"Someday's gonna be a busy day..."

Monday, 6 December 2010

The stinky things in life

One of the things I love - and sometimes loathe - about my lovin' hubby is how opposite we are in many ways. A relationship of opposites can be disastrous, but ours works. When it comes to politics, money, childcare and the merits of Prince's music, we don't always agree. We do, however, share the same taste in jokes; otherwise I never would have married him. Sharing a sense of humour is deadly serious in my book.

The fact that D and I are ofen on the polar opposite sides of an issue is never more apparent than when I cook certain foods. For example, I can predict with some measure of accuracy what he will say when he walks in the door tonight: "Geez Kim, it smells strong in here. (sniffs the air suspiciously) It smells like....(wrinkles nose)...geez, it smells like onion. (a dramatic pause) I hate onion."

My response has already been rehearsed: "Yes, darling. I know. I've cut up ONE onion and ONE (a slight lie) clove of garlic to make the stew you will later rave about. Trust me."

I come from a Russian heritage where onion and garlic figure predominantly in every meal except for breakfast. My Babushka ate garlic every day of her life and she lived to be 96. Even my Dad, a non-russkie, eats raw garlic almost every day. But D hates onion. And garlic. And cilantro. And goat cheese. All those delicious, smelly things that make my culinary life complete.

So to perserve marital harmony, I don't make him eat raw onion very often, or raw garlic ever. I keep the cilantro separate when I make fajitas, and sprinkle heaps of goat cheese on my salad, but never on his. I do continue to cook with the other unmentionables, because it would be sacrilige to make a beef stew without onion or borscht without garlic. And there are very few meals he's ever made a negative comment about; I've lucked out in that department - the man eats everything I ever put in front of him!

So anyway, tonight is Easy Beefy Stewy night. It's redolent with aromas and your kitchen will stink to high heaven after you're done chopping up the smellier ingredients. But your tummy will thank you. Just like my husband will thank me after he's eaten his 3rd bowlful.

Easy Beefy Stewy
Ingredients
3 tbsp olive oil
1 lb stewing beef, cut into bite sized chunks
1/4 cup flour, seasoned with salt and pepper and paprika
1 medium onion, chopped
2 rib celery, chopped
2 carrots, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups broth
1 cup red wine
1 bay leaf

1. Toss beef with seasoned flour to coat.
2. Heat oil in a heavy pot and brown beef lightly.
3. Add onion and celery; cook 3 minutes.
4. Add sliced carrots, garlic, broth, wine and bay leaf.
5. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer covered for 1 hour, or until beef is tender. Serve over orzo.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

In Praise Of....Naps


Ah, the nap. One of my favourite mid-life discoveries. I was too energetic, antsy and - let's face it - caffeine fueled to appreciate the art of napping until I hit my 30's; now that I'm in my 41st year, I find that napping is one of those under appreciated pleasures I simply cannot live without.

To those of you who might say that napping's not an art, or that it's a luxury few can afford, I acknowledge that the pursuit of the perfect nap is not unlike the pursuit of the perfect cup of coffee: elusive and often disappointing, but oh so satisfying when you do find it.

To me, a really good nap has to be unplanned. It's not something you thumb into your BlackBerry calendar or block off on your day planner. A truly gratifying nap can only occur when you stumble upon a block of time in your day that you suddenly realize can in fact be sacrificed to the gods of slumber.

A nap should be at least 20 minutes long. But snore for longer than an hour and you'll wake up feeling more sloggy than refreshed. Snoozing should enhance your evening sleep, not supplant it. But the 20 minute thing is what makes napping so accessible. We can all find 20 minutes in our day. We just have to be willing to look for it, and sacrifice it on the altar of sleep.

I don't think you have to have kids to fully appreciate the restorative powers of a good nap, but it helps. After Jade came along, I quickly learned that crusty dishes, mountains of laundry, dust elephants and full email inboxes all paled in comparison to a snooze on the couch with her nestled snugly on my chest. I couldn't have survived the long nightly nursing sessions without those treasured daily naps. Baby Dylan's arrival has helped me rediscover the beauty of a good sleep, housework be damned! When I spy him snoring away with his arms thrown over his head in that utterly vulnerable, utterly content way only children have, I remember the inherent pleasure of a good nap and lay down beside him to partake of some zzzzs.

There's a good deal of guilt one has to overcome in order to perfect the art of napping. In this age of addictive social networking, high self-expectations and super-parenting, it's hard to stay offline, pursue a career, keep the house looking beautiful and dream up new ways to educationally entertain your kids. Naps? Ha! Those are for lonely, lazy people! Underachieving slackers! People who don't eat right or work out enough! Right?

Well, all I can tell you is that even on my most energetic days, naps have saved my sanity countless times and become a simple act of self-preservation. I come up with some of my most creative ideas as I'm drifting off to happy nappy land. I'm a better spouse and mother when I've taken that precious time out of my day to recharge. Trust me: napping is more than just an art we should all attempt to master. It's a life preserver in our hectic, scary-busy sea of life.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Welcome Autumn! No - wait - don't go yet - wait! WAIT UP!


I don’t know if it’s a farmer thing, a country thing, or just one of his lovely little quirks, but around the first week of July, my husband looks out the window with a mournful sigh and says, “Well, Kimmy, summer’s almost over.”
We were zooming down a concession road the first time I heard my husband say this. It was a glorious sunny day; the wheat was yellow, the sky was blue, the trees were green. I looked at him suspiciously. “Are you nuts? Summer’s barely begun!”
Another big sigh from my man. “Look at that field over there.” I looked. The wheat rippled under the unseen hand of the wind. “When the wheat begins to turn gold, that’s how you know summer’s almost over.”

At the time, I thought my husband was pulling my city girl leg, so I rolled my eyes and ignored him. But after hearing this doleful mantra every July for the past five years, I’ve come to accept the fact that the seasons really do change a little differently up here in the country.

I looked out the window the other day and realized with some surprise that not only was it autumn, but that autumn was already making way for the bluster of winter. When the heck did that happen?

Our newest addition, six-week-old Dylan, has a penchant for 3am partying. This has taken a toll on my ability to notice the world around me, let alone what's going on in the next room. I haven't taken in my solar lamps, dug up my garden or planted my bulbs; in fact, there aren't any leaves left on most of the trees and I don't even recall seeing them fall off. I feel a bit disappointed, because watching the seasons change is one of my favourite parts of living in the country.
During the ten years that I lived there, autumn announced its arrival in Waterloo by turning the giant sugar maple in my backyard a ravishing shade of scarlet. City gardens, once resplendent with their displays of frilly annuals, started to wither, and elaborate leafy wreaths began appearing on doorsteps. Even if I’d missed all these signs, getting stuck behind big yellow school buses on my way home from work was a dead giveaway that the season was changing.

Of course, trees turn colour and school buses zip by in the country, too. But somehow, up here there seem to be even more poignant signals that autumn has arrived. The lake loses its serene turquoise hue and becomes a fitful sapphire blue. Robins gobble every last orange berry off my ash tree, leaving it stark naked. Poplar trees shiver and show the bright white backsides of their leaves when chilly breezes tickle them. Squirrels from over the hill risk suicide to scamper across the road and steal corn, black walnuts and chestnuts from our place. And ads for fall fairs and country bazaars start popping up in the newspapers and on grocery store bulletin boards.

The arrival of cooler weather is always a relief to me, no matter where I'm living. This year I’m even more thankful to finally notice autumn has descended upon the Bruce after the unbearably hot summer I suffered through, heavily pregnant and busy chasing an exuberant sixteen month old. And with the return of cooler weather, I've experienced a renewed urge to cook slow, hot meals: borscht, chicken chili, tuscan bean and bacon stew, carrot and potato soup. There's something so cosy about chopping vegetables and concocting something steamy while looking out the kitchen window on a stark fall landscape. And it's immensely satisfying to hear my husband, that lover of summer and barbecues and hot weather, say "Kimmy, you make the best soup I've ever tasted." (That's right people: even better than his mother's! There is no higher cooking compliment, in my book.)

My bulbs may not get planted this year, and my garden gnomes and lanterns will likely taste a hint of frost before I find the time to safely stow them away in the garage, but Jade and I managed to get our pumpkins and 'mums in place just in time for Hallowe'en. And we've got a few more weeks to breathe in the crisp, leaf-scented air on our walks before winter knocks on our door with a frosty hand.
Summer might be over more quickly in the country, but the advantage is that I feel as though autumn envelops me completely. At Someday, I’m surrounded by the season instead of simply observing it through my windows. Well, I’m sure I’ll feel that way again next year when life isn’t a happy blur of nursing and diapers.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Welcome James Dylan Edward Lowry!



Well, I guess the poor wee man really was feeling squished and cramped in mum's belly, because my water broke at 12:30am on Sept 19th - a few days shy of my planned C-section on the 22nd. You can imagine the look on our faces. And then...the contractions began. EEEEK!

After a quick check up with my doc at Kincardine hospital, D raced us - and I mean RACED us - to Grand River Hospital in K-W (setting a brilliant new speed record from Kink-KW of 63 minutes - go D!). My labour had progressed significantly, but luckily we had a crafty nurse in our corner and got to go ahead with the C-section as planned.

The marvellous Dr. Anstett delivered our boy at 4:19am on Sept 19th. Dylan weighed 7lbs 2oz and was 20 inches long. He came out sporting furry little shoulders, long monkey toes, a black eye, bruises on his head, a cauliflower ear and a squashed nose. No wonder it felt like I had a kick-boxer inside me this past month. He's gonna be a fighter, folks!

