"Someday's gonna be a busy day..."

Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Memorable Moments of Christmas 2008

Song: "Shimmy Down the Chimney" - sung rather lasciviously by D thoughout the holiday season, but most often when I am trapped in the car with him. I never realized how suggestive that song actually is, which is just wrong for a Christmas tune.

Food: Chinese food on the 24th. Shortbread that tasted like disappointment (wretched cookie press!). Crisp gingerbread biscotti that Neko got the burnt ends of. Thanks to Jaime, I whipped up her grandma's recipe and recreated the taste of my childhood with some peanut butter balls. First time I've done holiday baking in a few years - but Someday's big, airy kitchen lends itself nicely to domestic activities so I think I'll be baking again next year.

Sound: the scary, powerful, relentless winds that have pummelled Someday almost daily since November.

Smell: pine, cedar and fir, thanks to Mr. Christmas Tree and various fresh branches we hung throughout the house.

Annoyance: Neko gobbling down not only D's king-sized Mr. Big chocolate bar (right out of his stocking!) but also his sacred bag of Lindt chocolate almonds. Naughty doggie.

Gifts: D's fancy new hockey stick from Dad, which he clutched like a kid whilst watching the Junior World Cup game. Dad's new hockey bag, which will replace the decrepit, vile thing he's been carrying around for the last 20 years. Our snowshoes, a study in irony as it rained buckets for three days and melted all the snow. My pendant, a memento of Rose, with rubies for each month she was with us.

Laughs: C not bothering to change out of his barn clothes and wearing the same grubby purple sweatshirt for Christmas Eve supper, Christmas Day brunch and Christmas evening supper! (I'm pretty sure he did it just to bug me) Attempting to take a photo with Neko wearing a Santa hat; dogs just aren't meant to be clothed. Playing highly competitive games of crokinole with brother & sister in laws. Knowing my nephew woke my sisters up at 5:30am to unwrap his gifts. Putting the last deocoration on the tree, gloating over its turquoise and silver beauty, then realizing I'd forgotten to put on lights.

Memories: walking with D through a deserted Blair's Grove with Neko on Christmas night and feeling like we were the only living souls around for miles. Watching old home movies of the boys and their family. Making breakfast for the Lowry clan on Christmas morning and watching D and C pay the price for gorging themselves on crepes (they're more filling than they look). Teaching D to play cribbage on the old table at Dad's and letting him feel smug when he beat us. Waking up on Christmas morning together for the first time in our bedroom at Someday.

Monday, 29 December 2008

I'll have a blue Christmas...


Christmas can be a strange and beautiful time. On one hand, feelings of love and warmth and goodwill flood the heart. It's a time for generosity, family, food, drink and laughter. But there's always that brief but poignant stab of longing for people who are no longer present, for old times and old traditions no longer practised.

I have been missing Rose and Nana quite a bit; the first Christmas "under the sod" is always the hardest. It's hard to watch my husband's neice enjoy her first Christmas without wanting to stand up and shout, "Rose should be here too!" She'd be eight months old. I stood in front of our tree yesterday and I swear I could see her, reaching for the ornaments, crinkling tissue paper in her tiny fists, grinning over her first present. We probably would have stuffed her in some ridiculous Christmas outfit like most parents are wont to do and taken pictures. There are still times when this house feels miserably empty without her.

I always think of my mother at this time of year as well - the queen of all things Christmas. Her supper table was a masterpiece of red and gold and white each year, heaped with delicacies like her cream-cheese-dilled-mashed potatoes and mashed turnip so delicious I would eat it cold the next day for breakfast. I tried to honour her memory a little bit by decorating the dining table lavishly and making crepes on Christmas morning for D and his family. Mom always did like to make a splash on the 25th.

And no Christmas thoughts are complete without dear old Nana. I'm thankful we spent at least one last Christmas together last year before she died. Her birthday is Dec 24th and this year I coaxed D to get Chinese take out, as Nana used to like doing that around the holidays. My shopping list felt strangely short - for the first time since I was little, I wasn't racking my brains trying to think of the perfect gifts for a 96 year old lady who had everything. And boy, did I miss it.

My beloved sisters (and nephew) are spending the holidays together in Australia this year and I miss them too - even when they call long distance in 35 degree weather to inform me they're heading to a resort for an afternoon of cocktails by the pool. Humph! (I hope the mosquitoes got you - hee hee)

Snuggling with D on the couch on Christmas afternoon, watching some old home movies of his family from the 60's the 70's, chopping down and decorating our tree, taking Neko for her traditional Christmas evening walk - these are all good things that I cherish. Yet it's funny how a few unhappy memories seem to skitter across one's brain at this time of year, unwanted and uninvited. For example, I was wrapping gifts the other night when an image of worst Christmas of all time (2004) interrupted my moment of Santa serenity: after a miserable holiday feast at my then-husband's family's house, where he'd seemed ill at ease with everyone and me in particular, he confessed that he didn't love me anymore. Ho ho ho indeed!

I'll never forget the awful gifts he gave me that year either, which made sense after his yuletide confession. They were absolutely devoid of any sentiment or affection: a set of measuring spoons, a hideous huge apron that didn't fit, and a purple laundry basket. Sure, I was just starting up my preserves business, and yes, my favourite colour at the time was purple, but I mean, REALLY - Merry Christmas wife of almost 10 years - here's a bunch of utentsils & a laundry basket?? I should have skewered him with the sharp end of a broken tree ornament. To top it off, he stuffed a can of Pepsi in my stocking, knowing full well that I loathe Pepsi and adore Coke. No one deserved a lump of coal thrown at his head more than my ex that year.

Thankfully, memories like these, although still slightly prickly, no longer have the sting they once had. It's next to impossible to linger on nasty bits of my past now that I am blessed with the love of a good man and his family. So I paused in my wrapping (purple paper, which must have triggered the laundry basket incident) just long enough for a head shake, an eye roll and a rueful giggle.

I truly am blessed these days, and it's good to remind myself of this daily, but the holidays do give one time to pause and consider the past, savour the present and turn hopefully toward the future.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

More random musings on boys

One gets a yet another peek into that weird and wonderful thing called the male psyche around Christmas, especially when there are only two shopping days left. Quickly - while I wait for D to return from picking up his brother C so we can all head to Goderich for a last-ditch attempt to buy some gifts - I thought I'd share a few observations I've made over the past two December weeks.

1) Guys do not shop ahead. D and C are panicky and irritable because they haven't finished (started?) their Christmas shopping yet. Neither of them made time to go to "the city" to do a big spree, which means they are left with the less-than-thrilling shopping destinations of Goderich or Hanover (heaven forbid they actually shop in KINCARDINE!). While I am sorely tempted to lecture/mock/flaunt all my purchased gifts in their faces, I stay quiet and just shake my head a lot.

2) Guys like to eat. A LOT. Especially at Christmas. Witness the three batches of Christmas cookies I made. No sooner were they on the cooling racks than a good quarter of them had disappeared into the boys' eager gullets. If I hadn't stopped C from snorking down my peanut butter balls straight out of the fridge while the chocolate was still setting, I'd have none left! While I'm flattered they like my cooking, it gets tiring trying to keep up with their appetites. I have no idea how my mother-in-law kept her sanity raising and feeding 3 boys.

3) Guys like to get the Christmas tree, and put up the Christmas tree, but they don't like to decorate it. (Although they seem to have lots of opinions when it comes to how other people do the decorating).

4) Guys are more sentimental around this time of year than any other. My normally crusty bro-in-law showed up earlier in the week with his 4 wheel drive to take me to town (my Kia won't go in the deep snow) to run errands, and brought over his "101 Strings Christmas" CD compilation - which he proceeded to make me listen to for 20 minutes before we could set foot outside. He looked blissfully happy, sitting in D's leather chair, listening to the orchestra play all sorts of traditional tunes at very high decibels. And my husband hasn't wanted to do much more than cuddle on the couch under the glow of our Christmas lights - which, to me, is all I really need to make my holiday complete.

Merry Merry everyone!

Sunday, 21 December 2008

k.d. on a blustery day

No, not the orange kind that comes with a so-called "cheese" sauce - I mean k.d.lang. The wind is blowing the snow into those whirly things you see on the prairie with dust - snow devils? - and we can't even see the end of the laneway. So I'm holed up at Someday farm doing Christmassy things, and I needed a soundtrack for my activities. I recently bought k.d.lang's "Hymns from the 49th Parallel" and it's just perfect for a day like today. The album is made up of covers of various Canadian artists, and many of the songs have a distinctly winterish flavour to them.

Anyways, there's biscotti to be made (unlike recipes that require cookie presses, you really can't screw up biscotti), presents to be wrapped, a dog recovering from a kennel hangover to attend to, and a turkey apricot stew to concoct. I leave you to fill in this stormy winter's day however you see fit...and Merry Christmas, in case I don't feel bloggy before the 25th!

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Cookie Press or Torture Device? You decide.

I have a small group of girlfriends whom I love. We drink together, we laugh together, we commiserate and rant together. We do not, however, bake together, and that's likely what has kept our friendship so stable.

You hear about women who congregate annually and form group baking coalitions in someone's kitchen. Dough and hilarity ensue. Dozens upon dozens of different cookies are baked, and then shared amongst the group. Everyone goes home and smugly fills their freezers to the brim with holiday baking.

