Lucas & Grampa in the woodshop

 

Woodworking play begins for Lucas with one block, a hammer and a nail. At 14 months, Lucas is very interested in handling the tools Grampa uses.

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This led to lots of pretend play. Following Grampa’s example, Lucas focuses in on the end of a table leg needing repair.

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Continually building on previous experiences, we nailed, screwed and bolted many materials. (Below, styrofoam and wood planks are the materials of choice.) And always with real hammers, screwdrivers and ratchets. No plastic play ‘tools’.

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In the summer, Grampa Bri set up an outdoor woodworking area. Rest assured, all the tools are carefully and closely supervised. And the process of using tools for working and creating is always modelled and supported.

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What a satisfying moment for Lucas when he got to apply his woodworking skills and help Grampa with a real project…a ‘capstone’ project if you will… nailing fence cap into place!

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Lucas is gaining confidence as a junior carpenter!

 

Lucas & Grampa in the woodshop

Brian and Jo

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I’m lucky enough to live within a few blocks of my brother and sister-in-law, Brian and Jo. And, like me, they are also grandparents to two delightful little boys, Lucas (3) and Simon (1). You can imagine our family get-togethers with Zander (4), Lucas (3), Jax (2) and Simon (1)! And then add Jo, our family’s ‘early childhood education expert’ and Brian ‘the Pied Piper of Preschoolers’ — and you know these boys are in for some pretty awesome experiences, like this one: Grampa & Lucas in the woodshop.

Brian and Jo

‘There’s a certain Slant of light’

A poem by Emily Dickinson describes the stillness of a late afternoon walk in the riverbottom. (Photos by Emily Deimert)

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There’s a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons –
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes –
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Heavenly Hurt, it gives us –
We can find no scar,
But internal difference –
Where the Meanings, are –
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None may teach it – Any –
‘Tis the seal Despair –
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the Air –
When it comes, the Landscape listens –
Shadows – hold their breath –
When it goes, ’tis like the Distance
On the look of Death –
‘There’s a certain Slant of light’

A Woman of a Celebrated Age

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If you’re a woman of a ‘certain age’ like me, you may find yourself occasionally teetering on that precarious edge between fabulous and frumpy. But, take heart grand dames and watch this inspiring documentary (available on itunes) about legendary fashion icon, 93 year-old Iris Apfel. Says Ann Hornaday (Washington Post, 2015): “Iris serves as a spirited, often dazzling primer in how to fight the dying of the light and feel fabulous while doing it.”

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Magnolia Pictures

Even better are Iris’s own words:

“If you can’t be pretty, you have to learn to make yourself attractive. I found that all the pretty girls I went to high school with came to middle age as frumps, because they just got by with their pretty faces, so they never developed anything. They never learned how to be interesting.”

“It’s better to be happy than well-dressed.”

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from 40+ Style

“Fashion you can buy, but style you possess. The key to style is learning who you are, which takes years. There’s no how-to road map to style. It’s about self-expression and, above all, attitude.”

“When you’re somebody like myself, in order to get around and be attractive, you have to develop something, you have to learn something, you have to do something. So you become a bit more interesting.”

And interesting Iris has become! Particularly inspiring are her diverse interests including interior design, weaving, religious vestments, and of course — couture costume jewelry, of which she is said to own the largest collection in the United States.

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In 2011, Architectural Digest featured the Apfels’ uniquely styled apartment.

Of course, while Iris obviously teeters nowhere near ‘frumpy’ — she is certainly eccentric. At one point in the film, when they visit the storage warehouse —  if you didn’t know you were looking at an iconic ‘collection’ — you might think this was an episode of ‘Hoarders’!  You might also question Iris’s capacity for warmth and compassion if it weren’t for the sweet displays of tenderness toward Carl, her husband whose 100th birthday celebration is included in the film and who passed away in August 2015.

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I think my two favourite take-aways from this documentary are the value of original thinking and the challenge to always grow. But Iris says it best:

“When you don’t dress like everybody else, you don’t have to think like everybody else.”

“If you don’t learn constantly, you don’t grow and you will wither. Too many people wither on the vine. Sure, it gets a little harder as you get older, but new experiences and new challenges keep it fresh.”

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Words to live by as we begin a new year. If you’re taking on a new challenge in 2016, please leave me a comment!

 

 

 

A Woman of a Celebrated Age

New Year’s Eve & a first anniversary

 

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New Year’s Eve 2015

Today marks not only the end of 2015 but it was also 1 year ago today that Henry came to live with me from Windy City Canine Rescue. By the way, I was very impressed with this organization’s thorough adoption process, as well as their ‘trial period’ for cautious adopters like me. However, after less than 24 hrs I knew that Henry would be staying for good.

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New Year’s Eve 2014 – Henry’s a little nervous about his new home

In case you’re wondering, Henry is an unusual mix: border collie & shih tzu. I still don’t know the respective breeds of Henry’s mother and father, but either way you think about it (and I’d recommend not thinking about it too much) — it seems logistically daunting! But damn if that cross doesn’t make for an adorable little dog who, with those short shih tzu legs, is like the ‘forever puppy’. Even better — minimal shedding! Not that he didn’t come with at least one vice: chasing cars. This meant that wherever we went for the first month or so, even the off-leash park (we learned the hard way and thank goodness for the snow fence along Scenic Drive) – he had to stay on a lead.

