Sunday, October 30, 2005

Shuffles the Ghost

It's the day before Halloween so I thought this would be a good time to share a family ghost story...

Once upon a time, my parents and grandmother lived on the second floor of an old apartment building in Vancouver. It was a nice little place, despite eccentric plumbling and rumbling radiators, and being the sixties, it probably had its share of shag carpeting.

But what made the place a little dodgy was that it was haunted.

At first only my Gran knew it, and she kept that little nugget of information to herself. She resided down the hall in the second bedroom and later she'd swear that every night at about two in the morning, the closet door would swing open all by itself and she would hear shuffling foot-steps head out into the hall-way. It gave her the willies.

Well, Gran moved out,and although my mother claims there were other factors besides the supernatural at work here, I have to say that the creepy-closet-door reason would have been enough for me.

After Gran left, my parents began to realize things were amiss too. The second bedroom was just no fun to be in. And the shuffling foot-steps now made their way all the way down the hall to the kitchen at night. It sounded like an old person in bedroom slippers.

My parents did a little sleuth work on the apartment's history and found out that an old man had died in Gran's old bedroom. Hmmm, now what?

Their upstairs neighbour, Tom, was a friend of Dad's and had some ideas on the subject of spirits. Tom figured that Shuffles was simply confused and didn't realize he was dead. He recommended that they simply tell the old fellow the truth.

So one night soon after, my parents waited in the kitchen for Shuffles, and when the noises started my dad spoke aloud to the thin air: he told whoever was there that he was now dead and had to move on, and that he was frightening the people who now lived here and to please leave.

They never heard Shuffles again after that night.

Idiots with Firecrackers

I was startled while driving home last night when somebody threw some firecrackers at my car.

One of them landed by the centre line and one of them landed in front of me, twisting and sputtering. I swerved to miss them, and went my merry way cursing idiots with firecrackers.

I'm fairly certain they were, indeed, idiots because they were standing about fifty feet down the road from the local police station. A brilliantly strategic location for staging stupid pranks, if you see my meaning.

My friend Tai had this comment about the incident: ""Idiots are Legion". Yes, there's more than one out there to be sure, possibly armed with some sort of firecracker.

To test this theory, and to channel my irritation, I googled the words "idiot" and "firecracker" and came up with this.

Stupid Person with a Firecracker link...owwww

Sadly, our theory holds up to research.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

With Apologies to My Friend's Tablecloth

My friend Pol is one of those people who can whip a gourmet dinner out of thin air: it's an art I greatly admire and will likely never achieve without a lot of painful effort and expensive cooking classes.

Dinner was SO good at her house last night. After Jeff and I picked Tai up from the ferry terminal, the three of us arrived on her door-step and descended upon her dinner table like voracious hyenas.

The warm saki was also very much enjoyed, although I have this talent for splashing things around when they come in tiny little cups. Mea culpa to your table-cloth, my dear. I'm just glad saki is not coloured like red wine.

(Note: As will probably be pointed out to me by close friends reading this, I've been known to splash things out of larger cups as well. I tend to gesture excitedly with my hands when I talk. There is also photographic evidence of me of me holding tea-cups and wine-glasses at dangerously-tippy angles.)

It was a good visit, and it also left me with some new acquisitions:

1)a pirated copy of Shawn of the Dead decorated thoughtfully with dripping blood in red marker: we watched it tonight while Tai's mom was over :)

2) spider mittens to match the socks Pol saw on my blog the other day

3)a book of skewed fairy-tales (like The Co-Dependent Goats Gruff)

4) and at long last (I've been coveting one) a gorgeous garden banner with a sunflower-and-bee motif that my clever friend painted by hand. Alas, it's rolled up under my arm in this photo, but trust me, it's lovely.

It felt like my UnBirthday! :)

Thursday, October 27, 2005


You can buy the greatest socks this time of year...just wanted to show them off. :)

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Dahlias and Angry Ghosts

They'll all be wilted in a day or two, but for now my kitchen is full of dahlias.

They are left-overs from the table arrangements for the fund-raising dinner this past weekend. Originally I was going to tie simple bunches of bamboo together with raffia and go with that, but then some kind soul donated the flowers from THEIR fundraiser the night before. Bamboo and dahlias go suprisingly well together. :)

The flowers have now thrice been recycled...and then they will go on to become gorgeous compost.

The picture of the dahlias and the porch above were taken in Vancouver last fall. I was walking with a friend through her old neighbourhood and she pointed out a house with a pumpkin-bedecked porch. An elderly woman had recently died there, and the new owners had held an estate sale which my friend had attended.

She said the house had the most intense, angry feeling in it. It was oppressive and hard to ignore. She wondered if perhaps the old woman's spirit was annoyed at the new owners making fun of her posessions. Kim said she'd never been to a sale like that where the recently departed were so loudly disrespected.

I'm sure I'd be annoyed too, if after I was dead people were trooping through my living-room making fun of my taste in table-lamps and knick-knacks. That's when being a poltergeist would be particularly satisfying.

Estate-sale person: "Good lord, what a tacky piece of art! Ha ha! This dead person had ludicrously bad taste."

Spider Girl's Peeved Ghost: *hurls random bric-a-brac at churlish person's head*

Kim: "See? What did I tell ya? She said she'd be annoyed if you insulted her stuff..."

