29 March, 2017


we spent four days in new orleans, taking in the colourful cacophony that is mardi gras. my second year, mr. monkey's first. i think i'm good now - not with new orleans, heavens no! but with mardi gras. it is fun but it takes a lot out of you, and it seems that i have less and less to get taken out before i am done. it's something that i'm glad i experienced, but it made me miss quietly meandering through the city's neighbourhoods. each time i walk the streets of new orleans, i am struck again with how much i love its uneven sidewalks, its tangled electrical wires, its tiny neighbourhood bars with their hand-painted signs, and the uncontrolled profusion of greenery.

new orleans is enchanting and charming and perfect in its imperfection in a way that our neighbourhood in texas will never be with its almost sterile elegance - each house similar in scale and style to its neighbour, tasteful landscaping, matching brick facades. it's pretty, sure, but it lacks soul, something that i manage to forget pretty successfully until i walk down a living, breathing street any place that feels distinctly like itself: suffused with a sense of its personality, history, vitality and identity. you can master plan a community, you can build a "main street," you can even throw in public art, but unless it is organically nurtured it becomes little else than a stage prop, a faux place, a photo op for the wealthy to pretend they're somewhere real. all you'll have is a pretty face with no soul.

much that is wrong with north america (from an urban planning perspective) comes, in my mind, from a  ubiquitous car-centric placelessness - you could be driving through kansas or winnipeg or tampa, and their outskirts would be indistinguishable from one another. sure, there is a certain safety to it, but it also means that you are always separate from where you are, a passerby, with no voice and no emotional investment. you are in a place with home depot and a walmart and a thousand faceless restaurant chains that will serve you entirely non-challenging food. granted, i live in the nicer end of the beige spectrum (shall we call it snowy cashmere? or translucent silk?) but it is beige nevertheless. i try to focus on the beauty that surrounds me, lest i go mad from the ugliness we keep letting be built around us.

takeaway: go to new orleans!



mr. monkey and i were on our way home and as we walked along a fence, one of the hundreds of squirrels currently terrorizing the neighbourhood ran across our path, freaked out at our presence, changed course in mid run, took a running leap at the fence and bounced right off. it immediately got up and scaled the fence again, this time with perfect precision and aplomb, but it was too late: we were howling with laughter, doubled over, weeping with mirth. idiot squirrel.


walking home one night we had the following conversation:

moi: you're not worried about snakes in the dark?

mr. monkey: no. not at all. at night snakes sleep. it is known.

moi: where do they sleep?

mr.m: generally they sleep in the forest, upright.

moi: upright?! how do they manage not to fall?

mr. m: they lean against trees, mainly.

moi: wouldn't they just slide down?

mr. m: no. they hang on with tiny little snake hands.

moi: what kind of hands are they? like gecko hands? or something else?

mr. m: sort of like gecko hands, but with long fingernails.

moi: what?!! why?!!

mr. m (rolling his eyes at my inability to think for myself): to pick mouse fur from between their teeth!


this went on for a while, eventually an obvious difficulty presented itself to me:

moi: how come we don't ever see snake hands? where do they keep them?

mr. m (incredulous at my idiocy): in their pockets!

24 March, 2017


whatever my feelings may be about the united states of america (and lately, baby, you ain't been doing so good!) or texas (and that's double for you!), i have to say that spring here is a thing of great and overwhelming beauty.

i discovered that you can walk along the storm water management bayous that criss cross the township and it reminds me of nothing so much as my childhood walks with my grandma along the fields in poland. ever since those youthful days, when i see wildflowers blooming, i'm in a little bit of heaven.

these are the bluebonnets that texas hill country is famous for. i was surprised to see that they were actually lupins, but that's ok - they just grow on the sides of the roads and make the world beautiful so their nomenclature is irrelevant.

this is literally 5 houses down from where we live, and since discovering it, i've been walking here daily. i envy the people whose houses back onto the bayou. there are always egrets, great blue herons, turtles and butterflies to keep things interesting.

i found wild strawberries and almost did a little dance right there. alas, unlike the wild strawberries i remember from poland or the ones i unexpectedly found in eastern canada, these have no taste. literally. biting into one is like biting into a little red styrofoam ball. highly photogenic, though, so i forgive them.

morning cobweb bowls. as you can imagine, the photo doesn't begin to do them justice.

another shot of the bayou. tends to be filled with skittish turtles and tiny fish.

who can walk by hundreds of wildflowers and not pick a single one? not me, that's who!

well, there you have it. an atypical photo essay because i wanted to share the beauty with y'all.

16 March, 2017

this ain't that kind of blog

but it's my blog, so i can make it any kind of blog i want. and today, i want to make it a "caring for your skin the non-waste granola way" so pull up a sustainably hand-made chair and listen up.


i don't drink a lot of coffee (and when i drink too much my body quickly reminds me to ease off, what with the jittery giblets and all) but i do drink it occasionally, thus generating coffee grounds. what the azaleas don't get (those azaleas love coffee grounds, i'm told!) usually gets tossed, but since my face occasionally reaches the consistency of late february gravel in northern alberta, i like to scrub it with the coffee grounds.

i take a puck of well pressed grounds from my trusty aeropress (thank you, crusty juggler, for introducing me to this flavourful caffeination miracle!!!), throw it in a small bowl, add a teaspoon or two of base oil (jojoba/argan/avocado etc. based on the dryness/oiliness of your complexion), and a couple drops of essential oil (frankincense is my favourite, but patchouli plays well with coffee as well). i mix this well, and keep it by my shower, so that i can exfoliate/moisturize my face whenever i feel like it. you can use it all over your body for a moisturizing/exfoliating fix.

