Friday, February 29, 2008

A Girl Can Dream, Can't She?

My friends Wendy and Sandy e-mailed me yesterday, ecstatic with the news that, Dave Matthews and Jack Johnson will be playing a concert at the Kokua Festival in Hawaii at the end of April.
In case you didn't know, Dave Matthews is my Rock and Roll Boyfriend, and I have the Mister's permission to walk out the door without looking back him should he ever come calling for me. (Mr. Matthews is married with three kids, so it's not looking likely that this shall ever happen. And he doesn't know I exist. And I might not really like him very much once I actually meet him. But how cool is Himself?)

Wendy and Sandy were thrilled with the idea that two performers of which we three are so enamoured will be playing together, and the fact that the concert will be somewhere warm and exotic is the icing on the cake.

After some investigation, Wendy was genuinely disappointed to discover that the tickets were sold out, and we were out of luck.

Because, of course, getting the tickets to this event was our only obstacle.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Things I Do That I'm Pretty Sure My Husband Hates.

The Mister and I have a lo-o-o-ong history.....we knew each other for 8 years before we dated, and we've been married for 15. We've worked together at the same establishment for 25 years, and managed to maintain a civil relationship for most of that time. I'm eternally grateful that he knew what he was getting into, with me, and took me on anyway.
Himself is very easygoing and even tempered and laid-back; so much so that I have been tempted to shine a light into his eyes on occasion, to see if his pupils react. It's hard to distinguish between "relaxed watching a movie" and "comatose".
Although I am usually thoroughly charming and delightful company, I know that there are times when my quirks and behavior rouse him out of his usual state of contented stupor and his ire flares for a nanosecond or so.

I Talk To Him In The Mornings: Himself really does not function on anything but a molecular level before 9 a.m. And yet, I persist in trying to engage him in conversation when he gets up, because I am a morning person and do not yet fully understand that he is not. When I ask him at 7 a.m. what he would like for dinner that night, I get a confused, irritated, slitty-eyed glare that takes up more energy than he possesses at the time. When I talk to him in the mornings, he has to go back to bed and have a nap.

I Lose Things: I am perpetually misplacing things around the house, putting things down while thinking about something else, and then utterly unable to find them again. It drives him crazy. (This is a function of having to think of too many things at once. I tell my family that my head is like a toilet; it can only contain so much shit at any given time.) The Mister cannot figure out how I can put down a receipt or a pair of scissors, only to forget where I put it ten seconds later.

I Take Off My Nail Polish: The Mister HATES the smell of nail polish remover, and when I take off the nail polish and put the little cotton balls in the wastebasket in our bathroom, he can smell it in the bedroom and it makes him dream of nuclear waste dumps and Soylent Green.

I Don't Understand Most of What He Is Talking About: When he talks about fixing computers, which is a skill I value entirely and I'm really very grateful he can do, my eyes glaze right over. I think he thinks that I'm not interested, (and he's right), but I'm so happy that he's talking to me at all that I will valiantly put on an interested face and nod my head. But he knows he may as well be saying 'blah, blah, blah' and I would have the exact same expression.

I Can't Seem To Follow Movies: I think "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy was pure torture for the man...."wait! is that the same guy from before?", "so he used to be a hobbit?", "how come she's not able to go there?", "is that the guy from 'Pirates of the Caribbean'?" and so on for nine hours.
It doesn't help that I cannot stay awake once I sit down to watch a movie, so it took me three attempts to get through "Oceans Eleven", and by then I had absolutely no clue whatsoever as to what was going on and had to have it patiently explained to me in detail.

I Refuse To Put Raisins in Anything: I hate raisins in things. On their own they are passable, but in baked goods they are forbidden in the Loudshoes kitchen. Raisins in buttertarts, in particular, are an abomination against God and man. The Mister cannot accept this edict, and occasionally will argue with me on it, like there is any chance in this lifetime that I will change my mind. I will not. (His mother makes very nice buttertarts with raisins [she makes 3 for me without!] and he will have to be satisfied with that.)

I Sing: Okay, everybody hates that one.

All things considered, we have a pretty good deal with one another.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Not Exactly "Parents of the Year".

We went out to Wal-Mart last week, because that is what passes for a family outing for the Loudshoes family. (I hate Wal-Mart, but when you need to get apples, a lottery ticket, shoes, a mop and milk, it's hard to find anywhere else you to go without making 43 stops.)

