Bauble Babble

Have you ever imagined that the ornaments on your tree can talk to each other? They do have personalities. Just listen to this very old bauble babbling.

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I sense it is near that special time again when I hear the grating scrape of my shoebox-home sliding across the cement floor under the stairs. Our compartment of sleeping ornaments is soon in motion, presumably under the mistress’ arm as she brings us upstairs. A glimmer of light filters through my paper towel wrapper as she lifts the lid. I shiver with anticipation.

It has been years since I danced on an evergreen bough, but I am learning to like the weeping fig that now serves as a Christmas tree. As always, we ornaments have to wait for the string of lights. Like sugared up pre-schoolers, these little fellows are so hyper that it is no wonder the mistress wants to get them settled first and out of the way. I believe she even had to tie some of them to their seats. No dimbulbs here! One year they were so charged up with excitement that one of them shorted out and nearly set the tree on fire.  I am relieved to see them put in their places and kept out of trouble.

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The chubby snowman is the first to climb the tree. He chooses a sturdy branch—a wise choice, I think, and the mistress agreed as she fastened him securely so he could jiggle his fat belly safely. Don’t hang him near that warm light. But I needn’t have worried. She’s done this job many times before.

I can’t help worrying though. I’m the oldest ornament, so I’m rather conventional and conservative. I’ve hung around many a tree at Christmas time. I’ve seen some disasters, let me tell you. One year, the mistress nearly dropped me. My own sister was batted off her branch by the cat. Now I’m the last of the baubles and I’d hate for my thin blue glass to be shattered, all my lovely silver trimming turned to sparkly dust.

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The candy cane is next. She’s a skinny model, and sweet to look at, but no substance at all. She sugarcoats everything she says. It’s not healthy. My back teeth ache when I look at her. However, I’m doing my best to accept all types of personalities.

And speaking of personalities, here comes the snowflake. She thinks she’s a star because of her figure. I hate to say it, but she is a flake.

Here’s one I’ve been trying to forget—the little gold trumpet. My Lord, he’s always blowing his own horn. He’s cute and shiny. If only he wasn’t such a braggart. I’m so tempted to tell him to bugle off!

Good grief! What’s happened to my angel? She’s not looking so spiffy for the top of the tree. Her white dress is in tatters. Must have become tangled in the twist ties the mistress used to fasten her. Poor angel is having a bad hair day. Her golden waves are all over the place. Ah, the mistress is fixing her up. Thank goodness, because where would we be without our angel to watch over us on the tree?

Several newbies are beginning to clutter up the remaining boughs. I’m sure the kitschy ones are only here for this year—I’m sorry for them—probably gifts hung up out of politeness to the donor.

What’s left? Only a few tattered stragglers. To be honest, I wondered what smelled so mildewy in the bottom of the box. Time to toss those, Mistress. Hmm … I wonder if she hears me. I wonder if she’s forgotten about me. I’m still here in the box. She’s not going to toss ME? Oh, thank heavens, she is putting me high up in a place of honour. No, please, not by the trumpet again. Okay, over here, by the model, and not too far from the newbies. Someone has to tell them what’s what around here.

Now, turn the house lights down and the tree lights on, and enjoy.

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 Merry Christmas to all my followers and visitors. Have a relaxing holiday and a wonderful time with friends and family. 

Coming Through

This is a post from almost four years ago. Only a few of you will remember it from then.

Coming Through

“Hey! Just in time. I’m starving,” Captain Gary called as I arrived at the wharf with sandwiches and coffee. “i knew you’d come through for me.”

“Didn’t want you to have to stop working.” Like most fishermen in the last weeks of May, Gary was racing the clock to get the boat ready for opening day of commercial fishing.

He gallantly set up a sun-bleached lawn chair for me on the deck of the salmon troller. I protested, but he said, “No, you go ahead and have the lawn chair. I can sit on the galley chair,” and he hauled out an old wooden thing from the wheelhouse.

We chit-chatted away while Gary ate his lunch. “Sure you don’t want one of these sandwiches?”

“No, thanks! I had one at home.” I spread out my arms to the sky. “What a great day! So good to see the sun at last.” I slid a little lower in the lawn chair to try to catch every last ray of sunshine.

“Oh, hi there, Fraser. Want a cup of coffee?” Gary raised his mug to a fellow fisherman who came by to talk about the merits of cold cure epoxy.

As they compared notes on the best temperature for using cold cure, I tuned out the fish talk and slouched even farther down in my lawn chair. God, that sun feels good.

The sharp cracking of plastic had all eyes turning my way. I did a split-second search for the source of the noise and watched an arm of the lawn chair snap in two. The crack was followed by the caving in of the lawn chair seat, another crack of the second arm, and the thud of my rear end hitting the deck.  There I sprawled, legs out front, elbows pointing skyward, and bottom on the deck.

