Friday, December 11, 2009

'Tis the season to give!

I haven't felt very Christmassy of late, but this week's snowstorm certainly cured me of that. Hard to not feel the holiday spirit when your latissimi dorsi are protesting the slightest movement from an hour and a half of shovelling, right?

Today, December 11, I have most presents bought, or at least thought of. Andrew and I are pooling our money this year to buy gifts from World Vision's Gift Catalogue. We don't really need any more stuff (particularly since we just buy the stuff we want throughout the year), so we decided to instead spend the money we would spend on each other on useful things that would help a family in need. He's really glommed onto the idea of a goat. I haven't yet decided what I'll pick: I tend to veer towards medicine or school supplies. But I suppose all the drugs and books won't help unless you have food in your belly first.

Tonight is my workplace Christmas party. We're going to dinner at a restaurant called Little Turkish Village. Decent food, great service. And it's a gift exchange too: this year's theme is mittens.

Although we've been directed to spend only about $10-15, I've had another, slightly more expensive idea. But if I go with a related, but more expensive gift and no one else does, I don't want to look like I'm one-upping my co-workers. It's also not clear to me if these mittens are actual gifts to the recipient, or if they're gifts that will later be donated to charity.

Either way, I'm sure the recipient has actual mittens or gloves of her own, and even if they are for charity, surely 25+ pairs of mittens are better than one, right? Oh, wait, did I mention this gift is a multiplier, and so is worth five times that, i.e. clothing for 125 people? No? Well, yes.

World Vision is awesome. And before non-religious people start worrying that since World Vision is a Christian organization they're all about converting the masses, rest assured this isn't the case. I'm sure they preach in countries where Christianity in its many forms is one of the common religions like Mexico or Chile; but in countries like India, Nepal, or Senegal where the predominant religion is Islam or Hinduism or Buddhism, they actually respect it instead of trying to change it. Neat, huh?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Today is Remembrance Day. I'll spare you the oft-repeated passages about sacrifice, courage, and honor - not to lessen the horror of war, nor the strong will of those who face it, but because I think sometimes we forget that behind the mask of the military, there are people.

Although I was less than a gleam in my parents' as-yet-uncreated eyes when my paternal grandfather went to war, I still remember that he wouldn't talk about it when I was a young girl. (My grandfather died in 1991. I was barely 12 years old.) I'm not really sure where he fought: for years, I thought he'd been in the Pacific, but I have photos he took of captured German subs. My mother says he never spoke of the war in all the time she knew him, though my father still keeps a big blue metal chest in the basement; I fancifully think it may be Grampy's sea chest. I really don't know what's in it.

I like to think that my grandfather, in his own way, didn't want anyone to share in what he suffered in the war. The cynic would say he probably just wanted to forget, but in not speaking of it, my grandfather helped the world retain a bit of innocence. If we don't teach our children what war is, then why would they have reason to wage it? And since I can't tell you what it is he didn't tell us about war, I can tell you what I do remember of him.

The things I remember most about him are the way he smelled of aftershave and Export A cigarettes, and how it never bothered me even though I was terribly asthmatic. His constant stubble and prickly mustache on my cheek was very comforting.

How we used to wash the big blue truck together, and how when I was seven years old that could be the most exciting part of summer vacation. A bucket of soapy water, a big soft sponge, and a strong hand guiding mine on the hubcaps would make my day.

How he and my grandmother taught me and my brothers how to swim in the pool in their backyard, and how he used to make us fly through the air in the little floater. When I turned eight or nine, I was finally old enough (read: strong enough) to help him put the cover on the pool at night, and take it off in the morning.

And how cozy it felt to sit in the middle of the front bench seat in the giant Olds, the hot burgundy naugahyde searing the backs of my skinny little legs when we went to the post office in the afternoons, Grampy driving, and Grammy on my right.

But what makes me sad are the things I can't remember, like how he used to ruffle our hair before bedtime and call us... what? Some strange little pet name that probably drove my mother crazy. It's on the tip of my mental tongue, but I can't remember it.

Or what his naval tattoo really looked like. I think it was on his left arm, and probably involved an anchor. Or was it his right arm? Did it have lettering? Or dates? Was it blue? Black? That faded greenish color of ancient inks?

What did his voice sound like? I remember a gravelly rumble, no doubt caused by the smoking destroying his lungs and heart, but I can't remember exactly what it sounded like.

So although I've missed the traditional minute of silence in writing this, I've been silent whilst writing it, and been remembering him like I only seem to do around this time of year. I think that more than counts.

Once, a few years ago, I had a very vivid dream where the doorbell rang and when I answered it, it was him. He was wearing his long blue coat, and looking a little annoyed that the door was closed. I gaped at him, and said (rather calmly, under the circumstances), "But... you're dead!" He looked around furtively, keeping an eye out for the rest of my family, and whispered conspiratorially, "Not really. They just think I am."

