Sunday, September 30, 2007

A Good Time at the Grocery Store

From what I've written here in the past, you can be forgiven for thinking that I spend most of my waking hours at the grocery store. I don't; I just spend more time pondering the grocery store than most people would.

I went at around 6:00 tonight, a Sunday, and it was hella busy. Why aren't all these people at home in the cozy embrace of their families having a Norman Rockwellian Sunday dinner? Mosty because the population was largely made up of university students, and their families are long forgotten.

Whoever is in charge of the music at Loblaws could be my new best friend, because it rocked tonight....they played a goodly portion of the soundtrack from my teen years (The Cars, some Neil Young and even some Elvis Costello) My 20's was nicely represented by Michael Jackson when he was still good and before he got weird, the Clash and some Ramones, and then they played some Dave Matthews (who, if you didn't already know, is my "Rock and Roll Boyfriend".)
I hardly wanted to leave.

I spent a while mentallly listing the "Things I Thought I'd Never In A Million Years Buy":
1 Velveeta: plastic "cheese" which comes in a colour which nature never intended. I'm not from France and I'm not picky about my cheese, but no one is more surprised than me that I actually buy this stuff. I'm ashamed to say that I prefer the sauce this makes with broccoli than anything I've made with real cheddar.
2. Hamburger Helper. "Full of salt! And chemicals! and it's processed cheese food! I can make better crap than this myself!! " Then I had children, and so many deeply held beliefs fell by the wayside. What can I say? Things change.
3. Soy Milk Does anything say "healthy stuff is disgusting" quite like soy milk? Even the name "soy milk" indicates "there is nothing remotely fun about this whatsoever"'s not so bad. Dare I say, I even LIKE it on oatmeal?
4. Melba Toast Much like soy milk, melba toast has all the trappings of dreary, dietary correctness, unmitigated by salt, fat or sugar. Having said that, I sometimes like it's boring, neutrality with cheese and soup.

There were two incredibly obnoxious around-twelve-years-old boys who were inflicting themselves on all and sundry at the same time I was there. As they careened the grocery cart around the produce section, slamming into displays and narrowly missing other shoppers, their mother (?) occasionally would waft a vague "cut it out" in their direction. This had no effect whatsoever on the two career criminals she was raising. By the time I got to the check out, the boys had managed to engage a second cart, whose main purpose, as far as I could see, was to present an obstacle for the first cart to overcome. This was accompanied by loud whoo-hoooing and trash talking and about as annoying as anything I've ever seen. I actually re-routed myself several times in order to avoid them. When I went out to the parking lot, it came to pass that the two young men had managed to crash BOTH carts into the side of their large, black SUV, leaving noticable dents in both the front and back doors. I cannot begin to tell you how satisfying in the extreme this was to me.

Friday, September 28, 2007

I Love Fall

There's a distinct feeling of autumn this evening, a chill in the air and a need to close the windows a tad. Also, my feet are cold for the first time in 5 months. I adore autumn, mostly because I can put on some layers and not have to suck in my stomach quite so much.

Because the air is cooler, I was able to put on the oven tonight, and made shepherd's pie for dinner, the Official Favorite Dinner of Thing 2. (There's a bit of a controversy here surrounding shepherds pie; I make it with just meat and potatoes, and put the corn and peas and carrots on the side. Some people, who are hopelessly misguided and just plain wrong, think that the vegetables should go in the pie, where they would overcook to an indistinguishable mush and be baby food. I wonder how some people get through the day, thinking like that.) Thing 2 was absolutely giddy when presented with dinner. I should be so lucky to get that kind of reception for my efforts every night.

I also made bread, from scratch. (I feel very Amish.) Bread making is one of those things that people who don't cook think is miraculous and like the Olympics of cooking, while those of us who make bread know this is foolhardy in the extreme. Making bread consists of stirring, kneading, waiting and baking. That's about it. It does have an enormous payoff, though, in that people think you are a god, and the house smells really, really good.

I am also looking forward to this evenings activities, which do not have the same cachet in warmer weather. I rarely watch tv in the summer, as there is almost nothing on that does not make me stupid and/or crazy. But in the fall I shamelessly plunk myself down and watch my favorites. (Okay, not quite shamelessly...I am full of self-loathing that I watch "America's Next Top Model" quite as regularly as I do.)
I can't crochet or knit in the summer because when it is 30° out, the last thing I want to have on top of me is an afghan or a blanket. Plus, sweaty palms + fuzzy yarn = yuck.
I'm not a huge tea drinker, but in the cooler weather I crave tea like it is heroin. My mug is my crack pipe. Iced tea is nice, but not the same thing at all.

In the summer, I spend a great deal of time in the cool of the breezeway, but in the autumn it's the couch, with a cozy blanket and a heat-seeking cat. A good book and a cup of tea are the natural accoutrements. Occasionally, I will have an afternoon nap, which, by the way, are the two most beautiful words in the English language. Toby will concurr.

Autumn also encompasses my favorite of all holidays, Thanksgiving. I love Thanksgiving, because it is really only about having dinner. And only one dinner, to boot. There are no presents to buy, no cards to send and nothing to decorate. There are no expectations of perfection, no ideal to emulate, and no emotional minefields to navigate. One does not have to attend any services, parties or celebrations of any kind. Most of all, there are no Thanksgiving songs to torment and torture me for 3 months beforehand. It's all about having a bang-up dinner, with a large selection of desserts. (My mother-in-law, bless her heart, wouldn't consider showing up with any less than three different kinds of pie. I just love that woman.) At my family's, my niece and myself are the only ones who like pumpkin pie, which means that we don't even have to pretend to be polite about sharing. And by the way? Pumpkin pie makes the best breakfast ever.

So, as reluctant as I am to see the end of a very brief summer, I'm happy to put on elastic waisted pants and take a good, big breath.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Shopping = Hell

Once a year we attend a big hairdressing event in Montreal, and once a year, I have to find something to wear to it. To be honest, I don't try very hard; I wouldn't stand out in this crowd if I dressed up in a clown costume and shot fireworks out of my bum. Hairdressers en masse are hardly a reticent bunch, and a thousand drunken hairdressers? Let's just say the competition for attention is intense. But I still would like to look presentable, if not actually nice, and herein lies my problem.

