Monthly Archives: May 2014

Don’t Be A Wine Snob

“Don’t be a wine snob!”

That was the first piece of advice we received from our zany guide Robert Bevan who we met on a trip to New Zealand. He led a wine tour we joined in Hawkes Bay, on the east coast of the north island. Robert, a former PGA golf caddie, grew up in British Columbia, Canada.

He decided to live in New Zealand after holidaying there and falling in love with the country’s golf courses and wines. Robert was funny, enthusiastic and incredibly knowledgeable about wine.

Robert said wine is like art, poetry or music. Everyone has individual tastes and personal preferences. What one person thinks is a great wine another person might not like at all. Only ‘wine snobs’ think they can choose the ‘best’ wines. Despite his warning about wine snobbery, Robert unabashedly praised New Zealand wines. He claimed they ranked third in the world after wines from California’s Napa Valley and the Bordeaux region of France.

It was French missionaries who introduced wine to New Zealand. The Pope sent a group of priests there in 1842 to covert the Maori people to Christianity. The holy fathers knew they’d need communion wine so they brought along their own vintner. He carried cuttings from the best French vineyards and within a decade produced the first New Zealand wine.

We visited four New Zealand wineries on our tour and tasted 30 different wines. Three wineries encouraged us to sip and enjoy their various vintages and varieties.

However at the Hatton Estate Winery they taught us a true wine taster spits rather than sips. They poured us generous glasses of wine. After swirling the wine around to release the aroma we were instructed to stick our noses fully into our goblet and sniff heartily to inhale the scent.

Next we were to gulp all the wine in our glass and swish it around in our mouth for up to a minute, being sure it reached every corner and crevice and taste bud.

Then we were to spit the wine out into the huge buckets provided.

Dan Baker owned the Maona Park Winery. He had studied oenology (the art of winemaking) in Canada. Dan asked us to describe the taste of one of the wines he poured for us. Interestingly, we all tasted different things. A woman from England said it tasted like rose petals.

A man from Auckland compared the wine to Turkish Delight candy.

My husband thought it tasted like tomatoes.

A woman from Finland said it reminded her of asparagus.

Dan said we all have certain taste memories stored in our brain. Different wines trigger different memories for us. That’s why four people drinking the same wine each taste something different.

At the Salvatore Winery, our ever -resourceful guide, Robert, brought out a basket filled with nuts and raisins, chunks of dark German rye bread, different New Zealand cheeses, cranberry sauce, artistically sliced kiwis and apples, paper -thin slices of spicy salami, and containers of different flavored olive oils. We sat at wooden tables next to the vineyard, basking in the warm New Zealand sun, enjoying a delightful picnic along with a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc. At that moment I couldn’t have agreed more with Ernest Hemingway who once said, “Wine is the most civilized thing in the world.”

Other posts about wine…….

Wine Stories

Wine Canyon

Other posts about New Zealand…..

New Zealand Retirement Advice

Taonga Treasures

A Christmas Day In Hell

A Kiwi A Day


Filed under Food, New Zealand, Travel

A Good Understanding

Yesterday I was reminded of one of my grandfather’s puns.

“My feet are killing me,” said a customer while I was working the cash register at the Thrift Shop where I volunteer.  The woman asked if she could trade in the new ill fitting shoes she’d purchased the day before at big box store for a much more comfortable used pair on our shelves. After she left my fellow clerks and I chatted about the damage poor fitting shoes can do to a person’s feet.

My mom reading with her sisters around 1933. Check out their nice shoes.

My mom ( on the left) reading with her sisters around 1933. Check out their nice shoes.

It reminded me of something my mother once told me. Her father always insisted on his children having shoes that fit well.  My grandmother’s feet had been damaged by poor fitting shoes and Grandpa didn’t want that to happen to his kids. He spared no expense to be sure his four children had shoes that fit properly. 

Here is Mom and her sisters with their dolls, probably around 1929. Look at those shoes.

Here is Mom (again on the left) and her sisters with their dolls, probably around 1929. Look at those nice shoes they are wearing.  

