Friday, February 25, 2011

We Belong Together

I've mentioned some of my OCD shenanigans in earlier posts. What I failed to mention is that I've also gone to such extremes as using my beloved label-maker to identify the correct function for each shelf and bin in the fridge. 

I like things sorted, classified, ordered. I like to know where to put things, and where to find them. Amazingly enough, I have found a like-minded partner in Steve. Early in our wedded life, when we were so broke that we sometimes sold books in order to pay for the groceries when funds ran low between paycheques, we got very excited about buying colour-coded hanging files and tabs, so we could organize the filing cabinet that we painted bright red.

What? Well, of course we still have it. And of course, it's still colour-coded.

Two peas in a pod, we are. Of course, that doesn't stop us from ribbing each other. He has given me a hard time about the whole fridge-shelf-labelling incident, for example. Well, now it's my turn.

Today, while I was at work, Steve had the day "off" - which means, he worked plenty hard on stuff around the house. Top of his list: putting drawers into the kitchen pantry. This pantry was narrow and deep and virtually impossible to find anything in, beyond the first couple of cans or boxes. It made making a grocery list very hit-and-miss.

But now? Look!

Oooh! Aaaah!
But, what's that? Look closer:

Well, I'll be. He's labelled the drawers.
Yes, indeed. We belong together like can[ned] beans, tomatoes, and pasta sauce.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Wait! I'm not d


[I'll explain in a minute.]

The Junior hallway at Pauline Johnson Public School.
Those are classrooms on the left, with the library on the right.
This is pretty much what it loooked like when I went there,
though I'd heard they had put up walls. Or maybe that was a dream.

The school I went to from Grade 1 to Grade 6 was an ultra-modern experiment in open-concept education, and I was among the "plank holders" who attended it during its first year. The classrooms were divided from each other by low partitions that could be moved aside for larger group activities.

The library, which was in a sort of sunken courtyard, formed the core of the school.

Each section was crowned by a pyramidal vaulted ceiling plastered with sound-absorbing tiles.

The whole thing must have driven the teachers absolutely crazy, but it was pretty cool for us students.

So, here's the explanation for the intro: one of the lasting memories from that school, however, has nothing to do with its contemporary architecture, and much to do with its conventional plumbing.

The toilets overflowed with alarming frequency. Or perhaps it was just me.

In any case, I eventually adopted a "cover me with septic water once, shame on you; cover me with septic water twice, shame on me" attitude. Since those early years, I have always waited until I am fully wiped, zipped, buttoned, tucked, and belted, with the door unlocked before I flush the toilet.

So I can make a speedy escape, of course.

And every bathroom in our house has a toilet plunger beside it.

Technology, however, has caught up with me. Now the newfangled contraptions flush automatically as soon as you (a) stand up, (b) lean forward, or (c) twist to reach certain parts of the anatomy that are not reachable without twisting (yes, I'm talking about ankles).
And every time that happens -- every time! -- I panic. OMG - the toilet's going to overflow and I'll be swept away in a tide of fetid, toilet-paper-strewn water! And people will see it and say, "Oh, look, there's her pooh!"


No. It hasn't happened yet, but I live in fear.

Not to mention the ickiness of backsplash while sitting on the throne.

I hate those infrared sensors, though I do like the idea of not having to touch the plaguey toilet handle. [Not entirely sure "plaguey" is a word.]

I don't even want to think about what astronauts deal with. (Or, for the grammatically sensitive among you, "with which astronauts deal.")

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Product of Silence

The following is a work of fiction. (I know. Such a stretch for me. I'm dreading it, even before I start writing.) I'm doing it because Kristine at Wait in the Van (a truly HI-larious blog) has a monthly-or-so meme where she stretches her writing muscles. It is, she writes, "an exercise, one of discovery and confidence-building."

Her latest prompt is "depression." Since I have a well known interest in mental health and a personal history of depression, I figure I should take up the challenge. Who knows where it will go? Wish me luck! 

