Thursday, January 31, 2008

Referee Chickens

I found this video on YouTube: Two Chickens Break Up Fight and I watched it about 10 times, laughing every single time.

A couple of rabbits are get into a bare-knuckle grudge match in what looks vaguely like a cross between a Greek circus tent and a barnyard, and then, out of nowhere, come two chickens to break it up and restore peace and security to the general area.

At about the 11 second mark, one of the chickens, secure in the knowledge that the fight has been successfully subdued, goes over to one of the rabbits and clearly says "what the hell is wrong with you? You are going to get your ass handed to you one of these days, if you keep this up, and you will richly deserve it. Now, simmer down and cut. it. out." And then Peacekeeper Chicken #2, at the 20 second mark, says "Yeah. What he said."
And then they just.....walk away.

Well done, gentlemen.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Kibbles and Bits.

Sorry, I couldn't add a post yesterday because of some computer trouble. You know that annoying little pop-up that says "update virus definitions now"? Turns out that is important and you should click on it.

Not too much has been blog-worthy the past few days. After a couple of days respite from the cold, it's gotten icy again, and I am even more loathe than ever to venture out. The past couple of days were blissfully mild, and then last night it rained, the wind picked up and the temperature plummeted. Everything is encased in ice, the wind is punishing and it is hellishly, bitterly cold. Apart from the fact that I am almost completely inert these days, it is hard for me to even think about anything other than "Reasons Why I Should Not Immigrate To More Civilized Climates", let alone think of things to blog about. (#1 on my list? "Immigrating would require considerably more gumption than I am willing to generate right now. And it would require going outside.") So the following post is mostly the dribs and drabs of what fills my head these days. Thank your lucky stars you are getting the edited version.

Holy shit those Americans can drag stuff out. Are they ever going to vote for, you know, an actual election? Because these "practice" elections are never going to friggin' end, are they? I think voter turn out is so low in the States for presidential elections because everyone has died of boredom by then.

There is very little on tv these days, and although there were only about 3 or 4 shows I watched anyway, I do miss them. (Especially "The Office".....I've waited 3 seasons for Jim and Pam to finally hook up and now that they have? No shows.) There are plenty of filler shows you know they are broadcasting because they have a million of 'em saved up, like "Deal or No Deal", which is essentially dumb luck, or the eternally frustrating "Don't Forget the Lyrics" (no shit I can't remember where I put my car keys or what my postal code is; that part of my brain is full up of KC and the Sunshine Band lyrics, apparently.)
And, God help me, I found myself watching "Good Times" last night, which, if I recall correctly, was barely tolerable back in the 70's, and is even worse now. (Good Lord but those shows from the 70's are clunky and preachy. I'm sure they were groundbreaking and revolutionary in their day, but now they are just tiresome.) Once, when I was up nursing a baby in the middle of the night, I ended up watching "Green Acres". It filled me with despair and fear for the human condition, it really did. I also found myself entranced by a "Biography" of Antonio Banderas recently, and I realized I had better turn off the tv and pick up a book before I slit my wrists.

As I mentioned earlier, the wind was howling like a banshee early this morning, and it woke me up around 4 a.m. I hate the sound of high wind, and even with the ear plugs in, I knew I wasn't going to be able to go back to sleep. (There is a big locust tree out back that hangs over the house, right above our bedroom. I kept waiting for that to break free, drop on the house and come straight through the roof onto my side of the bed.) So I went down to the spare bed in the basement to get a few more hours of shut-eye, but I had not bargained on Toby. Toby was at first, thrilled that someone had the good sense to be up during the night, and he was ready to party. Imagine his deep disappointment when he realized that I planned on going back to sleep; and it became his mission to thwart those plans by whatever means necessary. I put up with him only because I feared being crushed by a giant locust limb, but it was a fierce struggle there for a while. He was finally threatened with Kitty Jail (a.k.a. the laundry room), and he bitterly accepted defeat. I expect he will exact his revenge tonight.

On my way home from work today, I stopped off at the grocery store to get milk and Babybel cheese, of which Thing 1 has become completely enamoured. On my way out of the store, I vaguely noticed a woman in her late 50's or early 60's on her way in, who was walking towards my van. I was still a ways away when I went to use the remote lock to unlock it, but managed to hit the "lock" button instead, just as she came level with the vehicle. It honked, loudly, and it scared the shit out of her....honestly, I don't think I ever fully appreciated the meaning of the term "jumped out of her skin" before. She was NOT amused, and gave me one hell of a stink-eye as she passed me. It was all I could do to make it into the car before I fell all over myself laughing. Honestly, it was one of the funniest things I've ever seen. I should totally do that on purpose from now on.

Thing 2 came up to me recently, with a worried expression on her little face. She was a bit upset, because, she told me, that one of the kids at school told her that day that if you held you hand right up to your face, and your hand could fit right over? It meant that you had cancer. Thing 2 was a bit worried because she had implemented this very sophisticated diagnostic tool, and the conclusion was that she was going to die. I was able to assure her that A) that particular kid had the IQ of a carrot, and B) this is why we do not take our medical advice from 10-year-olds.

And this is life in the Loudshoes house this week.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Another Time Waster

Another way for me to waste valuable time: Geography Game.

I thought I had a pretty good handle on what was where until I played this game....I never got better than 70%. (At least I'm way ahead of this chick. )

It's Africa and the Carribean that are messing with me. And all the "stan" countries that used to be part of the Soviet think you know where Uzbekistan really is, and then you go and play this game.

Sunday, January 27, 2008


I'm not kidding when I say I've been cold for about a week now, and I'm beginning to get a little tired of it. It seems that I spend a lot of my days lately piling on sweaters, drinking tea and huddling. It has always been thus; my parents have been known to say that it was a good thing we immigrated when I was just an infant, because I never would have survived living in place where there was no central heating. (Nice, huh? Lots of sympathy when I was growing up.) Despite the luxury of owning a furnace, I seem to spent a great deal of the winter with popsicle toes and an icy nose. And it has been particularly cold the past two weeks; last Sunday it was -21°C, (6 below 0, for those of you who still understand Fahrenheit), which is pretty damn cold, no matter how you measure it.
Thing 1 shares my reptilian blood, but Himself and Thing 2 seem oblivious to the cold.

Today we went to my in-laws to pick up Thing 2, who had spent the weekend there. My mother-in-law, who is a perfectly lovely woman with many admirable attributes, keeps her house at roughly the temperature of a meat locker. One time we were there for the afternoon, and the kids and I sat around wearing our winter coats and mittens. She got a bit annoyed at us, thinking we were just making fun of her, until the Mister pointed out that the thermostat said it was 57°F, which is 14°C. If I was outside and it was 14°C, I'd be wearing a coat then, too. Turns out she had set the thermostat without wearing her glasses, but still didn't notice that the house was barely fit for human habitation. Tonight wasn't quite that bad, but despite putting on extra layers to visit, I still came home shivering.

Taking an shower is about the only way I can warm up quickly, and so I end up taking one in the morning and one in the evening these days. (The one in the morning is because I need to take some sort of action with my appearance, because I wake up with what my daughters so lovingly call "monkey hair".) Toby is very happy with this new routine, because in his walnut-sized brain he has made the connection between "large female gets out of water-spewing torture box = tuna for me". (And he will not let up until he gets that tuna, damn it. ) If I won the lottery, one of the first things I would install is a jaccuzzi tub, inside, so I wouldn't have to go out in the snow to get to it.

As I mentioned, Thing 1 is frequently cold, and even in the hottest of summers, still sleeps with the sheets pulled right up to her head. Thing 2 lives on an island somewhere. She rarely sleeps in pajamas, because she gets too hot in the night, and frequently goes around wearing only a t-shirt and light pants. I don't know how she does it, but it seems to work for her. The Mister has a metabolism that goes about a hundred miles an hour, and I've nicknamed him "The BTU Man" for a reason; he radiates enormous amounts of heat, and I'd have married him for that alone. He is very handy to have around this time of year. The only thing is, his feet seem to have declared independence completely from his circulatory system, and they remain creepily chilly, like, they are dead while the rest of him lives. It's not at all normal.

