Thursday, March 31, 2011

Lions Music Festival

The Lions Club, for sixty plus years, have hosted the annual Music Festival in our fair city. This is the chosen week, this year.  Over 400 performers take to the stage from Sunday afternoon until Thursday evening.  During the day, there are three different churches open, with three adjudicators, separating the wheat from the chaff.  In the evening everyone gathers in the arts center to witness the senior students in one of the disciplines.

There are always three disciplines: band/orchestra/instrumental, voice, and piano.  All of the music teachers in the area coach their students for months in advance, prepping them to bring home the gold. Whereas sports are daily celebrated and toasted in the area, young musicians have but once annually to shine.  And shine they do.  Hockey moms have nothing on the competitive streaks in the music moms.  Well there are no yelling and brawling matches (musicians prefer the more snobbish silent treatment and snubbing). New dresses and suits must be acquired for every individual performance, and heaven forbid a stray lock detracting from a performance.  Although as a side note, there was a wardrobe malfunction last evening as a contestant snapped a spaghetti strap and threatened to bare all during her final credenza.

About six years ago my youngest daughter was the winner of the most promising young musician.  Her award was a beautifully engraved metronome which sits proudly in our home.

My eldest, two years ago, brought home the much coveted, overall Star of the Festival, from the glitzy culminating evening.  Last year, she was selected as Vocal Star -- a great ending to her public and high school days.

Youngest daughter has had a very successful week and made her parents proud.  She won first in the duet competition Sunday evening with a friend.  Then a second on her sacred solo, a third on her Stage and Film and last night her quartet tied for first place.  Last evening was most enjoyable with the last of the senior solos, then trios and quartets.  I am constantly amazed at the maturity and creativity these high school students display.

And that is about all I have to say for today.

Musings and meanderings from the Musical Gardener.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Consumption, A Deadly Killer

My Patterson great great grandparents, had a family of ten, not an uncommon feat in that day.  The sad part of this family is that five of the children, all contracted consumption, as tuberculosis was known in those days.  All five eventually succumbed to the dreaded disease.

My mother talked about this sad situation a couple of times, and of course her info would have been family lore passed down through the generations.  Apparently the family all traveled to a religious conference a distance from their home.  I gather a trip at that time would have either been on foot, or by horse and buggy.  Whatever the means of travel, they apparently all came home with major respiratory conditions.  Whether they all contracted the tuberculosis bug at that time is not sure.  Perhaps the flu bug they caught, left them in a weakened state, and thus succeptable to TB. 

Tuberculosis was not a quick killer.  Patients often lingered on for a year or two after initial symptoms.  The five children all died within a period of six years.  It is entirely likely that one may have caught if from another, as they tried to care for the sicker ones.  What is particularly sad is that all the victims were either late teens or early twenties.  This seemed to be a common age for consumption to strike.

The consumptive patient
The victims were: 
James, born in 1851, died Sept 11, 1876
Samuel, born in 1854, died July 21, 1876
Daniel, born 1857, died March 31, 1878
Mary, born 1861, died May 20, 1879
William, born April 1862, died June 03, 1882

Imagine the grief the parents must have endured as they buried their children, one by one.  The father, James, died the fall that the last child succumbed to TB, on November 30, 1882.  The mother, Jane, who obviously nursed her children through their illnesses, lived until 1911, in fact, buried two more of her offspring prior to her death.  Only three of her ten children outlived her.

All of these six early deaths are buried in the Elora Cemetery in Southern Ontario.  I have visited the graveyard and seen the tall stone that commemorates the lives of each of these folks, all struck down before their time by the tiny tuberculin bacillus.

The following websites are ones that discuss consumption from a medical standpoint and in a historical context:
And that is about all I have to say for today.

Musings and meanderings from the Musical Gardener.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Oven Roasted Veggies

Here is a quick method to get all your veggies ready in one fell swoop (what is a fell swoop anyways?).  It is perfect if you are roasting chicken or beef in the oven, because you can economize and cook the entire dinner in the oven (in one fell swoop so to speak).

You can pretty much choose whatever vegetables you particularly enjoy.  I always use potatoes as the mainstay.  From there I add: sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, turnips, peppers, onion, brussel sprouts etc.  We've just discovered fennel this winter,  and this is one of the recipes that makes use of its unique flavour.

Here was the combination as it was last night (changes with the available vegetables):


10 - 12 small red potatoes (whatever your family would normally consume as potatoes for a meal)
1 large carrot
1 sweet potato
2 cooking onions
1 half head of fennel (anise)
1 dozen fresh brussel sprouts
1 red pepper
2 jalapeno peppers
2 tablespoons olive oil
chili powder
garlic powder
Montreal Steak spice (or any salted herb combination you prefer)

Cut all the vegetables up into bite sized pieces.  I used small potatoes (leave the skins on) and quarter them. Place all the cut vegetables in a plastic bag.  Sprinkle the olive oil over the vegetables and roll and shake the bag, so that all the vegetables are coated.  Sprinkle all the herbs and spices on the vegetables and then roll and shake the bag again. 

