Monday, December 21, 2009
I've got to agree with Margaret Schlegel on this one. As I get older and acquire more stuff, I find that providing Christmas gift lists gets harder and harder. I don't need any more things, just more people. Or rather, more time with the people I like.
Yesterday was the Annual Holiday Lunch* with the girls -- oh, and husbands and children and even a dog, but really it's the girls that matter here. This particular group of girlfriends all centres around the lovely S. who married an adorable Englishman in 2005 and went to live in London for a few years. In her absence, and missing her dreadfully, us bridesmaids would get together for lunch or dinner every so often and boom! a group friendship was cemented. I adore these women. They're so funny and so bright, they sparkle. They eat everything I put on their plates. They're wonderful. And now that S. is back in Canada with husband and daughter, the group is complete and all's right with the world.
You would think. But not quite. The fly in the ointment is that, despite the fact we're all in the same general geographic area, we still can't seem to get together more than once a month, and that's if we're lucky. What has happened to the world that we're all so busy? Children, jobs, family commitments, I know, I know, it all adds together to eat up every moment of free time, but suddenly the year is over and you realize that all your communication with your friends is electronic and you can't remember what they look like. It's kind of sad, when you think about it. Your friends are the family that you get to choose (what a luxury!) and here we are, squandering it because we're all so busy that in some cases 2 years may go by before you can actually pull together a casual dinner.
Ah, well. What can you do?
Resolve, I guess, to make the most of the time you do spend together. Try to ensure that there's at least one high-quality weekend away a year together. Keep dreaming of renting a house in Sonoma together. And seal the deal with food, of course, as N. did yesterday with her superb roast beef for lunch and I did with this heart-stopping dessert made specially for S. who counts herself as something of an Sticky Toffee Pudding expert. It passed the test.
Sticky Toffee Pudding with Toffee Sauce**
1 1/2 cups pitted dates, chopped
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp.baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
pinch of salt
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of allspice
For Toffee Sauce:
1 cup whipping cream
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
Combine the dates and water in a medium-sized saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer gently for 10 minutes, or until most of the liquid had been absorbed by the dates or evaporated. Puree the dates in a food processor, blender or stick mixer.
With an electric mixer, beat the butter with the brown sugar. Beat in eggs, one at a time.
In a medium-sized bowl, mix flour with baking powder and baking soda. Add to the wet batter and then stir in pureed dates.
Spoon the batter into a buttered & floured 9" x 13" baking dish. Bake in a 350° over for 35 to 45 minutes or until the top feels firm when gently pressed in the center.
While pudding is cooking, make the toffee sauce by combining cream sugar and butter in a heavy-bottom saucepan. Bring to a boil then cook, boiling and stirring for about 3 minutes. Let cool slightly.
When cake is done and cooled slightly, prick with a skewer to make lots of tiny holes. Spoon half of the toffee sauce over the cake.
When ready to serve, heat remaining toffee sauce (stirring all the while) and spoon over individual portions. If you really want to kill them with kindness, add a scoop or two of highest quality vanilla ice cream.
* this event does not, in fact, happen annually because of scheduling conflicts. Go figure. However, I am determined to make it so and start by labelling it, quite firmly, as the Annual Holiday Lunch.
**adapted from Food & Whine:http://www.fortysomething.ca/2008/01/sticky_toffee_pudding.php
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Okay, so Christmas.
It's been intimated around the office and on Facebook lately that I'm a Grinch or a Scrooge, that I lack Christmas Spirit and all that. And the thing is, it's absolutely not true. I love Christmas. I love the last wheezing gasps of the old year and the promise of the new. I love that there's all this lovely time off, that there's days and days of feasting ahead, the whole giving and receiving of gifts and good wishes. I love all the lights and the shopping (bah! humbug! on this online shopping thing – I need to see and feel the gifts I’m choosing for you) and the whole suspension of reality. It’s lovely and from mid-December onwards I’m capable of tearing up at the tiniest thing, sentimental fool that I am.
But the thing is, it can’t be forced. You can surround me with all your tinselly shit and good cheer at the office all you want, but until that mid-December moment comes, I just won’t feel Christmas. I have to wait, every year, until something triggers it for itself.
Last year it was the night my husband and I decorated our first Christmas tree together (we’d been married for 5 years but had never had a tree before because we feared what our border collie/lab mix dog would do to it in our absence) with all these wonderful old glass ornaments from his grandfather’s house. It was such a nice moment, and the house smelled so good, and the ornaments were such little nostalgia-globes, and I think we watched A Christmas Story afterwards and laughed, and maybe it snowed, and maybe I’d had a few too many glasses of cabernet, but whatever it was, that was the night I felt Christmas for 2008.
Well, tonight was the night I felt Christmas for the first time in 2009. And it’s all my sister’s fault.
