Tuesday, August 31, 2010

I Am Teacher. Watch Me Sweat.

A kettle full of Jews (with white hats) burnin...Image via Wikipedia

Okay, it isn't my business anymore.

I'm retired.

I'm not heading back into a sweatbox next week.

Why should I still care?

I tried to do something about it when I was still working.

When I was close to retirement and not afraid that I'd be transferred to the-school-in-Hell, I phoned the Director of Education's secretary and asked to speak to Himself, himself.

"What's this about?" his admin ass asked.

"It's about the fact that our Jk classroom is 38 degrees."

My own classroom was directly above the Jk room and had a similar temp but the kids were older. The other classrooms weren't any better. I was the union rep.

"And it has been this way for days!" I added.

"I'm sorry, He's busy."

"Well, what are we supposed to do?" I asked the ass.

"You should take your class and sit under a tree. That's what I would do," said she from her air conditioned office as she hung up on me.

An inner city school, we had two trees - one in the front of the school and one in the back and over 300 kids.

It still bothers me.

I wonder how important kids are in our society. The work they produce is important. We compare it to the work other kids do in other schools, boards, cities, provinces, countries. We congratulate ourselves or beat ourselves up over the results.

But are the kids themselves important?

How many adults would work in airless, 38 degree rooms packed with thirty or so sweaty bodies for at least eight weeks a year?

Just because it hasn't been done, doesn't mean it shouldn't be done.

We need to invest in air conditioners for our schools.

It just ain't getting cooler out there, folks.

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Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Back to School Story

Recorder and MusicImage by Thorne Enterprises via Flickr

I managed to weasel out of teaching music for twenty-five or so years. Eventually the day came when try as I might, I just couldn't figure out how to get someone else to teach it for me.

I did what any teacher caught in a similar situation would do.

I ordered a class set of recorders.

"How hard could it be?" I thought. "You blow in one end and music comes out the other."

When the recorders arrived I pestered the kindergarten teacher until she took pity on me and taught me how to play 'Hot Cross Buns'.

Realizing that I was born to rock I spent the next few day playing my song for anyone who crossed my path.

Eventually I passed the recorders out to my grade fours. I explained that we wouldn't be making beautiful music until we learned about the instrument. I pointed out that the round holes were given letter names; the top one was B, the second A, the third G and so on. I showed them how to cover the openings with their fingers.

I said, "Now we'll have a little test. I'll call out the letters and you use your fingers properly. Is everyone ready?"

Enthusiastically they all nodded.

At this point I have to tell you that for years after this happened I got down on my knees every night and thanked the Good Lord that I wasn't teaching grade eight that day.

How was I supposed to know that in the music world they are called apertures?

I told thirty ten year old kids to put their fingers on their A holes.

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Friday, August 27, 2010

Spiders, Insects, Weeds and Birds - Yikes!

Nature makes the transition to autumn before we do. Here are four sure fire ways you can recognize the changing of the seasons.

The creepy crawlies are trying to get inside to find a cozy home for the winter.

I had to wrestle this garden spider to the ground last night - right in my bedroom! I wasn't about to snuggle up with the big fella till next April. A girl has her standards. He spent the night in this glass jar and in the morning was given a stern lecture and quickly ushered back outside.

The monarchs are congregating in the trees getting ready for the long trip to Mexico. I counted fifteen on this one branch.

I wouldn't mind visiting them in Mexico round about the middle of January, but so far, although I have hosted hundreds, not one return invitation has been issued!

The golden rod behind the barn is as tall as I am. I can't think of a plant that causes more misery.

Okay, okay, I suppose poison ivy and poison oak cause more misery. Oh - and what about that new plant that is now in Ontario, Giant Hog weed? It looks like Queen Anne's Lace, but, and I'm sure I heard this on CBC, it is so evil it sucks your brains out through your nostrils if you try to sniff it.

And the last sign.

It is a bit of a dire warning.

It happened almost three weeks early this year.

The martins are gone.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Welcoming the Third Sister

Last week I went tromping into a muddy field in North Pelham looking for the third sister. When I got to a likely spot I parted the huge leaves and peered along the ground.

It didn't take long to spot sister squash. I quickly snapped her picture as proof, (see above), and then I high tailed it back to the road in case the farmer came along and thought I was a vegetable thief.

The Third Sister - Squash
Hick's Farm, Tice Road, Ridgeville, Ontario

In the Iroquois legend of the Maid of the Mist, Lelawela goes to her death over Niagara Falls in a canoe laden with corn, beans and squash because the three sisters were sacred sustainers of life.

If you aren't familiar with the legend, in a nutshell, it goes like this:

The people were sick and dying. It was decided to sacrifice the chief's beautiful daughter, Lelawela, to appease the Thunder God, Hinam.

