Sunday, October 30, 2005

And I was supposed to be there for support......

As much as I love Halloween, I loved my grandmother more. She was a grand old lady who was VERY fond of spoiling her grandkids and Swiss Chalet. Going to Swiss Chalet that is, not spoiling it. That was saved just for us. How does one spoil a restaurant anyway? I wonder…….? As she got on in years and was not so good with the driving (signal light, no shoulder check, move or get hit) I would go visit her on Sundays and take her to church, grocery shopping and Swiss Chalet. The Egg and I was our second favourite spot and if you are ever up the escarpment in Hamilton you must go. Cheap and YUMMY. But don’t go with your grandmother if she is anything like mine was in a restaurant. No matter what she ordered, she always liked the look of mine better and would switch plates. I ate more damn open faced roast beef sandwiches while she ate my egg white omelet and home fries. The Halloween-Grandma link is that she passed away around this time of year.

As upsetting as her death was for me, it was even more traumatic for my mother and Aunt Shyla – and so it should be. Although from my performance at the funeral you wouldn’t know it. As the men of the family, my brother, my cousin John and I, we were expected to be strong and supportive for our mothers. 2 out 3, as they say, ain’t bad. Being the oldest boys on either side of the family, my brother and cousin were asked to say a few words about their grandmother. Well I was not to be left out! No sir. Not by a long shot thank-you-very much. I ate my way through enough half chicken dinners with rice to get up and say something too damn it!

While I wrote my eulogy, in the privacy of my own home, I was very composed. Each time I said it in front of the mirror it was more charming, heartfelt and witty. But the day of the funeral, charming and witty went on vacation and melodrama took over. One would expect that I would be a shoulder for my mother to cry on. Not so. Not only did she and my aunt have to carry my 190lb carcass down the aisle, they also had to help me look for my contact after I washed it out in a flood of tears. At least I caused such a scene that it kept them distracted from the rather somber atmosphere and focused on the task at hand.

My brother and cousin read beautifully. In fact, if memory serves, my brother didn’t read, he just spoke. And while he got choked up a little, he held it together. When the minister called me up I collapsed in my chair sobbing “I can’t! I just can’t!” Those five words took about three minutes and two tissues to come out. Nice.

As we didn’t intern my grandmother until the spring, I thought that enough time would have elapsed for me to say my little speech. But no. Once again, as we stood by her tombstone the waterworks started. My niece Emily, who is my grandmother reincarnated by-the-by, looked at her mother with a look of “what is up with him?” in her eyes. I managed to get through it, more to the relief of my family and the minister, than to myself. It was an awful time. But at least now when we talk about “that day” we smile and have a good laugh. Miss you grandma, and I hope you “went a fishin’”.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Mums and Dadums would be so proud.

What parents wouldn’t be happy to hear their 30 something year old son declare “I found the perfect pink dress today.” Well I did. It’s not for me though. Not really. It’s for the cause. The cause that is the High Holy Day of Halloween. J’adore Halloween. For the last several years my costume theme has been famous women throughout history – with a somewhat gruesome twist. It all started with a headless Marie Antoinette (a classic and still one of my favourites) and was followed with Lizzie Borden - a bloody leg on an axe was my accessory. And, not a word of a lie, I had a one legged man tell me I had something that belonged to him and insisted on a picture with me. Then came Snow White after she killed the Seven Dwarfs - I am sorry, but no woman could live with 7 men and not snap. I had six little decapitated heads on a necklace around my neck and the seventh on the end of a big knife – classy. There was the Statue of Liberty (no blood or guts on that one), Amelia Earhart, after the plane crash – bits of class sticking out of my face and pieces of fuselage in my neck and finally, Scarlett O’Hara in her famous green velvet dress. 9 metres of velvet in that sucker and it was heavy!

This year my friend KitKat and I are doing a joint venture. I am to be Veruca Salt to his Willy Wonka. As a 6”1’ tall man in a pink dress and faux fur coat, I am sure it will be more like Willy Wonka and Willy Wack-o. But I don’t care. Let them say what they want. “Daddy, I want to be Veruca Salt!” The Oompa Loompa ruined this latest incarnation of Roald Dahl’s book in my humble opinion, but the costumes were too fabulous to pass up and KitKat is shoe in for Johnny Depp characters. His Edward Scissorhands earned him a first place prize last year. That ended badly though. With all that money burning a hole in his pocket, we drank too much and his Mummy ended up blowing McDonalds chunks in the back of my car. That was followed by his dancing with a lamp post and running a mile home as he was embarrassed. I can’t imagine why? That was some good McDonalds though.