In theory, this sounds very nice. Sometimes I sigh and wish my sisters and friends lived closer so we could have our own bake-bonding session. Then I attempt to bake something on my own and the burning smell snaps me back into reality: I am not a kitchen-sharing kinda gal. Nor am I a baker.

These simple facts were reinforced last week when I roped my mother-in-law into helping me make shortbread cookies. She is a kitchen goddess - she bakes, she stews, she cans, she preserves, she roasts, she does it all. So I figured with her help, I couldn't possibly screw up the sacred shortbread recipe bequeathed to me (after much coaxing) by an older colleauge. Boy, was I wrong.

My aforesaid girlfriends are not without a sense of humour. A few Christmasses ago, they gave me a cookie press. They know I don't bake very well, but they also know I love to try. They also know about my weird obsession with Martha Stewart. She's a bit wacko and her projects are often astronomically unattainable, but I love her anyway. I'd enjoy being her for a day (sans the prison record and scary smile). A cookie press is the ultimate in Martha-ness: it's a beautiful concept, but mere mortals don't have much of a chance of making the damn thing work.

My mother-in-law is used to being the master of her kitchen domain. Unfortunately, I am used to being the master of my kitchen domain. This does not bode well for an evening of community baking. But we like each other and both of us made an effort not to assert any kitchen-nazi tendencies. We unpacked the cookie press, took it apart, admired the different patterns. We read and re-read the recipe, measured the ingredients for the dough and mashed everything together with our hands.

Things were going swimmingly until we jammed the dough into the press and attempted to mould our first cookie in the shape of a wreath. I clicked the trigger of the press three times and looked down at the cookie sheet. Nothing. My mother-in-law tried. Still nothing. I shook it, smacked it around a little and tried again. Nada.

Upon further examination, the instructions on the cookie-press box warned us not to use a cold cookie sheet (not a problem, as my MIL's house is always 80 degrees), and not to use a non-stick surface. Well, who the hell owns a cookie sheet these days that isn't non-stick? We looked at each other in disgust.

Finally, after taking out all the dough, adding a little water to the mix and stuffing it back in again, we got our first cookie out. It looked like it had been a victim of radiation poisoning. We changed the pattern to the tree and tried a few more. They looked like little Charlie Brown Christmas trees. And so it went.

Three dozen cookies laster, I discovered that the worst part of all this baking humiliation was not that we burned the cookies (we had trouble getting the oven to heat up, so overcooking wasn't a problem) or even that we never got the hang of the press (eventually, the cookies kind of resembled the shapes they were meant to). It was that they tasted AWFUL. Kind of like butter mixed with sawdust. Even the cute little mini-m&ms and candied cherries we used to decorate the tops couldn't save the flavour. My husband tasted one; he chewed, and chewed, and chewed, then fled to the fridge for some milk to wash the cookie down. "Gahhh," he said after a mighty swallow, "not my favourite.

So now I have 3 dozen nasty tasting shortbread cookies in my freezer. And a cookie press that is going back where it belongs, in the dark forbidding far corner of my least-used cupboard. And I know exactly what I'm giving my girlfriends for Christmas.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

The Flu, Someday style


My husband's adorable 6 month-old neice, whom I've christened "germ-baby," visited for the family Christmas extravaganza this past weekend. How someone so small and so darling could manage to infect 5 of us with the flu, I'll never understand. I thought I'd escaped the curse, but it serves me right for being smug when everyone else got it. This morning, I woke up and knew one simple fact: the toilet and I would become very, very good friends today.

Thankfully I only have a mild dose of old Influenzie. D's dad got it and threw up four times during the night. (D told me that when the old man retches, the whole house shakes.) D's brother got it and actually missed work for the first time in years. So I count myself lucky to work at home and be in close proximity to the porcelain god.

The worst thing about having just a mild case of the flu, in my opinion, is not the stomach pains, the inability to keep anything down or the shakes: it's the BOREDOM. OH, the boredom! I hate TV (and we don't have a connection yet anyway), I've read every book I can think of, not to mention every Sears/Home Hardware/Agricultural flyer I can find, I've stared out every window of the house, and I've napped until my back aches. Neko keeps groaning and sighing at the bottom of the stairs but I can't stray far enough away from the bathroom to take her for a walk. The second worst thing? Not being able to eat anything delicious. Yesterday was D's birthday, and there's a whole rack of chocolate cupcakes taunting me from the counter. But alas...I'm attempting to follow the flu-related "BRAT" diet, which consists of bananas, rice, applesauce and toast. I feel like a four year old.

Things, of course, could be worse. I could have a raging case and be retching my guts out. Or D could have it and we could both be sick at the same time, something not conducive to marital harmony. So I'll just keep spooning applesauce into my mouth and shut up. After all, maybe D will bring me a movie and some ginger ale when he comes home. Or better yet, maybe he'll stroke my hair as I lay prone on the couch and say, "Aww, you poor thing." THAT makes being sick all worth while.

RIP, Mr. Marmalade

Well, I don't know if Mr. M kicked the bucket, or if Lois took it upon herself to come up and trap him for me, but I'm happy to report he's GONE! My kitties can eat their dinners unmolested and I don't have to worry about buying barn cat food in the 40lb bag instead of the 25lb one now. Phew. RIP, Mr. Marmalade. We hardly knew ye.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Go 'way, Mr. Marmalade

I went out to the stable the other day to feed my four lovely barn cats (they came with the place), only to find a giant, marmalade-coloured interloper in their midst. I was surprised, to say the least. My four kitties are mild-mannered, clean and friendly. This new kitty was big, dirty and looked like he knew cat-kwon-do.

He stared at me defiantly as I furrowed my brow and tried to figure out where he had come from and what I should do about it. In the end, I shrugged and scooped out the usual supply of Barn Cat kibble. They must know him, I thought, as my kitties meowed and prowled around my legs like Mr. Marmalade was no big deal. Maybe they invited him over for supper.

Well, the moment the kibble hit the plates, Mr. Marmalade barged right in, elbowed Comfort and Black Betty out of the way and began gobbling food like a garborator. The other cats philosphically left him alone and went around to the other plate of food. But Mr. M must have thought they were getting something tastier, because he flew over to THEIR plate, hip-checked them all out of the way and plunged into THEIR food like...well, like Neko.

I swear I could hear The Teenager sigh as she looked up at me with an exasperated expression and trudged back to the first plate again. Obviously, Mr. M. was not a guest my cats had intentionally invited. And his table manners left much to be desired. MY cats are mellow creatures who wait patiently for their food and eat it in delicate little crunchy bites. They love to be petted and stroked, and sometimes they even sit in my lap. Mr. M. looks freaked out if I try to come near him, and when I did manage to try and pet him, he shied away like a kid who doesn't want to be hugged.

So Mr. M. has got to go. He eats too much and doesn't want to make friends. He bullies my foursome of kitties and I don't like it. But herein lies the rub: how do I get rid of the creature? I have tried to shoo him away. He runs two feet and then stops, as if daring me to chase him. I have yelled at him, made weird noises, stomped my feet and threatened to let Neko finish him off - all to no avail. Mr. M. has established himself as the newest, greediest resident of Someday Farm and I have absolutely no idea how to get rid of him humanely.

Suggestions? Anyone?

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Let it snow, let it snow, let it - HOLY CRAP!


I love snow. There, I said it. I'm not ashamed of it, either. So, nyah.

Usually when I say that sentence out loud to people, I get massive eye rolls and dirty looks. A lady actually shook her fist at me once. It's pretty rare that I get a "ME TOO!" or meet a fellow winter-lover who wants to high-five me.

I cannot understand folks who continue to live in Canada but moan and bitch for five solid months about winter. Some, like my wise older sis, recognize their aversion to white stuff and move somewhere warm, like Australia.

But all you winter whiners who stay put and poison my fun - you hate winter? You detest driving in slush? You like snow "at Christmas" and then want it all gone? Well, guess what? We live in CANADA and this is how it's been for eons. Better suck it up, snowflake, cause until global warming takes over, it ain't gonna change. Really don't like it? MOVE! Us winter-lovers will be happily rid of you.

Okay, I know moving isn't a particularly realistic solution, but I wish people would at least quit their constant complaining. Why moan about something that isn't going to change? Then again, a professor once told me that whinging about the weather "is part of our Canadian identity." I shudder to think that might be true.

At any rate, after two raw, blustery days here at Someday farm, the skies cleared around 10am this morning. Snow sparkled on the fields, every branch and berry on my ash tree was coated with dainty snow-lace, and the sun warmed my office through the south window. Winter heaven! Of course, that all changed at approximately 3:30pm, when the skies darkened and began to dump a fine, sugary snow that knocked off all the pretty, feathery stuff. I just checked the weather network and was informed that Bruce county will be having massive squalls all weekend - resulting in possible accumulations of 50 cm!!! Holy crap!

Sometimes one must be careful what one wishes for. But I'm quite content to put on my thickest coat, goofiest hat, and clunkiest boots to brave the snowbanks. There are barn cats to be fed, a winter-loving dog to walk and bird feeders to fill. Why fight winter? Embrace it and it just might grow on you. (Or at least it will fill up your mouth with snow so you can't complain anymore!)

Friday, 14 November 2008

5 things that tick me off


Yes, I know, positive thinking is ever so much hipper than a good 10 minutes of grousing, but if I see one more "you are your attitude" tagline on a co-worker's email signature I'm going to barf. So you know what? I'm going against all those happy-positive-things-to-be-grateful-for (sorry Jaime and Susan!) blogs I've been seeing lately and I'm gonna let loose and post five things that irritate me. Not that I have anything against happy, thankful blogs. Just think of it as me helping to create a bloggerland balance.

