Capital Idea

House of Parliament

So another year has come and gone, and once again it was time to drive to Ottawa, to visit the grandson and fiancé for a couple of days – a Capital idea.

We hitched up the team, and loaded the buckboard sport-brute.  Grandma and her minions had made another batch of dill pickles.  There were his and hers presents for birthdays that bracket my recent one.  Included were a home-made spelt-flour, chocolate-mayonnaise cake, and special ginger cookies from a local Dutch market.  His always-thinking-ahead mother had even sent Christmas presents, since they won’t be able to get away then.

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Biggest and heaviest among the freight, was a large steel cage for a recently-acquired, white (but not albino) ferret. She is so friendly and playful!!  I took along the digital camera, but the only photos I took were the ferret ones above.  I used it to prove that I had finally mounted on the wall, the rapier that he gave me for Fathers’ Day, two years ago, because I haven’t got around to publishing the Procrastination post yet.  You guys will have to wait another week or two to see that shot.

All in all, a very interesting and satisfying trip. Food of all types, including a Mexican restaurant named ‘Ahora’, where the nachos came with a language lesson.  The word ahora (Spanish a = in/at/to – hora = time) means Now, in English.

We visited two knife shops, and two second-hand bookstores which reminded me of Charles Dickens ‘Old Curiosity Shop’, stuff piled upon stuff in no great amount of order. We went to the Byward Market, a 4-block-square area, right downtown, full of kitschy little shops, eager to separate visitors from their money before the Government got it as taxes.

Just outside, between the Market area and the Houses of Parliament, stands the American Embassy, as big as a Trump hotel, but with all the architectural flair of a shoebox. Just half a block inside the Market, a mere drunken stagger back to the Embassy, is a ‘Gentlemen’s Club.’  Coincidence??  I think not!  Around the corner was a big century-house, turned into another Embassy, not Russian, but with a sign in Cyrillic lettering – Ukraine?  Uzbekistan?  Perhaps the English sign was on another street.

We went back at night to see the Parliament Building all lit up. No-one was passing any stupid legislation, but we saw where they had installed vents to release all the hot air.

I chose a different motel than last year, this one a mile closer to the grandson’s apartment, and $90/night, instead of $130, enabling us to afford to stay two nights instead of one. It was a family-owned independent, and like the Mexican restaurant, came with a lesson, this one a history lesson, rather than language.

Always curious, and looking for blog-fodder, I approached the day-shift male room-clerk. He reminded me of the wife’s ex-doctor. He could throw a pill or a potion or a medical test at a problem, but couldn’t deal with patients.  I believe that the clerk was on the autism spectrum.  He was happy to supply an extra pillow, or an ice-bucket, but not conversation and trivia.  “Qantas. Definitely Qantas.”

I asked, “How old is this place?”
“I don’t know.  I wasn’t here when it was built.”
“Neither was I, but I’m curious.  Have you never asked?”
“It wasn’t on my job application.  I have a customer.  You’ll have to leave.”
“He’s still getting out of his car.  He won’t be here for 5 minutes.  When does the night-shift come on?”
“I have a customer!  Please leave!”

I returned later to talk to the night-clerk, who was both sociable and knowledgeable.

It all started with a mineral hot-spring. The Indians used to soak in it, and believed in its healing properties.  They told the white men, who also used it, and appropriated it.  Around 1900, a white businessman erected a building around it, and turned it into a spa where monied and powerful people came, ‘to take the waters.’

It was quite a way out in the country from little then-Ottawa. In 1928 another businessman built a restaurant nearby, so that the elite had a place to dine after their treatments.  In 1931, when cars were still balky and unreliable, he built a couple of cabins where folks could stay overnight, before returning home in the morning.  Later, he added a couple more, and then another couple.

In 1932 he joined them together into one of the first row motels. In 1956 he added a second, matching row, and in 1973, his son added a third, two-story structure which we stayed in, for a total of 80 units.  The restaurant is still there, although now it’s leased out to chefs whose pretentious menu includes $15 hamburgers and poutine made with French fries cooked in duck fat.

The Federal Government is responsible for the well-being of Indigenous Peoples. Some are brought to Ottawa for medical treatment.  This now includes tests, drugs, surgery and physiotherapy, but many of them still believe in the healing powers of the Manitou’s hot springs.  When we were there, there were 16 units housing Cree and Inuit from as far away as Nunavut, in the Northwest Territories.

Even including an hour each way in the worst traffic in Canada, in Toronto, it was well worth the trip, which totalled 1200 Km/825 Mi. over three days. The grandson who does not own a car, and his magic smart-phone, skillfully guided us around the town.  I’m sure we’ll go again next fall, if not before.

Skirting The Issue

Little Black Dress

It may be local. It may be temporary and fleeting.  It is definitely from a small sampling, and a completely personal study, but I believe that women are beginning to regain some of the sophistication and elegance of bygone years.  Many women, including many young women, are once again wearing skirts or dresses for everyday situations.

Women wearing ‘men’s clothes’ became common during World War II, when women took factory jobs to fill in for menfolk in the Armed Services. After the War, working women, dressed comfortably and modestly in shirts and pants, became common, and acceptable.

Even in office settings, skirt/blouse combos were usually outnumbered by slacks and jeans, and dresses were reserved for parties and dates. The ratio of skirts or dresses seemed to be about one in twenty, or fewer.

