Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween! Thank goodness for last minute finds at the thrift store - Roscoe was spared wearing his lame reindeer costume and was easily and affordably turned into the cutest lime green dinosaur I have ever laid my eyes on. 

We were all invited to a pre-trick or treating party at our neighbors, Wyatt, Chris and Jackson's.  It was more of an opportunity for the adults to have an excuse for a drink together and to socialize a bit. By 6:30 p.m., the kids had exercised their patience to their limits, and we gulped back the rest of our wine and we're off just as it was getting dark. 

Then our sweet Isla Belle, dressed as a bunny, with a painted black nose of course went out trick or treating with her daddy. She came back over the moon about the whole thing, and not containing her excitement at all about the candy collecting part. Despite our strict efforts to keep her candy consumption to only a few pieces, she still managed to hit some kind of sugar peak and melt down before bedtime. Now, 20 years after my own Halloween hayday, I can appreciate my parents attempts to police my candy stash. As cute as the costumes are, thank goodness Halloween only comes once a year. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Real Deal

Okay the orange heads were fun, but yesterday we carved up the real deal when we took the knife to our big beast of a pumpkin. 

I was surprised at Isla's determination to help me extract all of the pumpkin guts. Her little arm could hardly reach the bottom, but she remained entertained by the stringy bits & slippery seeds for at least a 1/2 hour. 

Roscoe stealthily took a position under the table and dove for droppings, of which I thrice had to remove a fistful of goop from his tight tiny grasp. (Can you see him in the picture?)

We left the honors of carving the face to Daddy. Together he and Isla sketched out their options on paper before
deciding on a scary multiple-cut design, which will look great all lit up Friday night. We thought perhaps we would incorporate some props to go along with the scary face, but Isla didn't seem too excited about the knife in the head even though she didn't quite grasp the gruesomeness of what her daddy was suggesting  - she just preferred her pumpkin without props. 

This afternoon we continued along with the Halloween theme and took in the Halloween Carnival at the University. Yet another opportunity for kids to dress up and collect candy.  

We saw some great costumes at the Carnival, lots of other princesses and plenty of pirates. I am sad and embarrassed to say that Roscoe's costume this first Halloween won't be one to remember. I did attempt to look for just the "right thing" at a few different stores, but either couldn't justify the price and/or wasn't going to settle for a crap costume for my cute baby. So instead he will sport a reindeer toque and a black painted nose and be known as Roscoe the reindeer. His sister on the other hand has enjoyed the plethora of princess dresses that she received compliments of her Nana, while we were back in Calgary, but will actually be dressed up as a bunny on Halloween night - as she insists that she too must have a black painted nose.  

Monday, October 27, 2008

How Martha!

Today I must have been feeling especially crafty because Isla and I spent the afternoon creating and assembling these fun Halloween treats! 

We were invited to our friend Jackson's Halloween party. Jackson is a little guy we met at the park way back in August and we have been hanging out with him and his mom Wyatt every so often. So while Roscoe slept the afternoon away, Isla and I got out the paring knife and fruit and went to town. I won't and can't take any credit for the idea. I saw it in a magazine and thought it would be a fun contribution to the afternoon party. 

It was Isla's job to stuff the orange-o-lanterns with grapes and apple slices while I carved little faces into them and scooped out their juicy innards. We still have the daunting task of carving our pumpkin this week. Remember the gigantic pumpkin that we picked from the patch a few weeks ago? It is sitting out on our front step just waiting to be transformed into something hopefully a little more unique looking than these orange faces. 

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Wood for Thought

This man loves wood. And so he better, because woodfiring requires a whole lot more work than setting the controls on an electric kiln and going home for the night. 
What is it about firing with wood that somehow makes all the time spent seeking out wood sources, splitting and prepping, stacking and stoking worth it????? 

The last three years spent firing our kiln at home in the Slocan Valley, we came to appreciate the value of "free" wood. Living amidst both loggers and environmentalists in the Slocan Valley, we were able to find a balance between easing our environmental consciousness and sympathizing with the logging industry. We found ourselves a sweet deal with a locally owned sawmill. In return for the occasional six pack, we were supplied with loads of free wood to fire our kiln - a byproduct of the lumber industry that otherwise would have been burned as waste. 

Now in Utah, where wood is much more scarce, Robin has found himself scavenging for wood to fire the kilns at school. The most reliable source for kiln fuel is the local dump, but the problem is most of the trees deposited there are cottonwood which produces an ash on the pots the colour of concrete- not so ideal. Preferably the students are looking for pine or spruce, harder to come by in this town. Robin even convinced a neighbor of ours who just happened to be taking down a pine tree in his back yard to save the wood for him. 

