Thursday, March 30, 2006

Tulips and Soup and Friends

Emily brought me an armful of luscious red tulips the other night. I love them! Somehow they change a room.

Why is it that something so simple as having bouquets of flowers in the house makes me feel so rich?

Could it be like Thoreau said? :"That man is richest whose pleasures are cheapest. "

Oh, if only I could lay claim to such a philosophy!

Unfortunately I have that not-so-cheap European vacation habit that is a little conflicting......

Another thing that makes me feel wealthy is my abundance of marvellous friends. Here is a picture of some dear people I had not connected with in a while.

And all it took was few phone calls, a email or two, and suddenly we are all together again in my cozy orange kitchen, eating homemade soup and drinking wine.

We have all been off on separate adventures for much of this past year and so there was a lot of catching up to do.

When you feel busy it's so easy to let friendships slide onto the back burner, but oh it's such a good feeling to see all their faces again.

There were actually people sitting around that table who had no idea I had a blog, or indeed, even liked to write. However, no one was surprised at the Spider Girl handle I use.

The revelation precipitated a whole conversation about Spiders We Have Known and Cringed From, spiders met in exotic countries (hiding in mattresses and caves) and practical jokes involving spiders (after which Emily would have cheerfully killed Ted).

We used to get together for Soup Nights fairly often and we're thinking of resurrecting the practice. Someone makes soup (this time it was my Curried Butternut Squash & Grannysmith Apple Soup), someone brings bread, someone brings dessert, and wine, cheese and hors d'oevres usually arrive too. This time Chris made home-made chai too and we talked for three hours around the table.

Good times, my friends, good times. :)

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Muncha Muncha Muncha

A short while ago I read a children's story called Muncha Muncha Muncha , a tale of a frustrated gardener. No matter what the poor man did to keep the bunnies out of his garden, they would somehow creep by all his defenses (fence, moat, tower with barbed wire, etc.) and muncha muncha muncha.

That's probably how it sounded when all my lovely crocuses were chewed to nubs by that cute little furry creature I photographed hopping about underneath my front window by the rose tree.

Drat him! He's so cute! Although note that his little bunny eyes are glowing demonically.

This is the first year I've ever seen rabbits in my neighbourhood and it may have something to do with the fact that there are three dogs less in the yards immediately surrounding me than there were only last summer.

Oh, there's still Scout, a sweet old German Shepherd next door who bays like a Hound of the Baskervilles whenever anything with a siren sounds in the distance, but he's tied up-- and I suspect my bunny is on to this information.

In the backyard directly across from me I recently spotted a deer too. I've heard tales of the depradations of deer from my mother.

Looks like it will be hard times for Spider Girl's garden....

Any tips, dear readers, on persuading rabbits to leave my flowers alone? That doesn't involve actually hurting the furry little beasties?

I tried advancing on it menacingly and clapping my hands, but it just lay back, kicking its little legs in the air because it was laughing so hard at me. I'm not good at exuding menace, you see.

I'm doing my best to get my garden in shape. I stayed out all Saturday in the glorious Spring sunshine from about ten in the morning until about six o'clock in the evening. I dug and I weeded and I pruned and I planted.

I took a break mid-afternoon to run up to the nursery and buy some white heathers and some candytuft plants and I put those in. White flowered plants stand out on grey days and I'd like to have more of them.

Now it's the next day and I feel like I've had a lengthy workout at the gym. I bought a purple heather plant today with intentions of planting it, but the backs of my aching thighs said to me firmly: don't you dare dig any more holes until we're feeling better! So I listened to them.

It was a dreary day anyway, so I stayed inside and painted the ensuite bathroom a warm sunny yellow called Vanilla . A huge improvement. I recently had the flu and it's funny how you notice how a room needs improvement when you spend a lot of time in it all of a sudden.

I've decided I'm going to enlarge and frame some of my garden photographs for this little bathroom. The sink and toilet are unfortunate shades of pale green, but if I get a leafy, green, gardening theme happening, it may just work. The yellow and green look rather nice together.

