Monday, December 11, 2017

BrandStand

A good friend of mine was telling me about her (and by association, her family's) personal brand recently. I paid close attention because personal branding is apparently a Thing these days, and I guess in this brave new world of personalizing your professional life (and/or vice versa?) I should as a businessperson at least consider what kind of brand I am presenting.

Hers an appealing brand that I fully admire, yet am unable to subscribe to personally as it seems to involve more photographs than I am comfortable with taking/sharing. I accidentally signed up for Instagram a little while ago and developed an immediate, visceral hatred of it. I also despise Facebook and LinkedIn, but it took me slightly longer to cultivate my hatred of them so I'm guessing that photos are just really not my thing. For the record, I also hate Pinterest (on principle: it pisses me off to no end that you have to sign up to even peek at a recipe that's posted on their site) and Reddit (HOW does it eat up so much of my life... oooh, r/teefies!), and I have abstained from all other social media sites because my track record suggests that I would probably both hate them and waste my life on them if I did sign up.

So, aside from hating social media, what is my "brand"? Setting aside the question of whether a non-photogenic person can even have a brand - and if so, if anyone would be interested in it - I have developed a few ideas about what my brand might entail:

First of all, my brand is obviously word-based and not photo-based, because here we are on my blog and emphatically not on my ill-fated Instagram account. It's also very family-oriented (although not necessarily family-friendly, due largely to certain frequently occurring words), and although it loves its line of work, it works to live rather than living to work - my out-of-office reply will be happy to take your inquiry while I'm away on Christmas vacation.

My brand is organized A.F. and enjoys cooking. It used to also enjoy baking until its significant other stopped eating gluten, The Magic Ingredient (turns out it wasn't love that made everything good after all). My brand likes taking frequent, measured risks to keep life interesting, such as "I don't need directions"; "I'm just gonna wing this"; "Welp, let's see what my hair gets up to today"; and "People are coming over for dinner, I think I'll try a bunch of new recipes!"

My brand has its own laugh track, which is just me laughing at things all the time, so don't worry about whether you like my brand or not because it is having enough fun without you.

My brand will not be doing any public speaking, ever, so don't even ask.       

Finally, my brand has a small oversharing problem. However, this might be a positive thing if I understand this personal branding thing correctly - one might even call me a pioneer in the field of personal-professional partitional porosity. I'm so putting that on my resume...

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Checkered Past

Me: What r u wearing tonight?

Friend: Jeans and a top. Maybe underwear.

Me: Cool, yeah, def me too. 

*puts two dozen dresses I had been trying on back in closet*

Why so many dresses? Well, first of all, I don't get out much. Maybe I got a little excited, alright? Second, I really like dresses. Like, really like them. Dresses are to me like plaid, button-down shirts are to DH: shortly after he first discovered L.L.Bean, a shipping carton the size of a small refrigerator showed up at our house. He had ordered shirts in every kind of plaid they had, which is, apparently, an apartment-sized refrigerator amount of plaid. Which he then modeled for me, one by nearly indistinguishable one.

"Isn't this the same as the last one?"

"No, this is the chestnut tattersall," he said, "feel the weight of the fabric!"

Now, years later, when L.L.Bean boxes arrive at our house DH sortof squirrels them away without modeling anything. I assume this is because he has legitimately become a Hoarder of plaid, button-down shirts and is afraid that I - a genetically-predispositioned Purger of things - may one day realize that he has approximately seven dozen plaid shirts crammed into our shared closet. Plus a few striped ones; mix things up a little, y'know?

Guess what? It looks like a fricking old man fabric store in there; I already noticed. If he died I could make like ten memorial quilts and start an L.L.Bean-themed B&B. But it allows me to justify buying a lot of dresses, so whatever. (To be fair to DH, my dress closet also looks like a fabric store - just a way more interesting one. He can start a Super Awesome-themed B&B when I die.)

