Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Redux

Aaaannnnd, we're back. To normal, that is. We had a lovely Christmas, and I am very thankful to be able to spend some time with our families and loved ones. But I really love that I've been laid off from that part-time job I call Christmas.

I had Christmas Eve off work, as it was a Friday, my regular day off. I met the Mister and the staff for a few drinks when they were all done work, and then we went to my parents for dinner. My dad makes a big, beef stew for Christmas Eve dinner every year. It was actually a recipe he remembers his grandmother making, back in Ireland, and for some reason, it's been the traditional Christmas Eve dinner in my family for years. (In fact, we have no other traditional dinner for any other holiday of the year, not even Christmas Day. Go figure.)

Here is the Loudshoes house all snug and cosy on Christmas Eve:

Toby is the blotch in front of the Christmas tree. It he could have talked, he'd have been all "dude, whaaaat are you doing out there??? Can I come too? Wait, it's cold out. "

Christmas Day was delightful, as the kids are old enough to sleep in to a reasonable hour, but still get pretty excited about Christmas morning. I have to admit, I'm a bit sorry that the whole Santa thing is over for the girls, but man, does it ever make my life easier....the Mister and I used to have to tip-toe around putting everything out on Christmas Eve, desperately trying to keep quiet and not wake up the kids, one of whom was on super-duper-hyper-alert mode and attuned to anything vaguely Santa-related and might wake up at the slightest noise. Do you have any idea how LOUD a shopping bag can be at 1 in the morning?

Toby enjoys Christmas morning very much. He had no idea what's going on, but he highly approves. Cinnamon buns for breakfast and enough time for two cups of coffee make me pretty happy. And the weather was bright and cold, with no snow, so the travellers could get where they wanted to go.
My brother and his family came down from Toronto, which was really nice. The cousins, especially, don't get together very often. And the dinner was fabulous and my sister-in-law makes kick ass desserts.

My kids got a game for the Wii called "Just Dance", which involves you holding one of the remotes and copying the moves of the dancers on the screen. Thing 1 absolutley rocks at it, consistently smoking the rest of us....who knew she had such hiddent talents? Even she seemed surprised at herself. I, on the other hand, made my children and my niece and nephew almost herniate themselves with laughter, when I tried it. Apparently, I'm no Barishnikov. (I knew I wasn't light on my feet; I'm Mrs LOUDSHOES for Christ's sake.)
Yesterday was Day Three of "Christmas Extravaganza 2010". We went to my in-laws for the day, about 40 minutes away. The kids opened yet more presents, and we ate yet more food and then lay in a food coma for a while before heading back home. As the kids get older, there are a lot less presents, which is a very good thing. Having two girls meant that there was a tsunami of pink, plastic things into our house every Christmas which threatened to bury us alive. The girls get a lot more clothes and CDs than toys now, which is great.

But the day I'm really excited about comes next week. In our city, you can put out four containers of garbage, and unlimited recycling. This usually presents no problem for us, unless of course, we miss a garbage day, and then we're under the gun. But the first garbage day after Christmas has NO limit, and we can put out as many bags as we want. Let me tell you, I love that day. I'm cleaning out furnace rooms, freezer rooms, garages and closets in anticipation. My family are like Mother Nature, they really hate a vacuum. Or an empty space. So I'm looking forward to pitching out a ton of stuff and getting it to the curb before they notice.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Christmas Shopping Strategic Manoever

I'm ALMOST done Christmas shopping. I will be ALMOST done Christmas shopping for the next four days, because I am never really DONE Christmas shopping until the malls close on the 24th and I can't buy any more stuff. (Even then, my friend Kelly has been known to stop by the 7-11 on her way home from Midnight Mass to pick up some peanuts and windshield wiper fluid for her dad.)

I've been very good this year, stayed on budget and I did not clock anyone, much as I felt like it. Over the years I've learned a few strategies to make it less likely that I end up on the news.
  • Shop Early. The Mister and I started a strict "cash only" policy when it comes to Christmas presents when we first got married, and it's been very nice to not have any credit card bills coming in in January. But this means we have to buy a few presents every week, starting around Halloween. Sometimes that means people get Jack o' Lantern socks or goblin-themed wrapping paper, but that's what they get.
  • Wear appropriate footwear. High heels and smooth soles are right out of the question for Christmas shopping; you need something that will let you bob and weave while moving at Mach I like a runningback at the Super Bowl. It helps if the floor is dry, too.
  • Wear thin layers. For some reason, they keep the malls at a temperature that is appropriate for growing bananas. This might be comfortable for the staff, but when I am wearing a winter coat, boots, a scarf and a turtleneck, I can create my own weather system just walking around. Wearing polar fleece and shedding layers like a demented stripper is the only way to make it work.
  • Avoid crowds. The older I get, the less tolerant I am of herds of lumbering wildebeest with shopping bags. I get to the mall when it opens, and, with any luck, am leaving within a half an hour. This sometimes means that I grab the first thing I see when I get in the door (hence the Jack o' Lantern socks) but anyone getting a present from me knows what they're getting into.
  • Shop on-line first. How much do I love the internet? So much I would marry it, if I could. Being able to go on-line to see if they have it before I venture out is worth the price of admission alone. And I know you are wondering why I just don't do ALL of my shopping on-line, and that is because I've tried to, and although things like books are just fine to get without seeing them, the time that Barb the Receptionist bought a Ralph Lauren t-shirt in Large that barely fit a then-8-year-old Thing 2 has made me wary.
  • Do not mutter under your breath. Sadly, I'm not as quiet as I think I am, and when I sigh and talk to myself, it only gets me in trouble. How was I supposed to know the lady in front of me has ears like a cat when I said "Oh, for God's sake, take your 10% off coupon and eat it instead of the chocolates, your ass certainly will be better off"?
  • Don't take a cart. I get that stores want to be sure that they don't run out of stuff, but man, do they ever pack themselves tight. There was a Hallmark store I went into recently that had so many candles and ornaments and calendars and crap you couldn't actually get into the store, you had invade it, like Normandy. A cart at Costco is the height of folly. Those carts are big enough to fit in an entire live sheep and a birthday cake and tires anyway, but at Christmas time, the place is so crowded with people and stuff that I imagine if you got a cart, you'd get stuck back in the paper towel department and wouldn't be found until after New Years.
  • Revise your plans. You thought you'd get a cashmere scarf for your brother, but they have acrylic ones on sale right by the door? Remember, people don't know what you planned on doing, they only know what they get.
  • Wear earplugs. Because if I hear "Saaaaaaanta Claus is comin' to town!" one more time....

Thursday, December 16, 2010


God I hope I stop whining about the weather soon.....even I can't stand myself.

Another freaking foot of snow yesterday. But today, oh glory be: sunshine. And nothing falling out of the sky.
I read in the paper today that last year we got 108 cm. of snow for the entire winter. As of yesterday at 7 a.m., we'd had 122 cm. In ten days. Of December.

The good news is, I'm getting rockin' fab triceps from shovelling snow and flinging it overtop of mounds that are taller than me.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Mother Nature, You Win.

Okay, Mother Nature, I get it: you are a bad-ass.
It's been a week of brutal winter weather, and winter hasn't even officially started yet.
Last week, we got 100 cm of snow. That's three feet. Three feet of snow is a LOT of snow, especially when you have to shovel it. Then it got mild, and then it got cold, which means not only does it feel like -26°C out, it's really freaking slippery, too.
Here is a shot of our street this morning, at about 7 a.m.
Here is the Loudshoes house, all enveloped in snow, snug and warm. It was a beautiful sunrise, even if it was cold enough to rearrange the anatomy of a brass monkey. Our front porch has disappeared entirely, and those lumps on the right are a cement flower box and chair. Hard to tell, I know.
This was last night, outside the front door. I wish these pictures could convey how unbelievebly quiet it all is.
Today we got a few more inches of snow, and I am seriously considering hibernation.
Mother Nature wins.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Amazing Race 17, Episode 11

Yay Nat and Kat! Good on 'em....they raced well and consistently.... It was a satisfying, if kind of boring, finale. Try as they might, the producers couldn't muster much suspense, since Nat and Kat left the studio before Brooke and Claire even got there.

I vaguely got the Sancho Panza reference, and would have guessed "Quixote", but it took me a while....I kept thinking of Pancho Villa, who was a Mexican revolutionary general, which would have taken me God knows where in LA instead of to that studio.
I'm not going to rag on Thomas for not knowing that answer; adrenaline and Killer Fatigue will mess with your head something awful.

Poor Thomas and Jill, I did feel for them, she was palpably disappointed at the Amazing Bathmat Stage. I would be too, if after all that I lost because of a misguided cabbie. I do think that cab driver was messing with them....."I have GPS!" What rock has he been living under that he'd never heard of the Internet? My dad, who is the most neanderthal of techno-peasants, uses Google.

The Powers That Be probably thought that last memory task would provide a bit more spice to that episode than it did, and it likely would have, had there been more than one team there at a time. Can you imagine Nick or Chad doing that? Good times.