Turn the spiced veggies out onto a baking tray and place in the oven at 350 F for about 45 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked through.  With a metal lifter, turn the vegetables over part way through the cooking.

Ready to bake.

Hot from the oven.

I often double the batch, because they are great reheated the second day as well.  The spices have had more of a chance to infuse.

And that is about all I have to say for today.

Musings and meanderings from the Musical Gardener.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Me Brudder John

I was an afterthought, a woops.  Mom was forty, Dad, forty three, when I made my grand entrance..... on Labour Day of all days.

Little Johnny

My next sibling up, is my brother John, who is the best part of seven years older than myself.  Most brothers that far apart would have had very little in common or much to do with each other for that matter.  But John was different, than most siblings.  He was a really good big brother, and I'm quite sure I was a really annoying little brother.  I recall him and I doing a lot of childhood activities together.  He always took me swimming at the neighbour's beach, sometimes took me fishing.  In the winter we would go snowmobiling together on the old Elan skidoo, and in the fall we often go partridge hunting together (of course I wasn't old enough for a license yet).

Yours truly (obviously in need of a pee),and big brother.  I'm not sure if he is pronouncing a blessing on me,  pulling my hair or trying to keep my head straight for the camera.

School boy photos

John is a quiet, good natured fellow.  He has many friends and I would say, no enemies.  He is just one of those likable chaps.  He started carpentry work right out of high school and still works with the same neighbour thirty five years later, building throughout the Parry Sound area.  John also is a trapper.  He traps primarily beaver, but other fur bearing animals as well.  This is usually how he spends his winters, on his skidoo setting out traps, bringing home his catch, and then skinning and stretching long into the winter evenings.

At 56, he has never married, and I don't think has any particular yearnings, matrimonially.  He always has a faithful canine companion.  Abbey is his current chum.  A bluetick, Cocker spaniel cross, she embodies the perfect pet for John.  And when we invite John down to our place for Christmas, we make sure to always include Cousin Abbey in the invite.

A fine catch of walleye.

John and Abbey

So today is brother John's 56th birthday.  Happy birthday to a fine fellow.  May you have many more. I feel lucky to have you as a big brother.

It's funny, when I called him last night to wish him an early Happy Birthday, his reaction was, "Oh ya, I guess it is."  I said, "So you'll be 56." "57", was his convinced reply.  I had to explain that 2011 minus 1955, makes you 56.  So, he's been telling people that he was 56 this whole past year.  Now he's blessed to be entering his second year of 56.  I thought that only happened at 39!

And that is about all I have to say for today.

Musings and meanderings from the Musical Gardener.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Earth Day/Hour

One of our exchange students was asked to be part of the local celebration of earth day/hour last night, in town.  Fortunately I had to pick my daughter up from work, as I delivered Cherry to earth hour at City Hall.  It would have been a bit ironic to have had to waste the gas on two trips, to save the energy from a few lights.

So the rest of us arrived home, determined to at least try to do our part for earth hour.  My wife and daughter and I decided we would sit in the hot-tub and enjoy the stars, sans lights.  Yes I do admit to letting the pump run the jets for one guilty cycle.  The stars were amazing!  You could certainly see a lot more, what with all the neighbour's lights out as well.  And the usually glow over our fair city, was considerably fainter than normal.  Even the passing airplanes seemed to be on a reduced flow last night -- we live on the flyway between Toronto and Montreal, so it is not unusual to see three or four winking flights at any given point, in the sky.

Our other exchange student, who lives in her room and only comes out for meals and bathroom breaks, we thought was asleep, so we let her be.  Well, she suddenly seemed to come to life, just as we were all parked in the hot tub.  Lights came on throughout the house at periodic intervals, as she visited the bathroom, the kitchen and various other rooms.  And wouldn't you know it, every time she switched on a light, a car would drive by - I'm sure they were impressed by our observation of earth day.

Well after 45 minutes of soaking in the tub, we finally came shivering into the house and got ourselves reclothed.  The missus located a candle and we sat and chatted for the final fifteen minutes.  Fortunately just as we were about to get in the van to pick Cherry up from City Hall, she arrived home, driven by a friend.  Well that certainly seemed greener and more earth friendly than us making a second trip.

We did purposely leave a few lights on in the basement - my growlights for my plants.  I knew that I would forget to turn them back on, and as I had just watered everybody, I knew it would be a few days before I would discover my error.  I have the one rack on a timer, and probably need to do the same with the other rack now, as most of the plants are getting nice and bushy.

