Balbo, Chin Strap and Door Knockers

Being the month of November. a number of men in my City have been challenged to a good cause–raising funds and awareness for prostate cancer while growing a prize-winning mustache and/or beard. I’ve heard it’s not as easy as it sounds.

Among the younger generation, the “Soul Patch”–a  vertical strip of hair grown in the cleft of the chin or directly below the centre of the lower lip–is fairly common. My barber friend rattles off names like Vandyke, Chin Strap, Balbo,  Door Knocker,  Donegal, Royale, Mutton Chops and Stashburns–all referring to different styles of beards or combinations of beard and mustache.

I’ve always admired men with beards or mustaches. Not the scruffy beards nor the wispy beginnings of something, but a nicely trimmed Vandyke or a healthy full-blown “Shenandoah” beard. I remember my brother coming home for the holidays with the start of something on his chin. It never grew  into a lush beard but instead became skimpy chin hairs, very much like an ancient,oriental Fu-Manchu look. He took a fair amount of good-natured teasing whenever the family got together so his “new look” didn’t last long.

We all have our quirks and foibles–those little traits of habit we all do without realizing that we’re doing it. Or perhaps, we do know and do it anyway. One of my girlfriends would twirl a strand of her hair around her fingers when she was seriously  thinking of a solution to a problem. Another friend would resort to bread making the old-fashion way–sans bread-making machine–so she could pound out her frustrations. But, it’s some of my bearded friends who do  thing with their beards and/or mustaches.

Ethan has a “circle beard”–that’s a goatee with a mustache. It’s always neatly trimmed giving him a rather academic look. My cousin tells me when Ethan plays poker with the guys, everyone would surreptitiously check to see if Ethan is doing this thing of gently stroking his beard and giving it a tug, as he ponders whether or not to raise his bet. Ethan hasn’t figure out why he can’t bluff anyone with his so-called “poker” face.

Abe Lincoln’s beard was called the “Chin Curtain” and he was often seen stroking his chin as he contemplated the politics of his time. Charlie Chapin didn’t have a beard but he did sport his trademark “toothbrush mustache.” And yes, he did stroke his mustache occasionally–perhaps to check that it was still there. . . .

Anyway, I have a theory on why my hairy-face friends do this thing with their mustaches and/or beards. Can you imagine enjoying a plate of spaghetti and meatballs? Like having that darn spinach or bit of broccoli in your teeth–they have to make sure there’s no evidence of anything embedded in the foliage. Gentle and constant stroking encourages the follicles to bloom. It’s written in fine print in the “Beards and Mustaches Ownership Manual,” that all men have to caress and stroke their beards and/or mustaches at least 20 times a day. And lastly, if they have the right style with matching attitude, they can carry off that scholarly, thoughtful, philosophical, caring, helpful, humanitarian persona.

Weak chins have nothing to do with beards and mustaches. It is definitely a guy thing and can have a certain appeal to the opposite sex. The right beard and/or mustache lends character to as manly face. Haven’t you noticed the amazing difference in appearance when someone you’ve known and who always had a beard and/or mustache, decides to shave it off?

So, go ahead Guys—grow your Balbo, Door Knocker, Chin Strap, Goatee, etc. Raise  awareness and money for a worthy cause—after all, it’s your life. . . .

Smash Magnet

I’m convinced I’m a “Smash Magnet” and by golly, I would rather be a “Babe Magnet” or any other kind of magnet than what I’m destined to be.

When we bought the spanking new, blemish-free, silver Volvo station wagon  home, I was thrilled until I heard Hubby utter those ominous words, “This is our last car, Honey.  We’ll drive it until we can’t drive it anymore.” I think Hubby meant until we’re too old to drive.” I don’t think he meant when the car starts to look like a battle zone.

It really isn’t my fault that someone spitefully gouged one side of the car with their keys. Or, someone else ran their grocery cart into the Volvo’s rear end. Or that someone actually raced away when they backed into the Volvo, causing a caved-in rear corner. It’s almost as if the “Car Gods” were having a field day, chortling and jabbing each other in glee as I carefully drive away on my errands–in my repainted scrapes, carefully patched “wounds” on the Volvo. Even if I parked miles away from anyone else, the car will have new scratches and dents when I return. Honest to God—all those times were not my fault!