The local sawmill owner here is asking $50 per bundle of edgings for his wood. A pretty price to pay for any student. Especially when you are going through cords they way they do at USU.

It makes you wonder why such a esteemed program, known for its woodfiring, would be here on the edge of the desert? You've got to hand it to John and Dan, who have built this program up over the years. Somehow the wood is found, and the kilns are fired continuously throughout the year by eager students, all yearning for that gooey, snotty, crusty perfect wood fired pot! 

P.S. Why is it that the word Wood doesn't rhyme with the word Food????? 

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Four Family Outings

In the space of the last 24 hours, we've been a busy little family.

Outing #1
Last night we attempted to take in an art auction that the school was putting on. I was looking forward to a night out, particularly some adult conversation and an excuse to dress up. We had little choice but to take our children along with us since we failed at finding a babysitter amongst the other art students, seeing that they were all planning to attend the auction as well. So with Isla dressed up as Snow White and her sidekick Roscoe the Reindeer, we headed off at exactly bedtime to the Halloween themed party instead of to their beds. Being the only small children at the auction, they were admired and fawned over. But their cuteness only lasted about 1/2 hour before Isla was refused anymore chocolate from the buffet table and Roscoe had rubbed and smeared his painted nose so that it looked like he was a reindeer with two black eyes.  That was the end of that outing, but on a positive note,  we saved ourselves some money by leaving before the auction really even got going.

Outing #2
Morning came sooner than we had hoped and once we were up and fed we headed down to mainstreet to take in the Homecoming Parade. It was a morning full of Frat cars, sports team floats and frenzied candy throwing competitions. Now that I have been to TWO American parades (remember the Apple days parade), I have learned that parades here are really all about the candy. Candy gets distributed in mass quantities by the parade participants by throwing, tossing, hucking and some even hand deliver candy to the screaming, waving children on the sidelines. Isla was very excited to spend the morning chasing after tootsie rolls and suckers as they skittered across the pavement, only to have 98% of her earnings donated to the clay department promptly following the parade. Poor kid. 

Outing #3
We highly encouraged a naptime between outing #2 and outing #3 but Isla was not interested in the least. So after some considerable time pretending to be asleep in her room, we packed the kids in the car and drove up the canyon. They both promptly fell asleep in the car as we drove east towards the Tony Grove turnoff. It is a fair distance up the canyon and then another 7 mile climb from the turnoff to the lake, so the car nap was welcomed. Unfortunately it was terribly windy up at the lake and our mountain walk was cut short. It still felt good to get out on a little nature excursion after having sat on the side of a curb all morning. 

Outing #4  I should have read the signs and decided against this last outing, since it was two nights in a row that we had the kids out, but instead I was selfish and around 7 p.m. (once again, promptly at bedtime), we were in the car again. This time we were headed for the North Logan Pumpkin Walk with our friends Kate and Mike and their kiddies. It was worth taking in, not knowing at first what the expect. 

The pumpkin walk o is a community event held annually in residential area of North Logan, just about 10 minutes from our house. It is similar to the idea of a Christmas lights display, but with pumpkin scenes instead. Very creative. What we weren't expecting was the hoards of people. A shuttle was provided to take people into the community, seeing that parking was an issue. And it is a good thing we took the shuttle bus.  There must have been at least a thousand people there filing through. By the time our kids were done in and we were stepping back on the bus, the lineup to get into the park was as long as the parking lot. Incredible really. I am glad we went, it was a fun way to socialize for a hour with our friends, despite our children falling apart at the seams.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Letter

While my children were napping this afternoon, I reluctantly forced myself to write the letter that I have been procrastinating about since we arrived. My resignation letter. 

My maternity leave from the college will be over next month and I am required to give notice one month prior to my expected day back on the job. Not that anyone is expecting me back on the job knowing full well that I have left the country, but the union still requires the resignation in writing so that files are kept up to date. 

It didn't take me long to write the letter as I have been thinking about it for awhile now, thoughts of what to say have been floating around in my head for weeks. The most difficult part was sealing the envelope and dropping it in the mailbox. A done deal. A sealed fate. No more financially secure job to keep in my back pocket. 

Instead here we are, taking our future into our own hands with the hope that an investment in further education will open doors down the road. Perhaps when we return to the Kootenays there might be something open up for me at the college once again, that is my hope now anyways. But the slight hesitation that I felt before I dropped the letter into the bin was really out of fear of financial insecurity rather than anything else. 

