this picture this evening just after sundown, as we drove up again. There are three of those "modules" on the right side of the entrance, all connected. To the left is a one story wing with the lounge, restaurant and meeting rooms. (Next weekend there's a big quilting retreat here.)
This is a large, luxurious building, craftsman
style again, nothing skimped on.

Before dinner we went for an hour long walk around the grounds. This resort is quite new and also has 28 "cabins"--really very nice small homes.

We went for supper in their classy restaurant and were disappointed. I had "Forest Mushroom" soup--a cup--and that was delicious. Then I had a Chicken Quesadilla which was the worst one I've had. Jim had the soup of the day and then a Bruschetta, which was O.K. but not "real food." We ordered appetizers because we weren't very hungry at all, but we should have ordered one regular dinner and split it between the two of us.

Our room is great, with high ceilings, lots of space, marble bathroom, view of the lake, and a great comfortable king-sized bed.

We had breakfast in the Lodge Restaurant, and had the opposite experience to last night. The breakfast was great! "Real Food!" according to Jim.

What a beautiful day! We went for a long bike ride, using the bikes the Lodge has available. Up and down the hills, alongside the water, over all the bike paths in the park.

Around 3 p.m. we drove to the closest little town, Moravia, to have a meal at the Hometown Café. Too bad--it's out of business. A local told us that Angel's on the highway was the only other option, but when we saw it, I gave it a "thumbs down." So on we went, 10 miles south to Centerville, and were glad we did!

We were looking for the Bluebird Café on Jackson Street, but it was closed when we got there. What we found instead was so interesting.

They say that this town has the world's largest town square. In the center was the large old courthouse (sorry, no pic) surrounded by green lawn. The streets around that square were wide enough for angle parking on each side and in the middle of the street there was enough room for another double lane of angle parking. Surrounding those wide streets on all four sides were old buildings, several of them restored, or undergoing restoration.

We asked about a restaurant, and a woman from Missouri, who said she was only there because her dad had just died, directed us to the restored Continental Hotel. This turned out to be so interesting.

The Continental Hotel, which burned and was rebuilt in 1872, had fallen into total disrepair when Morgan Cline began restoring it.

Morgan, born in 1932, grew up in a poor family in this area of Iowa. His mother worked as a cashier in a store on the Square. He made a fortune in advertising in New York, and became a huge benefactor for Centerville. He bought and restored historic homes and buildings, notably the Continental Hotel. It now has 24 suites for independent seniors, meeting rooms and a fine old restaurant.

Learn more about Centerville and Morgan Cline at

Jim was looking for "real food" and found it here: cheesy broccoli soup in a bread bowl and a baked potato.

After dinner we looked for a newspaper for Jim's evening reading, but it's pretty hard to find newspapers. Jim's had several USA Todays, and on Saturday we found a New York Times. Yesterday he had to make do with a Des Moines Register, and today he's out of luck.

I keep myself entertained with my knitting and reading some books I took along: Through Black Spruce by Joseph Boyden, The Flying Troutmans by Miriam Toews, Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood.

This afternoon I finished the second hat (for the third time.) I didn't like the crown the first two times. Then I got the idea I wanted these little triangles poking out and took a long time trying to figure out how to knit that. Finally gave up and went to the net where "Knit Witch" showed how to short row, and then I was able to do it. I like this version; it has a sense of humour. At least I'll need a sense of humour to wear it!

This evening we went to the waterpark in the lodge. There's a lot there: a very shallow pool for little kids with a pirate ship with slides into the water; a "lazy river" to float around in tubes; a 3' deep pool for games: volley ball, water basketball; islands to climb onto and fall off from; a waterslide; and a hot tub--which was so relaxing. We enjoyed it more than we had expected. And we could just imagine how much our four young grandchildren would enjoy a waterpark like this one.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Springfield, Illinois

Yesterday afternoon we arrived in Springfield, Illinois and took a motel for two nights, so that we wouldn't be rushed today. That turned out well, because there was lots to see.

First we visited the state capitol building. This is a view of the back, because that's where we parked the car. This is by far the most elaborate capitol building we have ever visited, and in my opinion the most beautiful.

Since it's Saturday there was minimal traffic around town, scads and scads of parking places, and not many people in the buildings. We had a good tour.

Again, there were spotless, gleaming marble
floors. The guide assured us that it was the result of constant effort.

The Senate chamber is simply stunning when you first see it. There are beautiful, gleaming chandeliers, and the walls and ceilings are very ornately decorated. Here is a sample, a view of some angels with golden trumpets, on the ceiling of the chamber. I have many more pictures of the details in the ceilings here and in the House and in the Supreme Court, too many to post.

