Sunday, 30 November 2008

Monday Mission - The Adventures of Spiderhand

I always forget to credit Painted Maypole who organizes, creates challenges and runs the check in list for the Monday Missions, on top of everything else she does. Amazing woman! To see the other MM's, go over to her blog and follow the links.

Spiderhand and his sinister sidekick, Manus Arthriticus (aka BAD spider), burst on a waiting world in August of 3007, springing to life and to action,their objective a rescue of the whining four year old Little Stuff from Terrible Boredom. Since that time they have appeared many times and had many adventures.

On a sort of sunny day in November, Little Stuff and her entourage arrived Chez Grama and Grandpa G at lunch time. She found Spiderhand and his twin making lunch in the kitchen, captives of Slavedriver Grama, alternately forced to chop and carry, dive into in soapy water or rub themselves roughly dry on a grubby towel.

'Any questions, spider?" said Little Stuff.

'Help' they cried. 'Grama is making us work again!'

They thrust plates and knives and napkins and mustard and the bread plate and milk glasses and lots of other stuff at Little Stuff and she gamely lugged it all into the dining room and set up the table.

Grama was chopping peppers. 'I can do that,' said Little Stuff. 'My Daddy lets me use a knife.'

Little Stuff made a fine job of the peppers, while the spiders hovered nervously above the chopping board, twitching a little.

Then it was lunch time. After lunch the spiders conned Little Stuff into carrying a lot of the dishes and mustard and glasses and stuff back to the kitchen. Evil Grama forced the spiders to load the dishwasher.

Then it was time to play.

'Spiderhand needs to be dressed up,' said Grama. 'Then we will take his picture.'

Little Stuff got out her art supplies and coloured industriously. She made Spiderhand a beautiful red mouth, green hair, red earrings and three colours of shoes. Spiderhand felt very proud. Evil spider tried to take pictures of this but he didn't do too well. Little Stuff took over the photography and took a fine shot of Spiderhand and they all admired it.

Then Little Stuff set up the table for a birthday party for Pretty Barbie. Another doll was invited and so was Roo* and both spiders. The table looked lovely with tea and cupcakes and a Dora cake and some wine glasses and place mats with stars and butterfly and grasshopper stickers on them.

Evil spider got some stars for his face.

Little Stuff poured the tea. And everyone had a drink. Lurp, lurp, lurp.

Roo demanded a lot of sugar in his tea and shoved his nose right into his cup to lick up the last drop. That was very bad manners. And he got his nose stuck in the cup, too and the spiders had to pull him out. Then he banged his cup on the table and shouted 'MORE TEA!' in a very loud voice. Barbie sat very straight and looked pained.

Little Stuff explained that he had to say 'Can I have some more tea, please' but Roo had a hard time saying it right.

'Can I tea some more please, have?' he said.

'No, no, Roo.'

'Have I can tea more some please!' he shouted.

Patiently Little Stuff corrected him again.

With both spiders helping, he finally got some more tea, but with very little sugar. All the guests had a cupcake and two servings of Birthday Cake. Little Stuff had some Ritz crackers. She gave a piece to Spiderhand but he didn't like it much so he gave it to Grama.

Spiderhand also had a lovely glittery grasshopper sticker, but it was too flat to eat.

They had a very good time except that Roo dropped his cake into Spiderhand's cup and when he dumped it out again it got onto Spiderhand's beautiful pink shoe.

Little Stuff's mother and father and grandfather were stacking furnace wood outside the back door. When Little Stuff wanted to watch her Barbie Swan Lake video, Grandpa had to come inside and turn it on because the spiders had forgotten how and Grama couldn't find her notes on how to do it. Grandpa promised to make her another set.

'Don't lose it this time, Grama!' said Little Stuff.

The spiders were very very glad that all of the furnace wood was stacked. Manus Arthriticus, especially, didn't like stacking furnace wood because it was so heavy. Now it was all done!

Everyone had a snack. Little Stuff's parents had shrimp and Little Stuff had grapes and one of Grandpa's Halloween candy bars with the 'No Nuts' logo on it which Evil Spider found in Grandpa's bedside table.

Then it was time for Little Stuff to go home and the spiders waved goodbye from the porch. And then they cleaned up the tea party.

