Sunday, October 31, 2010

Here Are The News*

Have I got some news for you!

If no news is good news, then some news is bad news, right?

Not necessarily.  Some news is irritating, some is boring, some is silly but on occasion some news we get is heart warming.  Read on.

Canada (irritating)

We heard a lot about Khadar the teen terrorist last week. He killed an American soldier when he was 15. Dicey on many levels.

He's a Canadian.

He's an Islamic terrorist.

He was underage.

If we take him back then the Americans won't have to execute a foreigner who was a boy when he committed his crimes.

But do we want him?

I keep hoping that maybe he'll have a St. Paul on the road to Damascus experience.


Anyway, it took a while but I've come to the conclusion that the decision to bring him home was the right one.

He is our responsibility.

Ontario (boring)

Provincially, last week's chitchat among the columnists I follow seemed to be about how badly the Liberals are going to lose the next election.

Ho hum.

It isn't the first time that has been said and, (yawn), it isn't going to be the last.

Niagara (silly)

On the local level, the uproar was about Calgary's (free, online), mandatory ice rink behaviour class for parents who have enrolled little Johnny or Judy Canuck in minor league hockey.

Will it come to Ontario?

Is it necessary in Niagara?

Personally, I think it's a good idea.

Show people that the civilized response to a bad call by the ref is not whacking him over the head with a hockey stick.

I don't know if it would change anything down at the old arena, having idiot parents at hockey games is a proud Canadian tradition.

But it can't hurt anything either.

North Pelham

The best news this week was neighbourhood news.

My next door neighbour lost her husband a few weeks ago. It was a long, difficult struggle and his death left her drained physically, financially and emotionally.

She called me yesterday to tell me that her husband's old timer's hockey team turned up at her place Saturday morning and spent hours doing all of her yard work. The guys even moved heavy things she couldn't manage.

She sounded so much better.

Kinda makes you forget Omar Khadar, politics and abusive hockey parents, eh?

Nice way to start a new month.

* Edith Josie, reporter from Old Crow, Yukon to the Whitehorse Star, Whitehorse, Yukon 

Friday, October 29, 2010

Boo! It's Me

It's me, with my blog review and upadates for October - from pumpkins squares to Mrs. Russell Williams...


What can you say about pumpkin, chocolate, and Antonio Banderas all being in one place?

Answer: YUM!


Prostitution is legal in Canada, but all of the stuff that goes on around the sex trade is illegal, i.e., soliciting, running a brothel, etc.

Evidently most Canadians think that 'the oldest profession' should be legalized and regulated.

Unfortunately the decision which should have come at the end of October has been postponed.

No decision will be announced until the end of November.



Like anything I say is going to change the insurance industry.

Moving on...


A set of Christian parents accused me of promoting witchcraft one year when I was teaching grade six.

What a lot of hocus pocus.


It was nice to have a chance to say thanks.


This was the first of my 'Scary Things' blogs.

I heard this urban myth about the headless boyfriend at the same time I heard the one about the couple that went parking in the town where the one handed murderer was on the loose.

Remember that one?

When they got home they found a hook hanging from the door handle.

Funny now. Scary at 14.


'On the Beach'.

This 1959 end-of-the-world movie still chills me.


"Why Do We Fund These Bra Burners" was the dumbest headline that I'd seen in ages.

The writer was angry because a group of female separatists in Quebec are partially funded by our tax dollars and they refuse to condemn the Islamic veil. (I know, I know, making the connection is a stretch).

So let's ignore the separatist thing for now and talk religion.

We need to be very careful about the whole issue of Muslim head garb.

If some Muslim women are oppressed, it isn't because of the hats they wear.

Freedom is an important part of being a Canadian.

November is a good month to remember that.


The last 'scary things' blog.

I didn't dare reread "The Haunting of Hill House" but I did find a little about the author.

Shirley Jackson actually called herself a witch and cast spells now and again.

She also lived in a big, happy house full of kids where she ate too much, drank too much, smoked too much and died young from, you guessed it - too much.


