Category Archives: thoughts and observations

MORE FENCES, GATES AND OTHER STUFF

When I take my morning walks, I have no specific routes in mind. My area has an amazing number of connectors and lanes that beckons; and I enjoy the adventure of discovering something new or unusual that captures my attention.

On one of the many lanes and connectors, there is a fence that is a delightful and whimsical display of the many “treasures” an imaginative homeowner had found at garage sales or collected over the years.

Gates are often a sight to enjoy. I came across the “Spirit Deer” gate which stopped me in my tracks.

The homeowner also had another “Spirit Deer” gate at the

front of his house. I was passing his back gate that faced a lane.

On another morning I discovered a pair of ornate gates that shielded a medical building’s parking lot. I had passed it many times and only discovered they showed a pair of hummingbirds. . . .

And what about nooks and crannies? Don’t you just love what creative homeowners do with small spaces? One homeowner made an artistic display of their short driveway fence. And, by a Rooster back gate, there is a rustic seat beneath a shady tree.

On my route homewards, a swinging cat and a vintage bike on a rusty gatepost ruled the scenery. . . .Where do people find these?

It’s amazing what a person can see. . . when a person really looks.

THE EARLY BIRD CATCHES THE. . . . .

I enjoy hitting the walking route early in the morning. This is the absolute best time to see the wildlife not normally seen later in the day. For me, this is also the coolest time of the day for a lengthy walk. The walk had barely started when I finally topped this hill and spotted Mama Deer and her Twins. She was “teaching” them the joys of nibbling someone’s garden and totally ignored me, so I hauled out my senior cellphone and snapped off a quick photo before noticing “Papa” was watching curiously behind me. Continuing on my way, a family of raccoons ambled across the road and up a long winding driveway. Mama Raccoon leading her 4 babies, while “Dad” followed at the rear–all focused on their morning buffet in another tasty garden. I totally missed that photo-op as I had never seen such a large party of raccoons before. By the time I thought of my cellphone camera, the family had disappeared from view.

It is astonishing how a densely populated urban area can produce wildlife that can somehow survive and thrive. I have seen brown and gray squirrels; numerous deer, bucks and their off-springs; raccoons, a rabbit and a peacock along my various routes.

Gates never stop the wildlife. Deer could go around or jump over them while raccoons could just mosey up the winding driveway like expected guests. Gates fascinated me because some gates screamed “Private, Go Away.”

While other gates beckoned and smiled “Welcome” with a bit of floral art wrapped around the iron work. . . .

Fences and driveways can be amazingly aloof and private but can still give positive vibes with plants, ornaments or a bit of creative thought.

I enjoy the sight of pink roses that add a splash of color poking through a worn fence . . . . or a graceful ornamental crane to brighten a corner of their garden.

I love this sight –it looked so right in the garden. . . .

Splashes of brightly coloured geraniums against this fence, interspersed with bits of tiny blue flowers, grabbed my attention each time I pass. . . .

My early morning walks are a daily adventure as I never know what will be captured by my camera. All I know for sure is that it will tease the senses and make me stop, if only for a moment. . . .

LESS IS MORE. . .OR MAYBE NOT

Since the Covid isolation tentatively ended, I’ve noticed friends and family have looked more well-rounded, if you get my drift. Perhaps social interactions–pre-Covid–were often linked to group exercise and snacks, so the enforced self-isolation still linked to snacks, but without the closeness of social activities.

I have a theory about myself. There were no mini-donuts because the weekly Farmers’ Markets, the Arts and Crafts shows, the Collectible Car shows and all the other stuff that brings on the mini-donut carts were all cancelled for 2 long years. I should have been cured of mini-donuts and should have emerged, at least svelte, even if I was still short.

It didn’t work that way–at least, my Fairy Godmother didn’t make it happen.

You know that old saying, “If one addiction flies out the window, another will fly in”?

Well, I discovered a cookie that was so disgustingly healthy, that I can’t believe Hubby and I are devouring them. These cookies are dairy-free, gluten-free and vegan. AND, it shouldn’t have been delicious, but it was.

