Friday, May 31, 2013

The Ubiquitous Columbine

If ever a flower could be described as a free spirit, it would be Columbine. It isn't really an invasive species that spreads out from it's original planting, like Lily of the valley. Columbine, just "pops up" here and there, almost at will. It mutates, changing colour and one presumes personality, as it moves location.

Columbine and Bleeding Heart

The name Columbine in Latin means dove. You can see how the flower got its name - don't the petals look like doves in flight.  Others have used the dove image to compare Columbine to the Holy Spirit. For this reason, the flower is often seen in medieval paintings. Personally, Columbine always reminds me of the story of Columbine and Pierrot, not as aesthetic as the dove image, but very romantic.

Mauve Columbine
However, time often changes the significance of names. Now Columbine will be forever associated with the tragic shooting at a high school in Littleton Colorado.

A little flower with a lot of meaning.

Have a wonderful day!!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Branding in the Garden

Horticulturists know a lot about "branding." Somehow a plant called Aurinia Saxatilis doesn't have the same "fly off the shelf" quality as Basket of Gold does. Nor does "madwort," an earlier name, which was fortunately changed. Even though the plant was believed to cure forms of mental illness, it deserved a better name.

Basket of Gold
Similarly Myosotis Scorpioides Semperflorens, sounds much better as Forget-Me-Nots. How anyone could give such a small flower, this burdensome name is beyond me. Better to forget the first moniker and go with the second.

One of my favourites is Ornithogalum Umbellatum, more lyrically known as Star of Bethlehem - the magic of a winter's night caught in a garden's border.

Star of Bethlehem

Flowers need romantic names that suggest a story. Other products need names to show what they can deliver. These pictures were all taken with my Canon Powershot. I like the idea of powerful images "exploding" in front of you. The brand Canon says this to me.

Have a phenomenal day!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Nose Knows

Again I have to thank the crazy people I interact with (with whom I interact) on FB for this post. Fiona Ellis, knitwear designer extraordinaire, posted this note about a curio that can be purchased at Restoration Hardware. They are German Carnival noses and they have been reduced, in price that is, not size, from $295.00 to $265.00 - Rhinoplasty is extra :)  I love this store and must confess, I haven't been in often enough.


When I wrote my post about finding instruments around the house, I remembered that RH had once offered for sale a "Jug Band" in a box. It was pricey but it had the washboard, the broomstick "base," the jug and a few other instruments.  I thought, "What fun." You just open a box at a party and everyone starts playing!!

Obviously the people in product development at RH have a sense of whimsy, as well as nostalgia and theatre must run in their veins!!.

I have bought Christmas ornaments from their Yonge St. store and lots of small gadgets for gifts. I have also bought serious stuff, such as, a Swedish mop/floor wipe with a washable swab, plaster for cracks in the walls and curtain rods. It's not all fun and games, but a lot of it is!!

I am not sure that I have just the right spot for the nose collection. It would be a conversation piece, however, as Fiona commented, you would have to pick your topics carefully!!

Have an amazing day!!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Final Cunundrums

In five days time we will be flying to Italy for a fortnight. (I've said that before.) We spent Sunday looking for a new jacket for my husband. Nothing worked, so we have decided that the old one, frayed cuffs and all, will be OK, after all who spends a lot of time looking at your wrists. Sorry "watch thieves" he doesn't wear one.

I have decided that the perfect pair of running shoes does not exist or doesn't exist for under $100.00, so I'm going to be perfectly OK with my somewhat smudgy ones that I bought at Marshalls about 5 years ago for $25.00. They are a little worn, but since I only wore them on the treadmill, which I abandoned for walks on city streets about 3 years ago, there is still a lot of sole left.

We bought 3 cases with wheels for the "wheel-less" members of the household at a luggage shop that had a buy one get another for half price and my husband negotiated another 20% off the full price ones because we were buying 3. With 2 plane journeys and 3 train journeys, there will be a lot of hauling of luggage!

Our return flight has been moved forward from 6:00pm to 4:30pm, so we have to re-book our train from Florence to Rome on Monday, to give us more time to make our connection. I have a sense that the framework of the holiday is shaking a little. I have reserved tickets for the Vatican museums and the Sistine Chapel. I found out that we could only go in the evening on Friday night and that was too late in the week for us. So we are going at 10:00am on Tuesday against all the research!!

My final consideration is whether to buy another camera or not. It would be about $250.00. But I am taking one and my son who is the real photographer, will want to borrow it "all the time." In Barcelona, he managed to lose mine on the last day. What would happen if he lost it on the first day this time. I'm still mulling this one over.

Holidays are fun, but not easy!!

The picture - just a random shot. I take them all the time. It's a little like being on holiday everyday!!

Have a great day!!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Magic Moments

I like finding unusual "things" to write about or photograph. The other day after  dropping my daughter off at the park to coach a soccer group, I noticed that the skating arena had just cleaned off their ice after the hockey season and dumped it at the side of the parking lot. It made for very unusual landscapes.

Here's another.

And the last

There is a futuristic almost martian feel to the forms. It was an unexpected sight in the usual to-ing and fro-ing of the day. It's important to have a lot of what is common and expected, or else our lives would be in constant chaos. However, every once in a while, I like a bit of magic.

Have an awesome day!!

Sunday, May 26, 2013


Mountain Equipment Co-op (M.E.C.) is a great place. The company was started in Vancouver as a retail outlet for outward bound gear and equipment. There are now 16 locations across Canada. It's a sustainable business, structured as a co-op, with an appeal to people of all ages. I just love going there.

