As I’ve noted before, the universe seems to store up its oddities so it can dump them on me all at once.  Apparently this week its goal was to leave me just slightly disturbed.  (Some might argue that I’m already permanently disturbed, but pshaw.)

The first thing that left me feeling a little off-balance was the fact that I’ve been calling friends and family to see if ANYBODY wants some zucchini.  There’s only so much I can eat, freeze, and dehydrate, and I passed that limit after the first thirty zukes.  (And that was only two pickings.  I’ve been picking every second day since the beginning of July.  Math majors, don’t bother adding that up – it comes out to “far too many”!)

So I phone.  I always get voicemail.  (Is that a hint?)  I leave my message offering free zucchini.  And then…

*sound of crickets*

They never call back.

This leaves me feeling just a bit… odd. Ordinarily I’d consider it rude if somebody completely ignored an offer of free food; but after all, we are talking about zucchini here. Zucchini is like that overly friendly coworker who keeps proposing weird-bordering-on-creepy social activities every weekend. Maybe it’s the thought that counts; but you’re not sure you want to encourage those thoughts.

(And that leaves me wondering whether I’m that coworker and I’m just too oblivious to realize it. These are the things that keep me awake at night.)

My next “Um… what?!?” moment came when I was doing some research for Book 15.  I began typing ‘Is it legal…’ into Google, and this is what popped up:

Seriously? Marrying yourself is the top Google search? How would that even work? And why?  (And don’t get me started about all the animal questions.)

My next ‘Uh-oh’ arrived while I was picking another big basket of cucumbers, as I do every… second… day.  (I may have to start breaking into people’s homes and leaving fresh produce behind.)

Anyway, there I was on my knees in the patch with all the bees working away at the blossoms… which were very near a certain place that’s quite dear to me. As I eyed the large bumblebee buzzing millimetres away from my crotch, I was reminded of the old joke about the guy in the dentist’s chair who reaches over to gently grip the dentist’s testicles and say, “We wouldn’t want to hurt each other, would we?”  I lack the testicles, but now I understand the trepidation.

And last but not least: I usually drink my morning cup of tea outside on our front porch. We still haven’t got our concrete poured, so my chair sits on a piece of plywood. And the other day when I glanced absently at it, I realized that it contained the face from Edvard Munch’s The Scream:

Am I right?

I’m here to tell you that it’s seriously disturbing to glance down and see that between your knees.  But I guess it’s better than an irate bumblebee.

So I’m slightly unbalanced as usual, but I’m still staggering forward.  How was your week?

Book 15 update:  I’ve almost finished Chapter 1!  And I’ve made another attempt at book cover redesign — what do you think? (See below.)


Zucchini Wars

I was driving home a few days ago when I saw it lying sad and alone by the side of the road, gazing up at passersby like an abandoned puppy begging for a home:  a giant zucchini.

I didn’t stop.

One of the charming features of Vancouver Island is the honour-system market stands.  Lots of little farms offer eggs or produce at the end of their lane; and you can pull over, pick up what you want, and leave money according to the prices on their sign.  Free items are left out there with no payment requested or required.

So there was this giant zucchini beside the road.  Colossal:  A couple of feet long and about eight inches in diameter.  I’m guessing its growers spotted it making a play for world domination, recoiled in horror, and extracted the threat from their garden to carry it as far away from their property as they could manage.

Or who knows?  Maybe the zucchini didn’t even belong to that farm.  Maybe it had been dumped there by someone eager to be rid of it; or maybe it was intentionally deposited there as a subtle threat from some enemy.  Instead of a horse’s head in your bed, you get a mega-zucchini at the end of your lane.

Or maybe it got there under its own power.  Judging by the activity in my garden, it’s entirely possible that one mutant monster became sentient and was searching for the ideal spot to disgorge its seeds and begin a zucchini-terrorist cell intent on taking over every square inch of arable land.

Yes, actually, I am hip-deep in zucchini right now; why do you ask?

But I don’t mind.  I like fresh zucchini; and if I can’t eat it immediately I dehydrate it into chips that are compact and easy to store, and yummy all winter long in soups, stews, omelets, and even on homemade pizza.

As you read those words, I’m guessing that at least 50% of you are grimacing.  After extensive research involving alcoholic beverages with several sets of my friends, I have determined that all men (and some women) hate zucchini.

My dad hated zucchini.  My husband hates zucchini.  All my male friends hate zucchini; although actually, ‘hate’ is probably too strong a word.  “Meh” is more accurate.  After all, there’s nothing much to hate about it – as the guys tell me, “It doesn’t taste like anything, so why would you eat it?”

Well, okay, guys:  If you don’t want to eat it, how about racing it?  One of the small towns near us held zucchini races last weekend (the zucchini footage begins at 0:46 in the video).

