Wednesday, April 28, 2010

You Make Me Touch Your Hands for Stupid Reasons

This dramatic reading of a real break-up letter went viral a while ago, but in case you missed it...

I can't access the original website anymore, so YouTube must do, even though the letter itself is a bit difficult to read if you want to follow along. Warning: a few expletives but nothing too awful if you've spent any time around a teenager or two.

My kids have been killing themselves over this letter and have been throwing the best lines at each other all week.

Have you seen this already, or is it new to you too?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Why It's Okay To Suck

Maggie Stiefvater, best-selling author, artist, musician and wise woman, offers up some advice on why it's okay to suck at something. She is talking about learning to play the bagpipes, and how it applies to writing or drawing or knitting or taking photographs or anything else in life you choose to try.

Becoming good at something is not just about diligent practice, although that is part of it, but also about being terrible, I mean really sucking at something, but not letting that part define you or convince you to give up.

Learn to persevere. Keep at it. Then you won't suck anymore.

I believe it was Yoda or maybe Churchill who said, "Life's real failure is when you do not realize how close you were to success when you gave up."

And it was Churchill, or maybe Yoda, who also said, "Do, or do not. There is no try."

It was definitely Churchill who said, "Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm."

And Groucho Marx said, "Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana."

So hop to it. Stay with it. Succeed and then sing about it from the rooftops. Or pick up your bagpipes. Whatever floats your boat.

And in other news, I am not heading downtown to pick up my new car today. Yesterday, it was so hot I was in shorts to walk the Budster and we both came home panting from the heat. Today? This is what I woke up to. A record breaker. Because Mother Fricking Nature likes nothing better than to rain on someone's parade. Unless it's snowing on someone's parade.

(Psst. Don't forget to have a look at the landscape photos in the post before this one and let me know which ones ring your bell.)

Pioneer Woman is Asking for Landscapes

Pioneer Woman is having another photo contest on her blog. This time, the subject is landscapes. I don't take landscape shots very often and when I do, they tend to be of the lake where we cottage. I prefer up close and personal shots more often than not, so I had to dig deep to find something other than birds and flowers.

Here are an even dozen. Minus two. (I have a few others, but they've appeared here in the past so I don't want to put them up again.)

Which are your top three? Or two? Or one? If the answer is none of the above, well I have nothing else for you because snow is forecast overnight and it's going to bury the tulips alive. Not to mention all hopes of me picking up my new car.

1. Lake Louisa Early Fall
2. Lake Louisa Late Fall
3. Montreal At Night
4. New Brunswick Pond
5. Waterfowl Park - Path through the Reeds
6. Waterfowl Park
7. Cornfield
8. Sunset - outside Lachute Walmart
9. Surf's Up
10. Oahu

Monday, April 26, 2010

Oh Canada! Our home and la la la

Spent the day cleaning out my car in anticipation of new car arriving tomorrow.

However, I can't dislodge two toonies stuck between the seats and lodged under the plastic holding the seat down. This is bugging me hugely. And bugging me even more that it's bugging me.

Never mind. It's a beauteous day, the forsythia is blooming alongside the bluebells, the sun is shining, and all is good today.

And just look what's turned up in my local theatre. A documentary about Canada. Awesome. I'm shocked and amazed and tickled pink and dancing the light fantastic because it's playing just around the corner and this is the only theatre I see listed for the whole of Quebec. Whoo hoo!

Here's the trailer for 10 Days Across Canada. I don't know how they got across the country in 10 days and managed to see anything worthwhile. I think they cheated. We'll see. It's got Jian Ghomeshi's name attached to it, so I'll give it the benefit of the doubt. His grace under fire while interviewing Billy Boob Thornton (who pulled the diva card on him) has already won him the hearts of most Canadians. Fingers crossed it doesn't suck. Canadian productions go one of two ways. Either lame humour along the lines of Wayne & Shuster (think about the giant blow-up beavers and Mountie-attired stripper girls in the closing ceremonies of our last Winter Olympics) or clever, smart funny stuff like Rick Mercer in THIS HOUR HAS 22 MINUTES.

