Monday, December 31, 2007

TGLP Gratitude Monday – I’ve Got Rhythm Edition

It’s the final Monday of 2007 and I’m pleased to report that it is not my final Monday. My heart is now ticking in proper rhythm after having an irregular beat for quite some time.

I didn’t know it was zipping along with an extra tick, a kind of grace note of the heart if you will. The top chambers of my heart weren’t working at all while the bottom chambers were skittering along like a mad hamster on a loose wheel. This led to fluid in my lungs.

I’m grateful this was found and treated successfully.

Over the years I’ve heard many a patient complain about being poked and prodded and injected and bled. Complaining is the height of ingratitude. If you didn’t want your life saved, then why did you seek treatment?

I spent 10 days in three different hospitals. At least half a dozen doctors and more nurses than I could count put their skills, training, and experience into saving my life and making me healthy again. I am grateful for their diligence.

And to all my blog buddies: thank you so much for your well wishes, kind words, good vibes and virtual chocolate.
It was heartening (the pun’s unavoidable) to hear your concern for me.

I’ll be writing in great and glorious and maybe even gory detail about my experiences in future posts. I even have photos.

For now, I’m just happy to be here.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007



Thanks so much to everyone who worried and sent good vibes and virtual chocolate. It all helped.
I got home Christmas Eve and am a bit weak, but healthy.
I'll be blogging again shortly, and there's not a blessed thing any of you can do about it.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Fodder For Later

Have you ever made small talk with a call girl?

I have. My former housemate of 25 years ago, R. Airhead,* used to call a particular escort service, avail himself of the product, then tell the service provider he had no money.

Airhead, in fairness, had been in a very serious accident and had to relearn to walk. It also left him with the attention span of a gnat. Perhaps that’s why he got away with it. Despite his getting along in the world, having a job and driving a car and even having a girlfriend, he really wasn’t all there.

Maybe it’s because I’m a writer that I can see something interesting in most people. Certainly Airhead provided plenty of fodder.

So I did have a bland conversation with an escort one evening while the guys of the house asked some specific questions regarding services and rates, etc. It was several years before I could work it into a conversation, but one boring afternoon at the newspaper my knowing the rates for services perked things up.

On another occasion I was reading one of Frank Herbert’s Dune series when either his girlfriend or a service provider asked, ”What have you got there, a book?”

And one stellar evening I came home to a lovely aroma that originated in my closet. My nose led me to a suitcase stuffed full of individually packaged bags of pot. When I confronted Airhead about it he bragged that it was about $10,000 worth and all I had to do was tell the cops it wasn’t mine.

I’m glad I’m able to look though a writer’s eyes and see all this as interesting bits of life to be used later. Sure, he was irritating as all get out. But between drugs in the closet and the knocks on the door that might be someone coming to clear up a debt, Airhead made life exciting.

*Airhead was our nickname for him.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Merry Subversive Christmas

Feeling subversive? Why not throw caution to the winds and send out an old-style season’s greetings? Wish someone a Merry Christmas and don’t apologize for it.

Canada and the US are among the worlds Christmas celebrating countries. This is not a crime even as millions of citizens of those countries are of a different faith or no faith at all. So what?

Would anyone water down his or her Happy Hanukkah greeting? Or apologize for a hearty Good Yule? No, nor should they. And anyone who follows the Christmas tradition shouldn’t have to torque down their beliefs either.

It’s another symptom of the fear of difference. We think we’re doing everyone a favor by homogenizing the holiday.
Instead we get head-shaker moments like the New York store’s hams for Hanukkah window display.
And this from the Department of Antipodal Assininity where a Santa was fired for saying Ho Ho Ho. All the Santas in this Australian store were instructed to say Ha, not Ho, because the American slang meaning may offend some women.
Mr.Subversive Santa got all traditional and said Ho anyway. It got him turfed.

Enough fun. My point is while not everyone is a Christian those who are ought to be able to celebrate their season openly and without shame.

Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Gratitude Monday - Every Breath I Take

We take so much for granted like water will gush out when we turn on the tap, and when we hit that little button the computer powers up, and when we go to the grocery store the shelves will be stocked with all that we need and don’t need.

We don’t think about our new basics of life like electricity and running water and mass produced food. These are the simple facts of our daily lives, like breathing.

But what happens when something as basic as breathing is no longer simple?

The other night I awoke in the early hours and kept having to toss and turn in order to find a proper position for breathing. Some were good for inhaling, others provided some limited ability to exhale. Finding a position that offered both was difficult.

I didn’t get back to sleep for several hours and when I did the sleep was nearly as shallow as my breathing.
I have mild asthma and have been blessed to not be bothered much by it for the past several years. This has reminded me that I am grateful for every lungful of air I can get.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

December Abundance

It’s the new moon and you know what that means. It’s abundance cheque time.

What you do is this: within 24 hours of the new moon in your area, take a cheque from your chequebook. If you don’t have a chequing account, then draw a cheque on a piece of paper and fill it out accordingly. It’s all the same to the Universe.

Put your name in the Pay To line and write Paid In Full in the amount line underneath. Write Paid In Full in the little box where the dollar figure goes.
Sign it The Law of Abundance.

Do not date it. Do not write a dollar figure anywhere on it. If you like you can write Thank You in the memo line.

Put the cheque away and get on with your life. The Universe will look after the rest.
Bear in mind abundance means many things beyond money. You’ll get what you need.

Happy Abundance.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

For The Birds

One casts a longing look to the peanut feeders.

As another prepares to launch from a tree.

The Downy Woodpecker from the shed got there first.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Feed And Tree

We get Hairy and Downy woodpeckers here and they are very pleased with the peanuts and peanut butter we set out for them.
This Downy couple were by several times on Sunday and consented to be photographed.

I'll be posting other, better photos later.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


Memories of autumn for a cold, late fall day.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Gratitude Monday – Herbal Remedies

I’m happy to say I’m feeling much better. For the past 5-6 weeks I’ve had what felt like a very friendly and very well-fed pussycat flopped on my chest.

It’s hard to love an oppressive weight and even harder to get shed of it. I tried the Edgar Cayce castor oil pack which in this instance did nothing. Lavender oil eased things a bit and assorted herbal teas helped to a degree. Commercial cough syrups did little. I almost went to a doctor, but decided instead to try a different cough syrup.

I had two choices, one of which I’d used many years ago. The other was totally unfamiliar. What they had in common was their ingredients were listed by botanical name. My husband has degrees in forestry and botany and ran a health food store for more than 12 years. He prefers plants be listed by their botanical names as the common names can refer to different plants depending where you live. Fortunately, he was with me in the store.

One syrup had only on ingredient which I think he said was an extract of geranium. The one I’d tried in the past has dandelion and loquat and European licorice and coltsfoot and a few other herbs. It was exactly what I needed.

I’m grateful the invisible pussycat is getting thinner. I’m grateful to be feeling better, and I am especially grateful that my husband understands botanical terms.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Throwaway Friday Presents – A Littlest Bunny Adventure

This will be my final Throwaway Friday story as it’s the last one from the vault. I’ve really enjoyed being able to show them off. Thanks for reading them and for your kind words in the comments trail.

Bunny’s Winter Friend

It had finally stopped snowing. His father was out scraping away the snow from the door and his mother was busily knitting some new ear protectors for her children when the Littlest Bunny woke from his afternoon nap.
He had a nap every afternoon because he was a young bunny and was always up early in the morning. Most of the time it was the Littlest Bunny who woke everyone else in the household when he sang his morning song to the sun:

Good Morning Mr. Bright and Cheery
I am happy you are here
You make it light and warm and bright
And tickle me, tickle me, on my ears!

He sang this song early every morning as the sun came up because he was a very happy bunny.
He had been up early today, too, even though the sun got up later in the wintertime and the Littlest Bunny sometimes had to wait a very long time to sing his song.
So he had his nap and was ready to go out and play in the new snow when he woke up.
It was crisp and cold out under the mid-afternoon sky. The last few snow clouds were bustling off to rest and refill as the Littlest Bunny stood outside on the freshly cleared path.
His father had swept away the snow all the way up to main pathway through Carrotvale and the Littlest Bunny decided he would go for a hop through the village to see what was happening.

It had been snowing for several days and most everyone in Carrotvale had stayed inside. Now that the sun was out many of the residents were busy outside clearing away snow. Several young rabbits were running and jumping into the big, fluffy piles of snow that were being made as the paths were swept.
“Wheeee.” He could hear them laugh and shout as they as they ran and he heard “Ooooomph!” as they landed in the snow.

He kept going, sniffing the fresh, cool air and looking around.
As he turned a corner he saw an interesting sight head of him. This was new. He’d never seen this path before and it seemed to go to the top of a hill. Maybe he could see all of Carrotvale from the top, he thought, so he decided to climb to the top of the hill to see what he could see.

What he saw surprised him. The Littlest Bunny had only ever been to Carrotvale and Farmer Spudbutter’s garden. This was new and very exciting. From the top of the hill he could see even more hills and they seemed to go on and on and stretch to the end of the world where they met the sky.

