Saturday, June 4, 2016

Father's Day, The Summer Triangle and The Summer Solstice

During the 90s I was a regular on CKUW radio - first on 2000 & Counting, then on Better Than Chocolate.
It was a great learning experience as I wrote stories, read them live on air and learned how to do the technical work.
About Better Than Chocolate - picture the Television show Frasier.
I was both Frasier Crane performing live, and Roz Doyle, clicking for the various prerecorded bits, and keeping an eye on the sound levels and clock.

In 2006 I wrote this piece for Father’s Day.
It got a few laughs then and I hope it gets a few now.
Goodness… 10 years have just flown by!
I wonder what the Papa-razzi Package costs now?

     People talk about how Christmas has changed over the years.  Well, I think Father's Day has changed even more than Christmas has.

     In the fifties, Father's Day was pretty simple.  It was a snap to shop for Dads.  Moms were hard.  There were so many different toilet waters.  Lipstick colours changed every year.  One year Lucille Ball Red was popular.  The next year every lady was wearing Flaming Fuschia.  I mean, how was an elementary school kid supposed to know what to get?  
     Dads were easy.  They always needed a pair of socks or another tie.  There WAS something about an Aqua Velva man.  The bottles of blue water came in a variety of sizes and they were all cheap.  If you had to soften Dad up for the report card that was coming, you could splurge on Old Spice or English Leather for a few pennies more.

     If you'd blown all your money for Mother's Day - an easy thing to do - you could get another tube of Brylcreme.  Those little dabs went fast and Dad always needed another tube so he could look debonaire and Mom could run her fingers through his hair. 

     Keeping the family car spiffy has always been a Dad's job.  Remember when they were unwrapping their presents in the movie A Christmas Story?  Dad Darren McGavin was thrilled to get a tin of Simonize for his car.  It was big.  It was heavy.  It was cheap.  

     That was the Golden Age for Dads gifts.  But now?  Let's just say that Dads are getting to be as big a problem as Moms are, gift-wise.

     I always thought of men as being rough and ready in their grooming needs.  I raised a son.  He once took a bath, answered nature's call, then went straight to drying everything - and I mean everything - with the bath towel.  He thought cutting out a small step would save some time.  At least that was his explanation when I asked him about the skid marks on the yellow towel.  

     Now men have discovered their inner Alan Alda.  They know about brands like Nivea.  Soap on a rope has lost its oomph.  Blades and a can of Barbasol just won't cut it anymore.  Guys have discovered grooming sets: shower gels, body washes, face scrubs, after shave balms and a post shave soother that the nice sales clerk swore will control his beard's growth.  You know, the same crap and sales pitches they've been throwing at women for years.  

     And for the guy who's really into his feminine side, there are events like the Papa-razzi Package at the Fairmont Hotel in Vancouver.  The 36 hour getaway includes an hour-long massage, a facial, foot care, a souvenir shaving kit and a round of golf.  The package costs $2,165 plus taxes and airfare if you don't happen to live in Vancouver.  Hey, femininity never came cheap. 

     Tools have always been popular gifts.  Something is always getting lost or broken, right?  Time was when, after being showered with a 32 piece wrench set, a 14 piece clamp set and a 65 piece screwdriver set, every Dad was ready, willing and eager to wrench, clamp and screw any and everything in the house.  

     Fellows, I was wondering… if a man receives a 205 piece drill and screwdriving set (consisting of screw driving bits, nut driving bits, spade bits, high speed drill bits, hole saws, masonry drill bits, sanding drums and a countersink which, I've been told, are ideal to use on wood, metal, plastic, brick, mortar and concrete) would he really use them all or just stick to a half dozen favourite pieces?  You know, the way we women use the same favourite spoons and pans in the kitchen.  Sometimes wretched excess is just, well, excessive.

     Speaking of the kitchen, a Dad's cooking used to be basic.  Raw meat plus fire equaled hard small hockey pucks served with ketchup and relish in a bun.  Raw onion slices were added for the July first weekend.  Up to now the most exciting thing I'd ever seen a man do at the barbecue was to stick a can of beer up a chicken's butt so it could stand and roast.  It looked almost patriotic.  

     Dads made simple basic food.  And healthy.  No E coli bacteria could ever survive a Dad's barbecue.  

     Now folks are dropping like flies because Dads have discovered cuisine.  Ketchup and mustard have disappeared.  Guys who flunked Geography and can't find their way to their in-laws across town without a CAA triptik are now into Japanese, Mexican and Thai recipes.
     While at the Liquor Commission, I picked up the freebie Flavours magazine.  On the cover it said, Sassy sauces for your grilled goodies.  Uh, huh.  I don't know what my Dad would've thought of things like sorrel-spinach sauce.  On salmon, yet. 

