Monday, February 6, 2017

Gone to the Dogs

Growing up, we always had cats as pets. Cats are pretty low maintenance  they don't mind being left alone all day, they clean themselves and they poop in a box. If you don't mind sharing your yogurt and  having your Christmas tree knocked over regularly, they are pretty easy to have around.

But last weekend, we went from a "no dog household" to a "two dog household" in a matter of 24 hours. One dog, Channing, is temporary; we are looking after him for my niece and her wife while they are down south for a week. But the other dog, Pippa, is ours for good.

People told me that dogs are a lot of work, and they were 100% right on that. Dogs need way more of your time and attention than cats. But, oh my God, do they ever give it back....I've had many a cat tell me in it's cat way that they love me, but I don't think I've ever had anyone gaze at me with quite the adoration of a dog.

Channing is a Golden retriever/border collie cross. Which means he is pretty smart, has lots of energy and likes plenty of treats. Since retrievers are the frat boys of the dog world, and border collies are no dummies, this means that Channing is a big goof with enough sense to stay on the right side of the law. . He likes to get in on my side of the bed when I get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, which is a big surprise when you come back to bed and forget you have a dog temporarily. On Sunday morning, when the Mister and I usually sleep in late, Channing HAD to get up on the bed with me, so I was sandwiched in between he and the Mister, and since they both give off enough heat to power a hospital, I got so sweaty I thought I was going to throw up. Channing is an excellent dog.

Pippa, our newest family member is a 2 year old corgi/terrier mix. Thing 1 got her from a rescue organization, which means that Pip didn't get the best start in life (we think she was used as a breeder in a puppy mill), but she's landed with us, and I think she's going to enjoy her life very much from now on. She is just the loveliest dog; sweet tempered, cuddly and incredibly quiet. She's like a cat in dog form. She has tragically short little legs and a corkscrew tail, and could not be any cuter if she tried.

Unlike cats, dogs need to be walked. And these dogs would prefer it if I walked them every hour or so, and I understand why, because this is their very favorite time of the day. Channing is so excited to be out in the world that he has to see it all at once and preferably right now. This means that he would pull your arm right out of your socket and not care one ounce. The first part of any walk with Chan requires that I be dragged to the school yard a block away, where I take him off his leash and let him catch his frisbee for 10 minutes, so that he burns off some energy and I can walk him without danger of being pulled off my feet and hauled along the sidewalk behind him. I haven't been to the gym in a week.

Pippa of the Short Legs requires about 1/3 of the walk that Channing does, because her little self has to work three times as fast to keep up. And keeping up is the most important thing in the universe for that dog. God forbid we fall behind Channing. (It does occur to me that little dogs have NO IDEA they are little. They don't look in a mirror and they just think they are as big as they want to think they are. ) She will also yank your arm out of your socket, but for a much shorter length of time.

One thing I have to thank these dog for is that they have made me go outside about 100 times more than I would have, had they not been here. I am an unabashed cold-weather wimp, and chose to mainly go from the car to  my destination in as short a time as possible in the winter. But these guys have required that I bundle up and go out a couple of times a day, and for a good while, too. To my surprise, I've enjoyed it....the cold, clear morning that I watched the sun come up, the snowy evening when it was so quiet I could hear the flakes hit the ground, the bright, sunny, bitterly cold afternoon, they have all been pleasant reminder that winter can be something more than a season to be endured and ridden out.

The cat has gotten used to the dogs; she and Channing have come to an understanding and she ignores Pippa completely. I wonder if she is enjoying not having the laser-like focus of our collective attention off of her, or if she's pissed that there is now a dog on my bed when it used to be solely hers.

Channing goes home today; I will take him to the dog park before we leave,  where he will run in circles and bark his fool head off and sniff all the other dog bums there are to sniff, and I will thank him for all he has done for me this week: now one dog will seem like no dogs. And my floors have never been so clean.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Household Snores

Really, does anyone enjoy doing housework? Like, anyone? I know there are people who actually  make a living doing housework, like maids and housekeepers and such, and maybe it’s not quite so horrible when you are getting paid to do it. (Still, cleaning the house when it’s your own dirt and doing is bad enough, I can’t imagine how much someone would have to pay me to do it for someone else. I work up an incredible head of steam of resentment and hatred when I clean up after my own family, and I LIKE them.) 