He forgot all about Carrotvale. These hills and trees were much more exciting for the Littlest Bunny so he plunked down in the soft, cold snow and watched them.
Soon he began to wonder if there were any more bunnies out on any of the other hills looking at him.
“Wouldn’t it be fun,” he said to himself, “to meet another bunny from somewhere else.”
“Helloooooo,” he shouted with all his might toward the hills.
“Hellllllooooooo” he heard back after hardly more than a second.
It sounded just like another young bunny!
“Where are you?” he shouted. And the answer he got was the same as his question.
“I am over here,” he said.
“I am over here,” came the reply, which the young rabbit didn’t find all that helpful. But it didn’t matter. He had found someone new to talk to.
The sun was sinking very low behind the hills and the Littlest Bunny knew he’d better start for home
“Good-bye,” he shouted and “Good-bye” came back to him, but a bit fainter than before and the Littlest Bunny decided his new friend must have already started for home.

Every nice winter day the Littlest Bunny came back to the hilltop hoping to talk to his new friend and every day his new friend was already waiting for him.
He had a good and faithful friend, but he hadn’t told anyone about him yet. For now he wanted his new friend all to himself.
His brothers and sisters wanted to know where the Littlest Bunny went every afternoon so one day his brother, the oldest in the family and in his third season of bunny lessons, followed him.
The Littlest Bunny went to the hill and started talking to his faraway friend. Soon he heard a noise behind him and turned around find his big brother two tree-lengths down the path with his ears pulled down over his face trying to keep from laughing.

“What are you laughing at?” he asked just a little annoyed that his brother was there.
“You,” said the older rabbit. “You are talking to yourself.”
“No I am not! I am talking to my new friend over there.” And he stretched out a little paw and pointed to a tree-covered hill in the distance.
“That is your echo,” said his big brother. “We learned about them in bunny lessons. Sometime objects like hills and bare trees will bounce your voice back to you when the air is just right.”
But the Littlest Bunny didn’t believe him. “He’s my friend, not my echo.”
“Okay,” laughed his brother, “you can have him all to yourself. But it is nearly time for supper so you’d better come home with me.”
So the Littlest Bunny shouted “Good-bye” to the hills and so did his big brother and they got two “Good-byes” back as they made their way home for supper.

The cold returned and more snow came down. The path to the top of the hill was not cleared again that winter so the Littlest Bunny did not get a chance to go out and talk to his friend any more.
Finally one warm spring day the Littlest Bunny could see the path was open again. He went to the top of the hill and looked all around him.
It looked so different. The bare trees of winter were now covered with their new green suits, a small stream was flowing through the bottom of the valley between the hills and some of the south-facing hills were smiling with red and yellow flowers.
It was a beautiful day in spring and the Littlest Bunny wondered if his winter friend was out enjoying the day, too.

“Hellooo,” he shouted, “how are you?”
He waited a moment or two, listening intently. He heard the chirrups and caws of some birds and a gentle breeze stirred through the new grass, but that was all.
He tried again, “Helllllloooo!”
Only the breeze and birds answered him.
“Oh,” he thought, “he must be busy playing. I’ll try again in the winter.”
And as he made his way down the hill he thought, “Maybe it was just my echo.”

But maybe it wasn’t.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Let’s Hear It For Grunting

I think about things. I sometimes even think before I speak and it’s gotten me into trouble. People wonder if I’ve been paying attention because I don’t respond right away.
What’s the rush? You’ve asked me a question. Do you really want to hear the first thing that comes to my mind?

I don’t think you do.

I got so disgusted with friends and acquaintance who treated me like I wasn’t all there because I didn’t have a fast answer for them. I no longer have those people in my life and I have no intention of acquiring replacements.

The quiet space between what they said and then asking me, “Are you there? Did you hear me? Are you listening?” was maybe two full seconds. It probably seems longer to the average person because:

a) we’re not used to quiet any longer.
b) most people don’t have any media training. We learned in our radio classes in journalism school just exactly how long five seconds of dead air is and it does seem to stretch out. Two seconds to the untrained likely seems like eternity.
c) most people are so full of themselves and their problems that they can’t imagine anyone not giving them their full, rapt attention.

Therefore I developed the caring grunt. This general response indicates that the speaker has been heard. This satisfies them for enough time for me to form a sentence of some sort as a legitimate response.

Maybe it’s common courtesy to indicate that I’m thinking. I can live with that. But isn’t it equally courteous to give someone a chance to think?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

In The Presence Of The Important Ones

I must be ever-vigilant. I’ve seen this happen so much that I’m beginning to think it’s okay to cross the centre line to park.

I saw this twice yesterday morning as I was headed up the street northbound. Some driver ahead of me whipped over and parked along the west side of the street. Within seconds someone else immediately ahead of me followed suit.

Rocky is built on a hill and crossing traffic to park, illegality aside, is stupid. We had fresh snow so it was slippery. This doubles if not trebles the stupidity of it. Both these drivers crossed in front of downhill-bound drivers on a slippery street. I’d hate to see anyone hit, but it is hard to muster sympathy in these situations.

This maneuver used to be know as a “Farmer’s U-Turn.” I always found that offensive as farmers are smarter than that, they do not believe the world owes them a living, and they care for the variety of really expensive equipment they drive in the normal course of running a farm. They also don’t think it’s their Dog-given right to park immediately in front of the business they’re visiting.

Rather it’s the busy people who are Very Important and understand that their convenience trumps all. Why should I walk across the street in the cold? I pay my taxes!

Of all the traffic offenses I’ve seen this one grates me the most. I don’t know why other than it’s to do with the mindset of drivers who do it. They’re lazy, they think they’re better than everyone else, and their time is too valuable to waste.

Maybe I should change my attitude. Instead of being upset maybe I should be grateful for being allowed to be on the same street as these Very Important People.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Blogiversary, Belated

My very first post was a year and 10 days ago. I didn’t have much to say that day. I was simply getting going and wanted to mark the moment.

It’s taken me awhile to get comfortable. I first thought I ought to Say Something Important. This did not last as I don’t always have Something Important To Say.
It’s been a fun year. I’ve written about seeing a ghost in broad daylight, and a unicorn. I’ve written about how important it is to be a Love Warrior and how great it is to be a BITCH.
I posted photos and made friends. I look forward to reading other blogs each day and I love getting comments.
And, I’ll be honest, I like the opportunity to voice my opinion about whatever comes to mind.
It’s given me the opportunity to express gratitude in public and it’s been a great place to post stories that would otherwise languish in the back of the hard drive.

I was computerless for the big blogiversary day, November 17, but I had a friend visiting for the weekend so I celebrated friendship face to face.

I still need to observe it in some manner. I need your help. What is the appropriate dessert for a one year blogiversary?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Gratitude Monday - Honey, I’m Home Edition

I’ve gotten through my long dark night of the blog and it is so good to be back.
I’m grateful for the break in that it showed me I’ve become dependent on cyber communicating. I experienced a sense of loss and disconnection.

I’m grateful for the library as I could go in and check my email and sort out the fun some of you were having on my blog. Thanks. I really enjoyed it.

I’m grateful for my blog buddies and for the contact and sense of community blogging brings.

I’m especially grateful that I have a chance to think before I respond. I’m not saying that I will think each time, but I have the option to do it and you don’t always get that in spoken conversation.

I have a new computer and an entirely new updated system. I’d been working with Windows 98SE until bulging and leaking capacitors finally did it in. Of course it had nothing to do with the UFO post I’d written. Nothing at all…

Anyway it’s Monday and I’m grateful to be back in the blogging saddle.

Thanks for your patience.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

From The Management

Technical difficulties are temporary.
Please do not adjust your computers.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Same Difference

A brief announcement during the news last night made me think. A city school had organized a celebration showcasing our differences.
This is good. Celebrated them and embrace them and we’ll soon have xenophobia on the run.

Twenty years ago we were insisting that we’re all the same. This annoyed me no end. At the core we’re all the same i.e. human, but everyone is different.
Shouting and singing insipid songs about how alike we are galled me no end. We fed the fear of being different by studiously ignoring it.
We trumpeted that the same was equivalent to equal. This was sad because all it did was perpetuate the myth that in order to be equal we must all be the same. And no matter how much we stomped and shouted and sang to the contrary, we really meant that you’d better be as close to white, English-speaking, middle-class, and straight as you can muster so you’ll be acceptably the same.

I often wonder how many psyches were damaged by this nonsense?

Before this gets any further, and to quell any misunderstandings, we are all human and therefore we are all equal. But do not offend my sensibilities by trying to cram down my throat that we’re all the same.

No two people are the same.

Now it seems we’re celebrating the differences. It’s about time. But I wonder, is it really okay to be different yet? Or is it only okay as long as we’re all the same?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Gratitude Monday – Playing With Food

My life is good. I suppose if I thought about it long enough I could complain, but why would I do that? If you dwell on the bad you’ll call more of it to you. If you wish to live like that it’s your business, but don’t come around me. I want nothing to do with you.

