Thursday, April 30, 2009

38D is the new 34B

Call me crazy. Call me prudish, (although you'd be wrong about that). Call me an old broad whose own has seen better days, but I think there is a time and a place for exposed cleavage. I live down the street from the local high school. I walk by that school nearly everyday and I never get used to the amount of exposed skin I see on the girls that go there. I don't want to launch into a big rant about "back in my day", however, the plain truth is, the boys in the class of 1975 would still be trying to graduate if they had sat through class day after day feasting their eyes on the girls in the class of 2012. Not only do these young women dress like they are headed to the beach, they seem to barely fit into their bikini tops! In the class of 1975, if I had to hazard a guess, I would say the average bra size was in the vicinity of a 34B. Not today. That would be considered flat-chested. The gals today are easily sporting good solid sets of 38D or higher and that bodacious bodice is most often accompanied by long legs and a boyish hip of around 32 inches or less. As Carrie Fisher's character in When Harry Met Sally said, "Big tits, small ass, your basic nightmare.", when describing Harry's new squeeze to Sally. It has been speculated (actually proven by now for all I know) that the hormones present in dairy products today are responsible for all this "over" growth. (Geez, if we'd known back in the day, we'd have said "Bring it on.") What ever the scientific reason for this voluptuous new generation of mammaries, it is still incredulous to me that today's young women think it is perfectly OK to flaunt what they've school. As early as grade 7. Yes, that's right. Grade 7. The summer after grade six when my very modest daughter returned to school in September, there were several of her classmates eager to show the world what had sprouted over the summer. (That was Catholic school and I have the class photo to prove it.) What ever happened to creating an air of mystery? Between exposed thongs and push-up bras, what's left to the imagination? Maybe that's why the boys started wearing over-sized baggy pants, crotch hanging to the knees - a tent to hide their constant state of arousal. Why else? I mean, REALLY, why else? They may want to call it fashion. I call it what it is. Slutty. Cheap. Desperate for attention. You pick. I am all for a woman feeling and looking like a woman. Notice, I said woman. Not girl. These girls don't understand what it really means to be in touch with their femininity yet. They have put the cart before the horse. Apparently, this is also true in their approach to sex. Oral sex, once considered the ultimate intimate act with a partner, is now as ordinary as a goodnight kiss. How did we evolve to this place? Perhaps evolve is the wrong word. It seems more like a step backward to me. I find it sad. In an effort to create a balanced rant about all this flesh feasting, there are plenty of more mature women who should add a little extra fabric once in a while too. Nobody is interested in looking at your hoisted hooters crammed into a bra 3 times too small. Are you reading this, Paula Abdul? Have some dignity ladies. If you haven't been able to pass the pencil test for a decade, don't go there. All the lycra in the world won't make you look 29 again. If you can't pull off sexy after 40 without resorting to publicly pressing your pushed and plumped up pair in his eyes, well, you likely never were. As I said in the beginning of this titillating tome, there is a time and place for a partially revealed rack. Black tie affairs.(tastefully though ladies) The beach. Poolside. A romantic candlelight dinner a deux. The bedroom. The privacy of your own home. You get the picture. But in broad daylight in the middle of Math class? I think not.

Pass me a Kleenex and a slice of Bacon

Getting a little annoyed with this whole swine flu over-reaction. It's the flu. Call it Swine, or bird or whatever other animal name you want to give it, it's still just the flu. Old folks and babies and people with suppressed immune systems die all the time, every day, in every country from the common flu. Just because this one has a weird name, doesn't make it any more or less contagious than the regular run-of-the-mill variety. Calling it a pandemic is just plain irresponsible in my opinion. As a journalist, I am ashamed at how the press just latches on to this kind of thing and blows it way out of proportion. The medical community is just as bad. They're all just trying to cover their own asses in case something catastrophic does happen. I think they are as guilty as the press this time. We are talking about a very small number of cases here people. And don't get me started on the ridiculous notion that is spreading worse than a pandemic. The misinformed going around saying you can catch it from eating pork. The pig farmers are in a panic, and rightly so. They could face some very harsh economic fall-out from this if the rest of the world markets stop buying pork from North America. You cannot catch the "Swine" flu from eating a ham sandwich! Case in point - yesterday, I received a TwitterPic of a toddler kissing the snout of a large hog with the caption "how not to avoid the swine flu". It may have been a joke, but it was completely misleading. My daughter has had a cold all week. I felt guilty sending her to school with plenty of Kleenex. I'm sure every time she coughs or sneezes, the world at large feels threatened with death. She has not had a fever, chills or vomiting. She has a case of the common cold. I think everyone just needs to relax a bit here. We do not live in medieval times. We have access to health care and most of us have immune systems strong enough to survive it if we do get it. If you don't have a healthy immune system, well guess what?, something was going to get you eventually anyway. That's just the circle of life. Harsh reality? No, just reality. So wear a mask if you must, postpone your trip to Mexico, stop eating bacon - if it makes you feel safer. Just stop calling a few cases of the flu a pandemic. Because it's not.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I love her, I love her not

If it's the end of April, that means my love/hate relationship with my garden is starting to turn closer to the hate side. It's my own fault. I have what is considered by some as a fairly "ambitious" garden. My love of a beautiful garden drove me 12 years ago when we bought this house to create a vision that in reality would require the assistance of at least one other full-time body to maintain. Oh to live near the Mexican border! My friend Peggy lives in Austin, Texas and almost everyone in her neighbourhood has a helper from Mexico. And they work for a pittance. (I'm not saying this is right or wrong - just stating the facts ma'am.) Hiring help here in Toronto is more than a pittance, so I toil alone. My husband pitches in quite a bit, but even that is not enough. Yesterday, I spent the day spreading top soil and grass seed all over the weaker parts of the lawn, after raking debris spread about by the previous day's high winds. It was the third time I have raked the damn thing in the last two weeks. (it's been windy, and we have a lot of very old tall trees). After the raking, spreading and seeding was in place, I made a futile attempt to turn on the sprinkler system. I watch the experts I hire do it every spring, I figured I now knew how to do it myself. Why pay for nothing? Well, it turns out I must have missed a secret step they take or something, because it would not start up. By then, it was 8:00 pm and I was dirty and tired and getting grumpier by the minute because the manual for the system was no where to be found (I'll have to look again this morning). As anyone who knows anything about planting grass seed will tell you, the secret to germination is to keep it moist. Dry seed will not sprout. I have to get it wetted down today, or all my effort will have been in vain. I have been working in my garden for about a month already this season. I've heard there are actually folks who don't lift a trowel until the long weekend in May. Amateurs! These are the people who plant a few petunias or impatiens in an afternoon and then sit back for the rest of the summer and relax. I cannot relate. If I plant annuals at all, it only to fill in a spot or fill an urn or pot. Perennials, as faithful and wonderful as they are, do require some TLC if you want them to perform every year. (there is the odd exception) By this, I mean, cutting back the dead portion from the year before, division every few years, fertilizing, dead-heading and potential move to another more favourable location in the garden. There is no such thing as a low-maintenance garden. Some work is always required. I mention this, because clients and friends are always winging that phrase at me. "I'd like a nice low-maintenance garden - can you help me with that?" they ask. Sure, we'll just pave your entire front lawn - and back, and even then, you will have to pull weeds from the cracks in the concrete, rake the leaves that blow over from your neighbour's trees, and if you dare to have a pot or urn at the front door (for some colour!), you will have to water it everyday, twice on the really hot days. Anything more than that, and you can expect to spend at least an hour a day to keep it perfect. (and that's for a small modest plot) An therein lies the rub. Perfection. If you are willing to allow your garden to have a mind of it's own, spread it's seeds and wind it's roots willy nilly with nary a correction by your hand, you would then possibly be able to say, "I have a nice low-maintenance garden." However, despite your vision of a "Monet-type" canvas, what you would get would be more like a "Jackson Pollock canvas". All wild and crazed, a garden needing to be committed, rather than admired. In a "Jackson Pollock" garden, weeds would eventually choke out the flowers and they would spread to your lawn and before you know it, you'd be calling the cement crew in to dump a load all over it because it's the only way you'd be able to kill it. I know this to be true, because I have allowed certain sections of my own garden to have their way with Mother Nature from time to time and the result is always disappointing. I like the look of an English garden versus the tidier formal garden, but don't let anyone tell you an English garden is simpler. They'd be lying. It is also impossible to create an English garden in any time frame less than 5 years. Penelope Hobhouse, the famous English gardener, would tell you 10 years. She is actually correct. After 5 years, you would have a decent looking garden, but not quite the "House & Garden" result you were going for. I know I said earlier that I was in the hate phase of my love/hate garden relationship, and although that is true today, tomorrow I could flip back to love, as I so often do. After I finish writing this blog, I will step out my back door and head to the farthest corner of our lot and stand in my "woodland" garden, at it's most spectacular right now, and look at my precious trilliums, bloodroot and trout lilies and once again realize why I put in the work. I don't need to go to a museum to look at a painting. I have the real thing right here in my own little plot of paradise. Right after I find that damn manual.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