My elder sister is mentally handicapped, which, for anyone reading this who has a handicapped relative or friend knows, is a situation that’s incredibly layered with emotion and meaning and good stuff and bad stuff and, just, stuff. Anyway, about once a month the two of us go out for dinner. Sometimes when I pick her up she’s had a bad day and is grumpy, but lately she’s been in fine form almost every time we have dinner. Tonight was no exception.
We sat in the crowded restaurant, chatting as we do on these evenings out about how busy or not busy the restaurant is, how things are in the house where she lives, about what she’s going to order (complete with the dessert that she promises to never tell our mother about, yet invariably does, so thrilled is she to have snookered me into buying her dessert when my parents never give in on that) until the waitress came to take our order. Looking up at the 20-year old server with bright eyes and a smile, my sister stuck her hand out and introduced herself to the girl, saying “Me, Andrea.”
(I always have this teeeensy moment of fear when my sister makes any sort of gesture to the outside world, when she breaks her focus away from me and reaches out to someone else. Because I never know what sort of reaction Andrea’s going to get and there’s nothing worse than to see someone recoil from her, as though she’s a monster of some sort. It’s a reaction that hurts, that ruffles all those layers of emotional stuff -- she’s as familiar to me as my own skin, how can she be a monster to others – that’s just so damned rude and yet what can you do. You can’t blame people for their instinctive reactions, that’s just who they are, just as my sister is just who she is.)
So, yes, I held my breath as my sister trustingly introduced herself to the young waitress. And I was richly rewarded as the girl, without missing a beat, laughed and put down her tray, shook hands with my sister and said “well, hello, I’m Michelle!”
And that was it. That was the moment when the whole Christmas spirit or whatever you want to call it started to trickle in. For Andrea, simple contact with non-handicapped people means a lot. I think it makes her feel like she belongs, like she’s less different. And, because of the way she is (in the sense that she’s not always in such a great mood that she’ll reach out to the outside world) and because of the way people are and the way they handle difference, it’s something she doesn’t get to experience on a regular basis. So Michelle the waitress’ kindness in treating my sister like anyone else, a tiny event she likely forgot minutes after it happened, meant the world to Andrea right at that moment.
And then, about an hour later, as Andrea and I finished some Christmas shopping and she loudly and happily wished the cashier a Merry Christmas with great, innocent enthusiasm, well, that pretty much sealed the deal. Put out some cookies, crack open that box of tissues, prepare for floods at the first sentimental t.v. commercial, Christmas 2009 is officially open for business.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Monday, November 30, 2009
A policeman on a motorbike chases her for twenty miles before he manages to pull up next to her. "PULLOVER!" he screams at her.
"NO, SCARF!" the blonde screams back.
(What? Okay, so not the best use of blogspace, but I've been knitting a lot and I'm bored. And blonde.)
Monday, November 9, 2009
I'd been in Berlin just two years before, having spent about five weeks of the summer of '87 in Germany with relatives and friends. That trip, my Hanover relatives took me to Berlin for a long weekend. A visit to my father's cousin in East Berlin was scheduled for the Sunday. At the last minute, however, I bowed out of going. For one thing, the very thought of crossing Checkpoint Charlie was enough to induce a panic attack (I've always hated dealing with anyone in uniform -- I believe this phobia began at the hands of some evil Brownies in grade 2), and then I also needed a day away from my very kind (but occasionally overbearing) relatives. By that point in the trip, I'd been someone's guest for at least 3 weeks and my need for alone time was almost a medical condition. And, to be honest, there was something kind of creepy about my West German relatives' attitude, this weird sort of smugly schadenfreudish air -- oh, the poor Ossis, they seemed to say, what would they do without our annual visits to bring over our high-quality hand-me-down clothes and shoes and foodstuffs? I had the feeling I'd be encouraged to look at the East like it was a diorama in a museum, its residents like animals in a zoo, to be entertained by the lack of shiny consumer products.
So, off went my aunt, uncle and cousin, to visit the Ossi relatives across the Wall, while I spent the day blessedly alone, wandering the shopping areas around the Kurfurstendamn, eating currywurst from street vendors and eventually making my way through the Tiergarten, a huge park, to an elevated lookout platform by the Brandenburg Gate. If memory serves, this platform, which was about 25 feet high or so, was situated at the end of the Strasse des 17. Juni, a broad boulevard that swept through the tree-filled Tiergarten to meet the Brandenburg Gate, which is a 18th century triumphal arch type of thing. The Wall crossed over the boulevard here, blocking you from the gate and the neighbouring Reichstag building. All you could really see over the wall was no-man's land, an empty stretch of nothing. I don't remember seeing any people, or guard towers, or dogs, but it's quite possible they were there, too.
