Christmas 2019…then 2020!

To start this blog I had to share a beautiful photo taken by our rancher friend east of town, Rhonda Weiss.  This is a prairie long-tailed weasel in his beautiful white winter coat!

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We did some birdfeeder shuffling but a Northern Flicker was able to find the suet on our new feeder.

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There was Christmas baking to be done before we ventured to Calgary Dec. 4, 5 & 6, since it was my only chance to get Xmas gifts to the rest of the family.  Mom’s shortbread & Aunt Ruth’s pecan date krispies.

Bill had some meetings & the LivingWorks’ Xmas party was Friday night.  We had dinner with Brian, David & Mom on Thursday night at The Keg.

Unfortunately I felt like I was getting a cold & Bill had attended a 6-hour board meeting at LW (he was pooped!) so we did not attend the LivingWorks Xmas party 😢😢

While we were in Calgary, dear Desiree was having a new baby!  Mia Talia Salenga was born  Dec. 6!  Here are a few shots of the family.  Des & Carm are now proud parents of Quentin & Mia.  Dear cousin Jane has gone out to spend about a month with them helping Desiree with the new baby & Christmas!  Love the last shot of the 2 babes cuddling with Mom.

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I was asking Jane who she thought Mia looked like & she sent me this photo of the 2 babies taken at the same age (actually wearing the same sleepers!).  Quentin (L) & Mia (R).

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I can see that Q looks exactly like his Dad & Mia so much like her Mom!  Congratulations to all of them!

I have been enjoying Xmas messages from various friends & relatives.  Received this beautiful photo of Cheryl & Dave Elliott, who came & spent a couple of days with us last year.  Such a gorgeous couple!

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Steve & Fran sent this beautiful photo of their place lit up for Xmas.  The person standing to the left of Steve on the porch is Dorothy.  She is actually NOT A REAL PERSON!  Yep – a sculpture which used to reside at their neighbour’s place, but they found it too eerie & gave it to Steve & Fran. HA!  (I personally love her!)

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Just before Xmas, Kevin & Rhonda (she of the weasel photo) dropped in to give us their best wishes & some beautiful Xmas baking!

Neither of us can eat these sweets, but I gave them to my Mom, who just loved them (she has such a sweet tooth).

Of all the Xmas cards I received, my 2 favourites were from Fran & Steve – & their daughter Leslie.  This is my piano w/ all the cards, then my 2 fav’s.

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I loved Frannie’s rendition of our 2 cats building a snow mouse!  Leslie obviously inherited her artistic talent & drew their dogs w/ antlers – so bloomin’ cute!

Our darling cousins Penny & Wilf kindly invited us to have Xmas dinner with them & their family at their JUST completed new home on the edge of the Cypress Hills.  They cut their own tree & could barely get it into the house because it was about 7 feet wide & had to go through a regular sized door!  Truly beautiful!

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They are just the sweetest family – they cuddle each other, laugh together & get along so, so nicely.  It’s a pleasure to spend time amongst them!  That includes their 2 sons w/ wives & 3 gorgeous granddaughters.

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It was a pefect turkey dinner & included home-made lefse!  Penny got all the girls together & they made about 70 pieces!  I just can’t bring myself to do it alone – I get exhausted & the whole kitchen gets covered with flour!  So I really enjoyed a piece.  We can buy frozen lefse made by a group just outside Swift Current & I gave some to my family for Xmas, along with chokecherry syrup.  It is actually very tasty lefse, though a little thicker than we make ourselves.

It is very hard to get a nice photo of Wilf, who is, to say the least, camera shy! However, I captured this wonderful one of Penny & Wilf while we were visiting with them in their living room.

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When we left, Bill wasn’t feeling very well.  He actually almost passed out as we were driving down the lane to the main road.  Luckily Wilf said he’d check on us if we didn’t call from town in 15 minutes.  Sure enough he came out & found us & followed us all the way home.  I was relieved because it scared me for Bill to be driving (though he insisted on it & wouldn’t let me drive).  He was better the next day!

We also received a photo of our wonderful Montana family from Missoula:

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Mom & Brian came Boxing Day to spend a couple of days & partake of another turkey dinner.  This is Mom’s 5th turkey dinner this season!  I love a selfie with my Mom (& fam)!

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Karen came out for a visit the next day so we took her, Brian & Mom out to Penny & Wilf’s for a visit.

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When Kevin & Rhonda were over to visit, Kevin asked us a question: “is there anything you would have done differently since you designed & built your house?”  Bill immediately said “no” – while I immediately put up my hand!!!  In the back hall/laundry room, there is no place to fold clothes.  Well, that’s all it takes for my darling Bill to put on his thinking cap!  He immediately re-designed the back hall to put a table in there.  He wasn’t able to do the work, so our great helper, Dale, came over & helped move stuff around when he got it done.  We put a new fridge in there also & gave the one in the garage away.  Here’s what it looks like now – from the garage entrance & from the hall.

Since Christmas, Bill hasn’t been doing very well.  I’ve been really worried.  On Jan. 20th he got up in the night, feeling like he needed more O2, took off his cannula & walked from the bedroom into the office where he has a larger machine. This was about 2 AM & I didn’t hear him.  At 4 AM I got up to pee & saw the light on in the office.  When I got to the living room, Bill was sleeping in his chair on the couch.  I asked him how he was & he said he felt pretty banged up – I asked if he meant tired from not sleeping well.  Then he turned toward me & showed me his left eye.  Hugely swollen & black!  He’d passed out & fallen as he got into the office – he’s not sure for what length of time he laid there.  Luckily he awoke, got over to his O2 machine, turned it on & put his cannula on.  This  was the beginning of  several hospital visits – from Maple Creek, to Swift Current, to Regina, and back home.  His black eye lasted over a month.

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Not to go into all the gory details, but he was poked, prodded & tested.  While in Regina I was unable to go to see him (4 hour drive w/ dicey winter driving conditions).  Our good friends from the ranch east of town (Kevin & Rhonda Weiss) had an appt there & they stopped in to see him.  They brought him a MacDonald’s breakfast – they are such wonderful folks!

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Our dear birding buddy, Don from Broadview, also made a trip into Regina to see Bill.  I was so grateful since we don’t know anyone in Regina.

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They sent Bill home at 3 AM via patient transport services (a private ambulance service).  Apparently they were short of vehicles, hence the late arrival.  It took a couple of days to get rested up after that stressful trip (for me too!).  I helped Bill take a shower late the next day – we have a chair in the shower, so he felt better after that, but was still pooped.  He had been waiting to see his wonderful internist in Swift Current (who saved his life last Oct) – & we received a phone call that she’d had a cancellation & he could come in that day!  However, that would have been a bit much.  Happily they called a couple of days later & she had another cancellation – so we accepted immediately!  I think she was a bit surprised that he’d been let out of the hospital.  She recommended he be admitted immediately.  We weren’t surprised by this & had brought his robe & toiletries.  So over to the hospital he went & he was admitted.  His internist wasn’t on duty the 1st week he was in there, but when she came on, really took control of things & adjusted Bill’s meds to help reduce water retention which helped his legs, as well as lungs & heart.  This was the final step which made him feel waaay better than he had for months.  Here he is when he was feeling well enough to get dressed & have his favourite take-out brought in!  (Mcdonalds breakfast w/ vanilla milkshake),.

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Somehow I had to deal with 2 cats – on 1 lap!  Luckily they figured it out themselves:

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Darling cousin Karen (who lives in Swift) visited a few times, brought him special treats (hamburgers & Mcdonalds breakfast).  That relieved me quite a bit, especially when the weather was bad for driving.  I don’t drive in a snow storm!  So after 2 different types of pneumonia & a near-death experience, my honey is doing well!  He feeling so much better than he’s felt for months!  However, he lost more than 20 pounds over the last few months & is trying hard to gain it back.  He had lost his appetite for quite awhile before  going into the hospital – then hospital food (no comment).  I am doing my best to feed him his favourite things.  He is able to do one of his other favourite things:

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I went to Calgary a couple of days before Bill came home, just so I could see some of my family & especially Mom.  We went out for dinner with David, Brian & Jane.

Some time ago, my handsome nephew Ben, celebrated his CPA with his family & peers at a gala dinner.  They sent this gorgeous photo of the family (Omanthi, Ben’s gf, Ben, Inga, David & Katherine).  Wow eh!?

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With the onset of COVID19, we are staying pretty close to home.  I am the only one who goes out for groceries & mail.  But we can both get out to go birding (driving only).  Not many photos taken, but here are some Canada Geese out at our friends’ (Kevin & Rhonda) ranch east of town.  For any birders, see if you can spot the Greater White-fronted Geese (hint: bright orange feet) and at least 1 Cackling Goose (much smaller than Canada Geese).

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Kevin & Rhonda also sent us this one taken at their place a few days earlier – not very close, but you can see the Tundra Swans.

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As you can imagine, Bill hasn’t had his hair cut for a long time!  So I went on-line to watch some videos of how to cut men’s hair.  I can sure see how it takes a long time to acquire the skill to be proficient at this!  Nonetheless, here is his before & after!

It is at least shorter.  Don’t know what the heck I’ll do about mine however!

Now that Bill is feeling well & so am I, the only one not doing very well is my dear little Katrina.  She has kidney failure, but it is the slow type.  She is slowly losing weight, but is happy & affectionate.  The girls still play together.  Here’s my Katrina in the sunshine.

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One further note regarding Bill’s state of health:  he says he is feeling as well as he did 8 months ago, just when he went on O2.  Two days ago he went downstairs for the first time (using his portable O2 machine) & when he came back up, was hardly winded!  We are planning on getting a stairlift machine at some point (when we can have workmen into the house again).  But Bill was pretty chuffed about it!

On a sad note, out dear “Supreme Primo” Murray, died on Feb. 9th.  He was the instigator of the wonderful gatherings of cousins at his place for many years & the oldest of all the Larson cousins.  His death came at a terrible time due to COVID 19, which prevented many from coming to his funeral.  His brother Lorne from England, turned around & flew home (didn’t even see any of his family) – & others were also forced not to attend.  Luckily Patsy, his wife, was blessed with many good wishes from her friends & family.  We will surely miss him!

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Now we’re all dealing with a world-wide COVID19 pandemic. Most of us are too young to remember living through WWII – though Mom did & of course Uncle Bud, the famous fighter pilot.  But it seems a war-like fight we’re facing.  2 of our best friends have the virus & are fighting through it at home.  Lorne is feeling near normal, but Joey is still fighting hard.  We need to support each other if only via electronics.  I sure miss giving my Mom a hug!

Thought I’d send a photo from a birding outing – a Great Horned Owl on its nest.

