Monthly Archives: March 2022

Lost on the Prairie News for March

I was delighted to be the guest of a book club discussing Lost on the Prairie on March 17th. The food and wine was amazing as you can see from this photo and that was just the first course. Everyone had read my book and had so many questions. The group was especially interested in the research I had done for the novel and the publishing process. One question they asked that stumped me was why I hadn’t given the chapters of my novel titles. I am not sure why I didn’t and that might be something to think about if I ever publish another book.

Have you heard of spine poetry? It involves using words on the spines of books to create a poem. Laurie Hnatiuk a librarian in Saskatoon who is one of two contributors to the book review blog Bit About Books and who co-administers the website Middle Grade Book Village created this spine poem after a March snowfall using my novel as the opening line of her poem. Thanks Laurie!

I like to keep track of where in the world copies of Lost on the Prairie have ended up. This month my cousin Julie said the copy she had sent to family in Portsmouth, England had arrived. I was in Portsmouth in 2005. I caught a ferry there to the Isle of Wight. If you’d have told me then that someday I would publish a book and people in Portsmouth would be reading it I wouldn’t have believed you.

Kathy Stinson is a giant in the world of Canadian children’s book publishing. I read her picture books to my own sons thirty years ago and recently gifted one of my grandchildren with her latest picture book The Girl Who Loved Giraffes about Canadian giraffologist Anne Innis Dagg. I reviewed the book on this blog and was so excited to receive a note from Kathy thanking me for the review and congratulating me on the success of Lost on the Prairie.

Lost on the Prairie is nearing its one year birthday so I guess it was inevitable I would soon find it for sale as a used book. That happened this month. They have only marked down the price by $1.13 though.

I was at McNally Robinson Booksellers in Winnipeg yesterday and was happy to see that after ten months they are still carrying my book.

I always wonder what new things will happen regarding my novel each month. We’ll see what April brings.

You can read all the other blog posts about my book here.

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Have You Played Canuckle?

If you enjoy playing Wordle you might want to give a unique Canadian version of the game a try.

It’s played in exactly the same way as Wordle but all the answers have something to do with Canada. The only other difference is the correct letters are displayed in a red color instead of green probably as a nod to the red maple leaf on our flag.

When I solved the Canuckle puzzle for the word parka I thought of Canadian artist Karel Funk who paints these large unique portraits of people in parkas. I took this photo of his work when he had an exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.

I’ve been playing Canuckle for about a week now and the solutions have been words like parka, rinks, fries, coast, order, moose, cabin and phone.

Wonder why some of those words are Canadian? A fun fact about the word appears just above the puzzle once you solve it or you can go to the Canuckle Twitter Page and get even more information about the day’s word there.

Morning walk with my brother Ken and brother-in-law Harvey along Canada’s west coast in Victoria, British Columbia

For example when the solution to the puzzle was coast I learned that Canada has the longest coastline in the world. On the Twitter page there was more information. Our country’s coastline measures 243,000 kilometres and it would take me about thirty years to walk all along it if I walked 20 kilometres a day.

Enjoying some great Canadian beer in a brewery in Calgary with my cousin Tim and his wife Jackie

When the solution to the puzzle was beers I learned that beer is the number one selling beverage in Canada by volume and dollar value. On the Twitter page I found out Canadians spend $9.2 billion dollars on beer every year.

There have been 47 Canuckle words so far and 2,500 people are playing the game. I think the plan is to continue Canuckle till Canada day on July 1, 2022 but maybe if more folks start following the uniquely Canadian word puzzle they will keep on going after that.

Here is some cool stuff I’ve learned just playing the game for about ten days

Curling with folks from my church

Canada is home to thousands of rinks. In the 2020/21 season, there were 2,860 indoor and 5,000 outdoor ice hockey rinks and 1000 curling rinks.

My cousin Lynne and I pose with a giant moose in an information centre in Newfoundland

Moose can be found in every Canadian province. The largest statue of a moose in the world is in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan and some 150,000 people visit it every year.

This cabin at Moose Lake has been owned by three generations of my family.

