Thursday, February 24, 2011

Random Twits

# I ROCK at Teen Jeopardy.

# Socca is my new favourite food, especially when slathered with pesto. (Note to self: grow more basil next year, pesto supply is dwindling)

# Remind me again why the old-fashioned Christmas lights went out of style? The ones heating my greenhouse are at least 40 years old - and they work just fine, as opposed to the 2 year old set of LED lights that are highly temperamental.

# Living on a hill has its upsides when it snows: built-in sledding potential. Haven't seen the twins in a few hours...

# Why do the twins like to lie in the snow and pretend they are dead? It's very disconcerting.

# Public Service Announcement: The people at Xerxes have a new book out, called Attracting Native Pollinators.

# Ron Sexsmith was interviewed by Jian Gomeshi today and wonder of wonders but I just HAPPENED to be listening to it. What a wonderfully gloomy interview. Ron Sexsmith rocks. Buy his new album so he can afford to take his band on tour, please. LOL

# Downton Abbey has announced its new season, with new characters. I await it with bated breath (emphasis on the bated bit).

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Snow Is Rising (Again)

Look! It's Toffee the Snowcat, intrepid wanderer in the snow, ploughing reluctantly through the whiteness that appeared in the backyard while he was dreaming sweet dreams without care in the night.

He went out (and came in almost instantly) about 12 times this morning before I finally hauled him out to the backyard and chucked him on the snow. Then we cruel heartless humans followed him around with a camera (and maybe a little laughter) while he gingerly waded around. I admire his resolve: when he needs to pee at 3am he has no compunction in waking ANYONE up to let him out; when he needs to pee and it's snowing? That cat has a bladder to match, well, to match a Super Bladder.

Balancing act on last year's echinacea.

Look at those top hats.

Coral bark maple, gleaming redly in its coat of snow.

Thunderous looking skies in one direction - sun in the other direction. Make up your mind, sky!

Glancing off the side of the deck. Very atmospheric, although we've already brought in two sparrows on their last legs (both have since died). Poor sparrows, I think the cold was too sudden for their old bodies.

Life on the coast - very unpredictable.

Monday, February 21, 2011

In Which I Detail My Weekend

Another sunrise photo. I can't seem to help myself these days - the sunrises come up so dramatically against the cloudy mornings it's hard not to race for the camera and exclaim enthusiastically (which is what I tell the teenager when he is scrolling through my iPhoto and saying "Why do you have over 200 shots of the SAME skyline?").

It's also a delight to wake up and see the sunrise coming earlier and earlier. In December we were doing our morning Read Alouds in utter darkness, which was wonderfully atmospheric with Christmas washing up against our literary prow (The Box of Delights, The Tomten, The Dark is Rising), but after Christmas it was just plain bleak. Chilly, bleak, and lit only by the harsh glare of the dining room light. Now we're reading Eagle of the Ninth, punctuated by the light of the sun streaming in and making periodic rainbows through the glass pendants on the windows. It reminds me of those religious record commercials they used to have on the TV when I was little, the ones with the single piercing streak of sunlight, breaking through some deep cloud, with songs like "He Loves You" or "God Is Near" playing in the background in all its exaggerated sentiment. When we were kids we used to scream with laughter at these commercials, because they appealed to the Inner Diva in us. I mentioned these commercials to my kids to see what they'd make of them and they all looked at me blankly, no doubt shocked at how WEIRD television used to be, then Max said "Um, what do you mean by RECORD commercials? You were around when they had RECORDS?"

Then, instead of feeling just plain odd I felt odd AND old.

Another subject for the camera is this cat. He matches the floors so perfectly we tend to stop and exclaim over this as well, as in "WOW! Toffee is the SAME COLOUR as the floors!" We all say the same thing. We all repeat it. Over and over again, with the same note of surprise each time. And I have yet to hear someone - anyone - say "You've said that four billion times already, Mum!"

Does this mean that we are all easily thrilled?
Here he is, in all his winter fatness. I've even blogged about it before but I'm a little ashamed to link the posts. Not too ashamed to tell you but I won't go so far as to actually SHOW you them. Even I have some my limits.

