Weekly Photo Challenge: Seasons

Winter is my least favorite season, but it is a long, cold reality in Canada. I find fresh snow beautiful when it covers the trees and landscape around me, but I still struggle to enjoy this season.

It is snowing again!

It is snowing again!

This winter I have made an effort to appreciate it by cross-country skiing and snow-shoeing. When I force myself out the door to go for a walk, a run or go skiing my mood immediately improves. However, when it doesn’t snow and the temperatures dip below zero I look out the window and see the dull, dirty snow in the yard I simply want to hibernate in my cabin and wait for spring. Golden Tips also likes lounging in the cabin rather than going out with his new scarf to enjoy the winter.

Tips wearing his new scarf.

Tips wearing his new scarf.

The positive news is that the deer are hanging out around our place and this is a sign that spring is just around the corner.

I spotted these deer yesterday.

I spotted these deer yesterday.

Another deer going for a stroll in the afternoon.

Another deer going for a stroll in the afternoon.

This is my take on the weekly photo challenge, and now Golden Tips is going out with me for a walk in the snow before it changes to rain – another sign that spring is on its way. 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Time

There is never enough time to do all the things that I set out to do some days. Yesterday was a prime example. I wanted to post something for the weekly photo challenge, but I didn’t find the time in my busy day of shoveling snow, grooming a cross-country ski trail, and skiing.

Today, I have time to share photos of how I used my time yesterday. During the night, we got a fresh snowfall of about 20 centimeters (8 inches). Here is a view of the snow in my driveway at 7 in the morning.

View from the veranda.

View from the veranda.

It took a little over an hour to clean off the vehicles, and clear the snow out of the driveway.

After the clean up.

After the clean up.

Fresh, clean snow.

Fresh, clean snow.

While I was shoveling  I asked my brother to use his snowmobile and sled to make a path for skiing on a road that is not used during the winter. All he had to do was ride to the end of the road, make a loop and come back through the woods. I figured this would take him about ten minutes, but save me a ton of time. (This is my new method to groom a cross-country ski trail.)

Previously, this winter I spent two or three days making a trail with my skis and very little time actually skiing. Why didn’t I think of this earlier? Anyhow, I started from my yard and broke a path to the start of the trail.

Where is the groomed trail?

Where is the groomed trail?

Fifteen minutes later, I reached the groomed section and I was able to enjoy the winter wonderland of rural Canada.

Finally, the groomed trail, straight ahead.

Finally, the groomed trail, straight ahead.

The route continues.

The route continues.

I love zooming down this little hill.

I love zooming down this little hill.

Turn around point.

Turn-around point.

Through the woods and eventually back to the starting pint.

Through the woods and eventually back to the starting point.

After two hours of cross-country skiing, I returned home  and used the rest of my time yesterday to recover.

Enough exercise for today!

Time to call it a day!

Now, it is time for me to go skiing!

 

Frozen Pants

I have too much free time on my hands again. The temperatures this week dipped to minus 20º C and this put a damper on my quest to find a chaga source. Most days my cross-country ski outings lasted about 60 to 90 minutes before I scrambled back to the cabin to get warm in front of the fire.

However, I heard an interesting interview on the CBC Radio program As It Happens on Friday evening with a man from Minnesota, USA who suggested Canadians suffering from winter boredom, could get involved in a fun activity called “frozen pants”. The man believes that Canada, with its frigid temperatures, should be a mecca for “frozen pants”.

Now, I am not sure that there is any point to this silly activity, but I have no pressing chores or anything else on the agenda this weekend, so why not take a stab at “frozen pants”.

It is easy – just take a pair of pants, soak them in water, put them outside, watch them freeze, and then put them on display for your neighbors to enjoy. Since it was too cold for me to go skiing this morning I sent my jeans skiing instead. Here they are enjoying the winter in Canada.

Frozen Pants out skiing.

Frozen Pants out skiing.

Frozen Pants

Frozen Pants

 

 

From the Cubicle to the Cabin

I packed up my cubicle in July and returned to Canada. Although I don’t miss my tiny cubicle I sometimes long for all the free time I had there. In my cubicle I often struggled to fill my day with tasks and activities whereas now I strive to find the time to do all the things I want to do. There is always something that needs to be done at my cabin and I find little time for blogging.

During the summer I finally completed the abandoned building that I started renovating in the  summer of 2014 to use as a mini-gym. I used pine boards for the walls and ceiling and then painted them with a clear veneer. I painted the floor with some leftover gray paint that someone gave me instead of putting down a new laminate floor as I originally planned. Then I put a fold-up tatami matt that I got in South Korea about fifteen years ago in the center of the room as a rug. Then I decided to transform it into a mini-yoga studio and a place to practice my hobbies instead of a room for my treadmill.

The building is a bit bare, but eventually I hope to furnish and decorate it. For starters, I restored an old table that I discovered abandoned in the woods last summer. It had several layers of paint and many rough spots. It took a few hours to remove the paint with a scraper, plain the top of the table and then sand it off as smooth as possible before staining it dark brown. Now, I am on the lookout for a chair to match my table.

In addition, I stained an old bookshelf to match the table. I am using it for ornaments. As soon as I find some cheap material or old curtains at a yard or rummage sale I will make some curtains. I stored the patio table and chairs along with my soap making equipment in the corner for now.

This brings me to my first batch of homemade soap. Let’s just say the end result is not very attractive – not exactly something to show off on your blog. Actually, the goal was to make some chemical free soap using natural ingredients, so even though it looks a bit rough it has a nice texture and it keeps my skin from drying out, especially in the winter months. Before I make my next batch I am going to make a wooden mold to place the silicon baking pans in so that the soap will be square instead of curved.

