Sunday, March 26, 2017

Small Fry's Guide to Fine Dining

It was about five years ago that Medium Fry began cooking for the family on a regular basis. Small Fry, now 9, is pretty enthusiastic about cooking as well, so we keep ramping up the kinds of kitchen tasks he gets to do. I am pleased to note that everyone still has all their fingers, plus I can procure some helpful help when needed - wins all around.

Small Fry and DH watch a lot of cooking shows together, and Small Fry seems to have taken away three important lessons from these experiences: First, there should always be some sort of theme to meals. Second, meals should always take less than 30 (or sometimes 60) minutes to prepare, or else they are clearly a failure. And third, always rate and critique every meal someone makes for you.

Subsequently, we also learned a crucial fourth lesson: one should only rate and critique meals when one has something nice to say or one might just end up with a long and hungry period of rumination on one's mistakes that night.

Today, Small Fry wanted to cook his own lunch. First, the theme: "Orange!" (Orange?)

Second, the execution:

Step 1 - Fill small pot halfway with water. Place pot on smallish burner, handle facing in for safety. Turn burner on high.
Step 2 - While waiting for water to boil, complete your prep. Place colander in sink; carefully cut open powdered cheez packet; turn nose up at margarine and get out butter instead.
Step 3 - Waaaaait for water to boil.
Step 4 - Notice that it looks like a nice day outside. Put on shoes and go out to play.
Step 5 - What the heck?!
Step 6 - (Mystery steps completed by Mom.)
Step 7 - Melt butter in pot. Add cheez powder and stir until not lumpy, adding a sploosh of milk if required. Resent being told that it is still lumpy and needs to be stirred more. Dump colander-full of macaroni mostly in pot; eat remainder, plain, off of counter, by way of vacuuming up directly with face. Stir what managed to make it into the pot to coat with cheez sauce. 
Step 8 - Mom does some supplemental stirring.
Step 9 - Take meal out to the deck.
Step 10 - Mom does some supplemental cleaning.
Step 11 - Yell from the deck, "Hey Mom, how long did this take me to make?" (About 15 minutes.)
Step 12 - Pronounce self a Master Chef, give meal a 10/10, and enjoy.


Thursday, February 23, 2017

I'm sorry! I'm Canadian!

I know you're dying to know how DH's phone app language lessons turned out. In summary: "I EAT TOMATOES!" is approximately as useful a statement as one might have expected. Nonetheless, DH really powered through with a jolly mix of Franglish, gesticulating, and ducking behind Medium Fry whenever the going got tricky.

Naturally, Medium Fry did an excellent job helping the rest of the fam muddle through. In less predictable news, I am pleased to announce that I used what I learned in/retained from school (which I am now referring to as "rudimentary transactional French") to reasonably good effect. Maybe that's a little subjective, but at the end of the day I mostly ended up with the baguette or café crème or five museum tickets that I had asked for, so it couldn't have been that bad.

It also wasn't necessarily all that good, either: my rudimentary transactional French did fail me a couple of times. For instance, I got really cocky about tossing a jaunty "Bonjour!" around as I strolled the cobblestone streets early each morning but when a garbage man followed up with a "Comment ça va?" one day, I completely froze. Completely. I stopped walking and just stood there with my mouth hanging open. He had already disappeared around a corner when my brain fired up again. "Shit!" I yelled after him, "Ça va bien!"

I also panicked a bit while counting out change for a cashier. Damn those confusing little Euro coins! Ideally, I would say something charming yet strikingly intelligent, with a slight, hard-to-place accent and a Bond-like suaveness: "Pardon the delay. I'm simply unfamiliar with your delightful currency." Panties would drop. It would be amazing. Unfortunately, in that particular moment the only statement I could cobble together was, "I'm sorry! I'm Canadian!" (I was corrected enough times on my Québécois pronunciation during our trip that I'm pretty sure the lameness of the statement wasn't even tempered by the quality of its execution.)

