"My mind sees that I am nothing, my heart sees that I am everything, between these two poles my life unfolds."

Monday, February 28, 2011

Edmonton Muttart Conservatory

"A light exists in Spring
Not present in the year
at any other period
When March is scarcely here."
-Emily Dickinson

I thought this apt for the last day of February. Certainly more fitting than the strange ditty the Old Farmer's 2011 Almanac has posted for today!

'He who goes to bed hungry,
dreams of pancakes.'

A gray, blustery day here and we currently hover at -24C; so for today at least, we are not experiencing the 'spring light' Emily refers to. Still, we have had some lovely days in the last number of weeks where it did indeed feel like spring is drawing nearer. I plan to venture out tomorrow to poke around the second-hand stores. It's been weeks since my last visit and this weather is getting me down. Strangely enough, pawing through other people's cast-offs is just the kind of pick-me-up I need...to each his own I guess! I had planned to go to the Muttart Conservatory this week with company we were expecting but the visit has been postponed. This is a fantastic place to break up the monotony of the winter months.

The Muttart Conservatory is a botanical garden which consists of four glass pyramid-shaped structures that showcase plants from arid, tropical, and temperate climates, providing a welcome oasis of warmth during winter. The fourth pyramid hosts a theme that changes throughout the year. (Thanks Wikipedia)

But for the rest of today anyways this is what I will be looking at; 
Emma doesn't seem too impressed either!

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Shoebill (aka Whalehead Stork)

I am in love! This bird stole my heart the other night when I was watching the last episode of Joanna Lumley's Nile, a four-part documentary which follows Joanna on an expedition to follow the river Nile from northern Egypt to its source. This was an amazing series and I hope they replay it again at some point. Anyways, I fell head over heels with this very oddly endearing bird. It is a Shoebill (Balaeniceps rex), and lives in the papyrus swamps of the Sudanese Sudd, the Ugandan White Nile, and other wetlands of tropical East Africa. The eyes are icy blue and it stands between 115-150 cm (45-64 in). As you can see from the photos, this is no small bird. I'm not sure why they are also known as the Whalehead Stork; they actually resemble a dinosaur. 

All I need now is my own swamp or wetland!

Joanna Lumley's Nile

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Poem for Late February

"Late February days; and now, at last,
Might you have thought that
Winter's woe was past;
So fair the sky was and so soft the air." 

William Morris

Judging by the new look of my blog, I guess I could be accused of seeing the world through rose-colored glasses (or green lol), although right now it is more like frosted glass. I regularly visit all sorts of blogs and while I often enjoy the edgy, bordering on cranky ones, it is just not my style. My musings are for those who are trying to cut back - I suppose I'm in the 'lite' blog category. 

I thought the above poem was perfect for today. Our skies are blue, the sun is almost hot at times (when you are driving in the car or sitting by a window) and our days are noticeably longer. But as the poem indicates: reality check! It will not be spring here for a good while. Earlier this morning a number of bloggers I regularly visit were in the midst of busily sowing seeds or in some cases, already setting out their delicate seedlings on windowsills in anticipation of our long-awaited spring. Here is a great example. The longer I mosey through life, the more I begin to appreciate poetry. So much feeling, texture and atmosphere is translated into a concise, disciplined form. Yet good poetry always feels free and all encompassing. 

My maternal grandmother passed away this past Sunday at 96. She lived a very long and healthy life. She was a nurse at one point and then, once married, lived on the family farm in southern Ontario. Many of my childhood memories are centered around summers spent on that parcel of land. My great-grandmother (who also lived on the farm and I remember well) and grandfather are gone and now my grandmother. A chapter has closed in some respects. It is the circle of life, and certainly gives one pause for thought. In the picture below, Helen is the gal in the front row, far right, with the black short-sleeved blouse and belt. Considering it was 1935, I think she was quite stylish for her time. The picture expands for a closer look.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Benefits of Walking

Even these gnomes are smart enough to get their daily constitutional!

