Thursday, January 29, 2009

O, For tuna!

Scottish poet Robbie Burns once wrote about foresight being in vain – addressing a mouse. A plough had turned up the beastie’s nest and the poem is basically an apology for the vicissitudes Man thrusts on critters.

Save your apologies, Robbie . . . critters strike back.

Even so, he got it right on one score. ‘The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley.’

Here’s how I know. A friend and his wife decided to splash out on a nice big piece of fresh tuna a couple of days ago. Now, if you’ve never eaten real tuna that hasn’t seen the innards of a can, you’ve missed one of life’s great pleasures.

So, of course, such occasions require careful preparation . . . especially if you have critters.

My friends love critters. Among them are a couple of dogs; one young raider and one crafty old girl. Like all pet owners, they’ve become adept in anticipating dognanigans in most situations. And, they’ve developed some sure fire methods for cutting them off at the pass.

So the wife set about kitchen preparations, and her man went into dog emergency preparedness mode. The dogs like resting in front of the big woodstove in the living room, and to make them even more comfy, they have nice big carpet squares to cushion them against the hardwood flooring.

The quick addition of a tastefully upholstered plywood barrier, and it’s win-win for all. Comfy dogs, well corralled.

So off went friend to ‘help’ in the kitchen. Nice when a plan comes together.

There came from the living room some scratching noises and some whining noises – the kind of canine sounds the sweet aroma of fresh tuna inspires. Incautiously, my friends ignored them and continued with salad prep and other side bits so that when the moment came to pop the tuna into the frying pan, they would be all set – with ambrosial delight mere moments away.

The noises grew more urgent.

“Are you sure she doesn’t need to go outside?” asked the wife. “Why don’t you go and check while I heat the pan up . . .”

He’d already moved through the doorway and had begun surveying the scene. Which was not pretty, at all. Indeed, the old girl had needed to go out and when she could hold it no longer, nature took over.

Wife immediately shut off the stove burner and hastened to investigate new urgent noises now coming from the room . . . mostly frustrated gurgles from her mate and the ticky ticky sounds of dog toe nails scampering door ward.

“What a mess!” she muttered, and switched into clean up mode.

Both swung into immediate action, and one breathtakingly speedy operation had all under control in jig time. Mess out, dogs out, order restored.

And then they heard it.
The unmistakable sound of feline munchery coming from the kitchen.

Oh, yes indeed. The best laid plans of mice and men are no match for the opportune pounce of a cat.
Photo Credit: Here

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Everything worth reading carnival . . .

For everyone who enjoys a good read, check out the Everything Worth Reading Carnival, located HERE

The best description of this blog is probably the publisher's own:

"What It's All About
Here's a monthly compilation of posts that are just good stuff. Don't send your how to guides. Don't send your business tips. Don't send financial advice, relationship therapy, or cutesie tales of two-year-old iguanas. Send your best writing--writing being the key word here. Be sure it's interesting. Ask yourself, is this the best dang thing on the web right now? If so, send it. Once a month, I'm giving up my own words to promote yours."

To which all I can add is: there really is something for everyone!
Photo credit: HERE

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Ear Worm cures . . . don't.

I’ve had ‘All Night Long’ playing in my head since early last evening. Okay, already. It’s mid-afternoon of the next day – why are you still here, I ask?

Well, according to the Great They who ‘say’ all the pithy things, a song stuck in your mind that way is called an Ear Worm. I’m thinking this is definitely one of life’s little vicissitudes, since it’s a change way beyond my control.

Now some people tackle Ear Worms by fighting fire with fire. This ‘cure’ consists of picking a different tune in an attempt to drive out the offending one. The Ear Worms are on to this. They simply call in the reinforcements, and voila! A new Ear Worm takes over.

I’ve been through the whole repertoire with that one. I went from ‘It’s a Small World’ to ‘Annie’s Song’ and through the entire, irritating score of ‘Phantom of the Opera’ in one epic session that lasted for days.

(Let’s not mention the Numa Numa era.)