He used to joke and say he was going to make sure his children had a good under standing. Get it? 

Other posts about my mother’s childhood…….

Why Was This Special?

My Mother’s Childhood Christmases


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Filed under Childhood, Family, Health

I Was A Treble Teen

I’m second from the left in the back row

Last weekend thanks to Cindy Rempel Patrick, the Steinbach Arts Council, and Golden West Radio, I was able to enjoy a reunion concert and brunch for the Treble Teens, a singing group that put Steinbach on the map for a number of decades. I was in the Treble Teens from 1969-1971. Like many women in the choir I learned valuable lessons about responsibility and teamwork from my experience.

Jocelyn Reimer Kent in June 2010 with then President of the Canadian Nurses Association Kaaren Neufeld

 Four years ago I had the privilege of writing a news story about Jocelyn Reimer Kent, a former Treble Teen, who was a University of British Columbia adjunct professor and the president of the Canadian Council of Cardiovascular Nurses. Jocelyn had developed an internationally recognized protocol for treating cardiac surgery patients.

Jocelyn Reimer is third from the right in the first row in this newspaper photo advertising the May 1970 spring concert of the Treble Teens

During our interview, Jocelyn expressed appreciation for the lessons she’d learned while performing with the Treble Teens. She said director Shirley Penner helped her cultivate the confident stage presence she had needed to present her innovative ideas to audiences from across Canada and around the world. 

Shirley Penner at Saturday’s reunion brunch

Jocelyn’s story is one echoed by many of the Treble Teens I spoke with during our reunion weekend. Besides learning music skills their participation in the choir helped develop traits of leadership, loyalty and poise that served them well in life.

Old and new members of the Treble Teens perform a number at the 1971 spring concert- I’m at the far end left in the second row wearing my high school graduation dress and sporting my granny glasses

It was a treat to browse through the memorabilia on display at the Cultural Arts Centre during our Saturday morning brunch. Looking at photos of the choir from my era I was surprised I was still able to name almost all forty singers with whom I’d performed. I was delighted to see a copy of the record we’d made and found I could still recall the words and music to most of the songs we’d recorded like The Sleigh, Moody Manitoba Morning, Little David Play on Your Harp, Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head and Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream.

The Steinbach Treble Teens participate in A Mosiac of Music in April of 1970- I’m the very furthest to the right standing and leaning on the door

Looking through scrapbook pages I was impressed by all the things our choir had done- participating in a multi-cultural show at the Centennial Concert Hall, recording radio and television programs, singing with the Winnipeg Symphony and travelling to other provinces to perform.

In the early ’70s, our director was still referred to by her husband’s first name instead of her own

It was interesting to see how times had changed since the 1970s. I noted in newspaper articles about the Treble Teens, Shirley Penner, the group’s director and founder, was referred to by her husband’s first name rather than her own, and that the songs we sang frequently used words like brotherhood and man even though our choir was exclusively female.

Old Treble Teens uniforms on display at the concert

I got teary at the concert when Arts Council President Frances Funk mentioned parent support. My parents paid for my participation in the Treble Teens and my voice lessons. They drove me to practices, came to my concerts and helped with fundraising. I was sad my Mom, who died a year ago couldn’t be at the reunion concert. She’d have loved it.

I bumped into my Carillon editor Grant Burr at the concert and when I told him I’d be writing a column about the reunion for this week’s paper he suggested, perhaps in jest, that I reveal the untold story of the Treble Teens. I haven’t done that, because, despite the inevitable behind the scenes politics that exist in any organization, the experience of singing in Treble Teens was overwhelmingly positive.

Treble Teens performing last Friday night- photo credit Adeline Loewen

Treble Teens performing last Friday night- photo credit Adeline Loewen

But I will leave you with one ‘inside scoop.’ Quite a number of former Treble Teens confessed that like me, they had their mouths open but weren’t really singing on those high notes at the concert on Friday night. After all, many of us are in our sixties and at least in my case, the only singing I’ve been doing of late is with my grandson.