Here is another article from the Posit Science Brain Fitness newsletter (see this past Friday's post). I will admit that I do not get out for a walk everyday in the winter. I'd like to, but sometimes it's just too darn cold and at times treacherous to venture out. I do aerobics/free weights two to three times a week though. With spring approaching, I'm looking forward to getting out once again for a daily jaunt. Besides benefiting the brain, walking can help to lower LDL ('bad' cholesterol), raise HDL ('good' cholesterol), lower blood pressure, manage type-2 diabetes, manage weight and improve our mood! (Mayo Clinic)

Walking for a heftier hippocampus....A new study on adults 55+ showed that regular aerobic activity—in this case, walking around a track three times a week for 40 minutes—increased the size of the hippocampus, a brain structure associated with memory and reasoning. They did better on memory tests, too. The adults who participated in the study were recovering couch potatoes, suggesting that it's never too late to gain brain benefits from exercise. The full article is here.

We're Getting There!

I really wish I'd seen this cute summary from the Old Farmer's 2011 Almanac sooner. February is almost over, but I thought I'd post it anyways. I'll post the one for March once we turn the page. Overall it turns out to be close to accurate for this month - we did have a couple of ridiculously warm periods followed by the inevitable bitter cold. If this little ditty continues to hold true, we should experience another warming trend in the next few days. I have my fingers crossed: right now we are sitting at -14C!

Groundhog cowers:
then showers.
Too warm for storms.
Mercury plummets,
fingers turn numb:
It's frigid air.
then unmeasurable 
out there!
Starting to drip --
it's a pip!
Wet 'n' wild,
but mild.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The March of the Mushrooms...

As you can see, I have now officially banished winter from my blog!  Seeing that March is right around the corner, I am taking the opportunity to celebrate all things green as we move into spring. March is also the month for all things faerie. Here are a few time-lapse videos which go along with a spring/rebirth theme. Hope they warm you as they did me.

Nature at Her Finest

The Dandy Dandelion

Friday, February 18, 2011

Is the Pen Mightier than the Keyboard?

The article below was from a link in the Posit Science Brain News monthly newsletter which is chock full of links to interesting articles. The website is of course selling their products, however the newsletter is not - it's just a lot of great information.

Pen Mightier Than Keyboard
As keyboards increasingly replace pens, new research cautions that the switch may come with an unforeseen price: the loss of critical brain activity central to learning that is uniquely tied to the old-fashioned act of handwriting.
The concern stems from the results of a number of experiments recently reviewed by a pair of researchers in France and Norway, who concluded that writing by hand is actually a very different sensory experience than typing on a keyboard, with each activating distinctly different parts of the brain.
"Our bodies are designed to interact with the world which surrounds us," co-author associate professor Anne Mangen from the University of Stavangers Reading Centre in Stavanger, Norway, said in a university news release. "We are living creatures, geared toward using physical objects -- be it a book, a keyboard or a pen -- to perform certain tasks."
This is evidenced, she said, in tests that reveal that the act of handwriting -- literally the feeling of touching a pen to paper -- appears to imprint a "motor memory" in the sensorimotor region of the brain.
In turn, this process promotes the visual recognition of letters and words, suggesting that the two seemingly separate acts of reading and writing are, in fact, linked, Mangen explained.
Mangen and colleague Jean-Luc Velay of the University of Marseille together reported their observations in the journal Advances in Haptics.
Haptics, the team explained, is a term that references the sense of touch and the integral role it plays in aiding people's ability to communicate and explore their surroundings, both actively and passively, particularly with regards to the use of the fingers and hands.
Focusing on the role haptics plays in the ergonomics of both reading and writing, the authors discuss the findings of a study in which two groups of adults were asked to learn a previously unknown alphabet.
Those who studied the alphabet by writing the letters out by hand performed better on all subsequent recall tests than those who studied solely on computers, the investigators found.
What's more, brain scans revealed that while learning by handwriting prompted activity in a particular part of the brain known as Broca's area, learning by keyboarding prompted little or no such activity.
The authors also pointed to another basic reason why writing may facilitate learning more readily than keyboarding: handwriting simply takes more time.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

