Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Arizona Snow

On our way to a scrapbook store in Peoria today, Mickey and I passed this field.

Field of Cotton

Cotton as far as the eye could see.  To northerners like us, seeing cotton growing is cause for excitement, and picture taking.

Each plant had dozens of flower-shaped cotton balls and they were as soft and fluffy as the ones you buy in the drugstores

So pretty and soft

On the left there's one ready to pop open.

And that was our sightseeing for today.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Shopping the Outlets

Mickey and I rambled over to the Outlet Stores in Anthem today.  Five hours later we headed back to Surprise to sort our loot.  I was disappointed to find that my favorite store there, Harry and Davids, was no longer there.  I'm just about finished their little nine-jar sampler of jams and was going to purchase another.  Now I never will. *sigh*

The first thing we saw when we got out of the car was the "largest live Christmas tree in the Nation".  The sign didn't say exactly how tall it was but it was TALL.  Mickey and I found a spot where we could see through the branches into the trunk and it was indeed a live tree.  It was gorgeous.  See for yourself.

It was covered in beautiful large decorations and lcd lights

The toys and parcels were super-giant sized

Mickey standing in front of the base of the tree

We caught a pensive tired looking Santa through the window of his house.

Then we found his giant sleigh.

Try as I would, I couldn't get the darn thing to fly!

And that was our day at the Anthem Outlet Mall.  Oh, yes, we did some shopping and eating too.  Mickey has now completed all her Christmas shopping.  I don't know what we'll do now - we're not going home till Saturday. :)  I'm sure we'll find something to keep us busy.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

And..we're off!

Mickey and I have made great forays into the 4 esses in the two days she's been here in Arizona with me.

1.  Shopping - check.   The deal of the day goes to Mickey at Kohl's yesterday.  Thanks to sales, coupons, Kohl's bucks and rebates she ended up paying only $70 for a $299 item for her husband for Christmas.  Way to go Mickey!  It was fun doing our Christmas shopping without being burdened down by heavy coats, boots, hats, gloves, etc.  We don't even need a sweater down here.

2.  Swimming - check.  Yesterday we didn't have the pool heater on long enough but we went swimming in the 76F water.  Today, the water was 86F and heavenly.

3.  Scrapbooking - check.  We've been on a roll there.  I've finished 17 10x10 in. pages and one 12x12 in. and Mickey has completed almost that many.

4.  Sightseeing - check, sort of.  The only sight-seeing we've done so far (besides the inside of the stores) was to walk in our neighbourhood in the dark to see and photograph the Christmas lights.  People here put their lights up early.  We were talking to our across-the-street neighbour who had his up before Thanksgiving. He said he'll probably take them down two days after Christmas because they're usually tired of them by then.  I have decided that you don't need snow in order for Christmas lights to look pretty.  Here's some of our neighbourhood Christmas displays.

See, it works without the snow.  Although you can't beat the beauty of a fresh snowfall coating the lights and making them seem mystical and mysterious.  I do believe I like the Christmas season in the desert.  Should I try stringing lights on the giant saguaro cactus in our front yard?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Prizes and Changes

Look at what I got in the mail today!

I won this darling little sweater in the November draw on  Delena's Blog, Serenity Now.  If you haven't already, you should check it out.  She's a Canadian, like me, who divides her time between Canada and Arizona.  She crocheted this lovely little baby sweater.  It's really cute.  She also included in her package a couple pieces of scrapbooking paper for me to use .  I'll be sure to post a picture of what I do with them.  Thank you Delena.

My sweetheart had to go home today, without me.  We've had such a lovely time down here together, but work calls and he has to get back.  I'm staying another week.  This morning my friend Mickey arrived from Edmonton and we'll be spending a busy week scrapbooking, shopping, swimming and sightseeing.  we've already made a start on the shopping, have spread our scrapbooking stuff out all over the dining room table, and have turned the pool heater on so we'll be able to go swimming tomorrow.  And if you consider driving home from the airport in the dark sightseeing, then we've begun that as well!  We don't waste any time.

