Thursday, May 27, 2010


This Thursday's challenge: "REST" (Bedroom, Pillows, Hammock, Peaceful Places, Pyjamas, Napping, Sleeping,...)

My response: 



Thursday Challenge

Next week: FAMILY (Moms, Dads, Kids, Relatives, People, Animals, Vacations, Weddings,...)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

cloverdale rodeo - photo essay

Cloverdale, a community just a few minutes' drive from where I live, hosts an annual three-day rodeo on the Victoria Day weekend. What with the nice weather and all, we decided to take in the finals Monday afternoon.

We arrived early enough to browse the Country Fair look at the newest gadgets, try on western hats of all kinds and ogle this (no, it's not a wedding cake!) mock-up of the new B.C. Place.

Then we grabbed a bite (veggie pitas from the Donair hut, coffee from another shack) and sat in the sun listening to the Murray Band and this group of ethnic singers/instrumentalists from Surrey. Of course we also had a glimpse of some of the cowboys in training.

As usual, I treated the grandstand event like a non-stop photo-op. We bought tickets late, so got seats in the very front row, on planks that were about 6 inches off the ground. It sure wasn't the most comfortable seating, but I got a nice unobstructed view of what was happening (except for the pipe fencing). I must admit I went shutter-crazy -- always in the hunt for that compelling action shot!

The show started at 2:00 p.m. with the usual horse drill parade. I love the beautiful choreography of the horses and flags.

Click on any collage to enlarge a little.

The first event was Bareback. There was lots of twisting, tossing, turning, grimacing and holding on tight.

Interspersed between main events were time fillers, like the clowns, taking off on the Olympic theme with their own sand ski event towed by a horse.

Later there was "Mutton Bustin'" Little kids barely out of Pampers it seemed ("contestants age 3 and up"), rode woolly sheep. In the photo, the 'outriders' (on foot of course) were chasing one of the sheep to which a little gaffer was still hanging on (she isn't visible -- has slipped and is riding sideways).

The saddle bronco event was next. It was won by Canadian Justin Berg from Marwayne Alberta. They win serious money, by the way -- $20,000 for first place.

Ladies Barrel Racing is my favourite. I just love these cowgirls and their swift horses. If I was a little girl, I know what I'd want to be when I grow up, especially after spending an afternoon at the rodeo

The event was won by Sammi Bessert of Colorado. When asked what she was going to do with her winnings (another cool $20,000), she said she had promised her two little boys at home that if she and "Tommy" won something, there just might be a trip to Disneyland. (Isn't that such a mom-way to spend rodeo winnings?)

Just before the final event we were treated to Niki Cammaert, a trick rider born in Rockyford, Alberta, but who now lives in the States where she works on TV and in the movies as a rider, stuntwoman and in special effects.

First she did a little romancing the horse thing while the MC talked about how wonderful is this friendship between horse and girl (pretty, but cheesy).

No sooner was that act done than she was back in her stuntwoman costume, and on another horse, wowing us with all kinds of gymnastics while on the back of her galloping mount. She was amazing!

The final event of the afternoon was bull riding (bottom right). The object of the ride is first of all to stay on for a prescribed amount of time (I think it's 8 seconds).
Of all eight finalists, only one managed to accomplish that. And so Steven Turner of Cochrane Alberta won all the prize money ($50,000!). The incredible thing is he did this injured. He had a dislocated hip, was in pain, but did the ride anyway.

When the MC asked him whether, now that he'd won all this cash, wouldn't he just take the rest of the summer off to get his hip fixed and heal, he said, no. This was rodeo season. He'd take a week off, but was planning to be at the next circuit event in a week or so.

Can't get enough rodeo yourself? Check out the Cloverdale Rodeo website where you can watch events replayed in streaming video.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

the scoop(s) on digital publishing

"Opposing Voices in Digital Publishing" by Tyndale House Publishers

Saturday, May 22, 2010

book review: Sixteen Brides by Stephanie Grace Whitson

Title: Sixteen Brides
Author: Stephanie Grace Whitson
Publisher: Bethany House, April 2010, paperback, 352 pages

ISBN-10: 0764205137 
ISBN-13: 978-0764205132

Sixteen Brides by Stephanie Grace Whitson isn’t really about sixteen brides at all, but five. However, that’s quite enough main characters to challenge any writer. Whitson has managed to pull off telling this story, even with its quintet of leading ladies, with remarkable aplomb.