Hibernation seems like a particularly appealing idea when I get this cold. I would love to crawl into bed with a book, a cup of tea and a steady supply of carbohydrates, and stay there until spring. I get all woozy with delight just thinking about it. But as that is not feasible, I will put on another sweater after I have another shower, and dream of the day, which I KNOW will come eventually, when it won't be painful to leave the house.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Revolting Recipes for Vengeful Cooks.

I'm probably the only person I know who reads cookbooks much like novels, i.e. back to front, but there are times when A)I'm too distracted or busy to follow a story, or B) in search of something new to eat. Or C) Both. And as I am not reticent about experimenting in the kitchen, I am eager to get some new ideas. Now, not all my experiments work out well, but the ones that do keep me trying. I do think, though, that even though I've had some notable disasters, I really should get credit for the things I don't try. Like human cloning, just because a recipe is possible doesn't mean it should happen. But if I am ever out to get my family, or have a guest whom I never, ever want to see again, I shall prepare one of the following:

Sure, something by the name of "Party Chicken Livers" sounds festive enough, but really, is any party improved by the appearance of chicken livers? And a dish called "Liver Fritada" just has "sad attempt at jocularity" written all over it. (Anyone who writes recipes for a living and cannot spell "frittata"is not someone I am going to trust anyway.)Besides, I cannot envision any occasion in which I would be happy to see liver, no matter what animal it comes from.

I saw a recipe in a cookbook once for "Ham Loaf Swirl", that I read out to the Mister with barely contained horror in my voice. I wish I could scrounge up the picture for you, because it was astonishingly obnoxious. The recipe instructed for the cook to make a 8x10" rectangle of minced ham and raw egg and mayonnaise (wait, it gets worse!) and then cover that with canned green beans, and roll it all up like a jelly roll. Then the hapless cook was to place it on a foil lined cookie sheet (all the easier to dump the mess out in one easy step!) and cook it in the oven "until it had firmed up". Yum! Nothing gets my appetite going like the prospect of "firm ham"! And mayonnaise!

Recently, I saw a recipe for "Chicken Taco Wedges", which was an attempt by the Pillsbury company to get you to use frozen pastry crust instead of taco shells or flour tortillas. Because.....why, exactly? Oh, that's right, Pillsbury doesn't sell taco shells or flour tortillas. The idea of tacos made out of pastry puts my gag reflex on high alert.

I despise canned tuna, always have, and only tolerate it in the house because the cat likes it. (Himself eats it now and again, which disgusts our children no end. To them, it's like he's eating cat food right out of the can. You should see their faces.) So imagine my gleeful awe when I found a recipe for "Sweet and Sour Tuna Casserole". Damn, that sounds so nasty, I don't even know where to begin. The idea of sweet and sour tuna is bad enough, but to add noodles and bake it just seems to be adding insult to injury, if you ask me. (Casseroles can go either way, in my opinion; they often seem to hover delicately over that line between "delicious" and "abominable", and tumble over into the latter with very little provocation. I don't know if it's the idea of all sorts of cooked stuff being jammed in a dish and cooked again that does it, or the prevalence of cheap, goopy, starchy ingredients that make up so many casserole concoctions. Either way, I know casseroles are sadly over-represented in my "Eater Beware" file.)

There were two recipes I found that only made this list because of typos in the cookbook, rather than any deficiencies in the recipes themselves. In fact, both recipes were somewhat inoccuous, but the critical lack of proofreading rendered them unmakeable: one was for a seafood soup, which instructed one to "add a half a pound of crap to the mixture", and the other was for a Sloppy Joe recipe, which, horribly, said to "add meat to bum, top with cheese and enjoy!". Um, no, thanks just the same.

Finally, we still talk about this recipe, which I found in a recipe book that one of my friends parents bought in a trailer park in Texas. (There's all kinds of jokes about that, too, but I digress.) There were so many atrocious attributes to this recipe, we wondered if someone submitted it as a joke. It was for, get this, "Curried Wieners on Toast". Do you believe it? Where do you start? The idea of sliced up hot dogs swimming in a flabby curry sauce is bad enough, but it was the serving it on toast which put it over the edge for me. What, were they trying to gentrify it and elevate it's delicacy by putting it on toast? Somehow making it more appealing to the likes of Jackie Kennedy with that little finishing touch? Or did it somehow make it less exotic, less daring, the addition of humble, everyday toast? We will never know, because I will never, in a million years make it, no matter who I am trying to piss off.

As I've said, not all my experiments have worked out, but if my family only knew the bullets they have been dodging all these years, they'd be much happier with what they've been getting to eat. And they'd be very, very afraid.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Nutty Neighbours

Today is a beautiful winter's day outside, crisp and cold and sunny and bright, with a few inches of clean, white, fluffy snow. And what is my across-the-street-neighbour doing outside on this lovely day? Why, he's shovelling the street, that's what. Because he is kind of odd, and has a bit of a fixation on the street in front of his house. Now, we've lived across the street from Mr. and Mrs. Greek for about 11 years now, and we've gotten along with them just fine; we wave, we say hello occasionally and we visit their three-times a year garage sale. A fine neighbourly relationship. (By the way, we nicknamed them Mr. and Mrs. Greek because their name is about 18 syllables long, is made up entirely of vowels and p's and s's, and it is also to distinguish them from Mr. and Mrs. Other Greek, who live two doors up.) And if the worst thing Mr. Greek does is shovel the street clear of snow, then I am more than happy to have him live close by.

We have won the neighbour lottery many, many times, having plenty of affable, quiet, pleasant, friendly people live near us, and I am aware that this is not the case for lots of people. We have been very lucky. And as well as having nice neighbours, we have also had our share of nutty neighbours, which are often the same people. I have no problem with that; as well as waving and smiling, some of them have offered up enormous amounts of entertainment as well. Good value for the money, if you ask me.

When the Mister and I first got married, we lived in a miniature house in a quiet, old neighborhood which had some of the bat-shit craziest neighbours you ever did see. First of all, there was "The Perfect Lawns", a retired couple who lived two doors down. They got the nickname "The Perfect Lawns" because the weekend we moved in they removed their entire lawn from the front yard and replaced it with new sod, and maintained that lawn meticulously for the duration of our stay. They were the type of people who had those covers for the elements on the stove and used coasters underneath drinks every single time, and never, ever paid a bill so much as a day late in their lives. The Mister and I were convinced that they were drug-dealers. They had a steady stream of traffic up to their back door, day and night, with none of the visitors staying more than 10 or 15 minutes. The variety or both people and vehicles that came to visit was impressive, with 18-year old slackers and 45-year olds in BMWs in abundance. This went on, to our amusement, for a couple of years until I saw a friend going in there and since I was pretty sure she was not a crystal meth addict, I asked her. Turns out the grandparently couple ran a resume writing service and not a crack house.

Then there was Ed. Ed was an odd guy, who lived across the street with his wife, and put up the most lurid, Vegas-style sound and light show on his porch every Canada Day, complete with a portable stereo blasting out "I's the Bye" at top volume. Ed was around 55 years old, and had been known to wander down the stree wearing a bathing suit and one of those enormous sombreros with the little bobbles hanging off it that people buy when they go to Mexico and then wonder what the hell they were thinking. We often would see Ed around town directing traffic, whether it needed directing or not. (He did have an uncanny knack of being somewhere when the traffic lights went out, though.) Ed was a peach.