Apart from his various beauty marks, a 12 hour session under "the lights" to combat jaundice, and being called the "no-name baby" by the nurses for 3 days, our Little Fellow was in excellent form by the time we packed up to go home on Wednesday.

It took us a while to pick a name...but we both kind of thought we were having another girl! We finally decided on James after D's father and brother, Dylan because it means "son of the wave" (we do live near the lake, after all), and Edward after my Dad and D's great-grandfather.

D has this week off which is wonderful, as my recovery from surgery has been a a bit trying, especially with crazy Jady Lady bouncing around. She seems to like her brother so far and has added yet another word to her ever-growing repertoire: "Bayyyyybeeee!"

Thanks to my bloggy friends for your support and kindness during my pregnancy and all your well wishes for Dylan. Now the tough part begins - sleepless nights and breastfeeding blues - along with the blissful moments of baby love, floppy cuddly afernoons and all the "firsts." Wee D smiled on his second day in the world, so I think he's destined to be a happy little fellow.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

A day of simple pleasures


Ahhhh, Saturday. Misty, rainy, lazy Saturday. And my last lazy Saturday for a while, methinks, considering baby Lowry version 2.0 is due on Wednesday. Yowzah!

So I took advantage of a day with no real schedule and did a whole lot of nothing. Jade slept in until 8am - usually she's a 7-7:30am kind of girl - so we had a leisurely breakfast while Daddy got a rare chance to snooze.

Then I left Jady with Daddy and headed off for a massage. I can't say enough about the rub-down arts; I recommend massage to anyone and everyone. Even if you don't think you have aches and pains or knots and tight spots, trust me: a good massage therapist will find 'em and fix 'em. I felt like a new woman after my session today.

After my rub-down, I meandered over to the farmer's market that pops up with ten or twelve stalls every saturday by the pavilion. It's nothing like the St. Jacob's market I used to frequent in my Waterloo days, a sprawling venture that's become more commercial every year. The Kink farmer's market is more like a little community that mushrooms up every week. It's a great place to buy locally grown veggies, not to mention baked goods and seasonal stuff. For example, today I loaded up on decorative gourds - 5 for a buck, way cheaper than the grocery store's offerings - late-season raspberries, green beans, perfect little red peppers and the most gorgeous, heavy, sweet Mennonite doughnuts...all while sipping an organic coffee from a real china cup. The Ark's stall encourages you to buy a cup of their delicious coffee and enjoy it while you shop, provided you return their cup before you leave.

I devoured my doughnut in the car, then headed back to Someday for lunch with D and Jade. (Yes, I saved a doughnut for D.) I made a simple pasta with the peppers and heirloom tomatoes I'd bought at market, along with some garlic-flavoured olive oil, onion, feta and olives. We ate it together and after lunch, D took turns feeding Jade and I the last of our Kawartha Dairies vanilla ice cream. No more until next summer!

D walked Jade up to Grandma's for the afternoon, which afforded me the chance to have a luxurious nap. I fell asleep listening to the rain trickle off the maple trees outside our bedroom window and woke up just in time to meet everyone at Grandma Lowry's for supper. On our way home, Jade and I drove down to the shore to revel in the peach-and-melon coloured sunset.

Really, a day of simple pleasures often beats a day of excitement. Especially when it contains Mennonite doughnuts!

Monday, 6 September 2010

Seasons change and so do I...

What song is that lyric from? Darned if I can remember. But that's my MO lately - absent-minded as the proverbial professor. And let's not forget clumsy and awkward while we're searching for deprecating adjectives. Yes folks, these days, I'm a real treat!

As the summer draws to a close, so do my days as a pregnant woman. We've decided that this will be our last baby, so I'm trying hard to make the most of the time I have left as a swollen-bellied waddler. I'm savouring every bump n' grind going on inside my stomach, gazing affectionatly at my inflated reflection in the mirror when I brush my teeth and enjoying my cute maternity dresses while I can. I'm trying to stay positive, put my feet up whenever possible, think me some pretty pink and blue thoughts and above all, not freak out.

Which has been a challenge, because it seems as though the moment the summer threw off its sweltering cloak of heat and humidity to reveal a moody, cloud-curdled fall sky, my pregnancy also swung itself into a distinct change. Baby has crept downward in the last week or so, and baby's latest hobby is repeatedly head-butting my pelvic region like s/he's trying to batter his/her way out. My legs have begun cramping with such fierce intensity that massage and stretching don't even help any more. I could care less about ice cream and freezies; even Coke won't whet my appetite. To top it off, I'm prone to fits of weeping for absolutely no reason while Jade watches me with a look of puzzlement. Good grief!

I keep reminding myself I only have a few weeks to go and that most of what's ahead is beyond my control. I have to trust to the goodness of the universe, the medical profession, the care of my family and friends and to my husband's steadfast love that things will be okay, no matter what happens on (or before! GAH!) September 22nd. Fingers, toes and legs crossed...

Friday, 27 August 2010

Five Things - from a preggo point of view


I know how darned lucky I am to be pregnant and relatively healthy, so far be it from me to moan and complain too much. There are so many folks who would kill to be in my situation, regardless of the sometimes unpleasant parts of pregnancy.

That being said, I feel compelled to say the following:

Five things I will deeply miss about being pregnant
1. The squirmy, kicky, hiccuppy feelings of new life swirling around in my belly.
2. How nice complete strangers are to me. Last week a guy helped me load my groceries into my car; this week two ladies stopped to tell me all about their pregnancies and how they had their kids really close together too.
3. Having boobs.(Seriously! A-cup girls will understand.)
4. The delicious, almost surreal quality sleep takes on...for the first 7 months, anyway. Sleep becomes as pleasurable and tangible as eating your favourite food.
5. Talking and singing to the little being inside me.

Five things I will be happy never to have to experience again
1. The bizarre "restless leg" syndrome that strikes every night around 3am. I feel strong urges to kick something - the bed, the covers, my husband - and I have to roll out of bed and do stretches to alleviate the weirdness.
2. Uterine cramps. Bloody hell, do they hurt! It's like baby has a little penknife and enjoys occasionally jabbing it into my abdomen. MD says I "have an educated uterus" and it's simply stretching and preparing for labour, no matter how many times I've told it we're having a C-section.
3. People who enjoy saying things like, "My God, you're huge!" or "Huh, you guys didn't wait long to get at 'er again."
4. Not being able to put cream or polish on my toes. Or pick up anything I drop. Or bend over to smell my roses.
5. The endless nightly marches to the bathroom. It's so unfair that pregnant women have the thirst of camels without the helpful storage humps.

But you know what? It's all good. Honest.

So yeah, we've got less than a month to go and no names yet. Gah! September 22nd is looming large and I am counting my blessings since I can't count my toes anymore. (0:

Sorry for the long absence from bloggy land folks. Hope all is well with y'all out in cyberspace.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Bittersweet

Last week, D was doing chores and Jady was asleep. It was still and quiet in the house and I felt lonely. So I snuck upstairs, tiptoed over to Jade's crib and did something I never do: I eased her out, tucked her into my arms, crept over to my bed and cuddled with her for an hour.

She barely stirred - thankfully she's a sound sleeper! - and it was so good to feel her warmth, her heartbeat against my breast again. She's been weaned since May, and while I don't miss the middle-of-the-night feedings, I do miss the easy intimacy nursing afforded us.

Jade is a busy girl. The only time she's content to sit in my lap without wriggling around like a fish out of water is when she's tired (or asleep!). And then I'm in Mummy heaven. Her downy blonde head smells like honey; her chubby toes curl and uncurl when I stroke them with my finger. She still sucks two fingers and sometimes she looks up at me with an undescribable expression her sapphire eyes. And to think that ten years ago, I was convinced I didn't want children...

Lying in bed with Jade the other night, I was struck to my core with a strange blend of deep joy and profound grief. I couldn't help but think of how my other two lost little ones should be there with us, cuddled in my arms with as much right to be there as Jade. So I allowed myself the luxury of closing my eyes and imagining their presence - what their scent, their warmth, their own personalities might have been like. I think those few minutes of fantasy defined the term bittersweet for me; I'm learning that so much in motherhood is exactly that.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Sanford & Son at Someday


When my older sis was here visiting at Christmas, I proudly showed her around the farm, as she'd only seen it through Facebook photos. She ooh-ed and ahh-ed over the house, the apple orchard, the proximity to both beach and river. She loved the hayloft and the old horse stalls in the barn. But when I took her to the shop, she started laughing.

"What?" I said, puzzled. "I know, it's a mess."

"It's not that," she said, still giggling. It was only when she started singing the theme song to Sandford & Son and doing her unique chicken-wing dance around the boat, motorbike, snow blower and tractor that I got it.

Sandford & Son, for those of you too young or too cultured to have ever seen it, was a show about a crusty old junk dealer who lived in a ramshackle, cluttered shop so full of "treasures" that people could hardly walk around without knocking something over. Ahem.

It seems that the more room one has, the more stuff one accumulates. After watching my sister's performance in our shop last winter, I've come to realize that the barns, garages and closets of Someday Farm are no exception. To put it bluntly, we have a lot of crap.

