Friday, July 31, 2009

I Had A Dream.

I know, I know, I'm always rabbiting on about how boring I find other people's dreams, mostly because I think the symbolism and meaning of dreams is vastly over-rated. Seriously, it just meant that you dreamt you went to school naked, you didn't actually do it...let it go. But last night's dream made me laugh when I woke up and remembered it.

I dreamt that I went to was walking to work and I forgot to put on shoes. Again. Like most dreams, it seems perfectly logical to find myself in such a predicament, and I'm exasperated that I haven't learned a thing since the last time it apparently happened. (I have actually found myself walking down a street inadvertently barefoot, but there were some some savagely painful high heels, a wedding reception and a very late hour involved.)

As I was walking along, mad at myself, a homeless guy asked me for money and I was all "Dude, for God's sake, I don't EVEN HAVE SHOES!"

So, even in my dreams, I find myself justifying my behaviour to homeless guys.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Things I've Learned About Running

As I have mentioned recently, I've taken up running. I'm trying not to talk about it too much, as one of the Truths of This Life is that nobody really cares about what you ate yesterday, what you dreamt last night or how you exercised; like speeches at weddings, they only entertain the people involved.
But my running clinic, that I started at the beginning of June has just about finished its 10 week run, and so I think I'm allowed to give myself a bit of a pat on the back. Back when I started a few months ago, I was a heap of wheezy, sweaty yuck after 1 minute of running, and now I can do ten full minutes. I'm no less wheezy or sweaty, but at least I can do it.

So, in my admittedly short running career, these are the Things I've Learned About Running:

  1. Running isn't easy, but it isn't that hard, either. At least, not nearly as hard as I thought it would be. It is entirely do-able.
  2. Even though I took up running to lose weight, running isn't going to do it alone. What I put in my mouth has way more to do with my weight than how I exercise. But at least I can eat more or less what I want without gaining any more weight. I can live with that.
  3. Running when you have a headache, a full stomach or the wrong underwear on is a very, very bad idea.
  4. If it hurts, get it looked at. When I started, I was having trouble with some knee pain. Big Liver Girl, who is a real physiotherapist and not just another opinionated friend, hooked me up with some orthotics for my running shoes and they have been nothing short of miraculous. Way better than suffering through.
  5. My running leader says "your feet will keep going as long as you tell them to". It is entirely true. They can and they will.
  6. It may not feel great when you are doing it, but you will always be glad you did it.
  7. My legs, which I have always been pretty good, look awesome now. I'm pretty sure I can see a suggestion of a waist now, too, which has been AWOL for about 15 years.
  8. People look at you with a certain amount of respect when you say you run. Especially if you have been a notable slob of long-standing up until now.
  9. You can spend way too much money on running gear, if you aren't careful. In fact, you can spend way more time reading about running and buying running gear and talking about running rather than actually running, if you put your mind to it.
  10. Water is the most wonderful substance in all of God's green earth.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Important Things I Learned Today

1. If you leave a whole watermelon at the bottom of the basement stairs for a week, it will look perfectly good until you try to pick it up.

2. When you try to pick it up, your fingers will go right through the rind and it will explode like a water balloon.

3. Rotten watermelon smells like barnyard, watermelon and death.

4. Those Shamwow things don't work for shit.

5. Eat watermelon the day you buy it.

Corn on the Cob

It is late July in Southwestern Ontario, and that can only mean one thing....it's corn on the cob season! Why is there not more poetry dedicated to corn on the cob? It's at least as magnificent as daffodils, and a lot tastier, too.

We are lucky enough to be right smack in the middle of corn-growing country, which means that we are able to get just-picked-that-day corn on the cob on almost any store or road-side stand or market you happen to be passing. And corn on the cob is best when it is really, really fresh. Supposedly the First Nations people (that would be the new term for "Indians", for those of you who haven't got the memo) say you should pick the corn when the pot of water is already boiling, it should be that fresh. We aren't quite that enthusiastic, but manys the trip back from the beach at the end of the day where we stop at some little stand by the side of the road to get corn for dinner.

