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Girls’ Getaway

I just returned from two delightful days in a cabin by a lake in the Laurentian Mountains, Quebec. It was a girls’ getaway with three wonderful friends of mine. Three of us drove from Ottawa to meet the fourth who had rented what we thought was a rustic hunting cabin by a lake.

Hunting cabin Heather Telford

Not so rustic after all.

Inside the cabin Heather Telford

The cabin was perfect for the four of us and was filled with all sorts of cottage charm. The dock caught the sun most of the day and our view was beautiful.

View from the dock Heather Telford

We swam, talked, ate and relaxed. A loon and a heron dropped by and I waited with camera in hand for it to take flight. It was far more patient than I.

Waiting for the heron Heather Telford

Late afternoon on our second day the clouds rolled in and it poured. We began to think we might be forced to stay an extra night. That would not have been hard to take. The storm turned out to be a teaser for what was to come later in the evening; soon the lake was calm again and we were overwhelmed by the double rainbow right in front of us.

DSC_8274 After the rain Heather Telford


Between Andrew and B14 we have soccer games or practices seven times a week. We are also enjoying some Women’s World cup games in Ottawa. Last week A & A watched France beat Mexico then Korea win against Spain. The week before we joined B’s soccer team to watch Germany tie with Norway then Thailand beat Côte d’Ivoire.

B14’s team has played a couple of tournaments already this season including one this weekend.

cumberland tournamentsc



Snowed under

Snow, thaw, pour, slush, freeze is the current weather sequence round here.

We have had a couple of big snowfalls in the last few weeks that I have attempted to photograph with my new camera. I am slowly getting to know what some of the buttons and settings do.

Of course the real purpose of a good snowfall is to provide somewhere to play and something to play with..

B10 and J10 across the road, with some help from J’s dad buried themselves up to their shoulders in snow. It reminded me of burying people in sand at the beach.

Onto the next event

Last time I posted here I was telling you about Laura’s successful week at the Kiwanis Music Festival.  The following week was busy for Alexandra as she first performed Fantasia on Greensleeves by Vaughan Williams and Csardas by Monti for her Concert Group class, then later in the week  the first movement of a Dvorak Sonatina.  Both performances went very well and we could the results of her hard work leading up to the Festival.  She also competed in a sight reading class and with Stellae Boreales in an ensembles class.   The weeks of the Kiwanis Festival are always busy but we  enjoy the chance to hear some amazing musicians play.

After the festival ended  practice energy was directed towards preparing for Stellae Boreales’ next concert which happened last night.  It was a very successful concert, the group’s  first sellout ever, but very different from any concert they have done before.  Bows for Butterflies was a benefit concert and auction in support of youth treatment programs at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre (ROMHC).  The concert was held in the Ballroom of the Brookstreet Hotel, a very classy Ottawa Hotel and attended by many prominent people in our community, including Daniel Alfredson, captain of Ottawa’s Hockey Team.   The performances, which included a solo from Laura, went very well and the response to the music and the cause was very enthusiastic.  At least $15,000 dollars was raised through ticket sales, auction and donations.

One more concert remains for the group  this season and then another solo recital for the girls in June.

Draw Near

Draw Near

I’m sure you’ve heard the Christmas story,
They tell it every year,
How Jesus Christ came down to earth,
To banish all men’s fear.

As shepherds watched their flocks by night,
Angels announced Christ’s birth,
“Glory to God on High,” they sang,
“To all men, peace on earth.”

The shepherds knelt before the baby,
Their bright eyes wide with awe,
Then ran excited through the streets,
Sharing news with all they saw.

I’m sure you’ve heard the Christmas story,
They tell it every year,
But often it gets swallowed up,
In gifts and festive cheer.

So take a minute; stop and ponder,
On God’s great gift of love,
He sent his only Son to earth;
From heaven, up above.

Yes, Jesus gave his life for you,
He paid for all your sin,
If you will give your heart to him,
A new life can begin.

I’m sure you’ve heard the Christmas story,
They tell it every year,
But listen now for Jesus’ voice:
“My precious child, draw near.”


We wish you all a very happy Christmas and pray that you will know God’s presence and blessing today and always.

Walking through History

Yes, it is another history post; we do cover other subjects, but history gets the most field trips.   As we approached the turn of the century in our Canadian History studies we spent a week on the Klondike gold rush.  It was my turn to prepare the lesson and the more I read the more I realised that I just had to invent a game.  When I taught grade five in Melbourne we studied the Ballarat gold rush and spent a couple of days at Sovereign Hill.  Part of our unit was a gold rush game which I remember was very popular with the class.  I found the book Gold! The Klondike Adventure by Delia Ray full of insight into the discovery of the strike and the arduous journey many took to join the gold crazy miners.  Consequently the majority of my game related to the journey, not the gold mining.  All the consequences written into the game were taken from actual events documented in the books I read.

