Monday, July 28, 2008

A Dance, Perchance?

DH and I are still going strong with ballroom and Latin dancing. It's gotten to the point where we've pushed the couches and tables against the wall of our family room and have agreed it looks better that way 'cause there's more room. We also leave our dance shoes under one of those tables so we'll be ready at a moment's notice for a spin around the floor.

We went to a masquerade ball at the dance studio last Thursday. I went as a Spanish senorita, and Wayne... well, he was just his handsome self, only with a mask.


The dance parties are fun, yet a bit nerve-wracking. One of the few rules is that you cannot turn down a dance. This means that Wayne and I, still with our dance training-wheels on, were dancing with some incredibly good (and patient!) dancers. I had it easier- all I had to do was follow. Poor hubby had to keep some highly trained ladies happy on the floor- talk about stress.

It's really, really good, though, to see how far you have yet to go. Humbling. Our dance teacher took me out for a rumba that bore not even casual resemblance to the rumba we knew. I actually asked her afterwards what dance it was, even though it was announced. I did another one later with another teacher that at least I could feel was the same dance... every now and then he did a pattern I almost recognized.

There's another teacher who led me on a wild, free-form cha-cha in the lobby. I fought every exhilarating second to keep up with that woman's crazy feet, and had the most fun I had had all night in those 4 minutes with her.

I had another dance partner who awakened me to the potential of the Latin dances. He was Latino himself, and was an amazing dancer. The meringue we shared was okay, but doing the cha-cha with him was like making love to a complete stranger on the dance-floor. I was hot and bothered after we finished dancing, and there wasn't even any body-contact. I have a deep respect for the sensual rhythms and nuances of that dance now.

I know I have to be patient; a few months of lessons don't make us good dancers in the grand scheme of things. A complicated, well executed and nuanced dance gives me such a giddy feeling- I felt drunk and high on that darkened dance-floor, twirling in the arms of an experienced partner. We have far to go before DH and I can replicate that magic together. However, I catch flashes of it every now and then when we dance, and that convinces me that we can indeed get there from here. It's the journey, not the destination, n'est pas?

Half Full or Half Empty?

It would be easy to get a little scared of where we as a North American* society is going. Ever-increasing fuel prices and the promise of rising food prices are just two of the headline stories that have loomed overhead for the past few months. Combine that with the US economy and real estate market dropping, and the anticipation that Canada's markets may not be far behind, and there seems to be legitimate grounds for worry about what the future will bring.

That's if you're a glass-half-empty kind of person. If you're a glass-half-full, you are excited. Here's why I am.

It's no secret that the current, automobile-driven (no pun intended) way of life that has dominated North American society for the last few decades is completely unsustainable. From an environmentalist view, cars and their manufacturing process are responsible for rampant pollution. The roads they drive on ruin natural habitats and suck natural resources. From an economic standpoint, we throw away thousands of dollars a year on maintenance, fuel, and taxes to pay for roads. From a time perspective, millions of man-hours are lost in the everyday morning commute from the 'burbs to the office.

From an urbanist's perspective (Jane Jacobs, in specific,) suburban sprawl, which is only made possible by the overwhelming ownership of personal vehicles, murders communities and wastes land, time, and energy. From a health perspective, the ability to drive everywhere has robbed us of fitness and made our society overwhelmingly obese. The automobile is also partially responsible for the rise of diabetes, in that fast food chains have flourished because they have become so very easily accessible.

So we lose time, money, health, a sense of community, and damage our earth in various ways when we bow in homage to the almighty automobile. Ask yourself who wins. The answer is always the same... Big Business. As long as there is a profit to be made selling cars, they will be made. As long as the government serves as a marionette, with the industry and unions (CAW, anyone?) holding the strings, they will not begin to make the kinds of changes that are necessary. And until government (at municipal as well as provincial and federal levels) starts making changes, there is not much incentive to make the average person park their car and find a better way.

What kinds of changes need to be made is the next big question that everyone should be thinking long and hard about.

There's electric bikes... how cool are these? Or there is always the time-honoured bicycle. What about car-pooling, or even carsharing?

I see these gaps in alternatives as an opportunity, and I'm not alone. I posted a while back on my experiments with hypermiling, a concept I heard about on the pages of Wired magazine. This week it made headlines on ... the concept is catching on. (Incidentally, I've dropped from ~11.3 litres per kilometer to less than 10 lpk (what an unwieldy measurement) in my experiments... and I suspect there's lots of room for improvement.)

