Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Cranky Book Reviewer Presents: Holiday Music

(Yes, yes, the CBR now does music, too. I am a one-stop cranky person.)



Pet peeves: artists that release one or two really, really good, well-written or arranged Christmas songs and then decide to release a whole album, by filling the rest of it with trock.*







A prime example is the Barenaked Ladies' Barenaked for the Holidays. They have an absolutely gorgeous, unique mashup of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings", with Sarah McLachlan. And one or two cute original songs. And a few very low-effort carols with no fancy arrangements or anything even vaguely special about them. And -- the worst! -- a few fillers of someone playing carols on the old Casio, complete with auto-drums and everything. Terrible.







Enter the Best Holiday Album by One Artist in Recent Years and/or Possibly Ever: Sarah McLachlan's Wintersong. It's a beautiful, beautiful compilation of traditional carols re-mixed (for example, she gives "What Child is This?" a new melody) as well as some of my favourite "contemporary" winter songs, like Joni Mitchell's "River" and Gordon Lightfoot's "Song For a Winter's Night", which is the most haunting version I've ever heard. She gets an A+ for originality and all-around awesomeness.
















And Merry Christmas, every one.















*Terrible, Rotten, Overly-Crappy Kitch.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Chances are...

So, walking to work this morning, I selected my "Keep It Down" playlist, and put it on shuffle, even though I sort of wanted to hear the first two songs most. (Background: it's a mix of 42 laid-back songs and is delightful.)

The first song to come on was "Alive" by Edwin, which was the first song on the playlist!!!

What are the freaking chances of that?

(1 in 42)

Ok, not crazy/out-there, but still impressive.

But wait!


The next song was "Angie" by the Rolling Stones. Which is the second song on my playlist.

Ooooo....


Now, people who are good with stats (anyone remember the Destiny Dice?) would say that it's STILL just 1 in 42, but the way I calculate it (hey, MIT, why don't you return my calls?), to play those two songs in that order, the chances are 1 in 1764.

That's pretty freaking awesome.

And then I thought, there's a better chance that maybe I didn't push "shuffle" after all (1 in 2) and perhaps my awe at life, the universe and everything is really because I'm not very bright and/or coordinated in the morning (1 in 2).

The next song came on, by Blue Rodeo.

Oh well, I thought. There goes the incredible what-are-the-odds moment, as the third song on my playlist is "Bad Timing" by Blue Rodeo (is anyone judging me yet?). Which means that there aren't crazy-huge odds. There are only toe fingers.

But wait! It wasn't "Bad Timing"! It was "Five Days in May"!

So, I stand by my 1 in 1764... which is a powerful square number, being 42 x 42... which makes me think there is some meaning to this life after all...

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Iced: File that one under "Experience"

Much like, say, having a baby or having a second baby, a lot of things out there sound like they'd be really fun, or a really good idea, or totally awesome, but then end up being really, really not awesome at all. In fact, almost everything bad that has happened to me (see above) has started out as a good idea at the time.

This is one of those things.

My coworker, Matt, told me about a "game" that he and his buddies play, in which you hide bottles of Smirnoff Ice. If you come across one of these hidden bottles, you must get down on one knee and chug it, immediately. He said that, the last time they went camping, by the end of the weekend, they were all huddled around the campfire, traumatized, afraid to move in case they found another one.

Don't ask me where the "taking a knee" comes from, but it totally adds to the cachet of this game. Which sounded like the Best Game Ever. And which we have agreed to call "Icing" or "Getting Iced".

I even brought some Ices to work (clinking all the way), and, with the help of my supervisor, planted one in a top-secret briefcase (the kind that comes with a key, but no handcuffs, alas), and set up my coworker to open it. He refused to drink it at work (something about getting fired), but proclaimed us the coolest office on the planet.*

SO, I told my Mystique cottage cohorts about it, and we all agreed that it would be super fun! What a great game! We'd each bring tons of Smirnoff Ice to the cottage weekend in July, hide them about, and let the hilarity ensue!

Fast forward to last weekend, in which I finally Iced Matt for real. It was a quasi-elegant Christmas soiree at my boss's house, and we were all drinking a wee bit (I'd only had 2 1/2 glasses of wine, honest). We tricked Matt into grabbing something out of my bag... and lo and behold, it was a nicely-chilled Ice. I must say that he rose to the occasion, took a knee, and chugged it forthwith. It was quite impressive, really.

Until it was time to go home. Chris and I had our coats on, saying our goodbyes, and Matt handed my bag back. He said, "Are you sure it's yours? Does it have your stuff in it?"

Yup, an Ice. Down I went. And ... sipped it embarrassingly, with my pinky in the air. I can't even chug water (probably due to an overactive epiglottis**) so I did what I could. I made it through about a third of that sucker, pausing way too briefly between each dainty sip, before I was rescued - due to pity or disgust I don't know, but it was the worst third of a drink I have ever drank. It was TERRIBLE. It is NOT a fun game.



Five minutes later, I felt like I had done 6 shots. I babbled to Chris the whole way home, and forgot to drink water before I went to bed. The next morning, I was dry-mouthed, slightly nauseous, and headachey.

But I vow, and I vow it publicly: this is not over. It is NOT a fun game, but it's a game I intend to win.



* Still have them. My snack drawer clinks suspiciously, but I keep them just in case.

** I've never had it professionally tested (by an epiglottiologist, of course), but I wonder if an official diagnosis would count as a disability? "I am epiglottically challenged".

