31 July 2009

Zucchini Season!

It's been so hot I haven't wanted to go outside but the veggies kept growing anyway...


I picked all of these last night -- four green zucchinis the size of my forearm and one yellow one, slightly smaller. There are several more just about the same size still on the bushes.

Meanwhile, Frugal Victoria is finding more followers and fans on both Facebook and Twitter (yes, I went to the dark side of 140 character updates. Sigh.) -- the upside of which is that people are now sending me tips. Hurrah!

I also entered a contest to win an OTTO espresso maker (this is one beautiful piece of machinery that retails for about $600!) -- I had to write about how specialty coffee changed my life so I whipped up a little creative non-fiction, "A rebellious act."

Of course, I now think I may have got some details wrong (was the Old Towne actually on Yates, not Johnson? Had it closed before I left for England?) but the overall feel is still there. I also found, on re-read, that I had repeated myself... but there's not much I can do about that now. The prize will be awarded by "popular vote" so go have a look at the other entries, too. Oh, and before you ask, the editor of CoffeeCrew selected that photo from my Flickr stream; I sent a different shot. ;)

27 July 2009

weather whining

OK, it's hot -- hot enough that we even had a lightning storm Saturday evening -- and it's not just me whining now; Environment Canada has released an Extreme Heat Wave Watch and statement:



Extreme Heat-wave with Temperatures above 32C to Persist through Mid-Week.

An unusually lengthy period of extremely hot weather across the South Coast of British Columbia is beginning. Computer models suggest the heat-wave may last up to 5 days, or possibly 6 days at some inland locales. A massive ridge of high pressure building in the upper atmosphere will result in dry weather through the end of the week and many daily temperature records are expected to be broken.

Most importantly, the pattern of air pressure in the lower atmosphere will cause hot continental air to drift from the interior plateau to the coast. Calm or light winds on the coast will lead to stagnant air which is then subject to fierce heating by the powerful July sun. By this afternoon, temperatures in the low to mid thirties are expected.

Heat-waves on the BC Coast rarely last more than 3 days. After 2 or 3 days, the pressure pattern in the lower atmosphere usually changes, causing a shift in wind direction to onshore. The onshore flow of air brings cooler Pacific air inland, refreshing the air and lowering the temperature by 10 degrees. In this case, the switch to onshore winds may not occur until the end of the week and temperatures in the mid-thirties will persist until then.

It goes on to say that prolonged heat waves have only been recorded 3 times since 1881: in July and August of 1928 (hello! mark that in the Tardis as a time/location to avoid) and again in August 2004. Hmm. that reminds me of the single advantage we lost when we moved from the townhouse: the ocean breeze.

The worst thing is that this is very bad news for forest fires such as those in the Okanagan plus the 30 new fires sparked this weekend.

Speaking of fire, this weekend an infamous landmark, the Holiday Court Motel on Hillside, sustained considerable damage. Here's a recent photo of the boarded up building before it burned:


24 July 2009

My pockets aren't that deep.

Earlier this week, our esteemed leaders sprung a new tax on us. Oh, sure, they said it will rejuvenate the economy but really it's just a poke in the eye for most British Columbians and virtually all tourists. What they are doing is "harmonizing" the provincial sales tax (PST, 7%) with the federal goods and services tax (GST, 5%). This harmonized sales tax (HST) will take effect next July 1st, post the glorious Olympic Games of course. While it makes some sense for those who have to collect the tax, it is problematic to blend two different systems. Here's just a few things that will be more expensive under the new tax (currently exempt from PST, they will be subject to the full 12% HST):


• Residential fuels (electricity, natural gas) and heating.
• Basic cable TV and residential phones.
• All food products (only basic groceries will remain exempt under new tax).
• Non-prescription medication.
• Vitamins and dietary supplements.
• Bicycles.
• School supplies (books will continue to be exempt).
• Magazines and newspapers.
• Work-related safety equipment.
• Safety helmets, life jackets, first-aid kits.
• Smoke detectors and fire extinguishers.
• Energy conservation equipment (e.g., insulation, solar power equipment).


• Personal services such as hair care.
• Dry cleaning.
• Repair services for household appliances.
• Household maintenance such as renovations and painting.
• Real estate fees.
• Membership fees for health clubs.
• Movie and theatre tickets.
• Funeral services.
• Professional services such as accounting and home care.
• Airline fares within Canada.