While Thing 1 and I were busy perusing the myriad of choices in the sock department, Thing 2 and the Mister were off in the junk food aisle, plotting their imminent decline in health. Thing 2 adores microwave popcorn, and was thrilled to find a case of this on sale for a ridiculous price:

I wasn't too happy with this nutritional decision, but since the Mister had already approved it's purchase, I relented. When we got home, I checked the label, to find that one bag of popped corn has 250 calories and 15 grams of fat. (By contrast, the same amount of hot-air popcorn has about 138 calories and 0 grams of fat.)

As she happily tore into a freshly popped bag, I remarked to Himself that we might as well just give her a cigarette.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Only Their Mothers Could Love Them

It was Pizza Day at the Things' school today, and I went to do my bit. As the Pizza Mom in the classroom, one's duties include handing out pizza to the correct children in the correct amounts ("No, you mother only paid for 2 slices, and if you want chocolate milk you are going to have to duke it out with her."), supervising the kids during the eating period ("The manufacturing of spitballs will result in me eating your pizza myself, and right in front of you, too.") and generally enforcing the rules ("Mrs. Loudshoes is a hardass. She makes you say 'please' and 'thank you' every single time.")
Today I had to help out in the other Grade 8 class, because there was no other Grade 8 mother around, and all the other mothers are afraid of the Grade 8's. (Some of those kids are huge.) I know most of the kids, and they are pretty nice, despite their size and the over-abundance of hormones. But, oh my God, they can be trying.
I asked one kid close by to hand out the napkins, and he obliged willingly. Except, we had been shortchanged on the napkins, and he only handed out the few we had and then just.....stopped. He didn't tell me, didn't go get more, didn't think anything of it. When I figured this out, I asked him why he didn't tell me, and he suddenly lost all intelligence in his face and became this slack-jawed, babbling idiot, who's reasoning abilities vanished altogether. I sent another kid down to get more napkins.
She came back in a minute or so and put the napkins on the table. She then sat down, raised her hand and said "May I please have a napkin?". I'm not kidding. She's not the type of kid who would do it just to yank my chain; she honestly did not connect the dots between the two things.
We also were not given the juice orders with our stuff, so I had to go down to the front lobby to pick up those. I asked who needed juice, and the kids missing it put up their hands, and I went off to get it. Except, when I came back in the room, one kid said "I didn't get my juice". To which I replied "why didn't you raise your hand when I said 'who needs juice'?". And he said "I didn't know you meant me." Of all the possible interpretations of "who needs juice", I'm not sure how he could have missed "tell me if you need juice".
The rest of the lunch period passed without incident.

I was amused at this exchange, though: Student #1 asks one of the Korean kids, of which our school has a large population "are you from North Korea or South Korea?". Korean Kid says (a bit snottily) "what do you think?". Student #1, a bit puzzled, says, "How should I know?" Korean Kid snorts a bit and says "South Korea. We're all from South Korea. Duh!" Student #2 says "Why all from South Korea?" To which I pipe in with "They're all from South Korea because the people from North Korea aren't allowed to get out of there." They all look at me like it was the cat that suddenly started to speak and Korean Kid said, in awed tones, "how does she know?"

I am reminded that my own 13 year old? Is a gem.

Monday, February 25, 2008

"Hey, You Know What We Should Make....?"

One of the things I love about cooking is the fact that there are few things you can buy at a store that you cannot make yourself, and better, too. The adventurous cook has little to lose by experimenting, and plenty to gain.

I've made lots of things that were infinitely better than what I could buy at a store, and also buckets of things that I would have been way better off paying someone else to make.

Bread: making bread is incredibly easy, not to mention cheap. Cheap enough to experiment a bit with the recipe, too. ("What if I put in olives!") The worst that will happen is that you will have a blobby loaf that weighs a ton. (Warning: Using all whole-wheat flour, instead of the recommended ration of all-purpose, is not recommended, unless, of course, you want give your digestive system a major workout.) The smell of baking bread in the house is worth the effort alone.
Cakes, cookies, pastries: Much better ingredients make for much better sweets. Besides, the entertainment factor for a bunch of cranky kids is unbeatable.

Pasta: I've made my own pasta a few times, and I honestly can't say that I see much of a difference between it and the stuff at the store. Now, perhaps if I was making ravioli stuffed with lobster and truffles, it might be worth it, but I'm not dipping into the mortgage payment to find out.

Taco Shells: I buy the soft flour tortillas, and fry them up into the requisite, crunchy receptacles myself. Totally worth it. It makes the Old El Paso ones taste like drywall. Once, when I couldn't get the corn tortillas, I over reached myself a bit and made them out of masa harina myself. I couldn't get them quite as thin as they were supposed to be and they fried up a bit thicker and chewier than they should have been. The Mister claimed it was like eating a wallet. So, I buy the tortillas, but make the taco shells.