Monday, October 24, 2005

Cow-Related Mayhem

So I was picking Jeff up from work today, and I got there a little early. I sat down to surf on the spare computer there and happened to look out the front window.

"Hey! Look, cows!" said Jeff at the same time as I noticed the procession of confused cattle that had suddenly appeared.

Twenty some-odd cows lumbered along the side of the road and there wasn't a single cowboy in sight. Traffic came to a halt as they barged their way across two lanes and disappeared in the direction of the city's main bridge.

Uh oh. This couldn't be good for rush hour.

Where had they come from? We're not THAT rural and down-town is only one block away.There are no cattle farms close by, and I'd just driven down that stretch of road without seeing any cows whatsoever, or any evidence of say, a cattle-truck over-turned.

As we were pondering the whys of it, a little brown heifer skipped right by the office window and headed in the opposite direction of the other cows. I decided to follow it and see if I could figure out where it had come from.

By this time there were several police cars stopping traffic in both directions. There was more snarled traffic and another ten cows or so cavorting further up the road. Attempts by police officers to grab them seemed fruitless.

I slowly followed the heifer as it trotted down to the river by the Monte Cristo Restaurant.

Two chefs in tall white hats, a lady from the real-estate office across the street, one local farm-hand, some large river-birds and me watched as the little cow plunged into the water and cow-paddled to the other side.

"Did you know cows could swim?", said one chef.
"I do now", nodded the other.

The cows had beef-tags clipped in their ears, somebody noted. Maybe they had just decided to make a break for it.

Meanwhile, calls were coming over the police radio that more cows had been sighted in two down-town parks nearby. Cow-sighting bulletins were announced on the radio. It was obvious the stopped traffic was going nowhere soon.

We started home in the opposite direction from our usual way, the only way possible, and circled through town on a most mercifully cow-free route.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Dream Some Numbers

I drove by a sign today that told me that the Lotto 6/49 jackpot is up to forty million dollars. It's tempting enough for me to buy a ticket, methinks.

Now I just have to dream of some good numbers to play.

When I was around twelve, my father used to encourage my younger brother and I to develop our psychic abilities. He would sit us down at the dining-room table with a pack of playing cards and hold the cards up one by one up with its back towards us. We would try and guess what card it was by picturing it in our heads.

I remember my brother was much better at it than I was; I never had delusions that I might one day get hired by the Psychic Hotline. But some strange things did happen.

One day my brother and I tried an experiment. One of us would go into one room and draw something on a piece of paper, and then try to project it to the other who was waiting in another room. We would draw what we thought our sibling had drawn.

It was a little spooky.

I drew an apple tree. My brother drew an apple tree.

He drew a house. I drew a house.

We did it maybe three or four times and then decided to quit. I remember we felt decidedly strange about the whole matter, and I don't remember telling our father about it, although he would have been as pleased as punch probably.

We never tried it again, and as far as I know today my brother is as cynical as they come about the existence of psychic ability. But now I wonder if I should give him a call and just see what numbers HE would play.

Or I'll do the other thing my father encouraged us to do when the Jack-pot got big: "Try and dream some numbers".

Child Haven Dinner

In the end, it all came together and we raised a good chunk of money for Child Haven International. But halfway through the day I was still wondering if we'd mange to pull off this fund-raising dinner.

It was a breathless afternoon.We ran hither and yon trying to round up table-cloths, veggie plates, confirm ticket sales, and make flower arrangements. Then back to the hall to hang prayer flags and make welcome posters. I was quite pleased with my posters although they would have looked more polished if I'd had more time.

It just seemed as if too many things were left to the last minute this year. Maybe more of the jobs should have been delegated beforehand. It was a lot for one person to organize. And everybody was more than willing to help out Jeff's mom, who's a real sweet-heart.

Child Haven is an organization that's very dear to her heart. She spent three months living in one of the Child Haven orphanages in Nepal in 2003 and got to know a lot of the women and children very well. Through her, I've corresponded with a little girl named Ritika there.

Child Haven homepage link

Anyway, the founders of Child Haven, Bonnie and Fred Cappuccino, were speaking at our fund-raiser tonight, and we were really hoping to make the dinner successful.

And despite having to make a lot of last minute phone calls to raise ticket sales, it WAS a success: the Indian food was delicious (the place smelled great), the tables looked lovely with arrangements of dahlias and bamboo, and the speakers were interesting.

I was in charge of the sales table and silent auction area and brought in about nine hundred dollars. :)

I think when it's all tallied up we raised almost three thousand dollars last night. But whew! I was glad to fall into bed when it was all over.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Baby's First Shoplifting Incident

The other night a small group of family celebrated Jeff's brother becoming a licensed mechanic. And having a mechanic in your immediate family really IS something to celebrate when your car is showing signs of the infirmity of advanced age.

We went out to a new Chinese restaurant, ate at the yummy buffet, and presented Joel with such tokens as an engraved crescent wrench and a box of tools made from chocolate (you can get ANYTHING in chocolate!)

But his favourite present was a small pocket-knife in a little leather case that his seven-month-old daughter procured for him. Seems my baby niece has sticky fingers and palmed the little present when she was being held up at counter-level in the engraving shop.

