Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Snack Attack

Really, what could be better than warm chocolate chip cookies straight out of the oven? This was my afternoon snack today, along with a big glass of milk. Bless Tannis's soul for these creations.

Blog-worthy? Probably not, but I'm really into snacks. We've been doing popcorn a couple of times a week lately, and fruit smoothies with the goodies we froze this summer (the cherries and peaches aren't going to last till Christmas). Other times we make a big tray of apple slices, raisins, cheese and nuts, then devour the whole thing in about three minutes. It doesn't seem to matter that we get this stuff all the time -- it still feels like a treat, and lots of treats make you feel rich.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Spirited Away

We saw an outstanding movie this week called Spirited Away. It's anime -- a style of (mostly) Japanese animation -- but this is no mere cartoon. The visuals blew my mind and the story is bizarre and imaginative and refreshing.

I cluelessly brought it home thinking that we could all watch it together, but it was way too intense for the girls even before the story veered into a fantasy world. The main character just felt so real in how she reacted to the story as it unfolded. Seeing this one makes me want to see a pile of related films, including the apparent grand-daddy of the genre, Akira.

Weird Week

Isn't this shot of Ella kind of cool? I love the light. We met the Hildebrands at Dirty Laundry Vineyard on Saturday and admired the huge bunches of grapes hanging on the vines. If the bird bombs hadn't been firing like cannons every five minutes, it would have been a little more relaxing. It was a still a highlight in a grouchy Saturday for me -- my only excuse is that I was fighting a bit of a cold. Even the grand opening (actually a rebranding and renovation) celebration of our local grocery store (with a decent band of all things) didn't seem to cheer me up.

We hit Penticton on Thursday night to meet the Duecks and see some university-level men's volleyball. On the way, we got supper and a milkshake at the Elite Restaurant, a mainstay downtown since 1927. It's...odd. Decent simple food, good service and very weird '60s ('70s?) decor. Unfortunately, our favourite book shop was closed by the time we got there.

Friday after work I picked up Angelo at The Grand and we braved the punishing climb up McDougal Rim. Our camera is clearly dying, as shown in this shot of me at the upper lake. The singletrack descent on the way down to thelookout halfway down is one of the most fun sections of trail I've ever ridden. We just beat the sunset, then treated ourselves to a few pints of local Black Widow Ale and outrageous ravioli at La Cucina. Ridiculously fun five hours.

Sunday my parents (angels) called in the morning and offered to take the girls out to all their favourite spots in Penticton. Tannis and I celebrated our afternoon of freedom by going for a ride together, which is quite rare these days, then lounging for a couple of hours in the sunshine on the patio eating nachos and drinking beer and just being buddies -- awesome.

Tonight Tan completed a serious cleaning rampage while I made some excellent plum jam. Newly-potty-trained Ella oscillated between serene reading to herself and wild crying and shrieking over nothing in particular. Ivy painted a masterpiece and helped her mom tidy up. An absolutely riveting account of a spellbinding Monday night with the Hieberts, I realize. And I'm sure you realize that nobody forces you to read this mundane rambling.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

September Tunes

I still occasionally add new songs to my favourite Webjay playlist -- it's a fairly accurate representation of the kinds of things I'm listening to while tethered to the laptop. Some of the best ones on the current list...first, three more rockin' and then three mellow beauties:
  • Phantom Planet -- Know it All (mp3) -- perhaps my favourite song this week, the one combines a mellow verse with an 80s bassline like The Cure with a dark anthem of a chorus that gives me goosebumps
  • Pinback -- AFK (mp3) -- an odd mid-tempo tune that meanders along with mellow thoughtfulness, then builds up to a thumping crescendo with quirky chanted vocals that keeps me coming back for more
  • Catlow -- Number One (mp3) -- a rollicking, slick rocker with a fun vibe and a great girlie vocals, reminiscent of the Breeders at their best
  • Stuart Matthewman -- Title Theme (Thai Lullaby) (mp3) -- a mellow, haunting song with a wonderful sort of Eastern chant that carries the whole thing with ease
  • Andrew Bird -- Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left (mp3) -- quirky, catchy piece from an artist who manages to sing, whistle and play the violin, usually at least two at the same time...this is odd genius
  • Rose Melberg -- Golden Gate Bridge (mp3) -- our good Summerland friend Rose has a huge following all over the place, and apparently especially in Japan...this beautiful song shows why

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Tube Time

We don't watch much TV -- only two channels (both owned by Global), no cable, no satellite, etc. This summer it barely got turned on, aside from occasional cartoon sessions for the kids...but I wanted to keep a record of a couple of things we've seen lately.

