Day 16 of 100 Happy Days – The fruits of our labour…

Day 16-100

Orange you glad I didn’t say banana?….

Day 16 of 100 Happy Days

I take my lunch to work everyday. It varies…sometimes it is a sandwich, sometimes leftovers, sometimes it is a something grilled on some greens. Tuna, beef, chicken, pork…all of them have been in there in some way.

But regardless of the midday, brown bag, main course, there just has to be a piece of fruit, or two. Fruit  makes the lunch whole, and signals that it is over!

Today, there are so many different types of fruit…citrus, melons, berries, whatever you call the banana family, the apple and pear gang, the fruit with pits like peaches and plums, and cherries and grapes,  and then the whole bunch of exotics– pineapples and passion fruit, persimmons, lychees (or is that a nut), papaya, guavas and so on and so on. (I won’t include tomato in this list…though technically it belongs here. I just have never had a tomato with whipped cream….)

If you have not tried them all, and sampled the cornucopia of other fruit that is available, do you know what you are missing?

As a kid with braces, fruit was became our candy as gum, gummmies, and toffees were not on the “allowed list”. Of course there was the occasional sweet – usually plain milk chocolate –  but my parents were smart. They knew fruit could scratch many itches: it was special, we loved it, and it prevented scurvy!

The real treat was on a weekend afternoon when we used to share a massive fruit plate – usually after the Sunday 10km walk through Toronto’s valley parks (my Dad’s favourite hobby, since fresh air was cheap). Mom would peel and core the apples, wash the cherries, slice the bananas, quarter the oranges, add the grapes. And If it was on sale, we would get the treat of a fresh mango or two, watermelon, or a  whole peeled, cored pineapple – you know the kind that came in the large clear plastic tubs.

And if the fruit was expensive, or out of season, the fallback was tinned fruit – a British delicacy!  I remember the joy, just short of squeals,  that a tin of fruit would elicit – probably more than fresh fruit. I think it was because the sweet syrup was manna from heaven by itself, let alone when Mom jacked it up by adding some evaporated milk to it.  The peaches and pears in the fruit cocktail was great – except for those washed out cherry halves that looked like discarded shrunken clown noses and those grape halves that looked at you like some kind of aged eyeball. .

We are incredibly lucky that we can enjoy fruit even if it has to be trucked in from southern climes. I have to remind myself that for many it is an unaffordable luxury.  Sometimes I forget that.

That is why I am happy that everyday can include a little bit of nature’s bounty.

Eat your fruit!

Later,

ASF

Day 15 of 100 Happy Days – Bored? I’m game…

Day 15-100

Pennsylvania, B&O, Reading, Short Line Railroad or the Mexican Cardinal Train?….

Day 15 of 100 Happy Days

I really enjoy board games and card games. We used to play board games a lot when I was a kid. My mother and father loved them and it was a family thing to do. I remember lying on the living room floor, we did not have a table big enough,  and playing all sorts of games with my brother and sister and my parents.

Charades, Snakes and Ladders, Checkers, Chess, Parcheesi, Yahtzee were the kind of games we mastered when we were younger. And as we got older, we moved to Sorry, Dominoes, Risk, Monopoly, Operation, Scrabble, Life, Mouse Trap, Jenga, Yahtzee, Trivial Pursuit, Master Mind, Clue, Charades….the list goes on and on.

It was fun to play, even if my Dad invented the most annoying song in the world, which he sang after each of his victories…”Loser the packer! Loser the packer!…” The words ringing in your ears as you collected the pieces and placed them in the box.  I am sure he helped, but I don’t recall it!

It was serious business back then. Winning and losing was important. I suppose it still is, but now it is just as fun to play.

For a brief period, the video game ruled. I still enjoy the infrequent jaunt on the game console…even if I am rubbish at it. But that is not a very social event, even if I am getting my butt kicked on line.  But the board game, or family game, is a whole different experience.

As opposed to a gang passively watching someone punch on a game controller, many are  involved in the same game at the same time.

Today the games can move into the ribald and risque, but the spirit is still the same. Balderdash, Pictionary, Cranium…and the game that shall not be spoken aloud – Cards Against Humanity!

No matter the game, it is always full of laughter, excitement, and fun…the jibes, the jokes, the taunts.  They are interactive and so engaging. Hours can while away as you spend time with those you care about trying hard to be a good sport!

This Christmas was a board game renaissance. It was great to reconnect with family over the kitche table, enjoying the spirit and the spirits. Good times!