My Inner Rock Star

There. That's better. I sat down over an hour ago to write today and the reflection in the mirror behind my computer screen was just too much to take. I was still sporting yesterday's hat head from working in the garden all day and it was pretty scary to say the least. It was so distracting, I had to go have a shower and do something about my hair. One of the advantages to working at home is some days there really is no incentive to put myself together. I can stay in my pajamas and write and take calls and work on floor plans - whatever. But sometimes, like today - even I couldn't stand the sight of myself. So now I feel and look better and hopefully can now write. Or can I? I sense a wee case of writer's block today. Hold on. Loading i tunes library. Music might help. Random scroll. Nickelback. Rock Star. I love that song. My daughter and I like to crank it up in the car and sing at the top of our lungs. I especially like the line "and we'll all stay skinny, cause we just won't eat". Imagine that. I can't. Maybe if I was a rock star. But I doubt it. I'd more likely be like Jann Arden or the latest chubette on the scene - Adele. "She'd be so perfect if she just lost a few pounds," the critics would say. Random scroll again. Do You Believe in Magic? The Lovin Spoonful. Perfect. One of my all time faves. Cranking it now. Dancing in my swivel chair. I love it when this song pops up in a movie soundtrack. One criticism though - it's too short. Victim of the sixties. Next. Scrolling. Katy Perry. I Kissed a Girl. I like the idea of the taste of the cherry chapstick. Not so sure about the kissing a girl part. I am dancing in my swivel chair again though. Should I be reading something into that? Nah. I like boy's lips. I predict this is a total one hit wonder. Does get your attention though, doesn't it?! Let's Get it Started. Black Eyed Peas. If ever a song was going to pick me up today - this could be it. Off my chair now. Channelling my inner hip hop self. I totally would have been into hip hop when I was younger - it has the same dancey thing going on as disco, and I admit, I loved a lot of that. Remember the 747 Club in Buffalo? The Bakery in Niagara Falls, N.Y.? Gord's Place on Tuesday nights in St. Catharines? I was there - circa 1976. Slowing it down now. (slightly) Alicia Keys. No One. If I were a rock star, I would be her. She's talented, smart, beautiful, she sings and plays the piano,has a good solid set of hips on her, and she never does anything to bug anyone. (not yet anyway) . Back in my chair, eyes closed, singing along, doing the Stevie Wonder rocking on the piano move. These are the things we do when we're alone. I am totally feeling better now. Last Call. Alicia deserves another turn. If I ain't Got You. I'm really wailing now. Swivel chair is making slow turns. Water bottle has become microphone. "Some people want diamond rings, some just want everything, but everything means nothing, if I ain't got you baby." Trying to hit those high notes now. Good thing you can't hear me. Guess I'll be keeping my day job. Don't tell my husband I sang that stuff about not wanting the diamond rings.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Put a Cork in it Junior!

It's 1:00 am. It's obvious I am not getting any sleep tonight. My daughter has a cold and hasn't stopped coughing since she got into bed a 10:00 pm. My husband is snoring and a police siren just killed any hope I had of falling back to sleep. What the hell - I got in an hour of shut-eye. I feel a rant coming on. A few hours before all of this started, Emma and I decided to take in a movie. (before all the coughing began) She wanted to see I Love you Man, but when we got to the theater, there was some sort of technical glitch preventing them from running the film. OK, let's implement Plan B. We both agreed upon the movie Earth. There has been a fair amount of hype surrounding this Disney flick, and I do enjoy a well-done nature program, so we got our tickets and popcorn and settled in to watch. This being a new release, there was barely a seat left in the house by the time the movie started. We were nice and early and got primo seats right near the top and in the centre. I noticed there were quite a few very young children in the audience and had a vague uneasy feeling, but dismissed my intuition. Never a good idea. Just as the movie started, so did Yappy and Yappier right behind us. In a very stern motherly fashion, I turned around after about 5 minutes of the annoying chatter and shushed them. When I turned to do this, I did not see any adults near them, but I hadn't looked that carefully and it was dark. (why weren't their parents telling them to be quiet?) My shushing lasted all of 3 minutes before the 7 year old brat channeling his own mini James Earl Jones started to narrate for us and the rest of the movie going public around him. Again, I shushed. Now I was getting really annoyed. The shushing lasted about 2 minutes this time. It then occurred to me that this movie Earth was seemingly identical to the BBC Video version of the Planet Earth series that I had bought for my husband for Christmas. (obviously some well-intentioned Santa had given it to this kid too - as he felt compelled to keep telling everyone he had the DVD). Had Disney just bought the footage and thrown it on the big screen replacing David Attenborough's voice with James Earl Jone's baritone narration? Now I was feeling not only annoyed by Yacky Doodle behind me, but also somewhat ripped off. I mean, isn't the point of seeing a film in theatres a bit moot when it's already out on video? It was becoming apparent that Sponge Bob Talky Pants was never going to give us a moment's peace. By now, everyone around us, kept looking to me to discipline this little spawn of Satan. C'mon people, where's your "it takes a village spirit"? Why did I have to do all the dirty work? And again, where the hell were these kid's parents? If they were around, they never uttered a sound. Guess they had either dumped the little rug rats while they went to see another flick, or they just did not want to admit to owning the monsters. By now, Emma was asking if we could leave. We were half an hour in by now and some crazy part of me still held out hope that these ill-bred children would shut-up, run out of steam, choke on their popcorn - something like that. I would give them one more good shushing - that oughta do it. Well, respect for adult authority just wasn't a part of their vocabulary. The incessant banter continued and I knew I would have to leave before I grabbed the yackier of the two and hauled him out by his ear to the manager's office. As I have no real interest in being arrested for child abuse, I took the high road and took myself to the manager's office and asked for a refund. Besides, as it turns out, I can watch the damn movie in the comfort of my own home without the pip-squeak voice-over. And that, is yet another reason I love golf.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

My Endless Summer Love

It's official. I'm in love.....with golf. Love sounds better than obsessed, so I'll go with that. It's hard when you're in love with a sport that cannot be played year round (at least where I come from). I do have the good fortune to make trips to see my love in sunnier, warmer climes during the off season, but these visits are fleeting at best. You no sooner get back in the groove and it's time to say goodbye again. Don't get me wrong. These little off season trysts are like life lines in the darkest, coldest days of a Canadian winter, but they just tease me and leave me wanting. For those of you who have been following my affair, you know golf and I were together over the March break in Myrtle Beach and it was wonderful. That was weeks ago. So yesterday, when we reunited here at home, well, it was just awesome. The weather even cooperated and gave us a completely out of the ordinary summer day in April. We were hot! And I mean that in whatever way your mind wants to interpret it. There were two moments of pure bliss that stand out. An island green that I have never landed on in the past two attempts, accepted my perfectly executed five iron. I held my follow through until the moment the ball landed and rolled nicely to about 10 feet from the pin. I tried hard not to overdo the Tiger fist pump (two others in our foursome weren't so fortunate), but I did give myself the liberty of a quiet little "yes!" and mini version of the gesture. I couldn't help myself. I didn't even care that I missed my "birdie opportunity", and settled for par. Getting the ball there in one was victory enough. The second moment was more of a "horse shoe up her ass" sort of thing, but how we get there doesn't always matter, does it? Faced with a large water hazard in front of an uphill green, I completely blew the shot, hit it fat and watched as it headed straight for the pond. Just as I figured my ball was fish food, I stood in amazement as my ball skipped, once, twice, three and then four times across the water and up onto the green. And if that wasn't enough of a miracle, the ball then proceeded to curl around and stop about 6 feet from the cup. My husband just stood there shaking his head. It was the kind of shot, that had it been on film, would be replayed endlessly on TSN, kind of like the Woody Austin fall in the pond footage we still see over and over again. Blissful moments aside, we also played with another couple that we actually enjoyed. You never know who or what you'll have to put up with when you book a twosome, so that also made for a good day. So now, golf and I have the next five to six months together before we have to part again. I plan on living each day, one day at a time with my beloved addiction so I don't have to think about our inevitable separation in November. I've got new irons in the bag and a sparkly new ball marker to get the season started. Hope he likes them.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Pretty Self-Explanatory.....