’Cause why NOT take a huge malevolent vegetable intent on world domination, and give it wheels?  What could possibly go wrong?!?

Zucchini:  Love it or hate it?  Take my very scientific poll!  (You can choose as many answers as you want.)

Book 14 update:  Chapter 12 is well under way, and I’m chuckling while I write Daniel’s dialog – you can always depend on kids to say the things that adults won’t!

Zucchini Poll Update:  New answers now coming in!

Zucchini is:
– Take it or leave it. Choco zuke cake! Yum.
– What will replace cryptocurrency in 2045
– Local produce
– Part of the deep state
– Great battered and fried crispy
– Makes the best chocolate cake!

Cremation, Cucurbits, And Coc… Erm… ‘Roosters’

This week’s silliness comes to you courtesy of my friend and long-suffering employee, David, who went to considerable effort to snap the following photo for me:

Ummm…. Okay…?

Ummm…. Okay… There’s an unexpected combo…

This is why David and I have worked together so well for so long: a complete meeting of minds over all things even remotely humorous. We laughed ourselves silly(er). Cremation and hospitality? Is there a brew pub in the basement so you can suck back a few pints after immolating the mortal remains of your loved ones? Or maybe they rent out the chapel for weddings and bar mitzvahs in between memorial services?

I guess it could be worse, though. My mind immediately leaped to other unfortunate potential combinations like ‘Cremation and Wild-West Weenie Roast’, but maybe that’s too tasteless entirely. (And there’s nothing worse than a tasteless weenie.)

Speaking of weenies, last week I speculated that my zucchini might have suffered shrinkage due to the frosty outdoor temperatures. Eh, no. Not even close.

Just as plump and perky as ever (the zukes, not me).

Just as plump and perky as ever (the zukes, not me).

I realize these are nothing compared to the behemoths that grow in more temperate climates, but those gardeners know better than to turn their backs on a zucchini plant for two weeks at a time. I shoved these bad boys into the downstairs fridge, and when I went down to check on them the next day they’d wedged themselves against the door in a bid for freedom. I’m pretty sure they’re still growing. Maybe the researchers who developed Viagra should be studying zucchini right about now.

Anyway, floating along this stream of consciousness…

I spotted this on my walk yesterday:

Yes, that says ‘Rooster Scented Jasmine Rice’

Yes, that says ‘Rooster Scented Jasmine Rice’

For those of us who grew up on a farm, this brings to mind (or rather ‘to nose’) a far-too-vivid image. Have you ever smelled a rooster? Nasty. Just nasty.

But it could have been worse. They might have used a synonym for ‘rooster’. I’d love to see the reactions of passersby if they’d been advertising ‘Cock Scented Rice’.

Maybe you think I’m reaching a bit with that thought, but I assure you I’m not. This fine product is available from Amazon if your local grocery doesn’t carry it:

Yes, this is a real food product.

Yes, this is a real food product.

And speaking of Amazon, I just had to share a capture of the screen that displayed when I looked up the soup mix. Note the ‘Also-Viewed’ offerings: ‘50 Ways to Eat Cock: Healthy Chicken Recipes With Balls’, and ‘Aunty‘s Spotted Dick Pudding’.

Amazon has a dirtier mind than I do.

Amazon has a dirtier mind than I do.


As usual, my stream of consciousness has carried me far past the point where I should have paddled hurriedly ashore and portaged past the treacherous bits.

So, leaving behind the sordid beginnings of this post, I’ll finish off with something bearing no connection to cremation, cucurbits, or cocks. (Though, come to think of it, it does include two out of three of those. Dang, if I’d had Aydan eating zucchini instead of peas from her garden I could’ve scored the trifecta.)

Anyway, voilà: I’ve finally finished another cover update. This one’s for Book 3: Reach For The Spy:

Reach For The Spy cover updated 2015

Quite a change from the original, but I didn’t feel comfortable pointing even an unloaded weapon at my photographer friends.


Snow And Shrinkage

So it snowed on Friday. Yes, in mid-August:

Only a couple of weeks ago we hit the hottest temperature in 110 years of recorded Calgary temperatures: 34 degrees Celsius (93F). I know that’s not terribly hot compared to the rest of the world, but we thought we were going to melt. Then Friday morning it started dumping down rain, a north wind blew in, and by 4 PM it was 1.5 degrees Celsius (34.7 F) and… yes, snowing.

Leaping to the rescue of our veggies, Hubby and I drove to our garden outside town, where we pulled out our three big 30×40 tarps and covered most of one garden (the potatoes and onions had to fend for themselves). When I mentioned I was thinking of burrowing under the tarps to pick a couple of zucchinis before they got too big, Hubby replied, “No, don’t worry, they’ll shrink in this cold weather.” I promptly snorted tea through my nose at the mental image of shrivelled, flaccid zukes huddled shivering under the tarp.

