Friday, April 29, 2011


"The age of technology has both revived the use of writing and provided ever more reasons for its spiritual solace. Emails are letters, after all, more lasting than phone calls, even if many of them r 2 cursory 4 u." ~Anna Quindlen


I have always loved getting letters.  I had pen pals when I was young, and friends who had moved away or that I had moved away from.  It was always fun to write to them of my daily adventures and await letters from them about the  stories of their lives.

Mum was a letter writer.  She wrote weekly to her parents and various siblings and anticipated their letters in return.  It was such a tangible way to keep in touch with loved ones.  When I left home I knew I would be another recipient of her weekly letters and I loved writing to her and dad telling them about my life in a different part of the country.

What I didn't realize at the time was that she was keeping most of my letters.  As I dated, got married, had kids, and raised my family I would send her detailed reports of our goings-on.  Not too many years ago she gave me a large packet containing a lot of those letters.  What fun it was to read them and relive, in a small way, my joys and frustrations as Lloyd and I raised our family.

As our children grew up and moved away, we started writing to and receiving letters from them.  Those too were a joy to receive.  I have kept most of them too, in binders.

My most treasured letter though is one Lloyd wrote to me when he was 16 and feeling unappreciated - we hadn't even started to date yet back then.  I have no idea why I kept it all these years, through all the moves I've made.  I like to torment him about it though and threaten to post it on my blog.  But I think he knows I'd never do that to him.  No one has seen it except for the two of us.  The kids might get a kick out of it when we've left this world and they find it among the trivia of our lives.  Maybe.

The blue letter in the collage picture is one of the last coherent letters I received from Mum before the Alzheimer's took memories of us away from her over a year ago.  There are signs of her reduced cognition in it but still enough of her to make it special.

I like the tangibility of the letters - papers filled with writing or typing, folded and placed in envelopes.  It is so much more satisfying than emails.  I love getting emails too but they just don't have the same feeling as a letter - unless I print them out - and in the interest of a 'green' environment, I just can't do that.

If you're lucky enough to have a packet of old letters, take a few minutes to read through them and relive the moments that were once deemed worthy of reporting on to others.  I did and I'm glad.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Birthday Fun

This past Easter weekend, Lloyd and I travelled to Lethbridge to visit our son Mike and his family, and Lloyds sisters.  We had a great weekend with the bonus of connecting with friends I hadn't seen for many, many years.

But the highlight of the weekend was on Saturday when we celebrated all the birthdays in Mike's family at a birthday party at our place.  Their birthdays all happen in a cluster - March 20, March 24, March 28, April 9 and June 2.  Since they live five hours away from us and we can't see each of them on their special day, we decided to take care of all of them at once.

Everyone blew out the candles
Hannah, Mike, Avril, Alex, Kenny

Alex loved the blue icing.  He just turned 3
One-year old Hannah had to be stripped down before eating her cupcake.

Then they had to do the gifts.

Kenny will be five in June

Avril and Hannah

Hannah enjoyed opening her gift all by herself

Kenny had more fun with the party blower than the gifts.

Sweet Alex - he sleeps with that Mario hat on.
And that takes care of their birthdays for another year.

Saturday, April 16, 2011


I have cousins...lots of them...over 60 in fact.  Mum was the fifth of 14 kids, and Dad was the first of five.  Most of them live on Canada's east coast, while I'm out here in the prairies.  Most of them I wouldn't know if I fell over them but there are a few that I used to have regular contact with since we were babies together.  Today I decided to see if I could find any of them on Facebook.  No such luck - mainly because I don't know most of the girls' married names.  So I decided to Google those I knew best.  My first hit was lucky - a cousin whose family I spent a summer with when I was 17, and whom I've seen a few times in the past 40+ years, popped up.  I emailed her and hope she has time to reply.

Lloyd has contacted several of his long-lost cousins on Facebook and is really enjoying reconnecting with them.  I decided I'd like to do the same.

It got me thinking about the whole cousin relationship.  Although my sister and I grew up together, our children did not.  They know one another but didn't see each other enough during their growing years to develop close friendships with them, and now that our kids have spread out so much, chances of getting together are few and far between.  Lloyd's siblings and their kids all live in Alberta so our kids see them more often.  It's interesting though that now that they're all grown up, whenever some cousins happen to get together the family bond reasserts itself and everyone connects on a very elemental familiar level.
My Kids and Wendys - 1982
My kids and Wendys - 1986
I have that same connection with a few of my cousins - one on my Dad's side in particular who I hadn't seen in over 25 years.  We re-connected at Dad's funeral 18 years ago and immediately renewed the friendship we had as kids.  We still exchange Christmas cards and greetings. 

My McCarthy Cousins. I'm on the far left and the cousin I referred to above is on the far right.

My sister and I had a special relationship with our cousin Sharron.  She was born in May 1946, Wendy was born in May 1947 and I was born in May 1948.  We'd go visit them in Nova Scotia every year and our mothers would dress us alike, put ringlets and bows in our hair, and take pictures.
Sharron, Wendy and Pat 1951

 We always kept in touch with that family of cousins (there were 2 boys as well) and took pictures whenever we were together, although we stopped dressing alike and wearing bows in our hair.