The story begins in the spring of 1871 as a motley collection of single women find themselves together on the train heading from St. Louis to Cayote, Nebraska and a new start. Under the auspices of the Ladies Emigration Society, Mr. Hamilton Drake has promised these civil war widows homesteads. However, before they ever reach their destination, they discover Drake’s mail-order bride scheme. Eight of the passengers (of whom Caroline, Ruth, Ella, Sally and Hettie feature prominently), get off the train at Plum Grove, insisting they will make their own way from there

Over the next few months we follow them as they forge new friendships, stake a homestead claim, build a sod house, grow and harvest a garden while each takes strides in healing the hurts she has brought with her from the past

Whitson does a remarkable job of telling the stories of the featured women (in bits and pieces, which we fit together over the course of the book). She also adds to the mix two teens, a couple of single homesteaders, a handsome rancher, and a steady pioneer couple. It’s quite a crowd. Though I did have moments of confusion at the outset, thanks to the author’s skill with characterization (lots of interchanges between and among characters with each main one convincingly fleshed out through speech, appearance and mannerisms) I was soon right at home with this lively, often hurting bunch.

Whitson’s writing style is proficient and brisk. She manages to say a lot in a few sentences, as evidenced by this opening scene of the sod-house building bee the community puts on for the new homesteaders:

“The farthest thing from Ella’s mind was to create a sensation. She didn’t even think about the ramifications, really. She just did what she naturally wanted to do and what she was gifted to do, which was not lingering near the supply tent pouring lemonade and coffee or sharing community gossip while the ladies sliced bread or opened jars of pickles or served up pie. These things were part of Mama’s world, but not Ella’s. And so, after Mr. Cooper plowed the first furrow, and Will Haywood cut the curls of sod into three-foot lengths, and after Frank Darby drove his flatbed wagon up so the sod strips could be loaded and hauled to the building site, it was the most natural thing in the world for Ella to being loading sod. The things was, that didn’t seem natural to anyone else.” p. 194.

As each main player faces the mistakes and pain that has brought him or her to this place, Whitson offers us insights into forgiveness, communication, trust, self-acceptance, marriage, parenting, and faith. The message in that last department is outspokenly Christian with some of the main sympathetic characters offering a compelling case for faith. (Each chapter also starts out with a Bible verse epigraph. These seemed odd and a distraction to me; I wasn’t sure what they were meant to achieve – a telegraphing of what was about to happen? moralizing before the fact?)

The end of the tale with its (almost too) neat series of concurrent pairings left me feeling positive and hopeful. All in all, Sixteen Brides is an optimistic take on a challenging, lively and interesting era on the American frontier.

Some of Stephanie Grace Whitson's 'extracurricular' interests are biking (as in riding motorcycles) and quilting.  In fact, it was while doing research on quilts that she came upon the little "Sixteen Brides" ad that sparked the idea for this story.


I received Sixteen Brides as a gift from the publisher for the purpose of writing a review. This article was first published as Book Review: Sixteen Brides by Stephanie Grace Whitson on Blogcritics.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


Who's having more fun - Mom or babe?


Next week:  REST (Bedroom, Pillows, Hammock, Peaceful Places, Pyjamas, Napping, Sleeping,...)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

book review: Hearts Awakening by Delia Parr

Title: Hearts Awakening
Author: Delia Parr
Publisher: Bethany House, March 2010, paperback, 352 pages 
ISBN-10: 0764206702 
ISBN-13: 978-0764206702

When Elvira Kilmer’s two-week housekeeping job working for Jackson Smith on Dillon’s Island becomes permanent, she’s not sure if it’s a blessing or a curse.

The unconventional relationship between Ellie and the handsome widower is complicated by his two little boys and the vicious gossip that surrounds the death of his wife. In Delia Parr’s historical Hearts Awakening we follow Ellie into the fall of 1840 as she blunders her way through her assignment, burning griddle cakes, mothering Jackson’s two grieving little boys, all the while trying to quell the feelings that are growing inside her.