More tales from the crypt about me and GM and the spy car.

Speaking of the spy car it is almost time for snow tires.

You should see the poor thing in her winter attire, (ouch).

The car is small and the tires big. I feel as if I'm roaring around North Pelham in one of those monster trucks.


This was the hardest blog to write this month.

I still don't know if I did the right thing.

I say things to myself like, "What if Mary Elizabeth Harriman reads your blog and throws herself into the Ottawa River? Won't you feel sorry then?"

Well if she does I will feel sorry. Really sorry.

That's why I don't know if I was right to blog about her.

My other problem about the blog is that I usually support women and two of my readers took me to task for not understanding that she is an abused woman.

Is she?

She is the only one who knows for sure and she isn't talking. 

The other two women in this horrific story can't talk.


I really enjoyed putting this one together although Picassa wasn't working and it was a struggle to download the pictures.

Thanks, Monika, for my favourite comment of the month. 

(Not that I didn't like the others.  I love comments, the good the bad and the ugly!)

A friend might be thousands of miles away but she is always kept in the cockles of your heart.

Okay, I have to look it up...

Cockle: the innermost part of one's heart or feelings.



See everybody in November!



Oct. 30th is my bloggiversary. (I didn't coin the term I read it in someone else's blog.)

My NP Journal is one year old!

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Autumn Thoughts

"Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower."
- Albert Camus

It doesn't seem to me that there are as many oak trees as there were when I was a child.

In my memory, they shade every sidewalk.

Walking to school in the fall was prettier and way more fun than walking politely past rose gardens in spring.

"You can't hide your true colours as you approach the autumn of your life."

If only my soul looked like this! 

Or my hair.


"I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the
landscape - the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter.
Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn't show."

- Andrew Wyeth

Americans like the painter Andrew Wyeth, may feel reassured that something lies beneath the autumn path, some hope of spring.

In January, Canadians, who have a million miles of tundra hugging their backsides, aren't so sure.

"Come said the wind to
the leaves one day,
Come o're the meadows
and we will play.
Put on your dresses
scarlet and gold,
For summer is gone
and the days grow cold."

- A Children's Song of the 1880's

They surely do.
So buckle your seat belts eveybody, we're sliding into November!


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Mrs. Russell Williams

"...wickedness is not something that replaces the goodness of a man, it is the staining ...of an innocence...

The Symbolism of Evil, Paul Racoeur, Beacon Press, 1967

A terrible criminal case came to a close this week in Canada. A high ranking, respected military officer, one who had evidently piloted the Queen around the country, was arrested and confessed to the rape, torture and murder of two young women. He assaulted and stalked other women and girls, some as young as nine.

He was sentenced to life in prison, twenty-five years without parole.

I saw one sickening image of Russell Williams posing in the undergarments of one of his victims. He was a stomach-turning parody of a woman.

It made me wonder where the real woman in his life is.

She did not attend the trial.

I must tell you, some things aren't sitting well with me about Mary Elizabeth Harriman, (aka Mrs. Russell Williams). She is now the sole owner of their $700,000 home in Ottawa, has a cottage in Tweed and she has returned to her high powered job. (Rosie DiManno, Toronto Star, Oct. 22, 2009, The Enigma of Mrs. Russell Williams)

What was she doing when he was out committing his unspeakable deeds? If his trophies were in bags that were strewn about the house, why didn't she notice?

Why isn't she being held accountable?

What am I missing here?

Friday, October 22, 2010


The spy car.  Notice the colour of the other vehicles.

Yesterday, the spy car had a flat tire.

It came with a lifetime supply, (its lifetime not mine), of GM roadside assistance so I called the toll free number.

A machine picked up. " Welcome to GM Roadside Assistance. Do you need assistance with a GM product or with a ..."


I was phoning GM Roadside assistance wasn't I? What else could they possibly help me with?

"Push '1' if you need assistance for a GM product. Push '2' if you need help with a ...."

Hoping I wasn't giving up an offer to have one of GM's accountants find tax loopholes for me, I hit number 1 on the key pad.