It was the Reichstag that really held my attention. The huge building was a scorched ruin, heavily pockmarked with bomb damage from WWII, its windows vacant and black. In my memory, there was nothing but empty meadowland in front of its stone steps -- I have a distinct mental picture of the contrast of long grass and wildflowers in front of the desolate ruin, but again, this could be some embroidering on the part of my brain. Seeing the bomb damage made my head explode -- it's one thing to grow up hearing stories of WWII from my parents who were small children in Berlin at the time, stories of air raids and evacuations, of shrapnel from phosphorus bombs making apartment buildings glow at night for months afterward, of raising rabbits in the apartment for food, of the Blockade and the Airlift (and the weird to them food that got dropped from the Rosinenbombers), of black market trading, it's one thing when these are just stories. But it's another thing entirely when you see, in person, a building that played a role in that horrific conflict (though what war isn't horrific) standing still-damaged, over 40 years later. It was, in an odd way, like sudden, unexpected slap.
Or, at least, this is how I remember it.
I spent a long time wandering along the Wall itself that afternoon, reading all the graffiti. Some of what had been written was simple and heartfelt, but a lot of what I saw was very stupid. A lot of anti-communist epithets, sprayed on with the kind of cowardly bravado only possible when there's no chance of an answer from the other side, do you know what I mean? Honestly, what's the point of writing "F#$ You, Commies!" or whatever, on a section of the Wall entirely surrounded by trees?
The whole experience was eerie. As a Westerner, used to having the freedom to do anything and go anywhere, the concept of restricted liberty was almost too much to understand. This was likely another reason I bowed out of crossing the border to the East to meet Renate and Rolf, that I just wasn't ready to wrap my head around the enormity of what the Wall and the Iron Curtain and the Cold War really meant. I was 17 and just not ready to try to understand the politics of how it all happened and what it all really meant. It was easier to deal with in books and films, at one remove from my own life.
And then, two years later, on a November Friday night, I watched from the cocoon of my university dorm as that same bit of wall in front of the Brandenburg Gate came tumbling down. I remember waiting for the guns to fire, thinking it all seemed too simple, that it was all some sort of horrific trick. I remember thinking of my un-met relatives and wondering whether they were part of the crowd (they weren't). I remember worrying that there'd be riots or some other sort of violence, maybe not immediately but at some point because how on earth was this all going to work??
But it has worked, in its own way. For people like my father's cousin, who lived a nice life there behind the wall, it was difficult to see symbols of their old culture dismantled, such as the Palast der Republik. There must have been (and likely is still) great tension between the West and the East as the city reshaped itself. I wonder what its like to have been a part of a separate culture for over 20 years and suddenly that culture is gone, subsumed into another? On our last trip, my mother got into a conversation with a woman at the opera, a long time resident of Berlin. Mum had noticed that people were speaking the Berlinerish dialect more and more this visit than in other past trips. The woman replied that, in her opinion, the dialect had been kept alive more so in the East than the West and that its increased usage was an attempt by the Easterners to maintain their cultural identity as something other from the cosmopolitan Berlin community.
However, as a visitor, the reunified Berlin is a wonderful thing. The museum system is finally, mostly sorted out, you have a choice of three (count'em three!) opera houses, the Reichstag is entirely renovated with a new glass dome on top, you can travel easily to Dessau or Leipzig or the Spreewald, and you never have to stand at the top of a lookout platform and have the past slap you in the face. The past is still there, mind you, there are a million little reminders across the city so that you can never forget, but it's no longer akin to stepping from technicolour to sepiatone.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
To be honest, I really enjoy the planning and preparation that goes into these gatherings. I like to feed people. (Slightly off topic, but just bear with me for sec, have you ever watched something like Biggest Loser, or a Dr. Phil or Dr. Oz show about weight loss, and they always talk to some fatty who blames her girth on the fact that she comes from a culture or ethnic group where food is the centre of all important gatherings or celebrations? Really? Like don't we all? If someone knows of the culture or ethnic group that celebrates weddings or births with fasting and abstinence could you let me know?)
Anyhoo, the point is, I believe in Kara's motto for entertaining " For God Sakes If You Are Going To Invite People Over For A Meal Then Break A Sweat." Do the work. Make an effort.
Of course once all the revelry is over there will be clean up. Its part of the bargain, and I am more than willing to deal with it. I have a fabulous dishwasher, and a husband who is more than willing to help with the heavy lifting.