It took me a month to finish watching it, but I heartily recommend The Corporation. The trailer gives you a pretty good introduction to the style and power of this documentary -- it's available in most libraries and video stores.

"Family movies" seem to be almost universally horrible. We wish there were more like kids' movies like Shrek, Chicken Run, James and the Giant Peach and Toy Story that offer a bit more for hapless parents than the usual Disney shlock. Other favourites of mine like Iron Giant and Nightmare Before Christmas scare the girls right now. This week we enjoyed Kiki's Delivery Service -- the English overdubbing wasn't great, but it was beautiful animation and the story was better than most. When we need to just veg out all together, we usually just retreat into the massive box-sets of The Simpsons that Neil donated to our cause when they moved -- probably one of the best presents I've ever received (thank you, thank you, thank you).

As far as this winter goes, I'm hoping that the irritating CBC lockout ends in time for us to take in the only shows we watch regularly (religiously): Hockey Night in Canada and Monday Report. SO Canadian.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Late Summer Weekend

I already blathered about Saturday, but wanted to remember later that we did Cozy Bay fish 'n chips with the Duecks and had a great time -- lots of laughs, and I got to look forward to it all week. Sunday was pretty social too, first joining the Hildebrands at Granny's for breakfast, then dragging our clans to Sunoka for a few hours of beach time. Most of us swam at least a bit, and Tannis and Nada walked up the creek trail to the canyon while Lorne and I covered damage control with the kids.

Later, Ryan came over for a ride and BBQ. Despite some mechanicals and a pedal-chewed shin, it was fun to ride Giant's Head with him. He lugged my anchor of a bike all the way to the top with only minor complaints and hit the jumps at the bottom like a pro. Several beers, burgers, corn and taters...good company and good times.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Praire Quilt

Somehow I ended up on Google Maps this morning and checked out the area I grew up in. On this map I marked my two childhood homes -- the yellow star marks our old trailer on the 205 in the top-left corner, and the red star at the bottom marks the farm we moved to in the early 80s. Between the ages of four and 17, from 1977-1990, this patchwork quilt defined my experience and shaped who I became.

I guess it probably doesn't look like much when it's not your space, but for me it's a wonderful trigger for memories. Anonymous bends of rivers and corners of land become forts and dirt-bike tracks and skating rinks. Railroad tracks and bridges become destinations for summer afternoon adventures with a picnic in a backpack. And aside from Niverville across the river, most of the people I've ever known in my life lived in this map too.

More Girls

I know some of you only visit here for pictures of our girls. I'm ok with that, and this post is for you...starting with this shot of Ella.

Saturday Morning

We spent a glorious morning at the ornamental gardens this weekend and I took a bunch of photos:
  • The old superintendant's house is a sort of informal museum that was open because of the bonsai display, so we wandered around checking out old stuff -- an old typewriter, vintage chairs, and the girls were fascinated by drawers full of bug displayed in boxes.
  • Once Tannis was done buying plants at the sale, we wandered along the back trails to the trestle over Trout Creek Canyon, but stayed away when the steam train was on it (the girls are mysteriously terrified by it right now).
  • The flowers and plants in the gardens are still beautiful right now.
  • After a lunch of chili and buns, we headed down the hill to Sunoka Park where the girls played at the empty beach. We lounged and swam in the sparkly sunshine -- probably not too many more swims before it's too cold to be fun.

Monday, September 12, 2005


So I guess I'm a pathologically proud dad, because I'm astounded by Ivy's beauty and complexity these days. She's getting more self-conscious in front of the camera, I think, making this pose just too cute -- almost cuter than if she was her usual Miss Confident.

