Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year, Dear Friends

To All, I Wish a Year Full
of Health, Happiness and Humour

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

an end is nigh

This week between Christmas and New Year's is a kind of dead zone. A time of cleaning up around the house and repeats on the radio and television. And a time of the Year End Reviews.

I have a love-hate relationship with the Year End Reviews. And now we have the End of the Decade Reviews to contend with. (I know it isn't really the end of the decade, but...)
The end of the Naughts.

I used to love reading these lists. I thought of them as a gentle reminder of things that had happened in the past year. I think I even saved some of them and kept them tucked into the last pages of my journal for the respective year. Now, somehow, I think of them as brain twisters. Was that this year? I thought he died years ago? You actually found that incident memorable?

When I was younger, it was so much easier to place certain events or songs. I remembered them according to what grade I was in. Once that reference point was gone things got a little murky. I would reference events according to where I was living. Not necessarily the year, though. I still have trouble remembering exactly which year I lived in High Park, or moved to that small town in Central Ontario. When I figure it out, I am suddenly more aware of how much time has passed and am shocked. Or perversely, was it only five years ago that that happened? have I really only been blogging for a year and a half?

My short term memory is confused. And reading these lists only confirms my suspicions.

I am getting older.

On another note, I am glad to start the new decade so we can stop saying - deep breath - two thousand and nine, and swiftly move on to saying twenty ten.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

how to stretch your vacation time in an unpleasant way

By December 24th my final flight arrangements for a short trip to New York City were finalized.
Some stupid person didn't want the (by now quicker and less stressful) extra travel time to Buffalo, so opted for a Toronto Pearson departure. Hours of waiting only to have your flight cancelled due to... hours of waiting.
Hopefully this insanity will be over, or seriously diminished, in the next 10 days.
photo from Globe and Mail

Sunday, December 27, 2009

SundayStills - odds and ends

It was mild on Christmas Day, the temperatures around 6C or 42F and still no snow. (odd for an Ontario winter) But it was not particularly quiet. The tree branches were squeaking as they rubbed against each other in the wind, the geese were honking while flying frantically overhead as they tried to scream at one another

over the noise of the waves crashing.

lake xmas 1

I went for a walk along the waterfront to capture the scene. Along the way I met a few other brave foolhardy souls, one couple who saw the waves from the Skyway and had to get off the highway to take photos. I took one of them standing in front of the breakwall and tried not to laugh as they ran from the spray. We were all suitably impressed. We all got wet. The above photo is an untouched version, but I thought it looked too grey, so I played around with the settings to highlight the waves

lake xmas day adj

lake xmas day1 adj

lake xmas day2 adj

Then I came home and dried off, put on my new flannel jammies and had some spiked egg nog. And watched March of the Penguins, and was pleased with my lot in life. At the time, I thought: what an appropriately odd ending for the day.

SundayStills had no particular theme this week (or so I read it!) so check out what everyone else came up with and be surprised.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Snow may be in your forecast for Christmas,
but here it will be rain and freezing rain, then more rain.

Perfect time for tea and shortbread.

Have a safe and happy Christmas, everyone, wherever and however you spend it!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Sunday, December 20, 2009

SundayStills - holiday lights and decorations

My city puts on an animated festival of lights every year.
So come sit by the fire a spell and keep warm.

and doesn't every town have one of these?
Someone who goes a little overboard on their lights?
This house gets scores of people wandering by to have a look and to enthrall. Even their small back yard is filled with inflatables and lighted trees. Fortunately, there is a conveniently located school directly across the street. (handy for parking, too!)

Now, back inside, for some cozy seasonal socks.
this is one of the 100 doors decorated for Christmas at the Botanical Gardens.