In retrospect it was a pretty Canadian thing to say, but I'm afraid it leaves things a bit open to interpretation. So if you are ever in the south of France and find yourself confronted with the stereotype that Canadians are bad at math, bad at money, and/or just plain "slow", it's probably my fault. If your parlay voo isn't too bad maybe you could correct the record while you're there. Regardless, definitely offer up some sort of apology - it's just our way.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Avengers: Age of Operator

I don't usually wish for my kids to stay little, but just this once could we go back to before I had to be in a moving motor vehicle with one of them behind the wheel? And then never come back to this time ever again?

That's right, Medium Fry is learning to drive. It's a tough time for us, since she is old enough to do so - at least from a strictly legal perspective - yet I am clearly too young to die. Competing interests abound.

Why don't I just fob this off on a certain someone else? Well, after a family night watching an Avengers movie, Small Fry sweetly characterized DH as the Hulk, "because you're always angry!" It just didn't seem fair to make my darling daughter - or anyone, ever - take driving lessons from the Hulk. (P.S. In case you were wondering, Small Fry assigned me Thor and patted my biceps as rationale.) (Hulk was a little bit jealous. I could tell.)

And besides, I did fob much of it off: thanks, AMA! Medium Fry's driving instructor spent a total of fourteen hours in a moving motor vehicle with her behind the wheel and didn't have even one heart attack, so that guy is totally whichever Avenger has nerves of fukken steel.

But there remains much practicing of driving skills to be done, which is where I come in. At first Small Fry also tagged along, but he spent the entire time enthusiastically squealing "encouragements" from the back seat ("I can't believe this is happening!" "I have NO faith in this!" "This is NOT gonna end well!" "WATCH OUT FOR THE RABBIT!") so we left him at home after that.

To be clear, we were driving so slowly that the neighbourhood gang of Hungarian partridges strolled past and laughed at us, so that rabbit was never in any real danger. However, the rearview mirrors of the parked cars we passed surely suffered some near-death experiences. But we reversed out of the driveway without incident. Went clockwise around our Circle, then counter-clockwise. Did a couple of left turns and a couple of right turns. Remembered our blinky lights. Never once went fast enough for the car to shift into second gear, but hey, maybe next time. Did not crash into my work truck when re-entering the driveway. That was enough success for one day! Then Thor had a stiff drink and a little lie-down, and was extremely grateful for the two feet of snow that fell that weekend because it offered a convenient excuse to not drive anywhere for the next week or so.

Unfortunately, the weather has taken a turn for the more driveable, so it looks like I'll be back in the passenger seat again one day soon. I'll do my best not to crush the arm rests in terror, but with pipes like mine and driving like Medium Fry's - well, shit happens sometimes.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Who's Punking Who?

About two years ago, I went to one of those 'paint nite' events with a group of friends.

Okay, wait a minute, remember the Dark Tower series? There are these scary crustaceans that bite off a couple of Roland's fingers - he calls them 'lobstrosities'. Lobstrosity is the word I think of when something is extra terrible. Also when I look at lobsters, 'cause they are hella scary giant bug things that I can't believe people actually eat. Ugh.

Back to paint nite: full disclosure, painting is not my forte. As the night wore on and my glass(es) of wine wore down, I got the excellent idea to give the obvious lobstrosity I was producing to DH for Valentine's Day as a prank. "Omygawd, guys! Wouldn't it be hilarious if I pretended that this was his present and then he would have to pretend that he liked it? Bwahahaha!" Informal polls concluded: super funny! 100% should definitely do this!

Honestly, I can't even say this was the wine's idea, because somehow it still seemed funny to me a couple of weeks later when Valentine's Day actually rolled around. So I put on an award-worthy performance - made this just for you, thought you would really like it, special love-heart-prezzy-wezzy, etc. I didn't even crack a smile. I was amazing. Then I handed it over and waited for the punchline moment...

... which never came. He liked it. A lot. Or else he pretended to like it to get back at me for giving it to him...? Or else he likes it? Like, actually likes it? Or else he is clearly f*cking with me.

I don't even know what's real anymore.

At time of press, that effing ugly ass painting has been hanging on my wall for TWO YEARS. Two years I've had to look at it every day and wonder what the hell I was thinking. You know something? It's really bad to look at something awful every day and wonder what someone else was thinking, but it's even worse when it's your own damn fault. Like being everyone else on the planet vs. being an American right now.

