Sunday, December 06, 2009

My Christmas Cards 2009

These are the Christmas Cards I designed this year. The pictures were taken in our back yard. I usually get the pictures printed, then stick them to the front of cards from a $1 shop. They come out looking gorgeous!

Monday, November 02, 2009

Could Ear Candling be 2000 Years Old?

Wikipedia says this about ear candling:
Ear candling, also called ear coning or thermal-auricular therapy, is an alternative medicine practice claimed to improve general health and well-being by lighting one end of a hollow candle and placing the other end in the ear canal.

One end of a cylinder or cone of waxed cloth is lit, and the other placed into the subject's ear. Its proponents claim that the flame creates negative pressure, drawing wax and debris out of the ear canal, which appears as a dark residue.

Although Biosun, a manufacturer of ear candles, refers to them as "Hopi" ear candles, there is no such treatment within traditional Hopi healing practices. Vanessa Charles, public relations officer for the Hopi Tribal Council, has stated that ear candling "is not and has never been a practice conducted by the Hopi tribe or the Hopi people."The Hopi tribe has repeatedly asked Biosun, the manufacturer of 'Hopi Ear Candles' to stop using the Hopi name. Biosun has not complied with this request and continues to claim that ear candles originated within the Hopi tribe.

Well, if it the idea didn't come from the Hopi tribe, maybe it came from here:

‘Abodah Zarah 28b

Or else, the ear should be filled with oil, then seven wicks should be made out of green blades of wheat-stalks at the one end of which dry garlic ends and some white thread should be set alight while the other end is placed within the ear, the ear should be exposed to the light but care should be taken that no spark falls on it, each wick [when done with] should be replaced by another. Another version is: One should prepare seven wicks of white thread and dip them in oil of balsam-wood setting light to the one end and placing the other end in the ear, each one, when done with, should be replaced by another, care being taken to avoid any sparks.

This is from the Talmud which records the teachings and practices of the Jewish people from over two thousand years ago. It's still widely read today. I'm guessing this is where Biosun got its idea from but of course I can't be sure.

Oh, by the way, the ear candling doesn't work and is dangerous. Wikipedia says:

The Spokane Ear, Nose, and Throat Clinic conducted a research study in 1996 which concluded that ear candling does not produce negative pressure and was ineffective in removing wax from the ear canal. Several studies have shown that ear candles produce the same residue when burnt without ear insertion and that the residue is simply candle wax and soot.

In a report, Health Canada states "There is no scientific proof to support claims that ear candling provides medical benefits. ... However, there is plenty of proof that ear candling is dangerous."

A 2007 paper in American Family Physician said: Primary care physicians may see complications from ear candling including candle wax occlusion, local burns, and tympanic membrane perforation."

So please don't try it.

The Talmud quote comes from

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

What a happy building this is!

It's a local crematorium. And there's an open house there today. How appropriate!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Treasure Hunt Clues Without Answers

Treasure Hunt Clues

I like to make treasure hunts for my kids on their birthdays, Easter and Halloween. Halloween is coming up so I thought I'd post this now. The hardest part is making up the clues. I figured I'd pass on some I've used so others can use them to make their own. First pick eight clues, then put them in the right order so each clue is found as far as possible from the next one. Then write on the back of each where that clue will be found.

For example, say you want the kids to go from the fridge to the washing machine to the mailbox.
The clue for the washing machine would be in the fridge, and the clue for the mailbox would be in the washing machine. If you write on the back of each clue where it's supposed to be hidden, then you won't get confused.

After you've done this and hidden the clues, do a dry run, just to make sure everything is in the right place and that you don't skip any clues. You can tell the kids which rooms are off limits and whether all the clues are inside, for instance. If it's done at a party, then have an adult lead each group so that everyone gets to hear (or see) the clues. Don't give hints unless they've taken more than fifteen minutes to get the answer.

Some of these clues seem easy, but that's OK- it's best if they aren't too hard- even adults enjoy these. I know because I've done treasure hunts for them too.


Broken pictures

I know where everyone in the city lives.

If you throw things down here they will get clean instead of dirty.

Ask Mike for the next clue.

Boxes of hard water.

under a sea plus hair (hint: say it aloud)

I've got 4 legs and get plenty of food but I never eat any of it.

People are always feeding me junk.

No one can sneak up behind you if you are looking at me.

Unlike Mars, it's got channels.

You push my buttons.

I'm like a cloud that hides the sun, only I'm indoors.

I want to go for a walk!

I'm purrfect.

I look like a square spider web- but only clean things stick to me.

I'm nothing but a long string that people use over and over.

I've been framed!

Picture Clues:

Answers are here.

If you can suggest other clues, even if it's for the same locations, I'd love to hear them!

Treasure Hunt Clues With Answers

Treasure Hunt Clues

I like to make treasure hunts for my kids on their birthdays, Easter and Halloween. The hardest part is making up the clues. I figured I'd pass on some I've used so others can use them to make their own. Just pick eight clues, put them in the right order so each clue is found as far as possible from the next one, then write on the back of each where that clue is going to be hidden- that way you won't get confused. Finally, do a trial run before the kids do it just so you know it works.

Some of these clues seem easy, but that's OK- it's best if they aren't too hard- even adults enjoy these. I know because I've done treasure hunts for them too.

If you want to try out the clues without the answers go here.


Broken pictures: jigsaw puzzle

I know where everyone in the city lives: phone book

If you throw things down here they will get clean instead of dirty: washing machine

Ask Mike for the next clue: microwave

Boxes of hard water: ice cube tray

under a sea plus hair: under a chair

I've got 4 legs and get plenty of food but I never eat any of it: dining room or kitchen table

People are always feeding me junk: Mailbox

No one can sneak up behind you if you are looking at me: Mirror

Unlike Mars, it's got channels: television

You push my buttons.: phone

I'm like a cloud that hides the sun, only I'm indoors: lampshade

I want to go for a walk!: dog (stick the next clue on their dogtag)

I'm purrfect.: cat (stick the next message to their tag)

I look like a square spider web- but only clean things stick to me.: hill's hoist

I'm nothing but a long string that people use over and over.: washline

I've been framed!: picture, painting

Bluebottle: Leads to a perfume bottle or wine bottle that's blue.

Key + board: Computer keyboard

If you have any other suggestions for clues, I'd love to hear them.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

My Run In With the Sleazy Dr M

When I first moved to Australia in 1988 I found it very difficult to breathe. I put it down to the house we were staying at. It was my husband's grandmother's house and the room we'd been staying in hadn't been dusted for years. After I washed it down I felt much better.

Then we found our own place. It had a lovely frangipani tree in the backyard. One day it started to bloom, and I was having trouble again. We didn't have a car so I ended up dragging myself to the nearest pharmacy.

When I got there they said they had something I could buy off the shelf that would give me relief but they refused to sell it to me- they said I should go see a doctor.

There was one just down the road so I went there. Luckily he could take me right away. He said I was having an asthma attack. By then I was so out of breath I couldn't even sit up- I was on the floor with tears in my eyes. As I lay there he leered at me and said, “OK look, just take all your clothes off and I'll be right back.”

I couldn't see why, so I didn't. I just lay there gasping. Finally he brought in a nebulizer and I was breathing through a mask. I started to feel better.

I asked him what kind of a practice this was- it didn't look like an ordinary doctor's office. He said he did operations there. Then he bragged that the local hospital sent him interns to train. From the way he was talking it sounded like they were all female.

While I was sitting there he got a phone call. He kept insisting that the person they were looking for wasn't him, it was his brother. It took him a while to convince the person on the other end of the line but finally they let him go. He said that was the police and he could have been arrested just then. I wondered for what....

Then a couple came into the surgery. They were in distress so the doctor saw them right away. I moved into the waiting room. Soon after the husband came out. After a long time he knocked on the door to find out what was happening. The doctor called out “I'm sorry, you'll have to wait.- I'm operating on her right now.”

The husband freaked out. He asked me if it was reasonable to think that he should have been told. I told him to get in there. Which he did. I didn't trust that doctor with any woman, let alone one that was under anesthesia.

