Tuesday, July 29, 2008


A little while ago, I received an email from someone who had been catching up on my blog. She is one of my oldest and dearest friends, and it has been some time since she and I have been able to find the time to sit down and have one of our marathon telephone conversations. Luckily, she is one of those "kindred spirits" that are few-and-far-between: It doesn't matter HOW many months elapse between emails, phone calls or visits, we always seem to be able to just pick up where we left off, and keep right on talking. We might inadvertently miss birthdays (I plead guilty!), anniversaries (GAA!), and the odd Christmas Morning (it was the TIME CHANGE!! Honest!!) but I can't tell you how grateful I feel to know that she'll always be my friend, nomatterwhat.

In this last email, she wrote:

"When I read (your blog) I really want your life. I hope that all you write is really where you are at. It sounds so great, listening for an owl, and watching a big bad bandit eat all the food. My life is so hectic, not a moment to spare. I love the leisure your blog paints...."

While this is an enormous compliment (she is actually quite the writer, herself), the comment got me to thinking... Because, although my blog IS an account of my daily life with the girlies, my friend knows me well enough to know that my daily life is considerably more complicated than the leisurely picture I paint here.

It concerned me slightly that people who do NOT know me in real life might think that this is an entirely "charmed existence", safe from all of the problems and worries that most people have. It's certainly not true.

My husband and I work, and are scrambling to deal with the fall-out of the current economic crisis. We're trying to keep the "family business" afloat, whilst resisting the overwhelming temptation to kill each other in the process... My kids get bored and fight, don't always do as they're asked, outgrow their clothes too quickly, and will ALL need braces... I sometimes struggle with my decision to give up working outside the home, and fear that my brain will be reduced to the consistency of oatmeal and eventually leak out of my ears... There are nights when the mere THOUGHT of cooking something edible for dinner is completely beyond me, and I wind up running to the corner store to buy a box of Kraft Dinner and a package of hot dogs... And to top it all off, yesterday, I discovered a BIG BLACK HAIR growing out from the spot just under my chin.

But, do you know what?

It may not have been a conscious choice not to write extensively about all of the above (and a lot more, I assure you), but I do believe that not writing extensively about all of the "dirty laundry" in my life has been even more therapeutic than "venting". Because writing this blog for the past year-and-a-half has made me examine my daily life, and find the POSITIVE, the FUN, and, most importantly, the FUNNY in it.

There are times, like these past few weeks, when I have not been able to find much inspiration to write at all. Searching out the "good" just seemed to be too much of an effort, with everything else that's been going on around here.

But, thanks to my friend-- and thanks to ALL of you who read, and write back to me with comments and emails-- I'm going to make more of an effort: I'm going to keep trying. Because it is important for me to remember how truly blessed I am, no matter how crazy this life may seem.

And, come to think of it, maybe discovering that big, black chin-hair wasn't quite so tragic, after all... Now, if I could just find those damn tweezers...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Supper? Um, I think I'll pass...

It was a beautiful day today.

Well, if you subscribe to my idea of "beautiful".

It poured all morning, complete with a little requisite thunder and lightning, for dramatic effect. Which allowed me, once again, to skip my garden's fairly extensive watering routine. (Truth be told, I have only been forced to drag out all of the hoses, set the timers, and then play a merry game of musical-sprinklers ONCE so far this year-- it would seem that the Gardening Goddess has mercifully given me a season "off", for a change. Of course, now that I've actually written that down and sent it out into the ether, I'll be cursed by drought for the next month-and-a-half.)

Just after lunch, the heavens cleared, and the bright sunshine broke though... but not with the sweltering heat and humidity that we are accustomed to here in July. It was a perfectly manageable 26 degrees (Celsius) on my patio.

The girlies and I raced down to the pool to enjoy the remainder of the afternoon.