Now they are dancing on Grama's keyboard, tired but content.

* Apologies to the Milne Estate.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Winter is icumen in

We woke up this morning to six inches of wet, perfect for snowman, snow. It's beautiful, even if large chunks did fall on my head and slither down my neck when I walked out the laneway to get the paper.
This shot is taken out the bedroom window looking along the edge of the back field and showing Little Stuff's swing.
This shows the laneway going toward the barn with a corner of the old cabin visible through the trees.

The apple tree under the kitchen window. You can just see the birdfeeder on the left. The birds love this tree because the branches are dense and they can sneak up on the feeder from it.

Shot from the kitchen porch.

Three of these shots are simply cropped and pasted in. In the fourth I did some revision -- balanced the tone using one of the utilities in Corel PhotoPaint. It looks a lot more dramatic that way but I am never sure I am not cheating when I do this kind of thing. It's a funny divide. If I had taken the time to reset the camera white values, this is pretty close to what I would have got and that seems perfectly legitimate. As does using polarizing filters or double exposing. But once I have the image, I always need to say so if I have done any editing.
Why is this, I wonder. I would not have to confess if I had edited something I wrote -- I just assume that editing is a necessary part of writing. (And I cringe when I read anything I have not edited.) If I am painting I retouch without thinking about it. Weird. I guess I am a living fossil or something.
Just in passing, I took these shots about an hour ago and if I did the same thing now I would get an almost perfect whiteout because the temperature has gone above freezing and fog has rolled in. Bummer!

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Words, Glorious Words

As a fan of both Jabberwocky and Mondegreens, I love silly words. Lately I seem to have hit a goldmine of amusing combinations coming up in verification boxes. Here are some of them that I have collected this week.


Don't you think that they look naked? Don't you think they need definitions to give them some gravitas? Rather than hogging all the fun, (although I can't resist tagging woofsk as the utterance of a Russian dog) I am posting the list and offering you a chance to define a brand new word. Why should computer nerds and teenagers have all the fun?

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Wood 'n It Be Loverly

JG got the furnace going last night and I am finally thawing out. I've been freezing my bumpf off for the last week and complaining all over Facebook. You see, we have a big, open concept bungalow with a great room. This room has a 15' ceiling and a wall of windows. In the spring and the fall we heat with two wood stoves, one in the great room and one in the TV and computer room below it and use an updraught ceiling fan to move the warm air around. This works well when the sun warms the front of the house up in the middle of the day. But. Once the temperature drops below freezing, the middle of the house where the chimney wall is located stays warm but the peripheries are cold. Very cold if the wind is blowing. Well, it is the middle of November and we have snow and the wind is blowing and I have been cold for the last week.

So, why didn't I just complain to the man and say 'Put the [censored] furnace on, already'? Well, because. I have a love/hate relationship with the furnace. It is a forced air, wood burning unit and I can hardly lift the chunks of wood that work best in it, let alone place them 'gently' on the coals so that the fire brick doesn't crack. I hate stacking the furnace wood too. The stoves, on the other hand, take small enough pieces that I can work with them fairly easily. But because the wood is finer, the stoves have to be tended much more frequently than the furnace and if I am working in the office on the computer I am warm, with two printers and the hard drive running, and tend to forget to load them often enough.

JG loves wood. He loves cutting down ugly trees, hauling the logs out of the bush with the winch, stacking them with a special clamp he has made for the hydraulic lift on the tractor, cutting them to size with one of his six chainsaws, splitting, stacking, moving, restacking, leaving to dry, moving, restacking. Well, I am not so sure he loves the moving bit. He tries to co-opt the family when he can. He and two equally nutty friends have a massive cull of the bush in the fall -- they cut, he hauls and stacks the logs. A huge pile of drying split wood fills his heart with joy. I, on the other hand, put on a wrist brace and trudge off to stack furnace wood with no pleasure at all. Luckily what the friends want is stove wood and so I don't have to do more that a few bush cords of furnace size.