Ah, it felt like a productive weekend. :)

Friday, March 24, 2006

Grandma's Crown Jewels

I am the teacher who wears sparkly things.

Today at preschool a little three-year-old fellow was admiring my necklace.

"It's so sparkly. It's so nice, he said, touching it with wonder.

"Thank you. I like it too", I said.

"My mummy doesn't have one like that", he said wistfully.

"But your mom does wear pretty necklaces", I assured him.

"Yes, but...but...." He frowned as he searched for the right word. "Not so ... awesome !"

I am so glad I work at a place where you can throw on a rhinestone necklace to go with your jeans and feel pulled-together.

If you have children, or just want to feel like a princess, consider wearing those jewels from the bottom of grandma's jewel box. It's a awful shame to let them stay hidden away in a drawer.

My mother has passed all sorts of beautiful vintage brooches and necklaces to me from various relatives and I've developed quite a fondness for glittering baubles. So far all of them have come to me through family, but lately I've started to eye the ones in the local antique shops and on Ebay with covetous eyes.

But I'm saving my pennies for other things right now, as always seems to be the case, alas.

However, yesterday a four-year-old showed me her little pink plastic card with the Barbie logo on it. It had a little serial number and a space for an expiry date.

('Hey! My dollies never had credit cards', my inner child said indignantly. I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry.)

"What do you use that for?" I asked the child bemusedly.

"Well," said the little girl, "It's for shopping. You just stick it in the cash register and you get clothes and stuff. " She leaned forward, cupping her hand to her mouth and whispering conspiratorially: "But don't worry! It's not REAL money."

Ah! That's the answer! I just need to get hold of one of those little pink credit cards and all my bling bling acquisition woes will be over. I just need to find an airline that honours the Barbie logo.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Tai Mail

One of the joys of life is getting mail.

Real mail. Mail you can hold in your hand.

However immediate and connecting email and blogs are, the thought that a friend took the time to pick something out for you, thoughtfully inscribe it, find a stamp, and mail it is ...wonderful.

I found this beautiful and unusual postcard in my mailbox yesterday--a painting by artist Jan Mankes (1889-1920) showing a still life of a bird skull and an elegant vase filled with prosperity plant.

It's from Tai, a friend who well knows my taste in art. Absolutely perfect, dearie. Thank you. :)

On the back this note:

My dear friends,
I just wanted you to have something pleasant in your mailbox...bills are so dull! Saw this, thought of you.

And then a little verse she added:

"Do not save your loving speeches
For your friends till they are dead;
Do not write them on their tombstones;
Speak them rather now instead!"

--Anna Cummins

Ah, my friend, you are talented at picking out the perfect card! It made my day!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Peace, Everyone

Scenes from my Saturday afternoon outside the local military base....

It was the third anniversary of the beginning of the U.S-led war on Iraq.

Banners were unfurled, speeches were made, and the Raging Grannies in their wild hats strummed their guitars and sang for peace.

A war resister from the States spoke eloquently on his reasons for refusing to go to Iraq. Among other more moral considerations, he had finished his five year contract in the army when he became part of the widespread "stop-loss" measures which involuntarily extended his "contract" to 2031. The number was not a typo.

I may be an idealist but I believe in peace demonstrations. There are a lot of terribly misguided military operations and policies out there right now, and it seems to me that if people don't speak out against them, then apathy gives a sort of implied acceptance of them. And although it seems as if the politicians in power right now give very little attention to such gatherings, I still believe it's worthwhile to spend a few hours out of my weekend to state my opinion publicly in this way.

There are wars being fought now for all the wrong reasons, and I don't want my country to be part of them.

I was somewhat heartened by the military vehicles that "honked for peace" as they passed by the assembled crowd.

I also ran into lots of people I hadn't seen in a while--my friends Fireweed and Mike are the ones with the USA has Mad Cowboy Disease sign.