My daughter decided that she needed a new raincoat for camp. I couldn't convince her to get the zipper fixed on her old one, which she bought about 6 or 7 years ago also from MEC. Since I was still on the hunt for the perfect pair of "running" shoes and a new lighter backpack, I drove her down to the store. I just love its sense of adventure!! People were buying paddles for their canoes to go on, well, canoe trips. Others were trying on large backpacks for hiking through Europe and still others were just standing in awe, taking in the vibes!!

Kayaks at M.E.C.

I found a lighter than air backpack for $25.00 and I tried on a pair of orange running shoes. The colour was right but the fit was wrong, so I passed on them. I say that the orange colour was right because the few T-shirts and accessories that I had bought on sale earlier were all orange. The fact that they were on sale suggests that maybe the colour was really all wrong. Somehow I don't think that I will be blending in with the locals on my vacation! Now if I were portaging with a orange Kayak, I'd probably be OK.

Wine glasses at M.E.C.
Amazing gourmet accessories for those who can't quite leave the Dom Perignon at home, while out in the wilds.

Have an amazing day!!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Cat Sanctuary

A friend of mine came over for dinner last night. Brenda had been in Italy last November visiting a friend of hers who is a writer. She spent half her time in Rome and the other half touring Umbria, where her friend has a second residence (with an olive grove), and Florence.

We spent a long time going over our map of Rome while she told us where she liked to "hang out" in the city. At one point Brenda mentioned the "Cat Sanctuary" in the Torre Argentina, an excavated ruin very near us. I was thrilled. My daughter will love it!!

Pampered Cat

I remember when I went to Rome years ago that the Colosseum was overrun with cats. As a visitor you were constantly pestered for food. It was so sad. I understand now, that the cats have been removed to a shelter and the site has been improved. However, there seems to be a huge need for places all over Rome to look after abandoned cats, who have not been spayed by their owners.

I will make a point of going to the sanctuary and making a donation. I have three cats who are all very pampered!! I purposely stay away from shelters, because I could easily care for more. However, we will be on vacation and I am not going to fly one home!!

Have a wonderful day!!

Friday, May 24, 2013


We are all familiar with the positive adjectives that Real Estate people use to make homes appealing. "Cozy" bungalow means small and cramped. "Original" architect's concept means needs a lot of work and "unique" features means that there are some weird configurations in the home, that may have to be changed to make it suit you.

I always get a laugh out of the euphemisms that garden catalogues use to obscure any negatives that a  plant may add to the garden. For example. "vigorous grower" means that it will eventually take over and destroy all your other plantings. This could be said of Mint, Lily of the Valley and a few others.

Often with roses you will see the term "repeat" bloomer. This means that the bush will bloom in Spring and again in late summer, with few if any flowers in-between. I always look for the term "continuous bloom" which means that it will bloom, though sparsely, all summer.

Sometimes trees will be described as "stately." This means that the tree will be huge. I have made this mistake in a small garden too often. I once planted a cherry tree described as "dwarf." On another planet, maybe. That tree is now 15' tall.

However, my favourite term is "rewards the patient gardener." This means that the plant will take a long time to grow or it will take a long time to bloom. I have a cedar that I planted 30 years ago and it is about 5' tall now, whereas the white pine, I planted at the same time, is as tall as the 7 story apartment building it hides. The same phrase can been said of Tree Peonies which take a long time to grow and a long time to finally bloom, but when they do, they are spectacular. These are not mine. I have Tree Peonies, but a larger more vigorous Rose of Sharon has overgrown them so they are not as profuse.

These are in the neighbourhood and I look for them every Spring. They are a welcome sight amid the bricks and concrete.

They reward the patience photographer too.

Have a wonderful day!!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

What to write, when there is nothing to write....

I've been a little down lately. Not sure why. I shouldn't really be because there are so many positive "things" on the horizon. The warmer weather is here; we're going on holiday; "things" are generally good. Maybe that's it. Everything is going very smoothly, so I wonder when the axe is going to fall.

I promised myself that I would write a blog a day. I also decided to look very carefully at what I do when I have nothing to write about - damn the prepositions - full speed ahead. Today was particularly difficult in that not only did I not have an idea, I didn't even have the desire to write. What do you do when all else fails - start pumping yourself up!!

I usually find something insane on the national holiday site, but I did that yesterday and the only "day" that sparked my interest was National Limerick Day, but then I wasn't in a mood to be funny. I did the usual pep talk to myself - Look you've just read the obits and you are not there - be thankful. It's a privilege to grow old - again be thankful. Try to put all the bad news in the media in perspective - this was really difficult, because there seems to be more bad news, than good these days.

Slowly, whatever those chemicals are in the brain that change your mood and make you see light at the end of the tunnel started to rise. I made tea. Going through familiar routines also helps. I was taking down a mug from the cupboard and thinking about the "National Holiday" site and wondering where all these often silly celebrations originated and then it occurred to me that someone, maybe the owners of the site, just made them up. Aha!!

So, maybe we need National Appreciate Your Coffee Mug Day!! I'll bet, hidden in cupboards all over the world, are some amazing mugs, coffee (or tea) mugs, that is. What do they say about the household that keeps them? How long have they been there? Are there favourites?  I see a post coming together.

