Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween

     I love Halloween. As a kid, it was scary movies, costumes, candy and home made treats. As an adult, it's still scary movies, even better costumes, parties and home made treats. Unfortunately this year, I'm sick, a "man cold". You all know what that means.

     No handing out candy, no seeing all the little kids dressed up, no pumpkin carving (or pumpkin cookies tomorrow, that's what happens to poor ole' Jack after the big day). No host of little meringue ghosts, no chocolate mice with licorice tails and almond ears, no army of undead mummy cupcakes with marshmallow frosting, no leering Jack o' lantern whoopie pies covering the counters of the "Kitchen". I've been robbed, by a cold. Damn.

    Instead here I sit. Now that I think of it, I'm moaning and shivering and do really kind of look like the undead, all with no extra effort on my part LOL. On the upside, Ferd is upstairs handing out candy and taking pictures of the kids who drop by so all is not lost. There is always next year. Sigh.

Scary glowing eyed cattle
This was actually supposed to be a cute adorable pic of a newborn calf
Oh well

     Have a "spooktacular" night.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Celebrating 90 years with my Grandfather

     On Thursday October 20th, 2011, my grandfather turned 90. That's right, 90 years old. On the actual day he was surrounded by family and friends and there was also another party planned the following Sunday so we could all join in and wish him "Happy Birthday".

     Just to give you some idea of what he was in for, he and my grandmother raised 11 children, who had 26 grand children who have so far had 29 great grand children. Add in husbands, wives, significant others and there are over 90 of us and that's not including any of my grandfather's brothers and sisters or their families. A gathering of the clan is always a big event.

Some random crowd shots

     Sunday dawned cloudy and wet but cleared off into a sunny, if crisp, 12 degree fall day. It was perfect. After riding with my Mom in the morning, I gathered up my desserts and off I went.

     We all brought something and I was asked, as a grandchild, to bring something sweet, other than myself of course.  I brought these, one of my favourites and courtesy of Buttercream Barbie a new recipe here, Cheesecake Swirl Brownies. Mine were no where near as nice looking as Tia's , I'm swirl challenged, but delicious none the less. All I can add to her recipe is the better the chocolate and cocoa, the better the end result.

     Anyway, I went rushing over to the house, I was running a little late, only to find I was at the wrong spot. As I walked into my grandparent's, my grandmother called out, "You're in the wrong place, everyone is at the hall ".Well no one told me that, I had passed the hall on my way over and did wonder what was going on. As I relayed the story, my aunt Jean laughed and said, "Oh, I did say I'd get back to you didn't I." It's all in the details and I guess I didn't get them all. LOL

     Noon until 2:00 pm was lunch with the immediate family, then 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm  was opened up for visiting with everyone else. Sounds like lots of time doesn't it? It was over so quickly and there were so many people, it was all a bit of a blur. But what a blur.

My grandfather, the star of the event

My grandparents, enjoying the cake

     There was a ton of good food and I got to visit with people I haven't seen in a while, re acquainted myself with some of my younger cousins and just had an all round good time. As much as I hate to admit it, I'm not sure I actually talked to my grandfather when he got to the hall. He drove over himself, just in case he wanted to leave. He may not like crowds much, or celebrating his birthday on any day other than the one he was born, but he looked like he had a great time. And he didn't leave early. LOL

My uncle Jimmy and his children, Chris, April and David with my grandparents

Chris's wife Krista with their newborn Austin

My aunt Deb with her eldest grandchild Alyssa

All of Deb's girls,
Her daughters, Chrystal and Sarah
Her grand daughters, Meah, Alyssa and Hannah

Chris's daughter Alicia with Alyssa
Alicia was having none of me until Alyssa joined her
Alyssa loved having her picture taken

Jason's son Devin
Mom, Holly and Piper behind
Holly calls my mother Grandma Joan and follows her everywhere
Holly isn't my daughter

The greats, well some of them
Zach, Piper, Katie. Colin, Jacob, Devin in the tree, Curtis and Lindsay

The greats again with Deseree finally showing her face
She wasn't all that keen to have me photograph her

