Thursday, 24 November 2011


I love Blue, just all shades of blue. Since I am pressed for time to play with words, I figured I would share with you some recent pictures of this handsome bird.

This is the most I have seen of these fellas in the autumn. A feeder is a great way to meet them while they are in transit. Sadly they have sent my smaller visitors flying. Blue jays are very territorial.

Thursday, 10 November 2011


I have been obsessed with the malaria parasite for nearly a decade now. Not like a scientist in a laboratory would be, but it my own way. I kept up with the research, kept thinking it through, drawing my own diagrams and often wondering what I would do if I were the parasite. I have lots of respect for this bug. It is very clever. I say that for lack of a better word.

Now scientists are getting closer to finding a vaccine. It is very exciting that they have identified the receptors involved.  After reading this I went looking for one of my first papers on malaria, written nearly eleven years ago (nerd, I know, I keep them all). I also kept it because I enjoyed writing it so much. The good thing about keeping old papers is that I get to revisit questions I was not able to answer back then, questions that come up when you do your literature reviews. Sometimes the papers are down right embarrassing.

What I had learned back then was that the four different types of malaria parasites seem to be attracted to red blood cells in various stages of development. P.falciparum, the most virulent of them all, invades red cells of all ages where as P.vivax and P.ovale prefer younger red cells and P.malariae seeks mature cells. So my question was to do with the difference in molecular structure of the red blood cells in its various stages of development. This article kind of gets at that. I am sure it is a matter of time before we learn enough to confer protection for those most at risk.

Sometimes it is just as exciting to be a spectator of science. I love it!

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

The last bunch

I have put my garden to bed for another six months. I planted all of my bulbs, raked the leaves and mulched every bed. I like to tidy things up in the Fall so when my little surprises start to show in the Spring I can enjoy them without the rotting foliage all around. There's plenty to do in the Spring anyway. The garden is in for a major overhaul.

I also pruned my roses down quite harshly this time and covered them with just a mound of mulch. They didn't do to well. Caterpillars and every kind of bug got to them, my neighbour's giant tree casting more shade than we had four years ago could be partly to blame. Well, 2012 may bring a new kind of Summer and hopefully be kinder to my Golden Celebration.

The last of my favourite roses

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Narcissus, more of them

My very own in mid-Spring, 2011

Anyone who knows me and has been reading this blog will know that I love flowers. Much to my delight I recently discovered that my thumb is more green than black. Although this Summer was not so great for my garden, in general it fared well. I even had some luck with the bulbs I planted last year. So I got a bit bold and decided to buy a few more, well about fifty more, but in my defense I bought only daffodil bulbs. They are more resilient and squirrels are not likely to dig them up. They all went in today, on the second day of November with a maximum high of 18 degrees Celsius!

Glorious Narcissus - not my garden

I thoroughly enjoyed my time outdoors planting the bulbs, and got to thinking about how the flower got its name. And of course I searched the internet and found the story of Narcissus. I know my friend Prashani would know more and tell this hunter's story way better. The simple scientific explanation for the name exists, but I like the story of the narcissus being the first flower to spring from the place where this vain Greek hunter died. Much more exotic. Perhaps I like this story even more because the daffodils come up just when you feel like you might die from the cold and misery all around towards the end of winter. Even before the flowers bloom the tender shoots just barely out of the soil is a promise of sunny days and gentle summer breezes.

More of mine in our tiny backyard

Now I only have to wait six months before the daffodils come up.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

So much for choice

I've lost count of how often I've been told that I always have a choice. It does help to remind myself of that when I have to come to terms with a lousy situation I find myself in. Then again there are times when I feel 'choice' is one of my major issues these days. I am not philosophizing about life here, but speaking about choice of commercial products.

I miss the days when all I had to choose from was SR and Signal toothpaste. I liked the red and white stripes of Signal, but SR tasted better. I settled for the former because that was what we had at home and I vaguely remember a conversation about Signal being better. You just brushed your teeth and it was all good. When it came to soap, I think there was much more variety, but most people just bought Lux, including my family, because it was choice of beauty queens, or something like that. Now, if I said I use Sensodyne (because I am aging and brushed until my gums deteriorated, because I was told to back in the day when Signal was the big shot toothpaste) it would not be adequate. There are so many kinds of Sensodyne, and it is only one of a dozen brands, each with its own special kinds. The mind boggles.

The reason I am talking about this is because a while ago I was thoroughly frustrated shopping for some feminine hygiene product (that is what the aisle is labelled, the entire aisle dedicated to tampons and sanitary napkins). I had walked up and down the aisle for nearly half an hour, and that is no exaggeration. There was ultra thin, with wings, without wings, regular, overnight, head hurt from trying to decide what I needed. It all ultimately boils down to what we need, right? Why then is it so bloody hard? And why would I, in my ripe-old age be there not knowing what I need?! Because, they keep changing packaging and labeling on me, those bloody morons. I just wanted to walk away, but how could I, I needed the product, but didn't know which one to buy. I could ask a friend, but her needs would be different from mine, which is why we have such an array, right?