Here is my problem. Some people can't take no for an answer. I always have a couple of guests who will prance into my kitchen and begin to help with clean up. There are a number of problems with this. First off ,my kitchen is freakishly small given the size of my house. Not only is it small it is a victim of bad design. This means that only one person can comfortably work in the kitchen at any given time. Two, they decide to clean up at the end of the meal portion of the evening. This is usually the time that the gifts are opened. Invariably I end up missing most of this because my "kitchen help" is constantly ducking into the living room to ask where I keep my flatwear, or where they should put the serving platters. Thirdly, on the off chance I take your offer to help either with prep or clean up you have to be a bit of a self starter. If you come chasing after me to get my approval on every cucumber slice, or you need me to pat you on the back and thank you with every item you dry, well, lets just say I'll give you the approval and the thanks, but I can't guarantee there is going to be a whole lot of sincerity in my voice. Also, I really don't think its cute or funny that you have a habit of breaking something everytime you "help" me in the kitchen. Lastly, just stay out of my freaking kitchen. My kitchen is a small sacred space. When you come into it uninvited, or worse force your way in even after you have been told your help is neither needed nor wanted you are violating my personal space. You might as well fashion a speculum out of my salad tongs and ambush me for a surprise pap swab because I find your presence just that intrusive and unwanted.
The thing is my family is a busy one. These days it seems like we have most of our meals in shifts, or we are keeping one eye on the clock to make sure we are on time for pick-up or drop off as the case may be. So when I have a chance to get my whole family together to celebrate a happy occasion with a meal I have prepared specially for them, I want to enjoy the company. I'll tend to the mess after everyone goes home, and if I don't do it then, I deal with it in the morning.
I put in a lot of hard work to ensure that everyone would have an enjoyable evening, so put the dish cloth down, exit the kitchen and for godsakes, relax and enjoy yourself.
Monday, October 26, 2009
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
This afternoon, at some point, I had a really great idea for a blog entry. Something I really wanted to discuss with whoever it is that reads this (Hi, Mum!), something a little fun and a little thought provoking.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Friday, September 4, 2009
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
BUT, while I've got you, on the subject of Julie & Julia, it's a charming little movie and well worth the exhorbitant price of admission. Nice balance between the two stories, some deliciously over the top acting (there's a scene featuring Child and her sister and you'd think they were Muppets the characterization's so ridiculously animated), interesting chemistry between Tucci and Streep and lovely set decoration. The set for Julie and Eric's apartment had so many elements and bits and pieces that the husband and I own, it almost looked like home. If our home was eclectic and clean, instead of eclectic and on the verge of being condemned for mess.
(On that subject, we got to the movie theatre too early so walked over to the bookstore for a browse before the flick. I picked up an astrology book on a sale table and it opened to a section about Taurus (me) and Cancer (him) and the first sentence was, "Taurus and Cancer will have the tidiest house on the block", a sentence that makes liars out of both of our birth certificates.)
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
If you’ve ever wondered why our insurance premiums are so high and we get so little for it, I’ll tell you why. It’s because insurance companies waste a lot of money and time and extend those costs to you, the consumer. Listen to this:
I called our insurance and explained the situation but since I was calling after hours, I wasn’t speaking with an insurance agent of any sort, merely a very pleasant operator who couldn’t do anything more than take down my information and tell me not to touch anything and that an adjuster would call the next day and that they’d be sending out a damage restoration contractor soon after. Okay, fine.
Over 2,000 homes in the area were affected, many severely (houses condemned as floodwaters wash out foundation walls, etc), so I was trying to be patient while also creeped out by the amount of wet crap just sitting there, rotting, while I was at work the next day. When I really hadn’t heard anything, I called them. Again, I didn’t talk to an actual insurance adjuster, just a very nice operator who sympathized and told me to just follow the process through and wait for the adjuster to call and the restoration guy to come over. Okay, fine. At this point, I was hoping to find a copy of our policy so that I could read it for myself but that was proving impossible in the oversized hamster nest we call a home office.
However, other than giving me a craving for crawfish etouffe and blackened catfish, I figured living over a swamp was less than optimal for us and decided to begin the clean up a.s.a.p. Fans and dehumidifiers were set up and several loads of laundry were done to save the clothing that had gotten soaked in the flood, and a box of TSP was purchased to help sanitize hard surfaces that had gotten soaked by stormwater (and possibly sewage) that came up the floor drain.
By the time the insurance-company-hired- damage-restoration guy was able to come over on Friday (four days after the first call to the insurance company), the basement was actually looking pretty good. Yes, we’d lost boxes of personal, sentimental papers. Yes, we’d lost about 4 cases of wine. Yes, there were books and cds and dvds and our huge magazine collection (we’re hopeless packrats and great lovers of all things magazine) that were irreparably sodden and destined for the recycle bin and/or landfill (boo!), and yes ,the subfloor was going to have to come out. But, all things considered, it wasn’t bad. The fans and dehumidifiers were doing a great job and the house didn’t smell like beets/cat box any more. I was feeling pretty upbeat and lucky about the whole thing.
So you can imagine my surprise when restoration dude (who, I cannot stress enough, was sent to us by our insurance company) told me that anything that had been touched by stormwater (which likely was about 10 inches in depth during the flooding) would have to be destroyed and that he’d have two guys in to start the job within 30 minutes.