Wee Three is becoming quite a proficient little swimmer, so long as she stays in the comfort-zone of her Mickey Mouse inflatable ring. She bobs happily around the shallow end (where she can touch the bottom on tippy-tippy-toes... if she stretches a bit), and actually gives her older sisters a run for their money, when they all engage in speed-races. More often than not, though, the older girls go splashing off to the deep end to practise their "mermaid" routine, leaving Wee Three with only me for company. And it is then that we play her favourite game, which we call "Swim-Up Restaurant".

I sit lazily in a deck chair by the edge of the pool, and my youngest child bobs up beside me.

"What-a you like to eat?" she demands, firmly but sweetly.

It is then that I am able to spend a few blissful moments, casting in my mind for a delectable imaginary meal that I would devour with great relish, if only someone else were willing to concoct it and serve it to me.

Once my order has been taken, my tiny, watery waitress scoots off, little legs kicking away, as she darts around the shallow end, pretending to gather ingredients, and mix things together. This goes on for several minutes, after which time she swims back to where I am seated, and pretends to present me with her culinary masterpiece.

I make ecstatic faces, and sufficient snorfling noises to indicate that I have enjoyed my "repast", and once the mandatory **burp** has been proffered, she eagerly inquires:

"NOW. What-a you like to DWINK?"

Which sets me off on a whole other fantasy. (I secretly fear that the extensive amount of vocabulary I have recently given my child in this area might one day set her off on a career in professional bartending... And me on a career as a professional drunk, for that matter. Hey, I am nothing if not supportive of my children...)

This afternoon, however, the restaurant-game took a slightly different turn.

Wee Three swam up beside me, and asked me what food my heart desired...

And all of a sudden, I had an intense craving for rich, creamy pasta. Not just ANY pasta, but tiny, fresh, hand-made dumplings... smothered in a delectable, pungent blue cheese sauce.

"Mmmmm..." I closed my eyes for a moment, and could almost SMELL the buttery-garlic-y aroma as I requested, "I'd really like a big bowlful of fresh gnocchi, in a lovely, silky, Gorgonzola sauce..."

She immediately splashed off to "prepare" my meal, and I enjoyed a solitary reverie, imagining exactly how the pasta would taste... what wine I'd like to drink with it... and, of course, the chocolate I would eat for dessert...

It seemed like only a moment before she was back at my feet once more, offering me an upturned Frisbee as a makeshift "plate", and shouting a hearty, "Here-a go!!"

I let my mind wander to the food once more, as the wet Frisbee dripped on my lap, and she began to swim away.

Suddenly, she stopped, and whirled around to face me:

"Mama! Just so-a know..." she said with an enormous grin:

"I put lotsa Gorgons in it!!"

Medusa (the Gorgon) by Arnold Böcklin


Come to think of it, I'm not so hungry, after all.

Damned Greek Mythology...

Monday, July 21, 2008

Still sitting here...

Welcome to my Monday.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

How to Foil Enemy #1

I did it.

After years, and years, and YEARS of trying... and of UNINTENTIONALLY "feeding" this neighbourhood's rodent-population-of-the-squirrel-variety... I have FINALLY figured out a way to keep them out of my yard.

Yesterday, I had my laptop out in the garden, so I could do a little writing while the girlies were playing in the sandbox.

I sat peacefully on my patio, not ten inches from our main "squirrel-proof" bird feeder. (Um, yeah. That is to say: the bird feeder that I spent SIXTY DOLLARS on, because it has a weight-sensitive trap-door mechanism, that lowers whenever anything heavy lands on the perch... Needless to say, the manufacturers have not attempted to weigh my death-defying, wildly acrobatic Red Squirrel Bandit. Dude is BONELESS, I swear, and weighs less than the average sparrow... Until he has successfully emptied the contents of the aforementioned bird feeder into his stomach, that is...)

There I sat, typing away, pausing every few moments to "gently remind" my youngest child to turn off the hose... now... before it floods the ENTIRE backyard, not to mention our basement...