I always set myself a budget for Halloween and always go over. Way over. Maybe I should become a contractor? Hmmmm? Anyway, Veruca doesn’t do budgets so why should I? As I only get to dress like a woman once a year though, I feel it is important to do it justice. I managed to secure a taxidermy squirrel for $47US on eBay (who knew road kill would be so expensive?) and finally found a dress and fur coat at the Goodwill. Little embarrassed that I have to get a size 16 to get my shoulders into it, but hey, I had to take the waist in a good 8 inches. All I need to do now is sew banana peels, tea bags and various other bits of trash to my costume. Did I not mention I am doing post-squirrel assault Veruca? Going to be great I tell you! Great. “Daddy, I want one of those squirrels!” Look out Halloween, here we come!

Monday, October 17, 2005

Yoga Boot Camp - Part Deux

Wickedly perfect – that is the only way to describe the weather on my return trip to StillPoint. Cold and extremely windy with the occasional passing shower. Whitecaps breaking on the bay while a raft of ducks huddled on a sandbar ignoring them and the hail. I call this perfect weather, but that is because I was indoors, next to a woodstove, watching it through a bay window, twisting into various asanas. A few remaining apples inanely clung to tress, as if the buds and blossoms of next spring will make room for them.

Back inside I managed my first unassisted headstand. Pardon my ego here for a moment, but YIPEEEEE for me! Also on MY insides, I learned that chili and yoga is not a match made in heaven. After our practice on Friday night I ate my way through three bowls of delicious vegetarian chili. With eyes larger than my stomach, I loaded up on kidney beans and tofu without regard for my fellow yogis. To add insult to injury, our salad also had raw red onions and broccoli. I giggle at the word flatulence, so you can imagine how I laughed while I was in plow on Saturday morning. Thankfully it wasn’t partner yoga!

Thanks to my friend Dallas (yes that is really her name, and no, she is not a stripper – although she could be) I am working to fix my pelvis. Apparently it has a posterior tilt to it or some such thing. Who knew? All these years I had been deliberately tilting my butt outwards to get over my white-guy-has-no-ass-itis and it was doing me harm!

As with my first weekend, I struggled to get my head around the chanting thing. It wasn’t as abundant this time, but even as we did our “OM” before starting practice, I would look expectantly at the door. Wondering when the DEA would smash in with battering rams looking for David Karesh. “Oh my. What flavour did you say this Kool-Aid was? Grape? No thanks then, none for me, it stains my teeth.”

Sunday afternoon came far too quickly again and I was not pleased to go. Bring on weekend 3! But please, no more chili!

Friday, October 14, 2005

The King of Pies.

Well another Thanksgiving, Canadian that is, has come and gone. In less than a week I managed to eat 2.75 pumpkin pies. As a balance, I managed to run an extra 10 km (like I said, I am talking about Canada here), roller-blade an extra 15 km and get in an extra hot yoga class. I think that is a fair compromise as pumpkin pie is my favourite (Canadian spelling) dessert. Pie as a category is it, but pumpkin trumps all others. Pumpkin is great for all sorts of things including soups, mousse, risotto and just baked with sugar and butter. Its character though, is best showcased in pie. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of variations on pumpkin pie filling, but what I want to talk about today is the crust. One word on the filling, know when to draw the line with cinnamon. Necessary yes, more than a teaspoon, no.

Ok, back to the crust. Most recipes say to use an unbaked pie shell. I find this often leaves you with an undercooked bottom and always without flakiness. While I understand that baking the pie-shell “blind” can result in darker edges once it is returned to the oven, I have a solution to offer. Once the shell is partially baked (don’t forget to weigh it down with beans, rice or pie weights) and filled with the pumpkin, use a sharp knife to cut around the rim of the pie to remove it. Don’t let the pie shell cool down once you take it out of the oven either. Remove the rice/beans/weights, fill it, trim it and back in the oven. The bottom of your pie never looked or tasted so good!

