Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year to One and All

Tanya and I wish all of you the best for 2010.  May you be safe and free from want. May your year be filled with the love and laughter of family and friends.  May you and yours enjoy health and happiness throughout the year.  May your hearts be filled with peace and and contentment.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Happy Faces in Ukraine

This year in Ukraine, with a population of about 46 million people, some 530,000 babies were born, a record number.  Obviously people believe in the future of this country.

I had noted the number of little babies in Zhovti Vody this year and thought maybe it was just  a local phenomonon but apparently it was all over Ukraine.  Baby carriages (do they still call them that?) are everywhere.  Good business to be in as most that I see are pretty fancy new rigs.  Kids stores are everywhere too.  Clothes and toys.

The economy shrank by 12% in 2009 yet people keep looking to the future.  I guess that is how Ukrainians have survived the last 1000 years or so.  It is "next year" country.

Speaking of which, the big grocery store was crowded today with folks buying for New Year's celebrations.  The line ups at the tills were several people deep.  Poor economy or not, there is money for holiday feasts.

Good Things Still Happen

Good News Network is a great newsletter that doesn't cost much to subscribe too and fills a void left by mainstream media.  I hope they pick up on this story from Russia.

On November 27th, terrorists derailed the Nevsky Express between Moscow and St Petersburg.  Twenty-six people were killed and over 90 injured as several cars went off the tracks at high speed.  An old grandmother who lived near the tracks had the front of her cottage destroyed by one of the derailed cars. She spent the night hauling all her blankets and spare clothing, other than what she wore to the people who were waiting to be rescued in the winter cold.

Today we watched on the news as she was presented, courtesy of the Russian state,  with a brand new cottage in gratitude for her help that night.  The cottage is lovely,  modern and completely furnished, including gas and running water which she had never had before.  Watching made one fell like tonight she is the "Grandmother of all Russians".  All the people they interviewed talked about how good she was to them that night and how glad they were that she was recognized for her selflessness.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Put on a Happy Face

I was using Google just now to find the Embassy of Kazakhstan in Kyiv as we need to go there on Tuesday morning to apply for a visa for me.  I found this Happy Face looking up at me so thought I would share it with you.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

"Christmas" Recipes

Yesterday we had roast turkey.  Tanya was nervous as it was her first time to cook one.  I did the honours of carving it.  It was a genuine organic farm raised free range turkey.  "Eight years old", lean, narrow and tough as shoe leather.  Should have cooked it in a slow oven.  Next time.  I even made gravy.  Very good gravy, I might add.  Which only I used.

Today was turkey soup day.  I threw the turkey bones in a stock pot, covered them with water, simmered them for three hours, picked the meat off the bones, threw the meat and the leftover gravy into the stock, added the usual salt, pepper, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, poultry seasoning (I have no idea what I am doing), threw in left over vegetables and coloured pasta somethings.  Decided it was too watery.  Threw in another bag of pasta somethings.  I now have pasta turkey stew; enough to feed the entire village according to Tanya.

The reason the left over gravy went in was that it is an unknown dish in this country.  Mashed potatoes with lots of butter and milk, yes, but gravy from any source is unheard of.  Tanya says it is too fatty.  This from a woman who on a good week can use a litre of cooking oil and who buys boneless, skinless chicken breasts, dips them in egg and flour and fries them in a quarter inch of sunflower oil.  I don't argue.

A favourite traditional Ukrainian/Russian dish, which I love and which everyone yesterday ate more of than turkey was liver kutletta.  This is the most delicious way to eat liver ever but preparation is NOT for the weak of stomach.

1 kg fresh (beef) liver
4 large onions
4 eggs,
1/3 cup of flour (2 heaping serving spoons)
2 dollops of sour cream or mayonnaise

Run the liver and onions through a meat grinder (a food processor would likely work), add the eggs, flour and sour cream.  Mix thoroughly, season to taste with salt and pepper.  (Note: you have NEVER seen anything as gross as this mixture unless you have lanced a large abscess on a cow).

Ladle about a quarter or half a cup at a time into a frying pan, the hotter the better, with enough oil so it won't stick.  It should make a thin "pancake".  Fry it fast and flip it so it is evenly cooked on both sides.

It is delicious, trust me on that.  Hot or even cold.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas, One and All

May all of you be "home" for Christmas, where ever that may be.  Enjoy the love of family and friends.  And above all travel safely if you are on the road.  
Merry Christmas from our house to yours.
Al and Tanya

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Old Church on Christmas Eve

The old church stood where two roads met.
As evening snowflakes fell,
I heard in the silence of cold winter twilight
The echo of the old church bell.