The Long Dark of Night

Jim's snoring filled the room comfortingly as Cheryl, lying beside him, curled into a fetal position and sobbed quietly. A refrain of "Make it stop" was running through her mind. She moved closer to Jim and, without fully waking, he curled himself around her, grunting, "Mm-hm," as his hand cupped her breast and he drifted back to a light snore.

She let her tears fall onto her pillow. Why isn't this enough? she thought. Why isn't his love enough to lift the darkness that drags me down?

Part of her wished he would sense her crying and wake up to comfort her. It was that magical thinking again, the wishing that someone - anyone - would just know that something was wrong and would reach out and make everything better.

Cheryl remembered sitting in class one day and trying to telepathically communicate to the teacher that she, Cheryl, was hopeless and helpless, that she was failing the course because her mind was consumed by depression. She tried to make her eyes as pathetic as possible.

What a crock. It's the distorted thinking of mental illness, she thought, that supremely self-centred thinking. Psychotic, really: out of touch with reality, highly distorted.

But then, while it was unrealistic to expect her teacher to sense her telepathic messages, Jim had no such impediment. She'd told him how she was feeling. So how could he just sleep peacefully while she struggled? She became angry at him; it felt like rejection. She shrugged him off of her.

For a moment, the anger stopped her tears, but then they resumed as she felt the impotence of her anger: there was nothing she could do about it, or with it.

And perhaps that was the essential struggle of this depression: she was trapped in it. Even if she ran away (and where was there to go, after all?), the depression would stay with her like a blood-borne disease. It was part of her, a parasite sucking her life, her joy, turning everything grey.

Grabbing her pillow, Cheryl got out of bed and walked toward her cramped closet. On the floor, a stack of blankets formed a nest. She stepped inside and, pulling the door almost closed, curled into that soft cloud.

There, she was a child again. She pictured her small self: a needy waif ready to be loved, crying over a lost toy or a bruised knee. She reached out and lifted the weightless girl. She imagined herself spooning the youngster. Her breathing slowed, the tears stopped, and she slept.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Learning Curve

This one is "straight out of the camera."
Well, I finally picked up my pictures from the photo store. It's so weird, this waiting to see how the camera interpreted what you thought you were doing.
As expected, the results were not entirely excellent. I'd say I liked four or five of the 24 exposures. All of my outdoor shots were overexposed, so the crystalline snow lost its texture. And even with the ones I liked, I did some digital work at Picnik. (I had the negs scanned to a CD at the time I had them developed.)

So, now - the moment you've all been waiting for - the big reveal! These are all photos taken during our romantic weekend away at Les Trois Erables in Wakefield, Quebec.

First up: St. Francis of Assisi.
Here he is, straight out of the camera.
I like the shallow depth of field and the composition.
And here he is in sepia tone, with a slim black border.
I think I like him better this way.
Next, the angel at the foot of the stairs.
I added a vignette, a frame and coloration.
I think I might use the "after" image for a Christmas card
(though I might get rid of the border).
One of the details from our bedroom that I quite liked.

Aren't those little crystal drops just beautiful?
This is the kind of detail that I just couldn't capture
with my current digital camera.
And, last, the thing I like MOST about the weekend.

I still can't afford the digital camera that I would like, but I'm continuing to learn on the old-fashioned SLR in the meantime.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

You're Hot, then You're Cold!

Aside from its tendency to freeze up from time to time, I have another bone to pick with our shower. It's temperature-adjustment knob is just not user-friendly. Allow me to illustrate.

While it has a wide range of movement, there is only a very tiny wedge where the hot and cold water merge in perfect harmony. To make matters worse, it's not so much a dial, which would turn smoothly, as it is a ratchet, which hops from one position to another whimsically, while I stand shivering on the tile floor.

With persistence, however, it does eventually reach a satisfactory temperature. Then comes the getting out.

My problem here is not unique to this shower; I experience it with every shower: I hate stepping out of the warm, humid cocoon of the shower into the cold, drafty bathroom. Again, allow me to illustrate.