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Hang in everyone – keep safe & hope to see you all on the other side!  All I can do now is stay home & cook (saskatoon pie).
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After the Party’s Over

Things calmed down after the party & the gallstone!  We came home to do more birding & stuff around the house.  My clematis is the nicest it’s been so far (red flowers are bee balm).

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The park was in its own glory when we were birding there.  No bird photos, but lots of nice flowers.

 

 

I found out it was time for peas!  I ordered 8 bags of peas from the farmer’s market in Calgary, since they have the very best I can get.  The Hutterites here have some nice ones for a couple of weeks, but they are the long pods – not as sweet as the short pods!  So I headed to Calgary on my own & spent extra time with Mom (stayed with her for 2 nites).  I cleaned her curio cabinet & fridge.  Here she is reading in her new lazyboy chair.

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The 1st nite I was there we went out for sushi (which I miss ALOT!) – & Mom had tempura shrimp & yam fries (she cleaned them up nicely!)

The next day we went out for the same food again for lunch – & at nite we went out for raw oysters with Jane (sorry no photos available).  I miss the oysters – & Jane!

I brought Mom back with me to Maple Creek & she even helped shell peas for hours!

In the end I froze 14 cups of peas!  Hopefully they’ll last all winter!

Mom wanted to visit her old home town (Abbey) as well as Cabri.  I had bought a rose for her room downstairs & she asked if I would mind if she placed it on her Mom’s grave.  (Of course not!) We visited Cabri 1st, though Mom didn’t recognize much.  She kept saying, “The trees & bushes are so big I can’t even see behind them!”  Her Mom & Dad’s house was demolished years ago & there is only a vacant lot now.  The locker plant (Grandpa Larson’s butcher shop) also burnt down long ago.  We did however, go for lunch at the Chinese restaurant (I think it may be the only place in town to eat except for the hotel).

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We went on to Abbey & toured the town where Mom DID recognize a few places.  The old school house:

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There is only 1 elevator left which actually looks like it may still be used.  Can’t be sure.

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Mom at the gravesite of Granny & Grandpa Larson (the rose is what was in her room).

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We also stopped at Uncle Lloyd’s grave right beside them.

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Also found a number of Buck graves – Betty Jackson’s relatives.  Buck is her maiden name & she & her husband Ken were 2 of Mom & Dad’s best friends growing up.  She is one of the few still living, but is in Vancouver & not too mobile.  They talk on the phone regularly.

 

It was an absolutely perfect day with low winds, lots of sun & the fields were green from plenty of rain.  Look how pretty the graveyard was with canola glowing behind the evergreens.

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That evening, after a long day of driving, I wasn’t very inspired to make dinner.  So guess what?  Mom says “I’ll make pancakes for you!”  Since I don’t make pancakes (waffles, yes – but never made pancakes), she got me to stir the batter & she cooked:

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Holy Mackerel – what an awesome woman!  And if you think that’s awesome, get a load of this – THE NEWEST CAT  WHISPERER!  Yep, that’s Katrina on Mom’s legs!  She just got right up there.  First time this has ever happened!

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The next day we went out for a drive to the hills & visited Penny & Wilf’s new house under construction.  Mom even walked up the ramp into the actual house under construction.  That’s Wilf she’s talking to.

It’s really coming along – all closed in, electrical done for now & they hope to have it mostly completed by the end of October.

We had Karen out for dinner (& stay-over) while Mom was here & Penny came too.  Poor Wilf was staying up at the construction site.

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On April 3rd our new cousin Aldis came through town with her son John.  I was supposed to host them for dinner but Penny had told me the wrong date & I wasn’t ready!  Penny however, had made her salad & had frozen burgers, so we went to her place.  I made uncooked blueberry pie for dessert, since I had planned to make one anyway!

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They were on their way to visit her Dad, but turned back the next morning because John wasn’t feeling well.  They did make the trip eventually though.

While out birding I took a photo of wild bee balm.  We have a domestic variety which is bright red in our yard.  This wild lilac colored one is beautiful!

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Speaking of flowers, our birding bud Don, sent us a photo of his beautiful gladioli (of which he has about 30 varieties).  But this one is very unusual – WOW eh?!

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He also had an awesome experience finding breeding Red-headed Woodpeckers near his place.  One was seen from his deck a few years ago, but nothing since, so this was really wonderful.  Adult left & a young & adult right.

Speaking of Don, he once again (on his spring visit) brought me a beautiful array of homemade preserves.  I used his canned home-grown tomatoes to make spaghetti sauce.  Yummm.

We had some unusual visitors  in late August.  They are horse people, live on a ranch south of Calgary & were headed for a riding vacation for a month.  They also did not stay in our house, preferring to be with their horses.  But they had dinner with us the 1st evening – then breakfast the next morning before they left!  They have a combination trailer – 2 horses & accommodation for themselves (+ 2 dogs).  Here is their elegant rig (sorry I’m not very good at pano yet!).

 

We had a fun time with them over dinner & I think they liked Uncle Jack’s uncooked blueberry pie for dessert!

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After breakfast the next morning we went out to see them off.  It’s the 1st time I’ve had a chance to pet some horses for many, many years.  I love horses!  (Bill – not so much.)  This is Angie & Doc.

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Brian is the Chairman of the Board at LivingWorks!  He had a long career before retiring & joining LW.  They are such cool people.

On Aug. 14th our “niece” Leslie Usher married her wonderful partner, Michael, in Cape Breton, NS.  It was a small ceremony on the beach with just their parents, Michael’s son Cam & two other friends.  They had a lovely day for it.  Aren’t they beautiful?!!

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They live in one of the most beautiful areas in the world (we think) – the Margaree Valley near the west coast of Cape Breton.  We cycled many times past their place (before it was their place) & stayed at a beautiful lodge called Normaway Inn.   They are “homesteading” on this land they bought & raising dogs.  They also have chickens, geese & pigs. Here is some of their menagerie & a couple of extra shots (like Michael’s award-winning fish!).

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Cool, eh?

On Sept 8 I finally got through to the Haven Hutterite colony & asked if I could get some chokecherries.  Well – did I get ‘em!  They didn’t have separate gallons, so I got another delivery of 5 gallons of chch’s!  I let the bucket thaw overnight to I could separate it into large ziplock bags & re-freeze them.  I’ll make juice & syrup later.  Filled up my spare freezer in the garage!

Bill has recently been diagnosed with oxygen deficiency & needs to be on oxygen full-time now.  He has made the best of his situation & has researched all the types of equipment available.  Fortunately his dose (#2) is low enough he doesn’t have to use the canisters.  He has a larger unit for around the house as well as a shoulder pack & a fanny pack.  The 2 smaller units can be plugged into our vehicles, so we can travel to Calgary, etc.  Here’s a shot of Bill (he’s talking to Mom on the phone) with his new moustache!

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The beautiful Larson twins celebrated their birthdays together in Saskatoon.  Look at that, 71 & still so gorgeous!

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We got to celebrate with Karen after she returned – along with Penny & Joan (2 other sisters – Uncle Bud’s kids).  I made saskatoon pie instead of BD cake:

We had been talking about taking a train trip across Canada, since we have found someone (& not just anyone – OUR COUSIN KAREN!) to look after the house, kitties & birds when we go away.  So we decided to try a short train trip from Havre, MT to Portland, OR – a good trial run.  We have a lot more stuff to take of course, including a small suitcase for Bill’s O2.  Here are a few shots from our sleeper car (which included a shower, toilet & sink + bunk beds (I took the upper).  Here’s 1 shot out the window.

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Long story short, train travel is not for us!  with Bill’s extra “suitcase” of O2 & 2 suitcases of clothes/toiletries, there is barely room to move past each other.  The windows are tinted (or coated with  UV  protection) which makes it difficult to take photographs.  Food was not anything to write about either!  The cars were pretty tired looking, which may not be the case with VIA Rail, but we decided it isn’t for us.  Thanks goodness a lesson learned before booking a tour across Canada!

We had a nice stop in Portland – found an excellent Italian restaurant right across the street from our hotel.  This is the view out our window.

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Dear Karen had  a major breakthrough with our kitties (that’s Katrina on her lap!).

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So I guess they’re best buds now!

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The trip back was uneventful, though we really enjoyed having lunch in Havre where we’d found a great little Mexican restaurant near the train station.  We got in our car & drove home!  Luckily our cats gave us a happy greeting when we got there, so I guess we aren’t on-the-outs with them after Karen!

Bill has researched (as only he can) every type of O2 device there is & has a fanny pack, shoulder pack & a smaller unit to take on trips which will fit in a small suitcase.  All are rechargeable & plug into the car while we’re driving.  Here he is doing the dusting with his fanny pack on!

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On Sept. 29th, cousin Barry & wife Janet came to Maple Creek to enjoy the marriage of their beautiful daughter (well, 1 of them) Lauren.  Here they are walking her down the aisle & here are Lauren & her new hubby (sorry, I can’t remember his name) cutting the cake! (Photos courtesy of cousin Karen!)

The day of the wedding it snowed here.  Lorne Larson, who flew over from England to attend the wedding, drove back to Calgary after the reception – which took him 6 hours of pretty hairy driving!  Here’s what it looked like on our deck:

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He made it to Calgary & even spent some time with Mom!  I had a practice session of making a pie with a lattice crust (saskatoon/rhubarb).  I heard a tip that if you make the lattice on a flat surface & freeze it, it is much easier to slide onto your pie than weaving it in place.  Worked like a charm!  Here are the results:

Also baked a batch of sugarless carrot cake cupcakes (grated, frozen carrots courtesy of my lovely friend Florence).  The missing one I ate plain because I ran out of frosting!  They freeze beautifully.

Our nephew Ben (David’s son) & girlfriend Omanthi came to visit for a weekend & we took them out birding!  Also to Cabri because Ben has a friend from there & he wanted to report back that he’d been there!  Here are a couple of shots he used to prove it to his friend.  L-top: sign on the way in.  L-bottom:  larger-than-life Canada Goose, wheat & prong-horned antelope on the edge of town.  R: B&O in front of the Chinese restaurant on main street!

We took them down to Morse to see if the Snow Geese were collecting on migration.  Sure enough!  Some smaller Ross’ Geese as well as a few Tundra Swans in with the thousands of Snow Geese.  Something scared them up & boy, what a noise!  Awesome!

Here are B&O in our living room & in a selfie with us just before they left!

On Oct. 20th, we ventured out to the Elks Hall to enjoy the Fish Fry.  I’m not sure how often it is held, but it was great!  Blaine (our builder, whose son Jay, was doing the French fries) recommended we go, although he had to leave for AZ before the date.  So we went on our own & really enjoyed it!

On Oct. 24th I drove to Calgary to bring Mom back with me for a few days.  We returned on the 25th, but that evening Bill wasn’t feeling well (& his lips were blue!).  So I toted him off to Emergency at the hospital.  He had pneumonia!  While we were in the evaluation room, the power went out.  His O2 machine went off, all the lights, etc.  But thankfully they came back on in about 30 seconds (the hospital has a generator, of course!).  After an initial evaluation, they sent him off to Swift Current in an ambulance!  Meantime, Mom was at our place not knowing anything.  The wind was howling at about gale force – it was really nasty out there!  I drove home with only my daytime running lights on (wasn’t thinking very straight) to tell her what was happening with Bill.  She had panicked when the lights went out, not knowing that we have a generator for our house which kicks in in just a couple of seconds when the power goes out.  So she hunted around to try to find candles or a flashlight (which she found in the back hall).  She was sitting, reading in the living room with the flashlight beside her when I got back.

Long story short, after a couple of days in Swift, they sent him to Regina. I was able to visit him in Swift & wonderful Karen went to see him the next day. Brian (what a champ) drove here on Saturday & took Mom home Sunday – so we did not have much of a visit.  She is no trouble, but I wan’t sure when I would have to take off.  She doesn’t know our house & doesn’t cook any more – so it wasn’t possible to just let her stay on her own.  I did not have my winter tires on the car & the weather forecast was terrible.  Snow off & on, lots of wind – awful (& suited my mood!).  I was able to get to Medicine Hat to have my winter tires put on, though I did not end up going to Regina.  This is Bill feeling so much better in the Swift hospital (looks pretty cheerful, eh?!)

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Here is Bill’s explanation of what happened.

“STUFF has happened since we last organized “our” trip to a NZ-based cruise. I went into the hospital last Friday with pneumonia and was transferred first to Swift Current, then to Regina. Had a TON of tests, including an angiogram which showed my heart is in great shape, given my lungs.  COPD, probably “helped” by a genetic predisposition and mis-spent younger years, is the main problem. The upshot of this is that Air NZ denied my travel, so we had to cancel our trip. It actually means that we will do no more flying in our lives (and won’t leave Canada either) because they do not want anyone on constant O2 on their planes (go the states and be charged the maximum for the minimum). Airlines are not transparent about this limitation at all. They hide it behind a screening process that, in effect, keeps looking until they “find” a reason (not according to your doctors) to deny travel. The need for continuous oxygen is “treated” as a disability that they will not accommodate unless one almost doesn’t need it. They took so long to find “reasons” to deny flying that we had to pay for the trip. We did not have cancellation insurance since I had just been cleared by my internist and it was so close to the time of trip. Be careful when your accountant says, “spend money; take a trip.”

There are blessings in all of this. in Swift Current, I fell under the guardianship of a diagnostic genius of impeccable professional ethics. Basically, for ten years, I have been mis/undiagnosed and mismanaged. This internist concluded that I was being treated for symptoms but with no real understanding of what the underlying problems actually were. Got me into Regina for “the works” in one day. Not by reputation or anything (never knew); just concern for her patient. And got me into the hands of heart and lung specialists of either the same ethics or outright fear of her. Unheard of, probably. Would not want to cross her. And, I now know what I am dealing with!!!

(By the way, I note that in SK you can get an app and have access to all your medical records. Respect and collaboration are rearing their “ugly” heads—yipee. This and my treatment has given the medical community, here anyway,a big boost in my eyes.)

Lois and I also learned some very valuable new things about our relationship and about my self as well. Last of this line is that we were able to give the trip away to SK birding companions of long standing who will make the most of it—and could never have afforded it otherwise. There are easier ways to learn lessons but take them where you get them is my advice.

I got home on Halloween day! I am is still on a final dose of antibiotics but getting better every day. Hoping for a miracle and to get off oxygen and back on drugs. They have some great drugs for COPD these days but it would be a miracle. My lungs are probably in very bad shape. Testing in six weeks. Stay tuned and take care.”

The upshot of it all at this point (Nov. 20), is that Bill is feeling pretty good with his drugs & O2.  He is determined to enjoy life as much as he can.  We are planning spring birding trips (driving) & hoping for visits from friends to share our passion with us!  We love visitors!

With my darling Bill arriving home on Halloween & requesting a cheeseburger & non-alcoholic beer for his 1st meal:

 

I finally felt more enthused about carving my pumpkin.,

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Other relatives were participating in the spirit.  Ben & Omanthi went as 2 dogs:  hot dog (Omanthi’s favourite food) & Ben was “just a dog” (not sure what type).  Pretty cute!

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Karen & Steven were…(well, not sure about Karen – Steven was obviously a Jack-o-lantern).

Frannie (such an amazing artist) did such a great job making Steve into part cousin, part pumpkin!

We wish you all a very Merry Christmas & a happy, healthy 2020! 🎄🎁☃️🥂🍾🎉

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Mom’s 100th Birthday!!!

On June 22nd we celebrated Mom’s 100th birthday – what an amazing landmark – what an amazing woman:  Her actual birthday was the day before (June 21st, the spring equinox & the longest day of the year) & her immediate family took her out for dinner.  This was a panoramic shot which David (far right) took – boy he looks weird eh?!

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There was lots of preparation on Saturday, which my darling cousin Jane, had organized perfectly!  It was a wonderful day & went without a hitch!  Here are a few shots:

The room:

 

 

The family groups, all taken with her last living sibling, Uncle Bud who is 97 & made the trip from Creston, BC.   He flew a Lancaster Bomber in WWII & is a true war hero.  He received a standing ovation from everyone when he was introduced.

Mom with all her immediate family.  L-R:  David, Brian, Omanthi, Ben, Katherine, Inga, Bill & me.

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With Uncle Bud’s family – Joan, Norm, Erling, Randah, Brad, Penny, Wilf, Anne & Jason.

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With her sister Joy’s children.  This is the most amazing story of the day (besides Mom’s BD) because these 4 sisters have never met before.  This is because Aunty Joy gave up 2 daughters for adoption.  L-R, Judy, Aldis, Lynn & Joy-Ann.  Judy & Joy-Ann were brought up by Joy.  Aldis & Lynn were adopted (in 2 different families) & Aldis just found us a couple of years ago.  She now lives in Calgary.  Lynn lives in NZ, but found her sisters several years ago.  Lynn came all the way so the 4 sisters could be together for the first time!

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With her sister Lois’ family – Steven, Fran, Colden, Jill, Arnie, Robyn, Desiree, baby Quentin, Carm, Al, Jane & Leslie.

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with Uncle Lloyd’s family: Kristin, Patsy, Rob, Barry, Karen, Adam (our photographer) & Murray.

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Unfortunately Janet was missing from the 1st photo, but they reconvened later to include her, but Murray was unable to be included.  There she is, right above Mom!

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Now Dad’s side:  with Aunty Jo’s family –  Roger & Miki – bonus shots below with Miki’s grandson talking to Mom first, then her handsome son Sean in the right hand picture at the back with the beard.

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with Aunty Bunny’s family – Norm, Steph & Suzanne

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With Uncle Ted’s family – Doug, Dave & Jean

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With Aunty Betty’s family.  This includes the famous ALDO!  Aldo,  Nancy, Beth (above Nancy), Jon & Marty.  If you don’t know why Aldo is famous – your loss!

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Last group – & certainly not least, are the “friends”!  Joey, Garth, Barbara, Sandy (my best friend), Jo-Anne, Nick, Wendy & Sabine

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I have to include this photo of Bill with David – such a nice one.

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Also this beautiful shot of Robyn & Jane (the sisters)

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We then lit the candles on her cake & she made her wish & blew them out.

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Some of her family paid a personal tribute to her:  me, David, Brian, Jane, Bill & Jon Linton sang a song.   Sadly, no-one took a photo of Bill.  Bill is not happy about it!

Mom, of course, had the last word. You can see the photo of the queen just behind her.

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She told us about her life, which not everyone knew about.  I thought I’d include her speech:

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The first word that comes into my mind is “WOW”!  I am speechless at the number of relatives and friends who have come here to help me celebrate my 100th birthday.  From what I can gather, you have come from as far away as New Zealand, Vancouver, Gabriola Island, New Brunswick, Toronto, Michigan, Iowa and all points in between.  I would love to acknowledge all of you individually now but I’m afraid it would take too long but please believe me – I’m thrilled to see all of you.  I have only 2 of my oldest and dearest friends living, and they are in nursing homes – Marion Kell, 100, in Esterhazy, and Betty Jackson, 94, in Vancouver.  Wish they could have been here today.

 

And now I would like to thank my own family: David, Brian and Lois Ann, and alsomy niece, Jane, who helped in so many, many ways.  If I’ve missed anyone who has been of help, I apologize and thank you now.  They have all gone overboard to organize this party.

 

Now that I have welcomed all of you here, I would like to say a few words about my life so far.  I shall try to be brief – even though I know I have a captive audience.

 

I was born in the little town of Abbey, Saskatchewan.  My father Lars Larson, was born in Norway and immigrated with his family to Fargo, North Dakota when he was 8. Then they homesteaded up to Saskatchewan about 1906.  My mother’s family – Harrison was their name – arrived around the same time from Wisconsin, but their farms were about 2 miles apart.  My Dad was 20 when he met my Mother who was 16, at a little country school dance.  Their courtship was short and they married on Dec 4, 1916.  Their honeymoon was a train trip to Wisconsin to visit relatives on Mother’s side.  That would have been a cold trip in the middle of winter.  BRRR!  

 

The next year they built a house and had good crop yields until 1925 when the drought hit.  They sold the farm and moved into Abbey in 1925.  In the meantime, 5 children were born: brother Lloyd who is gone, brother Bud who is here at 97 and is a war hero, myself, Lois, who left us tragically at 39, and Joy who is gone.  Most of their children are here today and I am so pleased.

 

We lived through the Dirty Thirties and my father worked very hard to make a living for us.  Being children, we weren’t too aware that we were poor as we always had food on the table and good clothes to wear.  Mother sewed everything.  

 

I enjoyed my high school years so much as we had a principal who exposed us to all sorts of activities – sports, gymnastics, drama, music.  These were some of the best days of my life.  

 

After high school, I had a beauty parlour for about 1½ years in Abbey.  Then I went to Regina for 6 months.  By then my parents had moved to Cabri and Dad took over his father’s meat market.  I left Cabri in 1942 and went to Saskatoon and took a business course.  I stayed with my sister, Lois who was already working.  Then I got a great job at Davies Electric, where I worked until 1948.  

 

In 1945 I met my husband Steve (how I miss him) who had been in the Air Force.  When the war was over, he had enrolled as a veteran at the University of Saskatchewan to study geology.  His parents Gladys & Wilmot Bleakley (he was a doctor and she a nurse in the little town of Dinsmore) had moved into Saskatoon so their 5 children could all further their education.  So Steve was able to live at home.  

 

We courted (as they used to say in those days) for 3 years and decided to get married before Steve finished his final year.  We married Sept 15, 1948 and Steve graduated in April, 1949.  

 

To our surprise, I became pregnant but was able to work until May of 1949.  Meantime Steve had gotten a job with Imperial Oil, and had been sent to Redwater,Alberta (just outside Edmonton).  I quit my job to join him there and we lived in a basement suite in Edmonton until September.  

 

In August our dear daughter Lois Ann was born and we had to move into 2 rooms in a wartime house.  Imperial Oil built homes for their geologists in Redwater and we were able to move there in December.  It was -40° for the first two months we lived there.  In the fall of 1950 we were transferred to Edmonton and bought a bigger house (900 sq ft) which seemed like a mansion to me at the time.  Our son David was born in March of 1952, and then tragedy struck our family.  

 

In October, Steve was diagnosed with Bulbar Polio, which was 99% fatal.  Through sheer determination and optimism he lived, but remained paralyzed in his throat and chewing muscles for about 5 months, when he was finally discharged from hospital and allowed to come home.  

 

There was no rehabilitation for him, so he engineered his own remarkable recovery.  Learning to speak again and eventually learning to swallow.  His biggest difficulty was eating, as he couldn’t chew normally.  Somehow he developed his own unique way of chewing and most of you here have been exposed to that and understand the reasons for it.  He was left with some paralysis in his face and speech, and his emotions were easily visible on his face.

 

But he was back at work in February of 1953. The company had kept him on full pay and he was able to do the work that was required of him.  

 

We were transferred to Calgary in November of 1956.  I was highly pregnant with my last child – Brian (who is one of my mainstays in my present life).  He was born in April 1957 and we moved into our house at 11 Woodlark Drive that month.  It was 1500 sq ft so I thought I was living in an even bigger mansion!  Our location was such that all my children were able to walk to all 3 schools which they attended in Wildwood.  

 

Our life was very full and we made many good friends in the neighbourhood and other friends in different areas.  I was a ‘home’ mother and had a full happy life looking after my children and entertaining friends with many dinners and muchbridge.  I volunteered for Meals on Wheels for 35 years, at the Kerby Centre for 30, and also did some for the Red Cross.  We had a full life entertaining relatives and friends, did a lot of travelling before and after Steve retired.  We went to Europe 4 times and drove all across Canada several times and around the USA.  It was indeed a grand life.

 

We celebrated our 50th Wedding Anniversary in 1998 with a big family reunion at Waskesiu, Saskatchewan, where we had honeymooned.  Seventy people in all, much like the gang we have here tonight.  Now we’re just a wee bit older!

 

We sold our Woodlark Drive home in 1999 and moved to a side by side bungalow in Coach Hill.  We enjoyed a grand life there for 14 years.  

 

In June of 2011, In our later years there, Steve began to suffer post-polio syndrome and eventually he could no longer swallow.  So it was back to feeding him through an incision in his stomach for the next year.  He lived quite normally, still driving, playing a lot of bridge and socializing with friends. He never complained. SuddenlyIn July of 2012 he had a sudden heart attack in the night and passed away.  He didn’t suffer, for which I was so thankful.  

 

I wasn’t meant to live alone as I am a people person, so in 2013 I moved into my present abode: Signature Park Manor for Seniors.  Everything is done for me, so I often feel very useless. The Manor is a nice friendly place, though, and has a lot of activities to partake of if you’re able – bridge, exercises, other games and plenty of entertainment.  They even honoured me this week for my 100th birthday.

 

So there you have it – the story of my life.  My only claim to fame is longevity which I inherit from my father’s side of the family.  But how lucky am I to have 3 wonderful children and be blessed with 2 grandchildren, Ben and Katherine! Not to mention all of you!

 

Thank you so much for coming. Having you all together today just means the world to me.

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After the party (Saturday evening) the Bleakley clan got together (with various Larsons dropping in who were staying in the same hotel!). I got this pano shot:

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The next day the 4 sisters got together at Mom’e place for lunch.  Such a nice photo of all of them (with Aldis’ handsome son, John)

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On Sunday evening, Mom went out dinner with her brother Bud & some other family.  Sorry I wasn’t there & don’t have any photos!

On Wednesday (late night), she was taken to the hospital. Long story short, tests showed she had a gall stone.  This is very interesting since she had her gallbladder removed when she was 27!  This means she’s had the damned stone for 73 years!  They removed if using a scoping device down her throat & pulled it into her stomach so it would pass through her system.  She’s had quite a few tummy problems over the years, which we’ve always attributed to “nerves” – but ha ha – this is not the case!  She was pretty tired after her stay since she was in some type of a psych ward where patrons shouted, pounded on the locked doors, groaned, etc. all night.  Nonetheless, she is now well-rested & eating normally, returned to her exercise classes & playing bridge!  The moral of the story is:  You can’t keep a good woman down, even after 100 years!

 

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Christmas & 2019

It was a good & bad Christmas.  Firstly, Bill was diagnosed with the onset of congestive heart failure & pneumonia (after a too-long period of denial!).  But he was given some effective diruetics to resolve the congestion & antibiotics to help clear his lungs..  It took an extra trip to the hospital to resolve the issue, but he is feeling quite a bit better & will see his doctor after the doc returns from vacation.

There was a lovely sunset Dec. 13th- this is the view from our back deck (not the most beautiful foreground, but…

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Our cat-sitter Kaitlyn dropped off a little Xmas gift to us & a card, but the most special part was the photo of her with her horse “Pistol” – we just loved it!

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We made 2 quick trips to Calgary in December, the 1st to the LivingWorks Christmas party.  Bill looked so handsome in his suit & Xmas tie I had to take a photo!

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We had our tree up early December & found the 1st presents hidden below soon afterwards:

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We had a quiet Christmas and celebrated when Mom & Brian came on Dec 27/28, so that’s when we had our turkey dinner.

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Pumpkin pie for dessert:

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Such a nice photo of Mom & Brian.

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Penny & Wilf dropped in for a quick visit the day they left.  P&W are heading south to their place in AZ Jan. 1st, so we were very happy to get a chance to see them before they’re gone for the winter.

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We took a drive out to Eastend (& made Brian come & not sit in the house playing games on his phone!).  It was slightly foggy in the morning, but after we had lunch, the sun came out for the drive home.  We found a lone Snow Bunting sitting on a fence (there are usually large flocks together).

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We told our rancher friends, Kevin & Rhonda, about it & he said he always sees little white birds when he’s feeding cattle in the winter – now knows what they are!

A later trip yielded a female Snowy Owl.

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…and 3 Sharp-tailed Grouse were sitting in a tree, but 2 had flown off before Bill got his camera out the window.

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We received this beautiful photo of Bill’s family who were together for Xmas:

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Also this one of Leslie Usher w/ partner Michael, who bought a piece of land in the Margaree Valley of Cape Breton Island, NS!  They are pioneering there & really enjoying winter!

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Winter hadn’t been too horrible…until February, but it came on with a vengeance & stayed all montth with temps around -30C (-22F)!  Plus snow, over & over again!  It was so cold (& dry) at least I could blow the snow off the sidewalks with my leaf blower!  Much easier than dragging the actual snow blower around the house.

Poor little birdies – it must have been hard for some of them.  We kept our heated birdbath filled at all times (& this year the deer didn’t drink it nor sleep in our back yard!).  Also kept lots of seed in the feeders.  Luckily our little miss sunshines (Natasha & Katrina) know how to keep warm:

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In early March we had our friends Kevin & Rhonda over for dinner.  It was a landmark occasion – but not for the food (as you may have though HA HA) – but it was about cats!  For the very first time someone else touched one of our cats – Katrina (always the bravest of the 2).  Luckily I got a photo of Katrina walking under Kevin’s hand then Rhonda’s hand – HOLY MACKEREL  – couldn’t believe it!

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Anyone who’s been here knows they never get to pet our cats.  So this was truly AMAZING!  The new Cat Whisperers!  They brought us a little present – a stuffed snowy owl.  I guess Katrina thought she should show some interest in it, since she showed so much in them!

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Spring was a most welcomed respite from this last blast of winter & we did more birding than we’ve ever done, even since we first met!  SO MUCH FUN!  The very most exciting find has been a Sharp-tailed Grouse lek (dancing ground).  These solitary birds only get together in the spring for mating, & the males do quite a dance.

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98D4A54A-6AC1-4D49-85AF-095A25F7B55BOur first visitors were John & Monika Cowell from Calgary.  John is a physician who was in charge of quality control in the field of medicine for all of Alberta, who has retired & joined the board of LivingWorks.  They are delightful people & have a keen interest in wildlife,  Monika has actually taken a birding class at Inglewood Bird Sanctuary – the place I met bill in 1975!  Our weather was excellent & they really appreciated seeing the lek, since they rarely get up at 5 AM any other time! HA HA!  Here we are:

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The Western Meadowlarks were singing:

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The Long-billed Curlews were in the fields:

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Ferruginous Hawk soared overhead:

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Vesper Sparrows perched nearby:

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Prairie crocuses were in full bloom:

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The deer & the antelope still play!

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Now THAT’S WHAT I’M TALKIN’ ABOUT!  How much fun is spring on the prairies!  Our favourite place on earth & favourite time!

John & Monika’s daughter, Corinne, is a fabric & mixed media artist & they brought us a beautiful gift she made.  A Mountain Bluebird, which we proudly display on the piano:

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We stopped in one day while birding near Hazlet to have lunch with Karen & Harold.  I have always wanted a photo of their sign:

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We had tried to eat at the little restaurant in town but found it was closed on the weekend, so called them & they were just about to have hot dogs for lunch, so we got invited over!  They’re so nice to us – & we love them!

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In the middle of April we made a trip to Calgary.  This coincided with close dates to Brian & Bill’s birthdays (which has always been celebrated together, since they’re only 2 days apart, though 13 years: 62 & 75!).  Poor guys haven’t really had an individual celebration for years, but we’re always happy to get together with family.  So we had dinner out with Mom & Jane:

On April 28th we had another HUGE dump of snow (nearly a foot).  This time it was so wet & heavy there was no possibility of blowing it away.  I don’t think anyone in town shovelled, but I went out in the driving wind & knocked the snow off my lilac bushes which were weighed down due to their little leaves trying to bud out!  (Poor little things 😢).

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Luckily, spring really was around the corner this time & we’ve been out birding lots of times and here are 2 more photos to share.  The famous (at least to those who don’t live in their distribution area) Cinnamon Teal:

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…and the cuter-than-cute Black-necked Stilt.

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The other day we received this beautiful photo of 2 eagles which had landed in the tree in their yard.

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So in return, Bill sent them a Western Kingbird!

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That’s is all for now.  I’m expecting Mom shortly.  My best friend Sandy is driving her out here & will stay for a couple of days.  So looking forward to their visit!

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Mom’s 99th, the GNOBB & more!

Mom celebrated her 99th birthday here in Maple Creek with us!  Penny & Wilf joined us for dinner.

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I made fresh spinach pasta (Mom wanted to see me make pasta!) & lemon veal for the main.  Mom loves lemon – so lemon pie was dessert!  As you can also see, she’s drinking whisky (wooh!).

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(She is getting ready to make her wish.)  David & Inga had her celebration back in Calgary with family there, a week later!  Not only that, but her old neighbours Sheree & Dave arranged a surprise party for her a week earlier at the Glencoe Club complete with birthday cake, presents & huge metallic balloons with “99”!  She was amazed & thrilled.  What good people eh?

Our friends Lorne & Joey stopped in briefly on their way back to Calgary from another 99th birthday party – Lorne’s aunt in Rosetown!  I was in the middle of making cinnamon rolls, so they lucked out & got 2 while here (& I sent a couple more with them for the road!).  (They aren’t drinking scotch or rye – it’s iced tea! – just in case you were wondering, since it wasn’t 5 o’clock yet!)

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We’ve been out birding quite a bit & I always enjoy the flowers.  I was thrilled to find prickly pear cactus in bloom.

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I didn’t know what these were when I first saw them, but discovered they’re milkweed!  Pretty impressive flowers & a big draw for butterflies.

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Out at Kevin & Rhonda’s ranch I finally took a pic of the DU (Ducks Unlimited) plaque commemorating their contribution to the saving of wetlands on their property.  It reads:  “KEVIN & RHONDA WEISS DU 2011”.

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On June 27th we made a major change in our lives for good!  Sold our Airstream trailer to a couple from Comox, BC – Jeff & Joy.  Here is the photo they sent us after they arrived home to the “wet coast” (as they call it).  They have re-named our trailer “Maple”.

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We might have lost something – but we also found something!  A cousin we never knew existed!  She was the daughter of Aunty Joy & Bob, but we think their relationship was in difficulty so she was given up for adoption.  The couple who raised her were Icelandic (so staying in the general realm of Scandanavian countries?).  She brought her son with her for dinner to Penny & Wilf’s.  Luckily Joan was also visiting SK & attended – plus Karen.

Her name is Aldis (pronounced all-dees’) Gislason (geese-la-sun).

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Here she is with her son John.  She blended in just like she was family (!!??!!) & we had such a nice time together.

Here are all the 1st cousins, Joan, Aldis, me, Penny & Karen.

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There was another special event which has been described by Steven Usher so well, that I will just repeat it:

Erin and son Alastair are in Scotland.  They called us to tell us of their visit to the Standing Stones.  Al suggested they touch the stones and Erin said they should touch together with their eyes closed, just in case something happened, it would happen to both of them.  They did this and when they opened their eyes there was a magical ring on Erin’s finger.

How cool is that!

On July 8th our good birding friends, Ron & Julie from S’toon came for a visit.  We were out at Kevin & Rhonda’s, as well as many other places.

 

We had a great time & were very impressed with our drive through the rolling hills near Eastend – with all the rain we’ve had, the hills were so green!  There are a lot of deep valleys which support spruce trees as well as decidious  trees.  So, so beautiful!

Our birding bud Don, keeps letting us know of unusual bird sightings around SK & one came along which we just couldn’t pass up!  3 adult Whooping Cranes were seen north of Diefenbaker Lake, so we travelled up to check it out.  Happily, we did see them!

 

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Sadly, we tried to get closer, but got stuck in the mud!  They don’t call it the Lackawana flood plain for no good reason!  I walked around 2 miles to what looked like the closest farm & found a lovely couple who brought their tractor & pulled us out!  We were extrememly embarrassed.  When I told her that she wouldn’t believe why we were stuck, she said “Whooping Cranes”!  Apparently we aren’t the only ones looking & they had to haul someone else out a few days earlier!

They refused payment of any kind – just said to send them a photo (which we did of course!)

We were out birding in the middle of July & saw a rather rare sight – a pair of Eastern Bluebirds!  They aren’t often seen in this area, the Mountain Bluebird being the common inhabitant.  theThese easterners were  sitting on a fence post near an old bluebird box.  We didn’t see them  again however.  They are blue with rust breasts (I know – small in this photo!).

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Near the end of July our dear cousins finally dropped in for coffee.  Barry & Janet have a cabin out at Cypress Hills & spend quite a bit of the summer there.

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The highlight of our summer was the GNOBB!  That’s the: Great Northern Ontario Bleakley Bash.  It was held in Kenora, ON courtesy of our dear cousins Anne & Dave who own a cabin on Lake of the Woods & invited us all!  It is the first time all the cousins from Dad’s side of the family have had a reunion.  We took Mom out with us, flying from Calgary to Winnipeg, then driving to Kenora.  What a beautiful drive!  And what a beautiful event!  It was so great to visit all those beautiful Bleakleys – they are truly wonderful people.  Thanks to our Grandma & Grandpa Bleakley (Gladys & Wilmot ).  We found these old passport photos among the groups of photos brought by everyone.  Did you know that Grandpa was a doctor & a dentist – also did plastic surgery on maimed soldiers during the war!  Granny was a teacher & a nurse!

There are sone strong genes in this family – what a great example of Aunty Bunny & Granny (probably at similar ages).

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Later we got together fore a group photo.  First just the cousins (with Mom seated at the front).

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Then including spouses (20 of us).  In case you may be wondering, a friendly neighbot stopped by to say hello & was wrangled into taking this shot!

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We feasted like kings & queens.  Greg brought home-made sausages from Michigan (his Italian friend makes them) & Anne & Dave supplied the beautiful pork tenderloins.  Most of the salads were left over from the pot-luck a day earlier.  Dear Nancy made Uncle Jack’s uncooked blueberry pies!  Sorry I didn’t get a photo of the pies!

Here are a few photos from A&D’s dock.  It was very hot & humid, so most people took a dip in the lake to cool off when they needed to!

There is lots of musical talent amongst the Bleakley cousins & Jon regaled us with a song or 2 accompanied by his guitar.

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Later we convened on the deck up at the cabin.  Mom insisted on climbing the whole way up (must be about 75 stairs or so!).  She was accompanied by 2 strong, much younger men, but she made it!  Pretty amazing for 99 years old!  Here are a few photos from the upper deck.

We had such a great time visiting all these wonderful people who share our genes!  Thank you so very much Anne & Dave for extending the invitation & taking care of so much.  And thanks to everyone who helped out with food & cleaning up from all the mess.

On the way home we had lunch at the Winnipeg Airport & Mom wanted a sweet to go with her coffee, & I found a chocolate-covered brownie at the chocolate shop across the hallway!

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I think Mom had to rest every day for a week after this outing!  She hasn’t made a trip on an airplane for quite awhile!  She did say she wouldn’t have missed this for anything!

Our dears Penny & Wilf invited us over for my birthday on Aug. 18th!  I brought the dessert (made w/ Stevia for a diabetics) – sour cherry pie.

A few days later it was cousin Karen’s BD & my dear Janie stopped into our place & stayed overnight, then went on to Swift Current to celebrate with Karen!

When we went to Calgary a few days later we celebrated with lots of family at Katherine’s restaurant “Char Bar”.  We had a most excellent dinner & were served by an amazing server (Katherine)!  That’s her with me on the right.

In early September by best friend Sandy came out from Chestermere Lk for a visit.  We took her out birding & while we cleaned out the bluebird houses (& put a few new houses).  We had a laugh at the height of land due to the warning sign posted there!

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Sandy caught us cleaning out the bird houses.

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Sandy saw her first Belted Kingfisher on this trip – & was rewarded by being able to see it whack its catch against a tree branch before swallowing it.  We didn’t get a shot of that (too far away) but saw another kingfisher sitting on a wire over the dam.

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She also took a few other photos on the trip – I loved this one.

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We had a report of 137 Whooping Cranes seen north of Saskatoon heading to their southern wintering groups.  We don’t think these numbers have been seen since the late 1800’s perhaps.  With total number near 12 in the 1950’s, this is a wonderful comeback story, helped along by man of course (who wiped them out in the first place).  There are over 400 now in North America.  Here’s a photo of the large group – pretty far away.

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Someone got a little closer to a couple of them.  We plan to keep this time-frame available for a trip up to S’toon next year.  We just couldn’t do it this year!

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In mid-October we brought Mom out for a few days for a visit.  Cousin Karen came for dinner the 1st night & stayed over!

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One of the main reasons Mom came at this time was to go to the fowl supper.  It’s a fund-raiser for the United Church & Penny always contributes & helps out.  It’s turkey with all the trimmings!

Unfortunately Mom’s hearing aids weren’t working properly so she wasn’t able to visit too well.  Happily the weather was beautiful so we took her for a car ride to the Hills & had the usual stop at the height of land.

I had coffee with our house builder’s Mom – Florence (that’s Blaine’s Mom).  She’s such a sweetheart & I took a selfie to send to Blaine, since he’s down in AZ right now.

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This year on Halloween I created a new jack-o-lantern.  Cousin Steven always dresses up for Halloween – cool!

Our only visitor in November was our investment advisor – Dave, who made us dinner last year when he came out for a hunting trip.  This year I made him dinner!

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I will catch up on Xmas on my next blog post!

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Xmas, New Yr & onward

As you can see, it’s been a very long time since I’ve published my blog.  I was really thinking I’d quite it, since it was originally mostly for my Mom when we were away in the US each winter.  Bill has talked me into doing another publication & this time there are even some bird photos – not just about our house & family (though there’s some of that also!).  Hope you like it.

After our busy summer & lots of visitors, the fall slowed down quite a bit & winter even more.  We had a quiet Xmas all on our own – but on Boxing day, Brian drove Mom out for a visit.  We had our first real tree EVER:

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I made some of Mom’s pressed shortbreads:

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I also made some small-sized lefse (for anyone who doesn’t know, this is Norwegian flatbread made w/ potatoes).  Some of you who were there may remember that a few slices of lefse were sold at our silent auction during the family reunion last August for over $70!!  The reason is, not all of the Larson cousins make it, but it is highly prized by those who rarely get it!

 

Our dear investment advisor, Dave, who dropped in & cooked us dinner in Nov, sent us some thank you flowers.  Our dear Nola (the florist in town & supplier of most of our plants outside) made us an arrangement in honour of our purple front door:

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Love it!  Here are the decorations  in the front room – including some stockings made by Mom maaaaany long years ago (except for the cat stocking in the middle).

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The piano w/ cards.

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We used the projection lights for our house, being as we’re a little too old to get up on a ladder & attach lights to the eaves!  Not a very good picture, but…

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Around the door we taped up red lights & found a battery-operated wreath.

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Here are our girls w/ their little elf!

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The weekend before Xmas, Penny & Wilf came over for dinner then took us out to church to listen to a carol program (which was great!).  DO NOT mistake the pained look on Bill’s face for being in church!  He’s just asking me what the heck I’m doing!  Wilf is next to Bill – & Penny is in red in the 2nd row of the choir, left side of the RH photo.

I cooked a small turkey & a pumpkin pie.

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Here we all are around the table

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Relaxing after dinner before we watched the movie “Victoria & Abdul“.  They may not look to happy – & maybe they weren’t!

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On Wednesday, we took Mom out for a drive in the Cypress Hills.  It was a sunny day & lots of snow around.  She really enjoyed it.  It was a winter wonderland with snow-laden firs, a beautiful curious buck (totally unafraid of humans, being protected in the park) & the soft hills as we returned.

One of the Xmas presents I bought myself (or Bill did, whatever…) was a purple stand mixer!

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We received this beautiful photo of Bill’s family in Montana at Xmas:

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Top, L-R: Paul, Mark, Oren, Maren, Edith, Lou-Ann, Greg.  Bottom:  Dog (forget his name) & Hollin holding Adelyn.

We have certainly been enjoying our bird feeders in the back yard this winter.  The most common species is Common Redpoll.

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Pretty little things, smaller than a house sparrow.  Only the males have pink on their breast – females just have the red spot on the head.  The other most common species we have is Eurasian Collared Doves (pretty invasive species, though very pretty).  Here they are lined up in the sun on our clematis fence.

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One of the doves is partial albino – can you spot it here amongst the others?

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I am not a bread baker, so I’ve been working on perfecting cinnamon rolls for Bill – since Mom no longer bakes!  At 98, it’s time for her to have a rest & for me to learn!  This is my 1st batch which had pecans on the bottom & Bill didn’t like them!

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My 2nd batch was w/o pecans & Bill liked them pretty well, though he still wanted more goo!

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Hopefully they’ll continue to improve!

Our birding bud Don sent us a photo of a really cute little mink which I just can’t resist sharing:

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He also sent us a photo of a Black-capped chickadee with a white tail!  This is an unusual anomaly indeed!  (Normally a black tail)

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On Easter weekend, we awoke Good Friday to a bare & dry landscape.  By about 2 PM it looked like this:

In early March I attempted to make my 1st souffle.  it turned out pretty well & I served it with tomato sauce – just like Mom used to make.

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Bill was not impressed – he felt like he ate nothing!  He immediatley had microwave popcorn !!!

I have also perfected sugarless chocolate icebox pie & lemon pie.  Voila the lemon pie

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Obviously I’m trying to improve some of my cooking.  Still have a long way to go!

We are still working on the interior of the house & have recently put up some wallpaper -1 wall in the bedroom:

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…and 1 wall in the dining room:

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Jay & Kelly put it up for us (our construction guys) & did a great job!  Now we’re waiting for another carpet to put under the bed – which won’t come until mid-April.

It has been such a long & snowy winter – but at last we’ve been out birding.  Bill has been having some trouble with his camera, so here are a couple of photos taken by others.  First our birding bud, Don from Broadview, took this of Eastern & Mountain Bluebirds:

Aren’t they gorgeous.  Then our friend Lorne, who is visiting family on the west coast, sent us this beauty – Rufous Humingbird:

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Wow – eh?  That throat is iridescent!

On Apr. 10-13 I headed to Calgary on my own to see Mom.  Little did we know the horrible weather which awaited!  Here is the view out her window on Thursday before we went out to the hearing aid place:

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I also picked up my ring while in Calgary this time.  I have never had a good diamond ring & Bill bought this lovely one for me (designed by me & the goldsmith):

After I returned home, we heard Calgary received another huge dump of snow!  It wreaked havoc on city streets (& everywhere else too).  What the heck is going on?!  Meanwhile, it’s finally been getting nicer here in Maple Creek & we’ve been out birding a couple of times.  It is however, too snowy up in Cypress Hills to get out to our bluebird houses & clean them out.  We need to raise 3 of them up higher, so cattle can’t scratch up against them & destroy them.  We have our kit in the SUV to do so, but will need to wait another week or so.  Hopefully this warm weather will continue!

Apr. 22nd is Bill’s BD.  Our investment analyst (who came to stay & cooked us dinner last fall) sent cookies!

And didn’t Billy look nice!

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In mid-May my lilacs were in full bloom.  It makes the house smell SO GOOD!

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We attended a joint BD dinner with family in Calgary the next week (Brian’s being only 2 days away from Bill’s).  Here we are at Caesar’s (Lois, Zach, Brian, Bill, Omanthi, Ben, Mom, Katherine, David).

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Since it was Mother’s Day while in Calgary, a Mother & her 3 children got together!

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On 1 of our outings in the early spring we saw this long-tailed weasel standing on a fence.  He (she) didn’t move & Bill got this lovely photo.

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There were  lots of widflowers blooming up at Wilf’s place (prairie crocus, shooting star & I don’t know what the white one is!)

On May 3rd, my long-time friend, Rosemary Gauthier passed away.  She had a challenging life to say the least & I know she is now at peace.  I was lucky to have a visit with her 2 weeks before she died & took the selfie on the left.  Her sister, Barbara took the other with purple hair!

We did get out to raise our bluebird boxes eventually. L-R, Bill getting ready to attach pole after removing box; bluebird egg (unhatched from last year we assume); the inside of a tree swallow nest; the raised box.

 

On May 2nd our birding bud, Don from Broadview, came for a visit.  We had a great time with him & found a few wonderful things (including a N. Mockingbird at Tompkins – but we didn’t get a photo of it).  Here are a few highlights.  Don with us out at Kevin & Rhonda’s ranch.

 

Our dear cousins, Steven & Fran Usher are moving from Ontario to Galiano Island, BC.  they stopped overnight to stay with us & have a cousin get-together.  I had to take a separate photo of Wilf, since he took the 1st one: Karen, Steven, Fran, Penny, me & Bill

Frannie also brought us the sculpture she created & that we purchased.  It is now in a place of honour in our living room!

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Atl the beginning of June, Ben’s girlfriend Omanthi graduated from U of C.  Here is her photo w/ both families: Ben, Omanthi’s Mom & Dad, Omanthi, David & Inga!

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Our friend Don came back to visit the 2nd week of June & swe had another interesting time birding with him.  Unusual to find Common Nighthawks flying around during the day, but we think it may have been because it rained most of the morning & there may have been an insect hatch.  This is the Eastend area.

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Also an Osprey.

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Common Yellowthroat (a bird of the marshes)

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Baltimore Oriole

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How we’ve enjoyed birding on the prairies this spring – it’s been a very long time since we’ve done a lot of prairie birding & little did we know the wonderful deep coulies & different types of habitat are in this area – along with Cypress HIlls!

Time to publish this blog – more again (but not such a long wait next time I hope!).

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Okay…FINALLY!

On June 8th our esteemed nephew Ben Bleakley (David & Inga’s son) walked across the stage to receive his Bachelor’s degree at U of C. What a handsome & wonderful man he is!

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He & his girlfriend, Omanthi, left the next day for their SE Asian adventure!  We’ve received a few photos from them – my favourite with this beautiful elephant!

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A very special event happened on June 24th – not quite on Mom & Leslie’s birthdays, but not far after.  Here he is:  Quinton Lee Salenga, 8 pounds, 10 ounces.  So the first of the Usher cousins became a grandparent – Granny Butler (Kim)!  Desiree & Carm are the proud & happy parents of this cute little bundle of joy.  Look at those cheeks!

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Ace of Spades (our landscaper) has started working on our landscaping.  They finally delivered our water tank (holds 1000 gallons!) to collect rainwater & it will be automatically used in the irrigation system until it runs out – then town water will “kick in”.

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A HUGE pile of mulch was delivered on the street & boulevard in front of the house.

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We have white rocks around the house outlined in the black interlocking bricks.  There is a dry pond which collecs overflow of rainwater.

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It took a complete day to spread the cedar mulch in all sections of the yard.  From the front porch, looking right to the back yard.  That little row of bushes are lilacs.

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Looking left to the front yard:

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On Saturday June 29th, our dear friend Debra (from Vancouver) visitied us for the 1st time! We were so happy to have her here!

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The weather was absolutely perfect – blue skies, temps in the low 20’s & a very light breeze.  We took her out to the Hills & checked out our bluebird boxes where we found both Mountain Bluebirds & Tree Swallows in most of the boxes.  Here is one of the boxes David made us with a little swallow head poking out (& mate sitting on the fence).

then the female bluebird – couldn’t get a shot of her in the box.

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Too bad we couldn’t find the male – she’s not quite up to his glory!  Here’s a reminder for those who don’t know (taken by Bill in this area a couple of years ago).

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There were lots of wildflowers in bloom.  Black-eyed susans & wild roses to name a couple.

Debra very kindly took us out for dinner the 2nd night & we had a lovely meal at the Star.  Here we are after walking home.

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You gotta include a selfie every now & then eh?

On July 1st, we flew our Canadian flag from our new flagpole & I wore my Canada t-shirt.

We had more visitors – from Calgary & area.  Bill’s business partner who started LivingWorks, Richard Ramsay – along with his wife Carol, 2 daughters & 1 son-in-law.

We’ve had a really great time having visitors.  We have more scheduled over the summer & fall!  I have taken my Mom’s advice & put some treats into my freezer for when someone unexpectedly drops by!  (Thanks Mom)  No sugar added carrot cupcakes with cream cheese icing.

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Not professional, but tasty.

Our landscaping has taken a turn for the worse – with the fellow we hired giving up after we discovered the sod had not been laid correctly.  The soil hadn’t been levelled correctly & when Bill mowed, it would cut some grass down to the quick & some left long.  So Blaine (our builder) has taken over.  He has A LOT of experience laying sod & will do a perfect job, I know. (& he did!)

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AFTER A LONG PAUSE, WHICH INCLUDED LOTS OF COMPANY (WHICH WE LOVED) I DECIDED I’D BETTER UPDATE THIS  BLOG BEFORE XMAS!

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July 23, 23 & 25th:  Our dear friends Lorne & Joey Kingwell visited!  We drove them out to the Cypress Hills & took them out to our birding area at the ranch east of town.

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What fun to have them stay over instead of getting up from dinner & going home!

A few days later, our friends from Saskatoon came to stay – Ron & Julie Jensen!  They are some of our SK birding buds.

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Then it was time for the big reunion!  Our dear cousins, Karen & Penny planned not only a Primo’s get-together – but included all their children & grandchildren as well.  The total number of visitors was about 60 people!

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Many stayed in the Cypress Hills campground, many in the Lodge there – while Mom & Brian stayed here with us!  I made dinner for Mom, Brian, Uncle Bud, Penny & Wilf.  Joan & Norm joined us later for dessert, since they were out of town visiting other relatives until then.

On Aug. 4th in the evening, we headed to the the campground for a pot-luck dinner.  Penny & Karen had cooked ham & turkey (with all the trimmings) – plus others had contributed snacks, salads & desserts.  Uncle Bud also made the trip, though he doesn’t like to travel.  It will probably be the last time the brother & sister get together.  This I felt, was the definitive photo of the weekend!

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Pretty cool eh?  Bud aged 95 & Mom 98!  The next night we had a buffet dinner with everyone at the Lodge.  It was an excellent roast beef dinner with saskatoon pie for dessert (& lots of other great offerings).  Here are a few photos from the event.  I will not label everyone – but wanted to put a few of my favourites in the blog:

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I have to mention that Frannie was one of the stars of the show, as she danced with the “image” of Steve!  Ha ha!

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I asked anyone who was coming back through Maple Creek to stop in to see our new house here & was so happy to have lots of visitors stop in!

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The Ushers arrived at exactly the same time as cousin Lorne!

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Erling & Anne are on their way to the east coast!

We took Mom & Brian to the overlook at the hills.  You can see for nearly 50 km on a clear day (& it was a lovely clear day!).

In mid-Aug we had our deck awning installed.  The installer is an important member of LivingWorks (Bill’s ex-company) – Tim Houle.  He owned this awning business before he joined LW & decided to come out to install it himself (with an assistant).

Here is the awning with Tim installing.  Also, I have now perfected Mom’s brownies (& added espresso powder & cream cheese icing!).  I gave some to the guys, & put the rest in the freezer in case of drop-ins!  (There you go Mom!)

We had our favourite American cousins visit on Aug. 22-26!  Dana, Paul & Lou-Ann Buck!  It was so wonderful to have them see our new home & experience the beauty of the area.  Paul & Lou-Ann live in Montana (Paul’s daughter got married in April, so we attended).  Lou-Ann just moved to Missoula from Oklahome, to be closer to family.  Dear Dana just lost her job & her beloved dog before she came here, so it was a good thing for her to have the support of everyone.

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Here they are geting a photo taken to send to Paul’s other daughter in Michigan, who just announced her pregnancy with a second child!  (Hallelujah!). Dana is mimicking feeding the new baby w/ a sheepskin!  HA HA!

We also took them to the top of the Hills!  It was so enjoyable to have these 3 visiting us for awhile since it has always been us going to visit them!  It was Paul who contacted us to reconnect with these wonderful relatives after Bill moved to Canada many years ago!  He belongs to the Elks & his work area included north of the 49th into Canada where he went regularly.  We are so happy to have reconnected with these beautiful people.

While all this was going on, we were having major trauma with 1 of our 2 kitties.  My little girl, Katrina, had kidney failure!  This is usually fatal in cats.  We have lost 2 of our other 3 cats to this terrible disease.  The amazing thing is that shortly after she was diagnosed, she started acting so spunky & playful, we couldn’t believe she was still sick.  So we had her tested again, & her levels were all “normal”!  A miracle indeed!  Our vet in Calgary (whom we love a lot) recommended we bring her to Calgary to get an ultrasound to see what her kidneys looked like.  So I went on my own to Calgary & stayed overnight w/ Mom (poor little Katrina had to stay overnight at the vet’s).  The 2 sisters have never been apart before.  Bill told me later that he had lots of trouble with little Natasha, who cried quite a bit!  Suffice to say, our vet said her kidneys are perfectly formed & all the cells looked regular.  The only thing he found was some tiny stones in her bladder.  We will monitor her & continue to hope for the best!

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She is obviously not too self-conscious about her shaved tummy!

Had dinner w/ Janie while in Calgary.  Great to have a catch-up since they will be few & far between from now on!  Here are Mom & Janie!

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In order to keep up a LITTLE with the birding theme of this blog, I guess I’ll need to add a few photos from OTHERS.  Bill & I are too busy to go birding, but we some friends who kindly send us photos of birds!  Here is Lorne Kingwell’s spectacular Osprey:

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These are from our SK birding bud, Don Weidl:  juvenile Rose-breasted Grosbeak & Hudsonian Godwit (a pretty rare bird for his area near Broadview).

next a Cooper’s Hawk & Common Nighthawk.

I FINALLY held our housewarming on Sept. 10th, after many, many delays due to trying to finish everything around the house.  I set up for a lot of people, but we only had 7 show up.  Oh well, at least I fulfilled my “obligation”.

Here are all the goodies.

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…and here are 4 of the people.  Our real-estate agent came early with her daughter & grandchild, but left soon after.  This is Trevor & Nola (our plant lady & local florist), then Blaine our builder & his wife Vonda.

In mid-Sept. my old roommate from Shell days (around 1975) came for  a couple of days.  Cheryl & husband Dave Elliott live in Nelson, BC, but Cheryl is from SK (Wadena) & they were making a big trek out that way, stopping wherever the mood struck them.  Interestingly, cousin Jane knew Dave from her days working in Banff (he also worked there), so I invited Jane along for the 1st night’s stay.

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Here are Dave, me, Cheryl & Jane.

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Since I couldn’t fly the Norwegian flag for the Primos weekend on the 1st of Aug, I finally flew it when Primo Jane came this time!  How funny that Cheryl said they were wondering if someone was flying a confederate flag when they saw it from a distance – certainly didn’t expect Norwegian!

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Then it was back to the SK flag!

Jane went on to visit cousin Karen (who lives a little over an hour north of us) for a few days.  Happily, she was fed pancakes with chokecherry syrup for breakfast!  Yummm!

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The following week my nephew, Ben, & his girlfriend Omanthi came for a visit.  There’s Ben’s photo at the very top of the blog.  He received his diploma & walked acros the stage at the U of C & left the next day for the trip to the far east.  They had such a good time & wish they were still there!  We took them up to the hills, of course  & had lunch at the Resort there.  Here they are:

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We also took the obligatory photo at thge top of the look-off.

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They only stayed 1 nite, but of course I made Ben’s favourite dessert, Uncle Jack’s chocolate Mousse.  I made a full recipe & sent the remainder home with him!  We also took them out birding to a ranch nearby & have to say, Ben got pretty good at spotting birds.

About a week later we had to go into Calgary for one of Bill’s meetings.  While there we made a stop out to Bon Ton Meat Market (I’ve known it for over 45 years when it was located downtown – then it re-located to the Stadium Shopping Centre where Ben worked for several summers while he was in school! )  We’ve butchery in the family!  We spoke to a good friend of Ben’s (Brian) who looked after our request for some beautiful rib-eye steaks to take home with us.

Soon after we returned to the Creek, my hairdresser, Jackie, came for a visit & to give me a haircut.  Our drive to the hills was absolutely beautiful, the fall colors being at their height.  Of course I have a shot of her at the lookout point.

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She stayed overnight of course & we had a lovely steak dinner (plus I made choc. Mousse again)

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When we got up in the morning, there was nearly a foot of snow on the ground & it was still snowing like the blazes!  Notice all the little birds getting sustenance from the feeders!

93860D76-167D-45E5-98F7-4E277B38BE6BShe wasn’t going anywhere that day!  So she stayed another day & the following day they’d cleared the streets & the highway – so off she went at last!  She’d had to make special plans to have her cat looked after another day (who definitely wasn’t happy with her when she finally got home – all you cat people know what I mean!).

Our dear cousins Penny & Wilf were so wonderful to invite us for Thanksgiving – turkey dinner with all the trimmings!  We laughed about the turnips, which is a vegetable I only like raw & they love it cooked.  (Bill doesn’t like either.)  But they had  carrots & peas as well as potatoes & gravy, & of course stuffing.  Such a treat & I brought my 1st pumpkin pie (which was a little overdone, but was okay).  Here they are after dinner when we had a chance for a really good visit with them.  Wilf was showing us photos of their big trip to Italy!

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The next big event in our lives was Halloween! We’ve never had kids to our door before & after asking various friends around town how many we should expect, it varied from 50 to 200!!!  I carved my very first pumpkin.

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It wasn’t a work of art, but stood guard at our door to welcome trick-or-treaters!  We didn’t count exactly, but it must’ve been somewhere between 30 & 40!  I gave all my leftover candy away.

Meanwhile, back in Calgary, my darling cousin Steven spent his birthday (Oct. 30) with Mom.  They worked out that the last time they were together for his BD was probably 1961!!  Anyway, he dropped in on Halloween & took a photo of Mom as “The Good Fairy”.

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Pretty cute for 98 eh?  The next day we had to go into Swift Current & were able to have a little visit w/ Karen (who was staying at her pad there) & dressed up as an Ewok.  She’s holding a bowl of popcorn balls which she made to give to friends aorund town!  (Also pretty cute for 60-something eh?)

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We received a photo of cousin Joan who dresses up to give out her treats!  I guess I’m going to pull up my socks & get dressed up for next year also!

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Good stuff eh?!

On a much sadder note – our dear Aunty Jo passed away, peacefully in her sleep, on Nov. 1st.  She was the last Bleakley sibling of 5.  It feels a bit empty in the Bleakley family realm now.  But she had suffered with Alzheimer’s for many years so we hope she has found peace – & her family also.

The following week our investment advisor came for a visit because he was heading out to go hunting (big game).  BUT…he asked to make dinner for us!!!  Holy Mackerel – I’ve never had someone come to my home & cook me dinner!

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Here’s Dave in my kitchen enjoying some wine while he cooks!  He made us a beautiful salad, then BBQ filets with stuffed baked potatoes – then apple pie for dessert!  (Actually his wife made the pie- he’s \not a baker).  It was wonderful!

There are our salads on the left, then Dave enjoying his own cooking.  We think he’s such a great guy – but this was the icing on the cake for me!  Here we are doing a selfie as he leaves the next day!

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On Nov. 22-23 we had to head into Calgary for some meetings at LW for Bill.  We managed to get a group together to go out to dinner.  We were saying farewell to Jane, who is going to San Diego for a couple of months to take care of her friend who has had knee surgery.  We managed to get David & Brian as well.  I think this is a great photo to end on – a selfie of this group!  Too bad we never seem to have any fun.