Coffee Mugs
Here are most of the mugs from my cupboard, so let me celebrate!! We have 5 "family" mugs - Mom, Dad & Grandma. The Grandma one we had given to my mother-in-law. When she died, we got it back. It is one of my favourites. We have 6 mugs from 3 universities. I would have had more, but I didn't like the mugs from the University that my eldest attended - OCAD. I'll wait for a new issue. The kids watch Family Guy. Pizza, Pizza (hidden behind Family Guy) is a must - Canadian boarder authorities in Niagara Falls know you are Canadian, if you could give the Pizza, Pizza telephone number - 967-1111.  The Wool Queen one was given to me by a neighbour. She won it as a door prize and doesn't knit. Finally the chef one in front I took from mother's collection, when she passed. She had probably bought it at a second hand store, however, given that my two sons now both work in catering and this house revolves around food, it was meant for us.

Please send me photos of your favourite mug or mugs, or even ones you don't particularly like. There is always a story. Send them to and I will post them - better still, I will celebrate them.  They'll make my day!!

Have an amazing day!!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Musical Instrument Day

Today is "Buy A Musical Instrument Day." I am not sure why we need a day for this. In my house it probably should be "Find A Musical Instrument Day." My daughter has two guitars. My son inherited our old keyboard with a non-functioning key or two. I have preserved my grandfather's harmonica all these years, but sadly I don't play it. Now, I have always wanted a penny whistle. I'm sure I could buy one today, though it would cost more than a penny, I'm sure.

Also I have been toying with the idea of getting a new keyboard, so I can link it up to Garage Band on my Mac and create music to accompany my videos. Unfortunately I don't have the money at the moment, because I also want an I-Pad Mini and there are a few other "things" on the list that would come before a keyboard.

I missed celebrating May 20 - "Be a millionaire Day" which was also "National Pick Strawberries Day" - not sure that they're related :) If I remember tomorrow, I can celebrate "Lucky Penny Day."


Today is also my sister's birthday. She owns a small harp, as her musical instrument. Fortunately no one in the family plays the drums, trumpet, or tuba etc. However, I have always liked "the spoons." I thought that they ought to be sterling for the best sound, but given that they are an instrument of the poor, they were probably made of tin.

Yes, I think it would be much more frugal and interesting to have people "find" musical instruments or create music from things not necessarily designed to be musical. I remember holding flat blades of grass between my thumbs and blowing on them trying to get a sound. Reeds create very haunting music. Please add any "found" instruments that you know of.

The picture is my grandfather's harmonica. He always played "Camptown Races."

Have a musical day!!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


Every year we plant Marigolds in the garden. They are bright showy flowers and if the aphids don't get them in the first week or so, they will bloom until the frost. It suddenly occurred to me that I knew nothing about Marigolds, except that they are annuals here in Canada and are often used in companion planting because they keep garden pests away from vegetable crops.

It was time to consult my "go to book" for garden stories "Garden Flower Folklore." I bought it years ago when I was deciding what to plant in the garden. I wanted a garden that told stories. Well, Marigolds were originally found in Brazil by a Portuguese explorer in the 1500s. Since then they have been propagated all over the world, including Africa, India and Europe. In 1985 (it's an old book) 300 million Marigolds were cultivated in the US alone. I'm sure there are a lot more now.

Marigolds were sacred to the Aztecs. To them it was a living symbol of the Spanish massacre of their people for their coveted gold. In the language of flowers, Marigolds mean pain and grief. The flower, though, does have many uses. Its leaves were used to heal wounds and remove warts. The blossoms are used as a natural yellow dye and the dried flower heads are added to chicken feed to give egg yolks a good colour.


I always thought that Marigolds were poisonous and said to cause blindness. There is an old folksong that tells the story of a woman who decided that she wanted to do away with her husband. She made him a meal of eggs and Marigolds and shortly thereafter he went blind. He decided that he couldn't live this way and that he wanted to drown himself. She said that she would help him get down to the river. Well, when she was about to push him in, he stepped aside and she went in instead. It's a lively tune with an ironic twist to the story.

I googled Marigolds and blindness only to find several links to a story of a doctor who cured himself of a degenerative eye condition by consuming Marigolds. I'll let you decided who is right.

Have a great day!!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Delorean to the rescue!!!

I had decided to head out to the North Face outlet which is/was about 20mins from the house to buy the few remaining items that we needed for the trip. The thought of the deal or the find prompted the two youngest to "hop on board." We set out for the outlet via the back streets. "Why go direct when you can maybe find something interesting on the side roads." And find something interesting we did. No sooner had I turned off the main street, when we saw the "back to the future car."  My daughter went nuts.  She spent the next 15 minutes telling me how rare this car was and how it had a cult following etc..etc.. Well by then I was several blocks away and had decided that I wasn't going back for a picture.

Back to the Future


Inside - the gear shift's a skull.

Fast forward 30 mins. We arrived at what should have been the North Face outlet only to find that it had moved, in spite of every on-line resource telling us that 21 Vaughan Rd, was the right spot!! It wasn't!!  So, dejectedly, we headed home. As we got closer to the spot where we had last seen "the car," I decided to make sure that I drove down that street.  Sure enough it was still there. I gave them the camera to take pictures.  I took one myself for the challenge, but they got the rest. A Delorean had saved the day!!

However, this is not the end of the car saga!!  Later in the day my husband and I went to the garden centre and parked very close to an amphibious car.  It was so cool!!  The license plate read Car H2O.

But it's not over yet. An hour or so later, I went to a sports shop - still on the hunt for good walking shoes - and I parked behind a Lotus.

This was a day for cars.  Probably has something to do with travelling.

Have an awesome day!!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Getting Ready...