In seconds, I went from feeling like a survivor to feeling like a victim. Was the flooding really that serious? Was my home in danger? Was water, at that very moment, threatening the very underpinnings of our home? Were they really going to start demolition that fast? And, more importantly, was this all going to be covered by insurance???
I was assured it was. All of it.
And then I snapped back to my senses and began to question the whole thing. So, restoration dude was going to demolish my entire basement and throw everything out? Oh, hell no. There was something wrong with this picture. Yes, I agreed the subfloors would need to go, absolutely, because they’d probably trapped water beneath them. But what little drywall there is in the basement wasn’t displaying a whole hell of a lot of capillary action water damage and might need, at best, a few inches removed, not a whole two feet or more. And what about the few precious (to me) pieces of furniture that were being temporarily stored down there? I’m not throwing out a Danish modern loveseat from the 60s when all it needs is a little refinishing on the feet. It seemed like a whole hell of a lot of overkill to me.
And, more importantly, I had a feeling this wasn’t going to be covered by insurance. Although no adjuster had actually called to discuss our policy with us during the week, a cursory look at their website indicated that unless you had specifically purchased a special policy to cover water coming up your sewer drain, you weren’t covered. And no one had ever tried to sell me a specific policy to cover water coming up my sewer drain. In fact, I hadn’t known such a thing existed.
So, in the time it took for restoration dude to leave and his crew to arrive, I called the insurance company again. When I finally got through to an actual person, I was told that no, we don’t have sewer back up insurance so none of this demolition would be covered.
Are you $#%@ kidding me?
What makes me crazy about this story is not that we don’t have coverage because chances are we’d never have been able to get it in the first place, as this sort of flooding has been known to happen in our area before. What makes me crazy is this:
- That the insurance company could have saved itself and me AND THE OVERWORKED RESTORATION CREWS a lot of time if they’d just had an adjuster call us and say No, You Don’t Have Coverage For This Type Of Damage, Sorry. Then we would have really gotten into the clean up immediately, instead of only doing the minimum in order to keep things in place for the adjuster to see.
- That the insurance company sent the restoration guy over without checking to see if we were covered by this also means that, had I not been outraged by the waste (see point #3, below) and questioned the process, his crew would have gone ahead and demolished everything and we would have been on the hook for the bill. Without knowing ahead of time how much this kind of work would cost us! Who buys any service without knowing how much it will cost ahead of time?
- That the restoration company was ready to just destroy everything in our basement (I’m presuming this would have included our fully functioning washer, dryer and furnace as they were also touched by storm water) and toss it all, and then invoice their total cost to the insurance company. This makes no sense, given the limited damage we (luckily) suffered. What a waste of money to destroy salvageable items! Yes, there were many basements that were completely decimated by water that rose up to 5 feet in depth, and then stood there a long time before draining – BUT OURS WASN’T ONE OF THEM!
All of this is a huge waste of time and money that eventually trickles down to us, the consumers. We bear the brunt by having to pay increasing premiums for insurance, because the insurers are incurring larger costs by not paying attention to the details. And it’s bred a weird attitude in people, a weird “What does it matter, let insurance pay for it” culture that denies the very fact that in the end we all still pay for it through increased premiums and decreased coverage.
So, take this tale as a warning, gentle reader, or just a reminder to take care of yourself and your belongings by:
a) Finding and reading your home insurance policy, and purchasing extra insurance while you still can
b) Keep valuables of any sort in waterproof containers (or, profit from our loss by purchasing Rubbermaid stock)
c) Never trusting a story that seems too good to be true (What? You’re going to rip out this subfloor that I’ve been planning to remove myself and rebuild it all for me, and insurance will cover it? Hot dog!)
Now, where did I put that crowbar? I’ve got some anger issues to deal with and luckily, there’s some subfloor that needs some attention.
PS For those who were wondering, the archive of homemade naughty snaps (http://kate-and-kara.blogspot.com/2009/03/treasures-of-home-renovation.html) found during renovations did, in fact, survive the flood. Of course. THOSE were above high water, while my husband's early columns and various other bits were not. Sigh.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
My biggest problem right now is that I have so damn much to blog about that I honestly don't know where to start.
I could talk about how thanks to an activity that one of my children is involved in I get to spend some time every week with the most negative woman in the world. Soul sucking negativity. Everything is a chore and a burden to this woman. The first time I met her she spent a couple of hours telling me every detail of her quest to become a mother. Since that first meeting she has spent every minute of our time together complaining about how hard motherhood is. I am going to make a very real promise to post more often because you will really need to hear all the details when I finally go off my nut and scream " What the fuck did you expect?" at her. And trust me that day is closer that you might think.
