So far I haven’t died.
That seems like a good thing.
Practical Man found a giant puffball yesterday, when he was out in our forest. When he told me how large it was, I decided I had to see it for myself.
Out in The Nature, as it were.
This tells you what a momentous occasion it was. Me, out in The Nature, in the middle of the week, no less.
We ventured out today after lunch, across the yard, down our forest path and back to the last part of our trail, before it ends at the farmer’s lane. I pointed out what I thought were new trees and Practical Man assured me that those trees had been there for 10 years. I noted the grassy areas where there used to be just rocks and he shook his head.
Things sure do change in The Nature, when you only come out to visit a few times a decade.
Finally, under the trees, off the trail, I saw it.
I didn’t see any fairies dancing.
But, then, this wasn’t a toadstool. It was a puffball.
I picture Rubenesque fairies (of the sort I could blend in with), eating ice cream under this cherubic baby.
Or rather, babies.
There were two.
A giant puffball and a super-cali-fragi-listic-expi-ali-docious puffball. The giant-est puffball of them all.
It’s hard to capture the scale, when it’s in the forest, but it was GIGANTICO.
Bigger than my head and we all know that my head is blessed with some magnificent largesse.
This mushroom was endowed with some encephalic proportions, yes sirree.
Here’s a picture of it in the kitchen sink, in case you had any doubts about the size of it.
The puffball, not my head.
I was slightly nervous, what with it being a wild mushroom and all. Practical Man knew what it was (Calvatia gigantea) but, to reassure his suburban-born wife, he did a little extra research. The Google assured us that it was the harmless and edible Giant Puffball (The Google is always truthful and wise, as long as you don’t believe much of what it says.) And, our friend, Trail Diva, reassured me that we seemed to be the lucky owners of a forest delicacy.
Fried in some butter, it could even be used in lieu of noodles for lasagna, she said.
She had me at “fried in some butter”.
Accordingly, Practical Man plucked it from its forest home and brought it to the house.
It was kind of like bringing home the moon.
A moon that might kill us with its toxins and pent-up mushroom rage.
What, what, what?
A puffball is a pretty show-offy mushroom with its moon scape-y shape and super-cali-fragi-listic-expi-ali-docious size, I think you’ll agree. This made me wonder if it might be the mean girl of the mushroom world.
You can tell I love The Nature, right?
We had to use a very big, bread knife and even that wasn’t enough to deal with the extravaganza of mushroom we had on our hands.
Houston, we need more counter space!
I can hear my friend Pippi saying, “Bleeech”, as I write this.
Not a mushroom fan, that one.
Even I was slightly overcome. This was bigger than the watermelon we had last week and that took a party and 4 meals to devour.
We have mushroom enough for crowds.
Or, for a wicked show-and-tell at school.
Yes, definitely that.
Except, there’s no show-and-tell when you’re an adult, more’s the pity. Many a meeting could be livened up with some show-and-tell, don’t you think?
I’m not sure mushrooms would make it past the (inevitable) safety checkpoint on the way to work show-and-tell, though.
Anyway, we cooked it, outside on the barbecue (it’s the expensive hydro rates in the afternoon and it’s 30 degrees C today, that’s why).
Fried in butter, ‘cos those were our instructions.
We both tried a little schnibble, after it had been fried.
(I watched for convulsions, in case Practical Man and The Google and Trail Diva were wrong.)
It tastes pretty good but we’re not sure about the consistency.
Slightly mushy. Too much butter?
Is there such a thing?
We’ve decided we’ll make lasagna a la Trail Diva with it.
Even though the Italians are probably rolling over in their gnocchi-lined graves.
And Pippi is probably saying, “Double Bleech.”
By the way, this post is a bit of a “do not try this at home” affair. Don’t–I repeat: DON’T just grab mushrooms out of your yard and chow down.
Gotta be careful with the fungi, friends.
If we end up hallucinating or dying, I’ll let you know.
