Wednesday, March 31, 2010

You should go at least once in your life ....

(Some photos from the archives!)

A few years ago my wonderful husband treated me to a birthday trip to New York. It was a very short visit for just 4 days, but we walked our little legs off trying to fit in a much as possible. I must add that New York in March can be a bitterly cold place - the sunshine cannot get down to the pavements due to all those tall buildings. (Far colder than many days I have experienced here in the great white north. It's the damp air you see!)

One of my favourite buildings during our visit was Grand Central Station. And though not purposefully arty but rather an accident of shutter speed, I rather like this capture of people in motion.

St Patrick's Cathedral off Fifth Avenue - commenced in 1858 and completed in 1878.
I love seeing blasts of old amongst the towers of the new, like hidden gems.

The Art Deco Rockerfeller Centre in Manhattan, finalised, I believe, in 1939.

And the view from the top - see St Patrick's again in the bottom left?

Ground Zero - as at 2006. I suspect it looks very different now.

Looking over Central Park - it really is a massive rectangle of nature in the midst of honking cars and smelly fumes (2.5 miles long and half a mile wide). For an urban park, I really liked the vibes, and I was surprised at how quiet it was (as in not much noise versus not many people). This picture is in March, so no lush greenery or trees unfortunately, but the outline is clear.

And the Lady herself, from a safe and breezy distance - the Statue of Liberty.

And Carnegie Hall - and (stolen from Wiki), I can tell you it was designed by William Burnet Tuthill and built by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie in 1891 - it is one of the most famous venues in the United States for classical music and popular music, renowned for its beauty, history and acoustics.

Like I said, everyone should try and go to New York at least once.

Monday, March 29, 2010

My World Tuesday

Hubby bought himself a new Garmin GPS thing the other day - under the guise of a(nother) necessary item for the paragliding cupboard. In order to earn it's keep in the family budget, we then used said GPS thingie and had our first attempt at geocaching.

Apparently, there are several hidden treasure sites within a mile or two of our house...

....... so off we set. Note the brown, bland colours in
My World this week.
C'mon green sprouting stuff, do your thing!
The dogs used due diligence and eager sniffing noses to hunt the treasure.
I spied a young lady in the bushes .... and although she might be my treasure,
she's not what we were looking for!
The dogs maintained their vigil - jumping into the last remaining snow beside the not-quite-so-frozen Bow River. Just a good excuse for more play time but they enjoyed the outing regardless.

We came away disappointed with no find on this occasion, despite the bleeping GPS and hubby's excited assurances that we were "right on top of it" - whatever "it" was. I suspect "it" was in the snow - and so we'll try again another day.

Have a great week. For more MyWorld Tuesday pictures from around the world, click here.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Dances with Humans - Hair Cuts

Smudge here again - just keeping you posted on my thrilling week.

Basically it consisted of one long hair cut.

The Reluctant Dog Owner likes to prune me. Yes, literally - she takes a pair of scissors to me and trims me. Over the course of several days. I am a canine rose bush.

Now I know I have a tendency to be a hairy chap - but at this time of the year, I rather like my long flowing locks.
A - I look shaggy and shaggable, and
B - it keeps a fella warm you know. One's nether regions don't need to be bald and chilly of a winter's day.

This is me sporting the winter fashion - a longer fur look. I quite like it.

That cold white stuff on the ground that keeps coming and going sets my paws on edge, and it does rather stick to my coat - but it's such fun to play and roll around in.

But I can tell when the Reluctant Dog Owner is about to get snipping. She sidles up to me, all sweet talking and tickles that lovely place just behind my right ear and I'm sold. All hers. I can't help myself - I lie down, and go into a dozy trance of ecstasy and that's when she launches with a pair of very sharp scissors. Or sometimes she sneaks into a cupboard when The Boss is not looking, and borrows his human electric buzzy trimming clippers. She does clean it afterwards (sort of).

Now, it must be said - that I have been sent to the official Dog Groomers' on two occasions. And both visits are burned into my memory.

The first time, well, the scalping that ensued, and the unforgivable laughter at my expense when I returned was one humiliation too many. The humans literally fell about with mirth. I have never felt so small in my life - nor looked it, in fact. They even had the audacity, as they sniggered through their fingers, to say I looked like a - god, it chokes me to say it - like a poodle. Oh, the shame. (Mind you, I did smell pretty gorgeous - that conditioner is fantastic).

The second visit was traumatic. I was staying with another family during a very hot summer - and they apparently had permission to take me for another hair cut. That groomer was brutal - not only did she manage to make me feel naked, but she actually nicked my balls with the razor! She drew blood. My tackle was attacked. Apparently "most dogs his age have had them removed". Hey Lady, next time check the equipment!

