Random traveling thoughts

It’s a cloudless Alberta day and we’re heading to the southern part of the province to visit my mom, sister, and our son Alec. The sun is bright in my face and I don’t mind a bit. I soak up the vitamin D that’s available these days.

I look in the mirror and my hair looks especially grey in the bright sunlight. Bummer. Growing older gracefully is a challenge for me. I’ve put on a lot of pounds in the past year too. I want to blame it on medication, but it might partly be that I’m 45. We hope to go to Belize in February and some of our friends down there won’t be afraid to tell us if we’re fatter and greyer than when they last saw us. 😩😂 But I have always appreciated honesty. It’s just hard to know when to fight these things and when to accept them.

We just passed Onaway and Villeneuve. Town names fascinate me. Peace River. BayTree. Fox Creek. Moose Jaw. Red Deer. And other more interesting ones yet. I wonder about their origins.

I’m fighting to just stay on top mentally, so I have a hard time with big goals for 2020. But Liesl gave me a pretty planner for Christmas and I will feel bad for her if I don’t use it. So that’s one of my goals. And then there’s the Belize trip to look forward to. I can’t wait to feel that warm sun and walk the village streets to visit friends and maybe spend a day at the cayes.

What is your dream vacation? A Belize trip is pretty high on my list. So I feel very fortunate! But I’d also love to see Italy and Switzerland. Or visit friends in Chile. And some winter I’d love to take a motor home and tour the southern states and come back to BayTree when the spring mud is gone.

We had a lovely Christmas. And I’m happy to spend part of vacation with family from further away.

Please entertain me. Answer one or all of the following questions:

1. Tell me interesting town names close to you.

2. What is true beauty to you?

3. What is your dream vacation?

4. What do you look forward to in 2020?

If you answer them all and I know you well enough (even if it’s just online), I’ll reply with something I appreciate about you. ❤️

Happy New Year!


I sit in the little (now grey because it has new siding!) church with the fading brown carpet. It’s Sunday school time and we’re discussing sharing good tidings of great joy. The sun shines on my face from the south windows and I bask in it. But only briefly. It is gone again soon. The days are so short right now, with the sun just having risen on our way to church at 9:45, and setting again at 4:30. As my friend Laura put it in her Christmas letter: “The sun rises in the deep southeastern sky and makes a small arc over the southern sky before setting in the deep southwestern sky.”

But the dawn and dusk are very long on either side of those times I cite.

I walk in the fierce cold. I wonder again why we live here. But then I don’t.

In the long evenings I draw. We play Phase 10 and Take One.

Each year I like to skate at least a time or two. It’s sunny and Sunday and I take Liesl and a friend to the community rink at the post office/convenience store where the rink is built.

We go caroling in the evening and try to keep our time short at each place because it’s -20 and people stand with their doors open. Some bundle up and come outside to listen.

Bryant has been gone for almost two months working at his aunt and uncle’s bulk foods store in Wisconsin. He comes home and brings cheese and meat and cards and gifts and chocolate covered pretzels and almonds and special salsas and homemade snack mix from aunt Michele and cheese curds and recipe ingredients for a chicken casserole he liked from aunt Monica. And that is not all. And though we already felt blessed and fortunate, we feel it even more now.

The Christmas letters and photos are sent and the lights glow softly on this Monday morning when Dan and I are up earlier than we wish we were. We stayed up late talking with Bryant and then the kids kept us awake talking even longer. But it was a happy sound and I didn’t really mind it. Having grown up children is so fun!

Here I am, surrounded by light and love and Jesus. Oh my. It’s not as idyllic as I might be making it sound. There’s already too much screen time and the holidays have just begun. And our month of no gluten or sugar may as well never have happened as the Christmas goodies pile in.

But I want to SHARE the goodness. And there are lots of ways to do that.

I’ve had three months of relatively stable health and that makes me incredibly happy and thankful. Lately I feel like I’m hanging by a thread of sanity, though. I have to work so hard to stay on top of the negative anxious thinking.

