Wednesday, March 17, 2010

My Grandmother's St. Patrick's Day Cookies

Anybody who knows me well knows two things: 1., April Fools Day is Sacred; and, 2., Every Day is April Fools Day.

But the best April Fool's Day joke I ever pulled wasn't on April Fool's Day at all. It happened on St. Patrick's day, and the joke was on my then 72 (and now 86) year old grandmother.

All throughout my childhood, my Grandmother was always baking things. Desserts. Pastries. Treats. And she still makes them, too - "Dainties," as she calls them. Best of all, though, she makes particularly good cookies, so it was always a real treat to get a plate full of dainties several times throughout the year - cookies, buttertarts, nanaimo bars, peanut butter marshmallow thingies - the variety depended only on the occasion. Christmas, Thanksgiving, Valentine's Day, and Easter all had accompanying treats, including the extra-special fresh Hot Cross Buns on Good Friday.

So a number of years ago, while in the mood for cookies, I happened to realize that it was March 17th, and a nefarious little plot began to hatch inside my head. I picked up the telephone, called my Grandmother, and asked, "Nan, where are the St. Patrick's Day cookies?"

She replied, "David, I've never made St. Patrick's Day cookies in my life."

"Sure you did," I said. "Every year. Don't you remember?"

She emphatically denied it, but four hours later, she showed up with perfectly-shaped shamrock cookies, artfully decorated with green icing.

While I was duly impressed with the results of my little joke, and quite happy to have the cookies, I found out years later that there was in fact more to the story. In the time period between my phone call and her showing up with the cookies, she had phoned my Aunt Colleen, as my grandmother was suddenly really starting to doubt her sanity.

My Aunt later told me that my grandmother had recounted our conversation to her and then asked, "I never made St. Patrick's Day cookies, did I?"

My Aunt, somewhat preoccupied at the time for a reason I cannot recall, answered, "Sure you did."

"I did?" my grandmother asked.

"Every year," my Aunt added.

Apparently my grandmother was somewhat bemused. "Then what did I use for a cookie cutter?"

My Aunt, growing ever more annoyed at what was turning into a lengthy interruption, abruptly said, "I think you used the club from the cards set or something," and got my grandmother off the phone. It wasn't until later that my Aunt gave it more thought and realized that she'd been mistaken.

In the meantime, my grandmother had checked her cookie cutter drawer, and sure enough, the club cutter was there. She mixed up some dough, cut out some clubs, and then took a knife and cut off a piece of the bottom to give it a curved look and make it look like a shamrock. She later told me that she thought to herself, "Well, it actually looks pretty good; that must have been how I did it," and she proceeded to bake a batch. She made the accompanying green icing, decorated them, and I imagine was somewhat relieved that she didn't miss this longstanding St. Patrick's Day ritual which, for some reason, she couldn't seem to recall for the life of her.

In my defence, I did own up to it a few weeks later. We enjoyed a good laugh as she told me how she had seriously began to wonder, and I gloated over the well-executed results of my somewhat impractical joke.

The incident was all but forgotten and things were quiet until the following winter, when my sister and I conspired to relive the magic. My sister went shopping and found a Halloween cookie cutter in the shape of a cat, and snuck it into the cookie cutter drawer while our grandmother was away on vacation.

Our grandmother returned home from her trip at the end of January as scheduled. On February 2nd, I called her up, and asked, "Nan, where are the Groundhog Day cookies?"

"David," she told me, "I've never made Groundhog Day cookies in my life."

"Sure you did," I told her. "Every year…"

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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Richard Bandler, the Master Hypnotist

Paul McKenna has uploaded a wonderful video to youtube which tells the story of the extraordinary Richard Bandler and how he helped a woman overcome her terrible fear of flying.

The lady's fear was legitimate - she was a victim of a hijacking while a passenger on a plane in Peru and genuinely feared for her life. For almost three decades she lived with a terrifying fear of planes and flying, made all the more sad because she was a trained pilot herself.

This short program illustrates the brilliance that is Bandler and how he uses seemingly simple techniques to overcome acute fears and phobias.

Based on my studies of Bandler, the explanations of Bandler's techniques are oversimplified and somewhat inaccurate, but the video is worth the watch to see the effects he achieves.

Part 1:

Part 2:

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Monday, March 30, 2009

Einstein: The Amazing Parrot

If you haven't heard of yet, you're missing out. There's a plethora of fascinating video lectures available for free, streaming right into your browser. Jane Goodall, Dan Dennett, Dr. Brian Cox, Tim Berners-Lee, Jill Bolte Taylor, Hans Rosling.. all of these lecturers have brilliant little 20-minute clips available for your viewing pleasure. Treat yourself, and check it out. Then, become addicted, and enlighten your mind.

From a pureley entertaining perspective, this nice little clip of Einstein, an African Grey Parrot, illustrates the magic of communication and how humans and animals can learn to interact. It isn't so much a display of intelligence as it is a demonstration of how animals can learn to manipulate humans to get what they want.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Seeing what isn't yet there...

At the beginning of the sixteenth century, people looked at a large piece of marble and saw it as a weathered, pathetic hunk of stone.

Michaelangelo looked inside it, and saw The David.

He carefully helped lose the parts that kept The David from being The David. With loving and meticulous care, the Artist freed, for the world to see, the divine beauty that was there within the stone all along.

Look within. What do you see?