My Little Brother Turned 50 Today…Memories of a Big Sister…

I was three when I came home from a trip to my Grandma Shoots’ house to find that I was no longer an only child.  The usurper was ten lbs. of trouble topped by a giant head which had torn my petite mother stem to stern when it passed through (that was all from the Shoots side)…they told me his name: Jeffery Layne…we called him “Jeffy”.  I thought he looked like a little old man!

Jeffy wasn’t much fun for me the first year…he slept too much!  If I caught him asleep, I’d give him just enough of a poke to wake him up…unfortunately for me, Mommy caught me doing it more than once!  Later, he repaid me for disturbing his slumber by sinking his teeth into my upper arm: “Mommy, Jeffy bit me!” was a common complaint thereafter…

Jeffy was very cautious…I was walking at eight months, but it was well after his first birthday before Jeff was brave enough to take his first independent steps.  I remember him getting down on all fours and turning around backwards to negotiate any small change in the terrain.

My brother was the noisiest kid I’d every encountered in my short life.  He screamed constantly, not because there was anything wrong with him, but because he seemed to enjoy the sound of his own voice!  It’s a wonder I lived through the summers of 1964 and 1965…our poor mother used to keep the windows closed (in our 95-degree Ohio weather) so the neighbours wouldn’t think she was beating him!  Luckily, by the time he was two, Jeffy replaced screaming with singing (which he would often practice randomly at church, during Daddy’s sermon).  We have an audio tape of Jeffy singing his version of the theme from Batman: “Batman! Wah, wah, wah, wah.  Batman!”

Jeffy had curly brown hair, which endeared him to everyone who saw him in my parents’ arms:  “Oh, what a pretty little girl!”, they’d say.  Wanting to put an end to the confusion, Daddy took my brother for his first visit to the barber when he was two…Jeff never had curly hair again!  I think he must have been inspired by the experience, because when he was five, my dad asked Jeffy what he wanted to be when he grew up: “I want to be a barber,” he answered.  “I got REAL scissors!”

Three-year-old Jeffy stuck at the kitchen table playing with his balloon boat, while he was supposed to be eating his peas!

Three-year-old Jeffy stuck at the kitchen table playing with his balloon boat, while he was supposed to be eating his peas!

The year Jeffy turned five was a particularly memorable one: We moved to Canada that summer, and for his birthday, Jeffy got a brand-new metallic green bike with a banana seat, monkey handlebars, and training wheels (which would stay on for the next three years…did I mention Jeff was cautious?).  Jeffy also was sent reluctantly off to kindergarten, which in hindsight, I don’t think he was ready for…almost every day, I was summoned from my Grade Three classroom to come to the kindergarten, because “Jeffy’s crying again”.  He missed about half the school year due to tonsillitis, which was lucky for me…I had just enough time in my own class to pass!   I remember being jealous when Jeffy came home from having his tonsils out…he got to have ice cream!

Jeff with his brand new bike.

Jeff with his brand new bike.

That first year in Canada was also the year that we had our first cat named Tripper…Jeffy was particularly fond of him (and a decade or so later, named a second cat “Tripper”).  We started attending church in Trenton, where Jeffy and the minister’s son, James, became best friends, and engineered many wild adventures, which you can read about here: http://writerwoman61.wordpress.com/2010/05/11/our-first-year-in-canada-part-1/, and here: http://writerwoman61.wordpress.com/2010/05/12/our-first-year-in%C2%A0canada%E2%80%A6part%C2%A02%E2%80%A6/.

In 1970, our family moved to Rednersville, where we met our friends, Jimmy and Dougie.  Jeffy and Dougie were the same age, and Jimmy was a year older.  I used to organize plays and musical productions in our back yard, which the boys would ultimately get roped into.  When I was ten, I had mastered Bob Dylan’s “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” on the guitar, and recruited my seven-year-old brother to play the part of the girl picking the flowers.  I made a “wig” out of paper cut into strips, and plopped it on Jeffy’s head.  I played my song and sang, while he skipped around the back yard collecting the paper flowers I had carefully coloured.  The audience loved it!

