Saturday, February 27, 2010

curling blues (call them silver)

Cheryl Bernard delivers a rock in the second end - yesterday's game. 
(Global TV photo)

The Canadian women's loss to Sweden yesterday in the gold medal women's curling game bothered me way more than I thought it would. What's wrong with silver, I kept asking myself. Nothing, except that it's not gold.

However, I think more than even that they didn't get their gold, was the way that game was lost. The whole match was a roller coaster ride for Canadian fans, and just when the gold was within Bernard's grasp it slipped away - twice!

I prefer endings where my team wins with authority, or comes from behind and triumphs, or if they have to lose, the game has a 'predestined' feeling of loss to it from the beginning. This business of having what felt like an inevitable win slip through your fingers, not so much. (Maybe another reason I'm feeling so bummed out is because the ending to that game is a lot like life. Sometimes victory, or success or whatever we want most slips away just as we can taste it.)

But do I fault the Canadian women? Not for a minute. They gave us hours of wonderful entertainment and fabulous shot-making. What a classy foursome. When I think back on these Olympics, the focused look on Bernard's face as she settled herself in the hack in preparation for her throw will be one of my most vivid memories. Congratulations on a well-deserved Silver Medal, Canadian women's curling team!!

Now to get ready for another rock-fest! Kevin Martin plays for gold at 3:00 this afternoon.

Update: 
Kevin Martin won the gold Saturday afternoon! So did the Canadian men's hockey team a few hours ago. Canada broke the records for most gold medals won by any country at a Winter Olympic Games (with the final gold medal count at 14), and most gold medals won by a host country (previously held by Norway and the U.S. at 10).  Canadian pride is running high today. How sweet it is!!

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Psst - notice the little headings ("Home" "About" and "Index") at the top of this page? I've discovered Blogger's stand-alone pages, and posted an 'about' page in my own style, as well as an index to some of my frequent subjects here at promptings. Keep tuned for more pages. A compilation of favorite quotes is in the works, and I have some other ideas too...

Thursday, February 25, 2010

sky


The Pier,  White Rock, BC
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Next Week: HIGH or LOW (Photos from a different perspective, Photos from the top or bottom of Buildings, Mountains, Towers, Underneath,...)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

vancouver 2010 - our golden friday

Yesterday E. and I joined the masses of Lower Mainland Olympic fans partying and celebrating on the streets of Vancouver. We had decided to do the whole day on public transportation, and so got an early start boarding the 502 bus from Langley at 8:00 a.m. (7:57 to be technical). We arrived at the Waterfront Station in downtown Vancouver at 9:18 - excellent time, we thought, with no parking worries to boot.

We headed first to the Pan Pacific Hotel (nice washrooms there!).

(click on any photo to enlarge)


The Olympic Cauldron was our first Olympic destination. As we had heard on the news, they have now designed a camera slit in the chain link so it's easy to get unobstructed photos of the cauldron.



You can also get in line to take photos from one of the balconies of the Convention Centre but since we had set out promising ourselves we would not get in any lineups, our photos through chain link will have to do.


Next we went to Robson Square. Even though the hour was early, there were already lines of people waiting to get into attractions like the Vancouver Art Gallery.

No one was skating on the outdoor rink yet but some folks were getting their thrills on a zip line (for which, again, the lineups were amazing - given how slowly they were pushing people through!).





Next using our bus passes and feet (mostly feet), we checked out David Lam Park in Yaletown. Here everything of interest was behind Olympic barricades with people going through air-port-type security to get in (long lines again, and getting longer by the minute). When we asked, a security guard told us inside the walls were sponsor pavilions and other attractions. We consoled ourselves that we didn't want to be held captive by advertisers anyway, did we?

By now lunchtime was approaching, so we walked back up to Granville and found the restaurant where our son had suggested we meet. Having got our bearings, and still too early to meet him, we wandered Granville to the pedestrian-only area of the street.

The crowds were thicker than ever but it was a good atmosphere with street performers, lots of public art to ogle, and a multitude of enthusiastic Canadians, joined by even the stores in Olympic and Canada-wear of every description.




 The Templeton, where we had lunch, is a fifties style diner known for its great food and friendly service. We enjoyed the personal juke box (right in our booth), the old fashioned greasy-spoon decor and the food (a Med Quesadilla for me and for the boys breakfast - available till 3:00). When but the Olympics would fellow-diners come in wrapped in their national flags?



