Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Silly Belly Practice

See the scribbles to the left?

It could be one of those football play diagrams with lots of little arrows and circles that the coach scribbles on.

But actually its the culmination of of our last group practice before we five belly-dancers wow the old folks' home this Friday night. It's a group scribble deciding how we're all going to leave the stage after people have stopped clapping and throwing flowers.

Heh, we're assuming that last bit. :)

Do we all bow at once? Do we each do a little spin and whirl off-stage? Do we go in pairs and leave Linda to do the final finale and flourish? Who goes first? " It's like a damn four-way stop!" , one of us laughed.

Well, as we're arguing about the ending rather than the beginning or middle of the actual dancing, I'm taking this as a good sign. It's all come together rather well I think, although our practices degenerate into social time by about the one-hour mark.

Tonight we went through the music for the whole show while sitting in a circle on the floor together. We wiggled through the motions required from the waist up to run through the choreographies, while chatting and laughing our heads off simultaneously.

Well, we did improvise some of the lower body movements at first, but then someone commented that it looked like we were having a baby when we did a hip-drop shimmy, so then we were laughing to hard to continue.

Okay, so now I just have to practicepracticepractice on my own some more for the next couple of days and I'll let you know how it all turns out.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Lip Synch Therapy

Heh, welcome to Spider-Girl's blogging therapy session of the day.....

I've been thinking this week about a memory that alternately makes me smile with pride and wince with remembered embarrassment. It's taking me back to those teenage years when I felt like the most awkward, least glamorous girl on the planet.

Of course, I think two of my dearest friends felt like that at the time too. Maybe everybody did at that age. Gee, I hope it wasn't just us. :)

We were fifteen years old and were certifiably geekalicious at the time. Well, all the "cool" (mean, snobby, secretly insecure I hope-types) kids certified us thusly anyway and reminded us of it on a daily basis. We were sick of it.

(By the way, it is one of the little joys in my life that looking back on photos from that era you cannot tell the popular kids from the nerds. We all have uniformly bad hair and clothes. It was the Eighties.)

But, anyway, back to my teen angst: what could we do do to break out of nerd-dom ?

When an airband contest was advertised at our junior high school, we decided that here was our opportunity to take a chance at rock-and-roll glory. It would be fun. It would be daring. It was not something nerds would do, we felt.

Of course, this was unfamiliar ground.There was a strong possibility that drawing attention to ourselves could bring a fresh round of teasing down on our heads.

My co-rockers shrugged. How could it get any worse? We were already used to being the butt of jokes.

My own casual shrug was not totally sincere. I wanted to do this thing and show no fear, and yet....oh, I could imagine disastrous social consequences.

Now, there are some songs that take you back to a certain time and place, whether you like it or not.

For me and my two childhood friends, the song that takes us back to semi- traumatic glory is The Final Countdown by Swedish rock-group Europe, apparently even now an Anthem for the Ages: http://www.nassauweekly.com/view_article.php?id=441

We're leaving together
But still it's farewell
And maybe we'll come back
To earth, who can tell
I guess there is no one to blame
We're leaving ground (leaving ground)
Will things ever be the same again
It's the final countdown... The final countdownOoh oh

Even today, my friend's husband sometimes makes this tune his cell-phone ring tone to tease her.

Why we chose to imitate an all-male band with five members when there were only three of us girls ,I cannot quite recall.....but after weeks of fierce practice in my basement, there we were...on stage in front of the entire school.

I already had the big awful unruly permed hair that eighties rocker bands favoured. We wore our acid-washed jeans and our denim jackets and tied those little bandanna rags around our legs that were fashionable at the time, and lip-synched our little hearts out.

Being nerds could be useful. We utilized all our resources : I played the keyboard, one of us was on drums, and our lead-singer rocked out with an electric guitar, all borrowed with blessings from the school band-room.

And, as the piece de resistance, one of our teachers donated a projector to set up in the background which played a film of a rocket-ship taking off and planets whirling past. It was heady stuff.

It still makes me cringe a little to think of us out there, pretending to wail along to "Ooooh.....Ooooh...it's the final countdown! Ooohhh!"

Okay, I still cringe a lot.

But the important thing was that we didn't totally suck. The audience cheered as we bowed and waved at the end of our song. Well, they would probably cheer anything keeping them in the school auditorium and out of the classroom, but still it was exhilarating .

We were disappointed that we didn't win the contest of course, but in all honesty there were better entries than ours---drat that Evil Tara and Her Cohorts who danced and lip-synched with perfect choreography through Julie Brown's Will We Make It Through the Eighties?