Our dad built us a tree fort, and had purchased an old VW van, which he parked underneath it…the four of us spent hours playing in the van and the tree house.  We also had a path to ride bikes around the house, since we weren’t allowed to ride on the road until later.  One of our other favourite activities was a modified form of kickball, which we called “Running Around the Bases”.

When Jeffy was eight (and I was eleven), I suggested we get a paper route together…we had about 50 customers between us.  Jeffy did the closer houses, and I did the ones farther away.  Sadly, Jeffy had all the good tippers on his part of the route…jealousy reared its ugly head again!  The little bugger saved most of his money too, which I had great difficulty doing (although I did save enough to buy myself a ten-speed!).

We spent every nice day outdoors, which wasn’t always the best thing for my brother…Jeffy had inherited our mom’s hay fever in a big way!  I remember hearing him sneeze and sneeze and sneeze all summer, especially later on when he was picking vegetables for a living.

Jeff and I at the Sandbanks, ca. 1972.

Jeff and I at the Sandbanks, ca. 1972.

My mom had gotten a job by the time Jeffy was eight, so we were left to our own devices after school, which often led to bickering…one time, he was chasing me, so I ran into the house and shot the little slide bolt on the door over (our only lock).  Somehow, the lock ended up getting broken!  Another time, I thought it’d be funny to put icing from the beaters onto Jeff’s nose…he apparently didn’t share my opinion!  He chased me upstairs, and pushed me backwards into the bathtub!  We rarely fought physically, but that incident has always stuck in my mind.  Usually, I’d claw him with my nails if he started hitting me (he used to bite me, remember?)…our parents were not impressed!

When Jeff was thirteen, our parents gave us some money they’d saved for us, probably about $1500 each.  Jeff bought himself a lawn tractor from Sears, and soon had lawn mowing customers from all over the neighbourhood (I started a candy store).  He was a hard worker, and earned enough money to buy his first car from the proceeds, a Renault that he’d drive around our fields because he wasn’t old enough to have a license yet.  Jeff tried to teach me how to drive it, but I never mastered the art of letting the clutch out slowly enough not to stall the car!

Jeff got his driver’s license soon after he turned sixteen…I didn’t have mine, so my brother became my new driver…I think our parents were glad to get a break!  We took a memorable trip to Ohio in a borrowed Honda Civic with our mom one summer: http://writerwoman61.wordpress.com/2010/03/24/the-kilbourne-vine-caper/

In the summer of 1982, Jeff was working for a market gardener picking produce, and got me on to the all-male crew…that was one of the funnest jobs I’ve ever had (and a lucky break since I’d been laid off from my job at the photo lab because I’d had to take six weeks off for my college internship!).  It was in those cornfields that Jeff had some of his most spectacular sneezing fits!

Jeff on his way to work on the farm...

Jeff on his way to work on the farm…

I left home in 1983 and moved to the Maritimes…Jeff stayed at our mom’s house for several years and helped look after her (she and our dad had divorced in 1985, and she was chronically ill).  Later, he took a soldering course at Loyalist College.  Jeff’s first job after finishing school was at Leigh Instruments in Carleton Place, where he met and later married my sister-in-law, Bev (I like to think he picked her because she’s a lot like me).

In 1994, my niece, Taylor Dawn, was born.  Jeff was a doting dad and taught Taylor useful things, like how to fetch beer for him and play golf.  She inherited his love for classic cars (and beer), but she turned out all right anyway!  Jeff, Bev and Tay visited my family in Moncton, New Brunswick, in the summer of 1996.  We took them to the Magnetic Hill Zoo, which featured a small train to transport visitors around the property.  We were all riding on the train, and Jeff stuck his head out the window to look at something behind us…he pulled it back in, just as we came to a signpost along the tracks, which was disturbingly close.  When Jeff realized that he might have been decapitated had his head been out the window for another split second, he freaked out: “I could have been killed!”  He talked about it for the rest of the afternoon year..I don’t think he appreciated my uncontrollable laughter at the situation…it made for a good story, though.  Jeff’s always been a master storyteller!

