The Lighthouse

the lighthouse

29 May 2010


In my continued efforts to convert all nonbelievers to the Beautiful Game, here is another example of the global influence of 22 men chasing a round ball:

Reviews for the movie have been poor, so Warner Bros. came up with this campaign for the London premier. Perhaps it's meant to draw women who are tired to death of football; however I suspect women will be as evident in the audience as men, when England tackles the US on June 12.

They'll just be wearing cuter shoes.

27 May 2010

Make work, not sense

There is, all around Sohoe, an initiative to spend government money and justify it by saying we're making park and recreation area improvements. Perhaps this is happening in a neighbourhood near you?

The large poster boards at each of the above mentioned park and recreation areas list the agencies involved, somewhat like the opening credits of a Hollywood blockbuster: brought to you by XY Agency; Sponsorship provided by LTD Inc.; MDF for this sign supplied by Bob.

Our lovely playgrounds, which had very serviceable and heavily-used equipment of the usual variety - slides, swings, climbers, teeter-totters - were pulled out roughly a month ago. Then nothing else happened.

Improvement, before your very eyes! Government style!

Today, to the great delight of Four and Five, there was construction activity at our Park and Recreation Area. There was a digger and a dump truck and a bright orange plastic safety fence.

We chose a spot under some big trees and settled in to watch the goings on. If there's anything those Peanuts love more than Monday morning garbage pickup, it's Thursday morning Park and Recreation Area construction.

The digger guy was busy pushing dirt around into piles, then flattening the piles, then scooping them up in the bucket and dropping it into the back of the dump truck. Several times he stretched the long arm of his machine so far we were afraid he was going to tip it over. But he was wearing an orange safety vest with a fluorescent yellow 'x' on the back, which reassured us he was a trained professional. Digger guy then became dump truck driver guy. He got into the big machine, and drove to the path that circles the perimeter of the park and drove about 3/8ths of the way around, beep beeped his way backwards to another section of our (not overly large) park, and dumped the dirt he had so carefully piled and scooped only 30 feet away! Then he drove his truck to where he started from, and continued the process: pile, flatten, pile, scoop, drive, reverse, dump, drive.... and so on.

Pop would have shaken his head at what surely was a system designed by an engineer. Grandpa Nut would have hopped the fence and asked the young safety vest if he needed any help, questioning his methodology every step of the way, and sharing a story about how back in 1982, he and his buddies built a park with nothing but some shovels and some homemade nails.

Seriously: a digger and a big dump truck to move dirt 30 feet? This is supposed to be a 'we're creating jobs' scenario. How about hiring three guys with shovels and a conveyor belt to do the work? Heck, five guys and a wheel barrow!

All the same, Four and Five sure enjoyed watching the goings on, while J and I enjoyed watching the safety vest (hush now! Nothing salacious here! We were laughing at the absurdity of it all.) I later biked past another park, further afield from home, and saw new equipment had been installed. Good things are coming. One dump truck at a time.

25 May 2010

Signs of life

It's very exciting! There are wee little lettuces growing outside our front door! I planted those growing green things! I think it was last Saturday that we first saw signs of life, only we weren't sure if it was lettuce or little weeds. Sadly, I plucked a few out today and tossed them over the banister before I looked online to see what infant salad looks like. (Google search term: what does lettuce look like when it grows images)

On Victoria Day, I went to a large local nursery with the intention of buying more herbs and another tomato plant. I was very tempted to bring home other pretty flowers, but strictly disciplined myself to stick to the plan. I bought a little 'Sweet million' tomato, and a fully grown 'Parks whopper' plant that even has a few yellow flowers on - tomatoes are imminent! I also added a chocolate mint, a garden thyme, and three kinds of basil to our already flourishing herb containers: Thai, Italian large leaf, and Red Rubin.

Today we tackled potatoes. We had five old potatoes growing stems in the cupboard, so J drilled holes in the bottom of a deep Rubbermaid container we had laying around (as you do) and we planted them. Then, just for fun, I poked four garlic bulbs in the lettuce tub to see if they will turn into anything.