It's Saturday! No time to blog today - I'll be back tomorrow. Depending on how today's game goes, I may have a story to tell....or not. Later!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Tea Time with George

Where do my blog ideas come from? Well, in case you were wondering, most days I have no idea at all what I'm going to write until I sit down in front of the blank screen and let my mind wander. Some days it's harder than others. Like today. Nothing earth-shattering in the world news (in my opinion), just another day in Toronto, even though I follow David Miller on Twitter to see what he's up to (that's our mayor, for my international readers!). So I sort of just let words free flow through my head (not as dippy as it sounds) and if the word leads to a story, I follow it. Something like than anyway. This morning's word was "April". That lead me to "April in Paris". Which lead me to the voice of George Whitman standing behind me at 37 Rue Bucherie in Paris in September of 1977 saying, "The only thing more enchanting than April in Paris is the laughter of a young girl." I was standing with my travel companion browsing through used paperbacks in front of Shakespeare and Company, the famous Left Bank bookstore. I don't recall what we were giggling about, but George heard us and came out to talk to us. After a few minutes of chit-chat, he invited us up to his apartment above the shop for tea. (who was this crazy old guy and why were we following him?) For the next couple of hours, we were bedazzled by George Whitman, the shop's owner and supposed illegitimate great grandson of poet, Walt Whitman. We sat facing him on a dusty old settee. There was something edible served with tea (perhaps his famous pancakes), but I don't remember that as much as I do him. He was bigger than life for such a small compact man. He was not quite curmudgeonly, his hair wispy and a bit wild looking. He was however, an exceptional story teller. He invited us to stay as long as we liked in his shop for free. The only thing he required in return was that we read a book every day and help out in the shop for a couple of hours.(thousands have been made the same offer) Now, as a couple of backpackers on a tight budget (remember "Europe on $5 a Day"? - essentially impossible in Paris, even back then), his offer sounded too good to be true. On closer inspection, we noticed several young struggling writers milling about the shop, sleeping bags and packs tucked into corners and space amongst the towering stacks of books at an extreme premium. Although the romantic notion of actually being a "struggling writer" held some appeal, the reality of showering at a public bath house across the street - not so much. That, in addition to feeling somewhat intimidated by "real" struggling writers pretty much ruled out accepting his invitation. At the time, we had no idea that Shakespeare and Company was somewhat of a legend in Paris. Remember, we were 19 and flying through Europe by the seat of our pants - no university education, small town girls with little more than open minds and a taste for adventure. We may have heard of Walt Whitman, but I can tell you with certainty, we had never read any of his poems. Our magical afternoon with George Whitman was one of many "peak" experiences of our European odyssey. There are countless books and websites devoted to the history and present day news of George and his shop. He is still alive, in his early nineties now. His daughter Sylvia (conceived after we met him - that old scamp!) now runs Shakespeare and Company. I only learned later it was a hang-out for the beat generation writers, the likes of Alan Ginsberg and William Burroughs. The original shop opened in 1919 and was frequented by Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein and James Joyce. Hemingway mentions the shop several times in A Movable Feast. Now, there are even countless Facebook groups devoted to George and his famous book store. I was glad to join a couple of these groups recently. Who knew at the time, I would be a teeny tiny part of something so special? I have George Whitman tucked away in my little box of precious memories. And for that, I'm grateful.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Go Ahead - Try to Convince Me!

For the most part, I hate TV commercials. I always mute them and read while they're on - with one exception. Golf commercials. Sure, there are some that are less than stellar from a creative or entertainment perspective, but some of them are so good, I actually have hit the rewind button to watch them again. I love the Foot Joy ad featuring Ian Poulter. Ian, for those of you not up on players in the PGA Tour, is one of golf's most "colourful" players.(see photo above) It's worth tuning in to a tournament just to see what that dapper boy is wearing. The commercial plays off of that of course. You see Ian sneaking into his house carrying something in a plain brown wrapper. He swiftly mounts the stairs and holes up in his giant walk-in closet where he then carefully unwraps his latest shoe find. As he sits admiring his choice and holds a shoe up against a pair of pants to check the match (just like a woman!). He looks up sheepishly to see his wife (or is it his mother?) standing with her arms crossed and shaking her head at his pathetic attempt to sneak another pair of shoes into his wardrobe without getting caught. He failed. My other favourite that got a lot of air time around the 2008 Master's Tournament was the one with Trevor Immelman standing in the men's room practicing talking to the press. He is talking into his hairbrush. In walks Vijay Singh just as Trevor is earnestly answering a question into his hairbrush. Vijay, in his ever-dignified fashion, just looks at him and says "How ya doing Trev?" Deadpan. Ya gotta love him. What's great about these commercials is the way they succeed at turning our golf heroes into real people just like you and I. The golfers featured in these ads are now our friends. They think and feel the same way we do. The commercials are funny and clever and real. So a word of advice to all you ad agencies out there. I mute everything except the commercials that make me laugh,(or cry), or entertain me in some way. I never listen to obnoxious,(think, "I'm Russell Oliver, bring me your gold"), annoying, (think Noooo..body!), or boring (think any and all pharmaceutical spots). And for the record, my last golf shoe purchase was Foot Joy. Was it the ad? Who knows? I can tell you, I've never shopped at Bad Boy, sold my gold to Russell Oliver or asked my doctor for a drug I have seen advertised on TV. That's gotta count for something.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Spotty Perfection

A few years ago, one of the gals in my book club gave everyone a small personalized gift bag, our name beautifully scripted on the outside. Inside the bag were envelopes containing blank cards. Each envelope had the names of the rest of the club members in the same graceful script printed on them. It was November. The idea was for each member to describe the other women in our club using only positive words. You could use as many as you wanted. It was to be our Christmas gift to one another.
I came across my bag of words the other day while rooting through a drawer looking for some ribbon to wrap a gift. I had not looked at them since that Christmas dinner years ago. Upon closer inspection this time, I noticed that the same words appeared over and over again on my cards. Funny and creative. Now, while I like the fact that others consider me funny and creative, the words I really wished for were beautiful and mysterious. So like a woman - never happy with what she's got or who she is. My hair is too straight, my legs are too short, my eyebrows are too thin, my butt is too big...and on it goes.
We live in a world of perfection seeking. The ones that can afford it, go to great lengths to change every perceived flaw. Plastic surgeons all over the world are vacationing right now thanks to the worlds lack of self esteem. Oh, but people will justify their treatments and procedures; "There's nothing wrong with trying to be my best self," they'll say. Does being your best self require you to cut your face or inject yourself with botulism? Does being your best self mean risking your life under anesthesia, having the excess fat sucked out of your thighs? Will any of it make you a better person or save your marriage?
My grandmother would roll over in her grave today wondering what the hell had gotten into the minds of these women (and men). She never spent a penny on "self-improvement". Even a trip to the hairdresser was reserved for weddings and special occasions. She cut and curled her own hair her whole life. No one loved her any less for it - we loved her just the way she was. I don't look back at her life and say "Geez, grannie really should have done something about those age spots on the back of her hands." No, I do not. All I remember is her sweet nature and her happy voice. Now that I am getting those same spots on my own hands, I realize they are inherited. I know they announce my age and they aren't the most attractive thing in the world, but they remind me of her and that's a good thing, isn't it?
Will the world end if I don't have them lasered off? Will my husband cast me aside for a woman with fewer spots? Will they stop me from playing tennis, swinging a golf club, brushing my daughters hair? And what of the expense? I could use that money for so many other things. I guess that is what it really comes down to - money. If you've got money to spare, anything is doable.
I suppose I'll live my life never having been described as "beautiful and mysterious", but "funny and creative" is a pretty good back-up position.
Could be worse.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Rainy Day Reminiscing