Two weeks ago, I made it home without a scratch until the concrete wall of the Condo’s underground parkade reached over and grabbed the Volvo. There was no one to blame except “Yours truly” and I was so angry you could fry doughnuts in my “sizzle.” How the heck did I ever do something so stupid?  The poor car really looked like it came from a fierce battle and lost, with its deep scratches and a huge dent along the length of the passenger side, that’s the right side. A phone call to the insurance adjuster and a visit to the body-shop followed. It didn’t help that the body-shop guy took one look and said, “Holy crap, that’s really bad!” and with a gleam of $$$ in his eyes, started tallying up the damages.

My “Loaner” was a Toyota Corolla that had just been returned by a person who had dented, scratched and mashed the front. With a straight face, the body-shop guy told me, “We didn’t fix it yet as it’s the only car we have left as a loaner.”  Huh! I knew it. My one-time  meeting with a concrete wall had me permanently labeled  as a “Smash Magnet.” If by any chance, someone runs into this Loaner car with their grocery cart or car keys, please note, this car already needs to be repaired and a few more bumps and scrapes won’t matter.

Meanwhile, I am beginning to become fond of this battle-weary Corolla—it reminds me of my beloved Volvo, still recovering in the car hospital.  Next time–yes there may be a next time—I’m picking out a truck, one of those big, solid testosterone  pickup monsters no one dares pick a fight with. . . .


Doughnuts are Mankind’s perfect non-food. Non-food because dieticians call it empty calories. As you can probably tell, next to chocolate, the dark kind, I love doughnuts.

Americans have their Krispy Kremes, but Canadians have Tim Horton’s or “Timmy’s” as the locals call it. It’s the Canadian go-to store for doughnuts of all types. Timmy’s does make nourishing soups, healthy muffins, sandwiches and blender drinks, but I go for the doughnuts. There are the traditional round doughnuts with the hole in the middle that has about a thousand and one different kinds of toppings such as sprinkles, coconut, mini-smarties, a simple glaze and always, one with chocolate.

My favourite is a cruller, lightly drizzled with a glaze on a fluffy, airy doughnut blob that simply melts in your mouth. There is also the traditional Bismarck, the plump doughnut without the hole and filled with raspberry jelly–sometimes a lemon filling or blueberry or cherry jam. Most people know this as a jelly doughnut. There is also an apple fritter which is a little more solid with chopped apples and cinnamon studded throughout. And, then there’s  the deliciously decadent Long John’s, sometimes filled with a light custard filling or not–with a topcoat of dark chocolate along its length. Lately, I’ve been doing research on Long John’s at any place that makes fresh doughnuts on the premises. I discovered my closest supermarket, a Save-On, that is a mere 3-blocks walk from where I live–makes Long John’s early in the morning and if I time my morning walk right,  I can purchase warm, custard-free Long John’s with its topcoat of melted dark chocolate. I always buy 2 so I can share with my Hubby. Of course, he knows that I know that he doesn’t eat doughnuts, so I get to enjoy both. His loss, my gain, in more ways than one!  Safeway, another supermarket that use to be on the Save-On site, also had a big bakery and made doughnuts too. At that time, the Safeway baker also made “Orange Twisties,” a decadent piece of twisted doughnut drizzled with tiny bits of grated orange peel in a light orange-flavoured glaze–sweet, satisfying and so not-good for you! Safeway disappeared and so did their Orange Twisties.

At the annual Classic Car Show, the Rotary Club sells mini-doughnuts. I love these too as they roll off the conveyer belt and scooped into paper bags–still warm and lightly dusted with cinnamon sugar. Timmy’s has the larger version of Cinnamon-Sugar Old-Fashions” and if you’re really worried about the sugar, you can also get them plain.

Thinking about doughnuts does have its pitfalls. It’s late at night and your mouth and tummy is more than ready for a doughnut  and all you have are healthy wheat-thin crackers. . . . Bummer!


This is reposted from my previous Red Room blog to celebrate new first-time grannies, Annie, Trish and Shelby, who were all blessed with precious grandsons.

I’ve often been baffled by men and their cars. Don’t get me wrong. I adore any male who knows how to handle an ornery car. That takes talent and artistry and a confident craftsman to deal with automotive problems. I’ve seen calm, gentle men go into shock-mode when confronted with the family car—battered and scraped from the war-zone of a parking lot. Me? I just want my car to take me from Point A to Point B without any hassles. And yes, returned safely too, without any new scrapes from careless shopping carts.

I have seen baby boys grasp their teddy bears and their tiny cars. It’s hard to say if the tiny cars take precedence over “Teddy” but you can bet your accelerator that the cars play a large part in their genetics.