After my failed garden in Nizwa I was determined to have a successful one in Canada. Before I arrived Florian was in charge of preparing the soil, sowing the seeds and transplanting seedlings and protecting them from late frost. He did a fantastic job. The garden was ready and waiting for me to take care of it. The garden flourished thanks to the long, hot summer and we enjoyed fresh vegetables from the beginning of August through to mid-September. The cucumber, beans and tomatoes were abundant. We couldn’t eat them all, so I made pickled beans, relish, bread n’ butter pickles and salsa. Now, I am getting tired of eating this stuff.

I rearranged the garage and found a suitable place for the treadmill in a section of the garage that I use for storage. I only plan on using this machine when the weather is rainy, snowy or extremely cold, so it is not necessary to have a special building for it. Yet, I keep pondering the idea of converting part of the garage into a rec room.

The winter is in full force with plenty of snow for cross-country skiing. Santa Claus dropped off a new set of skis at my house and I am discovering new muscles aches as I venture out in the woods on my skis in search of chaga. So far I have come home empty-handed, but I have not given up on finding my own source and eventually I will stumble across or ski into a birch covered in chaga. I am also busy knitting a scarf for my cat with some left over yarn.

I will be back soon with a photo of my cat with his new scarf and hopefully some chaga.

Photo 101: Home and Street

Last fall I signed up for Photo 101 course at the Daily Post, but due to some unforeseen circumstances, I only completed the first two assignments on home and street. So, I am going to give it another shot. I have a Canon Power Shot A3100 IS which is a basic point-and-shot camera that I carry with me in my purse. Most of the time I only use the “auto” function on the camera, but for this photo course I am going to experiment with using some of the other functions.

For almost two years Nizwa, Oman has been my temporary home. When I go to the local shop to pick up the newspaper, the cashier greets me in a pleasant manner. Taxi drivers and restaurant workers are polite and friendly. My Omani colleagues and students are kind and helpful at work. In spite of this, it difficult to feel at home because I am a foreigner and my values, language and lifestyle are so different from the locals. For example, most ladies do not socialize outside the home. They tend to hang out with family and would never be caught socializing with a group of colleagues at the corner tea shop. I often find myself walking, drinking tea, shopping, or sight-seeing with male and female acquaintances from other countries. Although I know some Omanis at work I have not made any Omani friends during my stay in this country. The reality is that I am a foreigner and this place is not my home.

My home is in Canada where I live in a small village of less than a thousand people. There I am surrounded by family, friends and nature. I have five weeks left in my cubicle and then will return to my little log home in the woods for good. The photos below were taken this past winter.

Home2

This is my home.

This is my street.

This is my street.

Change can happen

Life in my cubicle is not exactly exciting of late, but I am quite happy about the positive changes happening in my homeland. A few short weeks ago the Progressive Conservatives with Jim Prentice as premier confidently called an early election with 70 of Alberta’s 87 seats in the provincial government. However, they didn’t realize that Albertans were fed up with ten years of incompetent government that put their party and their business partners’ interests ahead of the people. So, when New Democratic Party leader Rachel Notley stepped up to the plate and offered a viable option to a party that came to symbolize arrogance, corruption, cronyism and fiscal mismanagement the citizens sent Jim Prentice and his team to the curb.

Worst PM

If change can happen in Alberta, once a bastion of Conservative support, then it is safe to say that change can happen elsewhere. Soon change will sweep the entire nation in October 2015 when Canadians, tired of conservative propaganda, negative attacks on our values, corruption, government ineptitude and irresponsible fiscal management send Stephen Harper and his Conservative government into the history books.

End the Temporary Foreign Worker Program

Two or three decades ago many young Canadians gained valuable work experience thanks to part-time jobs that allowed them enough flexibility to study, work and pay college fees. I worked 12 – 15 hours a week at Burger King in order to help finance my education. The manager worked hard to accommodate students with different schedules and give all of us a chance to study and work. Students who wanted to earn  extra money worked late shifts, holidays, or weekends. There was no labor shortage then and there is none today.

END TFWPThe difference today is that teenagers, college and university students are no longer hired by fast food establishments because of corporate greed and easy access to modern slavery from third world countries. Canadian youth cannot be abused like TFWs (Temporary Foreign Workers); they stand up for their rights and demand respect and fairness from their employers. Consequently, restaurant owners prefer to hire TFWs who can easily be forced to work any shift, work long hours at minimum wage, live in substandard housing, and in some cases pay rent to the employer who provides accommodation in some crappy apartment building.

The Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) is not a labor shortage program. It is a wage, benefits, and human rights suppression program that serves the interests of business owners. In Canada, the unchecked expansion of this program has made it increasingly difficult for students, older workers, unemployed and seniors to find work. This slave labor program has severely flooded the labor market and is contributing to high unemployment rates amongst Canadians. It puts downward pressure on wages, erodes workplace benefits and contributes to resentment towards foreigners. Canadians are not lazy, but they are slowly being replaced by indentured slaves.

The TFWP is a form of corporate welfare that needs to be abolished; it undermines the Canadian economy and puts our futures at risk. In the end, taxpayers supporting the unemployed, marginal workers and youth pay for this business subsidy. It is time for the government to end the TFWP, so that Canadian workers can earn a decent and livable wage.

I urge everyone who cares about the future of Canadian workers to sign the petition to “End the Temporary Foreign Worker Program”.