Saturday, July 19, 2014

Strawberry Picking


For lunch, we have somma borscht, made with fresh sorrel from mom's garden.

Belly full, dad shuffles over to his reclining chair for an afternoon nap. Mom leaves him a note:

"We went strawberry picking :)"

I tell mom that I want strawberries, but what I want is to go to the strawberry fields with her.

At eighty-eight, she wouldn't dream of buying ready-picked, or sending me and my sister to the fields without her.

And so we are together in the prairie sun and wind, remarking on the succulent berries, the well kept rows, the abundance of fruit. We pick together- mom's six pails, Kathy's one, and the four that I pretend to need.

I love being with my mom on the field. She says funny and wise and optimistic things. She moves much more slowly than last year, but never once would you hear her complain. She says that when her knees hurt, she imagines that a physiotherapist might tell her that exercise would be just the thing- so she keeps moving.

We bring mom home with her berries and find dad still safe and sound in his favorite chair, so we part ways. Later that afternoon, I offer to deliver some berries that a friend has picked to her grandmother, who lives in my town. She lives just up the street from me, in a sprawling senior's complex. Not having had much reason to visit there before, I have a little trouble finding the correct apartment number and wander around outside for a bit until a lady opens her door and calls out- "Are you looking for someone?" And I explain that I'm there to deliver berries but can't find the number. "Come on through here", she says, ushering me into her gazebo and straight on through her home to the connecting corridor. Her husband is cutting roll Kuchen, a favorite Mennonite fried bread that is a must-have accompaniment to summer watermelon.

She leads me through long corridors until we find the right door, and behind it, the right lady. I pass over the berries, and we chat about strawberry season in Manitoba. My new tour guide tells me how she used to have berries on her farm, and how she likes them not too big- they have more flavour that way. And that she'd like to get some yet this year. Pre-picked, as she's left her picking days behind her.

We weave our way back down through corridors and back through her apartment. I'm halfway back to my van when I turn back- "Hey! I picked berries with my mother just this morning but I don't actually need all of them- would you like two pails?" And with that, we have a contract.

When I return again to their gazebo, I have the pails in hand. I'm relieved of the duty to hull and freeze fruit that I didn't really want in the first place. They are happy to see such beautiful berries.

And we eat some rull kuchen together.


Sunday, July 13, 2014

She Did Other Stuff

I didn't go to the Folk Festival this year.

Instead I took a walk with friends past the Bridge Drive In, meandering along cozy Winnipeg streets with a sweet sense of community.


Past front lawns that were destined for more than just forgotten patches of grass.

On Wednesday morning, while hoardes of bikes, campers, and vans headed up highway 59 to Birds Hill Park, I met one of my bestest bff's at The Forks. We indulged in some outdoor catching up over Tall Grass Prairie cinnamon buns and sandwiches.

Then off on some Winnipeg exploring.


There's so much right at home if you just take a little time to explore.

Arty shops brimming with creativity.

And some antique shop perusing.
Pretty unfortunate about that taxidermy.

Maybe just Not-A-Dermy.

Time for refreshments. This summer tradition could never end well without our favourite outdoor patio at Carlos and Murphy's.

Nom nom.

On my way home, I pulled to the side of the highway to pick some fragrant alfalfa for the bunnies.

On the way to her little outdoor lair, I stopped to enjoy the yard in full bloom.

Thursday, July 10 didn't find us at the Folk Fest either. Twenty years ago, we were there, and I was labouring my firstborn daughter. Now she has exited the life of a teen and is up and away at a fishing lodge, so for her birthday I lined up all the epic thrifted cat pics I had compiled for her and sent them off in text form.

She was entirely amused.

Without my birthday girl at home to spoil and celebrate, I set my sights on playing with thrifted bird houses.

Until- oh happy day- I scored free tickets to the Red River Speedway. Bucket list material.

Sam and I headed out, not knowing entirely what to expect. We learned quickly enough when people piled in with ear plugs that it was going to be noisy. And dusty.

Friday dawned bright and sunny. New tradition, year two: drive up to Gimli for the day. First stop? Awesome breakfast in St Boniface.

