Thursday, December 31, 2009

Things I Learned This Year

1. It will get better. Nothing stays the same, and no matter how difficult the situation you are dealing with is, it WILL get better eventually. Sometimes "better" isn't what you had in mind, but "better" can mean a lot of things.

2. No matter how many times I try canned salmon, exercising or wearing high heels, I will always hate them.

3. I don't give a rat's ass about Tiger Woods, Jon Gosselin or Brangelina.

4. Not doing things because you are afraid you will fail at them,or that something might go wrong, is a terrible way to live. This year I tried running, fly fishing and golf, and I'm SO glad I did. I changed the way I approached my job, with very satisfying results, and I accepted all invitations that came my way. It's been great.

5. A cat is never going to change his behaviour. He thinks you should change your expectations.

6. I LOVE going south in the winter. I resolve to make much more of an effort to make that happen in the future, because walking on a plane in cold, blustery weather and off a plane into a full-face blast of hot, humid air is about the best feeling in the entire world.

7. My friends and family are kind and wonderful and supportive and interesting and funny. Oh, my God, are they funny. My friends make me laugh so my stomach hurts, and my children can make me wheeze like an old man, and every gathering of my clan is a hoot, and the people I work with are a riot, I value them all immeasurably. (That isn't something new I learned this year, it's something I appreciated even more.)

8. There is a LOT to be said for patience, shutting up, quitting what doesn't make you happy, apologizing sincerely and being content with what you have.

9. There is no such thing as "too much sleep".

10. Saying something nice to every person you come across makes everybody's day better, including yours.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


The world is full of unanswered questions:

1. Why does the down comforter migrate to the bottom of the bed inside the comforter cover? One would think maybe the whole shebang would travel slowly off the end of the bed, but no, just the contents does, leaving me with 12 inches of feeble, empty cotton cover to keep my upper half warm.

2. What is the cat doing when he wanders around the house, howling that deep, mournful belly MAOOOOOW? We're all still here, it's not like he's the last living cell in a dead body or anything. He only does it when he's by himself in a room, and when we remind him that we still exist, in the next room, he give a little chirp of surprise. I don't get it...can't he hear us?

3. Why, at a party, does everyone end up in the kitchen? Even in the biggest house, the kitchen is packed while the rest of the house is empty.

4. Why is it that even when I'm falling down tired, I can't make myself go to bed?

5. Why are there always random frozen peas rolling around the bottom of the freezer? Never corn or raspberries. Always peas.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

On the Lam

The Mister's family lives in a small city about 40 miles from us, and we see them fairly frequently. We were there for the annual "Christmas Gastro-Intestinal Challenge and Gift Opening Free-for All" last week.

My sister-in-law has the shin-dig at her house every year, for which I am eternally grateful. Not only does her husband cook the turkey, he deals with it hijacking all the room in the fridge for three days beforehand, AND the whole carcass leftovers, too. And they seem to be able to put a magnificent dinner on the table without anyone bursting into tears or swearing a blue streak. We can't do that here.

The city where they live has a garbage disposal system where you pay for tags, and each container of garbage has to have a tag attached to be picked up. The idea is that people will reduce their production of garbage if they have to pay to have it hauled away. In actuality, it means that everyone pays for their garbage to go, but if you have enough money, you don't really care about it.

As Christmas, and specifically, Christmas dinner, generates a metric tonne of garbage per person, per day, my sister-in-law asked if we would mind taking some of their excess garbage home with us, mostly light, non-smelly stuff. No problem, says I, our city's garbage system has a four bag limit, so we could easily take another couple of bags because we didn't host Christmas dinner, and had plenty of room in our allotment.

So we took a few bags, one of which was a big, see-through bag of white packing styrofoam. We had to wait a few days before garbage day, and I noticed that the styrofoam bag escaped frequently from where it was stored in the breezeway, and I had to corrall it from the front lawn more than once.

Yesterday, we got a snow squall off Lake Huron, and it got really, really windy. And when I went to put out the garbage tonight, that bag of styrofoam was just.....gone. Like, gone from our house entirely. I looked in the backyard, the front yard and even up and down the street. No sign of it. Gone.
So, somewhere in our neighbourhood is a renegade bag of fugitive styrofoam. Maybe it went the 40 miles home to my sister-in-law's house.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Weather Outside Is Frightful...

