Sunday, May 29, 2011

Instant Stomach Flattening Technique

Saturday morning I went to the Kamloops Farmer's Market. When I got home Alexandra met me at the front door and said, "Read the text I sent you."

This made no sense to me. Why would I read the text when I was now home and she could just tell me in person? I said as much. Her response was, "Just read the text."

So I did.

I would just like to say there are some things they forgot to put in The Parenting Manual. I have no idea what the proper reaction is to such an event, but I was pretty sure it involved a cup of tea. As I went over to plug the electric kettle in she asked me what she should do. I decided the first thing was to figure out if this was a Level 1 event or a Level 2 event. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this emergency rating scale here is a rough definition:

Level 1 -  anything that requires an immediate trip to emergency, including but not limited to cuts that need stitches, broken bones, fevers over 105F, and anaphylactic reactions

Level 2 - everything else

"Is there anything leaking?" I asked.


I breathed a sigh of relief and reached for my tea mug. Clearly this was a Level 2 event. However, this didn't mean there wasn't a problem. For those of you who don't know, Alexandra has a rare autoimmune GI disease. She has had a stomach tube since she was ten years old. She is now twenty. For many years she was not able to eat food and relied on a special formula delivered through her stomach tube. But the great news is she has slowly improved and can now eat most foods. This has made her stomach tube redundant and plans were underway to get it permanently removed.

Taking the tube out is not a big deal as long as it is replaced with another one right away. The thing was she didn't have another tube. Was it a problem to have an unplugged hole in her stomach? The Parenting Manual was oddly silent about this issue as well. While my tea brewed we discussed the options. It was a short conversation. In the end I decided this warranted a call to my favourite medical resource: Dial-the-Doctors (my oldest son and his wife).

Things were quickly sorted out. Karsten asked someone in GI and was told it was fine to just leave it, that it should heal over on its own. Kind of like a piercing gone bad. (That last bit was my take on it, not the doctor's.) Clearly my call of a Level 2 event was appropriate, and it was all good. Well, except for that cup of tea. When I went to sit down with my cuppa I was greeted by this. Please note this photo shows the outside of the tube. Unfortunately my field of vision captured the inside as well.

After giving it a lot of thought I have come to a conclusion, one that is too late to act upon since my kid are now all in their twenties. Clearly I have been using the wrong parenting manual.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Viewer Discretion Advised

Three weeks ago David phoned to tell us that CTV wanted to do a story about him for their evening news program. I barely had time to think "that's nice" before he informed me that they also wanted to interview Jay and me for the story. My immediate response was, "Uh, sorry. You know I don't do public speaking in any way, shape or form." What followed was a few seconds of silence, then David's mumbled confession that, well, actually he had already told them we would do it.

Needless to say I felt cornered. What followed were a few days of mental anguish as I considered my options. There weren't many. If I said no I would disappoint David. Normally that would have been enough to tip the scales to a yes answer, but I was still feeling a bit annoyed over his having "volunteered" my services. But saying yes would mean speaking in front of a television camera. As a self-defined double introvert I have made it a life rule to not talk in any group with more than four people in it. Being watched by thousands seemed out of the question. (I am living proof that there really are people who would rather attend their own funeral than speak in public.)

Then a woman from BC who had been missing for seven weeks was found alive down in Nevada. David's story was indefinitely postponed while the cameraman traveled South of 49 to cover that story.  This allowed me to temporarily "Scarlett O'Hara" the whole thing. (For those of you not familiar with this term, it is coined from the final scene in Gone With the Wind when Rhett has just told Scarlett that he no longer gives a damn about her. As the movie ends Scarlett is so overwhelmed she declares that she just can't think about it today. She will think about it tomorrow.)

Then late one afternoon last week David phoned again. The filming was scheduled to happen the next day, and oh, by the way, they now wanted to shoot the footage of Jay and me at our house. Let's just say I might have had a bad moment or two as I glanced around the kitchen and living room. It is amazing what you suddenly notice about your living space when you realize it might be aired on the evening news.

