Category Archives: Humour

Amaryllis And Avocats

Like many Canadians, I’m semi-bilingual.  I took eight years of French in school and still read French reasonably well; but the only times I use it are when I accidentally pick up a container with the French label facing outward, and when some crossover in vocabulary gives me a giggle.

That happened just the other day:  Hubby (whose entire French vocabulary consists of ‘oui’) was telling me about an incident where a truckload of rotten produce had been refused by a composting site because the little plastic sticky-labels were still affixed.

He began, “So this truckload of rotten avocats…”

I burst out laughing.

“I meant avocados,” he interrupted.

“I know,” I said, still laughing.  “That’s what’s so funny.”

I then explained that, against all odds, he had inadvertently managed to use the French word for ‘avocado’.  And he’d tickled my funnybone, since ‘avocat’ also means ‘lawyer’ in French.

Now I really want to hear the rest of the story that begins, “So this truckload of rotten lawyers…”

At this point I’ll resist the urge to tell lawyer jokes; partly because I have some very nice friends who are lawyers, but mostly because I prefer to avoid antagonizing people who have the time, inclination, and skill to sue my ass off.

Instead, here are some pretty pictures.  The crocuses are in bloom outside, and inside our amaryllis bulbs are putting on a show.  I just love those gorgeous colours!

These little beauties are just starting outside.

 

These guys are three feet tall!

 

Flame orange…

 

Hot pink…

 

…and gorgeous deep satiny red!

Book 15 update:  I’m on Chapter 35 and going strong!  I just wrote a car chase that takes place in Regina, Saskatchewan in the middle of winter.  I think I managed to make it a little more exciting than this spoof from a commercial for winter tires:

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I Did It, And I’m Proud! (ish)

I found the above title on a completely blank post in my Drafts folder.  I don’t know what I had originally intended to write, but I’m going to run with it now. (Fasten your seatbelt, because the upcoming segue will produce severe g-forces.)

So… speaking of running with it: Remember the aerobics classes of the 1980s?

I was in university then, living in the city after growing up so far out in the sticks that even the fashion-conscious folks were several years behind the current styles.

University was an eye-opener. Suddenly I was confronted by Fashion with a capital F, in clothing, shoes, home furnishings, music, EVERYTHING. Including fitness. My dismal attempts at sartorial style are a post for another day (actually, many days), but I seized on aerobics as The Fitness Thing To Do.

My first aerobics class was taught by one of my interior design classmates. She was perfect in every way. Blonde, petite, a talented interior designer, fashionable, and so insanely fit that fat cells couldn’t even exist in the same room with her.

She was everything I was not. Dressed in her sleek bodysuit, tights, leg warmers, and perky matching headband, she led the class through a complicated and gruelling workout without apparent effort. I gallumphed gracelessly at the back of the room, puffing like steam engine, sweating like a toilet tank, and flailing wildly in an attempt to match her dance-like choreography.

If she hadn’t been such a nice person, I would have suspected her of keeping an eye on me and purposely changing the routine the instant I managed to catch up. But I knew the truth: Even though I’m generally pretty well-coordinated, I’m hopelessly choreography-impaired.

I hadn’t thought about aerobics classes for several decades, but this week it all came back to me. We don’t live close to a gym now, so I follow an online program that’s focused on strength training, not choreography.  The movements are simple and I can keep up.

But.

There’s an add-on module for extra ab work, with a randomized selection of timed activities. Which means, “Keep up with the class, kids”.

So there I was again: panting, sweating, and hopelessly out of sync. The only change from 38 years ago was that this time I was on my back, doing a strikingly accurate imitation of a beetle that’s been flipped upside-down: Arms and legs flailing in the air, body rocking spastically back and forth.

I managed most of the routine before I collapsed and lay there laughing helplessly at myself, while the mechanized voice prompted, “X-Man crosses for 30 seconds starting in 5… 4… 3…”

But at least I’m exercising. I did it, and I’m proud(ish); as long as nobody confuses ‘proud’ with ‘dignified’.