Lelawela went willingly to her death but as she paddled over the edge of the Falls one of the sons of the Thunder God fell in love with her and caught her before she hit the rocks below. She promised to live with him in the Spirit Kingdom if he would tell her why her people were dying. He told her that an evil serpent was living in the Niagara River and poisoning the water. He allowed Lelawela to go and tell her people.

The people were so angry they caught the serpent and tied its head to one side of the river and its tail to the other. After it died the curve of its body became the brink of the Horse shoe Falls.

Great story, eh?  A story with a lesson because the poison is back in the Niagara River and its from the serpent called 'Industrial Waste'.

The people need to get angry again.

Anyway as this the last of my three sisters blogs* I thought I'd pass along a recipe that includes all three of them.


2 cups (19 oz. can) corn kernels
(I used the kernels from two left over cobs of corn cooked the day before)
2 cups chopped green beans
 (processor or blender or by hand)
2 cups cubed butternut squash
(I used sweet potato squash because that is what I had on hand)
1-1/2 cups diced potatoes
2 tbsp. flour

2 tbsp soft butter
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 chicken bouillion cubes (optional)

In a large pot combine corn, green beans, squash, potatoes and 5 cups of water. Bring to boil Reduce heat, simmer, covered for 1 hour. Mash all vegetables in the pot with potato masher. Blend the flour and butter together and stir into soup. Cook another 5 or 10 minutes stirring occasionally. Add salt and pepper.

Garnish with a bit of shredded cheese.

This is a great soup for a chilly, autumn day!


* This is my last blog about the three sisters. 
I will, however,  be blogging about pumpkins at a later date!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Grave Faces

I love cemeteries.

The dead, when I see them in their coffins, don't always look comfortable. Being returned to the earth seems to bring peace.

This is an unusual monument because it is a realistic portrait of a 19th century woman and it stands in a part of the cemetery that is filled with sculptures of angels and saints. 

She gazes down directly into the eyes of anyone who pauses at her grave. She neither judges us, nor tries to save us. Her gaze is so impassive, it looks as if she is on a journey and is waiting for us to pass before she continues.

I wonder about purgatory as I snap her picture.

I found this little fellow standing all alone. This is not an angel, it is a little boy.

I wonder if it is his own or his mother's grave he is forever contemplating. There is no inscription on the statue and the area around him has returned to its natural state.

Such a pensive angel! She isn't praying, she is lost in thought. When I look like that I'm ususallly thinking about what's for supper.

Before I take her picture I wonder what an angel would daydream about while on duty.

Okay, here we have an angel who is definitely at work. She is watching someone intently and she looks ready to spring into action.

Definitely the guardian angel of someone who had a little trouble staying on the straight and narrow while among the living.

This angel is not only praying, she is also pointing the way to heaven in case I have forgotten where it is.

A beautiful, serene angel lost in prayer.

As I walk around this tomb, I hope this playful sculpture of three lost toddlers brought some comfort to their parents.  The inscription and the lamb make me think of the Bible verse I learned as a child:

"Let the little children come to me, and do not forbid them, for of such is the Kingdom of God.

Luke 18:16

Such is the Kingdom of God, indeed.

Have a peaceful, rainy Sunday, everyone!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Don't Panic! I'm Sharing My favourite Plague Cure

Monks, disfigured by the plague, being blessed...Image via Wikipedia
I've got an appointment with my dentist at noon and I'm not in a good mood.

I slump at my computer and check face book. I get a little cheered up when I win a game of lexulous. I schmooze around fb for awhile then I jog over to blogger.

It's Friday so I know there will be a few good posts.

As 'Heinous Hats' starts to unfurl across my screen I wish I could be organized enough to commit myself to a time schedule. Heinous hats is published three times a week. Good heavens, even when she had food poisoning she managed to drag herself to her computer to tell her faithful readers she was too sick to blog!

I beat myself up for awhile about my lackadaisical attitude.

I'm depressed again.

But wait! What a blog! Hats made out of cakes! (There is a reason I have so many root canals and another one is looming.)

I'm smiling again.

More cheerful now, I blog on over to see what the Geezeronline learned this week.


Somewhat alarmed, I click on the link and this is how, in my pre-dental appointment funk, I read the article from the Star.

The plague has been found in a dead prairie dog in Saskatchewan 's Grasslands National Park, but staff say the risk the notorious disease poses to people is “very low.”
The plague which killed millions during the Middle Ages, is a disease caused by a strain of bacteria that can affect both animals and humans. It’s naturally occurring throughout the southern Prairies in wildlife such as ground squirrels and mice and can be transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected flea...

The plague is usually is extremely rare in humans and treatable if diagnosed in time. The last case of a human contracting the plague in Canada was in 1939, but there are 10 to 15 cases every year in the south-western United States.