As I sit here and hear the mundane sounds of suburbia outside my window, I wonder how many more things I'll forget about him in the coming years. I hope I remember much more than I forget.

Wait... Buckwheat. He called us Buckwheat.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Healthy me!

So I'm finally nearing my goal weight of 120 pounds: I'm at 121.8! Since my birthday, I have been taking it easier, exercising less frequently, and still mostly eating healthy foods, with only occasional forays into junk food.

Helping my weight loss was my recent hair cut, done by me, myself and I. I donated my hair again to Beautiful Lengths, a program from Pantene that encourages women to donate their hair to make wigs for women who lose their own hair to cancer. Since my hair grows fast, I was able to donate most of my hair for the second time in a year.

As a result, I lost nearly a pound of hair. Yay me!

My pants are almost all loose now (excepting a few pairs I've had since university, when I was about 15 pounds lighter), and I don't have to keep pulling my shirts down over my pooch. My bras fit better around my body, but are looser in the cup. That kind of sucks, because shopping for bras is a nightmare. But I digress.

It's so wonderful hearing everyone compliment me at work, particularly since I cut my hair myself. (Did I mention that?) I'm not saying it wasn't hard - it WAS - and it took me an hour and a half, three mirrors, a pair of scissors, a comb, four elastics, many hair clips and bobby pins, and an electric razor with an attachment, but I think it looks okay. A little uneven in the back (hey, I'm not a miracle worker), but once it dries you can hardly tell.

Two more pounds, and then the dreaded bikini photo!

Thursday, August 06, 2009


When I stepped on our crappy old scale on June 30, and it read nearly 137 lbs (62 kg) for my 5'2" frame, I knew it was enough. Fed up with my thickening waistline, with the crotch of every pair of pants I owned wearing out in a matter of weeks due to the size of my thighs. I thought, that's it.

I'd like to say I jumped right into a diet plan with a minimum of effort and oodles of willpower, but I'd be lying through my teeth.

Some years ago, my husband got sick of me whinging about my pants not fitting (and it says something about my lowering standards that I was at 125 lbs at the time) and proposed that he become my diet coach. That, for three months, he in essence was the boss of me. Well, the diet didn't last three months, but I did drop about 8-10 lbs and I was very happy with the result. Unfortunately, a sedentary job for several years and a gradual laziness setting in amounted to me feeling fat, despite protestations to the contrary from my friends. Hey, they didn't see me naked. Clothing can hide a lot.

This time I asked my husband if he would consider doing it again. I'm not the kind of person who can start a new habit like this without lots of help and a ridiculous amount of encouragement.

So, first thing we did was buy a new, ultra-modern scale. To be sure of its accuracy, we weighed an unopened bag of flour on the new scale, and it was only off by a tenth of a pound. Then my hubby weighed himself on the old scale and the new scale and found a three-pound difference: the old scale was actually under! So I weighed 140 lbs. Marvy.

So now, five weeks into my ten-week diet, I have lost at least ten pounds: weigh-ins are on Sundays so I don't know my exact weight right now. (Okay, I do, but I'm not supposed to weigh myself more than once a week, so shhh!)

I am eating smaller portions, healthier food, and exercising a lot more. I have only had potato chips once in the last month. When I ate bacon with my eggs this past Sunday, I found I couldn't even eat it all, because it was so salty. And yesterday, I worked so hard in the garden that I lost my appetite and couldn't eat more than half my chicken salad for dinner. (But it had bacon in it, so maybe that put me off a bit.)

We are keeping a meal and exercise diary, which my hubby has brilliantly rendered in MS Excel. We seem to be either underestimating the value of my exercise, or overestimating the caloric value of what I'm eating, because mathematically I've only burned about a third of the calories needed to drop 20 lbs, but I've already lost half the weight. I'm not complaining, just confused.

For exercise, we're counting my shelving work, biking to and from work (10 km total, about 6 miles), Tae Bo, and DDR, which, for the uninitiated, is Dance Dance Revolution, a dance pad game available on multiple consoles. The workout function lets you count the calories you burn.

So my ultimate goal is to get to 120 lbs by my 30th birthday, which is September 8. I'll be rewarding myself with a tattoo on my new hot bod.

Friday, July 17, 2009

On being gastronomically challenged.

My friends and family know that I have a dairy allergy. Unlike most children who develop allergies as toddlers and grow out of them before they hit first grade, I have had this condition my entire life. Despite the fact that I complain constantly about lots of other things, I rarely complain about this dietary inconvenience, because it's something I truly can't change.

I admit, I sometimes felt left out as a kid, going to a friend's birthday party and not being able to eat the cake and pizza that were served. I've been telling people not to put butter or cheese on my food since I was about seven years old. My mother never cooked with dairy, excepting the odd recipe for the rest of my family.

Growing up in the eighties and early nineties, before allergen warnings became commonplace on food labels, my parents and I had to read endless lists of ingredients to ensure the contents were safe for me to consume. I knew what whey powder and modified milk ingredients were practically before my classmates could spell the words.