Anybody got some leg warmers I can borrow?

Book 15 update:  I spent most of last week wrestling with a knotty plot (which is not nearly as much fun as wrestling with a naughty plot), and did a big reorganization.  I’m on Chapter 27, and it should be clear sailing now!  (Says she, with misguided optimism.)

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It Tastes Like Sh… ampagne…?

This is it:  The grand unveiling of the tomato cider I started fermenting back in October!

I’ve made several batches of cider over the years, and the process has been pretty similar each time:

  1. Go through the long painstaking process of sterilizing, fermenting, racking, back-sweetening, and bottling.
  2. Wait.
  3. Wait, wait, wait, waitwaitwait…
  4. Proudly bring out the inaugural bottle, pop the top, and pour it out.
  5. Admire the beautiful clarity of the fizzy contents.
  6. Eagerly taste it.
  7. *sound of disappointed crowd booing, accompanied by derisive minor-key music: ‘wah-wah-waaaahhhh’*

Until this year, I’d only made cider out of apples, which is theoretically supposed to give palatable results.  Even so, I’ve never managed to produce anything I’d offer to anyone else; except maybe as a practical joke.

Apparently I’m either optimistic or delusional, because I keep trying despite repeated disappointments.  (Note:  No matter how bad it is, I drink the rotgut myself because I fear the Irish legend of Judgement Day*.)

Since the tomato cider was a crapshoot to start with, my usual optimism was slightly subdued, but there was still some anticipation.

The ‘pop’:

It sounds like champagne!

The pour:

It fizzes like champagne.

The beautifully clear contents:

It looks like champagne!

And the taste test:

Despite its promising appearance, I was afraid it was going to taste like something that starts with that ‘sh-’ sound.  It definitely isn’t champagne, but amazingly, it’s okay!  (You can see my surprise.)

It’s a bit weird because it has a faint but distinct tomato flavour.  Not as much as tomato juice, though, so you might not be able to identify the taste if you didn’t know what it was.  It’s fruity and smooth and pleasantly carbonated.  In short, it’s nothing like the godawful rocket fuel I’ve made in previous years!

I hate to admit it, but this is probably the best result I’ve had out of all my cider-making thus far.  Maybe I’m getting better at it.

Or maybe it only seems better because I drank the whole pint and it’s almost as alcoholic as champagne…

What’s the oddest flavour of cider you’ve ever tried?

*

* On Judgement Day, you’ll be suspended head-down in a barrel containing all the booze you’ve ever wasted; and if you drown, to Hell with you.

Book 15 update:  The last couple of weeks have been full of research and revisions!  Aydan and Arnie’s run-ins with the police will be as accurate as I can make them, thanks to the patience and generosity of the constable from Regina Police Service who answered my MANY questions.

 

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I Think He’s Happy To See Me…

This week a few things have popped up and surprised me.  I’d tell you to stop snickering and get your mind out of the gutter; but you know me too well.  So snicker away — I did.

It all started with a pop-up man…

(And now I want to write some flash fiction beginning with that line. That would be ‘flash fiction’ as in ‘an ultra-short story’, not as in ‘fiction about flashers’. And that’s not even a digression, because the pop-up man started with flashers.)

It was dusk. The lights were on in our house and the yard was cloaked in near-darkness. We live in the country so I don’t worry too much about privacy, but I do draw the blinds at night.

So I was heading for the window when I noticed a truck with its flashers on, backed into our driveway outside the gate. I wasn’t unduly surprised because sometimes people do pull into our driveway when they’re lost and need to check their GPS.  (Which does them no good at all because we’re out in the middle of nowhere and our road isn’t on any GPS map; but anyway…)

I stood at the window watching the vehicle for a few moments.  Then as I reached for the blind cord, a dark-clad man popped up out of the gloom, staring in at me.

He waved. His hand, fortunately.