“Are you okay?” the visiting fisherman asked.

I nodded, feeling my face heat up.”I guess I really came through all right.”

As Gary extricated me from the tangle of the broken chair, Fraser kindly and discreetly hurried away.

Dreams in the Mist

Yesterday was Emma’s first time to visit the beach. The fog and mist hovered over the water and close to shore, but that’s typical on BC’s West Coast.

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Emma looks so funny with her ear flopped backwards over her head, but I thought how sweet and innocent she is, that she’s not at all aware of how she looks. The word “guileless” comes to mind.

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And because she is not one to sit still very long, she asks, “What are we going to do now?”

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Just then two girls come strolling up the beach towards us. They must be investigated.But first let’s watch and wait to make sure they won’t harm us.

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We wander down to the other end of the beach where the grasses try to grow. They are continually washed over when the tide comes in. It must be a type of grass or seaweed that is used to living in salt water.

037I love the look of this kind of picture. Would love to paint it if I had the talent.

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We are about to leave when a lady and her horse arrive at the far end of the beach. It’s foggy and I’m using my zoom, so the photo comes out exactly how it looks in real life – foggy and unclear – but I can’t resist posting the horse pictures anyway.

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Seeing the horse and rider put the finishing touch of magic on our trip to the beach. Reminds me of a song by Heart, “These Dreams,” where she sings about a wood full of princes, and dreams in the mist.

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Perhaps she’s riding into the woods to look for her prince. (She may find a frog. It would be a start….)

Smoked Salmon

Being married to a commercial fisherman has its downsides for the wife who stays home to look after the house and pets. Spending long summers alone takes getting used to. I read a lot in the evenings.

All the yardwork is my very own to deal with. No help from the absentee man of the house.

I’ve learned to do a lot of jobs that  are usually considered the man’s responsibility — jobs most women don’t ever have to deal with (like changing the electrical switch for the burner on the cooktop when it starts coming on by itself and it’s Sunday and there’s no repairman available).

I stay home a lot because there’s no one to look after the pets if I were to leave town for a day or so. Sure, there’s always the kennels, but the dogs have asked me please not to leave them again.

But when the fisherman comes home, all of the above has been worth it.

Among other things, it’s the fisherman’s duty to bring home a few of the salmon he’s caught so the poor deprived fishwife can have a taste of seafood. It just happens that the fisherman has learned how to make an excellent cold-smoked salmon product. Some people like smoked salmon done in a hot smoke so the fish is cooked as well as smoked. Some people like it done “lox” style, where it is cured with salt and sugar and then lightly smoked while cool air is blown over it with a fan. We like both, but prefer the cold smoke.

The preparation is a huge amount of work. The salmon has to be filleted, and alternately salted, sugared, air dried, oiled, and “rummed,” The fisherman enjoys the last part best where the oil is removed by wiping the fish down with rum. Sometimes the air is a bit nippy, so what else can you do but have a nip of rum to keep the chill off? If it’s good for the fish, it’s probably good for the fisherman too.

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The sides of salmon are hung in the smoker. Underneath  is a hot plate where woodchips dampened with water are set to smoke. A fan blows the air around so the smoke tars don’t settle on the fish. You can see the fan hiding in the center of the smoker behind and below the two door latches. Depending on the thickness of the fillets, it can take up to 20 – 22 hours of smoking to cure the fish. When it is done and chilled, the bulk of the fish is cut into smaller pieces to be vacuum packed and frozen for use throughout the year.

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Of course we always save a piece for the test kitchen. We have to be sure it’s okay to eat.Thinly sliced, it is put on a piece of bagel with cream cheese and red onion slices. Nothing tastes quite so good.

 

Putting Your Best Foot Forward

Chapter One

It’s easy to laugh at someone else when they do something silly, forgetful, or just plain stupid. I don’t think there’s any harm in it as long as the “someone” is laughing too. Then you’re laughing “with” them rather than “at” them.

On a weekend fishing trip one summer, Gary and I had fished for trout on the lake and stopped to stretch our legs on a gravelly beach at the mouth of a creek that fed into the lake.

IMGP0664After a while, a fish jumped and made quite a big splash at the mouth of the creek. Gary grabbed his flyrod and cast towards the ripples the fish had left.

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The fish was a tease, jumping repeatedly, just out of reach. No problem, high gumboots meant Gary could wade into the water and get closer.

But not quite close enough. Gary is a good flyline caster but still, the fly landed just a little bit short each time.

“Aw…darn,” he said. “My boot has a leak. Oh well, might as well go in a bit farther. I’m already wet. I think I can get close enough. Darn it all! Should’ve brought my waders.”

Wading outfit

Persistence paid off, and the fish was hooked and released. Now for a well-deserved rest on the gravel bed. The rocks warmed the fisherman with the wet pants and sopping wet feet.

