Thursday, December 31, 2009

Odds & Ends

Oh that I were an animator. Maybe I'd get an invite. Just think: Nick Park & Hayao Miyakazi - in the same room.

My 3am date has an interesting interview over here.

No one writes like Anthony Lane.

Greek tragedy performed by dominoes. Three minutes and eleven seconds of strangely compelling deconstructions.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Happy Birthday!

It's the birthday of one of the kids in this house. The tallest one. The one who is obsessed with Star Wars Lego. He is officially a teenager.

Look - I even made him a Clone Trooper helmet cake for his party today. Last year it was a hamburger replica - this year it's a helmet replica. He wanted it standing up but I said no. My powers of cake making and decorating are tired right after Christmas, and the idea of making a standing up helmet cake sounded entirely too strenuous. 

All week now I've had a clip from Max's Dragon Shirt in my head when I think of him being a teen (mostly because I read this one to Max 4 zillion times when he was little)'s the part when Max has lost his sister in a big department store and thinks he's spotted her, but in fact it's someone else: "It was a teenager. Max screamed." Every single time I'd read that bit I would punctuate that line with a little shriek and my Max would laugh delightedly. Even now we've been known to say, a propos of nothing: "It was a teenager! Max screamed!" although Max doesn't laugh with quite the same appreciation (he's too cool now). But it still amuses us all.

Happy Birthday Max! Lucky number thirteen. All year long.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Silly Things We Do To Our Cat

Last year Toffee might have really and truly expired if we'd done this to him. This year, amazingly, he just sat and looked horribly uncomfortable. Gosh, what a long way he's come! He looks almost long-suffering!

*Clothing by Build-A-Bear

Cranberry Sauce

I'm posting my Super Dooper Really Amazing Absolutely Incredible Cranberry Sauce recipe on my sadly neglected food blog today, just in case anyone is looking for something different this year. Here is the link (and there are the spices - don't they look tempting?).

Hussile? Misiniye? Cradbal?

Yes, Gentle Reader, I have resorted to that thing known as the Word Verification Requirement on this blog. I don't like this option, and up til now I haven't used it, but I've got a couple of weirdo spambots friends in Japan who don't know the meaning of "Reject Comment." Let's just leave it at that.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Easy Craft Project

Well, I know I got to the blog that gave me the pattern to this project via Heather's blog, but can I find the specific post on Heather's blog that inspired it? Nope. Can't. I am thwarted. Anyhow, this little owl and his pattern is available free here. Hers are a good deal tidier than mine, and they feature cool textured felt that I didn't happen to have in my scrap bag, but I like this little Scrap Heap of Felt. He has such deep pools of purple thread, err, eye fluid. He'll make someone a lovely gift tag in a day or two...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Darth Vader Opens Wall Street!

Shock troopers! Storm troopers! Clone troopers! It's all good, right? Let's just hope they are investing their money wisely...

Monday, December 21, 2009


Taking Pictures

Last year we were supposed to go on a tour of a well-known historical house, one that a famous local family occupied for many years, but the snow was so bad the buses stopped running and I couldn't get our teeny tiny car out of the driveway, so I bailed. Well, I think everyone bailed, actually. It was one of those We Might Get Over There But Do We Want To Walk Back From Town? decisions that day. The sort of decision I tend to cave almost instantly to. Because it was snowy. Really snowy. Really really snowy. And the bus system, because of all that incredible snowiness, was erratic enough for me to know that if I were to drag my charming but not very long suffering enfants out I might have to endure many hours of "Why did you think this was a good idea?" comments all the way home should we have to walk. And you know, to be perfectly honest, I'm not all that long suffering myself. Note: if you live on the prairies or somewhere further north of here, please don't remind me of how much it could snow before you'd get stuck. I realize I am a Snow Wimp. I'm okay with that.

Anyhow, this year they had the same Shockingly Affordable Homeschool Festive Season Tour, so off we went, the kids and I. It was raining this time round: a gentle misty rain that curled our hair and made FDPG's eyelashes sparkle. Lovely weather, considering, says Sheila the Snow Wimp. We whizzed over to the posh part of town, and up the posh winding hill to the top of Super Posh Hill, me keeping the heat in the car off should it melt the white chocolate snowflake lollipops we'd made for some friends, and the kids wilting with Snowflake Lollipop-Induced Hunger.

Fortunately I am a heartless mother. I might cave at snow, but I do not quail at the pleas of my children. The lollipops made it to their intended targets.