Our favorite neighbour was Pat, who got that name because it took us ages to figure out if it was a man or woman. She (we did get a good gander close up, once.) cut her lawn with one of those manual push mowers and she did it ever day. That grass could not have been more than an inch high. We once saw her actually shaking the tree on the front lawn in an attempt to dislodge some leaves so that she could rake them up. She and Mr. Pat (who we only discovered after we had been living there for months) had an incredibly convoluted scheme for getting their car in the garage in the winter, that included her getting out, shovelling very carefully every single flake of snow off the driveway, unlocking the enormous gate leading to the garage and carefully closing and relocking it. (We think there was a "Son of Pat" wandering around too, but we never did solve that one. ) They drove around for about 4 months once with the front corner of their car encased in duct tape. God only knows what that was all about. In all the years we lived there we never saw a single light on in the place, except for one basement window. We also never once got any sort of hello, wave or acknowledgement when we went by. We were very afraid to examine the contents of their freezer, let me tell you.

In our present house, we have been very lucky. We've had four sets of neighbours in the house next door, all of whom have been wonderful. The neighbours on the other side of us are seriously old, but nevertheless keep their yard and their house in enviable condition. We get along with them very well, despite the fact that I am sure we drive them to drink with the state our our property. The old woman next door and the Mister are cohorts in a determined, bloodthirsty fight to the death with the rabbits which decimate the vegetable gardens, and that common bond has kept them friendly for years.
Behind us we have people which I have never set eyes on in eleven years. They have a dog which they let out at 7:00 every morning to bark it's fool head off for 15 minutes. They also have some horrible trees which hemmorage white fluff in late June which make it impossible to hang out laundry for a couple of weeks. I'd be inclined to tell them off, but I couldn't pick them out of a line up.

The Crazy Lady across the street is no end of entertainment. A couple of weeks after we moved in we were witness to what we think was the defining fight of the end of her marriage....she was shouting insults and threats and pitching his belongings out the front door onto the lawn. (He picked up a few things got in the car and left with about as much dignity as one can do under the circumstances, I think.) She was profiled in a national magazine a couple of years ago on a big article on personal debt....turns out she's up to her armpits in it. We don't talk to her much, since the day she threatened to take our cat to the Humane Society if she found him on her property again. (She loves birds and scatters feed on the ground to attract them. Cats come from miles around to partake; it's like a kitty buffet over there.) Once, when her son was learning how to drive, he came up the driveway too fast and went smack through the garage door. I could hear them yelling from inside their house.

Down the street a ways there was a couple that moved into a house and we only ever saw them coming or going at night. We figured they either worked night shifts OR they were vampires. They have since moved away, and our garlic and silver stake bill has dropped enormously.

In the winter, we don't see our neighbours much, except when they are shovelling the street. Thank God spring is coming....I'm getting a little bored.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

It's Summer In Australia

It has been a month since Christmas, the wind chill factor was -21°C today and it's the time of year where I begin to wonder out loud why my parents chose, out of the whole stinking world, to emigrate to Canada instead of Australia. (Don't get me wrong, Canada is a wonderful place to live, but Australia has got us totaly beat in the climate department.)

This is a picture of the backyard here at Chez Loudshoes taken yesterday afternoon.

Here is almost the same spot 6 months ago:
I will post this up on the fridge to remind me that spring does eventually come again, even if it does take it's sweet time.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

In Praise of Tea

Growing up in an Irish household, I was convinced early on that tea was the very stuff of which life was made, and that all human existance was dependant upon it. Food, shelter, oxygen, tea; those were the four cornerstones of human survival.
Imagine my horror when I was a kid and went to an Italian friend's house once and they didn't have any tea in it. After a supremely satisfying dinner of pasta, garlic bread and amaretti cookies, they had wine instead of tea (not a bad idea, in hindsight). After dinner was tea time, in my experience, it was just what you did.

I was taught how to make a decent cup of tea when I was old enough to be trusted with boiling water and the task itself, since third-degree burns were just as serious in my house as making a cup of weak tea. Woe betide the fool who put the tea in a cold pot, or didn't let the water come to a proper boil. I remember my father, say about someone that they didn't even know how to make "a 'day-cent' cup of tea", which was about as far down on the fool-0-meter as one could get.

Tea was the great equalizer, the restorative, the cure-all. Had a bad day? Have a cup of tea. Need to resolve world hunger? Do it over a cup of tea. Been abducted by aliens? It won't seem so bad once you've had your tea. It's just as well my mother never took it into her head to go to medical school, because all she would ever have prescribed is a good strong cup of tea to set you to rights.

For most of my adult years, I drank coffee and Diet Coke in near lethal amounts, but recently I've noticed that the caffeine in both has started to make me jangly and twitchy, and I've come back to tea. And guess what? My mother was right; a cup of tea makes everything better. Tea is now my crack.

Thing 1 has inherited my love of tea, and we have been experimenting enthusiastically this winter; we've been buying a new kind every trip to the grocery store. Celestial Seasonings makes some mighty fine herbal teas, with Sleepy Time at the top of our list. (The "Sugar Plum Spice" that they made around Christmas time was disgusting, though....cinnamon and ginger and peppermint do NOT go together.) My new obsession is Green Tea, with Tetley making a Jasmine Green Tea that I have come to crave like heroin. Camomile, peppermint and strawberry tea are all delicious. But, my mother is once again, right, when she says that regular black tea is the best tea of all. Once, I bought some cheap tea in an effort to save, oh, 79 cents, and discovered that it wasn't worth the box it came in. Mom was once again, right, when she said "don't skimp on shoes or tea". She's partial to Tetley, and I bow to her wisdom.

Luckily, as addictions go, tea is cheap and legal and available and not high in calories, so I will happily succumb to that monkey on my back.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Amazing Race 12, Ep. 11

Very nice, very nice. That was all kinds of good.
The fact that this was the first time in a long time that I'd have been happy with any of the Final Three winning made the last episode easier to watch than most. No roller-coaster stomach and gnashing of teeth made for a much more pleasant evening.
And I am happy that Rachel and TK won, but I hadn't realized how much I wanted Don and Nick to win until they didn't. I was truly sorry that everyone couldn't have won.

That was the most diabolical, soul-destroying final Roadblock I ever did see. Thing 1 and I just stared at each other, open-mouthed, at the horror of that task. I think I would have just layed down and wept if I been presented with that. The stress and fatigue and pressure would have sent my right over the edge.
The only thing bad about not having Nate and Jen in the Final Three was not seeing one of them do that.....can you imagine? What about Mirna?

I was most amused by Fake-Japanese-Subway-Cleaner-Man at the final Roadblock. All of them just kept a stony face while being directed here and there...."a human is an animal." And he looked like a Ghostbuster.

Why was it no surprise that Don hunted and fished when he was a kid and could fillet a fish in under a minute? What can Don not do? Maybe he could get his own tv show after this and that's what they could call it.

Did anyone else think that clue said "Shit Creek"? Because I immediately turned to Thing 1 and said "I hope they have a paddle". (She didn't get it.)

Alaska is beautiful in the summer.

I read online that TK and Rachel kept a journal for the duration of the race, and studied it the night before the final day in anticipation of some sort of "where have you been" challenge. Served them well, I think. Also? That final challenge took over an hour.

I think one of my favorite shots of the night was when TK and Rachel and Nick and Don were in the airport on the moving sidewalk, looking for Ron and Chris, and glided right by that Air China lounge.

I love this show.