I recently spent a day at Niagara Falls, followed by a day with a couple of hours at a mall, followed by a Saturday morning spent at the Farmers’ Market. Suddenly I was amazed at the number of females wearing skirts or even dresses.  The odds now seemed to be one in five, or even more.

Of course, I’m not counting the Mennonite females, who always wear dresses, which look like they’ve been made from rejected couch upholstery fabric.  They look neither elegant nor sophisticated.

While I appreciated the views, I didn’t feel Niagara was a good place to wear skirts. There’s a lot of breeze, and up-and-down, and climbing – hills, stairs, escalators, even the tour boats in the river.

Granted, while there were a lot of them, not all of them were sophisticated or elegant. Many, and not merely the younger ones, wore barely enough fabric to hang the ‘For Rent’ sign and price list.  One 40ish woman wore what I originally took to be a sock.  The color of safety-cone orange, it was a knit dress, primly covering her from chin to kneecaps, but it was so tight, that even I had trouble breathing.

It clung tightly to her, from below chandelier earrings, to above cork-wedge-soled sandals with 4 inch heels.  Not what I’d wear to a tourist trap.  Knitter daughter says there’s a knitting term for knitted clothes that look like they’re painted on – maximum negative ease, alternate pronunciation – If you’ve got it….flaunt it!

The next day – a hot, sunny one – at the mall, I expected lots of shorts. Again, I was surprised.  Skirts were common, and ranged from office wear, to pencil skirts, to baby doll.  Poodle skirts are back, although I imagine they’re called something else now.  Lengths ranged from barely legal, or moral, ‘wide belts’, to floor-length.

There were grandmothers in comfortable, conservative, kneecap-length dresses, latter-day hippies in swirling, diaphanous kerchief dresses, young mothers in cool caftans and airy muu-muus. Asymmetrical hemlines were evident.  Angled cuts hung down front, side and back.  Cut-outs were on chest, arms and backs.

The biggest surprise was at the food court. (You didn’t think I’d leave without eating, did you?  All that looking made me hungry.)  There were at least 12 young women having lunch – or at least coffee – wearing some form of ‘The Little Black Dress’, which I thought was reserved for more special occasions, plus four more in the same high-fashion style, but in rose, gold, robin’s-egg blue and pastel green.

What’s happening with women’s-wear in your neck of the woods? Are skirts and dresses becoming more common?  My female readers will already know, because they always keep an eye on the competition.

For the guys, if you get caught staring, assure any eye-candy that you are not a lascivious pervert, but merely performing a scientific study for a famous blogger.

Extra points if you can do it without snickering – or drooling.   😆

 

Adoption

Buddha

In our continuing quest to get a front-page spread in Better Huts And Hovels (Pagan Press Intl.), the wife decided to dress the place up a bit, and give it some character. To that end, we decided to adopt a few more characters as lucky amulets.

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She felt we should get a small statue of Buddha for the back deck, among her many plants, as a sign of peace, so off to Lowes we trekked. We found a lovely Buddha, and right next to him, Elfen (above). One look at that smirky smile, and we said, peace on Buddha, we’re taking him. That shit-disturbing little grin just says, “Take me home, so that we can start getting into trouble.”

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The son keeps acquiring semi-precious stone skulls. His total now is about 20. I’ll show you his rogues’ gallery complete, later in the summer. His interest has rubbed off on the wife, and she has also begun a collection. As homage to our alien overlords, she now displays in a place of honor, a replica of Ming from Mong, their revered leader.

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On a lower shelf, to demonstrate our obedience and subjugation, sits a little crystal human skull replica, that the son gave his mother for Mothers’ Day. Isn’t he sweet and thoughtful? That’s so much better than the Swiffer Sweeper and electric fry pan I got her. My head still has a lump from when she accidentally dropped it while putting it away.

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If two heads are better than one, then 20 should be better than 2, so the son continues to expand his collection. He says this big obsidian skull has been talking to him from the Rock Shop at the Farmers’ Market, for over six months….He just means that he’s been attracted to it, right?? I mean, it couldn’t really talk to him – could it??!

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To help him with his thinking, the son recently got another set of wooden heads. He claims that they stand for See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil. There’s nothing evil about this house, but I think these guys just don’t want to see or hear what’s going on. Poor Moe, on the bottom, saw and heard, and is now trying to keep his stomach down. Nice of him, but with a couple of sensitive cats, one more stain on the rug wouldn’t even be noticed.

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These new kids sit not too far away from their older, larger brothers, which the son obtained back in the fall. The old Market building burned down because it was made of dried wood, and had no sprinklers. Perhaps I should dip these in fire retardant, and tell the son that I’m staining them for him. 😉

So, all in all, we’re now better protected from random psionic and thaumaturgic attacks. Maybe I should obtain a couple more and send them to Cordelia’s Mom, to protect her from the imps who infest her neighborhood.

#482

Minutia VI

In-n-Out

Food fight!  The Americans are coming.

I took the wife to a mall in our adjoining twin city.  Along the outside edge is a restaurant (?) named Zoup.  It has one main type of food on the menu – dozens of kinds of soup, mostly for takeout.  Five or six flavors are available each day, and change from day to day.  The son wants to try the bacon cheeseburger soup, but has never been there on a day when it was available.