Crackers: As I read in a book once, for maximum guest intimidation, you can't beat home made crackers. ("Would you like some crackers? I made them myself! Hah!") I'm not sure why they got the reputation of being something you just don't make at home. But, they are pretty easy to buy, too.

Sloppy Joes: For some reason, the Mister had been asking for Sloppy Joes for years, and I had refused to make them. One too many bad cafeteria experiences, maybe. Anyway, I relented, finally, and made them from scratch. My (then) neighbour, Wendy, and Himself, nearly hurt themselves laughing, as they incredulously asked "why didn't you just get the canned stuff?". I was gobsmacked....why didn't I just get the canned stuff? The next time I opened the can, slopped the stuff into the frying pan with the meat and whallopped the whole mess onto hamburger buns. Damned if I could tell the difference.

Salad Dressing. I almost always make salad dressing. I've taught Thing 2 how to make it, too, and she usually performs that task if she's nearby at suppertime. It is so much better than the bottled stuff, it's really not fair to compare them.

Spaghetti Sauce: Tomato sauce is probably the thing I've made the most attempts at with the least success. Yes, making your own sauce is pretty easy and cheap, but opening a jar is pretty easy and cheap, too. I've come to a compromise, of sorts: I doctor up the jarred stuff, making it better than it was. A glug of balsamic vinegar, (and red wine, if there's any open) a smidge of sugar, a bit of tomato paste and a bay leaf, and it's as good as anything I've made from scratch.

Pickles. My mother's friend, Mrs. Park, made the best sweet pickles, and I would happily sit down and eat an entire jar when she brought them over. I tried making them a couple of times, and although they totally worked, I'm not sure they were worth the mammoth effort. It took a whole day to make them, it was always stinking hot at that time of year, and I was the only one who appreciated them. Now I buy them or ask Mrs. Park if she has any hanging around.

Pizza Making your own pizza is, hands down, the best reason to own an oven.

Marshmallows: Today, with the help of my new toy, I was able to make my own marshmallows. Thing 1 and I have been scarfing them down ever since. They certainly delivered the maximum satisfaction with a minimum amount of effort. We spent a good 10 minutes fantasizing about the flavours we could use for the subsequent batches....chocolate! strawberry! maple! caramel! We can put marshmallows in the "Worth It" category.
I think part of being a good cook is knowing when to roll up one's sleeves, and when to hop in the car and drive to the grocery store.

Friday, February 22, 2008

A Charmed Life.

I was reminded today, that I really do live a charmed existance, most of the time. My stress levels are negligable most of the time, and any stress I do have is largely self-induced. (Note to self: put the car keys back in the same place every single time. Jeez.)
I did a young lady's hair back on Wednesday, and through my own stupid fault, it did not turn out the way she wanted. (I'd recount the whole story, but it's long and I don't come out of it well at all.) She was a very lovely, sweet and incredibly understanding girl, and I was lucky that she was so nice about the whole thing.
Yesterday, I got a call from the receptionist that she wanted to come back and have it done again today. Yay! I thought, at least she's giving me another shot, which, frankly, is probably more than I would have done under the circumstances. But Boo! My stomach started to do gymnastics at the thought of screwing it up again. And my digestive system proceeded to taunt me and jeer at me for the next 24 hours.

As I did the fix-up job today, I prayed mightily....."Okay, God, you have really not given me much slack this week; almost everything I've asked for, I've been turned down on. So, come on, could you please, please, make this one job turn out for both our sakes? Because I don't really want to quit hairdressing just yet, and I don't want her to stalk me and kill me, because she is much too pretty to be in jail." And God must have been in a very charitable mood, because it turned out just fine, and the young woman was very happy and I nearly broke down in grateful tears right then and there.

And as I drove home, with a whopping great headache, and my shoulders up around me ears and my belly growling because I hadn't been able to eat, I realized that I literally couldn't remember the last time I had been so stressed out. And I think a lot of people feel like this a lot of the time. And I'm okay with having the occasional reminder that I have it pretty good. Even if it does interfere with lunch.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Everybody's Happy

The Mister has done two things in as many days that have thrilled me to my toes and ensured that I will cleave unto him for good.

