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Me and my Arrow…

Ninteen years ago today, I got up with my best pal and went for a coffee. It was a big day, and she knew it. After all, she had been a big reason for the day being so important. If it hadn’t been for her, I might not have embarked on one of the best decisions of my life.

We had a glorious walk in Stanley Park to start the day, and later she sat beside me as I wrote my vows. That afternoon she was there too, all decked out, as I set out to form a new life. I’m so glad she was there. One always wants one’s best friends to be a part of momentuous occasions as well as everyday life.

You see, my best friend enabled me to get a first date with the man who would be my husband. We did a double date, us two girls with him and his best friend. I knew right then there was something special between us. We all stayed close and became a kind of family for many years.

Today I have another best pal, as the one from all those years ago is gone now, but her spirit lives on. We walk every morning, and most evenings too. She reminds me every day to stop and smell the flowers, take in the moments that make life special. She listens to my ramblings and supports me through thick and thin.

Can you guess who I’m speaking about? It’s my Chocolate Labrador Retrievers. The one from nineteen years ago was named Satchmo, as she was a great singer of the blues and a lover of life. Her successor is Ella, the queen of jazz (and a friend of Satchmo’s in another life). Both of them have been the best companions anyone could ask for, and they helped me to be a better person.

Satchmo & I at Lake Louise in 2001

Ella & me selfie Knox Mtn 2014

  Ella & I on a morning walk

Satchmo was the dog I had when I met my hubbie. He had a wonderful Doberman Pinscher named Paul (after Paul Simon – do you see a theme with our pet names?)

Our first date was to take our dogs for a walk, something that immediately endeared me to this man who seemed an unlikely candidate to hook up with for the long term.

His dog was very well-trained, as they both went to school to learn about training assistance dogs for people in wheelchairs. I was told to hold a chestnut in my hand for a while on the walk and then Hubbie threw it in the bushes down the slope to the beach. “Find it!”, he said to his Dobie.

Paul leaped over the edge of the slope and crashed his way through the brush. When we reached the bottom of the hill we saw his trotting back towards us, looking very proud. He sat ramrod straight in front of us. “Thank you”, said Hubbie, with his hand out. Paul spit out the chestnut, which had been marked with an x for verification. How impressed was I?!

 

It took almost 3 years for us to tie the knot, going through the trials and tribulations of life along the way. But our dogs were there with us – I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

When Satchmo went blind from a congenital defect at age 8, Paul helped her walk straight by nudging her on the sidewalk and he protected her in the park when we saw other dogs. They became soulmates just like Hubbie and me.

And now, almost 22 years after that first afternoon walk, having shared memories across the country and back with two more dogs and a little girl who is now married, we are still going.

I am so fortunate to have experienced so much love. Even more fortunate to have found my soulmate with whom to share all that love. But more than anything, I am grateful for the Brown Girls in my life – they have taught me how to love and live well, and given me more love (and laughter) than I could ever have imagined.

There is an old Harry Nillson song called “Me and my Arrow”, from a movie called The Point. I remember the tale and the song, every morning as I walk. I try to cherish those friendships appropriately.

Here’s to living the life your dog expects of you.

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Press the Reset Button

Do you ever feel like your get up and go for up and went? Like there isn’t enough coffee to get you up to speed? That’s when I need to press the Reset Button. 

I have a to-do list a mile long. Every morning when I water the garden I see weeds to pull and bushes to trim. The pile of books on my bedside table hasn’t changed in months and I haven’t read more than a few pages of any of them. The recipes I have marked to try just gets bigger as I scan through blog posts and newsletters with seasonal treats. And I keep meaning to sit on the deck and enjoy the sun…

This morning  my Chocolate Lab Ella looked   at me and I swear she was sending me a telepathic message with those bright eyes and smiling face. It said, “Let’s take our time today. Let’s smell the air. ”  

How can I resist that smile?

So we did. I’m typing this while sitting in a lawn chair sipping on a latte at the neighbourhood farm market. We just wandered through the local farmers market and had a cookie (yup, they had dog  cookies too). Now we’re in the shade, just soaking up the good vibes. 

A friend of mine sent me a meme this morning. We hadn’t talked in a while, even though we keep up on general news via Facebook. She didn’t know I’d had a tough day yesterday – you know, one of those days when you start by stubbing your toe and then it goes downhill from there? I had tried to be positive but in the end I was worn out from my seemingly futile battle with the universe. Her message was like a warm hug, a teddy bear and a pat on the head saying everything would be alright. How could she know that I needed just that?