Our tour guide was a charming Brit, who may or may not have been named Christopher, in costume as a butler in 1881. I know this because FDPG told me later. I was outside getting the camera when he first introduced himself. After watching all the other parents and their cameras, click click clicking, I felt a wave of lemming-like behaviour come over me and before I knew it I was back out in the rain again digging around for my own camera. So I had to rely on FDPG and her apres-commentary, which was, in its own way, a little more amusing ("He sounded like just your friend Elizabeth! Do you think they are related? He kind of looked like her.").
Christopher kept in his role the entire time, whether he was singing The Boar's Head Carol or asking the kids if they knew what a dance card was. And he had such a fabulous English accent that the kids were all completely riveted, even the twitchy fiddly ones. He asked them if they had a boar's head for their Christmas dinner, and seemed genuinely taken aback at their groans and looks of horror, which caused the boys an awful lot of glee.

It was quite the fun time, us and Christopher. We saw glass cases with giant wreaths of twisted hair, marvelled at how small and short all the ladies were (their gowns were on mannequins in each of the rooms), giggled at his dry but goofy jokes, and trailed willingly around after him for about an hour.

Click: Leda and the swan.

He led us around the house, all 97 steps and 14 bedrooms, me dutifully click click clicking away with all the other parents, mentally filing away all the fabulously gossipy yet historical information (how young some of them were when they died! this one went mad! that basket is made out of an ARMADILLO!), but when it came to reviewing the pictures with the kids, I was a little taken aback to note that I had not one single shot of my charming offspring.

I had 2 of Christopher. I had a few Festive Christmas Display shots. And that was about it. Well, other than the 18 shots of the stained glass windows, the 11 shots of the interesting architecture, the 6 shots of the wild tiled floors, and 1 of the really amazing room where we could hear our echo if we whispered.

Click. Hmm. Where are those children?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ornamentalism 200

I've written before about some of the ornaments we've made during the Christmas season. These snowflakes are something I'm extremely fond of, mostly because they are so easy and they look so incredibly beautiful. We got the patterns from the 2002 Martha Stewart Kids magazine, but I see they've since graduated to the MS website. We like to add glitter to ours - it makes them look quite ethereal when they're suspended from the ceiling.

These are salt bread dough ornaments, a little Henry the Tank Engine in there from the days when Max was mad for trains (I don't see any deleterious effects from all our fraternizations with Thomas, either, PHEW, I was worried). You can find any salt dough recipe on the web, so I won't include one here, but I will give you one tip: use those little jars of Ceramcoat acrylic paint and coat them with spray urethane and they will last for a long time. These ones are 10 years old.

Here's a new one we're trying. I quite like the look of it. You lay a picture on a table, we've used something in the stained glass vein, then tape a piece of saran wrap over it. Colour the picture (on the saran wrap) with felt pens. Caution: we've tried a LOT of felt pens and have only been successful using Sharpies. Then take a same-sized piece of foil, crumple it a bit, then smooth it out (sounds idiotic but bear with me) and place it under the saran wrap (which you will have by now removed from its taped position on the table). Glue the saran wrap to the foil. Then cover with a black paper border.
Another one, this time a Christmas tree. They catch the light very nicely.

This is 4 tinsel pipe cleaners, glued together. You fold them up accordion-style, using 2 pipe cleaners to make two separate 4 pointed stars (does that make sense? it doesn't sound right). Then glue one over top of the other. I used hot glue - it's faster than regular craft glue. I made them in white, gold, and silver and strung them up on the ceiling of the dining room.

This is our latest project. I don't know if you've seen these Coke bottles everywhere (like I have), but my mum bought them for the kids, as she was unable to resist their bauble allure. The kids were unable to resist their sugar-in-a-bottle allure (me being the horrible Pop Denying Mother that I am). I was unable to resist their craft potential allure.

First we tried stuffing them with tinsel pipe cleaners but that didn't look right. Next we poured thinned red and gold paint into them and swirled them around but that didn't look right either. I washed it out, under the faintly damning glare of FDPG, whose bottle I was guinea-pigging with. "That's not going to be RUINED, is it?" she said, worriedly. "That's MY bottle, you know." "I know," I said, feeling slightly desperate as I watched the red paint NOT wash off. "It'll come out, trust me."

Fortunately for both FDPG and myself, it DID come clean.