Zoup

As the wife was entering the anchor food store inside, I noticed several workers taking a break across the hall, where they were renovating an empty space.  The sign in the window says it will be a strangely possessived, Carl’s Jr. burger joint, something to compete with the all-too-familiar McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s, and A&W, which is (mostly) Canadian.

I found another construction crew working across the street from my usual supermarket, two doors down from a Mary Brown’s Chicken franchise, in a strip mall.  Mary’s is a strictly Canadian chain which does not really compete with KFC.

The space the workers were finishing (not soon enough for me) was a Tex-Mex outlet named Quesada.  I miss the Taco Bell that was close enough to walk to.  The two nearest are almost equidistant, but sadly, 8.1Km, and 8.2Km.  (Five miles – give or take)  Perhaps I won’t have to drive to Toronto for a decent platter of nachos.

BrainRants’ In-N-Out Burger recently announced that they were taking over an Italian restaurant named Osteria del Ganzi, in downtown Toronto.  They would serve only a hamburger, a cheeseburger or a double-double, from 11AM till 3PM.  They handed out wristbands, like a rock concert, and felt the line-up would start about 8AM.

I told the son that the line would start at 6AM.  The follow-up article the next day, said that one couple were there at 6, but a line didn’t actually start forming till 6:45.  They ran out of In-N-Out burgers by 11AM.  The two guys the paper interviewed, had driven two hours from Buffalo, and waited in line for three hours.

In-N-Out reps say they have no intention of opening an outlet in Toronto soon, but this must have been a test of the waters and, with a response like that, I hope they’re not too long in arriving.

***

Don’t fear the Reaper.  First he brought us a half-bushel of small cucumbers, and the wife, son and I put down 22 pints and 6 quarts of variously shaped dill pickles, quarters, slices for burgers and sandwiches and chunks for making dill relish with.

Then he helped us turn a three-quart basket of beets into 8 pints of pickled beets.  We’ve still got chili sauce and salsa to make, and we’re ready for winter.

***

Near where our comatose commenter, John Erickson, lives in Ohio, the small town of Warsaw has a thriving strip club – and a Holier-than-thou anybody-else, New Beginnings Ministries church.  During the week, do-gooder church members have been protesting outside the den of iniquity men’s club.

In response, the business has been protesting outside the den of hypocrisy church on Sunday mornings, including one by topless dancers.

No-one is doing anything illegal, and cannot be prevented from continuing.  However, both the club owner, and the pastor have been given a letter, requesting them to cease and desist.  It was signed by the city law director, the county prosecutor, and the local sheriff.  Assigning officers to each protest is straining law enforcement, and its budget.

***

Because I’m willing to meet people even stranger than me, when I published my (not so) recent birthday post about colonoscopy, I tagged it ‘rectum’, and ‘Jimmy Hoffa.’  When I checked, “What Other People Are Writing,” I found my piece to be one of seven tagged ‘rectum.’  They were weird!

There are hundreds of posts tagged Jimmy Hoffa, many of them conspiracy theories.  I laughed at, and forgave, a Chicano, English-as-a-second-language writer who titled his piece, “Jimmy Hoffa’s Body Trying to Be Found by FBI.”  I expected to look down and see a bony arm sticking out from under me, and a faint voice coming from my ass, saying, “Over here!  Over here!”

***

Yes, you’re right!  In case you were wondering (more than usual).  This is another post I wrote back in the fall, that I just took out of the freezer and defrosted for you.  Have it with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.

#458

Food Service

On the third Saturday of November, we went to the Farmers’ Market.  They have the steel frame of the temporary replacement building up, and the plasticised canvas cover over it.  They’re just working on heating systems and internal power supply.  It should be ready for re-opening soon.  We later made several more shopping stops, and we all, but especially the daughter, had a big day.

The brunch meeting of the Free Thinkers was the next day, but she was nearing her next pain-med infusion treatment, and was just too weak and sore to attend.  She urged the son and me to go without her.

After parking, we picked up three beer bottles and three cans which had been left, after parties had spilled outside the night before.  We walked downstairs to the door that is always open, to find it locked, because of sewer work being done outside, so we walked back up two stories, to the door which is usually locked.  It’s a good thing the daughter didn’t come along.

Since we didn’t stop to pick up daughter/sister, we were early, arriving at 10:20, for a 10:30 meeting.  Something about the new hotel’s service caused them to begin the meeting at ten AM.  The son and I are not “members” so we weren’t notified, but we weren’t the only ones.  Other members continued to amble in after us.

Two full tables and a part table, where we soon joined the meeting in progress, greeted us.  Sitting across from each other ensured that both the son and I were surrounded, and well supplied with copious, varied conversation.  A later move to an emptying table, as the early birds left, garnered us more erudite, and non-Atheist, discussion.  My “boy”, who is almost BrainRants’ age, wants to go again.

The room was set up.  The coffee was ready.  The buffet was available, and more Sterno heaters were under the chafing dishes.  The food was warm.  Scrambled eggs with cheese had been replaced with eggs Benedict, a dish I refuse to touch.  The (cheap) ex-Mennonite lady demonstrated that there is menu service, something I may look at in the future.

