Category Archives: self-discovery

Things I Learned This Weekend…

Here are a few of the things I learned this past weekend:

1. That we have a new bird hanging around our back deck.  Anna called me on Saturday to let me know that we had a brown-headed cowbird.

Brown-headed cowbird (photo from allaboutbirds.org - couldn't find Anna's photo!)

  

2. That the Habitat for Humanity ReStore has neat stuff.  We went on Saturday morning.  In addition to every building material known to man, there were used books (nothing I wanted for the store though), brand new 1″ binders, used furniture and appliances, and even scented candles!  We were looking for lumber to extend our fence posts higher.  We got two bundles of nine 2″x 2″‘s, 8 feet long for $10 each.  We will string twine between them and put streamers and ribbons on the twine to hopefully prevent the deer from trying to jump the fence.  As the teenage boy loaded the wood into the back of the van, I drew a blank on how to thank him:  He was only about 17, so he wasn’t really a “Sir”.  I didn’t want to call him “Son”, because he wasn’t my son, and I didn’t want to sound ancient.  So I said, “Thank you…dear!” which is what Saint Johners call people that they’re not on a first-name basis with.  I don’t think he heard me… 

3. That Kaylee makes better homemade pizza than her mother (yes, I said that).  We had supper at her house on Saturday, and she made three awesome pizzas using essentially the same dough recipe that I do!  I need to get some pizza stones…

4. That 19-month-old toddlers are great imitators.  Scott set his ice cream bowl down on the floor for the cat to lick, and a couple minutes later, Elise bent from the waist, stuck her tongue out and her bum in the air, and tried to lick the bowl too!  We all wished we’d had a video camera going at the time.

Elise getting fit with mommy's weights...

5. That our van registration expired over a month ago.  As we drove home from Kaylee’s, there were four Rothesay Police vehicles setting up a roadblock…they waved us through.  Jim asked me to check the van registration in the glove compartment just in case…it’s a really good thing they didn’t stop us…it would have been a $185 fine! 

6. That even the deer don’t like Rebecca Black’s song.  When we came home from Kaylee’s house, there were about 5 deer grazing in the side yard.  They stood and looked at us as we got out of the van.  Then Hope had an idea:  she did a perfect rendition of Rebecca Black singing “Friday”, complete with nasal congestion.  All the deer took off running immediately! 

7. That people running extra-curricular programs in our schools expect way too much from the kids (and their parents).  Hope had a two-hour cheerleading practice on Saturday, followed by 8 hours of competition and another 2 hours of practice on Sunday.  Devin spent more than 24 hours at his school on Saturday and Sunday doing backstage stuff in preparation for the upcoming musical.  He’ll be at school every night this week until about 11.  Anna has two 5-hour+ cheer practices this week to get ready for their first competition on Saturday (about 7 hours).  At least, Jim enjoys driving… 

8. That I’m too old to stay up until midnight three nights in a row.  Late nights Thursday, Friday and Saturday led to a Sunday migraine.  I missed Hope’s cheer competition and my sister-in-law’s birthday party (Happy Birthday, Tracy)!  On the plus side, Hope’s team didn’t get any deductions this time (but she managed to leave her track pants and jacket at the host school – we hope to get them back tomorrow!).

Hope in her sparkly eye makeup from the cheer competition…

9. That Anna will do laundry if I’m sick.  She even came up and asked if we had any darks in our hamper she could do for us!  It’s a good thing I was lying down at the time.  Now, if I can get her to pick up her dirty dishes off the family room floor…

10. That the price of lactose-free milk can jump by 25 cents a litre in one go.  We now pay $5.19 for 2 litres (a litre is a little bigger than a quart) of Lacteeze (three people in the family are lactose-intolerant).  We go through about 3 litres of Lacteeze a week, in addition to 4 litres of regular milk.  Thank goodness gas prices only go up 2 to 3 cents a litre at a time!

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Filed under cooking, family, rants, satire, self-discovery

Adventures of a Reluctant Cheer Mom…Wendy Does Zumba…

Note: This is a continuation of a series I started last year during cheer competition season.  Read the first two installments here and here.

Last night, I was dragged  went to a Zumba fundraiser for Hope’s cheerleading team at her school.  Everyone I know who’s tried Zumba raves about it: “It’s so much fun!”  We were told to arrive early, because there’d be a line (there wasn’t).  We paid our five dollars, and got a small piece of paper to write our names on to win a free Zumba class.  Hope wasted no time telling me that she wasn’t going to stand beside me.  “I don’t know you,” she declared.  Apparently, my old blue T-shirt and navy yoga pants (slightly wrinkled) weren’t up to her standards (she should be thankful I didn’t opt for shorts – I haven’t shaved my legs in a few months)!  I did drag out my brand new white Dr. Scholl’s (“I’m gellin'”) sneakers for the occasion!  Nobody else had those!

 I used to work out three times a week…those days are long gone.  Let’s just say I’m no “Skinny Minnie”…the only exercise I get now is walking between the computer and the refrigerator, and chewing.  I love to dance, but I make it up as I go along, much to my children’s horror (I tried to learn the tango once…it was a disaster)!  Looking around the room, I was happy not to be the oldest one there (I was 37 when I had Hope)…some of the cheerleaders had brought their grandmas along.  There was even one cheer dad, whose belly hung far over the waist of his shorts…I really hoped he didn’t have a heart attack during the class!

 As the cheer moms and girls milled about, sizing up the competition waiting for the class to start, we were approached by one of the Zumba instructors…she was about my age and carried a clipboard.  Attached to the clipboard, there was a waiver releasing the Zumba people, the event organizers, the cheerleading team, the school, the school board, and God, from any liability should anyone incur an injury.  This should have raised warning bells for me, but I quickly signed the paper with both mine and Hope’s names (I even remembered to give the pen back!).

