Friday, November 25, 2011

A Tired MInd Is A Dangerous Thing Indeed!

Last night was the final regular choir practice before our Advent Lesson and Carol service on Sunday afternoon.  Because I am a newbie in the choir, this will be the first time I am singing in this service, and so much of the music is new to me.  I am singing in the Contralto section, and if you are familiar with four part harmony, you might agree that the Alto section can often be the most difficult.

Practice last night was intense, and some of the songs were difficult (to me), and the longer the practice went, the more difficult the music became.  At break time halfway though the practice, I did not even feel inclined to partake of the goodies being offered in the kitchen, so instead I sat in my chair in the choir room and zoned in and out for about 15 minutes.

Our stone church building is 107 yrs old, and the choir room is in the basement.  The room is large and bright and clean, and very warm and comfortable.  As I sat there feeling so content, the lady who sings at my side returned from the kitchen and we began to talk.  We discovered that we are both very early morning risers, so we decided that we had every right to grumble about our state of exhaustion.

As we talked her eyes wandered around the room, then stopped at the wall on the other side of my chair.  "Look at how that wall is crumbling"  she pointed to the area where the wall meets the floor, and sure enough there was some mortar which had come away from the wall lying on it's side.  I imagine there is a lot of restoration that is required in a stone building so old... and I said something like this to her.

That is when I noticed a plastic black box sitting in the corner on the floor.  I've seen these before - they are mouse traps, and yes, even a mouse made sense in a room filled with music written on paper sheets where there may be the odd hole in the wall big enough for a wee fellow to squeeze into.

Gone went Dale's brain - I imagined a tiny mouse - decorating his tiny mouse apartment while listening to a cathedral-style choir practicing Christmas music, just outside his doorway.    The more I imagined it - the less I could focus on singing.  It nagged at me for the rest of the practice, and all the way home in the van, and the hour of tossing and turning before I was able to sleep.

Guess what!  It's still here this morning, and it's growing.  The mouse now has a name, and he has a mother and a father, and the children mice in the mouse community play a game called "pitching" on the Pipes of the mighty organ in the church proper.

Guess I have to go with this one, and see where it takes me...

I'll let you know - when I know...

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Is anyone else getting the feeling that time is speeding away a little quicker than usual these days?  I feel like I am peddling uphill in a heavy wind - and pretty much getting nowhere!

Could be I am trying to do too many things at one time again - but that's okay - it's how I like to work... in confusion!

One of my projects will be able to be completed now.  Gary and I have a new great-niece, born on Friday.  Ava Payton arrived on her due date, and both mom and babe are doing well. Now I can complete the blanket I have started for Ava - I actually have enough squares made to start sewing it together so I'll be doing that tonight.

My youngest brother has been on the hunt for a peanut cookie recipe.  Mom used to make these cookies when we were kids, and I remember them as being a cookie with whole peanuts in but no peanut butter.  A couple of weeks ago, my brother had the week off, and on one of his days off he decided to try and duplicate the cookie.  He tried using the batter of a choc chip cookie, but it was not the same.

In the meantime - I found a couple of salted peanut recipes on the net, so last night I tried one... and was pretty much disappointed... not the same as Mom's.

I have a suspicion that she was making some cookies one time, using some unknown- to- us- batter and ran out of ingredients and threw in some peanuts.  She modified so many recipes this way - and in my opinion, improved them with her additions...

So the peanut cookie caper continues.

Another project in limbo is my snow-head man.  If you could have seem me last Friday evening outside in the dark, trying to roll a snow ball in snow that was not in the least sticky - well... I'm sure you would have had a really good chuckle.

Seems to me this was quite easy to do when I was a kid.  We made big snow balls all the time - and the snow here has almost always been the same... not sticky snow - just snow!  It is very embarrassing to have a body sitting on my steps that has no head... people are going to start to wonder what type of person lives in the little yellow house on the corner!

The temps are rising and the snow is supposed to melt.  Plan B is to get out there and roll the ball while the snow is "Sticky" and if I have to, I'll take it down and put it in the freezer until it gets colder again... yes I am that determined to have a snow man sitting on my steps this winter...

Okay - I know..... you can send the little white wagon for me, any time now.....

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Christmas Swap Reaches Destination!

I can't believe it's Thursday already, soon to be Friday!  It seems this week is destined to fly by very quickly and I feel like it is leaving me behind in the dust!