She wears a pair of glasses, but took them off to read the menu.  I don’t know what the glasses do for her, but, if her nose had been a quarter-inch longer, she wouldn’t have been able to see it.  She is working with the chapter president to produce a Humanist/Atheist study module for the regional (and Ontario) schools.  No school, or teacher, will even mention it without having authorized course paperwork available for preparation.

She wants to have a list of influential people who are Humanists/Atheists.  The SOFREE website mentions Canadians such as actress/director, Sarah Polley, Canadian rock group Rush’s singer/songwriter, Geddy Lee (attn. Madame Weebles), actress Caitlynne Medreck, and scientist/oncologist/linguist, Rob Buckman.

She asked the room at large to send her names of others, especially Americans.  She has a Smartphone, but no computer, and has never seen a movie nor ever watched any TV.

There will be another meeting on Dec. 15, another early, third Sunday, but it will be overshadowed by the Winter Solstice party they have scheduled.  The calendar, this year, allows them to celebrate the 21st, on a Saturday.  We have decided to skip the December brunch, and not return till January.  We’ll have to check the website, or email someone to find out if they’ve returned to Waterloo, and what the start time is.

Because the two top (male) execs are members, the solstice party will be held at the premier local curling club.  They offered to take anyone interested, out for a quick instruction and practice session.  I picked up, and investigated a variant word usage.  The one man mentioned “a quick jitney”.  I was aware of meanings of that word being about unlicensed cabs, bus-type van-cabs, and small motorized non-autos.

In this usage, it refers to an unscheduled, fun match/game, with teams picked from a pool of attendees, particularly referring to curling, or lawn bowling, which is where I first saw the term as a child.

Shortly after I started working 40 years ago, at the building the son now works in, at the corner where you turn off the highway out of town, a six unit strip mall was erected.  Recently, it has changed hands.  Taking advantage of the destruction of the Farmers’ Market building, the internal walls were torn out, and it became a pretentious new boutique Market.

A recent newspaper had a two-and-a-half page congratulatory, Grand Opening announcement.  It has two meat vendors, one specializing in beef, the other in pork.  It has a seafood outlet, a coffee company, and a deli/cheese sales and lunch seating area.

Part of their advertising tries to pull disappointed patrons of the Farmers’ Market, but, it’s bright and cute, and I assume, more expensive.  A few might make the switch, but it just doesn’t have the same look/feel, and there are no vegetables, plants, Mennonite baking, or much parking.

That was my weekend (two weeks ago), how was yours??   By sheer coincidence of an every-three-days posting schedule, today, December 2, 2013 is our 46th wedding anniversary.  Don’t I get frequent flyer miles or something??   😉

That’s Funny

First, just a little piece of advice I picked up for KayJai, SparkleBumps, and maybe a few more of you Betty Ford AWOLs.

 

NOTICE TO ALL EMPLOYEES

Nobody minds a man having a morning eye-opener, and it’s okay to have a bracer around 10 A.M., and maybe a couple of drinks with lunch.  Also, a few beers on a hot afternoon will keep a person healthy, or at least happy.  Of course, everyone drinks at cocktail hour, and a person can’t be criticized for having some wine with dinner, a liquor afterwards, and a highball or two during the evening – but this damned business of  SIP, SIP, Sip, all day long HAS GOT TO STOP!

 

Before they decide how much lumber they will need to build a house, the carpenters usually get together and have a board meeting.

A seamstress is a real material girl!

Sign at the Acme Shoelace Company ~ We are truly fit to be tied.

Jockey: My racehorse is named FleaBag.

Bettor: Has he won a lot of races?

Jockey: Nah!  He keeps getting scratched.

 

Buying quality is like buying hay.  If you want nice, clean, fresh hay, you must pay a fair price.  However, if you can be satisfied with hay that has already been through the cow – THAT COMES A LITTLE CHEAPER!

 

Up in Heaven, the Pearly Gates had been replaced by two arched, golden doors, with signs above them.  The one to the left read, “The Wrong Religion,” and there was no-one at it.  The one to the right read, “The Right Religion,” and there was a long line of people, waiting to get through.  God said to St. Peter, “The stupid thing is, none of them get the joke!”

NEWS RELEASE

Recently, an airliner crashed in the Pacific, close to an uninhabited island.  The survivors consisted of…

Two American businessmen and their secretary

Two French businessmen and their secretary

Two Italian businessmen and their secretary

Two British businessmen and their secretary

Two Canadian businessmen and their secretary

Knowing they would be stranded for some time, the two Americans made a schedule to have their secretary as follows: the first American would have her Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.  The other would have her Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, and she would have Sundays to herself.

The two Frenchmen had no problems, and immediately established a “ménage a trois.”

The two Italians had no problem either, as one of them shot the other so he could have the secretary all to himself.

The two British also had no problems, as they shot the secretary, so as to have each other.

And….the two Canadians are still waiting for instructions from head-office.

READ BETWEEN THE LINES

The “Executive Vocabulary” can be a little confusing.  Here’s a list of definitions which should help you get through your day.

Orientation; Move around till we can find something you can do.

Consolidating our position in the marketplace; We didn’t make any money on it.

Unparalleled demand; Six orders in the mail.

Note and initial; Let’s spread the responsibility for this around.

For your consideration; You hold the bag for a while.

We’re making a survey; We need more time to think up an answer.

