Monday, January 31, 2011

Feeling the Chill

On the same day that I posted this picture of the magical frost patterns on Brian's window:

I snapped, but did not post this picture:
Because, really, it's kinda gross. That's standing water and soap scum. And, of course, it happened just before Steve flew out to the Northwest Territories for several days. Before he left, he disconnected the vent/fan in the main floor powder room which is just below the bathtub, but that didn't fix the problem.

I called a plumber, but the soonest he could get to us was several days later after, coincidentally, the temperatures rose from -30C to a gentle -10C. The plumber showed up, augured the drain and had things working in no time a-tall.

Then the temperature dropped again and - lo and behold - the tub plugged up again. So tonight, Steve got serious and ripped that powder room a new one. Hole, that is. So now we have this:
After cutting the new hole (the one on the left, where the U-trap is), Steve swept up all the mess and, before he knew it, he heard water draining from the tub. The long-term solution will involve insulating the U-trap and patching the ceiling.  Without a vent, thank you very much - the room has a functioning window and does not have a shower or anything to produce humidity.

Since we're in the powder room anyway, I figure I might as well show you some "glam shots," so here you go:
You may have to click the picture to enlarge it, but the faucet is really quite beautiful.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Little OCD Goes a Long Way

UPDATE: I updated the room layouts for greater accuracy. sigh.

I've diagnosed myself as being a little OCD (that's Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder). I say "a little" in the sense that it sometimes annoys me, but it really doesn't interfere with day-to-day life very much. It may irritate others as well, but I prefer to ignore their discomfort; I've got plenty of my own to deal with.

One of my doctors said OCD is often a way of coping with ADD, which explains a lot: when you are liable to keep losing track of things, becoming extremely organized and detail-focused is a good way of balancing the lateral vagaries of your mind.

For the most part, this peculiarity has actually helped me. A colleague once described me as "almost obsessively organized" -- in a good way. As a team, it helps to have someone who is watching all the loose ends.

But it does have its downside. For example, I am always irritated by crooked pictures, and there are a couple in our house that NEVER seem to hang straight. Like the one at left. It hangs at the bottom of our stairs. Because of its composition, it always seems to be tilted, ever so slightly. I'm pretty sure I straighten it every time I walk by.

I need to just get some nails or superglue or something and fix it permanently.

One day, I was at our veterinarian's office and noticed that one of the diplomas was off-kilter, ever so slightly. I tried to nudge it straight, but it seemed to be snagged, so I lifted it off its nail. Big mistake -- I could not get it back on. My efforts became more frantic the longer it took, until the vet walked in, looked at me quizzically and hung it for me. Awkward.

Another time, we rented a house for a 4-night long weekend with some good friends. The house was graced with a large, open family room with a grand central fireplace flanked by beautiful, 2-storey picture windows. The furniture layout, however, irritated the heck out of me for two full days before I rearranged it. Yes, I rearranged furniture in a rental accommodation that I was only going to live in for two more days. But, look, it was really stupid:
BEFORE: Sofas perpendicular to the windows
crowded pathways
I mean, I understand why they did it that way: the windows were such a focal point that it sort of made sense to align the furniture to them. But we moved things around to this:

AFTER: Furnishings focused on the fireplace,
parallel or perpendicular to main walls.
MUCH better, eh? A small change really (though I will confess to also moving the TV, the rocking chair, the plant stand and ... maybe a few other things as well). My arrogant self thought the rental agent/owners would walk in and think, "Oh, yes! That's what we've been missing!" But, alas, when we went back the following year, everything had been restored to its original position.

Yes, we did rearrange the furniture for that subsequent visit as well, though just a little bit.

The 80% solution - less fuss, but still an improvement.

It's worth noting that, though I was the only person bothered by the layout, my hubby and friends were happy to go along with my interference. That's love, folks.

Anyway. Hope you all had a good weekend. I'm going to go alphabetize the fiction books. (Non-fiction, reference, and self-help will have to wait for another day. A girl can only do so much at a time!)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Λατρεύω την κόρη μου.

No, I did not fall asleep on my keyboard with the font set to "Wingdings." That text up there, according to Google translate, says, "I love my daughter." It transliterates as, "Latrév̱o̱ ti̱n kóri̱ mou."

