Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Light In The Darkness

This is how the extremely tender plants are surviving the cold snap: Old fashioned Christmas lights. The lemon trees aren't in this particular greenhouse (they have an all-green string) but it's the same general idea. Keeps the air from freezing.

A Stormavenger Christmas

Here is another addition to the Greenridge Advent Series, this time by Max. This little number is called A Stormavenger Christmas. Watch Stormavenger sing carols! Watch Stormavenger stomp his feet in a fit of pique! Watch him wait for Santa (while you wonder if Santa will actually come for grouchie ole Stormavenger).

Ho ho ho, ho ho ho, ho ho all the way!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Advent of Advent

Here's a little something FDPG and Dominic cooked up today, just in time for Advent. It stars Cedric as King Wenceslas, Wally as the Page, and Polar as the Poor Man, with voices by FDPG (as King Wenceslas and Chorus) and Dominic (as the Page and Chorus).

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Snow Is Rising

Here's a picture looking out my bedroom window not 2 minutes ago. And we apparently set a record yesterday: Coldest Day on Record (- 10.5ºC).

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Harry Potter Rides Again

We went to see the latest in the Harry Potter franchise last week: Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows, Part 1.

First show. First day.

I bought the tickets before I went to Seattle. I stuck them on the shelf above my desk, showed everyone (in the event of a house fire so FDPG could grab them on the way out, because she WOULD do this for a HP movie), and left for Seattle, promptly and very idiotically forgetting where I'd put them. Every so often I'd pause, in the middle of a Williams Sonoma, or a Target, or a Macy's (had to check out Martha's new line of housewares), and angst over what I'd done with them, because they weren't in my wallet where I'd left them.

Yes, snigger all you like. Fortunately I have come to terms with this highly irritating personality quirk of mine, because I have a personal assistant named FDPG, who remembers everything and anything I say or do.

"Mum, you hid Dad's Christmas presents under your bed in that green box."

"Mum, you left your car keys in your green raincoat."

"Mum, the library CDs are in the van - we have to return them today."

"Mum, last night you said we could have the rest of that chocolate cake for breakfast."
(I did?)

Luckily when I got home and asked her, FDPG knew exactly where they were and all I had to do was get everyone to the movie theatre at 10am the next day. This meant we would have 1 hour and 45 minutes of Official Line Up Time. We'd seen Half Blood Prince the previous summer and it had been bedlam, considering that all us nice polite Canadians were lined up in three sections then set loose on one set of doors. I was not going to do that again. So I loaded some episodes of Doctor Who on my new iTouch (birthday present from He Who Buys New Computers And Donates The Freebies To His Spouse), popped a few ziplocks of popcorn, and off we went to the cinema.

It was really cold.

There were only three kids in the line-up. Mine.

Everyone else asked us at least 20 zillion times if they were skipping school. After the 20th time I started saying "Yes."

Then some odd man leapt out of a car with a cape and a wizard's hat on and, in a very charming English accent, asked FDPG if she wanted to talk to a person on the radio. Ha, that's like asking a drowning man if he'd like a life preserver. He handed the cell to her and she discussed everything she'd liked about all the previous movies, including details as to length, cast, bits left out, etc, to a DJ named Angie on the other end. The man in the cape and hat gaped at her a bit, then asked me how old she was. "Nine," I said. "Wow," he said, "she's a good talker."

Yup. She sure is.

Finally the movie staff took pity on us, probably because it was freezing cold outside, and opened the doors. Unlike the last time we streamed in fairly sedately. I decided I quite liked adult geeks; they are nothing if not meek. Max had his ticket and instructions to run ahead of us and snag 4 seats in my Preferred Seating Area. The excitement was palpable.

So we sat through seven commercials (telephones, pop, soap, banks, and internet connections), five previews (Cowboys & Aliens, Green Hornet, TRON Legacy, Green Lantern, Red Riding Hood) and just when we thought we were nearing the start of the movie, the manager walked in and said "We're having a slight problem with the machines. Please sit tight and we'll try to get it sorted as soon as possible."