Until next season!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Mundane Things That I Cannot Do

Most of the time, I am able to accomplish most day to day tasks with a minimum of anguish or personal injury. I rarely even think about such things as getting myself dressed in the morning, or ordering a coffee at Starbucks unaided. (A quick look around you will confirm the fact that there are plenty of people who need help with both.) But, sadly,there are some things in this life that I am completely hopeless at; had these been subjects in school I would have been in the remedial class.
  • Two finger whistle: I envy people who can put two fingers in their mouth and fire off a really ear-piercing whistle. That must be fabulous.
  • Euchre: Over the years I've had dozens of people try to teach me how to play Euchre without me getting it at all. (They take it really personally, too, I might add. Like I'm an idiot in this regard just to thwart them.) I cannot keep the rules straight, what a "bower" is or why we only use half the deck.
  • Arrange flowers: My mother makes truly beautiful flower arrangements which look like something out of a Martha Stewart ad when she is done. When I arrange flowers, they look like hyper-active children with hedge clippers have been at them.
  • Swim in a crawl. I can move along with my head underwater, and I can paddle around on the surface, but I've never gotten the hang of the arm-over-arm, turn-your-head-and-breathe-thing. I will flail about in the manner of someone having an underwater epileptic seizure, and will go precisely nowhere.
  • Math in my head: Math is impossible for me at the best of times, but without pen and paper I am entirely incapable of doing even the simplest things. 30% of $25.00? Less than $25, but more than $12....that's the best I can do. Lots of people think I am just lazy, but truly, it's like asking me to start speaking in Portuguese or something.
  • Alphabetical order: When I have to figure out where something lies in the alphabet, I have to run through it in my head.... "l, m, n, o, P!"
  • Hit a ball: Again, plenty of people have tried, in vain, to get me to learn how to hit a ball with something; a club, a racket, a bat, anything. My father, various boyfriends, gym teachers, all ended up bursting every vein in their heads because I was utterly incapable of connecting with a ball.

    But I can do various other things very well, which make up for the other talents that I lack:
  • I can cook anything. I can even eat something at a restaurant and figure out how to make it at home. Few other skills are more valuable.
  • Make stuff: I can sew, make cards, , do calligraphy, make my own jewelry and all sorts of knitting and crochet. I've made hats, sweaters, pajamas, mittens, artwork, necklaces, socks, scrapbooks, skirts, shorts, Christmas ornaments and Halloween costumes. The Mister can make furniture, build computers and he grows our vegetables in the summer. We are practically Amish.
  • Read maps: Until I watched the Amazing Race I had no idea how many people couldn't read a map properly....that show is full of people who couldn't find their own asses with both hands. Himself, who is very good at map reading, still has to turn the map around until it is oriented with his position on the earth, and go from there. My map reading skills kick ass, and I am a human GPS.
  • Drive stick shift: The first car I ever owned was a manual transmission because it was cheaper than an automatic; it was either figure it out or have a very expensive paper-weight sitting in the driveway. I figured it out. Pride and greed are very powerful motivators.
  • Whistle Not with two fingers, but I can whistle a tune pretty accurately. It doesn't seem to bother my children or the cat nearly as much as my singing does.

At least the first list is made up of things that I am entirely okay with not being able to do. I've lived a full and rich life without them, and will continue to do so. Except for the whistling thing; I'd love to be able to do that.

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Cat Thermometer Part 2.

It's cold out tonight. The weather website says it's -12C, but I'd say it's "minus you should think about emigrating" Celcius. We used to work with a guy from Kenora, which, if you don't already know, is like Timmins, but without the ambiance. Anyway, he used to shake his head and snort when we complained about -12 being cold...."Can you still feel your tongue? Then, it's not that cold." he'd tell us.

I can tell it's cold because my feet really warmed up all day, the van is making the rudest noises imaginable and the cat is in his "meatloaf" pose.

Back in the summer I told you about The Cat Thermometer, whereby Toby behaves as a reasonable gauge for determining the overall temperature. He continues in that vein, only now he compacts himself so tightly in an effort to conserve body heat that he appears to have suffered some horrible industrial accident and is entirely without limbs. In effect, he looks like a giant, furry meatloaf with a head:

This is the front view. I know it's a little difficult to see that his paws are folded in the front and completely invisible, but that's because they are completely invisible.

Side view. Note the abscence of tail. (And the appallingly dirty window behind him.)

Top view. Most like a meatloaf. Everything is tucked in nicely and there is no danger of having any of his appendages falling off with frostbite. You can just see him in a loaf pan, no?

In these pictures, he is sitting in his favorite indoor spot, the front window, which conveniently looks out onto the street. (Also, not so conveniently, the coldest spot in the whole freaking house.) From this post he can survey the neighbourhood and carefully scrutinize the area for any ne'er-do-wells or That Striped Bastard from the next crescent over. (Which is a cat, in case you were wondering, not a person.) In the event that he does spy anyone untoward, he will fix it with a penetrating stare and give them the stink-eye and they will know who's boss.

He is, suitably, sitting in a box with a blanket, which is the cat equivalent of a Laz-E-Boy recliner, I should think.

The meatloaf pose would indicate that a Canadian winter is well and truly here, and that hibernation is, perhaps, the best of all ideas. I couldn't agree more.

May I Take Your Order.

First, let me say that I am not making fun of anyone who does not speak English well, but attempts some sort of communication anyway. But I am rendered helpless with laughter when I read stuff like May I Take Your Order , not because of the effort, but because of the results.

I really lost it at "Big Bowl Four Treasure Frog" and #5001: Cowboy Leg the Beautiful Pole.

Makes me hungry just thinking about it.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Time Well Wasted

I can't help but wonder what I did with my time before we had the internet.
Certainly more productive things than this, Mr. Picasso Head, or this flower generator, or wandering around the baby name wizard.
I'm pretty sure I wasted just as much time as I do now, I just had to work at it a bit more.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Conversations with the Cat

This is how my day goes:

7 a.m.: "Please get off my bladder." "I know you want me to get up, but I have a half a freaking hour yet and I'm not getting up until then." "Yuck, cat slobber in my ear is disgusting!"

7:30 a.m.; "Ow, that really hurts when you do that; that's my bum! Do that again, and you're coming into the shower with me."

8:00 a.m. "I will get your tuna but you have to get out of the way first. You're not helping, you know, can openers only work when the person operating it can use both hands."

9:00 a.m. "So, you want out? Okay, then stop whining and actually get over by the door."

9:10 a.m. "You want in? See if I care."

9:15 a.m. "No, I am not letting you out again."

9:30 a.m. "You're a kitty!"

10:00 a.m. "You know, your body is not transparent, you can't just walk in front of the computer screen and not have me screech at you." "You suck at typing, did you know that?"

11:00 a.m. "No, you are not going out; you'll just want back in."

11:05 a.m. "If I let you out will you leave me alone for 5 minutes?" "You said you'd leave me alone."

11:45 a.m. "I understand it is cold out and you just came in, but for God's sake can you not epoxy yourself to me right now?"

12:30 p.m. "I'm sure my lap is the ideal place for a nap, but I am standing up right now and this is less than pleasant".

1:00 p.m. "Changing the bed linen is a rip-roaring good time, I know, but I'm literally trying to change the sheets here, not entertain you."

2:00 p.m. "There is plenty of room for both of us on this couch, do not look at me like that."

3:00 p.m. "I feel your pain, but you do not get a treat for just showing up."

4:00 p.m. "Please get out of the salad bowl; I did not put it there for you."

5:00 p.m. "Down off the counter, please." "Get down off the counter." "Dammit, off the freaking counter!" "It's kitty jail for you!"

6:00 p.m. "Yes, that other cat across the street is very scary and threatening and I have no doubt you could whip his ass."

7:00 p.m. "Could you sit anywhere else but right on my crochet?"

7:05 p.m. "I realize that, technically, sitting on my arm is "somewhere else", but it is less than ideal, so could you go sit with one of the other people in the room who are not using their arms at the moment?"

8:00 p.m. "Out? Again?"

9:00 p.m. "Sorry, Toby, did we forget about you again? I know, it's cold out, and you are very hard done by. Mea culpa."

10:00 p.m. "Why, yes, I did know about that spider, but I have chosen to leave him the hell alone, mmmkay?"