Like everyone, I have some things I don’t mind doing, and some things that I hate with the white hot heat of a thousands suns:

Chores I Loathe:
Cleaning the bathrooms. This one I hate the very, very most. Maybe it’s because the bathrooms are the highest maintenance and most disgusting part of the house, but cleaning the bathrooms is my number one hated chore. There’s just SO MUCH to clean! And all the damn time, it never ends!  I am very lucky that the Mister doesn’t mind it as much as I do, and he takes care of it.

Cleaning the closets: I hate cleaning the closets because of all the decisions you have to make. If all it entailed was taking everything out and putting everything back in, I wouldn’t mind so much, but no, you have to take everything out, and then DECIDE what goes back in. And there’s always way too much to put back in. It’s like you never really did anything when you are finished.

Cleaning windows: you wipe and wipe and wipe and they are never ever, really clean. Just cleanish.

Washing and drying lettuce: this isn’t the worst job in the world, but I loathe it. I always end up with water all over the counter and bits of lettuce clogging the drain. It seems to take forever.

Drying the dishes: I will happily wash dishes, but I hate drying them. Why spend your time doing what nature will do for you?

Emptying the dishwasher: how lucky and I to even have a dishwasher? Very lucky. And you would think I would be much more amiable about only having to empty the thing, but I feel like it’s the most boring, interminable job on the planet. Once I timed myself doing it, to really see how long it took and it was 7 minutes! I couldn’t believe it! What a crybaby I am! But it’s 7  minutes of pure torture.

Cleaning the fridge: There is always about 6  containers in the back of the fridge that have been there probably since the last time I cleaned the fridge, and whatever is in those containers has evolved into something so foul and revolting that it’s easier to just keep the lids on them and not clean the fridge. Also, this is a cold job, and deeply unpleasant in the winter.

Folding and putting away laundry: in a perfect hell, they will play rap music, serve me blue cheese and liver, and make me pair up ten thousand pairs of white socks, each pair with a tiny but significant feature that distinguishes it from the other the other white socks. 

Chores I Don’t Mind
Grocery shopping I actually quite like grocery shopping. I know lots of people just hate it, but I get a kick out of seeing what’s new, what deals I can find and deciding what I’m going to get to eat next. I’m also lucky in that I don’t have to do  my grocery shopping on Saturdays, which would dampen my enthusiasm mightily.

Cooking: I do almost all the cooking here at Chez Loudshoes, and that’s perfectly fine with me. She who cooks decides  the menu. And I like my own cooking, so the work is rewarding.

Ironing: Ironing is rather mindless, satisfying work….running hot metal over clean clothes, smoothing out wrinkles and making everything look nice, with hardly any effort. And it smells nice.

Changing the sheets: again, a chore that really doesn’t take much time, but has a huge payoff. Sliding into clean sheets, particularly ones that have dried on the line is thoroughly gratifying.Plus, the cat helps, and that's always fun.

Vacuuming: Vacuuming is pretty easy to do, and again, a huge payoff. Any room looks SO much better after it’s been vacuumed. And this job has the advantage of pissing the cat off like no other.

Then there are the Chores I Don’t Even Bother Doing:
Vacuum under furniture: why bother. I will vacuum when I re-arrange the furniture. Or move out.

Dusting: If anyone in my house was allergic to dust, I’m afraid they would just have to die or live somewhere else. 

Polish silverware: I have some silver, probably given to me as a wedding gift. I have never used it, because I would have to polish it. I would rather eat with chopsticks than polish silver.

Clean behind the stove/fridge: I know Martha Stewart says I should do this every few months, but seriously, can’t see it, won’t clean it.

Cleaning baseboards. Seriously, if you are my friend and you are looking at my baseboards, we are now not friends.

