Thursday, January 30, 2014

Free Courses

 My husband came across some free online courses from an organization called Coursera.  These are non-credit courses, but cover quite an interesting range of topics. 
I decided to sign up for basic Human Physiology.  I haven't done any Biology since high school so I'm sure most of it will seem new to me.  I started Lesson 1 yesterday and was pleased that the video streamed well (our computer connection often doesn't stream properly) and I could open the text files.

So back to school to learn about respiration, digestion, the vascular system, cells...
Feels good.  Last year, I did some accounting courses which were also fun.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Memories of Summer

 I like winter, but a little touch of summer in January is good. It's time to start planning the garden.

 I already have some seeds from Thompson & Morgan as I bought a flower and a vegetable grab bag.
One package is an interesting tomato variety Ildi which produces large pendulous bunches of small yellow tomatoes.  Another package is an heirloom tomato variety Super Marmande which is very popular in Europe.  We shall see  if the summer is hot and sunny enough for that to produce fruit here. Other seeds of interest are a melon cross- Galia F1 Hybrid (honey dew and cantaloupe), Basil lime, and leeks.

In the flower assortment is a flower new to me:  Legousia pentagonia.  It's a short annual with small blue flowers. I also received Cosmos Brightness Mix which has yellows and oranges instead of the usual pinks of cosmos. They should look nice with the orange California poppies  and portulaca Happy Hour Mix which were also in the grab bag.

Sunday, January 26, 2014



Grace wafts away the stifling air
Breezes refreshing sea wind
With long horizons and azure skies.

Grace swings waltzing stopped hearts
Breathing rhythm beating inside.

Grace braces, embraces
Holds, frees
Grace spacious deep alive.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Hand Warmers

These hand warmer packs are quite amazing. They are about 3" x 2" and make a gentle heat for about 7 hours once they are taken out of their vacuum packaging. Ingredients: iron, water, cellulose, vermiculite, activated carbon, salt. I have trouble keeping my hands warm in the deep cold, but these little guys really help.  I slip them between my woolen mitts and my lined leather mitts, and my hands are toasty for a long time.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Barn and Brain Games

An old hay barn looking a little shabby, but still solid as you can see by the straight roof line.

My husband and I have been doing Lumosity brain games since last summer, and finding the games really do perk up your brain.  You have to pay a subscription fee but I think you get your money's worth.  Lumosity is using data from the members' games to do research into cognitive function .  The games are classified into 5 groups: memory, flexibility, speed , problem solving, and attention.  Memory games focus on visual memory; flexibility games exercise task switching and vocabulary; speed games test  reaction to visual cues; problem solving games are mostly mathematical computation; and attention games sharpen  peripheral vision or keeping track of multiple moving objects. All the games have a sliding difficult scale so that as you master one level the game becomes more difficult.  You get a score for each game and overall averages for the games.  If you are competitive, you can compare your scores with the average of the other members.  Both my husband and I have notice an improvement in our alertness and our brains just feel fitter.  A good antidote to the short days of winter.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Some Houses

 I've always liked this French Canadian style house that was built about twenty years ago. I should have taken a side picture to show the way the slope of the roof levels out near the bottom giving a graceful curve to the roof line.  The house has natural fieldstone as a outer covering.  Houses of this style,  usually built in Quebec, were originally solid fieldstone. The steep pitch of the roof was for the snow to slide off easily. This house is not as large as it appears as one end is an indoor swimming pool and the other end is a garage.

 A more typical Ontario farmhouse which may be about 100 years old.  It has a durable metal roof which will last for decades, and  it has some nice trim around the porch roof.
 An impressive tree in the front yard.  I think it's probably a weeping willow.

 Another old farm house that used to be white, and has taken on a new livelier colour.  It is L-shaped and probably began life as a small square house that had an addition added to it.  Many of the old houses were quite small given how many people lived in them.  When you had to cut wood to heat the house, small was what you wanted.

 I have wondered if this house was a boarding house at one time because it is pretty large for a regular farm house.  I like the veranda that goes all the way around. Verandas are such handy spaces - a good place to store firewood, a shady spot to sit out in the summer, or a  place that can be gated off to allow little children to get some fresh air with minimal supervision.

Although this house looks like a frame building, it is actually cement block under the siding. Near the front of the house, which you can't really see in this picture, is a little shrine with a statue to the Virgin Mary.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


 The strong wind we had a while back made some interesting patterns in the snow.

 The harder crusty snow, underneath the new snow, looks almost like water.

Different textures of lines.

 A soothing view with the soft variations.

 The snow sparkles dress up the snow designs.

Almost like a sky.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

In The Beginning, Love

                  In The Beginning, Love

                      In the beginning,
               Held us in close embrace.