I rediscovered dresses in my early thirties. I don't recall why I was so opposed to them for so long - possibly something to do with my Grandma's desire to outfit me in overly froofy dresses when I was little - but me and dresses fell in love all over again at that point and never looked back. I mean, they're fun! They're only froofy if you want them to be! My ankles are one of my few truly good features anymore! What's not to love?

Finally, I love dresses because they are forgiving of one's teensy flaws, such as a natural tendency to - shall we say - "wax and wane" a bit. I had to try on two dozen of them in part to sort out which ones were most... wax-y. Which, judging by the way I was sweating like a hog when I finally thought to text my friend about what she was planning to wear for our dinner date, surely counts as (wane-inducing!) exercise, right? Dresses for the win yet again!


P.S. Your fitness app probably doesn't have anything for sweating through dress trying. I checked.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Look Right Here

Sometimes my scientific interest gets the best of me.

"Would you like to view the placenta?" Sure I would!

(Which, by the way, they displayed to me somewhat formally and sombrely, with a side of knotted umbilical cord - it gave the odd impression that I was supposed to sniff the cork or bless the chef or something.)

Nope, I actually did not want to view the placenta. Whatever made me think I did? And can you kindly direct me to your memory cleansing department so they can Men-in-Black me now please?

For the record, there is no memory cleansing department. Given the shit that goes on in hospitals, they should really work on that. Also given the shit that goes on in hospitals, I think they should offer mobile spa - and possibly tattoo - services, so you can at least wake up waxed. I always like there to be a bright side to traumatic events.

"We have a screen set up so you can watch the biopsy if you like?" Sure I would!

No. No I wouldn't. And despite this taking place over a decade after The Placenta Present-ah, still no memory cleansing or complimentary Brazilian for my troubles. (Seriously, guys - you really need to work on that.)

Most recently, I had dental surgery this week. A gum graft, to be specific. (Don't overbrush, kids! And definitely don't Google gum graft.) Approximately half the procedure - about an hour - was spent scraping my gums away from my teeth and bone, which was the single most disturbing thing I have ever witnessed in all my misguided scientific witnessing. Because, naturally, Sure I would! watch the whole thing in the tiny-yet-remarkably-clear reflection on my dentist's protective goggles.

I really need to change my scientific motto to 'Why would I!' - exclamation point rather than question mark so it's clear I don't want an answer. 

The hoped-for bright side to this particular traumatic event is that I will no longer have an area of severely receding gums to contend with. In the meantime, the less-bright sides include a mouthful of disgusting stitches, a mind-full of that disgusting surgery which I do not know why I watched, and a mandatory - disgusting - mush-based diet for the next two weeks. It's been less than 48 hours of mush and I've basically already lost my will to live.

Oh yeah - and still no waxing. Dang.

Free Range Good Eggs

We are fortunate to live in a neighbourhood where it seems unlikely anyone will phone Child Protective Services for allowing one's children to do a little healthy free-ranging. Actually, if you are thinking of having, or already have, children and are committed to some healthy free-range but fear your neighbourhood might not be well-suited to it, call me - real estate here is well priced and the free-ranging is fine. Plus I'm a good person to live near: I won't stop by unannounced; I will bring you food on occasion; and I basically always have the ingredient you're missing. Win-win!

But back to free-ranging. Small Fry is actually experiencing a version of the childhood everyone seems to look back on fondly, but no one seems to be able to re-create for their own kids. He gets to and from the local school by himself, with his own muscles, and he roams and plays freely after school and on weekends with an assortment of pals. What do they get up to for, like, thirty unsupervised hours a week? For the most part, I do not know because I am not there.

From the breathless snippets I do hear, it all seems very wholesome and distinctly boy-ish: there seems to be a lot of soccer, basketball, climbing, digging, and dumpster-diving for "supplies" (for fort construction and boxsledding, natch). Also, interestingly, the occasional cricket match. I hear most of this in passing, usually as an offhand comment Small Fry makes while telling a different and often less-interesting story:

'Wait wait wait - did you just say boxsledding?'