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Thirty Days (too many) Hath Movember

What. A. Month.



How many days can one go without kissing the man one is married to, even if he resides in the same house and he sleeps in the same bed and one sees him every day?


Thirty, if he's sporting a mustache. Especially one that looks like this:









(shudder)

It's not even an ironic mustache anymore. It was cropped to military standards the day after the original (and ridiculous) photos were taken, and it just looked like a Very Serious Mustache, and made Chris look Very Serious all the time. Which is no fun.


Often he would say things, and I would respond with, "That's just The Mustache talking. You don't really mean that." And he would say, "No, I really mean it." And I would say, "Quiet, Mustache. I want to talk to Chris now."


All this to say that Movember has been very challenging on all sides. It must be hard to live with someone who won't kiss you and mocks your manly upper lip at every possible opportunity, even though she thinks she's funny...


But huzzah! To everyone's delight (except for Vaughn's; he thought it was a grand mustache), it was shaved off this morning, and Chris looks like my Handsome Prince again.


Prostate cancer received a nifty donation, of course. Aside from that, lettuce forget this ever happened... for the next eleven months or so.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Hough Hash: Redemption





It was girls' night again, and with the boys out of the house getting all handsomed up with haircuts (and a visit to the "hamburger store", too!), Ailsa and I had the place to ourselves. It's amazing, looking back over the past 17 and a half months or so, how little time I have spent with just her, one-on-one. She's quite a delightful creature!

Last night, we played, "I'm gonna get you!" ("cachoo", as she calls it), in which I chase her and she squeals and totters away as fast as her little legs can take her, and then I grab her and squeeze her and give her kisses. And then I put her down, she says, "cachoo" and it starts again. We also read some stories, mixed up dinner and... waitaminute.



For some reason, the boys got to go to the Hamburger Store, and we were left to fend for ourselves? That's not fair! Especially when I looked in the fridge and saw just what was in there: nuffin.




This was a moment for more Hough Hash TM!*


(And this time, I did it right, as my associate will attest)











Melt (unmentioned amount; let's just agree that it was lots) butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 onion, finely chopped. Let soften, then add 2 small potatoes, diced. Stir occasionally, and cook for about 10 minutes until softened and starting to brown. Whisk 2 eggs with 1/4 cup (ish) milk, and add to the pot. Keep stirring till curds form. Add about 1/2 cup grated cheese, mix till melted. Add 1 tomato, diced, and 1 green onion, chopped, at the last minute. Season with pepper. Nom nom nom.








* still pronounced "Who Hash"

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Otherwise Occupied

Well, it seems that my days as a leftie pinko are numbered.

Yesterday, I was leaving a government office downtown, where I had taken a French test that, I hoped, would further my career and allow me to gain a permanent (and impressive) position at the end of my current contract.

I crossed the street, and while I was waiting for the light to change to cross to the other corner, ended up stranded beside an Occupy protester, complete with face covering and megaphone, who declared (into said megaphone): "As long as you have Fashion, you don't need a personality."

Um.

I went through a bit of an emotional rollercoaster.

Phase 1: Irritation. I'm not going to go into how I feel about the Occupy movement as a whole, either as a statement or as something that has been "organized", but I certainly don't need to be judged by some yahoo with a megaphone.

Phase 2: Flattery. Hmm - someone thinks I look pretty fashionable! I was rocking some platform boots, slim black capris, had actually blown-dry my hair... ok, so maybe I don't need a personality, fashion plate that I am. So there, you unkempt person in a mask, you.

Phase 3: Need to Tell-It-Like-It-Is. Yes, I looked good. But despite that, I do have a personality.* And I have an education, and a good job that I've worked hard for, and work hard every day and even put in overtime to perform and meet deadlines. And I have pride.

And what do you have, Mister Faceless Occupy Protester?

You have a megaphone.



* A great personality! Just ask Fis.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Halloweenies: October 2011

This year, I put my order in with Grandma early.






In September, I told her, "Vaughn wants to be a lion."




At the time, he pronounced it "yion", but has been working hard and practicing, and now says the L perfectly. He is also very well aware of what a lion says. Often, you don't even have to ask him.












"Raaaaaaaarrrrr"









Ailsa, being a Second Child, got to be a wee skunkie.* She was taught that skunks say, "Fffttt". She didn't quite get the hang of saying "trick or treat", but was very open to receiving candy and saying "sonkoooo" afterwards.









"Fffftttt!"









All in all, it added up to two beautiful costumes on two adorable kids (oh, the comments and praise and head-swelling...), and quite a respectable haul of candy. There aren't a lot of houses in our neighbourhood that leave their lights on, but those that do aren't stingy at all!






We also ran into the Vanier Beautification Committee, doing a walkabout, to promote safety and community spirit. As much as some days I don't like walking home through all the unsavoury areas, I really love that there is so much passion for turning our community into a safe and wonderful place in which our kids can grow up.






Post-Halloween, the nightly discussion is on how much of the stash we will letting the lion and skunkie eat, balancing between being bad parents who deprive their kids of the candy they worked "hard" for, and bad parents who let their small children eat candy. We're still duking it out between eating it all ourselves and getting fat and... I forget the other option. Pass the rockets.**












Despite living pretty close to downtown, we get a surprising assortment of wildlife in our backyard. Luckily, they're usually quite tame.


















* Guess what she gets to be next year?