1) Saran wrap that gets hopelessly tangled in my hands. How it manages to do this in the 3 seconds between the moment I rip it off and the moment I want to attach it to my bowl of Jell-O/pasta salad/soup, I will never understand. Wretched stuff.

2) Alarm clocks where the snooze button can be hit endlessly. Not only is this feature counter-productive, it's damned annoying for the person who DOES NOT need to get up. I bought D one that has a three-snooze maximum. It has preserved our marriage.

3) Driving 15 minutes into town in the pouring rain to get a video, then driving 15 minutes back, popping some corn, getting snuggled up on the couch, pressing play...only to discover they've given you the wrong video.

4) Upsetting an entire cart full of milking machines (including a hot bucket of water, paper towels, a hoe and dog biscuits) into the manure-filled gutter because your brother-in-law hasn't put air in the tires.

5) Putting on your favourite K-Os CD in order to get you in the mood to cook a fabulous supper and hearing two of the best songs skip.

Ahhh, I feel much better now! You will, too, if you wanna share some of your tick-offs...

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Three reasons why my husband rocks


1) He knew I'd have a difficult day yesterday, and called me twice just to say hi.
2) He went grocery shopping, walked the dog and did the dishes - just 'cause.
3) I opened the freezer today to find a whole rasher of BACON (my favourite dead animal, which D doesn't like) and the junk food cupboard to find a whole bag of CHEEZ DOODLES (he prefers ripple chips). It was like finding two separate notes that said, "Kim, I love you. I want you to be happy. And a little fatter."

So yeah, he's good. And handsome. And kind. And funny. What more could a girl ask for? I'm so glad I bought that black short dress yesterday with him in mind.

November Cheese

Ah, November. Month of damp, dank, dark days and frigid nights. Month of sleet, black ice and general moodiness. Month that could make you really hate the changing season were it not for Axl Rose and his silly, silly song, and his equally silly hair. Oh, the cheese! Please watch it. It will make you feel better, I promise.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Movies that make me laugh

Every now and again, I like to watch a movie that makes me laugh out loud. Usually, I prefer adventure/action/thriller types, but comedy definitely has its place. I watched "Run Fat Boy, Run" last night and it got me thinking about other movies that have made me snort pop out my nose.

Here's a quick list of some of my favourites. (Exercise caution whilst drinking pop and watching though!)

Austin Powers: Goldmember
I swear I have seen this movie about 14 times. TBS replayed it endlessly during the 6 months I lived with my brother-in-law, and every time it came on, I just had to watch. It's kind of like a car accident. The first time I saw it, I was at my Dad's cabin with my older sister from Australia. We howled and rolled on the floor and quoted lines to each other for months, even after she went back home. I sent her her very own copy last Christmas.

I think the best part of the whole movie is the rap sequence featuring Dr. Evil and Mini Me ("Mini Me, you complete me.") That and the drunken-Fred-Astaire-ish dance Dr. Evil does to "Under the Sea" on his submarine. And who doesn't love Michael Caine doing a little Brit schtick?

Yes, it's puerile humour. Yes, there are far too many fart jokes and yes, Fat Bastard is disgusting. But the movie makes me laugh myself silly, and really, isn't that worth something?

Hot Fuzz
In my books, Simon Pegg can do no wrong. He's like a little mongrel puppy that you can't stop yourself from picking up and taking home, even though he's kind of mangy. In most of his feature films, Pegg has this vulnerable loser goofiness going on. But in Hot Fuzz, I was taken by his tough-guy sexiness. He's as good playing the straight man as he is playing a doofus. Pair him with Nick Frost and it's comedy gold.

Shaun of the Dead is great, but it's got such a grisly darkness to it that I can't quite call it a comedy (I believe the formal term for it is "romantic zombie comedy -romzomcom"). So I recommend Hot Fuzz instead - it takes the piss out of all those 80's cop/buddy movies in a very amusing way. Watch it and you can thank me later for introducing you to Simon Pegg. Plus it makes chewing toothpicks look cool.

Grosse Point Blank
I can't resist films where John Cusack gets to be a little sexy. Normally his morose, hang-dog look turns me off, but in Grosse, it's mixed with a dash of danger (he's a contract killer) and that really works. I laugh at this one because it reminds me of my own 80's coming of age angst, the guys who disappointed me in high school and how I occasionally wonder what they're doing now. Everyone can likely relate to the horror of a high school reunion (or at the least the thought of one), a lost love, and getting a second chance.

I enjoy action movies so this one has a special place in my heart cause it combines the best bits of action & comedy into one glorious movie. Lots of great appearances by funny folks (Jeremy Piven, Alan Arkin, Joan Cusack, Hank Azaria). Pay special attention to the fight-to-the-death scene by the lockers, and, of course, deadpan Dan Akroyd's cameo.

Best in Show
Maybe you have to be a dog lover to enjoy this movie about crazy dog owners competing against each other to win a prestigious dog show, but I think the subtle, often clever humour will appeal to everyone. Christopher Guest is famous for mocking everything, and he works his sly magic with the often-bizzaro world of show dogs too. Lots of Canadian talent in this film. Watch it - if for no other reason than to giggle at Fred Willard as irreverent show commentator Buck Laughlin.

So...what's your favourite comedy?

Monday, 3 November 2008

Post-Hallowe'en Blues


On Friday, I discovered that Hallowe'en in the country is a vastly different holiday than Hallowe'en in the city.

I dressed up (in all my Asian finery, as "Miss Sweet n' Sour"), decorated the back entrance with my Mom's 1970's bizzaro candles and plastic pumpkin heads, and made up goodie bags of all the finest candy I could find at the Bulk Barn. I even carved a pumpkin, roasted the seeds, etc. And what did I get? TWO MEASLY KIDS. TWO. THAT'S IT!!! Oh sure, they were cute (a horsie and a dragon) and I'm glad D's cousin brought them by, but still...TWO KIDS???

Humph.

I drank a lot of Coke and viciously crunched every single pumpkin seed between my teeth as the minutes ticked by and no other kids came calling. Thankfully, D showed up after chores carrying a bag of treats from his Mom (who didn't have ANY kids come to her place!!! And she was handing out POP and CHIPS for pete's sake! In my youth I would have walked across town for a lady who was handing out pop!). He told me I looked beautiful in my costume and started feeding me chocolate. He is a wise man.

At least I kept my word and dressed Neko up
. But it was the saddest Hallowe'en on record in my books. I guess country kids have to depend on parents willing to cart them around from concession to concession. I forget how easy city kids have it, marching door to door and loading up on stuff after only 15 minutes of walking.

I guess next year I'm going to have to advertise early to all the little cousins and friends and neighbours who are of trick-or-treating age. I might even coax D to set up some sort of "Haunted Barn" or something to lure the kiddies to our door. But trust me - I swear by this blog that next year, we will get more than 2 kids, even if I have to drag them in from the city!

Friday, 31 October 2008

Hallowe'en is HERE at last!


Now that the big day is finally here, I'm a little bit disappointed, since D has to do chores and I have to hand out candy by my lonesome. But Neko is going to wear a nice orange feather boa, so I should at least get some good old fashioned pet humiliation satisfaction out of tonight.

Hallowe'en in the country is a lot different than H in the city. There are no adult parties, no bars having costume contests, and since we don't have cable, nothing scary to watch on the telly. Hmm. Maybe I'll just hide in the closet and jump out at D when he comes home from the barn.

Anyways, in honour of the big day, I'd like to share a new joke I heard at work. (Ahem)
Q: What do vegan Zombies crave?
A: GRAAAAIIIINNNNNSSSSS...


Get it?

Happy H everyone!

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Countdown to Hallowe'enie - part V - how to dress up your friends/family

Now this site I like. You take photos of your nearest and dearest, or your favourite colleagues, and mock them up in costumes or famous people's bodies. Cheap, good fun! Especially when the results turn out like this...mwah ha ha ha!


Create your own FACEinHOLE">

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

A random olfactory observation

I was driving home to Kink from Waterloo last night after a busy day of work and a pleasant evening with my Aunt B. As I drove through Hawksville, I sniffed the air, and thought, "Hey, that smells like a fresh McDonald's hambuger. Yummy." Then I realized I was driving past the animal feed mill.

???!!!???

Monday, 27 October 2008

Friday, 24 October 2008

Countdown to Hallowe'enie - part III - what NOT to do to your pets


My friend Ginny sent me these photos, and I have to say, it DOES give me ideas about what to do to poor Neko. Do you dress YOUR pet up for Hallowe'en? If so, do tell.


You've gotta love how sad this dog looks:



Neko would probably eat this mask in about 4 seconds:



I am realllly not sure what this poor little guy is supposed to be:


And the best is for last - Count Schnauzerla!

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Countdown to Hallowe'enie - part II


Well, Miss Jaime certainly gave me something to think about when I get ready to cook up a few Hallowe'en treats. Check this out if you want a reason to laugh AND grimace at the same time! Thanks Jaime...I think...

Monday, 20 October 2008

Wrestling with the Classics


Long, long ago, I was an English Lit major. I actually enjoyed reading classics. In fact, I enjoyed it so much I pursued part of a Master's degree doing the same thing. I think it's because I was in an environment where most of the people around me also enjoyed reading mouldie oldies, and got a kick out of discussing plot, character, theme, setting and historical significance until they were blue in the face. I think I "got" the books back then, too - at least, my essays scored high marks, so I must have been doing something right. I was passionate about Bronte, mad about Dickens, and flushed rosy red at the sight of an Austen.