On one of my long walks, I had stopped to buy some fresh fruit and a bag of Rebel’s Peanut Butter cookies. The Chocolate Chip, the Cashew Butter and the Triple Chocolate with Walnuts slots were empty. There was a bag of White Chocolate with Macadamia Nuts left as well as a couple of bags of Cranberry Oatmeal, but I snagged the last bag of Peanut Butter and eternally grateful that I did. The taste buds were happily saturated with that real peanut butter flavour. And, the cookies were healthy.

Hubby tried one and declared it “O-kay,” which is equivalent to my enthusiastic “a Keeper!”

I tried to remember which store along which route that I got these scrumptious cookies from. None of the stores I returned to had any and no one recognized the brand-name.

I resorted to logical thinking. Selling a cookie that was dairy-free, gluten-free and vegan to boot would need a specific market, so I tackled the organic markets next. The first one I checked carried the Rebel brand but they were waiting for their next shipment that had been delayed by transportation problems. Having the bakery on the Mainland and living on an Island had its drawbacks. But being a resourceful person, motivated by the craving of having my cookie now, I remembered there was a second outlet enroute home. At that store, the new shipment had already been delivered so I got my bags of Peanut Butter, Chocolate Chip and Triple Chocolate with Walnuts.

Hey, you didn’t think I was going to miss out on the chocolate ones, did you? I had checked the list of ingredients and all the chocolate was dark and the chocolate chips were real dark chocolate and not carob. Hubby and I unanimously voted that these were all “keepers.” The best part is I know where to get more when the cookie jar is empty. . . without turning my oven on.

MEN AND CARS

Several Readers have requested this blast from the past as they remembered how much their little boys loved their cars when they were toddlers and still love their cars as adults.

I’ve often been baffled by men and their cars. Don’t get me wrong —I adore any male who knows how to handle an ornery car. That takes talent and artistry and a confident craftsman to deal with automotive problems. I’ve seen calm, gentle men go into shock-mode when confronted with the family car—battered and scraped from the war-zone of a shopping mall parking lot.

Me? I just want my car to take me from Point A to Point B without any hassles. And yes, returned safely too, without any new battle scars from careless shopping carts.

I have seen baby boys grasp their teddy bears and their tiny cars. It’s hard to say if the tiny cars take precedence over Teddy but you can bet your accelerator that the cars play a large part in their genetics.

My stepson has always been attracted to cars. Ever since I knew him as a sixteen year old car junkie, he always had his head under the hood and his hands near the engine, dealing with some doohickey that didn’t sound right, while his girlfriend obligingly stepped on the gas pedal for him. When my grandson was barely old enough to cling to the coffee table, he had a tiny toy car in his hand, making that sound like an engine revving up as he circled around the table. I remembered that because our table still has the grooves his tiny car made as he laughed and made car noises.

I am convinced that all baby boys have a genetic gene labeled “cars/trucks.” Little girls aren’t born with this gene even though they do learn about cars from their dads and/or brothers. But little boys are definitely born with the car/truck gene.

At Home Depot, I’ve seen those shopping carts with the miniature cars attached to the front. While little girls ride like princesses, little boys as young as 14-months, instinctively turn the steering wheel, push buttons , pull levers and honk the horn. See, it’s in their genetics.

Two blocks from our condo, there’s a huge construction site on the corner. A little guy, not quite 2 years old, was totally mesmerized by the huge bull-dozer tearing up the corner lot and tossing huge shovelfuls of dirt into the back of a waiting dump-truck. He had such a gleeful expression on his face by simply watching the action across the street. I’ve seen that same expression on a 4-year old who watched the fire-truck pull into the library parking lot. When the fireman noticed the little tyke’s fascination, he asked the little boy if he would like to come and sit beside him. I have never seen a little face beam so joyfully.

Try this on any 6-months old baby boy—hold a toy car in one hand and a soft stuffy in the other. Watch which one his eyes travel to first, At least 90% of the time, he’ll reach for the toy car. Congratulations–you have probably activated his car/truck gene and set the wheels in motion. Darn it, how can you not love a dedicated male and his car?