When I lived in the city, my house was often described by other people as "charming." When someone says this about your house, what they're really saying is that it's small and old. Charming houses have unlit, cramped closets, and cupboards too deep and too high to be used properly. Charming houses have teeny little vestibules with doll-sized spaces that laugh at your attempts to hang bulky winter gear or store your vacuum cleaner. Their garages are barely wide enough for one car, let alone bikes, sleds, lawn mowers, etc. And the backyard sheds are mostly decorative, seeing as how entering them means risking severe head injuries.

So on our first offical walk-through of Someday - before it was ours - I was delighted by the car garage, shop and two barns. I'd finally have room for my gardening implements, my skis and my BBQ! And I was over the moon about the 12 cupboards, pantry and various handy drawers in the kitchen. But the bedroom closets were horrific: a single door opened onto a long, dark hallway with a few shelves and no place to hang clothes! How did the poor previous owners LIVE?

A few discussions with our renovator gave me the closets of my dreams: double doors, excellent light, lots and lots of room to hang stuff. I was in closet heaven. We had oodles of space. In fact, we had so much space that we'd never use it all. Or so I thought.

As slow as a rising tide, my magical roomy closets began to fill up: my sister stored a few of her outfits while she went to Russia; comforters and blankets began to accumulate; and then came the mountains of baby clothes. One day I suffered a severe case of deja vu as I attempted to stuff a box into an overflowing closet. It was my house in Waterloo all over again. I'd been blaming the size of my old house for my space issues, but really, it was ME and my squirrel-like accumulation issues.

My husband is no different; his shop is piled high with a jumble of tools, errant farm equipment, defunct snowmobiles and lawn tractors. Our garage is packed full of strollers, wagons and other baby mobility equipment, offset by paint cans, snow shoes, and apple tree bug spray. It's a wild mix.

But I don't consider all our accumulations junk, no matter how many times my sister sings the Sandford & Son song to me. I don't think we've entered "hoarder" territory (yet); everything we have, we use (except for the snowmobile). When I look around at all the stuff, I swell up with a feeling of thankfulness. We have space, and we have stuff. How lucky are we?

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Cheers to Mrs. S in Scotland - Aye, this post's for you!


I have a lovely bloggy friend named Mrs. S, aka Mrs. Successful. She lives in Scotland and we've been fans of each others' blogs for about a year. Mrs. S. has enlightened me on various things Scottish, including gardening in Scottish climes, Robbie Burns' poetry and "oysters" (a hideous looking ice-cream concoction). I've never been to her part of the world, so I get a kick out of reading about her life.

Ironically, I live near a town with a distinctly Scottish flavour to it. Kincardine has not one but two Scottish festivals, a Scottish shop which sells everything from bona-fide haggis to clan-accurate kilts, not to mention the weekly summer Saturday night parade where everyone turns up to march behind the town's kilt-clad bagpipe-playing band.

The first Scottish Festival took place last weekend, and it had everything: highland dance competitions, "heavy" events like caber tosses, beer gardens, authentic Scottish food booths and lots of funky vendors. AND an extra parade! I am a total sucker for parades and fireworks, and there were plenty of both with Canada Day and the festival overlapping.

Jady lady attended her very first pipe-band parade. I used to go to them when I was a kid, so I got kinda sentimental and sniffly when I heard the drone of the bagpipes coming down the street. At first, I worried that the screeching and moaning and the very loud drumming would send Jady into a fit of fear - to my thinking, bagpipes are a bit of an acquired taste - but she was riveted and literally on the edge of her stroller the whole time.

We celebrated her first Scottish parade with her very first ice cream cone, so all in all, it was a memorable, happy evening...even though we don't have a single Scottish gene in our pool, I was glad to be able to share a childhood pleasure with my own bonnie wee bairn. Now, if I can just find a kilt small enough for her next parade...

Cheers to you Mrs. S, and as they say at the Scottish Festival, "We're not away to stay away, we'll always come back and see you!"

Another meaty mishap in the kitchens of Someday

I've been bored stiff with my own cooking lately, which really isn't like me. Usually I enjoy poring over my recipe books or checking out foodie blogs for new ideas; for the past two weeks, though, I seem to have lapsed into a cooking-related funk. I have absolutely no interest in shopping, planning or preparing food. In fact, I haven't even been able to take much pleasure in eating, despite the fact that I'm always ravenous. It's a drag!

Meat has always been an uphill culinary battle for me, especially lately with my complete apathy for all things edible. Last week, I half-heartedly asked my local Sobey's butcher dude for flank steak, which a magazine article had touted as "economical and delicious," as long as it was given a good long marinade bath prior to cooking. He looked confused (he was about 17), and told me there should be some in the beef section. I found something labeled "flank marinating steak," and without really giving it the once over, popped it in my cart.

Tonight I decided to try cooking it. Imagine my confusion when I pulled the thing out of the package, ready to give it a nice soak in some garlic infused oil and vinegar, and found it had been butterflied! What the what am I supposed to do with this skanky looking thing? I thought. As I tend to do in most times of kitchen turmoil, I turned to the internet for help.

"Stuffed flank steak - easy gourmet your family will love!" gushed one website. "Impress your guests with rolled stuffed flank steak," promised another. I shrugged. It was either flank steak or a can of tomato soup with toast, so I gave it a try. I sauted spinach, onion and garlic, fished out some feta and attempted to stuff my steak.

The unrolling went okay (shudder), but rolling it back up with the tasty stuffing intact proved to be another story. I snuck another look at the recipe, which said:
"Place kitchen twine around the steak lengthwise, then at 1/2-inch intervals." Kitchen twine? I had decorative ribbon, garden nylon, twist ties and some baler twine, none of which seemed like the right choice. I was on the point of feeding the whole mess to the dog when I remembered the contents of my cocktail drawer: toothpicks! The elegant flank steak recipe was saved. Sort of.

It smelled okay. It cut nicely into pretty rounds and looked quite fashionable on the plate, nestled up to the roasted potatoes and tomato bocconcini salad. But when D tasted it, he did the nose-scrunch I've come to interpret as something being rotten in the state of Someday.

"Well, what do you think?" I asked.
D chewed meditatively for a moment, then furrowed his brow. "Is there some kind of weird spice or herb or something in this?"
"No," I said, "just spinach and onions. And salt & pepper."
He took another bite and did the nose scrunch again. "Then why does it taste like Scope?"

Dear reader, when using toothpicks to secure your next classy rolled flank steak meal, I highly recommend using the non-minty variety.

*sigh*

Now where's that damned can opener?

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

My cheatin' heart...and pen

Last Tuesday, I did something kind of naughty. And I plan to do it again tonight.

I cheated.

On my hot husband? Heavens, no. On my recommended pre-natal diet? Um, I would actually have to be following said diet in order to cheat on it. No, I committed my naughty act against two slightly more mundane things: my old city coffee shop, and my new country one.

My long-suffering novel has been dormant for almost a year now; the last time I dusted it off was at the KPL Storytelling festival last year, where I read a revised version of my first chapter. Since then - nada.

Motivation to write is - not surprisingly - harder to come by these days, not to mention the dwindling trickle of once-plentiful ideas that kept my characters and plot ticking away. I'm trying not to be too hard on myself; family needs to come first sometimes. But things are gonna get really busy in the fall with baby numero duo, so I made up my mind to try and get at least two more chapters written this summer. And in order to do that, I needed a writing space...outside of Someday.

I'm not sure why I can't seem to write at home. I have a decent-sized office with a great chair and a reasonable desk. But I prefer to do my writing outside the walls of my house. Back in Waterloo, I used to write faithfully for several hours a week at the Second Cup coffee shop; there was something so comforting about the aroma of that place. I'd feel all the day's tension melt away at the first sniff of freshly ground coffee. I always ordered the same thing (a mocchacino to start, with a mint tea for later), the chairs fit my kinks, and there always seemed to be a table waiting just for me, with an electrical outlet within my laptop's reach. It was my weekly ritual, and I loved it.

After moving to the Kink, I searched for a suitable replacement. There weren't many options, and certainly no Second Cups to satisfy my mocchacino cravings. The independently owned Books n' Beans had a quirky, welcoming atmosphere and decent lattes, but they weren't open beyond 6pm, and I'm an evening kind of writer. Still, I liked the fact that it was a small-town operation, and not some crazy Starbucks catastrophe.

When a Coffee Culture chain opened up a block away from Books n' Beans, I disdainfully turned up my nose after trying one latte, which - HORRORS! - came out of a push-button box thing instead of a proper espresso machine. Yes, Second Cup is a commercially owned chain too, but at least all their drinks are hand-brewed!

But as I tried to find other options, I realized that unless I wanted to write in a noisy bar with peanut shells on the floor, or in the hermetic, beverage-less silence of the library, I was going to have to suck it up and give Coffee Culture a try. And so last Tuesday, after Tai Chi, that's just what I did. And I was pleasantly surprised.

CC was clean, quiet and comfortable. I had a wide array of seats to choose from; deep, squishy armchairs by the fire, straight-backed chairs at little tables, or soft, cushioned booths. They had a rather nice menu, and as I'm always starving after Tai Chi, the toasted bagel and cream cheese hit the spot. (My one complaint with Second Cup was that their food always - frankly - sucked.) Even the latte wasn't as bad as I'd remembered it, although it still made me shudder to see the guy press the "Latte" button on his machine. Service was friendly and prompt, too. All in all, CC was a location very conducive to writing. I managed to get a few pages scribbled after spending an hour sorting through old chapters and trying to collect my scattered thoughts.

So I'm going back tonight. Wish me luck. And don't tell the guys at Second Cup!