From there things pretty much continually evolved into ever widening circles of perfection.





And then, hold me down- this!

All wrapped up with a harbour walk and stone tossing.

Practically perfect day in every way.

On Saturday, I "built" Theo a new bunny run. He's a bit of an escape artist, so I tried to make the walls high enough.

I hope it fixes his wanderlust.

Silly bunny.

So, no. This summer I didn't go to Folk Fest.

No regrets.


Saturday, July 05, 2014

Summer Vacation- Bucket List

It all sort of started here.

For eleven years and counting, we have made a right turn at Santa Lucia pizza in Morris, enroute to visit family in Winkler. Behind the pizza joint is an old fashioned motel that I study as we pass by. I wonder if people still stay in motels, what the appeal is, and whether a motel looks the same as it did in the 70's when we would occasionally cram nineteen hundred Kehlers into one during one of our not so memorable family vacations.

Normal people have bucket lists. They want to trace their family lines, visit Israel and Paris, go bungee jumping, and pet a crocodile. And as my listless years of passing Morris motel slipped by, something rose up inside of me- if I kick the bucket without a list, I might never know the thrill of stopping to smell the Morris bedspreads, or really have any answers to my burning questions.

I sensed that I was on the cusp of a brand new life, fueled with renewed purpose and vigour, and began to comb my brain for possible travel companions. After thirty seconds, I remembered my compadres- Georgio and Rosalita- my longtime mentors in coloring outside of the lines and asking the hard questions.


They, who understand the value of second hand shoes, and string art owls.

I felt they were likely to embrace my new curiosity with Motel Living.

We set the date and I called Santa Lucia pizza.

That's how things are done in Morris.

"Hello- Santa Lucia pizza"

"Hello- I'd like to book a room in the motel that's attached to your restaurant?"

"Oh, I'm sorry- we're booked for the next two months. Could I interest you in some pizza?"

(Ok, that last part about the pizza isn't true. But it flowed really well.)

Curiosity. Piqued. Apparently motels are a total hot item in Manitoba. Totally unrelated to a bridge overhaul a mile from said motel, I am sure.

Still. A plan had been set in motion. My friends and I had envisioned two days of thrifting, sandwiched on either side of an adventurous motel sleepover. With coffee. So I wasn't about to let a silly bucket list complication to stand in our way.

We met in Portage La Prairie. One from Boissevain, one from Brandon, and another one from Niverville.

First thrifting stop. This is one of my favorites- a tiny shop run by the United church, always friendly ladies.

Rosalita found a perfectly dreamy set of vintage drinking glasses. I may or may not have been mildly envious. I'll never tell.

And then? Portage MCC- mecca of horribly tacky cat paraphenalia.



The likes of which even I can say NO to.

There was a stunning collection of vintage clothing, and just as soon as I magically drop 25 lb, I'm dashing back to scoop it all up. (just give me a minute while I finish my toast with thirteen inches of crunchy peanut butter).

All that two stop shopping made us ravenous, so we made a stop at Dick's Cafe in Portage. If you love Chinese food and red vinyl decor, so stop here. Our waitress was a little piece of sweet faced heaven, let me tell you. I hope her customers are good to her.

Using my newly discovered leadership skills, I suggested we hit the road. Through some little known towns on the way to Carman, our next thrifting destination.

Have you ever taken a road that you had no reason to? oh- but you should. It's beautiful.

Carman had goodies.

so sexy.

So inspired.

Little known fact about Carman Mennonite thrift shop- it shares a parking lot with the Manitoba Liquor Commission. Coincidence? I think not. Nirvana.

After Carman, the road led us to Morden, and then Winkler. Awkwardly, I forgot to take pictures.

Except at suppertime, which we enjoyed at the Del Rios Mexican restaurant in Winkler.

The menu didn't look too promising, but the burrito I ordered was- Delish!

After fueling ourselves, we took some long and winding roads- exploring the Manitoba we'd had no good reason to explore before today.

It was fun making Rose pose (rosepose) at every darp that celebrated her name. And there were many. In this shot, a dog began to bark in the background, and we shouted enthusiastically- RUN!!!


(Where the heck is Joycie Town??)

