Friday, June 29, 2012

Walk Off The Earth

We've entered Lantern Season, and the end of the school year which means my "free time" seems to have vanished and been replaced by more chaotic work shifts and working on lanterns.  The month leading up to the Vancouver Folk Music Festival is always hectic and chaotic for me, though I'll admit that nothing quite compares to last year.

Because of this frenzied time, I have gotten behind in e-mails, blog posts, facebook messages and just about every other kind of communication I'm supposed to have responded to.  My most humble apologies if you are among the people who are wondering if I'm ignoring you (I'm not!) I  just need more hours in the day and days in the week!

Despite this, I have spent a smidgen of my time perusing YouTube (usually to wind down my frenzied brain before bed) and was reminded of why I like Walk Off The Earth so much.  They're funny, creative and talented.  Most of you are probably familiar with their cover of Goyte's "Somebody That I Used To Know"  where all five of the band members play the same guitar:

But my favorite so far has got to be their cover of "Little Boxes" the song by Malvina Reynolds that Pete Seeger made famous.  I think this video is rather brilliant!

Hey, look at that!  I connected Folk Fest with Walk Off The Earth via Pete Seeger - aren't I clever?  Hello? Anyone?  Oh, never mind.

So, while I'm busy pulling out my hair trying to build this years lantern, enjoy a little of the genius that is Walk Off The Earth by clicking the above.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Dad's Tools

My favorite spot as a baby.
Dad's hair went grey shortly after this!
In honour of Father's Day last weekend, here's a little recollection about my dad.

One morning I woke up as usual, got ready for school, then went upstairs to get my breakfast and grab my lunch before getting a ride with dad.  He was already up, sitting in his chair, a grumpy expression on his face.  When he saw me, he audibly harrumphed.  While my dad was in no way a morning person, this was a little far on the grumpy scale for the average morning, so I raised an eyebrow and asked something along the lines of "what's wrong with you?"

Dad's face got red and he spit out "how could you?!"

Completely flabbergasted, I raised my hands in surrender and asked him what on earth he was talking about. I'd only been up for fifteen minutes or so, and couldn't imagine what I might have done to get into trouble in that short time.

"How could you leave all of my tools outside in the rain like that?!"

"Uh, dad I haven't touched your tools..."

"You lined them up along the side of the house and left them there to rust overnight in the rain!"

"No, I didn't.  I swear!"

Fuming now, he said "YES YOU DID!"

"Dad, why would I do that?  I swear I haven't gone near your tools!  I certainly didn't leave them outside! What are you talking about?  Where are they?"

"Alongside the house! In the rain!"

"You've been outside already?  You've seen them?"

"Well, I... Harrumph!"

"Dad, I swear I didn't touch your tools, and I'm sure mom didn't either.  If you don't believe me, go look!"

So he did.  He came back a few minutes later, rather flustered and confused, having found that all of his tools were safely where they belonged in the tool room, not outside laid out against the house to rust in the rain.  Turns out he'd had a rather convincing dream and when he woke up, thought his dream was real. That was the first and last time I got in trouble for doing something in someone else's dream!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

It's Officially Lantern Season!

We turn this...
...into this.
Which lit up looks like this.
(My Serenity Lantern)
It's official.  It's lantern season!  First blood was drawn in the Folk Fest lantern workshop today, at the hands of some evil bamboo and dried glue and tissue.  Several of us are sporting minor cuts, and at least one person got burned by the hot glue gun. I'm sure there are many more slivers, nicks and hot glue burns to come but all of the minor injuries seem well worth it when you see the finished products lit up. For three nights, you get to feel like a rock star as everyone  is mesmerized by the lanterns you've built weaving through the night crowd.  Now if only I could figure out what to build this year...
My Elliot.
                    Jacquie's Spock.

Maureen's Tardis and Lin's K-9 & Dalek

Monday, June 18, 2012

It's Curtains For You

This weekend I dog-sat for my mom while she went on an adventure with her garden club.  It was while I was staying at her house that I remembered one of the things that she does that drives me nuts.  Whenever mom tidies the house in anticipation of company, she likes to close the shower curtain to hide any clutter that might be found in the tub area.  She's done this for as long as I can remember.  I hate it!  I actually go and open the curtain slightly any time I see this.

I saw Hitchcock's Psycho at a rather young age - possibly too young.   I don't remember the specifics, but I think I may have snuck in when my dad was watching it late one night.  In addition to this, over the years there have been numerous scenes in movies and television shows where someone has been hiding behind a shower curtain waiting to do something nefarious.  Every time I go past a closed shower curtain, I feel the need to make sure that there isn't anyone hiding there waiting to attack me.  I know it's irrational, but I can't help it.

