Friday, November 9, 2012

Woolly Caterpillar 2012 Report

Last fall I posted on the theory that the severity of winter can be predicted based on the colour pattern of the Woolly Bear Caterpillar. Here's what the 2011 Woolly Bear looked like:

Woolly Bear Caterpillar c2011. Photo by Anita Mae Draper
 The Winter of 2011 was very mild. It started early with cold weather in Oct, and didn't seem to end until April, but the temp only dipped colder than -20C/-4F six times. And of those six, I don't recall any being extremely cold - like colder than -40C/F.

So what about the Winter of 2012? Here's what the Woolly Bear looked like when I took the photo this year (Oct 2012) :

Woolly Bear Caterpillar c2012. Photo by Anita Mae Draper
The band looks almost the same ratio as last year, however, he doesn't seem as woolly. In fact he's so sparse, I can see his skin especially around his head.

If you look at this poster, the least woolly caterpillar is the bottom one which is listed as a severe winter. Or is it the same, but only looks sparse because of the artist's rendering?

So I suppose we have 2 things to look out for - the band ratio as well as the woolly factor.

One other difference which you can't tell from the photos is that last year there were caterpillars everywhere! They were crawling up the walls outside as well as inside the garage. This year, I only saw one or two and none in the garage. Well, hubby did put a new door on the garage to keep my office warmer, but he hasn't finished the trim yet and there are still gaps where critters can get inside.

Finally, we saw a new type of woolly caterpillar this year. It's about 1 inch long (half the length of the Woolly Bear) and was sighted twice - both times this size. My research showed this as the Yellow Woolly Bear caterillar which will grow into a White Tiger Moth instead of the Brown Tiger Moth as above.

Yellow Woolly Bear Caterpillar c2012. Photo by Anita Mae Draper

Snow already fell in Oct 2012. Nov has been a mix of temps with the snow thawing and dripping but other days are brisk and cold creating dangerous walking and driving on the ice, and the white stuff is still here. Will it be a long, mild winter like last year, or a short severe one like 2010?


Saturday, October 6, 2012

ACFW Dallas 2012

I went to Dallas, Texas in Sept and although I didn't see much of the city itself, I really enjoyed my trip to the American Christian Fiction Writers annual conference. I'm posting a day-by-day diary of my trip over on my writing blog and so far, have posted these days:

- Going to Dallas: Travelling from Regina to Dallas and my first impressions

- ACFW Dallas Wed: Meeting author friends and venturing away from the hotel

The following photos are different from the ones over on my Woven Under Western Skies writing blog, but if you want to see pics of the conference itself and my author friends, you should check it out.

Dawn breaks at 6:22 am Sep 19th, 2012 at the DFW airport in Dallas, TX.
Looking toward Dallas from my 8th floor room in the DFW Hyatt Regency.
Using the 700mm zoom on my Nikon Coolpix P500 camera, brings the Dallas skyline closer.
Anita Mae Draper standing in front of the Love & War in Texas restaurant in Grapevine, Texas, Sept 21, 2012
My Tejas Platter at Love & War in Texas comprised of a beef enchilada, cheese enchilda, handmade tamale and a soft flour taco, served with Texan Rice TM, refried beans, and pico de gallo. And oh my, what a treat. I was worried it was going to be too spicy, but not at all. I have to admit however, I've never had liquidied refried beans before.
And do you see that bottle of Root Beer? It tasted like A&W, but cost twice as much! 
I ignored the Krispy Kreme selection every morning, but I had to try one before I left the US just to see what all the hype was about. The Blueberry Krispy Kreme donut was good, but I've tasted many the same at Tim Hortons.
Keep watching the Recent Posts list at the top of the right column for updates on my trip to Texas.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Dragonfly Kiss

Look what I found on top of the van's antenna the other day...

Oh, kiss me, my darling...
Well, what do you think it's saying?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Medicine Line Outdoor Show

It's history day at the Inkwell and I'm blogging about going to see the Theatre on the Hoof live Wild West Show, The Medicine Line back on July 1st.

I guess the hardest part was finding the venue because it's been almost 25 yrs since we lived in Moose Jaw, and my dear sweet husband knew the way and wasn't about to listen to my directions thinking that I was the one who'd forgotten. Right. And then he asked for directions from a convenience store clerk! Let's just say it was awhile before I found my voice.

The venue was the beautiful Wakamow Valley in what used to be the Wild Animal Park. It was a natural setting for the outdoor show, although I wished vehicles hadn't served as a backdrop for the stage. Kind of disconcerting to a history buff like me. But the recreators did an admirable job with the script.