Today, Jeff is still working at what is essentially the same company in Carleton Place (its third incarnation is called “DRS”).  He spends his spare time riding his motorcycle, working around the house and yard, and fishing small dead animals out of his back yard pool.  Jeff has also organized a regular summer “Cruise Night” for the other classic car lovers in the area, which has raised several thousand dollars for the local children’s hospital over the years.

Jeff and Bev on the bike...they wear helmets when it's moving!

Jeff and Bev on the bike…they wear helmets when it’s moving!

Happy 50th Birthday, Jeff!  I tease you a lot, but you’re still my brother and I’m very proud of the man you’ve become!

 

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Memories of Loyalist College – September, 1982 – October, 1983

*Note: This is a special blog post written in honour of what would have been my graduating class’ (I didn’t graduate) 30-Year Reunion, which I am unable to attend.

Once upon a time, there was a young woman who decided she wanted to be a Broadcast Journalist. This was due, in part, to a much older ex-boyfriend who had done exactly that, and partly to an admiration for female journalists of the day such as Barbara Frum, Hana Gartner, Adrienne Clarkson and (*whispering) Pamela Wallin.

The application process was fairly straightforward: fill out the college application, and send it along with an audition tape (there may have also been an essay, but I’m not sure) and the application fee. I was lucky that my parents lived near Loyalist College…I was spared the whole student loan nightmare that many of my fellow students were subjected to (surviving on Kraft Dinner…aaack!). I was accepted, and started the course with about 19 other students in September of 1982.

At 21, I was one of the oldest students in our class. I felt infinitely more mature than the mostly 18 and 19-year-olds in the rest of the group! I remember feeling sorry for the kids who had come from the Maritimes…they were so far away from their families!

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Me and some of my Broadcast Journalism classmates…that’s me in the bib front blouse…

Within the first month, I had (unwillingly) earned a nickname: “Wendy Shoots, She Scores”. This was courtesy of our journalism prof, Phil R., who thought it was hilarious…he also teased Lisa M. mercilessly about being from Dingwall, Nova Scotia! I took a lot of flak from other students for my homemade tape recorder case…it didn’t occur to me when I made it that putting “Wendy B.J.” on the side in big letters might be a bad idea.

Classes that year were a bit of a blur (although I did go to them)…I remember the soporific quality of Len A.’s Broadcast Journalism and the Law class, and struggling to pronounce Russian names in Ken B.’s Foreign Language Pronunciation class. I was happy to get an exemption from Typing…I passed the test with flying colours…the test machine was a far sight better than the 1940’s Underwood I had learned on at home!

The school had its own radio station, which was staffed by the Broadcast Journalism and Radio Broadcasting classes. There were more than a few pranks played: one time, a fictitious story about The Flintstones was inserted into an unsuspecting newscaster’s copy. There was at least one instance of news copy being set on fire while the news was being read on the air (glad that wasn’t me!).

I was always nervous doing radio news…somehow, seeing the mike in front of me was intimidating! I always did well on airchecks though…my voice was naturally low, which I supposed made it easier for me than some of the other girls!

One of my favourite things was producing radio documentaries…I spent hours in the studio editing tape with a razor blade! I still have some of them somewhere…

The heart of our school life was the Radio Lounge…all the fun happened there! That was where my classmate, Steve S., got his nickname: he was playfighting with his cousin, Kent Mo. one day. One of the Broadcast Journalism students, Brad S., hollered: “Look…it’s “Chunk” Norris!” From that day forward, no one ever called Steve by his real name again.

