View From The Glen

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Lemonade On The Verandah

We don't actually have a veranda - yet. I have wanted one since I first heard Stuart MacLean talk about them on the Vinyl Cafe one rainy Sunday afternoon a decade ago up at Cape Croker Park where Andrew and I were camping.

It's coming - and for now we have a deck. Doesn't sound like much of a difference - just add a roof! But the veranda is so much more than just a deck with a roof. To me a veranda is a metaphor for the way I want to live my life.

A veranda is speckled sunlight and shady nooks. A place to hide with a book and a place to socialize with friends. A place to daydream with my spouse and snuggle with my children. A veranda says sit yourself down in that deep cushioned wicker chair, and relax, because the world can wait.

Sipping lemonade or iced tea on a veranda in the late afternoon, peeping out through a curtain of clematis and climbing honeysuckle, gently swinging (all verandas need a swing) in the breeze - this is the vision that keeps me grounded when the pace picks up. This is to what I aspire.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Smells of summer

It doesn't look like summer with all the rain we've been having, but it smells like summer as all the lilacs are in bloom.
The heady scent of lilac blossoms floats across the gardens on the breeze and through the open french doors. Inside, Andrew and Grace cut some beautiful clusters and left them in vases around the house, including a sprig or two on my bedside table where I can enjoy them with the thermos of coffee Andrew leaves me in the morning.

The lilacs come on the heels of apple blossom time and the world changes from white to pink. Soon the white lilac trees will bloom too against the garage, and the linden tree beside the veranda, and it will truly smell like summer.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

But he's so cute!

Our drive to Toronto last weekend may have been disastrous, but it was worth it because of this.

18 months of cute chubby legs and dimpled elbows. 18 months of cheeky grin.

While my three enjoyed splashing in the paddle pool with their cousins, I just wanted to admire my nephew in all his 18 month cuteness.

18 months is one of my favourite ages.

Ah - they're all pretty cute, actually.


We went to Toronto to see Michelle and Stephen on Friday night. It was a long shot, but I hope to leave relatively early and Andrew and I had a list of things that had to get done right after work before we departed. Pack clothes, pack snacks, change the tires on the van, feed the sheepdog and the cats and fill up the water, herd the sheep into the new lush pasture, check the fences.

As we pulled out of the driveway it was 6pm. We had done it all in just over an hour. And that's when I did it.

We're out of here on time. It's only 6 o'clock! I marvelled, with just a hint of smugness.

It was precisely that kind of hubris (this ship is unsinkable) that made Titanic go down beneath icy waves in 1912.

In our case, it wasn't quite so drastic. The van started shaking, and we kept onward thinking it must be alignment. We stopped at the first Canadian Tire to discover it was the tie rods needing repair. We drove home. We told the kids and saw disappointed faces. We considered our options, spent an hour adding a roof rack to the VW and repacking, and all five of us climbed in to make the 4 hour trek squashed into the back of Andrew's Golf.

Leaving at 9pm, we arrived at 1am - it was not the most fun trip I've ever been on.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Spot the Difference!

This is Anna 2 days ago.
This is Anna today.

Spot the difference?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

9 Years Old

Who said....

this baby....

was allowed to grow up?

Happy Birthday, Erik.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Of Vampires

I should just say that, in general, I am not a fan of literary vampires. Dracula was of interest only because it was a classic; I find the Twilight series boring and not all that well written (in saying this, I realise I am at the mercy of a zillion fans of the books and the movie, and I beg for mercy). I did enjoy The Historian very much, finding it a compelling read - though I would probably not have picked it up if I’d realized it was about vampires (specifically the legend of Dracula and the history of Vlad the Impaler.), and I'm sure part of its appeal for me was the way it conjured up a yearning for eastern Europe and reminded me of the taste of strong black coffee with cream and sipping raucous red wine on red clay patios.

But now I'm in the middle of the first of what many believe to be the penultimate vampire novel - Anne Rice's Interview With The Vampire.

And I'm not sure what I think.

The writing is beautiful, and she portrays dark and savage imagery with luminous prose. The internal struggle of the vampire Louis as he makes his way through centuries of blood and questions is horribly captivating. The story is at once beautiful and chilling and consuming and seductive, and it's a bit like a bad addiction in that I feel the need to keep reading even as it repels.

