Winter White Means Snow and Ice

All of us have moments in our lives that test our courage. Taking children into a house with a white carpet is one of them.
– Erma Bombeck –

A carpet of white snow is slowly blanketing our part of the world. No one minds if children trod upon it, build snowmen with it, or slide down it. Children don’t seem to think winter is nearly as long as their parents do!

Across the street from the Red House, the Hay Bales got their first dusting of white a few weeks ago. The bales are looking more and more like frosted shredded wheat!

Our recent heavy frost briefly left a coat of white ice crystals on every surface. This tree stump looks like it has sprouted white feathers!

Cascade Mountain sports the first snow of the winter. It won’t be long before there is enough snow in the mountains for the ski season to start!

Flowers Wearing Summer White

Are you hoping we have a White Christmas this year? I cannot tell a White Lie – by the time Christmas rolls around here, I’ll be holding up the White Flag and praying no more White Stuff falls to the ground.  After the hundredth Whiteout,  they can send in the men in White Coats to take me away – but not until after I’ve had a chance to go to the White Sale – I need some blue towels…

I like White in the summertime, though. It makes for a nice contrast to the sea of green..


A quintessential Daisy – the multi petaled Shasta Daisy has bright yellow-gold centres and a ‘dare-you’ attitude that even a deer steers clear of!



The Iceland Poppy is a hardy plant that sends out wave after wave of white, yellow or orange flowers all summer long.  They reseed themselves freely, resulting in new poppy plants in the most unexpected places!



White Dianthus with deeply cut petals are hardy plants, but they frequently don’t make it through the winter because the meadow voles eat them. Fortunately, the flowers produce lots of seeds, and some of them survive the vole assault.



A White Peony flower,  as big across as a bread and butter plate, is too heavy for the size of the stalk that tries to hold it upright. I really should cut back on the nutrients for these plants!



I missed harvesting one onion plant last year. This year, the Lone Onion (as I called it) sent up two beautiful blossoms. I didn’t harvest the plant this year either. I’m looking forward to seeing what comes up next spring!


Moving from White Flowers to White Clothing,

Who in their infinite wisdom decreed that Little League uniforms be white? Certainly not a mother.
Erma Bombeck –

With an evening coat and a white tie, anybody, even a stockbroker, can gain a reputation for being civilized.
– Oscar Wilde –

How To Make Breakfast More Fun

I went to a restaurant that serves “breakfast at any time”.  So I ordered French Toast during the Renaissance.
– Steven Wright –

While there are many interpretations of Breakfast, I’ve chosen to photograph the food I eat most mornings!

I start with the exact right bowl. It has to be the correct size – not too big and not to small. More importantly though, it has to have a happy group of animals dancing around the rim. This one has horses, camels and elephants – quite appropriate because I bought these dishes when we lived in the Middle East!

I put some fruit in the bottom of the bowl. I used bananas, but some times I use an apple, or an orange or some berries. This is the dangerous part of making breakfast  because I had to use a sharp knife to cut the bananas into the exact right thickness.  Like the bowl, the bananas can’t be too big or too small.

Next, I added some cereal. I used granola  with whole grains, fruit and nuts. You can use any type of cereal you want, but it has to compliment the fruit, not fight with it.

Last, I added yogurt – plain, low fat, high calcium yogurt. See how carefully  I spooned it on so that it formed a happy face? Two eyes, a nose, and a big grinning mouth.

The last detail is the spoon. Like the bowl, the spoon has to have some character, and it has to be not too big, and not too small. Today I chose a shiny new spoon, but some days I use a spoon from the set of cutlery that were a wedding present almost 42 years ago!

Remember the days when you let your child have some chocolate if he finished his cereal? Now, chocolate is one of the cereals.
– Robert Orben –

When I am done eating, I will have one small square of very dark chocolate…

How about you – how do you make your breakfast fun to eat?

Scanning my Mind and Computer for Memories

Do I plug this into my left ear or my right ear?

Everyone has a photographic memory. Some don’t have film.
Unknown –

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could plug one end of a USB cord into your ear, the other into your computer, and download every memory that resides in your brain?  A nifty little software program, like an Access database but far easier to use, would sort the memories by year, topic and any other category you wanted. Then a Scrapbook program would create wonderful photo journals of your life.

I mention this because I believe the memory bank in my brain needs to be defragged. Bits of information keep getting mislaid. I found the date of my next Dentist appointment filed with the trip to Galveston in 1979. And The Car Guys office phone number is mixed in with the cost of my car in 1984. Retrieving information can be a challenge some days. It would be nice to have the contents of my brain on my computer – it has a much better search function than my head does.

I’m not just sitting idly by, though, waiting for the computer industry to fulfill my grand dream. I have piles and piles of other things that I can scan onto my computer. I won’t have to lug out photo albums, slide carousels and file folders full of wedding invitations and birth announcements. I’ll just power up my laptop, click on a year, and scroll down a page of memories.

The 35 mm slides and negs will be fairly easy to scan, as will old prints, cards, and letters. The 110 negs are going to be the challenge. Building my own 110 film holder isn’t as easy as I thought it would be. I’m on Prototype 5, and it involves heavy card stock and my sewing machine…

Here are two of the photos I’ve revived in Photoshop Elements. The pictures certainly help me to retrieve the memories in my mind!