All household energy prices have increased significantly in the past five years anyway; an added 7% on that item alone will be a huge burden for the average family but that is only one item on the list. Add up just the ones you can't avoid and it's going to get ugly uglier around here.

Thanks a lot Gordo.

23 July 2009


It's been a while since I posted about my new "allotments of time" plan but I think it is sort-of working. It's not fool-proof -- I do skip nights and sometimes work on the "wrong" stuff on a given night, but I do feel like there is more balance. Good example, last night I realized I was just wasting time so I looked over at my list of what I should be doing on a Wednesday. Ah, storefront maintenance. Good, I had been thinking of making a new calendar or two, might as well get that going.

It meant staying up a little late but I finished my Views of Victoria 2010 by just after midnight. And then I stayed up even later to finish watching Fight Club on cable. Sigh.

Anyway, the calendar is available and now I am thinking of making a Campus Rabbit calendar and maybe others too (flowers? BC in general? Vegetable patches of Victoria?). Let me know what you'd like to see and whether the price seems acceptable, considering it's print-on-demand.

22 July 2009

The Opposite of Chick-Lit

Summer is the time of the year when bookstores inevitably cram their shelves with fluffy quick-reads about romance, friendships, travel and shopping. Sure, I've been guilty of reading the odd chick-lit tome (Confessions of a Shopaholic springs to mind) but it's not my favourite genre.

Instead, I find myself reaching for the stuff on the other end of the scale. Is there an industry term for this type of book? Think spies, mafia, murder and mayhem. Thrillers or suspense, I suppose.

Anyway, I have been reading Charlie Huston's Hank Thompson books (downloaded for free -- thank you Random House & Stanza -- to my iPod) and also snuck in the quick-to-read Dark Harvest which takes place somewhere between Sleepy Hollow and the Twilight Zone.

I started the Charlie Huston books in order with Caught Stealing. The book introduces the reader to Henry "Hank" Thompson, an alcoholic bartender who agrees to do a favour for a neighbour that lands him in a world of trouble. It is confusing at times and brutal throughout. Plenty of people die. The pages are filled with fist-fights, guns, drugs, booze, blood, cars, and sports -- I almost expected a waft of Old Spice -- but man, it is a good read. I'm working my way through Six Bad Things now, which picks up where Caught Stealing left off, and I am already looking forward to A Dangerous Man, the third in the series.

I picked up Dark Harvest by Norman Partridge during our trip to Vancouver last month, on sale at the Book Warehouse. I got sucked in by the cover that features a menacing pumpkin-headed monster and pull-quotes promoting the author as the next-best thing in horror. I trusted that Peter Straub and Stephen King would not steer me wrong and took the Bram Stoker Award as further validation. The story is as twisted as the vines that make up the October Boy (the monster from the cover). Again I found myself reading about guns and gore and men with some serious rage issues but it wasn't gratuitous. OK, maybe some of it is gratuitous but it's still a good read.

Want to add these to your bookshelf? Here's more info:

18 July 2009

Vintage craft bonanza

My Mother in Law came over this morning for breakfast (mmmmm, home made eggs benedict with panfries made with fresh-from-the garden potatoes and herbs, thanks Hubby). The plan for the day was supposed to be the Moss Street Paint-in but Hubby and I are sissies when it comes to the stuffy weather (turns out there was a nice breeze most of the day and it would likely have been fine) so after talking it over with the others we all decided to hit up yard sales instead.

We got some great stuff.... a new game table (folding card table with a handmade top that includes a chess/checker board), a slot car race set for Kiddo, some movies, and other odds and ends.

But, the best find of all was an armload of Tri-Chem Liquid Embroidery stuff from the seventies. Included were two carry-cases, loads of paints, two catalogs from 1973, canvases (most untouched, a few completed, some with instructions) and some maintenance tools and instructions.

All for a buck.

Tri-Chem Liquid Embroidery

The best thing was a blank green "velvet" canvas printed with a pattern that looked familiar -- a flower arrangement in a copper teapot (similar to the daisies above). I couldn't get a good photo of the canvas and it didn't come with instructions but it doesn't matter; I have another that my Mother completed back in the day. All in all, even if I never use the paint, it was totally worth the trip down memory lane. I have also added the catalogs to my mental "to be scanned" pile.

And, just in case you were curious, Tri-Chem has been made since 1948 and is still available.

