Prov 17:22

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine... - Proverbs 17:22

Monday, May 15, 2017

40 Adventures for 40 Years, Part 6

We’ve knocked three more items off our list since my last update, which brings our current total to twelve. My hope is that whatever we don’t manage to pull off this year will carry forward to next and we’ll have developed a new habit, finally becoming a little less “recreationally challenged.” It’s only taken 40 years!

#29. Eat a Jimmy’s Fat Boy. Anyone who lives in Portage la Prairie knows that Jimmy “the Greek” Sarlas has been an icon for years, as has his establishment, Jimmy’s Submarine and Dairy Delight. But somehow Jon and I had never actually tried one of his famous Fat Boys. Our grandsons’ visit seemed like the perfect opportunity to go to Jimmy’s and not have to cook.

Jon and I shared a Double Fat Boy and an order of fries—basically the equivalent of two burgers and two orders of fries anywhere else, and twice as delicious. And messy. But, oh so tasty. Really, seriously, yummy. And not a bad price, considering it’s all homemade. If I ate a Fat Boy every day, I wouldn’t turn into a Boy, but that other thing? Definitely.

Jon and I didn’t smooch at Jimmy’s, but Keegan reminded me later that while we’d sat in our booth, I’d given Rorin a little kiss on the top of his head. “You kissed the wrong man,” Keegan said.

The man I kissed.

 #33. Pin the Tail on the Bunny. Last summer when this list of 40 things was still a work in progress, we invited our kids and grandkids to add to it. This one was Allistar’s contribution. He’s a huge rabbit fan and has a pet one at home named Thumper. Jon and I decided we’d feel a tad silly playing Pin the Tail on the Bunny by ourselves unless, in Jon’s words, I was the bunny. This isn’t that sort of blog.

So with the grandboys here, we colored a large Easter bunny, stuck magnets to colored pompoms, took turns blindfolding and spinning each other around for a rousing round. I came in dead last. Keegan’s was probably the closest, but Grandpa claims Keegan cheated and used both hands. Competition is fierce around here.

Allistar spins Rorin

Final results

#22. Go Somewhere by Train. Because it sells out early, we booked tickets weeks ago for the Mother’s Day ride on the Prairie Dog Central, pulled by a coal-fueled steam engine over a century old. Departing from the old Inkster Station north of the Winnipeg perimeter, the train took us north for about an hour at a speed of 15 miles per hour (it could go faster, we were told, but they want it to keep working and there’s no place to buy parts!), and let us off in Grosse Isle. There, vendors waited to meet our refreshment and crafting needs while “Fire and Ice” provided live music. Museum buildings were free for the touring—an old home, school, and church. Young passengers enjoyed a petting zoo and miniature train.
Jon chats with a train man

As for me, I decided a new bauble to commemorate the day was in order and found the perfect item from the lady selling jewelry: a little pewter nest with three eggs to represent my three babies. I love it!

After 90 minutes, they called “All Aboard!” and we rode back, this time on the tail end instead of the first car behind the engine. The black coal smoke has quite the distinct odor that I’m sure triggers memories for those old enough to remember. While my extroverted husband chatted with the other passengers, I was content to sit quietly, imagining I was April or Bernadette or Emmaleen—the main characters in my current novel in progress—traveling in the style they would, right down to the pine wood interiors of the train cars to the pot-bellied stove in each car—thankfully, not in use.

I’m so glad we went, and I recommend it for all ages. Of course, it provided us with a new place to kiss—inside the train, as well as at Grosse Isle. So we’re making good progress on the kissing list.

The unfinished jigsaw puzzle, however, is still sitting there. I swear it scowls back at me every time I walk by.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

40 Adventures for 40 Years, Part 5

That darn old jigsaw puzzle is still monopolizing our dining table, but we crossed a couple more things off our list of forty.

#34. Read a classic together aloud. It took six weeks and two renewals at the library, but we finally finished Black Beauty. Not what we expected. Jon thought he’d read it as a kid, but soon realized he was thinking of The Black Stallion by Walter Farley. Black Beauty is a horse’s “autobiography” and at first, it was hard for me to look past the writing style of 1877: sentences that drag on for paragraphs and paragraphs that drag on for pages.