Tonight I realized that I hadn't spent much one-on-one time with Katie. In fact, it's been years since just the two of us went out to dinner. In light of my New Year's Resolution to spend more individual time with each of my kids, I invited her out for dinner. We decided on Greek. I ordered one of my favourite snacks: spanakopita, a fillo pastry stuffed with spinach and feta and garlic.
Nom nom nom!
Katie ordered this:

Yes, yes that is a tentacle. Of an octopus.

Um. Are those suction cups?

Why, yes, they are suction cups. Have I mentioned that I do not enjoy eating things with recognizable body parts? Suction cups (which apparently is the technical term; I checked) are identifiable body parts. And they are icky. Katie, however, loved them. She said it tasted like cheese, which she loves but can no longer eat, so she was delighted.

For my part, I averted my gaze and enjoyed my pastry.

More important than the food, of course, were the conversation and the company -- both of which were very convivial. My daughter is really no longer a girl, but a woman, one whom I quite like and enjoy spending time with.

Still, next time I'll let her dad take her out for cephalopod.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Picture Windows

Most of the windows in our house are triple-glazed, thermal windows, but a few have yet to be replaced. This morning, Brian called me into his room, which faces East, to look at the beautiful frost patterns.

Kind of beautiful, yes, but those windows clearly (or not so clearly) need to be replaced.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Fails to Follow Instructions

That line may have appeared in more than one of my grade-school report cards. Because sometimes, in my enthusiasm, I leap two or three steps ahead of the instructions and have to undo things. Ctrl+Z is my friend. In the real world, however, things can sometimes spin wildly off the rails.

A few months ago, my niece, whose baby was then a newborn, posted that she had "accomplished one thing today." She attached a picture of what she had achieved:

Chicken Broccoli Braid
She described it as "not as fancy as it looks."
Doesn't that look scrumptious? So many of us commented on it that she finally posted a blog about it, complete with recipe and instructions.

Today, I finally had all the ingredients lined up along with the time to prepare a decent meal, so I dove right in. The filling really is pretty simple - chicken, broccoli, sweet red pepper, and cheddar.

Diane's instructions explained that she had "laid the triangles of crescent dough out, corners overlapping, on a circular baking stone." I figured it would just "come to me" when I finally had the pastry open.

We popped open the crescent-roll dough (it's a little alarming when food explodes out of its container, isn't it?). The triangles immediately fell apart into segments of dough. I tried to patch them into something resembling triangles. I couldn't figure out how to overlap the triangles. I forgot to brush the pastry with egg white before sprinkling the slivered almonds. It then became clear that, well ... I was headed for extreme failure. So I winged it and decided that, even if it looked like a dog's breakfast, it would still taste good.

Here's what I ended up with:

Lopsided Chicken Broccoli ... Thing
It's not quite horrific and it did taste yummy (except for the uncooked dough underneath all that filling), but it sure isn't the work of art that Diane made. Maybe she'll post some in-progress pictures next time she makes it?

Steve's Golden Jubilee

Steve turns fifty years old on the 16th! Half a century! We celebrated with a small party at home, just family. And if you know me, you know that I had to decorate ... the theme was gold.
We'll be eating buffet style (Chinese food!)
so the utensils are wrapped inside the napkins.
This pic was taken later in the day,
so the lighting has changed.
Those are electric votive candles,
so we don't have to worry about their burning low.
Can you have a birthday party without balloons?

And candy!
And MORE candy!

And presents, of course.
This was just SOME of the loot.

New x-country skis - the first new set he's had since he was in high school.
They were a very generous gift from his family.
And a very fine bottle of whiskey.
We had a very, very good evening (my morning lark was up way past his bedtime) - suitable for celebrating a very fine man. Here's to another 50!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

What was I just saying?

Last night as I drifted off to dreamland, I had a brilliant idea for a blog post. A perfect balance between humour and insight, with just a touch of mommy-blog thrown in. Then I fell asleep.
*Musical interlude. Visit our snack bar for a refreshing, cold drink and a super-sized popcorn! (Grab me some Twizzlers while you're there. Unless they have Goodies/Good 'n' Plenty. In which case, get me some of those.)*
When I awoke, I remembered that I had had a Good Idea. Yay!

Unfortunately for you, I could not remember what that idea was. Several times throughout the day, I got the feeling that the idea was just, just out of reach. Like when you're searching for a word or a name.

This kind of thing happens to me with alarming frequency these days. Just last weekend, I was shopping for Steve's birthday present (he's turning 50!). The store I was at didn't have what I was looking for, but while there I remembered that I also wanted a proper cake stand with a cover. (A little self-indulgent shopping is allowed.) I walked to the other side of the aisle - no more than 3 seconds away - and completely, COMPLETELY forgot what I was looking for. It was gone. Phhhhp! Gone. Like mercury on a cracked floor. (I did that once. Twice, actually.)