As for me, I am a simple decorator.
Check out more SundayStills photography
and you can see more of my holiday lights and decorations on Sightlines (also scroll down to here and here for last years with snow)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

and now, the torch

watching in anticipation, still 20 minutes away, flags and noisemakers ready…waiting for torch the convoy begins, cheers rise up as we look beyond the big vans for the main attraction, still minutes awaytorch convoy there he is, the torch bearer (don’t know his name, sigh) … torch  bearer and by the magic of post editing, the sky darkens to illuminate the main attraction who is almost obscured by the all the lights of the vans and cop cars and streetlights…torch in a flash, the flame passes by
somewhere in the melee the torch is passed…apres torch

The End (for today)

55 more days to go.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

tis the time for giving...

Before I get too smug about having bought all my Christmas gifts before the end of summer, it should be noted that I will still likely be wrapping the gifts on Christmas Eve. Or, as has been known to happen, in the car, on the way to giftee's place.

But really, I wasn't shopping. All those presents were from craft and art shows, where there appeared in the sky above, an angel with a banner bearing someone's name in one hand and an arrow pointing, when I came across certain beautiful and perfects gift items. The message could not be ignored.

So I now find myself with some dismay, searching high and low for at least one of the gifts. And suddenly remembering that I had already bought a book for someone... somewhere.

Then, finding a couple of lovely whirly wind catcher things bought way back last March at the garden show that I had completely forgotten about. Completely. One of them was for me. I went all summer without enjoying my own present of a whirly wind catcher thing.

There was an herb planter from the same show, stored under the bed...

I now have extra gifts for next year. I'm way ahead.

But I'm not gloating.

Nothing is wrapped. Anything could happen in the next week.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

"With Glowing Hearts/Des Plus Brillants Exploits"

There was a poll out not too long ago that said, in a way most polls are wont to do, that very few people were interested in the Olympic Torch Relay. Pollsters are always negative. It is their role to play Eeyore in the woods of our acre.

It is, of course, very much a media centred and media driven event.

Anyway, nobody asked me. And I actually have been following the torch relay.

106 days. 12,000 torchbearers. 45,000 km. 1,036 communities.

Of course, as anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of what Canada looks like, will realize that most of the torch relay involves driving the thing from place to place with the runners only actually running for 300 metres before passing it on. The torch will also travel by seaplane, snowmobile, canoe, dogsled, dory, double-decker bus, streetcar and kayak to name a few of the interesting alternative modes of transport. Unfortunately not by camel. I would have liked to see that.
It started in Victoria and is wending its way across the country, up and down and around, until it finds its way back to Vancouver. Some have said the torch looks like a huge joint. I wouldn't know about that. Ask Pinklea. Mostly, it seems to resemble a giant barbecue lighter. Sleek and elegant and resembling ice and snow (so they say).

Even with all the myriad things wrong with the Olympics, I still get caught up in the spirit of the Games. And the athletes. I've started reading the sports section that outlines the worlds' and qualifying events and gives stories about the athletes to watch. I find that much more interesting than football or hockey. Or Tiger.

I read the Globe and Mail every day and the first thing I go to is the daily account of the torch relay. It isn't so much the relay itself, as the communities it passes through. The stories of those communities and the different personalities of each. Some have been through such a hard time of it lately that the idea of this expensive journey of a giant barbecue lighter just seems to be an overblown pointless extravagance. I can understand that. Other communities have been so hard done by and isolated over the years, that the very idea of the torch coming to their town just overwhelms them in pride. A chance to feel included. A chance to shine and let the world see where they live. I have found much of it fascinating.

The Olympics are coming here, whatever we think or want. So we might as well make the most of it and get interested and involved. There really is nothing sadder than a party where the hosts are bickering and unhappy about the whole affair. Or completely indifferent.

Now, I am not a fanatic about this. I do not watch the webcam, nor do I keep abreast of its tweets.

But on Day 51 of its journey, when it passes through my town, I will be there.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Monday AMuse

from artistic

to absurd

from traditional
to tacky
Happy Hanukkah

Sunday, December 13, 2009

SundayStills - technology

You may recall awhile back I mentioned my broken television.