Other posts about Steinbach……

An Alphabet For Steinbach

A Lovely Day in Steinbach

The Old Kornelson School


Filed under Childhood, Culture, Education, Music

They’d Never Heard of Woodstock

exchange district concert line upMy husband and I were standing in line on Sunday evening to hear Winnipeg band Royal Canoe. The show was a make-up performance for an outdoor event that had been cancelled the day before due to pouring rain. We started chatting with the young couple just behind us. We asked  if they’d been at the rained out event. They had.  My husband remarked that seeing all those music fans getting soaked in the rain had reminded him of Woodstock. The couple nodded and smiled politely.

I said, “Honey I don’t think they know what Woodstock is.” 

“You’ve never heard of Woodstock?” my husband asked. 

They hadn’t.  “Do you know who Joe Cocker is?” They shook their heads. “Joan Baez?” I asked. “Crosby, Stills and Nash?” my husband wondered. They shook their heads. 

My husband told them briefly about Woodstock, the famous 1969 weekend music festival where hundreds of thousands of attendees got soaked in the rain.  The young people listened politely and then went back to checking their phones. 

“Honey we’re old,” I whispered as the line began to move towards the Union Sound Hall entrance. 

Other posts about being old…….

Supporting Each Other

Retirement Advice From New Zealand

Are We Ready For Trailer Park Retirement?

The Next Grandpa Moses


Filed under Music, Retirement

A Simple Thank You Makes My Day

The doors slid open and as soon as I stepped into the elevator I knew that the lone woman sharing the ride with me was someone whose face I had seen before. But who was she?

I was at the Winnipeg Art Gallery last Friday to give a tour to a group of high school students. I’d gone upstairs to stow my purse safely and was headed back to the foyer to welcome my tour group. 

volunteer badge winnipeg art galleryAs the elevator door shut I racked my brain trying to think who the woman was in the elevator with me. Just then she noticed the volunteer tag I was wearing around my neck. “Are you a volunteer here at the art gallery?” she asked. “Yes,” I replied. “I give tours to school groups.”

“Well,” she said. “Thank you very much for your service. Volunteers are important.”

“I’m sorry,” I said. “But I think I should know you.”

“Susan Thompson,” she said holding out her hand.

That’s why I’d recognized her I thought.

“You were the mayor of Winnipeg,” I said as I shook her hand.

She nodded and our conversation ended as the elevator doors opened on the main floor and Susan exited saying, “Thanks again.”

Susan Thompson

Susan Thompson

I figured out later Susan must have been at the art gallery for the Culture Days Congress that was being held on site. How nice of her to be so personable and thank me for being a volunteer. It made my day.

Other posts about volunteering…..

A Day in the Life of the Runaway Bay Tutoring Centre

I’m A Shop Girl and I Love It

Winnipeg Fringe Festival

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Filed under Art, People, Politics, Winnipeg

Weed Sorting

Last Sunday I heard a sermon about sorting weeds. It was based on a  parable Jesus told in Matthew 13 . It goes something like this.

There was a field of planted wheat and at night someone came and sowed weeds among the wheat so the two plants grew together. The servants of the man who owned the field wanted to go and dig up the weeds but he said “No let’s just wait till it’s time to harvest the wheat and I’ll sort the weeds and wheat out then.” 

Jesus explained that the field was the world and the weeds and wheat represented evil and good people.  And when the time was right God would sort them out. 

The pastor I heard reflect on this parable said it teaches us three things. 

1)  Judging people isn’t up to us but up to God. Usually when the church has tried to do the judging they have messed up big time. 

2) We often judge people too quickly. Patience is required.  The servants wanted to sort out the weeds and wheat right away but the master said wait, give them a chance to grow first.

3) God’s judgements may surprise us because God judges differently than people do. We tend to think judgement is a way for people to get what they deserve. God says all people deserve grace and love. 

This is what I took away.

