Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Spreading sunshine and cheer

I want to hang myself up by the eyelids as this is the fourth attempt to write and post this blog entry, and though I'm not entirely sure what happens, my finger hovers over the publish button only to hit the "Save Now" button. Save me from myself, I say.

It's even supposed to be a nice entry, a happy one, with much sunshiney goodness. While the weather here has cleared and cleaned up over the last few days, we did have a lot of rain. But, thanks to a nice, shiny and humbling award, the Sunshine Award, my days lightened and my mood brightened, and I got a new reader in the process!

Summer of The Circus has Come to Town was one of my very first visitors and one of the first blogs I visited. I got her humour and apparently she got mine. It's been a great blogship ever since. I constantly look forward to her latest post and apparently from the recent award she bestowed on me, she looks forward to mine too - especially when there's witches and spells involved!

The Sunshine Award
I have to say that I love, love, love this award, especially since I get to pass it onto other bloggers whose blogs have touched me... but only in the good places -- like my heart, you heathens!

While I can pick only five, I must say that if you're on my reading list or I'm a follower of your blog, it's for a reason. Whether it's your humour or your insight, there's definitely something there that I enjoy, respect and savour. Now onto those that make sunshine come out of my ass for real:

Lulu at Earwig Sandwich: She had me at the blog name and cinched the deal when she confessed she also leaves her Christmas decorations up until they no longer shine. It was then I knew we were kindred spirits since the wreath is still on my door and I have mini-Christmas trees on my china cabinet. Thank goodness I decided against putting up the Christmas tree this year.

Ange at Signed by Ange: I don't know where I discovered her, but it was probably through Lulu (who had me questioning her culinary experience since she put earwigs into sandwiches). Ange is inspired and inspiring. She constantly feeds me brilliant quotes and even more shiny insight into how those quotes relate to me. Plus, she's called me possum, and it's weird, but I kinda liked it. Plus, her art and ability to see art in the everyday leaves me wanting to continue to pick up the paints.

Dual Mom at We're at Dad's That Week: I'm not a mommy blogger by any stretch of the imagination, but after I was introduced to her through Bacon is My Lover (another brilliant blog, by the way), I was a fan. She's more than a mommy blogger and I'm not apt to call her that. She's more than a mom. She's more than a blogger. She's a self-described heartless bitch and I love it (and her blog).

Claire MontgomeryMD at car dancing: Since I am an avid chair dancer, couch dancer and stool dancer (I'd say table dancer but that has a whole new connotation), her car dancing blog intrigued me. If you can't dance in a car, where can you dance? But, it was the qualifier that had me: Things I Might Tell You on a Naked Road Trip. You must check her out. And try the car dancing thing. People may give you strange looks but at least you'll be dancing. Claire is looking forward to her daughter's 18th birthday next week but not the trip to the sex store or the McDonald's fries her daughters friends have suggested as an appropriate celebration.

Jay at Genius Pending: Another find at Studio 30 Plus (have I mentioned I love that site?), I love how this guy thinks (and writes). These days, he's spread himself a little too thin working on projects and on jobs that he loves. But while his blog has suffered a bit, he promises to reconnect and not stalk our blogs from his cell phone while taking a bathroom break. Thanks for that, Jay.

So that's it. Now these worthy blogs must spread the sunshine on, telling us about five blogs that turn them on - and turn us onto them in the process. They also should link back to me as the award giver. Thanks is not necessary. Reading your blogs is thanks enough.

It bears repeating: if you don't find your name among these five illustrious blogs it's not because I don't love you just the same. The fact remains that I visit your blogs. I don't spend time with just about anyone.

Spread the love.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Double, Double, Toil and Trouble...

I am a full, card-bearing member of a coven.

The Coven is my newspaper at my alma mater, and I started my journalistic career there. I dug and delved into complex issues, participated in scrums, created leads, headlines and cutlines and put it all together in a pretty package day after day, week after week, for two years. I can honestly say that the experience ranks up there with my best moments.

About two months ago, I entered a coven of a different sort. Members: two. I know you're supposed to have 13 but we are just at the beginning, my friend and I. Every coven has to start somewhere. So, start we did.