Dear DH: I admit it, I've been out-punked. Valentine's Day isn't a real holiday, but I'm still sorry I debased it with a prank shitty present. You win, and here is your public declaration of winningness. You are way more funny than me. Can we please have Obama back put something else up on the wall now?

Thursday, December 1, 2016

No Atheists Between Fencelines

Welcome to my first ever multi-media blog post. Please take a moment to prepare yourself for a full sensory experience.

First, imagine a beautiful summer day on the prairies. No one is around. You - one slightly largish biologist - are hiking along. Never mind why; just be one with the slightly largish biologist here for a moment. You come to a fence. You carefully cross the fence. You carefully stand up.

Cue music: Talking Heads' "Once in a Lifetime". Start the song right at...

"My god, what have I done?!"

A second fence presents itself, precisely the width of one largish biologist apart from the first and stretching for approximately all eternity in both directions.

The second fence is tight AF. Like, so tight that there is no way it was not done maliciously. You find yourself firmly pinned by barbed wire on all sides and unable to move. You wish David Byrne would just shut up for a minute so you could think. You pray - really, fervently pray - that no one can see you.

It takes a full twenty minutes to get yourself face down on the ground, and another five to worm slowly sideways under the 100% not pronghorn-legal second fence. The rose bush caressing your face distracts you from thinking about how many ticks are crawling on you.

Finally, you emerge. One day, you think, once the ol' wounded pride has healed up a bit and assuming this doesn't go viral on YouTube in the interim - you check again to make sure no one is around - this will make an excellent blog post. Good thing you got a picture.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Massage Montage

Little known fact about massage therapy school: it's 2,000 hours of hands-on treatment time PLUS 2,000 hours of internet conspiracy indoctrination. ("Ahhh," I hear you saying. "It all makes perfect sense now!")

Even the most normal-seeming massage therapist I ever had once growled at me, "Corn. Is. NOT. Food."

I could sortof let this slide because she did really good shoulder work, but seriously - what the hell you got against corn, lady? Did it, like, run off with some other gal and never pay child support? Because I typically reserve that kind of venom for my ex-husband, not important staple crops.

Normal-Seeming Therapist quit years ago and I've been searching for a replacement Tolerably Normal Therapist ever since. Which is to say, I've been conducting monthly interviews with an endless string of certifiable nut jobs, while nude.

I had one who used to massage horses (let's just say that again: Massage. Horses. What?), which leads me to this unlikely life pro tip: the instant someone says "massage horses" to you, you get up off the table and nope the fuck outta there, because if someone opens with that the interaction is not going anywhere even remotely sane. Anyway, Horse Masseuse somehow got displaced from an organic off-grid grow op in remote rural BC to downtown Calgary and couldn't find her way home or something, and would spend entire sessions muttering about how the medical establishment was out to stop her, just look what they did to chiropractors, frequently pausing the actual massage that I was actually paying actual money for to lean in beside my ear and hiss, "BIG PHARMA!" or "THE MAN!" or "THEY CONTROL ALL THE SEEDS!"

Mostly, however, they seem to cluster somewhere a little less extreme on the spectrum of interweb credulousness. Tonight's therapist seemed so promising - brisk manner, firm pressure, silent for the first three full minutes! Then he started talking and alas, it was all over for me. It was a 90-minute (okay, 87-minute, I'll give him credit for those first three quiet ones) rambling tirade that ran the quackery gamut from lymphatic congestion, the indigestibility of dairy, "acidity", "energy", and, perhaps least scientifically of all, "You can't get hydrated from drinking fluids because the water is in solution!"

I thought we were heading down what I've come to view as a pretty standard pseudo-scientific path for massage therapists but that water in solution bit was totally uncharted territory for me. Wait - the water is what, exactly? Wet?

There are many reasons why I go for massages regularly, and none of them are because I want to keep up on the latest in fruitloopery. And yet, here we are. I long ago started to kick off each session by announcing that I am a biologist, in hopes that they might catch the chill of skepticism wafting off of me but it hasn't helped. For folks who think they can sense the energies or whatever the fuck, they sure are poor at reading their audience.