Kriket's oldest, Kendall
Kriket is the nick name her father, Roy, gave her and it stuck
Kendall proudly pointed out what her mother had made as we were going through the buffet
I mentioned she was almost as tall as her mother and she said, " I know "

Kriket's youngest Maeve
Mom, Holly and Piper in the background
When I mentioned what charmers their three girls were,
Kriket and Ian told me they had read them the riot act before they arrived

A picture of Jamie's son Zach (with cake on his face)

A lovely picture of me
Zach took this one because I was taking his
Note to self, never let anyone take another picture of me from this angle

     My cousin Susan had some great old pictures of Grandpa hunting and fishing and had the real estate posting for Dowsett Island, a family fishing camp my grandfather went to as a young man. For just over 300 K you can own your very own island in the Big Rideau lake.

     A bit of his past, surrounded by his present with the future running all around him (or hanging out of the trees), I can't think of a better testament to 90 years of living. Many happy returns.

        A little more about my grandfather here, his family with my grandmother here and the Craig's in general here.

A Romp in the Country

     Last week, I headed back to farm country to visit with family and celebrate my grandfather's 90th birthday. As always, I had a great time. Normally a trip home is a furious drive on the 401, a hectic schedule of trying to visit as many relatives as time allows and I return home to the city tired but content.

     I'm a destination kind of person not really into the journey to get there, focused on the result rather than the process. There were a lot of road closures and construction going on when I left so I did things a little differently this time.

     I drove during the day, not my favourite way of spending a day but ... I ended up taking the scenic way home via Highway 7. (I think I actually got a little turned around trying to avoid all the road work) I haven't ever driven that route north of the city, what beautiful country. Coming to the top of one of the many hills, seeing the landscape unfold around me, no cars for miles, it made my lead footed heart sing.  Seriously, the area around Port Perry and Scugog is gorgeous and I'm glad I made the trip that way, this one time.

     I arrived home much later than I had originally expected, tired (5 hours in a car does that to me) and not really in the mood to do anything. Seeing as how we were all getting together the next day, I decided to chill. No running the roads, a quiet afternoon and night with Ma and Pa and Katie, a friend of my parents. We sat around after dinner, chatting, opened a bottle of wine, then another and another. The television stayed off and we had a night of catching up and conversation. Bliss.

     The next morning, I was fascinated by this.

     Flocks of Canadian geese kept landing in the field beside the house on their way south for the winter. I was amazed how close I got to get the picture. I was outside for about an hour quietly creeping up on them.

     Next up, riding with Mom and Katie. Dad was feeling a little poorly, a bit of the flu, he didn't stay up drinking wine, so it was just the three of us. I had watched my aunt compete in the Police horse trials last month and had mentioned I'd like to go riding while I was home. After Katie finished giggling it was all decided and off we went.

Me and Justin
Ready to ride

Katie and Honey and me and Justin again

On the trail,
 Honey had to have an eye removed
You can kind of tell in this photo
Gross and cool all at the same time

Mom looked at this picture and said,
"You've got the reins way too tight"

Another picture though our horse's ears

     I haven't ridden since I lived at home and had a horse of my own, that's why Katie was giggling. I think she was a little disappointed I didn't end up falling off or better yet thrown off. LOL Things have changed a lot around the farm since I rode there. There are trails cut though our and our neighbour's bush, about a hundred acres of forest to ride through.

     How we ride has changed as well. The horses (and riders) now follow the Parelli method of training. I have no idea, so I was giving poor Justin very mixed signals as we rode along. I'm going to do riding lessons with Mom next year to brush up my skills.

     We switched the camera over to Katie to get some pictures of Mom and I together.

Thanks Katie

and again

a bit better


I like this one of Mom and I
Good job Katie

ROFL, spoke too soon
Look how thin we are
Two adults and horses all behind that skinny little tree

Showing a bit of pain

     We were out about an hour and I have to say, if you haven't ridden in a while be prepared for some pain, and walking a little bow legged. It was a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to re learning how to ride next year.

     After the ride, it was time to clean up and off to the hall for Grandpa's birthday celebration but that's another post.

