Saturday, December 31, 2011

Books and Best of 2011

Wolf: The Lives of Jack London - James L. Haley
Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
Blindness - Jose Saramago
Shakespeare's Sonnets and Poems - Folger Shakespeare Library
Apologetics for the 21st Century - Dr. Louis Markos
Have A New Kid by Friday - Dr. Kevin Leman
Bread Givers - Anzia Yezierska

Cleopatra: A Life - Stacy Schiff
Room - Emma Donoghue
Restoring Beauty: The Good, The True and The Beautiful in the Writings of C.S. Lewis - Dr.Louis Markos
The Art of Racing in the Rain - Garth Stein
Uncle Tom's Cabin - Harriet Beecher Stowe
Our Horses in Egypt - Rosalind Belben
The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkein

The Testament - John Grisham
Moonwalking with Einstein - Joshua Foer
Crazy U - Andrew Ferguson
Decision Points - George Bush

I didn't keep track - I was moving

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
Running on Empty by Marshall Ulrich
Unnatural Selection by Mara Hvistendahl
The Churchills by Mary S. Lovell
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
Night by Elie Weisel
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis
What Was She Thinking [Notes on a Scandal] by Zoe Heller
Until Tuesday by Luis Montalvan
My Reading Life by Pat Conroy
The Fellowship of The Ring by J.R.R. Tolkein
The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction by Alan Jacobs
The Hours by Michael Cunningham

War and Peace (Book One) by Leo Tolstoy
Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones
A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter
The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival by John Vaillant
The Hare with the Amber Eyes by Edmund De Waal

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick de Witt
Blue Nights by Joan Didion
The Lost Hero and
The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan
The Night Circus by Erin Morganstern
The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkein


Anne of Green Gables
●Anne of Avonlea
●Anne of the Island
by Lucy Maud montgomery
The Cat's Table by Michael Ondaatje
Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie
11-22-63 by Stephen King
The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

That is 52 books in 2011. Respectable (considering the 3 months lost to an international move) and I don't think I could have fit another one in. Some were disappointments (but who cares about those). And then there were the great ones. The top five of 2011 ... and these will stick with me for a long time:

Blindness by Saramago
11-22-63 By King
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Clarke
The Night Circus by Morganstern
Catherine the Great by Massie

Except for Blindness, because it is just too disturbing, I would recommend these to anyone.

Goals for 2012 - and I know I always set goals that tend to be pie in the sky, but I am not the kind of person that is disappointed when I don't achieve them. I am proud to accomplish even a fraction of my reading goals. For example, I only read four of the classics that I had picked out for last year, but those were well worth it. And I finished Mrs. Dalloway! Which I never would have done without the goal to begin with. I am not the beat myself up kind of person ... just trying to get better and better.

But back to the goal ... its a big one. Are you ready?

One Shakespeare play per month. I know too little of the bard. Suggestions on where to begin?

Not Just Hiking - December 2011

Anne of Green Gables
Anne of Avonlea
Anne of the Island

by Lucy Maud montgomery
I read the first for book club and then just kept on reading. Like in my recent obsession with The Limberlost, I think I am drawn to the beauty and innocence of the writing and the characters. I am happy I have boys, but there are times I wish I had a daughter to share books like this with.

The Cat's Table by Michael Ondaatje
Called thrilling and deeply moving in a review that led me to this book. I found it neither. I found it plodding and boring. I finished it only because I had nothing else to read on the plane.

Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie
Leaps and bounds better than the other biography I read this year of a powerful woman leader. He even managed to make the Russian history compelling. I understand that there are many more sources for Catherine than for Cleopatra, but Massie made Catherine come alive while Schiff's portrait was two-dimensional.

11-22-63 by Stephen King
King scares me. Literally. I don't watch horror films and I don't read scary books. I prefer to sleep soundly in my bed while my active imagination and dreamworld is filled with pretty girls in Victorian gowns and magic and gardens. Seriously. I have never read King because he writes horror stories. But this was sitting there, un-checked out, on the library shelf. It called to me. I am so glad I answered the call. King can write. Page by page, I made my way through this novel alternately rushing through to keep the story going and going back and re-reading so as not to miss a thing. I loved this book! I'll put it second on my list of best books of 2011 (behind Saramago, but only by a hair). Should I read another? Which one won't give me nightmares?

Miracle on 34th Street
My all time Christmas favorite. When the boys question the validity of the mall Santa, I have always maintained that the MACY'S Santa is the real one, the others are just helpers.

Not sure how much I liked this season of t.v. by the end, but the eye-candy was entertaining while wrapping presents.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Just What I Needed

Many, many thanks to one of my favorite bloggers, Mrs. M-mv, for her post today. I needed a little whimsey in my life. The ides of not being "home" has started to weigh on me this year.

Mental multivitamin: Joyce Carol Oates... as a doll.

I laughed and smiled and then I purchased this ...

and this.

If I hadn't finished my shopping for the family, I would have purchased more. There are always birthdays!