It is always somewhat difficult to find clothes in which to encase my body, since I am apparently so oddly shaped that the clothing manufacturing industry has never encountered my ilk before. Everyone else in the history of mankind who has size 11 hips has obliged them by also possessing a size 11 neck, arms, and shoulders. Also, those who are above a size 4 would appear to be 8 feet tall. If I can find a t-shirt that does not strain against my post-child-bearing belly, I have enough room around my shoulders and arms that I could smuggle watermelons undetected.

I'm also distressed that my retail role models appear to be Barbara Bush or Paris Hilton. Hmmm, who would I most like to dress like? A matronly grandma who's got all the sex appeal of a flannel nightgown, or a trashy, hootchee-mama who once and for all proves that money does not buy taste? It would seem that I can either buy clothes that make me look like I've just finished a game of bingo at the retirement home, or I can buy clothes that advertise the skills of my waxer. I want neither.

Couple all this with a bewildering penchant for satin this season, and you've got yourself a perfect storm of retail horror. Do manufacturers sit at the staff meeting planning their new lines saying things like "Now that low rise jeans and short little t-shirts have had their day, how can we now show off lumpy midriffs in a whole new way? I know! SATIN!!"? (I just noticed that 'satin' is one letter off from 'satan'. Not a coincidence, I'm sure.)

So, I didn't manage to find anything today, but I will find something suitable sooner or later. Perhaps my next stop would be the store where they sell clown costumes and fireworks.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Agony and The Ecstasy.

I love this video. Love it.
I must have watched it about five times in a row when I first discovered it, and I laughed until I cried every time. Of course, your milage may vary, but any time a dog howls, I laugh.

It kills me the way he has to throw back his head to belt it out at one point, and that he actually has to stand up at around the two minute mark, all the better to bellow his agony to the world. Oh, the humanity.

This would totally be worth getting a dog for. (If I played the piano.) And by the way? Dog still sings way better than me.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Cat Thermometer

It was an unseasonably warm day here today; in fact, we broke the record high of 30°C this afternoon. ("Nearly 50 years ago!" chirped the geeky weather guy....the Mister took umbrage at this, since right before that he had said "hey, it was exactly a week after I was born!" He felt the reminder that he would be reaching a pivotal birthday next time was unnecessarily harsh.)
Coupled with a humidex that reached 39°C, it was some hot, particularly for the end of September.

After completing both of the tasks I had set myself to do today. (Where DO I find the time?), I spent the remainder of the day reading in the breezeway, accompanied by a droopy, lethargic cat. Every now and again I would turn a page, and he would look over at me with his eyes at half-mast, clearly saying "dude, do you have to do that?".

A while ago, the kids and I noticed that the cat provided a rather accurate thermometer: the longer the cat, the higher the temperature. Perhaps because today's temperature was higher than we've been getting for the past few weeks, he seemed to be particularly affected. At one point, I was getting a little alarmed that he had stretched himself out to such an extent that he might never regain his normal, cat might be like trying to put toothpaste back in the tube.

Here is Toby when the temperature is nice and moderate, around 24°C:

See? Curled, but comfortably so. Nice, relaxed kitty. (BTW, the harness he's wearing is not because we feel the need to accessorize our cat, although that's not a bad idea. It's because he usually has to wear a leash when he's outside so our Crazy Neighbour doesn't take him off to the Humane Society, like she's threatened to do.)

Here is Toby on another day when the temps are a bit cooler, maybe around 18°C or so:

A tiny bit more compact, but clearly happy enough.

Here he is today:

Note the lack of soft furnishings, and the elongated pose, to maximize the surface area in contact with the cement. My friend Barb refers to this state as "cat butter".

Here he is when things got really prickly:

This is where I began to have some concerns for his overall health. I mean, we're at about 8 feet of cat here; it looks like he's dislocated his spine or something.

Despite my misgivings, around suppertime, he hoisted himself to his feet and begged for tuna (he heard the can opening.) and seemed reasonably intact, for someone who spent the entire afternoon like he was stoned out of his head.

I'm thankful that this is about as hot as it ever gets around here; I really don't want to have to see the cat thermometer's limits tested any more than they already are. I don't want to see a cat that acually puddles on the pavement.

Luckily for Toby, the temperatures are to be more seasonal in the next few days, and we should be packing up the breezeway furniture in a few weeks. Then he can regain his more dignified cat-stature, and resume his favourite winter-time position, "The Meatloaf Pose".

Monday, September 24, 2007

Sometimes a Great Notion....

One of my New Year's resolutions this year was to get up off my considerable behind and actually DO the things that I often think "I should really do that". (One of my other resolutions was to stop swearing, and the other was to not run yellow lights. I'm not doing so well at those, but I'm working on it.) My biggest regrets in life have been what I haven't done, rather than what I have. (didn't take French in university, didn't put away money into an RRSP in the 80's, didn't figure out until way after the fact that the cute doctor was flirting with me.) And so, in that spirit, I've taken the trips, bought the shoes, written the letters, eaten the cheesecake and it's all been good.

A few months ago, my good friend, Wendy, told me of an eldery gentleman she met near their place in the Laurentians, who turned out to have written a book about his experiences during WWII. (He had been a navigator in an RCAF bomber which was shot down over France.) He gave her a copy of the book (autographed!!) and after she was done with it, she kindly passed it on to me. ("Missing in Action", by John D. Harvie)
It was a wonderful book and I enjoyed it very much, (I had to keep reminding myself "he makes it out okay; he got home and wrote the book!") And so, in the spirit of my resolution, I wrote him a short letter to tell him. (I don't know anyone who ever engaged in anything creative who didn't want to hear what a great job they did!)

In the middle of dinner, the phone says "unknown number", which is my phone's way of saying "sneaky telemarketer", but since both kids were out, I figured I should answer, in case it was the paramedics or something.
An unfamiliar voice asks for me, and says "You're going to think this a bit odd, but it's John Harvie calling". I was so surprised, I almost said "Shit, really?" But I managed to control myself. (See: New Year's Resolution #2) He got my letter today, and liked it, and called me to tell me so!
I cannot tell you how delighted I was, and still am, to have gotten that phone call! I felt like Oprah herself was calling me!
We talked a bit about the war, and how all those men and women that fought in it were so young (he was 20). I said it never ceases to amaze me that the fate of the entire world was resting on the shoulders of people to whom I would probably not have lent my car. We had a very nice conversation about his book, and what it was like to write it, and how we have got to meet and what nice people we both were. It was an excellent conversation.

