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

Monday, 27 August 2012

Death by sunflower...and corn

So much for my bold resolution to blog every three days. That's the problem with publishing your resolutions for the blogosphere to read: if you fail to make good on your lofty claims, people know. I was certain that once the corporate shackles had been struck, I was going to WRITE, dammit! WRITE EVERY DAY! I would work on my blog, my book, my short story collection.

Wanna hear my excuses?

1) August is always a busy time of year for me. You know, a peach lavender jam/pepper jelly/chili sauce/salsa kind of month. But thanks to my enterprising husband, it's also become a harvest-40-sunflowers-before-7:30 a.m./pick-185-cobs-of-corn-before-3 p.m. kind of month. It's become a fish-the-pink-umbrella-out-of-the-cornfield and check-the-money-jars and make-sure-you've-set-out-enough-corn kind of month. I ache all over. My fingers are raw and stained. So typing sucks. And by dinnertime, my brain is broken. So there.

2)Somehow, I'm busier being home all the time than I ever was at work. All that laundry and cleaning I used to ignore leap out at me now. Domestic guilt figures largely in this equation, too. Before, it was, "I just worked a full day. I'll deal with that pile of nasty underwear and socks tomorrow." Now it's, "Crap. I'm at home all day. By default, this nasty underwear pile is my responsibility." Plus the kids, hilarious and darling and joyful as they are, run me ragged. Dylan has learned to crawl out of his crib and Jade has decided afternoon naps are just so passe. They both want me to play and cuddle, which is nice, but such requests tend to be made when I am making supper, hanging laundry or am elbow deep in corn husks. And I only have the kidlets home with me Wed-Fri!!! I am an old, tired mama bear.

3) I bought a new Mac Powerbook in a fit of rage a few weeks ago. D's laptop kept flashing me rudely with the blue screen of death in the middle of important YouTube videos, so I finally cracked. It's not like me to make expensive online purchases, but hey, it was either that or dump D's laptop in the lake. But I am a technical dullard, so even though I was impressed with the mac's incredibly intuitive user instructions, it took me a little while to get it up and running. I still can't figure out how to connect to the wireless internet because D conveniently "forgets" to help me look for the password; I think it's his way of punishing me for "forgetting" to tell him about the purchase until the day it arrived. When I led him by the hand to the dining room table and silently pointed to my glowing new grey pet, he was quiet for a moment. Then: "You're gonna have to sell a lot of sunflowers, Kimmy."

4) Finally, I woke up this morning to NO INTERNET at home. Seriously? It's Monday, the kids' daycare day - my BLOGGING day, for pete's sakes. So I'm in the coffee shop, banging away on a sticky keyboard and downing my fourth cup of their potent java. I'm listening to the drone of the various breakfast clubs (aka senior citizen gossip sessions) around me, the guy who keeps whistling at his toddler like she's a chihuahua, and the crash of dishes through the kitchen door, which is beside my left knee.

Don't worry, I'll fill you in on the whole garden market experiment. Just as soon as I get groceries, make 16 jars of jalapeno pepper jelly and put out today's supply of sunflowers and corn.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Just beachy, thanks.

BLISS. I'm at the cottage for one perfect day of solitude. Then D and the kids are joining me for a week of happiness. I've been looking forward to this for months.

The cottage is best when my cousins and auntie are here, but it's pretty wonderful having it all to myself too. I walked the beach for an hour before lunch, since Jade and Dylan act like maniacs as soon as they catch sight of the water.

When you go for a walk by yourself, your thoughts run all over the place like a dog off a leash. They jump into the water, dash around and check out cottages, investigate strangers and then come back to you, panting with joy.

For example:

1. Girl, if my boyfriend got his jollies out of throwing wet sand at me while we swam in the lake, I would drown him. Slowly. I suggest you give it some thought.

2. That little girl just chimp-walked across the sand. I mean, seriously chimp-walked: on all fours, knuckles down, butt out. Whoa.

3. Just passed two elderly gentlemen out for a stroll. The one closest to me wore a checked, button down shirt, freshly pressed pants and spiffy loafers. I wonder what he wears out to dinner?

4. So many funky stones, so little pocket space.

5. Why is it that I come to the beach to listen to the waves, only to have my brain auto-tune them out five minutes later?

6. Where the bloody hell have all my childhood landmarks gone?! Where’s the lagoon? Where’s the cement boathouse that tells me I’m almost at the 8th? Why is diving rock ten feet closer to shore? Thank heavens the cottage still looks and smells like the cottage.