Monday, December 5, 2011


I will wear shorts.

I will eat anything I want to.

I will stop taking my extra vitamin D.

I will laugh like a child.

I will hug my dad and tell him I love him.

I will find as many sprigs of mistletoe as I can and drag my husband under them.

I will not read a newspaper.

I will not worry that my kids are missing 5 days of school.

I will smile constantly.

I will cry tears of joy.

I will be thrilled.

I will be amazed.

I will be thankful that one man created a mouse that turned into an empire.

We are going to DisneyWorld!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Not Just Hiking - November 2011

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick de Witt
Finally. A book nominated for an award* that I thought was truly worth it. Original and offbeat. It is funny/strange in a modernized western noir sort of way. Yet it had a warmth and depth I haven't seen lately. It is WELL written. The characters were worth my time. Even the one-eyed horse was compelling. I picked it up and didn't put it down until it was finished and then I wanted to read more.
*shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize

Blue Nights by Joan Didion
There are those readers who don't like Didion and those who do. I am in the "do" group. I have always enjoyed her fiction and her family and her life. I loved The Year of Magical Thinking and liked this book even more. "Yet there is no day in her life on which I do not see her." How I understand this line. Too well.
See NY Review of Books article.

The Lost Hero and The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan
J wanted me to read these. This series is not as good as his Percy Jackson series, but I enjoyed the couple of days reading I spent on them. Not wasted.

The Night Circus by Erin Morganstern
This book was as visual an enjoyment for me as it was anything else. There are no pictures except those that you create as you read it; and it was beautiful and transcendent. Although about the only thing they have in common is a focus on magic, I was often reminded of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, another of my favorites from earlier this year.

The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkein
The second part of the The Lord of the Rings Trilogy was a much easier read for me, and I think it was because I was already invested in the story. Now I can't wait to begin and finish the third.

The Fellowship of The Ring
Really one of the few movies I have ever seen that can stand up to the scrutiny of and add to the reading of a book. I am very glad I took on the first part of Peter Jackson's trilogy after reading the first part of Tolkein's. I feel more prepared and I might even say excited to read on. (And I am glad I could fast forward through the scary parts - since I knew what would happen. I am a movie wimp. I just don't like ugly scenes.) I was brought to tears. BRAVO Mr. Jackson.

The Two Towers
While I loved the book this was based on, I did not enjoy this movie nearly as much as I did the first one in the (movie) trilogy. I have to admit that I watched this one on fast forward. While it was as well made as the first, I did not think it added as much to the reading of the book. I was troubled by the end of the movie which did not quite match the book.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Sunshine Village

I love to ski. No really. I LOVE to ski. I have been downhill skiing since I was about 5 years old. We spent every Christmas in Colorado for years and, many times, Spring Break as well. I married a man who also loves to ski. I will freely admit that the opportunity to really ski again was on of the reasons I said yes to this assignment.

So with a high temp of 22 degrees and flurries in the forecast we headed out to the slopes. Jealous? Wanna see where we went ...

Sunshine Village

Oh my, was it ever as good as I remember. Maybe even better because now my kids are able to ski with us. We don't do the same runs as we used to ... more green and easy blue slopes, but the weather was perfect and the snow was like "champagne powder." I loved it. And who wants to put money on the fact that the boys will be out-skiing us by the end of the season.

Want to see my kids?

My goal - 20 days on the slopes this season. Hey, it lasts until may 23rd.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

It Certainly Feels like the Holidays

It is cold here. Bitterly cold. -22° C and -7° F. To cold to even take off my flannel pjs. A good day to stay inside, watch college football (even if my choices are limited here in Calgary) and think about Christmas presents.

I've decided to participate in Chronicle Books 2nd Annual Happy Haul-idays Giveaway. They're giving one lucky blogger $500 worth of books (and one commenter on this post, if I win, will receive the same). Some books for myself to peruse on the next day like today. Some books for my nieces. A little something for everyone ...

First, for me:

This is me. A nomad. I would love to recreate the interior of that fabulous Thai hotel in my home in Texas one day. Or the colors of the Indian market. Never before has Nomad had such a wonderful connotation.

I almost purchased this yesterday. Plenty. I would cook from this. I would be inspired by this.

And perhaps I could learn a little of what the amazing photographers in these books know. If I read The New Photography Manual this winter, I can use the knowledge when I return to the world in the Spring.

Also on my wish list ...

Waves, because I only see mountains now - not that I am complaining.
God's Amateur, how could you resist this one?
Dante's Divine Comedy, so expensive, but if you are going to read this classic, why not read in style?

For J and M:

This would be a wonderful way to introduce my kids to one of my favorite operas,

and one of my favotire artists (little known fact, but Georgia O'Keefe was a Kappa Delta - AOT).

And then help them find their own creative way in the world.

For my husband, because he is always complaining the boys don't read enought COWBOY books:

For my Dad, the man who introduced me to the icon (but I would have to look at it before I gave it to him):

For my mom:

So she can have some peace while my dad is talking about Mr. Cash. (I think I'll get two of these ... one for my mother-in-lw as well.)

