Thursday, May 31, 2007


Saw this one on my friend Genny's blog:

You Are: 30% Dog, 70% Cat

You and cats have a lot in common.
You're both smart and in charge - with a good amount of attitude.
However, you do have a very playful side that occasionally comes out!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

One of these things...

"One of these things is not like the other..."

"One of these things just doesn't belong!"


I hope you aren't eating as you read this.

My friend Mobert's Labrador retriever (aka Labrador I-ingest-everything-in-sight) swallowed some Saran Wrap last week. Fortunately it passed through his system. For all you dog lovers out there who study the quality of your doggy's doo, Mobert sent me this smashing photo of what happens to Saran Wrap after it passes through a dog's digestive tract:

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Paddle, paddle, paddle...

We've been going for evening kayak outings on our lake recently. It's interesting to note that the lake water here is now warmer than that of the Atlantic Ocean in August (which is when I typically went swimming and snorkelling when we lived in Nova Scotia.) I remember occasionally turning blue when I spent time in the water there, and there were years when the weenie Hubster refused to set foot in the ocean. He is far more wimpy than me! A delicate bearded flower. But I digress.

So anyway, we've been kayaking almost every night after dinner lately. The water has been calm, the weather beautiful, and we can out-paddle the mosquitoes. Hardly anyone else has been on the lake; I expect that to change as the summer progresses and more of the cottagers show up and get drunk.

The other night, we paddled around to a cove not far from our house. There are only a couple of cottages there, and the shoreline is mostly wooded, with marshland on the fringe. As were were drifting along, enjoying the warm air and golden evening sun, I spied by the shore a rather large rock I hadn't noticed last fall when we were out. I remarked on this to Gordon.

"Hey! Is that a rock?"

"Huh?" Gordon had been in his own little paddling world, no doubt dreaming of negotiating treaties and enjoying fried pickerel with the Missinabee Cree up in northern Ontario. This is his job, and he loves it. I mean, negotiating treaties is his job, not eating pickerel. But he'll eat just about anything, unlike his previously-mentioned father.

"That thing near the shore. Is that a rock?" I query.

"Oh. Yeah." I should add, Gordon doesn't have his glasses on, which is often the case when I want to point something faraway out to him. ("Gordon, is that a peregrine falcon carrying a tabby cat?" "Sorry, I don't have my glasses on.") Some of us have -10 correction for short-sightedness and would be legally blind without our contact lenses. Hubster has the luxury of a barely-there prescription.

I keep looking at the rock. It's the only rock amongst the reeds, and it's quite large. I paddle towards it.

"You know, I don't think that's a rock." But I'm not sure.

"It's a rock!" says the myopic one. He clearly wants to get back to the pickerel dream.

I should add at this point that I am a very curious person. I am a big problem-solving, puzzle-doing, let-me-get-to-the-bottom-of-this type of gal. I can look at something Hubster has been trying to figure out for hours and instantly solve the problem. I blame it on my creative brain. I am really good at thinking outside the box. It's just the way my mind works (believe me, my brain has other problems that balance out the creativity!)

Unconvinced by Gordon's opinion, which is often the case (he says he loves me because I challenge him. HA!), I pick up the pace and head for the rock.

"Gordon, there seems to be a lot of moss on that rock." I am thinking of the rocks back in British Columbia. They were always covered in a fur of moss, due to the incredibly damp climate. Here, it's not damp like that. A bit of lichen, sure, but a mossy covering? Why would a rock out in the sunshine look so... mossy?

"Mmmm, well, it's a rock." Have I mentioned Gordon's blinkered thinking?

Paddle paddle paddle!

"Gordon, that's no rock!"

Paddling faster now!

"Gordon, the rock has brown furry moss!" Moss ain't brown, in my experience.

Paddle paddle paddle!

"Gordon, that rock has brown... FUR!"

Paddle paddle paddle!

"Why are there so many flies around here?"

Paddling a bit slower now. Backing up, in fact.

"GORDON! THAT ROCK STINKS! Aaaiiiiieeeeee!"