One is that he cleaned out the freezer. I mean cleaned it out, defrosted it, swept up all the frozen peas that had made a break for it, and wiped down the sides. (I have cleaned out the freezer myself before, and made a great big noisy fuss about doing it too. Hate that job.) Then he went and bought a couple of containers to organize the freezer and keep it that way, and I keep going in and opening it and looking at it with awe and wonder. It is beautiful, and I am beside myself with gratitude.
The second thing he did was order me a stand-mixer online and then went and picked it up today. I have lusted after one of those things for God knows how long, and could never justify splashing out the money for one. After our old hand mixer coughed it's last breath a few weeks ago, Himself set himself a task of finding a stand-mixer on sale, and by God, he did it. (The old hand-mixer was a shower present from when we got married 15 years ago, and now that I think of it, I can barely believe it lasted as long as it did.)
Here is my lovely new Birthday/Valentine's gift:

Note the shiny, shiny bowl and the pristine white casing. (Note also the lovely gold, floral, '70's tile backsplash in my kitchen, which is original to the house. I keep hoping that if I wait long enough, it will be considered "vintage".) It makes my kitchen look so much more.....swishy.

I made meringues in it right away, and it whipped up those egg whites to peaks as firm and glossy as Posh Spice's fake boobs in nanoseconds. I think I am very happy with my new aquisition.

Of course, I was not the only one happy with this new thing, because the new thing came in a box. And Toby adores a good box:

See? Everybody's happy.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Little Things for Little Minds....Pt. 2

Haven't you always wanted to make typing more exciting?!?! I know I have. (Although, if you ever saw me type, you would understand that it has a less than predictable outcome from the get-go. I backspace at least at much as I type.)
Well, a little website designed to do just that has enthralled me.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

In Case You Couldn't Tell.....

Our receptionist at work, Barb, had a conversation recently with a new sales rep for a product we carry. It all went well, and the rep said she would send a fax in the next few days to confirm the order.

The fax came soon thereafter, stating "I was very nice talking to you the other day." (We assume she meant to write "It was very nice talking to you the other day". )

Oh, we had a good laugh over that. Was she just being overly defensive, or did she have some self-esteem problems that required constant reassurance? Did she just want to make it clear that this was as good as she was going to get? Or was it that she was keeping a record in case some sort of litigation would ensue?

This is what amuses us when we should be working.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Family Day.

Today is Family Day, which if you don't live in this province, is a new holiday designed by the provincial government to give us all more quality time to spend with our families in our increasingly hectic lifestyles. It is also known as "The Day the New Government Promised Us In The Last Provincial Election To Get Us To Vote For Them". Of course, as hairdressers, the Mister and I always have Mondays off, because we work on Saturdays, and as a business, it's costing us around a thousand dollars to pay our staff for a stat holiday. For a day we are off anyway. But, a day off is a day off, and I will take one any way I can get it; it was nice to get a bonus day to sleep in and not have to be anywhere.
I don't think we have a big problem finding time to spend with each other. The Mister and I have been lucky enough to be able to design our lives so that neither one of us works a 5 day week, and we get to be home with the kids way more than most people do. We live a very nice life for people who don't work very hard. We also have a very firm "One Child-One Activity" policy that has worked very well for us as well, and we are not off hither and yon every evening chauffering children around the city. Perhaps they are not benefiting from numerous learning opportunities, but they have a rational mother who's sanity is intact. A fair bargain, I think.
Today we went off to feed the ducks down by the stream. Even though the temperatures have moderated somewhat over the past few days, the themometer dropped steadily today, and the wind was vindictive. But the ducks were counting on us, so off we went.

Here is Thing 1, Thing 2 and the Mister:

Notice that everyone is wearing Wellies. As our background is Irish, we are entirely comfortable wearing the national costume of our people.

I wish you could hear the ducks; they were clearly shouting "Buffet! Buffet!!" to all the ducks in the vicinity, because there were ducks flapping in from all over the place in no time. It was like a supply plane had landed at a UN refugee camp. At one point, Thing 2 had one duck literally eating out of her hand. Fortune favours the brave, after all. The duck was torn between getting something delicious to eat and taking the chance of being murdered at any moment. Thing 2 had to continually remind it not to eat off her fingers, and then there was the issue of "duck slobber". It was tense all around.

We hightailed it home not too long after, because nobody could feel their toes anymore.
And that was our first Family Day. Not bad at all.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Rainy Days and Sundays

After last Friday's Whine and Cheese Party, things have looked up considerably. The temperature has risen to well above zero, and the snow and ice are melting all over the place. Literally. Even though it is a pissy, dreary day with the rain pelting down, I am a happy woman. A break in the weather, even this kind of break, is a relief. It must be the Irish DNA.

Thing 2 wanted to go to the mall with a friend this afternoon, and, mostly to get out of the house, the Mister and I went too. She and the friend wandered off on their own, and we headed for the food court. I badly needed a coffee, and because Himself has a metabolism that goes at a hundred miles an hour, he needed a snack despite having eaten lunch an hour beforehand. (Jealousy is an emotion that I don't often experience, simply because not too many people have anything I want, but having a constitution that allows you to eat anything you want without gaining weight? I would happily sacrifice a limb for that.)

