View From The Glen

Thursday, April 28, 2011


Tomorrow is the much anticipated Royal Wedding, and I confess that while we are not getting up at 3am to watch an endless procession of people arrive at Westminster Abbey, we will get up in time to watch the highlights on the internet. I was 11 when Charles married Diana, living in England, and remember that royal wedding quite well. I remember being bored by the television coverage, excited by the street party, and secretly delighted when my dog and my uncle's dog raided the cake table devouring the elaborately decorated royal cake (etched with Charles and Di iced faces) made by our neighbour who was not amused.

I don't consider myself a royal watcher, but I'm aware of them, and I like that. I like the Queen, I like Prince Philip and his wonderful gaffes, and I like Charles who I always picture in his wellingtons and carrying a walking stick, spouting eloquently about art and the environment. I think it's thrilling to have another royal wedding, and so yes, I want to be part of this historical event, even if its just watching live coverage.

My girls do too. They want to see the Westminster Abbey where William the Conquerer was crowned in 1066. They want to see Prince William and Prince Harry. They want to see the Queen. But mostly, they want to see Princess Catherine. It's all about the princesses.

It's interesting that I am reading this book right now.

A book about princess culture and what, if anything, it is doing to our daughters. Most of the time I don't think about it. We went through that princess period in our house where everything was pink and frilly and I despaired even while taking pictures because it was so darn cute. Today, the girls are 8 and 9 and that period is gone. Today they prefer pants which are easier to run and jump and play in, they race around the fields, and hardly ever do anything that is dainty. They have green belts in karate and are learning to stand up for themselves in ways that continuously impress me.

And yet, the excitement in the air over the fairy tale wedding of Kate and William is palatable.

I think, in our hearts, we all want to be princesses.

I just haven't decided if that's a good thing or a bad one.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Touch The Earth Lightly

There are so many beautiful churches in Glengarry, and St Andrew's United in Martintown has to be one of the jewels. The church is old, very old. It sits up from the road beside the river looking for all the world like it grew up there, and not (as so many churches today do) like it was foisted on its surroundings without thought to beauty or peace. Rough and weathered gravestones tumble around, at once reminding us of the fleeting nature of life and the paradoxical continuity of it.

We participated this morning - for the first time ever - in a Good Friday church service. It was held in St Andrew's United on behalf of the United and Presbyterian churches in Martintown. The Reverend Andrea Harrison cleverly wove an Earth Day theme into the Good Friday service, reminding us that we all cause great suffering to our planet and need to find ways to live in harmony with it. She invited us because Anna recently participated in a speech competition and spoke about the importance of standing up for the environment, and Andrea kindly asked Anna to do part of her speech again today for the combined congregations.

There are lots of things I could say here. About the service; the music (which was amazing); about how Earth Day isn't about saving our world which has been here for millenia, but is about saving ourselves from our own stupidity; about Anna, her siblings and friends and their "green" outlook (they just started a Going Green in Glengarry club) as they face an environmental crisis they are not yet fully aware of.  But I will save all that for another day, and leave you with words from one of the songs sung this morning, which I think captures the essence of the crucifixion of the earth theme.

Touch the earth lightly, use the earth gently
Nourish the life of the world in our care
Gift of great wonder, ours to surrender
Trust for the children tomorrow will bear

We who endanger, who create hunger
Agents of death for all creatures we love
We who would foster clouds of disaster
God of our planet, forstall and forgive.

Thanks to Rev. Andrea Harrison for the invitation, and to her and Rev Ian MacMillan (of another beautiful Glengarry Church) for the service.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Historical Dinners

This week in history marks the 99th anniversary of the sinking of RMS Titanic. For a while the kids have wanted to see the movie, so we thought this would be a good time to make that happen.

We got to talking about the event, the girls started to google facts, and before long we had discovered interesting things such as the music played, lists of passengers, and the menus for the first, second and third class.