For your approval; Passing the buck.

For your comment; I don’t have the faintest idea myself.

Through the ranks; The boss’s son worked one summer in the shipping department.

Promising young executive; Son of a fraternity brother.

Co-ordinator; An executive with a desk between two expeditors.

Implement a program; Hire more people, and expand the office.

Middle management; An executive with his own pen and pencil set, but no water pitcher.

I never worked at an office which had a gym or a fitness program.  I always got my exercise by jumping to conclusions, flying off the handle, running the boss down, passing on rumors, stabbing co-workers in the back, dodging responsibility, and pushing my luck.  How’s your workday going??!

 

After The Fun

I went to have my fangs resharpened again yesterday.  I might go an entire lifetime without hearing the name “Ariel”, unless I rented Disney’s Little Mermaid.  In the half-hour I spent beneath Damocles’ TV, I heard about two, Ariel Sharon, ex-prime minister of Israel, and Ariel Castro, the Ohio kidnapper who hanged himself.  (Although, I wonder if he had just a bit of assistance?)

We went back to the Farmers’ Market this morning.  With a bit of pickling mixture left over, the wife wondered if we could put down a few baby dills.  Scrubbed and soaked tonight.  Tomorrow comes the boiling.

There was a broadcast van from CTV, Canada’s second network, as well as from CHCH-TV, out of Hamilton Ontario, an independent which bills itself as Canada’s Superstation, like Atlanta, in the same way Tonka Trucks are big-rigs like Peterbilts.

Two camera crews wandering around, I saw a woman, probably a real shopper, but practising her lines before being dragged into camera range for a “spontaneous”, man-on-the-street….or woman-at-the-market interview.

Elbow-to-elbow crowds, which would be good if they were there to shop, but many just wanted photos or videos.  A food-service area, with no room to swing a cat and I saw a man and a woman smoking cigarettes, and a man my age with a cigar as big as a Great Dane’s turd, and almost as fragrant.  I thought of yelling as if I’d been burned.

Ontario’s lesbian Liberal leader was on hand early, for rah-rah photo-ops.  She stopped at my favorite produce vendor, and talked a good story, but bought nothing.  Another vendor further up said she did the same at his stall.  The local male Liberal candidate finally bought a basket of tomatoes, and gave it to her.

Two big food trailers across the walkway from the fire had been seriously melted.  They were hauled away and replaced with a trailer with washrooms and a temporary Market office.  The canvas top on the French-fry-serving Conestoga wagon looked like it had been through a movie Indian attack.  The nylon top of the gazebo beyond it melted.

Ready, Aim, Fire!

Canning season is upon us.  Our supply of dill pickles has been slowly but surely dwindling, and replacements must be made.  Cucumbers have been available for a month or more, but the dill plants are only now coming into their own.

We had massage/osteopathy appointments on Thursday, so we were unable to go to the Farmers’ Market.  We had to go Saturday.  Neither the wife nor daughter is an early riser, and usually we get there 10:00/10:30 AM.  This was Labor Day Saturday!!!  D-Day would have been easier.  With both of them handicapped, I insisted that we get there 8:00/8:30 AM, to be able to park in the same Postal Code, and we still nearly needed to bring our own parking space.

More and more, we are joining the ranks of the Lazy And Incompetent cooks I wrote about 15 months ago.  A couple of weeks ago, the wife found that the Wholesale Warehouse has gallon cans of diced tomatoes, which we could use for making salsa or chili sauce whenever they are needed.  The cost is less than the equivalent amount of fresh tomatoes, bought at the market, and they have already been skinned and chopped.

Dill pickles though, still require the personal touch.  We bought a half a bushel of small cucumbers from a favorite vendor, and some fragrant dill stalks from a Mennonite, and hauled them home.  The car still smells of dill – Mmmh!  Saturday evening, we scrubbed the cucumbers and put them to soak overnight.  Sunday afternoon, we started cutting and slicing.

Then we made up the first batch of canning syrup.  We had obtained a couple of pounds of de-skinned garlic, which needed to be blanched.  We used the water from that, to add garlic flavor to the pickling mixture.  We, (as in, the wife) cut the heads off the dill plants, to add to each jar, and cut up the stems to be boiled with the syrup, to add more dill flavor.

The first batch complete by about 9:30, we sent the son out to pick up a couple of pizzas for supper, and then mixed up another pot of witches’ brew, for a second batch.  By 2 AM we had canned (bottled) 15 quarts, 15 pints, and three half-pints, of slices, chunks, and quarters.  Actually, both the son and the grandson like to eat the garlic chunks which add flavor at the bottom of the jars, so, two of the half-pints were the last of the garlic which didn’t go in with the pickles.

Just as we were bottling the last of the pickles we’d obtained at the market the day before, the main building at the Farmers’ Market was busy burning down.  A passerby reported flames at about 1:30 AM, and by the time firemen arrived, all they could do was prevent damage to other, nearby buildings.  Designed to resemble a Mennonite barn, only the fittings and contents were metal and glass.  All the rest was solid, dry wood.