I'm not especially afraid of heights, but that bungee jump would have freaked me right out. When Kat was waiting for Nat, and just hanging there for what seemed like forever? I would have entertained the idea of a small, personal nervous breakdown. And I would have screamed just as long and as loud as Brooke and Claire, too. Good on Nat for sucking it up and doing it. Again, I think the producers were counting on a little more drama there, and no one delivered.

Nice to see Bob Eubanks is still getting work. I liked when Brooke and Claire squealed "You're out biggest idol!" and he replied "Good, you're mine too!!"

I, for one, appreciate hugely that this was not an entire season of "Diabetics Can Do Anything!" It was mentioned a couple of times, and that was it, which was great. I pretty much assume that little people, deaf people, diabetics, one-legged people, elves, Wiccans, people with webbed toes, people who bark like Labrador Retrievers and lesbian Eskimos can do anything they put their minds to. Just race, dammit. When a quadriplegic wins this thing, then I'll be impressed.

Just to tell you, Season 18 starts on February 20th! Can't wait!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Snow Day 2.0

We're buried. We had 90 cm of snow between Sunday night and this morning, (that's almost three feet) and it's still coming down. And the forecast is for more. I'm afraid we're not going to be able to leave the house until March.

The Mister and I struck out for work this morning; mostly so that we could tell everyone else to stay put. The drive in wasn't too bad, but the parking lots were a disaster and it wasn't like anyone would be walking in. You should have seen the two of us trying to get up the stairs at the salon; we were like Sherpas.
I did get a few phone calls while I was in there, mostly people making sure we knew they weren't going to come for their appointments. But I did get one woman who was very disappointed not to be able to get her hair done, as she had a party tonight she wanted to look special for. (I gently suggested to her that the party probably was cancelled.) and another woman who called, very excited to find someone at the shop, because she'd just been told she didn't have to go to work and she thought she'd come and get her hair done. I had to disappoint her, because the woman she wanted to do her hair couldn't get into work, either and OH MY GOD WOMAN, HAVE YOU LOOKED OUTSIDE??? ARE YOU SMOKING CRACK??? THERE'S A FREAKING BLIZZARD OUTSIDE!! STAY HOME!!! and there's nowhere to park, even if you can get downtown.

The kids got another day off of school, and there's a good chance they won't be going tomorrow.

Here is the view from my breezeway, down the street. It's hard to tell because of the lighting, but that snow is almost perfectly up to the seat of the chair on the right. That chair is up on the edge of the porch.
Here are my neighbour's cars. Really. Those are cars.
Here is the bench in the back yard last Friday.
Here is the bench in the backyard this morning. It's that lump on the right. On the left? The birdbath. It has a perfect tophat of snow on it.

I was smart enough to do the grocery shopping on Saturday evening, so we've plenty of food in the house, everyone is safe and home and there's lots to entertain us. Now, I really hope the power stays on.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Snow Day!

Are there any more beautiful words in the English language than "snow day"?
I woke up this morning at around 6, took one look out the front window and figured no one was going anywhere today. Sure enough, at about 6:45 Thing 1 got a flurry of texts from all corners, saying it was official, all the schools were closed. And she promptly went back to bed. As did I.
I think there are few more delicious feelings in the entire spectrum of human emotions than crawling back under those warm covers, knowing you are completely, entirely, off the hook for the day. There's even a word for it: "coverlicious".

Living in the lee of Lake Huron, we get plenty of "lake-effect" snow, streamers that pick up plenty of moisture when they move over the relatively warm waters of the lake, and then dump it once they hit land. The funny thing is, while we got two feet of snow today, the Mister's cousin, who lives a half an hour south of us, hardly got any snow at all....they can still see the grass.

The Mister went out and did the driveway first thing this morning. I don't think it was so much a desire to get the car out; nobody is going anywhere today, but rather that we had a fairly mild winter last year and he hardly got to use his new toy at all.
Here he is at the very can see how high the snow is, and the almost buried garbage cans, which I doubt will be picked up today.

Here is the birdbath in the backyard.
We went for a walk around the neighbourhood before lunchtime. This is the creek near our house. Note the foot-tall piles of snow in the middle of the creek...those are rocks, which barely peek out from the water.
Here is my family, on the footbridge that Thing 1 has to use to get to school every day. If it snows much more, that railing will be at knee level.
Even better, is that this is a Monday, and the Mister and I usually have Mondays off because we work Saturdays. So that means I get a full, unapologetic day of lounging around in my pajamas drinking hot chocolate and we're not losing any money. It's a win-win situation.

Amazing Race 17, Episode 11

That ending was emminently wasn't at all tense, and that nutsack Nick is off my screen for good. Sorry I had to see Vicky go.

Did you notice in that last confessional that Nick was all "we know what our flaws are and we have to work on them"? Actually, Nick, the big flaw in that relationship is you. She has nothing to answer for except that she's still dragging your sorry ass all over the place. She did say "it can only get better", which is a not a rousing endorsement of any relationship, if you ask me.

I can only surmise that Nick and Vicky were a gazillion hours later than everyone else. It was daylight when the other teams were checking in, and I figure the Ickys didn't do the white water rafting because it was dangerously dark. I did like that they made them clean that tank, like they said "you are hopelessly behind everyone else, and we didn't make you do that last Speedbump, but that tank isn't going to clean itself, so get to it and do something useful before we eliminate you altogether."

That white-water rafting looked like F-U-N fun! I really liked the wacky, Korean Music of Hilarity that went with that segment.

Those were the cleanest subway stations I have ever seen in my life. Did you see the floor at the one they took from the Army base? It was shiny.

Thomas would be so much more interesting if he didn't take himself so seriously.

Brooke one of those people who gets MORE hyper the MORE tired she gets. I think she would be an incredible team mate for something like this, but in real life I would only be able to take her in single servings.

Thing 1 and I would have rocked that ice skating challenge. (So would Vicky. Just sayin. Nick would have sucked, said it was stupid and then blamed her.) Because, by law, every Canadian knows how to skate! (One time the Mister and I found ourselves on a frozen pond in a ski village in Colorado spontaneously teaching a bunch of Texans how to skate. It's not a very natural motion, and people who don't know how to skate did exactly what Thomas did, which is to try to run on skates. It doesn't work, but it gives the rest of us a good laugh.) Claire did surprisingly well for someone who can't skate, because those l-o-o-o-o-ng blades are a bit of a challenge.

Best Line of the Night: "I need to toilet!"

Also, I like Snarky Jill very much! When Thomas didn't want to ask someone for directions because they were "too old", she replied "how about that guy? Is he in your age range?"

Next week....Heights!
And just to tell you? My money is on Nat and Kat.

Until the finale!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Kibbles and Bits

And so it begins....

First day of real snow here. I was out in it this morning....funny how people have to learn to drive all over again when it snows for the first time.

I slept in yesterday morning, a rarity for me. Usually I wake up at around 6:45 every morning, without an alarm clock. (I do have a 12-pound, furry, orange alarm clock, but he can only be counted on to wake me up every day, there's no guarantee it's going to be at the appropriate time.) I usually give myself plenty of time in the mornings, I hate being rushed, so even though I had slept a half hour longer than usual, I was able to get myself out the door on time without too much trauma. The irony? I was dreaming about sleeping in.
We got a new terminal at the salon for credit card purchases. Every now and again the credit card machine has a small nervous breakdown and will only calculate tips of 150% or refuses to recognize PINs that start with 4. Our receptionist, Barb, got a technician out to replace ours, and since he seemed to have only been trained for the job that morning, and by drunken monkeys, he was clueless as to how to configure the machine to suit our needs. The receptionist sent him on his way and asked me to look up the supplier's number on the net when I got home. I did so, and handed her the number the next morning. While I was shampooing my first client's hair, Barb came back to me with a very strange look on her face asking "where the hell did I get that number???" It turns out she had called it and a very breathy, female voice had answered, with a "Hi, baby, so glad you got some sugar for me?". Not exactly what one expected from a credit card processing company. It seems I inadvertently transferred two numbers when I wrote it down. Oops.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Favorite Books of 2010

Just in case you need some gift ideas for the coming year, here's my list of "Favorite Books of 2010". Enjoy!

