Friday, 20 October 2017

A Pinch Of This, A Sprinkle Of That . . . Bork! Bork! Bork!

It's a mixed bag of stories today, because I've been reading so many good articles on different topics that I can't pick just one to talk about. I'm still in crafting mode, in addition to work deadline mode, in addition to family birthday mode, so I'll keep my comments to a minimum and provide links to the original articles that caught my eye.

Rent control gone awry:
Many countries have a bleak history where their indigenous people are concerned, and Canada is no exception. As our country marks its 150th birthday this year, not all our citizens are in a celebratory mood, and no wonder. The original inhabitants of this country got a raw deal long ago, and things haven't improved a whole lot. The latest item in the news: First Nations seek to raise Canada's rent after 150 years of $4 payments

Another blot on the Maple Leaf . . . literally:
If you read Steve's blog "Shadow & Light", you will have already seen the pictures he took of maple tar spot disease on maple leaves in England. We have the same fungal infection here in Canada, not on our native maple species (sugar maple) but on the Norway maple, which is an import from Europe and Asia. Here's the link to Steve's post with the pictures, because his photos are excellent and mine are not: West Wickham to Hamsey Green (scroll to the final photo). Thanks for that, Steve :)

On to some lighter fare . . . or maybe not:
If you've ever considered seriously decluttering your belongings, you may have turned to books or blogs to get tips and encouragement. Books by authors as diverse as Peter Walsh and Marie Kondo have been available over the years, and there are many blogs on the internet to help people pare down their belongings. Now there is "dostadning" or "Swedish Death Cleaning" which is defined as ". . .  slowly and steadily decluttering as the years go by, ideally beginning in your fifties (or at any point in life) and going until the day you kick the bucket . . ." , the purpose being ". . . to minimize the amount of stuff, especially meaningless clutter, that you leave behind for others to deal with . . ." This is the real reason behind my decluttering these days. My husband and I are both "savers" and although we've donated and shredded and discarded many things, there are miles and miles to go before we sleep . . . so to speak . . . and I don't want our grown up kids to have to do any more work than necessary when the time comes.

Okay, some truly lighter fare, also from Sweden . . . sort of:
How many of you remember the Muppets? The Muppet Show was big here in the 1980's, and my favourite character, hands down, was the Swedish Chef. With his unintelligible commentary, his signature "Bork! Bork! Bork" windup to his intro song, his carefree tossing of kitchen implements (and other things) over his shoulder, and his trusty blunderbuss, he stole my heart.  Just the other day I found some compilations of Swedish Chef segments from the shows, and fell in love all over again. Check out one example here: Swedish Chef Compilation Part 1

That's it from my house to yours. Have a good weekend, friends!

Fear not: Procrastinating Donkey keeps one ear to the ground for all the latest news :)

 

 

Monday, 16 October 2017

Poetry Monday: Why Wasn't I This Clever When I Went To School?

It's Poetry Monday, as I'm pretty sure you all know by now. Started by Diane (here), picked up by Delores (here) and me, with regular contributions here from Joan (of Devon). Anyone can join in! Write a poem, read a poem, borrow a poem--it's all good. If you post on your blog, please leave us your address in the comments so we can follow you home and admire your work.

No more preamble today; the whole back story is contained in the poem itself.

*****

History in General, and Mine in Particular

It was late in the sixties and bell-bottoms ruled
When I entered into junior high school.
Six years later they let me go free,
Clutching my high school diploma--Whee!!

School didn't bother me like it did some;
It was something to do, sometimes even fun.
I loved English class, and French, and Home Ec.
Math I loved less, and Science less yet.

But at the absolute bottom of the heap
Came History, a subject so wide and so deep,
I felt close to drowning from all of those facts:
Names/places/wars/kings/campaigns/dates/and/acts.

So when graduation meant I was free,
I thought, Never again will I take History!
On to an Institution Of Higher Learning I went
And tuition never NEVER on History was spent.

My learning was leaning to far different things,
For that is the freedom university brings.
A business degree doesn't bother with much
Except business-y things like accounting and such.

Working and marriage and babies came next;
The long years of busy-ness replaced "business".
And a funny thing happened as the years went by:
I started to ask--Who, What, When, Where, Why?

Why are they fighting? And Where did it start?
When did their countries all fall apart?
What will it take to make enemies friends?
And Who are the leaders to best make amends?

Who are the players, and What makes them tick?
When did the critical junctures get missed?
Where will the answers be found for release? 
And Why, people, Why can we not live in peace?

I think that you know how this story proceeds--
History is more than reciting old deeds.
To understand Now, we must study the Past;
Only then might the Future be better at last.

I try every day to make up for lost time,
To do my small part to find reason and rhyme.
The volume of knowledge will always dwarf me,
But I'm finally keen to embrace History.