Mommy went back and paid for it when the little cherub owned up to the theft in the parking lot. Heh, baby's first crime. :)

We're hoping she's getting the rebellious stage out of her system while she's still in diapers...

The little knife will no doubt be treasured as its definitely the first gift to her father that she's picked out on her own.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Attack of the Plastic Zebra

I have a little round bruise in the middle of my forehead today, the aftermath of an unexpected zebra attack.

The zebras I saw in Africa were like comical roly-poly horses, snuffling up the grass noisily, or kicking up their heels and braying like hyperventilating donkeys. Their pudgy striped selves exude no menace.

I only met gentle pleasant zebras in the wilds of Kenya. But the ones here at home are apparently far more dangerous.

Specifically it's the big plastic species of toy zebra wielded in the hands of careless three-year-olds that are the ones you need to watch out for. I saw stars, I tell ya. Who knew you'd require danger pay to work in a preschool?

Thursday, October 20, 2005

The King and I

Last night my mother and I went to the Sid and were highly entertained by the opening night of Rainbow Youth Theatre's production of "The King and I".

I have to say it intrigued me enough thatI need to go and find a copy of the 1956 film version with Yul Brynner.

It's a tale set in the late 19th century, the story of a British schoolteacher hired by the king of Siam to educate his numerous royal children in the English language.

Anna soon finds herself feeling very out of place in the palace of Siam where people prostrate themselves at the feet of the king, concubines abound, and beautiful girls arrive at court as gifts from neighbouring princes. She's kept very busy teaching the children their lessons, and the King a thing or two on propriety and compassion and British opinion. He is alternately intrigued and outraged by her influence on his household.

The King begrudgingly acknowledges that Western ways are becoming the way of the world and fears that his country will become disadvantaged if his children don't learn those ways. He is particularly dismayed when he hears rumours Queen Victoria herself might regard his royal self as a barbarian! When British dignitaries come calling, he hopes that Anna can also help him out with his little image problem.

But only if it looks like he's not taking advice from a woman. That just wouldn't be kingly.

The story revolves around the quarrelsome and yet affectionate friendship that evolves between two very different people. They are at times appalled and flabbergasted at each other but in the end come to a deep respect of one another despite their differences.

Along with all this is a lot of singing and energetic ball-room dancing, and elegant Thai silk costumes and a giant paper elephant, and lots of very cute little children. Also, a very surreal but brilliant play-within-a-play: a Buddhist interpretation of Harriet Beecher Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin" in eerie Thai masks. Now, I wasn't expecting THAT.

You see, I'd never seen any version of this musical before. I knew the basic plot, I knew it was loosely based on real people,and I knew that even today in Thailand "The King and I" is a sensitive subject and was even banned, at least for a while.

But some of the music was oddly familiar.

I thought and thought about where I had heard a particular song, "Getting to Know You"...and then I had this mental flash of a scene from the Addams Family movie of Morticia and Gomez sitting stone-faced in an audience of beaming parents in a school auditorium. The kids on stage in the movie are dressed up in cutesy flower costumes as they sing the self-same "Getting to Know You" number from "The King and I". You can tell Morticia and Gomez would slowly die inside if they were forced to watch more performances like this.

I have friends who might agree with Morticia. However, I liked it.

Well, I'm rambling. In summation, I'm glad we went to "The King and I". Now I can only hope the library will have the video in their oldies section. :)

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Back to the Gym

Harmony invited me to her full-moon drumming circle the other night. At first I told her I couldn't make it. She sounded so disappointed because I haven't dropped by for months. But I KNEW there was SOMETHING I was supposed to be doing Monday night. For the life of me I couldn't remember what.

And then I remembered that Monday was the evening I had resolved to start going going back to the gym. So I called Harmony back. "See you at seven o'clock. Happy to come!"

Yes, any old excuse to get out of hard work, right?

But alas, there were no lunar events to put off my resolutions last night.

We went to the community centre, cringily renewed our memberships (we are no longer students so the price feels nasty), and spent an hour sweating to the local radio station on the various machines.

I have to say that once I'm there I enjoy it. I like the feeling that I'm getting stronger and fitter. And possibly cuter. :)

It's just getting motivated to get there. Wish me luck.


*Spider Girl stands on a dramatic cliff-top,arms thrown wide, hair blowing back in the breeze as she makes this momentous announcement in front of friends who read this blog and various sundry stangers*

Monday, October 17, 2005

The Snake Doctor

Last night I sent some photographs off to some of the people from Britain I travelled with on my trip to Africa. They were such a good group of people--likeable, smart, funny people, all of them.

I immediately got an email back from Helen who has been busy collecting and sending off medical supplies and various other items to a clinic we visited in Tanzania. She had just received word that her supplies had made it to their destination. I was so glad to hear from her, and what a good idea!

At the end of the trip our group leader requested that we donate what we could spare from our first aid kits: bandages, aspirin, skin ointments, whatever we could come up with. It would all be given to the clinic at the Meserani Snake Park which provides free services to the local Masai people.

The clinic was located on the grounds of one of the campsites we tented at, very near to the Masai village we visited. The camp was also home to an extensive reptile zoo---venomous snakes, crocodiles, turtles---and the first thing that greeted us on our visit was a row of caged snakes.

