Monthly Archives: September 2016

A Rainy Day in Paradise

blue-haven-bed-and-breakfastWe spent our first night in Newfoundland at the Blue Haven Bed and Breakfast in a community called Paradise.  Our house was on Adam’s Pond and owned by Minne Ann Piercey. bedroom-at-blue-havenWe had a lovely room. We arrived later in the evening after picking up our rental car at the St. John’s airport. It was raining and continued to rain all night and the next day. dave-and-collieNo matter, our hostess Minne Ann was delightful and we quickly made friends with her two collies AJ and Shiloh.  Turns out Minnie Ann who was born in Newfoundland, had lived in Winnipeg for many years where she owed a pet store and worked as a real estate agent, and so we had many experiences and places in common. She had even launched a book she’d written at McNally Robinson where my writers group meets on Thursday nights. 

me-and-minne-annI learned about an important part of Newfoundland history from Minnie Ann. She grew up in a place called Pass Island. It was community of 250 people with an Anglican Church and a one room school. Her father ran the store.  As part of Premier Joey Smallwood’s plan to modernize the province it was decided to resettle people from small Newfoundland communities to bigger centres.  Pass Island was one of the communities resettled.  Minnie Ann and her family really had no alternative but to move. The Newfoundland government resettled some 148 communities and moved 20,000 people between 1965 and 1975.  Some people left communities where their families had lived for more than a century. 

dave-at-breakfastMinnie Ann served us a wonderful breakfast complete with homemade bake apple jam. bake-apple-jamBake apples are small orange berries that grow in bogs in Newfoundland. 

house-in-rain-blue-havenAs you can see from this photo taken through our car window it was a rainy day in Paradise but it didn’t dampen our spirits or the warm welcome from Minnie Ann our gracious hostess. 

Other posts…….

Down on the Farm

Sleeping in an Art Gallery

The House with the Obama Chair

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Reading for Newfoundland

the-shipping-newsI just reread Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News to get ready for my trip to Newfoundland.  Proulx’s writing is such a thing of beauty and she paints a vivid picture of Newfoundland for the reader. In her novel Newfoundland is depicted as a place with a bleak, harsh, unforgiving geography and climate populated with people who are tough but tender. They  help bring new life to the main character Quoyle and his family. I am looking forward to discovering how the Newfoundland of today measures up to Proulx’s depiction and also to visiting Trinity where the movie version of the book was filmed. 

the-girl-from-awayThe only other Newfoundland novel I know well is The Girl From Away by Claire Mowat which I used to read to my elementary school students almost every December.  Andrea, a girl from Toronto who is experiencing big changes in her family goes to spend Christmas with her Newfoundland relatives.  As my students and I read the book we learned about mummering and whales and fishing for a living, and some typical Newfoundland phrases and words.  Just like the characters in The Shipping News have their lives changed for the better in Newfoundland so does the heroine of The Girl From Away. Andrea finds goodness and acceptance and optimism there.   

I wonder what good things Newfoundland holds in store for me and I wonder what other good books set in the province I will find to read while I am there. 

Other posts…….

Images from Ru

Finding Miriam Toews in Costa Rica

Elegant Words


Filed under Books, Newfoundland

Manitoba is Metis


Manitoba by Joe Fafard- 1988- Winnipeg Art Gallery

One of the art works I’ll talk about with high school students on an tour I’m leading tomorrow at the Winnipeg Art Gallery is this landscape/portrait by Saskatchewan artist Joe Fafard.  His piece is called Manitoba.  Fafard has chosen a Metis man to represent our province. I will ask the kids why Fafard would do that. Was it because the founder of our province Louis Riel was Metis?  Might it be because Fafard grew up in a French and Metis community on the Saskatchewan and Manitoba border? Why has Fafard depicted a geographical place with a person? 

I’ll ask the students to come up with adjectives to describe the man. How has Fafard used color, shape, line and texture to give the sculpture personality and provide insight into the character of the person portrayed? If the sculpture was a Metis woman instead of a Metis man how might that woman be depicted? 


Manitoba by Joe Fafard- Source Mackenzie Art Gallery Teaching Guide– from the personal collection of Joe Fafard

I’ll show students a clay and acrylic version of Manitoba which Fafard made in 1975, thirteen years before he made the bronze piece in the Winnipeg Art Gallery collection. How are they the same or different?  How are the differences related to the different materials used and how might the differences reflect different ideas about the sculpture’s subject, message or audience? 