Why are we so ungrateful? Here in North America we’ve got so much more than so many and we still want more. Even our poor have it better than many others around the world. For the most we have more than we need. And we rub it in to the rest of the world by tossing away food, clothing, furniture, and most anything else that bores us.

Last week I wrote about food banks and clients who are flummoxed by some of the offerings. I’m grateful that I’ve learned how to work with the different beans and grains and I’m especially grateful that I can make a reasonably adequate hummus from scratch.

I have a cupboard stuffed with foods that can’t be distributed for whatever reason. This gives me a chance to experiment and create and learn. And it’s an acceptable way to play with my food.

I’m grateful for this opportunity and for the chance to learn while eating well.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Throwaway Friday Presents - The Pearl

I wrote this several years ago. I woke up with the idea and it would not let me go until I’d written it.

The Pearl

Once a long, long time ago a young woman left her village because she had nothing to give. She went out on her own in the cold, gray autumn with only her clothing and a small bit of food she hoped her family could spare.
The woman had no skills to offer the village. She was not allowed to hunt. The Elders believed she was too small to bring back an animal large enough to feed the many families who lived in the small collection of huts near the sea, and she was far too clumsy to make anything worth wearing.
She was a very shy woman. Whenever a man of the village showed interest in her she would run away, often stumbling over her own feet in a hurry to get back to her home and shut the heavy door so she wouldn’t have to speak.
The young woman had been to school. She could read and write, do figures as well as anyone else, and she asked many questions of her teachers. Many of the questions they could not answer.
She wanted these answers but no one in her village wanted to help her, she thought. She was too shy to press on whenever some one told her, “Go away. Stop bothering me.”

So she left her village and headed toward the west. The young woman had never been more than a few hours walk from her home, and only then to wander through the forest and perhaps rest against a tree. The woman liked the quiet. The people of her village were kind, but they expected her to be like all the others. They could not understand how someone raised among them could have been so shy and lacking in skills.
She was cold. The wind whipped through her long black hair and she wrapped her traveling blanket around her tightly. As she rounded a hill she spotted a cave a few feet off the path. The woman knew this would be a good place to rest for the night. It was dark in the cave, but it offered shelter from the wind and it would keep her warm.
And it was quiet.

In the morning she ate her last bit of food and started out once more toward the west. The look of the forest had changed. It was becoming more open now and in the distance she saw what she thought were crystals glittering on the ground.
Soon she was warm. A bright sun was shining and the sky was an unusually clear blue. At last she could see the glittering crystals ahead were the reflection of sunshine off a brilliant blue expanse of water. She had never seen so much water. It was so beautiful. She ran and ran toward it with her arms wide open and her face upturned to the warm sun.

At the shore she stopped. The wild roar of the water and the wind was strange to her, yet she felt drawn toward it. As she watched the waves she became mesmerized by their rhythm.
She walked in to the water.

Without thinking she dived in and felt the water rush by her body. She felt free. This was something she could do and it was exhilarating. The woman took a deep breath and dived under the surface. As she looked around her she was greeted by a strange sight, lumps on the sea floor. These lumps seemed to call to her.
She picked up one of the lumps and saw it was a shell. She opened it and inside was a perfectly round, smooth stone. She closed the shell quickly and took it back with her to the shore. As she opened it once more the sun shone down on the stone and the young woman saw the most beautiful thing she had ever seen.
It was luminescent and iridescent and smooth and round. The stone wasn’t just reflecting light; it seemed to have a light of its own. She smiled. This was something new. She had discovered this by herself.

The people of her village did not go to the sea. It was a strange and powerful place and it scared them. Elders told tales of the villagers of the past who ventured to the sea for food but had come back changed and no longer wished to stay in the village. Some had not returned at all.
It was much safer to hunt in the forest than take a chance on the water they learned. So they remained tied to their land and the ways they knew.

The woman knew she had found something precious, something worth more than all her life had been until then. She understood it would not be the same for her now. She took the shell with its small, beautiful stone and returned to her village.
She had something to give.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Today’s Beef

Yesterday I wrote about issues concerning food banks and clients. Here’s another part of the reason that gets good food tossed.
We must eat meat. We hear it all the time. The beef industry lobbied hard a few years back because Canada’s Food Guide came out with an emphasis on beans and other sources of protein. It was intolerable.

Before this gets any further our beef industry is currently hurting and needs some good public relations. Acting like this, out of fear, hasn’t done it any good.
I like beef. We had tenderloin last night marinated in a honey-wheat beer with garlic, cumin, and hot pepper. But a few days earlier I made baked beans from scratch. The white beans, molasses and demerara sugar in it were from the food bank. It was lighter fare, but filling, and a good source of protein.

But the message in Cattle County is clear and that means there’s not a lot of info made available about beans despite the fact they’re grown in southern Alberta right along with the feedlots.

Many commenters yesterday suggested providing information at the food banks about how to prepare foods like beans, lentils, chickpeas and the like. It’s a great idea, but it’s just the start. I say teach it in school.
Not Home Ec.,but agricultural studies. Teach the kids where the food is from and how it’s grown and harvested. Then explain how it gets from the bag on the shelf to the plate.
It’s sad that scratch food prep has to be taught this way, but if no one knows it at home, how else can it be done? Cooking real food is getting to be a lost art.

Most of us know that beer comes from malt barley. But do we known that other varieties of barley are make into flour and that pot and pearl barley make a great side dish?
I made some the other night. The ratio is 2:1 liquid to barley. The pot barley was from the food bank, so was the quarter-cup apple cider vinegar I added in, as was the aforementioned demerera sugar I used to help kick up the crushed dried mint I’d used for flavoring. Cover with a lid and stick in the oven at 350 for an hour. I served it with roasted lamb coated with a mild curry paste courtesy the food bank.
I didn’t always know what to do with barley, beans, chickpeas, lentils and other dried foods. I had to ask. I looked up recipes on the Internet. I played around to see what worked.

We’re pressured into believed we must have meat. Many poor people, food bank clients or not, will buy hot dogs filled with sodium and chemicals and meat byproducts when they could get more for their money with peas, beans, lentils, barely, rice, and many other dried foods.

We need the information made available on foods and scratch food preparation before the knowledge dies out with the last great-grandmother.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Food Bank Soup

I’d been wondering how to approach this subject, but this post at Virginia Lee’s blog gave me the focus I needed.
No one knows how to cook, and by extension, to think how to feed themselves anymore. Our grocery stores are filled with ready-made meals that require a few minutes of nuking. Certain of them have ingredients that I can’t pronounce. I’m curious as to what they are, but maybe I don’t want to know.

Canned tuna comes ready-mixed with mayonnaise. Convenient, of course, if hideously overpriced. Buy tuna. Buy mayo. Mix them yourself. Get up 10 minutes earlier if you have to. It’s cheaper and probably healthier.

Even if we wanted to make something ourselves it’s difficult to find the ingredients. It’s easier to buy the ready-made roast or the cubed, herbed potatoes, or sliced peppers, or the cooked bacon. Who cares what’s in it? It’s quick and it’s tasty. We’ve gotten so used to having everything ready that we’re losing the ability to make our own anything, including, as noted above, sandwich filling.

It’s one thing if you can afford to buy these items, but what about the people who can’t? Oil-rich Alberta is filled with food banks and they, in turn, are crying for donations. It seems the more we have the less we think of others.

The food bank issue has several aspects, but I’ll only deal with a few. One aspect is food banks need certain kinds of food like canned soups and beans. When those items fall short the money to buy meat or some such is put toward canned goods instead.

Another point is food banks must follow the same rules as grocery stores, and rightly so. No dented cans, nothing with a soiled, ripped, or missing label, and nothing that fell off the delivery truck.
But many of these items are just fine. A torn label on a can of tomato paste does not affect the contents. The box of packaged salads that fell off the truck is fine, too.

But a very big part of the problem is many donated items flummox the clients. Canned kidney beans are a known commodity, but dried kidney beans? Garbanzos? Mung beans? Lentils? What do we do? Who do we ask? Why should we bother?

So these unwanted foods take up space until they have to be disposed of. Good food gets tossed because it either can’t legally be distributed to the needy or because no one has a clue what to do with it. We’re so used to getting our food microwave-ready that anything that requires prep time, like dried beans, is a mystery.

So volunteers dispose of the food items. Because a family member is a volunteer at a food bank we have benefited from this disposal.
We’ve got mung beans and chick peas, and lentils and barley. We’ve got canned coconut milk and dozens of cans of tomato paste, and excellent, cold–pressed extra virgin olive oil in perfect containers.

We’ve had escargot which we did over the campfire, and quail’s eggs which I used in a warm potato salad. We’ve had red-wine vinegar and raspberry vinegar, and plenty of curry spices in various forms from dry to pastes.