Then I had a brain wave: I drew a stained-glass style picture with a black Sharpie, then had FDPG colour it in with yet more Sharpies. Then we filled the container with that plastic snow stuff you see in dollar stores everywhere this time of year. Then I drilled a hole in the lid, painted it gold, and slid some rickrack through so it looks like an ornament. I like this version best. It's a bit heavy for the tree with all that fake snow in it, so I am tempted to try using thinned white paint for the inside with the others. It's quite the attractive object, though, don't you think? I might have to get this baby on the MS website.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Going To The Movies: 2012

Yes, I must confess that I took my kids to see this Big Fat Hollywood Wallet Grab. We were all (bar Richard the Impassive) wildly excited by the Quicktime trailers, showing monks hitting bells at the top of world while giant waves bear down on them, or even bigger ocean cruise ships toppling around and around in giant waves, or giant waves crumbling anything and everything in their path with little concern for life or limb. And those giant waves were really, err, giant. Call me really shallow, but I'm a sucker for a giant wave. It might be because I cut my teeth on wheezy cheesy great aunts of this genre: The Towering Inferno and The Poseidon Adventure. Cheesy action movies are in my blood. They made my imagination what it is today.

It might be that I am just a sucker for a giant wave, of course.

Luckily the kids are old enough not to find this sort of movie smacking of realism in any way shape or form. Nevertheless, Richard shook his head when I expressed an interest in taking the kids to see it, and would only say "FDPG'll have nightmares for years!"

So I did some research on our way into the theatre. When I presented our passes, I asked the Ticket Girl if she'd seen it. "Nope," she said, looking dubiously at the twins, "I haven't."

When we were getting our Kid Packs (oily popcorn, a Kinder Egg, and liquid sugar-in-a-cup, part of the Costco Theatre Pass) I asked the Snack Girl if she'd seen it. "Certainly not," she said, "I think those end of the world movies are SO manipulative. I don't think ANYONE should see them. It's scare-mongering." We both glanced at the twins, who were jiggling excitedly beside me. "Are you guys going to The Fantastic Mr Fox?" she asked them smilingly. "Um," I interrupted, shoving the kids along a bit, "come on, we're going to be late! Let's go!"

I thought about the results of my research during the Car Racing Through Yellowstone Fireballs scene, and glanced over at FDPG, who I had seated next to me, just in case, and whispered "Are you okay?" to her. "This is AWESOME!" she whispered back, "Just the kind of movie I LOVE."

Yeah, right, FDPG, I thought. Remember Disney's The Little Mermaid? You have yet to sit through that one. In fact, I gave up a year ago because you couldn't take the Witch (even though she has a KILLER song in that version). Heck, you even quake at that silly fake Banshee (as opposed to a Ban-hee) in Darby O'Gill & The Little People...why am I even telling you all this, Gentle Reader? Now you'll probably agree with Richard and think I am a terrible mother for taking FDPG to this film.

Anyhow, I gave up feeling like I was contributing to a Development of Eventual Nightmares For FDPG episode and concentrated on the film, which was, as the trailers promised, really exciting. Heart-pounding, in fact. It was so exciting and heart-pounding I worried a bit that I might have a heart attack. I felt slightly ill, even. Excited, but vaguely nauseous.

But not the kids. When the film had ended and we were leaving, they were all dizzy with delight. We passed a few kindly adults that said things like "Did you just see The Fantastic Mr Fox? Wasn't it lovely?" but I was too embarrassed to admit that no, we'd actually been in 2012, so I just smiled and mumbled something that no one understood, even the kids.

"What did you say to that lady," FDPG demanded. "Why didn't you just say that we were in THE BEST MOVIE OF THE YEAR?"

"Because," I muttered, "then they'd think I was an awful mother, taking you guys to violent end of the world films."

"Oh MUM!" they all said, clustering around me, hugging me hard, "you are the BEST mother for taking us to see that movie!"

It would have been rather poignant if the theatre manager hadn't passed us just then. "Did you guys just see The Fantastic Mr Fox?" he beamed. "NO!" the twins both said. "We just saw 2012! It's SO GOOD!"

"Oh," he said, blinking at me. "Uh, how - uh - fun." He had pretty much the same expression Richard'd had when we told him we might go see it. It look said "Gosh, you didn't really take those impressionable young children to see a violent end of the world movie what could you have been thinking don't you read reviews this movie is a bit over the top for such young minds oh my my my."

We smiled at each other; him sternly, me fatuously. Then I walked away, gripped by the devotedly adoring (and slightly oily) hands of the twins.


Anyhow, I meant to tell you about this cool picture we found when we got home. There are not only giant waves in this movie - there is a giant plane as well. I told Richard about it, who said "It's probably a Hercules." So we googled HERCULES but it was not the same plane. Even though I'd been mostly occupied with snitching bits of FDPG's popcorn and ogling the handsome Russian pilot flying the plane, I could vaguely remember something different about the wings. Then I had a brainwave (thanks to the wonders of Google). I typed in "What was the plane in the movie 2012?" And, along with the usual Wikipedia entry, the above picture came up. It's a comparison of the various types of Giant Planes. There is the Spruce Goose, the Airbus, a Boing 747, and the 2012 plane - the Antonov AN-225. It was all too cool. Giant waves, giant planes, giant action...