Praise music pounds.

Or I sit in quietness and read aloud.

Colossians 1:

I have confident hope of what God has reserved for me in heaven.

I will be strengthened with all His glorious power so I will have the endurance and patience I need.

I will be filled with joy.

I can share in the inheritance.

I live in the light. I have been rescued from the kingdom of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of his dear son.

I have had my freedom purchased and my sins forgiven.

I am reconciled to Jesus through his death.

I can stand before his presence without a single fault.

Or I take deep breaths.

In with peace. Out with guilt.

In with freedom. Out with bondage.

And so on. And on.

If you have time, read this. It was shared by my friend Laurel on Facebook.

I need to pour my coffee and add maple syrup and cream. There will be laundry. There’s cheeseball to make and something healthy to dream up for supper. There are fading spruce boughs to replace with fresh pine.

Love you all.

Merry Christmas! If it’s not all you wish it would be-or all that someone else’s is-may you still feel the presence of Immanuel. God with us.

Not a lot to say

I’m sitting here in a white hotel bathrobe on a white bed and I feel like a queen.

Dan is off to the last sessions of the western Canadian conference for soil health and grazing here in Edmonton. I had a wonderful soak in the bathtub and was going to work on my Mast family portrait. But I thought I’d write a few words here first. Since I don’t have a lot to say, I guess I will write until I find some words.

At home in BayTree, the children are off to school, Tori is subbing for the younger grade teacher, and the church ladies are together for sewing circle. “Sewing circle ” is simply a Mennonite term for getting together to sew. For our group, that usually means sewing comforters for places in the world where people need warm blankets.

I was actually sad to miss this month’s sewing. it’s been a long time since we were together. But I can’t say I don’t want to be where I am either. 

Last night Dan took me to the banquet at his convention. It is always good to be surrounded by other farmers: Plaid shirts, belt buckles, and some Stetsons. I felt a bit out of my league as the little Mennonite wife, but the roast beef and bean salad and cheesecake were so good. And Dan comes alive in settings like that. He is so passionate about regenerative agriculture.

Earlier in the day, I went secondhand shopping with my friend Angela. We ate sweet little crepes at Cora’s restaurant and had a good talk. (Actually the crepes were big, not little, come to think of it.)


It’s now nearly 2:00. I’m having a London Fog at Tim Hortons and it’s too sweet. But I will try not to complain. My life is SO GOOD, people. I feel that deeply this week.

My friend Carissa posted this on Instagram today.


I’ve never liked political discussions, but ever since I’ve struggled through depression and anxiety, I can hardly bear them. So you will see me being very quiet if politics comes up. But I’ve been really challenged lately to pray for world leaders. It’s something I haven’t done much and God says to.

There’s a cute white haired couple nearby who are eating their chili and rolls. They were reading the newspaper too.

I am not a fan of Tim Hortons. But their chili is good.

I painted the faces and cheeks (favourite part) of my Mast family this morning. And I wished for every tired mom the three days of leisure and reflection that I’ve had. I wish I could gift it to each one of you. Now for the long drive home.

I bought most of my Christmas gifts online around the middle of November, but some of them haven’t arrived yet. I’m trying not to stress about it. Our kids are old enough to understand slow mail. But I still pray they come very soon.

It’s snowing. It would be romantic if it didn’t make slippery roads.

Well. I wrote–but I still didn’t come up with something important to say.

I wish you a Christmas filled with peace of heart.

don’t even try it

Don’t make gluten free vegan chocolate mint mini cheesecakes.

Don’t even try it.

The raw cashews didn’t get smooth and dreamy as promised.  The glaze was not glorious as promised.  The color isn’t minty like the pictures.  I made it into a cake instead of of the mini cheesecakes. And I’m not sure if we’ll be able to eat it. Note the “glaze”.

But I wasted all those nuts and so much maple syrup on it!! 😩

Do make Indian Butter Chicken.