There’s always something I’d rather be doing than housework, but at least the bare minimum gets done, even if I do swear a blue streak when I’m doing it. 

Monday, September 5, 2016

Dishing It Out

As modern conveniences go, I think the dishwasher is really the overlooked work-horse/miracle of the latter half of the twentieth century. Sure, washing dishes isn't that difficult or time consuming, but as any siblings that grew up without a dishwashing machine know, there are few occasions that bring boredom and resentment into a toxic half-hour quite like being made to wash and dry the dishes together. It can bring you closer, that quiet time alone in the kitchen to chat and pass the time, or, more likely, foments a bitter contest of wills that will fester into a lifetime spiteful resentment, which usually only ends when one of you moves out. 

My family got a dishwasher when we moved into a house that had one, in 1973. Before this, my parents did not  make my brother and I wash or dry the dishes after dinner, reasoning that it was faster, cheaper and easier on everyone if they did not. But we were all still thrilled to have a dishwasher. I'm pretty sure my mother bought the house for that alone. And dishwashers were not a ubiquitous thing in 1973; our Harvest Gold specimen was still worthy of note at that time. Consumer goods changed quickly in the 70s, and pretty soon dishwashers were standard. 
And I grew up in a house with a dishwasher and took it totally for granted.

The Mister did not grow up in a house with a dishwasher, and our first house when we got married did not have a dishwasher, either. You see where this is going?

The Mister and I didn't live together before we were married, and despite knowing each other for 10 years by the time we tied the knot, and having spent countless hours in each other's company, there were still a few surprises for us when we actually shared the same living space. Like, the fact, that I use about 40 spoons to cook a dinner, and we each use 120 glasses every damn day, and the Mister doesn't actually put anything in the sink, he just likes to arrange the used dishes jauntily around the edge, so that when someone want to use the sink she has to navigate around the obstacles, lest everything go crashing and breaking into said sink. We lived in that house for 4 years, and although I got used to only using 20 spoons to make the dinner, the lack of a dishwasher was always a bone of contention. (Believe me, I tried to figure out a way to put a dishwasher in that kitchen, but it was impossible. The only place to put it was bang in the middle of the room, which  meant jumping over it to get to the bathroom.) 

We had very different ideas of how to deal with the plethora of dishes, particularly baby bottles, that a family generates through the day: I thought that we should wash them as we go, having a drying rack constantly sitting beside the sink, taking up valuable counter space. The Mister would rather keep one of our two sinks with a few inches of water in it all the time, so that you could put things in it "to soak", which meant that, sooner or later, someone was going to have to put their hand into that grey, cold, yucky water to pull the plug out and wash the dishes. It was an ongoing battle, and I can assure you, for two grown people with jobs and morgages and responsible lives, we were shamefully childish about who that someone was going to be. 

The house we live in now came with a dishwasher. I nearly cried with gratitude when we first came though the place. That and the en suite bathroom meant that I didn't care if it came with a roof, we were going to buy this house.

Now the battle about the dishwasher revolves about loading it. The Mister has demonstrated a unique and masterful proficiency in loading the dishwasher; he can fit in approximately 150% more dishes than the rest of us. We think the dishwasher is full and ready to be turned on, and the Mister gets at it and there is an entire empty rack when he is done. I tell you, as Fairly Mild Super Powers go, it's a beauty. 
The problem is (for him, anyway) that now we all know how good he is at it, and we hardly bother any more. The girls and I fling in dishes willy-nilly, secure in the knowledge that the Mister will come along and make everything peachy keen again. The Mister isn't a fan of this system, obviously, but his attempts to teach us how to load the dishwasher have thus far proved fruitless. We simply don't have the talent. (Or, lets be honest, the interest.) 

The Mister likes to run the dishwasher late at night, when the water and electricity rates are cheaper, which means that I wake up in the morning to a dishwasher full of clean dishes (YAY!) that has to be emptied, (BOO!) This is a First World Problem of the first order, because I timed myself once and it took me 10 minutes to empty the dishwasher. Ten whole minutes. (I'm such a whiner...can you imagine explaining to your great-grandmother what a chore it is to put the clean dishes away that you didn't have to clean yourself??She would, rightly, slap you.)