'... A garbage fort?'

'Whoa, what candy stash?' 'Just... in the ground?'

This is all very fascinating to me but I don't want him to clam up so I don't pry, and I try really hard not to intervene. I did learn where I draw the line one day when he popped in 'just to borrow a lighter': I draw the line at accidentally burning anything down. So if this is all giving anyone anxieties (*cough* grandparents who literally never supervised us and we did have lighters, plus your secondhand smoke and no helmets or seatbelts, etc. *cough*), y'all can rest easy now.

Currently Small Fry and a couple of pals are digging a tunnel. I noticed he had been tracking in a lot of leaves and rocks the past few days and asked him to sweep up: 'Oh, sorry Mom, I was underground.'

Hm... it may be time for me to request a tour of this tunnel. All kids think they're digging tunnels, but  given Small Fry's admirable dedication to digging efforts in the past, I suspect I might have to shut down operations and - as I understand this possibly-actual-tunnel is located in a public park - perhaps provide an anonymous 3-1-1 tip.

Probably none of this seems terribly surprising - Small Fry is a nine-year-old boy, after all. So in closing, I offer up the free-range story that I think speaks best to the secret, rich emotional lives of kids, and one that couldn't have happened without his ranging free:

'How was your day?'

'Well, Dexter couldn't come outside 'cause he has an eye infection and so does his brother and David wasn't home and I couldn't find the twins that I can't tell which is which, so I went to the bus stop and got one of those free newspapers and climbed on top of the shed** and read it.'

Probably thinking of all the other times he's ever tried to read a Metro - which is to say, in the middle of the kitchen floor while I am trying to cook supper and he is supposed to be lining the compost bin with said publication - he paused thoughtfully for a moment, then said:

'It was relaxing. I think I'll do it again a different day.'

** We do not have a shed.
 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Shower Beer and Other Lies

I used to spend a lot of time and energy pretending to like things I didn't. For instance, beer and chicken wings. I don't really like either of those things (yeah yeah, I'm a monster, whatever), but damned if I didn't consume great quantities of them with my pals/coworkers/boyfriends back in the day. I occasionally enjoy a beer or ten these days, but once I discovered wine the gig was basically up.

I remember my classmates in college talking about drinking beer in the shower, and how it was so amazing. Hot shower + cold beer = apparently life-changing awesomeness. I pondered this arithmetic at home that night. Salt and nuts aren't all that amazing on their own, but when you put them together they're unstoppable - or maybe I'm unstoppable, in that I can't stop eating them - so maybe there was something to this beer-shower business? I looked in my fridge. No beer, but there was a butterscotch pudding cup. Maybe it's just something cold and enjoyable contrasted with the hot and enjoyable shower that made it so good? I decided to give it a shot.

Nope. It was either watery pudding in the shower, or regular pudding while getting cold outside the spray. Fair enough, rookie mistake: you clearly need something enjoyable that you don't have to eat with a spoon.

Yogurt tube? Carrot sticks? No and no. So it has to be something you drink, right?

After a couple more rookie mistakes (cup of coffee and glass of wine, respectively), it was clear that you need a beverage that water can't get into and wreck. Then after a couple more semi-pro** mistakes (**by this point I could no longer pretend at being a rookie) (tin of Coke Zero, bottle of Perrier), it became clear that I just don't like eating or drinking things in the shower.

And honestly, why would I? Showers are good enough on their own. Showers don't need butterscotch pudding or Perrier, or even beer - especially beer! - to be amazing. Why would showers add useless fluff, or pretend to be something they're not?

Allow me to clarify a point: I finished college in 2003. I was disappointed by a bottle of Perrier in the shower stall of a crappy motel room in Bow Island about six weeks ago. This has been a very protracted experimental process, to arrive at a conclusion that should have been immediately self-evident. Here is what I should have said to my college classmates all those years ago: Beer in the shower? Sounds pretty medium. I'm just gonna stick to my usual routine of conditioning masks and masturbating and never think about you guys and your beer-showers ever again.