** Jenny: we also got a nice amount of crap-in-my-mouth. YAY! Which Chris likes, too. Booo....

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

The Sweetest Sound in the World

Our sweet little Ailsa is now walking briskly like people (almost running!), talking up a storm (last night's favourite word: unnnnyunnnn) (we made tacos, and she tried to fill up on raw onion during the chopping phase) and giving the Best Hugs Ever. (I call them ALF hugs. Picture ALF hugging someone: you see him squeeze them in, and then his hands pat their back. She does that.)

But, by far, her most lovely sound is "Mammy". She'll call for me if she can't see me, say it as a greeting, or even, when being held, smile, stroke my face with both hands and say it. Awwww.

However.

This is a child that can go from full-on unconscious, face down on her blankie, to standing upright and calling "Mammy. Mammy. Maaaaaa. Mammy. Maaaammy. Maaaammmy. Mammy! Mammy! Mammy....."

It's horrifyingly similar to this.

(but still pretty cute)

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Showoff(s)!

In which Very Proud Mommy showcases her Hufflings for fun and profit. Um, no really... where is the profit? With Hufflings so delighful (and talented), the money should be rolling in, non?





First: Ailsa's got the beat.

video



She often pushes a button on a toy that plays a song (it seems like ALL of them play a song!) and then pulls herself to her feet, and dances! Unless the song ends before she gets all the way up, in which case she sits back down, pushes the button, and tries to get up in time. And repeat!



Hey, Grandma! The piano is somehow still working! Greeeeaaat.





Next up: My incredibly talented son introduces a new song which I like to call the "alpha-numero-bet".

video



Vaughn kills me. I especially like that not only does he make the song rhyme, but it ends with a "bum bum bum". Awesome.


(I apologize for the shoddy camera work, but my associate was hanging off my arm the whole time, trying to watch the video on the camera.)

Monday, 26 September 2011

Filthy Little Beasties


Weekend fun at the end of the summer (despite other people's assertions that summer is, in fact, over -- you know who you are! -- and also perhaps the calendar... but it was 27 today, so maybe I'm not crazy after all) (maybe) is all about spending as much time as possible outside.





Getting SUPER dirty.







This is the first batch of carrots and the last batch of beans: after a light steaming, with a bit of butter, they were absolutely delicious - incredibly moreso than the ones you buy at the grocery store.



I also picked up two little polka-dot plants for the kidlets: thought I'd start the idea of taking care of living things early, not to mention adding a bit of air purification in their bedrooms. Step one: transplanting into cute pots!



Oops. My mistake. Step one: mucking about with dirt, rubbing it on face and clothing, and filling various pots with rocks, dirt and water, in no particular order.





Step one could also be taking a break and watching the world go by.





Or watering an unrelated plant. That's ok. It's still free help, I guess!






The finished products, above. These photos were taken 2 weeks ago, and as of this writing, both are still alive. Huzzah!







Hey, isn't that the same plant? Vaughn's watering did it some good! This was taken on Saturday morning, on the way to the playground for good sandy fun.


Vaughn built roads with his dump truck and digger.


The Playground Three pose for their new album cover.


Ailsa goes down the "wheee".




Thank you! Come again!


Sunday, 25 September 2011

DG Soups it Up

In an effort to re-create the best soup I've ever tasted, I bought a can of coconut milk.



Lettuce back up: we went out for Date Night about a week ago... the first date we've had since the martini party (woo), and boy, were we overdue.



We chose Fraser Cafe for location (staggering distance of our house...well, it's a 15-minute stagger, but it counts...) and reputation. We decided to invest saved cab fare into extra awesomeness, and it didn't disappoint.



The kick-off was a silky smooth sweet potato soup - unbelievable texture and flavour. SO good.



Now, far be it from me to think I could ever cook like these guys. Their resumes include Domus, Beckta, and Café Boulud in NY. Mine includes an embarrassing 6-month stint at Tim Hortons, during which time I decided to quit before I got fired, because really, who can mess up Tim Hortons coffee?




Me. I can. And I did, repeatedly. And people who haven't had their coffee yet aren't very kind or understanding.



But I digress. And I present, for your consideration:









Faux Fraser Soup, à la Domestic Goddess



1 Tbs butter

1/2 onion, diced

3 small sweet potatoes, diced

2-3 cups chicken stock

1 can coconut milk

1 1/2 tsp red curry paste (or to taste)

2 kaffir lime leaves

salt




I melted the tablespoon (ish/give or take) of butter till it was bubbly, added the onion and sweet potatoes and let it all golden-ize (actual culinary term, or something) for about 5 minutes. Then I poured in chicken stock (not homemade this time, alas - forgot to take it out of the freezer to defrost) to cover, and let it simmer for about 8 more minutes. I pureed it with my handy blender, added a can of lite (not light, for some reason) coconut milk, the red curry paste, pureed it again, then threw in two kaffir lime leaves that I had lying about (thanks to TP#2). And a pinch of salt.



And voilà. Smooth. Silky. Flavourful, but not too spicy. Divine? Well, it's close.



I rock.







(but don't ask me to make coffee)



Monday, 5 September 2011

Cheese-eating grins





My, what big teeth you Hufflings have!



(note, that is Daddy's beer in the picture)




The better to maniacally grin at you with, my dear!

Sunday, 4 September 2011

The Domestic Goddess gets a reality check

Saturday morning, 8 am.

The kidlets have been fed and are playing nicely (so far), so the DG decides to make herself some toast for breakfast.