The point is that there's plenty of options to the solo-commuter car. Some are less convenient and practical, but eventually, government at all levels will need to step in to help its citizens to find compromises that most can live with. Better mass transit, more bike lanes, less urban sprawl, communities designed around walking, not cars. Answers to the transportation questions to be found when our backs are hard enough against the wall. If they're not now, they will be.

The same can and will happen for food, manufacturing, and other key industries. When the economy makes what we do or how they do it unviable, we will change. We will become more efficient, less wasteful, more respectful of limited resources, and more community-oriented. Despite the fact that rising prices forced our hand, I can't see these as bad things.

Margaret Mead says it best. "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

are that small group of thoughtful citizens. Let's recognize that change is very much in our hands... within our families, within our communities, and eventually within our country. The dramatic news stories that threaten doom and gloom ought to serve as a wake-up call, and a hand gently guiding us to solutions implemented not nationally, but starting in our own homes. We have created these problems and we can surmount them.

*North America, for the purposes of this article, is the USA and Canada.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Even Knitting!

And to complete the triptych of posts regarding my mum and Grandma's visit to Ottawa, I present you with finished knitting. This was a challenge project... I gave mum choice of yarn when she first got here, and sent her home with a pair of socks at the end of her visit made from that yarn.


I had my doubts that these would be done, and I had to stay up until the wee hours of the morning that last night to have them ready for her, but ready they were. She loved them... :)

And Grandma loved hers, too... though I hope she doesn't think them too fancy to wear for everyday use. I promised her I'd knit her as many as she could wear out.

Close Enough?

We were walking down the street in the Old City in Montreal, when I saw a woman with simply amazing hair. It was iron-grey, fell to her lower back, and was beautifully braided in hundreds of cornrows. It looked lovely. I always try to pass along compliments where due; my French is poor but I thought it up to the challenge. I thought a minute, confirmed a word with my husband, and approached the woman as we were stopped at a light. "Your hair is very pretty!" I said in my best grade-school French.

Turns out it was a wasted effort- she was a visitor in town too and spoke not a word of French. I laughed in relief and repeated my compliment in English. She smiled, thanked me and we turned different directions at the street corner and parted ways.

I turned to find my husband killing himself with laughter. My poor grasp of French made my compliment to translate "Yous has a pretty horse."

Chevaux, cheveux. Whatever. :)

Just as well she didn't speak French. Just as well I don't try more often.

Promise Kept

My big company last week was my (adoptive) mum (from Vancouver Island) and her mother (from a cow-town NE of Calgary). It was a super-big event... mum is pretty leery of flying, new experiences and is pretty thrifty, to boot... I was sure this meant she'd never leave her Island home to visit me. It probably would have meant that, too, but before Dad died in October, he made her promise that she'd come out and visit me. There was no way she could back out of that!

She kept her word. Despite her worries, she came. We totally scored a good deal on the plane tickets, with the price dropping $800 due to a sudden seat sale. We scored the tickets in a slim window before the gas surcharges and new stupid luggage rules (thanks again, Air Canada), and managed to get her and Grandma out here in between summer storms. Osama didn't bomb the planes, as was her reason for not to coming last time this trip was planned. We even found a period where the SD's were gone and the house was lovely and quiet and tidy. Everything fell into place perfectly.

And what a trip it was. They walked into the house and nothing was strange, despite the fact that this was their first trip to my grown-up house... they saw a basement suite or two I crashed in when I was all 19 and starving, but things have changed since. It was as comfortable as they visited every weekend, and they felt it too.

We cooked up huge pots of doughy German food, drank wine (them by the thimbleful, me by the fishbowl, as per usual), walked our legs into stumps, and chatted up a storm. Mum bonded with the only grandchildren she'll ever have by me...

We did the Busker's Rendezvous in Kingston, more by accident than on purpose, and snaked back through the lovely towns along the St. Laurence. Mum's into genealogy and got a thrill out of seeing places where her and Dad's relatives were from.

Another day we visited Montreal. VIA took us there in style, and we braved the Metro to make our way around the city. We saw a tiny portion of the amazing botanical gardens there...




Then made our way back to the old city to see the Notre Dame Cathedral. This was amazing!





We went for the obligatory horse-drawn carriage ride through the streets of the old city, had supper, and that was pretty much it for the Grand Montreal adventure. I was a little worried about Grandma as we did a pile of walking, but she was a right trooper and kept the pace with minimum rest breaks. I hope I'm that active and able when I'm her age!

