Sunday, October 30, 2011

LEGO Kits We'd Like To See

Those wacky twins have been at it again. Here's another in the series of kits we'd like to see in the next LEGO catalogue:

Item #: 1068
Ages: 5-12
Pieces: 275

This kit comes complete with a sailor, spyglass, fishing rod, and a fully stocked kitchen. Deck canopy protects against the elements while the sailor protects against fierce sea action.

Fish Bar
Item #: 7563
Ages: 5-12
Pieces: 525

This little fish shop has a menu board, an outdoor heat lamp, a light-up stove, and a skookum little get away craft moored right out front. It even has a diving board!

Mars Roving Robot
Item #: 6932
Ages: 9-16
Pieces: 274

This little robot can go up some pretty steep cliffs (was tested on van windscreens) so there's no worries about getting stuck in the red dust. Comes complete with a remote in case your astrosuit isn't ready in time for blast-off.

Miniature Train
Item #: 6525
Ages: 4-12
Pieces: 42

This little locomotive is a dead ringer for the Hogwarts Express, and indeed was modelled on it. Comes in red with black detailing, wheels optional.

Alien Conquest
ADU (Alien Defense Unit)
Item #: 7892
Ages: 6-12
Pieces: 396

Have aliens in your city? Get the ADU over for some fun and games! Blast them out of town with the roof-mounted rocket launcher or run over them with your low riding wheels. No danger of being harmed in this encased monster of a vehicle. ER assistance not included.

Graveyard Church
Item #: 4319
Ages: 7-14
Pieces: 478

This LEGO church comes with something you don't see very often in LEGO: stained glass windows! Sit down in the pews and experience a genuine LEGO service (host & choir optional).

Then, go outside and watch the grumpy caretaker sweep up the body parts from Halloween.

Well, wouldn't YOU be grumpy if you had to sweep up a lot of body parts and mummy limbs every morning?

"Stupid #@&*% zombies. I wish they'd go somewhere else, so I could get on pretending to be Harry Potter."

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Bedtime Stories

There I was, lying in bed, intently watching another gripping episode of Monarchy on my iPod. What better way to unwind at night than to watch someone at least 30 years older than you work like a dog? Even better, work like a dog while dripping with jewels and surrounded by glorious room decor? I find it strangely relaxing.

I was deeply absorbed in a particularly complex explanation of Black Rod when Richard came into the room, brushing his teeth noisily. He peered over and a wave of spearmint fumes hit me. He stared at the screen solicitously. I had earplugs (oops, sorry technologically superior teen child - earbuds) on, so he couldn't hear the commentary, but Prince Charles was shaking hands with someone and grimacing in the way only Prince Charles can. Without concern for any future Black Rod knowledge I may or may not have been stashing away for later (Jeopardy battles being rife around these parts), he launched into his usual nightly behaviour. This generally involves bouncing into bed noisily and interrupting me cheerily while he decides which book to read from the tottering pile at his bedside. Sometimes he brandishes the cover of each book so I can be privy to his inner deliberations (I tell him to pick the nice yellow book). Sometimes the pile falls over (clouds of dust ensue). Sometimes he yanks the covers about if he thinks I'm hogging the duvet (we wrangle pleasantly about who has more blanket). Sometimes he launches into a discussion about the complexities of the tile cutting saw he saw in the Canadian Tire catalogue (I remind him he already has a tile cutting saw). Every now and then he madly leaps up and races around the house, remembering doors to lock or bread to remove from freezers (I remind him that the kids are - or WERE - asleep). Once he's chosen his book and his page he clicks off. Abruptly.

After this evening's performance was over, I returned to my Monarchy viewing. We read and watch for a while. I am just getting into a particularly tense scene involving an irritated Queen and a number of sheepish looking Corgis when Richard blurts out of nowhere:

"Think he'll ever be King?"

"Huh? Who?"

"Prince Charles. Think the Queen will outlive him? Throne pass to Wills?"

"What? Are you kidding? She won't outlive him! Poor Charles."

"It's happened before. It's not unthinkable. There IS precedent."

"What? When has it happened before?" (the Corgis are forgotten)

"The Black Prince. His father outlived him. Throne passed on to Richard II."

"Who? The Black Prince? What? When was this? Recently?" (in spite of myself I am starting to screech a bit)

"Fourteenth century."