Ellie is an atypical romantic heroine. Plain in appearance, meek in manner and principled to the extent she refuses to relish and pass on juicy tidbits of gossip, Parr keeps us wondering: will her kindness, generosity and general selflessness be enough? Enough, that is, to win the heart of the handsome but chauvinistic young man whose life experiences have left him with a huge chip on his shoulder and memories of a stunningly beautiful but unavailable former love. The children are modeled on real kids. They make for a poignant and sometimes amusing diversion.

The setting has old-fashioned charm with its abundance of apples and the pies, fritters, cobblers and cakes Ellie is always mixing up for her men and the customers she serves on the family’s weekly market trips. Ellie’s misadventures with the stove and other challenges of pioneer living provoke a few chuckles. The isolation of the island keeps the characters from being able to escape each other and the complications of their relationship. Of course the hostility of the Harrisburg society toward Jackson and Ellie binds them together as well.

Relationships in all their various permutations are a big preoccupation of the book. The story offers insights into friendship, marriage, parenting, and step-parenting. As Ellie and Jackson get comfortable in their atypical liaison they learn about honesty, openness, communication, respect and reliance on God.

Of course the ending is satisfying, though Parr keeps us on the edge of our seats till the very last page. Altogether, Hearts Awakening is a sweet story that renews one’s faith in the triumph of character over the usual winners: beauty, charm, money and status.

(Hearts Awakening provided by the publisher as a gift for the purpose of writing a review. Article first published as Book review: Hearts Awakening by Delia Parr on Blogcritics.)

Monday, May 17, 2010

armchair travelogue - harrison hot springs

On Saturday we went for a drive to Harrison Hot Springs. It's a town in the eastern Fraser Valley between Chilliwack and Hope that sits on the edge of Harrison Lake.

(click on any picture to enlarge)
It was a beautiful day of still water and clear, sunny skies. This view shows the lake from the walk way that goes around the swimming lagoon.

The water looks pristine and cold.

Looking  the other way, we see the apartment buildings of downtown. The water in the swimming lagoon seems very low compared to what it has looked like other times.

We circle around, past the big Harrison Hot Springs Hotel  down a gravel path that follows the lake for a distance.

 Looking up into the trees, one gets a glimpse of moss-covered branches, rocks and trailing ferns all flourishing under a canopy of cedar boughs -- a collage of textures in green.

 The path takes us to the old bath house.

 This sign explains the origins of Harrison Hot Springs.

 Looking into the deserted bathhouse part, it's always steamy.

 Walking back toward town, we pass blackberries in bloom against the scenic lake.

Hubby and I have tasty burgers and fries at restaurant along the lakefront street for lunch. Then it's off to explore some of the stores. For example, we come upon Antique Gifts & Things Chintz - a shop to delight the heart of any collector of china or chintz.

The friendly proprietor talks to us of his collections.He tells us what we see here is only a fraction of what he owns of china collectibles. Oh my! (Thank goodness I'm not into that or this place would have been irresistible!)

The town has many of wood carvings similar to this one.

Tired of walking, we decide to take a sentimental drive out to Hicks Lake. It's in Sasquatch Park - a provincial park where we spent some lovely weekends with the tent trailer when the kids were little.

Hicks lake is pretty though for some reason it looks smaller than I remember it. (I haven't grown, have I?)

Then it's back to town for one last treat -- a Snickers sundae at Baskin & Robbins. I figure this sign on a nearby store expresses perfectly the proper attitude toward such indulgences. 

Friday, May 14, 2010


An interesting title caught my eye on twitter Tuesday. I couldn't resist checking out "If you had only one month left to blog"  It's a thought-provoking post.

Maybe it's my age or the fact that since the death of my mom in 2006, death seems closer and more inevitable for me too. Contemplating lasts is something I do more now than I used to.

In that vein, I started a new playlist on my itunes a little while ago. I call it "Final Testimony" and I'm putting in it the songs that define me in some way. They are songs that articulate what I believe in and stand for. In plain talk, the songs I'd want people to play at my funeral (sounds delightfully macabre, doesn't it?).

