Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Happy Christmas Eve Day

That's the first message I got on my iPad this morning from bff Mickey.  "Happy Christmas Eve Day".

How the kids used to love Christmas Eve Day...only one more day left before Christmas...the excitement was thick in the air. I think it was the longest day of the year for them.

For me it meant a lot of prep work for the next day festivities...stuffing to make, chocolate cake to bake to be the basis of our traditional Death By Chocolate Christmas dinner dessert, stocking stuffers to wrap, preparing some of the vegetable dishes for the big dinner, etc.

But the best part of the day was evening.  The kids would all be bathed and in their pyjamas.  The family would sit in the livingroom and Lloyd would read the Christmas story from the New Testament.  I would read The Night Before Christmas, we might even have sung a carol or two.  Then all nine stockings (Lloyd and I liked opening stockings too!) would be lined up on the couch (we didn't have a fireplace to hang them from), cookies and milk would be set out for Santa, the room darkened except for the lights on the Christmas tree, and the kids would go to bed, hopefully to fall asleep quickly.

As soon as it was quiet in the kids' bedrooms, Lloyd and I would bring the brightly wrapped Christmas presents from their secure (we hoped) hiding places and arrange them under the tree - the Santa gift usually unwrapped.  After all, how would Santa have time to wrap up all those presents for all the kids in the world? Then we would stuff the stockings, always starting with a Christmas orange in the toe.

Now the real work would begin...assembling whatever special gifts needed assembling.  I remember one particular Christmas when our oldest daughter was eight or nine.  Her Santa gift was a Barbie doll house - three levels with an elevator up the side.  I'm ashamed to tell you that the Christmas spirit almost died that night.  That blasted doll house took forever to put together - two or three hours - with tempers strained to the breaking point as we tried to get all the little parts where they belonged without making a noise and waking the sleeping (we hoped) children.  Eventually it got done and was worth the effort when we saw how pleased Jenny was with her very special gift.  The elevator even worked!

After we got all the presents organized and assembled, we collapsed onto the couch and ate the goodies left out for Santa (we earned them!) and went to bed for a few hours' sleep until the kids got up and the Christmas fun began.

I hope you all have a fun Christmas Eve Day and a wonderful Christmas day with family and loved ones.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Birthday Shutout

All winter long our grandson, Max, plays hockey.  Saturdays and Sundays are devoted to team practices and games.  He's been doing this for four years now.

Yesterday, Max's 9th birthday, Lloyd and I went to watch one of his games.  Max is the team's only goalie so he doesn't miss a game.  His dad, Quincey, used to be a goalie too, playing on three different leagues every year for several years. And his grandfather, Lloyd, spent all his boyhood winters playing hockey, an activity that continued into his adult years. When you're Canadian, hockey is in your DNA.

Max's whole family attends every game and practice.  The girls manage to entertain themselves at the rink doing anything but watch the game, but they're there supporting their brother.

Big sister Charlie

Baby sister Quinn

Little sister Eloise

Quincey, Lloyd and Sara.  Poor Sara came to the game straight
from the dentist, with a swollen face and lots of pain.

It was fun watching our boy face bown a team of rampaging 9-year olds as they tried to shoot a frozen rubber puck into the net behind him.  Max is a good goalie though, and didn't allow a single goal.  His team won the game 4-0 and Max had the coveted shutout on his birthday.

A goalie's game is often a lonely one, watching while his teammates put
the puck in their opponents net.

Waiting for the opposing players

Defending his net

Getting down to business

The hero of the game, with his shutout scoresheet.
 Happy birthday Max!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Gender Reveal

Some of you may remember being pregnant and wanting to know the gender of your baby before he/she made his/her grand arrival.  There were all kinds of 'tricks' we used to tell us what we were having.

Hanging a needle over your hand by a thread and watching it rotate.  Around in a circle meant you were having a girl, back and forth indicated a boy had taken up lodging in your uterus.

Heartburn during pregnancy meant the baby had hair, which probably meant it was a little girl.

If you carried the baby 'low', it was surely a boy.

