When I moved into my newly purchased home a few years ago, my realtors gave me a moving-in present. It was a beautiful kind of canoe-shaped slate grey concrete pot full of artfully arranged succulents. It was actually from my old landlord’s new plant store!
I looked down at the beautiful little leafy things, and thought, “Poor bastards.”
Then I thought, “Maybe when they die, I’ll use this pot to keep fruit on the counter.”
It is a very pretty pot, very my aesthetic. And a similar colour of grey as my ‘green thumb’. I have purchased an assortment of plants over the years to no avail. I turned a wavy fern into a crispy-wavy fern. I caused a tiny cactus to explode into green goo. My lucky bamboo was not so lucky.
The only thing that has survived my care long-term is african violets.
That was, however, before I moved into a house with a full sun south-facing window. To my utter astonishment, the pot of succulents not only survived, but thrived to the point that I needed to split a bunch of them and repot sections.
It was very satisfying.
Next, I got an indestructible vine cutting from a friend, who assured me it would take whatever light or water I chose to provide it with.
From there my collection has grown…
And then covid happened, and my hobby became a larger part of my house… and grew some more…
It’s not a problem if no one is getting hurt by it. Right?!
I recently had an experience that reminded me how important it is to be a parent. I am not a parent, just to be clear. I just spend a lot of time in parks, and in the neighbourhood so I have plenty of opportunity to judge them.
You (in general), as a parent, are responsible for teaching a brand new person the ins and outs of life, and interacting with the world. That’s a big thing!
I was walking Gwynn through High Park after he’d gotten his spring hair cut this year. Right out of his haircut, he looks like the most delightful teddy bear on earth to cuddle and squeeze and pet. Beautiful day, tons of people around, and I was on my way to the dog off-leash area to let him run around a bit (and, as is inevitable, get some mud on the wheels, as it were.).
With that many people around I pay a lot of attention – make sure to keep Gwynn close when walking past that person who is looking nervous of him, or that kid holding an ice cream cone at dog-level, etc.
So I noticed when a girl – probably about 10 – locked on to Gwynn and began speed-walking away from her mother and directly towards Gwynn (from behind him), hands already outstretched.
Gwynn is friendly. But He. Is. A. Dog. And coming up behind a strange animal and surprising him with a random pet from a stranger? Nuh uh. And this is where I judge the kid’s mom, and intercede in the teaching of life-interactions.
Placing myself between Gwynn and the little girl, I told/asked her, “You know you always need to ask permission before going near a strange dog? Right?“*
I got a blank look in response to this, but at least she’d stopped moving forward.
“You have to ask, because the dog might be scared of people, or mean, or sick, or not like kids or surprises, but if you ask, I might say yes,” I add, when it becomes clear that Mom isn’t taking advantage of this teachable moment.
I get through to her. “Can I pet your dog?” she asks.
“Absolutely! He’s very friendly.”
End scene. I really hope I got through to her, but frankly, I. Am. Not. Her. Parent. or friend, or relative, or teacher/person of authority in her life. There is just as much chance that she will go off and complain with her mom about that weird rude (possibly even that B word) who tried to lecture her about dogs, when her dog isn’t even not-friendly, so why?why? And if her parents aren’t bothering with agreeing with me on this, then why would she?
Gwynn and I are walking through the park near me last weekend, on a pretty high traffic multi-use trail. Enter a little boy on a bicycle going the opposite direction to us. I moved off to the side, but that wasn’t necessary, because he came to a stop, dropped his bike and says, “Hi, my name is (Let’s call him Timmy), can I pet your dog?”
Delighted, I said, “Yes! And thank you for asking! His name is Gwynn.” And we spent the next few minutes talking about Gwynn, and bicycles.
Younger brother caught up, asked the same question, and, getting another enthusiastic YES-and-thank-you, started walking with his bike towards Gwynn. Mom shows up on her bike at this point, and immediately says, “Stop and put your bike down, you’ll make the dog nervous.”
Brilliant. As I walked away, I overheard the older kid telling his mom about how “That lady with the dog thanked me for asking if I could pet him!”
It warms the cockles of my heart, it does indeed.
Parents: teach your kids proper animal etiquette. Always ask, and always be gentle with animals are the rules they need the most. And try not to pass your own fears of animals on to them. Also, you are doing a fantastic job, in general (not that my opinion matters, here, but still.), at raising children and handling the screaming and the constant energy and the many MANY ‘Why?’ questions, and oh god, it just seems exhausting.
People with dogs: also educate kids if they don’t seem to know about the ask rule… and if they do know – make sure to let them know that them doing the right thing is AWESOME. Because sometimes hearing something from a stranger can reinforce good behaviours that parents are teaching.