For my beautiful twin nieces (and because I never got to buy stuff like this for the boys):

I hope they let me play with them when I visit!

For my nephew, who is a hard nut for me to crack:

This (and the one on the Celtics) will be a slam dunk!

I have more money left to spend!! I am giddy. I guess if we are going to be inside all winter, we should at least eat well. I will round out my wish list with more cookbooks:

The Glorious Pasta of Italy
Quick and Easy Mexican Cooking

And I am done ... $498.53. Let's see someone try to get closer to $500 than that. And yes, I have a US mailing address.

Now for the charity. With cutbacks across the board in all areas, I can't think of a better charity for books than the public library system in the US. My choice for these books would be the Harris County Public Library system. That way, if the box with these books gets lost in our move home, I could still enjoy my choices. (It happened, by the way, we lost a box of books on the move up here - and M's cowboy hat!)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Barrier Lakes Lookout

This was the worst hike yet. And to see a view like this from the "worst hike" reminds me that I am lucky to live in a place so beautiful.

Barrier Lakes is not in either of my two guide books, but J had already done this hike with the scout troop and we wanted a hike not completely snow covered. This fit the bill and did not seem overly long. Up and down.

Except we went up ... 4.9 km or 3 miles. While at the top and feeling good, we decided not to come back down the same way, but complete the loop instead. Another 8.3 km or 5 miles. That made a total of 8 miles on a chilly and blustery day with the wind whipping through us on the last 3 miles at about 40 miles per hour. While it was nice going up and while we were in the trees, the last few km were miserable and I never want to do this hike again.

A consolation prize? well of course, the Rockies don't ever let you down.

This guy was one of a family of wood grouse who were almost tame.

Our totals:

Miles Hiked as a Family Since Arrival in Canada: 69
Miles Hiked by J with his Scout Troop: 9.5
Mile hiked by J: 79.5
Miles Hiked in the Snow: 5.4

Thursday, November 10, 2011

We Are Penn State

I'm not a Penn State grad, but my brother is. Next to Northwestern and Texas A&M, Penn State has long been one of my favorite college programs.

The board made the right decision, JoePa had to go. I am sorry that his career ended under these circumstances, but it was the right decision.

Mr. Paterno, those boys were the ages of my kids. They were helpless and defenseless against a sadistic madman. You should have done something more.

My God, Mr. Paterno. I do not understand how you could sit by and just let that man walk around your stadium. Did you have him over for dinner? Did he attend functions at your house? How could you speak to him? How could you look at yourself in the mirror?

The players did nothing wrong, so on Saturday I will still be wearing blue and white. Well, I'll actually be wearing purple and white, but I'll be cheering for Penn State.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Not Just Hiking - October 2011

War and Peace (Book One) by Leo Tolstoy
Oh, how I love this book. After reading Pat Conroy's small tome on reading, I was persuaded to pick this up again. I didn't realize how much I had missed Prince Andrei and Natasha and Count Bezuhov. And this time, I can take my time. The best way to read Tolstoy is slowly.

Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones
For book club. Early comments are on how disturbing this book is. I did not find it disturbing. I think the author tried to write a disturbing book ... and failed. It did make me want to re-read Great Expectations, but I have to get in line behind my 12 year old son. He has his hands on the Dickens classic. This was shortlisted for the Booker?

A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter
When stuck in a rut go back to those books that give you comfort. Like hanging out with an old friend. This is another character I didn't know I had missed until I stopped by for a visit. Also a perennial favorite of one of my favorite bloggers.

The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival by John Vaillant
Finally, a book club book I could sink my teeth into (pun intended). The first two choices were poorly written drivel (and they are both being made into movies?) This was well-written. The author managed to combine the story of this tiger with the history of the Tiger and the lager eco-history of this part of Russia. Great read.

The Hare with the Amber Eyes by Edmund De Waal
I enjoyed the first half of this book, but then it seemed to bog down in Vienna. I finished it, but I really skimmed the last half of the book. I was disappointed that there were no photos or illustrations of the netsuke.

The Perfect Game
Baseball, faith, family, redemption, love, underdogs. Everything I love in a movie. This was a great one.

Dolphin Tale
Oh what a great movie. I cried the entire time. I want to see it again.

Alpha and Omega
Just dumb.

The Fantastic Mr. Fox
My boys loved this.

The First Dog
Completely unrealistic, but a sweet story.

I admit it. I shamelessly love the movies by this Christian group. My favorite is Facing the Giants, but this one was great. I love that I can take my kids to a movie and NEVER worry about what they will see or hear. It is a shame the ratings agency gave this a PG-13 rating. It must be the cleanest PG-13 movie I have ever seen.

It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown

Monday, October 24, 2011

Rawson Lake

This hike was short on distance but long on adventure.

Here is where we hiked.