Chunk was the oldest in our class at 26…he was one of the few students who had a car: a Mercury Comet, which became known as “The Chunkmobile.” A bunch of us used to bum a ride back into Belleville after school with Chunk…I was the only girl, and often ended up sitting on someone’s lap (I’m sure my mother would have been upset to know that I was usually not wearing a seatbelt!). Later on, the Chunkmobile became “The Vomit Comet” on account of the powerful smell that erupted one day and never went away, even though Chunk made his best effort to get rid of it…

Another fun part of Loyalist College for me was the “Pubs”: I loved music, and saw many acts live that I otherwise wouldn’t have been exposed to: Lee Aaron, Matt Minglewood, Murray McLaughlan, etc. I was probably one of the few students who didn’t go to Pub just to drink…

I spent a lot of time hanging out with the folks from the Radio Broadcasting classes…they seemed to be closer than my own classmates, and had way more fun! I went to several parties at various students’ apartments…I remember at least one Toga Party, Tequila Sunrises (didn’t drink them…just watched them being made and consumed), and dancing to Stray Cats rockabilly. There was the M*A*S*H* party on John St. where I started dating my (now ex) husband, Radio guy, Kent M. (we were introduced by Radio girl, Becky W., at an earlier gathering at the Doc’s Hotel).

One party stands out…it was the one and only time I was ever drunk in my life: this one was at Broadcast Journalism guys, Ed L. and Greg V.’s apartment on Front Street. Ed and Greg were two of my “Chunkmobile” buddies…the day of the party, I got dropped off with them at their apartment since I lived in the country and didn’t want to have to get my mom to drive me back into town for the party later. I planned to just “hang out” until the party started…Kent had to work that night, so he would come and join me after his shift was over at 11 p.m. We got to the apartment around 4. I remember somebody asking me if I wanted a drink. “Do you have any rye?” I asked. They did, but no ginger ale, which is what I usually mixed it with. Greg had gotten a large root beer at McDonald’s on the way home, and still had a lot left…he offered me the rest to mix with the rye. Stupidly, I agreed.

It was about 8 p.m. when I started feeling really sick…I spent the next three hours in and out of the bathroom. When Kent arrived, I was ready to get out of there. We had to walk several blocks to the rooming house where he lived…some of the sidewalks were under construction…my arms and legs were not cooperating at all! We went to Kent’s room, where I lay on his bed as the room spun around, and wished for either death or my mom to come…she came at midnight to take me home. Lesson learned…I never got drunk again!

Beside the Doc’s Hotel, we also liked to go to Dolan’s, and Copperfield’s. Songs like Laura Branigan‘s Gloria, Men at Work‘s Who Can It Be Now?, Alan Parsons Project‘s Eye in the Sky, and J. Geils Band‘s Freeze-Frame all remind me of that time.

When summer came, I went off to Ottawa for six weeks and did my internship at CFRA Radio. It was there that I got the first inkling that perhaps I didn’t have the personality to be a journalist…I was a basket case nearly every night…I was wrapped up in all the stories I’d had to cover…a lot of them were upsetting! I did get to see Prince Charles and Princess Diana on their visit to Canada though…I was told by my News Director to get some tape of the Princess’ walkabout. I was having difficulty controlling my boom mike in the wind…Diana was saved from a possible concussion by a burly RCMP officer swatting my mike away from her head! Needless to say, I didn’t get my tape!

The second year of our course was mainly television. I loved doing the newscasts! However, dragging heavy video equipment around to get stories was not my cup of tea, especially when it was very likely you could arrive at a venue with a completely dead battery pack! Editing videotape electronically was not my forté either…

In October of 1983, Kent got a job offer from a new radio station in St. John’s, Newfoundland: CKIX-FM…I was sure I couldn’t live without him, so I quit school and moved to the Rock (we were married less than a year later, and have two daughters together).

I’m grateful that I went to Loyalist College…it was the first time that I ever felt I “belonged” to a group…I was very much a loner in high school! I made many wonderful lifelong friends (including my future husband), and the skills I learned in our course came in handy later on in my writing/non-profit communcations careers. If it weren’t for Loyalist College, I would probably not be living in the Maritimes, my adopted home of the last 30+ years!

Have a wonderful reunion…wish I was there to see you all!

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Sweet Sarah…

They’re having a memorial for Sarah in Port Hope, Ontario on February 22nd.  I wish I could go.  I can’t.  Instead, I will write my memories of Sarah…

I first met Sarah some time in the summer of 1983…I liked her the minute we were introduced.  She was a year younger than I was, and had the same birthday as my brother, September 13th.  I was dating my first husband, Kent, and Sarah was Kent’s brother, James’, live-in girlfriend.  James and Sarah had gotten together in high school, and had been inseparable ever since.  At 6′ tall, James towered over 4’11” Sarah!  She was small but mighty!