So I'm not sure how carefully we observed earth hour.  I know purists would decry our sojourn in the hot tub (and probably even the fact that we have a hot tub - it was here when we bought the place, and it is our one luxury in life, right now), but the water was already heated, and it has to keep circulating.  I do try keep our hydro usage to a minimum the rest of the year (I think Ontario Hydro has pretty much determined that with our high billing rates).

And that is about all I have to say for today.

Musings and meanderings from the Musical Gardener.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

My Artistic Aunts and Uncle

We have one room of our home that has four different works of arts by four of my father's siblings.  Each has a unique style and I feel fortunate to have inherited a piece of each person's artistic heritage.  Funny thing is, Dad didn't have an artistic bone in his body.  Even his garden, while high in yield, tended to be low in aesthetics.

Uncle Lester was Dad's oldest brother.  He was very blunt and a rather austere perfectionist in my eyes.  I never felt either myself or my family really ever measured up too well on his scale of success.  He was an engineer and had done well, financially in life.  He always drove a late model car, and liked people to notice the fact.  Here is one of the three examples of his art work that I recall seeing.

The second one, which always hung above our dining room table on the homefarm.  It was a rather garish birch tree backing up against a forest.  This one, and the photograph below are both painted with a pallet knife, hence the rough texture and thick gobs of paint.  A third one that I also attribute to the same artist was of two orange irises on a black background.  I have no idea where that particular painting went, but since I now collect anything iris-in-nature I'd love to know its whereabouts.

The other thing my uncle was known for was cutting gem stones.  In the family genealogy book he is listed as a lapidarist.  I always thought that a little toffee-nosed, but maybe it was just because I never understood the process, or saw any of his actual work.

My next aunt, Aunt Vera, whom I devoted a blog to a few weeks ago, was quite artistic in my eyes.  Early in life she did quite a few works in oil.  Her style was very realistic and calm in contrast to her older brother's work.

In later life, her flowers became her pallette as did cloth swatches.  Her magnificent perennial borders were known far and wide and certainly displayed her keen eye for design and detail.  She also took up rug hooking and joined a local guild.  These rugs were works of art, not to be sullied by trampling feet, but to grace walls.  My cousin inherited a beautiful oval one of irises - again the green eyed monster rears its ugly head.

Each of the nieces and nephews were fortunate enough to be the recipients of one or more gorgeous hand-pieced and hand-quilted quilts.  They were truly works of art, as she would travel far and wide to find the perfect matching prints, paisleys and calicoes to compliment each other. 
Aunt Vera loved colour and lots of it as you can see in the two examples I have of her handiwork.

The next aunt, was Muriel.  I have never seen any work that she produced in early life, so I am not sure whether this may have been something she took up in retirement. I know Aunt Muriel took night school courses in oil painting as well as a variety of other disciplines. I have two lovely pieces of her work.  One is Orville, the aged man in the Sou'wester and the other is a perfectly round still life of several roses.

The fourth sibling to show an artsy bent, was Aunt Edna.  Her medium was rug hooking, but a completely different style that Aunt Vera's big tapestries.  Aunt Edna's tended to be small, woodsy creations.  She especially liked toadstools and moss.  This example is a Christmas gift from her, several years prior to her death.

I'm glad some of the family genes passed on to future generations.  At some point I will devote a blog to my daughters' emerging portfolios.  Obviously the leaves haven't fallen too far from the family tree.

And that is about all I have to say for today.

Musings and meanderings from the Musical Gardener.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Quick Brown Fox

I like words.  Probably that is why Scrabble is one of favourite pastimes.

A while back I wrote a blog on mnemonics and I had the phrase 'The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog' as a leftover.  It didn't really fit into the theme for the day.  So I just let it percolate in a draft for a couple of months.  Yesterday I decided to revisit it and see what I could make out of it.  I went on-line and discovered it is actually known as a pangram or a holoalphabetic sentence (contains all letters of the alphabet) -- and you thought it was just the sentence your typing (keyboarding now) teacher taught you, so that you learned where all the letter keys were on the typewriter (computer keyboard).  "The quick brown....", is a 35 letter pangram.  Several other good ones have surfaced.  I'll list the following:  
(38) Woven silk pyjamas exchanged for blue quartz.
(35) The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.
(32) Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs. 
(30) How quickly daft jumping zebras vex! 
(30) Jackdaw, love my big sphinx of quartz! 
(29) Sphinx of black quartz, judge my vow!
(28) Fox nymphs grab quick jived waltz.