Accept people.  Remember people can change.  Sometimes we judge people because we are unaware of their whole story. We will be happier if we aren’t judgemental of others. We’re all a mixture of good and bad. There aren’t easy categories for sorting people. 

Other posts about sermons I’ve heard……

Is It Good to Be Lazy?

Inter-faith Dialogue- A Path To Peace

What is Sin? 

A Rhizomatic Sunday

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Filed under Reflections, Religion

Love in a Lunchbox

I love a good romance and so the movie The Lunchbox was just my cup of tea. It’s  an exquisite love story set in Mumbai. You get a real flavor for modern city life in India along with a tender tale and a lesson about the value of relationships. Saajan is a lonely widowed accountant and Illa is an unhappy wife whose husband is cheating on her. 

One fascinating thing about the movie was learning about the dabbawallas lunch delivery system founded in 1880. 5000 workers called dabbawallas pick up hot lunches in tins from people’s homes or from a restaurant, and deliver them to office employees throughout Mumbai. According to an article by Meena Kadri only one mistake is made in every six million deliveries.

This movie is about one such mistake. Instead of the lunches Illa makes arriving at her husband’s office they land up on Saajan’s desk and one thing leads to another. They begin exchanging notes in the lunch box and fall in love by letter. But will they actually ever meet in person? That’s the question at the heart of this movie. 

Although I enjoyed watching Illa and Sajjan’s romance develop my favorite part of the movie was the way both Saajan and Illa are supported, inspired and renewed by a strong friendship.  There is an older woman we never see who lives just above Illa’s apartment. Illa calls her ‘auntie’ and she is a humorous wise character constantly shouting down advice, warnings, recipes and observations to Illa. Illa’s mother has troubles of her own to deal with and this ‘auntie’ is a true friend and second mother to Illa. 

An Arab young man named Shaikh is sent to Sajaan to be his trainee at work. Although Sajaan doesn’t like Shaikh at first they eventually come to be friends and Shaikh, who is an orphan, invites Sajaan to be the best man at his wedding. Shaikh helps Sajaan realize how lonely his life has become since his wife’s death and how reaching out to other people might change that. We see this change demonstrated in Sajaan as he becomes less gruff and more interactive with the children in his neighborhood as well. 

I wanted a more conclusive ending to this movie but my husband chided me saying the last scenes were fairly bursting with potential and I should be satisfied.

Interesting note:  In the movie Sajaan is a Christian, Illa a Hindu and Shaikh a Muslim

Other posts about India……

India Assaults the Senses

Seeing the Taj Mahal at Dawn

Meeting the Street Children of Delhi

Beggars Everywhere

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Filed under India, Movies

Thankfully Times Have Changed-My Story

I read recently that the first woman was only allowed to run in the Boston Marathon in 1972. That was in my lifetime I thought! Sometimes we forget how recently it was that women were definitely second class citizens and how thankful we should be that times have changed. I have my own ‘thankfully times have changed’ story.february baby 1979

My oldest son was born in 1979.  My due date was early February. I was legally entitled to sixteen weeks of paid maternity leave from my job as a grade one teacher. I had to go back to work at the beginning of June.

I requested my leave be extended till the end of June, just four extra weeks. I would take an added month of unpaid leave and return to the classroom in September. school class 1974-75I argued it was not in my students’ best interest to change teachers two times during the year. It would be hard for me to do accurate end of year assessments for students I hadn’t taught in four months. The school division refused my request.

