Archive for the ‘Home’ Category

Success isn’t just a seven letter word…
April 13, 2016

Recently, I posted a rant about the problem associated with living in a community that does not have home delivery of mail. I fairness I need to share with you a success story.

I found I was a bit low on necessary spices while preparing stock for Vietnamese Rare Beef Pho. This recipe requires spices that aPho-Beef-Noodles-2008re difficult to find in the rural community in which I live nor was I successful in finding them is the nearest city to me (some 3.5 hours drive away). The obvious solution was to see what was available on the web.

I found a Canadian company named The Silk Road – Spice Merchant in Alberta, Canada ( To my delight, they have all of the spices I required immediately and more. I placed an order. My order arrived today, in less than a week and unpacking it convinced me that this was a company who wanted my business and worked at meeting my needs. They also took the time to ensure that I would return and that I would likely tell my friends about the experience. I have many friends who share my passion for good food and the joy of spicing beyond salt, pepper and garlic. AND! They shipped to my Canadian Post Box Address! Hurrah! I immediately wrote a note of thanks.

Here are my thought shared with The Silk Road – Spice Merchant:

Thank you very much for this order. It is my first-time purchase from your company but certainly not my last. Let me tell you why.
  • Your web presence is delightful, well laid out and easy to manoeuvre around. I particularly appreciate the explanation and the suggestions that you have for each of the spices/blends.
  • Your service is prompt. Living in a rural/remote northern community, this is especially important.
  • Your pricing is fair. By that I simply mean that I truly feel I received value for my dollar.
  • The gift of Panch Poran you added to my package is a welcome treat. Thank you. I’ll be certain to try this with hash browns the next time I make them.
  • The crowning touch is the personal note written on my receipt thanking me for my order.
Your business is bound to success if this is how you treat all of your customers. Ten stars from me along with my gratitude. I will pass your web site on to all of my friends who share my passion for food preparation and the use of great spices. Feel free to share these comments in any way you wish if they serve to promote your business. Regarding the companies who were the subject of my rant about not delivering to Post Box addresses, take note. You could learn much from this on-line company and improve your opportunity for S-U-C-C-E-S-S.        GRB

Travelling Man
January 5, 2016

It wasn’t until I glanced at to odometer on my new 2015 Ford Edge that I realized  2015 has been a travel year in my life. The car is now just 7 months old and it has already logged 31,000 Km. How can that be? And I know I traveled between January and April as well.

Suffice to say we normally average one trip a month to Thunder Bay (600 Km return) but I’m guessing between January and June the count went up. Cloud chose to finish her last semester of high school in Thunder Bay. That necessitated an occasional trip so Papa could do some special cooking just for her.

We normally average one trip a month to Thunder Bay but January to June saw that number up visiting with churches in the region that were closing or searching for a change of pastoral charge, or for Presbytery committee responsibilities or because I am a pastoral charge supervisor. Church work took us from Hornepayne on the east to Winnipeg (1968 Km round trip) in the west. I think I can name them all: Hornepayne, White River, Manitouwadge, Marathon, Terrace Bay, Schreiber, Nipigon, Thunder Bay, Atikokan, Fort Frances, Ignace, Red Lake, Sioux Lookout, Dryden, Kenora and Winnipeg. In fact four or five trips to Winnipeg made this year almost like 2006 while I served as Conference President. Winnipeg became my second home. Like the circuit riders of another time we plied our worship services from town to town.

Sault Ste. Marie, ON (820 Km round trip) usually sees us two or three times a year. That is time to reconnect with family.  The Sault is where my sister and her family reside. We are closely bonded even though we only see one another a few times a year. This year we made that trip 4 times. Most recently it was to help the Cloud with cleaning up the insurance issues following her car being rear-ended in a traffic incident. That was the car that carried us through the first four months of 2015. It was a magnificent steed and I hoped it would serve our granddaughter at least until after graduation from college. Usually, this trip is to hunker down with Barb and Dave and her children to stay connected. But this year was different!

In March we connected with family in southern Texas instead of the Sault. A business trip with stops along the way to Winnipeg turned into a holiday to New Braunfels (7000 Km round trip). What a wonderful break in the winter. We left deep snows at home and traded winter boots for running shoes at the Manitoba, North Dakota border. Each day was a delight; drive for a few hours then stop and walk for 45 minutes until we reached our destination. I never missed a day in Texas getting my minimum 10 Km walk completed.

