Smell of a Memory

2016-07-29 13.55.18I was hanging up laundry early yesterday morning, when I caught a whiff of the past.

I don’t know where the smell came from, or whether it was even real, but there it was—the unmistakable smell of our house when we moved into it eleven years ago.

More than one previous owner ignored maintenance on the house. Today, I can’t believe we were so desperate to have bought it. The owners before us allowed the roof to leak, the toilet to leak, the piles and weatherboards to rot. They covered the smell of rotting carpets with air fresheners and sweet-smelling flowers.

The first thing we did, even before moving in, was to remove the carpets and air fresheners. Then I attacked the highly perfumed (and disgusting to my nose) flowering shrubs by the door.

We quickly improved the smell of the house (and fixed all those leaks and rotted bits), but it made a strong impression on me. On chilly winter mornings like the day we moved in, I can still smell those awful flowers.

Saturday Stories: The Catch

“He’s quite a catch, you know,” said Marlene.

“Yes, but…”

“He’s kind, considerate. I mean, look what he did for that little old lady the other day.”

“Yes, but…”

“He’s smart. He’s funny. You can’t underestimate that.”

“Yes, but…”

“He’s got a good job, great career prospects—you’d never want for money.”

“Yes, but…”

“He cooks, he cleans. For God’s sake, the man even does windows!”

“Yes, but…”

“And hot? Oh, baby! That guy is smoking!”

“Yes, but…”

“And your parents like him, I know that. They told me just yesterday.”

“Yes, but…”




“He’s gay.”


Mistake? Maybe not…

2016-07-29 13.43.40Remember last fall when I bought 200 daffodil bulbs and was thinking I’d made a huge mistake? Well, we got all those bulbs planted—they went in a lot faster than I expected them to, with all of us working together, and they didn’t fill nearly as much space as I thought they would.

And now, as we enter the final month of winter, we’re beginning to get a peek at what’s to come…

Daffodils coming up everywhere—even in places I don’t remember planting them.

Maybe buying all those bulbs wasn’t such a mistake after all…

Frosting Experiments

2016-07-27 18.47.26 smI should have known it would be disappointing.

Nothing can compare to a good cream cheese frosting.

That’s what these delicious pumpkin cupcakes needed, but I had no reason to leave the house yesterday, and couldn’t justify going out simply to get cream cheese.

Surely, I could use yogurt, right? I had yogurt in the house.

A quick search online uncovered a variety of yogurt frostings and glazes. Many were, frankly, disgusting-sounding attempts to make a fatty, sweet confection with no fat or sugar—soy yogurt sweetened with stevia was the worst. But my thought was to just mix yogurt and confectioner’s sugar to a spreadable consistency, with a little vanilla for flavour.

It certainly worked. Two cups of sugar, half a teaspoon of vanilla, and about 3 tablespoons of unsweetened yogurt made a reasonable frosting.

But it wasn’t cream cheese frosting—too sweet and not sour enough. Not enough fat, either. It was less like cream cheese frosting, and more like a sugar and lemon juice glaze. In fact, with more yogurt and less sugar, it would probably make an excellent thin glaze for sticky buns.

Next time I make pumpkin cupcakes, though, I’ll make sure I have cream cheese in the house first.

Noisy Neighbours

2016-07-27 14.13.35Most city dwellers don’t think of the country as a noisy place, but it can be. Yesterday I was working away at my desk when I heard a deep rumble. My first thought was earthquake, then I thought it must be a milk truck. But the rumble peaked then faded, peaked and faded. I looked out to see the neighbour’s sheep running laps back and forth along our fence line. Several hundred sheep thundering back and forth, for no apparent reason other than it was fun.

It’s a noisy time for sheep, even without running races. It’s lambing season in our neck of the woods, and lambs are noisy. The ewes get noisy, too, as they call back to their bleating lambs.

And there’s no point in telling these neighbours to quiet down—they never listen. 😉

Seeds! Seeds! Seeds!

2016-07-23 11.47.41It’s that time of year! The seed catalogue is here, and I’m dreaming of melons, tomatoes and corn.

The garden is all about possibilities at this time of year.

How about an orange sweet pepper?

My favourite squash isn’t available anymore? Well, maybe we’ll get Jade F1 instead?

And maybe an Australian Butter pumpkin, just for something different.

Endive. Definitely endive this year.

Orange cauliflower? Why not?

And I’m sure I can squeeze in this Greek mini basil along with the other three varieties. It’s mini, right?

So many plants, so little garden space…I’m sure that long about October, I’ll wonder what I was thinking back in July when I bought all these seeds. But I also know I’ll fit them in somehow.

July is the month for dreaming big.

Playgrounds of the past

2016-07-14 20.33.37cropsmThough we are back from our visit to the US, there are a few blog posts inspired by the visit still to come over the next few days…

The playgrounds I enjoyed as a child are long gone.

The monkey bars over asphalt have given way to simpler structures over more forgiving surfaces. The high speed pop-your-partner-into-the-air seesaws have been replaced by almost immobile rockers on springs.

Much of this is probably good—I knew more than one kid who broke an arm falling off the monkey bars, and I remember the pain of a finger pinched in the seesaw’s fulcrum.