The other night I threw together a quick soup with some chicken bullion, mung beans, and curry spices that were not distributed, as well as our own veggies and leftovers and a bit of rice.
It took less than 10 minutes to throw it together and it simmered about an hour. I made it because I knew how and I thought as I did it how much better our world would be if everyone else knew how to do it, too.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

A Scam With A Personal Touch

Has this ever happened to you? Has a scam artist tried so hard to convince you of his veracity that he’s called you?
We came home mid-afternoon yesterday to find a message on our answering machine. A man with a thick African accent, ostensibly calling from England, said he’d sent me an email and told me to check it.
I couldn’t make out most of what he said although the plaintive demands to check my email were clear.

My caller’s email wove a sad tale of being a Catholic priest with HIV who’d had his liver removed last year. Would I please help him disburse his 425,000,000 pounds to orphanages in my local area?

I had a good laugh over this. He greeted me by my first name on the phone and used it in the subject line of the email to fool me into thinking we knew one another.
His email appealed to both greed and a sense of compassion geared to helping the orphans. This is a brilliant move, especially with the added twist of phone contact for that personal touch.

It leaves me to wonder how does a poor, liverless priest with HIV get that kind of money?

And as my husband noted, he may not have a liver, “but he sure has guts.”

Monday, November 5, 2007

Gratitude Monday – Baking Day

We had our first snowfall yesterday. It didn’t amount to much, but it reminded me that I have a roof over my head. Not everyone does. Edmonton has a significant homeless population and shelters are filled to capacity.

My husband shoveled the snow. Much of it melted, but this prevents ice buildup in the driveway and behind the garage. This is very thoughtful.

The weather meant it was a good baking day. It gave me a chance to make my first pecan pie. I’d looked up a simple cookie recipe so I could use it as a stepping point for making peanut butter-chocolate chip-Irish Whiskey cookies, and found the pecan tart recipe a few pages later.
I substituted maple syrup for corn syrup and a coconut lard-Tahini hybrid for butter in the pie. Inventing is fun and the pie turned out okay.

I’m grateful that I can reason out substitutes for dairy products and I’m even more grateful that they commonly work out.

I used Polish Wheat flour (a.k.a. Kamut) in the cookies and I had the sense to sift it first. It’s smoother this way.
I had to sift the Spelt flour for the piecrust. Some might find that annoying. Spelt is in the wheat family and I’m grateful that I can use this flour. Sifting takes only a few minutes.

So here it is Monday again. I’m in a warm home and I live a life where if I feel like taking a baking day I do so.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Throwaway Friday Presents – The Littlest Bunny

Here’s yet another story of mine. I have a soft spot in my heart for the littlest bunny. Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to convince a publisher that this translates to sales.

Farmer Spudbutter’s Garden

It was once that there was a very little bunny. He was the very littlest bunny in the whole bunny family; in fact, he was the littlest bunny in all of Carrotvale. And he was always getting into trouble.
Now, it wasn’t because he meant to get into trouble, but it seemed to the Littlest Bunny, for that was all anyone every called him, that no matter how fast he hopped, trouble would always catch up and tweak him on the ears.

The Littlest Bunny wasn’t just the littlest; he was also the youngest in his family and sometimes he was all but forgotten in all the hopping and shuffling as his brothers and sisters got ready for their lessons or were excited to go and meet their friends in Farmer Spudbutter’s garden.
The garden was at the far end of a lane that went past Farmer Spudbutter’s house and down through the middle of a long, green yard. The lane was shaded by big, leafy trees with branches that reached out and met one another high above the ground.
One warm summer days squirrels played up and down these branches, jumping from tree to tree and chasing themselves along the length of the lane. The birds who lived in the trees sometimes swooped lazily around the garden looking for some thing to eat and in the autumn they helped themselves to the ripe berries that grew wild along the garden’s outer edge.

His brothers and sisters always said he was too young and too little to play with them and he would get lost among the cabbages if he came along. Sometimes he followed them, but they told him scary stories about the big birds that would come to the garden and carry him away to their nests if he went any further.
The Littlest Bunny didn’t really believe them, but he didn’t want to take any chances of carried off by birds so he always went back home.
The Littlest Bunny really like the birds, and knew he shouldn’t be scared, but he didn’t want to live in a tree for the rest of his life and maybe never taste his mother’s lettuce pie ever again.
But today was a different day. That morning, as the sun’s warmth tickled his whiskers and woke him up, he told himself, “I’m not scared of any birds. I’m going to Farmer Spudbutter’s garden!”

It was very hot in Farmer Spudbutter’s garden and the earth felt very warm on the Littlest Bunny’s feet as he hopped between the cabbage rows. He nibbled here and there, just enough to taste, but not enough so anyone would know he had been there.
He had already tried the carrots, which were very sweet and juicy, and the radishes, too, but they made his tummy feel almost as hot as his feet. He really liked the tender lettuce and he even ate a few peas, although the shells weren’t to his liking at all.
He was having so much fun playing and eating in Farmer Spudbutter’s garden that he forgot all about everything else and he ate and he ate and he ate. But he found his tummy was very full and he was getting tired, so the Littlest Bunny thought he should take the very littlest of a nap before starting out for home.

He looked around the garden for a place to rest and saw that the big yellow sun had disappeared and in its place was an even bigger big cloud. It looked dark and heavy, and a cool, forceful wind had come up.
“Oh,” he thought, “it is going to rain. I will have to stay in the garden.”
So he hid under a big lettuce leaf to keep the rain out of his ears and he fell asleep.

But the Littlest Bunny didn’t sleep very long. A big clap of thunder woke him up and shook the tops of the corn behind him.
He woke up with a start and shivered. The leaf over him bowed under the weight of the rain and now he was getting wet, too.
He was miserable. His tummy hurt from eating too much in Farmer Spudbutter’s bountiful garden, and he was wet and cold and scared and a long way from home.
He shivered some more and began to cry, just a little bit, because he wanted to be home where it was safe and dry. He sniffled and tried to hide deeper in the lettuce.
“I should have listened,” he thought. “They were right, I am too little to be out here all by myself.”

Just then he heard a scratching noise. He peeked out from underneath the leaf and saw a crow standing near his hiding place pecking at the dirt.
He remembered what his brothers and sisters had said about the birds carrying him off and he started to cry even more. Why hadn’t he listened?

“What is wrong little bunny?” asked the crow in a strong, but gentle voice. “Why are you crying? Are you lost?”
The Littlest Bunny wasn’t sure what to do. His brothers and sisters had teased him about birds, but this one seemed nice. “No, I am not lost,” he said. "But I am far away from home and my tummy hurts.”
“And,” he added, getting a bit braver now, and sticking up his fuzzy chin so his ears knocked the leaf away, “I am not just a little bunny. I am the Littlest Bunny.”
“Oh, I am sorry,” said Mrs. Cora Crow. “I didn’t know that is who you were.” And she tried not to laugh because the young, bedraggled rabbit under the lettuce leaf looked so serious.
“Do you live in Carrotvale on the other side of Farmer Spudbutter’s lawn? I live in the trees along his laneway,” said Mrs. Crow. “I often see other young rabbits in this garden in the early morning before Farmer Spudbutter wakes up.”
“Sometimes I have to chase them away,” she continued. “I don’t want to do it, but they scare away the worms and make it hard for me to get enough food for my babies.”
The rain had turned to a gentle shower and the wind had calmed down quite a bit since they started talking.
“You look tired, bunny, and I am sure you would like to be home with your family and not trying to keep the rain away under a lettuce leaf. Would you like me to fly you home?”
“Thank you, Mrs. Crow,” said the Littlest Bunny, for he was very polite and came from a well-bred family of Gentlerabbits who always said “Please” and Thank You.”
“I would.”

So Mrs. Crow spread out her wings and told the young rabbit to stand on her feet and hang on tight to her and to not be scared.
"I'm not scared,” said the Littlest Bunny as took hold of Mrs. Crow. He really was a brave young rabbit, and he was with a friend.
They flew high in the air, or so it seemed to the Littlest Bunny, because he had never been up in the air before and it was all new and wonderful.
They flew past the trees in the lane and Mrs. Crow shouted down “Hello” to her family and the Littlest Bunny tried his best to shout down “Hello,” too.
The sky cleared as they flew high above Farmer Spudbutter’s long lane and over the big farmhouse on their way to Carrotvale.
It seemed to the Littlest Bunny that they were flying so high that they would fly right into the sun, but then Mrs. Crow began to circle and start toward the ground and it was all over.

He was home. His mother ran out of the house to see what all the commotion was and watched as Mrs. Crow delivered her tired, smudged and still wet youngest offspring to her door.
She had never seen a crow or any other bird deliver a rabbit or anything else safely home and she didn’t know what to do except to say Thank You.
“You are very welcome, Mrs. Rabbit.” And she flapped her wings good-bye and took off toward Farmer Spudbutter’s lane.
The Littlest Bunny was very glad to be home and wanted to tell his brothers and sisters not to be scared of birds, but his mother was looking at him very sternly and he knew he should wait until later to tell about his adventures in the garden.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Thinning Veil

Today is Samhain. It’s New Year’s Eve for some of us and it’s one of the most sacred of holidays.

It’s also the night when the veil between the worlds of living and spirit is thinnest. That makes it a really good night for spirit contact. Even if you don’t try, someone across the veil just might be trying to get your attention. Keep alert.