For many a Christmas come and gone,
Had a little choir sung.
For many a Christmas to 'Silent Night'
Had the old pine rafters rung.

Many years Pastors inspired their flocks
With words of the first Christmas day,
And the Spirit of Christmas filled many a heart
In a strange and wonderful way.

Now, God doesn't dwell in old wooden buildings;
He dwells in the hearts of men.
The peace in my heart on this Christmas Eve night
Came not from without but within.

But the old country church, unused and neglected,
Wasn't empty and silent this night.
I thought I heard singing; through the window I caught
The glimmer of Christmas tree lights.

Abandoned for years for more modern cathedrals
The church stood all dark in the chill,
Yet the spirits of those who worshiped and sang there,
Worshiped and sang there still.

The original version of this poem was written 39 years ago for a Grade 9 English Class.  I was working in Kingston, Ontario.  The family I was boarding with had a girl in Grade 9  whose boyfriend lived across the street.  I used to go to his hockey games and often took Kathy since I was "an adult and had a car".  They were assigned to write poems for their English class.  Roland brought his efforts to me to look at and I fixed it up for him and made it scan a bit better.  Of course, nothing would do but I had to write Kathy's entire poem.  There was an old church by a crossroads in northern Ontario where her brother and his family lived.  I had seen it on a visit to their home.  It served as inspiration.

Roland got 8.5/10 and Kathy got 9/10.  She was so happy she beat him.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Anniversary Waltz

Today, Tanya and I are married three years.  We've been together as a couple three and a half which was June 2006 when she agreed to marry me.  She won't tell me the exact date and I am in some trouble for not knowing it as she counts from then while I count from the wedding.  To her a wedding is "signing some documents", the commitment was made when I asked and she answered.

At any rate we celebrated by going into town for groceries.  Figured it was time.  The fridge was so empty, when we opened the door the vacuum sucked the cat in.  $150 worth of groceries later we are ready for Christmas with at least enough food for triple the number of attendees to dinner.  The turkey came out of the freezer today, too.

At 3:00 Andrei drove us to Krivii Rih (his second trip of the day) to buy Tanya her winter coat.  We had been in last week and nothing fit.  There are lots of Babushka's her size and shape but apparently they have either already attracted the money to buy a leather and fur coat or never will. The shops in the mall had many beautiful expensive fur coats to fit the tall leggy luscious blondes that are attracting new money but nothing for my gorgeous blonde that got a late start.  One shop had called to say that they had a couple of coats in that would fit her so back we went.
Of course she had to try on coasts and dresses in several other shops first.  The two coats did fit and then it was "chocolate or vanilla".  One was a street length black leather suede coat with fur trim around the hood and sleeves, the other was car-length black suede with a fur collar and trim.  She looked like a million in either one.  She finally settled for the longer coat and promised she would buy the short one for next winter.

I had to go to a bankomat to get cash.  When I brought it back, I said to Tanya, "Happy Anniversary, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Happy Valentines Day, Happy..."  The sales lady cracked up as she understood enough English to follow the conversation.

Then Tanya dragged me back to a dress shop where she had found a beautiful classy dress for about $250.  I said you can have it if they take MasterCard.  A safe bet, thank God, as they didn't.  Neither did the store where we bought the coat.  Cash only and no cash register.  This is 2010 and stores that sell clothing in the $250 to $2500 range don't have cash registers or bank card terminals.  And some guy commenting on an article in The Economist complained because they are referred to as "post-communist" countries after 20 years.

Tanya bought my Christmas present today too. Just down corridor from the coat store was a music store with not bad guitars for not bad prices.  Furthermore the store had electronic tuners for guys like me who cannot tune a guitar to save their soul. It has been 35 years. But I will practice.  My fingertips are so sore right now, but not bleeding yet so no complaints. 

Oh, the guitar shop had a credit card terminal.

Monday, December 21, 2009

An Icy World

It rained last night.  At 8:00 pm the temperature was about +2C.  By this morning it was back to normal and tonight it is -17C.  I was out to look after the dogs, take them warm water and make sure they had enough food.  Their yard looked like the pictures below.  The fields are still covered with snow, though the road ruts are solid ice.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Weather or Not

This morning the temperature was  -15C and tonight it is +1C and raining slightly.  The roads will be treacherous until they get salt and sand on them.  Snowstorms the past few days have stalled truck traffic across southern Ukraine.  Yesterday our big grocery supermarket was out of fresh vegetables and chicken.  Odessa stores were running out of bread according to the news.  This thaw and freezing rain won't help matters.