It's snowing. We've had a blessed non-winter winter here, and it's been delightful not to have to deal with the white stuff. But here it is, the end of December, and we are finally getting snow. We are in the midst of a "snow squall", which really is a small, localized storm that comes in off Lake Huron and "plays red feck" (as my dad would say) with our city and nowhere else.

I thought we would never get any snow this year, because the Mister and I bought a brand new snow blower back in September. You see, we used to have some lovely, elderly neighbours who's son-in-law used to come and snow-blow their driveway for them, and as often as not, would come over and do ours too. But the lovely, elderly neighbours moved into a retirement home last summer, so somehow, I doubt that their son-in-law will be coming around any time soon to blow out our driveway. So we bought our own snowblower, which pretty much guaranteed we'd be snowless this year.

Thing 1 and I went to a movie this afternoon, and elected to walk home from the theatre, about a 20 minute walk. (We saw "New Moon ", which I hadn't seen, but Thing 1 had and was happy to see again. The fourteen-year-old girl in me loved it.) It wasn't snowing when we went into the movie, and it was daylight, so we had an interesting walk was dark by then, and blowing and swirling badly enough to make it tough to see where you were going, and curbs and sidewalks were obliterated, so one got a bit of a jolt when the terrain suddenly dropped 6 inches from one step to the next. We looked ridiculous staggering around out there, I'm sure.

Thing 2 had been dying to go snowboarding, which she was able to do this afternoon, too. It's been way too warm for the local ski hill to even make any snow lately, so she was thrilled with the natural stuff. She was annoyed that we would only pay for a two-hour lift ticket, but after falling for the first hour, and spraining her left wrist part way through the second hour, she was happy enough to call it a day.

The only one really disappointed with winter's sudden arrival is Toby. Man, is he pissed. Somehow, he blames me. Every time he scratches at the door to go out, I gamely open the door only to have him recoil at the blast of cold air, and then give me a deeply wounded look, as though I had cruelly hoodwinked him. Then he slinks into the kitchen and demands a treat.

We live in Canada, I suppose winter was bound to show up sooner or later. I could have used later.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Redux

And I've survived another Christmas. Every year at around the 23rd I wonder if I will make it without me bursting every single vein in my head, and somehow, someway, I always manage to. I've come to realize that I enjoy Christmas itself very much, I just don't enjoy the two months before Christmas so well.
But we've had three very nice days, full of family and fun and laughter and entertainment. And food. Man, was there food....I am very much in danger of having what Thing 2 calls a "food seizure", where one is entirely disabled because of eating too much. My mother-in-law considers fewer than four pies to be mean, and if your legs can still hold you after dinner, then you just weren't trying.

I love Christmas Eve, because it has the double-barrelled delight of the air of anticipation and festivity, coupled with the undeniable thrill of being on vacation. It is always very busy at the salon for the weeks leading up to Christmas, and after work on the 24th the staff usually goes out for a few drinks...I enjoy that feeling of being let off the hook more than I can describe. Also, there's nothing more I can do to prepare for Christmas at that point, I just have to let it happen. There's certain liberty in not being able to do any more.

Christmas morning is still a delight, even if Santa is a thing of the past. The girls are still thrilled to open presents, and Toby is unendingly entertained with the plethora of boxes to be explored.
We have Christmas day with my family and Boxing Day with the Mister's. (I tried to introduce the tradition of actual boxing on Boxing Day, and the Mister's nephews were all for it, but somehow, it never took off. ) It used to be that Christmas with two daughters meant a tsunami of tiny pink plastic things that engulfed the house, but that has gotten better as they've gotten older. Now they get clothes and candy, and in much smaller quantities than the Polly Pockets or Barbies of the past.

And now I'm home, and it's all over, and I'm ready to have my life get back to normal.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Shopping and Testosterone.

Christmas is in a few days, and judging by the parking lot at the mall, this has come as a MAJOR surprise to many, many people. It's the 25th of December, same as always, and yet it appears to have caught plenty unaware. Again. I can understand the grocery store being busy, there's some stuff you just can't get more than a couple of days before using. (Bean sprouts and raspberries? I'm looking at you.) But if you are buying a gift, you probably knew for the last 51 weeks that Christmas was coming.