If you want to contact anyone who’s crossed over, always say a prayer of protection first as you never know who might be cruising the currents. If you are going to open yourself up to contact, be safe. To do it simply ask God or your favorite Higher Being to extend his/her loving protection around you.
You can also add this declaration: “Only those beings who love me and work with me in the light may come to me.”

Be firm. Mean it.

Do this if you’re going to dust off any divination tools like an ouija board or dowsing rods.

Eat well. I posted earlier about foods associated with Samhain and offered a recipe for my Nightshade Casserole. If you’ve been meaning to try it, why not give it a go tonight? You don’t have to, but it would dovetail nicely with the holiday.
And set an extra place at the table for any spirit who stops by.

Whatever you do tonight, be it Trick or Treating or doing a reading, enjoy it. Get right into it and don’t come back out until you’ve had all the fun possible. Enjoy the night.

Happy New Year.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Talk About Gall

This tree has some character. It makes me think of magical forests and I fully expected to see a gnome or small mythological beastie pop its head around from behind it as I took the photo.

Sadly, what the tree has is gall. Something like an insect, bacteria, injury or what-have-you attacked it and changed its hormones.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Gratitude Monday – Soul Restocking

It’s Monday again and I am happy. Another week starts full of hope and possibilities.

The past week ended with a lovely walk in the West Country yesterday and lunch in Nordegg. It was once a thriving coal town on the edge of the Rockies, but the mine has been closed for more than 50 years. Tours of it are available in the summer, but mostly the area is devoted to recreation.

It’s in the mountains with plenty of camping, hiking, fishing, horseback riding, and most anything else you want to do right at it’s doorstep. It’s also got a hotel, restaurant, gas station and small store and it’s very busy during summer and hunting season.

It’s about 50 miles west of Rocky and an easy, scenic drive. I’m grateful for that. A trip out west restocks the soul.

So another week starts and anything can happen. Events are good, bad or indifferent depending on our perspective. I’m going to make an effort to keep mine focused on good.

From the walk around Goldeye Lake

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

First Rejection In

The week started off with my first rejection from the last batch of queries and proposals. The batch went out earlier this month.
On the whole it was a pleasant enough rejection. It was even a bit helpful in that it thoughtfully listed the reference books available for finding publishers.
Still, it was a standard, general rejection thanking me for thinking of the company and wishing me luck.

On the one hand, when I’ve got queries and proposals out I live in hope. It’s a lovely place and I return there whenever I can and I stay as long as possible.
But on the other hand the quick rejection is humane. And there’s more to come. It was one of half-dozen sent out in this final round.

A few years back my first manuscript had a few bites. My second manuscript had a few as well, though less than the first. So far, the third hasn’t any.
I wonder, shouldn’t this be the other way around?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Beer Or Brain?

We’ve all heard various urban myths over the years. There’s a wee bit of believability in them until you give the story some thought. Once you do that, stories like the kidney removal are barely worth the effort it takes to shake your head.

My first urban myth came from my mom. I was about eight years old, I think, and had been outside on a winter’s day waiting for my parents to return from a trip to a nearby town. I was wearing earmuffs.
According to mom some poor fellow in that same nearby town had been out making deliveries two weeks earlier, wearing earmuffs, and he froze his brain.
The story stayed with me. I didn’t have the capacity for critical thought at that age to realize it was less than possible for this to happen. Eventually I realized the absurdity of it. Years later I told my husband the story. To this day he calls earmuffs “brainfreezers.”

Sometime in the mid-1990s mom told me the story again as it had just happened two weeks earlier.
Oh, well. Poor fellow.

If the frozen brain is absurd, then this next story is preposterous. I heard it about 20 years ago when I was working in Fort St. John in northeastern BC.

Seems some members of the local Native population spent a good deal of time outdoors in the winter consuming alcohol and building fires to stay warm. According to my boss, the editor of the local daily newspaper, one woman fell asleep by her fire and wound up in the local hospital for eight days. She was okay, but the beer in her stomach was frozen.

I started to say something, but realized it was pointless. It’s a good story in that it covers so many bases. Alcoholism, racism, medical marvels, mysterious ways of the Natives, plus it’s entertaining and it makes the brainfreezers story sound legitimate.

So I wonder, now that the cold weather is upon us, if I put on some earmuffs, lift a few, and then sleep outside, which will freeze first, beer or brain?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Gratitude Monday – The Little Voice

The little voice inside will direct you properly. I’ve learned to heed mine, mostly, and it’s been worthwhile.

We’d been looking around for a new mattress to replace our 17-year-old foam IKEA mattress. I checked a store that specializes in foam mattresses. I checked IKEA, too. Something similar was available and it seemed logical to get the replacement from the store which sold me the product originally.

I was going to phone in the order and arrange for delivery (the nearest stores are two hours away) when I felt a nagging urge to check out a local furniture store.
I did. Spring-style mattresses were available and the store was having a sale. It looked good.
My husband was off work the next day so we went back, check things out again, and bought a new mattress. The price was good. Part of the deal on the sale was no GST being charged.
We bought it and brought it home. The whole transaction took less than an hour.
I heeded the voice that said to look there. Our mattress was replaced quickly and it was on sale.

The little voice inside is there for a reason. Sometimes it’s our intuition, other times it’s a guide or helper or angel who’s stopped by to nudge us along.

Usually we hear about this help when something life altering is involved. It’s good to be reminded that that the little voice speaks to the mundane, too, and for that I’m grateful.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Throwaway Friday

I have no idea if this is a good thing to do. I wrote this several years ago and thought it had some potential.
It’s been languishing in a desk drawer for more than a decade. I thought I’d bring it out to the light, clean it up a bit, and set it free to roam the blogosphere.

Faery Day

I used to hide in a copse of willows just up the hill and watch. Their wings glittered as they caught the late afternoon sun. They’d swoop and dance just above the water near the bend in the creek.
I used to pretend, you know, as the warm August sun caressed their faces, that I was with them; singing and flying and laughing as they chased dragonflies above the sparkling water.

That was nearly 70 years ago. I hardly recognize the creek today. My willows are gone. It’s a bare spot now, though covered with the crisp yellow-brown leaves of October.
The water is barely a trickle. Waning daylight barely touches it.

Oh, wait. There. Out of the corner of my eye near the bank I see one, no two, more now. They are here. Oh, if I could just . . . what did you say? I’m sorry. My old ears. I can hardly hear you.
My eyes are heavy and I’m so tired, but I want to keep watching. And now I’m so light. So airy. And what’s that rushing sound?

I’m swooping and swirling and diving above the water at the bend. I’m smiling and I’m so happy. . . so happy.
They’re here, all around me, and they’re smiling too and they’re asking me something.

Why, yes. Yes. Thank you. I will dance with you today.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Nightshade Casserole, Anyone?

All Hallows Even is soon upon us. I’ve observed Samhain, the Celtic New Year, in one form or another for more than a decade now including taking in a Loreena McKennitt concert in the mid-1990s.

My celebrations involve food and several foods from apples to wormwood (think tarragon), corn, and Dittany of Crete (Origanum Dictamnus, a variety of oregano) are associated with Samhain. Dittany of Crete is used in astral projection. I’ve grown it and I love the energy of it, but I have no experience astrally projecting with it.

This brings us to the Nightshades, an interesting and varied family with some really deadly members. It’s the killers which are associated with Samhain as well as Beltaine, observed in the spring.
Well, Nightshade is Nightshade to me. As long as it’s in the family I figure I can use it. Thanks to my husband’s botany textbooks I learned that eggplant (Solanum melongena), bell peppers (Capsicum annuum), potatoes (Solanum tuberosum), and tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum), are members of the Solanaceae or Nightshade family.

Tomatoes were thought “poisonous because many European members of their family (the Solanaceae) have bitter fruits containing toxic or hallucinogenic compounds.” (p.119. Economic Botany: Plants in our World by Beryl Brintnall Simpson and Molly Conner-Ogorzaly. Copyright 1986, McGraw-Hill Book Company.)
Lycopersicon esculentum, is Latin for “juicy wolf-peach,” the text book said. “The German common name ‘wolf-peach’ reflected the belief that the fruits could be used in cabals to evoke werewolves.” (IBID)

Reading on I learned that alkaloids from the potato family control muscles spasms. The solanaceous alkaloids are hyoscyamine (and l-hyoscyamine), atropine and scopolamine (or hyosine).
Technically, they’re known as tropane alkaloids and are commonly extracted from Atrope belladonna. (IBID p.371)

Anyway, with potato, tomato, bell pepper, and eggplant to work with I knew I could do something. My husband likes veggies, even eggplant, so I wanted something we’d both enjoy.
A few experiments later I had the Solanaceous Supper that’s become a Samhain tradition.

