All posts by sammee44

A Short Tale

The latest newsworthy bit on cute little Prince George of England was, how he favoured a pair of navy shorts with pockets during his family’s trip to Poland and Germany. Georgie wore his favourite shorts four of the seven touring days. Don’t you just love this trivia?  But I’m completely in full support of the tiny tot’s wardrobe choice. After all, even adults have their favourites and we’re not likely to leave it in the suitcase either.

I, too, have a favourite pair of shorts and yet to find a suitable replacement.  My shorts began summers as a hot, vivid pink, but numerous washes over the years, faded it to a less vibrant rosy pink. I love the way it drapes with its loose, casual style. It has a wide comfy, elasticized waistband and very deep pockets that holds my cell-phone, tiny flashlite, small change purse, energy bar and bag of trail-mix—and oh yes, my keys.  Watching me coming, a person cannot detect any bulges or bulk in any of my short’s deep side pockets. When I embark on my power walks, I also wear my outdoor, trekking vest with  a dozen pockets–one cavernous one holds my bottled water.

The reason I’m mentioning shorts at all is that I quite understand Georgie’s preference wearing that particular pair of navy shorts. I’m sure it’s the pockets as his little fist–at least the left one–is always tucked securely into his left pocket.

I’m the same way.  I have to have pockets and they have to be deep enough to carry all the stuff I need to have on me. And, that’s the big problem I’m having right now. Ladies shorts are trim and form-fitting with no pockets.  If the designer stooped to add a pocket, it would be more decorative rather than functional.  I want my new shorts to be the same material  as my old ones–wash, dry and wear immediately with no wrinkles or crinkles. Any shade of blue, purple or rose-pink would be nice. I don’t want proper walking shorts that end below the knees–my shorts end slightly above and loose-fitting.  I’m not asking for much–just a decent, comfy pair of shorts with deep pockets.  With all the summer sales going on, I have yet to find my perfect you-know-what. Until I get another pair like the one I’m wearing now, I’m not giving up—I’ll keep on searching.

And like the Royal tot, I’m going to keep wearing my fave too. . . . .

 

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My Driving Teacher

My Dad taught me how to drive.  That was many decades ago. He had taught my big brother first and a few years later, he taught my younger sister. I was the last to learn. After my first Sunday afternoon, in the empty Woodward’s parking lot, Dad silently drove us home and told my Mom, “The next kid will have to go to a real driving school.”  To which my mother replied, “We don’t have any more kids. You’ve got the last one.”  And, Dad gave a huge sigh of relief and muttered something in Cantonese.

I didn’t think I was that bad, but long after I got my driver’s license, I realized that a parent and his offspring didn’t make good teacher/pupil relations. I do remember several Sundays where I drove the perimeters of the empty mall lot, parked in the diagonal parking spaces and parallel-parked along the curbs. That’s when I figured out Dad’s foot-tapping. When I got too confident and drove faster, Dad’s foot would move as if he was pumping the brakes. If I parked too close to the curb and scraped the tires or if I backed in too sharply and hit the curb, Dad’s foot would start tapping rhythmically. Finally, one Sunday Dad decided I was road-worthy to share a real road and drive with other cars.

I took the exit out of the lot and very carefully moved into the right lane of the then 4-lane highway of Blanshard Street–2 lanes heading into town and two lanes heading out. At that time, Sundays in Victoria were very quiet with hardly any traffic. Checking all my mirrors including the over-the-shoulder checks, I signaled and inched over to the centre lane. Dad didn’t say anything but his left foot began tapping. Getting braver, I signaled, checked and finally moved into the left turn lane. Dad’s foot stopped tapping. The light changed in my favour and I turned onto Finlayson where I kept driving until I was directed to move into another left turn lane.