With a rainy afternoon before us, and Anna at a birthday, Grace and I set to work to recreate a Titanic dinner menu. Now 10 courses seemed a bit over the top, so we scaled back a little. And I took a little liberty with the actual food served on the ship. This is what we made:

Titanic Menu
  • Roasted Garlic Soup (a Chez Piggy recipe) 
  • Mixed greens with chevre and almonds
(This is where the fish course would go - we skipped it. Likewise the sorbet which would be course 4)
  • Chicken Lyonaisse with cream sauce
  • Lyonaisse Potatoes (Lyonaisse basically means with onions, and was served on Titanic)
  • Green Beans Almondine
  • Broccoli with cheese sauce
  • Victoria Sponge cake (not actually a Titanic dish, but only fashioned and sweet. And delicious. Thanks Nigella Lawson)
(Courses 8, 9 and 10 - we skipped them too. I imagine a cheese course, a sweet pastry course, and no clue what the other would be. Seemed like overkill. We were all stuffed.)

And then we sat down rather corpulently, to watch the movie. I should note that we did not have wine with every course as they might have in 1914. We had sherry with our soup, wine with our dinner, and a snifter of brandy with dessert. And the kids had juice.

So successful was our historically themed dinner, that the kids are keen to do it again. It struck me that with the date also being the anniversary of Culloden, we could have done that too...but maybe we'll save it for another time.

Now I am racking my brains for another event to mark with a feast. History is more fun when you can eat it! If you have any ideas, feel free to pass them along...

Friday, April 15, 2011

Friday Reads

In honour of Friday Reads, I went around the house snapping a few pictures of the books we are reading right now.

Me and Grace


Andrew and Erik

The Girls - Grandma bought this back from Down Under

Books in my office waiting to be next...
These came out of the car...

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Double Time

What's the right term? I "twitted" the elected debate last night gives off a casualness that is unfair. To Twitter. But that's what I did. Instead of tuning in to the radio which aired live coverage, I turned to Twitter and followed the action there.

But the debate is not what I want to write about. Though I will say that though the leaders themseves did not inspire - same old arguments, same old tirade, same old mud-slinging - Twitter, more specifically, the reactions of people on Twitter, did and for the first time in years I found myself feeling hopeful about the state of Canadian politics.

One of the funny things about Twitter is that although I was focused on the debate, other things kept popping up. Like the friend looking for a highland dance outfit for her daughter. Or like the discussion around Jamie Oliver's TV show. And just like at a cocktail party, I found myself participating in one conversation but being aware of numerous others happening around me.

That's not what I want to write about either.

What interested me this morning was another Tweet giving a link to the Jamie Oliver show for all those who had missed it because of the debate.

It made me think. So many of us are busy. We know it, we feel it, we say it. Yes, we sometimes complain about it. And I wonder if we aren't all part of the problem. If our technology, rather than saving us time, actually enables us to get busier.

Last night for example, people had the choice between watching the election debate and watching Jamie Oliver. You make a decision, and maybe you make the wrong one. The point is that during that hour long slot of time you pick one thing. But with the internet and innovative TV scheduling, we no longer have to pick one. And so we can watch Jamie Oliver this morning. On our own schedule. Good news, right?

Hang on, but that means another choice that has to be made (and hopefully it's not nutritious breakfast or Jamie Oliver because that would be deliciously ironic) .

I'm not being particularly articulate, but I am in a rush to get off to class. What I think I am trying to say that if we see events as things we can manipulate, push around, watch, do, or participate in at our own convenience,we are at risk of trying to fit too many things into our lives. If we didn't have the option to watch Jamie Oliver another time, we would have a whole extra hour today. Instead, we are trying to borrow time from the future to get everything done.

