Thursday: MIND IF I BRAG?

JoanI have the loveliest little sister. Two lovely little sisters, actually, darlings both, but today is the 50th birthday of the youngest one, our Joan.

I trolled her Facebook friends, inviting some (besides close friends, I messaged the ones whose names I recognized or who’d commented recently on her posts) to contribute to the list I was making: 50 Things We Love About Joan. 

Joan’s with her husband Gary right now, in Italy, where they’re celebrating their 20th anniversary. He’s spoiling her, but she’ll never be rotten — spoil her all you like, Gary!

Happy Birthday, Joanie! We sure do love you.

Here’s the list. I sent it last night before going to bed so she’d have it this morning, as Italy is eight hours ahead of us, and she saw it as soon as she woke up.

50 Things We Love About Joan

There are so many things about Joan that I love! I always wanted to be like Joan. I always thought she was so pretty and she was always nice to me even tho being her little cousin I’m sure I drove her nuts lol. I loved going to Yorkton with Joan and Auntie Grace. She would sing to the radio all the way there and then she would shop with me. Also she took me to my first concert – Trooper ! –Karla 

I love everything about Joan. –Cameron

I love being able to just pick up with her and visit, like it hasn’t been YEARS since we last saw each other. I love her giggle. And her ability to motivate me to push myself when we would work out together. And her love of cheese even though it kills her to eat it lol – Andrea Slugoski

Joan has always impressed me with her ability to draw and write. My first memory of Joan was in kindergarten. She drew fluffy grey kittens. It left an impression on this little girl. Even at such a young age Joan’s talent as a budding artist was evident. As we began to learn to write and the teacher asked us to write a short story. I was a total blank, terrified. But not Joan. She had a story whipped up in no time. Yes I admired my pretty smart cousin. Always fun to be around with a wide streak of “silly”. And as much fun and silliness that was had at recess, she poured all that same drive into her classes and grades at school. Donna and I visited Joan a few years ago at her home In Kelowna. I seen that same little girl who was now a blossoming artist. One of those incredible talents we rarely can say we know. She’s also this amazing mom who handles her daily struggles with simple acceptance and deep love. She’s open with us about her feelings of inadequacy and it makes us love her more. She doesn’t really realize how special she is.- Rhonda Johnson

It is hard to think of just one thing but here it goes…“One (or more than one) thing I love about Joan is her great sense of humour, what an amazing cook and hostess she is, how she just gets me and my small town ways and most importantly how beautifully she sings (especially “She Bangs”!). Inside joke but she’ll get it!-Kathryn Hilbig

For me, it’s her enthusiasm for life. I have only airbrushed with Joan and only have done it a few times, but she is so infectious . If Joan is there, you know it will be a fun day. I hope she has a beautiful birthday. Thanks for including me! Tell Joan I love her!!! –Tim Alan Scott

her smile, her honesty, her talent, her selflessness, her loving spirit…..-Paul Butvila

Hmmm. I am trying to think of a unique thing. Here are a few: 1. I love that she not only read “The Artist’s Way”, but she also tries to live it. 2. I love that her traditional restaurant outing when she comes to Saskatoon is breakfast with her kids at the Broadway Cafe. 3. I love that she loves the band City and Colour, too! 4. I love that she likes to make music. –Pat Verbeke

She has an admirable level of self-motivation. She’s humble. Incredibly generous. Goofy AF. The best kind. Empowers others. Talented. Whatever she wants to conquer, she will. –Danielle

I love her strength, artistry, sense of humour, resiliency, and she is SO darn cute!!! I love that she is from Saskatchewan like me, and that we both used to be fitness instructors… Her fitness competition video is one of my favourite memories! She was also THE best roommate when we went to Vegas a few years ago on a girls trip.. The number one thing about Joanie I love is her open-minded, unique creativity. She wrote me a song for my birthday a couple years ago and sang it while playing the guitar. No one has ever written a song for me and it was sweet, sensitive, funny, and really touched my heart! She is an amazing girl! AND!! She is a patient girl… Like I was videoing her while she was peeing when we were a bit drunk in Vegas and she let me! We had a good laugh about it! I really should find that video for the birthday party! Oh and that voice of hers! The voice of an angel, my husband Rob says, and he’s right. –Dawn Galloway Balic

 The things I love about Joan are: Her smile and cheerful personality, always warm and welcoming. She is an easygoing person and was a pleasure to work with. Her artistic talent. Joan was special and I was sad when they moved to BC. –Nettie McPeek