We had corn on the cob for dinner last night, (with some BBQ chicken and a Caesar salad) and it is about the only vegetable that the Loudshoes children actually ask for and eat willingly. You can cook corn all kinds of ways, and dress it up all fancy, but why bother? It's so good straight up...bring a pot of water to a boil (unsalted), chuck in all the shucked corn, put a lid on it, turn the pot off and let it sit for 7 to 10 minutes. When you take the corn out, slather lavishly with butter and salt and repeat; only stop when you are ready to topple off your chair.

The only thing I don't like about corn is the dedicated and protracted dental flossing programme required after eating it, (I wonder if the sale of dental floss takes a noticeable jump in the summer?) and the fact that the cobs take years to disintegrate int he composter. I swear the bottom two feet of our compost bin is made up entirely of corn cobs. (Maybe they should make the outside of the Space Shuttle out of used corn cobs and they dye they use in cherry Kool-Aid...those are both indestructible.)

While corn season is here, we will enjoy it to the fullest. I will just stock up on floss

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Is It Summer Yet?

We haven't had much of a summer here in Ontario this year...the weather has been sulky and petulant most of the time, refusing to warm up and threatening rain a lot. There have been some up sides to this; as much as I adore a sauna in my backyard, I'm a teensy bit relieved that I don't have to scrape the cat up off the breezeway floor any time soon.

But I love summer....I LOVE it, and will be sorry if we don't get a good, sweaty, baking, melty couple of weeks this year. Of course, it could happen later rather than sooner....I has occurred to me that while I tend to think of summer as June, July and August, in reality, the past few years we have had summer more rightly sliding into September and October. I remember two years ago at Thanksgiving (which is in October in Canada) my mother refused to put a turkey in the oven because it was 30 frigging degrees outside, and, in her words, "that is just ridiculous". (That's 30 Celsius. Which is "really very hot" in Fahrenheit.) We had Domino's pizza for Thanksgiving dinner, which my kids and my niece and nephew declared the best Thanksgiving ever.
The Mister's birthday and our wedding anniversary is in September, so I have an occasion by which to mark each year, and it's almost always too hot to make the Mister a birthday cake. (I make it anyway, just in case you think I would miss making a fuss over the Mister, and also, pass any opportunity whatsoever to have some cake.) September can be sweltering.

I'm hoping this summer turns itself around, so that we can still do a few things that require nice weather. For example, a trip to the beach is miserable and soul-destroying in the rain, and a picnic in the drizzle will make you wonder if you could ever be happy again. I've tried to eat ice cream on a patio wearing a sweater and jeans, and it's hopelessly woeful. And picking blueberries in the rain feels as though one has been conscripted into a chain gang. Really not memories you want to make.

One good thing about this cool weather, however, is that we have only had our air conditioner on for one day this year. (Usually by this point we would be up to a week or so.) Also, no water restrictions, and, due to the inclement weather, my beer-on-the-patio-after-work consumption has been well within acceptable limits. So there's that to be thankful for.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Sites Worth Seeing

Once again, many thanks to my friend Carolyn for letting me know about Awful Library Books. Spectacular.

Monday, July 20, 2009

One Small Step

It was forty years ago today that they landed on the moon for the first time. I can barely recall the actual event myself; I was only 7, and a girl, and way more interested in Archie comics. I remember being up at a cottage on Lake Huron that we rented for the month of July when I was a kid. We didn't have a television there, but the neighbors did, and invited us over to see it. Mostly my memories of the whole thing include it being a stinking hot, humid night, and me being pissed off that none of the other kids wanted to do anything but watch tv.(They were all boys, and older than me. At the very least, I understood that this was most decidedly a testosterone-friendly thing, and no one was going to give me two second's attention.)