What's next?

Up the hill

There is an old bike in our shed which had a gel cover on the saddle. I say 'had' because I have nicked it. It now pads my very own bicycle seat, in the hopes it will pad my very own seat.

As today promised to be a fine day, I planned to bike up to the library in order to prevent the accumulation of overdue fines (I hear they can sometimes be steep!) It will get quite warm as the day advances, so I loaded up the front-mounted basket with books, wallet, water, billcap and sweater and set out. To brave The Hill. The Library Hill.

The Hill, as I've mentioned before is a challenge to the novice cyclist (of which I am one)as it is at once steep and long. Or so it feels. The first time up, I had to dismount shy of the parking lot in a near collapse. The second time I managed to keep my feet but again didn't quite make it all the way. My last trip I made it all the way to the bench outside the front door of the library, but had to sit for a few minutes before I was fit to show myself inside.

This time, dear Reader, I managed just the right gear setting and arrived at the library bench still in control of myself, and was able to go right in. The problem is, though, that my cheeks get very... rosey. I found a little table out of the way to sit and give myself time to calm down a little. Also, I was trying to be discrete about sweating - thus the light sweater I had with me. Sorry to be so frank about this, but biking makes me sweat. Not something I like to do in a refined environment like the public library!

The ride home was accomplished in rapid time, with confidence as I think I'm really getting the hang of this gear business. On the right hand, anyway. What I'm supposed to do with the gizmo on the left hand side, I'm not clear about.

There is good news: the gel seat cover did help! It's not the sofa cushion I was once contemplating, but it is certainly an improvement over the plank-of-wood experience of my first outings.

Tally ho!

24 May 2010

World Cup Fever

I just watched this Nike ad on a football forum I belong to. This gives just a small taste of how big 'soccer' is the world over. I hope you enjoy!

22 May 2010

Danger lurks in the garden

Beware, Reader, lest you mistakenly take up gardening as a means of gentle exercise and perhaps even as a source of relaxation. All of which may be possible, depending entirely on your personality (I myself am a somewhat compulsive perfectionist for whom it is difficult to begin a thing unless I can be sure to do it just right, and am unable to leave a thing alone once the idea has taken root) (ha ha - a gardening pun!)

Turns out - and you may already know this - gardening is a hobby fraught... yes, fraught... with risk and danger. Here are a few things I've learned in the 8 days I've been a gardener (well, to be perfectly honest, there was that potted geranium I neglected to water last summer, but I don't think that counts)

You may get your heart broken when a plant you love dearly and have nurtured from a small seedling to full flowering planthood looses its hold on life and withers into a pallid version of its former glory. You may see wild weeds or selfish spreaders strangle your beautiful blooms. You may learn that 'full sun' means precisely that, non-negotiable, which is why your lavender or tomato is now less than vigorous after spending the season tucked under a douglas fir.

Always wear gloves. There are worms and other multi-legged things in that dirt! Not to mention dirt is extremely difficult to get out from under your nails, ruining a perfectly good manicure. (The manicure may have been months ago, but still, right?) I used to scoff at wearing gloves, but then I was also afraid to accidentally touch a creepy crawly. Last summer, though, I found a really cute pair of gloves, and am now perfectly fearless to dig like I have never dug before, amused at the spider scurrying over my fingers and smiling at the worm as I put it back in the earth. Oh, the power of the glove! Not to mention, digging bare-handed in the dirt can lead to tetanus. Yikes! Not entirely sure what tetanus is, precisely, but I'd like to avoid experiencing it firsthand.*

Another danger is that you may begin too enthusiastically. As in all new ventures, it is prudent to begin slowly - not only for the sake of your pocket book, but for your spine as well. Spending hours hunched over as you yank dandelions out by their scruffs, or as you uproot and replant the forget-me-knots and wild onions growing in your flower beds into more attractive arrangements, you will ache and be quite unable to stand upright the next day. You must begin slowly and work your way up to marathon sessions. Any athlete will tell you the same thing.

