Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter

This such an easy way to dye eggs, other than the hours spent beforehand expelling the contents, of course. Each year I make bigger and bigger holes in each end, and each year my jaw muscles are less and less sore. Tip: make sure you pierce the yolk before you start blowing away on that egg. Your jaw will thank you.

All you need is olive oil, vinegar, and regular old food dyes. This link will give you more detailed instructions.

We saw petit fours in this month's Martha Stewart, and FDPG was enthralled, so I got out some cookbooks and made a few (hundred thousand). I see why they have somewhat fallen out of fashion with the masses: time consuming and a little too sweet on the outside. They sure are pretty though. I might see how long they will look pretty on the sideboard, just like they do with those Happy Meals...

Now for the Egg Hunt!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Making Peeps

Thought I'd follow on the heels of my Cowardly Parents rant with a fluffy piece.

As in marshmallow fluffiness. (isn't fluffy a great word?)

We used this recipe from the April issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine. We didn't use any vanilla and we used a lot more than one tablespoon of icing sugar to coat the baking sheet, but other than that it was all weirdly easy. I felt mildly abashed that it's taken me 12 years to get over my "they must be too complicated - don't think I'll make them any time soon" making marshmallows hang-up.

I know, I know. Call me irrational. Some people are afraid of spiders. I'm afraid of fluffy marshmallows.

Tips Based On Sheila's Experiences: have a bowl of hot water on hand, with a dish towel alongside to rinse the cookie cutters in between cuts; have the bowls of sanding sugar ready BEFORE you cut the first marshmallow- those marshmallows are sticky; have a side dish of icing sugar standing on alert for when you suddenly run out of sanding sugar - those marshmallows are sticky; make sure your children don't open the back door when they are all resting colourfully on a board in preparation for their Reveal, because the wind coming in the back door might blow the sugar all over the counter and sugar is sticky (when wet).
Next up: Marbleized Eggs

(early tip for blowing eggs: use a thumbtack to make the holes in the eggs, break the yolk, and make the hole large enough so you don't cause spasms in your jaw muscles afterwards)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Generation Of Cowardly Parents

I don't happen to be one of those 'cowardly parents' (ask my kids, they'll all shriek with laughter at the very idea of it), but I see the evidence of these parents when I'm out and about: young kids with expensive jewelled cell phones or laptops; young kids with wildly inappropriate clothing; young kids hanging out where they shouldn't be; young kids who lack the most basic of social skills, and are generally excused by their parents with either a "She's shy" or some nervous laughter.

Emphasis on young. I'm not talking teens. Move down the age scale a tad.

And so this article really struck a chord with me. Ever since FDPG grew out of the Girls 2 - 6X department of any clothing store, I've been noticing it. The clothing leaps from bright colours and funky designs to grays and blacks and weird slogans, things like PRINCESS IN TRAINING or GIRLS JUST WANNA SHOP or HAND OVER THE CREDIT CARD or my own personal favourite: JUICY. Sure, I want my 9 year old to have a pair of pants with JUICY slapped across her bum. That's not weird at all, is it? So far I've managed to sidestep most of this crap by buying at boutique shops where they eschew the slogans (mostly in favour of overpricing their stock, lol), but I can see the day dawning when FDPG, quirky as she is, is going to want more daring outfits.

But LZ Granderson said it far more eloquently than I ever could, and that's probably how I'm going to answer her if it ever comes to that. Given that her brother is currently going through his own fashion statement period, I'm sure it will. Here are a few excerpts:

I get it, Rihanna's really popular. But that's a pretty weak reason for someone to dress their little girl like her. ...Friends bow to peer pressure. Parents say, "No, and that's the end of it."...A line needs to be drawn, but not by Abercrombie. Not by Britney Spears. And not by these little girls who don't know better and desperately need their parents to be parents and not 40-year-old BFFs.

We don't want to risk the wrath of our kids, he says, so we give in. Here here, I say. Listen to the man. Then get yourself a backbone and remember who you are in your child's life.

Last Words On Seattle

Some FDPG-isms from our trip down south:

*While listening to her mother driving on the I-5, she said:

"This family's middle name is swear!"

*When asked to think of a theme for her brother's new Mad Scientist mini-fig, she said:

"Even though I look like Terminator, I've got feelings." (we recently finished a highly academic exploration of Arnold Schwarzenegger movies)

*When we first crossed the border and got some gas:

"Our car has American gas in it now. It sounds so different."

*When she found me locked in the change room at the hotel pool (you need a key card to get OUT of the room, something I discovered a little too late, lol), she said:

"Don't worry, Mum, I can remember all this stuff for you. By the way, isn't it amazing to have endless hot water like this?" After which she forgot her shoes and her bathing suit in that very same change room. And we almost got locked in again.