Today, I'm fortunate to just be able to glance at the bottom of a block of text to see in slightly more prominent font, "CONTAINS: MILK" before I put it back, instead of spending several minutes scrutinising the tiny print, looking for esoteric chemicals that may cause me to react. All in all, I think I do okay, food-wise.

But never do I ever feel so out of place, gastronomically, as when I go on vacation.

When I went to Mexico five years ago, I assumed (incorrectly) that their cuisine would be light on dairy, and heavy on vegetable and corn matter. This assumption led to the worst allergic reaction I've ever had in my entire life, when I ate chicken that was cooked in... something. Butter? Yogurt? I still have no idea. I had even made it a point to ask, and the server told me no, "No es cocinada con leche." ("No, it's not cooked in milk.")

Usually, I can tell almost as soon as I taste it if I'm allergic to it; but I was on my second helping before my lips started to swell. Twenty-four hours, a couple of doses of Benadryl and a case of full-body hives later, I realized that it's difficult to trust anybody in the food industry.

When I went to France, I thought I got a lot of strange looks when I requested no cheese on my pasta or butter on my bread. (My husband disagrees, but I'm the paranoid one.) I mostly ate baguettes and pasta when I was there, as it seemed a safe alternative to their dairy-laden offerings. When I eat out, I always make sure to specify to the server that it's an allergy, not lactose intolerance.

Dessert is actually the thing that bothers me the least, probably because we only ever had it on special occasions when I was growing up. Birthdays, family visits, that sort of thing. And it was usually Jell-O or some cake or a couple of cookies: nothing fancy. Therefore, I have no concept of dessert being a regular part of one's meal, which I tell people, with a grin, has kept me healthier anyway.

I have never, ever been able to eat dessert in a restaurant, with the exception of a Chinese food place in Moncton I visited as a child which served Jell-O as part of the all-you-can-eat buffet. But seriously, no Oreo cake, or chocolate mousse, or tartufo, or peach cobbler, or apple pie, or fudge mountain, or ice cream of obscure flavour have I ever been privileged to sample.

People often ask me, "Don't you wish you could have [insert luscious-sounding food here]?", or if I "miss" dairy. I never had it to begin with, and the few times I have had it it's made me dangerously ill. Why on earth would I miss something that makes me feel like crap? Sometimes I do wish I could have it, though, if only to be able to understand the ineffable relationship between wine and cheese, or be able to debate the virtues of ice cream versus yogurt.

So now, on the eve of my summer vacation to my mother's hometown in northern New Brunswick (safe kitchen, since my mother and I will be cooking), I think about tomorrow's stopover in Quebec City, a city which, according to the menus I've found online, seems to have an obsession for multiple-course meals featuring various game and fish, drenched in every form of dairy known to humankind.

I found restaurants which sound truly amazing, but whose menu would kill me within minutes. It seems a shame that I can never partake in the many delights these establishments have to offer, because in my experience it has been much easier for a restaurant to accomodate my diet if they have simpler fare. Complicated menus rarely, if ever, can offer substitutions. Use oil instead of butter? Preposterous, you'd lose the flavour. Soy milk instead of cow's milk? Why, it would ruin the consistency of the sauce.

No, no butter poached lobster with asparagus and hollandaise for me, thank you. I'll pass on the sweetbreads, raisins and foie gras terrine with onion confit prepared in crème de cassis. I'll save the Chicken picatta coated with mozzarella and fresh herbs, marinated and roasted in pepper sauce for my next life.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

When watching "Up", don't forget your tissues.

Last night my husband and I went to see Up, the new Pixar movie. We had planned to see it anyway, but when friends of ours gave it a glowing review, we resolved to see it as soon as possible, so we could watch it in all its glorious Disney Digital 3-Dimensionality.

Oh man, did I ever cry. I almost had to pull over on the way home because I was crying so hard until Andrew thankfully started blasting some techno music inthe car. The music, which thankfully I cannot remember exactly now, just devastated me - piano scores in particular often do. So did the cloud-watching scene. And the scene immediately afterward. And the scene at the end. And several scenes in between. I probably would have cried more if I hadn't lost my packet of kleenex near the beginning of the movie and hadn't had only one tissue to work with for 90 minutes. (I found the rest of the packet on the floor, where it had slipped off my lap, when the lights came up.)

This has got to be Pixar's best movie yet. And from someone who has watched The Incredibles about fifty times, that's saying something. The animation, and I don't just mean the 3-D aspect, is superb. The music frightfully appropriate. The dialogue, funny and touching. The casting, bang-on.

Go watch Up! And remember the tissues!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I <3 Star Trek

Hubby and I went to watch the new Star Trek movie Sunday night. We had been hoping to see it in IMAX, but when we got to the ticket wicket, it was sold out. We made a quick decision and bought our tickets at 6:39 for the 6:40 show. We sadly decided to forego concessions and hastily grabbed seats in the fourth row, near the middle, which wasn't too bad.