I Love Her Face
I Love How Humble she is… as she’s Sooooo Talented at Sooooo many things and will pretty much never admit it
I Love how Patient and Kind She is
I Love How she makes special coffee to order
I Love Her Dedication, Thoughtfulness and sacrifice for her Family
I Love the Loyalty and Love She Shows to Her Friends
I Love Her Gift of Hospitality which she has shown “The Swinnerton’s” on too many occasions to Count
I Love Her Passion for Health and Fitness and also how she cheers others on to their goals in those Areas. I Love and get a Kick out of how often she checks the weather if she has anything planned outside. I Love How Crazy she Is, How much Fun She Likes to Have and How Well she can “Bust a Move.” She is Amazingly Wonderful and Beautiful inside and Outand I am Blessed beyond measure that She’s one Of My oldest and dearest Friends –Colleen Swinnerton

I can think of many things I love about Joan and some or all of these will probably be repetitive by others so I will mention several. Joan is a loyal friend who loves to laugh and have fun. We have shared so many fun times and I think all of her friends would say the same! I love that she’s a bit of a risk-taker. When she went overseas backpacking to explore and see some of the world, it sounded like it was a fantastic life experience! (Wow, I wish I had the guts to do that.)She is very accommodating, welcoming and hospitable! One of the many examples is when Dave and I were planning a trip to Kelowna, I really wanted to introduce Dave to Joan and Gary. They were going to be in Sask at the time but she insisted we could stay at their place and gave me the house code, so we did spend 2 nights there. When we were there last year, we spent a night with them — always hospitable and so fun to be around! Joan is so incredibly talented, laidback and so humble. She’s a great listener and always offers sound, caring advice. (She reminds me of your mom-.such a gem) —Brenda Belcheff

Joan has always been an excellent athlete!!. She was an excellent pitcher for our ball team! She was always reliable! When she puts her mind to something and says something, you know she will do it. I think she was also a Canadian Aerobics champ (along with CeaAnna Kerr and Erica??) and was also an aerobics instructor for years. She’s also a good runner! When she’s passionate about something, she puts everything into it and is a phenomenal artist!! I think she will be famous with her art someday..WOW! Joan is still, and always will be, one of my dearest and most treasured friends! She loves life, driven, inspiring, talented, artistic, intelligent, caring, giving, wise, thoughtful, fun, and has so many great qualities! I have known her for about 45 years and I just love her! – Donna Tomyn?

Can I just say simple things like her generosity; her laugh; and how absolutely non-judgmental she is? And how absolutely easy she always is to talk to? Or do you want something really specific, like how when I was young I wanted to be like her so much that I betcha I spent a week pushing the tip of my nose up so I would have the same little bump on the end! –Cara 

She truly is amazing and an inspiration Isn’t it nifty? Joanie’s turning fifty!! I could give you 50 reasons that I love Joanie, but I’ll limit it to my top 5! Joan is an amazingly talented artist and yet she is so humble. She is a goof and has a funny snort and can easily laugh at herself . She is kind and her door is always open to family and friends. She is an inspiration to me to pursue my artistic passions. She is incredibly fit and inspires me to keep up my fitness too…I wonder if she perfects a forearm handstand by the time she is 50. Finally, she is such an amazing Momma bear and loves her kids fiercely…and her Leo and Piper…well maybe not so much at times! She truly is amazing and an inspiration.-Shelley Empey

I could name quite a few things I love about Joan but will give you the one I love best. That would be her true, never faltering friendship. I worked with Joan and from the moment we connected I could sense how genuine and kind she was. I always knew I could count on Joan no matter what. Oh, one more thing. She has a hell of a sense of humour too! Happy Birthday Joan! Love, Hugs and Best Wishes from Howard Fisher xox

1. Joan is the Gold medal Gary didn’t win in sport. 2. In one word ( Diamond) 3. A great sister in law. 4. A great friend. – Bobby McEwan

I haven’t known Joan for a lot of years but I have had great fun in the times we have shared. Your sis is one spunky, fun chick! She is so easy to hang with and we had a great time together in New York when we celebrated Colleen’s 50th. She blows me away with her gift of art, she is amazing! Such talent with her singing and guitar playing too! Well rounded girl, I admire her commitment to fitness also and to boot she is beautiful. She is kind and caring and such a good momma! I appreciate her hospitality, always sharing their home when friends come to visit. So as you can tell I think Joan is one pretty awesome woman and I’m happy to wish her a happy 50th! May this year be full of so much love and blessing. –Laurel Schultz

Gosh, where do I start? Her smile, she’s so easy to talk to, her style (love her entire wardrobe!), her talent, her modest confidence (I love how she can just pick up a guitar and sing yet be so humble with her gift), the fact that we share the same values when it comes to raising kids….What an amazing woman she is! –Lynn Dexter Bogert