Cabin is the word for summer house or cottage in Canada. Canadian pioneers built cabins from logs.

Why not join me in playing Canuckle and learn some cool stuff about Canada in the process?

Other posts………..

I Love A Walking Holiday

Ghost Town and A Fun Night

Moose on the Move

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A Touching Moment At the Oscars

Youn Yuh-jung played the role of a grandmother in the film Minari

Last year Korean actress Youn Yuh-jung won the Academy Award for best supporting actress for her role in the film Minari about a Korean family struggling to make a life for themselves in rural Arkansas in the 1980s. Her character was a feisty, non-conventional grandmother who loved her family fiercely. She was the first Korean actor to win an Academy Award.

Troy Kotsur plays the father in the film Coda

In the Oscar tradition that meant this year she would present the award for best supporting actor. It was won by Troy Kotsur who played the role of a deaf father trying to understand his hearing daughter in the movie Coda. Like the character Youn Yuh-jung played in Minari, Troy’s character in Coda was feisty and non-conventional and he loved his family fiercely. He is the first deaf man to win an Academy Award.

When Youn Yuh -jung opened the red envelope to reveal the name of the Oscar winner she started speaking with the traditional phrase “and the Oscar goes to” but then paused and signed Kotsur’s name before saying it aloud into the microphone.

Since Tony Kotsur is deaf he wouldn’t have heard his name called, but because Youn Yuh-jung signed his name first, he knew that he was the winner before the rest of the audience heard the news. It was such a respectful and thoughtful thing for Youn Yuh-jung to do.

Troy Kotsur accepts the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor from Yuh-jung Youn -photo by Brian Snyder for Reuters

Once Kotsur was up on the stage and Youn Yuh-jung had given him his Oscar statuette she was perceptive enough to realize Kotsur would need both hands to sign his acceptance speech to the audience so she gently reached out and graciously offered to hold the Oscar for him while he did so. She cradled the statuette carefully while watching him give his speech.

It was such a touching moment motivated by genuine caring, courtesy and respect.

Other posts………..

Ten Thoughts After Watching the Movie Minari

Coda and The Power of the Dog

Love is Everywhere

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Has Spring Come Yet?

We took a stroll down to the Forks in Winnipeg yesterday and although spring is definitely on the way there are still signs that Old Man Winter is hanging around.

The warming huts which usually sit on the frozen river for skaters and walkers and skiers to use are now dry docked up on the land. That’s a sign of spring but………

there is still lots of ice and snow on the river.

The Canada geese have returned so that’s a sign of spring but……………….

there is still plenty of ice that needs to melt.

Some of the pathways are pretty clear and dry so that’s a sign of spring but……………..

the river walkway is still frozen and impassable

and there are still lots of high snowbanks beside the paths that need to melt.

It was sunny and warm enough to enjoy our chai lattes outside so that’s a sign of spring but…………

we were all alone on the outdoor patio everyone else thought it was still too cold and were enjoying their beverages and food indoors.

Some of the outdoor seating areas could already be used so that’s a sign of spring but……..

other sitting spots in the park still aren’t accessible.

Has spring come to Winnipeg yet?

after our walk at The Forks yesterday I’d say…………..not quite!

Other posts……..

Inspiration to Speed the Coming of Spring

Spring in the Exchange District

Winter in Winnipeg

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Wish You Were Here- The Latest From Jodi Picoult

When you read a Jodi Picoult novel as I did this last week you know several things about the book even before you begin.

First of all, you will learn a great deal about a couple of topics you probably didn’t know that much about before you read the book.

One of the settings for Picoults latest novel Wish You Were Here is the Galapagos Islands and so you learn about the geography and climate of that famous place as well as the amazing animals that make their home there. The Galapagos is on my travel bucket list so I was very interested in this aspect of the book.

The second thing you learn about is COVID 19. Another setting for Wish You Were Here is a hospital in New York City in the early days of the pandemic before vaccines, before doctors really knew how to treat COVID, when people were dying in droves and no one was sure how the disease spread. Picoult as always has done her research impeccably and we learn in detail just how COVID impacts the body both at the height of infection as well as during the often long recovery process. Two years out it is sometimes hard to remember the fear and isolation and disruption that the pandemic brought to our lives when it first began. Wish You Were Here brings it all back in vivid detail.