So that you can share in my fear:
The Original Shower Scene From Psycho 1960
The Loony Toons Shower Scene Spoof

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Wicked Witch

The Wicked Witch

Whenever my mom calls me, the Wicked Witch Of The West's theme song from The Wizard Of Oz starts to play. Some may find this harsh or darkly funny, but the truth is, mom wholeheartily approves of her ringtone!

Don't believe me? Let me give you a little backstory. When I was in Brownies, mom was one of the leaders. She went from Snowy Owl to Brown Owl - former Brownies will understand what those titles mean. Every year we'd go camping in the summer. Brownies got to camp in cabins, while Guides and Pathfinders had to camp in tents. One year the leaders decided we would have a theme for the camp - The Wizard Of Oz. We coloured and heated up shrinkydinks of Dorothy and The Tin Man, called the path leading away from our cabin the yellow brick road, and each of the leaders took on the moniker of one of the characters from the movie/book. My mom chose - you guessed it - The Wicked Witch of the West!

We were all very well aquainted with the plot of Mr. Baum's story, so a few of the more mischievous Brownies and I got together and plotted to reenact one of the scenes from the movie. We got a bucket that was usually kept next to the fire pit in case of emergency, filled it with water, and placed it on the front porch. We got the most innocent-looking six-year-old girl to call my mom over to the cabin, then when she was standing under the porch, we dumped the bucket of water over her head.

Luckily for us, mom has always had a healthy sense of humour. She played the part perfectly, screaming and calling out "I'm melting! I'm melting!!" while pretending to sink into the ground.

Friday, June 15, 2012

5 Reasons My 5-yr-old Nephew Is A Better Painter Than I Am

I wrote this in March 2010 when N was still 5 (he just turned 8!)  Some of you may have read it before, but I haven't shared it here, and it is a typical story that shows my follies so I thought it might fit right in.

Five Reasons Why My Five-Year-Old Nephew Is A Better Painter Than I Am...

On Tuesday I moved the furniture into the center of the room, covered the floor with plastic and taped off the edges & trim to keep the new blue paint contained. As I began painting the edges, N, who lives upstairs, came down and asked if he could help me paint. I sent him to get mom-approved painting clothes on, and he soon came back with his own little paintbrush, a boatload of questions, and much enthusiasm.

At one point he informed me that I was helping him paint... He also announced that if Nana came over and helped us, she might not see what she was painting and end up painting him... So being the gracious soul that he is, he decided he'd paint her first. *g*

N was awesome at painting the corners and bottom edges where the white molding was taped off & the roller wouldn't reach. He showed a surprising amount of patience waiting for the fun part. Once he got his own mini-roller, he covered about 75% of the bottom half of his wall. Not bad considering his age & obvious height disadvantage!

Here are five reasons why my five-year-old nephew is a better painter than I am:

1. He did not drip paint on his own head when painting above him.

2. He did not drip paint on the head of his fellow painter.

3. He did not get several splotches of blue paint on the white ceiling.

4. He did not get blue paint on the white electric sockets. There was an incident with one light switch, but his silly aunt may have possibly spooked him into doing that when warning him not to get paint on it. Who is this crazy woman anyways?

Last, but not least...

5. He did not step in the full paint tray, knock it over, spill blue paint all over the floor, then proceed to spread it one squishy footprint at a time around the (thankfully) covered floor.

No... his Aunt Neen did all of those things.

In the spirit of home improvement disasters, I give you "When Father Papered The Parlour" by Billy Williams.  I remember hearing a recording of Celia and Sharon singing this song when I was little.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Les Drogues Sont Stupides.

Les Drogues Sont Stupides

Tonight I was digging through boxes looking for something which I never did find, when I came across some interesting papers from my school days.

Patrice may be the only one who will truly appreciate this, and please excuse my atrocious french grammar, but here goes... In grade eleven or twelve, (I'm not sure which, I just know it was in 1996) I handed in the following assignment for French class.

Garfield on Drugs.
Anything in brackets was added by my teacher. "Les Drogues sont stupides.  Le tabac donc idiot.  L'alco(h)ol ce n'est pas branché.  Ils ont un effet de très discernement.  Aider faire le Canada un pays sans drogues.  Juste (Simplement) dites non!  Un(e) Drogue-Liberté Garfield  -  Garfield avec les drogues.  Le choix est (le) vôtre."'s helpful French-English translator spews out the following translation:"The drugs are stupid.  The tobacco therefore silly. The alcohol that is not connected. They have a effect of very discernment. Help make Canada a country without drugs. Fair (Just) say no! A drug-freedom Garfield - Garfield with drugs.  The choice is yours."

