Saturday, December 31, 2005

The Year 2005

I'm having a quiet and relaxed New Year's Eve.

This holiday season I've attended two staff parties, two family celebrations, two Solstice events, a birthday party, a hafla, a lingerie party, and enjoyed the company of houseguests. I'm all partied out.

We're staying at home talking, looking at photgraphs,watching movies and enjoying the Christmas tree for one more night.

Here's what stands out in my mind from the year 2005:

Above all, it was the year that I went to Africa on safari with my family. It was one of those life-changing trips that I still think about every day.

Its not every year you walk with giraffes, feed baby sea-turtles, and see a lion hunt in the wild. I miss the sound of hippos laughing at night. I miss bartering in the markets of Zanzibar. I will never forget how it was to wake up in a tent on the Serengeti with an enormous orange African sun rising over the horizon, or how the night sky looked below the equator. I will always remember the beautiful African children I met, and the taste of fresh passionfruit juice at breakfast time.

I also spent a mostly wonderful week in London, one of my favourite cities in the world: cruising down the Thames, going to the theatre, spending hours in the museums, and even, er, visiting the local hospitals after my bout with my black henna burn and subsequent blood poisoning from my last day in Africa. It was a learning experience.

I also remember from 2005 two lovely family weddings, and also the marriage of two dear female friends, my first gay wedding.

The Spring of 2005 brought two births: my niece Aliyah, a beautiful child, and in April my good friend Deb also had a daughter, Angelina.

Unfortunately, 2005 also brought sadness with the death of Tai's Bentley, a most gorgeous cat, who is much missed.

This year I also took Middle Eastern drumming lessons, even playing once with a group of drummers in a coffee-house, and later joining a spiritual drumming circle.

Inspired by our trip to France in 2004,Jeff and I took French lessons for two semesters, becoming card-carrying members of the local Francophone society, even though our French remains awkward at best.

I danced in my last bellydance show for a while this past Spring also.

In June, I did some first-hand research on local hospital conditions when my Unruly Appendix decided to upset my plans by wanting OUT! I may never eat jello again after that experience. It was my first stay in a hospital since birth, and not much enjoyed, although as I mentioned above, I decided to frequent them again later on in the summer.

The year 2005 was fantastic for live performances: I enjoyed The Lady in White in London's Palace Theatre, As You Like It and Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead at Vancouver's Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival, as well as many other great local concerts and theatre productions including A Midsummer Night's Dream, A Dream on Royal Street, The Boyfriend, The Ecclestons, and The King & I.

I also attended fantastic art shows, the Filberg festival, a Wild Woman cabaret, a variety of great dance parties,and read some fabulously good books. It's been a good year for culture.

It's also been a year of making new friends and becoming closer to old ones.

2005 was also the year I started this blog. :)

Happy New Year to everyone!

Eyes Glazed Over

Okay, I need to turn off my computer. I spent the WHOLE evening in front of it slaying monsters with my pixelated sword.

There is a superstition that says whatever you spend New Year's Eve doing you will sure to be spending a lot of time doing it in the New Year to come.

Hmmm...that would mean that most of us would drink and carouse our way through 2006 if this were accurate..

Even so, just in case, I need to make sure I don't go near World of Warcraft tomorrow evening. It's way too fun, way too addictive. (You know what I mean, right Kim?)

In this game tonight, a group of online friends plus my husband Jeff (sadly we have HIS and HERS side-by-side computers) had a lovely adventure in some underground caverns killing giant boulder-creatures and oozing slimes, and looting all sorts of gold and treasure.

And I didn't even die once! Ah, death! The ultimate computer-game inconvenience!

Anyway, NO MORE PLAYING for a while!

*Spider Girl strives not to cross her fingers when she makes this resolution*

I had a dream about a dragon from this game a few nights ago--a big mean dragon that snuck up on me, frightening me out of my wits and chasing me across a dream landscape of desert and rock, breathing fire at me and making me scream like a little warrior-girl.

Sigh, yes, definitely no more video games for me for a while....

(By the way, I started this post late at night on December's not New Year's Eve day YET...)

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Dressing Rooms Need Locks

There I was in my favourite consignment store trying on new jeans today.

Although I'm not particularly enamoured with clothes shopping, it needed to be done. I often wear jeans to work and I really need a few more nicer-looking pairs. The seams on some of my jeans are, alas, unseemly.

I was in one of those little stalls with a mirror, a few hooks on the wall, and a curtain that is meant to stay closed when one is deciding how appealing an outfit is on one's body.