Once we realized the book made such a strong statement on animal cruelty, I said, “I wonder if Anna Sewell was trying to do for horses what Harriot Beecher Stowe did for slaves when she wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin?” After we finished and I did a little research, it became clear that I was not alone in those thoughts. With fifty million copies sold, Black Beauty is considered one of the best-selling books and the most influential anticruelty novel of all time. Standard practices for cab horses, in particular, changed for the better following its publication. For me, it was especially interesting to know it was Sewell’s only novel and that she died just five months after it was published.

Never underestimate the power of a fictional story.

 And while we’re on the theme of animals…

#6. Visit the snake dens at Narcisse. It’s common knowledge that wherever there’s a unique point of interest on the planet, the people who appreciate it least are those within a three-hour radius of said point. Narcisse, Manitoba, is known for hosting the world’s largest concentration of snakes, due to a combination of limestone crevices below the frost line where garter snakes can safely hibernate in minus forty temperatures, and nearby marshes teaming with frogs to eat. In spring, the snakes come out to mate and their sheer numbers attract three to four thousand human visitors a day!

 Although our kids had gone to Narcisse on school field trips, and even our grandsons had visited, Jon and I had never made the two-hour trip. So we teamed up with our son Nate and his three boys (their mother decided she’d prefer a quiet afternoon home alone to mingling with snakes. Go figure.) The weather was perfect and we enjoyed a sunny picnic before heading out on the three-kilometer hike where you can view four different snake pits from the relative security of wooden platforms.

Some say the feelings many women have toward snakes goes back to Eve and the serpent in the Garden of Eden when God tells the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman…” We equate snakes with the devil himself. When I posted this photo of myself holding a snake the next day, the reactions from several female friends were predictable: “I wouldn’t be caught dead,” or “you’re braver than me!” Even my animal-loving mother said she wouldn’t hold a snake for five thousand dollars. I said, “Seriously? For five thousand dollars, I think I’d eat one!”

Properly cooked, of course.

My theory is, it’s not that the snakes are so frightening. We simply hate the “startle” and the speed at which they move when you’re in your back yard and suddenly there’s one at your feet. Or, like the time when I was a kid on my bike and a snake somehow got caught in the spokes of my front tire and flipped up into my face. Not cool. But when you’re expecting to see one—or thousands—the startle factor is gone, and they are simply interesting, harmless little creatures. At any rate, it was a great memory to make with five of my favorite guys in all the world.

Plus, the snake pits gave Jon and me another place to kiss. The kissing list is now up to 22. Eighteen more to go!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

40 Adventures for 40 Years, Part 4

Time for an update on the ol’ list of 40 things.

We actually took an unexpected, last minute trip to South Dakota to spend Easter weekend with Jon’s mom as well as seeing some extended family and friends who have sort of become family ever since Jon’s mom married our friend’s dad. It’s complicated. We took our grandson Allistar, age 7, with us. He was a real little champ and a joy to have along. Though this trip wasn’t on our list, it did offer some opportunities to add to our list of 40 different places to kiss, so we added Grandma’s house, our friends’ house, the U.S./Canadian border, and beneath the world’s largest buffalo in Jamestown, North Dakota. (Which, I argue, is a bison, not a true buffalo. In any case, it was built the same year I was born and it’s still standing strong. But I digress.) Allistar was a great sport to take a picture of us kissing and he did a pretty good job, wouldn’t you agree?

The jigsaw puzzle remains unfinished on our dining table and we continue to slog through Black Beauty at a first-grader’s pace. I have my theories about that book, but will save them for after we’re actually done reading it.
The one thing on our list we’ve actually checked off since my last post was:

#20. Eat at a Revolving Restaurant. I’d always wanted to visit the open-again, closed-again, open-again Prairie 360 Restaurant above Fort Garry Place in Winnipeg, so had placed it on our list. Lucky for us, it’s currently open again. Since we had an appointment nearby this past week, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to make a reservation. It was terrific! You ride up to the 28th floor in a glass elevator, then board a second elevator to the 30th floor.

