Category Archives: daily deedle-deedle

So how was the picnic?

It was great! Um, I hear it was great. We were almost two hours late so we essentially missed most of it and then when we did arrive I was so stressed by being late that I was not feeling very social. I had all this food that I was too late to share. Talk about feeling foolish. So we had our nice teriyaki chicken/rice/salad meal, followed by cherries, then the kids took off to go swimming and coat themselves with sand. The sun went down at about eight and then the temperature was lovely and it was good for taking pictures. But by eight-thirty the last few people were gone. Awwwww…..

Beach Volleyball at Jericho Beach

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End of vacation: what am I meant to do with all these marshmallows?

Back from Bowser, and the mammoth unpacking is about halfway done. The kitchen was the one I had to square away first, and I now have about 4 bags of marshmallows that I have no use for; remnants of s’mores unmade. I’m amused by the trumpeting on the packages: “No gluten! Fat free!” because I’m sure those with celiac disease are like, “Finally!” Have marshmallows ever had gluten or fat? Methinks not. But clearly people are so scared of all these supposed food evils that the manufacturers feel the need to boast about the ingredients their products don’t have and – here’s the thing – never had in the first place. OMG, fat-free orange juice! I’ve been waiting so long. So long.

Overall, it’s good to be home, although the garden needed major watering and compared to Bowser, Vancouver is so hot and full of cement that reflects the heat and light and bounces it all over. I’m going to complain about that to my sister who lives in Manhattan and will be full of sympathy, and then head out to the garden, because that will make me feel better. I was really surprised by the reaction of Mio’s fish, Sapfire, to my approaching his bowl. He came right over and – I swear this is true – wagged his whole body and did all these little flippy moves. It was amazing. I never thought fish could be so responsive. He’s still doing it every time I go over there so I guess the last 3 weeks went slow. We need to pay more attention to this little guy. I think he’s watching Horrible Bosses right now. Charlie Day is my new favourite actor and possibly Sapfire the Fish’s also. We are fans.

I have major work to deal with now that I’m home, so Part II of Reading and Eating is going to take a little while. I’m taking a break from work right now to fret about marshmallows and visit the fish but it’s time to get back to it. Um. Right after Horrible Bosses. Which I’ve seen before. But Charlie Day! So funny! I just wish my sister were here so we could laugh at the same stuff together. But then my work would never get done.

Justin’s out all day (and, I suspect, all night) on a “White” cruise, whatever that is. Sponsored by Heineken, so a beer-soaked fiesta on the water, everyone dressed in white, essentially. I guess the white is so that the cruise looks all glam. Oh, no, the white is a safety thing, so that people don’t get overheated in the sun. Plus if they fall overboard they’ll be easy to see and scoop out of the water. That’s it, that’s the reason. You know Heineken’s all about safety. I dropped him off and saw loads of other people heading towards the dock, wearing their whites, many of which were semi-transparent and they’re not even wet yet, yikes. I don’t care for cruises, even costumey ones, as I don’t like being trapped in circumstances that I find insupportable: too many drunk people staggering every time the boat rolls a bit, and 2 toilets for 100 women, one of which isn’t working. The guys pee off the side of the boat, so they’ll be dribbling pee as well as beer on their white outfits, that’ll be real glamorous. So, better him than me, plus I have work to do.

Right after Horrible Bosses, that is. I have to hand it to Jennifer Aniston as she does a great job in this. Although I wonder cynically if she isn’t trying to break into Leslie Mann territory as the rom-com thing is not big right now, and she isn’t action-movie material. She isn’t period-movie material either. So this is a smart move and she’s pretty funny in this. But we already have Leslie Mann who is damn near unbeatable in this genre, and Elizabeth Banks, and Kat Dennings, and and and. Jen needs a niche and something real to do, something that is not maintaining position on the cover of gossip magazines by hiring and firing new boyfriends all the time. Is it just me, or does this seem like a pattern designed to keep her (and the Kardashians and assorted reality-show nonentities) on everyone’s radar? More on that later. After work gets done.