At this point, I noticed that both Zumba instructors had little streamers attached to their pants at various points…I wondered why, but kept my curiosity to myself.  The woman who had the clipboard also had something around her hips that I’d seen belly dancers wear:

She wore something like this (photo from Henry G Dance Accessories)...

Finally, it was time for the class.  The older instructor gave us a bit of a rundown about Zumba, and stressed that it takes three or four classes to get comfortable doing it (I beg to differ).  The younger instructor, a tall blonde about nineteen, told us to line up…adults on one side, and kids on the other.  I made sure there was lots of space around me.  Then the hell music started.  Remember the eighties, when aerobics were all the rage?  I used to imitate the aerobics instructors, and my kids would laugh themselves silly!  Picture aerobics, with dance music (salsa instead of disco)…that’s what we were trying to do doing.

Just when I’d just about have the routine figured out (usually halfway through the song), it would change!  I refrained from jumping, as I didn’t want to put an eye out damage my bad knees.  I was clapping at the wrong time, going left instead of right, and flailing my arms helplessly.  My hips refused to move the way the young nymph instructor’s did…if a priest had seen the way she was throwing her booty around, he would have performed an exorcism on the spot (when I was relating this to Jim, he regretted his decision to stay home)!  Those streamers on her pants were horizontal!  When she told us to “shimmy,” I didn’t even try! 

Three songs in, I was breathless, and in desperate need of oxygen water.  Filling my water bottle up beforehand would have been an excellent idea (I had about a quarter bottle left from work).  I waited until the end of the fourth song before hauling my butt across the floor getting my water from my purse (which I’d conveniently left in the far corner of the gym).  I downed it in one gulp!

Luckily, I wasn’t the only one having difficulty…several of the other moms were looking a little winded and bewildered (although the seventy-year-old behind me was whooping it up)!  I hoped that most of them were concentrating hard enough on watching the instructors that they wouldn’t notice how badly I was doing!  Hope, however, could see everything from across the room…if looks could kill, I wouldn’t be alive to write this!

The event was scheduled to end at 7:30, but the drill sergeants instructors kept on going.  At 7:40, I dragged Hope out the door…Anna had to be at her school for a dance in 20 minutes!  For once, I was thankful for extracurricular activities!  In the van, Hope told Jim and Anna about how badly I’d embarrassed her.  Kaylee called on my cellphone to confirm that I was still alive. 

I really hope we didn’t win the free class…I know some of you guys think Zumba is “fun”, but I’ll stick to walking and riding my bike!      

 

 

 

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Filed under satire, self-discovery

What a Difference a Year Makes!

One year ago today, I sat down at my computer and began an odyssey into a strange and wondrous place that I knew virtually nothing about: the blogosphere.  Armed with a desire to get back to writing regularly after a three-year hiatus, I sent my thoughts hurtling into cyberspace.  What a positive and enlightening journey it’s been!

The Readers

If people didn’t read my blog, it wouldn’t have a reason to exist…I am so thankful that each of you takes the time from your busy day to come for tea in Hammond River!  I would like to make special mention of my first blogging buddy, Jane at PlaneJaner’s Journey.  Jane’s been with me since the very first day, encouraging me and telling others about me!  I will always be grateful that we found each other, Jane, and am proud to call you my friend!  When I first started, hits on my blog averaged about 35 or 40 hits a day…now I’m getting 125 to 150 a day!  I’m closing in on 25,600 hits, and 4100 comments for the year!  If you’re a “lurker”, don’t be shy…please leave me a comment…I promise to answer it!

The Community

I really had no idea that there were so many crazy talented writers out there when I started this project…smart, thoughtful, funny people who have taught me so much about good writing!  I have blogging buddies on five continents!  I’m sending all you guys a virtual brownie (I hope nobody’s allergic to cyber-sweetness!)…thanks for “getting me”!  In honour of my “blogiversary”, I have added several new people to my blogroll today (see “He Said”, “She Said”, and “They Said”).  Please take the time to check out their blogs: there’s nothing that makes me happier than hooking people up with great writers!  Many of these folks have been Freshly Pressed, and most are the recipients of multiple awards…Mama don’t allow no junk on her blogroll!

Take two...they're small...I made them just for you!

The Posts

If someone were being really nice, they would probably classify my blog as a “cornucopia” of topics.  Truthfully, I write what I feel like writing…several of my readers have commented that they never know what I’m going to write about next!  I like not being “predictable”…that equals “boring” for me!  Some days, I’m a “mommy blogger”, others I’m a “foodie”.  I write about gardening sometimes, and tell stories about the wild animals that share our land.  Other times, I’m an amateur historian, or relate stories of my own childhood.  I rant…a lot!  I talk about music, and books, and our bookstore.  I’ve dabbled in fiction.  I even took an action figure on a tour of our city!  Changing things up is how I like to roll!

Recognition

Herding Cats in Hammond River has been Freshly Pressed twice by the powers that be at WordPress.  Thanks to the folks there for maintaining a quality blog site…there were a few technical issues last night, but they seem to have been resolved!  My fellow bloggers have been very generous about awards: They think my blog is “Bloody Brilliant”, “Versatile”, “Stylish” and “Memetastic”!  Thanks for the love, you guys!

The Family

I couldn’t do my blog without the love and support of my family…thanks for waiting patiently for dinner while I finish a post (or photograph what I cooked), and letting me make fun of you in public!  With you guys around, I’m sure I’ll never run out of things to write about!

Here’s to another year of Herding Cats in Hammond River!  Thank you, everybody!