Two deaths were attributed to plague in the United States in 1996.

There have been several outbreaks of plague in human history. It has killed 200 million people around the world. In 14th century Europe, plague — or Black Death, as it was known — killed 30 per cent of the European population by some estimates...


Luckily, I know the only cure for the plague is a chocolate hat cake or you don't have one sitting right there on your counter - warm scones with jam and whipped cream... mmm.

Cancelling my dental appointment...

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

We Done Good

Jewish refugees aboard the MS St. Louis while ...Image via Wikipedia
In the summer of 1988 I went on a biking holiday in rural Bavaria. It was a particularly lovely part of the world, full of forests and rivers, farms and alpine meadows. Most of the population was Catholic. Many homes had a religious mural covering one outside wall and it was not at all uncommon, although somewhat discombobulating to our North American eyes, to be pedalling past a farm that had a life size crucifixion sculpture of Jesus and the two thieves looming over a cultivated field.

When the people greeted us, they didn't say the German equivalent of hello, they said, "Gross Gott," (God is great).

It made it hard to believe what had happened there fifty years earlier.

The bike trip ended in Munich and If I remember correctly the bus trip to Dachau took about twenty minutes.

Dachau was the concentration camp where, along with the usual atrocities and gassings, the Nazis carried out their medical experiments . Only one of the barracks that housed the prisoners is still there but everything else from the S.S. camp headquarters to the crematoria, is maintained as a memorial.

I don't know what I can say about a place where more than 30,000 people were tortured and murdered except that I had a sick feeling that I was standing over Hell and was relieved to leave.

In the 1930s the writing was on the wall long before the first concentration camps opened and many Jewish people tried to get out of Europe.

Just before war broke out a ship named the S.S. St. Louis set sail for North America carrying 937 Jews. To our eternal shame it was refused entry by Canada. The ship was forced to return to Europe where one third of the men, women and children died in the holocaust.

Another boatload of frightened refugees arrived on our west coast last week.

Ignore, the moaning and groaning and grousing that you are reading and hearing about it if you can.

This time we did the right thing.

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

An Apology From (fairly close to) The Heart

On my sixtieth birthday, my friend, (who is six weeks younger than I am), said


I denied being in any such place but she kindly pointed out that:

from 0 to 9 years we are in our 1st decade

from 10 to 19 years we are in our 2nd decade

from 20 to 29 years we are in our 3rd decade

from 30 to 39 years we are in our 4th decade

from 40 to 49 years we are in our 5th decade

from 50 to 59 years we are in our 6th decade


from 60 to 69 years ... jeesh!

I took it well though.

As a 7th decade girl I began to blog.

Yesterday my friend, (who is still six weeks younger than I am and apparently way better in math), sent me an e-mail with a rather sarcastic comment.

I guess I have been taking a few people into the 7th decade before their time.

For some reason I had it in my mind that because a 59 year old person is in his or her sixtieth year, he/she is in the 7th decade.

Not true!

A 59 year old is still a 6th decade person.

An older 6th decade person.

Actually the oldest 6th decade person possible.

But never mind. I apologize to all 59 year old persons.  And I will change the definition of a 7th decade girl on my next post.

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Sunday, August 15, 2010

I'm a Canadian And So Is My Hat

I was quite interested to read that the English, who are expecting an influx of Olympic tourists at some point in the future, are being trained to identify a Canadian standing in a crowd of Americans.

That's quite a feat.

I continued to be impressed right up until I read that their method of determining nationality is to scan our bodies for little Canadian flag pins.


Canada, we've gotta ditch those things.

Identical twins who don't like being mistaken for each other don't wear minuscule pins that nobody can see, then complain that no one can tell them apart. They opt for a major difference in wardrobe.

If we want to be identified as Canadians then we need to look Canadian.

Personally, I'm rather partial to those red rubber maple leaf hats that you see on television during times of great national pride, like whenever we beat the American Olympic hockey team. They should be issued with our passports.

They can be made to fit over turbans, niqabs, police riot gear helmets and your grandmother's new perm. Sort of a one size fits all rubber toque. 

Some of you may remember the year the Heritage Minister, Sheila Copps, mailed a Canadian flag to everybody in the country.  There was a bit of a national melt down over the cost, but I'll bet somebody in the Liberal party still has the mailing list she compiled.  Rather than wait for people to apply for passports, maybe we should all be issued our red rubber maple leaf hats right now.

After all, you never know when the Americans will want to play hockey.

In the case of a national emergency you can also make your own hat. 
This one cost me $0.62.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

For Tummy and Soul

Café, bakery, gift shop: Nature's Corner, 302 Canboro Road in Ridgeville.

Right on the corner of Canboro and Effingham Streets.