Covering mouth with hand now. Trying not to wretch.

"What, I can't smell anything!" says the olfactorily-challenged one. (No wonder he does litter-box duty at our place.) He's downwind from it, for cryin' out loud. How can he not smell it?

No, my noble readers, it was not a rock. It was a dead MOOSE. Most likely a calf, definitely not a bull moose. The poor thing was half submerged and its head thrown back so that we could only see one sad little ear. Its legs were almost completely underwater, so it did look not unlike a rather large rock, until you got within smelling range. The flies were having a party and inviting all their friends.

Last fall we saw a mother moose and her calf near here, and I fear this might be the young one. It's unfortunate, since our landlord said that these two were the first moose he had seen around here in 25 years. We have plenty o' deer; moose, not so much.

I don't think Gordon ever did catch a whiff of the odour, but I wanted to back off asap. "Poor moose," I murmured, and off we paddled into the sunset.

The next day, I emailed a friend of ours who works for Environment Canada and knows all about wildlife. He suggested to us that moose are not terribly, er, intelligent, and this one might simply have drowned, or it could have been chased by dogs.

Really, I would have preferred to have found a rare mossy brown rock. Or at least something that didn't smell.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Uncle Bobby is gone

I am bummed. On May 20th, Uncle Bobby died of a heart attack at the age of 82. Who is Uncle Bobby? Well, when I was a kid, he starred in the Uncle Bobby Show, taped at the CFTO studios in Agincourt (Toronto suburbia.) I watched the show religiously for many years and still can't get the "Bimbo the Birthday Clown" song out of my head. "Bimbo, Bimbo, Bimbo the birthday clown..." It's haunting, haunting I tell you!

I loooooved Uncle Bobby, so it was a great and wondrous day when I discovered that I had been chosen to appear as one of the "bobbysoxers" on his show, i.e. one of the crowd of revved-up anonymous kids who appeared with him for part of each episode. I think I was seven at the time. These were the days before cable TV, my friends. These were the days when patchouli was popular for the first time, and "Hey man! and "Peace, brother!" were au courant. I remember how exciting it was to be in a real TV studio, but even more, I remember eating corn chips in the darkened audience seating, as I watched the show being taped. Corn chips were a relatively new snack food to me at the time. The smell of them still takes me back to Uncle Bobby's secret realm (get your minds out of the gutter!)

Uncle Bobby was mostly known to Canucks, but some loyal Buffalonians could get Canadian TV via their antennae. In return, we Torontonian children devoured Rocketship 7 and Commander Tom. Where are they now, I wonder? I suppose a little Googling would answer that question for me.

Uncle Bobby was a staple of my childhood. I sure wish I could see the episode that I was on, with my braids and cat's eye glasses, slightly terrified by the TV cameras.

One guy from Buffalo has a great tribute site for Uncle Bobby that has lots of goodies to check out. If you grew up without Uncle Bobby, well, your childhood was stunted.

Uncle Bobby (aka Bobby Ash), I salute you! You will be missed.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

S C O R E !!

Yesterday this arrived in the mail, in a bright orange bubble envelope:

Oh baby! My friend Dephal takes good care of me! Not only does she know of my sincere love for tea, she knows of my sincere need of hand care, and my adoration for Burt and his Bees. Lookit: rum-raisin tea and chocolate-chestnut tea, not to mention some other goodies in the green tea packets. And as someone who used to do an awful lot of packaging design, I have to say that Lupicia has beautiful tea packaging. You can click on the photo to enlarge it if you're as interested in packaging as I am.

Incidentally, my graphic design credits include working on Always (feminine hygiene products) packaging many years ago (fortunately someone else got the Attends job), as well as designing a line of Mexican food packaging for Co-op, tissues boxes, tons of other food packaging, and various other items including yarn bands for Coats-Patons. (take note, knitting fans, although I must say that I don't like their yarn as much as I used to when they still had their factory in Toronto.) I designed their knitting pattern books as well. I must say, working on packaging for feminine hygiene products was not a goal I nurtured as a kid. Illustrating books is much closer to my childhood dreams!