One of five children born to artist parents, it makes sense that Sarah would get together with an artist whose father was also an artist.  While James went to the Ontario College of Art, Sarah was studying social work and psychology at university.

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James and Sarah…early ’80’s…

Kent and I moved to Newfoundland in late 1983, so didn’t see James and Sarah again until our wedding in 1984.  James was an usher.  We spent our honeymoon in Port Hope at the family cottage, and got to hang out with James and Sarah a little bit there.  After we were married, Kent and I moved from St. John’s, Newfoundland to Moncton, New Brunswick.

The next time we saw James and Sarah was at their wedding in 1985.  They were taking care of a huge old farmhouse in Port Hope for a family friend, and the wedding was held outside there.  It was a casual summer wedding…lots of people and lots of food!  Sarah made sure everyone was having a good time.

James’ dad and his wife lived in Kelowna, British Columbia…Sarah and James moved there soon after they were married.  We visited them with our baby, Kaylee, in the spring of 1987.  Sarah was about seven months pregnant with her first child, Dylan.   James and Sarah took us on a tour and drove us to a local petting zoo.  I’ll never forget the sight of little Sarah with her big belly, surrounded by pregnant pygmy goats…it’s like they knew she was pregnant too!

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Sarah, 7 1/2 months pregnant with Dylan…

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James, Sarah and Dylan…

Sarah and James returned to Port Hope after a couple of years in British Columbia.  They bought a house next door to Kent’s best friend’s.  This was the end of their nomadic existence…Sarah and James were putting down roots.  

The house was old and comfortable.  James’ and other family members’ art decorated the walls.  There were books and record albums everywhere.  The fridge door was covered with family photos and Dylan’s doodlings.  The television was hidden away in the office…when you went to visit Sarah and James, you talked!  I remember late nights with wine, music, and laughter…

It was soon after they came back that Sarah opened a day care at the house.  Sarah was a natural caregiver…she loved kids and they loved her!  Likewise with animals…I don’t ever remember Sarah and James not having a dog or two.   When she didn’t have a child or a dog in her arms, she was knitting.  I still have the sweaters Sarah made for the girls when they were little.

James and Sarah’s daughter, Rachel, was born in 1992.  I had given them a crocheted baby blanket as a gift.  A couple of years later, we were visiting one summer.  I remember Sarah telling me how they had to wait until Rachel was asleep, and then sneak the blanket away from her to wash it…I hardly recognized it!  It was well-loved…

Sarah and James were vegetarians, and belonged to a food buying co-op.  It was at their house that I first had “TVP” (texturized vegetable protein) instead of hamburger in spaghetti sauce!  I still make one of Sarah’s pasta salad recipes (macaroni shells, broccoli, carrots, whole almonds, mayo with a little lemon juice and dill, if you like).  They didn’t force their lifestyle on the kids, but allowed them to choose what they wanted to eat.

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Rachel, Sarah, and Dylan, eating spaghetti…

Kent and I split up in 1997.  With very little money, I was unable to make the trip from New Brunswick to Ontario very often.  The last time I saw James and Sarah was in 2003.  I had gone to Ontario to my college reunion, and had arranged to spend a few days in Port Hope so my daughters could see their dad and his family.  We stayed at Sarah and James’ house…it was one of the best visits I’d ever had with them!  Sarah treated my youngest, Hope, like all the other kids, even though she wasn’t technically related.  Sarah told me about being “carded” at the liquor store (she was over 40 at the time).  “I told them I had a 15-year-old son at home!” she laughed.  The rest of the family came over one afternoon for a family reunion…I remember Sarah giggling as hard as our middle school daughters when 75-year-old Nana did an impromptu rendition of “Who Let the Dogs Out?” (complete with barking).

James’ dad passed away in 2009.  Sarah was there to comfort him.  James returned the favour when Sarah’s younger brother succumbed to cancer last year.

