Saturday, December 31, 2011

My Wish For You in 2012 and Ever After

May your days be filled with love and laughter.

Dream big. You never know what may come of it.

Write, paint, dance, sing, create something that comes from your heart not your head.

Send that little piece of you out into the world and see where it lands.

Think long and hard about what makes you truly happy.

Are you doing it? If not, ask yourself why.

Don't get trapped by should haves or could haves.

Don't feel guilty about following your bliss.

Grab that bliss by the ears and kiss it hard. On the lips.

Be good to those who deserve it, but also to those who don't, because being kind is more about you than them.

Take a chance, on someone or something. Honestly, what do you have to lose compared to what you stand to gain?

Do something that scares the crap out of you. When you are on the other side of it, you will feel a euphoria that is indescribable, whether it's paddling down a raging river, or giving a speech to your peers.

Every once in a while, treat yourself to the good stuff. The best of the best. Buy a bottle of fine champagne, a box of the richest chocolate, the most luxurious bar of French hand-milled soap, or shrimp the size of a baby's fist. Enjoy it with someone deserving, and by someone I mean you.

Happy New Year

Friday, December 30, 2011

Girls Want Superheroes Too

Is it me, or are we inundated by stupid? I turn on the TV, or radio, open a newspaper or just walk into the nearest cafe and it seems within seconds I am splattered head to toe with stupid.

Many prancing around on the pinnacle of Mount Stupid are women, so happy to be on-camera that they blather on, sharing their jejune theories with a world that gobbles it up and demands more. They do it for attention, and to fill their designer handbags with wads of money, made possible by yes, people like me who tune in and watch. I am ashamed to admit I am as powerless to resist certain reality shows as I am to resist that box of Purdy's chocolates in my desk drawer. But just when I think there can't possibly be that much stupid in this world, Barbara Walters announces, with her usual faux gravitas, that the Kardashians are on her list of the "most fascinating" of 2011.

The Kardashians? Really Babs? This is the best you can come up with? The word fascinating, according to my dictionary, means "interesting, entertaining, captivating, engrossing, and gripping." It also has an archaic meaning, that of a snake depriving a person of the ability to resist or escape by the power of a gaze.

By that definition, why not interview my dog Buddy? He probably has deeper thoughts than all Kardashians combined. Actually, I think we can do better than that.

For every Toddler in a Tiara:

There is a Riley in the toy aisle:

And for every Kardashian who spends time "take caring of my body":

There is Meryl.

Glorious, ethereal, intelligent, talented Meryl.

Thank God for Meryl.

Now there's a role model we can get behind.

She's my superhero.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Car in The Ditch and Regrets of the Dying

I am sitting here at 1 a.m. waiting for a tow truck. My son called a short while ago to say he'd spun out on the ice on his way home from visiting friends, and now our car is in a ditch. My husband and I drove over to pick him up and I knew he felt bad from his stricken face, but I also know he's a responsible person and, well, like the tee-shirt so succinctly states, shit happens.
"We've all done something like this, at one time or another," I told him. "The good news is, you're not hurt, and neither is the car from the looks of it. We'll get it hauled out as soon as we can. In the great scheme of things, this is minor."
The tow truck has been summoned, and I've sent everyone to bed, figuring I'm a late owl anyway and they all have to get up early to get to the airport (at 6:30 a.m.) and/or to work, so I can sleep in if need be.
Then I came across this post. It sure puts that car in a ditch into perspective.
From Arise India Forum:
Nurse Reveals Top 5 Regrets of the Dying

*It's now 2:15 a.m., the car is back in the driveway, everyone I love is tucked safely into bed, so all is right with the world.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Let it snow. And it will.

It is finally snowing here in the Great White North, and it is supposed to stay cold so there will be snow for Christmas, yay! I'm going into the home stretch now with baking and wrapping and stuffing All Things Which Require Stuffing (I'm thinking specifically of the organic, free-range "happy" gobbler but it could equally apply to my big gob) so you won't be hearing much from me for the next few days.

May your days be merry and bright, and may all your Christmases be white.

If you don't have any snow, you can go to google and type "let it snow" and it will! In just a few seconds, your screen will be covered in "snow" until you defrost it or wipe away the snow with your mouse.

And just for fun, type in "Santa" and you should get a string of lights.

Try "tilt" and see what happens.

Ho ho ho.

Much love and happy holidays!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Brilliant little video

Pencils, telling a story. Love it.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Drunk History Christmas

My sister Yutha sent me this video called DRUNK HISTORY CHRISTMAS and it serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of mixing whisky and recitation.

It's got Ryan Gosling and Jim Carrey in it.

And some bad language.

And some most excellent dubbing.

It's so wrong. And yet...

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sounds that have disappeared

I have an old, black rotary-dial phone and I love it, except, well, if there's an emergency. The thing is, it's fun to dial it and then wait for each ticka ticka tick, and to challenge yourself to see if you can flick it just so and get the number you were aiming for. So it stands to reason I especially love phone numbers with lots of zeros in it. The bell itself isn't connected, and apparently there's an easy way to fix it, but since it resides in my bedroom I think I'll leave it as is. The bell is so loud I don't want to have heart failure in the night should it ring. We used to get regular middle of the night phone calls from some of our kids' more mischievous friends who found it funny to wake us up and mumble a drunken hey-how-the-hell-are-ya at 3 a.m.

You know who you are.

And I know who you are.

Friends shouldn't let friends drink and dial. Especially with call display.

Anyway there are a few sounds that have disappeared and they've listed some of them on this website so check these out and see if you get all nostalgic on me. Remember gas station bells? And the sound old TVs made when you turned them on and off? Or when they went off air for the night?


I will probably be posting sporadically for the next couple of weeks.

I'm baking my ass off.

(If only that were true...)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Shit Girls Say

This has gone from a Twitter account to a web series.

There is absolutely nothing in this to which I can relate.


Not one thing.