The clinic was small: two rooms with bare concrete floors. It REEKED of pine cleaner.

There was a sink, a small table, one bed, and a very inadequate supply of medical equipment.

We met the "doctor", a friendly man who confessed that he wasn't trained as a doctor professionally, but had grown very experienced treating common complaints like diarrhea, infections, malaria, and snake bites.

He was particularly an expert on toxic snake bites. "Actually, I am a snake man", he said, nodding. His other job was snake- handler.

The doctor told us of a few of the cases he'd treated over the years. One Masai man came to him with a festering sore on his shoulder which had been left untreated for THREE years. The wound had been infected all the way down to exposed bone. Luckily the man recovered, but he had to report to the clinic every day for a long time to have his shoulder re-dressed with a bandage.

The doctor explained that the Masai often avoid seeking medical help, being self-reliant, or are simply too isolated to find it. Some of the villages we passed were way out in the middle of nowhere, where no transportation by vehicle was available.

What would it be like to have a medical emergency here?

Well, somehow the patient would have to get to the hospital in Arusha, the nearest city, because they simply couldn't handle anything that required surgery, for instance. "It's very difficult", the snake man told us soberly.

Before we left, the doctor let me handle one of the kinder, gentler snakes. It was a hook-nosed snake, which is non-poisonous. It just bashes its prey against the side of their burrows.

As I held the snake I looked up to see a grinning Masai child's face pushed up against the grill of the window. He was very curious to see why the muzungus (foreigners) would want to hold a snake, I think.

We would have liked to stay and ask more questions (Sarah, the doctor in our group, had come up with some good ones), but we noticed that there was now a line-up of men and women clad in the Masai's traditional red blankets, stoically waiting on benches outside in the dusty yard.

We hurriedly excused ourselves. We didn't want to make those people wait any longer than they had to. I will never complain again about having to wait around in a doctor's waiting-room here at home.

I Do Like London More and More Actually

I was dreaming about London last night.

I used to think that I might like to move to Paris or Rome if given the opportunity, but now I think I might like to try living in London one day.

It has plenty of culture and theatre,free museums,fabulous bookshops, plenty of history, good restaurants, and gorgeous buildings, and I wouldn't need to own a car to get around. Also, I'd be just across the Channel from the rest of Europe. Vacationing in Greece or Italy would be like flying to Mexico from Canada.

NOW if I only had enough money to afford the cost of living there.... As long as I'm dreaming, I'd like a palatial flat in the Belgrave Road area. :)

You Belong in London

A little old fashioned, and a little modern.

A little traditional, and a little bit punk rock.

A unique woman like you needs a city that offers everything.

No wonder you and London will get along so well.

What City Do You Belong in? Take This Quiz :-)

Find the Love of Your Life
(and More Love Quizzes) at Your New Romance.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

In Case You're Wondering If Leather Pants Are For You..

I totally borrowed this from someone else's blog. (Thanks go to Kaia at

It's the text from an EBay ad for a pair of leather pants. I don't know what these pants eventually sold for because the link to Ebay no longer works, but it's the kind of wonderful history on an item that makes shopping there fun. :)

And I know a pirate or two who might be reading this, so I had to share.

Plus (confession) I once owned a pair of faux leather pants. In my defense, it WAS the eighties......

The AD:

"You are bidding on a mistake.

We all make mistakes. We date the wrong people for too long. We chew gum with our mouths open. We say inappropriate things in front of grandma.

And we buy leather pants.

I can explain these pants and why they are in my possession. I bought them many, many years ago under the spell of a woman whom I believed to have taste. She suggested I try them on. I did. She said they looked good. I wanted to have a relationship of sorts with her. I’m stupid and prone to impulsive decisions. I bought the pants.

The relationship, probably for better, never materialized. The girl, whose name I can’t even recall, is a distant memory. I think she was short.

Ultimately the pants were placed in the closet where they have remained, unworn, for nearly a decade. I would like to emphasize that: Aside from trying these pants on, they have never, ever been worn. In public or private.

I have not worn these leather pants for the following reasons:

I am not a member of Queen.
I do not like motorcycles.
I am not Rod Stewart.
I am not French.
I do not cruise for transvestites in an expensive sports car.

These were not cheap leather pants. They are Donna Karan leather pants. They’re for men. Brave men, I would think. Perhaps tattooed, pierced men. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say you either have to be very tough, very gay, or very famous to wear these pants and get away with it.

Again, they’re men’s pants, but they’d probably look great on the right lady. Ladies can get away with leather pants much more often than men can. It’s a sad fact that men who own leather pants will have to come to terms with.

They are size 34x34. I am no longer size 34x34, so even were I to suddenly decide I was a famous gay biker I would not be able to wear these pants. These pants are destined for someone else. For reasons unknown - perhaps to keep my options open, in case I wanted to become a pirate - I have shuffled these unworn pants from house to house, closet to closet. Alas, it is now time to part ways so that I may use the extra room for any rhinestone-studded jeans I may purchase in the future.

These pants are in excellent condition. They were never taken on pirate expeditions. They weren’t worn onstage. They didn’t straddle a Harley, or a guy named Harley. They just hung there, sad and ignored, for a few presidencies.