14 July 2009

Happy Bastille Day!

Bastille day commemorates the French Revolution, or more precisely the storming of the Bastille, which happened on this day back in 1789.

School may be out for the summer but the calendar often offers teachable moments. Here's a good overview of Bastille Day written for kids -- including just how insulting Marie Antoinette's famous words were. [Wanna learn more? Do some research through the Internet Archive.]

Why should we care? Well, the French Revolution gave the world restaurants (as opposed to dark, ale-filled inns), and provided the central plot elements for Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities (the only Dickens book I have actually managed to read cover to cover without resorting to Coles Notes or similar crib sheets). [Ooh, here's an audio version too.]

And in case that was too much information, here's some Mel Brooks to take your mind off it all (be warned this is a PG-13 clip...):

12 July 2009

Lazy weekend

Actually, that's not entirely true, but there wasn't much on the books.

We decided yesterday to go out to Langford for a trip to Costco and Glenwood Meats with a friend of ours. Unfortunately, we ran into trouble as people were lining the streets and rail line to get a glimpse of the Emperor and Empress of Japan as they travelled on the E&N -- at least that's what we think was going on; there were no signs and nothing on the news later for the kickoff to the Langford Summer Festival (thanks for the update, Hubby). So, after some delay (because Glenwood Meats was on the far side of the impromptu parade route), we did manage to get both stops done and also sneak in a trip to the evil Wal-Mart in search of lawn ornaments on clearance.

After that, I napped. A lot. I'm still not sleeping well (I think I need to hibernate through the heat... in a nice cool, damp cave somewhere) so I find I am napping almost daily.

Then I hung out with Kiddo, sorting and playing with LEGO, for the most part. We found two sets still in boxes that she'd never opened (that's how much LEGO she has!!). She did most of the small one last night (finishing the set -- a Star Wars Pit Droid -- this morning) and now is working on the larger set.

Today, I got some much needed yardwork done -- trimming, weeding, staking and repotting one tomato plant from the greenhouse. I am pleased that we are starting to get food from the garden -- more than just the odd bit of lettuce and clump of radishes. It is very satisfying, though I doubt this year the garden will pay for itself. Maybe if I can master year-round planting and harvesting...

On Facebook, I decided to buy an ad to get more fans for FrugalVictoria.com. Before the ad started, I thought I was doing well with 47 fans. Since the ad has been running (it finishes tonight), I've more than trippled that number to 144 fans and counting. (I'd be happy to share more details if anyone is interested in the mechanics and costs.) What it's done, though, is made me feel more obligated to keep the website fresh and interesting. I may have to do that for my Creative Miscellany page, too.

10 July 2009

The Weekend Cometh.

This week has had an elastic quality. Monday and Tuesday seemed to take forever, slowly stretching well into Wednesday but sometime yesterday everything seemed to snap back to normal and now it's Friday.

It was pointed out to me that my banner up there includes a typo and though I promised to fix it, I keep forgetting to do so. I will fix it this weekend. Really. If I don't, you have my permission to flood my inbox with comments to remind me.

Anyway, here's some fun/interesting stuff out there in the world:

A new digital collection at the University of Buffalo features pulp fiction book covers -- over 500 of the library's collection of 30,000 pulp fiction books and magazines. Browse the collection for some great eye candy.

I'm sure after reading about the return of textile coffins, someone out there will try to knit or quilt their own. It's an interesting idea but a green/natural burial is still the ideal as far as biodegradability goes.

For the zombie film-makers in the audience, there is a zombie short film festival coming up in Toronto later this year (tentatively October 30th) -- there is a $20 entry fee, films need to run under 20 min and be submitted on DVD by October 1st.

Although I didn't think I would start to grow bored of zombies, I realized I am already looking for the next trend -- monsters? Maybe, if Where the Wild Things Are doesn't tank at the box office. ...

08 July 2009

Antagonistic web design

It's one thing to have an ugly or out of date website but it's quite another to have one that frustrates users with non-standard navigation and lack of information. There's one site which I keep going back to although I don't know why I bother. (I do know, sadly, it's because I have to keep trying.)

I feel like Charlie Brown running toward the football every time I try to find something on that site.
Every time, I click or try to search, I land on my digital ass. "Aauugh!" -- they have Lucy van Pelt as their web tech.