All lies.

thanks Strombo, you rock

And speaking of web series, if you haven't checked out Jane Espenson's Husbands, stop what you're doing and go check out husbandstheseries.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Why Good Housekeeping Matters

Around 4 a.m. I was roused from a deep sleep by the sound of my pacing, frantic dog. Usually this means imminent diarrhea or vomit on our bedroom floor, often the result of eating someone's sock or thong, or more recently, two insoles from my son's running shoes. (Oh, and three of those waxed paper squares that separate cheese slices. Did you know, as I do intimately, that wax paper squares don't break down in a dog's gut, but twist into long rolls resembling shit-stained cigars? But I digress.)

I staggered downstairs in total darkness with the Budster right behind me, and flung him outside under a full moon (no pun intended.)

As he scampered across the snow-covered deck toward the backyard to relieve himself, I saw the real reason for his distress - hooked to one of his long, fluffy ears and trailing beneath his belly and through the snow was my black padded bra.
Realizing that he was seconds away from peeing all over it or worse, I flew out the door after him, and ran barefoot through the snow to retrieve it.

I have learned my lesson. No more flinging my clothes onto the floor, not even after a party that goes on until 3 a.m.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Deck the Halls, Falalalala-whatev

lac louisa cottage winter scenes, to add visual interest and provide emotional escape

After living the past twenty-three years in the same house, having raised children alongside dogs, cats, rabbits, and birds, we’re thinking it’s time to renovate. Our 70s era kitchen and scuffed floors could be upgraded with granite counters and fresh cupboards and gleaming hardwood.

I’m hesitant to commit because I remember our last big renovation - overhauling our basement. That was to be a six-week job starting mid-November, and the contractor promised completion by Christmas. I believed him, my first mistake. I also ordered furniture to be delivered December 23rd and invited twenty-four people for Christmas dinner, my second mistake.

The contractor was a stocky, red-headed Irishman who used to work as an undercover cop. He limped through our front door, apologizing for his “gimpy” leg, the result of a gunshot wound courtesy of some “Mohawk smugglers.” He'd pigeon hole one of my kids and reminisce in front of a rapt audience about the old days of drug busts and shaking down informants. “Did you know there’s this small community nearby made up of feral-like people all of whom live ‘between the tracks’,” he said to my open-mouthed son. “Their genetic pool is so shallow that these people all look identical - most have no nails, eyebrows or hair. And they’re illiterate, with names like body parts, well, it’s kind of rude, but one guy --“ At that point I intercepted and shot my protesting son off to school.

The rest of the workers were a hormonally-driven gang of young men. There was the blond ski bum Tatu, who cracked jokes about how he loaded he just got, how loaded he was going to get, or how he shouldn't be handling the electric saw because he might still be loaded. His pal Tabtab muttered and puttered alongside him. Rounding out the gang was a lanky Jamaican with dreads they called Captain Morgan who dug a large pit in the back yard then defected to Jamaica at the first sign of snow, with a vow to return in the spring.

The house was a constant state of chaos for weeks on end with no visible progress. Tatu and Tabtab would come for an hour then disappear, or not show up at all, or stay just long enough to leave clouds of dust and sawdust covering everything. Meanwhile, I canceled appointments so I could be home, delayed Christmas shopping, decorating and baking. One morning they woke us at dawn on a Sunday and worked for an hour but to what end? The contractor hobbled around and shouted orders, faithfully showing up even after he’d celebrated his fiftieth birthday with wild abandon and much beer, judging from his hangover.

After their electrician bailed, we hired one, and he regaled us with stories of his French Canadian childhood. His father was one of eighteen children, and the whole family still got together every Christmas, eighty-seven people in all, he said. They use sleeping bags and camp in one house, and his mother, well she cooks for the whole gang, using industrial-sized vats, he said. They were poor growing up, but they were never hungry, he said. What lovely tales he told as I poured him tea and offered homemade Christmas cookies. He even brought his young daughter over to visit, the most delicious child I've ever met, like something out of a Victorian fairy tale. She had long curls under her knitted cap and matching mittens. Oh, and if it wasn’t too much trouble, could we please entrust him with $2,000 in cash to buy the new baseboard heaters because he could get us a great deal that way. I did, and that was my third and final mistake, as that was the last we saw of him and my cash. Ex-Detective Contractor, showing a flair for timing, snapped his fingers and remembered after the fact that this electrician may have been known to him from a drug bust years before.

Small emergencies like a flooded fridge after it was jolted off kilter and a 2x4 through a basement window were handled along with bigger ones. We carved a small niche in the living room grotto and set up a tree alongside old computer monitors, boxes of baby clothes and spare suitcases. Kids arrived from universities, as did shrimp rings, cheese platters, and fresh salads to appease the newly released prisoners of school cafeterias. I finally accepted that I couldn’t do Christmas dinner that year so my sister-in-law offered to do dinner at her mother's place. When I asked what I could bring, she requested a roast turkey, with stuffing, hold the sawdust.

You know, I hear 70s décor is coming back into vogue. Maybe I should nix the renovation idea completely and just declare myself a trendsetter.

Deck the halls, indeed.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Red House at Cosford's Corners

When I was thirteen, my family moved to Aurora, Ontario, a tiny town north of Toronto. It was a bit of an adjustment, being the new "city" kid in a small town where most of the kids had grown up together. It was the kind of place where if you sneezed one day, a dozen people would ask you how you were feeling the next. Aurora was, and still mostly is, surrounded by horse farms and rolling hills. This old red brick home stood at the north end of town at Cosford's Corners. It was named after Thomas Cosford, born in 1795, who settled there in 1834 as a blacksmith and carriage maker. The house was built for his family in 1845, and it is one of the oldest surviving brick houses in Aurora. It's main claim to fame came in 1928, when Stephen Leacock's brother bought the house.

But when I was in high school, we all knew this as The Red House Studio. By that time it was owned by a local artist named Dorothy Clark McClure, and her daughter Kelly was a good friend of my sister Brenda. In fact, I babysat for Mrs. McClure and once agreed to spend the night when she had to go out of town.

