Friday, April 15, 2011

Semi-monthly Hodge Podge: Mid-March to Mid-April

Happiness = plants that attract bumblebees in April (in this case, trailing rosemary)

It turns out that between helping to plan your own wedding (and all the associated appointments, shopping and events that go along with one!), trying to wrap-up experiments towards a graduate degree, and also dealing with a variety of unrelated but equally time-consuming (and stressful) situations, that your blog gets rather neglected.

I don't know if everyone can relate to this, or only other people fitting into the same relatively uncommon Myers-Briggs personality category as myself, but when I come home at the end of a long day*, all I really want to do is switch off my mind and turn straight to escapism. This is often in the form of a Top Gear episode or perhaps even a quick videogame.

*days get much longer when you're planning a wedding; each and every day after work you have to go somewhere, before wherever it is closes, to pick up, try on or browse for something. Then you have dinner at 9pm and realise that there's more things to do like invitations, phone conferences, email confirmations, that sort of thing. By 11:30 you collapse in a heap but can't sleep for an hour or more because your mind is still racing. At 9am, you have an important meeting with someone not at all sympathetic to your hectic schedule. And the next day begins!

Could THIS be the year?! Oh please, oh please!

Thankfully, it's the PLAYOFFS! Of all the escapism in the world, nothing works for me better than the NHL playoffs (when my team is in it, of course. And that would be the Canucks, just in case there's any question).

I think all Vancouver taxi cabs should have a sign like this on them! Bad Patrick Kane! Pay your cab fares and don't assault drivers!

So on game nights, I'm even more unlikely to blog, and yadda yadda yadda, so concludes my excuses for procrastination at Green, Broke and Living in Kits.

First Item: Bitch about Dan Murphy's Stupid Comments

Funny: Guts McTavish. Sad Try-Hard: Dan Murphy. Stick to sports reporting, Dan.

In yesterday's 24hours newspaper (which I usually discover aboard transit), I was immensely enjoying Guts McTavish's responses in the 5-on-5 segment of the sports section, after I finished reliving the glory of game 1 in the Canucks-'Hawks series of the night before.

Stop cleaning the house! Clean sweep a series, but not the floors. ;)

And then I came to Murph's answers (Murph being Dan Murphy, the baby-faced reporter on Rogers Sportsnet Pacific). You're no Don Taylor! (Sigh - Don Taylor! What a guy! Read his bio - he's truly hilarious).

Dan - you'd never survive if the women left town. You're too pretty...

I don't think Dan's response would have gotten a laugh in even the Mad Men era where women were openly treated as lesser people - the comedic value is simply weak, at best. Since I spent time ranting about it yesterday (and considering it probably won't get published in today's edition), I'll just post my rebuke here:

The extra-attacker: response to Thursday’s edition of “5 on 5”

As a long-time
Canucks fan lacking a Y chromosome, it’s perhaps hardly surprising that Dan Murphy’s witless remarks in Thursday’s 5 on 5 would incite an impassioned rebuttal.

Granted, my first inclination was to hip check him, yank his shirt up over his head and jab his extra-soft underbelly for his suggestion that women should pack up and leave town for the duration of the playoffs. But I’ll be the first to admit that it wouldn’t be very ladylike of me, and so I’m happy to resort instead to venomous verbal blows (see Hosea Cheung’s answer to the same question for a side-dish of irony).

Let’s, for a moment, point out what even the non-sports enthusiast female does for the playoff-crazed men of our city. We all know how deliciously appropriate it was for Vancouver to face Chicago in the first round this year, a team limping into 8th spot in the West without Bolland and their former brick-sh*thouse-on-skates buddy Byfuglien; sports psychology plays such a crucial role in the NHL playoffs. Complete and utter domination of those irritating ‘Hawks would do wonders for the confidence of the Canucks heading forward towards the Stanley Cup finals; but a few preventable goals, an ugly couple of games, and a come-back forcing game 7 could potentially sow some rather insidious seeds of doubt in the minds of our soaring Canucks.

Hence the role of the Canucks t-shirt wearing hottie waitress who serves you and your equally unattractive buddies beers and wings while you shout and holler your way through the game. Despite the fact that she may not know the difference between ‘icing’ and ‘offside’ (or thinks you’re talking cupcake toppings and first-date etiquette), she is instrumental in making you feel like a man.