( Child #3 just appeared in the doorway to tell me that Child #4 is up from her nap)
I could talk about how if you are going to run a group or activity for children, could you at the very least pretend to like the little rug rats? How about when we arrive at the door for Gluesticks and Glitter Art Camp, I'm not greeted ( and by greeted I mean totally ignored) by a gum chewing teenager, who stands slumped over a table and glares at me and my child. Seriously, this summer we have an activity scheduled every night ( Mon- Fri) at 6pm and every Saturday morning. We have a couple of weeks of day camps and hockey school too. Of course all of these are commitments of our time and our money. So if 6 people have to rush through dinner, and then chug across a rain sodden field to get to mini soccer could you at least introduce yourself, find out who the hell I am and then at least make an attempt to learn my childs name, so you don't accuse her of not listening when you call her Hannah.
I could spend some time bitching about Jennifer Weiner and asking why she gets the big bucks to write books when the last two have had the exact same freaking ending.
( Just so you know, since I started this a few minutes ago, I was told the baby was awake, I have received a request for a drink, a request to start dinner, asked for the 4000th time since 2pm about when the 7pm showing of G-Force starts, and was given one bulletin that the aforementioned baby has made stinky pants)
I am going to go now and deal with my family, but I am making a promise to you that in the next 24 hours you are going to get the " Since When Did Planning a Wedding Get So Weird" post.
I may just include a review of G-Force
( This has nothing to do with anything, but I lost my reading glasses a couple of weeks ago, and read a review of G-Force and thought that it said that that Zack Galifianakadacawhatever guy played a "super-gay guinea pig" instead of a "super-spy guinea pig"
But the other nice thing about the weekend was the affirmation that old friends are sometimes the best friends. Our annual visit to Chicago is partially about letting me get my fill of burritos as big as swaddled infants (La Pasadita, I heart you) and letting the husband go nuts at Sam's Wine & Liquors (lunchbox let down this time, but we still think American wine stores are like Disneyland for adults) but it's mostly about seeing our friends Jeff and Seann, a pair of fun, intelligent, warm and wonderful people who let us invade their home every summer for a long weekend.
It occurred to me this visit, as Jeff reminded me of some embarrassing aspect of my past, that one of the benefits of being in your mid to late 30s is old friends like him. I've known Jeff for 15 years, and as much as I don't need him to recount the Dreaded Bucket story of 1994, and he doesn't need me to remind him of the time he McGyvered spats out of tape when his middle school marching band was on its way to Comiskey Park and he'd forgotten that essential piece of marching band regalia (this makes my cry with laughter but it would take too long to explain why), as much as neither of us needs to remember this crap from the past, it's awfully nice to have someone around who does remember it. It's awfully nice to have friends who, though they live far away and you only see them once a year at the most, can just pick up the conversation where you left off the last time and keep talking. It's nice to know someone for long enough that they've seen you change from a bewildered-recent-university-graduate to the adult you are now (and vice versa), even if it does mean that the dumb, dumb, DUMB crap you did in your 20s had a witness who is unlikely to let you forget it. But that, in itself, is a benefit. It's good to have people around who won't let you forget who you once were and appreciate who you are now.
I feel like I should wrap this up with some sort of pithy, kick ass conclusion but frankly that's enough Jack Handey-esque warm & fuzzies for today. Suffice to say, old friends are the best friends and La Pasadita burritos are totally worth a nine hour, cross border drive.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Besides the obvious joys of the City of Big Shoulders (burritos, ribs, pizza, beer, sausage, beer...oh and art & architecture too!) and getting in a good visit with some old friends, there are two great things about this trip:
- We're driving there. It's about 9 hours if you take the highway the whole way, but we like to break up the trip to the city by staying overnight in Michigan and doing a little shopping. This means that on the way to Chicago I get to spend a day and a half alone with my husband, with no hyperdog barking at us when we hug (I'm sure the reason we don't have children is because our ridiculously jealous dog is secretly administering contraceptives) and no jealous cats competing for our attention by (cat a) not eating and (cat b) overeating. There will be quiet when we want to be quiet, and talk when we want to talk, we will consume Nibs and beernuts (our preferred roadsnacks) by the sackful, and we will get to sleep in a bed not recently befouled by cat b who seems to be making an artistic statement using urine, poop and our duvets as her media of choice.
- This is the last major commitment of the summer. Other than this trip (which I AM delighted about, trust me) and very fun wedding that I'm looking forward to in August, this mini-vacation is the last major commitment on the calendar. There is nothing else that I need to prepare for, cook for, board the dog and cats for, there is nothing else on the books that requires small talk or chat of any sort. And that, my friends, is pretty damned thrilling because July has been one long whirlwind of social gaiety and I am on the verge of a teeeeensy little breakdown if it doesn't stop soon.