What she didn't tell me, until I'd settled in, was that the house was haunted. Don't worry, they all said. Sometimes we hear party sounds, you know, glasses tinkling and light conversation and laughter drifting up the stairs from the first floor, but nothing to worry about. Oh, and every once in a while, the ghost of a young girl wearing a white nightgown will visit my bedroom and sit on my bed, said Mrs. McClure. (Wha-at? This was the bed where I would be sleeping.) So don't be alarmed if you feel her presence during the night because she means no harm, she added.

Needless to say, I lay rigid and on high alert the entire night. As dawn broke I stumbled down to the kitchen. I settled at the table, holding my head, when suddenly I heard scratching noises in the ceiling, directly above me. Now it was probably mice, or maybe a squirrel, but in my frazzled state I could almost feel that young girl's cold bony fingers reaching out to get me. I shot out of that house and into the yard where I paced and waited for Mrs. McClure to arrive while the kids ate their CocoPuffs.

Now fast-forward forty years. I now have Kelly McClure, the girl I used to babysit, on Facebook. And this is what she posted today.

I took mom to lunch at Jonathons today and we sat beside a family that I only noticed in passing. Halfway through the meal, the waitress came to us and said the woman who had been sitting next to us had instructed the waitress to wait until she had left to tell us that she had paid for our lunch, mom's wine, added a dessert and also paid the tip. She said the woman lost her mother 5 years earlier and watching us made her cry and think of her own mother. Wish I could have given her a hug! I don't know who she was, but the gesture made me cry.

Who says angels don't walk among us?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Double Take

This "awkward moment" was sent to me by my sister.

Take a good look before you scroll down.

This is an office party photo.


I was too.

I mean, why is this woman in the middle completely naked in an office photo?

But the real awkward moment?

It's when she realized that her friend's "fat arm" made her look naked in an office group photo.

Thanks, Yutha. You made me laugh until I ached. And Doug was on the floor.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Heathrow Redux

Sure, you've probably seen this already.

I don't care. I'm posting it again.

Because it makes me feel good.

And I always cry at the end.

Yes, T-Mobile, you stole my heart. Damn you and your corporate agenda to stroke my heartstrings and make me dance like a monkey.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Hidden Power of Smiling

The span of your smile can predict the span of your life.

The act of smiling can make you healthier, and make you happier than eating chocolate or winning cash.

Well, I guess I knew all about the power of a smile. I married a dentist, who not only gives brilliant smiles to others, but goes through life with a broad smile himself. This is an awesome lecture, and not that long.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

I love this photographer

Untitled, a photo by mindazonaltal on Flickr.
Each of the photos are like a fairytale. I don't know how they are done, but I love them all.

This is the latest.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Just when you thought it was safe to go outside

I almost got run over today.

I was out with The Budster for our morning constitutional. He'd finished his business, so I sat for a bit on the bench in the children's playground at the end of our street. He nosed about nibbling on the grass while I enjoyed a bit of sun on my face, the only bit of my flesh exposed to the air as it is now below zero. I left the playground and started to cross the street to go home. Bearing in mind that Quebec drivers are notoriously irresponsible drivers, I watched as a car approached going at least twice the posted speed limit.

No problem, since the driver had a) a large stop sign, b) plenty of time to stop, c) a giant speed bump and, d) a pedestrian with the right of way, clearly visible in a puffy down-filled coat holding a bouncy dog on a leash.

But the woman at the wheel simply ignored the sign, the speed bump, me and the dog as she plowed right through, not even slowing down to make a pretense of stopping. I took a couple of steps back and almost tumbled into the ditch, then waved my fists in the air and yelled a "hey, hey, hey!" in the middle of the street (that'll show her!)

I figured she would just disappear down the road, but...she pulled right into a driveway about halfway up.

So what do you think I did? Yup. I jogged up the street and caught the passenger, a middle-aged woman, as she was going into the house right behind the driver.

"Uh, excuse me," I called from the street, deliberately keeping my voice level. "You guys almost ran me over back there. Did you even see the stop sign?" Note that this was a rhetorical question, since they live on this street and therefore must know it is there, and always has been there.

"See?" the passenger calls into the house to the driver hiding in there. "I told you that was bad. You could get a ticket!" She looked at me. "I told her she could have gotten a ticket."

A ticket? You're worried she'll get a ticket? "Uh, this was right beside a playground. You could have killed someone. It's not about her getting a ticket. That was dangerous what just happened back there."

And with that, she went in without another word and closed the door. No apology. Nada.


1. What would you have done?


2. If I happen to come across a dead skunk, what should I do with it?

It also explains why we have signs like this here in La Belle Province:

"Keep an eye on your kids. This might be yours."

Note missing shoe, ripped shirt, closed eyes and lack of irony.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Stephen Fry Asks You to Enjoy Language

"Write poems, love letters, novels and stories..." and leave your red pens and sneering in the desk drawer you "semi-educated losers."

So says Stephen Fry.

Take that, all you pedants out there.

thank you Brenda, for sending this to me and for knowing what makes my heart truly sing

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sarah Kay If I should have a daughter

Sarah Kay is an American poet and founder of V.O.I.C.E. (Vocal Outreach Into Creative Expression) a "group dedicated to using spoken word as an inspirational tool." This TED lecture was part of a series called "Beauty, Imagination, Enchantment."

Monday, November 14, 2011

Gay marriage is confusing? Quantum physics is confusing.

Trying to get a childproof bottle open? Confusing. Gay marriage? Not confusing.

Dear friends of ours, two women to be specific, are getting married next year. We're pretty chuffed about the wedding because, a) there is a lot of love between these two and it lifts me up when I'm around it and, b) many of the invited guests know how to party likes it's 1999 and I'm always up for a good party with people I know well. We don't yet know whether there will be two suits, two gowns or one of each at the altar, but it doesn't matter. They are committed to each other, and their marriage, and all the people who love them will be there to witness it. The only question on my mind, as it is at every wedding, is whether or not the DJ will be any good and will he/she be able to get everyone up on the dance floor.