Worse still - I don't seem to be accomplishing a whole lot.  I have been working on the baby blanket for the new baby in the family that is due today - but I have been poking at it, because I don't know if I should use pink or brown!  Hmmm, these babies that make their Auntie's wait!

I did get good news yesterday that the swap article to my CraftBuddy finally arrived to her.  She was good enough to take a picture of it for me, as I forgot to take a picture of the swap item before I sealed up the box. 

This swap was for a Christmas ornament made in the craft of our choice.  No surprise, I would crochet a small angel - but I wanted to make it special to the woman who was receiving it.   This partner is a spinner and knitter, in fact she designs the most beautiful knitted shawls.  She had designed one she called the "Gizmo" shawl, and I wanted the angel to have a shawl like that over her shoulders so I copied the colours of her shawl and made a miniature of it.  When I placed it on the angels shoulders I realized that by the time I would put my customary feather wings on the angel - the shawl would not be very noticeable - so I decided to starch out the shawl and use it as the angels wings.

The shawl idea was still running around my head, so I decided to make a miniature Moebius cowl for the angels shoulders... (my swap partner makes these too).  Then it was what do I put in the angel's hands?  My first inclination was a spinning wheel - no... where would I get such a small one?  Then I played around with the idea of designing a drop spindle (for spinning) - but I just couldn't get the scale correct - now I'm thinking I should have designed it in bread dough!  Anyway, to make a long story shorter - I decided to give the angel some knitting needles (made from tooth pics) and a ball of yarn.

Here is Charlotte's Gizmo shawl...

And here is the angel I did for her...

The colors of the shawl darkened with starching a bit, which was disappointing, but I think Charlotte got the general idea anyway!

Now I get to receive a swap item from Charlotte - she has already told me it won't be something knitted, so I get to wait in anticipation to find out what her ornament will be!

Did I mention how much fun these swaps can be?

Monday, November 14, 2011


Did you know that today is World Diabetes Day?  Did you also know that by 2030 1 in 10 adults could be diabetic?

Today is the day set aside by the International Diabetes Foundation to raise awareness about the escalating cases of diabetes around the world.  366 million people currently have diabetes and without intervention the numbers are expected to double by 2030.

We all know about the pink ribbon - but do you know about the blue circle?  It is the symbol for diabetes. and as part of the campaign against diabetes there is a World Diabetes Day challenge.

All around the world cities and communities are lighting up buildings in blue to raise money and awareness of Diabetes.  TV and Radio and Newspapers are announcing where you can donate money and which building will be lit in blue...

Here in Winnipeg the building we are lighting is the Provincial Legislative Building.  You can even light your own string of blue lights if you have them...

I usually am hounding you to go pink - today I am urging you to "Go Blue"....

Thank you for your Support!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Colour, Labels and a Blanket!

I have been making a few changes to my site the past couple of days - first of all you will notice I have been playing around with the colour.   I wanted a more Christmas(y) look to my page, but the red I chose at first was too hard to look at  - pretty, but hard on the eyes so I went back to a more neutral colour.

You might notice at the bottom right hand corner that there is a new feature called Labels.  I have had a few requests from new readers wanting to read Winter Wheat asking if there was a way to find the novel easier - instead of having to scroll through the archive all the time.  So I am creating Labels for all the posts where Winter Wheat is part of the post.  The problem is that one chapter can be spread across several posts - so I have had to come up with a numbering system of sorts.  Blogger isn't numerical at all - so a regular numerical system doesn't work - it wants to list everything alphabetically.

It is turning out to be one of those exercises in frustration!!

Please bear with me as I learn how to get this right.

For now you might have to have a scrap of paper sitting near your computer where you jot down where you left off, as it seems like blogger is just going to list the posts willy-nilly... no matter what I do to get it in order.

I have identified the beginning of each chapter for example Chapter 1 - the beginning of Chapter 1 is called Winter Wheat Chapter 1.  The next post for this chapter will be Winter Wheat Ch 1 (2) - the second part of Chapter 1.  Followed by Winter Wheat Ch1 (3) - the third part of Chapter 1.

I hope this isn't going to be too complicated - but it is better than hunting around the Archive.

It might take me a day or so to get the whole novel listed in labels - so keep checking, if you are just starting the book.

I will also have my poems listed in the labels as well.

