Sunday, December 29, 2013

Making Paté

 Every year I like to have something different for the Christmas Eve menu chez nous. I'm experimenting with Family Traditions, as we all tend to do, and a festive Christmas Eve Supper always sounds so promising. Seafood features prominently, and this year was no exception: we had oyster soup, thick and creamy with a drizzle of tarragon-mint pesto, served over crispy fresh  puff pastry squares. We also had home-smoked salmon with capers and crispy garlic slivers and thyme-scented baguettes. I usually try to have a paté of some sort squeezed in there because we all adore the stuff. In fact, I have to wrap it up carefully and hide it in the back of the fridge so FDPG can't snack on it morning, noon, and night, thus depriving the rest of us of the pleasure of its company.

Last year I made a baked paté. The recipe required chicken livers, bacon, juniper berries and lots of black pepper, all ground up to a manageable but chunky thickness. It was grainy and perfectly, delectably delicious. It also tended to fall apart when sliced and slipped onto a cracker and popped into one's mouth (in between moments of Christmas levity, as one does) and so, as I observed my Less Adventurous At Eating Awkward Food In Public friends struggling during last year's Christmas party, I resolved to try a creamier, spreadable version this year.

I used this recipe (click on this link). I didn't have any shallots or madeira so I substituted a small onion and a large glass of brandy. You will note from the photo at left that large quantities of butter are involved. This is what gives the meat its creaminess, so be forewarned and don't eat the entire bowl in one sitting. Don't eat the entire bowl by YOURSELF, I mean. I use unsalted butter, because I like the taste better. Salted butter tastes overly salty to me.

It's pretty easy to make, so if you're like me: you love it but hate splashing out on the good (and often horribly expensive) stuff, gather together some chicken livers and try this. I will add one caveat before you source your chicken livers: being that the liver is the organ that filters the blood and so is intimately involved in any drug use the body may indulge in, make sure you get livers from birds that haven't been subjected to lots of hormones or antibiotics. Here in BC we're lucky that poultry is always hormone (and often antibiotic) free.

 Don't forget to sample the brandy extensively. Quality control and all, you know.
 Just don't do what I did and tilt the pan over the burner in the hopes of reducing the brandy a little quicker, particularly if you have a gas stove like I do, because you will LIGHT THE ENTIRE PAN ON FIRE, like I did. If you have enough brandy in the pan, like I did, it will result in a terrific panful of giant blue flames.

This will ensure the immediate presence of your husband, who will think you are not safe left alone in a kitchen with alcohol and matches, despite your protestations that we'll all have lots of amusing memories to look back on one day. He might make tart remarks to the effect of "burning down the house is HYSTERICAL, I agree" but ignore him.

The finished product. It's oddly pourable at first, what will all that soft butter and brandy, but not to worry: just find a dish that suits your fancy and pour it in, then leave it to sit for a few hours while it turns to a creamy, thick, perfectly fabulous paste.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Cold Weather Ramblings

 It's been cold here for the past few days. Noticeably cold. Cold so that even the Boy Who Wears Shorts All Year Long has taken to wearing jeans once in a while. The only real upside to all this cold is that it's sunny most days.

Here is a picture of a chocolate cake. A chocolate cake I gave away. It was part of a fundraiser at Max's school. FDPG and Dominic couldn't figure out why I would spend SO MUCH TIME baking and icing a chocolate cake that they would not be eating. I might have wondered the same thing once or twice, but it was still fun packaging it up in a proper cake box and taking it into the school.
 The last of the summer tomatoes. Look at them: they look so fresh, don't they? You'd never know that they were green nubs on the vines that I hauled up at summer's end, destined for the compost bin. They've been sitting in the window frame on the deck for the past 3 months, ripening veeerrrrryyyyy slowly.
 Mason bee cocoons sitting in a bleach solution. This is the time to open up your bee houses and clean them out. I was rather Darwinian about the idea of cleaning bee cocoons at first, but after watching several generations of bees get chewed to tragic extinction by mites, I now do the Excavate & Rinse Then Bleach routine. It's neither fun nor amusing, but the survival rate is significant enough to keep me at it. In fact, you'll be surprised what survives the bleach routine. I've got a portable little magnifier, so I can see them all. Weird AND gross.
 With all the cold weather we've been having, Toffee has been spending more and more time indoors, mostly hiding in out of the way places where we can't find him and toss him outside. Today he spent approximately 7 and a half minutes in the Great Outdoors. Three of them scratching at the door to be let in again.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Virtual Pottery Classes & Errant Trees

 It used to be the kids brought home mugs that they'd painted at a class or shaped themselves with clay.

