Sunday, July 29, 2012

If You Can Imagine It....

William Arthur Ward wrote a quote that began something like this, “If you can imagine it, you can create it.”

I am beginning to imagine something. It is not yet a fully formulated idea in my head but it potentially has at least these things as part of it.


Once my idea is consolidated, I shall report back. What can you imagine?

Friday, July 27, 2012

Bugged by an Earworm

For the past few days, I've had an earworm. It happens to me from time to time. Unfortunately, this one has lasted longer than usual.

I remember other earworms that stuck with me for extended times. Sometimes, my children helped with the process. For example, in the 1980's my son, a die hard ninja turtle fan walked around the house, singing, "Teenage mutant, ninja turtles. Na,na,na,na,na,na,na,na. Teenage mutant, ninja turtles....." and so on. Of course, he only remembered the tune and the relevant four words.

I also have a vivid image of my daughter standing on the picnic table, using the end of a skipping rope as a microphone, "Billy Jean, nya,nya, nya...Billy Jean...nya,nya,nya." Those tunes definitely caused me to have some earworm activity.

I've had a few jingles, commercials and theme songs stick as well. After all, what Toronto and area resident hasn't been assaulted by the cashman, Russell Oliver only to hear his voice grating in their head at some later time. "Oh yeahhhhhhh."

Interestingly, sometimes, when I'm thinking, or trying to solve a problem, I'll find myself humming the "Jeopardy" theme song. All well and good, for a brief time.

The term earworm, or stuck song syndrome, was originally identified in Germany as "Ohrwurm". It's described as an upbeat melody with repetitive lyrics that can be either catchy or annoying. That certainly would explain German polka music. Which do you think it is? Roll out the barrel!

My favourite description of earworm comes from the Urban Dictionary which suggests that "it feels like a worm has crawled into your ear and eaten the intelligent parts of your brain so that you hum the song all day long, no matter how much you hate it."

Then there's the also good tvtropes definition," those songs that weasel their way into your head like uninvited guests and then proceed to stink up the inside of your cranium by playing themselves there over. And over. And over."

Yesterday, I was out for lunch with my son. I told him about my earworm. I related that I lie in bed at night with this current repetitive and reverberating sound in my ear. It plays over and over and over, but not for long. Despite hearing Katie Perry's annoying echoing lyrics, "I'm Wide Awake", I have no need to count sheep. I easily fall asleep.

"Oh yeah?" my son responded. "I have a worse one...Carly Rae Jepson's, 'Call Me Maybe'."

Since yesterday, I have really, really been wishing he hadn't said that.

La, la, la, la, la, la, la (instrumental noises).... Hey, I just met you,And this is crazy,But here's my number,So call me, maybe? CRJ

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Cake Decorating 201...The End

As I said in my blog of July 18th, the final week of cake decorating, part two, required bringing an iced cake and learning the basket weave technique. We were also asked to bring our assorted flowers for atop the cake. I don't like flowers on cakes. I believe I mentioned that. I made some fondant and gum paste leaves and flowers and dried them for my design. These were easy to create using a press, and looked a little more fun than the usual cake topper roses.

Upon "googling" basket weave cakes, I found numerous examples of peoples' final cakes. Most were well done. All were topped with a random floral collection. Some decorators should have heeded the expression "less is more."

There had to be a way of making this cake look more interesting. I finally had an idea.

I baked the cake parts, a challenge in itself. Then I made the buttercream icing and tinted it a pale yellow.

I assembled a structure.

The buttercream wasn't co-operating, but I was able to smooth it eventually.
Can you guess yet? I told a baffled instructor that I was making an alien space ship.

Here's how my basket weave looked. It was a bit more challenging than I thought.

And, as everyone in class finished their lovely round white basket weave cakes with roses, lilies, daffodils, blossoms and buds all over the tops, we received our certificates.


I packed up my certificate and gently placed my masterpiece in the cake box, I headed for home. Part 2, Wilton cake decorating course, done!

A better view of flowers. I have since added white polka dots to the blue hat ribbon.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Durham Quarter Marathon

Yesterday, I went to watch the Durham Quarter Marathon. I have been attending this race off and on for a number of years, and have often thought about giving it a try myself. As I said, I've "thought" about it. It would require some hard work and training first. If I procrastinate long enough, I just might win an award for being the oldest runner out there. Sometimes I use the weather as an excuse not to register. What if it's stormy, rainy or windy on that day?  It never is.

I haven't just attended as a random observer all these years. I have gone as a mom. And for the first time this year, not just one, but both of my adult children participated. The purpose of the run was to raise funds for charity. The recipient will be the "Refuge" for homeless youth in the admirable cause, a fun day of building community spirit, and good exercise.