Steve has often said that he finds this transition "bracing" and that it wakes him up in the morning. (Is this how self-flagellating monks feel?)

I, however, have gone so far as to bring in a portable heater. But what this bathroom really needs is a heated ceramic floor, and a towel warmer. And possibly a heat lamp. Ah, can't wait for summer ...

Monday, February 14, 2011

Cheap Like Borscht

Have you ever noticed that some of the best foods are actually "peasant" foods -- meals that are made of whatever ingredients are handy? I'm thinking of Lac-St-Jean tourtiere, for example. It's basically whatever game the hunter brings home plus some seasoning, water, and root vegetables, tucked under a crust and baked for a few hours.

(We ran out of sour creme.)
 Borscht is another one: shredded beets and other root vegetables and - if the hunting's good - some stewing beef. What better meal for Valentine's Day than borscht? It's dark pink and when you add a dollop of sour creme, it turns sweetheart pink. Plus, it just tastes delicious, sweet and salty. (There are many recipes available online, but, as with most peasant foods, it's open to interpretation.)

I had never heard of borscht before I met Steve. But he spent some of his formative years in Edmonton, where he became close friends with a family of Ukrainian descent, and they introduced him to some delightful foods, like perogies, kotlety and borscht. [Blogger's spelling checker does not like those words.] He was also introduced to their three charming daughters, but that's a story for another day.

I benefited from that friendship because, before Steve left home, he created his very own cookbook:
The Steve Sibbald Famous Recipe Book
In that cookbook, he wrote down all his favourite recipes, including family favourites like Dad's Riz Biscuits, Aunt Carol's 7-Layer Casserole and Mrs. Hostyn's treasures:
Mrs. Hostyn's Recipes for Borscht and Kotlety
Over the years, we've added to the cookbook. Some pages are a little worse for the wear.

Quiche à Odette, given to me by a neighbour in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu,
was one of our long-time favourites: meat-free and ready in 30 minutes.
The Steve Sibbald Famous Recipe Book has become an heirloom in our household. Some of its pages are transparent, the ink bleeding through to recipes on the reverse, some pages have fallen loose and are unceremoniously shoved into the book before it is crammed back into the cupboard after each use. We keep saying we'll type up all the instructions ... one of these days. Maybe a retirement project?

In the meantime, we enjoy the recipes.

Oh, and in case you want to try making borscht, which I highly encourage you to do, I should warn you that the preparation is very messy: you have to peel and shred all those beets. Don't wear white. And do be prepared for some lingering evidence, as Emily sports this evening:

I guess you could say she was caught red-handed.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Trial and Error and Error and Error

Our vintage single-lens-reflex (SLR) camera
Last weekend we popped into a photography store to have our passport photos taken. While there, I fell in lust with a nice little digital SLR camera kit (body and 18-200 lens).

For a while now I've been thinking about upgrading to a camera that allows me a little more artistic control. I love my point & shoot for its ease of use. It's small, it allows me to capture the moment with next to no fuss, and it still allows me to compose a decent picture. But it doesn't let me play with depth of field very much, and I would like to, especially on macro shots. I'd taken four semesters of photography back when I did my advertising diploma and wanted to be able to do more with my pictures.

The price tag on the sweet little kit was beyond my means, however, so it stayed in the store.

Coincidentally, we stumbled across the analog SLR that we had bought Katie way back when she was in high school. I decided to play with it while saving up for the digital one.
Using a "real" camera is like riding a bike, I thought, once you get your hands on it, all your skills will come flooding back. Right?


Here are a few tips to help those of you who venture backward in time or technology. (Also: don't forget to crank the advance lever after pressing the shutter release; allow time to focus your image; and bring extra film with you.)

Tip Number One: Make sure there is film in the camera. Those old-fashioned cameras do not alert you to the fact that you are shooting blanks, so to speak. That shutter will happily click away [Isn't the sound of a camera shutter just delightful?], the winder will wind. All to no avail. Thirty-nine shots later (undoubtedly overexposed and unfocused, but still), I realized my error.