The same voice said, "Thank-you. Please enter the last six digits of your VIN number."

My VIN number?

Where on earth was the spy car's VIN number? I looked around frantically wondering if other people actually know these things. I spotted a long number on the card I was holding.

I took a chance and entered the last six digits.

The line connected and a real person answered.

"Hello, my name is She-who-knows-cars. How may I help you?"

"Oh hi," I imploded with relief, "I've got a flat tire."

She-who-knows-cars said, "Do you have a spare tire, Ma'm?"

I had no idea if I had a spare tire.

"Welllll, it's a 2009 ... I must have a spare tire?"

My voice rose because I was really asking She-who-knows-cars if she knew if I had a spare tire.

She didn't tell me.

"What colour is your vehicle, Ma'm."

"What do you mean what colour is my vehicle? It's a spy car and Judging by the number of cars that are the same colour as mine in every parking lot in Canada it's the only colour you guys have!"

Okay, after I got home that's what I imagined myself saying.  What I really said was, "Wellllll, it isn't white. It's beige, I guess. No wait, maybe a cream colour. No, I think it is actually kind of a bland colour."

She accepted that. I guess 'bland' is a GM car colour.

They aren't proud.


She-who-knows-cars said, "What is your licence plate number, Ma'm."

This was going from bad to worse. Remember when you were a kid and you learned to spell 'geography' by memorizing 'George Eton's Old Grandmother Rode A Pig Home Yesterday?

That's right. My licence plate starts with All Zebras Yell Viciously. Which is a great gimmick if you are writing it down but not so good if you are telling someone.

"Welllll, it's...," (I had to pause while I pictured the first word), "A..."


(Another pause while I pictured the second word), "Z..."

She made me get out of the car and look at the licence plate.

Then she said, "What city are you in?" (Probably hoping I was somewhere far away from her.)

I, however, was totally happy that I finally knew the answer to something.

"I'm in St. Catharines!" I said triumphantly. "I'm at the Museum."

If She-who-knows-cars had been a little friendlier I would have told her about the cool doll house my friend Linda had catalogued that day, but sadly we weren't bonding.

"What street is the Museum on?"

"What street is the Museum on?" I repeated like an idiot.

I could see the street from the parking lot.

I drive from North Pelham to the Museum every week.

But I had no idea of the name of the street.

I turned around and looked at the canal.

"Wellllll, I don't know about a street name but it's at lock 3. Lock 3 of the Welland Canal!" I said as if the Museum could only be reached by ocean liner.

I nodded enthusiastically into the phone. Maybe there was still a chance we could be friends. I was dying to tell somebody about the doll house.

She disconnected for a second.

"All right Ma'm," she said when she returned, "We'll have someone there in about 45 minutes. Is there anything else I can do for you today?"

There it was again. GM offering their crooked accountants.

I have standards.

And I was mad she wasn't going to give me the time to talk about the doll house.

"No thank you," I said coldly.

The tow truck came within 15 minutes and the driver said that 'I' had a slow leak.

I pondered this while he filled the tire. 

He told me to go to a garage.

As I pulled into the tire and battery shop I thought to myself, "Well that wasn't too bad. It was free and now I know everything I need to know about how to get a flat tire fixed.

I drove onto the lot and then stepped out of the spy car with a smile.

I was a woman in charge of her own life. Knowledgeable about the ways of the road, automotively informed, vehicley literate.

Nothing could stop me now.

"I'll need your wheel key," said the mechanic.




Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Cold and Clammy Dread

Lonely young woman, haunted house, repressed sexuality...

Did I get that when I was twelve?

I must have sensed it because "The Haunting of Hill House" by Shirley Jackson, scared the hormones right out of me.  I'm sure it is the reason that I didn't reach puberty till I was forty.

It so terrified me that after I finished it I became afraid of the book itself. It sat on the bottom of my closet and to this day I have no idea what happened to it.

Probably returned itself to the library.