But the older I get, the more amazing I find the whole thing. I mean, think about it; people got off this planet, landed somewhere else, walked around on it, and got back here alive. I'm exhausted after unpacking from the cottage.

It's really quite a remarkable thing, especially when you consider that the technology they had in 1969....my cell phone has a more powerful computer than almost anything they had back then. When you look at the footage, it looks positively medieval. (One of the things I that fascinates me about technology is that, no matter what you are dealing with at the time, you think it's the best that it's ever going to get. Like, I don't find myself saying "wow, I really hope they sort out this cell phones that don't control the weather at the same time thing" or "digital cameras are really not enough, I want a camera takes pictures when I forget to bring it with me, too". The technology always seems to be totally adequate for what you want at the time. Except for children's car seats....they are horrible to operate, and are desperately in need of about 20 years more work.) I think if they were sending men up to the moon now with what they had then, they'd just throw up their hands and say, "have you been smoking crack? There's no way."

Also, the world has changed in terms of what we deem as "acceptable risks". If they tried to go to the moon today, nobody in their right mind would think it's safe enough. As it was, the whole moon walk was like the Titanic in reverse....just as that ship going down required a whole string of unlikely little events to happen just so for disaster to fall, so Apollo 11 had a whole lot of little things go just right, so that it was a success. Phenomenal.

My interest in the moon landing is considerbly more today than it was forty years ago, mostly, I think, because I can appreciate what an enormous undertaking the whole thing was, and what an exceptional acheivment it was. Again, sort of like unpacking from the cottage.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Back


I'm not sure which I like better, the week spent at the cottage, or the coming home from the cottage.
We came home yesterday from our annual holiday on Lake Huron. We've been going to the cottage since Thing 2 was only 18 months old, and it's become a real punctuation mark in our lives; the girls don't remember a summer when we didn't go to the cottage, and I always feel like the pictures I get of the kids there stand as tangible markers to their growing up.
And I do love that week away. Apart from the break from work and routine, I love seamless quality to our days there. We have no tv and no computers, and I get a delicious feeling of being completely out of the loop for that week. I usually buy a newspaper every couple of days, just so I know what day it is. And I read and nap and walk and watch movies with impunity; there are no closets to be cleaned, no files to organize, no bathrooms to paint and no laundry to be folded. It is guilt-free, enforced relaxation.
Coming home is just as wonderful. By the end of the week up there, I am dying for my own kitchen, my own bathroom and my own bed. I revel in being able to watch the news, pet the cat and have the dishwasher do the work. (My God, the dishes at the cottage! Every time I'd clear the sink out, it would fill up again in about 3 minutes! Who knew four people could use so many forks??? I come home with an entirely new appreciation for the 19th century housewife.)
This year I did something so wonderfully brilliant that I think I should get some sort of award for it....I cleaned the house thoroughly and perfectly before I went away. (That also had a lot to do with the fact that we had someone housesitting for us , and nothing galvanizes me like pride and the idea that she would tell everyone at work what a filthy hovel I enhabit.) I even put clean sheets on my bed and fresh towels in the ensuite. I cannot tell you what a phenomenally excellent feeling it was to walk into a clean house, after a week spent with bugs and sand and a decidedly lackidasical approach to personal hygeine. And to slide into clean sheets after a long, hot shower was possiblly the most blissful experience of my entire life. (And I know from blissful, I've had epidurals.)
Today I am doing laundry (piles and piles and piles of it) and puttering in the garden and surfing the net and generally enjoying putting my life back on again. And maybe I'll clean a closet, just for the novelty of it.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Home Sweet Home

The Loudshoes family is going to a cottage for a few days, and we are lucky enough to have a house sitter for the duration. (One of the nice things about working with so many young people who make very little money is that lots of them live with their parents, so there is no shortage of people who are dying to get out of the house and stay at our place for a while.) Our lovely assistant, Summer, has agreed to look after the Loudshoes estate for the week. She normally lives in a small town about 45 minutes away, and I think she is just excited at the novelty of living in the big city, as well as being able to sleep in until 7:30 on a work day.