In no way can I take credit for any of these.  I happened to stumble across a fascinating website in my bit of internet research: 
On the same page I discovered collections of many other word concepts and phrases that I thought I would share, as I found them intriguing.  The first would be palindromes.  Palindromes are words, phrases or sentences that are spelled the same forward or backward, for example MOM, or RACECAR.  Some of the clever ones listed were:

Madame I am Adam (Adam's pick-up line to Eve)
Do geese see God?
Was it Eliot's toilet I saw?
Murder for a jar of red rum.
Some men interpret nine memos.
Never odd or even

Next I came across Anagrams.  Anagrams are like daffynitions in Charades, they are definitions of a word or phrase, but with a very clever twist - the definition contains the same letters as the initial word or phrase.  These took some really thoughtful pondering to come up with.  Again I can lay absolutely no claim to any of them.

Debit card = Bad credit
Halley's Comet = Shall yet come
Punishment = Nine Thumps
Dormitory = Dirty room
Astronomer = Moon starer
The Hurricanes = These churn air
Schoolmaster = The classroom

Have you ever heard the term Spoonerisms?  Well I hadn't either until yesterday.  Spoonerisms are phrases or sentences where two beginning letters in two words get accidentally (or not so) mixed up in speech (such as the old standby - 'smart feller' becomes 'fart smeller').  Here are the best ones I found:

Tease my ears (Ease my tears)
A lack of pies (A pack of lies)
It's roaring with pain (It's pouring with rain)
Wave the sails (Save the whales)

The next examples of fun stuff, I came across, deal just with single words and some of the neat anomalies discovered by smarter folks than me.

What is unique about the word 'sequoia'?  It is the shortest word to contain all five vowels?  Can you think of any other such words?  Some of the ones listed include: uncopyrightable, miscellaneous.  Then we start to get fancy.  'Facetious' and 'abstemious' have all five vowels and in alphabetical order.  Then we have 'uncomplimentary, unproprietary, unoriental and subcontinental, all in reverse alphabetical order.

Apparently there is at least one word, for each letter,  in the English,  that contains that letter doubled.  A few of these are a bit sketchy - I think someone was stretching a little to come up with them, but again it took someone a fair bit of time and brainpower to come up with this list.


How about long strings of uninterrupted consonants (these could be useful in Scrabble when you get a lack of vowels).  Some relatively common words with strings of five consonants are:


Can you think of a common word without any of the five common vowels?  How about ............. RHYTHMS?

And that is about all I have to say for today (and about all the brainpower I can muster).

Musings and meanderings from the Musical Gardener.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Changing Face of Education, More Sky Pie

I received the following email from a former high school classmate of mine.  I found it to be rather thought provoking.  Yes a great deal of it will probably happen, but a lot would only happen in an ideal world, which sad to say does not often exist in the schools I teach in.  I shall try to comment on some points (in italics).


21 Things That Will Become Obsolete in Education by 2020
by Shelley Blake-Plock

Last night I read and posted the clip on '21 Things That Became Obsolete in the Last Decade'. Well, just for kicks, I put together my own list of '21 Things That Will Become Obsolete in Education by 2020'.

1. Desks
The 21st century does not fit neatly into rows. Neither should your students. Allow the network-based concepts of flow, collaboration, and dynamism help you rearrange your room for authentic 21st century learning.

-rows are pretty much passe now, but I do like the idea of stanchions

2. Language Labs
Foreign language acquisition is only a smartphone away. Get rid of those clunky desktops and monitors and do something fun with that room.

- so IPODS will actually be useful and not just a status symbol for the spoiled, rich and egocentric?

3. Computers
Ok, so this is a trick answer. More precisely this one should read: 'Our concept of what a computer is'. Because computing is going mobile and over the next decade we're going to see the full fury of individualized computing via handhelds come to the fore. Can't wait.

- see above comment

4. Homework
The 21st century is a 24/7 environment. And the next decade is going to see the traditional temporal boundaries between home and school disappear. And despite whatever Secretary Duncan might say, we don't need kids to 'go to school' more; we need them to 'learn' more. And this will be done 24/7 and on the move (see #3).

- yes the good students will continue to toil 24/7 and the others will not

5. The Role of Standardized Tests in College Admissions
The AP Exam is on its last legs. The SAT isn't far behind. Over the next ten years, we will see Digital Portfolios replace test scores as the #1 factor in college admissions.

6. Differentiated Instruction as the Sign of a Distinguished Teacher
The 21st century is customizable. In ten years, the teacher who hasn't yet figured out how to use tech to personalize learning will be the teacher out of a job. Differentiation won't make you 'distinguished'; it'll just be a natural part of your work.

7. Fear of Wikipedia
Wikipedia is the greatest democratizing force in the world right now. If you are afraid of letting your students peruse it, it's time you get over yourself.

- can't fight 'em, join 'em - have your students submit their own inaccurate info to Wiki - grade it as creative writing

8. Paperbacks
Books were nice. In ten years' time, all reading will be via digital means. And yes, I know, you like the 'feel' of paper. Well, in ten years' time you'll hardly tell the difference as 'paper' itself becomes digitized.

