Monthly Archives: March 2007

Ski day


Everyone was all smiles at the beginning of our day of skiing in Gatineau Park. The nine of us had water and plenty of food packed. The temperature was -15, we had sunshine, no wind and about 3.5km steadily up hill to get to our lunch stop.


B6 led the way and set a great pace which kept us going but didn’t stop us from enjoying some conversation along the way.img_2227crop.jpg

We stopped for lunch in one of the cabins maintained by the NCC for use by skiers and hikers. It is heated by a wood stove and there are tables and a clothes line for drying your gear while you rest and eat. Each table has a candle sconce on the wall beside it so you can eat by candle light if you are skiing at night like Andrew was last month. It was warm and we had plenty of food and even the very chilly outhouse experience didn’t dampen everyone’s spirits.

After lunch however, we began to hear a few differing views on what should happen next. The two adults had no intention of stopping yet but we had to play the Smarties card to keep some skiers going. The next leg of the trail was nowhere near as long as the first but a lot more encouragement was required. When we got there we were treated to a display of chickadees, at least eight bluejays as well as what we think was a purple finch.

The trip back to the parking lot was mostly down hill much to everyone’s delight. B6 was pretty weary by then so he and I brought up the rear. We talked about his favourite books and movies and didn’t talk about our tired muscles. Once we hit the downhill sections he discovered he could practically sit on his skis and fly along so that is what he did, calling from behind,”I can’t stop, Mummy, you’d better go faster.”

We worked out that we had probably skied 11km and the concensus was that it had been a great day. We ended it by joining up with the dads, who had been at work all day, for for chili, beef stew and a tart bought on the way home.

Act II

We had a house full of very enthusiastic actors this afternoon when the Group of Four met for the second week of our Shakespeare unit. Once again we began with insults, most delivered with some acerbity but all received with much laughter. I guess there is nothing quite like having your mother encourage you to insult your family and friends in public. Next we spent some time talking about sonnets and looking at both the prologue of Romeo and Juliet and Romeo’s description of Juliet in Act I, Scene V. As the actors were getting quite impatient for their rehearsal time we began but did not finish a hockey sonnet!

The children were allocated a role and given a cropped scene to learn four days ago. Most of the girls had arrived with costumes, much to the surprise of the family of all boys. The boys, however, did come with very impressive swords for their fight scene. All had come well prepared, with their lines memorised. The performance opened with L12 delivering the prologue and then the first of our Juliets for the afternoon gave us a soliloquy from the balcony scene. L12 was the next Juliet partnered with a fine Nurse for Act II,Scene V. B6 was delighted to be Benvolio in a fight scene between the Montagues and Capulets. Lord and Lady Capulet’s argument with their daughter was acted with great emotion and finally we saw A10 as Juliet visiting the Friar and receiving the potion which would give her the appearance of death.

Once again we saw the children use their own initiative to make this unit a success. This was the first taste of Shakespeare for some of them and has left them wanting more.

Fables retold

I have been reading some of Aesop’s fables to B6. He has retold three of them in his own words, here is the first.

One day there were two children walking along the road. One of the children, whose name was Mary, found a horse and said, “I found a horse.”

The other child, Nicholas, replied, “You mean, we found a horse. When travelers find something they ought to share it.”

Mary said, “Oh no, I found this horse and now I am going to ride it.”

Just then three big men appeared, two on horses and one walking, all with drawn swords. The man on foot shouted to the children,”You thief! You thief!”

Mary, who had found the horse, turned to Nicholas and said, “Oh help, we are in trouble.”

Nicholas replied, “Oh no, you found it, you can be in trouble.”



img_1191smallcrop.jpg I don’t think a day goes by at our house when we don’t hear one of the girls’ violin pieces. If it isn’t the girls practising it is likely that one of us will be singing or humming one of the tunes. The Suzuki method is based on learning through hearing first. When B6 was born we were listening to cd 1 &2 regularly so he listened along with us. Very early on in his life he was able to sing the songs from the repertoire in tune.

On Sunday we were able to listen to close to 100 students from Suzuki Music, the school we belong to. Once the children have mastered the first few Suzuki books in their private lessons they are given the opportunity to participate in orchestras and ensembles. L12 currently helps out in one of the first orchestras, for the members it is their first opportunity to play in an ensemble. Orchestra 2 is more advanced and it was their fundraising concert that we were attending. Each year Orchestra 2 travels to Montreal and does a couple of school concerts and some sightseeing. Last year A10 was a member of this orchestra.

Orchestra 2 had invited all the ensembles in the school to perform. The parent playing groups, the junior and senior flute ensembles, three junior orchestras and Stellae Boreales all contributed to a great program. We could see the progression possible for students in the school. Stellae Boreales, which L12 and A10 belong to is a violin choir. The standard is quite advanced and repertoire varied and exciting. Both our girls are enjoying the experience of learning and playing with the group. And we are enjoying listening.