I used to work in a record store, when I was in university. (The fact that it was a "record store" should give you some indication as to how long ago it was.) The store specialized in classical and jazz music, and it was a fabulous job.

We were open until 6:00 pm on Christmas Eve, and every year the most amazing phenomenon would happen: things would be fairly steady until about 1 or 2 pm, and then quiet down, but at 3:00 the place would completely fill up. With men. Desperate, serious, driven men, men who knew that they had left shopping for their wife's present WAY too late, and had to get something suitable in the next hour or face a year's worth of cold, quiet loathing. Again.

And we could sell those guys anything. They would buy whatever we told them was good. It seemed to me that every single one of those men somehow felt that the lateness of their purchase, and the guilt that ensued, could be most easily offset by throwing wads of cash at us...the more expensive the record, the better."See this Beethoven boxed set that sells for $300 that we've been trying to unload since March? She'd love it. In fact, you should get all of Mozart's operas, too."
What with it being Christmas and all, we did try to keep ourselves in check, and not take advantage of the sweaty, middle-aged guy waving his gold American Express card like a white flag. But on the other hand, most of them were begging for it: "Are you sure this is enough? Maybe I should get MORE!"

Occasionally, we would get a man who wanted to get a gift certificate for the woman in his life, and, since this was before computers, we would hand write the date on the top with a little note to ask the recipient to use it within the year. Almost every man asked if we could put the date a few days before, so that the recipient would not know that he bought it on Christmas Eve. Because if there's anything that says "I love you, Merry Christmas", it's a forged document designed to manipulate your life's partner into thinking you are a better person than you are.

At least these guys were out getting a present at all, even if it was at the 11th hour. I'm sure the 7-11 is pretty full after Midnight Mass with some poor slob who forgot to get something for his wife or girlfriend. A record, any record, is better than the Juicy Fruit and air fresheners that she's going to get.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Today's Rant

God, Christmas is time consuming.
It's like having a menial, soul-destroying part-time takes up all my free time and isn't particularly interesting or stimulating, but instead of resulting in more money in my pocket, it removes gobs of it instead.
I've had some horrible part-time jobs in my life, but this one is the worst because I get hired EVERY SINGLE YEAR, and I don't remember EVER applying for the position.
All I can look forward to is the downsizing that will come next week, when I will be laid off.

That is all.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Things I Learned Today

  • Toby thinks that if it is too cold to go out the back door, then maybe the front door will lead to Florida. Worth a shot, anyway.
  • My husband is the only person I know who can collide with a moving vehicle by WALKING into it.
  • Forget the people who shop at Wal-Mart, the Dollar Store is hosting the Weird-Looking-People Convention. Seriously, Dollarama was entirely populated by the aliens from "Men in Black" this afternoon.
  • If you leave a tube of crescent rolls out of the fridge long enough, they sponaneously, and independently, explode.
  • Cresent rolls make a lot of noise when they explode.
  • When the Christmas tree falls over when four people are decorating it, they spend a good few seconds just looking at it on the floor before anyone does anything about it.
  • Even if one is a professional hair colourer, it's not easy to colour one's own hair without making an unholy mess.
  • Making reggae or hip-hop versions of Christmas carols does not render them "cool" or "edgier", it makes them even more unbearable than usual. "The Little Drummer Boy" is horrible enough without "me and m' druuuuum".
  • Coffee makes everything better.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Deck the Malls.

I'm pretty sure that if I'm ever involved in an international incident, or charged with assault causing bodily harm, it will involve Christmas shopping. Or, more specifically, Christmas shoppers.

The girls and I went to the mall on Sunday...I know, I know, a terrible idea for someone as adverse to crowds and noise as I. But the girls don't drive and I do, so to the mall it was. Also, Thing 2 wanted some ideas as to what to get me for Christmas; I certainly had no intention of thwarting that particular plan.