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Reading and Eating, Part 1: Reading

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The kids have collected so much sea life from the shore! The buckets of hapless crabs scrabbling for exit remind me uncomfortably of a cleansing of the ghetto. How are they to know that they will be shortly re-deposited on the beach? It’s hard to gauge the thought processes of crabs. Some passively allow themselves to be lifted up, some raise their claws defiantly and try to pinch, some race nimbly amongst the rocks and settle themselves into tiny crevices. When some time has passed and they imagine themselves unobserved, they cautiously lift themselves out of the wet sand and tiptoe across the rocks for a better hiding place. Then I nark on them and the girls pounce and into the yellow plastic bucket they go. One of the children caught a very large (by tiny shore crab standards) crab and although it could have defended itself quite handily it actually seemed content to squat on her arm or hand, like a parrot on a pirate.

The Collaborator

I managed to finish another three books: Under Our Skin, by Donald McRae, The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt and Cruising Attitude by Heather Poole.

On the other side of the world from comfortable Canada, where I was growing up in a country dedicated to equality (not always performing perfectly), there was a place where white men had established a bastion of white supremacy on the dark continent and although world attitudes towards race were shifting, they were stubbornly determined to maintain their dominance over the 85% majority.  The South African system was supported by a standing army of military conscripts (who were also sent into Angola to suppress black uprisings and communism there). Donald McRae grew up in South Africa in the 70s and 80s – his memoir begins with a child’s view of his world, a South Africa in which white men were rightly in charge of essentially everything, and in which the black natives were “lucky” if they got jobs as maids and waiters in a good hotel. Their own maid was happy enough, wasn’t she? As far as a 7-year-old child knew, even though he was aware that she didn’t eat with the family and had to eat off a tin plate and cup instead of the family’s china. His outlook changes as he grows up, witnesses some disturbing incidents and begins to regard his world with a more critical eye. His stance on his world culminates in his refusal to be conscripted into the army; an unheard-of attitude that army doctors suggested treating with ECT (electroshock therapy). His refusal to enter the army for his National Service partly stems from a revulsion for military life in general and partly from a reluctance to be a cog in the apartheid machine. A typical teenager, he considers his father part of the establishment, but unbeknownst to him, his father was actually instrumental in establishing programs to promote black employees into managerial positions in Eskom, the South African power utility, of which he became the general manager. His father also brought power into the townships, which had previously been completely without. McRae Junior also becomes a teacher in Soweto, but it is clear that his father did more in a practical sense to try to improve the lives of black South Africans. It is also to his credit that he and his wife tried to change the way white and black South Africans regarded each other, by treating black South Africans as equals, publicly, whenever they could. Part of McRae’s memoir deals with the detention and torture of young white South Africans who were also trying to change the system. Neil Aggett, a young doctor, was the first white South African activist to die in detention. So McRae’s stance is that of a white South African, embedded in the system, and his point of view of the struggle for equality (still not a reality in South Africa) is definitely from the white perspective, as is appropriate. There are also brief descriptions of the Steven Biko and Donald Woods story, and stories of other activists against apartheid. McRae ultimately chooses exile over conscription and emigrates to London. It was a powerful book and has made me want to investigate more South African history. On a lighter note, I discovered that the expression “sweet” comes from South Africa! I’m assuming from South African surfers coming to California as it seems to be embedded in surfer dude lingo. Amazing book. I will be looking into more of McRae’s work.

Patrick DeWitt’s The Sisters Brothers has been written about extensively; it’s won several awards and totally deserves it. I loved the spare yet eloquent style – very Elmore Leonard – and the plot, back story, character development, all unfolded like a gorgeous (if blood-spattered) fan at a wonderfully timed pace – not so slow that you start flipping through the book looking for the backstory, and not so fast that you lose the edge of anticipation. I read it in one sitting and couldn’t read anything else for the rest of the day, just went around with a stunned look. A picaresque of two assassin brothers in the Wild West, circa 1880, it reminded me of Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, except that the difference between Lenny and George lie in morality and not in intellect, yet even the lines there are beautifully blurred. The large soft-hearted brother is a romantic and philosopher; the wiry brother is harder, and a more stone-cold killer, yet he too has his own morality. Eli, the main character, is essentially a peaceable person and dislikes violence, yet realizes and acknowledges that his protectiveness towards his brother stirs violence in him; and that his brother uses this propensity while the blood-lust lasts. After every incident, Eli spends some time in consideration and summation of the significance of the interaction between himself, his brother, and the others with whom they come in contact. The relationship between the brothers is complex and will spark recognition in anyone with a close sibling. And I love period fiction. Anyway, I can’t even do it justice. Read it.