Thank you, Dephal! The tea will help get me through my last snake illustration.

And now, because a day without birds is like a day without sunshine:

This is a male rose-breasted grosbeak, with a goldfinch in the background. The photo doesn't do his beauty true justice. And I didn't use a soft-focus lens; my window just needs cleaning!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Knatolee's Wild Kingdom

...or something. I watched too many episodes of "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom" as a child (which tells you how damn old I am. And yes, I can hum the theme song.)

We woke up to this masked beast yesterday. Certainly not a rare thing, but the first time I've caught a little raton laveur (that's French for raccoon!) in birdseed-thieving action. Note how the bracket is bending. Fortunately, the raccoon was relatively small. But not so small that he/she hasn't been able to get into our garbage cans and recycling bins TWICE this week. They are now locked in the garage.

"Oops. I see you. Do you see me?"

Later in the day, our resident turkey decided to have a rest. Isn't he beautiful? Wild turkeys have the most gorgeous feathers, more splendid than they look in this photo:

And we can't forget the bunny. I've seen at least two of them, which means soon there will be 40 of them, and they'll all be in my lettuce patch.

I am extremely fond of mourning doves. I really missed them when we were out west. They love our birdbath. They have the most beautiful, subtle colouration.

They also love niger seed! Who knew? And the goldfinch (you can only see its butt) doesn't seem to mind the large intruder.

And here's what should be in my feeders, instead of raccoons. A lovely pair of evening grosbeaks! If you want to learn more about them, visit Hinterland Who's Who

Yesterday I saw a raccoon, a skunk, a beaver (damming a stream), and a bunny. I am going to miss all this when we move to the farm.

This morning one of my suet feeders was on the lawn, completely empty. I can't imagine who (raccoon) would do (raccoon) such a thing (raccoon.)

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Thursday's weirdness

Just what is going on in this photo?

I like to keep you guys on your toes. My HUSBAND of all people (I'm the whack-job in this marriage, not him) took this photo back when we'd just gotten our first digital camera. We were living in Prospect, Nova Scotia at the time and had just walked down to our friends' place in the village.

They raised chickens at the time, and had put out some excess feet for the seagulls. So here we have it: "Chicken Feet by the Beautiful Sea"

You may now resume your regular, entirely normal daily activities.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

I'm gettin' a little punchy...

I think I've been working too hard (seriously.) You know, it has been quite some time since I made fun of my friends with Photoshop.

Here is the Lovely Mobert, modelling a fantastic device that turns a regular hairdryer into... something ridiculous!

(Yes, yes, I've done better Photoshop work but I'm not awash in spare time at the moment!)

Here Spongegurl sports an amazing cap that warms your head! Good in northern climates, I suppose...

And when Mobert and Spongegurl got together in NYC recently, they tried to outdo each other with the most current headwear fashions:

Back to work!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Bonjour from Montreal

Ah, here I sit at the Delta in Montreal, enjoying the thrill of high-speed Internet access for an oh-so-brief interlude. We are here for the weekend to celebrate the aforementioned anniversary. We used to live here back in the early 90s; in fact, we moved from Montreal back to Toronto a week before our wedding. No offence to Torontonians (I was born there and lived there for about 28 years of my life) but I was sad to leave Montreal, especially to go back to T.O. which is not my favourite place to live.

I loved living in Montreal, even though I was dirt poor at the time, working as slave labour at my first graphic design job at Starter Canada (blech), earning seven bucks an hour to start. Hubby was in law school at McGill, so he wasn't exactly rolling in dough either. Nonetheless, we had a great time here, living in sin in "Marika-ville", so called because our apartment was in a big old coachhouse owned by a Greek lady named Marika. She had a gruff exterior but was soft at heart. She'd do things like call to warn us when she'd spread salt on the driveway in winter, so that we'd make sure our dog Chelsea didn't irritate her feet on it. She must have liked Gordon because she didn't turf him out when he bounced rent cheques. I should add that this was before I showed up and took control of the finances! Gordon is not good with balancing chequebooks. He also once threw a $1.000 savings bond in the garbage by accident, but fortunately retrieved it before the trash truck appeared.

