From Canada to Ukraine

Much too many years ago we had “new neighbours” move in next door to us in Regina, Saskatchewan.  They were, in short order, very dear friends and we learned, the best neighbours anyone could hope to have.  I remember thinking, at the time, just how lucky we were they chose the house next door.  Nothing lasts forever and ultimately we both moved away.  Our friend moved to Ukraine. He  has blogged off and on since he moved there and the topics have been wide-ranging.  I had always enjoyed the pieces about everyday life in Ukraine in times gone by.  We couldn’t have predicted how events would unfold in the recent weeks.  Most recently many of the blogs focus on the situation in Ukraine and Crimea.  

I do wish they lived next door again.  In Canada.

 Below is the link to his blog:

Don’t Cry Because It Is Over, Smile Because It Happened

One of our dearest friends has died

He faced a relentless disease with optimism, courage and grace

 In the face of a reality that could have been consumed by despair

He rose above, giving and receiving love and support

 The disease was transparent as it never obscured

The heart and strength of this man, who lived life to the fullest

From Taoism comes a teaching of the balance of life that holds

Every life is filled with ten thousands joys and ten thousand sorrows

I choose to interpret the teaching as joys abound

And can be found in everyday life, like the small things

That culminate in a friendship that withstands all

It cannot be replaced and will for all time in memory stand

While sorrows are few, as singles, they count in hundred fold

We think of what he would want us to think and it would be

 Do not cry because it is over.  Smile because it happened





Witticism in Few Words

Some days you can look and look for a greeting card that is just right and you come up empty.    Or you could choose a card thinking it was so very witty or fitting and find the recipient didn’t see it in the same light.    Has this happened to you?  I’d be interested in your true story.  

Then once in a while you find a card and think “Aha, this will be great!”

The Event

We are invited to a friend’s birthday party tonight.  I bought her a card I thought very witty.  I hope she does too.  If she doesn’t then I guess there could  be a follow-up blog titled “No So Witty After All”

The Visual

(credit to American Greetings)

The Greeting Inside

Simply Biscotti and Betty’s Tea Room (Part II)

What do Betty’s Tea Room in York, England and Simply Biscotti, the coffee/bakery bistro in Little Italy in Ottawa, Ontario in common?

Since I visited both within the past three weeks, thought I’d do a bit of an account of each the two days-mostly done through photos.  This post is the Simply Biscotti visit last week. 

Physical activity and spending time in friendly company

A friend and I enjoyed a lovely bike ride through the Dominion Arboretum on the Central Experimental Farm in Ottawa. The sun was shining, people were out enjoying a stroll and the sights of Canada’s Tulip Festival.  

The Experimental Farm is a jewel in the midst of a city.  There are five such research stations across Canada.  The farm I grew up on in Saskatchewan was about 50km from the Indian Head station.  Trees from that Experimental Farm stand on our now abandoned farmstead.  

The Dominion Aboretum is in its spring glory.  The collection comprises approximately 4,000 individual tree and shrub specimens from 56 families.

The Tulip Festival draws 500,000 visitors annually.  It is estimated that are one million tulips in bloom during the festival.   The colours and different varieties of tulips are amazing.

An afternoon treat
While Simply Biscotti doesn’t carry baking in tribute of the Queen of England’s Diamond Jubilee, they do have tulip cookies in celebration of the current festival.  A chocolate/black pepper and almond chocolate biscotti were ideal accompaniments to our afternoon tea and coffee.

An Excellent UK Adventure

There’s a song that begins with the phrase: I love to go a wandering

The reason things have been a bit quiet on this blog is the past 2 weeks I was hiking in England.  Four of us (women friends) teamed up and after a few months of planning off we went!  We hiked in Cumbrian counties (the Lake District)northwest England generally.  

On, not off, the wall. City of York

Two people in the group had hiked before and they gave the remaining two some great advice on what to pack and what not to pack.  If I was going to sum it up it would be: pack  light, take lots of things that can be layered, waterproof gear is essential and be prepared to wear the same things over and over again.  There were no fashion forward sightings on this trip. And as the lyrics state in the song above, we did have knapsacks on our back.

We stayed in and visited the city of York, the village and surrounds of Kirkby Stephen (pronounced Kirby Stephen), the city of Carlisle the town of Windermere and the city of Manchester.






We did our own booking and basically followed the motto:









I thought I’d do a few blogs on the trip.  