This left turn lane landed me on Shelbourne Street, where I cautiously moved into the only lane heading north. Dad had me driving several miles, encouraging me to bump my speed up from 20 mph. to 30 mph. It was exhilarating. Soon signs popped up to indicate a turn into Mt. Douglas Park, a popular local spot for hikes, picnics and communing with Nature. There was only one narrow winding road in and one narrow winding road out. Belatedly glancing at my left side-view mirror, I realized I was leading a parade of 30 cars, all inching along as I was because no one could pass me. Horrified I asked Dad what I should do as there was no place to safely pull over. Dad calmly advised, “Keep moving, don’t stop and don’t let them make you nervous.”  Suddenly, a flashing red light loomed in my rear-view mirror and a loud-speaker blared, “Will the young lady in the red Corvair please move along a little faster. The ice-cream is melting in several picnic coolers.”

Mortified, I stepped on the gas and drove a bit faster until I finally reached the parking lot, pulled perfectly into a space and turned the car off. Good thing I was short and didn’t have to duck out of sight. Dad told me, “Only the couple of cars behind us knew you were the “hold-up” into the park. The other 27 cars don’t know and are just relieved the line started to move quickly. You did okay. Drive at the speed that feels comfortable to you. Maybe next time, boot the speed up to 40 mph. When you start driving on your own. you’ll know to keep up with the traffic. Right now, this was your first time on the road and you did good. We’ll park here for a few minutes and then you can drive us home.”

Fast forward a few decades later and I’m sitting in the passenger seat of my neighbour’s Toyota Highlander. Her daughter Lisa needed an hour of road practice and I was elected to be her legal driver. Approaching her driveway, seventy minutes later, I marveled at my Dad, who was able to sit in the car with all three of his off-springs on numerous Sundays, teaching us the nuances and safety of the road. My one road experience with Lisa reminded me of Dad’s unspoken wisdom: “Be calm, be patient and don’t yell.”

And in case you’re wondering, my foot did begin to tap, just like Dad’s. . . . . . .

 

Trail Mixes

I have a new research project–a project similar to the ones I did on Ploughman Lunches around Victoria and Mini-Doughnuts at Farmers’ Markets . My new research involves “Trail Mixes”–you know, that ubiquitous mixture of peanuts, raisins and other cut-up bits of dried fruit. It can be called by various names, depending upon what it is composed of. I’ve seen mixtures called “Dragon Boat,” “Sweet and Savory,” “Black Forest,” “Hikers’ Delight,” and many other names, but always, with the peanuts and raisins as its starting point. It has also been called “Mountain Man’s Mix,” but I’m not sure real mountain men would ever consider munching on a handful of nuts and bits of dried fruit while hunting bears.

I’m not sure how I got immersed in this project as I’m not a dedicated hiker, kayaker or mountain climber, but I do enjoy munching my way through my trail mix while I do my urban power walks. However, in my search for the perfect mix, I have definitely developed some likes and dislikes in the mixture’s composition.  Peanuts are fine but not in great numbers as some  mixes are 3/4 peanuts and the rest bits of dried fruit. However, I have discovered that of all the nuts, peanuts stay the crunchiest when mixed with dried fruit.  Raisins are okay but only the big, plump dark ones and definitely not those small, hard, dried ones. Dark chocolate is a must-have but not those teeny-tiny mini-chips, but those large, dark buttons that are worth at least a bite and a half when they pop up in the mix. And, especially none of those dinky pieces of white chocolate since we all know white chocolate is not real chocolate. Chunks of dried fruit such as dates, mangoes, apricots and cherries are excellent–large enough to know what kind of fruit you are eating but not so miniscule that it leaves you wondering what kind of crumb you just sent down your gullet. Bite-size pieces of coconut, not the flakes, plus a handful of roasted pumpkin seeds tossed throughout. That’s my ideal trail mix.

There are mixes that have some, but not the others. So far, I have yet to find a mix that has all these ingredients. The other day I decided to scoop up one of the  mixes that looked promising. The cut-up dried apricots and big plump raisins were mingled with roasted almonds and a few peanuts. I then scooped up small separate bags of roasted pecans, dried cherries and chopped dates to later add to my original trail mix. The barrel of Callebaut dark chocolate pieces had just been refilled so a small scoop of the chunky chocolate was also added to my grocery cart.