And there were more...I tried them all.

Fast forward a few years to the remarkable technology which allowed you to actually see your little passenger before he/she was born.  If you were lucky, the seeing allowed you to know whether you were having a boy or a girl.

I was kept in the dark about the gender of all seven of my kids until I actually pushed them into the world.

Not so for my kids.  It was always fun to know in advance what kind of grandchild we were going to have.  Now that knowing is so common and facebook is so 'out there', young parents-to-be are thinking of creative ways to announce the gender of their coming baby.

Here's Emily and Allan's announcement of our expected granddaughter.

It's so cute I just had to post it.  Be prepared for lots of baby pictures come April.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Getting Ready for Christmas

Lloyd and I have spent the last few days getting our home ready for Christmas.  Now that Lloyd is retired and is home all the time he has time to spend doing these homey things, and he's discovered he really, really likes being involved in the decorating.

While he busied himself outside in the minus 37C (34.6 below zero F) temperatures, I had the easier, and warmer, job of decorating the inside of the house.

That's our little home in Lethbridge.

This is my very favorite picture so far this year...Lloyd freezing
his fingers for the sake of beautifying the house.  He had to
keep stopping to put his gloves on.

The finished front step area

Admiring his work.

And a night view.  He has since changed the red
spotlight to white.
He has some more decorating to do in the back yard.  He'll probably spend most of today working on it.

Meanwhile, inside the house, here are a few of my favorite things.

Colorful Nativity Ornaments

Christmas Owls and Jim Shore Santas.

Christmas angels
I hope you're enjoying this pre-Christmas season and all the bustle and work that goes into making it a fun and peaceful time for yourself and others around you.  Three of our daughters and one of our sons and their families will be visiting us at various times over the holidays, and we'll be visiting with our other son and two daughters and their families as well, so it'll be a busy time for us.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Off to a Great Start....or Not

Lloyd and I had a most interesting, at times funny, nerve-wracking, and sometimes dangerous day this past Monday.  The sad part is I have no pictures to illustrate it.

Here's my story.

We had decided, since we had a week free, that we'd fly down to Arizona for a break before Christmas.  We were to leave on Monday afternoon.  Now that we're living in Lethbridge we drive three hours to Great Falls, Montana to catch a two-hour flight to Phoenix.

We decided to get an early start to avoid a storm that was supposed to be coming down from farther north that day.  When we got up and looked out the window, it was a nice, clear, warmish day for this time of year.  By the time we went out to the car barely two hours later a wind had come up and it was snowing.  No matter.  We were still ahead of the storm.  We went to Rickey's Restaurant for breakfast on our way out of town.  That's where things started to get interesting.

As we were walking from the truck to the restaurant, I noticed Lloyd seemed to be staggering a bit.  I asked if he was ok and he just said that he was having trouble with his balance.  We went inside and got seated and Lloyd started dozing off.  I kept grabbing his hand to keep him awake long enough to order our meal.  But it was all he could do to stay alert.  He'd doze off, jerk awake, mutter something unintelligible, eat something, and doze off again.  That is not at all like him.  Finally I asked him if he had taken his pills before we left the house.  He replied that he had.  I asked if one of them was a little blue one.  Yes it was.  It was a sleeping pill that his doctor had prescribed a couple weeks ago but which he hadn't needed yet!  Not a good time to make a mistake like that!!! I had to laugh at him, he was acting so goofy. I'm sure the waitress thought he was drunk the way he'd doze off, wake up, talk nonsense and then doze off again.  At least we know the pills work, but he'll only take them at night now.

One of our discussions on the way home was about breakfast.  It went like this:
Lloyd:  We haven't eaten much today.
Me:  Well, we had breakfast, lunch and dinner
Lloyd:  We had breakfast?
Me:  Yes, in Lethbridge
Lloyd:  What did I have?
Me:  Eggs, bacon, sausages, toast, orange juice, coffee
Lloyd:  Funny - I don't remember that.

Gee I wonder why?