There are always so many "things" to do to get ready for a vacation, that I understand why a lot of people never take them. We have our lists now and are dutifully working our way through them.

1. Find the adapters. These are the plugs that you plug your North American electricals into before you can plug them into European outlets. My son was the hero he found two of the three. However we will be taking 4 computers. Add power bar to the list. Then we can all sit around the table and have a kind of togetherness in our separateness. Several will have earphones on. The quintessential modern family.  :)

2. Book tickets for "events."
a) Unfortunately Soccer season will be over when we are there so we will not be seeing a major league soccer game. I was relieved, because I understand from friends that there are no women's washrooms in these stadiums. My friend just uses the men's. However there are no stalls - don't even go there!!

b) Booking tickets for the Vatican museums and Sistine Chapel has now taken three days. It has nothing to do with the on-line booking system. It has everything to do with avoiding the line ups!! I have read several blogs, asked lots of friends and I think that I have finally convinced everyone that the best time to book a visit is in the evening. Otherwise, I understand that you can wait in line for hours!

c) I am not a run to every gallery type of person and neither is anyone else in the family so we will go to the gardens of the Villa Borghese, skip the gallery, walk past the "biggies" - Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Colosseum and if there isn't a big line, for the later consider, going in.

Holiday gadgets

3. Buy phone package. We have to keep tabs on the kids when we we're not together, so we needed a phone system. This required some research. Several blogs later, I decided that the best option was to
a) not buy 4 cheap phones over there - buying calling and texting time could negate any savings.
b) Unlocking the phone and buying an international card was expensive for just two weeks.
c) the best option was to buy a two week calling & texting package from our local provider. Now we just have to do this!!

4. Contact the owners of the apartments we had rented and give them our arrival times. The owner of our apt. in Rome does not speak English and so communication is tricky. We wanted to call him to check to see if the phone numbers worked, but we have to do that when he has a translator there, more complications. His answer was to ask the cab driver to call him when we are off the plane and on route. The other complication is that we must pay the balance of the rent in "cold, hard cash." This means that we have to travel with a lot of cash. I am going to call some more friends and see what they have done with their "Home Away" contracts.

5. Fun stuff. I have decided that I need a good pair of hiking/walking shoes. I also need a lighter backpack for my computer and plane stuff. I have bought some travel clothes and I already have a purse that I strap to my waist. I know that I will look like a tourist, but handbags, for me anyway, are easily lost or stolen. We had a friend who had her shoulder bag sliced off in Spain - gone was her money, her cards and her NZ passport. Now to coordinate all this stuff so that I can travel as light as possible. Years ago when I hitched around Europe for a few months while living in England, I carried a small plastic shopping bag - not even a back pack.

There is an inverse rationship between a traveller's experience and the size of their luggage. The more experience, the smaller the suitcase.

Have a great day!!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

A fortnight and counting.....

In two weeks time we go on holiday for a fortnight. That's two weeks. In other words - in two weeks, we go on vacation for two weeks. I used the term "fortnight" because, although it's used regularly in Britain, it's an "old world" term. It always reminds me of Charles Dickens or Jane Austin etc. and since we are going to the "old world," I'm getting in the mood.

We are actually going to Italy. In fact our holiday plans began taking shape in January. I guess I had been complaining that we hadn't had a summer holiday in a while. It's true that in December 2011 we had gone to Barcelona to visit with my in-laws who had flown down from Scotland. We had a great time, but it was winter not summer.  Prior to that we had, had just three short road trips. One in the Fall of 2010 to Halifax NS to take our daughter to Dalhousie University, another in the Spring of 2012 for her graduation and finally one in the Fall of 2012 to Thunder Bay ON to take her to Teacher's College. Although they were lovely trips, they had other focuses (or foci). Probably time to brush up on my Latin.

Actually we probably shouldn't be spending money on a holiday at all, because the eaves troughs need replacing, the bathroom leaks in not one but three places and we need new floors everywhere. However, fate being the fickle mistress that she is, could deal us a blow at anytime that would keep us tethered to the house. We can deal with the repairs then. So we started planning our escape. My husband asked me where I wanted to go and I said Cinque Terre. It's a UNESCO site on the North West coast of Italy that includes five villages, but excludes cars. The idea is that you walk between the villages. OK there is a train and you can take a boat, but I want to walk it.

Roman Holiday

My trip planner a.k.a. husband :) decided, that if we are going to Italy, we had to go to Rome and as it happens we are spending two days in Florence, before coming home. In January, though, this was all a pipe dream. However, my husband likes planning holidays and we usually rent apartments, so he spent some time on "Home Away" and found a lovely place in Rome for a week, that had great reviews and another spot in Cinque Terre for a week, which was a lot cheaper than the one in Rome. Our two youngest had a window of time the first two weeks in June and decided that since we were paying, they would come along. Our eldest never comes with us. He's not a great traveller, so he stays at home, fills the house up with all his friends and has a great time!!

All that remained was booking the airfare, the train tickets between our rentals in Italy and admission passes for the Vatican and what ever else we wanted to see in Rome or Florence. More on these later.

Have a great day!!

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Blue Moose

I know that there has to be a restaurant, gift shop or something in the North named "The Blue Moose." It's an animal that people expect to find in Canada. The moose is not a refined animal. It is large, awkward and lumbers, moving from side to side to see where it is going. It also has a humorous sounding name, even if its homonym is a very refined French dessert - mousse.