(pick your jaw up off the floor)

Anyhow, I spent my weekend, because it was so warm and sunny, digging in the garden and trying to lure the cat over to where I was working. Yes, the very same cat you see above in the photo. MY cat, I feel compelled to point out. He is, tragically, a cat of VERY little brain. We also think he has issues with context. When we're inside all winter he knows who we are, because he can place us; when we go outside all of a sudden he gets spooked and forgets that we too can be outside in the garden AT THE SAME TIME as him. So he runs away and cowers in the Cat Tunnels at the end of the yard, wondering how these scary imposters could be in the back yard AT THE SAME TIME as the Real People in his house. Sigh.

This is what used to be the Garlic Bed, but because I have turned over a new leaf and am now going to rotate my crops in a serious fashion, it's lost its moniker and is now going to be Just Another Bed. Why am I going to rotate my crops, you ask? I never used to, but that was mostly because we used to move around so much that I never needed to think about the Rotating of Crops. Now that we've actually - gulp - purchased a house AND live in it, I've got to think about such things if I want to avoid exhausted soil and plant diseases. So rotate I will.

After I forked around in the Former Garlic Bed, I repositioned my Fancy Schmancy Hoop House and planted some lettuce seeds inside it. Yes, it IS still cold here, but this is a protected area of the yard and dry enough that the seeds won't rot as they wait for warmer weather.

Then I laid on the ground and took some photos of the miniature irises. They too are so eminently photographic.

These irises are about 6" tall. Tiny little things and so wonderfully blue. I can see though that I am going to have to divide them a bit, because they are squished, and because they are squished they are smaller than usual.

Along with all the sunrise photos in my iPhoto folder I also have a fair number of sunset photos. For obvious reasons.

And thus ends the weekend detailings of Sheila. Hope your weekend was just as enjoyable, although do me a favour: if you don't know what records are, don't ask me to explain...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Random Twits

Being a series of random might-have-been-tweets from the week:

# "I for one welcome our new computer overlords" (who said this?)

# "Mum, I only want you to criticize me when I want you to!" (who said this?)

# FDPG motors through a chocolate mousse roll but takes HOURS to eat her chow mein. Why is this?

# 4-H Public Speaking ends on a high note! Whoo hooo!

# Three days under a grow light and the moonlight marigolds are sprouting.

# The Dutch door in the kitchen was open all morning - could it be spring?

# I find some paper covers to make my matchboxes look like books. Is there anything more exciting?

#Watson doesn't know his Harry Potter from his Voldemort. I am SHOCKED.

# Sheila learns to crochet. The world might just stop and shudder for a moment.

#Almost forgot: someone is giving away MOUTHWASH on Freecycle. Mouthwash? Someone else's mouthwash? Blech.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Hey! Who Turned Out The Lights?

Yes, these ARE the things we get up to the night before Valentine's Day. It amuses us all immensely. Don't know what I'm talking about? Forest of the Dead? Doctor Who? Click here...and be warned.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Writing Speeches With Kids

We're in 4-H this year, and by we I mean all 3 kids AND me. Max is in the club as a member and the twins are in the same club doing what's called Special Projects (or something along those lines, I can't remember the proper title and everyone has corrected me so many times I can't remember which one IS the correct title anymore). And I? Well, the club was in danger of folding because it had no leader, so yes, Sheila the great big idiot so I stepped in and saved the day. Well, technically I saved the day, but I managed to boss the other parents into saving the day WITH me, because gawd knows I hate to be the lone wolf in these kinds of operations. And for some mysterious reason (mysterious evidently ONLY to ME) people think homeschooling mums don't have a lot to do during the day, so I had to make sure they knew that I too had a Very Busy Day (I think I live in a Richard Scarry universe for adults), and that I would not be able to complete the task as Club Leader on my own.

Fortunately these parents are all blessedly reasonable, except for perhaps secretly holding the notion that homeschooling mums have more time on their hands than People With Official Jobs Outside The Home. And you know, I really really don't mean this rudely or disrespectfully, because even my own parents have had to be gently (well, okay, so I wasn't very gentle about it) pried free of this notion. But now that I've been at this homeschooling business for 7 years, I have to confess that it's an exasperating fallacy to deal with on a continual basis. People think that because I'm home with the kids, I have more time: more time to answer their telephone calls at 10 in the morning; more time to act as Treasurer for their organization; more time to sell over-priced gift wrap to perfect strangers in my neighbourhood; more time to organize schedules and write up reports. More time, in other words, for what THEY want me to do.