At the end of April we bought a new car and broke it in traveling into May and June back in Winnipeg and Thunder Bay a few times. And that was just the first half of the year


Back to Swimming…
August 9, 2013

About mid-February I caught a cold. It wasn’t one of those stick around for a week-or-two then get back to your life type colds. This one caught and stuck and never completely let go of me until May. The most significant impact on my daily routines was that I quit swimming lunch lengths at the local swimming pool. It effectively ended my swim around Lake Superior. Sigh! And I was doing so well!

I started in September 2012, swimming between 5 and 15 Kilometres a week, starting in lake_superior_mapMarathon, ON and swimming clockwise round the lake. It is only 4,387 Km around the Lake. I was steadily swimming 3 Km a day by February. Eight hundred forty kilometres were behind me. Only 3547 Km to go!

Yesterday was my first day back at the swim. I’ve decided to start easy and stick to only 500 m a day (2.5 Km/week)  for the first week. The plan is to get back to 15 Km/week. This is really important because I have to get back into shape. Really good shape!

Cloudia Swim

She is a young woman now but has always loved being underwater.

I’ve made two promises. I promised Cloud, my granddaughter that we would finish her scuba diving training this summer. And I’ve promised another granddaughter, Happy Child, that she, too, will become a scuba diver once she turns 11. This summer is quickly flying by and the Cloud and I haven’t been in the water yet.

Practical diving in Lake Superior ends around the beginning of December. The Lake still has its accumulation of summer heat–not that there has been much in the way of heat this summer. Suffice to say, there is still time. We only need two more dives for her certification.

Happy Child

There are adventures just waiting for her.

Equally important is the promise to Happy Child. I need to stay in shape so that next summer Happy Child and I can do some diving together. She is very interested in searching for an octopus. That’s a year away and my wet suit had best be kept from shrinking over the coming winter. The suit is snug now and needs be a perfect fit by July 2014. She is counting on becoming a Junior scuba diver.

After all, A Promise is a Promise!                                 …GRB

Cellular revisited…
March 5, 2010

About a year ago I wrote a rant about Cellular service and as I recall decided the best course was to do nothing until my contract time was over. It’s over! It ended in December 2009. I decided to be cell free! I feel … I feel… I feel a sense of freedom! Getting there was fun!

Last spring (2009) I made the discovery that my cell phone was text message capable. That is it had the feature for sending and receiving text messages turned on. The truth is I had no idea that I was the proud owner of such services mostly, I suppose, because I don’t text. As it happened, I was standing in a long line-up in a department store waiting to cash out when my phone rang. Dutifully I opened the phone, brought it to my ear and said hello. There was no answer. I pocketed the phone and continued my wait in line. But the phone was insistent. It rang again! This time I happened to look at the tiny screen as I brought the phone to my ear and it read, “Papa r u coming 2 lunch“. To which I responded out loud, “No!” and hung up the phone. I had no idea how to respond other than saying “No!” out loud. I turned the phone off and put it back into my pocket.

You can only imagine the trouncing I took from my then 12-year-old granddaughter for not answering her message. She was less than impressed when I told her that I did answer her message by saying, “No!” She then proceeded to give me lessons in texting. I watched and listened intently and the very next day went to TbayTel and asked them to disconnect the text feature on the phone. They said they had done so and I left happily knowing that I would never again have to deal with another text message.

The reality is I really don’t want to talk to people on a phone all that much and especially by typing cryptic messages on an undersized keyboard. It all seems pretty inefficient and impersonal to me. I was a happy man.

Fast forward to October. Same year. I’m sitting in sanctuary chatting (face to face, live, warm body type chat) with family. My son was over and we were catching up on his most recent adventures when my cell phone rang. That was unusual in itself because I didn’t often have it turned on. But I digress. The cell phone rang. I opened it up, put it to my ear and said hello. There was no response so I glanced at the screen to see if a number showed that I might recognize. Nope! There was a … you guessed it! … a text message. It read, “…Larry get over here. Melissa is on top of James and I am getting peed off… lol“.

OK. I am certain you will understand my perplexity because 1. I am not Larry; 2. I don’t know Melissa or James; 3. I don’t care what Melissa is on top of, and; MY PHONE DOESN’T SEND OR RECEIVE TEXT MESSAGES! Sorry! I didn’t mean to shout! My son waded into the moment saying that he would respond and did so telling the sender that the message arrived at my phone in error…there was no Larry at this number and signed it, “George”.

I put the phone away and within seconds it rang again displaying the text message, “Who the f@%k  (they wrote the real word) is George?” And again my son texted, “The owner of this phone.” and again I hung up the phone and put it in my pocket.

