Alice interprets a classic

Run. Run.
Fast as you can.
Can't catch me, man.
I Ginger Man.

Overheard: the scolding of Rubber Ducky

I'm in the kitchen preparing breakfast. Alice is in the next room playing with an, apparently, foul-mouthed toy.

"No, no, no, no, Rubbery Ducky. No say 'stupid.' Not nice word."

Using the mouth part to convey the thinking part

Alice and I sit munching at the breakfast table. We're trying to be quiet for the sake of the sleepies in the next room, but miming your way through a bowl of cornflakes does tend to make a person giggle. A groggy Henry soon joins us.

Me: Good morning, Cornbread.

Alice: Mor-nin, Corn-bread.

Henry slumps in his chair. He decides his heavy head is too heavy for his neck to support, so he lays it on the table beside his plate.

Henry: Morninff.

His eyes close.

Me: I just took this piece of toast from the toaster. You want it?

Henry: (eyes still closed) Mmm hmm.

Me: What would you like on it?

His eyes open. He looks at me. 

A few moments pass.

Me: What would you like me to put on it?

He keeps staring.

Me: Henry! What would you like me to put on your toast?

He sits up and looks annoyed.

Henry: Butter and strawberry jam! How many times do I have to say it?

(At least once)

Almanac 15

Huh. Haven't written one of these in a while.

I was not worried a lick about frost when I went to bed last night. Not a lick.

Before we sat on the couch to knit ourselves to sleep, Erin told me to step outside and look at the sky.

"Which guy?" I replied. (she secretly loves this joke)

I stepped out on the porch and was greeted by a rising orange moon, just past full. A clear, huge sky sprawled overhead -- a sky so black, it was blue.

I breathed in the night air. Cool. Refreshing.


I woke up this morning to zero degrees Celsius. 

Frost on the grass. Frost on the roof. Frost on my precious garden. Frost on the two dozen ripe tomatoes I'd left on the picnic table in order to save room in the kitchen.

I splashed some water on the tomatoes and brought them inside. I might have well have smeared them with mayonnaise for all the good it did them.

Later, I received a phone call from the ghosts of four generations of my Atkinson tomato-farming ancestors, reaming me out for relying on the weather man to predict the end of the season. Lucky for me, my Trueblood/Edwards ancestors were more positive about the whole thing. And, they have e-mail.

Grandma T's Chili Sauce Recipe (originally Great Grandma Edward's, I believe)
approx. 24 Ripe Tomatoes
1 bunch celery
4 onions
4 sweet peppers (green, red, whatever you have)
4 Tablespoons salt
3 c. white sugar
4 cups white vinegar
3 tablespoons mixed pickling spices tied in a piece of cotton

Peel the tomatoes, chop the veggies, add the salt, sugar, vinegar and mix well.  Drop in the bag of spices.
Bring to a boil - stirring several times right to the bottom of the pot to keep the mixture from sticking to the pot.  Simmer for many hours until the sauce is to the consistency of your liking.  Remove the spice bag and Can into sterilized pint jars and lids, though you could probably freeze it in plastic containers.

You can double the recipe if you have lots of tomatoes.


Wait for me, guys!

I have been following a runner all summer. It is a runner carried forward by momentum, giggles, and the sheer amazement that those long stick things on the bottom of her body can do such a magical thing as take her places.

It is also a runner who tends to wiggle her butt.

I have followed similar runners twice before, and it strikes me I won't follow another for a long time. Maybe even until those runners have runners of their own.

I've said before I am not a taker of kid videos, but I made this exception. Henry, Jane, Alice, and I went to Green Gables a few weeks back. Henry -- who is reading the book -- dressed as Gilbert. Jane was Anne. Alice -- who we had to fashion a new set of braids for -- was Anne of Green Gables (which is much different than just being Anne, says Jane).

We  hiked the Haunted Woods trail, and I found myself again behind that familiar runner.

Family Friendly

Meep. Meep...

I am in line at the grocery store, after picking up a few items over my lunch. I look up and see I have chosen the Family Friendly Lane.

Me: So, the is the Family Friendly Lane one that you volunteer for, or are you assigned?