Lets face it. I am very picky and particular. So if the manufacturers stayed consistent then life would be a wee bit easier. I did buy something and I did not like it one bit but used it anyway because there is no alternate use for it (or is there?).  Now I have to go back and begin my monthly exercise routine walking up and down the aisle in my search for the next best sanitary napkin.

Oh the life of a consumerist in materialistic North America!

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Yet another cake

I figured I would bake the Hubby a cake, not that he cares much for a cake on his birthdays, but the Offspring's entire idea of a birthday is a cake. So much so that when I asked him to wish his father a happy birthday he rushed off, jumped on the bed, said, "happy birthday Appa, come lets get your happy birthday together." We showed him the banana bread in the kitchen that we baked a few days before. But there was no fooling this monkey. But he had to wait almost an entire day.

The cake itself was easy to make, but as usual has a story to go with it (as is the case with a lot of my cooking endevours). I decided to bake an angry bird cake since there was a brief time, when the the iPad had first entered the household, we'd lost Hubby to angry birds. I would even take the Offspring away to leave the man alone to get work done. Imagine my horror when I discovered that it was angry birds he was working on. It left me wondering how many angry wives there were because of these bloody angry birds. Fortunately it was a phase (I hope).

I did my homework, browsed the internet, tried sketching the bird and realized it would be easy once I got the outline on the cake. I also kept in mind some good advise from a dear friend who churns out one fantastic birthday cake after another for her three children. She makes me wish I was her daughters' age (I'd have to be ten and six) just to be at those parties. Anyways, I then got going feeling like I had done enough prep work. Alas that was not the case.

I could not find the no taste red icing colour. So I decided to use Christmas red instead. I know!!!

I had iced the eyes, beak and the neck. And I got to colouring the red, I used up two containers of the colouring and it still was not quite red, and it started to smell a wee bit like chlorine. I tasted it and nearly gagged. As I do with most things these days I rushed to the internet and the first thing you see on the Wilton icing products page is a warning about Christmas red and the nasty taste (not enough prep huh?). Now I had a tonne of red icing that could not be used and an hour and a half left on the clock to get it done.

I called the store to check if they had received any no taste red. Nope. I had to consider an alternative. A trip the grocery store was in order. On my way out a quick check in the mirror startled me, I had very red lips, so I checked my tongue. GOOD GOD! It was all red, so were my teeth. I decided I would just get my stuff, and use self-checkout and not talk (not easy for me to do). So I drove myself to the grocery store (which is within walking distance) to get some instant chocolate icing (I figured a brown bird could still be angry).

While I was on my knees muttering to myself a kind lady walked up and launched into a sales pitch for a credit card. I just kept shaking my head to say no. She was a little too persistent for my likes, so I did something I normally wouldn't do. I stuck my tongue out, and then said, "you see that, I am in trouble, on a deadline, leave me alone, please." The lady walked away very quickly and turned to take a look only when she had reached the end of the aisle. Fortunately no one else spoke to me. The rest was easy. I used the chocolate icing to finish the cake and hid it before the boys got home.

And that's another crazy cake story. I hope they don't all have a story that brings out the nutter in me.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Another day, another year older

It has been many many many moons since I was born on this day. I am very fond of my place of birth. I would have none of the small town makeshift hospitals. So I caused enough trouble to have my parents drive me to a more sophisticated city. They had almost given up on me, but lo and behold, there I was. And here I am!

I have always believed I am here for a purpose, much grander than all that I am doing right now. I know now that I cannot change the world, not in the way I used to at least. I can't adopt every child who needs a family, I cannot put food in every hungry stomach, I cannot bring world peace. It is all I can do to hold on to what is left of my sanity, leave alone caring for the orphans of the world, appeasing world hunger or ending futile wars.

My concerns are piteous. I fear the cold weather ahead. I fear I will be all alone come December, and end up talking to myself, and the only means of communication would be through facebook updates and this blog. I am afraid that my life has come to mean nothing, to anyone. I know it is up to me to make a change. But how? I have no answers, worse still, I am not looking for any. I am doing what I have always done best when it comes to me, living in denial. I am going to Istanbul now with Orhan Pamuk. He writes well, he only just won the Nobel Prize for literature!

And Oh, almost forgot, happy birthday to me.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

A call from Alex

I am in the middle of writing a bloody long paper, the longest I have ever written in my relatively short life. It is all to do with grad school, that's a story for another time. Anyways, I am feeling terribly challenged and it has taken a toll on me and my family. So basically, working under a lot of stress. To add to all this, just two days ago my laptop turned green, well the screen did. Now I work with the laptop hooked up to the desktop monitor (like it is on life support or something). Just this morning I started to see flickering gray lines on the screen. So can you just imagine my stress levels? All of what I need, in terms of software is on this laptop. The dear old desktop is just that, old; and so is everything contained within. You get the point?

Well the phone rang as I was reading my intro for the umpteenth was Alex from some technical support place. I picture Alex calling from Madagascar with a phony accent (not sure where the accent is supposed to be from), but only this Alex was claiming he was calling to help me. The Alex of Madagascar would be calling for help.