*Blog readers – you know this, yes? If you didn’t before, you know now. “Is your dog friendly?”, “Can/May I pet your dog?”… “Is it ok for my (child too young to speak coherently especially to strangers) to say hello to your dog?” And, regardless of what size a dog is, how happy he seems to be to see you, and how experienced you are with dogs, if the owner says ‘no’, then give them space!
When my aunt was born, my dad’s parents had to get rid of their dog, Spot. In my dad’s own words, the dog’s name was Spot, because… well… he had spots. I suspect my grandfather was involved in the naming. He was original like that. My dad grew up in a small town that is nearly as small now as it was back then, and the dentist has a farm just on the outskirts, and lots of horses. My aunt is so allergic to animals that, when visiting her parents’ home as an adult, if the wind blew in from that direction, she would have to stay inside with the windows shut, or risk her throat closing up. One time, a plane was emergency landed for her, because the company ignored her when she said that there could absolutely be no animals in the cabin, and allowed someone to bring on their tiny dog in a carry on.
My dad was three the last time he’d had a pet. He didn’t have another pet until he and my mum married.
My grandfather kept cats – stray farm cats who found their way to him, and who were willing to continue living their lives outdoors, visiting with my grandpa on the porch. He couldn’t invite them in because my aunt would then no longer be able to visit. Frankly, I’m not sure if most of them got more of a name than ‘cat’, or possibly ‘gray tabby’, ‘calico’, and ‘black cat’. The one I remember best was, in yet another highly original choice by my grandfather, named Tom. Short for Tomcat. Another original. I’m sure my uncle Tom appreciated the sharing of names.
My grandmother grew up on a farm, and was terrified of the Clydesdales her father used for farmwork, and equally terrified of the cows and their horns. Those work horses are one of my dad’s few memories of his grandfather, and he agrees – to a small child, they were immense and immensely terrifying. My grandmother grew up with chickens as well. She doesn’t eat eggs, though she will use them in baking. She grew up poor, and always said, “You don’t eat the chicken if it’s still laying eggs. You eat a lot of eggs that way.” When we took riding lessons near her house, she would stay as far from the horses as possible, despite their considerably more petite size.
One of the strangest old family headstones at the cemetery near where my dad grew up has a small photograph in it. I wish I had a picture to share with you, but I’m only ever there for funerals, and frankly, that is not the time for photography. The main thing you need to know is that everyone on that side of my family has a very distinctive look. When in a room full of us, it’s very clear who is ‘us’ and who married into the family. Pictures of my grandmother at 17 look like pictures of my aunts at 17, and probably would remind you a great deal of her mother, and grandmother at that age. The men in the family are even more obviously the same. So this photograph is of a man who looks like my dad. Dead on, in fact. It looks like my dad… if he were to grow out a full and magnificent handlebar mustache. And, while I have never met this dearly departed distant relation, I think we’d understand each other just a little bit. Set into his gravestone is a picture of him and his cockatoo.
I’m doing my best to get back into writing – apparently the holidays were so exhausting that I have no imagination left. Or I just lost all ability to plan my time out. One week free of it, and I find myself overwelmed with how much time I spend walking the dog and entertaining him. Not that I’m complaining – we’re getting some pretty walk-friendly weather lately, and less than a month after the solstice, I’m getting so much more daylight.
This week’s word for Trifecta’s writing challenge is:
Check out the other submissions HERE, or submit your own.
It was never my intention to stay so long. I took advantage, I’ll readily admit. It isn’t my proudest moment.
They were an easy mark. How could I resist an open door?
I just can’t bear to leave, quite yet. Maybe a day or two more. Not that I’m getting attached, or anything. I could see myself getting used to it, though, y’know? I’ll stick around and enjoy a bit more free food. Not much of a hardship – company’s not too bad – they give me my space, and they’re real good listeners.
I need my freedom – I need to stretch my legs, feel the grass under my feet, breathe deep of the great outdoors. I’ve got instincts, primal instincts, and they can’t be ignored. I don’t want to get rusty. I’ve gotta hit the road.
It is a pretty scary place out there, though. My pal Fred got scooped up by the nastiest bugger you’ve ever seen. Guy swooped down out of nowhere, and now Fred’s nowhere to be seen. It’s kind of nice to be big man on campus, just for a few more days.
The Missus relies on me to taste-test her cooking.
Plus, they’ve got some wildlife in this place. They buzz around bothering the people here. Tough suckers, too – seems like no matter how many times I land a killing blow, they’re up and jingling about. Can’t leave quite yet – Ieast I could do to repay them is to get rid of this infestation they’ve got.
