Sunday, April 29, 2012

Gratitude: Renewal

The winter here's cold and bitter
It's chilled us to the bone
We haven't seen the sun for weeks  
~ Sarah McLachlan, "Full of Grace"
Spring is my favourite season. After the long, grey months of winter, I do a little happy dance when I see the flowers and buds. If you've read any of my blog for the past few months, this comes as no surprise.

The ornamental crab in our front yard.
But this year, for some reason, spring seems to have been particularly slow in coming. Maybe because I've been waiting so impatiently.

The theme for this April's Gratitude Journal was "renewal," and I've been looking for pictures that really show that. Looking at the other photos in the Flickr group, I've seen full-grown flowers and roses from other group members. Meanwhile, I've slipped into our garden every so often and snapped a pic, but none of them really looked truly awakened until I got back from my business trip this week.

While I was gone, Ottawa awoke.

I'm so happy finally to feel like spring is happening here.

What's your favourite season? Why?

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Rainbow Connection

When I was a stay-at-home mom and we lived on a single income, we established that Steve would do the grocery shopping for the family. He would take the kids with him on Saturday mornings while I slept late, which made me happy. He stuck to the grocery list (which I never could) and stayed within our budget, which made him happy. Each of the children got to choose one special item: a junky cereal, cookies, a toy car.

So it was a "win" for everyone.

But lately I've had complaints about the produce Steve selects. He always makes sure we have the basics (onions, carrots, potatoes, lettuce), but never with much variety. This is partly because he is a creature of habit, partly because he only shops at supermarkets (one-stop shopping), and partly because he keeps his eye on the budget.

Emily came along with me today.
So we decided that I would do the produce shopping. There is a Farm Boy near our house, so that is my destination. This morning, I brought my camera along and asked if I could take pictures.

The manager looked uncomfortable, "We're really not supposed to..." he said. "Is this just for personal use?"

"Yes!" I replied emphatically.

"Because there have been cases where our competitors came in and took pictures of the prices, the produce..."

"Oh!" I said, genuinely shocked. I guess that could happen. "No. I just think it's all so pretty. You could pretend I didn't ask and that you didn't see anything," I suggested helpfully.

He laughed and gave me permission, so I captured this rainbow.
Emily and I were greeted with tulips!
ROYGBIV: Red Orange Yellow Green Blue Indigo Violet
Red pomegranates (which I am too impatient to eat, unless you're supposed to eat the pips, which I do not do).
I'll bet you expected to see tomatoes. These are red Bartlett pears.
Now for the red-orange tomatoes. These are heirloom tomatoes.
Orange and yellow
Orange-yellow. Or is that yellow-orange? (And what are these?)
Yellow-and-green starfruit.
Green fiddleheads
Green lettuces
Green almonds. (Not very green, but on the faded blue end of the spectrum.)
Unfortunately, I did not take any pictures of anything blue. So I guess this rainbow is ROYGIV.
Indigo-black mussels
Indigo-violet eggplant. (I love the look of eggplant, but do NOT like the texture.) 

Violet dragonfruit

And now, for those of you (Diane) who are fond of rainbows, here it is all in one picture!

Bon appetit! (And thank you to the sympathetic Farm Boy manager.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Round Ireland with a Fridge

UPDATE: Original post was eaten by Blogger/iPad/Safari. This is a recreation and reflects updated information from Joe.

Castle in Ireland [Source]
A while ago, I posted Steve's and my "bucket list" of places we want to visit before we are too bent to walk. That list included Ireland. It lives in my mind as a place of magic and mystery, of green, and of beer. It also appeals to me because of a particular book that was loaned to us by my friend Joe.

Round Ireland with a Fridge
[Available on]
In Round Ireland with a Fridge, Tony Hawks tells the allegedly true story of how a beer-sodden bet led to his hitchhiking around Ireland with an apartment-sized fridge as a travel companion.
We had spoken of recreating Tony's trek as a sort of pilgrimage and one way to create an itinerary, and thought we might make the trip with our friends Joe and Mary. Steve and Joe share an affinity for single-malt Scotch that is old enough to order its own Scotch, while Mary and I share a preference for quiet and comfort.