When who should shimmy up the bird feeder pole but The Red Bandit. I stopped in mid-shout, to turn my head and gaze incredulously into his beady little eyes... Clearly, this was a rodent who was well and truly OVER his "fear" of me.

After a few minutes, I abandoned the stare-off, sighed heavily, and made a mental note that ANOTHER econo-sized bag of bird seed would need to be added to this week's grocery list. As I returned to my work, I could hear the little fecker madly crunching away behind me... and it was all I could do do squelch my murderous instincts, and instead try to concentrate on the topic of the day: Great Horned Owls.

Twenty minutes later, the post was finally finished, but even as I pushed the "Publish" button, it was clear that Red's appetite for seeds was insatiable. I remember thinking that surely he MUST have eaten the equivalent of his entire body weight, three times over, in just one "sitting". Surely, AT SOME POINT, the bird feeder's weight sensor would kick in, the buffet door would come clanging down, and Big Red would have to make one of his Baryshnikov-like leaps to save himself from hitting the ground.

I clicked the "View Blog" button, to proof-read my work one last time, and check to be sure that all of my audio players were working properly... and forgot to first check the volume of my laptop's speakers.

Oh, Happy Day!

Because, it turns out that there is NO greater squirrel-deterrent more fast-acting and effective than THE CALL OF THE GREAT HORNED OWL, played at top-volume, at mid-day: a time when most little rodents of the non-nocturnal variety are feeling a little bit too bold and "relaxed" about their personal safety.

The vigour and vim with which The Red Bandit bolted off of that bird feeder shocked even ME. He positively bounced off of the back fence, he was in such a hurry to hide himself.

And blissfully, I haven't seen him since.

It's been nearly 24 hours, now. And I'm seriously considering placing little hidden speakers all over my garden, so that I can project a looped-version of the owl call at strategic times... Like, for instance, just after I've re-planted all my bulbs in the fall. Hell, maybe I'll even put a few speakers up in the attic this winter, too.

And if I'm very, very lucky, maybe a REAL owl will hear the recording, and interpret it as an invitation to take up permanent residence with us...

Because that would be the BEST protection of all against the *&%$@! Red Bandit.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Guess whooooo we heard last night...

At the unhoooly hour of ten o'clock last night, Child Number Two came bursting into my bedroom (where I had retreated to "peacefully" attempt to read a book. Okay, a knitting pattern. I don't have enough time for reading entire books these days.)

She leapt onto my bed, brushed my reading material to one side, and in one fell swoop, landed squarely in my lap. Her arms curled 'round my neck and tightened strangulatingly, as she screeched something into my ear about "NOISEOUTSIDE! MONSTERSMAYBE! SOUNDEDLIKEASCARYSHOWONTV!!!!!!!!!"

Now, my bedroom is just across the hall from hers at the front of our house, and I was able to assure her that I, myself, had heard no such sound. When I had finally calmed her down enough, and smoothed the panicky perspiration from her brow, I asked exactly what the sound had been like.

Child Number Two: It went like this.... (arching her eyebrows right up to her hairline) Hoooo, hoo-hooo.... HOOOOOOO, OOOOOOO"

I had to laugh.... because the expression on her face made her look like a pale-faced, spitting-image of The Count on "The Hilarious House of Frightenstein".

But, then I stopped. A lightbulb suddenly went "on" in my tired, old brain.

Because the rhythm of the sounds she was making suddenly rang a bell.

"Hooo, hoo-hooo.... HOOOOOOO, OOOOOO"

"Whooo's awake? MEEEEEE, TOOOOO"

That? Is the call of the Great Horned Owl.

Yes, indeed, it is.

It would appear that all my efforts at bird-call memorization are beginning to pay off at last.

I grabbed my bathrobe, pelted (as quietly as possible) down the stairs and straight out the front door of our house, with my two eldest children in hot pursuit. We settled ourselves on the front step, and listened to this beautiful sound:

I have yet to actually set eyes on our beautiful, elusive Great Horned Owl... but I certainly hope he'll be in our neck of the woods again tonight. Because I've decided I'm going to sally out for a little late-night stroll. And if my new feathered friend cares to ask me:

"Whoooo's awake?"