But my belly would not settle for nothing during a movie. I hastily took Andrew's order and ran out of the theatre, praying there would be a short line. Fortunately, most of the movies had begun, so I only had to to wait about 10 seconds to be served. Unfortunately, the server was sooooo s-l-o-w. It was as if he knew I was antsy and wanted to make me suffer. But I got my Coke, Andrew's Diet Coke and our popcorn in record time and rushed bach to my seat in the middle of a truck commercial. I didn't even miss the previews! For those who know me, you know I must write the previews on the back of my ticket. Must get to that 15-year ticket display project sometime. Anyway...

The movie was, in a word, AWESOME. In two words, FREAKING AWESOME. In many more words, I think it may just rival Star Trek: First Contact for my favorite Trek movie.

The casting was astounding, particularly the roles of Kirk and Spock, but most especially McCoy. For Lord of the Rings fans, the actor who played Dr. Leonard McCoy is Karl Urban, who played Eomer, leader of the Rohirrim of Rohan. He just had the Doc's mannerisms and accent down perfectly, and I'm not just referring to the typical, "Dammit Jim, I'm a doctor, not a 'fill-in-the-blank-with-another-career'!" « Il a un jeu très subtil,» as my high school drama teacher would say, a very subtle play, and it is likely that only people who have really watched the original series will pick up on how eerily he plays the role to perfection.


The fact that the entire story takes place in an alternate reality certainly leaves things open for future movies with this cast - indeed, most have already signed on for an as yet unnamed movie due out in 2011 or 2012.

I can't wait to own this movie!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Il mio giardino, aprile 2009

Tuesday marked the first day this year I really spent working in my garden. Chopping down dead pampas grass, raking up as much mulch as I could, cutting down branches that were in the way, losing my shears, emptying a yard waste bag I though I had left them in, refilling the same bag once shears were not found, looking all around the house, yard and garage for shears until they were found hanging off the wheelbarrow (where, as soon as I found them I recalled thinking to myself, "I'll put them here so I don't lose them").

Today is Thursday and my legs are still killing me. I didn't realize how much squatting and lunging I do while gardening, but wow. Or rather, ow.

Tulips and daffodils and lilies are sprouting up. Irises are peeking through and so is the sedum, which I hope does not attract as many wasps as last year. *shudder* The forsythia has buds, and I'm strongly considering chopping down the smokebush to a more manageable height than its current ten feet. Unless I invest in a good pair of loppers...

It amazes me that ivy seems to never die. The ivy by the patio appears just as green now as it was in November.

But what with all the pruning I did before the snows it'll be exciting to see what grows this year. In particular there are two small trees that I'm anxious to see leaf and flower, as they were so covered up by other plants I didn't even know they were there!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Ash and Juno

My hubby and I adopted a second cat this past Christmas. For a young female who had given birth at only 9 months, and already had her babies adopted out, the name Juno seemed only appropriate.

Never having owned cats before we got Ash in late 2006, I never realized what different personalities they could have. When we took Ash from a farmyard barn Thanksgiving weekend, he was barely eight weeks old. He was carried around as much as he would tolerate, and we didn't know that he could be really trained if we had tried. We didn't realize trimming his claws regularly would get him used to the idea, or that always keeping a squirt bottle handy would keep him out of the kitchen better than yelling. As it was, Ash was definitely king of the castle at our new house. He had the run of every room but the kitchen, once he dispatched the fish in the office by chewing through the filter hose and letting most of the water leak out.

But then, Juno arrived.

I had been thinking of getting Ash a "friend" for a while because he was never properly socialized. We took him away at such a young age, and with no other cats around, he didn't really know how to react around other animals, or other people for that matter, since he only saw us with the occasional visit from family or friends. So hubby and I started looking on the Ottawa Humane Society's website for a suitable cat. Internet research told us that it would be best if we got a female who was younger (opposite sex to avoid fighting, younger so he could still be the boss). We saw a couple of super cute ones on the site, but we decided to go to see them in person and find out if any of them clicked with us.

We walked in just before Christmas Eve, intending to look at a pair of black male twins, just 3 months old. Turns out they'd both been adopted just hours before. But a small, scrawny little "torbi dil" (I just now found out that means "tortoiseshell diluted") caught our eye. We looked at her chart, saw that she was barely a year old and had already had a litter of kittens. We asked to see her, and when we picked her up she immediately started purring. She was so thin - the effects of birthing, recent spaying and shelter diet meant she didn't weigh very much - that we could feel her pelvic bones eaily through her thin, scratchy fur. She was very chatty: lots of meowing and purring and chirping. We put her back for a few minutes, and looked at the other cats to at least give them a chance to win our hearts.