Blue Moose

We have a chain of bar/restaurants called "Moose Wanooski."  My friend Julia and I ended up at one once, when there was nothing else around. I didn't mind the dozen or so flat screens, covering every sport imaginable. It was the noise levels that I had to scream over, which left me painfully hoarse. Finally we gave up chatting (read yelling at each other) and just watched the half dozen or so birthday celebrants get their faces dunked in cream pies while the wait staff, dressed as moose, sang the HB song!!

I worry that the moose in its many reincarnations may become the symbol of Canadian culture. E-gads, I hope not! When I lived in England, I was told that the only folk song that children learned in school for Canada was something about a lumber jack. The singer was pining (no pun intended) for her "logger lover" who stirred his coffee with his thumb! Alas!!

Time maybe to practise my French and whip up some Blueberry mousse, which civilized people eat with a spoon :)

Have a great day!!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

When not to report a crime...

My husband and I were having a conversation over dinner last night. It was something that our neighbour had asked him. This is the husband of a young couple who had moved in next door, about three years ago. They have an 18 month-old, both of them are teachers, grandparents are around all the time. You know the kind of neighbours that make for a good neighbourhood!!

Anyway, Dan was asking whether we had noticed anything missing from our backyard lately. We don't have much to steal - a few garden rakes with missing tines, a wheel barrow with a flat tire, and if I could only get someone to "pinch" the memorabilia in the shed that my husband still hangs onto!! No unfortunately we had nothing missing.

Apparently what had gone missing from his garage were his cigarettes and his "pot." He added that he wasn't going to report it to the police - good idea! Now even in a respectable neighbourhood, I can sometimes smell the sweet scent of marijuana, wafting through the trees at the back of the garden. Our neighbour on the other side, who has two university degrees and a daughter in medical school, is diabetic and uses the drug for pain relief. Our eldest, who smokes regular cigarettes, enhances a few from time to time and obviously our new neighbours do too, or at least the husband does.

The theft, I believe, was an "inside job." I know that lots of people used to hide their liquor in the basement or the garage, when it wasn't that respectable to drink or when they wanted more to drink than what was respectable, but I had never thought of cigarettes. Someone had to have known they were there. Now my suspicious mind went into overdrive.


I had overheard some arguing about 3:00am the other night, but I just thought that my husband was "scolding" the 20-year-old for being out "at all hours." Well, it wasn't them. On the other hand, we do live in the city near lots of bars and restaurants, so anyone could have been walking by including the thieves.  "Agatha" would have figured it out!! Now, I am going to be on the look out for strange "things" happening - this could be a 24/7 job, because there are always lots of strange things happening, in my mind anyway.

The picture, well you could say that I'm a little "bananas." But I do remember a time when drugs were not that plentiful and they were expensive. So some people used to try roasting and smoking banana skins. I'm not sure that it worked all that well. They are healthier eaten :)

Have a great day!!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


I am not a great fan of Graffiti or at least I wasn't until I came across this site - Graffiti Art of the Day. It seems to be a tumblr site that posts graffiti finds sent in by others. This is the one that I loved the most.

Some graffiti I find a little frightening in that it suggests angry mobs bent on destruction. However, this one is humorous, as are a few others from the link. Here are a few that I have found in the last year or so.

I love street murals

From my day of photographing things red.

Zorro lives - Have a great day.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Channeling Today....

I wonder if I can predict the day, just by the FB entries that I bother to read. At 7:00am in a semi somnolent state, I often cruise through my wall posts. I am not fully awake and it is almost as though my subconscious were directing my hand.

In the last 45mins. I have read a post on "what not to feed chickens." I do not own chickens. Actually, I would love to own chickens, but we can't in the city. I can understand and abide by the rules, even though others don't. Some people surreptitiously keep chickens in their yards. I know I couldn't even attempt this, as my yard, though long, is quite narrow and overlooked by a 7 story apartment building - someone would hear them or worse smell them. Also, every time there was a threat of an avian flu virus spreading, I would panic.

No my subconcious is just doing some wishful thinking. It's that time of year - Spring and I also want to plant a vegetable garden, but I would have to dig up the flowers - sigh!

The second post I read was on the health benefits of bananas. Fortunately, I love bananas and I am hoping for this goodness to beam up my health quotient and maybe help me lose a pound or five :) I skipped past all the posts on chocolate in its many tempting forms - yes. After all I did have some on Saturday for a birthday!!

I read through the comments for someone wanting the French translation of "mittens." It was getting pretty serious with the difference between Quebec French and French French. The answer was - "moufles" are real mittens with a thumb and "mitaines" are fingerless mittens. Problem solved, I was worried about that :) Well, given that I had to wear mitts on the weekend - mid-May. It was freezing out there!!

I must be anticipating another cold day, because I paused over a recipe for raw almond milk from Cher Fauvel. That's a drink made with raw almonds, not raw milk. I had read about it before on her post the other day, but another food blogger that I follow Anita-Claire Field suggested adding rum to the drink - a "nut nog" maybe, for very cold days :)

I think that I may be fully awake now and I can predict that it's going to be a cold, but healthy day with a french accent and although I won't be passing any chickens, I may encounter a penguin or two - I looked at the picture and will read later a post about the release of Penguin 2, by Bob Gelwick. Not sure what it's all about, but the temperature will be right, at least!!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Crooked Mind...?

I have a very suspicious mind. I often have difficulty believing that things just are what they are. I always think that there is an extra dimension to something seemingly quite simple, for example:

1. I was considering signing up on one of those sites that stored your passwords for you. Then I thought, what if this is all a ruse and they are really there to steal your passwords. I passed on the idea :)

2. When I started writing my blog again, I used to get a lot of hits from countries that I least expected, Russia was one. Then I thought why would these people be reading a blog in English. Possibly to practise using another language. Then I thought that there were maybe people out there preparing to "infiltrate," for nefarious reasons. They would read blogs to study the life style of "ordinary people" so as to blend in.