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A few laughs

I'm not feeling particularly writerly today, so here are a few videos that made me laugh this week.

Need a refresher on the alphabet and the way different vowels sound?  Never fear, The Three Stooges are here!
The Three Stooges, Swingin' The Alphabet.
The Duck Song.  N& J really like this one. (Watch parts 2 & 3 for the full story!)
The Duck Song by Bryant Oden

This week Felicia Day released a new fun music video.
Gamer Girl, Country Boy - Felicia Day & Jason Charles

An old but good clip from Whose Line Is It Anyway: The Bald Hoedown.
WLIIA: The Bald Hoedown

And one final laugh... Long before he was House, Hugh Laurie was part of a comedy duo with Stephen Fry: A Bit Of Fry and Laurie...
Hugh Laurie "Where Is The Lid?" and subsequent memorial by Stephen Fry and friends.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Tairy Fales

Tairy Fales

My mom has frequently told me about the tale of Rindercella, but until this week, I had never heard or seen the full story.  Both of my parents quite enjoyed wordplay.  Common words in our house included: flutterby (butterfly), Rindercella (Cinderella), lellyphant (elephant), and pasghetti (spaghetti).  Don't worry, I didn't show up in kindergarten and insist that the pretty winged insect was called a "flutterby."  I knew the proper words, but it was more fun to twist the words around at home.  When I went to art school we were told that we needed to learn the "rules" of proper technique so that we could turn around and break them.  I think the same applies to some extent to the English language.  We used to make a game out of retelling or mixing up stories when I was a kid.  This is something that drives my niece and nephew absolutely crazy when I try it with them.  I'll read a story starting with the last page, or start reading a story and reverse some names or details and they laughingly plead with me to "read it properly Neen!"  Amazingly enough, when mom tries it, they just play along.

Archie Campbell of Hee Haw was famous for his spoonerisms.  Wikipedia defines a spoonerism as "an error in speech or deliberate play on words in which corresponding consonants, vowels, or morphemes are switched (see metathesis).  It is named after the Reverent William Archibald Spooner (1844-1930), Warden of New College, Oxford, who was notoriously prone to this tendency."  One of Campbell's most famous spoonerisms was his retelling of the story of Cinderella: Rindercella.

Bit sack and joyen the tairy fales!

I've found several other tairy fales too.

The Pee Little Thrigs:
The Christ Before Nightmas:
Beeping Sleauty:
You can find a number of spoonerism stories here:

and here: Goonerisms Spalore!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Reading Music

Reading Music

Music has always been a major part of my life. Some of my earliest memories are of being sung to by my mom or various other members of the Vancouver Folk Song Society. Up until I was two, we lived in Vancouver and would have folkie folks over regularly. Lucky for me, they would take turns singing me to sleep. I went to my first Vancouver Folk Music Festival when I was two months old and I think I've only missed one since then.  Now I'm a volunteer.  
Vancouver Folk Music Festival
Vancouver Folk Music Festival
My Serenity Lantern at Folk Fest.

When I was a kid we lived in the suburbs, no longer in the hub of the folk community, the gatherings at our place became special occasions instead of the norm. Our house had a sliding door that separated the main living space from the bedrooms and main bathroom. During such parties, when I was supposed to be fast asleep in my bed, I would sneak up to the closed sliding door and curl up on the floor there so that I could listen to the music being played in the living room. If I heard someone coming, I'd madly dash down the hall and leap into bed, feigning sleep.  On occasion I'd fall asleep in the hall and be discovered by some unsuspecting adult on their way to the washroom.

I took cello lessons for a few years when I was very young. My cello was almost as big as I was. I still have my tiny child-sized cello, I call her Ma Petite Cherie. While I took cello lessons, my best friend Rachel took violin lessons. She kept up with the lessons while I did not. It seems my mom felt that I had a little problem with practicing regularly...
The great musicians at work.

I've always played and sung by ear. When I was six, my mom told my cello teacher that I couldn't read music and he didn't believe her.

"But she plays the songs perfectly!"
"She's playing by ear."
"No way!"
"Test her on it."