Don’t feel left out my American friends, your pumpkin pie day is coming soon!

Sunday, October 09, 2005

I'm not saying my parents were tight, but.....

“What’s the difference between a Scottish person peeling wallpaper and an Irish person peeling wallpaper? When it’s an Irish person, they are re-decorating. When it’s a Scottish person, it means they are moving and taking it with them.”

I don’t mean to insinuate that life was hard growing up. Far from it. I never went without anything that I needed. Sure, I didn’t have everything I wanted. But who does? Growing up in a Scottish household however, had certain, ummmm, let’s call them fiduciary restraints. One was the misunderstanding that no matter how genuine my parent’s intentions were, they were not barbers. Not good ones anyway. There was the time my mother and her cohort Judy, thought they would save huge money by enrolling in a class that taught them to cut hair at home. Enrolled, yes. Attended? Apparently you pull the hair in a downward motion between two fingers. You then place the scissors where you want to cut, lay them on the back of the neck and roll them around in a cutting motion. That was Haircutting 101. They missed Haircutting 102 “Make sure you stop before you get to the ear.” Blood. Me on the floor. Screams from both of us. Not good. As least my mother learned her lesson, never cut my hair again and I got ice cream to keep it on the quiet.

Dad on the other hand….let’s just say that not only did he want to save money on the cut, he also wanted to save on the clean up. Weather permitting, my siblings and I got to sit on the back porch while my dad, clad in shorts and a pair of Wellingtons, cut our hair. (Why Wellingtons you may ask? Our hair was rinsed with the garden hose afterwards. Why wet a towel when you can air dry your hair?) To this day, I am convinced that he called all the neighborhood kids to announce this ritual. Without fail our ‘friends’ would run through the back yard mocking us. They were like a well oiled machine as they ran past squealing “snip, snip, snip.” One right after the other. Each from a different direction. Some even went by on bicycles! Father would half heartedly chase them – apparently his mother never told him not to run with scissors – but I think when he was out of sight he was keeled over laughing. You dared not move while enduring this treatment or your hair paid a heavy price. It was bad enough to suffer this, but the thought of getting it at school as well was enough to make you stay in that chair.

During a recent conversation with my mother I was thrilled to discover that she now cuts my father’s hair the same way. Being somewhat folliclely challenged in his later years, neither of my parents see the need to pay someone to run clippers over his head. Especially when she can do it for free. At home. On the back deck. The clippers mean no blood and there is no need to clean up either. Win-win!

My only challenge now is to find out their haircutting schedule so I can call all the neighbors and get them ride through the backyard on their motorized scooters and scurry by in their walkers. My dad would probably like that though. He’d show ‘em, sure! “Look at how much money I am saving! And getting my haircut from a beautiful woman to boot.”

Sunday, October 02, 2005


Call me a square. Call me anti-environmental. Call me a prude. Call me what you like, but what the heck? On a recent weekend get-away to a cottage I noticed a sign posted next to the toilet stating “if it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down”. Ummmmmmmmm, excuse me? I was appalled (a strong word yes, but aptly describes the look on my face - I caught a glimpse of it in the chrome dispenser). “I don’t swim in your toilet, so please don’t pee in my pool” – this I get. I think it is silly, but I get it. Not owning one myself, I am not familiar with all the nuances of cottage life. Even so, I was taught, when you use the toilet, you flush it. I don’t need, much less want, reminders of those who were there before. A warm seat is more than sufficient thank you very much. Dogs pee where other dogs have peed before them. Must we follow suit?
Hopefully this is an act of kindness towards mother earth and conserving the precious resource of water. God, what else could it be? Collecting DNA samples to frame me for a crime? Hording urine for future jelly-fish stings? “Quick Beth, stick your leg in the toilet! That will make it feel better”. Dare I think of more? Yuck.
There must be other options. Get one of those small tank toilets. Install a urinal. Put a dish on the tank and collect quarters to offset the expense of your water bill. Hand out maps to the nearest cluster of bushes. Or, as it is a cottage, what about an outhouse?
If another invitation is extended, I will go visit nature when it calls.