It was like reminiscing with old friends the day I unpacked all my books and set them artfully on the built-in bookcases in our new living room. Why, there was Wilkie Collins and his "Woman in White!" And there was my antique illustrated edition of "Wuthering Heights!" And so THAT'S where "The Tenant of Wildfell Hall" had gotten to! Oh, they smelled good, just like classics should: a little musty, a little damp - like library books, except better. I wanted to spread them on the floor and roll around in them a little, but was scared D might catch me.

After the initial joyful reunion was over, I went back to reading un-classic books picked up at the airport or library. My classics would always be there - meanwhile, there were Lionel Shriver and Andrew Pyper and Xiaolu Guo to devour. It was only last month, when I ran out of reading material, that I meandered back to my shelves and plucked a dog-eared classic that I only vaguely remembered reading: "Mansfield Park," by Jane Austen.

Well, guess what? After a mere 17 years since graduating in Honours English, it appears that I no longer have a taste for the classics. I HATED Mansfield Park; I alternated between wanting to shake and pinch the heroine Fanny Price for being such a flimsy excuse for a woman. I wanted to smack Edmund for his priggish condescension. It served them exactly right to get married to each other in the end. Ugh.

Perhaps reading all sorts of modern trash has spoiled the finer nuances of classic literature for me. Or perhaps I just picked up a bad Austen book, if there is such a thing. Or, quite possibly, I'm dumber than I used to be and simply can't appreciate good lit when I read it anymore. I used to love it so - and now I'm afraid to pick up another volume in case I loathe it too.

It's not a good feeling to see an old friend staring at you from the shelves and feel too scared to say hello again. Maybe I'll be more open to the Classics when the snow flies and I'm trapped indoors. I can pretend I'm sitting in a drawing room before an open fire whilst the wild wind whips over the moors. Let's just hope I don't throw the book into the flames!

Friday, 17 October 2008

Countdown to Hallowe'enie - part I


I stumbled across this hilarious blog today (don't ask me how) and have decided that I shall post a few tributes to Hallowe'en, one of my favourite holidays, whenever the mood strikes. Consider this #1 in what will hopefully be a line of many!

Thursday, 16 October 2008

My Royal Shame


Not long after we moved into Someday Farm, I was proudly showing a neighbour our newly renovated upstairs. We went from room to room, admiring the clever closet design, the new windows, the hardwood floor that D had helped refinish. We advanced to the master bedroom where I happily babbled on about how I'd convinced D to remove a wall between two smaller rooms to make one giant bedroom, how we'd chosen our bedroom set of reclaimed Russian wood, etc...when I realized my neighbour had stopped listening. She was staring, instead, at the 8x10 glossy picture of me that D had found while unpacking and saw fit to prop up at the head of our bed. It was my Fall Fair Queen photo in all its goofy-grinned, teased-hair, 1980's glory. I promptly hustled my amused guest downstairs, but I think all she remembers about my bedroom is that photo.

Yep, I was the New Hamburg Fall Fair Queen back in '88. We weren't called Ambassadors then; no men in the 1980's dreamt of entering such a competition, so the Queen title was safe to use. Seeing my photo shouldn't have been a source of embarrassment to me; after all, being Queen of the Fair is a huge honour, and affords one the chance to get involved in one's community, meet lots of people, and do fun things like ride in a convertible in the Santa Claus parade. But I'm sorry to say that I was a lousy queen.

After politely declining to enter when asked three separate times (much to my mother's chagrin), I knew I was beaten when the entire Fair committee showed up at my front door one Saturday. I was in my pajamas eating chips straight out of the bag. When they asked me to reconsider and enter as a competitor, I gave in. They'd caught me at a weak moment; my mother was delighted. Seems she'd been a Dairy Princess back in her Wellesley school days and apparently, I was going to carry on the family tradition.

At eighteen, I didn't enjoy being the centre of attention. I didn't think I was very pretty, or very smart, and I didn't want to pretend I was either in front of a bunch of judges. However, encouraged by my enthusiastic mother, I did my best. I worked hard creating a poster to represent my sponsor, the Lion's Club. I rehearsed my speech on the historical importance of country fairs dozens of times. My mother took me shopping for my very first "sophisticated" gown (which, in retrospect, was a hideous shiny leopard print thing that mean girls in school later referred to as "my tin-foil dress") and spent over an hour teasing my hair into a big blonde pouf for the big night.

To my great shock, I won the competition. I still remember my sister and friends leaping around joyfully in the front row when my name was announced, the big smile on my mother's face, and the confusion of my Russian grandmother, who didn't speak English and couldn't understand what the fuss was about. And I also remember the look of annoyance on the runner up's face, which, incidentally, was captured forever on film by our local paper.

I don’t remember much else about the Fall Fair that year, except for the fact that my royal duties included leading a cow around a giant bingo square during a round of Bovine Bingo – yes, it’s as bad as it sounds. Especially when you’re wearing a skirt and heels.

The sad part is that after the initial joy of winning, I didn't do much with my crown. It should have been an opportunity for me to get involved in the agricultural community, join a board or two, or at the very least, volunteer for Fair duties in upcoming years. Instead, I quietly shrank back into oblivion and only attended the functions I was required to.

I recently attended the Ripley Fall fair, which brought back all sorts of Queen-related memories. It was great to see the Ambassador and her fellow competitors beaming at the crowd as they sailed by on their parade float. They all seemed friendly with one another and were undoubtedly having a good time. I even had the opportunity to meet the Ambassador herself a few times as I wandered around the fairgrounds. She seemed genuinely happy to be there, whether she was selling tickets for a raffle or proudly showing me the 4-H pickled piglet. She embodied the wholesome, fun spirit of Fall Fairs, and there was no doubt in my mind that she would be an actively involved member of the community during her "reign."

I felt ashamed of my eighteen year old self, but proud of the Ripley Ambassador, and all the other Ambassadors in Tiverton, Lucknow and Kincardine. The newer generation of Fall Fair representatives gets what it’s all about to wear the crown for their community. And at least they won’t have to suffer through Bovine Bingo.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Tai Chi Rage


Tai Chi is one of those slow, low-impact exercises that is supposed to bring you feelings of peace and serenity. When you see folks practising it on the end of the pier, or in the park, they always appear very zen, very "I'm at one with the universe right now, so please don't bug me."

As much as I adore the increased circulation and the way it makes my popsicle stick body more flexible, I simply cannot believe how much rage is involved in learning Tai Chi. Cause it's really difficult to learn. I don't mean "Ooh, this is kind of challenging" difficult - I mean, stamp your foot, make loud huffing sounds, slam your fist into your forehead kind of difficult.

There are 108 moves in total. Instructors demonstrate each move three times and then the students attempt it themselves three times. Then the moves are linked together until you know the whole "set." It's frustrating to convince your body to do things like balance on one foot and kick the other into the air, not to mention learning 107other moves and remembering to do them in sequence. Worse still are the names of the moves. Apparently, snickering when the instructor teaches you "Golden Cock stands on One Leg" is frowned upon.

The philosophy for teaching beginners is that you never, under any circumstance, correct an individual in front of the class. I'm not quite sure why. Something about not discouraging people early on. So you have a few freak outs when you screw up the moves, and laugh about it with other people who are screwing up their moves, but you have no idea how awful you really are until you leave the safety of the beginner class and venture into the ADVANCED class.

Once you're out of beginners, the zen gloves are off. Instructors are more serious about providing "corrections." And they're not afraid to use your name or point you out in front of the other students. All the stuff I thought I'd finally figured out in the beginner class has turned out to be pretty much wrong. Either my fingers aren't pointy enough, or my foot is turned 4 degrees too far to the corner, or I'm not rotating my body correctly. It's enough to make me pitch the pot of green tea out the window at breaktime.

The worst part was when my instructor told me that no one ever really masters Tai Chi. It's a continual learning process. Even people who have been doing it for 20 years receive corrections. WHAT??! So I have to do it for eternity because there will always be something to correct? Good grief.

I've thought about it long and hard, and I still keep going back week after week. I've decided I can't let Tai Chi beat me. I can't let 108 floaty, slo-mo-karate moves drive me mental. I can't allow ten graceful retirees to outshine me in every class.

I am going to be zen if it kills me. And I am going to learn NOT to laugh at the Golden Cock.

Friday, 3 October 2008

Birdy Nerdy


My ex used to call me "birdy nerdy" due to my obsessive habit of bird feeding and bird watching back in Waterloo. Now that I'm up here, my habit has become even worse. I can't help it - I find birds fascinating little creatures. My sis gave me a bird watching journal when I moved to Someday Farm, and now it's almost full of my observances, questions and descriptions. Hey, at least I'm not spying on my neighbours.

I'm happy to report that the birdfeeder outside our kitchen window has become a drive-thru of sorts to all kinds of birds headed south on their migratory journey. Yesterday I spied a Ruby Crowned Kinglet, one of the smallest birds around besides the Hummingbird. It was so dainty and sweet, hovering from branch to branch on our ash tree. And for the last few days, we've had a flock (or, more properly, an "ubiquity") of White-Crowned Sparrows. They have the most incredible song and have been entertaining me with it all week.