And after a while he said "I'm a lonely old man; my wife died a few years ago, and I don't get out much, and you have really made my day."

And he really, really made mine.

I have got to make more resolutions.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Sorry About Your Tenderloin

My throat hurts and my voice is almost gone, my stomach muscles ache and I have no money left. That's how I know I went out with the Mother Sharks last night.

The Mother Sharks are the friends I made when my children went to school back in the day. (So named because the school mascot is a shark, hence we are the Mother Sharks. It's lame, but it stuck.) Individually, they are smart, capable, entirely charming women. En masse, they are a carousing, whooping, far too loud bunch who behave as if the prison riot worked and now they have all escaped. There are no "inside" voices, no careful consideration of words and no thought goes unexpressed. I love them.

We went out for dinner to a restaurant that is known more for it's atmosphere than it's food. It's run by two gay guys who gleefully abuse the patrons and stock various costumes down by the bathroom, in case anyone wants to put on a post-dinner show. It's as loud and as raucous as one would expect from a place who's signature drink is a "Bitch Slap". ("Do you need another "Bitch Slap", honey", the waiter will say with a perfectly straight face. "It seems to me like you do!")

Frugal as only housewives can be, two of our group gathered up all the protein-packed leftovers and divvied them up between them, as we left, chicken and pork tenderloin, if memory serves. (Actually, I think we were "dismissed", the restaurant owners told us we "could go now" at around 11. Uncustomarily polite of them, really.)
The bar we descended upon is up on the second floor of an old building, and as we huffed and puffed our way up the long, wide, steep flight of stairs, I couldn't help but wonder how many dental emergencies this place was responsible for. The two with the meat convinced the bar tender to stash it in the beer fridge behind the bar...most obliging of him, since he had to withstand what we thought were hilarious jokes at his expense, about handling one's meat and saving it for later, etc. After a couple of hours of dancing, laughing and playing "Man or Woman" (where one has to guess the gender of the person in question...not as easy as you might think sometimes.) it was time to go.

The meat was retrieved from behind the bar, the obliging husband called to come and pick us up, (Thanks Jeff!) and some of us negotiated the trecherous staircase more gracefully than others. Just as one of the meat carriers almost got to the bottom of the stairs, tragedy struck and the container flew out of her hands and there was pork tenderloin and garlic sauce festooned around the lobby and doors. Naturally, her friends were most sympathetic and comforting in light of her mishap, and we showed our concern by promptly doubling over and laughing about as hard as people can do without hurting themselves. One of our party managed to sputter out "Sorry about your tenderloin", which set us off again and actually, still makes me giggle this morning. I got to bed far too late, and am paying for it today.

So, when next you are out and about and encounter a large group of seemingly benign suburban housewives, who behave as though they are sailors on shore leave, give them a wide berth, and be careful of your tenderloin.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Dare to Dream

I got a phone call from my 13-year-old's teacher today; it seems that Thing 1 didn't do so well on a math review test, and the teacher is "a little concerned about her achieving her academic goals for the year". Not to worry, I told her, Thing 1 has no academic goals for the year, thereby making them very easy to achieve. She is 13, I wanted to say, if she's anything like I was at that age, her goals for the year include a attracting some 13-year-old male attention and the acquisition of some bitchin' shoes. (It turns out she barely passed the test because she forgot her multiplication tables. How do you do that???And, it would appear, she couldn't be bothered to actually figure them out, either.)

Sadly, Thing 1 comes from a long tradition of wallowing in lethargy; if this family had a motto, it would be "That'll Do". (Which is an improvement over our previous motto, which was "I'll Get Up In A Minute". Our coat-of-arms could be a couch, a remote and a bag of chips.) Compound that with a smattering of intellectual curiosity and a way with words, and you've got yourself a passing grade with a minimum of effort. It always worked for me! (If I had an Indian name it would be "The Little Engine That Could, But Just Didn't Feel Like It".)

Both her father and I could provide multiple report cards with variations on "does not work to potential", ranging from the irate to the weary to the downright puzzled. (One of my husband's teachers from high school wrote "would do much better if he handed things in". You could just tell that she wanted to add "damn it!" at the end.) My brother actually got one report card from high school which read "come to class some time, I'd like to meet you". For all that, none of us ever failed a class, and actually did pretty well for the most part. I guess we could pull out what was required when we really needed to.

I can remember a teacher begging me to try harder, and I honestly had no idea what he was talking about....did he mean for me to read the notes over twice before a test? Was I supposed to draw flow-charts and diagrams to outline my essays? Should I have made my handwriting more twirly? What? Now I can see that he probably meant "try to explain yourself a little better" and "don't count every single word in an essay and stop writing when you've reached the goal". (I think I actually took our a few words, once, so that I didn't have to end in the middle of a sentence.)

So, I'll go have a chat with the teacher and tell her not to worry; Thing 1 will do just fine when she has a goal she can really get behind.....just wait until you see her shoes on the day of a dance.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Making It Work

I've been working quite a bit more this week than usual; two stylists have gone away on holidays, and we were a bit short staffed for a week.
Believe me, I get that most people work far more than I do, and I don't for a minute think that I am hard done by. It's just that I'm not used to it, and I'm whiney by nature, so there you go.
I've only worked part-time since the kids came along, so this 5-day-a-week thing is a proving to be a bit of a jolt. I like the extra bit of money, but I hate the time away from home.
Who knew the house could deteriorate to the level of "Toxic Waste Dump" in 48 hours? I thought I might at least be able to halt the process somewhere between "It Looks Like Strip Mining Has Been Going On" and "H-Bomb Aftermath", but no. It would help somewhat if any of my family stopped using the dining room table as a storage facility.

I often think that if I won the lottery, one of the things I would spend my money on (right after liposuction and a self-cleaning car) would be Someone To Dress Me. This coming up with a different outfit day after day is exhausting, what with the accessorizing and finding shoes that go and it all being weather-appropriate. (I can usually manage two out of three. And some days I just aim for "Not Homeless".)

