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.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Fair Enough.

It was Fair day on Monday; we went with the girls and a few of their friends. A good time was had by all, despite the fact that the Pig and Duck Races were NOT there this year. The weather was beautiful and it was all good.

Part of the fun of going to the fair is the rides...the Mister and I don't partake: too expensive for us. But the girls go on everything, at least once, and don't seem to suffer any consequences from having their brains rattled around like marbles in a jar. Thing 1's friend convinced her to go on one ride that was basically a roller coaster on a track that was one big circle standing on it's end, so that the people on the ride just kept going upside down. Thing 1 did it last year, and had some reservations, but her friend was very persuasive and got her on it. All we could hear was Thing 1 screaming the entire time, and not just occasional shrieks of terror, but a continuous wail like an air-raid siren. The guy running the ride liked it so much, he took everyone on it around a couple of more times. Thing 1 had no idea that was her voice she heard screaming....she thought it was other people, too. At least I could tell her her hair looked bitchin'.

The other attraction at the fair is the food. As my dad has said, "they'd deep-fry the coffee if they could". Fair food is all nutritionally bankrupt and morally dubious. That's what's good about it. They had a new offering at the fair this year: deep-fried butter. Thing 1 and Thing 2's friend and I were all game to try that, and guess what? It was delicious. I thought it would be, well, just what you are thinking deep-fried butter would be like, but it was fabulous. They take a lump of frozen butter, about a half a tablespoon, and batter it and fry it. Then they drizzle chocolate, vanilla, caramel and raspberry syrup on each one...when you bite into it, it's all melty and crispy and sweet and salty and hot and yummy. It reminded me of fresh pancakes with LOTS of melted butter. You can't eat too many of them, your arteries will stop up entirely, and you can't think too much about it when you're eating it, that way madness lies. I think the only thing you could deep-fry that would be worse for you is lard.

We petted goats and watched chicks hatch and saw a milking demonstration. We ate fries and rode on wagons. We saw some pretty interesting fashion choices and the Mister and I were so tired at one point we thought about playing bingo, just for the chance to sit down.

All done for next year.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Taken For Granted.

My aunt and uncle from Ireland are visiting Canada for a few weeks, and they are staying with my folks for a few days. They were in Vancouver and took a train through the Rockies and will be heading off to Toronto for a few days before they go back to Europe....a fine trip, if you ask me.

It's easy to think that the place you live is mundane and ordinary, until you get to see it through someone else's eyes. We took them to a pick-your-own apple orchard yesterday afternoon; totally a regular thing for us, but fascinating and exotic to them. You should have seen their eyes when they saw the pumpkin patch.

Over the years, we've had lots of visitors from overseas, and it always amazes me what they think is fabulous and we take for granted.

This particular aunt and uncle brought their three boys here many years ago, when they were 7, 9 and 11. We took them to see a baseball game, a Great Lake, a humungous playground and an honest-to-God, real, live Indian cheif. What did they talk about when they got home? The food court at the mall. They pronounced it "magical".

We've brought lots of people to Niagara Falls, which is pretty fabulous. They've always liked it, but were amazed at all the Tim Horton's along the highway on the way there. The fact that you could get a cup of coffee and a Boston Creme donut in Woodstock and it was exactly the same as the one you got in St. Catherine's was nothing short of miraculous.

I took some cousins to Montreal once, an 8 hour car trip. They couldn't get over that you got on the highway here, drove for 500 miles and got off in Montreal. One road, the whole way.

People from Europe find the amount of room here incredible. I had a party here in our backyard a few years ago, and some visitors from Germany could not believe how we had that whole yard for just our family. "You guys waste a LOT of space here", was how they put it. It is true, they use space a whole lot differently there than here.....except for some of the big cities, space is the one thing we have no shortage of in Canada. I have to remind myself that we are unusual in how big our houses are (basements!!) and how much land we have.

I heard a story many years ago, from when Poland was still under Communist rule. A collegue of my father's had his mother visiting from Warsaw one summer. They walked into a run-of-the-mill grocery store here and the poor woman burst into tears....she'd never seen so much food in one place in her life. We still have an abundance of food at incredibly cheap prices here, something we tend to forget.

I've seen other people from "away" be delighted by butter tarts (Americans), BBQ sauce (Germans), blueberries (Brits) and pumpkin pie and "the houses all look different" (Australians).
Imagine what I'd find exotic and noteworthy there....I'm sure they'd be amused.