Update: As it happens, Joe and Mary will be making the trip this year to mark their 25th wedding anniversary. Steve and I will do it some other year, probably 2013 and will learn from their adventures.

To add even more fun to their venture, Joe and Mary will be bringing a "flat fridge" along with them,  in homage to the Flat Stanley Project.  We could probably borrow their flat fridge when they are done with it, but would that be too derivative? Or maybe it would spawn a new meme?

Either way, I'm really looking forward to the trip!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Judge Mental

(Reuters / Craig F. Walker, The Denver Post)
If you haven't already read Craig Walker's Pulitzer-winning photo essay about Scott Ostrom, suffering from PTSD after four years (four years!) in Iraq, please take a few minutes to do so. I'll wait.

Back already? Was your heart broken? Did you read to the end so you gained hope again?

I have a confession to make: the first time I read the article and pored over the pictures, I was judging Scott. Even with all my spouting about mental health, I judged him.

"Well," I thought, "who knows what kind of messed-up jerk he was before he enlisted."

I sympathized with the potential landlord. "I sure wouldn't want him punching holes in my walls, even if he did have honorable discharge papers."

"Sheesh. If he chooses a girlfriend like that, then he kind of gets what he deserves," I thought. Which is what he thought too. "I needed someone to affirm the way I felt about myself ... I felt like if I stayed with that person long enough and received enough punishment, then I have in some way sought redemption for my actions overseas in Iraq," he shares.

And then I despaired. How on earth could any treatment - residential or not - make this man whole again? I was sure he would, as he predicted, end up on the street, shivering and terrified, trapped in his own living hell.

Then I saw the last picture. I had to look at it several times and re-read the caption because I didn't recognize Scott at all. He was a completely different person. Thank God.

He put a hand out and asked for help. Thank God there was someone there to hold it.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Wynn Anne's Guide to Entertaining

Here are a few tips I've gathered over my years of entertaining. All of them are lessons learned the hard way.

1.  Try not to kill your guests. 
This is the most important rule, and it may seem to go without saying, but so many people nowadays have serious dietary allergies, that you really can't be too careful. This year one of our guests reacted to some nuts in one of our appetizers. He knows he's allergic to hazelnuts, but these were not those. Let me tell you, there is nothing quite like someone saying he feels his throat closing up to dampen the mood! Fortunately, we had some antihistamines handy, so he gradually recovered, but he did not eat.
Tip: always have antihistamines (Benadryl, Claritin) in the house. People with anaphylactic allergies should, of course, have an Epipen, but they may not, or you may not know where to find it. Not a bad idea to also have some antinausea medication.
2. Let others contribute.
You should have seen the dishes our guests brought for Easter dinner! All their favourites, lovingly prepared, recipes I'd never even heard of.
Tip: Identify ahead of time which course people will contribute to and what the main entree will be so people can coordinate their choices. (If they are likely to bring wine, it will also help them choose which wine to bring.)
3. Get fancy!
For me, part of the celebration includes turning my dining room into a beautiful tableau. This means bringing out the heirloom dishes, scouring Michael's for surprising table decor items and spending a while fussing.
Tip: Don't be tied down to items specifically designated as table runners. My aunt uses some lovely small quilts as tablecloths, and I have even used a shower curtain! (See below.)
That swirly bronze fabric is actually a shower curtain.
The candlestick ornaments are actually napkin rings.
4. Clean the house the day before the event.
You will, of course, have to buff the bathroom taps and sweep the kitchen floor, but at least you'll know that it's just touch-ups on the day of.
Tip: If you are fortunate to have a cleaning service, plan your entertaining for the day after the service is scheduled, not the same day. I once had cleaners show up just one hour before the guests. It was a panic!
5. Whenever possible prepare food items ahead of time.
Or even buy the items, like appetizers or desserts, already prepared. This allows you to scratch one thing off the list.
Tip: Don't forget to put the purchased item on an attractive serving dish. And if you're buying prepared items, be careful of allergens. See point number one.
6. PLAN to have one hour to relax before guests arrive.
This is the hour I use to freshen my hair and make-up and sip a glass of wine. It is so much better than scrambling to be ready as the doorbell rings.
Tip: Plan what you're going to wear ahead of time, as well, to be sure it is clean and in good repair.
7. A jug of ice water on the table is a must.
Wine is not a very good thirst-quencher. In fact, it dehydrates.
Tip: You could always fill the water glasses ahead of time, but I find the jug keeps the water fresher.
8. Start with a clean kitchen.
Before you start chopping, slicing, steaming, and baking, start with a clean slate. This is for hygiene reasons as well as to prevent injury from working in a crowded space.
Tip: If you have a double-bowl sink, fill one bowl with hot, soapy water, so you can clean - and re-use - lightly soiled items as you go, rather than filling up the dishwasher and running out of measuring spoons.
9. Wine.
This is Steve's contribution to the list, and probably goes without saying. Regardless of what I'm serving, I always have both white and red on hand.
Tip: If you know your guests' favourite drinks (alcoholic or not) have them on hand; it shows you've put some particular thought into their preferences. 
10. Go with the flow.
Once your guests have arrived, remember the event is about the people, not the accessories - not even about the food. If something catastrophic happens to the food (jellied salad sliding under the table? running out of pasta?), laugh and improvise. What else can you do?
Tip: Your guests may forget about the dropped pie or the dried-out turkey, but they will certainly remember, even longer, how they felt in your company. As Maya Angelou said, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
There. Those are my top ten. What are yours?

