Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Feed the Birds

The lady next door is very strange.  Her patterned babooshka hides most of her bald head as she stands outside her back door calling the birds.

-Cree, creeee, creeeeee, she sings out.  Cree, creeee, creeeeeee.

My sleep-filled eyes pop open at the early morning call.  Cooing and furious flapping sounds fill the air and pour in my open window, making sleep a distant memory.  375 birds flock in from all directions, gather en masse in a swirling circle over a 4 house radius for breakfast each morning and supper each evening.

Sulphurous patches of poop land indiscriminately on decks, fences and garden furniture.  Feathers and down float through the air, picked up and carried on the slightest breeze.  Large bird bodies colliding with windows or clogging chimneys is a common occurrence here.  Besides the noise, the pollution and the health hazards, civic by-laws disallow the feeding of wild animals and birds, making the whole backyard pigeon coop thingy illegal.

-Birds have souls too, you know.  They are dearer than people.  I take care of them, feed them and protect them.

Neighbourly relations have strained to the point of breaking on this block, but the lady in the babooshka sings on:
-Cree, creee, creeeeeeee, every morning and evening, calling her feathered friends for free food!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Wedding Jitters

We’re in countdown mode: 12, 11, 10, 9…..

A month ago, or even two weeks ago, things seemed well in hand. All that could be done in advance had been accomplished. Now, however….

The flowers can’t be done til the day before the wedding and we need a dedicated refrigerator to store them.

The cake has to be driven to the decorator this Monday and picked up the day of the wedding. I don't want that job...what if I drop it???   The last-minute To Do List keeps getting longer and longer.

The custom-made off-white shirts came back pretty much white.

The Groom’s black suit turns out to be dark blue.

The pastel ties and hankies arrived in neon colours.
The tent for the reception is too small and the twinkle lights can’t go up until the evening before, right when we should be doing the Dinner with out-of-town guests thing.

The scorching heat is staying in Southern Ontario, while Alberta keeps getting colder and colder. The Bride’s strapless dress needs some insulation.

 Mother-of-the-bride just keeps on shopping. The top—check. The hat—check. A cami for under the top if it gets too hot—check. The bottom (3): skort—check. Capris—check. Long pants—check. I’m set for everything short of snow.

Important things that NOBODY in the wedding party has control over have begun popping up. The hair stylist broke up with her boyfriend this week and will no longer be attending the wedding with him. She has decided to bail on the whole day! The scramble is on to find a replacement on short notice.

Cougars and bears have begun making appearances closer and closer to the town site. This tends to make “some of us” a tad bit nervous about the 20 minute hike up the trails to the Elk Meadow!!!!

No, I am not in a panic, no screaming heebeegeebies, not yet. I am breaking out in a rash, not sleeping much or eating anything. The extreme heat probably has something to do with all that and one always wants to shed a few pounds, so we are not too worried.

Every wedding has a story. Stay tuned and let’s see what evolves with this one.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Tour de France

It's July and that means the television is set to the Tour de France 24/7 at my house.

In 1903, 60 men raced 2500 km. around the country of France on bicycles to publicize "L'Auto Magazine" .  The rest is history. 

In 1995, when Miguel Induran and Lance Armstrong were the riders of the day, my husband and sons were riding 100 mile races and for our family, the rest is history--we all do the daily, armchair race review every year. 

For me, the scenery around France is the best part of the live coverage.  I drool over the castles, the cathedrals, more castles, the vineyards, the rivers, the canals, and more castles.  The intricacies of the race itself are somewhat beyond me.  I tend to focus on the multi-colours of the peleton (main group of riders), the drama of the spectacular crashes (think major domino effects), the wild break aways (moving ahead of the peleton) and the amazing bodies of all those young men. 

I mean really, they are living machines, constantly needing fuel, repair and maintenance.  There they go, 50 km/hr, legs and hearts pumping a million times a minute, eating and drinking and chatting with the guys next to them.  And all that while negotiating steep mountain terrain, trying to avoid hazzards and obsticles.  Who says men are not able to multi-task?

It seems there are many races within the Race.  Each day is called a stage.  The winner of the day is a stage winner and he gets points for his win.  The rider with the most overall points wears the Green Jersey.  The rider who tops the mountains first is called King of the Mountains and gets to wear a white and red Polka Dot Jersey.  The leader with the best overall time wears the Yellow Jersey.  Then there is the Rainbow Jersey for the current World Champion, and Rainbow arm bands on the jersies of past World Champions.  The rider wearing the White Jersey is the best new rider.

Things have changed since 1903.  The race now covers over 3600 kilometers.  Bikes and equipment have evolved, now having gears and weighing less than a six pack of coke.  Gone are the steel frame bikes of yesteryear.  Aerodynamics, weight and response are the rules of the day now--all coming at a high price:  $10,000 to $25,000 per bike.  Riders are supported with caravans of mechanics, equipment, spare parts and bikes.  No longer do they pedal for days with spare tires around their necks! Medical teams administer first aid on the spot, or call for air lift to deal with major injuries. 

