Monday, December 31, 2012

Highlights (In Reverse order, since that's the easiest way to upload the photos)

A day spent with friends who always help me remember who I am, who always make me laugh, who see the world in inspired ways.


For a small example, we laughed waaay too long and hard and in increasingly inventive ways about microwaving small children at IKEA.

So we laid her down for a little IKEA therapy.

Christmas at my mom and dad's. First of all, I have a mom and dad, and they're pretty special. Plus we have this new grand baby in the family, and she totally steals everyone's heart and attention. We just adore her.

Christmas dinner at our house, cooked by my husband.

I was thinking about how nice it is to not be in the traditional position of having to slave over a hot stove for Christmas dinner. Brian does most of it. Now this doesn't make him a freaking saint like many people want to paint a man who knows how to boil water, but it does make a dem fine turkey dinner.

Thoughtful gifts.

My kids insisting that we had to get up at 5 AM on Christmas morning to open gifts. That's our tradition, and no one was too old to let that one go. Actually, the boys got up at 4:00 and could be heard rustling about in the kitchen cooking up some hot chocolate to make the time pass a little more quickly. Cutie pies.

Creative gift wrappings.


Decorating gingerbread houses with the kids, whilst munching on chocolate covered almonds and M&M peanuts. Some kids grasped the concept of "house" better than others. Let's just say that being the firstborn does not necessarily make one a super achiever.

Moving on in reverse..... Our night at the Fort Garry Hotel. Another Christmas tradition, and a lovely way to mark Brian's birthday which awkwardly falls ten days before Christmas. We like calling room service for coffee on a silver tray, eating at the Palm restaurant to live piano and saxophone music, wandering around the grand old place pretending that we could afford it any old time, and eating breakfast in the massive dining room.

Then heading back to our cold, dirty car in the morning, opening the trunk and remembering who we really are. The forty loaves of discount bread from McGavins that we picked up prior to our luxurious overnight helps to bring all that home in an instant.

Gifts from my daycare peeps.

These folks are incredibly kind and generous. Every year. All of them.

Moving on backwards: Sam's birthday party. Ten year old boys are pretty cute and interesting.

And laser tag looks like fun if you're into that sort of thing.

I just really liked that Sam invited all his siblings and they willingly came along. That was the super cutest part of all.

And then back some more. We have the funniest tradition with one of my sister wives.

We watch National Lampoons Christmas vacation. Uncle Mel wears his t-shirt, and we don the ugliest Christmas sweaters in my archives. We watch the movie, say all the best lines in unison, snack on chips and chocolate.

Its one of my all time favourite Christmas traditions.

And that's the round up.

I'm feeling a little less blue too, thanks for asking. All of you sure help, as does listening to my own self and not going to/doing things that I know are really not going to help my situation. Acceptance goes a certain mile length as well. As in knowing that this is my brain, it will likely continue to cycle in this familiar and frustrating way, and there's no point in rushing it or hiding it.

Happy New Year, my virtual and totally real friends.


Friday, December 28, 2012

She Whines and Yawns

Seems a bit early for the blues; not even January yet.

Although I'd swear on a stack of Geneen Roth: Breaking Free From Compulsive Eating books that all my clothes have become obsolete due to my unbearable girth, the truth is that I've gained a single pound. One. Not that I would weigh myself- that would be anti- Geneen all the way. But I may have inadvertently fallen against the scale on my way to showering my folds and skin flaps in the wee hours of this morning. I may have peered furtively past my multiple chins and burgeoning thighs, holding my breath in sheer horrified dread, expecting the scale to blow into shards of metal, tiny numerals flying upward, airborn by the sheer force of me.

So when the scale failed to register my failure as a human being, I'd hoped my feeling of malaise and general, all over "you suck, loser" would drown in my multiple cups of shiny black coffee. I began to search the archives of my unreliable brain for more reasons to suck with some authenticity. Lots of things came up, but they weren't new, or true enough to really swallow, genuinely disastrous, or even particularly interesting.