3. I live in a residential area with four or five blocks of "mom and pop" shops. We have to have seven or eight manicure and pedicure salons. I have decided that some of these are "fronts" for illicit dealings.

4. Years ago we were looking at buying a house in a small town. When we drove into town, I was surprised to see a knot of young people just hanging out in front of the dry cleaners. Kids usually hang out in front of restaurants, or electronic stores etc., not the dry cleaners. I concluded that the person who owned the cleaners must have been the local drug dealer.

5. When I worked in bookkeeping for an organization there was an employee who always had complicated travel plans. They would buy a round trip ticket and then re-arrange their return dates or puddle jump around on a long haul flight, often skipping the use of a ticket or two. Given that they had a close relative who worked for an airlines and knew all the "tricks" that people used, to get free flights, upgraded flights, refunds etc. I decided that they were cashing in on these extra tickets and keeping the money for themselves.

I have always wanted to go into forensic accounting. I don't think that things are going to get any better either. I have just started reading mystery stories again.

Have a wonderful day!!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Bleeding Heart

I was hoping the plant "Bleeding Heart" had a lovely folk tale associated with it. Sadly, it doesn't. It should have, though, because it's a gorgeous flower with a very romantic name.

I plant the flowers that grew in my grandmother's garden. Gardens have this ability to preserve so much of life. I think of families passing on their stories to the next generation, through a perennial here or a recurring annual there. In fact, in many ways, your garden may even out live you.

Bleeding Heart

When we bought our house 30 years ago, it had a basic garden with a red rose bush. We rearranged a lot of the garden, but kept the rose, even though it was a little out of place with the other plantings. We called it "Mrs. Wilson's rose." We had bought the house from Mrs. Wilson's son about a year after she had died. Her rose lived on in the garden for many years.

Bleeding Heart - open

Another shot, a little closer and before I removed the stray bit of Maple tree floss from it.

More Bleeding Heart

It's a lovely flower but a little sad when I think of all those times when hearts bleed. Alas, the stuff of life!!

Have a wonderful day!!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Red Vehicles

Blog block again today - writer's block for bloggers. Nothing jumped out at me by way of an idea for a blog this morning and I am sure that this happens to a lot of writers. I warmed a little to the idea of writing about body parts that were named after people, such as, Adam's Apple and Achilles' Heel - I am not sure that Vagina Monologues were listed :) in the huge list I saw on Wikipedia.  I decided that I would actually have had to write on every one individually to do them justice. This is a project for another day or another year.

What kept running around in my head, though, was a corruption of a line from a poem by William Carlos Williams,

The Red Wheel Barrow

so much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white

I kept remembering it as:

"So much can be said about a red wheel barrow beside white chickens." No doubt I was looking for a blog topic, something simple that I could write "so much" about. I kept asking myself, "where is this mother load of writing that one should be able to find in an image of a red wheel barrow and chickens?"

I know of bloggers, who keep chickens and write a lot about them. Amy Young Miller even named her blog Vomiting Chicken. Sadly I live in the city where chicken farming is outlawed. I do have a wheel barrow, but it's green and my livestock - cats are black. I needed a lunch break.

As I walked to get a sandwich, the blog started to come together. I passed a few items that were red and I thought OK you might not necessarily depend on these things, but maybe you could say something interesting about them, in the style of W.C.W. Here is the first item - 

How about - "So much can be said about a red stove in front of an antique shop beside a white table." I'm warming up. I have to wonder whether this is really a stove. Where did it come from? Who owned it? What did it do? Where is it going and Who made it? Yes, if you could answer all these questions you would have a post.

Here's another, a red scooter. It had just rained so, this vehicle has been "glazed by rain," it's red, there is not a chicken in sight, unless you count me because I am not the sort who would ride a motorized cycle, although I admire all who do!!

Finally another vehicle, quite removed from the wheel barrow.

Somehow I can't see this in a barn yard with chickens of any colour. I think I'll call this collection Street Poetry. We have red; we have rain; we have vehicles; we don't have chickens, but do we have poetry?

The Red Vehicles

So much depends
a series of pictures
in red
polished by rain
on grey city 

Yup, we do :)

Have a great day!!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Ray Harryhausen

I have to pay tribute today to another pioneer who has died - Ray Harryhausen. He played a major role in stop motion photography and moved animation based on this technique dramatically forward. Here is a tribute to him published online in the CBC news. He is also credited with influencing so much of the mixed animation and live action films that we see today. He was a truly remarkable individual.

We came to know Harryhausen's work because our eldest was captivated by it. Sandy took courses in stop motion photography and watched every film that Ray had made. My son was about 12 when he went with his aunt to the Museum of the Moving Image in London to see the work of Harryhausen. When he got back, I suggested that he try to contact him. He wrote a letter which we sent care of the museum. Sadly it was never answered.

Although Ray Harryhausen was born in Los Angeles, he lived a good part of his life in England. There he married the great granddaughter of the explorer David Livingston. Livingston was born in Blantyre Scotland, my husband's home town, and where our son spent a good deal of time visiting his grandmother - funny the connections that people make over the years.

Ray Harryhausen

The picture is of a few of the films that my son has bought which featured Harryhausen's work.

Have an animated day!!

Thursday, May 09, 2013

When everything old is new again...