And nary a nightmare in sight.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Cheap Thrills With Your Almost Teen

Alternate Title: How To Gently Torment The Kid Who Likes To Sleep In

Eight year old: "Max why are you always so grouchy in the morning?"

Max: "Because you guys always wake me up WAY TOO early." (usually accompanied by either a glare, a surly glance, or a heavy sigh)

Other eight year old: "Look! I have a five dollar bill!" (this kid is Queen of the Segue)

Max: "Who gave you that?"

Dad: "We put a $5 bill at the top of the stairs every morning, and the first one up gets it. Didn't we tell you that? We've been doing it for about, oh, a year, I guess. The twins have about $100 each already!"

Max: "Huh? Really? No way! That is SO unfair! And you deliberately didn't tell me, right? That is SO unfair!" (subsides into a gloomy disgruntled silence, possibly influenced by the twelve waffles in his mouth)

All this is accompanied by much general laughter from the masses at the almost total lack of humour on the part of the almost teen. Almost teen finds nothing remotely amusing about this scenario, sadly, but that might be because a wee part of him really does think that $5 bills have been reposing on staircases while he sleeps.

But really, if someone was leaving $5 bills at the top of the stairs, doesn't Max realize that I would be the first one grabbing them? Honestly. Kids these days.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Why I Don't Go To Homeschool Conferences

I'd elaborate but I think this person says it better. In fact, I could say the same about most of the local gardening workshops I've checked out lately, too. I don't need another lecture about composting or how to keep my lettuce healthy, just as I don't want to sit through another interminable discussion on deschooling. Specifics, people, specifics.

That's why I never go to homeschool conferences anymore.

Or garden conferences either.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

On the Eighth Day of Advent...

Here is a video that made the rounds a while back, but for some reason (I can't possibly think why because we all love it so much) I neglected to post it. So here it is. A little jingle bell song to start off your Christmas cheer.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Perfect Bow

Here are the twins, learning how to tie The Perfect Bow. For some reason they are really taken with the idea of being able to tie The Perfect Bow with their eyes closed but Dominic struggles to keep his eyes closed when things get tangled, so this ensures that he will not cheat. At least, that was FDPG said to him, even though the idea of cheating at tying bows isn't really something anyone in this house worries about.

Ahh, such strange children. I don't get involved in this stuff if I can help it. If they think one can cheat at tying a bow who am I to convince them otherwise?

Instead, being the mature parent that I am, I concentrate on playing silly buggers with them.

Just in time for Christmas!
I tell them, you can beautify the many many gifts you have no doubt purchased for me! What charming, adorable, generous children you are!

This little witticism of mine rarely goes over well. Usually I am met with a blank, and sometimes startled stare, as each of them contemplates the worrisome idea that I might actually have Expectations Regarding Gifts and Things.

Then I laugh, doing my best to make it either a) with gay abandon (so they aren't sure if I am serious), or b) with a pleased sort of smugness (so they still aren't sure if I am serious).

Honestly, the things I have to do around here to get a laugh, even if it's my own.

Climbing the Walls

This is the latest Amusing Activity for the twins. They do this while I make dinner. They talk the entire time, too.

Shall I repeat that?

They talk the entire time.

(I don't think FDPG even takes a breath between thoughts)

They are also slightly on the horribly competitive side: if one bumps the top of the doorway the other practically elbows that one out of the way so that they too can try to bump the top of the doorway.

Then I am deluged, yes, deluged, with pleas of this sort:

Mum! Take a picture! Mum! Look! Take a picture for your blog! Send it to Nanna! Look! Look! I'm at the top! Look! Mum!

And so, to humour us all, I often do take a picture. And another. And sometimes another, as each pose changes painfully and sometimes unnoticeably minutely.

Sigh. I console myself with the knowledge that one day, when I am old and gray and the kids live somewhere else, I might look back on these pictures and wish I had taken MORE.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

In Which I Wax Eloquent About Consumerism

I went south for a few days, on a little apres-birthday jaunt. I even crossed a border into a foreign country - the one directly south of us Canucks. I was hoping to get a little Christmas shopping in, and maybe, just maybe visit a certain Lego store, but, if you ask me that in front of my kids, do know that I will emphatically deny it (they don't read my blog so I can say these things here). And yes, I do that realize there is an online Lego service here in Canada; let's just say that it's not all that enticing to the wallet, when all is said and done. Why didn't I buy stock in Lego 10 years ago?

