I showed this picture of E to a student last night. I was showing my guitar-playing guy. The student gasped and asked, “Is that a Les Paul? And is that- it looks like a custom pickup!”

“I don’t always know their names,” I say. “I recognize them by who plays them. That’s the Jimmy Page, as opposed to the Jimi Hendrix.”

Student, E, goes alert. “Jimmy Page is my inspiration! I have all the Led Zeppelin here,” He indicates his iPod.

“High five, Zep fans,” I say, and hold out my hand for a high five. He slaps it.

The brotherhood of guitar players stretches father than I had thought.

Friday Family.

Ok, maybe there’s some friendly in it as well, but I need to relate this conversation, which, I think, shows my hilarious and dysfunctional family at its most charming.

On Wednesday, my dad and brother and I met for dinner. Dad seemed to have some need to tell us some stuff. Scott and I really hoped it wasn’t that he was ill. Our aunt is dying, Scott just had a divorce. We don’t need any more bad news.

It turns out, Dad has an express need to tell us several things, so he has made a list. I can see it out of the corner of my eye:

my remains
easier taxes

Ah, I think. That kind of conversation.

We get to the ‘my remains’ part of the conversation.

“This next item has to do with after I die. I want to be cremated…” He takes a deep breath. “I want to be cremated and then go to Halfmoon Bay. With your mother.”
“Of course. We assumed that,” says Scott.
“Yeah. Probably all of us will be,” I say. “Besides, now I know where to get a cheap urn in Chinatown.”
“Not me,” says Scott. “I’m going to be blasted into space.”
I say, “Oh, Good point. I’m going to be made into a diamond.”
“They can do that?” Scott asks, surprised.
“Yeah. Just a tiny one.”
“Cool. Can I get you embedded in my tooth?”
“Mmm. Because that’s not creepy at all.”


This Remembrance Day Thursday, I am thankful for my grandfather.

He’s the one on the left in this photo. He fought in Germany and Belgium in World War II, and apocryphal family legend has it that he was the only Captain ever to accept the unconditional surrender of a German U-Boat.

Most of what he did in the war is apocryphal. He didn’t talk about it much. I suspect he came back with PTSD, but we didn’t have a name for it back then. I only know that he wanted order and quiet at all times.

He was not a demonstrative father. My father’s childhood memories of kindly older, well, father figures, were not of his own father. I guess that’s why dad tried so hard to be a part of our childhoods, hugging and sharing and generally being there for us.

My own relationship with my grandfather was all right. He called me ‘pet’ and ‘sugar mouse’, because I used to steal pinches out of the sugar bowl. The monkey taught me that. I used to look at my grandpa’s wall of sabres and guns and knives and stuff (on display in the den, as you do), and wonder about my very pacifist household.

My favourite memory of him is a picture in my mind of him playing poker with his buddies. I had sneaked down the staircase at their house, where I was sleeping over. Looking into the oak-paneled dining room, I could see him focused on his cards and chips, wreathed in cigar smoke and lit by the purple stained glass lamp suspended above the table. He never saw me watching him, but older me strongly suspects that he loved poker night. It was a chance to find something ‘normal’ to do, in a world that was different from the one he expected.

I’m thankful for my grandpa and all the soldiers who fought to keep their children’s and their children’s children safe. Even at the risk of not knowing what to do with them, when they came home from the war.

Wandering Wednesday: Desert Edition.

When I was ten or so, my parents borrowed my uncle’s honking big RV and drove into the desert of Eastern Washington State. They figured we should see some new terrains.

The desert was not what I was expecting. I was expecting, you know. Like on the TV. Saguaros and mesas and stuff. Desert foxes. Tumbleweeds.

Well, there were the tumbleweeds, but mostly it was little, scrubby, gray plants and dust. It was tan and taupe and beige. It was so big and empty, the wind snatched my words away as I was speaking, as though it sailed them away to a forbidden noise area.

It was so insanely alien to my brother and me. We were coastal kids. We knew about feeding crabs in tidal pools and red and yellow cedar. We clambered up six-foot-high nurse logs to eat huckleberries. In our local woods, you couldn’t ever be lost, because you couldn’t go off the path without being waist high in ferns, or sunk up to your knees in bog and skunk cabbage.

So, out there in the desert, at some state park, Dad parked the RV and told Bo and me to go out exploring. There were no paths. We wandered aimlessly for a while. I was looking at the little dusty plants and wondering if there were scorpions or rattlesnakes. Bo found a stick and was hitting the little dusty plants. Yay. New terrain.

