5¢ candy

I need you to understand something before I kill you.

It didn’t need to come to this. It didn’t. But you ignored my repeated warnings and insisted on intruding where you aren’t wanted. Waiting for me in my bedroom when I go to bed at night. Peeking at me in the shower – yes, I saw you there yesterday, even though you quickly ducked out of sight. But I watch for you now, I watch for you all the time. And I saw.

You’ve made me nervous from our earliest acquaintance, did you know that? Oh I know you claim that you were just going about your business, but I could feel your touch on my skin, a tickling itch that I couldn’t wipe off. For days afterward, I would glimpse you out of the corner of my eye but when I turned you were gone. A fever-dream of panic, or were you just that good at hiding yourself, in the early days, before you got so over-confident?

You could have listened when I told you to go. You could have left at any time – I told you what would happen. But you didn’t. You chose to stay. Now it’s too late; the poison is already working in your system. Soon your internal systems will shut down and I won’t have to worry about you watching me anymore. So knock it off, all the cute little nibbles at the watermelon, the preening of the antennae. It won’t make me feel guilty, at least not guilty enough to save you.

And the bottle says it leaves a residual spray that keeps on killing for four weeks, so don’t even think about sending your friends in. I’ll get them too.

Ode to Canada

It’s cold and snowing,

So here I sit bemoaning

My ill luck to be born into this place

It’s icy and freezing,

I’m really not just teasing

I think it must be warmer out in space

But sometimes our weather is warm and really great

I think there was one day in June of ‘98

Our beer is tasty

Yet one must be quite hasty

And drink ‘ere it becomes an icicle

Our gas is pricey

Public transit is pretty dicey

It’s suicide to ride a bicycle

But our moose are really big and our trees kinda green

And our population is tiny, so don’t come here to be seen

The blasted snow is thick

Father Winter, you’re a prick

Look! the flakes are quickly turning into rain

Our air is delicious

But our weather is cruel and malicious

I think Canadians are all insane!

Great Canadian Novel

1 cup wind

1/2 cup dust

2 cups loneliness

1/3 cup family

2 tbsp immigrant experience

1/4 tsp nameless narrator

1/4 cup social climbing/heartless success/ poor-city-kid-makes good story

1/3 cup quirky plot

2 tsp magic realism

1/4 cup extreme weather event

In a large valley, mix wind, loneliness, dust, and family. Slowly add extreme weather event, stirring constantly. Fold in nameless narrator, poor-city-kid story, quirky plot and magic realism. Roll in to modest, unassuming balls and place on a large prairie sheet. Bake at 350F for one hour, removing when top is a gentle wheat colour. Cool and sprinkle with immigrant experience.

Serves 34 million.

Tricking Toddler Tastebuds: (Or, How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Bread)



A wildly swinging little hand wrenched away the spoon, and a Rorschach blot of organic yoghurt hit the kitchen floor.  It looked rather pretty lying there, I thought bemusedly, the pale blue spoon a counterpoint to the creamy vanilla contrasted against the reddish floor tiles. Sighing, I picked up the third spoon of the morning (a green one, this time) and again attempted to get a little food – any little bit of food – into the obstinately closed mouth of my daughter. Or even onto it.


The mouth that babbled, laughed, drooled, blew raspberries, yowled, shouted, talked and burped; the mouth that accepted without prejudice anything that it’s owner chose to pop in it for a taste or a chomp (up to and including the cat); the mouth that did all this but NEVER closed – this was the mouth that became magically, hermetically, sealed when spoon-borne foods approached.  That was Miranda at 13 months.


I was at my wits’ end. She used to devour anything and everything with the single-minded appetite of … well, of her Papa. Suddenly we had a finicky fusspot on our hands. Former favourites were off the menu. She wouldn’t eat anything that wasn’t a bread or a bread-like object, unless it was a banana. She hated baby cereal. Food couldn’t be green. Or orange. Or slippery. It couldn’t have at one time clucked, mooed, oinked, or swam. And above all, she had to be able to pick it up and eat it herself. Her paediatrician reminded us that no child has ever starved herself to death, that she would grow out of it, and that as long as her diet was balanced over the entire week, not to worry about a particularly fussy day.




We asked advice from friends and co-workers with toddlers of their own.

“I dunno, mine eats everything”, said some, “have you tried bananas?”

“If you find something that works, let me know!” pleaded the others.


Okay, back to the drawing board.

We had two basic parameters that we absolutely had to work within – it had to look like bread, and she had to able to eat it without assistance. And so we got creative.


Tiny sandwiches? Nope. She disassembled them like a bomb squad on a timer and the sandwich filling described a graceful arc on its way to the floor.

The bread she ate.


Attempt number two. Remembering buying stuffed buns in Chinatown, I decided to try making my own. A can of Pillsbury wiener wrap dough provided the necessary camouflage for the filling. I popped the can open, laid out the dough and cut it into squarish pieces. On each of these I put about a teaspoonful of mashed leftover beef stew and a sprinkle of grated cheese. Folding up the four corners of the dough,  I pinched it shut, flipped it over, and popped it in the oven for 10-12 minutes on 375 C.


