Monthly Archives: May 2012

Q and A on the Last Day of May

Cartagena Film Festival office
Cartagena Film Festival office (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Describe the last difficult goodbye you said.  Every goodbye is difficult for me.  Just ask the people who are foolish enough to phone me.  Or ask W, who left for Ontario over a month ago, planning to be gone for 5 or 6 months.  Drive carefully and see you later hardly seemed adequate as proper send-off sentiments.  Any goodbye is easier if you can convince yourself it’s certainly not forever.  Even better if you can just avoid saying it altogether.  Especially when loved ones are physically gone.  As long as you remember them, they can be close forever.

Have you ever attended a film festival?  Not a real one.  But lately I’ve been having my own private little film festivals watching Netflix on my computer into the wee hours at least twice a week.  They keep making suggestions (if you liked that one, you’re gonna LOVE this one….) and I keep adding things to my “list”.  In order to see everything I want to see I’ll have to somehow become immortal.

At what point in your life did you start feeling like an adult?  That would be yesterday around 4:00 p.m.  The feeling did not last long.  It never does.

What are you most looking forward to doing this summer?  Watching the grass grow.  And then watching someone else cut it.  I’ve used up all my holidays until the fall.  I have no trips planned.  I work four days a week and sometimes cover for holidays. So between working and lawn observation and talking about it here, I’d say my schedule is pretty tight.  No one else would say that, so I figured I might as well.

Create a new television show that will delight audiences.  Okay, and then what happens?  Will I get paid for this?  Or are you just toying with me?  Like when I’m asked for advice and then told how stupid it is?   Sorry, I’m not falling for this one.  The most delight I get out of the tv is when it’s turned off.  I don’t think that will  be a really popular option.

Who do you trust with your biggest secrets?  Since I can’t think what those biggest secrets might be, (or if I ever had any they appear to be long forgotten),  I suppose I can trust myself to not go around blurting them out to the world.

Recall one of the best teachers you’ve had.  Everyone I’ve ever met has taught me something.  Life itself is the best teacher.  And age is irrelevant.  Newborn baby, teenager, ninety year old – everyone has wisdom to share.  You just have to shut up and listen, mostly with your heart.  Sometimes with your eyes closed.

Do you think smoking should be banned in all bars and restaurants?  Yes.  And also in all private homes, public places, and parked or moving vehicles.  And anywhere else on the planet that’s not covered by those categories.  People should be encouraged to find a less disgusting way to kill themselves.

Name a song that always puts you in a good mood.  I’ll do better than just name it – listen to this and you will be inspired to figure out your own little happy dance.

About Hummingbirds and Summer

This is a close up picture of a Papyrus greeting card that I was given.  I was thinking I should use it for my submission to the weekly photo challenge (this week the theme is Summer), even though I’ve never been part of that challenge before except as a spectator in awe of other people’s photographs.  Perhaps this particular photo choice will give you a clue as to why I’ve been reluctant to take the challenge.  I might not be taken seriously.  Because the word “summer” probably  doesn’t normally conjure up visions of paper flowers covered in glitter and little glass beads.

However, hummingbirds should make you think of summer, and the Papyrus people appear to be obsessed by them.  So if you take that into account, maybe my summer greeting card makes perfect sense.  And if not perfect, at least a miniscule amount of it.  Here is what they have to say about hummingbirds.

Hummingbird
Hummingbird (Photo credit: Marie Carter)

Legends say that hummingbirds float free of time, carrying our hopes for love, joy and celebration. Hummingbirds open our eyes to the wonder of the world and inspire us to open our hearts to loved ones and friends. Like a hummingbird, we aspire to hover and to savor each moment as it passes, embrace all that life has to offer and to celebrate the joy of everyday. The hummingbird’s delicate grace reminds us that life is rich, beauty is everywhere, every personal connection has meaning and that laughter is life’s sweetest creation.

Now seriously, did you know all that about these little birds?  I’ll bet even THEY don’t know the half of it.  Still, the sentiments are lovely, and that’s really what greeting cards are all about.  They inspire us to say stuff like “Wow, this flower reminds me of the beach” or “good gawd there’s glitter everywhere!”   

I actually love this card – I don’t know why I’m making fun of it.  Even the envelope is gorgeous.  And I have nothing against hummingbirds as long as I don’t have to wash out those annoying feeders that people hang up to attract them.  E-cards are fun, but there’s something solid and comforting about holding a real one in your hand, seeing an actual signature, stashing it away in your sock drawer, taking it out and smiling over it at some future date.  And snapping a close up picture of it, if you have no real life to speak of.  That’s a definite plus for the real thing.

Pirate Radio

Why have I never seen this movie before?  Where have I been?  Under a rock?  How did I miss “The Boat That Rocked“?  Great soundtrack (’60s Rock and Roll), amazing group of actors (Philip Seymour Hoffman, Bill Nighy, Rhys Ifans, Chirs O’Dowd), exciting story, lots of fun!