The problem with my birdy-nerdiness is that I want to rush out and make friends with all the birds I meet. Which is disappointing, because birds are really not all that friendly. They tend to freak out and fly off in a huff when I come sneaking around the corner. In Waterloo, I managed to make friends with some chickadees and even had them eating sunflower seeds out of my hand. No such luck with Bruce County chickadees. They come close enough to check me out, but then look at me pityingly and proceed to eat bugs. Humph.

Still, I harbour some hope that eventually the birds of Someday farm will get used to having a crazy girl around who likes to get as close as possible to them. If only I could get them to like Neko, too.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Melon-collie at Someday Farm

Upon returning from our sojurn in California, I wandered down to see how my garden had fared in my absence. The racoons had decimated the corn, but I'd expected that. What I didn't expect was the plump, beautiful watermelon that was waiting patiently for me. I could just hear it saying, "Hey! You're back! Finally. Now, are you just gonna stare at me or are you gonna pick me?"

I'd planted the melons from seed, like most of the things I grew this year. My beans and peas were a great success, but D was skeptical about the melons.

"They'll never mature," he said, condescendingly, I thought, for someone who's never tried to grow much of anything besides corn. "You planted 'em too late."

Secretly, I agreed with him, but didn't want to admit it. So when I saw this big green baby waiting for me amidst all its fuzzy leaves, I did a little victory dance. D's favourite food is watermelon, and I couldn't wait to see his face when I served him a juicy pink slice for dessert that night.

When I proudly carried my green melon into the kitchen, where both C and D were waiting, they started to laugh. "Are you sure that thing's ripe, Kimmy?" said C.

"Of course it's ripe!" I knocked it with my knuckles. "Hear that nice hollow sound?"

"I don't think she's ripe," said D.

"Just you wait," I said, and got out the giant knife reserved soely for watermelons and pumpkin carving. I handed it to D, who always does the honours. "It's gonna be delicious."

D obediently dug the knife in to the hilt and thumped the handle a few times. We all watched breathlessly as the melon separated and fell in two pieces onto the cutting board.

Not only was my plump green treasure totally unripe, it had a big rotten spot in it too! The horror! The shame!! The teasing that ensued!!!

My only consolation is that Neko enjoyed every bite. AND I have three more green treasures ripening in the garden, waiting for their turn. Maybe I should find some MiracleGro...

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Ventura County - land of bounty


Driving through Ventura county, it's not hard to see why dining out in California is such a pleasant experience. There are lush valleys of fresh produce everywhere! We drove through orange groves (there is something so bizarre about seeing an orange actually growing on a tree), avodaco groves and almond groves. We passed endless fields of green and red lettuce growing in neat rows, and marvelled at the enormous open backed trucks filled to the brim with shiny red tomatoes. D even pulled over at one point so I could pick a cotton ball out of a cotton field, and took me on an impromptu (and uninvited) tour of a roadside almond factory.

The only troublesome thing about all this lovely food is the amount of water it takes to irrigate it. Thousands of acres must be regularly sprinkled in order to keep them from turning into their crusty brown cousins - the stark, burnt-looking hills that lie just to the west of all the farmland. Every hotel or restaurant we visited from Monterey onwards had little signs saying "water is precious" or "water shortage," and urged us to conserve by not ordering a glass of water unless we really wanted it, or to reuse our towels until they got unbearable.

A bit of a paradox, and one I'm not sure how to reconcile, especially since I ate my fill of heirloom tomatoes and gorged on avocadoes the whole time I was in California.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Muir Woods: the silent forest


My boss told me that she'd taken her son to Muir Woods because it was the place where Return of the Jedi had been filmed. I groaned inwardly, thinking, oh great - a forest full of majestic redwoods, desecrated by Ewoky marketing crap. But we went anyway. We needed some respite from the craziness of SF.

D and I braved an hour of hairpin, butt-clenching mountain roads to get there. I stepped out of the car in the parking lot and was amazed to see a puff of my breath cloud the air. The temperature in SF had hovered around 18 degrees; in Muir Woods, it was 9! On went a pair of pants under my new dress; on went the touristy San Francisco wind breaker D bought me at Fisherman's Wharf; on went my pink socks and running shoes. Only Ewoks would see me, right?

I'm happy to report that Muir woods remains blissfully Lucas-free. The only advertisement I saw was a sign strictly forbidding the feeding of baby chimpmunks ("We know they're cute, but please don't feed them.") There are dozens of trails you can take, most of which meander through the never-ending cathedral of towering redwoods or past trickling streams.

The air was crisp and pure. I felt as though I was drinking in gallons of oxygen - my city-starved lungs seemed to stretch open to twice their size.

I wish I could describe the silence of those woods to you. We felt we had to whisper most of the time. D tried speaking loudly, but the woods swallowed up his voice as though he'd spoken in a vaccum. I half expected to see something mythical coming towards me through the waist-deep ferns - a unicorn or one of those elves from LOTR. Instead, we met an assortment of hikers and tourists, all of whom greeted us in their native language. Muir woods was the only place we visited on our vacation where that happened. I don't know all redwood forests lend themselves to a sense of community and friendliness among strangers. If they do, we should all spend a couple of hours there at least once a week.

Next: oranges and avodados and cotton, oh my!

Alcatraz: What DID happen to those three guys?

We took a boat ride to Alcatraz on Wednesday night to celebrate the end of D's conference (you know, out of one prison, into another).

Alcatraz is one creepy place. It looms out of the choppy water like a jagged rock as you approach and your first thought is, "Maybe this wasn't such a good idea." After being sternly herded off the boat ("You must choose the LEFT or the RIGHT gangplank only. Do NOT pause on the gangplank."), we were treated to a ten minute tirade about where not to wander by a park ranger (Alcatraz is actually part of a national park) who had the most horrific voice I've ever heard - kind of a cross between Patty & Selma from the Simpsons and Joey's agent from Friends.

D and I snuck away before our eardrums started to bleed and joined the line to tour the facility. We were handed headphones with a marvellous 40 minute-long guided tour, featuring the voices of former inmates, guards, wardens and even the daughter of one of the wardens who lived on the island for three years as a child. It was like listening to a really high quality radio drama. Totally worth the lineups and screechy park ranger.

But my favourite part? The story of the three guys who managed to escape in a dinghy and were never heard of again. They dug through their cement cell walls with SPOONS, for Heaven's sake. And they cleverly tricked the guards by creating dummies of themselves out of paper mache - using real hair they'd saved from their hairbrushes! That's innovation. I wonder if they made it. Some speculate they went to South America and started new lives. In a way, I kind of hope that's true. I know they were bank robbers and kidnappers, but hey, anyone with enough brains & guts to escape from Alcatraz deserves a second chance, don't you think?

Next: Muir Woods, land of Ewoks

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Beverley Hills: Home of more crabby drivers

D wanted to drive through Beverley Hills on Saturday night for kicks. I made him go down Rodeo drive to see the glizy shops (we even drove by the Entertainment Weekly pre-Emmy party!). He hesitated for a few seconds at a green light to consult the wretched GPS, and someone in a giant SUV HONNNNKed at us to get moving.

At the next intersection, the aforesaid SUV pulled up next to us. Its window ominously buzzed down. D politely rolled his down to see a sour looking blonde glaring at us. "What, are you all alone in the world or something?" she snarked before squealing her SUV around the corner.

I guess she was late for her botox appointment.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

SF - City of Random Singing and Grumpy Sea Lions


SF is a busy, hectic city. The crush of people here can be overwhelming. But one nice thing is that a lot of them sing while they plummet down steep sidewalks and dash in front of trolley cars. Some have i-Pods jammed into their ears, but others just sing random tunes without any ear-budded accompaniment.

Take the business-suited Hawaiian guy walking behind me on Market street yesterday. He scatted an impressive ladder of notes, jogged to catch up to me and said, "Hey beautiful, like my singing?" I had to admit that I did. Once he'd quickly determined my marital status and given me his website ("I write all my own music, s'true!"), he cheerfully skedaddled. But my favourite singer was the little Asian guy in the wheelchair going up an impossibly steep hill outside of Chinatown at 10pm last night. His voice was as high pitched as one of those Chinese erhu thingies, which is funny, because they say the erhu can sound like a human voice. Anyway, his lament pierced both my eardrums and my heart.

Speaking of Chinatown, I had a chance to explore it for a few hours on foot yesterday. What a boisterous, shiny, colourful, crowded, gaudy bit of over stimulation it is. I found the perfect Kuan Yin statue, something I've been searching for, and the shop keeper directed me to the Washington Restaurant to try their "very delicious" won tons. You know you're probably in a decent Chinese place when you're the only white person there. (Although the "noodles with hot dog and tomato sauce" wasn't my idea of authentic Chinese food) The crispy won tons were so delicious that I forgave the grim-faced waitress for giving me a fork instead of chopsticks.

On the less than melodic side, we stumbled on the famous sea lions of Pier 39 on our waterfront crawl. Talk about a cantankerous group of creatures: barking and biting and whacking each other with flippers. And the stink! It was almost like being back in Bruce County at manure-spreading time...or watching the tourists vie for room at Station Beach on the long weekend.

Finally, let me say that the sushi here is absolutely the best I've ever had. Heaven = San Francisco rolls, a rich combo of toro (fatty tuna belly) and California avocado. Washing them down with chilled Cherry Blossom sake, I found my happy place. God bless whoever invented sushi.