I was talking to our librarian about this book (she hadn't read it, but knew of it) and apparently Anne Rice, after decades of writing about this evil force, has now turned to angels for her inspiration, and in converting (or reverting - not sure) to christianity, is now exorcising her literary demons with books of an altogether different nature. I have ordered a couple of them too: I might need some literary exorcism of my own after finishing these Vampire Chronicles.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Hurray for Queen Victoria

Let's face it, winter is long in this northern part of the world, and by the time the sun is starting to really warm up the earth in May we're ready for the long Victoria Day (aka the May 2-4) weekend of sunshine and relaxation.

At least I am.

Easter is usually still cold. April can be chilly. May's not perfect all the time, but it's a vast improvement on the previous four months.

And so I look forward to the May long weekend - visions of a shady hammock, a good book, a relaxed three days with the kids and the dog, a family lunch, and a picnic or two..

We'll make a pitcher of lemonade and serve it over frozen raspberries and mint leaves, toss some kabobs on the barbecue, and gather around a campfire in the late afternoon.

And enjoy the official unofficial start to a Canadian Summer.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Special Lady

One special lady in our lives has a birthday today: Andrew's grandmother, Betty, known to all of us as Gram. Many Happy Returns, Gram!

This is her a year or two ago holding a copy of her memoires - her younger self gazing out from the cover.

Yup, she was quite a dashing young woman. I hope my kids inherited some of those genes!

She served in the British Army, married a Canadian and came here as a war bride with a young daughter (my mother-in-law) in tow.

Today she lives with Tasha (a cat) and loves nothing more than visiting with her great-grandchildren (she has 6 of them).

Gram and I share a love of Rosamunde Pilcher and Maude Binchy novels; she also has a soft spot for me because I grew up in Manchester and have an uncle and aunt living in Wigan (where she was from and where her brother still lives).
(This is Gram on the right with her late husband's sister - another special lady, Aunt Elvina)
I have a soft spot for her for many reasons: because she buys me books and reads them first; because she adores the children; because she is independent and outspoken about things that mean something to her; because when the kids and I called her this morning and sang Happy Birthday dreadfully out of tune, she loved it; because even in her 80's she is off doing things (like in this picture taken a year or so back when she took a train to Halifax for the War Bride Reunion.)
Mostly though, just because she is Gram.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day

I awoke early this morning hearing the scrabble of children outside the bedroom door. I rolled over in sleepy anticipation of the dulcet tones I would soon hear wishing me a happy mother's day. I knew this because there have been furtive whispers and secrets all week, and so it was that I was smiling when the door cracked open.

Mom, came the hoarse whisper - how sweet, they're trying to wake me gently - Mom....

Then the kicker....

The dog threw up in the middle of our bedroom floor.

Oh yay. Happy Mother's Day!

To be fair, it got much better. Andrew was working this morning, so I did not expect Breakfast in Bed. But that's what I got...My amazing, wonderful, fabulous, loving children (and I'm not just saying that because they're here reading over my shoulder) brought my breakfast up just before 7am. Grace and Anna brought up toast and (real) butter, some green grapes, and a singing Elvis mug*, while Erik - to his very great credit - figured out how to make coffee and brought it up in a thermos along with the milk jug.

It was the best breakfast ever!

*The singing Elvis mug was a gift from my parents who wintered in Texas and visited Graceland on the way home. My sister said they had to bring her and I something tacky from Graceland - that's where the mug came from. Elvis, singing Suspicious Minds. Nothing else would do for Mother's Day coffeee.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Universal Truth

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a mother who has been at a child's rambunctious birthday party for two hours must be in want of a large glass of wine...

Or more than one...

I drank a couple of glasses of Spanish wine last night. This was my reward for overseeing Grace's birthday party with 8 little friends. They were all so good, and well-behaved, and only as rambunctious as can be expected, but I still felt I'd been run over by a train at 7pm when we were finally home alone again.

Andrew gave in without a fight when I suggested watching the start of Pride & Prejudice* after the children went to bed so I must have been looking a little frayed around the edges.

