Wednesday, August 27, 2008

I Want To Ride My Bicycle.

This is the first summer I've worked full-time in about 15 years, and, among other things to put in the "minus" column about that is that I haven't been out on my bike nearly enough. The only thing I don't miss about riding my bicycle is that I now don't have that stupid Queen song running through my head all the time.

I've tried to use my bike the past few years for running errands and such in the neighbourhood, and it has become a habit to do so. I'd like to ride my bike to work, like the Mister does, but I'd arrive in such a sweaty, snarly, shamble that I'd have to spend at least an hour putting my hair and makeup and clothes to rights before I'd be fit for human consumption.

After dinner this evening, I took it into my head to ride over to my parent's new place, to see how long it would take me, and also, because my dad needed a haircut. The enterprise started out okay, but once I got out of my own subdivision, which I'm pretty familiar with, I realized how many hills there are in this city. I knew there was one big-ass hill on the way to my parents, and no matter how many routes I negotiated in my head before setting off, there was no way around that damn hill, but there were at least a half a dozen which were complete surprises. I've driven that route a hundred times, but what seems inconsequential in a car is monumental when you're pedalling a bike. I kind of got lost in that unfamiliar subdivision ("damn, another crescent!"), but I did eventually figure it out and got to my mom and dad's in about 25 minutes. The ride home was a breeze.

My most impressive bike ride was last year, when Big Liver Girl and I went to Quebec for the Victoria Day weekend. Did I mention that the area was the Laurentian Mountains? And that there are mountains there? And that I have the cardio capacity of a chain-smoking grandma? It was 21K uphill, one way, and it nearly killed me. The scenery was spectacular, and Big Liver Girl was most accomodating of my bitching and whining and constantly stopping for rests, and she entertained me all the while and bought me a beer at lunchtime. (It was, and continues to be, the hands-down, best-tasting beer I have ever had in my entire existance.) It took us 3 1/2 hours to get to Val-David, but it only took us an hour and a half to get home. I thought I would be crippled the next day, but I was surprised to find that my legs still functioned, even though I was sure they would go on a wild-cat strike. I was very proud of myself to have gotten through it, and even better, actually enjoyed it. A memorable day with one of my favorite people on the planet was well worth every ache and pain.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Cat Rules

Toby is a simple enough creature; if he had a coat of arms it would have a can of tuna on it and the motto "Essum, Somnus, Lambo", ("Eat, Sleep, Lick").
There appears to be a Cat Rule Handbook somewhere that all cats have read and memorized, by which they govern their existence, and we just have to put up with it.

1. There is no horizontal surface that cannot be slept upon. In fact, there are very few horizontal surfaces that are not vastly improved by the addition of a sleeping cat.

2. The mathematical formula for calculating the most inconvenient spot for a cat to be is :(h + c) / AsA x § = β. (Human + cat divided by "available surface area" times "human's desire to complete the task at hand" equals BINGO!)

3. Any and all cans being opened in the immediate vicinity could possibly contain tuna. Therefore, any and all cans being opened in the immediate vicinity are subject to urgent attention. Note: chick peas, which, on initial opening, can smell a lot like tuna, are NOT, they are vile impostors, and should be treated harshly.

4. All moving objects, especially human toes under a blanket at 4 a.m., are to be hunted and beat into submission immediately. Pursue the eyelids at your own peril, however.

5. A closed door is a challenge to be met and conquered.

6. Humans enjoy a tail tip up their nostrils, no matter what they say. So is purring at the same decibel level as a jet engine.

7. If one's dignity has been compromised, it is best to being licking oneself with an air of utmost purpose until the laughter has stopped. Then one must walk away, prominently displaying one's bum, with as much decorum as one can muster.

8. Preferred sleeping spots must be rotated on a semi-regular basis. One or two choice spots may be used in a habitual manner, but for maximum human confusion, chose random, unexpected areas for sleeping no more than one or two weeks at a time.

9. Deep, desperate meows that come from the belly should be reserved for dire situations, such as a ride in the car, an unexpected incarceration in the linen closet (arising from Rule #8) or the sudden suspicion that one is all alone in the universe.

10. Every box exists solely for your occupation. Even if a box is so small that all you can fit in it is your paw, you still, technically, occupy the box. After box occupation is established, you must now dismantle the box with your teeth.