Yes, closed. That's how it should be.

So I was a wee bit alarmed when an older blond chick with frizzy hair SWEEPS open the curtain to my private sanctum and poses in some grey corduroys.

"What do you think? Too faded? Be honest... do they suit me?" She peers at my startled self questioningly.

For a moment, I presume she has just mistaken what stall her friend is in and will any moment give an embarrassed gasp and an apology.

Instead she gives a little pirouette for my inspection.

This is the moment when I might have snarled 'HEY LADY! NEED SOME PRIVACY HERE!'

"Er", I say instead, "They look okay. I'd prefer brown ones myself, but the grey looks nice too, I think."

Yes, I chose to pretend I wasn't standing there in my half-attired glory, while a total stranger preened.

I sometimes think I'm too polite.

I got some great jeans today though-- my favourite Brodys for only eight dollars and three cents.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Santa Claus on the Atlantic

Everyone celebrates the holidays in a different way. For instance, you could spend Christmas out in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean in a rowboat. It takes all types, right?

Colin Angus is a fellow I knew in high school. I wish I'd gotten to know him better because he's one of those people that adventure follows. Or perhaps its that way because he seeks it out. Whichever way it is, he's an inspiring lad.

He's rafted the Amazon River from its source to the sea, been shot at by South American guerrillas, and survived in the Mongolian wilderness after a mishap while navigating the Yenisey River. He makes documentary films and writes books as he goes and comes back to his hometown to show them.

Now he's currently rowing around in the Atlantic with his friend Julie on another adventure. Go Angus!

Expedition Planet Earth: The first human-powered circumnavigation of the Earth. 42,00 kilometers by foot, oar, ski, and bicycle!

As its in the spirit of the holiday season, I leave you with his latest post and a link to his website. It's interesting reading:

Day 574
Santa Claus on the Atlantic
December 27th, 2005
Santa Claus came early this year for Julie and I as we continued our struggle across the Atlantic. After three months alone in our rowboat, we spend much time imagining and salivating over the treats that the rest of the world is indulging in with the leadup to the holiday season. So, when Julie spotted a 100-foot luxury yacht motoring along in the distance, she immediately picked up the VHF radio to say hello and invite them over for pancakes.

They declined the pancakes, but they did change course to investigate a rowboat in the middle of the ocean. It seemed surreal to see the gleaming manmade object coming towards us after so many months of nothing but freighters in the distance, on the vast expanse of sea and blue sky. Six jolly crew members on the sailing yacht Ripple were on deck hooting and cheering as they drew close. Apart from some Spanish fishermen who had waved from a distance, these were the first humans we had encountered in three months.

It was a calm day, and Ripple stayed alongside for an hour as we exchanged stories. The crew were on their way to Antigua in the Caribbean, having come from the Mediterranean. They expected their leg from the Canaray Islands to the Caribbean to take thirteen to fourteen days, a stark contrast to the eigthy days it would take us to cover the same distance. Every year, a fleet of several thousand sailboats makes the tradewind passage to the West Indies following the end of the hurricane season, and Ripple was at the tail end of this flotilla.

Before departing, the kind folks on Ripple lavished us with gifts that would make our holidays (if it is possible to use that word to describe a period that also involves sixteen hours a day of rowing) the most memorable ever. They handed us several bags which included icy cold pop and beer, a large carton of assorted chocolate bars, loads of junk food, several magazines, and nine paperback books.

It is impossible to describe the joy of unexpectedly receiving such indulgences, after spending a quarter of a year alone in an open rowboat. As Ripple chugged into the distance, Julie and I grinned from ear to ear as we sipped on cold pop, the rest wrapped in a blanket to preserve the chill.

With Ripple’s input, we have now planned Christmas Day. Our festivities will involve warm beer, sweet treats, and the bellowing of Christmas carols into a chasm of blue. Dinner will be homemade dorado and cheese macaroni, made with a hopefully-caught fish and our last block of Portuguese cheese, aged to perfection for over 100 days. In some respects, we are pleased to have such a minimalist Christmas. The holiday season is about being with loved ones, and we have that."

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from Tai and Spider Girl!

Christmas Eve was indeed merry and bright! See how our faces glow with the anticipation of the holiday! (We have taught ourselves how to make martinis....)

There was much dancing around the living-room to the music of Brick House. There was the making of luscious butternut-squash/grannysmith apple soup and quiche lorraine.

Friends visited, bringing cookies and conversation.

I got to feel Kim's baby kick!