- may happen, but too many of us oldies like the real thing

9. Attendance Offices
Bio scans. 'Nuff said.

10. Lockers
A coat-check, maybe.

11. IT Departments
Ok, so this is another trick answer. More subtly put: IT Departments as we currently know them. Cloud computing and a decade's worth of increased wifi and satellite access will make some of the traditional roles of IT -- software, security, and connectivity -- a thing of the past. What will IT professionals do with all their free time? Innovate. Look to tech departments to instigate real change in the function of schools over the next twenty years.

- where there is technology, there will be glitches, and there will be a need for IT departments

12. Centralized Institutions
School buildings are going to become 'homebases' of learning, not the institutions where all learning happens. Buildings will get smaller and greener, student and teacher schedules will change to allow less people on campus at any one time, and more teachers and students will be going out into their communities to engage in experiential learning.

- we currently call these drop-outs

13. Organization of Educational Services by Grade
Education over the next ten years will become more individualized, leaving the bulk of grade-based learning in the past. Students will form peer groups by interest and these interest groups will petition for specialized learning. The structure of K-12 will be fundamentally altered.

- Student-formed, Grade 7, peer groups by interest ought to be unique to say the least

14. Education School Classes that Fail to Integrate Social Technology
This is actually one that could occur over the next five years. Education Schools have to realize that if they are to remain relevant, they are going to have to demand that 21st century tech integration be modeled by the very professors who are supposed to be preparing our teachers.
(Ed. Note:  Check out Plock's 2010 nomination for best blog post:  "Why Teachers Should Blog")

- let's devise more ways to entertain and cleverly delude ourselves into thinking that it is advanced learning - toss out that old maxim of hard work and achievement, it didn't do anything for our ignorant forefathers!

15. Paid/Outsourced Professional Development
No one knows your school as well as you. With the power of a PLN in their backpockets, teachers will rise up to replace peripatetic professional development gurus as the source of schoolwide prof dev programs. This is already happening.

16. Current Curricular Norms
There is no reason why every student needs to take however many credits in the same course of study as every other student. The root of curricular change will be the shift in middle schools to a role as foundational content providers and high schools as places for specialized learning.

- why do we still spend a credit's worth of high school English studying Shakespeare? Might we not better spend that time teaching kids some financial savvy and fiscal responsibility?

17. Parent-Teacher Conference Night
Ongoing parent-teacher relations in virtual reality will make parent-teacher conference nights seem quaint. Over the next ten years, parents and teachers will become closer than ever as a result of virtual communication opportunities. And parents will drive schools to become ever more tech integrated.

- the really tech savvy parent will have a spy cam right in the classroom, so that the teacher's every move and mismove can be recorded for litigation purposes at a later date.

18. Typical Cafeteria Food
Nutrition information + handhelds + cost comparison = the end of $3.00 bowls of microwaved mac and cheese. At least, I so hope so.

- yah, I've seen the success of serving healthy salads etc (90% toss out rates) 

19. Outsourced Graphic Design and Webmastering
You need a website/brochure/promo/etc.? Well, for goodness sake just let your kids do it. By the end of the decade -- in the best of schools -- they will be.

20. High School Algebra I
Within the decade, it will either become the norm to teach this course in middle school or we'll have finally woken up to the fact that there's no reason to give algebra weight over statistics and IT in high school for non-math majors (and they will have all taken it in middle school anyway).

- see my note above - skip a lot of the stuff we teach in Math completely (the engineers and mathematicians of tomorrow can pick up most of the current high school math in MATH101 in university)- what does average Joe use beyond BEDMAS anyway - really?  We should teach about finances, borrowing, debt, mortgages, lines of credit, interest, balancing a check book, investing, saving for the future - starting to sound like a rant, I'll stop now.  

21. Paper
In ten years' time, schools will decrease their paper consumption by no less than 90%. And the printing industry and the copier industry and the paper industry itself will either adjust or perish.

 - we are currently supposed to be a paperless society, but I see more and more hard copies of stuff every day, and newer, bigger and better photocopiers lustily feasting on ream after ream of paper, daily.
Editor's Note: A "classic" from the Teach Paperless blog and previously published.   Shelley Blake-Plock is a self-described "artist and teacher . . . an everyday instigator for progressive art, organization, and education. In addition to his work teaching high school Latin and Art History, Shelly is a member of both the experimental Red Room Collective and Baltimore's High Zero Foundation . . ."   It will be interesting to see how his predictions fare over the next few years . . .  


 Okay so I poked a bit of criticism the way of the author.  I think it was more than a little tongue in cheek anyway.
It's all very pie in the sky.  No where did I see anything about diminished classroom management or the greatly improved respect and vastly increased learning skills of our future students.  Sorry but I have to really scoff at the idea of student based learning groups - we better never throw out Lord of the Flies, as required reading, if we think that will work.

And that is about all I have to say for today.