Waitresses the city over deserve the
Jack Adams for coddling your fragile egos by laughing at your dad-jokes, ignoring your unsightly beer-bellies, complimenting you on your facial fungus (playoff beards yes, but moustaches?! Really?!), and listening to you postulate on why ‘this is the year’ while spraying cheap beer as you lean in to slur your theories in their ears.

If all women left the city during the playoffs, who would be there to make you feel manly? Because I’m willing to bet that in the absence of the shapelier sex, you too will begin to pick up on the sharp, high-def contrast between your physique and, say,
Kevin Bieksa’s and other electrolyte-needing, lactic acid-producing, glycogen-depleting athletes. Without the pre- and post-game pep talks from the ‘coaching staff’, you really wouldn’t be so confident.

We see the truth, but compassionately overlook it – although you talk tough / shout as you call into sports radio, and feel surges of adrenaline as the
Sedins or Kesler light the lamps, you’re getting ever softer, squishier, balder and more ‘teddy-bear’ like with each period that passes on the couch, in the bar, or in the stands.

Here’s my suggestion to any female, hockey fan or otherwise, annoyed by baby-faced Murph’s comments – stop faking it. All of it. Let’s give
Dear Daniel a little taste of the playoffs Keenan-style and shred the ego.

As for GutsMcTavish – brilliant. I don’t even need to pull out the fake laugh or courtesy smile. There really is nothing more impressive and attractive than a truly funny man. Perhaps you can mentor young Murph in the field of comedic commentary and do us all a great service.
Sanrio's Dear Daniel and Dan Murphy (Sportsnet). The resemblance is uncanny.
And in contrast, humour. Thank you Guts. And Massengill.

Second Item: Gardening in April - Bothersome Birds, Sleet and California Dreaming

It SNOWED yesterday at UBC and around 4th and Vine. Snow! No, of course it didn't stick, but it did splash and sting the way only sleet can (miserable stuff!). How utterly depressing. Overnight lows of 3 degrees or less might explain why only a few of my peas actually sprouted (I started a few indoors a couple of days ago for transplant because of the poor results!). Happily, the cilantro, strawberries, spinach, borage and lettuce seedlings are coming along nicely still.

Happy little seedlings, some mine, some Wendy's. Plant-sitting is far preferable to baby-sitting.

Steph and Wendy - it was a brilliant move to go to Coachella, even though you are missing the first few games of the series. There was a thunderstorm two nights ago, and snow/sleet the next day. I can't even imagine the contrast of SoCal right about now!

The cilantro's still growing at least

Sometime during the winter, I picked up a bag of actual birdseed (to supplement the kitchen scraps and sweepings I usually offer up) because it was on sale at IGA. But now that the sun's returned and the insects are back (ants, bumblebees, flies, wasps - you name it!) and our wedding is looming and the bank accounts are at low ebb, it's time to go back to scraps.

Que Pasa tortilla chips (made in Richmond!) have been a staple in my family's home for years. In fact, Que Pasa was one of the first companies I ever contacted to discuss my abhorrence to genetically modified canola oil (are you listening Monsanto? I'll never forget. The younger generations will know. You won't get away with it! If only we could summon Captain Planet....!).

I rather wonder if Que Pasa doesn't translate to 'bird crack'.

Anyway, the chips are awesome, they use as much good stuff (organic, non-GMO) as they can get their hands on, and they're local. Not only that, but they actually invite you to come over to see their chip-making operation in person.

Many a summer afternoon is spent on our balcony, eating homemade salsa (tomatoes, cilantro, onions - I'm growing them all this year!) with a cold beer, G&T or glass of Gazela vinho verde. The cute little sparrows (or at least, what I USED to believe were cute little sparrows, but now regard them as evil Chicken McNuggets with wings, the bastards! I caught them eating my pea plants!) used to hop right up to us to beg for the chip crumbs. Only the Que Pasa chips, mind you - everything else seems far less exciting.

If you leave an empty bag on your deck, it will be filled with sparrows in no time!

Last week, when I was walking back from the grocer, some neighbourly crows flew up to me. So I opened the chip bag and dropped a few for them. Two steps later, more crows. So I fed them. Got to the apartment building - fed three more crows, then went inside.

When I came up to the apartment, crows, seagulls, pigeons and sparrows (no starlings that day) were all either perched on my patio or very near it. I threw out a few more chips and a squawking feathered frenzy ensued. They're nuts for these chips - all birds! People too, but birds even more so! They're still all hanging around today, and the crows and ravens have figured out how to beg from me (I'm weak, I have to admit).