And a warm and mysterious wind blew outside, making it warm enough to stroll about without a coat.

It was a day that had a cosy glow about it.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Happy Solstice!

Important Pagan Celebration Tip: Always bring a flashlight to an event where you need to walk a forest path at night that's lit only by lanterns and candles. If you find yourself walking over a plank bridge above a bog, you'll be glad you did.

Yes, I've been out celebrating the longest night of the year with a fabulous outdoors Solstice celebration.

This is our blazing Yule fire, twenty feet tall, warming our faces and sending impressive sparks shooting high into the night sky. There's no way you can justify that extra sweater you put on around THIS blaze.

The pageant, as always, featured a battle between the forces of summer and winter.

Here is Winter, personified by a scowling and boasting Viking carrying a stormy metal face. Sure, he's technically the bad guy but we love to hate him. :)

Here he comes, heralded by fireworks and enthusiastic booing and hissing from the gathered crowd.

Luckily for us, the forces of Light and Summer gave Old Man Winter a good battle this year and all his sparklers actually stayed lit until he'd actually overcome Winter. The local pagans have been working on this problem: the Sun was magnificent! Put up a really good fight! Of course, he more or less HAS to win after all.

Every year for the last twenty-six years, the solstice pageant here has brought nearly two hundred revellers of all ages (and assorted dogs) together for the pageant's play in which a Child and assorted forest creatures, and lots and lots of children from the audience (who become Summer or Winter Children) become part of the battle between Dark and Light.

Mother Nature eventually shows up to straighten out the whole mess, and we all go on to dance merrily around the bonfire. It's an event that makes me smile.

Later, we walked down the path to the river. A flute played wild and sweet music from somewhere in the forest. At the river's edge, we each lit a candle on a little wooden boat and set it afloat down the river carrying a special wish. It was a magical sight to see those candles floating in a shimmering flotilla, lighting the water as they bobbed and swirled in the eddies.

Everybody does something special to celebrate this season and this solstice celebration is a tradition that is dear to my pagan heart.

I feel very festive.

Happy Solstice! Merry Christmas! Happy Winter Holiday of Your Choice! I'm good with all of it.

Monday, December 19, 2005

5 Random Facts Most People Don't Know About Me

Heh, I've been tagged by mysteriousinblue, and how can I complain after hinting in my last post that *wah* nobody's ever "tagged" me?

Well, in fact, I DO want to play. Now I just have to figure out who I want to tag....

Okay, five random little-known facts about me:

1) My fingers are very flexible. I can do the Naa-Noo Naa-Nooo sign like Mork. Remember "Mork & Mindy"?. I can bend the first joint of every finger down all at once or indiviually. I can pretend to shoot one of my fingers off and make the top half disappear, or pretend to tie an invisible string around a finger and pull it back and forth. I owe it all to my dad who encouraged me to practice. Oh, and probably some trigger-finger genetics from my mom.

2)I was terrified to get my ears pierced and procrastinated until I was sixteen when my friend Tai dragged me to a salon and stood over me until the deed was done. Yes, I'm allergic to unnecessary pain, so tattoos are right out.

3)As a teenager I had a powerful crush on Howling Mad Murdock from the TV show "The A-Team".

4)I was so proud that I ate a worm pancake in grade four. A visiting scientist was talking about how people around the world ate different things like bugs and worms. I was the only one who would try the worms. I've always been a little proud of my gross-out factor. I want to be the girl who's not scared of anything that crawls or slimes. But secretly I HAVE been grossed out and just pretended I wasn't.

5)I can recite the poem "Jabberwocky" by Lewis Carroll by heart. You know, "'Twas brillig, and the slithey toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe......"

Yeah, beware that Jubjub bird and all that. I love that poem.

Still thinking about who I'll tag. :)

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Random Christmas Memories's a photo gallery of kids who probably have lots of memories of Christmas too

I've never been "tagged", but I thought I'd play anyway.

Here are five random childhood Christmas memories:

1)I was about five years old and I'm looking out the kitchen window into the night sky with my grandma on Christmas Eve. I say, "Gran, look! I saw Santa and his reindeer go flying by! Just over those trees over there!"

Now, I remember that I didn't really see anything at all. I just thought it would be neat if my Gran thought I saw Santa. I remember Gran cottoning on to my fabrication: "You did NOT see Santa Claus! You're fibbing!"

Well, I WAS fibbing, but I was pretty upset that Gran would call me on it--and I didn't even know at the time that grown-ups fibbed about seeing Santa all the time.