So I ask what it was about...because you see I am having technical issues with computers. Desperate ones. Alex claims that my computer has been sending him error messages for a couple of weeks now and 'malisius' (guessing malicious) files have been downloaded onto my computer and they will now corrupt all my data. He wanted me to turn on my computer and connect to the internet so he could help. Seeing as I am connected to the internet I ask him what kind of information he would need to help me. Believe me I knew this was a bogus call. Phishing is it?

I asked him how it is that he connected my phone number to my computer...apparently when I connect to the internet (which we are 24/7 through cable) information is internationally routed. I am no tech expert, but I am married to a geek and I know a word or two even if I don't know a thing or two. I also ask him the name of this company he is calling from. He mumbles something with that fake accent. God it pissed me off. I just didn't have the time for this piece of crap who was obviously calling under the assumption that he was speaking to a dumb fuck who would give him information he needed. Granted I am not the smartest freak to walk the planet, but I am not as dumb as these guys think I am. I know its not personal, but right now everything in my life is personal. I have a deadline.

Anyway, I finally give him a piece of my mind, profanities included and hang up. And he called me twice after that. I did not want to raise my blood pressure any more, so I turned up the volume on the radio (thank you Lady Gaga) and did not speak.

I am taking time out of work to post this because if any of you receive a call like this, tell the caller where to go and hang up. Hopefully if enough people to do it they will realize that they are not getting their hands on our personal information by getting into our computers. 

Friday, 17 June 2011

My sentiments exactly

I just saw a link to this awesome book title Go the Fuck to Sleep. I don't know of another book that echoes my sentiments right now. Every parent should have a copy and I am not sure if there is an exception to this rule.

Friday, 27 May 2011

The crocus question

Last Autumn, Fall, whatever you want to call it was a difficult one. When I set out prepping my flower beds for the winter I found my price lily bulbs had been eaten by squirrels. The dratted animals had burrowed under the soil and eaten the bulbs while the foliage was still standing. I never thought that they could do that. I am not quite over the disappointment of losing my beautiful yellow lilies. Eventually I will, but not there yet.

Anyways, this is not my story of my lilies, but my crocus bulbs. I was very anxious after planting them because at least on a couple of occasions I noticed the darned squirrels going right to patch I had worked on as soon as I came inside the house. So the entire time I was planting I was looking over my shoulder. Rather sad, don't you think? Perhaps its funnier than it is sad.

Fortunately the bulbs had almost all survived the squirrels. I was thrilled to see the first of them come out. But here's what I can't find an answer to - while all the bulbs bloomed purple, just a few turned out striped and only on the one bed. It was not a mix of the striped and purple ones all over the garden. How does that happen? Does the colour of the bloom depend on soil pH, amount of sunlight, or the other bulbs in the same bed?

I have been wondering about this because the gladioli bulbs I put in one year expecting a mix of vibrant colours all turned out yellow. I learned, thankfully before I blamed the vendor, that soil pH is a huge determinant of the colour of the bloom.

It will be interesting to see how the crocuses turn out next year! 

Friday, 20 May 2011

My Summer love

I met this beauty a few years ago. She was behind a house we were inspecting to buy. I really didn't like the house, but Hubby was sold. I knew there was no convincing him otherwise.

This Tree, she drew me in the way only a few other trees have in my lifetime. She's a Pear Tree. I didn't know that at the time. She was just standing there with beautiful drooping branches; a light dusting of snow on her elegant body; she looked simply ravishing.  I figured even if I never grew to like the house I could at least look out the large windows and drift away with this tree. I also resolved to sketch her when we'd moved in (sadly it is something I have not found the time to do yet).

I have to admit she has never disappointed me. As the snow melted and the rain came, her dark branches stood out against the more feeble shrubs and trees. She stood there, majestic and filled the promise of green. But what a pleasant surprise it was when she burst into blossoms, all white with a touch of pink, so subtle you had to feel it. And when the breeze kissed her branches she would laugh her petals all over me. I was falling in love.                                                                                                            
Soon bright green leaves took the place of the blossoms. The colour of peace, serenity and warm weather that holds you in an embrace so gentle and firm. I was in love!

Yet again she surprised me with all the fruit she bore. Pears galore! Her beautiful branches were now garlands of fruit. All the pictures in the world cannot do justice to what you feel at her sight. I was not surprised that she was never without visitors.

The Oriole would stop by often for a meal or a snack.
Mrs Racoon was there with her young ones.
The squirrels are almost always there.
And then there were the cardinals, the jays, the sparrows and chickadees and finches and blackbirds...She was never alone. The rare moments I had her all to myself were something special.

And as the warm weather began to recede and the cold Autumn winds set in her leaves turned to gold. She didn't look all that pretty with bare patches and bits of dying leave. It pained me to see her go. But she was there in spirit to remind me of warm weather to come and our secret Summer trysts.

She's back now looking like a young bride ready to walk down the aisle. So I may not spend as much time here as I will with my dear Pear Tree, my Summer love!

Monday, 16 May 2011

Pink and blue

It has been challenging to channel my thoughts into words lately. So here are a few pictures of my garden mid-Spring.

The pink tulips, the darker pink flanking the double petal ones are a total surprise. Last year I bought one of those ready made planters with the tulips just before the end of the season because they were ridiculously cheap. I decided to experiment with them. I took them out of the pot after the leaves had yellowed and stored the tulips in a shoe box over the Summer and planted them in the Fall, mixed in with a some bone meal. From what I had read the bulbs that are forced (like the ones in pots) usually don't flower the first year. Hence the surprise.