When it was over, because it’s impossible to get too much Chris O’Dowd, I started watching “The IT Crowd” tv series in which he was one of the main stars.  And I actually laughed out loud.  A lot.

Either these shows are both excellent bits of entertainment or I’ve been living alone too long and Netflix has become my only friend.  Oh well.  Good times.

Cookery Advice for the Cooking Impaired

Timer
Timer (Photo credit: bargainmoose)

All the delightful cooking/baking/recipe-laden posts out there which should have an uplifting and inspirational effect on me are just not doing that.  Instead they’re making me feel mildly despondent and vaguely depressed.  Similar feelings of inadequacy wash over me when I flip through a cookbook full of glossy pictures of perfect end results, supposedly attainable by someone like me.  Of course that ‘someone like me’ would have to be able to follow directions and use the proper ingredients and not take short cuts.  Or suffer from delusions.

There are a few recipe books in my house which I rarely open.  And yet, there are many things I make that are nutritious and edible.  Some of them are even delicious.  People have asked me for my recipes.  Perhaps they were just being kind.  It doesn’t matter.  My point is, you’d think that after over 50 years of doing stuff in a kitchen I’d be a great source of information and have collected a lot of family heirloom type recipes and have a few priceless and wise cooking tips to share.

Well, I’ve let my sister be the keeper of the recipes since I never follow them anyway.  But I do have tips.  All gleaned from my culinary experiences of learning things the hard way.  And not being an expert on something has certainly never stopped me from sharing advice.  So here it is.

1.  Do not change your mind about what you’re making halfway through the process.  Once I was putting together a lazy cabbage rolls concoction in the crock pot and suddenly didn’t feel like eating rice so I left it out and threw in some beans and things instead, hoping to change the whole thing into chili.  The results were interesting.  But hard to describe.

2.  Set the kitchen timer.  Stay within hearing distance of the timer.  Do not second guess the timer.  The timer was invented so that you would be less likely to end up with results which are black – never a good cooking color.

3.  Keep the oven clean.  If you paid for the self-cleaning feature, you really should learn how to use it.  The next thing you bake does not have to smell like a smoky version of the last thing you roasted to death.

4.  Never skimp on wine, regardless of what you’re making.  Be sure to consume a sufficient amount of it.  I’ve found a good ratio to be 1 part recipe to 3 parts self.  An empty bottle should be your ultimate goal.

5.  Serve your guests copious amounts of alcohol before the main course.  And during, and after.  This ups the odds that they will thoroughly enjoy whatever you serve them and have no idea later what it was.

6.  If you are following a recipe, right to the end, good for you!  Just keep in mind that substitution of ingredients should not be based solely on color.  All orange things are not created equal.

7.  Give yourself a break and stop trying to make Aunt Edna’s mustard pickle relish exactly the way she did it.  Try to accept the fact that it is never going to be the same, and you are doomed to failure.  Unless you have some kind of obsessive compulsive glutton for punishment personality disorder, in which case I suppose no one can stop you, so carry on.

8.  If you don’t know how to skin a hazelnut, there is no shame in googling it to find out.  Although perhaps your basic problem has less to do with HOW,  and more to do with WHY you need to know that.

9.  Clean as you go.  This cannot be stressed enough, especially if something monumental like A Big Holiday Dinner is in the works.  The worst cooking experience I ever had was when my kids were small and we invited some other families over for a big meal and it took me all day to prepare everything,  less than half an hour for them to eat it all, and all bloody night to clean up the mess.  So wash things as you use them and put them away.  Especially those sharp knives.

Mongolian Beef with rice and noodles
Mongolian Beef with rice and noodles (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

10.  Have fun.  Be creative.  Try new things.  Keep that recycle compost bin ever at the ready.  It can swallow up a lot of failed attempts even when you can’t.  Toss things in a slow cooker and hope for the best.  When all else fails, take-out chinese is just around the corner waiting to soothe your battle weary culinary soul.

What’s to Read?

If you are what you read, I’m probably in big trouble.  This little list should speak for itself.  Although what exactly it’s saying is beyond me.

             

                        

                     

All of these books could be called romantic medical fantasy murder mysteries.  Or romantic suspense action thriller fantasies. Or some variation of some or all of those things.  With a bit of paranormal psychic stuff thrown in here and there to keep you on your toes.  As if real life isn’t strange enough.

I don’t pretend to do book reviews anymore, in case you’re wondering.  I just like people to see how I spend my leisure time and hope it helps to explain my mental state and lack of focus.  I’m not crazy, I just read too much.