I remember a wise author once said that we glimpse the true meaning of the universe when we stand still. I watched the Tony Robbins documentary, “I Am Not Your Guru” this week and he talked about focusing on the big things. One can only do that when the interference from all the little things isn’t so loud one can’t think. 

It’s great to have goals, but they have to be realistic. Even if you have the budget, I don’t think it would make sense to have caviar and champagne every day. I’m going forward finally learning how to use the knowledge from this lesson in life. 

Some days one just needs to breathe the air and take in the colour of the sky and enjoy the company of kindred spirits. Today is one of those days. Feeling guilty for not doing the laundry or baking cookies instead defeats that goal. 

Thank you to the friends who taught me something valuable today. 

Winter Wonders

enjoy-winters-idle-hoursWinter in most of Canada is cold, windy and white. Kids and animals are mostly okay with that, but most adults don’t seem to have much patience for wintery weather. I walk every morning with my chocolate Labrador, Ella, in a fruit orchard and pumpkin patch so I’m out there in the elements daily. I decided that I might as well enjoy it, and so I look to Ella for inspiration.

This year the snow has built up and it’s gotten harder to walk each day. There is no real path as we are the only regular walkers, except for the odd coyote or deer tracks we see. So in loose snow I felt as though I was making two steps forward and one step back. I already do a workout inside, so I didn’t want to be doing more. Then I noticed Ella’s pawprints in the snow – she spreads out her toes in deep snow, to make the best use of her webbed Labrador paws. Her usually tiny feet with their winter fur between the pads end up almost twice the size – like snowshoes! “Aha”, I thought – I can get on that bandwagon. This morning our little sojourn in the field was much more enjoyable with my snowshoes on. Ella was in a fine mood too, bounding off my track to leap in the deep snow like a baby deer.

We were lucky enough to have some blue sky and sunshine today, so I did my best to soak in the good vibe. Ella leads the way, and she is a great role model for enjoying the moment. She trots along, not afraid to stick her head deep in the snow to sniff out the tracks of another creature (even if it is a woozle). She bounds about, and if I stop to blow my nose, as often happens on a cold day, she will happily plunk down, her fuzzy bum in the snow (makes me cold just to see it happen!) She also loves to eat the snow.
mitten-full-of-snow

So here’s my foodie epiphany for the day: take a moment to truly experience the weather. I scooped my mitten in the fluffy snow and took a tongueful. It tasted clean, it sparkled on my tongue the same way it sparkled in the sunlight. It was pure and fresh and gone too soon. I wanted more. After a few mouthfuls I was deep in the memory of days spent tobogganing and playing tag on sticky frozen monkey bars. My heart soared with the sheer joy of it all.

ella-and-kpl-in-the-snow

P.S. If you’re wondering what a woozle is, brush up on your Winnie the Pooh here.

 

An Afternoon with Santa’s Reindeer

Santas reindeer

I was lucky enough to spend last weekend in Calgary with one of my dearest girlfriends, in honour of my 50th birthday. One of the activities on our radar was to attend the Spruce Meadows International Christmas Market, and it did not disappoint. After all, shopping and sampling goodies amidst children singing holiday tunes is lovely, but how can you beat a sneak peek at Santa’s reindeer?

If you’re like me and you love the hustle and bustle of artisan markets, then Spruce Meadows is a delicious blend of funky, kitschy, homespun and intriguing. There are vendors big and small, with all manner of gift and decor items. Every food vendor offers samples, and the concessions have such delicacies as Hungarian goulash and gluwein, in addition to good old hot dogs and mini donuts. Outside the buildings are toasty warm fire pits where you can snuggle and enjoy your treats, and inside the pavilions are seating areas near performing stages. You’ll need a bit of sustenance to manage the whole fair!

There is something here for everyone, so I encourage you to stroll the aisles and check out what strikes your fancy. The vendors in the stables are particularly charming in their stalls, and that of course, is where you’ll find the reindeer, too. You can even get a posed picture for a fee.

I found some perfect Christmas goodies, and so I’d like to offer a few suggestions from my list of favourites, just to get you started:

In Reindeer Alley (right after the guests of honour)-

  • pet stuff – I loved the funny signs and toys at DOG GONE HEALTHY in Reindeer Alley, but in all fairness there are a number of vendors selling all manner of dog and cat paraphernalia

    Dog Christmas tree

    Dog Gone presents for, and from, the dog!

  • home decor and entertaining accessories – BURGUNDY OAK BARREL DECOR has stylish, well-made wine barrel platters and other accents.