I plan on answering:

"Meeee, tooooo!"


It feels like we're just trying to keep
our heads above water these days...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

One of the "Chocolate Elite"

The great Sandra Boynton, in her book, "Chocolate: The Consuming Passion", defines a member of the "Chocolate Elite" as someone who likes chocolate in all of its infinite variety (using the word "like" as in, "I like to breathe").

Let it be known to all readers of this blog (if it hasn't become wildly obvious already) that I am most definitely counted among the throngs of this illustrious group of people. And, if I keep eating chocolate the way I do, before too long, my steadily-increasing girth might very well qualify me as the equivalent of two, or perhaps even three Elitists.

I love chocolate.

Always have.

Want to know how much of a sickness my obsession is?

I love chocolate so much, I hoard it, and then I hide it from other people. I was stashing chocolate even when I was 21 years old, single, and living alone downtown in a bachelor apartment (it's hard enough to find hiding spots when you're living in a small, walk-in closet, and even harder to hide large boxes from ONESELF).

Last Friday was my 39th birthday (ahem), and it will be no surprise to anyone who knows me, that my very best birthday present... turned out to be the one that has ALWAYS been the very best.

My sainted, long-suffering parents showed up on my doorstep at ten o'clock in the morning, bearing an enormous, chocolate birthday cake.

Not just ANY birthday cake.

MY birthday cake. The cake that my mother has been baking for me for more years than I care to count. It is, to put it mildly, "choc-ful" of the most decadent ingredients you can imagine... and the mere THOUGHT of the taste sensation produced by every enormous mouthful is enough to make me want to lie down on the floor and roll around for awhile.

This cake isn't "easy", and it certainly isn't inexpensive to produce. But, it is quite possibly one of the most important recipes in our family "canon".

Because, this is cake. Truly magnificent cake. "Food Sex", my husband aptly calls it, and there ain't no higher culinary praise from a man than that.

But, most importantly, for me, the preparation of this cake, year after year, is a symbol of how very much my mother loves me.

That... mixed, quite possibly, with a small dose of revenge-- no doubt felt in its fullness, as she closes my front door on three hyper-active, sugar-high grandchildren, at the end of each and every birthday visit.

But you know what?

It's TOTALLY worth it.

Thanks, Mum. Love you, too.

MY Birthday Cake
(Go bake your own!)

For the cake (3 layers):

2 c all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp double-acting baking powder
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp salt
2 c sugar
2/3 c water
2 large eggs
4 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
1 c sour cream
1 tsp vanilla

For the filling:

2/3 c black cherry preserves
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

For the chocolate dipped cherries, and icing:

1 8-oz jar of maraschino cherries, WITH stems, drained and rinsed
1/3 c cherry brandy (or plain brandy, actually)
16 oz semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1 c of sour cream at room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla

Okay... are you ready for this??


Into a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together the sugar and the butter, until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Then, beat in the chocolate, the sour cream, the vanilla and the water. Add the flour mixture and beat the batter at "high" speed for 3 minutes.

Line the bottoms of 3 buttered 8-inch round cake pans with rounds of waxed paper. Butter the rounds and dust the pans with flour, shaking out the excess. Divide the batter evenly among the pans and bake the layers in the middle of a pre-heated, 350 degree oven, for 35-40 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pans for 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edges, and invert onto wire cooling racks.


In a blender or food processor, puree the preserves with the lemon juice, until the filling is smooth. Transfer the filling to a small bowl.

Chocolate Dipped Cherries:

Arrange the cherries in a small bowl, cover them with brandy, and let them macerate in the freezer for 30 minutes. Drain the cherries. (*hic*) Dip them one-at-a-time in the chocolate, letting the excess drip off. Place them on a tray lined with wax paper, and chill them in the fridge until the cake is ready to decorate.


