March 20th

Day 79 — First day of Spring–hah!  But, at least it’s here.  Days are longer, you can feel the change in the air.

A bit of a disappointment today — the kids couldn’t come for dinner as planned because they’re all sick.  But nice of them to stay away so Tim and I don’t catch it.  Not with the Break coming up.

Silver lining — my sister in law Michelle called with an offer of a free ticket to go see Billy Elliot.  Couldn’t refuse!  Have been wanting to see the show, and an evening with her was long overdue.  Unfortunately, neither of us was really impressed with the show — for some reason it comes off very flat and emotionless, for a story that’s supposed to be so full of the joy and spirit of life and following your dreams.  Ah, well, it was still worth it.

Sunday, and it’s do or die time

Well, it’s overtime in the Canuck’s/Kings game.  It’s win this or go home for the Canucks.  I want them to win, sooooo badly.

I can’t say that they’ve played their best game tonight.  If not for Cory Shneider, i think this series would have been over quite a while ago.

I’m getting so tired of hearing “and the puck goes to ______________, but he couldn’t handle the pass”  Seriously!?

OMG!  the freaking puck just hit the post!  The chances in this game are unbelievable.  I’m trying to remain calm, but it is incredibly hard.

Come on boys, that’s all I can say.

They just lost.  They’re out of the playoffs.

Oh, well.

It’s up to the Senators now.

I’ll be there next year.  To cheer them on.

Please, please, please, though, Vancouver, get yourself some hitters.

It’s late on a Saturday night. . .

Just a quick post to review a book and a movie.

First, the book:  Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.

This was an okay book.  I was more than a little disappointed in it, because I had heard such great things from others who’d read it.

It should have been a wonderful story, but, for whatever reason it lacked real emotion.  The truest parts in the story take place in the nursing home where the elder Jacob recounts his tale of life in the early 1900’s working for a travelling circus.

The story has all the elements of a great story — love, betrayal, hardship, cruelty, mental illness, circus life, depression-era trials and tribulations, animals — it truly has it all.  None of it, though, ever connected with me.

And, I think, after having a couple of discussions with other people who’ve read the book, the reason is that it was written with a screen option in mind.  It doesn’t say that on the dust jacket, but while I was reading it I would come across a scene and immediately I’d think:  Well, won’t that play out well on the screen.

Call me jaded, cynical, harsh, whatever you want, but I find this to be true with a lot of the books being written today.  Anything popular, that is.  It’s like the authors are giving us the outline of a story, they’re providing a bunch of scenes that are loosely connected, but they lack any real art.

I find it very difficult these days to find books that really grab me.  Even The Hunger Games (which I recently reviewed), good as I thought they were, were obviously written with a movie in mind.

Gruen’s writing is solid, though I found it seemed to plod where it should have sung.  For some reason I can’t fathom she chose to throw in various sordid sex scenes — usually portraying grotesque or deviant behaviour.  These were rather jarring and other than acting as a contrast to the ‘pure’ love Jacob feels for Marlena, I couldn’t discern any reason for including them.

For me, this book, which should have been so full of life and emotion, fell flat.  It began with an anti-climactic whimper; and ended on an absolutely improbable and ridiculous notion; it was, when all is said and done, about as second-rate as the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth was.

I’d rate this book:  2.5 stars

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Now, for the movie:  War Horse by Stephen Spielberg.

This is a lovely movie.  I was afraid to see it because it deals with: war, and horses in war.

I did not want to see animals suffering; I just can’t stand that.  And, I can’t stand movies about war — I can’t stand thinking of humans suffering.

So, usually, I do my best to avoid both those themes in movies, but, I had heard how good this movie was and had been assured that it wasn’t very graphically violent.

It isn’t.  The worst part involves the Germans’ treatment of the horses, how they used them til they died in the hauling of heavy artillery.  But, thankfully, that is a very small part of the movie.  The British are shown as being far more compassionate towards the horses, but I think there just might be a little historical bias involved.