I had gone over to catch up. I had also expressed my interest in exploring new religions. In a previous post, I had written "Compassion is my new religion." It's still the case, but with this compassion comes a curiosity of other religions - Pagasim, Hinduism, Buddhism and even Wicca, which sort of flows along the same lines as Wicca, worshipping the earth and the sky and all the elements in between.

My first Wiccan circle experience was a little disconcerting. It involved salt, knives, candles and a call to Mother Earth to show me a sign. I had been debating a life path at the time, wondering outloud what my next step should be in a certain situation. So, after calling on the North, South, East, West, Fire, Water, Mother Earth, Father Sky, I raised the question and asked for a sign. A flickering of lights, a loud noise - it could have been anything. What happened next was anything short of eerie.

I'm not going to tell you what the question was. To do so would give away trade secrets and perhaps hurt feelings in the process. I will tell you that I got my sign - loud and ever-feckin' clear. Steps away from where I first uttered the question, hopefulness full on my face, fear quivering in my eyes, there was a loud, fluttering noise and then a small, well-contained crash. A flickering of lights would have been enough, but apparently Mother Earth decided I needed a firmer answer: my friend's painting of Mother Earth had fallen off of a wall, a place of honour it's held for months. And there it was lying on the floor, moments after I had opened the discussion - "Should I... Will I... What should I do..."

To say I was freaked out was an understatement, but I was also intrigued - intrigued enough to buy an "Intro to Wicca" book. It's not to say that I will enter the coven forever, but it's certainly another realm to examine, along with meditation, compassion and anything else that brings enlightenment and balance to my life.

Happy Spring, bloggers. The season is a-changing and so am I.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Single for a week

My partnership has turned into an entrepreneurship, at least for a week.

This past Saturday, I bid farewell to the Man as he embarked on a week-long holiday. It's more of a working holiday, given that he's traveled six hours into the province next to us. He's helping his sister and brother-in-law move houses to new digs on the grounds of Bishop University in Lennoxville, Que.

So, I'm single until Saturday. Don't tell him but I actually looked forward to having the house to myself for a whole week. I had a list of all the things I would do: take puppy to the park (weather and grounds permitting), have breakfast for dinner - in my underwear (I must remember to close the blinds in the kitchen!), set up coffee dates with old friends without calling in to let the Man know and have a whole queen-sized bed to myself.

To-date, I have yet to set up the coffee date; cancelled the pancakes for a healthier choice of broccoli and chicken stirfry; and with a puppy play date set up for this weekend, eating in my underwear was not a good choice. But again, it's only Monday.

I do like spending time with the Man and appreciate all he does around the house, especially taking out the trash since it's my least favourite thing to do.  The other is killing people. Visit here for a look at an exceptionally funny Llamas with Hats video. Killing people is Carl's least favourite thing to do as well. Frying up hands and eating them on the other hand... But I digress...

I felt a little guilty for looking forward to his departure, but only for a minute. Minutes after saying a long goodbye, I was giddy. Giggling. Grateful.

I love my alone time and with a live-in boyfriend and a very curious dog (who follows me EVERYWHERE, alone time is very rare. So, tomorrow, I am off to the gym and then out for coffee with a friend, but not before taking puppy on a much-needed walk (The days of rain in the forecast has put a damper on the dog park plans).

It will also be nice to find the toilet seat in the down position and fewer dishes to be done. Oh, and more room in the queen-sized bed (only if I don't let Kao share - he's a bed hog).

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Conversations with a cousin

Last night, as I was skulling around Facebook, I came across a gem: a conversation with a cousin, a far away cousin removed from me not only by the distance but also time. We're also removed from each other because of family secrets, events that happened so long ago that even we can't separate fact from fiction since the stories are not talked about, hushed up, too painful to bring to the surface.

Am I being cryptic enough for you? I don't want to dredge up bad memories and pain for my family, but I will say that we have a colourful history, of first loves, of loss, of choices coloured by judgment. I am my mother's daughter and she her mother's daughter. Her sister is her mother's daughter too, but not from the same paternal line as my mother.