A SPRINGTIME JAUNT AROUND MY NEIGHBOURHOOD

When I start my early morning jaunts around my neighbourhood, I often have no idea where my route will take me. I follow my adventurous feet and discover corners and areas I never knew existed. A cedar chip path, off a residential street, led me through a grove of trees. Who would have known this existed except for the locals who lived close by?

With this pandemic heading into its second summer, people have tended to their homes and gardens with much more attention. Some neighbourhood streets have undergone transformations that brings a cheerful ambiance to their area. One street had talented artists who painted utility poles to show that Life doesn’t stop because of a virus.

Some homes are unique in creating spaces with a welcoming hospitality. . . . . .

Some homes choose to have unusual ornaments mysteriously hidden behind the foliage or in plain view.

Others choose to have an eye-catching entrance to their home.

Palm trees always make an impressive entrance and Victoria can certainly boast of palm trees popping up here and there. After all, we are the Banana Belt of Canada, especially in the winters and springs.

My feet are now on the final hill and homeward bound. The magnificent magnolias, in their creamy whites and pale pinks unfurl their petals in the various gardens I pass. But, it’s the stunning deep pinks of the small magnolia trees outside the grocer, that captures my attention.

Almost home and a few specially crafted “free lending libraries” are spotted along the route.

Down a sunny path and I’m finally home—another fun walk to Nowhere. . . . . . . .

MARSHMALLOWS and . . . .

I bought a 5-pound bag of marshmallows the other day. I was at the checkout and it fell into my cart. I told the lady it was for the grandkids but she gave me such a knowing look–she may as well have done the wink-wink thing.

It wasn’t really 5 pounds, probably more like 2 pounds. These were definitely not your normal size marshmallows. I would describe them as marshmallows on steroids. They were huge.

Monster Marshmallows

I will confess I had a craving for some marshmallows. I actually pictured them smaller and dipped in dark Belgian chocolate. Somehow, I got the big bag of colourful ginormous ones that decided they wanted to come home with me.

After he stopped laughing, Hubby told me I was on my own with the monster marshmallows. And after I ate about 5 or 6 or 7–spread over 2 days–I had to figure out some way to use them up. I decided on a pan of the family favourite–the familiar Rice Krispie Squares made of rice krispies, marshmallows and a dollop of margarine.

The bonus of the whole project was a nutritious snack composed of puffed rice, melted marshmallows that were light, slightly chewy and not too sweet; a generous splash of pure vanilla flavouring and a dollop of margarine—low-cal, low sugar, low fat and nutritious as heck.

What could be better for a normal human? Maybe next time I could melt some dark Belgian chocolate into this mixture or even peanut butter. After melting these colossal marshmallows, the colours disappeared somewhere but the results were still delicious.

A Bountiful Early Spring

Some things happen by accident like this awesome photo I took of the cover of my notebook and a piece of fancy ribbon with a sprig of flowers that had adorn my favourite soap. That’s what I call my eureka moment; others might call it a moment of inspiration.

Other things happen because of plain dumb luck—luck that can fall either way—50% good or 50% bad.

And once in a while, the Goddess of Fate smiles because she’s feeling especially great and an unexpected once-in-a-decade gift falls in your lap.

A something that is totally random, totally unplanned.

I swear on a stack of mystery thrillers that when I take my wandering walks, I have no destination in mind—just a vague sort of route that my mind is still deciding upon—but my feet are already taking on the challenge of hills, rocky steps and a chip trail.

Absolutely no thoughts of snacks or food at all.

I love this cool, crisp early Spring weather. Everyone and their dogs seem to be enjoying the fresh air, blue skies and steaming cups of coffee.

Whoa–did I just say steaming cups of coffee? Smiling faces pointed straight ahead and to the left—the walkers’ preferred destination for that area—“Casey’s,” a neighbourhood bakery for fresh-baked pastries, home-made chocolates and hot coffee.

My good fortune was the discovery of Dark Chocolate Kahlua Truffles and hot Mini-Doughnuts, all served up by the baker-man himself.

It was worth those steep hills, rocky steps and chip trail. Now it was time to be homeward bound to share my “bounty” with my Hubby. . .as well as another round on the elliptical

THOUGHTS

THOUGHTS are very important to jot down, to remember, even immortalize for posterity. . .if you’re a writer or a poet or merely someone who simply want to remember and record those perfectly crafted words.