Hot on the heels of May the Fourth (force) is an Audi commercial that just might win awards.  I have to pay tribute to the creative minds that dream up these amazing scenes. Who would have thought that you could "star" Leonard Nimoy and Zachary Quinto in a car commercial that included a rendition of the Ballad of Bilbo Baggins.

Here is the video.

And here is a link to some awesome comments worth reading. They're at the bottom of the video, but on this site not YouTube.

Sorry, if I didn't have my 1998 Honda Civic, which incidentally has just lost its chrome logo - maybe getting a little old too - I would be tempted to replace it with an Audi based on this commercial. If I had the money, that is. Alas, I'm a sucker for a good ad - believe me I can be "had."

However, if I could really have my "druthers" I would have this one! The picture was posted in my photography group by Steve Brown. It's a keeper.

I don't think that anyone would ever do an ad for this car. Maybe a little too retro with the Fonz and Happy Days. It's interesting how Star Trek survived and prospered - the magic of other worlds.

Have an amazing day!!

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

The Personality of Names

Names are really personal, unless you are 1 of 5 Jennifers,  3 Katherines, 4 Jasons and  few Nicks in a group. Maybe this is why parents try to give their kids distinctive names. I know there are some parents who give their children really ridiculous names. Either they are set on going against the grain, or they really haven't thought through the whole process and just pick something that they think is "cool."

I am not sure that this trend is any different from the trend a generation or so ago that used "family" last names as first names.  There are last names that are really unusual as first names.

A few governments, however, have decided that they need to intervene in the naming of future citizens. CNN has reported that New Zealand, for example has done the following:

The list of weird names for kids that are banned by New Zealand’s names registrar has grown to include Lucifer, Duke, Messiah and 89.
Also not approved: Bishop, Baron, General, Judge, King, Knight and Mr., names that were all said to be too similar to titles.
The letters, C, D, I and T were also rejected as first names, the Herald Sun says.
As well, the agency has refused to allow names involving asterisks, commas, periods and other punctuation marks.
And three different sets of Kiwi parents wanted to name their children Lucifer, only to have the name choice nixed.
In 2008, New Zealand’s names registrar drew international attention when it approved such non-traditional names as Benson and Hedges for a set of twins, as well as the boys names of Violence and Number 16 Bus Shelter.
But New Zealand isn’t the only country to ban wacky names for kids, the Toronto Globe and Mail reports.
In Sweden, name choices are subject to a naming law. While Lego and Google have been approved as names for children, Superman, Metallica and Elvis, and the name Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116, pronounced Albin, were not approved.
In 2007, a judge in the Dominican Republic submitted a proposal to ban names that are either confusing or gave no indication of gender, such as the names Qeurida Pina (Dear Pineapple) and Tonton Ruiz (Dummy Ruiz), according to the Globe and Mail.


I have written before about countries that control the naming of their citizens. Iceland, for example has two lists of approved names, one for boys and another for girls. I was doing a little research on the topic and happened to read a few posts by "mommy bloggers." This is a world unto itself. There have to be dozens, maybe hundreds of blogs dedicated to discussing names for children.

It seems as though parents were looking to give their children names that would reflect the coolness of the parents. Ultimately they should be looking at how a child has to deal with that name on a daily bases. Maybe the kid won't think it's so cool.

Then again some people decide that their given names aren't that distinctive and decide to change them. Some don't have to go very far. Meadowlark Lemon was actually born Meadow Lemon. He added the "lark" literally and figuratively. Incidentally he gave all of his 10 children fairly common names.

The picture? Just looking around for a name with a bit of a spark or fizz. Fortunately, I am not planning another family :)

Have a phenomenal day!!

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

The car is their real clothing....

I sometimes have trouble finding a particular poem on the internet, because I have remembered a line or two, but have forgotten the title and/or the author. Yesterday, I was looking for a poem to go with a picture that I had taken that reminded me of summer somewhere in small town North America. I had forgotten the title of the poem and the author, although I had presented it many times to many classes of 15 and 16 year olds. This was at a time when kids had their own cars or got the "use" of the family car on Saturday nights.

I keyed in the line that I remembered and actually brought up most of the poem, but not the title or the author. The poem fragment was posted by a student who needed input on an assignment and was asking for help finding similes and metaphors.  I realize now that the internet is raising a generation or generation(s) of people who know how to ask people for the answers that they need. They will probably never have to figure things out for themselves.

Here is the poem fragment - it is from a poem about "cars" and their importance as status symbols, entertainment, and social "vehicles."

"Every five minutes they turn, with their tires like sirens, tusking the dirt up the creek road, and drive back through town.

Slowing down on main street, maneuvering between the farmers cars, hooting at girls on the pavements who reply with little hen movements, laughing, waiting. 

The boys sport leather jackets and levis, but that's their underwear. The car is their real clothing at Taylor's corner they turn again, their Hollywood mufflers making sounds furious, derisive, vulgar. Like a bear growling and breaking wind, and roar through main street again." 

I know the anthology that published the poem  -  "I Am A Sensation."  I may just have to buy it on Amazon. I also have to read a few more recent anthologies. This was new when I was teaching and my sister was actually a student in the class taught by one of the collaborators on the collection. The students themselves submitted many of the poems from their own poetry research.

It's an awesome collection and I have to believe that there are many more in the years since this one that I should read. Any suggestions?

Anyway, it's summer in the city and somewhere there is someone in a car or there is someone remembering, someone in a car that would burn through a tank of gas cruising back and forth on Main St. Something there is to be said about repetition, familiarity, home towns, common folk, simple pastimes. I wonder if Norman Rockwell ever painted a car.