Now they bring home mugs they've made in computer class.

 Looking out my bedroom window at about 7:45 am this morning.
As I took this photo, it occurred to me, not for the first time, that while I complain constantly about the overbearing, protected-by-rigid-city-ordinances Garry oaks in our neighbour's yard (trust me, I complain constantly), they DO add to a photo. They slouch so dramatically. I love the artistic angle of them. I don't love how they shade my garden, but I have at least 489 photos of them under various conditions. 
That said, don't loiter around them: they snap and break in unpredictable moments. Never when you'd expect it - a high wind or a hard, cold rain (when you're least likely to be under one). The oak to the left lost a massive bough last year, a gnarly old branch 20' long, which fell so hard it sank 4' into the ground. I was out in the garden one warm, June day, looking up at the sky, when I heard a huge CRACK! The branch broke away quite slowly, considering, then fell heavily to the ground, smashing through a few other branches as it went. The whole side of the hill we live on rumbled as though there had been an earthquake. The neighbours poured out of their houses, and we all stood staring at what looked like a (wooden) missile crash. And even after all that the city refused to let anyone give those bloody oaks a good prune.

Look at this. I don't know about you, but my letters never look quite like this.

Wish they did.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Bigger On The Inside

 I don't think this needs much explaining, do you?
And in the event that you DO need an explanation, well, this is what Google did for their part in the 50th anniversary celebrations of Doctor Who. Headers of all kinds and they even had puzzle games attached to them. The twins were riveted. And look! All the Doctors running along with their Sonic Screwdrivers at the ready.

Something else I found on Google Maps. Street level. I feel confident in saying that the hearts of all four of us leaped slightly at this (except for Richard, who doesn't believe in Santa Claus Doctor Who).

Did you watch the anniversary show? So did we. We were in an anticipatory tizzy all day Saturday. Or maybe it was just me. I wore out the battery on my little Doctor Who In Your Pocket, playing the sound of the Tardis coming and going all afternoon.

We all liked the episode. It was fun. I feel vaguely disloyal saying this, but I felt a little ambivalent afterwards. Much of it seemed awfully frenetic and, well, almost silly. Not a fan of the Queen Elizabeth I segment at ALL. That was so not Tenth Doctor behaviour. Richard and I watched An Adventure in Space & Time afterwards. Filch from the Harry Potter movies played the first Doctor in a positively poetic performance.

We've been having a spate of clear cold weather, which means far attention has to be paid to animal water feeders and greenhouse heating systems. Pip the Alpha Female chicken decided to moult at long last, and she looks freezing with all her feathers falling out. I fully expect the other two to take their grievances out on her, because she was so mean to them when they were moulting. Stupid chickens.

Northern Flicker pushing the small birds out of the fat feeder one cold morning. These birds can cling to anything. I've got this feeder wrapped slightly in chicken wire so the starlings can't access it. They can't hang upside down like the other birds, so it's an easy way to fox them. The flickers are probably the loudest right now in the back yard. They perch at the top of the fir trees and send their very piercing screeches across the valley. It's an extremely recognizable call. They don't seem aggressive at all, just very large, yet the small birds are respectfully wary of them.
Can you see the little junco perched on the trough of strawberries? Waiting for a turn.
There is something so tough about strawberries; they grow in just about anything, just about anywhere. I can leave this planter here, sitting on the deck rail, all winter. Exposed. Wet, then freezing, then wet again, depending on the weather. Come spring it will burst forth like nothing happened in the interval. They remind me of pansies in this regard, although they don't dwindle and get weedy like pansies do.