And the bleeding hearts - I prefer to refer to them by their botanical name, Dicentra spectabilis - simply because flowers should not have names as tragic as bleeding hearts. I believe flowers mend bleeding or broken hearts. Anyways, the point here is that my garden is all pink and blue thanks to the hardy perennials and bulbs that survived the squirrels.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

It's all garbage

The city of Toronto has a seemingly efficient waste disposal program. We have three bins: a green bin for biodegradable waste. Often I see signs that say, "if you can eat, so can I", which, I am assuming is meant to encourage people to dispose of their waste responsibly; a recycling bin, for...well recycling; and a garbage bin for all other waste. Green bins are collected weekly and the recycling and garbage, fortnightly.

I was one of those people that was super excited when the new garbage bin program came into being. Mainly because you actually received a tiny incentive for recycling and disposing of your waste responsibly. I can't think of a better word than responsible because we have an obligation to at least dispose our crap with some sensitivity to the fact that we aren't the only species inhabiting this planet. Well, this incentive I speak of is basically a credit on your solid waste disposal bill (yep, we pay a separate bill to get rid of our crap. Someone has to pay the United States for allowing Canada to dump its garbage there). You receive this credit/refund if you order the smallest garbage bin. I figured that this meant people will now dispose waste very mindfully. We ordered the smallest bin because we only ever had one garbage bag even before the program came into effect and I talked no end about it hoping to see tiny bins up and down the street.

The new bins have been in place for a year or so now and what I find is that with the exception of our bachelor neighbour (who does not have a green bin), the rest of the folks on our street have gigantic gray garbage bins. So basically, they are still throwing out a ridiculous amount of stuff, a lot what can either be recycled or composted. They also don't care for the tiny incentive.

And today I saw the waste collection guy throw in garbage and recycling into the same truck!!! I guess it doesn't help that the bins are gray and blue and what's worse collectors are almost always male and they could use a few more cone cells in their retina to help discriminate the gray from blue. I really am not sure why the area we were driving through had both bins out and why they were both being collected by the same truck. I guess for most people it is all just garbage. And that I think is very very sad.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Salix discolor (The pussy willow)

I love trees and I may have said that on more than one occasion here. But the fact is I do and I can't understand people who cannot stop and admire a beautiful tree. If you listen real careful you will also hear them speak to you. Trust me, you just have to shut up and stop snickering at names like pussy willow, and then you will hear them. And you will learn that there is more substance to what they have to say than all the humans you know. 
The pussy willow in mid-March
The Salix discolor or more commonly known as the American pussy willow is in my neighbours backyard and I mean to take pictures of this tree every Spring but never get around to it. When you see signs of buds on this tree you know it is warming up and we will not be stuck in the deep freeze for long. I am not sure if it is the new camera or the fact that I have had little to do in the last few months than I usually do, but I got out and took some pictures.
A few weeks later I wanted to get some close up shots of the blossoms and was pleasantly surprised by the bees who were busy at work. 

 I must say I am quite pleased with the pictures for a first attempt at bugs, not to mention the sore neck.
And it seems there is more to this tree than I thought. According to Wikipedia the pussy willow is used in cultural and religious festivities that are common around this time of year. I think I like this tree even more now.

And so the garden grows...

The first blooms of the season
It looks like the squirrels didn't devour all my crocus and grape hyacinth bulbs. They are pushing through the soil and mulch. But what seems to be a bit of a pain is this constant show of snow. Fortunately the ground seems to have warmed up enough that the snow doesn't accumulate. But after the dismal Winter I am starting to feel a bit concerned that we might have a chilly Summer too. It is really important the my garden does well this year. Things are not as great as they were when I was thankful for everything in life and the one thing that does cheer me up is the show of colour in the backyard.

Hubby was let go from his job with very little notice three weeks ago. We are creeping up to four weeks now and needless to say we are both getting a little concerned. While life has certainly not been a bed of roses, or crocuses for that matter, it is a little unsettling as we assess spending and make adjustments. This experience is teaching us a few things. But most of all it has taught me that people are not all who they seem to be. I am learning that a reassessment of the people in my life is in order!

But this has not stopped me from digging the mulch out to allow my bulbs to get out of the deep cold. Neither have I put my camera away. Today I took out my old pal Nikon F50's lens and tried a few pictures with the new Nikon D7000. I don't need a new macro lens. I love my old lens on the new guy. They work well together. Also, you can't always trust the 'correct exposure' reading you get on the new guy. You have to shoot and learn.

auto exposure                    manual exposure

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Context context context

I have always loved this song! But like a lot of old things it got filed away in the recess of mind. The other day while watching my little monster sleep it came to mind and of course, I looked it up on you tube. The lyrics are meaningful. Again, although I had always appreciated the lyrics, I now appreciate every word and it makes so much more sense as I listen to it and watch my sleeping child.