Not that any of the social whirlwind has been forced on me. Oh no, no at all, in fact it was all my idea. I'm the one who agreed to events and trips on three subsequent weekends, I'm the one who decided to throw a big party for husband's 40th, I'm the one who decided that a night class comprised of two lectures and two tutorials per week was doable. I'm the one who agrees to dinners and lunches and all that stuff. And I'm the one who ends up panicking and cancelling and getting sick because of it.
I am, by nature, about 50% recluse. I would be delighted if I could stay home and potter around all day and not talk to people. When I left university, I said I was going to get a post-grad diploma in museum studies & conservation JUST so I could get myself a job labeling stuff in the basement of some museum and not talk to people. Half the reason I took to Facebook and Twitter like a duck to water is because you can communicate with people without actually having to talk to them. Okay, okay, I'm not a total freak, I don't mind talking to people in person (mostly), but I do loathe the telephone and I find it extremely difficult to talk to someone if I can't see their face. I get depressed (and frankly bitchy) if I don't get enough time alone, and will become physically ill (I can spike a fever like a five year old) if I don't get enough time to spend at home with no more company than my husband and the pets. I am the all time worst person to send to a conference because I just want to go to the sessions and learn stuff, I have no interest in "networking", which is apparently the whole point of conferences. Speaking in front of a crowd or group fills me with a gagging fear and my voice will get higher and faster in correlation to my discomfort -- I once had to make a presentation to a city council defending a grant application I didn't believe in and by the time I finished the only mammals that could have heard and understood me were bats or dolphins.
So what do I end up doing for a living? Do I spend my days shuffling around some museum basement, wearing acid free cotton gloves and labeling the detritus of the past, blissfully alone and silent? No. I somehow fall into fundraising, an industry based entirely on building relationships with people, a process that involves talking and being with people. All. The. Time. And I do it, and sometimes even well. I'm a great rodeo clown to have on a donor call as I can (usually) draw even the most recalcitrant person into talking about themselves while the other development officer zeros in for the actual donation request. I can write a wicked grant application and chat up funders like no tomorrow. If I believe in a cause I can sell it like Elmer Gantry sellin' that old tyme religion. And I kind of get a kick out of working events like golf tournaments and gala dinners.
My boss says she's much the same way and describes herself as an introverted extrovert, or perhaps an extroverted introvert, I can't remember which way it goes, but at least there's evidence of other freakily unsocial people ending up in this business. My mother figures I'm genetically predisposed to this type of behavioural confusion because I'm 50% her and 50% my father. My mum, left to her own devices is a pretty darned social person and before various small town arts organizations treated her like shit and took all her fun away, she was an eager volunteer in the community. My father, on the other hand, is so economical with his words that my friend Angela didn't actually hear him speak until about 4 years after she met my parents ("Omigod, your dad spoke to me, YOUR DAD SPOKE TO ME!").
But, whatever. Given that a windfall o' cash isn't likely to happen and I've got to work for a living, it's a pretty good gig and you do get to meet some very interesting people. And working in a museum basement might not be half the fun I think it would be. But a girl can dream, can't she?
Thursday, July 2, 2009
I Lied About Not Procrastinating Anymore (OR You People Are Going To Start Thinking I'm Obsessed with Shapewear)
I was going to do that, but first, I've got to finish this damned assignment for tomorrow's class. Remember that post a few posts ago about how I wasn't going to procrastinate anymore, about how at 39 I was older and wiser than in my undergraduate years and I know the value of sleep and blah blah blahdy blahdum?
Yeah, not so much. I am clearly in all-nighter territory now and it's a bit ridiculous. However I will say that this situation is not purely a product of procrastination -- there's a bit of that to be sure, but I also just haven't been happy about my essay for the past week. It's been revised any number of times and it's still not great. How do you write about foundation garments for men and limit yourself to 500 words? I ask you. 500 words on such a rich topic? It's torture. There are just so many things to say on the subject of the Core Precision (tm) Undershirt by Equmen . Check it out for yourself, you'll see what I mean.
PS If any of you are wondering where Kate is, she's got 4 kids under 9 and school's out. 'nuf said.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
I'm taking this course out of interest and because it's been so long since I've been in university (Class of '94, Represent!), I thought it would be a good way to dip my toe in the waters of academia. Something fun that would help me figure out if I really, really wanted to go back for a second degree. This is only the first week and so far, so good, although there's been entirely too much time spent on administrivia in the first two classes. (Seriously, DUDE, you've told us about your lengthy and comprehensive website that covers everything from the course syllabus to sample essays, if it's this necessary to review the site in such detail IN class, then post-secondary education's in big trouble.)
