Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Pumpkin Carving Contest

My wife set the rules.

She chose the white pumpkin and the sharp knife.

I selected the orange one that was leftover and went to my tool shed.

She had art work to guide her.

I had an old screw driver.

["I came in second and am still in the doghouse": snaps GH]

My wife won the pumpkin carving contest and picked a large Crispy Crunch chocolate bar as her prize.

I was runner up, got a crumpled bag of chips (she sat on them; I think it was on purpose) but now live with the knowledge that I can do a lot more with a screw driver than loosen the screws on my wife's favourite chair.

Gotta run.


I could use a second Screw Driver right about now.


Happy Hallowe’en: Gimme some jube jubes!

(I especially like the red ones).

Hallowe’en Howl

It’s six-fifteen
and I hear a howl.

I walk to my door dressed as
an old man
wearing an old scowl.

“What!?” I ask,
more mock than shock.

“Trick or treat,”
a rapscallion screams
from behind
the cheapest mask
I’ve ever seen.

I tweak his nose.
“Betcha didn’t see that coming,”
I say, and the rapscallion

Then I drop a bag of chips
into his pillow case
and chase him
off my porch.

The boy behind the cheap mask
howls again,
putting my neighbours
on high alert.

They are ready,
and do the same as I,
as previously arranged.

It’s six-seventeen
and I hear a howl.



Nobody touch my jube jubes!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Live Small: THRIFT is dead, thanks to the usual suspects

According to ‘The Decline of Thrift in America’ by David Tucker, the Depression invited economists to recast thrift as “the contemptible vice which threw sand in the gears of our consumer society.”

THRIFT. Rest in peace, say some economists.

The book went on to reveal that a White House report in 1931 "urged parents to let children pick out their own clothes and furniture, thereby... teaching him that his personality can be expressed through things."

THRIFT. RIP, say some politicians.

Nancy Gibbs, in a two-year-old essay wrote, “Thrift is one virtue he (US President G.W. Bush) never invokes, and a restoration of restraint is a strain of conservatism he seldom promotes.”

“In fact, it was after the most tragic day in modern U.S. history, when Bush urged people who wanted to help to “go shopping,” that profligacy officially replaced prudence as a patriotic duty.” (Time Magazine, Oct. 2008)

Did not Prime Minister Harper give similar advice to Canadians at the height of the most recent recession?

According to an article entitled ‘Economic Crisis Slams Canada’, “As the financial decline broke over Canada that month (September 2008), Harper famously declared that it would be a good time to invest in the stock market. By November, Canada's largest stock index had declined 44%. In March 2009, it still stands 39% lower.” (by Roger Annis, March 29, 2009)

THRIFT. RIP, say US and Canadian leaders.

In the aforementioned essay by Nancy Gibbs I read that “Americans once saved about 15% of their income. By the roaring 1980s the rate was 4%; now the numbers are negative... the average American has nine credit cards with a total $17,000 balance.”

Whereas some early banks declared thriftiness a virtue, many today provide easy credit at the drop of a hat.

And consumers fall for it, abuse it, demand it, and blow it without looking back.

THRIFT. RIP, say some banks and reckless consumers.

In my opinion, the line up of ‘usual suspects’ must also include many large corporations.

More to follow.


Would you consider yourself a reckless spender or one of the usual suspects?

Do you know the cure?

Reduce spending. Pay down debt. Save money for tough times ahead.





The Workshop: “Once I nail it together...

I can’t take it apart.”

I said that to myself before doing something quirky to one of the birdhouses made from rustic cedar.

The tri-plex is standard issue. No quirkiness there.

The four-plex is also standard issue.

However, with the six-plex, my first ever, I decided to build three houses facing one way and three facing the other.


In case birds come from north and south or east and west at the same time? In case new tenants want a bit of space from each other, a bit of peace and quiet whilst coming and going with luggage?

["I'll attach trim and think about the 6-plex again": snaps GH]

I don’t know how the idea will work out but I do know other houses I’ve seen are built the same way.

I’ll think more about my decision after the trim is attached.


Please click here to see the birdhouses at an earlier stage.

I.e., before the quirky thought entered my little round head.


The Crossword: Ever heard of ‘Eb and Flo’?