My now in-laws refused to visit us the whole time we lived here, because we were cohabiting out of wedlock. Also, my mother-in-law was rather alarmed by Gordon's pet gerbils, Oscar and Alfred. My own heathen parents were quite happy to visit, since both of them had lived in sin with other partners after divorcing each other!

Gordon and I used to pool $40 each per week to pay for groceries and toddle off to the grocery store, calculator on hand to make sure we didn't exceed the $80 budget. In the early 90s, grocery stores didn't take credit or debit cards so you didn't want to run out of cash! We ate surprisingly well on that amount of money, although I did ingest more Provigo Dinner (which we much preferred to Kraft Dinner, aka Kraft Mac 'n' Cheese to you Yanks) in those days than might now be considered healthy.

We certainly couldn't afford a car, but that was fine as we lived in the heart of the city, a few doors down from Pierre Trudeau, on Avenue des Pins Ouest. Needless to say, our place was a bit downscale compared to Pierre's. The back of our apartment in fact overlooked the Montreal General Hospital parking garage, and we were often serenaded by car alarms. But from our loft bed at the front of the apartment, we had a stunning view of the city. We were on a third-floor exterior walk-up, which made for healthy exercise but was a tad annoying when the dog had to go out for a pee late at night or early in the morning, especially in winter. The last winter we lived there, I got severe food poisoning one night while Gordon was out, and four ambulance attendants took me down that ice-encrusted metal staircase on a stretcher. Live the adventure!

I only saw Trudeau once in the three years I lived here, when he was escorting a blonde woman in a red coat up to his front door. What happened afterwards, who knows?

We had a couple of students living in the apartment across from us. One of them was a complete and utter filthy slob, and not long after he moved in, so did the cockroaches. Not many insects gross me out, but cockroaches definitely rate. Marika swiftly took care of thatwith professional pest control, and gave the slob a dire warning to clean up his act. One Hallowe'en, said slob also got stinking drunk and tossed my carefully-carved pumpkin over the third floor balcony-railing. His own roommate gave him hell for that. I seem to recall the slob moving out not long after.

Quite a lot seems to have changed in Montreal since we left in 1993, but quite a lot has stayed the same. Ben's (smoked meat sandwiches, fabled deli) has closed, and the Faubourg, which I used to consider chi-chi poo-poo, has fallen onto hard times, although the bagel place we liked is still in there. The cross on the mountain still lights up at night, and miraculously, the Big O (1976 Olympic stadium) hasn't completely disintegrated. The city is more prosperous than it was in 1993 and there are more swank stores and fewer empty storefronts. It's nice to be back for a visit, but I could never live in a city now. I need my peace and quiet, not to mention my 86 acres. Bring on the sheep and chickens!

Our old apartment is still here; I wonder who lives in it now? I wonder if the loft bed is still there, not to mention Marika?!

Enough reminiscing. Time to go find supper!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Two peas in a pod

You may need insulin to recover from the sweetness of this:

These are my friend Wendy's ADORABLE cats back in BC. They are siblings. They are today's "Knatolee's Blog Stars"!

Speaking of cute couples (har har, nice segue) today is our 14th wedding anniversary. I would like to know how the hell that happened (not "How the hell did we manage to stay together?" but "How the hell have 14 years passed by so quickly?") Where did these wrinkles come from? Where did that grey hair in Gordon's beard come from? (Yeah yeah, it was caused by me, I know, I know!) I think that because we don't have kids who are growing into teenagers before our eyes, we can pretend that we're not of the soon-to-be-very-middle-aged generation. But we are. :) Okay, the female one of us already is middle-aged. Beardo there is four years my junior so I think really he's just on the cusp of it.