We did make it through the Eighties in the end, and strangely enough, nobody ever teased us about our musical debut either.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Updated Africa Blog

A link to my updated journal, in which I get peed on by a monkey, make friends with a peanut-seller, meet Masai dancers, and spell out words using shells on exotic far-away beaches: http://spidergirlontheroad.blogspot.com/

I decided that if I have to stay home feeling under the weather, I might as well write my little heart out. So I wrote several handfuls of posts last night and today on my Travel Journal blog. I haven't written anything there for a while, so I thought I'd let people know who had given up checking it for new posts.

I'm only on Day 5 or so of my trip which is frustrating because I've been meaning to finish this project since I got back from Africa in September. Ah, procrastination.

Also, it's a rather rambling journal. I'm just glad I packed a large notebook to write in. I had a lot to say.


Errrrrrrrrggggggggg *zombie sound*

I hate the flu season.

I could regale you with my symptoms, but let's just say for now that I'm grateful for kind co-workers that send you home when you feel like death warmed over.

And so for today, with little more to say, I leave you with....

Links to entertain oneself when when one is under the weather and staring glassy-eyed at the computer screen with only a cup of tea, a box of Kleenex, and a bottle of Advil to comfort oneself with:

Play A.I. Twenty Questions with your Computer: http://y.20q.net/anon?4CUQwQCQ0lYPm0Z0bRhxayjchcK,o8PJe

The Book of Ratings, basically lists of things for one's amusement: http://www.bookofratings.com/archive.html

PartiallyClips Comics. I thought of my dear pregnant friend Kim when I read the one called "Mrs. Baxter's Baby".http://www.partiallyclips.com/index.php?id=1033&b=1&c=

Random Snowflake Generator. Whoa....trippy: http://www.zefrank.com/snowflake/

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Lantern Festival

The other night Jeff and I drove out to Cumberland to see the festivities starting the second annual Taiwanese Lantern Festival.

The lanterns are being loaned to Cumberland by the Taiwanese Cultural Festival in Taiwan, and this village will be the only place they will be seen in British Columbia. They drew 12,000 people last year!

Tonight the street and shops were decorated with paper lanterns; the trees hung with red lucky money.

At one shop, I stopped to ask what the significance of the skewered lettuce hanging in the doorway. The proprietor told me that, traditionally, leafy vegetables like cabbage and lettuce attracted dragons . If the dragon dancing in the parade is attracted to your hanging vegetable, you can put a coin in its mouth and it will bestow prosperity upon your business in the coming year.

You learn something new every day. Traditionally, I thought dragons were attracted to hanging slabs of meat (possibly clad in armour), and possibly a big pile of gold coins. Alas, the dragons in my mind were merely being a little Euro-centric, and I much prefer the thought of gigantic dancing reptiles as being vegetarians.

The parade itself was very short, and like Vancouver's participatory Parade of Lost Souls was mainly a procession of hundreds of people people swinging home-made lanterns and carrying noise-makers down to the park where sky-lanterns would soon be released.

There was a lot of people here tonight. We were fortunate that we wiggled our way up to the front where the few microphones were. We could actually see and hear Tsunda-la (one of the local Buddhist lamas) blessing the event with chanting and the ringing of bells, and hear the singing by the Cantiamo choir.

I'm not so sure that the crowds of people milling all through the park could hear anything of the sort, but if that was so then they also missed the stultifyingly long announcements of the names of about a bazillion visiting dignitaries and local sponsors and politicians, for which they are blessed.

At each sponsor's name there was indeed a rousing cheer, but from the mutterings I heard around me in the audience people were just trying to stay warm in the freezing temperatures by yelling and jumping up and down. It was however entertaining to see that one of our local (and less-loved) politicians appeared to have a large and comical lizard made of paper sitting on his head.

The release of the sky-lanterns was quite beautiful. They floated up into the clear night sky like wobbly, ethereal UFOs, lit serenely from within, until they got smaller and smaller and winked out.

But we didn't stay for the rest of the entertainment, even though the big Taiko drums were starting up. It's not really characteristic of me to leave before the free entertainment is over, butI was just too cold. It was well below zero tonight and my nose and cheeks and toes felt numb. Next year, I'm putting on another pair of socks.

I have included some photos here of the lanterns I saw last year at the first lantern festival. They have travelled a long way and are a rather magical sight. They can be seen all this week in the Cumberland rec centre, until February 26th.

I think I'd like to see them again this year. They have added another fifty lanterns to the display from Taiwan, bringing the total to 130. It's quite a sight.