If you told a child that Mr Moon came down to wish him/her goodnight they would believe it. When/why do we become so cynical that the idea of the moon wishing us goodnight becomes silly? And is it not true that if everyone thought like a child we would live in peace? Everyone should spend time with a child to learn a lesson or two, especially one of forgiveness. I am trying hard to function like my baby, but that darned ego keeps getting in the way.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Turtle talk

It has been a rough couple of days. But the offspring provided us with ample distractions with his ever increasing vocabulary and new skills. We reckon he is an old soul who has so much packed in his little head including a radar that picks up on our moods and emotions. He was not as difficult as he usually is on the weekends, and this is despite us being cooped up at home.

Anyways, on a lighter note, Hubby and I have been tidying up the basement (it seriously does not reflect the person that I am right now and it is driving me nuts), and are in the process getting rid of a lot of things. You see I am the one in this relationship who has moved forever and forever, so I don't come with a lot of knickknacks. Hubby on the other hand had tonnes of it. We have slowly been getting rid ornaments that are difficult to clean. If something cannot be dusted easily I don't think  it is worth having.

Having said that there are some things he has that are rather cute, like this pair of turtles. They are a bit worn out from being dropped and scraped and stored in boxes etc. But I have kept them because they illustrate our relationship rather well. Can you tell who might be sitting up and yakking nineteen to a dozen and who might be lounging and listening, or at least politely pretending to?

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Heavy weight blessings

Store bought indoor crocus 
Yesterday as I pulled into our driveway I notice the mulch on my teeny flowerbed in the front of the house looked like it had been disturbed. So I knelt down to check and guess what? It was Little Miss Crocus peeping out of the dark and into the light!! But today it is all buried under snow!

I want to bitch and moan about the weather. We can't go from 5 degrees to -13. Come on, it is supposed to be Spring, enough already. But you know what, sitting here typing this up and looking out the window just reminds me it is time to weigh my blessings. So here we go:
     I have a warm and safe home to complain about the weather
     My loved ones are all safe and healthy
     There is food in the house
     I have a job that pays (not as much as I'd like, but it pays)
     I don't have to worry about nuclear radiation
     I still have all those pretty flowers to look forward to
     There is promise of warm days ahead and plenty of sunshine
     And my brand new steam mop arrived yesterday (what more could a girl ask for?)
Those are mighty heavy blessings. And on that note, let me go seize the day, and you have a good one too!     

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Back and forth

Have you seen this video?

To me the news of late sounds a bit like Grover. Look at Japan, now back at Libya, back at Japan, now back at Gaddafi...

I want to retreat into my fictitious world where there is peace and everyone love's everybody else. It is proving a lot harder today than usual.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Japan versus Haiti

Besides the news on raising nuclear alert levels following the earthquake and tsunami in Japan last week, the other bit of news that seems to be taking center stage is how Japan is receiving far less in aids/funds compared to Haiti. Really now people! How naive do you have to be to be comparing the two nations? Haiti is the consequence of exploitative neo-liberal bullshit propagated by industrialized nations working to increase profit margins. Japan is the epitome of self reliance and sustainability. It is considered a future super power.

What also has been bothering me is the fact that around 3,500 people are dead from cholera in Haiti. I distinctly remember reading that cholera was spread by UN relief workers who arrived in Haiti from Nepal following the earthquake in Port-au-Prince. But I can't seem to locate the article now. The forecast for Haiti is grim. Researchers are predicting a death toll as high as 10,000 by November this year. The numbers are ironically similar to what is coming out of Japan.

One of the things that always upset me during days as a news person was how news is all about viewer/readership. News organisations are corporations too. News of nuclear radiation (and threats of it reaching as far as the US West Coast) will help hike the price of air time/page space way more than news of damage and destruction from the tsunami. Death tolls and damage is already  'old' news. In a world like this what chance does a country like Haiti stand?

I am not belittling what has happened in Japan. In fact I want to know how the relief/rescue efforts are going? I want to know more about how people can contact their loved ones in the afflicted parts. How are the people faring? Is nuclear radiation the only threat? Are they safe from the cold weather that has hit Japan?

All of this also makes me wonder if it is because the audience, which is you and me, want this kind of sensational, depressing news. Would we listen/read more if the news was more positive? This whole Haiti/Japan business has been bothering me for a few days now. I don't feel better for having gotten it off my chest. But writing about it will probably help me get through the rest of the day. I will be back to pondering this later today much to the annoyance of my Hubby.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

We're almost there

Spring is almost here folks! I am not basing this on calendars, the groundhog or the weather person. My most reliable source, the American Robin, arrived two days ago. At first I thought it might be the random one that had come back, but I have seen them two days in a row and now I hear them singing.

American Robin
I made a few lame attempt at using my new 300mm to record the arrival of the first of my migratory feathered friends. I might have to lift weights to steady the arm if I want to keep using this lens!

Resident Mrs Cardinal 

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

For my visitor

I know there is someone from Japan who visits my blog regularly. This one's for you.

I don't know how you have been affected by the earthquake, tsunami and now the nuclear reactor explosions. You can't live in Japan or anywhere in the world for that matter and not be affected by a disaster such as this. I can't even begin to wrap my head around the enormity of what has happened. It all seems so unreal. All that is lost can be rebuilt, all that has been washed away is just the material. What really forces me into denial is the loss of lives. I can relate to that. I am truly sorry for your loss.

