Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Let me just say, I like kids. I may not HAVE kids of my own, but I do like spending time with them. And some of my fondest memories from our trips involve kids. In late 2004, we were fortunate enough to visit Cambodia and Vietnam, two countries that have experienced some truly horrible wars. Vietnam is well ahead of Cambodia in terms of recovery; indeed Cambodia is the poorest country I have ever visited thus far (and it's where my hubby managed to get typhoid fever due to a vaccine mix-up, and from where I brought home a stubborn amoeba christened "Amelia"! Because we are rich foreigners, we didn't die from these illnesses, unlike a lot of Cambodians.)

Yet despite such grinding poverty, the bloody history, disease and malnutrition, the kids still manage to be kids. They know how to make do without much, yet they still smile. They play. They're beautiful! This is one of my favourite trip photos ever, simply because it reminds me of a lovely day with some really special little people:

We visited a small Buddhist temple (wat) in Siem Reap (where Angor Wat is) where they run a school, among other things. As we toured around it, all of these little kids just attached themselves to me. The fought gently over who got to hold my hands. They didn't ask for a thing; they were just enjoying my walking around and laughing with the tall foreign chick (Camboians are not the tallest people on the planet.) I did take many digital photos of them, with permission, which would have gone on all day if we hadn't had to leave. We made a modest donation to the school as well. I just felt so fortunate to be in the presence of these wonderful kids.

All of the children on our travels seem to love seeing photos of themselves, even if it's just an image on the back of a digicam.

Hmmm, I somehow can't see something like this happening in Canada: stranger shows up at school and walks around holding hands with the kids. (Don't worry, there were plenty of monks and other adults at the wat. You can't walk in and snatch up a kid.) I was just enchanted by these little ones. And if you want to contrast childhood in our country to childhood in a poor neighbourhood in Cambodia, this says a lot:

This is a memorial stupa containing the skulls and bones of just a tiny fraction of the Cambodians murdered in the Killing Fields, and it's right on the grounds of the wat. The kids play around it every day without a second thought. Death has touched everyone in Cambodia, and they don't hide it away like they do in North America. I do think this is a much healthier attitude. Death is, after all, a part of life. It's just unfortunate that there have been so many senseless and unnatural deaths in the recent history of Cambodia. Old landmines still litter the countryside and blow off limbs with alarming regularity. I hope the future is much brighter for this magical country. They deserve peace and happiness and prosperity.

On another walk around the back roads of Siem Reap, we had another sweet encounter. Two giggling little girls spied us from the window of their modest home. They ran out, grabbed my hands, (poor Gordon, no such luck, although his beard regularly fascinates kids on our travels) kissed them, and ran back inside giggling. Okay, so maybe this wouldn't be street-safe behaviour in Toronto, but I just loved it. They were full of fun and innocence, those two little girls.

And here we have Phu Quoc (talk about a peaceful island paradise!) Vietnam, where we stopped to have some lemonade and ended up giving English lessons to a bunch of school kids and the older girl who ran the lemonade stand. They study English in school:

Again, they loved the digital camera. I printed out the photos when I got home and mailed them back, but who knows if they ever arrived? It was a real treat spending an hour with these children. They thought our sunglasses were very interesting and everyone took turns trying them on.

When I meet children like these, kids who don't have much yet still manage to smile and be playful kids, I think about North American children. Of course there are plenty of wonderful kids here, but there are also plenty of kids here who have everything they could ever want, and yet it's still not enough. Exactly the same can be said for Western adults. If there is one thing that travelling has really brought home to me, it is that things don't make people happy. Simple, I know, and one doesn't want to boil it all down to the "happy poor" stereotype. I'm not saying that living a grindingly-poor life in Phnom Penh is something to aspire to. We all need a certain amount of food and shelter, and you know, not having a war is always nice. But I do know that I hear a LOT of whining in Canada, and I see a lot of people feeling sorry for themselves because they can't buy this and they can't buy that, and God help them if they don't have the latest plasma TV, blah blah blah...