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Just whistle while I work...



Whew, it's been a couple of weeks since I've been on here. But I have excellent excuses: Jade's official birthday party was the last weekend in May, and I started work on the following Monday. Zoinks!

Since I only have to work for 5 weeks - from home! - to fulfill my EI requirements for the second maternity leave, I have nothing to complain about. At all. Really. Except...

a) I keep dozing off in front of the computer.
b) My little make-shift home office ranges in temperature from wilting, suffocating heat to icy, foot-numbing cold. And the windows don't open.
c) I get twinges of wistfulness when I hear Jade and her Auntie shrieking with laughter on the other side of the wall.

After being away from work for over a year, I thought I'd have trouble adjusting. But apart from the occasional computer-induced doziness, it feels as though I'd never left. Email, databases, toggling, internet sites, documentation strategies, meeting invites - nothing feels the least bit foreign. It's as though someone flicked my "insurance industry" switch back on and I'm plugged into the matrix again. My fingers tap across the keyboard like they could do it all on their own. Which is a good thing, because parts of my brain seem to have dissolved during the course of my maternity leave. We'll see what kind of quality of work I leave behind after 5 weeks.

At the very least, my co-workers seem glad to have me back and I'm happy for a little social interaction, albeit through email and our messaging system. We're having a big Italian lunch in the 'Loo next week so it should be a nice, goofy reunion where I can catch up on the office gossip and get hugs all around. I'm so very lucky to have excellent people to work with. Even if it's just for a month!

Jade's party was a blast. I concocted a chocolate banana bundt cake that was a hit with the adults, although my girl wasn't keen on it (D's horrified comment as I pulled it out of the oven: "Is that all there is???" But it was so rich and heavy we only needed slivers, so there was plenty to go around). Jade had been busy stuffing herself with raspberries and cheese all afternoon, so I wasn't offended when she had a tiny taste of cake and then majestically raised a hand to signal, "No more, thank you very much."

Doesn't she look darling in her birthday dress? D's cousin's personal care worker made it by hand when Jade was born and she grew into it just in time for her party.


We are making her a time capsule to open on her 10th (or 16th) birthday. All the guests contributed a small item; something to represent either themselves, or the year 2010. It should be good fun opening it up when the time comes, although I have to admit that it's KILLING me to not know what everything is! I'm one of those people who loves surprises, but secretly wants to know what's under the tree at Christmas. And yeah, I often read the last page of a book first.

One week of work down; four to go. Wish us luck!

Saturday, 15 May 2010

The mean mummy


I am caught between a grin and a cringe as I type this: Jade turned 1 on May 16th. ONE!!! My baby girl is a year old. *sniff sniff* And all this time I thought the expression "time flies" was a tired old cliche. Turns out it's shockingly true.

My doctor warned me not to give her any egg whites before she'd had her last set of shots, which are scheduled for May 20th, in order to avoid an allergic reaction. Which meant that for Jade's birthday treat, I had to come up with an eggless cake recipe that didn't taste like sawdust and wouldn't draw the scorn of my brother-in-law.

I didn't realize what a challenge it would be to have an anti-refined sugar/food philosophy when raising baby Jade. I mean, there is freaking refined sugar in EVERYTHING, from a humble loaf of bread to so-called "healthy" baby food. I've always been one of those annoying, obsessive label-readers, but it comes in handy when you're trying not to stuff your kid full of sugar and crap before her first birthday.

It's not that I'm anti-sugar. Believe me, I lurrrrve a good chockie cake, a fizzy glass of coke, velvety ice cream or as many cookies as I can cram down my gullet. I'm just anti-sugar for wee kiddies with developing palates. I figure she's got a whole lifetime to eat crap, so why not feed her the good stuff before she a) knows the difference and b) gets vocally proficient enough to complain?

A few of my in-laws routinely accuse me (semi-jokingly) of being a "mean mommy" when we're over there for meals. My hubby's neice is a year older than Jady and eats whatever she wants on holidays and special occasions, which is mainly cake, ice cream and chocolate. Which is completely fine...for her. I'm not into the whole "your parenting skills are wrong and mine are right" judging extravaganza. But it doesn't mean my girl needs to eat Jell-O at six months, ice cream at eight months or cheap Easter chocolate before she's a year old.

So I quietly feed her broccoli, meat, tofu, salmon, Greek yogurt, beans, avocado and the like while my in-laws and various friends tsk tsk and say, "Pooooor Jade." Sometimes it gets tiring, but I've learned to trust my instincts and go with what feels right for us, mean mummy comments be damned. She's a pretty good little eater, and that's all the incentive I need to keep feeding her healthy stuff with minimal sugary snacks.

I hunted up a vegan mango cupcake recipe for Jady's first birthday treat, since mango is her all-time favourite fruit, and I whipped up a pretty tasty buttercream icing to go on top so no one who tasted them would gag. I think they turned out pretty well, although they were heavy little suckers on account of no egg. I figured I could throw them at anyone who made one "mean mummy" comment too many!

They looked like this:

And she seemed to enjoy them, which is all that really counts. Happy birthday, Jady Lady! May you live a long and healthy life and enjoy all the good things...sugary or not.

Does this baby make me look fat?


Well, does it? (0;

The rumours are true: Baby Lowry, version 2.0, is due to arrive on September 22nd 2010! Place your bets now - we're not finding out the flavour (boy/girl) ahead of time.

And yes, I've heard it all: I'm crazy, I'm brave, I'm gonna be soooo busy, I'm nuts, say goodbye to sleep for another year... Believe me, I'm aware of the drawbacks. But I have one in diapers, so why not two? We've got all the baby gear already. We have a big ol' house. I qualify for a second mat leave. We're not getting any younger. And we have open hearts waiting to welcome another wee one into our lives. So I say...bring him/her on!

I've also heard that babies born close together develop an excellent sibling bond, so I'm hoping Jady Lady and her new brother or sister are good pals for life. My biggest worry? Finding another name as cool as Jade's for the new sprog. Suggestions are welcome!

Monday, 10 May 2010

A rite of spring...that doesn't involve manure!

Okay. 'nuff said about all the nastiness of a country spring. Wanna know the truest sign of my favourite season? When the rhubarb patch is finally high enough to yank out enough stalks to make the first rhubarb cake of the year.

As I've mentioned before, I'm not a baker. But rhubarb cake is the one thing that I can make and it never goes wrong. EVER. And the bonus is that both D and his brother are mad for it! Whoo hoo!

I can't remember where I got my tiny printed recipe from, but Mom used to make a rhubarb cake that was very similar, only she called hers "lava cake" because when it was done, the top looked like crusted over lava, and the inside was always moist and hot. I bless the person who printed that recipe for me though - it's my no-fail dessert, and I make about two a month until the rhubarb goes to seed.

The trick is to have nice crisp rhubarb that's not woody or too old. The stalks have to be juicy too; none of that hollow grocery store crap! Find a neighbour with an overgrown patch or a Mennonite roadside stand and you'll have exactly what you need. All it takes is about 6 good stalks to make one cake. Even if you don't really care for rhubarb, this baby strikes the perfect balance of sweet and tart. And - oh bliss - eat it warm with some vanilla ice cream on the side, and you'll never go back to plain old coffe cake again.

D is sick with a cold, but he stoically mounted the lawn tractor tonight to finish off the lawn before the next deluge, so I thought the poor man deserved to come in to the rich, brown-sugary smell of his favourite cake. Not to mention the lovin' arms of his favourite wife.

Kimber's Rhubarb Cake
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 cup milk
1 egg
2 1/2 cups sliced rhubarb (I sometimes use 3 cups)
1 tsp vanilla
sugar and cinnamon for sprinklin'

1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour a 9x13 pan.
2. Mix flour, soda and salt together in a small bowl & set aside.
3. Cream butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add egg and milk and mix well.
4. Add flour mix gradually to butter mixture until blended.
5. Stir in vanilla and rhubarb.
6. Pour into pan. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon if desired.
7. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes. Cool in pan on rack (but make sure you try some when it's still a bit warm!)

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Manure Blues: The sequel

To add manurey insult to manurey injury, my dog discovered the freshly dumped doo-doo in the fields yesterday afternoon. Not only did she gallop and cavort through the steamy stuff, she decided that eating it would present a new culinary adventure.

When I let her into the house and bent down to dish out her supper, I almost gagged. She had bits of manure hanging from her snout and sported brown smears up beyond her bony ankles. GAH!!! Thank heavens she's not the type of dog that likes to give kisses.

I banished her to the mud room for the rest of the night, where she moaned at me through the closed door every twenty minutes. It was too cold to put her outside in the doghouse all night, and since her hips are so sore lately, I didn't have the heart to leave her in the mudroom either. So inside she came, stink and all.

My reward for allowing my disgusting pet to sleep inside? A desperate 3am wake-up call - Neko scratching at the door for dear life - that I didn't get downstairs in time to answer. Note to self: NEVER run downstairs to aid a barfing dog in your bare feet. GAH GAH GAH!!!!

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Manure blues

Ahhh, springtime. Finally. What could be more magical than springtime in the country? Violets and crocus peek their purple faces up to make sure the snow is all gone before relaxing into bloom. Forsythia and magnolia burst into yellow and pink magnificence to celebrate days that have grown longer and warmer. The finches have returned, and I can finally take the suet down before it starts to melt. Wrinkly green and ruby nubs coming up by the garage remind me that rhubarb cake-making time is just around the corner, much to D's excitement. Springtime is a luscious reminder of how good it is to be alive.