*****

I know that finding world peace is only one reason to study history. What do you first think of when you contemplate the word "history"? One of the things I like best about Poetry Monday is seeing how differently people think about the same topic! Let me know what you're thinking.


Sunrise courtesy of Pixabay





Friday, 13 October 2017

I Hear The Train A-Comin' . . .

Just two items today, since I'm pushing up against the craft sale deadline here, one of the items making up the choo-choo of frantic activity in which I am engaged each year from September to December.

***

First, a blogging problem.

I am a procrastinator, although I try to counteract that by using schedules and deadlines. Knowing this, I decided when I started this blog to have a set posting schedule here, too. Mondays and Fridays are my days to post. I'm pleased to say I've never missed one.

But last Monday's post, although written and published, didn't reach some of you who have kindly signed on to receive my drivel automatically. I noticed on a number of blogs--those with a sidebar showing the most recent post--that it had not appeared. On further checking with a friend, this sad fact was confirmed.

I'm not sure what the problem was; it might have been that I edited a couple of errors in the post immediately after it published. I don't know how these things work. Does it take some time for the post to make its way around the world? Are the internet's series of tubes clogged?

If my editing wasn't the issue, I fear there may be a problem with my Blogger account.

Has this ever happened to you?

Anyway, if it's Monday or Friday and you haven't received my post, there's a jagged fracture (or a huge clog, same result) in the internet, or in the blogging world, or at least in my Blogger account. You can always check my blog directly to find the post instead:
https://procrastinatingdonkey.blogspot.ca/

***

And I want to recommend a book I just finished. It's not a recent one, and it was much acclaimed when it was published (and also won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography/Autobiography), so perhaps you've heard of it: The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion. It tells the story of the first year after the sudden death of Didion's husband. For more, you can go HERE.

I knew this would happen. As soon as I want to talk about a book I've read, I run out of words. Seriously, my word bank just dries up. This is why I don't write reviews. But the link above will cover the material in the book nicely. And I really only wanted to add that I found it very moving, I found it very familiar (grief is grief, no matter what relationship is under discussion), and I felt relieved--as I tend to do--to find out I was not alone in my reactions to grief.

***

And why was I reading when I have a craft sale deadline? Because procrastination, that's why.



That's it, plus a picture:

This dear little deer was caught on camera looking in our basement window last week. It was one of two fawns who, with their mother, were having a snack in our back yard in broad daylight.


Happy weekend, all!

 



Monday, 9 October 2017

Thankfulness

It's Poetry Monday but I am giving it a pass today in order to post something that has been on my mind lately. Anyone who would like to leave a poem in the comments is still welcome to do so. The theme this week is Harvest, and you can use it or not, as you like.

Today is Thanksgiving Day in Canada. I have a lot to be thankful for: living in a democratic, peaceful country, in a region where the weather is varied and interesting but not deadly, with access to good health care paid by our tax system, and caring, kind family members close by. I have plenty of healthy food, clean air, decent shelter and, as you might recall, far more than enough clothing (although I will remind you it was purchased at dirt-cheap prices).

About twenty years ago, a friend lent me a copy of Amy Dacyczyn's book, The Tightwad Gazette. It was based on the newsletters of the same name that, at their height of popularity in the 1990s, had over 100,000 subscribers. Her tips for living frugally were meant to help people pay less but be able to live happily and healthily. There is a short YouTube video from 2009 HERE. It explains a little more about her philosophy if you're interested.

As much as I enjoyed Amy's frugality ideas, recipes, sewing tips, and overall approach to life, there was one essay in her book that really stood out for me, so much so that I typed it out to keep, and I have thought of it in many situations and at many times in my life in the ensuing two decades. It is called "A Stolen Thanksgiving Soap Box Speech", and was paraphrased from a lay sermon preached by her neighbor, Charlie Woodward, who worked with low-income families and the homeless.

In Amy's words:

I had heard bits and pieces of this sermon before. I have picked his brain on a number of occasions to understand why poor people are poor. Invariably the conversations have concluded as Charlie patiently reminded me that we have not all been born with the same gifts.

A gift is anything that we have that we did not work for. People born to wealth have more advantages than those born in poverty. People with a high intelligence will probably fare better than those born with low intelligence . . .

. . . Being born in [a First World country] is a gift. While not all of us are rich, we are likely to have greater opportunities for education, health care, and employment than those living in Third World countries.

Health is a gift, at least the health with which we were born. Most of us are botching it to some degree or another. But our genetic package plays a large role in why some can abuse their health and never get sick while others work at being healthy and still get sick.

Those of us who were raised in good families have a gift. Not everyone was raised with love, security, positive feedback, and values. Charlie believes that the "work ethic" is also a gift. Some parents taught it to their kids and some parents did not.

Many examples come to mind of individuals who have overcome a lack of gifts. These people always have a variety of other gifts.