I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving yesterday and didn't get trampled in the Black Friday sales today.  Now it's time to rest.

Talk to you tomorrow.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

From Swimming Pools to Skating Rinks

NHL hockey is huge in Canada!  It's where ice hockey started.  Hockey is to Canada what football is to the US and soccer is to Europe.  Our favorite team, of course, is the Edmonton Oilers, and they're doing wonderfully well this year - first in their division so far.

Down here we have the desert outpost of the National Hockey League team - the Phoenix Coyotes.  They have a beautiful big arena complex and it's slowly growing in popularity but there are still lots of empty seats at the games - unlike Oilers games which are always sold out.  We try to be here when Edmonton is playing Phoenix but weren't that lucky this time.  But Lloyd and I went last night to see our second favorite team, the Coyotes, play the Anaheim Ducks.

Giant inflated Phoenix Coyote in the arena complex

Part of the arena complex
A friendly stranger offered to take our picture in the arena complex

It was a great game, which the Coyotes won 4-1.  We had center ice seats eight rows from the ice.  It's so much fun being there instead of watching it on television like we do at are much cheaper down here than in Edmonton. 

Players and coaches at the Phoenix bench

Good goal tending by Phoenix goalie Mike Smith

The fans react as the Coyotes score a goal. 
Face off at the Ducks net.
 It was a fun game to be at.  It was strange though to see fans in the stands wearing shorts and flip flops.  Even if it's not winter weather here, it's darn cold sitting down there by the ice.  A great evening's fun.

Today is Thanksgiving here in the US, so to all my American friends - Happy Thanksgiving! Enjoy your families on this long weekend.  Tomorrow is Black Friday and the stores are opening at midnight, some at 3am, for their special black Friday sales.  It'll be a madhouse.  I think I'll just sleep through it!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pool Fun and Clarification

Our nephew Mark and his boys Daniel and Austin came over for some promised pool fun yesterday.  And to clarify, and so you don't think we're official members of the Polar Bear Club, yes our pool is heated.  We usually don't go in the water in the winter until the water temp is 85F.  So in spite of the low 70s temps yesterday, the boys were warm in the water.  I'll let you be the judge of how much fun they had.

Austin doing a jump shot off the side of the pool

Almost a slam dunk

Daniel and Austin
Another basket for Austin

Daniel's victory dance - you can see the ball just dropping through the net.

And a victory swim with the winning ball.

One more clarification I wanted to make.  The distance between our home in Edmonton and this one in Arizona is about 2500kms.  We can drive it in just over two days, stopping at night along the way.  But we prefer the three hour flight due south.  That's why there's such a disparity in the landscape and climate...from the frozen north to the Arizona desert.

Monday, November 21, 2011


From this

to this

in three hours! 

We've had a lovely weekend here and I've finally, as of last night, found the Christmas spirit - strange that it took the sun and desert to do for me what the snow and frost couldn't.  Several of our neighbours here have large colorful Christmas displays up - looks so pretty with the lights on at night, but a bit odd to me too without any snow, coats, boots, etc.  I haven't taken any pictures yet but will get into it soon.

We started our Christmas shopping yesterday and it looks like I may have to buy another suitcase in order to get it all home.

We had our first American Thanksgiving dinner on Friday - a week early but Kim (our nephew Mark's wife) will be in Canada on Thanksgiving day and wanted to 'do' thanksgiving while she was still here.  It was lovely, she's such a good cook.  Mark and his boys are here this week and will be taking Kim back with them when they leave on Friday.  I wrote about Kim and Mark when they got engaged a while back.