And yes that is me. This is one of the few times you will see a photo of me on the blog, but I was too cold to take more photos of the location so this will have to do.

When I woke up on Sunday morning it was raining. Rain in Calgary in October means snow in the mountains. But it was suppossed to clear up. It didn't by the time we arrived at the trailhead to begin the hike. Rawson Lake is Hike #(I'll get back to you) in WLH. It was an easy 8.8 km round trip. Or would have been an easy 8.8 km (5.4 mile) round trip if it weren't for the 4 inches of snow on the ground.

The first half was flat and the second half was a slow and steady incline. Beyond the lake, there was not much to see because of the low hanging snow clouds. Instead we were entertained? by the kamikaze birds. They must have been hungry because they would dive at us from the trees and try to grab the food right out of our hands.

I thought it would be a good idea to keep some running totals:

Miles Hiked as a Family Since Arrival in Canada: 61
Miles Hiked by J with his Scout Troop: 9.5
Mile hiked by J: 70.5
Miles Hiked in the Snow: 5.4

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Glacier National Park - Day Four

The morning of day four dawned beautiful. The park often has snow on the ground in September, but we were blessed with a glorious weekend. We had made tentative plans, but after a hike like Grinnell, you need to see how your feet feel before starting another endeavor. We were all a little tired, but they had opened up the Iceberg Lake trail. We had to go.

(Worth noting at this point that the trail had been closed due to bear activity in the area.)

Here is another thing you may not know about Glacier Park if you haven't been there. The restaurant at the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn will make you a hell of hiking lunch for only $8.00 if you order the night before.

The Iceberg Lake trail is a 9.8 mile roundtrip hike with 1200 feet of very steady elevation gain. Unlike Grinnell which goes straight up before leveling off, this trail takes its time gaining height. It was a great way to stretch our legs and get our feet worked back into those boots for a second straight day.

Halfway up, you pass Ptarmigan Falls.

The real treat of this hike comes not as much from the scenery you pass on the way up, but in the destination. Shaded most of the day by the towering mountains, this little lake never quite lets winter release its hold. Even at the end of the season, small icebergs float in this glacial lake.

I chose not to dip my feet in the water, but M did. I think he might have gone swimming if we had let him.

Our adventures did not end at the destination. Determined to make this a 10 mile round trip hike so J could count it toward his BSA Hiking merit badge, we planned on visiting the Ranger Station a quarter of a mile from the trailhead. Little did we know we would have something to report.

Almost to the bottom and a little tired and quiet after almost 18 miles in two days, we rounded a corner of the trail, looked into the beautiful berry patch hidden by some trees and came face to face with a Grizzly Bear. Thankfully Mr. Bear was more interested in the berries than the family. I don't have any photos, because one thing I was not going to do was return with my camera at the ready for a quick snapshot.

These animals are huge. They are deadly. They are scary. They are beautiful, but this is nothing to take lightly. Two hikers were killed in Yellowstone by Grizzlys this year. Thankfully we knew what to do. We got the heck out of Dodge. The people behind us were treated to the bear growling at them.

People, know what to do before you go. Hike in groups. Make noise. Take bear spray.

Glacier National Park - Day Three

This is our second year in a row visiting Glacier National Park. We did not expect to visit again so soon, but our recent move to Canada gave us an opportunity we did not think we would get (next years trip is already in the planning stages by the way).

This year, not plagued by a torn muscle, my husband was able to join us on one of Glacier's best know and iconic hikes. Day three was why we did not strain ourselves on days one and two. Day Three was reserved for the Grinnell Glacier ranger guided hike.

Just a quick advertisement ... if you ever go to Glacier plan your trip well in advance, make boat reservations and take this hike. Go with the guide. History, geography, flora and fauna. You won't even need to visit a ranger station. Everything you want to know can be packed into one day. There are other great hikes in the park, but this is Glacier Park in a nutshell.

The hike to the Grinnell Glacier overlook is a 3.8 mile one way hike with 1600 feet of elevation gain. For those less than fit hikers, the ranger guided hike is the way to go, especially since 2 miles each way are cut from the trip by crossing Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine in a boat. The ranger also takes numerous breaks along the way to educate his group on the rich and diverse geography of Glacier.

We didn't need the breaks, but took them to enjoy the views.

Grinnell Glacier - up close and personal

Glacier/Waterton National Peace Park - Days One and Two

I am very tardy in posting about our trip to Glacier National Park over Labor Day weekend, but as this is my favorite place in the entire world (and having traveled to 36 of the 50 states and at least 25 countries I can say that with some security) I can't just leave it to memory.

The first day of our trip turned out to be a little disappointing. I had expected such great things from the Northern brothers of Glacier National Park and from her majestic looking hotel, The Prince of Wales.

I was seriously underwhelmed by the hotel. While beautiful on the outside ...

the inside could stand a serious renovation. I am not expecting the Fairmont - although I love a good luxury hotel - but just someone to care enough to clean the windows and add some comfortable chairs to the lobby.

