Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Tea, blueberries and a tracheotomy.

Recently, I have been reminded of just how fond of tea I really am. Even watching that liquid amber jump from pot to cup is a wonder to behold. Of late, I can’t even tempt myself with that. A couple weeks ago I was down for my afternoon cuppa and it hit me that I really didn’t enjoy the tea, it was the afternoon break. So I thought. On a whim, I gave it up for lent. Not exactly sure why I did that – I am not even Catholic – but have come to understand what it is to truly miss something. The last breakfast I enjoyed before falling so terribly ill I had poached eggs (maybe it's Avian flu!!!!) with avocado on English muffins for breakfast and was ready to kill for some Earl Grey. I am counting down the days to Easter.

Another recent change in my diet has been the consumption of blueberries. Next to apples, they are apparently ‘the’ super fruit. They are loaded with antioxidants and have been proved to preserve vision. Aside from that, the also taste great. These benefits however do come at a price – literally. Those little bundles of blue goodness are very pricey – plus they are murder on your teeth! I feel the pluses however should not be ignored for vanity. I have started putting ½ a cup of blueberries into my daily protein shake. That way they are pre-masticated (so as not to stain my teeth) and my body reaps the rewards.

You may wonder what tea and blueberries have to do with each other. A fair question. Well since I have given up tea and have not been chewing blueberries I have noticed a pleasant side effect – my teeth are becoming more and more pearly white. I must say I am not looking forward to the return of the stain. I was talking about my predicament with my good friend Sharron and we came up with a couple solutions. She came up with drinking my tea through a straw. Well now how silly would that look?

I thought my idea was a little more outside the box – a tracheotomy. My teeth would maintain their new found brightness and I would still get to enjoy my tea and berries. I wouldn’t however really get to ‘enjoy’ the tea as it wouldn’t tantalize my taste buds. But a huge part of savouring food and drink is smell and I would still have that. Chances of my getting invited round to Buckingham Palace would be greatly reduced though. I don’t think the Queen would like to see me, pinky out, sipping tea through my neck. (Those kids at Hogwarts fancy it a neat trick though) It would help with that whole maintaining eye contact thing. Maybe it would be best if I cancel that appointment with my ear, throat and neck specialist. I am sure Liz has my invite in the mail.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Peggy Lee Can Keep Her Damn Fever!

There are two things I hate – being sick and having to admit I am sick. I rarely find myself in the former state and next to never in the latter. As such, my home is not equipped for dealing with such a ‘situation’. I refuse to use the word ‘emergency’ as that would give this pesky little virus too much power! And I say “NO” to that! I have to admit that my voice is deep, rich, velvety and downright sexy because of this flu/cold but it is an unpleasant experience in pain to swallow at all. I also must admit that I have no one to blame but myself. This cold and flu season I failed to heed to wise words the Pink Dollhouse Girl imparted on me about a decade back - wash your hands! I still do, but not as much as one should at this time of year. The last few flu free years made me drop my guard and now I am paying for it.

This part is a little gross. Heads up. Last night I found myself unable to sleep as each time I gulped, coughed or swallowed I was awakened from my almost slumber by an un-extinguishable pain. During the day it is not as bad as I refuse to swallow and just keep spitting in the sink. (Don't worry, I am getting plenty of liquids. Another reason I couldn't sleep) I don’t like eating Halls at night because I don’t want all that sugar sitting on my teeth, but by 2:37 this morning I could take it no more and started on them. They were no help. Neither was the raw garlic, gargling with cider vinegar, the hot water with honey, lemon, cinnamon, ginger and cloves or any other home remedy I have tried the last two days. The gargling with cider vinegar though is GREAT for clearing phlegm out of your throat. The over the counter cold and flu, this and that crap were no better. I ended up sleeping on my side – terrible for morning face crinkling – with a towel under my mouth so the drool could just slide out and I wouldn’t have to swallow. Let me tell you, the goop caked onto the side of my face this morning was not pretty. Not to mention the fact that the towel had adhered to my cheek. At least I managed four hours of un-interrupted sleep.

Despite being somewhat under the weather, I still think I can function normally. It is fortunate that I had taken these last three days off work to study so didn’t have to call in sick – something I refuse to do. In reality I felt mildly better on Thursday (in my mind I was ALL better) so plowed ahead with dinner plans for Mr. Underpants, Kit Kat and Little Lord Fauntleroy. We went on a tour of France starting with homemade split-pea soup and finishing with tarte aux pommes. It was delicious. Or so I was told. I managed the soup but could barely touch my tourtiere. This by all counts was scrummy.