In the Riding Hall-

  • KOOTANA GALLERY – featuring some lovely chimes, crystals and beautiful jewellery that is all about spirit animals, symbols and the energy in stones. You’ll feel good just checking it out!
  • AFRICAN BUTTERFLY hair accessories – these masterful works of art are the best for putting up long hair, whether it’s thick or thin. I bought one years ago and was happy to see Daniel again and get Christmas presents.
  • KATTINAT Swedish dishcloths – ingenious and fun! Look for the colourful designs on these organic cotton cloths that wipe up like nobody’s business! (there were 2 booths carrying these cloths; same price at either one)
  • western style gifts – COWBOY CHRISTMAS has some lovely accessories and fun gift ideas, and the art at RON CHURCH FINE ART & DESIGN is stunning.
  • COZY COTTAGE INTERIORS  brought much of their store inventory to showcase. Great country-style kitsch.

In the Gallery on the Green and outside

  • REAL TREAT cookies – I know, you’ve tasted lots of cookies, what’s the big deal? Try the smoked pecan ones, or the salted caramel shortbread and you’ll get it.

    A "Giggler" puppet!

    A “Giggler” puppet!

  • GIVE A LITTLE GIGGLE puppets – These wonderful people were only at the market for one weekend but check their website to see where else they are, or buy online. A great gift for little or big kids.
  • garden gizmos galore – CREATIVE IRONWORKS has beautiful garden sculptures and furniture; SPRUCE IT UP GARDEN has accents and greens, and RED BARN MERCANTILE has lots of fun Christmas accents and decorations
  • home decor – LITTLE MONKEY METAL WORKS has a striking display of silhouette metal art.

In the Equi-Plex (this is also where the main food concession is – think Hungarian Goulash – as well as many of the performances)

  • BIG BLUE MOMA jewellery and textiles – if you want something handmade and unique, the collection here will do the trick for sure. Jewellery, cushions and table linens all made in Canada with materials made by hard-working entrepreneurs in Ghana. They are one of the delightful booths featuring international wares – be sure to wander this aisle and check out all the unique items.

    Ghanaian fare by Big Blue Moma

    Ghanaian fare by Big Blue Moma

  • TORILL’S TABLE – delectable Norwegian waffles, made from a mix – try a sample!
  • KRUSE’S BAKERY – has stollen, and some delicious-looking cookies. Save some time and enjoy someone else’s baking!

There are 2 more weekends left to enjoy this market in Calgary’s south end. Easy access is available through public transit, and there is a parking shuttle too. You can save $2 per ticket if you buy online through their website. Plan on spending about half the day if you want a good look around; my list is only the tip of the iceberg. If you are there after dark, you’ll get the added benefit of all the lights!

If you’re not in the holiday spirit yet, this is sure to do the trick. Thanks to Spruce Meadows and all their volunteers for putting on such a professional and welcoming holiday event.

Spruce Meadows International Christmas Market

Spruce Meadows International Christmas Market by night

Spruce Meadows Christmas market

lots of room to browse and enjoy at the Spruce Meadows Christmas Market

The Secret to Happiness is in Sharing

Norman-Rockwell-Thanksgiving

I write often about the fact that sharing food is a central concept to enjoying it. Gathering around a table to break bread and share the events of the day has been an integral part of society since the ancient Greek and Romans started it. As a cook and a lover of food, I get a kick out of seeing others enjoy my preparations and also being able to sit down and savour someone else’s hard work.

Food isn’t the only thing that is fun to share; friendship works exactly the same way. One of the easiest friendships to have is with a dog, and I have been privileged to know many four-legged friends in my life. Dogs don’t judge friends; once they have decided you are a companion they stick by you for life. I am partial to Labrador Retrievers, who are famous for their gregarious nature and ability to be thrilled with whatever you want to suggest to them. IMG_2550 They can be running or swimming at full speed one moment, and then relaxing and ready to nap the next. With their dense soft fur, they are eminently huggable, and will often encourage this kind of behaviour, being touchy-feely animals. They are also big lovers of food, another worthy trait in a friend, I think. I highly recommend at least making use of a dog that belongs to someone you know even if you don’t have your own. They say time with a dog lengthens your life, so how bad can it be?

In this post I’d like to salute my current companion, Ella. She is featured this week in a photo contest, so here’s your chance to think about dogs you might like. Hopefully you’ll vote for my lovable Brown Girl, but even if you don’t I’m sure this few moments will put a smile on your face. Vote here (no registration required)

Take time out to simply Be Happy and Live in the Moment. It’s Ella’s philosophy. Doesn’t she look like she’s enjoying life?

Ella & me selfie Knox Mtn 2014

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