Everyone knows that collecting books isn’t the same as hoarding, right?
Collecting books is literary. It’s a luxury (after all, how many mansions and castles didn’t have a library room?) It’s professorial.
And, even though I’m a professor’s daughter and not a professor myself–not to mention a library user and advocate–I do love to keep me some books.
Especially vintage books.
Just a few.
Before you start picturing the worst-case scenario, let me clarify that we only have four bookshelves in our home.
Okay, fine. We have books in nearly every room (on tables, in magazine racks, in cabinets,) but only four official bookshelves. That’s what counts.
Four bookshelves is nothing for a bookworm/vintage lover/pack rat, all rolled into one.
Really, I’m small potatoes in the world of book hoarding–I mean–collecting.
I once knew a couple who brought back over 250 books from their honeymoon. He was doing his PhD (What did I tell you? Book collections are professorial.) and she just loved books. Their Victorian house was a maze of floor-to-nearly-ceiling shelves, lining the walls in every room, the hallways and even up the stairs. The top floor used to be fiction and the bottom floor was non-fiction. Even if I hadn’t been living in a village with a teeny, tiny library at the time, I would have loved their house. It came up for sale recently and I was tempted to buy it even though they and their books are long gone.
Their collection made that house a home.
It was a swoon-y, book lover’s house of the best kind.
Like that couple, our measly four bookshelves are also floor-to-ceiling and chock-a-block with books of all kinds. Mildly organized, as I like to be once or twice a year and clustered among other vintage objects that need a home. I also (ahem) collect a few vintage toys, which fit very well in my children’s book section.
I believe the staging experts calls this “giving the eye a place to land.”
Anyhoo, the annual book sale for the local symphony orchestra started this weekend and I have never been. I can’t imagine why, especially after all the fun I had there on Friday evening.
It was in a warehouse, which made it even more fun because of the whole forsaken, industrial vibe. Plus, there is bound to be tonnage of books in a WAREHOUSE!
When we got inside, there was a map which showed what types of books were in each section.
Maps = tonnage!
Sections = tonnage!
I consulted the map and tried not to squeal. There was a children’s section and music A, B, and C sections!
Three sub-sections = tonnage!
Practical Man and I mused about the definition of “Ephemera”.
Such a fun word, don’t you think?
Can’t remember what it means, of course. This is why I don’t do crossword puzzles, like my sister and Grandma Helen. I could Google the word, but I like to give my brain a chance to percolate for a few days.
It’s cheaper than Lumosity.com.
I hot-footed it to the music section, leaving a Practical Man in my book-hoarding dust. There were books about genres of music and books about the people who make music. But, I’m not as keen on reading about music as I am about playing it. So, I searched through lots of classical piano books–even a couple that looked just like the ones I scored in East Berlin back in 1985, before the Berlin Wall came down. (You had to spend all your money before you came back to the West and I spent it, even then, on super-economical, communist music books.)
On Friday evening, I looked for guitar books to help me with my new-ish relationship with Alice, my guitar.
It was a fun search but, yielded nothing interesting.
Then, I saw them: piles of vintage sheet music. There were boxes full of music with retro graphics and songs from the likes of Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Ella Fitzgerald.
Swoon-y swoon, swoon!
There was music featuring my friend (well, in my imagination anyway), Julie Andrews. I’ll frame this score by my piano.
Some of the books just SMELLED vintage and special and the pages and illustrations dated them instantly to a by-gone era. Like, this Fireside Book of Folk Songs that is a large, hardcover book from 1947. There are songs to sing and play from South America and Scotland, Cowboy songs and Railroad songs, Hebrew songs and Chinese songs. There is even a part for spirituals and hymns. The arranger notes in the preface that “To avoid the monotony and vulgarity, no attempt has been made to persuade one style of accompaniment to suit varying styles of melody, and the square-toed “oom-pah” bass had been studiously avoided.”
Now, who wouldn’t want to take that book home with them for the bargain price of $1?