It’s especially important to capture those elusive moments of inspiration when it happens. In my case, this often happens between midnight and dawn–if it happens at all.

I keep my pen and notebook by my bedside table, handy to scribble my ideas on paper—in the dark–as the simple act of turning on the bedside lamp, usually breaks that fragile ribbon of reflective thought.

When the scribbles are examined in the morning, most times, the scrawls are indecipherable.

I admire people who can say things that are often remembered in books, speeches or wherever.

Confucius said, “Words are the voice of the heart.” I can relate to that. Here are a few more wise words from some well-known people and philosophers..

Marilyn Monroe was definitely not a dumb blonde. She has been quoted saying, “The sky is not the limit–your mind is.”

There’s always a bit of truth in oft repeated quotes. Winston Churchill had it pegged right when he addressed the epidemic of rumours during WW2: “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” I liked the imagery.

As for gossip, Confucius had this to say, “The tongue must be heavy indeed because so few people can hold it.”

Winston Churchill could have been talking about our current pandemic instead of WW2: “Keep calm and carry on.”

And Barack Obama’s positive words could also apply to these difficult times: “A change is brought about because ordinary people do extraordinary things.”

I do enjoy quotes involving chocolates, coffee and doughnuts. I didn’t think of this one but I wish I knew who the “Unknown Author” was who must have loved doughnuts. “You need to understand the difference between want and need. Like I want abs, but I need doughnuts.”

Oscar Wilde must have been eating a doughnut to make this observation: “The optimist sees the doughnut; the pessimist sees the hole.”

Another quote I wish I had written but “Unknown Author” beat me to it: “Man doesn’t live by coffee alone–have a doughnut.”

Witty Fran Drescher spoke the truth when she commented: “Once you wake up and smell the coffee, it’s hard to go back to sleep.”

Amy Neftzger supports eating chocolates for she writes: “I’m pretty sure that eating chocolates keeps wrinkles away because I have ne ver seen a 10-year old with a Hershey bar and crow’s feet.”

Chocolate crosses all language barriers as Jann Bauer states: “When you don’t have the words, chocolate can speak volumes.”

Linda Grayson is best quoted for “There is nothing better than a friend unless it’s a friend with chocolates.”

Everyone has their own version of friendship and best friends. A.A. Milne’s “Winnie the Pooh” explained it the only way he could: “A day without a friend is like a pot without a single drop of honey left inside.”

Heather Pryor wrote: “A true friend reaches for your hand and touches your heart.”

Walter Winchell was quoted as saying: “A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out.”

But Audrey Hepburn described it best: “True friends are families you can select”

Keep well and stay safe, my friends. Remember these words from Katherine Hepburn: “It’s not what you start in Life–it’s what you finish.” So keep jotting down your thoughts; maybe one day, I’ll be quoting you. . . .

HARD KNOCKS AND POSITIVE VIBES

Sometimes, Life suddenly hands you a few hard knocks landing you on your backside and wondering what just happened. I remembered my Grampa would shake his head, bend down to pick up his five-year old granddaughter, dust her off and say, “Remember to spit in Faith’s eye to make you stronger.”

I always wondered who the heck Faith was and how was she going to make me stronger. Years later, I found out Grampa said that to all his grandkids and he was referring to Fate, fickle Fate and not Faith.

After three days, the rain had finally stopped and there was actually a blue sky. And, if you stood on the right spot, the warmth of a February sun would hit your face. I wanted to push away for a short while thoughts of Covid-19; the plight of the homeless; the occasional confrontation of opinionated people who, under normal circumstances, would have better anger management control; local and world politics and the list goes on.

Armed with mask, hand-sanitizer and mindful of the 6 feet social distancing, I was on a mission to find positive things. Strolling down the street, the first thing I saw were the wonderful

painted rocks that still looked as freshly painted as they did last Summer.

A few houses down were the early signs of Spring—-clusters of Snowdrops nestled close to some Winter blooming Hellesbores.