The greatest danger of gardening is the power it has to consume every waking moment, occupying all your thoughts, figuring in every conversation causing family and friends to natter on about short cuts and sumo wrestling in order to prevent you from discoursing on the finer features of mulch and fertilizer.

Despite it all, I am hooked. I'm longing to get out to another garden centre. There are more herbs to bring home, and a climbing thing to coax into climbing the side of the shed. I'd like to thin out the lillies we have, and add more colour. It's the May Two-Four weekend, the official start of summer and the traditional gardening weekend. Happy planting, all!

*I do know that tetanus is bacterial, and causes muscle spasms, like lockjaw. Ouch.


I want a plop, too! - Daddy nut was adding more curry to his supper, and Four wanted some too. Not sure where 'plop' came from, but it's true the curry fell in 'plops' from the spoon.

Is this pesgusting? - Four, a little confused with his consonants.

Tantoo Ya, would you like some chips? - Three, offering to share.

Yes, I would, thank you! What flavour are they? - Me, very fond of chips.

Umm... I dunno. Probably salmon? - Three, clearly never having paid much attention to this important subject before.

We're watching this on tv. - Five, who last week could only say "juice" and "bird" is now speaking in sentences.

19 May 2010

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand - book review

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, by Helen Simonson

Major Pettigrew does not drink tea out of polystyrene cups. He does not address new acquaintances by their first name, or discuss private matters in public. He treasures the old, dear, familiar ways of The Empire (the British one, that is... the one on which the sun wasn't going to set) He believes in etiquette and manners and old Lord Whoseit up at the 'big house' (manor house, not jail house) keeping things ticking along as they always have done. He belongs to the local golf club, is invited to Whoseit's annual shooting party, and thinks Americans are rather brash and gauche when they call him Mr. Pettigrew or arrive at the shoot fully kitted out in new clobber.

He has ties to Colonial India, served his country with distinction, and has lived his life in such a way as to not ruffle feathers, raise eyebrows or wag tongues. He has the respect of the village, if not his family. To his complete dismay and bafflement, his son Roger couldn't wait to shake the village dust off his feet, and once in the City, even threw away his old shoes so as to not contaminate his new life with his father's hopelessly quaint old ways. Father and son don't seem to speak the same language, and as in so many of his relationships, the Major is so tangled up in propriety he can't find his way to clarity.

Major Pettigrew's last stand involves misconceptions, prejudices, manners and morals, preservation of the old ways and good old village intrigue. Except for the lack of a whodunit, this book reads like a Miss Marple mystery by the talented Agatha Christie, with finely-tuned depictions of village characters, their relationships and the landscape in which they live. The reader may grind some teeth in exasperation at the Major's 'outdated' notions, but will equally cheer him on, perhaps even quietly lamenting the disappearance of those notions from contemporary life.

Heartily recommended - please read it!

17 May 2010

Notes from the garden

Exciting news! Our first vegetables have been planted! Three kinds of lettuce were sowed today: a kind of romaine, something called salad bowl and another called Ruby Red which looks very pretty on the seed envelope. I hope I did it properly - the seeds are so very small and vulnerable looking. I guess we'll find out in 45 days. Also planted today was a patio tomato and a collection of herbs. The tomato sits out back where it will soak up the sun all day long, growing big and producing many yummy fruits. The round lettuce container sits by the front door where it is cooler. J and I were dismayed weeks ago when we went to the "grow vegetables on your patio" seminar to learn that lettuce is a cold weather crop and we should have begun our salad adventure back in April. Oops. Hopefully the tiny seeds now taking root in the soil wont hold our ignorance against us, and still provide us with plenty of green goodness in the months to come. The herbs (so far basil, rosemary, thyme and oregano) are also on the front steps, very handy to the kitchen for frequent harvesting.