I don't know how good it will be, but it will have a hard time beating my all time favourite tribute to Canada, ONE WEEK with Joshua Jackson with the most amazing soundtrack.

Warning: it's a heartbreaker.

But if you do watch it, you'll be inspired to hop in your car, on your bike or horse or RV or whatever floats your boat and see this grand old broad we call home. It will make you look at your life and ask the question "What am I not doing right now that I wish I was doing? Now, why am I not doing it?"

Oh Canada. Our home and native land, true patriot love, in all of us command. (I changed the words a wee bit, but let's call it....improvisation.)

Friday, April 23, 2010

Because it's Friday

I like to take the easy peasy way out on Fridays, so I shall send you off on your weekend with this funny little video. Thanks to kc dyer for the link. These Aussie lads are all kinds of awesome!

Enjoy! Bon weekend!

(This looks like the Just for Laughs stage. Hey, Kathy Down The Road. Is this Montreal? Were you and Dave there?)

And happy birthday to my boy who, at the age of 22, is actually a man, a concept I have a hard time grasping sometimes. In my mind's eye, he'll always be that sweet determined little boy of five, hurtling down the driveway on his two-wheeler with the absolute conviction that he could do it, could do anything, once he set his mind to succeeding.

And fall he did, over and over, until he didn't. And with that, he was flying on his own, free, and by his own rules.

You go, kiddo. Mama is so proud.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

For Knit-wits like Me

My husband watched as one of his patients knit at Indy 500 speed while reading a novel at the same time. I can't even carry on a conversation when I'm knitting as I need full concentration to know whether I just did a knit or a purl or more likely in my case, a miss and a hurl because I dropped another damn stitch.

So, if you're like me and you can't do this:

There are these videos, which help knit-wits like me.

Do you know what word knitters use to explain what they go back and undo their work in order to correct a mistake? Besides the obvious one, I mean.

It's tink. Knitting backwards to find and solve the problem is called tinking.

Tink is knit spelled backwards. Clever little Needle Hands...

Mastering the art of the tink is part of learning to knit properly. It is my Waterloo.

(Nice to see the grain of the table is in full focus. The yarn, not so much. Still, it got me on track again but really, how hard is it to shoot a video of yarn with the yarn in focus?)

And just when I think I've got it, along comes a newer, better, faster way to knit. Does anyone knit the continental way? It's all I can do to knit the way I do now without taking on something new. However, it might be like a golf swing. If you start off learning the wrong way, it is harder to undo bad habits later.

Is this continental knitting better or just different?

And even more videos HERE

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

New Car

Well, the top vote was for black and guess what?

Black it is.

Tan interior.

Happy camper.

I don't have it yet, but soon, soon. Then all will be well. I imagine I'll get it right before the farmer calls me to transport my 1/3 of a cow she is in the process of butchering. Nothing takes away new car smell like a 1/3 of a cow in the trunk.

Are you talking to me?

The ice is out at the lake, hurrah! Time to go get the dock in before the black flies come out and attack. I get terrible, awful, bang-my-head-on-the-wall-I'm-so-itchy reaction from black fly bites. I don't even feel them nibbling at the time, but within hours my face swells up in lumps and bumps and stays that way for days. I come home looking like Quasimodo.

Even with the special camouflage mosquito netting hat that makes me look like a deranged commando beekeeper, those pesky flies have a way of wiggling their way underneath and into my eyes and ears and hair. And I can't take photos as long as they're out because they swarm the lens. Ugh. It's the price we pay for paradise. Luckily they only last a few weeks. Then they're replaced with mosquitoes. And deer flies. Mosquitoes don't bother me and where we are on the lake, they're few and far between. And they feed the bats, and I like bats. But deer flies, oh they are nasty. Though they take vicious bites, they are slow enough to smack easily and flick into the lake to feed the fish, or I sometimes catch on the back of my baseball cap if I put double-sided stickie tape across it. It's what we do. We're Canadian. Bugs are part of our culture.

