Posts from the ‘No topic’ Category

Day 14 of 100 Happy Days – Have a Hug, Old Man Winter.

Day 14-100

Day 14 of 100 Happy Days

It was -21*C in Edmonton yesterday. That was the air temperature. With the wind, it felt like -30*C.  That’s cold. That’s 10 minutes before exposed skin freezes. It was only 10*C colder on Mars…

I often wonder why Canada is populated.  Why didn’t the first settlers just say, “Damn it’s cold. Let’s move South”? Who knows, but they didn’t.  Instead they hunkered down in their sod huts, their layers of fur and toughed it out.

We sort of do a 21st century version of that, too. It is funny the coping mechanisms we use. Having lived all across Canada, I have heard all the catch phrases.

At least it is not -40*C for the 14th day in a row like on the Prairies,” they say in Eastern Canada.

At least were not getting hit by another blizzard like in the Atlantic Canada,” they say in Central Canada.

It’s a a dry cold!” they say in the West.”At least you can dress for it.”

Oh my, shut down the City…we got  1 cm of snow last night!”, they say in BC.

We use many strategies to deal with the cold. There are two extremes: to hunker down in your Snuggie, jam on the Netflix, and hibernate for a few months, or to kit up with super high tech materials and equipment and embrace the cold. I’d say that equal amounts of both are the best way to get through the dark, cold, Canadian winter.

There is some perverse satisfaction in having faced Old Man Winter, having stared him down – asking him to throw all he has at you – and coming out on top.

“Is that all you got, Jackie Frost?”

And as you warm up in the comfort of your house with the fireplace working overtime, the furnace humming efficiently, watching Netflix as the warm winter sun comes through the window, the fact that you took the cold on like a true Canadian creates that tiny aura of contentedness and happiness that comes with facing a little adversity.

Bring it on, Winter; I can handle it – I am a happy Canadian.

Later,

ASF

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Day 12 of 100 Happy Days -Old friends who pop in

Day 12-100

Great friends. like Lou, always bring a smile.

Day 12 of 100 Happy Days

Our transition to life after the military has been pretty smooth…in fact I think we have landed on our feet given that my departure was fairly quick due to a medical release after the heart surgery.

We are well settled and enjoying life, but….

One thing we have not been able to do is crack the social code on the outside. Though I have friends here in Edmonton and area, it has been ten years since I served here and the friendships, though still intact, are not as tight as when I was with the Regiment and the Brigade. A decade creates a lot of new opportunities, a lot of new demands, a lot of new experiences.

In my military career, each new posting unearthed a new series of friends…new relationships were started or old ones rekindled. There were meet and greets, and bbqs and Happy Hours and Mess Functions to meet new people or to be introduced to new people.

That is not so much the case in my new operating environment. Sure, people are friendly enough, but the dinner parties, the spontaneous kitchen parties, the afternoon beer sessions, haven’t materialized yet. Maybe they will over time, but there not here as of yet.

So when a great friend says they are popping into town from Ottawa for a night, and makes time to come for dinner, it is a special occasion. Even if it is not the knock’em down, drag’em out kind of night because we are older and there is a long drive to the airport hotel before a morning flight, it is still great to chat, to laugh,to hug.

Good friends make for good times; great friends make for great times.

Here in Alberta, the doors are always open.

Later,

ASF

Day 11 of 100 Happy Days – Mightier than the Sword.

Day 11-100 (2)

 

Day 11 of 100 Happy Days

For those that know me, I am an avid writer. Yes, I write blogs, but that is not what I mean. What I mean is that I take my penmanship quite seriously.

It started early.  I was always a neat writer. I remember being a fastidious printer and I can remember the effort I put into my cursive writing. You remember cursive…the handwriting of the teacher.  The square little cards above the blackboard that showed how to make the perfect I or Q. From pencil and eraser, we graduated to pencil only – and a ruler to strike out our errors.

And then we were given our pens…classic 29 cent bics, that eventually ended with chewed caps and those little plastic bits on the end that if you crushed just right with your teeth, would suction onto the end of your tongue.

I can remember all the pens that I went through…the quadruple bic pen with the red and green and blue and black ink. The roller ball, the gel pen, the Cross, the Parker. And then I moved to the fountain pen…first it was the Schaeffer with the disposable ink cartridges.

With the fountain pen I had finally found the writing implement that I would favour for the majority of my adult life.  I experimented with many versions – thin nibs, calligraphy nibs, thick nibs.  I love the feel of a fountain pen and the smooth, elegant script that it would produce. I ignored the constant ink stains on my fingers and the occasional Rorschach ink blot on the page.  It added to the charm.

In 1992, the Mont Blanc Meisterstuck entered my life. And if a pen can define a man, this was it. That pen was my constant companion – save when I went on manoeuvres in the field. The heft of the pen was comforting and the strong, ornate nib etched a unique, bold, line that changed my writing style from functional to characteristic.