Be yourself, friends. You're good enough just the way you are.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Farmer Pinterest

I've driven all over rural western Canada, and I would sincerely like to know how it is so many far-flung folks all got together and decided to put up No Hunting tires. Also boot (or sometimes hat) fences, and motor vehicles on sticks. Seriously, is there some sort of Farmer Pinterest out there I'm not aware of? I checked regular Pinterest (gag) but was unable to find the No Hunting tires section, so I'm thinking it's probably on the dark web instead - where all the most insane things in the world are. Or so I've heard.

I've come to think the vehicles on sticks may serve as a warning to other vehicles, much like a head on a spike: don't mess with *this* farmer, or else! Sure enough, there's always a car graveyard of varying size out back somewhere, so you KNOW they're serious. Heck, maybe that's what the hat/boot fences are, too. Dude had one too many treasonous rubber boots for his liking and he is letting the rest of his footwear know the consequences, lest they try any funny business.

Cool thing about the Farmer Pinterest is how accessible the crafts are, compared to regular Pinterest. Guess that explains why you never see Farmer Pinterest Fails, 'cause how could you fail at nailing weird crap to a fence? I have definitely had footwear let me down at inopportune times in the past - I, too, could have a boot fence! Actually I'd probably do more of a mixed-footwear fence; what's Pinterest if not a jumping off point for your own creative take, right? I would hammer up the flip-flop that broke on me while I was touring a lava field in Hawaii - bastard hurt my foot, nicked my pedicure AND the spare shoes I had in the car didn't go well with my outfit. Your sole on a spike! Let this be a warning to your rubba slippah brethren!

Hiking boots that leaked water too early in the field day for my liking? On the fence! Those cute little Sketchers slip-ons that get so unbearably stinky that you can't even wear them? Fence! Every pair of painful heels ever?** Fence! I hate running; why do I even have these? Fence!

Wow, now I can see how that caught on - the power is intoxicating! Surely no shoe will ever dare betray me again. Thanks for the great craft ideas, Farmer Pinterest! I think next I'm gonna make a No Pooping tire to warn off the neighbourhood cats, and although I'm not really feeling the vehicle on stick thing, if the food processor ever craps out I'll definitely keep it in mind.


**(Dear shoe collection: you know I'm only teasing, my beauties. Mommy loves you.)

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Zucchini Week

Well, it's that 'OMG what am I going to do with all this zucchini?' time of year again. As well as 'Why didn't I write down what I did with it all last year?' time. So this year, guess what? I am writing (typing) it down: here is our menu for this week, with links to some yummy recipes as a starting point if you need the inspiration.

By my calculations, a family of four can burn through 5-6, toddler-sized zucchini in a week following the below plan. If you happen to need some help scaling your own personal Mount Zucchini, then you're welcome. If you do not currently need such assistance, you may want to check your doorstep on Saturday...

Sunday: chocolate-zucchini loaf (you probably already have a good recipe kicking around - use that) (make extra)

Monday: roasted corn and basil soup with zucchini-corn fritters and chipotle aioli

Tuesday: Thai coconut chicken with peanut dipping sauce, green papaya salad (made with shredded fresh zucchini instead of green papaya - trust me), and coconut rice

Wednesday: German potato salad (oh yeah, we also have a ton of taters in the garden this year, and they are ah-mazing!), sauteed zucchini and grilled sausages

Thursday: Italian meatball soup (drop smallish, fresh meatballs into boiling chicken or veggie broth and simmer 'til cooked, then add flavoury stuff and whatever zucchini, tomatoes, basil, beans, etc. that are overflowing your garden and cook until tender) with crusty bread

Friday: stuffed zucchini (cut one large zucchini or several small ones in half lengthwise; stuff with whatever sounds delicious; bake, or roast on low heat in the BBQ, 'til zucchini boats are fork-tender)

Saturday: wrap large zucchini in a swaddling blanket and drop on neighbour's doorstep, then order pizza. You deserve a break.