Bill got a great shot of her on our hike yesterday as well.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

The Minstrel

As I had hoped, we did get to see Christine Fellows at the Minstrel in Kelowna. It was an odd show -- the Minstrel is more of a restaurant than a music venue, and Christine's music is very focused and intense...not really dinner accompaniment. She said she felt like she was interrupting everyone's mealtime, and there were probably diners there who didn't come to listen. We came for the music, and the "show" was free as long as you ate, so we chowed down too.

Despite the weird scene for live music, the show was excellent. They played some of my favourites, including Veda's Waltz, Face Down Feet First, and (I think) Regrets. Christine's voice was great, and Barry (drummer) kicked in admirably when required. Fellow Southern Manitoban and Mennonite super-cellist Leanne Zacharias played beautifully and turned out to be as likeable in person as she seemed on stage. After the show they all sat with us for a while and chatted. They talked about their ridiculous road schedule (Edmonton the night before, Kelowna, then the Sunshine Coast the night after) and asked us about the Okanagan.

Sample song: Souvenirs (mp3)


No, I didn't lose my job, although I did get shuffled into another department last week and got my fourth boss in three months -- perhaps more on that later. We've been attempting our first foray into canning fruit this week, and the collection is growing. Canned fruit isn't perceived as very cool, but I'm convinced that it could have a comeback. This spring I was playing around with business ideas for gourmet canned fruits, since we live in a freakin' orchard and there seems to be tons of potential.

We learned the basics and did some experimenting with interesting combinations: peaches and cherries, pears and blueberries, peaches and plums, and the most gourmet of the bunch -- peaches and cherries in white merlot wine. So we'll see how they turn out. It's very labour-intensive work, but when you get free fruit and see how nice it will be to have a stash of goodies like this...quite rewarding.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Skeleton People

No major adventures today. We stayed pretty close to home and had a great swim in the afternoon -- this time of year every swim feels like a bonus already. Tannis and I giggled ourselves silly over this incredibly dumb article tonight.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Bear Scare

We just got back from a family hike to the TCT gazebo tonight. The sky was a beautiful pink, the sagebrush was smelling sweet and blooming yellow and we were all in good spirits. We shared some chocolate-chip-raisin-oatmeal cookies at the gazebo and started heading back as the sun went down. Within a few hundred metres we entered a horseshoe-shaped section of trail that goes around a section of gully, and heard some scratching, scrabbling sounds off to the left, down below the trail. I said "quail?" because there are hundreds of them along that path -- they're always flapping out of the bush when you least expect it -- but it sounded next thought was maybe deer.

We took a few more steps and looked down into the gully to our left. In a second, Tan and I registered the implications of what we saw -- two brown bear cubs clambering up a tree and and a large mama bear walking below them, maybe 30 metres away from us. Yikes, not good.

Two main problems. First of all, we were just into the U-shaped section of the trail, so continuing forward kept us exactly the same distance from the bears for at least 20 metres, if not slightly closer to them. The slope above the trail on our right was too steep to climb up and going back wasn't really an option. Secondly, I had Ella on my back and Ivy was walking in front of Tannis, which made us feel...umm...vulnerable (and slow).

So, Tannis picked up Ivy and I followed, sneaking a glance to the side, where I saw the mama bear standing up and watching us with one giant paw on the tree, obviously guarding her cubs. I guess we were guarding our cubs too, but I suspect we were more scared than she was. We stayed calm, talked quietly and walked at the fastest pace we could without appearing to be fleeing. When we got out of sight, we jogged for a few minutes, which is really exhausting when you're carrying kids. Just as we were pretty much beat, I saw another darker bear running uphill from the trail just ahead of us, so we detoured downhill to a parallel trail and kept moving as fast as wwe could.

Quite an adventure! As soon as we were safe, I was sort of sorry that the girls didn't at least get to see the bears, because it's really amazing to see them that close up...but it probably would have freaked them out. Ivy knew something was wrong, and was afraid but surprisingly brave. Ella didn't really get it, but kept saying, "Daddy, stop runnin'!" because she was getting bounced around a fair bit in the backpack. Anyway, I think we'll stay off that trail for a while, and now that I think about it, I saw bear crap on the Cartwright trails I was riding this afternoon too. I guess they're enjoying the ripe fruit in the orchards as much as we are these days.