Hugs,

Wendy

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Filed under blogging, friends, self-discovery

Rock It Science…Couch Curling for Dummies…

I admit it…I am what’s known as a “couch curler”…I have watched and enjoyed curling every winter for the last 30 years or so (I can’t play because of my bad knees).  It all started when I was about eighteen…I was just coming off my Wayne Gretzky crush, when I stumbled on a Junior Curling event on TV.  It was 1980, and skip John Kawaja from Northern Ontario won it all.  He was gorgeous (Wayne who?)!

John played Third for Ed Werenich's winning 1983 Brier Team...that's John second from the right...photo by Doug Shanks, Canadian Press

Having been made aware of my love for a sport that causes many Americans to scratch their heads and ask “What’s that?”, my friend Todd urged me to do a piece on curling: “Wendy…you really, really, really need to post something about the sport of curling.”  The Brier (the Canadian national men’s tournament – the Super Bowl of curling) was just played this past weekend, and I like my readers to be happy, so…here goes…I present “Couch Curling for Dummies”, a fun guide which will allow you to impress your friends with your vast knowledge of a sport that most people south of the 49th Parallel don’t know exists!

The Game Has Ends and is Called a Draw Even When the Score Isn’t Tied

A traditional curling match or draw has ten ends, which aren’t “endings”, but sections of the game, like innings in baseball or quarters in football (a match can be shorter than ten ends, if one team is getting their butts kicked and forfeits!).  Each team delivers eight stones for each end.  The ends themselves aren’t timed individually, but each team has 73 minutes to throw their stones during the regular game, and the option of taking two 60-second timeouts.  If extra ends are required, they get an extra 10 minutes and one timeout per end to play. 

The Team Has Ends

Each curling team or rink has afront end: the lead and the second.  The lead delivers his two stones, followed by the second, who throws his two.  These folks are the main sweepers for the team, usually the muscles of the outfit.  The team’s back end is where the brains are, the third (or mate, usually only in the platonic sense) and the skip.  The third plays after the second, and offers advice to the skip about team strategy.  The third also sweeps when the lead and the second throw their stones.  The skip is the boss, and is usually the best player on the team (he almost never sweeps, unless a stone needs “extra help” to get where they want it to go!).  He calls the shots…skips need to be both smart and good yellers (see “What the Skip Yells” below).  People who curl nearly always have day jobs…curling doesn’t pay the big bucks like hockey, and players usually travel on their own dime!  Curlers are people you’d run into when you’re getting groceries or picking up your kids at school.  I’ve never heard of a curler using “performance-enhancing” drugs.

The Game is Played on a Sheet With Houses and Hacks at Each End

The sheet is a carefully-prepared patch of ice about 150 feet long by 16.5 feet wide.  Small droplets of water are intentionally sprayed on the ice that cause irregularities on the surface (pebble), allowing the rocks to curl (travel in a curved fashion rather than a straight line).  At each end of the sheet, there are three concentric rings, a red one measuring 4′, surrounded by a white one measuring 8′, inside a blue one measuring 12’…these are the houses, or the targets that the players are shooting for.  In the middle of the house is the button, a one-foot circle which is the bullseye…stones of the same colour closest to the button at the conclusion of an end will score (see “How To Score Points”).  Twelve feet behind each button are the hacks, two rubber-lined holes 3″ from the centre line which give the thrower something to push against with his foot when delivering the throw (he would choose the appropriate hole based on which foot he pushes with).  There are also horizontal lines on the sheet: the near hog line is closest to the hack…the player must let go of his rock before the stone touches the near hog line, and the rock must cross the far hog line (without crossing the back line or touching the sides) to be in play.  The T-line goes through the middle of the house, and is the point where the front end has to stop sweeping once the rock touches it.  Only the skip can sweep the rock after it’s crossed the T-line, and this is also the only point at which the other team can sweep a rock. 

Curling sheet – CL: Centreline • HOL: Hogline • TL: Teeline • BL: Backline • HA: Hackline with Hacks • FGZ: Free Guard Zone (diagram from Wikipedia.org)

Everybody Has A Broom, Rocks, a Slider and a Gripper

Each team member carries a broom, which is really a long-handled brush used to balance when delivering a rock, clean the ice in front of a stone (sweeping lightly), and sweep a rock, which means really digging into the ice in front of a stone while it’s in motion to make it go faster and straighter (this is where the “muscle” comes in for the front end of the team).  The rocks are 38 to 44 lb. polished chunks of granite fitted with coloured handles, usually either red or yellow in tournament play.  A narrow 5″ ring on the bottom of the rock is the only part of the stone that actually touches the ice.  Sliders are slipped over the toe of one shoe of the curlers on their sliding foot so that they can glide easily down the ice when delivering their shots.  The other shoe is their gripper.  Some curlers use curling gloves to grip the rock or the broom more easily.  Players use stopwatches to track rock speed and make decisions about strategy.

Taking A Shot

To deliver a shot, a player crouches and places his gripper shoe in the hack with the stone in one hand (resting on the ice) and his broom in the other.  Aiming toward the skip who is holding his broom where he wants the stone at the other end of the sheet, the player rests his own broom on the ice for balance as he pulls the stone back, then lunges smoothly out from the hack pushing the stone ahead while the slider foot is moved in front of the gripper foot, which trails behind.

The Canadian team taking a shot at the 2006 Olympics (photo by Bjarte Hetland)

Once the rock comes out of the shooter’s hand, it’s up to the sweepers to make sure it gets where it’s supposed to go…the skip tells them what to do.

Types of Shots

Making good shots in curling takes years and years of practice, as well as a steady hand.  Good sweepers help too.

A draw shot is one that is simply sent into play without knocking another stone out.  A freeze is where a stone is shot so that it lands as close as possible to another stone already in play, and makes it nearly impossible to take out.  The draw and the freeze are the precision shots, because they travel much more slowly than the takeout shots, and are harder to control. 