The ultra-sensitive smoke alarm goes off, of course.

Vaughn looks up from his trucks and says, "Dinner's ready."

Sigh.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Liff as I know it

It was a good morning, despite 1) a hooker being picked up in front of my house last night and the same hooker being on my street this morning (though I do have to admire her work ethic, I'd rather she stayed up on Montreal Road to ply her wares) and 2) someone walking away with my planter (I had a lovely little urn on my front path, full of bright red geraniums, and it disappeared at some point during the day yesterday). Who does that?

Ah, fabulous las Vanier.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

What I Did on my Summer Vacation



First of all: Summer is NOT over.


But what did we DO all summer? (instead of updating my blog, you mean?)




We played in the backyard! This was Ailsa's first time with her new pool - it was a bit cool to sit in, but great to splash in!







As the summer progressed, and the water was warmer, she warmed up to the idea, too.



Bathing beauty.




I got a haircut! About 10 inches, gone. Yes, I miss it.








Sometimes, it rained. So we built forts!





And here's last Saturday morning: we had gone to the market, come back for snacks (samosas!), put Ailsa down for a nap, and slip-n-slid while the diapers dried in the sun.




Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Life as we know it

Inspired by a post from my a Gorgeous Garrett, I thought I'd give a run-down on what's going on in my world...well, mostly on what's going wrong with my world: the good, the bad, and the too-weird-to-tell-anyone...maybe...


Work
Hey, remember the elevator that I hated? Well, less than a week after that post, I started my new job, as a Civil Litigation Analyst (woot woot) with the RCMP. Title notwithstanding, it is, by far, the coolest thing I have ever been a part of: I love my coworkers, I love the gym, I love the 2km walk to work...

What? You notice that I don't mention that I love the work? That's because, until this afternoon, I have been "working" there without actually working. For FOUR weeks. I have shown up, day after day, read lots of background documents, and waited for my security passes, software approvals, computer repairs...for FOUR weeks. I have also had coffee, gone for Team Runs, gone to the fabulous onsite gym, and generally loved being an analyst without having to analyze anything.

Well, all that fun came to an end today when I finally got everything configured and ready to use, and I commenced the hands-on portion of my work. I lived through 45 minutes of training/assignment/review before my head exploded. Interesting stuff, but there's so much to wrap my brain around...and my brain has been on vacation for 4 years, so it'll be a tough go. I'm game, however. After a good night's sleep. Mebbe.





Food


The DG has not just been battling with backyard foes; no, she has also been busy in the kitchen, whipping up gourmet... well, not really.

But I present to you, for your respect, admiration, and envy, the DG's ultimate-so-far dish*: Eggplant Parmigiana. How awesome is it? It's so awesome that not only will Fis eat it (even though it contains eggplant), but he actually requests it.

I first slice an eggplant into 2cm-wide discs, and dip them in flour, egg, and breadcrumbs (not mixed together!) (oh, and each station is seasoned, of course!), then they dry for a wee bit while I heat olive oil in a large fry pan. Each piece is fried lightly (ha ha) about 4 min on each side, and then placed back on the rack to cool a bit (this usually takes 2 batches). Meanwhile, I whip up a batch of my incredible fresh tomato sauce, sprinkle in some herbs, and pour half of it into the bottom of a greased 9 x 13 pan. I then overlap the eggplant on the sauce, pour the rest of the sauce overtop, and sprinkle on some grated mozzarella, pepper, oregano, and parmesan. It bakes at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, and voila! I maintain my Domestic Goddess status.

What? Now you want my secret fresh tomato sauce recipe? Oh, fine. Buy a can of san marzano tomatoes. Open it. Put your handy blender in the can and give it a whir. Embarrassing, but delicious.

House


Well... I don't want to tell the story till the whole thing has played out, but we're surviving. The contents of our basement are still in my living room (grrr...extra couch and toys) and the kids rooms (toys toys toys), so I can't really see painting or doing much else until we get it all cleared out again. The yard that is driving me crazy is actually looking pretty good, and my vegetable garden (aside from the daily picking-over by backyard resident Sally Squirrel) is providing us with beans, peas, and beets. The carrots aren't ready yet, but I have hope that they'll be orange giants in a month or so...Vaughn and Ailsa weren't impressed when I gave them each one as an "apple-tizer" before dinner...about 2 mm thick and 3 cm long!


We manage to enjoy our yard every Saturday night, with a bottle of wine, a nice fresh baguette, and some local cheese, after the kids are in bed, of course.




Kids


As Ailsa is long overdue for a decent update, here goes: she's talking! Mommy, Daddy, apple, up, hi, bye, hop, cheers (love it!), breakfast, all done, touch (that's her favourite - she wants to touch everything), ball and book. The smart cookie (but stubborn/lazy cookie?) figured out that you only need one sign to get everything, and that is please.


She climbs the stairs (up and down), and can now go up sideways on her feet, holding onto the railings. She can climb onto Vaughn's bed (for bouncing!) and her own story chair, usually with a book in hand. She's ready to start walking, but will only try it when she's holding our hands.


She's a dancer, like her brother...and mom and dad! Even if the music is just a faint background noise, she'll start grooving and smiling. She'll sing to herself in the stroller or the car.


