Many of my readers ask me about the T-4s, the group of four friends I belong to that gets together regularly for visiting, fun and support. The pandemic put a stop to our monthly meetings but in July we were able to see each other again after not being together in person since last September when the weather still allowed for outdoor visits that were safe.
At that time we celebrated my fall birthday and that of my friend Esther.
Now when we met we celebrated the spring birthdays of our other two members Glenys and Debbie on the outdoor patio at Prairie’s Edge in Kildonan Park.
It was so great to be together again. We had been told there was a two-hour limit on our table reservation but the understanding staff let us more than double that allotted time. I think they are witnesses to many friend reunions these days, people enjoying each others’ company after months of isolation and separation.
In recognition of our opportunity to be together again after such a long time, I had made little personalized memory photo albums for each of us with dozens of pictures of our past adventures.
I received a beautiful necklace as a gift in recognition of my first novel being published.
We already have an August get-together on our calendars.
Of course,during our time of physical separation, we have kept in touch via e-mail and texts, but that’s just not the same.
It was great for the T-4s to be together in person again.
It is still almost a month until my birthday, but my friends decided we would celebrate this past Saturday when we could still safely meet outdoors. And what a beautiful day we had! We were also celebrating my friend Esther’s birthday which is actually this week. My friend Glenys hosted us in her gorgeous backyard. It the loveliest of places lined with trees filled with songbirds and there’s a pond that has soothing running water. You can choose to relax in any of the multiple arrangements of comfy sitting areas and it was easy to social distance and still have an intimate conversation.
My friends had bought me such thoughtful presents. Esther gave me a beautiful pen. She said she wanted me to use it to sign copies of my novel when it is published this coming spring. I am turning 67 so my friend Debbie had given me an embroidered bag with seven individually wrapped gifts inside- all things from the Steinbach area where the members of our friend group taught together at Elmdale School at one time. There were lots of food items from local establishments, a copy of The Carillon the local paper I work for as a columnist and a package of chocolate chip cookies Debbie had baked herself. My friend Glenys had prepared a large bag filled with fall delights for both birthday girls. I received a tasteful autumn centrepiece for my table, some pumpkin cookies from a local bakery and a bag of flavoured coffee.
There was a beautiful cake decorated with fall leaves. Don’t you just love the way the tree on the yard is reflected in the table glass? The cake was an Earl Grey lemon flavour. Delightful!
My group of friends and I call ourselves the T-4s and when I don’t write about us for a while I get queries from my blog readers to do another story about one of our get-togethers. Last winter we couldn’t meet for a long time because of pandemic restrictions and that may happen again this coming winter. But if it does we will have a lovely September day of visiting and celebrating to remember until we are able to meet again.
We celebrated my friend Glenys’ birthday on Tuesday in the gazebo in her backyard. My friend Debbie had purchased a cake from Jeanne’s Bakery for the occasion. Glenys told us cakes from Jeanne’s Bakery had been a tradition for birthdays in her family since she was a child.
Turns out Glenys’ family isn’t the only one for whom Jeanne’s cakes were a tradition as I discovered when I listened to a podcast about the bakery. Jeanne’s cakes are iconic to Winnipeggers and there are hundreds of families who wouldn’t think of celebrating a special occasion without one of Jeanne’s cakes.
The bakery was founded by Flemish immigrants Achille and Jeanne Van Landeghem in 1938. It remained in their family for 80 years till the Van Landeghem’s grandson Donald sold the bakery to Jerry Penner in 2003 after Donald’s brother and business partner Alan died of a heart attack.
What Jerry realized after he bought Jeanne’s Bakery was that he hadn’t only bought a bakery he had bought a part of Winnipeg history. He said it really struck home when a woman came into the bakery needing a cake for her mother’s funeral. She had flown all the way from Vancouver to get the cake because her Mom had requested they serve Jeanne’s cake at her memorial service. The daughter told Jerry a cake from Jeanne’s was more than a cake- it was a memory.
Jerry has the recipe for Jeanne’s cakes in his safety deposit box and uses it to make the 1500-2000 cakes they bake and ice a week. Jeanne’s Cakes certainly have their critics. The podcast I listened to interviews Free Press food writer Alison Gillmor. The only thing she can find to praise about the cakes is the chocolate curls that cover their sides. But despite some negative reviews the cakes continue to have legions of fans.