The thing I love about Joan is that she is always so calm and relaxed and takes the best out of the world around her! She is quiet and calm and super strong.-Shauna Gardiner 

I love that Joan has continued to explore her creativity and share her talents. She is an example that if you are passionate about an activity , it should be explored and nurtured because you never know how deep your talent really runs. –Leanne 

There are so many things to love about Joan, her sense of humor, her fun-loving nature, her artistic flair, she’s just an enjoyable person to be around.-Wendy Sigmund

Fifty isn’t a long enough list for things I love about Joan. One big one is her artistic talent. It’s so amazing I can hardly believe it. She’s really good. –Dad

#1. Joan is generous. She has a heapin’ helpin’ of Grandpa Bensonitis!
#2. Who doesn’t love their baby sister? I can’t remember a time when she ever annoyed me, and she’s always been willing to lend a hand when needed. I trust that she will always be that helping hand, that willing ear, the shoulder to cry on. -Karen

Dear Joan,

When I trolled your Facebook friends to invite people to contribute to this list, I knew it would be difficult for them to come up with just one thing. As proud as I am of you, I’ve enjoyed reading these and none of them surprised me. You ARE a wonderful person! And I’m glad to learn that so many others see it too.

I was nine when you were born and you were a sweet cream puff right from the beginning. You’re the kind of sister everyone wishes they had. Aside from being smart and competent, so I never worry about you, you always make me feel loved and liked. I admire your decency and energy, your clowny nature, the respect and kindness with which you treat people, and your obvious love and care not only for Gary and your kids but for the rest of us in your family too. So many more things to love about you! Just plain everything!

We’re damn lucky to have you.
Welcome to the Old Crone Club, kiddo.





Wednesday: THE EASY LIFE


Because of its beautiful blue, I don’t throw this beat-up, stretched-out old sweater away but settle it over a stool in the porch instead.

At 6:30, with my morning coffee in hand, I begin reading Letters from Nokomis, a collection sent to relatives in Denmark by a pioneer mother in Saskatchewan around 1910.

She describes the heavy workload and the hardships she and her husband and children deal with every day on their homestead. They appreciate the beauty of the land, sky, and wildlife, but the winter is long and hard, the snow is deep, and their 16′ x 12′ house is so cold that water in the kettle freezes on the stove even though there is a fire burning in it all night.

For a while I sit out on the step, listening to and watching the birds, and think about how fortunate I am to have the time to be lazy. How would I have survived out here 100 years ago? I guess a person does what has to be done and that’s all there is to it, especially when there are children to take care of. Her children also worked (and played) hard. Add to that, missing their family and friends in the old country, probably never seeing them again. Not like today, when we can grin at a video of our little granddaughter splashing in her paddling pool, or have a face-to-face conversation with our cellphones.


The dandelion crop is in bloom but we’ve seen no bees taking advantage of it yet. Where are they? I saw only one, yesterday, looking for pollen in one of the pansies in a pot on the step. There should be swarms of them by now.

Again I broke my promise to myself not to transplant the bedding plants before the second weekend in June. It’s just that the flowers themselves seem to be begging to be put where their roots can start to spread. The weather was fine; the horrible cold wind to come can’t possibly really happen; I couldn’t help myself.

Almost the minute they’re out of their tiny greenhouse pots, they begin to bloom. The very next day a gazania opened up, to my delight. Now, just to find a place for the perennial rosemary. Scott has a huge vegetable garden area but he likes to plow it up so maybe perennial herbs aren’t welcome. I’m not digging more flowerbeds because I have enough trouble keeping the weeds out of what I already have. It means I don’t have room for all the flowers I love, but must settle for admiring them in other people’s yards.


Latest recipe added to my online collection:

You may be more speedy than me when it comes to preparations; it took more than an hour from start to finish, getting this into the oven. I’m always surprised by how long it takes to make a casserole, unless it’s Faye’s Oven Rice, which is much quicker to put together.


Bev’s blog has been updated:

She talks about the effect her mineral supplements have had on hot flashes and night sweats, on joint and muscle aches, and so on. She’d had samples ahead of the company’s launch, and when that was delayed, she ran out — which, though frustrating, forcefully demonstrated the difference between taking the supplement and not. I’m going to give them an honest try, myself, though they’re not inexpensive.


Looks like it’s going to be another sweltering day. Scott said he could hear the train this morning (it would be at least four miles away) and wondered if that means we can expect crappy weather. “Well, rain isn’t crappy,” he said, although the farmers are all out in their fields getting the crop in, or readying the soil, or both. Some somewhere must be burning stubble, as there is a slight smoky scent to the air.