Anyway, I never went there again. Good thing too. Years later he was in the papers. He was involved in numerous court cases and a Medical Tribunal was held to see if he should be disbarred for malpractice. Apparently he had sexual relationships with many of his patients and saw nothing wrong with that. If a patient was having marital troubles he'd suggest they have an affair and would offer to supply them with a lover. Again, he saw nothing wrong with that. In fact he saw nothing wrong with anything he did. He offered to launder some money for a husband to hide money from his wife and the Family Court. The doctor said his de facto wife could arrange it.

This de facto wife was a patient of his who he moved in with when he was 36 and she was 72. She was a frail woman with many health problems and he was her primary physician. She gave him over a million dollars of cash, property and benefits until her death.

How did she die? She was alone at home with him when she complained of severe chest pains. He gave her an injection of morphine and within 6 minutes she was dead. He didn't give her cardio pulmonary resuscitation and he didn't call for an ambulance until she was unconscious. Even then he hung up before they could answer. Conveniently it was he who signed the death certificate. No one else examined the body until 18 months later when the body was exhumed. This was done because relatives got suspicious when another lover/patient moved in with him the day after the funeral.

According to experts called at a medical tribunal, he gave the old lady a drug that would worsen her condition, and he gave her a dangerous amount of it. One expert said it's what you'd do if you wanted to euthanize someone. It turns out the lady in question did say she wanted euthanasia. The coroner ruled she probably died of natural causes, but he was concerned by the abnormally high levels of morphine in her body. When asked how this could have happened, DR. M said she had free access to an unlocked cupboard filled with Schedule 4 sedatives and Schedule 8 addictive drugs at his surgery. He couldn't say if she'd taken any of these because he didn't keep track of them. Of course!

After the funeral he told a friend he was dismayed as to how little of the estate was left to him in the will. A lawyer told him that if it was missing he could inherit everything as a de facto husband. Later, he told the courts that that she had destroyed the 1989 will and replaced with another one, but it was missing. The Supreme Court didn't believe him and ruled that he had either hidden hidden it or destroyed it himself. It was eventually decided he wouldn't be allowed to make a claim on the estate because of this. He was disbarred from medical practice in 2000.

According to a newspaper article in 2004 however, he believed that maybe he could practice as a doctor again. It sounds like he figured that he was disbarred because of the court's prejudice against May/December relationships. Bizarre!

Here's the newspaper article but if you really want to be shocked, you should read the Medical Tribunal Report . The Q and A's are especially revealing. You'd think they came straight out of an Agatha Christie novel.

After reading it I was horrified that I'd ever been in contact with him. That lady wasn't the only one he'd administered that much morphine to! He said he'd administered this to lots of people who had problems with restricted airways. Due to asthma, for instance. Nevermind that the morphine would make it harder to breathe! Scary stuff!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

My latest post is part 4 of the encounters with gangs I've had. I'm writing it so that as you go down the page you have them in order. So Part 2 is below part 1.

If that's too hard to get to, here's a list of these posts so far. Just click on the one you want:

Part 1 High School Gang
Part 2 New York Gang
Part 3 Street Gang
Part 4 The Convict Work Gang

Monday, July 20, 2009

My Encounter With a High School Gang Part 1/4

I've had four run ins with gangs. One was at school and harmless, others, well, they could have ended badly. I've been extremely lucky so far. Or maybe God has beene watching over me. Or both. Not that my atheist children could accept the second explanation. But no matter. I thought I'd recount them in a four part series. Maybe there's some lessons in them for others, who knows.....

My first encounter was in Junior High School. There was this guy in year 7 who was really popular.. If the teacher gave us a choice as to what book to study for English class, he'd decide what he wanted, and everyone else would vote with him. Except for me and this other girl. We didn't like him because he was always picking on us. He used to make fun of me because my parents wouldn't let me wear jeans. He was a lot meaner to her though. He once arranged to meet her in a park and never showed. Everyone laughed at her for thinking he would. Harmless stuff, I know. If that had happened nowadays in Sydney, not only would he have shown up, but he would have had 6 of his mates with him. But this was Winnipeg in the 70's. Even if she wasn't physically hurt, she was publicly humiliated and that's devastating for a 13 year old.

Anyway, the bullying stopped after an incident in the library. There were just the two of us at a big wooden table that seated 6. Larry and two of his friends came in. There was an empty table across the room but he wanted to make us move so he sat down at ours. The other girl got angry and told him to get lost. We were there first! She spluttered in frustration. Larry and his friends found this highly amusing. I tried a different approach. I purred “Oh, Larry, come sit closer. Come sit here on THIS chair.” He got really uncomfortable and said “Yes, well, um” and he and his friends made a hasty retreat.

Who could blame him? He'd challenged my territory, I'd stood my gound, I made him leave and he lost face in front of his friends. He couldn't even fault the way I did it because in Junior High, sitting next to someone in the library was a way of letting them know you liked them. So it was HIM, not me who made the first move. And on girls he least wanted to be seen with too! After that he left me alone. As for the other girl, she eventually became part of his entourage.....

Part 2 New York Gang
Part 3 Street Gang
Part 4 The Convict Work Gang

My Encounter with a New York Gang Part 2/4

My second encounter with a gang happened in New York. I had been traveling around America on a Greyhound bus pass. It gave me unlimited rides for a month for $99. I didn't have much money for accomodation so what I'd do was explore a city by day, and catch a bus at night. This particular day the ride ended at 5 AM in a New York subway station. I was still tired and didn't particularly want to see that city so I decided to catch the next bus out. It wasn't due to leave for a couple of hours so I decided to explore the station. Being from Winnipeg I'd never seen one before. It was deserted. A guy I met went with me. He was also catching that bus.

We were walking and talking quite happily until my friend started getting tense. I asked him what was wrong. He said “Hadn't you noticed? That group of four guys has been following us for the past 10 minutes!”

I hadn't.

Just then a train stopped and let its passengers out. Hundreds of people rushed towards us. I said, “Don't worry! Quick! Let's turn around!”

We changed direction and walked right to these guys with a whole wall of people rushing behind us. There was nothing they could do but stand there as we swept past them. We then headed straight for the Greyhound bus terminal. No way were they going to find us there. We narrowly escaped being mugged.

Even though we'd only been there for two hours, we'd already had the quintessential New York experience!

Part 1 High School Gang
Part 3 Street Gang
Part 4 The Convict Work Gang

My Encounter With a Street Gang Part 3/4

My third encounter with a gang was walking home from my community art class in Kingsford, which is a nice neighborhood in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney. It was dark, but only about 6 PM and I only had to walk two short blocks so I wasn't that worried about my safety.

As I got to my street this group of teens surrounded me. There were about eight of them. They looked about 16- they looked like nice kids- they certainly didn't have an attidtude or anything. I think I even recognized a few as living on my block. I wasn't concerned.

The leader asked me if I'd seen Forest Gump. That movie had come out the month before so I knew what the story line was, but I hadn't watched it myself. I told him this, puzzled as to why he'd ask. Then he quoted “Life is a box of chocolates- you never know what you're going to get”.

The others laughed menacingly at this. The leader was still being friendly, so I played innocent and asked him if he liked it. He said it was all right. I asked him more questions about the movie, trying to distract him from whatever it was that he was planning to do. He answered them and then explained that the quote meant that you never know when something bad might happen to you. I did get that. I remembered the park nearby and hoped I didn't I end up there with them.

He was still friendly and joking, so I tried to be the same. I mentioned how I lived around there and had kids his age. Actually my kids were 10 and 7 but he didn't know that. One of the others asked if I'd like some more. This was meant to scare me. I said no way, two were all I could handle. After all, I WAS getting old, heck, I was old enough to be a grandmother! Now this was true if you assumed that a grandmother could be as young as 34. I was older than that, but not by much.

One of the group said that I looked pretty hot. I didn't think so. I was wearing an old jacket over raggedy jeans that were spattered with paint. No way could anyone have thought I looked sexy in that. However I am tall and I do have long blonde hair and I've always looked young for my age so I knew why he might think so. I figured I'd play the age card again so I said “ Yeah, but really, what would the kids at school say if you did it with a grandmother? They'd all laugh at you.”

