Saturday, December 29, 2007

new look

Did you notice the new look here? Well, not entirely new. I kept the old template but had to re-do the sidebar when I updated to the new generation of blogger templates. But it's finally done and I'm asking myself, why did I wait so long? Now I can change to a different template any time without having to replace the sidebar goodies again.

I probably went a bit overboard because of the choice of things I could add -- like the everlasting list of labels visible in the sidebar, and the slide show of murals playing under the mural blog link. My apologies if you're viewing this on Safari which seemingly insists on its own type of variety - posting every other picture sideways. What's with that?!

Also, I haven't yet installed 'Haloscan' comments. Thus all old comments will not be visible.

If there are any other problems (like parts you can't read, links too light etc.) please let me know.

Addendum - Dec. 31

I changed the header picture from one of the North Saskatchewan River (Sask.) to a B.C. scene (that's for you, E.). I took this photo of pigeons hanging out on the White Rock pier last Thursday. The sun was shining but the wind was sharp and cold. However, these birds seemed oblivious. They were perched facing the wind, almost as if they were playing a game of dare to see who would chicken out first vs. who could stand it the longest.

In other template news, I tried replacing Haloscan comments yesterday. I got them to display just fine - but with their installation the header disappeared. So I have decided to go with Blogger comments for now. It means that none of your fine comments left over past years will display (sigh).

Friday, December 28, 2007

passwords - strong like bull

If a new computer is part of your life since Christmas, new passwords will be too. How are you at making them up? With this password checker you can test any proposed password before using it.

Though it proves I've been pretty pathetic at making up passwords in the past, there are all kinds of articles with hints about how to make strong ones. Even I was able to concoct such a thing after I'd read these articles. Trouble is, those strong passwords don't only test the ingenuity of a potential hacker or thief, they also tax the memory of their owners. So what's worse - a computer that's been hacked into, or one that you thought was your friend but has just locked you out?

Thursday, December 27, 2007


Loiter log


Thursday Challenge

Next week: SHOPPING (Stores, Malls, Bags, Merchandise, List, Cart, Shoppers,...)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

sobering anniversary

This is the 3rd anniversary of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake. It triggered a tsunami that was one of the most devastating natural disasters in history.

Many video clips of the tsunami are still available. They are a sobering reminder of the force of nature, the fragility of life and what little time it takes for things to change forever.

Video clips of the tsunami hitting:
Sri Lanka,
Sri Lanka resort
Phuket (Thailand)
Patong Beach (Phuket, Thailand)

More information and tsunami videos and linked here.

christmas images - 2007

Christmas trees...

under construction

(from the Christmas tree display along the seawall - West Vancouver)

Santa's Rein-dog

Christmas Eve by candlelight - our church

Hostess Laura's elegant Christmas table

They were home for Christmas!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas

Then the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger." - Luke 2: 10-12 (NKJV)

West Vancouver manger scene

To all who read here - Warmest Christmas wishes!
From our house to yours.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

craigdarroch castle - 6

craigdarroch - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

It took seven years after Robert Dunsmuir's death before his wife Joan gave up the title of the San Francisco company to her sons James and Alex, and another three before she agreed to sell them the Wellington Colliery.

Finally, in 1900 Alex, who had been living with divorcee Josephine Wallace for 20 years, against his mother's wishes, felt secure enough to marry her. He built Dunsmuir House in Oakland California as a wedding present for her, and they went off to New York on a honeymoon. Six weeks after the wedding, while on his honeymoon, he died.

This began the advent of a whole new family feud. For though Alex had willed some money and real estate to Josephine, the bulk of his money and business interests was left to his brother James. Sometime later Josephine's daughter, the actress Edna Wallace Hopper, determined to cash in on his estate, joined Joan in suing James.

(Click on article to enlarge)

James was premier of British Columbia at the time. A New York Times headline read: "Premier Sued by His Mother."

As a result of the legal action, Joan and James didn't speak for years. When she died in 1908, James, who was then Lieutenant Governor of BC, wasn't expected to attend her funeral. At the last minute he attended anyway and during the service, broke down and wept.

Joan left her estate to her five surviving daughters, one son-in-law and three grandchildren. To divide the proceeds, the contents of the castle were sold in a three-day auction. The 28-acre lot was subdivided and also sold.

It soon became clear there was little interest in buying the castle, so a lottery was devised whereby anyone who purchased a lot would be eligible to win the castle. Solomon Cameron won the draw.

Mr. Cameron never lived in the castle but used it as collateral to finance his business dealings. Ten years later he lost it to the Bank of Montreal.