It's always exciting crossing into the States; not only do I have to explain why I'm not going right on the exact day of my birthday (gasp! the scandal of it all), but I also have to explain how I got the grand old age I am without holding a job title I'm able to spit out in 5 words or less.

"Stay at home parent?" the border guard always asks me (in what I almost always belatedly realize is a rhetorical remark): "So, where are your kids?" And then he/she usually peers very closely at me, until I am tempted to ask if I appear blurry.


Anyhow, once I'd got past those charming, perceptive guards of the border, I was able to shed the bonds of motherhood and really get into the spirit of Discount American Consumerism.

We went to Ross (which exists in Canada in as Winners). I have a thing for nutcrackers (as long as they don't look like athletes or idiots) and I bought a lovely package of them in varying guises: chimney sweep, snowman, jester, Father Christmas, but it was only when I got back to the motel room that I noticed one was Mr America. Forgive me, Gentle American Reader, but the Mr America Nutcracker is not my favourite. The red white and blue flag thing is not a good look - it makes him look a bit washed out. Besides, if I have to listen to FDPG tell me that there are only 23 stars on this flag which HAS to be wrong but why did they make this nutcracker if they knew it was wrong someone should have seen that one shouldn't they where was this thing made? one more time I might scream.

We went to Trader Joe's. I've always had a soft spot for Trader Joe's, it's cheap and cheerful and reminds me of an old hippie store, with all it's economy sushi, goat cheese, sprouted breads, and organic salads. Besides, where else could you buy candies with "natural acai flavour"? I mean, who else but a hippie would think acai berries belong in candy? Ugh. (note to friends: don't be giving me any acai berries for Christmas - ickola)
Nevertheless, I bought a package of these for each of my kids. They come in a cool little tin and they are luridly purple. No one noticed the acai taste at all. Must have been all that sugar.

And with this new craze every store seems to have for selling its own shopping bag (even our library has shopping bags, although they market them as Book Bags) I see Trader Joe's, as is its wont, has upped the ante with cooler shopping bags. They are almost frame-able they are so beautiful. Look at this little number reposing in my kitchen. I love it. And yes, I might marry it I love it so much, Mr Richard Smartie Pants.

And now I see that they've got retro packaging. This baby might just make it onto one of my home made wall signs once we've consumed the contents. Cheap chocolate pudding always looks way cooler in retro packaging - and that is the brilliance that is Trader Joe's: putting (sometimes slightly inferior) alternative products in way cool packaging.

Here is another example: the Almost Oreo. The Christmas Almost Oreo. It has crushed candy canes in the filling. And a gaily striped box without. What's even better: it's cheaper than Oreos. Which made me purchase 2 boxes. So what if it isn't quite as minty as the Christmas Oreo?

Ahem. Yes, I AM a sucker for advertising. Besides, the kids loved them.

I even went to a kitchen store I'd heard of many times on the TV show Friends: it's called Williams Sonoma. It's a vastly over-priced place, where you can purchase small packages of hot chocolate for $20 and teeny tiny little bags of pasta for $18, not to mention horrendously priced dishes, and aprons for $50, but you can also buy way cool baking implements like this one you see on the left. It's called a Backyard Bug Dish. Yes children, with this thing you CAN eat bugs. What's better, they will even taste good. Hardly any crunchy bits, either. The oven temperatures have something to do with that, I think. Melts everything.

See? I baked some here. In chocolate cake batter. Mmmmmm. Chocolate bees. Chocolate butterflies. Chocolate ladybugs. Mmmmm. I can see birthday parties and tea parties in your future, cake tin.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Reading Not So Great Books

I've talked before about the Read Aloud Hour(s) we do around here. If you want a refresher, click here for the books I've either read to the kids or talked about or even, sometimes reviewed.

A while back I went to another of those Fabulous Homeschooling Mother's Book Nights at our Fabulous Local Book Store, where a Fabulous Bookstore Employee gave us a virtual tour of the kids reading world these days. Some of the books were for a younger set, and some weren't so new, but all in all it was fun to see what's out there, new and pristine and not in a second hand store (where I usually get our ReadAlouds). I'll list a few, in case you need some ideas:

Picture Books for Younger Kids

Dogger Shirley Hughes
Voices in the Park Anthony Browne
Wendell's Workshop Chris Riddell
Beyond the Deep Woods Chris Riddell
Katie Morag's Island Stories Mairi Hedderwick
No David MacPhail
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble William Steig (dare you to read this one aloud without crying)
Burglar Bill The Ahlbergs
Van Gogh Café Cynthia Rylant
Katie and the Dragon Mary Hooper
Binky The Space Cat Ashley Spires