Friday, September 10, 2010

How To Piss Off Mrs. Loudshoes At the Grocery Store.

  • Don't bother parking your car in a parking spot which is all the way over in the parking lot. Pull right up to the front door and put on your four-way flashers and run in "for a few things". No one else is as busy as you, and they can just wait while your car blocks traffic.
  • Wander aimlessly through the store, making sure you are everywhere I want to be. Don't pay any attention to anyone else in the store. Because you are the only one there!
  • Be sure to wait until the lady at the deli comes to you before you even begin to think about what you want. Lots of "ummmming" and "I don't knows" go a long way to making Mrs. Loudshoes' head explode. Be sure to ask for thirteen different kinds of deli meat, all shaved, and make sure they have to show you how much 100 grams is every. single. time.
  • Take this opportunity to have a long heart-to-heart talk with your neighbour. In the dairy aisle.
  • Advise me, without provocation, on my purchases. "Don't buy that tuna, it's not as good as this tuna". Look at me like I'm crazy when I say "I don't care; it's for the cat."
  • Abandon your cart cross-ways in the aisle. Go away to a whole other aisle for a half an hour or so. Be mad when someone has had the audacity to move your cart.
  • Pretend you can't get around me and sigh loudly.
  • Have a loud and heated arguement with your roommate about the moral, philosophical and far-reaching implications of buying low-sodium soy sauce vs. the fully leaded soy-sauce.
  • Let your six-year old drive the cart. Because he is fabulous at that. Never mind that he can't see where he's going, he has the co-ordination of a drunken monkey and he's alarmingly aggressive, he's just so darling!
  • Don't bother putting your cart away. Just leave it in the parking spot, where it can roll away into someone else's car.
If you do all of this, don't be surprised when I just happen to sneak in expensive, stinky cheese into your cart. Or maybe condoms. Or Depends. I have to have my fun somehow.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

That Didn't Take Long

Aaaaand....we're back at it. School started today for both Thing 1 and Thing 2, and we are right back in the thick of it in less than 12 hours.

No dramas today. Thing 1 went to her third year of high school without batting an eyelash. She got her schedule last week, so knew where to go and what to do. Thing 2 started her last year of elementary school, Grade 8, and has all her friends in her class, as well as the teacher she wanted. So she gets to enjoy her one year as a big fish in a small pond.

Funnily enough, I was the one with the dodgy tummy this morning. As I was getting ready for work, I found myself getting all riled up, until I said "wait a minute, MY life doesn't change one little bit today, what am I all nervous about??". Hard to change some habits, I guess.

Both girls came home with a hemorrhage of paperwork for me to deal with this evening. I think I wrote out both of their health card numbers a bazillion times. I checked off dozens of boxes saying I'm okay with them having their pictures taken and I take full responsibility if they trash school property and I understand they are not allowed to dress like little prostitutes. I signed my name so many times it has lost all meaning for me. I stopped even reading what I was signing....I've joined them up to Al-Qaeda and donated their kidneys for all I know.

It's kind of remarkable that one day in, it's like we never left.

Monday, September 6, 2010


It's Labour Day weekend here, which means that the kids go back to school tomorrow. Thing 1 and Thing 2 are okay with that; they've had a fabulous summer, but are ready to start something else. There's only so much computer time and television a teenager can take.

I'm kind of sorry to see them go back; I've always liked having them around the house during the summer. Because they go to school during the week and the Mister and I work on Saturdays, we only have one day a week when we are all home together....Sundays are very precious around here. But during the summer, it's like we have 3 Sundays a week. I'll miss that.

As a kid, I always liked going back to school. (Although I was way too cool to say so.) Even now I feel like I've somehow been slacking for the past two months, and it's about time I bucked up and got back to work, even though I work at pretty much the same pace all year round. I don't think it matters how long you've actually been out of school, you tend to feel like the "real" year starts on the first Tuesday of September, no matter what.

I still like buying new pens and pencils and notepaper at the beginning of September. It feels like I should, even though I don't need them. And the smell of new denim reminds me of September every time I get a whiff of it. It's been a bit cool here the past few days, and waking up into a chilly room while I'm enveloped in a toasty cover cocoon makes it feel like summer is over and autumn is definitely on the way.

It's been a beautiful summer, and it's not over yet, we could still get plenty of hot weather for the next while. (The Mister's birthday is on the 19th, and there have been lots of years where it's been way too hot to make a birthday cake. Thank God for Dairy Queen.) But even if it's physically still summer, mentaly, it's fall.