Besides enjoying that collection of songs myself now, it will be a great benefit to whoever is around to plan my memorial service. All they will need to do is sync my ipod, plug it into a player with a dock and play the list (that is, if ipods and docks are still around when I exit -- hopefully a loooooong time from now! ).

Thursday, May 13, 2010


Street performer at work in Vancouver during the 2010 Olympic Games


Next Week: PLAY (Fun, Games, Toys, Sports, Video Games, Sports Equipment,...)

Sunday, May 09, 2010

happy mother's day all moms who read here!

Friday, May 07, 2010

book review: She Walks In Beauty by Siri Mitchell

Title: She Walks In Beauty
Author: Siri Mitchell
Publisher: Bethany House, April 2010, paperback, 400 pages

  • ISBN-10: 0764204335
  • ISBN-13: 978-0764204333
At seventeen Clara Carter is looking forward to her last year of freedom. But when the wealthy and eligible heir to the de Vries fortune returns from Europe, Aunt and Father decide to push up her debut to this season. Though the learning curve for this society novice is steep, there is never any question about the coveted goal: marriage to Franklin de Vries.

Things get complicated when best friend and fellow debutante Lizzie Barnes gets the same assignment. In She Walks in Beauty by Siri Mitchell we watch Clara change from an innocent, na├»ve and idealistic newcomer to a jaded socialite who sees through the ballroom games of New York’s 1890s social scene.

Clara gives us a first-person account of what it’s like to be squeezed into a 19th century corset, to learn the language of the fan and eat one’s way through a multi-course meal using just the right utensil. As a main character I found her sympathetic, though there were times I wanted to shake her for her wishy-washiness.

Clara’s pretty and loyal friend Lizzie was hard to dislike despite how superficial she was. Aunt was a typical authoritarian dragoness. And Clara’s father, Dr. Willard Carter, remained a mystery until the end.

Mitchell obviously immersed herself in the minutiae of the Victorian period. The story is rich and authentic in its detail about clothes, house furnishings, the operas and parties New York’s moneyed elite attended, the dances they danced, and the foods they ate – down to the oysters in ice served at Delmonicos.

Mitchell’s writing style is vivid, efficient, and filled with dialogue. It consists of lots of short sentences. And fragments. Here, for example, is the scene that greeted the guests at Clara’s coming-out tea:

“Pillows in profusion dotted the furniture. Lamps, not content with their own lampshades, had been draped with lace and trailing fringe. A collection of family miniatures and fans decorated the shelves. Rugs upon rugs covered the floor. Mirrors reflected back myriad statues and figurines. And bows adorned the chairs. All but one. All but our revolutionary relic.” p. 68
Though in some ways this story seems a frothy society tale, the book is set against a background of serious issues. Through the book How The Other Half Lives by Jacob Riis, Clara becomes aware of a whole class of people – immigrants, tenement dwellers, tramps, prostitutes, drug addicts – that exist in dismal conditions. Father and Aunt deflect all her questions about the Mulberry Street section of town, however, and it is only when she begins to uncover family secrets that she fully appreciates the charade she finds herself in.

The role and place of women in society is another of the story’s themes. That includes an exploration of marriage – viewed by Victorian women as the only way to gain security and position so you’d better marry for money, not love. As Aunt explains it: “True love is an illusion spun for young girls to seduce them into marriage. It is nothing but a myth.” p. 334.

The spiritual message of God accepting us as we are is subtle yet captures our attention in its contrast to society’s obsession with molding especially women into something they are not. It is delivered mostly via Clara’s memories of her mother and the hymns she sang – especially her favorite “Just As I Am.”

She Walks in Beauty is sure to interest fans of Americana and the Victorian era. For any who have ever wished they could experience what it was like to be a debutante, the book is a great substitute. One can live the whole business vicariously without ever having to twirl a fan, dance a schottische, or exist 24/7 cinched into a corset.

(I received She Walks in Beauty from Bethany House for the purpose of writing a review)

new release: Crossing Oceans

Gina Holmes' blogmeister of the Novel Journey blog can now blog about a novel of her own. Her debut novel Crossing Oceans has released this month. I haven't read it, but it sure looks good.

Crossing Oceans trailer :

Gina talks about her book

on furthering your poetic aspirations

Thanks to Lemon Hound (aka Sina Queyras) a Canadian poet who was recently voted co-Poet Laureate of the blogosphere.

