I want one that features a tiny gnome instead of a butterfly.
I want one that features a tiny gnome instead of a butterfly.
A dandelion crown tutorial. On our to-do list. Luke loves dandelions, is perplexed to see people digging them out of their lawns, can't resist blowing the fluff everywhere.
A recipe for dandelion wine.
What blowing on a dandelion seed head can reveal: if your lover is faithful, how many children you will have, the time of day, how many years you have left, if your mother wants you home. If you think of someone and blow the seeds in his or her direction, you can send a telepathic message to that person.
Everyone tends to go a little crazy this time of year. The old man who lives next store starts chipping away all the ice and snow still left in his yard. Ladies in Vancouver decorate trees with yarn cherry blossoms.
Actually, the yarn blossom cherry tree (see photos here) is a Yarn Bombing project to highlight the writer-in-residence program at Kogawa house, the childhood home of author Joy Kogawa, whose family were interned in the second world war and whose home was expropriated. Via Sara O'Leary.
So yesterday when went outside to gather stuff for decorating the Thanksgiving table, we discovered that our quince bushes were in full fruit. At least I think they're some ornamental variety of quince (probably C. japonica) as the real thing apparently doesn't grow in North America any more. We've got an enormous bush on one side of the house and a tiny one that I'd never noticed before this year on the other. That's kind of fitting, actually, since according to this oddly fascinating Wikipedia article, in Slovenia a quince tree is planted whenever a baby is born as a symbol of fertility, life, and love. We've got one for each kid. Says Wikipedia:
Cultivation of quince may have preceded apple culture, and many references translated to "apple", such as the fruit in Song of Solomon, may have been to a quince. Among the ancient Greeks, the quince was a ritual offering at weddings, for it had come from the Levant with Aphrodite and remained sacred to her. Plutarch reports that a Greek bride would nibble a quince to perfume her kiss before entering the bridal chamber, "in order that the first greeting may not be disagreeable nor unpleasant" (Roman Questions 3.65). It was a quince that Paris awarded Aphrodite. It was for a golden quince that Atalanta paused in her race. The Romans also used quinces; the Roman cookbook of Apicius gives recipes for stewing quince with honey, and even combining them, unexpectedly, with leeks. Pliny the Elder mentioned the one variety, Mulvian quince, that could be eaten raw. Columella mentioned three, one of which, the "golden apple" that may have been the paradisal fruit in the Garden of the Hesperides, has donated its name in Italian to the tomato, pomodoro.
David was all for trying one -- and Sylvie actually chomped down on one and went in for another bite before I could stop her -- but even the edible varieties of quince have to be cooked or at least "bletted," which means softened by frost, before eating.
Can you see the wide ring of orange mushrooms around him? When we discovered it in our yard the other night I promptly tossed both my kids into it for the photo op. Turns out that was exactly the wrong thing to do.
They got out without any trouble, though. In fact, Sylvie wouldn't stay inside. Even magic is powerless against her. I was like the woodcutter in Hansel and Gretel, repeatedly pushing my child, albeit unknowingly, into the path of danger to no avail.
Posted by Stephany Aulenback on October 03, 2010 at 11:45 AM in Childhood, Children's Literature, Compendium of Terrible Parenting Advice, Culture, Family, From the Department of Stopping to Smell the Flowers, Gardening, History, Little Things, Luke, Nova Scotia, Parenting, Parents in Literature, Sylvie | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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On a somewhat cheerier, more Christmassy note, from Jean Kerr's Penny Candy:
My next-door neighbor believes in an after-life for poinsettias. According to her, when the blossoms have wilted you must pinch them off. Next you place the pot containing the remains in a warm, dark place in the attic, where you water it every five days. Then in May you take it out and plant it in the garden. In September, you dig up the shoots and move them to a sunny window indoors. Eventually, if you have been constant in your ministrations, the plant should bloom again.
Listen, I would do all that for a friend but not for a three-dollar poinsettia.
I'm not even sure I would do that for a friend. (Just kidding, friends. I would totally dig up your shoots if you needed me to.)
I reserved Elizabeth von Arnim's Elizabeth and Her German Garden at the library after reading about her (and her weird second marriage to Bertrand Russell's brother Frank Russell) in Uncommon Arrangements. It seemed strange to me that I'd never heard of Elizabeth and Her German Garden, which was a bestseller for ten years or so after its anonymous publication in 1898 -- in Uncommon Arrangements, author Katie Roiphe called it "captivating" and "a serious critique of the institution of marriage" with " a light teasing tone." She said it was "a charming birdcall of a protest." My interest was also piqued by the facts that Katherine Mansfield was von Arnim's first cousin and that E. M. Forster had been tutor to her children. From the little I gathered, neither of them seemed to regard her work very highly.
While von Arnim does indeed seem unhappily married in the book -- in the few passages where the "Man of Wrath" appears he is revealed as pompous, sexist, and possibly sadistic -- she doesn't seem to make any kind of clear argument against marriage. These passages are difficult to read, actually, because she tries to make the Man of Wrath seem amusing when he is, by today's standards at least, boorish and incredibly offensive. But her marriage really isn't the focus of the book -- the book doesn't seem to have much of a focus. It is indeed highly readable -- it's both atmospheric and witty -- but it's also highly episodic, almost anecdotal really. Actually, it's very much like reading a well-written collection of modern diary-style blog entries. Most of the anecdotes are about her garden, some of them are about her children and houseguests, and only a few are about her husband. If Elizabeth and Her German Garden was in any way a protest against marriage, I think it was very much an unconscious one, for von Arnim went on get married a second time, to an even more unpleasant man than the Man of Wrath, at least according to Uncommon Arrangments.