There was a grey female who could have been Ash's twin - grey fur, yellow eyes, same facial structure - except her white patch was under her chin instead of under her belly; we were sorely tempted. There was an adorable little ball of fluff about four months old, grey with big white patches, but we figured a long-haired cat would spell trouble for allergies. I seem to recall an orange male tempted me for a while (I've always wanted a ginger cat), but this skinny little yowler had already charmed us. Too bad we missed the adoption deadline for the night. We paid a deposit so we could pick her up the next day.

We went to the pet store to buy more supplies (cat bed, new toys, more litter, more food) and set up our empty spare room as a place where Juno could be alone while Ash got used to the idea of a new cat in His Domain. I was frankly alarmed at the idea that we might have to keep them apart for up to twelve weeks if they displayed overt hostility towards each other. I prayed Juno's shelter experience would make her magically pass on "socializedness" to Ash really quickly.

I shut Ash up in the basement for the few minutes it took us to set Juno up in 'her' room, then let him loose once her door was closed. Juno seemed to like being in the room alone... for about 24 hours. She quickly got bored and would head for the door anytime we went in or out to feed her or play with her.

I'll never forget the first time Ash actually saw her.

It was the third day of her being in our house. Andrew opened the door to go in to feed her and play with her, and his foot caught on the door so he couldn't close it immediately. Ash saw her, and he backed away slowly, his tail rising straight up and poofing out like a bottlebrush. For the first time in his life, he hissed. Andrew keeps telling me that Ash really is the best cat he's ever had, and that I don't realize how lucky I am, and I guess that day I partly acknowledged that because I had NEVER seen Ash so scared. Not even when he met my in-laws' über-friendly dog Meggin; he'd only been ten weeks old then, and he curled up into the tiniest ball of kitten I'd ever seen, his fur going all poofy and his ears flat back.

Juno, of course, being the friend sort, trotted right up to the door before Andrew slammed it shut, and I tried to soothe our poor outraged beastie.

Things were a bit hairy for a while, a couple of fights a day, but nothing lasting more than a few minutes of scrabbling. It's hard to say who really won those fights. Juno seems to have appropriated most of Ash's "spots": the catbed outside our bedroom door, the top of the kitty condo we built last year. But not out of any spite, I think; it seems to be more a question of familiarity. It smells like cat, so it must be a cat place. Ash has found new spots, or retaken old ones: in front of the bookshelf in the upstairs hallway, on the sheepskin in front of the TV. They share our bed during the day, or the old aquarium stand in the spare room which we hope to make a change table someday.

Ash is definitely settling into lap cat status, while Juno is still happy to play fetch with the little fishie with the rattle in it, or ravage various mousies. Ash is still a champion laser chaser, though. Juno doesn't seem to understand it. There's still the odd tussle between them, but overall I think they've finally become friends, which is exactly what we had hoped for.

Monday, March 30, 2009

New home design, from below the ground, up.

Wow, I forgot how smelly new furniture can be.

In an effort to make our basement into a more comfortable space, we wound up buying a new couch for the living room yesterday. Wait for it, there is logic.

Andrew and I have been debating for some time now how best to use the space in the basement. He has been using it for weight lifting and other exercise. I was using it (sparingly, of late, I admit) for playing video games of both the seated and dancing variety, seating provided by a couple of awkward butterfly chairs. We had two large rugs covering most of the space.

My dream for the basement has always been to turn it into a "Zen Den", with dark furniture, vivid red or green walls, and a small, enclosable space for entertainment. The ultimate vision would bring our entertainment center down from the living room, so all movies and games would be enjoyed from the cozy calm of the Zen Den, and maybe hidden away for board games to take over. Hard to feel Zen when someone is lifting weights or kicking the crap out of an 80-pound bag hanging from an I-beam.

So yesterday morning we started designing. Andrew plotted the entire basement in AutoCAD, so we can print off a scale drawing of our basement for reference, including stairs, pipes, appliances and furniture. (Oddly enough, he has not drawn the ventilation ducts - i.e. what he actually does at work.) I cleaned the kitchen while he drew, and started thinking about the materials we needed. Ideas were tossed around: should we build cubbyhole shelving to go along a wall? Helpful when kids come around and need space for their masses of objects. Could we build our own seating, or perhaps a big hollow ottoman to store games? Possibilities for design really are endless.

In the end, our plan was this: head over to IKEA (like the rest of Ottawa does on a Sunday) and buy two more matching rugs (Dragör, in case you were curious) to fill in the empty spots in the 'living' area of the basement, and also get a paper towel dispenser, because I don't want the paper towel on my spotless kitchen counter. Afterwards, take a trip to Home Depot to get an extension cord for our AeroGarden, which has outgrown its under-the-cupboard space in barely two months, a shower rod cover and new shower curtain rings, because the ones I bought at the dollar store were crap (figures), and some hardware for mounting a clothes rod from the basement ceiling.

Well, what a trip. Driving to IKEA in the pouring rain, finding the rugs we needed in less than five minutes, then spying a couch that begged to sit in our living room. While we had discussed the possibility of a new couch, it was not on the shopping list. But so comfy, and a good price ($399), and a color that went well with our current furniture.