In a bowl, beat together the remaining chocolate, the sour cream, a pinch of salt, and the vanilla, until the icing is combined well. The icing should be very glossy. If the sour cream is too cool, the icing will become too firm... if this happens, add 1 or 2 tbsp of hot water.

Assemble the cake, spreading half of the filling between each layer. Spread the outside with chocolate icing, and then arrange the chocolate dipped cherries in a circle on top.

Serves One Highly "Elite" Birthday Girl.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

July 11th

It's my birthday.

"18 Til I Die" a live performance by Bryan Adams


This past spring, I decided to undertake a little, "un-official" upgrading to my post-graduate education.

I am trying to learn a new language. Again. (Let the friends and family members who know me-- and love me anyway-- roll their eyes here.)

Oh, I've tried learning foreign languages in the past... I did okay in highschool French, and managed to learn just enough to satisfy my mark requirements for university entrance. I even picked up a few phrases of German from my sister, who learned the language well enough to go on a foreign exchange.

Then, there was the year my father and I undertook learning Italian from a set of cassette tapes, which we played during our morning car-rides together (he dropped me off at school, on his way to work). We actually did far more giggling than learning, as we repeated the (largely useless) tourist-y sentences to one another... The idea was that he would eventually be able to understand some of his favourite operas a little better, without the aid of sub-titles. Which, of course, never actually happened, since we were doing conversational rather than high fallootin' Italian. In actual fact, the only thing that I remember from all of our lessons is a polite, Canadian-esque: "Mi scusi... Excuse me!" To this day, whenever I manage to work that phrase into a conversation, using my finest accent and arching one eyebrow, I can still make my father laugh. Even if he's feeling cross. And so, it would seem that all of our efforts were not completely in vain.

It was my dad who got me going on this new language kick, too, actually. A few months ago, he sent me a 3-cd set, and a little booklet to help get me started.

But it is not a language that, even if I manage to master it by ear, I will ever be able to speak.

And that is because this language is actually sung.

Not by humans, but by birds.

Yes, folks, I am learning how to "birdwatch" with my ears. Because, if you learn to listen for birds, it becomes much easier to spot them, once you know what you're actually looking for.

Not that it's any easier to learn to identify bird calls and songs, than it is to learn a foreign human language... Just like us, birds love to use "slang"-- they change-up their songs, just as we create new words, and they constantly add and subtract "syllables" to and from their repertoire. Even if I manage to memorize the basic songs and calls on these cds, it will still be tricky to learn to accurately identify bird songs I hear in the wild... But, thanks to the fact that I've had a bit of musical training in the past, and have gradually developed a bit of an "ear" for remembering basic themes and tunes, memorizing "the basics" of birdsong has been not too difficult... so far.

What I discovered helps me the most are the words, or "lyrics", that the instructor on the cd has set to many of the bird songs. They are intended to help the listener remember the rhythm and changing pitch of the sounds. Here are a few of my favourite examples:

-Many people know that the American Robin's most basic song can be easily remembered, if you imagine that it sings, "Cheer-up, cheerily! Cheer-up, cheerily!"

-A Red-Eyed Vireo sounds like it's singing, "Here I am, where are you? Here I am, where are you?"

-One of the sweetest songs is that of a Barred Owl, who sounds as though he hoots "Who cooks for you, who cooks for YOOOOUUU all?"

-But my favourite (and my Dad's too), is undoubtedly the White-Throated Sparrow, who sings a rhythmic "Ooold Sam Peabody, Peabody, Peabody!"

It is uncanny how quickly I've been able to pick up and identify songs, once I've set them to words that I can easily remember.

There are also songs and calls that can be identified, because they are similar to other familiar sound-effects we hear in "real life". The Field Sparrow, for example, makes an accelerating trilling noise, that sounds like a ping-pong ball being dropped on a table. The Black-and-White Warbler makes a sound like a very annoying, squeaky wheel on a child's tricycle.