We have three hundred acres of scrub bush, less the two acres open around the house and the beaver ponds. It is run as what Ontario calls a 'managed forest plan'. This works out to getting a tax break if there is a plan in place to improve and maintain the forest. Key to this is doing 'improvement' cuts; identifying trees that are not thriving, cutting them to open up the forest canopy and using the wood. The wood and lumber (JG also has a sawmill) that we sell off the place is 'Certified' -- if you are interested in sustainability, look for an FSC stamp on wood products that you buy. As well as managing the trees, we also maintain trails, wildlife habitat, we plant valuable species like oak or butternut, we keep an inventory of plants, especially species at risk, and remove invasive species like garlic mustard. JG, who is an engineer by trade, has taught himself to do all this.

His remedy for being cold is to forge off into the bush and work to keep warm. Mine, to put on a sweater and add wood to the fire. By the time we let the furnace go out my wrists will have strengthened enough to make stacking furnace wood less of a problem. And if we leave it too long, it will be May and I will be sweating buckets and whining on Facebook about the heat.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Monday Mission - Screenporch Symphony

Today's assignment was to do CD liner notes. Pages 1 through 6 follow.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Luxury -- a good book and dark chocolate.

I love to read. Whenever I can spare the time and frequently when I can't you will find me with my nose buried in a book. I read in the bathtub, in the intervals of getting meals, whenever I'm stuck in a lineup. I read last thing at night or I can't go to sleep. I borrow novels from the library at the rate of about three a week or borrow from friends and family or purchase secondhand or new, especially if the book is by an author I value. Being able to buy books when I want to is the greatest joy of a securely funded retirement.

Some books by authors I esteem I read again and again. I am on my second set of Jane Austen, for instance, having worn out the paperback versions I first bought. And my second set of Tolkein. I have hardcover copies of most of Nevil Shute that I inherited from my father. I think Shute's fiction is much discounted today, with the possible exception of On The Beach, but several of his other books are just excellent, if dated. Mary Stewart. Tad Williams. And others, that I am getting to.

I read historical fiction for choice or science fiction/fantasy. I want a plot that will hold my attention, characters that I believe in and, most of all, good writing. Well, I'll make exceptions if the first two conditions are met -- I own and reread Jean Auel, for instance, and Mercedes Lackey, both of whom are authors whose editors ought to be smacked across the knuckles. Mind you, you could say the same thing about Dickens, in my opinion. I read poetry and plays as well, but this post is about novels.

There are novels that I own in paperback that are no longer on the library shelves, although that is where I first found them. Novels that are wonderfully written and emotionally compelling. The author in this category that springs first to my mind is Elizabeth Goudge, who wrote both contemporary and historical fiction. My rapidly disintegrating copies of her work are stored in boxes in our sleeping cabin at the moment and I would love to replace them. Look for City of Bells, which I think is her best historical novel, and if you see any of her children's stories, grab them for your daughters. I gather that a lot of her work is still in print.

Another excellent author who still enjoys a loyal following is Georgette Heyer. Her detective fiction has dated, but her historical fiction, based in Regency England, is still available in paperback. The best of her work, for me, is An Infamous Army, a fictional account of the battle of Waterloo that is meticulously researched, and A Civil Contract. I am contemplating replacing my tattered copies of these, too.

I do own in hardcover all of Dorothy Dunnett's historical novels. She has two series, one about Scotland in Henry VIII's time (although the six books in the series range through France, the German states, Russia and Constantinople) and the second based in Holland a century earlier, although these books also cover a lot of geography. Again, the research is amazing. There is one stand alone novel, about MacBeth, called King Hereafter, which is maybe the best novel I have ever read.

And the last one I am going to talk about today, who is still writing and deserves every fan she can get is Barbara . Hambly. She writes science fiction/fantasy, books that are both funny and dramatic and whose casts of characters come alive and stay with you. Her latest two books are historical fiction set in the USA. But her best work for me is a six book series of historical detective fiction set in New Orleans in the presidency of Andrew Jackson. Her protagonist is a man called Benjamin January who is a Free Man of Colour (that's the title of the first book in the series) and the books explore the conditions of slavery and the place of African Americans in New Orleans society in depth and with compassion and outstanding intelligence. At the same time they are top notch detective stories. And Ben is real, I swear he is.

That's got to be enough of that! But if you need something to read, take a look at Hambly. I'm off to see if I can sneak a piece of my husband's mega chocolate bar.