So we thought. It's brown, but with a tinge of purple, which I sense is the reason it appears to have been discontinued. It's sort of like a grape chocolate. Not as great with periwinkle walls, cream furniture and orange accents as we had hoped. But I swear, it didn't look that purple in the store.

Now Cocoa, as we dubbed her in the store, is happily off-gassing in our living room, stinking it up with formaldehyde sofa farts, and the cats are staying far away, which I guess is a small relief. It would really be frustrating to have the couch for less than a day and have it turned into a scratching post.

What became of the loveseat that was in the living room, you may ask? It is now in the basement, serving as scratching post and seating for video gamers and Dance Dance Revolution spectators. The weight bench has been moved to where the cat's stuff used to be, and now the cats have their own nook under the stairs for food, water, and litter. The only think that really needs organizing now is the area around Andrew's workbench, and I'm not going there. Far be it for me to mess with his 'system'. He has graciously *snort* permitted me to clean the workbench if I wish, but I'm not to sort anything or throw anything away. That's his job. *rolls eyes*

Whatever. I have a big open space downstairs, the cat stuff is now contained to a small area, the kitchen is clean and we have a new couch. Now if only I could give Cocoa some Gas-Ex or something...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


I just finished playing one of the most beautiful games I've ever seen: Syberia. The graphics are amazing, it won a bunch of awards including Game of the Year 2002. And yet I'm disappointed.

You are Kate Walker, a New York lawyer sent on a quick trip to a small town in the French Alps to get the owner of an automaton toy factory to sign over her company. Unfortunately, you arrive in town to find out that not only has Miss Anna Voralberg died, she has an heir: her brother Hans, who was believed by all to have died seventy years before. Your new duty is to locate Hans Voralberg and get him to sign the ownership papers. Simple enough, right? Except the last Anna has heard of him he was in Siberia.

Along the way, you meet people who know of Hans or remember him, but no one seems to know where he went. You find out that Hans is a brilliant inventor (evidenced by the train you ride through Europe that he designed, and the accompanying automaton, Oscar, who was designed to drive it), and throughout the game you have to solve many puzzles that people around him were unable to complete.

I won't give away the ending, but it was patently unsatisfying to me. It's only a small condolence that there is a sequel, which picks up exactly where this game left off. But that's of little use to me NOW, when I want to know what happens!!!!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Magnetic poetry on the wall today

I have your kid
I will make him eat soy if you do not return my bike

Climb to drink the gift mother gives

When you touch my beautiful body we laugh and taste the morning together

(random selection)
for sun throws are feeling oddly saturated with winter energy wave
wander in
excite through

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Yay, green!

Yesterday marked the first day of 2009 that I worked in my garden. Huzzah! The snow has mostly melted except along the fences, where there is still about a foot of a strangely pebbly and granular snow/ice in some areas.

As a result of the melt elsewhere in the yard, I was finally able to cut down dead raspberry canes along the side of the house from the last two years. I was too afraid to get rid of all my raspberries the first year, and last year I couldn't remember which ones had already borne fruit, so I let them all be. I also cut down thin, weedy-looking canes to make way for stronger ones in future. A trip to Home Depot is in order in the coming weeks to purchase tall stakes. This year will be a more organized crop, I hope.

There appears to be strange webby-looking mold on certain areas of the grass, namely the walkway from the patio, probably due in part to the natural dip in the landscape keeping the ground wet. But it's also near the base of the pink rosebush. I'll keep an eye on it in the event it begins to change color or smell like trolls or something, but it's probably just spring's talent for decomposition at work.

But the best part of yesterday was seeing the bits of green beginning to emerge. The grass is still a bleached yellow mat that crackles when you walk on the areas dried by the sun, but along the house, beneath the powder room window, are sprouts which will eventually become tiger lilies. Further along, coneflower buds can be seen. Amongst the canes is the oddly bright lipped mouth of hyacinth. And to my delight, my experiment with dividing rotted tulip bulbs until I found a few good nuggets seems to be bearing leaf.

Two years ago, I had purchased several bags of tulip bulbs, which I was unable to plant before the first frost. This past October, I spent several hours on my back step, enjoying the heat of the Indian summer sun beating on my skin, carefully taking apart the tulip bulbs that had rotted in the bag in the hopes that some would still have viable cores. Tulip mold is a fine black powder that has an amazing softness, like fine ash, and would fly away if pressed too hard; I took care not to bring the bulbs too close to my face so that I wouldn't inhale it. Like garlic, tulip bulbs have cloves, but not always in the structured way that garlic has: tulip "cloves" can grow around each other, and it was usually these outer layers that had rotted, leaving strangely formed innards I broke apart for maximum flower spread.

In the end, I had, I believe, over 30 pieces that might grow into flowers, not including the new narcissus bulbs I had bought. If it works, it will be a one-time only, blowy display of pink, orange, purple, and yellow. If not, well, at least I'll have a new narcissuses (narcissi?) to cover an area once taken over by a dead blackberry bramble.