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Winter 2014

Well, they say that it takes a village to raise a child, and you could almost say the same about a dog. Henry’s ‘village’ has come to include the wonderful folks at Pet City, a dog daycare with ample indoor and outdoor play space, flexible booking, and caring attendants who sometimes even throw in a free bath for ‘low-riders’ like Henry. Henry also has a ‘spa day’ every couple of months at Hair of the K9. This is an awesome pet grooming service where rather than being kennelled before and after their turns — the dogs here are free to roam the space and  play with their ‘spa mates’ (usually a group of 5 or 6). They even get play breaks in the back yard.

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One of the main reasons that I wanted to get a dog was for some extra motivation to get outside every day. Mission accomplished! (Also, you might notice — no more leash!) More than any exercise class or walking regimen — there’s nothing like a dog staring you down until you get off the couch and put on your runners….or rain gear…or snow boots. Having Henry has also meant much more exploring in the coulées and discovering new trails.

And when we’re not out on the trails, Henry is great company around the house.

Happy adoption anniversary Henry!

 

New Year’s Eve & a first anniversary

African Peanut Stew

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Last night, I tried one of Angela Liddon’s (oh she glows) delicious vegan recipes, a soup with sweet potatoes, chickpeas, and a fabulous satay base.

Start by sautéing 1 medium onion, 3 cloves garlic, 1 red pepper and 1 jalepeno (optional) in olive oil until onions are translucent. Add 1 diced red pepper, 1 sweet potato, and one 28 oz. can diced tomatoes with juice. Raise the heat to medium-high and simmer for another 5-10 min.

Whisk together 1/2 cup peanut butter (recipe calls for 1/3, but I prefer extra peanut butter!) and 1 cup vegetable broth. Add this sauce to the pot along with another 3 cups of vegetable broth, 2 tsp chili powder, and 1/4 tsp cayene (optional). Cover and simmer on medium-low for 30 minutes or until sweet potatoes are fork-tender.

Then, my favourite part:  add handfuls of baby spinach! There’s something about adding fresh spinach to things that just seems so healthy. Plus it adds color and texture. (I did eventually mix it in obviously.)

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Stir in 1 can chickpeas (drained and rinsed) and simmer until the spinach is wilted.

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Top with fresh cilantro and serve!

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Oh, ‘she glowed’ alright.

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African Peanut Stew

My ‘Famously’ Small Apartment

From 2010-2012, I owned a tiny (492 sq.ft) apartment in the historic Anderson Estates building just 1 block off Calgary’s ‘red mile’ (17th Ave SW). The exterior of this building had me at hello:

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And the common areas were more like a grand hotel than an apartment building, featuring Calgary’s oldest working birdcage elevator (not so fun when your arms are full of groceries, but still…) and an elegant marble staircase worn by more than a 100 years of footfalls.

However, on first seeing one of the two individual apartments for sale — I all but ruled it out because of its small size. But realtors know what they’re doing. After showing me an apartment on the ‘dark side’, we walked to the other end of the hall and looked at a corner suite.(Right 4th floor corner above.) And while we walked, the agent just happened to mention that the building was used from time to time as a set for music videos and and indie films. With 10 ft ceilings, huge windows, light streaming in from three sides, and my heart set on bumping into a film crew, perhaps in the elevator — #309 became my tiny T-shaped home.

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So, if you’ve already had a look at my latest project (Shotgun Renovation) you know how I love to buy something and then change things up, sometimes drastically. This small space was the exception in that I made only a couple little changes. For starters, I removed a 4 in. picture rail that cut the livingroom walls in half and made actual picture hanging and furniture arranging almost impossible. (For some, this is a controversial move, removing an original character element, but if it makes you feel better — I salvaged a piece, which my brother used as the base for a row of coat hooks in the narrow front hall.)

These two shots were pulled from the Anderson Estates photo gallery and show you how all the apartments were finished with that wood trim. (The adorable little  built-in cabinet has a pass-through underneath to the kitchen!)

So, here’s my finished take on the livingroom:

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Using soft greys and teals, I maintained a monochromatic color scheme throughout with filmy linen curtains from Ikea and a Crate & Barrel sectional which just barely fit in the birdcage elevator! The teal shag rug I had cut from a roll of carpet.

IMG_0088My other little change to the living-room was the addition of a floor-to-ceiling wall of cabinets. With a depth of only 14 in., this shelving added tons of needed storage without taking up too much precious floor space. The lower cabinet doors mimicked existing built-ins and  I painted the unit the same as the walls to help it look like it belonged! (Unfortunately, the TV is on in this photo. What can I say? I wish it wasn’t.)

The bathroom remained exactly as is because who would want to mess with that original clawfoot and retro tile? (Blue bath mat from Restoration Hardware.) I liked to refer to the bathroom’s upper level as ‘upstairs’!

This bedroom was one of the coziest I’ve had. Something about being perched up there on the corner of the 4th floor with views from two sides — made is seem quite ‘nesty’. Plus, my old ‘Begbie Bed'(see ‘Shotgun Renovation’ for the back story) was right at home in this 100-year-old bedroom.

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But while I was super happy in my cozy little apartment, none of this made the building particularly famous. That happened after I left, which is the biggest major bummer. Perhaps, if you’re a fan of FX, you’ve already figured it out? Here are a couple of clues provided by a Gus Grimly (hint) fan and instagrammer. The top shots show the building in its uncelebrated state (wood trim and all, haha), and the bottom shots as seen in the series!

You got it — it’s the FX hit,  Fargo, something NPR just described in their yearly round-up as a ‘marvel of modern television’. That’s right, I left 2 years too soon and missed my chance to bump into Colin Hanks (meh)…but the Coen brothers? Are you kidding me? Only time I’ve had a touch of seller’s remorse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My ‘Famously’ Small Apartment