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Location: Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Canadian, freelance copyeditor, wife, Lutheran Christian, English major, major geek, youth retreat planner, cat person, former legal assistant. And I bake!

Sunday, February 02, 2014

A review of 'Dateable: Are you? Are they?' by Justin Lookadoo and Hayley DiMarco

(This is a bit of a departure from my usual blog stuff - I mostly just needed somewhere to put this so that I could link to it from Goodreads! If a Christian perspective on teen dating isn't your thing, feel free to scroll on to the Monty Python post. :)

Overall, despite a few good things, I’m thoroughly unimpressed with this book. A wise and discerning teenager could find the wheat and discard the chaff, but a teenager that wise and discerning wouldn’t need the book in the first place. It bills itself as being a Christian book, but doesn’t seem to be written from a solidly Biblical worldview; rather from a moralistic worldview with some references to God and a few misapplied scripture verses thrown in.

If I were writing a book about teen dating (and given that this book review is clocking in at just over 2,000 words, maybe I should!), I would start by asking the teenager ‘why do you want to date?’. The answer to that question would probably come in a few forms, such as; ‘because everyone’s dating and I don’t feel cool because I’m not’, ‘because I want someone to think I’m special’, ‘because this guy/girl is so cute and I want him/her to notice me’, or ‘because it would be fun to hang out with the person I have a crush on’, etc. I don’t think that there would be much of a happy ending for any relationship based on any of those answers, because they’re reasons that seek self-gratification, and even more dangerously, seek self-gratification in the recognition of peers rather than the security found in a relationship with Jesus.

My opinion is that the answer to the question of ‘why do you want to date?’ is that a person should date in order to find a spouse. Old-fashioned, I know, but far more sensible than spending several years in high school getting emotionally and physically entangled with a person you might never see again. And when I say ‘date’, I mean a young man and a young woman spending time together, getting to know each other’s faith and life stories in order to determine if they could decide to spend the rest of their lives together, putting each other first, rather than seeking to be validated by the other.

Actually, forget me writing a book. Pastor Jonathan Fisk says pretty much everything I think is relevant to the subject in his YouTube video called “Not Until I Say I Do”. I highly recommend taking twenty minutes to watch it.

This book’s premise seems to be that most high schoolers today will ‘date’, or rather, be physically intimate/sexually active in high school with a large number of people, just because dating is what kids do these days, and the book seems to be seeking to mitigate the severity of the consequences of that attitude, which isn’t bad per say, but doesn’t go far enough. Instead of approaching the modern cultural myth of dating with a solid Biblical stance, it waffles. Instead of asking the reader to analyze their reasons for dating, it simply seeks to mitigate the consequences of what the writers see as inevitable.

Page 8 starts out strongly, advocating the wise use of passion, but then uses the ‘d’ word: destiny. As much as I love a good Disney princess movie, ‘destiny’ is not a Christian thing. The English Standard Version of the Bible uses the word ‘destiny’ exactly once, in Isaiah 65:11, and it’s a Bad Thing that people who have forsaken God worship. While the authors’ advice to forsake chasing a date for doing something that will develop your life skills is solid, they could have done that without invoking destiny.

On page 9 they go on to do what Pastor Fisk calls “if the out-of-context verse fits then misapply it”. Isaiah 40:31 does NOT mean what they think it means. It has NOTHING to do with Mission: Impossible works-based quasi-theology.

On page 12, the authors in all their wisdom, assure the reader that whatever relationship they’re in, even at age 18, will not last. While I do realize that’s true for a lot of high school dating relationships, as I can attest, it’s not unequivocally true in the way they state it (my husband and I got engaged when he was 17 and I was 18, and married at 20 and 21 – and we’ve been married for almost 12 years)! I get WHY they’re saying it, but one of the first things I learned in a university writing class was not to make grand statements about supposedly universal truths, especially when you can’t back them up.

On page 13 there are some statistics about the number people who marry their high school crush, and the divorce rate. They don’t take the opportunity to discuss godly marriage with a person who shares the same faith and how a relationship based in God will be sturdier than the average marriage of high school sweethearts who likely had a sin-based dating relationship, with no church family support.