But the upside of working so much is that I rather like my job, so spending more time doing it isn't exactly torture.
Yesterday I cut the hair of one of my favorite clients, a physicist. He was off to the hospital to attend a brain surgery, where he was working on an imaging doo-hickey which was measuring blood flow while the brain was being man-handled, (or at least that's what I got out of it). He and I had a giggly good time over making jokes to the surgeon ("well, it's not like it's brain surgery. Oh, wait...."). Later, my co-worker Jessie (The Tattooed One) and I folded foil while looking out the front window and observing the rich panolpy of the human condition that Richmond Street provides. (Turns out the human condition needs some full-length mirrors.)
I had a lovely chat with a professor of French Literature, talked to someone about books on tape and was educated on Jewish food laws. And in between I had some coffee, talked about hair and made a few appointments for the rest of the week.

So, next week I'm back to my regular life, with 3 days of work and 4 days of not-so-much-work. And I'll be happy with both.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Overheard at the Grocery Store. Part 2.

It's Himself's birthday tomorrow, and although it isn't physically possible for him to care less about celebrating his birthday, I'm not about to pass up an excuse to eat cake. Especially if it's a cake I get to choose, and make to my own personal preferences. (Spice Cake with Penuche Icing, just in case you're keeping track. Penuche Icing, if you are wondering, is essentially fudge made with brown sugar and spread on a cake.)
However, this being the house that it is, we are one egg short for making a cake, and so I hop in the car and take off for the grocery store in the most environmentally irresponsible way possible. (The grocery store it about a 10 minute walk away, but that's too far for me when there is cake to be made right now.)
As I hone in on the egg section, I vaguely notice a youngish couple in the vicinity. Actually, I noticed them because they were right in my way, and I had to jockey around them to get to the eggs.
He says to her "what's the difference between 'Large' eggs and 'Small' eggs?"
She says, somewhat wearily (you can tell she's been down this road before), "The 'Large' eggs are bigger than the 'small' eggs. Get it?"
And he says, after a pause, "well, I'd get it if the difference were between them were 'quail' and 'ostrich', but really, other than that, what's the point?".
She says "The point is, some people care about the size of their eggs".

I vote they break up now.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Somebody's Got Some Explaining To Do.

It was a spectacular autumn day here today; the sun was shining, the air was warm with a hint of fall and the breeze light. It was just as I imagine California to could almost see the air sparkling. I spent a ridiculous part of that beautiful day surfing the net downstairs in the basement, and was punished soundly by having the following video come to my attention. Hands down, this is the cheesiest, most abominable music video on God's green earth.

First off, I LOVE the dancing here (we'll get to those funky costumes in a minute.) The choreographer clearly learned those moves in her Jazzercise class, and then added in a few of the finer moves from cheerleading camp. I am especially fond of the "Indian Goddess of War" move at about 1:46, and then the coy wiggling of hips and the particularly jaunty move out of the screen. And what the hell is everyone doing right after that, at around the 2:00 minute mark....the all careen in and out of the screen busting out in the most bizarre dancing (for lack of a better term.) It looks exactly like what happened at Thing 2's sixth birthday party, when I let everyone have Coke with the cake, after a full afternoon of cheesies and pudding.

The dancer's costume appear to have been borrowed from the local high school's marching band. I'll bet they got a discount because they didn't need the hats.

That manly singer is rocking a mighty, righteous hair-do here; it's not everyone who can carry off a style which appears to be molded out of plastic. And why is the girl singer decked out like the pre-slutty Sandy from "Grease"?

These are some profound and stirring lyrics, too. "How can I be sure you're not pretender?" and "This rock would turn to sand, So this is where we stand". Pearls of wisdom, that. And at one point, it's hard to make out exactly what he's saying, but I think it's "I just want to be your loving fender". You'd think someone would have splashed out for a translator, at some point.

At the end, when Barbie and Ken are driving away into the great unknown (shouldn't he be looking where he's going?and why no seatbelts? Or helmets?), which, by the way, is another "Grease" homage, the dancers appear to be eating something (popcorn?) and drinking from clear bottles (vodka?) and barely notice their departure. They wave and presumabley say goodbye in a rather dulsatory fashion, but you can tell it's not sincere. They are just happy to be left with their popcorn and vodka.

Apparently this video was made in 1978, for which I will cut them some slack...the 70's was definitely "The Decade Taste Forgot", but even so, there's very little excuse for this travesty. Someone should be made accountable.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Things My Cat Does That I Do Not Understand.

He's an feline, and I'm a female, and we get along as well as two different species can, I suppose. Toby certainly has a fondness for things that do not appeal to me (i.e. raw mice, licking himself and high places.), and I do my best to live and let live. I know there are occupations in which I indulge that perplex him utterly....reading, typing, waking up at a particular time. There are many things for which we share a sympathetic attitude, such as looking out the window and naps. However, there are some activities in which Toby indulges that absolutely baffle me; not simply because I don't like them, but because I cannot fathom why HE likes them. If anyone can get in a kitty-like frame of mind and explain the wonder of the following, I would love to hear it.

He whines and picks and claws at the back door to be let out, and when presented with an open door, looks at me as if to say "Out? Outside? Why, I never heard of such a thing! What is this "out" you speak of?? Should I explore that concept? How does one go about that? Maybe I could actually GO out....what do you think?" And then he goes out. Maybe.

If he does go outside, particularly in the morning, he must immediately come right back inside, in case he's missed anything.

When I am getting ready to go into the shower, Toby must take his rightful place on the closed toilet lid as the "Great and Powerful Supervisor of the Bathroom" and reign supreme for the duration of the shower. He surveys the 10-foot square space carefully for any hijinks or untoward behavior. Just as I pass him as I get in the shower, he must take a full-claw swipe at the tender white meat of my bum.

Toby gets a tablespoon of tuna every morning, and he has absolutley no faith in my ability to remember this. It's not like I let it slide for a day or two, or even forget for a couple of hours; I get right on it after I exit the shower, even before I do my hair, for God's sake. And yet, Toby feels the need to meow and squawk and yowl in increasingly desperate tones as he winds around my feet and trips me up and places himself squarely in my way. Would it serve his purpose if I toppled over and hit my head on the stove and got a concussion and died? No. It would not. He would not get the tuna. And yet, we go through this every stinking morning.

Its a big bed. There's plenty of room for two fully grown people, and therefore no shortage of space for one 9-pound cat. He does not have to plonk himself down smack in the middle of the bed and get all snippy when one of the bed's owners wants to get in and then stretch himself out as long as he can go and look reproachfully at said owner when he encounters a limb.

