Tuesday, July 31, 2012


361/365 by gina.blank

Taste of Edmonton = Taste of Yum!


360/365 by gina.blank
Ah, the tell-tail stains of berry picking. 

Mmm, saskatoons...


359/365 by gina.blank
Stuck in a bouncy castle!


358/365 by gina.blank


357/365 by gina.blank
When it rains, it pours.

(Notice how you can't really see beyond the traffic lights ahead. That's not fog--that's how thick the rain is.)


356/365 by gina.blank
Just because I'm in Alberta doesn't mean I can't enjoy some sand and sun!


355/365 by gina.blank
This one seems to need some extra attention today.


354/365 by gina.blank
Making sure this antique is up and running for next weekend's camping trip.


353/365 by gina.blank
The pumpkin has officially taken over.

...Where is my corn? Is that one of my carrots over there?

Friday, July 27, 2012


352/365 by gina.blank

Seat belt: protecting my shirts from spilled coffee since 2005.


351/365 by gina.blank
A good book, ice cold water, and a hammock on a hot, sunny day. Right, I remember this!


350/365 by gina.blank
On the agenda today: 
weeding, and 


349/365 by gina.blank

Right--just cuz I'm not on vacation anymore doesn't mean I can stop taking photos (time-stamped, 11:42pm; cutting' it close)!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9 OR 348/365

1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9 OR 348/365 by gina.blank
Finally learned how to play sudoku this vacation. Not any more addictive than the other number and word games I like to do, but entertaining, nonetheless.


347/365 by gina.blank
How is it that I haven't had my first ice cream cone until the day before I'm going home?

I Wear Flip Flops* OR 346/365

I never wore flip flops growing up. I remember owning Jelly Shoes for a summer or two, but on the whole, I was much more of a sneakers person. I have clear memories of a purple pair of Velcro shoes circa first grade, canvas high tops circa third grade, and imitation Keds in the fifth and sixth grades (which got puff-painted to snazz them up when they started to look worn—c’mon, you know you did it, too!).

Enter junior high and the era of Doc Martens. No, I never had actual Doc Martens (though I DID have an actual Club Monaco sweatshirt, but let’s save that for another post, shall we?). But I had the look-alikes. Ooh, and faux-suede shoes. Man, those were comfy. And more imitation Keds.

But no flip flops.
No sandals, even.
Yep, I was the kid with the sock tan every summer.

Around the eleventh grade (late, I know), I finally got the memo that sock tans look stupid, and decided that I needed to branch out into some sort of sandal wear. Thing is, I’m very particular about my footwear. I want my shoes to look good, feel comfortable, and match with more than one outfit. But I was not convinced that I wanted flip flops. I find it hard to walk around in shoes without a support around the back of the heel, and I was also convinced that I would have nothing but blisters between my toes. That being said, Velcro strap sandals were trendy at the time, and looked like a viable option. So in the summer after Grade 11, in a tiny little hamlet in BC, I bought my first pair of sandals.

And I loved them.

So for the next seven years, I wore this style of sandal in the summer. I think I went through 2-3 pairs; not entirely sure. Oh, wait—there were a few summers in university where I also wore Birkenstock-esque sandals for when I needed “fancy” summer footwear. Those rocked, too.

Then, in 2004, in a mud-fight with the Grade 5-6 class at the out-of-school care I was working at, a kid stepped on my sandal as I was running, and the strap popped irreparably apart from the sole. Time for new sandals.

As I was still in the process of looking for the perfect pair of new sandals, my friend SK was visiting from Arizona—a blessed state where people can wear sockless footwear some 300 days a year. Somewhere along the way, the topic of flip flops came up, and she encouraged me to try them. She reassured me that I may get blisters on the first day, but nothing more than that. She also reassured me that—even though she wasn’t entirely sure how—flip flops don’t fall off. So, with all this in mind, and with a tourist-necessitated trip to West Edmonton Mall, I entered Old Navy and bought my first pair of flip flops. They were only $5, so I figured if I ended up not liking them, I was really only losing $5.