I saw a familiar costume today, last seen three years ago at another demonstration against the war on Iraq on the 17th Street Bridge: that tall Peace is Patriotic costume with the Canadian flag on the top hat was worn by Jeff back then. Today the local Green Party candidate was the one inside.

Today I held one end of a banner that simply showed a photograph of the Earth from space.

Last time I carried a sign that read Make Love, Not War . The slogan may be a cliche, but it's just common sense and more fun besides.

P.S. I would like to add to this post in answer to Sherry's comment, as I like Sherry and her blog very much and believe she deserves a reply :

Sherry, I have both American friends and friends in the military who have served in the Gulf. I don't believe that showing my disagreement to certain military actions is a sign of disrespect to the PEOPLE in the military.

But I believe that in this post-911 world, human rights in both your country and mine are being slowly eroded by fear. And sometimes its the fear of being thought of as unpatriotic, or the fear that questioning the validity of a mission will send the message that it is the troops that aren't valued. They are human lives. They ARE of the utmost value. Wouldn't it be awful if lives were squandered and nobody said a word? And that is why I don't believe that questioning the governments' (yours AND mine) is innappropriate.

Specifically, the main reason I was out Saturday morning was that the government of Canada is expanding our Canadian role from one of peace-keeping in Afghanistan to taking over part of the U.S. combat role at the U.S.'s request. This decision was made without benefit of parliamentary debate, and many, many Canadians (including myself) believe this is unacceptable.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Ah, St. Patrick's Day.....

Someone dyed the water in the toilets at work green today...

For the staff lunch, there was Irish stew, Irish Creme cake, and green "near-beer", which I avoided as it appeared to be gingerale dyed green.

The kids at preschool got green macaroni for snack. *Spider Girl suppresses a shudder*

Other than the token concession to wearing green, we secular daycare-people avoid all mention of snake-driving bishops. I did have fun telling the felt-board story of Clever Tom & the Leprechaun in which, true to form, a human gets greedy and a leprechaun has the last laugh.

I have also discovered I have exactly one green shirt in my wardrobe.


When I was but a wee girl, I was fascinated by the thought of fairies and leprechauns, and I still remember a somewhat brief and inconclusive conversation I had with my Irish auntie when I was about twelve years old:

"Auntie, do you believe in fairies? Have you ever seen one?"

Auntie Nessa paused to consider. "No, bless 'em, I've never seen the fairies....but we used to put out a saucer of milk for them just the same. Even if they don't exist, it wouldn't do to make them angry."

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Feeling Crabby at the Weed Man

(Click to enlarge cartoon, if you like. Or squint. ) :)

There was a piece of paper on my front door-step when I came home from work the other day.

It was from a lawn-care company that claimed for the low, low price of $268.35 it could banish all my lawn-care woes and blemishes including : quack grass, bent grass, crab grass, moss, and a host of other rebellious non-suburbanite- approved bio-diversity. I could imagine the little lawn-inspector man (for some reason I pictured him as a wizened, old leprechaun-like fellow) pursing his lips fussily and tsk-tsking as he trotted over my little lawn peering critically and making ticks on his little chart.

I wouldn't mind so much except that less than a week ago this same company phoned during the dinner hour to inquire whether I'd like them to come on over and nuke my lawn.

"Well, no thanks", I told them. "Not interested."

They went into a spiel on the benefits of weed-killer but before they got very far I interrupted them. "I don't use chemicals on my lawn. I think they're nasty and I'm an organic gardener. I don't want your company's services."

They tried again. I countered. "Yuck. Nasty weed killers. No thanks."


I could hear them bristling over the phone, organic gardening obviously touching on a sensitive subject.

"It's not ALL made of chemicals, "the salesperson spat, before banging down the phone.

Wow. A telemarketer HUNG UP on me. I was impressed.

But they left their calling-card diagnosis on my door anyway.

I went to their web-site to find out what they had to say on the subject of their products and pet/child safety vs. toxicity.