The actual interview/filming did not disappoint. It was every bit as awful as I had imagined it would be.  I was a blethering, robotic idiot. I was so nervous I just kept talking. And while I was talking there was a part of my brain that was reminding me that I couldn't even remember what I had been asked and that I should just stop talking. But the part of my brain that was operating on a fear response was stronger and I just kept talking. That fear response thing had the additional undesirable side effect of not letting me move any neck or facial muscles. As a consequence I ended up looking like a very verbal deer caught in headlights, one that would have preferred being road kill.

After the interview Curtis (the camera man) wanted to do some shots of David performing daily tasks in our kitchen. He asked David to walk over to the fridge and get something out. This was a bad surprise. Not once had it crossed my mind that our fridge might be shown on the nightly news. If it had I might have at least wiped the fingerprints off the door handles.

David opened the dirty door and grabbed the first thing he found, which happened to be a piece of pizza left over form the previous night's dinner. Oh great. In spite of the fact that the pizza was homemade with an organic spelt flour crust and pizza sauce I had made with last year's tomato crop, to the viewing audience it was going to look like we were a take-out kind of family. We're not.

Then Curtis wanted a shot of David putting the organic homemade not-take-out pizza into the microwave. Anther bad moment. As David swung the microwave door open I remembered that I still hadn't figured out who had been responsible for the latest microwave explosion. I have a house policy of not clearing up other people's microwave debris, so had left the nuked bits of food plastered on the inside until I knew who to blame. It had been a week since the explosion and nobody had stepped forward yet to confess. It was pretty grim in there.

The final scene they shot was of David putting on his shoes. Just as Curtis started taking the video I looked at the bottom step David was sitting on and saw the big hunk of packing tape that covers the corner. (It is there to keep our cat from using that spot as a scratching post.) I quickly reached out and pulled it off. The fridge and microwave might have been less than optimal, and it might look like we eat fast food for dinner, but at least it didn't end up looking like our carpet was taped together. The bar might be set fairly low, but at least I do have some standards.

I was tempted to not even blog about this simply because the few seconds of footage with me in it are so awful. But the thing is, this video is not about me. It is about David. It is about courage and perseverance. It is about facing every day with a "can do" attitude and not letting life get you down. It is about living life with what you do have rather than lamenting what you don't have.

CTV British Columbia - Kent Molgat on an inspiring Canucks fan - CTV News


That ball hockey game was a close one, with David's team losing 2 -1. The lone goal scorer? David, with a slap shot from the outside. And a note to my son.

Dear David,

I wasn't joking about the fact you owe me some salted caramels from Purdy's.


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Five Fast Facts

Here are five random facts that have absolutely nothing to do with anything.

  1. Our family dumps more milk down the sink than we actually consume. This happens because nobody here is a milk drinker. Today is a particularly egregious example of this as I am going to have to break the unopened seal on the unused, outdated 2 litre (half gallon) container sitting in my fridge before I can pour it down the sink.
  2. Out of the seven members in our family four of us were born outside of Canada, and only one of us doesn't hold dual citizenship. To add to the confusion, out of two daughters-in-law and one almost son-in-law only one of them was born in Canada. We make President Obama's situation look straightforward.
  3. Nobody who is living or ever has lived under this roof has ever been guilty of committing a family misdemeanour. Family misdemeanours include but are not restricted to such things as eating the last cracker in the box, then putting the box back in the cupboard instead of the recycling, absconding with the family cutlery (where do all those knives, forks and spoons go?), and starting small fires. In response to my questioning over the years I have been met with everything from vehement denials, to looks of incredulity that I would even think it possible that they would do such things. Maybe I just suffer from an overly suspicious nature.
  4. I have enough air miles for three free trips to Europe, or one trip to Europe and one to Asia. This would be much better news if I actually had someone to travel with. Does anybody feel like going to Europe for a few weeks this September?
  5. I am one of those annoying people who fall asleep the moment their head hits the pillow. I am also the kind of person who sleeps soundly the whole night through. Except for tonight. The howling wind woke me up from a deep sleep, and for some reason I started thinking about that milk in the fridge, and then I was thinking about my blog, and before I knew what was happening I found myself sitting at my computer at 3:00 in the morning. Unlike item number three, at least I know who, or in this instance, what was to blame.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

