Tag Archives: Vancouver Island

Dwindling Time; Shrinking Pants

I can’t believe 2019 is gone already — I honestly don’t know where the time went.  My theory is that aliens have been abducting me for several hours every day, and they’ve masked their nefarious activities with false memories of working at my desk.  Either that, or Dr. Who is hovering above our house and altering time so that I’m working at half-speed relative to the rest of the world.

I’m sure there has to be some sci-fi explanation, because I’m not fond of the thought that I’m working as hard and fast as I can and still falling behind.  So, aliens it is!

Now that we’ve got that sorted out, let’s tackle the conundrum of why pants shrink in December.  I’m sure it must be the shorter hours of daylight and cooler temperatures that make the fabric fibres contract.  (Or maybe that’s caused by aliens, too.)  It can’t possibly be related to that box of chocolates I can’t seem to pass without nibbling.

Speaking of shorter days, we’re in the gloomy depths of winter rain here, which is actually a bit of a relief.  I’m not fond of dark days, but it was a dry autumn and water reservoirs were low, so it’s good to know they’re being replenished now.

I’m ready to look at something besides grey clouds, so here are some cheery views from 2019.

(Click on photos to see a larger version.  Depending on your browser, clicking again on the larger photo might give you a closeup — worth doing for the little pollen-coated bee.)

Ahhhh, beach and blue sky!

 

Happy garden plants soaking up the sun

 

Bees hard at work – look at the pollen on this little guy!

 

Colours so vivid they almost hurt your eyes

 

Sunny rudbeckia. This is ‘Goldsturm’.

 

And our tiny rhododendrons bloomed heroically! This is ‘Lee’s Best Purple’, only about 2 feet tall but with flower trusses the size of basketballs.

 

Ah, I feel better now.  It might be a while before spring gets here, but at least I can happily anticipate it.

And hey, maybe my pants will stretch out by spring, too!  I can always hope.  (I could also exercise more and diet a bit; but that would imply that those shrinking pants are somehow my fault.  Perish the thought.)

Happy New Year!

Book 15 update:  Just when I think I’ve got everything figured out, another wrench appears in the works.  But I did some excellent plotting and lots of research over the holidays, and I’m bombing ahead with Chapter 26.  Things just took a turn for the worse for Aydan and the boys, and they’re scrambling!

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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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More Juggling (But Not With Fish)

September is shaping up to be a crazy month!  (Lucky I’m crazy enough to deal with it.)  I’m still picking piles of fruit and veggies from the garden, and we’re busily socking it away to enjoy throughout the winter.  The considerable overflow goes to our friends and neighbours as well as the Food Bank.

We might have been just a teeny bit over-enthusiastic when we were planting the garden, but… look at all this glorious food!

(Click on photos to enlarge.)

A single picking of tomatoes. (I pick a couple of times a week.)

 

Ten gallons of chopped carrots all ready for the freezer.

 

50 pints of pickles, 22 pints of jam, 7 pints of salsa, 28 pints of beans (another 20 pounds frozen), 24 pints of tomatoes and lots to go, and still a bit of space left for the rest of the beets and tomatoes and pickled hot peppers. YUM!

 

But our autumn isn’t only about food.  The flowers are still gorgeous, too, and the bees and other wildlife are hard at work stocking their own pantries:

This little black bear has been feasting on the wild cherries only a few hundred feet from our house. Don’t be fooled by his casual pose — he’s actually about 30 feet up a tree. (He’s a little blurry because Hubby took this shot using a LONG zoom — we have a healthy respect even for small bears!)

 

This little guy has been hard at work snipping off pine cones and stashing them away.

 

I’m not sure whether it was my camera or the tiny white spider (near the centre of the flower) that chased this bee off the zinnia. Either way, he’s buzzing off.

 

The snapdragons are still putting on a show.

 

One of our newest rhododendrons, Medusa, is a bit confused as to whether it’s spring or fall, but she’s beautiful anyway!

 

We’ll have a couple more rounds of houseguests this month, so maintaining my writing schedule for Book 15 will be a juggling act.  (Fortunately not with fish.)  To salvage some time I’ll dial back my blogging schedule to every second week for the month of September, so my next post will be September 18.

How’s your September shaping up?  Are you harvesting any goodies from your garden?