I'm betting my bedside table does not look like Martha Stewart's. Her bedside table is likely not an auction find her mother bought when she was 6, been repainted 37 times. And it probably hasn't been burdened with a manicure set, hand cream, a small pair of scissors, lip balm, bobby pins a table lamp and at least 3 books. And I'll further bet that her cat does not decide at 4 a.m. that this would be the perfect spot to sit down, hoik up a leg and lick one's bum. Her cat would probably surmise, as mine does not, that this surface is woefully inadequate to the task, judging by the number of things that go crashing down to the ground and making a mighty big noise.

When I am running, (which almost never happens, by the way) I rarely feel the need to stretch out one leg behind me in the middle of my stride. But Toby does.

I adore my family, but I am able to find opportune moments in which to show my affection. The cat seems to feel that any time I am sitting on the computer or reading a newspaper is the best possible time to show me how he feels. Typing seems to send him into an absolute frenzy of purring, drooling, head-butting kitty-lovin'. Nothing but walking back and forth in front of the monitor and obstructing my fingers will convince me of his love. He is compelled to convince me of his devotion particularly when I am reading a newspaper, as if I might forget how adorable he is in my pursuit of current events. When I am sitting and watching tv and doing nothing with my hands or my brain, there seems to be no need to demand my attention.

News flash, Tobes: you are not the only cat in the world. When you see another cat in the vicinity, there is no need to hiss and spit and turn yourself inside out in a frenzy of cat-hate. A) The other cat can't hear you and B) you look ridiculous.

Why, when you take a drink of water do you have to catch the bowl with your paw and spill half of it out and make a big mess? Why? (We actually keep his water bowl in the bathtub for this reason. I'm not making this up.) And then, when you have finished slaking your thirst, do you hover above the bowl making loud, slurpy noises as if in a water-induced kitty trance?

If he can tell me why any of this behaviour is pleasurable, I promise I will let him in on the reading thing.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Weird People I Meet At Work, Part One

One of the (many) things I love about my job is that I have to opportunity to talk and talk and talk, most of the time with people who's company I would happily choose outside of work, too. Occasionally, I spend a half an hour chit-chatting to people with whom the conversation doesn't exactly flow without some effort, but we manage to get along quite pleasantly for the time that we have together. And then, very occasionally, I encounter someone who is so bizarre, I spend a good portion of the appointment wondering if there's some sort of practical joke being played upon me. Yesterday, I met such a young woman.

After a very brief discussion as to what she wanted with hair (most of which consisted of "yeah, I know,'s had it cut a while ago's just not......") she sat in my chair and announced she "just had to text someone, is that okay?". No problem, says I. (It is hard to put into words how much I hate people talking on their cell phones while I cut their hair. It's impossible to cut around a phone, I have to interrupt to clarify what they want done, they shout when the blow dryer's on, and it's rude. Texting's not so much of a problem; it's a lot like someone reading a magazine.) So she proceeds to text for the next 15 minutes or so. I can see over her shoulder bits and pieces of what she's writing, and after spotting " I deserve better", "hurt me so bad" and "never see you again", I'm thinking this is probably a conversation you should be having in person.
After a while, she finishes, and tells me that she's breaking up with her boyfriend (through texting) because she found out he cheated on her (more on that in a minute) and would I read it and tell her what I think. A nicer person would have declined, what with it being personal and all, but I jump right in; "you betcha" says I!
So I'm reading through her rambling e-mail, putting this soap-opera together, and wondering if I should tell her that "itsy-bitsy" has a hyphen and "penis" only has one "n", and giving it every single thing I've got not to bust out laughing.

It turns out that he slept, naked, in bed with another girl, and can't remember if he had sex with her or not. I don't know if I'd be dumping his sorry ass because of the infidelity or because that was the best story he could come up with. I give it the once over and tell her that it's just fine, and she certainly got her point across, and yes, she does deserve better.

Then she mentions that she called the other girl, just to clarify a few details. "Was that, like, totally psycho of me?" she says. "Hell, yes", I said " and don't do it again! Especially after you've been drinking!" (The other girl wisely chose not to return the call. Smartest thing she did all day.)

After a blow dry and a few minor adjustments to the cut, she thanks me for my help, pays the bill and tips me five bucks. "Thanks!" she chirps as she leaves.

Oh no, thank you!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Overheard at the Grocery Store.

I was at Loblaws today, in the produce section, and there were two young men not too far away. By the looks of them they were university students and the grocery store was very foreign territory.
One says to the other in a conversational tone: "So, like, are mushrooms the only fungus we eat?"
The other one replies, ruefully, "Well, it's not the only fungus we eat."

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Things I Buy That I Love

I think I missed part of my ovaries or something, because unlike the majority of the female population, I don't see shopping as a recreational activity. If I need something, I got out and get it. End of story. Spending the day browsing for things that I don't want, don't need, have no room for and cannot afford is not an especially desirable was to spend my free time. That is why, when I do shop, I am particularly gratified to spend my time and my money on items that warm my heart and fill me with glee.
In no particular order:

1. Double Roll Toilet Paper. We live in a house with three females. One of those females, who shall remain nameless, but was born last and is the shortest of us all, requires approximately 130 feet of toilet paper every time she uses the facilities. Between us, we go through a LOT of toilet paper. (I reckon the decimation of the rain forest can be reasonably laid at our door.) Double-roll toilet paper means that I only have to replace the toilet roll every half an hour, instead of every 15 minutes. (And I do mean "I". Nobody else in the family has mastered the complex technology of the toilet roll holder.)

2. Extra-Strength Garbage Bags with Drawstrings. Since garbage bags in our house are only taken out when they have reached 160% of their designed capacity, extra-strength garbage bags with drawstrings are entirely necessary. Previous to this, I would have to gingerly work the 3 tonne bag out of the receptical, all the while trying vainly to keep the top third from spontaneously vomiting onto my shoes and the floor. I would also have refrain from ripping large holes in the top of the bag, and defy the laws of physic in an attempt to close the bag with a twist tie roughly the size and thickness of one of my hairs. Now I don't have to do this. I don't care what they cost, I will buy them.

3. Pampered Chef Garlic Press. I'm pretty sure you could press coal into diamonds in that thing. It takes the most honking clove of garlic, unpeeled, and delivers it into perfectly usable mince in 1 second with minimal effort. And it comes with a niftly little cleaning device that works out every tiny scrap of garlic from it's gajillion little holes. Worth every penny.

