Saturday, May 24, 2014

Even Superman Wore Shorts

I've heard it all now. On CBC radio, they interviewed a student who complained about his London, Ontario high school. Why? They had an issue with him wearing a spandex/lycra body suit to school. Yes, it  covered his arms and legs and went up to his neck. That was not the problem. The contention was over the body parts which were clearly on display.

It made me think of my high school years and our dress code. It's not that I agree with this, however, "back in the day", girls were allowed to wear dress pants one day per week. The rest of the time it was necessary to freeze in dresses and skirts while boys were permitted the comfort of long pants. Boys didn't all get off that easily either. There were many reports of the principal hauling young men to the town barbershop when hair length was deemed unacceptable. There was no argument and no running off to the press to complain.

In this day and age, we are of course all grateful for our many rights and freedoms. Things have changed significantly in fifty years, many for the better. Just as my years in secondary school were in some ways extreme, I believe the pendulum may have swung too far in the opposite direction. Sixteen year olds should not have the right to wear offensive clothing to school and administrators should be able to do something about it. In this case, all they requested was that he at least wear shorts over the suit...a reasonable compromise.

Sadly, it's impossible to teach common sense. It has to come from home. Although the young man in London helps give credence to all arguments favouring school uniforms, I can do one better. My mom's simple wisdom always worked. "Don't go to school in anything you wouldn't wear to a job one day."

Can't much argue with that logic.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Paint the Day

Subtitled : When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade

My friend had a birthday and it's always a challenge to come up with a new and original experience. This one was neither, but since we hadn't participated before, I booked a paint nite ( for noon on a Saturday. The hours which I keep are daylight hours and this was the best choice. We were both interested in attempting this painting entitled, "Fireflies". I had to venture into the big city, an hour and a half drive downtown. As always, the parkway and some other major routes were closed...maintenance, races, protests and the like.
We arrived at the venue early as suggested and had an overpriced lunch while we waited, waited, waited. Then we discovered an email sent half an hour earlier saying our event was cancelled. We were unimpressed, as were dozens of other people. We left and headed for Kensington Market. What fun! Not only did I finally get to see the Rick Mercer rant alleyways but it was comic book day!                                  
Squid seems to be a recurring theme in my life.
Colourful shops to say the least.

Rant time!
I believe I have the same outfit...without the little army that is., I recognize two of the three characters anyhow.

There was art all around, including this colourful likeness of the city's infamous mayor. As one of my friends pointed out, they've left room in the bricks to add a crack pipe.
A fascinator fit for a royal Halloween that is.
We had a terrific day and even the marijuana march which held up traffic even more, didn't deter us from coming back for our rescheduled paint nite the following week. I picked my friend up and we grabbed some less expensive lunch, this time at an awesome pizza joint. I don't normally like pizza, but yum. Double yum.
We entered the Office Pub and found our room. The easels were set up and our aprons were ready.

While we waited, we practiced our still life photography skills with a pint. We called this piece of art "Beer in hand in front of easel."
The instructor demonstrated the steps for us to create our own "Fireflies" painting.
After we left, we continued our adventures with a trip a trip to the famous Maple Leaf Gardens Loblaws store.
It was a fun and worthwhile experience. As we strolled through the store, admiring the giant cheeses, the massive meat displays, the floral displays, and the bakery, we were serenaded by musicians.
Our interest in macaron making was re-ignited when we spotted this cabinet in the bakery, complete with $2.49 per cookie price tag.
This will definitely be the year of the macaron. We shall succeed and there will be a final chapter to all the macaron making disasters.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

A Tree Grows in the Tropics

There's been a huge resurgence of concern in North America about the spreading of the giant hogweed plant. It's an invasive species which originated in Europe and Asia and has been around since the 1940's. To me, it looks much like Queen Anne's lace. The difference is that the giant hogweed, as the name suggests, has huge spiky leaves and, the plant is much greater in size. It is also a health hazard since the sap can cause blisters, lesions and swelling on the skin particularly when exposed to sunlight. It sounds awful, but I've heard of something worse.

In the Caribbean there's a species of tree that is so highly toxic, it can kill you. Before it does so however, it will cause you to erupt in burning blisters all over your skin. You might lose your voice and you could go blind. This tree is called the manchineel tree, nicknamed the manzanilla (little apple).
As I bent over these apples to take the photo, the tour guide yelled at me
to keep away. He feared I was attempting to touch them.
The tree is prolific in many of the islands because it's been left to grow for shade. In some countries, there are warning signs. In others, there are red X's on the tree trunk. In some, for example Bonaire, there's nothing to indicate an issue. You have to know.
Some islands have more sophisticated signs, but this hand painted
one makes the point in several languages.
We were told that should we ever be on a beach and see a tree with nobody lying in its shade, not to go near it. In fact, this same tree, is so toxic that when wet, it will drip, stain and discolour the ground or burn the paint off a vehicle parked beneath it. In other words, if it does that to the ground or to a car, don't use it as refuge during a rainstorm. Often, the trees are found on beaches and near water. The apples have even sometimes been called beach apples.
On desert islands, the manchineel trees are supposedly left for shade. On the other hand, disposal is challenging. Attempting to burn the trees will spew toxic smoke into the air that can cause blindness and breathing issues. Natives once used the sap from the trees to poison the tips of their arrows. Google has some interesting sites with further details which even suggest that explorer Ponce de Leon died from exposure to this tree's toxins.

As for the giant hogweed, I suppose we'll just have to steer clear and wait to see if anything is done about it. It is currently not listed among the world's top ten most poisonous plants. The manchineel tree is.

Take a look to see if you recognize any of the other nine. Copy and paste if necessary.