So not only did I look daft, but I was in great pain too. Another week of utter humiliation on my part because then I was trussed up in one of those ridiculous white cones things so I couldn't even lick my itchy bits! That bitch.

So now - the Reluctant Dog Owner has taken it upon herself to keep me ship shape and tidy. And I have to confess, I quite like it really. She doesn't scalp me (very often), I remain all intact and it's like having your own personal hairdresser on tour with you.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Frozen lasagne - garden update

Last August, while doing a little re-design of my back garden, I decided to put into action the principals of lasagne gardening, first mentioned here.

The idea is that if you don't want to dig up tons of lawn area, but want some new planting areas, you can layer up cardboard, newspaper, topsoil, mulch, etc directly on top of the grass - and over the course of a few months, this will all rot down and bingo - one new flowerbed.

So, underneath this swathe of bark, is a specific large semi-circle of lasagne'd grass.

The waiting has been killing me. I cannot help but sneak a peek.

Push back the bark and soil .....

Little prayer to the rotting garden gods ... newspaper and cardboard - please be gone, please have rotted away .....

Bugger - there it is, covered with a nice layer of frozen soil.

Scrape back a little more..... D'oh! Grass. Damn!

The proviso is that all this will occur in "normal" climate.

Alberta - hmmmm - mistake number one? A couple of sunny Spring-like days is not quite sufficient to set the composting fairies to work.

OK - so this lasagne needs to cook a bit longer methinks. Will check back again in May.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Signs of life ....

At long last ....

.... signs of life again

Cute fluffy catkins making a bid for freedom.

Yay - Spring really is coming - it's not just a cruel rumour!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Tons of Snow

Picture the scene - you are responsible for a car park in front of a shopping centre and cinema. Customers wish to park their vehicles and enjoy your facilities, but it has been constantly snowing outside and the place is like a giant and very special ice rink. What do you do?

Well, you hire some guy with a snow plough - and you tell him to move the snow and pile it all up to one side, out of the way. It's called snow removal - but "removal" is not really possible.

And the pile just keeps on a-growing.

I suspect this is going to take months to melt down and disappear!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

SkyWatch Friday - Moody

Heavy dark snow clouds coming in and remnants of a weak sun behind the last few fluffy clouds over the mountains.

Drive-by photos so not great quality, but hopefully you can gauge the distinctive mood blowing in. Brrrrr!

For more SkyWatch pictures from around the world, click here.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Dances With Humans - Part 1

... but they call me Smudge, and I am taking over this blog today. I am neat and dainty and I think my keyboard skills are not too bad, all paws considered.

This is me - a handsome fellow don't you agree? I am smart, cute, clean .... modest to a fault.

I live with four of those human upright creatures - they treat me well enough.

There is The Boss, a tall calm man who I have reluctantly allowed to think he is the alpha dog. It grates all the time, but what can you do? He has proven immune to my growling, my smiling, and my fantastic three-legged skills of peeing up a tree. But he is an enthusiastic and energetic companion for me and he takes me on some awesome walks. I think I'll keep him.

There is The Reluctant Dog Owner, a kindly female who seems forever surprised that she has canines in the house, but she sure is a sucker for tail wagging, paw waving and stick-your-tummy-in-the-air. I can get her to do almost anything I want. I have learned to ignore all the feline artefacts around my home - I don't think she sets out to hurt my feelings on purpose, but at the last count there were 6 cat ornaments on the shelves in the noisy-box room, and two blatant large cat pictures in the food room.

And then there are the two Small Creatures. I can't quite work them out them yet. They are alternately affectionate and aloof, and have a severe issue, nay aversion, to picking up my poo. Sometimes they agree to play with me and other times I am blatantly ignored, even when I bring them their slippers and their chewed up underwear.

And then there is The Daft One. She is the other dog in the house, but my god, she is soooo stooopid. She gives us woofers a bad name. Mind you, she is pretty cute, all blonde and fluffy like - but the elevator doesn't go all the way to the top, if you get my drift. I try and teach her the ways of being a smart canine, but I'm wasting my time. Really, I am.

So - that is the set up in my pad. I thought I might quite enjoy this whole blogging life too you know, so I'd like to bring you stories of what I get up to every now and again. I can sneak on this computer when The Reluctant Dog Owner isn't looking. She is on the damn thing so frequently that it may be hard to get in when she isn't looking, but I have been watching carefully and I know how to load photos, use paragraphs and use my paw to press that "Publish Post" button.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Scenic Sunday - Maturity

I have recently started to going for a walk at lunchtimes in an older neighbourhood just outside the Calgary downtown core.

There is a mix of mature homes and bungalows (maybe 30-50 years old?), interspersed with funky modern homes where the older homes have been replaced.