I'm hope that there are siblings and marriages and all kinds of relationships that have been saved by the advent of the dishwasher. I'm pretty sure mine is one of them.

Friday, September 2, 2016


It doesn't matter how long you've been out of school, or even if your kids are out of school, somehow the arrival of September means that fun and games are all over and it's back to business and, by god, it is time to stop messing around and start being constructive again.

When the evenings get notably shorter and the mornings are a little fresher and the peaches and corn are ending their season, I get a bit of a twinge in my stomach, and a feeling like something pleasant is about to end, and something less pleasant is about to start and I had better gear up for it.

And then I remember: my life does not change one little, tiny bit after Labour Day. Like, not at all, I'm totally off the hook. I have absolutely nothing, whatsoever to feel anxious about. And yet, there is some small part of my lizard brain that continues to quietly gnaw at me: "you'd best be getting on with it; shit's about to go down.".

Sure, my children are going back to school in a few weeks, but they are both in university now, they hardly need me to sort them out. Thing 1 is going into her 4th year; she's an old hand at this. Thing 2 is just starting her university career, but she's going to school here in town, so we dont' have to move her anywhere, and Thing 1 and her other friends are far more able to help her negotiate the newness of school; I'm only on the sidelines, chauffering and making dinner. Clearly, I'm a secondary character in this movie.

So, I wonder, why my psyche is determined to make me sit up and pay attention to September. Perhaps growing up in a house of teachers, where Labour Day was a calm before the storm, with a low level hum of anxiety thrumming through the house. Or maybe because, for so many years of going to school myself, the first day of school meant the advent of so many particulars that were going to make or break the better part of the coming year. I remember going to university on one first day of school to find that all my classes had been moved and re-scheduled, and I ended up with so many conflicts that I had an entirely blank timetable. Which meant I had to "find" enough classes that a) I wanted to take, b) I qualifed to take, and c) had enough room in them for me to take. And that's how I ended up with credits in  Music Appreciation and Ancient and Medieval Warfare.

I have to also remind myself that, just because summer holidays are over, does not mean that summer is over. We have at least another month of summer weather to contend with. (For some reason, the retail industry insists on  altering reality , and selling nothing but denim, tweed and wool for "Back to School" clothing. It's well into the upper 20s here in September, a fact conveniently forgotten by clothing sellers. The Mister's birthday is September 19th, and I can tell you, we've had plenty of birthdays where it was way to hot to make a cake for him. The poor man had to make do with ice-cream cake. First World Problems at it's finest.) I can enjoy heat and humidity and sunshine for another while longer.

September has it's own charms, and I do really like this month. I like the subtle change in the weather, the fresher mornings and the cooler evenings. The apples and pears are in season, and after a few months of bar-b-ques and salads, I look forward to making the occasional dinner in the oven. Even though I'm not particularly enamored of "pumpkin spice everything" for the next month or so, I will enjoy one or two things on the roster.  I can do without the pumpkin spice vodka, or the pumpkin spice burritos, or the pumpkin spice toothpaste. (Can we be clear, though, "pumpkin spice" stuff is really just "spice"'s nutmeg and cinnamon and ginger and allspice. No one is in it for the "pumpkin" part.)

I'm trying to embrace the best of September, the part where my life continues on without very many changes, and all the changes there are are entirely within my control. And, really the best part: where I don't have to go to school ever again.


Thursday, August 25, 2016

Numbers Are Hard.

Our receptionist at work is married to a very nice man, who is usually pretty-on-the-ball, and generally can be counted on to be sane and reasonable. (He writes letters to editor of our local paper, and not only does he get published regularly, he generally make some sense, which is more than can be said for most of the other people who get their letters to the editor published.)

This kind and sane man was looking at the paper today, to determine the weather forecast for an upcoming trip he has to the States for work. After checking out his destination's likely weather, he wondered what he'd be missing here at home while he was away. He mused to his wife: "its going up to 29 on Monday, 30 on Tuesday and 31 on Wednesday! Wow, that's hot! Except, wait a minute??? It's only going to be 1 on Thursday? What gives?"