Yesterday’s blog got me to thinking about Europe and travel in general and how I’m way overdue for a trip across the pond. I also think that rainy days turn me into some sort of wistful sentimental sap. So bear with me. My mystery reader turned out to be a dear old friend from Australia that I had met in Spain more than 30 years ago. (I believe a rowdy rendition of Waltzing Matilda got my attention originally). At the time, I considered someone from Australia almost exotic. Their accents were rarely heard where I came from and as it was on the other side of the world; it held a certain mystique to me. I used to lie in bed as a young girl and spin my dented metal globe around and around and dream of the places I wanted to see one day. Australia was a big pink blob on my twirling sphere. It was a far away land. I never imagined that one day I would not only meet an Aussie in person, I would actually make the pilgrimage down under in 1979. A weathered traveler by then, twelve European countries under my belt, I was ready to tackle the South Pacific. After living (as in, I managed to stay alive) in Banff for a year or so, my friend Linda and I saved our pennies until we had enough to strap on our packs and go. It didn’t take a lot back then. Less than two thousand dollars is my recollection (and that included the air fare!) We started off on a six week tour of the Hawaiian Islands, just to get warmed up. We hitched rides and camped most of the time. The best campsite was on the floor of The Haleakala Crater. I spent half the night waiting for the rumored wild boars to attack. They never did show up, but a few nasty aggressive geese took a run at us. An unfortunate car accident laid us up for a few days in a hotel in Maui so after that we rented a car. My family came to Honolulu for Christmas, so we got to stay in a hotel for awhile again – a luxury after our two-man tent. Our open ticket allowed for stops along the way, so we figured Fiji or Tahiti sounded good. We chose the former. I’m sure Fiji is wonderful – it was hard to tell as we arrived during monsoon season and spent the entire time walking around in a torrential downpour. After 10 straight days of beyond wet weather and giant cockroaches, we decided to get out of Dodge and headed for the land of my childhood dreams. I’ll never forget the feeling of absolute glee when the plane landed. I think I expected to see kangaroos on the runway. We spent six weeks in the land down under. We hooked up with my Australian friends, Jeff and Steve, and they rolled out the red carpet for us in Queensland. This time I really did see some “roos” and roadside “pie” stands and lived and ate and drank with their family and friends in a small town called Maryborough. I ate fresh oysters (washed down with Fosters) for the first time in my life and toured the area on the back of a motorcycle. I learned new words like “fair dinkum” and “Sheila” and “mate”. The dream had become a reality. I was 21. The final leg of our journey took us to New Zealand. Call it poor planning, but I arrived in Auckland with fifty bucks left in my wallet. I had to find a job, and find one fast. We spent a few days with another friend I had met in Europe. Her family kindly fed and sheltered us and set us on the road to Wellington and the Nelson area where it was thought we would find work on an apple orchard. They were right. We hitched a ride from Wellington to Nelson and the man who picked us up knew a farmer and he delivered us and introduced us and the next day we were employed. It was that simple. We worked long enough (about 6 weeks) to reload our wallets and spent the next month touring the rest of the country. It was paradise. I think it is the most beautiful place I have ever been. From Christchurch to Queenstown to the rugged west coast of the South Island and back to the North Island. I hiked on the Hooker Track and gazed upon Mt. Cook, and stood on the northernmost tip of the coast of the North Island and held myself firm against gale force winds. It was the most alive I had ever been in my life. You never forget that.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Lassy's Big Adventure

I never imagined the day would come when I would be shopping for a back pack for my daughter. Not the everyday kind they tote to school. No, this is the one they haul all their worldly belongings in for a big adventure. The one they will never forget. The one they will decorate with patches from different countries they have visited. The one they proudly stitch the Canadian flag on. That one. My baby is off to Scotland this summer for her first trip over the pond. She has me beat by two years. I took my first cross-Atlantic flight at 16. It was an organized high school adventure to London in 1974. I had the time of my life. I saw it all. A live stage performance of Godspell, Shakespeare's birthplace, Anne Hathaway's cottage in Stratford upon Avon, sat upon the boulders at Stonehenge (you were still allowed to do that then), chased the pigeons away in Trafalgar Square, gazed upon the Crown Jewels at The British Museum, tried to make the guards blink at Buckingham Palace,saw and photographed Ringo Starr in front of Apple Recording Studios, shopped on Carnaby Street, bought scads of make-up at Biba and ate green lasagna (food was not the highlight). It was the beginning of a life-long love of travel. My daughter, at 14 is already a fairly seasoned little traveller. She has been to both Canadian coasts, several islands in the Caribbean and seen more American states in her short life than most kids. She was bitten by the travel bug a long time ago. This upcoming trip is different though. This is a true adventure. I won't be with her this time. She will be travelling with a group of 16 girls aged 14-17 (and 2 chaperones). They will spend 5 days in Edinburgh at the Fringe Festival, followed by 5 days at a writer's retreat in Inverness. She fancies herself a poet, a writer, a dreamer. She's expected to pitch in with cooking and cleaning at the farm/retreat in the countryside, as well as write everyday. Their work will be reviewed around the fire each evening by noteworthy Scottish writers. I wish I was going. It sounds perfect. She is so much more academically advanced than I was at her age. She takes learning far more seriously than I did. She has an amazing memory for dates and details - she's like a sponge soaking it all in. She's not the wild child I was at her age and I'm grateful for that. Sometimes I wonder how I survived my youth in one piece. Backpacks have changed since my reckless days on the road. Now they have wheels and extendable handles and nifty little features, like secret dirty laundry compartments and detachable day packs. They still feature the shoulder straps, but now you have options. On my first trip to Europe after the high school adventure, my pack weighed 72 lbs. By day 3 in Amsterdam, I sent half the useless stuff I was carrying home and reduced it to 34 lbs. Now I could really hustle down the highway with my pack to get into a stopped car or truck - yes - we hitched through most of Europe - we didn't think twice about it. It was a different era and looking back, I was lucky to have come away unscathed. There were a few scary moments, like the time a French transport driver kept nodding off on the road through some pretty winding, hilly parts near Lyon. We had to keep nudging him awake. Or the time a couple of Iranians picked us up in Rotterdam. We were making our way to Munich for Oktoberfest and they were delivering a couple of SUV's to a car dealer there. What we thought was great luck, turned out to be a very long drive with a couple of creeps with a plan to keep us apart in the two vehicles (we refused) and so they threw our packs in one and we stayed together in the other. When we got to Munich, after much aggressive persuasion on their part, we agreed to stay the night in a hotel with them (it was our tactic). As soon as they got out of the cars, we grabbed our packs and ran as fast as we could to the first underground station we saw and made a break for it. Nearly hyper-ventilating by this point, we jumped on a train with no idea where we were or where we were going, just that we had escaped a dangerous situation and we would figure it out. A German couple with two small children, sensing our fear and plight, took us to the Munich youth hostel and then proceeded to convince the clerk to let us in despite being past closing time for check-ins. We never got their names, but I am forever thankful for their kindness. This first trip abroad for my girl will be far less risky than my crazy escapade, but no less exciting. She loves the fact that she will visit her great ancestor's homeland before her own father (he's never been - yet) and I'm happy she will not have any significant language barriers to overcome for her first time out, although she may have to listen very carefully to some of those really thick-accented Scots. I feel like the mother bird gently pushing my fresh feathered young one to take flight. Proud and scared all at once. If the love of adventure is genetic, I know she'll soar high and land safely and return to her nest. For now.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

