Sunday, August 17, 2014


Last week I participated in GISHWHES 2014.  GISHWHES stands for The Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen, and it was a doozy!
Two of my coworkers were on my team, along with twelve Americans from various parts of the country.  Team LeviathanLovesRhymesWithFezzik managed to do several of the nearly 200 items, sometimes accomplishing what we thought was nearly impossible.

Here are some of my favorite item submissions from our team:

#3 It's "me time." Spoil, pamper and be decadent to yourself like you never have before. Oh, and P.S., you’re dressed as a Stormtrooper.

Clearly your bicycle is underwhelming you with its current performance. Convert your bicycle into a warp-speed spacecraft. Ride it.

#16 A family of at least four enjoying a formal dinner. All of the place settings, serving utensils, dishes - basically every non-food item above the tablecloth - must be made from Legos.

#28 Stage a mini-newspaper boat regatta in a public fountain with at least four competing vessels. We must see intense competitiveness and gambling.

#33 Batman or another superhero playing bingo at a crowded recreation center.

#37 "When I grow up I want to be..." Have a child dress up as what they want to be when they grow up (lawyer, doctor, ballerina, dragon-slayer, etc.). Then stage the photo in the environment they would be working in.

#42 Some regions have legendary monsters like the Loch Ness Monster in Loch Ness, Scotland or the Abominable Snowman in... well, wherever that creature lurks. Catch the mystery monster on camera that haunts your hometown.

#46 VIDEO (up to 30 seconds). Let's hear "Carry on My Wayward Son" on a giant pipe organ (antique preferred) in a cathedral or church, played by someone wearing a sock monkey hat.

#47 Cavemen get a bad rap, but really, they're no different from you and me. They like to dine at fine restaurants just like us!
We had so much fun with this one, I made a video:

#48 Four people use their bodies to form a table. Enjoy an elegant dinner for two at this body table.

#74 Be the messiah you were always meant to be. Walk on water (must be a lake or pool). We must not see anything under your feet except for water. Not that we need to say this, but: no photoshopping!

#82 As you know, William Shatner loves horses and clocks. Modify a cuckoo clock so that when the hour strikes, instead of a bird appearing, a tiny Captain Kirk on a horse pops out.

# 88 Make a mosaic Elopus, 2 meters in diameter, made entirely of natural objects
(i.e. no plastic, human-made materials, only leaves, rocks, dirt, flowers, wood, etc).

#90 Gingerbread villages are always so cute and quaint. Make a gingerbread village that shows urban blight: needle exchanges, prostitution, heavy police presence, etc.
Note the dead prostitute and the cops eating donuts:

#106 Lets see a fully dressed, face-painted Geisha mowing the lawn.
Little known fact: Geisha's have been engaged in a long-standing battle against Flamingos!
#109 Obviously everyone's favorite captain of the USS Enterprise was Jean-Luc Picard. Create a heroic Captain Picard using condiments (mustard, relish, ketchup, etc.) for paint.

#117 (three edited side-by-side-by-side images). Collect fruit from a tree on from which the fruit hangs over a public sidewalk. Make jam from the fruit. Eat it. (Provide 3 photos edited into one image).
This was om-nom-nummy!

#134 You or your pet, in period costume, seated on a Game of Thrones-style kale throne. Make it so good that GOT producers would want it as a marketing poster.

#147 It’s summertime and everyone loves a lemonade stand. But then again, every Tom, Dick and Harry is setting up a lemonade stand in the summertime and the market is flooded. Respond to consumer demand and carve out your own niche. Let's see two children manning a “Hot Pasta With Jam Sauce” stand.
#154 Sculpt John Barrowman's head from duct tape.

Your friend is in bed, not feeling well. Feed them a big bowl of warm (not hot) chicken noodle soup. One caveat: instead of feeding them with a spoon, use a leaf-blower.