New strategy

We had a decent snowfall yesterday, about 15cm. It made for fairly heavy shoveling though, as it was not light fluffy snow, it was wet and mixed with ice pellets. The children and I tackled it twice and got it all cleared before Andrew came home. During the night the plow came through and cleared the street, leaving a mountain at the end of the driveway. This is all quite normal and manageable, except on the days when you leave the house to head to a violin lesson 15 minutes before the lesson is due to start and then find the mountain of snow at the end of the driveway which you know will take at least 20 minutes to clear and the lesson is 15 minutes away.

Today Andrew planned to clear it before I headed out. A10 went out first and was making a good start on it when a truck with plow attached came down the street. This was not a city plow just a contractor who clears people’s driveways. He saw our young ten year old digging away at the mountain and took pity on her. In a moment it was cleared away and she was smiling back at him. I have often been out shoveling the mountain when a truck with plow has gone by and never has one stopped for me.

So the new strategy is to send the young girl out with the shovel and if that stops working we have a younger, smaller child we can send out.

As the shoveling was done she was able to work on the real project, building forts. B6 came out, as did his friend across the road. This impressive castle now stands in the yard across the street. I believe most of the work was done by our neighbour, aided and abetted by the children.



The top 100 books

The Top 100 books
Compiled by the Telegraph from the results of a survey asking British readers what were ten books they could not live without. The Common Room and Dominion Family are also featuring it. The ones I have read are bold, the ones I’d like to read are italicized. There are a few I think I might have read but I’m not sure, must have been memorable!? Quite a few I’ve never heard of.

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien

3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling

5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

6 The Bible

7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte

8= Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell

8= His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman

10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott

12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy

13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller

14 Complete Works of Shakespeare (some)

15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier

16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien

17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks

18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger

19 The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger

20 Middlemarch – George Eliot

21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell

22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald

23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens

24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy

25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams

26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh

27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck

29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll

30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame

31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy

32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens

33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis

34 Emma – Jane Austen

35 Persuasion – Jane Austen

36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis

37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini

38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres

39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden

40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne

41 Animal Farm – George Orwell

42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown

43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving

45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins

46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery

47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy

48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding

50 Atonement – Ian McEwan

51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel

52 Dune – Frank Herbert

53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons

54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen

55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth

56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon

57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens

58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon

60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck

62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov

63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt

64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold

65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas

66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac

67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy

68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding

69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie

70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville

71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens

72 Dracula – Bram Stoker

73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett

74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson

75 Ulysses – James Joyce

76 The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath

77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome

78 Germinal – Emile Zola

79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray

80 Possession – AS Byatt

81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens

82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell

83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker

84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro

85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert

86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry

87 Charlotte’s Web – EB White

88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Alborn

89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton

91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad

92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery

93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks

94 Watership Down – Richard Adams

95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole

96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute

97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas

98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare

99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl

100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo


“Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?”
“I do bite my thumb, sir.”

This was the quote of the day, yesterday, when we began our Shakespeare unit with the Group of Four. We started the afternoon with an insult delivery contest. Two children at a time were given a page of Shakespearean insults and they had 30 seconds to choose one and then deliver it with as much style or venom as they could muster. Most of them were barely able to control their laughter, so I don’t believe anyone’s feelings were hurt. If you feel the urge to insult anyone in true Shakespearean style look here.

We did manage to move on from insulting each other to the consideration of figurative language, writers’ styles and ‘what’s in a name?’ The youngest children also made puppets and the older children wrote news headlines for some of the play’s main events. We gathered ideas from a couple of very helpful sites, The Folger Shakespeare Library and The Acting Company

Once again we benefited from the first hand experience of one of our families’ uncles. (Yes it was the same family who provided the aunt and uncle who had been to Ecuador) This time they called their uncle who is an actor and has acted in and directed various Shakespeare plays. He left a message on their answering machine which we listened to; excerpts of a couple of Romeo’s speeches.

To prepare for this unit at least three of the families read retellings of Romeo and Juliet. A10 and L12 read the Charles and Mary Lamb version. I read the Edith Nesbit version to B6. Now they are only interested in the lines as Shakespeare wrote them. It has been exciting to see their enthusiasm for the play grow and their interest in Shakespeare’s life and times. As our family is studying the Renaissance and Reformation this year we will be delving into more of the bard’s life and work.

Free is better

A friend of mine once said that while “cheap is good, free is better”.

National Gallery Concert: Violinist Kyoko Takezawa in concert with pianist Akira Eguchi. L12 and A10 went with their dad.
National Arts Centre Open Rehearsal, Pinchas Zukerman on violin, Hubbard St Dance Company, Mozart selections. The children and I attend these open rehearsals about once a month. The NAC Orchestra plays and a soloist or group is featured. We have seen Pinchas Zukerman play several times but have also enjoyed watching Hilary Hahn and other visiting performers for free.

Longest Skating rink in the world-free

Watching our friend”s face when she hears that she won first prize for her short story in the OPL Awesome Author contest-priceless