I had passed a frisky Malti-poo and his owner, both cheerfully waving—the former with his tail and the latter with her gloved hand. I had also stepped aside for a ginormous Newfoundlander and his short owner.

But it was the sight of the colourful Rooster that made me laugh.

This was such an unexpected sight that you couldn’t help laughing—especially when it was masked and socially distanced with his skiis.

I was already feeling optimistic and positive when I spotted the Bride and Groom Frogs.

This was definitely a sign of New Beginnings and Spring.

I continued on my circuitous route that would take me past a few interesting store fronts. By chance I came across this eye-catching entry to a physiotherapist’s office.

I liked this—after all, purple is a terrific colour.

I had wanted to photograph the entry nook to a new perfumery that occupied an older house.

It was too easy to miss from a mere stroll along the sidewalk. One had to pause to enjoy the serene setting.
I love the unexpected and this was at the beginning of a long driveway that —in the Summer, I expect there would be more greenery but even in the Winter, this still held an appeal.

And tipping the winter woolie hat to the upcoming Chinese New Year, I have to cheat and include this Chinese gong, taken last Summer at the Nursery.

I felt much better and had a sense of accomplishment. I had found my positive vibes and chased away any negative thoughts–if only for a short time. With the pandemic still occupying our day-to-day lives, it’s really up to all of us to grab those moments of cheer whenever and wherever we can.

Keep well, my Friends–stay calm, be safe and always keep some sunny thoughts close by.

Unmasking a Friend

This pandemic has brought out a few anomalies, but the one I marvel at most is when I can walk freely into a bank wearing my dark mask, my woolie hat and my big dark glasses without being stopped or having any eyebrows lifted. I marvel at this because only a year ago—pre-pandemic—the bank had a large sign at the entrance proclaiming that anyone entering had to remove their hat, their dark glasses and anything obscuring his/her face. What a difference a year made.

During this pandemic era—the talent we all acquire—to varying degrees, is the ability to recognize friends who are wearing masks. Eyes are very personable and are usually—note, I said usually –an identifying feature of good friends.

Laughing blue eyes danced above a mask with tiny black cats cavorting against a cream coloured background.

“Hello, my Dear Friend,” was the joyful greeting. “It’s been too long since I’ve seen you!”

“It certainly has been much too long,” I replied, at the same time thinking those eyes are familiar. Is that Betsy from my sing-along group?”

“Oh my, it’s been so long since I’ve seen anyone from our group. I feel like I’ve been let out of jail and this is my first day of freedom.” The merry blue eyes twinkled above her face mask as she carefully looked me over. A slightly puzzled look appeared briefly in her eyes and swiftly passed.

“It’s been awhile since I’ve seen anyone from our group,” I replied, desperately searching my memory for the name belonging to merry blue eyes who likes cats.

“There’s quite a few of us living in this area and I’m always surprised we don’t meet more of our group.”

“I’m only sorry we can’t enjoy a cup of coffee somewhere,” I replied regretfully.

“Me too. You know, I always thought our bird-watching group was safe. After all, we’re socially distanced and it’s all outdoors, so I couldn’t understand why this was all cancelled until futher notice.”

“Bird-watching? I’m sorry I’m not in your bird-watching group. I thought you were in my sing-along group!”

“You know, I thought there was something different about you, but I didn’t think it would be mistaken identity!” Merry-Blue-Eyes laughed.

“These darn masks makes it hard to recognize anyone including family,” was my amused answer. “Yesterday, I met my cousin for lunch. She was wearing her mask plus a new short haircut that was hard for me to recognize her. I was commenting on her “Audrey Hepburn” hair-do when I felt this tap on my shoulder and a familiar voice said, “Sorry, I’m late but parking is terrible here. Who’s your friend?” It was then I realized I had been chatting to a total stranger.

The blue-eyes were laughing when I told my “cousin” story. “Oh my,” she chuckled, “that is so funny. Now we both have another pandemic story to tell our friends and families.”

We exchanged names so that next time we saw each other in the Village, we would truly recognize a friend and recall her name. Margaret and I parted with a wave and a smile.

How did I know she was smiling? I knew because it’s all in the eyes. . .