Tip Number Two: When you do put film in, make sure it is actually gripped by the pins on the little turny-bobbin-thingy*. Twenty-six shots later, I conceded that the film was not moving through the camera. I fixed that and took another 24 pictures.

Tip Number Three: If, after taking all your pictures, you try to rewind the film into the cartridge and the rewinder stops moving, do not force it. The film WILL snap off of the cartridge. If you then open the back of the camera to confirm that this is what just happened, your spool of film will be exposed and useless.

Tip Number Four: If error number three has happened to you once, doing the same thing again will result in the same situation.

This time, however, I left the back shut and brought the camera to a photo store with a darkroom. There, the salesperson patronizingly asked me if I'd pressed the rewind button conveniently located on the bottom of the camera and without any label.
Um, nope. Didn't see that. Didn't think it was important.
She then instructed me no fewer than five times that I needed to press the rewind button before turning the rewind crank. After the fourth time and while she was reiterating for the fifth time, I said (somewhat rudely, I confess), "Yes, I get it: I need to press the button."

I guess I wasn't scathing enough, however, as she told me a sixth time, when she brought the camera back out to me after retrieving the film. Or maybe she was just being passive-aggressive.

So here I sit, having "taken" more than 100 pictures, with nothing to show for my efforts. It's a little anticlimactic. Sure, in three days, I'll have 24 of my pictures, but heaven only knows if any of them are any good at all. I've become accustomed to instant gratification.

I suspect I'll be investing in that digital SLR sooner rather than later. Stay tuned.

*The correct term for the turny-bobbin-thingy is "film transport sprocket." Totally useless information.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Short Way's Fast, but the Long Way's Pretty.

Highway 417 in Ottawa. Source: Ottawa Citizen, We failed in the snow
I don't think anyone enjoys commuting. It's just drudgery. On the day that the photo above was taken, I drove along the Ottawa River Parkway instead of the 417 (also known as the Queensway). It was slow, indeed, but not two-hours-late kind of slow.

What's more important, it was scenic. I feel very blessed that my daily commute takes me along the parkway - one of the city's secret treasures. It isn't the shortest route for me to take, but it is definitely beautiful. These past few weeks as the snow has accumulated, I've been captivated by the play of monochromatic hues: white, grey, blue.
Taken with my BlackBerry while traffic was stopped.
I did NOT take any of these pictures while actually driving.
I've seen trees dusted in white frost, each twig outlined as carefully as if it had been dipped in powdered sugar. I've seen mist rising off the river as the sun weakly breaks through clouds. I've seen tree limbs carrying eiderdowns of pristine snow.

Yes, I've seen a good bit of traffic, but while I'm going slowly or even stopped, I get to look at this!
And each day, I thought: I need to bring my camera. I need to go out some Saturday morning and just take some pictures. Well, today, as you can see, I decided to use what I had at hand. The pictures are not fine art, but I hope they convey a little of what brings joy to my mornings.

And, as I'm not a morning person at all, a little joy is very much appreciated.

P.S. The title of today's post comes from "Katy-Make-Sure" a story in Terry Jones' (yes, THAT Terry Jones, the one from Monty Python) children's book, Fairy Tales.
In our house, we think this book is magic because every time we open it, we find a story we don't remember ever having read before. Well worth reading or giving.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Insomnia Cycle

Here's how it happens.

3:00 p.m. (That's 1500 hrs in mil-speak.): post-lunch hypoglycemia kicks in. If you are in a location where you can become horizontal, do so. Bus stations, fainting couches, mattresses at Sears ... find something soft and grab some Z's. Failing that, go to the restroom. Rest your forehead on your crossed arms and pray you don't fall off the toilet. (Just in case: make sure you wipe before you fall asleep.)

4:00 p.m. (1600 hrs): Attend meeting in overly warm conference room with dim lighting and poor ventilation. Ensure it is on a topic to which you have no real input. Allow your eyelids to flutter at half-mast while gazing at the speaker, but don't actually allow your eyes to shut (if you do, you are doomed). Amuse yourself by zig-zagging your eyes horizontally. Stab yourself in the palm of your hand with a mechanical pencil.

