Friday, November 26, 2010

UNCLE! UNCLE! I GIVE! I GIVE!

Try as I may, it is now impossible to avoid the cold harsh truth. The Christmas season is upon us. For days now, I have been changing the radio station in the car, trying to avoid the "sounds of the season". I have averted my eyes in shops away from the Christmas displays. I have purposely left up an autumn wreath on my door (I mean - let's face it - it's still American Thanksgiving for goodness sake!). But today, as I ventured out to run a few errands, I finally succumbed. I left the station tuned to CHFI in the car and even welled up with tears when they played that damn "Christmas Shoes" song. GOD! Why didn't I change the station? That song kills me every time. Then I turned my cart down the Christmas aisle in Costco and was actually considering buying a couple of things, but managed to gather my will and keep walking. I thought I was out of the woods after that, until I took a cruise down that aisle I like that sometimes has some interesting colourful thing I just ABSOLUTELY NEED for my kitchen. You know what I'm talking about - a set of new coffee mugs for $11.99 - EIGHT of them - such a deal! I get tired of drinking out of the same mugs all the time - I need something new to brew my David's chai tea latte in some mornings - it gives me a lift. (Pathetic - I know, I know) Anyway, I managed to get down that row unscathed and as I rounded the bend, there they were. The biggest, most lush beautiful poinsettias I have ever seen - I swear! HUGE! Twenty bucks! "NO WAY", I thought - how is that possible? Not only were the flowers great, they came in a big red pot with a faux gold leaf trim around the top edge - I wouldn't even have to find a container. Done. Then I got to thinking, "hmmmm, maybe I could actually do a giant red poinsettia in place of a Christmas tree this year". I had already thought I might forgo the tree since I will be away in Jamaica for a week leading up to Christmas - this might be the perfect replacement. Still festive, but waaaay easier - I can shine a spotlight on it instead of strings of lights and I could still put presents around the base - mount it in the bay window and the outside world can enjoy it too. Now, "THIS is the Christmas spirit I thought". Not quite into it as I have been in past years, but still giving it a nod. I just had to check with my daughter and see if she was OK with it. No way was I going to create some sort of lingering memory of "mom as Scrooge" in her young mind. I could hear it now. "Remember that year you never put up a tree mom?, I do - and I found it soooooo depressing." No, I could not deal with that. So, when she got home from school, I said, "look in the dining room window and tell me what you think". "Are you talking about the flowers, mom?" she said. "Yes, the gigantic poinsettia - how do you feel about that being our Christmas tree this year?" She shrugged her shoulders and said "sure, whatever - that's fine with me." WHAT?! She wasn't going to be traumatized? This was such good news. She totally let me off the hook. Thinking this was going to really relieve me of the effort and work involved in putting up a tree, I figured I had gotten really lucky. But wait - I got luckier. Listen to this. She said she wanted to talk to me about something. She wanted to know if I would be OK with taking all the money we would normally spend on her gifts and buy a bunch of presents for a needy child instead. She told me the Outreach Program she works with at school was appointing a child to each of them - she knew her name - Julia - her age - 5 and she was completely pumped about shopping for her. Apparently this child had provided a wish list which they were to choose an item from. My daughter said she wanted to get everything on the list. She was so excited by the idea, I couldn't help but jump on the bandwagon with her, even though not only had she just brightened Julia's Christmas morning, she had just saved me hours of shopping for her. All I could think was how proud I was of her, how great it was that she wanted to do this and how she was so unlike me at her age. One Christmas morning when she was about 6, she crept down the stairs and leaned over the banister and looked to see what Santa had brought. She could see the huge pile of gifts under the tree, and she stopped dead in her tracks and said, "WOW, I must have been REALLY good!" I have it on video tape and I will never forget those words coming from her mouth, so spontaneous and so sweet. Somehow, this year I feel I want to say those same words. Maybe Santa was keeping tabs on me in 2010. I sure feel lucky.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Miracle of Lipstick!