Speaking of dancing, we went to the Vanier Market last weekend (we go every Saturday morning), and there was a DJ and stage set up. Vaughn ran over, climbed up onto the stage, and proceeded to dance...for 25 minutes. I have no idea how he knows 1) what a stage is, or b) what to do on it, but he did, and did he ever! The DJ gave him a good mix of classics like How Much is that Doggie in the Window and Bingo, all the way up to Billie Jean and I Like to Move It. The boy has moves, and he loves his fans. I put Ailsa on there with him for a little while; she wiggled around a bit, but tended to stop whenever she remembered that people were looking at her.




Car


Trevor, my plucky little car, is parked. He still goes, but doesn't really stop anymore, so he's sitting in our driveway till we decide if it's worth paying more to fix the brakes than he's worth, or just to trade him in and take on a car loan (ack).

...so, that's an overview, in a nutshell...




* I have hope that I will improve past this point, of course.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

'Till there was crabgrass

The latest adversary in the Battleground: Backyard series revealed itself to me recently. So, yes, the dandelions are just dandy; yes, the creeping Jenny has crept back underground (for now); and yes, the clovers are still allowed to live and let live... but crabgrass is by far the worst opponent I've faced.

Now, I don't expect everything in my life to be easy (see also: I married Fis): the house issues, which I really haven't gone into here, but which involve flooding, mold, ripping out of basements, a need to re-wire and re-plumb everything, excavation of the foundation, replacement of the drinking-water intake, which was freaking lead, ... have taken their toll; oh, and of course there's the angelic children, one of whom is in Big Boy Underpants! (but not without a year of battling) (and ongoing 2-year-old-ness), and the other one, who although cute and generally pleasant, has now started climbing up and down the stairs, and has a will on her like... well, like mine... drive me crazy on a daily basis ; I also have come to terms that my hair is not ever going to behave itself.

But I digress.

I decided, months ago, that the lawn would be one area that I would have control over. I foolishly assumed that dandelions would be my worst enemy, and celebrated their disposal like a madwoman (sez Fis), but this ramping-up of Killer Weeds, on top of fostering my usual crazed commitment towards complete and total erradication, is also making me nervous. If I get rid of this crabby pest, what's next? It's larger, uglier, and faster-spreading than the previous two nemeses (nemesi?). It's harder to pull out, and sneaks into all sorts of areas of the lawn. The one good thing is that it's easier to spot than the others, being a light green colour. But really, what other nefarious weed is waiting in the wings, waiting for me to do my little victory dance and bring the final load...

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

DG Presents: Dinner for Two

The boys went out tonight for some quality male bonding, involving haircuts and the dreaded Mickey D, leaving the Huff Harem (hardy har har) to their own devices.



Well, I think we won this one: I blended up some basil with 2 cloves of garlic, some parmesan, sea salt, olive oil and almonds (I was out of pine nuts), then boiled some spinach fettucine and chopped some tomato and Oka cheese. Dessert was a fresh, juicy peach.







video





My dining companion was quiet, but delightful. It can only be a reflection of my own ability to keep scintillating dinner conversation flowing: she fell asleep at the table.



PS: Canada Day photos have been added!

Monday, 18 July 2011

Kids and Kazoos

The rehearsals are getting more successful, and the musical revue, "Kids and Kazoos" will be ready to tour in the fall.



(See, Chris? Kazoos were a great wedding favour!)





video

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

An Elevated Sense of Discomfort

The elevators in the building at work (this week, anyway) make me uncomfortable.

It’s not every elevator that makes me uncomfortable; I don’t get claustrophobic (probably from years of being stuffed into small spaces for fun and other people’s enjoyment), and I’m not afraid of heights or falling (probably from years of being launched into the air by (mostly) well-meaning cheerleaders). It’s just the ones in this building. The first time I stepped into one, I was impressed; you see, most of the surfaces in the elevators are reflective: front, sides and back. So, when I was in there alone, I was able to ensure that all was well for my job interview, all hairs in place (it happened once; you missed it), lipstick not smudged, no wardrobe malfunctions in sight…

Unfortunately, the neat-o reflective surfaces add to the discomfort of elevating (and delevating) when there are others in there with me.

I guess after a few years without being exposed to elevators (or escalators – hey-o, Dave!), I might not have a firm grasp on elevator etiquette, but here’s how I thought it worked: you file in, shuffle about awkwardly till you are all facing front, and stare uncomfortably at the number display until you got off on your floor. But maybe things have changed. The mirrored walls reflect people leaning against the sides, facing in, facing the back while talking to their friends, or staring directly at me. For my part, I can’t stare at myself for 9 floors with other people around. It feels self-absorbed (quiet, you!) and vain. And staring intently at the numbers as they flash up and down, when I am clearly the only person doing so feels even more stiff and unnatural.

What’s a girl to do? No, I’m not taking the stairs; that’s silly. I’m changing jobs. Ha!

Monday, 4 July 2011

Canada Day on the Hill! (sort of)

What a beautiful day to reconnect with all that I love about Ottawa!




We woke up with Vaughn babbling about Happy Birthday Canada and cake. Now, to be fair, the Medicine Hat festivities include giant cakes (last year’s were a big bear and a trainset/mountain – gorgeous and delicious), but possibly it comes from the birthday/cake connection, too.








Vaughn’s kept his little flag from last year at Kin Coulee in our car, and every so often, he waves it around and says, “Happy Canada!” In fact, he brought it in to the community centre when we voted at the last federal election – SUPER tacky, but incredibly adorable, too.

I digress.