So that's what Tim did. He took the sheet music for one of the songs I'd learned and put the title of another on the top of the page. He put the music in front of me and told me to play the song. I played the song flawlessly - okay, that's a stretch, I was 6! But I played it through without any mistakes or major fumbles. The only problem? I played the song that was listed on the top of the page, not the music that was in front of me.

I've never been able to read music. Several people have attempted to teach me, and while I know the basic notes etc, when it comes to actually playing/singing by sight reading, I utterly fail. I liken it to dyslexia in that I can read music, but the notes get jumbled up and it takes a great deal of time and effort to translate the notes on the page to notes on the piano, and any proper sense of timing goes out the window. I think of the sheet music as more of a suggestion or outline to indicate what direction the notes should be going in.

The Yellow Cello, Cape Breton, NS
Rachel tried to teach me to read music a few years later. We'd sit at her piano for hours at a time, but the notes would all jumble together in my head and I'd just end up playing by ear. Despite her world of patience, even she gave up on me. The same thing happened with my elementary school music teacher and my high school choir instructor. I did eventually manage to painfully teach myself the basics of reading music, but my sight-read piano rendition of "Ode To Joy" was always poorly timed and rather painful to listen to.  I think I'll stick to playing by ear!

Sunday, June 10, 2012




 Many, many, many, many moons ago, mom's friend who happens to be a doctor made the mistake of telling her that on his honeymoon there was an army of frogs that kept singing their ribbiting chorus all night, every night.  (Yes, army - that's what they're called! Look it up!)  Mom took this knowledge and used it and her powers of mischief to assist various frogs and frog-shaped items in reaching a new home - with "Doc Froggy" both at his home and his office.  I spent a couple of weeks helping out at his office one summer and was coerced into delivering several of these ribbity critters surreptitiously.  His friends, family and patients all saw that he "collected" frogs, so they started giving him frogs too.  That's where the story might end, except that "Doc Froggy" and "Mrs Froggy" along with their family decided to retaliate by also offering assistance to frogs and frog-shaped items in finding them a new home - with mom, or "Nurse Froggy."  Doc's kids and I all became affectionately known as "the tadpoles."

One of the many frogs at mom's house.
Just like "Doc Froggy," mom's friends and family began to notice her "collection" of frogs and decided to help it along.  The kids who lived next door to us used to make a game out of trying to count all of the frogs in the house... they'd usually give up when they reached 50 or so, with many more to go.  Nearly everyone who knows mom has participated in some way in building her "collection" of frogs.  Frogs will mysteriously appear in the garden in the middle of the night, on the kitchen counter after a friend came to tea, they even greet her when she goes to collect the mail.  I can't remember a Christmas or birthday that didn't include at least one frog present.
Something I made for mom
when I was bored one day.

One of the many frogs at mom's house
Josephine and Napoleon

Fergie, Mrs. Gardenhopper, Freida, Lily, Leopold, and Dreamweaver
 Back in high school I used a small sample of our frog army in a photography assignment:
A few of the frogs we had 15 years ago.
I've had many encounters with live frogs too.  We'd go hunting for frogs and tadpoles when I was a kid.  Mom took my friend Rachel and I out once, had us put on rubber boots and told us not to step too deep or we'd get our feet and clothes wet.  She had a pair of hip-waders on, so she braved the middle of the pond, while we caught tadpoles in the more shallow area.  On the way back to the car, we kept hearing the "swish, swash, swish, swash" as mom walked beside us, having gone too deep into the pond (she claims there were holes in the hip-waders!) her boots were full of slimy water.  Rachel and I had nice dry feet.  I Guess mom should have taken her own advice!

A couple of years ago I was taking a nap by the pond at Jericho Beach Park during the Vancouver Folk Music Festival.  I woke up, turned my head and found this little guy sitting on my backpack inches from my head.

After work today, C and I were both doing a little gardening with the "assistance" of her 4-year-old son, when something suddenly leaped away from the planter I was moving.  I found a little brown frog with an orange throat.  I didn't manage to get a photo of him before he escaped into my plants, but I did get to show him to everyone upstairs first.  The boys thought he was pretty cool and Trooper the dog wanted to eat him.

On my first day home from the cruise last month.  I was giving my plants some much needed water when something suddenly popped out of the herb pot.  It was a little green and brown frog, who I did manage to capture on film.  Isn't he cute?

Saturday, June 9, 2012

When I Need A Laugh

When I Need A Laugh

To be honest I've just gotten home from nearly 10 hours at work and am just too tired and ornery to come up with a clever anecdote to share today.  That said, I don't want to break the streak I'm on of posting every day, so I thought I'd share a little, poorly kept secret with you.