We did get in two black bear sightings and a little hiking. Maybe I would have liked this side of the park more if I had hiked more, but we were saving ourselves for two days of strenuous hiking to come.

Day two got better. We went to Target! and ate at the Buffalo Cafe. If you are ever in Whitefish, Montana eat here. The Blue Cheese burger comes close to perfection. Finally we entered Glacier and followed one of the iconic red busses over the Going to the Sun Road.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Not Just Hiking - September 2011

Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis
Lewis is a constant favorite. I am never disappointed.

What Was She Thinking [Notes on a Scandal] by Zoe Heller
I am not sure about this one. I didn't like either/any of the characters, and I didn't "enjoy" the book. But I couldn't wait to get back to it. And I learned a new word - incubus - which I think, upon reflection, is the perfect word to describe the older character.

Until Tuesday by Luis Montalvan
An impulse pick from the library. I love Golden Retrievers. Mine is better looking than his.

My Reading Life by Pat Conroy
I have never read Mr. Conroy's fiction. If it is as poetic and lyrical as his description of his life in books I might have to give his other works a try. But my mind is reeling and I am lost as to where to begin now. Dylan Thomas. Tolstoy. Mitchell. Marquez. I want to read everyone one of them - for the first time or again.

The Fellowship of The Ring by J.R.R. Tolkein
Oh how I wished I could like Mr. Tolkein's worlds and works as much as I love Mr. Lewis'. I feel like I should like them more. Maybe the movie version will help me?

The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction by Alan Jacobs
This bored me. I read the first half and skimmed the rest. Back to the library for this one.

The Hours by Michael Cunningham
Page by page my feelings for this book changed. I alternately liked it and then didn't. I figured out early on who everyone was, yet I was surprised by the end and surprisingly satisfied.

Das Rheingold - Wagner
Going 'upstream" from Lewis and Tolkein.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Johnston Canyon/Inkpots

Any other day this would have been - as advertised - an easy trip.

It should have been easy because the path was paved for 3.4 of the 7.3 total round trip miles of this hike. It should have been easy because the elevation gain was only 705 feet. It should have been easy because we were hiking with little to no gear, just lunch.

The hike is a one-pager in DWYT, page 457.

But I was recovering from a cold, J was recovering from a cold, my husband was recovering from an awful week at work and M was just being 8. And we got a late start and didn't arrive at the trail head until 10 AM.

It was a slog up the hill. There were a lot of people. As should be expected on a paved interpretive trail they were going at all different speeds. I don't mind calmly saying excuse me and passing the kindly older couple. I don't like racing up the hill because a group of three ladies is on some kind of speed trek. Pass me once and keep going ... if you stop and look and pass me and stop and look and pass me and stop and look and pass me I get a little annoyed.

I was grouch and wanted to take the annoying lady's trekking pole and hit her over the head with it. 24 hours later I can still hear her shrill and annoying voice in my head. I wanted to explain to the family with two dogs and an infant that the reason leashes are required is because some people don't like strange dogs getting in their way. I also don't like stepping in dog feces so pack it out!!!

I do have to admit that the canyon was a beauty:

The real treasure of the hike, however, were the inkpots. These are six greenish-blue pools of spring water. The color differes based on the rate the water bubbles into them. So tough to photograph, but so worth it in the end.

Friday, September 16, 2011

By The Numbers

One lost passport.
One plane.
Two kids.
Two dogs.
Four continents.
Four houses bought and sold.
Five maroon pickup trucks.
Twelve addresses.
Twelve moves.
Fourteen countries.

Sixteen years.

Heartache and unspeakable joy.
Friendships for a lifetime.
Countless adventures.

Thank you to my husband for making it all possible.
I love you.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Rare Occurrence

Has it ever happened to you? Have you ever read a book and been so full of the words and the writing and the story that you were afraid to pick up another book for fear of losing the power of the one you just read? It has not happened to me in a long time. It happened after War and Peace and Blindness, but those are truly exceptional works. It happened after Lolita as well, but that was 20 years ago in college.

So I have to say I am surprised that it happened after My Reading Life by Pat Conroy. Pat Conroy? I'm a huge fan the movie version The Great Santini which is based on his semi-autobiographical novel, but I have never actually read anything he has written. I like books about what inspired other readers and authors, so when I saw this little volume sitting on the library shelf, I picked it up.

And was mesmerized.

It ratified a theory of mine that great writing could sneak up on you, master of a thousand disguises: prodigal kinsmen, messenger boy, class clown, commander of artillery, altar boy, lace maker, exiled king, peacemaker, or moon goddess....From the beginning I've searched out those writers unafraid to stir up emotions, who entrust me with their darkest passions, their most indestructible yearnings, and their most soul-killing doubts. (p. 10)

Great books invited argument and disagreement, but ignorance did not even earn a place at the table when ideas were the subject of dispute....books existed to force people to examine every fact of their lives and beliefs. (p. 53)

I had stumbled into a store that would open up a hundred universities for my inspection. I had dropped out of nowhere and found myself at the gates of my own personal Magdalen College in Oxford. I could punt down the Cam through the hallowed grounds of Cambridge University, take notes on Balzac at the Sorbonne, rush to my morning class on Dante in Bologna or sprint toward an honors class in Harvard Yard. (p. 111)

When Dickey is writing at his best, it is like listening to God singing in cantos and fragments about the hard dreaming required for the creation of the world (personal note: immediately here was brought to mind the glorious story of Aslan singing the world to life). (p. 299)

And there is so much more. I could hardly take it all in.