I hope you take a little comfort in knowing that I am praying for everyone's safety. I am praying, confident that the Land of the Rising Sun will shine again.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Cricket - an acquired taste

Gartmore Estate, Maskeliya, Sri Lanka
Cricket has always been a part of my life, just like black tea. While I have grown to appreciate tea for its flavour, scent and taste, I can’t say I feel the same way about cricket. But the world cup this year has me feeling all nostalgic. I miss the excitement of a whole nation going bonkers about a game that takes an entire day from start to finish. I kind of prefer the thrill of rugby and soccer where you get to see more action in a shorter span of time.

But this year there is a lot of cricket talk going on in the world of social networking which, as far as I am concerned is limited to facebook. And all this cricket talk has me following the matches. All my cricket crazy cousins, new friends and old ones are commenting on teams and players and every now then talking about lousy rain forcing players off the field. I just bookmarked the ICC World Cup website. I can’t help it.

That'll do for a pitch
For people who know me well this may sound funny because there was a time when you had to pay me to follow a match, literally. I would only ever do it for money and even then I never got it right. I never understood when a match was won by runs and when it was won by wickets. But I get it now, all these years later and when it really doesn’t matter whether I follow a match or not. Sounds like I have acquired a taste for it after all.

The next generation of cricketers

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Topsy turvy

Humans have caused damage of every kind to this planet and to every species that lives on it including ourselves. We are terrible at living in harmony with the environment. I think about this all the time, but seeing news of a tiger killing a lion really made me want to say it out loud.

In the wild I am quite sure a lion would beat a tiger or kill it in a fight. I am not exactly sure if it would let a wounded tiger go. I am also not sure if these cats eat one another's kill. What I mean by that is would a lion eat a tiger? Must go off and find out.

But this story is about a tiger getting through a break in the fence and killing a lion in the next pen in a Turkish zoo. Apparently it went for the lion's jugular! What would make a tiger want to do that? Would it be the frustration of being caged? I want to know more about how these cats interacted before the killing. I am sure some folks are thinking, "yeah right, whatever woman, get a life. There are bigger issues to worry about." But I think when species that only kill for food or mates (and perhaps a pride in the case of lions) just randomly kills another we must be concerned. It has something to do with what we are doing as humans.

I have always loved visiting zoos. But I have lost interest lately. The older I get the harder it is for me to see animals caged. Zoos do have their place on this planet, they help rehabilitate, protect endangered species, etc. But even that doesn't seem necessary. If an animal is endangered there is a reason behind it. If dinosaurs existed today the planet would be a very different place. All this protecting of species I am sure has someone (frightfully crazy) thinking about how humans could be 'protected' beyond all odds, to come back and wreak havoc over and over again!

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Delicious, Divine, Dreamy

Some books you read, put aside, and never give it a second thought. Others you read and remember parts of it. And then there are some books you read and will remember for life. This is one of those books. Elizabeth Gilbert does a fastastic job of taking you along on her amazing journey through a tumultuous couple of years. The movie does the book no justice, so I recommend you do not watch it. But the book goes from delicious to divine and absolutely dreamy.

The book is divided into 108 sections for reasons the author explains. And if you really want to do justice to her work and her journey, you ought to take 108 days to read it. Read one section a day, experience it with her.

In the first third of her book you will want to indulge in yummy desserts.Of course you can't go to Italy, but you could go over to the closest pasty shop for some tiramisu. I did! (And then some sushi, just to mix it up a little).

When I got to India with Gilbert I wanted to try meditating. Try it! If you've never tried it before you will learn how difficult it is to not think about anything. When you begin to think about how much you are thinking, then you can work on not thinking. Does that make sense? Gilbert explains it a lot better than I ever can.

And the final section of her time in Bali is so honest and so beautiful. It is just inspiring to learn that when you work on the changes you want in life it will come to you. I can't exactly take a year off to go around the world right now, and there really is no need for that. But that does not mean I don't want to. Regardless, I can't imagine anyone reading this book, man or woman, will find it difficult to relate to. There is something in it for everyone.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Feline felons

I love cats. Always have. As a child I have smuggled strays into the house and tried to talk my parents into letting me keep them. But right now there is no room for cats in my life. It has little to do with my offspring and more to do with my passion for birdwatching. I live in a place that has great potential for watching and learning about birds. So when I see three big cats like this just lounging on the fence I worry.

I also have not seen birds in my backyard for sometime now. I put it down to not feeding the birds regularly and the nasty weather. But now I am worried that these fellows have been devouring them. I also have never seen this many cats in the neighbourhood in the years I have lived here. Since our house backs onto a conservation area I am now wondering if there is someway I can get rid of the cats. Perhaps some 'cat haven' place could take them? Should cats in Canada have collars?
Spring is almost here and unless these cats leave I cannot invite the birds. My feeder will turn out to be a death trap.

Monday, 28 February 2011

Best ever banana bread

Have you ever noticed how for some people cooking and baking seems to come so naturally? I am not one of them. Whether it be cooking or baking it has always been a challenge and required enormous effort to get it right. Maybe not so much effort as concentrating on the cooking rather than analysing the last book or paper I read. I am sure if someone chose to run MRI scans on chefs versus people like me they would find that our brains are wired very differently. 

