Siri, the Accordion and Me

You are likely familiar with stories, perhaps from a movie or a book, where a human connects with an avatar or a computer generated semblance of human form.  There are stories of people leaving their human spouse to marry an avatar.  That’s not my story but recently I did find myself feeling some kinship with Siri, the voice activated assistant on my iPad.  Apple says of Siri “Its wish is your command”.  

On days when I think I have extra coordination, I use the metronome installed on my iPad to see if it’s at all possible for me to keep time.  During one practice recently when I had made my umpteenth mistake, the metronome app got tired and went to sleep.  Rather than waking up the metronome, in error I pressed the button that activates Siri.  Up came the little wavy bit with a phrase along the lines ‘how can I help you?’.  I said “Siri, help me play the accordion”.  And Siri’s reply?  “I’m sorry.  That’s beyond my capabilities at the moment.”  Me too, Siri, me too.

P.S. I have moved on from expecting a mistake free, anywhere close to the right tempo version of La Donne E Mobile to learning Oh Susanna.  Currently I play it at the tempo of a death march.  



Canadian Tulip Festival 2014

Although warmish spring weather has been reluctant to show itself around Ottawa, the delay has made the timing of the Canadian Tulip Festival and the tulip display a perfect match.  The festival runs May 9-19th.  My friend and I went for a stroll through the tulips yesterday. The sun was shining making the display particularly pretty.   The beds of flowers and perennials at Dows Lake are beautiful and things are at the early end of their glory.  This year there are some outdoor sculptures/art interest features to add to the interest on your stroll through along the paths.  It is lovely to live close enough to the tulip festival to enjoy its beauty every year.




Simply Biscotti…Without the Calories (no. 16)

It was trying to be a fairly nice day today.  Our spring is slow to start.  I waited for the showers to pass and took a bike ride to Simply Biscotti on Preston St.  Three years ago I began a project to eat my way through their delectables counter. I just re-read my first blog where I said my knowledge of blogging and waistline would grow together.  I have achieved the latter.

While I’ve been there for coffee over the past months, I haven’t always indulged in a treat.  Today, I had a coffee and a little visit with Rosa, the owner.   While I didn’t eat I did take a few pictures and think the little flower pots made of fondant with wafer flowers on top look worth a go.  

Anyone out there want to join me for a little flower pot treat sometime soon?




How Difficult Can It Be To Buy Toothpaste

Toothpaste is something that doesn’t need to be purchased very often.  A large tube lasts a long time, at least it does for me.  Somewhere along the way, I think largely listening to my dentist (and we have a very wonderful dentist), I have formed this opinion that keeping it simple is the key to good oral health: 

Floss regularly: (I have a friend who hates flossing and she says when asked if she flosses regularly she say yes-as she does floss regularly but her definition of ‘regularly’ and her dentist’s are not the same)

Brush regularly.  Use specialized toothpaste with due care and attention e.g. the toothpaste for sensitive teeth shouldn’t be used willy nilly.  It should be used only on the sensitive part and not routinely.  The same goes for toothpaste that includes various abrasives and who know if the home bleaching stuff works.

Buying toothpaste:  Popping into a pharmacy last week, I planned to make a quick purchase-a tube of regular toothpaste that contained fluoride.  That’s it.  No whiteners, no sensitive gum protection, no stronger, higher, faster than a speeding bullet.  Well, I have clearly been living under a rock for this is what the shelves look like when it comes to buying toothpaste:


I worked in pharmacies for the better part of 20 years and we used to sell toothpaste with fluoride, period.  That’s what I wanted to buy. Instead there was sensitive pro-relief, optic white, pro-enamel (don’t try to tell me toothpaste will help me grow more enamel), cavity protection, total defence, gum protection, advanced fresh and whitening gel, brilliant whitening and cleans your closets on Tuesdays.  For a few moments I thought there was no such thing as regular toothpaste any more.  And then I saw two little rows of regular toothpaste on the very bottom shelf.   Good thing I am able to bend over and select items from a bottom shelf or I’d be brushing with some striped, optically brilliant, pro-enamel, tartar and plaque fighting sparkly gel with gentle abrasives and a bonus foot massage.

I Have GAS

Three months into accordion lessons and it’s an experience in humility.  I have moved on from Book One and its byline “congratulations on buying your child an accordion” .   From Book Two I have been playing La Donna E Mobile.  