A number of years ago, my uncle and I decided to write down, draw out our family tree, more to understand it than to remember it. We all have our memories. My second cousin, last night, admitted that he knows less about his family tree, his beginnings than he'd like. "I know more about my mother's side of my family than my dad's," he said. It's sad, especially since he comes from a long line of pretty awesome people - myself included. My aunt is his gran. His dad is my first cousin and there is about 30 years separating me from my first cousin. He also admitted that while he knew we were cousins, he didn't know where or how we fit, where we intersected on the family tree.

The older I get the more I find it important to know where you come from, to know your lineage and the stories of the people who came before and shaped your path. Genealogy is even bigger now than it was when I first put pen to paper with my uncle to trace our roots when I was 10. I was interested then and I'm even more interested now. And, I was sad and more than a little disappointed to think the younger generation would not be privvy to these stories, these histories - it's the indifference that saddens me the most.

Family histories, stories will be lost, if not written down, if not spoken. He knows nothing of our families' past and the people who make up our fabric. Isobella (Gran or GT), Christina, Nora, Ann, May, Tom and George - these names will not mean anything. To Cousin Ross, living in Tasmania and working as a dentist, they will be a whisper on the wind, a thread in a tapestry so rich that to lose it would be a disservice. 

I know of what I speak. As a daughter of an only son, my connection to my dad's side of the family is just as precarious as Ross', simply because the effort was not there to remember. Sure, I remember my grandmother, my grandfather's brother, his wife and daughter, but that's where it ends. It ends because people did not think it important enough to maintain contact or even to document it. It's a lineage unexplored and it's sad.

Cousin Ross asked for a copy of the original family tree started all those years before. We have more to add, so I will do that before passing it along to him, and hopefully it will enlighten him and encourage him to explore all sides of his family, no matter how many skeletons he may or may not uncover. I know I will be sitting down with both of my parents to ask questions about my lineage, their childhood and the family members who came before them. If we knew where we came from, perhaps it will shed some light as to where we are headed, and how we became the people we did.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Pushing buttons or pushing up daisies

Is there ever a time when someone pushes your buttons to the point that you're tempted to plan that person's murder? Morbid, I know. Psychotic, yes. Punishable by a prison sentence? Most definitely.

Yet that is what I was thinking as I hung up my archnemesis. Yes, Margaret. For those of you in the know, Margaret is Mommy Dearest. She'd been away on a cruise and foray to Florida over the last month so we've had fewer conversations than the every other day we usually end up talking - her choice, not mine. It's her choice because she calls me every other day to see what's new. That in itself is not a bad thing. What is a bad thing is the gentle jabs, the disguised barbs. This time was no different.

She doesn't know I've lost almost 15 lbs. and am well on my way to svelteness. So, when I divulged that I went out for sushi with my cousin and friend on Saturday and uttered the words "All You Can Eat" I should have expected the quick 1-2. Jab, cross and there it was: "Oh, so you pigged out then." Yes, Mother, it was all you can eat but I have restraint. Even I can't eat my weight in sashimi.

I should have expected it, prepared myself, and perhaps I should never say "All you can eat" in front of my mother. Lesson learned, Margaret. Lesson learned. And, I've learned so much from you, some good, some not.

That brings us up to the murder plan. I've discarded it. I actually folded the plan away minutes after I got off the phone - rather quickly, I might add. Thank Darwin that my cell was on its last bar of power and the tell-tale beep signified immediate disconnection. So, I disconnected, away from her, away from that negativity.

I've been doing it all my life and I guess I have to do it some more. While people do change, after almost 75 years of these comments, I don't think they are going to stop. I have taken the high road and even tried to sit her down and tell her how her comments make me feel, to no avail. Defensiveness (hers) popped in and squashed any headway for which I had hoped.

You can't teach an old dog, or in my case, mother, new tricks. I certainly can change the writing on the wall and the dynamics of our relationship. It's up to me to break the cycle.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

I'm stealing again... Stealy McStealer

The good people at Studio 30 Plus (Over 30 and Wordy) didn't know I was a klepto when they invited me to join their illustrious group of bloggers. I was over 30 after all, and should be trustworthy - a grown-up since I hit and surpassed this milestone birthday. Looks can be deceiving.