Sharron, Wendy and Pat - 1986
Now I see my grandkids as 20 cousins developing different relationships with one another.  Although I'd like them always to be close, I know from experience that interests and locations, jobs and experiences will separate them and they'll gradually lose touch with one another to a certain degree.  It's inevitable but kind of sad.

My grandkids - cousins and siblings - 2008

But that's what family reunions are for, isn't it.  Maybe it's time to have one with the extended family.  Just don't make me organize it!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Yorkshires and Hockey Pucks

For years when we were raising our family we had "Sunday dinners" on Sunday.  Usually it took the form of a roast - beef, pork, chicken or ham - and the accompanying vegetables.  My personal favorite, and the favorite of many of the kids and Lloyd, was roast beef with mashed potatoes, peas and/or corn, gravy and, following the British tradition prevalent in Atlantic Canada, Yorkshire Pudding.  We all loved these fluffy, hollow, puffs that accompanied roast beef, drowned in gravy.  Some even ate them instead of potatoes.  There's nothing quite like roast beef and Yorkshires.

They can be tricky though.  For years mine were light and fluffy with just the right amount of 'puff'.  Then they started to be not so light and puffy.  At that point #2 son, Mike, decided he'd like to try to make them - he must have been 13 or 14 at the time.  His attempt, which we stuck with for years, were not puffy, light and hollow.  We called them hockey pucks, because, except for the color, that's what they most resembled.  When I took over the chore again, mine too were hockey pucks.

So after all those years of eating delicious hockey pucks that tasted like Yorkshires, I decided to try a new recipe.  We had Amy's family of 6 over for Sunday dinner yesterday and I made the traditional roast beef with mashed potatoes, corn, peas, gravy and Yorkshire pudding.  Using my new recipe, here's what they looked like.

Finally, Yorkshires the way they were meant to be...puffy and light, golden brown with an enticing hollow just waiting to be filled with gravy.  And they tasted soooo good. 

The recipe I used was from the Company's Coming - Muffins & More cookbook.  I have a lot of the Company's Coming cookbooks but this is the one I use the most - for tea biscuits, dumplings, coconut banana loaf, etc.  I'm not going to print the recipe here because I'm not sure of the copyright restrictions regarding cookbooks.  I'll gladly share the recipe with anyone who asks for it though - just not on a public blog.

And to Mike and Sara, you'll love these.  Let me know if you want the recipe.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Best Room in the House

My favorite feature of this place we've just moved into is an 'extra' room off the kitchen.  It could have been used for a dining room, but there already was a smaller dining room on the other side of the kitchen.  Since we have no kids living with us, the idea of using it for a playroom was useless to us.  So, with Lloyd's approval,  I turned it into my scrapbooking room.  It's perfect for that use - plenty of natural light, ample room for shelves, cabinets and a 6-foot work table.  As soon as I had it set up and organized I called my friend Mickey, a fellow scrapbooker, and she came over Wednesday and we spent 12 hours working (playing??) with our pictures and papers and visiting.  It's so nice to have all my sb stuff together in one place.  I love it!

Mickey, working on her pages

Yes, it's April.  And yes, that's snow outside the patio doors
I have a feeling I'll be spending a lot of time in this room.  Yea!

Thursday, April 7, 2011


While I've been busy this week 'nesting' in my new home, I was reminded of some real nesting going on in Arizona when Mickey and I were there early in March.

While we were relaxing around the pool we began to notice two tiny birds and lots of activity around our Joshua tree just outside the pool fence.  I'm not sure what kind of birds they are - a type of finch maybe? Over the course of two or three days these little birds kept busy gathering twigs and everything else they needed to make their home in the Joshua.  They were so intent on their work that they didn't seem to notice or mind that we were busy taking pictures of them at work.

I don't think that nest is finished but we had to come home so missed the final product.

Most of the pictures are Mickey's but she gave me permission to use them here. 

Sara and her family are down at the house now.  We're waiting for her to provide us with an update on 'our' birds.  It'd be interesting to see if they're raising a family there now.

It seems that spring comes a month earlier in Arizona than it does here in Alberta.  I saw my first robin of the season yesterday, and although we still have snow, it's slowly melting away.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Back to Normal

With Lloyd heading back north today our ten day 40th anniversary honeymoon is official over.  We had a lovely time though, and he'll be coming back home on the weekend.

Here's a quick re-cap.

We checked into the Luxor and explored it.

Luxor at night
Sphinx in front of the hotel
We saw The Lion King at Mandalay Bay - from row Q - nowhere near the front - but I enjoyed the music, costumes and pageantry anyway...Lloyd not so much.  It probably would have helped if he had seen the Disney movie first and knew the basic story.

Simba - from the Lion King website

The Circle of Light - from the Website 
To make up for his disappointment with Lion King, on another night we went to see the Beatles Tribute Show at Planet Hollywood and of course while there we shopped part of the Miracle Mile of shops. It was a great show.  The 'Beatles' had us all up dancing and singing and clapping.  There was even a visit by Austin Powers.