I realize there are still some people who don't believe in gay marriage, just as there are those who don't believe in true love, or that dogs who can communicate their feelings with their eyes, or why eating chocolate every day helps you live longer. (It does.)

This is what I think:

Love is love.

The End.

"Now they’re saying that we can’t have gay marriage because it would confuse the kids. But you know what else confuses kids? Everything: Time zones. Books without pictures. Cargo pants. Certain hair colors. Jello molds. The magic trick with the quarter behind the ear. Mirrors. Mentadent toothpaste dispensers. Everything confuses kids, because they’re kids. So “Will it confuse kids?” is probably not the best litmus test for, well, anything besides toys and Spongebob plotlines (and even then, there’s a lot of leeway)."

Amelie Gillette at A.V. club

From the Huffington Post

My Gay Lifestyle, by Dominick Scudera

I live the gay lifestyle, the gay lifestyle that is often mentioned by some Republican candidates for president. For those who are unfamiliar with the lifestyle, this is a typical day:

7:00 a.m. I wake up, and just as I have done every morning since puberty, I choose to be gay today. This will come as a great relief to my gay, homosexual, male lover who lies beside me. Because being gay is a choice, our relationship is a gamble day to day. Even though we have both chosen to remain gay and to be together every day for the past 16 years, we never take anything for granted. One of us just might throw in the towel one day the rest here.

thanks Jason D. for the link.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

PSAs revisited

Five years ago, I visited London with my youngest daughter. I bought an original postcard-sized painting in my favourite gallery/museum in the world, the National Portrait Gallery, which has been in operation since 1856. The painting was part of a blind sale (i.e., artist's name was not revealed until you bought and picked up the piece) to raise money for the gallery, which was celebrating its 200th birthday. I was there to celebrate a significant birthday so I bought two paintings, one for me and one for my husband, who was also hitting a milestone that year.

One of the paintings was by the artist Stephen Earl Rogers and I love it, and the rest of his work. We've stayed in touch via emails over the years, and he lets me know when he has new shows.

His latest is a series called "What To Do In An Emergency" based on the 1980s Reader's Digest self-help, family manual many of us remember reading. Part of his exhibit and some his other paintings can be seen HERE.

This put me in mind of some of the really old PSAs, which seemed to put equal emphasis on dating advice and what to do in the event of a nuclear blast. Or they dispense advice on dining, like, "Most families don't have maids, so Mother needs help with the serving." Oy.


Monday, November 7, 2011

An Ancient Parable from India, not to be confused with an ancient parasol or parasite

A wise woman who was traveling in the mountains found a precious stone in a stream. The next day she met another traveler who was hungry, and the wise woman opened her bag to share her food. The hungry traveler saw the precious stone in the wise woman's bag, admired it, and asked the wise woman to give it to him. The wise woman did so without hesitation.

The traveler left, rejoicing in his good fortune. He knew the jewel was worth enough to give him security for the rest of his life.

But a few days later he came back, searching for the wise woman. When he found her, he returned the stone and said, "I have been thinking. I know how valuable this stone is, but I give it back to you in the hope that you can give me something much more precious."

"If you can, give me what you have within you that enabled you to give me the stone."

Words to live by (unless of course we're talking about oatmeal cookies, especially if they're still warm from the oven. Then this parable is totally bogus.)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Joanna Bourne and THE BLACK HAWK

If you like romance and mystery and historical fiction, check out Rita Winner Joanna Bourne's latest book THE BLACK HAWK, which has just been nominated for Best Historical Romance by Romantic Times. Some of her earlier books include THE SPYMASTER'S LADY, MY LORD AND SPYMASTER, and THE FORBIDDEN ROSE and if you haven't read them, stop what you're doing (seriously, stop it, right now) and go get them.

(Jo is an awesome storyteller, and I'm telling you, hand over heart, that Spymaster's Lady made me stop and gasp and slap my thigh and yell a hey nonny nonny WHATNOW?! when I got to a certain part in the story. You will too. Trust.)

Publishers Weekly said this about THE BLACK HAWK:

Bourne mixes heart-pounding mystery and romance in her spellbinding fourth Spymaster historical romantic thriller (after 2010’s The Forbidden Rose). From childhood, Adrian Hawker spied on France for England while Justine DeCabrillac gathered intelligence for the Police Sècrete. They were teens when they met in Paris in 1794, and as they grew up, their paths crossed often in a changing world. Sometimes they were on the same side, and sometimes they were opposed, but it was inevitable that they fall bittersweetly in love, knowing that any minute duty could take precedence over passion. Their tempestuous love affair unfolds in flashbacks, alternating with scenes from 1818 London, where somebody tries to kill Justine and frame Hawker, now head of the British Intelligence Service with as many enemies in England as in France. Just the right amount of intrigue makes this vivid romance a gripping page-turner.

(Name drop alert.)

Last year, I had lunch with Jo and Anne Perry and the luminous, unflappable, awesome writer and conference coordinator Kathy Chung at the Surrey International Writers' Conference. Listening to Jo and Anne in conversation was like watching two master tennis players lob a ball back and forth for fun. They both have brilliant intellects and wit, and as they discussed details of the French Revolution as casually as one might discuss the weather, I felt privileged to be their ball boy grabbing at stray balls. Jo knows her history, and she is a born storyteller, so the two combined? Magic.

Hie yourself over to The Debutante Ball where you'll find an interview with Jo and a chance to win her latest novel.

Friday, November 4, 2011

All Is Really One

All things are our relatives;
what we do to everything,
we do to ourselves.
All is really One.
Black Elk, religious leader of the Lakota tribe

I've been pondering this lately because I live in a small town where gossip runs as freely as the draft beer at the local pub. Also, I just finished reading an excellent book on sociopaths - THE SOCIOPATH NEXT DOOR by Martha Stout - and at the end of the book, she mentions gossip, and lack of conscience.