I'm a thief. I raid blogs and steal quotes and ideas from them simply because I can. Okay, I'm also inspired by them too, or I wouldn't give them the time of day. I've stolen from Ange numerous times, stalked Lulu at Earwig Sandwich and looked into the windows of Summer, Aunt Juicebox, Dual Mom and Holy Mackerel. There are more, oh so many more, but if I admit to the peeking, I could be charged with a misdemeanor. A felony record just won't do.

I did it today too. I clicked on Studio 30+'s latest blogger of the week and voila! A gem worth tucking away, and imagine my surprise when I checked my coat pockets after closing the door (okay, clicking the little X icon) and found it resting in my palm!

So, voila - a borrowed challenge - and one that I will take on myself even though the whole New Year's Resolution thing is months in progress:

Get ready for it...

"Every new year people make resolutions to change aspects of themselves they believe are negative.

A majority of people revert back to how they were before and feel like failures.
This year I challenge you to a new resolution.
I challenge you to just be yourself."

~Aisha Elderwyn
I'm not familiar with Aisha Elderwyn, but a quick search on Google unearthed the quote above and a varied number of entries about her journaling and some cartoons. I may not know a lot about Aisha (okay, nothing) but her quote rocks and it rocked me awake from a slumber of doing what is expected, what everyone else wants and forgetting myself in the process.
This is the Year of the Scribe, and I'm waiting to help celebrate the Year of You too. So the challenge is this: share with me (and the whole blogosphere) what you like about yourself, your favourite memory or the one aspect of yourself that you've embraced wholeheartedly.

In the spirit of the challenge, here is one of mine. I love when I can laugh with my whole self, throw my head back and guffaw until I have tears streaming down my cheeks. I was once told more than a few years ago that my full body laugh was over the top. I briefly considered editing myself, holding back so I didn't seem so out there, outloud. But only for one second. In the next moment, I was laughing even harder at the person's audacity to censor laughter. Now I try to laugh at least once a day, and I succeed.

Now it's your turn. Spill, blogosphere, spill. Rest assured, you will not be edited here.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Five per cent

It's Saturday afternoon like many Saturday afternoons, except this Saturday I am a little less. A little less, you ask? A little less inclined to pick up that bag of chips, a little less likely to forget to eat, a little less. There's also a little less of me, five per cent, to be exact.

I went to WeightWatchers this morning like I do most Saturday mornings. You know how some days you can feel that you're a little lighter than before? Than the night before, than the day before or the week before. I didn't have that feeling this morning. I know the feeling well. In the last few weeks when I've had my biggest losses, I felt just a little lighter. Whether there was a spring in my step or I was wearing baggy clothes, it could be anything. This morning, I didn't have it. A few days before the circus sets up the big tent and the clowns are coming out of the Volkswagen, juggling of course, I tend to gain. It maybe water gain, it may not. It could be the weight of all of those juggling pins or the balloons the clowns love so much. This morning, I stepped on the scale, a rather exact one, and the numbers rang out and danced in the air. Down 3.6 lbs. In one week. I was estatic, and yes, I was lighter.

My total is now almost 13 lbs. That's 13 lbs. of being diligent of what I eat and when. I didn't get fat overnight. It's been a long history of eating good food but not nearly enough. I didn't get fat by eating. I got fat by not eating and then getting so hungry that my choices were not pristine. They're still not pristine but educated. Do I really want that piece of birthday cake? This week, I opted for a slice. It was enough and I was enough, enough to warrant the extra effort I put into the whole process.

I've lost weight before and kept it off for a long period of time. What make me backtrack was personal, a personal loss, a personal affront. I explained a bit in a previous post. You can read it here. All it took was a comment, a retaliation for someone else's insecurities and my own insecurities and doubt rose from the ashes, ashes I thought were cleaned up a long time ago. They were just dormant, not dealt with. It's different now. I'm a bit more accepting of myself and discovering why those insecurities exist in the first place.