Anyway, my shopping goal had vanished. All except for a niggling sense that I was no longer just idly browsing, but had a Purpose, an Intent. (And had a sudden propensity for Germanic capitalization. Actually, it's A. A. Milnes-ian capitalization, if you must know. It means Something is Important.)

I stopped. I looked around. Nothing. I tried mentally retracing my steps, to no avail. Finally, I walked back to where I had been and glanced along the shelves. My eyes lighted upon a completely unrelated item, which just happened to be the thing I had looked when I remembered the cake stand. Would you believe that I suddenly remembered the cake stand?

The store didn't have what I was (secondarily) looking for, but that's beside the point. The point is: I appear to be losing my marbles.

Oh, sure, you're thinking, "Oh, that happens to me all the time. It's normal, just a sign that you're overworked, overstressed, under-slept." ("Underslept"? WTF? Sleep-deprived!)

This post has now gone over-the-edge with asides, capitalization and general nonsense. Sorry. This is Serious. (A. A. Milnes-ian capitalization again. Incidentally, you have to read those words with special intonation to acknowledge the importance.)

Anyone whose family has been touched by Alzheimers must have these fleeting or lasting worries. My forgetfulness is undoubtedly normal. Especially for someone with ADHD. This isn't the first time I've obsessed over this. I actually had a brain MRI (or was it a CT? Can they even do that? Can CT scans go through skulls?). Plus, there's just normal aging. I'm almost 50 (in a year and a half)!

Believe it or not, all of this, all 458 words of it, is an apologia for not having a really interesting post for you today. So, um, sorry about that. If I remember what I wanted to write about, I will.

This is a neuron.

This is a neuron with Alzheimer's.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Random Gifts

This morning, this beautiful Saturday morning, while the cleaning ladies scoured and buffed our house (which makes it already a very good day!), we all went to Cora's Restaurant for brunch. It was deeeeelightful.

We had such a good time, relaxing and talking about irrational numbers and amortization tables, among many other topics. We ate very well. Brian ordered a crepe that was enough to feed an army. Nearby, a young family enjoyed their brunch while their daughter (about 4 years old) coloured in a Hello Kitty colouring book.

After Steve finished eating, he turned his paper placemat into an origami frog.

This is a frog that Peter made a while ago.
Steve's frog looked much the same, but not in a pretty green.
Steve has been doing origami since before I met him. He often folds a few critters when we are kiling time in restaurants while our youngsters finish their meals. The origami frog is especially fun: if you press and release his back end, he hops! Steve is so good at origami that he's even taught young people, including Brian and Peter, who went through a period of making lots of origami creations. (Check out more photos, below.)

When Steve finished this particular frog, he pointed to the little girl neaby and asked me to give her the frog, if I thought it would be okay. Absolutely! I went over to the table and put down the frog - the mother and daughter were delighted.

It kind of capped off an already wonderful morning.

P.S. When I went to the box of origami treasures to find the frog for the above photo, I couldn't resist snapping a few pictures of these other creations. Enjoy! (You should be able to click and enlarge these photos.)

These are only a few of the creations.

This lobster is made from a single (very large) square of wrapping paper.

Peter made this, also from a single sheet of paper.
Peter made these mutant frogs.
Between the two of them, they have eight limbs.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


Today is the day that many Christians celebrate the feast of Epiphany. In our household, we really don't do much except update the creche by bringing the wise men into the scene. (It's pretty crowded by this point, so the shepherds, cows and sheep are booted out.)

For us, Epiphany is on January 6th, 12 days after Christmas Eve - hence the "twelve days of Christmas" from the song. It was also known as Twelfth Night, and for many is the signal to take down all their Christmas decorations. 

According to World of Christmas,
The religious significance of the twelve days of Christmas lies in the story of the Three Wise Men who arrived from the East with their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to attend the infant Jesus. It is said that it took them twelve days to reach Him.
That site also lists the supposed religious significance of the symbols from the song, but has debunked that. Kinda sad about that, because I like symbolism. So, to keep me happy, here is what another site says:
1 True Love refers to God
2 Turtle Doves refers to the Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens refers to Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues
4 Calling Birds refers to the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings refers to the first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch," which gives the history of man's fall from grace.
6 Geese a-laying refers to the six days of creation
7 Swans a-swimming refers to the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the sacraments
8 Maids a-milking refers to the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing refers to the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords a-leaping refers to the ten commandments
11 Pipers Piping refers to the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming refers to the points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed
Wait, what? What about the partridge and the pear tree?  Wikipedia says the partridge represents Jesus. What the Lord is doing in a pear tree is just one of those matters of faith, I guess.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

I love it when you call me names!