The service and food were excellent (and yes, pricey, but we knew that going in.) The view was stunningly gorgeous, and we thoroughly enjoyed the complete circle we made as the sunshine transformed to twilight. Viewing familiar buildings from a decidedly unfamiliar vantage point reminded me that a fresh perspective can change everything! Life is not always what it seems from our every-day, limited, earth-bound view. Something to remember when days seem too difficult or too dull. Ask God what he sees, and see what he shows you!
The closer building is Union Station, mentioned in my books Maggie's War and Bleak Landing. The odd-shaped one is the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, which is also on our 40s list.

I wish we'd had the waiter take this when there was a better view behind us.
Of course, the experience provided us another new place to kiss (in the elevator) and our kissing list is now up to 21—more than halfway there, and the year isn’t half over yet. I’d say we’re doing all right in the smooching department. Now if we could just remember to kiss a little more often at home.

Until next time…

Monday, April 10, 2017

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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

40 Adventures for 40 Years, Part 3

We’ve been able to knock a few more adventures off our list of 40, starting with…

Our Cabin
#5. Stay at Tallpine Lodges. Back in 1996, Jon and I went to Tallpine Lodges at West Hawk Lake, Manitoba (just inside the Ontario border) for a few days of much needed relaxation. It was a year after Jon’s amputation and we’d been through a lot, so those days of quiet solitude and reflection remained a warm memory and we always thought it would be fun to go back.

It only took twenty years, but we made it—and this time, we could afford to upgrade a little from the cheapest of their 16 cottages! It’s a couples-only resort with no visitors allowed, so it’s very quiet—especially during the off season. Our cabin had its own sauna and Jacuzzi tub, electric fireplace (they still had the real kind when we were there the first time!) and the grounds have tame deer that wander around being friendly and looking for handouts. I fell for their gorgeous big eyes and fed them our apples.

It was wonderfully relaxing and we combined it with…

#25. Have an Unplugged Weekend. We weren’t sure which of us would find this a greater challenge, Jon (who’s pretty glued to the games on his tablet) or me (who’s pretty glued to her laptop and Facebook.) We did “cheat” by checking our phones a couple of times just to make sure the kids didn’t have any emergencies, or at least that was our excuse. But other than that, we really did stay unplugged and we didn’t miss our screen time. We watched one movie the old fashioned way (DVD) and listened to some worship CDs. Mostly, we read and slept. It was also a perfect time to tackle…

#27. Play a Board Game. Technically, there is no board in Yahtzee, so maybe this was a cheat. But Jon’s favorite board games are conquer-the-world-or-at-least-the-economy games like Monopoly, Risk, and Cash Flow. All of which, I loathe. The ones I like (you know, the kind that build relationships and create opportunities for laughter instead of competitive greed) are Apples to Apples and the like. Which Jon loathes. So we had to find something we can both tolerate. Yahtzee fit the bill. We each won one round. We each got one Yahtzee. And we got a good start on…

#34. Read a Classic Aloud Together. It took us a while to select which classic we’d read. Looking at various online lists and not wanting to get bogged down in 600 pages of Tolstoy or endless passages of description from Dickens, we settled on Black Beauty. I was surprised, when I borrowed it from the library, by how thin it was. I figured we’d easily burn through it over the weekend. But who knew it would be boring? Really. To me, the most interesting thing about it is noting all the things author Anna Sewell did in 1877 that writers can’t get away with nowadays. Like sentences that fill entire paragraphs and paragraphs that fill entire pages. We won’t be checking this box off just yet, but hopefully before the book is due back.

On the list of kissing locations, we added our cottage and the top of a hill overlooking West Hawk Lake—it’s the deepest lake in the province at 115 meters (377 feet). The granite cliffs make for gorgeous scenery. There are several more places we could have added if we could just remember to kiss while we’re there.

Until next time...

Overlooking the beach at West Hawk Lake, still frozen on April 3