As he lay down on the gravel to soak up some warmth, I took his photo and noticed….

Two left feet up close

Not only was there a split in the bottom of one boot — the cause of the leak — but the boots were for two left feet. Somewhere at home in the garage were boots for two right feet.

Chapter Two

This may seem to be a whole other topic, but I assure you the chapters are related.

I have troublesome feet, so I wear orthotic inserts. I also have had trouble finding comfortable shoes, so when I discovered some Brooks runners that fit my feet comfortably, I bought them and wore them happily nearly every day. At last they started to look slightly worn. I went back to the same store and bought exactly the same thing again. Well, they were ever so slightly different in colour, but basically the same shoe. One would be my good pair and the other the “beater” pair. See the “beaters” below.

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For now, until I would get a second pair of orthotic inserts, I put my orthotics into the shoes I wore most often (the beater pair). Last summer I bought a pair of Costco Dr. Scholl inserts as spares for the time being and put them in my new runners.

The other day I put on my shoes to go out. The left one was a bit tight, so I loosened the laces. That was better. I was going to loosen the right shoelace as well, but then I realized that, although it was snugly laced, it was comfortable as it was.

“Hmm…I wonder why that is.” My right foot should be bigger if anything, and a tighter squeeze, so why is that shoe more comfortable?” I put my weight on one shoe and  then the other. Definitely, the right shoe felt better on my feet. I had a closer look. You can take a look too. Do you see what I see?

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When I discovered what I was wearing, I went looking for my other pair of runners. In the garage was a pair of Brooks, as mismatched as the ones on my feet, but my mumbled “OMG” got louder when I discovered that the “odd couple” in the garage had the Costco Dr. Scholl’s inserts in them. Remember, I had bought these inserts months ago, so if there was one Dr. Scholl’s in each of these shoes, they must have been like this since last summer.

Gradually a growing horror dawned on me. I had been wearing mismatched shoes since last summer and this is now almost December! I thought of all the places I had been and the homes where I visited and took my shoes off at the door.I had even been to the doctor to get a referral for new orthotics!  “OMG! OMG! OMG!”

It must be my punishment for laughing at Gary’s two left feet.

A Stop in Missoula

This year we took more time on the drive to and from eastern Montana.

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On the way home, we stopped to visit friends in Missoula. What a pleasant surprise this city held for us.

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Our friends gave us the tour of their old established neighbourhood near the hospital and the university. It was like a trip back in time. Mature trees lined the streets where houses of a certain age stood, proudly declaring their old-style designs.

It was already cold enough to keep us walking briskly in order to stay warm. We asked what happens to all the leaves – there were so many  with nowhere for them to go.

Apparently there is a day set aside when there is no parking allowed on these streets to permit the machine to come through and sweep up the leaves and take them away.

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The old style of houses and the mature trees along the street reminded me of long ago days when I walked home from school along a street just like this.

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It has been a refreshing break to visit civilized Missoula, but the sky is telling us it’s time to move on before the clouds release those snowflakes they’re holding. Snow would be pretty to look at but I’d rather not drive in it, and there was no doubt it was coming.

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On the Road

A bit of fog can add a beautiful touch to a scene, but …DSCN2727it can add a touch of tension if the fog is in the wrong place at the wrong time, refracting too much light straight into the driver’s eyes.

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A snow fence is a reminder that out here, the winters can be harsh. This special fence is meant to slow down (not “catch”) the blowing snow. The wind slows as it goes through the slats, causing the snow to drop just beyond the fence, rather than piling up against it. The snow fence helps keep the snow from blowing across the highway, thus diminishing the hazardous winter driving conditions.

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Nearing the summit of Lookout Pass in the Coeur d’Alene Mountains of the Bitterroot Range, it was chilly with snowflakes trying to stick to the road. At Exit 0, which is near the summit, we pass from Montana into Idaho and have to set our clocks back. Aren’t we lucky to be given an extra hour?

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Idaho, here we come.

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But it’s downhill on a wet, possibly icy, winding road dragging a trailer through sleet and fog. Will we end up driving over the edge? I left my claw marks in the door’s arm rest.

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Later, driving through Snoqualmie Pass in Washington, it’s a few degrees warmer, but the driving conditions still brought out the driver’s white knuckles gripping the steering wheel.??????????

Surprisingly, it was sunny on the coast. Driving along I-5 through Seattle was pleasant, if you didn’t mind the bumper to bumper traffic in many lanes. We didn’t care about that. By this time, we had that “horse to the barn” feeling, and the truck and trailer went ever faster and faster.

??????????A ferry ride from the city of Vancouver to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, and we were almost home. The short drive up island seemed to take forever. At last we arrived. Even after a wonderful holiday, it was a beautiful feeling to drive down our own driveway once again.

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