During the gold rush Wilfred Laurier was Prime Minister, so we visited the house he lived in at that time. Laurier House is furnished primarily with the furniture of William Mackenzie King, who lived there after the Lauriers and was prime minister in the 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s.  There are some pieces owned by the Lauriers including the player piano owned by Mrs Laurier, which she used to teach her piano students.  All four families who attended the field trip found it fascinating and I think our guide enjoyed the children’s enthusiasm.

A couple of weeks ago we attended two workshops at the National War Museum, covering WW1 and WW2.  Generally when we visit museums we are reviewing material covered recently, but at the time the World Wars were still ahead of us so the workshops served as an introduction.  As in the past the workshops give the students the opportunity to handle and investigate authentic artifacts from the time period.  Artwork, posters, uniforms, military equipment, copies of letters and other objects were available for the students to read, touch and discuss.  Although the workshop was aimed at much older students B8 coped very well and was engaged through out.  L14 was not able to attend that day as she was with Andrew for “Take your kid to work day”, which she enjoyed.

Glimpses of our school day

Not only did we manage to get up in time for school this morning, the girls and I went for a run before we began. Running is very much in the trial stage, today was the second day. We are only running about 2km, which took us 15 minutes this morning. I spent the last 5 minutes telling myself I must not give up even though everything hurt!

We began with a short prayer and bible memory time using the fruit bowl to help learn the Fruit of the Spirit verses. Then it was into Maths, the girls just opened up the beloved Saxon tests and got to work. B7 and I did not get out the text straight away; I have designed things a little differently for him, devoting more time to games, drill and activity sheets which will hopefully help him to memorise his number facts and tables. As the maths got harder last year he could understand the concepts but was slowed down by the calculations. We did much of today’s lesson orally, covering the first lesson in the text but without the laborious copying of questions into a workbook. I spent quite a bit of time searching through recommended online Math Games during the summer so I could supplement the drill with some shooting of asteroids and the like. It will take me more time to prepare this type of lesson, but I was very happy with today’s results and so was B7.

L14 has designed her own schedule this year, which we will tweak as the days progress. I think a couple of subjects may need more time allotted to them but time will tell. For the first time (other than violin) she is taking a class with a different teacher. We have heard excellent reports of a writing teacher here in Ottawa who runs a thirty week program, teaching a range of writing styles and techniques. She sends lessons, assignments and feedback to her students by email and runs an optional 1 hour class each week.

The rest of the day ran smoothly with Language not being too painful for B7, I read him a story that I found very strange, but which he loved. Although he complained about spelling and writing I was thrilled to see how much he had retained over the long summer break. This year he will join A12 in using Excellence in Writing, the program I have utilised to teach the girls factual writing over the last few years.  Reading other people’s ideas over the summer I became convinced that B7 should have his schedule by his desk so he can see how his time is divided up.  He referred to it often today and could see that the lesson times were not too long and there were BLANK spaces during which he could take a break.

A12 managed to get all her work done in plenty of time, so she accompanied me to the library to borrow a secret codes book.  Tonight she created a very authentic looking Secret Agent membership document on the computer. (Not that I have actually seen any secret agent membership documents!)

So there you have a few glimpses into our first day back at school.  As I suspected, now we are back at the books the real summer weather has arrived, 30° today and tomorrow!


Shanghai was our last port of call in China. As we drove in, we gazed at highrise as far as the eye could see. I still don’t know how far the city stretched as haze hung in the air restricting visibility.  Even though we came in on a weekend, the traffic on the freeway crept along.  We arrived at our hotel, a renovated 1930’s hotel close to the Bund.  After dinner we were taken to the Huangpu river where we waited to board a boat for a river cruise which would give us a view of Shanghai by night.  On one side of the river we saw the old buildings of the British concession and on the opposite bank we could see the new buildings of Shanghai, all less than 15 years old and many stretching up higher than 60 storeys.  All were lit in some way, with flashing neon lights or  images flashing on and off and climbing the building.  On the side of one building I saw the Mona Lisa and other paintings by great masters.