This made them think. I then became all motherly towards the leader, asking him what school he went to and asked if he liked it. He responded by telling me a bit about himself. Then I told him I had to make dinner for my kids now, and he let me go.

Personally I don't think the group had ever done anything bad before- I think maybe they were just thinking of trying something new. Hopefully they never did! I never saw anything in the local paper about it anyway. I count this as a lucky escape.

Part 1 High School Gang
Part 2 New York Gang
Part 4 The Convict Work Gang

My Encounter With A Convict Work Gang Part 4/4

My last encounter was the scariest. These guys had definitely hurt people before. They were big, muscular and covered in tattoos. And unlike the others they were hostile. I was only lucky I had my dog with me. It's a big Great Dane/Bull Mastiff Cross. People tell me he looks mean. I don't think so, he's my baby! Anyway, what happened was this.

I was walking my dog from Malabar beach to the Headlands. The road there leads to a dead end so there Isn't much traffic and there are no houses- just a water treatment plant hidden away on one side, and bushland on the other. Anyway, I thought my dog would love the trails in the bushes so we explored them. Near the end of one trail we came across this friendly black Labrador puppy which was all alone. I patted it and my dog played with it and it walked with us. I figured maybe the owner was further along looking for him.

We came to the end of the trail. It was at the edge of a giant parking lot. This is an area where people park their cars after launching their boats. That day it was deserted except for a group of what looked like Bikers. Just the kind of people my dog especially loves. (I don't know why). He and the puppy raced towards the men. They noticed us and immediately broke into a chant: “Basher, Basher, Basher!” I thought this was the name of the puppy. I didn't want to go near these guys but when I tried calling my dog back he wouldn't come so I had to go down to get him.

He was with their leader, who didn't look scary at all. He was thin, clean cut and friendly. It was obvious that the puppy belonged to him. He was next to his van which had a trailer with mowers on it, so I guess he was in charge of these guys. Maybe they were convicts on a lunch break? I could see they had a lot of respect for him. When I got to him he was giving my dog lots of pats. Meanwhile the guys he was with were giving me hostile stares. I figured I'd better move along. I told the boss I was going to the beach down by the boat ramp. He asked me if I'd take his puppy there too. I smiled and said of course I would!

When I got there I called my husband on my mobile to come and pick me up. I waited and let the dogs play on the beach until I thought my husband was there. I then took them up the hill to the parking lot and gave the puppy back. The leader was very grateful. He patted his puppy and hugged it. Turns out its name was Fred. Meanwhile the convicts were glaring at me. I wanted to get away from there as quickly as I could so I said goodbye and headed for the road, but then my dog gave out after only 100 yards. We hadn't even made it out of the parking lot!

There was nothing I could do. I just had to sit there with him until he recovered. The guys were watching. One guy in particular looked like he was going to come after me, but I smiled sweetly and kept looking at the leader. This was to remind him that I was under his boss' protection. Thank goodness it only took my husband 15 more minutes to arrive.

Anyway, I thought I'd tell about these encounters so maybe it will help if you're in a tricky situation. I read once that being confronted by a gang is the same as being confronted by one person- it is the leader who decides your fate so deal only with him. When talking to him, show respect, no hostility, no fear. Look at the situation from his point of view. You have to give him a good reason to let you go and go against the wishes of his gang. In the High School encounter I had made the leader embarrassed to be seen with me. In the NY situation, I was changing the odds from 4-2 to 400 to 4. Any gang could see the logic in backing down. In the case of the street kids, I pointed out that they'd be laughed at if they carried out their plans. In this last case the leader himself gave me a way out-he asked me to do him a favor and that's what made me off limits. The fact that I had a big scary dog with me also helped, though I could see these guys taking him on. Especially since he was tired. Of course these tactics won't always work. If it's a weak leader he wouldn't be able to stop his men. If it's a case of mistaken identity, heaven help you- just run! It's not always going to work, it will just increase your odds. Let's hope you'll never be in such a position, ever!

Part 1 High School Gang
Part 2 New York Gang
Part 3 Street Gang

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Day we Rescued a Shark!

One winter day when the boys were young we decided to do the walk from Coogee to Clovely beach. There's a lovely wide path there that only takes about half an hour to do. On one side you have a steep cliff going up to the houses, on the other side you have a steep cliff going down to the ocean. There's greenery on both sides. It's popular with tourists and joggers.

We set off late in the afternoon. Half way there we got to Gordon's Bay. It has a wooden staircase leading to a tiny beach where fishermen launch their boats. Usually it reeks of seaweed but this time it was fine. We decided that because it was low tide, and to make the trip more interesting, we'd clamber over the rocks from there to get to Clovelly. My eldest was only four but full of energy and this was just the kind of thing he enjoyed. My youngest was only one so I had him in a backpack. That was good because that way I had two hands free to help me climb over any tricky bits.

Anyway, me, my husband and the children were having a great time. My eldest especially enjoyed looking for rock pools and crabs along the way. About half way there he called out to us from way up high. He said he'd found a fish. We clambered up to check it out. In reality it was a Port Jackson shark! It was big, it was alive and and it was gasping. I wondered how on earth it got up there. We looked around. The place was deserted- though there was a pile of old rags nearby. We figured they and the shark had been washed up there by the tide, though we had no idea the tide got THAT high!

Anyway, I felt sorry for the poor thing and urged my husband to put it in the ocean. He was reluctant but said he'd give it a go. Gingerly he grabbed it by the tail and held it up. There were only a few inches of clearance between my husband's sandaled feet and the shark's long teeth. He slowly made his way down. Keeping the teeth from touching him was hard enough, but then he also had to maneuver onto a tricky set of rocks that got more and more slippery as he got closer to the water. Several times he wanted to give up but the kids and I begged him to keep going. In the end he made it and let the shark go. It swam away out of sight. The kids and I gave a huge cheer. We were heroes! We'd rescued a shark!

We were all talking excitedly about this until this thin, scary looking man covered in tattoos passed us headed in the direction of where we'd found the shark. He had a fishing rod in his hand. It occurred to me that maybe there was another explanation as to how the shark got up there. I felt bad. That was probably his dinner! Then I got scared. What would he do to us when he found out what we'd done to his catch? He'd know it was us because there was no one else around. That scared me even more.

In a panic, I told the others we had to get away from there as quickly as possible. I found a path and led the way. Unfortunately we hit a dead end. We couldn't stay because the tide was rising and it was getting dark. There were no other options- we had to go back!

We retraced our steps and snuck back past the fisherman, who was searching the clifftops. He seemed puzzled. I figured it was only a matter of time before he figured out what happened. We jumping from one rock to another as quickly as we could all the way to Clovelly. This time my eldest led the way.(He never gets lost.) He didn't know what the rush was- he thought it was some kind of game! I was so relieved when we got there safely.

After that, all I wanted to do was go home. Unfortunately, our car was at Coogee, and my 4 year old was too tired to walk back, so my husband had to leave us there while he got it. The whole time I was waiting for him I was thinking “What if the fisherman meets him on the way?” “What if the fisherman comes our way?”

I took us to a bus stop so at least there'd be cars around. There weren't any. It got darker and darker. Finally, finally my husband showed up. We were safe. We'd survived our adventure!

To celebrate we went to the nearest restaurant, which just happened to be a fish and chips shop. We could have gone further but we thought this was appropriate. We could have any kind of fish we wanted, so naturally, we chose the Port Jackson Shark !

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Year 7: Hi Kids, Today the World is Going to End!

It was in my first year of Junior High school and I was having a bad year. My parents had bulldozed my bedroom so I was sleeping in a fold-out bed in the resulting enlarged living room. My clothes were in my brother's room and I had to do my homework in the dining room. I was woken up every morning at six by my father's cigarette smoke. I had no room, no privacy, and I was bullied at school because my parents wouldn't let me wear jeans and that's what everyone else was wearing. It was pretty bad. But the worst day of Year Seven was when I walked into French class. I sat down, expecting to do declensions, when the teacher told us that when we hear sirens, we were to hide under our desks because bombs would be dropping on us. He said it was the end of the world and we were all going to die! Not sure why he thought this- maybe he was a Jehovah's Witness? These WAS huge trouble in the Middle East at the time......