How this merry-go-round has escaped the fate of other aging playground equipment, I don’t know (I shall keep its location secret, lest the safety police go looking to remove it). I remember playing on it as a kid, and my mother does too. By that measure, it must be at least 70 years old.

It still spins, though the ride is rough and squeaky (it was rough and squeaky 40 years ago, too, as I recall). The wooden benches have been replaced…more than once, I’m sure.

But even after 70 years, it’s still fun, as proven by my own kids.

There’s No Place Like Home

100_0785smThe best part of going away is coming back home.

The kids and I had a great time visiting friends and family in the US the past two weeks. We got a chance to do many things that aren’t possible here—picking wild blueberries; riding roller coasters; seeing deer, wolves and eagles; hearing whippoorwills pour their hearts out into the dark. We visited some of my favourite people in the whole world.

But as Dorothy so succinctly put it, there’s no place like home.

Returning home, the house feels small, the garden shabby. The car looks decrepit and filthy. Wind blows in through the windows and cracks in the floor.

But returning home, the wind also feels fresher. The fire is cosy. I know where everything belongs in the kitchen. The things around me are familiar and comforting.

At home I have responsibilities. Things to do. I am needed.

Though I didn’t feel uncomfortable away from home, now that I am back, I can feel the tension draining away. I feel like I am on vacation, moving through my daily chores with pleasure.

So, like Dorothy, I am glad to be home, regardless of how small and shabby that home might be.

There’s no place like home.

Saturday Stories: Glint

GlintCoverNEWI’m afraid I’m too tired and jet-lagged to muster a blog post today. So, here’s an excerpt from the beginning of A Glint of Exoskeleton for today’s Saturday Stories.

The Girl Who Talked to Insects


Crick peered into her dollhouse, though she didn’t much like dolls. She was looking for something.

“Oh, there you are!” she exclaimed in her sing-song, four-year-old voice. “You don’t have to hide. I won’t hurt you.”

The object of her attention crept cautiously out from under the loose carpet in what Crick called the yellow bedroom. Its antennae waved busily in Crick’s direction. Crick cocked her head to one side and furrowed her brow.

“Are you some sort of beetle?”

“Not a beetle. I’m a cockroach. An American cockroach.” The animal had a raspy voice like an old transistor radio with bad reception, but the scratchy sound was cheerful and friendly.

“Hi Mister Cockroach! My name’s Crick. That’s short for Cricket, and that’s short for Christina Marie Stolzfus, which is my real name. But you can call me Crick. What’s your name?”

“Pleased to meet you, Crick. I’m Periplaneta americana. I suppose you could call that a nickname, too.”

“What’s your real name?”

“It’s hard to say. Cockroach names are actually smells.”

“Smells?” Crick laughed. “That’s weird!”

“Not for us. We have very sensitive noses, and not so good ears. Smell is easier for us.”

“Oh! Well, I think I’ll call you Peri.”

Peri chuckled. “That would be fine.”

“Do you like my dollhouse?” Crick asked. “I saw you in it yesterday.”

“Yes, it’s quite nice, particularly this loose yellow carpet.”

Crick frowned. “I don’t really like it. I’d rather have a hamster, but mom says I’m not allowed. She says they stink and remind her of rats. Gramma gave it to me for my birthday. That’s when I turned four!” she continued proudly. “How old are you?”

“Well, I’m a lot older than four!” chuckled Peri. “I’ve been alive since 1943. That makes me…let’s see…fifty-three years old.”

“Whoa! That’s old,” replied Crick gravely. Then her brow furrowed. “I didn’t know insects lived that long.”

“Most of us don’t, but I’m…special.”


“I’m a leader for my species—something called an über. It’s a bit like a…like a president.”

“Are presidents really old, too?”

“Compared to most insects they are. But insect leaders don’t get old like other insects. We just keep on living.”

“You won’t ever die?”

“I can be killed—I’m not invincible. But I won’t die of old age.”

Just then, Crick’s bedroom door opened and her mother poked her head in.

“Who are you talking to, dear?” she asked. “Oh! You’re playing with your dollhouse! That’s nice.”

“Well, not really. I was talking to my new friend, Peri. He’s going to live forever,” she said brightly, “unless he’s killed. He lives in the dollhouse. He likes the yellow room ‘specially.”

“That’s nice,” responded her mother, a little uncertainly. “Which one of your dolls is Peri?”

“Oh, he’s not a doll. He’s a cockroach.”

Within minutes, Crick’s mother had hauled the dollhouse out onto the lawn and sprayed it with fly spray. Crick kicked up such as fuss about it, screaming and crying, that her mother had to lock her in her room until the deed was done. Crick was screaming and pounding on her door so loudly, it was several minutes before she heard Peri’s voice.

“Crick! Crick! Don’t worry. No harm done. I’m over here.”

“B…b…but you were in the dollhouse,” she sniffed, tears streaking her face.

“I scuttled out as soon as you mentioned I was a cockroach.”


“I’ve been around long enough to know that when most people hear the word cockroach, they don’t react well.”


The dollhouse was returned to Crick’s bedroom a few days later, but Peri didn’t return to the yellow room. Crick made a house for him from an empty cereal box and hid it under her bed. Peri declared it to be the nicest house a cockroach could want.