bonus: when my hands are covered in some nasty shit like glue or paint or epoxy, the coffee scrub works like a dream - as well as the specialty stuff!

gentler exfoliation:

if you don't like to scrub yer bits, that's fine. but if you're ever eating fruit, you can take advantage of the alpha hydroxy whatsits contained therein and gently exfoliate yer face. whenever i cut the tops off the strawberries, i'll take one more generous snip and rub the strawberry top all over my visage. i do the same with pineapple, taking it a step further - when i peel pineapple, i cut the peel into small pieces, pop them into a freezer bag, and voila! a soothing, cooling, exfoliating glow miracle in a baggie. remind me when you're staying chez nous, and i can hook you up.


is any of this making me better/younger looking or in any way more appealing? likely not, but it makes me feel like a. i'm repurposing things and b. i'm taking some care with myself which seems important given that i will sometimes go whole days without once looking at myself in the mirror, other than to ascertain the presence or absence of spinach in my teeth.

11 March, 2017


as we arrived at a destination and started getting out of the rental suv, a strange ditty ran on repeat in the background. eventually we realised it was 4, stuck in the carseat and unable to unbuckle herself. instead of screaming/whining/yelling/snarking, she made up a song and sang it until someone clued in:

i just can't unbuckle
i just can't unbuckle

it had a catchy rhythm and melody and soon we were all singing along while i freed her. for the rest of the visit, one of us was always spontaneously erupting into the song:

i just can't unbuckle
i just can't unbuckle

or making up our own lyrics:

my name is larry*
my name is larry

lest you think there is a nursery rhyme cadence to 4's oeuvre, think again. it's really rather hip-hoppy and invites the listener to shake and shimmy rather than polka with a teddy bear. mr. monkey's singing it as i write.

*names have been changed to protect the innocent and the not so innocent

09 March, 2017

3 little girls

after the almost constant whining and out of control mood swings of the 4 year old nephew that characterized my SIL's visit, i was naturally a little apprehensive about how my 3 little nieces would behave, or, more to the point, how the occasionally-melty-downy 4 year old niece would behave. turns out my fears were unfounded - other than the occasional moods brought on by delayed nap time or hunger pangs, 4, just like her sisters (2 and 6), was a delight.

first day here, all three of them jumped straight into the pool, the younger two in water wings, the oldest proudly showing her not inconsiderable swimming skills sans any kind of floatation device. the pool and hot tub were definitely a most favourite item on their vacation menu. unlike my nephews, who barely dipped their bits into the pool and then only buoyed by various inflatables and/or parental cajoling, these three little chicks took to the pool like proverbial ducks to water.

and watching them eat! i wax rhapsodic and cannot tell you how my heart sang when 6 came back twice for more helpings of roasted brussels sprouts, hoovering up salad as fast as i could make it, eating fish and shrimp with gusto, and routinely asking for spicy soup. no pre-cut nibbles or dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets for them: each one, including 2, got a plate filled with grown-up food that they then proceeded to devour. i swear, i grinned like a fool each time we broke bread!  they turned up their noses at store bought toaster waffles leftover from the nephews' visit - one taste and a polite but firm no thank you. 6 took one bite of a krispy kreme donut and pushed her plate away, moving on to polish off an entire large bowl of fresh berries all by herself. 2 grabbed a container of carrot sticks from mr. monkey's lunch bag and hopped all over the backyard crunching them like a manic bunny. (in case you think all this is too good to be true, they also love skittles. LOOOOOVE skittles. god knows why...)

we did a bit of travelling and a bit of hanging around. we spent 4 days in galveston and on the way home from the cold and windy beach weekend we played multiple rounds of "guess the animal." it went something like this:

(my animal: hippopotamus - in polish, hipopotam)

6: is it a land animal or a water animal?

moi: it's a little bit of both, but you could say it's a land animal.

4: is it a fish?!

6: NO! she said it's a LAND ANIMAL!

4: oh.... is it a beluga?

6 (rolling her eyes and sighing dramatically): no!!!

4: ok.

we went on in this vein for a while. it was becoming clear i'd stumped them.

4: is it a camel?

dad: it begins with the letter H.

4: is it a hamel?

all: (laughing) NO!!!

dad: it ends with "tam".

4: a TAMEL!!!

6 (more eye rolling): grrrrr!


several turns later:

(my animal: dog)

6: is it smooth or furry?

moi: it's furry.

6: how many feet does it have?

moi: 4.

6: does it live on land or water?

moi: land.

4: is it a chicken?


4 (shrugs, clearly not giving a sweet fuck): is it a fish? is it a beluga?

6 (at a loss for words): !!!

my stomach hurt at the end of the trip from laughing so hard.

if i sound a little bit in love it's because i am. they are fierce, sweet, cuddly, joyous, adorable, rambunctious, warm, funny, cheeky (especially 2!) smart, kind, loving, beautiful, active and brave, and i am absolutely tickled to be their aunt.

they left this afternoon and the house is nice and quiet and in dire need of a thorough scrubbing but i miss them already. they're going to grow into some seriously kick-ass women one day (though it's unlikely that 4 will find a successful career in either marine biology or poultry farming) and i sure hope i'm around to see it. postpone the apocalypse.