National Flag Day

A terrific Tuesday to all. I trust you survived Valentine's Day and didn't eat too many chocolates :) The above picture was taken in Kingston, Ontario this past fall 2010 on a luncheon cruise through the Thousand Islands. If you ever have the opportunity to take this tour do not pass it up; the scenery is gorgeous. The reason I've posted it is that February 15th is National Flag Day in Canada. This has been officially observed since 1996 and marks the day in 1965 when our red and white maple leaf was first raised over Parliament Hill in Ottawa and hundreds of communities across Canada. I have posted video footage of that event below. As you may well imagine, there had been considerable debate regarding the flag's design. Also, here are a few more pics from that same cruise. Wishing you all a good day, and being that Canada is also officially a bilingual nation, Bonne journée as well. 

The Maple Leaf

February 15, 1965 - The Maple Leaf is raised for the first time.

This brief description accompanied the video:

The official ceremony inaugurating the new Canadian flag was held on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on February 15, 1965, with Governor General Georges Vanier, Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson, the members of the Cabinet and thousands of Canadians in attendance.

The Canadian Red Ensign, bearing the Union Jack and the shield of the royal arms of Canada, was lowered and then, on the stroke of noon, our new maple leaf flag was raised. The crowd sang the national anthem O Canada followed by the royal anthem God Save the Queen.

The following words, spoken on that momentous day by the Honourable Maurice Bourget, Speaker of the Senate, added further symbolic meaning to our flag: ""The flag is the symbol of the nation's unity, for it, beyond any doubt, represents all the citizens of Canada without distinction of race, language, belief or opinion.""

Monday, February 14, 2011


I dedicate this to the women in my life; you are all dear to me.

On Valentine’s Day,
when I think of the people
I care about and value,
you are at the top of the list.
Like a rainbow
glistening through the rain,
like a glowing green spring
after a cold gray winter,
you are a joy and a delight.
Like a good book, a cozy fire,
or a cup of cocoa (with marshmallows),
you are a comfort to me.
I appreciate you.
Happy Valentine’s Day!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

What Do You See?

I spotted the ever elusive 'Devil-Moose' yesterday...

Middle Earth News & the Hobbit Walking Song

I am approximately halfway through re-reading the Hobbit and have, like most fans, been awaiting the unveiling of The Hobbit movie. Peter Jackson's production company announced the project over four years ago! Since that time however, the production has been under what has been coined "The Curse of the Hobbit." To date there has been a fire, a union boycott, financial concerns (re MGM studios), the departure of the original director and the latest setback, Jackson's recent hospitalization for a stomach ulcer. Our long wait may be finally over though, as it was announced this past Tuesday (Feb 8th) that filming is set to commence in New Zealand March 21.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this beautiful video which features the walking song Bilbo recites in the last chapter of The Hobbit at the end of his journey back to the Shire. Coming to the top of a rise he sees his home in the distance, and stops and says the following:

Roads go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains in the moon.
Roads go ever ever on
Under cloud and under star,
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green
And trees and hills they long have known.

The Battle

I'm not sure where this originates from; it was emailed to me earlier today.


One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson 
about a battle that goes on inside people.  He said, 
"My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all.

"One is Evil -  It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, 
regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, 
inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

"The other is Good -  It is joy, peace, love, 
hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence,
empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and
then asked his grandfather: "Which wolf wins?" 

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."


Friday, February 11, 2011

A Warm Day In Winter

blue skies
we're melting
no breeze to speak of 
the (green!) grass is peaking through
I'm lapping it up 
while it lasts!