4. Ear Plugs. When Himself and I first got married, I used to wake up in a blind panic to the sound of someone breathing next to me, screaming in my head "There's someone in the room with me!" And then I'd realize it was the person to whom I was married. I had no idea I was a light sleeper up until then. For years I've slept with one eye open, apparently, and only recently got the idea that perhaps some sort of sleeping aid might be in order. For the ridiculous price of $2.00, I now sleep so soundly that thunderstorms, snoring partners and barfing children all enter my conciousness not at all. I love my ear plugs. I really love them.

5. John Freida Frizz Ease Serum. I consider myself lucky to live in such time and a place that I can get Frizz Ease whenever I want. There are very few hair products on the market (and believe me, I have tried them all.) that make my hair both smooth and frizz-free without making it greasy or flat. Give that man a Nobel prize.

6. Loblaws Scalloped Potatoes. The ones in the "ready to go" food section when you come in the front door. I've made plenty of scalloped potatoes in my day, but these are way better than any ones I've come up with. I don't want to know what they put in them that makes them so creamy and rich and yummy. I don't care, either.

7. L'Oreal Voluminous Mascara I have all of 7 eyelashes on each lid, and they need to be fattened and plumped and made much, much bigger. (The only part of my body that does.) They need to look like I have at least 14 eyelashes on each lid, and by God, this delivers. I buy two tubes, whenever I get it: one waterproof and one not. (Not that I imagine for one second that need to have lush, full lashes for when I enter an impromptu syncronized swimming routine, but because my eyes tear up very easily, and also because I seem to get wet a lot.) And I also only buy it in black because I cannot see any reason why they even make mascara in other colours.

8. Starbucks Chai Tea Latte. As much as I know it is fashionable to display distaste for the ubiquitous coffee chain ("Why would anyone spend 5 bucks on a coffee????") I adore this concotion. It's warm and soothing and cozy and comforting and I cannot replicate it in my own kitchen, try as I might. I might love these so much because the first time I ever had one was a blustery, grey November day on which I was as cranky as a nap-deprived 3 year old, and that drink satisfied every need I had on every level. I've been hooked on them ever since, preferably Grande with soy milk.

I'm sure there are plenty of other products and services that make my life much easier to live (indoor plumbing, internal combustion engines, jello, to name but a few) but these ones...these make my life a pleasure to live.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Fair Enough

Yesterday we made out annual pilgrimage to the local Fair,and it did not disappoint: rides designed to re-arrange your internal organs? Check. Delicious food that's so nutritionally unsound you can actually feel your arteries hardening as you eat? Check. All manner, size and shape of human forms so as to marvel at the fates of evolution? Check. Hemorrhage money and have nothing to show for it? Check. All part of the tradition.

The girls are big enough now to go on the big midway rides exclusively, and they certainly partook with enthusiasm. I used to like rides back in the day, but am very happy now to abstain and observe. There's nowhere else like the Fair for people watching, let me tell you....

I have to admire the sheer bull-headedness of some people when it comes to walking out the door in an outfit that is clearly age-inappropriate, or dimensionally-challenged. There were plenty of eye-popping ensembles there that defied both the laws of physics and good taste. That level of denial is kind of impressive, if you ask me.

Human behaviour is endlessly fascinating, and the sea of "the hell??"will never run dry. Case in point: we saw one young woman answer her cell phone while waiting for the bumper cars to organize themselves, and then proceeded to talk on said phone for the duration of the ride. While driving. A bumper car. One wonders what information of earth-shattering importance could be digested while driving a bumper car. I hope she wasn't talking to her accountant.

Himself and I saw one woman, 50ish, who brought home all too harshly that aging hippies are a sad lot: she was wearing jeans and a glittery tank top (bra-less) that claimed for all the world to see " Will Work for Beer", and while perusing the air purifiers, has to put down her cane and saying "just let me get my glasses". I know getting older is an affront to one's dignity, but come on, sooner or later you're going to have to get over the fact that you're not 18 any more. The evidence is overwhelming.

Of all the sustenance offered at the Fair, none can beat the 'deep-fried Mars bar' for the award for "Barely Fit for Human Consumption". For those of you not familiar with this particular delicacy ("Scotland's Finest Import!") it is, just as one might fear, a Mars bar, impaled on a stick, battered and deep fried. And sprinkled with icing sugar. (They ask you if you'd like icing sugar, like, you might want to consider those extra calories before indulging.) For 5 bucks, you cannot get a more heart-stopping, pancreas-shocking wad of carbohydrates and fat. We shared it between 4 of us, and believe me, that was plenty...two bites and I was done. The kids enjoyed it very much, but then again, their livers are all bright and shiny and new and can handle that fierce onslaught of toxins without protest.

We also encountered both the Messy Hair Family ("We style our hair with a Cuisinart!") and The Bad Hair Family ("We style our hair with spray starch and a blow torch!")

The barn tour is always a highlight, no matter how much the kids protest when I insist on it. ("We took you out of school early for this, we have to make it educational.") We saw piglets and lambs that had been born that day, and some very haughty looking llamas. There were goats and ducks and geese and a very cranky horse. We sized eggs, milked a pretend cow and watched them shear a sheep. We missed the Pig and Duck Races, which was too bad, because we love those. We've seen that same show so many times we can recite all the lame jokes by heart. We also saw the Human Cannonball, which was pretty impressive. Imagine being that guy and filling out a passport document or a tax form: Occupation: Human Cannonball. I'll bet that raises a lot of eyebrows.

When we finally plodded out the gate as they were turning off the lights, Thing 2 wearily said to me "I love this place". Me too, honey.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Problems of the Healthy and Happy

Living in a university town with some very large medical facilities, it's not unusual to be asked to be a research subject. I'm more than happy to comply, as long as it doesn't involve too much bodily invasions and the words "bowels" or "intestinal capacity" don't come up. Both my kids have been subjects for the Department of Psycology. (Anyone willing to take a crack at figuring them out can be my guest.)

