"share the joy"

Star Wars in my Kitchen, or How Jude Turned Eleven

Well, the last two weeks have been very busy, not least of all because Jude turned 11 last Sunday. To celebrate, we had a Star Wars-themed birthday party for him last Saturday, which was extremely fun--both to plan and to implement. He only had two of his best buddies over, but we went all-out anyway.

Star Wars characters

Of course, in somewhat typical fashion, I didn't start planning it until the Tuesday before--but decided to go BIG anyway. Well, BIG--but with shortcuts. I bought the awesome Star Wars Digital Printable Birthday Pack from SimoneMadeIt on Etsy to help me get started, spent some time trolling the 'net for other people's Star Wars Birthday ideas, and even decided that making Jedi robes for the men-folk of the family wouldn't be too much to tackle, with the help of an online tutorial to save me a bunch of the brain work. (Okay, there was still some involved--four robes in four sizes? I had to come up with my own pattern-drafting formula. Yay! Geometry! But that's okay, still saved me a ton of research. And for those of you who can count, Levi gets to be an Ewok, not a Jedi.)

Star Wars birthday balloons

Star Wars party food 3

Star Wars party food

Star Wars party food 2

Jedi birthday cake

I wasn't the only parent getting in on the fun. Jason planned an extremely elaborate--and difficult--obstacle course for the young Jedi-wannabes. And made them light sabres out of plumbing foam pipe insulators and coloured duct tape. They had to undergo training, then they got their meal, and as the "instructional video" section of the party, we watched the original, first Star Wars movie. (Episode IV. Yes, it's confusing. If you don't know why, I'm not explaining it here.)

Just part of the Jedi training


This was actually the boys' first time watching Star Wars, although they have played the Wii game, read the Encyclopedia, and are fairly familiar with the "world".

Star Wars characters gone crazy!
Putting their crazy faces on!

Okay, okay... I didn't get it all done. Jude's robe was mostly done--enough for him to wear, anyway. Last week, I finished Noah's, and am currently 1/4 of the hem away from finishing Jabin's. Jason's may have to wait for some other projects I have to finish up... but that's okay. There are six movies, after all, and as of this weekend, we are only finished two of them. :-)

My progress was severely slowed by a very nasty cold that I caught from Levi halfway through last week. I am well on the road to recovery, now, and thankfully, Levi was over the worst of it before I succumbed, but I guess I got what I deserved for all those late nights trying to finish robes on time for a party I didn't plan until the last minute!

I keep telling myself that I won't do the same thing for Jabin's party in two weeks...

I hope I'm right!

Never too late for this...

The anniversary of "9/11" was yesterday, as I need not point out. However, this story, one I had not heard before, didn't arrive in my mailbox until this morning. I was so moved by it, and it was such a positive that came out of something so horrible, I decided to republish it. My apologies for not crediting the original author, who was not credited in the email. (Snopes.com says this is true. Also, an email on their site credited it to a member of the Delta Flight crew named Nazim.)

THIS IS A MUST READ. FANTASTIC AND INSPIRATIONAL.

It is almost 11 yrs since 9/11 and here is a wonderful story about that terrible day.

Jerry Brown Delta Flight 15... (true story)

Here is an amazing story from a flight attendant on Delta Flight 15, written following 9-11:

On the morning of Tuesday, September 11, we were about 5 hours out of Frankfurt, flying over the North Atlantic.

All of a sudden the curtains parted and I was told to go to the cockpit, immediately, to see the captain. As soon as I got there I noticed that the crew had that "All Business" look on their faces. The captain handed me a printed message. It was from Delta's main office in Atlanta and simply read, "All airways over the Continental United States are closed to commercial air traffic. Land ASAP at the nearest airport. Advise your destination."

No one said a word about what this could mean. We knew it was a serious situation and we needed to find terra firma quickly. The captain determined that the nearest airport was 400 miles behind us in Gander, Newfoundland.

He requested approval for a route change from the Canadian traffic controller and approval was granted immediately -- no questions asked.
We found out later, of course, why there was no hesitation in approving our request.

While the flight crew prepared the airplane for landing, another message arrived from Atlanta telling us about some terrorist activity in the New York area. A few minutes later word came in about the hijackings.

We decided to LIE to the passengers while we were still in the air. We told them the plane had a simple instrument problem and that we needed to land at the nearest airport in Gander, New Foundland, to have it checked out.