And so, garden work is well and truly underway. The grass was mowed into submission on Saturday, and today, J spent hours and hours uprooting dandelions from the patch of mushrooms and clover we like to call our front yard. Even now, she sees the yellow terrors with her waking eye. I undertook some weeding of the front bed, using the garden tools I bought last summer. At Schmapters. Reader, it is not a good idea to buy tools at a book store, unless you mean to keep them on display on your own at-home book shelves. In attempting to dig up some roots, I bent the tines of the fork-like tool completely out of shape. So while at the President's Garden Centre, I bought a stainless steel replacement, which looks like it belongs in Freddy Kruger's arsenal. Bring on those roots, baby! Except for the plant growing up around our verbena tree, which has a root structure like a prehistoric don't-mess-with-me weed which could probably prevail over flame throwers and leave bulldozers weeping into their buckets. So we attacked that one with sheers, cutting it down to size but conceding to leave it in place.

It's odd, really. Our yard that is. While it's true that SOHOE is the garden of our fair province and everything seems to grow with lushness and variety, we are still amazed by what we find growing here. In the grass of our lawn (I should say 'grass') is pumpernickel (mom calls it pimpernel but it's actually called something else with a 'p' causing me to only be able to think of the dark bread. Sorry), forget-me-nots, little white star-like creepers, mushrooms, clover, several varieties of mosses, and something else that looks like cress. It's fascinating. We just might have the makings of a fine salad growing right outside our own front yard!

How does your garden grow?

*Please excuse me: I've just been informed that the 'p' growing in our front 'yard' is periwinkle. And I kept calling our flowering tree verbena, but I think it actually is vibernum.

15 May 2010

Of Russell and Robin and Rings

One of the best things about living quietly and simply is that it really doesn't take much to achieve a contented, happy state. My mom, sister and I were able to escape for a while this evening to enjoy the new Robin Hood movie together. Our outing included a visit to that lovely store where many varieties of fun food are available in large quantities for very reasonable prices. More about that later.

Robin Hood (2010) is a Scott Free Film (brother Ridley being at the helm of this one) so right away you have an idea of what to expect: epic battle sequences, stirring music, authentic though artistic representation of history, and a story of valour and honour. This Robin Hood certainly delivers right from the first moments of the cold open - no money montage of which studios, production companies and individuals were responsible for bringing us these two hours and 28 minutes of movie entertainment... a signal to the viewer that the story is more important than the system.

The locations and sets, the costumes and makeup lend verisimilitude, assisting rather than preventing the viewer entering into 12th century England, and the goings-on of Prince John Lackland, Richard the Lionheart, Eleanor of Aquitaine, the English Barons, Godfrey, and King Philip of France. This telling of the tale introduces us to Robin returning to England after the Crusade and how he becomes the outlaw of Nottingham. All the dear, familiar characters from the old stories are present, quickly becoming as dear and familiar as we would hope.

Cate Blanchett as Maid Marion is convincing and well-cast, though at one point, I expected her to tell the gathered soldiers to stand aside so she could take care of the upstart king for she was Elizabeth R! Nonetheless, there doesn't seem to be a role that she cannot handle, and she plays opposite her Robin very nicely. There is good chemistry between the two. Which leaves Mr. Crowe himself - an actor I find extremely attractive (that voice!) but I am equally impressed with his skill at practicing his craft. He portrays these characters so well - men of honour, valour and conviction; sometimes a little broken and in need of being put back together again. There's always a good story in that, isn't there?

We left home in plenty of time (an hour and a half before curtain - the theatre is 20 minutes away) (but we needed snacks) so that we could get good seats (don't like those very-front ones) and let the anticipation build up. Now I am feeling nicely filled up emotionally from a good story well told, and very hung-over from too many Ring-a-los. Nice.

ps - stick around for the closing credits when you see this movie - so creative, and very beautiful!