Actually, it's a fun and fresh perspective watching period movies with Andrew. He has a way of succinctly summarizing what is going on:

So, Colin Firth (Darcy) stands around brooding and looking sulky and this is why women find him irrisistable?

Well, yeah, something like that...

*(NOTE on P&P: we started the Colin Firth version which I have NEVER SEEN - an oversight I intend to correct over the next few weeks!)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

All A Twitter

I have to say, I'm not convinced about Twittering.

But in my work world of marketing and communications, I figure I need to be in on the loop.

So I'll try it and see.

The Nod

I passed a blue mini van exactly the same as mine on my way back from lunch.

I say exactly the same but I expect the interior was different. (Not everyone carries hockey skates, spare shoes, a dog leash, a package of juice boxes, and a couple of emergency rather worse-for-wear books spread out across the floor of their van. Although they should, because you never know when you might need hockey skates. But I digress!)

My point is that as I passed I glanced at the driver - a woman, mid 30’s, hair in a ponytail, imagine! – and did one of those “nod” things in her direction. And she “nodded” back.

Why? For Heavens Sake, Why?

I’ve noticed this phenomenon before, most spectacularly in the late 90’s when for two marvelous years between getting married and having a baby, I drove a silver VW Beetle. Oh, I loved that car. But what drove me crazy was The Code – some fine print I must have missed about how I was supposed to wave at every other Bug driver I passed on the road. I started to dread seeing another Bug. Inevitably I would either wave and smile and nod, and feel like an idiot. Or I would not, would stare stoically ahead, and would feel like a big meanie for violating The Code! I imagined the other VW driver saying Sheesh! What’s her problem? and couldn’t stand the thought of all those sheeshes sending their negative vibes my way through the universe.

I’m stronger than that now. And I haven’t waved, or smiled or nodded at someone just because we have the same taste in vehicles for a long time.

Until today.

And I wonder what makes us do it? Do we assume having the same vehicle gives us a special bond? Would I have given her the nod if she had been driving the same make and model in a different colour? What about the same colour in a different model?

These are the huge cosmic questions I am asking myself today.

Obviously I don’t have enough to do!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Six Years On

It doesn't seem all that long ago that she first learned to sit up. Self defence, mostly. With two older siblings you need to be able to look about you...

From sitting to walking to running...
With a wisp of hair forever out of place, and an adventurous spirit that never stops...Attitude galore and a great deal of independence.
But also an affectionate nature and a cheerful disposition.

Happy Birthday, Grace!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Just like Julius Caesar

Erik came downstairs the other day wearing the following:

  • blue shorts
  • white t-shirt, belted at waist
  • black knee high socks (he's part British, what can I say)
  • a sword
  • 4 soccer shinpads - one on each arm, one on each shin.
Mom, he said, do I look just like Julius Caesar?

Just like, I agreed.

Because it's Celebrity Day at school, he continued.

Never mind that everyone else in the school was dressed up as Hannah Montana, Jack Sparrow, Elvis Presley or various other rock stars/actors.

I did try to get him to consider changing his mind. Could he think of someone else? Someone more of a celebrity, perhaps.

I could go as Richard the Lionheart, he ventured.

Maybe we need to branch out a little.

But then, I suppose Julius was a celebrity in his own time.

Blogging Blues

I have taken the past two weeks off blogging. Partly because it's been very hectic with corporate meetings at work, and getting ready for the last few weeks of executive activity with the boards I am on. Also, spring planting is here, which means there is lots to do outside, and Andrew is working longer hours to get it all done.

But more than that, I have been feeling zapped of energy and the thought of blogging seemed to lose its appeal.

I mean it's not as if I blog about important world issues or time-sensitive events. For the most part, I blog about things that are only really of interest to me and my immediate family. It seems - at times - kind of self-serving and even conceited to blog, and I started to wonder what the point was...who else is really interested, for example, in a story on my son's fascination with Julius Caesar..?


And yet, truth be told, most of the people who read this do so because they know me and actually are interested. I read blogs of people I know for the same reason - it makes me feel connected to their lives just that little bit more.

I missed blogging too. Probably because it has become a more public substitute for the journals I have kept for the past 25 years, and I find it calming and restorative to write.

So back to the blog.