A Dani tribal elder wearing a nose ornament
made of two pig tusks fastened together
and a headband decorated with
feathers from a king bird of paradise.
That blog title is from a Joan Armatrading song. While I don't sympathize with the lyrics (which romanticize abusive relationships), I do my share of name-calling. But in a good way.

Some of you may have seen the comment on a previous post, signed "BOYN." BOYN is Steve. The acronym stands for Bone of Your Nose, and Steve has used it for decades.

Steve says that "'Bone of My Nose' comes from "The Butterfly that Stamped," one of Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories, and it is one of the pet names that Suleiman-bin-Daoud (King Solomon) has for his first and Best Beloved wife." [It's a beautifully written little story, as all the Just So Stories are. You can read it here. Try to ignore the sexism and racism that are part of Kipling's repertoire.]

But I checked - and although Suleiman-bin-Daoud calls Most Beautiful Balkis by many pet names, he never calls her the Bone of his Nose. He calls her:
  • my Lady and Delight of my Life
  • my Lady and Content of my Heart
  • my Lady and Jewel of my Felicity
And she calls him:
  • my Lord and Light of my Eyes
  • my Lord and Treasure of my Soul
  • my Lord and Regent of my Existence
Aren't those lovely epithets? Except maybe that last one.
But as I recall the origin of the BOYN acronym, it was a reference to some mythical primitive tribe that inserts a bone through the woman's nose to convey that she is married. I'm not quite sure why Steve himself would be the bone ... but it was romantic at the time, and it has stuck. Partly because it was our little secret, but I guess I've kind of ruined that.

We also use MOAYC and FOAYC (Mother or Father of all Your Children) whenever we exchange notes or e-mails about the kids. Especially when said children are being particularly obstreperous.

What about you? Do you and your Best Beloved have special pet names?

Monday, January 3, 2011

In which I am thoroughly humiliated. Again.

Goody Two-Shoes circa Grade 10
I loved that velvet blazer.
In high school, I was a Very Good Girl. I wasn't in the partying crowd, didn't drink (not more than one small glass of wine), never touched pot (let alone anything riskier).

Instead, I did all my sowing of wild oats when I was in university, and into the early years of my marriage. What can I say? I'm a slow learner.

So I was a relative neophyte when, one chilly fall weekend, Steve and I decided to meet up with his parents at his brother's house. Now, this brother had recently returned from a posting to Germany where he had acquired a sizeable cellar of wine. Sweet German Riesling. For a novice drinker, as I was, it was a disaster waiting to happen.

That stuff went down like Kool-Aid.

Now, some people, when they drink alcohol to excess, become physically ill. This results in humiliation.

Others will pass out, another sign of alcohol poisoning. This also can result in humiliation if you are not in the company of good people. It can also result in death if you happen to vomit while you are unconscious.

Then there are those of us who black out. The ol' Energizer Bunny keeps on ticking, but the brain is NOT engaged.

I, alas, am one of the latter. My memories of that evening go blank after a certain point of alcohol toxicity. I remember speaking (in all seriousness) in a British accent. (WTF?) The last thing I remember is reaching into a bag of popcorn.

I awoke the next morning wearing nothing but underpants. "That's odd," I thought. I NEVER sleep without pyjamas; I just can't do it. I've tried. To do so while we were bunking on a sofa-bed in the living room while Steve's parents were there? Not. Possible.

Here, according to Steve, is what happened between the popcorn and the next morning's coffee.

I wouldn't shut up. We all tried to watch a video, but I wouldn't shut my pie-hole. So they gave up and decided to go to bed.

I, however, was in full-on party mode. I was just getting started. And I decided that sex was next on the agenda. Steve, not surprisingly, was not interested. In desperation, he tried to sneak down to the basement. I followed, banging the pictures in the hall and bellowing loudly (and probably "seductively" in a British accent) all the way.

Aware that his parents were listening to the whole thing, Steve decided to take me outside in to the frigid night air. By now I had stripped down to my underpants. I followed Steve outside to our car. My underpants got snagged on the car's door handle. I yowled.