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James and Sarah at James’ dad’s memorial service…

 

Last fall around Hallowe’en, my daughters got a message from their aunt that Sarah was very ill…cancer.  Despite aggressive treatments with radiation, the cancer spread to Sarah’s brain in January.  She died February 5th with her beloved James at her bedside…he’d been there around the clock for three days…

Sarah was the first to laugh, and the first to cry.  She was the first to hug…all children felt safe in her embrace, and adults felt comfort…

I can see Sarah in heaven surrounded by children whose time also came too soon…maybe they’re fingerpainting…

RIP Sweet Sarah…

 

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Things I’ve Learned in the Past Three Weeks…

As my regular readers know, I’ve been set up in the Saint John City Market for the past three weeks selling books from our bookstore…this isn’t my first time selling at the Market, but it is the first attempt at being a full-time vendor.  Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

1. Nothing is predictable.  You can have an amazing sales day on Monday, but your sales on Tuesday might suck!  There is no rhyme or reason to it…it completely depends on who walks into the Market that day with money in their pocket and a desire to buy a book.  There was a raging snowstorm outside on one of my best sales days ever…I thought people would be holed up in their houses!  Hopefully, it all evens out at the end of the week (or month!).

2. Listen to other people’s suggestions, within reason.  My friend, Scott, (who is also a Market vendor) suggested I change my display to a U-shape with individual books highlighted in the center instead of two straight rows.  He was right…it looked much more inviting, and gave the illusion of having more books.  Another Market vendor suggested I stick a price tag on the books so people wouldn’t have to look for the price (inside the front cover in pencil)…no way…stickers are death on books!

3. Change is good.  I change my display daily, and bring a new box of stock from the store every morning.  The theme changes weekly.  I learned this from a very successful Market vendor (and good friend), Becky.  There are a bunch of people who go through the Market every day (it’s part of a pedway system)…I want them looking at my stuff when they pass through.

4. Word travels fast.  I mentioned to a couple of other vendors that we used tomato boxes to store our books, and pop flats to mail them in.  Now cardboard and boxes magically appear under my bench!

5. The public can be a little too friendly sometimes.  One day last week, I felt someone looking over my shoulder, turned away from my computer and was nose-to-nose with a little old lady who was staring intently at our bookstore logo on the screen, and giggling like a little girl.  It is cute, but she was certainly old enough to have a sense of other people’s personal space!

Our bookstore logo...guaranteed to make you say "Awww..."

6. Customers usually fit in one of three categories.  The first, buyer, is my favourite!  The second, be-backer, may or may not come back, despite what he or she says (although I have been surprised more than once!).  The third, bugger, will talk your ear off for fifteen minutes and leave without buying anything…if you’re going to tell me about your Great Aunt Martha’s hip surgery, at least reward me for the torture I’ve endured by buying a book!

7. Regulars are the best.  My best customer so far bought seven books the first week, two the second, and one this week (he gets 20% off since he’s bought five books from us).  He walked by my bench at a fast clip on Wednesday muttering, “Stop tempting me…stop tempting me…stop tempting me!”  I got a laugh out of it!

8. My bladder is stronger than I thought.  I’m at the Market from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.  I work alone, and the bench across from me is vacant most of the week.  I depend on the kindness of my friends (and fellow vendors) to make pit stops.  My record for “holding my water” so far is seven hours (I usually don’t drink anything during the day, and wait until I get home at night to have tea).  I’m hoping that I get a “neighbour” soon!

9. People are procrastinators.  If I had a nickel for every customer I’ve talked to who’s said, “I’ve seen your store, but I haven’t gone in yet,” I’d have a lot of nickels!  It’s been twelve years, people!  It’s time!

10. Boys will be boys, no matter how old they are.  Last week, a fight nearly broke out in front of my bench because one guy failed to move to one side so that a man coming toward him could get past.  Ridiculous!  Luckily, a woman travelling with one of the men was able to talk him out of his idiocy.