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See you next time!

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Birding, a wedding in MT, visitors & our house/yard…

(I decided I’d better post this as it’s gone on far too long to wait for the final, final house photos!)

Our Supreme Primo had his 76th Birthday on Mar. 24th:  I am no longer going to print photos of all the birthdays, but couldn’t resist one last one of our ultimate guru:

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We went birding for the first time on the prairies for at least 9 years on Friday, March 24.  It was a beautiful spring day & with the help of our birding bud, Ron, from S’toon & the guy from the liquor store, we went to Frenchman’s Valley, south of Cypress Lake (which is south of Cypress Hills Park) to see our first Tundra Swans of the season.  Hundreds of Canada Geese winging their way north & my cousin Karen reported Sandhill Cranes flying over her place (near Hazlet) on Tuesday!  Lots of open water to attract Mallards, Common Goldeneye, Canvassback, Redhead, Amer. Widgeon, Common & Red-breasted Mergansers, Ring-billed & Calif. Gulls. 4 Gr. Blue Herons were standing on nests on their heronry at Harris Reservoir – as well as a few geese trying to claim the remainder. This heronry looks like it’s deteriorating with old, dead trees getting close to falling over.

Also observed a Bald Eagle sitting on a telephone post north of the Hills, along with most of the hawks: Rough-legged, Red-tailed (including 1 dark-phase), Swainson’s then m&f N. Harriers courting. A Kestrel just as we got back to town. Quite a few Starlings around & 3 Chipping Sparrows at 1st place. Lots of Horned Larks everywhere & 2 Western Meadowlarks – the 1st was singing (yay!). A couple of Mtn. Bluebirds only.  We brought a couple of bluebird houses (made by my brother, David) to put up near our cousin’s land near Cypress Hills, but his road was still frozen so we’ll wait a few days. In the park a large noisy flock of Pine Siskins with some B-c Chickadees, Downy Woodpecker & Red-br. Nuthatch.  What fun it was!

On March 29th we had to go into the Hat to pick up some pictures.  We drove down to Wilf’s land at Cypress Hills first to see if we could get in on his road now (melted enough!) to put up our bluebird houses!  Answer:  Yes!  These are the 2 houses made by David!

Then on March 30th we headed for Missoula, MT for a wedding.  Like Robyn & Arnie they got married on April Fool’s day!  It was such a beautiful day in Missoula with almost no wind, we had the ceremony OUTSIDE (temp around 15 C).  First of the daffodils blooming!

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Hollin & Grleg had a baby together a year ago last Sept.  This is one of the sisters who was pregnant at the same time & we attended their joint baby shower.  Of course the other sister was there with her husband & baby also!  Here’s a “before shot” of the 2 betrothed:

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I tell you – they clean up so nice!  Here’s the “after”:

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It was a very cute wedding with those 2 little tots.  The bride & groom’s little girl (Adelyn) being held by her Uncle.

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And the sister & husband’s little boy, Orin:

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Talk about a couple of cuties!  I took a photo of Bill & his cousin Dana before we left the house for the wedding – all dolled up!

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Looking good eh?  Here’s Orin’s dad (Mike) walking the 2 little ones down the aisle;

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They were so good besides so cute!  Lou Ann & Jimmy sat together (brother & sister) – perfect opportunity to get a shot of them.

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Here are Lou-Ann’s 2 children, Dana & Paul (holding Adelyn):

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Here are Bill & Lou-Ann watching the decorating of the hall .

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We visited Lou-Ann’s new apartment which is lovely.  Hopefully she will adapt to her new environment – a difficult thing to move at age 87!

Soon after we got back, we had Penny & Wilf over for dinner – they had just returned from their winter sojourn to Phoenix.  What a great looking couple eh?

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Not long after this, our builder returned from the south & we began to build what we have now come to call “the great wall of China”.  This is the fence between the messy neighbours & ourselves.  Seems it has been much admired since it was put up!

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Next came Mother’s Day & a trip to Calgary to watch Stars on Ice.  The wonderful Usher cousins (including Arnie) treated Mom to brunch at their place in Cochrane while we attended the skating.  But the next day we returned to Maple Ck w/ Mom who stayed for a week.    I had my first bouquet of my very own lilacs!

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Actually I put them all over the house while Mom visited: kitchen, dining roon, piano, our bedrom, powder room, Mom’s room in the basement.

Here’s Mom with Penny & Wilf just before dinner.

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We made a short trip out to Wilf’s land to put up our last 4 bluebird houses & found some prairie wildflowers still in bloom!  They were long finished on the prairies (crocus & shooting star).

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About the same time we received a couple of photos from our friend Don which I’m sure you’ll enjoy.  A female White-=winged Cross bill (do you see whyit it has this name)?

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And an unusual pale Canada Goose.

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The landscaping was taking place while Mom was here, though she didn’t see much progress.  It will take several weeks.  We received 2 large loads of good qualicy loam (I mean, they were huge trucks!).  One in the back, the other at the front.

Our landscaping is taking shape.  The beds have been outlined in interlocking dark grey bricks,.  The house is surrounded by white stones outlined with the bricks.  I think it looks very nice.  It is the only really formal looking part.  The rest will be pretty wild – with mostly native plants, lots of berries – all to pomote bees, butterflies & birds.

We had our first “real” visitor – Joe Crichton.  He organized our 1st trip to Costa Rica where we met our SK birding buddies, with whom we travelled again to Belize & Guatemala.  Joe lives in Nanoose Bay not far from Erling & Ann!  We got out for a bit of birding in the afternoon he arrived, heading for the ranch our builder, Blaine, took us to where there is a great wetland.  They have this beautiful gate at the entrace to this ranch:

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While we were out there we ran into Kevin & his son who had some bird questions for us & as we chatted, we found it it was on THIS RANCH where a beaver took down a power pole & cut power for almost 10 hours from Maple Creek to Gull Lake (& surrounding areas).  It was a Saturday & boy were the stories wild!  Being a Saturday, there were of course, some weddings taking place.  This article appeared in the Maple Creek news – but actually made the internet news on CBC!

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The recent power outage in the Southwest almost darkened one couple’s wedding day.  Kim and Calum Martin got married at the Resort at Cypress Hills May 27 – the same day a beaver chewed down a power pole between Maple Creek and Gull Lake causing a 10-hour outage for about 2,500 SaskPower customers. The wedding ceremony was just ending as the power went out, according to the Martins. “We actually didn’t know the power went out right away,” Kim Martin said. “The music had quit as we walked out [of the ceremony] and we thought it was just a bit of a glitch.” After the music cut out, they went outside for pictures, which is when they were told there was no power. “At first it was a bit stressful,” Calum Martin said. “But I asked, ‘Is there still food?’ They said, ‘Yep.’ Then I asked, ‘Is there still dancing?’ They said, ‘Yep.’ So I said, ‘We’re OK.’”  The Resort used generators to keep the DJ table playing music and some lamps lit. There were also candles for extra lighting.  Seeing all the hard work the employees of the Resort at Cypress Hills were putting in added to the experience, the Martins said.  “People worked non-stop and everybody did their job so well and made it so it didn’t affect our day. All their hard work meant everything to us. They made everything go so well when it could not have,” Kim Martin said.

When they heard a beaver was responsible for the power outage they couldn’t help but laugh, they said. “We kind of had a hard time believing it was a beaver because that’s the craziest thing we’ve ever heard … It doesn’t sound like something that would happen in real life. But in Canada it can,” Kim Martin said. “I immediately told my family from Scotland and they just lost it. They said, ‘No way, that’s the most Canadian wedding ever,’” Calum Martin added.

A wedding is always a day to remember, but thanks to that beaver this one definitely will be impossible to forget, the Martins said. “It was the most amazing, craziest day ever.”

After we got home & I made dinner for us I took this photo of Joe at our dinner table.

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He stayed overnight & left the next day for Grasslands National Park where he was aiming to take some photos.  He had great weather (over 30C & sunny).  He later sent us this iconic prairie photo of a meadowlark singing on a fence post.

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Here are a couple of Bill’s photos – first the Upland Sandpiper:

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Then a young fox just outside its den:

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Shortly afterwards, I received this photo from Karen, telling us these young’uns had “flown the coop”.  I had received a couple of photos & videos from Harold as he checked them out from time to time in the nest.

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Our landscaper went to Cuba for a wedding, so we had a week’s delay (June 5-9).  But we heard again from our friend Don who sent this beautiful photo of a Common Loon w/ young on its back.  So beautiful w/ the purple & green reflections.

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At the same time Joe visited, cousin Jane was out on the coast attending a very special event – the baby shower for Desiree!  She sent along this photo of herself, Des & Jill Usher:

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Des looks beautiful eh?  The really exciting thing is that she is being induced on June 21st – which is Jill’s 22nd birthday – & Mom’s 98th birthday!  Not that the baby will come on that day, but we’ll see!

Another friend of ours recedntly sent this photo – of us!  We caught up with her in Calgary at a LivingWorks function.

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On June 15-16 we sent to Calgary to pick up a couple of things for the house & had a rather impromptu birthday dinner w/ Mom while we were there.  It just included Brian, Jane & Robyn – but we had a lovely evening.

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Pretty good for 98 eh?  (Mom, that is.)

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Our new home!!!

Yes – we’re here!  I’m so sorry it has taken so long to post a new blog entry but I wanted to have photos of the mostly finished house.

We made a couple of trips out to SK toward the end of the build (mid-December) to help make some decisions.  Here’s Bill in the basement (king bed guest room) standing on the underlay carpeting, looking into the closet which doesn’t yet have doors!

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The “guts” of our home are in the mechanical room.  (Please forgive me Mom, for using that word.  For those who don’t know, Grandpa Larson used to say it & made it sound like a swear word – which Mom hated!)  Here is one of the plumbers explaining things to us.

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Blaine, our builder, explaining about the vanities in the bathroom to Bill.  How high off the floor should they be?  How far apart?  (etc.)

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Looking out from the mud room, where the laundry facilities will be, you can see one of our beautiful garage doors with the 3 windows in it – a bit like our front door which has 4 lights in it.

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Here is part of my green kitchen before the countertops went in.

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Interestingly, there was an advertisement in the Co-op newsletter – which bore a great resemblance to my kitchen, except it was gray.  It even had the same countertops we chose “Brittania” – white quartz w/ gray veining.  This product seems to have swept the market because we’ve seen it on HGTV  on Bryan Baeumler’s & Scott McGillivray’s shows.  Robyn & Arnie have it in their newly renovated kitchen!