Friday, September 30, 2011


When I was about 4 or 5, there was a break-in/robbery near my grandparents' house.  Since I spent a lot of time there and they had lots of fun toys for me to play with, my first worry was that what if the robber came to their house and stole all my stuff?  How to prevent this?

What if there was a way to communicate to the robber that there were certain things that were off-limits, for example, my posters on the wall, my bed, etc.  Take the fridge, take the TV, I don't care, but leave my stuff alone thank you!

I was a pretty smart kid for my age and my parents had taught me to read signs that said "Do not enter" so I wouldn't go in those places, so I knew how to spell "do not."  Luckily, my name is Robyn and although I didn't know how to spell the word "steal" I figured that a robber robs, so "rob" must mean the same as "steal" and "rob" is probably spelled like the first half of my name... "DO NOT ROB" was born.

I set to work with a black marker writing this warning on everything in my little room that I didn't want robbed.  I don't really remember what I wrote it on that day but since the slogan remained on many items for quite a few years, I recall seeing it on some posters, a bedside table, possibly a lamp, a desk, and somehow I think I got it on the bed frame too.

Eventually my parents and/or grandparents discovered what I did and I got in trouble but hey, it was worth it because my stuff never got robbed.  In fact, that house never got broken into - they probably saw the signs through the window or something and realized this was not a house to mess with.

I always knew that the above-mentioned bedside table was the one that's still in my room now but I could never find the inscription.  Today I decided to look really hard and discovered a very faint "DO NOT ROB" on the bottom shelf area.  It has either been painted over or has faded, but it's somewhat visible.  Here's a picture I took with some heavy editing to try and bring out the writing as much as possible:

DO NOT ROB:  a foolproof way to make sure robbers don't take your stuff.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


And this, folks, is why it's important to remember to water your cactus...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

PETA into the Mainstream

Overheard in Disney World, as a massive Clydesdale pulled an empty passenger trolley on a well-greased track down the street.

"Oh that POOR HORSE, having to pull that whole cart all by himself."

Uh, ever heard of AGRICULTURE?  (Credit for that zing goes to Brahm.)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Vermicomposting Excitement!

Finally, what you've all been waiting for:  an update on my vermicomposting adventure!

Today I harvested the dirt from my vermicompost bin.  I did not expect to be so amazed at what I discovered!  Those worms are power eaters!  Many times during the summer I threw my compostable scraps in the garbage because I was worried that the worms were getting overloaded but today when I dumped out the entire Rubbermaid bin and started separating worms and dirt and materials that had not broken down, I was really impressed to find out that the only uncomposted materials in the bin were a few rotten tomatoes and apple cores I put in there this week, some cherry pits, and a couple of corn cobs. 

We put so many food scraps in there this summer and it was absolutely gratifying to see that it had all turned into incredibly fertile soil that I can use to kick start next summer's gardening adventures!  This composting experiment was a HUGE success and I would highly recommend it to anyone who's ever thought about trying it, looking for a way to compost without creating smell or requiring a large corner of your backyard, or just as a way to use up kitchen scraps so your garbage can doesn't smell as much.  Seriously - all you need is a Rubbermaid bin with some holes cut in it for air and a spot with a temperature greater than 5 Celcius the majority of the time (so basements/garages should work well).  It's an awesome way to turn kitchen scraps into incredibly rich, natural fertilizer you can use on your lawn, garden, house plants, etc.!

Since the worms multiply, every few months when you separate out the dirt it's probably time to also give away half of the remaining worms to a friend, so it's great for starting conversations about ways to reduce food and yard waste in a city with no convenient composting program.  What a totally awesome, no-downside initiative.

My worms are ready to separate into 2 or 3 new bins - if you're interested in starting your own vermicomposter (and live in Saskatoon) let me know!  I'll hook you up with some worms and help you get started.

My vermicomposter, ready to be harvested.  Yes, something is growing in there - I think it's so fertile that even though it's totally dark, the seeds from a lot of the things I throw in start sprouting... until the worms eat the new sprouts.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Dress Shopping

On Saturday I will be undertaking one of those wedding rites of passage that most brides have to go through: wedding dress shopping.  I only have one appointment at a store I know has a line of dresses I like, and it's definitely not going to be an all-day ordeal.  I booked the appointment later in the day 2 hours before the store closes so my sister could come but now I'm thinking that was an accidentally good strategic move...