After two such powerful and stirring reads, I was ready for something a bit lighter: Cruising Attitude, by Heather Poole, was perfect. If you’re interested in the inner workings of the airline industry, and the life of a flight attendant, this is the book. There is also LOTS of dishing on flight attendant shenanigans and even more dish on passenger behavior. I am shocked that people still behave like boors on flights but apparently they do. Shame on you, people! Manners are for everybody. Fun read, light and entertaining.

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Tent city dismantled…

So the local government (me) finally cracked down, and the tents have been folded up and taken back to town, which is good because we were beginning to wonder when the bongos and weed were going to appear. No, not really! There’s no bongos on the Island, that’s ridiculous. We’ve had a couple of quiet days, as the Hapa Izakaya staff party was raging last night and Justin had to go back to organize and chaperone, snort. I’m sure he was a model of rectitude, snort.

I finally got a few more books read after washing all the duvets and pillows and sheets, good Christ. When the kids take duvets and pillows out to the tent, it’s nearly impossible to figure out where they all originated. And when I was done cleaning up I consented to draw for the girls. I like to do crafts but I have to watch out when I’m doing crafts “with” the girls, it’s more like working for the Medicis. They’re very exacting and demand multiple types of princess: fairy princess, mermaid princess, princess princess, Viking princess (my favourite because I can put her in a cloak and avoid drawing both hands), etc. It’s a lot of princesses, plus when I stray from their specifications they’re quick to make me erase and re-draw. Today they asked for dancing girls – not the easy-to-draw kind with many diaphanous veils, but Tango Dancer, Disco Dancer, Ballroom Dancer, Ballet Dancer….I refused. Way too many limbs to draw. I am not Da Vinci. Princesses are ok because I can put them in long dresses and not have to worry about drawing legs. So the girls did their own drawing which is good for them anyway. It’s all about practice! There’s a reason I’m good at drawing princesses; I’ve been drawing them for about 4 years now.

Back to books: Harry Bucknall’s In The Dolphin’s Wake – a travelogue about Greece. Lots of history. I wish I’d been to Greece but it’s definitely on my travel wish list now. Fairly amusing in a very low key way, and inspiring me to read Lawrence Durrell’s Spirit of Place. I didn’t care for the Alexandria Quartet when I read it but I was pretty young then and mostly scanned reputedly risque novels looking for smut (Owen Meany in John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany, “One book about having sex in a foreign country is enough”), so I should probably have another look. I’m a fan of Gerald Durrell’s books, and his portrait of his brother is so hilarious it’s kind of hard to read Larry’s books without remembering his little brother’s descriptions. “Small” and “portly” are two words I remember Gerald using. Hard to live that down.