"Conscience is...the place where psychology and spirituality meet." Martha Stout.

Sometimes gossip is just little harmless bits of information - have you seen B. lately? She's lost a lot of weight. Did you see that tree that came down on V.'s back porch? But then there is harmful gossip that crosses a line. It's mean-spirited, intended to isolate and attack another person. It is a form of bullying because the person spreading the rumours believes he/she is elevated by pulling someone else down.

Let's be clear. I'm no angel. I am as tempted as the next person to pass on some juicy tidbit overheard at the local hardware store about someone's kid being arrested or the state of someone's long-term marriage that seems to be on shaky ground. We pass around celebrity gossip like a plate of warm brownies so why not include people we know, or think we know?

My opinion on gossip changed when I found out my family was the latest casualty. A neighbour saw boxes being carted from the house to a waiting van and assumed, incorrectly, that my husband had moved out. Did she ask me? No. She called another neighbour to report what she saw and what she suspected. As the gossip spread down the street like a game of broken telephone, it took on a life of its own. The story was embellished with lies and speculation as to why he had moved out, no, he must have been thrown out. He must have been unfaithful, that bastard, no she had it coming...none of it true, of course. But some people never let truth get in the way of a good story. The real story - we were renovating our entire basement after some minor water damage and the contractor need to have everything out temporarily - was not as juicy.

It's changed how I talk about, and behave, around others. I'm not as open or trusting with confidences. I resist spreading rumours but sometimes I slip and when I find myself zinging someone else, I end up feeling guilty as I remember how I felt when I was the target. Let's just say, I'm a work in progress.

Some ancient Eastern mythology states that gossip is a form of mental illness. Stout believes conscience, and the ability to feel empathy towards others, is how you end up with a happy, successful life.

All that we are is the result of
what we have thought.
If a man speaks or acts with an evil thought,
pain follows him.
If a man speaks or acts with a pure thought,
happiness follows him,
like a shadow that never leaves him.

Now, before I am tempted to spread gossip, I ask myself three questions:

1. Is it the truth?

2. Is it well-intentioned?

3. Is there a valid reason to share it?

If I can't answer these questions, I shut my mouth tighter than a crab's ass at high tide.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A "poetree" mystery

This is making the rounds on a few blogs and I thought I'd share it here in case any of you missed it.

First there was a tree, a "poetree" sculpture made of paper, left in a Scottish library.

It had a cryptic note and a poem in pieces hidden inside a golden egg.

Then, there was a coffin topped by a gramophone.

This was followed by an Edinburgh movie theatre, a dragon in an egg, a teacup...

The shredded paper sculptures were mostly, but not exclusively, made from Ian Rankin's books.

Were they from him, some sort of publicity stunt? Apparently not.

They came with the note:

"This is for you in support of libraries, books, words, ideas..." and the tag @ByLeavesWeLive

Who was creating these marvelous pieces and sneaking them into libraries undetected?

No one knew.

The coolest part of this story?

A former music librarian with the Edinburgh Evening News thought he recognized the artist and had a name. But did the newspaper print the name?

Nope. They took a poll to see if readers wanted to know the answer or did they want it to remain a mystery. The answer was a resounding "keep it a mystery!"

So they did!

Read about it and see the fantastical photos of all the art pieces HERE.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Graffiti, like it or loathe it

I don't like graffiti as a rule, but I love it as a side dish. No seriously, it's wrong, and not respectful of other people's property, and wrong. However I do like cleverness. So I'm torn between laughing at these and feeling Very Guilty about it.

I remember the toilet stalls at the university library provided the best ongoing dialogue of current affairs out there. There were debates that went on for, well, walls and walls, at least until the cleaning staff gave it a good scrub. But then like magic, another debate would begin under the coat hook or above the toilet paper.

One began "My mother made me a homosexual!"

Underneath someone wrote "If I buy her the wool, will she make me one too?"

(Don't forget, this was the 70s in Toronto, so coming out was a big deal.)

So imagine my delight when The Bloggess posted a link to photos with some pretty funny responses to graffiti.

If you want to see them, just point your little mousie HERE and press go.

And then of course, I ended up at sarcastic additions to well-meaning signs.

For the rest of those, direct your little mousie HERE.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Department of Homeland Whatnow?

I'm attempting to get one of those speedy border passes through the Department of Homeland Security.

If I succeed, I will be that woman, you know, the one who scoots around the regular line, feeling the hot glares on the back of her neck from all those sweaty onlookers as they drag their bags slowly forward and she waltzes right into the security pat-down line.

You can't make a mistake, or worse, lie about anything when you fill out these forms. Because if you do, you're banned from using or getting another card for life. But the first question on the online form is so confusing I reckon I'm snookered before I even start.

It says: list your paternal name, then your maternal name, then your first name. they mean my married name i.e. last name, maiden name and first name? My married name IS my maiden name.

Or do they mean my father's last name, my mother's maiden name and my first name? What about my husband's last name, which I sometimes use socially?

Turns out they don't really know either. I called the Montreal office and Big Shocker, no one was there to pick up the phone. Quebec's motto should be "It's not my job" followed by a Gallic Shrug.So I phoned the Toronto office, finally got a human and she said "the paternal name is the last name you go by, and the maternal name is your maiden name." My maiden name IS my paternal name. I live in Quebec, so we are required by law to keep our maiden names. So do I write it down twice?

The she gave me another number in Ottawa.

This time, the woman said "the paternal name is your last name, the one you use now." (So, my maiden name.) "And the maternal name is any other name you've used."

Huh? So I told her I use my husband's last name sometimes, plus I'd been married before, like 30 years ago, and I used his last name at that time so is that what they want under "maternal name"? Yup. Are you sure? "Oh yes," she laughed. "This happens all the time. Put down any or all other names you've used."

So I go back online and it seems like I'm filling in more names than Elizabeth Taylor and then I see a teensy, tiny, 'help' button in the upper corner. Clearly they don't want you to use it, or they'd make it easier to see.

