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.