We found Blumenort (south) where Rose's grandfather was once the minister. It's a fascinating village made up of still intact housebarns. When I run away, you may find me there. The barn will be filled with kitties and bunnies.


Gretna is so far south, its almost American, but then entirely not.

Treed streets and many sweet little old homes and ancient buildings. It's where I will vacation when I've fled to Blumenort South.

Night was threatening to fall, and we had to begin to think seriously about accomodation. So we put the old Montana into motion and headed back onto the highway.

We found it further east, in Altona. The Four Winds Motel.

The exterior decor was exquisate.

We chose our room well.

And soon transformed our exterior patio space will our spoils of the day.

We took the time to note that all appreciation for handmade has not been lost.

We paused to compare Awesome Finds. (apprently she wants to draw people. And animals. Who knew.)

After a restful sleep in number 16, we were ready to go again.

Four Winds Motel boasted a restaurant, and it seemed the only right thing to do. What a delightful surprise to enjoy a truly delicious meal with decent coffee and a sweet and memorable waitress to keep our company. All that for under seven bucks.

But Altona had more to offer! One of my most favorite in the world thrift shops,

And did I mention that I packed nothing?

Or, very precious little, in any case. Hard to find medications second hand, and wanting to prevent endless tears and rumination, I was sensible enough to pack the pill box.

(and Mildred. She was very well behaved. No one minded her a bit.)

The premeditated pill box? Also wise. Turned out my back wouldn't stop hurting, so while my friends enjoyed a glass of merlot with their soup, I stuck to tylenol, tums, and probiotics. sooooo moderate.

But I digress. I packed no clothes, but an extra pair of undies. It was part of my adventure, but on day one I found absolutely no clothes or pj's that made the cut, so I lived and slept in my original dress. After a hearty breakfast in Altona, I managed to find my "what to wear" at the local MCC. A pair of MEC shorts that I could never bother to afford in the real world, and a lovely lime green shirt that smelled like double the Tide I'd ever use. Critical in my decision making process.

Altona was a treat for not only me! My friend sees art and beauty in old shears, and after studying them with her extensively, I can't help but agree.

So we made a bit of a bouquet. It was beautiful.

Plus some buttons and a birdie made of real feathers. Seriously fabulous.

I came away happy as well- in addition to my new, clean outfit (which I wore to the check out), I found some fabric and trim. Please don't mention that I'm not actually sewing at the moment. It'll only make me feel bad. And confused.

Then off to Plum Coulee. My next choice in runaway destinations. Did you know that they have a museum? a skate park, man made lake with sandy beach, thrift shop, and bistro. Wowzers.

90% of Professional Beauticians can't be wrong.

And who knew that for forty cents, I could be threading my sewing machine with my eyes closed?! But then again, I'm not sewing. Awkward.


I also didn't need this book about minimalism. Goodness knows.

Turns out that two doors down is Anna-Jo's Bistro! Just when I needed peanut butter cake for lunch, too.

While my friends enjoyed the daily soup.

Seriously, to die for.

And then? On the road again, this time through Rosenfed, home of 300 friendly people. Except for that grumpy old guy who lives across the street from the Villa where Rose posed above the sign. He gave us a serious finger wagging for our shenanigans.

299. Two Hundred and Ninety Nine friendly people in Rosenfeld.

All that remained was Morris MCC Thrift Store.

Morris, where it all began.

I came home with a beautiful vintage Pfaff sewing machine. (shut up! I know I'm not sewing! And no- I'm NOT defensive!), a few pieces of perfect fabric, some crochet ribbon, a beautiful old wooden high chair, some bird houses for my fence, and some drinking glasses.

More importantly, I came home with some laughs in my memory bank, a little insight into the lives of my friends of twenty years, and confirmation that motels haven't changed a bit in the past thirty years. I came home convinced that the best road trips happen not far from home, that good eats are found in unlikely locations, that kind, hardworking, and fascinating people populate our world.

Not too sure that I got anywhere on my actual bucket list, though.

I may just have to phone Santa Lucia Pizzaria in Morris, to ask to be put on the waiting list.

Evidenty, I'm not the only one with that Motel on my life list.