My stepson has always been attracted to cars. Ever since I knew him as a sixteen year old car junkie, he always had his head under the hood and his hands around the engine, dealing with some doohickey that didn’t sound right, while his girlfriend obligingly stepped on the gas pedal for him. When my grandson was barely old enough to cling to the coffee table, he had a tiny toy car in his hand, making that sound like an engine starting up as he circled around the table. I remember that because our table still has the grooves his tiny car made as he laughed and made car noises.

I am convinced that all boy babies have a genetic gene that is labeled “cars/trucks.” Little girls aren’t born with this gene even though they do learn about cars from their dads and/or brothers. But little boys are definitely born with the car/truck gene.

At Home Depot, I’ve seen those shopping carts with the toy cars attached to the front. While little girls sit like princesses, little boys, as young as 18-months, instinctively steer the wheel, push buttons and pull levers. See, it’s in their genetic make-up.

Two blocks from our condo, there’s a huge construction site on the corner. A little guy, not quite 2 years old, was totally mesmerized by the huge bull-dozer tearing up the corner lot and tossing huge shovelfuls of dirt into the back of a waiting dump-truck. He had such a gleeful expression on his face, simply seeing the action from across the street.  I’ve seen that same expression on a 4 year old who watched the fire-truck pull into the library parking lot. When the fireman noticed the little tyke’s fascination with the fire-truck, he asked the little guy if he would like to come and sit beside him. I have never seen a little face light up so joyfully.

Try this on any 3-months old baby boy. Hold a toy car in one hand and a soft stuffy in the other. Watch which one his eyes travel to first–90% of the time, he’ll reach for the toy car.  Congratulations!  You have probably activated  his car/truck gene and set the wheels in motion.  Darn it, how can you not love a dedicated male and his car?

A Lazy Saturday

I love slow, easy-going Saturdays. It’s a rare day when someone in the family isn’t needed somewhere or has a chore or errand that has to be done now. Today was one of those rare, relaxing Saturdays to be lazily savoured to the fullest. We began with our favourite breakfast omelette of sautéed onions, sliced celery, parsley, sliced mushrooms and baby shrimps, served with crisp, chunky panfried potatoes and slices of fresh mango. A large pot of coffee plus the bulky weekend newspapers completed the lazy Saturday breakfast ritual.

The morning sun streamed through the glass patio doors and with blue skies, soft breezes beckoning, we decided to go for an early morning walk before it got too warm. Strolling down our quiet neighbourhood street, we met several dog owners with their mini-poos, terriers and one Norwegian Elkhound. It was like meeting the parents of your children’s best friends because we recognized Minka, Sophie, Sally, Willie and Dolly before we saw the owners!

As we walked up the next hill, we passed a family of deer–a mother and her two fawns–in the front garden of a house on the other side of the road. The fawns were nibbling at the roses which they liked and spitting out the bits of geranium, which they didn’t like. Mother deer went on full alert as we passed, but sensing nothing dangerous, she went back to nibbling the wild parsley. Two gray squirrels scampered across the road and dashed up the gnarly trunk of a nearby oak tree. The tail end of a fat raccoon disappeared under the cedar hedges that lined the road. Fitz, the marmalade cat, passed us to slip through an opening between the chain-linked fence and corner of thick cedar shrubs that guarded his backyard. We saw a few Monarch butterflies that had been absent but were now returning to a few neighbourhood gardens. Briefly we caught the flash of blue from the noisy blue-jay, who was surveying his kingdom from the branches of the birch tree. Overhead, the raucous honks of the wild geese, practiced their formations before migrating south.

It’s amazing what we see–I mean, really see, when we’re not in a hurry to be somewhere else. I love these lazy, leisurely Saturdays. . . .

. The fawns were


Nature is having a tough time surviving in this 21st century. With new developments claiming virgin forests, untamed wilderness and spectacular scenery, the wild life are being pushed out of their natural habitats and forced to forage in urban and rural areas for their survival.

Victoria is synonymous with gardens. No matter where you are or where you look as you roam the city, gardens and flowers are everywhere. Now, there are signs  for something new. By the scenic road that winds past the prestigious Victoria Golf Club, there are signs that warn motorists to watch out for Mama Duck and her numerous babies. Mama tends to lead her ducklings across the road at the worst moments and always, there is the rebel duckling with his/her own sense of where it wants to go. Lately there have been new signs popping up around the city. These signs show the silhouette of a Mother Deer and/or Rabbit with their off-springs. It is a warning to motorists that these wild-life frequently cross the road. It made me stop and ponder how the deer, raccoon, rabbits, squirrels and occasional cougar can survive in urban settings.