Those that know me know my handwriting. The ink, the signature, the way I make my letters, were an extension of my personality. People knew my notes.

I have owned that pen for over 23 years. I have used this fountain pen tens of thousands of times, and refilled it from black, burgundy, blue, royal blue, peacock blue, and green ink wells thousands more.  It has taken a few hard knocks, but nothing a few dollars and the skill of the Mont Blanc artisan could not replace. Every two years it goes into the “shop” for a tune up and a detailing, and comes back crisp and clean and ready for more yeoman service.

If you can care for an inanimate object, I would say that I do indeed care for that pen.

As we move to a more and more digital society, we become more dependent on laser jets and scans.  You can make your mark in thousands and thousands of computer fonts. And the letters, and certificates, and posters look marvellous.

But a handwritten note, on thick bond letter paper, in an envelope sealed with a wax cipher shows a level of attention that you cannot replicate with bits and bytes. This pen, and the notes and letters and cards that I write with it, are extensions of me. A carefully crafted, handwritten, personal note will bring a happy smile to anyone, which means that I can bring a smile to anyone. And that makes me pretty happy!

Later,

ASF

Day 9/100 Happy Days -K’I play, too?

Day 9-100

Day 9/100 Happy Days

Twice a day, I walk the dog. We usually take a leisurely loop around the wetlands behind the house. In the summer we enjoy the scenery, the cattails and the trees, and try very hard to avoid the goose and duck poo.

During these walks early in the summer, I looked at the water and thought to myself, “I betcha that would make a superb ice rink in the winter.”  And I looked forward to seeing rinks pops up when the weather got cold.

Imagine my disappointment in October when the county officials put up signs warning that the any ice would be unsupervised and potentially unsafe. “Danger, danger!”, the signs screamed at all within eye-shot. I could not believe that in Canada, in the heart of the West, there would be warnings to keep kids off natural ice.  It just seemed un-Canadian.

And once the snow started falling and the thermometer dipped well below freezing for several consecutive nights, I noticed that the Canadian spirit could not be quashed. Forget that our boys bowed out early in this year’s World Juniors, there was ice to be freed of its snowy coat.

The rinks started appearing as if some jaunty ice leprechaun was dropping pond rink seeds in some sort of wintery magic. Several nice rectangular patches of marsh ice, cleared of snow the old fashioned way – by shovel and broom – bloomed spontaneously. And no sooner than they appeared that they were decorated by beautiful  4 foot by 6 foot rectangles that signalled, “Game on!”.  Canada’s passion, like, early life, found a way to appear from nothing.

These natural rinks are things of beauty.

Forget backyard rinks, this is the way old time hockey was played…on ponds.  Sadly, I have not been out on the ice yet…a strange, grown man invading a shinny rink teeming with kids is just odd – especially if none of those kids are his!  Part of me just wants to go out there and ask, “Hey, k’I play…I got a net?…”

The ice beckons me, offering me to partake in a little bit of Canadiana. Until I can get out there, the little kid in me is itching for a go.   Just the thought of being out there reminds me of my youth and happy times.

Later,

ASF

Day 8/100 Happy Days – Who are you wearing tonight?

Day 8 Meme

Day 8/100 Happy Days

It’s Awards Show Season!

The Golden Globes are on tonight. I like the Globes…it is the junior league of award shows. Serious, but not too serious; slightly less pretentious, and definitely funny – intentionally or not.  It is the warm up act for The Oscars, and gets us all primed for the narcissim to follow!

I do not really follow the whole celebrity thing and I do not really care who wins what film or TV show except that the Awards are usually a good indicator of what movies I should shell out the $13.00 at the theatre over the next few weeks.

But it does appeal to the voyeur in me – the one who wants to see the train wreck.

You know what I mean.

I want to know what will create the buzz for tomorrow. I want to know what special interest group is going to be most offended…by either the MC’s jokes, the presenters’ weird-ass attempts at livening up the dullest category of awards, some stray word uttered in the heat of the moment without malice, or whomever was scorned in the nominations.

I have to admit that I enjoy the awkwardness of the award shows. Firstly, the immense pressure that the MC is under.  The best ones are the irreverent ones – I do enjoy Ricky Gervais as he is both fearless and tactless…a great mix to ensure hilarity.  However, so many other moments can make you cringe.

Like…

The great teleprompter moments…it is boggling how can actors who spend their whole careers adding feeling and emotions to scripts, can be so bad at reading the prompts.

I love the way the cameras pan on all the nominees, and relish the moment when we get to see in real time (plus seven seconds, of course) the poker faces and painful smiles of congratulations on the face of the those who did not win. I am waiting for the day when one of the losers breaks out in tears, like an U-21 athlete who has been knocked out of the World Finals. It’ll happen someday!

I love the winner’s or tribal leader’s  hunt for that scrap of paper, the one with notes in six font; their frantic search all their pockets for a pair of glasses,  as they start to thank everyone and anyone for their victory. I love how they start out deliberately and carefully, and then gradually pick up speed like a Klezmer band as the time wears on and the Award Show Orchestra plays louder and louder – an aural “shut the f*** up” and get off the stage.