  • The Wave by Susan Casey (Non-fiction) An enthralling account of gigantic ocean waves, how they form, where they are, and the scientists who study them. If that sounds dry, it really is not, partly because Casey follows a bunch of big-wave surfers, the best in the world, as they ride 100-foot waves all over the world. (Go to YouTube and type in "surfing big waves" to see what's involved.) One of the most interesting books I read this year.
  • Fall of Giants by Ken Follett (Fiction) Another home run by the guy who wrote "Pillars of the Earth". A lovely, big, fat, historical novel about several families in the years before and during WW I. The first in a trilogy, so this one's a bit of a commitment.
  • Every Last One by Anna Quindlen (Fiction) Heartbreaking and poignant, this novel about a family, a terrible tragedy and the aftermath has stayed with me for months.
  • Black Out by Connie Willis (Fiction) I like the way Connie Willis deals with time-travel; it's a lot less about the science and a LOT more about the history. This story, about historians travelling from 21st century Oxford to London during the Blitz was hugely entertaining. My only beef with it was that it's one of two books, which was not made clear when I started the first one.....that last page was a big disappointment. Fortunately, the sequel, "All Clear" has been published recently.
  • Little Bee by Chris Cleeve (Fiction) A sweet, sad novel told by an young African refugee and the English family who's lives she enters. This story made me realize that I live in a stable, secure and utterly safe place that many in the rest of the world can only dream of.
  • The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley (Fiction) A quirky and delightful 11-year-old narrator made this murder-mystery a lot of fun to read. The sequel, "The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag" was equally gratifying.
  • Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhonda Janzen. (Non-fiction) When her husband leaves her for a guy named Bob on, and she's in a debilitating car accident, the author returned to her parents home, and the Mennonite community she'd left years before. Funny and touching, this story of coming home and putting the pieces of your life back together was wonderful.
  • A Traitor to Memory by Elizabeth George (Fiction) A story of a musical-prodigy, his family and a mystery that has haunted his family for years. A terrifically entertaining book.
  • Coal; A Human History by Barbara Freese (Non-Fiction) A social history of the fuel. Way more interesting than you'd think.
  • Wide Awake by Patricia Morrisroe. Thankfully, I have no problem sleeping, but reading this book made me realize that lots of people do. Patricia Morrisroe talks about her own insomnia and the multitude of solutions she and thousands have tried, all in the name of getting some sleep. Ironically, I stayed up late reading this.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Amazing Race 17, Episode 10

That was, perhaps, the most disappointing Non-Elimination Leg since Flo and Zack got a pass in Season 3. I think they should let Vicky run the rest of the Race (maybe with Gary or one of the first guys out) and let Nick float around that harbour in Hong Kong for the rest of the time. It did sound as though Phil was unhappy about it, too.

Yikes, but that is a toxic relationship....when Vicky said at the beginning that she's getting better at "calming Nick down", Thing 1 and I looked at each other with big eyes and our mouths in little "o"s. Vicky, honey, the only one responsible for Nick's demenor is Nick. Just to tell you. It's bad enough he berates you, belittles you and provides no emotional support whatsoever, he lay down and quit while complaining he'd had nothing to eat all day while you did that roadblock and puked because of it. That's not a partner, that's ballast.

I think the only positive thing Nick has done on this whole race is to make Thomas look good enough in comparison that I could handle him and Jill winning this whole thing without crying.

Even though Brooke is as hyper and frenzied as a sugar-jacked 3 year-old, I just love her. And that Claire is one tough cookie....she really has had the worst Roadblocks. (Can you imagine if Nick had gotten that watermelon to the face? He'd still be whining about it.) But, why, for the love of God, did she think that Roadblock had anything to do with karaoke??? The clue said "peckish" !! It's in a restaurant!! Other people were eating!! And one of the Basic Rules of the Race is "Never accept a food challenge in Asia".

I freaking LOVED those other diners in the restaurant! I imagine they were rounded up and made to sit there all day, but man, they were hilarious when someone got the challenge right!

The Amazing Editors yet again get kudos from me...when Vicky said "I hate Chinese food", they cut right to the chef guy looking very despondent and sad, like he was personally hurt by her remark. I also liked the Amazing Cameramen getting shots of the pertinent signs during the Ding Ding challenge, and Jill and Thomas arguing about what they were supposed to be seeing.

What will happen to those parakeets? Why did they need to be delivered? And why did they need to be entertained and kept happy? I'm thinking the worst here, people.

I noticed that Jill said at the start that they hadn't seen any racers that day or the day before, and I've read that the "eat/sleep/mingle" portion of the pitstop has been eliminated. You hardly hear any racers even mention other teams, which has made for a nice dynamic this time around. I've really liked that the teams don't focus on each other, and just do the race. It would also explain why Nat has not sereptitiously poisoned Nick with a syringe of insulin in his sleep.

Until next week!
P.S. Apparently, they're starting filming of another season this week, with teams from seasons 11-17. I hope there are cowboys.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Merry Christmas to Me!

The Mister and I stopped buying Christmas presents to each other years ago, we just go out and take the money we would have spent on each other and spend it on ourselves and call it even. It works out fabulously. He buys things I never ever knew he wanted, I buy things he didn't know existed.

After a ridiculous amount of thought and hours of research, I decided to buy myself a little e-reader, a Kobo. I'm a big reader, I read a novel a week on average, and anything related to books calls to me like a siren. And this little thing is about the biggest leap in technology in reading in the last 700 years. It's not an audio book, it's not something you listen to, it looks like a thin, little book with a screen, where you read like a book and try not to drop it in the bath.

I won't be abandoning physical books any time in the near future, they work just fine as they are. But when I was reading Ken Follett's latest book, which was wonderful and totally enthralling, it was HUGE. I had to prop it up with pillows when I wanted to read in bed. Seriously, it is a LOT of book. And it occurred to me that it might be nice to only have to carry around 220 grams of book, rather than the 12 pounds that thing weighed.

And when I travel, I take a lot of books. Once I found myself on a trans-Atlantic flight with only one book and I almost finished it on the flight....I was doling out those pages like methadone to an addict, I tell you. It was probably the most frightened I've ever been flying. So now I take at least 2 books, maybe three, on any flight. Then there are a few more books in my luggage. I take no chances. So when I go to Florida in March I can now bring my little Kobo, which has about 110 books on it, and nothing else. (Who am I kidding?? I'll still bring another book or two, in case the battery runs out or Armageddon happens.)

I've spent a happy few evenings rummaging through websites and finding books to download. I've even figured out how to borrow from the local library and get them on my little gadget.
So far, the only problem is, I've spent so much time sorting the thing out, I haven't had any time to read.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Amazing Race 17, Episode 10

That was okay, I'd had enough of Chad and Stephanie anyway. I was worried Brooke and Claire would be out, so the outcome is fine by me.

It's that point in the game where I'm watching the opening credits and seeing teams that make me ask Thing 1 "who the hell is that?".

I much prefer a W-Turn to a single U-Turn; it means that one team does not have a target stamped on their foreheads, and there's still some suspense at the Amazing Bathmat. And it was very nice to see people using the U-Turn as a strategy in the game, rather than a weapon of personal malevolence.

Apparently, Chad did not go to Notre Dame, because he does not know the difference between a PhD and an MD. I'm sure they would have told him that there. And remember, Chad, YOU were planning on U-Turning those two if you had the chance, too.
Chad did impress me a bit at the Pitstop with his reaction to being U-Turned; I expected him to whine about it not being fair, and then fling himself down on the Amazing Bathmat and beat his tiny fists on the Bangladeshi ground. At least he acknowledged it was part of the game.

Can we talk about Nat and Kat during the Talking Head confessionals? Because the blonde one looked, as my mother would say, like she had been dragged through a hedge backwards. It certainly looked like it was hot and muggy and seriously sweat-producing there, but man, she looked rough. I wanted to have a shower and a good night's sleep just looking at her.

Was that band at the Pitstop all playing the same tune?

Why did Jill and Thomas run to the Amazing Bathmat? They had a seven hour lead ahead of any other team, why not stroll for once?

That was the first time I've seen Brooke and Claire get even the tiniest bit snarky with each other there, and it was very short lived. I tell you, that Brooke is way tougher than she looks. "I'm going to go through this like a spider monkey!" was one of my favorite lines of the night. Also, when Stephanie bent over to shout "Shut the hell up!" right into Chad's ear during the brick task...I liked that one a lot, too.

Next week? Nick is officially dead to me. Seriously, he's just mean and stupid. Saying things in the heat of the moment out of frustration is one thing, but saying things to your partner designed to be hurtful and belittling is completely another. Do you think Nick and Thomas could be out and we could get Jill and Vicky to run the rest of this together?

Until next week!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Amazing Race 17, Episode 9

I realized about half way through this episode that there wasn't anyone I really wanted to see out. As much as I dislike Chad, I don't mind Stephanie, and I couldn't wish for their elimination on their engagement day. Man, sleeping in for TWO hours and still coming in first??? You've used up all your karma for this life-time, I think.

On a side note, even if I was going to say "yes", I'd hate to be proposed to in a situation that dictates that I'd pretty much have to. I know those two have already bought a house together, and likely have already decided to be buttheads together for life, but I'd still want to preserve the idea that I had a choice. The status change to "engaged" was cute, though.
( A client once told me about her sister who was dating a guy for a few months, and he seemed to think things were more serious than she did, because he got down on one knee and pulled out a ring at his family's Christmas dinner. She was mortified, and had to say "can we talk about this later" and left. I certainly would never marry anyone who knew me so little as to get between me and my dessert. )

I'm so sorry to see Gary and Mallory leave; I just loved them. But holy shit, NINE hours?? I think you could see Oman in it's entirety in nine hours. (BTW, are there any women in Oman? Other than the few we saw at their homes in the water-delivery task, I don't think I saw any the whole episode.)