I use to work in an acute-care hospital outside the city limits and built on a piece of cleared wilderness. It is a strategic location for highway or industrial accidents happening north of Victoria. It is also a great dumping place for pet rabbits no longer considered cute after Easter came and went. The few existing wild rabbits were no doubt rapturous at meeting such an abundance of eligible bunnies. The rabbits did what rabbits do when meeting their soul-mates. It didn’t take long to notice hundreds and hundreds of cute bunnies hopping, nibbling and doing what rabbits do, literally covering the massive grounds above and tunneling beneath. It is a marvel of bunny engineering the hospital foundation didn’t sink due to all the hundreds of interconnecting tunnels proliferating underground!

There were occasional cougar sightings. These wild cats ventured down the highway, crossing city limits in their search for food. It seemed ironic they had missed the best feeding grounds enroute to the city. It may seem cruel that these plump furry bunnies could have been some cougar’s dinner, but this is Nature’s way of culling the rabbit population. Humans spent months on agonizing debates and discussions to decide how best to cull the rabbits. Volunteers raised the necessary funds and labour to humanely capture thousands of rabbits that were supposedly shipped to a “rabbit refuge” somewhere in Texas. A few “escapees” found their way to the University of Victoria’s undeveloped and wooded areas where they happily settled to do what rabbits do best–creating the same problem in a different location.

When Hubby and I moved to our house, we were amazed to see our first deer stroll casually past our front yard. Initially, it was a novelty to be so close to something wild as it ventured into our neighbours’ yards to nibble at the roses, azaleas and daisies. I’m talking about an established and developed urban neighbourhood, well within the city limits. In the past few years, the deer problem became very real and very serious.

Like the rabbits, there have been numerous committees, discussions and debates on finding a humane solution to the deer problem. For every person against shooting or trapping the deer, there is someone vehemently for. At the moment, the deer have been left alone. This is not as humane as it seems for these beautiful animals are literally starving from human kindness. If they had been left to survive in the wilderness, it would be by survival of the fittest. Left to survive in urban surroundings, there is not enough food to sustain these animals and their constantly expanding families. The deer are becoming aggressive and extremely territorial if any humans cross their path. They are merely protecting whatever “turf” they have managed to keep in their daily fight for survival.

A decade ago, the city belonged to humans. It was rare  to see any wild animals strolling through the neighbourhood. Today, deer, rabbits, squirrels, raccoons and the occasional cougar are a common sight because people are driving them out of their natural habitat. It really makes you reconsider that dream-house with the spectacular view and the woodsy backyard. Which Nature’s  creatures was evicted from their wilderness home to give you yours?

Dark Chocolate Heaven

I love chocolate.  If it’s Belgian chocolate, 70-72% dark, that’s really great. But if it happens to cover small pieces of dried mangoes or tart cherries with roasted almonds, that’s the absolute best!  Costco is my favourite place for sourcing out any Belgian dark chocolate fruit or biscuit. Their supply seems to change all the time.

The big jars of 70%  Belgian  Dark Chocolate Clusters of Tart Cherries with Roasted Almonds, were available for at least three trips to Costco, before these jars disappeared forever. It was replaced with 70% Belgian Dark Chocolate Dipped Slices of Dried Mangoes and believe me, there was nothing “dried” about the mangoes. The entire chocolate treat was tasty and the fruit was moist enough not to taste like dried shoe leather. But then again, how can anything dipped in dark Belgian chocolate taste awful?

The mangoes simply disappeared one day to be replaced with 70% Belgian Dark Chocolate Almond Bark with almond slices sprinkled generously throughout the thin chocolate slabs. These almond treats were packed as thin pieces inside a sturdy paper bag. Needless to say, these replacement treats were too deadly to ignore. This involved several trips on the highway to replenish the dark Belgian chocolate supply of almond bark, but on that last trip, there was also a 70% Belgian  Dark Chocolate Pumpkin Seed Bark as well. It too was deliciously decadent.

I was at Costco yesterday and the almond bark, as well as the pumpkin seed bark, has disappeared to wherever the cherry almond clusters and the mango slices in dark chocolate retire to. In a prominent place on the aisle, there were bags and bags of—yep, you guessed it–70% Belgian Dark Chocolate Dipped Figs. Figs? Yes, figs. And let me tell you, I’m not especially fond of figs, but in my case, I think you can chocolate dip a lima bean and it would be great—as long as it’s dipped in Belgian 70% Dark Chocolate.  Um-mm, anyone heading to Costco. . . ?