No Shortage of Crazy

I've tried to resist. Really I have. I hate to give blog space to whackos, but the temptation is just too great.  I am sure everyone, well at least everyone in North America, is aware that there is a group of misguided souls in the US claiming that May 21 will be the date the rapture occurs. Unfortunately it is one of those news stories that, in spite of your best efforts, you just can't avoid. According to the story at CNN:

"Those who are saved will be taken up to heaven, and those who aren’t will endure unspeakable suffering."

There seems to be an unwritten rule that states the people with the fewest number of firing brain neurons will get the biggest headlines. Think about it. When is the last time you read a story with headlines stating: 

"Excellent Driving Skills and Following the Rules of the Road Delivers Driver Safely to Her Destination"

"Passengers Arrive Alive Thanks To Train Engineer Not Texting"

"Careful Budgeting and Living Within Means Lead to Bills Being Paid On Time"

I have a few problems with this whole rapture scenario, starting with the date. I just got an email this morning saying my iPad 2 has shipped from China and will be delivered May 27. So I'm sorry, a rapture date of May 21 just doesn't work for me. And if by some fluke my iPad does happen to arrive before May 21 I have a question that wasn't answered in the FAQs. Do iPads get raptured along with their owners? 

Which brings me to another question not covered in the FAQs. Will there be Internet in a post-rapture world? I am worried the "unspeakable suffering" that unraptured people (and their iPads) will have to endure is an inability to connect to the Internet. Rumours are that just the 3G network will be down, which would eliminate the adjective "unspeakable" and downgrade things to just plain suffering.

Assuming the Internet continues to function my guess is the unspeakable suffering will actually occur on social media sites. Facebook will be a nightmare as users worldwide check to see who's still on their friend list and whose walls are now nothing but white space. And Twitter is doomed. There is no way the site will be able to handle the tweets as those getting raptured and those left behind follow each other in real time. 

This whole rapture story is just more proof (as if any was needed) that there is no cure for stupidity. Or  bad theology. Besides, I know for a fact the real rapture is going to happen May 27. And I've got the email and tracking number from Apple to prove it.

Rap ture
1. a feeling of intense pleasure or joy

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Six Positives, a Half Dozen Negatives

(-)   Last night it got down to just one degree above freezing. The basil plants I left on the back deck now look like they have jaundice.

(+)  It was warm today. After this delayed spring I will never take warm days for granted again.

(-)   Blogger has been down for almost 24 hours, and my post on May's Frugal Luxuries seems to have vanished into the ether.

(+)   Blogger is free. I don't pay a penny for the privilege of using it. 

(-)   The past two springs I have been in Asia, and I am feeling a little sorry for myself that I'm not there right now.
China 2009
I found a knitter in Beijing!
Peking duck
Karsten and me on the Great Wall
Korea 2010
Korean BBQ
Rebekah and me in Busan
(+)   Rebekah and Anton are in Asia, so at least I can enjoy it vicariously through their stories and pictures when they get back. 

(-)   Our neighbourhood had an infestation of white-crowned sparrows and they ate my spinach crop and chewed on some of my Brussels sprouts and broccoli leaves.

(+)   Kellen helped me put some chicken wire over the garden boxes. The birds have now departed and I think it should be safe to remove the wire.

(-)   When I went to put on my Crocs that were outside on the back deck a huge black spider fell out of them. I was afraid to look and see if it was a black widow.

(+)   At least I hadn't put my foot into the shoe before the spider fell out. 

(-)   I hate lilacs. Any natural beauty I might otherwise have ascribed to them is completely wiped out by the fact that I am deathly allergic to the things. Okay, maybe not deathly allergic, but I am very allergic to them. Kamloops is full of lilacs. They are in back yards, front yards, and line some streets. For the three or four weeks they are in bloom I go around in an allergy induced haze, loosely described as a cross between feeling vaguely like I'm coming down with a cold and that my head isn't attached to my body. I think as soon as we get the "no scents in public places" thing under control the next thing the world needs to work on is the eradication of all lilac bushes. 