Anyway, we were terrified. We would have cried, but that wasn't cool. Anyway, once he'd finished scaring the hell out of us it was time to go to English. Within minutes the teacher put down her chalk and asked sharply “"What's Wrong?"

A boy in the middle row haltingly told her. Man, was she ever FURIOUS! She said that was utterly ridiculous, and of COURSE the world wasn't going to end. She spent the whole hour and a half class calming us down and undoing the damage that man had done. Pretty admirable of her, considering she didn't even like us.

Of course nothing happened that day, so we all gave that French teacher a terrible time after that. In the end he had a nervous breakdown. We were not sorry.

He wasn't the only one who was telling us the world would end. My parents told me repeatedly I wouldn't live to the age of 20. (They were big Garner Ted Armstrong fans. ) As a result I feel really hostile to anyone who says we're living in the end times, or that world oil reserves will run out, or that global warming is the end of civilization, etc etc etc. I heard it all before, 30 odd years ago, and I have faith that whatever problems people create, they can solve. And as for those who can't wait for Armageddon, those sadists WILL go to hell!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Water Fun

Here are some games to play out in the yard on a hot day. Unfortunately, the last ten years of my kids' lives have been during a drought so I couldn't really do this with them. Or if I did, they were too young to remember. But who knows, they might someday move to a place with 100,00 lakes, right?

Here's one my mother did with us when we were kids:

Everyone gets a bucketful of water and a small ice cream container and takes it to a corner of the yard. Everyone should be equally far away from each other, and maybe ten steps apart.

When the eldest yells "GO!" everyone scoops some water into the ice cream container and throw it at someone. If you let go of the ice cream container you'll get soaked trying to retrieve it. You also don't want to get too far away from your base or you'll get soaked on the way back. You also don't want to run out of water before everyone else because then you'll be a target without any protection. Of course there's a danger you'll slip on the wet grass and hurt yourself, but we never did.

Another thing we did was run through the sprinkler, and we actually did hurt ourselves doing that. I once landed hard on my back and winded myself, but I didn't care.

A gentler, safer game is to fill an ordinary balloon half full of water and pass it around in a circle. The idea is, you want to pass it quickly, but you don't want it to burst on you. If everyone's too good at this, then start two going around the circle in opposite directions. Or pass them across and hope they don't collide.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Home Science Experiments For Kids


I did this in a science workshop once. The tough bit was figuring out how to make this without heat, but see, I found a way.

Take two plastic drinking cups.

Fill the first cup half full of vinegar.
Put filter paper in the second one (a coffee filter works best because it's already cup shaped).

Add two tablespoons of skim milk to the vinegar in the first cup, and stir.

Then add 1/8th Tablespoon of baking Soda to the milk/vinegar mixture. Add a little at a time.
Stir. You want just enough bubbles to fill the cup, but not have them spill over.

Scoop the bubbles you get onto the filter paper in the second cup.

Wait ten minutes.

Scoop the white gunk out of the filter paper onto a paper towel. Let it sit for a few seconds.

Then make it into a shape, and let it sit on a windowsill for a week. It will shrink and harden.

You've just made a kind of early plastic that buttons used to be made out of!

To make more plastic, use bigger cups!



To make the red cabbage juice, just boil some red cabbage in water and bottle the liquid. It starts to stink after a few days, so you might not want to make it too far ahead of time, but if you do, that's OK kids will think it's funny!

You might want to do this experiment at the same time as the plastic one, so the ten minute wait goes faster. For this experiment, you put Red Cabbage juice in clear cups, to which kids can add different things to. Bases (such as baking powder and Baking Soda) turn it blue, and vinegar turns the juice bright red. Some things like milk don't change the colour at all, but if you also add oil, you get different coloured layers,which the kids really like. Be careful with the cabbage juice though- it is really messy and it stains.


Another experiment you can do is make slime.

You get cornstarch (made from corn, not wheat) and add a little powdered paint to it. The kids can choose which colour they want. Then add water, a little at a time, letting them mix it with their hands until it's hard when they squeeze it, but runs through their fingers when they let go. It's really messy and kids love it. Have some extra in case someone adds too much water to theirs. If you want it a little less messy, give them the cornstarch in a sandwich sized ziplock bag, and get them to add the water and paint to that. Then they can close it and squeeze it, keeping their hands clean. I'd suggest half a ziplock bag of cornstarch each, but maybe try it out yourself first to get the amount right.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Day I got Lost in an American Ghetto

I was 19 and Greyhound Buses were having a promotion on that you could travel all over Canada and the US for $99 for a whole month, with an unlimited number of trips. I'd only ever been to the States once with my parents, and I especially wanted to visit Disneyland, so I went.

I had a lot of adventures on the trip, but one that was especially dangerous was when I was in Kansas City. I had gotten off the bus in the morning and planned to spend the whole day there. I got a map and saw there was a museum nearby so I decided to visit it.

I hopped on a crowded bus, paid the fare, sat down and started talking to the guy next to me. The further we went, the less people were on board, until we hit the end of the line. The bus driver said we had to get out.

That's fine, the guy I'd been talking to said he'd help me find this museum, so I wasn't particularly worried. I had noticed however that there didn't seem to be any white people around. My new friend told me that was because we were in the middle of the ghetto and whites just didn't go there. I looked around. It didn't seem like the ghettos I'd heard about. It had a beautiful well kept park, and the streets were clean. There were lots of people around and they all greeted my friend enthusiastically. He was well known and well liked there.

He told me that he wanted me to meet his Aunt who lived in an apartment building we'd just got to. Me, I was wary. I said I'd wait in the foyer for him. Not long after he'd left, he came back down again and said we'd have to leave because the caretaker had complained- he said he didn't want no white people in his building, so we decided to walk in the park.

I was curious about the caretaker and what he said, and my friend explained to me that if I had been an American, terrible things would have happened to me by now, but because I was a clueless Canadian, well, I was safe. Especially since I was with him. He was my protection.

I wasn't at all worried about this. Anyway, we decided to walk in the huge park and talked about religion. He told me that the pastor of his church was cheating on his wife and had 3 or 4 parishioners as girlfriends. I told him that that was scandalous, and that is NOT the way a Pastor should act. He said "No?" I said "Of course not. Pastors are supposed to act better than ordinary people, not worse!"

He agreed with me. We talked about religion for another hour or so, but by then it was getting late so he set me on a bus that took me to the station so I'd get there before it got dark. Again, I was the only white person on the bus, but soon white people got on, and I was back in the middle of the city again.

It was a great day. I got a glimpse into another culture and got to go where it was too dangerous for others to go. I felt quite privileged- and protected. And enlightened.

But please my children, don't do this yourselves. The rules might have changed by now right?

But of course you know this, because you read "Gang Leader for a Day". I can tell you what's written there is true- you'd never know it was a ghetto just by looking! I only have fond memories of it. And of that young man who had shown me a bit of his world!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Day I Met a Russian Spy!

It was 1982, Breshnev was in power in the Soviet Union, and we were worried about nuclear attacks because of a war in Afghanistan.

I was at University studying Commerce and going out with a Jewish Marxist whose father sold luxury items to rich women. My boyfriend had seen an ad saying that Russian Communists were coming to Winnipeg to give a presentation at the town hall and he wanted me to come along. I was nervous about this because my parents warned me that the RCMP would be there to take photographs but I went along anyway because I was curious how the Soviets could possibly sell communism to us when their own country was so dysfunctional.

It was one of those cold miserable winter days where there was brown sand on the sidewalks and salt on the roads and the snow was muddy and wet. Nevertheless we trudged through it and attended the talk. Apparently they were trying to increase the membership of the Canadian Communist Party.