I had taken my neighbor’s little 4 year old with me and when I told her about my “project”, her big brown eyes got bigger as she decided to make her own trail mix too. Twenty-seven dollars later, Trisha and I were walking along the beach–each of us clutching our bags of original trail mix. Mine had most of the nuts, fruit and chocolate I had been searching for. But my “apprentice” decided to strike out on her own and made her unique mix of chocolate-dipped raisins, mini-marshmallows, gummi-bears and M&M’s.

In my defence, I can only say we did have a healthy lunch and Trish’s “trail mix” did have fruit–chocolate covered or not, raisins count as fruit.

Trivia and Gems of Wisdom

Besides writing stuff, I’m a reader—actually a voracious reader. I enjoy most genres in books since good writers can make the driest subjects appealing and fascinating. The reason I’m talking about my passion for the written pages–which means a real book with a cover and pages you actually turn–is because I am not fond of devices that gives you digital pages. With digital pages, not everything is converted from the original source.

I enjoy the bits of trivia and wisdom unexpectedly sprinkled in the pages of books, magazines and daily newspapers. In magazines and newspapers, I suspect these are “fillers” that are sometimes gems to be unearthed, treasures to be noticed. I have collected a few of these gems that I particularly admire and often leave the readers with a smile.

As a chocolate lover, this is one of my favourites: “Chocolate comes from cacao which comes from a tree. That makes chocolate a plant. Therefore, chocolate counts as a salad.” Great logic when it comes to chocolate! And who said it had to be accurate ?

I’ve always wanted to use this old Russian proverb in one of my stories: “Better to be slapped with the Truth than kissed with a Lie.”  So true.

I have this quotation from Louis L’Amour–a legendary writer of tales from the Old West—prominently displayed in my den. “Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”  Yep–keep writing, no matter what; eventually something will pop out and stick–those are the “keeper” bits.

Apparently the late Andy Rooney of “60 Minutes” fame was quoted as saying, “I’ve learned that opportunities are never lost. Someone will take the ones you miss.”  But, I often wondered, what if no one took the ones you missed? Does that mean it will come back to you?

Winston Churchill’s encouraging words often demonstrated his philosophy and positive hopes for the future, a future that seemed to cast a dim light of hope.  “Success is not final; failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.”  Another bit of Churchill wisdom:  “A Pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity. An Optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

Mark Twain has been credited with saying, “A Lie can travel halfway around the world while the Truth is putting on its shoes”  So true, especially if one lives in a small community or neighbourhood, where everyone is your neighbour!

And Lily Tomlin, comedian, has been quoted saying, “The road to success is always under construction.” Hmm-mm–all writers can testify to that!

Winnie-the-Pooh’s creator, A. A. Milne said: “You’re braver than you believe; stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.” I bet Winne-the-Pooh Bear told this to Eeyore, the Donkey. . . . .

A very wise, but unknown author stated: “Knowledge is free, but you have to bring your own container.”

I’ve always enjoyed the late Ann Landers, the advice columnist. This is one of her quotes: “The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.”

And the one I truly treasure, credited to a wise lady named Susan Gale. “The only things you can take with you when you leave this world are the things you’ve packed inside your heart.”

Hope this makes everyone run out to find that magazine and to check the daily newspapers for these nifty bits of wisdom and quotes wherever fillable space is needed. Plus, don’t forget to check your books because there are writers who will slip in a quote or bit of trivia to tickle your brain cells and to make sure you are paying attention to their printed words. . . . . .

 

Is This Love?

“I love. . .” are rather meaningless words when applied to a favourite book, piece of music, a place, designer clothes and/or desired object.

I confess that I do use the “love” word a lot. When it’s applied to a person, that person means a great deal to me. If I applied love to a triple layer, dark chocolate cake with dark chocolate mousse filling, it means I really, really enjoyed every bite of this decadent dessert, down to its final dark chocolate crumb.

I think “love” is a greatly over-used word that we tend to apply because it conjures up a warm, fuzzy feeling of being treasured, valued, adored. But, dark chocolate is an enjoyment, Las Vegas is fun and Gucci is a pleasure, even though we tend to use love in describing them.

It seems a good deal of time, the “love” word can easily be exchanged for “enjoy” and “like,” unless it refers to someone close to you or feels important to you.