The most egregious Christmas shopping transgressions:
  • Shouldn't the rules of the road apply when walking as well as driving? When you are operating a motor vehicle on a busy street, do you EVER stop in the middle of the road and just stay there? Or spin around and start driving in the complete opposite direction? Because people do that when they are walking in the mall all the time. It makes me want to bash right into them.
  • Multiple Choice Question: The top of the escalator is the worst possible place to A) take out your cell phone and start texting, B) have a chat with eight of your best friends, C) stop and carefully take in your surroundings and have a long, slow thought about where to go next. Answer: ALL OF THE ABOVE!
  • Retail store clerks are paid minimum wage, get one day off at Christmas and hate you. They are not about to perform a Christmas miracle and circumvent store policy and give their manager an opportunity to yell at them because they let you use an expired 10% off coupon. They just want you to go away. As do the rest of us waiting in line.
  • Get off your cell phone when dealing with a cashier. It's abhorrently rude to keep chatting to your friend about "The Real Housewives of New Jersey" when dealing with another human being.
  • See all those people patiently standing in an orderly fashion near the check out? It's called a "line" and you should join the end of it. They are not just abnormally motionless people with admirable serenity.
  • A stroller is not a weapon.

Maybe they should hand this out in a pamplet at the mall. I know I'd appreciate it.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Amazing Race 15 Ep. 10

Well, at least the brothers didn't win.
Megan and Cheyne were a bit bland, but they got the job done, and they kept the brothers from winning, so I'm okay with that. AND they won it because they did a good job, not because of a taxi driver or traffic or dumb luck.

I knew as soon as the last task was something that required calm, rational thought, that the Bros and Ericka and Brian would be toast; Dan was sure to freak out about half way through, and Ericka's nerves would get the better of her, and that's exactly what happened.

Once again, Dan and Sam are weasles...."blame your taxi driver"??? WTF?? "It wasn't our fault"??? Did the taxi driver MAKE them come with him and screw over Brian and Ericka? If you are going to be a hard-playing, tough as nails jerk, then at least own it, don't pretend it wasn't you.

Thing 1 and I speculated that the Poker Chippies would have rocked that last task, except then we thougth of the two of them at the bungee thing at "Love", and decided they probably wouldn't have ever gotten to the final task. On the other hand, Flight Time and Big Easy would have got those damn flowers in one, and with style, too.

I finally figured out who Dan reminds me of: Ross, from "Friends". The constant whining and demanding and freaking out is very Geller.

I look forward to visting Monaco, Spain, sometime in the near future.

I also liked that Megan and Cheyne expected that dead Frank Sinatra would be greeting them. On the other hand, Wayne Newton doesn't actually look like he's entirely living.

I really liked the rappelling task; that would be so much fun to do! And I would have my eyes open the whole time. Good thing Mika didn't have to do that one; she'd still be up there.

I can't figure out why Ericka's family has a hard time accepting Brian....he seems like a great guy who loves her and didn't even come close to smacking her, even with the most deserved of provocations. Why isn't his family freaked out that he's married to a spazzy baby?
Thing 1 and I were all tense and stabby for the whole of that episode, could you imagine the two of us actually on the race??? One or both of us would burst into flames, I'm sure.

I'm not sure Megan and Cheyne really are a couple...their chemistry is zero. She said at the finish line ""He's a very good friend. I know I can count on him for the rest of my life." If I said that about the Mister, he'd give me a good long look and ask what was the matter.

Until next season!!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Best Books of 2009

In no particular order, the best books I've read this year are:

Dissolution by C.J. Sansom Fiction. A perfect blend of historical fiction and murder mystery, this book kept me interested right to the very end. Sansom certainly does his research in this story about a hunchback lawyer investigating a murder in the middle of Henry VIII's dismantling of the monasteries. I devoured this one.

In A Dry Season by Peter Robinson Fiction. Switching back and forth between England during WWII and the present, this murder mystery was enthralling. I almost couldn't stop readin this.

Twenty Chickens for a Saddle by Robyn Scott Non-Fiction. A memoir about growing up in southern Africa. It reminded me of "Don't Let's Go To The Dogs Tonight but with much more functional parents.

Got You Back by Jane Fallon Fiction Sometimes what you thought you wanted isn't actually what you wanted. Thinking girl's "chick lit", Fallon manages to make the unsympathetic character sympathetic, and the one you were rooting for the one you hate.

