Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Things That Would Make Me Buy The Book

Or contribute to the Radio Fund Drive.

Or feel benevolent about all the mailers I receive from the online lecture company we patronize. 

(you know who you are)

First of all, don't ever describe your product as "squee worthy" or I will be compelled to put it back on the shelf / break our internet relationship / turn you off right then and there. I don't think I need to go into my reasons for disliking a word like "squee" but let's just say that hearing it does for me what hearing fingernails on a chalkboard might do for you. And it's not good.

Next, if you want me to contribute to your Fund Drive, instead of offering me bags and totes and coffee cups or forcing me to listen to endless offerings from A Prairie Home Companion, offer me some underwear or socks with catchy sayings from Wait! Wait! Don't Tell Me! or Says You! on them. Heck, I spent eons (not to mention many dollars) buying my kids underwear with Thomas the Tank Engine, Bob the Builder, My Little Pony, and Hello Kitty on them; a pair of undies with some witty remarks by Peter Sagal or Tony Kahn on them would thrill me completely (not to mention spark more than a few weird conversations at Richard's next department party). I might even wear my Says You! socks with sandals all summer - just to show them off - and let me tell you, I'm one of those people who hates it when people wear socks with their summer sandals. Ask Richard, aka The Man Who Likes To Wear Socks With His Summer Sandals.

Finally, just because I periodically purchase items from your (excellent but pricey) online Teaching Lecture Series catalogue does not mean that I want to find a constant barrage  - and I mean a constant barrage - of glossy pictorial flyers in my mailbox each and every week, not to mention the torrent of email you cheerily send my way. Methinks you might be able to lower your product costs somewhat by lowering the amount of mail you hurl into the universe. Have you run this radical idea by your costs supervisor at any point? Why not try, and get back to me on that. I'd appreciate it. I might even be able to afford more product.

Now, that IS a shocking idea.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Four Little Maids

The Rose Sisters
All in a row.

Thank heavens for the start of rose season.

In order:

Pink Peace
Westerland (three days in vase)
Golden Celebration
Westerland (freshly picked)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Looking Back In Time

We were out in the car on Friday, screaming down the highway on our way to track, when we passed some horses in a field. 

"Look! A dead horse!" shrieked Dominic. "OHMYGAWD!"

We all look across the highway at the field, shocked. The dead horse is actually a little colt, lying on the ground under his mother, sleeping. He definitely does not look dead - his mother looks far too calm about that little body lying there. All the rest of the horses look far too calm about that little body lying there. We see his tail suddenly flick.

"It's not dead, it's sleeping!" FDPG says indignantly. "Honestly, can't you tell a dead horse from a sleeping horse?"

"Yes I can! Can you?" Dominic replies, equally indignantly, smugly unaware of the illogicality of his logic.

"Stop arguing, you two. The horse is sleeping, didn't you see his tail flick?" I say.

"Hah, right," I hear Dominic mutter.

"What did he say?" whispers FDPG.

"Nothing," I say, sighing. "Nothing at all."

And so we drive on down the highway. This kind of conversation happens to us regularly: Dominic convinced of something, FDPG equally convinced of his mistakes, the two of them nattering away at each other, me in the sorry sorry middle.

Like the time we went to the movies. It was four years ago. The twins were six years old. 


(this post first appeared in 2008)

I took the kids to see WALL-E  today. It was one of those rainy-ish days here, a day when I felt too dispirited to work in the garden and the kids were at loose ends with themselves. A perfect day to see a movie. But as so often happens, the best part of the movie was what was happening around the movie, rather than the movie itself. 

Here's how it all started. We're at the ticket counter, where FDPG has hauled herself up across the counter to peer into the cash register as the girl gave me my tickets. She has her little bum sticking out and her stomach squished by the effort of clutching herself against the counter. She knows I hate it when she does that (she always flashes her underwear going up and coming down). "Oh wow, look at all that money!" she shrieks delightedly, "can I have some?" She then chortles at her own wit. The ticket girl regards her nervously. I stare at the movie posters in the opposite direction. You'd think we never go anywhere. 

I've got the movie passes from Costco, which means that a bunch of greasy sugary junk food stuff my kids love accompanies the ticket: popcorn, pop, and a - gasp - Kinder Egg.  So we line up for this. When the girl comes to take our tokens and drink order, my kids are paralyzed by the deliciousness of it all. Do they choose some tooth-dissolving Coke? Burp-producing root beer? Dubious-looking iced tea "blends"? Or something called Fruitopia, which is impossible to explain to a clutching 6 year old in a noisy crowded room. "One is pink," I shout, "and the other is orange!" Our food girl is clearly irritated with all this gaiety, and when I ask if the clear, greasy fluid she is about to drench our popcorn with is butter, she snaps "Of course it isn't, it's BECEL. Butter's extra!" "What?" I say, unable to make out much beyond "of's extra.". "It's MARGARINE! Butter is EXTRA!" she bellows. The customers around us fall silent and we all stare at her. I decide that we should probably cut and run, but she's one step ahead of me, having dumped the kiddie trays on the counter and moved on to the man behind me, all without saying a word. Wowee zowee, Batman, I think. That girl sure does like her job.