Be that as it may I managed to bake the best ever banana (walnut) bread. I am not calling the bread I baked the best ever. That is the name on the recipe. It was given to us by the wife of one of Hubby's former colleagues. They are a lovely couple, much older and wiser than the two of us and this obviously is some kind of tried and tested family recipe. If there is one thing I am learning with taking up cooking (out of necessity more than anything else) people don't share recipes. I on the other hand would be thrilled to share a recipe that turned out great. This may be yet another thing to do with the whole cortical layout, wiring etc. What was also amazing is that I shared a piece of my first attempt with the couple and they actually took the time to call me back and tell me what I may have done wrong. That really helped.

It only took me four tries to get this cake right. Don't laugh, you don't know how many times I've set food on fire and completely abandoned recipes altogether for the sake of safety. Now, I can do this without reading every step of the recipe each time I bake it. It is coming (almost) naturally to me.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Breast milk ice cream? Really!

Would you eat it?

I understand all milk is "breast" milk, but we are talking about human milk here. Farming women for milk is not really an option is it? So should we squander it on ice cream?

I am not one to judge people on how they go about earning some extra cash. But when there are children whose entire survival depends on someone donating breast milk, this kind of enterprise disturbs me. Premature infants and babies of very low birth weight need breast milk and there is a lot of data showing why synthetic supplements just won't do what breast milk can to help these babies pull through. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that their entire survival depends on their mothers or donors making human milk available. Donor milk becomes extremely important when birth mothers are unable to produce adequate milk for infants who are not able to suckle yet.

Perhaps if the health care industry paid women to donate milk we might be able to build a larger bank of donor milk for babies in need rather than indulgent adults.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Colour and light

I have been spending some time with my new friend Mr Nikon D7000. He's okay for the most part. Although I think we need to invest in a couple more lenses (uh oh!). I played around with a bunch of tulips to explore how I can work with natural light on this camera, especially shooting against the light, something I love to do.

It is so different from a SLR. I find that I really can't use natural light the way I used to with my old friend Mr Nikon F50. Maybe it's me. I probably have to get to know my new friend better. Anyways, here's the consequence of a few stolen moments we spent together with the beautiful red tulips.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

The snow girl/woman

Hubby's first sculpture
We are experiencing one of those crazy mid-winter thaws. Well perhaps not quite mid winter but it is still too early for a serious thaw (its mid February for crying out loud, it's supposed to be the peak of winter). Regardless, what this allowed us to do was get out in the backyard with the offspring and make snow people. Hubby got started on one side on a practical snow person. I on the other hand was thrilled to not be wheezing like a dog (not sure if dogs wheeze) and got started on a giant snow person. I just kept piling snow on and making a little mountain which the offspring also seemed happy to help with. I really wasn't getting anywhere, especially since I had to make sure that my child was not eating the dirty snow or taking off his mittens know, just being a mother while trying to sculpt this snow person (hardly sculpting, I just like saying it).

I finally asked Hubby if he would be kind enough to assist. So he came over to 'our side' and asked if it was a snow man or snow woman. My answer, 'of course it is a woman!" So he got started and soon my snow woman had a body and a head, her eyes were gorgeous screening stones, she had a beautiful carrot nose and a fantastic kidney bean smile. The next time I turned to look, she had breasts with nipples and all! Some might say it is perverse, but seeing as that is the only way we could differentiate gender on a snow person it made sense. Later on we added a pink IKEA bowl for a hat, and that would have done the trick too, but with the breasts there was no disputing this was indeed Mrs Valentine. You see I had no intention of inviting Mrs Frosty back, and since this girl was sculpted on the eve of Valentine's Day, I got creative with her name.
Mrs Valentine
I don't think our offspring cared much for his father's fabulous art work or the unfinished snow person on the 'other side' of the backyard. But what it did accomplish was some good old fashioned fun in the beautiful outdoors. Amazing what it can do for your energy levels and not to mention the mood altering effects. 

Friday, 11 February 2011

Conversations to remember

My two-year-old loves his music. He went from baby lullabies to Sesame Street songs and on to mainstream pop and soft rock. Don't get me wrong, we still love Sesame Street songs, to the point that Hubby and I find ourselves unable to be rid of the red monster's squeaky voice from our heads (doodli-dumpy-doodli-dumpy, doodli-dumpy day...). It's just that we now have variety. So the other day Bubb and I had a chat about what he wanted to watch/listen to on you tube. And it went something like this:

Bubb: Amma wee wee wee
Me   : You want wee wee wee
Bubb: Ya! No, mant woh woh woh
Me   : Do you want wee wee wee or woh woh woh
Bubb: wee wee wee, NO woh woh woh...I like waka waka
Me   : So what do you want? waka waka? wee wee wee? or woh woh woh?
Bubb: wee wee wee

And so we listened to wee wee wee.

And do you know who else likes wee wee wee?

Marcel! That's right, tell me this isn't some crazy bit of proof of the theory of evolution!!