Monday, May 06, 2013

The Bonnie Broom...

Yesterday, I posted about the healing power of music and linked to an old folk song that I had never heard before - The Broom of the Cowdenknowes. I decided to do a little more research on the song and the plant called Scotch Broom.

Broom comes in many varieties and grows almost everywhere. In most cases it is a weed, which blooms in May, with small yellow flowers on course stems. No doubt it got its common name "broom" from the fact that cottagers would bind these branches together to create household brooms. Ironically I first encountered Scotch Broom (the invasive species that grows in Scotland) when I worked in a flower shop. It is often used as a filler in decorative arrangements.

Cowdenknowes is an area in the southeast of Scotland known as The Borders. It is beautiful rolling country with ancient hills that lies a little south of Edinburgh. The folk song tells a story which occurs often in traditional ballads. It's the tale of a young woman, in this case a shepherdess, who falls in love with a handsome stranger. In most of the stories, the woman becomes pregnant and is left on her own or worse, she is banished. In this song the shepherdess is banished, but finds her handsome stranger in France. As it turns out he is a wealthy lord and marries her, however, she is not happy and pines daily for her homeland, represented by the "broom."

The story is a common theme that appears often, not just in ballads, but throughout literature. It changes with the country and the customs, but the anguish of being abandoned, of living far away from family and friends and the common things that you enjoyed, is shared by many.

Maybe, if I were "forced" to live in a tropical island, I would miss winter - I'm not sure; I would have to really think about that. I know that if I had to live somewhere quite arid I would miss foliage. But I can't say that I would ever really miss our common weeds. Somehow I can't see myself pining for a Dandelion.

Incidently a sprig of broom was the emblem of the Plantagenets and the name dandelion comes from the French "dent de lion"- tooth of the lion. Now I could live in France :)

Sunday, May 05, 2013

The Healing Power of Music

I read two blogs recently on new studies that use music to heal. The first was written by Ann Mullen on the power of music in transforming the lives of Alzheimer's patients. The video in her post shows an elderly man who has not communicated in years. He is in an institution, now, but he loved music when he was younger. As part of the research he is given a set of headphones so he can listen to some of the music he had once enjoyed.

His transformation is amazing. He starts humming along and then singing a little. When they take the headphones off, he answers questions about the music, reminisces about his experiences and even names a few entertainers. It's amazing.

The second post is from Roy Ackerman. It outlines a study done in the neo-natal ward of Beth Israel Hospital. The researchers are working with very premature infants, using music to stabilize their vital signs, thus avoiding more invasive methods. A number of sounds and songs were used. Some imitated the in utero environment and others were just lullabies. The researchers found that for the most part the lullabies suggested by the parents and even sung by the parents were the most effective in calming the child and hastening its development.

I wonder if we listen to music more when we are under stress as a way of countering the stress. I don't listen to music as much as I would like to, perhaps I should do more. Yesterday I did make some time to listen on YouTube to a few entertainers that were reviewed in the paper. I also went back to a few favourites and found an old folk song that I had never heard - The Broom of the Cowdenknowes.

For some reason I can't embed it, sorry.

Have a musical day!!

Saturday, May 04, 2013

May the Fourth (force) be with you!!!!

I love this pun. The original expression "may the force be with you," is powerful. I don't think that it is diminished in anyway by the humour of the wordplay. In fact I think that the pun adds another dimension to the phrase. We actually have a day dedicated to the wish that everyone will receive a powerful force to help their hopes and dreams come true.

I have said this to people dealing with a terminal illness, for example. It is all encompassing. It covers whatever truth or power that you believe in. It presumes in a higher authority, but doesn't name it. It suggests magical intervention from another world and if we are at the end of our world, as we know it, we might very well be open to any helpful force from anywhere.

I don't follow Star Wars or Star Trek and I have never read Tolkien. I understand that there are cults out there that know all the characters, all the stories, all the lines. I just don't read fiction or fantasy and I rarely watch movies. However, I do enjoy the threads of these stories that weave themselves into the mainstream. "May the force be with you" is one. Another favourite is "live long and prosper." Please add any that you have collected.

The picture is from a stencil that was spray painted on a postal storage box at the bottom of our driveway. I knew in February that I wanted to write this post today and I didn't want to use a picture that was a copyright, so I snapped this one, when I remembered, just in case the authorities came by one day and painted over it. Well they didn't. In fact it's been there for about three years. I smile every time I see it. I generally don't like a lot of spray can vandalism, however, this one is quite sweet. I think that I'll try to take another picture today. There is too much February in this one :)

Have a wonderful day!!

Friday, May 03, 2013

Spring Colours

I am fortunate that I live very close to a 200 acre arboretum. It's actually a huge cemetery right in the centre of the city and about 5 minutes from my office. Yesterday was a beautiful Spring day - 18C, full sun, no wind, so I decided to go for a morning walk. It was one of those days, when my world could wait for an hour, while I disappeared.

Actually, there were a few of us out with cameras. One photographer was in full regalia - tripod, pith helmet, several cameras, note book...he was probably at work :) While the rest of us were just playing!! Here is what I saw.

Flowering Crab - 2013

White magnolia

Colours by Nature

Then it was back to reality and work. When you exit the cemetery you come right up against the city - construction, traffic, condos, fast food, branding of every stripe and plastic in any colour imaginable. It's an amazing contrast.

Colours by Man
Have a colourful day!!