Financial woes. Don't we all have 'em? Some more than others these days, especially if you play the stock market. The economy continues to weaken here, another two days of plummeting stock prices, I'm beginning to wonder when it'll all bottom out. Lots of talk about trying to build confidence in the credit markets and what to do about the housing crisis, all this AND an election!  

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Candy Corn Blues

Snapshot: My children are both napping in their beds, my house is much cleaner than it was an hour ago, I am drinking tea and looking out my big picture window in the front room at the vibrant fall coloured mountainside, I just ate way too much caramel candied popcorn that my mom gave me and I am having this overwhelming urge to take up jogging! 

We are back to being a family of four, our first visitors now come and gone. We had a super visit with my mom and Sam while they were here. We were able to share a couple of great days in and around Logan. Some of the highlights included our trip out to Bear Lake and drive through the Logan canyon, a visit to Gossner's cheese factory and Isla's first taste of cheese curd, grooving in the kitchen while playing the harmonica, playing hairdresser and seamstress with Grandma Lady and a sendoff coffee date at the Crumb Brothers Bakery

The normalcy of our days set in just as soon as they left town this morning: Robin being at school all day and evening long, me being stuck in the house, held captive by two small sleeping children.  I suppose I am feeling a bit down, perhaps even a bit lonely. 

There will be ups and there will be downs, I just better stay away from the candied corn on the down days or I'll have a real enough reason to take up jogging. 

Monday, October 20, 2008

Grandma Lady comes to Logan!

Grandma Lady and her friend Sam are here visiting us in Logan. They arrived on Sunday afternoon and Isla has been pleased as punch to show off her room and her bed and her toys and her backyard and everything else that makes up her life here in Logan. 

Today we all piled in the car and drove up the Logan canyon with no particular destination in mind. The fall colours are still magnificent. I was afraid that with our journey north for two weeks, we would miss most of fall here but the temperatures have remained warm and the leaves are still vibrant and changing. 

We wound our way all the way up to Bear Lake in the end and enjoyed the scenic views of the turquoise water and surrounding mountains. We had lunch in Garden City at a burger joint that seemed to put everyone to sleep for the car ride home with the exception of me as I was driving. 

They are planning to stay another day before they head farther south, making their way down to Mexico eventually for their warm winter holiday.  

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Kiln unloading

Yesterday was the much anticipated unloading of the doublewide kiln. I arrived at the school around noon with the kids to see what treasures had been discovered, only to find a group of very sombre looking ceramics students standing around a sea of grey pots. 

Hmmm. I guess it didn't go so well. 

That was the first reaction anyways. With the little bit of time between the unloading and the potluck that we hosted last night at our house, spirits seem to have lifted and there was talk of what could be learned from the firing. It is never all bad, you should be able to come away with at least information to work with if not any pots. 

Robin came out of the firing with a couple of his larger pieces that he was happy with, and hopeful of how they will inform his next body of work. For most of the other students that participated, a similar feeling was felt. But certainly not a stellar firing. Seems too bad for all that effort and the 14 cords of wood they had to prep and burn. I guess that's what this schooling bit is all about - the learning process. 

It didn't seem to effect the mood at the potluck. Isla was thrilled to have a house full of guests that were just as thrilled to entertain her for a couple hours before she went off to bed. I was amazed that both of them could sleep through the evening with a house full of chatting and laughing going on in the very next room. 

We had a great spread of food and the group was especially excited to sample the chinese "beijo", a %50 distilled alchohol product that my mom had brought it back from China as a gift for Robin. She was interested in the ceramic bottle that it came in and thought it a good souvenier for her son-in-law. 

Well it was a definite hit at the party last night. A group of USU students spent three months in China last year as part of their ceramics program and were familiar with the drink. It was great to be able to share it with some folks that could appreciate both the bottle and its contents. Besides, at %50 alcohol, it is unlikely that it would have ever been consumed by the two of us alone. 

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Three Cheers For Obama

I tuned in on the US presidential debate last night and decided (along with hopefully many millions of Americans) that Obama was the winner! He'd get my vote, if I were able. 

It sure is interesting times. Politically, economically, environmentally.... I listened to the debate with much curiosity and pondered about how American politics differ from our own in Canada, especially having just had our own federal election this past week. I was saddened to hear that voter turnout for the Canadian election was a record low. Perhaps we Canadians are too engaged in what is happening south of the border. 