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

The faraway blogs

Have you heard of the Magic Faraway Tree? If you have, then you must be a kindred spirit. The Tree featured in two of Enid Blyton's awesome books, my all time favourite children's author (there is a serious contender for the position now though). What got me thinking of the book is that recently I have gotten to clicking on the "next blog" thingy (link?) on my blog. I find that each day it takes me to a new blog. Each day I get to visit new people, new places, new information, just a surprise every day! I love it!

That was the wonder of the Faraway Tree, it took you places when you got to the top most branch and climbed up through the hole in the clouds. Each day there was a land of some sort that arrived (sometimes they stuck around for a bit). Sometimes they were wonderful, full of treats and funny tricks and carnivals. Other times they were not so great, like 'Topsy Turvy Land'. If you were not careful to get out of the land before it left the top of the tree you could get whisked away with it and have to wait a really long time to get back to the Tree.

After I had read the book as a child I had always imagined myself in a land I preferred to the land I was in. I guess I do that even  now...escape in to some one else's world for just a while, so this land of mine is as much a surprise and wonder as their's when I return.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Icicles on the cake

It has been a long, miserable winter. At least for me. The whole family has been ill with one thing or another since October, the heating has had to be turned on much earlier (and it runs continuously), and now we have icicles!
Icicles on the porch!!!
They are beautiful. I have always found them marveled at them and snapped my share of pictures and enjoyed watching the play of light (on the odd occasion you see icicles when the sun is out) on them, etc. But now they are hanging off my porch, and suddenly they look like killer weapons rather than beautifully frozen water.

I just Googled (like we do with everything these days) why this happens and apparently the roof needs to be insulated and vented properly. We were told by the house inspector we needed more insulation, but we thought we had enough venting. I am beginning to wonder if the unwelcome tenants in the attic are clogging things up. In addition to that our neighbour, who we really have no problems with whatsoever, never cleans his gutter (that might considered a problem). While Hubby has graciously cleaned it in the past, I think we have had enough and it looks like the gutters have got clogged up after the Fall clean up. One of us must attempt a diplomatic chat with the chap. It is so much easier to casually mention it over a beer in the Summer. Winters make everything so much more difficult.

Sand cherry bush directly below the eaves trough

Friday, 4 February 2011

The first big step...

I don't consider myself much of a photographer, but I have played with cameras since I was, perhaps ten-years old. My first BIG purchase was an Nikon SLR. The decision to go Nikon when the world swore by Canon was because it was all I could afford back then. I still have my trusty old friend. Never giving him up! 

Just recently I gave into Hubby's desire to buy a DSLR. We got ourselves a Nikon D7000. I made an informed decision to go with Nikon this time. For what I want to do with a camera I prefer a Nikon. Sometimes I think Canon just is way overrated and they do have way more advertisements than Nikon. I must say I kind of like my new friend, mostly because I can take pictures and delete and not have to pay for processing. But for someone who has used an SLR extensively, I have to say it will take more than one digital camera to accomplish what my old pal could do, single handedly!!

One of my first attempts with the new friend.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011


Every time I hear grand claims about technological innovations outdoing the forces of nature I am concerned. I have to admit I have not seen anything like this footage from Brisbane of the floods. It is very humbling and I sincerely hope we can act with more respect for the world we live in. But right now my concerns are for very dear friends who live in Brisbane that I have not heard from. I will be really glad if all they lose in these floods is just a car or even their house.

Monday, 10 January 2011

The monster cake

I happen to be the sort of person to whom things just happen. Quite often it's just a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Other times I just do things that makes people go, "why?"

So for me to undertake a challenging cake making project was a big deal. I was inspired by a fantastic mother and dear friend who keeps churning out the most creative cakes (and certainly must be delicious, but I have not had the good fortune of tasting any of them, being half a world away from her and all). When I let her know I was contemplating following in her footsteps she was very helpful and sent some excellent tips (thank God for that). As you will see all the advice in the world doesn't help me with some things.

Over a period of one month I bought the pan, the icing paraphernalia and read over and over again about how I ought to go about it. It took three attempts to get the cake right, just the cake - plain old butter cake. In my defense it was not so much the batter as it was getting the right amount of batter into the pan to get the shape right etc to ensure it doesn't fall apart when I flipped it. So that was done in time for the birthday.

Now for the icing - oh joy! I made the butter icing, that was no problem and tinting the icing was lots of fun. I put some music on and started to tint the icing. It reminded me how much fun painting and colouring can be. I did the black, orange and set aside some white. Then I got to the red. You see, while I did the other colors I took out a small amount and did up just enough to fill in areas. But, when I started on the red I tinted all of the remaining icing, which was nearly two cups of icing!! I don't know why I did! I don't know why I didn't think of the fact that it was too much. It was on my second trip to the shops to buy out all of the "no taste" red icing colour they had that it dawned on me that I ought to halve the amount of icing and colour only what I need!!! Now this is what I meant by, I just do stuff that is crazy and silly and not to mention just plain stupid. Eventually I got all the colors right and the icing began.


And it turned out to be a hit with my two-year-old.

Now all I have to do is find someone who can use the ridiculous amount of coloured icing, some an ugly pink-red and another lot of beautiful red that is taking up space in my fridge. Any takers?