...flash back to 2003, high school graduation was looming.  Most of the girls in my class had started shopping or bought their grad dresses before the school year even started.  Around February or March, I decided it was time to start looking so I went to Bryan's at Midtown Plaza with my mom.  The second dress I tried on was great - not poofy, strapless (but stayed up), black lace over beige.  It definitely wasn't anything I'd imagined myself in but it was pretty much perfect.  However, figuring if I liked the second dress I tried on this much, there must be something even better out there.

I ended up spending the entire weekend trying on pretty much every dress in my size in Bryan's, going to a few wedding stores and trying on excessively expensive prom dresses, and then back to Bryan's again to try on all the dresses again.  I hated it and just kept getting more and more discouraged.  I remember the breaking point being when I tried on this clingy, flowy dress that looked great on another girl but just horrible on me.  I am super tiny but I don't have an especially flat stomach, and that dress really... accentuated that feature.  I think I started crying at some point because for whatever reason, the black lace dress had been forgotten in it all.

In the end, I settled for some sparkly backless white dress that wasn't really my style... and started having  regrets as I got into my parents' van to leave the mall.  My mom decided to run back to the store and get the black dress too so I could make a decision at home, which I'm so glad for because the unanimous family decision at home was the black dress by far and if she hadn't grabbed it that day, I might have had to settle for the sparkly white dress because...

There'd been some drama at school because a relatively popular girl in my class had bought the same dress as another girl in the class, a few hours after.  When this came to light, because grad dress news travels fast between high school girls, the popular girl had to take back her dress and buy a new one.  The new one she bought turned out to be the same black lace dress I bought.

DRAMA.  Thankfully she took it in stride and once again returned the dress (she'd bought it a day after I bought mine so I had first dibs), but she did try it on for a few of her friends one evening who then all came to me and said "OH that dress you got looks SOOOOO good on her" and on grad day "I love your dress Robyn, it looked so good on J--- when she tried it on" thanks guys, much appreciated.  Oh well.  Never have to see you jerks again after today.

So anyway, I am hoping that with the removal of high school girls from the equation and a goal to NOT let things get out of hand like they did in 2003 will make wedding dress shopping less painful than the last time I shopped for a significant dress.

Me on graduation day in the dress that caused so much controversy and drama.  It has since been altered to be appropriate to wear at weddings etc. - multifunctional, hooray!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Tomatoes Again

I am sure you've been dying to know how my whole tomato saga turned out.  I can confidently say:  SUCCESS!  Every seed I planted germinated and turned into a plant, most of which are close to 5 feet tall and longer if you included the tumbling vines.  There are still a lot yet to ripen but when it comes time to pick them all off, I'll have more tomatoes than I know what to do with.

I definitely think I made the right choice to grow mostly cherry-type tomatoes, and I think next summer I might grow sweet-variety cherries almost exclusively, with the exception of maybe one or two larger varieties to use on burgers and stuff.

My garage, full of tomatoes!  I grew those from SEEDS!  So crazy!  (They are in the garage because it froze overnight.)

I'm glad I love eating tomatoes because they are definitely the best produce to grow in my no-garden situation.  PS, those purply-brown tomatoes taste like you'd think they would - intensely tomatoey, almost smoky.  Umami to the max.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Somehow I have acquired more pairs of shoes than you'd think I own.  What I mean by this is, I'm not very fashionable and I'm definitely not what you'd call a "shoe addict" and I'm pretty sure I only have 3 pairs of shoes that you'd classify as "heels", so if you know me you wouldn't expect me to own a lot of shoes.  Especially since I only wear about 4 pairs regularly.

I think the main reason I have amassed such a large shoe collection is that I seem to usually buy pretty good quality shoes that never wear out.  For example, I still wear a pair of Merrell hiking shoes that I got in grade 10.  Grade 10 people, if you want to know how old I am compared to a grade 10, I started grade 10 in 2000.  And yet these shoes have not worn out!  They are still totes comfortable!  How is this possible?  I wore them almost every day walking to university and through my last 2.5 years of high school.  And still wear them almost every day at work except in winter (I work at a very casual dressing office, I could get away with wearing sweats if I wanted to but I don't because that's super gross).