Then I have to figure out how to get two trays of overloaded popcorn down the hall, up the staircase, down another hall, and into a pitch-black room, all without spilling a single bit, because if I do I just know one of the twins will shriek "I don't want the one that lost all the popcorn!" Never mind if they spill it all; but heaven help me if I spill it all. Fortunately Max is both able to negotiate this all on his own AND be a very calming presence. "Twinnies!" he says imperiously, "follow me!" 

And off we go. Max leads us into The Dark Knight at first, hoping I'm more of an idiot that he could dare to imagine I won't notice, but the fact that the movie had already begun tipped me off. Nevertheless, we pause on the edge, until some very alarming action scenes scare the (under)pants off FDPG. Back out into the hallway, we see our own theatre: #9. 

Ignoring Max's pleas to sit in the nosebleed seats, we settle somewhat in the upper middle, near the end of the aisle in case FDPG has to pee (because she always does). I sneak popcorn from Dominic's tray until he puts his hand over mine and says, rather sanctimoniously, "I'm trying to save this for the movie." Drats. I turn to FDPG and try to sneak some of hers. She's so busy stuffing great handfuls of the stuff into her mouth and darting her eyes around the room that she doesn't notice my hand snaking in. And so we eat. We admire the new containers the Kinder Egg people are now using. Dominic demonstrates how easy they are to open. Max demonstrates how easy they are to open. FDPG demonstrates how easy they are to open, dropping her card pieces from inside on the floor in the process. I pick them up while FDPG wonders aloud if she will be able to sell all her old containers on Ebay. She wonders aloud how old the teen-age girls two seats in front of us are. She wonders if they smoke cigarettes like Paper Mouth Man down the street. I see their necks stiffen somewhat as she says this. We admire the nice lights in the theatre and FDPG asks me, at the top of her lungs, if I wished I had them in our house. Then she asks me if I went pee before we sat down. Again, at the top of her lungs. The boys start giggling at this point, the teen-age girls no doubt making mental notes never to have children, and Dominic drops half his popcorn down between the seats. And the movie hasn't even begun.

We watch a short trailer about a super dog with John Travolta's voice, named Bolt. It's sort of funny. Then there is another trailer that features a very amusing hamster that has us all cackling. After it's over, FDPG says, at the top of her lungs, "Was that it? That was short! Where was WALL-E?" 

The Disney castle promo appears at this point, Tinkerbell waving her magic wand around the castle and lighting up the night. Dominic yells, at the top of his lungs "Look! There's  Hogwarts!!!!" which causes the teen-age girls to start giggling. "That's not Hogwarts," I whisper, "it's the Disneyland castle." "What?" says Dominic, peering at me skeptically, eyes narrowed, convinced I am oh-so-wrong. I have a sudden vision of him as a deaf, grouchy old man. We glare at each other in the dark for a few seconds, until he mutters, "Hah, right." "What did Dominic say?" asks FDPG. "Nothing," I reply. "Are you sure?" she says. "Shush," I say. "I could have sworn you said something to him, oh well, guess you're too grouchy to tell me about it," she says. I stare at her while she stuffs yet more popcorn into her mouth, wondering how she got so bossy - and mouthy.  


Fortunately the movie started right about then. Finally. We settle, the kids slurp and chew. Periodically Dominic is completely confused by certain aspects of the film and asks me to explain it all. He thinks that EVE is actually 2 different white objects. He doesn't like - or agree with - my explanations. Each time he says something FDPG asks me what Dominic said and what I'd said in reply, peering closely at Dominic the entire time. At some point I start laughing uncontrollably, and all three kids ask me what is so funny. Everything, I say. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

In Which I Reveal My Talents As A Tree Whisperer

Today I found out what a medlar tree looks like. I walk by one every afternoon, and every time I walk by it I wonder what the heck it is, but short of knocking on the door and asking the owners what sort of tree it is (and thus running the risk of appearing slightly creepy or obsessive gardener-ish because, frankly, who seriously asks random people what sorts of trees are in their yards BUT an obsessive gardener-ish type person), I had no real way of finding out. I tried googling for answers one day, using search terms like " strange fruits + apple-ish + furry leaves," with (not surprisingly) no luck. Must work on my search terminology.