I found a couple of gifts for people who appreciate this kind of dusty treasure just as much as I do (I wish I could show them to you!) and Practical Man popped by every once in a while to carry my growing pile, because opening my car door and carrying my books is the kind of vintage gallantry that oozes out of his pores every old day of the week. He paid my $12 total at the end of our book sale, Friday night date, too.
He’s a keeper, that man.
As I rifled through the sheet music, I felt my heart begin to beat faster. Judging from the era of most of the music, I wondered if it had come from one person’s collection. And, I suddenly realized that something really special might be found within the stack. Something that was worth far more than the 10 cent price tag that was listed on the sign.
And then, I found it.
The song that would bring tears to my eyes in a warehouse full of bargain book tonnage:
It was sung in an episode of Downton Abbey in recent years, but, that’s not why I know the chorus by heart:
I’m in love with you.
Let me hear you whisper
that you love me too…”
Originally a hit in 1911, it became the biggest selling popular song on the market again, in the run up to WWII.
But more than this, it’s the song my grandparents played in their “cellar” rec room, amongst the ’50s furniture, when I was growing up.
It was the first song that they danced to at their 40th wedding anniversary, when I was 13 years old, my grandfather with tears brimming in his eyes.
It was my grandparents’ love song.
And, in part because of the symphony book sale, its ours too.
As he does.
I am mostly sitting in his favourite chair (as I do), holding my belly button with both hands and trying to take deep, cleansing, banana-muffin-scented breaths.
My hands are cupped, as if I’m carefully holding a baby chick, but what I’m really doing is attempting to keep my belly button from making a fast getaway. It’s a task that requires vigilance and dedication, even through my bewilderment. I don’t honestly know why my belly button has forsaken me in this manner. I mean, I’ve been good to the thing, over the years.
- I’ve kept it (mostly) from being sun burned.
- I’ve kept it (mostly) from being mercilessly tickled.
- I’ve never pierced it (my sister holding the waistband of her pants out for two days after she had hers done a hundred years ago, was a good deterrent).
As in most things, I am a belly button goody-two shoes.
Yet, here I sit. In full-on Belly Button Betrayal.
I got terrible books out of the library and Olympic Golf has officially come back. This is what misery looks like, my friends.
Every once in a while, I limp into the bedroom to the full-length mirror and lift my shirt to look.
Is it still there? In one piece?
Now, I’m navel gazing.
Except, not like Gandhi or Elizabeth Gilbert (author of the wildly popular memoir, Eat, Pray, Love). Someone with important socio-political/existential/spiritual (Gandhi) or even spaghetti questions (Elizabeth Gilbert) on their minds.
I do have those questions but, tra-la-la, the Olympics are on.
So, I’ve been navel gazing for a week, on account of the laparoscopic surgery I had. Note to self: my belly button does NOT look like the ones on the Canadian beach volleyball team.
Actually, navel gazing and fussing. Lots and lots of fussing.
I don’t remember Gandhi doing much of that, do you? Maybe you lose your belly button when you’re fasting for important, civil rights reasons. Not that I’ll ever know. I came out of surgery after lunch, ready for a 3-course meal, since I hadn’t eaten since MIDNIGHT the night before!
I’m really more like Elizabeth Gilbert than Gandhi.
More foodie than faster.
Uh huh, that’s me.
By the way, do you think making banana muffins is a sophisticated avoidance technique? Practical Man is…well, practical. When there’s a problem, he usually has a very practical solution. And, making banana muffins does afford a brief respite from your fussing/navel gazing wife doesn’t it? Actually, don’t answer that. I’m not sure I care if it’s a sophisticated avoidance technique, so long as I get some banana muffins out of the deal.
Naval gazing and fussing. I feel like that might be on my headstone some day, darn it. Kind of sums me up pretty well at the moment.
And, while I am a talented fusser, as Practical Man can no doubt attest, I would like to stop.
Really, I would.