From Thursday’s crossword in the London Free Press:

41 Down - Old comic strip “Eb and ____” (3 letters)

Call me a genius if you will, but I had the answer in under 3 seconds, thanks to the fact I already had 2 of 3 letters and the obvious answer was indeed correct, i.e., Flo.

The answer to 44 Down was Dharma, of ‘Dharma and Greg’, and of the two couples I was more curious about Eb and Flo because I had never heard of them.

After hours of research I discovered the following:

“British-born cartoonist Paul Sellers first appeared in US newspapers with the pantomime strip 'Lancelittle' for Hall Syndicate in 1964. After this short lived comic, he came up with the daily comic strip 'Eb and Flo', that appeared in US and foreign newspapers through United Features Syndicate between 1967 and 1987.” (See for yourself w more details)

The strip below is in a foreign language but I think I’ve got it figured out.

Eb: Hey, I’ve got a great idea. How about we go out for supper tonight? My treat, of course.

Flo: You’re bright idea comes 30 minutes late as usual. I’ve already got supper on, for Pete’s sake!

Eb: Why are you upset? Think about it. We just saved 30 bucks, didn’t we?


Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s it.

Please click here for more adventures with the crossword.


Mystery Solved: Under the spreading arms of a Tulip Tree

In an earlier post, entitled ‘Motorcycle Miles Pt 2: Under the spreading arms of a mystery tree’, I asked for a bit of help.

["One of my original images from Strathroy, Ont.": snaps GH]

I shared photos of a lovely tree and its unusual leaves and wondered if you could identify it for me.

(I thought it was some kind of maple; I was wrong and that really doesn’t happen very often. And if you believe that, then you’re a new reader, right?)

["Image from"]

Liz, a reader, asked, “Is it a tulip tree?”

After hours of research (and if you believe that... ) I do conclude it is a Tulip Tree aka Yellow Poplar.

Link to Old Dominion Wildlife, an informative site, and learn more about the tree from a naturalist’s point of view.

Thanks to Liz a mystery is solved.


Unfortunately, Liz, I ran out of prizes a few years ago.

But world-wide fame is almost assured.


Friday, October 29, 2010

Local Liberal MP speaks highly of a certain type of Conservatism

In a recent post on his blog entitled The Parallel Parliament, MP Glen Pearson puts the recent loss of the UN Security Council seat by our current Conservative government in some perspective.

For example, Mr. Pearson states:

“Despite what many think of Mulroney today, Canada rarely stood higher internationally than during his years as PM.  Some in the Conservative caucus today recall those times, quietly aching for their return, and frustrated that their leader has overseen the decline of the Canadian influence.”

I would encourage readers to take a look at the entire post (The Life of Brian).


Live Small: How did THRIFT disappear from many households?

Thrift at one time was the cornerstone of a household’s financial picture.

The word even appeared over the front door of a beautiful bank in Sidney, Ohio, built in the early 1900s.

However, according to a book entitled ‘The Decline of Thrift in America’, the Depression invited economists to recast thrift as “the contemptible vice which threw sand in the gears of our consumer society.” (Nancy Gibbs, Time, Oct. 2008)

Thrift. A contemptible vice? Good grief, Charlie Brown.

The book went on to reveal that a White House report in 1931 urged parents to let children pick out their own clothes and furniture, thereby creating in the child “a sense of personal as well as family pride in ownership, and eventually teaching him that his personality can be expressed through things.”

I say, that thought is downright scary! If our personality is expressed through things then I’m spending far too much time looking inside the fridge for lunch. (Cheese dog anyone? Anyone?)

Nancy Gibbs herself says, “Somewhere along the way, thrift did not just stop being a value; it became a folly.

“Saving was for suckers; you’d die leaving money on the table when you could have lived it up.”

“There are no pockets in a shroud, as the saying goes.”


Should we be filled with family pride when we look at a big house? When we look at a big mortgage?

Are we the type of creature that would be filled with even more pride if the house had another bedroom or bathroom we would barely ever use?

Should we swell with personal pride when we look at our new big screen TV? Or a bigger car that would get us to the mall 3 seconds faster?

Could the 1931 White House report possibly lead people down the wrong path?

I say, in 2010, after 70 - 80 years of heavy spending, saving for the future is not an idea for suckers.