After lunch it was on to Granville Island (via a walk across the Granville Bridge - magnificent!).




The Island has been transformed into a French quarter with various pavilions and entertainment possibilities. Atlantic Canada has a pavilion there and I'm sure there were more. Again, lineups were the order of the day. Suffice it to say, we didn't go into any of them but instead, elbowed our way through the Public Market, listened to a few buskers, then bought gelatos, found chairs on the patio, and enjoyed more music with a French flair in the company of hundreds of other Olympic revelers.

We headed home around 4:00 p.m. and were glad we did when we saw, on the news, the crowds that plugged the Skytrain and buses later. All in all, it was a beautiful day, fun to be out and joining in the Olympic celebration.

To really take advantage of all the free stuff Vancouver is offering during the Olympics, though, you'd probably want to go out several times, pick a different area to explore in depth each day, then get there early and join the lineup before it got ridiculously (I'm talking hours) long.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

old equipment


Cultivator in retirement

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Next Week: SKY (Clouds, Bad Weather, Lightening, Northern Lights, Sunsets, Stars,...)

Monday, February 15, 2010

book review: The Silent Governess by Julie Klassen

Title: The Silent Governess
Author: Julie Klassen
Publisher: Bethany House, January 2010, paperback, 448 pages
ISBN-10: 0764207075
ISBN-13: 978-0764207075

“For years I could not recall the day without a smoldering coal of remorse burning within me. I tried to bury the memory deep in the dark places of my mind, but now and again something would evoke it – a public house placard, a column of figures, a finely dressed gentleman – and I would wince as the memory appeared and then scuttled away, like a silverfish under the door…” p. 7

The voice is Olivia Keene, remembering a childhood incident with her alcoholic father in the prologue of Julie Klassen’s historical The Silent Governess. The actual story (told in third person) begins 12 years later, in 1815, when the now-adult Olivia comes home from work to find that same father in a drunken rage with his hands around her mother’s throat. Olivia hits him on the back of the head with a fire iron; he falls over unconscious and, fearful that she’s killed him, she flees toward a village where her mother has friends.

Before she arrives, however, she wanders onto Brightwell Manor, overhears a confidential conversation, is arrested for trespassing, and held captive to ensure that her knowledge goes no further. There she is eventually installed as a governess, wins the hearts of the household, uses her math prowess to straighten out the manor’s books and her wits to bring to light family scandals. (A plot twist in this book that was also in Klassen’s book Lady of Milkweed Manor is a baby secretly taken from a poor mother at birth and given to a set of wealthy parents to raise. Klassen likes that, I guess.) Of course, all the while our beautiful heroine is winning the heart of the somber heir-apparent, Edward.

Olivia is a complex, smart, though vulnerable heroine. Edward has his faults, though we readily forgive them. The father characters, Simon Keene and Oliver Brightwell, have good and bad qualities, which our leading man and lady struggle to come to terms with. Family members like Judith and Felix add interest with their selfish, sly and sometimes less than honorable actions.

I enjoyed the setting with its authentic-feeling paraphernalia of bonnets, gowns, reticules, horse-drawn carriages, and abigails. The social realities, with its upstairs/downstairs divisions, the need for women to gain station in life with suitable marriages, and the inability to pass on an inheritance except to a birth heir are all characteristic of the time. Klassen manages to use these elements to further her plot as well.

Klassen’s writing is brisk, though dignified in that she uses more formal language than what we’d find in contemporary fiction. A nice touch is the quote heading each chapter. These bits from 19th century writings fill us in on social customs and the common perceptions of the role that the governess should play in an English family.

Besides the theme of attaining and preserving one’s place in society, Klassen also addresses subjects relevant to modern readers. The way the Olivia’s childhood memory casts its shadow over her life brings to mind how such early incidents can affect the course of a life. The preoccupation with status and birthright and how they form self-image and define the characters’ identities directs our attention to the question, what things do we use to define ourselves? The theme of faith also runs through the story – a thread Klassen weaves subtly. What I enjoyed most about the book was its exposé of the governess life in 19th century England.