I’m obsessed with sketching and painting lately. I feel like doing it even more then writing. And definitely more than deep cleaning the house.

I guess I should start charging for my sketches. But I don’t know where to start with that. And I feel like I should be honing my technique a bit more first. I don’t do well with shading yet.

What would you pay for a 5×7 like this? I love the Instagram stories feature. Because of it, I don’t blog as much. Because I document walks in the frigid weather there.

I’ve been working on my Christmas letter and it’s so boring! It probably doesn’t help that a lot of the people I send it to are Facebook friends, so they kind of know what we’ve been up to the last few years. But since my hardest battles with depression, I just don’t have the brain power to be interesting, it seems.

But the world is still such an interesting place. So many needs, so much kindness, so much beauty, so much messiness. And moose on the drive to school.

I need to make applesauce today with some apples that have been languishing in my cold room.

We had Hot Spinach and Artichoke Dip for supper last night and it was so good.

Happy Thanksgiving, you Americans!

November life

Nov. 6

A good strong cup of Red Rose tea, a fire in the stove, and sunshine on the floor.

I am online, looking up recipes for baked halibut.  I think I found one that looks good and isn’t too hard.  Tim and Tammy from church gave us a wonderful bag of fish as a pastor appreciation gift and I’ve been hoarding it.  But I knew my cooking needed some spicing up and last night when my niece (Hi, Mrs. Smith! That is her name, for real) posted on facebook that  she was making maple glazed salmon with honey roasted almonds, I remembered that I had salmon and halibut in the freezer.

I’ve been feeling kind of flat the last two days.  It is probably partly jet lag and just simply getting back into normal life after our trip to Ontario for a wedding last weekend.  At the risk of sounding exaggerated. I pronounce it a fabulous trip.

We flew from Edmonton to Hamilton, which made it fun for the four children we took along with us.  We stayed with wonderful hosts in a big old farmhouse, where we had the upstairs all to ourselves and enjoyed breakfasts with our hosts and sitting in what I’d call a parlor to visit.  I’d forgotten all about the sitting rooms in those old houses.  One was what they called the family room and the other a living room.  And they were both beautiful, though one is more cozy and lived in than the other.

I’d forgotten about the beautiful brick and stone houses back east.  With huge porches! Decorated with pots of geraniums and mums! And rocking chairs!  So pretty and inviting.

I met up with two friends I’d known only through blogging.  We ate extraordinary pie and roasted pork with friends who’d first visited us here at BayTree on a trip to Alaska.  Our girls stayed with another family in a big farmhouse and had a wonderful time.  Our two oldest boys met us in Ontario after driving across the country to get there.  We had brunch and a lovely visit with friends from Guatemala that we knew from our days in Belize.

And then there was a wedding and weddings are always sweet.  Dan officiated and the happy couple looked like they’d never quit smiling.

I burned my favorite veil when I went to iron it at our host’s house, so for the whole weekend I was wearing this big, boxy thing in a land of super neat white caps.  Oh, life is so humbling.

While in Ontario, we got to meet Alec’s girlfriend from Pennsylvania.  She is a delightful person and will get along famously with our family, I do believe.

Nov. 7

Another cup of tea, a dying fire, and rather dubious sunshine patches.

I just finished washing off the front of the house from the mud we had weeks ago.  I tried to do it the other day, but it was too cold.  Anyone who has a clean door and dogs is my hero.  Keeping doors clean is a big job with dogs, kids, and mud.  Not to mention house fronts with pale yellow siding.

Bryant is gone to Wisconsin for two months.  He is living with Dan’s parents and working in his uncle Todd and aunt Kim’s bulk food store.  I am feeling empty-nestish about one less plate at the table.

This morning I cleaned my plant room.  My mom loved plants and I remember her cleaning her big plant table in the south window on Saturdays.  She was always pinching and repotting and tidying them.  When she and Dad built their retirement home (where we now live), she had a big sunroom built on to the south end of the house where she could start her tomato and cabbage plants in the spring.  And where she could display all her houseplants.