It’s just that I never thought my belly button could hurt quite this much. On account of, I am a documented ‘fraidy cat and I’ve never had a single baby and everyone knows (or at least, I knew with utter certainty when I was 6) that babies come out of that aperture thingy in the middle of our belly buttons.
YAWN. (That’s how I thought the aperture part opened, when I was 6. The doctor would tickle it a little, and the mama would YAWN and then the baby on the bench nearest the belly button door, would pop out.)
Uh huh. Inadvertent childbirth. That must be it.
That’s really the only reason I can think of that my belly button would feel like it’s had a grapefruit pulled through it.
Maybe not. As far as I know, there is no tropical fruit lurking in my belly.
I’m more of a vegetable–okay, carbs–girl, to be honest. With an ice cream chaser.
Good thing, too since I now know how much it hurts to get (what feels like) a grapefruit pulled through your belly button. All you women who gave actual birth to an actual human and not a grapefruit. Pfffffff. Sure, that’s cool. But, I mean, really.
Have YOU ever had a grapefruit pulled through your navel?
It’s almost time to head to the mirror again.
Watch for my life-changing memoir:
So goes the vintage saying, but actually, I scream when I see old Volkswagens (giving Practical Man heart failure, in the process) and occasionally, I scream for cows. Because, they have big teeth and even bigger, hairy tongues.
The other day, I zigged when I should have zagged during lunch and the resulting coughing fit caused my body to try to faint for nearly an hour afterwards.
Dear nervous system: you are seriously high maintenance.
But, I take medication so I can (mostly) avoid having things like this happen. That is, if along with the drugs, I live a careful, don’t zig instead of zag, I’m-basically-a-Jane-Austen-character-even-though-I-don’t-wear-corsets kind of life.
Here are the BAD things about being a fainter:
- I am not, actually, a character in a Jane Austen novel. Although, I can play the pianoforte (as they called it in Jane Austen’s time) and recite long-winded poetry (okay, Alice’s Restaurant is a vintage song not a poem, but it sort of counts). Not being a Jane Austen character is unfortunate because my waist would look much smaller if I had to wear a corset. Or, if I stopped eating Wispa chocolate bars, which I obviously can’t because being a fainter, one has to have some compensatory perks in life. It’s a yin-yang sort of thing. So there. And, I’m pretty sure Jane Austen would wholeheartedly approve (and subsequently write about how a true gentleman brings offerings of “delectable sweeties”, which everyone knows–well, at least Practical Man does–is Jane Austen-ish code for: Wispa chocolate bars.)
- I have landed with my head on un-glamorous things: like toilet bowls and berber carpet and my boss’s lap. Um, yeah.
- I got a large, oozing, rug burn wound on my forehead the last time I fainted, from fainting off our pillow-top mattress–which is tantamount to Olympic diving. Have you seen how high North-American beds are these days? I tried to tell people that the cucumber slice-sized mess on my forehead was from stealing jewels in my alter-ego life as a cat burglar but, apparently fainting goes hand-in-hand with fibbing and tall tales.
- There isn’t a frequent fainter’s club where I get sent free stuff. Y’know, an “every fourth time you faint, you get a trip to Paris” club, or something. I think that should really be a thing. Instead, it’s “every time you faint, you lose your driver’s license“. That club is not tra-la-la at ALL.
- When people compare you to a FAINTING GOAT. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “Hey, aren’t there goats on the internet or something that faint?” and get to marvel at being compared, yet again, to a farm animal that went viral because that’s just so very flattering and sweet. And, we already know how I feel about farm animals…like scary, scary cows. Jane Austen would not approve of my being lumped in with that feral lot. Neither would Mrs. Bennett. Think of the disastrous consequences to my marriage prospects!
- No one ever picks me up and carries off my teeny-tiny, waif-like, unconscious body, the way they would in a movie. I am 5’9″ and I eat Wispa bars whenever I can get my hands on them so, it’s completely sensible, of course, that people don’t try to heave me over their shoulder, because one doesn’t want to cause other people to have hernias but, I really think the faint-and-go-to-Paris (maybe, with Mr. Darcy) thing should be a thing, don’t you?