Yay! Jill found her voice! Telling Thomas to shut it when he was yammering about directions was very sweet. "Am I from here??" I wish she did more of it. Thomas seems to have had his sense of humor surgically removed at Notre Dame.

Well, old "Ghana Nick" seems to be at the party for the duration. If my partner ever told me to "shut up", under any circumstances, let alone on television, I'd sit down and pull out my book and not get up until Phil came to get us.

Thank you, Amazing Editors, for the juxtaposition of Nick saying "they're probably laughing their heads off at us right now" and then cutting to shot of Brooke and Claire cackling like Evil Overlords.

Speaking of Vicky, OF COURSE nothing frightens her! I'll bet she rappels 300 feet down the face of cliffs every day before her first coffee! And I really like the way she dealt with the clue-eating goat. I would happily run the race with you any time, Vicky, and don't worry, I will cheerfully be in charge of taking care of bugs.

I wonder if the producers thought that the teams would be closer together, because that market would have probably been more of a challenge when it was crowded and everything was open. By the time Nat and Kat and Mallory and Gary were finding Ali Baba, he seemed to be the only stall open, which made it very easy to find. It's a good thing they did not have smoke detectors in his little shop, because they'd be going off all night in that little shop.

I would very much like for one of the all-female teams to win, not because I particularly think two women should win this for once, but because I don't want any of the douchy boyfriends to win it.

Until next week!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Tomorrow is November 11th, Remembrance Day. Most of us will never have to fight in a war, or see someone we love do it either, and I think it's good that we have to take a few minutes to remember those people who did.....what a miserable, awful, incredibly difficult thing it must have been. I'm very thankful that their service means that I will probably never have to.

There is always a Remembrance Day ceremony at school, no matter what kind of school you go to. I'm sure they have not changed much, they were always solemn and serious types of affairs, the urge to giggle didn't seem quite as overwhelming as at Mass. It was a bit bewilderingly sad and heavy to a bunch of kids; it was years before I figured out that we were not talking about a war that we were currently fighting, it was to remember ones we were all done with. They always handed out poppies for us to wear, which was a nice gesture, but a totally terrible idea....if you wanted 300 kids to sit quietly and reflect on the dignity of the situation, I suggest that you do NOT give them pins with which to stab each other, or little red felt flowers with which to fashion fake, clown lips.

We sang a few hymns, someone said a speech, a lucky couple of kids got to put the wreath on the cross (lucky because they got to move around when everyone else had to sit still) and the tallest girl in our class always, without fail, fainted. Every. Single. Year. And then we recited the poem "In Flanders Fields", which, I'm pretty sure, has to be memorized by every school child in Canada by law.

When Thing 1 was in Grade 1, I asked her about the Remembrance Day ceremony, and she told me it was "to remember the people who fought and died on the farm." Say what? The farm? "Yes" she said very seriously, "the people who fought and died on the farm", like I was both a moron and hard-of-hearing. It turns out she thought it had to to with farms because of the first line "In Flanders Field, the poppies grow..." I guess it makes as much sense as anything else when you're 6.

My favorite story about a Remembrance Day ceremony was told to me by one of my co-workers. She had 5 kids in her family, and as you can imagine, getting everyone out the door in the mornings was a bit of a challenge for her mother. My friend was in Grade 6, her older sister in Grade 8, and her two younger brothers in Grades 4 and 1. One Remembrance Day, which if you recall, is only 11 days after Halloween, her mother was getting everyone ready for school when the youngest one announced that he had to "dress up" for school today. Now, he was the kind of kid who wore his Halloween costume for a couple of weeks before Halloween, slept in it, and wore it afterwards until it disintegrated entirely. His mother, who had no idea what day it was, said "okay, go put on your costume then", and sent him off. The Grade 1's came into the gym last, when everyone else was already settled, and there was my friend's brother, marching into the gym for the Remembrance Day ceremony, dressed as Batman.
She said she nearly died, partly from embarrassment, but mostly because she wasn't allowed to laugh at a Remembrance Day ceremony. She says she and her sister still bring that up to her mother, who's only response is "but I was so tired".

Happy Rememberance Day.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Amazing Race 17, Episode 8

That was sweet....After all the pissing and moaning Kevin did about how lame his father was, I loved that the two of them were out because of Kevin's mistake. (Although, to be perfectly fair, Michael could have read that clue, too.) Now, even though Kevin got on my last nerve whining about his dad, and Michael seems like a nice guy, he's not the one I'd take on the race with me; this was not a "two person team", this was a "one person team with luggage".

I was wondering why Nick and Vicky didn't have a Speedbump this leg, because they came last in the Non-Elim last week. But then I read on the "interwebs" (which is what my mother calls the internet) that there was a judging error in the music task last week (with the pianos) and they lost a ton of time because of that. They didn't make them do the Speedbump because of it.

Nick, Nick, seemed to have learned your lesson from your meltdown in Ghana, but then you reverted right back to your old dickwaddy self in St. Petersburg. For someone who thinks that they can drive to the Arctic Circle from west Africa, you've got some nerve calling anyone else a "dumbass", let alone your rock-star girlfriend who has proven to be completely capable of handing you your ass several times on this race, but has refrained from doing so.

I did like his story about his grandmother's "Clown Room".... that explains a LOT about old Nick, right there.

Speaking of Clowns, I'm so sorry the Clowns from season 4 were not there for the plate spinning task, because they'd have finished that in about 12 seconds flat. While juggling bowling pins.

Hard to believe Thomas did not learn to spin plates or play Russian folk songs on an accordion while wearing an enormous, red clown nose at Notre Dame. I loved that Jill seemed to be getting the hang of the accordion fairly quickly, but they had to bail because of him.

Chad continues to charm, no? Too bad he was busy laughing at his girlfriend missing the figurine to read the clue properly and take a cab to the church. What a tool.

When I saw Phil collapsing like a sack of potatoes at the Russian bowling task, I was so hoping that the other team mate would have to stand on that little platform during the event. Then Stephanie could have nailed Chad in the nuts a couple of times while appearing to try to do it properly.

Russian taxi drivers are harsh, man, demanding the full fare and not letting you off because you "really have to be somewhere." This isn't the first time this has happened, either....remember the stuntman brothers a couple of seasons ago? They tried to pay their cabbie in watches and compasses, and that bastard held out for cash too. (By the way, I calculated those taxi fares at around $325 US. What the hell?? Did Michael and Kevin call that taxi two days before??)

Love Brooke and Claire.....she's such and enthusiastic spazz, and Claire reads the clues. Kevin and Michael could learn a lot from those two.

Until next week!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Rules of the House

We are nothing, here at the Loudshoes house, if not opinionated. In fact, our family motto should be "I think, therefore I'm right". No where are the opinions more violently defended than when it comes to food. Everyone has their rules, and we think the others are godlessly wrong.

1. I think that ketchup belongs on French fries and burgers, nothing else. It is such a sweet, all-dominating flavour that I can't taste anything else when there is even the teeniest bit of ketchup on it. The Mister puts ketchup on eggs, macaroni and cheese, french toast and grilled cheese, and eternally tries to get me to do the same, because, in his words, I am "missing out". On something gross, apparently.

2. Eggs must be served with a starch, preferably a toasted one. Scrambled eggs sitting lonely and neglected by themselves are sad enough, but they get cold faster, too. A poached egg with hot buttered toast, or scrambled eggs with fried potatoes is the way God intended them to be served.

3. The more colours, the better. I find it almost impossible to eat a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch if I'm going to have an orange right after it. And don't tell me it would be all better if I had ketchup with the sandwich, because we are not having that discussion. Now, if there were pickles with the sandwich, I might be able to manage it. Grapes instead would make it all good.

4. All 4 food groups with a meal, except with breakfast. I don't know why breakfast gets a pass, but there it is. But lunch and dinner should have fruit and/or veggies, a protein, some sort of dairy and a starch. Sometimes you can combine things, like yogurt covers two categories, but lets not fool ourselves and think that strawberry yogurt will do 3.

5. No margarine. Ever. I can taste that stuff before it's even in my mouth. And it's nasty. Also, no liver, blue cheese or candied fruit in my kitchen.

6. The Mister demands gravy with mashed potatoes, or at least some sort of saucy thing to stand in for gravy. If gravy is absent, then corn must be served. If you have neither, then you have no business serving mashed potatoes.

7. For Thing 1 and Thing 2, food must not touch each other on the plate. In fact, dinner is much easier if I just give them each three little plates, rather than one big one.

8. Things must be at the right temperature, cold things cold, hot things hot. The idea of cold pizza or warm milk makes me gag.

9. Milk and water are the only acceptable beverages with meals, for kids. (The grown ups are allowed wine, but we rarely do at home.) Too many eating out expericences where they drank a vat of pop before their meals came, and they were too full to eat. And wired beyond belief, too.

10. Brown sugar is the only acceptable sugar for oatmeal. (Thing 2 shovels it on in truly dire proportions. )

Monday, November 1, 2010

Amazing Race 17, Episode 6

Man, am I enjoying this season! Diabolical tasks and beautiful scenery and a very low quotient for team-induced drama. This is how it should be.