I think my favourite lantern was the life-sized ancient Chinese warrior mounted on horseback.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Toasters of the Gods

My brother, my world-travelling, tree-planting, toaster-collecting brother, has started a blog.... Toasters of the Gods. I hope you'll go there for a read.

What can I say about my brother?

Well, for one thing he owns a lot of toasters. Shiny ones. Antiquated ones. More than one would own strictly for toast-making purposes. All that gleaming vintage chrome is strangely appealing in its way. And apparently he's not the only one out there who appreciates the way the world used to make toast: there's a link to a Cyber Museum of Toast to be found on his site.

I like my brother. He's an interesting person, and a good writer. And in the last few years we have found some things we have in common: we are both enthusiastic about growing flowers, photography, doing home renovations, and making snide remarks about the current American president.

We are also both convinced that the most worthwhile way to spend your money is on travelling the world. We both travel as much as we can and discuss our future travelling plans incessantly when we get together at family dinners. Between us, we're going to have seen most of the planet before we die.

Now, my brother is new to the concept of blogging. I nearly fell out of my chair when he told me he'd started one.

It's only been a short while since he arched a skeptical eyebrow at me and wondered aloud what sort of unlikely people could be found blogging on the internet. I think he was wondering what sort of loony likes to write on the internet. As it turns out, lots of different sorts of people.

Well, his sister for one. I believe he thinks I'm mostly harmless though.

And now that he has a place to get on his own soap-box, he next pondered how on earth one goes about getting people to read what one writes. He figures there are not that many people who will find him unless they are toaster fanatics, so I thought I'd introduce him to y'all myself.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Valentine's Day at Home Depot

I hope all you people out there who celebrated Chocolate-Day yesterday had a lovely time. But it's just not for me.

We saw some flustered men-folk out there hauling enormous stuffed-animals-clutching- satin-hearts to the cash-register area yesterday evening while out doing our grocery shopping.

"Oh dear", said Jeff, shaking his head, "Those look like desperation presents to me".

Valentines Day is a holiday I quite frankly like to avoid. I'd rather get flowers out of the blue.

Me, I spent the evening roaming the plumbing department of Home Depot hand-in-hand with my sweetie. We were shopping for new whatz-its to hook up our bathroom taps. We're just hopeless romantics I guess.

I thought I'd post pictures of our new sink and counter-top because finished home renovations are a happy thing, and I wanted my friend Tai to see what our new counter-top looks like. She was rather unsure when I showed her the sample boards.

But I'm rather pleased with the result.

Before, our bathroom was a rather displeasing shade of blue with too-bright Hollywood dressing-room lighting, a chipped sink, dismal taps and towel-racks, and a worn counter-top. You can see Jeff reflected in the mirror in the bathroom's Before picture. His look seems to say why oh why do we start these projects?

But it's always rather heartening when we see the end result.

I paint, he plumbs and installs. I'm glad I have my job and not his. :)

I want my bathroom to remind me of those occasional times when I go to the spa and lie all relaxed, wrapped in a warm towel in a serene room with soothing colours and classical music and candle-light, while some kind person massages my brow. Along with new lighting and fixtures and a gorgeous mirror, my friend Sherry has gifted me with lemon soap from Provence to help me be at one with my candle-lit bath-time.

Ah, get her the gift she really wants for Valentines: yummy soap and a shopping spree at Home Depot!

To the left is a picture of our new sink area; the photo below is an in-between shot before we changed the counter-top.

I just love the transformative power of home renovations. As long as your house has good bones , as it were, then you can look beyond atrocious carpeting and chipped paint.

For instance, here is our upstairs hallway when we first bought the place.

And After . It has a much more airy and light feel to it now that we've worked on it a wee bit.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Full Moon and Mushrooms

I was on Denman Island last night under a gorgeous full moon.

Not only was it a pleasant evening gathering with women I really like and respect, but I learned ever so much about permaculture, worms, and diesel-eating mushrooms.

My friend Wind has returned from a two-week activist-training course with Starhawk in California and she had some wonderful stories to share.

"I'm just so in love with fungi right now", she grinned.

At one of the lectures she attended, mycologists (mushroom scientists) did a presentation on how oyster mushrooms are able to ingest toxins (such as pesticides, or diesel from a spill). The mushrooms can actually draw poisons and heavy metals out of soil so that it can be safely used again. In environmental circles, this is heady stuff.

Though of course you wouldn't want to add those same mushrooms to your salad afterwards.

She also learned how some scientists believe that mushrooms and fungi in a forest eco-system fulfil the role of nervous tissue in the human body. They act as a sort of communication transmission system, like the internet, if you will, as this article I found explains.