(Do I sound philosophical but exasperated? Or do I merely sound irritable? I was hoping for a delicate balance of all three)

Technically I suppose I do have more time during which I can call the shots. Of course I do. I don't need to remind anyone when I take a coffee break. I don't need to glance at my watch to make sure that coffee break doesn't go over the allotted time. I don't have to be IN the office AT 8:30 every morning between Monday and Friday (when I worked in offices I always used to type FIRDAY so now I tend to think of Friday as being a woody sort of day).

But what most people don't realize is that yes, I have swapped a career (with all its attendant benefits of pension schemes and financial security, a move which I sometimes think was worryingly Grasshopperish as opposed to the Sensible Antishness of other mothers I know) in order to stay home, but staying home for ME isn't just watching my kids do whatever, while I do whatever. Remember my Richard Scarry metaphor? We're all pretty busy here.

But I digress...

However I write it, we're now really entrenched in this 4-H club business. Sometimes I want to add "worryingly" to the space in between "really" and "entrenched" but I don't want to appear churlish, because I do like the fact that my kids are in 4-H. They've gotten a lot out of 4-H: camaraderie, presentation skills, speaking skills, learning how to run a committee. My kids LOVE being in 4-H. They love being busy even more than I love being in my garden (two facts which frequently, um, clash, ahem). And this weekend is the Public Speaking event, something the 4-H organization seems inordinately fond of. Truth be told, I've become inordinately fond of it as well, but that's mostly because of two things: 1) it's an extremely useful skill to speak clearly and affably in front of a group of people (look at the viral success of the TED talks), and 2) it's done wonders for the writing abilities of my offspring (remember, the ones I stay home shepherding about the Educational Universe?).

So this week saw us writing our speeches. I say "our" because I am not one of those parents who thinks kids should be expected to choose a topic and write up a speech on their own, then deliver it without any editorial/presentational assistance whatsoever. I'm sure I part ways with a number of parents on this point (in fact I know I do, lol), but incorrect grammar, spelling, and rambling sentence structures really bug me, and I don't think anything is to be gained from leaving what could be a really compelling speech in such inchoate form. Which means a lot of fine-tuning. Standing in the middle of the living room, experimenting with methods of delivery. Learning how to calm those flutterings in the stomach. Learning how to speak from the diaphragm as opposed to the throat, so that all us Hearing Challenged Parents out in the audience aren't left thinking "Huh? What did she just say?" Memorizing it so they don't need to stand with it in front of their face, clutching it in all it's crumpled, sweaty glory. Finding topics that stretch their brains, even if they aren't Safe & Sensible 4-H Topics.

Stuff like that.

I haven't given much actual advice for writing speeches, have I? Maybe another day. As it is, I'm off to watch my own kids do their speeches. Wish them luck, would you?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Pink Popcorn

Granted, this doesn't look like pink popcorn, but when it was still on the stalk it sure did...well, when we managed to wrest some of the cobs from the squirrels, that is. The squirrels were giddy with delight at the idea of having their own private corn supply, and every time we looked out at the garden we'd see the stalks waving madly as the squirrels clambered around, chewing, chewing, and chewing some more. It was one of the more exasperating experiences I've ever had as a gardener.

Check this link. Pink, eh?

Dominic chose this for his garden two years ago and while it was almost mildly amusing at the time - barring visits from squirrels, birds, bugs, and wind - we never grew it again because of the travails we'd had. I'd forgotten how much space corn needs, and Dominic had no idea he'd have to wrap the cobs in tinfoil to um, well, FOIL the squirrels, and by the time the summer was over and we could harvest the stuff all we had to show for our stealth, doggedness, frustration, and perseverance were two cobs. Two measly cobs - which took up a 2' by 3' space - and so, once we'd dried the cobs and removed the kernels, I tucked them into a cup and put them on a shelf somewhere. Periodically, when I was clearing up, I'd come across them, then tuck them away again, convinced that any experience with popping them would be just as frustrating as it was growing them...

Until yesterday. I was popping corn when I came across the cup of pink kernels. They looked dry and, dare I admit, OLD. But I poured them into the air popper and wonder of wonders they all popped. And here they are, gleaming rather whitely in their bowl.

Don't know that we'll grow them again, but it was a wonderfully redeeming end to an experience that was a little TOO fraught with irritations.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

We Interrupt Your Regular Programming...

With another form to send to the CRTC. If you are Canadian and you use the internet you really MUST sign this. Click on the first link there, the one that ends with "/crtc." And if your kids have email addresses, have THEM send a form too. Then pass this on to your friends and have THEM sign it as well.