Book 15 update:  I’m bombing along on Chapter 4!  Hellhound would normally be voted “Most Likely To Get Arrested While On Vacation”, but Aydan’s the one who’s ended up in handcuffs…

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A Fishy Tale

I seem to end up looking like a doofus in public more often than most people. I prefer to think it’s sheer coincidence, and nothing to do with me personally.  (Denial:  Not just a river in Egypt.)  Last month it was my disintegrating shoes.  This week I entertained the crowd by juggling a dead fish at the pumps of a PetroCanada gas station.

It could only happen to me:

We had driven down to Victoria, and on the way back we stopped for gas. As I was fuelling up, Hubby’s uncle drove in beside me. That was an unlikely coincidence, since neither of us lives close to that PetroCanada station.  Also coincidentally, he was returning from a fishing trip.

“Hey, I’ve got a fish for you,” said he. “Do you want it now?”

Ordinarily I would have declined, since I have no way of carrying a gutted and beheaded fish home in my car without causing grievous harm to upholstery and equanimity.  But (another coincidence) I had taken a load of vegetables down to inflict on share with our friends, so I had a large empty cooler with ice packs.  I also happened to have a plastic bag, so I could put the fish in the bag and tuck it tidily into the cooler. Easy-peasy, right?

Not even close.

Hubby’s uncle was on his way to the ferry and I didn’t want to delay him, so I hustled his catch-bag over to where Hubby had helpfully opened our cooler.  I grabbed my plastic bag with one hand.  I grabbed the salmon with the other.

You’d think that very little could go wrong in the few inches between fish and bag; but you’d be oh-so-sadly mistaken. Freshly dead salmon are slippery. I had grabbed it just above the tail, and (being fish-shaped and all) it tapered considerably at that point.

That fish shot out of my grip like it was jet-propelled.

I made a panicked grab for it, which accomplished nothing except to add a tumble to its trajectory. Fish-slime flew in all directions, splattering my shirt, face, and sunglasses.  The fish did a belly-flop into our cooler, where it spitefully rubbed its dead self all over the ice packs and the inside of the cooler.

And there I stood in the middle of the PetroCanada station:  be-slimed and befuddled, with the empty plastic bag dangling impotently from my hand.

Then came a short ridiculous scene in which I juggled the frictionless fish a couple more times before finally cramming it into the bag.  (Don’t ask me why putting the fish in the bag still seemed important, since the cooler and ice packs were already thoroughly slimed.  By then I wasn’t thinking straight due to a severe case of the giggles.)

I scuttled into the station to wash my hands and clean my sunglasses, then hurried back to the car and drove away without looking around to see how many people had witnessed the debacle.  I didn’t hear anybody laughing; but I wasn’t listening too closely, either.

I did manage to get the salmon filleted and into our freezer without further mishap, and soon we’ll eat the evidence.

But I might not go back to that gas station for a while…

Book 15 update:  I’m back in action after last week’s hiatus, and looking forward to a good writing week!

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Filed under Humour, Life

Down The Rabbit Hole

Last week I mentioned that in addition to my shoe breakdown, my deodorant had also failed. That got me thinking about sweat and its associated etiquette. (Sweatiquette?)

I lived most of my adult life in Calgary, where it’s so dry that your sweat glands have to work overtime just to keep you from shriveling into a desiccated mummy. Perspiration was never a problem there.

But it’s humid here on the West Coast, and now I get clammy clothes and a sticky sheen on my skin just from strolling down the sidewalk.  So here’s my dilemma:

When you a meet a friend you’d normally hug, is it more awkward to say, “Don’t hug me, I’m gross and sweaty”; or to go for the hug and subject them to full sweatitude with a bonus whiff of gamey armpits? (And why don’t I have friends anymore?)

When I consulted the internet (about sweatiquette, not my social problems), I was confronted by an ad demanding, “Are you a heavy sweater?”

I blinked away the mental image of a bulky cable-knit pullover.  Nope, last time checked I was still a regular-weight human.

And down the rabbit hole I went.

‘Sweater’. It’s kind of an icky word when you think about it. I mean, I guess it’s descriptive enough:  When you’re cold, you want something that might induce sweat; so you put on a ‘sweater’.  But, ew.

Our friends in the U.K. more politely call them ‘jumpers’; but even though there’s a lower ick-factor, the word makes no sense at all. What does jumping have to do with a garment you pull over your head?