The Beatles with Ed Sullivan

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

and Austin Powers
We also went to the Titanic artifact display at the Luxor.  It was extremely well done and moving.  We weren't allowed to take pictures at it so had our picture taken at the entrance and it was superimposed on parts of the display and printed out for us to buy.

The back of the boarding pass contains actual passenger data for one of the passengers on the Titanic

Behind us is a reconstructed replica of the actual grand staircase on the Titanic,
with the captains ghost standing on the steps behind us.
The highlight of our trip, because we had been to Las Vegas several times before and wanted to see something different, was our day trip to the Skywalk at Grand Canyon West, which I've already posted about.

Lloyd and me on the Skywalk
And we had to visit the Hoover Dam to see the new by-pass bridge.  It's amazing how much easier it is to cross from Nevada into Arizona at that site now - saves miles of travel.  Of course you can't drive across the dam any more, but we were lucky enough to do that on an earlier trip.

Me, with the bridge in the background

Lloyd with the Hoover Dam in the background
And of course, there were the buffets, the casinos, and the people watching.  It's amazing the sights you see there that you wouldn't see anywhere else...people walking the streets at any time of the day or night with large (yard long in some cases) glasses of drinks.  There were gaggles of giggling girls dressed in low cut short tight dresses looking to hook up with groups of guys...whose motto was 'what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas'.  I felt compelled to send up a silent prayer on behalf of their parents for their safe return.  We had a couple of interesting encounters with some of the spring break kids...not bad, just interesting.

Then last Thursday we had a wake-up call at 4am, were on our way to return the rental car at 4:30 and at the airport by 5:00 for our 7:00 flight.  We landed at Great Falls, Montana, just after 11:00 and drove three hours to Lethbridge, where we crashed at our house there and slept for a couple hours before continuing our 5 hr. drive to Edmonton so Lloyd could go to a meeting on Friday morning.  It was a long, long day.  He didn't have to go back to High Level until today so we've spent the past few days organizing our new home which we moved into a couple days before leaving for Las Vegas, and just hanging out together and enjoying quiet time. 

All in all, a great way to celebrate 40 years of happiness together.  Thanks again kids for sending us on this trip.  You're the best!

Friday, April 1, 2011

My Scariest Adventure Ever!

On day 2 of our 40th anniversary trip to Las Vegas, we rented a car and took a road trip to the Grand Canyon West Skywalk, which was just 2 hours from Las Vegas.  I had wanted to see this glass platform over the Grand Canyon ever since I first heard about it, a few years ago, but knew, with my fear of heights, that I'd never be able to set foot on it.

Aerial view - notice how everyone seems to be walking on the edges. I didn't take this picture. It was on the flash drive I was given with the picture of Lloyd and me on it.

Getting there was as much an adventure as being there.  It's well off the beaten path, through small towns and onto mountain grade dirt roads, twisting and climbing to the top of the canyon, trying to see through the dust of other vehicles coming down, keeping an eye open for the long-horn cattle that grazed in the shrub along the road, and marvelling at the beauty of it all.

On the road up
We travelled through a forest of Joshua trees
We finally reached the parking lot/staging area/gift shop where we bought tickets to the sky walk ($175 US for two of us!) and got on a bus for the ride the rest of the way to the top of the canyon. 

Our guide told us that the Indian people trust that people respect the danger of the canyon edge and didn't spoil the view by putting up guard rails or barriers of any kind.  So far, she told us, there had been no fatalities there.  Then she got on her phone and asked what was going on at Eagle Rock (where the sky walk is). Being nosy, we asked her what happened.  She simply said there was an injured tourist.  When we got there the ambulance and rescue truck were still there and some rope barriers had been put up.  Apparently a woman had slipped over the edge of the canyon and landed on a small ledge below.  She was rescued and being put into the ambulance as we got there.

Eagle Rock.  On this fairly narrow canyon wall you can see the eagle's head in the center and his body below his head.  His wings are outspread forming the walls on each side of the narrow canyon.  Can you see him?

I was excited to get to the sky walk and followed the path to it and put on the disposable shoe coverings to keep the glass from being scratched.  Then, with my first step onto the walk, I was overcome by emotion and a bit of fear (!) and tears began to pour from my eyes.  Lloyd tried to get me to go back inside, but I had come that far and felt I had to do this thing.  Besides, I had seen the "shirts of shame" in the gift shop - they said "I looked around, I thought about it, I couldn't do it" - and knew I had to go on.  Luckily for me, there were bands on the edges of the walk where you couldn't see the canyon below so I walked around on them, crossing from one edge to the other on strategically placed steel walks.  I still got dizzy and quivery feeling in my stomach when I looked down through the glass at the deep, deep canyon.  Our guide took some pictures of us up there and I think I managed to look not to teary eyed in them. 

Looking pretty scared

A bit more relaxed
No shirt of shame for me!
I know I'll probably never get to the sky walk again and I never would have forgiven myself if I hadn't walked it.  It was an amazing experience!