It's not an easy task. It's a work in progress - I'm a work in progress, but the journey is worth it. I'm sure I'll have my off-days. I already have, yet this time I don't let it go past that day, and I'll look at the reasons why the funk happened in the first place.

So what is that five per cent all about? I'm down five per cent of my weight. It's another step in the process, a milestone. And, now it's onto another milestone - the 10 per cent mark. This is the milestone where you see the most significant changes, health wise. I've already felt the benefit, and I'm looking for more.

Five per cent, bloggers. Five per cent feels good.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

I am teenager, hear me roar

The other day a friend of mine informed me that her daughter was doing extra chores to earn more money for something she wanted to get. CDs, a new lens for her camera, a new cell phone, iTunes… I guessed them all and then my jaw hit the floor when she told me the nature of her daughter’s potential purchase: a tongue ring.

It wasn’t something I expected to hear. The girl barely wore earrings, let alone a tongue ring. I remember when I was 15 and working my first part-time job (full-time in the summer), there were two things that I wanted: blonde hair and blue eyes. I was determined to get them, so I picked up a bottle of Sun-In with one of my first pay cheques, saving a portion of subsequent pay cheques to get the contacts I didn’t need. But, they were coloured lenses and although my eyes were a great shade of green, it was the blue peepers I was after.

I wanted to fit in. I was told that blondes had more fun (I was so naïve then). Both my mum and my brother had blue eyes, and my brother had the eyelashes that were the envy of many neighbourhood girls. So, I sprayed the Sun-In and proceeded to let my scalp bake in the bright June sun. My hair? Not blonde. Far from blonde and more the colour of a Halloween Jack ‘O Lantern well past the October 31st deadline. I never managed to save enough for the contacts, given my constant need to dye, dye, dye that orange monstrosity out of my hair follicles.

These days, Sun-In is barely seen on any store shelves (and there is a reason for it. Trust me.). Contacts and double ear piercings have made way for lip, tongue, nose and belly button rings. And don’t forget the tattoos. But what remains is the need to change what we have.

I’m not against piercings. I’ve had a few, a nose ring among them. It’s gone now but I still mourn its loss. I got my first tattoo at 30 and am looking to add to my collection when I hit the big 4-0, but this time it’s not to fit in but to express my individuality.

Back to the girl. This teenager is what I never was back in my day. She’s confident, secure in herself and has this undying belief that she can do anything she sets her mind to; including put a hole through her tongue. And I’m insanely proud of her, as much as I would be if she were my flesh and blood.

She’s talented beyond belief. She’s wanted to be a vet for as long as I’ve known her (even though we say she would make an excellent lawyer). She loves all animals with equal ferocity, but she can also see composition in everyday items and picks up the camera to capture them beautifully. She plays the guitar and the trumpet. She gets good grades, not just because she’s whipper-snapper smart, but because she also applies herself and will often take on group projects solo because then she can rely on herself to put her best into it and not depend on anyone else to do the work.

She also wants a tongue ring. I can’t stop her. Her mother can’t stop her. It’s her body and her decision. She can also “un-make” the decision at a later time in her life because holes close, rings come out and it’s no harm, no foul.

I have no doubt she will make the right decision – right for her – and she won’t look for anyone else’s approval when it comes time to step into the chair and putting that ring through her tongue. And if it's time to take it out, she'll do that too because it's something she wants. Some say this may be an act of rebellion, but what really is she rebelling against? She’s a good kid (okay, more woman than kid now) who has so much promise that it delights and scares me at the same time. She will and already has harnessed that promise to take her to new heights and new environments that she will greet with ease. She may need a little direction from time to time, but she’s the type of person to let nothing and no one stand in her way. Naysayers beware. Tongue Ring Queen has arrived and taken over the building.

I’m proud of her, tongue ring and all.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Bully for you

This past week, a co-worker of mine was talking about a case of bullying involving her daughter. Her daughter was not the bully but the victim, and when her mother approached the teacher and then the principal about the situation and steps to take to stop the bullying, it was suggested that her daughter change schools since she was not officially in the proper school zone.