Andrei, Tanya and Masha came for supper tonight. Tanya and Masha built a snowman while Andrei shoveled the walks and driveway.  Bless his heart.  He is now having a sleep on the couch.  Masha is running wild, just glad to have space to move in.  Apartments are not much fun for little kids.

I let the dogs out of their yard to play at noon and of course, they had to get into trouble.  Zhenya's gate was open, they ran into his yard and were attacking the turkeys.  Didn't kill any but were biting at their feathers.  If I let them out at night, they go over to the neighbours behind us and play with her dogs, keeping an old woman next door awake.  The village has a dozen dogs running at large which don't attack chickens and turkeys, don't keep people awake at night (too often) and are generally well behaved.

Five more days until "Catholic" Christmas.  We are having the entire crew for dinner that day.  Roman, Lena, Lena's mom Luda, Andrei, Tanya, Masha, Tanya's mom Natasha and Tanya's grandmother Galina (Galya).  The wives are bringing salads and we are cooking the turkey.  Gift opening will be that day, too, rather than New Year's eve.  We will save the goose for New Year's day, Tanya says.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas Tree Decorations

Some folks decorate trees just to be beautiful.  Tanya has done our trees like that as we started with all new trees and ornaments.  Other trees are decorated with sentiment and tradition.  Last year I blogged about our family Christmas tree when we were kids.  Over the years, when my kids were growing up,  we collected many boxes of ornaments, some bought, some gifts, some hand made.  Our trees were beautiful because each ornament had meaning.

One ornament we got from Auntie Marj, was this wintery looking little house that played a tinkly Christmas carol when you pushed a button.  Now May-B hates tinkly tunes that go on and on.  So of course we took advantage of this over the years to drive her crazy. Once she almost destroyed her birthday cake trying to stop a candle holder from tinkling Happy Birthday.  We would hide this house decoration on the tree, wait till we could hear her coming then push the button and run.  She would tear into the tree looking for it.

As we all went our separate ways, dividing up the Christmas stuff was part of May-B's storage clutter reduction.  She sent some to Tanya and I.  I can go through our house and tell you which  ones.  She took pictures of some for me that she knew I would want.

Crocheted by Auntie Noreen?

 Gift for Grandparents

Not sure who made these.  Noreen?

More hand made ornaments from the kids

Ky's Wishes for the World School Project

This sleigh held our Christmas cards each year for many years

A tiny Nativity reminds us of "the Reason for the Season".

Tiny gifts from Great Aunts when the kids were very young
and Carolers from Mrs Y

Business card

I was looking thorugh some old folders today and ran into this business card.  I stole the idea about 25 odd years ago from a colleague who fitted the description to a T.  I pass it on to others.  Feel free to update, adapt, plagerize or steal.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Saskatchewan Morning

Winter with a vengeance.  Not -20 but -12 with a -30 windchill, snow and blowing snow.  Snowdrifts here and there, not big ones of course but true drifts.  Easier driving as snow packs into pot holes and the roads become smoother for a while again.

Man came to read the gas meter and the dogs didn't even come out of their house to see who it was invading their yard.  The cat meowed to go out, not really meaning it but knowing it was a must.  He was back in 15 minutes.

We spent all day in town running errands.  We went to several home supply stores looking for stuff to remodel our chimney.  Also went to a new plumbing, heating and electrical retail outlet.  I'm always interested to see what new things they have that I might recognize as familiar.  The one home supply store carried Canadian asphalt 25 year shingles.  That was great.  A new kitchen store carried several gadgets we had only seen in Canada before. 

At one home supply I found a glue gun.  Grabbed it quick. How many glue sticks did I want?  I dunno...25.  Turns out they weren't glue sticks but silicone sticks and a foot long to boot.  I will go back to morrow and see if they have glue sticks. Tanya had never seen one before but it took her about 5 seconds to figure all the things she could do with it.  We are going to Krivii Rih tomorrow if it warms up or even if the wind dies down and look for a winter coat for Tanya.  I am going to look for another glue gun and real glue sticks.