Jodi Picoult

The second thing you can expect from a Picoult book is that there will be multiple narrators and in this book we experience the story through the eyes of a young woman named Diana who works for the art auction house Sotheby’s in New York and also the voice of her partner Finn who is a hospital resident dealing with the pandemic. Finn’s voice comes to us courtesy of letters he writes to Diana who is trapped in the Galapagos because she was holidaying there just as the pandemic began.

The third thing you can expect from a Jodi Picoult book is some sort of surprise ending or a twist of the plot you weren’t anticipating. Wish You Were Here delivers in that department as well.

Jodi’s books always address the big social issues of our time medical ethics, racism, bullying, assisted suicide, abortion, sexual orientation, school shootings or spousal abuse. I am not surprised then for her to be one of the first authors out of the gate when it comes to writing about the pandemic.

The rights to Wish You Were Here have been purchased by Netflix and they will turn it into a feature film. Producers have already been hired. So if you want to read the book before the movie comes out you might want to put it on your reading list now.

Other posts……….

Jodi Picoult- Fan Fiction Writer Today-Classic Writer of the Future

A Spark of Light

A Novel So Long It Took Us Through Eight States

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Don’t Be A Snob

My husband Dave with our wine tour guide Robert

“Don’t be a wine snob!” When Dave and I visited New Zealand we took a wine tour in Hawkes Bay with a zany and enthusiastic guide named Robert. He emphasized throughout our tour that everyone has individual tastes and personal preferences when it comes to wine. What one person thinks is a great wine another person might not like at all. Only wine snobs think they can definitively choose the best wines.

“What does this wine taste like?”

At one winery we visited on our tour the vintner asked us to describe the taste of their best selling wine. Interestingly different people on our tour said they tasted very different things. A woman from England said it tasted like rose petals. A man from Australia compared the wine to Turkish Delight candy. My husband thought it tasted like tomatoes. A woman from Finland said it reminded her of asparagus. The vintner said we all have certain taste memories stored in our brains. Different wines trigger different memories for us. That’s why different people drinking the same wine each taste something unique.

Everyone in our group tasted something different in the wine.

Robert our guide said there is nothing worse than a wine snob someone who thinks they have some kind of special advantage or knowledge that makes them an expert on what kind of wine is a good wine.  He said we all have our own personal tastes and preferences, and our own ideas about what good wine is and that’s just fine. He urged us not to be wine snobs but expand our palette by trying all kinds of wines and continually adding to our list of personal favourites.

I think Robert’s advice can apply to many other things like art and film and literature and food and theatre and music. Don’t be a snob.

Other posts…………

A Fascinating Conversation in a Tiny Wine Shop in Lisbon

Snake Wine

Music Snobs

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Hive- A Must See

The movie Hive gets its name from the fact the main character tends faithfully to the beehives her husband left behind when he disappeared during the war.

Have you heard of ajvar? I hadn’t till I saw the Albanian-Kosovan movie Hive a few days ago. Now I’d really like to taste this Balkan spicy relish made with red peppers that proves to be the salvation of a group of war widows in Kosovo.

With inspiration and leadership from Fahrije the widows in the village start a business

Led by a brave and resolute single mother named Fahrije the women start making ajvar and selling it to a local grocery store to bring in the funds they need to care for their families. Their husbands have been declared missing in the war and they are all struggling to financially support their children and elderly parents. But………they live in a patriarchal community that very much disapproves of women running their own business or asserting their independence.

Actress Yllka Gashi embodies Fahrije’s melancholic stoicism

Fahrije is played brilliantly by Yllka Gashi. She is desperately missing her husband and doesn’t want to believe he has died but finally realizes she needs to get on with her life. She learns to drive a car and figures out how to start a business. As a result, she must put up with abuse from the deeply misogynistic men in her village, the critical opinions of her wheelchair-bound father-in-law who lives with her, and the frustrations of her teenage daughter who desperately misses her dad.