I must have looked utterly dumbfounded.  He gave me a conciliatory smile and waved again, pointing to his clipboard. Yep, the UPS guy had let himself in our gate and come to the front door (which we never use).

I felt more than a bit awkward as I opened the door and stammered a half-assed explanation as to why I’d apparently been standing there gawking brainlessly at him.  He seemed happy enough to complete the transaction, but he probably went back to the depot and regaled everyone with the story of this weird creepy broad who stood there staring out at him instead of answering the door.

Next, we were digging the last of our carrots when this popped up:

Hubby speculated that the carrots were mutating into some sort of new ambulatory vegetable. Then we turned it around:

I think he’s happy to see me; in a twisted sort of way…

My last surprise was this guy (or gal — who can tell?):

S/He doesn’t look particularly happy to see me; but since I don’t think eagles are capable of looking pleased, I’m going to pretend s/he’s smiling.

I was sitting outside with my tea when this eagle flew by about ten feet away from me, and only a few feet off the ground. Wow, what a surprise!  I’ve never been that close to a wild eagle before.  (And after a glimpse of those vicious talons and beak, I don’t want to get much closer.)

Any surprises popped up in your world this week?

Book 15 update:  An excellent plotting week!  I have the story almost all mapped out now, and I’ve written up to Chapter 18.  Aydan just got a big (and pleasant, for a change) surprise!

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Never Mind, It’s ‘Gourmet’

This weekend we had a family birthday, and as usual I made a birthday cake. I love making birthday cakes; partly because, hello, it’s cake, and I get to make lots of different flavours throughout the year; and partly because it’s usually divided among a large enough group that I can’t pig out on it.  (Much.)

This time it was confetti cake.  The cake turned out fine, and after it cooled I mixed up the ermine frosting and started spreading it on.

Sometimes I wonder whether it’s better to wear my glasses so that I notice oddball details; or not to wear them and be happily oblivious. But for better or worse, I was wearing my glasses, so I noticed the odd little… things making lumps in my frosting.

I hadn’t put any things in it when I mixed it up, so I tasted one and determined that it was a tiny dumpling of over-cooked flour. (Ermine frosting is a velvety-smooth, not-too-sweet frosting that starts with milk and flour cooked together.)  And there were lots of those little rubbery bits, ranging in size from a pinhead to a popcorn kernel. Grrr!

I’ve been making birthday cakes for years without a problem, so I have standards.  I scraped that batch of frosting off the cake and relegated it to the fridge for non-public use. (Hey, it was still yummy buttery frosting — I wasn’t going to throw it away!)

I mixed up a second batch, only to discover to my chagrin that it had things in it, too. (I blame the flour – it wasn’t my usual brand.)  Fortunately the things were smaller, so I slapped the frosting on the cake and served it up, and nobody noticed. Or they were too polite to comment. Either way, I’ll call it a win.

When I confessed the debacle to Hubby later, he laughed. “I’ve seen weirder stuff on a menu,” he said. “If anybody notices, just tell them it’s ‘gourmet’.”

So that’s my new go-to excuse for failed recipes, to be spoken in a tone of utmost snootiness: “It’s gourmet cuisine. I don’t expect you to understand.”

Now, please excuse me while I sneak into the kitchen and help myself to that tub of ‘gourmet frosting’.  😉

What’s your favourite birthday cake and frosting combo?

I’m no professional, but I have fun decorating cakes anyway!

Big news:  The audiobook version of The Spy Is Cast (Book 2) has just been completed!  It should be available through Amazon /Audible within a few weeks; and the audiobook for Reach For The Spy (Book 3) is in production now.

Book 15 update:  I’m halfway through Chapter 16, and Arnie’s loyalty is being tested…

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Artificial What?

I’ve been pressed for time this week, so I was late getting started on the draft for this post. As I paced the floor wondering what to write, Hubby piped up helpfully: “You know, you need an AI program to create your blogs for you.”