And if Buddy is close by, he'll eat them, snapping them out of the air.

It's the real reason I have a dog.

Monday, April 19, 2010

1,000 Awesome Things

My sister Yutha sent me this link.

It's a blog called 1,000 Awesome Things.

I haven't read the whole thing, but I like the concept.

A simple list of things that make you happy.

The book was released this week, and here is the trailer.

Let's see...what makes me happy?

A drawer full of clean socks.

Poking my cat's feet and watching his toes spread.

Warm chocolate croissants. Creme caramel. Espresso. Preferably all at once, and in Paris, outdoors, with a loved one.

The smell of cedars on a hot summer's day.

Sharp knives and scissors in the drawer where I left them.

Finding a parking meter fully paid, then putting in change for the next person.

Going to a used bookstore and stumbling across the Exact Book I forgot I was looking for.

An apple peel that comes off in one, long piece.

Kissing a baby's wrist, or the back of the knee or the nape of the neck. Kissing a baby, basically.

Being dragged off to a party and discovering someone with close friend potential.

The smell of lilacs and lily-of-the-valley in the spring. Also sun-warmed earth and cut grass.

A raspberry that falls off the bush without effort.

An industrial sized roll of brown paper.

A full moon.

Finding my favourite mug in the cupboard and not in the sink.

Saving a worm from death on the driveway.

Being the first one to read the newspaper. But being second means I can rip out stuff. Tough call.

New magazines in the mail. Parcels in the mail are exciting, even when they contain dental instruments and not chocolate or books.

Oh, I could go on and on. So many things make me happy.

What about you? What would be on your list?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Cool Ways to Use Wool

I can't remember who recommended this video to me, but thank you!

My mind is like one of know, those thingies you use to rinse pasta, you know, the big round pot thingies full of holes, what do you call that damn thing, those whatchamacallits...oh, never mind. Do you SEE what I'm dealing with? COLANDER. That's it.

If you'd like to bop me upside the head in the comments section whoever you are, please feel free. I apologize for my lack of available brain cells. I believe the problem is hormonal, i.e., all my available energy is being diverted to my numerous Tropical Moments (enough to be considered a contributor to Global Warming) and it would appear there is nothing left for short term memory.

My unfinished knitting projects are all sitting in a big basket right now. I lost my mojo when Boris sabotaged my efforts with his projectile Vomitus Felinus (sounds so much better in Latin, doesn't it?) and my other favourite project (the gorgeous orange red silk blend) had to be unraveled and begun again after I couldn't ignore the skipped stitches and my botched efforts to fix them. I've been staring at the basket like a haunted woman.

I want to get back up on the horse, but that horse is a biter, man. That horse is mean. Like, glue factory mean. Perhaps if I feed it a sugar cube and let it run free for a while I can approach it again and go for another ride.

Also, I have a slightly compulsive nature when it comes to doing things exactly right, a trait a lot of knitters appear to share. While friends said they couldn't even see the missed stitches, I would know every time I wore that scarf and it would drive me berserk eventually.

I thought knitting was supposed to be relaxing, calming, soothing...?

Youngest will be back home again, and she will encourage me to take up the needles again. Stay tuned. More projects to follow. In the meantime, I shall post a photo of her most excellent socks and slouchy hat. They're both awesome. As is Youngest.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Feline Groovy

A lot is going on right now. A friend in a writers' forum I frequent died in the night but I don't really want to talk about that here.

Then there's other stuff, the least of which is unresolved dishwasher problems and car decisions and more skunks in the backyard.

So I'm posting this because it makes me feel good.