They said:

"If the products can be used safely why are there some people who still express serious concerns about their use?Many people fear things that they know very little about. In fact people naturally have a tendency to fear anything that is man-made, especially chemicals. However, many people do not recognize that there are things that occur in nature including natural chemicals that can be just as toxic or even more harmful than man-made substances. It is important to recognize that it is the dose that makes the poison. All substances can be toxic (including water) depending on the dose. The products used to control weeds on lawns have relatively low toxicity, are applied at low rates and do not pose a significant risk when applied and stored according to their directions."

Yes, well perhaps er, water is toxic to some...and undoubtedly the very naturally poisonous fugu fish and the deadly puff adder rival their weed killer, but no thanks just the same.

*Spider Girl coos to her quack grass and pets her lawn moss with affection. *

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Surprise Wedding

My mother called me last night to tell me about a surprise wedding that was held at my parents' house the other day. Just my parents, the happy couple, and a justice of the peace.

Diane, the best friend of my mother, has married Danny, the best friend of my father.

They've been sweethearts for about the last fourteen years--- I know because they were introduced to each other at my wedding.

I am tickled pink.

To celebrate their wedding, I am posting some photos of the crocuses in my garden. :)

It seems to me, in the last few weeks, that I've been touched in some way by all these major themes of life: a death, a birth, a rekindled friendship, and now a wedding.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Irish Wake

I went to an Irish wake last night.

In the old days, in Ireland and in other Celtic countries, the wake was a big party with lots of dancing and drinking to give the deceased person a good send-off. The corpse in its coffin was usually present as the guest of honour, but nowadays it seems folks are a little more sensitive about such things, and only the living attend.

I didn't really know the fellow who died very well. He was a co-worker of my husband, and died in an unfortunate accident with his truck a couple of weeks back. The funeral back in February was for close family only, but it seemed like there were several hundred people at his wake. Originally Jeff and I had planned to make only a short appearance at the wake out of respect and then leave.

But then I ran into a couple people I know quite well there and we had a great conversation. Jeff soon found himself deep in conversation too.

I live in a small town and it seems like everybody knows everybody. If you didn't know the dead person, you were probably a friend of a friend of him. It turns out his ex-wife used to be in my bellydance class, and the father of one of my good friends grew up with him.

The wake was held at the local Legion hall. Lots of food, an open bar, people milling around laughing and chatting with beer bottles in hand, dance music playing, piles of kids running around, and the occasional family member saying something over the PA system: there was very little to distinguish it from many wedding receptions I've been to.

It was certainly not a funereal atmosphere.

Well, there was a table full of photographs of the deceased and his family. Also present on the table: his jacket and helmet from his drag-racing hobby, the wheel from his racing car, a bottle of Glen Fiddich whiskey and his favourite kind of chocolates.

A guy at the table we were sitting at mused : "Look at all these people! Ever wonder who will show up for your funeral?"

I do wonder about that occasionally. In fact, I'm rather curious. I hope there's some sort of clause when you die that allows you to pop in invisibly to your funeral/wake just to check out who showed, like in the TV show Six Feet Under.

A friend of mine attending this event has said upon occasion that yes, she wants a fuss to be made when she dies. Ideally, she'd like one of those Viking funerals where they put your remains on a great dragon-prowed boat, and then light the boat on fire and push it out to sea where it burns like an enormous pyre. That kind of funeral would probably draw a crowd, although it almost certainly would violate some local bylaw or other. seems a little much to me. How about sprinkling my ashes under a nice peaceful tree?

(Although I ultimately prefer the concept of a simple funeral, I have to admit the Victorian image of plumed horses draped in black and a troupe of keening veiled women does have a certain satisfying je ne sais quoi , but nahhhh....)

But we both can agree that at the very least, in the event of our sad demise, our friends should use it as an excuse for a great party.

Hey, we've both got Irish blood. It's traditional.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

You Mean the Stork DOESN'T Bring the Baby?

I have a feeling that early yesterday morning my dear friend Kim was wishing that babies were really delivered to your window in a pretty basket with a bow by a kindly old long-legged bird.