Water main broke on Maikovska street when we were going into town and water was roaring down the hill a couple of inches deep. We ducked down a side street to keep from icing up our wheels.  A month of -30 weather would literally destroy all the water and sewer works in this city. Most lines are buried three or four feet deep, not the obligatory 8 feet deep of Saskatchewan. City workers sure earn their pay in winter.

The news tonight says major snow storms in Odessa and Donetsk today.  900 cars stranded in Odessa.  Police are hauling gasoline to stranded cars and villagers are bunking stranded travelers in for the night or hauling tea to others who are sticking with their cars.

When we were kids, the highway ran past our place, built in the 1930's, with two bad cuts a quarter mile east and west of our farm.  We would get stranded motorists every winter that buried their cars in the drifts in those cuts.  Nice to know that this happens other places and that people respond to those in need.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Gas leaks and other winter hazards

Concrete and brick houses don't catch fire easily but they do blow up.  Yesterday we could smell gas in our kitchen.  Tanya immediately phoned the gas company and we set to work clearing out stuff so they could get at the tap and lines to the stove.  They are located behind our kitchen counters (don't ask).  We were being Watched Over from Above, as a call to the two guys who installed the cupboards brought them on the run in 10 minutes.  They were not due to go on shift at the plant where they work until later so were free to help us.  They had the counters out in a few minutes, just as the gas company arrived.

The tap was faulty and was replaced.  Volodya and Dymr put the counters back and headed for work.  All is well. Except today we have to go to the gas company and get a record book for them to record service calls.  We were supposed to have one but no one told us.

We are also extending our chimney today.  it is supposed to be above the ridge of the roof, though it seems to me it is far enough away that it should still draw. But it certainly needs new insulation.  Chimney pipe here does not come in insulated lengths for some reason, and insulation must be done after installation.  This I have to see.

Temps are supposed to go to -30C tonight so Tanya is out adding extra covers to her roses.  It is currently -12C with a strong wind.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sunday NIght

Computer is working better than ever.  Found an updated software package for my HP 5590 scanner that works like a dream.  Skype is working well for me from home for the first time.  Talked to two of my kids, no problems, third one connection problems.  Still better than 35 cents a minute.  Thirty years ago it cost that to call Rosetown from Regina, now we complain if it costs that to talk half way round the world.

Am working on a tight deadline to finish a business plan for a client on Vancouver Island. I subcontract from a friend who does the legwork and financials, while I do the internet searchs and the writing.  Dumb questions are referred to my friend who digs out smart answers.  This is about the fourth or fifth such collaborative work we have done.

Masha was here today for the afternoon.  She and Maxim played together while Tanya cooked up a storm.  Speaking of which, we have winter here now. Snow and -7.  Our furnace (hot water) is acting up again as it does every year when it gets cold.  The repair man was here and told us teh same thing as he told us last year.  We need a new chimney or something like that.  Anyhow, Tanya will handle it.  she is the pro general contractor.

Andrei needs the car tomorrow which is good because it is filthy and he always washes it.  Now that it is cold it will stay clean anyhow.

Time to get back to work.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Beauty and Muscle - at a Price

The Guy bought a shiny new black truck.  He may let May-B drive it when she gets older.  Or after HE puts the first dent or scratch in it.  I saw on MSN website the other day that of the Top 10 Gas guzzlers in North America, it ranks 9th. 



Christmas Decorations

Just a few pictures of the house.  We are getting into the festive season, though it doesn't really start here until Dec 31st. It snowed all last night and today.  Temp of -1 C means sloppy streets but lovely trees and fields.





Adobe Acrobat 9 STD would not download.  Adobe suggested I try another browser.  I installed Firefox.  Worked like a charm.  Adobe downloaded!  All 315 MB, though it too half the day.  I'm sold on Firefox and have installed it as my default browser.  I suppose someone told me to do that long ago and I didn't listen?

Now if only I can get my HP Scanner to work.  I found a new driver for it but likely need to reinstall something but will NOT touch anything.  Even with a System Restore Point.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Vindicated - Sort of

Volodya brought my computer back this morning.  He said that the problem was incompatibility between the HP Scanjet 5590 driver and Windows XP Service Pack 3.  I think that is what he said. I understood the English words. We asked Tanya to help but she didn't understand anything he said, Russian or English.  When it comes to computers Tanya makes my sister Evelyn seem like an IT Geek.  At any rate the scanner which worked before no longer works 100%.  I have to figure ways around the parts of the software that no longer work.