When I'm in a bad mood or just in a place where I really need something to cheer me up or to make me laugh, I watch old clips of shows like Whose Line Is It Anyway on YouTube.  Not just any episodes though... the one episode that is absolutely GUARANTEED to make me laugh?  The US season 5 episode 17 of Whose Line Is It Anyway with Richard Simmons as a special guest.  I challenge you to watch it and not laugh.  The cast were laughing so hard that they broke character.  Host Drew Carey was in tears and nearly fell out of his chair.  I've never seen or heard the audience laugh so hard, nor seen so many audience members in tears of mirth.  Greg Proust is laughing and gloating at his great fortune while poor Wayne Brady winds up in the fetal position by the end of the episode.  Why such a strong reaction you may ask?  Because it was damn funny, that's why.  If you don't believe me, check it out for yourself.  I defy you to watch the Living Scenery scene and not laugh.

 The entire episode is funny:

Whose Line Is It Anyway (US) S5 E17

If you want to skip to the funniest part, Living Scenery, here you go:
Living Scenery

You laughed, didn't you?!  I told you so!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Mr. Rogers

Mr. Rogers

You may have noticed that yesterday PBS released an auto-tuned video of children's television great Mr. Rogers, imparting some of his wisdom. It would have been hard to miss as it has definitely gone viral on all of the social media sites. While I'm not a big fan of auto-tune, I really enjoyed the video.

Mr. Rogers Remixed "Garden of Your Mind"

"Did you ever grow anything in the garden of your mind?
You can grow ideas in the garden of your mind.
It's good to be curious about many things.
You can think about things and make believe.
All you have to do is think -
And they'll grow." ~ Mr. Rogers

I also found this video of Fred Rogers defending Public Broadcasting in a US Senate hearing in 1969. He managed to turn a judge from annoyed to enthralled with his soft spoken advocacy for kids:

"What do you do with the mad that you feel?"

After watching the videos I looked up some quotes from both Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood and Fred Rogers himself. Some of my favorites follow.

"You make each day a special day. You know how? By just your being you. There's only one person in this whole world like you. And people can like you exactly as you are." ~ Fred Rogers

"You know, growing means when you're a baby and you're angry, all you can do is scream and kick. That's all. But when you get a little older, you can say that you're angry. You can stomp around and make up a dance, or pound some clay and make things out of clay, and sing a song or write a poem. That's what it means to grow. I'm proud of the way you're growing and changing." ~ Fred Rogers

King Friday XIII: "I feel like reciting the royal version of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star."
Lady Aberlin: "Oh, please do if you will, Uncle."
King Friday XIII: "Certainly, yes. Scintillate, Scintillate diminutive stellar orb. How inexplicable to me seems this stupendous problem of your existence. Elevated at such at an immeasurable distance, in an apparently perpendicular direction from this terrestrial planet which we occupy. Resembling in thy dazzling and unapproachable effulgence, a gem of purist carbon, set solitaire in a university of space."
~ Mr. Rogers Neighborhood

"You know, I was just thinking. Every person, whether little or big, is a human being. And because we are human there are many things that are alike about all of us. For instance, we all need to be loved. Everybody does. Every person that you see in this world needs to be loved. And the marvellous thing about being human is that while we're very much alike, each one of us is very different too. Isn't it great that we can care about one another the way we do?" ~ Fred Rogers

King Friday XIII: "I am about to make an announcement."
Mayor Maggie: "Can we help you, King Friday?"
King Friday XIII: "Of course."
Mayor Maggie: "What can we do?"
King Friday XIII: "You can listen."
~ Mr. Rogers Neighborhood

"So friends are friends. We thought a lot about friends, haven't we? And we've thought a lot about food. Especially food for the body. And that's a very important kind of food, because when a person is very, very hungry, he or she can't think of any other kinds of food. But there are other kinds. Music, for instance, is food for the hearing. And paintings and beautiful scenes are food for the seeing. And books are food for the soul. And loving other people is food for the spirit." ~ Fred Rogers

"Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood." ~ Fred Rogers

"There’s so much more to everyone you will ever meet than will ever meet your eye." ~ Fred Rogers

"Little by little we human beings are confronted with situations that give us more and more clues that we aren’t perfect." ~ Fred Rogers

"If only you could sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person." ~ Fred Rogers

"There is a universal truth that I have found in my work. Everybody longs to be loved. And the greatest thing we can do is let somebody know that they are loved and capable of loving." ~ Fred Rogers