I burst out laughing.

"Oh my GAWD! That's only 700 years ago. Practically yesterday! I'm sure it's something that weighs heavily on Charles' mind. The Black Prince. You are INSANE." (I roll about in the pillows, feeling quite hysterical at this point)

Richard smiles smugly. "Don't laugh. It IS a precedent. I'm sure the Queen knows about it."

For some reason this strikes me as both wildly improbably AND hysterically funny. Richard goes back to his book, with a rather knowing look on his face. I return to my iPod. The Queen is traipsing up a very long staircase in a white evening gown, looking barely out of breath. Camera shifts to Prince Charles, looking red faced and rather less robust than his mother. I peer at his face on the tiny screen, wondering.

I glance over at Richard. He smirks.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Mountain View Mystery

Come in, Mountain View, CA. Who are you? I have to say, at this point I am curious.

Consider The Lunch 2

Tuesday Edition:

Okay, this one was a bit of a quickie, I admit. We had next to nothing in the house and I didn't feel like cooking anything, so I hauled out the last of the graham crackers and grabbed a few apples, chocolate chips, and dried cherries. Then I used the mini bowl on my immersion blender to purée peanut butter, bananas, and a little Golden Syrup (takes the edge off the banana for the kid who isn't nuts about bananas). Spread, chop, arrange. That mini bowl is a miracle, I tell you. It's my own personal Almost A Vitamix.

Not shown: mango smoothie. Mango juice, ice cubes, over-ripe frozen bananas in a blender.

Rating: Very good (didn't fill the teen amongst us up and required some messy grazing afterwards, which was horribly tragic, but it WAS quick and easy)

Later that afternoon I went to the store and stocked up a bit. Ahem.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

And Then There's Lunch

I don't know about you, but making lunch in-house 5 days a week can be tedious, particularly if I've spent the morning assisting with math (grade 5 level), assisting with math (grade 9 level), talking about history, the periodic table, geometry, grammar and maybe even a little poetry.

I walk into the kitchen, most days around 11:30, look around and think "ugh." Or "why don't I have a personal chef?" Sometimes I even do an "uh-oh" depending on what's in the fridge or cupboards. Sometimes I walk back into the family room (where we do our schoolwork) and think "I'd rather be here. I wonder if anyone will forget about lunch?" knowing in my heart that no one will. Well, except for me.

There's something about the regularity of lunch that can be very creativity-destroying, don't you think? I have lots of ideas, but some days I lack the enthusiasm (not to mention the ingredients AND a flagrant budget). And don't forget the Taste Bud Considerations to, well, um, consider. Some of us adore sushi, some of us don't. Some of us love soup, some of us think it should be served no more than once a month, if that. Some of us like odd foods and exotic flavours, some of us would prefer a Heart Un-healthy diet (fries, cured meat subs, hamburgers).

So I'm going to start something new here on this blog:

Consider The Lunch.

I'm going to detail what we have for lunch for a week or two, which should, all going well, shame me into making more of an effort.

Here was Monday's offering: rice wraps. Stuffed with the previous day's leftover baked salmon, grated carrots, chopped sorrel, and a little soy sauce and sesame oil.

Rating: Excellent (and yes, I do say so myself)

And in the meantime, if you have any ideas, please send them. Quick.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Things That Say Fall

First, this coral bark maple tree. In the morning it glows a bright red; in the afternoon it's a transparent yellow and orange. Either way it's almost hypnotic. On the other side of the garden is a deeply red burning bush and I am contemplating moving one to the other's side just for this brief period of Late Summer Slash Early Fall brilliance: lime green red orange.

Next, some of us are in our high school years at this very moment in time. A momentous moment. Not that this actually says fall, but it's a new development in our homeschooling oeuvre. Not an entirely welcome one, mostly because some of our ways of spending the day have been, well, curtailed somewhat drastically, but I can already see that the challenge alone will be a good thing.

The early learning years are all about the fun and excitement of the hunt, sniffing out new paths and new scents, new interactions and new lands; the later years are all about settling down to something more earnest, more searching and serious. And that's where Max is finding himself these days. He's spending more time with assignments and computers and math texts, while his brother and sister are still in relative Frolic Mode. I expected more tension and Awkward Learning Curves, but so far there have been none at all, which makes us all very glad. New developments, indeed.

