Tuesday, July 31, 2012

My Huckleberry Friends

Doesn't that sound like something you'd see on a box of impossibly cute (and super cheesy) Japanese candy?

Come play with your Huckleberry Friends!
We have super happy day! 
(insert picture of dancing berries with vague humanoid features, 
fake looking scenery 
and smiling huckleberry bushes holding hands)

I blame my obsession with cheesy Asian candy on Choco Boy, the cookies I saw at a grocery once upon a time. "Have fun with your friend Choco Boy!" it advertised. And there he was, little Choco Boy (looking more like a mushroom) tongue sticking out and feet sliding everywhere as he attempted to hang on to the words. His sidekick, a tiny green-billed bird, looked as though he'd just been kicked in the head by Choco Boy and was spiralling off to the side, smiling in a rather dazed fashion, head surrounded by stars. The biscuits resembled mushrooms in the cover art. I was captivated. I bought the kids a box each. We exclaimed over their cuteness.

The cookies inside tasted like rancid oil. No one would eat them. That's hydrogenated palm oil for you.

While we were at the beach I managed to pick several quarts of huckleberries. These are the red variety of huckleberry, tart and juicy, and they were everywhere this year. I had some children (they might have been mine) helping me pick all those huckleberries, although sadly they were neither smiling nor frolicking when they were picking those berries. I closed my eyes a couple of times and pretended they were floating on little blue clouds over happy mushrooms instead of what they were really doing, which went kind of like this:

"How long do we have to do this?"
"How many huckleberries do I have to pick before I can go?"
"I could be swimming right now."
"Do you really need help doing this? Don't you like doing this?"
"How come you pick so much faster than I do?"

"FDPG is picking my bush!"
"Dominic is picking my bush!"
"I got here first!"
"No, I did!"
"Will you two stop arguing and start PICKING?"
"Wait! Where are you two going?"

Fortunately when we got home everyone remembered our huckleberry days in a more favourable light. Especially when we were eating the huckleberry jam. And the huckleberry crisp. And the fresh huckleberries on our dinnertime salads.

Phew. Thanks, Choco Boy. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Smells Like Teen Spirit (Or Crabs)

 It started here. If this creature had kept quiet no one would have twigged. I'm sure he started complaining only because he was penned up in this cage. He'd far rather have been shedding hair everywhere, puking on someone's shoe, evading our grasp, and digging himself into safe places, like, oh, say, under the gas pedal. Or the brake. He's done that before. Which is why he is PENNED UP.

Then there was the teenager. He was sitting in the very back of the van, silently disgruntled at not being able to sit in the front passenger seat (which is MY seat). He thinks it should be his seat. He could have a career as a Professional Perfume Smeller if he weren't quite so melodramatic. As soon as the cat started whining he joined in:

"Something stinks in here. Mom! Mom! I said it stinks in here! Is that crab in here somewhere?"

I hate being called Mom. I've explained til I'm blue in the face that I am a Canadian mum, not an American mom. Evidently it amuses him to annoy me this way. I guess we all get our cheap thrills from somewhere. And yes, I do know that it could be worse.

Did you notice that he didn't ask if anyone else smelled it? That's teen spirit for you. He doesn't need anyone to confirm what he already knows anymore. Even if he's wrong he knows he's right. It would be charming if it weren't so irritating. That was when I decided to take a leaf out of his book and pretend not to hear him. I opened my window and pretended to usher an ant out, despite the fact that the open window  - at 110 km per hour - considerably dislodged hair, newspapers, and card games. There was the added bonus of great wet sheets of monsoon rain spilling into the window. Dominic wailed in what I thought was an overly dramatic fashion while Katie shrieked "WHO OPENED THE DAMN WINDOW?"

A rhetorical question if I ever heard one. Who do they think opened the damn window? Again, I feigned deafness, chatted to my imaginary ant and shut the window, hoping that the brief influx of fresh air would change the subject.

Sadly, it did not. The whiff was still there. And yes, it was my crab. My lovely but also very dead crab. See it sitting there? It's in that cardboard box next to Richard (at this point still blissfully unaware he's sitting next to it). The crab itself is beside the moon snail shell in the plastic bag. Actually, it was in two plastic bags.