As we shopped in each city several people asked Ping, our guide, where the best place to buy silk was.  He kept telling us to wait until Shanghai, where we would visit a silk factory.   I bought what I believe is silk in Beijing at the Pearl Market, but I have no guarantee.  At the factory we were shown the steps in the silk making process.  I was intrigued to see threads from nine small cocoons being spun into a single, almost invisible thread.

Silk cocoons are also made into light, warm comforters.  Double cocoons are selected and instead of finding an end to the thread and spinning it, each cocoon is stretched out over and over again.  Once the cocoon has been stretched out to resemble cobwebs it is laid down and more stretched cocoons laid one at a time over the top.  The result is a very light, but hopefully very warm doona (comforter, duvet).  I bought one but yet to use it.

Of course there was a showroom full of beautiful silk items.  I tried on a silk dress, the fitted style with the little collar, but unfortunately it didn’t fit over my hips.  I could have had one made and delivered to my hotel the next day but I decided against it.  A12 was given a beautiful gold and green scarf as a birthday present from the group.  After being called away from the silk factory we celebrated A12’s birthday with a delicious lunch and a mango mousse birthday cake organised by our guide PIng.  Everyone sang happy birthday and A12 was delighted with her scarf and a card signed by everyone.

While in Shanghai we participated in two exchanges with young Chinese musicians.  The first was at the Shanghai Children’s Palace, a facility which comes alive every weekend when hundreds of children arrive to attend music, art and other extra curricular activities.  We joined a young orchestra at their rehearsal.  We were able to play a few pieces for them and listen to some of theirs.  We discovered that Hungarian Dance was part of their repetoire so the Intermediate Performance Group joined in and everyone played together.  There was time at the end for a bit of conversation between the musicians.

Naturally our group was relying on the Chinese students having more English than our two or three words of Chinese!  After the exchange we spent the remainder of the afternoon preparing for the evening concert at the same venue. The second exchange was at the Shanghai Conservatory where we were treated to some solo and group performances.  Both groups had versions of the Butterfly Concerto, which was a highlight of the afternoon.

We spent one morning in the beautifully preserved old quarter of Shanghai. In the centre surrounded by walls is a garden, once privately owned but now enjoyed by everyone.  It was full of delightful plants, ponds, bridges and pavillions where the original owners did calligraphy, listened to concerts or sipped tea with guests.

I had several items I was determined to find while shopping in the old quarter, and for the first time during my time in China I found myself without musicians to keep track of.  We were told to meet outside Starbucks at a 11:30 so I made sure I knew where it was and set out to find the teapot, a kite and a couple more items.  The only problem was all the shops looked the same to me so I spent the first half of my time continually checking I still knew where Starbucks was!

After our experience haggling at the Pearl Market in Beijing I was a little better prepared for the bargaining process.  Each time I was ready to buy I decided on the price I wanted to pay and offered an amount way below it.  I always felt awful stating such a low price which was always met with howls of, “You joking, lady!”  Reaching a compromise was an exhausting but satisfying process.  While bargaing for Ben’s kite I was told over and over, “You hard bargainer, lady,” but I paid what I felt was reasonable.  It was, of course, impossible to tell the quality of the merchandise we were buying.

To my relief I found several shops devoted to tea, pots and cups.  I was able to browse in a few places before choosing a dark brown pot with a bamboo motif.  When I asked for matching tea cups, the vendor sent someone to another shop in the market to obtain six matching cups.  It arrived home safely and we were able to have a tea ceremony of our own!

Our last night in China was spent being amazed by the Chinese Acrobatic Show.  Jugglers, tumblers, acrobats and a magician held us spellbound for over an hour.  The finale was a display of five motorcyclists riding inside a metal sphere.  My favourite was a trapeze style display where two acrobats swung and performed suspended by lengths of silk twisted around their arms, legs or torso.


The Kiwanis Music Festival is over for another year and the girls found the whole experience very worthwhile, despite the inevitable butterflies before each performance. The week ended well with both girls receiving excellent comments about their sightreading and L13 performing very well in the trophy class. We really appreciated the comments the adjudicator made after each performance. She was very positive and encouraging and at the same time very specific in her suggestions for improvement. As the girls will be performing some of their competition pieces again they were pleased to receive her feedback. Over the years they have had a variety of adjudicators, some who were all sweetness and light but very little constructive criticism and others who concentrated on one main area with little comment on other aspects of performance. By the end of the week B7 was a little “Kiwanised out” but was very proud of his sisters all the same. So was I.

The end of Kiwanis does not mean a lull in performances, far from it. Between the two girls there are nine concerts in the next two weeks! All the performances are with either the performance group or their orchestras, no more solos until June.