True Love

Fashion. It's such a bitch. No sooner do you prance about in the latest trend and before you even have a chance to send it to the dry cleaner, it's over. Same goes for furniture and decor. I know, some things never go out of style, but that doesn't mean your relationship with them stays the same. I want to set up a meeting with a shrink to discuss the state of my relationship with my furniture. When I studied the History of Furniture (quite intensely) a few years back, what had been a casual dalliance with everything French turned into a torrid love affair. I fell head over heals in love with Louis XV. I was smitten by the satiny curves of a cabriolet leg. I found sheer joy in the asymmetric carvings on an armoire door. I was completely ga-ga for down-filled bergeres. That was then. Now I gaze upon my treasures and the feeling, although not gone, is diluted. There are pieces saved for and collected over time that I know I will never part with. An armoire I found in Vancouver lives in my bedroom. The previous owners of our house, in an effort to expand the bathroom, removed the closets from the master suite. My armoire is my closet. It was as though when I found her, she knew how much I would need her one day. And I love her. She has three doors, the centre door is mirrored, and her interior is fitted with shelves and drawers and a hanging rod. Most women would find her completely inadequate. But what she lacks in space, she makes up for with her beauty. The patina of the old dark stained quarter-sawn oak cries out to be stroked. The carvings are swirling and feminine. I can stare at her for great lengths like a work of art, always loving what I see. She is older than my grandmother would be were she still alive. Yet she still serves a purpose, stands proudly, aging with dignity. Long removed from her roots in Belgium, she survived an ocean crossing, and an unknown number of homes before she came to me. How could I desert her? And what of the pair of bergeres that flank the fireplace? They sat in an antique store for 4 years before they came to live with me. I would visit them three or four times a year, hopeful with each visit that the price would be reduced. The shop owner had reupholstered them in a rich claret red velvet. Even I was unsure about the colour. The asking price was too high to consider changing them. I would have to accept them for who they were. After four years of mad flirtations, I fell. The owner (likely sick of them, and me by now) finally and begrudgingly slashed the price. I had never waited so long and so patiently for anything. And now they were mine. And now I want them to change. The red I once loved has to go. Is this wrong? Finally, the china cabinet. For years we had scoured the countryside in the west and the east. We knew we would know him when we found him. The day we met was one of the luckiest days of my life. An antique shop that I frequented in Toronto had just received a new shipment from Belgium. The store was stacked to the rafters with newly unloaded pieces from France and England. It was so crowded, almost impossible to pass through the aisles. I nearly walked by him. I stopped, backed up, slid my hand along his curvy bow front. But, wait, where was his top? There had to be more. I could see the marks where his bottom had held his top for many years. The owner's wife, took me to the storage warehouse where she said the top had not yet been cleaned. One look and I wanted him so badly, dust and all, I knew he was the one. He was tall (too tall?) and his carvings reminded me of my beloved armoire and the open centre for displaying plates made him less formal and more approachable. How much? How much? The shop owner's wife said she would have to call her husband who was at an antique fair for the weekend. She called him and described the piece and I stood and prayed that we would be able to afford him. The price was too good to be true. It was a miracle. A sign from God. I wrote the cheque. On the day he was delivered, I anxiously waited. I cleared the spot, paced back and forth watching for the truck. I was still in awe of my good fortune. I had seen pieces like this going for four times the amount I had paid. The owner and a helper brought him in - bottom first. He was a big boy. Had I made a mistake? He might overwhelm the room. The owner then told me that his wife had made such a mistake when quoting me the price and he could have gotten way more for this item. He blamed her for his mistake and went on and on about what a great deal we were getting. But he could not change the outcome. I had negotiated the price, paid for him and now he lived with us. After they left, I stood and faced him. He was magnificent. Tall and broad, perfectly weathered. His hardware sturdy and strong. He was Hercules. He would hold all my treasures safely, firmly and unmoving. He did overwhelm the room, but in a good way. He was the masculine opposite to my feminine armoire. Best they remain on different floors. They came from the same era. Both influenced by Louis XV. He was a little older - they would be a perfect match. After describing him, I am reminded of what I loved about him back then. And I do still love him. He has never failed me. He requires little from me. I give him a rubdown with orange oil now and again. He seems to like it. His monetary worth changes over the years. Right now, antiques are less sought after. Again, the fickle world of fashion toying with my tastes. So, what would a counsellor have to say? She would ask me - "What is it that first drew you to them?" "Their beauty, the craftsmanship, the decorating trend at the time." I would respond. "And has that changed now?" she would inquire. "Only the trend part," I would tell her. "Are trends so important to you?" she'd ask. "Not as much as they once were, but in my world, they still are," I'd admit. "Well, it seems to me you have a choice to make," she'd say. "Yes, I see where you are going with this. I need to decide what's more important, more valuable, more steadfast. Trends come and go. True beauty and craftsmanship will stand the test of time. If I hop on the next trend, I'll only need to do it again in another decade." "Exactly," she'd say. "Ah, but life is so short and there are so many choices and I want to experience them all before I die," I'd say. "But are you willing to toss the perfectly good pieces away for this so-called experience?" she'd ask. "No, I'm not." "Then go home and love your treasures. Forget about the world of trends and fickle fashionistas," she'd shout. "I will, I will! Thank you Doctor. You've been such a great help!" So I rush home and my beloved French antiques still stand there, waiting for me with open arms, hopeful I have not changed my mind about them. I walk over to them, caress them, apologize to them for ever having considered replacing them. I won't be a slave to fashion. I won't.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Like, 50 is the new 25!

Whoa! The idea train keeps switching tracks every 5 minutes this morning. Not sure where I'm taking you today, but feel free to head to the dining car if you need a drink in order to follow me here. As you know, I am probably spending way too much time thinking about aging these days. I'm sure I fit into a very typical pattern, in fact I think the term "mid-life crisis" pretty much sums it up. Books have been written about it. I remember reading Passages by Gail Sheehy long before I needed to (maybe I need to re-read it now). So who knew that there was a simple, easy way to present myself as a younger me? According to an article in this morning's Globe and Mail, all I have to do is speak differently. Like, wow, I can totally do that! It's free. It's painless. I don't even have to eat less. And apparently, it does not "reflect stupidity or poor grammar - it is merely a linguistic trend". This "valley girl" speak that I have managed to avoid for the last 20 years is actually a sure way to identify my age. I've also worked hard to eliminate "eh" from my speech, but that one doesn't bother me so much when it slips out from time to time. I'm not embarrassed to be Canadian. My own sweet 14 year old daughter is often kind enough to point it out when I start using it too often.(when did she become such a language critic?) There is one phrase I have used to good effect over the years though. It works particularly well during "disagreements" with my husband. Just when I am at the point of utter hopelessness in convincing him I am right, I turn my back, start to walk away and in my most sarcastic, bitchy tone, spew those two (or is it one?) words - "What ever!" How does one respond to that? It's like a slap in the face. It ends the conversation with a sudden and abrupt finality. I like it. It gives me more time to come up with new barbs and arrows. And now it turns out, it is also an alternative to Botox! So, like, as long as I go around talking like a girl half my age, people won't be able to tell how old I am, right? No, instead they'll just say, "Wow, like that girl looks way older than she sounds". Or alternatively, I could speak older, saying things like "He doth have a fine six-pack on him", or "She sayeth she really shan't have another martini". That's the ticket! Then people would say, "Wow, that woman looks way younger than she sounds." If this new trend really does reflect "the evolution of Canadian society", what will the next generation sound like? It won't be long before we're back to grunting in our caves. In the meantime, I think I'll stick to the occasional "eh" and keep "whatever" in my combat arsenal, ready for fire when needed. I don't look 25 and I sure don't want to sound like it either.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Don't be depressed - think of the Bargains!

A few blogs back, I talked about the economy's collapse since last fall and the effect it had on my ass. Sitting in front of the TV day after day watching BNN and consoling myself with assorted high fat salty snacks was a mistake I now realize, but at the time it seemed like the only solution. Since then, I have been avoiding the constant stream of bad news blathering in an effort to avoid my own personal "depression" and work away at whittling off the 10 lbs of additional padding that resulted. Now, I only take a look at the closing numbers on the TSX every other day and only while standing and drinking water. Since I have absolutely no control over the world's economy, even that seems kind of futile lately. Yesterday, I got sucked into listening to an interview of author Harry Dent Jr. in regards to his new book, "The Great Depression Ahead". Big mistake! Listening to this guy's predictions, well, you may as well just liquidate all your capital (not until August) and hide it under your mattress. For those of you with little or no capital to liquidate, well, lucky you - your only fear will be losing your job. In Canada, even that isn't the end of the world considering our social safety nets and our health care system. You would probably survive. Americans might suffer more, but hey, it's every man for himself the way I see it. While most of the U.S. population was busy trying to outspend each other for the last 17 years, we Canadians were a little more conservative (I said little), so saving money isn't a new concept here. Reigning in the urge to shop - that's the hard one. My business is slow, but it's not dead. Frankly, it even surprises me when someone calls and says they want to get going on a renovation project or do some decorating. These people are still working. The money is still coming in. Most of them are younger than me. Their time horizon for retirement saving still seems endless. I am not in their shoes. My horizon is narrowing. I have been weaning myself off the spending spree that has been my life for a couple of years now. It is not easy. I still want things. I just want to do things more now. My priorities have changed. I'd rather take a trip or go golfing than buy a new lamp or install new flooring. Since these activities take me outside my home environment, I spend less time noticing the ugly old drapes or once trendy toile wallpaper and more time going places. It would be great to have it both ways, as many do, but I don't and it's OK. Fortunately I wasn't booked on a trip with Conquest Tours and for the moment my tickets to see A Midsummer's Night Dream in Stratford this September are still valid! No matter how bad the economy may still get, life will go on and if oil goes to $10 a barrel and housing prices go down 63% like they did in Japan, and the world really goes to hell in a hand basket, just think - you'll be able to get in a round of golf (with a cart!) for $25, fill up the tank for five bucks and buy your dream house for $300,000 (or less on the East Coast!). It's all relative. I'm going to go and book a tee time now - I've heard there are already some great deals out there. Nothing depressing about that!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Free to Rant