Keep it up crows, and I'll bake four and twenty of you into a pie! Idle threats - even they can tell.

I've been failing at protecting my veggie crops from the birds - some of them (I'm looking at you, crows!) dig into my planters (I also saw them digging up my bulbs in my street garden to look for grubs! Argh!), others peck at my pea plants (yes, I'm sure pea greens are good for you, but can't you wait 'til they grow large enough to handle being pecked?!), and the Herring gulls and pigeons (particularly the pigeons) see every new crop-protecting measure as something to be walked or sat upon to test for comfort. I've noticed that the pigeons will prefentially land on my row marker for the spinach (an empty seed package on a stake) - I had to recycle it eventually because the buggers smushed it!

At right, an eaten and pecked stump of a pea seedling (random mustard green on left)

The irritating birds (who I feed, so really I can only blame myself), combined with the sleet/snow yesterday and the probably hail we had in the night with the thunderstorm the day before, have inspired me to create yet another measure to keep the elements and the avian beasts off of my planters!

Not the prettiest thing in the world, but hopefully will offer some protection from birds and nasty weather. Go Lettuce Seeds, Go!

I present the Plastic Baggie Bird Baffler Cloche! It's admittedly a work in progress, but it should fare better than my first attempt, which involved recycled streamer bits (metallic ribbons) taped to the end of an orphaned chop stick and stuck in the soil (to frighten them off?), with a few stakes holding a length of twine stretched out above it (in an attempt to prevent perching). That one got sat on by a seagull. And the pigeons seemed attracted to the wind-blown reflective ribbons rather than deterred.

Instructions are below:

1. Cut the heat-sealed end off the plastic bag.

2. Cut the plastic bag in half (across the bag - you want to form two tubes).

3. Gather bamboo skewers, defunct chopsticks, actual sticks and twigs or even proper plant supports/stakes.

4. Arrange 4 (if you want a square or rectangular shape) or 3 (triangular - great if you're short on sticks) in your planter. Fit one of your two plastic bag tubes around them (it will take some adjusting) and voila! An ugly but hopefully functional barrier. I'll let you know how it goes...

Here's the 'before' photo (below), with the string and the shiny ribbons to scare them off. I still think this should have worked, but it didn't. Blasted birds.


UPDATE: 2 May 2011
After: I removed the bags since so much new growth has come up! Still having to keep the birds at bay with twigs, but I'm pleased to say the lettuce loved it!

Finally, after a quick wipe-down with castille soap and water, I oiled my wooden deck chairs and table. I didn't have linseed oil (or even baby or mineral oil), so I used some olive oil. I'm wondering if that's going to attract wasps. Hmmm. I'll keep you posted on that front as well.

I have a neighbour who is overly friendly. I know he's not just friendly to me, because my neighbour Stephanie (lots of Stephs in the world!) has also taken measures to build a rudimentary privacy screen for her deck. Now it's one thing to wave and smile at your neighbour from your balcony to theirs, but to holler and shout and insist upon long conversation EVERY TIME you walk onto your balcony is just plain rude. I think our neighbour is finally taking the hint that sometimes people just want a little peace and quiet, but nevertheless I am increasing my efforts to put a visual barrier between our balcony and his. Because when he doesn't holler, he simply stares. For hours. Not cool.

This is what I do when I should really be studying. I make no apologies - my brain needs creative breaks.

This is my 'vision' from a month or two ago. It's actually changed somewhat - I'm sorry to say that fig trees are not readily available in the lower mainland (might have to pick one up when I'm next on the Island!), so for now the 'vertical' component other than the beans on the netting will be filled in by a sunflower plant.

For the trellis - I figured I'd just string up jute twine in a similar pattern to that above, maybe tie off the intersections to form a web. I knew it wouldn't end up looking good, but as soon as the pole beans do their thing, it won't matter too much.

On a failed bridal and bridesmaid shoe shopping trip in Richmond, we hit up the Daiso to grab a few odds and ends (to recuperate our losses). And I found this:

Netting! For the garden! Hemp! And it's $2 for a decent sized trellis!

$2 only! I love Daiso. True, 99% of the stuff is wasteful and sheer poison to our planet, but where else can you buy small enamelled or stainless steel or glass food containers for so cheap? Or garden things? If you're conscientious about what you buy (and how much), Daiso and YokoYaya123 can be your best frugal friends.

Third Item for today - Child Sponsorship

I'm very pleased to announce that we have recently sponsored another child (this time through World Vision). She's a 5 year old girl from Bangladesh. We also sponsor a teenage girl in Botswana through SOS Children's Villages.