I told him we should go home and cancel the trip.  He insisted he'd be all right in a couple of hours if I'd do the driving.  We hadn't bought trip insurance and he didn't want to forfeit the cost of the ticket.  So I got him out to the truck and he was immediately asleep.  The driving wasn't too bad, just lots of snow blowing across the highway.  I had to wake Lloyd up at the US border crossing while we were cleared to go.  As we drove through Montana the blowing snow and visibility got steadily worse.  For awhile I just got behind a semi and followed him so I'd know where the road was.  After two hours we came to the town of Shelby where we always stop at the truck stop for a break.  Lloyd seemed to be much more awake and alert at that point so he wanted to drive the last hour into Great Falls.

The closer we got to Great Falls the worse the visibility became, at times the blowing snow totally obscured the road.  By the time we reached Great Falls, the area was in a total white out.  So we pulled into our favorite Mexican Restaurant there and sat down to enjoy a meal while we waited for it to be time to go to the airport.  While we were sitting there, Lloyd got a call on his cell phone from Delta Air telling us that all flights out of the Montana airports were cancelled because of the storm.  The earliest they could get us on another flight was Wednesday (today).  That wouldn't work for us since we had to come home on Saturday, so they refunded us the cost of the tickets.  Very nice people to deal with.

We decided that rather than waste the trip so far we'd do some Christmas shopping in Great Falls and head home later.  The stores were practically deserted, which made shopping easy and fun and we managed to finish our shopping there.

It was dark by the time we left Great Falls, and still snowing and blowing, but Lloyd was much more awake and lucid so he was up for the drive.  (You might notice that we don't always make the best decisions!).  The drive home was awful.  The normally three hour trip took us close to seven hours.  The storm had worsened considerably through the day and all the sane people were holed up someplace safe.  Luckily we had a four-wheel drive truck which had no trouble holding the road and plowing through snow but there were times it was quite frightening - times we couldn't see the road or anything except blowing snow.  Thanks to Lloyd's good reflexes and excellent driving (and the good sleep he had earlier in the day!) we managed to slowly get home, but not without a couple of close calls with the ditches.

When we stopped at the Canadian Border crossing on the way back, the young officer took pity on this foolish old couple driving around in the storm and didn't ask us to come in to pay tax and duty on the $500 worth of merchandise we had bought in the US.  Some people are so nice.  I think we might have been the only people he saw there that night.

You can imagine the relief we felt when we were finally back in Lethbridge.  It was just about midnight when we pulled into our driveway, which Lloyd spent the next hour shovelling out.  Certainly not the warmth of Arizona we were expecting to be enjoying at that time.  Oh well, we'll try again in February.

Hopefully our trip to Edmonton next week will be easier and less eventful.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Three Weeks...Three Seasons

It seems as if we've been rolling through summer, autumn and winter at a fast rate lately.  Faster for us, as we've been doing some rolling on of our own these past three weeks.

We left Lethbridge a few weeks ago on a beautiful autumn day - cool but sunny weather, brightly colored leaves on the trees, and that lovely nip of fall in the air.

Autumn in our neighbourhood - October 2013

Three hours later we were in sunny Arizona the Arizonans thought it was cool fall weather, but to us northerners it was a balmy sunny summertime...hot days and cool evenings with lots of desert greenery to cheer us.

In our pool, Surprise, AZ, October 25, 2013

Then ten days later we were back in Lethbridge again...but not the nice autumn Lethbridge we left.  Oh no, in the time we were away winter had come to Alberta.  It was enough to make us want to hop back on the plane and head back to Arizona for a few more weeks.

Out our front door - Lethbridge - Oct 29, 2013

It was a lovely vacation though and we do plan to go back in a couple months, in the dead of winter when we'll really appreciate a break from the snow and cold.

While in Arizona we celebrated Lloyd's 64th birthday.  Instead of singing Happy
Birthday, the Beatle's song When I'm 64 was sung, several times through the day.

The Saguaro is a protected cactus, only growing in Arizona,
so when one grows into your roof, there's no question
but that the roof needs to be adjusted to accommodate it.