Why it worked before and not after the format and reload escapes us both.  Volodya went on line and found that all sorts of people were having the same problem and if he found a solution, we couldn't communicate well enough for him to tell me.

 He helped me put a bunch of programs on it, just to make sure everything stayed working.  And I left and will leave all the programs on it which I don't want just in case one of them is important.

They say when you find yourself in a hole you should first quit digging. Good idea.

Now if Adobe Acrobat 9.0 upgrade will just download for me all will be well.  That and the Office 2007 compatibility package for Office 2003.

The Saskatchewan Computer Virus

There was a gag email going the rounds a few years ago called the Saskatchewan virus.  "We are simple folk here, not able to do sophisticated programming so please forward this to all your friends and then format your hard drive".

My desktop computer came back Saturday morning and by Sunday night I had it so screwed up it would not function. The IT tech was here Monday afternoon and took the computer back with him.  Says he will bring it back today.

I'm going to buy a big Pit Bull.  My job will be to feed him.  His job will be to attack me if I ever go near the Registry again.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Bloomin' Idiots

Tanya planted these flowers in late Oct.  I should say transplanted.  Bought from someone at the market.  They bloomed in early November and have continued to bloom since, oblivious to the cold and damp.

Other cases of Bloomin' Idiots are less positive.  The nightclub fire at Perm, Russia in which about 120 people have died last count.  Only one door unlocked.  The pensioners in Lugansk Ukraine whose allotment of government coal was so dirty and gravelly that it will hardly burn and throws little heat.  Whoever got teh contract pocketed the difference in cost and likely split it with the person responsible for investigating the crime.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Please Wait While I Reload

Got my computer back by 11:00 this morning and have been loading and downloading ever since.  Starting over with older software meansre downloading all the updates, patches and Service Packs at painfully slow speeds. 

And of course there is always HewlettPackard.  Their hardware is excellent.  I bought an HP laser printer when I first started on my own in 1997 and it ground away at 8 pages per minute for 10 years.  I have a big 5590 Scanjet and a little photo scanner.  They work well IF you can get the software to install properly.  HP software has given me nothing but headaches.  First off, their internet registration and updating has NEVER worked on any software I ever installed as it "Cannot contact the internet.  Be sure you are connected".  I owned a 5550 scanjet and one of the program files was a *.tmp, which disappeared every time you did a computer clean up as it searches for tmp files to delete.  That took a while to figure out.  Then the 5590 software would not work properly on my desktop but would on my laptop.  The nice lady in Mumbai had no clues about that. 

The 5590 software was working fine on my desktop computer until I sent it for Dusting and Cleaning; now it won't reinstall properly.  From the CD or from the download.  GGGRRRRR!!! 

Took a couple of hours away from the desk to get the snow tires put on.  Remove wheels, remove and replace tires, balance, replace wheels.  Took an hour and cost $16, including Nitrogen gas in the tires.  I picked up Masha on the way home.  She was allowed to come visit without her mother today.  My Tanya remarked that "It will snow tomorrow".  Much gentler than "Hell must have frozen over".

Babushka and Masha decorated the upstairs tree.  In a few days I will post pictures of our decorations but "WE" are a long way from finished.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Back on Line Again - Briefly

My desktop computer is in the shop getting its hard drive reformatted and a few other minor things.  I took it in on Monday evening.  Tomorrow we are going to Dnipro so it will be Friday before I get it back.  I have my notebook computer hooked to my monitor and keyboard so it is a little like "home" but I don't have all the same programs and files on it.  I learned yesterday that Roman had rigged it up to use Tanya's KyivStar modem so we are "sharing".  I plug it into my computer unless she wants it. At least I can check emails.

The IT tech says he has to come home with the computer which tells me he has not got it all running again.  Especially the internet modem, which is what I was most worried about.  I think he is missing a driver for the Mobile as modem but will see on Friday.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Tanya Grows Up

These are a selection of pictures from Tanya's childhood to the time she first came to Canada in 2000 with the other top students from the 1999 CUBFD program.

Tanya at 1 Year.  Soooo cute!!

Tanya at 4 years, in Kindergarten which is what they call daycare/playschool.

Tanya at 11 years, 1969

Tanya at 12 years with her three room-mates and two friends.  She boarded at school from Grade four on.

Tanya at 14 (back row, left), camping in the Taiga at a hunter's cabin, summer holidays after Grade 8.