I finally got around to taking a picture of the blanket I finished a couple of months ago.  It turned out beautifully, I think.  I loved the pattern, it was so simple and yet looks so elegant.

Gary and I walked through the Christmas section in one of the large department stores today - I'll tell you all about our finds next post.

Happy weekend all!

Friday, November 11, 2011


Today is Remembrance Day.

I just heard the 21 gun salute go off from the Legislative Building downtown, and I did stop what I was doing an listened to the salute as it went on for several minutes it seemed.

We don't afford our soldiers and our military enough recognition in this country... at least that is my opinion.  We should not wait until November 11th to remember the fallen - those brave men and women who have sacrificed much and those that have given their lives for our country and the freedoms that we all take so for granted.

Buying a poppy, and wearing it proudly, and reciting In Flanders's Fields does not nearly cover the respect and gratitude we as a country should feel towards our men and women in uniform.

For all our soldiers and sailors and air force men and women... for all our leaders, and their leaders... Thank You for what you do for us all everyday.

For all the soldiers and sailors and air force men and women and leaders of the past.  You did not die in vain - you helped keep our Home and Native Land...Our True North, Strong and Free.
Thank You for doing that for me, and for every other Canadian who lives today.


In Flanders Fields 

By:  Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch, be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Today is also my brother Norman's birthday.  Happy Birthday Norm - I hope you have a wonderful day... I love you....

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Got Eggs?

I found these pictures that I meant to share in my Those Were The Days series.  They are of an iron lung I made from a double-yolked goose egg a very long time ago.

The picture's aren't great but you can see the detail I was able to duplicate in my "Egg lung".

Here is yet again, another craft my Mom and I used to do together.  To make a very long story short, my Aunt Margaret (the Martha Stewart before there was a Martha Stewart) introduced us to Eggery way back in the 1970's.  Mom and I started with pretty much making Christmas tree ornaments from ordinary chicken eggs to creating all kinds of bejeweled wonders from every egg imaginable.  Along with our dear friend Dianne, who owned a local craft shop here in Winnipeg - we formed the "WinnipEggers"... a local group of women who loved to meet on a regular basis and do eggery together.

If you have never seen a Christmas Tree decorated with eggs - you have missed something quite special.  Every year my tree has close to 100 Christmas Eggs of various sizes and types on my tree.  Some are pretty fragile after all the years, and sadly some have even broken over the years, but I still prefer them to bought ornaments because each egg holds (for me) a very special memory of time spent with Mom.

It's hard to see the eggs, but this is one of my trees filled with my handmade eggs and crochet pieces.

A close-up of one of the goose egg ornaments.

And the best "Egger" I know is still my Aunt Margaret, who at 92 is still creating beautiful pieces using not only Chicken and Goose eggs, but also Rhea and Ostrich eggs.

Yes, those 2 teapots are eggs.  The one on the left has a garden scene where a girl sits on a swing that actually moves.  The one on the right has a scene of another tea set - you got it - made from tiny eggs.

Now is the perfect time to do"eggery".  To begin with baking season is right around the corner, so the egg's contents will not be wasted.  Secondly a decorated egg makes a lovely gift for a hostess or friend or neighbour - guaranteed they won't have one of those already hanging on their tree.

Even a simple chicken egg can become a beautiful addition to any one's tree, and it is a craft that even children can learn to do on a cold weekend before Christmas.

I'll be posting how-to's in the upcoming weeks... If you are curious, join us as we carry on the tradition of the original "WinnipEggers"!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Publish That!

Sorry I have been absent for a few days, I have been under the weather since Saturday.  For some reason every year around this time, flu shot or not, I get this sinus thing that sets me on my keester, for a few days.  I had so much planned for the weekend, and for this short week, but it's turning out to be a bust from start to finish.

Oh well - it was a short work week to start with (Friday Nov 11th being a holiday0, and it got very much shorter with 2 sick days unexpectedly thrown in there as well. 

So with foggy brain, here I be to natter to you about what?  I have completely forgotten my train of thought of last week... which tells me I should write my ideas down when I get them.

Yesterday I received a package in the mail from Reiman Publishing.  Months and months ago I was contacted by them asking permission to publish one of my poems in their Country Woman Christmas 2011 edition.  Of course I said yes, and that was that.  I was told that there would be some changes made to my poem (this is common with publishers) and I would receive a free copy of the hardcover edition as my payment.  Okay to that too.