11:00 p.m. "Because it's my bed."

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Back In My Day

Yesterday it was my birthday, and I was 46. I don't think that is very old, but to a 13 and almost 11 year old, I am positively a battleaxe.
To help celebrate this occasion, Thing 1 and Thing 2 started one of their favorite conversations over dinner, "How Were Things Back In The Dark Ages When You Were Our Age?". This is one conversation that they never tire of, because either their father or myself will come out with all sorts of ridiculous information that is so horrifyingly primitive that it can scarcely be believed, or we will come up with some new, spectacularly fantastic tid-bit to add to the pile.

One thing my children never tire of is hearing about when we used to have to get up to change the tv channel (all 12 of them) and we only had one tv in the house. They were aghast, as if we said we had only one toothbrush in the house...."you mean everyone had to share?!?"

The lack of microwaves, computers, calculators, cordless phones, digital cameras, coffee makers and cell phones leave them speechless with indignation.

When we tell them that we used to have to wait for movies and specials to come on television to see them, they get very confused. A world without DVD players or PVRs is foreign to them, and they keep asking questions like, "so, if you wanted to see 'The Wizard of Oz' you had to wait for it to come on tv?" like it is a complicated concept that they have to unravel. Don't even bother telling them about watching a show when it actually comes on.....they don't get that either.

I've tried telling them about the first drive-through bank I ever saw, and that the transaction had to be done with the teller handing you the bits of paper back and forth through the window. Then Canada Trust came out with ATMs (called "Johnny Cash" machines, if you recall, complete with the Man in Black himself on the commercials.) and they put in drive through banks everywhere. The idea that you had to use the bank before it closed is just makes them shake their heads in disbelief. Also? Drive-through Tim Hortons or McDonald's are so much a part of their little lives that they cannot conceive of a world without them. (When Thing 1 was very little, like about 2, I pulled up to the drive-through bank nearby and a tiny, hopeful voice came out of the back seat of the car: "small fries?")

For some reason the thing that makes them hoot with laughter the most is that I can remember that you used to be able to buy colored toilet paper. It came in pretty pastels of mint green or lavender or pale blue or pink, and sometimes it was scented, too. You could also get it in printed rolls too. I'm not sure why they stopped making that, but it either has to do with environmental concerns, or the fact that all that dye and perfume in contact with your nether region gives you bum cancer or something.

Himself had the girls all a-gog when he told them about Space Food Sticks which were little foil wrapped cylinders of God knows what which apparently was what the astronauts went into space with to keep them in tip-top nutritional shape. The thing that fascinates the kids, and us, too, is the fact that anyone wanted to eat anything called a "food stick". They are astounded to hear that we had to go to a specialty store to get avocados, romaine lettuce and kiwis; the regular grocery stores didn't carry "gourmet" items like that.

As they marvelled at our ability to survive in such medieval times, I had to wonder what they will amaze their own children with. What their coloured toilet paper will be?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Amazing Race 12, Ep. 10

That? Was a great big steaming pile of awesome.

You probably heard Thing 1 and I cheering when we saw that it was Gramps and Nick coming in as Team #3. It was a very screechy episode here at Chez Loudshoes. Lots of startled dogs and cats all over North America tonight, I’d say.

Today is my birthday, and I can honestly say that Nate and Jen being eliminated was one of the best birthday presents I ever had.
And you know what? They never did come in first place. Not once. I keep repeating that to myself because it never, ever is not wonderful.

And by the way, did you hear that episode was recorded on Jen’s birthday? Because she was very quiet about that. (Apparently, everyone else was supposed to step aside and let Jen win because it was her birthday. And she’s 5)

Taipei has good Thai food? Oh, dear. That boy is as thick as two short planks, isn’t he?

TK and Rachel’s “fight” in the elevator? Hee.
On the other hand, Jen’s "I can't decide ....why did you make us take the subway..... step up and be the man and make the decisions so that I am not responsible......we have to take the bus NO I AM NOT FREAKING OUT" moment was just so…..Jen. I get the feeling that she thinks that freaking out and using up all that energy in that way makes her more competitive and intense. (I am always amazed when women like that are able to find men who are willing put up with them. What exactly is the attraction there?)
I loved the part where Jen was spazzing out because TK and Rachel weren’t spazzing out. I realize that everyone deals with stress differently, but honestly, Jenn, maybe you should realize that your way? is not at all productive. You might want to take a page from their book, rather than demand that they behave like you.
Let's go talk to our competition..." Nick and Don are my favorite team here, hands down. I love how Don has gone from money-counting, mud-covered skivvy-wearing grampa to tough, potty-mouthed McGyver skills grampa.

What exactly is the ritual whereby one dons a haz-mat suit and has firecrackers shot at them and then gets doused with water? Those wacky Thais.

Note to Self: Amazing Race Preparation Programme should include learning Chinese, as well as learning how to row a kayak, use a GPS and mine gold.

I am especially pleased that this season of the race has not relied simply on feats of strength or foot races. That, combined with the lack of alpha-male teams has meant that the standings have changed constantly, that there is very little predictability in the outcome and, most importantly, spazzy, bickering teams are eliminated because they are spazzy and bickering, not stayed in because they beat some old farts in a rock-climbing competition.

This is the first time in a long time where I would be happy with any of the remaining teams winning. Ron I'm not so crazy about, but he's trying to be a better person, and his daughter is unbelievably competent. They could win it and I'd be happy. TK and Rachel, because they have been the turtles in this race, slow and steady and I love the way they interact with each other. But I'd be pleased beyond belief if Nick and Don won, simply because Nick has been the only racer to carry two backpacks all around the world.

Finale next week!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Things I Say To The Cat.

Toby and I spend a lot of time together, namely because I'm the one that's home the most and he's the one looking for company. Every couple of hours or so, Toby discovers yet again and with enormous relief, that he has not been abandoned and left to fend for himself, and that the people still exist to give him his food. More often than not, that discovery happens on my watch. I am usually greeted with wild enthusiasm and affection, even though this is a repetition of the same scenario which happened only hours before. "Lather, rinse, repeat" is Toby's motto.

I'm not entirely without fault here; I usually greet him with the same gusto, thereby encouraging his behaviour. He can do this with the rest of the family, especially when he's just come in from outside, or someone gets up first thing in the morning, but I seem to be the beneficiary of most of it, probably because I'm the only one who actually carries on conversations with him. Such as this....

  • I remind him of his species on a regular basis. As per this cartoon, I am compelled to tell him he's a cat, like, a hundred times a day. He never gets tired of it.
  • I commiserate with him on how hard his life must be....."oh, it's so hard to be a cat, you can't open doors or answer the phone or read, you have no opposable thumbs and there's no support group for you! Oh, it's hard to be a cat!" I think he appreciates my sympathy and concern.
  • I tell assure him that he is pretty and his recent weight gain will not affect how we feel about him and that many prominent cat supermodels were full-figured.
  • Thing 1 and I include him in our conversations regularly, asking him his opinion and translating his every nuance for meaning. "Toby, do you think we should go to the mall or Wal-Mart?", and after Toby looks around a bit and maybe licks himself, "Toby thinks we should go to the mall, and maybe get some fries."
  • I ask him every day if he would like his tuna now. I have to be very careful about the timing, because "now" to a cat wanting tuna means "right this very nano-second or by God, I will shred the flesh right off your bones if you are shitting me". So when the time is right, I shout "tuna for you-na!" and he gets all riled up and knows the tuna is definetely on it's way.

I make up songs and sing to him all the time. This amuses me no end, but I'm not sure he fully appreciates my efforts, since I can't sing to save my life. And also, these are a ridiculous waste of my time and creativity, as I'm sure you will agree, and Toby is fully aware of that.