All of a sudden, my little brother started shrieking and hopping around. “It bit me! Something biiiit meee!”

I ran over. He had some kind of little prickly thing stuck to his foot. He sat down to pull it out and promptly sat on another one. Cried harder.

Now I was in an unfamiliar place and the local flora were attacking my brother. My brother was shrieking because there were burrs in his butt and both feet, and there wasn’t any un-burred ground to sit on. I did the only thing I can think of and ran back to the RV.


There were no trails. My brother was hidden in the midst of a bunch of gray scrub. When I finally got Mom and Dad out there, I couldn’t find my little brother. Sometimes I heard him crying, but the wind was blowing his voice away. I can remember wondering, “What if I lost him? What if we never find him?” Anxious.

It felt like hours, with all of us yelling for Bo, and no one finding him. At long last, the wind shifted the right way, and Dad found him and picked him up and took him to the RV. Mom picked out the burrs, changed his shorts, and gave us each a restorative Coke.

We were more careful in the desert after that.

Don’t Tip.

I get nervous when the kids tip the chairs. I worry that they’re going to bonk their heads on the concrete-under-carpet floor and do themselves serious damage. I worry they’ll hit the wall and break their necks. I worry that they will somehow (don’t know the physics of this, exactly) bash their teeth out, slipping and hitting the table.

Paranoid much? Yeah. This is why I think I would be a lousy parent. Or maybe you let more go when they’re your own kids. In any case, I get gore-track when kids tip chairs.

In any case, I have the perfect solution for kids tipping chairs. I tell them, “Don’t tip. You’ll fall and bonk your head. All of the English will fall out. You’ll have to go back to ABC, and then all your friends will laugh at you – in English, and you won’t be able to understand!”

It’s a nice compromise, because I’m joking and they know it, but they stop tipping, at least for a while.


I loathe racism. No surprise there, right? Anybody who reads this blog with any regularity is going to know my views. People are people, and there are a million personality traits shared by every race and colour of person in the world. Assumptions based on race piss me off like nothing else in the whole wide world. When I hear someone make assumptions that X people are lazy/dirty/good at math/criminals/bad drivers/hard workers, I try my best to gently point out that, in fact, they are probably stereotyping.



When white people learn that my students are Asian and then they squint their eyes and draw their lips back into faux buck teeth and do these terrible ‘Asian’ accents that don’t sound like anything from anywhere in Asia, it pisses me off like nothing else.

I have a good ear for accents. I can tell Shanghai from Beijing from Hong Kong from Taiwan most of the time. I can tell Seoul from Busan sometimes. Still working on Japanese and Southeast Asian accents. But when some white-assed bigot thinks it’s funny to start a sentence with, “Ah, so…” I want to punch them in their strangely contorted mouths.

So far, I have contented myself with pointing out that they sound really stupid and must have poor ears for accents. Often, I’ll take it further by pointing out that the people they are mocking had invented radiant floor heating while our ancestors (all of Northern Europe, really) were still inviting the animals in at night to keep warm.

I hope my impulse control continues. A mild lecture is less offensive than a curb-stomp.

That Time I Could Have Died.

Really, if I think about it, there’s more than one. Welcome to Stupid Sundays, when I confess some of my less-than-brilliant shenanigans.

This is a long time ago now, when I was living with Delilah in her parents’ condo. Except for the ongoing leaky problems, it was a great place. Gorgeous view of the city, my own bathroom and balcony, huge living room. It really was fabulous.

The one drawback to the fabulousness was the unpredictable roommate, Delilah. Waking up to strange men in the kitchen? Check. Finding that she had used all my milk and not replaced it? Check. Unknown substance abuse? Check. Friends buzzing in all night? Check. The neighbours hated her and blamed me.

It was a no pets building, and she insisted on keeping a cat. The cat would have been happier and better looked-after at her parents’ house. The cat was also monumentally stupid, and would do things like fall off the balcony onto the terrace below, and I would have to go and collect her from the downstairs neighbour because Delilah was out partying.

One night, E and I were sitting on the balcony drinking wine, and we didn’t notice she was gone for awhile, until I twigged that she hadn’t been skulking about. I turned the apartment upside down looking for her, to no avail.

“Uh, Liz?”
“What? Did you find her?”
“Um. No. But there’s meowing next door.”

I went out onto the balcony and called for her. Sure enough, she answered. From next door. Somehow she had managed not to fall down into downstairs’s terrace and had, instead, snuck past us and made it next door.

I craned my head around the shared wall. Their patio door was open, and the cat sat in their living room, looking at me innocently.