Cashier: Well....(long pause) ...assigned. 

Meep. Meep...

Coffee: thy new name is...

We're slurping at the dregs of breakfast. I have a half a piece of toast left, and have just refilled my cup with coffee. Alice approaches.

Alice: I have toast, too?

Me: (hoisting her on my lap) Sure!

She takes a big bite of my toast. I sip from my coffee. She eyes my cup.

Me: I have drink of man-man coffee?

My own private Costas

Some of you know I that until last year I worked for the CBC. I was very proud to be the Cape Breton Correspondent for Maritime Noon. Today, after 23 years as host of the show, my mentor and pal Costas Halavrezos retired. Here's a little tribute I wrote for his last show:


When my friends and coworkers meet my wife for the first time, they inevitably gush to me later about what an interesting person she is. And while they’re completely correct, I always want to reply, “Really? Tell me about her.”

The truth is, they can’t. They haven’t learned a thing about her. My wife is the kind of person who is really good at getting people to talk about themselves. Selfish folk that we are, we find those type of people very interesting. People such as Costas.

Think about it – after 23 years on Maritime Noon, what can you tell me about the man? I mean, besides the stuff on the website about growing grapes and playing bass?

Is he married? To whom?

How many kids does he have?

Who advised him on that goatee?

Does he have a cat?

Does that cat have finicky eating habits?

I bet you don’t know any of this stuff. And you know what? That’s why Costas is the king of them all. He is a friendly voice, who is infinitely curious about you. Never mind about him.

So you have this guy. You know he’s smart. You know he won’t lob a soft-ball question to someone we need a serious answer from. But other than that, he is a blank slate. So your imagination fills in the blanks.

In my short time with Maritime Noon, I met a lot of people who professed their love for Costas. Each of them has a vision in their head of who Costas is. Each vision of Costas is different. Each vision is correct.

The best part about Costas on the radio is that he is exactly who you need him to be. And who you need him to be is completely different from who the person next to you needs him to be. He is your own private Costas.

The most valuable thing I took from my decade with the CBC is my real-life friendship with Costas. Because I have a secret for all our radio friends – something that if Costas were to hear would inflate his already huge Ego. The secret is this: the real Costas is even better than the radio version. I’d tell you all the guy I know, but I can’t.

That’s my own private Costas. 

Little Ed

At the breakfast table. The last bits of toast and oatmeal are being eaten.

Jane: Henry -- let's pretend Little Ed is on a boat.

Henry: (still chewing) OK!

They run to the living room.

I cannot tell you much about Little Ed. I wish I could, but I can't.

Here is what I know: Little Ed is a Lego guy with a skateboarder shirt and a friendly smile. He has been on many adventures. I tell you all this second hand. I have never been on an adventure with him.

Little Ed is an exclusive game of Henry and Jane. I am (mostly) happy about this. Henry and Jane's relationship up until Little Ed has been mostly antagonistic. For some reason, Little Ed has brought them together. I have some theories why.

The part of Little Ed is always played by Jane. This is what appeals to her. She finally gets to be the protagonist. I cannot imagine what it is like being the younger sibling of Henry.

Jane also has inexhaustible knowledge of Little Ed's life. This is what appeals to Henry.

Henry: What did Little Ed eat for lunch?

Jane: Soup. And a roll. And chocolate cake with strawberries and sprinkles. 

Henry: What is his job?

Jane: Farmer. And a dentist.

Henry will never run out of questions. Jane will never run out of answers. Harmony.

I have attempted to play Little Ed. It's not that they won't let me. I just don't play correctly. My attempts to make suggestions or supply dialogue are usually met with blank stares.

I am only mostly happy about Little Ed. There have been few (if any) places the kids' imaginations have taken them to that I haven't been able to accompany them. I think it's fantastic that they are supplying the plot and story to their own life adventures -- I just can't help but feel a little sad about it.

Acknowledge me, part two

(Part one can be found here.)

Morning. I am making porridge. Henry sits drawing at the table. Alice stands at the kitchen door.

Alice: Knock knock knock!

Me: Who could that be?

Henry: Come in!

Alice walks in slowly and deliberately, like she's watching herself on TV.