The old guy and I haven’t gotten much chance in the past few hours to hang out, either. I’ve got this wicked kink in my neck, and he needs help reading the newspaper. Now that’s what I call an equitable exchange of services.
I’ll be leaving soon – best get in some warm-laundry napping while I’m still around to spread the fur. Creeping into their lives was exhausting.
Follow the link to see the picture, hear the song, read the submissions, or submit your own.
Having never been to Iowa, the song made me think of the prairies – rolling low hills and vast expanses of emptiness, and farms, of course, because isolated homesteads are the kind with candles flickering in the window, a light you can see for miles.
She looked in at the flickering candle-light with a kind of longing.
Daddy figured she was probably attracted by the food-smells. He took to carrying the old shotgun when he went out to the barn in the early morning hours.
Momma stood vigil at the kitchen window, watching her through the chintz curtains. She had this look in her eye, predatory and ferocious. Daddy treated Momma like she had to be protected, but I knew better. Grizzly bears don’t need protecting.
She never came past the fence-line, like she knew she wasn’t welcome. To me, she seemed worn down by the weight of the world, weary and too-thin. In a distant way, I knew that a drought-filled dust-bowl summer and an early, bitterly cold winter were to blame. With her sad golden eyes tugging on my heart-strings, I tied it all back to the things Momma and Daddy talked about late at night, whispered conversations about money, bad crops and our best milker running dry. Me and Momma had done the canning in half the time this fall – and that wasn’t a good thing. Times were hard, for us and for her.
An old stew-bone here, a carefully hoarded egg there, I did what I could. She didn’t exactly fill out, but I could see a new spark in her eye.
Will to live, Daddy called it.
Orneriness, Momma said. I didn’t tell her that that’s exactly what Daddy said Momma had sometimes.
I just smiled and made sure she got that last biscuit, and a bit of cold stew. Something to keep the spark alive.
Desperate and starving, men came from the woods when Daddy was two days gone on a trip to town. We didn’t have much, but it was more than they had.
Momma’s eyes glinted grizzly-bear fierce as she loaded the shotgun, smooth and confident as Anny Oakley. I hid in the cupboard. You didn’t back-talk Momma when she had that look in her eye.
She said desperation makes a devil of a foolish man, but her Daddy taught her to shoot. Men never expect women to put up a fight, and that’s their mistake.
I guess they didn’t expect the wolf, neither. Between the crack of buckshot and the hair-raising growls and evilly glowing eyes in the darkness, we ran them off.
Daddy came home, wagon rattling with the few things he’d been able to barter for, hopefully enough to get us through the winter. He was pretty rattled to hear about the incident, snarling about yellow bellied curs, eyes glinting with rage.
I made a nest of blankets for her on the deck, but she wouldn’t stray close.
Daddy said she was a wild animal, and while she liked us, she liked her freedom more.
It was a hungry winter, but she never lost that spark, we made sure of it. She left with the spring, off over the low hills.
Momma just rolled her eyes when she saw that she took a chicken.
Happy Turkey Day to my American friends in blogland! I don’t get why you guys put it so late in the fall, but you make up for it by merging yams and marshmallows and brown sugar into an unholy trinity of glorious “no really, it’s not dessert!”
What am I thankful for on this entirely ordinary Thursday in Canada?
I’m thankful that the salmon are done running, and that the animals have had time to eat all the dead salmon. Because old-rotted-raw-salmon-on-the-river-bank, as I have learned the hard way, is a demon-smell worse than skunk, but less terrible than old-dead-naked-beaver.
Gwynn is thankful that the two week period in which he got 5 baths, including one that involved vinegar, coke and baby shampoo, rinced and then applied again is over.
I’m also thankful that, this week, when I took Gwynn and Sadie into the woods for a walk, it was Sadie that rolled in something I’m going to loosely label ‘mud’. There are times it’s really nice to be able to pass a dog back to its rightful dog-bather at the end of a walk.
Hope you have a safe and happy Thanksgiving (or Thursday), preferably full of so much food that you pop a button on your pants. Because, regardless of which Thanksgiving day you do, it’s all about the turkey!
Head over to Trifecta to submit your own response or to read other peoples’ takes on the word.
This is a continuation from last week, which should hopefully at least half-answer the question that arose from the ending of the piece titled Ice Breaker. If you’re interested in reading the whole story (so far), check it out under the Fiction tab above, the story’s title is Firefly.
The picture was taken by Miras46, whose photobucket page you can find HERE. I really love the colours in this photograph. It’s such a serene and lovely scene.