Well, it took until yesterday to get a replacement. Mostly because I will put off anything for another day if I can, but partly because I realized I did not miss having a television all that much. all that much. but still a little. (and lordy, has it been that long?!)

I was house sitting for another neighbour last week and during a period of non-sleep, I thought, I'll just wander downstairs and see if her plants need watering... and who is on Ellen... and maybe catch up on Y&R, the news, then Corrie... by the time Jeopardy and a repeat of The Office came on I realized, maybe, just a little.

Then my cable bill came in. I looked at how much money I had wasted spent without enjoying any of the benefits of the transaction. So a deal was struck and I came home with a second hand television.

Except, I cannot get the blessed thing to work. It looks simple enough - you put the colour coded cable thingies into the correct colour coded bits, plug it in and voila! But there was no voila!
There was a bit of merde! and a few other choice words as I manoeuvred and plugged and unplugged, then sat on hold for 15 minutes with the cable guys. Then had an almost incomprehensible conversation that included the words 'coloured thingies' and 'the thicker cable' (oh the shame).

Now, I'm thinking it was not the fault of the television set at all, but the digital cable box. There seems to be a loose connection because of certain noises it makes when certain cable thingies are jostled. All of which is strange as that little box has not moved from its prominent position on top of the television set since it was set up a few years ago.

I hate technology, sometimes.

But, this is a photo challenge and I am up for it.

Look at the sleekness of this beauty. It is elegant. It swivels and tilts. It is incredibly lightweight.
You can't even buy a big-assed television set like the one under my newer sleeker model.
Isn't technology grand, sometimes?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

tweets in the 19th century?

Every morning around 6 am I get a special email. Courtesy of The Telegraph: an online novel by Alexander McCall Smith. It is reminiscent of the old serial novels. One chapter a day. Just enough to keep you engaged and hanging on for the next installment. No cheating and reading further ahead. No reading on and on until you fall asleep and disrupting the flow of the story by an inopportune stop. The chapter ends and you wait...

I consider it my bedtime story. The most fun part is that you can even have the chapters read to you by Andrew Sachs - he who was Manuel in Fawlty Towers.
And if you haven't experienced any of Alexander McCall Smiths' books, I am here to tell you he is a delightful read.

The first serial, The Corduroy Mansions began a year ago and ran for 100 chapters. This story, The Dog Who Came In From The Cold, is book two and has been running since September. You can find the story here.
Novel serialisations are an old art form, probably best and most famously done by Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens. And last week, I heard that there is an online publication of Wilkie Collins' A Woman In White. Celebrating its 150th anniversary, it is being reproduced in its original form every week. The story first appeared as a serial in a Charles Dickens' periodical and is available to read in its "original tightly compact form of 19th century typography" or, much easier on the eyes, as a pdf that can be delivered right to your inbox every Monday. It will take until August 22, 2010 to reach the end of the gripping tale.

We are already up to Chapter Three, but you can catch up quickly by going here
and you can subscribe by emailing Paul Lewis at
AND there is MORE!
You can even follow tweets of Wilkie's life as his novel was being published during 1859-1860!
How much fun is that? Well, what are you waiting for? You have to get reading.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

SundayStills - pets


What do you mean "I want a picture, look cute?"

I was sleeping... and I'm going back to sleep.

Go take a picture of the turtle...

oops, Otis isn't too happy about this photo taking either.

Abby is now 14 years old and Otis is an astounding 25 years old.
Neither are terribly cuddly.
Luckily, only the cat likes to sleep on my chest.

Pets was the first Sunday Stills photo challenge a year ago, and we are revisiting the same challenge with dozens of newer participants (myself included), so check out the other pets who rule over us here.

Friday, December 4, 2009

another postcard

Apa Khabar?
How are you? in Malay.
Absynthe and I received a postcard from Brunei today! I bet none of you have ever had a card from Brunei, have you?
I bet most of you couldn't find Brunei on a map - I found out it wasn't quite where I expected it to be when I looked it up.