In the end, it was more like, “best $5 spent ever!”

I did get a couple blisters the first few days.
But no, they didn’t fall off.
And they were so comfortable.
And pretty much matched with everything I wore.
AND I could wear them through water.

These things were great!

I Wear Flip Flops OR 346/365 by gina.blankThe pair I am donning in today’s photo are my third pair of Old Navy flip flops. This will be their last summer, as the foam is getting thin.

This pair of flip flips has crossed through the likes of garden dirt, playground turf, grassy field, puddle, and sand. They have been to the Rocky Mountains, Haiti, Nova Scotia, Florida, and the Caribbean. Most recently, they stood at the Western edge of Vancouver Island, where the only thing separating them from Japan was the Pacific Ocean.

Flip-flops, you rock my summers.

* It's a bit like deja-vu, isn't it?


345/365 by gina.blank My aunt and uncle have lived on Vancouver Island for about twenty years. When their house was brand new, my dad took my brother and I out to BC, and we spent several days on their large property.

We explored the creek and forest just beyond the patio doors, took a bubble bath in the jet tub, and attempted to watch cartoons on the peasant-vision television set.

A few years later, a cousin came along. He is the only first cousin that my brother and I have; I am eleven years his senior. The last time we visited their house, he was a year old. Time sure has passed.

Having spent very little time with my extended family, I was excited for the opportunity to catch up with them while on the Island. My uncle cooked some amazing steaks, we celebrated my cousin's 20th birthday with DQ ice cream cake, and then reminisced a bit as we looked through old photographs.

Visiting my aunt, uncle, and cousin as an adult was a bit like starting completely from scratch. So many questions I never had--or cared enough to ask--when I was a kid: what do you do for work? What kind of wine do you like to drink? Are you growing any vegetables, or just fruit? Have you renovated at all? Where do you like to travel?

At the same time, there was definitely that sense of familiarity that only comes with family. My uncle's gait and some of his features remind me of my own father. My cousin frequently talked with his hands, or made facial expressions that matched those of my brother. Clearly, genetics is at work here.

I do hope it's not almost twenty years before I spent good, quality time with these people again.


344/365 by gina.blank
Down in Cathedral Grove, there is many a log for climbing, scaling, ducking, burrowing in, and sitting on.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Irresistible OR 343/365

On a hot, sunny day at the beach with a camera, it is hard not to take a million pictures. I had taken pictures of the crabs, the horizon, the niece building in the sand, the nephew flying his kite, the friends walking out to sea.

In a moment when everyone was occupied in their own activities, I snuck away to focus on some other photos. A large (LARGE) piece of driftwood lay just down the beach a bit, and I had ideas.

Along with photos of the bleached, textured, driftwood, I was feeling particularly lovely in the summer dress I was wearing, and I thought the breeze might do nice things to it and my hair photographically as I stood on the log, looking out to sea.

After setting up about five or six shots, I heard a soft pitter-patter, pitter-patter in the sand. The sound of a child moving near by. I ignored it at first. I was in a photographer's zone. I did not want to risk making eye contact with some small person who wanted to explore the log. If I made eye contact, then I would see them waiting. And they would see that I could see them waiting. And then they would ask for a turn; if not verbally, then with their eyes. I've worked with children a long time; I know how this works. Selfishly, I set up for another shot, my back to the sound. I figured whoever else was interested in this log could wait just a few more minutes. But as the pitter-patter got closer, I eventually turned to the source of the sound. Fear that they would knock the camera off the log overtook worrying about having to give it up.

Irresistible OR 343/365 by gina.blankIt was not just any small person.

"What are you doing, Aunty Gina?"

My heart melts and the selfishness dissolves. "I'm trying to take a picture of myself on this big piece of driftwood." He was intrigued by the fact that I was using a remote to take the picture without having to be behind the camera. "Want to try it?"