I finished Ali Wentworth’s memoir, Ali in Wonderland, in about 90 minutes. A comedian and actress, she appears quite anxious to downplay her patrician WASP background – her mother is Muffie Brandon Cabot, one of Nancy Reagan’s social secretaries, no less. (I mean, Muffie!) It’s just hard to downplay something when you talk about it as much as she does in that inverted way that says she doesn’t really care. But obviously she does, otherwise why are we making such a big deal about it? You know the kind. Constantly reminding the reader about her pedigree to say it doesn’t matter at all, she’s actually just like real folks. Except not… It’s the juxtaposition that’s meant to be amusing but after a while it gets tired. In the same way she paints herself as a real slob, but if you Google her you get an Architectural Digest article and pictures of her apartment – it’s unreal, she should charge admission! Have a look.  Oh well. She’s privileged and she knows it but she’s still keepin’ it real. Sort of! She’s is funny and lovable, and she did throw herself into the kind of lifestyle and profession that would horrify most WASP parents, or at least she did for a while. Because eventually she marries George Stephanopolous and winds up right back in the whole Beltway world! Talk about being back in your comfort zone. I like that she embraces the whole Greek thing, which is cool, especially as I hear it’s not so easy. Her mother sounds fairly awesome, but you don’t hear anything about her father, which, as the book goes on, becomes more and more of a white elephant in the room. So curious about him now! Ali needs to write a book about that, there are clearly issues of abandonment – she sees so many shrinks I want to recommend mine to her – and I think it would be a much deeper and significant book than this one which is light and fluffy. You know, fun, funny, but forgettable. I think there’s more there, but it needs to be dug up and examined. Now that would be a great book. That’s how you know her shrinks are crap, there’s not much insight and she hasn’t really been challenged to look at things in a critical way. Things never get so tough for her that she’s forced to really consider the sources of her neuroses and make real changes in her life. Because apparently when patricians have a tough time they head for the Four Seasons and camp out there a while. That kind of blew my mind. It gives you an idea of the sort of financial safety net she grew up with and takes for granted. She was at the north end of Manhattan when the south end got devastated during 9/11 and still had to go be pampered at the Four Seasons! Whoa! Reality check! I think the sort of unsparing honesty that Augusten Burroughs brings to his work would benefit Ms. Wentworth in hers. There could be a great book there, but it’s possible she’ll never venture into that territory (maybe because she wouldn’t want to annoy Muffie), which is a shame.

Now am hugging myself with pleasure as I’m starting The Haunting of Maddy Clare by Simone St. James (that’s a pen name if I’ve ever heard one) and it’s promising to be  a super-fun ghost story. I love ghost stories! But I need to get going on it before the next round of guests arrives.

The weather today is beautiful! Hot but in a Pacific Northwest way, which means not really hot, but sunny, clear and with just the lightest delicious breeze. A day when you’re just so grateful to live in this part of the world.

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Occupy Bowser!

It’s so beautiful here we are moved to dance….

Whew…a weekend of friends, food, bocce, kayaking, the routine capture and release of tiny crabs, and the joy of camping in the yard. The kids have now decided that they are going to live in the tent and their behaviour is reminiscent of squatters during the Occupy movement, except without the politics and for the fact that we make them shower regularly.

For brunch today we made a frittata, scrambled eggs (because some of the kids won’t eat frittata), toast (Cobs’ Chia Bread), fresh blueberries, and homemade cinnamon buns. I’d made an all-purpose dough, divided it into two, used half for dinner rolls two nights ago, and stashed the rest in the fridge until this morning, when we rolled it out into a large rectangle, brushed it with melted butter and sprinkled it with a mixture of cinnamon and brown sugar, rolled it up, cut it into 12 portions and inserted each into a greased muffin cup. I’d prepped the muffin cups with a mixture of butter, brown sugar and honey briefly warmed on the stovetop and put a spoonful into each cup. These baked at 400F within 15 minutes and I remembered to remove them from the muffin cups before they got too attached, as they do when they’re allowed to sit in there until cool.

All-Purpose Tender Refrigerator Dough

  • 1/4 c. warm water
  • 1 t. sugar
  • 1 pkg quick yeast
  • 1 c. milk
  • 1/2 c. butter
  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 egg
  • 4 1/2 c. all-purpose flour

In a small bowl put the warm water, 1 t. sugar (stir) and sprinkle in 1 pkg yeast and let sit while you assemble the other ingredients.

In a larger bowl or glass measuring cup put the butter, milk and 1/3 c. sugar and microwave for about 40 seconds to 1 minute or until warm but not hot and the butter is melted. Beat the egg into with the warm milk mixture. Add the yeast mixture to this.

Transfer to a large mixing bowl and add 2 cups of flour. Mix well and then add more flour until the dough is shaggy and kind of holding together. Turn out onto a floured countertop and knead for about 10 minutes. Only add as much flour as you need to keep it from sticking to the countertop and your hands.