I think I've covered most of the Rules of the Cat Handbook, I'm sure there are a few that elude me, like the mercurial rules governing washing (head first and work your way down? Sit first, then lie down?) and litter habits (cover the stuff only when there's no one there to notice?). I'll work on it, just as soon as I've moved the cat off the computer.

Monday, August 25, 2008

A Day At the Beach

The kids go back to school in one week, and we find ourselves making some heroic efforts to make the most of the summer holidays before they are over. The whole lot of us went to the beach yesterday, including a friend for each girl, and a metric ton of stuff to sustain us for the duration. I'm not sure why we pack as though we are Lewis and Clark and will be out of touch for God knows how long, but we do.
I love going to the beach, and we are lucky enough to live surrounded by the Great Lakes, and have access to any number of terrific beaches within an hour or so's drive. There are beaches with good sand, beaches with good waves, beaches with hills and dunes, beaches that are shallow and warm, and beaches where they serve fries right on the beach.

There were a few years there when my kids were younger, and I also babysat a friend's kids for the summer. Trying to find an activity that was cheap and would keep everyone occupied for the day wasn't always easy, but a day at the beach fit the bill nicely. Once summer, Big Liver Girl and I made it our goal to visit as many beaches a possible over the summer...I think we only got to about 4 or 5, but we liked those ones so much we just kept going back to them. I remember one day when, between us, we had 10 happy, dirty, soggy kids at the beach. (We had gone to visit another friend at her cottage, and she had two kids and was pregnant with #3. As the crowd of us trooped across the road to the water, her husband remarked that he was ready for his Utah licence plate now.) It was a good day.
When some young cousins of mine came here from Ireland a number of years ago, they were quite astonished to see a Great Lake; a lake where you couldn't see the other side of it was altogether new to them. "It's like a sea you can drink!" they exclaimed, the novelty of fresh water vs. salt water being too good to pass up. (Just so you know, I did tell them that fresh water and clean water are two very different things, and unless they wanted to spend the remainder of their holiday in Canada in the gastrointestinal ward, they should stop drinking the lake right now.)
Yesterday was cloudy and windy for the most part, and we forgot entirely to put on sunscreen. We have paid dearly for our folly, since Thing 1 and I have fish-belly-white, Irish skin that was never, ever designed to be exposed to daylight ever. Thing 2 and The Mister fare a little better, but not much. Luckily our guests appear to have some Mediterranean DNA and got off easy. The Loudshoes family all look parboiled today. Totally worth it, though, for one last day at the beach.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Another Web Site.

This is my new favorite website. I check it every day, and marvel at the human race.
"It's Lovely, I'll Take It"

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

On the Olympics

I think the Olympics are almost over. I really hope they are, because they are killing me. Despite having almost no interest in them whatsoever, I find myself strangely hypnotized by them, and end up staying up until all hours watching sports I've never, ever cared the least bit about in my life before. The twelve hour time-change means that I end up watching some race or competition until midnight or so, and it pains me that all sorts of stuff will be happening when I'm asleep.

Some Olympic sports are baffling. Too many of them sound like stuff we did at camp when I was a kid. If they can have badminton and ping-pong (excuse me, table tennis.) and archery as Olympic sports, then why not lanyard making, duck duck goose and, my personal favorite "baby food roulette", where the most foolhardy campers volunteered to be blindfolded and fed baby food and had to guess what it was. (I have still have nightmares about "baby food roulette", but it would make a wicked Olympic sport.)

What's up with the equestrian events? Does the horse even get the choice as to whether or not he goes up and over that wall? Shouldn't the horse get the medal? The horse probably doesn't want the medal anyway, what's he going to do with it? It was nice to see Ian Millar finally win a medal after 9 Olympics. I'd have given up after, say, my third or fourth Olympics.

Softball is apparently going to be dropped as an Olympic sport, because it's only played in North America. I never watch Softball, but it does amuse me in the fact that the pitchers all look like they're channelling Pete Townshend.

Why is it called "Water Polo", and not "water soccer" or "water hockey"? Don't tell me they used to play it on horses. Then they would really deserve medals.