But the phone was insistent. This time the message read, “Don’t you want to know who this is“. I thought “No.” and put the phone away. It rang again. “Aren’t you curious” I thought “No” and put the phone away. It rang again. “I’m legal” the message read. OK! OK! Too much information. I turned the phone off and determined next business day to call TbayTel and have this feature deactivated once again.

Heh! Heh! You thought the story was over! I called TbayTel and got a very pleasant young sounding male voice on the phone. I explained that I had earlier requested the texting feature be deactivated on my phone and apparently it had not been done. Could he please check and see if that was the case. “Yes” he replied. “You have texting on your phone and it is active.”

“Would you turn that feature off, please.” To which he responded, “But its free and it is part of your package.”

“Yes,” says I. “But I don’t want it.”

“Why?” he queried.

Surely you see where this is heading, don’t you? “Because I don’t text”, I said.

“Why?” he asked again.

“BECAUSE IT IS MY PHONE AND I DON’T WANT TO SEND OR RECEIVE TEXT MESSAGES!” my exasperation breaking through. (Sorry, I know I am shouting again.)

“OK”, he replied. “Its done. Have a great day.”

Now I can’t help but wonder about the conversation that went on in his office after we disconnected. Probably something like this:

Customer Service Employee: (to his colleagues) Hey you guys will never believe the call I just had…some old guy who wanted me to disconnect his texting service…”

The last month of my relationship with my cell phone was blissfully quiet. No texts. No phone calls. Hmmmm? I wonder if it was turned on?                     –GRB

Today I used the “S*%@” word…
October 2, 2008

Snow! There I said it again. Today it snowed! October 2, 2008 and at 2:03 pm it snowed on sanctuary. Mother Nature, we need to chat.            GRB

Trundling along following a brief absence …
October 2, 2008

I know! I know! I have not written for the past month. It is not that I have had nothing to write about; there have been other things that have taken time from my life. As I age I am finding that while my computer is marvellous at multi-tasking, I am not. I seem to be much more comfortable dealing with one thing to completion and then go on to the next.

In among the occasional rant about elections, I continue to work with Joy (there is that pun again) on the house. When the weather is good we work outside. We have done considerable inside work this past September. The decision was made to renew–to refresh the appearance of the back bedroom. That is what we call the spare bedroom in our home. Sometimes it is referred to as Cloudia’s room or Ken’s room. They are the two people who most often occupy the space. And Cloud’s toys are the main feature of the space.

Changing the decor was spurred on by the loaning out of the double bed that has occupied the room for many years. Joy had a vision that included changing the paint, cleaning the carpet, painting the ceiling and the trim. (As an aside, I learned that one should always paint the ceiling first, then the walls and the trim.) Her picture of the space inclucded replacing the double bed with a trundle bed. And that proved to be the big challenge for the month and took three trips to Sault Ste. Marie to bring it to completion.

Trundle beds do not seem to be a common item in Canada. That is perhaps a bit harsh. Suffice to say that trundle beds are not common in Northwestern Ontario. We went to most of the furniture stores in Sault Ste. Marie only to find that many had heard of them but few or none on display. We wanted a trundle that when pulled out from under a single bed would rise up to the same height as the single. Magic! A surprise double bed! NOT! Mostly what we heard from suppliers is, “We have to order one in and we don’t know if the two mattresses line up at the same height to make a double bed.”

People in Upper Michigan must think about spare rooms in the same manner as we. A trip across the

border into the States solved the dilemma. We found a wonderful furniture store named Shunk’s that not only had a variety  of trundle beds on display but provided exemplary service without any pressure or sales pitch. They demonstrated all of the options and then left us alone to make a decision. We did! We bought! They delivered across the border to Sault Ste. Marie, ON, met us at the border crossing to clear customs and had we been home, would have set the bed up for us.

The room is now finished. All that remains is to let Cloudia and Ken know that their room is once again ready for occupancy. With any luck that will mean a sleep over with our granddaughter soon and a visit from our friend Ken in the forseeable future.  Life is good. On to the next…        GRB

The fruits of one’s labour…
August 23, 2008

Hey! All that farmer stuff I referred to earlier has paid off. We continue to work in the backyard throughout the week. At some point Joy suggested that it was time the potatoes be hilled. Now this is a significant statement in that it did not name who was to do the hilling. Since my name says it all I did the hilling. In the process two new potatoes were exposed. They ended up on the dinner table that night. Yum!