Alas.  I like plants too.  But I am lazier than my mom.  I feel like I should use the big sunroom, so it’s full of plants.  But mostly I just water them to keep them from dying.  I don’t trim and tidy and repot like Mom did.  Some of them do well.  Others do not spark joy.

We are having meetings next weekend and a guest speaker from Wisconsin.  So I was inspired to do some upkeep in my plant room.


It looks much better now.


I don’t know why blogging satisfies me so much, but it does.

Thanks once again for reading here.

If you are on facebook and/or instagram, the following pictures won’t interest you because you probably already saw them.

Happy weekend!

For some reason the captions don’t show unless you click on the pictures.

A few Ontario friends:



And a few of my sketches:



The Incredibles

Its Saturday morning again and after getting up at 5:30 to see our 17 year old son, his cousin, and my mom off on their trip to southern Alberta, I am again plagued with sleeplessness. So why not write a blog post? I made a wonderful cup of coffee and the house is so still and inviting.

I’m so thankful for the writing prompts some of you gave me a while ago. Now that I feel like writing again, I am on a roll.

In this post, I’ll combine two writing ideas. Someone asked me how we chose our children’s names and someone else suggested writing a positive attribute of each of our children.

Alec Daniel was born on his dad’s birthday, so hence the middle name. We liked the name Alex, but it was so common that we went with a different flavour. We have sometimes regretted that choice, as he pretty much gets called Alex all the time by those who don’t know him well. But I still like the name and its meaning: defender of men.

Alec is 21. He is a sensitive and passionate person and gifted in mechanics and music. Most people probably think of him as the dark and mysterious type. But when you know him well, he kind of wears his heart on his sleeve. He is an honest soul with high ideals.


I’ve always liked names that end in “a” for girls. And Victoria sounds so regal and queenly. But we didn’t really love Vicky for a nickname and we knew a long name like hers would be shortened. So we went with Tori instead.

Victoria Brianne just turned 20. She lives up to her regal name and has always been such a lady. Victoria is kind, has impeccable manners, loves sunshine and children, and reads and writes a lot. She adores the classics and plays piano and ukulele beautifully.


Bryant’s name? I think we chose it because it sounds like a strong name. And it’s quite uncommon, at least in our circle of acquaintances. It means noble, strong, and virtuous.

In Dan’s family, a Joe had a Dan and that Dan had a Joe and that Joe had a Dan. In honour of the tradition, but not wanting to make our children feel obligated to pass it on, we chose Joseph for a middle name.

Bryant Joseph is 17. He is strong natured, but kind of easygoing. If that makes sense. Bryant is good with little kids and has a great sense of humour. He thinks very deeply about life and faith and is always listening to things that increase his knowledge of the world. Ask him your current events and history questions.


Natalia Brooke is 13. We had a friend Victoria in Belize who had a little girl named Natalia. I always thought it was a beautiful name and I remember telling Victoria in Belize that if we had another girl, she would be named Natalia. And we did. Her name is Russian and Spanish (among other races) for Natalie.

Natalia is neat and careful and a whiz at school. (Not to brag, but our children all are. They don’t excel in athletics, but they do so well in music and books.) Natalia is a composed and responsible person. I know that if I ask her to sweep the floor or fold the laundry, it will be done well. And she can learn a song like nobody’s business. She has dry wit and usually outsmarts the rest of us. And she does beautiful French braids and Dutch braids and fishtail braids.


Andre is our twist on Andrew. It means masculine and brave. He weighed 10 lb. 4 oz., so his name fit him back then and still does.

Andre Matthew is 12. He is built like his dad and kind of similar in personality too. He is very laid back and loves a good joke. Andre’s love language is quality time and nothing suits him better than hunting with his dad or a special shopping trip with me. He loves dogs and is insightful and funny.


We watched The Sound of Music at our piano teacher’s house a few weeks before Liesl was born. After we came home, Dan said, “Let’s name our baby Liesl if we have a girl.” So we did. Liesl is a diminutive of Elizabeth in German. We say it with a soft “s”, but like it either way.