We also had members become certified in CPR, renew their vows, and join the Bone Marrow Registry! It was a fun but exhausting week.  I think that next year I will book the week of GISHWHES off of work so I can truly immerse myself in the craziness that it entails.  Thanks for the fun, team LeviathanLovesRhymesWithFezzik!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Lanterns & Folk Fest

As you may know by now, I volunteer on the Lantern Committee for the Vancouver Folk Music Festival each year.  Every year we have a theme (or themes) that the new lanterns are encouraged to fall into.  I say encouraged, because lets face it... there are some of us that will find a way to squeeze whatever it is we want to make into the theme... no matter how far a stretch it is.  Inevitably, every year there is at least one Doctor Who lantern, which took some tricky roundabout explanations last year when our theme was Under The Sea.  Our fearless leader Marya is very accepting though, and as long as you don't build a lantern that is too big (or when you break that rule, as some of us have been known to do, promise to store it yourself, and not in her storage space!) she's willing to accept just about any lantern so long as it is safely constructed.

This year we had an awesome theme: Monsters.  Or more specifically due to the height at which we carry the lanterns: Monsters Over The Bed.

There was tons of room for interpretation there, and I am proud to say that many of our committee members took rather geeky routes in their lantern choices.   

Before showing you some of this years awesome monster lanterns though, there are two lanterns that need special attention.  This past year we lost one of our own.  Andrew was a long-time member of our team, always at the ready with bizarre topics of conversation and jokes that were so bad they were funny.  Andrew loved bacon, toilet seats, glitter, and making people smile.  He often walked around wearing his purple top hat, and was also known for his Baby Cthulhu costume.  In tribute to him, two lanterns were made by committee members this year: The Hat, and Cthulhu.  

Todd is the longest running member of our team.  He was instrumental in keeping the lantern committee (and thus lantern procession) going when it was in danger of being dropped.  He started working on his squid lantern several years ago... exactly how many years ago is up for debate, but it is definitely more than four and less than ten. This year, life got in the way and he was too busy to be able to volunteer, but he did show up for Friday night procession with a wonderful surprise for all of us.  He finally finished his giant squid attacking a whale, and it is glorious!  A true work of art, every bend and curve carefully constructed and flawlessly papered.  I aspire to one day be able to build and paper with his level of skill.  Todd's attention to detail is out of this world, something that takes a great deal of talent, time, and patience.  It is no wonder it took so long to make this masterpiece.

I only have one clear picture of Lin's newest lantern, even though I could have sworn I took several. While I can almost pronounce the type of prehistoric sea creature it is, I cannot for the life of me spell it... I know this as I spent about half an hour trying to Google it in order to type it here.  Sorry Lin!  If someone can tell me the proper spelling I will edit this post accordingly. 



My lantern this year was the cute, but slightly obscure Adipose from Doctor Who.  Lin and I tend to have an unofficial contest between us to see how many people can correctly identify our lanterns.  This year I think she had 3, while I had 8.  In addition to those 8 correct Adipose identifications, there were several elephants, owls, R2D2, an igloo, and a woman who was very adamant that I had made a penguin. She actually stood there arguing with anyone who would listen and dare to say it was something else. I wonder if that last woman had spent the majority of her day in the Beer Garden?

Other lanterns with their names/descriptions captioned below.

Lantern Fish
Monster Wearing Bunny Slippers


Box Monster



Boo Costume

Pirate Monster



Three-Headed Dog

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

July Is Here

Yesterday was rather hot and muggy in the Lower Mainland.  It was as if Mother Nature looked at the calendar, realized that it was July 1st, and decided to turn up the thermostat.  The heat was so bad at work that they tried turning off some of the lights in the back to cool off.

I walked to Safeway on my way home, and while I was paying for my groceries, the woman behind me in line asked for carry-out service.  Jokingly, I asked if she thought the carry-out lady would carry my groceries the ten blocks to my house for me.

"Ten blocks!? You're walking ten blocks in this!? I can give you a ride, your food will melt, it's really hot out there," offered the woman behind me.

I assured her that I could walk, no problem, had nothing frozen to carry, and pointed out that I only had two bags and that most of my walk was through the forest, which is shaded and therefore not as affected by the heat.  Both the woman and the cashier stared at me agape and pronounced that walking through the forest was even worse... dangerous even!  I laughed this off, assuring them that it was perfectly safe during daylight hours, and I walked through it daily on my way home.  The Semiahmoo Trail is a well-known and well-traveled walking trail that starts near my work and has a pathway leading from it less than a block from my house.

"No really, I can give you a ride," she insisted after some back and forth. "I promise I won't try to kidnap you.  I have enough kids at home, I don't want or need any more!"