I left quite unconvinced by their sales job, but not sure how my boyfriend felt about it. We were just starting to discuss it when this tramp asked us what we thought of the meeting. I was wary. Looking him over I noticed how black his boots were. They had been polished to a bright shine. Meanwhile the rest of his clothes were shabby, dirty and torn. I listened nervously as my boyfriend started giving him his appraisal of the meeting. I interrupted rudely and asked the "tramp" if he was so interested, why didn't HE go to this meeting? After all, it was a free event and it was in a nice warm building.

He said he had been there and then he left in the middle of it, or some such unlikely thing. My boyfriend said some negative things, such as why were they trying to run the Canadian Communist Party from Russia anyway when really the locals should do it, and the tramp quickly disappeared.

So who could this guy have been? Not a tramp, that's for sure. That leaves RCMP or a Russian. If it was a Canadian, he'd have no trouble getting a tramp outfit together- he'd just grab some old clothes and an old pair of runners from home. But if this guy came from Russia, well, maybe he only brought his nice boots with him. Finding a set of ugly clothes wouldn't be hard at an op shop but finding shoes his size might have been. Also, maybe in Russia everyone actually cared about the appearance of their shoes.

So if he was Russian, why was he talking to us? Well, maybe he was looking for recruits of some sort. People not known to be members of the Communist Party. That's what I like to think, anyway. The other possibility is he was doing marketing research to see how well the presentation was and thinking about how to improve it for next time, but hey- we ARE talking about a communist country here, right? I don't think it would even have occurred to them to care!

So, next time you go to a sus meeting held by a sus country, and someone sidles up to talk to you about it, check their shoes!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Panas Tonight!

One day my father told us he had a real craving for Panas. It was something his mother used to make during wartime. My mother agreed to make him some. Next day we had a pig's head in the downstairs fridge . It stayed there for a week until my father could cut it into pieces with his blade saw. Once this was done my mother boiled the pieces in all the pots she had in the house. Next, the resulting broth was cooled and the scum was ladled off. It smelled and looked revolting! She then added nutmeg to the broth and mixed it with flour to make pancakes. Anyway,the big day finally came and she served my father the Panas he had been craving. He tasted them, and said they were just like his mother made them, then added "Oh yeah, now I remember how much I hated these when I was a kid." Meanwhile we had a freezer full of them. This enraged my mother so much she served Panas every other meal for weeks until they were all gone. I'd often go to bed hungry just so I wouldn't have to eat them. To this day I can't stomach anything with nutmeg in it!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Tabouleh Recipe

Take half a mug of bourghal wheat (from health food store- there's lots of different spellings) and fill it with boiling water. Let it stand until the wheat is soft. (Best to put the mug on a plate in case it spills over)

Mix equal amounts of

Chopped ripe tomatoes (Never refrigerate tomatoes- they lose their taste)
Chopped Celery

Then add the softened Bourghal wheat, and stir. Add lemon juice and salt to taste. Usually one lemon is enough, but it depends on how sour the lemon is, and how much you are making. Add a little at a time, just to be safe.

You can Quote Me on That- What Really Matters

In the end, to love and be loved is all that matters in life.

You can Quote Me on That- How to be Happy

Life's more fun if you can find a cause to fight for or an injustice to fight against. Everyone needs to feel they are making a difference and in the end, everyone wants to be a hero.

Monday, June 08, 2009

How War Affects The Next Generation: My Father's Story

Growing up in my house was quite an adventure. My father told us our phone was wiretapped so we had to be careful what we said. Once, when we came back from vacation he said the RCMP had broken into our house to watch our home movies. He also said that my best friend's grandfather was writing weekly reports to Ottawa about all the neighbors, and that our teachers were recording anything interesting anyone said in their classrooms. Once I was assigned to debate that the monarchy was no longer necessary in Canada and my father saw it as a trap. We were told not to trust anyone ever with anything because sooner or later it would get back to Ottawa. This was in Canada in the 60's mind you.

So what was he so afraid they'd find? My father was a bookkeeper for a flour company- hardly sinister stuff. Our home videos consisted mainly of us walking around the garden sniffing flowers. We were so poor I was wearing all the neighbors' hand-me-downs, so if my father WAS moonlighting as a spy he sure wasn't being paid for it. So why was he saying such scary things?

I'm guessing he was just giving us the same advice his parents gave him when he was a child. Only their his case it was understandable because they were in real danger from the government. Their best friend was taken away during wartime solely because of his religion. They felt it was a real injustice- here was a man who had fought bravely for his country, and even gotten war medals for it and THIS was his reward? My grandparents were angry, and everyone in their small town knew it. So yes,they had to watch what they said. Their lives depended on it.

But this was hardly the case in Canada in the 60's! Years later I asked my parents if they still thought they were under observation and they said “No”. They felt embarrassed about ever having thought that, but in the mean time the damage had been done. We'd been raised in fear and sometimes I do worry that some day what my grandparents feared will happen to me if I become too conspicuous.

Another example of the things war can do to the next generation.

How War Hurts The Next Generation:My Mother's Story

In my anecdotes my parents don't come off looking too good. Thing is, there are reasons for their behavior and I think I should explain what they are.

For instance, my parents were teens during WW2. They were right in the middle of the horror of it all. The traumas they suffered affected how they raised us children, which led to the trials that we went through.

For instance, I have always been spiritual and my mother couldn't stand it. She'd try and crush any signs of it in me, even if I was just being kind to a stranger. I always knew that she loved me, but I also knew she didn't like me very much. This is because I reminded her religious great aunt.

This great aunt lived on my grandparent's farm. My grandfather was a farmer and a builder, he built the local church. He was also the bandleader of the town and owned all the instruments. My mother said he was loved by everyone.

My mother adored him. He let her and her three sisters be tomboys. They got to ride horses, climb trees, help with the harvest. They basically had to because they didn't have any brothers. Their relatives didn't approve of this behaviour of course, and this great Aunt especially disapproved of how they would work on Sundays. This is something the others in the town wouldn't do.

Anyway, the war came, and near the end of it, soldiers came to take her father away. They couldn't find him so they asked everyone in the family if they knew where he was. They all said they didn't, except for this Aunt. She felt it was a sin to lie. After all, Jesus had said :

John 8:44
You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

When asked if she knew where the man was, she told them she did, and they soon got it out of her that he was hiding in a haystack. They took my grandfather away, and he was never seen again.

After he was taken away, my mother cried and cried and cried so much she vowed never to cry again. When she later had kids, she wouldn't let us cry, or even be sad because compared to her, we had no right to be. So we had to keep on a happy face for her- but heaven forbid we should be genuinely happy, because how could we be happy after what happened to her? So we had to pretend all the time.

Anyway, after my father was taken away, my mother's whole extended family left the family farm that had belonged to them for hundreds of years and became refugees. All except for that demented old aunt – she was left behind to fend for herself.

The upshot is, my mother developed a real hatred for anything religious or spiritual to the point that her relatives thought she was demon possessed. She didn't like anyone who reminded her of her Great Aunt, but unfortunately, without knowing it, I did. She tried to stamp that part of me out, but it didn't work. As a result, I feel bad if I do something bad, but I also feel bad if I do something good. I do choose to be good, even if it hurts, because I don't want my trauma to affect others, especially not my own children. I may be a bit too lenient with them, but I'm determined that the damage done all those years ago stops with me. I'm NOT going to pass it on to them. But I can see how easy it would be to do that. So just because a country is at peace, it doesn't mean its people are. They won't heal for generations!!!!!

On the Road with My Father

When we were young my parents used to take us on camping trips around Canada. Sometimes it would only be to the next province, or sometimes it would be all the way to Vancouver from Winnipeg. Us kids would be in the back sleeping,or under the blankets to avoid their cigarette fumes. We slept to kill the long boring ride through the prairies that just seemed to be the same farmhouse, silo and field repeated over and over and over again for thousands of miles.

My dad kept himself amused by seeing how little fuel his blue VW Beetle could use. His favourite trick was to tailgate trucks. He noticed that there was a fair amount of suction behind of of these monsters, so we'd be literally pulled from town to town. It wasn't exactly safe, but hey! As an added bonus we'd get to our destination heaps faster than if we were going under our own steam.