2) I'm a little girl visiting the mall to see Santa. I was pretty sure he was the real thing, but what really convinced me was the real live reindeer with jingle-bell harnesses that were being kept in a paddock right out in the middle of the mall. Seeing those warm, breathing animals made me believe. God is in the details.

3)My father worked as a film editor for the CBC back in the '70's (he worked on shows like The Beachcombers). One year my brother and I went to the CBC's Christmas party. Two things stick in my mind.

One was that Santa's elves were dressed up as mimes, and therefore they didn't talk. We were three and five years old, and I remember we didn't think much of mimes even at that early age. I have a photograph where we're seated beside these elves. I have a most suspicious look on my face. My brother looks worried.

I also remember that at the end of this party it seemed as if the ceiling opened up and millions of balloons rained down upon us. It was a really big room with high ceilings and it seemed like the air was filled with them. I was thrilled.

4)The year that I was eleven my favourite present was a plastic organizer with little plastic drawers. You know, the kind some people store nails and screws in, or fishing tackle, or sewing odds-and-ends.

I don't remember what I had actually asked for Christmas that year, but that was the present that remains clear in my mind. My younger brother got one too, and we both agreed that little drawers to put things in was a great concept. Even today, either of us can receive a "box-to-put-things-in" type of present and be as happy as a clam.

5) We always had Christmas crackers at our plates at the holiday dinner. The most mysterious prize that could sometimes be found inside was the Fortune-Telling Fish. They were made out of a thin shiny red plastic as thin as paper, and they would roll around in one's hand, flipping this way and that, or curling up and lying still. The different positions the fish would end up in all meant something different. I was fascinated.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Bellydance Party

I've made a decision, inspired by tonight's bellydance party.

I'm starting dance classes again in January. I've decided there are too many wonderful dancing friends that I miss. I miss stepping out onto a stage and shimmying for all I'm worth. I miss comparing coin belts and veils. I even miss the extreme thrill and anxiety leading up to a big dance show.

I miss being known as a belly-dancer.

Yes,I took a little break from belly-dancing this year. I had my appendix out this past spring which made undulating my abdomen around for any reason extremely uncomfortable, and then I went travelling this summer--those are my official excuses for my absence, but really I'm not sure why I lost the spark.

But it's almost the start of a brand new year and I feel new energy in myself. I've got ever so many sparkly, jingly things waiting in my closet.

And oh! it was such a fun party tonight!

My friend Sherry (there on the left in both photos) danced up a storm tonight and was in three gypsy-fusion dance numbers. I'm so proud of her!

This is Bronwyn, one of my first and most inspiring belly-dance teachers. She's lovely, isn't she?

This is my friend Chris, laughing with the music. She is one of the Yalla Gypsies, which is the bellydance troupe I belong to.

This is Cathy, an amazing choreographer, with a wild gypsy dancer's soul.

This is Edith, the sweetest dancer I've ever known, and my French teacher too!

There is nothing like a night of wine and dance to stir the blood. I shimmied till the clock struck twelve.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Working Through a Fear of Dinosaurs

A little girl playing with toy dinosaurs informed me today that she was working through her fear of dinosaurs. That's just how she said it.

"Ya know what, teacher? I'm working through my fear of dinosaurs."

Oh, I said, (probably with raised eyebrows), does playing with them help with that?

"Oh, no, not really. Mostly I just watch the scary part from "Land Before Time" over and over. I know I'm working through my fear because it isn't very scary any more. Just a little scary." She paused and moved some dinosaurs around. "Yep....I'm really working through my fear", she said with some satisfaction.

She was really enjoying that catchphrase, I could tell.

Now I'm quite sure her parents probably supplied those particular words to her, but I'm sometimes caught off guard when adult-sounding things pop out of four-year-old mouths.

Once a little boy was pulling on his boots in the cubby-room when he looked over and called my name. He had a very sweet little Italian accent and moved his hands when he talked.

He said, "Teacher, I must ask-a you!" He paused and looked very intently into my face. " Who ARE we? What is life about? Where-a are we all really going anyway?"

I must say that I've forgotten any philosophical words I exchanged with that child at that moment, but I do remember mentioning the conversation later on that day to his mother.

She threw up her hands. "He is asking so many questions! Mama mia! He wants to know about God and the world and everything! He won't stop! You know what I tell him? I tell-a him: Eric! Go to bed!"