     Sunday evening was a visit with my cousin Adam who shared some great home improvement advice, thank you.

     Monday was a trip with my cousin Susan to discover Dowsett Island, yet another post.

A flock of wild turkeys along the road

I just couldn't shoot the picture fast enough

You know you're not in the city any more when...

Then a visit with my aunts Marlyn and Barb, recipes and cook book information, home with Mom looking at her pictures from Colorado, another post, and finally a quick cup of tea with my aunt Jean on the way out of town before heading back to the city. You know what happened then.

     Notes to self:
Remember to enjoy the journey not just the destination
Don't spend another five hours in the car after riding
Re learn how to ride, it isn't the poor horse's fault
Don't give Katie the camera LOL

One of those days

     Have you ever had one of those days....? Those "Why me?", "What did I do to deserve this?", kind of days. I've had a couple in a row, made worse by the fact I had such a great time home last weekend with my family. They will be the source of the next couple of posts, after I clear my aura, release this negative energy out in to the universe and find my happy spot again.

     First, I arrived back in Toronto on Tuesday with a cold. Not really all that surprising seeing as how I spent half the weekend outside. It's that time of year, you can never really dress just right. No big deal, I'm a big boy I'll survive.

     My cable still isn't working. I am now on my fourth digital box in the last ten days. Rogers has been great about trying to solve the problem, but still it persists. I missed the second tech home visit because the technician called the house line rather than the number I gave the operator when I booked the appointment. I was home but I can't hear the house line from my room, or the door bell. Maybe the third time will be the charm. Again, no big deal, just kind of annoying. I'm vegging in front of a blank screen instead of bad television.

     Wednesday, I got a notice to pick up a registered letter and it was garbage night.

     Thursday, I'm off to work. It's dark when I leave. After work, I go get the registered letter. It's from the City of Toronto??? Curious, I open it and give it a quick read on the walk home. It is a notice of violation of city code. Huh?? I have failed to maintain my property free of graffiti. WTF

The offending portion of my fence

     What you can't see is the fact this is actually the third time my property has been vandalised. At the top of the fence in the left corner of the picture you can just see the graffiti that was sprayed on the brick wall before the fence went up. The graffiti on the fence has actually been done twice. I guess they weren't satisfied with the results the first time.

     So I guess being the victim of a crime isn't quite enough, I can face a fine, inspection fees and paying for the city to remove the offending material. I can not even begin to describe how pleased I am that my tax dollars are paying for an inspector to go around the city checking for these things. Rather than focusing on catching the offenders and having them make restitution, I'm on the hook for this one. Thanks.

     I'm not alone on this either. This particular graffiti is all over the neighbourhood.

     I continue on home and now I'm not pleased. Here is what greeted me as I approached the house.

A little further down the fence

      That's right, one of my beloved neighbours has once again dumped their garbage along the side of my house. I guess I should be happy they didn't block my driveway like they did the last two times. Seriously,  where was that inspector when the illegal dumping was going on. Yet another call to the city garbage collection, another complaint and a chance to try some new and colourful language and a few old favourites.

    Now it's Friday. Work is finished. I got out my sander and did my best to remove the offending material.

Doesn't that just look so much better?
I can feel property values rising even as I write this
A clean slate just waiting to be redrawn

     It didn't take all that long but the fact I had to spend a minute on it just burns me. It was on the list of things to do around the house but so far down as to be non existent. Why, because it will be re done probably before the inspector is by to see it was ever removed.

     So that's how my week shaped up. Going forward, I still have my cold, my television still isn't working, the garbage is still along side my house but that graffiti is gone. At least for now.

     Are you having one of those days, weeks, months? Feel free to share, misery loves company.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Off to Grandmother's house we go

     That's right, a trip home for my grandfather's 90th birthday. Things are looking better and better for me coming from such a long lived and healthy family.