Because I left mine in Texas in storage, I must immediately by another copy of War and Peace. I must rush and find a copy of Dickey's Poems and a volume of Dylan Thomas. But I can't even begin to read them today. First I have to let the music of Pat Conroy subside in my mind.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Laugh AT Your Kids

Sometimes you just have to laugh at your kids.

Even if the other moms in the room look at you like you are committing some form of mild child abuse. The kids are funny.

And they look funny when they fall on their butts on the ice on their first day of ice skating. They look even funnier covered in ice from falling over and over again. They look silly when they are sprawled out face first (with helmets, thank you very much) in the middle of the rink.

I am not a mean mother. I am actually quite nurturing. But this was hysterical.

And you want to know something? Because I was over there laughing with tears running down my face from the sheer joy of watching my kids fall over and over again ... they were laughing too. They weren't crawling over to the side asking me to quit. They weren't sitting on the ice crying - not from pain - but from frustration. They were laughing at themselves and getting up and trying again.

Ice skating is not something that comes naturally to two boys who grew up in Texas. We don't even have icy streets, much less rinks covered in ice. There are one or two indoor rinks, but we play baseball and football. We just don't ice skate, except on Christmas holidays.

That changed yesterday, J and M did skate. And they did it with conviction. They - quite literally - threw themselves into their lessons. They ended up beaten and bruised. But they were laughing the whole time.

I can't wait until next week.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.

Abraham Lincoln as quoted by George Bush in NYC

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Not Just Hiking - July/August 2011

I don't just hike and ride my bike. I also love to read and watch good movies. The "Not Just Hiking" posts will give you an idea where my mind is wandering while my body in in the Rocky Mountains.

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
My younger brother's recommendation. Great book. Different from what I usually read. Very British.

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
Book club choice.

Running on Empty by Marshall Ulrich
Just O.K. Would have put it down if I had had anything else to read.
Much, much better was Born to Run which I finished last year.

Unnatural Selection by Mara Hvistendahl
She could have put all this info in a magazine article that would have been just as informative. And a lot shorter.

The Churchills by Mary S. Lovell
A very readable introduction to the famous family. Now I'd like to tackle a political history of Winston Churchill. Any suggestions?

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
May be the best book I have read this year.

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
I quite enjoyed Clarissa Dalloway. "What she likes was simple life." It took me too long to get through the book, but I am so glad I did.

Night by Elie Weisel
How did I miss this in High School and College? Powerful.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Probably one of the best books about racism I have read. I was disturbed by the book. I was disturbed because to often I found my self saying, "I just don't understand why they were so upset." I would have been pleased if my grandmother could have had such a huge impact on science and medicine. Exactly, this wouldn't have happened to my grandmother.

Back to the Future
Fun with the boys.

Drive Through History
If only every teacher could make American History this interesting.

The Green Hornet
Not my choice. J's choice.

Homeward Bound
I love movies about dogs. M's choice.

Grizzly Man
On the recommendation of MMV. Not sure how I feel about this one. Timothy Treadwell was unstable and was in a place he didn't belong, but I am sorry because I believe that the bears he loved so much never even noticed he was gone.

Monday, August 29, 2011


I had a rotten day so I thought I would try channelling Dorothy.

Close eyes.

Click heels together.

Repeat, "There's no place like home, there's no place like home, there's no place like home."

Open eyes.


It didn't work.

Maybe it was the shoes.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Very Different Place

My boys are starting the new school year tomorrow. For the first time in 5 years we are in a new place with a new school. I like it.

I like that I don't know any of the teachers. I don't know which teachers go out and regularly get drunk at the bar. I don't know which teachers can add and which ones can't.

I also really like that the teachers don't know my kids. They did not talk to their teachers from last year so they don't know what someone else's preconceived notion is.

They will get to find out for themselves that J is smart in a "think outside of the box sort of way". They will get to find out for himself that he is a veritable encyclopedia of animal facts. They will get to discover that here is a child - and a boy even - who reads because he truly loves to.

They will soon understand the everyone loves M. I mean everyone. His genius is in finding a way to make people like him. They will find out that, because of this, he can also be incredibly lazy. Why should you do the work if you can smile and get someone else to do it for you?

I also really like that they have a natural foods chef on staff who makes all school lunches out of locally sourced organic food. SCORE! They were part of the "Food Revolution" before it became popular.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Rummel Lake

O.K. so we went on another awesome hike. We ate lunch at another beautiful lake. We did 6 miles yesterday and aren't even tired. Our new gear is awesome ... but who cares?