The bottom line is to understand that what we have and who we are has a lot to do with factors we received in a package deal when we came into the world.

She goes on to explain that most people use their gifts well enough to have either a surplus of either time or money, and that by donating some of our surplus time, money, or energy we express thankfulness for the abundance of gifts with which we were born.

*****

Over the years I have tried to do what I can to help others. Money has not always been in surplus here but there are other ways to give back. When our children were young, I did quite a lot of door to door canvassing for various charities, and for eight years I was a local officer of a national organization to promote education .

During this time our daughter became very ill and volunteering went by the wayside for a few years. Her health had just begun to improve when my father had his stroke, and for the next eight years I was busy with responsibilities related to his care. It took me two years after his death to feel like I had the energy to do anything other than look after myself (except for "mom" emergencies, fuelled by adrenaline rather than a surplus of energy).

And that brings us to the present.

I'm thinking it's time I started doing something to give back again. I don't know what that something is, but my eyes and ears and heart are open.

*****

Have you been lucky in the lottery of life? Have you had bad luck but choose to do what you can with what you have? If you are giving back to the world, would you consider sharing with me what you do? I am looking for ideas, the more the better. (Note: I know some of what a few of you do--I have been paying attention, but maybe tell me again for the benefit of others who may not know.)


 

Friday, 6 October 2017

Like Watching Paint Dry

I mentioned on Monday (HERE) that I'm busy sewing for a craft sale.

One of the most important items I use when sewing is the lowly straight pin. Plus all its brothers and sisters, because one pin isn't a whole lot of good all by itself.

I'm going to assume that everyone knows what a straight pin looks like, but if anyone doesn't, scroll down and you'll see several pictures to illustrate.

I'm not sure how many pins other people go through in their lifetime, but I still have all the pins I ever bought. I started sewing on my mother's treadle machine, and back then I was still using her pins. That was over fifty years ago. I was about eight. My mother sewed her clothes and my clothes, and I sewed doll clothes.

This is what a treadle sewing machine looks like, by the way:


Uses foot power, not electricity. This looks a lot like my mother's machine.


But then I eventually went to high school and we needed our own supplies for sewing class in Home Economics. This is my first container of pins--yes, I still have it. And they are far superior in quality to the bendy ones you have to buy these days. More on that later.


Purchased in 1969. Nice and sturdy, and they don't reach out and poke you when you least expect it.

 And here's the pin cushion I made (hastily) from scraps a couple of years later--yes, I still have it.

Circa 1971. The light areas on top are where the nap has worn off the corduroy material. Just look at those loose stitches . . . I sewed it by hand and the stuffing put a strain on my lousy seam! I was fourteen years old. I have forgiven myself.

Somewhere along the line, I misplaced my little blue container of pins, and when I took up sewing again, I needed more. Here they are:

These pins are extremely sharp and much thinner and weaker than my originals. I don't like to use them because I hurt myself on them ALL THE TIME. And you can't sew over them with a sewing machine the way you can with thicker ones. The world is going to heck in a handbasket, if you ask me. Even if you don't ask me, it is.

And I was given a new pincushion by . . . somebody in my family (what? can you remember who gave you every single gift you've ever gotten?) at Christmas one year. Or my birthday. I can't remember that either.

This is the classic "tomato and strawberry" pincushion sold everywhere. The big part is the tomato and the little part is the strawberry and you can sharpen your pins and needles by running them repeatedly into the strawberry because it's filled with emery. (I had to look that up on the internet because I actually never knew what was in them before.) My husband says it makes no sense to have a tomato and a strawberry together, and he's right, but someone thought it was a good idea at some distant point in sewing history and apparently no one has put up much of a fuss because this is the way they're still made.

The tomato is upside down in the picture. On the bottom (not shown) is a piece of star-shaped green material to represent the leafy stem end of the tomato. But the pins won't go through that fabric, so it works better upside down. Another design flaw that has never been corrected! Some day I must register a complaint with someone, somewhere.

I've just remembered that I DID buy another box of pins between the two shown here, but I have no idea where it is. I'm lucky to have rounded up these ones for the pictures. You'll have to use your imagination to picture a small hinged plastic box with a black bottom and a clear top. The pins in it are also good quality. I'm set for life as far as sturdy pins go.

But the real whole point of this post is something I bought last week for fifty cents in our local thrift shop. I adore it. And I don't use the word "adore" lightly.

Here is my new pin dish:

I've been looking for a pin dish for months now. This one makes my heart go pitter-pat. I know, I know, I'm not right in the head.

And here it is being useful:

Sitting on the draft blocker that I sewed inside out by mistake. I don't even care! My pin dish makes everything better.


And now you know the reason for the title of this post :)

What's new and exciting (or old and comfortable) in your world? Do tell!

And please have yourself a good weekend :)