When I deliver training at work, I like to play an awesome icebreaker that my friend Sherri and I invented back in our science camp instructor days.  One thing I really hate about most icebreakers is that they put people on the spot right away before anyone knows anyone, so they are often more uncomfortable than team-building.  For example sometimes icebreakers consist of "find a partner you don't know, talk about your hopes and dreams for the future and innermost secrets, and then present them to the rest of the group, that consists of all grumpy old men who have worked here for 30 years except for you, Robyn".  Okay that is a slight exaggeration but actually not really.  So when I do icebreakers, as the instructor I like to put minimal pressure on the class and as much pressure as possible on me.  With that long-winded introduction, the game is I come up with 10 totally random questions about myself that people who don't know me (or possibly even people who know me) would never know the answer to but have to guess the answers and then the winner gets a prize.  Kids LOVED it and I have found that adults, even the grumpiest of old men, also love it.  Best icebreaker ever, use it, you're welcome.

ANYWAY so one of the questions in that game is always "how old are these shoes?" and then I give a few options like 2 years, 5 years, 10 years.  I decided to maybe retire my beloved Merrells after someone creepily answered "they are 10 years old because the soles are worn out but you don't drag your feet."  It was very observant and something I had not noticed before.

I also kept a pair of Nike sport sandals from grade 5 all the way through high school and slightly into university until they just got so ugly that I threw them out.  They were still perfectly comfortable actually.  I'm also currently trying to wean myself off of a pair of leather clog-type shoes I got in high school that again, are so comfortable and not too falling apart. 

I'm starting to run out of room for these shoes but I feel like buying 2-3 pairs of shoes a year is by no means excessive, except the new shoes I buy aren't usually replacements.  Or actually they are often meant to be replacements but I am just too attached to the old comfortable shoes.  And it's hard to break in new shoes to get to that awesome level of comfort when the old ones have had 10 years of shaping perfectly to my feet.  What can compete with that experience?

I think I might go throw some old gross shoes in the garbage now.  But not my Merrells just yet.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Poo Teen

Background:  a) I'm in Montreal b) Since my sister switched my mom's phone to T9, she duznt know how to spell out words letter by letter anymore.

Mom:  It has been so nice and warm here this week you will have some ripe tomatoes when you get here and corn too did you have poo teen there Haha

Friday, September 9, 2011

Line/Theme Park Etiquette

Are you going to a theme park sometime in your life?  How about somewhere that you might have to stand in a long line (e.g. not a grocery store)?  Listen up, people, this is an important post.  We returned from a trip to Disney World a few days ago and here are some tips on how to stand in a line and go to a theme park properly and courteously.

The Main Tip:

DON'T BUDGE!  Seriously, theme park lines move fast enough that it is not considered to be proper etiquette to have someone "hold your place" in line.  It's super annoying when people start pushing through the line ahead of you because the rest of their party is a few groups ahead.  Also annoying when kids would run ahead in the line and the parents would be like "hey wait for us you dumb kids" and push ahead of everyone else.

What are you to do in a situation where the rest of your party somehow gets ahead of you in line?  The people in the front WAIT for the people in the back by allowing the parties in between to go ahead until the rest of the group catches up.  This does not disrupt the order of the line by adding any extra people in front of the in-between parties.

It was interesting how many people did not understand this courtesy.  One day we saw two or three families who were together but with one half of the group about five or six parties ahead in the line.  The front family kept telling the back family to come catch up with them but the back family didn't want to budge through the crowd with their strollers and children, so the front family said "Okay we'll just let them know you're with us when we get to the front of the line" thinking that the Disney employees would be like "oh of course, please bring your party of 8 from the back of the line up here now that you're at the front" but ha, when they got to the front of the line and said they were a party of 13 but the remaining 8 people were a ways back in line, Disney said "okay you can wait here until they catch up."  pwned amiright

I probably sound way more worked up about this than I actually ever was, like I didn't get angry every time someone pushed ahead of me because it wasn't constantly happening but I just wanted to share this general courtesy tip.

Other Tips and Stray Observations:

If you think your children are being annoying in the line and you try to "apologize" to other line-standers by constantly disciplining your kids (or just telling them to stop it over and over), guess who is being more annoying?  You, that's who.  Chances are if people are at Disney they probably are expecting that there will be some rowdy kids in the line.  You aren't making the situation better by whining at your kids to stop whining or yelling at them for calling Disney World Universal Studios or telling them to stop fidgeting over and over and over.  Having said that, if your kids are beating each other up and whacking other people in the process, make them stop.  Probably the easiest way would be to send them back to the hotel.