Really, here's the heart of my complaint: I am paying them. A lot. By the rules of bartenders and therapists, that means I get a platform for airing my craziness, yet even if I want to chat I usually can't get a word in edgewise with RMTs for all their soapboxing. And by the rules of being naked and prone while a stranger beats on my muscles - well, I don't know what the rules are for that, exactly, but frankly I feel taken advantage of. I shouldn't have to listen to their nonsense, whatever the content, because I am paying them to shut up and tenderize my glutes already. How is a scientifically literate and conflict-averse person supposed to relax under such conditions?

Here are the new rules, which I will now be announcing before I ever put my face in one of those damn lobotomy donut pillows ever again:

1. No talking.
2. If talking required, then [citation needed] for any health, scientific, or other claims made during session.

That's it. You want to talk at me during a massage session? It had better be sensible. Otherwise you just chant "I want a tip today, I want a tip today" over and over to yourself in your head to help motivate you to stay quiet. 

Oh, yes, and one final thing I almost forgot:

3. More glutes and feet, please.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Le Phone App, C'est Crap

DH is a person who studies for vacation. I mean, everybody plans for vacation to a greater or lesser degree, but DH full on studies. I would say that he is not super "into" doing any particular things really hard, but lemme tell you - this guy is going to fricking ace our Christmas vacation this year.

I admire his dedication; it means I don't have to do anything to prepare.

He has been sleuthing online, reading a big stack of travel guides, surveying his friends and colleagues - all the typical stuff. Most impressively, he has been studying the language every day, using a phone app. Currently, the app is telling DH he is 39% fluent in French, and an app would never, like, grossly misrepresent its efficacy or anything, right?

Okay, I am trying really hard not to rain on my own upcoming relaxation-thanks-to-someone-else's-hard-work parade, but I have to say I do sortof question the phone app's methods sometimes. Not that my own non-app experiences in learning French were necessarily any better - I took French classes for twelve years in school and I couldn't hold a conversation with a Kindergartner. (Though to be fair, school was a pretty long time ago, and no one ever promised me I was 39% fluent.)

Back around 18% fluency, I felt the app had leaned heavily on some pretty bullshit phrases. I can hear DH practicing every night, and it is across the board stuff like, "I eat tomatoes." "The woman wears a hat." "The cat is brown."

(Actually, DH is a bit of a yeller as a general rule, and when he's talking to his phone app or any relatives on his mother's side he's even louder. So if you're imagining this scene, make sure your imaginary DH is shouting non sequiturs en Francais for 20 minutes every night. "I ENJOY SALAD!" "HE READS A BOOK!") (Imaginary DH should also be wearing plaid, for historical accuracy.)

Around 31%, things started getting downright absurd: I kid you not, one night I heard DH exclaim, "THE SHARK IS FOUR!" ... Huh?

And now, nearing 40% fluency, the app has moved right along to completely inappropriate statements that you would not just never use as a regular non-lobotomized adult human, but could never use because one cannot simply go around shouting, "HE IS FAT BECAUSE HE EATS FRENCH FRIES!" no matter how true it might be.

To give the app credit, all of this is a far cry from DH's previous level of French-speaking ability. When we had a French exchange student stay with us, he greeted her the first day by yelling, "LE BAGUETTE! HAR HAR HAR!" Like, full Awkward Movie Dad mode. It was mortifying, and I had a distinct lingering fear that I was going to have to gag DH and lock him in a cupboard for the duration of our vacation for precisely this reason. So while shouting "I EAT TOMATOES!" all over France would probably make him look like a bit of a moron, at least he would seem like a health-conscious, inoffensive sort of moron. However, making judgmental proclamations about people's dietary choices has brought us right back to those cringe-worthy "baguette" days of yore. What the hell is this app thinking?

We're only at 39% so I'm willing to hold out a bit longer for the big reveal, where the pieces all fall into place for Awkward Movie Dad and he is transformed into a normal human who can successfully make polite, sensible statements in the context of realistic life situations. But let it be known, phone app, that if you have not seriously started to turn things around by 65% fluency or mid-November, whichever comes first, I am going to Uninstall your ass and we're gonna do this the old-fashioned way instead: rely on our bilingual eldest child as an interpreter.