Sometimes you just need more cowbell in your life. And by cowbell I mean cat.

Thanks to Nathan Bransford for the link.

Also, if you're interested in seeing how the new iPad e-book works, check out Nathan's blog. It's kind of cool beans. Not sure which side of the argument I come down on, because I love the feel of a good hardcover in my hands, especially when I am the first one to crack its spine and inhale all that good ink before diving in.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Question About Cars. Well, THIS car.

UPDATE: Apparently, the dark blue model is NOT AVAILABLE THIS YEAR. So no one else is allowed to say "dark blue" because I can't have it.

I am finally trading in my old Honda SUV for a new car. We've had seven going on eight wonderful years together but it's time to kick it to the curb and get something that doesn't suck back fuel like a teenage boy rooting around in my fridge. I also no longer need a car that seats eight people since I'm not carpooling kids all over the place, though I used to fit as many as eight people at a time in there. I remember the days of my son's rugby games, schlepping several large, mud-coated members of the team to and from the fields. Ah, those were the days...the towels-and-garbage-bags-over-the-leather-seats days....but those days are finished, my friends.

So, my new car is going to be a Subaru Outback. We need an all wheel drive to handle our rough country road at the lake and it has something called a "continuously variable transmission" which makes my husband happy as Larry. (Who is this "Larry" and why is he so happy?)

So my question. What colour do you think works best? (Here is the chart if you really want to invest in my happiness and want a good look at all the options.)

I don't like the shades of green or blue offered.

White is apparently the most popular car colour for women according to the salesman, but just like I rarely wear white clothes because they're practically begging to have something spilled on them, I'm afraid I'll have the same problem with a white car.

My first choice is black, because it looks classy. But our road is dusty and I have the feeling that the one and only time it's going to look good is the day I drive it off the lot.

There's charcoal grey, but it looks like a poor version of the black when they sit side by side. It's like you almost decided to get black, but chickened out.

Then there's light grey, which is practical (shows less dust) but it's kind of meh. It is nice, but safe. Like a practical blazer, it looks good but you don't really notice it. It doesn't have the wow factor of the black.

My current car is a bronze-gold colour, which is the perfect colour when it comes to not showing dirt. Unfortunately the gold coloured Outback is more beige, like old lady beige velour couch beige (my apologies to anyone with a beige Outback or velour couch.)

So what are your thoughts? What colour is YOUR car? Anyone have a black car? Regrets?

There is a poll I posted. See it at the top right hand corner of the blog? Feel free to post your preference or put something in the comments.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Dating Advice from the 30s For You Ladies Out There

But as for you women out there, you might want to take it with a grain of salt.

Preferably after a shot of tequila.

Dating Advice, or The Rules of Engagement

Rule #1. Don't slouch or chew gum. Check. But wearing ugly shoes on a date is A-okay.

Rule #2. This implies if you don't need a brassiere, you can skip it entirely. But wearing a girdle is a given. And call me crazy, but if you don't know you have a stocking hanging down around your ankles, you've had a few too many before the date has even started.

Also, if your date has this kind of reaction to wrinkled stockings, imagine what he'd do if eventually you got married and he witnessed, say, the birth of your child. Or your Saturday morning sweatpants.

Rule #3. So if applying makeup and touching the interior of a car is verboten, I'm guessing driving the car would annoy him even more.

Rule #4. How did "careless" and "talking" get thrown into the same category?

Rule #5. I expect he already is talking about the things he wants to talk about which is why she is no doubt pondering whether or not she is able to pull her sweater up over her head in order to block out further conversation.

Rule #6. I'm fairly confident that his annoyance stems from how she is showing affection, i.e., jamming a finger in his ear while bending the cartilage and pinching his lobe, and that given some encouragement about a possible change of location, her "escort" might find this rule as bendable as his ear cartilage.

Rule #7. Silly has always been seriously underrated. Ditto dignity.