Living it up may not be as healthy as living it down.

Anyone who leaves debt on the table for future generations to deal with should reconsider their spending habits.

Get Small before you Get Low.


The Workshop: Rustic tri-plex from rescued cedar

Two months ago a pal dropped off 1-inch thick cedar after taking an old deck apart.

["The free lumber stacked up nicely in my garden": snaps GH]

I inspected each board and...

...found no nails.

["I made at least a dozen Peterson-style houses"]

I also found only a small amount of rot. Wait for it... less than 5 per cent!

Later, I stacked the load of 40 - 50 boards on saw horses in the garden next to my tomatoes and gourds.

A little later still, I made several Peterson-style birdhouses and a table for the yard.

Yesterday I started assembling the first of 5 new, large birdhouses, i.e., tri-plexes, a four-plex and very rare six-plex.

["It needs trim - but that's part of the fun"]

More fun ahead in the workshop.


After cutting the lumber on Wednesday I enjoyed a beautiful sunset.


The Maple Leafs: That was then, this is now

It feels like years ago - but it was only last Wednesday - that the Leafs sat atop the Eastern standings in the NH of L.

[“That was then - on Wednesday”: snaps GH]

But now they’re mired in the middle of the pack of teams seemingly destined for the playoffs. (Sure, it’s early yet, but it’s fun to speak in rhetorical terms on occasion. On occasion).

And Boston, who was out of the playoff hunt last Wednesday, is now breathing down Leaf necks.

[“And this is now. Boston breathes heavy”]

Boston has one heck of a goalie in that Thomas kid, eh? But enough about that.

[“Close up action shots courtesy of the NH of L”]

NYR is in Toronto on Saturday night, they don’t have Boston’s goaltending, so...

So, the Leafs should get a win and get back to the top. Or else Sunday will be a long and dreary day.

Go Leafs.


Oh, those darn Maple Leafs,
always giving fans griefs.
And griefs has to be plural.
Fans are both urban and rural.


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

Though mighty oaks dominate the landscape around an old mill pond west of Delaware and yellow-gold lindens frame a streetscape on Duchess Avenue in Wortley Village, some of the most eye-catching leaves I’ve seen this fall, in my opinion, are in my neighbours’ yards and in my own side and back yards.

["Great view from a side window": snaps by GH]

I can look out a side window to see this fire engine red Japanese Maple on one neighbour’s yard.

These orange berries (on a Mountain Ash?) are just a few steps farther away.

One of the brightest (and initially the smallest) displays of red is visible over my side fence in another neighbour’s yard.

["Red on green, two weeks ago"]

["Red on orange, yesterday"]

One doesn’t have to travel far to see amazing sights, though I admit, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.


Please click here to view more scenes near an old mill pond.


Zoom w a View: Linden trees frame a streetscape

Where mighty oaks and maples once stood in my neighbourhood we now see linden trees.

Though I’m partial to oaks and maples (mighty hardwoods - like my head), I’ve read good and interesting things about lindens.

“Linden trees, sometimes called basswood or lime tree, are an excellent choice for the urban landscape. They are especially hardy, tolerant of alkaline soils, visited by few destructive insects and exhibit a natural, pyramidal shape that requires little pruning.”

“Lindens are slow growers and will take many years to provide shade."

The colours of the lindens on Duchess St. (once known Old Victoria St.) are indeed golden yellow and their leaves are lining our streets.

Not only are they aka basswood and lime tree, but bee tree as well.

“Imagine yourself sitting under a beautiful tall green tree. The soft summer breeze gently ripples through its shiny heart-shaped leaves. High overhead, you can hear honey bees lazily buzzing in and out of its perfumed flowers.”

["Yellow-gold lindens line Old Victoria St., now Duchess Ave.": snaps GH]

“This is the linden tree. Sometimes if grows 130 feet high, and produces some of the most powerful herbal medicine known to humans. You may even have one of these trees on your street because they are planted widely in cities, and are fairly common in the countryside throughout Ontario.”
(More details from here)

Whatever they’re called, I like them.


And now you all know a little bit more about the trees in my neighbourhood and what I do with some of my free time.

Isn’t life exciting?

Another Zoom w a View streetscape here.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Live Small: Does thrift draw you to the bank?