I did a double-take, especially because that particular school had instituted a bully-free policy - bullying was not to be tolerated at any time and any perpetrator would be dealt with accordingly. Their solution for my co-worker's daughter to change schools, especially when the problem lies elsewhere was disgusting. Wrong. Unjust.

It also reminded me of another time, two years ago, when one of our suppliers shared the devestating news that his 16-year-old son was in a coma, brought on a beating he endured at the hands of his peers. After weeks of hanging on, attached to machines to help him breathe, he succumed to his injuries, injuries brought on by his peers.

Drew Hildebrand died because his peers thought it was cool, funny or empowering to beat him within an inch of his life, an inch that left a major concussion, bleeding on the brain and death.

Maybe I was a little naive when I was growing up. I didn't witness a lot of bullying and certainly not to the degree that exists today. Sure, there were spats and cliques that didn't get along with other cliques. I'm sure there were rumours started and barbs thrown, but as far as I knew it stopped short of a physical fight.

Others may disagree. All I know is that it didn't happen to me. The worst I got was once when I was mistaken for a boy when picking teams in a Winterlude Sports Day. I thought my boobs said it all, but I guess I was androgenous enough to cast a little doubt. I did have friends who were taunted when walking home from school, and I was always the protector, ever the protector, trying to shield them from the bullies. Did I do a good job? I'm not entirely sure, especially because the taunting continued until the girls lost interest or found a new scapegoat, but I would protect the next victim with equal vigour.

This June, I will be walking in a charity walk/run for the Drew Hildebrand Teen Benefit charity, established by Drew's parents and friends. Drew had had a rough start in school, in fitting in, like most teens, but just as he was turning that all around, he was taken, his full potential never realized.

But, thanks to his parents, friends and everyone who supports the charity, Drew's legacy still lives on, his potential in abundance. I will be proud to walk that day, and may even manage the 5K run, looking to amp up my own potential, physical or spiritual.

As for today's school system, in particular the one suggesting a changing of schools as a viable anti-bullying technique, I say shame on you.

For information on the Drew Hildebrand Turnaround Teen charity, please feel free to click on this link.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Better Than Sex Cake... okay, for some... me!

In everyone's life, a little Red Velvet Cake must be enjoyed. As promised, here is the recipe for one of the best cakes I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. And pleasure I did.

As rumour goes, this cake recipe was the best kept secret, at least in Canadian history, and within the walls of the Eaton's Restaurant at its flagship store. They even swore their employees to secrecy - it's that good!

Some recipes call for beet juice, a favourite in the dog-days of the 30s Depression, but we've switched it to red food colouring. Beets just don't cut it, for me, anyway.

Without further ado (I know you just can't wait any longer), here is Canada's version of a little slice or two of heaven... Red Velvet Cake... fanfare, applause, money... whatever you deem fit...

Red Velvet Cake or  The Better Than Sex Cake
Classic red velvet cake holds memories for many people. Nowadays, there are red velvet cupcakes, cookies, cheesecakes, and sheet cakes, too. But at the end of the day, the three-layer cake stands tall and reigns supreme.

Prep: 15 min. bake: 20 min. cool: 1 hr., 10 min.


1 cup butter, softened
21⁄2 cups sugar
6 large eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1⁄4 teaspoon baking soda
1 (8-ounce) container sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 (1-ounce) bottles red food coloring
5-cup cream cheese frosting (recipe below)


Preheat oven to 350°. Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy.

AdvertisementGradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition.

Stir together flour, cocoa, and baking soda. Add to butter mixture alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition. 

Stir in vanilla; stir in red food coloring.

Spoon cake batter into 3 greased and floured 8-inch round cake pans.

Bake at 350° for 18 to 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Remove from pans to wire racks, and let cool 1 hour or until completely cool.

Spread 5-cup cream cheese frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake.

Yield: 12 servings.

5-cup cream cheese frosting
Prep: 10 min.


2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1⁄2 cup butter, softened
2 (16-ounce) packages powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract


Beat cream cheese and butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating until fluffy. Stir in vanilla.

Yield: about 5 cups.

You're welcome, blogosphere!