That made me laugh, for a couple of reasons. First, I grew up on a farm. Long before anybody ever thought of calling computer programs ‘Artificial Intelligence’, AI stood for ‘Artificial Insemination’. That might be apropos, considering that some of my posts are pretty screwy; but the accompanying mental image is, um… let’s just say unwholesome.

The second reason for my laughter is that my blog’s spam folder is full of AI ‘creativity’. (Just to clarify, I’m referring to Artificial Intelligence in this case; although considering some of the eye-popping porn in there, both definitions of AI may be equally accurate.)

Here’s one of the (non-X-rated) gems from my recent spam:
“An unconfused perk of living in a multicultural gentry is the wide-ranging variety of foods that enhance ready. X Field notes may document empirical details, methodological issues, dear thoughts, prolegomenon analyses and working hypotheses. Some are within the Checklist to ensure angelic physical environment mistress’s authority over, others not.”

Wow, I wish I’d written that! (Or not.) On the up side, I learned a new word: “prolegomenon”, which is “a critical or discursive introduction to a book”. Who knew?

But that aroused my curiosity. How do spammers develop their content? So your intrepid reporter dove deep into the questionable waters of the internet, and guess what I discovered? There are online generators for everything! Random words, nouns, adjectives, names, numbers, phrases; even complete sentences. So of course I had to try them out.

Fun was had and time was wasted, but despite my dedicated research I didn’t uncover any intelligence, artificial or otherwise.

It didn’t do much for my own intelligence, either. I could practically feel the IQ points slipping away; which may explain why I’ve developed a disturbing tendency to lose focus and stare blankly off into space waiting for my brain to reboot. (It’s not advancing age. Or so I keep telling myself.)

And on that note…

Lately I’ve been spread too thin, so I’m going to scale back my internet presence and concentrate on writing Book 15 for the next little while. I’ll post regular progress notes to prove I’m still alive and working, and I’ll write sporadic ‘real’ posts when I have time.  And of course, I’ll look forward to your comments as always — your comments are the best part of this blog!

“Talk” to you soon!

Book 15 update:  I’m on Chapter 14 and going strong!  Arnie’s having a tough time, but Aydan and John are there for him as always.

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Going Bananas

You know how you’ll be cheerfully going on with life, and suddenly the fates deliver a spate of occurrences related to the same obscure item?  Well, for the last couple of weeks it’s been bananas.  Actual bananas; although things have been a bit bananas in the metaphorical sense, too.

Digression:  Why do we say ‘going bananas’?  What makes bananas crazier than any other fruit?  We don’t ‘go apples’ or ‘go peaches’.  Although now that I think of it, I kinda like ‘going kumquats’.

Back to my point:

I realize bananas aren’t particularly obscure. They’re always in fruit baskets and grocery stores; but they lurk unobtrusively in the background (at least, as unobtrusively as any large yellow phallic object can lurk).  But lately they’ve been popping up in my life repeatedly.

It all started with Hubby. And no, I’m not going to make an off-colour reference to his banana popping up; though the temptation is strong. (Yikes, maybe I’m finally growing up! But probably not.)

Anyway, you may recall that we’ve been experimenting with tomato wine and cider. It’s too soon to tell whether any of it will be palatable, but as a preemptive (or maybe defensive) action Hubby has been researching wine conditioners, i.e. ‘anything that will make vile rotgut tolerable enough to swallow’.

And guess what? A lot of people condition their fruit wines with banana wine.  To me, that sounds like starting with shit and adding new shit in the hope of creating something that doesn’t taste like shit; but what do I know?

That was the first banana-related occurrence.  Next I went out to visit my step-mom. One morning as I reached for the fruit basket, she said, “You do know how to open a banana correctly, don’t you?”

I hesitated, wondering if this was the setup for a joke or the introduction to an etiquette lesson (because everybody knows that ‘ladies’ eat bananas sideways in public). Turned out it was neither.

“I saw it on TV,” she said. “You hold them by the stem, parallel to the floor with the tip curving up, and then snap your wrist down and the banana will open.”