It's that time of the month when nothing seems particularly funny to me (God, when will it end already!), so as I lay awake in bed at 4:00 am the only ideas coming to me for my blog today were negative, ranting type subjects. I laid there, silently spewing like Rick Mercer without the graffiti clad lane ways. (I do love his rant - it's the best part of the show). So - I'll share a few of my nocturnal rants with you today. Then, I'll head out to my garden to restore my chi. Rant # 1 - I live across the street from a lovely old historic building. It is set quite far back from the road, is pleasant to look at and has a parking lot that is empty most of the time because the old inn doesn't attract many visitors. It is occasionally used for Gardening Clubs or Vintage Jaguar Club meetings and such. We like it that way, as it keeps the traffic down and our guests can use the parking lot (great for parties). Over the years, there has been an issue from time to time with their garbage, in that they put it out, in bags, the night before pick-up and of course, it turns into a midnight rave for the local raccoon population. For whatever reason, the raccoons often prefer to haul their tasty treasures over to my driveway to dine, leaving the remaining peels and packaging behind for me to clean up (just like my family come to think of it). Anyway, after all the complaints from the neighbourhood, they finally installed a couple of those industrial sized, blue garbage bins to contain the messes left behind by those Hort Club Hannahs. Sounds great in theory, but for one tiny oversight. They placed the bins right next to the sidewalk. So now, we all gaze upon them every time we step out our front doors. This has to have been a mistake. Now, I have to start a letter writing, petition-signing campaign to have the damn things relocated closer to the building, and it just pisses me off. Rant #2 - I live on a corner. A fairly busy corner. There are two schools, a community centre and an arena all within walking distance of my corner. We have been campaigning for traffic calming (speed bumps) for the entire 12 years we have lived here. Not just us. Everyone on the street from Bloor to Dundas has signed a petition to have these installed. There have been heated community meetings, phone calls and letters to elected officials, traffic surveys, and still nothing changes. The following is a typical result. The other day, as I was trying to turn into my driveway, making a right hand turn, some raging, fist-shaking, tailgating, speeding man in a black SUV behind me nearly died. That's right. He nearly died when I stopped my car before the turn and got out and started walking over to him, pistol cocked (OK, I didn't have a gun - but wish I would have!) and asked him in a fairly high-pitched voice "Do you mind if I turn into my driveway, Mister?" Come to think of it, I may have used a different word for Mister, but he definitely knew who I was talking to. He then called me something unpleasant like - "you ignorant bitch". Yes, I believe that is what he called me. I returned to my car and very very slowly made my turn. He hesitated, glared at me and just as I thought he might step out of his car to take a lunge at me,( I was hoping), he floored it and sped to the stop sign 50 feet away. That's when I bid him farewell. I may have used some other two-word phrase that started with F, when I think about it. It's all so fuzzy in my mind now. Most of the road rage events on my street involve strangers. People I do not know. I try to avoid such confrontations, but for some reason, I just lost it with this guy last week. There is no other explanation. Unless, I use the PMS, peri-menopausal, middle-aged and now fearless, say whatever I feel like saying, whenever I feel like saying it freedom that comes with this stage in life, excuse. Whew - that was some sentence! I must admit, I am enjoying this new found fearlessness that possesses me now. The thought of how it will continue to evolve as time passes makes me positively giddy. One day I was driving up my street and an old man was parked in front of the high school and I watched him fling his empty cigarette package out his window onto the road. I screeched to a halt, rolled down my window and shouted over to him, "Just who do you think is going to pick that up?" He looked over at me and I watched with amazement as he sheepishly got out of his car and retrieved his garbage. Wow, I thought, this bold new me could change the world! Litterbugs beware! I was going to add rant #3, but even I am getting tired of listening to me complain. I'll save it for next month. I have a letter to write.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Most Unforgettable Character

You may have noticed my spiffy new blog logo. It was designed by my good friend and fellow blogger Cindy Schultz, AKA, Halifax Broad. Cindy has her own small award-winning advertising company in Halifax (Broad Creative) and is possibly one of the most creative people I know. We first met back in my Rye High days (aka, Ryerson U.), when I was renting the top floor of an old Victorian house in Riverdale. That apartment goes down in history as the funkiest place I ever lived. I felt like Mary Richards living there and even had a giant "D" on my wall just like her "M". Cindy was an old friend of my land lady. I use the term "land lady" loosely, as she was really just the spoiled single progeny of some fairly well off folks who bought her a house to live in. Her only responsibility was to collect the rent from her room mate(s) and me. I believe Cindy had met her at summer camp when they were kids. The land lady whom I will refer to as Dee (now and in any future blogs), was a trained chef working at Scaramouche at the time. As she worked mostly at night and slept late most days, friends would often gather in the afternoons in her bedroom where she liked to hold court on her king-sized bed. Now before you go thinking there was some kind of kinky crap going on, just relax, the reason for the location had more to do with the fact that the only TV in the house was located in her room. Every now and again, her friend Cindy would pull up in her "oh so cool" Rabbit Convertible, top down, with her dog Jessie in tow and plunk herself down for the afternoon. I recall we all liked to have a drink (or two) and watch and critique All My Children (daytime TV at it's best back then). I liked Cindy instantly (way more than Dee). As I have mentioned in previous blogs, I have always been attracted to people that make me laugh and she did, and still does. We became friends and my ex-husband and I used to spend weekends at her crazy house next to the river in Clarksburg (outside Thornbury, Ont.). During the days, we would go bike riding, play tennis or hang out near the water and at night we would drink too much, crank up Patsy Cline and play Scrabble with her and her boyfriend(at the time) Chris (I still have that Deluxe Scrabble Board you gave me for a wedding gift for round 1). Cindy's charming house was like a magnet for the entire village and people would drop in all day and night. She seemed to know everyone, and everyone knew her. She was a genuine character and you couldn't help but like her. She was funny and artistic. She had her own spinning wheel in her living room where she created personalized custom-designed ski hats. Everyone had one. She was like her own brand - like Paris Hilton, except smarter and funnier with "real" blond hair. Everything she touched was a reflection of her personality. A trend-setter without even trying. Sadly, one day she decided to sell her quirky house and move to Toronto. At the time, I was working at The Upper Canada Brewing Company in Sales and Marketing and she needed a job. We hired her despite having no experience in the business, but just on her personality alone. Never one to adhere to conventional roles, Cindy proved a memorable addition to the UCBC family. She was an open book. Like the day she came waltzing into the office, shopping bags in tow, eager to tell us all about the great sale she just came from in the middle of the morning, not seeming to give a rat's ass that the boss was within earshot and she had been shopping on salaried time. Or the day she came in after a day of sales calls, swung her feet up on the desk and started swilling a bottle of Chamay, telling us all, "You guys should try this stuff, it's really good," never for a moment considering that the chief might not take too kindly to her promotion of one of our competitors. She was fearless. And that's what I love about her. Her creativity saved the day on more than one occasion. The brewery was always throwing promotional events for the press and restaurant and bar owners whenever a new product line was launched. As the budget was always limited for these affairs, we needed to come up with cost-effective ideas. The building was down on Atlantic Avenue, a stone's throw from the Gardiner Expressway - our view from the second floor. There were railway tracks passing by the south end of the parking lot surrounded by tall grass and weeds. At least that's what we saw. Not Cindy. Realizing we had no flowers for the tables, Cindy quickly folded up some six-pack cartons, headed out to the tracks and gathered up armloads of "wild flowers" and stuffed them in the boxes and placed one on each table. They looked planned and better than if they had been ordered from a florist. The girl had talent. That talent took her to Canada's east coast where for a time she owned and operated a small chain of folk art shops called Wholly Mackerel. Always creative, she once appeared in Style at Home, or was it House and Home (I forget) as the "designer" of a colourful, folk artsy east coast interior even though she didn't actually officially work as one. (some people get all the breaks!) During that time she became a mom and sold her shops and now she spends her time cheering on her son's hockey team and running her own business. I am so glad we kept in touch all these years. Her blog is a genuine laugh riot - I could only dream of being such a comic talent. So Cindy, I salute you and thank you. I love my new logo - it's fresh and whimsical and everything I wanted it to be. I am a little concerned about her eyesight though. Just the other day, she told me she thought I looked much younger and prettier in real life than I did in my blog photo and that I should change it up. A girl can't have too many friends like that!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Nothing like starting a new diet plan the week of a long holiday weekend. The first few days went great. Hot cross buns were consumed "sans beurre", which turned out to be a good tactic, as I never wanted more than one (they just aren't the same that way), and so I only had three all week. I applied the Okanawa Diet principal on Easter Sunday and only ate until I was 80 per cent full. That was helpful, I'm sure. I did have a few treats (I know, they aren't treats to my body), but I still came out ahead of the game (see sidebar for results). As promised, I did go to a spinning class. I was prepared. I bought the bike shorts with the padded crotch (absolutely necessary, I was told), I watched an instructional video, and I spent days mentally psyching myself for the ordeal. Spinning day arrived. I got there early to explain to the instructor that I was new at this and hoped to be alive for the remainder of the weekend. "Go at your own pace, this is your ride", said Sue, the instructor. "I want you to enjoy it and I want you to come back." She got me all set up on the bike, seat adjusted, handlebars adjusted - I was ready to roll. "Just start warming up, low tension, we'll get started in a few minutes." she said as she adjusted her headset microphone. I thought, "Hey, this feels good, I can do this. I'll give myself easy tension for the first day. I'll be fine. "Try to keep your cadence between 90 and 110", said Sue. I glanced down at my numbers. I was at 70. Realizing I would need to pick up the pace, I started cycling faster. And faster. Nope, not fast enough yet. Faster. OK, OK, now I'm at 90 - "I have to spin at this pace for how long?? An hour? I think I'm in trouble here. Then she threw in some intervals, some hills, I kept looking at the clock, mopping up my forehead, and then the pain started. It would seem that my "padded crotch" wasn't cutting it. At the 30 minute mark, I just had to make an adjustment. I raised myself up off the seat (not as easy feat) for some relief and couldn't believe it seemed worse than being seated. I lowered myself back down onto the seat, determined to carry on. Twenty-five more minutes of torture. The last five minutes seemed like an hour and when I got off the damn bike, my legs were weary and my ass felt like I had sat on a grenade. Would I ever be able to sit again? "It takes about 5 rides for your body to adjust" said Sue. FIVE??!! I only suffered through childbirth once. I still find it fascinating that women choose to do that more than once. She wants me to do this four more times?! Surely there is a less painful way to increase my cardio. I haven't made up my mind for sure yet, but I'm thinking spinning may not be the right fit for me. The jury is still out on this one. Anyone wanna buy a pair of "only used once" bike shorts? I didn't think so.