  • "Sexy Cat", sung to the tune of "Sexy Back" ("You're such a sexy cat! You got a furball and it makes you hack! You're kind of skinny and you're kind of fat! But altogether you're a sexy cat!")
  • "Toby The Truck Driving Cat" A song of my own creation, it goes "He's Toby the Truck Driving Cat (Toot! Toot!), He never wears sweaters or hats (Toot! Toot!)". You get the idea.
  • To the tune of "Good King Wenceslaus": Toby is an squawky cat, long and orange and round/ When he doesn't get his way he makes a funny sound!/ Early in the mor-horn-ing/ when no one is arou-hound/Toby makes a noisy fuss/ As though he being drow-ow-owned."
  • "Sir Meows-A-Lot". The tune is best left to one's imagination, but the words are particularly appalling with rhymes such as "he likes to catch a mouse a lot" and "he goes in an out of the house a lot". I'm not proud of that one, but it did make Thing 2 laugh so hard she nearly wet herself, so it has that going for it.
  • "Toby the cat, the wonderful, marvelous cat! His eyes are big, his tail is long, his head is kind of fat, 'cause he's Toby! The wonderful cat!"
And such is our day. He's one lucky cat, no?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Going to the Game.

For the first time in about 30 years, I went to a hockey game tonight. (Thank you Blair and Susan!) The Mister has some friends who were able to get us some tickets (as they are near impossible to get, the tickets, not the friends) and we went to dinner and then the game. I'm not a huge sports fan, in fact, most of the time I am completely the opposite of interested in sports; sometimes I'm offended that sports even exist. But even a hardened cynic such as myself can admit that watching sports on tv and going to a live event is, if you will excuse the pun, a whole different ballgame.

Going to an actual game makes me see, on some level, kind of what the allure of sports is all about: the story isn't written yet, anything can happen. I guess I can appreciate that, if nothing else. Also, when you go to a sporting event, particularly in a fairly small arena like the one we were in tonight, you can hear the hiss of the skates on the ice, and the clap of the stick on the puck and the grunting and puffing and the effort that goes into playing a game. That gets lost on television, I think. There's an immediacy in attending a game that makes it much, much more interesting. Also, there's usually plenty to look at other than the game, if you are so inclined. There's always the scoreboard, the big screen replays, the coaches, and, of course, the people around you.

The Mister and I used to go to plenty of baseball games when we were dating and first married. We'd go to the lots of Blue Jays games when we were young and kidless; we even were lucky enough to go to a World Series game in 93. But the best games I think I ever went to were when the Detroit Tigers had a farm team here for a couple of seasons, and they played at a beautiful old park ("oldest continually operating baseball grounds in the world", in fact) just a couple of blocks from our house. It was spectacular; we'd walk there from work on a beautiful summer's evening, get in for around 5 bucks, grab a slice of pizza for dinner, watch the ball game, and walk on home. The park was small enough that you could hear everything, (including the catcher swearing at the pitcher), there wasn't a bad seat in the place and if you went in after the third inning, tickets were half price. And we got to see some of the most exciting baseball games that have ever been played. It was fabulous.

The Mister went to an NFL game a couple of weeks ago in Detroit, (with Blair again, actually) and I think football is about the only game I don't think I could sit through, at least not without bringing a good book. The games are interminable, and nothing happens for 90% of the time,you can't even make out who's who down on the field and it's played outside in the winter. What's to recommend it? I think they should just make the field shorter and then the games would be over much faster. I remember going to football games in high school, but I don't remember actually watching any of the game. I always felt sort of sorry for the girls who had boyfriends on the team, because they were actually supposed to pay attention.

I went to a cricket game in Ireland once. That was easily the most boring thing I've ever gone to. I drank a lot, so that helped.

I'm thrilled beyond belief that neither one of my kids has a shred of competitive fiber in their little selves, or is athletically inclined whatsoever. Not only would I not want to go to a game, it would kill me if they did badly, and I'd probably have to be restrained if another parent said anything about my child. I'd end up on the news for sure.

I have to say, I was impressed at how efficient the hockey game started at 7, and by God, it was over by about 9:15. I appreciate that kind of competence. Even if they did lose.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Yep, That Would Be Me.

This cartoon represents exactly my daily interaction with the cat.

It gets no better as the day wears on. I wonder how he puts up with me.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Things I Do....

That Are Genius:
1. Buy things in twos.....If I have to buy something that I don't normally buy, like batteries or scotch tape or mascara, I buy two so that we don't run out so easily. When I go to use the second one, I buy two more. This has saved my butt many, many a time.

2. Put a lump of cream cheese in scrambled eggs....You would not believe the difference this makes! You can't taste the cream cheese, but it makes them so much richer and silkier. About a teaspoon per egg should do it; drop it in at the beginning and scramble as usual.

3. Plan the weeks meals.....lest you think I am an anal-retentive, Martha Stewart wanna-be, let me assure you that this is about the only area of my life where I am zealously organized. I check the calendar, to see what our week's obligations are, check the fliers for deals and plan the weeks dinners accordingly. Before I did this, I went to the grocery store 5 times a week and spent 75 bucks every time. "But what if you don't feel like eating that?", I hear you whine....well, then, we don't eat that; it's not cast in stone.

4. I keep a list from year to year about what to pack for the cottage......complete with notes like "don't bother bringing panini maker" and "next year: more chocolate and chips".

5. In the spring, I write on the calendar who needs winter boots and new jackets for October.....Have you ever tried to buy kids winter boots in December? Good luck with that. For some reason retailers make it impossible to buy anything in the season in which you actually would use it. Bathing suits in August? Of course not! But we had plenty in March!

6. I always send Thank You mother is a demon for sending thank-yous, and has instilled in me a dire foreboding of not fulfilling this obligation; all manner of skies will fall on my head if I fail to send a thank you note. And you know what? I've had all sorts of good things happen because of that habit...not once has anyone said "I hated your thank-you note and I will despise you forever for sending it". Quite the opposite.

7. I wind the shoelace twice around the loop twice, so they rarely come untied.

8. Make all my computer password so that I can type them in using only one hand; that way when I have a liquifying cat on my lap, I can hold him and get on the internet at the same time.

Things That I Do That Are Idiotic:

1. I keep buying kitchen gadgets, even though experience has taught me that I will be selling them for 10% of their value at my next garage sale. I currently have a milkshake maker, a clay baker and an apple peeler/corer ready to go, even though I thought that they would change my life.

2. I still freak out when the gas gauge gets down to 1/8 of a tank, even though the Mister's cavalier attitude to filling up has taught me that the car will go for days when the gauge shows "empty". (The Mister used to have an Audi that had a gauge that meant "empty" when it showed empty, and I recall coasting into a gas station when the car had utterly exhausted itself. And still, he thinks 1/8 of a tank means "someday soon, you should look into putting gas in this thing". ) I am really going to have to get over that.

3. I keep expecting that when I go to buy clothes, they will actually fit me and look nice. Bitter disappointment on this score has taught me nothing.

4. I wait until the last minute to get my driver's licence renewed. They send me the thing just before Christmas, and then I forget about it, and I almost always wind up in a sweaty, desperate frenzy to get it before I will be hauled off to jail for having an expired driver's licence.

5. I misplace my keys, like, a million times a day. How hard would it be for me to put them in the same stinking place every time? Way hard, apparently, because I never do it and I lose hours of my life every year searching for the stupid things.

6. I started giving the cat his tuna first thing in the morning, instead of later in the day, or better, at random times so he would never expect it at the same time every day. Now, because I started giving it to him right after I get up, his mission in life is to get me out. of. that. bed.

At least the first list is longer than the second.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Amazing Race 12, Ep. 9

I love Donald. I love him. I would happily racearoundtheworld with that old man until I died. "He is like a bitch for me and I think it's perfect." From your Gramps. He is awesome. Oh, and anyone, anyone, who can use a word like "falutin' " in a sentence without snorting with laughter at themselves is just fine by me.
Also, this exchange just floored me: Don: "Anything can happen in this race."*Pause*Nick: That's so cliche. Don: Yep.