I think that, in our society, we have by and large lost touch with what's important in life, and it's a great shame. In countries like Cambodia, where whole families were wiped out in an instant, death has touched everyone, and so I think there is a greater appreciation for life. Whatever it is, getting outside North America and seeing how the rest of the world lives had been a real education for me, and it makes me realize how lucky I am to have what I have. It also makes me realize that I don't need a lot to be happy, and that the smaller the footprint I leave on this world, the better it will be for everyone. I'm nowhere near where I could be in that regard, but it's food for thought.

Saturday, February 24, 2007


I took this photo from a bus when we were in Ho Chi Minh City, aka Saigon, back in late 2004. Have you ever witnessed such an interesting array of wires (click on the photo to enlarge it)? Talk about an octopus! Things ya don't see in North America!

Vietnam is a beautiful country and we had a wonderful trip there, along with Cambodia. Thus ends today's entry.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

More time-wastin'

What would I do without Dephal? I get the best timewasters from her!

I needed a break from drawing teddy bear cholla cacti (they have painful spines, despite the cuddly name) and plus I figured I shouldn't eat my chocolate ricotta muffin over my artwork (my keyboard already has a good layer of crumb build-up under the keys!) So here we go...

1. YOUR GANGSTA NAME (First 3 letters of first name plus izzle)
Natizzle (Yeesh, that sounds like some gelato flavour!)

2. YOUR DETECTIVE NAME: (fav color and fav animal)
Green Dog

3. YOUR SOAP OPERA NAME: (middle name, and current street name)
Barbara Girouard

4. YOUR STAR WARS NAME: (the first 3 letters of your last name, first 2 letters of your first name, first 3 letters of mom's maiden name)
Rownasaw (oookay!)

5. YOUR SUPERHERO NAME: (2nd favorite color, favorite drink).
Fuschia Tea

6. YOUR WITNESS PROTECTION NAME: (mother's middle name)

7. YOUR GOTH NAME: (black, and the name of one your pets)
Black Kartini

Monday, February 19, 2007

Toast, anyone?

I believe I now own the world's cutest toaster:

My friend Audrey gave it to me for my birthday last month. We have been friends since we were 12. She said the toaster was "me", and she's right. :) Funny, people also think cat butt magnets and cat butt air fresheners are me! Not to mention "Crazy Cat Lady" figurines. Hmm.

Meanwhile, I continue to slog away at illustrations for a children's book about a rattlesnake in the Sonoran Desert. My deadline is in May, so I'll be fine (I hope). Here is the reason I never leave my drawings out of their portfolio when I'm not working on them:

Julius, aka Mr. Fluffy, loves to sit on my drawing pads. In this case he is enjoyed the cushy feel of quality drawing paper under his butt. Fortunately that page just has on it little sketches of snake heads, and coloured pencil experiments.

But then, the final indignity. "I'm so comfy, I'll wash my privates!":


He also loves to chew my pencils when I'm not looking!

If you're wondering what the deal is with my drawing table, it's my kitchen table. My work table is in storage while we search for a hobby farm to buy. Our current rental house is so tiny I didn't have room for my table, but the natural lighting in the kitchen is very good. The TV remote is there because I occasionally listen to the TV when I get bored with CBC radio or Radio Canada. My afternoon favourites are "Disasters of the Century" and "MayDay", which covers plane crashes. I'm always rootin' for the poor pilots, but the damn planes alway crash!!

Incidentally, Mr. Fluffy has not an ounce of fat on him, believe it or not. It's all fur. He wanted to go out into his kitty prison, I mean, palace this morning but I wouldn't let him because it's -30C and his tongue would stick to the metal bars!

Speaking of fat, or rather, the burning off of it, we cross-country skied 8 km yesterday at a local club. What a beautiful day to ski! I only fell on my butt once this time. I watched Gordon do a face-plant at the bottom of a hill on an intermediate trail, but he was fine.