It says paternal name is your current last name and maternal name is your mother's last name.

If I can't get past the first page on the form, the likelihood is I'm going to be standing in the back of the line with the rest of the sweaty plebs, practicing my glare.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Hallowe'en has gone to the dogs

I were going to choose a Hallowe'en costume for Buddy, this would be the one.

But I won't do it.

Because it's cruel.

Terribly, terribly, terribly cruel.

Here Buddy...come to mama...

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Squirrel Melt Anyone?

If you're squeamish, don't read this.

If you love squirrels, don't read this.

Go make yourself a peanut butter sandwich and watch The X Factor. This post is to Cute Overload what Jaws is to The Little Mermaid.

So this blogger from T-dot, clearly a sensitive fellow and squirrel lover, happened upon one of the little critters after it was broadsided by a van.

The guy hopped off his bike, rushed to the scene and tried to "find a pulse" on its limp, furry body. He looked a little closer and thought "she" might have been nursing. The clues? It appeared she hadn't showered for several days, her tail was stained with spit up and her kitchen was full of dirty dishes.

Not knowing what to do, and unclear on the concept of roadkill, he called Toronto's animal services for advice.

Their response? Put it in a bag and leave it on the porch and they'll see about coming to get it in the morning. Um, that's why it's called roadkill. Also, they told him to watch the Monty Python Dead Parrot sketch before he called them again.

Not exactly the "proper send off" he was hoping for.

Btw, this is how we give squirrels a proper send off in our 'hood:

The Boris, aficionado of squirrel tartare

So I say, why not use that roadkill, or as I like to call it "free protein," for Squirrel Melts? They're "a nice weekend snack maybe while watchin' the football game." According to this expert squirrel chef below, it is very versatile because it's good hot or cold.

It's also low fat and as free range as it gets. Some say it tastes like a cross between lamb and duck, others more like wild boar. Nowhere does it say it tastes like chicken.

Grey squirrel is even flying off the shelves in the UK according to this article THE ULTIMATE ETHICAL MEAL:A GREY SQUIRREL. Best of all, it's free. And plentiful, if my backyard is anything to go by. And since the UK is known the world over for its fine cuisine, if they're saying eat squirrel, it must be good.

So get out your aprons and cookbooks shotguns and pickup trucks and hit the mean streets. If you're lucky enough to live in Toronto, it won't take long to get dinner out of that city park and on to your dinner table.

Not for the squeamish. Seriously, you have been warned.

And if you can't bring yourself to cook and eat one, there is always Roadkill Art.

I swear I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried. I don't know what's more strange. The guy making art out of roadkill, or the people paying more than 50,000 pounds for it.

Rick Mercer

And this is why we love him.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Surrey International Writers' Conference Part Deux

If you are an aspiring writer and feel you need some motivation to keep going, check out this awesome keynote speech by Robert Dugoni.

It will turn you around.

I guarantee it.

Go HERE to listen.

This day we write!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Surrey International Writers' Conference

I just got back from my annual writers' conference in Surrey, British Columbia. The SiWC was amazing, exhausting, exhilarating as it always is. It truly is the best writers' conference in the world. My heart is full to overflowing.

On the flight back, there was a sweet young mom of three sitting one seat over who was having such an attack of nerves my heart went out to her. She was flushed and shaking, fidgety and close to tears and that was before the plane had even left the hangar! When we started to move, she asked if she could hold my hand. So I reached over the outwardly calm but slightly disconcerted man in the middle seat who probably wished he'd been seated anywhere else than sandwiched between these two crazy female bookends and I held her hand, and rubbed the back of it in slow circles with my thumb. I used my soothing mama voice, the one that convinced my kids there were no more monsters hiding under the bed. I got her calmer, got her distracted by asking questions about her kids and her life. (Then the man in the middle thought he'd help too, and mentioned a guy he knew who was in a plane crash but it's okay, he survived it. Even if we do go down, we'll probably be fine! Venus to Mars, come in Mars. Stroke the hand, stroke the hand!)

gratuitous flower shot to break up the text

Anyway, at the SiWC, we have days packed with workshops, and long nights in the bar talking writing with friends and fellow writers. Where else can you chat about Queen Elizabeth I with Anne Perry in the elevator, Diana Gabaldon about what makes a good sex scene, and Michael Slade about some guy getting his kicks from dressing dogs in panties, all in the same day? Or sit with the ethereal novelist and professional puppeteer Mary Robinette Kowal, who had us in stitches describing a Passion Play gone horribly wrong. Or hear Jack Whyte not only sing his hippopotamus song but convince hundreds of people to join him in the chorus?

For me, the highlight of the conference was listening to the wise, charming, witty, soulful and very inspiring Ivan E. Coyote. When I leave one of her workshops, I not only feel like a better writer, I feel like a better person.

You know, when I attend the conference every year, there are always signals from the universe, little nudges, wee "woo woo" moments where I stop and think was that a coincidence, or do I need to pay close attention to something.

oh look, another gratuitous flower shot because, you know, too much text

When I was in line to board the plane in Montreal to Vancouver, I chatted with a woman and I wrote down her name, as I often do, thinking I might put it in a story. A few days later, Ivan told a story in her workshop about a friend of hers, a good friend, with whom she'd lost touch, and her last name was Bean. Twenty years later, Ivan was teaching a bullying workshop and she was approached afterwards by this wonderfully odd boy who was succinct and wise beyond his years. His name was... Eliot Bean, son of her friend.

The woman I talked to in line at the airport? Her name was Elaine Bean.

Ivan said to look for "watershed" moments. I write for a magazine called Watershed.

Ivan said one of her interests is Roma caravans, because her grandmother was Roma. I've recently been researching caravans for a story (including the day before I left for the conference) and I have a fat file on them as it's always been a dream of mine to own one.

Odd, no? But not, you know, earth shattering.