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Sharing Travel with Friends

My dear friend Tai and I shared our first trip to Europe about seven years ago. We backpacked through England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales together. I don't think it's any exaggeration to say that those few weeks were among the most memorable and meaningful in my life. We were footsore and weary sometimes, poor all the time, and cranky at least once, but I think travelling together was an amazing way to strengthen a friendship that was already strong.

Even if I rustled around WAY too early in the morning for Tai's liking. :)

Tai has posted a few pictures on her blog from a trip to Italy a few years ago. She says there are some places you wish you were ...right NOW.

I've been to Italy too and remember that country as fondly as she does. We're going to travel there again in 2007 with another amazingly dear friend.Pol has never travelled far from home before and Tai and I are looking forward so much to sharing her first impressions.

I can hardly wait.

Alas, I didn't own a digital camera when I went to Italy (I did not realize how bereft I was), but in the spirit of sharing travel memories I am going to post a few happy travel memories from my trip to France last year. I wish my friends could have shared that experience too, because although you can share pictures it's hard to capture the feeling of being....there.

For instance, the surreal feel of a cafe at the foot of an ancient colisseum in Nimes....

These pictures are from a warm spring morning in the garden of a fairytale chateau in the Loire Valley. I am a contented soul among the tulips.

And there is just something about the stone alleyways and courtyards of Europe that seem so romantic to me. I photographed these in St. Paul-de-Vence.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Christmas Dinner with a Spanish Inspiration

This is the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.

The year before last my husband's family celebrated Christmas in mid-January, when his mother returned from a three month stay in Nepal and India. That year's dinner featured curry and Indian and Nepali spices.

Last Christmas, dinner was inspired by our family's trip to Africa and we sampled African dishes and Zanzibar-style samosas. It was celebrated on February 12th. Due to travelling family members and/or the logistics of gathering almost every member of a large family together in one place, holiday dates have been fluid in recent years. It's all about getting together after all.

This year we celebrated our family Christmas on December 10th---the closest we've gotten to the popular date in three years. Hurrah!

So I already feel like the holiday rush is over. Lucky me! :)

This year's Christmas meal featured a Spanish theme as Jeff's mother is walking the
Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage across northern Spain this summer.

A turkey meal with cranberry sauce is traditional and all, but I think our menu was pretty delectable:

We started with....

Crema de Espinacas son Salmon Ahumado (spinach and smoked salmon soup) and moved on to:

*Pollo en lata ("Chicken for a Crowd")
*Cachelada leonesa (a sausage and potato casserole)
*Castilian-style green beans
*Pollo en salsa de almendres (Chicken in Almond Sauce)
*Ensalada de Colisflor limon (a cauliflower and tomato salad in lemon dressing)
*Paella Valenciana (a yummy and mildly spicy rice and chicken and shrimp dish)

This was followed by Tarta di Santiago, which Jeff made as our contribution to the feast. It's a very traditional Galician almond tart, which seems to hail from the city of Santiago de Compostela itself.

There you have it, Spider Girl's family's holiday menu.

Did I mention my brother is in Cambodia right now? I wonder what his Christmas menu will look like. He makes sure he's somewhere international during this time of year (not a Christmas kind of guy). One year he had conch soup in Mexico for Christmas dinner.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Pomegranate Martinis and Crokinole

As usual, I enjoyed the staff Christmas party. We've all worked together for a long time, some of us close to ten years, so it's a relaxed and fun gathering.

I'm very pleased to relate that the present I brought was possibly the one most fought over at the gift exchange( just a little vain-glory showing through), followed closely by the package I was personally competing for.

Remember, the gifts are still wrapped up so we could be fighting over toe-nail clippers and bubble-bath for all we know. At this point we're just going for the pretty paper and anything attached to the outside of the present. I put a little red and gold velvet beaded stocking decoration on my gift tag.

But I felt like a crow spying something sparkly when I saw what Terry had put on the outside of her package. Ooh! I wanted it!(Never mind that I've got a whole collection of vintage sparkles already--you can never have too many!) And so this is the beautiful brooch that I ultimately didn't win.:

Here is what I DID win: a homemade teddy-bear made by Theresa and gingerbread cookie mix. The bear is rather sweet and I told Theresa I'd put his picture on the internet so that in some small way he'd achieve fame. Here he is.

And these are the little cushions that I brought as my present. Cushions are something that many people ( me anyway) feel like they can never have too many. I don't care if I don't have a spot to sit down on my sofa--they are a good thing. Luckily, Barb, who got them, thinks so too. :)

I especially had a lot of fun hanging out with Melanie and Justine and quaffing Oprah's Pomegranate Martinis, which are fruity and yummy and have juicy pomegranate seeds at the bottom of the glass. Not TOO many martinis though: the office party is NOT the place where I'd choose to let loose and wear lampshades on my head.