Friday, April 10, 2009


Have been kidnapped by spring fever. Will be back at blogging soon. For information as to my whereabouts, see yesterday's blog below. For a religious experience outside of a church, check out what I'm listening to (left) and tune into The Master's Tournament. Heaven won't get better than that.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Best toasted with Lots of Butter

There's nothing like a long weekend, especially the Easter holidays to bring out the anxiety ridden, raging inner child in the best of us. It probably ranks tied with Thanksgiving and second to Christmas. The weeks and days leading up to this hopped up affair (pardon the pun) go something like this.... One week before: Head to Bloor West Village, the Easteriest neighbourhood in all of Toronto to get in the spirit of things and sort through the buckets of over-priced pussy-willow stems to find the "perfect" plushy buds. They must be fat, fluffy and the stems must be just long enough to create some drama in my outdoor urns. (time spent hunting: 6 stores X 10 minutes per shop = 1 hour.) Cost: $7.99 per bunch of 7 branches. Go back through the 6 stores, one more time to gather the remaining ingredients to fill urns, knowing that planting outdoors at this early stage in spring is pre-mature, but the desire for some spring colour and a bountiful Easter display at the front door outweighs any logic or advice from the Farmer's Almanac. Return to car to unload. Head back to Bloor Street to check which bakery has the best looking hot cross buns. It may be too early to purchase said buns, but maybe we'll just try some ahead of time. That way, if they aren't quite up to snuff (too little candied fruits or not enough glaze) we can shop elsewhere next weekend. Four days before: Go back to Bloor West to get 2 more pots of pansies (urns looked a bit skimpy) and another half dozen hot cross buns from another bakery to see if they are any better than last batch. Holy Thursday: (only meaningful if you are Catholic): Arrangements have been made for cleaning lady to arrive today instead of usual Friday so the house will be ready for the Easter Bunny. Cleaning lady calls to say she has a crisis she needs to tend to - I try to be understanding. I am not. She wants to come tomorrow instead. She is Catholic. Will this not be some sort of sin? Now desperate for her help, I say sure - whatever - I'll just see if I can make the whole family disappear for the day. Just get here!! Good Friday: Cover urns with large swaths of purple fabric in honour of Christ's death upon the cross......ha! had you going there for a minute didn't I? That was always kind of freaky to me as a child. All those statues of Mother Mary and Jesus in their purple ghost costumes throughout the church. Those Catholics and their creepy pagan rituals really knew how to convince a kid to believe. We'll just scare the shit out of the little brats, brainwash them so they'll forever keep filling the collection plate. How's it working for ya now Fathers? Those dwindling numbers making you rethink celibacy? Anyway - I digress. Holy Saturday: Best day of the weekend. Make no plans. Sleep in. Enjoy clean house. Think about colouring some eggs, but decide no, Emma too old for that now, she'll wander off after one egg and leave me behind to deal with messy dye and a basket full of hard-boiled eggs crying for some attention (daughter did not inherit mother's creative genes). I lose interest too. Take one last trip to Bloor West Village for six more Hot Cross Buns (these will be the best, I'm sure). As day progresses a slight feeling of anxiety and apprehension mounts in anticipation of next day. Easter Sunday: Everyone - ASCEND! The Easter Bunny came. Now that daughter is 14, this much anticipated event has become somewhat low key. Her taste in chocolate has escalated from Laura Secord to Godiva. Well, I tell her, "If you want Godiva, why not wait until Tuesday when it will all be half price?" She thinks this is a good idea (she has her father's practical nature when it comes to money), so now we shop at Godiva on December 26, February 15, Easter Tuesday and November 1. Works for me. Still Easter Sunday: Hit the showers, get dressed ( usually still too cold to wear new spring outfit), pile in car, drive to St. Catharines. Arrive at parents by noon (dinner served at 2:00). Breathe deeply Deb - only 3-4 hours to go. "Wow, Mom, everything looks great! Ham! Oh, perfect, No, don't worry about Emma (she's vegetarian), don't worry about me (I don't eat pork), we'll just enjoy all the veggies and side dishes and hot cross buns - really, relax - we're fine!" "Well we never know what you people from Toronto are eating, so we just made ham - we like to have a ham at Easter", says mom. Can now cut tension with a knife. "Let's have a drink." Good idea. Bring it on. No two visits are alike in my family. It all depends on given mood of father and direction of conversation. Subjects to avoid Sunday: Future of GM pensions, virtues of a vegetarian diet, cost of daughter's education (what's wrong with public school?) and anything to do with politics - provincial or federal. Hopeful this year we will emerge unscathed and still speaking. What's your family up to this weekend? Happy Easter.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Never Take the Gloves Off