While I was standing in line to board the plane in Vancouver to come back home today, I chatted with the woman walking beside me. (You see a trend here, right? Yes, I talk to strangers, only if they're receptive, but I've had many an interesting conversation.) Turns out Heidi is president and general manager of an artist management company in Montreal.

Where are you coming from, I asked.

"The Yukon," she said, where she'd just attended the Western Canadian Music Awards.

yep, another one

And then I did that thing that makes every Canadian roll their eyes when they're talking to someone from outside the country. "I've just heard an amazing speaker from the Yukon," I said. "Do you know Ivan E. Coyote?"

"Know her? I just stayed with Kim Beggs, a good friend of Ivan's who has performed with her." And with that, Heidi gave me a CD with some of the artists she works with, including Ivan's friend Kim.

And then Heidi asked if I'd ever considered writing music bios. See? Magic.

When I tell you there is some kind of amazing alchemy that comes out of the SiWC, you'd better believe me. And in case that's not woo woo enough for you, the man sitting beside me on the plane mentioned his son, a news anchor, is named Tyler Fleming and Heidi, sitting in front of him, twisted around and said, "Hey, that's my nephew's name."


To sum up- I'm tired, but inspired.

That's what the SiWC does every year.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Inspiration is everywhere

TMB Bank Thailand put together this 5 minute video of a little football club that could.

If you watch Amazing Race, you'll have seen this village on the last show. The entire town floats off a little island in the south part of Thailand. There is literally no solid land on which to build, but the kids wanted to play football (soccer to us Canucks.) So watch what they did.

See if you aren't in tears by the end of this story. You might want to click it and go directly to YouTube so you can read the sub-titles.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Tide Commercial

Have a look and see what you think about this. Then read what I think.

I actually wrote to the company to say I found it offensive, on so many levels.

They replied:

Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts on the Tide commercial. Tide celebrates individual style, and we know kids are creative and sometimes choose to wear what they want - not always what mom suggests.

Our intention wasn’t to convey an unfavorable relationship between the mom and daughter or to express an opinion on what is or isn’t appropriate to wear. Our intention was to play up the humor of what happens when mothers and children have differing style preferences.

We take your feedback very seriously, and I’ll share your comments with the rest of our Tide team.

Interesting. "Tide celebrates individual style"? Really?

I wrote back again:

I understand that's where you were aiming with this Tide commercial, but your creative team completely missed the mark.

Of course mothers and daughters don't always agree when it comes to clothing choices. I've raised three kids, two of them daughters, so I know what kind of battles teenagers and their moms go through as one side struggles to express themselves and the other struggles to let go (and it's not just girls, btw.) I get that. But what this commercial suggests is that the mother is disappointed not only in her daughter's clothing choices, but where they might lead. It implies that the girl's rejection of pink "feminine" things and her interest in hoodies, cargo shorts and "gettin' dirty" while she plays with car garages are making her daughter kind of butch and possibly (gasp!) a lesbian, implying there is something wrong with this.

What kind of message is that? Gay and transgendered kids are being bullied and committing suicide because society and sometimes their own parents do not accept them as they are. Have you seen the "It Gets Better" campaigns on YouTube?

Say it was a father and son in the commercial, and the son was wearing pink and playing with dolls, and the father expressed disappointment that he couldn't change the way the kid dressed. Would it still be funny?

Kids struggle so hard these days, looking for their own identities while stereotypes are thrown at them from all sides, especially young girls. The fact that this aired during an episode of Teen Mom only adds to the irony.

I took time out of my day to write this because it's important. Thanks for taking time out of your day to listen.


What do you think? If you like, go HERE and tell Tide yourself.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

New Trick for Buddy

I need to teach Buddy this trick.

He can flop on the floor and play dead, but this?

This is the best. Promise. I get the giggles every time I watch it.

13 Observations made by Lemony Snicket...

This is brilliant. It was posted by the equally brilliant Neil Gaiman.

13 Observations
made by Lemony Snicket
while watching
Occupy Wall Street
from a Discreet Distance

1. If you work hard, and become successful, it does not necessarily mean you are successful because you worked hard, just as if you are tall with long hair it doesn’t mean you would be a midget if you were bald.

2. “Fortune” is a word for having a lot of money and for having a lot of luck, but that does not mean the word has two definitions.

3. Money is like a child—rarely unaccompanied. When it disappears, look to...keep reading here.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Breast Cancer and Your Man Reminder

This is just so...exploitative

Where was I?

I need a new phone for Christmas.

Hey, I'm providing a public service, people.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Ode to Timmy

For my non-Canadian readers, Tim Horton's is one of our national treasures. The coffee and doughnut chain was founded in 1964 by hockey player Tim Horton who unfortunately died in a car crash ten years later. He never saw just how successful his company would become, i.e., the largest fast food chain in the country. Nowadays you can spot a Timmy's from Kelowna to Kandahar.

Oh, it's more than coffee and doughnuts, my friends. It's a mecca for caffeine-starved, carb-craving Canucks, especially in the winter when we're heading out with a carload of kids to a pre-dawn hockey practice or shuffling off to work in the morning.

We are a loyal nation. We all worship at the altar of Timmy's. Ask any Canadian what "roll up the rim to win" means and he or she can tell you. We all roll up our rims and hope for the big one. Actually, a few years ago, two local families got into a heated battle. One girl found a winning coffee cup in the garbage can at her primary school. She couldn't figure out how to roll up the rim, so she asked an older girl to help her. Turns out the prize under the rim was a car worth $32,000. The older girl's family insisted they deserved the prize. The younger girl's family said something along the lines of "Nuh uh, you don't!

Tim Hortons, like a good mom, said they were not going to get involved and that they had to work things out themselves. Then a lawyer called for a DNA test to be done on the cup. (I swear I'm not making this up. This happened in a community close to my cottage.) The lawyer claimed that his unnamed client had thrown out the cup but was the rightful owner of the prize. Seriously?

What do you think is fair? Who do you think got the car?