Musings and meanderings from the Musical Gardener.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I'm Getting Old and Feeling It This Morning!

Since I am hitting the half century mark this fall, I thought I better get myself checked out medically to some degree, just to see if I'm good to go to triple digits or not.

The first stop was to see my new doctor.  My last doctor retired a few years back, and being the slight procrastinator that I am, I didn't get around to getting a new one, that and the fact that we moved into a new community.

So I finally had an opportunity to meet the new doc over the March break -- quite a pleasant fellow with a South African accent.  He sent me to get my blood-work done at a local lab.  After fasting 12 hours, I walked into the lab at 8:15 -- wall to wall people.  Now I understood why the receptionist had said to get there early.  I took a number and the last available seat.  Actually considering the number of people, the line did move quite quickly.  Waiting rooms are a funny phenomenon though, the atmosphere is so dependent upon the personalities present.  There was one loud old lad there, who had to talk to everyone, and seemed to think he knew everyone.  As soon as he left, a hush fell over the room .....a very awkward hush.  Noboby dared to speak!  Talk about dead air.  Finally someone came in who knew another person, and they carried on a quiet conversation, while twenty or so of the rest of us examined our feet and politely pretended we were not eavesdropping.

Maybe a slight exaggeration, but you get the idea!

Anyway, they took my blood and did an EKG on me.   Monday at school I get a phone call from my beloved, telling me to stop at the doctor's office on my way home. The nurse wants to see me and put me on experimental medication for high cholestrol.  My immediate reaction is that I've one foot on a banana peel, and that the bells are a tolling.

When I arrived, the receptionist handed me a sheet and a package of pills and was about to send me on my way.   Huh, ...what, .....wait a minute here, I think I need to talk to someone.  She told me to sit and she'd summon the first available nurse, which she eventually did.

So the truth is, my cholestrol is slightly elevated ( I eat too many of the Mrs' homemade cookies), not enough to have set off the alarm bells.  Methinks the telephone call and the impending tone of urgency, may well have shaved a half year or better off my life expectancy.  The drug they gave me, I was told, had the possible side effect of muscle pain.

Yesterday morning I awoke and could hardly roll out of bed.  In the night I had obviously lost a round with some heavyweight champion in my sleep.  I can't see the bruises, but the small of my back (I know with my girth its hard to locate exactly where that might be) certainly sustained some sort of meteoric hit.

I took an Advil, and a second cholestrol pill and hobbled off to school.  Made it through the day and did a long soak in the hot tub when I got home.  I spent a somewhat restless night -- do you know how often we turn in our sleep? 

I'm to stay on the pills for a few days to determine if they are the cause.  Of course I have had this bug since February 11th, and it may be that it has just migrated from my sinuses and lungs to a new hiding spot -- I'm not ruling that one out either.

So I'm hobbling off again this morning, fortified with Advil, and an extra one for lunch.  I'll not be doing the Charleston any time soon -- of course if I think about that, I hadn't planned that activity anyway.

And that is about all I have to say for today.

Musings and meanderings from the Musical Gardener.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Cinnamon Rolls

Mom used to make what she called 'curlies', when I was a wee lad.  We always enjoyed them, so they became a family tradition, once I had children of my own.

They are usually a Saturday or Sunday morning treat, take about ten minutes to make and about a half hour to bake - can't get much simpler than that.

The ingredients:

3 cups of flour (whole wheat if you prefer)
6 teaspoons of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of margarine
1 cup of milk
2 tablespoons of margarine
3/4 cup of brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 cup of raisins (optional)

Measure the first three dry ingredients into a bowl and mix well.  Add the cup of margarine and cut in with a pastry cutter, until it forms a crumbly mixture.

Add milk and stir only until a doughy ball is formed. The dough should be slightly sticky, if still too dry add a little more milk.  This is actually the same recipe to this point as I use for either tea biscuits or dumplings.

Dust flour on the counter and on top of the dough ball.  Roll out to 1/4 - 1/2 inch thickness.  With a butter knife spread the two tablespoons of butter over the entire dough.  Spread the sugar over the dough, and sprinkle on the cinnamon and raisins.

Roll the dough from the far side, toward yourself, being careful to try and keep the sugar and raisins inside.  Pat the ends to form a neat little loaf.  Decide how many buns you want, and make little equally spaced cuts across the top of the loaf. Cut the loaf into sections and place in a glass pan.  Bake at 350 F for about a half hour, or until the crust starts to golden.

Serve hot.  They can be even tastier if you make a thin, flavoured (we like orange)  icing to dribble on top. Enjoy.

And that is about all I have to say for today.

Musings and meanderings from the Musical Gardener.

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Tribute To My Father, 1919-2008

Dad passed away three years ago today. It was Good Friday (try to find a more fitting day for my father) and we were a part of the Passion Play that our church presents each year.  When we got home there was a message on the answering machine from my sister indicating that Dad had had a stroke and was not in good shape. 