And finally, this morning shot of the moon and some planet. I think it's Venus. If I'm wrong please correct me. It's so bright and the sky is so clear and the temperatures are so crisp. Lovely days.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Winter is a-comin in

But there's to be no loud singing of cuckoo! just in case winter decides to come in quicker than it would otherwise. It's cold here. Really cold. Cold in the way that has you thinking "Whoa! What happened to fall?!"
Last night, as I lay in bed wondering why I wasn't sleeping, something I seem to be doing with more frequency of late, I heard the heat pump come on no less than 4 times over the space of a couple of hours. I was fairly distracted by the charms of the BBC World Service, but still, this seemed excessive. I started getting uneasy about the greenhouse. Twice I leaned out the bathroom window with the little flashlight, checking to see if the greenhouse heater was on. I might have been a little sidetracked by the charming visibility of my breath suspended between the light of the LED and the moonlight, but I was not making a racket, no matter what Richard tells you. That's the lot of the obsessed gardener. The wakeful mind does strange things to rational thought and one is always worried about one's citrus.

Now that we're in a stretch of sunny but significantly chilly weather everyone is busy reflecting on how low the mercury will drop, because that's what we do here on the balmy coast. It's rarely cold here and a snap of icy weather has everyone scurrying, but this year it has me outside clearing up the yard, which, when I stop to think about it, is a rather novel experience. Every garden I've lived with up till now has been a relationship based on term limits. Mostly short-term. But this will be the sixth winter we've spent in this house, and unless something untoward happens, we're likely to spend much more than that, and the thought has me contemplating gardening in a new light. There's a permanence, the possibility of extended familiarity with plants and plans. Cleaning up previous gardens used to mean upending the pots into a large pile at the side of the house, then forgetting about them till spring. Rental houses don't led themselves to the long-term, particularly with things like roses or artichokes or garlic, so it was always pots of sunflowers or summer annuals. In spring I'd see what the garden centres sold and buy it. Now I'm clearing up debris from a garden that will likely look very much the same five years from now, and sowing seeds in various winter experiments, like these peas in guttering.

One good thing about the advent of winter: I'm delving into my hoard of garden magazines again. It always seems vaguely wasteful to be reading about gardening in the summertime, when I should be out there doing it, so most of the magazines collect in a basket in the kitchen, where I can contemplate their quirky headers: Banish Bindweed! Protect Your Pollinators! Autumn Action Plan! Make Peachleaf Curl a thing of the past! Alan Titchmarsh: Why every garden needs an acer! (don't laugh but last week I almost bought an acer because Alan convinced me that I DID need one)

There are a lot of local gardening magazines, but I favour the BBC Gardener's World magazine. It's not cheap; in fact it's a shocking price, and most of the time I vacillate wildly when buying it, but it is a useful read. Yes, it's the cost of a nice hellebore, but it's encouraging in ways that most gardeners need now and then. It's got me wanting to revisit the peach leaf curl on my nectarines. Apparently they are too exposed to the winter rains, even though they are against the house. I'm covering them up with a sheet of plastic while I rethink their trellising. I watched a video on Gardener's World about trellising nectarines and let's just say that Monty's nectarine trellis was way nicer than mine. I know it's very shallow of me to vacillate like this, but suddenly I felt ashamed of my Left-over Garden Stake With Broken Pencil Post look. I'm going to have to redo it, or get Richard the Wonder Builder out there. I think there might even be an article in one of my magazines on that too: Build The Perfect Trellis (one you won't be ashamed to show your neighbours).

I had white rot on my garlic this summer, which means that I have to buy new seed all over again. And when I use my garlic I can't compost the skins - they have to be thrown out in case they infect the compost. I had never heard of white rot before, but one look at the white moldy cores of my bulbs and I knew something was wrong. I googled "white mold + garlic" and lo and behold but that was what I had. It can persist in the soil for twenty years or more, which means that site is off limits for a good long while. Sob. Here's the new site: I've covered it with old greenhouse shelving because while Richard might be a Wonder Builder, he's also rather inconsiderate when it comes to pussy footing around the plants. We try not to let him weedwhack if we can help it. My pulmonarias still quiver when he passes. The new garlic bed is right beside the electrical conduit that leads into the greenhouse, and last week, as he was fiddling with the cables he was squatting right on the bed itself. "Get off the garlic!" I told him, with some annoyance. "Is that what's under there!" he said. "I thought I felt something snap." "Then why did you continue to stand on it?" I said. "Because it's your job to worry about the plants, I just build stuff," he said, with rather more mirth than the situation warranted.