What a wonderful gift their trip was, but of course over way too soon. The house seemed so quiet after they left, and I still have a bad case of i-want-my-mummy.... but I have a consolation. The trip, flight and all, went so well that she'll be back. I know she will.

Thanks, Dad. She'd have never done this without you.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Best Kind of Company

DH and I went to the wedding of one of his Army buddies today up north. It was a small wedding at a beautiful location on the Ottawa River. Pretty much everyone else was a relative of either bride or groom so we wandered around, keeping each other's company from sheer lack of other options.

Then, during the meal, two very interesting people sat down with us and changed the tone of the day. Chris MacLean is a singer and musician, both in the singer-songwriter tradition and with an Indian folk ensemble called Galitcha. Kuljit is also a singer/musician with Galitcha, and composes most of their music. I had heard them interviewed on CBC radio last year and meant to look them up... well, they came to me! :)

Please do listen to the clips on their sites. Chris's song "Spring", with her group Frida's Brow, reminds me of Jane Siberry a little, and I love the little "yay!" after the line "and the birds are home to stay."

They were the best kind of lunch company... unexpected, interesting, thoughtful and horizon-broadening. I'll be sure to look out for their live performances in the Ottawa area.

Friday, July 18, 2008


Something I guess I should have said yesterday, actually... happy first blogversary to me!!! Thanks to you, V, for tempting me just enough to get me started, and thanks to all my other readers as well, for making it interesting, interactive and fun. I have much to learn in the ways of blogging but I'm glad you're along for the ride.

Thank you!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Peeking Out of the Hole

You all probably think I've dropped into a hole... and I have, of sorts. I've been entertaining some extremely important guests, and have let the rest of my life go to hell for the duration of the visit. However, they're gone now, and DH and I are taking a quiet night to regroup from the wonderful yet busy visit. Life as regularly scheduled, complete with blogging goodness, shall resume shortly. Look at some pictures of my pretty flowers until I'm back. :)





Saturday, July 5, 2008

How Does My Garden Grow?

Insanely. It grows like it's living in a greenhouse, which for all the rain and heat here lately, it has been.

I've trialled Square-Foot-Gardening this year. I have a raised bed that is four feet by eight, and I have built a square-foot lattice to separate each foot from the next, then planted a different veggie or herb in each space. Thus, for a garden this size...

...I have a potential of 32 different plants. I have less than that, since I have zucchini and you really need to give it room to grow, and I have doubled up on some herbs. That being said, I'm still growing three types of mesclun mix, two types of basil, two types of tomatoes, two types of peppers, dill, cilantro, chives, thyme, oregano, beets, peas, beans, kale, Swiss chard, rapini, carrots, spinach and radishes in this one fairly small garden. It's bursting with life!

I've had several dinners out of the garden already, and they taste so good.

The other raised bed is strawberries... mostly the small, ever-bearing and tasty Alpine strawberry, but I also have some climbing strawberries as well. Most of those were ruined by mould... it been so damned wet here lately.

My flowers are lovely this year, too.




These colours are so vivid I'm a little surprised my camera didn't start to sizzle as the pictures were taken!

Finished Socks

I finished these last week but what with the monsoon season upon us, I couldn't get outside to take decent pictures. Finally we had a break in the rain, so here we are.

These are the quickest and happiest socks I've made yet. Made from Lang Yarn's Mille Colori, a wool and acrylic blend, these single-ply socks knit up one a day. The beautiful random colours made it addictive knitting, too... I couldn't wait to see what was coming next. To top it all off, the yarn was on sale at Wool-Tyme for $3.99 a ball, and it takes a ball per sock. What's not to love about these fun socks??! (I went back to Wool-Tyme and bought four other pairs of balls, all in different colourways... these would be great last-minute gifts.)

I also got these off the needles.


This is Handmaiden Casbah sock yarn in a simple fan and feather pattern for my Grandmother. The cashmere in the merino makes these scrumptiously soft, but I am wondering how they will wear... I ripped it back a few times as I auditioned stitch pattens, and the yarn was looking a little tired after the third trip to the frog pond.

Not that it's a big deal. If they should wear through, I would take great delight in knitting another pair for Grandma.

Play-time with Daddy

Ginger adores hunting her food before she eats it. Here's her anticipating Daddy throwing a treat for her to hunt down...


And here she is in full gallop. 10 pounds of pure furry intent... check out the look on her face as she runs down her "prey".