A Might To Remember

March 20, 2011

Staff finds information for another guest while E.g. opens a card.

Last night we hosted a party.

E.g. turned 50 this week, so we held a women-only potluck, what I call a hen party. Eight guests came. One was our next-door neighbour, Staff. One was Gilda, who has been E.g.’s friend for nearly 30 years. One was a woman we met at the Shrove Tuesday pancake supper two weeks ago.  I had met four of the guests less than twice.

As an introvert, I wasn’t sure how I felt about this whole thing. Turns out that most of the guests, too, self-identify as introverts. And the party was an incredible success, with connections happening all evening:

“Really? What years did you attend Acadia?”

“Oh, I know your boyfriend! He used to play with my husband’s band.”

I’m unaware of what exchange was made concerning the fact that two women brought exactly the same broccoli salad. Talk about a group of people who were destined to come together!

A daughter of the Muses.

Such beautiful women in our living room last night. Such interesting, interested, thinkers and makers and doers. Crafters, writers, teachers, musicians, gardeners, animal lovers, techies. Courageous. Authentic. Helpful. Underemployed. Still alive despite whatever personal troubles each might have endured in the course of her life.

The party began with a “tasting”. I brought from the cellar two bottles of homemade hooch — peach-banana wine and hard apple cider — and E.g. handed round some disposable shot glasses and a permanent marker so that each guest could initial her glass. I think most people opted for store-boughten after that, but at least they had had the fun of trying something different (and had avoided the embarrassment of a full glass of swill).

Voracious readers and careful thinkers.

The room was like a stand of willows in a summer breeze, as conversations shifted from side-by-side to straight-across to kitty-corner. Sometimes one speaker had everyone’s attention, the most notable example of this being the round of tales concerning car problems and the kindness of strangers. Awe-inspiring, hilarious, touching — each person’s tale was different.

The food? Fabulous. It was all there — appetizers, side dishes, meats, breads, desserts, and loads of broccoli salad — without any prior conferring.

And as if a balanced meal, instant friendships, and incredibly cute Cardigan Corgis weren’t enough, there was the Perigee Moon. We turned out the lights and watched it rise swiftly over a rooftop.

She scrapbooked a beautiful card for E.g. .

The party couldn’t have been more perfect.

It began at 6 pm, and the last guest left at eleven. E.g. and I took our time loading the dishwasher and putting away the leftovers, finally hitting the sack at midnight.

Then E.g. awoke before 05 00, threw on her winter coat over her jammies, slipped into her rubber boots, and went out to photograph the moon. Happy birthday, you crazy woman, you.

E.g.'s blogfriends, in person!


(Illustration Friday) Sir Thomas

March 11, 2011

A few weeks ago on a Wordless Wednesday post, Barefootheart told me about Illustration Fridays. On checking the link she provided, I decided an Illustration Friday feature might keep me motivated to play with my paints.

I also thought an Illustration Friday feature might get me writing again, as opposed to Wordless Wednesday, which is — well, you get the point.

By the bye, I will state up front that I have never been tempted by Facebook, Twitter, or whatever sixteen other social media have been spawned since their inception. Likewise, I never signed up on the megagigantic Wordless Wednesday list, and won’t sign up for Illustration Fridays either. Consider this your own private salon, you lucky (or at least faithful) readers!

So. When my son and his partner were here for Christmas, they gave us several thoughtful gifts. One was a field guide of North American birds, in hopes that I might use the photos as subjects for my watercolour paintings. They know I like birds.

Fast-forward to this winter’s watercolour class. Everyone in that class, with the exception of me, has been meeting to paint together for years, and they are good. I began that course intimidated and ended up dejected. While they’re all nice people, there’s something to be said for peers.

One technique I did glean from the class is to squint at the subject and paint the patches — in realistic colours or not. I decided to try it with this tom turkey, and was quite pleased with the result.

This is the version in my sketchbook. I haven’t tried making a “good” copy. Maybe someday.

Meanwhile, if you’ll excuse me, Aunt Theodora’s friends and well-wishers are throwing a 95th-birthday-party bash for her tomorrow, and I need to head upstairs to make a card. Ta for now.


Follow-up Friday: Sculpt

February 25, 2011

By popular request (okay, Jayne  in Australia asked, and I thought Novroz over in Indonesia might not know these birds), I have decided to present a few photos of a European Starling chiseling away at our suet feeder. Since the photos, taken with the zoom lens through the living room window and then tightly cropped, aren’t very sharp, I will plague treat you to four pictures to give as much fuzzy subtle detail as possible.

Starlings are medium-small birds, bigger than sparrows but smaller than crows. (To compare, the suet cage is about 13 X 15 cm.) Males and females look pretty much the same.

Other than their pink feet, the colouration of European Starlings depends on the season and the time of day. In Winter, they’re spottier because they’ve worn their body feathers down to the spots.*** In their new Spring outfits, they’re a little more uniformly black. In Winter, their beaks are darker; in Spring, they turn yellow.

If you squint a bit, you’ll notice a green sheen on this bird’s feathers. That’s a trick of the sunlight that starlings share with other black-feathered birds.

You don’t need to squint at all to notice that the suet cage is now broadside to the camera. The wind that day was spinning the cage like a hypnotist’s watch.

In this photo, you can see the starling’s long, narrow, pointy beak. It works well for picking bugs out of the grass, plucking berries from bushes, or pulling bits of suet from between the cage bars. Starlings will eat anything. They are not picky eaters, like birds of prey. The raptors, however, aren’t jealous. Instead, they graciously rejoice in the starlings’ easygoing ways that have helped to spread their population, in just over a century, from one end of North America to the other.