So much has happened in the past fourteen years. Since I met Gordon, I have moved house nine times, and we are about to make it ten. I've lived in four provinces. I've travelled to numerous countries. I've had countless cups of tea delivered to me bedside in the morning. I have a good life and I'm glad The Bearded One is around to share it with me. Especially when it comes time to shovel sheep manure from the barn in the morning (sometime in 2008, if I play my cards right. Baaaaa!)

Enough sap and saccharin for today! But man, those cats at the top are too cute for words.

Monday, May 07, 2007

The beast in the swamp

Well! For the past week or two, we have been hearing the most ungodly noises issuing forth from the marshy area (aka The Swamp) next to our house. For the life of me, I could not figure out what it was. The resident beavers' love calls? The mating song of the huge snapping turtle I discovered while traipsing around there? A very, very, VERY large frog? My husband digesting his supper?

The sounds was hard to describe... a bit like giant bubbles welling up in a water cooler, but more than that, and much stranger.

I ruled out the amphibian theory after listening to recordings of the calls of every frog and toad species in Quebec. I ruled out the snapping turtle after a field expert in snappers told me that in ten years of studying them, he had never heard them make such an exotic noise. He suggested it might be a bird. I decided he could be right, but I had yet to rule out the beavers, or maybe that muskrat I saw last fall while I was out kayaking. Whatever the creature was, it had to be fairly large, because the noises I heard weren't coming from a goldfinch. I was starting to wonder if we had our own version of the Loch Ness Monster out there in the swamp.

My little brain soldiered on. We have two green herons hanging around... could it be them? Nope! And I knew that great blue herons don't make anything close to such a bizarre sound.

Last night, as I was idly thumbing through the heron section of my bird field guide, I found it. The call was described as a loud "oonk-a-lunk" (or oong-ka-choonk, or punk-a-lunk) that most people would not immediately recognize as a bird call.

I dashed to the computer to listen to the corresponding audio file, and voila: the American bittern! At which point I remember seeing a pair of bitterns flying over the house last week.

If you want to hear this bizarre call for yourself, go to

and scroll down the page to "listen to the songs of this species", and you can hear for yourself the amazing sounds of the Outaouais Swamp Monster!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Honeybee appreciation day

Honeybees need our love and protection!

Close-up of bees in the hive at the Montreal Insectarium. The queen is in the centre, with a white spot painted on her back. Not my finest photography, but you get the idea.

The message below is making the rounds of the Internet. I am all for honeybee appreciation. They are marvellous creatures, hard-working, not aggressive, and SO important for pollination. Spare a thought for the honeybees today! You can include other pollinators in that, such as the lovely bumblebee. Please try to avoid mindlessly killing bees. If one is bothering you, the best thing to do is slowly walk away. Swatting at a bee will only serve to anger it, and if you squash a honeybee, it emits a scent that essentially tells other bees to attack the intruder (in this case, YOU.) Honeybees are just out trying to do their jobs, collecting pollen and nectar for the hive.

Bumblebees at the Botanical Gardens in Montreal.

This is an invitation to gather in Appreciation for the Honeybees.

All over the world they are disappearing. Hives are empty. No one seems to know why the bees are disappearing. What we do know is that 60% - 70% of all honeybee colonies are vacant.

We realize that without honeybees the crops of fruits, nuts, corn etc. do not become sufficiently pollinated to allow them to bear fruit.

It is now time to hold the honeybees in appreciation

May 2, 2007 Shaman Jade Grigori says, "In whatever manner you are personally able, move your awareness into appreciation of the work of honeybees. Draw into this state the image of honeybees. Now bring in an association of how they sound, their buzzing about, their beauty and grace, the wonders of honey as a food and as a wonderful sweetener of life! Hold your awareness of honeybees in this state of appreciation. Do so for as long as is 'right' for you.

If you feel called to do so, please gather in groups in your area and participate. Please send this to others. Together we can show our gratitude and together we are magnanimously powerful.

A bumblebee on bee balm (bergamot) in my backyard in Nova Scotia. Note the yellow pollen "basket" on its hind leg.

A bumblebee seeks shelter from a rainshower in Manning Park, BC.

A damp bumblebee drying out after the rainshower.