It’s easy to prepare and creates few dishes making for a fairly quick clean up. Here’s what to do:

Peel, slice and salt a firm, healthy medium-sized eggplant. I’ve read that they don’t need salting, but I feel better doing it. They’ve got lousy public relations already, finding a bitter one won’t help their cause.
Let it leach for at least a half-hour then dry with paper towels and cut into bite–sized pieces.
Take a large, healthy, firm green pepper. Remove stem and seeds and cut into small pieces. Imagine you’re making a Greek Salad and cut accordingly.
Use between four and six medium potatoes. This depends on the size of the spud and the number of people you’re feeding. Chop into small pieces. Peel or not as you see fit.
Use four to six medium-sized ripe tomatoes, chopped.
Use at least a half-cup of chopped onion. I use purple because it’s tasty and it looks good.
Mix together in a 9 x 13” casserole dish and coat with cold-pressed, extra virgin olive oil and add good quality red wine vinegar.
Spice it with thyme, basil, and oregano along with your choice of parsley, chervil, and/or garlic. If you like, then sprinkle some cayenne on it, too. Capsicum frutenscens is also in the Solanaceae family. Use salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Ready to cook:

Cook at 350 degrees. It’ll take about 50-60 minutes. At the 40-50 minute mark remove from oven and sprinkle a cup of finely chopped Feta cheese on it. Return to oven for about 10 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender.

Allow to sit for at least five minutes before serving.

The finished product:

When serving on Samhain always set an extra place at the table. On this night the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest and otherworldly guests should be made welcome.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

One Good Turn, Missed

I’m pretty good about following directions to get to a destination. Often when I was reporting I’d have to go to someone’s home be it in town or the country. That meant directions.

My preference ran to getting road signs and landmarks, and in the rural area, mileage was always help. Each one confirmed the other in my view. After a few years I could hear directions like “turn right after where the old round barn used to be” and I’d be okay.

Most of the time it went well. People commonly give good directions and with an estimate of how long it ought to take me to drive there, I was usually on time. I was even early on occasion.

Except for the Kiss of Death addition. Sometimes my interview subject would say, “You can’t miss it.”

Wanna bet?

I always found a way to rise to the challenge. Turnoffs were missed; wrong roads were taken.

To my credit I found my way and was only a few minutes late, but it still happened. I’d get close to my destination and then miss it. Signs were rendered invisible. Landmarks vanished.

I’d usually catch on within a few minutes and turn around. Interestingly, the landmarks reappeared after I’d passed and were waiting for me on the return trip.

Once I realized what would happen due to those fateful words I gave myself an extra 15 minutes “get lost” time. It paid off because I’d still miss my mark initially, but I arrived on time.

I’d like to say the getting lost part was fun, but at the time it was frustrating. Now I see it as part of the adventure.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Cold, Hard Cash?

I love this. I absolutely love it. Apparently I won a lottery somewhere and haven’t collected yet and now the payers are getting antsy to give me my money.
Come to think of it I did receive notification a few months back of having won a UK lotto. Maybe I should have paid more attention, because now, well, there are...umm... complications.

Apparently, I may be dead.

From the email from Mr. John Dawey:
“However, we received an email from one Mr. Arnold Gate who told us that he is your next of kin and that you died in a car accident last week. He has also submitted his account to us to transfer the fund to him including his International passport.
We want to hear from you before we can make the transfer to
Confirm if you are dead or not.”

Oh, my. What to do? What to do?

It appears these kindhearted folk got my name off a hypnotist finder list. A quick click of “properties” showed me who else got this email.
How interesting that Mr. Gate came from such a large family.

The email includes an apology from the International Monetary Fund for failing to pay out to me in time. You just don’t see that every day.

Now I wonder, if I confirm that I’m dead, then what will happen?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Gratitude Monday - One Problem Solves Another

Have you ever been grateful for a screw-up?

I have.

Last week I deposited a bit of money in the bank, but accidentally directed it to savings, not chequing.
I put the bank slip on my desk and ignored it for two days. The unusually high balance eventually caught my eye and in a moment I realized what I’d done.

Instead of a relaxing morning meditation I bundled myself off to the bank to sort it out. On my way I caught my reflection in a window and it looked like my driver’s side front tire was a bit low.
After the bank I went to a grocery store. I decided I’d better do something so I tried to inflate it myself, but didn’t get very far. It wasn’t down much, only a few pounds, but it needed attention.
A proper check at the tire shop found a leak in the valve core. It was fixed in about five minutes and for free as I’d bought the tires there.

If I hadn’t screwed up I wouldn’t have gone back to the bank. I might not have seen the reflection anywhere else. The leak might have gone unnoticed until the tire was absolutely flat or until I was halfway somewhere.

Sometimes a problem in one area is actually a blessing if we have the perspective to realize it.

I am grateful for the original mistake at the bank because it saved me a lot of frustration down the road.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Vote Early, Vote Often

Monday is Civic Election Day in Alberta. All across the province mayors and councils and school boards are facing the electoral music.
Or not.
A good lot of seats are filled by acclamation. It’s too bad as a good race is important for a healthy democracy, but at least the seat is filled.

What galls me no end is people who don’t vote.

You have a right and an obligation to vote. Please don’t give me any song and dance about it being a right in a democracy to not vote. I’ll concede you are correct as you are allowed to not vote in this country. However, you are misguided.

Do not ever try to tell me you have chosen to not vote as a gesture of protest. It is not.

If we were legally obligated to vote, such as in Australia, then choosing not to vote would be an act of protest. You would be breaking the law to make a point and you would have a public forum to challenge the State.

Here in Canada not voting is not a gesture of protest, it’s a gesture of apathy.

If you have any silly notions about complaining about elected officials, then you’d better have exercised your right at the ballot box. If you don’t care to vote, then I don’t care to listen.

I say you’ve abrogated your right to complain.

There are exceptions, such as those can’t cast a ballot by reason of age or citizenship. If they care enough to complain now, then there’s a good chance they’ll get out and vote when they can.

The polls are open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Get out to a polling station. If you can’t vote for the best candidate, then hold your nose and vote for the ones who’ll make the least mess.

Then you can complain all you want.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Sweatin’ With the Oldies

The Bag Lady wrote such an entertaining guest post for The Goat’s Lunch Pail last month that I insisted she do another one.
Here it is:

Sweatin’ With the Oldies

The Bag Lady has a little problem to discuss with all of you regarding the effects of aging. Well, actually, the Bag Lady has a lot of problems, but this is the one on her tiny mind today!

There’s a television commercial for a certain type of moisturizing cream that shows a woman covering her head with the blankets, saying "I’m starting to get wrinkles." When she takes the blankets off her head, she looks about 14 years old, not a wrinkle in sight.

What’s with that?

What kind of message is that sending those of us who actually DO have a wrinkle or two? The Bag Lady wonders; is life over because she has a few laugh lines? Couldn’t they have at least used someone with a few more years under her belt? That commercial doesn’t make a person want to buy their product – it makes a person want to slit her wrists!
There’s not a moisturizer on the market that’s going to make the Bag Lady look half as good as that ‘child’, so why bother?

There’s another commercial for eyeglasses. The slender, gorgeous woman was turning 50 and wanted to up-date her look, or something. As loath as the Bag Lady is to admit it, she will be 50 in a couple of months, so decided she needed to up-date her look, too, but eye-glasses just weren’t going to cut it!

The Bag Lady needed to lose a little extra poundage, and get into better shape, as well as discard for once and for all her totally disgusting smoking habit. Well, so far she’s lost 15 lb., re-gained 5 lb., quit smoking for a month, and then started again, quit again, and started again. Maybe she’ll just get new glasses and say the hell with it!

There’s a lot to be said for turning 50. For some reason, it makes you want to sit down and take stock of your life. Well, at least, it makes the Bag Lady want to sit down.
Her hips hurt. Her legs hurt, too. She can’t work as hard as she once could. Nor as fast, either. She starts out with good intentions, but runs out of steam pretty quickly. Well, except for the steam caused by the hot flashes, but that certainly doesn’t help get anything done! Just makes her want to sit down again.

The Bag Lady probably shouldn’t complain - things could be a lot worse. She has enjoyed good health for most of her life, except for a nasty battle with heel spurs that lasted three years. She finally had to have them blasted with shock-wave therapy. It took a little while, but it worked. Her feet feel a lot better.

Now her hips and legs hurt. Apparently, her pain is caused by back trouble. One of her vertebrae has slipped forward and is pinching her spinal cord, which is what causes the pain in her hips and down her legs. Sheesh, just when one part starts to heal up, another part goes to hell.

The Bag Lady wonders; is this what turning 50 does to a person? Your body goes to hell and you start complaining to everyone who’ll listen?

The problem with that is that nobody cares – they have their own problems! So from now on, she thinks what turning 50 should be about is to make a vow not to bore people to death with a litany of the problems with her bodily functions and to try to appear interested when she’s subjected to a litany of someone else’s problems with their bodily functions. Well, except their bowel functions…the Bag Lady has to draw the line somewhere!

Yep, new eyeglasses might be just the thing – and they’ll probably have to be bifocals.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Simple Beauty

The simple beauty of the change of seasons.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Monday Gratitude -- Iron Curtain Edition

It’s Thanksgiving Day in Canada today. I’ve got many things for which to be thankful, roof over my head, safe food and water, friends, love, something to do (writing) that makes me want to get out of bed each day.