Of course, she would not come when called, offered kitty treats, or tuna. Next Door were out, obviously, or they would have noticed a cat in their place.

I was desperate. I was also half-cut. I actually climbed across the outside of the shared wall, swung myself onto the outside of Next Door’s balcony, and then clambered onto their balcony. The cat, curious, sauntered over to meet me at the patio door. I scooped her up and slung her over the balcony to E, who locked her inside our place. Then, shaking at my temerity, I swung back over the outside of the balcony and back onto ours. Then I had a couple of really big slugs of wine.

The cat repaid my kind and risky rescue by peeing on my bed. Delilah never thanked me, either.

Baking Day

I have not been out of the house today. Actually, that’s a lie. I went out to get a bottle of wine. So that was ten minutes. Oh, and I brought my landlord some potato leek soup. But the rest of the time, I have been baking and sewing. Seriously. I woke up and thought, “Hey, I have a lot of eggs. I’ll bake.” And I was working on my new purse, except the sewing machine electric cord is broken and so I have sewn the whole thing so far by hand. It’s not done yet.

Periodically in my baking, sewing, and tv watching (Multitasker that I am), I’d think, “I have to blog. I have to blog and I have nothing. No theme for Saturday. What’s a good theme?” But then I remembered that I do take pictures every day and decided that Saturday would be photoblog day. It’s not alliterative, but whatever. Alliteration is not the only trick to good writing. And by good, I mean, writing anything at all.

I’ve just been watching Merlin on the Space channel and he sent some poor dead girl out into a lake, recumbent in a dinghy. Other than the obvious nod to The Lady of Shalott, if that was standard practice, wouldn’t there be a lot of dinghies floating around with decomposing bodies in them? And wouldn’t it be a waste of dinghies?

Oh. Right. Photos.

Sweet Potato Tarts:

Apple-Blackberry Tarts:

Yorkshire Puds:



Sometimes it seems like a mean world. People are grumpy, the weather is gross, drivers are clueless. So it’s kind of surprising sometimes when someone says something nice. That’s what Friday is going to be about this month: Friendly Fridays.

On Wednesday I met Gen for lunch. Her eldest child, Imogen, had chosen a gorgeous bouquet of yellow flowers for me at the florist next to the cafe. I was carrying the flowers home when a woman approached me and pointed to the flowers. “They are beautiful. Where did you get them?”
I explained that it was over on Commercial and agreed that they were beautiful. She nodded and gave them a frankly admiring gaze before continuing.

Then, I was in Safeway about twenty minutes later and this older, weathered-faced guy calls out to me, “Flowers for a flower!” I was so surprised I said, “Yes!”, which sounds weird when I think about it, but I was surprised, after all.

Those cheerful yellow blooms brought a little happiness into my life and the lives of the people who commented on them. Just a little sunshine, shining all around. What a good idea.

Friends. Food. Fun.

Whoops. I totally missed Wednesday blogging, and I even had it planned. That’s because my plans were derailed, for which I end up thankful. So. Thankful Thursday, here it is.

I can cook. I have got food covered. But I almost never use a recipe unless I’m baking. Baking’s different, because there’s more science involved, I guess.

Our friend Coleen, though, couldn’t cook without a recipe. She needed things to be exact, and didn’t like it. “I want to know what goes with stuff,” she said. “I want to be able to taste and figure it out.”

So last night, Fran and and I supervised Coleen making shepherd’s pie. We went over to Jim’s, because he has the best kitchen and never minds if people invade in order to cook. Fran decided on shepherd’s pie because it’s one of those things you can eyeball, and it never comes out wrong. No one needs a recipe for shepherd’s pie.

It was a good choice. When Coleen pulled those dishes out of the oven, she was red-cheeked and grinning at her own success. It tasted great, and she gained a lot of confidence. I was proud of her for letting go of needing a recipe and happy that we could help her with that.

Butbutbut. One thing about Jim is, he loves trivia. And Star Wars. And so he has both the regular and Star Wars version of Trivial Pursuit, as well as a new music-themed trivia game Fran brought over. So we sat around (or pranced a few victory dances in my case) asking one another questions. Steve and Jim were astonished at my Star Wars trivia retention. I can’t help it. I’m a nerd.

I ended up coming home at 1AM, more than a little tipsy and full of shepherd’s pie and the knowledge that I can hold my own, when it comes to Star Wars trivia.

So. Thankful Thursday: I’m thankful for friends who don’t care-who even love-that I’m a nerd, food to eat, and impromptu fun, in any form.

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