But this is supposed to be about babies in literature -- and Elizabeth von Arnim had three when she wrote this book. Here is a passage about religious education, of a sort, featuring her three little girls, whom she refers to throughout the book as the April, May, and June babies:
The April baby came panting up... the others hurrying along behind, and with flaming cheeks displayed for my admiration three brand-new kittens, lean and blind, that she was carrying in her pinafore, and that had just been found motherless in the woodshed.
"Look," she cried breathlessly, "such a much!"
I was glad it was only kittens this time, for she had been once before this afternoon on purpose, as she informed me, sitting herself down on the grass at my feet, to ask about the lieber Gott, it being Sunday and her pious little nurse's conversation having run, it seemed, on heaven and angels.
Her questions about the lieber Gott are better left unrecorded, and I was relieved when she began about the angels.
"What do they wear for clothes?" she asked in her German-English.
"Why, you've seen them in pictures," I answered, "in beautiful, long dresses, and with big white wings."
"Feathers?" she asked.
"I suppose so, -- and long dresses, all white and beautiful."
"Are they girlies?"
"Don't boys go into the Himmel?"
"Yes, of course, if they're good."
"And then what do they wear?"
"Why the same as all the other angels, I suppose."
She began to laugh, looking at me sideways as if she suspected me of making jokes. "What a funny Mummy!" she said, evidently much amused. She has a fat little laugh that is very infectious.
"I think," said I gravely, "you had better go and play with the other babies."
"She did not answer, and sat still a moment watching the clouds. I began writing again.
"Mummy," she said presently.
"Where do the angels get their dwesses?"
I hesitated. "From lieber Gott," I said.
"Are there shops in the Himmel?"
"But then, where does lieber Gott buy their dwesses?"
"Now run away like a good baby; I'm busy."
"But you said yesterday, when I asked about lieber Gott, that you would tell about Him on Sunday and it is Sunday. Tell me a story about Him."
There was nothing for it but resignation so I put down my pencil with a sigh. "Call the others, then."
She ran away, and presently they all three emerged from the bushes one after the other, and tried all together to scramble on to my knee. The April baby got the knee, as she always seems to get everything, and the other two had to sit on the grass.
I began about Adam and Eve, with an eye to future parsonic probings. The April baby's eyes grew wider and wider, and her face grew redder and redder. I was surprised at the breathless interest she took in the story -- the other two were tearing up tufts of grass and hardly listening. I had scarcely got to the angels with the flaming swords and announced that that was all, when she burst out, "Now I'll tell about it. Once upon a time there was Adam and Eva, and they had plenty of clothes, and there was no snake, and lieber Gott wasn't angry with them, and they could eat as many apples as they liked, and was happy for ever and ever -- there now!"
She began to jump up and down defiantly on my knee.
"But that's not the story," I said rather helplessly.
"Yes, yes! It's a much nicelier one! Now another."
"But these stories are true," I said severely; "and it's no use my telling them if you make them up your own way afterwards."
"Another! another!" she shrieked, jumping up and down with redoubled energy, all her silvery curls flying.
I began about Noah and the flood.
"Did it rain so badly?" she asked with a face of the deepest concern and interest.
"Yes, all day long and all night long for weeks and weeks -- "
"And was everybody so wet?"
"But why didn't they open their umbwellas?"
Just then I saw the nurse coming out with the tea-tray.
"I'll tell you the rest another time," I said, putting her off my knee, greatly relieved; "you must all go to Anna now and have tea."
"I don't like Anna," remarked the June baby, not having hitherto opened her lips; "she is a stupid girl."
The other two stood transfixed with horror at this statement, for, besides being naturally extremely polite, and at all times anxious not to hurt any one's feelings, they have been brought up to love and respect their kind little nurse.
The April baby recovered her speech first, and lifting her finger, pointed it at the criminal in just indignation. "Such a child will never go into the Himmel," she said with great emphasis, and the air of one who delivers judgment.
Yesterday we visited River Breeze Corn Maze, just outside Truro, Nova Scotia. The man who owns the farm (the farmer/entertainment provider) told us that they filmed the movie Signs there. He also made a bunch of terrible corny jokes (exactly like that one) so I'm not sure whether to believe him. You can see a few more photos here.
Does your grocery store sell those gimmick plants -- you know, like three stalks of bamboo to attract happiness, five to attract wealth, seven for good health, or twenty-one for bankruptcy? Or Chia pets or little cracked eggheads with grass for hair? Well, I fell for one the other day. It was from a range of plants called "Colour Therapy." I'm surprised I can't find a link to them online. A yellow plant potted in a bright yellow bowl is supposed to bring you happiness and energy, for example. A red one promises passion. A green one in a green bowl will bring wisdom and serenity. I chose purple, the one for creativity, ambition, and success. I figured I would place it next to my computer and it would magically work its mojo on me every time I sat down. Instead of playing rounds of Awesome Blossom in my spare moments (it's not all bad -- I like to think of it a form of meditation), surely this purple plant in its purple pot would inspire me to write the next Great Canadian Novel or at least the next half-assed yet passable magazine article.
Well, it seems to work better on the cats than on me. Their ambition is to destroy the thing that's taken their sunny spot on my desk. And they've been quite successful -- they've been eating it and then throwing it back up in creative arrangements all over the house.