Tanya at 17 (2nd row, 4th from R), graduating from Grade 10, the end of highschool in Soviet times.

Tanya 1984 married, two children.

Tanya in Canada at a Chinese Restaurant 2000.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

DYI or Home Groan Computer Skills

My computer started acting up three of four days ago.  S.L.O.W.  Scrolling is  painful to say the least as the screen ripples through one click at a time rather than a nice even movement.  Drag a dialogue box across the screen and it leaves a ghostly trail.  Of course if I had a brain I would have immediately gone to system restore and solved the problem.  Instead I tried to fix it myself over the past three days which created more problems.

Our local IT tech told Tanya that she should not be afraid of her computer, it should be afraid of her.  Mine is afraid of me...VERY afraid.

I am seeking professional help. For both of us.

Masha in the Box

Masha and Tanya came for the afternoon.  So my Tanya dug out all the Christmas stuff in preparation for decorating next week.  Masha duly admired all the decorations. She decided the storage plastic tub was a good hiding place.  So she climbed in and I put the lid on it and carried her to another room.  She would hop out, bring the tub back and we'd do it over again.  Apparently putting her out on the balcony was a no-no.

In other news, Tanya went on a cooking spree yesterday and today. Ground liver and onions meat balls (I love them, sorry), Bliny with mushrroms and onions, smothered in butter, Roast pork and Plove.  She kept calling me downstairs every couple of hours to eat something new she had cooked.  Finally I begged off and kept the Plov for supper at 6:00 instead of 3:00 pm snack.

She also made some delicious soup from the juice of a very cheap beef roast.  She is my dollar bouillon baby!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Christmas is a'comin'

Last Sunday we went to the market and bought lovely large fat goose which we will roast for our holiday feast, likely New Years. 

That is THE big festive date in Ukraine with many families.  Instead of decorating for "Christmas|", people decorate for New Years.  Father Frost and Snow Princess are the Santa equivalents, parties are held, visits made and gifts are exchanged.  Orthodox Christmas Day tends to be a solemn religious occasion.  In a way that makes some sense.

Tanya is itching to get at decorating the house.  A couple of years ago you couldn't find much for decorations and now the stores are well stocked with items.  Tanya brought home a couple of small things a few days ago.  Yesterday we were in Dnipropetrovsk in the Dafi (the Dolphin) Mall at the Big Spoon supermarket, they had two aisles filled with Christmas/New Years decorations and she bought a few more, which she set out when we got home.  Next week will be full decoration mode, I expect.

Found a few more things in the Supermarket - winter windshield washer fluid.  No more vodka and water in the washer tank.  And Teriyaki Sauce, $8 for a 250 ml bottle.  We are going to make Teriyaki chicken kebabs.  May-B made them for us when we were there so Tanya wants to try it herself.  Tabasco sauce, 350 ml bottle for about $35.  And real Heinz ketchup and salsa which I didn't price out.

We'll be back to the big city next week again and more Christmas stuff.  I love how Tanya decorates the house.

Happy Thanksgiving, America

Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends, relatives and readers.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Transmission Troubles on my Keyboard?

Bought a new wireless keyboard and mouse today for about $40.  Considering my old one cost $200 a few years ago, I like this one better. It is a full size keyboard with number pad.  The reason I bought it is that it has the Cyrillic alphabet built right into the keys. I used stick on ones on the other keyboard and the lettering wears off in no time.  Of course, like any new keyboard and mouse it will take a while to get used to it.  The left SHIFT key is half the size of one on the other keyboard so I keep getting \i or \d or whatever letter \i am  trying to capitalize.  I am having trouble shifting, so to speak.

The set up instructions came in 27 different languages.  Which tells you something about Europe.  No wonder Europeans speak 6 or 7 different languages.  Every 25 km you change countries. And languages.  Ukraine is the biggest country in Europe not counting Russia of course and it is the size of Saskatchewan.  Europeans have no concept of distance, like Russians and Canadians do.  "How far do you live from Moscow?" "Not far, only 10 hours by train".  Only a Russian could say that and only a Canadian understand it.

Monday, November 23, 2009

This one is for Demeur

This one is for Demeur who would rather be correct than right.

A man a hot air balloon realized he was lost. He lowered his altitude and spotted a woman in a boat on a lake below him.

"Excuse me, can you help me?” he shouted down to the woman. "I promised a friend I would meet her an hour ago, but I don’t know where I am.”