While at the foodcourt, we had ample opportunity to people-watch, which is always fun. Doing it with the Mister has the added bonus of reminding me that he is not actually that much better a person than me after all. (I'm so used to the snarky, sneering voices in my own head that it is refreshing to hear a similar litany from someone else's.) We watched an older gentleman carefully and deliberatly coat his knuckles with Chap-stick. We were enthralled.
We speculated on another man's obvious wig: who did he think he was fooling with it? Instead of making us think "why, that's a fine speciman of a man!" it made us think "he must really hate being bald." And then we wondered if he knew it was made for a woman and hoped he got a phenomenal deal on it.
We pondered the notion of when it became acceptable to go out the door in one's pajamas. There were hoards of roaming teenagers at the mall, and most of them clearly didn't bother getting dressed before leaving the house. We were puzzled....does it take such an enormous amount of time and energy to put on a pair or honest-to-God pants? The Mister and I openly declared our age by questioning this practice. ("Kids these days!")
Himself mused aloud as to why some people, who clearly did put a lot of time and effort into their appearance, still managed to look like they had just come from Clown School. Where they were failing.
When we saw an old guy walk by with a Michael Shumacher jacket on, Himself mentioned that if that was the real Michael Shumacher, then retirement has not been kind. (Personally, I've never understood wearing an article of clothing with a famous person's name on it. You know you're not actually Wayne Gretzky or Tiger Woods, right? And they? have never heard of you.)
Then Himself kicked around the notion that, if one's children were not attractive people, did their parents still think they were attractive? I thought that, yes, most mothers would think that their children were beautiful, all evidence to the contrary being moot. We wandered down this particular philisophical path for some time, using our fellow foodcourt patrons as evidence ("See that woman, does she know her daughter is less than attractive and love her anyway, or does she think she's actually attractive?"), coming to no real conclusion other than the fact that the phrase "a face only a mother could love" did, indeed, have some merit.

In this fashion, we wiled away a soggy afternoon. Nothing too exciting, but an afternoon in the Mister's company is always welcome. Combined with the constant drip off the eaves outside, and my mood is considerably brighter.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Friday Night Pity Party

It's that time of year again. Around the second week of Februrary, I hit a wall in terms of being fed up with winter. I know it's Canada, and February and this is what it's like here, but honest to God it is tiresome.
And I know it's not just me; I've had numerous clients in today and Wednesday who murmurred "just do something with me" in the same tone of weary exasperation.

I'm tired of my clothes, I hate my hair, my feet have been cold for 3 months now, my skin resembles that stuff they wrap around Egyptian mummies and I've given up chocolate for the time being.

I could count my blessings, but I don't want to.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Secret's Out.

One of the (young) women I work with asked me recently what the Mister and I were doing for Valentine's day. I replied that we have been married for 15 years, and that that sort of thing went out the window a l-o-o-o-ng time ago. Not that we aren't still very pleased with each other, or that we don't appreciate each other, but the days of romantic foo-for-all are long gone. I'd rather he was nice to me the other 364 days of the year, rather than pissing me off all that time and then trying to make it up on February 14th.

Most men have never figured out (or had anyone tell them) that it's the day to day stuff that really matters, not the occasional grand gesture. To most women I know, the most thrilling words in the world are not "Good God! You are the most beautiful, dynamic, breath-taking woman I have ever met!". The most thrilling words in the world are "I'll do the dishes".

The Mister does all the laundry every Wednesday. For that alone, I'm his forever.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Little Things for Little Minds....

I found this while wasting time on the internet the other day. (I did find something, therefore, I was not wasting time.)
It's a map of the world, but inverted: all the land is water, and all the water is land.

It kept me amused for a while, anyway.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Happy Birthday, Thing 2!