On page 14 the writers ask the reader to do some math based on how many crushes they have in a given span of time, and assume that the reader won’t get married until the age of 25. Somehow these numbers put together have something to with the sustainability of a high school dating relationship. I don’t disagree with their point, but wonder at the wisdom of approaching it that way anyway. A better approach would be to contrast a crush with true love, and show its fleetingness in a way that makes a bit more logical sense than some random numbers based on a flawed formula.

On page 15 the authors set out their goal for the book; they want the teen reader to be “datable”. Again, such a lost opportunity to assure the reader that he or she is a beloved child of God, and spending their high school years dating when they couldn’t marry anyway is a waste of time that sets them up for temptation. They state a few “solid truths”, which are that dating won’t necessarily result in marriage, dating experiences will shape your married life, a person “will” date more than one person before marriage, and spiritual beliefs impact a dating relationship. I do agree with them all except the third one, since I’m walking proof that the “true” statement they make is not actually always the case.

On page 17 is perhaps the most dangerous advice in the book; “do not get your family deeply involved in your relationships”. They go on to qualify that they mean that a short-term casual dating relationship should not be so entwined with someone’s family that breaking up is as divisive as getting divorced, but for a teen looking to keep a dating relationship secret, or to a teen caught in an abusive relationship, and so on, this has the potential to cause a lot of damage. Good, high-quality parenting should equal being very involved in a teenager’s dating life. That’s why God created parents.

For the young person who is determined to date, page 33 has some really great advice about not pouring one’s entire being into a high school dating relationship. Page 34 cautions against becoming so involved in a boyfriend or girlfriend that long-time friends are neglected and pushed out. Page 35 points out that physical affection “creates a soul connection” and cautions the reader against investing physically in a relationship that is not a marriage, which is excellent advice.

Pages 51 offers good advice about developing a life with hobbies and interests outside of school. But it’s because the authors want the reader to “be the one that got away”, so that “you will drive him wild”, not so that you can be a well-rounded person with an interest in things outside your own limited life experience.

However, the advice on page 53 is a bit shocking; the writers advise a teen girl to practice laughing in order to be more datable! It advises “faking it”!

Pages 91 and 92 offer three basic must-haves in a date; a Christian, a non-smoker, and someone firm about abstaining from sex outside of marriage. Great list! Now, if only they talked about not dating anyone until that marriageable person came along when the reader is actually old enough to get married...

One chapter called “If What You’re Showing Ain’t on the Menu, Keep it Covered Up” is a refreshing change to today’s attitude that a woman can wear whatever she wants in public, and anyone tempted to lust is not her fault. It’s true that a person can’t be responsible for the thoughts of every single person they come in contact with, but use a little common sense! You wouldn’t leave your ATM withdrawal sitting on the dashboard of your unlocked car, would you? This terrible worldview is actually a huge pet peeve of mine, and if I could legally photocopy this chapter and hand it out at every youth gathering I’m responsible for, I would. I’d include a note about grace and forgiveness to balance out all the law in it, but otherwise this chapter has a lot of good things to say.

A lot of kids ask “how far is too far?” and a wise friend of mine recently answered that with “if you’re asking that question, you’ve probably already gone too far”! But page 123 does offer a pretty comprehensive and valuable list of boundaries, although for a kid in high school I would probably even nix kissing, partly because once that boundary is crossed, the other ones start to look more exciting, and partly because kissing is also spiritually and emotionally connecting and should definitely be handled with caution.

Page 125 quotes a verse from 1 Corinthians, but doesn’t give the exact reference for the curious youth to then go and look it up, which I would call a definite fail. Citations are valuable.

On page 158, there’s a little ‘Ask Justin’ letter from a 14-year-old girl whose boyfriend is different when he’s with his friends than he is when he’s with her, and he and his friends together make her uncomfortable. Justin’s advice is that “girlfriends come and go, but friends are for life”. His advice should be to stop dating a guy who makes her uncomfortable! And friends, especially high school friends, are not at all necessarily for life, either.

On page 160, the authors finally come out and say “I actually think guys and girls should just hang out and be friends. I don’t think you should worry about this whole dating thing until you are ready to get married.” THANK YOU! Now, why on earth didn’t you say that before? And why don’t you go on to make a case for that, instead of going on to say “But I also know that’s not reality”?

