New Tattoo: Pineapple!


While in Hawaii I treated myself to the pineapple tattoo of my dreams… and what better place to get it done than the place where baby pineapples come from! This is a custom piece by Amy at Tattoolicious and I would highly recommend her to anyone in the area wanting a fun traditional or neo-trad piece. It fit nicely on my lower leg next to pieces I have collected from the Manchester Tattoo Convention in 2012 and the Montreal Tattoo Convention in 2013. The collection grows!

RIP Selma and Pickles


Sad news this week, best buddies Selma and Pickles were both killed by what we suspect was a hawk or other large predatory bird. Unfortunately these two trouble makers had gotten into the habit of leaving the coop enclosure and wandering the yard for dust baths and scratching. Pickles had even just started laying eggs on the pile of hay in our carport… and they were apparently attacked while out on the lawn. These two had spunk and it’s very fitting that they were both killed together as they were pretty inseparable in life. We are very saddened by this loss but it serves as another reminder to keep the chickens as safe as possible in the yard, even while in and around the coop. Keep your chickens safe!

We Have Green Eggs!


It would appear that all of our pullets have started laying, and we have some beautiful green eggs coming from either Mulder or Scully… or both! J installed a light in the coop and we have been getting 4-6 eggs a day. We have more eggs than we know what to do with! More shots of the gorgeous eggs after the jump!

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Duckies: Boys or Girls?


It seems like just yesterday when we brought the little ducklings home, but it’s already been 16 weeks! Now that they have grown we are able to sort out who is male and who is female… and it looks like we have 3 boys and 1 girl. Less good for egg production, but more good for quiet duckies. So how can you tell if you have males or females?

We asked the woman who hatched them and she said that the males will have a small curly feather on the top of their tail and the females won’t. At the time we asked none of them had this curly feather but it has now appeared on 3 of the ducks, coincidentally on the 3 that have hair like their Dad.

Another way to tell is by their voices; females are super loud and the males are quieter. I’ve added a video at the end that shows the 3 boys chatting away softly, and the female piping up with her louder ‘quack.’ She’s definitely the one we can hear from the house! No sign of eggs yet, though apparently Indian Runners (who are the best duck breed for egg laying) start laying around 4.5 months which is about where we are at. Indian Runners can lay between 180 and 200 eggs a year!


A Closer Look at My Reading 2014 Challenge

2014 is a wrap and I’ve completed my Reading Women challenge for the year. Time to look back on what I read and how I can improve the challenge for this year… and right off the bat I can see one HUGE way it can be improved: DIVERSITY.

Of the books I read last year 96 were by female authors and just 11 were by male authors (not including comics.) That totals 10% male and 90% female. Wow!

Here are all the female authors I read last year:

1. J. K. Rowling (2 books)
2. Rachael Urquhart
3. Gillian Flynn
4. Kate Manning
5. Carol Rifka Brunt
6. Margaret Atwood
7. Ann Fessler
8. Sylvia Plath
9. Mindy Kaling
10. Roxane Gay
11. Justine Larbalestier
12. Barbara Goldsmith
13. Susannah Cahalan
14. Amanda Lindhout
15. Sara Corbett
16. Wendy Lawless
17. Jeannette Walls
18. Hillary Rodham Clinton
19. Anne Stevenson
20. Cheryl Strayed
21. Amy Poehler
22. Joanna Russ
23. Joan D. Vinge (3 books)
24. Anne McCaffrey
25. Elizabeth Moon
26. Kari Aguila
27. Joan Slonczewski (2 books)
28. Ann Leckie
29. Pamela Sargent
30. Ursula K. Le Guin (4 books)
31. Kate Wilhelm
32. Jody Scott
33. C. J. Cherryh (3 books)
34. Samantha Shannon
35. Yangsze Choo
36. Audrey Niffenegger
37. Jessica Valenti
38. Emily Matchar
39. Susie Orbach
40. Geraldine Brooks
41. Cordelia Fine
42. Jennifer Finney Boylan
43. Nicola Griffith
44. Sarah Waters
45. Jeanette Winterson
46. G. Willow Wilson (9 comics)
47. Nicole J. Georges
48. Kelly Sue DeConnick
49. Karen Russell
50. Jenny Nordberg
51. Pamela Moore
52. Jane Austen
53. Charlotte Bronte
54. Willa Cather
55. Dodie Smith
56. Helen Oyeyemi
57. Zadie Smith
58. Sarumathi Jayaraman
59. Jhumpa Lahiri
60. Nalo Hopkinson
61. Ruth Ozeki
62. Maya Angelou
63. Toni Morrison
64. Hannah Kent
65. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
66. Malala YouSafzai
67. Marina Nemat
68. Azar Nafisi
69. Rebecca Skloot
70. Marge Piercy
71. Iris Murdoch
72. Amber Dawn
73. Bev Sellars
74. Ashley Little
75. Elissa Washuta
76. Octavia E. Butler
77. Eleanor Catton
78. James Tiptree Jr (Alice Sheldon)
79. George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans)

Of these 79 women a whopping 47 (59%) are from the USA. 12 (15%) are from the United Kingdom. Just 8 (10%) are from my home country of Canada. And the rest of the world is pretty sadly represented: Australia 3, Nigeria 2, Iran 2, Ireland 1, Jamaica 1, Pakistan 1, Sweden 1, Malaysia 1.