Here's what became of it after that:

1919 - 1921: Craigdarroch Military hospital
1921 - 1946: Victoria College
1946 - 1968: Victoria School Board
1969 - 1979: Victoria Conservatory of Music
1979 - present: Historic House Museum

Castle building apparently ran in the family, for both of the Dunsmuir boys built mansions of their own:

Alex Dunsmuir's Dunsmuir Mansion, Oakland, California

James Dunsmuir's mansion Hatley Castle in Victoria, British Columbia


As you can tell, the castle and the story of the family that built it intrigue me. Rags to riches stories are always fascinating - but even more fascinating perhaps, are riches to rags stories. The Dunsmuir family's tale is tragic in an almost Shakespearean way with its premature and sudden deaths, a history of alcoholism and its family feuds. It makes for interesting reading - but it also makes me very thankful for my humble townhouse with one fireplace, no wood paneling or stained glass but where we all get along -- at least most of the time.

Information about Craigdarroch Castle and the Dunsmuir family taken from Craigdarroch Castle brochures and internet sources.

People in and around Victoria are invited to Christmas festivities at Craigdarroch. The castle is a beautiful and lively place at Christmas hearkening visitors back to its happiest days.

Friday, December 21, 2007

book review: How Strong Women Pray by Bonnie St. James

Title: How Strong Women Pray
Author: Bonnie St. James
Publisher: Faith Words - Hachette Book Group USA, 2007
Genre: Christian living, Inspirational
ISBN: 0446579262

Bonnie St. James is a strong woman if there ever was one. After her right leg was amputated as a child, she not only won a silver Paralympic medal in downhill skiing (1984), but she earned degrees at Harvard and Oxford, worked in the White House as a director, and has since established herself as a writer and motivational speaker. But she would be the first to tell you she could never have done it without prayer and God’s help.

In the book How Strong Women Pray, Bonnie tells her story in twenty-five chapters that are woven between the stories of twenty-seven other strong women as diverse as Afghanistan soldier Karen Kim, former First Lady Barbara Bush, and poet Maya Angelou.

The book is divided into six sections that follow the path of Bonnie’s life starting with childhood (“Facing Life’s Storms with Childlike Faith”), youth (“Climbing the World’s Highest Mountain”), marriage (“From Marriage to Politics: Powerful Relationships”), motherhood (“Motherhood and Working with the Spirit”), overcoming the demons of the past (“In the Valley We Grow” – where she tells of her wrestle with the buried memories of early childhood sexual abuse), and, finally, moving on with hope (“And Still I Rise”).

All the stories are powerful in their own way. In the chapters where the various women give their perspectives on prayer, each woman is introduced briefly in a vignette from her life. The voice then changes (signified in the text by a font change) to the woman telling her own story and giving her thoughts on prayer. Thus the writing voices and the insights are as varied and interesting as talking with twenty-seven different women. For example, Martha Williamson tells the story of how she came to produce the TV series “Touched by an Angel.” Colette Branch tells of how she evacuated 100 clients plus about 200 employees from New Orleans just before Hurricane Katrina hit. Kathy and Barbara Ireland (daughter and mother) talk about 18-year-old Kathy’s foray into the international professional modeling scene while at home Barbara prayed.

Here are some examples of some of the book’s prayer insights:

“I never feel closer to God than when I’m dancing. I dance all over the house like other people sing in the shower. I choreograph movements for the Lord’s Prayer.” – Dr. Suzanne Karefe-Johnson, hospice physician.

“Prayer isn’t about alerting Him to my needs, it’s about my heart being changed.” – Janet Parshall, radio show host.

“I prayed for my enemy to go away. I told God, ‘I know that this person is like me. He’s a human being. He has kindness somewhere deep down. I pray that the humanity in him will come out..... I began to see the harshness leave his face….I could actually see evil flying from his spirit. I knew God was there.” – ImmaculĂ©e Ilibagiza, Rwandan genocide survivor.

Bonnie tells her own story all in first person. Her prose is brisk and lively. She never sounds whiny or self-pitying as she recounts the challenges she faced in every new venture, though there are parts which would have warranted it. I was moved by her transparency, especially when she shared bitter details (always tastefully of course) from her early childhood. Her love of people is evident and she comes across as a joyful, whole woman who has found such a wonderful thing in prayer and a relationship with God that she can’t help but share it with others.

The sturdy little hardcover (black print on creamy white paper) has a nice heft. Under the colorful dust jacket, the covers are red with gold writing on a white spine.

As someone who has prayed for as long as I can remember, this book with its many stories about and perspectives on prayer helped me gain a new appreciation for the treasure it is. I saw my own practice reflected in some of the stories while others challenged me to pray in new ways. Whether you are a woman who is committed to prayer, or someone who has only had the odd thought of giving it a try, I’m sure you’ll find How Strong Women Pray has something to say to you too.

craigdarroch castle - 5

craigdarroch 1, 2, 3, 4

Another descending staircase takes us down the other side of the house to see a few more rooms the Dunsmuirs would have used.

Maud's Bedroom

This is the room of the Dunsmuir's youngest daughter Maud (24). She is wearing a two-piece 'walking out" wool dress with a seal cap, seal fur muff, fur cape and gloves and she's ready to go skating on the frozen pond at Beacon Hill Park.