It will take a few days to establish the cause.  In the meantime, 60 vendors and countless customers are impacted.  Many of the locations on the main floor sold meat, as well as eggs, or Guernsey milk.  There were also a candy vendor, produce, fish, cheese, baked goods, a specialty tea/coffee place tucked under the stairs, and an eating area at one end with picnic-table seating, and several stalls selling donairs, pizza, perogies, cinnamon buns, hot apple fritters, Oktoberfest sausages and fries and burgers.  Outlets on mezzanines on both sides provided Mennonite quilts, footwear, leather clothing, dream-catchers, jewelry, semi-precious gemstones, and other various kitsch.  There may be a small puddle of melted gold in the ashes.

The market is a huge tourist trap attraction, with busloads of blue-haired walker-pushers being bussed in from New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan.  We met a nice couple from London, Ontario, over coffee, Saturday morning.  Management is not sure whether cleanup will proceed quickly enough to allow the rest of the market to open as soon as this coming Thursday.

The Market is Waterloo Region’s answer to Santa’s Village, Niagara Falls, or the Shakespeare Festival.  I am sure that the structure will be rebuilt, perhaps even larger, grander, more Mennonite-ish, but winter is almost upon us.  It could be up to a year to get it replaced.  Built just before legislation made it mandatory, it had no sprinkler system.  Any replacement must provide an elevator, if a second storey is included.

In the meantime, we can attend to get our vegetables, and apple fritters and hot chocolate.  We may have to follow that with longer, scenic drives to other Southern-Ontario tiny hamlets, with names like Heidelberg, Dorking and Elora, to get the quality meats we have grown used to. (Do you like Dorking??  I don’t know, I’ve never Dorked.  Yeah, right!)

Like fine wine, it takes a while for pickles to age.  By early next summer these could be ready to open, and let breathe.  Anybody up for a barbecue?  I could show up with the hamburger slices.  All you’d have to provide would be the burgers and beer – and potato salad – and corn….could we do corn??

Flash From The Past

Saint Patrick’s Day has come and gone, and, as a good Scot, I did my part. I didn’t see anyone wearing plaid for Robbie Burns’s day, but was inveighed to “wear something green for St. Paddy’s Day.” Contrary to what a lot of you perverts think, Scotsmen do (usually) wear something under their kilts. They’re wee under-shorts known as breeks (breeches, britches).

I wore green underpants for St. Patrick’s Day. Perhaps appropriately, I think I got some brown stains on them. Ooh, ooh, TMI! Tighty whiteys or boxers, I hear you ask, just to change the subject. A bit familiar, I think, but if you must know, I’ve worn YSL bikini briefs in many colors, for years.

English people, who already think they own the world, don’t bother to establish “a special day.” Scotsmen have Robbie Burns’ day, in honor of a lyric poet, whose deep thoughts and social insights were acceptable, even though they were written in dialect, as Mark Twain’s were.

Irishmen have St. Patrick’s Day, the cultural highlight of which, is drinking green beer. The local hotel bars used to add green food coloring to beer on St. Paddy’s day. An Irishman I used to share lodging with, ignored everything else on that day, and spent it sucking up this dyed delicacy. He got a job an hour’s drive away. The first St. Patrick’s day, I got a phone-call that he was in town, because the bars in his new city didn’t serve green beer. I’ll tell you more about him later.

Saint Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland, although he was Roman-English, not Irish. His name was not Patrick, or Patricius, or Padraig, and many of the stories about “him” were actually about another Roman-English missionary named Palladius. Other than these minor details, the Catholic Church has the story spot-on.

Well….except for the snakes. Separated from the rest of dry land by a big chunk of ocean, Ireland never had snakes for Patrick to drive out. The “snakes” he drove out were the non-Christian heathens. He drove them either into the embrace of the Holy Church, or their graves. Fire and Sword, the methods he used caused the later Inquisition practitioners to remark, “Whoa dude! Take a chill pill. Too intense, man.”

“Heathens” and “Pagans”, these derogatory epithets, even today, allow the faithful to judge and condemn. But “heathens” merely means those who live upon the heaths, subsistence farmers, or shepherds. “Pagans” comes from the Latin word paganus, peasants, rural civilians, dwellers in small, remote villages. The actions and attitudes of these country bumpkins, who merely wished to be left alone, to live their lives as they wanted, were at odds with the Big-City, corporate, Christian religion. They were converted, or eliminated.

Sorry, I didn’t mean to go off on another anti-Church rant. I was quoted/mentioned in the newspaper again this Saturday. Blogs are not the only things that I read and comment on. There’s a feature in each Saturday paper, titled the same as this post. A columnist, interested in this city’s and area’s history, publishes a photo, usually 50 years old or better, and asks people to identify locations and buildings, now often torn down or greatly modified.

I first emailed him several years ago, when he wrote of a local company which had moved 75 miles north, to a small town I passed through when I drove to visit my parents. I wrote about the pretty little park there, April 5, last year, in my Trips With Mom and Dad II. While near a county line, it is definitely in my home county, but he gave it to our neighbors.

Some of the buildings/locations he has featured over the years have been a reflection of my work history. A couple of years ago he published a picture of the above-ground entranceway to the underground bomb-shelter I cleaned once a week for a year, back in the 80s. He included part of the description, both of the facility, and my work in it, which I sent him.

About six months ago, he featured a picture of the steel warehouse/fabricating shop I worked in from ’67 to ’74, out on the edge of town. Just off the photo were the stockyards and farmers’ market. Urban sprawl now has the area covered with gas stations, golden arches, sub and pizza shops. The smelly old cattle were moved to the north end of our Twin City, where we now attend the farmers’ market.