Anyway, she came by this morning to get a key and a tour and all. And it struck me as all kinds of strange to try and explain your life and your house to someone else. (And weirder still to try and have it all explained to you.) There's all kinds of things that you live with every day, and don't think anything of, and then when someone else comes into your house, you find yourself realizing what a Dr. Seuss existence you really have.

For instance, there's the dishwasher that works much better if you give it a good thumping with your left knee when you close it. The window in the dining room that the handle comes right off if your use it even slightly the wrong way. (The handle goes right back on, but you will need superhuman strength to open the window then.) We never close the kitchen window, because it is awkward and stiff and doesn't open much more than 6 inches, and even though it presents a perfect opportunity for a thief to get in the house, I'm willing to take the chance because he would have to be about 89 pounds to fit through that thing.
Our television set-up is ridiculous in the extreme, and I am going to have to type up a tutorial for the poor girl if she is ever to get all the systems aligned. We have no less than FIVE remotes for the tv/DVD/Wii/PVR set up in the family room, and you practically need a PhD in engineering to get a movie playing. It would be easier to negotiate peace in the Middle East than to organize all the bits and pieces required to record "Canada's Next Top Model" on the PVR. I don't even bother trying to watch that thing, most of the time.
We have a keyless entry on the back door, but a traditional lock on the front door, with a key. But you have to make sure that the lock underneath the deadbolt isn't locked, or else your key will do you no good at all. The shower in the girl's bathroom leaks at the one corner, so you have to put down a towel, lest you create Lake Loudshoes in there. The tv in the kitchen is operated by the same remote as the one in our bedroom, so you have to stand at the dining room door and point the remote at the bedroom if you want to change the channel.
You get the idea.

I'm sure everyone's house is like that; full of idiosyncracies and foibles that slowly accumulate, so that the occupants don't even realize what they deal with every day. When you have to account for them to someone else, however, you begin to think you live in a bad sit-com.

I did mention to Summer that Toby will be off on holidays of his own; my mother and father will be looking after him while we are away, since Toby does NOT like being left alone in the house for extended lengths of time, and punishes the furniture severely. She was very happy not to have to deal with the Tuna Seeking Feline of Six A.M. Sleeping in until 7:30 may be the only upside to her staying here.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Prepare Yourself

It's a LOT of work to be on holidays. The Mister and I finished work on Saturday afternoon, all full of bonhomie and exhuberance, because we are off work for the next two weeks. But I've been so busy the past few days that it doesn't feel much like holidays just yet. Suffice it to say, I realized I'm only on holidays from one job, the paying job. My other job doesn't give holidays, and the pay sucks, too.

We are renting a cottage up on Lake Huron for a week, and we are getting ready to go. I love that cottage, and the week that we spend there, but oh. my. God. the effort to get us there feels like a monumental effort, like I'm climbing mountains barefoot carrying wet watermelons. Blindfolded. With sweaty socks. It's sort of like Christmas, lots of work beforehand, and then, boom, blissful sloth....I know I'm going to enjoy the torpid, near-comatose pace for a week when I get there, but I do have to do the work to get there.

I'm a list-maker from a way back; making a list for me is almost as good as getting the thing itself done. And my list for the cottage fills both sides of a standard piece of paper, it's so comprehensive. (For example, I put down "bed sheets, pillows, comforters, extra pillows", even though I'm pretty sure if I put "bed stuff" down I'd get it all, and one would think that if I was packing pillows, I'd just lob them all in there.) I end up packing way too much for a week away, so I have to revise the lists constantly so as to fit it all in the van. (Really, why do I pack the popcorn maker and the cross-stitch that I've never finished every. freaking. year?) So my lists got made last night, and I add to them regularly throughout the day. Also, I keep the list from last year so I don't forget anything. This, as you can imagine, can take up a lot of time.