     This is a bit rushed, I'm in the middle of baking my desserts I have to take with me for the big celebration on Sunday. I'm trying a new recipe, here and just in case it isn't all that I hope an old favourite here. I'll let you know how the family reacts. Very honest and brutal blunt critics if they don't like something. LOL

     I've got my camera packed so hopefully I'll remember to use it, my 16G memory stick so I can poach everyone else's photos and my iPod all loaded up for the long drive. New favourite, "Sexy and I know it" by LMFAO.

     Have an amazing weekend.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Agreeing to Disagree, Bitchin' in the kitchen, again

     It's Tuesday again, time for Coffee Chat over at Time out for Mom. This week's topic is a bit more controversial and I'm curious to see the dialogue that comes out of it. Read on at your peril, you've been warned. Some of the language may be objectionable or offensive. It's meant to be and hopefully I've done my job and put it in context.

     Normally, I wouldn't bother with something like this. Quite honestly, I'm not sure it deserves to get any more attention than it already has, but sometimes..............I stumble across things on the web that just make me wonder. Do we really not use our heads for more than keeping our ears apart? A sharp rap on the top of the head for all involved.

     I saw this on my Sympatico home page when I logged in a while back. Not my normal reading fare but...
I read the article, followed the link to the offending ad, read the Wiki entry and browsed through the comments. All of it just made me disappointed, in journalist integrity, in our tolerance, in our intelligence.

    It touches on religion, politics, the role of media, education, tolerance and children. All things it is far to easy to get all worked up about. Sorry, I'm not going to rehash the ad or the article you'll have to look at the links because it would end up being an even longer post if I do. I'll touch on some of it and leave you to make your own conclusions. Where to start? At the beginning I suppose, with the ad itself.

     Should the National Post have run the ad in the first place? Is it their job to censor what we read? I'm going to have to come down on the side of no, the ad should never have run. I have no problem with Institute for Canadian Values publishing their views, they have that right protected under law. Whether I'm for, against or indifferent to what they stand for is irrelevant. To be published in a national paper lending credence to their point of view, not so much. Not unless we are going to allow every group who can afford it to publish their own opinions regardless of the message they send. We don't.

     Let's face it, the only thing the newspaper is really concerned with is ad revenue and readership. At approximately $85,000 dollars for the ad and a whole lot of exposure because of it, how does the paper lose? They don't.

     The agenda for the Institute seems pretty clear, get our message out. What is that message exactly? That is a little harder to tease out.

     Why? At first glance, it actually looks like one of the " Because I am a girl " ads. It isn't.

      Reading the copy, it seems like its a criticism of our public school system and the sex education program. It isn't that either. There is no mention of the content of the curriculum being age inappropriate, incorrect, inaccurate, teachers poorly trained/prepared or the subject better suited to discussions between parent and child, dealt with in the home. What it does do is target a specific kind of information relating to a specific group of people.

    Now we're getting closer to the truth.

     What is the offending material? Anything related to the target group, the GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans-gendered) community with the Intersexed community thrown in for good measure. Wait, but what about Two Spirited? I don't see the word homosexual at all, what are you talking about? It was actually a clever move on the Institute's part. Two Spirited is a term currently used to identify the GLBT community within the aboriginal or First Nations community. Putting in the word homosexual would have guaranteed the ad would never have run.
     The rest of the ad goes on to talk about how students can't be pulled from the class, leaving parents no choice. Teachers have to teach the subject regardless of moral or religious grounds etc, etc. Again it sounds like genuine concern, but it isn't. Here's why.

     Parents have the choice to have their children absent during the days the offending material is taught, change schools, petition the school boards for curriculum to be changed, home school, private school etc.

     Children have the right to attend but not participate, ie not doing dissections in biology class. Put on an iPod, close your eyes, don't pay attention.

     These are not easy choices but standing up for what you believe isn't always easy. That is a lesson worth learning all on its own.

     Teachers teach. They are paid to relay information, not moral judgements, not their religious dogma. Don't like it, don't do it. Does a mechanic refuse to work on foreign cars because they are patriotic? Does a doctor have the right to refuse care for people of a different faith than their own? Of course not, the idea is ridiculous.