A takeout is one where the shooter is removing another stone in play by hitting it with his own: in a peel, the shooter hits the other stone hard enough that the shooter’s stone will also go out of play (if he wants to blank the end – see “How To Score Points”).  A raise is where the shooter uses the delivered stone to bump another one forward, and a raise takeout is a shot in which the delivered stone bumps a second stone which in turn knocks a third stone out of play (also called a runback).         

What the Skip Yells

1. “Hard” or “Hurry Hard“.  Tells the sweepers to sweep harder and faster.

2. “Offor “Whoa”.  Tells the sweepers to stop sweeping a rock, but not necessarily cleaning it.

3. “Right Off“.  Tells the sweepers not to sweep or clean a rock.

4. “Never“.  This lets the sweepers know that the rock needs to curl and that they should stay off of it.      

Note: These commands rarely work with children or if one is caught in a traffic jam.

How to Score Points – Slide Softly and Carry a Big Hammer

Points are scored after each end depending on how many rocks a team has closest to the button in the house without an opposing stone intermixed (one point for each rock)…with good players, it is rare to score more than 3 points in a given end (common scores are 1 or 2).  The rock closest to the button is called the shot rock, while the next closest one is second shot, and so on.  Only one team can score points in each end.

The team who delivers the last rock of the end is said to have the hammer – this is a huge advantage.  Who has the hammer in the first end is usually determined by a coin toss…after that, whoever didn’t score in the preceding end has the hammer in the next one.  If the end is blanked, the team who has the hammer keeps it for the next end.  If a team manages to score in an end where they don’t have the hammer, it’s called a steal (no one is penalized in this case).

After the Game

Once a draw is finished, the players generally shake hands, gather up their stuff, and get off the ice.  Later, they may stack the brooms, which means socializing with each other or their opponents, usually over a beer or two.  They might also trade curling pins which are often collected by players and spectators alike, and displayed on sweaters, vests and hats.

Pin collectors Roger and Bob compare notes at this year's Brier...photo by Morris Lamont, London Free Press

The next time you’ve got three hours to kill on a winter weekend, flip on a curling game on TSN, and curl up on the couch with some popcorn!  I’m looking forward to watching the PVR of The Brier tonight, even though I already know who won.  I’ll be yelling “Hurry hard!” at Glen Howard’s Ontario team!

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Filed under memories, satire, self-discovery

Talking to Strangers for Fun and Profit…

A note to those who may misunderstand my title, and think I work in radio (like my ex-husband and many of our friends)…unfortunately, radio is fun, but no longer very profitable (and some veterans may disagree on the “fun” part, too)!  I might have ended up doing radio news (I took Broadcast Journalism in college), but I chose not to enter that field.  The “talking to strangers” refers to face-to-face interaction with people I come into contact with in my daily life.

Maybe it’s because of my journalism training that I’ve always enjoyed chatting with people…or, it could be sheer nosiness!  Either way, it is an interesting way to pass the time, and I’ve learned a lot from some of my random interactions.  This practice horrifies my children, however…I can barely get them to acknowledge their school friends with more than a shy smile or a little wave!  When I took Hope to the after-hours clinic the other night, I was talking to a young father whose infant daughter was ill.  I tried to distract the baby from her fussiness by talking to her, and helped the man get her into the carseat.  After they left, Hope said, “Why do you have to talk to strangers?  You’re embarrassing me!”  When we got home, she informed Anna that I was “doing it again.” 

Yesterday, a good-looking guy in his mid-40’s came into the bookstore…tall and well-built, with prematurely grey hair (oops…I just drooled a little on my keyboard!).  As per my habit, I asked if it was his first visit (because I surely would have remembered if he’d been in before!)…he replied that it was, and offered that he was in town from Los Angeles.  We don’t get many people from California in Saint John, New Brunswick, except The Jolie, and the occasional cruise ship passenger, so my next question was “How did you end up here?” 

Tall Guy answered, “I’m a musician…we’ve got a gig here tonight.”

“Oh, which band are you in?” I asked.

You could have knocked me over with a feather when he replied, “The Goo Goo Dolls. ”  We’ve had celebrities in the store before: comedian Ron James, Vinyl Café host Stuart MacLean, and the Canadian rock band Alexisonfire, but to have somebody from an internationally-known rock group find our little store is pretty amazing (he found us on Google)!

I quickly picked myself up off the floor and responded that I had almost bought tickets for their show for Jim for Christmas, but he preferred to see the Classic Albums Live tribute to The Who that we went to last month.  Casually, Tall Guy said, “I can probably get you in.”

“Seriously?” I asked eagerly.  Those tickets were going for $49.50 each before service charges!

“Really!” he answered.  “Give him a call and see if he wants to go.”  So I did!  Jim was excited too!

Tall Guy spent a fair amount of time looking at our books, while I chewed his ear off.  I asked what he played…he responded modestly that he was “just the drummer.”  He told me about their shows in Newfoundland, and mentioned that his wife back in L.A. wasn’t very happy about him being gone on Valentine’s Day.  He would be back home in a couple of weeks though, and then off for a month.

My euphoria was disturbed when Tall Guy’s phone rang with a text message…he had to go back to the hotel and make an important phone call he’d forgotten about.  I gave him my card, and he promised to leave some tickets in my name at the door.  I got Tall Guy to sign our guest book, and took his money for the book he bought (World War I history)…he didn’t even make it into the room with the art, music, and literature…I’m hoping he might order more books from our website!

Our celebrity's signature...

After he was gone, I Googled Mike, because I couldn’t read his last name (Malinin)…in the course of my stalking research, I also found out that Mike was a marathon runner.  How cool is that?  A drummer for a rock band and a runner!