He nods.

Well, come on, then. Get up here with me.

"Do this, Aunty Gina," he says, arms out wide to catch the breeze.

How can I say no?

Canon Ball! OR 342/365

Canon Ball! OR 342/365 by gina.blank
The sign says no diving.

I'm not diving.


Foliage and Flowers by gina.blank
We have landed in Victoria! After getting the rental vehicles sorted and organized, we thought it would be nice to stop for a late lunch and tour of The Butchart Gardens before embarking on the two-hour drive to our condo in Qualicum.

The gardens were a-MAZ-ing! Freshness and vibrant colours everywhere. I can't even imagine the meticulous planning that went into the creation of the grounds, nor the level of maintenance required to keep it manicured and gorgeous. Still, every flower and green shrubbery looks like it just bloomed naturally where it was. The transition from one garden to another was virtually seamless.

I especially enjoyed the columns of sweet peas. Their fragrance was noticeable before you even approached them. It was all I could do not to climb in and permanently wrap myself in their scent!

Tiny Yellow Stars by gina.blank

Each flower was so unique! There were many I was familiar with, on some level, and others I had never seen the likes of before. Even the greenery was amazing. Leaves in a variety of sizes, shapes, and textures. Everything surrounding you was just so fresh and alive! 

I think one could take an entire day to marvel at these more delicate of God's creations. Still, the afternoon we spent there was thoroughly satisfying to the senses!
341/365 by gina.blank

Thursday, July 19, 2012

And Lest You Think...

...I have forgotten or abandoned my 365 project; no!

Last week, I was vacationing with friends on Vancouver Island. While I had pictures of myself taken each day with my own camera, I know my image was captured on other digital devices, and I'm trying to wait until I've gotten copies of those pictures before posting. I want to see all my options :)

I am still taking photos each day, and am fast approaching the last day of this project, July 31. Exciting times, I tell you!

Cohabiting With the Robins

It was April or May when I learned that there must be a robin's nest in a near by tree. On more than one occasion, I would wake up at around 6am to a tap-tap-tapping at my bedroom window. When I would pull back the curtains, I would make eye-contact with a robin fluttering about the window. She would land on the sill, cock her head to one side as she sized me up, and then fly off, allowing me to sleep for the remaining hour before my alarm.

Moving through summer, I occasionally saw Miss Robin flying around, or perched in the elm in front of my house.

Yesterday, as I was transplanting some lamium on the north side of my house, I heard fluttering. A young robin had gotten himself caught in a tight space between the fence and the downspout of my eave. I lifted him out of the space, and he exited my hands as quickly as he could. He half-flew, half-tumbled into my yard, and then proceeded to hop away. Whether he injured his wing getting caught, or had done so before hand, I'm not sure. But it was about this point that major freak-outs ensued. Apparently, his siblings and Mama (formerly Miss) Robin were hanging out near by. They all started cheeping fiercely--the siblings calling for their other, and angry Mama Bird yelling at me. Mama Bird flew back and forth between the elm tree and the fence where I was standing, stressed and vocal.

I managed to get the young robin back onto the other side of the fence. He flew low, short distances around the neighbour's yard, and I left him to his family. The loud cheeping ensued for a good 15 minutes, but I think they eventually realized that I had not been trying to kidnap their kin.

Today, my back yard task list involved checking the eaves to see if they needed unclogging. It is a bit of a task in mathematics and physics to maneouver my 12' ladder in the thin space on the north side of my house, without taking out the fence or the air conditioner. A sturdy angle against the side of the house also means that the base of the ladder reaches right out to the fence. So, it took me a bit by surprise that after clambering around back there to get the ladder set up properly, I turned around to ascend the first rung and came face to face (i.e. less than a foot) with Young Robin, perched on a cedar branch overhanging my fence.