Generally, most of us would agree that we’ve got a lot to be grateful for.
For example, if you’re reading this, then you are educated enough to be able to read, you know how to use a computer, and you have access to one right now.
If you can’t think of anything else to be happy about today at least you can chew on those three points with your turkey.

Those points, like so many others, really don’t take a lot of thought to list, merely a slight twist in perspective. So how about a big twist in perspective?

I’m grateful to live in a country where it’s okay to talk to strangers.
Granted, it may not always be safe, but at least you can’t get arrested for it.

That wasn’t the case in Bulgaria. Back in 1983 I was flying between Greece and Italy on the cheapest flight available, Balkan Bulgarian Airlines. The flight was Monday, October 10, and it included an eight-hour layover at the airport in Sofia, Bulgaria.
The in transit area of the airport had seating, washrooms, food, and a free English-language magazine. I still have it some place, I think. The lead story was about the Young Journalists and they came off sounding rather feisty. Another story was about a National who’d been charged in connection with the attempted assassination of the Pope two years earlier.
“A Bulgarian trying to kill the Pope!” scoffed the story. It turned out the magazine was correct to scoff.

Some information I found somewhere in the airport said travelers could take a bus into the city. I considered it, thinking, as a naïve traveler, that if I got lost I could just ask a local how to get back to the airport. I might have to do it by gestures, but it could be done.

But I stayed at the airport. I read, gazed at some mountains (if you add the appropriate vegetation it looks just like the scenery out of Honolulu airport), drank a cup of coffee that held the record as worst cup ever for four stellar years, and marveled at the fact that I was behind the Iron Curtain on Thanksgiving.

I was quite grateful to be Canadian. I was also very grateful to have some different currencies on me as the concession didn’t accept the Drachma.
And I was especially grateful that I stayed at the airport as I found out later that ordinary Bulgarians were not allowed to talk to Internationals.
Had I gone out and gotten lost I might have had quite the adventure.

How about you? What interesting or unusual thing are you thankful for today?

Happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Final Round And Busted Back To Rough Draft

I sent out another--and the final--round of proposals and query letters for my third manuscript. If no one bites, then I’ll withdraw it.

Give up? No. That sounds defeatist.

What’s happened is I’ve run out of publishers to contact. After this last half–dozen there’s no house left which accepts unagented manuscripts.

So, get an agent, right? In theory, yes. But I am currently no one and I have a thin platform. Any agent I could get now is the kind of agent I should avoid.

So what I’ll do is take the hint. I’ll withdraw the manuscript from consideration and roll over the material into a newer, better, bigger, stronger and more dynamic book that’s sure to turn me into an overnight success. Or at least a properly published author.

Anyway, they’re off and all I can do is wait.

Meanwhile I gutted book four aka “The Book That Won't Get Writ" the other night.
By the time I’d finished deleting and cutting and pasting I’d pretty much busted it back down to rough draft.

I took out a hard copy. It’s maybe 50 pages single-spaced in Times New Roman. It ain’t much, but it’s a start.


Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Thought Banned

It’s Banned Books Week.

Virginia Lee, over at her amazing blog wrote about it and included a few links like this one to the Forbidden Library.

It was fascinating, in a chilling way, to read the titles of books that have been banned or challenged.

The Nazis burned Jack London’s The Call Of The Wild. I really don’t know what to say about this beyond book burning is never right. I haven’t read it, but I don’t believe I’ve ever heard it was a danger to any society.

Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell was banned at a California High School. It was challenged in Illinois due to its use of the word “nigger.”

Much as that word makes me shudder, it was in use when Mitchell wrote it and certainly in the time period in which her book is set.
It is reflective of the times and not using that word in proper context is a lie, plain and simple.
We can’t go around sanitizing everything because that's a lie, too. You can argue that fiction is lie if you like, but don’t bother doing it around me. The greatest truths are disguised as fiction.

Using the words appropriate to the times, especially those that make us cringe, shows us how much we’ve grown as a society.
If it doesn’t, then it shows us that we need to grow.

And in a lovely bit of irony Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury had its cuss words blacked out for school use.

Perhaps whoever did it was making a point as the book is about censorship and book burning. Somehow I don’t believe it’s the case.

At the top of the post I wrote about a book not being a danger to society. No book is a danger to any free and open society that is a democracy in practice as well as in name.

The only danger to society presented by books is they create and foster a society of thinkers. Who would want a world of intellectually curious critical thinkers?

Monday, October 1, 2007

Gratitude Monday: The Wild Dogs Are With Me

The forest on the western edge of town.

I saw a fox yesterday when I went out for a mid-afternoon walk. A red fox lives in the forest at the edge of town and I've seen it from time to time, usually in the evenings.
I thought it was unusual to see it out and about in the day like that, but I don’t know much vulpine lore. It may have been out for its afternoon constitutional, just like me.

It saw me as I saw it. We were both headed southbound so it turned its head to me. For about two full seconds I had a wonderful full side view. I saw its red coat and its dark bushy tail.
I knew better than to move. Sudden movements scare forest critters away. That’s the last thing I wished to do.
It gave me a casual, if guarded, look and went on its way.

I was grateful for our moment together. It reminded me that I live on the edge of a town cut out of bush. Around me I have trees and muskeg, even some fields. A river borders the west.

I’m thankful for the convenience of town and the closeness of the wild. Some mornings, when I am out early enough, I hear the coyotes singing to the moon.

I grew up with this sound. Howls can be eerie and they made me shiver. It scared me then, but I miss it now. I’m glad I get to hear it now and again, and I’m grateful the wild dogs are still with me.

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Path To Autumn

Where does the path lead you?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Pretty or Petty, or Pretty Petty?

The Bag Lady was such a good interview subject that I thought she ought to do a guest post. I was thrilled when she agreed to fill The Goat’s Lunch Pail. The goat’s happy, too.

So, without further ado, here she is:

Having been kindly asked to contribute to Leah’s blog has caused the Bag Lady all kinds of consternation. What to say? The Bag Lady knows nothing of writing or hypnosis and doesn’t even know what metaphysics means. She does, however, have a dog, and is well aware of what it won’t eat (she is all too aware of what it WILL eat, too, but promises not to share that with you!) So here goes.

The Bag Lady was recently invited to a baby shower for one of the neighbours. She is not particularly close to this new mother, but doesn’t have much of a social life, so she went.

Now, for most of her adult life, any time the Bag Lady’s friends and acquaintances have given birth, she has made them a baby quilt. The Bag Lady loves to sew, and has always felt that a home-made gift was a sign that some thought and effort went into said gift. Also some expense, as anyone who sews on a regular basis knows!

This particular neighbour and, in fact, most of the other guests, are somewhat younger than the Bag Lady, but only by 10 or 15 years (not much, says the Bag Lady) putting them in their late 20s, early 30s.
So when the new mother opened the Bag Lady’s gift, the Bag Lady was hoping for much oohing and awing, as this particular quilt is what is called a bubble quilt, which involves an incredible amount of work, and a lot of time. In fact, the Bag Lady (having not much of a social life and a lot of time on her hands) sewed most of it by hand with a needle and thread as opposed to using a sewing machine. She also personalized the quilt with the child’s initials.

So imagine her disappointment when the new mother’s response was rather tepid. She asked the Bag Lady if the quilt was made from a kit…

Needless to say, the Bag Lady, loath to explain the amount of time and effort that went into the quilt, briefly explained that, no, it was all hand-made – each square was cut out, sewn together, stuffed, then sewn together with the other squares.

The Bag Lady doesn’t want any misunderstandings here; she is only bringing this subject up because she wonders if the new mother’s response was a result of her personal feelings for the Bag Lady, or if she is truly ignorant about sewing.

Doesn’t anyone sew anymore? Is a homemade gift to be denigrated? Do all new mothers want “store-bought” for their children? Is a mass-produced toy or an outfit that every other child is wearing more desirable than a one-of-a-kind, personalized gift? Or is the Bag Lady just lonely, petty, and out of touch with the real world?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Escaped Socks Secrets Revealed!

Ever wonder where socks go to once they make good their escape from the dryers of the world?
I have.
But now the mystery has been solved. I stumbled on this strange sight yesterday while out for a walk near a local lake.
I found three socks sunning themselves on a tree in the mid-afternoon.

Did they finally feel safe enough to finish drying?
Or was it just a rest before continuing on their journey?
We may never know.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


I often use cayenne pepper in baking and never thought much about it other than to acknowledge it was, well, unusual.
But the other day Clare2e at the wonderful Women of Mystery blog made mention at the end of her post about accidentally using red pepper instead of nutmeg in an apple pie.

I’ve done that on purpose. I made one on the weekend that barely lasted two meals.

Hot pepper is great in hot chocolate. This was how the native South Americans before took it before the Europeans came along and added sugar. For the record, I use sugar too.