12 May 2010

Tour de SOHOE: Part Deux. In which I swallow flies and a little pride

The second day. Conditions were favourable and Bil had done some needed tweaking to the bits and pieces that needed tweaking, so off we went for a 'short' ride. Please keep in mind, dear Reader, that at this time, I had been on a bike three times in roughly twenty years.

Bil took the lead, pulling Four and Five in the rickshaw; J and I took our places, following meekly behind. He led us out to the country which is about two streets away, and off we headed to the next little town over. What a beautiful day it was! The sun shone, birds twittered, cattle lowed, fields were plowed, and there were very few cars. Or hills.

The bike seat at this point was mildly uncomfortable, but I was distracted in equal measure with figuring out how to adjust the gears appropriately and realizing just how great it was to be close enough to what I was seeing to appreciate it and yet moving quickly enough to be able to see a lot compared to the slower pace of walking.

We saw horses and cows and a dog basking in the sun. There were trees in bloom and a family sowing seeds of a sort and covering them over with long stretches of plastic. There were doggy spas and a sod farm. And there were flies. I swallowed two along that stretch of road, but I was charmed by my surroundings and congratulated myself on my fortitude.

I began to realize however, that further tweaking was needed - the handle bars were still too far forward, I couldn't find just the right place to put my feet on the pedals, the seat needed to be higher, and oh-my-goodness a whole lot softer!

We had gone a respectable distance when Bil asked if we wanted to turn back, or continue on into town, doing the complete loop. I certainly didn't want to wimp out at that point, and figured I could keep pushing those pedals around for a while yet, so I said, "Go!" At which point I found out that there were hills ahead of us. The long, slow, deadly kind. I think I swallowed another fly.

Town was broached and again I was charmed by my surroundings. Bil informed me we were halfway through the course at which point I began to feel rather grim, but still determined to make it home with grace and dignity intact if a little worse for wear in my sit bones region. The ride in had gone rather smoothly, I reassured myself, so surely it would be just fine on the way back.

Ha. Have you ever tried riding a bike into gale force winds? I'm not sure what the knottage (that is how they measure wind, isn't it?) was that day, but let me tell you, it felt pretty knotty with half the distance still to go before I could get off that very hard, very unforgiving seat. I would lift myself up onto my feet when possible, and otherwise shift incessantly, trying to ease the great discomfort I was now unable to ignore in my hind quarters. I put my head down, gritted my teeth and thought about getting off the bike, collapsing into the ditch and praying for enough rain to allow me to float home.

By this point, the cows and fields and flowers had lost their power to enchant me. I began to realize that trees and farms are perfectly visible from the windows of a car, so I had undertaken this venture under false pretenses. I'd been conned with the idea of rolling gently through a bucolic idyll, enjoying the sun and fresh air. Balderdash! Cows be darned... my hiney was hurting!

J and Bil took it in turns to lead the way, and every now and then they would slow down, requiring me to take my tongue firmly between my teeth or I would have snapped at them. At that point I had one goal and one speed: forward and fast - I wanted off that bike! I would sometimes snarl a little because that seemed to provide some extra oomph, but that allowed yet another fly to fly into my mouth. I would try to align myself exactly behind the leader in an effort to cut down the wind resistance, but I think I proved that is a cooked-up theory by some ergonomic/aerodynamic product placement people. I may as well have been riding down the middle of the road all by myself for the difference it made.

Just when I thought we must surely be getting very nearly close to home, J called back over her shoulder to Bil to ask if the approaching road was the one we turned onto. He replied with the usual Why Chromosome response, "What?" which sent me right over the edge. I imagined we would all have to get off our bikes and have a huddle to discuss our route and there was just no way that once off, I was going to plant my bottom back on that seat again. So I shrieked at him, "Do we take X Street or do we stay on Z Road?" He thought that was amusing but I just wanted to clobber him. Not long after, we had to cross a fairly busy road to enter our neighbourhood. A woman had just pulled out of her driveway in her car, and seemed to be going really slowly. I shrieked at her too, to encourage her to hurry up so the insane woman having a meltdown on the bike wouldn't have to stop, thereby ending the torture, only to have to climb back onto that seat yet again.

