Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Today's Trivia - Play-Doh: The Wallpaper Cleaner

Did you know that the brightly-coloured, modeling clay named Play-Doh that we (and our children) squeezed, molded and occasionally ate as youngsters was originally manufactured as a wallpaper cleaner in the 1930s?

Neither did I.

This non-toxic, non-staining, reusable modeling clay (and, at times, snack for toddlers) that we all know as Play-Doh was originally a pliable, putty-like wallpaper cleaner invented by Noah McVicker for Kutol Products, a family-owned Cincinnati-based soap company.

After World War II, McVicker's nephew, Joseph McVicker, joined Kutol and discovered that nursery school children were using the cleaner as a modeling compound to make Christmas ornaments. The product was reworked and marketed to Cincinnati schools in the mid 1950s.

And the rest is history...

Monday, July 30, 2012

Kingston’s Buskers Rendezvous 2012

Okay, so first, this is a post about an old festival. Not old old, like ancient old, but significantly old enough to be worth mentioning on this blog. But what I really mean by old is that our attendance to it is old; this happened two weeks ago, not this past weekend or very recently. Are you with me so far? Of course you aren’t.

Let me try again...

About two weeks ago, my husband and I took my two girls, and a friend of my younger daughter’s, to Kingston’s Buskers Rendezvous festival. This is an annual event that occurs every summer. It began as an entertaining addition to the city’s downtown ‘July Sidewalk Sale’ (another highly-anticipated yearly event) and has now become known as one of the top festivals of its kind in Canada. This year was the 24th edition, so that’s what I mean by it being significantly old. 24 years running is quite a long time, don’t you think?

And what is this festival, you ask? It’s all about buskers. And what are buskers? Buskers are street performers that entertain audiences in public areas for voluntary donations.

Like these two brothers:



The festival is a mixture of buskers, some of them new and some of them returning. And what do they do? They juggle, they dance, they sing, they do magic tricks, they put on plays, they do fire shows, and on and on.



This festival goes on for four days and the performers are from all over; some are local and some come from very far away. Take for example these handsome young men that this post is about who have arrived all the way from Australia! I liked them just for that fact. And contemplated how I could squeeze myself into their suitcase, so they can take me home to the land down under. The land that is on my top-places-to-visit-before-I-die list.



We stopped to watch this act, which is fittingly named ‘The Circus Firemen’. They were last year’s Peoples' Choice winners, which gave them an automatic invitation back this year. I’m not surprised that people like them so much; they are very entertaining, and quite charismatic. And if we’re going to be honest, adorable, too.



This is Idris Stanton who goes by the stage name of ‘Matilda’. He interacts quite a bit with the audience, and he is very sociable and amusing.



This is Joshua Phillips who goes by the stage name of ‘Angus’. He’s a little less gregarious, but certainly no less entertaining.



These boys perform a 40 – 50 minute show that includes acrobatics, juggling, wobbly balancing on 10 foot ladders and lots of comedy.



Cute, endearing and clearly talented – what’s there not to love about these two siblings that have been performing together for 10 years, and have delighted audiences in their hometown and around the world?



These young men, along with many other buskers performed for four days downtown for free. They brought a smile to the faces in my beautiful city. Including my own.



How do they earn a living? By “passing the hat”. So, if you enjoy their performance, consider contributing something to let them know. It’s up to you how much.



For a small city, Kingston is loaded with regular events and festivities. You gotta love it here.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Around The Garden

So I took Beth’s advice and asked the dozen or so gnomes scattered around the garden to do a rain dance. And it worked! The rain came down and all is all with my world. Thank you, Beth.

The plants sighed with relief, and later that day, there was a celebration going on in my garden. Drinking, dancing and lots of frolicking. Don’t you just love the word ‘frolicking’? It sounds like a dirty word, doesn’t it?

Join me on another garden tour. After we’re done, we’ll have our own party to celebrate the rainfall. There will be coffee and tea and juice and cakes and cookies and pies and every calorie-packed sweet you can imagine!

Now, off we go...


Rudbeckia maxima really struggled with the drought, but it managed to hold onto its glorious flowers. A true champion in the garden.