Feathered Friend by gina.blank We looked at each other for a while. I knew it was the same robin I had rescued, because his one wing sat just slightly lopsided against his body. And I'm pretty sure any other robin would have flown away.

"Glad to see you made it up here. Are we friends? Do I own you now? Hmm?"

I slowly backed out of the space and retrieved my camera from the house. When I returned, he was still there. His gaze was fixed upon my hands as I worked the lens and buttons. He cocked his head slightly at the first "click" of the camera. After several pictures, I retrieved some cherries for him from my nanking bush (I had seen his Mama eating them the day before). I placed them--slowly--along the fence, mere inches from him. He watched me set each one down, but didn't move; didn't fly away.

I took several more pictures, then got brave.

I reached out a finger, and stroked his good wing. He stayed.
I stroked his freckled breast. He stayed.
I gently stroked his head. He stayed.

I stepped away and went back to my original task. Went up the ladder, cleaned the eave, came back down. He watched me the entire time.

When I went back an hour later, he had finally gone elsewhere. And had left the cherries behind. Clearly, he is doing okay despite his injury.

My friend told me that by touching him--with my scent now on him--I will have rendered him abandoned by his mama. Though I've still seen her about today in the trees, I wonder if I may have inadvertently adopted myself a bird.

That's okay.
There are plenty of nankings for both of us.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Fairness and Sameness

Traveling with a family with a child with special needs is a unique experience. My friends are veterans at modifying activities and schedules to accommodate each of their three children, including the eldest, eleven, who has a complex disability.

The language of special needs and inclusion is everyday in their household. The other two little ones (currently seven and four) have been able to pronounce their sister's five-syllable diagnosis since they were two.

Earlier this week, we visited Qualicum Falls as part of the day's activities. We discussed which adults would go with which children, because wheelchair accessibility only went so far down the trail.

I was one of the adults that went with my younger niece and nephew down the winding, stairs-and-hills trail to the falls. At one point, my nephew stated, "dis is not really uh-sess-ible* for P." We had a brief discussion about how it's really hard to make nature fully accessible because in nature, things just grow where they grow, and rocks and things just are where they are. At this point, the conversation ended for the 4-yr-old, but it still had me thinking a bit.

We try very hard where I work to encourage and implement universal design, so that communities, schools, playgrounds, and education are accessible for all individuals. Every stair case has a ramp or elevator near by; every book has a Braille or audio version available in the same library; every classroom is laid out and supplied to meet the unique learning styles of all its students.

Obviously, this is easier said than done sometimes. But on the whole, I generally think we're getting better.

And then there's nature.

The conversation with my nephew made me consider the idea that universal design and Universal Design might not necessarily be the same thing. The magnificent Creator--the Universal Designer--has blessed us with mountains, valleys, white sands, rocky beaches, a myriad of life on land and in the waters. Tall trees and low-lying shrubs. Calm winding creeks and rushing waterfalls. He has created it all for His glory. And yet, clearly, not everyone can access even such simple things as waterfalls and hiking trails

Would He really create a world that was not accessible to everyone who passed by?!

I stand at the edge of the trail, atop the gorge where, at the opposite end, a waterfall crashes. It's not a very big waterfall, but it is still mesmerizing to watch and oddly soothing to listen to. My niece in her wheelchair is maybe 500m away, down a 'lesser' trail, unable to take in any of it. And she's not the only one, I'm sure.

How is that fair?!

And then something my mother used to say to my brother and I echoed in my head:

"'Fair' does not always mean 'the same.'"


"'Fair' does not always mean 'the same.'"

My mother used to remind us of this when one of us would exhibit envy over the other's invitation to a birthday party, or one-on-one time with a parent, or something like that. We were two very different people, and so we engaged in different activities and were shown love and care in different ways sometimes.