Escaping the Job Jar

I have just spent an exhillarating half hour crawling around on the floor of my office, lying on my back under the bench where my scanner and printers live, tracking phone wire around through holes in the desktop and unwinding cords. Three fine results of this activity are; the floor has been dusted, mostly with my hair, I have jacked in a new phone to replace the unit that died and I have rationalized the cord snarl a little bit. I do have one cord that does not attach to anything and I have not got a clue what it is for. Sigh.

Down in the laundry room is a pile of trousers, his and hers, that require either shortening or rehemming. Also four big tablecloths that need ironing, a drawer full of stuff that needs mending, some of which has been there since this time last year, and a couple of painting projects. I need to vacuum, clean a bathroom and a kitchen, scrub squashed flies off the kitchen window. I have been planning to do a post on books I love for days and the pile is sitting beside the computer now.

However, I have one flower bed left to rake and mulch. There is blue sky out there and the temperature is mild for mid November. I have done some housework, after all, haven't I? Where are my gloves and knee pads?

Escaping! Now!

Back soon.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Sixth of the Sixth

Motherbumper handed out a general tag for this meme. Pick the sixth picture on your computer out of the sixth folder. Post and explain. Tag five people.
My 66 is not actually my shot. My daughter took it -- she lives in the city and therefore gets cardinals overwintering. This poor guy was obviously bummed by all the snow. Canadian winter after all. He shoulda migrated.
just making it up as i go,
Painted Maypole -- but not until you have time, okay?
alejna at Collecting Tokens - you have to see the video's she's got up!
Mary Murtz at The Eleventh -- after the peanut butter is licked off your fingers.
and you!

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Monday Mission -- A letter for Remembrance Day

Dear Dad,

It's eleven years since you slipped quietly away from us, dying as you had lived with a characteristic lack of fuss. Eleven is the remembrance number -- it will soon now be the eleventh hour of the eleventh month -- and I find myself thinking about you so often, mostly remembering you with a smile but sometimes regretting the things I did not say to you while you were here with me. Regretting the things I did not thank you for doing and being. Remembering all the gifts you gave me.

I know I never thanked you for the five years of your life you gave to defending your country. I know that you joined the Navy in the fall of 1939 and fought in the Battle of the Atlantic and in the Mediterranean. You endured convoy duty in the North Atlantic when the submarine threat was at its highest and served in the Mediterranean. I know that you came home in 1946 exhausted both mentally and physically and that the effects of your service were with you for the rest of your life.

Knowing all this and also knowing that you found it almost impossible to talk about any of it, I never brought up the subject of your war with you. I never told you that I admired you so much for giving that service to your country because you thought it was your duty to do so. To protect your home, your family, your country.

Thank you for teaching me, by your example, about duty. For teaching me that it is right and necessary to do the jobs life gives us with as much competence and dedication as we can bring to them. For showing me that honesty, respect for law and your community, generosity and integrity are the building blocks of living well, of being a good citizen, a good person. I'm not sure I ever said to you that I knew you were all those things or that I knew you consciously tried to build a better, safer world for me and for your grandchildren. I never said that I could see some, at least, of what it cost you.

I wish I could talk to you to-day. Discuss the news, the election of the first African American president. How that would please you. I wish you could see what your granddaughters have become and that they have inherited your diligence, your intelligence and your commitment to family, friends and country.

You can sleep well.

Friday, 7 November 2008


I live way out in the country, at the end of a gravel road. To get anywhere, I have to travel what are called in Eastern Ontario the 'county roads', roads that are paved, but are narrow two lane strips with ditches and uncut verges. From the weeds and small trees, which are a uniform brown/grey at dusk, deer appear at unpredictable times and often at great speed. It is deer hunting season, which spooks the poor things and makes them even more unpredictable. And so, as I was driving home at dusk last night, proceeding at a moderate speed and scanning the sides of the road as well as I could, a deer materialized directly in front of me, and I hit it with a sickening thud.

The deer and I both kept going. It disappeared into the bush by the roadside and I kept driving as I was climbing a hill with a narrow shoulder. I pulled off into a parking spot by a bank of mail boxes, as the panic light came on on the dashboard and steam started to escape from under the hood. Luckily a neighbour saw me do it and she picked me up and drove me the 5 kilometres home. JG and I went back to the site where there was no sign at all of the deer and only my licence plate and a trail of antifreeze fluid to mark the spot.