Older Kids

Sea of Trolls Nancy Farmer
Wee Free Men Terry Pratchett (also Truckers and Diggers)
Elijah of Buxton Christopher Paul Curtis
Karlssen Astrid Lindgren
Tanglewreck Jeannette Winterson
The Book of the Maidservant Rebecca Barnhouse
Skellig David Almond
The Castle in the Attic Elizabeth Winthrop
Neddiad Daniel Pinkwater
Framed Frank Cottrell Boyce (also Cosmic)
Weedflower Cynthia Kadohata
The Prince of Neither Here Nor There Sean Cullen (yes, THAT Sean Cullen)
The Eyes of a King Catherine Banner
Blood Red Snow White Marcus Sedgewick

Sciencey Titles

Adventures in Sand David Baird
Car Science Richard Hammond (of Top Gear fame)

Christmas Titles

The Thirteen Days of Christmas Jenny Overton
Christmas in Noisy Village Astrid Lindgren
The Mummers Song Ian Wallace
The Christmas Cat Efner T Holmes (Tasha Tudor's daughter)
The Spirit of Christmas Nancy Tillman
Classic Christmas PJ Lynch

Anyhow, after this Fabulous Evening I picked up a few titles, because a) we needed another read aloud since our marathon love affair with Lord of the Rings just ended (two months to read all three books), and b) while I am cheap, I am also unable to resist a clever new book, particularly one that comes with a Big Fat Recommendation. Oh, and c) I needed a few Christmas presents. But SHHH! Don't tell any of the offspring in this house about these or there will be one highly irritable elf around here come Christmas morning (one that looks scarily like me, eeeks).

So, thanks to that Fabulous Bookstore Night, our newest Read Aloud the other day was The Eyes of a King, by Catherine Banner.

It was recommended.

It was enthusiastically recommended.

It had a cool cover. Max thought it looked really dumb but he was just creeped out by the eyes above the castle.

It was written by a teenage girl.

It was part of a series, which I always like: if it's a world we love we all feel comforted it won't be ending after that first book.

But we hated it.

We ALL hated it.

We didn't even finish it we disliked it so much.

We've only ever done that once before, with Edward Eager's Half Magic (a book everyone other than us seems to adore). That one we stopped reading because it never captured our interest. It was kind of ho-hum.

This one we stopped reading because it was too darn emotional. Too many pages were devoted to emotional outbursts, lengthy bouts of angst, and an unusual amount of wrenching emotional pain. The trouble with all this emotion is that it wasn't very, err, how to put this nicely? — interesting. And it didn't seem terribly genuine. There were descriptive adjectives that built up out of nowhere, but they were so over the top it was almost bewildering. I felt sad reading this book, because it had a lot of potential but not enough skill to carry it off.

As such, I had a lot of trouble reading it aloud and not one of my three kids liked listening to it. At one point Max even groaned aloud and said "How long is it going to take for his brother to finally DIE? This is AWFUL!" Correct me if I'm wrong, but if the death of a fairly major character arouses this kind of response, things can't be good, right?

So we put it aside. And now I'm warning you. I would hazard a guess that a 15 year old girl might enjoy this read, but really, I'm just going by all that emotion. Most 15 year old girls I know like their emotion served up in generous dollops, with cream on top.

And now we're reading The Wee Free Men, by Terry Deary. And yes, I AM reading some bits with a ripe Scots accent, if you want to know. It's a fun read. It's lively and reminiscent of Diana Wynne Jones, what with all that chatty goofy witch lore. A much better read.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Drying Flowers

FDPG got a flower dryer a while back, as a present from someone. It was one of those kits you make yourself, with two flat boards sandwiching layers of cardboard and paper. FDPG is generally quite enthusiastic about these kinds of things: the idea of floating around the garden like a giddy little fairy, gathering flowers willy nilly from the garden, and using them to make Truly Amazing Art Work really appeals to her. So we dutifully made the dryer, or rather, I made it under her very careful scrutiny, since she was a bit under the weather, and then we started choosing flowers to put in it.

At first she chose things like dandelions, lovage, and feverfew leaves, or grass stalks and daisies. And was a little, err, zealous about screwing down the wingnuts holding together the cardboard, paper, and flowers. We had lots of bits and pieces of squished brown items, or squished green skinny things, mostly with lots of ribbed lines across them (which one could easily spot as a Firm Cardboard Impression). We also had a few squished bugs, sadly, smothered forever in their imitation Pompeiian glory.