Page 192 advocates the kind of dishonest communication that drives me crazy. One of a series of tips advises “never accept a quickie date”. Not bad advice, but their advice is to say “I have plans”. A better response would be ‘I like to have more notice for plans. Maybe ask me earlier some other time?’ It’s more honest and says exactly what you’re expecting when being asked out on a date, rather than being misleading (a trope in rom coms that is responsible for this kind of thing driving me crazy!). Not that you should be asked out on a date in high school anyway, IMHO...

The last chapter cautions the reader against pornography, which is great, and a real growing concern. The last meaty bit of the book comes on page 214 though, when is says “every new sexual experience when you are not married puts another ding, another scratch, another scar on who you are”. Such a valuable caution! But rather than a chapter about porn, the book really should end with a chapter assuring the teen who has fallen into sexual sin of God’s love and grace through Jesus’ death and resurrection.

This book is full of law, and the law is valuable. But without a firm knowledge of forgiveness in Jesus the young person who has broken the law could be driven even further away from that saving grace. And that, I think, is the most dangerous thing of all about this little book.

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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Monty Python Sketches

And now for something completely different.

In December I introduced a friend to Monty Python’s Holy Grail, which is probably the most quotable movie of all time. Monty Python is something that’s grown on me as an adult – when I first encountered it in my late teens I was too dignity-conscious to be entertained by it.
Now, however, I enjoy Monty Python far more than any of the comedy that modern Hollywood is churning out. We’ve been watching our way through the entire works of the tv show Monty Python’s Flying Circus, and each episode is basically as collection of various sketches, which may or may not be connected in any way. Since they were made in England before I was born, most of the political references go right over my head, but there are lots of sketches I really enjoy.
I was trying to think of an easy way to ease the uninitiated into the Flying Circus, so I thought I’d start with ten of my favourite sketches, which are also generally accepted as classics, and from there YouTube should lead you down a rabbit hole of Monty Python. J
Keep in mind that Monty Python is VERY SILLY and should not be taken literally or seriously in any way.
Fish Slapping Dance

The Spanish Inquisition

My Hovercraft is Full of Eels

Spam (make sure you read the credit reel!)

Ministry of Silly Walks

Dead Parrot and Lumberjack Song

How to Defend Yourself Against Fruit

Agatha Christie

Argument Clinic

This is your captain speaking...

Other notable sketches include: The Upper Class Twit of the Year, How Not To Be Seen, Funniest Joke in the World, Crunchy Frog, Fish Licence, Bruce, Exploding Penguin, Vocational Guidance Counsellor, Buying a Mattress, Nudge Nudge...and so on. Enjoy! Be sure to let me know what your favourite is...

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Saturday, December 21, 2013

My Top 10 Movies of 2013

This post is inspired by our church’s vicar, because he used the Rolling Stone top 10 list as an illustration in his sermon on Sunday, and I thought it was a rubbish list! :) I have seen three of the movies on it, but only one is on my top 10, and the other two are on my do-not-rewatch-ever-again list, so I’ve been inspired to go back through my IMDB movie ratings for the year and make my own top 10 of 2013 list.

I'm giving special honourable mention to Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Joss Whedon. It was technically released in 2012, but it was a limited release, and didn't come to theatres in Calgary until 2013. I really love a well-done Shakespeare movie, and this is definitely one of them. It's completely different from the Kenneth Brannagh adaptation of the 90s, and I couldn't choose between them. 

I’m also going to give a shout-out to my review of Les Miserables, because while it came out in 2012, I didn’t see it in theatres until 2013. 

