Adventures in Bamboo Ninjas

As many of you know, I like my little cottage – the house I’m renting while I write my thesis. Sure, it has its fair share of insect life: what self-respecting cottage doesn’t? But I like that it’s tiny, with whimsical french windows and doors. It has has window boxes which are woefully neglected, but doggedly continue to sprout loyal flora. It’s quiet, shady and secluded. Or at least it was, until the Bamboo Ninjas arrived on Monday morning.

My lovely cottage – perfect idyll for aspiring princesses and linguists.

Apparently, the bamboo grove along the wall of my yard started making trouble in my neighbourhood. Since I don’t have an Auntie and Uncle in Bel Air, another solution needed to be found. You see, thanks to the “ignore and neglect” method of gardening, espoused by both my landlady and myself, the bamboo had flourished, and towered above the 3-storey building next to me. Sadly, this meant that my neighbours couldn’t open and close their windows without getting a room full of bamboo leaves and branches. I can fully understand their displeasure, and why they mentioned it to my landlady.

Pay no attention to the cat in the basket. Check out the gorgeous bamboo grove behind her.

On Monday, a blue truck arrived, full of ninjas. Some sticklers for precision might contend that they weren’t really ninjas, but since they wore full face masks, and carried big swords machetes, and could become completely invisible as they worked, I’m pretty sure they were ninjas.

My yard, full of invisible ninjas chopping down my bamboo.

By Tuesday afternoon, their work was complete. My neighbours can now open and close their windows with ease. My shady, secluded yard is sunny and bright. (The morning sun managed to make its way into my bedroom before 6am.) My leafy grove is a row of 5-foot tall jumbo-grass stubble. My cottage looks like it’s been the victim of a terrible haircut…which may be why you never hear of ninjas retiring and becoming barbers.

The Japanese word age-otori means ‘to look worse after a haircut’. I wonder if it also applies to landscaping done by ninjas?

Adventures in my Hot and Spicy Kitchen

*Warning: This post contains pictures of lizards mating, mangoes boiling, and a lazy cat – any of which may be disturbing for some readers.*

My kitchen is tiny. Not as tiny as this one in my former apartment, but still tiny.

“I hope the Blue Faerie will turn me into a real kitchen someday!”

Since it’s so small, not much happens in it. In the morning, coffee gets brewed, an egg gets fried and a slice of bread gets toasted. On a good day, the 3 resulting dirty dishes might get washed. That’s about it. (Unless the cat uses the space to practice some sort of extravagant cabaret show while I’m out…)

Um…yeah, that’s not likely.  

Cat shenanigans notwithstanding, my kitchen has seen a lot more action this week than it usually does. And yes, I do mean action. ‘Tis the season when a young lizard’s fancy turns to thoughts of…CPR. I came home the other day and interrupted a Gecko 1st Aid class in progress on my kitchen wall:

“Henri, we have been spotted! Quick, pretend you’re giving me the Heimlich maneuver!”

Not to be outdone by the lizards, I decided to spice things up a bit myself. Uhh..let me re-phrase that. I really started to get things cooking. Hmm, no, that doesn’t sound quite right either. Y’know what? There is just no appropriate Grandma-might-be-reading-this way to transition from taking pictures of lizard sex CPR to making mango chutney. Except maybe to say, “A few days later, I made mango chutney.”

A few days later, I made mango chutney. My neighbour had picked a gazillion mangoes off my tree, and gave me a giant basket full of yumminess. I shared lots of them, but was still left with nearly a dozen delicious, juicy mangoes to use up. In a sudden burst of domestic fervor, I dug out my saucepan, bought some canning jars, Googled a recipe, read for a while, painted my toenails, did some laundry, and eventually set to work. The recipe called for crystallized ginger, and red pepper flakes. Why use those when fresh ginger and fresh chillies abound?

This is a photo of an awesome pot of chutney…with a not-so-awesome caption.

The bright yellow/orange mangoes and the fiery red chilies in a sweet and tangy sauce make the perfect companion to almost any meal in this wet and rainy season.


I’ve just made an uncomfortable discovery. I don’t actually make meals in my kitchen. Why on earth did I make a condiment to go with them!? It’s like handing someone a bottle of ketchup and saying, “Here, look at this pretty ketchup, and imagine how good it would taste if you had a burger to put it on.” Drat!

I guess the lizards are going to have to find a new venue for their 1st aid classes, and the cat is going to have to have cabaret practice in the living room. It looks like I’ll be gettin’ busy (Sorry, Grandma!) in my kitchen after all.

Adventures in Ants In My Pants

When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a thesaurus when I grew up. That dream never came to pass, but today I did get to be an idiom for a little while instead.

The day began like many others. The morning sun peeked through the lingering night-time rain clouds, the birds began choir practice in my trees, a gentle breeze lifted my curtains and brought the scent of mangoes across my typing desk, the cat puked up a wad of half-chewed bamboo leaves on my front stoop… Yes, a day like many others.

I didn’t rush to clean up the cat’s mess. I was still in my PJs, and enjoying my coffee. The cat had wandered off to new adventures; besides, the mess was outside and organic. It could wait.

Eventually, I went out to grab the hose, figuring I might as well wash the whole porch while I was at it. However, instead of a dusty porch and a sad little pile of mushy green bamboo-barf, I saw an over-excited swarm of giant red ants. Apparently, in some ant dialects, “cat vomit” and “buffet” are synonyms. The cat had produced a puddle about 2 inches in diameter, which in less than 20 minutes had become the epicenter of a swarm of ants almost 2 feet across.

These aren’t your everyday “Let’s ruin your picnic” ants. These are the ants that audition for roles in Indiana Jones or National Geographic movies. These are the very ants that got angry with me last winter for trimming their branch bridge – and then tried to re-build it themselves with nothing but sheer determination and acrobatic acumen!

“Bridge? We don’t need no stinkin’ bridge.”

I’m happy to say, I’ve never seen these ants inside my house, but I still wasn’t thrilled about having them turn my porch into an insect party-palace. So, I turned the hose on, and washed them all back onto the lawn. I don’t think any of them were even injured. Sometime in September, aging ants will be telling their grandchildren about how they survived the Great Hosedown of May 30th.

As anyone in a flood would do, some of the ants headed for higher ground. Some of them headed up the hose and onto my arm. Some of them headed up the broom and onto my arm. Some of them took advantage of my distracted arm-slapping and headed up my legs. The leg-climbers were sneaky though. They kept a low profile until the deck was washed, and I was back at my computer. You know how after one bug crawls on you, you imagine all sorts of bugs crawling on you? But then you tell yourself, “Don’t be silly. It’s just a loose thread, hair, crumb or popcorn kernel”? That’s what I was telling myself as I felt little tickles and itches on my legs – until eventually I realized that loose threads, hairs, crumbs and popcorn kernels don’t continue to crawl after you’ve scratched them.

I won’t tell you what happened next, because who knows what ads Google will come up with next to this post if I describe the hasty removal of my attire, or the frenetic dance that accompanied it. In the end, there were really only a couple of ants in my pants…but they were enough to have me twitchily slapping myself for the rest of the day when any loose thread, hair or popcorn kernel accosted me.

All in all, given the choice between pursuing my dream of being a thesaurus, or settling for living the idiomatic dream, I’m gonna keep reaching for those stars/celestial orbs/celebrities/luminaries/headliners.