Our Edmonton Oilers were playing the Phoenix Coyotes at the Jobing
Arena in Glendale, so we had to go cheer our team on in a closely fought
game which our second favorite team, the Coyotes, won by one pont.
A face off - Coyotes in red and Oilers in white and blue.

And we enjoyed the magnificent sunset over the White Tank Mountains
just west of Surprise.

We also 'discovered' historic downtown Glendale, where the
original houses, now over a hundred years old, have been restored
and are now gift stores, museums, cafes and restaurants to
cater to the tourist crowd.  I know a hundred years doesn't seem like
old to our friends in Europe and Great Britain, but in a state that has only
been part of the USA for 101 years, it's about as old as it gets.

And that, in a nutshell, was our vacation in the sun.  It was mostly a time for rest and relaxation, and that goal was met.

Enjoy the advancing winter!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Catch Up Again

I seem to be getting worse and worse at blogging...not finding/making time to get 'er done.  So once again I'm playing catch-up.

Starting with yesterday, when some of my kids participated in the annual Grizzly Run in Canmore, AB in the beautiful Canadian Rockies.  Since health issues kept Lloyd and me from going to watch this event, I had to rely on pictures the kids posted on Instagram.  They were very good at keeping us in the loop so we could cheer them on from the comfort of our home.   The mountains in October mean cold, cold, cold.  There was even snow at one point.

These are my runners after the 50k run was over.  l to r.  Son-in-law Greg, who ran the entire 50k.  Then Daughters Sara and Amy who, with the other girls, participated in the 50k relay, each taking a leg of the mountain track.  Granddaughters Charlie and Layla who together ran the final 5.7k lap of the run.  Grandson Baron was there to cheer them on.  Daughters Mary and Emily who made up the rest of the relay team.

We are so proud of them.

Emily, our youngest daughter there at the far right, had some excellent and exciting news for us in August. She and hubby Allan are expecting their first baby in April.  This is so exciting. We haven't had a new baby in our family in over three years when the last three were born in March, May and July.  This newcomer will be our 21st grandchild and we're just as thrilled about his/her arrival as we were about our first, 17 years ago.  Emily is our baby - born six years after we thought we were 'finished' - she has brought such joy to our family.  I don't know what we'd have done without her these past 27 years.

Pregnancy hasn't slowed Emily down much.  Already in her first trimester she has done a 40km hike up Mt. Robson on the British Columbia/Alberta border, she ran her first full marathon in Edmonton, and now completed the Grizzly Run Relay.  I think she's about ready to slow down now and do some nesting over the long winter months.


Since I can't access my pictures very well, and not wanting to bore you with unillustrated ramblings, I'll cut this short.  Lloyd and I are looking forward to ten days of R&R in Arizona at the end of the month.  I'll post again from there.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Journey or the Destination???

When I was a child our family would make a yearly vacation trip to Nova Scotia, where both Dad and Mum's families lived.  It was always at least a seven hour drive from where we lived in New Brunswick.  There weren't fast food restaurants along the way so Mum would pack a lunch that we'd eat in the car, after our preliminary bouts of car sickness had passed, of course. The trips seemed to be endless to us as young children.  I always knew when we were close to our grandparent's home because Mum would take the pincurls out of her hair and comb it out so she would look nice when we arrived at her parents' home.  In those days, the destination was definitely more exciting than the long car ride. Dad would drive as direct a route as possible, with no side trips or stops for sightseeing.

Maybe it's a part of aging, but I've begun to believe that the journey can be just as fun and exciting as arriving at the actual destination, whether it's a long holiday trip or a walk down the road to visit a friend.  With all the travelling Lloyd and I have been doing between Edmonton and Lethbridge, we've come to embrace that philosophy and the simple joy of travelling distances together in the best possible company, each other.

Sometimes the 5+ hour trip passes quickly with us just talking - telling stories about our childhood and we've found that even after 42 years of marriage there are still little facts and stories we don't know about one another. Sometimes we listen to music and podcasts and drive along enjoying the memories and pleasure that certain music brings to mind.