And nothing quite reminds you of how alive you are like robins chortling and bluejays arguing outside the bedroom window at 4:30am, or the return of marauding raccoons staking out the compost pile. Not to mention the fragrance of freshly spread manure wafting in through all the windows you left open before you went to town. Mmmm, country living in springtime: it's a whole new experience in aromas, and definitely not for the faint of nose.

Today, for example, I hauled Jade's exersaucer outside so she could soak up some April sunshine while I planted my frost-resistant pansies. I dressed her in a warm sweater, wrestled her hat on and sprinkled some cheerios on the saucer. Then I hunted up my gardening gloves and new trowel and hunkered down to do my first planting of the season. We were happy as two little clams, Jade and I.

And then we heard the rumbling.

We turned to see my brother-in-law tearing across the south field in the big tractor, hauling my father-in-law's newly acquired manure spreader behind him. The poop was still steaming.

Jade was delighted. She adores anything that makes a lot of noise and began waving enthusiastically at my brother-in-law. I just sighed. I calculated that I had approximately ten or fifteen minutes to get planting before the smell hit us and absorbed into our hair and clothes.

It's not that I'm averse to poop; I understand the necessity of well-rotted manure when growing crops and gardens. After two years of living here, my nose is finally growing accustomed to the sour, familiar fragrance that floats through the Bruce at this time of year. No, I'm not a wimpy city girl who can't handle a little doodie. It's just that I had a bad experience with it last year and haven't quite forgiven my brother-in-law yet.

"D'you want some sh*t for your garden, Kimmy?" C asked me last fall. He'd just climbed down from his tractor and ambled across the lawn to where I was pulling out the last vestiges of my tomato plants from the garden. I eyed him - and the giant load of crap he was hauling behind the tractor.

"Is it well-rotted?" I asked. "I don't want anything that's going to attract bugs or be too smelly."

"Oh, it's good sh*t," he assured me, knowing full well that I couldn't possibly tell the difference.

"Wellll....okay. But not too much!"

"Don't worry, I'll dump off enough for your garden. It'll be fine.."

I took my best school-marmish pose and shook a warning finger at him. "C, however much you think you should drop off, give me a quarter of that."

He shrugged and went back to his tractor. I went back to my garden, then went inside to make supper and forgot all about my scheduled poop delivery. Until I went outside the next morning and saw the GIANT PILE of crap C'd dumped on the edge - not even the middle - of my garden!!! What part of "not too much" did that boy not understand? ARGH!!!

It took my husband and I over two sweaty, back-breaking hours to dig the stuff into the garden, and even then it barely got mixed in. "Don't worry," C assured me, "it'll break down over the winter. It's good sh*t, I told you."

Yeah, right. This spring, my garden is still covered in a thick, un-broken-down layer of manure that is going to take an industrial sized rototiller to plough through. Conveniently, my brother-in-law is "too damned busy" to help. So I'll have to resort to cajoling my husband, or enlisting one of his cousins to somehow get the poopy garden under control with some serious machinery. But at least we'll be able to enjoy the birdies chirping, the apple trees blooming and that faint, beguiling scent of spring manure while we do it.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

The Sunday Drive: Saugeen Bluffs Maple Syrup Festival


If there's one thing I get antsy for around this time of year, it's fresh, dark, sticky, delicious maple syrup. Having grown up in a small town where one could see tapped trees on one's bus ride to school, and where annual visits to the sugar bush were a given, I can't help but have an instinct for sugaring-off time. Warm days, slightly frozen nights, and the blood in my veins starts flowing in a decidedly spring-like fashion right along with the sap.

I have a friend in BC who may actually rival me in the maple mania department. In a recent email, he confessed to loving all things maple: maple ice cream, maple cookies, maple candies, maple perogies. Okay, I'm making up the perogies, but I KNOW he'd eat them if they existed. If he lived closer, I'd have invited him along on our Sunday drive a few weekends ago to the "Maple Madness" festival (disappointingly renamed this year as "Old Thyme Maple Syrup Festival") that takes place near Paisley.

Taking Jade there was something I'd been looking forward to all winter. There are all sorts of displays, lots of folks dressed up in costumes from pioneer days, live music, and several opportunities to watch sap being collected, boiled and turned into precious, precious syrup. And hey - there's a petting zoo! At the very least, Jade enjoyed her encounters with live chickens, sheep, llamas and goats. It was probably a welcome change from Mummy acting them out at home.

It's a good opportunity to get some fresh air, take in the forest surroundings, and eat copious amounts of locally made sausage and hotcakes smothered in that year's first syrup crop. Oh, how I love eating outdoors...

Anyway, that was our latest Sunday drive. I came home pleasantly weary from all the walking and with a very satisfied tummy from all the pancakes. What more can you ask from a Sunday drive?

Saturday, 10 April 2010

She's back, and she's....old.

You'll have to excuse my recent bloggy absence. Between Easter visit with the rellies, turning the big four-oh and trying to find a fitting way to honour the second anniversary of Rose's birth, it's been a helluva couple of weeks.

I've been thinking that I'd like to set up an annual award of some kind at the local public school in Rose's memory. Something that an average kid can win, nothing hugely monetary, but something worth having. I just have no idea what it should be or how to go about doing it. The ideas flitting through my mind seem to revolve around giving the award to a child who demonstrates an environmental conscience, or a child who tries to make her or his school a better place. But that's kinda vague. Then I started thinking it would be an award only female students could apply for, but then would I be fostering an attitude of unfairness? Hmmm. If any of you out there in bloggerland have experience in this kind of thing, or even some suggestions, please post 'em here.

Turning 40 seemed like it should have been a bigger deal than it was. I think having my big day sandwiched between Easter and Rose's birthday made it flow by quite easily. Several of my friends' experiences with achieving their fourth decade have been less than pleasant. I've heard stories from other 40-somethings who obsessed about their birthday to the point of anxiety or depression.

I suppose it's one of those milestones where you're supposed to look back on your life and figure out if you're where you wanna be, if you've achieved what you've wanted to achieve, blah blah blah. Frankly, I think my best years are still ahead of me. I get to grow older with a delicious man who challenges and satisfies me; I'm living in a place I adore with a lake that isn't going anywhere; I'll watch a baby girl who makes me giggle every day grow into a beautiful woman. I'm relatively healthy, not struggling financially, and I have been blessed with family and friends who truly care about me. So what if I'm "half-way to dead," as one poignant birthday card stated? At least I'm having a good time getting there.

To me, 40's just another number. 20, 30, 40 - whoop-dee-do! Now, knowing my younger sister is going to turn 40 in a few years and that my older sister is going to turn 50...THAT kinda freaks me out.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

In Memoriam

Rose Marie Lowry
April 3rd 2008

Silently a flower blooms
In silence it falls away;
Yet here now, at this moment, at this place,
The world of the flower, the whole of the world is blooming.
This is the talk of the flower, the truth of the blossom:
The glory of eternal life is fully shining here.

- Zenkei Shibayama

Friday, 26 March 2010

For puck's sake...


"Oh hey there, Mrs. Lowry. Can your husband play old-timers' this Friday night?"

I knew I was destined to become a hockey widow once we moved to Kincardine and I began getting frequent phone calls like that one. But why did the guys who called feel they hadeto ask me for permission? Had I somehow gained a reputation for being an anti-hockey shrew? Or were they worried that a former city girl wouldn’t understand the crucial importance of hockey in a country boy's life?

A few years ago, they might have been right. Oh, I'd spent my fair share of Saturday nights glazed over on the couch at my dad's while Hockey Night in Canada blared in the background, but somehow I'd never soaked up much awareness of the sport. Now that I'd moved to the Bruce, though, it was high time I learned.

The first hockey game I watched my husband play, I wore a stylish short jacket and high-heeled boots.

"You're gonna want to wear something warmer than that," he warned me. “Put your winter boots on.”

"This is warm enough," I said. "You're in an arena, right? Not outside?"

D shrugged and said, "At least wear a jacket that covers your butt." I dismissed his concern. How cold could an arena be? I put the novel I was reading in my purse along with some change for hot chocolate and gave him a winning smile. His biggest fan was ready.

An hour later, I sat alone and shivering in the stands, trying to turn the pages of my book with numb fingers. There was no hot chocolate machine. My butt was uncomfortably numb. Humph, I thought. So my husband was right. I would have been having a lot more fun with a parka and a thermos of hot toddies. Maybe even a sleeping bag. And where were all the other hockey wives? I made mental notes for next time.

Although I really had no idea what the rules were apart from the whole get-the-puck-in-the-net thing, I thought I was following the play fairly well in between chapters of my book. At one point when I looked up, my husband collided with a player from the other team, who skated off the ice holding his head. A bunch of players skated around the rink slowly, peering down at the ice. Huh, I thought. Poor guy must have lost a contact lens. The play resumed; I went back to my book.

When the resurfacer whirred out onto the ice, I clued in that the game was over. I charged into the warmth of the hallway outside the change rooms and pounced on my husband when he appeared. He was walking oddly, half dragging his hockey bag.

"That was fun! Phew, it smells in there. How come your face is all red? Did that guy ever find his contact lens?"

My husband narrowed his eyes at me. "You mean did he find his TOOTH? The tooth that got knocked out when the puck came off my stick and hit him in the face?" He paused. I was horrified. "Oh right," my husband continued, "you were probably reading Shakespeare when that happened. I guess you missed the goal I scored and the hit from behind I received from Bobby Clarke’s buddy because he thought my stick knocked his tooth out." The car ride home was pretty quiet.