And could it really be true that a slimy fungi could navigate a maze?

Mmmmm, mushrooms. Such useful and mysterious things. And to think I used to pick them off my pizza and discard them when I was younger.

Wind says she learned a lot about creating gardens and permaculture while she was down in California on this trip. She says it boils down to what the Denman community is already doing: creating soil, saving heritage seed, and being able to grow your own food .

She is wearing a very sweet little necklace now in the shape of a worm.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Sword Practice and Other Dance Doings

Will I be able to dance with a sword on my head by June? Yes.

Will I be able to do it by March? Ummmmm, I'm going to say no.

"Awwwww", somebody at the bellydance meeting last night said, "I was looking forward to seeing that". I'm going to leave the sword dancing in March up to my friend Linda who you can see in this photo in the harem pants and floaty sleeves. She does a wicked sword dance.

I'm the one practicing in my living room. I can now walk with it, shimmy in place with it, and do level changes with it (meaning I can move from a standing position to kneeling and then lie down on the floor and stand up again without the sword falling off). I like this sword much better than the one I sold.

So, besides the June dance show at the Abbey with Bronwyn's dancers, it now seems that I'm going to be in a small performance at a seniors complex in March with Linda's dancers. We're the themed after-dinner entertainment. :)

A couple of years ago I danced at the same place for a lady's 102nd birthday party. I hope I get bellydancers at my party when I get to be that age. Better yet, if I got up and danced with them.

The oldest bellydancer I ever met was a lady in her late seventies. She wore long beledi dresses instead of midriff-revealing costumes, but she was a still an artistic and graceful dancer. She was a professional gymnast in her younger days. Maybe that paid off.

Anyway, this week at the dance meetings for Linda's group, we concentrated on organizing our music and costuming. I'll be dancing four times:

* a freestyle entrance piece to introduce the six dancers as a group before we spin out from our line and venture among the tables

* then later I will dance solo to my old favourite, Baila Me, by the Gipsy Kings

* later I have a duet to a gypsy/fusion piece with a dancer named Kelly who is teaching me a very fun and saucy choreography

* and then a finale piece with the whole group to swirling Kurdish music

Okay, we have two and a half weeks to pull it together!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Early Gardening

I am having a hard time waiting for spring.

I have an hour of prime gardening time after I get off work and before I pick up Jeff. After that it gets dark out. Therefore I've been rushing home on sunny days (or days where it's not actively pouring on my head) and pulling early weeds like a fiend. It may not officially be gardening season quite yet, but I'm thinking of it as a pre-emptive strike.

Great unholy clots of creeping ranunculus (those strangling tenacious little devils) are my main target at the moment. I've really been putting some energy into this mission. I figure if I pull (annihilate) a hundred a day....gee, in only 6854 more days I should be getting ahead of them. grumble grumble

I remember when I was a child being asked to dig up dandelions out of the lawn. Sometimes I'd pretend I was a gigantic monster coming along and capturing little dandelion people with my dandelion-digger. Bloodthirsty, perhaps, but it made weeding more fun. And I'm sure I'm not the only one who's thought along those lines. Even today, I know people who are quite bloodthirsty about annihilating dandelions.

Anyway, as you can see from my photos, there are a few prettier things in the flower-beds right now. Snowdrops, yellow cowslips, and purple primroses are all blooming here and there. And the greenery from bulbs are poking through too.

Two weeks ago I put in one hundred and ninety-five late tulip bulbs. They were fifty percent off at the nursery and the clerk assured me I could still put them in if I did it right away so they could still have a little bit of winter cold before they bloomed. I've never planted them so late, so we shall see.

It was a wonderful work-out, planting all those bulbs. Bending and squatting and twiting.Better than the gym. I could barely move the next day. :)

If you really need to do a bit of gardening, but you can't get outdoors yet, you can grow (or kill) your own little virtual plant while playing the Window Box game. To date I've raised a number of sad-looking plants at this site over the years. I've started naming them things like Poor L'il Thing and What's-the-Use .

Sigh, I need to put a sticky note on the computer to remind me to water them.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Happy Bugs

Back at the end of summer, freshly back from exotic lands where giant bugs typically hang out, I acquired my own exotic little insects.

Stick bugs. Five of them. There was a hatching at Pol's house you see.

They were just tiny back then, so this blog post is mostly for Pol's benefit. See how nicely your bugs are growing up, my friend?

Three of them (Sticky,Twiggy, and Lucy) are presently living at the preschool (sort of an insect boot camp where survival skills are quickly learned). They are handled quite a lot by my pack of four-year-olds who love the way Lucy and her sisters can walk up shirts.