Glenys’ daughter Meg made special strawberry cocktails so we could toast her mother at her birthday celebration
My friends and I hadn’t seen each other in person for more than five months because of the pandemic so we drank a toast to being together again and a toast to our friend’s birthday. We made some great memories eating Glenys’ birthday Jeanne’s cake.
A couple of years ago the group of women I have been getting together with regularly for the last decade explored the possibility of discontinuing the practice of giving one another gifts at Christmas. It was a very good thing to think about because all too often our homes and lives become so crowded with things there isn’t a whole lot of room, time and space for people and relationships.
Of course, as friends who have cared for and supported one another for years, we definitely knew what was important about our relationship wasn’t the gifts we gave each other but the time we spent together. We decided in the end to continue the tradition of giving each other presents and I have to say I love it. Not because I need more things. I certainly don’t. But because of the love and care my friends demonstrate as they select the gifts.
This year I got a beautiful handmade card from my friend Debbie along with a box full of all kinds of different Christmas treats she had baked herself, including mincemeat tarts with a star design in the crust. I can hardly wait to share them with my family.
Esther went to Ten Thousand Villages, a store that sells fair trade items. Your purchase benefits artisans in developing countries who are trying to support their families. Esther’s package for us included fair trade hot chocolate mix, some pungent and spicy cinnamon sticks to stir the hot chocolate and nuts from South America to nibble on as we did so.
My friend Glenys had done some research and found out just how many health benefits there are from having humidifiers in your home and so she had bought one for each of us. The small steamers were inside a lovely piece of glassware. The gift was good for us and good- looking all at the same time.
I had bought a book for each of my friends and spent a long time thinking about what would suit each of them. Unfortunately, I chose a book for one friend that she had already read twice. She accused me of knowing her reading tastes “too well” but happily traded books with one of the other women.
It is certainly true people can go overboard with gift-giving and often we do receive things we don’t want or can’t use. I don’t have to get gifts from my friends to know they are my friends, but I have to admit a gift chosen with care by someone with whom you have a meaningful relationship is awfully nice.
What’s happening with those T-4’s? I get asked that question sometimes by blog readers who have followed my adventures with a group of three friends. We have been meeting almost monthly for nearly a decade now and have visited art shows, gone mini-golfing, created art, read books, written poetry, gone to museums, walked labyrinths, solved mysteries and visited flea markets. We still get together regularly but in the last couple of years, we’ve found that just having an opportunity to talk and catch up on our lives is our top priority so our time together has been more low key and perhaps that’s why I haven’t written about us as often.
I think there are seasons in relationships and our group is in a season right now where various responsibilities and life events make it best to just find space and time to visit, share joys and concerns, and support one another.
The T-4s getting ready to share the complimentary piece of lemon meringue cake we received from the restaurant because we were celebrating my birthday
Our meeting on Saturday is a good example. We were at Pine Ridge Hollow. What a lovely venue and all decked out for Christmas! We were also celebrating my birthday because it had happened since our last meeting. I got such lovely thoughtful presents from the friends who know me oh so well. This card was made by my friend Debbie who highlights interests in my life in each square on its cover. The four women in one square are the four of us. Jane Fonda says that friendships with other women give us power, she calls them the ‘starch in our spine.’ She thinks those friendships are one of the reasons women live longer than men. I’ve read somewhere that women know instinctively how to nourish one another and just being together is restorative. I couldn’t agree more!
Friendships are constantly changing as are the ways we practice them. I am enjoying and appreciating this season in my friendship with three very special women.
In July of 2012 the group of friends and former colleagues I meet with on a regular basis enjoyed a lovely lunch at The Gates on Roblin on a beautiful sunny day.Last Saturday we were back there again. This time on a soft grey fall afternoon with rain and just a little bit of snow which made us feel all cozy and comfortable inside as we caught up on what has been happening in our lives. Our group has done many things together in between those two luncheons at The Gates. We’ve gone miniature golfing.
We’ve done the Art Wave tour in Gimli.
We’ve welcomed spring by the duck pond in Assiniboine Park.We’ve visited a pumpkin farm. We’ve found our way out of an Escape Room. We’ve had an English Tea Party. We’ve hit a hamburger stand after helping one of our group members move. We’ve lunched by the river. We’ve made Christmas centerpieces. We’ve worked on art projects. We’ve taken a course about chocolate.
We’ve done a jig saw puzzle. We’ve walked the Carol Shields labyrinth at Kings Park. We’ve celebrated birthdays.We’ve visited the traditional Mennonite village of Neubergthal. We’ve been to PineRidge Hollow. We’ve gone browsing at a Flea Market. We’ve written poetry. We’ve been to a tea room.