This is Helenium 'Ruby Tuesday' with its cute button-like flowers. I always think of the band the Rolling Stones when I see this plant. (Think about it; it’ll come to you.)




Despite the fact that Eupatorium ‘Phantom’, dwarf Joe-Pye weed, likes moisture, it handled the drought rather well. This plant is ridiculously easy to grow making it one of my favourites.



Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’ didn’t bat an eye while it waited for rain, and it continues to look gloriously beautiful. There are always little critters hanging around it.




These pretty blooms belong to Rudbeckia hirta 'Toto Rustic'.




I got a pleasant surprise by Clematis 'Rhapsody' when it decided to bloom again.




This is the flower of a nasturtium that I planted last year, and although it’s quite lovely, that’s not the reason it has left me in awe. Nasturtiums are supposed to be annuals, but this plant grew back this spring after surviving our winter. Amazing.



Phlox paniculata ‘David’ is just getting started, but looking real good already.



The star of this week’s show is Lilium 'Star Gazer'. The blooms are huge and spectacular.




It’s been awhile since Platycodon grandiflorus ‘Fuji Blue’ went into bloom, and it’s still going strong.



Hydrangea macrophylla 'Paris Rapa' decided to jump on the flower-power bandwagon and show the world what it can do.



Hydrangea macrophylla 'Forever & Ever Peppermint' is also on a roll.




The white coneflowers didn’t suffer too much with the drought.



And neither did the purple ones.




I caught one purple coneflower getting quite chummy with a daylily. They’re obviously ‘frolicking’ while no one is looking. [snort]



And finally, there’s Rudbeckia hirta 'Indian Summer'. I wasn’t sure if this plant would return this summer, but it did. So there you go.



That’s it for this week’s garden stroll. Now, let go stuff our faces with some goodies!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Tune Time – Born To Be Alive

This song, which hit it big near the end of the disco era, takes takes me back to my teenage years. I was only 14 in 1979 when this song was released, so it would be awhile yet before I was dancing to it at the clubs. Yes, folks, I did enjoy disco tunes when I went out with my friends – and danced up a storm even though my favourite style of music was - and continues to be - classic rock. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do to spice up your social life.

Born to be alive was a smash hit in France, and became one of the biggest singles there. It also hit number one on the U.S. Hot Dance Club Play chart.


Friday, July 27, 2012

Sunny Side Up

"A three billion year old planet floating in the vast universe with mountains, seventy percent seas and oceans, fertile lands, immense forests, rivers and lakes, sea shores and deserts, this is where we humans have the privilege to live, the latest, most advanced newcomers in evolution. What an immense, incredible responsibility we have to be a right, positive element in the further evolution of that planet. That is the big question before us in the new century and millennium."
- Dr. Robert Muller -

This week’s sunny side up is an awe-inspiring video. What a planet we live on. What an amazing world. Let's make sure to take care of it.



A good weekend, to all!

Book It - Mistral's Daughter

This week’s featured book:

Mistral's Daughter
Author: Judith Krantz

Overview:

They were three generations of magnificent, red-haired beauties born to scandal, bred to success, bound to a single extraordinary man--Julien Mistral, the painter, the genius, the lover whose passions had seared them all.

Maggy--Flamboyant mistress of Mistral''s youth, the toast of Paris in the ''20s. Her luminous flesh was immortalized in the paintings that made Mistral legendary.

Teddy--Maggy''s daughter, the incomparable cover girl who lived fast and left as her legacy Mistral''s dazzling love child.

Fauve--Mistral''s daughter, the headstrong, fearless glory girl whose one dark secret drove her to rule the world of high fashion and to risk everything in a feverish search for love.

From the ''20s Paris of Chanel, Colette, Picasso and Matisse to New York's sizzling new modeling agencies of the '50s, to the model ward of the '70s, Mistral's Daughter captures the explosive glamour of life at the top of the world of art and high fashion.


My Comments:

Family sagas that span a few generations can be fantastic stories, especially if those families have hidden sins and secrets. Like this one. I was quite reluctant to read this book when I first ran across it because Judith Krantz stories typically lean toward the romance genre, which doesn’t interest me.