The Kommandant's Girl by Pam Jenoff Fiction. A Jewish girl passes herself off as a Gentile to spy on a Nazi official in Poland during the war. Hard to put down, excellent historical fiction.

The Rest of Her Life by Laura Moriarty Fiction. How would you cope if someone you loved did something awful? This book about an accident and the aftermath was enthralling and moving.

The Guns of the South by Harry Turtledove Fiction What if the Confederates got AK-47s from some time travelling South Africans with an agenda? What would happen if the South won the war, and Robert E. Lee had his own ideas about how things would work out? I found this hard to put down.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett I think this was my very favorite book this year. A story about the maids of Jackson, Mississippi and their employers, on the cusp of the civil rights movement, The Help was enthralling and moving and entirely fabulous. I was alternately dying to find out how it ended, and very sorry to see it finish. My book club loved it, too, and I found myself tellng all sorts of people to read it.

Bright Shiny Morning by James Frey Fiction. By the author of A Million Little Pieces, this story of Los Angeles was gritty and compelling and absolutley fascinating. It talked about gangs, and highways, and water and history and all the people who come to L.A. to start a new life.I found myself thinking about it when I wasn't reading it, and it has stayed with me long after I finished it. And excellent book.

This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper Fiction. Family and grief and starting over. Tropper manages to make me laugh out loud while making me feel as though these characters are real and worth knowing.

Undress Me In the Temple of Heaven by Susan Jane Gilman Non-fiction. By the author of Hypocrite In A Pouffy White Dress, this story of travelling and youth and finding yourself out of your depth made me laugh out loud.

A Good Indian Wife by Anne Cherian Fiction Modern Western values set against older, Eastern ideals. In a world where one out of three marriages ends in divorce, is an arranged marriage really such a bad idea? This story of expectations and wills was very gripping.

Still Alice by Lisa Genova Usually a story of Alzheimer's disease is told from the caretaker's point of view, but this one is seen through the victim's eyes. Alice's descent into confusion and forgetfullness was sad and compelling. A great book.

The Brightest Star in the Sky by Marian Keyes One of my very favorite authors; I would read this woman's grocery list. Keyes books are entirely entertaining.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Oh, My Darlin'

Nothing smells like Christmas to me quite like clementines. They show up in the grocery store in early November, right along side the first of the Christmas packaging and displays, so they are inextricably linked in my mind. Clementines are delicious, small, sweet little oranges that somehow manage to perfume a whole room when you start peeling one. I can’t eat just one at a time, I have to have at least two or three at a go.

They are easy to peel, and are supposed to be seedless. It’s so sharply disappointing when you come across a seed, mostly because you weren’t expecting one, but also because there is never only ONE seed. If you find one seed, you KNOW you will be spitting out about 30 more for the rest of the clementine.

They usually come in little wooden boxes, who knows why. It seems like an odd, primitive sort of packaging for this day and age; everything else comes in clamshell plastic or little net bags. The wooden boxes are flimsy little things with sharp edges and splinters, and the recycling guys toss them back on the lawn if you try to put them in the blue box. The only thing the wooden boxes are good for, in my experience, is for fashioning makeshift stables for free wheeling nativity scenes that need some grounding. Otherwise, they are quite useless.

But the clementines themselves are fabulous. Once, when the Mister and I were skiing in Colorado, we saw a display of clementines in the local grocery store that was so expensive, we nearly fainted with shock. Why, exactly, they went for double the price at home, we had no idea….was Morocco (where clementines come from) so much farther from Colorado than it was from southwestern Ontario? More likely, it had to do with discouraging people from buying flashy, foreign citrus fruit, instead of regular, unchallenging Florida oranges. But the Mister and I bought them anyway, dispite the dent in our holiday budget, because clementines are SO good, and also, you could fit two or three into the pockets of your ski jacket without tearing the lining.

I buy a box every week or so, and they usually don’t last until the next shopping day. I think they are the only fruit that is pretty much “acceptable” by my family for the entirety of their stay here…there are no issues with “spots” (bananas), “going soft” (almost any kind of berry) or "too much work" (a complaint frequently leveled at mangos). Clementines are eternally acceptable.
And they really do smell like Christmas. Really.