E is for Etymology

E is for Etymology, Origin 1350–1400; Middle English < Latin etymologia < Greek etymología, equivalent to etymológ ( os ) studying the true meanings and values of words.
One of the first things I do every morning is play my many word games.  Apparently, that’s what WRITERS do.  Ergo, I must be a writer.  Ergo is another lovely E word, way quicker to type than therefore, ergo I decided to use it here and if I continue on with this sentence for much longer you will begin to seriously doubt I have any talent for writing whatsoever.  Ergo I shall stop.

If you love words too, check out

PR Daily News 

and click on Writing and Editing.  Or anywhere else, for that matter.  It’s full of interesting stuff.  The article that convinced me I must belong to that elite group called “writers” is here.  Because I love all those word games and play most of them every day.

MOST days I feel very smug and smart with all the words I know or can figure out and sometimes am even able to spell correctly.  Other days it’s good to bring that ego down a  peg or two by playing Etymologic.  The first time I played I got 4 out of ten by making wild guesses.  The best I’ve done is 8 out of 10 by cheating.  You can totally rationalize cheating if you convince yourself it’s in the interests of learning something new and has nothing at all to do with getting a less embarrassing score.

These games are also something I can enjoy by clicking away with one hand while using the other to drink coffee, another activity which gives me great pleasure.  I wonder where the word multitasking originated?  From Latin multis (much, many) and French tâche (job or task)?  Although the word tache without the accent can also mean ink stain.  So another plausible meaning might be too many ink stains on your fingers from writing so much, and ergo, get a keyboard you moron.

Having a good book on the subject of etymology seemed like such a great idea to me this morning that I searched Amazon for just such an invaluable source of information.  There were just way too many choices. What I ended up downloading to my kindle was this:

English Swear Words and Other Ways to be Completely Misunderstood, by Peter Freeman.

I doubt that it will be helpful for cheating at  Etymologic, but it could prove to be wildly educational.  Sort of like learning a second language, and probably a lot more fun than Latin.

Camera Shy Magpie

It’s amazing what two days of rain can do.  Get things really wet, turn things green, make the air smell breathtakingly fresh and clean.

First thing this morning, and I really do mean first thing, around six a.m. before anyone else in the neighborhood or their right minds had even considered getting out of bed, I looked out the bedroom window and saw a magpie strutting about on the back lawn.

It seemed like a brilliant idea at the time to get out there and get some pictures of him.  I don’t know for sure if it’s a “him” or not because male and female magpies look a lot alike, with the female having a more greyish white hood than the male.  Also if there are two of them, the female is the one that’s bossy and aggressive and the male is the one running away.  I’ve noticed that kind of behaviour in other species as well (not mentioning any by name.)

So, there I was, in the backyard sitting in a lawn chair with my coffee in one hand and my camera in the other and the magpie nowhere to be seen.   It’s a little chilly here at six o’clock in the morning.  The ground was still wet, there were little sparrows whipping about, traffic noises to remind me that I’m far from the wilderness, a light breeze and a silent wind chime.  It’s rather boring sitting around waiting for a magpie that refuses to materialize, so I put my inner detective to work to find out what’s up with the stupid wind chime.

And this is what I discovered on the ground beneath it.  With a little bit of rotted string attached.  They really should consider making these things with fishing line to withstand Canadian winters.

The bird feeder is almost empty.  The bird house (on the left up there and pretty much completely cut out of the picture by the side of the garage, is being used by some kind of little birds who are busily coming and going.  The patch of lawn that the meter movers destroyed has approximately four blades of green grass on it struggling to survive.

That magpie is always around when I don’t have my phone or camera handy – on the lawn, on the garage roof, in the bushes, hopping along the fence.  I swear I am not making this up.  But after about twenty minutes of impatient waiting around and with an empty cup and a cold butt I decided to come back inside where it’s warm.  Nope, I would never succeed as a bird watcher.  I’m also having serious second thoughts about this early rising thing.  For one thing, it eliminates the excuse of ‘not enough time’ when I don’t feel like going for a walk.  There’s still hours left in my morning for magpie stalking and other worthwhile pursuits.  Like windchime repair.  Or a nap.  Can my day get any more fascinating I wonder?

Stay tuned for more heart stopping developments.  That magpie could return at any moment.  And I might even be awake to see it and capture it on film.  Or not.  I hope the suspense doesn’t kill you.

Compositions Circa 1928 (Part Three)

The following are excerpts from a few of my mother’s history essays written when she was eleven years old.  They sound so incredibly familiar to me – not because I learned the same “facts” but because they’re put together with a string of bits and pieces of information to tell stories that basically don’t make a lot of sense.   I think I must have inherited my mother’s defective history gene!  How else do you account for finding history confusing and tedious.  Well, besides poor teaching and biased points of view, and a lot of very subjective thinking which we were expected to accept as the truth.  I always wanted to add my own take on things.  I think my mother might have been into that as well.