(+)   As a knitter I am thankful I don't have the same reaction to wool.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

May's Frugal Luxuries (reposted)

Edit:  Blogger had some trouble last week and apparently "ate" this post with the recipe for pots de creme. Thanks to friend and blogger Jill, who had a copy of it on her reader and sent it to me when she realized what had happened. I know of at least one person who was planning to make it, so here it is again. My apologies to those of you who had left comments. There doesn't seem to be any way to get them back.

I have decided to do a monthly post about frugal luxuries. Frugal luxuries are the things we are surrounded with in our lives that cost very little but provide a great deal of simple pleasure. I have posted about this once before, but a single post just doesn't seem adequate. There are so many frugal luxuries that surround us if we just take the time to notice them.

Each season provides its own set of frugal luxuries, but perhaps none so much as spring. The fact that the spring of 2011 has been a late bloomer, quite literally, makes me appreciate those luxuries even more. I was talking to two master gardeners at the Kamloops Farmer's Market on Saturday and they said we have had our third coldest spring on record and everything is three to four weeks behind. This confirmed what I had already suspected, which is that so far this spring has been a bust. I strongly suspect reverse global warming.

This past week spring has, thankfully, finally arrived. The sun has warmth, the leaves are popping out on the trees and the lettuce seeds I planted in my garden are starting to grow. The warmer days have made my first frugal luxury possible. I love to hang clothes on the line to dry. I know, I'm weird. I especially love the feel and smell of sheets and towels that have dried on my clothesline. How could any artificial scent ever come close?

My second frugal luxury is found just behind this clothesline. It is my rhubarb patch. I think the stalks of rhubarb have doubled in size this past week!

Even better is having a daughter who is a chef. Alexandra used the rhubarb to make Vanilla Pots de Creme with Rhubarb Cherry Compote for dessert last night. Oh my. This was seriously good stuff.
Vanilla Pots de Creme with Rhubarb Cherry Compote
(recipe from The Complete Canadian Living Baking Book)
2 cups 10% cream
1 cup whipping cream 
8 egg yolks 
1/3 cup sugar
1 tbsp. vanilla
1 cup chopped rhubarb
1 cup frozen or drained jar pitted sour cherries
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. lemon juice
Arrange eight 6-oz. ramekins or custard cups in large roasting pan, such as roasting pan; set aside.
In small saucepan combine the rhubarb, cherries 1/4 cup sugar and lemon juice; bring to boil over medium-high heat, stirring often. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and simmer until rhubarb breaks down, about 3 minutes. Scrape into bowl; refrigerate until cold, about 1 hour.
In saucepan, heat 10% and whipping creams over medium heat until bubbles form around edge. In bowl, whisk egg yolks with sugar; gradually whisk in cream, then vanilla. Skim off foam. Pour into ramekins. Pour enough boiling water into roasting pans to come halfway up sides of ramekins.
Bake in centre of 325F oven until knife inserted in centres comes out clean, about 35 minutes (ours took 45 minutes). Transfer ramekins to rack; let cool. Cover and refrigerate until chilled. Serve with compote.
Frugal, but very, very rich!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Kindle Surprise

I love books. I love new books with their glossy covers and still perfect pages. I love old books with their dog-eared pages and slightly musty smell. I love everything from classics to a good whodunit. I love the rows of books that line my shelves, and the stacks on my bedside table.

In spite of my love for books I have noticed a disturbing trend over the past couple of years. While my love of reading remains strong, the amount of time I actually spend reading has decreased considerably. The result is stacks of books waiting in my "to read" queue piled on the floor next to my bed.

And then there is the library basket, filled to overflowing. Some of these are books that took months of waiting in the library hold line, and now that it is my turn there is no hope I can finish them before their due date.

There is no mystery as to why the books are piling up faster than I can ever hope to consume them. Problem #1 is the Internet. It has delivered a double blow to my reading time. First of all there is the actual time I spend on the net. I am fairly efficient at multi-tasking, but have yet to figure out a way to read two things at once. So a minute spent on my computer is a minute not spent immersed in a book.