And in effect, universal design operates similarly. It's fair, but not necessarily the same. A child with a visual impairment may need to listen to a book on CD, while the other has a hard copy with pictures. And yet, I would never say that the audio version is the 'lesser' book (in fact, if it is well narrated, it may have an advantage over a book that a child reads inside his/her head). Fair does not always mean the same.

So why did it bug me in regards to the waterfalls?

Because I don't see the same outcome.

The child who listens to an audio book and the child who reads her own copy both still end up experiencing the same story. By the end, they both know that the Hungry Caterpillar ate a lot of food one week and turned into a butterfly. They both know that Harry gets the Philosopher's Stone before Voldemort does. They both know that Romeo and Juliet kill themselves to be together.

But P doesn't know the waterfall that I know. So she didn't see the falls--OK. But she couldn't even really hear them from where she was. Totally not the same outcome.

But fair does not always mean the same.

Not the same means, but certainly it should mean the same end?

Fair does not always mean the same.

I don't understand.

In the Grove by gina.blankShe should be able to see the falls. She should be able to hold the starfish at the beach. These are relatively simple, yet meaningful, things.

Meaningful to her or to you?

Well, there's that. But certainly there is someone, somewhere, in a wheelchair, who can't see the falls and wanted to.

...Fair does not always mean the same.

I still don't understand. I don't understand why You would paint a glorious sunset that not everyone passing by the beach that evening would be able to see. I don't understand why you would reveal the knotted roots of a massive fallen tree that not everyone walking by could leave the trail to touch.

But I do have peace knowing that, while experiences of God's creation may not be the same, they are fair.

That is good enough for now.


Friday, July 6, 2012


340/365 by gina.blank
If you put out any sort of furniture with your garbage, the City of Edmonton will not take it. I get it. I wouldn't want to be the garbage man heaving couches, mattresses, and other large hassles into my truck on a weekly basis.

However, if you take it to the Eco-Station, they want to charge you $8.00 to leave it with them, because it's garbage, not recyclable (I could take the equivalent volume's worth of computer parts, and that would be free).

BUT! If you dismantle the chair entirely, and then put all the parts into garbage bags, you can beat both systems entirely.

Gina: 1
Edmonton: 0

Thursday, July 5, 2012


339/365 by gina.blank
Joy is... a sunshiny day!

That, and not having to Photoshop over a hundred dust specks out of this image. Yay for professional sensor cleaning!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


338/365 by gina.blank
Went on a horse-drawn carriage historical tour of my neighbourhood this evening.

I already knew that my neighbourhood was not always part of Edmonton; it was its own town. So what was that town like?

Well, there was little industry out here (it was all in the city), so taxes were high and everything was expensive. Amenities and luxuries like water and power were late in coming relative to the City of Edmonton. The roads weren't paved until the 50s.

There was a coal mine walking distance from where I live. The drug store was once the Town Hall. The nearby school was the first in town with running water. And the community hall was once a movie theatre.

It would have been an interesting era to visit.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


337/365 by gina.blank
More fun with mirrors!

Of Rain Barrels and the Holy Spirit

My house came with a rain barrel. I had long before decided that once I became a home-owner, I would invest in a rain barrel, so I was delighted so see someone shared my value of collecting rainwater. I much prefer to water my garden and plants by filling the watering can from the rain barrel than using a hose. In part, because it saves me $$ on the water bill. But also, because it's a more eco-friendly option. It always unsettles me a little bit to water my garden, flowers, or--worst off all--the lawn, with drinking water, when there are people on the other side of the world dying from lack of fresh water (that being said, I fully recognize that I am too entrenched in my first-world lifestyle to let my lawn go completely brown or allow my garden to suffer if it hasn't rained enough).

After the Rain by gina.blank Last year, Edmonton saw a lot of rain (after a winter of also having seen a lot of snow). I never bought a sprinkler. Every time I used rain barrel water on the garden, it was filled up again in a few days with the next rain fall. It was somewhere around late-August where I think I--only once--had to water the garden with the hose to get it through its last few weeks, because the rain barrel was finally near empty.