Instead of the alternative. :)

Congratulations Kim and Shawn! And welcome to Zoe Ophelia!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

A Stack o' Books

I've got a stack of books on the go as usual, a habit which I share with at least a few of my friends, who also cannot remain in a monogamous relationship with a single book.

I'm reading :

Shopping for Buddhas by Jeff Greenwald: the true story of a fellow who, while searching the backstreets of Kathmandu in a quasi-obsessive quest for the perfect little Buddha statuette, learns a little about Eastern philosophy, political corruption, antiques smuggling, and the joy of shopping in the process.

The Story of Butchart Gardens by Dave Preston: in which a distant relative of Spider Girl sells an ugly parcel of land on Tod Inlet ( Vancouver Island) in the early 1900's to the Butchart family, whereupon it is transformed from a lime quarry to a rather more famous and nicer-looking place.

Diary of a Compost Hotline Operator: Edible Essays on City Farming by Spring Gillard : humourous happenings in a Vancouver, BC demonstration garden featuring urban agriculture, worm workshops, midnight bee-charming ceremonies, and love among the compost bins.

Trading Spaces 48-Hour Makeovers: Get a New Look in a Weekend : an eye-candy book during which Spider Girl gets odd urges to distess her cupboards and glue a fringe of feathers to her lampshades. She will settle for re-arranging her living-room furniture in the end.

There are a couple of others sitting forlornly by the bedside, but I haven't bonded with them yet.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Tonight! Chocolate Cake! And Belly-Dancers!

Dancing for the seniors last night was a hoot. I think old people are one of the best audiences to dance for from a dancer's point of view.

If they like you, they have such lovely appreciative smiles....

"You just look so beautiful, my dear", said one sweetie, taking my hand between musical numbers.

If they don't like you, and have a zoned expression, or have started snoozing while you pirouette, one can simply blame it on their medication.

Our audience was composed entirely of folks over eighty years old. Several were in their advanced nineties, and three were one hundred years old or older! Some of our audience seemed surprisingly spry, considering their advanced age. We even got some toe-tapping!

The room we danced in was huge ! It had a nice soft carpet to dance on in our bare feet(I've danced on some nasty floors before), but the audience was scattered in easy chairs in a loose circle around the perimeter, not an ideal set-up.

I prefer it when the audience is cozier. They can see the subtleties (it's hard to see a belly flutter at twenty paces), and the dancer can make flirty eye-contact with the individual people in the crowd.

As it was, I overheard these two sweet old fellows watching from the far left, leaning forward and obviously enjoying watching my friend Linda dance a drum solo:

First fellow:"Fantastic, oh fantastic! Imagine dancing with a sword on your head like that!"

Second fellow: Eh, what? She's got a what on her head? Where?!

I was glad that we had two free-style pieces where the whole group of us danced at once. Then one or two of us could go and shimmy solely for the people at the far edges of the room.

The heat was set at 75 degrees in the room and they had an electric fireplace going. By the end of our half-hour show I was ready to stick my head in a cold bucket of water. Despite that, we all danced with wonderful energy, our evenings at Linda's house practicing paying off.

I even felt curiously relaxed during the brand-new gypsy choreography with Kelly. I was sure I'd forget something in that dance. But we danced really well together, especially considering we've only been able to practice that dance maybe three times in the same room together. Heh, we are just super-cute dancing gypsies on the inside, I guess.

On our way back to the "dressing room" after our performance, we noticed we were advertised on the menu: Tonight! Chocolate cake! And Belly-Dancers!

Who wouldn't want to come down to dinner with an advertisement like that?

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Sharks with Frikkin' Laser Beams

Oh dear. The military has thought of something else to spend money on.

Here is a link to an article about the Pentagon hoping to use sharks as spies:

Maybe the military- trained dolphins up and became conscientious objectors?

The poor sharks are already an animal with a unsavoury reputation. They won't improve that little P.R. nightmare by joining Bush & Company --any anti-government types should probably stay out of the water. :)