Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Easter Disaster

The Easter Disaster

When I was a kid, we had a couple of Samoyed dogs. They were big white fluffy things. The first Samoyed we got was Frosty. We got her from a breeder, on the condition that she would have one litter of puppies (which would go back to the breeder) and we could negotiate to one of them. Frosty had a large litter and among them was one puppy that had very curly hair. All of the other puppies had normal straight white fur, but Gobo (named for the Fraggle) had fur that looked like it had been permed. Always one to root for the outsider or underdog, I wanted to keep him, but I was just a kid, and the breeder had pick of the litter, we ended up with his sister Chinook.

For the most part Frosty and Chinook were good dogs. They figured out how to eat raspberries and blueberries right off of the bushes, were relatively tolerant of affectionate, crazy kids who tried to dress them up in people clothes, (who me?!) and did their best to keep the myriad of chickens, ducks and pheasants in line. This last one was mainly accomplished by ignored attempts to herd the birds, barking fits when one of the roosters was cornered and had his talons out, and eventually a "eh, they'll do what they do, it's not my job!" approach when it became clear that the birds were at the top of the pecking order. They were good dogs, but they got into more than their fair share of trouble.

Every year our neighbours would hold a big Easter Egg Hunt in their yard down the road. All of the neighbourhood kids would be herded into their family room to watch a movie, or play some games, while the Easter Bunny (one of the parents, or older kids from the neighbourhood dressed in a furry costume) would hop past the window occasionally while "hiding" some goodies around the yard which was mostly obscured from view in that room. Secretly, I think that the majority of the parents were out there playing Easter Bunny while a couple of adults or teenagers kept us occupied - but we only ever got a quick glimpse of the big bunny. Eventually, we would be released out into the wilds of their two-acre property with baskets in hand. I don't think it would be an exaggeration to say that I was a first rate hunter of candy eggs! Over the years I'd figured out the most likely hiding spots and was quick to find the good loot.

The year I was nine, I had a huge overflowing basket full of Easter candy goodness. I'd just returned from the Easter Egg Hunt, with my biggest haul yet, when I realized that I had to run next door for a moment to talk to one of the (six!) kids there. I placed my beautiful basket full of chocolate and candy just inside the front door of the house, ran next door quickly and returned five to ten minutes later with the intention of sorting through my loot.

In the five to ten minutes that I was gone, the dogs had eaten at least part of every single chocolate and candy egg contained in the basket. I was outraged. I called the dog every nasty thing that my nine-year-old self could think of. Things that would shock a kid in the 80's, but in retrospect were rather tame. I cried, threw a major tantrum, said I'd never "speak" to the dogs again, and stormed off when my mom showed no sympathy stating "you really shouldn't have left it out where the dogs could get to it!"

I took a small bit of satisfaction in the fact that the dogs had horrible upset stomachs that night, especially as the one that had to clean up after them was the same person who had the audacity to show me no sympathy for my great loss of yummy loot, (poor mom!) but I was heartbroken and refused to show the dogs any affection for at least a week! That sure showed them!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Flat Stanley

Flat Stanley

My nephew is in 2nd grade this year. His class read a series of books by Jeff Brown about an adventurous boy named Flat Stanley. You can read all about Flat Stanley on the website: where you no doubt will learn much more about him than I could tell you. N's class made their own Flat Stanley dolls and were told to take them on adventures with them during spring break. While the kids went away for a few days, I was left with temporary custody of Flat Stanley, with the suggestion that I take a few pictures of his stay with me.

I decided to have a little fun with this project, setting up several scenes where Flat Stanley could enjoy a multitude of adventures during our visit.

First we walked home through the forest.

When we got to my house, he noticed 
that I still hadn't taken down my Christmas wreath.

Flat Stanley helped me make a nice hot cuppa tea.

He did a little bit of reading. 
Played with some LEGO

Watched a robot battle

Had a shocking encounter with a ball of light.

He then met a kindly fairy who tried to teach him a little magic.