The second way the Internet has contributed to the piles of books you see in these pictures is more subtle, but way more dangerous in that it accelerates the rate of book pile growth. There are so many interesting books out there that get discussed on various blogs and websites, and I find it almost impossible to pass up what promises to be a good read. So every time I see a good book I either put it in my library queue, or place it in my Amazon Wish List. Given how crowded my bookshelves, night stand, floor and library basket are you can probably get a good idea of how long that Amazon Wish List is.

If you look closely at the top picture of my bookshelves you will notice some random skeins of yarn sitting amongst the books. This would be Problem #2. I spend time each evening knitting. While I knit I usually watch a DVD or stream a movie on my computer, which, of course, is time not spent with a book. But here's the thing - I can read and knit if it is a fairly simple project. The problem is it is a royal pain to turn the pages when using a book stand.

This is why I finally decided to join the growing number of people who have made the switch to an e-reader. I am now the happy owner of a Kindle.

As a book lover I admit it felt like an act of betrayal to buy the thing, but I am way past that now. Turning pages while I read and knit is a breeze. I just reach out and touch a button. I am also looking forward to traveling with my Kindle. No more agonizing over which books to pack. I am sure I will still buy the occasional "real" book, especially books that are photo heavy such as cookbooks or knitting books. But I have a feeling that most of my new book purchases from now on are going to be electronic. Which makes the reader in me very happy, but the book lover a little sad.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Project of Shame

Projects of shame. We all have them. It might be those cans of paint originally purchased to brighten the kitchen walls, now permanently taking up shelving space in the garage. Or the still empty stackable storage containers right next to them on that shelf - the ones that were meant to hold your kids' keepsakes that you haven't quite got around to sorting. Speaking of kids, maybe you have a dozen shoeboxes full of family pictures that you have been promising yourself to sort and put into proper photo albums. These are just a few examples of how intention and action don't always go hand in hand.

My particular project of shame was started the week we moved to Kamloops, which will be five years ago as of May 9. It was my gift to myself for surviving what had been a very stressful move. I enthusiastically started knitting a Log Cabin Blanket (Ravelry link) from the Mason-Dixon Knitting Outside the Lines book. My initial excitement and thoughts of, "so many colourful yarns and stress-free garter stitch knitting" lasted about two weeks before changing to "too many colourful yarns and mind-numbing dull garter stitch." The project eventually got stuffed into a basket and I was very successful  at pretending it wasn't there until recently.

I'm not sure what exactly motivated me to pull the thing out and finish it. Maybe I was just sick of averting my eyes every time I walked by the place it was stored. Maybe it was our long drawn out winter and the fact that even though it was April we still had cold weather- not cold enough for a wool sweater, but chilly enough to want to curl up with a wool blanket in the evening. And the only wool blanket I had was still on my knitting needles and only big enough to keep a Barbie doll warm.

It took just one night of knitting to remember all the reasons I had abandoned the project in the first place. I was determined to finish but knew I would never stick it out until this item became a proper blanket. Then it dawned on me. What I really needed it for was when I was sitting at the kitchen table using my laptop in the evening and a proper blanket would be way too big anyway. What I needed was a lap blanket! With those scaled down expectations I managed to stick with it. Presenting my Laptop Log Cabin:

There's just one small problem with this. I am a loose knitter. Not morally, but in terms of my knitting gauge. Gauge is how many stitches you get per inch. As a loose knitter I get fewer stitches per inch than normal (if there is such a thing as normal). Well, remember how I said it had been a stressful move? Apparently my stress got transferred to my knitting and when I started the blanket I was getting way more stitches to the inch five years ago than now. Which is why my wee blanket looks like a parachute.

I have one remaining project of shame. It is a sweater that I haven't yet knit the sleeves for. If this blanket is any indicator I think I might have to donate the sweater to the primate section of a zoo when (if?) it ever gets finished. It is surely destined to end up with gorilla arms.