And that's when he realized he was looking at the date, and not at the temperature.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Travelling Loudshoes

It's summer, and that means that we feel compelled to get in the car and GO somewhere. Anywhere. Maybe it's because a Canadian winter means that driving is a hazardous and high-strung undertaking that we feel obligated to take to the road when we are able. Something about the possibility of dying of hypothermia makes you think twice about leaving the city in January, you know?

I love a good road trip. And living in Canada means I get lots of opportunity, since this is a big place and our  motto should be "The Country Where Everything is Far From Everywhere!" We think very little of driving two hours to go to a concert or a ball game, and I know loads of people who spend a half a day in a car getting to a cottage for a weekend. People in Europe think this is crazy, because they could spend a half a day in a car and see four countries. Once, when two of my cousins and I were driving to Montreal from here, they asked me if I needed someone to read the map and navigate, and I told them it was actually pretty easy: you just got on the highway here, and stayed on it for 8 hours, and then got off in Montreal. They were boggled that it was just one road.

The Loudshoes went to Toronto this weekend, which is only a couple of hours on the road, but judging by the amount of food we brought to sustain us, you'd think we were crossing the Great Plains to claim a homestead. I'm not sure what we thought we might encounter on our trip, but we were armed with ALL kinds of snacks, just in case our blood sugar dipped dangerously low in the 60 minutes between leaving the house and making our first bathroom stop.
 AND, as required by law in Canada, we stopped at Tim Hortons before leaving town. Everyone knows that it is impossible to drive anywhere in Canada without a large double-double in hand. (Especially to a hockey arena.) The Mister does not drink coffee, so it's up to me to ingest all the caffeine necessary to maintain our citizenship.

The People In Charge Of Rest Stops Along The Highway have improved their game immeasurably in the past few years. When I was a kid, the food available along the 401 was incredibly awful; soggy french fries, flimsy hamburgers and a lot of greasy, beige stuff that looked like it used to be edible. Then, they sold all the franchises to McDonalds, and if it still wasn't all that great, at least it was predictable. Now they've got a couple of restaurants at each location, which give you a bit of variety, at least, and a fighting chance at getting a salad or a sandwich with ingredients that you can identify. And every one has a Tim Hortons. You think I'm kidding, but I'm not.

The People In Charge of Rest Stops Along The Highway should be commended for their Department of Bathroom Enrichment, because they have done a bang-up job. I'm pretty sure that department is staffed entirely by women, because they clearly knew what they were doing. The bathrooms are big, and clean and there are 157 toilets at every one. So many toilets. Nary a line up.With bales of toilet paper at each one.  And the sinks! There's dozens of them, with loads of dry counter space to put your purse while you wash your hands in the adequately sized basin that does not splash water all over your shirt. My one, small, tiny little grievance is that they have these industrial hand driers that blow air so hard that you have to work to maintain your balance and they are LOUD. Like, you should probably be wearing ear protection, loud. And when two or three women are drying their hands at the same time, it's like being in a gymnasium with a jet engine. I'm not sure why they felt the need to install hand driers that could wake the dead, but I'm so happy with the rest of the Department of Bathroom Enrichment's work that I will give them a pass.

We drove to Toronto, went to a ball game, and the next day, did a bit of shopping, and then came home. We were gone for a little over 24 hours, and only 4 or 5 of those were actually spent in the car, but we managed to generate a small mountain of garbage. The van was a slovenly toxic waste dump on wheels by the time we pulled into our driveway.  I guess all that snacking means that there's going to be some litter, but I'm not sure how we managed to create that metric shit-ton in such a short time. The Bottled Water Graveyard in the very back is going to take some time to excavate.