But Mistral’s Daughter goes far beyond the bedroom and Gucci bags; it’s actually a very interesting story that will keep you captivated. And the characters are very memorable. Give it a try. I think you’ll like it.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

My New Favourite Word

So the other day, my hubby and I were watching a taped episode of ‘The People's Court’, a television court show in which small claims cases are heard by Judge Marilyn Millian. We actually prefer Judge Judy but there have only been reruns lately, so we’ve started watching Judge Millian as an alternative, which isn’t bad. But we get a bigger kick out of the way Judge Judy mops the floor with some people, some of whom deserve it. Not all, though; sometimes I think she goes a bit too far. She is quite abrasive at times. Okay, most of the time. This woman actually scares the bejesus out of me. I cringe whenever she gets into one of her ‘chew-them-up-and-spit-them-out’ moods imagining it being me getting verbally smacked like that. I would never in a million years be on her show. I don’t think I’d survive her. Of course, for the right price (camera lenses are expensive, you know), I could be persuaded. Maybe.

A curmudgeon
I have been heard saying “I wish I could have her job for one day.” It would be a hoot to be able to unleash some demons on some offenders. But only really bad ones. And come to think of it, I’m not sure I could do it when it really comes down to it. I’m Canadian, after all, and we’re typically too polite to behave in that manner.

But I digress.

So like I was saying, we were watching an episode of ‘The People’s Court’ and the defendant in one case said about the plaintiff “He’s a curmudgeon, your honour. He sucks the joy out of everything.”

My ears perked up at this. ”What an interesting-sounding word”, I thought. “I’ve never heard it before, or even know what it means. But it sounds so good. I must look it up.”

And look it up, I did.

The Merriam-Webster on-line dictionary defines it as “a crusty, ill-tempered, and usually old man”.

Usually old man, but not always. Therefore, it can be applied to just about anyone who “sucks the joy out of everything”; someone who is ill-tempered, full of resentment and stubborn notions.

Don’t we all know people like this? Individuals that “suck the joy out of everything.” We sure do!

Even a pet can be a curmudgeon.
And although there are a lot of other words that one can use like bad-tempered, disagreeable, killjoy, wet blanket, bellyacher, crab, crank, griper, growler, grumbler and grouch, just to name a few, none of them are as impressive as ‘curmudgeon’. Go on, try it on for size. Say it out loud. (Go here to listen to the pronunciation)

CURMUDGEON [ker-muhj-uhn]

Lovely, isn’t it?

[ker-muhj-uhn]

Best part of all is that hardly anyone will know what it means when you smack them with it. It’s not a common word. So if someone is being a real pill, you can pat their hand, put on a great big smile and say “Oh you...you are such a curmudgeon.” Then chuckle a little, so they think you’re teasingly complimenting them. I bet even if they’re confused they’ll smile along with you, chuckle nervously, maybe even say “Uh...thanks.”

And I also bet that the first thing they’ll do when they get home is look it up. Then get really peeved. But by then you’ll have had your fun.

Curmudgeon.

My new favourite word.

Yup, birds, too.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Canada: An Open-minded Nation...Most Of The Time

Without going into too much detail about the party who inspired this post because I don’t want to stir up any trouble (although I’m certainly tempted to do so, really tempted, occasionally), I would like to vent, nonetheless, about a recent experience that annoyed me to no end. And an experience that isn’t isolated. I’ve come face to face with it before. Every now and then I run across the attitude that this woman displays in others; an attitude that is blatantly ignorant, bigoted and so damn un-Canadian.

What is it you ask? What is this hairball that I need to spit out before I choke on it?

The attitude towards immigrants. And the attitude towards the diversity of people in this country. Particularly towards individuals whose skin isn’t milky white. Or whose heritage is different than the people who originated from European countries. Or whose roots in this great country of mine don’t go back far enough to satisfy some people who believe that your family has to have been here an X amount of time, generations worth, for you to be considered a ‘true’ Canadian.

Pfffttt...