Anyway, it's weird enough to be sitting in a classroom surrounded by people 20 years your junior, with a professor who's your same age (and who, so far, is in danger of being Massive Generalization Guy, but it is an introductory course so I believe there's some slack to be cut here), and trying not to be annoyed by the tip tip typing sounds of 50 people writing notes on their laptops. But it gets weirder when, during the tutorial, you're asked to interview the person next to you and then introduce them to the rest of the class. "This lady," began young Shiv, my partner in this process.
Lady? LADY? Oh, sweet merciful crap. I'm a LADY in my classmates' eyes. Honestly. Lady. What's next? The dreaded Ma'am?
T.S. Eliot's Prufrock has come screaming to the front of my brain numerous times in the past few weeks, suddenly apt in so many ways, and once again tonight. Shall I wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled? Do I dare eat a peach?
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Tonight, I picked up our first farmshare basket from Manorun Farm, a local organic operation.
After at least three years of planning to support a local farmer by purchasing a half-share for the pair of us, Christopher and I finally remembered to sign up with Manorun (www.manorun.com) and send them our post-dated cheques. Behold, we are participants in Community Supported Agriculture!
We're quite excited about this whole venture. Not only are we delighted to support a local farmer, but we also like the idea of the weekly mystery box of ingredients. It's so easy to get into a bit of a cooking rut, making the same few meals over and over again because they're proven favorites and you don't have to think too hard. The amount of broccoli and pepper stir fry with tofu fritters we've eaten this past winter for this very reason is not to be believed. Now we'll get a basket of ingredients not of our choosing every Tuesday night and enjoy the challenge of figuring out what to do with them week by week.
Our inaugural basket contained a generous bunch of radishes (radiculous!), two bags of greens, a paper bag of dried beans from last summer's crop, as well as 6 good sized potatoes from the farm's cellar. Crowning the basket was a lovely bunch of chives, complete with their aromatic fuzzy purple blooms. In addition to the obvious salads, meals this week will include chive and potato fritatta, radishes with sweet butter and coarse salt (I'm a radish beginner. Having never really liked their biting sharpness, I'm thinking that the butter might mellow their flavour a bit for me) and likely the first egg salad of the season to help consume the big bunch of chives. Oh, and I just remembered a delicious dish I had at The Black Trumpet in London, Ontario that might help use up those radishes -- it was a seared salmon fillet dressed with a sauce of chopped radish and creme fraiche, so simple and so good.
Will keep you posted on how our first season as CSA participants goes. I see a lot of kale in our future, do you?
Monday, June 15, 2009
I love airports. Train stations, too, but it's really airports that I could spend some serious time in. I like the bustle of them, the suppressed emotions (excitement, confusion, occasionally rage) in the air, the off duty flight crews clipping their way ever so efficiently through the crowds with their wheelie bags behind them, the over priced coffee and I-Heart-Whatever-City-We're-In souvenir t-shirts. But the thing I like most of all, more than taking off on a trip of my own, is the arrivals hall.
Just this past Sunday I went to pick up the husband from a business trip to Austria. A number of flights were arriving around the same time at Pearson's Terminal 1, so I had about 20 minutes to wait for Christopher to come through the doors. This gave me ample time to people-watch and I will tell you that if you want to witness pure human emotion, the arrivals hall at a major airport is the place to be.
Terminal 1 has a particularly good arrivals set up, because the travellers are slightly elevated above the waiting area, as though on a stage. So, with each swish-woosh opening of the automatic doors, the waiting crowd stands higher on their toes, necks stretched long and faces angled upwards, looking like a human version of a field of sunflowers. There's a collective holding of breath in the crowd as the travellers appear through the doors, and then a pause as each arrivee takes a moment to scan the crowd and each waiting person mentally processes whether this latest arrival belongs to them or not. And then, if you're lucky, there's a happy shriek and one of the sunflower crowd breaks free and dashes through the crowd, waving homemade signs or bouquets of flowers or just their hands as they charge up the ramp to their loved one.
(This includes me. I am an unabashed charger of ramps when it comes to picking up my husband at the airport and I don't care if I do look ridiculous.)
Airport arrivals always makes me think of those nature programs that show herds of animals, sheep in particular, being released into a field with their young. There's a moment of utter chaos and frantic milling about and then, like magic, the mamas find their babies and peace reigns again.
Magic and peace. This is exactly why you should, if at all possible, retrieve your spouse, parent, or friend from the airport yourself. It's not just about saving the $120 cost of a town car or shuttle, it's about that moment of pure joy, the rush of love (and relief, if you're a nervous nelly like me) when you see them come through the door and they're home once more.
Saturday, June 13, 2009
So, if your morning ablutions or coffee or walk with the dog were disturbed by my cries of "Sweet merciful crap woman, shut up shut up shut up!" and "Quatschkopf!" and "Why do you have a job?" and (again) "shut up shut up shut up!", and finally "You suck eggs Leah McLaren!", well, it's really all her fault.