Someone, somewhere, will look great in these pants. I’m hoping that someone is you, or that you can be suckered into buying them by a girl you’re trying to bed.

Please buy these leather pants."

One Hundredth Post

Hey, this is post number one hundred on this blog! I guess I like it here, huh. :)

Well, in honour of my hundredth post and also to celebrate my feeling much better from my cold, I bought lovely luxuriously soft bath-towels today to contribute to that Day-at-the-Spa feel I'm trying to cultivate in my bathroom. No more ratty towels for Spider-Girl.

I realized I own a towel that I remember hanging in the bathroom when I was a preschooler. There are naked baby photos of me with that self-same towel in the picture. Sigh. Tragically thrifty, no?

I also splurged on expensive shampoo, the kind I always borrow at my friend Tai's house when I stay over. AND, to complete today's retail-therapy session, I also finally bought the little black suede club chair I've had my eye on for two months. They took a hundred dollars off the price because it was the last one, how could I resist?

It's just the right size for me to flop down in with a book and hang my legs lazily over the side. It's really way too small for Jeff. Ah, furniture for short people. I love it.

Jeff says that since we have another spot for someone to sit now, maybe we could get rid of ye olde plaid sofa that sags depressingly and that we got for free. I am in full agreement.

I've actually been getting rid of lots of things this month. I want wide open spaces on my shelves eventually. Things that have been living upstairs are being relegated to the flea-market stock in the basement and boxes and boxes of things from the basement have been booted out the door to the Goodwill.

A couple of things like the bulky, rusty Rowing-Machine-Which-Nobody-Used were placed at the edge of our curb with a FREE sign hung on it and disappeared in the time it took us to pick milk up at the store.

Jeff was initially skeptical about this method of Making-Things-Disappear but I do believe it's a time-honoured method of redistributing junk back into the universe. He was converted when even the Ugliest-Light-Fixture-on-the-Planet was snapped up.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Autumn Spiders

Can you see the spider's shadow?

I miss the flowers of summer but there is some beautiful foliage in my garden in the autumn. The spiders seem to enjoy it too.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Six Feet Under

I'm at home sick today.

I stuck it out for two hours at work, but was SO relieved when I could go home. I don't have any more paid sick time this year thanks to my stupid appendix, but there was no way I could be pleasant around children today.

There's something miserable going around and I got it, though I'll spare you the gory details, except to say that I'm usually MUCH less haggard-looking.

I'm self-medicating by drinking lots of hot tea, taking lots of baths as hot as I can stand them, and re-watching the first two seasons of "Six Feet Under".

If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it. It's a quirky little show about a family who owns a funeral home. Funerals, sex, embalming fluid, family drama, visits from beyond the grave, romance, coffins, it has it all.

When I was in high school I was actually very interested in going into the funeral industry. Through my school counsellor I even arranged to take a tour of one of the local funeral homes. I was fascinated.

But also a little shocked. Not at what you think I might be shocked at perhaps, the actual physical reality of death and handling dead bodies. No, I was shocked at the prices the funeral homes charge. The mark-up is disturbing.

I tell you, if I die, I'd want my family to take the nine thousand dollars they could spend on a coffin for me, and instead take a wild tropical vacation in my honour, toasting me with exotic drinks with little umbrellas in them.

Go ahead, throw my ashes into the wind, just as long as you remember me fondly. :)

So, anyhoooo, I was rather put off by the rather callous financial aspect of the business. Then I went on to read an old death-industry classic, Jessica Mitford's "The American Way of Death" and that really took the shine off me wanting to become a funeral director.

But watching "Six Feet Under" still makes a fine way to spend a recuperative afternoon. :)

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Small World

Way back in June or July sometime, I wrote about the concept of Six Degrees of Separation, the theory that if you look hard enough, you can find the connection between you and everyone else on the planet. I mentioned how I'd recently found out about my round-about connection with World War II era- French singer Maurice Chevalier through his butler Dudley who was distantly related to me through my husband's family.

You never know who's reading your blog. In this case it was a long-lost relative, it seems. :)

This was what in my email box last night:


You don't know me but I came across your blog site (bathtub spider) while doing a search for M Chevalier. After reading it I was almost sure your husband must be the grandson of Jeanette ------ from Brandon. I had to chuckle a bit about the Dudley Wright bit and Maurice Chevalier. I have been in contact with Dudley's great grandaughter in Paris for the past year. If Jeanette is your husband's grandmother then I have also been in contact with her. Talked to her last time on the phone at the end of May. Jeanette and I have exchanged tons of family information. Her mother Frances and my wife's grandmother Florence were sisters and of course sisters of Dudley Wright. Small world.

Cris -----"

I think this is so neat. Thanks for writing, Cris. Hope to meet you all someday.

Parade of Lost Souls Cancelled

I've known for a little while that this year the Parade of Lost Souls is not going to take place, but I'm still dreadfully disappointed. :(

I've been travelling to the mainland the weekend before Halloween for the last four years now to walk the spooky neighbourhood around Grandview Park in Vancouver. The houses there are fantastically decorated with lanterns and leering eyes and dry ice. I counted thirty jack-o-lanterns on a single porch once. Now that's the way to decorate for Halloween!