[Pause...take a very, very deep breath]

To pass the Canadian citizenship test, you must be able to identify this place. Honest.
Every time I speak with this person, every single time, eventually she’ll make some derogatory comments, albeit in such a subtle manner that you could miss it (but you know they are meant to insult if you pay attention), about individuals who she ‘perceives’ as being immigrants. Every single time, people. It’s uncanny. There are moments when I wonder if it’s meant as a personal jab since my parents came to Canada in the 50s, which in her eyes makes them bona fide immigrants despite the fact that it’s been over five decades. Maybe I’m just too cynical. Maybe. Because about three years ago when this same woman asked if my mother was a Canadian citizen as I stared at her in disbelief (and amusement at her level of idiocy), I wonder just how cynical I’m being. My mother has been here since 1957, so anyone with half a brain would assume that somewhere in alllll that time, she was granted citizenship. Possibly within the first five years. But what do I know.

Anyway.

I place emphasis on the word ‘perceives’ because she labels certain individuals as immigrants because of the way they look. If they don’t dress like Canadians should, whatever that may be, they are immigrants. If the colour of their skin or other features don’t align with that white, European look, well, they must be immigrants. If their religion isn’t Christian, oh, yeah, immigrants. If they have an accent or speak differently, they are absolutely immigrants. She comes to these conclusions entirely on her own. She has no idea about the background of these people, she certainly hasn’t asked them directly what their story is; she just makes that assumption based on their outward appearance. For all she knows, they may very well have been born here, along with generations before them. And may even have roots that go back further than her own.

But even if they weren’t born here, so what? The fact that they live here, raise children here, work here, pay taxes here, vote here, go to school here, open businesses here and so on, means that they are citizens and that this is their home. And that makes them as Canadian as everyone else. No matter the time frame, or how many generations they do – or do not - go back, or how they look.

It’s just so Archie Bunker-ish to behave in such an outdated manner when we’re proclaiming – and proudly - the notion that we’re a multicultural, all-inclusive, highly-tolerant, progressive, open society, and then turn around and bash immigrants, make derogatory remarks about them and marginalize them. It’s even worse when we toss around the word ‘immigrant’ like it’s something dirty, making our newest citizens feel unwelcome. And absolutely horrible when we define certain individuals as being less Canadian because of the colour of their skin or the way they dress or the food they eat or what they believe or how they speak.

If your garden has been taken hostage by one of these critters, then you are Canadian.
When I was living in Montreal, I once volunteered at a community center with a group of many other women toward bettering the neighbourhood we lived in, and helping the less fortunate members of our community. There was a lot of diversity in our team; some were newly-arrived and waiting to get their Canadian citizenship, some had just recently become citizens, some had a few generations going back, some just a few. Some were darker; some were lighter. We dressed in different ways and ate different foods. And never mind religion; I think we covered almost every type of faith there is; our group also included atheists and agnostics. But no matter what our stories were, we were no different from one another in the big scheme of things. We all wanted to carve a little space in this country, work, raise our children, live a happy, healthy life, and live peacefully. Yet, regardless of these obvious similarities, one day when we put together a small party with the community center’s workers, I heard a few of them whisper “What are THEY doing here?” about the newly immigrated and the newer citizens, as if those women didn’t warrant a place amongst the rest of us ‘true’ Canadians, and didn’t belong at that celebration. There are no words to properly convey the level of disgust I felt at that moment for fellow citizens.

Grrrr...

♪♫♪ "This land was made for you and me..." ♫♪♫

And for everyone that embraces it.

Canada boasts being a model of how people of different cultures can live and work together in peace, prosperity, and mutual respect. But despite these claims, and as polite and friendly as we come off as being, some of us can be cold and uncaring towards immigrants, newer members of our society or individuals that don’t fit the definition or description of what a ‘true Canadian’ is --- aka: what they should look like. This is not to say that there aren’t any wonderful, open-minded and progressive people in this country; there are many. But we still have a lot of work to do before we meet our full potential.


In this great country of ours, we are all equal. There are no second class citizens. There is no ‘us’ and ‘them’. There is no hierarchy of citizenship where some individuals are more Canadian than others, no matter how much some small minded individuals wish it to be so.

When I spend time with these types of Canadians, I am reminded of the profound sentence in the satirical novella ‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell, which goes like this: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”.

Is that what these bigoted individuals believe? That “All Canadians are equal, but some Canadians are more equal than others?”

Not in my Canada.

Ugh.

I’m done here.