Just watching the trampoline competition makes want to throw up. I was on a ride at the Western Fair once that juggled me around like that, and I've never gotten over it. I'll bet I looked considerably less elegant than those trampoliners, too. (Trampoliners? Trampolines? I'll just go with "Tramps".)

My brother-in-law thinks that all sports that require judging should be eliminated from the Olympics on the grounds that they are competitions, not sports. I don't think he's too far off, not because of the whole "sports/game" brou-ha-ha, but because anything that is judged seems to be so completely corruptable that there's really not much point in having it at all. Also, my brother-in-law thinks that sport that requires it's competitors to wear sequins is not a sport at all.

I take exception to hearing people say "we won a medal" in anything, because, frankly, "we" had nothing to do with it. I, personally, had no effect whatsover in anyone's winning a medal, because I was too busy sitting on my couch stuffing popcorn and Diet Pepsi into my mouth to be of any help at all.

The Winter Olympics will be in Vancouver in 2 years, and I will be baffled all over again.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

More Nutty Clients

Its pretty easy for us at the salon to acertain that there is a full moon without consulting a calendar. The clients act as a very accurate measure.

On Saturday, one of the stylists had an up-do booked, and when the client came (20 minutes late and with disgustingly dirty hair) she revealed that the event she was attending that afternoon, was, in fact, her own wedding. Now usually, we book a consultation with a bride a few weeks before the wedding, so that everyone involved is familiar with each other and knows what to expect on the day, and, you know, avoid major emotional breakdowns on both sides of the arrangement. But no, this bride didn't mention that she was, in fact, a bride, and pretty snotty about what was going on with her hair and the stylist finally gave up and handed her over to the Mister to deal with. While the Mister was doing the best he could with the oil well on her head, she said. indignantly, that nobody asked if she was getting married when she made the appointment. So now we have decided that from now on we will ask every client who books an appointment, "so who would you like to do your hair, and by the way, are you by chance getting married this weekend?". That should solve that problem.

Later on that day I did a colour consultation with a woman who was complaining that she had had her hair done the last time in London, but was unhappy with it. It seems that her colour hadn't lasted long enough for her, and she wasn't going back. "I had it done about a month ago, and now I can see grey at the roots!". I tried to explain to her as plainly as I could that her hair had grown in a month, and that was why she could see grey roots. She replied that her hairdresser in Toronto could make it last longer than that, so I suggested that she go back to that hairdresser, who could defy biology and make miracles happen. I've got about three hundred clients who would be very happy to find out how to make hair stop growing, so if she wanted to let me in on the secret, I'd be more than happy to listen. It was all I could do not to add "you moron" to the end of my sentances, but I'm pretty sure she could hear them anyway.

Friday, August 15, 2008


The Mister and I are without children for a few days. No, we did not sell them for spare parts and medical experiments, as we have threatened to do on numerous occasions; they have gone to visit with their paternal grandparents until Sunday.

The girls always enjoy a bit of time at Nanna's house because it is only about 40 miles from home, and therefore close enough to get to without a lengthy car ride, and far enough away that they have to stay for a night or two. The fact that Nanna is an excellent cook (she owns her own deep-fryer. For right in the house. And she's not afraid to use it.) and is very, very nice, to boot. The Mister's father is always a big draw, too, because, being a bit shy and unsure of himself around the kids, especially when they were small, his main form of bonding with them was over popcorn and ice cream. They thought he was a god.

Himself has a sister who lives close to his parents, too, and she is phenomenally and unwaveringly wonderful to my girls. Being the mother to three boys, she is thrilled when the girls come to visit, if only because when she says "lets go shopping" she is greeted with hoots of delight from the Loudshoes children, instead of the usual groans of despair from her own.