The woman consulted her portable GPS and replied: "You are at 31 degrees, 14.97 minutes north latitude and 100 degrees, 49.09 minutes west longitude at an elevation of 2,346 feet above sea level."

The man rolled his eyes and said, “You must be an Obama Democrat.”

"I am," the woman replied. "How did you know?"

"Well," answered the balloonist, "ask a simple question and you give me this left wing liberal gobbledy gook to show off your college education. I have no idea what to do with your information, and I'm still lost. Frankly, you've not been much help to me."

The woman smiled. "You must be a Republican," she said.

"I am," the man replied. "How did you know?"

"Well, you don't know where you are or where you are going,” the woman said. “You obviously have no qualifications for what you are doing and have risen to your current position because of a large quantity of hot air. You have made a promise you have no idea how to keep. You're in exactly the same position you were in before, but somehow it’s now my fault and you expect me to solve your problem and save your a$$.”

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Remembering the Farm: Cavell School 1953-1960 Grades 1-7

My father and I attended the same one room school Grades 1 to 8 in Cavell, the little village two miles north of the farm where I grew up.  My father, specializing in trouble and recess, fell out of a tree while collecting magpie eggs (on which there was a 5 cent bounty), breaking his arm and thus missed writing his grade 8 exams.  The teacher offered to give him his grade if he promised never to go to school again. Grades were never my problem.

My mother could not wait to send me to school as I was making her crazy at home.  However once I got to school and learned to read she never heard froom me again except at meal time.  One benefit of a multi-grade classroom is that you automatically learn what the older kids are learning.  By Grade 3, I was reading all the library books of the higher grades and couldn't wait for the new box of books to come from the school office each month.  With 8 grades to teach and all subjects, we were left to work on our own most of the time, which suited me anyhow.

Dad drove us by car or team and sleigh until I was old enough to handle our own horses. I was in about grade 4 and my brother Ross in Grade 2 when we started riding a pair of old horses to school.  In grade 6, we bought brand new CCM 3 speed bikes with our own hard earned money which we rode in summer.  We drove the old team and sleigh in winter. Two other families also came by horse. In winter we hung out in the barn sometimes as it was warm and and it was not inside the school.

Rules were different in those days.  Recesses and noon hours were unsupervised.  All the boys carried jack-knives.  When I was 10, I bought a genuine Stockman 3 blade knife that today would be over $100. We played "Stretch" quite a bit and no feet were stabbed.  If there were enough kids we played softball with teams and if not enough we played "Scrub", everyone supposedly getting a turn to bat of the noon hour.  The school had a high pitched roof and we played a game called "Anti-I-Over".in which two teams one on each side of the school would throw a soccer ball over the school and hope the other tean never caught it.  You couldn't cheat because you could hear it bounce.

Every school has its bullies and this one was no exception.  My grandfather fought on the School Board with their grandfather; their father and uncle made my father's life miserable and the two brothers made my life hell.  They were athletes and I was anything but, therefore easily beaten upon.  Although in a sports day event in Grade Three, I won a third prize in high jump, proving that at least young elephants can jump.

Of course we had a Christmas concert every year just before Christmas Holidays.  Early in Dec our fathers would show up and set up the stage against the windows while we crowded our desks to the other side of the room.  We practiced plays and drills and songs enough to more or less get them down pat. The year we did a Teddy Bear's Picnic marching drill and all our masks fell down so we couldn't see, the effect was far more entertaining than the teacher had hoped for.  Santa always came at the end of the concert and brought all the students bags of Christmas candy and oranges. The students drew names and exchanged gifts also.

Winters were cold in the school. There was a big coal and wood furnace in the basement but there were mornings the school was so cold we would all huddle around the big square register in the floor.  Once in a while a rubber eraser would get dropped down the register "accidentally" on top of the furnace and we would have to flee the room until the smoke died down. We all packed lunches (and somewhere is my black metal lunch box that I carried for 12 years, still in good condition).  In winter we would bring a jar of stew or soup or something and at recess we would put the jars in a boiler with a couple inches of water on the register and by noon they would be hot.  Thermos bottles had glass liners and were short lived so never used.

All rural schools in our area were closed in 1960 and we were bussed to a larger school.  Six rooms and twelve grades.  That is another story.

This cairn marks the spot where the school once stood

Classes of 1956.  That is me (Grade 3) far right seated and Ross (Grade 1) far left front row in love with Linda Watt also Grade 1. The following is a list of students in the picture.  There are 23 visible and two hidden students so obviously I am missing a couple of people.