I’ve played that song 120 times (at least) and think I must have 240 times left to go before it is recognizable.  I am enjoying the experience and the lessons.  The slow progress not so much.

A few weeks ago my friend and I went into an antique furniture store.  And there was an accordion sitting there.  A beautiful red accordion.  It was a larger accordion than my purchase of a few months and you know, it makes sense to have more treble keys and more bass buttons, doesn’t it?  Doesn’t it?  And it was red, that pretty vintage accordion.  I hemmed and hawed and went back a few days later and well, I couldn’t resist.  

When I told my accordion teacher what I’d done, he said I had GAS-Gear Acquisition Syndrome.  I’m looking for a case for it now and maybe I should acquire one more model at some point.  You know a little beater accordion I could play at our community garden.  We could conduct an experiment to see if plants respond to a haltingly played version of La Donna E Mobile.


From Canada to Ukraine

Much too many years ago we had “new neighbours” move in next door to us in Regina, Saskatchewan.  They were, in short order, very dear friends and we learned, the best neighbours anyone could hope to have.  I remember thinking, at the time, just how lucky we were they chose the house next door.  Nothing lasts forever and ultimately we both moved away.  Our friend moved to Ukraine. He  has blogged off and on since he moved there and the topics have been wide-ranging.  I had always enjoyed the pieces about everyday life in Ukraine in times gone by.  We couldn’t have predicted how events would unfold in the recent weeks.  Most recently many of the blogs focus on the situation in Ukraine and Crimea.  

I do wish they lived next door again.  In Canada.

 Below is the link to his blog:

Gardening Hint Spurs A Revelation

Winter continues to hang on, even though it is now officially spring.  We had 10+ cm of snow yesterday.  It will be -18 tonight.  We have lived in Ottawa for a decade and sometimes by this time of year the weather has been downright balmy.  

The other day a friend and fellow gardener sent me a link about how to grow tons of tomatoes:

It’s about knowing if your tomatoes are determinate or indeterminate and removing suckers accordingly.  And there was the revelation:

Next year I am determinate not to be a sucker and stay in Ottawa all winter long.

Lessons Being Learned While Lessons Are Being Learned

I have had six lessons on the accordion.  Coming back to playing an instrument after decades and decades of not….well let’s just say, except for knowing which way was up on the accordion, there was little else I remembered.  Here are some lessons I have learned/insights I’ve gained/questions that have arisen for me in these early days of accordion playing. I am sure you come at it differently as an older adult compared to taking lessons as a child or teenager.

  • Question: Who, in their right mind, would design an instrument where you pushed buttons with your left hand and played ivories with your right hand.  It’s like the proverbial rubbing your stomach in a circular motion with one hand and patting your head with the other.  To top it off you can’t see what you’re doing with either hand.  
  • It’s an adjustment, when you are a point in life where you might be considered fairly competent at a thing or two, to put yourself in a spot where you are inept at almost everything.  
  • You have to leave your pride behind…or perhaps it is more about being at a stage when you don’t give a damn when you open Book 1 of the Palmer Hughes Accordion Course and read: Dear Parent, YOU HAVE A RIGHT TO BE PROUD!  Giving your child music training shows foresight and appreciation of a fine art.  
  • Be ready for some teasing.  Our daughter was over a couple of nights ago and I played for her for the first time.  After I made it through the “The Can Can”, she said “they’d be kicking pretty slow”.  

Nonetheless it’s a lot of fun and I have a teacher who makes it fun and is not tied to book learning.  He’s good with “off roading”, which sounds very bohemian.  Maybe I was playing a Bohemian Can Can.

I’m all ears for stories about learning an instrument.  Inspirational stories that say you need to play a song 200 times before you get the hang of it would make me feel better.  I’m up to 30 times with one song there is no smooth playing in sight.

The Never Ending Winter

It is less than a month till spring officially starts according to the calendar.  Looking outside here, things will need to change quite a bit if our outdoor experience is to line up with the calendar.

The past several weeks have been very good for winter outdoor activities, well, at least until it rained and that made things crusty for cross-country skiing and snow shoeing.  

Here are a few pictures of some lovely sights while out getting some fresh air and exercise.  My experience for a number of the days is summed up here:

Today I spent some time outdoors with my friend

With devices strapped on our feet we headed over hill and round bend

It was apparent quite soon, compared to her, I’m not nearly as fit

My friend easily floated ahead and then patiently waited a bit

The only time I could really keep up was with the beer at the end