“Thrift comes too late when you find it at the bottom of your purse,” warned Nero’s adviser Seneca. (Oct. 13, Time Magazine)

Almost 100 years ago, Senaca’s words may have inspired Louis Sullivan’s work during the building of the People's Federal Savings and Loan Association bank in Sidney, Ohio.

It is an early-modern building, designed by the Chicago architect, the mentor of Frank Lloyd Wright.

"It was designed and built in 1917 for use by Peoples Federal Savings and Loan Association, which still operates out of it." (More details at Wikipedia)

Imagine walking into a bank built to inspire thrift. Wouldn’t your main impulse be to make a deposit into your savings account?

Not today, it appears.

Though Sullivan “carved the word THRIFT over the door of his jewel box bank nearly a century ago, for it was private virtue that made public prosperity possible” (N. Gibbs, Time), today we seem chiefly to enter banks to pay bills, withdraw money or take out loans.

THRIFT is no longer a big part of the equation here in Canada.

Gibbs continues:

“That virtue died with the baby boom, but it had been ailing ever since the Depression, argues cultural historian David Tucker in ‘The Decline of Thrift in America.’ That crisis, he writes, invited economists to recast thrifty as “the contemptible vice which threw sand in the gears of our consumer economy.”

In my opinion, we do not save at our peril.

This is a good time to reduce spending, pay down debt, save money for tough times ahead and not worry about a wee bit of sand.


In which direction is your savings account going?

Sure, Christmas is coming, but we can still put a bit aside for the future, can’t we?

Even if it means we spend less at Christmas? Sure!


The Maple Leafs: What a difference a day makes

It was a long, long weekend.

Toronto sank like a stone in the standings while 6 other teams - and nagging fans - wagged their fingers.

My team was only a centimeter away from the dreaded “you’re out of the playoffs, sucka” line.

["Standing tall! Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Toronto Maple Leafs": snap GH]

However - toooot - The Leafs beat FLA last night, 3 - 1, and again sit atop the Eastern Conference in the NHL.

I think they showed a bit more intensity.

Orr’s goal should have been disallowed, I give you that. But did you see Kessel, at the end of a long shift, deke around the FLA defense and bury a slick wrist shot for goal number 3?

A lovely sight it was.

Boston visits on Thursday. Toooot!


It ain’t easy being a Leafs fan.

Please click here for last week’s comment about The Leafs.


From the Workshop: The smell of cedar was in the air

I’ll soon be showing off my latest batch of birdhouses made from rescued lumber.

But first, something even more remarkable, in my opinion.

["The smell of cedar, the view of the evening sky": snaps by GH]

I stepped outside the workshop after sweeping cedar sawdust off the floor and was greeted by a magnificent sight.

I remembered I had a camera in the back pocket of my lederhosen.



Amazing. The fall air was so clean and crisp. The colours in the sky changed before my eyes.

Oh. Don’t believe me about the lederhosen?


Zoom w a View: American Express, toothbrush, lederhosen, camera...

That’s right, I never leave home without my camera.

["I almost had the street to myself": photos by GH]

You may be surprised about the lederhosen but there’s a group of us guys who like to... never mind. If you don’t square dance, you wouldn’t be interested.

While walking back home - slowly, enjoying the view - from a coffee shop in Wortley Village I noticed that the leaves were starting to fall. (Years ago, someone else noticed the same thing and changed the name of the current season from Autumn to Fall).

Except for the other guy (see first photo), I had the street of myself.

I pulled the camera from the back pocket of my lederhosen.


Surprised about the lederhosen?

I bought a used pair at Value Village because the back pocket was big enough for a camera, comb and travel mug.

Please click here to view Postcards From the Side of the Road.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Deforest City: Why are our squirrels so plump?

Our squirrels are plump for the same reason many Canadians across this wide, wide land of ours are plumper than a decade ago:

["Four round meals per day": photos GH]

We eat big meals. Sometimes three big square or four big round meals per day.

I saw this squirrel this morning on my way to The Red Roaster for coffee and toast.

["Hey, don't look at me while I'm eating!"]

It was still munching on pumpkin on my way back home an hour or so later.

Getting plump.


Tonight I ride 40 miles.

Vanity works for me.