We promised to give more information after landing in Gander. There was much grumbling among the passengers, but that's nothing new! Forty minutes later, we landed in Gander. Local time at Gander was 12:30 PM! .... that's 11:00 AM EST.

There were already about 20 other airplanes on the ground from all over the world that had taken this detour on their way to the U.S.

After we parked on the ramp, the captain made the following announcement: "Ladies and gentlemen, you must be wondering if all these airplanes around us have the same instrument problem as we have. The reality is that we are here for another reason." Then he went on to explain the little bit we knew about the situation in the U.S. There were loud gasps and stares of disbelief. The captain informed passengers that Ground control in Gander told us to stay put.

The Canadian Government was in charge of our situation and no one was allowed to get off the aircraft. No one on the ground was allowed to come near any of the air crafts. Only airport police would come around periodically, look us over and go on to the next airplane. In the next hour or so more planes landed and Gander ended up with 53 airplanes from all over the world, 27 of which were U.S. commercial jets.

Meanwhile, bits of news started to come in over the aircraft radio and for the first time we learned that airplanes were flown into the World Trade Center in New York and into the Pentagon in DC. People were trying to use their cell phones, but were unable to connect due to a different cell system in Canada. Some did get through, but were only able to get to the Canadian operator who would tell them that the lines to the U.S. were either blocked or jammed.

Sometime in the evening the news filtered to us that the World Trade Center buildings had collapsed and that a fourth hijacking had resulted in a crash. By now the passengers were emotionally and physically exhausted, not to mention frightened, but everyone stayed amazingly calm. We had only to look out the window at the 52 other stranded aircraft to realize that we were not the only ones in this predicament.

We had been told earlier that they would be allowing people off the planes one plane at a time. At 6 PM, Gander airport told us that our turn to deplane would be 11 am the next morning. Passengers were not happy, but they simply resigned themselves to this news without much
noise and started to prepare themselves to spend the night on the airplane.

Gander had promised us medical attention, if needed, water, and lavatory servicing. And they were true to their word. Fortunately we had no medical situations to worry about. We did have a young lady who was 33 weeks into her pregnancy. We took REALLY good care of her. The night passed without incident despite the uncomfortable sleeping arrangements.

About 10:30 on the morning of the 12th a convoy of school buses showed up. We got off the plane and were taken to the terminal where we went through Immigration and Customs and then had to register with the Red Cross.

After that we (the crew) were separated from the passengers and were taken in vans to a small hotel. We had no idea where our passengers were going. We learned from the Red Cross that the town of Gander has a population of 10,400 people and they had about 10,500 passengers to take care of from all the airplanes that were forced into Gander! We were told to just relax at the hotel and we would be contacted when the U.S. airports opened again, but not to expect that call for a while.

We found out the total scope of the terror back home only after getting to our hotel and turning on the TV, 24 hours after it all started.

Meanwhile, we had lots of time on our hands and found that the people of Gander were extremely friendly. They started calling us the "plane people." We enjoyed their hospitality, explored the town of Gander and ended up having a pretty good time.

Two days later, we got that call and were taken back to the Gander airport. Back on the plane, we were reunited with the passengers and found out what they had been doing for the past two days. What we found out was incredible.

Gander and all the surrounding communities (within MATCH about a 75 Kilometer radius) had closed all high schools, meeting halls, lodges,and any other large gathering places. They converted all these facilities to mass lodging areas for all the stranded travelers. Some had cots set up, some had mats with sleeping bags and pillows set up.

ALL the high school students were required to volunteer their time to take care of the "guests." Our 218 passengers ended up in a town called Lewisporte, about 45 kilometers from Gander where they were put up in a high school. If any women wanted to be in a women-only facility, that was arranged. Families were kept together. All the elderly passengers were taken to private homes.

Remember that young pregnant lady? She was put up in a private home right across the street from a 24-hour Urgent Care facility. There was a dentist on call and both male and female nurses remained with the crowd for the duration.

Phone calls and e-mails to the U.S. and around the world were available to everyone once a day. During the day, passengers were offered "Excursion" trips. Some people went on boat cruises of the lakes and harbors. Some went for hikes in the local forests. Local bakeries stayed open to make fresh bread for the guests.

Food was prepared by all the residents and brought to the schools. People were driven to restaurants of their choice and offered wonderful meals. Everyone was given tokens for local laundry mats to wash their clothes, since luggage was still on the aircraft. In other words, every single need was met for those stranded travellers.

