Thursday, May 25, 2017

What the Fork III

Me: Why, here is a fork that was placed slightly askew in the dishwasher rack. I will remove the now-clean fork from the dishwasher and place it in the cutlery drawer amongst its kin.

My kids: REST IN PEACE, FORK.



















Me: [Sensible observation/action progression.]
My kids: GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN.



















Me: [Sensible observation/action progression.]
My kids: IN A BETTER PLACE NOW.



















 Me: [Sensible observation/action progression.]
My kids: THE CIIIRCLE OF LIIIFE.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

A Nuisance of Cats

We don't have pets at our house. Contrary to popular opinion, this is not actually a form of child abuse, and I would ask that people kindly stop implying as much. Just deal with it.

I always blame our lack of pets on DH's dislike of animals in the house. This is mostly true: if not for him, the kids and I would surely have oodles of cats. (Yep, all three of us are cat people - you'll just have to deal with that too.)

But it's not the whole truth. There are a lot of facets to the whole truth, but for me the biggest reason we don't have pets is... dirt. I like actual dirt (properly, "soil") a lot, but I like it best of all when it stays outside where it belongs, otherwise it transforms into dirt, which I don't like. (I also feel this way about spiders.) Pets are dirty. Not necessarily soil-y, but dirty. They stink. They shed. They make a mess. They see fit to bring both soil and spiders into the house. They slobber, poop, barf on the carpet, jump on the counters, show you their anuses, and lick their balls then make direct eye contact with you to see if you enjoyed the show.

I'm just not okay with these things in my house. I like a clean house. A very clean house. We got a wool area rug and I can barely keep up with the mess it makes - I'm thinking of having it put down. I'm a clear clean + tidy on the cleanliness Punnet square, which I believe is fundamentally incompatible with pets. Or at least it is if I value my mental health.

On those rare occasions that I wish we had some pets, I simply reframe my view of things. For instance, my hair is basically a pet: it's crazy high-maintenance, it represents a massive waste of resources, and it sheds profusely. Pet! We have mice in the garden compost bin, which are also basically pets: hope you enjoyed your Corn Pops this morning, little buddies. Pet! Heck, the compost itself takes a ton of work... Pet! We have lots of plants, which are basically really quiet pets that make their own food. Pet! Speaking of food, that quarter of beef in the deep freeze is from a domesticated animal... delicious pet! Plus there's always that damn area rug (you already know how I feel about him). Pet! If you think about it hard enough, we basically have loads of basically-pets!

And finally, if all my basically-pets aren't quite filling the void for me, I like to think about my microbiome - the ultimate in non-traditional pets. Unlike other types of pets, this one doesn't need special food, just whatever I'm having is fine; I don't have to worry about arranging care for it when I travel; and it gives back to me in myriad ways that science is only beginning to discover. Thanks, microbiome - you're the best friend a girl could have!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Granniest of Them All

I used to do field work with a fellow who was a bit of a clothes horse, even when he was in the field. "Ahhh," I said to him early one morning as we were departing our motel during a long field stint, "Clean sock day!" I thought everyone worth their hiking boots knew the joys of clean sock day, but the look of pure revulsion that crossed his face gave me some insight into the numerous huge duffel bags he brought with him everywhere he went. This guy was putting on clean socks every day. Probably clean everything else, too, but after the look I got from him over just my socks I didn't dare mention clean underwear day to confirm my suspicions.

He didn't last long at the job. I like to imagine that there is a correlation there, as if we of rotated socks are simply made of tougher stuff than those of daily-princess-fresh-socks. Smarter stuff, too: guess what's more efficient than packing a comprehensive wardrobe change for every fricking day, like you're in a sitcom instead of just a canola field somewhere? Not doing that, then packing a Tide pod and a couple of quarters for those rare instances where you can't rotate your way out of a laundry shortage.

And shortages do happen, even to the most intrepid of re-users and rotators. Despite my Tide pods and the comprehensive mental map I've developed of the best available public laundry facilities across rural Saskatchewan and Alberta, the fact is sometimes serious laundry shortages even happen to perfectly non-princessy people in towns where no laundry facilities exist. Handily, I happen to have some friends and family scattered about the landscape as well, all of whom not only have laundry facilities that they will let me use, but who will also acquiesce to an impromptu coffee date with me in whatever weird outfit I've managed to cobble together out of the dregs of my remaining passably-clean clothing. These are truly the kind of people you want to have in your life.