I love spring!!!

Monday, March 16, 2009

LaSucka (okay, it's immature, but I don't care)

I realized the other day I needed new underwear. Some of it got holey, some had grown (shrunk?) too small to be comfortable, you know the drill.

So I head over to LaSenza to pick up something new and fun and above all, comfortable, for spring. I recall that the last time I shopped there that the "Medium", regrettably, no longer satisfactorily covered my womanly arse, so I found several items I like in a "Large". Yellow, Orange, Blue, Green, and Black. Fun. Every girl likes new underwear.

A few days later I pulled one of the new pairs out from the shopping bag, and alas, had trouble pulling said pair onto my obviously more womanly body. Although I managed, they were uncomfortably tight the whole day, and left unsightly marks when removed. As all five pairs were of a similar cut, I smartly realized that I could get my money back at least on the other four pairs I had not worn. Cue a trip back to the store this weekend.

I walked up to the counter and told the cashier, who turned out to be in training, that I wanted to return these items. The supervisor walked up and asked why, and I said the items didn't fit. I told her point blank that, at 130 pounds, and 5'2, that my butt didn't warrant an "Extra-Large".

The supervisor pulled the remaining four pairs out of the bag and said, "We can only give you an exchange." I told her I hadn't worn them, in fact, I was keeping the pair that I had worn even though they didn't fit. She then asked, demonstrating she hadn't processed anything I'd said, "Would you like to try an Extra-Large?"

I paused and stared at her in slight disbelief from behind my sunglasses. "No," I said, with a bit of ice in my voice. I wondered just why I was allowed to try on underwear in the store for free but not return something that had only touched my hands and the hands of the various salesgirls.

In the end, I wound up with a gift card with my $27 and change on it instead of money back on my Visa. Which sucks for me because I don't like underwire bras and I now loathe their underwear. I don't wear pajamas, they don't carry silk things anymore, I like the slippers I have, garter belts don't fit, and I hate the perfume they sell. I just wanted my freaking $27 back. I'd give the bloody card to someone as a gift, but then they'd have to deal with the outrageous sizing standards and made to feel fat regardless of their body shape

What burns me is that although the receipt says I can get a refund on unworn merchandise, "Due to the intimate nature and hygienic standards of certain items, we regret that it is not possible for us to accept returns on babydolls, panties, bodysuits, hosiery, and teddies."

Pardon the vulgarity, but what the fuck else do they sell? Why, why, why, will they let hordes of people try on intimates in the store, but not let them return it later, unworn and still tagged?

LaSenza is now dead to me, until the unlikely day that I use the $27 to buy something I don't really need.

Snips and trails and piggy/pony tails

It's official: I can put my hair up again!

In November 2008 I cut off nearly ten inches of my hair and donated it to Pantene's Beautiful Lengths program, which helps make wigs for women afflicted by cancer. I plan to donate again as soon as my hair's long enough, and today's first pigtails in nearly four months mark some progress for me.

Ponytails will also help keep my hair out of my face, something which has been bugging me for some time, but I'm loath to cut it again until the back reaches at least chin length. (When it was cut, it was longer in the front than in the back, due in part to my own self-haircutting efforts.)

So while said tails are barely two inches long and are situated perpendicular to the back of my head, it's a start. I'm hoping to possibly be able to donate again by Christmas, but it might be another year from today before someone else can have Hair By Nadine.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Spring is in the air...

... and so is the smell of poo. I know I blogged about this last year, but it still irks me. Pick up after your pets. Shit does not dissolve in snow. It freezes and then waits for spring.

Crap aside, it is beginning to smell like spring. The weather is getting warmer (I write this as it is -19°C with the windchill, naturally), and yellow-brown grass is reappearing from beneath the geological formations created by several months of industrious activity on the part of shovels and snowplows. I can see half of my patio now, and I was able to trek out to the composted the other day without getting my pant legs soaked. Alas, it appears that nothing has decomposed over the winter. I spotted half a lemon that was still yellow.

But this is becoming the most fun time ever for my garden! Okay, maybe second most-fun after the snow melts... or third-most fun after the May long weekend... you get the idea. I love my garden all the time.

In preparation for this, I have already ordered about $100 of plants for various areas of my garden. For the bare front walkway, where I tried to grow string beans last year with very limited success, I have ordered two Japanese Painted Ferns and tree bunches of Mixed Lungwort. They'll regrow each year, and add some color to the front yard.

For the backyard, I have ordered Blue and White Phlox to go against the side of the house, and Lily of the Valley to probably go beneath Willow A (the willow against the western fence of our yard). And the pièce de résistance will be the Garden Pleasure Lily Trees (!) to be planted beneath the powder room window to eventually provide a smidge more privacy.