We got the kidlets all dressed up in red and white, and caught the bus down to Rideau Street. We stayed on as long as we could, then joined the trickle of people as they drifted towards the massive throng on the Hill.



On the way, we stopped to listen to the West Indian band (the one with the pan flute) – it’s down to two members, but it still had Vaughn bopping along. We also saw a Captain Canada…and then four or five more.

We tried to get up to the lawn of Parliament Hill, to see the Changing of the Guard, but there were too many people, and with the heightened security for the Royal Visit, we were also on the wrong side of a traffic barricade. So, off we headed towards Major’s Hill Park. Some nice lady gave Vaughn a helium balloon, and we went along happily until… oh noooooo!…. Chris made a valiant effort to catch it, but it was gone, up… up… up... Vaughn, of course, was heartbroken (his last encounter with a balloon gone wrong was assuaged by handing him the remains and calling it a worm, which he found funny), even with references to Curious George. Poor fellow.

We stopped on the way to watch a busker (Byron from England! Hurray!) perform some fancy fire-juggling, but V was still out of sorts, so we left before the grand finale, which apparently involved a straightjacket, 75 feet of chain, and 6 years of Byron’s life.



In the park, however, things turned around for everyone: free samples (cheese curds! Ice cream! Dr. Pepper!), a ride on a miniature choo-choo train, milking a pretend cow, and two fly-bys by CF-18s and the Snowbirds. We even saw the Cowguys while we waited in line. What could be better than that?*



We danced a bit to Samba Ottawa, ate some chicken, then went back home for a nice afternoon of backyard kiddie-pooling and sprinklering, maybe a cider for Mom and a beer for Dad, and a barbecue feast on the deck.

At nine, we woke the kids up. Being either the World’s Best Parents or the World’s Worst Parents,** we had decided to take them down to watch the fireworks. When out for his run that afternoon, I had tasked Chris with a recon mission for the best spot to watch without being surrounded by the crush of humanity (maybe next year!), so we loaded up two sleepy, pyjammified youngsters, complete with blankies, into the double stroller, hopped on the bus, and stepped off just outside of DFAIT. I was a bit worried about how Vaughn would take them – recently, he’s said that he doesn’t like thunder, booming, nutcrackers, wolves, … you name it. I had prepped him about fireworks ahead of time, but figured that, with the extra stimulation of being outside at 10 pm, this could go very, very badly.

He was a bit tense for the first few (he had a death grip on blankie), but then relaxed – well, sort of. He kept a focused gaze the whole time, but told us that he liked the green ones best. Ailsa, he said, liked the pink ones. Ailsa, for her part, was pretty low-key about the whole experience. I sat her on my lap (some kind Canadians gave me an extra lawn chair), and she’d look at the sky, point, and then whip her head around to look at me, as if to say, “are you seeing this, too?” After a few minutes, though, she cuddled in, and only looked at the sky a few times after that.

What with more street closures (those darn motorcades! My Royal Experience consisted of a lot of police, a black car with a little flag flying on it (and lots of hooting and waving from surrounding people), followed by a lot more police), we decided to speed-walk home. Forty minutes later, we scooped two drowsy little ones back into bed. When I asked Vaughn what part of the day he liked best, he said, “Snowbirds.” Happy Canada Day, indeed.



* Better than that: the Cowguy (Brian) knows my name. It’s almost like being famous, but more awesome. Ok, Cowguy Nick knows my name too, but that’s not from years of stalking, so it doesn’t count.

** Vote now! Take into account that although we didn’t smuggle drinks with us, we really regretted not having done so.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Karen vs the Dandelions (Part Two)

The Lawn Ownership Experiment continues.

Since the last chicane, I have even had compliments on the above-mentioned lawn, in that it was green and suspiciously free of dandelions. I am proud to report that the Army of Dandelion Invaders has been, if not eradicated, then quite squelched and maybe a little bit humbled, too. Last night, during inspection,* I found only three wee little dandelings trying to muster up strength from their wimpy little roots, but hah! I snatched them free and threw them into the composter.

I then stood proud, surveying that which I have tended, 'ere these many weeks...and noticed another foe. There's some kind of little creeping vine (called, I believe, Creeping Jenny), which was beautiful in my front garden, all walled in and contained. But I'm guessing that one of the workmen, while transporting plants from the front yard to the back, dropped a small little tendril -- just one! -- and created my new obsession. Now, let's just say first that I enjoy Jennies of all kinds. I find them to be delightful creatures, in general, but this particular Jenny has to go.

I first noticed it by my side deck - just a few little vines infiltrating the grass. I pulled at one, and it came out, root and all (I think?), leaving a slightly bald patch. And then I saw more. And more. And more. "This is not an effective use of your time," I was informed by a random husband (who shall remain unnamed), as I squatted down and pulled one vine after another out with my bare hands. For an hour. The problem with these pretty little vines is that if you leave one -- just one -- behind, it will spread and take over the entire planet,** choking out your grass and leaving unsightly patches of dirt. So, any time spent plucking is wasted unless I get every last one. Which, I admit, causes me to look a wee bit insane, especially since I keep finding more and more, while squatting down, muttering to myself. I found another large invasion of it beside my vegetable garden. Grrr.

And after a bit of internet research, the prognosis is glum: the scorched earth/clean slate is the most recommended, with dumping vast amounts of chemicals ("natural" or not) a second-best choice. The physical/organic way will take more time, more work, and more of my sanity away, but I'm committed. I'll keep pulling these things out, consarn it! And then I will topsoil and reseed and fertilize*** and blather about it to anyone who will listen! And then I will have a drink.