There was no stopping me at that point. I zipped past Bil and the Peanuts in their rickshaw, propelled forward by the picture of our front lawn. It has a lovely, gentle slope down to the driveway - perfect for someone who wants to fall off her bike and lay down for a very long time. I could see it happening in my mind's eye over and over again, like Bridget Jones sliding down the fireman's pole. It was the imagined slide off the seat that had me racing around the last corner, and chugging down the last stretch until at last the house was in view.

Instead of landing on the grass though, I simply got off the bike and willed my foot to push down the kickstand and stood for a while in the driveway. I didn't collapse on the grass, because I wasn't all that sure that once prone, I would ever get up again. I certainly didn't want to be sitting on anything and I was hoping to prove I had a little dignity left, flies and shrewish behaviour and all.

We went 16.2 kms that day. A very respectable distance, I'd say, for a novice cyclist. Unfortunately Nature has conspired against me, as it has been very windy and rainy since that day, and by now my imagination has turned that bicycle seat into a very narrow, very hard plank of wood, perfectly designed to inflict the greatest discomfort possible. I'm thinking for the next ride I'll bungee cord a sofa cushion to my tuchie.

08 May 2010

Tour de SOHOE. In which I ride a bike : Part one

Biking (of the self-propelled kind) has become a big thing here among us Nuts. J recently replaced her old clunker and One got an upgrade, which has trickled down through the ranks so that even Five has moved up from the old wobbly red and white metal trike, to a low-slung blue and yellow plastic beast he calls his 'odo-cycle'.

Thinking that it would be fun to join them when they take to the roads like ducks-on-wheels, I borrowed J's spiffy new machine for a ride to the bank. It has several key features I must point out:
- it is upright. Very important because really, who wants to be looking at their own armpits the whole time?
- it has a rather nicely padded seat. Surely I needn't explain the relevance of that.
- the seat is on a suspension post = added comfort!
- it has fenders. No worrying about mud or stones flying up at you whilst you labour joyfully up those hills!
- it has gears. I only mention them because they feature in the story I'm about to tell you.
- the technology of gears has changed somewhat since I last owned or rode a bike with any seriousness. (20 years?)

Off I toddled, having first lowered the seat somewhat (I did not inherit the Tall Gene) and realized that I was still very far off the ground. It seemed to take considerable effort to gain momentum, but soon enough I was charging full steam ahead quite gleefully. Then I realized the corner was approaching much more quickly than I'd anticipated (the scenery moves faster on a bike than when walking) and I was going to have to stop. I quickly reviewed the hand signals, and planned to stop at the curb so my toes could gain purchase... the ground being so far down. Only there was a car parked where I needed the curb, so I closed my eyes hoping for no traffic, and swooped out onto the road. Phew!

Then came the adventure of crossing the main road. I was able, this time, to pull up alongside the curb, and waited carefully for a break in traffic before pedaling forward. Only the gears were set so high (or low... which is it?) it needed Rocky Bilboa or Lance Armstrong to turn the wheels. I was standing up on the pedals, pushing as hard as I could and inching along like a snail through molasses, and the cars which had been tiny and far far away were getting larger and closer with every massive effort of my legs.

Never fear! I made it across, and began to play with the complicated shifting system. I say complicated because the way it used to work is there would be a little dial on one handle bar that read 1,2,3 and you would flick an indicator to one or the other while pedaling backwards. Now, there are options on both handlebars, but one says high / low, while the other has numbers or arrows, and you're supposed to work both in tandem for optimum efficiency. I wasn't even looking for efficient - I was going to be happy with moving forward without dying.

The nice thing about being on a bicycle is that you move at a decent clip, but still are able to really see things as you go by (unless you're on one of those hunched-over bikes, in which case you get to see your armpits while travelling rather briskly). I was enjoying myself immensely, noticing the trilliums and other growing things, birdsong and trickling water. Very pastoral and I felt quite virtuous for not being in the car. Feeling virtuous adds greatly to the golden glow of pastoral scenery.