The hero of the story, a horse named Joey, is a ‘miraculous’ horse.  He was raised and trained by a young English lad who treated him with kindness, intelligence and love.  Those traits were imprinted on Joey and when he goes into service as a war-horse he continually demonstrates a depth of character that astounds all those (save the evil German in charge of getting the big guns up a steep hill so that he can shell the peaceful French community below) he comes in contact with.

While I was watching this movie I couldn’t help thinking of stories like The Black Stallion, My Friend FlickaBlack Beauty and Beautiful Joe.  All great stories about the plight of much-loved animals who because of unfortunate circumstances suffer mightily before they finally find peace and protection with people who love them. It took me back to the days when I was a girl and couldn’t get enough of the Famous Dog or Famous Horse Stories compilations.  (I used to make my mother crazy because I’d either be blubbering about the horrible treatment the animals I was reading about endured, or, I was wandering about enraged and fraught with righteous indignation because of it.)

I know this movie was a play before it was a movie, and you can easily see how it would play out on a stage.  Whether or not a make-believe horse would have the same emotional wallop as a real one though is something I’d have to debate.

It’s a beautiful, heart-felt story, something big and lovely and innocent.  It made me cry and it made me smile.  What more can you ask from a good story?

I’d rate this movie:  4 stars

Monday Afternoon, Family Day in Alberta

Well, it is a gorgeous sunny afternoon here in Bon Accord.  A bit on the cold side, but, really, for February, not so bad.

I had a very nice visit with my sister Jennifer and her family this weekend.  Tried to work my son and his family into the mix, but, alas, it was not possible.  They are a very busy bunch!

As it is right now, I am enjoying the afternoon to myself.  Jenn, Dave and the kids went home this morning, and Tim went out for a ride with his friend Dave.

I finally finished Black House.  What an abysmal disappointment!  The Talisman was such a fantastic book, but this sequel was nothing but a sad mish-mash of nothing.  It took forever to get to the actual story, and then it was treated so tritely it was almost an insult.  Characters were never fully developed, and those I thought crucial to the story were just dropped off the edge of the story as if in to an abyss.  I have never felt so cheated as I have by this book and these two authors, who I count as favorites.  Surely, they didn’t write this book only for the money?  Neither of them needs it, so I can’t imagine why they bothered to waste their time and the reader’s.

As soon as I kicked Black House to the curb, I picked up The Hunger Games.  I have heard much about this book, and now the movie is coming out shortly.  Therefore, I must read it.  And so far, I’ve read four chapters.  It’s a quick read, well-written and engaging.  It’s a familiar theme found  in many futuristic stories, but there is an interesting little twist to it.  I have all three books in the series and think I should be able to get through them all in the next month.

I had set a goal of reading a book a month at the beginning of 2012.  It’s taken a month and half to get through Black House.  If I can read all three of The Hunger Games books, I’ll be ahead of the game!

Something to complain about:  Bruce Springsteen has not released any Canadian dates for his new WORLD tour.  What’s with that.  Are we not part of the world?  I really want to see him in concert again before he decides to retire.  And, as he is 62 years old, I can’t imagine that retirement is too far off.

I just bought two new Bruce albums (new to me)  The Seeger Sessions (absolutely amazing — what I wouldn’t have given to see him perform the concert version of that album in Ireland!)  and Lucky Town.  Lucky Town is an album of works from earlier in his career (a little before the mid-point, I’d say) and has some wonderful, haunting tunes on it.  If you’re a Bruce fan, I recommend checking out both of these albums.  The Seeger Sessions, though, is my immediate favorite — Old Dan Tucker gets me in a great mood on the ride to work these days.

I hope everyone had a terrific Family Day (those of us lucky enough to enjoy such a holiday) — and if you weren’t, well I hope you have a fantastic and stress-free week ahead.

Cheers!

Busy, busy, busy

It’s been a busy few days for us here in Bon Accord.