*When first peeking into the closet of the posh conference hotel we were staying in:

"Look! There's an ironer!" (to which her brother replied "What's that for?")

*And finally, when watching a commercial of dubious decency (the Shake Weight), one which I finally turned off whenever it came on because it seemed cringingly pornographic, she said:

"Ha ha! There's Mum's favourite commercial!" And was convulsed with her own hilariousness, particularly when we chanced to see the Shake Weight at one of those As Seen On TV stores. Oh my.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Things To Do With LEGO

FDPG and Dominic, once they knew we'd be going to a LEGO store Seattle, saved all the money they could wheedle out of their family - for an entire year (wheedle, I mean, not save).

Just kidding. They did both.

And, once we got to the LEGO store, they promptly blew it on a couple of sets. In about, ooh, maybe 12 minutes?

Those LEGO people, they sure know how to market their overpriced stuff (dare I say this out loud? will the LEGO gods be angry? shoot bolts of curiously shaped LEGO lightning at me?). My kids were thrilled at the prospect of dropping $150 on a small shop. Thrilled.

But when all is said and done, it's breath-taking in its cuteness. Look at that city block - even Sheila the LEGO Cheapskate would like to live there. This block comprises the Greengrocer, the Fire Brigade, and the Grand Emporium. The house at the end is a creation of our very own Mr LEGO (aka Dominic).

This is what Mr LEGO looks like.

"Ha ha ha! My evil plan to wheedle all the money out of my mum's bank account worked! Ha ha ha! Take that, Mortgage! And that, Grocery Bill! Mwa-ha ha!"

Ha ha ha, indeed.

"Goodness me, that joke is in very poor taste. What are you teaching your son when you joke about him spending mortgage money on LEGO? You're being fiscally irresponsible. I wave my fan at you in disapproval."

"Oh come ON. Lighten up Geisha Girl. Without all that money WE wouldn't be here either! Think of all the trouble that LEGO store employee had to go to to find us - would you want that wasted? Not to mention all the fun that stupid cat has with us at night when all the humans are asleep."
"We are the Borg Collective. We have come to absorb more money from your mother to fund our trips across the universe. What with gas being so expensive we have taken to stooping very low indeed. Mr LEGO, get your mother for us, resistance is futile. She WILL be assimilated. Well, her bank account. We don't know if we want her and her silly humour in here with us. She might give us ideas."

Friday, April 15, 2011

Things To Do In Seattle: Part III

If you google this place (Volunteer Park Conservatory) you will find nothing but rave reviews ("free admission!" "fabulous collection of hothouse plants!" "the cacti are incredible!"), but what stood out most for me was the look of the place.

Look at all that glass. Those angles. Those arches. That's what convinced me we HAD to visit. The kids were less convinced: "We're going to look at flowers?" said Max, incredulously. "Can't you walk around a park here without me and look at flowers? Can you drop me off at the Apple Store first?"
"No," I said firmly. "You will love this place. It will be amazing."
Here is the inside ceiling in the front vestibule - original to the initial structure.

There are five different 'houses,' all with differing climates. As you walk in you enter the orchid section, although I was told that it is more correctly the area where they have rotating displays.

This is the temperate zone: hydrangeas, tulips, ivy, ferns, and mosses. It was so lush and green and cool - nothing like my own garden at the moment, lol.

Oh, for a glass house. I'd be happy to dress in the basement.

A bell of some significance. I was too busy watching Richard and the twins play Dr. Livingstone amongst the ferns (straight hand raised to forehead, quizzical intent look in the eyes) to read the plaque properly, to be honest.

Well, that and admiring those rocks around the beds. Someone deliver some rocks to my front yard, stat.

Maybe a little gravel to go with them?


This was the warmer rainforest area, complete with ant trees and carnivorous plants.

(FDPG wants me to add that there is also a mysterious pond filled with magical coins, guarded by some terrifying carnivorous plants, a pond that she and Dominic imagined had been put there JUST for them, assuming they dared to brave the FLESH-EATING PLANTS)

I think someone's been reading too much Percy Jackson, myself.

The wheels that open and close the roof windows. I kept imagining seeing Miyazaki characters everywhere - wrenching on wheels and looking desperate as silly men in airplane gear chase them.

I think someone's been watching too much Miyazaki, myself.

Cacti. Wheels. Octopus.

This cactus looked so Dr. Seussishly furry and touchable and LIVING that I touched it. An Ostrichcactosaurus!

Warning: this furry non-living cactus has sharp spines


I have about 18 photos of these things. They were so gorgeously round and plump that we stared at them for a good 10 minutes, along with some giggling Japanese girls who also seemed to find them irresistible.
This is a very odd contraption: the boxes at the end set off vibrations that set off the cymbals, so the whole thing plays a delicate rambling wind song tune.