Goo Goo Dolls watch as guy from Virgin Records cuts a ribbon...Mike is the hunk on the left...(photo from justjared.buzznet.com)

*****

Showtime was 7:30 p.m.  Despite our best efforts, Jim and I didn’t make it to the Saint John Trade and Convention Centre until 7:15.  The line for General Admission snaked out into the neighbouring mall.  Most of the people waiting were half our ages.  Luckily, the queue moved quickly, and soon we saw a special table at the door where a woman had a box full of envelopes.  I left Jim to hold our place and hurried over to her.  “I’m Wendy M.,” I said.  “Mike the drummer left me a couple of tickets.”  The woman shuffled through a pile of white envelopes and pulled one out with my name on it.  She opened it, and discovered two triangular Goo Goo Dolls sticker passes with “2/14” and “A.S.” written on them in permanent marker.  I was excited, because I surmised that “A.S.” stood for “After Show.”  The woman told us to just go on in and take our seats…we did, after carefully applying the stickers to our chests (we had a little trouble freeing them from the backing paper…I think they were “boomerproof” stickers). 

Our passes...

The opening band, Crash Parallel, was a group of young Canadian guys based in Toronto.  They could sing; they could play; and they were suitably enthusiastic.  I particularly enjoyed their cover of Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” (Genesis was one of the first bands I ever saw live, back in 1981).  During the intermission, we chatted with two other couples from our generation who were seated near us (one fellow worked in Emergency at the hospital, and has put multiple casts/splints on my girls!).  Yes, children…I was talking to strangers again!

Jim took this shot with his phone during the show...despite my demonic grin, I did not just consume a small child...

Finally, the Goo Goo Dolls took the stage.  Most of their material was new to me…in their heyday in the late-90’s, I had already stopped listening to mainstream radio.  The youngsters at the show felt the need to stand in front of the stage, so we spent the rest of the time on our feet (which was tough on my almost 50-year-old body!).  My favourite Goo Goo Dolls song is Iris:

After the show, we filed out into the lobby…we walked around and asked several people whether they knew what the “A.S.” meant on our passes.  No one did (not even the burly security guy with the headset), and it didn’t appear that there was an “after show.”

We went home…I’ve decided that “A.S.” stands for “Amiable Stranger.”  Thanks, Mike, for the tickets!  Sometimes it pays to talk to strangers!

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Filed under family, friends, music, rants, satire, self-discovery

It’s Not My Style…

This past Saturday, my friend Amiable Amiable at Big Happy Nothing passed me The Stylish Blogger Award.  My friend, AA, is very sweet (be sure to check out her highly amusing blog!), but clearly delusional in bestowing this honour on a woman whose children have threatened kindly offered to suggest Style by Jury do a makeover on her (“They’d give you brand new pearly whites!” says Hope, hopefully).  Nevertheless, being the gracious sort (and not wanting to hurt AA’s feelings), I am proud to accept this award, and pass it along to other deserving bloggers.

Stylish Blogger Award

 

The requirements I must follow as an award recipient are as follows:

1. Write seven things about myself. 

I’ve decided (since I’m likely to repeat myself in my advanced age) to share with you seven little-known facts about me and my lack of style (Stacy and Clinton from What Not to Wear dream of getting their well-manicured hands on someone like me!). 

2. Present the award to six bloggers.

There are few people on my Blogroll who I haven’t already picked on honoured with various awards, but I will offer up some of my latest additions for your perusal.  I may lack that “je ne sais quoi,” but I’ve got a whack of stylish writers on my Blogroll!

3. Contact those people. 

Will do (just as soon as the post is up!).

4. Create a link back to the person who honored me. 

Done!

Seven Fashion Tips/Facts About Me I Hope No One Chooses to Follow:

1. My first (and second pair) of glasses were cat’s eyes: the first pink, the second blue.  I was seven…I thought they were cool!

Me with my Aunt Nancy's ponies, ca. 1968...a fashion plate even then...not!

2. I made my own halter tops in junior high from a simple trapezoid shape with drawstrings strung through the top and bottom…I was a 34A until I was 16. 

3. My parents didn’t have much money when I was growing up, and I bought all my own clothing from the time I was fourteen.  One of the things I desparately wanted was a pair of Levis jeans.  One day, a local store advertised in the newspaper that they had Levis for $3.99.  When I got to the store, the “on sale” jeans were actually cords, and they were burnt orange in colour.  I bought them anyway. 

4. In Grade 10, I recut a pair of hand-me-down bell bottom jeans (remember the really big bell bottoms popular in the mid-70’s?) and sewed them into a long granny-style skirt…I spent the rest of the year tripping over it!

5. I was not a “girly-girl” in high school, and rarely wore regular-length skirts.  Girls had to wear skirts for band though.  I found out (from a photograph in the yearbook) that I had played my flute in a band concert sitting in the front row with my legs wide open (lucky that I wore granny panties then, just like now!).

6. Before I had kids, I used to have money to buy shoes.  Shoes in Canada were always more expensive than they were in the U.S., so I’d wait until we went to the States to visit relatives to make my purchases.  On one such trip, I was thrilled to find a pair of pointy-toed suede cowboy boots for only $38 (they would have sold for over $100 in Canada at the time).  Some unkind people referred to my prized boots as “pickle-stabbers”!

7. In college, I went through a brief period where I wore hats all the time (it was the early ’80’s).  I built up quite a collection before I came to my senses and realized I wasn’t a “hat person.”

My Six Stylish Blogger Nominees:

The proper words in the proper places are the true definition of style.

Jonathan Swift

I have chosen my victims winners with Jonathan’s quote in mind…please check them out if you don’t already know them:

1. Another Stir of the SpoonJeanne and her husband, Curt, write one of two wife-husband blogs I follow (and they’re just as crazy about birds as Jim is!).  It is an eclectic mix of food, art, gardening, books and nature.  Just today, I learned about “real” ramen (as they do it in Japan), and “shino” glaze on pottery!