I'm back to digging out pernicious weeds, thanks to BBC Gardener's World magazine. I'm attempting to get a handle on the Bishop's Weed Situation in my yard. I'd say "garden" but it's now taken over the entire yard. Stupid stuff. When the kids and I see it as a bedding plant in someone's yard we're always incredulous, because, like vinca, it might masquerade as a bedding plant, but it's just a bloody nuisance. It always gets out of control. I've haunted online garden forums - organic ones and non-organic ones - for three years now and the responses are always the same: Roundup won't kill it, brush killer won't kill it, smothering it with weed fabric/cardboard/mulch won't kill it either. Nothing will kill it. There is no answer but constantly and consistently digging it up. It came to this yard in a nursery plant, and now it's everywhere. I'm trying, one bed at a time, to remove any trace, but it's disheartening work, because even an infinitesimal little sliver will pop up with hearty vigour in the spring, and multiply within seconds into a forest. I gave up last summer, but I feel like trying again. Stay tuned to this channel, because I'm sure the wind will change and I'll feel that same sense of defeat come spring, when it all comes popping up once again. Until then I'll look at this newly weeded bed with a feeling of triumph, even if I do hear the soft ticking of the Spring Weed Clock in the background.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Confessions of a Facebook Failure

I'm gradually coming to the conclusion that I am just no good at Facebook. It brings out the Sarcastic Hag in me, it really does. 

I don't play Candy Crush, I don't have the urge to breed dragons, I have no interest in Slotomania, and I'm terrible at giving rampant, unbridled praise at the slightest provocation. 

What? You just made a really good pot of tea and you're drinking it right now? HIGH FIVE! 

You made a Middle Eastern stew with the new tagine pot you found at Value Village for ten cents and the family all love it? HOW THRILLING! I BET IT TASTES AMAZING! 

You called your miserable sourpuss of a husband to tell him that he's awesome, because you believe in miracles? YOU'RE EVEN MORE AWESOME! 

You made pancakes with bacon and it was so delicious you're making them again tomorrow? I WISH I WERE THERE EATING THEM WITH YOU!

See what I mean? I have to fight the urge to say things like "I'm drinking a glass of Scotch - with no ice! - and it's only 11am. I'm sure I'll be drunk by noon!" Or "I like swearing!" Or "The cat just puked in Max's runners! If I clean them now he'll never know!" Sometimes I even want to post updates on how many times I've said F*CK so far that day: F*ck, the kids pissed me off! F*ck, that driver took my parking spot! F*ck, my library fines are building up!

But I don't. Instead I grit my teeth and hit the LIKE button every now and then, just so they know I'm listening. And reading. 

F*ck. Where is the Facebook for Sarcastic Hags?

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Yes on 522

I don't live in Washington State, nor am I an American, but I want to help publicize this upcoming vote.

(and yes, I also happen to love the Dr Bronner people)

If you live in Washington State - vote! If you know someone who lives there - tell them to vote!

Don't let other people be messing with your food.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Post Hallowed Evening

 FDPG and I found this so wildly funny yesterday that we looked at it over and over again. You may think us shallow, but each time we found it equally hysterical.

I guess we're essentially Cat People when it comes to the category of General Pet Jokes.

It was a perfect day in the neighbourhood for trick or treating. Rain was threatening, and a few times there were brief sprinkles, but we were still able to put out our life-sized paper skeleton and Mr Pumpkin Head, which made the yard much more atmospheric. Nothing says BE SCARED! like a large smiling skeleton, glowing in the dark, right?
Fall has been superlative this year: we've had about 17ml of rain this month, compared to the usual average of 84ml, leaving the leaves in piles of golds and yellows and reds. The rain is due any minute, sadly, so I'm memorizing the colour in this photo for when all those lovely leaves are soggy, brown, and very very slimy.
The Little Chief has been working overtime on the deck, given the perfect dry conditions. The same deck that has been holding court with a baited rat trap.