Eventually Flat Stanley went on a brave quest 
to slay the dragon who lives in my living room.

 Before he left, Flat Stanley helped me make a pie for Pi Day.

All in all, it was quite an adventurous few days at my place!



I just got back from a three-week cruise through the Panama Canal with my mom.

As a precaution, Mom and I set up a code word "Hippopotamus" which we were allowed to say at any time during the cruise to tell the other one to just walk away, no questions asked, no offence meant or taken. It meant "I need space" or "you're embarrassing me" or "I don't want to argue, so please just walk away for a while."

We never actually needed to use it, though there was one night when a couple of my new friends and I were talking in the library waiting for another friend to join us for the evening show. Mom came up and I asked her why she wasn't already in the lounge, since she had said at dinner that she wanted to sit up front where she could see the show, while I was planning to sit in the balcony with friends. Mom asked, "is this a Hippopotamus situation?" I laughed and said "not really, but uh, sure... Hippopotamus?" She chuckled and excused herself to go find a seat. Jeff and Allie looked at my quizzically, so I explained the Hippopotamus code word to them.

Moments later Jeff bought himself a vitamin water and his sister reached for it, wanting a sip.

"No! Hippopotamus! HIPPOPOTAMUS!! HIPPOPOTAMUS!!!!!!!" shouted Jeff as he tried to keep the bottle out of Allie's reach. We all laughed.

Mom later told me that several times in the following days she could have sworn she heard someone softly say "Hippopotamus" but as I was nowhere to be seen, she thought she had imagined it. I'm pretty sure it was Jeff being a brat.

* Most of this was from an email I sent the other day.  I realized it was a cute and funny moment and figured I'd share it with the rest of you too.  

** Please, feel free to whisper "Hippopotamus" if you run into mom. ;) 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Notes From My Fruit

Notes From My Fruit

About a year ago, I started noticing something a little odd going on at work.

I usually bring an apple, pear or nectarine with me to work each day, put it in my drawer and have it as a snack or with my lunch. On occasion I do not get around to eating it. When this happens, I leave the fruit in the drawer in my station for the next day that I work.

One day, after having two days off, I opened my drawer to find not only my apple, but a note, written from the perspective of said apple.

"Please eat me.
Today is my turn.

OK Because here is too hard,
want to die, not in this drawer."

Apparently my apple (or my coworker Jas) felt that I should be eating my fruit each day, not leaving it abandoned in the drawer. I started leaving notes in return.

The following is an example of one of the notes I helped a fruit write, penned days after Jas left a note pleading for an assisted fruiticide on behalf of the previous nectarine which I had left there.

"Dear Jas,
My name is Nessie Nectarine. I think you may have known my beloved husband Nectar Nectarine who was tragically taken from this world on Monday at lunchtime. I hear that he went out in style with a bowl full of blackberries and is now awaiting me in the great fruit bowl in the sky. Please help me join him there by eating me and letting me end this lonely existence without him.
Thank-you for your help,
~ Nessie Nectarine"

Some of the notes would be begging the other person to eat the nearby fruit, others were to notify one that the other had eaten the now missing fruit - still from the perspective of the fruit, moments before it was devoured. Some of the notes were even from a fruit left in replacement of the original eaten fruit, mourning the loss of a friend, usually expressing suicidal (fruiticidal?) tendencies.

I wish I'd taken pictures of all of the notes, but only got the two above. The notes from our fruit went on for several months, and would likely still be appearing in the drawer if Jas hadn't gotten into a car accident and gone on medical leave. I'm sure that as soon as she returns, my fruit will begin leaving me notes again.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Roti Lessons & The Dave Burger

Roti Lessons

As a kid I lived on a two block long street that had a dead end and a double cul-de-sac at the end of it. Mid-way up the street there was a half-block long road that ended with a trail into the nearby forest.

When I was nine or ten, I was allowed to ride my bike on our street (and the little attached one) but had to stay within earshot, and I was not permitted to go into the forest alone. I'd spend many a happy hour riding my bike up and down the street until I was called in for a meal or to get ready for swim practice.