Things have changed since then. I don't bring books to hockey games anymore. In fact, I now know that wives and girlfriends only come to tournaments, not weekly games. And, good country girl that I am, I come wearing a layer of long-johns, a coat that has both a hood and enough material to cover my bottom, and a blanket to sit on. Like the dutiful puck bunny I’ve become, I’ve learned to spot my husband's orange-and-blue hockey socks the minute he’s on the ice and I yell like a crazy woman whenever he gets within 10 feet of the puck. I can even tell – most of the time – if he scores a goal.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

A cheezee-tastrophe


Of late, I've been trying to avoid eating crap with artificial flavouring and colouring and preservatives. It's my newest health kick. It's shocking to see all the stuff that has fake colour and flavour in it, and I figure what goes into me goes into Jade - for a few more months, at least - so I'm just trying to be a bit smarter and read labels a bit more closely.

One of the biggest culprits is the junk food I so adore. My favourite - Cheetos Crunchy (think cheesies with all the air sucked out of them)- is chock-full of fake stuff. I know what you're thinking: "Well, duh, Kimberlee. That colour of orange just doesn't exist in nature." Yeah, I know. But while I was pregnant, I kept telling myself they were okay to eat because they contained folic acid, so important for pregnant moms! But that doesn't cancel out the MSG, fake flavour and Yellow 6 dye they're saturated with.

I was half-heartedly looking for an alternative in the grocery store, when what to my wondering eyes appeared but a bag simply called "Hawkins Cheezies." It was smaller than my usual bag of crap, plus the label proudly proclaimed "No preservatives!" "Made with real cheese!" and "Made in Canada!"

Well, I wasted no time in grabbing that sucker and popping it in the grocery cart. I couldn't wait to get home, rip into it and savour what would likely be a turning point in my junk food scarfing experience.

Strangely enough, I forgot all about the magical bag of Hawkins Cheezies until this afternoon, when I was trolling the cupboards during Jade's nap time for something to nosh on. I poured myself a little bowl and went to my favourite relaxing place on the couch. I sniffed the bowl in sweet anticipation. They smelled....cheesy. Closing my eyes, I plucked one from its orange little nest and popped it in my mouth.

WORST. CHEESIE. EVER.

My heavens, they were bad. They tasted like styrofoam dipped in salt, rolled in chicken soup mix and then more salt, then spray-painted orange. UGH! Then...I ate another one. (Well, I had to make sure the first one wasn't a fluke) Okay, I ate about 7 of them, just to be sure. And the 8th one tasted just as horrific as the first one, so I poured them in the garbage and said, "That's what I get for trying to eat healthy junk food."

But that wasn't the end of it, ohhhh no.

About three hours later, my tummy started rumbling. Dangerously. Like a broken septic system about to spew. I dumped Jade in her playpen and ran for the bathroom - and here I'll spare you the gory orange details. The damned things made me violently ill!!! I am so going back to Cheetos Crunchees. They may be fake, they may be bad for me, but at least my body doesn't reject them.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Yeah, but you don't have to rub my face in it...


My daughter is generally an enthusiastic eater. She especially enjoys smearing food all over her high chair, face, hair, elbows and occasionally, her feet. All the books say not to reprimand a messy eater; children should explore all aspects of eating in the early stages, and should even be encouraged to make a mess. Right.

This would be fine if Jade would only allow me to wash her face and hands off afterwards without screaming bloody murder. EVERY. TIME. I've tried doing it quickly; I've tried doing it extra-gently. I've tried making a silly song to go with the face-washing, making crazy faces, using a wacky voice - it all ends the same way: a shrieking, writhing baby who acts like I am stabbing her with pointy objects instead of sponging her off with a soft, warm cloth.

My husband doesn't usually get home in time to see the performance during the week. I was complaining about it to him on the weekend, showing him first-hand the Battle of the Face Cloth.

"I don't know what her problem is," I growled, as dodging, yelling baby Jade eluded me for the umpteenth time. "I have to put her in a headlock to get her face clean. Your mother says Jade never makes a fuss for her."

"I'll show you what the problem is," said my husband, and without further ado, grabbed me, grabbed the face cloth and started forcibly wiping my face off. "There, how d'YOU like it? Huh? Huh?"

After my squealing and Jade's giggling had subsided, I had to admit he had a point. Having someone wash your face is not fun, no matter what age you are. So now I just dab at Jady's avocado-smeared mug and if doesn't all come off, so be it. She seems to like it a lot better, too. Leave it to my ever-practical husband to show me the light.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Oscar and the grumbling tummy


Some of you long-suffering readers might recall my effusive, gushing Oscar entry last year. Well guess what? It's that time of year again - huzzah! But I think that instead of boring you with my usual starry-eyed Oscar deluge, I'll focus on the food.

What, no moaning about how my Oscar dress is tighter than ever this year? Or the fact that I can't indulge in too much champers on account of nursing Jady? Nope, this year, I'm just gonna tell you about the food I plan to make and devour during the 3 hour Oscar shennanigans. Cause I'm hungry and I haven't written about food in ages!

I come from a long line of excellent cooks and entertainers. My mother threw elaborate parties, and relied on several mainstays when serving appetizers. My sister and I were schooled in the art of putting together the "hors d'ouvres" (as Mom always called them) for the parties, and to this day, I can still make many of her recipes from memory. They're not fancy, but they look good and they have a certain 1970's - 1980's kitsch factor that tickles me every time I make them. Plus, they rock the tastebuds, which is the most important thing.

I'll describe a few of them here, then list the recipes below if you're interested. And if you have any fancy-dancy appies to share, please do. I always prefer a meal of appetizers to a full course supper.

First on the list are the Cheese Dreams. This one is kind of a poor man's quiche, but there's never any left when I serve it. It's a bit annoying on account of the Pillsbury dough management technique, but once you get the hang of it, it's worth the sticky fingers and muttered epithets while unrolling the dough. For those of you outside North America who have no idea what Pillsbury dough is, I'm not sure I can suggest a substitute; Pillsbury dough is every lazy cook's companion. It's chock full of fat, salt and unmentionable ingredients, but does it ever taste good.

Next, I like to whip up Mom's famous Taco Dip.
Mom's prounciation of the word "taco" used to make my sister and I exchange eye rolls, but the dip is absolutely scrumptious. I have even been known to eat leftovers for breakfast...if there are any, that is. It's simple, and actually not that horrible for you if you use low-fat cream cheese. The flavours meld together into a fantastic blend and the texture is somewhere between creamy-crunchy depending on which veggies you use. I must stress that you use decent nacho chips for dipping though - use a cheap brand and they'll snap like matchsticks when you try to scoop up a decent helping. Blue corn chips seem to be the best pick in my experience.

I didn't make Mushroom Caps this year, because D doesn't like them and I don't want to gobble an entire platter myself, which is exactly what will occur. But my heavens, they are SO GOOD. I assume it's the bacon, or maybe the fresh parmesan...in any case, I have never once made these and had people not scarf them so quickly they burned their tongues, despite my warnings. Once, I brought a tray of uncooked mushies to a New Year's party. The power went out - and the guests snorked them all back raw!

Mom never served proscuitto
that I can recall, but it's a treat for me. The sweetness of the melon against the saltiness of the meat is divine. The trick is browbeating your deli-counter employee to slice it PAPER THIN. There is nothing gaggier than a too-thick piece of proscuitto, trust me, and the folks at Sobey's, bless their high-school hearts, just can't seem to grasp that until I've sent the slice back at least three times. Good thing I don't make this one very often - I might get banned from the grocery store.

So anyway, the recipes are below. I hope you'll try 'em - and even if you don't watch the Oscars, I hope you feel glamorous when you eat these patented Alisa Feick hors d'ouvres. Bon appetit!

Cheese Dreams
You'll need:
2 rolls of Pilsbury dough - crescents
4 eggs
splash of milk or cream
1/4 cup parsley, minced
1/4 cup green olives, sliced
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
dash of your favourite hot sauce
pepper

1. Preheat oven to 375. Spread the dough out so that it covers a 9x13 baking sheet, preferably one with edges. It's a pain in the butt process, but try to make sure there are no gaps between the seams. You may have to get creative.
2. In a medium bowl, beat eggs and milk together until well blended.
3. Add all other ingredients except pepper. Stir until everything is well coated.
4. Spread the mixture out until all parts of the dough are covered. You may have to tilt the pan to get the eggy stuff to move around.
5. Grind some fresh pepper on it, and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until slightly browned. Cool for 10 minutes, cut into squares and serve warm or cold.

Taco Dip
What you'll need:
5 green onions, chopped
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 orange or yellow bell pepper, finely chopped
1/2 seedless cucumber, finely chopped
3/4 cup salsa
1 block cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp chili pepper
1 tsp onion or garlic powder
pinch oregano
1/2 cup jack or cheddar cheese, grated

1. Blend cream cheese and sour cream together until smooth and no lumps. (If you have the energy, use electric beaters.) Add spices and mix well.
2. Spread the cheese mixture over a large platter to 3/4 inch thickness. Cover with the salsa.
3. Starting at the outside edge of the platter, spread the onion in a circle. Follow with a circle of red pepper, then orange/yellow pepper, then fill centre with cucumber.
4. Sprinkle with cheese. Chill 30 minutes; serve with good quality nacho chips.