I laughed, said thanks anyways, and walked home as planned, chuckling the whole way.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Aquarium 2.0

Trooper chasing fish in the old 20 G tank
My awesome landlady C and her youngest son N took me to pick up my new aquarium the other day. 

It was quite the adventure, filled with a few mishaps, all punctuated with N's endless chatter.  Almost seven year old boys can be extremely chatty!

I was planning on getting a 46 gallon tank with a bow front, but the one I'd picked went up in price since I'd been in a week before, so we looked at the other tanks available.  The 60 gallon tank was on for $50 less than the 46G, and C was quick to point out that it would fit in the car, no problem... so my arm was twisted and I got the bigger tank.  N and his mom helped pick out some decor for the tank, and the staff loaded the tank into the car... then realized that with N in the back seat, there wasn't enough room for the tank and its stand (which comes assembled and not in the box as we'd assumed) so we unloaded the tank, loaded in the stand and drove it and the myriad of items that we got to go with it and took our first trip home.  C and I unloaded the stand and other items, she fed the kids, and we headed back for round #2.  I should note that nearly the entire time, N was chattering away and asking questions that only almost seven year olds seem capable of coming up with, punctuated by the constant refrain: "How much longer?!"
The 20 G tank looks so tiny next to the 60 G!

We loaded the tank into the car, got ready to head home, and noticed 2 chips in the corner of the tank.  Several phone calls later, the staff at the Strawberry Hill store had located another tank... in Langley, given me a nice discount because of the inconvenience, unloaded the damaged tank, and sent us on our way.  I should point out that C is awesome and barely flinched at the thought of detouring to Langley. Luckily the new tank was in mint condition - the staff there and C, N, and I all checked thoroughly! 

N picked out the Chinese Dragon.
We used our awesome girl power and got the tank downstairs to my suite without incident or any male assistance (other than ten year old L closing the door behind us) and put it in place.

The rest was up to me.  You may have read my How To Set Up Your Tropical Aquarium post, if not, go check it out to see what it was basically like to set up the tank, only 3 times bigger. :)

It took what felt like a thousand trips with buckets of water to fill it up, not to mention setting up all of the cords and tubes so that they'd be as unobtrusive as possible, and I used some of the tank water and other items from the old tank to help jump start the biological filter.

The tank is now set up and after getting the levels and temp in the correct range, I just transferred a few Zebra Danios and my Pleco into it.  I think Danio's are ninja fish.  They are very good at eluding human attempts to capture them.  I suddenly see the value in the over-sized nets that the local fish store staff use!

Pleco expertly hiding behind a very short green plant.
True to form, I've seen Pleco move only once since going into the tank.  Eventually he's going to realize that he has a lot more room than usual, and will probably redecorate the interior of the tank as he likes to do, but for now, he's "hiding" behind the shortest plant in the tank... he's not going to win any awards for hide-and-seek anytime soon.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Spiders, Raccoons, and Frogs... Oh, My!

For months now, every time I go to take a bath or shower I find a spider in the bathtub. Every. Single. Time. I don't know what it is about my bathtub that is such a draw to spiders, but it seems that there is some sort of spider law that a single spider must take up residence in there at all times.  I carefully remove the spider using a yoghurt container and a piece of paper, relocating little Igor or Charlotte to the back yard, yet the next time I go to use the tub, there is inevitably another eight-legged critter in there waiting for me.  It's like my bathtub has a vacancy sign that only spiders can see: 
Spider residence now available!  
Must fill immediately!  
Move-in ready! 
Disclaimer: Slight chance of free relocation to a more outdoorsy abode.
Take possession Today!

It's funny, I seem to have a history of critters of various sizes entering my homes (or yards) uninvited.  I've had frogs, raccoons, squirrels, hummingbirds, cats, bunnies, and dogs appear in our house or yard without invitation... not to mention the numerous critters our cats used to catch and release in the house when I was a kid, or the animals our neighbors would bring to my mom to rehabilitate.  We wound up with several unusual birds that way... golden pheasants, crows, ducks... 

I've written about the frogs who have not only appeared in my garden, but have hopped right in the door and across my living room floor - more than once! I actually thought that the little frog was one of the kids toys left out during a recent visit with N&J, until I saw it leap a couple of feet up and to the right.