So there you go: our visit to the Volunteer Park Conservatory. Oh, and yes, the kids did enjoy it there, even the Apple-obsessed teen. We spent about 2 hours here, and not once did anyone say "When are we leaving?"

Must be all that gardening, Miyazaki-watching, and Percy Jackson reading we do.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Things To Do In Seattle

Lobby shot. Yes, those are actual trees in the lobby. I think there was at least a city block's worth of space in it. Every time we walked through it we did a LOT of staring, whether at the trees, the people lounging around them, or the architecture. There were four elevator units in this area alone. Yes, we probably did look like total yokels, pointing and gaping and chattering exitedly. Fortunately I was the only one in the family who came anywhere near to realizing this, but I'm okay with that.

It was also weirdly clean. We all noticed how clean it was, casting no aspersions on my housekeeping skills, of course. While I like a tidy house, I don't particularly like being the person keeping it tidy. Ask my family - they will all agree with me.

Look at the top of this shot. Can you see the beginnings of a curved roof?

Here's what was perched on top of that curved ceiling.

Don't ask me how I got this shot because I will then have to confess that I lay down on the floor right there in the lobby, and even then I couldn't get the entire window in the frame.

And no, not ALL my children were embarrassed by the sight of their mother laying on the floor of a fancy hotel. Only one of them was, but the next day I caught him doing the same thing, trying to get the same shot. Besides, it was really early in the morning (and the floor was weirdly clean).

This glass sculpture was hanging in another part of the hotel. It was 3 parts wildly beautiful and 1 part creepy looking. At one point we were all standing underneath, taking photos, and we must have all had the same idea - WHAT IF IT FALLS? - because we all ran to the wall at the same time, then laughed immoderately at the symmetry of our paranoia.

A floating bridge. Do I sound like a total hick when I say that we were all absolutely AGOG at the concept of driving on a floating bridge? It went on for so long that we all became quite blasé, except for those of us who wondered whether we could see Bill Gates' house or not.

A water tower. You can walk to the top of this structure and walk around it, whilst reading instructional panels about the area (Capitol Hill). The whole time we were doing this there was a bike race going on, so we were accompanied by a) an AM radio DJ narrating the race, and b) FDPG and Dominic dashing from side to side narrating their view of the racers.

Nothing like two 9 year olds, absolutely thrilled with themselves, shrieking and thumping around on a wooden floor, competing with an AM DJ. While their mother struggles with her acrophobia.

We managed to empty the tower of sightseers in about, oooh, maybe 4 minutes?

After wandering around Capitol Hill, wishing we had a monster house (and pretending we didn't notice the miniature yards and serious algae issues), we drove over to this place. I've only ever seen their products over the internet, so it was a thrill to be able to see it all in person. Instead of shrieking with laughter at silly things on the computer screen, we could all shriek with laughter while HOLDING the thing. Perfect.

The teenager was ever so slightly mortified. The idea of his mother buying a can of Uh-Oh Underpants while laughing really loudly was too much, I guess. But he did have a peek at the 5¢ Glow In The Dark Marvel ("An Attraction Without Parallel"). And I got myself a fortune from the Talking Sailor Fortune Booth (love these things). According to old Salty:

"You are a strong believer in fate. You feel you have no control over your destiny. Fortunately you are destined to be very happy indeed. You are somewhat irresponsible and this has caused you some hardships. You have a neat and tidy nature and can't tolerate slovenliness around you. Since you demand this of yourself and other you will always live in a tidy atmosphere."

Gosh. I don't think I could have written a more apt fortune for myself. It covers ALL the bases, don't you think? It's true: I can't tolerate slovenliness.

And here is another weird thing we noticed: all the kids sat around with Toonies in their eyes. We later learned that it was Wear A Loonie Day.

(this may or may not be my child)

Next installment: a serious tour of a perfectly respectable conservatory, with no one acting silly at all. Well, not very silly, anyhow. Or maybe I won't show those photos. Who cares if we all pretended we were Livingstone in the jungle? No plants were injured in the making of this post.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Off The Island

We left the island for a few days, and followed our Fearless Leader south, where he attended an academic conference. I'm including a photo of a photo from the ferry, showing our route to the mainland along with some typical coastal imagery: bald eagles, herons, killer whales, and starfish (please don't ask me to say "sea star").

The enfants and I didn't attend any conferences, we went to blow all our money at the LEGO store shop and sight-see, although we did stay in the hotel where the conference was held, so on our way to the pool we got to see a lot of strange signs that said things like "Diet & Identity in Shakespeare's England," "Jests in Early Modern Culture," and even "Teaching Our Other Shakespeare" (a title that intrigued me a bit, mostly because I didn't realize that there WAS another Shakespeare). We even got to crowd in elevators with academic types on our way to the pool. There we were in our Crocs and shorts and wet heads and there they were in their nice academic suits. Everyone, I can safely say, was completely bemused.