The Mister and I stayed late at work, without guilt, and then walked a few blocks down to get some Middle Eastern food for dinner. (It was stellar. Enough lemon and garlic and parsley to cripple a horse.) Then we waddled home to our very quiet house and will shortly watch a movie. Usually, when the girls are home, I only watch movies produced by Disney. It's either that or constantly answer questions about what's going on, or worse, have to explain every sexual reference in the most PG terms possible. ("That's a party for three people.") Tonight we can watch a movie with naked, swearing people in it, and not anyone tell us how inappropriate it is for us to do so. Tomorrow we can go for a drink after work and not care what time we come home, or when is dinner. And on Sunday we can sleep in.
Except that Toby will wake us up looking for tuna. I wonder when we will get a catless weekend?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


The two Things and I went on another annual summer pilgrimage this afternoon: blueberry picking.
We love picking blueberries, partly because they grow on very conveniently sized, non-prickly bushes, and partly because when they are ripe they practically jump into your bucket for you. Blueberries are possibly nature's most obliging fruit.
Raspberries exact a high price for their acquisition: the canes they grow on are heinously nettlesome, and the fruit is so ridiculously fragile and delicate that it requires the patience of Nelson Mandela to harvest so much as a cup or two. (And believe me, patience is in very short supply at the Loudshoes' house at the best of times.)
Strawberries grow low to the ground, and so one has to either be very short or very bendy to get a decent amount. When I was about 8 months pregnant with Thing 1, another pregnant friend and I went strawberry picking (because we were crazy) and it took us all afternoon to get a pathetic amount, mostly because neither one of us was either very short or very bendy at the time. A Vietnamese family took pity on us and came over and donated a metric tonne of strawberries that they had picked in about 10 minutes.
I've never picked peaches, mostly because the "pick-your-own" places around here have better sense than to let idiotic, untrained, Amish-wannabes anywhere near a ladder and a tree. I imagine the liability issues would be pretty spectacular for such an adventure...."Here's your ladder and your basket and don't forget to sign your waiver and your organ donation card."
But blueberries are very easy to pick and the Things and I have made a point of going every year since they were toddlers. The place we go even provides little stools for you to sit on. They direct you to an area, which seems woefully inadequate at the time, and ask you to tell them if you want more after that has been picked clean. You pull your stool right up to a bush, like Thing 1 here, and you can pick in about 180° around you and get an impressive bucket of blueberries in no time flat. We've never managed to exhaust the area they give us, no matter how hard we try.
This year we got just over 8 pounds of blueberries in about an hour. And truly, a fresh, ripe Ontario blueberry is a magnificent thing. I can't believe there has been no poetry written in praise of the blueberry. Eating 8 pounds of them will be enjoyable work over the next few days, and believe me, a couple of days is all we will need.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Faster, Higher, Yawn.

The Olympics are on at the moment, and I have to admit, they hold almost no interest for me whatsoever. I'm completely alone, it would seem, on this one, because when it comes up that I couldn't care less about who "medals" (a term that makes me grit my teeth) in what, it earns me a look usually reserved for seeing-eye-dog thieves.

I found this on YouTube the other day, and this, this makes me almost want to watch the Olympics. If I could be assured that I would see something this entertaining every day, I'd be glued to the set. This clip was from the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, and not only do I love "Eric the Eel", it's the Australian commentary that really makes it for me.

Eddie the Eel gives me way more to think about than Michael Phelps.

Monday, August 11, 2008

A Trip To The Vet

Poor Toby, this morning dawned like any other day ("God, when will they get up and get me my tuna???"). He had no idea that this day would bring his worst nightmare to reality: his annual trip to the vet. There is so much to hate about that annual half-hour of his life that Toby hardly knows where to begin.

First there was the indignity of the cat carrier. Toby had never actually been in a cat carrier before, every other vet trip had involved an unwilling child to accompany us, but this time I had been able to acquire a carrier for the express purpose of managing by myself. Toby was deeply suspicious of the cat carrier, (with good cause, as it turned out) and would have preferred a long, slow, thorough examination before getting in, but I had other ideas, and Toby was deposited rather unceremoniously. His look of deep disappointment spoke volumes of his knowledge that he always knew I would turn on him eventually.

Then we had to get in the car. Toby hates the car. Loathes the car. Is repulsed by the car. Except when it is coming in the driveway, and he runs up to greet it and has to be physically removed from harm's way. But getting in the car? Not to be borne. Toby views the car the same way he does the vacuum cleaner: it is large and noisy and mobile, and it is very likely to dismember you in the blink of an eye; run away. In the car, Toby let out a series of very loud, desperate and altogether bone-chilling meows that were equally pitiful and hilarious. I tried talking to him to calm him down, I even sang a few verses of "Sexy Cat", but he would not be comforted, and nearly herniated himself vocalizing his intense desire to get. out. of. this. damn. car.