Like the mom who heard a lamp crash in the rec room and stomps downstairs to investigate, Tim Hortons reversed their decision to get involved and announced they would award the prize to the younger girl who first found the cup. Yay! Tim Bits for everyone!

On a long, mind-numbing drive along the 401 from Montreal to Toronto, the regular sight of a Timmy's at the end of the exit ramp can lift one's spirits to the point where you can almost hear the celestial choir's voices raised in a big old Hallelujah. And that quick stop to pick up a large double double and a box of Tim Bits will inevitably end with the raised hand of the server (no baristas here) and the benediction "have a nice day." And you will. Oh yes, you will.

Now have a listen to this guy's experience.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Ellen's favourite guests of all time

This kid slays me.

Part of me is charmed, another (bigger) part of me is so happy I don't have to live with this little one because I'm exhausted just watching her on Youtube.

Uptown Downstairs Abbey

A brilliant satire for fans of Downton Abbey. If you haven't seen Season One, there are some spoilers. Actually if you haven't seen Season One, you might not find these funny anyway.

If anyone in my family is reading this, Mama Ham would love to look under the Christmas tree and find the complete Upstairs/Downstairs series on DVD. Just saying.

Anyone else remember Rose? And Mr. Hudson? And Mrs. Bridges? And poor Ruby? And Sarah?

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Universe is Jiggly

Sorry I haven't been around these parts much lately. I was in Lancaster Pennsylvania for a week looking for Harrison Ford antiques for my sister. Now I'm back home and facing some choices for renovations in pretty much every room in the house. The outside stuff is done - windows, siding, garage door, front door - but now 23 years of crap accumulation has to be cleared out and that's daunting indeed. One look in my garage and I feel like one of those people featured on Hoarders. Only with fewer pizza boxes and slightly less cat feces.

This time of year, with the dwindling sunlight and rainy days, I turn into a bit of a cave dweller. In order to feel somewhat human again, I switch on my special light box to try to wrestle my seasonal affective disorder to the ground and get it in a choke hold. I push myself to get outside more often, and take advantage of the light we have until December 22nd, the winter solstice, my turning point. And don't even get me started on carbs. Carbs are like heroin for the next 3 months. But this too shall pass. It always does. Or I could move to Australia where their summer is just beginning.

Right now I have a small black distraction in the form of a Russian cat named КНОПОЧНЫЙ. This is roughly translated to Knopa, or 'Nopa for short which means "button" in Russian. It's my son's girlfriend's kitten and while she is back home visiting family, we get her cat. She is all black save for a spot on her chest and one toe and has the face of a Siamese, narrow and all eyes. (The cat, not his girlfriend. She is blond and lovely.) She is also a holy terror, spinning in circles, on and around furniture and resident cats and dog, until exhaustion sets in, at which point she stretches out on her belly, back legs flat out behind her. (Again, I feel compelled to point out I'm describing the cat, not his girlfriend.)

And if you are holding anything remotely resembling a dairy product, she's all in your
plate/bowl/cup face before you can say Got Milk. I'd take a photo but she's too fast for a photo, moving more like a lizard or tiny bird. (Oh wait, I can steal borrow one from Facebook.)

This is her usual pose. Always ready to pounce.

I'm getting such a kick out of her it's going to hard to give her back, but my cats will be thankful. Buddy is oblivious, despite 'Nopa's enchantment with his swishy tail.

But now, I'll share something with you that gave me great joy today. It's an explanation of why the universe is jiggly. You didn't know the universe was jiggly? Top scientists say it is, so it must be true.

This is set to music using auto-tune. The universe, made up of "12 particles of matter, 4 forces of nature" is "a wonderful and significant story."

Believe me, you've never heard quantum science explained like this.

Happy Thanksgiving, my Canadian friends. Let's all go forth and eat turkey!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Jarle Bernhoft - One Man Band Sensation

This musician is amazing. Especially after being forced to listen to pop songs that are the musical equivalent of junk food. He is the real deal.

He jokes "I can't even afford a band" so what does he do? He performs all of it himself. And that soulful voice? Oh, I swoon.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011


The DVD is out this week.

Here is the gag reel.

Don't watch it if you haven't seen the movie. Actually, if you haven't seen the movie, drop what you're doing and go rent it or buy it. Then you may come back and watch this gag reel. This really gave me the giggles, especially the scenes with Jon Hamm. What a phenomenal cast.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I went to Amish country!

I flew to Toronto to meet up with my youngest sister and together we drove down south to Lancaster, Pennsylvania for a full week away. We had gorgeous weather, as warm as mid-July here but with lovely fall colours to accompany us as we made our way through the mountains. We were there to shop for vintage kitchen stuff for my sister's business, and believe it or not there was simply no time to blog or even take photos. We ate, we shopped, we fell exhausted in our little nests piled high with pillows every night...good times. Then we drove home in a car that made us look like the Beverly Hillbillies.

It was wonderful, but I'm exhausted so I will be back soon.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Internet is a Playground

And who is in charge? David Thorne.

He is pee your pants funny. Can't catch your breath wheezy black-lung-cough funny. Hands limp at your sides, tears down your face, then puke in your handbag FUNNY.

He's like the errant love child of David Sedaris and The Roadrunner.

Delightfully subversive, wickedly funny, I dare you to read his posts in public without humiliating yourself.

He's the genius behind:


Go to the link above. Was your reaction like the one below?

Well, if you like his blog, now David has a book!

Called...The Internet is a Playground. Irreverent Correspondences of an Evil Online Genius. Here's a trailer featuring an interview with...Oprah?

Read these excerpts if you think you can handle them.


TEN FORMAL COMPLAINTS (paying homage to Jim and Dwight)


The last one reminds me of a comment The Bloggess got that read, and I quote:

"When your wrong, your wrong!"

(I'm kind of hoping she follows through on her threats to make that into a tee-shirt because I would totally buy it.)

I have to stop reading David's blog now. My stomach muscles are sore.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A new kind of moos-ical

Those of you with cows. Ever try this?