Rule #8. If your date sits around all mopey because things are not going his way, tell him not only does he risk having his face get stuck like that, but you will pick up the check and the waiter.

Rule #9. Don't be conspicuous... Wait. Conspicuous means "attracting attention." In other words, if you want to lean over in a drunken stupor and rub the head of a total stranger sitting behind you, do it discreetly. Duh.

Rule #10 (which also looks a lot like Rule #1)

Do you really want to date a guy who keeps score?

Friday, April 9, 2010

Macro Madness

Enough about the damn dishwasher from H E double hockey sticks.

PIONEER WOMAN is having another photo contest, and this time the assignment is Macro shots. Here are a few I dug out of the archives. Feel free to shout out your favourites!

1. Dragonfly - (Why does this make me think of Robert DeNiro in Taxi Driver?)

2. Horsetail
3. Orchid
4. Milkweed
5. Love in a mist (I actually think I'm wrong about this being a skeletonized nigella leaf, but I like the title anyway so I'm leaving it as is. If you know what kind of leaf this is, let me know. Damn it Jim, I'm a photographer, not a botanist!)

6. Day Lily
7. Alium
8. Day Lily with Raindrop

9. Frost on the window

10. Day Lily Centre
11. Columbine
12. Hosta La Vista, Baby
13. Lilac
Lucky thirteen.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Time marches on, folks

Just like a burly man in steel-toed boots.

You know why I feel it so strongly today?

Because my baby, my baby, turned 20 today.

This marks the official end of teenagers in the house. On the one hand, I have fought the good fight(s) and emerged victorious! However, I still can't believe she has gone from this, and please ignore the random foot, which is probably her brother about to sock her one (pun intended):

To this, in the span of what feels like twenty minutes, not twenty years...

I find myself thinking about the pre-cottage days when we lugged our tent trailer (bonus points if anyone recognizes those iconic curtains and can name that brand of Tent Trailer as ubiquitous as road kill on our Canadian highways) off to Charleston Lake Provincial Park. We'd make a camp fire every night and S'mores. We'd share baby stories and sing songs and look for shooting stars as we did our best to dry our hair from that last swim in the lake at dusk. My littlest one, my baby, in a quest to keep up with her older siblings, would take all the scary ghost stories she'd heard and mangle them into one, really, exceptionally scary story like her classic tale, "The Baby with a HOOK!"

Then as their little heads would begin to nod, I'd gather up my little chickies and settle them into bed. I didn't appreciate until they were older just how special and fleeting it is to have all my children sleeping under one roof, nor did I realize how much I would miss that.

And now my baby is 20.

So here's to you, my darling girl. We're so proud of you, of your many accomplishments, your kindness, your quirky humour, your incredible talent.

Happy, birthday my sweet girl.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Benefits of Failure

And the benefits of choosing ancient wisdom over career ladders.

Every once in a while I stumble upon something - a video, a poem, a speech, a book - that really inspires me, and calls me back again and again to fill up my creative wellspring which sometimes comes close to running dry.

Set aside a few minutes of your day to listen to J.K. Rowling's brilliant Harvard Commencement Address. I can never finish it without tears. You can also read the entire transcript HERE.

Some highlights:

I was set free because my greatest fear had been realized.

I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.

Some failure is inevitable.

It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case, you fail by default.

You will never truly know yourself or the strength of your relationships until both have been tested by adversity.

Personal happiness lies in knowing that life is not a checklist of acquisition or achievement. Your qualifications, your CV, are not your life.

What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality. Plutarch

The great majority of you belong to the world's only remaining superpower. The way you vote, the way you live, the way you protest, the pressure you bring to bear on your government, has an impact way beyond your borders. That is your privilege and your burden.

