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Day #66: New Growth

We’re actually into double digits here, today. With a high of 19 degrees at the moment. I think we’ve skipped the usual first part of spring, and gone straight to everything opening at once, and possibly heralding summer’s approach already. It’s been in the mid to upper twenties over in the prairies, while other parts of Canada were still getting frost warnings. Such is the weather these days, totally unpredictable.

But all that aside, I went out on the balcony to breath in, what I hope is, some fresh air, even if it is tinged with left over spring pollen. I may pay for that later, but hey, right now, my batteries feel charged, and more, I got a few minutes of Vit-D rather than COVID-19!

Ha! Suck on that Mother Nature. Well, okay, maybe not.

So other than soaking in a few rays of sunshine, and drinking my tea, Earl Grey, hot, I took a couple of photos. There’s not much out there, right now, to see in the way of flowers, or even greenery. The trees still haven’t quite unfurled their leaves, but I reckon by the end of the long bank holiday weekend, we’ll see that amazing spring acid green.

Oh, and they’re all out in the park next door, playing Boule. Yep, there’s about 20 grannies/OAPs out there battling the first game of the year, hopefully, keeping their physical distances from one another. The staff at the complex have also already put out the bench rockers for the elder (or, in fact, anyone) verging on the side of the park, the sun side. But, from what I can see from my balcony, they have at least spaced them out by about 10-15 feet in between.

That at least is something.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to drag my sun lounger out onto the balcony and go soak up some more sunshine.

Stay safe out there, today, whatever you’re doing this Sunday, and I hope you’ve been blessed with some good weather too.

Love,
Alex

Day #65: How to Bee

I finally started a new book this morning after not being able to settle enough to read, these last couple of months. The YA sci-fi themed book, How To Bee, is written by my online friend, Bren MacDibble (@macdibble). An ex-pat New Zealander living in Australia. I’ve read her work on and off for a number of years and always get excited to get my hands on a real, honest to goodness, print copy of her work.

Why? Because they are always beautifully printed, carefully crafted, and with prose that will melt your heart, uplift your spirits, or make you damn well laugh out loud and, if you’re not careful, snort coffee all over the place—which happened to me reading her sci-fi short story, Delicacy, some years back.

How To Bee is a feisty, heartfelt read, with prose that just flows pulling you straight into Peony’s world, and her place in it. This young girl’s life isn’t plain sailing, set in the future where insects are extinct and fruiting trees are hand pollinated by young, agile kids, who scramble through the branches, doing bee’s work.

In a world where real bees are extinct, the quickest, bravest kids climb the fruit trees and pollinate the flowers by hand. Peony lives with her sister, Magnolia, and her grandfather on a fruit farm outside the city. All Peony really wants is to be a bee. Even though she is only nine — and bees must be ten — Peony already knows all there is to know about being a bee and she is determined to achieve her dream.

Life on the farm is a scrabble, but there is enough to eat and a place to sleep, and there is love. Then Peony’s mother arrives to take her away from everything she has ever known. Peony is taken to the city to work for a wealthy family. Will Peony’s grit and quick thinking be enough to keep her safe?

I’m half way through already, and loving every last word of Peony’s struggle to achieve her dream and, no matter what age you are, I highly recommend you grab yourself a real, or virtual copy, and thoroughly enjoy a trip into the future where little girls can, and will.

This is, without a doubt, a 5 star read.


Author bio:

Bren MacDibble was raised on farms all over New Zealand, so is an expert about being a kid on the land. She now lives in Melbourne with her family and a cheeky dog, Basil, works with gifted children, and teaches writing at TAFE.

Check out more at her website: www.macdibble.com


Title: How To Bee
Author: Bren MacDibble
Publisher: Groundwood, 2020 (Allen & Unwin 2018)
ISBN: 9781760294335
Genre: YA SF | Children’s Fiction | Environment

WINNER: CBCA Book of the Year, Younger Readers, 2018
WINNER: 2018 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children’s Literature
WINNER: 2018 New Zealand Book Awards, Wright Family Foundation Esther Glen Award for Junior Fiction

Day #64: Bank Holidays

We have a long weekend coming up this weekend, it is Victoria Day on Monday. Well, it is in all of Canada except here, in Québec, where they still rebel against Crown Rule and, in part but not all, seek to be a separate sovereign nation.

Here it’s Patriots’ Day (Journée nationale des patriotes), in which Québec celebrates and honours the rebellion against the British in 1837—the closest Monday to May 25th. Sadly, this year, there will be no celebrations across the province, no reminding the population of their shared heritage (French that is, some how they forget the province was also built by immigrant Scots and the Irish, along with the English. Oh, and let’s not forget, Chinese too.) But that’s another story.

It’s interesting to note the differences in the national holidays here, some they observe, others they don’t, most are renamed for something significant to Quebeckers. And then there are others like June 24, St. John Baptiste Day. This holiday is uniquely Québec, in which there’s a huge music festival out on the plains of Abraham from 7 pm till fireworks at midnight, with all Québec musicians and comedians. And let me tell you, having been to a few, there are tens of thousands who turn up, old and young alike, who picnic in the afternoon out in the fields, in family groups. This is huge here. And yes, great fun too.

I doubt this will take place, this year, due to the corona virus, when people are still suppose to be keeping physically distant. But there again, by the time June 24 rolls around, maybe everyone will turn up regardless, and have one last hurrah! It’s just the kind of dogmatic thing Quebeckers would do.

Like herding cats, you cannot tell them what to do, unless they think it’s a good idea to begin with.