Sunday: commence Tomato Month!

Keep fighting the good fight, my gardening friends!
  

Friday, July 21, 2017

The Wonder Years

When Medium Fry was wee, she had this funny manner of gazing off past your head and saying oddball things in a soft, dazed sort of voice. I have loads of hilarious quotes of hers jotted down on sticky notes, and I can still almost hear her spacey little way of saying them. I remember her telling me about Wonder Woman once (cue distant eyes and dreamy voice): "She wonders about tings a lot."

In comparison, Small Fry has been less "quotable" and more "damage control" - there have been fewer sticky notes with him, but more empty wine bottles. With Medium Fry it was all dazy weirdness but with Small Fry everything has been lightning fast, and just as unpredictable. He once body surfed a pallet of Wonder bread at Superstore.

It happened instantaneously. He couldn't possibly have formed conscious intent in the time between the photons reaching his retinas and when he was suddenly sailing through the air, limbs arched back like a skydiver, into the welcoming arms of a dozen pillowy loaves - it was pure instinct. As was my reaction: horrified gasp; back-of-the-shirt-kid-handle hold; flee. I used to work in a bakery so I'm pretty sure the Wonder bread eventually reconstituted itself into loaf shapes - we tested it; that stuff is indestructible - but I swear the incriminatory imprint of a toddler in a flat of bread haunts my dreams to this day.

I used to think the term "wonder years" meant the years were wonderful, but maybe Medium Fry had it right all along: since having kids I wonder about tings a lot. For instance, "I wonder if we're going to survive this?" Which eventually transitions to, "I wonder how I'm screwing up my children?" And after a few years of that, you get into, "I wonder what the hell is wrong with my children?" (Honestly, did I drop you or something? I mean, everyone drops their kids a little, but like, did I really do some damage at some point and just not notice 'til now?)

(Furthermore: "I wonder if anyone saw that?" "I wonder if anyone realizes the embarrassing kid is mine?" "I wonder what these people must think our home life is like?")

* * *

I passed a Wonder bread delivery truck the other day on the highway. I was driving along grinning like a fool for who knows how long before I even realized why: the Superstore incident is pretty funny - in retrospect. As were the barfing-in-the-pool incident, and the grating the carrots incident, and innumerable other incidents over the years that gave me a serious case of the wonderings in the moment.

I'm thinking that with a little more time and distance, all of these incidents (and phases, and years) will mature from wonder to Wonder. Maybe that's when The Wonder Years really start.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Other S-Word


It's hard to get things out of Small Fry sometimes; he tends to clam up when he's upset about something. I only deduced that he had had some kind of tiff with his neighbourhood pals when he stopped going out to play with them every day after school. I figured it would eventually blow over, but after about a week and a half of him moping around indoors I finally had to ask what happened.

He wouldn't say. And not just like he didn't particularly care to discuss the incident in detail; more like he completely refused to say a single word and I had to ask ten thousand yes/no questions and interpret his barely perceptible nods/head shakes to figure it out.

Eventually - like, eight thousand questions in - I was able to extract the following: he had been mean to someone, he felt really bad about it, and as a result, he fully intended to never play outside again with his friends for the rest of his natural life. Like, oh my gawd, what did he even do that was that bad, right?! After a few hundred more questions, we came to this:

'Did you call someone a bad word?' *tiny nod* (Aha!)

'Like, a swear word?' *nod* (Uh-oh.)

'Did it start with an F?' *shake* (Whewf!)

'Did it start with an S?' *nod* (Uh-oh.)

'Can you tell me what you said?' *shake*

'If I guess the word will you let me know?' *nod*

'Did you call him a... shithead?' *shake*

'Full of shit?' *shake*

 'A dipshit?' *shake*

'A little shit?' *shake*

'A shit-for-brains?' *shake* 

'A shitstain?' *shake*  

'A shitbird?' *shake*

... And so on and so forth, in ever more creative and obscure (sh)iterations. Eventually, even I - of the famously sailor-y mouth - plum ran out of S-word-based insults. I was stumped.