Our neighbours Dr. and Mrs. Dass lived on the little half-block street up the road from us. We'd had a delicious Indian meal at their house a few months earlier, and I loved the roti and laddu. As we left to walk home, Mrs. Dass promised to teach me how to make roti in the future.

One day I was riding my bike when Mrs. Dass saw me though the window. She called me over to the house and told me she was just about to make a batch of roti. Without another thought, I abandoned my bicycle on their front lawn, next to the dead end that lead to the forbidden forest, and went inside with her. On some level I knew I should call my mom and let her know where I was, but I was overwhelmed with the excitement of learning how to make the yummy bread, all thoughts of being "responsible" fading away.

Eventually mom called me in, and when I did not appear or respond, she started up the street looking for me. While I was happily learning a new skill, she was frantically searching for her kid. After about twenty heart-racing minutes, she finally saw my bike abandoned next to the trail. She was convinced that I'd either gone into the forest and been eaten by coyotes or trampled by a deer (really the only remotely threatening animals in there) or been kidnapped. She was debating whether or not to call the police when we noticed her through the window and I realized I'd broken the cardinal rule of always letting her know where I was. I ran outside, roti in hand, to show her what I'd been up to. Luckily for me, she was so relieved that I was okay, I got off with only a severe warning to "never do anything like that again or you'll be grounded until you're thirty!"*  

*In retrospect, with the number of times I heard that threat, I should have only escaped grounding three years ago!


The Dave Burger

My dad's culinary talents were really only displayed in two ways that I can recall: BBQ burgers, and Cheese Whiz sandwiches.

The Cheese Whiz sandwiches consisted of two slices of white Wonderbread and a huge spoonful of processed cheesy goo, made by the dozens then frozen. I had more than my fair share of these chemical sandwiches, when my mom went on strike and told us we had to make our own lunches for school. If I'd forgotten to pack a lunch, I would just grab one of dads "Cheese Sandwiches" and be on my way. I really hated the taste of them, but they were there, and I was lazy and/or late for school, so I took what I could get.

Dad's BBQ burger patties had two states: charcoal hockey puck, or burnt on the outside and still bleeding on the inside. We'd joke that we could hear the burger mooing. He didn't care – he'd just drown his food in HP Sauce. Due to dad's tendency to under-cook and/or burn everything, also fearing a bout of Salmonella, my friend Dan and I took over BBQ duties when we were 14 or thereabouts. For years, every time my friends were over or we had a big BBQ gathering, the two of us would wield our metal spatulas and be in charge of cooking the burgers.  It seems we were too good at this job as virtually every time the BBQ was lit, mom would hand us a spatula and a poker and tell us to get to work.
The culinary artists at work
(I have to note before Dan complains: his hair didn't usually look like that. He just tied it back to keep it from catching fire. Thinking it looked funny, we took several pictures for the sake of prosperity. :D )

I don't know if this is a universal thing (like the first pancake never turning out just right) or if it was just us, but every time we manned the BBQ there was one burger that suffered some horrific culinary mishap.

Perhaps it fell on the ground when we were flipping it over, got too much seasoning sprinkled on it, got a little too crispy, or fell apart and had to be melded back together with a melted piece of cheese, but as soon as something happened to a hamburger patty or bun (or really, any food that we were preparing) it became "The Dave Burger." Whatever disaster the ill fated food faced, we would make it look as presentable as possible, then give it to our friend Dave, who almost always ate it without suspecting a thing.
Dave inspecting our culinary skills with only a hint of suspicion. 

For years we served him The Dave Burger without arousing suspicion. I think there were only two incidents where Dave saw the culinary accident occur, and firmly refused to take The Dave Burger. I shudder to think about the various things that we served him. It's been years since either of us has seen Dave, but even now, if we're together and cooking something, whatever it may be, if one drops or breaks or has some other culinary accident, we automatically say "that one's the Dave Burger!"