If you choose to use your status and influence to raise your voice on behalf of those who have no voice, if you choose to identify not only with the powerful but with the powerless, if you retain the ability to imagine yourself into the lives of those who do not have your advantages, then it will not only be your proud families who celebrate your existence, but thousands and millions of people whose reality you have helped changed. We do not need magic to transform our world. We carry all the power we need inside ourselves already. We have the power to imagine better.

J.K. Rowling Speaks at Harvard Commencement from Harvard Magazine on Vimeo.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Easter Weekend

Then and now. To recap:

Two years ago, my three kids were off on their own adventures for Easter weekend (university and New York City to visit cousins respectively) so my husband and I thought we'd escape up to our cottage for a romantic weekend of our own. We'd had mad snowfalls that winter, but we spoke to the fellow who plows our driveway and he assured us the road was a go. He'd also shoveled our cottage roof because there was a concern about the weight bringing the whole structure crashing down.

I drove, as per our usual agreement (windy twisty road = one carsick passenger, so it's a given I drive anywhere with windy, twisty roads) and arrived to find that although the road leading into our cottage was technically clear of snow, the bright sun had turned it into a hill of thick ice. Thick, unsalted, unsanded ice. And when I say "discovered" I mean after I crested the hill. And by "drive" I mean gripping the wheel of what was now a giant sled without brakes nor capacity to steer while screaming like a cat in a blender.

Luckily my husband talked me through it "Don't brake just go let it go LET IT GO! If we get through this honey, I'll take you to Paris and we'll stay in the finest hotel!" (At least that's how I remember it.) Once we got to the bottom of our road, I threw our car into 4-wheel drive and gunned it up our driveway which was also covered in ice. At this point, the long drive coupled with the giant coffee I'd consumed along the way and the rush of adrenaline meant a desperate need for the loo. One small problem - I couldn't see our front door. What our driveway guy neglected to mention was that the snow he and his helper had thoughtfully turfed off the roof was now piled on top of the mountain of snow that had accumulated on the decks. To refresh your memory, this is what stood between me and the loo.

This marked the beginning of our romantic weekend. That's Doug digging right below the roof looking for the front door, the top of which is just below his boots.

Fast forward to this past weekend.

We had another opportunity to spend a couple of days at the cottage on our own before a big family Easter brunch. The experience could not have been more dramatically different than two years ago. The sun was shining, the snow practically gone except for random bits in the shade of the deepest woods. In fact, Saturday went to a record high of around 26C, and we found ourselves dressed in shorts. There was something very strange about hopping over snow-covered steps in flip flops in order to get to the deck, but it was hot enough to justify wearing them.

The ice still covers the lake, but it changed in one day from white to dark gray, indicating it is ready to sink any day now.

And at the edges, I saw water. That's actual meltage people! I resisted the urge to jump up and down on the ice to hasten its demise.

So it was that I sat with my husband by a frozen lake on the hottest spring day on record with a gin and tonic in one hand, and a juicy novel in the other. The breeze swirled around us, sometimes hot sometimes cold, depending on its direction. If it passed over the frozen lake, it was as though someone opened a freezer door in a hot room. Then it would change direction and swirl around from the sun-warmed cedar woods, so it was as though someone had suddenly covered us with a blanket warmed from the dryer. It was just amazing, and thrilling because we Canadians count on days like this. It's our reward for our long winters. This was like winning the weather jackpot.

The chipmunks and bluejays were back to beg for peanuts, the cheeky red squirrels were bickering and chasing each other up and down the birches over the sunflower seeds I'd put out for the chickadees, and there was even a large pileated woodpecker hammering away on a stump. And no bugs to bug us, no blackflies, mosquitoes or deerflies. Nada. Just serenity.

And say hello to this little guy who landed on our deck:

I don't care that it's overcast and cool today, nor that they say it's going back to a more seasonal 5C by the end of the week. This weekend acted like a tonic on the soul battered by another winter.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Treat

In case you've had too much sweet chocolate this weekend, here's the antidote courtesy of The Easter Monster.

Thanks to kc dyer for the link!