The ones I've had the most difficult time remembering are the songs that have been set to made-up words. For instance, the Summer Tanager's "Picki-tucki-tuck!", the American Bittern's "WOONK-ka-chunk!", and most maddeningly, the White-Eyed Vireo's "Chick-per-a-weeeeeo, Chick-per-a-weeeeeeooo..." drive me absolutely crazy. That last one has a tendency to throw in a couple of more "chick!" sounds every once in awhile, which throws me right off, every damn time.

Looking back on that last paragraph, it's no wonder I've had a tough time with those songs... They seem even more ridiculous written down, than when I'm trying to sing them out loud to myself. The whole exercise would make rather good fodder for a Monty Python sketch, come to think of it...


Oh, well. Luckily, we've got plenty of Chick-a-dees, Killdeers, Phoebes, and Pewees around these parts. Because they are all a type of bird called a "Name-Sayer": they actually TELL ME who they are, as soon as they open their little beaks, and save me no end of time and trouble.


(Red-Winged Blackbird!! Got it!! Hah!)

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


Scenes from the farm, on this beautiful,
hot, hazy Wednesday morning...


And now, I've got a craving for cereal... go figure...


This is the first work in a series by new Canadian artist,
Wee Three, which we entitled,

"Laundry Stains"

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

This One's For The Girls

In the morning hours of July 5th, the blogging world lost an incredible voice.

Andrea, A.K.A. "Punk Rock Mommy", passed from this life, after a brave fight with breast cancer.

Today, I paid my daily visit to Whymommy's site, Toddler Planet, and discovered a most wonderful tribute to Andrea... and, in order to help her reach out to as many of you as possible, I am going to re-print the information she offered.

Please, please take a moment to take a careful look at the picture below (click on it to find a link to an enlarged version), and read about the 12 signs of breast cancer. Then, check yourself. Regularly. And remind all those you love how important it is to be your own best advocate for your health. Because knowledge and awareness about this terrible disease, and vigilance about performing a regular, monthly breast self-examination could save your life. If you think you recognize any of these symptoms, please call your doctor.

The signs of breast cancer
can be broken down into 12 basic categories:

1. hardening

2. growing vein

3. redness or hotness

4. skin erosion/rash

5. visible bump

6. puckering or dimpling

7. retracted nipple

8. new asymmetry

9. change in shape or size

10. unusual fluid

11. invisible lump

12. skin that looks like an orange

These signs can happen on the breast or sometimes in the armpit where lymph nodes are located. They are sometimes accompanied by soreness or itching. Soreness and itching itself though is not a sign of breast cancer. And near your period, the breast often changes for a week or two. It’s best to check a few days after your period when your breasts have the best chance of being “normal.”

Please visit the World Wide Breast Cancer Site for more detailed information.

In Andrea's last post, she wrote:

"I learned a lot over the year that I battled this dreaded disease. I learned that it is not in our best interest to hold out expectations to God. He is not Santa Clause. He does what is right and good. This was my path. My journey in this world was difficult and painful but important in my spiritual growth. I learned that we have to be happy despite our circumstances. We can’t say I will be happy when…. No sweeties be happy now because today is all you have.

I learned that all the small stuff is very small and not worth your time and attention. Gossip and resentments,worrying about things that never happen, fearing the unknown. Let it go my lovelies, breath and just be good to each other."

Thank you so much, Andrea, for sharing your life journey with us.

You fought a good fight, and taught us so much.

Rest in peace.

Monday, July 7, 2008

When Daisies Pied

When Daisies Pied

by William Shakespeare
from his play, "Love's Labour's Lost"

When daisies pied and violets blue
And lady-smocks all silver-white
And cuckoo-buds of yellow hue
Do paint the meadows with delight,
The cuckoo then, on every tree,
Mocks married men; for thus sings he,
Cuckoo, cuckoo: O, word of fear,
Unpleasing to a married ear!