Somehow, Steve finally got me calmed down, and enough of the alcohol wore off that he was able to bring us back inside to sleep.

Moments after telling me all this, while I was still reeling in shock, Steve's dad stepped into the room and bade us good morning.

"I'm SO sorry!" I whimpered.

Fortunately, my father-in-law is a forgiving man and, as a military officer, has likely seen far worse in his day. "Oh," he said, "you're not really a full member of this family until you've gotten drunk with us."

Well, I thought, there's drunk and then there's make-a-total-ass-of-yourself drunk. But I didn't say anything. They had a good time ribbing me for the rest of the day.

Believe me, I never, ever drank to such excess again. Steve did not give me any kind of ultimatum, but it was clear to me that this was a dangerous precedent and I sure wouldn't want to be in his shoes.

Occasionally, even some 20 years later, I wonder what might have happened to me if I had been with strangers instead of people who loved me? What if I'd had keys to a car and decided to drive home? What if nothing bad had happened and I continued to drink like that?

I've told my kids this story as a cautionary tale. Especially my daughters. The most important thing they need, if they are going to drink, is to be with people who love them and will remain sober enough to take care of them if things go sideways.

Of course, I hope they won't drink to excess, but I am realistic enough to realize that they will have to learn their own limits.

And avoid Riesling.

Mystery solved!

These nine pairs of shoes had gone missing.
Shortly before I started my new job, I realized that most of my work shoes had gone missing. I was sure I'd unpacked them, but they were nowhere to be found.

You will be happy to know that, today, while looking for a power adaptor, I found the shoes - in the bottom of a drawer, of all places! Originally, I thought only five pairs of shoes were missing, but it turns out there were nine.

In any case, I'm happy. It's a good way to start the new year. I figure I just saved close to $1,000. (I don't buy cheap shoes.)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

How do you spell "schlock"?

[Note: when I wrote this post, I did not have a correct understanding of the word "schlock." I thought it meant over-sweetened, banal, kitschy, like fluffy, white kittens photographed with a soft-focus lens.] 

[Second update: I've been educated. The correct word is "schmaltz."]

There is no way for me to write about my husband without causing readers to gag on the saccharine sweetness. It will drive you into diabetic shock; it will have you running for a wet paper towel so you can wipe the stickiness off your cheeks. You will envy me and loathe me.

Steve in high school.
Not the coolest kid on campus.
It is probably a good thing that I did not meet Steve when he was a teen (refer to photo at left), as he was, um, badly coiffed. And wore a plaid suit. 'Nuff said.

Even when I did meet him, he was sartorially impaired. (Look it up.) His favourite clothing store was the Salvation Army; his casual slacks were rugby pants, worn at waist level. No one is skinny enough to pull that off.

But he was Good. He was through-and-through good - in the underappreciated sense of goodness, of what makes humankind worth admiring. In the sense of what we all, in our better selves, strive to be.

The Christmas after meeting him, I went home to visit my family and told my cousin (a dear friend) about him. She asked the obvious question: "So, why aren't you dating him?"

Why indeed.

Because I was an emotionally wrecked university student who knew that, at that time, he was too good for me. And, because, paradoxically, I was too damned full of myself. I thought I was pretty hot stuff, too cool for someone who wore Sally Ann slacks.

And yet.

When, after a month without seeing him, he walked in the front door of the house that I shared with three other girls, I leapt over bicycles and boots and bags to hug him, I was so glad to see him.

I was home.

But I still wouldn't go out with him. (He asked. I told him I needed him as a friend. He thought I was feeding him a line, but it really was true! I was f***ed up, but on some level, I knew that this guy was not someone with whom to have a fling.)

One memorable evening I looked up from where I was studying, and saw him at the end of the hall, where he, too, was studying. He must have sensed my gaze and turned his head to look at me. I smiled and thought, "I could handle seeing that for the rest of my life." I can still see him in my mind's eye.

Later, we snuggled and read "Winnie-the-Pooh" aloud together. Not very sexy, and there was no hanky-panky.

But mere weeks later, he took me to his graduation ball and I kissed him goodbye the next morning. Our first kiss.

Here we are, 27 years since I leapt through the cluttered hall, and I still look at him and think, "I'm home." I still look at his blue eyes, now framed with wrinkles, and think that I could handle seeing that for the rest of my life.

I warned you, it's schlocky schmaltzy.

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