     My sympathies are for the teachers. They are in a tough spot. Teaching about sex, sexuality, orientation and sexual stereotypes is an incredibly tall order. These are challenging subjects for adults. I had to look up a couple of terms and I consider myself pretty well informed, let alone trying to teach these concepts to children.The only reason it's in the classroom at all is because we put it there. We don't, can't, won't , are uncomfortable talking about it so let someone else do it. Let's be fair, if even the majority of parents were talking to their children about these things it wouldn't be part of the curriculum. It isn't exactly a class like science, history or math.

    To my dismay the article and resulting comments about the ad weren't a whole lot better. Again, at first, it seemed like a rebuttal but turned out to be no more tolerant than the ad, only the target was different, the religious, painting everyone with the same brush.

    One comment that stuck with me went something like this- If we can't have prayer in school don't expect us to accept teaching about homosexuality. What? that's comparing apples to elephants.

     We don't have prayer in school because not everyone believes in the same God. Personally, I think kids would be better off if a moment of silence for worship were allowed then followed by discussion of all the different religions and beliefs but that is another post.

    Our sexuality, homo, hetero, bi or a is who we are, like skin colour or height. We aren't all the same and as far as a choice, do we tell or do we lie. Does anyone really believe we control who our bodies respond to sexually? We have the choice to act on that response or not, but that is about it.

     Why does all of this bother me? There are a few different reasons.

     The biggest one is are we still this hung up on sex, talking about it, understanding it. What happens between two consenting adults isn't anyone's business but their own. How is it an attack on someone else's beliefs? Why does this topic still raise every one's hackles?

     The next is are we really the age of stupid? What happened to intelligent news reporting rather than sensationalism and the 15 second sound bite. Is the ability to look at an issue logically, rationally and impartially lost? To the National Post and the writer of the article, if I can work it through, you can too.

    Are we really so intolerant? Notice I said intolerant, not unaccepting. The world is a big place with lots of different people, races and creeds.The beauty of living here, in a democracy, is the right to be as you are so long as you aren't hurting or endangering anyone else. The only thing we have to accept is that we are all different. You can agree, disagree or not care what someone else believes in, there is space enough for all. We all carry our own truth.

     To the Institute for Canadian Values, change your name. I'm Canadian, proud to be, you don't represent what I believe in or my values. Say what you mean, don't dress it up, don't hide behind political correctness or clever media savvy ploys. If your message is "We hate fags", have the courage of your convictions to say it loud. I don't agree but I can at least respect your right to your opinion and then give you and your organization the consideration it deserves, none.

     We live in a world where Matthew Shepard was beaten, tied to a fence and left to die. Because he was different, and he's not alone. We are good a using words like; fag, nigger, kike, slut, dyke, towelhead. Hiding them behind politically correct terms doesn't change the intent.  It is far too easy to marginalize, differentiate and segregate everything that isn't "us". The only problem is we all fall into a category for someone else.

     The question is this, do we teach our children to be strong in their own beliefs while respecting others and the right to theirs, or do we teach them to fear, mis-trust and hate. Sometimes we just have to agree that we disagree.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

When Good Tech Goes Bad

     Technology can be a great thing. I love every new toy, gadget and app. I'm a mix of traditionalist and futurist. I like the tested and true but willingly embrace everything the age of the WWW has provided. Some times, it all goes horribly wrong.

     I'd be lost with out spell check, rely heavily on Grammar Girl and Google everything. I rarely use my phone (land line) relying on email and Facebook to keep me connected. There are still a few bumps along the information highway.

   Auto translate is a little twitchy, any translation matrix is doomed to provide some hilarious results. Direct word for word never works. Too much of language is determined by context.

     The big bump is auto fill/auto correct, and I guess I'm not alone. My friend Rauri corrects to ruminator, my cousin Carly to Curly, I've turned mine off on the computer. It sounds like it should work, save time and effort but some how I'm pretty sure the following texts are not what was intended. These were emailed to me by a co worker and provided some true ROFLMAO. You may have already seen these, but they still make me laugh. Every time.

      If you've recovered and still need a few more chuckles, click here. There are 876 pages more.

      Have you ever been a victim of good tech gone bad?