Yes, Gentle Reader, there are many advantages of having chickens... okay, maybe only one real advantage, but it's mostly definitely NOT the sudden surge in visits from members of the rodent and avian populations. You won't need bird feeders any more because the chickens have a giant one - in their coop - just waiting to be plundered. Rats and birds alike will also love how unconcerned the chickens are around such creatures. They could care less if Ole Ratty or a village of sparrows nip in several times a day for a snack. Mice they will go for, but the others? They don't even LOOK at them. Thanks to our newly acquired rat traps, I now know that rats look JUST LIKE the rat in Ratatouille. Big, gray, and long-bodied, they are. Spread fast, they do. Get into lots of mischief digging holes and tunnels, they can. Not welcome in yard, they are. Sigh.

 FDPG is getting older, and with age comes self-consciousness. This year was all about the Tasteful Kitty. Not a Wild Crazy Out There Kitty, as she might once have insisted upon. Distressingly, it was all I could do to get more than 6 whiskers and tiny black nose on her. I begged to do a little Cirque de Soleil-ish facepainting, to appease my inner Liberace, but in the end I was forced to subterfuge: I whined told a friend, a friend that she likes a lot because he is very tall, very funny, and very generous and kind to her. He told us both that we needed to MAKE THAT FACE UP STAT.

FPDG, ever the rationalist, pointed out that this same person - a teacher - wears a costume to work every year, that he dresses as a Giant Pink Bunny in front of his students, so he was hardly the sort of person she'd listen to in terms of Tasteful Halloween Costume Advice, but she acquiesced in the end. We used a faint smear of white base, a teeny tiny bit of eye liner, and the barest hint of gold glitter stripes. I even think she was surprised how low-key it ended up looking. You can hardly tell, right? (feel free to point this out in the comments section)
Dominic, who is still captivated by the Rabelasian aspect of Halloween, recycled a former costume from his brother: Dr. Arthur O. Pod, field entomologist for the National Geographic Society.
Here he is in the bathroom, looking for errant insects, spiders, or crustaceans. I won't tell you if he found any though.

And now we're dragging somewhat through the morning, watching the rain headed our way.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Creeping In On Little Cat Feet

The fog, that is. We've been sitting in the middle of a large bank of it all week.

It amplifies the rustley noises in the trees, which causes me to jump a lot when I'm in the garden, listening to all those rustley noises.

It also hides the hawks until they are just overhead, which is causing the chickens to spend a lot of time hiding in the coop.

Given that they look like this right now, I think I'd be hiding too, but I'm superficial that way. For those of you on the fence as to whether you want chickens or not, this is a photo of a moulting chicken. They do this once a year. This moulting chicken has her quills growing in: before those quills come in they look like an inflatable chicken that had its plug pulled. It's three parts gross, two parts weird and fascinating, and five parts creepy.

The first time the chickens moulted we thought they were dying. Some of us might have panicked a bit as to whether this might be a form of bird flu. After consulting a chicken book I discovered that this is an annual event, which was kind of comforting because none of my friends who kept chickens knew what I was talking about - turns out they get rid of their chickens after a year, so they never got to this stage in the relationship before.

Brings up all sorts of very shallow issues for me, I must confess. It's definitely the low point in MY relationship with the chickens, that's for sure. They feel the same way: they spend more time in the coop than ever and always look rather embarrassed when I take their photo. This particular shot took me 22 takes, because Fern went and hid in the layer box, Pip shoved in there with her, and Prunella (who is a bird of very little brain) was left trying to squeeze her way through the wire. Which she can't do, even with fewer feathers than usual.

Here's the greenhouse getting ready for winter. I'm trying something new in terms of keeping the warmth for the citrus: a ceramic heater. I usually use those old-fashioned Christmas lights, but they really light up the back yard, and given that I am rather intolerant of don't particularly like our neighbour's penchant for leaving their outside lights on all the bloody time, I thought it might be rather, err, hypocritical of me to leave two sets on this year, as opposed to one (the lemon arbor). Wait for it - I bet no one but me will notice the lack of outside light on this year. Sigh.