The CRTC just announced they will reexamine metered billing practices. They are seeking public input right now! This is a huge opportunity to stop Internet metering, and to ensure Canadians have access to an unlimited Internet.

Please take a moment to send the CRTC a message here: asked Canadians to send Ottawa a message about Internet metering, and wow did you ever respond – over 420,000 signed the petition!

The CRTC's move to review the imposition of billing practices through a public process is in direct response to our petition - they even cited the "public outcry".

At the same time, we all know a Big Telecom-friendly compromise is being pushed behind closed doors. To avoid another industry crafted solution we urgently need to send a message to the CRTC HERE.

We must sway the CRTC now to make our previous victories stick. If we don't convince the CRTC, all could be lost - all Internet users could face a metered Internet and pay up $4 per gigabyte!

We’ve already moved politics in Canada and made it easy for politicians to champion the Internet. Let’s force the CRTC to do the same.

We’ve come this far, let’s not stop now,

~ The team

Monday, February 7, 2011

What If...?

Here's a movie Max made for an animation class. It's based on the premise "what if?" Max did an extrapolation using the Greeks as his example: What if the Greeks had never existed?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Seedy Tuesday

FDPG and Dominic are doing a gardening project in their 4-H group this year; FDPG concentrating on vegetable gardening and Dominic on making a butterfly garden. To that end I've been recalling gardening books for kids from the library, visiting the seed aisles at the garden centre, and perusing planting charts. Our favourite chart is the one in the West Coast Seeds Gardening Guide. They divide it handily into two pages: Vegetables, and Herbs & Flowers. This year I ripped out both planting charts and stuck them in the seed box so the twins could keep an eye out for what to seed when.

I don't know why, perhaps because I'm still in recovery mode from Christmas, but seed planting season always, and I mean always, takes me by surprise. So it was with a sense of surprise that I noticed on the West Coast chart that we could be planting certain seeds NOW. Yes, NOW.

So we did. Here are the twins, busily filling pots. I gave them each a tray, a cut off bottom of a paper cup (I just had these left over from another project but you could use a yogurt cup), and some popsicle sticks and a Sharpie. First they filled all the little pots with soil and dampened it a bit. We have a very fine plastic nozzle attached to a pop bottle (you might have them in your garden centres like we do, for about 25¢). Then we formed an assembly line: I put 25 seeds into their cup, and wrote the name of the plant on the requisite number of popsicle sticks. They divided them up into the flats, covered with more soil, and stuck in the plant label.

Then I dragged an old greenhouseslashgardencrap storage unit from outside, where it was reposing mouldily, into the basement and we laid out the heating mats and grow lights (I was thrilled to see full spectrum grow light bulbs in the garden centre this year - if you have old lamp plugs and wiring lying around it makes for a cheaply fast grow light fixture). Placed the trays on the shelving unit and VOILA! or, as a witty friend of mine likes to say VIOLA! (which, considering the topic of this post, is rather more apt don't you think?).

I know it's the season for Seedy Saturdays but I never seem to get to them. Well, amend that, I did once but I was kind of put off by the atmosphere. I went expecting a lot of gardeners and mostly bumped into a lot of Trendy Garden Marketers hawking expensive stuff. So now I stick to garden centres and books, although this year I made more effort to buy Open Pollinated plants so I could save more seed.

Just in case you're wondering (or if you're nosy like me), here's a list of things we planted this week:

Basil: West Coast Seeds Genovese
Bells of Ireland: Renee's Garden Antique Apple Green
Broccoli: West Coast Seeds Purple Sprouting Red Arrow
Calendula: Seeds of Change Orange Zinger
Clary: Richter's
Hollyhock: Livingston Seed Co. Peaches 'N' Dreams
Kale: West Coast Seeds Rainbow Tuscan
Lettuce: Renee's Garden Merveille de Quatre Saisons
Marigold: Seeds of Change Moonlight
Mescluns: West Coast Seeds Corn Salad
Milkweed: Richter's
(Stinging) Nettle: Richter's (no laughing now, but it seeds ridiculously well and I am planning a Mega-Ginormous Nettle Patch in the back end of the garden, for tea)
Perennial Sunflowers: Renee's Garden Prairie Maximilian
Phacelia: West Coast Seeds
Spinach: Sunshine Farm Bloomsdale