I still have leftovers but am saving them for when my taste buds and throat can truly enjoy them. I had to head out yesterday for my sick comfort foods – Lipton’s chicken noodle soup (the packaged one with the short noodles), ginger-ale (Canada Dry, only “the champagne of ginger-ale for me) with a bendy straw and Halls. Having gone without much food I whipped up a batch of soup, put it in a huge salad bowl and ate the whole thing (supposed to serve four) in one go. Then I got a belly ache. D’uh! What can I say, I hate being sick and don’t know how to deal with it when I am. Mark my words virus, you are going to rue the day you came into body! Rue the day! Start ruing!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

For The Love of The Game

I have always loved to play games. Monopoly is my all time favourite and I can get a little carried away with enforcing the rules. For my benefit of course. We used to rent a cottage at Crane Lake every summer and Monopoly was our evening ritual. Cries of “buy it” (when we landed on a property for sale) and “mine” (when someone landed on our place and owed us money) could be heard echoing across the lake.

RISK was another great way to spend a rainy Saturday afternoon. You could conquer the world while mom brought you cookies and milk. I was never a very good loser and was a terrible winner. Once I got he upper hand and pushed you down into Australia there was no mercy. None.

Playing these and other fine games are not only a great way to have fun, but also to get to know people. Some of my fondest memories of my grandmother are of playing euchre with her and her politely telling you that you played well. But could have done better if you played you cards ‘right.’ Not long ago I hosted a games night and it was quite interesting to see how involved some people were.

We started with a rousing game of win-lose-or draw. It was boys vs. girls and I say this as God as my witness, I would not have wanted Lord Fauntleroy as a teacher growing up. We guessed ‘feather the nest,’ ‘feather a nest,’ ‘feather my nest’ but never got around to ‘feather YOUR nest’ and let me tell you did we hear about it. The dry erase marker almost took out poor Alberta Boy’s eye as it flew across the room and we all got a sound tongue lashing. To top things off, when he yelled the answer at us the girls pounced on their chance to steal and got a point. Overall, not a good round for the boys. We were all very attentive after that.

Hoopla pits everyone against a timer as you have to draw, act and do a variety of other tasks to make people guess your clue. We were all very excited and mindful of the timer as it ticked down to our inevitable doom. All of us except one of the dollhouse girls. No names here. She is great at playing the game, once she gets started. But therein lays the problem. I am sure our (read my) incessant yelling didn’t help ease any pressure but come on here! We must beat the little plastic timer!!!

I also learned that drinking and Rumoli (it is poker meets board game) do not mix. Each person at the table found out just what happens when you put a cocktail between Underpants Boy and money that belongs to him. To be fair, he had to get his money quickly because if another card is played, you forfeit. (Lord Fauntleroy, you know, being a Lord and all, was a little more careless with his lucre and I am still finding dimes and nickels down behind my radiators.) After the Pink girl from the dollhouse had a Cosmo dumped in her lap, I a glass of white wine and sister a glass of red, we amended the rule to simply calling the money and then collecting it at the end of the round. Despite this, there was one more spill and we all thought that a sign that it was time to wrap things up.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

I don't have A.D.D! I don't. I don'.....hey look, a penny.

My parent’s were very supportive of our interests when we were youngsters. They drew the line at buying a piano – a wise move considering I begged my mother not to sell her guitar promising that I would learn how to play and then promptly stuffed it under my bed for about 5 years. My brother and sister were dedicated to swimming (both became lifeguards) and hockey (brother) and ringette (sister). I never quite found my passion, but not for lack of trying.

There was gymnastics - perhaps foreshadowing a passion yet to come – I still like men’s gymnastics, just not doing them. If we were good and did all our tumbles, pummel horse work, balance beam this and that, we were allowed to play a game called pirate. The class was divided into two teams and one person from each team would get on the balance beam, walk to the centre and knock the other off. It was F-U-N! One day the class (lead by yours truly) did nothing we were supposed to and were given a lecture half way through. “Do you know how much time we spend preparing this class?” and “Do you want us to tell your parents?” Every guilt trip and threat was on tap that day but apparently had no affect on me. When the inevitable “so what do you want to do now?" was asked, and for the record the correct answer apparently was work the pummel horse, I asked if we could play pirate. They actually asked my parents to withdraw me from the class. With a full refund! It didn’t bother me but how embarrassing for my parents.