It was enough to make us all laugh a little, in disbelief. "What does this mean?" Dominic asked. "Aren't they going to show us the movie?" I felt vaguely sick in the pit of my stomach. The people in the theatre all turned as one and stared at the man in the projection room, who was fiddling with the movie tapes. He waved and smiled politely (we are Canadian, after all).

Eventually, they fixed the machines and we all settled in. Rufus Scrimgeour opens the movie, in the form of Bill Nighy, intoning as only Bill Nighy can: "These are dark days." Then the story cuts to Harry, Ron, and Hermione, all in various grim stages of Preparing To Hunt The Horcruxes. Kenneth Turan has said that this movie is solid and dependable and unsurprising, and it is, but unlike Mr Turan I don't see it as a negative because I had two little kids in tow (and I still haven't forgotten Max's reaction to Goblet of Fire when he was 8, I was not expecting those last 20 minutes at all and neither was he). It's also quite long, clocking in at around two and a half hours; I know this because the man below me kept checking the time on his iPhone (note to man with iPhone: I now know your name & password because I saw you punch it into your keypad, you idiot).

As with the other movies in the series, time passes quickly in Potterville. I had some fun picking out the scenes we'd seen in the previews. I was sorry not to see more of the old stalwarts from the earlier films: the Dursleys (esp. after hearing that Dudley had to wear padding because he'd lost weight), Tonks, Fred & George, McGonnagle, even Lucius. And while I do love Rhys Ifans he seemed far too young to be Luna's father. But seeing Snape as trails of oh-so-graceful black smoke, then a spell-snapping ultra-cool grouch, streaming into the Malfoy's mansion almost made up for it. I might even have sighed aloud, along with all the other women in the theatre. I will be forever grateful that this franchise was not allowed to germinate in the Hollywood Machine; some actors are so good they hardly need spoken lines and Alan Rickman is one of them. There are others, too, but they barely have any scenes this time round, and that perhaps is my one quibble: there isn't enough screen time for some of the real heavy weights this series started with. Not that I want a Part 3...

But it's really only a quibble. There is a lot of action, some impressively atmospheric scenery, some Adam Ant-ish bother boys (the Snatchers), and lots of semi-comic semi-adult action (David O'Hara as Runcorn but really Harry as Runcorn, Ron being kissed by Reg Cattermole's wife while the real Reg Cattermole looks on). There are two scenes the entire theatre jumped at, one involving Bathilda Bathhurst. If you've read the book you'll know what I'm talking about; if you haven't, well, it involves a honkin' big snake, some dark corners, and some flies. In fact, all the scenes I jumped at involved the snake. She has a habit of ending the scenes rather, err, abruptly.

It's a grim movie now that I think about it, well, as grim as a kid-friendly Harry Potter movie peopled by excellent actors can possibly be. Voldemort isn't around much but his presence pervades the movie as a sort of literal gray pall, from his gray robes and the gray air in the chamber, finding echoes in Wormtail's silver hand, the silver candlabra in the Malfoy house, the grim interior of the Black house, and the constant gray weather outside. It's all quite oppressive. And when the film ends, and I won't tell you where it does, you are almost shell-shocked. Almost. Another journey with Harry and Friends is over, but you aren't left entirely wanting, because there's always Part 2 to look forward to.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Wind Chills

It was cold here today. We even had a somewhat thrilling snowstorm, which is most unusual around these parts, unless of course you're the kind of person who consults almanacs and pays attention to La Nina winter predictions. Then you wouldn't be surprised at all. You might even have taken your library books back early so there'd be no fish-tailing down the hill once the snow came on, because you can't really afford any more fines.

Sigh. Here, let's look at this rose instead. This rose is in my front garden. It's usually a very uncomplaining and low maintenance rose, blooming pinkly all summer despite the arid conditions I keep it in.
It looks rather defeated now, though, don't you think? I felt compelled to memorialize it. Here on the Wet Coast it's not unusual in the least to have roses blooming in November, but today I felt for this rose because it was Seriously Cold. There I was last week, picking the last of the raspberries. Today I was slithering down the driveway in the car, wondering why the heck I couldn't be one of those people who is more organized and less prone about accumulating fines because they never take their books back on time about their library borrowings.