Anyway, feeling brave I took myself off to the library this week and actually found the book still there. The hard cover version is bluish-gray.  It sits so unobtrusively on the shelf that I missed it the first time I looked.

It is classified as a "psychological ghost story".

I didn't know that when I was a kid. And it wouldn't have meant anything to me anyway. When I picked it up I probably thought it was just another 'Nancy Drew Investigates the Haunted Mansion' type book.

But it wasn't Nancy Drew and I got so sucked into the story I couldn't stop myself from reading it. I mean when she gets into bed and feels the hand ...

Let's just say it was years before I could put my own hands under the covers.

A best seller in its day, it has been largely forgotten, pushed aside by sexier writers such as Steven King and Dean Koontz.

But if you are looking for an old-fashioned scare this Hallowe'en, one that leaves you with 'a lingering clammy dread', (reviewer Laura Miller), it's down at the library waiting patiently...

just for you...

Bwa ha ha!

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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Bra Burners on the Loose in Canada

"QWF, (Quebec Women's Federation), is always in a hurry to denounce cleavage or a mini skirt worn by an emancipated and free woman, while refusing to condemn a truly evil tool of submission as the veil, niqab or the burka."

Eric Duhaime, freelance writer, St. Catharines Standard, Oct. 14, 2010

Believe it or not, this was written under the heading, "Why Are We Funding These Bra Burners?"

Bra Burners.

I didn't know whether to be happy or frightened when I read that old put down. Happy because it means that somewhere out there women are speaking out and frightened because it means that the retaliation has begun.

Not that I've heard anyone sink that low in a few years.

Anyway, Mr. Duhaime is angry that the QWF gets some of its funding from the Status of Women, (our tax dollars at work), supports Quebec separation and is against the War in Afghanistan.

If that is true, I'm not happy with them either.

But I believe he is treading on dangerous ground when he says the QWF is not supporting Muslim women because it refuses to condemn the veil.

Common sense should tell us that faces should not be veiled in courts, airport security zones, polling booths, or in legal photos taken for identification purposes, i.e., license, health care.

But for the rest of the time, probably 99% of her day, how a woman dresses is not the business of the Canadian Government.

In that, I support the QWF.

Muslim woman in Yemen.Image via Wikipedia
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Friday, October 15, 2010

A Different Kind of Scary

Cover of "On the Beach"Cover of On the Beach

I f you are the type of person who would be more frightened by seeing someone in your backyard in a hazmat suit than you would be by someone with a crazed look and a chainsaw, then you may want to check out the old 1959 movie, "On the Beach", this Hallowe'en.

It is set in Australia after a nuclear conflict between the U.S. and Russia. The radiation fallout has killed everyone else and the Aussies know it is only a few months until they too will die.

As the movie opens people are living like there's no tomorrow because there isn't.

As luck would have it, the American submarine that has the handsomest man in the world as captain, (Gregory Peck), wasn't nuked. It docks in Melbourne and of course Captain Gregory meets a beautiful woman, (Ava Gardner), and they fall in love.

While the doomed romance unfolds, the Australian government is busy issuing suicide pills to families.

This is not a feel good movie.

But then the impossible happens. Morse code messages start coming from somewhere on the west coast of the U.S. They are gibberish but Gregory Peck and his band of not so merry men have to investigate. Gregory and Ava say their gut wrenching farewell and the submarine departs.

I'm not going to tell you what they find when they reach North America.

Did I mention this is NOT a feel good movie with a happy ending?

If you like old movies and scary end-of-the-world flicks, this might be the thing for you on Hallowe'en night.

On the Beach, 1959
Directed by Stanley Kramer
Based on the novel with the same name written by Neville Shute

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Headless in Seattle

The murder of Thomas Becket, detail from a rel...Image via Wikipedia
The murder of Thomas a Becket

Over the next week or so, In honour of Hallowe'en I'm going to look back at a few of the things that have scared me at some point in my life.   Here is a story that I heard at a sleep over when I was in grade eight.  

It might be familiar to you, too.

 "A murderer was terrorizing a town. 