So, here are some facts about Brunei:

> it is a Sultanate formed in the 14th Century and was a British Protectorate for nearly 100 years
> Brunei (pronounced /bruːˈnaɪ/ in English), officially the State of Brunei Darussalam or the Nation of Brunei, the Abode of Peace (Malay: Negara Brunei Darussalam, Jawi: بروني دارالسلام), is a country located on the north coast of the island of Borneo, in Southeast Asia
> it is one of the smallest countries on earth, being only a little over 2200 sq mi.
> His Majesty Paduka Seri Baginda Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah is the head of state
> a soul and jazz singer, known as Zul F, (Haji Mohammad ZulFakhari bin Haji Muksin) won the Brunei Idol in 2005, and sang before the Sultan at his 60th birthday party
> a Pittsburg Penguin, named Craig Adams, was born in Brunei and raised in Calgary
> the Istana Nurul Iman palace (meaning Palace of the Light of Faith) is the world's largest residential palace (and the world's largest residence of any type)
> the interior of Istana Nurul Iman was designed by Khuan Chew, Design Principal of KCA International, whose other works include the Burj-Al-Arab, Dubai
> it was built in 1984
> Brunei became independent from Britain in 1984
> oil wealth allows Brunei to have one of the finest health care systems in Asia
> there are five hospitals in Brunei
> the population of Brunei is around 385,000
> the government owns a cattle farm in Australia
> the farm is larger than Brunei itself
> Brunei's coastline is 161km
> the weather is tropical, hot, humid and rainy
> typhoons, earthquakes and severe flooding are rare in Brunei

info sourced from: wikipedia, lonelyplanet, cia factbook and tourism brunei

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

under a violet sky

Today, at about 2:45am it snowed. Sortof. It was more like a slightly whiter, slightly more crystallized rain, than snow. But, it was enough to get the woman at the checkout counter in the grocery store clapping her hands with excitement (seriously, clapping her hands?!) And then it was all over by about 3am.

But, it was after midnight.

And this has made all the local weather forecasters and climatologists, and morning radio people, almost giddy with excitement. Never, ever, ever since records began - and they began way back over 160 years ago - have we made it through this most dreary of months, this cold, sunless, usually wet month, November, with NO SNOW. Not a drop, nary a flake, nor even a flurry. In fact, for most of the month it was bright and warm and full of sunshine. And coloured leaves. Highly unusual, but most enjoyable.

There is now (at 6am) salt on the roads, though the skies are clear and the moon is shining brightly and the stars are fading... a storm is brewing...

For the past decade, I have been delivering papers and the first thing I do when I get up is look out at the sky. If I am going to be spending hours outside, I want to know what to expect. Is it clear, or foggy? Dark, or bright with snow? Is it a moonlit night? Are the stars shining?
Do I need to bag the newspapers, or can I get away with just an elastic band?
Can I spend the rest of the night daydreaming...? writing blog posts in my head?
Because that is when most of my posts get written.

In my mind, I can transform the sky from however it appears, to be beautiful, in a violet way. It can be a dark violet, or a pale violet. It can be a stormy evil violet, or an intense bright sunrise violet. No matter what is overhead, I imagine myself creating under a violet sky. When I see the stars, what few are on view, I get a renewed sense of awe. A lunar eclipse is magical. A sunrise is a reward.

There are some people in Ottawa who thought my blog name was vee-o-LET-ski. They were very wrong and have been set straight.

I am a Violet Sky.

Who is taking my coffee to bed to sleep off the morning. And wait for this "storm".
See how easy it is to change the sky view - get a medium cup and it is all brightly dark; get a large and we have the pale, dusty look.

This post was inspired in part by the lack of snow and in part by Ruth over at synch-ro-ni-zing who asked "how did you get your blog name"?

And in part by coffee.