Although I guess it makes as much sense as our North American ‘jumper’: A sleeveless, collarless dress worn over a T-shirt.  (As opposed to a ‘jumpsuit’, the one-piece coverall worn by skydivers who jump out of perfectly serviceable airplanes at high altitude. At least the terminology is logical even if the sanity is questionable.)

And that reminds me of a joke:  “Parachute for sale.  Used once.  Small stain.”

Which brings me full-circle to sweat and other bodily emissions:  If anybody ever forced me to skydive, I guarantee the stain would be a large one and the parachute wouldn’t be salable afterward.  The person who coerced me probably wouldn’t be in great shape, either.

And that’s the bottom of this week’s rabbit hole.  (Should I mention that a rabbit is also a ‘jumper’?)

Happy landings to all!

Book 15 update:  The first words are on the page, woohoo!  I’m thrilled to be writing again — I’ve missed Aydan and the gang. 🙂

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Bird-Brains, My Butt

I love living out in the country where the air is a tapestry of birdsong and our little feathered friends forage busily in our gardens.  We have everything from the drab but melodic Hermit Thrush to the brilliant Western Tanager; the giant and crazily prehistoric-looking Pileated Woodpecker to the tiny Anna’s Hummingbird.  But unlike my blogging buddy Elephant’s Child, I don’t have any beautiful bird photos to show you.

And that’s my beef, right there:  No photo ops.  In fact, half the time I can’t even get to the binoculars.

I’d comfort myself with the knowledge that they’re wild birds so they never stay in one place for long; but that’s not actually true.  They’re not flitting around, alert to the slightest threat.  No; they’re flaunting themselves within full view of my windows, sitting there only a few yards away and preening.  Even the hummingbirds perch for minutes at a time.

But no matter whether they’ve just landed or they’ve been snoozing there for five minutes, the instant I head for the binoculars, the birds fly away.

One might argue that they’re getting spooked when they see my movement through the window.  I’d like to believe that… but I don’t. I can walk over and stand inches away from glass watching them, and they never ruffle a feather.

But just let me reach for the binoculars that live permanently in the corner of the living room, and the birds zip away, never to reappear until I’m at least ten paces away from the optics.

Reaching for the camera is even more futile.  That doesn’t even require any movement on my part — all I have to do is think about the camera and the birds take off.

So not only can they tell the difference between me casually crossing the room on my own errand, and me crossing the room to pick up the binoculars; but they can also read my mind.

Bird-brains, my butt.  Those little suckers are smart, and probably telepathic.  I just hope they don’t decide to organize and attack like Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds.

But if there’s no blog post next week, you’ll know what happened.

*

P.S. Speaking of bird-brains:  Last night I had a great time presenting Write Your Book At Last at the Qualicum Beach Civic Centre.  But… at the end of my talk, I forgot to ask if anyone was interested in more in-depth workshops.  I’ve posted topic outlines on my Workshops page, but I won’t set dates unless there’s some interest.  Please drop me an email if there’s a workshop you’d like to attend.  Thanks!

Exciting news:  The audiobook for Book 2, The Spy Is Cast is now in production!  Its tentative release date is in October, and the rest of the series is scheduled to follow it into audio format ASAP.

And… I’m starting Book 15 this week!  Hooray!  🙂

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Ass-Biting And Embarrassment

I’d like to point out that the title refers to only the metaphorical biting of asses, not the literal sinking of teeth into tushes.

I’d like to point that out; but the embarrassing truth is that bum-biting was a ‘thing’ when I went to university.  For some reason, both the biters and the bitees found the whole exercise hilarious.

It was actually harder than you might think. (It was also more difficult.)  Back in the old days, the average university-student butt cheeks were young and firm; and tight jeans were in style then.  It was tough to sink your teeth into the subject without said teeth slipping off and snapping together hard enough to rattle the remnants of brain bobbing around in a beer-infused cranium.

I had forgotten about the bum-biting fad until this week, when I commented on Jono’s blog and he reminded me that gloating invariably comes around to bite you in the ass.

How right he was.

Only a few short weeks ago, I posted photos of my flowers all happily pretending it was spring.  I tried not to gloat over our warm and beautiful weather, but a tiny gloat (would that be ‘gloatlet’?) just might have slipped through.

I should have bent over and assumed the position right then and there.

Yep, my gloatlet just jumped up and bit me in the ass.  It didn’t have to jump very high, since it was standing on the 18″ of snow we’ve gotten.  And there’s more in the forecast.