When we got to the vet, he decided that the cat carrier was not such a bad place after all, and refused to get out. After a bit of gentle persuasion (involving the vet's assistant and a steely grip on his legs. The cat's, not the assistant's) Toby came out onto the examination table, whereby he proceeded to make himself as teeny-tiny as felinely possible. Honestly, he was so compact you could have put all 12.5 pounds of him in your pocket.

I'll skip over the humiliation of the vet's exam, but Toby occasionally sent me such malevolent looks that I was glad he couldn't reach the big knives, and didn't have opposible thumbs.

After the exam, which went pretty well, all things considered, he resumed his hatred of the cat carrier (probably because the last time he got in that thing, it took him right into the car.) and I had to pretty much had to don oven mitts and a haz-mat suit to get him in. But I am more stubborn than he is, (and I outweigh him by 130 pounds) and so, in he went.

The car ride home was just as fraught with yowls and squawks of protest, and I was very happy that the vet is only a two minute drive from our house. When we got home, I opened the cat carrier and Toby leaped out, only to pause to look at me over his shoulder with the deepest loathing before sitting down to lick all the vet stink off his fur. I reminded him that, not only did I do this for his own good, I paid a hundred bucks for the privilege, and perhaps he could dial down the hatred a mite. But then I remembered that he had a thermometer stuck up his bum, so maybe a little animosity wasn't completely out of the question. (I did remind him that is was not me who stuck the thermometer up his bum, but he didn't seem to think that relevant. I was in the room, wasn't I?)

And then I gave him tuna for being such a good boy, and he loved me all over again. Just 364 more days until we do it again.

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Power Of Fudge.

My kids were at day camp for the past two weeks, and yesterday they had to bring something for a big potluck at lunch. Hmmm, what can I make, cheaply, for 40 people, that contains no nuts or gluten, and doesn't require refrigeration? The answer: fudge. (In fact, you would be surprised at how many times "fudge" is the right answer to so many of life's questions.)

This fudge recipe is courtesy of my friend, Big Liver Girl, and has been so appropriated by the Loudshoes family that we consider it now our own. It's quick, it's very easy and uses entirely mundane ingredients that hardly anybody is allergic to. It's only downside is that it contains about a million calories per gram. People are very happy when they get this fudge, and it's nice to make the world a happier place. It's my own little way to be more like Mother Theresa.

Put 1/2 cup butter, (never, ever margarine), 1/2 cup cream (or evaporated milk) and 2 cups of brown sugar in a medium saucepan. Melt the butter and bring the whole mess to a rollicking good boil, stirring occasionally. When it's come to a good boil, time it for 6 minutes. Take it off the heat, and add 2 teaspoons vanilla extract. (Don't use imitation here, the real stuff will make all the difference. In fact, never use imitation vanilla extract, ever, in anything.) Give everything a good stir and let it cool down to warm. (I hurry this along by putting a couple of inches of cold water in the sink and putting the whole pot in.) When the fudge has cooled down sufficiently, beat the daylights out of it with an electric mixer, or if you are really ambitious, your own brute strength. When the fudge has become stiff and glossy and lighter in colour, pour the lot into a greased 8x8" pan and put it in the fridge for a couple of hours. Cut into teesy little squares (about 1x 1/2"), lest people get too big a piece and collapse into a sugar coma.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

A Trip To Ikea

The Mister and I went on a roadtrip last Monday to Ikea, which was mightily successful. Not only did we buy a whole lot of stuff we both liked, we were still speaking to each other by the time we went home. Tell me that happens all the time at Ikea. (Once, when I was perusing the paint aisle at Home Depot, I was able to clearly hear the couple down the way....she raised her voice and said to him, in a deadly serious tone, "you can stop that passive-aggressive shit right now, or I am out of here!" And I thought, man, you haven't even started the paint job yet; it's only going to go downhill fast from here. I'd get out now if I were you.) Usually, I get so overwhelmed at Ikea that I leave without anything I came for, but with 100 tea-lights and a garlic press. Having the Mister there was a big plus, if only because he has no use for tea-lights.