But a girl and her boyfriend didn't care.  They went parking in a dark lane one night anyway.  
After awhile they heard something so the boy  told the girl to get under a blanket and hide on the floor of the car while he  went out to investigate. Before he left  he told her that he would knock three times when he wanted to get back in the car. 
She waited a long time.  
Finally she heard tap...tap...tap...  She crawled out from under the blanket and saw her boyfriend's head stuck on the car's aerial. The wind was knocking it against the car window."

I don't think I slept for weeks after I heard that one.

And more than four decades later I still find it a disturbing story - as much for what it leaves out as for what it tells us.

I mean, I'd like to know what happened next.  Did the girl actually jump into the driver's seat and speed off with her boyfriend's head still impaled or did she spend the night huddled under the blanket listening to the killer rattle the door handles?

Yikes again!

As a cautionary tale for young teenage girls this one works. 

My inner fourteen year old girl will never go parking with a boy again!


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Thanksgiving Day

Canadian parliament from the Musée Canadienne ...Image via Wikipedia

Our Parliament buildings are a symbol of our democratic system of government.

I'm thankful that that we are free to express ourselves politically, artistically and spiritually.

I'm thankful for the Canadian men and women who have fought for freedom. I am thankful for those who are in a war zone at this time. I am especially grateful to those who have given their lives.

These names can be found on the walkway that leads to the memorial at the Fonthill Legion.

When there is an emergency in North Pelham the men from the Fire Station #3 arrive before anyone else. Through snow and ice storms and in the dead of night they are there when we need them.

I'm thankful for the men and women who work in fire departments and I'm especially thankful for those who are volunteers.

I'm thankful to the police officer who responded when my car skidded on an icy road early one morning and I went spinning into a ditch.  I'm thankful to the police officers who came to the school when we had children in crisis.

I'm thankful knowing that if I  need them, they will be there.

The faces of angels.

These are four of the workers who helped care for my mom in her terrible struggle with Alzheimer's. I asked them to stand as representatives of all the people who care for and love the elderly and the dying.

I am truly thankful for all health care providers.


Have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day, everyone!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Confessions of a Witch in the Public School System

I was once accused of promoting witchcraft within the public school system.

It happened the year I volunteered to represent the teachers at the PTA meetings.

The PTA was looking for ways to raise more money during the annual fun fair and they wanted something different. I mentioned that in my last school the fun fair had always included a fortune teller. I explained that it had been a tradition for the grade six students to write funny fortunes and then a few of them would dress up in gypsy costumes, sit in a tent and sell the fortunes to little kids for 25¢.

It was a lot of fun for everyone.

The PTA was enthusiastic and as I was teaching grade six that year I went ahead and explained the plan to my class.

But I had forgotten about Becky.

Becky enjoyed reporting my every transgression to her fundamentalist parents. She must have thought she'd hit the mother lode that day.

The letter to the principal arrived later that week.

It said, (more or less), that:

Ms M. was promoting witchcraft and if she went ahead with her evil plan of fortune telling at the funfair, a group of 'concerned fathers' would be going to the Board of Education, the newspaper, the RCMP, Interpol and whatever court governs the galaxy.

Later, after the fortune tellerless funfair was over I asked Becky why, if they were so afraid of witches, she was allowed to read books like 'The Wizard of Oz".

"Oh," she said haughtily, "We know those witches aren't real."

Which meant they really thought that I...


Oh well, it made a great story down at the coven.

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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Growls From a Cynic

The residential tower of the Manulife Centre c...Image via Wikipedia

I've become a distrustful, cynic.

At least when it comes to insurance companies - and probably politicians, but this blog isn't about politicians - not directly anyway.

Like most retired teachers I have extended health care coverage through the Retired Teachers of Ontario Group Benefits Programme.

It isn't what I was used to when I was working, but I'm glad to have it just the same.

Recently Manulife has been putting on a big song and dance about an added insurance plan that they are offering for a limited 90 day period.