I realized as Nick and Vicky switched Detours for the second time that they were out. And I also realized how much I didn't want them to be out. They are not the brightest bulbs on the chandelier, but they have an endearing self-deprecation that makes me like them very much. Also, she has rocked so many physical tasks while having asthma, and he obviously took the whole Roadblock "drag" mix-up with such good humour that I was really glad they have another chance.

Oh, Anonymous Russian Babushkas, how I love you all. Those women were the best thing about the night, I tell you. I'm so glad their comments were captioned..."the skinny ones work the hardest". I think they need their own show.

Those Detours were brutal. About half way through Phil describing the piano task, Thing 1 and I turned to each other and said "nope", and then he described the film task and we said "okay, pianos it is!". But why, why did they not do what Nick and Vicky finally do in the end??? Listening to all three pieces and trying to find them simultaneously would be impossible, there's no way you'd be able to distinguish one from the other that way.
Do you think those pianists gave a collective groan when they found out Nick and Vicky were on their way back?
I enjoyed Mr. Music Dictator: "NYET!". At least he started to look a bit sad when he had to say it for the 15th time.

Chad is so That Guy. You know, That Guy who kind of annoys you all the time, and then you feel sort of regret being too hard on him and thinking maybe he's not so bad after all, and then he opens his mouth and pisses you right off all over again, and you know you were right after all. That Guy.
I really liked the part where he said that listening to his girlfriend is a new and difficult experience for him, like bungee jumping or roping steers. That should make for an interesting marriage.

Kevin, sometimes your dad is right. Maybe you should listen to him sometimes, instead of treating him like luggage.

Favorite Line of the Night: "Here's your poop and potatoes!"

Thomas is very tiresome. When Jill asked (kind of excitedly) "have you ever been on a train like this before?" , he replied "Of course I have", like everyone who's anyone has travelled on a sleeper car and she's just too inexperienced and uncool to know that. Perhaps they held classes at Notre Dame in sleeper cars.
I've been on trains in a couple of countries and never been on a sleeper car. And I went to university, so take that Snotty McSmugpants.

I like Brooke so much...her running away from that barking dog twice had me in stitches.
When the kids were small, they used to narrate their lives like Brooke does, just constantly verbally detailing their actions and inner dialogue. And, like Brooke, it was cute at first, but incredibly wearing on everyone within earshot in a very short time. Thankfully, my kids grew out of it, but she hasn't.

So many good things in this episode. I loved when Kat mugged at the camera while she passed Mallory in the background desperately trying to get the locals to direct her where to go. When Stephanie mimicked Mallory going up into the poo pile to get the shovel, only to have Mallory say exactly the same "oh my God" in exactly the same way. Nick's face when he discovered exactly what kind of "drag" race he'd be in, and the fact that he kept his do-rag on under his babushka scarf. Mallory getting help over the fence from the locals, only to find out they wanted to have a drink with her. Good times.

I love this show.
Until next week!

nat walking past mallory asking for directions

Sunday, October 31, 2010

This Is Halloween

Today is Halloween, and the festivities are just beginning. I rather like Halloween; it's not too much work and there is plenty of chocolate and Starburst Fruit Chews for payoff.

Thing 1 has not gone out trick-or-treating for the past few years, feeling she had gotten too old for it. But they both saw "Wayne's World" back in the summer and got the brilliant idea of dressing up as the main characters, so Thing 1 agreed to be the Garth to Thing 2's Wayne. It's Thing 2's last kick at the can, it's nice of Thing 1 to go along with her.

I have a fairly liberal policy when it comes to Trick-or-Treaters here: If you have a costume, you can have some candy, however lame. I figure if kids come dressed up, they get something, no matter how old you are. (Even if 11 year olds come without a costume, I don't mind giving them a Kit Kat never know what some kids are dealing with at home.) It's sometimes hard to tell anyway; one year a gang of 6 foot 4 guys came to the door, and I almost asked them if their Employment Insurance didn't cover candy, until I realized that they were all in Thing 1's Grade 8 class, and were only 12 and 13 year olds.
Besides, we have "A List" candy and "B List" candy; Cute little 5 year olds dressed up as caterpillars and Ninjas get the "A List" candy, teenagers with a top had or a football helmet get the "B List" stuff.

One year a fairly distinctive van pulled up in front of our house and a whole load of teenagers spilled out of it. I was a little put out; if you can drive I think you're probably old enough to buy your own candy, but what the hell, they can have the "B List" candy. When they came to the door I was amazed; their costumes were unbelievable. One girl was dressed as a fairy, and she must have spent hours sewing on sequins and glittery bits. One of the guys was dressed as a matador, complete with a red cape. They had put some real effort into those costumes; they definitely got the "A list" candy.
A little while later, I saw the van leave, only to pull up again a few minutes later in front of our house. Nobody got out for a long time, and eventually I saw a window open and some smoke come out. I'm pretty sure they weren't smoking cigarettes in there, because when they came up our front walk again I heard one of them say "hey man, I think we've been here already! I remember that pumpkin, that pumpkin freaked me right out before!". They had just gone around the block without realizing it, probably because of the stuff they were smoking. They left, but I think I would have given them some "B List" candy anyway, just because they amused me.

It's supposed to be cold and rainy tonight, so I don't suppose we will get many kids, maybe 25 or so. Which is fine by me; for the first time in 13 years I can let the girls go out on their own. I will hang out here and eat the "A List" candy.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Cautionary Tale

I usually do the grocery shopping on crowds + day off = Happy Mrs. Loudshoes. There are about 3 grocery stores that I frequent, depending on my mood, their specials and what I need to get.....No Frills is really cheap, but the staff is surly and testy, and there's no deli. Loblaws has everything I could ever need or want, but it's a bit more expensive and I have to dress up because I am bound to meet every single person I ever knew that I want to think well of me. Sobey's is in the middle, not too expensive, not too socially demanding, but they seem to change the entire layout of the store constantly, so that I end up going around and around the store about thirty times just to get paper towels and butter.

I went to Sobey's last week because they had pot roasts on sale and I was wearing running shoes.

I was texting Thing 1 at one point, because she had written something hilarious on my shopping list. As I was going along with my grocery cart, one of the young guys that works there jokingly said "you shouldn't text and drive", which made me laugh. As I did so, I rounded the corner to start up another aisle, and I managed to take out an entire end display of disposible aluminum trays, complete with lids. I mean, I caught that thing with the front end of my cart and absolutley clobbered it with an almight force that knocked it sideways and spewed disposible aluminum trays and their lids in a most spectacular fashion. The young guy doubled over laughing, but quickly recovered himself long enough to apologize and take in my reaction. I was too busy doubling over myself, and had trouble hearing him. He said he hoped I wasn't offended at him laughing, and I said I didn't see how he could help it; it was quite a breathtaking episode.
His boss happened by, to find the two of us picking up the stuff while wiping our eyes and occasionally bursting into guffaws. The kid said it was the best thing he'd seen all day.

Luckily, aluminum foil pans do not leave much of a mess, and we managed to clean it up quickly, but I'll tell you, those things can fly. There was one that must have been twenty feet away.

So not only should you not text and drive, you should probably not text and drive a grocery cart, either.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Amazing Race 17 Ep. 5

I'd probably be more disappointed at the Volleyball girls' elimination if I remembered who they were. Other than a few snarky comments towards the other teams, I don't think they did one memorable thing the entire time. They did have very white teeth, though.

This season is delightfully free of inter-team drama, and I am enjoying that so much, I cannot tell you. It is so nice to not to see anyone snotting about another teams' throwing their sports bras off a balcony or laughing about their beauty pagent experience or cutting into lines at airports. Racing is plenty interesting enough, thanks, and it's a pleasure to actually see everyone doing it.

Still with the dissing your dad, Kev? Really? Can you let it go yet? We get it, your father is made out of egg shells and toothpicks, and you're terribly burdened by having to run this race with such a feeble old man. Except, he seems to be doing just fine, and I haven't heard him whine about you yet.

I'm not sure what was funnier, the Tattooed team's confusion over "Fast Forward Taken", or Nick's thinking they were hitting the Amazing Bathmat in second place. Did Vicky think that everyone could do the Fast Forward and skip all the tasks? Or did she think that there were more than one? Or that the team that had it might give it away? But that girl absolutely rocked those physical tasks, and with a smile on her face, too! And she has asthma. Nick sounded like a geriatric chain-smoker on that bike.
What on earth made him think they were in second place? That made Thing 1 and I look at each other with our mouths in little "o" shapes.

The conversation between the cars while driving around and around the roundabout made me laugh out loud. I would totally do that if I had any of those around here.

Nastiest Christmas tradition ever. And I thought fruitcake was disgusting. Note to self: Decline invitation to Christmas in Oslo.
Kudos to vegetarian of 20 years, she ate that mess without whining, which is way more than I think I could have done. And I actually eat meat. I had to laugh when she said "a glass of water is never a good sign". She's totally right on that one.
Did you hear Mallory's disappointment when they didn't go for the Fast Forward? "But I LOVE Christmas!" I wonder what she thought when she heard what it was.