Eventually my parents gave up camping and they used the car mainly to go to work and to buy groceries. Well, by that I mean my father. Even though my mother did have a driver's licence and passed her test first go, he never let her drive the car. That's despite the fact that my father's eyesight was so poor he always needed someone with him to tell him if the light was green or red. His eyesight was pretty poor, but the only accident he'd ever been in was when he had a bee in the car. He got so scared he crashed the car into a pole. He wasn't hurt, don't know what happened to the bee.

Anyway, we all survived so that's all that matters, right? Ah, the good old days.......

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Decorate Your Own Lampshade

My husband had two ten dollar plastic lamp shades and I decorated them two ways. One was with felt-tipped markers. To begin with, I just outlined the pattern I wanted with non-permanent markers,then when it was perfect, covered it with permanent marker. I let it dry for half an hour, then carefully wiped away the non-permanent lines with tissues. I also smeared on some watercolours to make the sky. It will never dry and will come off in your hands but so what- how often do you touch the inside of a lampshade?

Here's the one I decorated this way:

My husband liked this and wanted me to make another, but one with geometric designs. Ideally he wanted a deltoid shape, but that was hard on a curved surface, so I did something else instead. I cut up some fish net stockings, stretched the opening to make a triangle, and fastened it with clothes pegs. Then I took the rest of the piece of stocking, and brought it up behind the triangle and fastened that with clothespegs as well. Once I had done this three times, and added three more loops for decoration, I tied everything with black elastic string at the back and got this result:

Pretty cool, eh?

Saturday, June 06, 2009

They Meant Well, I guess

Here's another story from my childhood. For some reason my kids love them.

When I was in Grade 5 and 6 I took violin lessons at school, and loved it. I and this other girl were the best in the class. Anyway, my teacher happened to mention to my parents that I had real musical talent. I probably got this from my grandfather who was the leader of the town orchestra before the war. Anyway, when my parents heard this they were delighted. The next year, they stopped my violin lessons and made me take accordion lessons, because they figure that if I was ever short of cash, I could always busk for a living and people would pay to hear an accordion player but not a violinist. The whole premise was dodgy because in Winnipeg there WERE no buskers (maybe it was illegal?). Anyway, I hated it but had to take it for four years, practicing for half an hour every day. My brother who was three years younger than me also took accordion lessons at the same time and he liked it and thus became so much better than I was. It was quite humiliating to have the teacher assign us duets where I got the boring easy parts and he got the more difficult interesting parts.I finally got to quit by telling my parents my homework load was too much. I still do love the sound of violins though.....

An Easter Tradition

Yes, I know it is the wrong time of the year for this, but I don't care!

When I was about 6 I visited my uncle and Aunt for Easter. They had a tradition that I just loved.

We went for a walk on a forest trail, with my uncle in the lead and my family and my aunt and my cousins following a distance behind him. As we walked, us kids would find foil covered chocolate eggs that the Easter Bunny had dropped out of his basket as he was delivering his eggs! We were so excited about this. The weirdest thing was though, that if one of us ran ahead to talk to my uncle, there wouldn't be any eggs anymore. Once we were all back behind him, we'd start finding them again. Because of this I started watching my uncle carefully and that's when I noticed he was putting his hands in his coat pocket and dropping the eggs on the ground. So that's how I figured out what was going on.

When my kids were young my husband and I did the same thing. We'd go to a national park (so there wouldn't be any dog droppings on the ground) and they'd find chocolate eggs everywhere. David Jones makes the nicest multi-colored eggs that don't have any logos on them, so we always used them. Fun thing was, as the kids were collecting the chocolates, they'd give them to me to hold, giving me a chance to pass them on to my husband so he could drop them again! The result was that the egg hunt went on for the whole length of the walk. Of course by the end the eggs were a bit worse for wear, but that's OK, my kids didn't really like chocolate anyway, so we gave them some we had held back from the package. Either way, it's lots of fun for us, as well as the kids.

Another thing my Aunt and Uncle did was to hide Easter baskets in the sand dunes behind the house for my cousins and us to find. Funny, we should have tried that as a well, but I never thought of it. Well, maybe the next generation can carry on that tradition.....

Great Expectations

Great Expectations

When I was born, my father went out of his way to look for a name that was pronounceable in every language in the world. He had high expectations for his new baby girl: someday she would be Prime Minister of Canada! He had my life all planned out. After high school I'd take accounting while working as a bank teller during my school holiday, and once I'd gotten my degree I'd work in the industry, enter into federal politics and then get elected to the highest office in the land.

This is strange because when my brother was born, my father decided his son would become a television repair man. Or a carpenter. Well, unfortunately his dreams did not come true. Growing up I wasn't the least interested in politics, and while my brother did briefly work as a TV repairman over the school holidays, he eventually decided to go to university and become an engineer. While my brother was wildly successful in the computer industry, I became a housewife right after I got my Marketing degree, had kids and never had a career. I just did a lot of volunteer work with children. What I really should have done was study religion, or go to Bible College, because that's where my interests lay, but as my parents pointed out, where was the money in that? I now realize I should have just gone with my passion.

With my kids I was determined not to decide their future for them. I figure that if they can just follow their interests they will do well, no matter what field it is in. Being practical instead will only end up being a dead end for them and they will probably end up doing what they wanted to in the first place, only when they are much older and when learning is much harder. So, while I'm glad my father had such high hopes for me, I feel I should have accomplished much more in life than I have. My brother who achieved way more than he was supposed to also feels sad because he also felt he had let his father down somehow. I guess the moral of the story is, sure, have high expectations for your kids, but let them decide what they are going to try to succeed at!

Friday, June 05, 2009

Why I didn't go to my High School Reunion

Graduations are supposed to be fun, but this is what happened to me. About a month before graduation this girl I knew asked me to go to the park and play Frisbee with her. I found this a bit strange, since we'd only ever chatted on the school bus before.

Anyway, as we were talking and playing, she mentioned the graduation and asked me if I had a date for the prom. I said no, and she asked me if I'd go with her brother. Now, her brother was a nice guy, he'd even rescued a little old lady who had fallen down in her house and couldn't get up. Unfortunately,we were always in the same class and our names were so similar that the teachers were always calling us by each other's name. I really hated that and thus I really started to hate him. Also, unfortunately, he had a face that looked like it had been hit by a large flat iron and I felt that I was kind of pretty and deserved better than that. After thinking it over I called him up and told him I didn't want to go as his date after all. Actually, this was lucky for him considering what happened next.

See, a couple of weeks later my mother and I went to the local shopping center to pick out a prom dress. I'd been to about two thirds of the stores there, but hadn't found anything I really liked yet. My mother was so fed up with all this shopping that the next day, while I was at school, she went out and bought a dress for me and said that was what I was wearing and that's IT! I looked at it in dismay. I guess I could describe it best by saying it was a lacy multi-layered polyester wedding dress. Now I would have made a fuss about this and refused to wear it, but my Godmother, who was a nun and had been a missionary in China was staying with us and I really really didn't want to have a temper tantrum infront of her. So I wore the stupid thing. When I got to the prom, my friends were too embarrassed to be seen with me so I spent the whole night talking to my English teacher. What a night to remember! Of course I was lucky I could remember it, unlike four of my classmates who died in a car accident that night speeding straight on one of the few winding streets in Winnipeg! Like I said, what a night!

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Witches Brew- Recipe

We like to do this for Halloween

Can of Fruit Punch
Can of Pineapple Pieces
Can of Fruit Salad
Peeled Lemon, cut into slices
Peeled Orange, cut up into slices
Assorted fizzy fruit flavoured drinks

Mix together a bit at a time until it tastes right. Make sure you put it in a big bowl with some room to spare. Then add a fist sized piece of dry ice. (Do not touch with your bare hands- wear winter gloves and use tongs) The drink will bubble and a fog will come out of the bowl. This is Carbon Dioxide. so it isn't poisonous- it's what you breathe out all the time. Still, have doors open to other rooms if you are worried. The fog can be scooped up with a ladle and poured into glasses- kids really have a lot of fun with this.