It's like a line of credit that you just can't ever pay back.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

On My Own

What does a Saturday on your own look like? Here's mine:
  • Drink coffee, kiss husband and kids goodbye and watch them drive away to camp.
  • Check emails, twitter, facebook
  • Drink more coffee
  • Tidy kitchen, throw in laundry, load dishwasher
  • Morning run, followed by hot shower and more coffee, on back steps, facing the warm morning sun
  • Figure out what to wear to a writer's conference on a day that is neither cool enough for pants or warm enough for bare legs
  • Writer's Conference, hang out at library
  • Treat myself to a Cafe Latte and lunch, read a book on my kobo at the coffee shop before heading home
  • Hang laundry, do a garden reconaissance, figure out what needs to be done, make a list
  • Read on the deck in a lawnchair for a blissful, precious hour.
  • Write
  • Decide some work is in order so head back to garden to rake away some of last year's foliage and reveal new shoots :)
  • Walk the dog through the fields, shout back at the nosiy snow geese, wish I had my camera
  • Read
  • Write
  • Open Wine
  • Listen to opera. Loudly. While having a long lesisurely bubble bath
  • Eat scrambled eggs
  • Blog
  • Watch a chick flick - Eat Pray Love tonight. Will it hold up to the book (which I quite enjoyed)?
The End

(my plans to have dinner with a friend and then head to the arts evening fizzled after I raked my gardens and realized that what I really wanted was some down time. So lovely.)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Two Minutes

I know the value of managing my time. I know how to keep a pretty good balance between work, family, domestic chores, and downtime.

I say that with my tongue firmly in cheek. It might be true in the abstract big picture universal truth sense, but the reality is sometimes very different.

This I discovered Sunday morning.

I spent a big chunk of time the latter half of this week - and part of Saturday while the kids and Andrew were out at an insectarium with the cubs - catching up on work. A combination of factors really. Starting behind the eight ball when I first started full time freelancing, a snowball effect as manuscripts started to come in all together, a weekend away in New Brunswick coupled with a heavy cold that left me fuzzy headed and unable to focus...all of them meant that I had some looming deadlines that I needed to meet.

I finished it all. It felt really good. There was just ONE thing, a quick eyeball of a final chapter finished late in the afternoon. No problem, I told myself. I'll look it over really quickly Sunday morning and send it out to the author before she leaves for her cottage at noon.

There are a whole lot of "What if's" here that might have changed the way that worked out. But the bottom line is that we were leaving the house that morning for a special funtion with the kids and we had to be there for 11am. I had the manuscript done. I ate breakfast. I got the kids dressed, hair brushed. I got dressed. Heck, I even brushed my own hair. And then I took the five minutes before we left to connect to my email and send it...and the internet was slow. It wasn't working. It was taking forever.

The kids were waiting in the car, Andrew was pacing, the clock was ticking. I HAD TO LEAVE.

If I had two extra minutes, I'd have got that out on time. As it was, it had to wait until this afternoon when I got back.

Not a big deal really. I hate missing a deadline, but it was minor as far as it goes. But to me it was like the universe just gave me a big fat wake up call.

Two minutes!! If your time is at the point where two minutes can make or break it, it's NOT well managed.

It's like that some mornings getting the kids to the bus. A frantic rush to eat, make lunches get out the door with bags, homework and shoes on the right feet. Two minutes late and I have to drive them - a 45 minute round trip.

But get up half an hour earlier and it's a nice leisurely pace. Time for a song, a dance, a laugh, a revision of homework, a chat, a jump on the trampoline. We are all much happier.

And it's the same with work. Get ahead of it and you have time for things to go wrong, time for a second look, time to have a cold and just spend a couple of days in bed.

The two minute warning bell went off.

I hope I learned from it.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

On Guard

We have a ton of lambs outside. Mewling and bleating and skipping and gamboling. There is a game they play where they creep up to the sleeping guard dog. Closer and closer and closer of the lambs dares to touch her and--


They scatter, the dog goes back to sleep, and five minutes later the lambs come creeping back.

Tundra is our guard dog, a beautiful Great Pyrenees whose gentle nature with the kids, the lambs, and our house dog is matched by a fierce and protective ferocity when coyotes come near. Seriously, we have seen her rip a coyote into shreds. Since we got her we have had zero kills among our little flock. And that's good news.

But I wonder sometimes, what she is really thinking? Protect the little helpless lambs?

Or Dinner?