Of these 79 women 77% (!) are Caucasian. That means just 18 (23%) of the female authors I read last year were women of colour… a number that could definitely stand to be improved!

And while a number of authors that I read identify as lesbians or somewhere else on the spectrum, I only read one book by a trans woman all year.

Clearly my goals for 2015 are to include more international authors, as well as women/people of colour and LGBTQIA+ authors. I’ve seen a number of people attempting to read their way around the world (a book from each country) and I’m definitely going to try to incorporate more of that into my challenge this year! I’m also going to stick to my plan of buying less (or zero, if possible) books, and making my way through all of the books I have collected but not yet read.

What are your reading goals for 2015?

Book Review: The House of the Spirits

0553273914Read for: Selection #2 of the Gabriola Book Club

Rating: 3.5/5

This book was decided upon at our last meeting as a remedy to the sour taste left in our mouths after collectively declaring that we hated Her Fearful Symmetry. Both fall under the “magical realism” umbrella, and it was thought that The House of the Spirits was far superior to the story told by Niffenegger (let’s be honest though, the bar was set pretty low with HFS.)

The story begins in Chile with two of the de Valle family’s daughters, Rosa (the oldest) and Clara (the youngest). Rosa is a green-haired beauty with mermaid-like features, and Clara is a clairvoyant with the ability to move small objects with her mind. Things are starting to become interesting as Clara predicts an unexpected death in the family, which turns out to be Rosa. She is killed by accidentally ingesting poison intended for someone else. From there the story delves into the lives of the family that go on to span four generations.

I was really looking forward to this selection and while I liked the ideas presented in this book, I felt the execution was a little on the sloppy side. It was brought up in our meeting that Allende described her writing process once in an interview; she sits down to write a story without a framework to start with, or even an idea of what the story will be or a sense of the characters that will be involved. She just starts writing and lets the story evolve as she goes. According to the Wiki page for the book she actually sat down to write a letter to her dying grandfather, and it eventually evolved into The House of the Spirits. It’s a neat idea (and maybe one that gives hope to totally unorganized wanna-be writers like myself) but you could definitely tell that the story wasn’t really planned out effectively the further you got into the tale.

I did enjoy that the story predominantly revolved around the women of the Trueba family (Nívea, Clara, Blanca, and Alba – all meaning “white” in one form or another) and that they were all intelligent and strong. I found it strange though that for a tale that was meant to be about the women of the family the only consistent character from start to finish was a man, Esteban Trueba. He is introduced at the start as Rosa’s fiance, and after her death he goes on to marry Clara and start a family. Because Esteban makes the journey all the way to the end he also ends up being the most developed character, where the 4 generations of women get sort of glazed over or have their story lines fizzle out. Clara’s paranormal abilities end up going nowhere, and after the initial descriptions of her moving salt shakers with her mind very little happens on that front. In fact, the whole tone of the novel makes a major shift about 3/4 of the way through and I would argue departs completely from the magical realism genre and moves more into a historical fiction describing the 1973 Chilean coup d’état. This was certainly interesting, and Esteban’s character evolves in a satisfying way (he’s basically a jerk for most of the story) but it felt like it needed to be a separate book.

Throughout the novel the narrator occasionally switches from an unknown third person perspective to Esteban’s first person perspective, then an additional first person perspective that we later learn is Alba’s. During the reading it was a bit jarring, though the reason for the POV switches was explained in the epilogue. In the end I’m not sure if it was totally necessary to have the first person perspectives, particularly from Esteban as his contributions to the story were mostly accounts of his raping of women and, later, his complaining that he was “too old to rape” (too bad so sad Esteban.) Including his POV also helped build his character and cement him into a more central role in the telling of the story when the focus was intended to be on the women of the Trueba family. Overall, there were aspects of this book that I really enjoyed, but on the whole it felt disjointed. I liked the female characters but wish more time was spent developing them. Totally by accident, I was listening to an audiobook copy of Love in the Time of Cholera while reading a hard copy of The House of the Spirits and there were many similarities, particularly between Florentino and Esteban. It actually became confusing and I had to finish one before I could proceed with the other. There are quite clearly many cultural nuances that are lost on me as I am not familiar with life in Latin America… maybe this year I should change that!