They say SF is the city of "foodies," and tonight I intend to drag a reluctant D to a fine eatery to test this theory further. So far, I haven't been disappointed.

Up next: eatin', drinkin', dancin'...and Alcatraz.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

San Fran - City of irritable drivers part II

I'm sitting in my hotel room, testing UAT plans like the diligent insurance jockey that I am, when I hear a steady HONK HONK HONK eight floors below. If I were back at Someday Farm, I'd chalk it up to migrating geese, but since I'm in the city of brotherly love (HA) I realize it's yet another irate driver. The bouncy honking suddenly turns to one prolonged HOOOONNNNNNNKKKKK....which lasts 17 seconds (I counted).

That may not seem like a long time, but try saying "HOONNNKKK" for 17 seconds and see what kind of mood it puts you in. I can only hope that someone clubbed the driver and the prolonged honk was his/her head thunking forward onto the horn and staying there until s/he regained consciousness and drove meekly home.

Brotherly love, my ass.

Monday, 15 September 2008

San Fran - city of irritable drivers and chilly fogs


D had an opportunity to come to San Francisco this week for a work-related conference. His boss kindly advised him to "take his wife," so I've tagged along like so much pretty luggage. You should see our hotel: fancy schmancy.

I'll post snippets of our experience in SF instead of inflicting big rambly posts on you, dear reader.

First, let me say that it is cold here. Cold and windy. So much for my whole California dreamin' notion of sunny skies and temperate climes. My mother whisked my sister and I to L.A. back in '88 and it was deliciously warm the whole time. With that happy memory in mind, I packed flimsy summer dresses, sandals and tank tops. And one pair of jeans. Thank heavens I packed my all-purpose Reading Festival hippy scarf! When I knot it around my goose-pimply self, it helps stave off the damp air shooting up from the wharf; it also warms me to know that wearing a scarf jauntily around one's throat seems to be in keeping with the local style.

When I complained about the weather here to my friend from Vancouver, she said, "September is sweater weather on the West coast, Kim." (I could almost hear her mentally adding, "You dingbat" but she's too sweet to actually say it.) So I scurried out after work yesterday and bought D and myself sweaters. We went on a boat cruise last night with his conference buddies, and I was glad for my wool/acrylic blend - salty sea winds are nice in theory but killer in practice.

The only other thing that's made an instant impression on me is how nasty San Fran drivers are. I mean, NASTY - honking if you hesitate for a second at a light (HONK! "Is this New Montgomery street?" HONK HONK! "How should I know? You're the one with the GPS!" HONNNNK!), cutting you off mercilessly on the freeway, refusing to let you in, trying their best to run you over as you wander across the street. Maybe I've been putt-putting along in Bruce county for too long, but I don't remember Toronto - or even Montreal - drivers being so gosh-darn rude. D and I felt like country mice in a big ol' city full of feline drivers. We have decided to walk as much as possible.

Coming up next: the best tuna belly God ever made, my search for Kuan Yin in Chinatown and the Hawaiian guy who wanted to marry me.

Friday, 29 August 2008

A Unitarian wedding and a very Montreal reception

If I were a cynical person, I might huff that a wedding is a wedding is a wedding. You go to a stuffy place of worship, hear the same tired vows, then sit through bland speeches and an even blander supper. I might say that I used to love both 1Corinthians 13 and chicken breast, but as a repeated wedding mixture over the years, that they're starting to lose their appeal.

But when D and I attended my good friend Jarrett's wedding in Montreal last week, my jaded, easily-bored self remembered why I just can't be cynical where weddings are concerned.

The ceremony took place on the East end of the city, at a Unitarian church. I've never been to a Unitarian church, much less a Unitarian wedding, and I was impressed with its non-dogmatic approach. I liked the way Unitarians are able to find compatibility between spirituality and science, even if I still believe in a triune God.

The pianist played a full 30 minutes of classical music exquisitely on the church's grand piano before the ceremony. The rich sound echoed through the small, high-ceilinged building. The music sounded fresh - not snobby, the way classical music can sometimes come across at a formal event - and was an interesting complement to the young cousins who came bashfully down the aisle to place white calla lillies in an old maple syrup pail at the front of the church.

The entire wedding party sat in chairs on a small platform facing the congregation - an arrangement I'd never seen before. It felt very personal, as you could make eye contact with the bride and groom from time to time. Two friends of the couple read a gorgeous poem - one read it in French and the other translated in English - and a cousin of the bride sang a Pete Seeger song. The vows had a lot to do with respecting one another's individuality and support for one another's dreams - no nonesense about loving and obeying. It was a beautiful moment.

The bride's dress was quite simple, but when you looked closer at it, you could see little golden rosebuds embroidered all over the skirt. When I told Cynthia how much I liked the details, she said that her female friends and relatives had come over one night and each woman had sewn on a bud.

She and Jarrett looked so happy. I've never seen a calmer, more relaxed groom than Jarrett that night. It does my heart good to know he's found the perfect partner.

But the best part was the reception. Held at what was once a 1920's cabaret called Le Lion D'Or, the party was classy, sophisticated and a whale of a good time. I loved the live jazz quintet that played all the oldies - Jarrett is a sucker for old-fashioned music - the delicious supper, the crisp, cold glasses of Blanche, trading wit with my two old friends (now PhDs) I've known since Kindergarten but haven't seen in ages. D and I danced nearly every song together. Nothing like a wedding to remind you how good it is to be in love.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

"Oh, I'm as happy as a big sunflower...


...that bends and nods in the breeze, Oh! That bends and nods in the breeze, oh!"

I first came across this cheery little song in one of the Little House on the Prairie books. Laura calls it Pa's "trouble song" because Pa sings it when he's worried about dying crops, cyclones, ravenous locusts, or any of the other nasty hardships those poor folks faced in the wilderness. Why someone would sing a happy ditty about sunflowers when they're facing dire circumstances is beyond me. But then again, I've never had to fend off hungry locusts.

I've never had much luck growing sunflowers in the city. They'd wither up or tip over or not bother to sprout at all. The chosen few plants that did make it to maturity were mercilessly decapitated by squirrels or crows, usually the day after I'd rapturously marvelled at the sunflower's bright, friendly face. But a happy accident occurred this spring on Someday Farm: a messy bird spilled a bunch of black oil sunflower seeds from the birdfeeder, and voila! 10 sturdy sunflowers took root, right beside our back door. No decapitations, no squirrels - just golden, joyful looking flowers that really do bend and nod in the breeze, oh!

As much as I've loved seeing them every morning as I come out the door, I've come to realize that while sunflowers in their prime are a thing of beauty, a sunflower slowly rotting on its stem is a true study in blechiness. Ah, but that is the essence of gardening, isn't it? Plants and flowers that were once so pretty and vibrant turn crispy and vile, seemingly overnight.

I thought that at least I'd harvest the seeds to repay the kind birds who'd helped me plant my sunflowers. You can imagine my yelp of disgust when I tried to pry them out and was met by an angry army of meal worms, ants and earwigs. Apparently I don't get to keep the sunflower seeds - the bugs have claimed unequivocal rights. Oh well. At least I haven't seen any locusts. Or cyclones. Yet.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Teat Dip Blues (or, confessions of a milkmaid)


Although I have fond childhood memories of playing in haylofts and patting calves on farms near my Dad’s cabin, getting intimate with a cow’s underside was never high on my priority list. But when you marry a man who grew up on a dairy farm, you learn to appreciate the grimy beauty of the barn pretty quickly.

Over the past few years, I’ve progressed from being the girl in ill-fitting coveralls who’s constantly in the way to confident scraper of poop and feeder of cats. Recently, I graduated to the status of bona fide milkmaid. I knew I’d reached the pinnacle of my dairy career when I was allowed to assist my in-laws with morning milkings for five straight days.

I could go on at length about all the interesting things I’ve learned while doing the milking - how to push a 300lb grain cart without dumping it in the gutter, how to avoid a nasty spatter of calf scours - but one vital truth revealed itself to me during my week of being a milkmaid. And it is this: cows are stupid.

That may sound harsh, especially to anyone who hasn’t been crammed into a barn on a humid August night with 46 of the obstinate creatures. But trust me, it’s true.

I didn’t always feel this way. I grew up reading books by Barbara Woodhouse, famous dog trainer and all-around animal guru. She maintained that all animals had an innate wisdom and that, with the right training and a little patience, could be taught to do anything. As proof of this, she’d saddle up her Jersey cow and ride it through the English countryside, much to the consternation of her neighbours.

As a result of my Woodhouse education, I thought that cows would have a beautiful bovine wisdom about them, a placid intelligence that I couldn’t help but admire. Why, after a few milkings, I’d probably become one with these gentle, useful creatures. My in-laws’ milk quota would likely skyrocket whenever I was around.

Then came the poo-covered tail in the face of reality: cows aren’t smart at all. In fact, many of them seem downright dumb. I’ve decided that cows, valuable creatures though they are, were put on earth solely to test the patience of inexperienced milkmaids and even hardened dairymen.

For example, I’ve seen a seasoned cow come lumbering out of the pen, udders squirting milk in every direction. It is clearly time for her to be milked. She has been doing this routine twice a day, every day, for approximately three months. And yet she stops dead in front of three open stalls, looking around in wide-eyed confusion like the kid at the Christmas pageant who has forgotten her lines.
“Mrs. Cow,” I tell her, “we’ve been through this. You know the drill. I have a pitchfork and I’m not afraid to use it. Get in the stall!”