"We've forgotten what it's like not to be able to reach the light switch. We've forgotten a lot of the monsters that seemed to live in our room at night. Nevertheless, those memories are still there, somewhere inside us, and can sometimes be brought to the surface by events, sights, sounds, or smells. Children, though, can never have grown-up feelings until they've been allowed to do the growing." ~ Fred Rogers

"Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else." ~ Fred Rogers

"When I say it’s you I like, I’m talking about that part of you that knows that life is far more than anything you can ever see or hear or touch. That deep part of you that allows you to stand for those things without which humankind cannot survive. Love that conquers hate, peace that rises triumphant over war, and justice that proves more powerful than greed." ~ Fred Rogers

"There are times when explanations, no matter how reasonable, just don’t seem to help." ~ Fred Rogers

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world." ~ Fred Rogers

"Transitions are almost always signs of growth, but they can bring feelings of loss. To get somewhere new, we may have to leave somewhere else behind." ~ Fred Rogers

Lady Elaine Fairchilde: "Where are you, Handy? I called you seconds ago!" ~ Mr. Rogers Neighborhood

"Imagine what our real neighborhoods would be like if each of us offered, as a matter of course, just one kind word to another person. There have been so many stories about the lack of courtesy, the impatience of today’s world, road rage and even restaurant rage. Sometimes, all it takes is one kind word to nourish another person. Think of the ripple effect that can be created when we nourish someone. One kind empathetic word has a wonderful way of turning into many." ~ Fred Rogers

"Beside my chair is a saying in French. It inspires me every day. It’s a sentence from Saint-Exupery‘s The Little Prince,and it reads, ” L’essential est invisible pour les yeux.” (What is essential is invisible to your eyes.) The closer we get to know the truth of that sentence, the closer I feel we get to wisdom.
That which has real value in life in any millennium is very simple. Very deep and very simple! It happens inside of us-in the “essential invisible” part of us, and that is what allows everyone to be a potential neighbor." ~ Fred Rogers

"I’m proud of you for the times you came in second, or third, or fourth, but what you did was the best you had ever done." ~ Fred Rogers

"The child is in me still… and sometimes not so still." ~ Fred Rogers

Thursday, June 7, 2012



Felicia Day shared this Geek & Sundry post today about their upcoming Father's Day plans. The first line is "Do you have special memories of playing board games with your dad?" That got the wheels spinning.

When I was a kid my parents loved to play Backgammon. They taught me how to play at an early age, and my dad gave me extra coaching lessons on how to win... against my mom.

Mom always liked to play brown, so step one to beating her was to pick the brown playing pieces before she could. Once she got the hang of playing white, switching back and forth between brown and white would really mess with her game.

Step two was to switch the direction in which you were playing each game. When you play Backgammon one player is moving to the left while the other is moving to the right. By switching the direction in which the board is set up, mom could be distracted enough to throw off her game.

The third step, which I suppose I learned from both of my parents, was to block off as many spaces as possible with pairs so that she couldn't get those last two pieces out of my side of the board.

The fourth and final step which was the hardest for me to learn: bumping may be fun, but do it wisely or you'll end up getting bumped in revenge.  If you've got any open pieces, protect them! There's nothing worse than a revenge bump! 

The Backgammon board I made for mom.
We played many other board games when I was a kid.  Sorry! was big in our house, up until we lost half of the pieces and were forced to start playing red/yellow versus blue/green.  My friend Dan introduced me to Pente when I was 12 or 13 and I was hooked.  Mom saw us playing one day and we taught her how to play - big mistake!  Now she's obsessed with the game!  She liked the game so much that I made her a Backgammon board with a Pente/Checkers/Chess board on the reverse side.

The Pente/Chess/Checker board side.
Despite my aforementioned experiences playing The Game of Life at school, we never had that game, so I didn't play it until grade twelve. We also didn't have Clue, Candyland or Mousetrap, all of which my friend Jill luckily had at her house.  I can remember spending several hours on many a rainy day playing Mousetrap and other board games at her place.  

When we were 14, Chrystal and I shocked our older cousins during a heated Trivial Pursuit game at a family reunion by knowing the proper order for Tequila shots: Lick, Drink, Suck!  The secret?  We'd been playing Trivial Pursuit quite a bit that summer and had gotten that card a week or two before.  I got Monopoly for Christmas one year and only managed to convince my parents to play it once - throughout the entire game they acted like playing it was some rare form of torture never to be repeated again.