But, like other annoying life stuff, it’s not all bad. Here are the GOOD things about being a fainter:
- I feel very tra-la-la when I’m not fainting. As in, since I started taking medication, I don’t spend nearly as much time whacking my head on toilet bowls, berber carpeting or my boss’s lap. Um, yeah. Even better: I don’t spend nearly as much time WONDERING if I’m going to be whacking my head on toilet bowls, berber carpeting or my boss’s lap. This leaves my brain time to think of pithy banter I can exchange with Practical Man, a la characters in a Jane Austen novel. And, for him to roll his eyes, but never mind about that.
- When you get your driver’s license back and then Practical Man suggests that you buy the vintage car of your dreams, it is THE BEST DAY (even if there are no Wispa bars around.) Insert an ugly cry here (but don’t cry too hard because you may not know it, but, crying leads to fainting, which in turn leads to losing driver’s license and, well, this lovely circle of drama is how things go when one is afflicted with the tendency to swoon.)
- Fainting seems vintage, somehow. As in, the manner of swoony women from times gone by. This sometimes makes me feel vintage and lovely (a la Jane Austen) and sometimes makes me feel vintage and pathetic (a la Jane Austen). When it’s pathetic, I console myself with images of highly-trained, stoic male and female soldiers standing on parade and keeling over. Or, that guy from The Wiggles. I remind myself that fainting is a non-gendered, training and stoic-ignoring, international activity. Plus, in the hierarchy of diseases, this is pretty darn minor. I could be allergic to chocolate – quelle horreur! There, I’ve found my happy place again.
- I get to be sanctimonious in the manner of ex-smokers, ex-wheat eaters, ex-aerobic exercisers: because no doctor ever harasses me about high blood pressure. In fact, when they’re finished looking alarmed at how low my blood pressure is, they proceed to order me in a stern voice to “eat more salt”. Obviously, I can’t be in the middle of ages, because what chubby, 40-something human from a G10 country is told to “eat MORE salt” in this day and age? A woman living the faint-y life of a Jane Austen character, that’s who. I am also grateful that my neuro-cardiogenic syncope syndrome hasn’t been diagnosed as “female hysteria” or “neurasthenia” which, if I lived in Jane Austen’s time (or even mine, in select locales), would be a certainty.
- When you get your driver’s license back (I can’t quite emphasize this one enough) for the umpteenth time, it is THE BEST DAY AGAIN, even if there are no Wispa bars or vintage automobiles around. Although, as every frequent fainter knows, this losing/getting back/losing thing gets old really quickly, so maybe some Wispa bars will be required in the future. Or the get-a-free-trip-to-Paris thing. Yes, that one, pretty please.
- I am medically required to have regular ice cream. I am not medically required to have Wispa bars but, lucky for me, the doctor told me that ice cream is apparently loaded with sodium. Sodium: as in “eat MORE salt”. I am pretty sure that means that ice cream counts as first aid and preventative medicine, for me. Not only that, but, I’m positive that eating ice cream WHILE IN Paris WITH MR. DARCY (aka Practical Man) will cure me of fainting, forever.
I’m almost sure of it.
Today was all rusty and sweaty and full of (luckily, not too many) deer flies and one magnificent wild strawberry.
Yes indeedy, I love me a vintage junkyard.
Or, scrapyard, as Practical Man calls it.
If you are like him and call a junkyard a scrapyard, be sure to convey the word with all the enthusiasm that Practical Man uses when he utters it. My usually reserved, strong-silent type guy can barely contain his glee when it comes to scrapyards. With those mere two syllables, he manages to morph into someone who looks and sounds exactly like a 7 year-old boy on Christmas Eve.
In other words, he kind of resembles…well, ME.
Minus a little of the tra-la-la. But only just.