Mrs. Cow continues to look at me blankly until I make good on my promise and poke her in the rump with the blunt end of my pitchfork (I haven’t quite gotten used to the pointy end yet). She looks surprised, shambles into the nearest stall, and surveys her surroundings with wonderment, as though this isn’t the 300th time she’s been there. Repeat this performance several times in a row and it’s enough to make you switch to soymilk.

Expecting a cow to behave is an exercise in futility. Take “The Kicker.” She’s been milking for two years. She isn’t sick, injured or mistreated. But every blessed time someone approaches her udders, she kicks. Once, as my brother-in-law was grimly outfitting The Kicker with her pretty red “anti kick” strap, I asked him why he didn’t use cow psychology on problem cows. He stopped what he was doing and looked at me as though I’d asked why he didn’t paint the cows’ toes pink. I won’t print his response here, but suffice it to say I don’t ask about cow psychology anymore. I figured my bro-in-law was just crusty and unwilling to entertain new ideas, so I asked another dairy farmer who graduated with the same agricultural degree that D did. Strangely enough, I got the same look of disgust. I asked this fellow whether there was anything one could do about a cow that kicked. He nodded. "Yeah, there's something you can do all right. Ship the bitch."

Still, I suspect there may be a million dollar business lurking behind my idea. There are horse whisperers and dog psychics; why not cow psychologists? If I owned a dairy farm, I’d make room in the budget for a bovine therapist. Or at least a really big pitchfork.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Simple Pleasures

There are many excellent ways to enjoy this luscious time of year: eating wild raspberries, skinny-dipping, going for moonlit walks, motorbiking...the list seems endless. But I felt compelled to share a few of the simple pleasures I've enjoyed over the past few weeks up here in the Kink.

Elvis Lives
My cousins invited me to attend the Bluewater Playhouse's production of...well, I can't remember the name of it, but it was all about Elvis. I was a bit skeptical; in my experience, small-town theatre is often more painful than amusing. And while I like Elvis as much as the next gal, sitting through two hours of Elvis-related amateur theatre wasn't high on my priority list. So it was a revelation to see a well-crafted, fun, swingin' production that had me laughing out loud all night. The show revolved around 4 Elvis impersonators competing for a shot at performing their schtick in Vegas and featured a female Elvis (she was pretty hot too, esp. in her red leather pants!), a fat, bald Vegas Elvis (complete with sequins and scarves), a sexy young lip-curling Elvis (think Jailhouse Rock) and finally, a sweaty, melodramatic, all-in-black-leather Elvis. The show was so much fun to watch, I was sorry when it ended. Just goes to teach me a lesson about judging small-town theatre.

Swing baby, swing
D and I love to dance. We met at dance lessons, and we try boogie down as much as possible, even if it's just in our kitchen or living room. When I saw an ad for the Stardust Big Band, playing as part of Kink's summer music festival - at the newly renovated 1902 beach Pavilion no less! - I begged him to go. We only know a few pathetic swing moves but we both adore big band and swing music. We took a slightly grumpy C along with us (I do love being seen out with two handsome men at one time) and quickly realized that we were the youngest people in the room. But that didn't matter, because the music was excellent, the pavilion cedar-scented and high-ceilinged, with slippery wood floors just made for dancing. The west-facing full length windows gave us an uninterrupted view of the orange and pale green sunset, which didn't hurt either.

The best part about the night in my opinion (next to cuddling up in D's arms and swaying to Moon River), was watching one particular couple get up and dance to nearly every song. They had to have been in their late 70's or perhaps early 80's. He wore a wine coloured shirt under his suit jacket, and she wore a wine coloured slim leather belt around her blouse. I loved that they matched! They laughed and hugged each other after every dance. They weren't always on the beat, and they didn't always get in step, but you could see that they'd been dancing together like this for years and the pure joy in their eyes was truly something to behold.

ShirtTail Parade
It's really hard to describe this one. Picture this: 20,000-30,000 people (the numbers have yet to be determined), of various ages, dressed in their underwear, drinking alcoholic beverages, marching down the main street of a small town while throngs of bystanders gawk and cheer. Yep, that's what happens in the Kink every 10 years for the Reunion. Seems like every small town up here has a reunion - I had just begun dating D when Ripley went through theirs in 2005, so I was kind of prepared for what I'd see. Back then, I was pretty shy and still getting to know everyone, so I wore full length silk pajamas. D, on the other hand, wore a mini skirt, a hot pink negligee, panty hose and construction boots. THIS time I was determined not to be outdone by my husband, so I donned his black boxer briefs, a black bra, a big white men's shirt and D's favourite black tie. Oh, and my black naughty sox (they're from Zeller's but they're still naughty).

My outfit was among the mildest I witnessed that night, my personal favourites being the fellow wearing a tiny tartan thong and the guy wearing homemade tinfoil underwear. Actually, most of outrageous outfits were worn by guys. Which is amusing and impressive until you realize you actually a) know them or b) are related to them or c) both.

Anyways, the parage converges in Connaught Park, where everyone parties with a live band until the wee hours. I left at 1:30AM and things were still going strong. Say what you will about small-town living, they sure know how to have a good time every 10 years! Yes, it's a bit crude. Yes, it's weird. But hell, it's FUN! Check out some videos...if you're brave...http://fr.youtube.com/watch?v=qFmWSk_cZEw

Pipe Band
This last simple pleasure is going to seem a bit tame after the Shirttail parade, but it truly was a summer evening I'll remember. In Kink, every Saturday night in the summer, the main street is closed off so that the scottish pipe band can do their dignified bagpipe n' drum march. The best part? Everyone is invited to march along behind them. The whole evening wraps up with a pipe band concert in the park, just close enough to the ice cream shop that you can scramble down there for a cone and make it back in time to hear Amazing Grace, the final tune. I hadn't done the pipe band thing since I was a kid - back when we used to beg our mothers to take us EVERY saturday in the summer we were here. And you know what? It's just as much fun as an adult as it was when I was a kid.

So if you haven't been to the Kink, hopefully this little bouquet of experiences will entice you to visit. Soon!

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Note to self...

I learned a valuable lesson yesterday: be very, very careful when posting images "borrowed" off the internet onto your blog. I didn't realize that when you google images (e.g. "scary eyes") and use said photo that there may be copyright issues. Or at least a pissed off photographer who apparently feels possessive about his or her images and enjoys retaliating in passive aggressive ways.

I thought anything I found on google was free for the taking. Boy, was I wrong! Thankfully, my fellow blogger Jabbering Jaime alerted me to the fact that someone had removed the cute picture of animal eyes I'd added to my "Things that go rrrrr in the night" post and thoughtfully replaced it with a nice piece of gay porn. Which gave the title of my post a whole new meaning.

My apologies to anyone who might have been alarmed by the naughtiness! It wasn't intentional.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Things that go "Rrrrrr" in the night

Living in the city, one forgets how many creatures exist outside our patio doors. Oh sure, there are the squirrels, the raccoons, the occasional skunk. But none of these city critters stack up to the country monsters that go "Rrrrrr" at you in the night.

My dog wolfed down a rather sizable raw pork roast a few weeks ago. It was one of those nasty stuffed concoctions, filled with lard and seasonings galore, hand-picked by my father, who was visiting for the day. I'd set it in the sink to thaw while we frolicked at the beach, forgetting about Neko's ability to liberate food off counter tops. You can imagine my dismay at discovering a slimy trail of raw pork across the floor and no supper in the draining board. At least Neko had the class to drag the roast into the dining room to devour it.

I figured I'd be getting up with her at 3 a.m. when the raw pork began to take effect on her system and she didn't disappoint me. I heard the panicked scritch scritch of her claws on the screen door and, clumbsy with sleep, got myself out of bed, into a robe and down the stairs to let her out.

The stars twinkled at us as we walked down the path towards the garage - Neko yanking on the leash with a desperate look in her eye, me stumbling after her wishing I'd thought to put on my glasses. As my dog made her way to the hallowed pooping ground to do her dirty business, I stood and listened to the wind in the trees, the distant rush of waves, the crickets. It was kind of nice.

That is, it was nice until I heard SOMETHING say "rrrrrrrrr" from over by the chestnut tree. Neko froze in mid-poo. The hair on the back of my neck stood up, something I thought only happened in books. I squinted, trying to figure out what kind of creature the SOMETHING was. Maybe it was an angry squirrel. Or a baby raccoon. I took a step closer. The SOMETHING said "rrrrrRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!", the bushes rustled and I tore up the walkway, dragging poor Neko behind me. That was no freaking raccoon!

Now, I don't consider myself to be a fraidy cat. But when things make noises at me in the middle of the night from my very own yard, I have to draw the line somewhere. We've heard coyotes howl pretty darned close to the barns, and there was a recent bear sighting in Tiverton, so who knows what evil lurks in the fields of Someday Farm? I wasn't about to find out for myself. So I woke up my husband.

To his credit, he didn't make fun of me or moan about getting up at 3:15 a.m. He gamely stumbled down the stairs (looking very manly in his Big Bill work pants with crocs and no shirt), grabbed his trusty flashlight and went in the direction of my pointing. D made it about 3 steps onto the lawn when the SOMETHING said, "RRRRRRRRR? RRRRRRRR!! RRRRRRRRR!!!" That was enough to send my brave husband scuttling back to the safety of our porch to admit he didn't know what it was, and he wasn't about to find out.