Knowing the traditional use and having eaten mole sauce, which contains chocolate, I decided to play a bit with it.
It’s lovely in brownies. The heat smoothes the chocolate and give a wee bit of an after bite. It’s very pleasant especially on a cold Canadian winter day.

It’s also absolutely stellar in gingerbread. I went to make some gingerbread last winter and didn’t have quite enough dried ginger. Rather than going out and getting some I paced a moment, drummed my fingers on the table and Ha! The obvious solution was revealed.

Ginger is hot. So’s the pepper. The trick is to get the mix right so the heat augments, not overpowers, the ginger.
I added about a one-quarter teaspoon to the mix. It worked fine and made it seem like I’d used especially strong ginger, nothing else.
I was so tickled with what I’d done it’s part of the recipe now. I’ve used up to a half-teaspoon of cayenne, but I increased the ginger to a teaspoon. If you like spicy, this is adequate. I love the hot/sweet combination and always have. We’ve got an old family recipe for mustard that uses sugar and turmeric that’ll clear your sinuses.

I find reasons to put it in other baking as it occurs to me. I’ve even thrown it in an ordinary loaf of bread.

Last winter I was taking cayenne capsules and discovered the cayenne warded off hot flashes. Sadly, my body adapted and that’s not working for me anymore.

But it still tastes good and with the autumn here and baking season upon us I’ll be finding even more uses for cayenne. Meanwhile, I may need to bake another nice, hot, apple pie.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Monday Again. More Gratitude.

Yes, I’m grateful that it’s Monday again and the start of another fresh week.

I’m happy that my husband had the day off yesterday and we-- mostly he -- got some more of the spices harvested. The living room is filled with ragweed and savory and silver mound wormwood. If you’re curious about the latter, it’s in the tarragon family and it’s absolutely lovely on chicken. I’m grateful to know that.

I’m not sure that Gratitude Monday will be a regular feature of the blog. It’s important to be grateful every day and I like the idea of mentioning it when I feel like it rather than herding it into one day a week.

Why is being grateful so important?

Because it demonstrates to the Universe that you appreciate all you’ve been given, especially if it looks like you haven’t been given much.
If you can find it in your soul to appreciate what you’ve got, then you get more.
If you’re always grasping to get more, then it suggests that you’ve got a hole in your soul somewhere. No amount of stuff will heal that hole.
Material gain doesn’t get it done. All it does is feed your greed and stunt your growth.

So, here’s an idea. Find something in your life you can say thanks for. Maybe you watched a particularly pretty sunset, or you got the chance to see a sunset. Anything. Start small and soon you’ll find even more to be grateful for.

Happy Monday.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Commenting on Comments

I’m never quite sure about responding to comments. I know how good it feels when someone responds to mine.

My readers take the time to talk to me about what I’ve written. I like that.
They’re free to let me know what they think. They can take exception to what I’ve said or agree with me.

I have been reluctant to add my words after theirs because of all my years working at newspapers. Letters To The Editor gave the readers the last word. With rare exception they ran without editorial remark. This is how it should be.
But if the letter contained information that was incorrect or completely asinine then the editor made a bracketed comment underneath for clarification.
This was rare. Often even the most asinine of comments was routinely left to stand on its own merit.

I have been blessed here. My commenters are witty, intelligent, insightful, and supportive. I like them to have the last word.

I am also lazy.

But recently the little hamster that powers my brain put some extra oomph in his exercise regime and made the wheel go all the way around. I understand now.
If I like to have my comments answered it follows logically that my commenters, many of whom have blogs I visit, feel the same way.
So I’ll try to do better in the future about responding to the people who are kind enough to let me know they’ve been by.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, my hamster needs a nap.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

CartSmart Bags -– A Shameless Plug

The Bag Lady has graciously consented to tell us all about her invention, The CartSmart Bag.

It’s an environmentally friendly, reusable, washable shopping bag that she created.

What sets it apart from all the other similar products currently available?

That’s where her creation truly shines. It’s her unique design. She has put handles on it that fit snugly over a shopping cart handle to protect your hands.

And why would you want to do that?
“Shopping cart handles harbour an unbelievable number of germs, including salmonella, e-coli, and staphylococcus,” she said. You can read more here.

She got the idea after a town in Manitoba banned plastic shopping bags.
“It literally popped into my head one morning while I was having coffee.”
Once she decided to act on it she had the design and prototype sewn in about a week.
She makes each and every bag herself.
“From cutting the fabric to the finishing touches I can have one made in a couple hours.”

She uses a variety of the sturdiest fabric she can find plus webbing for the shoulder straps. The handles that snug over the shopping cart are set at a comfortable distance for your arms and have Velcro closures.

It can be used to hold any number of things, she continued. You can put your extra shopping bags in it, purse, keys, cell phone.
“It helps protect your hands while you are out shopping, then helps you bring the groceries home.”
“You are helping the environment by reducing the number of plastic shopping bags in our landfills.”

The bags have a shoulder strap and three interior pockets, plus a key chain inside.
Some are designed with pockets on the outside as well, and she noted she’s had requests for a shorter handle rather than a shoulder strap.

Do you accept custom orders?

“Yes, to a degree. I have made several to meet specific colour or fabric requests.”
What colours are available?

“Actually, quite a variety,” she said, “And it keeps changing.”
“Right now I have several different denim patterns. I also have black, yellow, blue, burgundy, red and white gingham, and the newest is a black rose-patterned tapestry.”
“Most people don’t want exactly the same one as the next person has, so I’m always on the lookout for new fabrics.”

It’s especially convenient for the quick shopping trip. When you only need a few things, it’s often the only bag you’ll need. And you can fit plenty in it, too.
“I’ve filled mine to capacity with two, 2-litre containers of milk, lots of canned goods, etc. I could hardly lift it.”

CartSmart Bags are durable, stylish, pleasing to the eye, and very easy to care for.
“I recommend machine washing in cool or cold water, then hanging them out to dry.”
The Bag Lady’s creations have been available since late winter of this year and are already a big hit.
“So far I haven’t had any complaints, and several people have told me how much they love them. I guess the biggest compliment is from people who have been given one as a gift, then call to order a bunch to give to their friends.”

She’s shipped CartSmarts to British Columbia, Ontario, and even California.
Bags are $25 CDN plus shipping payable by money order.

For more information or to order email the Bag Lady at:

Full Disclosure – The Bag Lady, so named because she makes the CartSmart Bags, is my cousin Terry.
I have one of her bags and I absolutely love it.
I was very pleased when she consented to be interviewed for my blog.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Gratitude Monday

I am grateful that it’s Monday.

It means another week is about to begin. One, to paraphrase Anne of Green Gables, with no mistakes in it yet.

A positive response from a publisher could come in the mail or to my inbox. I might have a great writing week.

And, even after six years, I am still tickled that I don’t have to go to a job somewhere. My work is here. My office is in the living room and I can gaze out the window and see trees and birds, and even the occasional human going about its business.
I don’t have to dress up for work. Theoretically, I don’t have to get dressed at all, but if someone were to come to the door it’s best I be covered.

I can drop everything and bake a batch of brownies if the spirit moves me. I’ve done that in the past.
We had the computer in the basement when first started writing and I’d be down there for hours, tapping away. One day around 3 o’clock I decided I’d had such a good writing day that I deserved a reward so I went upstairs and made some brownies.
My husband can’t tolerate much chocolate so I did the decent, loving thing and ate most of them myself.

Anyway, another week is in front of me. I can write, or not. I can read or go for walks or a bike ride weather permitting.

I can take time to meditate or do a self-hypnosis and allow the altered state to carry me gently and logically into a really good nap.

I’m well and healthy and have a good life and a new week has opened to enjoy it.

How about you?

Friday, September 14, 2007

Look To The Sky

For the longest time I couldn’t see much in the night sky beyond the Big/Little Dippers and the Orion’s Belt asterisms. I’ve always liked to stargaze, but most patterns escaped me.

A few years ago I started getting up early and going outside and looking. I often go through my morning prayer cycle while staring up at the stars. It makes me feel big and small at the same time. It’s also a tad hard on the neck. I don’t care, though, especially now that I can see more constellations.

Eventually I learned how to look. I needed to take the bigger view so I could see beyond the belt to the whole hunter.
The Pleiades are close by, but very hard to see if you look right at them. Use your side vision to see the Seven Sisters and they’ll show nicely.

I’d read that the Bull was somewhere near the Hunter and the Seven Sisters, but I could never get a bead on it.
Eventually I found the main red star, Aldebaran, but couldn’t out together the V shape of the Hyades.
Then one day I did. And then I saw what appeared to be a calf in the sky with the V as its head.
The Hunter uses his shield to ward off Taurus while his dog Sirius is at his heel. Finally, I got it.

These patterns are easy to spot this time of year. Orion and the Pleiades are high in south-southeast and the Bull’s head is right between them. The V and Aldebaran draw the gaze in.

I couldn’t see them for the longest time because I was trying too hard. Looking too intently. Then one morning a few years ago I stepped outside thinking of something else and the V was obvious.

Now, each September I look skyward in the early hours and find them and am reminded: stop trying so hard.