I hadn't received my book by October so I checked back to the original email and discovered I was to receive the edition sometime in July - so off went another email reminding them of our agreement.

The book arrived yesterday, and it is quite a nice book full of recipes, crafts, decorating ideas, a few stories and 2 poems.  I skipped right past mine the first time, because I was looking for The title of my poem.  "Christmas Is"... they renamed the poem, and pretty much left out the first half of the piece.  It kind of makes me wonder why they would publish it at all... could someone (an editor) not have just come up with a few stanzas and publish that?

Apparently not!

So although the book is nice - don't rush right out there and buy it on my behalf...

Just another reason why I hesitate to publish my work...

Friday, November 4, 2011


Every Christmas season Gary and I perform a Christmas concert of sorts for neighbours and visitors to our home during the season.

The last couple of years our concert has pretty much been the same repertoire, as Gary's declining vision made it impossible for him to learn new music - in fact last year he played strictly by memory, as he couldn't see the music.  It was a particular sore spot with him that he could not take full advantage of the many different stops and voices on his "new to him" pipe organ, due to his failing eye sight.

Well that has all changed, thankfully.  His successful eye surgeries this spring has resulted in a very happy organist this year... so much so that he has announced that this year, our Christmas concert will be all new material.

Wish he would have clued me in to this... about July!  If he is learning new material, it means I have to also... and right now my calendar is kind of full.  I am working on so many projects again, I really don't know if I can squeeze in an hour or so every evening to learn and practice new music.

Still, I don't want to let him down, so last evening we sat at our instruments and planned our event.  Yup - looks like a lot of practice coming up for me!  Still, it could be worse - at least it is Christmas music which is such a joy to play, and I do enjoy making beautiful music with my husband!

We tried our own version of  "Jesus Jesus rest your head".  He played the accompaniment with the bells on the organ, and I did the melody on the piano using the harp.  We played it very slow like a lullaby  - which if you read the words or "Study the Poetry" like a very gifted choral director used to say - you will find that it IS a lullaby.  The resulting rendition was beautiful, soothing, peaceful.

So that's one down, many more to go.  I have to say - that pipe organ is amazing!  And so is the organist who plays it.  This is going to be a wonderful concert when we get it all practiced and put together.

You are all invited to come and listen... and in case you can't make it, we'll record a few songs to share here. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Shop till you drop.

This past weekend Gary and I took a short trip down to the states to do some much needed shopping.  It was also a little get away for us to celebrate both my birthday and our anniversary.

We left early Friday and was down there in time for lunch at IHOP.  Then we hit the stores!

I had a definite list of items I needed to buy (clothes for work), wanted to buy (bedding), and hoped to buy (craft supplies).  Off we went... the closest store to IHOP was Target.  Super Target at that.  We are all terribly excited here to be getting a Target store in the next year... so we were anxious to see what we might be getting.

I was disappointed.  It was quite expensive for the quality of merchandise they were offering - in fact most of the items were the same price, and some where actually higher than the same item would be here in our stores.

So Target was a short stay.

On to Gordmans... now there's a store!   The clothes were much too young for me, but the rest - OH WOW I loved it!  As we made our way to the back of the store, I could feel myself getting warm.  This happens to me at a fairly regular occurrence, so I thought it would pass, but it did not.  In fact it got worse.  It was the store, and not me... it had to be 100 degrees in there and the longer we were in there, the hotter it got.  Finally I couldn't stand it, so we decided to leave and go back at a different time.  We completely missed the Christmas section, and most of the home accessories section... which was what I wanted to see the most!

On to good old Wal Mart.  This was without a doubt the largest Wal Mart store I have ever been in - it was even larger than the one in Chicago.  My head was spinning after about 15 minutes in there.  I was drawn to the Christmas section, but then wandered into the bedding section, then wandered in to the clothes section, then crafts... so yeah I wandered around without actually seeing a thing.  In the end Gary ended up with a terrific winter jacket - and I walked out in a daze, empty handed.

We stopped at a few more stores, he bought - I wandered, and then it was time to find our hotel and rest.

Determined to end the aimless wandering spree, we set out early Saturday morning for another go at shopping.  We hit Kmart first because it was on the way to the mall - Gary bought - I wandered.  When we arrived at the mall I sat down and had a very stern discussion with myself.  "Shop, you Idiot -  the day will be gone and you will have lost your opportunity!"