Surely you have all seen these "women without make-up" things on the net. It gives all of us mere mortals an opportunity to say "SEE, with out their make-up these celebrities are all dogs." Of course, the "before" photos are always the most brutal shots available of them - not only without make-up but with some sort of scowl on their faces as well. Still, it is true - make-up is a girl's best friend. It starts when we are teens and as we progress through life it is more and more necessary. We really only get to have "make-up" free years in the beginning and the end of our lives. At some point, make-up will start to make us look worse instead of better. You have no doubt seen the 87-year-old women with the bad make-up job - the lipstick not quite drawn in the lines, like a toddler's colouring book, the mascara a little too thick and dark and the rosy circles of creamy blush painted on all clownish and heavy handed. Makes you want to hand her a tissue and tell her to look in the mirror and make some edits. I don't want to be her. I like to think I will evolve gracefully into my old age, knowing when it is time to back off a little. On the other hand, I know I won't ever give up entirely. I will always want to try and look my best. I had a little taste of "make-up" gone bad issues today when I left my dentist's office. I had a filling replaced and I was so frozen after the procedure, I found it next to impossible to apply my lipstick on my bottom lip. I was so frozen, my lip would not co-operate at all and I had to actually hold it taught with my fingers, and carefully paint it, but even that didn't work out so well, so I sort of dabbed at it and applied a hint of colour and called it a day. Hands down, the most dramatic change make-up has ever made in the history of the world is on the face of Oprah Winfrey. Hats off to her for the many times she has unveiled her bare face to the world. That is one brave lady. If she ever finds herself short of cash (which is doubtful) she could be the spokesperson for any cosmetic company in the world - if make-up can do "that" to anyone - who would not buy it? Ask any woman - what is the one product you could not live without? The answer is usually mascara or lipstick. It depends on your age. I used to say mascara when I was younger, now it is definitely lipstick. I find at my age, the lips need some enhancement. It adds a shot of much needed colour to my otherwise pale face. When I was younger, I was not afraid of the sun and my face was not so pale, so the mascara was more important. My daughter is opposite - natch - she is only 16. So tomorrow night, when she is preparing to step out to her high school's semi-formal dance, you can be sure, the mascara will take the lead over the lipstick. A bit of gloss will do her and I will have to remind her to tuck it into her party purse so she can re- apply later in the evening. She doesn't even get that. You have to re- apply. She heads out the door in the morning thinking (I swear) that the gloss she puts on at 7:30 am will last the day. NOT! It doesn't bother her at all though. I, on the other hand, am constantly touching up my lips. I am in the public eye all day, so it matters to me. I never touch up my mascara throughout the day. Just the lips. And speaking of lips, one of Hollywood's best set of lips has to go to Scarlett Johansson - who just happens to be married to Ryan Reynolds, People mag's sexiest man alive for their 25th anniversary edition. A Canadian I might add. My daughter and I agreed with the choice wholeheartedly - we have been fans of his for years and he totally gets our vote. As much as Brad, George and Patrick fit as finalists, it was time for someone new to take the title and Ryan is fresh and deserving. So, before this blog disintegrates any further, I think I will sign off. Is there a point here? Not sure really. A bit of a ramble about make-up, it's ability to enhance our appearance and how when applied to Scarlett Johansson's lips it attracted the likes of Ryan Reynolds. Nuff said.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The One-Handed Work-out - instant results!

Possibly one of my worst days at work....ever. Rather than dwell on all the bullshit I encountered today, what I would prefer to talk about is how much better I feel now that I have had a couple of glasses of red wine to erase the pain of the day. Yes, I sometimes resort to this sort of stress reduction even though I know that a good workout can create similar relief. What I like about the wine though is how it takes far less effort and the end result is far more mellowing. Is that a word? Mellowing? If it isn't, it should be. I am also curious as to how it also makes everything look better. As I glanced around my living room, swirling my red elixir around in my long-stemmed crystal vessel, I assessed the room. Over the years, I have carefully selected various pieces - new, antique, old, not so old, an assortment of cheap and expensive elements that have all come together to create a whole. The unifying component is colour. Warm muted golds, blues and reds and varying wood stains, even different periods and styles have all meshed to form a pleasing (to me anyway) palette. It is a room that has been built over time and travel and personal taste that when I sit and consider it in my slightly inebriated state, it gives me pleasure. Funny how the wine brings out the best in the room and sometimes I think, the best in me. I am lucky I am able to know when I have had enough wine and do not find it necessary to drink to get through each day. Perhaps that is why I really notice the difference. Sober versus tipsy. I hesitate to say drunk, because if I were truly "drunk" I don't think I would be capable of writing this blog at all. I would be stumbling into bed into a comatose state. I have done that once or twice in my life, so I know what that feels like. I learned a long time ago, it is not my best self. However, my present state feels pretty good. I certainly feel more relaxed than I did a few short hours ago and all the anxiety I felt then is completely gone. Good riddance I say. Nothing like a nice Australian Shiraz to put things in perspective. I'll hit the gym tomorrow! That's what I call balance. Cheers!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Exercise, Check, Soul Fed, Check.