My grandchildren came for three days — a much-anticipated visit.  We were set to go camping for the weekend.  Were to leave on the Friday, July 15th to spend a few fun days out at Long Lake Provincial Park.  Where we had gone camping with our son a few times when he was much younger.

I was excited — the weather was supposed to be good — at least no rain, and the thought of spending a couple of days at the beach in the sunshine seemed like heaven.  However. . .

. . . we woke to grey skies on Friday and a temp of only 18 for a high.  Still, undaunted, we set out.  We arrived at the campground around 3:30 (can’t check in before 4 p.m. — camping is certainly not what it once was, more on that to come) and found our spot.  I wish to God I had taken a picture of our ‘campsite’ because it was nothing but a joke.  Tim and I were appalled.  It was barely big enough to pitch our tent!  The description said it was a pull-through, but in reality all it was was a patch of gravel with a fire pit in the middle and a picnic table to one side.

We think that this ‘site’ once was a place for visitors to park as there were three concrete parking barricades in front of it.  But, we decided that since we were there, and it was the last spot in the campground we had best make do.

This is where I rant a little about how camping has changed.

I had reserved our spot two weeks in advance; at that time I was told that there was just one spot left in the campground.  When I checked out the picture on-line the site actually looked pretty decent.  It seemed large and well treed, with plenty of space for the kids to run around in.  When I asked could we not just show up and pick a spot I was told no, that the campground was now a 100% reserve-only camping facility.

Years ago, before the government handed over the operation of its parks to private contractors, this was not allowed.  Anyone could drive out to a park and pretty much be guaranteed they would find a camp site.  That is always how we camped — none of this reserve first nonsense.

Now, you can’t get into some parks unless you have a pre-paid permit.  If you arrive before 4 p.m. the day of your reservation you are charged an additional $5 for early check-in.  If you stay beyond the 2 p.m. check-out time you are charged an additional $5.  Firewood is $6.00 a bundle, and a bundle is barely adequate to get your fire started.  We spent $30.00 on wood.  Our campsite cost $23/night plus an additional $12 administration fee.  Suffice it to say I will likely not be returning to Long Lake.

My husband said it years ago, and though I don’t like to paint him in the guise of a prophet, I’d have to say he was right when he said that camping was going to become an activity only for those who could afford it.  Once upon a time at Long Lake a camp site cost  only $7/night and the firewood was free.  I realize that times change, and that governments cannot run things like parks at a loss, but really, to turn to gouging people for the right to spend a few days and nights in the fresh, open air is criminal.

Anyway, back to my story.

We made the best of the situation that we could, got the tent up, took the kids to the playground, cooked some hamburgers over an open fire and generally had a pretty good time.  There was some difficulty in getting in touch with my son and his wife to let them know we had arrived safe and sound as there is no cell phone reception at the lake, and I did not have enough quarters for the payphone ($2.25 for 3 minutes), I could not place a collect call to my son’s cell phone (not allowed) and, apparently the texts my husband was sending were not getting through.  The park rangers came to our campsite to tell us our son wanted us to call.  How? I asked.  Oh, you have to drive out of the park, up to the store at the corner of the highway, they said.

I took my 22 month old grandson with me and went to place the call.  After assuring my son that his children were safe I made my way back to the campground where I wound up stuck behind some a –hole who was filling up the water tanks in his trailer.  He could have pulled over to let me pass before he started but no, Ethan and I had to sit there for 20 minutes waiting, waiting, waiting.

By the time we got to our camp it was nearly 10:30.  He was tired and so was I.  I heated up his bottle then nestled him inside his father’s sleeping bag and covered him up with extra blankets.  I’m sure he wondered what the hell was going on.  Having never been in a tent before he laid there with his little eyes wide open, his head turning at each strange sound beyond the wall of the tent.  Eventually, I left him and went out to join Tim and my other two grandchildren.