There was a beautiful dome with stained glass atop the Senate Chamber and the House, but this is a view of the main dome. All of that glass was taken out, piece by piece, a few years ago, cleaned, restored and replaced in the dome. There is a protective roof over the dome, so it is illuminated, not by sunlight, but by artificial light. Originally there was a ring a gas lamps to light it. If you are ever in Springfield, do go visit this marvelous building.

We drove a few blocks over to the old capitol building. Illinois, like many other states, had some quarrels over where their capitol should be. It started in Kaskaskia, then moved to Decatur, where three successive capitols were built. And, during A. Lincoln's time it was moved to Springfield, a more central location. They immediately built this very adequate and quite lovely building to "solidify" their standing as the capitol.

This building, like so many others, has been restored.

Inside it is quite simple, but appealing. There were people working there in costume, explaining history of the building and historic persons. One fellow, whom
I really enjoyed listening to, couldn't stop talking about Abraham Lincoln. And he was very well informed.

This very interesting staircase occupies the center of that building.

There was a ceremony going on in the House chamber of this building, so we didn't see much of that, but could see the other rooms: plain but satisfying rooms, with their white walls, lovely woodwork and high

The man who loved Lincoln highly recommended the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and Library. This is a picture of the Museum.

We thought this museum was exceedingly well done.

When you enter through this circular space, you come into a lobby.

On the one side of the large circular space of the lobby is "Journey 1," the story of Lincoln's youth and eduation. He had just 3 months of formal schooling as a child, taught himself to read when he was six, and devoured every book he could get hold of. As an adult he went back to a one room school for another 6 months, for a total formal education of 9 months.

As a young man he went to Salem and worked as a clerk in a store. A surveyor wanted him as an apprentice, and loaned Abe two books, one the principles of surveying by Thomas Jefferson, and the other a book of math, geometry, and trigonometry. Within a very short time (like 2 months?) Abe had mastered all that information. Later he taught himself law and became a lawyer.

When you enter the log cabin, you are led through a series of spaces that portray the different times and events in his life. All very well done and interesting.

Across the lobby is the beginning of Journey 2, the White House and the years of his presidency, also very well done.

In addition to the two "journeys" there are two theatres, one with a wonderful show called "Through Lincoln's eyes" and the other showing the development and uses of the presidential library, called "Ghosts in the Library."

I cannot recommend this museum and these two shows highly enough. Not to be missed! We had a wonderful day!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Beautiful Fall Day

The weather was awful this morning: totally cloudy, very cold wind from the north, and misty rain. Oh well, can't win them all. But, what do you know, by the time we left the lodge at Kentucky Dam Village State Park, the sun had come out. The morning sparkled as we drove northward.

As we drove around Paducah, Kentucky on Interstate 24 we noticed a sign for the National Quilt Museum. Jim suggested we might go there, and I surprised myself by declining. Having just set out, I didn't feel like getting off the road already.

Just across the Ohio River into Illinois we stopped at a "Welcome Center," only to find it boarded up with the sign: "Closed because of budget cuts." There were a few pamphlets set out in some racks, but the only map of Illinois was pinned up on the wall behind plastic.

My thought is this: if government wants to save money, anyone government employee earning over, say $150,000 per year and up, should have a 10% pay cut, and all the small jobs, at which people earn a (small) hourly wage should be retained. Surely that would do more to restore prosperity than cutting all the services for tourists (who bring in money) and slashing low-level jobs. How much difference would there be going from $200,000 to $180,000 compared to going from $20,000 to $0. IMHO it is TIME for the wealthy to quite being greedy and make it possible for the poor to improve their lives.

On a side note: some of the poorest countries are doing a better job at improving the lives of their poorest people. Bangladesh is an example of this.

On a lighter side, we've been seeing these beautiful trees throughout the southern states. Quite often they are in a row, lining a nice long driveway.

Because of the shrub behind this tree, it's not so evident that these trees have a nice straight trunk for about the first 4 to 6 feet, and then branch out into a lovely, oblong ball shape. We wondered what they were, but found no information about them anywhere. I was tempted to knock on someone's door and ask what they were.

This tree is outside the "welcome center" so I was happy to be able to take a picture, pick a leaf and, surprise, some berries. Does anyone know what this
really nice tree is?

One other side note: welcome to a new follower, Kate Eaton. Kate, when I get home and can access my Facebook, I'll send you a note. In the meantime, hope you enjoy the smattering of topics touched on here.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

An Armadillo and an Adventure

Wednesday, November 3 continued. . .
Well, the rain did stop by 3 p.m. and we were able to go for a nice long walk. We chose to walk on the park roads, as we thought the woods would be quite wet.