Here is something I'm rather excited by: I've fixed up a heat mat under my bench, and covered it with a few pieces of guttering. The gutters have some pea sprouts in them, which I think might come in handy in a few weeks, once they've sprouted and formed nice long salad-y tendrils.

I even buried the electrical cord under the gravel. I'm getting neat and tidy in my dotage.

With winter coming the statuary have to come in. In the old days they covered them with burlap and left them out, where they would weather the weather in grand, if somewhat muffled, style. These days everything is made of pulpy crap so we have to bring them in or they melt in the rain. Not as stalwart as their forebears, obviously.

I bought this last year at Costco. It was labelled as a Calamondin Orange. Beware O' Innocent Gardener: I saw that label and thought "Oooh! an orange tree! Just what I need!"


I got it home and googled it. Turns out my orange tree is a fussy, miniature orange-like tree that needs care, attention, space, and attention. Did I already say attention?

So I sulked for a year, wishing that I'd googled it before I bought it. I mean, I've always wanted a kumquat, but a miniature orange-like object? Who wants one of those?

Then it fruited. I decided I liked it after all. So it doesn't have oblong fruit? Round is just as nice.

And look at all the fruit to come. I feel somewhat abashed admitting this, but giving a citrus plant care, attention, space - and more attention - works out in the end.
Fragrant heliotrope blooms at long last.

So does the Braveheart mallow.
We put in some new beds in the lower garden last weekend. I say WE but I really mean Richard. He watched me struggle rather wimpily then went and got his saw and made me some stakes and planks. He even put them in for me. I added the stepping stones and tidied up the beds. I'm rubbish with a saw but I'm very good with stepping stones.
Remind me to show you what this bed used to look like. Once upon a time it was a grassy hillside. Then it was an awkwardly placed garden, with higgeldy piggeldy beds.

Now it's a navigable space. I no longer see myself falling over. Tripping. Tipping. Tumbling.

It gives one the illusion of level ground.

Bright lights chard.
Brighter lights chard.
Spider webs through the breaking fog.
The last of the raspberries.

Then, just when I'd finished this post and thought "Gosh, the fog is so beautiful!" it completely disappeared and the sun broke through.

And it looked like this.

Monday, October 14, 2013

How I Spent My Sunday

Driving up the island to the site of so much summer fun.

Taking out water pumps, draining water lines, filling toilets with antifreeze (so they won't crack in the winter), raking leaves, listening to the kids run around in the back yard exclaiming at the cold, looking at the beach from a fall perspective instead of a hot summer sun perspective.

 Watching the boats go up and down the coastline. Tugs. Sailboats. Ferries.

Seabirds scattering at the approach of a few intrepid kayakers.

People hauling seaweed for their gardens.
Lunch on the beach. 

Then back in the car and home again, home again. 

Jiggedy jig.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Dear Target Canada

When I first heard you were coming to Canada, I was probably the only person I knew in a radius of 500 miles who wasn't wildly excited. That's because I knew what "coming to Canada" would mean. It wouldn't mean American Target prices. It wouldn't mean American Target clearance deals at the end of every aisle. It wouldn't mean American Target stock, either.

I wanted to love you, I really did. Your commercials were a hit: the patch-eyed dog riding shotgun on the motorbike was irresistibly cute (being a non-dog person, this was an odd place to find myself), the poppy tune was catchy, and the charm of all those Canadian landmarks had us by the heartstrings. FDPG was agog by the clever juxtapositioning of the Target symbol alongside a solid red heart and a maple leaf. "LOOK! Target loves Canada!" she would shriek delightedly every time we drove by. All the pre-teen and teen girls I know were in a palpable tizzy, plotting their pre-dawn raids at the two store openings. Even more telling, the local retail competitors: London Drugs, Shoppers Drug Mart, Save On Foods, even Walmart, were slashing prices left right and centre as they quaked ever so slightly in their boots. Slashing prices is SO not the Canadian way, which is how I know they were quaking. We do things quietly.

So it was hard to remain both silent AND in a state of anticipatory gloom, but for the most part I managed. I AM Canadian, after all.