In order to expedite her immigration process, they got married a couple months ago and visit back and forth between Canada and Arizona as often as possible.  Hopefully the process will proceed smoothly and they can be together full time before too long.  Mark is bringing the boys (15 and 12) over this afternoon to play in the pool.  Native Arizonans shudder when we mention swimming in the winter but Lloyd and I were in the pool yesterday and it was heavenly.  Air temp was 73F but the water temp was 87 - sooo nice.

Lloyd will be heading north on Friday and my friend Mickey will be arriving the same day to spend a week shopping, sightseeing and scrapbooking...our three esses that spell fun in Arizona for us.

We're really enjoying our respite from winter.  I hope its nice where you are too.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Jack Who??

Why, Jack Frost of course.  Here's some of his handiwork on my bedroom windows.

Very pretty stuff. 

My next entry will be from the Valley of the Sun where there's no such thing as frost.  I don't think I'll miss it.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Hibernation Sounds Good To Me!

The bears have the right idea.  As soon as it gets cold, they go to sleep and stay that way till spring thaw.  That's what I feel like doing today.  It's our first real snow of the year (winter weather warning issued last night).  Today is a grey, windy, snowy, blustering day.  Not a day to venture outside unless you really have to.  Not one of our pretty sunny snowy days, but just cold and ugly.  I wouldn't mind except for the fact that Lloyd is out of town - in Arizona no less - and I'm going to have to go out when/if the snow ever stops, and shovel the walk and driveway.  It's the law!  I don't want to be fined.

Anyway, so far today I've done two loads of laundry, vacuumed, dusted, made the bed, tidied my scrapbook room, answered emails, played a few computer games and packed.

In reply to your unspoken question, Lloyd is in Arizona on a retreat with his staff.  In his case, the retreat consists of a lot of golf with his boss, as well as organizing the retreat sessions.  He has such a hard life!  To be fair though, he's staying an extra week after the retreat is over and I'm joining him on Saturday morning and we'll spend a week together at our place down there.  Then he's coming home and I'm staying another week and Mickey is coming down to join me for that week.  When Mickey and I go down, we take a few scrapbook projects to work on so we have something to do between shopping, sightseeing, and lazing by the pool.  Unlike our native Arizona friends who insist that you don't go swimming in the winter, we do.  That's why we had the pool put in.  If the air is a bit chilly, we just crank the water temperature up to 85 and enjoy.

By the time I'm back here up north, it'll be December and maybe then I'll feel more in the Christmas mood.   I love Christmas time and the music, shopping, excitement, etc. but this year I just haven't been able to get into it.  I can't even listen to my favorite radio station these days.  They're calling themselves "Edmonton's feel good Christmas station" and since Nov. 12 they've gone to the 'all Christmas all the time' music format.  Not to be a grinch, but isn't that a bit early?    I don't mind the stations doing all Christmas all the time if they wait till December to start it.  I love Christmas music, but I'm going to be sick of it by the time December starts if I listen to that station any more.  Bah! Humbug!

Anyway, that's where I'm coming from today.  Here's a picture a friend sent me.  I've actually seen this animal bridge.  It's quite amazing.

This bridge was built across a highway outside of Banff, Alberta, because the highway interfered with the animals' natural crossing and they were being hit as they tried to cross the road.  The bridge runs parallel to the highway bridge, just a bit lower.  It didn't take the elk long to figure out what it was for. If you can't read the signpost, it's pointing right to Calgary and straight ahead to Lake Louise.

Hope you're having a warm, cosy day today.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Digging through Old Pictures

I've been digging through stacks of old photos these past couple days looking for specific ones my sister needs for a project she's working on.

It took me longer than I anticipated because there are hundreds of pictures, and some I forgot I had and they brought back memories that I had to sit and think about.  Some were just good for a laugh. 

Here's a few I found of me taken 'back in the day'.  Feel free to laugh.