After gymnastics came swimming. There was a rule in our nieghbourhood – if you wanted to swim without adult supervision you had to pass your junior level. Front crawl, back crawl, tread water, hold your breath and jelly fish. I never liked that last one. What pool had weeds in it to tangle around my ankles? Now really. Regardless, it was nothing too challenging. Except for me. The pool had a slide! How can I focus on swimming when there is a slide. To this day, I love a good slide. Weeeeeeeeeeee. I passed. Eventually. After two sets of regular lessons, one semi-private and finally a private.

My downfall at T-ball was stones. They would stick me in the outfield and expect me to pay attention. What 6 year old is going to hit a ball off of post and make it go that far? Come on. How could I not pick stones out of the grass and stack them up like little snowmen? I also quickly bored of my team sponsor - Streetsville Glass. I picked two letters off my shirt for fun. Guess which two?

Figure skating made my feet too cold. Besides, who wants to skate when there is a pool in the building next door. With a slide!

I was always enthusiastic about walking our dog too. Benji was good times. We would out every day after school and head down the valley near our house. She was a good pet but nothing like a craw-fish. I always came home soaking wet with a bucket of critters and no dog. She usually made her way home eventually. She got distracted too – especially by Mrs. Lewis’ garbage. I cleaned that up more that once I can tell you.

Now that I am older, I look back and fancy that I was a young Auntie Mame. Picking up one hobby or another, each time with a passionate intensity that burned brightly, if all too briefly. A look back over the last few years though seems to point to a not dissimilar pattern. Swing dancing lost out to line dancing. Going to the gym to yoga. Pie making and drinking to……hey wait a minute, I think I found something that held my interest. Cheers to me! Cheers to…… that the doorbell?

Sunday, March 12, 2006

My Friends Went To Spiltsville and All I Got Was This Lousy Basket

Actually, the basket it fabulous. It is hand made in some New England state and its sole purpose is to cool and transport pies. The other day I had a taken a pie somewhere, I am not sure where (funny, the things you remember and the things you don’t) and while the pie itself received rave reviews (recipe below) the basket was the topic of conversation and coveted by many. I was asked where it came from and said that friends Lord Fauntleroy and KitKat had given it to me for Christmas one year. It is now lovingly worn with blueberry stains on one leg, baked on cheese from a quiche and other assorted signs of use.

All this talk about my basket got me to thinking (dangerous at the best of times) about how things have changed since that Christmas. Lord Fauntleroy and KitKat have parted ways after a decade together. The spilt is recent and I have to wonder if our relationships will weather as well as the basket. It has been knocked around a bit, but held its own. In fact, it is better for having fulfilled its pie destiny.

I feel a bit like Karen in All About Eve as I try to re-assure myself that our little group of friends will stick together and not fall apart as is so often the case in these situations. “That won’t happen to us.” Isn’t that what they always say? More often than not, when we transition from one job to another we have the best intentions to keep in touch with those we ‘bonded’ with. One lunch, two if you’re lucky, later and you find your self running into them in a grocery store in two years time, make the same promise to keep in touch and never see the person again.

I do however, continue to hold out hope. After living in the United Arab Emirates for three years I came home to the warm embrace of the Girls in the Dollhouse, the Italian Stallion and Momo. Sorry CJ, you don’t get a mention here, you are family and can’t EVER get away.

Fast forward to next Christmas. His Lordship and KitKat have new partners. Will this equate into an awkward and stony silence around the table? With nothing but an occasional “Can I have some more turkey please?” to break the silence. Will the silver have to be chained down like they do in prison to avoid someone getting shanked? Or, will we all be able to sit around, laugh and carry on as usual? If so, where on earth will I find a table large enough to seat all these people?

Time will tell how this little drama will unfold. So far, so good. The fine traditions of Survivor and Desperate Housewives continue. Whatever the outcome, we will always have the basket.

The best darn strawberry pie ever (start with 6 cups of strawberry, hulled washed and dried):
Put 2 C. of strawberries in the bottom of a pre-baked pie shell.
Put 2 C. of strawberries in a blender with ½ C. of water and puree. Put these in a saucepan with 1 C. sugar, ¼ C. cornstarch, 1/8 Tsp of salt, 2 Tbsp of lemon juice and 2 Tbsp of butter. Bring this to a simmer and stir for 1 minute.
Pour half of this mixture over the berries in the pie shell, arrange the other 2 C. of berries on top and then top with remaining mixture.
Refrigerate the lot for 4 hours. Serve with whipped cream.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

In My Day.....

Not long ago my beloved CJ and I sat down with our parents for supper. As we ate, our oh-so-wise elders started to dispense little pearls of wisdom and share with us some childhood stories. Inevitably, we heard “When I was young I had to walk to school!” CJ and I added "Up hill! Both ways! With holes in our shoes! If we had shoes. If not, we had holes in our feet! If we could afford feet.” We giggled. Our parents rolled their eyes and frowned.