And whilst I wander along admiring or disapproving of architectural licence, the one thing that really stands out is the size of the trees. Recent builders and home owners have taken great care not to destroy or remove them. Perhaps they are adopted under the planning laws.

I live in a fairly new development - the oldest home is 13 years old. Gardens and parkways still have a long way to go to look established - trees are immature. There are many new trees with thin, stick-like trunks to hold them up - the biggest tree trunk found is about the size of my thigh (OK, not a good example as my thighs might be considered quite ample) - but you know what I mean. I'd sometimes like to fast-forward about 20 years to see how it would all look.

I love some of the trees and shrubs in these older neighbourhoods. They have real hedges! Dead posh.

Now admittedly, these are not really beautiful trees (mostly poplars and birches) compared to those humungous stunning redwoods, or weird tropical cultivars in other parts of the world, but if it's more than 25 feet high, I can get excited!

And this is an expensive area. A modest 2 bedroom, 1000sq ft bungalow will fetch CDN$600k. And although location, ie, proximity to the downtown area, C-train, etc play their part - the "feel" of the neighbourhood is also worth a lot.

Go have a wander around an unfamiliar neighbourhood near you - and have a super Scenic Sunday.

To see more Scenic Sunday pictures from around the world, click here

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Work is fun .... sometimes!

I had a great day in my new job the other day. A little background for you - I now work in admin in a college, and the school where I work teaches programs for EMT's and Paramedics.

Would I like to be a patient for a student scenario? Yeah, heck , why not!

So wear some old clothes - something where it doesn't matter if they get cut off you! O......Kay?! Cue digging out some old combats that hubby has most recently used for painting the house.

There were three of us doing the scenarios - one at a time, and with different briefs for our circumstances and injuries. The students would have no idea when they walked into the room that this patient would be a real-life human, instead of the mannequins that they were used to.

My scenario was that, while at a Fireman Benefit Concert, I had fallen off the stage and broken my leg. I was a little bit drunk.

Well, bring it on. Act drunk? No problemo! No requirements for Oscar-winning acting skills here, that's for sure. I'm there, with bells on, says I!

So I positioned myself on the floor, awaiting to be rescued by my knights in shining armour, my paramedics-in-training.

As soon as the door opened to "the concert hall" classroom, I started yelling and shouting - I was swearing and rude and castigated them for taking so bloody long to get there. My aim was to try and wind them up from the outset. I screamed if they touched me and was a somewhat awkward patient!

The results were mixed. One guy, I think, was wound up by my attitude, and my own feelings were that he had pre-judged me for being a bit drunk. The other guy was pretty calm (and oh so young, good grief!) and I pretended to babble incoherently and ask him a series of ridculous and unrelated questions which he took all in his stride and with good humour.

The object of the exercise was to prompt them to give me pain relief medication - something that Paramedics would or could do in real life. They weren't too forthcoming with the drugs to be honest! A learning exercise.

It's hard to be calm and polite and clear-headed in the face of provocation. I know this - I was a cop for 16 years. People under stress, under the influence of drugs or booze, or in pain can be unbelievably rude, emotional or get very personal with you. Quite unlike their normal selves (well, sometimes!). Many careers will demand this of you and I think it takes a special kind of person to do this well.

But I had a fun couple of hours - we got to smear make-up on my legs to look like bruising and blood. As an aside, my legs had been carefully shaved the night before, just like you would in real life of course - you know, perfectly shaved and moisturized for the day you get hit by that bus. (It's the same day that you would choose to wear expensive, matching and lilly-white underwear - not those washed out grey things from your drawer, those shapeless but comfortable, elastically challenged bits of triangular material that you laughingly call underwear.... anyway I digress)

I got paid to be rude, obnoxious and yell at people. Yay - my turn.

I remember some of my role plays when I did my training. They can be horrible put-you-on-the-spot moments where you are frantically dredging the contents of your brain for the relevant information. But they are a huge learning curve and totally essential for most styles of learning.

I had fun, and the students did too. And now we can look each other in the eye in the corridors, with an inpercetible nod of recognition, and I am safe in the knowledge that my legs were unfeasibly smooth that day.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Scenic Sunday - A modern twist

Two recent photos taken during the morning commute.

The first is a new C-train station in Calgary - a modern glass and steel structure which, while purely functional, offers a little forethought and style to the sometimes mindless boxy architecture in this city. Those not opting to use the train rush past in their cars, racing against the 4-carriage trains to see who can make it downtown first!

This second picture - God, I love the hues of that sky at dawn - is the funky glass canopied entrance to a new underground car park. Again - simple but stylish - there is no padding or fluff on the inside, bare steel on view, but a striking shape in a mixed landscape.

Enjoy your Sunday.

For more Scenic Sunday photos from around the world, click here.