There are things growing in the garden! Eatable things! I will have some cucumbers the “Good Lord Willing and the creek don’t rise”…or words to that effect. And I am going to have brussel sprouts, too! I have been wondering where the miniature cabbages appear on the plant and today I made that discovery. I don’t want you to think that I am really this dippy when it comes to gardening. The brussle sprouts were sort of a filler when the frost killed off many of the cucumber plants that I put in after June 10th. I wanted something to fill in the great blank spaces in the garden and the stores had no more cucumbers in their bedding plants. But they did have brussel sprouts. I like brussel sprouts! So I planted them without checking to find out anything about them or how they grow.

I think surprises are good! It restores one’s belief in magic happenings-like edible plants growing when one doesn’t expect much. The good news of all this is I can now crow about all this produce to my brother-in-law. His garden isn’t doing so well this year. It’s not that I wish him or his garden ill will, I am just really pleased that my garden is growing in spite of my ignorance. Heh, heh! Want some dill pickles, Dave? Heh, heh.

Now that I’m home I’ll pay more attention to what is going on in the garden. We have begun to eat the fruits of our labour and I can assure you it is marvellous.                     GRB

Home from holiday…
August 18, 2008

Well, the first full day back from holiday has been relatively slow. It is not that I’ve done nothing; I’ve just paced myself. There was a storm during the night and the temperature has dropped to a cool 7 C. I actually slept in until 10 am today. Mostly because I slept poorly last night. My hips were aching quite badly. I’m certain it is from the number of continuous hours I’ve spent behind the wheel of the car. The seats in my Escape are not very comfortable on long drives. I managed to get my two morning coffees into me by 11 am and took the trailer back to U-Haul. The rental was a tad more than I had anticipated but what the heck I was able to take most of my home with me to Tobermory. I think we took most of David’s home, too. No, we really didn’t need all that stuff. It was a ‘just in case’ scenario.
I cleaned out Cloud’s nest from the back of the car and returned all of the treasures she had tucked away in every nook an cranny. She is like a squirrel/chipmunk in the way she creates a nest in the back seat of the car. There are little stashes of food (candy/two day old pizza) and drink (partly consumed cans of pop and bottles of water) strategically placed so they are easy to find when she wakens from a travel nap. Now that I think of it, there is a distinct comparison to the condition of her bedroom at home.
Joy, Aidan, Cloudia and Tannon at lunch in the Crows Nest, Tobermory, ON

Joy, Aidan, Cloudia and Tannon at lunch in the Crow's Nest, Tobermory, ON

I am constantly reminded of her presence with us. Every time I put my hand in my pocket I find a new treasure the she has deposited there for safe keeping. My God! I’m a part of a squirrel nest. For every treasure I find tucked away, in trust that I will care for it, I am reminded of a moment in time when we were together and in great confidence Cloud would say, “Papa, please hang onto this for me. I don’t want to lose it.”

Days later, sometimes weeks later, I find the treasures entrusted to me and I add them to the pile of things that need be returned someday. And we’ll sit and laugh about how the treasures ended up in my possession and what stories we will share. (grin) I had to go to the grocery last night to fetch some staples–you know, the important stuff like bread and milk. The larder was quite bare. While shopping I ran into Dave, Jen and the twins. They arrived home from our shared holiday a few hours prior to us. They, too, were doing the same thing following our weeks adventure to Tobermory replenishing the food stocks. Tannon latched onto me in the store and decided that he was coming home with me. It appears that he had not had enough ‘Nana and Papa’ this past week. Actually, I think he would have stayed the night if we encouraged it in any way.
I did get some exercise in the backyard today. I am determined to continue with the work we started prior to the trip to Tobermory. So I spent most of the afternoon digging out roots of crabgrass. It felt good to be working beside the garden and admiring the way it has grown in the week we have been away. There are tomatoes on the tomato plants and there are really cucumbers on the vines. I can taste the dill pickles now. It really doesn’t matter that there are only two cucumbers almost ready to harvest. What is important is that two cucumbers grew. I am confident more will grow. The challenge now is that it happen before the first frost of the fall. That can happen any time now. It is evident that gardens grow, quite well, in spite of our ministrations, to produce the most delectable food. David picked radishes last night that were the size of small apples and left them on the the counter top in the kitchen for our dining pleasure upon our arrival home. What a delight!
But I digress. The digging finished, I moved about twelve heavy paving stones to the back of the property. Thank heaven Joy came along to help me do some of the lifting. I am too tired to lay the stones today. That can be a tomorrow job. I’ve cleared enough roots to lay at least three more stones in the walkway. Then I’ll dig again. I’m thinking I’ll call DJ, our grandson and see if he would like to earn some spending money over the next week. He is a young 16 with strong muscles.
Right now, I think I need a nap before preparing dinner. Yes, a glass of wine, a nap and dinner. Just what the doctor ordered. I’ll get to it then.                            GRB

George – Farmer (of sorts)
August 4, 2008

I checked! One of the meanings of my name is “farmer”. To be sure, that is not what I am. But I have a better appreciation for the role having toiled this summer, with Joy (Ha! a pun), in our backyard.