She was slightly puzzled, I think, because it wasn't quite as glamorous or voluptuously colourful as she'd expected. So we went for more adventurous flowers. We looked further afield. We took scissors. And baskets. We clipped. We examined for perfection. We even scrutinized, hands over brows, frowning across the lawn with the sun in our eyes. It was like being in an Anne of Green Gables movie.

Well, without the long dresses, bonnets, braids and Tennyson. FDPG would probably enjoy a long dress, or even some braids, but she finds Tennyson a bit, err, long winded at this hasty stage of her hasty hasty life. Unless it's his Christmas carol...
This new direction in Gathering Flowers For FDPG's Artistic Intentions was much better, especially after I reluctantly said "okaaaay" to my perfect cerulean blue pansies, the unidentified purple sprays of blossom from the herb garden, many many many Digitalis blossoms (they, umm, stick rather unfortunately to the paper) some stalks of Hypericum perforatum, Lady's Mantle, and our very fattest, most truly gorgeous, purple clematis bloom.

We even tried curling the tendrils and fronds, carefully posing them for Artistic Effect. Here is a curled Hypericum, which in its pre-Dried state was definitely a little long in the tooth, not that you'd know it now. Things were definitely looking up for ole FDPG and her Grande Passion des Fleurs.

Our sole surviving Digitalis

A sprig of Lady's Mantle. This is a really great subject for drying: they all looked charming and perfect, no matter how, err, hurried their interment was. Plus, they all seemed to come with such long stems - handy for overlapping collage work.

Hypericum before drying. This is another handily long-stemmed flower.

Hypericum after drying.

We even used some of the coral bark maple leaves, especially the fall ones. They held their colour amazingly well.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Truly Irresistible

I don't know why I have so much trouble resisting stuff like this. I should know better. I really should.

Here I wrote a post about a summer holiday we had one year, up island with the kids. I wrote about my penchant for reading the English version (as opposed to the truly terrible Canadian version) of Hello! magazine. I wrote about the British Stars I don't know and how strangely compelling I find them, in all their somewhat witless and oh-so glamorous conceit. Finally, I wrote about one 'aging rocker' and his wife and their miracle twins who convulsed me completely (the aging rocker, not the miracle twins) with some truly crackpot family poses.

Stuck in my head, that family did.

Well, I saw them again today. I tell you, it's like a Peter Greenaway/Helen Mirren film: The Aging Rocker, His Wife, Their White Outfits, and Their Miracle IVF Twins.

It almost took my mind off a Star Wars Jeopardy clip I saw on YouTube. Almost.

(warning, "Sean Connery" makes a lot of rude and completely unsuitable-for-kids comments on this clip)

La Triviata

Fall is heading our way. It really and truly is this time. No more balmy days for us: the poor crowded tarragon that I hauled out of the herb garden is headed back into the ground for good; the chilies have decided that ripening into fat red sausages of heat IS a lost cause at this point, despite the cold frame (there goes my plan to make Sheila's Colon Cleanser Hot Sauce); the purple sprouting broccoli plants are all happy as clams (good thing someone is in this weather, is all I'll say); and there are daily rounds of Leaf Raking Mania round these parts, which thrills Max no end, since it's his chore to rake. That Max, he sure loves raking up leaves. Not. Fortunately he's an incredibly tolerant kid. He rakes, I give him all the leftover Yorkshire puddings, apple crisp, pumpkin muffins, sliced baguette & garlic butter, and rice pudding he can stuff down. Then Richard mows up all those leaves and bags them for me for mulch. Max stays skinny as a - wait for it - RAKE; Richard curses the trees; and I bless the mulch. Win, win, win.

Rose coloured lenses, baby, rose coloured lenses

On the plus side, no one here has had the Dreaded H1N1, despite the vast numbers of people we know who HAVE been felled by it.

Hang on, I need to go knock on some wood right now

Of course, I say this, but we were all ill a few weeks ago, back when everyone was saying "If you're sick now it HAS to be swine flu because there isn't anything else going around!" So who knows what is going on. All I know is that that bloody flu has given my neurotic skittish side total rein to be even more neurotic and skittish.


Isn't that a lovely sunset?

And yes, I am the Segue Queen.

On another plus side, I finally caved and bought this for the boys. Look, there it is on my coffee table! It's reposing happily in its new career as Beloved Coffee Table Book.

I had looked at it on Amazon, and I had looked at it when we were at Costco, although I worried that it would be lacking if I ordered it from Amazon (this has happened to me with Klutz books, where they don't come with everything I expect them to), so when I saw it at Costco for a cheaper price than Amazon, I thought "this might get me more raked leaves" "THIS IS CHEAPER THAN AMAZON? OMG! WHADDADEAL!"