*****

Thanksgiving at the Trolls
Thanksgiving at the Trolls (Photo credit: martha_chapa95)

Thanksgiving Day is a very old festival.  The Hebrews kept it as the Feast of the Tabernacle.  The Greeks kept it in memory of their God Demeter.  They brought fruits and little pigs.  The Romans kept it in memory of their God Ceres. The next to celebrate it were the Pilgrims.  After leaving their own country they sailed to Holland.  This was done so they could keep their own religion which the king was persecuting.After reaching the coast of the United States they had to endure many hardships.  Their first building was a log church.  But in a few years they reaped a very bountiful harvest.  Governor Bradford thought they should have at least one day to thank God and have a large feast but the people wanted a week so it was decided they would invite their troublesome neighbors, the Indians.  This was a very busy week.  The men were sent out to hunt while the women baked.  The children gathered fruits such as grapes and wild berries of different varieties.

Then the day came at last, and also the chief and his bravest warriors, all dressed in war paint and feathers.  There were so many people that they spread the table outside under some trees.  The food soon disappeared.  The Indians could stay only three days.  They had a very pleasant time playing games and enjoying themselves in every way possible.  Before leaving they smoked the pipe of peace.  The Indians never disturbed the Pilgrims again.

*****

Edith Cavell
Edith Cavell (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Edith Cavell came from London over to Belgium to be a nurse in the year 1900.  When the great war broke out the officers thought perhaps she would be of some use and they were not mistaken for she became a great help in the hospital.  After the capture of Mons and Namur many of the Germans became fugitives.  She had many of the enemy in her hospital too.  Now she would help the fugitives escape.  If they did not get away the enemy would kill them.  Many of these fugitives tried to escape to another country or hide.  Many of the farms contained a number of these fugitives who were hiding.  Edith Cavell was an earnest worker in this work and many fugitives escaped death with the help of her.The enemy saw many of their prisoners were escaping so they sent a spy over to the hospital.  The spy was supposed to be a fugitive.  Edith very fondly offered the spy (not knowing that he was a spy) a place of safety.  The spy went back and told all this.

She was arrested on August 15th, 1915.  She was not allowed to see any of her friends.  Her trial came off on the 7th of October.  She was allowed to have a lawyer to speak for her but as he had never seen her before he gave little assistance.  They condemned her for helping many fugitives escape.  She owned up, but said “If I did not, they all would have been killed.”  But no one would help her.  She was shot the following morning.

This gave many countries who had not taken an active part in the great war new courage.  They fought and won.  She was a very good woman because she gave her life for the life of other people.  The people thought so much of her that they called one of their mountains Edith Cavell.

*****

In 1763 the Treaty of Paris was signed and this meant all the land except two islands were to be handed over to England.  So Canada fell into the hands of the English after the seven years war.  The people in England were paying for the damage done so they thought they would make the people in Canada pay for the damage so they put a tax on mail and letters.  The thirteen colonies south of the Great Lakes said they would not pay it.  Then they put it on the exports and again they said that they would not pay it.  They expressed themselves independant and became the United States.  But why did not the 14th colony, Quebec, join with them? 

English: British General Guy Carleton
English: British General Guy Carleton (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A governor was sent out to govern Canada.  He was Guy Carleton.  He thought since the people in Canada were French they ought to have laws to suit the French so he made some.  The boundaries of Canada were to be Michigan, Ohio, Labrador, Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois.  The French used the feudal system of holding land.  But they used the British Criminal Law because it was not so cruel as the French.  The French were of the R.C. faith.  One mistake they made was they had no legislative assembly which gave the people a hand in the government.  They sent their laws to England where they were read and found alright.  When these laws were put into force the French were very much contented and had no desire to leave Canada.  This was all due to Guy Carleton’s good knowledge.

So there you go.  Thanksgiving, Edith Cavell and the Treaty of Paris, in a nutshell.  Any questions?

(Not even about the boundaries of Canada??)  (Or how the French became once again discontented and the Indians reverted back to being a tad troublesome?)  I guess those are lessons for another day.

V is for Vanishing Point

Tunnel of Trees This long straight avenue has ...
Tunnel of Trees This long straight avenue has its vanishing point at the far side of this square. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The vanishing point

Is like tomorrow.

It’s always somewhere else

Fading
Fading (Photo credit: petalouda62)

And never here.

It’s not the point at which you vanish,

No matter how hard you might wish

 To run away.

You can’t make yourself dissolve

And cease to be.

You can gaze into the vanishing point.

You can walk towards it,

But you will never reach it.

Advancing on that point

Makes that point advance.

Give up this futile quest

And put it in perspective.

You imagine that others are able

To exit the picture,

Fade away

And disappear

Off the edge of the earth.

It looks like they can do it.

But they can’t.

They’ve only travelled on

To a different place.

The vanishing point is an illusion.