During the opening credits, I couldn't help but marvel at how long ago it's seemed since we saw some of those teams....Lorena and Jason? Hot Latina Sisters? Lesbian Ministers? They were years ago, I tell you!

I could watch Nate and Jennifer come in second all freaking day. That? Never gets old for me. Watching them come in second has surpassed any other team's coming in first, in my books.

Favorite Line of the Night: "It's easier to land a plane than drive in Osaka".
And when Jen said "Its just beautiful here", as they were driving over a huge, 8 lane bridge. Maybe the view off either side was better than what the camera showed.

I figured it had to be a non-elimination leg when TK and Rachel were not given a "cease-and-desist" order from the subway station cleaning man. Given that the sun was setting and they were clearly hours behind everyone else, had this been an elimination round they'd have been Guidoed and told to never mind.
I also get the feeling that if TK and Rachel don't win this thing, their lives and their relationship will carry on just fine, and they will happily remember their experiences and go on to have many more. If Nate and Jennifer don't win this, they will forever blame the other one for it, and never, ever forget it.

It was nice to see a different city in Japan other than Tokyo. The addition of Green-Haired Flower Lady and Wheezing-Death-Throes Taxi Driver added to the whole novelty of the place.

What the hell is wrong with Ron when he is giddy with self-congratulation for treating his daughter with respect and dignity for one whole day? Is this what it's come down to? Because, that is how your are supposed to deal with everyone everyday, asshat.
When they came in first, and were jumping up and down for joy? I thought they might launch themselves right off that ledge they were standing next to. Or that Christina might hurl him right off by herself.

I loved the part where Jen was checking herself out in the mirror of that cab and exclaiming about how cute she was and the lady passenger cocks her head and gives her a "WTF" look .

Also, when Thing 1 and I were watching the show and Jen bitched at Nate for "pushing" her into the cab (when the replay shows he did not such thing) and Jen bitched some more that "that was going to cost" them, Thing 1, exasperated with them both, said "how is that going to cost them", and I told her "because she wants it to". It's like Jennifer works very, very hard to find a way to make everything that goes wrong his fault, so that she can hold it over his head for the rest of their natural lives.

Oh, and applauding robot? Stole my heart.

TK referred to the beginning as "the pit start"! Hee! How has nobody ever said that before?

One of my favorite scenes in the episode was watching Ronald and Don sharing snacks while waiting for their youngsters to complete the taxi task. How strange and refreshing to still have these grumpy old guys in the race so close to the finish.

I really, really hope the Amazing Editors are not setting us up for a "Jenn and Nate only come in first once when it really counts" edit, because right now I'd be happy with anybody but them winning this thing.

Until next week!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

They Don't Just Let You Take Those, You Know.

Yesterdays paper carried the following article, which utterly fascinated me: Man outruns security, boards plane at Pearson.

Basically some strung out (but impressively agile) 20-year-old managed to tear through all the security checkpoints at the Toronto airport and get on the plane and plop himself down in the pilot's seat, yelling "I want to fly the plane!".
God only knows if he actually knows how to fly a plane, otherwise, what did he think he would do with it once he got it up in the air?
And I wonder what was going through the first-officer's mind when she got a load of him.
One of my favorite parts about the article was the way the Peel Regional police officer efficiently described the situation: "It was my understanding he was at a full gallop." Just so you get that Peel Regionals finest were up against fearsome odds here, and couldn't be expected to be able to catch the offender.
Later, the article mentions how an airline employee and some passengers subdued the man, (lucky for him they don't carry tasers) and the rest of the passengers had to get off the plane, passing the guy, while the authorities deal with the mess that is going to make everyone late for their arrival in Charlottetown. Then in my other favortie bit, they tell you that everyone had to pass the guy on their way back to the terminal, and one fed up passenger remarked "I didn't know what to do- whether to step past or kick him."

Friday, January 4, 2008

Weird People I Meet At Work, Part Two

A little while ago a young, Asian woman came into the salon looking to get her hair done. Her English was a bit spotty, but between the magazine she brought in and a lot of gesturing and pantomime and charades, we figured out what she wanted I got down to business.

The style she was looking for was somewhat like this: long and layered, and finished off with a big, fat curling iron. No problem.
As I work away with the curling iron, she asks "how long will this last?". I assume she means the cut, and reply "about 4 to 6 weeks; by that time you'll likely need another cut". She says "no, how long will the curls last?". I pause, thinking that maybe with her English not so good, I'm not getting the meaning here. "The curls, you mean?", holding one up. "Yes, how long will that last?" I pause again, because, really, isn't that an obvious answer to anyone with hair? Finally I answer "well, until the next time you get it wet". "What???" she asks incredulously, "you mean I'll have to style it every day???" Another pause while I flip through the Rolodex in my head for all the possible meanings that sentence could cover. "Why.....yes", I finally reply. "Well, is there anyway to make it last longer than that?" she asks? Now I'm figuring that language is not the problem here, a firm hold on reality is the problem here. I finally say "if you know of a way to make a curling iron set last through a shampoo and a blow dry, I'd love to hear it".
That was the end of the conversation.
I still wonder what, exactly, she was expecting my answer to be.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Things I've Learned About Cooking

My mother has been raving about a free cooking class they hold upstairs at the grocery store every Thursday called "What's For Dinner". The idea is that the chef prepares a recipe which is relatively easy and quick and you will be so gobsmacked with inspiration that you will hurl yourself downstairs to buy the ingredients immediately and do all your grocery shopping at Loblaws for all time because you are so indebted to them. Plus, you get to eat the results of the class, thereby resulting in the proverbial free lunch. (Which does exist, by the way.)
We had a very nice turkey and mixed bean chili, with corn chips, by the way, and it was a very nice way to spend an hour on a winter's afternoon.

Luckily, I like to cook. I say luckily, because I realize that for plenty of people, cooking is a boring, wearying chore that is endless and unsatisfying. As one young woman I work with remarked wistfully, "it must be nice to be able to just go into the kitchen and make stuff and just have it turn out". Actually, yes, it is. (Lest you think I am re-writing history, I have had plenty of stuff not turn out, and in the most repellent fashion possible.) So, from my mistakes I have learned the following about cooking:

Cooking is an art, but baking is a science. You can mess around with proportions and seasonings and substitutions all you like when you are making a stew or a soup or a pasta sauce, but when a cake recipe says "3/4 cup of packed brown sugar", they mean it. Not half a cup, not icing sugar and don't think you can get away with having it all loosey-goosey, either. Baking is a harsh mistress.

Complicated is not always better. There are plenty of chefs and cookbook authors who seem to think that everyone who is cooking has a fully stocked, professional kitchen with wine fridge and an 8-top gas stove, a fishmonger on speed-dial and a sous-chef to do all the prep work. This means that I frequently see recipes for something simple, like an apple crisp, that begins "On the first day, go out into your orchard.....". This recipe is more for the writer than for the cook. Give it a pass.

There is no substitution for butter. In an effort to cook a little healthier, I once bought some "low fat butter", (which is sort of like buying "low-carb bread") and when I went to melt it for sauteeing, I noticed that it.....didn't. Melt, I mean. It sort of got softer, and gooeyer, like a marshmallow, but it didn't resemble butter in the least. I decided that marshmallowy shrimp was an experience I would be better off not having, and bought real butter from thereon in. Don't even get me started on margarine.

Make sure you have everything before you start cooking. The French have a fancy name for this "mise-en-place", but really, it means,make sure you have everything before you start cooking. Wrestling with an 18 pound turkey whiich is the temperature of the surface of the sun is not the time to realize that you have no platter on which to put it. Or stuff to make gravy. Or anything to go with the turkey.