And damn, she was right.  After more than fifty years on this earth, I finally know how to open a banana.

Flushed with my new knowledge, I suggested to Hubby that it would be an efficient way to peel a bunch of bananas if he decides to go ahead with the banana wine.

He raised a skeptical eyebrow. “What if the bananas are really ripe?” he inquired. “Like they are when you make banana bread.  Because that’s how ripe they need to be for wine.”

“Oh,” said I, crestfallen. “No, that would probably end up more like ‘squish-splat’.”

From there the conversation devolved into speculations about banana-bombs and other forms of domestic warfare.  We never did get back to banana wine; but it’s probably for the best.  The smell of fermenting bananas would drive me kumquats.

Have any bananas popped up in your life lately?

Book 15 update:  At last, some quality writing time!  I’m halfway through Chapter 12 and John has just saved the day… for now…

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Gardening and Other Extreme Sports

We’ve finally put the last of the garden to bed. (Well… kinda. The parsnips and carrots are still out there, but they’re fine with some frost so we’re not in a hurry.)  It’s a relief, because this year’s garden felt like an extreme sport — long gruelling hours of hand-watering, weeding, picking, processing, canning and freezing.

I grew an extreme watermelon:

That’s a 40-pound watermelon, in case you’re wondering.  And for the first time in my life somebody said to me, “Nice watermelons!”  (Okay, she actually said ‘watermelon’, which isn’t quite the same; but I took the compliment nonetheless.)

We got extreme beets:

And you already know about our extreme tomatoes, which have almost completed their primary fermentation and are on the verge of being filtered and bottled for cider:

But now that all’s quiet on the garden front, I feel a little flat.  There are still a few outside chores to be done, but the ‘extreme’ part is over for the season.  Dang, what am I going to do for an adrenaline rush?

So I consulted the internet.

Extreme sitting (sporthocking) sounded like something I could nail without too much practice, but after watching the YouTube video, I decided against it.  I want to be able to use those parts of my anatomy for a good long while, and that looks like an ideal way to break one’s butt (among other things).

Extreme ironing seemed a possibility (although not necessarily a good fit; since I use my iron maybe once or twice a year).  But no.  My rock-climbing, sky-diving, and scuba-diving skills just aren’t quite up to par.  The video also mentioned extreme vacuuming; but I’ve never been fond of vacuuming.  (Nor of hurtling down a hill on a household appliance with no steering or brakes.)  So that was out.

Chess boxing could combine my love of kickboxing with the more cerebral pursuit of chess, but I’m not good enough at either of them.  And anyway, Hubby didn’t want to play.

So I guess it’s down to toe wrestling.  It might be a bit hard on the bunions, but at least if Hubby and I have nothing else to do during our long rainy winter, toe wrestling might lead to other, more interesting indoor ‘sports’.

Any other extreme sport suggestions?

*

P.S. I’m travelling until the end of the month so my next post will be November 6, but I’ll be checking in here regularly.  ‘Talk’ to you soon!

Book 15 update:  Chapter 9 is well on its way, and I made good strides with the plot this week.  It’s lucky that Aydan stays fit – she’s going to need it in this book!

 

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Tomato Wine

My dad grew up in the Depression years, so if anything could be conserved and/or reused, our family did it.  Wasting food wasn’t quite a cardinal sin, but we mourned the occasional demise of a leftover with the regret most people would feel over losing a $5 bill.

I inherited the food-conservation compulsion.

So.  You may recall that Hubby and I grew a gigantic and successful veggie garden this year.  The tomatoes were particularly prolific.  We ate fresh tomatoes with almost every meal, and I canned quarts and quarts of them.  Then I made salsa, ketchup, tomato paste, and green tomato pickle.  I gave away tomatoes to friends, neighbours, and the food bank; and the tomatoes just kept coming.

We still have so many tomatoes that for once in my life, I’ve stopped worrying about wasting them.  (Okay, not really; but at least I’m slightly less obsessive about it.)  So I’m trying something new:  Tomato wine and tomato cider.