From these and those pictures I just couldn't bear to post, it is easy to see why 40% of those starting out do not complete the race.

And then there is the media. This year, 2050 journalists broadcast live coverage to 188 countries.  It is estimated that 12 - 15 million spectators (80% French) are following along.  The cameramen perch on the back of motorcycles and cars, dangle from airplanes, hot air balloons and tall buildings. 
600 sponsors in the publicity caravan help finance the tour by giving up 200- 500,000 Euros to participate.

A few final pics for you and I'm off to watch today's recap. 
all photos and videos compliments of public domaine.

Au'revoir mes amis. A bientot.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Suppertime Stabbing

A delicious, serendipitous meal with great company. 
Life is good. 

Clean up is simply straightforward.  Lifting the salad bowl from the dish drainer set up an unexpected chain reaction:  Oh-oh!

The drainer tipped.
The plates slid to one end.
I dropped the wooden bowl and tea towel, grabbing for the plates.
The steak knives catapulted into the air and came raining down like a volley of arrows let loose by an ambushing enemy.

The main casualty was my left great toe--stabbed to the bone.

The moral of this story is this:
Sometimes I am my own worst enemy.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


I’m not a morning person. I’m not great at late nights either. I guess I’m a middle-of-the-day kind. As daylight hits my face, I slowly surface to awareness, quietly, peacefully. Propped up on pillows with a good novel for and hour or so is my preferred first activity of the day.

Hubby, on the other hand, lives for breakfast. He leaps from his bed and has coffee on the go before I’ve even opened my eyes. He plans his first meal of the day the night before. His ritual involves certain foods on certain days. The highlight of his week is French Toast Saturday.

He goes out for breakfast.

During the Monday to Friday grind, he’s coming back from the local greasy spoon as I am just showing my face. On weekends, he inveigles upon me to join him in what he considers the most civilized cultural foray into the day—breakfast at Rosie’s. Today I relented and went along.

Oh my gosh! The owners, servers and several patrons beamed wide grins and hollered greetings as we came through the door. Groan. Already I heard my pillows, duvet and book calling me back.
One egg, no bread, no potatoes, no meat. Herbal tea—a big pot. No. Nothing else, thank you. No. Really.

Chatter, clatter, crash. Noise of a busy, early morning diner is not my thing. I look around. Every combination of breakfast companions is represented:
A father with small daughter was doing the French toast, slurping syrup and dunking crusts in the milk.


Yoga buddies, mats rolled up and nesting under their table, their pink, body hugging outfits revealing they do not have to hold back on the Eggs Benny. Loaded fork poised, knife gesturing menacingly, the two-fisted eater was intensely engaged in conversation.

Say what? I’m still asleep.

Beside us, an older couple is starting the day with their married children. The smart phone is being passed around their table displaying the latest photos.

Show and tell. I need my glasses.

A senior lady breaking her fast alone, reclined in her booth, her arm stretched out along the back of the bench. She cleaned her teeth with her tongue and engaged another single lady nearby, discussing the weather.

I’ll water the flowers when I get home. Please hurry with the tea. Please.

By the window, a young family. The only one awake at that table was the two year old in the booster seat. He was alive and on fire. Dad had that vacant look of insomnia and inertia with which I could totally relate.

Slow down—we have all day.

So, who among you is a morning person? Do you do breakfast or brunch? They charge extra for brunch, don’t ya know?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Expansion and Beyond

In an effort to whittle down those Never-Say-Die-Ten-Pounds that forever cling to my frame, I have begun a 10,000 steps programme.  Why not?  I've tried everything else!  You would be surprised how long and how far one has to go to take ten thousand steps.  For me, an hour of walking will about do it.  We have a large lawn that needs cutting regularly.  Our drugstore is a mile away, there and back.  The dog park is good for a few.  Pup and I are pacing the neighbourhood and beyond.

And so it is with great enthusiasm that I report the expansion of the Hood.

In the past 27 years, our family has only once visited the park across the pond.  Technically, it was outside our realm and we drove there to go tobogganing.  The Jaycee Park was established in 1975 on the site of the old Welland Canal. Over the past several seasons, a new bridge was constructed to join the park to Port Dalhousie.  Of course, as with any change to the status quo, the proposed plan and subsequent upheaval met with intense criticism.  I was oblivious to it all, away in the Bahamas.  When I returned home at the end of April, there it was--complete and ready for action.

This photo (if enlarged) shows the reviewing stands for the Henley Regatta Course.  The bridge will be a very advantageous spot for viewing the competion come August!

City parks, like High Park in London and Central Park in New York, were conceived around the end of the Industrial Revolution, in the 1800's.  Built to give space and enticement for divergent classes of society to mingle and recreate, the theory is in play to this day in cities the world over.  Our Jaycee Park was used by a small section of our city, left in quiet repose for the most part.  The new bridge has opened it up to a whole new neighbourhood. 

Now Dog and I have wonderful walks across the water, through the gardens, watching the ducks, geese and swans, and counting out many hundreds of more steps.

What about you--does your family enjoy a favorite park?
Do you picnic there, play sports, stroll and enjoy the peace and quiet?