*Aside: uniform for lawn inspection last night was a nice tie-back work top, ugly beige shorts, pink happy bunny ankle socks (with little happy bunny pom poms), and black sneakers. No, it did not add to my appearance of being sane.

** Oo, fun! The Dictionary.com word of the day is "pullulate". How appropriate!

***Also, I will water it. I discovered that simply "waiting for rain" doesn't keep a lawn green. Vaughn and Ailsa, naturally, are delighted with the sprinkler and the hose.

Superwoman? Where?

...and on the 6th day, she barfed.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Superwoman, Day 4

In all the excitement of Chris being away, starting my new job, wrangling two kids to daycare and back, and house and yard maintenance, I happily added hosting a houseguest whilst caring for a sick kid.

Day 1: As you can imagine, the "new job" bit was a crazy addition to the daily routine (what? no naps?), and the heat wave added a new level of challenge, so when I actually got both kids (dressed and presentable) and myself (quite well put together, if I do say so myself) out of the door and to daycare by 7:59, I was very proud. I got to work by 8:25, and spent the day training, meeting people, writing down everything I heard, getting my building pass,* more training... and was totally drained.

So, by the time I walked the 20 minutes to the daycare, picked up a feverish Ailsa and a cranky, un-napped Vaughn, it was a bit too much. Ailsa had had her 12-month immunizations last week, and I knew this was an expected fever, so I wasn't too worried. She drank lots of milk and water, took bonus cuddles, and went to bed early. Vaughn, however, pushed every button I had (and some new ones, too), and got to go to bed early, too.

As for me, turns out that when I spend a whole day "learning" in the heat, I get migraines. Huh. So, I cleaned the bathroom and kitchen, went to bed early, hoped for the best, and promised to be a better mommy tomorrow.

Day 2: Ailsa wasn't too warm, so off we went to daycare, then to work. A morning full of meetings (trying to understand acronyms and context...ow...), a nice walk to City Hall for the NPSW barbecue, and then another afternoon of process and procedure (and copious note-taking), and I dragged myself through the hazy heat to pick up two kids, one of whom was burning up again.

Ailsa actually fell asleep at the dinner table, and they were both bathed and put down before 7:30. I then did another load of laundry, mowed the lawn, baked a cake, watered the plants, and swept and mopped. Superwoman was in bed by 11:38. Yo.

...but I awoke at 1:40, to the sound of voices. This is not unusual, as my across-the-street neighbours tend to drink a lot and then wax poetic profane on their front porch till the wee hours or till someone calls the police. I peeked out of my window, and there were actually a few guys sitting on what's left of my front lawn, with beer, pizza, and funny cigarettes. Swell. Being cranky, exhausted, and in a nightshirt, I decided that the effort it would take to put on my housecoat, go downstairs, turn off the alarm and open the door to tell them off would not be worth it, especially since, despite my crankiness, the combination of my size and my ducky housecoat is probably not the effective deterrent I'd want.

I drifted in and out of sleep, till my next-door neighbour appeared and told them off, but good. She used her parenting skills to get them to leave. "I'm calling the police in 5...4...3..." - they mouthed back at her, but I was fully awake by now, and had 9-1-1 already on the line, which I informed them through the front window. The police came by less than 2 minutes later.

Ailsa woke up a few times, fussing, sweaty, hot.

Day 3: At 7 am, her fever was still reading 100 under her arm, so I called work, apologized for a poor first-week impression, and took Vaughn to daycare, bringing Feverish Jr home with me. She conked out while I was talking to Telehealth, and napped for a good two hours. During this nap, I cleaned the bathroom again (how are there so many hand- and footprints everywhere again so soon?), and Dave showed up.

With Telehealth's blessing, I loaded Ailsa into the stroller with a lot of milk and water and some good snacks, and we walked to Parliament Hill, through the Market, and all about. Boy, was it hot, but Ailsa was cheerfully lazy, and Dave was a trooper. I created crazy blisters with such a long hot walk in flip flops, but there was nothing to be done about that.

We got back by 3, and Ailsa had a short nap while I prepped my class and Dave watched golf... which made me nap, too. Luckily, Ailsa woke me up in time to go pick up Vaughn. SO, I convinced Dave that she'd be fine with him for 15 minutes, dashed out in my blistered feet to pick up Vaughn, jog-and-strollered him home, just in time to see that our fearless babysitter was already there.

You see, I teach on Thursdays, and when Chris is away, I need to hire a babysitter for the 2 hours that I'll be out of the house. Dave had recommended that he not be the one to babysit them, and I thought I should probably listen to him. So I dashed out again, leaving behind me probably the Most Awkward Situation Ever, taught my class, picked up some bananas, and got home again. Dave was just leaving for a friend's place for the night, so I sponged down the sticky kids, popped them into bed, had a shower, and ate leftover pizza before...oh who knows what I did last night. It probably involved the Mentalist. Oh, and a load of diapers to be washed and folded.

Day 4 (today): I awoke perkily at 5:55; Ailsa was allowed to go to daycare, it was a Friday, Chris was coming home tomorrow, and Vaughn came in to tell me that he had thrown up on his bed.

Sigh.

I called the office (to recap: in 4 days of "work", I have used up 2 of my 5 Family days), gave a thousand apologies for missing my last opportunity for the handover from the woman who I'm replacing, and mopped up Vaughn's bed again.