You can try to distract yourself from the Ear Worm. Nothing rhythmic, though. Too slow an Ear Worm and it will take hours to clean a window. Too zippy and your morning jog could be a killer.

Then there’s the ‘foist it off on the next guy’ cure. Pick a sensitive, caring friend – one of the good listeners – and confide your problem. If you do it right, the Ear Worm will see the benefits of a welcome ear, and jump ship.

Ah, but just as nature abhors a vacuum, so do Ear Worms. Another will be along shortly.

Some say if you just sing the song through once all the way, it will give up. I tried that once. Although I didn’t get all the way through, I think it worked because I was certainly distracted and I shared with others. I’m just not sure I want to repeat the experience.

If you must break into a rousing chorus of “Drink! Drink! Drink!” from the Student Prince, a word to the wise. At your best friend’s wedding, it’s probably better to hold off until the reception . . . they didn’t seem to like it much in the middle of the Invocation.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

It's always nice to get a pat on the back . . .

Just a little bragging today. My posting on how we become like our mothers - "Oscar Wilde may have been onto something" - was included in the mid-January edition of Advice for Women from Women . . . a compendium of blog articles published every couple of weeks or so.

This edition includes pieces on Empowerment, Inspiration and Spirituality;
Families; Fitness; Health, Money & Finances; Parenting, and Women.

Tons of excellent reading there!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The leopard's spots are permanent. Bring on the tigers!

Sometimes change is so elusive it could just make you cry. Especially when ‘our control’ is beyond change . . .

My town lost its main industry and went into a ‘transition’ phase a few years back. All official plans and efforts have fallen short of restoring our former glory. We once had the highest per capita income in all of Canada . . . and the population was double its present number.

A couple of weeks ago on a local forum, the chat turned to finding GREAT ideas for revitalizing the town. The bandwagon got crowded very quickly and the atmosphere was heady and exciting.

Creative juices were spilling over, ideas big and small tumbling, the energy palpable; and at the crest of the tide a meeting was held. It was well attended, too, considering it was the night Grissom said goodbye.

Even live blogging for those of us who couldn’t get out to the meeting. Good stuff.

That was just last Thursday.

By this afternoon, as the comments and discussion continued on the local forum, it became clear that no matter what you do, leopards can’t change their spots.

A group that had happily embraced the ‘think outside the box’ and ‘let’s have great big hairy audacious ideas’ mantra; that declared itself open to all ideas and possibilities . . . is now mired in the minute details about rules, order and which idea is ‘worth’ pursuing.

Sigh. Just when I thought we could finally get outside the box and stay there long enough to see the horizon.

Just when I thought we had the makings of a revitalization incubator . . . community support to nurture and hatch all the dream eggs and grow a healthy future together, with many visions and no limit to the possibilities. Nosiree bob.

In the space of no time at all, the mantra is: prioritize the worthwhile, shelve the ‘other stuff.’ Attempt only the do-able, dump what isn’t immediately apparent. Go with the obvious, the known, the norm . . . And the reason? Because that’s how it’s always been done, and we shall do no other.

So, “we’re leopards. We can’t change our spots. And you must be a leopard, too.”

Pity . . . was nice to catch a glimpse of the horizon and what might have been.

I’m praying the next generation emerges as tigers. They’d better, or we leopards are doomed. It’s not just our spots we can’t change.

Picture credit: here

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Handmaidens #2: Double Whammy!

Under favorable conditions, the Handmaidens are known to collaborate; the better to delight the gods of laughter with more of life’s little vicissitudes.

Earlier today, the Handmaiden of Anomalous Weather Events lay sulking under a mud pack at the Celestial Spa and Tea Room. Others simply weren’t taking full advantage of her marvelous spate of unusual winter storms.

Oh sure, snarling up holiday travels had teased guffaws from the laughter gods, but it seemed puny reward for so much effort. She’d been aiming for paroxysms of merriment.