Servant's Room

What! No stained glass? No fireplace?

Smoking Room

After Joan was moved into Craigdarroch, sons James and Alex began the long negotiation to get control of the company holdings. For the next nine to ten years, Joan conveyed shares in the three major companies to James and Alex. The new company was called R. Dunsmuir's & Sons. This smoking room was installed as a place for the men to relax and entertain male acquaintances. This was a male-only domain as females were forbidden to smoke.

Usually men would remove their dress jackets and change into smoking jackets, even putting on a hand-embroidered smoking hat.

Breakfast Room

What's on the menu? Bacon and eggs, fried smelt, leg of lamb, snowballs (poached apples covered in rice), potato straws, fresh fruit with marmalade, jam, butter and bread with tea, coffee, hot and cold milk.

And that's it for the castle tour. Come back tomorrow for one more Craigdarroch post where we find out what eventually happened to the Dunsmuir's and their Victoria castle.

Thursday, December 20, 2007


Nurture - by Jan Rowles (West Vancouver, BC)


Thursday Challenge

Next week: BROKEN (Glass, Eggs, Toys, Machines, Hearts, Crutches, Casts, Accidents,... )

craigdarroch castle - 4

craigdarroch - 1
craigdarroch - 2
craigdarroch - 3

Up another flight of stairs brings us to this throne-like chair just outside the dance hall.

Dance Hall

To the side of the hall is an area with another tree and more toys. The candles on the tree are lit for a short time only on Christmas morning.

The Graphophone was made by Columbia and played a five-inch wax cylinder with fourteen songs. (Machines manufactured by Victor were called gramophones; Edison trademarked the term phonographs, and Columbia named their machines Graphophones.)

Band alcove

To the side of the dance hall is an alcove for the band. The musical instruments date back to the 1890s. The oversized mandolin-like instrument is a Mando-bass. The large double-necked guitar-like instrument is a harp-guitar. The small accordion is called a concertina.


A few steps more take us to the highest point in the castle -- the tower. The Dunsmuirs enjoyed panoramic views.

The roof was tiled with red Vermont slate and had terra cotta ridge and hip pieces.

The floor tiles came from the Minton Tile Company in England.

Tomorrow - a few more rooms accessible by Craigdarroch's back stairway, and we're done with the tour.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

craigdarroch castle - 3

craigdarroch - 1
craigdarroch - 2

Organ Alcove

Up the stairs in an alcove midway between the first and second floors is the organ. Although the 1895 reed organ is not original to the house, Craigdarroch experts believe that the space was used for music performances.

Mrs. Dunsmuir's Sitting Room

Joan Dunsmuir (70 years old) spent time managing the family business from this room. The black dress shows that she's still in mourning.

Second Bedroom

Elizabeth Harvey lives with her grandmother Joan. She is being 'laced' by a maid. She is wearing drawers, a chemise, a boned corset, and two petticoats. The Japanese kimono of red silk on the bed is worn as a dressing gown.

Billiard Room

This was the Dunsmuir's afternoon entertaining area. Set for an 'at home' tea, women servants would pour tea or wine and serve sandwiches and desserts.

Green Bedroom

Robert Dunsmuir Harvey, Joan Dunsmuir's grandson, may have used this room. He moved into the castle with his grandmother in 1890 but left a year later to attend school in the east.

Family Bedroom

Euphenia Dunsmuir (Effie) is 28 and not yet married. This is her room. The maid has laid out her formal evening wear for a party in a home nearby.

Tomorrow - up another level to the dance hall and the tower.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

craigdarroch castle - 2

craigdarroch - 1

Robert Dunsmuir's unexpected death in 1889 brought with it one big (and nasty) surprise for his thirty-something sons James and Alex. For contrary to their father's spoken promise that he would will his business holdings to them, he left everything to his wife Joan.

After Robert's death, the sons supervised the completion of Craigdarroch while their mother toured Europe. Joan finally moved into the 39-room, 20,000 square foot mansion in 1890. With her came three unmarried daughters and two orphaned grandchildren. And for 18 years, until her death in 1908, Joan lived in Craigdarroch.

Main Hall

The ornate clock on the mantle is original to the castle.

This carved bear hall stand occupies the Garden Entrance.


Notice the yule log sitting by the fireplace. On December 25th it was put in the fireplace and burned for the full twelve days of Christmas to bring prosperity and good luck.

Drawing Room

The room is set up for late afternoon tea.

The toys underneath the tree date from the late 1890s to around 1910. The tree decorations are reproductions of 19th century ornaments.

Dining Room

The table is set for a family Christmas supper. The hostess will spend as much time decorating the table -- arranging menu cards, placing salt shakers containers between the guests etc. -- as fussing with the food.

Servants will set the table, serve the meal and clear the table later.

Tomorrow we'll tour the castle's upper floors.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...