We never did find out what the SOMETHING was. All I know is that it was mightily displeased at having its territory invaded, and it had a helluva set of lungs on it. Sharing our space with things that go bump in the night is going to take some getting used to. But I'll take noisy critters in the country to sirens and buses and drunken idiots on the road in the city any day.

Friday, 1 August 2008

Grey doldrums on a sunny day

It's sunny, mellow and beautiful outside. The shorn wheatfield to the north looks like burnished gold and the meadow out back is beckoning. The waves are curling on the beach and even the lawn chairs look friendly...but I'm all grey inside. Y'know, one of those days where you just can't seem to shake the winter out of your soul, no matter how hard summer tries to make you feel better.

I think part of it is the fact that my sister is leaving for a year's sojourn to teach in Russia on Tuesday. Tuesday!!! That's freaking 4 days away! Not that I begrudge her this marvellous adventure; on the contrary, I'm proud of and excited for her. But I'm sad for me. Even D has been moping.

"Why would anyone wanna move so far away from home?" he grouses from time to time about my other sister, who lives in Australia with my only nephew. "She should be living HERE." But my older sis is very happy there, and I think it's great she's found an adopted country to call her own - especially since it doesn't pester her with the nasty snow she found so trying in Ontario. Now my younger sister is leaving, albeit not permanently, and this has thrown D into the depths of familial despair. He thinks all families should remain in close proximity until death. I'm of the mind that a little distance can be healthy, which D thinks is pure craziness. Plus, he's been to Russia twice and can't for the life of him understand why anyone would want to go there on purpose.

Another contribution to my shades of grey is that Rose's due date just passed, and the universe apparently thought it would be amusing to commemorate the day with a chance visit from my sister in law and Dwain's 3 month old neice. Our neice is a sweet little ladybug, and I love her dearly. But it hurts to look into her wide eyes and hear her gurgle and smell her delicious baby smell and think about Rose. If Rose had lived when she was born in April, she would be four months old the day after tomorrow.

Anyway, I started mowing the lawn in my bikini to try and cheer myself up (I get occasional beeps from passing cars and that's good for the ego), but my heart just wasn't in it. I have a dish full of ruby red currants - freshly plucked from our very own bush - just begging to be transformed into jelly. I don't dare touch them in this mood though; I have a superstition that one should never try to cook anything when in a bad mood - I'm convinced that the jelly won't set when the cook is depressed.

Thankfully I made a batch of chocolate chip rum walnut cookies yesterday; they are helping to assuage my greys ever so slightly. And I think I will drag myself off this chair and go for a tramp in the meadow. Neko could use a bath in the river and I could use a breath or two of alfalfa to clear my head. Perhaps the purple and gold and green outside will chase away these internal shades of grey.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

A visit to Someday Farm

Check out Jabbering Jaime's cool blog for pics of Someday Farm. This sweet little miss accompanied my sister for a visit here last week. We beached, we drank, we visited, we roamed. It was fun. Until Neko ate the $40 pork roast my father brought for supper. Oopsie.

Anyway, not only is Ms. J a master sewer (check out her Gingham Skies site), she is a budding photographer and has made Someday Farms look like something out of a magazine. Thanks Jaime!

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Goodbye city mouse, hello country mouse

My aunt, who spends her summers at a cottage on Bruce Beach, asked me last year how I thought I'd like living up here once we had moved. I responded enthusiastically, extolling the virtues of small-town living and the slower pace of life up here. She smiled wisely and mentioned a letter to the editor she'd just read in the local paper. It was a sort of "in defence of small town living" letter, aimed at big city types who showed up each summer expecting things to be exactly the way they were in the city. The writer expressed keen annoyance with city folk who complained about the lack of certain amenities, or the fact that things took longer to get done in the country. "We take things easy up here," scolded the writer, "and if you don't like it, you should just go back to the city."

I chuckled and said I wasn’t about to bring my urban expectations with me when we moved. My aunt raised an eyebrow at me. "It's true, you know. They do things a bit differently up here. As long as you know that before you move here."

My car is a battered and fairly unreliable thing. My mechanic in Waterloo always shook his head when he saw me coming, but we developed a friendly rapport over the years. When a brake pad committed suicide in the driveway a month after moving up, I realized I had to find a new mechanic. I took my car to a nearby garage, fully expecting to hear from the mechanic at the end of the day like I did with mine in Waterloo. After three days passed with no word, I called. "Oh, we haven't even started working on it yet. But we'll probably get to it tomorrow."

I complained bitterly to my in-laws that night over supper about the situation. I couldn’t believe the garage hadn’t even called me to tell me about the delay. My in-laws listened patiently as I ranted, then told me that the garage had always been like that, but that the mechanics were excellent. I groused about it for a few more days before it finally dawned on me that I had never actually told the garage when I needed my car or when I wanted to hear from them. I was setting expectations based on my experiences with the garage I dealt with in the city, who had known me as a customer for several years. These guys had only met me for 3 minutes. How were they supposed know what I needed unless I told them?

When we experienced a slight issue with a piece of our inherited kitchen furniture (it fell out of the back of our truck en route from Waterloo and bounced across highway 86), I drove to see a local craftsman who had been recommended by my mother-in-law. His workshop was full of treasures - antique cash registers, mis-matched chairs, battered bureaus comfortably waiting their turn beside worn out pianos and leopard-skin covered fainting couches. I found my way into his back room and introduced myself.

This time, I was prepared. I carefully explained what had to be fixed, what I hoped it would look like once finished and that we were moving into our new place in three weeks. Could we have it by then? He thought so.

I coaxed my brother-in-law to help me deliver the furniture the next day. We lugged it into the front of the workshop.

“Let's set ‘er right here,” said my bro-in-law and lowered his end to the floor.

“Shouldn't we take it right into his workshop?” I wondered.

“Nope,” said bro. “We leave her right here, where he has to step around her every time he comes through.”

“But won't it be in the way?”

My bro flashed me a roguish grin and pointed at me. “Exactly.”

When the gentleman called to say our piece was ready a week before the end of the month, I was duly impressed, albeit mostly with myself: I had set clear expectations without being demanding, and now here was my table, ready a week early! I was really getting the hang of things.

“I really appreciate you putting us to the front of the line,” I said, barely hiding my self-congratulatory tone.

“Well,” he said, “it was kind of in the way. I kept tripping over the thing every time I went out of the shop, so I figured I'd just get it done.”

I suffered through several See-Kimmy-I-told-you-so lectures from my bro-in-law and husband, and a mildly uncomfortable discussion with their cousin from the city who threw up her hands when she heard the story. She’s had a piece of furniture there for two years. It’s still not finished.

So I learned a fundamental thing about country living from these experiences: listen to advice when it's given to you, no matter how well you think you can handle something on your own. After all, the folks around you have likely been here far longer than you have and they know how to “get ‘er done.” More importantly, I’ve been reminded that city expectations don’t always fly in the country, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing at all. So things take a little longer sometimes – so what? It won’t kill me to learn to be a bit more patient. And the walk to the beach will probably do me good.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

The summer of eating dangerously

As sad as I still am over losing Rose, I find myself reluctantly enjoying some of the small blessings that come with not being pregnant. Sometimes I wonder if I'm just talking myself out of trying again. You know, a kind of "See how nice it is not being fat and sick all the time?" mantra. But perhaps I'm doing the mature thing and learning, as my counsellor suggests, to take pleasure in the "now."

It's not that I hated being pregnant. Despite the barfing, having the appetite of a ravenous dog and the urge to pee every 30 seconds, I found pregnancy to be an extremely interesting and satisfying state of being. I relished my belly and my nice big breasts. I adored my jiggly bum. Feeling Rose squiggle around filled me with wonderment. Being un-pregnant, however, has its positive aspects too.

On the side of pure greed, I can gorge on spicy tuna maki, drown myself in caffeinated lattes and eat brie and smoked turkey sandwiches again. I can play a rousing game of tennis with D. I can drive from the Kink to Waterloo without having to screech to a stop at Pizza Pizza in Listowel to dart into their grimy washroom. My breathing doesn't mimic Darth Vader's when I walk up a flight of stairs and I can bend under smelly cows and lift milking machines over my head without a care. I'd forgotten about these happy things in my months of grief. It's nice to discover them again in the warmth and breezes of summer.

We haven't completely decided whether we will roll the baby dice one more time, or pursue other avenues. And so this will be a summer of small pleasures, of getting reacquainted with my body and soul. And of riding on the back of D's motorbike as much as possible.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Romance, triple 16 style


Sometimes I bemoan the fact that I've married a very practical man. He grew up on a farm, so practicality runs through his veins like blood. D is logical and likes to see the world for what it is, while I prefer looking on the bright side as much as possible without becoming too annoying. He likes to tease me about my daydreaming habits and calls me his little idealist. Well, yesterday I discovered that my stalwart farmer boy has a romantic side.

I was upstairs in the bedroom trying to sweep dirt and fluff out of some stubborn floorboard cracks. I thought I'd better clean off the broom, which was starting to resemble Santa's beard, so I went out on the balcony to give it a shake. In my glazed-over housecleaning state of mind, my eyes wandered over the front lawn, along the rail fence, past the blue spruces, and back up the line of red maples. It was then that I noticed a particularly healthy patch of lawn sticking up greenly just below the balcony. Once my eyes began to focus, I realized that the green patches actually spelled "K-I-M." Yep, my clever husband had spelled my name...in fertlizer.

Who says farmers can't be romantic?