I arrived at the start line twenty minutes before the run. Despite the crowds, my two youngins were conspicuous and I found them quickly. My daughter, the seasoned athlete was dressed in her promotional Lululemon garb. My son, the joker, shared that when he updated his facebook status saying that he would be running in the DQM, his friends all wrote "LOL" in disbelief.

Race time 8:30 a.m. approached. Last minute preparations included flexing, stretching and movement.

The runners were ready and eager to begin.

And they're off! Bare feet? Really?

I returned to my car quickly, drove to the finish line and parked, eager to get a prime picture taking position. The sun was shining brightly, the sky was blue and the lake was rippling in the background as I took my place at the rail. Imagine my surprise when the first runners, *professional athletes, arrived not a minute later.

Last years' champion arrived in third place and in fourth place, hurrayyyyyyyyy, was a female competitor. The announcer said, "Now we'll have to wait at least another ten minutes before everyone else starts to show up."

He was correct. Slowly, others began to trickle across the finish line. Some were in pairs, some in clumps and some made a last minute surge to the end. I waited, looking for signs of someone familiar. Then, as I stared into the morning sun, I glimpsed a splash of pink.

My first born had arrived...excellent time. As she came closer, I eyed my second born, first time participant, not far behind. They had both completed the distance one minute apart from each other.

Then they caught their breaths, took advantage of some free food and drinks and socialized with friends.

A short time later, I asked my son, "Would you do this again?"

"Sure", he responded "but next time I plan to beat my sister".

Perhaps, next year will be the year that I join them. I wonder what the weather will be like.

*Professional runners often have well defined muscles and flourescent shoes.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

No Surprise There

Two  years ago, while heading across the U.S. border close to the Easter season, hubby and I encountered a guard who asked all the usual questions. "Where do you live? Why are you going to the U.S.? Is this your vehicle? What are you taking into the country?"

We responded to the latter question with, "Some delayed Christmas gifts and a basket of chocolate  bunnies and treats". The border guard looked pensive.

"You don't have any Kinder Surprise eggs do you?"

"No we don't," we responded in unison.

"Ok, go ahead," and we were on our way.

"That was strange," I said.

Hubby responded, "He must have been joking."

"Maybe he likes them and was hoping we had some. Or perhaps "Kinder Surprise" is some kind of code for drugs," I suggested.

We related this story to friends some time later and were told that in fact, Kinder Surprise eggs were illegal and banned in the U.S. Really? Baffling!

Today, I read this on the Yahoo  page.

Seattle pair detained for smuggling Canadian contraband – six Kinder Surprise eggs

The inner contents of the Kinder Surprise have led U.S. officials to ban them from the country over safety concerns. …
Forget drugs and guns. The hottest new item to smuggle over the border comes wrapped in a delicious chocolaty coating. If you're also wondering how a trunk containing six Kinder Surprise eggs landed two Seattle men in a detention center, you wouldn't be alone.

But as the Canadian Press reports, the U.S. has issued a ban against the popular Italian confection, citing the candy's small interior toy as a choking hazard for young children. Or in more formal (and ominous) terms, due to the presence of a "non-nutritive object" embedded inside them. For anyone attempting to import the chocolates into the country, the "surprise" in these particular Kinder eggs is a hefty fine of up to $2,500.

That was news to Brandon Loo and Christopher Sweeney, who told Seattle's KOMO-TV they had no idea the treats they were bringing home for family and friends after a recent jaunt to Van City would land them in hot water with the police.

In fact, U.S. Customs and Border Control claims they confiscated 60,000 Kinder Surprise from travelers' baggage in 2011 alone — more than double the amount of eggs from the previous year.

The pair spent two-and-a-half hours explaining to officers that they were not, in fact, running a sophisticated criminal cabal designed to threaten the safety American toddlers via milk chocolate. And unlike the treats he originally wanted to bring home, the experience left a bitter taste in Sweeney's mouth.

"They wasted our time," Sweeney told KOMO News. "They wasted the money spent on the agents to do this and there are other cars that went through without checking them at all."
Of course, the pressing question in this entire story is what happens to all those seized eggs? The sheer volume would require several rooms' worth of storage in the Border Control warehouse.
(Photo courtesy CBC)

Let me get this straight. Unlike the rest of the world, U.S. parents are unable to supervise their children while they consume this potentially deadly piece of chocolate? Kinder Surprise eggs pose a hazard to American children but guns in their homes do not?

In 2010, thirty children a day were injured or died because of weapons in their home. Are the American authorities seriously suggesting that Kinder Surprise eggs pose a greater risk? Let's use some common sense and get your priorities straight folks!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Cake Decorating 201

I am currently participating in the second part of the Wilton cake decorating course, entitled "Flowers and Cake Design". I hate flowers on cakes, they're common. But alas, I digress. The price and timing of the course were right. I needed some new skills. Today was week three of the four week course, learning how to make this sort of ugly thing.