Finally, Klassen brings us to an ending with many surprises. (Some of the ending plot twists had me shaking my head, though, like when minor characters end up being responsible for some of the main action of the story.) An epilogue ties everything together in a neat package of domestic bliss.

The Silent Governess is an interesting and satisfying sojourn in 19th century England. Fans of the Janes (Austen and Eyre) won’t want to miss it. The paperback edition includes discussion questions, making this a good choice for book clubs and reading groups.

(Sample the "Prologue")

Available now at your favorite bookseller from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

(I received this book free from a publicist for the purpose of writing a review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I was not required to write a positive review.)

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 In several places I saw this book recommended to lovers of "Regency" novels. Not sure exactly what that meant, I sleuthed around online and found "The Regency vs. the Regency Historical: A Regency Expert Explains the Difference." In it Mary Jo Putney explains the difference between the two. By her definition, The Silent Governess would fit within the definition of a Regency Novel because of its date (falls between the dates 1800-1830), its preoccupations with society over passion, its rendering of a broad 'slice of life' from the era, and its carefully crafted language.   




Thursday, February 11, 2010

life resumes


It's been a hectic last few days as I've been helping with the plans and then throwing a surprise birthday party for my sister. The "surprise" part was, of course, what caused most of the stress.

I spent some hours on Sunday
finding photos, photocopying 
them and putting this collage together. 
(Click on any photo to enlarge)

We were late getting started on this and when we got down to business there were a few hurdles, like the fact that sis was scheduled to work on the night of her birthday, and midweek is not the best time for a party. But I invited her and her daughter for a birthday dinner anyway, she managed to juggle her work schedule, and the midweek date meant I had no problem reserving our complex's party room.

The plan was to have her at my house for dinner, and then bring her over to the party room where her friends would all be assembled for the surprise. The challenge was to figure out a believable reason to take her there without having her suspect she was going to her own celebration.

I noticed that the 10th, the day of her birthday, was also Chinese New Year. So this was the scenario we cooked up.

- Her friend who was my companion in crime would arrive around 6:30 (guests were coming at 7:00). She would phone our house and we would tell B. that hubby had to unlock the party room building for the guests of this Chinese New Year's party.

- When most of the guests had arrived, hubby would phone the house to tell us that the partiers wanted to share their Chinese treats with us; would we like to come over - at which point we would escort her to her party.


I even went so far as to put up a Chinese New Year sign in the window along with balloons on the tree, so sis would see them when she drove into the complex for her dinner with us and believe the story all the more.


Here's how it worked out.

B. accompanying ipod tunes on the mandolin.

1. B. and her daughter came for dinner. It all went swimmingly. She even brought her mandolin - which I had requested.  (It's something she's lately taken up. She loves to jam, and we had invited some of her friends who play instruments to bring theirs to give the evening a musical theme.)

2. After the meal, though, B's friend was late. 6:30... 6:40... still no phone call.

2. Meantime, the phone rang with birthday greetings for sis from a brother in Sask. (So now the phone was busy.) While she was talking, hubby left to let in any guests. It turned out he was just in time to greet the first arrivals.

3. After her conversation, B. decided to phone and wish her twin brother, also in Sask., a happy birthday (using her cell phone this time - and HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU TOO BRIAN!!). While she was working on making a connection with him, E. called from the party saying they were ready for us to arrive.

4. But now she was talking to our brother. A good 20 minutes later (and another impatient phone call from the party - hubby couldn't understand why we weren't coming) we finally left the house, supposedly to sample treats at this Chinese New Year party.

5. When we got there everyone jumped up from behind couches yelled "SURPRISE!" and sang Happy Birthday. She had no clue, was completely taken in - so it truly was a surprise.

After that the evening was a pleasant blur of meeting her friends and colleagues, replenishing the punch, organizing a little bit of a program...


Our cousins from Abbotsford sang a song. 


Someone had a violin, someone else brought a whistle and of course B. had her mandolin (which I fetched from the house) so she could pick out the tunes to all the music that was happening.


There was a cake too, 


and gifts.



The "icing on the cake" so to speak, was the late arrival of two of B's friends who had been playing at McBurney's Coffee house a few blocks away that very evening and who dropped in and serenaded us with Beatle tunes etc. on guitar and washboard.

 The birthday girl and (below) her pretty daughter 
who helped put the party together.
                          