It is an "open window" for three short months that will allow retired teachers to pick up added insurance without a medical exam. If we don't get it now the window will slam shut and someday when we are crippled, dismembered and plague ridden we will only have ourselves to blame when Manulife refuses us.

So kind of them. So thoughtful. As usual the insurance companies have only our best interests at heart.


It's a sales pitch.

But the number of worried women who came to the meeting was a concern to me.

Think of your favourite teacher.

She's old, alone and afraid.

She has limited financial resources.

A big conglomerate worth a bizzillion dollars, whose CEO probably gets more in his Christmas bonus than she made in her lifetime, has come along and is trying to squeeze a few more dollars off the top of her pension using fear as a sales ploy.

Personally I don't think the policy is worth it and probably neither do they or they wouldn't be trying to scare aging people into buying it.

But that is exactly what they are doing.

Grrrrr. Grrrrr. Grrrrr.

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Monday, October 4, 2010

Sex, Drugs, But No Rock and Roll

Statue entitled "The White Slave"Image via Wikipedia

The last brothel in Dawson City closed nine years before I arrived in the Territory. The local people rarely spoke about Bombay Peggy's but when they did, it was with an embarrassed laugh. I had the idea it wasn't a particularly high class joint as far as houses of ill repute go.

Prostitution was a big part of the Gold Rush of 1896-98. At that time the women were housed in a 'special' area of Dawson City called Louse Town. The pictures of the workers who plied their trade there are extremely sad.

Prostitution is still a sad business.

And a dangerous one.

This past week the laws governing prostitution in Canada were struck down. In thirty days it will be legal to solicit, pimp and run a common bawdy house in this country.

Although I understand that this might not keep the street-level sex trade workers who are driven by their drug addictions safe, I do think it is a step in the right direction.

Evidently the majority of Canadians feel the same way.

Kalvin Reid, the editor of the St. Catharines Standard said that prostitution is a moral problem, and need not be a legal one.

I agree.

Let's not get caught up in years of appeals, committee meetings and hearings on prostitution.

Free the police up to deal with drug smuggling, gang wars and dangerous grow ops in our communities because the root of evil in our society is not the selling of sex.

 It's the drug trade.
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Friday, October 1, 2010

X Rated Pumpkin Squares

Okay, okay, my first pumpkin/chocolate recipe was the type of snack you take to work when it's your turn to bring the treats.

Sort of the classy, pin striped pant suit of pumpkin desserts.

Today's recipe is more like the thong.

These are the pumpkin/chocolate squares that Rhett would bake for Scarlet, Julius for Cleopatra, Robin for Maid Marion, Arthur for Guenevere...

Antonio Banderas at the Shrek the Third London...Image via Wikipedia

And it is the dessert Antonio Banderas would bake for you, except that the recipe came from my cousin Chris and she forgot to send Antonio Banderas as an attachment, so I can't forward him on to you.

You'll have to imagine the chocolate, the satin sheets, the candles and the smouldering Spaniard feeding them to you.

(The squares not the candles.)

Luckily you can eat these goodies while you are leaning over the kitchen sink wearing your warmest jammies and they are still orgasmic.

Chris's X Rated Pumpkin Squares

2 cups spelt or whole wheat flour
1 tsp each: cinnamon, baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp each: ground nutmeg, ground cloves, ground ginger
1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1 - 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup canned pure pumpkin
340 g (12 oz) semi-sweet chocolate chips

In a medium bowl whisk together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, cloves and ginger.

In a large bowl, using the electric mixer on medium-high cream butter and sugar until smooth.
Beat in egg, vanilla and then pumpkin.
Reduce speed to low.

Add flour.

Stir in chocolate chips.

Spread batter into buttered and floured 9" by 13" baking pan.
Bake in 350 degree preheated oven until toothpick inserted in centre comes out with just a few moist crumbs and edges begin to pull away from the pan - about 35 to 40 minutes.

Cool completely before cutting.

I'm not sure if that last line, 'cool before cutting' refers to you or the dessert.

It depends on how you use the whipped cream, I guess.

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