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Finding a doctor in Ottawa is not for the faint-hearted.

In a previous post, I explained that the doctor at a walk-in clinic declined to take me on as a patient because I already had a doctor.

Likewise, Emily's doctor rejected me for almost the same reason - plus, they are a teaching clinic at a hospital and want a "well-rounded practice." I guess they have too many middle-aged diabetics on their rolls.

The good news is that, when Emily's doctor gave me the bad news, she referred me to Health Care Connect a service provided by the Ontario Ministry of Health. Right there, on the first page, it explains how to register to be referred to a doctor and - more importantly for me - how to de-register with a previous doctor. (Actually, the instructions on the site are wrong; you have to phone them in order to de-register. Your doctor cannot do this for you.)

So, I officially divorced my old doctor and signed up to be referred to a new doctor. I still don't have a doctor, but at least I'm making progress.

Meanwhile, I developed a wicked sinus infection and, despite my efforts, my blood sugar continued to fluctuate into the middle and high teens (7 mmol/L is target for diabetics).

So I took myself to a walk-in clinic, the same one, in fact, where the previous doctor had rejected my request to be her patient.

This time, I was seen by an elderly woman with a wild thatch of bright red hair. She reminded me greatly of Ruth Gordon. (She is the star of Harold and Maude, a disturbing movie if ever there was one. Even more disturbing, one of our psychologists strongly implied that I was like the refrigerator mother that Harold keeps trying to reach through his faux suicide attempts.)

Back to our story.

After she wrote the prescriptions for my sinus infection, I asked if she was accepting new patients. She said she was not. I explained my plight and she explained her reasons for only doing walk-in clinics: her husband has summers off and they wish to spend them together, travelling. I told her I would do the same in her shoes.

Then she prescribed low-dose medication for my blood sugar and told me to come back in two weeks and see her during her walk-in hours for follow-up.

So, she didn't take me on as a regular patient, but she is willing to provide some continuity of care. I'm SO relieved! Meanwhile, the hunt for a regular doctor continues.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Only a fool sleeps late on April first.

Or, perhaps, the saying should be, "She who sleeps late on April Fool's Day deserves to have pranks played on her."

In any case, Peter took it on himself to have fun with my garden art. For reference, here are my front-yard bunnies, whom I have named Chamomile and Parsley.
Taken in October 2011.
I had always assumed they were both female, until I saw Peter's prank this morning:

I can't find my "before" picture of these two in our back yard, but it looks as though the doe is in for a surprise.
Hey, baby, how about a ride?
Both little tableaux have been put back to rights now, but I do thank Peter for a morning chuckle. Could've been a lot worse, am I right?

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