From a massage table nearby, there came a long, theatrical sigh that could only be the Handmaiden of Opportune Whimsy. Ears perked around the room.

“Things are so dull just waiting around for opportune moments,” said Whimsy. “Can’t you ladies come up with some new ideas?”

“Oh, goodie, a throw down!” came a chorus of chirpings. “Count me in!”

Before long, the place was alive with clusters of Handmaidens happily plotting. Weather shifted her acute hearing from group to group; finally zeroing in on a promising chat. Moments later, she had quietly insinuated herself into the conversation.

“But now we’re into the quiet spell,” the Handmaiden of Capricious Cookery whined. “You know after all the holiday baking, and the turkey dinners and whatnot, they pretty much vamoose out of baking mode until the next Birthday or even Valentine’s Day.”

Whimsy nodded, and sighed.

“Not all,” ventured the Weather Handmaiden. “My awesome inclement weather? A lot of them had to postpone their travels. So their hostesses didn’t do all that baking and cooking. Some are just getting around to it now! Isn’t that delicious?”

Cookery’s eyes grew bright. Whimsy’s too; inviting Weather to say more.

“In fact,” Weather leaned in and lowered her voice. “I know of one right this moment preparing shortbread for the oven. Yes, even as we speak. And walnut snowballs . . . you know, those little cookie balls dredged in powdered sugar?”

“Whee!” cried Cookery, clapping her hands in glee. “Those both need perfect timing and temperature to get them just right! Ooooh, this is going to be so fun.”

“That’s not all,” Weather winked at Whimsy. “Wait ‘til you hear this. Her son banked time all year at work to get an extended holiday. And he told her he’d even got a special prezzie for her birthday between Christmas and New Year’s. And even better! Listen, listen . . . my snowstorm kept him stuck in Victoria for his whole banked vacation time! With a cold, to boot! Fun, huh?”

“That is so good,” giggled Whimsy. “He was going nowhere! Hahahaha.”

Cookery tugged at Weather’s arm. “So now for the weekend, he can finally drive ‘up island’ to see the Mom? And the Mom is baking his favorites! Wheeeee!”

Okay, if you haven’t guessed by now, I’ll just tell you how this ends. The shortbread turned out just fine. As for the walnut snowballs? . . . Well, nuts.

Folks, when your oven temperature dial says 350 degrees F. but your oven is actually hot enough to keep molten lava in a liquid state – what else could it be but a visitation from The Handmaiden of Capricious Cookery?
Photo credit: here

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Noodles in the economic crisis . . .

Global trade’s a hot topic just now, what with the plummeting world economy and everyone scrambling to hang on and weather it through.

But hey, you can only sustain the big fears and worries so long.
Eventually by the trickle-down theory, those big changes effect smaller ones. And smaller ones again, until they finally get whittled down to a size we can cope with – as ‘little’ vicissitudes that make us smile.

The one I met today made me laugh out loud.

See, I bought a different brand of noodles recently. (Global trade and all that.) I’m open to trying new things and they were pretty economical. Good selling point, these days.

Now, I usually read packaging closely. We British Columbians are noted for it. (I saw that on the CBC so it must be true.)

This time though, I was in a hurry and after all, what’s there to know about noodles? “Aha,” cried the gods of whim . . . “just you wait and see!”

I decided to try the new noodles today, and looked at the cooking directions.


Put noodles into boiling water.

After 2-3 minutes, (at first cook it by strong fire for two minutes and then cook it by moderate fire little by little) please stir it by chopsticks.

The lustrous, bright, soft and nutrient noodles should be poured by cold water after it is recovered from water.

The making method is unique and needs short time for cooking. The noodles can be cooked, souted* and scalded. It can be cooked into delicious noodles according to your taste.

*(I think they mean ‘sautéed’ but the French ‘mode d’emploi’ doesn’t mention it, so I can’t be certain. Ah well, vive la différence!)
For the moment, I have no idea what they're going to taste like. Haven't had the heart to tear open the package . . . it's just so darned cute!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Why the orange bridge isn't orange . . .