It was very hard to number my list. I liked them all quite a lot, for varying reasons, and it’s difficult to choose one over the other. 1, 9, and 10 I’m sure about, but other than that, really, they all tie for an equal number of stars. I was going to rate them out of so many tears, but my tears for 12 Years a Slave and The Book Thief were totally different than my tears for Despicable Me 2, for instance, so that doesn’t work either…

So, be assured that I think all of the movies on my top 10 list are worth seeing, and if you’re someone who was involved in making a movie that’s lower on the list, just remember that you’re competing with The Hobbit for number 1. If you had thought to have Freeman and Cumberbatch together in YOUR movie it might have edged it out. :)

10.   Iron Man 3
I watched the first two Iron Man chapters on DVD in preparation for seeing the Avengers, and I liked the second one better then the first one, and liked the character of Iron Man a lot better after seeing the Avengers, so I had high hopes for IM3, and I’m still not really sure what I thought of it. Pepper Potts is amazing, and I really liked that they tackled PTSD so head-on, and it had funny moments, but I think the PTSD thing made me so sad that it stole some of the joy out of the movie going experience. I should probably watch it again, just to make sure...

9.      Jack the Giant Slayer
I liked Jack so much that I came home and reviewed it relatively quickly, basically hoping that other people would go see it and love it’s quirk and charm as much as I. Not sure if that worked, since I’m pretty sure my list is the only one you’ll see Jack on...

8.      The World's End
Simon Pegg is hilarious, and I love Hot Fuzz, so The World’s End was definitely on my to-watch list. We went to see it in a dinky theatre in the middle of nowhere BC, and it was a great escape from the rain. With a fantastic cast of British talent, including Martin Freeman as a BlackBerry addicted businessman, I loved nearly every minute of it. If you like quirky British humour, I highly recommend it!

7.      12 Years a Slave
What a fantastically heart-breaking movie. Not since watching the Help have I been so conflicted about a movie. On one hand, it should win all the Oscars. On the other hand, I’m definitely never watching it again. It crossed my radar because of some of the brilliant acting talent in it; I wasn’t expecting it to be so horrific. And the kicker is, as horrific as the movie was; it probably wasn’t as realistic as life as a slave would have been. It unflinchingly shows the brutality of slave life in the American south, and it’s history that everyone should be familiar with, but not wallow in. It was violent, but not gratuitous – every blow told the story of a million other ones that went unrecorded. Such heartbreak!

6.      The Book Thief
And speaking of heartbreak, on a different scale...I just saw this movie this week. So beautiful – so sad! It’s not very often in the West that you see a movie set in Germany during the Nazi regime, and this is a very well-done take on it. The Book Thief is a little girl adopted by a German couple who hide a Jew in their basement. It’s haunting. I haven’t read the book it’s based on, so I don’t know how it compares, but I highly recommend it.

5.      Thor: The Dark World
Thor 2 was fantastic. Thor’s Mom totally kicks butt, and I totally fell for Loki’s trickery. I was a bit frustrated with Jane’s character, but overall I was thoroughly satisfied with this installment, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how they deal with the things they left set up for Thor 3!

4.      The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
I only briefly mentioned my first experiences with the Hunger Games on my blog, which I regret a bit now, because I wish I'd taken the time to really capture my impressions. I saw the first movie before I read the books, and it blew my socks off. I didn’t like it particularly, but it was thoroughly engrossing. So I read the books. Back to back, staying up till all hours of the night to finish. And then I cried tears of rage and frustration over how it all ended and how the third book was written. But since the second book was my favourite of the series, I went to see Catching Fire. What a good decision! The brilliant person who adapted the script smoothed over a lot of the things that had annoyed me, and the movie was incredible. I’m so stoked for the third one, because I’m hoping that the screenwriter will fix that one, too. :)

3.      Despicable Me 2
I loved the first one so much, and the second one topped it for sure. There were happy tears, and all the minions! I’m so excited for the minions getting their own movie – they are totally the best hench-creatures ever invented. It’s just such an all-around brilliant series, with humour and heart.

2.      Star Trek Into Darkness
I’ve already done a very thorough review of Into Darkness, so I won’t say much else about it, except that for all of my peeves about it, I still adore it!

1.  The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
I loved the Unexpected Journey, and now I’m waiting for the Desolation of Smaug to hit the cheap theatre so I can see it again. We went on opening day to see it in IMAX 3D, which was glorious, but I also want to watch it again to absorb more of the plot, too. The only thing I remember from reading the Hobbit years and years ago was the dwarves escaping in barrels, and that was my favourite scene in the movie. Funny and tense, it was an exciting ride. I’ve heard people complaining that they don’t really need three movies to tell Tolkien’s story, to which I say SHUT UP AND LET PETER JACKSON TAKE MY MONEY! Because I’m enjoying the HECK out of the trilogy, and would way rather see these than more Expendables or Fast and Furious, for example...I think the Hobbit is perfect! It ended on a hell of a cliff hanger though!