It was now feeling quite cool outside.  We roasted marshmallows in the dark and told the kids some stories about camping with their dad.  At about 11:30 we decided it was time to tuck them in.  I was feeling pretty miserable by this point — the total inadequacy of our arrangement was glaring.  And, to make matters worse, when Tim inflated our air mattress the valve burst, so, all of us, except Ethan, were going to spend the night sleeping on top of gravel.

Tim and I packed it in shortly after midnight.  The kids were sound asleep, in fact, when I had tucked them in they were thrilled to get in their sleeping bags.  This, thankfully, was a huge, exciting adventure for them.

And all would have been fine if I had managed to get some sleep and it hadn’t been raining when I woke up the next morning.  As we were situated above a beaver pond I heard the beavers felling trees and slapping the water in alarm all night.  Then, there were the party-ers a few camp sites away who were up til about 3 a.m.  Add to the that the couple of dummies who decided to get in to a fight around 4 a.m.  I was terrified that the kids would become uncovered and catch cold so, every time they moved I was up adjusting blankets over, under and around them.   All in all, a very rough night.

At about 6:30 I got up, staggered down the road to the toilet then came back to put on some coffee.  The rain had tapered down to a fine drizzle, but as I poured hot water on my instant coffee it suddenly picked up momentum.  That’s when I decided that enough was enough.  I woke Tim and said, let’s go home.  We can’t have the kids out in this all day with no proper shelter, the beach would be terrible in the rain and there would be nothing for them to do.

We packed up as quickly as we could, bundled the kids into the car and headed home.  But not before letting the person at the gate know just what a horrible experience we’d had.  Not surprisingly, they didn’t care.  And, they said that had we let them know before 2 p.m. the day before that we weren’t going to be staying our second night we could have been given a refund.  The absurdity of that left me speechless.

I am over that now, however, and will be lodging a complaint with Alberta Parks.

The rest of our weekend with the kids was great.  We went swimming, had a picnic, played at the park, went for ice-cream several times and just generally had fun.  There’s always next year to try camping again and there are many other parks for us to try.

We’re in the market, though, for a small trailer or tent trailer.  If the weather isn’t great at least we’ll have proper shelter. And, besides that, Gramma and Grandpa simply cannot sleep on the ground anymore.

Our next adventure is a week at my sister Lori’s cottage with Landon, Jenn and the kids.  That, I’m sure, will be wonderful.

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Friday, Feb. 18, 2011

It has been too long since I last updated this.

I have given up on the no dessert for a year.

When I went for my weigh-in at Curves on the 7th I was sorely disappointed.  Their scale said I had lost a measly .5 lb.  My scale at home said I had dropped 4 lbs, but I chose to believe the Curves scale.  On top of that was the fact that the only place I had lost inches was on my thighs.

I already have skinny legs!  I don’t need skinnier ones!

Anyway, I spent a good 24 hours being really pissed off.  Then I got my shit together and decided that cutting dessert out of my life really wasn’t having an impact on my weight loss goals.  So. . .

. . .I’m taking a more realistic approach to this whole thing   I still want to lose 30 lbs., I still want to be healthier and make sure I have a good, strong, healthy heart.  To do that I will continue exercising — I’ve had my workout intensity level ramped up a notch at Curves and I’m attempting to get there 4 times a week — I have managed to get out for a couple of nice long walks — that was a week ago when we had spring-like temps.  Now that we’re in the deep freeze again. . .

My brief stint of not eating dessert (it was a month and a half) has taught me that I don’t really crave sweets as much as I had convinced myself I did.  I am satisfying my sweet tooth with fresh fruit and a daily serving of yogurt and granola.  It is certainly enough.  I will still limit how much and how often I have dessert.  I will replace cookies with my tea with a piece of fruit instead.  I will continue to chew on raw vegetables when I get the munchies.  (this is not my favorite thing to do — but it’s better for me, I know).

So, that’s my new approach.  I don’t feel like too much of a quitter.  I feel positive and energized.  And hopeful.