Coming home is always nice; one's own bed is delightful, and the cat was very happy to see us. Even if I do have to make my own coffee there.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Party Animals

The Mister and I threw a party yesterday, and the both of us are really feeling it today. Not because either one of us is hung-over or anything, but because we don't entertain very often, and we aren't very good at it. I hear people all the time saying "we love to entertain", and I'm delighted, because that means I can be a guest at their house. (I am an excellent guest, just to tell you. I bring a small but tasteful gift, I am a charming conversationalist, I eat whatever is put in front of me, and if you keep pouring the wine, I will probably drink it and go home before I throw up.)

I will take a  moment to comment on the phrase "throwing a party", because that's exactly as violent and as haphazard as that when I do it. Like "throwing up" and "throwing under a bus".

Maybe it's because we both work on Saturdays, and everyone else's weekend is half-way done when ours is getting started, but giving dinner parties and bar-b-ques and the like just isn't something we do very often. And because we don't do it often, it's never a slam-dunk. I always feel like I'm just getting away with it.

I'm in a frenzy of activity before a party, trying to figure out where the food will go and how I will serve it and how many plates do I need and what kind of platter will that go on and I know I bought napkins and the towels in the bathroom need to be changed and I'm going to need a corkscrew out there and someone has to go buy ice because I forgot and now the fridge is full and I can't put any more in there and by the time my guests come, I have a strong urge to tell them where the booze is and I'll see them later as I now need a nap. It never seems to be as effortless as Martha Stewart seems to keep telling me it should be.

I love my friends and family, and none of them would ever give a rat's ass about how clean my house is, or how we get everything together, and if they did, they're not my real friends anyway. But, you can live with all sorts of ridiculous things until you invite people over and then start looking around as if you were a guest. That dusty old lampshade? Hideous. The overflowing bookshelf? In need of a good cull. The clumps of cat hair on the carpet? Yuck. The bathrooom you've been meaning to paint for months? DO IT BY SATURDAY!
The Mister and I agree that we really should entertain about every 4 months or so, because we get so much done around the house that we'd never do otherwise. The prospect of visitors galvanizes us like nothing else.
I make up for the surroundings by feeding people really good food until they burst. And I ply them with liquor until they don't notice the dust bunnies under the dining room table.

I have my Book Club Ladies over a few times a year, and they are completely amicable and gracious, and are far too well brought up to bat an eyelash at the unmatched tea cups and squeaky dining room chairs. They appear, at least, to be far too enamoured of my bread pudding with whiskey sauce to notice. I would be lying if I didn't say that I am deeply jealous of the rest of them; they seem to entertain with aplomb, with centerpieces that co-ordinate with the theme of the book and napkins that match the tablecloths, and furniture they did not get at a garage sale. AND they make desserts that would make you swoon. Clearly, I am just not as adept as they are at this.

Yesterday's party was for our staff, and again, they all know me, are well acquainted with my slovenly habits, and seem to be eager to come here anyway. Again, I think its the food that's the draw. I had several requests for my foccacia (always a fave.) and for the Mister's freshly made samosas and onion bhaji. I made creme brulee cheesecake and the Mister cooked chicken wings over a firepit, and then everyone else brought salads and devilled eggs and a cheesy crab and lobster dip that was insanely delicious. Just after we started to eat, the heavens opened and we got a serious amount of rain for the next few hours, but we all crammed into the breezeway and nobody seemed to  mind that we had 12 people packed into a space meant for 6.
I think the fact that everyone was woozy from the food comas helped.

After a lovely few hours of eating and drinking and talking, eventually our guests drifted away, all seeming to have had a good time. The Mister took care of cleaning up outside, and I poured myself a glass of wine and put on some music and found myself enjoying the best part of the day for me; the cleaning up. Not because I like cleaning, far from it, but there's something very satisfying about creating order out of chaos, and humming along to the music and just enjoying the solitude and quiet after a few hours of talking and cooking and being in charge. Then, my very favorite part of the day, when the Mister and I sit down with a drink and chat. (Every couple knows that the best part of any party is the post-party note-comparing.) Not only do I love sitting down after a busy day, and talking to the Mister, but I know the house is clean, there's plenty of leftovers in the fridge and best of all? It will be another few months until we do it all again.