I’m having fun at the Market…I’ve met some interesting people.  I’m going to keep it up as long as I can make a bit of money…

I miss Blogland, but it’s really hard to read and write when one is being constantly interrupted…and I do have to eat.  I’ll try to visit my blogging buddies once in a while, and post when I have a few minutes…

 

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Religion, Resolutions, Raccoons, Rutabagas, and Red Tablecloths…

When I last posted, December 21st (sigh), I was deep in the holidaze.  Now that the fog has cleared somewhat (or as much as it ever does for a woman of my advanced years), I decided to post an update with some of the highlights of my last couple of weeks:

Religion:

There’s an Anglican church near Hope’s school that Jim drives by every day when he drops off the kids.  The minister seems to put great thought into the messages he puts on the display board.  This is one of his latest offerings:

Prayers just aren't what they used to be...photo by Jim

I haven’t met the minister, but I think I might like him!

Resolutions:

New Year’s Day has come and gone.  Jim and I hung out at home with the kids on New Year’s Eve…the most exciting thing we did was play Just Dance 3 on the Wii (which I suck at…Jim has a video which he’s keeping if he ever needs to blackmail me!).  I was laughing so hard at my own incompetence, I almost peed my pants (although Jim’s attempt was pretty funny too!).

I don’t do resolutions…I figure there’s no point in deliberately setting oneself up for failure.  Before Christmas, I decided to give up eating chips, and I’m happy to report that I haven’t had any since (I have had cookies, cake, pie, fudge, caramel popcorn, nuts, and candy, though…the weight is falling off at such a speed, you can hardly see it!).

Raccoons:

We’ve had fun the last couple of months watching a local family of raccoons which enjoys helping itself to Jim’s birdseed smorgasbord on the back deck.  The babies love tormenting our dog, Jake, by walking right up to the back door and peering through the glass at him.  Jake goes ballistic, barking frantically, and all three raccoons continue gazing wide-eyed at the crazed canine as if they were touring the Schnoodle exhibit at the museum.

The mother scares me a little.  She’s big, and not nearly as cute as her kids!  Jim and I often fall asleep at night holding hands…one night I dreamed about the mama raccoon.  She was trying to bite me, and I was holding her mouth shut!  Jim woke me up because I was squeezing his hand so hard!

Here’s a picture Anna took of a raccoon last fall:

One of our nightly visitors...photo by Anna Matheson.

Rutabagas:

Last year, I grew rutabagas in my garden…I love them.  Of course this year, the deer chewed the tops of the rutabaga plants…they don’t do well without leaves, so I harvested none.  I was thrilled to see a nice 5 lb. bag of rutabagas at Giant Tiger earlier this week (most stores around here have just turnip, which isn’t the same!).  I bought it immediately.  I had some nice stewing beef in the freezer…I made a gigormous beef stew and told Jim to invite his parents over to help us eat it, because fridge space over the holidays was still at a premium!  If I do say so myself, the stew was delicious, and people seemed to enjoy the homemade rolls and pumpkin pie for dessert too (the pumpkin pie I’d served at Christmas dinner got eaten before I had any)!  I’ve got leftovers for my lunch today…yummy!

Red Tablecloths:

Since my job at the Saint John City Market ended on November 30th, I haven’t been overwhelmed with job offers, so I made a proposal to my dad: I would start setting up at the Market with books full-time.   I would pay the rent, but keep whatever profits I made.  I would finally start taking a salary from the bookstore after almost twelve years of sweat equity!  It would give us more exposure (our location is a little off the beaten path), and allow us to get rid of some excess inventory.  Much to my surprise, Dad agreed with my idea!

I’ve spent this week assembling and packing books to take, and looking for red vinyl tablecloths for my bench…not an easy thing to find right after Christmas (I’m trying to keep with the colour scheme at the Market – benches are painted red)!  Each week, I’m featuring a different theme…next week’s is The Movies.

If you’re in the Market, please stop by and see me.  Even if they don’t buy anything, I’ll be depending on the kindness of friends for my bathroom breaks!

 

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Filed under books, family, food, satire

And the Winner is…

Two-month-old Nico isn't thrilled to get up close and personal with the Bearded One...