Did you hear that Thomas went to Notre Dame? And his girlfriend did not? I KNOW!! That is such totally new and relevant information!! Everyone knows that college graduates are WAY, WAY smarter than hairdressers! I wonder which of them has a job.

Oh, Anonymous Stuttering Norwegian, you made my night. Not because I was laughing at your stutter, far from it, but because what are the chances of a desperate, frantic team needing directions happening on the ONE guy who would have to take his time? Especially if that team includes Chad, who I think is a douchebag.

One of the funniest things I've seen in a long time is that shot of Brooke walking up that hill with the two fish tails flapping away on her ass.
Actually, I've got to say, these two are made of tough stuff....a watermelon to the face and a gash over the eye and not one whine. And they make me laugh...."Why do you live all the way up here?"

Until next week!

Friday, October 22, 2010

To Each His Own.

I was in the car the other day with my daughters, and we came up against a one-way street, which prevented me from turning off the street I was on and going in the direction I wanted. No problem, thinks I, I'll go down a block and do it there, which is what I did. For some reason, this enraged Thing 2 mightily, and she went on a verbal rampage dedicated to her hatred of one-way streets....."What good is a street where you can only drive one direction?? Why shouldn't we be able to drive down there if we want??? This makes NO SENSE!!". It was pretty intense, especially considering we still managed to get where we wanted to go without any trouble. Still, she had decided that this was a hill worth dying on, and was determined to make a big, noisy deal about it.
I realized that everyone something for which they have an incredibly strong opinion, out of all proportion to the issue.

  • How the toilet paper hangs. Some people think the toilet paper MUST hang from the top of the roll, while others are sure it must come from the bottom. I've heard people have wild screaming matches about this, sure that their way is the right and proper way and that anyone who thinks otherwise is "a drunken slob". Personally, I'm just happy if there IS toilet paper.
  • That the open end of the pillow cases face the middle of the bed. (Or the wall, in the case of a single bed.) I knew a girl who's mother practically wept with disappointment that her daughter and I could make a bed and not know this crucial were we ever to grow up to be responsible, tax-paying citizens without knowing (or caring!) about this life-altering task? Placing the open end of the pillow cases towards the outside of the bed was tantamount to selling our bodies and smoking crack. To this day, I have no idea what the hell she was talking about.
  • Using the phrase "you guys" when addressing a group where there is a woman present. I knew a woman who was incredibly offended when that phrase was used when she was there, because she was so obviously NOT a guy, and therefore the phrase was used to exclude her. And I've heard the same opinion from other women, as well, which baffles me. I get that the word "guys" does not mean exclusively those with a Y chromosome, and whoever is saying it probably wants me to pipe down with the rest of them.
  • How to fold towels. Apparently, life as we know it will come to a screeching halt and civilization will cease as we know it if you fold a towel in half, and half again. The correct and only true right way to do this is by folding a towel in half and then in thirds, as God wants it. I was told this by mother of an ex-boyfriend, who scared the crap out of me on more than one occasion.
  • Ketchup on French toast. Okay, this one is mine. One Sunday morning, not too long after we were married, I made breakfast for the Mister and I. (You can tell we were newlyweds by the fact that A)I was making breakfast for the Mister and B) he was eating it. He doesn't eat breakfast, and he was probably still being polite about it.) I made French toast, and had maple syrup with mine. The Mister put ketchup on his. I nearly threw up. Ketchup on French toast is an abomination against God and man. He countered that you put ketchup on eggs, and French toast is just bread and eggs, so why not?? Because, I said, I DO NOT put ketchup on eggs, and it's vile, that's why not. (Just for the record, I don't put ketchup on hardly anything, just fries and burgers. Not grilled cheese, not scrambled eggs, not macaroni. The Mister is bewildered.)
  • The Designated Hitter Rule. When I was dating, a friend gave me an invaluable piece of advice: if you are struggling to find something to talk about, ask him about his opinion on the Designated Hitter Rule; there's barely a man alive who does not have an opinion about the Designated Hitter Rule. And she was right, in the right hands, that question will usually take care of the rest of the evening. (In baseball, in the American League, the pitcher does not have to take a turn at bat, they send in a special guy, the Designated Hitter, to hit the ball for him and run around the bases.) I've seen heads burst into flames discussing the Designated Hitter Rule....only pull it out when you want things to REALLY liven up.

Who knew?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Amazing Race 17 Ep. 4

That was too bad, I liked the Singing Geeks. (Although it has come to my attention that they annoyed the snot out of all kinds of other people.) I was pretty sure when they started talking about it being their graduation and they were missing it to be on the race that they'd be done for....the Race hates it when you are celebrating a big personal milestone while competing. We've seen in other circumstances that it is the kiss of death to be racing on your birthday. (See "Jenn, of Jenn and Nate", Season 12, Episode 10.) Except if you are a Globetrotter; the Race does not seem to mind that.

It sure didn't take long for Chad's inner dickwad to come out and play, did it? I seem to recall him saying he'd watch that after episode one. I guess that means "until I really want to be a dickwad again.". Shouting "come on!" at your scared, frustrated, increasingly upset girlfriend really helped, didn't it? I'm not sure who I'm madder at, him for treating her like a disobedient dog, or her for putting up with it.

I get that if you're not used to sliding on snow that there's a bit of a learning curve, but come on, were those sleds that tough to figure out? Maybe because we've been throwing ourselves off snow-covered, vertical ground since forever, but Thing 1 and I thought that looked like the easiest 1:58 minutes ever. And that track didn't even have trees you had to dodge, they were dressed for the weather and they were sober. Piece of cake.

That was the easiest Speed Bump in the history of Speed Bumps. Granted, that might have been a little more dramatic had all the teams been on the same flight to Sweden, but with the two hour advantage, sitting on an ice chair for ten minutes seemed kind of lame. Here in Canada, that's called "watching a hockey game" and we do it for an hour all the time. Of course, Kevin made it a bit more difficult than need be, simply because he was wearing shorts. Did it not occur to him at any time travelling between Africa and the Arctic Circle that he may need to change into warmer clothes????

Speaking of the Arctic Circle, I liked that Nick of the Tattooed Team thought that they could drive there. Perhaps he thought it was a really cool bar in Accra.

Those Tattooed Wonders impressed the daylights out of me with the sledding task; they rocked that, and without batting an eyelash, either.

Just as I thought Kevin had gotten over moaning about how lame his dad is, he said "I'd like to do the sleds, but I'm scared you can't do it" or something else designed to remind Michael what an albatross he is. His dad did just fine at the dog-sled task, thank you very much, including fending off a fake bear.

If ever I play high-stakes poker, I hope Mallory is on the other side of the table from me, because that girl cannot keep her emotions to herself for all that is holy. She doesn't just wear her heart on her sleeve, she's got an entire sparkly, purple jump suit decorated with every organ she owns.

I noticed that when they were talking about using the Express Pass, Thomas kept saying "my Pass" and wondering when "I" should use it. Does he know he has a partner? And that she's not his assistant? And that there are two of them?

My favorite part of the show was when Chad and the Volleyball Girls ran up to the pitstop with that huge block of ice clue, even though nobody told them to lug that thing around with them.

Until next week!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Kibbles and Bits.

A head cold and a whole lot of inertia rendered me incapable of doing anything but the basics this week. I was a complete and utter sloth, and it was so nice to be able to do it with impunity.
Both girls had colds last weekend, so I figured it was merely a matter of time before it hit me. The Mister hardly ever gets colds. (When he does, it seems to coincide with events he does not want to attend. Hmmm.)

I could feel it coming on on Tuesday, and by Wednesday, I was conquered. I came home from work early, and crawled into bed at four in the afternoon. Truly, if there is a more wonderfully satisfying, spiritually gratifying sensation than getting into your own delicious bed when you're not feeling well, I don't even want to know what it is, because it's probably wrong or illegal or both. I ate lots of chocolate and had plenty of tea and watched all kinds of television. It was incredibly restoring. (Just for the record, I watched the entirety of Season 3 of "Mad Men" and it was worth it to get sick just for that opportunity. God, that show is amazing.)

I was feeling better today, so I started knitting a pair of socks for Thing 2. Thing 1 got a pair in the spring, and Thing 2 had no intention of being left out. It's been getting cold here, the past few weeks, and hand knit things have suddenly shot up in value. People think warm socks are nice but unnecessary in July, but they change their tune in October.