This afternoon in the warmth of the kitchen, my lovely bride and I whiled away an hour or two playing Mexican Train – in which game she seems to have a lucky horseshoe!  In a few days it may be Scrabble, or Pick Up Sticks, or Yahtzee. And so we will continue with the games and enjoy being together, keeping our minds and hearts active.

I am even happy when I am losing…which is a lot of the time!

Later,

ASF

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

Day 13 of 100 Happy Days – In Vino Veritas

“Wine is one of the most civilized things in the world and one of the most natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing.” ― Ernest Hemingway

“Wine is one of the most civilized things in the world and one of the most natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing.”
― Ernest Hemingway

Day 13 of 100 Happy Days

Had the good fortune to be invited out for drinks tonight. Well, a few glasses of wine actually.

Wine. Vino. Wein. Vin. Vinum.

I am not sure when I developed a taste for wine. I drank it when I was of age, but I did not have a schmick about what I was drinking. I remember buying Rothschild’s Mouton Cadet when I was younger…I was a cadet at the Royal Military College and my rank was on the wine label! How bad could it be?

I suppose I developed a taste when serving in Germany during the tail end of the Cold War; I drank fine German wines like Reislings and Weissburgunders (Pinot Noire), Gewurtz Traminers, late harvest and ice wines and made my foray into the Old World French wine…Bordeaux, Beaujolais, Cremants. There were so many and they all tasted wonderful.

At some point in your life, you move from shooters and hard hitting spirits, and become a wine person. It’s no longer about getting hammered, drinking as much as you can or as fast as you can. It is more about enjoying, about socializing, about sipping and tasting, about pairing…meats, fruits, cheeses, nuts, chocolate.  Maybe it comes with age…

Now it is all about heavy reds…Merlots, Cabernet Sauvignons,  Prioriats and Malbecs.

Wine can shift a mood…turn bad into good, turn good into great; it is consumed by the glass, by the bottle, or occasionally, by the bottles.

And while it should be consumed in moderation, occasionally we take Oscar Wilde’s advice, “Everything in moderation, including moderation”. El vino did flow…in a David Brent kind of way!

There have been many painful mornings, and many declarations of “never again”. But the sweet bacchanalian temptation always brings us back for a glass of red, white, rose, sparkling, fortified, late harvest, or ice…and happy times.

Later,

ASF

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 10 of 100 Happy Days – Piano Man in training

Day 10-100

Day 10 of 100 Happy Days

Today, I took up a new challenge. I took on something that has been sitting around quietly, partly taunting me, teasing me, mocking me.

A couple of years ago we purchased a nice digital piano. My wife owned a piano once, and a digital was an inexpensive way to have quality sound at a reasonable price – as well as with a reasonable space footprint. It was a hobby she enjoyed.

As for me, I do not know how to play piano. Nevertheless, this Christmas, my brother-in-law picked up my guitar, and with no lessons, theory or practice, was able to translate his piano know-how into actual carols and songs like some kind of savant.  I wanted to be able to do the same – on the piano that is, and without people thinking I was Dustin Hoffman.

So with the same vigour, and subject matter expertise and support  that I attacked my guitar playing over a decade ago, I have taken on the challenge of learning the piano. By  myself. Who needs formal lessons? I’ve got Google and You Tube.

So I downloaded a chord chart from the internet and started banging away. And despite the fact that I am absolutely horrible, it was an entertaining time. Wearing my headphones, I lost track of time as I tried desperately to tap ebony and ivory (or the synthetic versions of them) with rugby prop fingers, hoping to develop some sort of muscle memory as an anchor for my budding pianist aspirations.

After the hour, I was starting to sense some order emerging from the chaos and the jumble of black and white keys…the sequence, the scales, the chord patterns were making sense.  There is a repetitions, a predictability that  appeals perfectly to the orderly and methodical engineer’s mind. I know I can learn the chord and notes through analysis and identifying the repetition and symmetry.  Like the guitar there is math involved. And I like math!

So I will carry on, and hopefully over time, as I will get better. Maybe in the future there will be some creativity intermingled with the patterns and sequences.

But then again, maybe not.

It took a while for the guitar to stop screeching, so I think that Ray Charles, Elton John, Paul McCartney, Ray Manzarek, and the kid from School of Rock  have absolutely nothing to worry about. Hopefully one day I’ll hear someone say, “Sing me a song, you’re the Piano Man.” Guffaw, guffaw!

But regardless of how it goes, a new goal means new challenges. And new challenges mean happy times…

Wish me luck!

Later,

ASF