It's become a tradition: lighting incense at the ancestor and pet shrines, watching the fire dancers and the procession of jack-o-lanterns raised on poles, and dancing along the streets with thousands of other costumed folk to a salsa beat. It's scary good fun.

Apparently it's a victim of its own success.

It used to be that a few hundred people showed up at the Park for the costume parade and a fireworks show hosted by The Public Dreams Society. Then word got around and thousands more came every year. Now, apparently twenty-thousand ghouls, stilt-walkers, and Elvis impersonators could converge in the space of a few decorated streets and narrow alleyways. The organizers think it may have gotten a little too big.

They're hopeful that the new logistics for safety regulations and space needed will get sorted out by next year.

Public Dreams: Parade of Lost Souls page

Meanwhile, I'm sulking. I had borrowed a lovely funeral hat swathed in black tulle for the occasion...sigh.

I'm glad two friends have called since I heard the news with interesting alternate Halloween plans. I NEVER let this particular holiday go by without marking it in some way.

If I can't find somewhere witchy to go, I would just have to resort to trick-or-treating.

I DID that one year, not too long ago. We ran out of candy at my house, so I quickly threw on a dragon costume that absolutely enveloped me and tried to discreetly join a roving band of children.

One of the kids (about twelve years old) peered suspiciously at me: "Philip?", he guessed. I just nodded and made dragon noises.

It was SO much fun!

My favourite moment was when a little old lady opened the door with a smile and said to me: "Did you make that costume at school, dear?" Her husband stood behind her filming with a video camera. I said "Yes" in as young a voice as I could muster and then scurried home giggling my fool head off.

I got my refill of candy for our house, but Jeff just shook his head and laughed at me: "You're evil", he said.

My age? Twenty-seven. You're never too old to have a happy childhood in my book. :)

Monday, October 10, 2005

A Lion Chase

I've been back for a while from Africa now, and many of you have seen my pictures, but I guess I'm still not done blogging about that trip. It's something I've been thinking about every day. It's an experience that's going to be with me my whole life I think.

Let me just tell you about the most thrilling ten seconds of it.

We were hanging out the side of our open-sided truck watching two lionesses and a cub near a rock formation called a kopje. The cub had most of our attention, but we noticed one of the adult lions stalking slowly through the grass towards our vehicle.

We held our breath. There was only air and a few feet between us.She was going to come so close.


It was the most amazing, thrilling second of fright I've ever experienced.

What we hadn't realized was that a kind of deer, a bush-buck, had been crouched in the grass, snugged right up beside the wheels of our truck. Nobody saw her until the lioness was in full chase, right in front of me.

I've never seen so much speed and power. The sight of that leap and race was heart-stopping. There is a frozen image in my mind of those muscles bunching in her golden shoulders. I've never felt so wide-eyed. It happened too fast for my camera to capture; it was forgotten in my hands.

The deer also was wide-eyed and breathless that day. It got away, by the way.

British Columbia ---most of it's true

This is just something I found on the Internet. And for those of you from out of province, who might happen upon it...most of it is true.

Or true enough. :)

You Know You're From British Columbia When...

You know the provincial flower

You consider that if it has no snow, it is not a real mountain.

You can taste the difference between Starbucks, Blendz, and Tim Horton's.

You know how to pronounce Squamish, Osoyoos & Nanaimo.

You can tell the difference between Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean and Thai food.

In winter, you go to work in the dark and come home in the dark - while only working eight-hour days.

You have no concept of humidity without precipitation.

You know that Dawson Creek is a town, not a TV show.

You can point to at least two ski mountains, even if you cannot see through the cloud cover.

You notice "the mountain is out" when it is a pretty day and you can actually see it.

You put on your shorts when the temperature gets above 5, but still wear your hiking boots and parka.

You switch to your sandals when it gets about 10, but keep the socks on.

You recognize the background shots in your favourite movies & TV shows.

You buy new sunglasses every year, because you can't find the old ones after such a long time.

You use a down comforter in the summer.

The local hero is a pot-smoking snowboarder

The local wine doesn't taste like malt vinegar

Your $400,000 Vancouver home is 5 hours from downtown

You can throw a rock and hit three Starbucks locations

You've been to a deforestation protest

If a cop pulls you over, just offer them some of your hash

It's November, it's raining, but you're still wearing birkenstocks

You go broke just paying rent.

You don't own a heavy winter coat

You can't figure out why Manitoba is considered part of Western Canada.

You wouldn't be caught dead on Vancouver Island or Vancouver without your umbrella and plastic shoes.

You actually get these jokes and pass them on to other friends from British Columbia.


Last night, after Thanksgiving dinner, my mother announced she was going to cut her hair.

"I'm too old to have my hair down my back like this!"

My brother and I protested at once. "You are not too old, Mom. You can wear your hair any way you like". And we meant it.

My mother's hair is black streaked with silver, plaited in a braid that hangs to her waist. My brother says it sometimes reminds him fondly of those ladies in Bolivia who wear the little felt bowler hats with their long braided hair. More often, she is mistaken for Italian.

She sighs heavily, and points out that we can barely remember her wearing her hair any other way, and isn't that a sign it's time to change?

I have always loved my mother's long hair, I must confess. But I think I can relate to how she feels.