Some of my information was not included in his piece, but he thanked me for it, because it gave him enough knowledge to ask the right people the right questions for future columns. Last Saturday’s mystery photo, and this week’s article, were about the shoe plant I worked in before I went to the steel plant in 1967.

“*Archon* Smith emailed to say he worked at the Valentine plant for a year in the mid-1960s.” “We knew it colloquially as the Hush Puppy plant, because that was where the comfortable, suede-topped, soft-gummed soled ankle-high shoes were made.” Smith wrote. He later moved to a job at Bauer Skate on Victoria Street, a firm Greb Industries acquired in 1965.

I loved Hush Puppies. We could buy seconds for less than half price, at the warehouse, but fashion, and my job, moved on. Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be. So much of my life is about the past, because I own such a large chunk of it. Try not to point and laugh. I hope you find it mildly interesting and informative.

Harvest Moon

It’s all about food and drink, one way or another.  Well, perhaps not all, but much of what we do involves sustaining ourselves with caloric and fluid intake.  Working is obvious, driving to and from work, shopping, all work toward filling us up.

We could say that things like blogging are just to satisfy our creative and social needs, but even there, KayJai posts about what she does at work, Hotspur blogs about what he sees and does on the way to work, and produces three books about his experiences, which he hopes to sell, to make money to buy food and drink.  I don’t feel guilty that so much of my stuff revolves around food and drink.

It’s that time of year again, harvest time.  Many of the things we like to have to eat are ripe, and plentiful.  The wife and I have been at it again, actually three times in the last two weeks.  We’ve been canning again, and again, and again.

I looked up the concept of canning in the dictionary.  Many people only understand the term *can* to refer to a metal container, but the word goes back to Old Norse, and means any type of vessel, so we “can”, in glass jars.

I remember helping my mother can, lo these many years ago.  Back then, she melted paraffin wax and poured it on the top of foodstuffs she was preserving.  Some people cut lengths of string and hung them on the sides of the jars, so that they could use them to pull the wax off the top.  We just used a knife to pry the wax off, and then a standard lid for refrigerator storage.

First the wife and I went up to the farmers market and bought a half a bushel of Roma tomatoes, to make homemade salsa with.   As we were buying the half bushel bag, there was another woman who was getting a bushel and a half to also make salsa with.  The wife asked her if she ran a restaurant, but the answer was no, it was just for the family and gifts for friends.  I’m glad our family is small and we don’t have many friends.

I do a lot of fetching and toting, but the wife is stuck with the old-school chopping and preparation.  De-seeding a half bushel so that we had just the flesh, took her most of an afternoon.  Then there were the onions and peppers to chop up.  I peeled the onions, but she did the rest.  By the time we were finished, we had 21 pints of glorious homemade salsa to garnish my beloved Tex-Mex dishes for a year.  We will be making quesadillas for supper this Saturday, but I’ve already had some on another platter of nachos on Monday.  Delicious!!  We saved the skins and ran them through a manual apple-saucer, and used the residue to make an exquisite home-style tomato soup.

We also bought a half a bushel of cucumbers carefully chosen for size, to make some dill pickles with.  We preserve dill pickles in a variety of shapes/styles, for different uses, and still have certain ones left from last year.  We bottle a few whole dills, some dill halves, a lot of quartered dills, some dill slices, for hamburgers and sandwiches, and dill chunks.  These are cut off the ends of cucumbers a little too long to fit in pint jars, or ones with bad spots.

A quart of chunks, run through a Magic Bullet food-processor and drained, yields a pint of dill relish, which the wife and son prefer to sweet relish for hot dogs.  You can also mix it 50/50 with mayonnaise, some lemon juice and a few drops of Tabasco sauce to produce a great tartar sauce for fish, or home-made falafel patties.  We put down 18 pints of dill quarters, and four more quarts of chunks.

As a special treat, we have come to love crab-apple jelly, especially on croissants for Sunday brunch.  The taste is exquisite, but it’s fairly expensive, because tiny crab-apples require more labor to harvest.  The daughter lived on a street where there were four apple trees on the boulevard, alongside a church parking lot.  We picked our own for several years.  We went back last year, and the city had widened the road, taking down the trees.

The daughter found a house backing the community trail near her place, which had two trees beside the trail.  The owner told her she could have all the apples she wanted.  We made a big batch of crab-apple jelly last year.  We went back this year and found that the home-owner had removed the trees.  She must eat it a lot faster than the wife and I.  We still have enough left, but the daughter is out.  She paid the bucks and bought a six-quart basket at the farmers’ market and gave them, along with a bag of beet sugar to us, for us to make her a batch.

It took three days of on-and-off labor, but we finally bottled 17 half-pint jars of this ambrosia.  So crystal clear you can read a paper through the bottles, but with a deep golden/claret color.  If you are lucky enough to find it in a store, each of those little jars would cost about $3, but if you ever spot any, it could be worth the money.  Of course, the store-bought stuff isn’t nearly as good as our home-made product.

I think that’s it for produce this year.  Next stop is to start accumulating ingredients for home-made Christmas cake.  Gotta stop typing now.  It’s snack time!  You coming?