But the most fun part of making the drive we've discovered in the past year.  Lloyd has become a picture taker, thanks to the advent of cell phones with cameras. We don't drive the major north-south super highways any more, opting instead for the back roads of Alberta where the traffic is lighter and the sights more exciting.  Whether it's Lloyd driving or me, if we see something that looks interesting or photo worthy, we'll pull over to the side of the road and stop to explore and take pictures.  That's how we discovered the small communities of Millicent and Patricia and Rosebud that I've written about previously.  Occasionally the five hour drive has taken us close to nine hours to complete because there's been so much to see and explore along the way.

Yesterday's trip from Lethbridge to Edmonton took us eight hours. There was a place outside a small town that we have driven past hundreds of times and always said, "We should stop there some day", but never did.  Yesterday was the exception.  It's a little place called Aspen Crossing just out side the village of Mossleigh in the middle of the prairies.  There's a restaurant in an old railroad car, and a couple of other railroad cars around.  There was a large nursery full of plants and flowers, a patio area where every Friday night there's a show held, either live music or a play or something equally as entertaining, complete with a buffet dinner...all very rustic...much more to Aspen Crossing that we had imagined as we drove by time after time.  We lingered here for awhile taking pictures and wandering around.  Here's a sampling...

Creative use of an old car at Aspen Crossing

The restaurant Car

The kitchen attached to the restaurant car

This beautiful rooster crowed constantly athough it was 6 pm when we were there

A nice little resting place for travellers

And inside the Gift Shop, this lovely looking old mother with
her tray of cupcakes....so reaslistic.

Mossleigh's triple grain elevators, visible for miles around.  I imagine it
won't be long before they're torn down and replaced by the giant
concrete ones used now...the end of an era.

It's harvest time in Alberta and the prairies are
dotted with these gleaming golden bales of hay.

This field has just been cut and the hay is waiting to be baled.

A decrepit old barn with character.

So that's just a taste of why it takes us so long to get from one place to another.  I hope you enjoy the getting there as much as the arriving in your travels too.

Enjoy your day.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Alberta Wanderings

Lloyd and I have been doing lots of wandering around Alberta thse past few months. It's such a huge province (255,500 sq. miles or 661,848 sq. km.) and the scenery varies from mountains and lakes to prairies, boreal forest lands, badlands rich in dinosaur digs, cities, towns, villages and everything in between.

When we looked at the map closely, we discovered (several years ago actually) two towns in south-central Alberta with my not-so-common first and second names.  So on one of our trips between Lethbridge and Edmonton we went in search of the towns of Millicent and Patricia.  Interestingly enough these two places were located within 10 km of one another.

Someone liked my name enough to name a community Millicent.

This road is all there is to the unincorporated community.  Lovely
farm land all around.

And then there's Patricia.  A small town at the gateway to the
Alberta Badlands and Dinosaur Provincial Park.  Every small town
in Alberta has an annual rodeo and Patricia is no exception.

Many dinosaur fossils and bones have been found in the Alberta
Badlands, making it quite an popular area for naturalists.
 And while we're on the topic of my name, my last name, MacKenzie, is very well represented in Alberta.  The highway north that Lloyd has travelled for the past 19 years is the Mackenzie Highway, and one of our longest rivers is the Mackenzie, both named after the famous explorer Alexander Mackenzie.  So, I feel right at home in this province.

Here's a few more Alberta sights.

Every town has it's claim to fame! Potatoes are Vauxhall's.

This bridge is located by a recreational area not far from Drumheller

Pigeon Lake near Edmonton

Prairie Sunset with windmills near Taber

Twilight and granddaughter at Henderson Lake in the middle of Lethbridge

Mountain in Banff National Park

Cameron Falls in Waterton Park

Oversize traffic that forces other vehicles off the side of the road.

Oil jacks and bales of hay coexisting in the fields

And lest you think Alberta is all rural, here's some
of Calgary's buildings.

And there you have it - a thumbnail sketch of my adopted province.   Come visit sometime.  You won't regret it.