Now you might wonder why a blog on being environmentally friendly and frugal in the Vancouver Centre riding (it's election time here, for all non-Canadian readers who are wondering about 'ridings'!) involves Child Sponsorship. I really have been meaning to change the name of this blog to "Green, Broke, Ethical and Living in Kits", but perhaps it's just better to assume that you and I and everyone else are interested in doing the right thing all the time by default.

It's just to the right of the page! Try my quiz to see what suits you!

But hear me out again - I'm a graduate student. My partner is also a grad student. We have NO MONEY. Well, that is, we have no money by Canadian standards. Compared to parts of Africa and Bangladesh, we're rolling in it! Savings? What savings? We don't have them, and I'm pretty sure the vast, vast majority of the world doesn't either. Although we may feel we live hand-to-mouth, there's a much starker reality out there. We might be poor compared to you, but both you and I are rich beyond many people's wildest dreams in other parts of the world (and even here in Canada, when it comes to places like first nation's land reserves and the DTES).

So I challenge and encourage you again to open your heart and shell out $30 a month! It will change and perhaps even save a life, give a child a chance at a better future, and give the basic necessities of life that everyone, EVERYONE is entitled to (in my world, at least).

If I can afford it, YOU CAN.

Here's a link right here that will randomly select a child awaiting a sponsor: Please follow this link. You can help this person so, so easily! Pack your lunch two extra days each month and you'll cover the cost!

Fourth Item - Comparatively Trivial, but Bimini Pub Gossip and a $10 Gift Certificate

I like the Donnelly group of public houses here in Vancouver. Sure, they're as expensive as their competition, but they're always nicer, they're cleaner, and they seem slightly more generous. For instance, I filled out a questionnaire to get a $10 gift certificate, and it actually came in the mail! And we also gave our email addresses in exchange for a shot while we were there! Not to put Donnelly pubs off of such a practice, but my Hotmail account is happy to be stuffed full of more advertising. Unlike human beings, it can live solely on spam.

So I was exceedingly chuffed about receiving $10 to spend at the pub (granted, I have only a month and a bit of a window to use it), and I read on the gift certificate the pubs owned by the Donnelly group.

The Bimini? Alright! Much closer to home than The Academic!

And it listed "The Bimini". (This isn't even listed on their website, so far as I can tell! Scoop for Green, Broke and Living in Kits! Alright!).

Bimini's has been closed since 2007 or something, because of a fire, and according to this article (Business in Vancouver), Donnelly jointly owned it at the time of the blaze. Anyway, it's been in Kits for decades, and for years it's been sitting there, a silent black edifice in the heart of 4th Avenue, essentially wasting space.

Note that the article, written around this time last year, slated reopening of The Bimini in the fall of 2010. Hmmm. Hopefully whatever roadblock it encountered has been removed since.

There are only 2, no 3, bars/pubs on this stretch of 4th ave at the moment (though I admit that I haven't investigated the Burrard to Cypress block in ages): Rowan's Roof above the New Apple Farm Market, Room 18 between Arbutus and Maple, Brown's Social House where the vineyard used to be at 4th and Vine. Brown's Social House on 4th and Vine is *THE* worst drinking and eating establishment I've ever been misfortunate enough to step foot in. The waitresses are beyond bitchy (Everytime! Miserable, miserable people!), the food is crap, the drinks are terrible, and it's just thoroughly unpleasant in virtually every other regard. Such a shame - what a location!

Rowan's Roof is alright. It has a terrible location, though. I keep forgetting it exists and heading elsewhere for a drink. I'm sorry Rowan - it's nothing personal. It's just that your location is terrible and the bar is empty and too dark. There's another pub on the same block as Bimini (Room 18). It's definitely doing something wrong because I keep forgetting it exists and I think I might have gone once but clearly didn't remember. Pizza from Hell across the street is aptly named. I met a nice waitress from there last fall, but even she didn't suggest it worth visiting!

If 'The Bimini' reopens on 4th, and it's managed by the Donnelly Group, WOW! Talk about a revival of that block (between Arbutus and Maple on 4th ave). I for one am very much looking forward to the prospect of a pub worth watching the big game (or PPV) at within my stomping grounds!

So stay tuned on The Bimini front! And if you're at The Lamplighter, The Cinema or any other Donnelly Pub (I recommend The Academic on Broadway myself), make sure you fill in a customer service card for your $10 gift certificate!

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