They have vaccines for dogs, against ticks, and Duckie Doodle the Dumpling Dog will get his today.

We are plagued by wood ticks.

Last summer, the one day I didn’t apply lemongrass lotion to my skin, I was bitten and the area developed the bull’s-eye ring that we all think indicates infection with lyme disease.

When I went to the medical clinic in town, the doctor assured me that the ring doesn’t mean you have lyme disease. He insisted that the incidence of lyme disease in Saskatchewan is highly exaggerated because testing isn’t properly done; too many false positives, he said. He didn’t give me the antibiotic I’d gone there to get. I didn’t need it, he said, and it’s best not to take meds you don’t need, of course. I agreed and was relieved, although what he was telling me went against what everyone else was saying about tick bites and lyme disease.

Last night I listened to an interview on CBC Radio’s “The Current,” where an expert (presumably) said the first sign of lyme disease is a bull’s-eye ring around a tick bite, and you need to take an antibiotic for three weeks at least.

I’m not aware of having symptoms of lyme disease since the bite last year, although I did have an aching left arm, with occasional shooting pains, for a couple months this winter. Blaming the discomfort on an improper sleeping position, I changed the habit. The arm is finally back to normal, though its muscle occasionally reminds me that something I pick up is a tad heavy.

Today, Laura is dropping off seven jars of lemongrass lotion to get me through the next couple months. I apply it several times a day, and again before bed. Alas, I can’t reach everywhere, and got a tick bite on my back on Sunday afternoon. This morning it’s begun to itch. I’d forgotten how much those bites itch! Unfortunately it also means I’ll probably have to make another clinic appointment and maybe I’ll have to argue with a medical professional to get an antibiotic I don’t really want to take but am afraid not to.

Because honestly, who are you supposed to believe?



One of my favourite people on my favourite part of the driveway … the dappled shade.

Friday night I didn’t fall asleep before 3:30. The following night I slept well but found myself in a low mood Sunday morning. It’s unusual for me, unless I’m tired. But I’m not. Or am I? Maybe it takes more than one night to catch up on sleep nowadays. Still … bugger.


Bev needs to update her blog again; I see it’s been two years since I last nagged her into it. That business about time flying isn’t funny business, that’s for sure. Here’s the link: Way Back to Perfect Health.

A quick reminder: Bev was diagnosed with breast cancer and decided not to have surgery and chemo, but to research alternative methods of healing. A lot of her friends thought she was “signing her death warrant,” and some even begged her to follow her doctor’s advice, but Bev put her trust in her own beliefs.

I remember saying, “We all have to die sometime,” and her response: “Yes, but not right now.”

On her blog, she kept a record of her experience. I’ll leave the story for you to discover on your own, saying only this: she’s alive and well and cancer-free.

Bev’s been taking a mineral supplement she discovered this winter and has since noticed quite a few improvements in her general health, so we’ll get those posted on her blog. A lot of people live with aches and pains, hot flashes, poor sleep and minor irritations that we accept as natural when we reach middle age. Maybe something’s missing from our diets, even when we think we eat well?


Aunt Reta:

Emil and I drove to Margo on Saturday to see Karla, who was at Shirley’s with Gracie and little Max. He “doesn’t sleep,” Karla says, unless he’s snuggled up with her. (Paxton stayed up north with Dallas.) Karen popped in too, and Shirley’s neighbour Krissie walked over with her newborn who’s two days younger than Max.

Yesterday we went to Neil and Rose’s in hopes of catching Leanne home for the weekend, but she’d gone quadding up at “the shack” with Kurt and another couple. We sat with Neil and Rose out by their firepit all afternoon. Neil kept going into the house to check the hockey score (Switzerland was playing), and finally came out wearing headphones. A turkey vulture circled overhead several times and Neil says it does, most days; Rose says it’s waiting to make a meal out of him.

Emil gave Neil a hard time about not calling back all the times he left a message on his answering machine. He also extracted a promise that he can go stay with them from Friday to Sunday some weekend.

Wish you were here!


A wee red wagon makes it easy to move plants to chosen locations.

Every year, I swear not to put bedding plants into pots or the ground until after the second weekend in June.

Everyone else has theirs transplanted by the May long weekend usually, but for the past few springs we’ve had a fiendishly cold windstorm in that second week and my flowers have been badly beaten.

Still I can’t resist setting them out in the sunlight earlier and if I know me, they’ll end up potted sooner too.

Yesterday I loaded up Little Green’s trunk with fresh soil for my pots.