I had some beginner's luck in a game of crokinole too--it's a big wooden circular board with pegs and you flick little wooden disks around with your thumb and index finger to knock your opponents disks off. Lots of opportunities to knock someone's teeth out when the little pucks leave the board and become whizzing projectiles. It was good fun.

Friday, December 09, 2005


Ah, it's the staff Christmas potluck party tonight. I'm out the door in about ten minutes.

Me and my samosas-from-the-deli are planning on having a fun time as I work with a wacky and happy bunch. There is usually a hilarious and vicious gift-exchange where we compete wildly for the gifts, stealing them back and forth from one another--we are judging them solely on the wrapping paper and we all usually stick something irresistible on the outside as a lure, just so people will fight over OUR gift. Betcha you didn't know Christmas could be so cut-throat, eh?

I decided to wear my red wig tonight--it suits my mood.

My friend Emily recently borrowed my wig collection for an amateur go-go dancer show she was putting on for a friend's birthday. I have them in blue, pink, and black too.

I'll have to ask how that went. Last I heard she was collecting all things mod and searching desparately for vinyl dresses and white thigh-high boots. Knowing Em, it all came together. But too bad, because I sold a lot of '60s scarves on Ebay last year.


There is a large field in the middle of my town which is a protected winter-time feeding ground for a large group of trumpeter swans. They are on the endangered species list, but you'd never know it around here. They are quite magnificent birds, if a little hard to see against the snow. They are also coyly camera-shy. They waddled just far away enough from me that I'd have to wade through a slushy ditch to get closer to them. "Paparazzi", I thought I heard one honk.

My favourite memory of seeing these birds was a night long ago in my teenage years. I was out walking around two in the morning to meet my friend Tai (sorry Mom, if you're reading this)and I was regretting venturing out of my warm bed. It was a bitterly cold winter night.

Then, I heard the swans. There was two of them, flying low, very low, their white wings glistening in the moonlight. They flew not twenty feet in front of my startled eyes, ethereal and yet so close I felt like I could reach out and touch them. And then they were gone. It's one of those clear moments in time that will always stay with me.

Joining the feeding swans today, there were flocks of crows, my favourite birds, cleaning up the left-over pumpkins left in the fields. They were surprisingly skittish too, for crows, and danced merrily away from my camera.

But I did meet a duck which practically begged me to take its picture. It was a rather funny-looking duck and waddled right up to me from its place on the river-bank. Anybody know what kind of duck this is?

Thursday, December 08, 2005


These are the snowflake lights strung across the wisteria arbour at my house. That, and a very modest string of coloured lights along the porch railing are my only contributions to this year's neighbourhood display.

However, I don't feel too out of place. Most people around me have some sort of lights up now, but mine's not the street that people bring their children on drive-around Christmas light-tours.

Nope, that would be one street up from me...and two streets down from me. These are places decked out like an electric hallucinogenic fairyland---garlands of lights, illuminated reindeer, shrubbery glowing from within.

While the tastefulness of giant, lighted, inflatable snowmen is dubious at best, I'm sure it makes some little people smile. Most little kids are okay with tacky.

One nearby street is lined with avenues of little trees on both sides that are all lit up with white lights. EVERY house is decorated. It's quite beautiful. One New Year's after midnight, some friends and I took a early morning stroll there. It was a serene and glistening way to start a year.


I'd hate to be the new guy with less than bubbly Christmas cheer moving onto that street unaware of the Yuletide peer pressure: newcomers are most likely "encouraged" to participate.

Leastwise, I'd hate to be the dark house on the block there. Personally I'd be out there stringing lights on my trees with numbed fingers right now if I lived one block to the south.

Ahhh...but I don't. :)

Me, I'm comfortable with my across-the-street neighbour whose lights are perpetually on the fritz; one side or the other of their lone light-string flickers erratically like a neon sign. No pressure to keep up with the Joneses there.

The only time a neighbour's light display made me cringe was when they had some sort of electric candelabrum in their living-room window. The light from it flickered so wildly against their living-room curtains that I kept thinking their house was on fire.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Gingerbread House

This is the "gingerbread" house we made with the kids at work. It's actually artfully-crafted graham crackers, not real gingerbread, but it's just as well as it's not for eating anyway. It's our preschool's contribution to the gingerbread village display down at the local museum.