2. EduClaytion. Clay is the history professor we all wish we had in college…he makes history and pop culture fun!  There’s a rumour that the look of the “Flynn Rider” character in Tangled was modelled after him…the real Clay is definitely cooler and smarter than his cartoon twin!

Flynn Rider from Tangled…

3. Jumping in Mud Puddles.  I discovered Vickie after she was Freshly Pressed in mid-December…I kept reading because she cracks me up!  Vickie’s a fourth grade teacher in West Virginia.  One of my favourite posts of hers involves a lost ring

4. Life From the TrenchesAmy used to write mostly about etiquette, but has expanded the scope of her blog in anticipation of her imminent return to the “away from home” workforce.  She recently took up a challenge presented by one of my commentators to do a post on flatulence etiquette (we may collaborate on a book, but don’t hold your breath…or maybe you should!).  Amy handles whatever she writes about with good sense sprinkled with a liberal dose of humour!  
5. Loose Leaf NotesColleen is a poet, photographer, journalist, and a grandmother in Floyd, Virginia.  She shares my love of music and tea.  You never know what you’ll find when you visit Colleen…one of my favourites of her features is Thirteen Thursdays.
6. Reinventing The Event HorizonKathy is an artist and creative writing teacher currently living in Haiti with her partner, Sara, who works with a NGO doing relief work.  Kathy accomplishes the seemingly-impossible task of finding beauty in the ruins of a country devastated by poverty and a series of natural disasters.  Her writing is always thought-provoking and honest (she will probably be honestly horrified to discover she’s “won” another award…she just got the Memetastic Award…more homework!).
I’m off to dust off a spot on the mantel…maybe we should get those fireplaces working again! 

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Filed under blogging, friends, satire, self-discovery

Flax, Fishing, Flickr, Flatulence, and Frustrations…But the Alliteration Stops Here…

It’s been another “can’t get out of my own way” week…here are some of the highlights:

1. Flax.  Spurred by my friend Suzanne’s success with homemade bagels,  I decided to give them a try.  I make bread a lot, but have only tried to make bagels one other time (with disappointing results!).  I eat a bagel (with jam) every morning for breakfast…my favourite flavour is “Sunflower Flax,” so I looked for a recipe for Flax Bagels online (thank you, Kristin!).  The recipe I used recommended dividing the dough into small balls before forming the bagels by sticking your thumb through the ball and stretching the hole a bit.  The boiling time was also quite a bit longer than Suzanne recommended: 5 minutes (I compromised with about three minutes).  One thing I learned is that I should have loosened the bagels from the cookie sheet right after I took them out of the oven…as they cooled, the sugar water stuck them to the tray like glue (even though I oiled the pan first).  Here are six of my 18 “beauties”:

Flax Bagels...they tasted as good as they look!

2. Fishing.  One of Jim’s work colleagues invited him to visit his ice-fishing hut this past weekend (we wanted to go, but were too busy ferrying kids around – maybe next weekend!).  I’ve loved to fish since I was a kid in Rednersville in Prince Edward County, Ontario…the best part of fishing is digging for the worms!  My younger brother and I would buy fish hooks at our neighbourhood store (2 for 5 cents), and take our rods down to the Bay of Quinte.  Mostly, we caught sunfish, perch, and large and small-mouthed bass…we always threw them back (the only fish we ate then came in stick form, and the Bay was known for its mercury contamination).  One day, I caught a big catfish. Unfortunately, it had swallowed my hook…I tried and tried to get it out (I even went home and got Dad’s needle-nosed pliers!).  After an hour-and-a-half, I reluctantly cut the line, knowing that the fish would probably die…what a decision for an eleven-year-old!  I was a guilty mess for the rest of the day!

The last time I was fishing was about seven years ago, when Hope was five…we took the kids to a Fish Farm, where they had a pond stocked with speckled trout.  You could catch as many as three fish, and pay, based on the weight of what you caught.  Hope has a rather short attention span…she was done in about three minutes.  I took over her pole (Anna stuck with it!).  We got our three fish, and took them home.  Once they were cleaned and filleted (a part of fishing I refuse to do), I stuffed them with fresh mushrooms and baked them in the oven…yummy!

Jim and I got fishing licenses the first summer we lived at Hammond River, but never ended up going fishing…maybe this summer!

3. Flickr.  Anna got a spiffy new camera on the weekend, the Nikon D3100.  The plan is for her to start building her portfolio for her post-secondary education (she graduates in 2012).  She’s been borrowing Jim’s zoom lens and taking photos of our back porch wildlife.  Anna has a new account on Flickr if you want to see more (link also under “Photos” at right).

One of our kamikaze squirrels...someone should tell them that plastic isn't good to eat! (Photo by Anna Matheson)

 

4. Flatulence.  The other day, I was having a spirited conversation with a customer at the bookstore about the beauty of structural details in old buildings.  We were standing in front of the “Technical” section…I heard a series of small explosions as he stepped quickly away from me, excusing himself.  Whoo-eee!  I don’t know what the man had for breakfast, but my money’s on beans!  I bit my lip, trying hard not to laugh…it doesn’t take much to get me going…I wonder sometimes if I was a 10-year-old boy in another life!

5. Frustrations.  We had another snowstorm yesterday, which dropped another foot on us, and gave the kids another snow day, their fifth one this winter (it came at the end of the high schoolers’ exams, and two “turn-around” days, so the older kids had a whole week off!).  Since Jim had a doctor’s appointment in the afternoon, his boss suggested he work from home in the morning.  I decided to take a “snow day” too.  I stayed in my jammies all day, stepping away from the computer every once in a while to break up arguments in the family room (and load the dishwasher with millions of cups and bowls!). 