And the song for over the closing credits is so powerful – if you haven’t seen it yet, you can watch it here now!

These are the other four movies I saw in-theatre this year, that I don’t recommend and that didn’t make the top ten, from bad to worst:

4.      Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters
When I saw the first Percy Jackson movie, I hadn’t read the books yet, and in the intervening years I’ve read pretty much everything that the author has written, and LOVE it. So Sea of Monsters fell hideously flat for me, unfortunately. The only good thing was Nathan Fillion, and sadly his scene was only a few minutes long. Although he managed to squeeze in both a Firefly AND a Castle reference, so that was almost the cost of admission right there. :)

3.      The Great Gatsby
Gatsby was a bit of a disappointment for me. I knew it’s a literary classic, so I don’t know why I was expecting some sort of happy ending, but that’s definitely not what I got! I think I was projecting too much or something – so while it was sumptuous and well-done, I just couldn’t identify with any of the characters or their motivations, so I had a hard time getting into it.  

2.      Gravity
Yah, Gravity is only THE MOST STRESSFUL MOVIE I’VE EVER SEEN. My ulcer hurt by the time it was over, and I now have a phobia of lack of gravity. I really don’t know why everyone’s so chuffed about it. (shudder)

1.      American Hustle
Again, not so sure why everyone’s so chuffed about this one, either. I won tickets to a free screening this week, and I was not impressed. The scriptwriter wouldn’t have had to do a lot of work, because every other word was a profanity, and it was so slow-moving I actually kept checking my watch – something I’ve NEVER done in a movie theatre before. The ending was pretty clever – I hadn’t seen that coming – but it was not quite fair to someone who had initially only wanted justice to prevail. And all of the characters were so unlikeable! The only one I felt sorry for was the kid. I just couldn’t get into it - it's probably the worst movie I've ever seen in a theatre.

So, there it is! I'm still hoping to see Saving Mr. Banks, August: Osage County, and the new Jack Ryan one this year, and I didn't get to see Philomena, Frozen, Austenland, Lone Ranger, or Pacific Rim, but I did manage to see one or two! Hopefully this will inspire you to see one or two that you haven’t gotten around to yet. 

Merry Christmas! :)

Sunday, October 27, 2013

I'm not dead yet!

I've been sadly neglecting my blog - this semester totally got away from me! Between four classes, life in general, and planning a youth retreat, October slipped through my fingers.

It's snowing like CRAZY today in Calgary (it's probably ankle-deep already!), which, of course, makes me think of summer. The  most glorious weather of our whole summer holiday was the Saturday we were in Quesnel, BC, and our friend Sarah took us blueberry picking.

Trevor in the back of the car, having way too much fun... :)

Hiking in
I haven't been blueberry picking since I was a kid, and then it was at a u-pick place. Wild blueberry picking is a whole different experience - teeny tiny dusky blueberries on plants with red and gold leaves everywhere. It was so beautiful, and I heartily regret that I forgot to take my camera with me. There were so many blueberry patches leading into other patches...talk about going off on a rabbit trail...my OCD-ness was working double-time...
I actually dropped a half-full margarine container at one point, and the berries sank into the ground cover, never to be seen again. :( It was really hard to leave with so many berries un-picked, but it would have been impossible to have gotten them all. I definitely want to do that again...

We also met a baby goat...
And saw some steampunky old mining equipment.

The Quesnel River

The last of the summer roses
The Quesnel farmers' market was also one of the best ones I saw all summer - I was very sorry that I wasn't grocery shopping to make dinner!
I'm going to try to get back into blogging once a week, but we'll see how it goes - I'm in the middle of midterms, and then I have to get started on my end-of-semester writing projects, so if I don't post again till Christmas, don't be alarmed... :)

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

September Soyuz Launch

I am buried under all the German homework, but today was exciting because I got to watch a live feed of the Soyuz launch and docking, in the background while I tried to write an essay in German about a my mythical trip to Berlin. Woot! :)

It's unbelievably cool to sit at my computer and watch people get SHOT INTO SPACE. I feel like I'm in some kind of spec fic story!