When shepherds pipe on oaten straws,
And merry larks are ploughmen's clocks,
When turtles tread, and rooks, and daws,
And maidens bleach their summer smocks,
The cuckoo then, on every tree,
Mocks married men; for thus sings he,
Cuckoo, cuckoo: O, word of fear,
Unpleasing to a married ear!

When icicles hang by the wall,
And Dick the shepherd blows his nail,
And Tom bears logs into the hall,
And milk comes frozen home in pail,
When blood is nipp'd, and ways be foul,
Then nightly sings the staring-owl,
Tu-whit, tu-who—a merry note,
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.

When all aloud the wind doth blow,
And coughing drowns the parson's saw,
And birds sit brooding in the snow,
And Marian's nose looks red and raw,
When roasted crabs hiss in the bowl,
Then nightly sings the staring owl,
Tu-whit, tu-who—a merry note,
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.

A famous tale told by my former piano teacher and choir master was of the year he adjudicated at a very large music festival... and a sprightly little boy stood before him, and pronounced the first line of this song, "When Daisies PEED". Ever the gentleman, my teacher kept a straight face throughout the performance, and even while he delivered his "notes" to the contestants at the end of the class. I've no doubt he nearly "peed" himself laughing, once he had safely made it out to his car and was driving home, however...

For my DLB...

We love you--
xo YBS and Girlies 3 xoxoxo

"Happiness", from the musical, "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown"

Friday, July 4, 2008

On The 4th of July...

Last night, I spent several hours (obsessively) combing through my (massive) music collection, in an attempt to find just the right selection to celebrate my American friends' Independence Day.

I confess, I have a "thing" for American anthems and patriotic music.

You Americans have the privilege of playing and singing some of the most uplifting, inspiring melodies and lyrics in the world. You lucky, lucky people.

"The Star-Spangled Banner" brings tears to my eyes every single time I hear it... A national anthem that has its theme based on an arpeggio? Sheer brilliance. And that soaring pinnacle of the song, that is more-often-than-not slowed, ever so slightly, to heighten anticipation at the conclusion:

Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
(Insert the beginnings of wild cheering and whistling of the crowd here)
O'er the land of the freeeeeeee........
And the home of the brave?

It leaves one positively breathless. And I'm not just talking about the singer who performs it.

My favourite American anthem, however, is undoubtedly, "God Bless America". I'm not sure why... perhaps it is the lyrical descriptions of the beautiful landscapes that I can picture in my mind's eye as I listen to it. I have many, many happy memories of travelling with my family, all over the United States. And, a great deal of the literature I studied in University was written by Americans. Much of the symbolism in those books was derived from the beauty of the land, and the deep, emotional connection its citizens have to it.

At the end of "God Bless America", the music swells to a climax, and after nearly bursting with national pride, the song concludes with a phrase that brings the whole sentiment back down to the level of the individual. Suddenly, the emotions become deeply "personal" in the very last line:

"God Bless America! My home sweet home!"

I. love. it.

But I digress. Slightly.

Picture me, once again, wading through musical selections. Listening carefully, with an (overly) critical ear. Considering... and then rejecting just about every, single one. Because I don't know if you've figured this out yet, but I'm just a wee bit picky when it comes to the music I post here...

By eleven-thirty, I still hadn't found anything "worthy", and it was time to drag myself off to bed. But before I closed down my computer, I decided to check my e-mails one last time.

And guess what?

My father had written to me. And attached a little "gift". Ironically, my dear old dad had been listening to music-for-the-fourth-of-July, as well, at the very same time as I had been. (This isn't the first time something like this has happened. We call this strange psychic connection the "Family Radar". Or, the "F.R." for short.)

The very BEST selection he found, he sent to me.

Up over there on the right, you will find a spectacular performance of "The Stars and Stripes Forever". It is played on a monster-sized pipe organ, by the brilliant British organist Simon Preston.

Crank up the volume, my American friends.

Enjoy, and know that I, too, celebrate all that is most wonderful about the United States: Each and every one of YOU.