And while the kids were busy being utterly overwhelmed by the reality of staying at an Expensive Hotel, I was busy capturing images of all the weird things one can see in the US, because it is, there's no doubt about it, so very different from what generally goes on in little old Canada.

First, an artistic sculpture at the border. According to the pair who created it, they hope that it will "create a bit of awareness to the signage landscape" around the border. It's called Non-Sign II.

And there was me thinking it was supposed to evoke a crowd of angry bees around a window. If it were up to me I'd call it Hive Mind. Maybe Angry Hive Mind. Or even Totally Pissed Off Hive Mind II. I can even see a Loony Toons movie in there somewhere, with some furious honky tonk piano music. I guess my signage landscape awareness is lacking somewhat. In fact, up until I googled that sign I wasn't aware that there WAS a signage landscape at the border.

Here are a couple of American children playing Memory Match.

Look closely at their Memory Match cards...paint chips.

Oh, those wacky wacky Americans.

(these may or may not be my children)

A giant green tree amidst the gray cityscape. I looked at this tree every morning, on our way along the Sky Bridges to the mall (there were Sky Bridges from the hotel to the mall, just in case one was too posh to walk amongst the hoi polloi on the street), and every time I looked at it I thought "That tree looks out of place."

Deep thoughts in the morning - c'est moi.

The latest fashions would indicate that we women need to have pink limbs. And batwings. I guess I'm destined to be unfashionable AGAIN this year, because I'm not okay with either, to be honest. Pink is so not my colour and batwings, well, they don't suit anyone.

Except a bat.

Yes, that person IS carrying a sign that says GUNS AND AMMO. He was even standing in front of a GUNS AND AMMO store.

And this is what B-list celebrities do when they move down a tier: throw Birthday Soirées at sports bars. Poor Carmen Electra: going from being married to Dennis Rodman to this. I wondered if this was how she was planning to dress for her Soirée, but then decided that she'd probably wear batwings or something more trendy.

After I took this photo (my kids deserted me in complete embarrassment even though they are too young to know these Former B-List Celebrities) I saw a movie poster with Vin Diesel on it. It looked like a rerun of Too Fast Too Furious...and what do you know but it was. Perhaps he'll attend Carmen's Birthday Soirée too.

Can you see this sign? It says BUS ONLY THIS EXIT. I feel very stupid admitting this, because I pondered it for a very long time, but I never did understand what it meant.

Perhaps it too was a Non-Sign: Non-Bus Stop II.

All this art stuff is way over my head.

And look, American Kleenex talks!

It's going to be there when I'm sad. Isn't that charming? It even signed its name:

Love, tissue.

And finally, for the person who has everything: a chocolate pillow. I can only speculate on what your hair will look like in the morning, but if I had to express an opinion I'd say this can't be a good look. Plus, they are way too small to be a decent pillow.

Tasty, but weird.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Rainy Days in the Greenhouse

This is what the inside of the greenhouse looked like today. Atmospheric, I grant you, but rather dreary otherwise. At least it's warm enough to turn off the festive Christmas light decor I've got going on in there.

Since we couldn't do any outdoors gardening, well, not without getting excessively muddy in the bargain, FDPG and I decided to take photographs of the little plants in the little greenhouse.

Tomatoes. I keep waiting for them to POP and start growing wildly, but I think it's still a bit on the cold side.

At least, I hope it's still a bit on the cold side. If they are measly wimpy destined-to-be-miserable plants I might cry a bit.

Like my high-tech labels?

Lee Valley - eat your heart out.

Baby spiders are hatching. If you look really closely that blur should turn into a clump of spiders. I can't guarantee anything, so look really hard before emailing me in despair.

We are trailing around the house and yard with little floating spiders all over us today. For some of us it's the charming side effect of having a greenhouse; for others it's a horrible, scary, creepy, and really yucky experience.

Yes, we're all about the heroics. Braving Baby Spiders - that's us. Look at those SCARY little suckers and quake in your boots.
Marigolds (Moonlight Marigold)

Hollyhocks (Peaches 'N' Dreams and Black Knight).

Vague panoramic shot. You're looking at the Butterfly Garden portion of the greenhouse: phacelia, marigolds, calendula, nettles, hollyhocks, liatrus, alyssum, collinsia, sunflowers, leadplant, poppies, clary sage, goldenrod.

The other side are the Vegetable Garden plants: corn salad, purple sprouting broccoli, kale, tomatoes, peppers, pepperoncini, basil, lettuce, onions, cucumbers, gourds, pumpkins, zucchini.

And yes, we do have it cordoned off. Some of us are highly competitive about our plants. And some of us are very irritable when they don't do well.