Thing 1 got a notice from school the other day wondering if she will be attending to receive her award for Grade 10 science at the awards ceremony in November. (Insert scratching record noise here.) Whaaaaa? Thing 1 is getting an award? For Science??? Not that Thing 1 is a moron, far from it, but science is decidedly NOT her thing, and she only took the bare minimum requirement to get through high school. When she decided last year to drop down from the more demanding Academic science course to the Applied level class, she did warn me that this probably meant that she was unlikely to pursue a career in medicine, much as I might have dreamed otherwise. (I said her father and I were fine with that, just as long as whatever she decided to do it paid enough for her to send us on a cruise now and then.) It turns out that she did very well in Applied science, in fact, she got the highest mark in all the Grade 10 applied science classes. Believe me, no one is more surprised than her. (Although she did say that, because the class was right after lunch, she was one of the only students who A) showed up regularly and B) not high.) I think an award is an award, and we will take whatever we get. We're going to that award ceremony. Especially since her primary career choice involves marrying rich, and I don't think they give out awards for that.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Amazing Race 17 Ep. 3

Has there ever been a Non-Elimination this early in the race before?
I kind of got the feeling that Kevin's dad was unhappy about letting his son down, but okay about not being in the race any more. He seemed to be okay with the idea of hanging out by a pool and sipping Mai Tais for the next few weeks.

Kevin really has to stop treating his dad like some sort of lame cow he has to drag around the world with him. Enough with the "I don't know if my dad can" stuff, especially right in front of him. 59 is not exactly one foot in the grave...don't you remember Grandpa Don from a few seasons ago? the man was in his 70s and rocked in every way possible. ("I used to mine gold when I was a kid!") Lay off, Kev.

Glee boys singing to Samson the Cab Driver was adorkable.

I sure hope they leave that decoder banner up so that when those guys go back to the school the next day they can see it. Thing 1 and I were laughing out loud when they started drawing circles around the kids in the dirt.....and then other teams did the same thing!! Oh, Herd Mentality, you are a strong and powerful force.

I'm pretty good at geography, but I think I would have had to take a few stabs at that map challenge....before this show, I'd have been hard pressed to say exactly where in Africa Ghana is. (I took a course on geopolitics in university, and one of the first days, the prof gave us blank maps of each continent for us to fill in with the names of the countries. It was unbelieveably hard....North America and Europe were pretty easy, but when you have to decide which one is Uraguay and which one is Paraguay, it gets a little tougher. And Africa was a disaster...the class average on that continent was about 3%. You know Chad and Malawi are somewhere on that map, but man, where, exactly???The prof was puzzled as to why the class all got Nepal, because that had never happened before, and we all replied it was because of "Raiders of the Lost Ark".)

If I had been Vicky, that one "shut up" of Nick's would have been the end of the race for me. I don't care how unhappy or frustrated you are, you DO NOT speak to your partner like that. Ever. And guess what douchebag? You could have read the clue about the supplies yourself, too. I have a very low tolerance for anyone who keeps yelling after their partner says "I'm sorry" in that sad, beaten little voice. And if Chad can tone down his inate douchiness, then so can you.

I like Mallory, I really do, but she had got to lay off the White Man's Guilt for a bit. Not everyone in Africa is worthy of your pity, you know. Just because those kids don't have Nintendos and Fruit Roll Ups does not mean they are without justice and freedom.

Again, I can only imagine the conversations those kids had at dinner that night..."A big bunch of loud, screechy Americans came today, and hardly any of them know a damn thing about geography or pushing a bicycle wheel, and for some reason, they ran around us drawing circles in the dirt. One of them hugged me, and I was afraid he was trying to adopt me. So strange."

Best Line of the Night: from the Gleeks- "In Phil we trust". Also from the blonde doctor- "The kids were the best part of the day.".

The Volleyball girls are jerks. They haven't pulled out the "we're competitive" card yet, but they will, I'm sure, when they do something morally dubious. They don't even say "please".

Until next week!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Better Late Than Never. Really.

I get quite a lot of stuff done on any given day; I keep thinking I should start a list in the morning of all my accomplishments, and then I would realize how many gazillion decisions I make all the time, and how much I actually do get done when I think I'm lolling about not doing anything. I would do that, except I am a terrible procrastinator, and I haven't gotten around to it yet.

I'm very good at getting the things done that have to be done; I excell under pressure and I am freaking brilliant at mulit-tasking and working to a deadline. But if there is even the slightest chance that I am not going to be held accountable for my inertia, all bets are off. Especially if I'm the ultimate beneficiary....I am very understanding when it comes to my own transgressions; I will forgive myself unendingly, and then buy myself an ice cream to make me feel better.

Currently, I have three or four unfinished knitting and crochet projects lying around the house. I keep meaning to finish them but honestly? it's never going to happen. I've completely lost interest in them and nobody cares if they get done or not. It's like I am a very bad Grade 7 girlfriend, and my boyfriend is the two by two scarf I was really excited about a while ago but have lost interest in, but I haven't told him yet. I've moved on to the off-white wool hat with the cables, and I'm hoping the scarf will just take the hint and go away.
Starting a new project before I've finished the last one is the kiss of death for anything creative in my life; it just will not ever, ever regain my mercurial attention again in this lifetime.

When I painted the bathroom in the basement, oh, 5 years ago, I had the girls make some pictures which I planned on framing and using in there. I should probably get the frames for that.

I have a bathrobe that someone bought me for Christmas years ago. It's a bit too small and it has Winnie-The-Pooh all over it. The fabric is woefully unequipped for sopping up any water from my post-shower body, and it has borne the brunt of numerous cat-claws (from the early morning Tuna Beg-a-thon.) I keep meaning to replace it.

I can't even close the junk drawer in the kitchen. (Okay, any of the junk drawers in the kitchen, of which there are several.) Someday I'm going to clean those out, but not before I stumble into the jutting corners and gouge a divot out of my thigh a few more times.

I've been meaning to find a new dentist for about a year now. We keep schlepping off to the old dentist with very bad grace, which is a 30 minute drive right across town in rush hour traffic, and I think it's time we put everyone of us out of our collective misery. The dentist included.

There is a few meters of gauzy, light yellow fabric I purchased to make curtains for our en suite bathroom sitting by my sewing machine. They have been there for about 7 years now. I'm already tired of that particular paint job in the bathroom and will be re-doing it shortly. If I ever get around to it.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Amazing Race 17 Ep. 2

Bring on the culture shock! Ghana sort of stood in as "India Lite" for these guys, just enough noise and crowds and heat and dust to throw them, but not so much that anyone felt the need to curl up in a fetal position and cry.

Can I say how refreshing it is to NOT have anyone be a complete asshole right out of the gate? It was nice to see people Of course, that could change completely at any time, but it was very pleasant to see teams getting on with the race and not have the focus on interpersonal relationships that clearly require intense therapy and a good kick in the ass.

I think I love Brook and Claire, the shopping channel hosts. Even though Brook is very screechy and needs a little talk about using her inside voice sometimes, they both get down to work and get the job done, and smiling the whole time, too. I really liked when Brook was crawling across the top of that guy's fridge while calmly asking "have you ever had antenna service before, sir?", like this was her job and she wanted to give him the best service possible.
I can't believe Claire did not have a broken nose and two black eyes from last week's watermelon incident.

Mallory's enthusiasm seems to be permanently set to "brain busting!", but I really like her, too. When she was on the mat saying "Phil,just tell me before I have a heart attack" I totally could feel her angst! I'd be jumping out of my skin, too!

Somewhere in Ghana, there is a man watching tv on his hastily set up antenna, and he's all "Wait, I paid how much for my sunglasses?? Everyone else only laid out 3 cidas, and I paid 15!!"

I think I would very much like a fish hat. Like the greeter. That would get me a lot of attention on the bus to work. Especially if I danced like the bootylicious lady at the market.

I can't say I'm terribly sad to see the Gilmour Girls go....I was kind of uneasy whenever they were on the screen, like I was terribly worried that one or the other was going to say or do something to blow the whole deal with the other one. What if one of them wanted to wear fur, or vote Republican or didn't believe in global warning and it came out on national television and the other one wanted to kill her? I feel like they were kind of on the same page as me, too....they seemed so awkward and guarded on the show, like they were too distracted by their relationship to really give the Race their all. I hope they can get to know each other in Sequesterville.

You really shouldn't be allowed to bring your father on this sort of thing and then complain because you think he's going to be too slow or not competitive enough. Those two have no excuse, they both lived in the same house, no one gave anyone up for adoption.

I think Thomas and Chad are going to be the residents douchebags this season. Chad seemed to have pulled himself together since last week, but I'll bet when the Killer Fatigue sets in, he'll go back to yelling and blaming. Thomas was mad at his girlfriend because she cared about the locals in an impoverished country while she ran around the world hoping to win a million dollars. And then he said that on national television. That attitude should get much better in the ensuing weeks.

When I die I'd like to be buried in a giant crustacean.

Until next week!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Perfect Sunday

Oh, drizzly, cold Sundays, how I love you. A blessed excuse to stay indoors, not do any of the exceedingly urgent, end-of-the-summer yard work, wear my pajamas all day and putter and laze and sleep and read. The most perfect of Sundays, which is the most perfect of days.