As we came over a hill, we disturbed a flock of about eight very large birds grouped by the side of the road. They made no sound except for the beating of their wings as they took to the trees. Here in the ditch was the attraction: a dead armadillo.

This is the second armadillo we've ever seen. The first one we saw in the woods in Oklahoma a few years ago. We wouldn't have seen it except for the fact that it became frightened, and scurried away through the
undergrowth. I was surprised at how little and how pink it was.

Here's one of those birds. I think it's a buzzard or vulture, as a general term. You can just see that it has a bald head. They were very large birds, and tended to circle around waiting for us to be out of the way.

When we came back after a two mile walk they had moved the carcass farther from the edge of the road.

Here's a little sample of some of the beauty available along the roadside.

On the road again this morning, heading north on 114. This morning is crisp and sunny, with a perfectly cloudless sky. We drive along a deserted, two lane road through sun-drenched woods, and later through scattered cotton and corn fields, the crops already harvested.

Going east on Hwy 70 we came to Camden, Tennessee where I stopped to mail the finished scarf to Dear Son #1.

We followed 147E to a ferry across the Tennessee River, a lake really, because it's dammed further downstream. That's the ferry way across there, the little white thing. When we arrived, the ferry was headed to the other shore, so we sat and waited. We waited for 45 minutes, but the ferry never started back across the river. Perhaps the water was too choppy. There were white caps on the waves. So we gave up, turned around and took another route.

Well, call it a little "adventure" along the way. The fall colours are still quite lovely here.

We headed for the "Land between the Lakes," a state park in Tennessee and Kentucky. The visitor center had a very good display about the history of the area, which used to be called "Land between the Rivers," the rivers being the Cumberland River and the Tennessee River, both of which were dammed, forcing the people living in the area to relocate.

There was no lodging in that park, so we are now at a lodge in the Kentucky Dam Village State Resort Park, taking it easy in a very nice room, planning to go for dinner in the restaurant soon.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Natchez Trace State Park

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 2 (election day, finally!)
It was somewhat cloudy as we set out north on Hwy 2, which became Hwy 22 when we entered Tennessee.

We did visit Shiloh Military Park Visitor Center and watched a 32 minute video (made in 1956) on the battle of Shiloh. It just makes us very sad to think that almost 24,000 men died in those 2 days of fighting! We didn't walk or drive around the battlefield exhibits.

Driving north on 22, headed for Natchez Trace State Park, we missed a left turn in Lexington and found ourselves on 114 south, not north. When 114 took a right turn, I realized what we'd done. We stopped and asked a local how to get to the park. He directed us down a narrow, twisting, hilly road, a little over one lane wide.

After about 8 miles we stopped and asked again. A nice young woman said, "You're not lost. Just go 6 more miles and you'll be there." So we did and we were.

We got a nice room in the lodge, the one at
the upper right in this picture. In front of the Lodge is Pin Oak Lake. There are also "villas" and "rustic cabins" that you can rent here, but they don't have tv or phone. In the lobby of the Pin Oak Lodge, you can access the internet, thought we've had a few problems with staying on the net this morning.

We had a great buffet lunch here: salad, corn, beans, potatoes, beef and chicken, banana cream pie and soft ice cream for dessert.

This afternoon we went for a hike near the lake. The path here was covered with fallen leaves, but much easier to hike than the path in Arkansas, as it was not studded with hidden rocks. It was a pleasant hike through the woods. Saw several squirrels, but not much else.

When we got to the area shown in the next picture, we disturbed a great blue heron, who took off in a very dignified way. It's always a treat to see such creatures in their natural habitat!

The 1 1/2 mile trail led to a picnic area, and we decided to walk back to the lodge along the road, rather than just retrace our steps along the trail.

I was pretty sure we'd turned in the right direction, but it seemed so far to the lodge. We had taken the long way home, and the entire hike took us an hour and 20 minutes. But after several days with no amount of exercise to speak of, it felt really good to have a good long walk.

This day stayed cloudy throughout.

This morning we woke up to a general rain, so we're spending the day inside for now. Jim likes to work on the net in the morning anyway, and I'm quite happy to spend a morning knitting and watching HGTV. The second tuque was almost finished, but I didn't like it, so last night I raveled it back to the ribbing and am now knitting it up fatter and longer than the first version.

We'll have the lunch buffet again today, and then hopefully the rain will have diminished enough for us to go for a good long hike, if not through the woods, at least around the park on the roads. In the meantime, it's kind of nice to have a slow day.