Recently, I volunteered to be in a project in which they were studying the effects of dark chocolate on blood pressure, and whether or not slightly elevated blood pressure could be controlled by diet rather than medication. The subjects had to eat dark chocolate 3 times a day for 12 weeks, have 8 weeks off and then repeat the experiment with white chocolate for 8 weeks. At the end, the subject would get $400.00. Okay, let me get this straight, I get to eat chocolate which has been provided to me, for 4 months, and then I get $400 for the priviledge? Sign me up!!
Not surprisingly, there were a couple of restrictions: apart from the expected blood-letting, monitoring and guarantees that I wouldn't mess up their study, I also had to agree to drink no more than 3 cups of coffee a day (no problem, I don't have more than that anyway, as I become a shakey, reeling, emotional time-bomb, with ADD.) I had to agree to abstain from tea entirely (this one's a little tougher. I don't drink tea on a regular basis, but when I do, I NEED it. I'm Irish; tea is my Valium.) And, the biggest caveat of them all: I had to agree to eat no other chocolate other than the stuff I'd be given. Now, I'm not a big chocoholic or anything, and I ususally give up chocolate for Lent every year, but that's only 40 days, and there's a big old Lindor bunny waiting to be massacred at the end of it all. This one gave me pause.....I'd have to get through Halloween, Christmas and Easter, entirely chocolate-free. Just think of it: no little Mars bars to get me through the dim, wet days of November. No Terry's Chocolate Orange to off-set the stressful mall excursions in December. Worst of all, no Lindor bunny. This would be testing my resolve mightily, but for four hundred bucks, I'd give up eating everything. (Think of the weight loss!!)

So, off I go to the clinic to get checked out. I fill out about a hundred forms, mostly absolving the clinic of all responsibility if I keel over an die, and read the specs of the study, etc. They bring me into a room and ask me a ton of questions, and even before she takes my blood pressure, the nurse smiles and says "I can tell you now, you're not going to qualify: you're too healthy." Sure enough, my blood pressure, the 3 times she takes it, is 120/80. As I'm not overweight (Thank you, anonymous nurse from the clinic!), have no past history with blood pressure problems, don't smoke and have neither parent dead from a stroke, I unfortunately do not qualify for the study.
So, although I won't get the $400, I guess the upside is that I'm rudely healthy. And I can eat chocolate. I guess those are both worth more than $400.00.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Thoughts on the Grocery Store

As chores go, grocery shopping is the least odious; I rather like doing it, in fact. I hate cleaning the shower (hot water running down my arms into the rubber gloves. Nice.). I hate mopping the kitchen floor (it has to be done all the time. I'm beginning to think that it spontaneously generates sticky yuck, thereby making us dirty, rather than the other way around.) And cleaning closets makes me imagine new ways to desert my family and never look back. But grocery shopping, particularly on my own, is a happy diversion.

I can't help but keep a running monologue in my head, though, because there are some fearsome items on the shelves that invite all sorts of notions. For example, for what would one need "extra-strength toilet paper"? Who would admit to needing extra-strength toilet paper? What kind of mess are you cleaning up here? Perhaps some sandpaper and bleach would be a more appropriate means of setting yourself to rights. Oh, and also, you might want to consider a change in diet. Like, maybe, cutting back on the bran would be a good idea.

Does anyone buy okra? Anyone? Because it's disgusting, and not cheap, I might add.

There is a fascinating yet horrifying section at my A&P, which captivates me for far longer than is healthy, I'm sure. It's what the kids and I call the "Real Oriental" section, as opposed to the "Fake Oriental" section. While the "Fake" section has stir-fry sauces and sesame oil and soy sauce, all familiar-yet-exotic ingredients designed to make you think you are a wildly adventurous cook, the "Real" section had "abalone flavored gluten" and "artemia cysts" and packages with hardly any English on them at all. The even have Chinese baby food in jars. (They have no English on them either, so I am assuming it is Chinese baby food, and does not actually contain babies.) I spend ages in horrified wonder in this department wondering what it all is. I once, I swear, saw a tin of "sweet gelatinous mutant coconut", and I am so mad that I didn't buy it just to keep on display.

Then there is the "Good God, Who's Idea Was That?" section, full of "white asparagus with shrimp paste" in cans and "cocktail franks stuffed with olives". It's like a car accident: gruesome and fascinating, all at the same time.

I bought some pork tenderloin for dinner tonight, and boy, has the price of that shot up. I used to get one for about 5 or 6 bucks, and this one was over 10. Is there a shortage of pigs hereabouts that I'm unaware of? Because last time I checked, we were lousy with them.

There are more different kinds of cat treats than there are kinds of milk.

I bought some new cereal, Special K with Chocolate Bits. Yay! I've been trying to legitimately have chocolate for breakfast for I don't know how long. Thank you, Kellogs, for making me not so derelict.

Maybe I can go grocery shopping again before the week is up.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Toby in a Box

Toby loves a good box. Can't pass one up, in fact. If there's a box in the vicinity, he has to get in it. And then chew the edges right off.I don't see the attraction of it myself, but then again, I don't get why balloon strings are so wildly entertaining or the positively hypnotic attributes of typing fingers: I'm not a cat.

A box that actually can accomodate his dimensions is particularly prized, but hardly necessary. The second b0x was perfectly acceptable , in Toby's opinion, despite the fact that it was woefully inadequate to the task. If all you can fit in a box is your paw, then, technically, you are in the box.
Coolers, gym bags and salad bowls are all acceptable box alternatives, and he goes positively giddy near a backpack left on the floor. I'm terrified that I will accidentaly take him to work one day. That might not be much of a problem, though, we have lots of boxes there.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

What's A Breezeway?

This breezeway is largely the reason we bought this house. That and the en suite bath. I think I remember loudly proclaiming that I didn't care if the place had a roof and a furnace, I'd buy it for those two features alone.