It is Thing 2's birthday today; our youngest is eleven. I hadn't realized, until I had my own children, how someone's birthday belongs to their mother, too. After all, it was a pretty big day for her, as well.
Thing 2 had been dying for a Wii for Christmas, but I had no intentions of standing in line for 6 hours on the slim chance that I might be able to procure one. We didn't tell her, but we didn't even bother trying to get one. Besides, I was morally opposed to yet another computer game in the house, as we all spend far too much time in front of various screens for my liking. I figured Wiis were like hot-tubs: the best one's were at someone else's house.
I've always told my children that, if they want someone to do something for them, the best way is to make it easy on the person doing it; solve the problem you are creating for them, tell them how it benefits them, make their lives easier and you are more likely to get them to help you. In this spirit, Thing 2 proposed that perhaps a Wii could be considered if she did not have a birthday party this year. I told her that I would get her 10 Wiis if I never had to throw a birthday party ever again.
So the hunt was on. They were still pretty hard to find, even a month or more after Christmas. Finally, the Mister was able to get his hands on one just a week or two ago. We gave it to her this weekend, with the understanding that it was for her sister's birthday (in July) as well. (We wanted none of this "you can't play on my Wii" nonsense.
I don't think my children have voluntarily been above ground since they got that thing....they live strictly in the basement now. It is fun; I've played a couple of games myself, and not stunk at much at it as I do with real-life sports. (It takes a bit of getting used to; for instance, one does not have to run up to the television when bowling, speed is not the issue here. )
I made some cupcakes that the Mister brought into her class this afternoon, and I made her favorite dinner (which is possibly the easiest, most boring dish ever; a glorified Hamburger Helper, really.) and my mother made a lemon-meringue pie (Thing 2 dislikes cake. Or ice cream. Or chocolate. Honestly, if I hadn't given birth to her myself I would doubt her parentage.) And then she played on her Wii.
Eleven year olds are fairly easy to please.

Monday, February 11, 2008

"Hello, Kettle? Pot Here...."

Today in entertainment news, the most egregious case of "Are You Kidding Me?"that's come along in a LONG time, Keith Richards admonishes Amy Winehouse to straighten up and fly right. Seriously, do you think he was able to say that with a straight face? Because, come on.

Now, from what I can see from Ms. Winehouse, she is one large bundle of "good God where do we start". But you know you have hit absolute rock bottom when Keith friggin' Richards thinks maybe you've over done it a tad.
Here is a picture of Amy Winehouse.

Now, I don't know about you, but she scares the crap outta me. The eyeliner, the hair, the tatoos, the dental issues. None of this says "stable, responsible, functioning adult" at all.
However, I wonder how far down the Liza Minelli Parkway, headed for the Britney Spears Exit you've got to be to be taking your lifestyle advice from this guy:

Maybe she should call his agent, he's negotiated one hell of a deal with the devil for Keith. Maybe he can do the same for her.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

A Kiss From Prince Toby

Okay, you know Toby has become enamored of my sleepytime earplugs, so much so that he has actually ingested one. I'm beginning to get used to him snorting and snuffling at my ears in the wee hours, in an attempt to pluck them right out of my head. It's like the sun comes up to a certain level and he is possessed with the urge to go after that ear plug. (Ironic, really, since the ear plugs were initially implemented to help me sleep.)
This morning, being Sunday, was tough on Toby; nobody gets up early enough for his liking, and the humans are fiendishly hard to rouse. He spent from about 6:30 until about 8:00 getting increasingly distressed that he was the only one up, and there seemed to be very little inclination on anyone's part to get him his tuna. He climbed up on top of me, at one point, to see if maybe the earplugs had been put back in my ears, since he had already tried that gambit once that morning, and perhaps now he could have another go at it.
Then, as he sniffed around at my head a little more, he reared up and he sneezed, right in my ear. It was like a freaking gunshot going off! It scared the snot out of me. Plus, the left side of my head was covered in cat slobber. It was indescribably disgusting; really, really vile. It was, quite literally, the rudest awakening I ever had.
From now on, I'm going to wear earplugs plus a toque to bed.

Friday, February 8, 2008

And I'll Eat It, Too.

Today was the best day of the year at my kid’s school, Cake Day. The PTA raffles off a whole whack of donated cakes, which generates a ton of excitement, as well as money. (We usually make around $1700 for the day; its our biggest fundraiser of the year.) This year we got 170 cakes donated, and in a school of 400 kids, that makes for pretty good odds. I think the kids like it better than Christmas. I know I do.

The Loudshoes house did okay, with Thing 2 winning a “Princess Party” cake, which delighted her no end. She was pretty excited for a kid who doesn’t like cake, but Cake Day, I realize, is all about the getting and not so much about the having. It is all gooey and sugary, with candy and gobs of icing and a plastic tiara and scepter. She was thrilled to have won it. Thing 1 did not win anything, but she wasn’t too disappointed because her sister’s cake will be all hers shortly. This is a shot of her prize:
Those blobs down at the bottom right corner are Ring Pops, diguised as "jewels", and not alien's eyeballs.

The kindergarten kids get a couple of cakes just for their class, because they have a morning and an afternoon class, and the morning kids would be gone by the time the cakes are given out at the end of the day. Also, the kindergarten kids each get a cupcake, because they really don’t get the concept of a raffle, and are forlornly disappointed when they don’t win everything they put a ticket in on. (I think it’s a “teaching opportunity” for A Valuable Lesson On The Evils Of Gambling, but other people disagree and just give them a cupcake.)