Boy oh boy, were those children drooling! I thought they showed enormous self-restraint(for four-year-olds)in not tasting the candies.

There are some things in life that are difficult to resist. Gingerbread lattes at Starbucks are one of them for me. It is perhaps good that they are only available at this time of year.

Actually, gingerbread people are also quite tempting. I always bite their little heads off first so they don't suffer much.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Lingerie and Silliness

There are a lot of holiday parties for me to attend this season, but probably only one where I had the opportunity to purchase barely-there underwear, body-paint, and "adult novelty" items which buzzed or whirred like tiny motorbikes as they were passed around a circle of giggling women.

There were all sorts of fascinating conversations going on:

"What IS this?"
"Hey, power-tools are NOT just for men!"
"This one looks like a sea anenome, don't you think?"
"A close friend of mine (ahem) told me that..."

We had sampled the massage oil on our hands too, and things kept unexpectedly squirting out of our hands from the slipperiness and flying through the air. It was very silly, but it was a very fun group of people.

We tried to convince one friend to purchase the animal underwear for her husband (horsie, crocodile, or elephant varieties) as he is forever buying her piles of scratchy and uncomfortable lingerie when all she wants are cozy flannel pyjamas, and it would be appropriate pay-back. She wouldn't, on the grounds that they looked too much like a puppet and she'd be laughing too hard for anything to actually happen in the bedroom.

The lady from the "romance shop" said that one of their hottest-selling items is a portable pole for home pole-dancing. It would have to portable, I thought to myself, although if you had a permanent one installed in your bedroom it might make an interesting selling-feature of your home when it went on the market...

Sunday, December 04, 2005


My talented writer friend Kim has entered a contest. And as we talented writer friends like to support one another, I am letting you know about it , of course.

Her short story "Thwart" has appeared on the website for Grimm Magazine's Random Highbrow contest, in which the editors of Grimm provide a series of ten words, and the story must contain all ten, with a total word count of 250 or less.

As Kim put it, "Gawd, I love the smell of flash fiction in the morning..."


So follow the link and enjoy the stories, know, *cough cough* vote for my friend. :)

Friday, December 02, 2005

Cooking with the Creeper

Oh, why oh why, do I rent bad horror movies? I just know I'll dream about them.

The movie was called "Jeepers Creepers" (a startlingly silly and bad title)and I watched it a couple nights back. These things take a while to sift through one's subconscious apparently...

A friend had recommended it in a cautious way: "It's actually not too bad", he said. "Just don't rent the sequel."

And that's really the only way one CAN recommend movies (outside of a very small group of like-minded folk) that involve demons, zombies, swamp things, or drooling aliens: you admit in a reserved fashion that you didn't find it TOO stupid or bad.

I'll give this particular film some points for being creepy and suspenseful for a good half hour before it degenerated into cheesiness and plot holes. Note to horror film directors: once the audience gets a good look at the creature, it's never as scary.

Anyway, this particular cheesy-movie demon showed up in my dreams last night.

I was in a car with my friends Tai and Kim while the creature from Jeepers Creepers cavorted on the roof. We were screaming and carrying on as girls tend to do in this genre of movie.

Suddenly Kim remembered something very important---the demon would lose its power(as things of this ilk tend to do in this kind of movie situation)if only we didn't feel any fear. Okay, okay, gotta banish fear.


Er...uh...what should we think about?!

"Oooh, ooh, what about chocolate?" says one of us brightly as the creature begins to rend the car roof off.

We all start enthusing about chocolate (and various yummy baked goods) in loud, chatty voices.

The Creeper, sure enough, is confused. "You like to bake?" he growls. "So do I!"

Next thing I know, the dream spirals down to nightmarish depths as we all go on to star in a made-for-television cooking show called "Cooking With the Creeper".

Oooh, my head hurts. I don't even like to cook at the best of times....

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Something to Cozy Up To

We have gifted ourselves with something luxurious to ward off the winter chill. I've always wanted a fireplace in the bedroom and now I have one, albeit electric.

I associate bedroom fireplaces with rambling and romantic English manor houses. While my house does not meet this description, it's a step in the right direction.

Now.... I'll also need some tall white pillar candles, a Persian rug, and perhaps an antique wing-back chair or two to complete the picture....

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The First Snow

It snowed last night for the first time this season--just enough to make the trees glisten and the streets slushy. Maybe two inches all told.