Not that I mind his enthusiasm for the world of auto wreckers. I am a big fan of old-school scrapyards myself.
Y’know, like most women in their middle of ages.
Well, maybe not.
Anyhoo, ever since my favourite junkyard, Minakers, closed for business, I have been somewhat bereft. Bereft of real-for-true, old-school junkyards, that is.
Minakers was even better than a regular junkyard because it had been around a long, long time and was chock-a-block with antique cars. Wanderers there were hard pressed to find anything newer than about 1970.
It was scrapyard nirvana.
There were 1940s bread vans with trees growing through the engines. Sedan deliveries and original Beetles and ’30s gangster cars with swoopy running boards. I spent most of my time there running around, stumbling over thing-a-ma-bobs from 1953 and squealing, from one wreck to the next.
What? You’ve never heard a grown woman squeal in a junk yard before?
Maybe that’s because you’ve only ever darkened the doors of a modern-day junkyard. You know the kind (or maybe you don’t, in which case I’m here to help): there is no “wandering” amid the wreckage. You have to know what you want before you go in! Then, they go and FETCH IT FOR YOU.
Junkyard Joy Stealers: that’s what they are. They rob you of every little bit of the tripping and squinting and dreaming and squealing.
There is no squealing in a modern-day junkyard. Only safety vests and liability clauses and steel-toed boots.
And, people who call you “ma’am”.
It’s tragic, really.
But, we spotted what looked like an old-school, rural junkyard on a recent trip and today was the day to go and explore. Our vintage Boler travel trailer could use a few bits and bobs and we have a derelict boat that needs a windscreen and who knows what other treasures we might find?
Yes indeedy, I love the smell of broken safety glass and grease in the mornings.
First, I put on my lucky socks. It’s very important to have lucky socks on when you are wandering and tripping and squinting and squealing.
Also, some hole-y, derelict, work boots circa 1991, which I still happen to have for occasions such as this.
When we got there–to my very own version of Canada’s Wonderland–I said hello to my first love at the gate:
After I bid my first love a tearful goodbye, we went in. We were armed with bug juice, hats, water (not nearly enough for a junkyard extravaganza, it turned out), a gigantic toolbox and an additional bag of tools (and some socket sets and a first aid kit that we left in the car “just in case”.)
I was with Practical Man, after all. Who needs safety vests and liability clauses when I have him?
Soon enough, I found my second love:
Soooo pretty, pretty.
And then, my third love:
How can my second love compete with my third love? Third love is really a Colin Firth kind of truck and you know you don’t find those trucks every old day of the week. I think our vintage Boler travel trailer really needs a vintage truck companion, don’t you? A Colin Firth kind of vintage truck companion (I hope I’m not getting above myself).
Then, there was a very exciting PILE. You have to have a heart of stone, not to love a junkyard PILE.
We were looking for trailers so that we could source a screen door (to re-make into a teeny, tiny Boler-sized screen door) and maybe even some outside cubby doors. There were lots and lots of cars. There were only a few trailers and they were scattered far and wide through the junkyard.
All the better to ensure the tripping and wandering and dreaming and squealing.
There were fallen-down trees (this junkyard was kind of in a forest) and tall grass (all the better to hide lyme-disease carrying ticks in) and lots and lots of poison ivy.
But, there were also beautiful sparkles of broken safety glass:
And lace-like patterns shining in the sun:
There were old soul vehicles: the ones that rest quietly among the trees and grass, like silent guardians over a sacred place.
We finally settled on our donor vehicles and got to work. Practical Man’s modern-day tools made short work of the harvesting of parts in this old-timey junkyard. No aching wrists from manually unscrewing scores of rusted hardware. Just a few short bursts from the cordless drill and we were victorious: two cubby doors and an RV screen door for our Boler!
And in this place where beauty and ruin are best of friends, I found the unlikeliest of treasures:
One succulent explosion of summertime flavour.
It’s strawberry season at the scrapyard.