I had someone ask me what a "breezeway" is, since I spend a good 6 months of the year in it, and don't know why they aren't standard issue for all houses. Our breezeway is the area between the house and the garage that serves as a porch/deck/patio/family room from Victoria Day until Thanksgiving. The cat highly approves of the breezeway, and is never happier than when one of us is in it. It truly is the best thing about this house.
These pictures were taken last year; we have much nicer furniture now. (Thanks, Linda!) and that bamboo swingy chair didn't make it out of the shed this year. (It's a bit rickety and as the kids get a little bigger and heavier, I'm afraid it will collapse in a heap with a bunch of other peoples children in it and I'll be on the news looking idiotic and explaining "well, I thought it was safe" to the paramedics.) Also, my hair is different now, and the plant behind my head up and died not too long after those pictures were taken. (It was quite determined to die, actually. It was fine one day, and then with a sort of a grim tenacity, went all brown and wrinkly in a matter of hours. I have to kind of admire that sort of single-mindedness, even if I do wonder what was the point.) Doesn't'the grass look nice? We had so little rain this year it was actually painful to walk across the lawn in your bare feet. (You shouldn't walk around in the backyard in your barefeet anyway, since the cat goes on murderous rampages regularly, and leaves the little mousie corpses lying around. He does this because he never sees us killing mice, and whatever would we eat if it wasn't for him?)
Our hanging fuschia plant did much better last year than this, I can see. In fact, I think this year's plant is last year's plant...we hung it up in the kitchen over the winter. Note to self: you can probably throw caution to the wind and wantonly splash out the 14 bucks on a new hanging basket every year. That 70's light fixture will have to go, it looks very modern and hip in a Brady Bunch kind of way.
If I could move the kitchen and a tv out into the breezway I would. Maybe next year.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The Unbearable Lightness of Wednesdays.

An uneventful day today, full of momentous moments and mundane tasks.
I took the bus today, as I usually do on Wednesdays. The university students are back and because none of them can walk, even though they can see the campus from the bus stop, it filled up pretty quickly. Just to tell you, Girl in Ear-Wax-Gold T-Shirt, you don't need to marinate in your perfume, and Way Too Cool Dude in Large Baggy Pants, you're hardly a straight up gangsta if you're catching the bus here in the burbs. I saw one guy driving to work in his car with all the windows rolled up and he was belting out some song with everything he had, all head back and eyes closed. He looked very pleased with himself, and I couldn't help wondering what the hell he was listening to, because I think I'd maybe like it very much.
Work was easy and productive; I got to see some of my very favorite people, I got to experiment with a friend's hair colour (I'm relatively new to hair colour, and it's like winning the lottery every time I get it right.) and I got to chat and laugh with the people I work with. I got a few chances to reflect that my life is easier and more charmed than most.
All was well on the home front, with Thing 1's head back in it's normal position, and Thing 2 full of chat. ("Mommy, how do people in wheelchairs go to the bathroom?") The cat found a box outside (he loves a good box) and proceeded to delight and charm us with all the permutations of "How Cute Do I Look In This Box?"
It's easy to think that an ordinary day is boring. But it isn't.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

First Day of School Hijinks

Whew. Glad that's over.
You know, it's been 32 years since I've been a 13 year old girl, and time had kindly blurred and smoothed that particular phase of my life into a hazy, soft-focus, dream-like fuzz so that I have trouble remembering if events actually happened or not. Maybe what I think happened was actually an episode of "Mork and Mindy".
Today I was reminded of the full-metal jacket, zero-to-sixty, tsunami of emotions that 13-year-oldness can really be.
Thing 1 arrived at school today to find that all of her friends are in the other Grade 8 class. The other class, people. Across the hall. Oh, the humanity.
My observation that this would be a perfect opportunity to be able to focus more on her school work than her social life was met with glare that could be classified as a Weapon Of Mass Destruction.
To be fair, I do get that this was the Pearl Harbour of Grade 8 socialization....the Japanese swooped in, decimated your resources, shattered any illusion you had of security and all before 9 a.m. It was a tough start to the day.
Lo and behold, learned later in the day that the administration decided to do some shuffling and Thing 1 would be moved to the Most Coveted of Grade 8 Classes, and all is right with the world. It was a short ride, but an intense one.
Thanks, Universe, for reminding me that being 13 is a lot of work.

Monday, September 3, 2007

I cleaned out the big freezer today, a job I hate but that I like to have done. They tell me ("They", of "They University".) that the freezer works more efficiently if it's full, but I'll be damned if I can figure out a way to have it full and find things in it.
It's sort of like a big archeological site, my freezer, as I can evaluate the age of the artifacts by the layer in which they sit: sour cherries? top layer, bought recently. Strawberry freezer jam? Middle top: June. Fruitcake? Bottom: 1996.
We do seem to have all manner and ethnicity of bread, and can supply the neighbourhood, if necessary. Tortillas, pitas, bagels, pizza dough, waffles, foccacia and lavosh. We have a virtual UN of yeasty goodness in our freezer, and plenty of it too.
I also found about 6 boxes of frozen spinach in there, which is puzzling since A) I seem to recall only 3 the last time I cleaned out the freezer, and B) nobody here eats frozen spinach, let alone buys it. (My family would far rather lurch around groaning and holding their stomachs, delirious with hunger than actually get up and, you know, go to the grocery store.) I think the spinach is actually multiplying in there, like very cold triffids or something. It would not be the first time that my housekeeping skills resulted in inadvertant science projects.
One big plus was that I found a forgotten, FULL bag of frozen shrimp! Yay! Garlic shrimp with pasta for dinner this week! Maybe with bread.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

A Good Day

Is there anything better than a Sunday with nothing planned? I think not. Today was such a day.
After sleeping in this morning, I had the distinct pleasure of the Sunday crossword and a cup of coffee out in the backyard, with only the cat for company. (He's lousy at the crossword, by the way.) After another cup of coffee and almostbutnotquite finishing the puzzle, I managed to steal a couple of minutes on the computer, wasting them entirely on Facebook and my e-mail.
Off I went to the in-laws to pick up Thing 2, who had spent a couple of very profitable days with her grandparents and aunt. (She managed to procure some clothes, an entire shopping bag full of candy and a bottle of allergy meds.) The 4o minute drive was spend listening to the CBC, laughing (without having to explain it to anyone) and the weather was looked like all of Oxford County had been dipped in gold. I picked up a very grateful Thing 2, who had occasional but dibilitating pangs of homesickeness while gone. (Which is kind of surprising, considering that she doesn't seem to like us very much when she's here.)
I got home, and managed to get done an odious task that I had been putting off for some time, namely, organzing the Tupperware cupboard. (Honestly, I haven't bought Tupperware in about 10 years, but I swear it muliplies all by itself in there.) So glad that's done. I keep opening the cupboard just to admire my work.
An easy dinner on the table, Himself cleaned up, and now I'm off to read in the breezeway and enjoy an evening with very little on the agenda.
It's been a good day. Not an exciting one, but a good day.