A few months ago, we started re-doing the bathroom, and have only now gotten around to finished the paint job and getting the whole thing finished. (Those frigging hearts were a bitch to paint, let me tell you. We painted every single one with primer, and then again with beige. I was seeing hearts in my sleep, I tell you. The decendents of that tiler will be feeling my curses for many generations.) At Ikea we got a new light fixture and some stuff for the walls. Very successful.

Then we went to get new curtains for our bedroom, and ended up getting a new duvet cover and a headboard for behind the bed. The Mister put the whole thing together and mounted it on the wall before bedtime. We were delighted with the it looks like real
grownups, and not students, live here!
I am a terrible decorator, without any ablity to see what things will look like when they are actually in my home. The Mister is much better than I, and could see the potential in that headboard way better than me. I just thought it looked like an overgrown Venitian blind, but it looks very sleek and modern.

But while we were at Ikea, I managed to make an absolute fool of myself. I was wandering around the bedlinens area, and I had one of their big bags slung over my shoulder with a towel rack in it. The towel rack was largish, and metal, but not too difficult to carry. But somehow, I managed to absolutely nail some poor young man in the goolies, not once, but twice, with it as I was looking at pillow cases and bed sheets. Honestly, I completely compromised his manhood both times. Then, I goosed him from behind, as the Mister and I were trying to see the price on some curtains. He was really, really not amused by this, and the fact that I was starting to giggle somewhat hysterically probably didn't help. (It wasn't that I was entertained by sexually assaulting him, it was that I was getting increasingly frantic that I stop.) Then I started to get a little annoyed at him, because really, he might want to think about being somewhere where I am not if he wanted to ever father children. The Mister ignored the situation as mightily as he could.

Then we went for lunch (Swedish meatballs and potatoes and lingonberry sauce. Why do would you put jam on meatballs, anyway? Makes no sense to me.) and talked about re-doing the kitchen and why there are no Ikeas anywhere near us but three within a half an hour of each other in Toronto, and what kind of coffee table do we want anyway, and then we went home.

We had a good day, and will definetly start in on the kitchen soon, and another trip to Ikea will happen. I just hope that guy stays home this time.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Accent Game

I always thought I was pretty good at identifying accents, but this website proved me totally wrong. Accent Game has you guess the person's accent from a two line recitation, and I did appallingly badly. I didn't even get some of the English accents, which I would have thought were easy. At least I got the Canadian!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Those Were The Days.

Back in the day, when he was young and waggish and hurtling towards his ultimate destiny as Mr. Loudshoes, Himself worked for a while at a cheese factory. It was an okay job, all things considered, he said, and it was there when he needed it. He learned, among other things, to drive a forklift, and that he probably was not suited to a life devoted to manufacturing dairy products.

Occasionally he will mention his former life as a cheesemaker, usually in the context of warning people not to eat Cheez Whiz. ("You do not want to see how that stuff is made.") Also, that the factory supplied many different companies, and that they made the same cheese day in, day out, but that they would regularly stop the production line to change the wrappers. Anyone who claimed that Brand X was vastly superiour to Brand Y would probaby not believe that it was exactly the same cheese, but the Mister says it was so, and that the same practice goes on in factories all over God's green earth.

The other day, Thing 1 and I were at the grocery store, and I referred to his former job because of a perceived difference on her part in various shampoos. (Don't even get me started on shampoos....25 years in the beauty business has taught me that shampoos have far more similarities than differences. When some supplier wants me to sell a $40 bottle of shampoo because it contains alien life forms and hummingbird saliva, I know to show him the door. Except that stuff you can get at the dollar store; that stuff really is crap.)

Thing 1 looked at me in astonishment and exclaimed "Dad really worked in a cheese factory?? I thought he was just making that up!!"

Because naturally, if you were going to invent a job that you never had, you would pass up orchestra conductor, pit boss and lion tamer, and pretend that you worked in a cheese factory. Because of the glamour of it all.

Friday, August 1, 2008


Today has been very busy, and I have endured about a million interruptions since I sat down at the computer. (My children have proven themselves incapable of anything without consulting me. I guess that's the downside of being a control freak most of their lives.)
I will pass you onto my brother's blog, Squidhammer. I hope it amuses you as much as it did me.