It seems that the polls taken after the US debate have judged Obama the victor, along with a string of surveys that show him ahead in national polls as well. I thought Obama spoke intelligently and honestly throughout the debate. I surfed around a little today to see what the media was picking up on after the big night and was a little unnerved to see that Joe the Plumber was getting the most attention. Not for what he symbolized in the actual debate, but rather whether his is actually a licensed plumber or not and whether he owes back taxes!!!!!

Let's hope that over the course of the next few weeks the issues don't get too lost along the campaign trail. I'll be tuning in to see what happens, that's for sure. 

All in favor of change, please raise your hands. 


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Home Sweet Utah Home

We're home! Our journey to Calgary and back was hugely successful in my mind. People commented on my bravery to travel with two small kids on my own, but really it was all about the travel snacks. I have realized that snacks and 'car treats' will subdue the crankiest toddler, and well Roscoe - he's Roscoe, content as always. 

Our visit north of the border was a great one. To sum it up in one word - family. We were able to see and spend some fabulous quality time with all of our family (with the exception of Uncle Mick, Auntie Erin and Nolan who are in Switzerland). And of course the many visits with Kim and baby Daniel (also family to us) and her extended family, which was fabulous. 

There were also playdates at the Morgans, salmon supper at Sarah's, coffee with Sally, a trip to the park with Bob, and a new baby viewing over at the McBeath family household, welcome Emery! The time went more quickly than I expected.                                                                                                                                                                                  

Many thanks to Auntie Kie, Sophie and Fraser who made the trip to Calgary from Nelson so that we could visit with them. Our timing worked well that we saw both Grandma Lady Rosi and Uncle Chris too, our first weekend in Calgary. 

A special thanks to Nana Wanda and Ryleigh that hosted us at their home all week, and for all the fun times together. 

And another big thanks to Papa Regan who delivered our winter tires and came to see us for Thanksgiving weekend. It was wonderful to spend the holiday weekend with all the DuPonts. It was great to catch up with Dani and John and see that little Cian is not so little anymore. Isla was thrilled to follow her big cousins Ryleigh and Dalen around. And we were all excited to meet Jai's new girlfriend Kelsey. Robin's absence didn't go unnoticed and I was ready to pack up and head home the day after our turkey stuffing extravaganza. I happily stuffed both the bird and myself this year. 

The drive home went smoothly, the border crossing went without at hitch, the overnight in the hotel - not so much! Let's just say we got a very early start on the next day's leg of the trip. We arrived home early afternoon and were all elated to be back in daddy's arms. 

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Missing Daddy

It has only been a week since we left Logan, and we have jam packed a lot into that week: visiting with our cousins and friends, a day at the zoo, lots of walks and trips to the playground, some shopping and a few nights out for the mama even! But we are all starting to miss daddy, already looking forward to our return trip home after the Thanksgiving day weekend.

Although Robin has been busy at school, we've had lots of phone conversations and he admits the house has been quiet and a little lonely without us. This past week he has been prepping wood, glazing pots and loading the double wide train kiln. Today they started firing the kiln but were unfortunately shut down because of the smoke factor. A poor design of several air intakes to adjacent buildings right next to the kiln compound make for difficult firing conditions. And you can't fire a wood kiln without creating a little smoke! So they've had to change their firing schedule to fire through the nights and then on the weekend while there are fewer people around.
They will fire this kiln for 5 days total. These firings require quite a few people to make them happen, seeing how the length of the firings demand constant attention. From what I can gather from the previous firing of the reduction cool and now this one, everyone in the department seems to pull together to participate in one form or another to make things happen.

I have always loved that aspect of clay, the communal spirit of firing and celebratory nature of bringing a kiln to temperature, particularily it seems with wood kilns. Even with our little cantenary arch back home, although it was a fast fire, only 12 - 18 hours, we always had people around helping out and asking questions.

And then of course the excitement that builds while the kiln cools and we anticipate what the results of the firing will turn out to be. The kids and I will be home just in time to partake in the unload and ohh and awwe over daddy's newest pots while he will surely ohh and awwe over how much two little people can change in only two short weeks. I am sure they have both grown and mastered new skills and vocabulary this past week. If I could only get Roscoe to say mama......

Monday, October 6, 2008

Our Day with Daniel

Meet Daniel David, the main reason for our trip home. My very best friend Kim and her hubbie Chris are the proud parents of this little cutie pie. Kim and little D are home visiting her parents for the week as well, so we purposely coordinated our trips so that we could hang out.