A Warm Day In Winter

“Sunshine on de medders,
Greenness on de way;
Dat ’s de blessed reason
I sing all de day.”
Look hyeah! Whut you axin’?
Whut meks me so merry?
‘Spect to see me sighin’
W’en hit’s wa’m in Febawary?
Long de stake an’ rider
‘ Seen a robin set;
W’y hit ‘mence a-thawin’,
Groun’ is monst’ous wet.
Den you stan’ dah wond’rin’,
Lookin’ skeert an’ stary;
I’s a right to caper
W’en hit’s wa’m in Febawary.
Missis gone a-drivin’,
Mastah gone to shoot;
Ev’ry da’ky lazin’
In de sun to boot.
Qua’tah ’s moughty pleasant,
Hangin’ ‘roun’ my Mary;
Cou’tin’ boun’ to prospah
W’en hit’s wa’m in Febawary Cidah look so pu'ty Po'in' f'om de jug- Don' you see it's happy? Hyeah it laffin' - glug? Now's de time fu' people Fu' to try an' bury All day grief an' sorrer, W'en hit's wa'm in Febawary.
-Paul Laurence Dunbar-

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Winter Returns

Under the snow the vegetables purr, 
Like an old man 'neath a mantle of fur.

A couplet for February 8 which I found in the 2011 Canadian Old Farmer's Almanac. 
We are back in winter's icy grip, thankfully our skies are blue. 
This time-lapse video is very soothing and has won 3 international awards.
I hope you enjoy it.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

A Taste of Spring?

As you can see, Aslan has lost his crown for the time-being. We had very lovely weather for much of last week and our snow cover diminished considerably. It's cold again (-12C) but we've yet to receive any more flurries to replace what was lost - save for a light dusting yesterday. Early this morning we were actually bordering on overheating in our car, just from the sun's warmth. And it was so bright - I'd swear I was part vampire. It was divine. I know it's only February 6th, but I can feel spring is on her way.

This is a very weathered wall hanging on my patio.
I love the patina Mother Nature has created on it.

The Fur-Bearing Trout

The mystery of the bizarre fish from February 3rd  (originally spotted at Rocky Mountain Antiques) has been solved. A sharp-eyed reader has kindly sent me a very enlightening article which I've posted below. Thanks Lorene :)

The Elusive Fur-Bearing Trout

The Fur-Bearing Trout is a species of fish that possesses a thick coat of fur to keep itself warm in the cold waters where it lives. These furry fish are primarily found in the northern regions of North America, but particularly in Canada, Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana. The species is also sometimes referred to as the Beaver Trout, or (incorrectly) as the Sabled Salmon.

A number of theories have arisen to explain this creature's luxuriant coat:

  • Some say that the creature evolved its thick coat to protect itself from the extreme cold of northern waters.
  • According to another lesser-known theory, this species of trout owes its fur to four jugs of hair tonic that were accidentally spilled into the Arkansas River (in Colorado) sometime during the 1870s.

A few researchers suggest that as the weather grows warmer during the spring the fur-bearing trout sheds its fur, only to regrow its coat as winter returns. This may help explain why trout with full coats of fur are so seldom encountered.

According to
legend, the fur-bearing trout was first encountered by Europeans when Scottish settlers emigrated to Canada during the seventeenth century. One of them wrote home remarking about the abundance of "furried animals and fish" in the new land. Asked to provide more information about the furried fish, the settler duly sent home a specimen. If true, this legend would pretty much discredit the Colorado hair-tonic theory of the creature's origin.

Fur-Bearing trouts mounted as trophies can be found hanging on walls throughout the Great Lakes region of North America.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

And Now For Something Completely Different

Seen (needless to say, not purchased) at Rocky Mountain Antiques 

I really enjoy 'weird' news stories and thought I'd pass on the most recent ones I've stumbled across:

Did you know your car may one day be made of mushrooms?

Potty training porkers may help to solve some of our pollution and global warming concerns?

Caffeine makes women smarter and men dumber? Not sure how accurate a study of only 64 people could possibly be, but it made me chuckle nonetheless.

Here's a use for dryer lint that you may not have thought of yet...

10 am Tuesday is the most stressful time of the week.