Despite the numerous board games kept in our deacons bench, we always came back to Backgammon.  It was not uncommon for either of my parents to ask out of the blue if I'd like to try to beat them in a game.  If both of my parents were home, the winner would take on the next player until the ultimate champion was crowned.  Quite often the words "I'm bored" would result in the question: "do you want to play a game of backgammon?"  Then again, they could just as easily result in: "well, if you're bored, I can give you a list of chores that need to be done!" 

Even now, if I'm playing a game of Backgammon against my mom, I always remember my dad's "tips" and put them to good use trying to throw her off of her game.  I have to admit, they've worked quite well over the years, though she is getting used to playing the white pieces, so I've had to switch-up which colour I choose each time we play in order to still throw her off.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury 1920-2012

"If you dream the proper dreams, and share the myths with people, they will want to grow up to be like you." ~ Ray Bradbury
Photo by Mel Traxel, 1984

Ray Bradbury's "The Illustrated Man" is one of the first science fiction books I can remember reading. I was enthralled by the short stories within. His ability to seamlessly weave together these otherwise disconnected stories through the tattoos of the title character entranced me. I read these stories and wanted more. There were countless worlds full of people, stories, and possibilities out there hidden in books and I wanted to know them all.

My parents were always avid readers. Our house was full of books, shelves upon shelves of them, many of them Science Fiction. I remember thinking that I was somehow going to get into trouble for sneaking "The Illustrated Man" off of mom's bookshelf, but once she saw what I was reading, instead of telling me to read something more age-appropriate, she handed me "The Martian Chronicles" and told me to read it next. I purloined all of my mom and dad's copies of Bradbury's stories and gave them a place of honour on my own bookshelf. I would frequently raid their shelves looking for something new to quench my insatiable thirst for the written word. Having exhausted their collection of Bradbury, I discovered Isaac Asimov, John Wyndham, J.R.R. Tolkien, Douglas Adams. The books that I particularly enjoyed, like Bradbury's would "accidentally" find their way onto my bookshelf and forget the routes back to their old homes. This worked with some authors, but mom shared my love of Bradbury and wanted her books back. Whenever she'd try to reclaim them, they would mysteriously find their way back to my room. Finally accepting that that I was not going to relinquish these tomes without a fight, my mom bought me a stack of Bradbury's books for Christmas. I returned her copies of the books she'd gotten me, but not those she hadn't – I was too sharp to fall for that!

I was drawn into the world of Science Fiction through Ray Bradbury's short stories, but I kept returning
for more. When I was a teenager we were on a long road trip when we saw some audiobooks for sale at a gas station. I looked through them and found one that had Bradbury's "Dark They Were And Golden Eyed."

"Mom! We HAVE to get this!" I was convinced that she would say no, but instead she told me to pick another one and did the same. We spent the trip listening to a handful of Bradbury's radio plays including "There Was An Old Woman," "The Veldt," and "The Fox in The Forest" as well as a collection of Jeffrey Archer's short stories (this was pre-jail and tarnished reputation.) For many years afterwards I would listen to these tapes as I went to sleep each night. I could visualize the colony and ruins on Mars, feel the heat of the African sun in the Veldt, see the spirit of a stubborn old woman refusing to die, and feel the rush of fear and excitement as Bill and Susan tried to escape into a simpler time. These stories fed my imagination and made me feel that anything was possible.

I discovered the realm of Science Fiction through Ray Bradbury's short story collections, immersed myself in his novels, went to bed at night listening to his radio plays, and was inspired by his genius. A legend has left us, but his works will stay with us forever.

RIP Ray Bradbury
Ray Bradbury on IMDB

"There are worse crimes than burning books.  One of them is not reading them." ~ Ray Bradbury

"If you enjoy living, it is not difficult to keep the sense of wonder." ~ Ray Bradbury

"If we listened to our intellect, we'd never have a love affair. We'd never have  a friendship. We'd never go into business, because we'd be cynical.  Well, that's nonsense. You've got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your own wings on the way down." ~ Ray Bradbury

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Clean Burglars

Clean Burglars

Monday is my laundry day.  I live in a basement suite and the laundry room is in the main part of the house upstairs.  Yesterday when I got home from work C told me the washer was free & to go ahead and throw in a load of laundry.  After putting in the first load, I was caught in the middle of a fearsome battle and mistaken for a space pirate.  Pleading my innocence, I managed to escape the two Jedi-in-training to seek refuge downstairs.  Two and a half hours later I had managed one and a half loads of laundry, encountered one of the lightsaber-wielding imps who now seemed to be in bed dreaming of space battles won, and I went to check on the second load of laundry which was in the dryer.  Unfortunately the sheets weren't dry so I turned the dryer on again, hit the wrong cycle, turned it off, then back on again, each time the machine emitted a series of annoying beeps.  This done, I went back downstairs muttering about stupid machines that beep at you no matter what you do.