     There was also an article about the joys of salt water.  According to the folks at Flavours, soaking food in brine is the key to a killer barbecue.  I don't know.  I remember one picnic forty years ago when the boat tipped over, everyone and everything fell out and everything got doused with good old salty Atlantic Ocean water.  No one thought that was anything worth repeating ever again.
     Shish kebabs used to be simple.  Meat, onion, green pepper… meat, onion, green pepper… meat, onion, green pepper until you ran out of everything.  Well, now bamboo skewers aren't good enough anymore.  Oh, no.  One recipe in Flavours should earn a cook a Boy Scout badge.  Get this: Peel fresh ginger and cut into several four inch long skewers.  Then carve the ginger on one end into a sharp point.  If your local grocer is out of long chunks of ginger, don't panic.  You can also do the same thing to lemongrass stalks.  

     Oh, pull-lease!!  If God meant us to spend our short summers carving little sticks He never would've made those nice clean bags of bamboo skewers.  Life - and a Manitoba summer - is way too short for that kind of nonsense.     
     There was a time when a bag of coal big enough to burn down a house could warm the cockles of a Dad's heart.  It could keep a fellow busy for a whole summer's worth of Sundays.  Now charcoal has some competition.  Have you been exposed to Mesquite Flavoured wood chips?  Our neighbour, Lou, really loves mesquite.  He chopped some chips up and sprinkled them on the salad.  Okay…  Lou isn't quite right in the head.  Last week he served up what he called grilled pizza.  Uh, huh.  Like we didn't notice the take out boxes stacked next to his recycling. 

     We have an old gas barbecue that chugs along with 11,000 BTUs.  It has been doing a dandy job of turning meat into blackened briquets for quite a few happy family gatherings.  Have you seen the new barbecues?  When did guys start pimping their grills?  The big selling feature for these monsters is how many BTUs are under the hood.  

     I checked the dictionary.  BTU means British Thermal Units.  Well, that was a big help.  I needed to get BTU into terms I could understand.  I looked around my house and found that my gas water heater has 30,000 BTUs.  The heater is plastered with little notes from Furnaceman.  Cheery messages like: Third degree burns can occur in six seconds when the water is 60º C.  Death is also possible.  
     Hmmm…  My water heater has 30,000 BTUs and it can get water hot enough to kill somebody.

     A Kalamazoo Bread Breaker Two Dual-Fuel grill with an infrared rotisserie cradle system and a side burner has a 154,000 BTU capacity.  It has a temperature gauge that reaches 1000º C.  It also has nighttime grilling lights.  Why?  Would a middle-age hubby, after his 3 a.m. pee, get an uncontrollable urge to wander out to the Kalamazoo and grill a couple of turkeys?  

     According to the manufacturer, it's geared to the Man cook with fire market segment.   

     Middle-aged men, who normally think it's a hassle to reheat leftovers in a microwave, are gathering around these monster barbecues and acting like a bunch of teenage boys.  They're checking under the hood, twisting dials and rattling off phrases like Mounted smoker box… warming rack… hi-dome cooking lid… porcelain coated cooking grid… heat plates with the same slobbering enthusiasm most had for their first car.

     There are also barbecue accessories.  I'm not talking long handled forks and aprons that tell folks to kiss the cook.  

     The Centro food prep station is a buffet, cooler and more.  It can be connected to the barbecue to create a complete outdoor kitchen.  Hey, fellas!  There's a room that has all this stuff.  You're welcome to come and flex your cooking muscles all year round.  Sorry the oven only goes to 500º C, but, we girls have been able to crank out complete holiday dinners in it.  it's called the kitchen.

     Maybe the Discovery Channel was trying to do a public service.  On Father's Day they had a special on the 1883 Krakatoa catastrophe.  When Krakatoa went Kabooie, it produced an ash cloud.  The ashes and gases reached 1000º C.  Most of the people in a 30 mile radius were killed by the extremely hot air which liquified their lungs. 
     Dads, if some fool gave you the Bread Breaker, think of Al Gore and take it back.
     The ozone layer will thank you.
     The environment will thank you!
     The lungs of everyone within 30 miles will thank you!!
     And, most important, the family's burgers and wieners will thank you!!! 

About the sky this week, thanks to the folks at The Farmers' Almanac

June 4: New Moon 11:00 PM. Tonight should  be a great night to spot the Big Dipper.

June 5/6: Look up at the sky at sunset and see if you can see the thin waxing crescent Moon sitting very low in the sky. The sighting of this young Moon this month means, Ramadan, the month of fasting for Muslims, begins.