This morning we did the usual things; report to the OPP, call the insurance company, call a tow truck and repair place. They know us at the repair shop. This is the third time we have turned in a car for repair after a deer collision. Once, the deer died instantly after my husband's truck crunched it. The other times the deer disappeared at top speed. I hate that; there is no easy way you can track the animal through the almost impenetrable scrub bush where we live, and no way at all to do it after dark. And given the state of my car's front end, the deer has to be injured. I can only hope that one of the multitude of hunters stalking deer in our neighbourhood will find it and put it out of its misery.

I hate this! I hate thinking of an injured animal, an injury I have caused, suffering and probably dying. I feel stupid and inept and angry with myself, even though there was really no way I could have been more careful than I was. My Jeep will cost a lot of money to repair, even with insurance, and I am probably going to be car-less for a week to ten days, and thus dependent on my husband and neighbours for transportation. Which is a big nuisance, to say the least.

When we first bought the land here, in the mid seventies, there were very few deer around. Slowly the population has increased and now they are abundant. Even though a lot of deer hunting licences are now available and a lot of people hunt, the area is probably carrying more deer than it can easily support. Farmers complain of deer depredation on their crops. There are deer to be seen all along the roads. And in the fall, in rutting and hunting season, there are frequent accidents on the roads. Pretty well everyone I know has a deer collision story. Part of the price of rural living, I guess. A least it wasn't a moose, or I wouldn't be writing this. We have them, too, and skunks and porcupines.

If I were God, I would redesign deer with flashing red noses, Rudolph style, fluorescing zebra stripes and an aversion to roadside ditches.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Yes He Did

Baggy eyed from staying up too late, I dealt with my email this morning and decided to indulge myself with a tour around my favourite blogs before attempting to write anything myself. And the first thing I found was this post by Bon which captured so beautifully a lot of what I felt last night. Andrea captured, in her usual incisive way, some of my concerns as well as the pleasure so many of us felt. Sarah talked about Obama's speech and how it and the victory resonate with her and captured the moment so very, very well.

Ewe are Here, who is an absentee American, has posted some very telling comments about American politics and what Obama will be facing in Congress. I, too, recall how Carter's promise was lost in the morass of Washington's political games. There's a happy little word dance from Alejna, posted last night just after the 'call'. There's an heartfelt statement from Painted Maypole on how she felt the tug of history being made. Breed 'em and Weep's post is an euphoric chant.

I am sure that I have missed many other great posts in honour of the occasion. Or Honor, for our American friends. Lawyer Mamma was working the polls and I just caught up with her blog. She has a super map, if you're a who voted how junkie. There are some superbly thoughtful comments on the blogs I have listed, as well.

What is left for me to say? Yes, I also listened to Obama's acceptance speech with tears running down my face, relishing the occasion, simply admiring the man's gifts. As he spoke the cameras panned over faces in the audience, rapt, uplifted, thoughtful or wreathed in grins a yard wide. Faces not grouped by age or colour, faces simply American. United in accomplishment; united in purpose for the future.

On November 22nd, 1963 I was in a train station when the announcement came over the Tannoy that JFK had been shot. That was my generation's seminal moment. I was twenty one. There was no person there whose face did not show horror and sorrow. We had all felt secure, prosperous, hopeful, in spite of the temporary terror of the missile showdown two years earlier. We felt that the world was on the right track and that righteousness was in charge. A few days later I watched on television as the cameras panned over the crowds keeping vigil as the funeral cortege passed by and took note of faces made similar by a great grief. And it happened again, Robert Kennedy, and again, to Martin Luther King, Jr. I think the outrage of the assassinations helped to fuel the civil rights upheavals that followed.

From those days to this has been a long journey. I'm a long way from the young woman I was, a young woman whose world seemed so ugly. I really like the idea that somewhere in that crowd there is a young woman of twenty one whose values have been affirmed and whose world will, please God, now be on the right track with a righteous man in charge.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Monday Mission - Sister, can you spare a time?

I wanted to put a background of baggy eyes on this graphic, but I did not have the time.

Not a very good effort. Sorry about that.