A small daughter was seeing life through rose colored sun glasses that day.


A successful launch sequence, lift off and landing!

Above all, I craved to seize the whole essence, in the confines of one single photograph, of some situation that was in the process of unrolling itself before my eyes.
– Henri Cartier-Bresson –

Canada Geese – Canada’s Bird Brigade

Canada – we are the second largest country in the world (in land area) but we only rank 35th in population. On the world stage, we are really not that significant, and the situation is made worse because we live in the shadow of a country that is like a big brother who will never grow up and move away. It is difficult to be the younger, smaller, almost invisible sibling, but now and then we make our presence known. Our most successful strategy is the exportation of our wonderful nuisance bird, the Canada Goose.

These extremely adaptable big birds have taken to suburban life, and will even forgo migration completely if they find a home that suits their needs. This has led to permanent Canada Geese populations in many locations in the United States. They have few predators because they are such brash and pushy birds. Not very Canadian like, really. They have significant pooping power, which is why we are not all that unhappy to see them move elsewhere.

They endear themselves to many people because they are the signal that the seasons are changing. Their V formation flight, and ceaseless honking bring the welcome news that spring is on the way. In the fall, well, let’s not talk about what they tell us.


The field behind our house is a Goose feeding ground right now. The typical V formation flight is quickly abandoned before they attempt to land. There is much jostling, honking, and disarray as they make their final approach.


Once safely on the ground, they move in a herd across the field, hoovering up the seeds. Late in the day they take off in a group and return to the body of water they call home for the night.  Once all the little ponds are frozen, many of these geese will head south. We will bid them a fond farewell for another season, and will not be too upset if some of them decide to settle down in the warm, hospitable lands of places other than here.

The Feather Files
Name: Canada Goose
Species: Branta canadensis
Native to and Migration: Resident to long-distance migrant. Canada Geese breed throughout North America, except in the high Arctic and in the extreme southern parts of the United States and Mexico.
Date Seen: November, 2011
Location: North of Calgary, Alberta, Canada

The art of taxation consists in so plucking the goose as to obtain the largest possible amount of feathers with the smallest possible amount of hissing.
– Jean Baptiste Colbert –

The American Government is going to revive a $5.50 tariff on all Canadians who enter the United States by air or by sea. The Canadians have hissed and complained about this, but to no avail. Our retaliation will be to send more geese their way…

GOOSE, n. A bird that supplies quills for writing. These, by some occult process of nature, are penetrated and suffused with various degrees of the bird’s intellectual energies and emotional character, so that when inked and drawn mechanically across paper by a person called an “author,” there results a very fair and accurate transcript of the fowl’s thought and feeling. The difference in geese, as discovered by this ingenious method, is considerable: many are found to have only trivial and insignificant powers, but some are seen to be very great geese indeed.
– Ambrose Bierce –

Rain Drops and Snowflakes – Wonder

I Wonder about many things.

twigI wonder how many raindrops it takes to fill a puddle?

winterI wonder how many snowflakes can fit on a stalk of grass seed? I wonder, is it even possible to count snowflakes?

I think I could fill an entire blog with ‘Wonder’ quotes! Here are a few of the best:

After you’ve heard two different eyewitness accounts of the same automobile accident, you begin to wonder about the validity of history. How do we know, for sure, what ever happened anywhere?
– Bits & Pieces Vol D #5 –

I wonder how much deeper the ocean would be without sponges.
– Variance on a quote by Stephen Wright –

People can be divided into three groups – those who make things happen, those who watch things happen and those who wonder what happened.
– John W. Newbern –

Canadian Blog Award Nominees

A Vote for Me is a Vote for… Me! (I can’t think of a catchy slogan…)

I ran across a list of Canadian Blogs at a website called the Canadian Blog Awards. A month or so ago they called for Nominees for the 2011 awards, and in a moment of self advertisement, I nominated myself. I didn’t expect anything to come of it.

The list of nominees was just posted, and I am in the running! The first round of voting will take place this coming week. It would be very nice if you would go to the Canadian Blog Awards webpage, scroll down to Best Personal Blog, click on it and then vote for A Lighter Shade of Grey.

If I make the cut in this round of voting, I’ll let you know!

Thanks for voting!

In Flanders Fields – Canadians in World War One

Canadians in WWI, 1914 to 1918

When Britain declared war on Germany in August 1914, Canada, as a member of the British Empire, was automatically at war. Canada’s troops were called the Canadian Corps and they fought on the Western Front in trenches that stretched from the Belgium coast, through France, to the frontiers of Switzerland. 65,000 Canadian military personnel lost their lives when they ventured beyond the trenches and into No Man’s Land. One of those men was my Grandfather’s brother, Henry William.

It is said Henry joined the military because a woman approached him on the street and presented him with a White Feather, signifying she thought he was a coward. He was only 17 years old, too young to enlist, but he wasn’t about to be called a coward.  He lied about his age, and signed his Attestation Papers for the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force on September 8, 1915.