Obviously you'd want to be careful that you don't swallow the frozen dry ice. That's why you put big chunks in, rather than smaller ones. You can find dry ice by looking in the yellow pages- they give you way more than you need, but that's OK- just keep it in the freezer, and you'll have enough to use at night. By morning of course it will all be gone.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Our GPS Tried To Kill Us!

They say machines don't have intelligence of their own, but after this incident, I wonder.....

We were driving out to Perisher, in the Snowy Mountains. (Yes, Australia gets snow!) We were trying out the GPS system. It had a female voice. My husband kept teasing me by saying how much he liked her.... I didn't because it kept interrupting us all the time. I named it Janet, after our friend's obnoxious ex.

Even though he was quite pleased with the system, a lot of times my husband would ignore her and take an alternate route. She was always trying to get us to retrace our route and go HER way. She sounded quite annoyed when we didn't.

Anyway,when we were almost there it was dusk and it was raining and visibility was quite poor. We started crossing the Jyndabine Dam. Halfway across Janet insisted we turn left! That would have hurtled us 100 meters down into the rushing water of the spillway! Moral of the story- don't tick off a woman, even if she IS a machine!

Dip recipes

Veggie Dip

Bowl of Sour Cream
2 Stock cubes, crumbled into it


Tzadiki Dip

Bowl of Sour Cream
Finely chopped up Small chunk of cucumber without seeds (about the length of a finger)
1 chopped up clove of garlic (or a sprinkle of garlic powder)
1 crumbled up stock cube

Mix together and let sit a while in the fridge.

Bread Soup recipe

This is something I invented when I was ten, hence the strange name. Really this is a fondue.

Can of Campbell's Tomato Soup
Half a can of shredded cheese

Pour the soup into a bowl. Fill the empty can halfway with the cheese, then pour in the milk to fill it up to the top. Dump it into the bowl and heat until the cheese is melted. Done.

To eat, dip french bread (or any bread) into it. Usually half of a bowl is all a grownup can eat.

Taco Soup Recipe

big can of crushed tomatoes
lots of dried dill
two stock cubes
1/3 can of water

Boil together in microwave. Taste. Add V8 if it needs more tomato taste Add lemon if it isn't sour enough. Add more stock cubes if not salty enough.

Prepare separate bowls of the following:

shredded cheese
sour cream
chopped up avocado
chopped up cucumber (with seeds taken out- slice in half legnthwise= scrape out seeds with spoon)
taco chips

To serve, everyone puts some of the above ingredients into a bowl and then covers it with the soup. You can add Tabasco sauce if you want.

My kids like the soup hot, thought really it's supposed to be eaten cold.

Guacamole Recipe

2 ripe avocadoes, mushed up
diced up ripe tomatoes- amount equal to the avocado
1 onion finely chopped up
juice of 1 lemon

Mush together

Add more lemon if not sour enough, if it still tastes wrong, add a bit of salsa dip- it will taste great!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Potato Salad Recipe


Granny Smith apples
Polski Ogorski Pickles
Green Onions
Non-Sweet Mayonaise
Pickle Juice

Take one potato for every two people and microwave them at the "Jacket Potato" setting. No need to peel them. Look out for green bits on potatoes- they are toxic. I know this from experience.

Let them cool. Take equal amounts of green apple, Polski Ogorki Pickles, and celery and chop them up. I usually put in one apple for every two people.

Add in one chopped up green onion per person.

Chop up the cooked potatoes, mix in Hellman's Mayonaise or Best Foods Mayonaise and mix in until it looks right. Wear disposable gloves and mix it with your hands.

Add a tablespoon or so of picklejuice to taste.

That's it!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Swine Flu Party

My boys are teens now so they decide on the party entertainment. My youngest chose to have a Pinata for him and his friends to bash. He picked one that was in the shape of a pig because that was topical. I stuffed it with Fizz Wizz (when hit the sugar powder looks like smoke),candy,poppers(the kind where pulling the string makes streamers shoot out),glowsticks and 1 cm long coloured wooden beads that represent different viruses. The idea was you wanted to let the candy out but you didn't want to be struck by one of the viruses!

Here's him hitting the pig:

Here's the chart that told you which virus you'd been hit with.

Since you could be hit by more than one bead, you could turn into a Westboro Baptist Sarah Palin pirate, which you had to act out. All in all they had a lot of fun!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Magic tricks I taught in a workshop for kids

Magic Tricks Workshop

Card Tricks

1. Sevens

Secretly make two piles of cards. One pile has all the sevens (Seven of Hearts, Seven of Spades, Seven of Diamonds, Seven of Clubs) The other pile has seven cards in it. Put them face down.
Write a note saying “the pile of seven”. Put it in an envelope.

To start the trick, give the envelope to someone, telling them not to open it yet.

Then get someone else to pick one of the piles in front of you.

Tell the person with the envelope to open it and read out what it says.

Now take the pile the person chose and prove it's what the envelope says.
If it's the pile with the sevens, show them the sevens.
If it's the pile with the seven cards, count them out.
Then pick all the cards up and put them in the deck so no one knows how you did the trick!

2. Spell Cards

Put cards face up in this order:

any 4
a Joker
any 2
any Ace
any 3
any 5

Hold them in your hand face up.
To start the trick, spell out “Ace”. With each letter take a card off the top of the deck and put it in a pile. Put it face up.
Then say “Ace” and put it on top of the pile.
Drop what's in your hand on top of the pile.

This is what it should look like after you did this.




Now take the pile in your hand.
Do the same thing for Two, Three, Four and Five. Then spell out Joker. That's all the cards in your hand!

3. Forced Choice
Secretly take all the spades and jokers out of the deck.
Take a piece of paper and write down “clubs”.
Hide it under a cup.
Write down “Hearts” on another piece of paper. Hide it under something hard.
Write down “Diamonds” on a piece of paper and hide it under something with diamond shapes on it.
To start the trick, tell someone that you can tell the future.
Ask them to pick a card.
Say you knew they were going to pick that suit.
Take the piece of paper that has that suit written on it from its hiding place.

4. Nines and Fives

Secretly find the black fives and the black nines in a deck.
Put the rest of the deck face down.
Put the 9 of Clubs at the bottom of the deck.
Put the rest on top of the deck so it looks like this:

5 Clubs
9 Spades
5 Spades
9 Clubs

To start the trick, ask someone to pick up the top two cards and remember them in their head.
Then tell them to put the cards anywhere into the deck so you can't find them.
Say the magic words.
Grab hold of the bottom card and the top card. Shake the others out of your hand. Show the audience these two cards.
They'll think the cards are the same as the ones that the person put in the middle of the deck. (They aren't but very few people will notice this).

5. Lie detector
Take any seven cards.
Get someone to choose one of them and remember it.
Put the remaining cards face down in a pile.
Put the chosen card 3rd down from the top.
Ask the person who chose the card these questions:
They can lie or tell the truth.

The questions are:

1.Is the card red or black?
Spell out the answer while taking a card off the top of the deck and putting it onto a new pile for each letter.
This is what it would look like after spelling out red:

New pile (face down)


chosen card “D”
card “E”
card “R”


You'll have 4 cards left in your hand. Just drop them on top of the new pile.

2.What is the suit of the card? Diamond, Clubs, Spades or Hearts?

Spell out the suit, making a new pile like before, and dropping any leftover cards onto the new pile. Start again.

3.What is the number of the card?
If it's a king, spell out k-i-n-g. If it's a number, spell it out. For instance, ten would be t-e-n. Then drop the rest of the cards on top.
1 one 2 two 3 three 4 four 5 five 6 six 7 seven 8 eight 9 nine
10 ten Jack Queen King Joker

4.Were your answers true, false or both?
Repeat the steps again.
If you spell out “true” or “both”, the next card is the one that the person chose.
If you spell out “false” the card that is “e” is the one the person chose.


True: chosen card Both: chosen card False: e chosen card
e card h card s card
u card t card l card
r card o card a card
t card b card f card


6. Three by Three

Lay out 9 cards face up. Put them in three rows of three.

Row 1 X X X

Row 2 X X X

Row 3 X X X

Ask someone to secretly pick one of the cards.