I once dropped a pair of underpants between the washer and dryer at a friend's house under just such laundry shortage circumstances. As much as field laundry has taught me what good people my friends really are, it also taught me what kind of person I am: I am a horribly vain person. Maybe not at the surface, since I was apparently willing to purchase and then wear the lobstrosities I had just lost down the ol' washer-dryer gap, but in my heart of hearts I sure as fuck didn't want anyone to actually see them. I peered in horror at those ginormous, psychedelic-butterfly-print, cotton ultra-granny field gotch, winking up at me from the depths of the linty crack of doom, and I knew in that moment I would go full Aron Ralston before I would ever, ever let my friend lay eyes on them.

I did get them out eventually, with the aid of some barbeque tongs and a good many swear words. I even got to keep my arms. In my panic over the butterfly field gotch, however, I failed to notice that I had also lost a Bama sock down the washer-dryer gap. For anyone who is not familiar with Bama socks (and are thus unable to grasp how truly terrible this is), just know that Bama socks are the closest thing I have ever experienced to an actual miracle in my life.

It was a wet spring that year - which is why the laundry shortage had occurred in the first place - so I had ample time marching around the wide, wet world in steel-toed rubber boots to fully experience the loss of one Bama sock. As I marched, I comforted myself with the knowledge that no, I was not quite so vain - knowing what I now knew, if I had to do it all again I would choose the fleeting awkwardness of leaving some gotch behind over the enduring physical discomfort of leaving a Bama behind. After all, what's a little smidge of embarrassment between friends, right?

I was able to convince myself of that right up until I returned to my friend's house a couple of weeks later. When he grinned and handed over my sock, which he was holding with his hands, I was overcome by the mental image of him handing me those goddamn granny panties instead.

Unequivocal nope - I choose to save the gotch. Always, always the gotch.
 

Monday, April 10, 2017

Free Lunch

A northern flicker has been frantically drumming on my (metal) chimney for the past couple of weeks. I hope he finds the love he's looking for soon, because the incredible booming sound it makes inside my house is really interfering with my off-season nap schedule.

It reminds me of the time, growing up on the farm, when a duck came down the chimey into our basement. I remember my mother coming screaming around the corner into the porch to find out what the hell my brother and I were trashing in the basement. The basement was always a little spooky in the first place - mouse traps and spiders and The Dark and such - so we were standing in the porch frozen in terror at what the hell actually WAS trashing the basement. I mean, there was a LOT of noise happening down there. From our perspective, it was obvious that the ankle-grabbing monsters that lived under the stairs had finally come for us, so we were uncharacteristically relieved that Mom was raging mad about it. Those monsters were clearly going to get their asses whooped.

She RAN downstairs, then RAN back upstairs (OHMYGAWD SHOULD WE RUN TOO?!), then RAN back downstairs with a bunch of... towels? Then, after a little while and some colourful language, she returned up the stairs with a half-bald duck wrapped in towels and let it out the front door. (Dammit, we still had stair monsters.)

The furnace seemed way more interesting to me after that. What surprises might come out of it next? (A songbird, once, but that was it. I was hoping for a pet raccoon.)

Mom has a colleague who grew up in China and likes to hear stories about life in Canada. When she told him this story (her version probably involves fewer stair monsters than my version) (and less "creative punctuation" - unlike me, she was an English major) he was duly impressed, but for completely different reasons:

"Wait, wait, wait - you're telling me that a duck invited itself into your home, plucked itself, and offered itself into your be-towelled arms, and you didn't even eat it?"

(I would add to that that the duck also made one helluva mess when it was down there so if it knew my mother at all, it must have had a death wish.)

I guess we just didn't think of it as food. If I had known then what I know now about duck confit, perhaps I would have. This fellow's take on our basement duck has caused me to wonder what other immigrants to Canada must think about our collective habit of going to the grocery store to buy extraordinarily expensive packages of bland meat when there is so much food just traipsing around the neighbourhood that could be had for free. Why, just in Ranchlands we have partridges, rabbits, squirrels (hey, I know someone who says they're delicious, if a bit bony), and even the occasional deer. Not a lot of ducks or geese, but the communities with lakes probably have those. I think of these critters fondly, like community pets, but the budget-conscious among us - perhaps particularly those who didn't grow up with boneless, skinless chicken breasts as their flavour standard - might view them a little less romantically.

A friend of mine who was raising contraband urban chickens once told me he had figured out how farmers decided which chickens to eat first: the ones that are jerks.

Frankly, I'm starting to wonder what northern flickers taste like.


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 am able to procure some helpful help when needed - wins all around.

Small Fry and DH also watch a lot of cooking shows together, and Small Fry seems to have taken away three important lessons from this exposure: 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 anyone ever makes for you.

(Back in real-life land, 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.

Orange.

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.