Un peu de fromage...

You, in America, have this:

Packaged American cheese

We, in Canada, have this:

Packaged Canadian fromage

And, while I confess to suffering a violent, involuntary physical reaction, triggered by the sound of Céline Dion's singing (not dis-similar to the one Cosmo Kramer has whenever he hears the voice of Mary Hart):

I have (perhaps foolishly) decided to post this as my "Canadian Content" for today... Please, forgive me.

Ladies and Gentlemen, brace yourselves. For this is Céline Dion, accompanied by fellow Canuck, David Foster, performing "God Bless America":

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Horsing around...

No more peeking longingly over the fence...

Child Number Two is finally old enough, at age seven, to have the horseback riding lessons she has been longing for, for the past two years.

She looks like a teeny, tiny flea perched a-waaaaaay up there on the back of one of these enormous, magnificent creatures... But the pure happiness that beams out of her, as she and the horse trot around the ring-- or better yet, when they are together in the barn, and she is gently grooming animals and feeding them little treats-- is positively magical.

Love you, my big little girl.

For Nan and The Boys...

I heard you!!! Here's your "fix" of another one of Canada's finest citizens... Enjoy, my friends, and thank-you for reading!

A very young, very sweet Joni Mitchell singing a slightly unusual version of "Big Yellow Taxi", in concert, waaaay back in 1970.

(To be honest, as more and more of the beautiful old farms around here get paved over to make way for new subdivisions, "Big Yellow Tractor" gives me even more of a pang in my heart than the original song does...)

My friend Nan can be found at "Things I Found In Pockets" : a hilariously funny blog about one woman's life as an artist, wife and mother of three boys, in Trinidad and Tobago.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

O Kanata!

This afternoon, the girlies and I attended a wonderful Canada Day celebration, on our town's Main Street. The part we enjoyed most of all was a performance by The Gonrah Desgohwah White Pine Dancers, who originate from the Kanata Village, in Brantford, Ontario. Gonrah Desgohwah means "tree with five needles" in the Onondaga Language (Haudenosaunee, Six Nations, Iroquois) , and is pronounced "Gon-rah-dis-go-wah".

This extraordinary group of performers not only demonstrate exquisite First Nations dance and music, but also educate while they are performing. Using his wildly funny sense of humour, Aaron Bell, who is an Ojibway storyteller and narrates the performances, shares an incredible amount of information about Canada's First Nations People, their traditions, and their beliefs. Says Aaron, "We are trying to create a more understanding today, so that there is less misunderstanding for our children tomorrow."

Several years ago, the Girl Guide troupe that I was leading had the great good fortune to attend an hour-long presentation by The White Pine Dancers... And, I can honestly say that I learned more about the First Nations People during that hour, than I did during five long years of highschool history classes.

Of course, what strikes me immediately are the beautiful ceremonial garments that the dancers wear while they perform, and the incredible visual effects they create as they move...

Here is a short video I took of "The Healing Dance". The lovely jingle-y "cabochons" that adorn this gown, and make such an important contribution to the musical accompaniment of the dance, are now made of a thin metal. I was told that historically, they would have been made from deer hooves. Aaron assured us that deer don't take having their toes stolen lightly... but I can't help wondering how different the sound effect must have been, when the "natural fibre" was used...

I am so proud to be a citizen of a country, so rich in heritage, and in history. It is such a great honour to be a Canadian.

Patriotic, eh?

This is for my darling brother, who currently resides far away from The Great White North...

Happy Canada Day, hosehead... Miss you like crazy.

ybs, CGF xoxo

The McKenzie Brothers (Bob and Doug) are two of SCTV's (and Canada's) finest sons: Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas. Thanks to their brilliantly funny television segment, "The Great White North" (which was originally known as "Kanadian Korner"), my brother, sister and I were subject to years of gentle ribbing from our peers when we were young teenagers, for reasons that shall remain "anonymous"...

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