And now you're wondering how I found out what it was, aren't you? I'll tell you: I put my hands on the tree bark and asked it. And it told me. It said "I, you dim bulb, am a medlar tree. The fabled tree of old." It was an incredible moment. I was a Tree Whisperer.

Kidding, me? Surely you jest.

Anyways, now that I know it's a medlar tree I might just knock on their door and tell them what it is, in my best Obsessive-Gardener-ese.

I spent too much of my day today compiling a Word document for the homeschooled people in this house, a document that has Important Dates on it, like when the Official Date of the Fall of Rome was (bet you didn't know there is a fixed point for that, did you?), who the Templar Knights were, what the Domesday Book was, who wrote it and why, and other strange but fascinating facts about the Middle Ages. So forgive me if I'm a little bit idiotic. I'm feeling rather triumphant because I got 100% on the Domesday Quiz. I know, I know, it's a gift I have, doing well on obscure quizzes about the Middle Ages.

Now, off to Whisper to that weird yellow bush in the back yard. I've always wondered what THAT was, too...

Friday, May 18, 2012

Look At All My Many Friends

Hypertufa Totoro in the garden
Keychain Totoro guarding my office key

Papercraft Totoro hanging with Fingerpuppet Totoro

LEGO Totoro
Window Hanger Totoro, reposing on FDPG's pinboard

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Diamonds On The Top Of Her Head

We spent a lot of time in the garden this week, getting the irrigation system in. Ah, listen to me, it sounds as though we've got some fancy-pants system out there, doesn't it? 

Don't think I'll enlighten you TOO much, except to say that it isn't all that fancy-pants. We gardeners, we like to maintain a certain amount of mystery (Sheila says as she stuffs the cracked soaker hoses and broken brass manifolds behind her). It isn't fancy, but it works, and that's all I'll say. It's one of the essentials, having a watering system. Once a garden gets to a certain size, watering it by hand ceases to be a relaxing experience.
After we did the hoses, we watered our hair. Well, some of us did. Some of us really enjoy experimenting with the nozzle choices on the water wand. Some of us really like the mist function. Some of us even looked as if we had diamonds on the soles of our shoes in our hair.
Then, instead of ducking down alley ways looking for bat-faced girls, we went wandering around the garden looking for baby spider balls. Some of us like to poke those tight little balls of spiders and watch them scatter. 

Spiders in the garden. About the only time I like seeing spiders. Teenie tiny and cute. Remind me to tell you about the giant jumping spider in the greenhouse some time...

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

May Flowers

Had a very tiring day in the garden today, courtesy of iPhoto, when I was perusing it last night with Dominic. Mr Picky was trying to find every single photo I've taken of every single LEGO design he's ever built, to prove to me that I did not EVER take a photo of his LEGO Totoro, but gosh, look what we found.

How did iPhoto make me spend the day in the garden? Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin. It all started when Dominic and I were looking for that shot of the LEGO Totoro. We were scrolling through the months of last year when we happened upon some photos of purple sprouting broccoli, tomato seedlings, and sunflowers. Tall plants, they were. All well over 8" tall. The date stamp was May 8th, 2011. Exactly one year ago. While I stared rather dumbfounded at the photos, my mind was racing: I don't have ANY sunflowers planted right now! I thought. My tomatoes are PATHETICALLY SMALL! I thought. The only bright light was the fact that I do have some purple sprouting broccoli planted. And some white sprouting broccoli. But everything else is either teeny tiny or still in a seed packet. Eeeks! I thought. (yes, I really did think that)

So this morning I bid farewell to the kids ("Good-bye kids! I'm off to slave in the weed fields!") and went out to bid farewell to some weeds ("Hello weeds! Your doom is come! Prepare to die! You WILL be assimilated - by my garbage bag!"). Six and a half hours later, most of the bishop's weed in the shade garden was lying on a piece of plastic in the sun, dying a slow death, and a long piece of driftwood, the piece I dragged all the way home from the ocean during a walk last week, was getting itself ready for its closeup as a handrail for the earth steps I was building. It all looked very attractive. FDPG said so.

If anyone has any tips for keeping bishop's weed out of my garden, tips that don't involve me spending 6 hours with a garden fork, shaking the dirt off the roots and painstakingly putting each bit in a garbage bag, well, I'd be glad to hear them. So would the brunnera, alchemilla, pulmonaria, hellebore, and ligularia. The monkshood already bit the dust because of it, as did the sollya.

Now I'm off to bed, dragging my tired bones behind me. No doubt I'll dream of bishop's weed. Hopefully I'll have a flame thrower in my hands...

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

What's More Canadian Than A Goose?

 This bird causes much consternation to the Canadian population, particularly the younger ones. From day one, we must learn that it's not "Canadian geese" but "Canada geese." The "Canada" is never pluralized, even though the goose/geese must be. Confusing, but one of those quirky Canadian things, like poutine or spirulina smoothies.