'Well, jeez louise honey, I am out of ideas. Could you please tell me what you said so we can figure out how to deal with this problem?'

*After a very long pause, and in a very small voice...* 'I told him to shut up.' 

(Oh... shit.) 

'Well, that's not so bad. We can deal with that! But, um, let's just be sure to never use any of those other S-words that Mommy just taught you, okay?' 

* * *

An apology was issued to the little friend Small Fry felt he had been irredeemably cruel to, and as far as I can tell everything is back to normal with him and his gang of pals. Unfortunately, any positive life lessons he might have learned from this were probably outweighed by the exotic vocabulary lesson he received concurrently. It's really a shame someone doesn't tell me to shut up on occasion.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Buyer's Remorse

Small Fry has been derailed slightly from his savings goals lately: the ice cream truck has returned to its evening rounds of our neighbourhood. In addition to its siren song - and I mean literal siren, that thing is crazy loud - I have witnessed the driver stopping directly in front of our house and peering out his window at our front door, waiting for a certain little towheaded someone to launch gleefully down the driveway waving a fistful of cash.

Small Fry is down to his last twenty-dollar bill, and is really struggling with the fact that he spent all the rest of his money on ice cream. Now when the ice cream truck drives by our house, Small Fry holds the twenty in his lap and gazes mournfully at it. There is something about that final, large (to him) denomination bill that is really giving him pause. He knows he can spend his money however he sees fit, but we also had a talk (which will go down in family lore as "the buyer's remorse talk of '17") about losing out on bigger savings goals if you blow all your money on ice cream.

"Can I use your money instead, Mom?"

"Absolutely not, dear. But nice try."

Gotta say, I'm pretty proud of him. Ice cream being a particular weakness of mine, I can totally relate to how he's feeling. It's surely for the best that I don't keep cash on hand. (Just imagine a certain largish redheaded someone launching down the drive with a fistful of cash.)

Speaking of family lore, it's a Dickie Dee ice cream truck (or at least "Dickie Dee" is still partially legible in faded letters on the side), which reminds me of "the buyer's remorse incident of approximately '04" when some poor fool thought it was a good idea to give my little brother a job driving an ice cream bicycle.

It is surely telling that even my kids, on hearing of the buyer's remorse incident of approximately '04, said, "That seems like a bad idea."

Indeed it was: Uncle Matt ate some of his wages. Then he ate all of his wages. Then he ate some of the stock. Then, he presumably said "Screw it," and ate all of the stock. Then the owner called up our mother to inform her of this, and she said, "Well, I could have told you that was gonna happen." I think the entire incident took about 48 hours to unfold.

I can only assume that a marshmallow test wasn't part of this fellow's hiring process. And unfortunately for him, he didn't ask a responsible adult who could have told him Uncle Matt was (obviously) going to eat all of the ice cream, for permission to give the kid an entire three-wheeled chest freezer hella jackpot full of ice cream. Then the guy had the gall to ask her to pay for it!

This is the point in the family lore when I pause to laugh until I can't breathe: this dude clearly had no idea what kind of family he was dealing with.

"So?" the kids asked me, "What did Grandma say then?"

"Well, kids, she told him to fuck off."

(It is surely telling that they didn't even bat an eye over this.)

"And what happened to Uncle Matt?"

"Nothing, really. I mean, he lost his Dickie Dee bicycle job for sure. Maybe he had a stomach ache for a little bit? Actually, you've seen him eat ice cream - probably not even that."   

In retrospect, that story probably doesn't have much of a moral to it, at least pertaining to Small Fry and his current monetary woes. Family lore is like families themselves in that way: sometimes the messages are mixed. I can only hope that the Fries are a little better at dealing with ice cream than their uncle (... and mother) are.
   

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. 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. (No offense, soil - I feel the same 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 our vacation 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?