I've mentioned the hummingbird that I had to rescue from the eating area of our house, and the squirrels who ate from my hand.  I learned how to patch up drywall when mom and I cut several holes in the wall to rescue a baby squirrel who got stuck in the wall of our house. 

Let me see if I can clear up some of the other animal appearances...

There was a giant neighborhood dog that used to break into our backyard and patiently wait there for me to come out and give him pats and scratches behind his ears.  He knew how to push open the gate latch in order to enter the yard, where he would visit with our dogs.  He showed up on the sundeck a couple of times, scaring the begeesus out of me before I realized that it was my furry and unnamed (to me) friend.  Our neighbors across the street had a black lab named Shadow.  He had an electric collar linked to an invisible electric fence around his yard.  He would carefully weigh the discomfort of the shock he knew he would receive if he left the yard (provided the fence was turned on, which it often wasn't) against how much he wanted to visit his neighbors.  I found him lurking in our carport numerous times.  Often I wouldn't know he was there until he was nudging his head against my hand to tell me he wanted to be patted, RIGHT NOW!  He managed to scare each of us more than once because he just blended into the shadows, so you rarely saw him coming.  He loved our neighbor Mr. G.  Mr. G was a quiet neighbor who usually kept to himself, but when Shadow was around he would just light up like a little kid, and made a point of visiting Shadow in his own yard every day so that he wouldn't get zapped crossing the invisible fence.

It was Mr. G who found a tiny baby black and white bunny in his garage, thought it was ours, and asked me to come retrieve it.  While we did have a rabbit matching that general description, Domino was about a hundred times the size of the little guy I found hiding in Mr. G's carport.

A few years ago we had a raccoon mama that moved into the shed in our backyard.  She found a large Tupperware container and used it to create a nest for her babies.  She let me take several photos of her, cooperating as long as I didn't try to get too close.
raccoon babies
When I was a teen, my mom stayed up late one night baking several dozen muffins to take to work the next day.  She left them out on the counter to cool overnight.  We woke up the next morning to find that every single muffin had at least one bite missing from it.  We scolded the cats, thinking that was the end of it.  A week or two later, I was in my bedroom downstairs when I heard a rustling sound in the hallway.  The bag of cat food was kept there, so naturally I assumed that one of the cats had gotten into the bag and was helping herself to a snack.  I called out an admonition, but the rustling started again after a brief pause.  I peered down the hallway to find two beady little eyes staring back at me.  Those eyes didn't sit on the face of one of my cats, but on the masked face of a rather large raccoon.  The raccoon had discovered the cat door, let itself in, and not only helped itself to the cat food, but to the muffins mom had made earlier.  To get the muffins, the raccoon had to go through the cat door, up the stairs, onto the kitchen counter and back out again without being discovered by one of our dogs or cats.  I really don't know how the furry little bandit managed it!

Speaking of our cats... around the time of the raccoon invasion, we had two cats, Quixote Anne (not to be con fused with our former kitty, Don Quixote) and Kira.  Kira appeared one afternoon in a nearly empty flower planter on our sundeck.  We went outside, heard a pitiful mewling sound and found a tiny, very dehydrated kitty curled up in the dusty planter.  How she got there, where she came from, and how she instinctively knew that ours was a safe place to go, we will never know.  We called the vet, described her condition and were told to try to give her some water via syringe or turkey baster, but not to hold out much hope.  If she made it through the night we were to bring her in, but not to bother right away as she was unlikely to make it. (In hindsight, it seems like the vet on duty was not very compassionate.  I've met vets since then who would have insisted we bring her in immediately, planter and all in order to avoid jostling her.)  Against the odds, we managed to get Kira to drink some water, and she gained enough strength to curl up in our laps and purr like mad.  The vet was quite surprised when she went from deathly ill to remarkably healthy in a short span of time.  Her growth was stunted, but she was a lovely and affectionate little kitty who liked to curl up next to our dog Gandalf. At nap time, she acted as if he was her mama, he in turn tolerated her unassuming presence.  Quixote on the other hand, he avoided like the plague after an unfortunate encounter in the eating area (of hummingbird fame) where he cornered her, then didn't know what to do with her, so he kept barking while lunging at her while she swiped her claws at his nose.  She won the battle, he skulked off with a few nasty war wounds, and that was the end of their chances at a lasting inter-species friendship.