Stats and facts from our trip

  • Weather-wettest April on record (we did have many nice days too)
  • There is never enough room for luggage on the trains
  • Personal losses-one pedometer, one tip from a walking pole (in some awful muck going up a ‘fell’), one camera battery and no weight
  • Personal gains-getting to know people better, a new appreciation of waterproof gear, enjoying the hospitality and friendly manner of the Brits (speaking of hospitality, when I lost my pedometer Mary, proprietor of the Warwick Guest Lodge in Carlisle gave me hers to keep as she said she didn’t use it!), varied and beautiful scenery
  • We hiked a total of 157 km in 14 days-an average of 11.2 km/day.
  • Total steps 250,000!
And another thing that is important when traveling in a wet cool April/May in northern England is a hat that you can tie on!  One that will remain down and locked when the weather forecast calls for “gale force” winds.
Do you have any retrospective advice for hiking in England in late April/early May?  Or perhaps an experience to share?

Ella’s Tree

Chance Made Us Neighbours-Hearts Made Us Friends

Eight years ago today my dear friend Ella died.

Over twenty years ago, in another city and another time, we had new neighbours move in next door.  Our daughter, a single child, was standing on her bed watching the activity next door.  “Mom” she squealed with delight “They’ve got kids!!”.   Ella and husband Al had arrived with their four children.  Our families became close friends over the years.  We shared meals, we talked and laughed and experienced a great deal of life together as neighbours.  We coached a softball team together and naively hosted a shared garage sale thinking it would be fun.  We had keys for each others homes and often “shopped” in each other pantries if a trip to the store was inconvenient.    Two of the girls who are close in age to our daughter became sisters in everything but blood to her.  While the three of them are now separated by time and substantial distances, they remain close.

Ella and I became close friends.  I admired her strength, her humour, her energy and her capacity to love.  I marvelled at her blue eyes which burned brilliantly particularly when she was passionate about something-right through you I thought.  (based on those brilliant eyes and the sharp intellect I thought it wise to always stay on her team…not the opposing one.) 

While there are many things that could be said, the story I want to tell today is about Ella’s tree.  And something that happened after her death.  To this day when I tell the story I get goosebumps.

For a number of years before she died, Ella would travel to our family cottage at Crooked Lake in the Qu’Appelle Valley for a getaway.  She sometimes was with her family, sometimes with her dear friend Caroline and sometimes alone.  She loved the place-it was very special to her. When she died her family asked if they could plant a tree at the lake in her honour.

This is the story of the day we planted Ella’s tree.  I wrote and sent to Ella’s family shortly after the planting.

Crooked Lake from the top of the Qu’Appelle Valley

Ella’s Tree
On June 13, Al, Joanne (my sister) and I went to Lakeview Gardens to look at trees.  It was to be a tree in memory of Ella who so loved the lake and the times that she spent there over the years.  Al chose a crimson maple. It stood about 8 feet tall and the trunk was about 2 inches across. We planned to have the tree delivered to the lake the following weekend.

For those of us at the lake the week before the delivery, there was much discussion about where to plant the tree. On the left side of the lot, at the right side, at the front in the middle (no, that won’t do-Ella wouldn’t want the view spoiled). We acted like workers standing around a construction site waving our arms, pointing and doing everything but digging a hole.  Joanne didn’t stay the whole week but before she left to go back to the city, we said to her “Give us direction and we will dig the hole while you are gone.” She didn’t and so we waited for her return.

Joanne brought the tree out on the weekend of June 19. Saturday morning was a pleasant and sunny one and we retrieved the tree from the van. Then we started all over again. Should the tree be on the left side, should it be on the right, how far away from the current trees, how big will it grow (checking the tag and pacing off imaginary branches and leaves in all directions), what will it do to the neighbours’ view, what about the prevailing winds…..on and on. Finally Joanne said OK, this is the spot and away we went. Digging, digging, then putting root nutrient liquid in the hole, compost leaves from the back of the lot,a stake for stability and then the tree. We anchored the tree to the stake and stood back to survey our handiwork.

Kathy from the cottage next door came over and started to chat with Joanne. Kathy said she saw we had become arborists and Joanne said, yes, the tree was in memory of our dear friend Ella who had spent time at the cottage. Kathy knew Ella and was saddened by the news and she said:

“Oh, that lady…..that lady! I said to my husband, as you dug the hole…. where is that lady going to put her lawn chair for that’s where she always sat in the sun and read her book.”

And so, without realizing it, and with guidance that only Ella could give, we planted the tree where she did her reading on the lawn. I’m sure the rationale was that if she couldn’t sit in that spot then no one else could either. We will give the tree love and attention and we want to have you come to the lake to see it too.

It’s a lovely spot, a lovely tree and is a memory of a beautiful woman.

Joanne by Ella’s Tree June 2004

My sister Joanne died suddenly in September of that same year.  Two families and their friends devastated by the deaths of strong, loving and wonderful women.  Ella’s tree faired well for a number of years.  The cottage property was sold.  We didn’t leave the tree behind.  We couldn’t do that.