And in these colder days of autumn I am stretching my talents as a Baker of Pies. I've never been a big pie maker, for whatever reason, but I made one the other day and it was a new and unexpected thrill. It was so perfectly golden brown and crispy and sweet with soft apple flavour. So I made another one. We eat them for breakfast now. They are perfect with a milky hot latté in the first rays of dawn. I'm trying to convince everyone that a slice of cheddar wouldn't go amiss but they all think I'm nuts.

At night, what is better with dinner than a Yorkshire pudding? Some of us love my puddings so much they stick them with little paper umbrellas and drink the gravy and cranberry sauce as if they had a large, goopy, fruity drink.

Or maybe they just like having me take their pictures while they're doing silly things with frilly paper umbrellas. That FDPG, she loves a good camera op.

Although they were pretty good Yorkshire puddings...

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Fast Comes Fall

When the nights got colder and wetter last week, and we had a couple of rainy days, I decided to curtail the Wild Tomato Experience happening in the backyard and bring everything in, in all its unripened glory, because this is prime late blight weather here on the Wet Coast.

That's right, Gentle Reader, averting catastrophe is my new motto. No longer am I going to whinge about the end of the summer, about the mildew on my squash, about the cold wet rain smacking me in the face, about the winds whipping my plastic greenhouse into pathetic shreds. No, I will be a Jane Austen Heroine about it all even though it might make me cry a lot. I will look on the bright side. I will forge ahead. Fall is just another season, albeit a cold wet windy gray miserable dull one...

Anyhow, that's why I have a mini-greenhouse window full of green tomatoes, reddish tomatoes, and red tomatoes sitting on my deck. And newspapers strewn around inside the house with tomatoes and zucchinis and tomatillos and peppers strewn around on top of those newspapers. I am averting catastrophe. Makes for some fun conversations with visitors: "Don't you know you're supposed to pick them when they're RED?" (said with many guffaws) "Do you know you have a lot of tomatoes on your floor in there?" (um, no kidding Sherlock) or my own personal favourite "Why'd you plant so many if you had to bring them all in?" (there really IS no answer to this in polite company, is there?)

So, with this new motto in hand, I decided to revamp the vegetable garden (the one you see here on the left) because it is, and I do hate to admit this, poorly designed.

Who designed it, you ask?

Sigh. Me.

Look at it: those strawberry plants are positively plotting to trip up any hapless passer-by, while that cedar arbour is no longer upright by ANY stretch of the imagination. There's even a mouse in there somewhere. It's being chased around by the snake that lives in there with it. I see them periodically being chased about by the cat.

It is a mess. Well, it WAS a mess. Until my new attitude got a hold of it.

Here it is, greatly curtailed in its activities.

Gone are about 400 strawberry plants, several unsightly Purple Sprouting Broccoli plants (too covered with aphids to be of use to anyone but the compost), a lot of very boring couch grass, and some really nice beach rocks, rocks I had been looking for all summer and were apparently thrown in there by the Teenager, who thought he was going to rid the world of a mouse with the aid of a strategically placed beach rock. Well, several strategically placed beach rocks. We're not one for dead-eyed aim, evidently.

Yes, I said, a mouse will just sit there while you huck large beach rocks at it.

I am SO funny.

I also removed much soil, so that the upper section would be raised, as in A Raised Bed. No more hanging grimly onto the cedar arbour while picking scarlet runner beans.
Hmm, I think I know why the arbour is no longer upright...

I also added some beach rocks. Some steps. I'm still waiting for the rebar sides on the beds, because I need to get more lumber, which is why that bed suddenly ends like that. On the other end is a wheelbarrow path so I don't need to ruin my delicately arranged steps. I also dumped in some bark mulch so that the winter rains (gulp, steel yourself now) won't make a mockery of my new pathway. It's all tidy, tidy, tidy.
More tidyness.

The funny thing about the fall is that it seems to come all of a sudden. One minute you're basking in the sunshine, next you're shivering in the wind and all the trees are losing their leaves.

I wonder if these figs will ripen?

Or if these grapes will fatten up and get sweet?
No dithering for the coral bark maple. It's getting on with fall without any backwards looks.