Altogether we counted it a great success!

romantic

Romantic

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Next week: OLD EQUIPMENT (Cameras, Cars, Tools, Computers, Musical Instruments, Rusty, Antiques,...)

Monday, February 08, 2010

book review: The Blue Umbrella by Mike Mason

Title: The Blue Umbrella
Author: Mike Mason
Publisher: David C. Cook, Paperback, 448 pages, 2009
ISBN-10: 1434765261
ISBN-13: 978-1434765260

The pathos of an orphan boy under the thumb – and sometimes the cane – of two crone-like and thoroughly evil aunts is hard to resist. That would be 10-year-old Zac, the main character of The Blue Umbrella, author Mike Mason’s umteenth book – but his first for kids. When Aunties Pris and Esmeralda show up at his mom’s funeral insisting he come home with them, Zac is surprised and hesitant. But they won’t take no for an answer and so our hero goes to live with them at Five Corners.

Their sweetness and benevolence soon turn to glares, ridicule, threats and canings. Only Porter’s Store, which Zac sees from his bedroom window, and Mr. Porter himself, who seems to have a special relationship with clouds, wind and sun, offer rays of hope. This is soon snuffed out when the Aunties forbid him to ever have anything to do with Mr. Porter. But it’s an order that is changed when Dada, the Aunties' father, realizes Zac’s relationship with the kindly Porter may be of use to him. The story becomes a cat-and-mouse tale about getting possession of Mr. Porter’s magical blue umbrella.

Zac gets to know Sky Porter along with a whole cast of fascinating characters: the put-upon dwarf Butler, the Reverend Cholmondeley and his son Ches who is a self-declared atheist, Ches’s sister Chelsea who won’t say a word, Eldy the Balloon Man whom you can hear without him uttering anything, and the terrifying Dada who makes even the Aunties tremble and who wants Mr. Porter’s umbrella more than anything in the world.

The story does have its dark side. The Aunties are abusive in their speech and violent in their use of the cane. Many of the characters have secret pasts. And visits with the evil Dada made my skin crawl. The tale is fantastical enough, however, that youthful readers will probably be able to discern it is fiction. The plot and characters reminded me of books by Roald Dahl. In fact, the plot of The Blue Umbrella begins with a situation similar to the one in James and the Giant Peach.

Mason’s writing was a highlight of the book for me – clever, sensuous and laced with big words like dodecahedron and unctuously that are explained in an “after words” glossary. Here, for example, is Zac’s first impression of Dada:

“Laying the cane across her two open palms, Esmeralda brought it near the oval of fur where Dad’s face was. From the dark cave protruded a bulbous, mushroom-colored thing. A nose. Dada appeared to be smelling the cane. Then he turned his head slightly and massaged a leprous cheek against it like a cat rubbing its scent on a leg of furniture. Zac gaped. The nose, the cheek, seemed more like tumors than part of a face” p. 115.

The story is also rife with Christian symbolism – always discreet but impossible to miss if you’re familiar with the Bible and its themes. Here, for example, are some references to wind:

“What was the wind anyhow, and where did it come from?” p. 103
“He let them (a bunch of balloons) pull him along, relishing the clean power of the wind pouring through his body…. He wanted to give himself to the wind wherever it led.” p. 14
“You are a wind lover. The Aunties do not know the wind.” p. 150

(Compare to John 3:8 and Acts 2:2-4)

 The story tackles some very real and serious issues. When Zac gets to know all about Mr. Porter and his powers he questions whether Mr. Porter isn’t guilty of a betrayal of his own. Who can one trust, and where is God when it hurts are other themes that run through the book – along with weather, of course, which we experience a great variety of throughout.

The book is nicely designed with its colorful cover, its ragged-cut page edges and bookmark flaps front and back.

The self-reading level for The Blue Umbrella is middle to upper elementary and the subject matter is probably not suitable for very young kids. However, to my mind this fantasy has classic written all over it and is one in which readers young and old will find much to enjoy and ponder.

Book trailer for The Blue Umbrella



Read excerpts of the book here.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

something different

 
Princess Kelp 
White Rock B.C. July 2009

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Thursday Challenge

Next week: ROMANTIC (Flowers, Chocolates, Hearts, Lace, Red, Pink, Sunset, Holding Hands,...)

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