Still, I have the blues. My eyes burn and ears ring and I feel exhausted, even though I'm not low on sleep. I'm not stressed out or over committed, so there's no point in thinking that Christmas mania brought this on. We had zero concerts to attend this year- Not actually making it to church about 75 Sundays in a row meant no church program (the kids are grown out of that stage by now anyway-- the pagaent part- not the "you should take your kids to church" part). There was no elementary school Christmas concert because somehow while I was sleeping and worrying about sucking, Sam grew up. We missed Brian's work party because of his catering commitments, and I don't have a staff party since every day is a party at my work. We did attend three parties over the holidays, and they were the good variety, not the obligatory types. So, nothing to whine about there either.

The house is warm, and although the fridge freezer is steadily leaking watery frozen bits into the fridge and occasionally freezing my celery, we've had no major appliances break down, no transmissions burst on a highway in minus thirty seven billion, no children wandered off into traffic. We've suffered zero divorces this year, our parents are all still alive, and our offspring are not in trouble with the law. (to our knowledge, that is) Our jobs are intact, we've not suffered through a tsunami, earthquake, house fire, or random act of violence.

So clearly, asking "why?" is of little logical value. This defies logic.

And that's kind of depressing, really.

Kind of makes me wonder if a nap and a snack of chocolate almonds, Grandma's papanate, a mimosa, some bailey's and reindeer mix would be the perfect remedy?

'Cuz I seem to be clear out of valium and nobody in my neighbourhood is offering electric shock therapy.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Few of My Favourite Things

Often my house feels like its caving in on me. It's not large, and it does have an awful lot of kids and pets and things in it.

So, to remember how much I love my home, and my intense fondness for vintage and handmade Christmas, I decided to wander around and focus on the small vignettes, and effectively block out the bigger picture. Joy is often in the details.

(Table runner that I made some years ago. That tree always makes me happy)

Tacky Christmas body art that I'm going to charm my tinies with this week.

Retro gnomes and santas on my stick tree.

That sits by my dining room window.

One-eyed reindeer. I love him unconditionally.


My paper village. One of the many highlights of unpacking the Christmas stuff.

Old packaging.

A sweet and dorky picture of the girls at Christmas when they were little.

My childhood pop-up book.

Bowls full of baubles.

Old records and Bambi's.

Strange little reindeer and Christmas mice scattered here and there.



There are a lot of things that stay in their boxes.





Creepy santas.

Handmade stockings.

Bottle brush wreaths.

My favourite Christmas picture of all time. Sam, aka, Baby Jesus is maybe a day old.

And the mother load- Kenny Rogers albums!


So if you stop at my house and all you see is clutter- just slow down. Break it down, focus on bits at a time.

Works for me, every time.


Friday, December 14, 2012

Why Its Not Going To Work To Live Each Day As Though It Were My Last

My husband is a bit of a foodie. While others bemoan the NHL lockout, Brian is cheering along to the Food Network, poring over issues of Saveur magazine, and shamelessly indulging himself in hours of internet porncookery.

For years now, every second friday evening, our back door opens wide and friends pour in with all manner of gastronomic delights, Brian generally being at the forefront of culinary prowess. He is likely to have spent hours poring over his shelves full of recipe books and unruly stacks of scribbled and printed recipes before deciding on that one (or three) concotions that just have to be shared.

All this grandiose cookery has bought Brian a bit of a reputation, and even morphed into a bit of a catering sideshow. Two years running, he's been asked to provide taste bud tittilations for the Christmas party of a rather large farm nearby. Now, this is kind of a big deal. And it pushes Brian well past the boundaries of what a Friday night tapas entails. Now in addition to poring over cookbooks, watching food network til the wee hours of slightly past ten PM, topping up his serving and chafing dish supplies, and coveting two hundred dollar knives, he also begins to develop heart conditions, high blood pressure, pre-traumatic stress disorders, tremors, and hot flashes.

In short, it becomes a family affair. Daughters get hired. Wives get bribed. There is cheese to be shredded, lettuce for chopping, beer batter to mix, a giant brisket to season, asparagus to wrap, beans to soak, trays to collect, pots to stack. There's camembert, proscetto, chilies, limes.