Vancouver Island has basically shut down – schools and a lot of businesses have been closed since Monday, and we’ve hunkered down to wait it out since snowplows are few and far between here.  The temperature is hovering around freezing and our power has stayed on (miracle of miracles) so the snow is really only an inconvenience; but it’s also a bit embarrassing after my overly-optimistic ‘It’s Spring!’ post.

But that’s okay.  It’s still not as embarrassing as admitting that I might (or might not; I’m just sayin’) have bitten one or more person(s) on the buttock(s) in the far-distant past.  That was long before cell phones with cameras, so there’s no actual evidence and I may or may not deny the whole thing.

But I can’t deny this:

That’s a full-size 4×4 slowly vanishing in the snow.

 

Flower garden? What flower garden?

The snow is beautiful and it probably won’t stay long (I hope), but that’s okay — go ahead and laugh.  I set myself up for it, after all.

Just remember the dangers of gloating, and don’t forget to cover your ass.  😉

Book 14 update:  It’s lean and mean and 11,000 words lighter after the latest round of edits!  I had to sacrifice a few good scenes, but they’re safely tucked into my files for future use.  And we have a title:  “Friends In Spy Places”.  Stay tuned for a cover reveal!

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Blow Me Down!

I’ve always thought ‘blow me down’ was only an expression, but it almost turned out to be literal.  The relaxing holiday I’d envisioned didn’t quite work out that way.  Instead, on December 20 we got pounded with a vicious windstorm with gusts up to 140 km/hr, followed by five days without power.

We were incredibly lucky to have very little property damage and no personal injury; but the forest around our house looks as though it’s been bombed.  Giant trees were completely uprooted leaving gaping craters in the ground, and many of the ones whose roots held ended up snapping.

These were hundred-foot-tall trees, yanked up by their roots. (The big crater in the foreground is a pond – the wind didn’t do that!)

 

The forest looks like shattered toothpicks.

This used to be solid forest but the wind cleared it just like a tunnel, and our house was right in its path. Some of the trees that went down were nearly three feet in diameter. We were SO lucky our house wasn’t damaged!

Two big trees somehow ended up on the ground under our front porch roof without damaging anything on their way down; and our utility trailer blew across the yard and wedged itself halfway under our deck, miraculously without causing any damage there, either.  Other people weren’t so lucky.

Usually a storm like that is relatively short-lived, but this went on for hours.  We were afraid our big front windows would shatter under the force of the wind, but somehow they held.  At one point I heard a crash from outside and cracked the door open to see what had happened, but the wind was so strong it took all my strength to push the door shut again (and I’m no 98-pound weakling).

The wind ripped through every tiny aperture, making drifts of the drywall dust that had been under the bottom plates of the walls during construction.

Some news sources are calling it the worst storm on record for Vancouver Island; others say the worst in ten years.  I’m hoping it was the all-time worst, because I don’t want to experience another one that bad!  I grew up on the prairies with a constant threat of tornadoes, and I’m a total chickenshit when it comes to wind.  Let’s just say I was NOT happy during this storm.

Fortunately we’d planned for power outages when we built the house, and we ran our generator enough to keep ourselves warm and our freezers cold.  BC Hydro did a heroic job of restoring power to the 700,000 customers who were blacked out, although some spent more than a week without power.  When I saw the snarled-up mess of wires down our road, I was truly impressed that they’d been able to get it working again as quickly as they did.

So I dunno; I’m beginning to think Vancouver Island doesn’t want us here.  First it tried to freeze us out with record-breaking snow and cold in our first winter, and now it’s tried to blow us away with record-breaking wind.  I’m just hoping it doesn’t attempt to shake us off with a giant earthquake next.

But at least we had a good test of our emergency preparations, and we’ll be doing some tweaking to make sure we’re ready (as much as we can be) for the next crisis.

Meanwhile, our island home is returning to its usual tranquility and we’re feeling thankful for our good fortune.  It’s a nice way to start a new year:  Healthy, happy, and grateful.

Happy New Year, everybody – wishing you all the best in 2019!

Book 14 update:  My writing schedule got disrupted by the storm and power outage, but I still managed to make it to Chapter 42.  The end is in sight!

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Solving The Wrong Problem

I’m a problem-solver by nature — as soon as I’m confronted by an issue, my brain immediately rounds up the metaphorical troops and puts all available energy into finding a solution.  Often this leads to creative solutions or hare-brained inventions, but occasionally I zoom  right past the main issue and solve the wrong problem entirely.