I thought I would never sit around and say such things. On our trip back to the big city however, we started to talk about the way things used to be for ‘our generation’. God, how old do I feel? Here are just a few of what we came up with.

When I was a kid we didn't have the internet. If I wanted to know something, I had to go to the damned library (walking, uphill, both ways of course) and look it up – using that dewy decimal system in the card catalogue! Speaking of the internet, there was no free porn! If I wanted that, I had to sneak into my sister’s room and steal her Chippendale calendar. What good times that was. Another draw back of “the net” – as this generation calls it – is that while people like my parents (very proud of you mom and Auntie Karen) have purchased computers and ‘surf’, their phone capabilities are still equivalent to two tin cans with a piece of twine in between. I call home and I get a busy signal. Who still does that? Even if you don’t get call waiting (even I hate that) ditch the machine and get call answer.

There was also no email - we had to actually write somebody a letter...with a pen and paper! Then when you were done (several drafts later with splotches of liquid paper all about) you had to walk all the way to the street corner and put it in the postbox. It would then take a week to get there! Things did not go so smoothly if you didn’t have stamps in the house. I must say though, I have not succumbed to e-cards, e-invites and the like. My Christmas cards still go the traditional method as do notes of thanks. Everyone gets bills in the mail but getting an actual letter is like finding a chocolate truffle in a plate full of Brussel sprouts.

To this day, I LOVE going to the theatre and watching a flick. I do however miss the joy of $2 Tuesday. Yes, that’s right, a movie was $2. Not $14. Sure you had a rusty spring digging into your back (or up your butt if you were lucky – ha!) and there was no carpet in the theatre. It was just row upon row of sticky concrete floors with no stadium seating. If the person in front of you was taller and blocked your view, you talked, kicked the back of their seat and farted in an effort to make them move.

Believe it or not, there was also a time when Saturday mornings were when you got your cartoon fix. That was IT. No weekdays or Sunday’s. You slept in – no Scooby for you one week!!!! It was big news when the Flintstones started playing at lunch. I lived close enough to school that I went home for lunch (up hill naturally) and reveled at the antics of Barney and Fred. It was Yabba Dabba good times.

Friday, March 03, 2006

To Sit or Stand?

I know this another toilet paper related story close on the heels of “prairie doggin’ it” but it needs to be told. Still not sure why I laughed when I heard it, but it is an odd one to say the least.

First, a free piece of advice, the movie RENT - DON”T! Don’t rent it, buy it, see it or do anything with it except maybe back over it with a steam roller. I know it was the voice for a generation of Rent-heads but it was like watching Mick Jagger still trying to be the voice of his generation. Oh wait, bad example.

That really has nothing to do with this story other than that was what Mr. Underpants, Alberta Boy, Diamond Don and I were watching on said evening. Don and I were waiting for the arrival of our companions for the evening. When they showed up Alberta Boy made a b-line for the WC only to emerge seconds later with a distressed look on his face. It suddenly dawned on Mr. Underpants that he had run out of toilet paper that morning and had forgot to purchase some on the way home. As he put on his winter gear and headed out I suggested that Alberta Boy just use some Kleenex or paper towels in the meantime. Problem solved.

Since this rather frivolous conversation was on the table, Don contributed his two cents worth stating “you won’t believe what happened to my toilet paper the other day.” What can happen to it really? Our faces must have begged the question for he proceeded to tell us that the other day while sitting, having run out what was on the roll, he reached around to grab a spare roll that was on the toilet tank. “The entire thing fell in the bowl and was ruined” he explained.

I have to say, curiosity got the better of me and I asked him how that was possible. Would it not just hit your back and fall on the floor? Or get wedged between you and the tank? Apparently not if you stand to wipe.

The three of us exchanged stunned glances. Stand? The first picture to pop up in my mind was something like a hot dog bun being filled with Nutella and smooshing it closed. (Sorry, that is as clean as I can make it while still getting my point across). Don was equally shocked to learn that we all lean to one side or the other (depending on whether or not you are right or left handed) to wipe. This also has the added advantage of keeping things open and spread for cleaner job. Not mention that it is pretty much guaranteed that you will get the TP into the bowl and not on the floor.

I have done an informal survey since that evening and am pleased to report that I am not alone in my method and that others are as equally perplexed by this entire standing phenomenon. It is one of those things, like religion and politics, that I probably really shouldn’t discuss, but must admit that this one has the better of me. For the record, I have not tried ‘the stand’.