Maybe it should be one of the citizenship questions.
1. Let's count birds: One Canada goose, two (insert correct version).
2. Do Canada geese like poutine? (the correct answer is "only if they're in Quebec, otherwise they prefer spirulina smoothies")

I won't touch the hot button topic of whether or not Canadians actually LIKE the Canada goose, because it's very contentious. They tend to be reviled for the frequency and quantity of their droppings, which tend to adorn - odiferously -  golf courses, parks and paths, and other places we Canadians like to walk. It's the intersection of the droppings with the footwear that causes the, err, revilation.

 FDPG and I were out walking today and we happened upon this little family, out for their own little walk. The babies reminded me of the duckling on the cover of my (very battered) copy of The Story of Ping.

I'm including this sideways shot because it looks much more interesting on its side. It's like a slightly crushed hourglass, don't you think?
Ceci n'est pas une pipe

A Week of Composting

This clip art is from the American Compost website, I realize, but it is so beautiful I'm going to use it anyways.

 It's Official Composting Week. Sounds a little odd, doesn't it? It's sort of like saying "Happy Battery Recycling Day!" Nevertheless, I'm going to use this as a personal platform to encourage everyone to start a compost in their backyard.

That's right, use this Official Week as your personal invitation to start composting. It's easy, it gives you free amendments for your garden (amendments you know the origins of), and it reduces your landfill contributions. All good and important things to consider these days.

Happy Composting. Now get out there and start your own compost. It's as easy as...well, as easy as this.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Flying Buttresses & Leading Actors

Here is the spot where I am about to plant some potatoes.

At least, here it is before I had the brilliant idea to use bricks as Flying Buttresses for the necessary soil addition: weedy, about to be conquered by some rampaging strawberries, unremarkable.

This year we're trying Bintje, a yellow potato. But instead of having a long straight stretch of wonderfully mulched and hilled up plants, through which I'd just have to reach in and tug loose a few new potatoes every now and then, I'm doing spot planting, but that's only because I don't have that many long straight stretches of garden.
While I like potatoes, in fact I'd go so far as to say that I deeply admire them, my enthusiasm wanes at the idea of using my long straight stretches on them. The potato is a highly useful veg, I admit - handy in a pinch, able to do double duty in any number of dishes, and what's not to like about the way they turn into a hot crisp chip - but they are definitely the character actor in my garden. They don't get top billing. They get what's there for them.

Like this guy. Couldn't do without him but would I run a mile to meet him, heart all akimbo? Methinks not. (sorry Mr Reilly)

Thus,  the long straight stretches I reserve for the leading actors: tomatoes, peas, greens, and sprouting broccoli. The ones that inspire intense passion, the ones that set my heart racing, the ones that...well, you get the idea.

Like this guy. I'd run a mile to meet him. Heck, I'd even run TWO miles. Maybe three.

Oooh la la, Mr Darcy. Let me change that wet shirt of yours. Mop your fevered brow?

Moving on....
Here's how I plant my potatoes:

Dig a trench about 10 inches deep. Add some rock phosphate, maybe a little bone meal (my soil being clayey and heavy). Add potatoes. Cover with a dusting of potting soil and some straw.

Reserve some soil to cover them as the sprouts grow up. When they get to be about 3-4" tall, cover the shoots almost to the top.

I've got some in trenches, some in chicken wire circles, and some in brick squares.

Like this one. This is the After to the Before at the start of this post. The one inspired by Mr Reilly and Mr Darcy. I will plant some of my character actor Bintjes here.

As the shoots come up I'll cover them. In fact, I covered them this morning. As they grow, I'll increase my Flying Buttresses and add more soil to a depth of about twelve inches.
I've heard a lot of differing opinions on when to harvest potatoes. Some say they are ready when the plant flowers, others say to pinch the flowers off so they don't put any energy into flowering, still others say to steal the new potatoes until fall, then harvest the plant. I won't tell you what to do because chances are I'll decide to do something completely different, and you'll wonder why I say one thing then do another. So all I'll say is this: use Flying Buttresses. They are a Good Thing, to use the words of my friend Martha.
Gratuitous pansy shot. There seems to be a new variety in the shops this spring: Neon Pansy.

Looks purple to me but I'm willing to be amazed by the idea that it's a neon colour.

Whatever it is, it's very pretty.
Chives, breaking through their papery skin.

These flowers are delicious tempura-ed.
And lilacs. I love lilacs. They smell like spring, they look fresh and bold, and if you have a bush in front of an open window you have the added benefit of the scent wafting about your house.

There you go, a little pre-Mother's Day treat for you. What's up in your garden?