Take this weekend, for example:

We had been invited out to a birthday party, where (as usual) I ate far too much and then topped off my excesses with a couple of delicious beers.

Showing superhuman restraint (if I do say so myself) I managed to behave like a polite adult the whole entire time we were in public.  (Mark a big star on the calendar for Saturday November 24, 2018:  “Diane acted like an adult ALL DAY today!”)

Well, okay, not all day; but most of the day…

Happy and relaxed in the car with Hubby on the way home, I let out a resounding belch and said, “’Scuse me.”

Hubby reacted not at all, neither to the original gross breach of etiquette nor to my subsequent lip service to politeness.

After a couple of beats of silence I turned to him and said, “I guess after belching loudly enough to register on the Richter scale, excusing myself is probably solving the wrong problem, isn’t it?”

He smiled and shrugged.

Thus encouraged, I finished,  “…so next time I won’t bother excusing myself.”

And Hubby just laughed.  (Have I mentioned lately how much I love him?)

And on another note:  Here are some photos that have made me happy lately.  They may not solve any problems, but maybe they’ll make you smile, too.  (Click the photos to see larger versions.)

It’s hard to believe, but one of our azaleas is still blooming! This is “Bloom-a-thon Lavender”, still putting out flowers at the end of November.

The heather is already in bloom, and the pansies haven’t stopped since I put them in last spring.

The last few leaves of the weigela perch like bright butterflies on the tips of the twigs.

We took a trip out to Ucluelet (on the west coast of Vancouver Island) a couple of weeks ago, on a gorgeous calm sunny day.

Even on a calm day, the ocean never rests. This is the Amphitrite lighthouse in Ucluelet. (The person in the middle isn’t actually close to the waves crashing on the rocks – it’s just that the waves are that big.)

It wouldn’t be the West Coast without some gorgeous greens!

Ahhhhh…

May all your problems be easily solved!

Book 14 update:  Despite a busy week, I made it almost to the end of Chapter 34.  All the threads are coming together now!

 

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Evil Seagull Lady

The other day I was down at the ocean (and I’m still thrilled that I can get there in fifteen minutes).  This is my favourite time of year to go to the beach – the days are crisp and the tourists are gone, so it’s only me and the waves and the seagulls.

And the Seagull Lady.

An elderly woman drove up and parked as I was walking down to the water’s edge, but I didn’t pay much attention – I was focused on getting to my favourite sandbar while the sun was turning the waves blue and silver.  I made a beeline for my special spot and stood there smiling, tuning out everything but the gentle hush of the waves and the cries of the seagulls.

Except… there seemed to be more seagull cries than usual.  And they weren’t the normal squawks that seagulls emit while they’re casually flying overhead deciding whether to shit on you.  These were more urgent squeals that were easy to translate:  “Feed me!  Feed me!  Feed me!”

I glanced over to see the Seagull Lady seated on a big driftwood log holding a bread bag and surrounded by gulls.  She tossed handful after handful of bread to the greedy crew, who gobbled it up and screamed for more.

I had several thoughts in quick succession:

  1. “Aw, that nice little old lady must love gulls.  That would make a great photo, with her sitting on that big log backlit by the sun and surrounded by birds.”
  2. “Jeez, I’m glad that’s not my house right next to the parking lot.  Now I know why there are always dozens of squawking gulls and a river of birdshit on their roof.  I bet the homeowners would love to smack that nice little old lady.”
  3. “I wonder if that nice little old lady knows that bread is unhealthy for gulls and she’s not really doing them any favours?”

That’s when my brain took a hard left (as it frequently does) and kickstarted my urge to create stories of mayhem and betrayal.

My next thought was this:

“What if that little old lady actually hates gulls?  What if she’s purposely feeding them bread in the full knowledge that it will make them malnourished and less able to fend for themselves?  OMG, what if that little old lady is actually a twisted psychopath who intentionally inflicts suffering on all living things?  That would make an awesome storyline!”

…And that’s what it’s like to live inside my head.

So the next time you see a woman at the beach gazing across the waves and smiling, don’t assume she’s all zen-and-happy-meditation.  She might be devising evil plots…

*

P.S. I’m travelling, so I’ll catch up with comments later in the day.  “Talk” to you then!  🙂

Book 14 update:  I hit the 50% mark this week, hooray!  This is where the plot gets complicated…

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