Isbritare, I name you. The Elemental grinned, and the flames rose up.
Rachel thrashed awake with a gasp, the smell of smoke strong in her nose. Just a dream. She hugged herself tight, reassured at the smooth, unburned skin under her palms.
She padded barefoot to the kitchen. It was the only part of this house that felt like home, the smell of burnt wood and baked bread lingering even when the fire was banked down to embers for the night.
The cold slate floor made her shiver. Partly to reassure herself that the burns of her vision were impossible, she slipped a hand in amongst the embers within the banked fire, letting some of its heat slip into her.
She jumped in surprise when a hand was laid gently on her shoulder. Her Aunt Miriam smiled down at her.
“Once, I would have considered just that enough to prove that someone had a strong touch of fire within.”
Rachel shrugged uncomfortably, stepping away from the fire.
She tucked herself into a kitchen chair as her aunt bustled quietly about the kitchen. In a surprisingly short time, she was pulling the kettle from the stove. Their eyes meet over the tea-pot, and Miriam blushed.
She flicked her fingers dismissively and said, “I’ve got a bit of a knack for boiling water… not much use, apart from making tea, but it serves me well enough.”
Rachel said nothing, loading her tea with sugar and milk to make it more bearable. Miriam only squeezed a bit of lemon in hers, holding the steaming cup up to inhale deeply. It seemed to calm her.
“Rachel… I don’t know exactly what happened at the fire last night – I mean, you were brilliant, of course, but it seemed something went not quite as you expected.” She took a deep breath, and went on. “What I mean to say is, if you need someone to talk to, I’m always here for you.”
We did Hogswatch without you… Happy Belated Hogswatch! It’s taken me a while to get ahold of pictures, and recover from eating enough to actually write about, well, eating.
What is it? Check HERE. Or just know that, in my family, it involves food. LOTS of food.
There is nothing quite like the feeling of your house shrinking as the number of people in it doubles for a long weekend.
Considering I spent two days cooking and eating nearly non-stop, I actually got a lot of exercise. By the time we were done cooking on Sunday night, most of the main floor kitchen had been moved to the basement kitchen, one desperately-needed item at a time. That’s a lot of stair-sprints.
I am not a food blogger. I just don’t have the patience or memory to not-eat-right-away, make things pretty, or take pictures along the way. What we produced was not restaurant-pretty, but it was delicious. Today I’m giving you the rundown of recipes I can link to actual food-bloggers’ sites. Maybe tomorrow I’ll give you some recipes.
We have a slow cooker. I’m not honestly sure if it’s ever been used. My parents have a tendency to buy things in a “OH WOW, how did we live without this thing? We were practically savages!” kind of way, and then they disappear into the bowels of the house, only to reappear years later as a “What. The. Hell?! Was this a gift? From someone who doesn’t like us? Who would buy this?!”
It’s the first time I’ve ‘crocked’ anything, but it turned out fabulously. SO tasty, tender, juicy and delicious. The potatoes didn’t cook as well as everything else, so I’d probably skip them next time. We used baby potatoes, and chopped heirloom carrots instead of the vegetables they list. The other change I made is that I slid slices of lemon and lime (and the spice mixture they use) under the skin of the chicken. It’s pretty easy to do, and is great for flavoring the meat, rather than flavoring the outside of the skin (which no-one in my family eats, especially not after it was steamed into a kind of mushy meh-ness).
I am SO stalking their site for more crock pot recipes.
When I mentioned that I was making this as part of the dessert, my mum’s response was, “What? That’s a real thing? I didn’t think it was a thing!”
The alcohol in it gives it a kind of bitter-sweet taste, and it is so full of dried fruit that you could almost pretend that it’s healthy. It’s spongy and moist and full of tart pieces of fruit. The part where you flame it at the end wasn’t exactly successful for us, but I’ll be trying it again next time.
With that many people eating, someone’s not going to like something. C tried it and disliked it because of the background taste of alcohol. Peanut refused on the grounds of it being contaminated with both alcohol (sometime I’ll tell you about the one and only time she came to the liquor store with me) and dried fruit. I’d classify it as a ‘grown-up dessert’.
We didn’t change the recipe at all, being kind of unsure about what it was meant to be. it’s from here.
Key Lime Cupcakes
We used this recipe, and it was delicious. We decorated them in our own special way, with home-made elephant ears and noses for some, and turtle legs for others. I swear, the elephant and turtle theme makes sense – you should go read a Discworld novel.