Sundays is the one day of the week when nobody in the house has to get up and get out the door. The Mister and I work on Saturdays, and the girls have school through the week; Sundays means that everyone can sleep in. (Toby hates Sunday mornings, because the usual Tuna Delivery System is delayed by a few hours, and this is unacceptable in his books. Loud purring, drooling and head-butting of the Primary Tuna Delivery Personnel usually remedies this situation to his satisfaction.) This morning I woke up at my usual time of 6:20, and could not circumvent my inner alarm clock (or my furry, external one, either), so I got up, went down to the family room and read my book and watched some tv for a while. (Just to tell you, programming at 6:30 on a Saturday morning is worse than terrible.....there shouty preachers telling me that God loves me, even though everything about their tirades would suggest otherwise, and about a gazillion informercials suggesting that I am a sad, sorry, stupid loser who needs to call this 1-800 number right away to rectify that.)
After a while, I got sleepy again and went back to bed. It was heavenly.

When I did get up, for real this time, it was kind of cold and drizzly, and while that weather is miserable most of the time, it's perfect for running. Off I went, had a great run and felt very smug and virutous the rest of the day.

I cleaned out my closet, putting away the linen shirts and cotton skirts and flip flops, and getting out all the wool and tweed and boots and jackets of my winter wardrobe. As a reward, I let myself watch a few episodes of "Mad Men" (I'm currently working through Season 3 and I have to be very strict with myself to only watch one episode or two at a time, lest I lose an entire weekend watching that incredibly addicting show.) Then I had a nap. Is there any more beautiful words in the English language than "afternoon nap". I have yet to hear them.

Everyone else puttered around the house in their pajamas....the girls did their homework, made popcorn and watched a movie, and cleaned their rooms. The Mister replaced the sink in the bathroom downstairs and then watched a football game. It was all very easy and lazy and totally stress-free.

I made a kick-ass dinner (roast pork, roasted potatoes and squash, with chocolate pudding cake for dessert.), and I will spend the rest of the evening watching "The Amazing Race" and reading my book.

It's not a very exciting day, but that suits me just fine; exciting is the very opposite of what I'm after.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Amazing Race 17 Ep. 1

Hello Race! Nice to see you back.....sit down and tell me all about your summer, starting with Episode 1!

A nice mix of teams this time; no married couples, no dating model/actors and no one with a disability who is out to prove that "we can do anything". (Except if you count the diabetic, which I don't.)

I can't believe NO ONE said one Princess Bride or Monty Python reference at all during the castle way could I have helped myself..... "I fart in your general direction","have fun storming the castle!", "Your father was a hamster.....!" Good times.
I was happy to see that they just dumped cold, dirty water on the racers; historical accuracy would have demanded boiling oil and cow shit. I'll bet the cameramen who drive with them are happy too.

Why did Team Gilmore Girls even think to do this? I don't think having met twice before consitutes an "existing relationship". By that measure, I could go on the
Amazing Race with my dental hygenist or the UPS guy at work. I could barely do this race with my husband, who I've known for over 25 years and I'm pretty sure I like. The last thing I want to do with someone I barely know and desperately want to think well of me is drive a stick shift on the wrong side of the road after an adrenaline-fueled sleepless night. For a month.

Speaking of which, that noise her clutch was making? That's the universal cry of distress from a dying clutch to warn all the other clutches within hearing not to drive with that woman.

You know you are in trouble when Phil mocks you at the mat. "That's, that's right, the country of London." Team Tattoo started out by saying you can't judge a book by it's cover, but really, what else do I have to go on. And I'm not by any stretch saying that tattooed people are dumb, far from it, but I can say that people who have never heard of Stonehenge and think a "battlement" is a person while actually touching the flag they are looking for and then walking away, are.

That watermelon to the face was one of the most horrific things I've ever seen on tv. How she did not have a broken, bloody nose and lose a couple of teeth is beyond me. I can't believe she got up at all, let alone finished the task. Can you imagine if that had been Mirna? Or Flo? (Trick Question: Of course you can't, because both of them would have made their partners do it.)

How did Ron and Tony get so far off course?? Didn't they have a compass?

I liked the fall at the Amazing Bathmat by one of the Singing Geeks. He managed to take out the other one at the same time, too.

Next stop: the country of Africa!

Until next week!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Butting Out

I'm a reformed smoker; I quit smoking 19 years ago this week. I'd love to say it was the most difficult thing I've ever done, and I'm so proud of myself, but honestly? it wasn't nearly as hard to quit as I thought it would be, and I feel a little ashamed of myself whenever people congratulate me.

I started smoking, like most idiots do, because I was young and stupid and I thought it would make me look older and smarter. I persisted under that illusion for 15 years, and believe me, I was a dedicated smoker. It punctuated my day, gave me a reason to take a break or to transition from one activity to another. I met fellow smokers outside at parties, I had something to do when waiting for something or someone, and it was how you knew that dinner was over.

I don't think there has been any other activity that has undergone such a mainstream turnaround in such a short time as smoking. When I was younger,cigarettes were everywhere, and completely acceptable. I remember, as a kid, tellers smoking in banks and cashiers at grocery stores smoking while they worked. You could smoke in the movies and on planes. They only stopped students from smoking during lectures the year before I went to university. Clients could smoke while they were getting their hair done; I was allowed to smoke while doing my job as a receptionist. My mom had a smoking room when she was in hospital for back surgery in the early 70's. And by the mid-80's that was all on the way out, and by the beginning of the 90's, it was done; you couldn't smoke anywhere in public anymore.

And at that point, I was getting tired of smoking. I was tired of spending the money, of finding a place to have a cigarette, of the smell on my clothes and constant ragging from my friends and co-workers. And I was dating the Mister, and he never smoked and if there's one thing I really did stick to when I smoked it was that I never smoked in someone's house who didn't smoke themselves. So I was spending more and more time at his place, and smoking was becoming more and more inconvenient. And my neice, Widget, was born the year before, and every time I lit a cigarette in her presence I felt irresponsible and guilty. And I'd had enough.

I told myself I was "not buying any cigarettes today". And after I did one day, I figured I could do another one. And after that, I could do one more. And by the third day, I didn't want to go through all the shouting in my head if I caved and bought some. So I didn't. And by the end of the week, I decided that if I could do that, I could do it indefinitely. And by the end of two weeks, I realized that I had quit smoking.

My mom and dad quit smoking shortly after I did; they had smoked a lot longer than me, and it was a lot tougher for them, and I'm proud that they stuck with it. I'm glad they did too....I haven't seen that anyone who smokes past their 50s is better off for it.

So when people ask me how I did it, I'd love to be able to brag and say I overcame a horrendous addition with my formidable willpower. But really, I just..... stopped. Just like that.

Monday, September 20, 2010

To Have and To Hold.

The Mister and I celebrated our 18th anniversary yesterday, the 19th of September. Believe me when I say there were plenty of times I wasn't sure we'd see the next 18 minutes, let alone 18 years, but here we are, and with a great deal of enthusiasm, too.

We met at work, many years before we ever went out together. He was living with his then-girlfriend of 11 years, and I was dating all kinds of young men, some delightful and some less so. (I always thought dating was sort of like shopping....."I like the way those jeans looked on the hanger, but they are going to cost me way, way too much. And even though those shoes fit nicely, I hate the way they look.")
The Mister and I always got along very well; we worked beside each other, watched the same movies and thought the other was hilarious.

Eventually, he and his girlfriend broke up, which was a bit awkward, because she worked at the salon, too. When they split up, I got a lot of "so, are you and the Mister going out now?, which made no sense whatsoever to me, one thing did NOT follow the other at all. Simply not in the equation for me.
A few months later, the Mister sat me down and told me that he thought we'd be perfect together, and he was willing to wait until I got my head around that and came to the same conclusion. And after a few days of mental gymnastics I realized he was right....I could do a whole lot worse than find myself with someone who I trusted, who made me laugh, who was kind and patient and smart and funny. Who's family was nice and sane and loving. Who wanted children and would be a good parent. Who was responsible and balanced and most importantly, thought all the same things about me.

We dated quietly for awhile, mostly because if it didn't work out, he wouldn't have to explain TWO ex-girlfriends at the shop. When we did eventually make it known we were dating, I swear there were a whole lot of clients that came into the salon just to see what kind of soap opera we were running there. The ex-girlfriend was NOT happy about this turn of events, and I can't say as I blame her; going into work every day to see your ex happy AND sit beside his new girlfriend in the lunch room does not make for a good day. (Eventually she met a very nice man and married him. When they started going out, my boss asked if I had met him, to which I replied "No, I haven't. And really, if you were her, would you introduce ME to your new boyfriend?") Things were very interesting at work for a few months.

We got engaged 10 months after we started dating, and were married 10 months after that, on the Mister's 34th birthday. (I figured if we got married on his birthday then he'd never forget our anniversary. Turns out he's way more likely to forget his birthday.)

It's been 18 years, and honestly, it's been just great. One thing I came to realize pretty early on in our relationship is that relationships take work, but good relationships don't take much of it; they can hum along nicely, as long as the two people in it are happy with themselves and each other. The secret to a happy marriage is this: marry the right person.

Lucky for me, I did.