The Mountie, the Chief, and the Metis discuss things before the show starts.
No, the Chief didn't wear sunglasses during the show.

I especialy liked the teepee making demonstration, as well as the Red River Cart demonstration - added bonuses to the program. Chataqua performances followed the Theatre on the Hoof show.

For more photos, as well as 2 videos - one of which is a funny outtake - please go to my Inkwell post.

The questions for discussion today are about outtakes - if you like them, or if you think they detract from the seriousness of a show.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Visit to Crystal in Vancouver

I've spent the past 2 weeks traveling down to a writing conference in California which started when I flew from Regina to Vancouver and stayed with Crystal overnight, and ended with another overnight stay with her on my way back. I have to admit, the Vancouver wildlife sure has grown since my last visit in the '80s.

Crystal Draper, Vancouver BC, July 2012

When Crystal said she lived downtown, I didn't realize she meant within blocks of BC Place, Science World, and the 2010 Olympic Village...

BC Place and Science World, Vancouver BC, July 2012

Several times, I took the CanTrain with Crystal, and was amazed the trains don't have individual drivers, but are controlled by a central control centre.

West of Vancouver is the Straight of Georgia, with the mountains on the east.

Crystal and I shared an evening walk along a rejuvenated False Creek.
BC Place, Vancouver BC, July 2012

Science World, Vancouver BC, July 2012

I enjoyed my time in Vancouver, Crystal. Thank you.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Research Trip Part 2

I'm blogging at Inkwell Inspirations today with Research Trip: Trails of 1885 Part 2. It entails my visits to Fort Carleton, Duck Lake, and Hague where I crossed the South Saskatchewan River by ferry. I have lots of photos over at the Inkwell, and a video of my actual ferry crossing.

If you only want to watch the video, see it here:

The questions for discussion today are:

Have you ever taken a ferry ride? Where? What river? What size of ferry?

I hope to chat with you, either here or at the Inkwell.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Trails of 1885 and Old Postcards

I'm blogging about my recent research trip at the Inkwell today under the title, Research Trip: Trails of 1885 Part 1. Here's a hint about my trip:

And if you're a member of the Draper and/or Nelson families, you may be interested in my Author Memories post 100 Year Old Postcards where I show one postcard addressed to Noah Draper and 2 to Ethel Isabell Nelson, all in chronological order so you see what they're doing before they marry. I also discuss how I'm using this information for genealological purposes.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

My Transit of Venus Experience

The measurements taken during the Transit of Venus will be announced soon and then the topic will fade away for over a hundred years, so I wanted to give my experience while it's still fresh in our minds.

I expected the transit to occur like in the image at the bottom of my previous post. It didn't happen like that at all. Here's what I saw...

I went outside at 4:04 pm which was the ingress time for the Transit of Venus. I began to take photos like I'd done with the eclipse on May 20th (will post those photos soon). I found this was possible - but probably not recommended - because my camera has a flip up screen so I'm not looking up at the sun. Instead, I'm looking down at the image on the monitor which is connected to the camera by wires or some other signal.

The sun was very bright and I didn't know what I'd see, but I hoped that after I uploaded the photos into my photo editor and adjusted the settings, I would see a small black dot. However, I couldn't see anything except a bright orb. When I had done this for the eclipse photos, I'd taken them at 7 pm onward when the sun had lost much of its intensity. The Transit of Venus happened at 4pm. 
Nelson saved the day around 5 pm however, when he went down to the shop and came back with 2 welding helmets. I knew he had one, but didn’t think it was strong enough, so I told him that he shouldn’t use them unless he couldn’t see the landscape through the glass. He gave one to me and I looked toward our grassy tree-encircled play area and couldn't see anything. Excited, I looked up at the sun. It appeared as the sun does on days with light clouds crossing past – where you see the pale circle through the clouds.
Nelson said how neat Venus looked and that he was going to get the boys. I couldn’t see it. He switched welding helmets with me, said it was on the top right side, then rushed into the house. I still couldn’t see it although it was kind of hazy to me.
Then suddenly, there it was! A little black dot about a fifth of the way down. Wow! I found out later while watching the NASA site of the live Transit that as people age, the whites of their eyes get a slight yellowish tinge called CalciumK - at least that's what it sounded like he said. I haven't had time to research the actual word or spelling.
Over the next few minutes, small clouds moved in and I tried to take photos through the glass of the welding helmet, but couldn't. Soon, more clouds came and covered the sun and for awhile it was only a bit covered so I took more pics, but they didn’t show Venus either. And then the clouds covered everything. 
From then on I was relegated to watching the live NASA coverage on their website, so – thank you, NASA! Not only did I see the transit, but I learned so much about astronomy, coming events, solar viewing, etc.