Ailsa, feeling fine, went to daycare. The Amazing Amanda came to my house to pick her up. The woman is an angel. Pukeasaurus Rex has thrown up 7 times today, but luckily (hardy har), it's been mostly on textiles: the shag rug in his room, his bed, his pillow, the carpeted stairs; twice into a bowl; and once into his v-tech piano. Awesome.

He's still oddly perky between barfs. He's hungry, he's thirsty, he wants to play outside, he wants to show me his jumps. Then, suddenly, bleaaahhhh...followed by a little self-pity, then hey! He wants Cheerios!

The day isn't over yet, but as long as Ailsa avoids getting this bug, I have hope that everything will be fine. I've enlisted Dave to be the Designated Barbecuer, and I have some nice cold cider calling my name.

Superwoman, out.





* sob! they took away my beautiful ID card and gave me...well, if I can scan it in, I will.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Bitter Dream, they called her...

I had a terrible dream last night.

No, nothing had happened to my family or to my health. I wasn't being chased by a wolf, a witch, or a shark. It was much more normal, and I think that's why it's stuck with me.

I was at a class reunion, with all the people I went to university.

"What do you do?" I heard, over and over again.

Well.

I was unemployed.* Stuck between the end of my maternity leave and the offer/selection of one of the many, many AS 01 opportunities being thrust on me daily, due to the fantastic priority consideration I get for being spousally relocated.

In English, this means that, because Chris took a job in Ottawa, I am being considered for any and all jobs which I am entitled to.

In reality, this means that, every day, I get 3 to 5 requests for my resume from people that want to hire me as an AS 01. And it means that I am "not entitled" to a promotion.

No, not because I have a science degree. And not because I have training and experience and aptitude and skills far above my substantive level, which all of my managers have commented on. Mostly because, here in the Public Service world, you don't get promoted based on merit.

But all this to say, bitterly, that it was a very awkward dream, in which I was trying to explain to my other science-y graduates that I'm currently unemployed but hoping to get a decent low-level administrative job (12 years or so after university) soon... without crying.


Happier aside: I was watching Bob the Builder the other night (of course), and wondered why it seems so weird to me that there's a talking scarecrow on it... but somehow the talking mixer/loader/roller/crane/digger/tractor seem normal. Huh.



* But today, I started my New Job! An AS 01! At DRDC! Just feet away from Chris' cubicle! Am I using enough exclamation points to convincingly convey my enthusiasm?!!!

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Princess for a Day




The GrumbleBunny has survived a whole year!


(Yay for us! For all of you keeping track at home, that's two for two!)




We celebrated this momentous occasion with some low-key festivities in the backyard... but no birthday backyard barbecue is complete without a princess dress, am I wrong? (Thanks, Aunt Lorraine and Uncle Mal!)


The forecast threatened rain for the whole week prior, but Mother Nature came through for us with a bright, warm, sunny day! Huzzah for good weather! And huzzah for the party people in my backyard, instead of inside my house!





Grandpa dazzled the young'uns with bubbles.









This is a shot of the backyard - we're happy to report that as a backyard, it does the trick. Some nice shady spots under the tree and on the side deck kept mature folk cool, and the (dandelion-free) grass in the middle was great for running, chasing, trucking, and kicking. You can sort of see Chris barbecuing on the deck (bright orange shirt). And note, of course, the gorgeous "fence", designed to keep little people out of foundation excavations.




The garden, at the right of the picture, is currently sprouting beans, beets, and peas, as well as two pots of chives. The carrots, however, are being finicky. Massive rhubarbs can be seen off to the bottom right. Now that I have a recipe for rhubarb cake, they might be brought down to a reasonable size.




And FINALLY, it was time for cake. Ailsa, who did not know what she'd been missing for the past 12 months, didn't quite get it. AND THEN...





Sure, she might LOOK like she likes it, but does she really?



Ah. Apparently, she does.







At the end of it all, with everyone else gone home and Vaughn napping, the birthday girl helped me "put away" the contents of the cooler. Alberta girls like Alberta beer, it seems.




One more gorgeous shot of our little big girl. Daddy wants a shotgun for Father's Day.







Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Touristing in O-Town














Wrapping up the maternity leave experience, and also having talked too much about the wonders of Ottawa for the past three years, the kidlets and I headed downtown for some out-and-abouting, while we could.


Mostly photos follow.






Though still a far cry from the Best Tulipfest Ever ("I love you, Shawn Desman!")(were there, possibly, too many slushie drinks?)(NEVER!!!), we managed to go three times over the two-week festival to partake in tunes, tulips, and tiptoeing.









There was music, people, and grass statues, most notably, a Very Hungry Caterpillar. And on the last day of the festival, it had sprouted butterfly wings!








During a pause in the live music (I believe it was India's Nomadic Orchestra of the World that day), Ailsa considers a future in politics.


She decided it was more fun to dance with Daddy.






The scene of the crime; where it all began. That's Vaughn, checking out a tulip statue. God, he is soooo clingy.



Ailsa is happily oblivious to the giant spider behind her. Vaughn is just realizing...



Actually, we looked through wedding photos a few weeks ago, and he was very interested in seeing this statue.


On the way up Murray Street, he told a man that he was going to see a giant spider, and the man said, "Do you know what it's name is?" Vaughn said, "Maman." Silly man, you are speaking with no mere mortal!