By the time I got through to my sister, Dad had passed away.  It was a bit of a shock to say the least. He was 88 and living in a retirement home in Parry Sound.  He had gotten to the point of not being able to care for himself, in his own home, but was still enjoying fairly decent health, considering his age.

 The following is the eulogy that I wrote and delivered at his funeral.

George Newton Hosick,
May 22, 1919 – March 21, 2008

George Newton Hosick was born on May 22, 1919, eighth living child of John and Minnie Hosick. One of the childhood rituals that the family all talk about was the trip back and forth to school, a distance of three miles one way. In the winter when the lake was frozen, the children could ski across the lake which shortened their journey considerably.

George came to a strong faith at about the age of sixteen, and like every other facet of his life, he embraced this faith fervently and has so ever since. This faith made a decision very difficult a few years later. World War II called George to defend his country. His religious beliefs must have raged mightily with his patriotic feelings. I’m certain, torn in his spirit, he headed overseas. While there were emotional scars, Dad has born physical effects of the war since those awful days. The constant bombardment of artillery robbed him forever of a large portion of his hearing.

Dad was a member of the 19th Field Regiment Battery of the Royal Canadian Artillery, which supported the 3rd division. Dad was a bombadeer 105 mm r operating guns on landing craft tanks. He was there on the banks of Normandy on D. Typical of Dad’s self deprication was his reply “ I was no hero, but I wasn’t as scared as I thought I might be.”

The fall after Dad returned from overseas, he and Mom started seeing each other. This meant that Dad had to walk from his parent’s home in Dunchurch to the Patterson farm in Sunny Slope to see his sweetheart. Always a lover of flowers, he would carry an armful of gladioli for Dorothy. Within a month they were engaged and the following August 2nd, 1947, they were married at the Patterson farm.

George and Dorothy purchased the farm from her parents. For the first years of their marriage, they shipped cream from a small dairy herd. Also Dad raised sheep, beef cattle and operated a sizeable maple syrup enterprise.

Dad was offered a job with the Lands and Forest Department, planting trees. Because he was a good worker and conscientious, he became a foreman in charge of the Junior Rangers, among other endeavours. For several years Dad worked virtually full time off of the farm. However in the 1980’s, the ministry began cutbacks and work became scarcer and available only at greater and greater distances. An opportunity arose for a janitor at the Whitestone Lake Public School. For the last five or six years of his working life, he kept Whitestone Lake Central School spotless.

After selling the farm to their sons, Mom and Dad moved to Dunchurch in 1982. They remodeled the former Dunchurch Gospel Chapel that we attended for years. Retirement was kind to my parents. They enjoyed good health for many years and were able to take several trips with other seniors across the country and over to Europe. Dad had time to grow tremendous vegetable and flower gardens.

Retirement also gave Dad time for his other passion – fishing. He particularly enjoyed his snowmobile and his three wheeler which made him able to get to those far away secret lakes where the big ones lay waiting his arrival. Dad also liked to hunt. He enjoyed partridge, and duck hunting, as well as moose and deer. When he retired, he made several successful forays into the far north, with the younger set, hunting for moose. 
Dad was always extremely devout in his faith and the backbone of the Gospel Chapel. Dad’s faith spilled over into his everyday life. He read a chapter of the Bible three times daily, aloud to the family and every morning, would pray.

Mom and Dad were married 55 years. Theirs was a strong marriage and I know they truly loved each other. There are many love letters, which they exchanged during their brief courtship. Mom was working in Orillia, and Dad was working in the bush in Whitestone for Jim Stickland.

Dorothy passed away nearly five years ago on April 4th 2003, after a valiant battle with cancer. While George certainly missed his life-mate, he was able to carry on very well for several years, batching it, along with his son John, who came for supper most nights. He became quite adept at cooking and looking after himself.

George loved music He loved to sing though, and he knew numerous hymns off by heart, and often would entertain the nurses and caregivers with his impromptu renditions. Apparently he made that remark that he was practicing to be ready to sing with the angels. George loved to visit and talk with family, friends and neighbours. The front door was always a revolving one, with someone constantly dropping in for a chat or a meal, or just to see how he was doing.

George was never concerned with worldly possessions. He did love to fish and hunt, and was always of lovers of his flowers and vegetable patch, and he loved nothing better than a good home-cooked meal and an evening with friends. So what does he leave as a legacy: four children and four grandchildren, who loved him and a multitude of neighbours who called him friend. George will always be remembered for his wit, his laughter, his humility, his faith, his loyalty, his devotion, his love.

The spring before he died. Yes he caught all three pickerel himself.  He was so pleased.  My wife took this shot and I think she really captured the essense of Dad in it.