I am very curious to hear how the students will answer these questions.  I always learn so much from them. 

Other posts…….

Between Dog and Wolf

Whale Bone Sculptures

What’s a Bandolier Bag?

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Filed under Art, winnipeg art gallery

A Sad Story

My husband Dave is a regular volunteer at the West End Cultural Centre. It provides affordable rehearsal and performance space for local and touring musicians and offers free arts programs to inner city youth.
On Friday night he rode his bike to the West End Cultural Centre as he always does, and locked it up before going inside for his volunteer shift. When he came out at the end of the evening his back bike tire had been stolen. A kind fellow volunteer gave him and his crippled bike a ride home. 
bikeI know there have been lots of bike thefts in the city this summer, including folks who have had bikes stolen right out of their locked garages.
It is unfortunate. I wonder what’s behind the rash of thefts and what might be a practical solution to the problem.  Dave will be taking his bike inside in the future when he volunteers at the West End, that is after he gets a new tire for his bike. 
Other posts…….
The Driedgers Bike Boblo Island

Biking the Beach in Costa Rica

Biking in Florence

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Filed under Music, Winnipeg

Dinosaurs- A Blog For Our Grandson

yangchanosarusOur older grandson loves dinosaurs. He knows their names. He draws them. He reads books about them and when he started school this fall we bought him a dinosaur lunch kit. His fourth birthday party included dinosaur party hats, dinosaur paw print cookies, a treasure hunt for dinosaur party favors in a museum filled with dinosaur replicas and fossils, and a cake with a dinosaur and a volcano on it made and decorated by his creative mother. dinosaur hats

A couple of years ago my cousin Lynne even made dinosaur hats and scarves for us and our grandson for Christmas.

seeing-dinosaursSo when we visited the Dinosaurs Alive exhibit at the Assiniboine Park Zoo recently my husband Dave suggested we take some photos and make some videos to share our experience with our grandson.

chuanosaurusSince we used to live in China we photographed the Yangchuanosaurus, a dinosaur that  lived in China in the late Jurassic period. screen-shot-2016-09-21-at-6-01-04-pm

If you click on the picture of Grandma she will act like the Spinosaurus. touching-a-dinosaur

Grandpa isn’t sure if he should touch this Dyoplosaurus.grandpa waving at dinosaurIf you click on this picture of Grandpa you can see him waving at the Carnotaurus. dinosaur-exhibit-winnipeg-zoo

 Uncle Paul and Aunt Shirley check out the Quetzalcoatlus.

mojoceratopsThe Mojoceratops used to roam the prairie here in Manitoba where we live and in Saskatchewan where our grandson lives. t-rexClick on the Tyrannosaurus Rex to see Grandpa trying to scare him. 

The Dinosaur Alive exhibit at Assiniboine Park was fun but it would have been even more fun with our grandson. 

Other posts……..

Writer or Palaeontologist?  

Dinosaurs in Saskatchewan

Alligators All Around

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Filed under Nature, Winnipeg

A Creative Way to Share History- Upper Fort Garry

designer-shows-us-upper-fort-garryIt was Design Weekend!  I just happened to make my first visit to the historic site of Upper Fort Garry on design weekend when Mark Bauche one of the site designers was on hand to tell us about the fascinating process that continues to fuel this creative work in progress. 

children building forts at upper fort garryAs an example of that creative process children who were visiting the fort on Saturday were designing forts of their own with these huge cardboard boxes. 

raised gardens upper fort garryInstead of reconstructing the old buildings that once stood inside the fort, designers have installed  raised gardens at the site of each structure. fur store upper fort garryEngravings tell you what they were. You can use a special Upper Fort Garry app on your phone or go to their website to see sketches and photos of the actual buildings and learn more about them.  

map of upper fort garryUpper Fort Garry is the site where representatives of all the Red River parishes met under the leadership of Louis Riel to set in motion the process that would lead to Manitoba becoming a province in 1870.  


