Monday, February 26, 2007

The Bin at the Back of Beyond

While I was thigh-deep in those snowbanks, it occurred to me that I could try vermicomposting.

I recovered my senses during the trudge back out.

Monday, February 19, 2007

ReLent: New Life Instead of Guilt

Upcoming: Ash Wednesday Worship, Feb. 21st, 7:30 p.m. at St. Andrew's United Church in Arcola.

From our church bulletin:
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. Its roots lie in the ancient Jewish festival of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Atonement means "at-one-ment." If we are to be at one with God, with creation, with each other, we must face honestly who we are, make our confession, and open ourselves to the supportive power of God and our faith community in the Lenten struggle for new life. So Ash Wednesday is a day of honest confession and of commitment to the Lenten journey.

In the service on Sunday, Anita reminded us of a Mission and Service fundraiser our congregation did during Lent a couple of years ago. We had a calendar of the days of Lent, and for each day, we would make a contribution as specified on the calendar. One day might specify counting the number of light bulbs in your home, and paying so many cents per light bulb. Another day might ask how many pairs of shoes in your closet, and so on.

Anita wondered if we might try that fundraiser again, or if there were other ideas.

Here's mine.

Instead of feeling guilty about our stuff and our energy use and so on, why not find out what we can do about it, and what would do the most good? We'd save money at the same time, and then we could put some of that money towards the M&S fund.

I tried the Ecological Footprint calculator, mostly so that I would know what to tell others to expect, but I myself was surprised at the results. Here in the cold, sparsely populated northern prairies, we tend to think that a large part of our footprint comes from heating and travel - things that are difficult to change much (without moving south). Surprise: according to the quiz, a large part of my footprint comes from food. This was not entirely news to me, but the magnitude was a shock. Of my total footprint of 5.3 hectares, food contributed 3.5 hectares. Shelter came out at only 0.7 hectares, and travel at 0.3. Goods and services made up the remaining 0.8 hectares of my footprint.

On with garden planning! Next year, grass-fed beef, or venison, and maybe some chickens! And for a more immediate impact, how about porridge or cold cereal made from local grains, instead of breakfast cereal shipped in from Ontario?

This year, instead of a time of guilty brooding on the darkness of this world, Lent could be about learning a better way.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Candy Poisoning

My theory: the invention of cinnamon hearts was an evil scheme to create a painful deterrent to kissing. The deterrent effect also extends to long talks, or brief talks, or eating Valentine's chocolates, or chewing any sort of dinner, no matter how romantic the menu pricing. Surely the inventor overshot his anti-intimacy goals, though, when even drinking pure water became laced with agony.

Cinnamon is one of the known causes of canker sores.

Known, to me, as of this week.

It all started with a nice friendly gesture from Ruth, when she brought a small cup of those enticing little candies over to the table where James and I were reading.

I knew they were potent, but I didn't mind nibbling a few. The sharp cinnamon flavour made a fine present-moment counterpoint to the short story that was carrying my mind far away.

The second nibble didn't seem quite so potent. Of course, my taste buds had habituated a little.

More nibbles followed. Nibble is probably the wrong word. They weren't handfuls, since the cup was too small to dig my hand in that way, but certainly I was taking several cinnamon hearts at a time.

Gradually the counterpoint began to intrude on the story as a sensation of mild discomfort.

The story was potent, too, though, and the oral sensation had advanced to the point of pain before I became attentive enough to put some distance between myself and the small cup of fire. If I'd stayed within arm's reach of it, well . . . I don't like to think about that.

When I mentioned my discomfort, Ruth admitted that she herself had ceased eating those minute flavour bombs when her face turned red. Her gift to me and James was not entirely out of generosity.

The cinnamon hearts were originally a gift to her, as part of another dubious scheme: the "Secret Pal" event at school. A student who signs up for it is assigned a "secret pal," and proceeds to leave anonymous gifts in that student's locker each day of the week surrounding Valentine's Day. By the end of the week, most of the secrets have been revealed, much cash has been spent on fake-fur-facsimiles of bears and such, and the students are thoroughly dosed with sugar, caffeine, red food colouring, and of course, cinnamaldehyde.

You might be thinking that my theory is a mild paranoia. Really, even if there were some antisocial inventor behind cinnamon hearts, surely they would never have become popular if they were so directly bad for us?

Well, here is the rest of the story. James, sitting there at the same table, reading and chewing, didn't get any sores.

Canker sores are twice as common in women as in men.

What a deliciously evil scheme! Just buy a 99 cent pouch of cinnamon hearts, and sometime around the 12th of February, pour them into that heart-shaped candy bowl you bought her last year. Place it at an appealing angle on the coffee table. If you don't have a coffee table, try the end table, the kitchen table, the bedside table, or the side of the tub. It really doesn't matter, as long as it's a horizontal surface within arm's reach of a spot where she sits often.

Then wait. Chances are, she'll soon be saying, "No chocolates this year, dear; sweets hurt my mouth too much." And then, "Honey, leth nah bother going ou' for dhinner; I'll juth make mythelf thomething I can drink through a thtraw."

And later, "Sweetheart, let's skip this part."

Ah, sweet victory.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

More Mandalas

Warning: these can be very absorbing. There's something about those spirals and concentric rings, drawing you in . . .