Ask for directions in Port Alberni, and likely someone will say “just past the orange bridge.” Now, when you’re half way to Tofino and still looking for the famous “orange” bridge, chalk it up to one of life’s little vicissitudes.

The orange bridge isn’t orange any more.

It used to be. Old timers and those ‘in the know’ still refer to the bridge across the Somas River by its insider name. Some think it’s cute; others find it annoying. I found it puzzling.

Intrepid researcher I am, I had to know why the orange bridge is grey. My query to the province’s senior engineer in bridge design and construction standards brought a prompt reply.

Before 1995, when bridge design was centralized in Victoria (our fair capital), bridge colours were chosen by the Director of Bridges. Oh, I love that title!

After 1995, it became part of the Regional Bridge Engineers’ duties. Colours were chosen “both to be distinctive and to blend in with the environment.”

Newer bridges made from weathering steel don’t need painting, but older bridges do. Generally the same colour was used in repainting so as “not to disrupt local reference” unless there was a reason not to.

Ah, what could that reason possibly be, you ask? Well, one of our Regional Engineers says a former Minister requested orange not be used as a bridge colour. And that may be why the Port Alberni bridge was recoated grey.

I got a giggle out of the “not to disrupt local reference” comment. No fear, the former Minister can rest easy. That coat of grey paint has had no effect whatsoever.

In local reference, “the orange bridge” lives on.


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The sound of cellophane: inventors, take note!

The day someone invents this dog training gadget, I’m going to rush out and buy it.

No more whistling, hand clapping or calling dog names! No more “meh, I’ll come when I get around to it.”

Just one simple button to press, and voila (!) dog obedience like you’ve never experienced before.

Guaranteed gold.

Please, somebody make a device that emits the sound of cookie packages being unwrapped.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Taking down the Christmas lights

The 6th of January;
last night for
Christmas lights
. . . as ever,
a night for reflection.

Light, in the Dark of December

No Christmas lights adorned that house
For many years.
He had lost interest and gotten old.
And often the house seemed dark.
Yet fittingly so, in a peaceful way.

When his daughter died
It was decided he could not live there alone.
The house stood forlorn, unfittingly dark
Reflecting my sorrow from its empty face.

A new, young couple live there now.
They sleep late. The curtains are wrong.
They order pizza. A lot. But, oh my,
They’ve gone and put up Christmas lights!

All haphazard and higgledy-piggeldy,
Like kindergarten artwork full of joy and hope,
Bold, bright, alive.

If my friend could just see what they’ve done with the place!
Hard not to smile at what she’d think of that.
Awash with memories and glad of her friendship,
Fittingly light in a peaceful way.

And then it comes,
As clear as harp notes - epiphany in the midst of advent.
The view from my window has completely changed . . .
Life burgeons on.

©Devon Coles, 2007

Monday, January 5, 2009

Cobwebs happen

I was quietly brooming the edges of our ceilings this morning, knocking down cobwebs.
Now, when your heart’s desire is to live in an older, ‘character’ house, you have to accept the fact that cobwebs happen – yet another of life’s little vicissitudes.

Photo credit: here

Mulling over what I knew about cobwebs, I was wondering if the new woodstove was causing more of them to happen, or just
making them more noticeable because smoke always escapes whenever I put in another piece of wood.
I’d worked my way around the bedroom, the home office and the alcove leading to the living room. The hub lay on the couch recuperating from the morning’s snow shoveling all ruddy cheeked and soaking up the warmth and quiet when I entered, brooming.

My eyes swept past him to the daily drifts of dog hair. Later, I told myself. I’ll just quietly attend to the cobwebs and not shatter his rest with our noisy vacuum. Pretty sure he’d followed my glance and read my mind. He seemed to snuggle deeper into the cushions with a satisfied sigh.

Halfway around the room, I chanced to think out loud, “I wonder why they call them cobwebs?”

Came the reply, “those spider webs? I don’t know.”