The big surprise was when Venus transited straight down from top to bottom. I thought it would curve from top to right, like that image on my website, but it didn't. In the above image taken from the live NASA website, the black dot is Venus just about at the egress point.

My one disappointment was that since I couldn’t see the actual ingress and egress, I wasn’t able to take part in the actual mapping of the distance from earth to sun on the phone app. No bragging rights on that one.
Overall, it was a memorable experience.

There are many videos out there of the actual transit - short versions because the real time was over 6 hrs - but none of those versions show Venus coming straight down.

So, what was your experience? Did you see it? How? Do you understand the significance of it? Or is it just 'meh'.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Tues - Rare Transit of Venus

A very rare celestial occurance will happen today, June 5th, when Venus passes directly between the sun and earth. Much like an eclipse, you can't look right at the sun and see it, but if you take the proper precations such as the easy ones shown in the links, you'll see Venus as a small dot making its way across the sun - a journey of approx 6 hrs for North American viewers. The event will start at 6:04 pm EDT which is 4:04 pm MDT as well as here in Saskatchewan where we are on the same time as MDT.

Check out these Transit of Venus links:

-This link is to the Transit of Venus website which will tell you everything you need to know about this rare event and explain why you should watch it.

- This link is a fun video that explains it very briefly and with images you'll remember more than if you only read the text.

- If you're worried about your eyes or can't see the actual event due to clouds, etc, don't despair. Nasa is showing a live web broadcast of the event starting at 5:45pm EDT at

And for all those amateur astronomers, there is now  free Transit of Venus phone app, which will allow you to send your observations of the 2012 Transit of Venus to a global experiment to measure the size of the solar system. This is not as far-fetched as it sounds because the links above will show how this event enabled astronomers to measure the solar system in the first place.

The phone app is spearheaded by the non-profit Astronomers Without Borders, and they invite you to join them as a supporter and a participant. More information about the phone app can be found in the left hand column of the Transit of Venus website.

If you watch the Transit of Venus, either outside or live on the web, or if you download the phone app, come back here after and let me know the details and I'll tell you what I experienced.

Image of Transit of Venus courtesy of

Have fun and most of all, take care of your eyes.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

1950-1960 Family Pets at Author Memories

Last week, my Author Memories blog was entitled, Cat, Dog or Pony?

It featured not only my own childhood pets, but those of my Uncle Paul when he was a young boy living in Ryland, Ontario. My mother sent me another photo of her brother when he was real small and standing beside his calf, Valentine and I've added it to the post along with the others.

Paul Henrekson and Valentine, Ryland, Ontario, c1950

I'd love if you stopped by for a visit, either here or at Author Memories.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

At the Inkwell: Bonnie's Good Bad Day

I'm blogging about Bonnie's Good Bad Day over at the Inkwell today. I'm featuring my sister and an email she sent me a few days ago that's just too funny not to share.

Bonnie and her daughter, Sonya-Rose

In the email, Bonnie Margaret Bremnes talks about her atypical - or should that be typical - LOL - day while employed at the Living Word Ministries. What a riot!

The boys' dorm and classrooms at Living Word Ministeries, Swan River, MB

I know I've had days like this, but never to the extent Bonnie went through. And yet I heard her laughter throughout the email.

The question for today at the Inkwell is: Have you ever had a day like this?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Final Part of Mamma's Memoirs Posted

I've posted the final of 4 parts based on the Memoirs of Tyyne Henrekson over at Author Memoirs.

Part 1 - Mamma's early years in Finland
Part 2 - Meeting and marrying Pappa and emigrating to Canada
Part 3 - Early Life in Canada and Birth of the Children
Part 4 - Mamma finishes her Memoirs

I've enjoyed bringing Mamma's story to my website and I suspect I'll be adding more. While talking to my mom the other day, she mentioned I'd be getting a package in the mail soon from her sister, Miriam with more info. Yay!

I'll post more as I get it. Meanwhile, I'll leave you with a 4 generation photo taken back in 1987 when we had a family reunion on the farm on the occasion of Taimi's visit from overseas.

(L to R) Grandma Mary, Mamma Tyyne (Great Grandma), Crystal Anne, and me, Anita Mae 

Every time I see the Monkshood flower, I remember this patch of them beside Mamma's door. Some of my best times were spent sitting on the bench with Pappa and Mamma in the mornings.
What about you? What was your favourite time on the farm?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Looking Back at Easter 2011

Do you remember Resurrection Day last year? This is what we had to go through to get to church on Easter morning 2011 ...