Liesl Deanna was born the day after my brother Kevin’s birthday. (He’s the one who passed away.) His middle name was Dean, so the Deanna is in honour of him.

Liesl is 10. She is the cuddler of the family and I just love her hugs. She loves little children, books, and pretty things. She’s a sensitive little soul and cares about animals and flowers and other things in nature. She is more of a dreamer than her practical sister.

So there you have it. We are incredibly proud (thankful-proud, not prideful-proud) of these beautiful children. I could write a long post about their faults too. But I’ll save that for another day. 😁

I love hearing other people’s name choices. So if you care to…you know what to do–without me begging. 😉😂

Happy Saturday!

Saturday morning

Dan and I woke early. His phone buzzed and I was a little mad that he had it beside our bed.

Then we couldn’t get back to sleep.



I rarely look at my stats on WordPress, but this week I did and I was amazed and humbled at how many people read my last post. I honestly don’t know why you bother, as I just kind of meander along and don’t feel full of wisdom to impart to you–or even things that are interesting.

I always thought most of my readers were directed to my blog from Facebook or Instagram. Those places are where I get the main comments and interactions. But lately I get random comments from people I know nothing about and I’m so curious about you. Sorry that I don’t answer you more. It’s just kind of hard to know what to say to a stranger who kind of knows me when I don’t know them at all. And I really don’t get a lot of comments on this blog, period.

But so many of you have said that you praying for me and I wish I knew how to thank you. ❤️

At the risk of looking like I’m trying to copy the revered Shari Zook’s latest survey on her blog, I’d love it if you’d leave a comment and tell me a little about yourself: age if you care to, single or married, where you live, what you’re passionate about, why you bother reading here. Whatever. I do get private messages from people who say they don’t like to comment publicly and I understand that. Stay hidden if you prefer.

I set up this blog a long time ago and it’s the free version. I actually have no idea how the comment section works for you. Is it decently user friendly? It doesn’t ask you to prove that you’re not a robot and pick out of those horrid pictures of every image that has traffic lights on it, does it?

I feel like I’m begging for comments. Mostly I just want to make a little connection with you.

When I wanted to write this week, I kept thinking of a post called These Are the Days. It would include elk skulls bleaching in my porch, planting bulbs and digging them up, baking dozens of cookies, and taking to kids about romance and dating.

But I didn’t write it.

When I asked what you’d like to hear about, my friend Grace said she’d like to hear from me about growing up with pioneer parents. Sadly, I am the eighth of ten children and it was my older siblings who had the excitement of true pioneer-dom. By the time I came along, life was pretty dull. When I was younger, chocolate chips, raisins, and cheese were special treats reserved for company and Christmas. And as many of 10 of us lived together at one time off and on with only one bathroom–and lots of guests. But my life was pretty cushy. There were those horrid pointy shoes Mom found in the attic and made me wear when I was about six. And some ugly double knit hand me down dresses. But I had it pretty easy. My sister Carol needs to write the pioneer stories. I actually have another sister who is working on some of them and maybe she’ll start her own blog. I’ll keep working on convincing her.

Last night I rode on the combine with Dan. This morning it is snowing. And the oats is not off yet. 😩It’s been such a wet summer and fall, so challenging for farmers. The snow isn’t likely to stay, but it just complicates things.

Skip this part if we’re friends on Facebook or Instagram. But here is something I’ve been having fun with.

“Ruth” asked me to write about how to learn to love autumn. She hates it. It’s very hard for me to see the wind working so hard to remove EVERY leaf from the trees. But there’s something about the dying off and tucking away that I like. And I loooove the colour. And the combines. Can you help Ruth out by leaving a comment about how to love fall?

It’s positively white out there now that it’s light. My poor farmer.

Happy Saturday! Just a reminder to deign to drop by and say hello. 😁❤️

I do love you, known and unknown.