5:00 p.m. (Enough of this mil-speak crap; it requires too much Math.): Shut down your computer, throw out all your lunch leftovers, pack your bag, wrap yourself in umpteen layers of wool, Goretex, and fur (if it's winter) and trudge through the sleet/snow/-30 weather and head home.

5:20 p.m.: Hope you are lucky enough to get a seat on the bus, rather than having to grip a virus-laden steel pole all the way home. If you do get a seat, sleep lightly while gripping your purse/backpack/briefcase/iPod tightly lest it be stolen. Try not to let your head touch the Brylcreem smudge left on the window by the previous passenger. Pray that there are no perverts in arm's reach.

6:00 p.m.: Dinner.

7:00 p.m.: Remind yourself that, if you can just hang in there for One. More. Hour. you will be able to simply go to bed early and wake up refreshed in the morning.

8:30 p.m.: Brush teeth, put on jammies, climb into bed with a good (but not TOO good) book. Allow your head to feel heavy. Practice the horizontal-eye-movement thing.

9:30 p.m.: Turn off your e-book. Make sure alarm is set. Put on sleep mask. Put fluffy sock on your hand because warmth helps soothe arthritis. (It really works. Would I lie to you?)

10:00 p.m.: Snuggle up to your Lord and Light of Your Eyes, who miraculously generates more heat than the Large Hadron Collider, even though he could have been mistaken for a 24-hours-dead corpse mere moments before. (Note: heat-generating ability of the LHC is speculative, but surely you can't make that kind of mess - with mini-bangs and all - without generating a little heat?) (Note: that was not meant to be a naughty allusion. I really was talking about the LHC, not the Bone of My Nose.) 

10:05 p.m.: Have hot flash. Move away from Lord and Treasure of Your Soul. Sprawl.

10:07 p.m.: Start to drowse. Lord and Regent of Your Existence twitches. Violently. Enjoy the rush of adrenalin coursing through your veins as you tell yourself that you are not actually under attack.

10:10 p.m.: Toss.

10:15 p.m.: Turn.

10:20 p.m.: Throw off blankets.

10:25 p.m.: Pull blankets over head to compensate for chill as house temperature drops to night-time setting.

11:00 p.m.: Stomach grumbles.

11:05 p.m.: Remember that there are two Mallomars left. If you do not eat them tonight, the kids will get them tomorrow. This is not acceptable. Clearly. Two Mallomars cannot be easily divided between three children. Someone will end up angry.

11:15 p.m.: Stomach grumbles again. Mallomars send telepathic message that they are feeling unloved.

11:20 p.m.: Remove sleep mask and fluffy sock. Sneak out of bedroom so as not to disturb the Lord and Light of Your Eyes.

11:21 p.m.: Sip hot chocolate spiked with Bailey's while nibbling on Mallomar and booting up the laptop. [WARNING: You have now committed a fatal error.] Check e-mail. Check Facebook. Check bank accounts. Pay bills. Visit favourite blogs. Visit favourite humour sites.

12:00 a.m.: Realize you've reached the bottom of the Internet. There is nothing funny or enlightening left for you to discover.

12:01 a.m.: Click on a new link on one of your favourite blogs. Discover NEW favourite blog. Read ten pages of the blog. Click the "older posts" link Just. One. More. Time.

3:00 a.m. (That's zero-three-hundred in mil-speak. The zero is important.): Glance at clock. Smack self on forehead. Realize you will never read the entire blog in one night and that you now have only four hours left for your beauty sleep. Go to bed.

7:00 a.m.: Hit snooze button.

7:03 a.m.: Stumble downstairs to turn off the alarm on your cell phone. (Purposely left downstairs for this reason.) Make coffee.

We won't go through the rest of the day, because you know how it ends up, don't you?

Welp. I'm off to bed (again) now. Still a good six hours left to get my beauty sleep.

Related Posts

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...