Which, of course, reminded me of this scene from Seinfeld.

And while I’m in that, erm… area, let me tell you about the gigantic rod of hot meat I got in my Brazilian last night. It was amazing! It just kept coming and coming until I was so sore and exhausted I had to beg for mercy…

Wait, why are you looking at me like that? I was talking about a Brazilian barbeque restaurant. What did you think?

Yes, we went to Bolero for dinner last night: a meat-lovers’ heaven. Fixed price, all you can eat. There’s a salad bar, too, but don’t be distracted from the main event (which my friend Laurie terms ‘meatatarianism’). The servers keep bringing gigantic skewers of barbequed meat to carve at your table until you beg them to stop. Last night it was bacon-wrapped filet mignon, garlic parmesan sirloin, habanero pork loin, lamb shoulder, bacon-wrapped chicken, and a few others I can’t remember, including some squares of amazing grilled halloumi (Arabic cheese that has a very high melting point), and absolutely delicious grilled pineapple. Yes, I was in pain afterward, but it was so worth it!

Meanwhile, I’m slowly resurfacing into real life after my burial in the last-minute minutiae of releasing Spy Away Home. Emerging dazed and blinking, I’m looking around and realizing I haven’t done anything silly for a very long time (unless you consider gorging on meat to the point of pain to be silly).

This needs to be remedied – I don’t dare let my silliness levels drop too low or I’ll wake up some day to find myself dressed in a suit, sitting at a boardroom table and nodding seriously while somebody drones on about ‘leveraging synergies’ or some shit.

So please help me out here: What’s your favourite silly activity, one that’s guaranteed to make you laugh?

Oh, and in the mean time, here’s a little gem I found on Facebook that helps explain our attitude to snow in August:

Canadian temperature conversion

P.S. Spy Away Home is now available for pre-order at all retailers – click here for links.  Release date September 4, 2015!

A Super Pickle Tickle

Last week I asked if anybody else was harbouring unusual mementos in their home. My blogging buddy Carrie Rubin stepped up to the plate (pun intended) with her Super Pickle, and kindly offered to let me use him in a blog post:

Super Pickle in all his glory.

Super Pickle in all his glory.

That reminded me of yet another oddball item in my house: a leering wooden zucchini.

Quite a bit more disturbing than Super Pickle.

Quite a bit more disturbing than Super Pickle.

Needless to say, the comic possibilities were endless for a woman of my twisted imagination. So many phallic vegetables, so few words allotted to a single blog post…

I considered writing a flash-fiction zucchini-on-pickle romance. After all, Super Pickle wears his rainbow tights with such pride and panache. But he’s so innocently goofy and endearing, I couldn’t bring myself to roll out any hide-the-pickle jokes.

If I was only writing about my freaky double-jointed zucchini I’d go for it without hesitation, because let’s face it: that deranged smile that could mean anything from an invitation for acts better left undescribed to an offer of cake made with his own pulverised progeny. (Mmm, and now I’m hungry for zucchini cake.)

In any case, I’d never tweak a pickle without knowing its background, so more research was required. I vaguely remember Super Pickle from decades ago, but I guess I was living under a rock in the 70s and 80s because I had to go and look him up on the internet to see what he was all about.

I did that with much trepidation, cringing at the thought of finding photos that might defile my virginal eyeballs when I searched for “super pickle”. Much to my disappointment surprise, everything came up absolutely clean. Either somebody has sneakily installed a content filter on my computer, or Super Pickle is beyond reproach.

And he’s still popular. I even came across a fan forum where people described their attachments to Super Pickle and their ongoing search for Super Pickle toys: Carrie, there’s a retail opportunity for you!

Anyway, in the end I discovered that Super Pickle had his beginnings as the star of a 1972 children’s pop-up book so, considering his G-rated origins, any off-colour references on my part would be totally inappropriate. Which, by an amazing coincidence, is the title of my last blog compilation; but still. Out of respect for Super Pickle, I’m going to defy the almost-irresistible compulsion to make a crack about pop-up pickles.

Instead, I’ll leave you with a pickle-related joke:

Chatting over the fence with her neighbour one day, a woman remarks on the tomatoes in his garden. “They’re so ripe already,” she marvels. “How do you always get the first red tomatoes on the block?”

He leans closer to whisper, “I have a secret. Every night after everybody else is in bed I sneak out to the garden wearing a trench coat and nothing else. I flash the tomatoes and they blush red! You should try it with your garden.”

Inspired, the woman follows his advice. A week later they’re chatting over the fence again and her neighbour inquires, “So how are your tomatoes?”

“Well, they’re still nothing special. But you should see the size of the cucumbers!”

See you in the produce department! (I’ll be the one eyeing the cucumbers and snickering.)