I guess it should have been in three plastic bags.

It did stink a bit.

But I digress. Here's where I found the crab. We were on holiday at this beach. This is the far off reef we were walking along. I won't tell you where it is because not many people go to this beach and I'd like to keep it that way. It's a very nice beach.

We were walking along this reef at low tide, observing all sorts of treasures: hermit crabs, spider crabs, moon snails, tiny eels, tiny shrimp, bullheads, and starfish.

Sorry but I just cannot bring myself to say "sea star." To me it's another example of idiotic political correctness run amok. And yes I DO know that it's not really a fish.

 We saw 29 moonsnail collars (see photo below). Some of us counted them. Out loud. Each time. Every time. Sometimes some of us had to recount just to make sure we were counting them properly. Some of us might have argued with our sister over who saw which ones, too. Finally, I took a photo of one, hoping to silence the soundtrack of each new discovery, to no avail. In fact, it just encouraged more audible counting, more audible arguing, and included a plea to photograph each new moonsnail collar. One of us might have swore a little bit at this point.

And then I found the crab. It was almost completely intact. And very dead. It would be a perfect watercolour model. As long as I could get it home. Without anyone noticing. Evidently I failed at that part, because now everyone - including Richard (slightly aghast at the fact, especially after telling me five times that I MUST leave the crab outside the cabin on the fence until we went back up in August) - knew it was a) in the car, and b) in the car stinking big time.
I did the only thing I could have done under the circumstances: I wrapped it in another plastic bag and placed it on the floor near my feet, where no one could grab it and throw it out the window.

And we drove home. Another 94 minutes and 27 seconds in the car. The smell wasn't too bad.

When we got home my crab was the first thing out of the car. Here it is here, sitting on the deck rail, delighting the city flies, who have probably never smelled such a charming salty stench before.

When it dries it won't smell at all. Don't ask me how I know this.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Things To Do With Strawberries & Monsoons

Make strawberry vinegar! Simply described: steep slightly mashed strawberries in apple cider vinegar for a few days, then strain through a fine mesh (shown here, in a brand new vintage knee high from my very own sock drawer). Slowly heat, adding sugar, then boil briefly and remove the scum that forms. Seal or bottle.

The resulting vinegar is incredible: sweet and sour and shockingly fruity. You'll wonder why you never made it before. At least, I did. My only regret is that I made it with the last of my strawberries, so there's no chance of making more this season.

Here's a harvest basket shot. Purely gratuitous. There's something about the blend of green and brown that makes me feel very happy about having a garden, especially right before dinner, even though it's been raining, humid, wet, sticky, buggy, overcast, damp...well, you get the picture. I have so many plastic tarps slung round the garden it's getting hard to arrange tasteful photo ops.

This shot occurred between a thunderstorm and a monsoon. Don't let anyone tell you I am not wildly resourceful. I also work swiftly.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Things That Make Me Happy

Looking down from the sundeck
This is one of them. Looking over the deck rail I can see this little garden, which used to be the Garlic Bed. I can see the neat little rows of beets, carrots, lettuce, and shingiku. I can radishes. Kale. Chives. Onions. The rose that I dug out of the crowded front garden, which has inexplicably turned into a standard bush and is madly flowering, as opposed to last summer when it did nothing at all (no doubt protesting its undignified position on the edge of the Butterfly Garden). The stepping stone that Dominic spent an hour painstakingly making (arranging tiny rocks needs such concentration). The piece of driftwood Richard lugged off the beach for me, in a Stealth Mission that involved parking the van in a No Parking zone, me keeping lookout and him dragging it, all in the dark while the kids were at track (we liberated it from the posh beach across town, where they actually FINE you for removing beach wood). The other piece of beach driftwood that looks like a Beluga whale and has a vastly less dramatic story, mostly involving having it, along with the three kids a cat and a guinea pig plus assorted holiday items in the car with a grouchy Richard for 4 hours on a hot day. The remarks "Why do you always pack so much crap home every year?  Are those beach rocks under that seat? Do you know how much gas it's going to take getting this junk home? If I have to stop suddenly that stupid piece of wood is going to slide forward and take my head off!" might have sprung from his lips but all that's water under the bridge, right? Then there's old CD rack my friend Andrew gave me. Not sure if he knew I'd be keeping it out here but with scarlet runners twining around the shelves it looks miles better than it would inside, although I could do without it tipping over every so often. Finally, the little sticks jammed in to keep Toffee from taking his, err, morning ablutions. Nothing like having to replant tiny seedlings with the odour of cat poo wafting past one's face.