We chatted briefly about how many there were under the house (where he had spent extensive hours on the weekend, chasing down a furnace problem.) And whether they build them in draughty spots for catching prey. And if the new woodstove was ramping up the action, or just making them more obvious.

“Anyway,” says I, “why cobwebs? I mean, I don’t even know what a cob is. I’ve sure never seen a cob making one.”

He fell silent, as I hoisted my broom back to the task. The wood fire crackled comfortingly. The dogs lay curled on their respective floor pads and all was quiet and cosy. Several pleasant minutes passed in sweet enjoyment and quiet contemplation.

“I’ve never seen a mo,” the hub said at last.

My broom halted in mid swipe. “I beg your pardon? A mo? What do they look like?”

“I don’t know. I’ve never seen one.”

My brain jogged in several directions, feeling lost. “Then wha . . . why . . . huh? So what is a mo?”

“I don’t know. I just know they have hair.”

Yep. He’s a man of few words, but they’re cherce.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Gods of Laughter’s Handmaidens #1: don’t give me any static!

I can’t quite picture the gods of laughter laboring like mere mortals. There must be handmaidens. Little willing minions who flit about our lives laying landmines of innocent merriment for us to stumble over.

Photo Credit/copyright: Darrell Coomes (here)

What fun! We had a visit from the Handmaiden of Static Electricity this weekend.
Yeah, I know. She’s probably been over to your place too, but I’m not jealous. I will not hog any of the Handmaidens all to myself.

Now, I do understand there’s a scientific explanation for what causes funny little sparks to shoot off your fingertips when you shuffle across your carpet and reach for the doorknob and let the dogs out for the umpteenth time. I just happen to like my explanation better.

I also get a charge out of patting the darlings as they go. They do too. Slippers on carpet generate a pretty good zap.

Now, in an effort to save the planet and some pennies, I chanced to make a small change in my shopping routine the other day. I purchased a box of 50 lightly scented paper dryer sheets. Not my usual brand, but 100% paper made from renewable resources; and they cost about half the price of my other ones. And it says right on the box “controls static cling.”

It was my choice to make the change. They do caution you not to use them on children’s sleepwear as they may reduce flame resistance, but we don’t have little kids around anymore, so I felt safe.

Ah, silly me. The gods were watching.

When the dryer stopped, I hastened to see how my thrifty new find had worked. The clothes smelled nice. They seemed very appreciative, in fact. As soon as I reached in to retrieve them, they rushed en masse to embrace me in some sort of happy reunion with a weird Velcro wardrobe doppelganger. Ooh, looking snappy. Sparks of love everywhere!

When the hug fest got back under control, I searched for the two halves of the sheet to safely dispose of them. One cowered in the filter screen, exhausted by all that love, I guess.

The other was no where to be found. It didn’t show up while I was neatly folding between snaps and crackles. Both dogs kept their distance, and lay there alternating raised eyebrows in that bemused doggie way they have when humans do quirky things.

Nor had the missing half fallen on the laundry room floor, or found its way into the dryer exhaust . . . which is a tricky job to search thoroughly. Vanished into a parallel universe, to play with all the odd socks and missing face cloths that had gone before?

Nope. It resurfaced this afternoon. I’d grown a tad testy with more snow falling and continuing adventures with furnace issues. That, and this annoying little itchy spot inside my sweat shirt lending a discordant counterpoint to the ambiance of a wintery Sunday afternoon. I finally had to check it out or go mad.

Mmm hmm. One scratchy half sheet of used lightly scented 100% paper made from renewable resources, playfully clinging to the fuzzy side of my freshly laundered (lightly scented) sweat shirt. Oh yes indeed, the handiwork of the Handmaiden, for sure.

On the upside, this whole episode sparked some pretty funny reminiscences with the hub about unforgettable static electricity moments in our lives. I’ll spare you the details; I’m sure you’ve got your own.

The Handmaidens never rest.

Things look different around here

Ah, change.

I've tinkered around with templates this weekend. The new look is for a couple of reasons.