This is me when I was six.  We were all dressed to go to my sister's Christmas concert.  Mum had washed my hair and put millions of pin curls all over my head.    When it was combed out, you can see where Mum tried to make nice smooth curls, but it mostly just went frizzy.  My hair was pin straight back then.  On a positive note, I loved, loved, loved that dress.  It was yellow with little white flocked dots all over it and the belt was a blue velvet ribbon.   I wish Mum had kept it for me to dress my little girls in.  I would even have put pincurls in their hair and taken a picture of them too! ;)

Fast forward 13 years.  I was now a single working girl, living in an apartment with three other girls, two of whom were to become my sisters-in-law.  I had a pet budgie who I used to let out of his cage.  He would sit on my head, or shoulder, or book, or whatever I was holding.  And would you look at those glasses - I started wearing them when I was 18, just for reading, and got the most fashionable ones I could afford.  Look at those upswept points! Really cat's eye glasses.  I wouldn't be caught dead in them now.

 I was 20 or 21 in this picture.  For some reason I was determined to get, and play, a banjo.  When one of my boss' post doc students asked me if I'd type his thesis for him, I used the money he paid me to buy this lovely instrument.  I took two lessons, realized I'd have to practice a lot, and quit.  I think we eventually sold it at a garage sale.  Oh well.  It was a good photo prop.

I went home to visit Mum and Dad the summer I was 20.  Dad had bought a pool table and he and my brother would play every chance they had.  I had to try too.  I don't think I ever got a ball in the pocket (except for the white one!).  See that glass-fronted bookcase at the left of the picture - the one with my sister's high-school graduation picture on it?  That was in our home for as long as I can remember.  I occasionally had the job of dusting it, inside and out.  It is now in my home, and I love it.  Dad always had books in the bottom three shelves, while Mum kept some knick-knacks  and fancy glasses on the top shelf.  That's exactly what I've done with it in my home.  One of my daughters has already spoken for it so it'll be in the family for a long time to come.  I don't know what happened to the pool table.

Now isn't this the most glamorous shot you've ever seen!.  I was 23 and 8 months pregnant with our first son, Rob - a very exciting time in our lives.  Now, see those two owls in the lower left corner?  They were the start of my owl collection.  The big one was Hoot and the smaller one was Screech.  I was better at naming my kids than I was at naming owls.  I was so excited when I brought Hoot home when I was still living in an apartment with my roommates.  When I brought him in the door, his head banged the door frame and came off!  I managed to glue it back on and he 'lived' with me long enough to meet at least three of our children.  One of our moves did him in, and Screech soon followed.

You know what the great thing about pictures is?  It doesn't matter if you don't always look your best - they are real pieces of your life.  How much would I not remember if I didn't have photos to prompt my memories?  That's why I have so many, and why I don't mind sharing them with you, even if I look weird or wore weird clothes.  You should see some of the outfits I dressed the kids in! They looked good at the time, but oh dear! what was the fashion world thinking??


Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Week With Anson

Since last Sunday I've been staying at my son Rob's home taking care of his 10-year old son, Anson, while Rob, Cindy and their 8 year old daughter, Brooklyn, went to Arizona for a week. I've written about Anson before here.  He's profoundly autistic and presents his own set of challenges.  It was originally Rob and Cindy's plan to take Anson with them, but they realized that with his behaviours and fears, flying would be very difficult for him and  there'd be other issues once they got to Arizona.  Anson needs his routines and has to feel safe.

Lloyd was going to be there with me, but then he had to be out of town for work and only joined us for the last two days.  Anson and I managed very well on our own, as it turned out.  Our daily routine was mapped out, with him spending time at the Children's Center (it was a school holiday this week) where he is well known and liked by the workers who devote their time to working with special needs kids. He always greeted me with a hug when I came to pick him up and was happy to be with me.  He has such funny little quirks - like stripping down the minute he walks in the house and putting on his 'comfort' clothes. 

Several times during the day he'd drag his duvet into my bedroom (his parent's bedroom) along with nine books, grab my hand and tell me he wanted to snuggle.  So we'd go in and lay on the bed and I'd read all nine books to him (luckily they were short pre-school type of children's books).  After about the third day of this, I realized that we were reading the same books in the same order each time.  He loves books.  Those were my favorite parts of the day.