Love loses its value when used to describe the red Ferrari, the beautiful sunrise/sunset, the spectacular fireworks or the memorable barbecue.

We all know the things we treasure and enjoy, but let’s save the “love word” for the person or persons who deserve to hear it.

A Canadian Day

Today, July 1st, is Canada’s 150th birthday. When you think about it, it’s not a very long history–not like our neighbors to the south, the United States of America or Britain, Italy, France and other European countries. Every country has had a turbulent history and each leader has taken the path he thinks may be a better one. Canada has a young leader, who faces the many challenges of the 21st century, both external as well as  internal. He is making his place in the history books, hopefully a good place of his own, in his own footsteps.

A country is made up of multitudes of people; people of all races, cultures, beliefs. They are the strength of a country. The First Nations people had settled here first and would be the earliest Canadians. Most of us have come from elsewhere, if not directly, our parents and/or grandparents did. It took courage and fortitude to come with nothing and to make a new life facing massive discrimination and hardships; to start new generations, each better than the one before. As a 3rd generation Chinese-Canadian with a 4th generation stepson and 5th generation grandchildren, the road has been much easier than for my grandparents and parents. Our children and grandchildren will forge ahead, facing their own challenges and smoothing the path for succeeding generations.

As a Canadian, we are proud of what we are, what we stand for, what we believe and fight for. We are real people–professionals and non-professionals–just regular folks found everywhere that makes up this enormous country. We have a social conscience, moral obligations and we are the foundation that  forms this young nation of ours. We enjoy our freedom of speech and value our right to vote how we choose. We are becoming more tolerant, patient and forgiving, but we are still learning and growing.

No family is perfect and nations are the same. Despite the flaws, I am proud to be a Canadian because the good things  far outweighs anything  bad. Hopefully we are learning from our past and changing in a positive way for the future. It is a slow process. Today is a day to celebrate our progress.

Happy 150th Birthday, Canada!

 

‘Shrooms, Dandelions and. . . .

When Hubby and I lived in our little house, there were two things I vowed to eradicate each year—mushrooms and dandelions. Seemed easy at the time; just pull out the darn mushrooms and yank out the darn dandelions.  But, have you noticed? Life is never easy and simple solutions are a definite challenge. After every heavy rainfall, the mushrooms had bigger colonies. It was now an invasion as the mushrooms had proliferated. They covered one-quarter of what was once an immaculate, healthy,  lush, green lawn. It looked like an alien invasion of sprawling domed “rooftops”–some were little creamy buttons, some were an orangey hue with a  black rim and two or three were frilly and enormous.  All were doomed. After all, I was the person with the big trowel.  When I was done, the lawn looked cleared but now had multiple craters, dotting its immaculate green. Ever the optimist, I had faith the lawn would be pristine once again, but. . . . .

Dandelions are amazing. I’m convinced they were part of prehistoric times when the cave women fed brontosaurus steaks and “greens” to her family. Even as centuries passed, dandelions survived.  AND, using every gadget known and unknown to Man for dandelion removal, the pesky weed kept coming back. After a month or two of vigorously digging up the roots of the yellow invader, more popped up elsewhere on the lawn. Our little house sat at the beginning of our street and was in the best location to attract all the seeds released by the dandelions’ fluffy heads. In the end, my only comment is that dandelions are indestructible. Like the mushrooms, they are a tenacious invader. I think this is my punishment now, because as a child, I loved blowing the puffy, feathery heads that distributed the dandelions’ seeds everywhere. Our house was a magnet that attracted the seeds, from all directions, to find its home on our lawn.

Aside from mushrooms and dandelions that plague our West Coast lawns, it’s astonishing the expense that homeowners pay to grow an immaculate, show-stopper, green and lush lawn. Once it’s achieved, it has to be cut and/or trimmed, fed a nutritious diet, watered regularly and then cut and/or trimmed again.

If we ever move to another little house, I’m going to make sure we have those decorative  paving stones in lieu of a lawn and the “garden” will be enormous planters that will contain picturesque blooms. No more worries over ‘shrooms and dandelions!