I was especially fascinated with this steel wall which depicts the history of our province during the time that the fort was operational. 

bison-huntYou can see the bison hunt. 

lord selkirk's signatureI’m pointing to Lord Selkirk’s signature reproduced exactly as it was on the treaty he signed with chiefs and warriors of the Chippeway and Cree Nations in 1817 where Selkirk gained rights to a huge tract of land for one hundred pounds of tobacco. 

york boatThere’s the outline of one of the York boats used by the Hudson’s Bay Company to carry furs and trading goods. The Hudson’s Bay company built the fort. 

sent to residential schoolHow heartbreaking is this illustration of Indigenous children being taken away from their parents to residential school?

settlers-plowingSettlers are plowing the land around the fort. 

paddleboat-red-riverSteamships and paddleboats ply the waters of the Red River. 

red-river-cartA Red River cart was a popular mode of transportation on the prairies during the time the fort was at its busiest. Notice how this one’s wheels are caked with mud. 

And that’s just a taste.  I need to go back and discover all the other symbols in the wall. 

upper fort garryUpper Fort Garry is not your usual kind of reconstructed historical site, but it does tell the story of our province during a significant period in our history in a unique way.  upper-fort-garry-siteAnd according to designer Mark Bauche this is only the beginning. There are lots of plans to make the site an ever evolving place to learn about, and become a part of, history. 

Other posts…….

The Dakota Boat

Photographed Just in Time

A Different Perspective


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Filed under History, winnipeg art gallery

My Love is Like…I Loved My Creative Students

When I taught high school English one of my quick write assignments was to read the first stanza of this famous Robert Burns poem and then write a new version. 

rose-creative-commonsBurns wrote……..

My love is like a red, red rose
That is newly sprung in June
O, my love is like a melody,
That is sweetly played in tune.

While cleaning out some old school files I found these versions my students had penned. Amazing what they could come up with in just a few minutes .

Oh your love is like a mirage
Looks great from far away
But the closer that you get to me
The more grows my dismay.

Your love is like a nice warm lap
A place for me to hide
Your love is like a watermelon
Plain rind but rich inside.

Your love is like a sequoia
That towering, invincible tree
Your love is like a magic wand
That sets my spirit free.

Oh your love is like a racing train
My life all filled with smoke
Oh your love is like a cherry pit
Small enough to make me choke.

Your love is like a cookie
Decadent, rich sweet dough
Your love is like a leech
It never lets me go. 

Our love is like a glass of wine
That sweetly intoxicates me

Our love is like a fire
So passionate are we. 

Somedays I miss teaching and the stunning creativity of my students. 

Other posts…..

The Poetry of Boxing

Aunt Vi’s Autograph Book

Poetry and Teenagers


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Showing Off Our City

We had family visiting us from Ontario this week and it was fun showing them places in and around Winnipeg. 

On the Provencher Bridge Winnipeg's most photographed landmark

On the Provencher Bridge Winnipeg’s most photographed landmark

One morning I took my brother-in-law Paul and sister-in-law Shirley on a long walk to the St. Boniface Sculpture Garden, across the Provencher Bridge, past the Human Rights Museum and then after a bowl of soup at Winnipeg’s famous Stellas restaurant we went to the Winnipeg Art Gallery where I gave them a quick tour of the current exhibitions. 

Checking the history of our province on the huge Manitoba mural at Upper Fort Garry

Getting a historical overview of Manitoba on the huge mural at Upper Fort Garry

We explored the Upper Fort Garry site and learned about the history of the fort that once stood there. 

shirley and the bison fort whyteOne day we visited Fort Whyte and went on the Bison Safari. 

Dinosaurs Alive exhibit at Assiniboine Park

Dinosaurs Alive exhibit at Assiniboine Park

We all thought the Dinosaur exhibit at the Assiniboine Park Zoo was great, although we wished we’d had our grandchildren along, because we knew how much they would have liked it. Unfortunately the polar bears weren’t swimming in the Journey to Churchill exhibit but we did enjoy the video presentation about Canada’s north through the seasons. 

the-family-at-royal-canoeWe took in the performance by Royal Canoe at the classic Burton Cummings theatre and had a family dinner at Corrientes Restaurant before the show. toasting-bucky-before-the-showThanks to Paul and Shirley for being such a supportive aunt and uncle and flying out for their nephew’s new album release. 

My sister-in-law Shirley had four pars in a row on the back nine

My sister-in-law Shirley had four pars in a row on the back nine at Quarry Oaks

We spent one afternoon golfing eighteen holes at Quarry Oaks which is just beginning to show its beautiful fall colors. 

Posing with Gandhi statue

Posing with Gandhi statue

We enjoyed a breakfast that included squash cakes, bannock and bison at the Feast restaurant on Ellice and saw the movie Florence Foster Jenkins at Grant Park. 