Despite the melancholic stoicism Fahrije seems to exude as she deals with all of this, there are moments in the film when we see her true emotions break through. She weeps in the shower over her lot in life, is terrified and angry when the man she buys vegetables from tries to rape her, tenderly reassures her daughter when she gets her menstrual period for the first time, breaks down when forensic workers think they have found her husband’s remains, and dances with abandon and joy when her business succeeds despite all kinds of adversity.

Fahrije learns to drive a car after she realizes she will need to support her family

I loved everything about this movie which is based on a true story. It was engaging, meaningful, heart-warming, and thought-provoking. We saw it at the local theatre Cinematheque which is just two blocks from our home and where vaccine cards and masks are still required and social distancing of seats is an offered option. It was so nice to be back in the theatre enjoying a foreign film, especially such a fine one.

Other posts……….

Coda and The Power of the Dog

Belfast- Through the Eyes of a Child

A Tortured Soul

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The House on the Highway- My First Home in Steinbach

When my family first moved to Steinbach in 1961 we rented a house on the #12 Highway. I took this photo of the house in 2020 when I was in Steinbach on a visit. We lived in the house for two years before moving to a house we rented on Kroeker Avenue.

My sister and get ready to ride to school on our bicycles. We are on the driveway of the house on the highway. My sister and I shared a bedroom that was located up over the garage of the house.

My parents slept in a large bedroom on the main floor. Here my siblings and I are playing hospital in their bedroom. Since my Dad was a physician in Steinbach my brother is using some of his surgical gear and his stethoscope. I am the patient with my arm bandaged and my sister appears to have some medication ready to give me. Although my sister did grow up to be a nurse my brother and I both had long careers as teachers, following in our mother’s professional footsteps rather than our Dad’s.

Here I am with my younger sister and my brother on the steps of that house on the highway. My aunt and my grandmother are visiting us from Saskatoon and from the way we are dressed we are probably heading off to church.

This photo of me playing the piano was taken in the living room of the house. Through the window in the dining room behind me, you can see the big toboggan slide that was in the field just behind our backyard. It was high and scary and probably not that safe but was very popular with the kids in Steinbach in winter.

This photo was taken at Easter time because I am wearing one of the Easter dresses my mother sewed for me. Most of the photos I have of my childhood were taken by my mother’s older sister my Aunt Viola when she visited us from Saskatoon and she was visiting us for Easter in 1961 and 1962.

This photo was taken by my aunt in the dining room of the house on the highway where we were dying eggs with our Mom for Easter. My sister and I have curlers in our hair as we always did on Saturday nights.

When we lived on the house on the highway I attended the old Kornelson School just a few blocks from our home. It was on the site where Steinbach’s City Hall now sits. The school was demolished in 1964 just a couple of years after I attended it.

My grade three class at the Kornelson School in 1961-1962. Our teacher was Mrs. Mary Kihn and she had forty students in her class. I can still remember the names of about twenty of my fellow students. I am second from the right in the second last row.
This is my grade four class at Kornelson School in 1962-1963. Our teacher was Miss Esther Toews. I don’t know why this class was so much smaller than my grade three class. I am third from the right in the last row.

I have photos of a birthday celebration in the house on the highway. I am not sure if it is my 8th or 9th birthday. I am sitting in the big chair holding my gifts with my brother on my left and my sister on my right. Judy Kehler is to the far left, next is Marilyn Barkman and beside her is Valerie Hiebert. I don’t know who is peeking out behind my brother. Behind my sister are Penny Peters and Betty Hildebrand.

My mother had decorated a table in the basement of the house for the party meal. We are wearing hats we probably made. From left to right Judy Kehler, me, Penny Peters, Val Hiebert and Betty Hildebrand. My Mom always went all out for our birthdays making them really special.

I have lots of good memories of those two years we lived in the house on the highway in Steinbach fifty years ago. I wonder who lives there now.

Other posts……..