We restocked every calorie we'd burned skiing off by having leftover (from Saturday's dinner guests) mille feuille strawberry cream cake when we got home. Yummy! Quebec sure does know how to do bakeries.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Places I've visited

Stole this from Dephal (I am always stealing things from Dephal.) I might add that the only part of China I've been to is Hong Kong, and it wasn't part of China at the time!

create your own visited countries map

And I need to get me to the middle of the US sometime:

create your own visited states map

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Cats 'n' Birds

Today, I bring you the blatant filler of CATS 'n' BIRDS!

Here is Julius stalking a hairy woodpecker. Luckily there is a pane of glass between him and the bird!

"MMmmmmmm! Tasty!"

And I bring to you evidence of yesterday's visit of the wild turkeys:

Zoë, looking unimpressed with me interrupting her nap:

Julius, looking unspeakably handsome, as always:

Now back to your regularly-scheduled internet viewing.

Monday, February 05, 2007

"Click of the mouse sends free veggies to food bank"

CBC had a story about this place last week. If you don't mind some free recipes in your inbox, why not sign up? You can unsubscribe at any time.

Here is the link to the CBC story:


Here's an email you can get from Peak of the Market, to forward to your friends:

Sign up for Peak of the Market's free recipe e-mails in February and Peak of the Market growers will donate 50 pounds of fresh vegetables to the Winnipeg Harvest Food Bank. Just visit www.PeakMarket.com and subscribe to free recipes on a daily to weekly basis. The only information asked for when subscribing to the recipe e-mails is your e-mail address and province or state or country. No information is shared with any third party and the service can be unsubscribed at any time.

Our goal is to get at least 10,000 people to sign up for our free recipe e-mails in February. Ten thousand people equals 500,000 pounds of fresh vegetables for the Food Bank. We think this food drive is truly a win / win. Peak of the Market gets more subscribers to our free recipe e-mails and the Food Bank gets food for those less fortunate.

Peak of the Market's free recipe e-mail service currently has over 31,000 subscribers in 77 countries and sends out more than 600,000 recipe e-mails every month. Fresh new recipes are available every day.

Winnipeg Harvest, founded in 1984, is a non-profit, community based organization that collects and shares food with more than 325 Food Banks and Soup Kitchens helping 39,000 people every month, almost half of those are children. Their ultimate goal is to eliminate the need for food banks. More information is available at www.WinnipegHarvest.org

Peak of the Market, founded in 1942, is a not for profit grower owned vegetable co-operative and strongly believes in giving back to the community through our charity work. For information on Peak of the Market, our Mission & Values and my CEO's Message please visit www.PeakMarket.com.

Please forward this e-mail to your friends and family. The more people who sign up for our free recipes, the more vegetables will go to the Food Banks. Just imagine how many people we could help if everyone forwarded this e-mail or talked about this on their Blog or Website.

E-mail and the internet has certainly changed the world we live in. This is a chance for people around the world to use the internet to help so many people less fortunate than themselves.

Take care and please don't forget to eat your veggies!

Turkey lurkies

Well, the turkey bunch have now come for seed three days in a row. And yesterday they figured out that there was more seed in the dish than on the ground. Much easier pickin's! I have a few feeder stations, but this makeshift one on top of a tree stump is just the right height for the turkey lurkies. And I finally got out the telephoto lens yesterday. This pic was taken from my office window.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Look who's coming to dinner!

I looked out the window yesterday to check on Julius in his kitty prison, I mean, palace (and yes, some of the shelves need shovelling) and I saw this:

He was all excited because he saw THIS:

The turkeys are back, the turkeys are back!

Only four of them yesterday, but they were really close to the house because they were eating the fallen seed under my birdfeeders. The guy in the middle has burrs on his chest:

I think Julius was trying to figure out what these strange things were. Certainly they were the biggest birds he'd ever seen! Gobble gobble, baby.