Passengers were crying while telling us these stories. Finally, when they were told that U.S. airports had reopened, they were delivered to the airport right on time and without a single passenger missing or late. The local Red Cross had all the information about the whereabouts of each and every passenger and knew which plane they needed to be on and when all the planes were leaving. They coordinated everything beautifully.

It was absolutely incredible.

When passengers came on board, it was like they had been on a cruise. Everyone knew each other by name. They were swapping stories of their stay, impressing each other with who had the better time. Our flight back to Atlanta looked like a chartered party flight. The crew just stayed out of their way. It was mind-boggling.

Passengers had totally bonded and were calling each other by their first names, exchanging phone numbers, addresses, and email addresses.
And then a very unusual thing happened. One of our passengers approached me and asked if he could make an announcement over the PA system. We never, ever allow that. But this time was different. I said "of course" and handed him the mike. He picked up the PA and reminded everyone about what they had just gone through in the last few days. He reminded them of the hospitality they had received at the hands of total strangers. He continued by saying that he would like to do something in return for the good folks of
Lewisporte.

He said he was going to set up a Trust Fund under the name of DELTA 15 (our flight number). The purpose of the trust fund is to provide college scholarships for the high school students of Lewisporte. He asked for donations of any amount from his fellow travelers. When the paper with donations got back to us with the amounts, names, phone numbers and addresses, the total was for more than $14,000!

The gentleman, a MD from Virginia, promised to match the donations and to start the administrative work on the scholarship. He also said that he would forward this proposal to Delta Corporate and ask them to donate as well.

As I write this account, the trust fund is at more than $1.5 million and has assisted 134 students in college education.

I just wanted to share this story because we need good stories right now. It gives me a little bit of hope to know that some people in a faraway place were kind to some strangers who literally dropped in on them.

It reminds me how much good there is in the world.

In spite of all the rotten things we see going on in todays world this story confirms that there are still a lot of good and Godly people in the world and when things get bad, they will come forward.

God Bless America... and God Bless the Canadians.

Bulking Up

This winter, Jason has been doing some training, as he is planning to enter the Spartan Race in Edmonton this July. There is a kid's version of the race, too, and the boys are stoked that Daddy let them enter it. Thus, they have been diligently doing karate, swimming lessons, walks or Nike Plus (Fitness XBox Kinect program) on non-class days, and with the nice weather lately, they have added "trampolining" to the regimen.

All that hard work has really been paying off.





Honest, we don't let our kids use steroids, or anything! Maybe there was a radioactive spider around the place, somewhere...

;-)

The Wonder of Wire

Last week for History we were studying ancient Greek art and architecture. As a project to go along with it, I had the boys make a wire-frame sculpture. They did a pretty awesome job, I have to say.

Jabin's ("He looks like Junior Asparagus," I commented.):

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Jude's (He ended up having to add a support and a wire for the sword. It kept "wilting."):

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Noah's (like an egghead ninja!):

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Introducing the Brennan Hat

About a year ago, Netflix finally introduced a version of itself that didn't require super-high bandwidth internet in order to watch a show. For $8/month, we figured it was a pretty good use of our entertainment budget. So, for the first time in nearly thirteen years of marriage, we were watching "T.V.".

Not really--no commercials. (Yay!) And we got to watch shows we previously had to borrow or buy on DVD to enjoy. Plus, discovering some new ones.

One of those discoveries was "Bones", a show about Dr. Temperance Brennan, a brilliant but socially awkward forensic anthropologist who works with Agent Seeley Boothe of the FBI to solve murders, who (fortunately) supplies the people skills she lacks.

One night, I was happily knitting along (since watching a show is just something to do while I'm knitting) when Dr. Brennan shows up on screen, watching Boothe play hockey, in a super-adorable cabled beanie. I fell in love with it immediately.

By the next afternoon, I had swatched and drafted a pattern for a very similar hat. And yesterday, it was published. You can find it at www.mysecretwish.ca, www.mysecretwishonravelry.ca, or www.mysecretwishoncraftsy.ca.

I made it to sell (the hat itself is in my Etsy store, too)--but I love it so much, I may have a hard time letting it go!






Brite Music: Fall Special on Safety Kids!

Remember when I told you how much I love this stuff?

Well, I just found out that Brite Music is having a fall special on digital copies of the Safety Kids set. 40% off!