-find the watering can and rain half-barrel and hoses

-get into the brooder house for more pots

-wade through construction materials to reach horseshoe hoe and spade lined up along Quonset wall

-prune last year’s dead flowers out

-quackgrass quackgrass quackgrass

-dandelions dandelions dandelions


Dishes. Don’t wanna. Too nice out.




DSCF9555We don’t eat margarine.

Never mind what the heart gurus say.

Butter is food, margarine is practically plastic. I don’t even bake with it.

That said, we both have high cholesterol — on the high end of normal, that is. We also have lots of the “good” cholesterol, so our doctors don’t seem worried. The good cancels the bad, or something.

I recently had a physical with our lovely nurse practitioner and as always, blood was taken the next morning at the hospital lab. There’s been no phone call telling me there’s anything to worry about. I found out I’m three-quarters of an inch shorter than I used to be. I’d like to weigh less than the 126 pounds that showed on the scale, but that’s just an old habit of thinking. When I was 25 and weighed 115, I wanted to weigh 110. Where did I get that stupid number from? Ridiculous.

How about accepting myself as I am? Yes, I think so. I’m 5’4″ now, apparently, and not overweight, even if I do have some belly fat and don’t like the shape of my thighs (and never have). I’m well past aiming for magazine-cover perfection, never achieved, always unrealistic.

Now what was I going to say? Oh yes, that even though the medical people aren’t concerned about my cholesterol, I’m going to cut down on butter. Most mornings I butter my toasted homemade bread and it’s so delicious I never ever tire of it. Now the butter is being replaced by honey. It’s just not the same, so wish me luck sticking to the new habit.

I mentioned to Maggie that I’d pass on the recipe for Mosquito Yard Spray, so here it is:

1 big bottle of cheap blue mouthwash

3 cups of epsom salt

3 cheap, stale, 12-ounce beers

Mix till the salt’s dissolved. Spray anywhere you sit outside. Won’t harm plants. Mosquitoes will be gone about 80 days. 

I’ll believe that when I see it.

Also, I’ll have to armwrestle a certain someone in order to use three beer for my nefarious purpose!


Birdie: Did you notice on that Alec Baldwin podcast site that there is an interview with Burton Cummings? I listened to it last night.


1920x1080StephenFryCopyright2018_UseApprovedI’ve fallen into affection.

Yes; with Stephen Fry.

The man has always been charming and intelligent and now, with the discovery of his podcast , I find myself not only enthralled as usual but thrilled and impressed.

There are only six episodes in his Great Leap Years series, and I’ve listened to two so far — one each night after turning out the bedroom light.

And while I’m telling you about recent podcast discoveries, here’s another one: Alec Baldwin’s interview series; this morning I’m listening to the one with David Crosby. 





Cindy brought me an ivy on her last trip out to the lake. 

Woke this morning to the gentle tapping of rain on the roof, and how welcome it is! My “rain request” had to be made twice, but I’m taking credit for this lovely wetting.

Saw the first dandelions in our yard yesterday. We have had visits from colourful orange Baltimore orioles, bright yellow American goldfinches, and yellow-rumped warblers in the past week.

“Going to town for the mail and supplies was a holiday.” – Introduction, My Dear Maggie: Letters from a Western Manitoba Pioneer, William Wallace.

That’s how I’m going to start thinking of my weekly trips to town.

Wallace, his brother, and their father have emigrated from Scotland to what was then the North-West Territory, and he begins writing to his sister Maggie as they are on the ship that brings them to North America. They come ashore at Boston and make their way by train to Winnipeg, where they gear up with oxen and wagons to travel to their quarter-section up around Russell. It’s rough going. There’s still snow, and William’s brother gets sunburn so bad his face is swollen beyond recognition for a couple days. The mosquitoes are terrible, and a 12’x12′ shelter is quickly built. It’s 1881 and the Wallaces are among the first wave of settlers in what will become the prairie provinces.


DSCF9523Here it is, seven in the morning, and all I’ve got for you is a sunset photo. Oh well … this is why I like blogging. Anything goes.

The farmers have been out in the fields over the past week but it’s bone-dry here and there’s a lot of concern about that. I did my version of a “rain dance” yesterday but so far no success.

I’ve had my morning coffee and am waiting for toast to pop. Scott’s left to feed cattle, and Bev’s still asleep. She got here about five yesterday so we had supper together and spent the evening chatting, and you know how that goes: you’re both yawning by nine but you stay up till 11:30 because you can’t stop talking.

It’s a beautiful morning and I’m going out to sit on the step and listen to the birds.