This year's been a bit of a different story. I bought the sprinkler. And more hose. I still use the rain barrel first, but I have emptied it four or five times to keep my thirsty plants green and growing. I have also, therefore, soaked the garden with the hose four or five times, as I wait for more rain to come. And there has been rain. But usually only for a brief period in the late afternoon or early evening. And not every day. And not usually enough to counterbalance the hot, dry, sun.*

This evening is currently seeing a wonderful downpour.

Depending on how long into the night it continues, it may even fill up the barrel. Last year, I would stare out my kitchen window, thinking there was no way my lawn and garden could keep up with the amount of water its roots were being asked to absorb. This year, I stare out the kitchen window, begging my garden to drink deep. Because you are parched and I don't want to water you if I don't have to.

Sometimes, as I've been staring out the window, I've also reflected on the analogy of the Holy Spirit as water.

It's one of my favourite analogies. The Holy Spirit has been described like a rushing wind, cleansing fire, and refreshing rain (amongst other things). I particularly like the rain analogy, I think because I can relate to the sense of dirt and grime being washed away, the refreshing smell, the softness of once-dry, cracked land, and the absence of thirst after a good rain.

Sometimes we describe ourselves in relation to this analogy of the Holy Spirt. We thirst for God's presence, power, love (and He responds, "All who are thirsty, come..."**) We go through what we call spiritual dry spells. We need to be washed clean from our sin. 

But if the Holy Spirit pours down like rain, what happens in those times when our rain barrel starts to go empty? I don't trust our prairie's meteorological history to wait out the dry heat until the next rainfall. I will make rain on my own. But what about my faith? Do I trust God's relational history to wait out the desert period, or do I try to make rain on my own?

Except, the rain I make costs me.
And the rain I make doesn't always feel like the right thing to do.
And the rain I make doesn't always water as thoroughly.

Not a perfect analogy, I'm sure.
But something I continue to think about.

Especially when it finally rains.

*I am by no means dissing the sun. The sun is amazing. I will take a sunny summer over a rainy one any day. I am merely stating meteorological fact.
** Revelation 22:17. See also John 4:12-14


336/365 by gina.blank

A clean car is a happy car!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Pondering Peonies

Layer Upon Layer by gina.blank
Until this summer, I've never really paid attention to peonies. Up until a few years ago, when someone mentioned peonies, I'd respond with, "those are the ginormous flowers that kinda look like carnations, right?"

I mostly associated peonies with the stifling heat of the south side of the house where the bush was located in our back yard, and the nervous energy that arose as one tried to predict whether there would be bumblebees present as we passed by the bush of blooming pink.

One of my friends quite loves peonies, and had placed some in the guest bedroom where I was staying last weekend. Their velvety appearance and soft fragrance encouraged me to pause and take them in both visually and aromatically for an extended moment. These are actually quite lovely.

Then, a couple days ago, a lady posted on Freecycle that she had some extra peonies on her bush that she'd be willing to cut for anyone who wanted some. Ooh, pick me, pick me! I came back with nine large flowers in pink and white, and promptly arranged them into vases for my kitchen, living room, and bedroom. The whole house smelled so fresh within 12 hours!

Abloom and Blooming by gina.blank One of the stems included a blossom--roughly the size of a Timbit--that sat pearly white amidst the fluffy flowers around it. Yesterday, its outer petals opened, and then this morning at breakfast, I had to do a double take. It had exploded into layers of petals, the likes of which I couldn't have imagined were wrapped up in such a small budded bundle.*

Cue camera.

I think peonies are now on my list of top ten favourite flowers, and definitely one worth obtaining as I start to think about re-landscaping parts of my back yard over the next few years.

Oh, summer, you continue to delight and inspire!

*I feel there's a metaphor there somewhere. ...Ah, a different post.


333/365 by gina.blank