Some people make incredibly detailed, imaginative cakes that must take hours to assemble. Once there was a huge cake made to look like an incredibly real bowl of spaghetti, and another which was made to look like a sea-monster. (Thing 2 won that in Grade was bigger than she was.) Lots of people just buy stuff to give away. Here at Chez Loudshoes, we recognize that the looks of the cake matter much more than the taste of the cake, and we organize ourselves accordingly….Bulk Barn cake mix is the order of the day, and it’s all about the decorations. Here are our efforts:

Thing 1 made the Valentine's cake, and Thing 2 the St. Paddy's Day cake. Those shamrocks on the top of Thing 2's cake enchanted Toby, and we had to put it in a closet overnight.

I’ve warned my kids within an inch of their lives not to put tickets in on our own cakes…. If we are going to consume an entire cake, I’d rather it be a good one we can make ourselves, rather than a Loblaws cake with edible oil icing. Besides, it’s a lot cheaper to make a cake than to win one. One kid this year won his own cake again, about the third time he’s done so. If I was his mother, I would kill him.

One year, there was a cake that clearly the dad and the kids had made because the mother was out, or left or something. It was decidedly burnt on one side, it listed badly to the left, the icing had slid off almost entirely and the whole two tier affair was about an inch high. And some brave soul had put a ticket in. I had to admire the effort, at least that went into that thing, even if the results were less than stellar.

Around this time of year, it is nice to have a diversion from the regular routine. Cake Day fits the bill nicely.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Breakfast of Champions

A little while ago, I told you about Toby's new penchant for plucking my earplugs right out of my head in the mornings. It's rather rude, and more than a little disturbing to be woken up in such a fashion. A drooly, purring, tickly alarm clock with absolutley no sense of what time it actually is does not serve one well. (The Mister keeps a spray bottle full of water on his side of the bed, and now he just has to pick it up and shake it for Toby to launch himself off the bed like he'd been electrocuted.)
Lately, he's been getting downright giddy about it, to the point where I have to remind him that the earplug is out, already, and dude? that is actual ear you are applying your teeth to, now.
Well, the other morning, he got so enthusiastic with the whole venture that he ate the ear plug. I want to barf just thinking about it.
(When I mentioned this to my friend Linda, she calmly reached into her purse and handed me a new set of earplugs, just like that. Why she was carrying around a set of foam earplugs, I'll never know, but since I am the beneficiary, I'm not going to delve too deeply.)
Now the girls and I will get a very valuable lesson on "The Speed of the Digestive System of the Domestic Short-Hair. Hey!, maybe we can use it for the upcoming Science Fair at school!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Now You Know

Thing 2 has always hated going to bed. (I don't know why; I live for it.)
Usually, in an attempt to delay the inevitable, she tries to engage me in conversation. Tonight's opening gambit was "did you know that animals that lay eggs don't have a belly-button?"
I give her points for originality.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Fat Tuesday

It's Fat Tuesday today.....the scale tells me so, as well as the calendar.

Lent starts tomorrow, and it couldn't come at a better time; I need the discipline of someone else's agenda to get me kick-started. I usually give up something for Lent every year, not because I am even remotely devout, but out of habit, plain and simple. (After attending Catholic schools for 14 years, you tend to get neurological pathways imprinted into your brain that are hard to shake off.) When I was a kid, the nuns would always encourage us to give up something for the duration. (They said it was to remind us of the sacrifices that Jesus made for us, but I think it was mostly because they wanted to see our true personalities when we weren't all jacked up on sugar.) They said that we should give up things like candy, or sugar or chips, but we would always try to get away with things like homework, or liver or lion-taming. They never fell for it.

In the past, I have usually given up chocolate. It isn't terribly hard; 40 days isn't so long that you can't put up with it, and long enough to establish a new habit, if that's what you're after. I remember reading about a guy who had been thrown into jail for his political views by Mao-Tse Tung in the '70's and he ended up there for about 10 years, and when he got out they asked him how he kept his sanity, and he replied that you can stand anything if you know it's going to end. So, really, Lent's not that bad.

The problem with giving up chocolate is remembering that you have done's just painful to realize that, two bites in, you aren't allowed to finish what you've started. And it is a bit hard on the Lindor bunnies when it's all over....I massacre a couple of them right off the bat. Also, the definition of chocolate becomes an issue; am I allowed Fudgesicles, but not a Crispie Crunch? I tend to lean towards the side of flexibility on this one, but you knew that would be the case.