Multicultural Festival

The family all had a big, interesting, informative day on Saturday.  The son worked all night, and stopped off at the downtown Kitchener market to pick up some eggs and bread.  The social engineers have pretty much ruined, what used to be a great experience.

The market used to be inside a warehouse-type building and outside, in what was a parking lot during the week.  The city could only realize income for two days a week on this building, so they sold it to a developer, and moved the market to the bottom level and meeting room of a new parking garage.

After twenty years, their contract with the owner ran out, and the space was required for parking for a 24/7 call center.  They designed and built a new market building, a couple of blocks down the street.  This monstrosity has all the glamour of an airplane hangar, and they are having trouble getting shoppers to come, and vendors to stay.  The number of parking spaces, underground, is limited, and auto paint and scrapes on almost every concrete pillar, indicate why people won’t come back.

The son got home about ten to eight and turned the car over to us.  We picked the daughter up and headed for the (Mennonite) farmers’ market at the northern edge of our twin city.  With acres of parking and outdoor vendors, this market has thrived, partly from the failure of the downtown market.  We bought some fresh meat and produce, had coffee and doughnuts, and then hit a half a dozen stores in that area, dropped the daughter and her stuff off, and were home just before two.

Kitchener holds a yearly multicultural festival, and we all wanted to attend.  They started it on the July First weekend, but that is Canada Day, a holiday, and many people wanted to go camping, or to a cottage, so they moved it back to the weekend before.  The son was supposed to have gone to bed early and got a few hours sleep, but he was up when we got home.  Nothing unusual in that.  The wife and I went to bed after three AM and were back up at seven.

The festival is held in a big park, right downtown.  It’s three blocks by three blocks, with streams and a lake with fish and wildfowl.  I dropped the wife and her crutches, along with the son, at the front gate.  You couldn’t get a parking spot within a half mile, with a gun, and they are frowned on.  A city trail, which used to be a railroad line, runs through the back end of it.  The daughter lives just off that trail, three blocks away.  I drove to her place, parked, and the two of us returned, her on her power wheelchair.

The City probably intends it as a social bonding and cultural acceptance exercise, but the unifying force I see among the licensed attendees, is commerce and capitalism.  It’s almost amusing to see a meditating Buddhist monk, hoping you’ll pay money to learn how he achieves Nirvana.  With your money, that’s how!

Many local ethnic groups set up food tents, so that you can sample their cuisine.  They use the profits to finance various groups and projects.  At the front of the park was the city’s tent, handing out information and site maps.  Then there were two mobile ATMs and, down both sides of the field were food tents representing Pakistani, Indian/Sri Lankan, Jamaican, Filipino, Turkish, Ethiopian, Zambia/Tanzanian, Vietnamese, Salvadoran, Greek Cypriot, Turkish Cypriot, Chinese, The Islamic Council, Muslim Women and Vietnamese Buddhists.  I started with a Gyro plate from the Turkish tent, and later tried a sample plate from the ZamTan folks.  Gyro is actually a Greek term.  The Turks should call it doner, but, whatever sells.

It’s a good thing we learned how to make Salvadoran pupusas after last year’s visit.  There was a huge line-up there.  The pupusas are really popular, but their service staff were the least organized.

Many of these groups also had commercial/information booths further back.  You could buy carvings, clothing, henna tattoos, jewellery, toys and other assorted gewgaws, too numerous to mention.  Aside from the blatantly ethnic, there were a lot of social-awareness groups.

The Regional Police had a shop.  The local publicly funded radio station had a remote broadcast booth.  There was an organization called Unlearn, an anti-violence, anti-bigotry, anti-the usual suspects way of doing things, group.  Sort of an Occupy For Intellectuals.  The Free Thinkers, whose meetings the daughter and I occasionally attend, had a booth.

There were also; The Art Gallery, the Symphony, African/Caribbean Awareness, Non-Violence Council, the local Transit Authority, English as a Second Language, Falun Gong, Injured Workers Support, the Library, a geo-caching group, all three major political parties, Hare Krishnas, ice-cream cranked out by a tiny, one-cylinder motor, a coffee-house for adults to relax and Tales For Children, who would watch kids and entertain them for busy parents.

A fourteen year-old girl, who gets let off a school bus several miles out in the country, had a speeding garbage truck bank off the back corner of her stopped bus, and smash her into a field, recently.  She’s an hour away, in a specialty hospital.  The entire local Mennonite community is backing her and her parents.  There was a booth selling ribbons, rubber bracelets and shirts to help finance anticipated huge care fees, if she survives.  We got our bracelet at a Mennonite meat store that morning.  I just hope the entry fee was waived for them.

The native-Canadian Indians held a pow-wow.  The Lutheran Church was there.  The Catholic Church was represented by five Jesuit priests in long black cassocks.  They looked as warm as the Arab women.  I saw one Arab female….well, actually I didn’t.  An amorphous, mobile, little black mass with a half-inch slit at eye level, covered with Dolce and Gabbana sunglasses.  Clothing ranged from there down to hot, (mostly) young things wearing so little fabric, there was barely enough room to hang the for-rent sign.

We got home about seven PM.  By that time the son had been up for 24 hours.  He immediately headed for bed and the wife and I had a two-hour nap before I started this post.  I can hardly wait for next year.