In addition to all this, we also had roast duck (from a mishmash of food network recipes), roasted potatoes and beets, spinach and feta tarts, veggie casserole, Wassail Punch, mulled wine, home-made chocolate rats and skeletons onna stick (seriously, it makes sense!), a cheese platter, salad, and cold borscht. Some recipes will follow.
Hope you’re all having a great friday! If you want an even better one, head over to Write on Edge to submit or read the posts submitted for this week’s Red Writing Hood prompt.
The prompt was to write a piece, 400 words or less, based on a mouthwatering photo of a BLT that they provided.
I seriously want to go home right now and fry up some bacon, and I haven’t even started reading everyone elses submissions.
“What do you mean, men are the only ones to make big romantic gestures?” I’d asked.
He leaned back, smirking, and replied, “The romantic gestures that women make are still geared towards women. Do you really think that a guy’s idea of an amazing evening involves rose petals, vanilla candles, and a rom-com? We do that because we know you like it. You do that because you like it. Women don’t know how to romance a guy.”
Double. Dog. Dare.
What else could I do but prove him wrong?
Stores were full of pink and red and sparkle. Stupid Hallmark.
By Tuesday afternoon, I was a nervous wreck.
I showed up at his door, bundled up and holding a black silk blindfold. The half-amused, cocky expression on his face was one I hoped to wipe away by the end of the night.
45 minutes later, I took the blindfold off him. His first view was of a blurry bouquet of roses.
I handed him his glasses and his eyes widened in surprise.
“Let’s get inside.”
He looked bemused, finally noticing that we were parked outside his house.
“You’ve got time to change into sweats, if you want. Game starts soon.”
Settled on the couch a bit later, I whipped the lid off the covered tray with a flourish and a smile. He’ll never know what hit him.
“Ta Daaaa!” I win at valentines!
He stared at the two BLT’s on the platter, the bread toasted to perfection, the bacon practically still sizzling from the pan. It was as perfect a BLT as I could make. He didn’t say a word.
Shit! I should have gone for more romance, less nostalgia. He probably doesn’t even remember this!
“Hah! That was the best night!” He grinned, squeezed me tight before taking a big bite of his sandwich. He groaned happily at the taste, licked at a drip of mayo and grabbed the remote. “What channel’s the game on?”
I snatched it out of his hand and flipped on the DVD player. “We’ll watch the recap later. The ‘game’ is what we’ll tell people we watched. The Notebook is what we’ll actually watch, because it’s your favourite. I don’t get it, but I love you, so I love watching it with you.”
His kiss tasted of maple smoked bacon. How the hell am I going to top this next year?
Mama Kat’s Pretty Much World Famous Writers Workshop this week had a variety of post topics, including this:
5) Share a Story about a Sibling.
Stories? I’ve got plenty! Head over HERE to submit your post or read others(she has 4 other options for this week’s submission as well, in case you don’t want to share a story about a sibling!)
Any time I pick up a can of anything with ‘chicken’ in the label, it reminds me of my sister. Telling this story aloud makes me snort in an unladylike manner, giggling at my own story before the punch line in a way that would possibly indicate it’s funnier to me than to anyone else. That’s fine, I’ll continue to tell it anyways.
Peanut used to have a deep and abiding love of all things chicken soup. Cream-of, chunky-vegetable-and, and of course, plain old chicken soup.
I’m not sure if you all are aware of it, but I speak French. I, unlike my siblings, went through French immersion right up to grade 8. You’d think I’d have figured it out sooner.
Peanut would ask for chicken soup on a regular basis. She would, strangely, develop a bit of a Paula-Deen-esque drawl, and ask for some “Chicken Paulette” for dinner. Imagine the PAulette, pronounced with the same confidence of people understanding it as someone asking for chicken cordon bleu.
This left everyone in the family staring blankly, trying to figure out just what it was that she was asking. We figured out pretty easily that she wanted soup, but where she’d decided to rename plain old chicken noodle soup as ‘Chicken Paulette’ was mysterious.
I’m not sure if you all are aware of it, but I speak French. I, unlike my siblings, went through French immersion right up to grade 8. You’d think I’d have figured it out sooner.
Another of her more baffling food choices pertains to my mother’s recipe for paper-thin pancakes with a cream-cheese spread that is to die for.
“We’re having creeps!”, she would exclaim, pronounced in the same way as you might say, “That guy is such a creep”
Crepes. Pronounced, unless you’re actually speaking French, kind of like ‘kraype’, or, in the same way as one would pronounce the Crepe in Crepe Paper.
Fast forward quite a few years, she knows that it’s chicken soup, minus the redundant Paulette. She still enjoys a good creep, though.