Divide dough into two equal portions. Oil each portion lightly. Either put each into a large Ziploc bag and seal but not completely, and put into the fridge. Or if you are using one portion immediately oil it and put it into a large bowl, cover with waxed paper or plastic wrap and a clean tea towel and let proof 1-2 hours, then use as you like. I made dinner rolls: I proofed the dough, then punched it down and divided it into 12 equal portions, made balls of them and put them about 1 inch apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  I proofed these again for another hour until they were clearly larger and puffier. I brushed them with some beaten egg mixed with water. These baked within 17 minutes at 400F, golden brown and super-soft inside. Mmmmm.

The only thing wrong was that I could only make 12 cinnamon buns with half the dough (it made 12 dinner rolls and 12 cinnamon buns) and we clearly needed at least double that amount because they were so yummy. This recipe is for vacation time because when I’m at home I use a bread maker to do the hard work of making the dough. However, I have found that I rather like the kneading process, it’s very soothing and we’re on vacation so we have time for things like kneading bread dough.

I made hamburger buns last week, they were amazing, and these buns are even better….it actually kind of sucks when I’m trying to reduce carbs. Not eliminate, but reduce. But it seems wrong to do anything but go nom nom nom when you get these buns hot out of the oven.

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Summer 2012: Indifferent

Yesterday’s weather was glorious! But I sat out in the sun too much the day before, like a dope, and burned my chest, so I stayed out of the beautiful sunshine and did a little art project with the girls. And today big roiling clouds are moving in, promising showers. And the girls have decided to spend the day in bed – a John and Yoko-type statement, possibly? – so I will hie me to the grocery store.

Beautiful day in Bowser….

And the art work we (I) did on that beautiful day:

Koalas in a gum tree!

So not a super-genius move on my part, even if the art is stunning. However, Justin and Mio went paddleboarding so they made good use of their day, whilst Hana went for a “swim” in 3 inches of water in the paddle pool. She got her hair wet, I don’t know how. Maybe she did a headstand in there. I was painstakingly cutting out small green leaves so I missed her adventure.

Paddleboarder plus 1 stowaway

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Blog Launch: Bowser, BC

For the past five years we’ve spent our summer vacation on Vancouver Island, in an idyllic spot in Bowser Beach. Look at how gorgeous this place is:

It’s so beautiful here. Usually.

Or check this out:

So Roy Vickers!

But here’s what it looks like today:

It’s an indoors kind of day….there’s a blue heron down at the water’s edge but he’s hard to detect in this crappy photo.

So, still nice, because you can’t complain when you’re right on the water, but it’s quite gray and cold. We still collected crabs on the beach which is a daily activity around here, but the girls are getting restless with no other kids expected until Friday. But the pluses are: no bugs, or at least not in annoying numbers, no need to slather on sunscreen and then shower multiple times a day, starting this blog, and….we made homemade hamburger buns! Yes, we’re trying to decrease our carbs, but if a homemade hamburger bun isn’t a “good” carb then I don’t know what is. Mmmmmm.

Crabs wondering where they are. One escaped and fled through the gaps in the deck. He’s got a long walk back to the beach. The rest we released humanely, a.k.a. “dumping the bucket in a likely spot” before they expired. Of boredom. There’s not much to do in a plastic bucket except annoy your neighbours.

The kids never get tired of collecting crabs. Actually, I rather enjoy it too. Mio organizes us: “Mama, you take the big feisty crabs. Hana can have the medium crabs. I’ll take the cute tiny baby crabs because they like me.” The proof of the baby crabs’ affection is the fact that she places them in her palm and they don’t pinch her. I think they realize they can’t pinch her. My job is to overturn large rocks and grab the larger crabs. They don’t pinch me either but that’s because I grab their behinds, not because of any fondness between us. I think. Frankly, they should probably curry favour with the only collector who insists they be returned to the beach. I’m the “good” prison guard, the one to suck up to. Hana’s job is to overturn the rocks she can manage without crushing her own feet and to shriek excitedly when she finds a good collection: “Mama! There’s crabs here! Mio! Crabs! Quickly, they’re escaping!” followed by much agitated screaming. Can crabs hear? If so, they should be terrified.

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