In part one, I discovered that buttercream icing is nothing more than a slab of fat with icing sugar in it. I also learned some useful skills and eventually, I turned out a pretty decent cake of my own design. I was satisfied with the course, although I still lacked many skills at the end.

So far, in part two, I've found out that royal icing is not just gingerbread house glue. When fashioned into a shape and dried, you have a dried shape. Also, small amounts of coloured fondant mixed with gum paste can be used for making expensive flowers.

For three weeks, the class has been making an assortment of flowers. I wasn't clear on why except to learn how to make them. An overview of what was to happen during these four weeks would have been helpful, but alas, our directions each week were to make any colour of icing and green icing. If I had known why, I would have planned my colours more carefully. I usually created one or two flowers and eventually tossed them in the trash.  A few came home with me and are currently sitting in a dish on my buffet.

Today, I found out that we were supposed to keep the flowers, dry them all, and bring them to decorate a cake next week. Oops. The flowers above are gone. I have these left.

Tonight, I must plan my final cake and create appropriate replacement flowers so that they will dry by next Wednesday. I am resisting the temptation to make fairies, fruits or forest creatures out of my remaining gum paste and royal icing. The course is entitled "Flowers and Cake Design". I want my certificate but I don't want a boring flowered cake. Any ideas or suggestions? 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

A Vintage Memory

I was cleaning recently and came across a box of my old toys. When I was young, I didn't own a lot of toys, so I treasured and took good care of each one. I still have some of them. I usually received one thing, just one, for a birthday or Christmas. As I pulled a particular toy out of the box, I had a strong flashback.

I recalled the non occasion in 1958 when my father bought it for me. I remembered it so well because the provincial government had just instituted the 3% sales tax. It was nicknamed the "Frost Bite", after provincial premier, Leslie Frost. Dad muttered about it as he counted out the additional change.

We were in a hobby store on Mt. Pleasant Blvd. in Toronto where dad was, as always, trying to get me interested in toy trains. I was looking at other things. The store owner saw me eyeing a puppet and cleverly demonstrated what the puppet could do. It developed a personality. Dad must have enjoyed it as well because the mohair, Steiff Jocko, monkey puppet came home with me.

When I was finished replaying the memory in my mind, I excitedly ran to show Jocko to hubby.

"Look what I found. Can you believe I got him when I was only eight years old?"

His response?

"I'd believe it if you got him when you were eighteen years old."

Monday, July 2, 2012

If The Shoe Fits Buy It

My children's grandma Rose had a shoe closet that would have put Imelda Marcos' collection to shame. Her feet were size four and a half extra wide leaving room for her rather large, often sore bunyons. I usually saw her wearing the same, brown laced pair of sensible footwear, around the house. When going out, however, she suffered the pain and proudly donned the high heels which elevated her to a full five feet tall.

Any time we passed shoes for sale, Rose would stop and look. Then, if there happened to be something in her size, anything at all, she'd make the purchase, thus adding to her vast stockpile.

I have a vivid memory of a trip to Las Vegas back in the 70's. We happened on a little strip mall which contained penny slots, Vegas showgirl gear, a Frederick's of Hollywood, and a shoe store. I was young, attractive enough and "with it" when it came to style, fashion and footwear. I became particularly enamoured with a pair of strappy beige wooden platform heels I saw in the shoe store window. Being certain that I could easily get them in size 8, I confidently entered the shop.

"I'd like those too," Rose announced to my surprise and followed me through the door.

An eager middle aged salesman came to help us. We told him of our desire for the pair of shoes in the window. He gazed down at our feet, back and forth. Then he looked up and shook his head. I began to feel sorry for Rose as I was certain that her wish could not be granted.

The clerk then announced confidently, "You, I can fit easily," and staring directly at me, he said, "You? With those enormous feet...I think you should probably just wear the shoe boxes."

As he left for the back room, I was in shock. Was he kidding ? My mind was racing. Did I just hear the salesman insult me and suggest that I had unusually large feet? What a nerve!

After a few minutes, he returned with two size 4.5 and one size 8.  We each tried on the shoes. Perfect fit. We were overjoyed. As we paid and proudly wore our new acquisitions out of the store, I realized what had just happened.

It was a wise and clever salesman indeed. Instead of just bringing out the shoes, he managed to boost Rose's confidence and make an older woman happy. My ego on the other hand, as a twenty something was inflated enough to withstand his jab.

Robert Brault said it well in this quote, "Today I bent the truth to be kind, and I have no regret, for I am far surer of what is kind than I am of what is true."