June 10: If the sky is clear, you may be able to see the waxing crescent Moon in the western sky. Jupiter is the brightest looking “star” nearby, and Regulus is the fainter one on the other side of the Moon.

June 11: Tonight is a good night to see Moon and Jupiter. The Moon is less than five degrees from Jupiter, so you should be able to see both without having to look very far.

June 12: First Quarter Moon, 4:10 AM. 

June 13: Looking east during early nightfall you should start seeing the Summer Triangle in full force. While summer hasn’t officially started, this triangle is viewable by mid-June at evening dusk. To spot it, look for a triangle that’s composed of the three brightest stars in the sky. 

June 13: Earliest sunrise in 2016. The earliest sunrises of the year happen around mid-June, despite the fact that the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year, comes about one week later.

June 14: Spica sighting. Find the Moon then see Spica, a very bright star and closest star to the Moon– less than five degrees away.

June 15: Moon is at apogee, its farthest point from Earth.

June 16: Look for the waxing gibbous Moon and Mars, the red planet, brighten up the sky after sunset. The planet Saturn and Antares, the brightest star in the constellation Scorpius the Scorpion, can be seen as well, but Mars is the brightest.

June 18: As darkness falls look to the south-southeast part of the sky for the Moon sitting about 2 1/2 degrees to the upper left is a very bright star shining sedately with a yellowish-white hue. That “star” is the planet Saturn.


  1. Lol, what an interesting read, Margaret. My father was not an easy person to buy for so us kids usually made him something or did an extra chore or two to keep him happy for Father's Day, lol...

    You are a woman of many facets. I'm liking getting to know them all:)

    I'm delighted to hear you will be able to join us for the Picnic Game. I'm not sure what you mean about the recipe all being in English. Most, if not all, of the Picnickers post their recipes in English. But before that even begins, everyone needs to pick a letter of the alphabet. I'll explain more once I know for sure we will be "playing" again this year. So far there has been quit a bit of interest. Fingers crossed, we'll see:)

    Thanks for sharing, Margaret...

  2. Thank you for dropping by and reading and your kind words, Louise!

    LOL... ah, yes, life was once so simple... not! My Pop always needed socks. Back in the 50s there was a corner store that sold men's socks, 3 pairs for a quarter. Hmm… maybe they weren’t the best of socks and that’s why they always got holes in them?

    Oh those jobs… my weirdest one was when I was a cook in a convent. Those ladies loved cookies!

    Back to the Picnic Game - I’ve posted some of my Ma’s recipes with both their Maltese and English names. That might come in handy for some of those less popular letters :)

    Hope you and Marion are enjoying lots of ice cream and candy!

  3. Hi Margaret:)
    I was just visiting a blog and immediately thought of you. The hostesses name is Esme and her post is about the pastries of Malta. Here's the link if you want to pop by!

    I think it's wonderful that you posted the recipes in both languages. Sometimes those letters get a bit tricky, lol...thanks Margaret:)

  4. Hi, Louise!
    Thank you for sharing the link to Esme's blog. Esme was visiting family in the area I came from - Msida is near Hamrun. We're practically cousins!

    The last picture is the site of where they filmed the Robin Williams' movie 'Popeye'. It's become a popular tourist spot.

    About the letters... Yes, we have a slightly different alphabet with a few fancy touches to familiar letters. Sorry about that :)

  5. Thank you for stopping by. I know Msida very well. I have relatives there. As a child we would return to Malta all the time. Then we did not go back for 27 years. No real reason. Just life. It was a great visit. I will be back to your blog looking for recipes. On this last visit I bought a Maltese English dictionary. I am originally from Ottawa-is there a Maltese community in Winnipeg. Have a good day.

    1. Good morning, Esme!

      Going back to Malta for a vacation was something my parents always said we'd do next year. Unfortunately it never worked out. As you said, just life.

      While Winnipeg has Folklorama where over 40 countries' culture is on display, there aren't enough of us here to set up a Maltese Pavilion. I have cousins in Mississaugua, south of Toronto, where there's a Maltese community.

      We went to Ottawa for our 40th wedding anniversary. It's a lovely city, very pleasant to walk around in and very friendly. We hope to go there again.

      Have a great week. Sahha!

  6. Oh that's wonderful Margaret!!! You've just made my terrific Sunday a whole lot better!!!

    1. Thank you, Louise, for introducing me to Esme!! It made my Sunday a whole lot better, too!

      As I told Esme, there aren't many Maltese in Winnipeg. A few years ago Brenda Sciberras, a Winnipeg poet, and I were included in an anthology. At the book signing the editor brought her to me, as Brenda had insisted, "I have to meet the other Maltese writer!" We had a good laugh and chat and keep in touch.

      Thank you and have a great week!


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