Having liberated my own self of fourteen inches of hair just a few short years ago, I can also say that it could be a wonderful freeing thing for her to have that new look.

I used to have very long hair. I loved it. A small child told me I had hair like a waterfall. It was part of my identity. I was the Girl with Long Hair. It was like a talisman, I think.

But then one day, something in me changed. I held my heavy ponytail in my hand and felt a surge of relief and freedom. And I've never gone back.

Long hair can be beautiful, sure, but it also tangles into rats nests, gets caught in the car door, takes a day to dry, yanks your head back when you sit on it, and does NOT appreciate windy days.

Also, the lovely Kate Beckinsale,her hair cut in a dark bob in the movie Underworld helped my resolve immensely.

So, Mom, if you want to cut your hair to be new and different and happy, go right ahead. I'll understand.

But you're NOT old.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Lo, I am an Icon

The one on the left is me in full Canadian-flag and bandanna regalia with my black kitty Colby looking characteristically wide-eyed. And then there's me on a squishy pink chair with one of my little spider friends from the bath-tub.

Oh, the ways to while away a rainy afternoon! So much fun to be had on the Internet. :)

Abi-Station Portrait Illustration Maker

Abi-Station Portrait Icon Maker

Gardening, Old Cemetery Style

It's a soggy saturday, too soggy to garden for my taste, so in lieu of that I'm reading gardening books.

One of them discussed the search to find hardy rose varieties, and had this tip: check out the yards of abandoned homes or old cemeteries for rose bushes. If they've survived the neglect, they're probably a variety that's hard to kill, so take a cutting to grow yourself.

Now it's just not good form to rob tombs where relatives are going to care, so the author had this to add: "Checking the date on the headstone is important not only because it reveals whether or not the rose is a real survivor but also because it will spare you embarrassing encounters".

Yes, important tip, don't get caught grave-robbing. Gardeners and ghouls, please take note.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Mt. Kilimanjaro, or How I Climbed Partway Up a Mountain (Barely)

I have long suspected I am not the athletic mountaineering type. For instance, here's an important clue: I avoid walking up hills.

But, given an opportunity to climb on Mount Kilimanjaro this past holiday in Tanzania, I was willing to give it a try. Turns out I was right about my mountain-scaling abilities, but what better way for a rank amateur to find out the humbling truth than to attempt to scale the highest free-standing mountain on the African continent?

Oh, I'd love to say I charged all the way to the top of Kilimanjaro on my summer vacation, but all I was trying to do was make it to the Base Camp at Mandara with some dignity. That leg of the climb is just eight kilometres if one is speaking of a flat path, but there's a vertical kilometre in there somewhere which makes it more challenging than it sounds.

After some grumbling and bargaining unpleasantness at the check-in station at the bottom of the mountain, we managed to hire our guides at nearly double their originally stated rate. Aside from that, it was a beautiful morning.

We set off in the September sunshine up a wide trail of red earth through the rainforest on the lower slopes of Kili.

The first hour or so was pretty easy.

It reminded me strongly of a steeper hike up a path at Seal Bay Park in my own British Columbian part of the world. The fern gullies, the little waterfalls, and tiny violets in the undergrowth added to the illusion that I was in the forest back home. The trees even dripped with familiar moisture. Of course there are no monkeys where I live, but other than that...well, I was all ready to pat myself on the back.

But somewhere along the route (well before the two hour mark if I'm honest) I started to get a little winded.

Hmmm, I'll just stop and drink from my water bottle. (pant pant)

I walked a little further. Hmmm, maybe I'll just stop and admire the hanging moss on this tree. (puff gasp)

Uh, I'll just stop a sec and..

Hmmmm...maybe I'll just stop.

The trail would level out reassuringly for a short while, but then we'd go around a bend and a steep disheartening stretch would be there ,looming like a ladder, only with lots of rocks and skinny drainage ditches to trip in.

I go for long periods of time in my life when I forget that I have asthma, and I'm just fine with forgetting. But that day I became acutely aware that my lungs were definitely most displeased with me: the nerve! striding briskly up mountainsides in thinning air!

Oh well. So I meandered. It WAS very beautiful, and aren't you SUPPOSED to stop and smell the flowers?

Jeff claimed he wouldn't want to hike much faster anyway, but he is a gallant gent with legs much longer than mine, so I'm quite sure he was politely lying.

The most embarrassing thing about not being a good climber on this mountain was the steady stream of African porters carrying heavy loads on their backs and heads that would breeze on by us. Well, they breezed by ALL the foreign hikers, not just me I want to add.

Those guys were in fabulous shape. One fellow had a propane tank balanced on his head as he strode up the steep incline. It must've weighed a lot. Sweat was actively running down his forehead. There's no way they are getting paid enough for doing that kind of work. I couldn't really complain after seeing him, loaded down as I was by my waterbottle and a sweater tied around my waist.

One porter smiled as he went by and teasingly shook a finger at me. "Pol-ee Pol-ee!", he grinned. I believe that literally means "slowly, slowly" in Kiswahili. Sigh.

But I made it.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

A Spider Web for Your Enjoyment

Yesterday morning was damp and misty and smelled like woodsmoke. I wandered in the early morning through the yard, getting my shoes wet and taking pictures of spiderwebs.