Finally there are unscripted moments…the faux pas, the stumbles, the shock.

It is theatre and it is entertainment. I love how such a self-congratulatory event becomes bigger than itself…it makes my every day seem so much saner.

Later,

ASF

Day 7/100 Happy Days – Carnivorous Rex

Day 7-100 Meat Periodic Table

Day 7/100 Happy Days

It was my sister’s birthday yesterday and we went out for a family dinner. It was a celebration. It required meat.

Today is Saturday.  Have to make dinner for the gang. It requires meat.

Need to eat tomorrow. Better reach into the freezer and thaw some meat!

I am a carnivore. I love meat: beef, lamb, goat, poultry, game, fish. I like it grilled, barbecued, roasted, spitted, smoked, crock-potted, pan fried, seared, stewed, poached or simmered.

I am not sure where I developed the taste…maybe it is making up for my childhood, when meat was scarce and the occasional weekend treat. Maybe it is because I love the taste.

I know. I have read the ethical debates, the moral stances, the environmental concerns that swirl around the meat/vegan debate. I know there is a dark side to producing meat on an industrial scale.

I also know about the health side of the debate. I have been educated on fats, and cholesterol and cooking methods.

In the interest of expanding our horizons, and maybe our lives, we have now instituted meatless Mondays. There are some great alternatives to meat – some great dishes that are tasty involving vegetables and legumes and pulses.

But they are not meat.

Before you try to convince me otherwise or tell me how evil I am, I understand your viewpoint. And I get it.  I still love meat and will continue eating it – with relish. (Pun sorted of intended…). To me, a day without appeasing my carnivorousness is like a day with sunshine. A lovely steak, or stew, or soup, or roast just makes me happy.

Yum, yum – where’s my hasenpfeffer, rabbit?!

Later,

ASF

Day 6/100 Happy Days – Camellia sinensis, or A Cuppa (if you prefer)

Day 6-100 Happy Days

Day 6/100 Happy Days

Major General Urquhart: Hancock. I’ve got lunatics laughing at me from the woods. My original plan has been scuppered now that the jeeps haven’t arrived. My communications are completely broken down. Do you really believe any of that can be helped by a cup of tea?

Corporal Hancock: Couldn’t hurt, sir.

Operation MARKET GARDEN in  A Bridge Too Far (1977)

‘Ow ’bout a cuppa Rosie Lee? A Builder’s? Or do you prefer exotic and dangerous like Lapsang Souchong or maybe Oolongs. Maybe a respectable, venerable Earl Grey….or maybe just some comforting and soothing Chai  – milk and sugar.

I grew up on tea. It was the staple hot beverage in our house. Nice strong traditional Indian tea, black or pekoe, was brewed with a heady mixture of  cardamom, cinnamon, cloves – a special ingredient my Mom called “chai masala”.  Loaded with milk and sugar, it still is beyond compare!

The cups of tea would start first thing in the morning, usually delivered by Mom while we were still in bed, just shaking the sleep from our eyes. It was the best tasting laxative that a child could ever ask for, and was the homeopathic solution to constipation and all sundry affliction related to it – headaches and grumpiness being the two most common.

That was the Pavlovian conditioning. Tea equals love and comfort and care. It has been that ever since.

Now I know that some people are coffee people – and I have to admit that I can be bi-caffeinal. Mostly at work. Coffee has its own unique merits, but comfort is not one of them. Coffee is a no-nonsense hot beverage.

Coffee signals business, business, business…wake up, stay awake, stay alert…it is the pick-me-up needed during long meetings or conferences. It fights boredom. It is the trophy of our constant drive-thru hunts. The extra large we rush in and out of as we dash from place to place and commitment to commitment. It is the human fuel of the long distance road trip. It is the drink of commerce, all frothy and tarted-up, flavoured with syrups and creams and covered in chocolate sprinkles or powdered cinnamon. It is dolled up to disguise its taste – mocha or pumpkin or brulée. It is the adrenaline that jacks us up and gets us all fuelled to take on the world.

It is not tea.

Tea is the yin to coffee’s yang.  Tea means that you are taking the time – the time to boil the kettle, the time to steep the tea as the lovely herb is brought back to life from its dehydrated stasis, the time to sit and open a newspaper, a magazine, or a good book and expand your horizons. It gently encourages you to sit and reflect. To pull up a chair and have a chin wag. It evokes images of family and friends and steaming cups of fragrance, fortified with lashings of sugar and milk.  It doesn’t necessarily solve the world’s problems, but it makes life so mellow that you actually don’t care about them!

After a particular demanding round of home DIY, after a hectic period of errands, after an evening meal, nothing hits the spot like ambrosia under the tea cozy…

Add a cookie – or biscuit, if you prefer – and it’s heaven.

Put the kettle on then, eh? Oh, Happy Day!

Later,

ASF