All framed by the clumping bamboo, so green it's almost shocking. It's a short story, that little garden. A short story with a happy ending — on our eventual dinner plate.

tip: if you want to plant bamboo in your yard make sure it's this kind, it doesn't spread by underground runners, just sits nicely in tidy clumps

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

How My Week Went 4

 I wish I could tell you all what an entrancing week I had but to tell the truth it's been a bit of a grind. I don't think it's too much to ask that I be allowed a few romps with these foolish bunnies, but FDPG is ever vigilant with them, despite their obvious stupidity.

I mean, look at them. Look at me.

They have no idea I'm watching them.

No idea at all.

It's almost boring preying on them. Such silly creatures. I mean, they even POO where they sit. Ick. The things I do for an appetizer.

But I persist, because one of them is getting lovely and plump. Here I am while they are getting their cage cleaned. I thought they'd want to make a break for it, but no, they just sat there, still as mice. I can't think why, but I waited a good 30 minutes and they hardly moved once. Very annoying.

Then they had the nerve to disturb my nap. There I was, sleeping as sound as can be, when they barreled up and started SNIFFING me. Once of them even nibbled on my Build-A-Bear basket. Now the stitching is uneven. I will have to get FDPG to fix it for me and she's a rather unmotivated seamstress. Sigh. Good help is so hard to find.

The things I have to endure.

Instead I put on my Build-A-Bear sunglasses and tried to ignore the indignity of the situation, but it was hard with all the snickers.

Those bunnies are just jealous. It's hard to wear sunglasses when you have such a tiny brain, err, I mean, head.

As opposed to mine.

Fortunately, there were some high moments in my week:

For example, here I am, demonstrating once again why I am such an excellent fit with this house. Don't we go well together? I think they must have had this floor installed to set off the highlights in my coat. The only trouble was, I had to sit like this for at least 10 minutes waiting for someone to take a photo of me. I call that very poor service.
 Even my iPod Holder is getting a little sloppy. Look at this photo! Don't I look like I'm in absolute agony? He hasn't a clue, tragically. He always forgets that I don't like Pitbull (the connotations are so odious, you know) and he never seems to remember that I prefer a little Arlo Guthrie in the morning, as opposed to Skrillex or Deadmau5. Arlo always looks so happy (if a little shaggy) on the covers of his CDs, and I like starting my mornings with happy music. Skrillex pains my ears, while Deadmau5 merely taunts me and my hungry tummy. Imagine what a mouthfull he'd be.

So I went and hid in Sheila's bedroom but FDPG followed me and started mauling me. I did my best to look aloof but it was hard with her squeezing me so tightly and saying idiotic things like "Who's a silky soft widdle pussycat?"

She doesn't take me as seriously as I would like. Must work on my glare a bit, I guess.

After that it was a simple matter of puking in the grass, killing a few mice, a dragonfly or two, and in for lunch.

Why they feel the need to document these undignified moments is beyond me. Just pretend I'm a lion in the jungle or something.





(oh, just a little feline wordplay - keep up with me, humans)

Finally, I gave up on everyone and went and hid in a tunnel in the back yard. Unfortunately I did not realize until it was too late that it was the bunny run and everyone - once again - was laughing at me. It was a tough week, I tell you.

 Well, that's it. Until next time, dear Readers. Until then, keep those cards and letters (and small dead rodents) coming!

Love, Catmera

 Read about my other adventures:

How I terrorized some budgies.

How Caesar got the better of me.

A Day in the Life of...Me! (who else?)