We saw a MOOSE!!!

Well, all right. The rest of the hike was worth posting about. Rummel Lake is hike number 18 in WLH. The guidebook was right in saying the trip is worthwhile and was, as promised, "a little-known, easy-to-reach, scenic destination that's likely to afford solitude." However, the guidebook was wrong, wrong, wrong about the distance. It was not 8.6 km (5.3 mi) as promised. It was much closer to 10 km (6 mi). Not a big difference; but, until we figured it out, we thought we were going very slow.

The view while hiking was pretty breath-taking. Are you tired of mountain vistas yet?

Or quiet lakeside views?

How about cascades?

I'm not either.

Lessons learned:

The Steripen works. C dropped and emptied a full bottle of water at lunch, so we just filled it up with fresh lake water, sterilized it and enjoyed. No one got sick. What this could do for Africa!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Where Does All the Money Go?

All the money goes here. This is the Mountain Equipment Company store in Calgary (think REI on steroids). We visit at least once a week. So far, we have bought 3 backpacks, 2 cans of bear spray, a steripen water purifier, 6 Nalgene bottles, 9 maps, 2 guidebooks, 3 pairs of lightweight nylon pants, a first aid kit and 3 shirts. There could be more, but I just don't remember. Hiking itself is not expensive. Going to MEC is.

Do you want to know what they don't sell at MEC? A helmet big enough to fit C's head. I gues a 7 5/8 hat size is not that common in Calgary.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Elk Lakes

I was utterly exhausted. But at least now I know my limit. Nine miles.

Nine miles is the new limit for our family. We did 10.2 Saturday, and we are really tired. Still. J and M were troopers and made it with VERY little complaining, but !0.2 miles was one mile to far.

I have to say, however, that it was worth it.

This weekend we hiked Elk Lakes, hike number 26 in WLH. It was a 16.4 km (10.2 mi) easy round trip with 1068 feet in total elevation. The guidebook describes an "inauspicious start" through an old road in a viewless forest. I felt a little sorry for those that can't appreciate what I saw.

The viewless forest trail offered glimpses of distant mountains, flowing streams, and a mulitutde of wildflowers. We couldn't look up and out, so we looked down and around. Reminds me of the old saying, "You can't see the forest for the trees." For a flatlander who used to live in a swamp, the cool and quiet of the forest was beautiful.

The temperature when we left the car - 46 degrees.

Even better, for the first time since we have been in Canada, we hiked for miles and did not see a soul. There was nobody on the trail until just before we reached our destination.

Arriving at Upper Elk Lake, we sat at the edge of the blue-green water and the only sounds we could hear were the sounds we made ourselves and the sounds of the waterfall cascading into the lake on the other side.

Apologies for the photos. I left the big Nikon D90 in the car because it is SO heavy and I knew we were going farther than usual. I carried our pocket Canon with an almost dead battery instead. I could have taken hundreds of photos; but, because of the battery issue, all I really got was this view from our chosen lunch location:

That is Castelneau Glacier in the middle left of the picture. Even dry peanut-butter and jelly tastes good with a view like this.

And this from the beginning of the hike back to the trailhead:

Yes, we did cross that rock slide. Yes, I was very glad I had on hiking boots. They saved my ankles a number of times on this trip.

Lessons learned:

Elevation is elevation. I thought this would be easier because the trail gains 600 feet and then loses 400. Then you just have to regain the 400 before you get to go back down the 600. Having the elevation broken up is a little easier, but not significantly.

People are truly surprised to see M on the trail. He is a little small for his 8 years, so I assume they think he is younger than he is. His stride is shorter so he has to take more steps than the rest of us and his feet tire out faster, but he just goes. Maybe he didn't complain today because he knew NOONE was going to carry him to the car.

Good gear matters. J, M and I all got new packs this week. I love my new pack. The pack itself is about 3 pounds lighter and it fits. Correctly. It was so comfortable that it changed the way I hike. The weight was transferred to my hips instead of my shoulders and I was less fatigued than I would have been with my old pack. Still fatigued, but less so.

Take more water. We ran out at mile 9. Better than running out at mile 7, but still not good

On another note. A sorority sister of mine completed the Leadville 100 bike challenge yesterday in a little over 11 hours. Makes a 10 mile hike look a little weak. Congrats!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Another Texan?

For the first time in years I am excited about politics.

I liked both of the Bush Presidents. I worked for the first.

But I wasn't excited.

I like McCain just fine.

But even when I cast my vote for him, I didn't' think he could win.

I was lukewarm about Romney.

He hasn't even announced, and Rick Perry may have the Republican nomination in the bag.

And the General election?

What if he were to ask Marco Rubio to run with him?

And I am in Canada.

Do you think a "Rick Perry for President" yard sign would look out of place in the snow?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Plain of Six Glaciers

Weekends we hike.

O.K. We have only been here two weekends, but we have hiked both. So I feel very comfortable making that statement.