On Saturday morning, I set my alarm. It's my weekend, and I usually expect everyone to survive on nutella and frozen pizzas. I'm not one to slave over a hot stove when there's a break from the weekly grind. But this weekend will be different- not for the kids, who'll still be subjected to my survival of the fittest regime- but for me. I will be cooking, weekend or not. So, to squeeze in my own requirements for a proper weekend, I'm planning an adventure- an early morning road trip with a friend to a thrift shop not yet explored.

We headed down the snowy highway, hot coffees in hand, the hour long drive quickly passing in the warmth of our conversation. And then the treasures! Kitschy Santa ornaments, bottle brush wreaths, vintage sweaters, strings of lights, some books and stickers for the kiddies, a green pendant hanging lamp, and more. It was bliss. It was a weekend in a morning, as well it had to be.

And soon enough Brian was texting, begging me to come and help.

With my newly acquired goodies ready to be played with later, I was ready to pin on my apron and become the loving wife. The girl and I headed straight to the farm and set about chopping and stirring. The setting was sheer perfection- a stellar home, beautifully decorated. Platters upon platters of fresh fruits, veggies, chocolates, and nuts. Wine being chilled, mixes coming in by the crate.

We began in earnest. Hours just kept slipping by and there was still fish to batter and fry, tacos to assemble, portabella mushrooms to barbeque. Panic set in ever so slightly for me, and at top crazy heart racing speed for the main chef. My $2.00 boots began to pinch me, and Arianna's briad wilted in the heat of the boiling oil. People began pouring in in their festive fancy pants and earrings, high heels and expectations.

I began to order tequilas and soda and chop a little faster.

The grand marnier wings and prime rib Yorkshire puddings needed to be taken from the oven and plated. The pans would need to be chisel and pick axe cleaned. Lime marinated cabbage began to fly onto fish tacos at unprecidented speeds.

The ice began to melt on my mint leaves and there were hours to go. Better order a refill.

The soaking pans hit the floor to make room for the dishes that were piling up. People were filing by for seconds and thirds and we barely lifted our heads from the tasks at hand to see if we'd scored.... or bombed. By midnight or one or two, my boots were kicked into the corner, more ice had been found, the pans had more or less been scraped and thrown back into the van. My body made a weary drop beside a friend and I let myself relax.

It had been a long and busy day that had passed by me at breakneck speed in about three minutes. There had been much to laugh about, many ways to delight the palate, with liquid refreshment peppered throughout. We'd put in a spectacular family effort, Brian had pulled it off again, and we'd all worked together as a beautiful machine.

How the clock turned to the hour of 5 AM is way beyond me.

That the clock showed 5:45AM (the time my alarm typically goes off at in the morning) before I ever got to sleep is the second great mystery.

Now, if Saturday had been the last day of my life, I may have chosen to spend my time in similar ways. A road trip and treasure hunting. Helping Brian in his element, celebrating his success. Sharing it with our daughters. Letting hours upon hours drift by sipping on iced drinks with mint, and laughing at everything.

But it wasn't. The truth is that Sunday had already come, and it had been consumed by Saturday. Then there was Tired Monday, Draggish Tuesday, Shoot Me Wednesday, Nap Please Thursday, and TGIF Friday.

In the future, I'm simply going to have to pace myself; it just can't be done. I can't live each day as though it were my last or soon it will be. I'm embracing boring days, and Arthur days, zone-out days and shopping days. Days packed with meaning, and dull days in between; days for helping and days for doing what I want to do.

Until next year. When maybe we'll cater a party again.


Thursday, December 06, 2012

Oh Christmas Tree

I hear that IKEA sells Christmas trees for twenty dollars.

I bet you could walk in and out of that tree lot in under ten minutes- tree in hand, wallet still bulging.

But choosing a real Christmas tree is so much more than that. Like a crisp walk on a Friday night when everyone else in the house is distracted by their own amusements. First a detour into the local gas station- big sale on mandarine oranges and time to pick up a little something for my favorite tree vendor. The people at the till know her brand, if I don't.