The frustrating thing is that the site is one that should be packed with information -- it needs to have digitized publications forms and posters, a proper contact form, a real search box or even a site map that actually lists everything on the site. Unfortunately, they don't use a content management system (if they do, they've broken it) and have lost track of some of what is there. I've tried searching for date-sensitive information (upcoming meetings, conferences, courses) and in the end had to go through an email tree only to receive a document that was scanned from a photocopy, saved as an image, embedded in a Word document and then attached to my email. AAUUGH!

I understand that some companies don't want to manage a web presence -- fine, then just direct me to whom I need to contact to find the information I need; don't frustrate me by pulling the virtual football away after I have started to kick. In fact, don't even pretend you have a football. One of these days, I may send you my chiropractor bill.

04 July 2009

Allotments of time

People often ask me, "How do you get so much done?" and, if I answer honestly, I tell them that I just tend to focus my time on a given subject for a short time then move on to something else. Eventually, I come back to things. Of course, I find this frustrating at times; some stuff falls off the map for weeks (months!) at a time making it that much more challenging to catch up.

So I have drafted a schedule, of sorts. Six nights with two or three tasks each, prioritized to some extent. I figure I'll give it a few weeks and then tweak it as needed then repeat that process until I get a working model. This is basically what it looks like:

Most days will be manageable, I think. Monday is mostly about press-releases and making sure I've uploaded any outstanding movie reviews. Wednesday is shop-day -- I don't expect to update every shop every week, but I should focus on at least one each week whether it's adding listings or promoting them. Saturday is left open for "catch-up" in case there's something that keeps me busy enough to not get things done during the week.

Basically, I hope to get these things done before settling in to my usual surfing, random blogging, facebook games, and other nonsense. That's the plan anyway.

The Girl Who Hated Books

Lovely little NFB short film about Meena, a girl whose parents are always reading and who resents the pile of books they keep building for her...

03 July 2009

Summer is not without rants

It is definitely summer. It's been warm again -- 26°C give or take; the house feels even warmer -- and leading up to my niece, nephew and sister-in-law visiting, I sucked it up and mowed the back lawn. I knew the kids would want to play in the back yard and I figured I should clear up the remaining cake.

...Ah, yes. The cake. Lunch time today, I witnessed a raccoon wander into the back yard (just after noon) and partake of the leftovers. Said raccoon was then harassed by crows (who nest in the Douglas Fir) for about two hours. Before mowing the lawn, I had a look at the remaining mess. It was decidedly cake-like; still spongy and fresh in appearance which, frankly, frightens me. Later, I found a stash of maraschino cherries in my lettuce patch. I wonder which creature was saving them?

Anyway, I was successful in cleaning up the lawn, helping to set up dinner and so forth. We had a good visit, the kids had a good tear through the place and everyone enjoyed dinner and dessert. After everyone had gone home/back to hotels I went out to grab a few groceries and therein lies the rant.

See, I decided to use the self-serve checkouts at Save-on-Foods, just to see how they worked. Right off the bat they got a low grade because, like a good citizen, the first thing I did was put my reusable bag in the bagging area and the first thing the checkout told me was that there was an "unexpected item in the bagging area." I tried again and got the same result. I looked at the bored staffer left to oversee the six self-checkouts and she informed me that she had to "key that in." Really? Shouldn't eco-bags be the rule and not the exception? Sigh. So, anyway. Aside from that, it worked out OK but I don't think I will use it again until they phase out the full serve completely.

On my return, I watered the front garden and beds and then, because it was impossibly stuffy inside, Hubby and I took one of the laptops out to the back deck and watched a movie. Ahhh, technology.

01 July 2009


Regular readers will know I am a fan of Cakewrecks and also of destruction so it shouldn't be a surprise that for my birthday, I asked for and got this:

But it still surprised most of the guests -- aside from my unbridled laughter and Hubby's crazy-guy noises, there was a moment of stunned silence. I think a few people thought Hubby had finally lost it. Instead, it was carefully planned right down to where we bought the cake (Costco -- we HATE their cakes. Eww icky, eww) but Hubby didn't tell me exactly what he would do. Unfortunately, it did scare one of our youngest guests (my sincere apologies to her and her parents -- we really didn't expect her to have a front row seat to the craziness). In the end, we enjoyed a very yummy Ben & Jerry's ice cream cake, some cheesecake, and other yummy treats.

But I think it will be a while before I get the last of the marischino cherries out of the lawn...