And I haven't even mentioned edible plants! We're having raspberries again, of course, but we're going to try beans and carrots and peas again after building an animal-proof cage. We might even try potatoes in a bucket, as well as onions. Can't wait for April!!!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Spaghetti Sauce Recipe

Pasta is probably my most favorite food. I live in dread of becoming diabetic because then my pasta intake would drop to virtually zero. Part of the reason I love pasta so much is the delicious sauce that I make to go with it. I made some the other night, and have been craving pasta practically every day since. So, to share with everyone, here's the recipe I love so very much, and which has taken years to perfect.

~1 lb (or ~ 1/2 kg) ground beef (medium, lean, whatever, just changes the amount of fat to drain)
3-4 cloves garlic, minced or chopped
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 29 oz cans tomato sauce (about 3 cups)
1 5 oz can tomato paste
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped (I like yellow for colour, but green or orange are fine)
1-2 stalks celery, chopped
1/3 cup of your favourite red wine (I like Shiraz, myself)
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp thyme
1/2 - 1 tsp crushed chilies (to your taste)

Put ground beef in stock pot with chopped onion, and cook on high until meat has mostly browned and onion has softened. Drain the fat and add the garlic, basil, oregano, thyme, and crushed chilies. If you are using dried herbs, rub them between your hands to better release the flavour as you add them to the pot. As I don't have much experience with fresh herbs, I can't really offer any appropriate equivalents.

Once the meat is fully browned, add one can of tomato sauce, one can of tomato paste, the sugar, and the rest of your vegetables. At this point give the pot a good stir to judge if you need more tomato sauce; it should be thick, but not too chunky. If it is too chunky, add a bit more sauce, and finally the wine. Give it a final stir and turn it on low. Let simmer for 30 minutes, stir, let sit another 30 minutes, and serve over fresh pasta with a glass of the wine you used in the recipe. Enjoy!

P.S. A nice appetizer to go with this is roasted garlic spread. Baking 1 bulb of garlic is usually enough for about 6 people, so divide your bulb appropriately if there are less than 6 people.

Garlic (remove some of the papery layers, but leave mostly unpeeled)
Olive oil
red wine
aluminium foil

Preheat oven to 375°F. Tear two squares of tinfoil. With the first, place the unpeeled garlic in the center, and curl the sides up to make a small bowl. Add a good glug of olive oil, and a smaller glug of red wine. Roll the garlic in this mixture until it is well covered. Tighten the tinfoil around the garlic, and wrap again in the second square of foil, taking care not to let any of the mixture spill.

Place in oven and roast for 45-60 minutes. Remove and let cool for a few minutes. Each clove can be carefully removed and easily opened to be spread onto crackers or bread. Warning - this will absolutely give you garlic breath. People can smell you several meters away when you talk, so be sure you are with fellow garlic lovers when enjoying this treat.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Since there are no buses, there are probably no spoons either...

... So we must be in the Matrix. Except I didn't think the Matrix was going to be so cold.

On this, the 50th day of the OC Transpo strike, I had to walk to work. Again. In the snow and the wind and the cold temperatures. Really, they couldn't have picked a better time to piss people off. In the summer, it wouldn't be so bad because many more people would be walking or biking. (I privately applaud and simultaneously wonder about the sanity of people who bike in the winter.) But it wouldn't surprise me if, after the strike, people just refused to use transit for a while - say, for the expected 14 WEEK-delay of a full return of service.

I have been relying on my mother-in-law (with whom, fortunately, I get along with just fine) for rides to work when it gets too cold to walk, but I hate being so dependent on her when I'm sure she has other things she'd rather be doing. So when it's nicer - this being a relative term, clearly, and in this case meaning around -10°C or warmer - I walk. Except today.

My normal place of work is exactly 60 minutes away. I have another casual place of work which is about 25 minutes away. (All times calculated in walking speed, though if you really want to know it's 4 km and 1.8 km.) Today I had agreed to work an extra shift at the casual place. I bundled up, as usual (leggings under my pants; an extra pair of socks in my purse, just in case mine got wet on the journey; and a sweater with a high collar I can use to cover my face) and realized it was not as warm as I had hoped. The snow had already drifted a few inches on my porch, and thought, "Oh, crap, I'm going to have to walk home in this same weather and then shovel. Gravy."

But in the midst of all this misery, I have also realized that I have learned several important things.

I've learned the delicate art of removing one's boots without shaking the snow that's stuck to your pants onto your feet, the floor directly beneath your foot where you're bound to step once you've lost your balance, or the inside of the shoe you're about to put on.

I've learned the trick of rolling your pant cuffs a little higher than normal so they don't accumulate as much snow, and thus wick salty slush up to your knees, leaving your pants stiff and white with salt.

I've learned that wool blends dry faster than pure wool.

I've learned that gloves, toques and scarves worn for several hours a day actually start to smell a little bit funky. (People don't often think about smelly winter clothes, but I try to chuck mine in the wash at least once a month - though it should be much more often than that.)

And I've also learned that I really want my own car now.