This is the last picture I have of Dad and I together.  It was taken at Christmas time before he died.  

Often if something interesting happens in life, I get that urge to go and telephone Dad and tell him about it, and then I remember that is no longer an option.  Dad was a good little man, and I will always miss him, but am thankful for the wonderful memories I have of him.

And that is about all I have to say for today.

Musings and meanderings from the Musical Gardener.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Savannah, Your Typical Cat

You will note in my personal summary that I am the owner/slave to two very non talented cats.  And that is what they are - just cats.  Neither will ever aspire to the lofty heights of feline divinity that Tessie aquired.

A year and a half ago, we decided to get another cat to keep Whittaker company.  Whittaker is our thirteen year old neutered male.

We went to the pet shop, but they had no kittens.  However there was an ad on the bulletin board for free kittens - my kind of price.  So we took down the number and called when we got home.  The house was just a few miles away, so we immediately set off.

Well, they certainly had cats and kittens.  It was a pleasant fall day, and there were cats of all colours, sizes etc roaming around the porch.  The litter advertised was no less than six: four blacks and two tabbies.  Now we are a tabby cat family - nothing else will do.  If you are a cat person, you probably have your own specific traits too!

The runt of the litter definitely caught our attention.  First of all she was the required tabby, and she came bouncing over to see us.  Her pretty little tabby sister, was very elusive, not a trait we were looking for.

So home we came with Savannah.  The first order of the day was to get her properly photographed in her petite condition.  My wife and daughters seemed to feel a teacup was the proper receptacle, to get a sense of proportions.

Whittaker was considerably less than impressed.  Here he was preparing to live out his golden years in peace and tranquility (that translates into 23 hours per day on our bed, the other hour  devoted to eating, toiletries, and fastidious personal grooming).  However this dream was shattered with the bouncing, biting lump of cat aggression that we launched on the poor unsuspecting boy.

He has adjusted reasonably well, and she does try her best to keep him young.

Unfortunately, Savannah's early affectionate phase was somewhat short-lived.  She has become  very independent and pretty much aloof - typical cat natured, I suppose.  She is very friendly and affectionate if her food dish is empty, but as soon as the bowl is full, we humans quickly lose our appeal.  I guess it is a typical case of cupboard love - just so different from our sainted Tessie.

And that is about all I have to say for today.

Musings and meanderings from the Musical Gardener.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Maple Meanderings

Oh what to write about today!  What a day it has been.  Usually I get up early and write post my blog before the day gets underway, but this morning I didn't.  And here it is 6:00 pm and I'm finally getting around to blogging.

We could talk about the weather.  It was an absolutely gorgeous spring day here.  There was actually a skiff of snow on the ground when we awoke this morning, but it melted off fairly quickly.  This afternoon is a very pleasant, +10 or so.  We went for a walk when we got home about 4:30.  There was quite a brisk north wind in our face, but is was beautiful coming back.  A neighbour has about 20 sap buckets hung on his maple trees.  I noted most of the buckets were a third to half full.  Now I'm not sure whether or not he gathered either yesterday or the day before.  He was not boiling down though.  I was looking forward to seeing smoke and steam billowing out of his little evaporator shed.

Every once and a while I get a nostalgic twig, and think it would be fun to have twenty taps, and a little evaporator, and then I remember how much unnecessary work it would make at one of the busiest seasons of the year.  I remember growing up in the maple industry.  Dad tapped as many as 1200 trees a year.  When I was about eight, he decided to go into it in a big way and invested in pipeline, a generator and a vacuum pump.  It all seemed good on paper, but mother nature had a lot of pitfalls in the plan.

Dad and Uncle Lloyd beside the sugar shack. Note the buckets, this must have been a year or two prior to the pipeline escapade.

Dad boiling down.  Note the fire in the doorway of the evaporator.

A neighbour, Frank Johnston, and Queenie, gathering sap, the traditional way.

Because the system was all on vacuum,  if you accidentally bored too deep and hit a hollow spot in the tree (it only takes one), it sucked air, rather than sap.  Dad spent countless hours tracing the lines, trying to determine where the hollow trees were, time that should have been spent boiling down.  Then there were squirrels, and raccoons that dearly loved to chew into the clear plastic tubing and grab a drink of sweet sap- again more holes to pull air.  The big feeder lines,one inch black plastic PVC pipe which were put up higher in the trees and left year round.  The problem here was that the bears like to climb the trees and chew on the plastic piping.  And more than once a moose tangled his massive antlers in the piping and pulled it halfway across the back forty.

This video show my brother loading up the neighbour's big new evaporator.

For all the syrup we use, I can easily buy a liter or two for the next fifty years, before I would ever get my investment back, just in equipment.  Oh yes and I forgot the fact that I don't have any maple trees on my property.

And that is about all I have to say for today.

Musings and meanderings from the Musical Gardener.