Here's a quick Twitter roundup of today's space-related events...

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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

"Ich habe noch einen Koffer in Berlin" by Marlene Dietrich

I interrupt my regularly scheduled reminiscence of my summer holidays to bring you this rather haunting tune by Marlene Dietrich. We watched in German class as part of our section on Berlin, and I'm having a hard time shaking the mental image it produced. You can Google English lyrics if you like, but essentially she sings about still having a suitcase (Koffer) in Berlin, and compares it to other cities, but none of them draw her back the same way as Berlin.

Now, please note that this is an entire flight of fancy, but this image that showed up in the thumbnail produced a train of thought. Dietrich is staring off into the middle distance while well-dressed man gazes at her, which, since I don't know who he was, provoked an interesting idea about Dietrich as the Allies great weapon, propaganda. She was well-known for being anti-Nazi and became an American citizen in 1939. She toured with the USO, and also did campaigning for American war bonds. "Ich habe noch einen Koffer" wasn't written until after the war was over, but can you imagine the influence she would have had on a USO tour, with her husky voice and distant eyes, longing to go home to Berlin? Talk about inspiration to win a war...

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Thursday, September 12, 2013

The View from the Road Trip

It seems like so long ago already, and I guess it kind of was - it was August 23 when we left Jasper to head to see friends in Vanderhoof. The delay in posting is due to the terrible internet while we were gone, the massive number of photos to sort through, and the fact that school started promptly on our return to Calgary. So I'll probably be stringing out these photos of rocks and trees and water in BC for at least another post, or even two. :)

This is Mount Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies. It's an easy stop just after you pass our of Jasper National Park, heading west.

Panoramic photo of Purden Lake from Trevor's iPhone
We took a stretch break at Purden Lake Provincial Park, about halfway between McBride and Prince George. It was a bit overcast, but just lovely. Unfortunately, a contractor was there pumping out the outhouses, so if you got too close it didn't SMELL too lovely, but it was a really nice place to stop for a break.

We spent a few days with our friends in Vanderhoof, which is the geographical centre of BC (if you're ever there, eat at Woody's Bakery, which is THE BEST bakery I've ever experienced, and that's really high praise...), and then we headed even further north to Smithers.
On our way up to Smithers we took a detour to Fort St James National Historic Site, on Stuart Lake. I hope you go there, but if you do, be warned that your Garmin GPS will not be able to find it. You'll have to watch for the signs, and if you get to the main intersection, you've gone too far. :) It was absolutely beautiful there - the ocean is still several hundred kilometres away, but it's easy to imagine the early traders making the journey inland and arriving at Fort St James. It feels very different from the coastal and southerly BC I know and love - it thrilled the heck out of my internal history geek. :)

Recreations of the tea bales that traders would have brought to the fort - the amount of work it would have required to get this tea from China to central BC blows my mind!

Trevor kicking back in an early version of a lazy boy, padded with a buffalo skin that was traded into BC from Alberta.

Fort St James - so pretty!
We took the time to watch the interpretive videos and look in all the buildings, and then got on the road again.
The campground we stayed at in Smithers was called Glacier View. See that lump of clouds in the middle of the mountains? Yah, the glacier is behind the clouds. :P Sadly, the weather in Smithers was not quite what I was hoping for (and the campground was too close to the highway for tenting - logging trucks run all night!), but we wandered around the historic downtown, checked out the museum, ate at a good Japanese place, and went to a movie. (The World's End, with Simon Pegg and Martin Freeman - SO FUN!)

Our last day there the weather improved, of course...you can see the glacier in the distance... We went to hike Driftwood Canyon Provincial Park, because the website talked about the amazing fossil beds, and the name caught my attention, but alas, we didn't see any driftwood, and the part of the park with the fossils is out of bounds! I was very disappointed! We headed further up the back road to another provincial park, but the trails there were muddier then we were up for, so we headed back to Vanderhoof for another few days with our friends there, and another trip to Woody's Bakery. :) Then we were off to Quesnel for a few days, which shall be another post, because I have German homework to do now...

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