I could live here a long time if all we had to do was hike.

Our second hike in Canada may have been even more spectacular than the first, and the first one was pretty amazing.

For our second weekend WE chose Plain of Six Glaciers in Lake Louise. I have to say, the old me (the me from the years before I met C and had kids) would have been more interested in the the 4-star Chateau Lake Louise than a silly old hike.

The new me didn't even go in the Chateau. The new me just walked around the outside of the Chateau. The new me didn't even think about going in. I was too busy looking up. At this:

See the glacier in the middle of the photo. That is Lower Victoria Glacier and our destination. Plain of Six Glaciers, Hike 118 in DWYT was a 11.2 km (6.9 mi) roundtrip trail with 339 m (1112 ft) of elevation gain. With a bonus. Because once you drag yourself through the gray morning and wait for the sun to burn the chill out of the air, you can have lunch here:

We are planners right, so we brought lunch. But we wasted our food and threw it away when we got home. Instead we had homemade soup and bread at the Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse. Big think slices of homemade bread. And apple pie. The best apple pie in the world. I think elevation and fresh air make everything taste better. And we decided to go back. This year.

And on the way down, you can see the Chateau. But you aren't really looking at it. It pales in comparison to the world around it.

Lessons learned:

Go early. We passed three times as many people on the way down.

Dress in layers.

Carry bear spray. We didn't need it, but it felt nice to have.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Chester Lake

Let's take a hike.

As you can imagine, since both C and I tend to be a little left brained, that doesn't mean drive out and pick a spot and hike. It means, "Let's plan a hike for this weekend."

So WE planned. Chester Lake it would be, Hike 11 in WLH. It was billed as an easy hike of 9 km (5.6 mi) with 315 m (1030 ft) of elevation gain.

WE got the map. WE copied the info from the book. WE packed a lunch and jackets and a compass and a survival kit and we were ready to go.

We left early Saturday morning and after 2 hours of driving, including 25 miles of gravel roads, we arrived at our destination.

The parking lot at the trail head was huge, but there were only 8 cars there. A good sign considering the guide book said this was the most popular trail in K-County. So far so good. And there were pit toilets. Also good. Because I have an 11 yo boy and an 8 yo boy, and pit toilets are good for all types of humor.

So we hiked the trail. It was wonderful. I may not have called it easy, but then C and I did not take a 20 mile hike on our second date. And we are confirmed flatlanders. But, it was definitely doable. And it was the perfect introduction to hiking around Calgary.

And I am very sorry, but I was so busy looking at what was around me that I took absolutely no pictures on the way up. But when we arrived I managed to drag my camera out of the backpack for this:

And I did manage to take a few shots on the way back down. This is my favorite:

On the way down I also began to understand what the authors of WLH meant when they said this was the most popular hike in K-County. The trail was packed. We must have passed 25 groups who were heading up as we were heading down. I swear a tour bus stopped and let an entire load off at the bottom. The parking lot was full, !00 cars, at least. We learned a valuable lesson - go early.

What else did I learn:

A beautiful day in the Rockies may be better than a beautiful day anywhere else.

My camera lens is to heavy and bulky. I need a lighter one.

That rule about keeping your dog on a leash. Apparently, many Canadians think that is a suggestion.

Easy to the authors of our guide book probably means moderate anywhere else. If they say challenging, I will be expecting Everest.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Our First Guide(book)

You need a guide to go on a hike.

I know that not everyone needs a guide. There are those intrepid souls who take a map and a compass and head out into the wilderness to find their way.

There are even those who head off without a map. Lewis and Clark come to mind, but my admiration for them is another post entirely.

We, however, need a guide.

And we found a guide in this book (which will hereafter be known as WLH):

Kathy and Craig Copeland hike a lot. And they have a great website. Their second date was a 20 miler. Did I say they hike a lot? We want to hike a lot. Perfect combination. They have a number of other books as well; and, before we had gone a mile, I was also the proud owner of this book (known as DWYT):

And because I have a tendency to be a little left brain (do not laugh!), I also am now the owner of nine maps covering the length of the Canadian Rockies from the US border to Jasper National park.

Be prepared.

Did you know I was a scout leader for five years?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Canada is Beautiful

Truth be told, I don't know how nice the rest of the country is. I can tell you that this part of Canada, the part I live in, is spectacular.

O.K. Long ago I spent a summer in Quebec studying French. I know that the city is nice.

This is better. And I can't remember any French.

The reason for living here is what I see from the back porch.

Well, the real reason for living here is because "The Company" told us we had to move.

Second to that, the Rocky Mountains are our reason for moving to Calgary.

And if we don't take advantage of those mountains then we will have squandered three years of our lives.

So we might as well jump right in.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Welcome to Canada

I had a great day. I got to visit the office of the company that transported my car, the customs office (for the second time in a week), and the Calgary Police District Office after I was rear ended by an Aussie. And I thought the Canadians were the bad drivers. At least I was still driving the rental and not my still almost brand new Subaru.