When you finally opened, Dominic, FDPG, and I waited until the second day before we went on a tour of inspection. We'd been warned that this particular store had had a "soft opening" (read: wasn't fully stocked), but even I was taken aback. There were entire aisles of empty shelves, plastered with tiny signs saying things like "We're in the process of stocking up. Thanks for being patient!"and distressingly large spaces of...nothing at all. Even worse, the store takes up two giant floors, with the children's section on the lower floor and the change rooms on the top floor. I don't know about you, but I LOVE having to navigate several sets of busy escalators while my kids sit half-naked in a change room, waiting for me to get 6 more pairs of jeans, dresses, or tops for them to try on (there is a 6 item limit in the change room).

FDPG's mission was to wheedle the cost of an ice shaving machine out of my wallet, so we went to inspect them. They were $10 more here. I know this because I was in Bellingham three weeks before that and I'd taken careful note of the prices. I also noticed that there were 5 varieties. Target Canada had 1. I am not one for reading the stock market pages in the newspaper, but even I know that the exchange rate is better than that.

So we trundled over to the cosmetic section. If the aisles had had any stock in them they would have been impressive, but again, the emptiness was a bit disconcerting. The prices were also higher than most places I shopped at. I asked a stock girl if she knew anything about Target bringing in any items in the Boots line, because if there is one line cosmetics that thrills me, it's the Boots line, but she knew nothing of this. "The what line?" she said uncertainly, "don't think so." "Can you check?" I asked. "No, sorry," she responded. And yes, that WAS how we left it: me wondering why she couldn't check and her wondering why I wanted so much effort of her.

FDPG thought we could salvage the situation by checking out the food aisles and doing some cost comparisons, but again, the prices weren't great and the products we loved most in the American Targets just weren't there. In most cases we noticed that Walmart is cheaper, too, by about 10%.

Nice one, Target. I mean, we're glad to have you, but we're not that stupid. We won't willingly pay more just because you're you. It's almost insulting, to be honest. If you're going to do well here you have to do your research on what it is that Canadians like about Target. It's not what you think it is.

And fill those shelves while you're at it.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Going To See Ron Sexsmith

One of the things about getting older is how birthday present expectations change. I don't seem to get as excited, nor do I get as worked up about presents.

Boring of me, I realize, but there it is.

Anyhow, my birthday is not for another couple of months, but when I saw the ad in the newspaper announcing the (wildly joyful) fact that Ron Sexsmith was going to be in town, I decided that I wanted Ron tickets for my birthday. So I told Richard, who was hugely relieved at having A Great Birthday Idea, particularly since I'd already squashed his other Great Idea by buying a copy of Howl's Moving Castle after getting paid for a garden lecture I gave to a local club.

I really did - and if you don't believe me, click on this link. My MIL wrote that blurb, which is kind of nice given our - ahem - fractured relationship. I sound like a sensible holistic back-to-the-lander, don't I?

I won't ruin that image for you.

Tickets. Right.

So Richard buys the tickets. They arrive in the mail and I take great pains to remember where I put them (unlike the LEGO tickets I tacked to the pinboard and promptly forgot about). Last night we get ready, even though we're in the middle of a Severe Wind Warning that has all ferries to the mainland COMPLETELY SHUT DOWN and has already knocked down two garden arbors. We weren't completely irresponsible: we made sure the kids had working flashlights and gave them strict instructions not to fly their kites while we're gone. Then we drive through a deluge to the university. It is such a deluge that the gutters in the roofs are all overflowing, so hard and fast is the rain falling. Richard is a little puzzled when I demand to be dropped off near some form of overhang but he goes with it, because it is ostensibly My Birthday Event and he likes to humour me. We run through the rain to the university centre, me stealing one of the concert promotion posters along the way, and dash into the hallway with all the other sodden concert goers. There is no power outage, and really, truth be told, the wind has pretty much died down. Even so, I call the kids using the Courtesy Phone, mostly because I am excited to a) use a free phone, and b) call the kids and remind them that I am going to see RON SEXSMITH! (they humour me too and all take turns shrieking witticisms into the phone)