I had the good fortune to be able to spend a couple of hours today on one of my favourite walking trails down along the Humber River. It was the perfect sunny crisp fall day. There were still a few leaves valiantly hanging on to the trees while the fallen ones crunched beneath my feet. I generally walk with a friend but today I walked alone, no ipod, just the sound of the running water and the birds and the odd squirrel rustling amongst the leaves searching for the remaining tree nuts to stow away for the winter. It felt like Mother Nature's last hurrah before the snow starts to fly. I could feel the nip in the air when I started out and was glad I had layered. I stopped about halfway to watch the water in its endless journey downstream, hoping maybe a late spawning salmon might still be trying to head upstream, but that was just wishful thinking. I had to content myself with a couple of perfectly executed duck landings. Not exactly a great wonder of nature, but still a simple moment watching wildlife in it's natural habitat. It's all good. Getting out to do this sort of simple thing on a day off is what I think of as soul soothing. A complete break from people, noise, traffic and work. Without these breaks, I am quite sure I would go mad. We are lucky here in Toronto - we have plenty of places where we can go and experience this sort of peace. Whenever I am in New York, I always spend some time in Central Park - what would New Yorker's do without that oasis? In fact, no matter where I travel, I always want to go to that particular city's parkland. There is only so much concrete and so many crowded streets I am interested in taking in. My mind was like a camera today, recording frame after frame of changing vistas. The forested parts with their nearly bare trees, opened up before me with their carpets of leaves - so different from how it looked just a few weeks ago. Now you can actually see the forest for the trees if you know what I mean. You get to see better river views now too - the tall grasses and bushes along the banks less dense, allowing me a clearer look. As I stood near the bank gazing down into the rushing water looking for fish, it occurred to me that I really loved the feeling I get watching clear river water rolling over rocks in the shallows. Is everyone attracted to this, or is it just me? It always makes me want to take off my shoes and put my feet in, or take a drink even though I know it's too cold now and probably too polluted to drink. I am somewhat fascinated by it - not sure why really. Just am. As you can do doubt figure out - my walk did my soul some good today. No ranting. No raving. Just a mellow blog today - a sharing of what I saw, what I did and how it made me feel. Now if I can just figure out how to stay in this place......... And, by the way, as I was looking for an image to post on this blog, I came across a young artist named Chantal-Andree Samson. The painting you see here was done by her recently along this trail. Enjoy. Better still, check out her work - she is very talented.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Caffeine or Crack - it's all the Same to Me!

I keep missing last call and it's starting to really piss me off. Thirty years ago that might have been a good thing since by that time of night, I surely did NOT need another drink. But now I miss last call on a regular basis at Starbucks and Second Cup. I'm talking about last call for decaf. How can they call themselves a coffee shop when you cannot get a normal cup of decaf coffee after noon? It makes no sense. That is when it SHOULD be available. Most people have had their fill of caffeine by then and decaf should be the order of the day from lunch time onward. But NOOOOOO! They cut it off after twelve. I DON'T DRINK CAFFEINE!!!!!!! EVER!!!!! NO! I don't want decaf Americano. I don't like decaf Americano. Fuck your decaf Americano Starbucks. Bad enough Starbucks started offering up this option to me when they ran out of regular decaf, now Second Cup has jumped on the bandwagon too. Hello!!! Starbucks!!!! Hello!!! Second Cup!!! You are a COFFEE shop - you should have all types of coffee all day long. I don't want to wait while you make me a separate cup of decaf in a paper cone filter - I can bloody do that at home. It does not taste the same. I do appreciate that ONCE someone in a Starbucks offered to do this for me - ONCE I say - ONCE! It was better than decaf Americano, but only slightly. Some of you may be saying, go to Tim Horton's for your damn decaf. Well, if I wanted to drink a cup of hot water with a slight coffee flavour, I would. Tim Horton's is where I go for coffee when there is no other choice available. It's as bad as some no name coffee shop in an airport or gas station. Desperation java. Yuck. I have figured out their strategy. It forces decaf drinkers to order one of their more expensive concoctions like a decaf latte or other such specialty coffees in order to get something that tastes half decent. It's a money grab that I do not appreciate. I don't want a skinny soy decaf half foam whatever. I want a simple cup of decaf coffee, preferably Sumatra or even basic Colombian. Am I asking too much? Is it a volume thing? Make less more often. Gee, I don't know - figure it out. I just want it to be available all day, every day. Not everyone wants to go around shaking and buzzing all day long. I cannot handle caffeine and just to prove it - this blog was just written under the influence of regular Paradiso which I was forced to quaff because Second Cup was out of decaf at 10:50 this morning. I am still feeling the effects more than three hours later. Hence, this rant. A deadly combo - a peri-menopausal woman and a large cup of caffeinated joe. I'll need a glass of wine to calm me down. Expect a different kind of rant after that.