About Me

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Delta, British Columbia, Canada
I took very early retirement from teaching in '06 and did some traveling in Europe and the UK before settling down to do some private tutoring. As a voracious reader, I have many books waiting in line for me to read. Tell me I shouldn't read something, and I will. I'm a happy, optimistic person and I love to travel and through that believe that life can be a continuous learning experience. I'm looking forward to traveling more some day. I enjoy walking, cycling, water aerobics & and sports like tennis, volleyball, and fastpitch/baseball. I'm just getting into photography as a hobby and I'm enjoying learning all the bits and bobs of my digital camera. My family is everything to me and I'm delighted to be the mother of two girls and the Gramma of a boy and a girl. I may be a Gramma, but I'm at heart just a girl who wants to have fun.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Jamie and Madonna

Daughter #1, Jamie, has always adored Madonna and one of her biggest dreams was to see her live in concert. Her dream came true last night when 55,000 adoring fans attended the Queen of Pop's final leg of her tour right her in Vancouver. Born in 1976, Jamie was the perfect age when Madonna rose to fame in the 80's. I remember when Jamie was about 8 or 9 years old, she'd put the boombox on a log in front of the cabin at the lake and turn up the music. She and her little sister would dance around to Madonna's music until they were exhausted. As she got older, she'd buy the Pop Queen's music and eventually her videos, too. I'm not quite sure which ones she has right now, but I can recall her talking about "Like a Virgin," "Material Girl," "Blond Ambition," etc. Jamie's love of Madonna and her music continues to this day and all day yesterday Jamie was so excited about the concert she was going to attend.

I understood from the news media this morning that the concert was fantastic for Madonna fans. She didn't disappoint anyone and Jamie agreed. I popped over this morning for a quick coffee with her and to take Noah his Halloween treat so I heard all about how great the show was and the crowds and the noise and how all the fans seemed to be greeting each other as friends!

I found the above photo of Jamie at age 11 in 1987 when she dressed up as an 80's punk for Halloween. It's been a lifetime since she was dressing like this and dancing on the sand to Madonna's music. She's now a married woman and an excellent mother of two adorable children. Madonna has also gone through a lot of changes. I'm so glad Jamie had a great time last night and that her dream came true. It didn't even matter that she's tired today from lack of sleep after a late night out.

Jamie and her friend Cathy had fantastic floor seats and the following photos from the concert are couresty of Cathy.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Congratulations to Obama. From his paid advertisement that aired tonight, it looks like he’s already placed himself in the White House. How presumptuous to appear as though he’s already there with the American flag to one side and a desk with a window behind him.
These will be my last comments on the upcoming election in my neighbouring country – I think. I have a lot of good friends who live in California, Arizona, Utah, New York, Maryland, Iowa, and Florida and we may not all agree on the candidates. But that’s okay – it’s what is great about both the USA and Canada – we’re democracies and we have the right to our opinions. So to Sylvia, Daryl, Mark, and others who are proudly supporting Obama, I apologise if it appears that I offend. That is not my intent. There are a few points that I’d like to make, though.
First, Obama spoke about the money that is being spent in Iraq and questions how many schools, hospitals, and medications that money could buy for the average American. At the same time, he takes the average American’s money to the point that he has more than he needs to spend on his campaign. What did he do with your money? He spent it on a public advertisement that caters to the emotions of the average American - you. Think about it for a minute – he took your money that you scraped to earn. You decided he needed it more than you did. You didn’t take your kids to that movie or that football game or out for ice-cream because you gave it to Obama. How many schools and/or hospitals could have been built with that money? How much medication could have been bought to ease the pain and suffering of those who don’t have any medical coverage? How many shelters could that money have built for the homeless? Or food to feed hungry children?
Next, Obama used regular folks to exemplify the terrible conditions that you average Americans are suffering. Well, I’m sure that the majority of you are not suffering that much. You’re living your average lives like most folks do. We work to pay the bills. We prioritise our needs and if there’s any left over, we get to have some wants. But as an example, Obama uses a Ford employee whose job has been cut in half (difficult, for sure) but at the same time films the entire family eating out at a restaurant. How many of you eat out at a restaurant when you’re complaining of not having enough money to live?
Another couple is now retired with their home entirely paid for and nice looking cars (plural) sitting out front. The husband went back to work for some years to help pay the bills because the wife needs to take quite a few different medications for her arthritis. I don’t mean to appear harsh or unsympathetic, but, isn’t that what we just do? There are no handouts in this world and nobody promised that life would be easy.
This leads me to another point. I keep hearing about how people need to earn enough money to give their children an education. Notice the verb – GIVE. Since when do parents have to give their children an education? The government provides public education for every child in the country. It is the law. If the child wants further education outside of high school graduation, why do the parents have to pay for it? Have they not told their kids to get a job to pay their own way? Surely, all parents want to help their kids out, but they also need to teach their kids that there are no free rides in life. I paid my own way to university by working from the age of 16 (when it was legal to work) and saved my money. I paid for my entire tuition and books, clothing, and residence fees. While living in residence I got a job slopping food on the plates of fellow residents and then worked the entire four months of summer vacation. I didn’t get to go to Florida or California or Hawaii to play during the summer. The summer was for working towards the next term.
I ran into a former student in the local grocery store last week. She is taking a year off to work full time in order to pay for her own education. She doesn’t want to be in debt from government loans. She wants to pay her own way in life. I think she is a credit to her generation. Another former student is now working as an apprentice in plumbing. Sure, he won’t make a lot of money for a while, and although he may not ever be "rich," he’ll be set for life in an honourable profession. Not every child needs higher education. Higher education should be for learning something that will assist people in making a good life for themselves. It could be at a trade school or a local college where they have courses in everything from legal secretary to shoeing horses, to electrician, to dog training. There are too many PhDs working at fast food restaurants because their degree is not worth a dime in everyday life. I know a woman who works on the counter of a delivery company and complains all the time because her PhD in Women’s Studies isn’t appreciated. I must say, however, that it is a shame that a high-school diploma won’t get a young person a decent job these days. Maybe that’s something else that Obama should be looking into – practical education programs.
Okay, the next comment is regarding Obama’s claim to ending the USA’s dependence on mid-East oil. I’ve already made my readers aware of the fact that the USA is not dependent on mid-East oil NOW…Canada is its #1 source of oil! I have not heard Obama refer to Canada ever as an ally or a source of anything for America. Granted, I haven’t heard every speech he’s made, so if anyone has heard him refer to his great northern neighbour, I’d appreciate knowing about it.
Finally, Obama is pandering to the emotions of Americans. He talks about the death of his Mom. Yes, that is sad but we all go through the loss of our parents eventually. And he says that he was formed more by the absence of his father than his presence. Yes, that is also sad, but how many others didn’t or don’t have a parent in their lives yet go on without giving the impression of "Oh, look at poor me!"

Obama is sucking Americans in through style without substance. He’s a great orator but really doesn’t "say" much. His policies border on socialism that would put Canada to shame. His latest public advertisement, paid for by you regular American Joe and Jane, is, in my humble opinion, disgraceful overkill. I hope those of you who get to vote in your wonderful country will think twice and hard before marking your X or pulling that lever or whatever it is you do to choose the president of your country.
And please remember that Canada has a Prime Minister, something that Mr. Obama doesn’t seem to know.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Canada Should Support McCain

Scroll down for ABC Wednesday "O is for Orvieto Caves"

Although I'm sure to get a lot of flack, there are a few reasons why Canadians should be supporting McCain as the next president of the United States of America. You can make fun of his running mate, Sarah Palin, all you want but if Canadians want to safeguard trade relations with the Americans, they should be looking towards McCain.
First, while Obama has openly stated that he'd "renegotiate" the North American Free Trade Agreement (meaning it would be more favourable to the States), McCain knows categorically that Canada is the States' greatest asset in free trading. He'd be much more agreeable to an open border so that imports and exports could cross unhindered. And he has a much better appreciation of the interconnectedness of his nation and ours.
In June, McCain spoke in Ottawa (our nation's capital, for our American friends who didn't know that) where he told the Economic Club of Toronto, "There are many shared interests that require our attention today, and many Canadians here I am very proud to call friends...the strength of that partnership is more vital than ever. The economic community we have founded, together with our alliance and the values we hold in common, have served our people for decades and has served us well. It will fall to the next president to strengthen these ties still further, adding to the security and prosperity of all of North America." Remember, most Canadians live in the corridor running along the border between the two countries, so simple things like cross-border shopping and tourism need to be preserved - for us both.
Second, McCain knows that Canada is America's number 1 largest supplier of oil. He knows that Canada has the second-largest oil reserves in the world and that 60% of the energy produced in Canada is hydroelectric - clean energy. McCain would be more responsive to continuing to import oilsands petroleum than Obama would. These exports factor extensively into Canada's economy.
Third, Canada has just re-elected Stephen Harper, Conservative, to Prime Minister. It would bode well for harmonious relationships between the two countries as both Harper and McCain lean right and are both westerners. And McCain has strongly acknowledged Canada's role in Afghanistan.
Did any of my fellow Canadians know that Obama referred to the "president of Canada" in one of his campaign speeches? That just goes to show how ignorant he is of our country, how it's run, and how important it is to have positive and ethical relationships between us. I think Obama would make a very good president - some day. But that day is not next Tuesday, November 4th, 2008.
Just today, McCain reiterated that he disagrees with the current president on economic policies. "My approach is to get spending under control," McCain said.
Although Canada is typically a more liberal and socialist country, we must take a look at the situation we're all in right now - economically. Isn't it better to elect someone who knows the ropes and Canada, someone who can actually accomplish something right now?

Just my two cents worth, Canadian - and that sure ain't worth much today!
By the way, you might want to check out Josie's current post entitled "Be Careful What You Wish For..."

Sunday, October 26, 2008

O is for Orvieto Caves

One of the most fascinating places I visited while in Italy was the ancient Etruscan city of Orvieto. I wrote a bit about it for another ABCW when I did H is for Hieroglyphics. This week I'd like to show you some photos from when we toured deep inside the mountain on which the city sits to see the myriad of caves. Orvieto is an ancient city suspended halfway between heaven and earth and has long kept secret the labyrinth of caves and tunnels hidden in the silent darkness of the cliff. Those who lived on the top of this high plateau dug this hidden labyrinth and left it unaltered for over 2500 years until it was finally unearthed in 1984. Here is a bit of history about the caves along with some of my own photos. I thought it'd be appropriate to show them during Halloween week since it was an extremely eerie place to visit. Be sure to click on the photos to see them larger as you'll then get the full effect. First of all, though, here is a small part of the outside cliff wall of the city, seen one day as we walked down to the necropolis below.

At the heart of the Medieval quarter of Orvieto there is a fascinating underground labyrinth of passages, with caves and archaeological finds, all brought to light relatively recently after centuries of neglect.

Thousands of pigeon roosts were cut in any place with access to the outside world. In some parts today, you can see wine stored here.

The most important structure in this network is certainly the Pozzo della Cava, a vast well, 36 metres deep, hewn out of the tufa rock by order of Pope Clement VII in 1527 to ensure that Orvieto had a constant supply of water in the event of a siege. The Pozzo della Cava was dug between 1528 and 1530 by enlarging a previously existing Etruscan well whose traces are still visible today. In 1646 the well was closed up during the Castro war. With the exception of some mentions in documents that told of bodies being thrown down the well, nothing more was ever heard about it until its rediscovery in 1984. In 1996 the well was emptied of all the debris that had accumulated inside over the centuries and the water supply was once more unblocked.

In 1999 the Orvieto-born researcher Lucio Riccetti found a signed letter by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger proving that the well commissioned by Pope Clement VII was in fact the Pozzo della Cava. The tufa rock extracted during the digging of the cave was partly used to build Palazzo Pucci, which Sangallo was supervising at the time.

In the caves next to the well there are the remains of two ceramic kilns. One is Medieval and includes rooms where the potters worked as well as a number of discarded pots and some interesting tools. The other is a classic Renaissance ‘muffola’ shaped kiln that was used in the 16th century for the so-called ‘third fire’, to obtain the precious lustre of Renaissance ceramic, famous for its golden and ruby-red iridescence. The two kilns were discovered in 1985 and shed a new light on the production of majolica in Orvieto during the 15th and 16th century. This period had in fact previously been considered the dark ages of majolica production in the city.

Some remains of Etruscan tombs have also been unearthed. In one of these, the place where the body was laid to rest is clearly visible. It was adapted during the Middle Ages to house a fulling machine to work and soften wool.Another extremely interesting Etruscan element of the excavations is the cistern, dug out of the rock to house rainwater channelled down from the rooftops above. Its particular form of whitewash is known as cocciopesto and is typical of the last stages of the Etruscan occupation of the city. This cistern also underwent modifications during the Middle Ages when it was incorporated into a passageway leading to a second underground floor used as a cellar to produce and store the much-appreciated Orvieto wine. The two flat surfaces that flank the steps downwards were used to roll the barrels down to the rooms below.Work is still continuing to empty, clean and render safe a series of other caves that will certainly make the visit even richer and more complete. (from here)

I hope you've enjoyed this little tour of a spooky underground ancient world and I highly recommend if you're in the area, go on down and take a look around. You won't be disappointed.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


Be sure to click on the photos to see them enlarged.

What a gloriously sunny autumn day today! I decided to take a quick drive out of the residential area of Ladner around 5:00 pm and see what I could find to photograph before it got too dark. Someone had told me about a spectacular tree at a particular corner just past the railroad tracks, so that's where I headed first. I found the tree, pulled over to the side of the road and got out, camera in hand. I'm saving a few photos for ABC Wednesday (the letter "t" in paricular) but I spent a fair bit of time at this corner. I took a photo of the tree from the road and then went to the side and caught the following one with a country home behind it. Finally, I looked down the road and took a shot from that angle.

The train that I sometimes hear at night when I'm suffering from insomnia happened by just as I approached the railroad tracks, so I also got a shot of the cars heading towards Roberts Bank to load up with coal. Roberts Bank, British Columbia is an area on the south side of the estuary of the Fraser River approximately 35 km south of Vancouver. It's significant as a transport hub because of the ferry terminal to Vancouver Island, because of the Roberts Bank Superport, and as an area with important wetland habitat.

After it had passed the road where I had had to stop to let it pass, I continued on but stopped right on the tracks to take another shot as it headed off into the distance. I only took one quick shot throught the car window because I was imagining another train barreling towards me! One should never stop on a railway track!

Okay, just one more shot from this afternoon. I took several photos of some old barns but I'll save the others for another day. At this particular barn, I took some photos of cattle grazing (will show you those another day) and some other things related to farming.
I love going out on photo safaris all by myself. I get so engrossed in what I'm doing that I don't usually notice people staring at me - I imagine they think I'm some silly city slicker come to see the country. But no, I love my home and the area where I live. I can walk to the shops in 5 minutes but I can drive to the country in 5 minutes. I can go from fancy boutiques, grocery chains and pharmacies to farms, horses and cows, and brilliant scenic sights in the blink of an eye. I look north to the mountains beyond the city, west towards the setting sun, and south towards the United States. What could possibly be better than this?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Photo Hunt - Scary

Click to enlarge photo!
When I was a little girl, my parents took us to see Disney's "Fantasia." What a classic! However, for my little soul it was the scariest movie I'd ever seen! For a long time afterwards, I had nightmares about the part when Mickey tries to keep the water from overflowing. The music itself was frightening, rising to a crescendo of danger for the character and unprecedented fear for the viewer.
The other movie that had parts that scared me to death was "The Wizard of Oz." For example, when Dorothy, Toto, and their friends entered the enchanted forest and the trees started throwing apples at them was horrifying! But that fear did subside to glee when the Wicked Witch got wet and, as she disappeared, screamed, "I'm melting! I'm melting!" To this day, if anyone asked me to play the part of the Wicked Witch, I'd be delighted.
I took this photo in England in the fall of 2006 when we stopped to check the map for directions. While John was looking at the map, I happened to look out the window and spotted this tree. Just a quick snap...but when I uploaded it, I quite liked it. Then I went about using Photoshop to see what I could do with it. I stopped experimenting when I solarized it. To me, it gives the photo a really spooky look, as if the tree might come alive at any moment. Be careful - it might just reach through the computer and snatch you away into cyberspace!
Happy Halloween, everyone!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Last Gasp

Click on the photos to see them in larger format.

Has anyone ever seen a pink hydrangea? I saw this one on my walk today and was absolutely stunned at its beauty! With the change of season, it won't be like this for much longer.

At the end of my street are four of these cabbage-type flowers. The curls on the edges of each petal are phenomenal and reminded me of the lace on a bridal gown.

Scattered among the
rhododendron leaves are a few that are turning a spicy gold and pumpkin orange.

A typical hydrangea is blue or purple like this one. The petals are drying out, though. Can you see the purple on some of the leaves?

Just around the corner and down the street, I spied this lonely flower in its last gasp of life. I love the colours here that range from pale yellow to orangey-red to purple.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

N is for New Brunswick

Several years ago, I flew from the west coast of Canada all the way to the east coast to visit my friend Di, who lives in New Brunswick. It was a fun-filled couple of weeks, catching up on the news in person for a change and doing a bit of touring around this beautiful province. Although Canada is officially a bilingual country, most of the provinces are officially English with the exception of Quebec, which is officially French. However, New Brunswick is the only province that is officially bilingual.

My friends live just outside of the capital city of Fredericton right on the St. John River (above). After a nice relaxing day or so relaxing on their sandy beach, swimming, and boating, we decided to head into the city to see the sights. The downtown area is a mix of old and new and I found it interesting to see the legislative and justice buildings, the university (where I did a bit of geneological research), along with ancient soldiers barracks, the guard house, and the militia arms store. We also watched the changing of the guard outside of the City Hall.

Di and I took a day trip south to Saint Andrews, which is surrounded by Passamaquoddy Bay. After strolling the main street and browsing through the city's quaint boutiques, we took in their famous aquarium. Then we went over to Minister's Island , which is also on the Passamaquoddy Bay. In order to get there, we had to wait for low tide and then followed a lead car across the ocean floor to get to the island. One of the many stories about this island is that in 1890, the visionary railway builder Sir William Van Horne built a summer get-away here. It was extremely interesting looking around and one of the places I found the most fascinating was the circular bathhouse made out of quarried beach stone where everyone would change into their swimming attire before climbing down the steps carved out of the rocks. I climbed down and took this photo of the beach the family and their visitors used over a century ago. Sir William also used this as his painting studio. The house was phenomenal and it was obvious that Van Horne had buckets of money from his years in the railway industry. While we were there, we had to stay with the tour guide. No one was allowed to wander off on their own to explore anyplace other than where the guide took us. To read more about this place, just click on the link above. It's fascinating reading!

Another fascinating place that I toured with my friend was Kings Landing, just a 10-minute drive from their home. It's a world class living history museum that brings to life the story of early pioneers to the St. John River Valley. We spent a whole day here including lunch at "The King's Head," an old-style English pub. The museum consists of over 70 historic buildings (either relocated or restored), more than 100 costumed "residents," and was the first recipient of Canada's "Top International Attraction Award." Places of interest to me were the Agricultural Hall, several farms, the Printing Office, the CB Ross Sash & Door Factory, the Gorman Carpenter Shop, the sawmill and gristmill, St. Mark's and Riverside Presbyterian Churches, the Ingraham Barn Theatre, Grant Store, the parish school, the Prince William Ice Cream Parlour, and the Hoyt House Craft Manufactory. While we were at the store, there was a reenactment going on with "residents" arguing over some "current" political situation. It was quite amusing as they tried to get "non-residents" involved in the heated discussion. While looking through the photos I took with my old Ricoh camera, I noticed that I had an "eye" for photography even then. However, I had to scan the photos so they're not the best and I hope you can appreciate them.
Some of the historic buildings at Kings Landing.

Perley House

Looking over the St. John River

St. Mark's Church

and the altar inside.

The Sawmill

and looking through the trees, you can see this ship, the Brunswick Lion.

The last trip we took while I was there was along the Mirimachi River to the Acadian area of New Brunswick. This north-eastern coast of New Brunswick is lined with French-speaking villages, many of which make their living from fishing. You’ll see the Acadian Flag everywhere (red, white and blue like the French flag, with the addition of the yellow star of Independence). It is painted on mail boxes, telegraph poles and even lobster pots. We stayed at an intriguing little B&B where we discovered that the owner is an author of children's books. I bought a couple of her books (written in French) and had my photo taken with her. The B&B bordered on a reed-filled marsh and we wandered around there taking photos before heading into town for dinner at an out-door patio restaurant.
We visited one of the national parks in the region, enjoying nature and the views out over the Atlantic Ocean. Then we spent some time on the beach (a day that was wicked hot!), wading in the salt water looking for ocean creatures. I finally had to tell my friend that I'd meet her back at the bath houses where I found some shade!
On the way back to Fredericton, we followed the Miramichi and stopped for lunch at a wonderful place where I got some shots of the river. This place was way out in the "boonies" and we were lucky to stumble upon it as we were starving after driving for hours through the country. I'll leave you with these as I'm sure you've had enough of this virtual trip to New Brunswick.

If you ever get the chance, be sure to tour New Brunswick. It will be worth it in any season - well, maybe not winter!
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