Couple my preparations with the fact that we are having one of our staff house-sit for us, and you have me in a whirlwind of housekeeping that is entirely non-existant any other time. Now that someone else will be in the house, I feel the need to make sure she doesn't have to wallow in the filth that I am perfectly willing to live in myself. (Remember the Loudshoes family motto? "That will do".) Hence the back of the fridge will be vacuumed, and all the lightbulbs dusted. Not that she will notice, I'm sure, but I will.

Next week I will be sleeping in and eating when I feel like it and reading all the live long day and going for walks after dinner and not doing anything I don't want to. It will all be worth it.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Eating Down the House.

Yay holidays! The Mister and I are off work for the next two weeks. Most people who own their own businesses don't get to do that, but we are extremely fortunate to have a staff that will carry on pretty much the same whether we are there or not.

This week we will be home, but doing stuff around the city that we don't usually have time for, and next week we will go to a rented cottage. Because we are going away and out so much, we are engaged in an activity I call "eating down the house", which involves eating as much food that is already here, rather than getting any more groceries. That way, when I go to do the big shop for the cottage, I won't be duplicating stuff, or leaving a fridge full of stuff to spoil until we get back. (I'm finding myself singing "Eating Down the House" to this tune in my head. It's getting very tedious.)

We've been doing pretty well, cobbling together respectable meals with what's here; you'd hardly know we were doing it, up til now. But now it's been a week since I bought anything, and it looks like tonight's dinner will be chickpeas, eggs, cucumbers and popsicles.
When we do shop for the cottage, it's a nutritionist's nightmare. For one week of the year, I let the kids (and myself) eat pretty much whatever they want, any time they want. There's no need to ask if it's okay to have Pringles at ten in the morning, for that one week a year, it is. You want pudding and licorice for lunch? Go right ahead. One morning, when Thing 2 was about 6 or 7, I came out of our bedroom to find her sitting on the couch watching a DVD and eating vanilla icing straight out of the can. Mostly I was horrified, but a part of me was really impressed that she could even stand it.

After a couple of days of the nutritional free-for-all, they tend to start looking for salad and apples. It doesn't take long for a body to tire of sodium, guar gum, and Red Dye #2.
But "eating down the house" takes some discipline; it's not easy to sit down to a meal of yogurt and granola bars. It just makes next week's menu of "everything fun" that much more appealing.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Kibbles and Bits And Some More

Apparently nobody told the weather that it is July. Because it is cold and damp and drizzly and way more like April than July. Maybe the weather got mixed up and gave us England's usual summer weather, because England certainly seems to have ours.
Today I wore a t-shirt with a light cardigan over it to work, and because it was particularly dismal when I left the house, I work a new striped, cotton scarf with it, too. I walked to Starbucks to get a coffee in the slobbery conditions, and when I got back to work, I noticed a distinctly....bacony sort of smell around me. After a bit of detective work, it turns out it was my damp scarf. Lovely. I smelled vaguely of smoked pork product the rest of the day. Luckily, I do not work with Labrador Retrievers.

My nephew Colm has been around for the past week here. He lives in Toronto, but occasionally makes forays to our city to visit. He's a nice kid, chatty and good-humored. We took him to the driving range with us the other day, and he was game, if completely inexperienced. No matter how many times we showed him how to swing a golf club, his hands kept sliding down to hold it like a hockey stick; that is with his right hand about half way down the shaft and slapping away at the ball like it was a puck. When he did connect with the ball, it was pretty impressive; that thing smoked. But unfortunately, that didn't happen very often, usually he ended up taking a divot out of the ground that would break your leg if you happened to fall in it. But he remained chipper and sunny, nonetheless. All golfers should be so blithe.