For as long as I can remember, I have been squeamish when it comes to anything oooey, gooey, slippery, mushy, smelly or slimy touching my hands. Throughout my daughter's entire infancy, I never once (ok - maybe once) got poop on my hands. I was always over-the-top careful when opening the diaper to be prepared, large wet-wipe in hand, making sure no part of my fingers or hand were left uncovered before I would swipe away at the mess. Once that was accomplished and her tiny butt was all clean and sweet-smelling again, I would apply any necessary creams or ointments with a Q-Tip, again, never having to touch any questionable surfaces with my bare fingers. When gardening, I always wear gloves. You never know when a big slimy earthworm may appear and try to wriggle out of your grasp, or a colony of potato bugs will threaten your chi when a rock is overturned. And don't get me started on grubs - they come in second right after maggots on a raccoon carcass. I figure as long as I have gloves on, I'm not really affected by any of mother nature's grosser creations. It may have started in my childhood. My father - actually, when I think about it, the whole family would trek on down to the Welland Canal to go smelt fishing. The moms would just run around in a state of panic the whole time trying to keep the kids from falling in the murky brown water. These expert fishermen (mostly blue-collar workers from the neighbourhood) would dip their nets down the steep concrete wall of the canal and haul up hundreds of wriggling, slippery silver smelt, dump them into buckets and once they had filled all their containers, take them home, clean them and eat them. The cleaning part is where this story takes a bad turn for me. Back in the day when kids were still expected to participate in chores around the house, my brother and I were expected to help clean the fish. "If we were gonna eat them, we were damn well gonna help clean em." I was forced to do this - WITHOUT GLOVES! First the little head had to be cut off, it's glazed over eyes staring at me, begging for mercy. Then the slit from the tail up the belly, followed by running my small 9 year old thumb up the cavity to clear the guts. Rinse and repeat. The females full of eggs were the hardest for me to deal with, my gag reflex in high gear, my guilt over her lost babies and the massive amount of yellow globular goo enough to make my head spin. But I did it. Once my mother battered and deep fried those little silvery critters, I would forget all about the ordeal getting them to the table and chow-down with the rest of the family. However, I think the trauma remained, buried deep inside me - forever. That's why when I complained to my husband on the weekend that I thought we needed a new dishwasher because it was always leaving little bits of crumb-like debris on the dishes, he said, "Have you cleaned out the filter?" Filter? What's he talking about?, I wondered. "Is it this rectangular-shaped thing on the top of the inside of the door?", I asked. Not realizing I had been neglectful of regular dishwasher maintenance and not able to remove the cover, I asked him for help. That's what men are for - manly chores such as this. He sauntered over, leaving his fresh steaming Starbucks reluctantly and popped off the cover for me. "I think this may be your (note he said "my") problem." Inside the cavity was the worst looking science experiment I have seen in a long, long time. It looked like moldy, congealed ghoulish grey dryer lint, caked so thick, he had to use a knife to scrape it all out. (note, I got him to do it). I had no idea this was something that I should have been doing. This is the longest I have ever lived with one dishwasher. I guess I have always left former dishwashers before they became so needy. There are so many things that can start to require attention once you live in a house for - oh, I'd say any longer than 4 or 5 years. We have lived in this one now for 12 years (the dishwasher is 11) and I'm sure if I looked closely enough, I could find a few other hidden gems such as this dishwasher sludge if I tried. I prefer denial. I always keep spare rubber gloves under the sink, and I buy gardening gloves in bulk. I use the rubber gloves for washing dishes and any other household task that risks the possibility of my bare hand touching anything foreign and wet (sexy Italian male swimsuit models excepted - suffice to say the gloves never come off). I think I was once told that you are supposed to clean under that vent strip at the bottom of the fridge. I may have done that once a few years back and have since suppressed the unpleasant memory. After the dishwasher incident this past weekend, it may be time for me to get down on my hands and knees and have a look at that too. Despite today's cold and snowy weather, maybe it's time for a little spring cleaning. But not until I check my glove supply. Who knows what may be lurking under there?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Get this Butt off of Me!

Monday morning. It only ever means one of two things. I am either thinking of starting a new diet or I actually am starting one. With the number of inspirations that took place in the world last week for someone like me, this rainy April 6th day means the latter. First it was the endless reel of commercial trailers for the upcoming appearance of former fatty Valerie Bertinelli on Oprah (I never actually tuned in, but who needed to?, the trailers gave it all away!). Next up was the amazing transformation of my friend (now hero) Susan. She lost over 30 pounds leading up to her milestone 50th so in her words she could be "fifty and fabulous - not fifty and fat." And she now is - fabulous. As if those two weren't enough to have me running out the door to the next Weight Watcher's meeting, then I saw Seth Rogan on Saturday Night Live - he claimed to have lost "about a million pounds". OK - so he may have exaggerated a wee bit, but he did look like half the man he once was. Rumour has it, his local pizzeria may be heading into Chapter 11. Oh, and I musn't forget my friend Cindy (Halifax Broad blogger) who hired a personal trainer last week to get her in shape - you go girl! So, on Sunday, a family meeting was called. The subject was "lifestyle changes" and how we were going to work together as a team to get fit and healthy. (Ok - lose weight). Having just had a good hour consultation with my naturopath last Thursday, I was full of suggestions and ideas we could all benefit from. I have been seeing her since before Christmas to address a few other issues I was having (won't bore you with the details - digestion was involved) and as we are now making some progress in that area, we are now moving on to the weight issue. The truth is, there is really nothing she can tell me that I don't already know. I am what I would call a nutrition expert, without the degree that goes along with it. So I nod my head politely when she outlines what I should be eating and how much I should be eating and how I need to increase my cardio - "just step it up" and while I am sitting there listening to her I actually believe I can do it. I leave her office with a spring in my step and a new attitude and for the rest of the day, I can do no wrong. Then the reality of day to day life descends upon me and that's when the real work must begin. I have begun this "real work" hundreds of times in my life. When I do it, it works. And then I stop. Two steps forward, three steps back. That's how the weight creeps up. So - this time, with the help of the whole family, (we all need a little work), we are going to try again. Today, I am going to check out a little bike shop down the road that does spinning classes (my ass is sore just thinking about it) and the fridge is filled with healthy choices and I am going to create a menu for the week. As I have been down the W.W. road so many times, I understand the importance of being accountable, so every Monday morning, I will post a small update on the sidebar of this blog, so you - my readers will be my confessional and hopefully my support group. Please don't feel the need to send me recipes, or coupons for gym memberships. I could be retired now with the money I have spent on gym memberships over the years - nothing like paying a gym $40 a month just so you can glance at it as you drive by on your way for ice cream. No - I have all the tools I need - it's just a matter of using them.

Friday, April 3, 2009

On Stage Now....The Book Club Babes

If it's the first Friday of the month, that means it was the first Thursday of the month yesterday and that means last night was my monthly book club meeting. I use the term "book club' loosely as after more than 11 years, although we do read a book each month, the analysis and discussion part of the equation represents a small fraction of the meeting time. Last night's meeting for all intents and purposes started out in the usual way - wine was poured, food consumed and the non-stop gabfest carried on for the first hour or so. Then, something quite out-of-the-ordinary started to rev up and before long had accelerated into what can only be described as "Karaoke Night at Kim's"...without the help of a machine scrolling the lyrics. Who needed a machine? - we had Susan! As she did request becoming a recurring character in my blogs, today, I grant her wish. Susan is hands down the only person I have ever met who can remember the details of everything she has ever read or watched with the most incredible clarity and attention to detail imaginable. She has so much trivia packed into that brain of hers, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if it just exploded one day. I'm not sure how we got started (she would be able to tell me), but we started talking about song lyrics from our younger years and how we would often be singing our young hearts away to some of the most obvious sexual or suggestive notions without even realizing it, and how our parents must have been horrified listening to us. Who can forget being 10 years old and belting out such classics in the back seat of the car such as "Woman, whoa, woman, have you got cheating on your mind?" or "Ah brown sugar how come you taste so good (a-ha) brown sugar, just like a black girl should A-Huh"? The funny thing was, we just sang along oblivious to what we were singing just like our own kids do today. As far as I can tell, the lyrics in some of the songs our kids are listening to are far worse, but it's still all about the melody. I heard stories from two other club members of how their very young sons would sing along to Shania Twain in the back seat of the car - their sweet voices belting out "I feel like a woman", with no regard for what they were saying, only knowing it was a catchy tune and fun to sing. So last night we sang. It started (now I remember) as we talked about author Lawrence Hill's Book of Negroes and how he was Dan Hill's brother and that Susan had grown up around the corner from the Hill family, and before you knew it, we were singing Dan Hill's hits (Susan knew all the words) and it just escalated from there into a "Stump the Chump" quiz off the cover of a 70's Gold CD that Kim pulled off the shelf. For the record, Susan would have been the stumped chump, but she knew all the answers...and all the lyrics to even the most obscure one hit wonders of the decade. And this is why I love my book club. If laughter is the best medicine, well I had a double dose last night. I laughed till I cried, pulled ancient song lyrics out of my brain (good for me at my age apparently) and came away with a good subject for today's blog. I may even start researching material for next month's meeting. There has got to be a song that Susan can't remember. But I doubt it.