My Old House Is So Beautiful

I Lived At the Hospital

My First Home

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What in the World Is a Woolsack?

This red wool seat which currently is part of an installation at the Winnipeg Art Gallery once played an important role in Canada’s parliamentary system.

For nearly seventy years when the opening ceremonies for Parliament took place in the Senate this oddly shaped large stuffed cushion called a woolsack was placed in the chamber’s centre aisle and the seven judges of Canada’s Supreme Court sat on it while the Governor General read the Speech From the Throne.

Photo taken in the British House of Lords in April of 2021 with the Speaker of the House Lord Fowler sitting on the woolsack. – Photo by Roger Harris from Creative Commons

The tradition had its roots in a similar practice in British parliamentary tradition that dates back to the 1300s. The sack was made of wool because wool was the backbone of the British economy at the time, and the Lord Chancellor and later the Speaker of the House of Lords sat on it in the centre of the House of Lords to illustrate political impartiality. It is still used in Britain today.

But in 1953 the year I was born, the Canadian Senate voted to replace the woolsack with conventional hard backed chairs for each of the Canadian Supreme Court justices and the woolsack was relegated to the senate archives.

So what is that very same woolsack doing at the Winnipeg Art Gallery? It is part of an art installation titled Witnesser by artists Lori Blondeau and Theo Sims. Witnesser was created for a brand new exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery called A Hard Birth or Kwaata-nihtaawakihk in Michif a Metis language. A Hard Birth refers to the birthing of the province of Manitoba in 1870.

With support from a Canadian senator The Honorable Patricia Bovey who was once the Director of the Winnipeg Art Gallery, the woolsack was taken from the archives in Ottawa and transported to Winnipeg to become a part of Witnesser an exhibit that speaks to the efforts of reconciliation in Canada.

Around the woolsack are grandfather rocks collected by Lori Blondeau. Grandfather rocks are based on the understanding that rocks are really animate beings with memories and stories to share with those who are able to hear Indigenous ancestral voices. In Witnesser those voices surround a historic symbol of the Canadian government.

On one wall of the exhibit you can see an artwork done by Theo Sims which shows the woolsack in use in Canada’s Parliament during a royal visit.

On Monday I had the distinct privilege of listening to Cathy Mattes and Sherry Farrel Racette the curators of A Hard BirthKwaata-nihtaawakihk  introduce Witnesser to the art gallery guides.

You won’t want to miss seeing it or the other interesting and thought provoking pieces in this exhibit which will be on view till September.

Other posts……..

Discovering a Grandfather Rock

My Grandsons Teach Me About National Reconciliation Day

Acknowledgements Are Important

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There’s Something About This Book

Have you heard of concert pianist Yuja Wang or musicologist Jada Watson? I hadn’t till I purchased an eye-catching new book called The ABCs of Women in Music.

The illustrator Haeon Grace Kang once served as the artist in residence at my church and her stunning portraits of each of the 26 female musicians featured in the book are so unique and appealing. The text was written by Anneli Loepp Thiessen.

I love the diversity of the women musicians whose stories are introduced.

There are musicians from different cultural and racial backgrounds who work with many different genres of music from country to jazz to classical and pop.

There are musicians from the past and musicians from the present. Some are composers, other singers, others play a variety of instruments and others are music producers.

My youngest granddaughter is only sixteen months old but she LOVES the pictures in this book. We don’t read all the text together yet. I just say the names of each woman and she looks carefully at their portraits. Something about the way they are illustrated so graphically and colourfully really captivates her attention.

My attention is drawn by learning interesting things about so many female musicians some I haven’t heard of before.

The book can be purchased right now from GIA Publications and on their website you can listen to music recordings by many of the musicians featured in the book. The book is also available for pre-order at McNally Robinson Booksellers and on Amazon.

I bought the copy I currently have for our church library but I have ordered two more- one for each of my granddaughters. I hope they will grow up to be women who love music as much as all the women featured in The ABC’s of Women in Music.

Other posts………

Musicians Photographed World Wide

Musical Instrument Museum

A Different Kind of Folk Festival

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