Starlings also make tasty, nutritious meals for hawks.

One last picture. Here you can see the starling pausing to inspect its artwork. Will it incise “I love Turtle”? Will it fashion a reliefwork basket of tulips? Will it decide which breadcrumb is biggest and best?

The world will never know.

My funny valentine was in fact the work of many starlings, not simply the sculptor seen above. They often arrive by the dozen, some playing King of the Castle on the suet cage while others stand on the snow beneath, catching the fatty crumbs that the mock warmakers drop. Their chattering and clowning in the snow-coated stillness brightens my day.

***Nota bene: I got this part wrong. Starlings get new clothes for Rosh Hashanah, not Easter. Their new suits are spotted, and by Spring they have worn some of the spots off! Please check out Seabrooke’s informative blog entry for more info on these birds.


Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy, Goodbear’s Back!!!!!

January 28, 2011
“Hide-and-seek’s more fun than hide-and-hide.”

Hi everybody,

This is just a quick post to say that Goodbear has returned to the Blogosphere from a hiatus of four months (that’s, like, 16 bloglives).

Goodbear was the second blogger (after Checkers, and besides E.g., who was only humouring me 😉 ) to leave a comment on my brand-new-baby blog, on March 6, 2008. What drew her here? Three guesses…tic-tic-tic…time’s up:

Dog barf.

Yep, her dog Cody Bear has gastroparesis, and my Cai started his life with megaesophagus. These are both digestive-tract poblems — Cody’s food wouldn’t leave his stomach, and Cai’s wouldn’t get down his throat. Goodbear and I exchanged notes on our furchildren’s conditions, and have been fast friends ever since.

So if you have a moment, please pop over and welcome her back. Like me, she’s a generalist blogger: her dogs, interesting birds and bugs, hikes in the desert foothills, decent beer, and memorable meals all go into the mix.

But mostly, her dogs. Cody is a Chow mix, and Pickles a Border Collie. Oh, and there’s Spree, the kitty, too. See them here at Cody Bear’s Friends.

Or maybe photography’s more your thing. For photos that really capture the personality — er, dogonality? — of every canine she meets, please visit her photoblog, Dog Daily Photo. We mustn’t let her get away again!


Nature Soft in Tooth and Claw

December 18, 2010

A suspiciously tidy kitchen cupboard

My recent post about Josephine the compost rat  having generated a goodly number of comments from you, dear readers, I’ve decided to write a double postscript to it.

Postscript I.

First, Colleen Dick mentioned “pantry moths”, a good, descriptive, polite-company name for them. While I don’t know their proper name, I think Seabrooke would classify them as “micromoths” (she would know, being half the team preparing the upcoming Peterson Field Guide to Moths of Northeastern North America).

Pantry moths are itty-bitty, skinny brown things. It takes two of them to make a family, and one family to make an invasion. The white, pink-tinged caterpillars enjoy cornmeal or other grains, dried beans, or even dried fruits. They can chew through plastic bags. They spin their winsome little cocoons in any modest cranny. Both larvae and adult are slow, stupid, soft, and squishable. Ugh.

So the other day, E.g. and I cleaned the food cupboards, discarding wormy grains, reducing cocoon hideouts, and gathering like objects — teas, pastas, dried fruit, legumes — into sealable containers.

And guess which lucky rat is benefiting from the composted chickpeas, bulgur, and dates?

More tidiness! What do you make of it, Inspector?

Postscript II.

Second, Alyson asked whether corgis don’t have the ratter instinct. I don’t know about Pembroke Welsh Corgis (the “Queen’s Dog”), but yes, the Cardigan Welsh Corgi was originally bred as an all-purpose farmhand, whose duties included rat-catching.

It was Fergus and Cai, in fact, who originally alerted me to Josephine’s presence this Fall. Fergus, especially, kept hanging around the compost bin, circling three sides of it, or snuffling the narrow space between bin and lean-to.

One day, as I was shoveling out some finished compost through a bottom hatch, I heard a squeak, a rustle of dry leaves, and a soft clatter where Josephine had fled through a gap in the lean-to wall. Now I knew for sure: a) she’s moved in, and b) she’s safe from the Cardis.

A few weeks after the bustle-and-squeak incident, I noticed the furchildren hesitating near the raised veggie patch beds. As I walked towards them, Fergus picked up something in his mouth to show me. “No no, drop it!” I called, and he laid it down again: a dead rat.

I picked the thing up in a gloved palm to dispose of it, and was surprised to find it still gasping for breath. I have since read in Rattie’s blog that rats don’t tend to live long, so maybe the poor thing was dying when Cai and Fergus found it. At any rate, I carried it just beyond our back fence, and sprinkled a few dry leaves over it for a privacy screen.

What fascinates me, Al, is that for all Fergus’s interest in the compost bin, and Cai’s delight in shaking the shoot out of rubber throw-toys, neither had the instinct  — the heart? — to dispatch that poor old rat.

Look at that topline! Cai trees an oatmeal stout mash tun.


(Wordless Wednesday) How He Knows If You’ve Been Bad or Good

December 8, 2010

Hint: check rollover tags.

 


(Nearly Wordless W’y) Happy 50th, 3-D Tony!!!

September 15, 2010

Here’s wishing Tony in Tasmania…

Coffee just the way you like it

A happy home

A fabulous relationship with your old lady

Few of these

The ability to rise to any challenge

Health, strength,

And long life.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!

from Lavenderbay, E.g., Flat Tony, Baby Tracy, Cai, Fergus, and Cuca.