We also have the question of exactly when Lent is over.....nobody can answer this diffinitively.
My father asserts that it is after midnight on Good Friday, but my mother claims that it is after mass on Easter Sunday morning. My friend The Reverend Wendy, an Anglican minister, says that she figures after midnight on Holy Saturday. I like my dad's idea, since that gets me off the hook sooner.

This year, along with the usual chocolate, I will be giving up second helpings of anything. (y enjoyment of my food is beginning to make itself known in the fit of my pants, and that bad habit should be the first to go.) I can make it stick for 40 days, I know, but come Easter, I make no promises when it comes to slaughtering Lindor bunnies.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Who Reads This Stuff?

I went to the bookstore today, which is one of my all-time favorite things to do. And I went by myself, which meant I could get a tea at Starbucks without having to put out for an $8 cupcake to bribe one of my children into letting me stay as long as I wanted, and then I got to stay as long as I wanted.
I bought nothing, which isn't terribly unusual, for me. Normally I wander around, scoping out new books and checking to see if any of my favorite authors have written anything recently, and making a list of books that I will buy later for the cottage. (If I buy them now they sit on the shelf and call to me and I end up reading them way before we go to the cottage.)
I also checked out some possibilities for the "Mother/Daughter Book Club" that Thing 2 and I will be participating in very soon. (Neither of my children are the enthusastic readers I expected they would be....their father's DNA once again pummels mine into the ground. With this latest venture, it is my hope that Thing 2 will, at the very least, be familiar with a book that does not have pictures in it.) All in all it was a very pleasant way to spend the afternoon.

And then I spotted this: an autobiography of David Hasselhoff.
Good. God. Who on earth would spend any amount of time whatsoever learning about The Hoff, let alone for 304 pages?
Now, before you pin me as a book snob, let me tell you that I have read far more than my share of junk-food for the mind. Any book is a good book if you are enjoying it. But I do have some standards. They are low, but they're higher than that, thank God.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Go Forth and Socialize.

I've had a perfectly lovely afternoon. After a number of weeks of bad weather, whining about the bad weather and refusing to leave the house, I had reason to go out and socialize. Even I was growing tired of my company, and it was just the remedy for my cranky, insular, petulant self.

First off, I was invited to a lunch at my Good Friend Wendy's house, with herself and a posse of bright, funny, loud women who were excellent company. (Don't believe Wendy when she tells you she's not a very good cook. She is a very good cook.) Everyone was talkative and opinionated and thoroughly involved in several conversations at once. It was fabulous. And, there was a 3 month old baby there, which was passed around and smelled wonderful and totally filled my baby-sniffing quota for a few more months. And there was wine.

Then we went off to my parent's place for a couple of hours, to meet someone my father had recently made a connection with who had moved to our city recently. She's Irish (and all Irish people have a "six-degrees of separation" thing going on.) and like all Irish people, had no problem filling the silence. All of us talked a blue streak, while trying mightily to be polite, and not doing a very good job of it. (Such is the way in my family.) I enjoyed it very much.

As much as I love spending time by myself, in fact, I crave it, sometimes, I also realize thatI am a hoplessly social creature, and I need to be around people; people I have not married or given birth to, occasionally. And, occasionally, that I will actually have to get up off my fat butt and make the effort to do so.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Cat Sanity.

It is yet another cold, snowy, miserable day here today, which is not surprising seeing as it is February in Canada. (Those of you expecting Maui-like conditions will be severely disappointed.)

Toby does not like the snow or the cold; he is a strictly fair-weather feline. (When he does go out, he does the most amazing, physics-defying manoever, whereby his front half is coming back in the door before his back half has completed the transaction.)

He's getting a bit of cabin fever, being indoors so much, and I am beginning to get a weensy bit concerned about his mental health. I try to help, I really do, but there is only so much changing of the bed sheets I'm willing to do.

Toby's main coping strategies at the moment are the following:

1. Batting at my fingers while I am typing.

2. Looking for spiders.

3. Waiting for me. Just....waiting. For me. Whatever I am doing, Toby is sitting nearby, staring at me, willing me to do something interesting.

4. Flinging cat litter as far as possible out of the box.

5. Chasing his tail in the shower-stall in the en-suite. I'm not sure why this the optimum site for this activity, other than the fact that his head makes a very loud, satisifying bonk when it hits the side.

6. Begging for tuna.

7. Finding new places to sleep, and scaring the daylights out of me when he tumbles out of the linen closet.

8. Going to the back door and pleading to be let out. When that is deeply disappointing, go to the front door, in the hopes that it is Florida out there.

9. Smelling boots. Usually with a dedication to detail that would be admirable if it was applied to anything other than, you know, smelling boots.

10. Sitting in boxes. (see picture.)
There's still a lot of winter to be got through.