I am, I freely admit, a total weeniepants when it comes to cold weather, but GADS it was cold here today. Right now it's minus 5 degrees C, with a wind chill of minus 16. Horrifically cold, if you ask me. I feel like that rose. Luckily the heat pump is functioning as it should and the plastic is still holding on the greenhouse. The cold frame plastic crumbled last night, oddly enough considering it was quite new (which reminds me of a sentence from Peter Rabbit - I have to fight the urge to add "with blue buttons"), and this morning saw me covering the top of it temporarily with a) a wool blanket, b) some more sheets of plastic, c) a tarp, and d) a thick cushion of straw.

Inside the greenhouse and cold frame I have old-fashioned Christmas lights strung up. I rather like this shot—
Aged Christmas Lights Acting Very Jane Austen Heroine-ishly
Despite The Frigid Temperatures

And although it was Horrifically Cold, the kids were desperate to go out walking in it, well, until we actually went out and they felt the wind. Then they kept repeating things like "Ugh, this wind is so cold" and "Why is the wind so cold?" and "That wind is bugging me" and "Do I have to wear my gloves?" (this last from FDPG who had inexplicably hot hands). I paused by the trestle bridge which our house overlooks to take that picture. You can't tell but the wind was vicious, whipping me and my fake fur coat into near shreds.
And here we are in the nearby bird sanctuary, with another atmospheric tree - this time a willow on the edge of a little creek.

When we came home I put out all the bacon fat/peanut butter blocks I had for the little birds. They spent the afternoon clustering on them: bushtits, juncos, sparrows, flickers, jays, nuthatches, chickadees, wrens. And when I took the thawed feeder out for the hummingbird he landed on my thumb. We both looked at each other in shock: me because I couldn't believe how calm he was and him no doubt because he's usually so bad-tempered he does nothing but buzz me when I'm anywhere near his feeder. We were both acting completely out of character, evidently.

Now I sit at my desk, listening to the wind whip round the house, smelling the bread as it bakes, and wondering if the cold frame is going to hold.

Pancake Pen

I was in Seattle last week, on my annual American Shoppapaloosa, when this funny plastic item caught my eye. I glanced, checked the price, then replaced it in the bin with its siblings because it seemed horribly a little overpriced. Later that day I happened to be in another store in another area (same chain) and spotted it again. This time it seemed a wildly excellent deal and something I was in desperate need of. I could envisage a zillion uses for it, too.

So I bought it.

And yes, the blog post title is its real name. It is really and truly called a Pancake Pen. It even comes with - wait for it: instructions.

When I came home I used it immediately. Here you have my newly patented Snowman Circle Pancake Combination. I made big circles, small circles, and middle size circles so we could have DIY Goldilocks snowmen. Big hit with the small set.

It is, I am relieved to report because I hate to think I might have wasted even the smallest amount of cash on a squeezie bottle, given how cheap I am, an extremely well-designed piece of plastic. It poured. It didn't drip. It didn't clog. It even made some nifty (and recognizable) D's and K's. And whaddaya know but FDPG and Dominic were THRILLED to see it filled and put into immediate use, even though it was only mere hours before the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows premiere (to which we had tickets).

So there we were, eating DIY snowmen right before the Harry Potter premiere.

And if you'd been listening to a certain local FM radio station last Friday, oh, say about 11am, you would have heard FDPG in all her chatty glory telling the unsuspecting DJ (via some poor fellow dressed in cloak and wizard's hat shivering in the cold) every single thing she thought about the last 6 Harry Potter films.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Why Certain Aspects...

...of the eco-obsessed movement will never enter our lexicon.

Look at that fireplace. It's a good thing, to quote my friend Martha. A very good thing. Where else can you warm yourself whilst lounging on a giant ball whilst reading?


Can you see the flicker on the feeder? The red shafted Northern Flicker, to be precise? He's got some pretty decent yoga moves here, methinks.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010