Alas, not enough to qualify for a paid snow-day off work. Even I, an unhappy driver in the snow, had to concede that the streets were not exactly unconquerable. Although it's sometimes amazing how a couple of inches of mucky slush is enough to stir chaos and close schools here on the West Coast. People from the Prairies just laugh at us.

It was very pretty anyway. The children at preschool enjoyed it. Well, until their mittens got soggy anyway.

Have you ever tried to wrestle twenty preschoolers into and out of snow-suits, hats, boots, the full winter-time ensemble? It takes some mental preparation.

You need to go deep inside yourself and find that small calm centre and take some deep breaths. Aaaahhhhhhh..... Ahhhh...

(AAAHHHHH!) "Where is your other boot?... Hmmm, your zipper is stuck... Who else needs to go pee?... Mittens are not for hitting. (AAAAHHHH!)

On the plus side, you are getting paid to help build a snow-man.

This is the snowy forest around our yard.

By the end of today I was weary, but I still enjoyed the walk home. More snow clouds may be gathering, but the late afternoon sun filtered through the mist and made the valley down below gorgeous and dreamy.

I live on one of many neighbourhood hills like this. My street would make such a perfect tobaggan run, don't you think?

Sunday, November 27, 2005

The Wee Folk Vs. Big Business

This is from an article from the UK newspaper "The Times" with the headline "FAIRIES STOP DEVELOPERS' BULLDOZERS IN THEIR TRACKS":

"VILLAGERS who protested that a new housing estate would “harm the fairies” living in their midst have forced a property company to scrap its building plans and start again.
Marcus Salter, head of Genesis Properties, estimates that the small colony of fairies believed to live beneath a rock in St Fillans, Perthshire, has cost him £15,000. His first notice of the residential sensibilities of the netherworld came as his diggers moved on to a site on the outskirts of the village, which crowns the easterly shore of Loch Earn.

He said: “A neighbour came over shouting, ‘Don’t move that rock. You’ll kill the fairies’.” The rock protruded from the centre of a gently shelving field, edged by the steep slopes of Dundurn mountain, where in the sixth century the Celtic missionary St Fillan set up camp and attempted to convert the Picts from the pagan darkness of superstition.

“Then we got a series of phone calls, saying we were disturbing the fairies. I thought they were joking. It didn’t go down very well,” Mr Salter said.

In fact, even as his firm attempted to work around the rock, they received complaints that the fairies would be “upset”. Mr Salter still believed he was dealing with a vocal minority, but the gears of Perthshire’s planning process were about to be clogged by something that looked suspiciously like fairy dust...."

Later in the article, a local chairman was quoted: "I do believe in fairies but I can't be sure that they live under that rock".

Apparently the local Planning Protectorate has "no specific guidelines on fairies"...

Fairies Stop Bulldozers in Tracks

I just finished reading a book written by an Irish- American couple who recently returned to their homeland as adults and they mentioned a few items of this nature. One was a farmer's field that nobody would build on because it was the location of a fairy rath (or fort).

The other case was a home renovation nightmare. Apparently a house was built too wide and blocked some sort of ancient highway used by the little folk. As long as the home encroached, the household was plagued with ill luck. Ten feet was shaved off the side of the home and refinished before things were right again.

I wonder how common this belief is nowadays in the British Isles. I remember my Irish auntie telling me that just because you don't personally believe in fairies doesn't mean you should tick them off by forgetting to put milk out for them.

Good advice, I suppose. Cover your bases. Keep on the fairies' good side. Build somewhere else.


I was cutting through a park yesterday, a beautiful place filled with oak and nut trees and peaceful small meadows, when I noticed some deer grazing nearby.

Now deer are quite commonly seen where I live, but I still get a little thrill seeing wild animals unexpectedly.

Before I left for Africa, someone assured me that when I went on safari I would soon suffer from "animal fatigue", especially in regards to gazelles and other common hoofed mammals. She was sure I'd be yawning after I saw my twentieth wildebeest. I was fairly convinced that she was wrong. Indeed she was. After all, I still reach for my camera when I see little does grazing at home.

There were six deer in this little group, and they let me get quite close. In fact, getting them to raise their heads to look in the direction of my camera proved quite a chore, as I approached them clucking and chirping softly to get their attention.

They would flick their big brown eyes up at me for an instant, and then it was back to cropping the grass.

Gardeners around these parts are not so thrilled to have the deer visit them, as they are voracious and leave very few kinds of plants un-tasted. But as my mom reflects ( when her deer visit and eat the seed out of the bird-feeders and munch on her spring flowers),they are beautiful creatures and one can always plant daffodils, which luckily they snub their noses at.