And what do you know but it bought me much good will. For many many many days. (Sheila's Parenting Tip #429: Disarm Them Completely With Random Gestures of Niceness) It's amazing (or should that be worrying?) how absorbed they are with these books. Even now one of them is sprawled on the couch with one, deeply engrossed in the wonder that is Ye Olde Lego Sette.

Warning: if you are cut to the core upon hearing statements like "OMG, do you know how OLD this set is? It's from - get this - 1989! (insert many disbelieving guffaws and cackles here) That is SO OLD! Mum! Did you hear how OLD this set is? It's REALLY OLD! I wasn't even ALIVE when it came out, it's so OLD!" you might not want this series anywhere near your house.

And on another plus side, Max's 4-H group had their final Dinner & Raffle Event on the weekend. It was fun. The boys in this group are a witty and oddly loquacious bunch, none too shy with the microphone. Max won 2 trophies, surprise surprise. I'm not sure who was most surprised: him, me or the usual trophy winners. And FDPG won some items in the Raffle, which thrilled her greedy little heart, even if they were things like Armor All and Handy Wrench Sets. I won a raffle prize too but as it was one of the things I had donated I sent it back into the melée ("Look!" someone shouted, "they're Homing Muffins!"). If you look below you can see my teeny tiny kitchen crowded with items from that day. I baked baguettes, I baked pumpkin cinnamon buns, I baked cardamon-sweet potato muffins, I made Minted Potato Salad, and I cooked great honking chunks of Rouge Vif D'Etampes pumpkins (incredible baking pumpkins, by the way) to freeze later in little ziplock baggies for when we're deeper into winter (or when I need a little something for the weekend morning muffins).
If you want the recipe for the Pumpkin Cinnamon buns, head over here. In their original form they are known as the UBC Cinnamon Bun and they are one of the more easy cinnamon buns to make, although, as is the wont of most sweet yeasted breads, they go stale rather quickly. I changed the recipe, after being inspired by Heather, by slathering some pumpkin purée over the dough after brushing on the butter and before sprinkling on the cinnamon sugar. They looked as though they would be BURSTING with worryingly-obvious-child-putting-off pumpkin flavour but it was surprisingly muted, although once Max discovered that there was pumpkin in them he decided they weren't as fabulous as he had initially claimed. Those hovering-on-the-cusp-of-puberty kids...all I will say is that they are at once whimsical and exasperating.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Do Jedis Trick or Treat?

Something tells me that they don't. Something tells me they are a bit dignified for something so banal, even Mace Windu, that old trickster. Nonetheless, we had two in this house who went out trick or treating on the weekend. And as you can see from one of the photos, at least one of them spent a lot of time the preceding week practicing his Jedi Light Saber Swing. And glaring atmospherically. Nothing like an Atmospheric Glare, now, is there?

When he saw this photo he thought the purple glow in the dark light sticks took away somewhat from his Menacing Glare, but I told him that he looked perfectly fierce either way. A real Jedi can overcome such photographic hurdles, I said.

The other Jedi, much to the delight of his grandmother, is one of your more approachable Jedis: we nicknamed him the Happy Jedi. The sort of Jedi you might conceivably ask for directions if you were lost in space somewhere. The sort of Jedi you could see sharing his Space Snacks with you, even. He was less invested in being Supremely Menacing, or practicing his light saber swing, and more interested in using the Force to obtain many many items for his Halloween bag.

Then we had a Japanese girl in a kimono. And no, she was not a geisha, despite what some of our older neighbours seemed to think. I don't know why, because I don't think this particular Japanese girl even knows what a geisha is, but she did know that she wasn't one. So there.

And yes, those are chopsticks in her hair. Chopsticks with, ahem, geishas on them!

She sure knew how to pose. It was mildly alarming how good she was at posing with that red umbrella. And according to my Jedi sources she had some Serious Attitude when asked by some of the Door Openers to provide a Trick (as opposed to getting a Treat). I had to close my eyes when the Jedis related this (and even more distressing examples of her gleeful unGeisha-like Attitude) and grip my Jane Austen heroine hankie tightly, and hope that one day she WILL tone it down a bit, if only to relieve the distress of her poor poor mother (who according to her mother was just the same when she was little).

*Kimono courtesy of IKEA (who provided the curtains), the sun (who bleached the curtains so badly that we never used them again), and me (who left the curtains to languish in the fabric bag for several years, only to be unearthed when it was discovered that they had the requisite 4 yards of material needed for a child's kimono pattern).

*Attitude courtesy of FDPG.