Thing 1 and her friends took a public bus to the beach, about an hour a way, last Saturday. It's a great deal, only 8 bucks each way, and the only way to get to the beach when you don't drive or don't have a car. The only thing was that the bus didn't come back home until 9:30 at night, and that would have meant that she and her friends would have had to hang around a lot longer than they wanted to waiting for it. I said I'd drive up and get them after work. I dropped The Mister at my parents house, where we were going to eat dinner, and then I drove up to the beach, got the girls and came back. When we came out of my mom and dad's, we heard and ominous hissing noise and found that one of the front tires was almost completely flat. Long story short, I had run over a roofing nail in my parents condo complex on my way back, and the tire had been leaking all the time we were at dinner. Can you imagine if that had happened when I dropped the Mister off???? I'd have been out on the highway with a gaggle of 15 year old girls and a flat tire. (And you can imagine how much help they would have been.) Luckily, we were able to patch the tire on Monday, and it only cost 30 bucks.

One of the features I can put on my blog is a counter, down at the bottom. I love that counter, I check it every day to see if anyone has looked at my blog. And they have, YOU have, and it thrills me every single time I see it. Recently, I've found a place where it shows me on a map of the world where the last 10 viewers are from, and this has enthralled me like nothing else. I check it all the time....Vancouver! That must be the Tattooed One! Calgary! That must be James or Lisa! GERMANY! My friends Anne and Jack are in Germany on an exchange for 6 weeks, that must be them! INDIA! YUKON?!? SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA!?!! I don't even know people in these places!! Strangers are reading my blog!! I'm ready to black out, I'm so excited! I have to stop myself from checking that little map every hour, it is unseemly. So, thank you, everyone, you have no idea how exciting it is to see that people read my stuff.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Glorious and Free

It's Canada Day today, the only other holiday in the roster that floats around the week, depending on when it falls. This year, it falls on a Wednesday, which is usually a working day for me, and therefore is a bonus day-off that I get paid for, and that makes me very happy.

My parents moved here when I was very little, and except for about 3 weeks every year in about late February, early March, I am profoundly grateful that they chose Canada to emigrate to. They chose very well.

Some of the things I like about Canada are:
  • Canadians, as a whole, are very polite. If a Canadian bumps into a door jamb, he or she will apologize.
  • Niagara Falls. I LOVE going to Niagara Falls, it is such a cool place. The Falls themselves are pretty impressive, but the mist and the noise and the power of all that water is truly thrilling. And the touristy bit of the town is fabulous, unapologetically cheesy and entirely entertaining.
  • CBC radio. We are incredibly blessed with a spectacular public radio network. That has no advertising.
  • The Canadian political system usually makes sure that no politician can get too comfortable in office. If we want, we can toss them out and have another election.
  • This is a very safe place. The other night we forgot to close the front door, let alone lock it. My purse, the keys to the van and the van were all there in the morning.
  • Same-sex marriage is legal here. And nobody makes much of a fuss about it. Also, in Ontario, women are allowed to go topless in public without getting arrested. Not that it happens, mind you, but it's legal.
  • Universal health care. My babies were born, my mother was diagnosed and treated for breast cancer and my husband went to the emergency room with kidney stones. And we all walked out of the hospital without owing one cent.
  • Whole milk here is called "homogonized" milk, sold as "homo" milk, which makes me giggle every time I see it.
  • We can take stability, peace and security for granted. I can criticize my government, I don't have to pay bribes to any police force and go to whatever church I take into my head to attend, without being thrown in jail. Considering what I hear going on in other places in the world, this is something other people can only dream of.
  • The Great Lakes. I've only been to three of them, but they are spectacular.
  • I can buy lemongrass, masa harina, fiddleheads, jerk sauce and piccalilli all at my local grocery store.
  • The Canadian Post office has an address for Santa Claus (Santa Claus, North Pole, Canada, H0H 0H0) that they advertise, and they answer every letter that they get.
  • Butter Tarts. Sort of like a bitty pecan pie but without the pecans. Heavenly.

Happy Birthday, Canada!