He loves the computer and spends a lot of time watching YouTube (with parental guides in place) and Sesame Street clips. It's amazing how he can maneuver around the computer.

Anson on the computer

On Saturday Lloyd and I brought him to our place for the day where he had fun exploring a new environment and getting into all sorts of stuff.

He's such a happy boy - we had no incidents, no meltdowns, no problem behaviour.  He took his medications without a fuss and ate everything that was prepared for him.  His diet is simple - gluten free, dairy free, and minimal sugar.  We ate lots of vegetables, mostly raw, and meat and rice cakes.  All with liberal servings of ketchup!  

Breakfast - bacon, rice cakes, vegetables, apple juice

I learned so much about Anson this past week and came away with a much greater appreciation for Rob and Cindy. It's not easy having an autistic child.  The vigilance is constant and tiring.  They moved here from Regina several years ago because this area reportedly has the best programs and services for autism in Canada.  As well as programs for the autistic children, there are programs and helps for parents, caregivers, and siblings of special needs kids too.  Rob and Cindy take advantage of them all, especially the much needed respite workers.  And Brooklyn participates in the programs for siblings, because their life is affected by the needs of the family as well. 

So, although I was nervous about having the responsibility for Anson, I was glad I spent this week with him.  It was good for both of us. He's a precious little boy.

Monday, November 7, 2011

What's In A Name???

Do you like the name your parents gave you way back when you didn't have a say in such things?  Have your learned to like it over the years?  Or have you grown into it?  Or changed it?  Or do you have a middle name that you can fall back on?

I was ambivalent about my name for many years...mostly not liking it.  Luckily, my mother didn't like it either so she searched the baby name books for a name that would go with it and stuck it in as my middle name.  Dad was determined that I'd be named after his parents - Duncan if I was a boy, and Millicent for a girl.  So I became Millicent Patricia...and had the unlucky pleasure of being called Patsy until I was old enough to insist that Pat was what I was to be called.

I loved my grandmother named Millicent - everyone called her Millie except for her grandchildren who called her Nanny.  She was strong and loving and we loved going to her home every summer to stay for a couple weeks.  Widowed in 1932 when her oldest child (my father) was only 10, she single-handedly raised her five children during those depression years, as a store clerk and then as a postmaster in their small village.  Everyone loved her.  It was a sad day when her heart failed her, complicated by diabetes, when I was 10 or 11.  I have vivid memories of that time in our lives.

Wendy, Nanny, Pat

Anyway, over the years I've become more and more comfortable with our shared name.  My sister's sassy daughters, having been told by their mother that I didn't like my name, started calling me Aunt Millie, trying to get a rise out of me.  That backfired on them because as I heard them calling me that, I decided I really liked it.   So they reverted to calling me Aunt Pat, except when they're in a teasing mood.  Brats!

In all my 63 years, I've never met another Millicent (except for Nanny).  The Barbie dolls don't count - did you know that their real name is Barbara Millicent?  True!  I know other Millicent's exist though.  Just look.

You might have to enlarge the picture to see it, but in the circle I've drawn of this section of the Alberta map there are two towns fairly close to each other - Millicent and Patricia!  How weird is that!!!  I remember years ago when Lloyd and I were driving on some of the smaller highways in the southern part of Alberta seeing a roadsign with both names on it.  That was before I was in the habit of carrying my camera with me everywhere so I wasn't able to take a picture of it.  And we've never been down that road again.  Lloyd said he'll take me down there so I can take a picture of it.  I'll hold him to that - or go myself - I'm brave and daring and a good driver - and I can follow a map too!

So that's my story about my name.  I've learned to like it mostly because of who I was named for, but I also think I've grown into it.  It's unique, and I like the way it looks in print. 

So what's your name story?