Students I remember

Bleier - Georgina, Eileen, Leonard
Galbraith – Jack, Tom
Hingston – Allen, Ross
Huber – Fred
Kamer – Joe
Krause – Vince, Carol, Barbara
Thomas – Elton, Willie, Mike
Uland – Alma, Donna, Betty
Ward – Ralph, Elaine
Watt – Gary, Donald
Watt - Linda


Ed Bitz (Gr 1)
Arelene Jeffries (Gr 2)
Irene (Veit) Bleier (Gr3-5)
Hilda Ulrich (sub end Gr 5)
Mrs. Smith (Gr 6)
Mrs Barr (Gr 7)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Clean Bee and the Drone

E'er dark tonight, the house will be spotless.  Tanya went into clean mode yesterday and attacked the kitchen.  Our mouse infestation may have had something to do with it.  The kickboards came off and under the counters thoroughly cleaned and the mouse bait returned.  Nibbles on one package indicated some success.  All the drawers came out and contents cleaned and returned, sorted and organized.

Today Katya came to help finish the rest of the house, arriving about 9:00 and the two of them have been hard at it ever since.  Other than a bit of fetch and carry, cleaning the junk off my desk and making lunch for the ladies, I am uninvolved in the process.  Well, I did go to town for cash and to buy some bread and water.  The water has turned muddy again, indicating repairs somewhere down the line so we use bottled water for cooking and tea until it clears up again.

Last night, Tanya made compote.  She boiled up apricots and strawberries from the freezer and fresh apples in enough water to make a drinkable juice.  Nice red, needs sugar but otherwise very good.  Katya was working upstairs and it was warm so Tanya said to bring her a glass of compote.

We have this cheap Cherry liqueur, $1.50 per half litre.  Tastes like sweet Cherry Kool-Aid with 20% pure alcohol added.  Definitely "end of the party" stuff.  I poured Katya a tall glass of compote and added a generous dollop of this cherry hootch for good measure.  She drank half the glass, pronounced it excellent and then backed off when her face flushed red.  I had to explain to Tanya what I had done and was instructed "not to help" anymore.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

More Old Photos

Tanya dug out her box of old photos for me to scan.  Tanya wanted to send some to her old school mate (family name Bengert) now living in Germany.  Here are a few of them.

This is Tanya's Grandfather Franskeyvich.  He and his two brothers were all killed in The Great Patriotic War, Tanya's GRandfather at the Battle of Kursk.

Tanya, her Babuska Franskeyvich, sister Lyudmilla (Luda) and mother Maria (Masha) getting ready to work in the potato garden.  Notice the two girls cling to their grandmother. Their mother was a veterinarian and worked long hours while their grandmother was at home with the family.

This photo of Tanya's Aunt Natasha, Uncle Kolya (Nikolai) on the left and their oldest daughter Nadia, third from right, with their neighbours was taken about 40 years ago in the Taiga area far to the north of Krasnoyarsk.  Tanya's folks lived there too for the first five years of Tanya's life before moving back to Kolyegina village in Khakasia. The truck is to drive to the next village where there was an airport.  there were no roads only trails.

Four Brothers-in-Law.  This photo was taken in Kolyegina about 10 years earlier than the one above as that is Nadia sitting in the wagon between her Dad Kolya on the right and Tanya's Dad Pyotr, with the bandage.  Her dad had fallen on ice and split his head open, hence the bandage. The men are married to four of six sisters: Valya, Masha (Tanya's Mom), Anna and Natasha. 

...and then the fight began

Wife: Whenever I am down in the dumps I buy a new outfit.
Husband: I wondered where you got them.

This month has been a bit stressful for a number of reasons.  We have stayed close to home, conserving our cash.  The weather has been cool and damp; while it has not rained much it never warms up enough to dry things up either.  Fall is mouse season as they move indoors for the winter.  There was one in the drawer under the stove, which was the last straw.  It was mouse hunting time.

We stopped at the local garden shop and Tanya went in to buy mouse bait.  A five minute chore if ever there was one.  Thirty minutes later she comes out with a new house plant.  One she had never seen before so couldn't resist.  It is called Crossandra Fortuna and is just lovely.  I found these two pictures on Wikipedia and Flickr as it will be a while before ours is this big.

For $5, it is a pretty cheap pick-me-up for my wife. I promised to keep her in roses. House plants are even better.