Ask them what row it's in.

Pick up the cards one row at a time, making sure the row they picked is in the middle.
Keep them face up.

Lay out the cards again but lay them down in columns like this:

First- X Then- X Then X



Ask them what row it's in this time. (See, it's the same question you asked them before).
Pick up the cards like you did before, one row at a time, keeping the row they picked in the middle.

The card they picked is now in the exact middle of the deck.
Turn the deck over.
Now lay out the cards face down in groups of three:

\ | / \ ! /

\ | /

Their card is in the middle of the second pile you put down.

Now ask them to pick a pile.

If they pick the one with their card in it, take the other two away.
If they picked a different one, take that one away.
You want to leave the pile with their card on the table.

Then ask them to pick a card.
If they choose their card, take the others away.
If they pick a different card, take it away. Ask them to pick another.

Once you only have one card left, flip it over to show them it's the card they picked.

7. Math Genius
Here's how to prove to your parents what geniuses you are!

Ask them to write down a 4 digit number. For example, 3,745 is a four digit number.

Ask them to write down another 4 digit number.

Write down a number underneath this so that the digits add up to 9 all the way across.

Now tell them the answer.

To get it, take the first number they wrote,
put a 1 in front of it, and take away 1 and that's your answer.


Their first number: 2783
Their second number: 3785 3785
Your number: 6214 + 6214
------- = 9999

Answer: Take their first number: 2783
Put a 1 in front of it: 12783
Take away 1 from the answer 12782
12782 is the right answer.
8. Good Guess
Take slips of paper, asking people to give you the first names of people they know. Write the first name down carefully, and then put it in a hat. Then ask another person for a name and pretend to write it down. What you are really writing down is the first name again.
Ask for another name from someone else. Pretend to write that down. Ask how to spell it. But really write down the first name again.
Once you've written down some names, hold the hat over someone's head.
Tell them to pick out a name without showing you.
Then think hard, and tell them the name you wrote down on all the pieces of paper.
Take the hat back and throw the rest of the paper slips away!

9. Hot coins
Take a handful of different coins. Ask someone to look at them and remember what kind of coin it is. Ask them to look at the date and remember it. Ask them to pass it on to the others and let them see it and remember the date on it too. Make sure everyone holds the coin. Then tell them to drop the coin into the hat.
Magically you can tell which it is just by feel- it will be the one that's warm.

10. Magic Words
Find three things.
One has red on it, but no black.
One has black on it but no red.
One has both black and red.
Pick a secret helper.
Tell the group to pick one of these three things while you are away.
When you come back you'll tell them what they chose.
Go out of the room.
Wait for them to call you.
If the helper says
“Come back now!” That means they chose the thing with black on it.
If the helper says
“We're ready!”
Then it's the thing with red on it.
If the helper says “We're ready. Come back!”
Then you'll know it's the one with red and black.

11. Which is it?
Take another bunch of objects. Have the audience pick one of them while you are out of the room. When you come back your secret helper will point to the objects one by one and say “Is it this one?” “Is it that one?” When he says “This one?” You'll know that's what the people chose.

12. Secret Number
Another way to do the trick is that the fourth thing your helper points to is the one people chose.

13. Easy Knot
Fold your arms.
Keep them folded while taking one end of a rope in each hand.
Slowly unfold your arms.
The rope will have a knot in it!

14. Hole in the hand trick
Take a cardboard tube.
Look through it with one eye.
Put your hand next to the tube.
Keep both eyes open.
Look at something through the tube.
It will look like there's a hole in your hand!

15. Mobius Strip
Cut out a wide, long strip of paper.
Join it together so you make a loop.
Cut out another wide long piece of paper.
This time give it a twist so you join the back of one end of the strip to the front of the other. Tape it together.
Cut out another strip of long wide paper and give it two twists.
Tape it together.
Now cut each loop lengthwise and see what happens!

The second loop is funny because it only has one side. If you take a pencil and draw a line lengthwise down the strip you will find that when you get back to where you started from you've written on both sides of the paper.

16. Walk through Paper
Take an ordinary piece of paper. Do you think you could walk through it?
Just cut along the lines and find out!
(The pattern's in the take home bag).

17. Stamp Trick
Fill a jar with water.
Put on the lid.
Put a stamp underneath it.
You won't be able to see the stamp .

18. Upside down
Fill a jar with water, right to the top.
Cover it with a square of cardboard.
Take the jar to a sink and hold the cardboard onto the jar.
Turn the jar upside down.
Let go of the cardboard.
The water won't fall out.

19. Jumping Elastic
Put the elastic over your first two fingers.
Fold your fingers over.
Put all your finger tips under the band.
Keep your hand closed.
To start the trick, show people the outside of your hand so they think it's only around two fingers.
Then open up your hand.
It will look like the elastic jumped to your other two fingers.

20. Cheesecloth trick
Fill a jar half full of water.
Cover it with cheesecloth.
Put a rubber band around it to keep it on.
Take the cup to the sink.
Turn it over quickly.
The water doesn't fall out!
Push up on the cloth.
Bubbles go up into the glass!

21. Soap trick
Float the matchsticks in a pan of water.
Dip a toothpick in soap.
Put the soapy tip in the water.
See what happens.

22. Red Cabbage Trick
Have an adult boil some red cabbage.
Let the juice cool.
Pour it into a cup.
Drop some baking soda in.
The juice will change from purple to blue.
Pour in some vinegar and it will turn red.

Bases turn cabbage juice blue.
Acids turn it red.
Neutrals don't change it at all.

23. Rising wand
Take the button from the bottom of your wand and hold it between your thumb and first finger.
Grab the wand in the middle with that hand.
To start the trick, slowly let the wand slide through your fingers. It will jump up!

24. The Twisted Matchbox
Take a matchbox, cut it in half, then stick the two pieces together so one side is face up and the other is face down. Put a small dot on one end.
To start the trick, take the box and another plain box and ask someone to copy what you do.
Put the dot towards you.
Open the boxes a little so you both start the same.
Then slowly turn, twist and move the box.
Tell the other person to copy you as you do it.
Then open up the side with the dot on it.
Get them to do the same.
Their box will be different every time!

25. The Magic Ring
Fold a string in half. Take the folded end and put it through the ring. Put the other ends over the edges of the ring and thread it between the ring and the loop.
Pull it tight.
Ask someone to hold on to each end of the string.
Cover the string with a cloth.
Pull the loop over the ring.
It will be free!

26. Cereal box trick
Open the trick box.
Pour cereal into the small hole.
Put one piece of cereal in the rest of the box.
Put the flap over the small hole. This is to stop the cereal from falling out.
To start the trick, tip the box over a bowl.
Say, “I must be out of cereal”.
Open the bottom flaps and let the others see right through the pack to show it's empty.
Then close them again.
Let go of the flap you were holding before.
Pour out the cereal.

27. Banana Trick
Poke a toothpick into the banana and move it side to side.
Poke it in another place and do the same thing.
Poke it two more times.
Then get someone to peel it over a plate.
The banana will fall out in slices.

28. Missing Matchboxes
Hold a piece of cloth in your open hand. Stick the rectangle on top. Put the two matchboxes on top.
Close your hand to grab them.
Hold them face down.
Drop the boxes but keep holding on to the flat cardboard.
Lift it up and move it away.
Say the magic words and flick the cardboard sideways.
It will look like the boxes disappeared into thin air!

Joke tricks

29. What's on the paper?
Give someone a pencil and paper.
Tell them “Here's some paper. Write anything you like and I bet I can tell what's on it.”
When they've finished, tell them to fold it and put it on the floor.
Now tell them to stand on it.
Then say “I know what's on that paper. You are!”

30.Drink through table trick
Put a glass of water on the table.
Cover it with a hat.
Say that you bet you can drink it without touching the hat.
Go under the table and make drinking noises.
Stand up and say, “see- I did it”
When someone picks up the hat to check, grab the glass and drink the water!

Monday, February 02, 2009

Greeting Card

Here's the Greeting Card we sent out last December. This is a photo taken in our backyard.

Here's the one I originally wanted, but it didn't print out right: