Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Sunday

The above are photos I took of tulips I drew to include in notes to my Compassion kids on April 11.  (I adore tulips.)

Our church formed a choir for Easter.  I must say I was skeptical as to how it would turn out, only because for various reasons (March break, illness, other church commitments, business trips), this morning was the first time that the entire choir all practiced together.  During the actual performance, I found it extremely difficult to gauge the congregation's reaction.  (I thought, "We're either seriously disharmonious or they underestimated how we'd do.")  So it was extremely gratifying to hear afterwards that people had enjoyed it.  One of the regulars in the worship band even told us we'd made her Easter.  I'm so glad, because our director, Triscilla, poured so much of her time into the process.  I'm sure the team working the sound board did their best, too, to make us sound our best, by evening out the levels and all that other good tech stuff.

Off I go to take a walk around the neighborhood in this gloriously sunshiny 15 C afternoon before it's gone.

Saturday, April 12, 2014


I've appreciated the music of Steve Bell for a long time, whether I've seen him in concert with his band or solo, or listened to recordings.  He usually interweaves his songs with stories; he's a marvellous storyteller.

At some point, I subscribed to receive news releases from Signpost.  True story: a few years ago, when James and I were driving to Dauphin from Winnipeg, we received a call on the cell phone and it was Steve Bell himself, confirming contact info.  It must have been during an off-tour season, or perhaps before Signpost had its full complement of office personnel.

Consequently, I receive email notices of updates to Steve's blog.  No big surprise here, I guess, but I don't always read in detail everything that turns up in my inbox(es).  Many times I skim over items and think I'll hang on to them for a later date.  Fortunately, however, I opened both of the posts from the Steve Bell blog this week.  As usual, every time I read anything he writes, I'm blown away; he's able to express his thoughts so articulately and considerately.

Here are the links to "The God of Rahab Has Sent You" and "Lazarus Saturday."

Monday, October 21, 2013

St. Lucia

Had a lovely October 2013 Reading Week vacation in St. Lucia.  Since we were surrounded by newlyweds, we took to calling it our second honeymoon.  Our room was at the Halcyon, but as part of its package, Sandals offers a "stay at one, play at three" experience, so we were also able to visit the Grande and La Toc resorts via inter-hotel shuttles.

Sandals Halcyon: hot tub, beach, Kelly's Dockside Restaurant

Sunset Pool
Halcyon room
Add caption

the balcony

bird @ the bar

Sunset cruise to the Pitons

holding onto my hat - the wind had already blown it into the cabin, and I didn't want to lose it a second time


beach at Sandals Grande

flags & dock at the Grande

view from the stairs at the Grande

Grande lobby

Halcyon lobby; waiting for shuttle to Island Buggies tour

Island Buggy

Island farmer with golden apples, coconuts, star fruit, oranges; our guide and a few colleagues on the tour


getting fitted with a boa

tour guide getting mud

mud bath fun

the hot spring pool

washing off the mud


Sandals La Toc

Sandals La Toc


Halcyon cat chillaxin' at the Beach Bistro

poolside bird

Halcyon lobby

close-up of the flora

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sweet 16

It's hard to believe, but our little flower girl turned 16 today.
Happy Birthday, my dearest niece!

FYI, Uncle James and I celebrated with a peach pie.

Forget "triennial"; I'm aiming for triannual.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

summer Foolishness

Once upon a time, there were three women who planned to attend A Company of Fools' Torchlight Shakespeare presentation of Henry V on Tuesday, August 7.  However, one of the women received the rare opportunity to take a paid vacation, the dates of which happened to include that night.  Then there were two.

So on the evening of August 7, one Julie drove to the other Julie's home to pick her up and head over to a park in Bells Corners.  The two Julies set up their chairs with a prime view of centre stage.  The one Julie spotted her neighborhood friend across the rows and called her over.  The other Julie ran to retrieve a second chair from her car.  They managed to scootch over and squeeze in the friend who shall not be named.  (Her name might have been Phyllis; j'ai oubliée.)  They waited with bated breath:  they were ready to be entertained.

Then came the rain.  The actors waited a few minutes to see if it would let up a bit.  It did let up.  For all of a minute.  Then it started to rain with greater gusto.  When their GPS predicted lightning on its way, the Fools cancelled.  So much for "rain or shine"!  The audience dispersed.  The Julies decided perhaps it had been a wise decision, because their camp chairs made better buckets than seats.

All three women hastened back to the car, where one Julie proceeded to pull out not one, not two, but exactly three garbage bags from the trunk (stowed there weeks before, for another purpose entirely), for all to sit on so the car seats wouldn't be soaked.  She drove the other two home, and then drove home herself.  A soggy, sorry end to what began as a promising evening.


So ten days later I decided to try again.  I'd got the car for the day, and James and I had planned to stop at Hazeldean Mall after I picked him up at work, because a sports store was holding a liquidation sale.  I was looking for new runners for the gym (and possibly weightlifting gloves).  I'd persuaded him we'd go to Henry V at Andrew Haydon Park afterwards.  A friend contacted me, wanting to get out and about at some point over the weekend, so I invited her along.  She'd originally wanted to go to Torchlight Shakespeare with me, and she was interested to look around the sports store.

To make a long story short, I got my runners (no gloves to be had); the three of us had supper at the mall (some stir fry place James likes to frequent for lunch some weekdays); and we passed a lovely evening in the park.  The sun's setting a bit earlier these days, and the evenings are cooler than they were a couple of weeks ago; still, the clouds had golden linings in the coral sunset, and the Ottawa River ran its azure course in the background.  There's also a delightful water fountain along the walking path, and the Nepean Sailing Club was visible in the distance, too.  (The geese and seagulls were a bit intimidating, though, flying so close overhead.  We had to watch not to set up our chairs in goose droppings.)

The actors were accomplished, no doubt.  Yet still there were certain scenes that lagged.  I mean, I think most people would agree that Shakespearean English is difficult to comprehend at the best of times, but doubly so when there's little or no action to convey the meaning.  I pondered how much I had in common with the commoners/"groundlings" of the audience in Shakespeare's day:  I became impatient when Henry sat on a trunk speechifying, but enrapt when the puppets, hobbyhorses, Gumby & Pokey, and tennis balls emerged.  Every audience member was handed a Nerf or Nerf-like tennis ball to fling at the offending French army upon the king's command.

It was fun, and I'm glad we went, although I personally preferred last year's Antony and Cleopatra.  But who can resist the lure of Shakespeare in the great outdoors?  Not me!

Friday, August 17, 2012

wordy Friday: pleasure in June

2012-08-21, 11pm:  This post has evolved over the course of a few days, but I believe it's in its final form now. Thanks for your patience, readers!

James's late flight back into Ottawa on June 7 (see previous post) meant we only left for the Formula One Grand Prix du Canada in Montréal around 10am the next morning, about the same time that Practice 1 (P1) got underway.

We'd been looking forward to the June 8-10 weekend since we first booked reservations on January 21.  It was a pricey weekend, no doubt about that, but we reasoned that it would serve as a combined birthdays/anniversary/summer vacation retreat.  And it was something we both wanted to do.  I've enjoyed watching F1 races since James introduced me to them sometime last year.  We've known people who've celebrated milestones in Africa, Las Vegas, or London, whereas we've kept comparatively low-key, so we decided we'd indulge ourselves at least once.

James got me signed in on his Playbook, so I could update my Facebook status in transit (something I've never done before); that was very cool.  We arrived noon-ish at our hotel in the northeast quarter of the city, stashed our bags, and headed straight for the nearest Montreal Métro station (about a 10-15 min. walk).  We'd had a late breakfast, so we skipped lunch, although I did pack granola bars and fruit snacks in my backpack.

I asked the woman at the ticket booth, in my elementary French, for two 3-day passes, which were $16 each, and gave us unlimited rides on the subway.  (It helped to have researched the STM Website in advance.)  The "occasional smart cards" were made of stiff paper, but we held them up to the scanners and were "beeped" through the turnstiles.  We took the green line from Station Viau to Berri-UQAM, then transferred to the yellow line which took us all the way to Station Jean-Drapeau.

Once we exited at Jean-Drapeau, we had arrived--at the site entrance, that is; our seats in Grandstand 11 were still a substantial distance away.  As a preventative measure in case protesting students were thinking to cause trouble, there were groups of police officers stationed near the entrance.  (On our way back on Friday and for the rest of the weekend, there was an increased police presence on the Métro, with officers monitoring the capacity of the subway cars and riding on board to keep order.)  We collected our tickets, which, much to my delight, came with complimentary lanyards and pouches and a pair of ear plugs.  (Given my work for individuals with hearing disabilities, I'm in favor of protecting hearing whenever possible; in fact, I'd brought along two pkgs, or 22 pairs, of ear plugs of my own accord, as a precautionary measure.  I was pleased about the free lanyards, too:  I had thought they might be sold separately, although for the price of weekend tickets, they should be included.)  Then we made our way to the grandstands, a lengthy trek, but scenic:  the nearly half-hour walk around Île Notre-Dame led us through gardens and past the beach.  P2 had already started, so the F1 engines were audible even though most of Circuit Gilles Villeneuve itself was not visible along the path.

As I recall, the camera's battery needed recharging on Friday, so we left it in our hotel room.  Just as well, because as the afternoon went on, the sky got darker and darker (moths came out of hiding under the grandstands, too, which made my skin crawl), until finally, as we had exited the grandstand and were maybe one-fifth of the way back to the park entrance, a torrential downpour hit.  It was like someone turned on a shower full force.  We joined other people sheltering under the overhang of one of the buildings, hoping the rain would let up.  It did, but not by much, so since we were already soaked, we got our wet selves back to the hotel as expediently as possible and changed.  I had sandals along, but James had to use the hair dryer to dry his runners.  (I had to do that to mine the next morning, since they hadn't dried overnight.)  We had a lovely, if late, dinner in the hotel restaurant.  I had Caesar salad to start, followed by penne telefono--penne noodles with mushrooms in a rosé sauce.

On a side note, friends of ours had loaned us their expensive binoculars (2 prs), asking only for a souvenir program in exchange.  I'd decided to buy one on Friday, so I wouldn't forget in the excitement of the rest of the weekend.  Wouldn't you know, the one I bought Friday got completely soaked through, so I had to buy another one Saturday to replace it.  My Métro card suffered a damp corner, also, but seemed not much worse for wear, although any other papers I'd had in my small tote or backpack sported permanent waves from thence forward.

The weather cooperated beautifully for the rest of the weekend:  sunny & warm.  (I would surely have sunburned had it not been for my pre-tanning.  Yes, even with sunscreen.)  We took the following photos on Saturday and Sunday.  On the way to Station Viau, we passed the Olympic Stadium and a statue of Maurice "The Rocket" Richard--so a brief photo shoot ensued.

The Rocket and the Chyc
"Bonjour, Maurice!"
Olympic Stadium on the way to the STM Station Viau
STM - Montréal Métro

Exit Station Jean-Drapeau, enter F1 site entrance:
people, people everywhere
A break in the foot traffic
Grandstand 11 to the right, via Pont Concorde Bridge
An approx. 2 km hike through Parc Jean-Drapeau

It was quite a circuitous route

Arches made with stones from Israel, Floralies Gardens

Vendors' tents:  everything priced to gouge
e.g., bottled water - $4.25
Standing water from the torrential downpour
on Friday afternoon
Through the woods
Towards the beach
Past the beach

P3 ran from 10:00-11:00 a.m, with Qualifying from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m.  Other qualifying rounds and actual races, like the Porsche GT3 Cup, the Formula 1600, and CTCC were held between F1 P3 and F1 Quali, as well as afterwards.

Virage Senna (Senna turn or corner, after Ayrton Senna): 
the trees just obscured the start/finish line for us

The grandstands were still relatively empty
when we arrived Saturday morning
Off in the distance behind us

Behind the grandstands
Food carts and porta potties
Our grandstand, #11, in forefront;
Grandstand 12 in the background to the left

Safety car
Into the corner with Jean-Eric Vergne (JEV), Toro Rosso
Romain Grosjean, Lotus
Vitaly Petrov, Caterham,
followed by Mark Webber, Red Bull
Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull (♥)
Michael Schumacher, 6X F1 World Champion, Mercedes
Bruno Senna, Williams
Fernando Alonso, Ferrari
Grandstands filling up closer to Quali
We sat next to and amongst interesting characters.  The three or four men sitting behind me had a difficult time keeping their beers from spritzing or splashing onto me.  The couple beside James were from New York.  I struggled to keep my face neutral (instead of the disapproval I felt) when the woman told us that when they travel internationally, they say they're Canadians.  Given the general tone of her conversations, I'd say it's fair to say that Americans posing as Canadians is a huge reason that Canadians are acquiring such a bad rep as travellers!  Huh.  So it goes.

Still, thanks to the father and son from Texas, I learned how to tell the #1 and #2 cars of a team apart:  the number ones have red cameras on top, while the number twos have yellow cameras.  They also shared that the Red Bull cars had "Total" on their back wing, whereas the Toro Rossos had "Cepsa."  Very, very helpful in distinguishing who was who as they streamed by.

As a result of our speaking with the Texans, James rented a FanVision for Saturday and Sunday.  He offered me one of the earbuds, but it put me into sensory overload.  We had James's Samsung with an app that showed us the cars on the track or in the pit lane; we had a huge screen situated to the left of the trees obscuring the start/finish line; we heard broadcasters over the loudspeakers; we had the FanVision, which had multiple channels.  Honestly, I preferred to watch the track with my own eyes, check the screen for replays or for action elsewhere when nobody was passing our corner, and consult the all-important 150-page program (a glossy mag), with its synopses of the drivers' careers and its two-page spread depicting the cars' team colors.  (What can I say?  I am a creature of simple comforts.  Just give me a book with pretty pictures.)

Porsche GT3 class

The end of F1 Quali saw Sebastian Vettel on pole for Red Bull, Lewis Hamilton 2nd for Vodafone Mercedes McLaren, Fernando Alonso 3rd for Ferrari, and Mark Webber 4th for Red Bull.  James was rooting for Hamilton, I was crossing my fingers for Vettel to finish at the top of the podium.  (Alas, things did not go my way.)

Sunday, June 10
Formula 1 Drivers Parade
Bruno Senna, Williams
Daniel Ricciardo, Toro Rosso, in front,
followed by Nico Hulkenberg, Force India
(Ricciardo, a rookie, took photos of fans)
(front to back)
Kamui Kobayashi, Sauber; Jenson Button, McLaren;
Michael Schumacher, Mercedes; Paul Di Resta, Force India
Fernando Alonso, Ferrari; Lewis Hamilton, McLaren
Lewis Hamilton, McLaren; Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull
Jenson Button, McLaren
Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus
Lewis Hamilton wins!
Track Walk (on the track after the race)
Track Walk 2
Beginning the long walk back

to be continued
continued still further
We knew we shoulda' taken that left turn at Albuquerque

not even close to the end

Hamilton won.  Romain Grosjean of Lotus came in second, with Sergio Perez of Sauber coming in third.  Seb only came in fourth (sigh).  But really, I came to terms with the results for a few reasons:  1. James got his wish (a belated birthday gift/wish).  2. Hamilton's win made it 7 drivers winning 7 races--a super-exciting, unpredictable year, as the broadcasters at the time were so fond of reminding everyone.  3. Grosjean and Perez got to be on the podium and pick up points for their respective teams.

All in all, quite an enjoyable getaway.  We'd like to repeat the experience in future, if possible.