Alice: Hi!

Me: Alice! It's you!

Henry: (looking up from his work) It has been so long.

She walks toward me holding out her hand.

Alice: I shake your hand!

We shake.

Me: How have you been, my friend?

Alice: Great! 

She walks toward Henry

Alice: I shake your hand!

They shake.

Alice: Nice see you!

Henry: (grinning) It's nice to see you.

Alice: OK! Bye!

She walks out the kitchen door.

Me: I miss Alice already.

Henry: Me, too.

Alice: Knock knock knock!

Me: Who could that be...

We do this about a dozen times without deviating from the script.

Earl, part two: baseball in the eye

We got our power back in the early afternoon, just as Earl struck. By the time he got to little ol' PEI, he had slowed to a tropical storm. But he was a noisy fella'. The sound of the wind was constant.

Until it wasn't. Somewhere around 3 or 3:30, everything stopped. One minute, we were working in the kitchen with the sound of 80-plus kilometre winds in our ears, the next -- nothing.

Erin: It can't be done. Just like that?

We looked outside. Sunny. The driving sheets of rain slowed to a sprinkle, and then stopped altogether. The radio told us most of Earl had passed through the Maritimes and was on its way to Labrador. It took a few minutes for them to mention PEI.

Radio: People in PEI shouldn't be fooled into thinking it's all over. The eye of the storm is just passing over central PEI right now.

The kids ran outside to get a bit of fresh air. I followed with my camera just as the wind was picking back up.

That's Henry and our neighbour playing baseball at the end of the clip.

Before the eye, the wind and rain were driving hard from the east to west. After the eye, it switched to the other direction (ah, the magic of a circular storm). Our poor tomato plants didn't know what hit them.

Earl, part one

Earl is still a couple of hours away, but we have lost power. Henry
and Erin are due back any minute from the market.

No rain yet, and I am surprised this amount of wind has already
knocked out power. I'll try to update as I can and so long as the
battery on my Blackberry holds out.

Sent from my mobile device

How much water does one drink in 72 hours?

I just watched my reservist neighbour jump in his car wearing summer fatigues. I can only assume he's on his way for military and emergency preparations for Hurricane Earl -- which, at this point, will probably hit us this time tomorrow as a tropical storm. I think they're saying there's a one-in-five chance he'll still be a hurricane when he hits (Henry likes those odds).

I guess that's our cue to make our own preparations. Erin just called from Canadian Tire where she's buying jugs. We've determined that all our pots filled to the rim still probably aren't enough for the recommended 72 hours, and -- darn it -- I ain't drinking out of the bathtub (again).

Incidentally (and for the historical record of our family), today is the first day in eight that we are not going to the beach. About two weeks ago, we spent a freezing day at the beach -- cold water, cold air, shivering kids. Erin made me promise we'd spend every remaining sunny day this summer at the beach. We just never realized it would be so consistently beautiful this far into the season. I believe we have broken the record for Most Consecutive Days Spent At The Beach By A Family That Is Not Technically On Vacation.

Today, I actually am on vacation. And we're not going to the beach. Figure that one out.

Geezers Rock

For the first year they knew each other, Henry and his best pal's entire relationship was based in hockey. All day. Every day. Hockey in the driveway.

We had to drag them into our houses, kicking and screaming, in order to feed them their meals. After a while, we just started putting out bowls of sliced apples, and they'd eventually get eaten.

One day this summer, they put down their sticks and started a band. At first it was called HJ Lightning (Henry-Jonah), but Henry informs me they've since renamed themselves Lightning Bolt. 

Jonah bangs tunelessly on a toy guitar. Henry pounds incessantly on an African drum. They have many songs and promise to have a proper concert soon. The only song I've been able to discern the lyrics to is this uplifting little ditty:

"Geezers Rock"
by Lightning Bolt

Some people think that geezers suck 
because they can't do anything.
But they do rock.

Geezers Rock!
A ding-dong-ditch all day

Geezers Rock!
A ding-dong-ditch all day

There are more verses, but they've never let me hear them. Other great tunes include "Zebras" and the self-titled "Lightning Bolt."