A good knife is really worth it. I've tried to cook in other people's kitchens where they don't have decent knives and it is torturous. A wonky, dull, flimsly knife is really hard to work with, and makes the job a million times less pleasant, not to mention unsafe, as you will be tempted to use it on your own wrists by the end of the prep.

The trickiest thing about cooking is getting all the food on the table at the same time. I once went to a dinner party where we ate the appetizers, and then the vegetables, and then the potatoes and a few more appetizers and then the dessert and a couple of hours later, the lamb. (It took a lot longer to roast than the cook thought.) It wasn't so bad, though, as the hostess served copious amounts of wine and everything was delicious, even if we did eat the entire meal in stages over an entire evening. Which brings me to my last rule:

It is not always going to go your way. Even an experienced cook can have a stringy roast or gummy rice or a black bean soup that looks like vomit. Chalk it up to experience and move on.

I can see that if you put a lot of effort into cooking and it turns out badly time and time again, it's discouraging. But every now and again, when it turns out really, really well? It's all worth it.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Big Night Out

In the spirit of "start as you mean to go on", we began the new year in cracking good order. After celebrating at midnight (at least the other 3 did, I fell asleep) we all slept in to an obscene hour, lounged around in our pajamas for the day and then picked up my parents to go out to dinner. I can only hope the rest of the year continues in such a manner.

My parent took us out to dinner to one of our favorite places, The Mandarin. (It's one of those enormous Chinese buffets, with exotic-but-not-disturbingly-so choices.) If you have never been there, you should, because not only is there enough food to meet your nutritional needs for a week, the people-watching is mesmerizing; plenty of food and entertainment at one low price. Can't beat that.

The kids love the Mandarin because the rules of nutrition are suspended for the duration and they are allowed to eat anything in any order they like. (Once I took a bunch of kids for one birthday or another, and one kid alternated sushi and ice cream for the entire meal.) Thing 2 starts out with noodles, moves on to the lime sherbet and then careens around the buffet picking up random items and happily scarfing down whatever she's put on her plate. Deep fried shrimp nestle up to chocolate covered strawberries, and she's one very happy kid. Thing 1, who is a little more discriminating when it comes to food, gets bread, jello and waffles, in that order. There's plenty of food to sneer at: "deep-fried imitation scallops" and very inauthentic "Peking-style pork", but I'm not from China, so who am I to cast aspersions? They do a very nice creme caramel (probably inauthentic also, as I am pretty sure it did not originate in China) and their hot and sour soup is the best I've had anywhere.

When we got there, we were greeted by a couple of very smiley hostesses who were clearly delighted to see us, but sick with worry that we might not have made a reservation, as they were all booked up. The palpable relief on their faces when we assured them that we had made a reservation was a mite disturbing; the investment they had in our enjoyment of our meal was more than a little out of proportion, if you ask me. (Although, this did make a refreshing change from the usual displays of "customer service" one gets, such as when the women at Tim Hortons make the words "can I help you" sound more like a threat than an actual offer of assistance.) The hostess, who either was beyond thrilled with our presence or slightly brain-damaged, slo-o-o-o-owly walked us to our seats, all the better to give us the opportunity to gander at the buffet, which was completely unnecessary as we are three generations of professional buffet users in this family.

After we were seated and drink orders taken, we headed out to the buffet like soldiers on a reconnaissance mission. Everyone dispersed in a very efficient manner, regrouped back at the table and immediately assessed the contents of each other's plates, the identity of the more interesting bits and the relative location thereof. This procedure continued happily until we were fit to bursting and waddled out the door.

In the meantime, there was the entertainment to be had. The first table as we came in consisted of a family (we think) who looked like they had just rolled out of their shack adjacent to the coal mine in Appalachia and were eating the first food they had had in days in a very cranky fashion.The seemed to be very put out with one another, and no amount of Peking-style pork was going to improve the situation. The Mister and I were fascinated, not only by their demenor, but by the fact they the four of them didn't seem to possess an entire set of teeth between them.
Behind them was a table of six elderly women that were either celebrating a birthday or someone's recent widowhood, because they were ordering all sorts of fruity, colourful drinks with umbrellas in them, like Singapore Slings and Blue Hawaiians and Mai Tais and knocking them back with impressive aclarity. And, they were no slouches in the buffet department, either; they made the most of that senior's discount. And at the end of it all, they each had a nice cup of tea.

Since it was a special day, the Mandarin had crab legs on the buffet, on both the cold and the hot side. I rather like crab legs, as much for the entertainment as the morsels inside. Not only can you poke your youngest child in the forehead from across the table with one alien looking crab-leg, but with all the cracking and wrestling and coaxing the meat out, you can easily work off the calories consumed.

By the time we had finished the last macaroon, we managed to fold ourselves into the van and get home and put on our recently vacated pajamas and loll about all evening in a sated state of stupor. It was a fine way to start off the new year.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year!

The notion of a New Year's Resolution is largely useless to me, because of the irredeemable fact that I am as likely to forget that I made it at all, let alone keep it. But every now and again I make a point of resolving to do something or not do something, and it usually has nothing whatsoever to do with the calendar and everything to do with a near fatal accident or breathtaking lapse in judgement that renders me woozy with regret and muttering "I have got to stop doing that!"
In the past, I have sworn to augment my behavior with the following results:

Stop Running Yellow Lights: I realized, at some point in my driving career, that the odds were decidedly not in my favour any more, and some time soon I was going to sail through the wrong yellow light and either get a massive ticket or nailed by some idiot who was no better at driving than I was. I can't say it was particularly easy, but I now do not see a yellow light as a challenge to be met and conquered.

Quitting Smoking: I was a fairly dedicated smoker for quite a few years, but eventually even I could see that there was no way I could justify it any longer. I anticipated a struggle of biblical proportions in quitting, but I have to say, it was surprisingly easy. The yellow lights thing was way harder.

Not to Bitch So Much. There was a time when it was fashionable to sneer at just about everything and complain constantly to show just how much more hip and with it one was than everyone else in the room. That time was last year. Anyway, I did decide to make an effort to say less mean things and more nice things. At least out loud, I make no apologies for the shouting in my head.

Be Less of a Slob. Nope, I've been a spectacular failure at this one, especially when it comes to the car. (I tend to see our van as just one big purse on wheels, and it is a toxic waste dump, as a result). I'm still a slob, but at least I've come to accept my limitations.

Go To Funerals. My Good Friend Wendy has a policy, which I've adopted, which states that you go to every funeral you should go to. If you think "I should go to that", then you make every effort to do so. Nobody every says, "well, that funeral was a waste of time."

Cooking With Less Butter: That was a stupid resolution, and I tossed it out the window about 48 hours after making it. In an effort to cook a bit healthier, I decided to use less butter when cooking, but margarine is horrible and olive oil is useless in baking and screw it, I'm using butter.

Floss: I hate flossing my teeth. I have no idea why, it's not an particularly distasteful or onerous task, but I hate every minute of it. Do it ,I will, though, mostly to stave off those gargantuan dental bills we seem to be racking up lately. If flossing today means one less root canal tomorrow, then I'll buck up and do it.

Stop Reading So Damn Late Into The Night I have a terrible habit of going to bed and reading at about 9:30 at night, and then staying up way later than I intend to because I can't put the book down. (The last book I read "World Without End" by Ken Follett had me up until midnight every night for over a week, it damn near killed me.) The book will be there in the morning, go to sleep!

Write In the Blog Every Day Some days are better than others, but I do write!

Luckily, my life is such that my resolutions are usually small potatoes; at least I don't have "stop using heroin" or "get custody of the kids back", or "finish work on the grow house" on my list. If the worst thing I do all year is run a yellow light and use more butter than is absolutely necessary, then I think I can live with that.