However. The library and even more so the bank sit up on a hill. One of those deadly sorts which is not all that steep but goes on for donkey's years. I didn't know what to do about the gears, so I just kept pushing those pedals as I began to wheeze. I could feel my face turning red, but whether from embarassment or near certain collapse I couldn't tell you. Just before I gained the library parking lot, I had to stop. I had to get off the bike, and that seemed the perfect spot, because it would look like I was being safety-minded in walking the bike through the parking lot. The tricky thing is that a) I'm short; b) the bike is not; c) and most significantly, my legs were mush. I had to somehow haul one leg over the bar of the bike. I have no memory of how I accomplished it, but evidently I did, because I locked the dratted thing safely to the side of the library, and then had to walk the rest of the way up the hill... up... up... up to the bank. Nearly there, I took advantage of an articulated Beer Store truck attempting a very tight turn as an excuse to stop and watch the poor man execute a 17-point turn to catch my breath somewhat.

I have no idea what the bank teller thought of me, in the condition I was in but she carried out my business in very quick order. Back down the hill I walked and took the machine grimly in hand for the trip home. Which went much more smoothly, with little incident, so that by the time I got home, I'd determined I would very much like to be one of the Nuts on wheels, and so would get a Bike of My Own.

04 May 2010

I am woman, hear me roar. Or, the case of the shrieking hoyden

My sister and her husband celebrated their eleventh anniversary last weekend. I pushed them out of the house to spend some time together, assuring them that I was quite up to the task of putting the Peanuts to bed, and we would all survive without them for one evening.

Off they went, full of plans to enjoy the beauties of SOHOE solo (without children, I mean). The Peanuts and I played boccie (even Five, whose method of playing was to lean against my legs at all times, occasionally dropping a ball on my toes) and what I thought was Rickshaw Driver, but turned out to be Ancient Romans from the Circus, which consisted of pulling each other in the bicycle carriage over a small tree trying to grow in the back yard (each time they did so, they would call out to me, "You didn't see that, Tantoo Ya" [my jedi name, you might remember])

Eventually I managed to herd them all indoors with the promise of Bath With Bubbles. They love playing in the tub, so I thought I was being very clever. Four and Five even managed to keep most of the water in the tub, so all was going well. The remaining Peanuts each had 15 minutes by the oven timer to enjoy their very own bubbles, and that too went off with no undue drama. As each batch came out, they were dried off and admonished to brush their teeth and read quietly till bed time. So far so good.

The only glitch came from Five, who, when threatened with being put to bed in Mommy's bed unless he stayed in his own cosy bed, told me he wanted to sleep in Mommy's bed. (Note to self: when attempting disciplinary measures, don't offer a treat as a punishment)

So Little Five was upstairs nested in pillows while the rest of us were downstairs, attending to prayers and last minute stories of the day. We heard a knock on the front door (screen door, unlocked) but as we were nearly done the routine, it was just me and the boys and we weren't expecting anyone at 8.15 in the evening (bath time having taken longer than expected) I ignored it. Then came the sound of the screen door being opened, and a voice called out, "Hello?" followed by the sound of a large foot landing on the floor above my head.

So many thoughts rushed through my mind: Five is up a flight from whoever that is. The others are behind me, the phone is up there, can I get to the knife drawer before he gets to the kitchen, if I scream will elderly Miss Anne next door hear me? And I flew up the stairs shrieking, "Stay out! Get out!"

Reaching the kitchen at the top of the stairs, I could see it was our landlady's agent, quickly back peddling out the door and down the front stairs, waving his hands in surrender, saying "Sorry, sorry, sorry" and looking like he wished for some body armour.

Several months ago, the front door knob broke. He was having it rebuilt (apparently by a man from Inner Mongolia who receives deliveries once a month, judging by how long it took) and had said he would come by that day to put it back in place. Well, we'd expected him early that morning, and by that time I'd completely forgotten about him. I gave him an earful about walking into the house, scaring a helpless female with children in the house, not calling, and arriving so late.