Also - if your kids are too bratty or lazy to handle going to a theme park, should you take them to said theme park???  NO, you should not.  How much fun are you going to have pushing your 12 year old around Disney World in a stroller that costs 20 bucks a day or more to rent?  (This is a true thing we saw.)  How much fun are you going to have if your kids are being brats the entire time but you don't want to "waste" your park passes by grounding the kids at the hotel for a day so they behave?  Kids should earn a fun vacation by not being jerks, otherwise it is simply not going to be a fun vacation.

My last observation was one I was aware of in media and stuff before going, but witnessed on several occasions as well, and it is something that annoys me.  That's the stereotype with Disney vacations that a) the moms micromanage and plan the vacation b) the dads hate Disney vacations and act as the "cool" parent who goes on all the "fun" rides while the mom sits with the kid who is too short to ride.  One of the moments that annoyed me most on the trip was a family of a mom, dad, and two boys got onto the Star Tours ride and the dad's seatbelt didn't buckle so the Disney employee told them they would have to get off the ride and get on the next one.  The kids looked really disappointed (it WAS going to be another 2 minute wait) so the mom just got off the ride so the dad and the kids could have fun and not have to wait for the next one.  I was so annoyed.  How about use your vacation to teach your kids some patience and not that Dad is fun and Mom is lame and will sacrifice her own fun for the kids and Dad.

Anyway, fun trip though!  Probably a few non-ranty posts about it to come.

Oh yeah the last tip:  calling your small children "stupid f--king kids" in front of everyone in the airport because they are excited to go to Disney and can't sit still makes you look like a massive jerk, not a cool dad.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

How Sarah Learned to Make a Fire

This post is dedicated to Sarah.  Sarah and I worked together one summer and she has been a faithful blog reader since the beginning so I think she deserves a dedication post.  Why, because this blog appreciates its fans.  If you are a fan and want a dedication post similar to this one let me know.

Sarah grew up in Ottawa and I grew up in Saskatchewan, but I did not realize how different those two growing ups were until I met her.  We were at a staff retreat, sitting by an empty fire pit, while the rest of the staff went on a hike, when I learned that Sarah had never made a fire before.  "What do you do when you go camping?" I asked.  "HAHA camping??????" she replied.  Oh.  I see.

So I decided to teach Sarah how to make a fire.  It was going to be the perfect fire.  We set to work making the "teepee" - a cone-shape of thin logs around a pile of kindling.  It was the perfect teepee.  Now, to light it...

At which point we discovered we had no matches.  We scoured the retreat centre kitchen for a BBQ lighter, anything that might start a fire.  Nothing.  Now what?  We had stayed behind on the hike with the intention that when the rest of the staff returned, there would be a blazing inferno, ready for s'mores and hot dogs.  We couldn't disappoint.

One of us, possibly Jen, another co-worker who had stayed back from the hike, had a brainwave.  The cigarette lighters in the vehicles we brought!  Perfect.  Except, it was 2009, and all of our vehicles were brand-new rental vans, and in 2009 I guess they don't make cigarette lighters in vehicles anymore, probably because kids might burn themselves or something, stupid kids.  So anyway those stupid kids ruined that idea.

After more deliberation and half-heartedly trying to rub sticks together (who can actually do that, I am pretty sure it's an urban legend) someone realized that we had access to a couple of gas-powered barbeques.  If only there was some way to get the fire from the BBQ over to our perfect teepee...

This problem was solved with a turkey roaster.

I'll explain, if you can't connect those dots.  I probably shouldn't be advertising that we did this since it is somewhat stupid and dangerous but hey, we needed to get that fire started.  We were being resourceful.

We put a bunch of kindling in the turkey roaster and put a stick into the BBQ to light the end on fire.  Then we started a small fire in the roaster, carried it over to the fire pit, and used it to start our real fire.  At which point, the logs fell over and our perfect teepee was just a pile of logs and kindling, but it worked!  The staff did indeed return to an awesome campfire and Sarah has since put her fire-making skills to good use, and even gone camping last I heard.  And that is the story of how Sarah learned to start a fire, the dangerous and dumb way.

 Jen with the beginning of the fire - the fallen teepee and the smoldering roaster fire.

 Sarah, Jen and me with our amazing fire.