The results have been tabulated for the Santa Photo Caption Contest.  Caryn (mom of Nico) chose the winning caption, submitted by Annie at Six Ring Circus: Lose the beard, fatty. It’s itching my delicate baby skin.  Caryn adds: “I imagine he is saying this in a husky grumpy voice!!!”

Annie will be receiving an angel Christmas tree ornament made from recycled cookie tins by Scott McDade of The Recycling Bin.  She’s flying there as fast as she can (the angel, not Annie!)…her wings are only little!

Annie will have a beautiful angel to hang on her tree next year...photo by Scott McDade

Honourable mention goes to Monica at Monica’s Tangled Web for: And they woke me up and took me out of my comfy bed for this? Sheesh.

and

Jess at Jess Witkins’ Happiness Project for: What did I want for Christmas? To play with my thumbs! But no, instead, I get more Christmas pajamas with the mitten hand arms!!!

Thanks to everyone who entered the contest…I hope all my friends and relatives have an amazing Christmas!  I will leave you with a much more contented picture of little Nico:

"Outfits with ears make me happy!"

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‘Twas The Sunday Before Christmas*…

* With apologies to all real poets everywhere…

‘Twas The Sunday Before Christmas…

Twas the Sunday before Christmas, when along Hammond River,
Wendy woke up, and started to shiver.
She stumbled downstairs.  To the furnace she went,
And discovered that the fire was spent.

Jim and Devin were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of Starcraft flew through their heads.
Wendy stood in the basement as her fingers turned blue,
“Brianna!” she called.  She’d know what to do!

When on the steps, there arose such a clatter,
Wendy ran from the furnace room to see what was the matter.
It was Brianna, whacking her head with a yelp.
“Walk it off, Bri!” Wendy said. “I need your help!”

Wendy watched as Brianna expertly stacked the wood.
She set it alight and soon, the temperature was good!
They went back upstairs where there was more to be done,
Christmas baking…not even begun!

Wendy filled the canister with more flour,
Knowing she’d have to do it again in an hour.
She mixed Shirley’s Cookies with precision,
As Anna jeered in derision!

“Molasses cookies are gross!” she whined.
“You should make chocolate chip! I’ve made up my mind!”
Wendy continued to work, and sipped from her tea,
And vowed to ignore Anna’s unreasonable plea!

Soon it was time to roll them out flat,
And cut them…the girls could do that!
On to the dinner rolls for the big Christmas feast.
Wendy measured the flour and added the yeast.

She covered the dough so it could rise,
And used her sleeve to wipe dust from her eyes.
Lemon squares were next…a fluffy delight!
Wendy separated three eggs, and did it just right.

The cookies took very little time to cook,
Anna was supposed to be reading a book!
There was an occasional burst from the smoke alarm,
They turned it off…the baking would come to no harm.

Jake hovered at their feet, hoping something would fall.
When he got bored, he’d play with his ball.
Hope was in town visiting her Dad,
Otherwise, there might have been more arguing to be had.

The roll dough was bulging…Anna gave it a punch.
In only an hour, it rose quite a bunch!
An hour later, Wendy hit it again…
Soon, the rolls could be put in the pan!

The cookies were cool…the icing guns loaded.
The dining room table looked like a sprinkle factory exploded!
Anna and Brianna did the decorating thing,
Pausing only occasionally to yell, “More icing!”

The next thing on the agenda was fudge…
Wendy was so tired, she could barely budge!
She measured the sugar and melted the butter,
As she searched for the can opener, she started to mutter…

Opener found…she punched two holes in the tin,
Measured the milk and poured it all in.
Two pots boiling on the stovetop,
Chocolate and brown sugar…Wendy was ready to drop!

At last she was done and the baked goods arrayed,
She snapped pics for the blog, and then put them away.
But I heard her exclaim, as she turned out the light,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”

Molasses Cookies before decorating...

 

Dinner Rolls...

 

Lemon Squares...

 

Brown Sugar Fudge...

 

Chocolate Fudge...

 

Cookies Brianna decorated...

 

Cookies Anna decorated...

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