And this is what we did that Sunday afternoon...

Look under FLOOD WATCH in the sidebar label section for more flood pics.
We didn't want a repeat of last year. But after a mild winter with barely any snow, we enjoyed our early spring.

But it was not to be because we awoke to this yesterday morning...

And then a flock of robins were in a frenzy to eat the last of the Purple Royalty Crabapples - almost as if they were stocking up...

And then the sun came out and the snow melted off the trees. The Juncos basked in the sun and we were left with a yard full of slush.

And this is what our driveway looked like this morning...

The snow is melted on the gravel and pavement portions and despite how it looks, there's only a light covering on the grassy sections.

At 8:15 am, I looked out my window and saw the neighbor's cows had come over to wish us a Happy Easter. So nice of them except for the 'gifts' they left in the driveway.

And I almost missed the male robins in the hedgerow because their red breasts matched some of last year's leaves. After the feeding frenzy yesterday, they certainly look well fed.

What a wonderful, ever-changing world our God created.

Happy Easter!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Mamma's Memoirs Part 3 on Author Memories

This is the 3rd post of the memoirs of Tyyne Henrekson:

Part 1 - Mamma's early years in Finland
Part 2 - Meeting and marrying Pappa and emigrating to Canada
Part 3 - Early Years in Canada until 1950

These memoirs are taken from Mamma's hand-written booklet, Grandma Henrekson (Kakkonen) Memoirs--in English (1992).

However, because Mamma's Memoirs contains mostly photos of Pappa and Mamma's life in Northern Ontario during this 3rd part, I'm letting their eldest daughter, Taimi DisCala, whom we met in Part 2, tell you what it was like back then.

Aimo and Tyyne Kakkonen/Henrekson in front of their new Ryland home, 1950

This was supposed to be the final part, but Taimi sent so much valuable information that I felt should be posted for everyone to read.

Hence, the 4th part will take us through the 50's and 60's and will include the tragic accident - in Mamma's own words - that claimed the life of Billy, the only child of Pappa and Mamma who preceded them to heaven.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Mamma's Memoirs at Author Memories

Since I don't have a guest blogger on my Author Memories blog this week, I posted the second part of the memoirs of Mamma, Tyyne Henrekson. You can find the parts here:

Part 1 - Mamma's early years in Finland

Part 2 - Meeting and marrying Pappa and emigrating to Canada

Since posting Part 1, I received a long email from Aunt Taimi DisCala (nee Henrekson) who is Mamma and Pappa's eldest daughter. She added some neat details which I've included in the post. This helps explain some of the things Mamma shared as we were growing up, but she didn't mention in her memoirs when she wrote them at the age of 84 in 1992.

If anyone has photos they'd like share about Mamma and Pappa, please let me know. I'm especially looking for a photo of the original log building they first moved into. When I was little, Pappa used it as the garage/workshop with all his nuts and bolts. It was beside the house and in front of the woodshed. The only photo I have of it is the one I used in Mamma's Memoirs Part 2 with Taimi and her kids, but I'd like to have a photo with more of the building to add earlier in the post.

Also, if anyone has photos of any of the farm whether it's buildings, yard, garden. People and animals are fine, too. :)

Once the 3rd and final part of Mamma and Pappa's history is posted on Author Memories, I'd like to copy them to a blog specifically for the genealogy of the Kakkonen history here in Canada including references and info about Finland. Anyone with info and/or photos can write a post for the blog to share with the family and our descendents.


Monday, February 6, 2012

West Edmonton Mall

Last weekend, the family and I left our farm at 4 am and drove west on the TransCanada Hwy#1 471 miles (758 km) to Calgary, Alberta. Near Swift Current, we encountered slippery roads - emphasized when a pickup pulling a trailer spun off the highway in front of us. As you can see in this photo, the median between the divided highway is quite wide and shallow, so the driver didn't flip or roll.

We arrived in Calgary by mid-afternoon and went straight to Rocky Mountain Bible College to watch our daughter practice her 2 hr choir session. By 7 pm, we were back on the road - our daughter, Jessie included - and headed another 183 miles (295 km) north to Edmonton, the capital of Alberta. Again, halfway there we encountered roads slippery with slush while sleet slowed the heavy traffic, and finally arrived at 10 pm. Even with the 2 bouts of icky weather, we'd been blessed to arrive safely. It was the end of Jan on the prairies, after all.

Friday morning saw the Nelson and Nick head out to the BreakForth Praise and Music Conference which was a short 15 min walk from our hotel, along the park with a view of the river valley.