I set the finished bun on the highchair tray and sat waiting for the little critic’s review. She poked it. She pinched it. She picked it up and interrogated it. She finally decided that if it looked like bread and felt like bread, it probably was bread, and she ate it. Well, part of it. Enough that she had a bit of vegetables and protein mixed in her carb and potassium diet, anyway.


A few minutes later, slightly flushed from my victory dance around the kitchen but feeling quite inspired, I jotted a down a few other ideas….


  • tiny fruit muffins, replacing half the flour with baby cereal (I also threw in applesauce and sometimes yoghurt)
  • more buns, stuffed with mashed whatever-we-are-eating-for-dinner
  • quesadillas, using mini pita shells instead of wraps
  • tourtiere or shepherds pie made the size of a tart
  • grated potato pancakes with bits of meat and veg in them
  • couscous mixed with a bit of egg and fried into a patty
  • fruit breakfast smoothies thickened with baby cereal (or in a pinch, straight up V8 fruit fusion drink)
  • yogurt in a tube

Some were instant favourites, some not, but finally she was eating a variety of foods again. As the months passed and she became accustomed to new tastes and textures, her fussiness at the table faded. Maybe the paediatrician was right and she did just grow out of it. Maybe our culinary trickery really did turn the tide. In any case, a little bit a work and some imagination in the kitchen made me feel as if I was helping my daughter to explore food at her own pace, in her own way. It solved the mealtime battles and allowed me to relax about her eating habits, so that I can now demonstrate a healthier attitude toward eating to my little girl. Goodness knows that little girls don’t need to see food as a method of control in this day and age.


Now eighteen months old, she eats almost anything that isn’t red and she’s beginning to experiment with using the spoon herself. It’s still bombs away over the side of the highchair for anything that she is finished with or doesn’t like (yeah yeah, we’re working in it) but at least, most days, she’s willing to try.



Even if, sometimes, the yoghurt still ends up on the floor.


Posted on: April 1, 2013

Twenty minutes now   they had been sitting there, alone and accusatory. No one had moved them.  In fact, unless one counted the surly bellhop who had deposited them with a crashing thump beside the large potted acacia by the entrance, no one had acknowledged them at all.

It was not, she thought, how the luggage of a valued guest should be treated.

In the old days, he would have taken them directly to her suite, and no reminders would have been needed.  She could have registered at front desk without having to keep one sharp eye peeled for thieves.  And everyone knew that establishments such as the one she found herself in this morning were the sort of place that might attract thieves.

Not that it was distinguished, oh no, not by any means. Here it was the other guests who must be watched. In better times, she would not have been seen dead in such a low-rent hotel, it just wouldn’t have done. But now, well… one must make concessions.

Even the front desk was without any charm or dignity; it was simply a wooden desk in an enclosed room, with only a little window in front through which to speak.  And the staff uniforms were awful. Who on earth had chosen such a hideous, bland shade?  What had happened to the rich blues and reds, the smart cuts and gold braids that had lent such a pleasingly opulent air?

Thirty minutes now, and her cases had yet to be attended to. She now noticed that the soft calf leather side was scuffed as well, and she suppressed a flash of rage at the carelessness of the staff.  Perhaps some intervention was needed.

“Miss, young miss?”  She caught at the sleeve of a passing maid, but the silly thing barely paused.  She was about to raise her voice and demand attention when she spotted a frumpy middle-aged woman approaching.  She wore no uniform; perhaps she was head of housekeeping or some such thing. The management should at the very least encourage their people to take pride in their appearance! It wouldn’t do. She added it to her list of things to address once she was well settled in.

The presumptuous thing sat in the well-worn chair beside her own, and with a pinched and worried expression, tried to take her hand. She snatched it back well out of reach.

“Mama, please”, the woman said softly, “I know you don’t like it here yet, but you will, I promise. The people are all very nice, and you will make lots of friends, and….” She trailed off.

“Please understand, Mama, you just can’t stay alone in that apartment of yours any longer.  I’m sorry.”

And as the person behind the desk called out a vaguely familiar name, the woman rose to finally take her cases from beside the door.

Once upon a time many, many years ago, on the uttermost edge of the Snocone Mountains, there lived a troll named Marrowcrusher Underbridge. Now young Marrowcrusher, or Emsy, as he preferred to be called, was descended from a long and illustrious family of bridge trolls. Their territory included all of Foggybottom Vale, and Fogstream Bridge in particular.  Night by night and day by day, each Underbridge troll took his or her turn roaring out the terrible challenge that turned the hearts of travelers to jelly.


Grandfather Bonebreaker was particularly horrifying. “WHO’S THAT TRIPPTIY TRAPPING ACROSS MY BRIDGE?” he would thunder in a voice so great it shivered the stoutest heart. But it was his Scare Song that really sent hopeful wayfarers gibbering in terror back to their homes.


 “Flesh to rend, and blood to suck,

Brains that leak into the muck,

Below my bridge by water dark,

Your life will lose its feeble spark.

No toll to pay, no way to pass,

Your brittle bones I’ll smash like glass,

And as I slurp viscera hot,

Your small trapped soul begins to rot.”



As you can quite imagine, this little ditty was enough to send even the bravest adventurers scampering in terror.

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