By the way, I still love them.

And I didn't get paid to write that review, either. Nor will I get paid if you buy any. But you will receive more value than you can put a number to in how prepared your kids feel to handle dangerous or uncomfortable situations.

Just thought I'd give you the "heads-up!"

What I learned today

I have been doing a fair amount of research on Victorian England this week, and I have learned so much I think my brain is starting to melt.

But here's a quick fact that I just came across that might be news to you fellow "North American" types.

Have you ever wondered why we say someone is "pleased as punch?" I have. Often. How could a beverage be pleased? Pleas-ing, maybe but "pleased?"
 
Well. According to Wikipedia, it is "pleased as Punch." As in, Mr. Punch of the centuries-old iconic puppet show, "Punch and Judy." And after which the iconic London satirical magazine publication Punch (which closed in the last decade after a 150-year publishing history) was named. Which I knew nothing about (other than vague references to the names "Punch and Judy") an hour ago, either.

Do you feel smarter, now? I do. :-)

Happy Friday, friends!

2:45 a.m.

This was last Friday night. Our bedroom window faces north, and this is what I saw through it as I went to bed:

2:45 a.m.

I don't know why there were little white lines on the clouds--although I know that the clouds were way too low for this, it made me smile to think that the sun was reflecting off the polar icecap from the other side of the globe and bouncing up into my sky.

I lightened it up a little in this next photo. It looks a little like water, doesn't it?

2:45 a.m. lightened up

Or maybe that was just my imagination playing tricks on me... even though you wouldn't know by the sky, it was really quite late!

2:45 a.m. lightened more

The hazy glow had already started to work its way eastward, so it could burst forth in full daylight only a few hours later.

We don't live in the land of the midnight sun... not quite. But there is a reason that summer solstice is celebrated with an all-night golf tournament in these parts...

Edit, June 15: My dad just "illuminated" me on the mystery of these clouds. They are called "noctilucent clouds", and really are quite high and at the edge of a larger polar cloud formation. You can read the Wikipedia article here.

En garde!

Last week it snowed. A lot.

I'm not complaining--we have had hardly any snow this winter, so having a bit of a spring blizzard (wherein more snow fell than the rest of the winter, I'm sure) was only a minor inconvenience, and a small relief to the gardener in me. (You know, the one worried about how dry the ground will be a week after everything thaws out.)

All that snowy weather has been followed by several days of warm sunniness, leading to that fun bi-product of thin, poorly-insulated ceilings--icicles!

Jude couldn't resist showing off this particularly monstrous one:

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Do you like his "winter shag?" :-)

Uninvited Guests

Last Wednesday, we had some surprise guests. They just dropped in, unannounced.

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Didn't say much. Didn't stay long, either.

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Koda wanted to give them a warm welcome. Fortunately, he was tied up, or we wouldn't have seen them for the rest of the night. Momma Moose didn't seem to want to stick around to figure out whether the dog was loose or not. (Sunshine was too chicken to go investigate.)

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I love living in the country!

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Abducted by Aliens

We have a Looney Tunes episode where Porky Pig and Sylvester go camping. While they are sleeping in their tent, a Martian lifts up the piece of ground their tent is resting on and takes it to Mars with him on top of his spaceship.

Well, this morning it felt a bit like that had happened to my yard. Things looked vaguely familiar, but in a strange, eery, beautiful and alien way.

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 Alien landscape.


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 While I photographed it, the snow held up its monacle to inspect me.

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 My little garden boy, who already looked a little sad since he lost his umbrella handle, now looked sad and chilly.


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 So that's what the plants look like on Uranus! Someone should notify NASA.

A few days ago at supper, we were discussing how it seems that nearly every year, we get our first serious "snow" on October 31st. The report we heard wasn't calling for it until Thursday, but Jude has been praying for snow for about two months, now. Jason encouraged him with the thought it might come early by saying, "Yep, you can almost 'set your calendar' by it--happens almost every year on October 31st."

It's good to know that there are some things in this world that are consistent. Even weather.

Meet an Old Friend...

My dear friend Colleen, who occasionally passes through my kitchen on her journeys to various parts of the world, and is also a photographer par excellence, took a photo of another old friend of mine last time she was here.

And last week, he made a guest appearance on her blog.

A childhood gift from a great-aunt of mine that still gives me a smile every time I see him. :-)