Thursday, May 06, 2010


False Creek, looking toward the Burrard Street Bridge 
& English Bay, Vancouver, BC


Next Week: WORK (Creative, Manual, Tools, Work Spaces, Uniform, Office Equipment,...)

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

long thoughts

We're just back a few hours from attending my cousin's funeral. She was only three years older than I am. For the last four and a half years she's been fighting cancer. She fought hard because she had a lot to live for, like a new baby granddaughter only months old and a son who is engaged to be married. Funerals always cause me to think about my life -- what's really important, what isn't.

Here is the song she chose to begin her memorial service:

God's Been Good by Legacy Five.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Book review: Walk Like You Have Somewhere to Go: From Mental Welfare to Mental Healthby Lucille O'Neal

Title: Walk Like You Have Somewhere to Go: From Mental Welfare to Mental Health
Author: Lucille O'Neal
Publisher: Thomas Nelson, March 2010, Hardcover, 256 pages.
ISBN-10: 159555307X
ISBN-13: 978-1595553072

Lucille O’Neal shows us that champions can have the humblest beginnings. In Walk Like You Have Somewhere to Go, this mother of NBA champion Shaquille O’Neal tells her inspiring story. (Note: The word "Health" in the title above is not a typo. The actual book cover has "Health" in the subtitle, not "Wealth" as it appears on the cover image)

From her earliest memories of the stern discipline of her grandparents and the confusion caused by the absence of her mother, one is impressed by the hurdles Lucille O’Neal had to overcome. Lack of self-love, low self-esteem and absent confidence were what characterized much of her life – especially her youth. Her unusual height (she was six feet tall by the time she was twelve, though a mere 95 lbs.) only added to her misery. Being called names like “Olive Oyl” and “Jolly Green Giant” soon had her walking with a studied slouch. That’s what stood out about Lucille to her pastor one Sunday morning and provoked her outburst in front of the whole congregation: “Lucille, walk like you have somewhere to go.”

That advice along with the encouragement of her mother (they were ultimately reunited) and O’Neal’s own gumption, determination and faith in God brought about the eventual transformation to the Lucille O’Neal of today: mother of a champion (and three other successful kids), college graduate, public speaker, fundraiser for charities, and motivational coach.

One of the things I loved most about Lucille O’Neal was her mothering. What a natural! Though she was only 18 and unwed at the time Shaquille was born, she was a conscientious and dedicated mother right from the start. Later when her family included a husband and three more children, she made sure school and homework came first and ensured she knew where her kids were and that they were busy and active during after-school hours. No way were her kids going to get in with the wrong crowd. During Shaquille’s first season in the NBA, she traveled on the road with him as often as possible.

O’Neal’s first-person telling of the story is like sitting beside this obviously spunky lady and listening to her talk. Here, for example, is her account of going back to school as an adult:
“Though I was completely scared to death at this new challenge in my life, those first few weeks of school were as amazing and soul satisfying as I knew they would be. That’s not to say I didn’t struggle, because I must certainly did. I hadn’t picked up a book in nearly two decades, and I’d left half of my memory back in a beer bottle somewhere” (p. 175).

The story, told in 33 named and numbered chapters, is interesting, entertaining and easy to follow. The 200 pages of narrative also contain a few photos (black and whites, appearing with the text). In the end-matter O’Neal lists forty of her favorite Bible verses and eighteen favorite songs. “A Note From Lucille” contains a snippet from one of her motivational talks, giving us a taste of this mother’s backbone-building optimism:
“While your peers are sitting you will concentrate on STANDING; while your peers are standing, you will stand tall and STAND OUT; while your peers stand out, you will be the one OUTSTANDING. And as a result of your mental wealth state, you will be the example by which all other standards will be measured!” p. 224.

Whenever Lucille was dragging her feet about getting to this book project Shaquille would remind her how inspiring her story could be for the countless people facing the same obstacles and setbacks that she had faced in her life. There is no doubt this upbeat autobiography will accomplish what the author’s son envisioned.

Read an excerpt.

(I received this book from Thomas Nelson as a part of their Book Sneeze program. This review was first published on

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