This is without a doubt the tastiest, heartiest, healthiest vegetable soup in Niagara.

To go with it, I chose a wonderfully frothy Matcha green tea latté

from a large selection of fair trade and organic teas and coffees.

Egg salad on fresh whole grain bread - to drool for!



I fell in love with this sour cherry, hand rolled whole wheat pastry crumble pie.

The pies at Nature's Corner are filled with fresh Niagara fruit.

A basket of fresh fruit bread!


I wish my blog had an aroma tab.

I buy Nature's Corner Granola for snacking.

But Nature's Corner isn't just about delicious, fresh, local food,

it is also about being a fair trading partner.

These products are from El Salvador.

If you are gift shopping, don't forget to look up.

You'll find great purses suspended from the ceiling

as well as some surprises.

This cheery little doll watched us have lunch from her perch in the corner.

And make sure you look down, too!

The perfect gift could be anywhere!

Actually, you'll find a selection of unusual, unique gifts wherever you look.

This is Carol. She owns and operates Nature's Corner.

She also raises money to help disadvantaged people in El Salvador. 

This is also Carol.

We can help make the world a better place by supporting her.

And we can enjoy a mighty fine lunch in the process.

Carol's mission is to provide products for her customers that help sustain the social and environmental needs of farmers, families and communities of developing countries.

Fair Trade Makes Sense.

Videos of Carol's recent trip to El Salvadore can be viewed at


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Holier Than Thou

Assumption of the Virgin Mary (Rubens)Image via Wikipedia

The problem with having opinions is that sooner or later you are going to meet up with someone who disagrees with you. That's okay if that person is the type who never helps little old ladies across the road, but what if that person is someone you like and respect?

It can be very discouraging.

Yesterday at the gym, I bumped into a former co-worker. She's definitely the type to help little old ladies across the street, thousands of them at a single street crossing would be my guess - that's how nice she is.

But as we chatted she mentioned how much she and her husband had enjoyed and been amazed by the Body Works Show in Niagara Falls. (That's the funeral home that went on the road with the plasticised corpses).

My open mind closed with a loud clang and I let loose with a mini lecture from my oscillating lectern.

How annoying for her.

But the thing about kind people is that they know how to smooth ruffled feathers and make a gracious exit. We parted amiably.

Later during my usual six hour hunt for the spy car in the parking lot, I had lots of time to think about it. About changing people's minds, not plasticised dead people, although that comes into it.

After my blog about the Body Works show, (S.O.S,. 4/12/10), I followed up with a letter to the St. Catharines Standard. In the letter I suggested that perhaps local politicians and dignitaries (and certainly the ones who brought us Body Works), would like to make arrangements to have themselves plasticized so that when they died they could be used as chess pieces on the giant chess board at the Pen Centre Shopping Mall.

The Standard didn't print my letter.


I thought I made a good point, tasteless maybe, but worth visualizing.

But for all of my efforts have I ever managed to convince anyone to see things my way?

Nary a soul. 

So I've resolved to change my evil ways. Forget Christie Blatchford and Christina Blizzard. These days I'm all about St. Ursula and Mother Theresa.

Now feck off, will, ya. I'm busy.

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Monday, August 9, 2010

It's Time to Vote!

Well, what do you think?

I've been doing some renovating as you can see. Lots of paining and wallpapering, (you can see the great wallpaper that blogger picked out at the edge of the blog).

So is it too wombish?

I have been bothered by the bare naked white of my blog for some time. I tried to soften it with some colours during my last renovation but it just didn't feel like me. I kept getting Sunday School knees* when I looked at it. But I liked the template and I was also worried about changing everything right in the middle of somebody's read, so I kept it.

But a woman's gotta do what a woman's gotta do.

If you caught my blog yesterday you might have noticed those anaemic birds up in the corner. Couldn't stand 'em. I'm all for birds, just not stuck in one place on my blog day in and day out. Today I decided to go back to a simpler template and experiment with colour.


Let me know what you think. The survey box is up on the right.

Feel free to comment or make suggestions. 


*In the 1950s Sunday School was always in church basements and little girls were not allowed to wear long pants to church. My skirt covered the tops of my legs and my socks covered the bottom but my knees were always so bloody freezing.


Saturday, August 7, 2010

An Unreported Crime

This is the frightening story of an unreported crime in southern Ontario.

It happened at a Friday night fish fry.

Families placed their orders as usual. 

But someone took more than the allotted two packets of tartar sauce.

The fish fryers looked everywhere for the culprit.

The people at the picnic tables eyed each other suspiciously.

The news that a crime had occurred was passed from person to person.  

But, like so many crimes in Canada, it was never reported.


So the government decided to spend 13 billion of our tax dollars on prisons.

In the meantime while you still have some money,
enjoy your fish and chips with a little homemade slaw on the side.



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