Today we got them all to ourselves. We decided on the zoo for an outing that we thought would engage and entertain miss Isla Belle, while allowing for Kim and I to catch up and have a good visit. But really we could have found a set of stairs and a pile of rocks and Isla would have been just as thrilled all the same . Our attempts to entice her with pink flamingos and tigers flopped, even the new baby elephant didn't hold her attention for very long. Although she was pleased as punch to find out the zoo had a playground and the ice cream kiosk was a definite hit.

While Isla ran circles around us, up and down concrete stairs and structures, Roscoe and Daniel contentedly took in the sights and smells and Kim and I chatted away to our hearts content. By late afternoon Isla had run out of steam and we all headed home for a nap. Later we ventured out into Fish Creek Park for an early evening stroll and then home for supper and stories. Isla and Roscoe crashed out and fell soundly asleep at which point little Daniel decided it was his turn to come alive.

At only 6 weeks old, he is already smiling and cooing and wiggling like crazy. His mama and dada are avid outdoor enthusiasts and will have him scaling mountains, skiing and surfing all before he learns to walk likely. In fact, they are off to Australia next month for a little family adventure down under.

It may be several months before we get to hang with little Daniel again after this visit so we plan to get in as many cuddles this next week as we can.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Cuzin' Time

Since our arrival Thursday evening, Isla and Rosoce have been lapping up the attention of their cousins Ryleigh, Cian, Sophie and Fraser. It's been so wonderful to watch Isla especially laugh and play with her cousins, that she has obviously missed dearly. Despite my best efforts to talk often about family and friends since we've been in Utah, nothing beats the real thing.

Over the last three days we've enjoyed some gorgeous fall weather days in Calgary. The kids enjoyed a lunch and long play together at the Glenmore Park playground. We also spent much of the weekend hanging out with the Morgan clan (voted most hospitable and child friendly house in Calgary).

We took in both the Millarville and Calgary Farmer's Market and I found myself shocked by the prices of things, realizing how quickly I have become spoiled by the inexpensive living in Logan I've grown accustomed to already. Dumbfounded by the $2.75 asking price for a drip coffee, you can imagine my horror when I found out a peach pie goes for a whopping $23.00 these days. But enough about the costs of things, watching Isla with reunite with her cousins this weekend has made this trip worth every penny it cost us to get here.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Our Journey North

Just imagine driving for two days straight, on long stretches of open highway, past acres and acres of potato fields, rolling foothills and the occasional rocky outcrop. Sounds peaceful and serene somehow doesn't it?

Now imagine doing it with a 2 year old and a 9 month yourself!

Now seriously, and I am not embellishing at all, but my kids were amazing. I wouldn't exactly call the roadtrip serene, but it was actually really fun and easy. I was well prepared with sticker books, colouring pads, kids music, and enough snacks and bribery treats to feed a whole kindergarten class. And I am sure all of those things helped of course, but truly, Isla and Roscoe are the best little travellers. Isla made for wonderful conversation and Roscoe loosened his vocal chords a little himself, keeping Isla and I entertained with his newly discovered sounds.

We made it all the way to Great Falls, Montana the first day (850 km) from Logan. We left at 10 a.m. and reached our planned destination, Helena Montana at 5 p.m, but the kids were content and fed and I decided to push through to the next major center.

The hotel stay was probably to most challenging part of the trip to Calgary. Getting the kids to go down at the same time took a whole lotta energy, that I didn't have after driving for 9 hours. But we all eventually fell asleep and got up the next day to drive the rest of the way home.

From Great Falls, it is around 5 hours driving distance to Calgary so I decided to take a little detour at Milk River Alberta just north of the border crossing. We picked up a picnic lunch and headed the 40km east out into the prairie to Writing on Stone Provincial Park.

I worked as a park interpreter at Writing on Stone in 1999 and the place holds special memories for me. With the camping season over, there were less than a handful of park visitors so it felt as though we had the park to ourselves. The fall colours filled the Milk River valley and the hoodoos seemed particularly magical.

We spent a few hours walking the trails, checking out the newly constructed Interpretive Centre (very impressive) and playing at the playground before we hit the highway north towards Calgary. We were nearing the city limits close to suppertime and I made the decision to detour out to the Veale's family home just outside Okotoks - the main reason for our trip north - to see little baby Daniel (my best friend Kim's new baby boy).

We ended up staying for supper and had lots of cuddles with little Daniel, until my own little children made it be known they were ready for their own bedtime cuddles. It was a long couple of days, but they were incredible little travellers. They sure made their mama proud.