Marvy Mushroom Caps
You'll need:
20 medium sized mushrooms, stems removed (reserve 8 stems & chop finely)
1/2 block cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sweet onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup parsley, minced
two (or more) dashes hot sauce
salt and pepper
5 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled (Do NOT chintz out and buy pre-cooked bacon. Just...don't.)
1/4 cup fresh parmesan, grated

1. Preheat oven to 400.
2. Mix all ingredients together (except mushroom caps!).
3. Stuff mushroom caps as full as you can.
4. Bake for 20 minutes or until juices start flowing out of the caps.
Note: let them cool slightly or you will burn your tongue!


Proscuitto & Melon
You'll need:
10 slices of proscuitto, paper thin
10 chunks of honeydew or canteloupe melon
10 fresh mint leaves
juice from 1/4 lemon or 1/2 lime

1. Toss melon with lemon or lime juice in a small bowl. Let sit 5 minutes.
2. Wrap each piece of melon with a slice of proscuitto.
3. Top with a mint leaf. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Note: You can stab them with toothpicks, but I find the meat/melon/mint combo sticks together quite well without them.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Home sweet homely

When one of the friendly young Mums at Early Years Playgroup took me aside and invited me to the smaller, private "Mom's group" that a few of them organized every Thursday, I was secretly quite chuffed. Yes! The other moms actually thought I was cool enough to make the cut to their own group!

I haven't made too many new friends up in the Kink (although I hang out frequently with several of D's female rellies), so I hoped that joining the Thursday Mom club would furnish me with a few opportunities to pally up to some nice women. D is forever moaning about how I don't have enough "girlfriends" up here. I think he was even more pleased than I was about joining the group.

Jade and I quite enjoy our Thursday afternoon visits to the various homes and getting to know the moms and their babies. I've become pals with the lovely woman who initially invited me and we've gone for coffee a few times. The other ladies are equally cordial and easy to talk to, so I'm quite pleased to be part of their little Thursday baby gang. We laugh, we commiserate, we exchange pooptastrophe stories and goofy husband gaffes. It's fun.

The only thing that worries me is this: I've offered to host in a few weeks, and deep down, I'm afraid the ladies are going to be horrified with my house.

Every home I've visited on Thursday afternoons has been huge, new and completely spic and span. Even the places with pets seem mysteriously hair and whisker free. It's enough to make my eyes bug out - these are new moms! Where do they find the time - let alone the energy - to clean?? Yow.

I've noticed that each home has beautiful tiled floors in the kitchen, and laminate or hardwood throughout the rest of the open-concept living spaces. Plus, each house features a cavernous finished rec room, complete with giant screen TVs and beautiful fireplaces, and a yawning expanse of floor for the babies to play on.

No one has puckered linoleum, or slanted floors; no one has torn screen doors where their dogs have repeatedly begged entrance. I haven't seen a single rusty toilet or unpainted garage. Everyone's lawns look like they've been professionally landscaped - no one is living in a sea of mud thanks to a recent septic mishap.

Normally, I could care less about material things or what other people think of the way I live, so I don't know why this is niggling at me so much. I guess most of these moms are ten to nearly twenty years my junior; likely none of them have much experience living in old houses the way I have. I grew up in a 100 year old house; my house in Waterloo was 70 years old, and Someday was built in 1917. And Someday isn't without its charms: the gorgeous wood trim throughout the house, the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, the mature trees and the two acres that are our very own. I adore the personality and quirks of a building that's been well-lived in - but I'm having my eyes opened to the fact that most people nowadays choose to live in brand new, sparkly houses that they had some hand in designing. And those houses look like a lot less work than mine is. I suppose an old house is always a work in progress, whereas a new house is a completed entity with no surprises.

Well, it's not a competition, after all, and I'm likely not giving these nice women enough credit. They're coming for a visit, not to judge. And in a way, I'm excited to host folks here - I've fallen out of practice in hostessing lately, and I want Jade to see what it's like to have people over at her house. I'm hoping she blossoms socially and inherits her Baba's penchant for entertaining. And none of her mother's fits of inadequacy.

Monday, 22 February 2010

In praise of...the winter walk


'Twas a sunny, mild day in the Kink on Saturday, so hub and I got off our lazy bottoms and took Jady Lady for a sleigh ride in the woods. First, though, D had to teach her the fine art of downhill "lugeing": he popped her in the little sled Grandpa Ed gave her for Christmas and sent her for a spin down the gentle slope behind our house.

On her maiden run, baby Jade looked terrified: her lips were pulled tight in horror and her eyes bugged out, even though she wasn't going any faster than I could walk. But by her third voyage, she was giggling like a crazy girl. I'm sure she would have clapped her hands had she not been jammed into her baby bear snowsuit and unable to move.

Once D and his daughter had exhausted the thrill of the hill, we changed sleds (using Grandma Shirley's giant, heavy duty sled, complete with cover and wind-shield) and went off through the cedars on the snowmobile trail. The sky was that cerulean colour of blue it only gets on a clear winter day; the sun was melting into the lake. I could smell the tang of cedar branches as we brushed past them and the snow crunched delightfully beneath our feet. Jade was babbling happily to herself; D and I didn't need to talk, and just exchanged occasional smiles.

We stopped to visit D's cousin, and by the time we left, it was nightfall. Stars glowed in the sky; the moon's crescent was verging on a half wedge. I picked out Antares, the red star, and even discerned the double star in the handle of the big dipper, something that rarely happens with my less-than-sharp vision.

A winter walk is one of those things that makes you feel glad you're alive, and taking a winter walk at night just enhances the experience.

Monday, 15 February 2010

In praise of: Valentine's day


Last year I wrote a rather heated entry in defense of good ol' V-Day. But I don't feel the need to go all vitriolic on you V-day haters this year. I've mellowed. Okay, I'm just really tired, but still, I don't feel the urge to get on my V-day bandwagon again. I think it's because I've heard so many nice, simple stories from friends and family about how they've spent their 2010 Valentine's Day that my heart is satisfied. Some couples went to the pancake breakfast in Ripley (and so did we), some went skating at the outdoor rink at McGregor Point, some hung out and watched sappy movies. To me, it's all good.

D spent the weekend doing chores so his brother C could play in a hockey tourney (that was not the heartwarming part) and spend the weekend with his girlfriend (that was the heartwarming part). It meant late suppers for both of us and less help with Jady lady in the evenings, but I figured it was for a good cause. We still managed to spend time together in front of the fire, enjoy a really kick-arse lasagne and our traditional dessert of chocolate-covered strawberries. AND D bought me the most gorgeous bouqet of tulips, which are even now making the house feel like spring.

Instead of cards, this year we exchanged our favourite memories of each other, which was kinda fun. Jade and I made D a card; she mostly smeared the purple and pink hearts I drew and tried unsuccessfully to taste each marker, but the card turned out to be pretty cute. Jade received cards from her cousin and both sets of grandparents so I still got my mailbox thrills vicariously. Plus it was fun to dress her up in red and pink; D even got Jade her very own flower.

All in all, I just like Valentine's day and the cool stuff it represents. Here's hoping yours was rosy, fun and full of warm fuzzies.

Defeated by a pork chop


As long as I'm not exhausted, I adore cooking. But I'm the first to admit that my meat preparation skills aren't the greatest. Give me some veggies, tofu or noodles and I can whip you up a meal you'd go down on your knees to thank me for, but when it comes to the meaty stuff, well, it's sometimes better if we just let the dog eat it.

For example, last night I met my Waterloo with two humble pork chops. I was tired after a busy week of chasing Jady Lady, super-crawling baby, but I started off feeling fairly optimistic: the receipe was simple, had lots of good ratings online and called for only 5 ingredients. The evening ended with me forcibly swearing that I would never again buy pork chops, no matter how economical they were.

It doesn't seem to matter how I prepare the darned things - they always taste like cardboard. I've marinated, roasted, grilled and fried them. I've covered them in sauces and gravies. Once I even attempted to crockpot them but we all know my feelings about the cursed crockpot.

Same with roast beef. My Nana could cook a roast beef so tender and juicy you only needed a fork to eat it with; my Mom made awesome pot roasts. Me? I cook them so rare that only bears enjoy them, or else cook the hell out of them so they taste like boiled leather. My yorkshire puddings are always tasty, but that's a small consolation when you've promised your man a roast beef dinner and end up feeding him fried eggy dough instead.

Chicken seems to be the one meat I can cook without constantly wrecking it, although it's mainly because I throw it on the BBQ or poach it. And the irony? I really, really loathe chicken.

So if anyone out there has a no-fail scheme for cooking pork chops so they're not as dry as a popcorn fart, please - I beg you - tell me your secret! Otherwise my husband will be eating tofu for the rest of the month.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Minus 22????


Usually I can take just about anything winter throws at me: snowstorms that cancel all travel, from trips to the city to the weekly grocery shopping; high winds that pummel Someday farm and threaten to rip the screen door off its hinges; mountains of white stuff that jam the garage doors shut and make walking to get the mail akin to an Arctic adventure. I've always loved winter. But this year, the nose-numbing cold's been getting to me.

Take today, for instance. -15 with a wind chill of -22. I know it's not as bad as Winterpeg or one of those other Godforsaken provinces where a -20 day is the norm, even without a breeze. But for some reason, the cold this week has seeped into my almost-forty-year-old bones and stayed there. I don't even want to go onto the back porch to let the dog outside, because it means walking into the icy room and spending five minutes shoving poor Nekes out the door with my foot while the wind mercilessly blasts us both. Even putting on my boots on sends a pang of cold up my leg and directly into my spine, in no small part because the snow hasn't even had a chance to melt off them from the last time I wore them outside.