They said extending my leave would set a dangerous precedent. I’ll never forget my meeting with the two superintendents. In a very kind but patronizing tone they assured me once I saw that cute little baby of mine, I would never want to go back to work. They told me the only way I’d get an extra month of maternity leave was to resign. The superintendents assured me if I resigned, in the unlikely event I still wanted to go back to work after the baby was born, they would give me a job. To their credit they did. But I was forced to resign. I had to forfeit my insurance coverage and the nearly one hundred sick days I had accrued. I lost five months of contributions to my pension fund and I was given no written legal guarantee of a future job.

mlclass 1980'sReturning to work the following year I asked to serve on the team negotiating salary and benefits with the school board. I wanted my school division to offer teachers up to year of maternity leave and retention of benefits during that time. Many other school divisions in our province had already instituted that kind of leave policy. The first year when our negotiations with the board got down to the wire, the teachers’ negotiating team, which was completely male except for me, voted for a higher salary rather than extended maternity benefits. The second year our request that teachers having babies could choose to take up to a twelve- month maternity leave was granted, and became a part of our contract package. I was very happy!

baby on school visit 1985Six years later in 1985 when I had my second son, I was able to take leave for an entire year to be home with him. I didn’t lose my pension, sick days or insurance benefits either. Times had changed!

Other posts about women and change……..

Lean In

Five Famous Women

What Does Your Mother Do?

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Filed under Education, Family, Parenting

Embrace the Movement

They came from all over Canada. A couple of weeks ago when I volunteered at the Mennonite Central Committee Thrift Shop on Selkirk Avenue we were inundated with two bus loads of visitors. selkirk thrift shop visitors

These were Thrift Shop administrators, volunteers, board members and executive members from other cities. They had come to Winnipeg for a conference called Embrace the Movement where they could share ideas about how to run thrift stores more effectively and efficiently and to receive information and inspiration from guest speakers. visitors to thrift shopI talked with people from Saskatchewan, British Columbia, Ontario and other places in Manitoba. They were touring Manitoba Thrift Stores after spending a number of days attending workshops that addressed such things as recruiting volunteers, creating safe shopping and working environments, dealing peacefully and in restorative ways with shop lifters, quick merchandise turn around and handling conflict. visitors to thrift store

The people who came to tour were different ages, had many different professions and helped operate very different kinds of stores in places all over Canada. While visiting Manitoba thrift shops they were getting ideas for ways they might improve their own stores. Thrift shops accept donations of things people no longer want or need. They fix the items, clean them, price them and resell them. founding of mcc thrift stores

Our visitors were very interested in the new signboard at the front of our store which tells the story of the four women from Altona, Manitoba who started the first Mennonite Central Committee Thrift Shop. mennonite thrift shop visionThere are now over a hundred stores in North America run primarily by volunteers. These stores have raised more than $167 million dollars to provide food, clothing, education, shelter, medical care and other services to needy people around the world.

thrift shop logoAt the Thrift Shop every donation and purchase is a gift to the world in two ways. It saves the world’s natural environment by reusing and recycling things and it saves people in the world who need help in difficult circumstances. It’s a  movement that is certainly worth embracing. 

Other posts about Thrift Shops……

I’m A Shop Girl and I Love It

Mother’s Day Kitsch


Filed under Religion, Winnipeg

Positive Lightning in Hong Kong

God’s lightning lights up the world- Psalm 97: 4

On the evening of Sunday, September 13, 2009 we had an unforgettable lightning storm in Hong Kong. The weather observatory reported later that 13,000 strikes of lightning had animated the sky in a two -hour period. I was in church at the time and the pastor stopped speaking. The congregation sat and marveled at the amazing display as nature illuminated the world in brilliant bursts of electric light.

Although we tend to think of lightning as a negative thing, that night it was something beautiful. We didn’t dread each strike but looked forward to it, ready to be awed once again at its power and radiance. I’ve learned there are positively and negatively charged lightning strikes. Positive ones are ten times more powerful than negative ones. I’ve also discovered there are more than a dozen different kinds of lightning.

We live in a world of negativity. People, and the media in particular, tend to look on the dark side of things and project pessimism about the future. Those of us who have faith and hope for the future need to use our positive message of hope to ‘light up’ our negative world in much the same way as the psalmist says God’s lightning lights up the world. Just like there are many different kinds of lightning so each of us has been given different abilities we can use to light up the world in our own unique way.

Other posts about the beauty of nature……

The Pool Project

Georgia O Keefe Inspired Me

The Flowers of Jamaica


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Filed under Hong Kong, Nature, Religion