I will especially miss the Summer Music Festival too, as it’s cancelled, which usually runs for 11 days in July. We’ve seen some amazing guests perform on the main stage, here, over the years. And a lot of smaller emerging bands get their first gigs here, at this festival.

I don’t doubt there will be little, if any, celebrations going on this year, anywhere, let alone here given the pandemic. And certainly not till maybe as early as summer next year. And you? What will you miss most this summer, music festivals, book festivals, conventions, summer holidays abroad?

Whatever your summer plans, stay safe out there and take care this coming weekend.

Love,
Alex

Day #63: A Weight off my Mind

I achieved another milestone this morning, when I weighed myself and discovered I had lost yet another eight (8) pounds. Bringing my total to a staggering 35 pounds.

I know, right, even I’m surprised by how much I’ve managed since February 20th. But of course, the last 8 stubborn to move pounds were courtesy of gastroenteritis. And, quite frankly, I don’t recommend using that as a weight loss move, believe me. I can think of better ways to shed pounds, and it ain’t through shedding the entire contents of your stomach and intestines! But hey, I’ll take the gift horse, and run with it, thanks.

This also means that now I’ve reached that magical number I was aiming for, do I continue? But, more to the point, I need to be vigil and maintain the good I’ve achieved and not slip. The big thanks goes to the lockdown walking within the confines of the apartment, and the strict diet I’ve been on since mid-Feb.

This has involved cutting out all added sugar, and being rigorous in checking labels and products to make sure they really are safe and healthy. You have no idea, and I mean, no idea just how much added extra sugar is put in Canadian sold and produced products. Never mind the salt/sodium levels that are way past being healthy.

Just look at a can of soup for instance, and you’ll be shocked at just how much salt they include, per portion.

I’ve always been a happy home cook, only now, more so. In that while I don’t always adhere to meal plans for the week, I like to have an idea of what I have on hand, to use, and try to vary the choice of meal through the week, and following week, so as to not repeat a menu too often.

Like, a pound of minced beef will do both a spaghetti bolognese for two and a shepherds pie for two. And the next time I have minced beef it will be turned into a chilli and maybe mince and tatties. I do the same with chicken breasts, which usually come in two packs. One breast will be a chicken fried rice, another will be a chicken cacciatore. Again with pork pieces, depending on the quality, I can throw together an Italian braised pork and pasta, or whip up a Chinese five spice pork and noodles.

The variety is endless, and only limited by your imagination. Google helps too when I hit a brick wall and am looking for new ideas. That’s how I found out about Dutch baby pancakes, which ain’t so little or baby. But boy are they fun, tasty, and versatile.

And you, are you a home cook, do you enjoy cooking and creating, or would you live off take out if you could?

Whether a home cook or not, stay safe out there and take care everyone. The world is opening up again and now, more than ever, we have to be ‘alert’ as Boris tells us. So, be alert.

Love,
Alex

Day #62: Dear Manufacturer

DelMonte.

Could you please, please STOP putting hidden sugar and nasty tasing substitutes in your so-called sugar-free products. Sucralose is atrocious, and can be deadly to people suffering from diabetes as it can, in some cases, raise blood sugar levels!

I bought both your ‘sugar-free’ individual pots of peach cubes and mandarin oranges in water (not syrup) explicitly because you stressed these were natural, sugar-free products, and therefore intimated, were healthy choices for those of us not eating sugar.

Ha! You can tell yourself whatever you want, DelMonte, but these products are the most disgusting tasting food items I have eaten and tasted in a long, long time. Not only is the ‘flavouring’ nasty, but the fruit itself is verging on the point of disintegrating. Visually unappealing, nasty tasting, and all around a waste of money.

I will not be buying any of your products from here on in, whatever their provenance. Thanks, but no thanks.

Your sincerely,

Alex

Day #61: Sourcing Masks

Yesterday, like most Monday’s for the last few weeks, we have had a grocery delivery. We go online most Sunday afternoons, and check out what we think we might need what is, in effect, a couple of weeks into the future, and do an order. Then, at the crack of dawn on a Monday morning, my partner goes online to try secure a delivery slot (which we have been lucky with so far) and put’s the order in, knowing that that same day we’ll get the previous week’s order.

Well, yesterday that system broke down, somewhat, in that, our delivery was short. Short a considerable number of items.

There were no potatoes, apples, bread/bagels, eggs, or any kind of meat. Not one!

I badgered my partner to call the store and ask why—given they speak better French than I do and, besides, I just might have ranted at them. As is, my partner didn’t get much in the way of either feedback as to why, or an apology for the missing items. It was, to say the least, and use another cliché, as frustrating as hell.

The upshot from this experience—and it’s not our first, as we’ve already had the substitution thing happen to us once too often—I went on Twitter and asked my Canadian friends if they knew of anyone making face masks.

And lo and behold, we found a lady in Ontario (@PrimPickins) making her own at what we decided was a reasonable price ($12 per mask). So we ordered 2 each. Because it’s become obvious, we’re going to have to succumb to weekend trips for groceries. And Honey, there is no way either myself, or partner, are venturing outside mingling with all the local idiots without wearing our very own PPE. We already have the wellingtons and rubber gloves.

If I could order it, I’d go for my recent paramedics full-on orange NBC suit! But hey, I may need to improvise.

And you? What protection, if any, do you wear when venturing outside, if you go outside at all?

Whatever you choose to wear or not wear, stay safe out there and take care.

Love,
Alex