Down the driveway where the rosebushes grow, there must have been more than ten gorgeous dew-filled webs. They were strung like a string of prayer-flags, almost touching one another. It was quite a sight, although my photographs couldn't quite capture their mystery.

I feel like I have a lot to write about but it is too late now and I need to shut off the computer. I went out for coffee with some good friends tonight. I haven't seen them in a while and we all have lots of things going on in our lives.

I'm always entertained by one friend's happy-go-lucky good fortune and boundless energy, and tonight I'm admiring my other friend for the way she puts a positive spin on a seemingly endless string of obstacles.

It seems like a lot can happen when you go away for a month.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005


Gunther von Hagens is a fellow who is becoming famous for the artistic plastination technique he has used on real human bodies to create an amazing exhibition called Body Worlds.

Apparently this show has been travelling around Europe for a number of years, but is only now stirring up admiration and controversy this side of the Pond.

Body Worlds exhibition link

Now if this show comes anywhere near where I live, I'm going. How about you?

Monday, October 03, 2005

Olive Gets a Promotion

Okay, nothing much happened today in the life of Spider Girl. So I'll just post a news article for your edification.


Copenhagen (Reuters)

"Santa Claus will receive $5,000 in compensation from the Danish air force after an F-16 fighter jet frightened one of his reindeer to death. Professional Danish Santa, Olavi Niikanoff, complained to the airforce after a reindeer died with fright when a jet roared over the field where his animals were grazing, air force spokesman Captain Morten Jensen told Reuters....."

I mentioned this news item to Jeff and he said the fellow on "The Cheesy News" (snicker) said it was Rudolph who'd bit it.

Well, I hope Olive enjoys her promotion....

You know, Olive...the other reindeer.

Oooookayyyyy, time for some sleep. :)

Making Time for Friends

We spent Saturday visiting friends and it was great.

First we went to Pol's house and chatted on the deck under the patio umbrella, and then we sat on the front lawn and talked, and then we lounged in her new family room and had more good conversation.

I laughed when I heard her name for the lovely warm yellow colour on her freshly painted downstairs walls. She said, "It's called "Second Attempt". The first coat was too apricoty apparently.

And she has a very tasteful chair which is not new but recently re-upholstered. It looks fabulous, but the fact that it cost more to refurbish than any one piece of the furniture I currently own cost to purchase new makes me think I need to invest in nicer furniture. :)

I am DEFINITELY going to invest in a reading chair in the next year.

Also, during the course of this visit, I got some boxes of new-to-me flea market stuff which I'm very happy to have as I just got rid of five boxes of old stock the other day. Ahhh, fresh stuff.

After leaving Pol's place, it was just a short drive to Corky and Lanch's place so we popped in there too. We ended up ordering Chinese take-out and staying late.

I MISS my friends. Many of them live at an hour's drive away, but that's not so far away really.

I hate the feeling of falling out of touch with people that are really dear to me. Well, we can read each other's blogs, but there's no substitute for a cup of tea face-to-face.

We're going to come visit you all more. :)

Sunday, October 02, 2005

New Babies in My Home

My New Bugs

My friend Pol had a hatching of stick insects at her house recently: little twiggy bugs crawling merrily through the aquarium in her young son's bedroom.

"How about if you take two, in case one dies?", she offered cheerily. "Or three?"

They are really fascinating little creatures, and I've gotten to know the grown-up stick bugs (Sticky, Stanley, and Sylvan)at her house over the years, so hmmmm.....

I really haven't had any jars of insect life sitting around in my home for ages. Isn't it about time I asked myself?

Isn't it time to re-explore those childhood days when I had buckets of pond-life on my door-step, insects galore waiting to be fed in various containers, and perhaps some small form of road-kill being skeletonized by my own little maggot-farm?

Ewww, gross, Spider-Girl! you are probably saying to yourself. We didn't know you were such a warped child...

Well, let me just say that back then I was SURE I'd follow in the foot-steps of the great naturalist and childhood bug-hunter Gerald Durrell. I kept a copy of his wonderful book "The Amateur Naturalist" close at hand and read with zeal about how to keep insect zoos and so forth. I'm sure I was a trial to my parents.

But I digress.

So now I have five infant stick insects (maybe half an inch long) crawling around in a ventilated and well-misted peanut-butter jar lined with soil and some tasty ivy to tide them over until I can pick them some yummy blackberry leaves.

They are apparently quite easy to keep and when they grow a bit bigger and less delicate I plan on bringing them in to the preschool to show the children.

HOWEVER, there were a few cautions that came with my little baby sticks.

DON'T put them on a windowsill with strong sunlight. It'll kill them.

DON'T let their aquarium dry out. It needs to be well-misted but not wet.

And DON'T let them escape. Don't let them anywhere near outside and Nature. They're not native to this area and they are PARTHOGENIC (my new big word of the day) and this means that the females can reproduce without the aid of a male. this means if my baby insects are girls, and there is a strong possibility that most or all ARE female, then I'll be calling y'all on the horn soon and asking if you want some baby stick insects of your own.

C'mon, they're cute!

Hmmmm...there was another warning, something Pol said I should not forget. What WAS that important thing again?....

Oh yeah... NEVER EVER feed them after midnight. :)