Jim left for the doctor’s office around two…the snow was a blizzard by then!  He texted me to let me know he’d made it to the office, and then called once he was finished with his appointment.  He advised that he was going to pick up a prescription and then return home.  My dad called at 4:00 from the bookstore to say that he was planning to close early and come home…he wanted to know how the driveway was.  I told him our plow guy hadn’t come yet, but he’d probably make it in if he hurried!  Fifteen minutes later, Jim called to tell me the transmission on the car had died a mile down the road…he was waiting for a tow truck, and directing people around the car, which was still in the roadway.  Luckily, our neighbour who lives in the house near where he broke down invited Jim in to get warm while he waited…he usually wears several layers of clothing (he once went to work with two pairs of pyjama pants under his jeans), but had left the house in a hurry in the afternoon (at least there was a toque and gloves in the car!).  He finally got home about 5:15…the tow truck driver had kindly dropped him off (for just over $140, it was the least he could do!).  So our Toyota is sitting at the transmission repair place in Saint John waiting for parts, in line behind several other vehicles whose parts were delayed by the snowstorm.  Did I mention we just had our van towed to the garage on Monday to have the problems with the power steering and the blower fixed (tally for that is over $1000 so far – they found some rusty lines)?  Thankfully, Jim’s parents will lend us a car until we have at least one of our vehicles back!

I got to bed late last night after a long distance phone call to a dear friend who’s going through a big crisis in her life.  Apparently, I neglected to set my alarm, and woke up an hour late this morning (and spent ten minutes looking for Anna’s cheerleading shorts, and then her coat).  I’m hoping people won’t notice that I haven’t had a shower…

At least I’m not farting…

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I Was a Gretzky Groupie…Happy 50th, Wayne!

As a girl growing up with a younger brother in Southern Ontario (and two young male friends that lived nearby who we played with), I definitely wasn’t a “girly-girl.”  I rode bikes, played cops and robbers, rolled oil barrels across the back yard with my feet, kicked a soccer ball around, threw (and caught) baseballs, and played floor hockey.  I also had a pretty respectable collection of hockey cards, which I would “pitch” at school to win more.  My favourite hockey players when I was a kid were Bobby Orr and Derek Sanderson (because they were “cute”…maybe I was a little bit girly)…my team was the Boston Bruins!  My brother was a Montreal Canadians fan (poor, misguided soul).  I would have played league hockey if I’d been able to skate and my parents could have afforded the equipment!

By the time I was a teenager, my love of hockey had cooled somewhat.  But then Wayne Gretzky came along!  Before he owned the Los Angeles Kings, he was part owner of the Belleville Bulls, our local Junior B hockey team.  And we just happened to live right across the road from the other co-owner!  Of course, Wayne would come over to socialize with his business partner, and I would be happy to get any glimpse I could of my teenage crush (even if it required binoculars to see down the incredibly long driveway…can you say stalker?)!  He was six months older than I was…I planned to marry him!

The eighteen-year-old me...probably daydreaming about Wayne...

One day, I found out that Wayne would be signing autographs at the Quinte Sports Centre, the arena where the Bulls played.  I borrowed my mom’s Pentax camera which was equipped with a zoom lens (she was a professional photographer) and got her to drive me into town.  I took my place in the long lineup, rehearsing what I would say to my future husband as I shot picture after picture of him.

"Man, it's hot in here..."

Finally, there were only two people between me and my skate boy…that’s when his handler announced to the unfortunate people still in the lineup that there wouldn’t be any more autographs signed that day.

"Really? I have to go now? There's still a lot of really cute girls in this line!"

It took me a while to get over Wayne…five years later, I married a radio guy who was an excellent golfer but didn’t play hockey!  Fifteen years after that, my husband and I were separated, but by then, Wayne had married that Janet girl…wonder what he saw in her? 

Happy 50th, Wayne!

*Sorry for the photo quality…these are pictures of pictures!

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Astrological Shock…There’s No Way I’m a Gemini!

I was born July 17, 1961.  I am a Cancer: a loyal, dependable, clingy, oversensitive Cancer.

Cancer (image from sodahead.com)

 

Yesterday, everything I thought I knew about myself was put in doubt as Anna took great delight in telling me that according to an article in the Globe and Mail, I’m not a Cancer…I’m really a Gemini!  This news made me want to curl up in my crustacean shell and wait until some intelligent person corrects what is surely an elaborate hoax on the scale of Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds radio broadcast in 1938!

Gemini...really...does this sound like me? (image from sodahead.com)

However, since I am a “self-sufficient” Cancer, I turned to the Internet for a description of Gemini personality traits:

Gemini

1. Strengths: energetic, clever, imaginative, witty, adaptable.  No disagreement there…I’m definitely all those things!  Modest, too!

2. Weaknesses: 

a) superficial – I’m about as down-to-earth as you can get.  I couldn’t describe your outfit an hour later, because I don’t care! 

b) impulsive –  I think about everything I do, to the point of paralysis!

c) restless – I love to sit and read for hours.  I sometimes get so absorbed, I forget to go to the bathroom!

d) devious – I don’t think so, unless you count scaring my kids by jumping out at them when they come around the corner!

e) indecisive  Ask my family members if I ever change my mind!  Set in stone, I tell you!

3. Independence:  They will not be pinned down by anyone or any rules. They need to experience the world on their own. Change and freedom are extremely important to Gemini.  I have always been very independent financially, but I count on emotional support from people around me to keep me going.  I hate change!  Freedom…meh!…I’m more about commitment and caring (unless it’s freedom from bills!). 