I think he learned his lesson, because when he called the next morning, and then came to the house, he seemed quite reluctant to come near me.

Darned straight.

Cooking the books and The List

I've been busy most of the morning with cooking the books - sorting through the paperwork of the last month. Fun! I gradually became aware that it had been very quiet out in the house for some time. Peeking outside my door, I called out a hello, to be answered by a great big nothing. Silence. Utter and complete. Creeping out into the kitchen, expecting at any moment to see signs of an alien invasion (nothing else could explain the silence), I saw propped against the coffee pot a note, telling me they had gone to get some groceries.

It was written on a grocery list.

The Greening of the thumb

The growing season is upon us. All but the biggest trees have leaves, the fruit orchards are in blossom, lilacs are blooming and the grape vines are starting to show green life. It wont be long before we hear the grapes sighing!

We've been watching for these signs of Spring since the end of March and have been very impatient for them all to arrive. Several times a day we would update each other with reports on how big the buds were on the trees, watching for the moment they became leaves. And of course we missed it! It happened entirely without our help, and while we weren't looking, leaving us in awe at how lush it is here already.

Though very novice gardeners (with one season of maintaining a pot of herbs now firmly in our belts), my sister and I are eager to tackle a somewhat more substantial garden this year: lettuce. Maybe potatoes and onions and such. All in pots of course. We attended a 'Growing vegetables in containers on your veranda' sort of workshop a few weekends ago, and learned that we had virtually killed our unsuccessful tomato plant last year through starvation and dehydration. Oops. We also learned that this area has a blight that attacks cucumber and zucchini which is very good to know because as every vegetable gardener seems desperate to give away their surplus zukes, we were going to try some of that and would have given up gardening entirely if we had failed.

After reading The 100 mile diet, we've become very aware of the fact that most of the produce we eat comes from parts of the world we've never been. We live here, in 'The Fruit Basket' or 'Greenhouse' of Ontario, and still the apples stocked by our grocer come from the States and our lettuce from Mexico. How does that make sense? What happens to everything grown here? Where does it go? Just what exactly is going on in all those massive greenhouses if they aren't feeding us?

Being at this point on the learning curve, with no land or cold storage, the idea of attempting self-sufficiency even just for produce during the summer months is very daunting. How to begin? We're already late for lettuce, it turns out and I don't want to be responsible for another dead tomato. What to plant? How to care for it, when and how to harvest... all of that is a vast unknown.

Besides the nutritional benefits for us, I think it is important for the Peanuts to experience a connection to the food they eat, to see how it happens and what is involved. Therein lies another challenge: how to keep five very active and inquisitive boys out of the garden when they're playing Star Wars with sticks or Rickshaw Driver/Roman Charioteer with the bicycle carriage all over the yard. I'd love to be a confident gardener with a flourishing vegetable patch, and a few fruit trees and be able to preserve the bounty for colder months. It would be great to have a some chickens and a goat, and I've always wanted to have a cow (not that kind of cow! I mean a living, breathing, pooping sort of cow).

I should probably reign in my expectations though, eh? This year: lettuce. Next year: the cow!

03 May 2010


I feel flat! - Two after watching Alice in Wonderland

Driving through a lovely little village, Oma ooh'd and aah'd over a stone cottage. "Oh, look at that carriage house!" she said, "I'll take that one!" At which Four piped up from the backseat, "That won't fit in your car Oma!"

I'll never have any more fun in my life! - One, on learning he had to study his times tables.

"Oma! Oma! Oma! Oma! Oma! Oma! Oma! Oma! Oma! Oma!" - Five. All the time.

I don't want to have a clubhouse! You'll just sit on your bum for hours! - Three, much prefering to play hockey than sit and tell ghost stories with his brothers.

I broke myself! - Four, after sitting on his leg for a while and it had fallen asleep.