Dave and I hosted a dinner party and invited our daughter-in-law and some long time friends of Paul and Shirley’s.

In front of the Human Rights Museum

In front of the Human Rights Museum

We played four matches of euchre during the visit and the ladies and the men won two matches each.  We play euchre whenever we get together and the men usually end up champions so Shirley and I felt quite good about the tie this time. 

We loved having Paul and Shirley in Winnipeg and hope they will come again. 

Other posts…….

Heidelberg Project

Having a Feast For Breakfast

Terrified Times Three

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Filed under Family, Winnipeg

Inuit Art at the Zoo

Did you know the Winnipeg Art Gallery has an Inuit sculpture installation at the Assiniboine Park Zoo?  I discovered it last week. 


Women and Children by Miriam Qiyuk

This was my favorite piece. Most of the mothers in the sculpture are smiling patiently while their kids wiggle and squirm. 

Woman Battling a Polar Bear by Jimmy Arnamissak

Woman Battling a Polar Bear by Jimmy Arnamissak

Normally land mammals like the polar bear are associated with men. Could this battle between a woman and a bear symbolize the power struggle between men and women?

Fighting Polar Bear Cubs by Iola Abraham Ikkidluak

Fighting Polar Bear Cubs by Iola Abraham Ikkidluak

Although these two cubs appear to be fighting quite playfully they are preparing themselves for adult fights to the death in the wild over food and mating rights.

Musk Ox by Lucassie Ikkidluak

Musk Ox by Lucassie Ikkidluak

The musk ox is known as ‘bearded one’ in Inuktitut. It is one of the most powerful land animals in the world and its double coat of soft wool overlaid with long hair makes it well suited for the Arctic climate.

Shaman Braiding Sedna's Hair by Abraham Anghik Ruben

Shaman Braiding Sedna’s Hair by Abraham Anghik Ruben

Sedna is the main character in a popular Inuit story about a young girl who loses her fingers. Her fingers turn into all the animals of the sea. Sedna has the power to hide those animals from hunters. If a shaman soothes her by braiding her hair she is more likely to let the hunters find the animals.

You can find the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s Inuit art display in The Journey to Churchill exhibit at the Assiniboine Park Zoo.  The Winnipeg Art Gallery has the largest Inuit art collection in the world and I think it’s great that it’s being shared around the city, so even more people can see it and appreciate it. 

Other posts……..

Inuit Art Primer

The Globalization of Art

Getting to Know Oviloo

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Filed under Art, Reflections

Bison Safari

shirley marylou bisonMy brother-in-law Paul and sister-in-law Shirley are visiting us here in Winnipeg.  We took them on the Bison Safari at Fort Whyte. img_3196

Our guide was excellent, a veritable walking encyclopedia of bison knowledge. He hypothesized  that the near annihilation of the bison on the prairies in the late 1800s was actually a way to try to annihilate the Indigenous  people since they depended on the bison so completely for their way of life. bison fort whyteWe rode in a bus out to the large bison enclosure and followed the herd while our guide told us more about the bison.  We learned the difference between bison and buffalo.  Did you know bison are the largest mammal that can jump and get all four legs off the ground or that they can keep up a 60 km. running pace for more than an hour? bison furWe got to touch bison fur and learned it is so warm in winter bison don’t seek shelter even at 40 below temperatures. dave with horn

Dave is taking this sharp bison horn seriously.  The guide told us that competing males at Fort Whyte had once fought and one died after the other bison rammed its horn into his body. Bison horn was used  by the Indigenous people to make musical instruments,cups, powder horns, spoons and toys.         buffalo wallowWe saw the wallows that dotted the field, where the bison roll around on the ground in summer to get rid of biting insects

Our guide told us bison aren’t that smart and have a real herd mentality. Herds are led by cows not bulls. The bison’s sense of sight is poor but they have a great sense of smell and hearing.    

bison fort whyteOn previous visits to Fort Whyte the bison have been more frisky and we’ve been allowed out of the bus to take photos. That didn’t happen this time but hopefully our guests still enjoyed learning a little more about the plains bison the official Manitoba animal.

Other posts about bison……..                                            

Killing a Bison is Hard

There Must Be Fifty Ways to Use a Bison

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Bison

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Filed under manitoba, Nature