360 deg photo taken with iPhone. Our hotel is tallest bldg in middle left.

I wanted to visit the History Museum, but Jessie and JJ wanted to check out West Edmonton Mall (WEM). Since this was Jessie's only day to sightsee, I gave in and drove the two teens to North America's largest shopping mall. I mean really, what teen wants to see a stuffy history museum when they can shop in the 5th largest mall in the world. I've been calling it the world's largest mall without realizing it lost that distinction in 2004.

To give you an idea of the size, here's the Wikipedia entry:  West Edmonton Mall covers a gross area of about 570,000 m2 (well over 6 million sq ft). There are over 800 stores and services and parking for more than 20,000 vehicles. More than 23,000 people are employed at the property. The mall receives 28.2 million visitors per year; it also attracts between 60,000 and 150,000 shoppers daily, depending on the day and season. The mall was valued at C$926 million in January 2007.

And then this from the CBC 1985 archives: With eight major department stores, seven amusement parks, a chapel, a bingo hall and a NHL-sized hockey rink, occasionally used by the Edmonton Oilers, the West Edmonton Mall covers the equivalent of 104 football fields.

Mark Messier & Wayne Gretzy celebrate 1 of 4 Stanley Cup Oiler wins

Suffice to say, although I was looking forward to the exercise, I was not looking forward to sharing the experience with 59,999 other shoppers. I needn't have worried. The mall is so spread out, I didn't feel pressed in by people at all. Well, not until 4 pm when school ended and suddenly the mall teemed with kids! But I'm getting ahead of myself...

I hadn't been back to WEM since the early 80's when a young Wayne Gretzky played for the Edmonton Oilers and was rumored to be one of the backers for the ambitious project. Back then, WEM ran 7 submarines and for a fee - $8 a person if I remember - you could go down into a sub for a ride around the lagoon and see all the sea creatures - everything from blue fish to nurse sharks. It was quite exciting. I was also looking forward to seeing the Aviary.

The 8 person sub looks small beside the full-size Santa Maria.
 Things changed since my last visit 25 yrs ago. The aviary has been turned into a huge oval kiosk. And only 2 subs remain, neither open to the public. When I look at that little sub now, I can't imagine 8 people used to fit in them. But it sure was fun.

One of the new attractions JJ was quite taken with was RopeQuest. While Jessie went shopping, JJ was challenged by 4 levels of rope rigging. He enjoyed it so much, he wanted to return each day. We didn't as we had other places to see.

JJ walking across the lower level of challenges at RopeQuest at WEM
 We peeked into the 5-football field-size waterpark to see the huge wave simulating the ocean, but it wasn't on the agenda for this trip. Neither was the mini-putt although it was very tempting.

Putt 'n' Glow Mini-putt course
  As mentioned before, we loved the salt-water lagoon and spent most of our time there.

Behind the full-size Santa Maria

This place is huge and rises the full 3 floors of the mall.

Looking toward the Santa Maria. Jessie and JJ are on the bridge.

The sea lion show was great fun. I have some video I'll add if there's interest.

Because we paid to watch the show at Sea Lion's Rock, we were able to go down into the Sea Life Caverns where they had small pools where you could touch skates (rays) and sea anemones.

Jessie allowing a starfish to investigate her palm with sea anemones on the bottom.

Back in the '80s, Glaxayland consisted of a dozen neat rides like the old-fashioned swings that spun you horizontal when it got going, a carousel, and a swinging galleon. My favourite was the balloon ride.

One of the original Galaxyland (Fantasyland) rides.
Everything wasn't so 'puffy' and bright back then, either. And behind/beside the balloon ride was the roller coaster. Now, a new area almost 4 times the size of this old one has been added on and the roller coasters from over there zip over the people on this side...

Tracks from rollercoasters zip from new to old side at Galaxyland.

Instead of 1 rollercoaster, there are now 5 - at least. I was amazed at the engineering expertise that went into fitting so many rides into this area.

I'll close with a sight that awed me from the first moment I saw it 25 yrs ago. I had the same reaction when I saw it again last week... a full size skating rink in the middle of one arm of the mall. This is where Gretzy and the Oilers used to practice and it always grew huge crowds. Today it's used by different organizations, but there's still public skating on the schedule and skates are available for rent.

JJ seeing the Ice Palace for the first time.

So, have you ever been to West Edmonton Mall? What about another mall the same Canadian owners have built... the Mall of America in Minnesota?

This post is cross-posted at Inkwell Inspirations today - Feb 6th.