Mandala Drawing/Painting/Collage Tools:
"Mandala" at
Kaleidoscope Painter at
"Mandala Maker" at
UPDATE: Tutorial for making mandalas from digital photos, at Earth Mandalas

And for wandering widely across the threads of the web:
Mandala Links at Zodiac Arts


I remember a colouring book full of circular designs. When we ran out of pages to colour, we drew our own mandalas. I seem to recall drawing mandalas for some years afterwards.

More recently I heard about Tibetan monks visiting Regina and making a sand mandala at the library. It remained on display for a short while, and then all the coloured sands were swept together and the monks moved on.

I didn't go to see it.

It seemed as if mandalas were just a colourful moment in my memory, until Deb's dream sent me looking for a website to link as an explanation for my comment at her site.

And then I realized that I have built a mandala in my backyard.

And there are mandalas everywhere.

Friday, February 02, 2007

What's a Bonspiel?

I've been thinking it's time for a curling update, and Tim's question in the comments confirmed that. Bonspiel: a curling tournament. Tim made some shrewd guesses:
  • A good time? Definitely.
  • A good spin? As long as you put the correct turn on the rock as you release it.
  • Perchance does it involve a lot of alcool? Frequently. This may interfere with correct turns on rocks.
I have heard that "bonspiel" is German for "good game," which is the phrase we curlers always say to one another as we shake hands with the opposing team before and after each game.

This year we have a three-generation family team in the mixed league here in town. The third-generation player is usually James, but sometimes Ruth takes a turn if she's not doing homework or babysitting. We also played in the Boxing Day Fun-spiel, and made it into the B final.

Recent curling news: just over a week ago, in our regular Tuesday night game, Dad (the skip) told me (the third) what shot he wanted, and then took off down the ice at a jog. About halfway down he was suddenly over backwards. I saw his head rebound about five or six inches off the ice surface, and the bang was so loud it brought all the curlers from all three sheets hurrying over and crowding around him. Jason was close, and steadied him as he tried to get up, then eased back down again, with several curlers' gloves quickly tossed onto the ice to cushion his head. In a few seconds he did get up, with helping arms all around. Jason, kneeling in front of him, held up a wide-spread hand and said, "How many fingers?"

Dad paused, grinned, and said firmly, "Four!"

"Well that's normal!" Jason grinned back, as relieved laughter rippled around.

We think the gripper must have come off his sliding shoe, giving him a banana-peel landing for his next jogging step. After retrieving the treacherous gripper, Dad went more slowly the rest of the way down to the hack, and I went back to the rings and tried to remember where he wanted the broom. He missed it badly anyway. His final shot for that end was better, but in the next end he confessed he was feeling woozy and had better go home. He had quite a headache for a couple of days, but the HealthLine nurse gave Mom lots of symptoms to watch for and nothing else appeared.

This Wednesday we were curling again, and we got clobbered. Dad joked that he has a good excuse now, but I think the rest of us needed excuses more than he did. Whenever the other team had last rock, they got three points; whenever we had last rock, we got one. In other words, we were generally outshot, but Dad kept salvaging ends by drawing to the button.

(If all this sounds like I'm mixing in snatches of some other language, you might want to watch the Canadian Curling Association's Flash animation about the sport of curling.)

One more thing: watching curling in Arcola just got better. There are cameras and monitors installed now so that you can sit in the lobby and have a top-down view of the rings at the far end of the ice. Come on out and have a look - maybe watch part of the Ladies' Bonspiel this weekend.

Some people figure that curling must be boring to watch, since there are so few spectators at the games, but I have a different theory: most people who come and watch are soon out on the ice themselves!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

We Have a Blizzard

This fanciful image appeared in the Environment Canada weather forecast summary this evening, to symbolize a blizzard. To me it suggests something more like pixie dust. Anyway, the forecast is for a low of -25ºC with winds of 40 km/h gusting to 60, producing a windchill of -35ºC. We're not quite there yet. Tomorrow is supposed to be even colder, but the snow is ending sometime overnight, and that will end the blizzard. There is actually very little snow with this system - a "dusting," they said in the blizzard warning - but it's certainly blowing around. If there was more snowfall, it might not be so cold. This is one of those unusual bits of weather when it's cold but not calm, snowing but not warm. (Well, warm is a relative term, don't you know?)

Garth expected to be on the road tonight, but his meeting was cancelled, so I trust that he is safe in Moosomin where he has been working this week. His brother Brian, on the other hand, drove to Weyburn for a bonspiel.


UPDATE - well, that was brief; right after I posted this, I looked again at the forecast and the blizzard warning was ended. I guess we didn't get the four hours of sustained low visibility and cold windchill required to make it an official blizzard.

"Mountain Hills to Prairie Flats" the subtitle of the history book for our area: Arcola/Kisbey Golden Heritage. I know, some folks don't think they even count as hills, let alone "mountain hills," but it all depends on your point of view.

Check out the pictures on the website. Even if you're not planning on submitting an item, take a look at the submission guidelines page. If I'm not mistaken, that picture was taken a couple of years ago, around the same time that I was running from door to door telling people to look out at the sky. Ever heard of a zenith arc?