Then we sit in our seats and I take a couple of photos with my iPad mini, despite the arched eyebrows of my seat mate two seats over (who spent the first 10 minutes checking her stupid phone messages until I gave her some arched eyebrow action of my own). Jenn Grant, his backup act, comes out and sings. The sound in the hall is, for lack of a better word, sublime. It's clear and gorgeous and hauntingly beautiful and we all sit captivated. She sings with her husband, who has his head hanging so low I'm sure I'm not the only one wondering why. She tells some funny stories about emailing her songs to Ron and asking him to sing on one. At the intermission I go out and buy a CD from her. I ask her which one my 12 year old daughter will like. She puts her arm around me and we both laugh into each other's eyes. Then she signs it with a big heart. She's so friendly that I'm mildly regretful that we couldn't be friends in some alternate universe somewhere. We file back in, I take another photo. Then Ron and band mates come out. He is SO good and SO musical and SO mournfully sweet there is a collective shiver of pleasure from the audience.

And so we all sit for the next 90 minutes, with pauses for some extremely loud applause. I shriek YES! very loudly when he asks if his piano playing is okay, the audience all laugh and he hangs his head, sheepishly pleased that we like him so much. I wonder, not for the first time, why he isn't way more famous than he is. He reminds us that a certain song wasn't actually written by Feist, even if she HAS made it more famous than he did. After the concert, I buy his latest CD because I worry a bit for his pension plan.

Then it's home to the kids, the flashlights, the ruined garden, and the rain. What a spectacular birthday present.

(Although if you're reading this Richard, the Pacific Rim DVD is being released in, ahem, October...)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Cinematic Trivialities

It was a good summer for movie viewing, even by my standards (must have lots of action, no predictable or cringe-worthy female nudity, and preferably a large monster or two). Our library has taken the recent video store closures to heart and stocked up on a variety of films, so we were able to see Cowboys & AliensMission Impossible: Ghost ProtocolMoonrise KingdomLife of Pi, and Argo without having to pay through the nose for them. Good movies, all of them, even if Max did find the facial hair in Argo a bit much. "Did guys REALLY wear their moustaches like that?" he asked, incredulously. We saw the original TRON, but all I'll say about about that movie is this: BAD BAD BAD.

We went to the cinema a few times, too, although I am increasingly dismayed by the fact that everything seems to come out first in 3D IMAX, which means that I'm paying $97.50 for the five of us to see one single film. I don't know about you, but I find that excessive. Even my kids, who think I give new meaning to the word cheap, think it's excessive. And none of us even LIKE 3D. Half the time it adds nothing to the film.

That said, Richard and I went to see Pacific Rim in 3D IMAX, because a) the kids were elsewhere for the weekend so we didn't have to pay for them to see it too (or listen to their bitter complaints as to why we never take them), and b) I love Guillermo del Toro. I took the kids later, once it had settled into a Regular Price run, and it was just as a-MAZE-ing second time round. Kaiju vs. Jaeger!  

Michael Bay, take note - you could learn a thing or two about making action movies from Guillermo del Toro (and trust me, you really DO need to learn a thing or two about making action movies).

I had to drag Max to Despicable Me 2, a film the twins and I were desperate to see. "It's a KIDS movie and I am NOT a kid," he said, "I'll feel stupid in there." Fortunately good sense prevailed and we all went. It's got it all: funny script, witty characters, lack of cheese, and wonderful voice actors (which always has me wondering what was up with Christian Bale in Howl's Moving Castle). Afterwards even Max agreed that he'd been a bit too self-conscious, idiotically teenish, and judgemental quick to label it a kid movie. 

I am shocked at how many people walk out before the credits roll. In the case of Pacific Rim they miss one MAJOR plot element, and in the case of Despicable Me 2, well, I won't tell you what they miss. Because no one should walk out before the credits roll. For one thing, they irritate ME, because I have to peer around their shuffling hulks to see who did what, where, and when. Or worse, go stand somewhere while the masses shuffle and trip around in the dark. There is a reason they don't turn the lights on until the credits have rolled. Those people should have learned this from Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Sigh.

So, in the spirit of Zealous Movie Devotees everywhere, I'm going to leave you all with a Code of Conduct that I think everyone needs to know about, even though it says nothing about leaving before the credits roll...

For other movie-related posts, click here, here, and here