It may not be as weird as it sounds; or at least we’re not the first to attempt it.  I have no idea whether it will be tasty, barely drinkable, or vile rocket fuel; but at this point I have nothing to lose but a couple of pounds of sugar and a package of yeast.

Wine-making vocabulary always makes me wonder whether I’m fermenting a beverage or describing some kind of medieval torture: Pitching the yeast, racking off… it all sounds painful and barbaric.  But drinking our tomato hooch might actually turn out to be akin to medieval torture; so maybe the vocabulary is more appropriate than I realize.

Even if it fails, it’s an interesting experiment; and at least I tried to Not Waste Food.  I think my dad would be pleased:  His chokecherry wine was legendary.  (Keeping in mind that ‘legendary’ can be astoundingly good or abysmally bad.  It was definitely memorable.)

Anybody else ever made tomato wine or cider?  Or have more ideas for using another twenty pounds of tomatoes?  Maybe tomato ice cream…?

Book 15 update:  Another good writing week!  I’m in the middle of Chapter 9 with flashing lights and sirens, and Arnie’s found another feline friend.

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Awkward…

I have to confess:  A couple of weeks ago I swore at a shoe saleslady because I thought we were just joking around.  Apparently I was wrong.  Awkwardness ensued.

So…

I went to the running shoe store and explained to the saleslady that I buy runners based only on comfort.  Style is irrelevant, as long as my feet are happy.

“Oh,” she said snarkily.  “It’s my lucky day.  You’re going to make me drag out every pair of shoes in the store, aren’t you?”

I was slightly taken aback, but I decided she must be joking.  After all, dragging out shoes is her job.  So I laughed and said, “Yep, probably.  Sorry about that.”

She brought out a couple of pairs and I tried them on.  She immediately pointed to one pair.  “Those are the ones.  I like the way they look on your feet.”

“They’re nice,” I agreed.  “But they don’t fit.  Do you have any others?”

She made another remark about how I was inconveniencing her, and I dutifully laughed.  She returned with a couple more pairs, and again pointed out the ones she liked; and again I explained that their appearance was irrelevant.

“Wait, I have the perfect shoes for you!”  She scurried off and returned with another box.  “Here!  These are beautiful!”

She triumphantly displayed the ugliest shoes I’ve ever seen.  I mean, we’re talking about some unholy union between a giant marshmallow and neon bedroom slippers; and if you’re having difficulty visualizing that, you’re lucky.  The reality was retina-scarring.

I burst out laughing and exclaimed, “Those are hideous!”

“They’re beautiful,” she insisted.  “Just put them on.  You’ll love them.”

So I put them on, because if they had fit well I would’ve bought them no matter how ugly they were.  To my everlasting relief, they weren’t comfortable.

“Nope, sorry,” I said.

“But they look so lovely on your feet!  Just walk around in them a bit more.  They’re so beautiful!  These are absolutely the right shoes for you!”

And that’s where I screwed up.  I was sure she was joking.  Why else would she hard-sell the shoes when I’d already clearly said I hated them and they weren’t comfortable?

“Oh, stop with the bullshit!” I said with a grin.  “I’m up to my neck in it!”

A chilly silence ensued.

I did buy a pair of runners (not the hideous ones), but it was awkward.

I feel vaguely guilty.  One might argue that if she wasn’t joking, then she deserved a verbal slapdown; but that’s not how I roll.  If I had known she was serious, I would have politely deflected her like any other annoying salesperson.

This ‘social interaction’ stuff is ’way too complicated.  Maybe I’ll just order everything online from now on.  And if that limits my contact with other human beings to once or twice a year, well, what could possibly go wrong?

At least if I really offend somebody and have to run away, I’ve got a snazzy new pair of runners…

Book 15 update:  A productive writing week!  Chapter 7 ended with a bang, and Aydan and the gang are off and running (literally).

 

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