First, I like it better.

Second, you can spot the comment button a lot easier.

Third, I find it easier to read.

The last is so that I could start sharing links to some blogs I rather enjoy reading.

If for some reason you don't see a fresh, new look here, please try refreshing your browser.

Thanks, everyone. Hope you like the new look.

Friday, January 2, 2009

We want our old TV back; it got better shows . . .

Last night, the hub looked up from his postprandial ritual of perusing the listings and announced, “I’m thinking of bringing the old TV back in from the shed. We got better shows on it.”

When the giggles subsided, we talked a bit over why we’re saying more often, “gee, there’s nothing on tonight.”

There used to be, when we had the old TV.

That was before the writers’ strike threw a monkey wrench in the schedule. And before the holiday season, a traditional time of specials, filler movies and heavy advertising.

And don’t forget about this crazy weather keeping us indoors more. It lends a flavor of dull old sameness to just about anything if it goes on too long.

Our typical rainforest winters get a bit sodden, but we can walk just about anywhere with the dogs without suiting up for a polar expedition first.

These being forces of change beyond our control, there’s no point arguing with the hub’s logic. He’s wasting no time on asking why things are as they are.

Heck no!
Take action . . . and think of something you can do.

Okay. But only if he brings in the really old TV. The one that got Mannix . . . or Hogan’s Heroes . . . maybe some Rowan & Martin . . . or booyah! The Prisoner.

Now you’re talking.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Oscar Wilde may have been on to something

Oscar Wilde once quipped, “All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy.”

A friend I haven’t seen in a couple of years read my axe murderess posting and immediately fired off a tizzy storm of questions yesterday. What Bell’s Palsy!?! Why didn’t you tell me?! And, what the heck is Bell’s Palsy, anyway?

Come to think of it, she’s a lot like her mom.

My own mom once suffered a full-blown panic attack in a supermarket. Dad had to peel her hands off the shopping cart to guide her out and drive her home. The cause of the attack? She was embarrassed by some small incident long lost in memory – and filled with morbid dread that people would notice.

Don’t get me wrong. My mother is a woman of amazing character with many fine qualities I strive to emulate in life. Being rendered helpless by embarrassment just doesn’t happen to be one of them.

And yet, my first reaction to my friend’s email was to say (like mom), “oh, not to worry, just another of life’s little vicissitudes.”

I caught myself in time. Even though Bell’s Palsy is indeed a force of change that happened beyond my control, my friend deserves a real answer. So, why hadn’t I told her – and almost no one else who hadn’t actually seen me in this condition?

Because it’s embarrassing.

Basically, it’s an interruption of the message system your brain uses to tell your face to smile, or wink, whistle or wince – but just on one side. The side not affected can only wonder why it’s suddenly stuck with all the work and none of the joy. The over all effect is . . . surprising.

I know I made a singular impression at a wedding in July when my face was at its most startling stage . . . you’re just so front and centre when you’re the mother of the groom.
And a job interview a couple of months later also held a certain thrill. The kind that comes when you just don’t know the moment when you’ll suddenly find yourself gazing into several astonished faces simultaneously.

Well yes, you are embarrassed – and they are, too.

I’m still available, btw, if anyone has a gig to offer.

Five months in, the surprises and thrills have become more subtle. Most (80 – 90%) gain full recovery, usually within a few months. And I’m doing interesting exercises to help retrain the muscles. I suspect my penchant for cracking up – they DO look hilarious – may be slowing the process somewhat. But don’t expect any video postings . . . they’re just so embarrassing.

Okay. So I haven’t entirely surrendered my self esteem to this temporary condition, but I’ve still allowed myself to act in ways to avoid being embarrassed. Like staying a bit housebound and being slightly withdrawn with friends who would have liked to know what I was going through and the chance to be the supportive, caring people they are.

Come to think of it, that’s a lot like my mom.

So, question of the day. Did Oscar Wilde just toss off a silly quip . . . or was he actually on to something? Please share a comment and let me know what you think.