252-Victor and Henry WWI
Victor and Henry William

Henry arrived on the front in France on March 26, 1916. He was wounded in  June and again in September of that year. His next encounter with the enemy was his last. He was reported missing after action on The Somme on October 4, 1916. His body was never found, making him one of just over 11,000 Canadian soldiers with no known grave.

My Grandfather, Victor fought in France too. Only two weeks after Henry was killed, Victor was wounded in the face and neck. One eye was removed, and he was sent home,  forever scarred by the memories of life in the trenches.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

John McRae, December 8, 1915

Capturing a Frosty Morning in Alberta

Frosty days and ice-still nights,
Fir trees trimmed with tiny lights,
– Jo Geis, Christmas Long Ago –

As elves go, Jack Frost is one of my favourites. He arrives without warning, but never stays too long. His artistry is magnificent, but fleeting – so I never tire of his work. He doesn’t play favourites – everything within his reach gets equal treatment. But best of all, he works at night, so that when I throw back the curtains in the morning I am greeted with a fairy wonderland. I truly feel sorry for all you people who live somewhere beyond the reach of Jack Frost!

You remember my story called A Grassy Path From Here to There?  That Path has matured now, giving  Jack Frost countless stalks to coat with crystal beads.

And the Allium Seed Heads that I showed you in Going to Seed? Coated with frost from top to bottom!

macro photographyJack’s true artistry can’t be appreciated unless I show you that each and every crystal is a masterpiece!

Now, don’t you wish you lived up here in the land where Winter is knocking at the door!  The land with only four months on the calendar: June, July, August and Winter!

Occupy Wall Street – How to Redistribute Wealth

If it was easy to be wealthy, then more people would be.
– Author Unknown –

Occupy Wall Street – As protests go, this one is quite different from the ones of my youth. It does not have one simple, focused demand like ‘End the War’ or ‘Ban the Bomb’, although ‘Redistribute Wealth’ might come close. The protesters claim to represent the 99% of the population that is being denied a chance at upward mobility by the 1% of the population that is extremely wealthy.

So, just who are the Top 1% in America? According to the 2010 US Federal Tax Data, they are the taxpayers who earned over $380,354 a year. They include people  like the US President, cardiologists, lawyers, software engineers, college Presidents and football coaches, professional bloggers, journalists, TV personalities, company owners and executives, internet company founders, pro athletes, movie stars, etc. Apparently about 80% of these people weren’t born into rich families. They started out small, and worked their way up. (Here is an interesting story called How Do the Wealthy Get That Way, by Bert Whitehead)

How to Redistribute Wealth – The Car Guy and I are part of the 99%, but we aren’t protesting the wealth of the 1%. We know how hard it was to get where we are on the ladder, so can appreciate how much effort was required by that 80% of the 1% that are very wealthy .  Many of them got to where they are by convincing the 99% to spend money on their product, and in our case, it is a hard sell. We subscribe to the philosophy that the best way for us to increase our wealth is to ‘Not Spend Money on Things that Make Other People Wealthy.’  I call it our ‘Cunning Plan’ and after 40 plus years of using the strategy, we are retired and living comfortably.

Our Cunning Plan started with the purchase of our first house. It was the smallest (about 900 sq ft), cheapest house available that was still within commuting distance of the city where The Car Guy’s job was. The house was about 20 years old and was only insulated with a few layers of cardboard. The furnace was unpredictable. But this was 1972 – the average size of a home was a bit less than 1000 square feet and we paid about $7000 less than the average cost of a house at that time.  (Today, in both Canada and the US, the average size home is a bit over 2000 square feet. This might be part of the reason home costs have increased faster than income has!)

Of course, the housing market went through a few booms and busts, but we rode it out by buying cheaper homes, renovating and selling – 6 houses in all. Sweat equity  – The Car Guy runs the power tools, I am the drywall, paint and cleaning crew!

The Car Guy’s Dad always said that you should save a little bit out of every pay check, and that was also part of our Cunning Plan. We combined Savings with ‘Living withing our Means’. We had no ‘Lines of Credit’ and no loans other than our mortgage. We paid off the credit cards in time to avoid paying interest fees.  We also realized that the money we saved by not paying debt interest could be used for other things. (Did you know that in the US alone, Credit Card penalty fees and interest paid on unpaid balances amounts to $92 billion per year?  I guess that is one of the reasons bankers are wealthy…)

Delayed Gratification – it wasn’t  always easy, but it was how we made our plan work. That, and we didn’t spend much money on disposable items – the products that make millions for corporations, but don’t provide a return on personal investment. In the US, the annual expenditures for some of these products are:

1. Movies, Major League Sports, videos, music, TV, electronics: $228 billion a year
2. Fast Foods, coffee shops, weight loss products, alcohol, cigarettes, illegal drugs, addiction health care: $635 billion per year
3. Beauty Products: $98.1 billion per year
4. Lottery tickets: $58 billion
5. Soft drinks: $11.7 billion

Some inventive soul created the following poster, which points out that people don’t think about how they support the very thing they protest.

Perhaps ‘Occupy Wall Street’ will help the 99% to understand they are both the problem and the solution.