4. Friendship:

a) Gemini make very interesting and exciting friends.  I’m sure none of my friends would describe me as “exciting” on any level…

b) They are very flighty and will disappear for a long time.  “Flighty”?  I don’t think so.  Ask my best friend…we’ve been friends for 41 years.

c) Do not bog a Gemini down with all of your emotional problems, they are not wont to deal with it because it depresses them and steps on their freedom if you need too much long term help, support and follow up.  Complete strangers tell me their problems on the bus, and I try to help them!

d) Gemini is a social butterfly.  I just snorted tea all over the keyboard…I was laughing so hard!  “Caterpillar”, maybe…

5. Business:

a) They make excellent salespeople because their ease of communication allows them to be clever and make a comeback to anything a person says.  I hate selling!  I usually think of clever comebacks the day after the conversation!

b) They can persuade and manipulate very well.  My children don’t do very much that I tell them, unless cash is involved!

c) They can easily justify any move they make and explain any action.  I ate the whole bag of chips because they were there, and I think that “round” is a good shape!  Not good enough?  Okay…I guess I’m just a pig!

6. Temperament:

a) They can be compared to a wound-up spring as they attempt to absorb everything they can about their surroundings at once.  I’m one of the least observant people on the planet…you could have a live parrot on your shoulder, and it might take me ten minutes to notice!

b) The fact that they enjoy various situations and people add to their nervousness and that means they are almost constantly wound up. However, if they experience boredom and have nothing to survey, they get the same emotions, the need for excitement and variety.  Yup, that’s me…I’m going sky-diving next week, because I’m bored…NOT!

7. Deep Inside: One downfall of Gemini is their superficiality. Geminis can have feeling of discouragement and moodiness although they never allow this to be seen by anyone but their closest friends or family. Gemini usually want everyone to think that they are always happy and doing wonderfully and stress never affects them.  Have you read my blog?  Apparently, you’re all my “closest friends”!

8. Gemini in a Nutshell:

a) They are brimming with energy and vitality.  Yup…I’m off to run that marathon, right after I finish crocheting this afghan!

b) They are always in the know and are the one to see for the latest juicy gossip.  I am so out of the loop, it’s pitiful!  I found out my daughter was pregnant on Facebook!

c) Routine and boredom are Gemini’s biggest fears.  If things don’t go according to my preconceived plan, I get very upset!  Routine is the cornerstone of my existence!

So, it’s settled…I can’t possibly be a Gemini…it’s completely absurd!

I’m just glad I’m not one of those former Scorpios or Sagittarians who’s saddled with being a “Ophiuchus”!  Medical researchers are currently working towards a cure for that…

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We’re Taking Back Our House, Kids…

Long-term readers of Herding Cats in Hammond River are probably aware of my love for the ABC sitcom, The Middle.  I wrote about their Mother’s Day show here:

https://writerwoman61.wordpress.com/2010/05/06/just-call-me-wendy-for-one-day/

I don’t think I’ve laughed as hard or as loud at a show as I did at the episode of The Middle that aired last night!  I swear that ABC has video cameras hidden in my house…this program is my life!  Here’s a video clip (please watch – it’s essential to the post):

http://abc.go.com/shows/the-middle/video-detail/featured/catering-to-the-kids/pl_PL5539592/vd_VD55105136

Sadly, Jim and I are “Mike” and “Frankie.”  We spend most of our time making ourselves crazy/miserable/tired so that our children will be “happy”…I don’t think they appreciate how much we do for them!  We do their laundry and dishes, spend massive amounts of money to feed and clothe them, and drive them anywhere they want to go.  When we plan meals, the menu’s based on their likes/dislikes, not ours!  We listen to their music (they whine when we put ours on) and watch their TV shows (seriously, people…how long can one watch Family Channel before losing one’s sanity?)!  When the kids tell us they need something for a homework assignment (that they’ve known about for weeks), it’s usually the day before it’s due…we drop everything and run to the store to get the posterboard/modelling clay/three-humped camel that they need for their project.  We used to get away twice a year for a long weekend without kids…there were no trips for Jim and I in 2010…we were too busy and too broke (although somehow we managed to scrape together the money to take them to PEI for three days, and go to Sandspit and the go-cart park)!

I spent three hours folding laundry (there were 10 loads or so) on SUNDAY night.  Mine, Jim’s, Devin’s and my dad’s clothes are put away.  Four days later, the neatly-folded girls’ clothes are still taking up two chairs in my living room!  I refuse to cave this time…they’re putting them away, not me! 

When I came home from the store on Monday night, the dishwasher was full, and still had not been run (it was full when I left in the morning).  “You didn’t tell us to run it, Mom!” Anna protested.  Really?  Three teenagers home all day, and nobody thought to turn it on?

Since Tuesday, Jim has been getting up early every morning on his week off to take Devin to driving lessons (to be fair, this was Devin’s mom’s idea, not his!).  I’m sure Jim would rather sleep in…

Tuesday night, I went to the kitchen to get a glass…there was a lone plastic cup in the cupboard, which normally houses in excess of two dozen drinking vessels!  I’m sure there are dirty glasses in every room in my house, except the kitchen!  The same people who hoard sticky, crusty glasses in their bedrooms will be the ones complaining when the dishwasher doesn’t get them clean! 

Yesterday, Jim spent the day installing the new computer he built Dad for the bookstore.  We went out for lunch (to a place which doesn’t serve its food in cardboard containers)…it was glorious!  It’s been way too long since we did that!  We’re going out again on January 22nd to a concert…no kids then, either! 

So…I’m drawing my line in the sand…things are going to change around here, from now on!  I urge other parents of teenagers who find themselves in this rut to stand up with us and take back your houses!   

We’ll start with dinner tonight…guess what, girls?  We’re having fish, because Jim and I like fish!  If that’s not good enough for you, there are Pizza Pops in the freezer…the microwave’s over there!  After supper, we’re going to watch Eureka on the big TV in the living room…and then maybe we’ll put on a record and dance…flee to your bedrooms if you must!

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Filed under family, food, rants, satire, self-discovery