And then, what's this I see? A barricade on main street? A tree lighting ceremony? There are glowing fires, and my son Sam's classmates are lifting their voices to the skies and the newly lighted pines, singing Christmas carols to the glow of ice candles. Clearly, my Sam has chosen "safety first" and refused to bare his soul to the townspeople in the middle of a highway in winter. He's snug as a bug at home on his comfy couch, controller in hand, clever boy.

Thank goodness there are good parents out there- the show-offy ones who read the town newsletters, school agendas, and flashing electronic sign on the front of the elementary school. Must be nice to be so flawless and have so much time. I'm grateful to them- their children provide a picturesque backdrop to my solitary Christmas tradition. So, with the tune of "Christmas Without You" ringing in my ears, I slip past the masses and into the tree lot, gift in hand. A waft of pine scent bathes me in hope and good will, and my senses are soon delighting in rows upon rows of spruce and pine. Long, slim, shiny ones, ittsy bitsy prickly ones, fat ones, pine-coney ones. The lot is filled with people who don't have all the time in the world like I do. I let them all go ahead of me, so content am I to sniff and finger every prickly pine in sight.

In less than a nano second, my brain is caught in the classic Christmas struggle: a big fluffy, upper class looking tree, or an affordable, perfectly Charlie Brown, space efficient teensey pine. Then I remembered that I'd thought to resolve the issue before leaving my house a few minutes earlier: This year? Selflessness. One single tree, properly spaced, fully intact, complete with needles that wouldn't fall off in the first 24. No little tree for me, that's just indulgent.

But Mona knows me. She knows my weakness for the stick tree, and starts in on me immediately with her shiny eyed, wide grinned wiley ways- "I know what YOU want!", even as I stand before the boring perfect trees, thinking of pleasing my family members at home. Now would the folks at Ikea know my preferences in holiday decor? I think not. Nor would they take the time for a long leisurely chat beside the tree jiggler near the back of the lot. The good folks of Ikea wouldn't likely take the time to share bits of their story with me. Their hopes and intentions, a little of their pain, the reason for their joy. I probably couldn't gift them with some holiday smokes and enjoy the scent of it mingling with the pines. (my big brother was a smoker. The faint smell of cigarettes always makes me feel cozy and safe; like I'm on the brink of an adventure.) I likely wouldn't linger until my boots got soggy and the elementary carollers had gone back home, and the street fires extinguished.

By the time I exit the lot, the street has become a highway again, and the ice candles have been put away. Mona is about to close her shop until the morning, when I promise to return with the means to bring my great big tree home. Of course, she's sold me a spidery one as well- insisting that its really only worth five dollars.

When I get in, my family asks me- Did you have to go to Altona for that tree?! Did you grow it yourself before you chopped it down? Where on earth were you all this time?

They still don't get it, after all these years, poor impoverished home bound souls.

I'm happy when I wake up on Saturday morning, knowing I can head back down main street- stopping to pick up my trees, then maybe a few minutes to check for treasure at the thrift shop. Mona has my tree all shaken down and bottom trimmed, and gives me some advice at making it last longer than four minutes. Being an Amazon woman, she offers to carry the big tree to the van while I scoop up the itty bitty one. It's not far to home- just three blocks, so no need for fancy blankets or ratchet ties. Just a slow drive down the street with the hatch a little ways open.

If I'd bought my trees at Ikea, I'd have to have some fancy ways to tie those suckers down.

And if I'd bought my trees at Ikea, I know for sure that four days later when I'm strolling down main street with my team of tinies, there wouldn't be a tree seller carreening to a stop beside me, dashing out of her car, and rushing over to say;

"You took the wrong tree! Did you notice that your little tree wasn't at all the one you'd chosen? That when you got it home it didn't have all those gnoby little pinecones that you loved so much?

You took the tree top that I cut branches off of to use in Christmas arrangements - did you notice the huge gaps in it?"


It just wouldn't be the same

If I bought my Christmas tree from Ikea.