We’ve explored a sculpture garden.
We’ve made cards.
We’ve also been to movies and concerts and had a little mini book club. We’ve done crafts and gone sketching and we’ve done lots and lots of visiting. I am blessed to be part of this group of supportive friends.
Wouldn’t it be something if you could see a Van Gogh, Kandinsky, Monet, and Klimt painting all in one room? Well on Monday you could have, if you had peeked in on the T-4s the group of women I get together with regularly for fun and friendship.
Glenys works on Gustav Klimt’s Tree of Life
We met at my friend Glenys beautiful home to use the present she gave each of us for Christmas- an art kit called MasterKitz that would guide us through the making of a reproduction of a famous painting. Each kit came complete with a story about the artist’s life, a set of instructions and inspirations and every single thing you would need to complete your work of art.
Esther works on Van Gogh’s Starry Night.
Each of our pieces was very different and it was interesting to watch while some of us used oil pastels and others water colors or oil paints.
Debbie works on Monet’s Water Lilies.
Some of the paintings required rollers, other sponges, and some brushes.
I worked on Wassily Kandinsky’s Black Lines.
One painting had stickers to adorn the work while I put the finishing touches on my artwork with carbon paper and a pencil.
We started off the afternoon with a celebration of our friend Debbie’s birthday and of course the art project moved along every so much more smoothly with the wine, fruit, cheeses and sweets Glenys had provided.
We had a lovely time and we each went home with our masterpiece as well as enough supplies in our MasterKitz to create another one if we wanted to.
Due to my two months in Arizona I hadn’t seen the T-4s for quite some time so it was lovely to spend an afternoon catching up and being creative together.
Our first Christmas in our Winnipeg condo in 2011 three of my friends bought us a wreath to decorate our new home. I have continued to meet with those friends about once a month ever since and it has been a significant source of joy and support in my life. I actually made the list of questions I’ve been featuring on my December blog posts for our Christmas party this year. Christmas Question #5 is “What is a special gift you received for Christmas?”
This wreath would certainly have to be one of my special gifts. I hang it up every year at the beginning of December and it helps me get into the Christmas spirit and reminds me of three good friends who have walked the journey of the previous year with me. Here is our 2016 photo in front of the wreath.
I celebrated my birthday with three good friends who I meet with regularly. We call ourselves the T-4s. For our October party we were spending a crafty Saturday afternoon together. But……… we started with lunch. We each made our own little pizzas on naan bread.
Delicious!We had each brought projects to work on after lunch. Esther was using different pencil shadings to complete a picture in her English countryside colouring book, while Glenys was making plastic covers for take home reading books for her grade one classroom.
My friend Debbie was helping me make a Christmas stocking for my new grandson. I had bought a kit but would never have been able to put the stocking together without Debbie’s expertise and sewing skills. My friend Esther and I both have fall birthdays and Glenys had made us a beautiful cake to share. There were gifts for both of us too.
It was a perfect way to mark my birthday.
On Sunday Dave and I hosted sixteen people from our family for a turkey dinner and we celebrated Thanksgiving and both my birthday and my Dad’s birthday.
We jumped right in. This sculpture was so endearing my friends and I couldn’t help ourselves from getting into the spirit of things with The Gossips by Rose Aimee Belanger at the Gallery in the Park in Altona.
The Gossips by Rose Aimee Belanger
Ken Loewen has some amazing pieces in the park.
Heavy Metal by Ken Loewen
Totems by Ken Loewen
This piece of Ken’s was just too inviting not to get involved in it.
Missing by Ken Loewen
What is this young man reading? Let’s peek into his book and find out.
Jack’s Story Time by Gregory Johnson
Besides offering an opportunity to get involved in a physical way many of the sculptures at the Altona Gallery in the Park left us bemused, thoughtful or appreciative of the artist’s amazing skill.
Points of View by Morley Myers
The Wishbone by John Aducci
Au But by Alfred Boucher
The Plunge by Deb Zeller
Brandi by Curt Brill
Bear Cubs by Leo Mol
Buck and Doe by Peter Sawatsky
If you’ve never been to the Gallery in the Park it is certainly worth the drive to Altona. Although photos weren’t allowed inside the gallery there were many great works of art to appreciate there too. And of course a trip to Altona The Sunflower Capital of Manitoba wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the giant reproduction of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. Other posts……….