When I finally went back upstairs to collect my sheets, I opened the door from the stairs to the main house and there was C's mom right next to the stairway.  "Oh, you scared me!  I heard noises earlier and I thought there was a burglar in the house!" I hadn't even known she was babysitting the boys or I might have at least said hello earlier.  "I called C to see if she'd set the dryer to go on automatically or something because it just started beeping!  I'd forgotten you were downstairs and it was your laundry day."

I'm afraid I couldn't keep from replying to her admission: "Ah yes, because the clear sign of a good burglar is that they do a load of laundry as soon as they enter a house!"

Monday, June 4, 2012

Wasp House

Wasp House

Two years ago Jenny noticed that the birdhouse in our front yard had some new tenants.  These squatters decided to completely renovate the outside of the birdhouse.  I took pictures of it almost every day for a couple of weeks to chronicle the renovations.

After July 20th the nest fell apart.  I don't know if something hit it or it wasn't sheltered enough from the rain, but the layers peeled off like paper.
Here are a few extra shots:

Sunday, June 3, 2012

To Bark Or Not To Bark

To Bark Or Not To Bark

Pippin and her Papa Samwise
Mom's two Keeshond dogs Samwise and Pippin have been a part of our family for several years now. Sam came to us when we were waiting for his litter of puppies to be born - Pippin was one of 8! Our previous pair of Keeshonds had both passed away and mom was finding it difficult not having a dog in the house, so she asked the breeder if there were any dogs that needed a temporary home or pet-sitter while she waited for her new puppy to be born and weaned. The breeder said that the father of the litter was acting overprotective of mama dog, and could use a temporary home. He had been debarked (not something we would ever condone being done to a dog) and they had done a poor job, so he tended to pant excessively and audibly.

Almost from the instant Sam (then Salem) came to stay with us, he and mom bonded. He became her shadow. In time his panting became much less pronounced, but has never fully gone away. The calmer he is, the less noisy his breathing. The breeder visited a couple of times both before and after the puppies were born. When she brought some of the puppies over for us to play with, she noted how happy Sam seemed to be with us. His breathing didn't seem so laboured and he was clearly attached to mom in a way that he had never bonded with another person. She recognized that he was much more suited to our house and struck a deal with mom so that we could keep him. We visited the puppies – eight adorable fluffy balls of fur, and several weeks later Pippin came home for good.

Because he had been debarked, Sam never had the typical dog response to stimulus. Most dogs start barking when they are excited, annoyed, ignored, conversing with other dogs... really who can tell why dogs bark sometimes?! Gandy used to bark if a leaf fell, the person four houses up the road came home, or a squirrel climbed a tree across the street. Dogs are funny creatures, and barking is a natural instinct. Sam however, did not know how to bark. That all changed when Sophie came to stay for a week.
The dog next door was a rather large beast who barked at just about everything. When Sam was in the back yard, the neighbours dog would bark once or twice, then when she got no response, would wander off. Sam would just stand there, look longingly at the fence and do nothing. Sophie on the other hand, would react in proper doggy fashion – she would have a barking contest with the dog across the fence. Sophie actually taught Sam how to bark at the dog next door. It took a couple of weeks of hearing the neighbours dog go ballistic when Sam was outside before we caught on. Sam would now go to the fence and "bark" in his nearly silent fashion. His barks were just audible enough for the dog next door to pick up on, but too quiet for any person to hear from more than ten feet away. The best/worst part? Because her owners couldn't hear Sam barking, the poor dog next door would get yelled at for "barking at nothing" while Sam would silently gloat and provoke the poor dog into yappy conversation.

Today I was visiting with Sophie's successor, Sander. He's a Puggle, and certain aspects of both his Pug and Beagle heritage become rather obvious the more time you spend with him. He is driven by smell, food and love. I've seen him chase another dog through a field, then suddenly plant all four paws mid-run because he smelled something interesting. Today he was being particularly barky and it occurred to me that if Sophie taught Sam how to bark, perhaps Sam can teach Sander how NOT to bark... It is most likely wishful thinking, but it's worth a try, right?