View from the house to the green space.

View from the house to the green space.

It is beginning to pay dividends. I can now see a design emerging from the chaos. Who knows, perhaps by next summer it will be sufficiently completed that we can sit and enjoy the sounds of the birds, wind in the trees and butterflies flitting about.

For the moment I am more aware of an aching back, and tired hands and feet. It is a labour of love! That is the litany that keeps me at it. At least that’s the story I’m using today. And I’m sticking to it. Oh, oh! Here comes the litany of love again. I’d best get back to work!                         GRB

If I grow up I think I will try archaeology
July 31, 2008

I’ve spent the day working in the sandbox again. Those of you who are wondering what a senior citizen is doing playing in a sandbox, rest assured I am not experiencing my second childhood. Yet! The truth be known, I have not yet left my first childhood. But, I digress. The sandbox is the whole of my backyard and it is part of an ancient raised beach of Lake Superior.

My current project is to reshape the beach so that there is no grass to bother with. I don’t want to water, fertilize or cut backyard grass again. To that end, my wife, Joy, and I have been hand digging out the roots of crabgrass, poplar trees, and sundry other forms of plant life. And ants! Big ants! Big red ants! We have chosen to hand dig for a variety of reasons. A few years ago, (Did I mention this was a big project? Yeah! Really big!) We tried using a gas driven cultivator to clear the vegetable garden. It worked!

The next spring the grasses and other plants came back with a vengeance–especially the crabgrass. It seems that when one uses a cultivator, the big crabgrass roots get chopped into thousands and thousands of little crabgrass roots. Given time, water and sunlight those chopped roots become–you guessed it–more crabgrass. So we dug the whole of the garden with a twisty thing to loosen the soil and roots and a garden fork to separate the roots from the sand. It worked. I now have a crabgrass free garden and the soil is very easy to dig and turn for the next year’s planting. This proven method of root extraction, while labour intensive, is effective. It is also green, quiet (I get to commune with the birds and the wind in the trees, the buzzing of mosquitoes the roar of the motorbikes practicing motocross in the easement) and it is great exercise.

So the project expanded and now we are removing all the grasses one root at a time from the backyard. That’s what led me to thinking about being an archaeologist. This digging is a nostalgia trip. WE are digging up things not only from the ancient past but, we are finding things from our past. Things that became lost in the sands since we built our home thirty years ago.

Today I dug up an aluminium tent peg. It came to be there from the night we had a company of Girl Guides camping in our backyard. My wife was a guide leader and the girls wanted a camping badge. At that time our home was backed by boreal forest and the backyard was the perfect place to practice camping skills in relative safety. The Guides set the tent, built a campfire and cooked their dinner. Later in the evening we joined them around the campfire and sang songs, told stories and ate somemores and drank hot chocolate and watched the stars. It was a great evening.

At lights out, I made certain that the girls and Joy were settled into their sleeping bags assuring them that if they needed me, the doors to the house were not locked and they could come in and waske me. You know the kind of things to which I refer–the tent fell down,; it is raining and everyone is wet;… Sure enough, in the wee hours of the morning I was awakened by a passel of girls running into the house more than a bit distraught and squealing loudly. They heard gunshots in the woods behind the house.

Guess who was sent to check this story out. Just guess. I got up and dressed and headed outside while the girls huddled in our room with Joy. No sooner had I stepped round the corner of the house when I heard the distinct sound of a firearm being discharged in short bursts. In short order I, too, was hunkered down with Joy and the guides wondering if we were under attack.

All that from an old tent peg buried in the back yard. Some of the details are blurred and no doubt I have done some embellishing. But that’s OK. It is my story and my memory. I don’t quite remember the outcome of it all other than it was a young man who had purchased a firearm through a magazine. He was out trying it out!

I wonder if archaeologists feel the same kind of rush when they find a tent peg or a musket ball or a… Yes, I think I will try archaeology when I grow up.                           GRB