Sears - I bought.  Penny's - I bought and bought and bought!  Maceys' - yeah, I bought.  Back to Wal Mart - I bought.  and by the time the day was over we had finished our Christmas shopping, and much on my list was in the van.

Mission accomplished....

Only there was this terrific section in Gordman's that was calling me.  I decided I would check that out before we left for home in the morning.

Well that didn't actually work in my favor - the stores didn't open till noon on Sunday, and by that time we were on the highway headed home.

All in all - aside from the fact that I missed that incredible section in Gordman's and the fact that I did not find one craft item at a reasonable price - the trip was a complete success...

The best part - spending time with Gary... think we will do this more often from now on...

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Those Were The Days Part 3

I will never forget my first night shift on B and F (the names of the two post-polio wards).  When I arrived on shift the ward was already pretty much dark, aside from the night lights in the halls and the nursing station which was brightly lit. 

All was quiet, except for the hum of motors running and many soft hissing sounds that I already knew came from the iron lungs as they pumped pressure in and out of my patients chest cavities.  The evening staff gave report in a very hushed way - no loud talking, no laughing out loud, and no banging of cupboard doors or drawers.

I was the head nurse for the night, and working with me that night was a Practical Nurse, an orderly and an aide.  Between the 4 of us we cared for 20 completely paralyzed patients, all with tracheotomies and all on either respirators or in iron lungs.

I was a hot summer night, and there was a thunderstorm brewing.  I remember feeling pretty much scared out of my mind for fear the power would go out.  The respirators all had battery back up - but if the power should fail - the only way to keep the iron lungs going was to hand pump the bellows at the back of the iron lung - a procedure which required one person per iron lung, and a lot of muscle.  We had more than 4 iron lungs operating every night.

Within minutes of the evening staff departing I heard a clicking sound - sort of like someone clacking their tongue to the top of their mouth.  "That's Hugh", the aide said as she made her way to a room down the hall.  A few minutes later there was a cute little whistle,  "That's Bert," and then.... a long "Nuuurrrsssseee"... "That's Ray".  A really loud clicking...  "That would be Dave."  and so the night went.

Each and every patient had their own call... it was their only way of communicating their need of help.

The patients who clicked, did so because they did not have the breath capacity to call out, or because the glass plug had been removed from their tracheotomy rendering them speechless.

Those who could whistle did so -  but softly, and each patient had their own distinctive tune.

  It was the most bizarre thing I had ever experienced in my limited nursing experience, but in a way it was also the most touching thing I had ever experienced.  In order to help these people, one had to really get to know them.

As different as their night calls were, so were their personalities.  You have to consider that these 20 people had been struck down in the prime of their lives.  They had all lost their livelihoods, some had lost their spouses and families (some spouses just got tired of waiting for them to get well - so they left, or divorced and moved on).  Some never saw their children grow up, and a few even lost their young children and babies to Polio.

You wouldn't know this upon first meeting with any of them... those stories only came with years of working, and yes loving these very special people.

Instead they lived through you.  Never had I experienced people who were so hungry to hear about my life.   Within days they all knew more about me, than I almost knew about myself.  They were quick to smile, to laugh, to tease and to listen.  They had nothing but time, and they wasted none of it, but gave of it constantly.  They never squabbled or talked behind each other's back, but they knew exactly what was happening down the hall to a fellow patient almost before we did.

They gave gifts, to each other and to the staff who cared for them - and no one turned their gifts away.  It wasn't taboo to say thanks so much for thinking about me, and give a peck on the cheek - be it a male or a female cheek.  They gave advice, as if they had lived outside of those hospital walls all their lives, and they gave their love for all time - whether you gave a good needle, or not!

When they were cross - which was not often - they said sorry - and meant it.  When they were happy - they included you in their joy - and meant it.  When they cried - they accepted your comfort - because they knew YOU meant it.

They were:
  Frank, Bert, Ray, Peggy, Dave D, Hugh, Menno, Maurice, Mary, Pauline, Dave B, Betty, Mae, Trudy, Martha, Ted, Charlie, Burt, Jimmie and Paul - and while I would hard-pressed to recall many, if any of my patients names over the years - these names come quickly, and with them, memories that still fill my heart with joy and pride and love.

I learned many valuable life lessons just listening and watching them live their lives on the second floor of a very small hospital.  This world was their oyster, we were their family and they lived each and every day to the fullest.

I count myself blessed to have know each and every one of these very special friends.