               But we hated the intimacy
                     and struggled loose
                            To be unattached

                     In the beginning,
              Held us in close embrace.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Ginger and Her Blueberries

 Our two golden Labradors, Ginger and Snap, are twin sisters, and they turned 11 this past fall so they are most definitely senior dogs. Ginger, although the boss of the two, has always been the more fragile one physically.  She was the one who twisted her back (emergency visit to the vet in an ice storm), she swelled up after a bee sting, she had a mysterious pain attack one night, she wrecked her knee (took about a year to fully recover), she can only eat certain dog food, and she recently had a tumour biopsied (it was benign). Her sister, on the other hand, has never been to the vet for anything other than routine shots.  So we tend to baby Ginger a little more than Snap.  Here she is eating her evening blueberries.  My husband enjoys a few blueberries on his evening cereal, and the dogs have developed a taste for them, too. Snap gets hers in the kitchen, but Ginger gets them brought to her wherever she is lying down in the evening.

 The pampered pooch has finished her blueberries.

"Any more coming my way?"

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Aah! Blue Skies!

 In spite of cold temperatures and, recently,  a polar vortex, the skies have been stubbornly cloudy most of the last few weeks.  It really hasn't been very suitable for walks at all .  We've had frigid temps, freezing rain and then unrelenting wind.  Finally, today, the great outdoors beckoned.

 It felt so good to get the clean, frosty air in my lungs.

 Already the blue in the sky is getting more intense, leading up to the vibrant February blues.

Afternoon moon showing up well against the blue sky.  Tonight, we may get to see the Northern Lights as they are predicting activity because of sun storms. I'll try to remember to have a look later this evening.

Sunday, January 5, 2014


 Last year for some reason, we didn't have many squirrels, and I wasn't fussing over them eating out of the bird feeder.  This year is another story, so time for some defensive action .  As a side note, we have a couple of beige squirrels this year that I guess are a mix of red and grey, like the little guy in the above photo.  Yesterday, I also saw a red squirrel with a snow white tip to his tail.

I was going to try to make a floppy shield out of juice bottles, and our son suggested that we turn them upside down.  This is how it looks.  Not pretty, but yesterday I counted seven squirrels feeding on the ground and not a single one on the bird feeder.  Lots of birds coming to feed, though.
Today, the squirrels aren't around much and still none in the feeder.  And the birds are still content.
I attached some smaller cut water bottles to the top of the suet feeder and I'll see how that goes.  Last year, the squirrels would stick their little paws through the holes of the suet holder and scoop it out.  It would be gone in no time.  I'm not kidding myself that this is a lasting solution to the squirrel problem as they are such clever fellows, but for now I'm pleased to see the birds eating the seed.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Little Flower

Little Flower

In the soft, dark earth
The seed breathes, lets out a little sigh.
Damp and warm, it swells with hope
And stretches out a shoot.
Sun-unfurling arms welcome air and space
Inspiring and exhaling green.
Soon up blow little emerald balloons
Exploding, burst colour and fragrance.
Into the soft, dark earth
A seed nestles, lets out a little sigh.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014


January is a month of temperature swings in Ontario.  Right now it is very cold. It will go down to -25C tonight.  But the upside is that it will be sunny.  When the temperature rises to about zero on the weekend, we will have some snow.
 I always feel most Canadian when winter is well upon us , and it has got me thinking about some Canadian ways of speaking.  For instance, you go down east, out west, up north and, simply, south.
Now, east usually means the Maritime provinces, west means the Prairies and British Columbia, north means anything north of the 401 highway that connects Montreal and Toronto (often ski country), and south usually means Cuba or Florida.
 If you live in Ontario or Quebec, skating on The Canal means skating on the several kilometer long skateway in Ottawa (a great outing).   Winterlude is a winter festival  that takes place in Ottawa in early February that features ice sculptures and ice slides, and entertainment, and all kinds of other winter games and fun.  Carnaval takes place in Quebec City and features Bonhomme Carnaval, a man dressed up as a big snowman.  Again, lots of wintery amusements. Quebec City also has an ice hotel where you can actually sleep and eat in a giant ice building - be sure to wear your woolies.
Some Canadian vocabulary:
tuque: necessary knitted woolen cap aka ski hat
double-double: coffee with two cream and two sugar, usually at Tim Horton's, our ubiqitous
 coffee shops.
poutine: particularly in Quebec - French fries( I guess that's another Canadianism. It means deep-fried potato sticks) with gravy and cheese curds.  Are cheese curds also primarily a Canadian thing? Not sure.  Anyway, hot poutine is very yummy, if not very healthy.
two-four:  a case of 24 beer
loonie:  one dollar coin that has a loon on it.
twoonie: two dollar coin that has a polar bear on it.  Should be a beary, but that doesn't go very
 well with loonie.  Nobody ever calls them one or two dollar coins.
toboggan: a wooden sled that is several narrow boards joined together and curved up at the front.
 No runners.  When well waxed, it can take you for a very wild ride down a hill.
I really like having two very distinct seasons (snowy, snowless) because it's almost like living in two different countries depending on the time of year.