The cold never used to bother me; I dressed in layers, invested in good long-johns, a decent hat, excellent mitts and sucked it up. I'd sneer at the wimps who would rush into the grocery store or the bank, rubbing their chapped fingers together and exclaiming how AWFUL the cold was. I'd note with disdain that half the people who complained about the cold didn't wear hats, gloves or scarves; well, duh.

But now I'm becoming one of those whingy souls who can't s-s-s-top sh-sh-shivering. What is up with that? Do I need to add another layer of fat to my body? Drink more alcohol to stay warm? Invest in fleece underwear? Cause I can definitely take those measures. I'm just not convinced they're gonna keep the chills away. Brrrr.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

In praise of: making your own baby food


You're probably thinking that this is a pretty weird "In praise of" topic, huh? The truth is, I've become addicted to making Jade's baby food. Seriously, hardly a day goes by that I don't have my nose buried in the baby food cookbook (The Baby's Table), the Magic Bullet a-whirring or the steamer steaming. Cooking for me and D has always been rewarding and fun, but cooking for baby Jade is fulfilling on a whole different level. (Okay, except for the part where she spits out a recipe or does her whole fake-gag act. But that's only happened with parsnips and plums.)

Not only is it rewarding to see your tiny offspring gobble down meals of your own making, you have complete control over what goes into her food. It's a bit horrifying to read some of the ingredients on baby cereals, snacks and other pre-packaged baby foods. Check this one out: RICE FLOUR, DRY SKIM MILK, PALM OLEIN, POTATO MALTODEXTRIN, CANOLA OIL, COCONUT OIL, PREBIOTICS (OLIGOFRUCTOSE, INULIN), SUNFLOWER OIL, MINERAL AND VITAMINS (FERROUS FUMARATE, NICOTINAMIDE, THIAMINE MONONITRATE, RIBOFLAVIN), BIFIDOBACTERIUM LACTIS CULTURES. I'm sorry, but what the what are Palm Olein and Potato Maltodextrin and Coconut Oil doing in my 8 month old's food? Ugh.

I'm thankful that Jady Lady is a good little eater, and likes everything except the aforementioned P words. It's so much fun to see what foods she favours (avocado, tofu, broccoli, melon) and which she eats with less gusto (peach, egg yolk, papaya). I'm loving all the funky recipes in her baby cookbook, especially now that we've moved beyond the steam&puree-the-crap-out-of-veg&fruits stage. My latest favourite recipe? Baby Ratatouille. It's delicious, nutritious and best of all, Jady, Mummy and Daddy all enjoy it. So, dear reader, in praise of making my own baby food, I will share my version of the recipe with you. Even if you don't have a wee one to feed, this stuff is veggie gold for adults too. And you don't even have to wear a bib.

Baby Ratatouille
1 cup broccoli florets
2 small zucchini, chopped
1 can tomatoes with juice
1 red pepper, peeled and chopped
1 potato, cubed (peeling is optional)
1/2 onion, chopped (optional)
1 clove garlic, minced (optional)
1 cup no-salt vegetable broth or water
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
handful fresh basil (optional)

Chuck it all in a pot and bring to a boil; simmer covered 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the lid and simmer another 10 minutes uncovered. It should look like a thick stew when it's done. Serve hot over egg noodles or orzo, sprinkled with copious amounts of cheese and basil. Soooo good on a cold winter day.

The Sunday Afternoon Drive: MacGregor Point


If you grew up in Ontario, chances are you spent time at an arena learning to skate. You probably even tried out the nearest outdoor rink, usually a flooded and frozen basketball court in a nearby park. If you were really super lucky, your parents built you your VERY OWN rink in your VERY OWN backyard. I was one of those fortunate kids who had a persuasive mother and an obliging father and therefore, her very own outdoor rink.

All sorts of related rinky memories came rushing back to me this past weekend when D and I took Jady Lady skating at MacGregor Point national park. Before you freak out, let me clarify: my child is not a sporting genius and did not strap on pint-sized skates at 8 months old. D did the skating and pulled her around in her fancy new sled while all the other children watched in envy.

The park is huge and offers lots of funky winter activites, like winter hiking, skiing and snowshoe trails. Best of all, there's a fabulous outdoor 400m long "skating circle" nestled in the midst of the woods. I've been dying to go ever since I heard about it last year and D, in his husbandly wisdom, suggested the outing over supper on friday night. Sometimes that guy says exactly the right thing.

Skating on an outdoor rink requires a certain knack for navigating bumpy surfaces, stray branches and errant clumps of snow. Outdoor rinks usually aren't groomed, and this one was no exception. It was a jigsaw of cauliflower-esque lumps, gouges from enthusiastic skaters and deceivingly smooth patches. Seeing as how I'm learning to skate in brother-in-law C's old hockey skates - completely different from the figure skates I grew up using - I resembled a drunken ballerina. Wee children were passing me. Squirrels ran faster than I skated. D, on the other hand, was the epitome of effortless grace. I love watching him skate; years of hockey have given him speed, power and balance, things I covet even more than I covet his naturally curly hair.

Jady seems to enjoy the outdoors. At least she doesn't scream or whinge. Occasionally she smiles up at us from the comfort of her sled, but usually she just stares in wide, blue-eyed wonder at the snow, the trees, the clear winter sky, mummy's goofy helmet and daddy's long legs. I'm glad she doesn't hate winter and can tolerate the cold. I forsee many more afternoons outside with baby Jade, and I can't wait to strap teeny tiny little skates on her in a few years and glide (okay, flail) around together on our very own outdoor rink at Someday farm.

Monday, 11 January 2010

*sigh*


Is there anything more disheartening than taking down the Christmas tree? Probably, but at the moment, I can't think of anything.

I know I'm probably weird for keeping the tree up this long. I just love it so much that I hate to get rid of it. My sis Tanzi and I were just talking about the time when we were living together the Christmas after my mom died. We kept our REAL LIVE scotch pine tree up until Valentine's day, much to the horror of our friends. Now there's a stench I've never been able to recreate.

There's so much about the ritual of the whole Christmas tree tradition that's dear to me. You know, picking out a tree, dragging it home, cursing and grumbling as you and your husband attempt to get it to stand up straight in the tree holder from hell without losing an eye, lugging boxfuls of decorations up from the basement, placing them here and there - just so - while sipping some Alize or Bailey's...I could go on, but I'm probably nauseating those of you who a) have artificial trees and b) take them down on boxing day. To you, I say only this: "Humph!"

Good bye, lovely tree. Despite our tinsel war and the rash you gave me when I hung the ornaments on you, I'll miss your prickly, twinkly presence in the living room.

*sigh*

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Comfort for a sniffling soul

That's what my Nana wrote above her recipe for chicken soup in one of her recipe "scribblers;" I often think of it when I'm suffering from a wretched cold like I am right now. Ugh. What a way to ring in the new year. (By the way, HAPPY NEW YEAR my bloggy friends!)

I haven't figured out how to get rid of a cold quickly, but I have come up with a roster of remedies that trick me into feeling better. Half the battle with a cold is to do everything in your power to stop yourself from feeling completely miserable. Because I find that when I'm sick and miserable, I make everyone around me miserable. I am a terrible, terrible patient.

First, get as much rest as possible. I know, I know - that's what everyone says. But hardly anyone does it! No, most of us slug ourselves off to work or school anyway, where we moan and snuffle and infect 3/4 of the people we come into contact with. Stay home, for pete's sake, get into bed and stay there for a few hours. Enlist the help of friends or family or whoever you can cajole into looking after your kids/pets/plants so you can catch at least one or two hours of rest. I think colds are our bodies ways of telling us, "Dude, slow the freak down." So listen to your body, get under a blanket and get prone, pronto. Better yet, go to bed a few hours early. I dare ya.

I've already expounded on the joys of taking a bath in an earlier blog, so I won't blather on about it again here. It does wonders for your sinuses though, and loosens up all the guck in your chest too. Add a drop or two of eucalyptus oil and suddenly you'll remember what it's like to breathe through your nose again.

My Dad's remedy for neutralizing all things germy that come within 10 feet of him is pretty good too: slice a raw clove of garlic very thinly. Place it on a cracker with a piece of cheese or better yet, a chunk of venison salami. Eat. Watch all your loved ones flee to the next room. But seriously, garlic and onion do seem to help me feel better when I have a cold. And it doesn't have to be as drastic as dear old Dad's pungent remedy; think fresh salsa with raw onion and garlic (I like Garden Fresh from the deli), or hummus or baba ganouj. You won't be able to smell yourself anyway.

The best thing about having a cold is that it gives me an excuse to drink hard liquor, which I rarely ever do. My version of a hot toddy is the ultimate sickie sleep aid. As a bonus, it also numbs the throat and soothes any of that nasty coughing business. Take a cup of boiling hot water and add a generous glop of honey. Then add the juice of half a lemon. Then add two slices of fresh ginger. Crown this glorious concoction with an ounce of cognac or sherry. (Yes, I know it's supposed to be whiskey or scotch but I'm trying to cure, not kill myself.)

Finally, buy some Vicks Vapo Rub. Find someone you really like, and get them to slather it all over your chest and back. It's surprisingly soothing and stimulating at the same time. (0:

Stay well everyone.