I am pleased to see it is the girls who have taken the biggest interest in bug-handling. Girls after my own heart. :)

My other two stick-bugs, Rosy and Princess (I had help naming them), live at home in relative comfort and ease, thanking their lucky bug stars that they weren't the ones going on extended vacation with preschoolers.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Sword Dance

Drat it, now why did I go and sell my dance sword a few months back?

This is the first time in the history of the world that I've actually taken something of mine that I never use, converted it into useful cash, and then regretted it. It almost never happens, people!

All of you out there with chuckaphobia (fear of throwing things out), can rest easy and continue cleaning out your basement clutter, because even when you do rid yourself of something a little prematurely, there's always a friend or two who can help you out.

Sherry brought over her beautiful sword in its blue velvet sheath this evening so I can practice with it until the June show at the Abbey.

My bellydance teacher has come back from the Bellydance Superstars show in Vancouver bursting with bold new ideas and sheafs of paper with new choroegraphies scribbled all over them. They look a bit like football plays, with lots of circles and arrows on them.

Yes, yours truly is going to learn to dance with a sword on her head.

How hard can it be?

Heh, I was once watching a dancer whirl a sword around at a performance at an old folks' home and it went flying out of her hands mid-pirouette and nearly took out someone's grandpa. Fortunately it missed.

They aren't particularly sharp (which is good because they dig into your head as it is) but they are rather heavy. Any votes on how many people I'll take out in the process of learning this dance?

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Dawn of the Dead Knitting Project

Somebody's gone to a lot of trouble to knit together two of their obvious joys in life, so I thought I'd share.

If I ever take up knitting again I want to aspire to re-creating great zombie films like Dawn of the Dead too. I mean, scarfs are nice and thoughtful and all, but nothing says thoughtful home-made gift better than a warm, fuzzy undead dolly.

I'm thinking that this may rival Ugly Dolls as another fun alternative to boring old teddy bears.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Suddenly Glad of My Mortgage

Three years ago we bought a new home. It was perfect for us. I'd admired it from afar for over a year. Home-buying was a matter of the heart for me in this case.

I liked it because it had an amazing flower garden complete with wisteria arbour, which I absolutley mooned over. It also had a sweet little porch off the kitchen for relaxing over morning coffee. It had a laundry chute! Jeff liked the double garage and the shop-space for wood-working. And hey, the rest of the house was nice enough too. It nestled comfortably in a pleasant neighbourhood.

But it was a huge step up mortgage-wise for us. We were so close to paying off our mortgage on our old double-wide trailer trailer, our very first home that we'd owned. Maybe we should just stay where we were and be content? Wouldn't we rather have the financial freedom and all that?

After much thought....

Nahhhhh...let's do it anyway.

It seemed painfully expensive at the time but now we're glad we did. The real-estate stars and planets were all in place then if we had but known it. We're patting ourselves on the back for buying then, and not just because we left behind our grumpy-old-man neighbour, Joe.

We'd never be able to buy a nice house like this now. Our property assessment has doubled since we bought it. If we wanted to, we could probably sell it for more than that.

Prices are horrifyingly high around here. You can get diddly over squat for 150,000 dollars around here.

Actually...here's what you can get. Okay, I'll even knock off ten thousand, such a deal:

Hee hee....sometimes I miss living in that old shack. It's about four hundred square feet, and when you sat on the toilet you could put your feet at the back of the shower. You could hear a raccoon family growling away under the floors---drove the cat nuts. There were no kitchen cupboards or bedroom door. And if you placed a marble down on the floor it would traverse the length of the house because the whole place sat on a tilt.

The Italians might call it le rustico.That's Italian for house-falling-down.

We did have a much neater yard and better paint job when we lived there than in this photo though. We had a little Tudor cottage look going at one point... Anyway, it's been up for sale a couple of times and each time ye olde Hut gets a little rougher-looking and the price gets a little bit higher. Must be all the prestige of backing onto a McDonald's restaurant. :)

But at least there are a few options in this town if you're house-hunting.

For instance, I'm glad we don't live in the city. I think a hundred thousand might buy you a cardboard box on Robson Street in Vancouver.

And in Victoria, (which is actually the city I'd choose to live in if I ever became a City Mouse), what can one buy there?

Well, we talked to Jeff's sister who lives in Victoria tonight. She and her new husband are very excited because they will no longer have to live in their cramped, asthma-inducing apartment: they have just been approved to buy a three-decades-old townhome. I'm happy for them. But...

It's an astronomical mortgage. I mean, criminally outrageous.

Eeee......my own mortgage suddenly looks better.