7. I love walking with my feet in the water. Hmm, a big rock. Well, it’s flat; I’ll just walk over it. And – UP – and – GAH! (splash) Okay, did anybody see that? Holy shit, I just fell off a perfectly flat rock. I am so old.

8. Hello little doggie. Aren’t you cute? (pat pat) That’s it, go on now. Seriously…go away. Hey, your owner is calling you - get lost!

9. I don’t see the blue chairs. Where are the blue chairs? Did I pass the cottage? Good grief, where the hell am I???

10. Empty pockets, rinse sandy feet, remove wet pants. Open a bottle of Coke, squeeze the lime, sigh with pleasure.

I can't wait to tuck the kids into the bedroom I used to use when I was little, read my book in companionable silence with D (who will be reading his Blackberry), fall asleep listening to the crash and roar of the waves and get sandy & wet with the kiddies in the morning. This is my bliss.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

The sum of all fears: Me vs. the Zero Turn

If you're self-employed, unemployed or on sabbatical, the last thing you want to hear is, "So, what did you do all day?"

It's one of those questions that can be asked with the sweetest of innocence; other times it's as pointed as a knife. Regardless of the intent, those words make me want to bare my teeth and leap on the person who has said it like a feral dog. GRRRR! You still wanna know what I did all day? Well, do ya, punk??

Defensive-slash-overreactive much? Just a bit.

The thing is, I don't really know what I'm supposed to be doing all day. Change diapers, play with the kids, do the dishes, check Facecrack, wipe up pee, make supper, fingerpaint, run a load of laundry, yeah yeah yeah. But is that all? I feel like I should be renovating the house, or sewing curtains or teaching my kids French. That's the hard part of losing your job: suddenly, there's too much freedom. So when D asks me that question, sometimes with true interest, sometimes with a glint of evil in his eye, my inner Hound strains for release.

Anyway, one thing I CAN do when the kids aren't around is mow the lawn. My beloved Jean Green underwent extensive, expensive repairs last month, somehow rendering her even more unreliable than usual. Which leaves me the garden shears or D's giant, roaring zero-turn tractor, of which I am terrified.

D has been trying to convince me to use the zero-turn for three years. His father bought it, but gave it to us after he discovered that running it hurt his back, and D's mom, who can drive every piece of equipment on the farm, refuses to get on it. Yet somehow, my darling man thinks his precious wife should be fully capable of operating this nasty behemoth of a machine.

The first day he borrowed it from his Dad, just to, you know, "see what she runs like," he grinned so hard his face nearly split. As he spun around the yard in figure-eights, spewing fountains of grass all over my flowers, his tongue protruded from his mouth in what I could only guess was a childlike tractor noise. I knew right then that Jean Green and I were doomed. It was just a matter of time.

The zero-turn has a roll bar and a seatbelt. It also has scary graphics depicting stick figures in various stages of decapitation and mutilation. That alone has been enough to convince me that me and Jean Green are just fine, thanks, so don't bug us with your "fancy" mowers. Jean may plod along at the speed of a dying caterpillar, but she isn't going to chop my head off. And Jean's only graphics are of a rabbit to indicate her highest speed (aforementioned dying caterpillar) and a turtle for her slowest speed (dead caterpillar).

So until today, I've always managed to avoid zero-turn duty ("Jean will be jealous;" "I'm too tired;" "I don't wanna!"). But now that Jean needs a battery boost every time I need to start her, and my husband keeps asking me that wretched question, I decided to suck it up and risk my stupid life mowing the stupid lawn with the stupid zero turn.

I managed to get it started and back out of the barn without smashing into anything, and I even figured out how to turn on the blades. But I had to call my brother-in-law to figure out how to lower the deck. Which sucked, because I would have preferred my stupidity to have gone undiscussed between the brothers Lowry. I wanted D to come home to a splendid looking lawn and a nonchalant wife; instead, he'll ignore anything I tell him and ask Carm how it went instead.

Carm arrived with the same look on his face he has every time he has to help me with something, probably similar to the look I have when wiping my kids' butts.

When I moaned about Jean Green being out of commission, he shrugged and gestured to the beast in my driveway. "What's wrong with this one?"

"I hate it," I said. "The controls are too sensitive."

"Then it should be pefect. I thought you women were supposed to be all sensitive and stuff."

"Ha ha," I said. "Just help me figure it out."

We got the zero-turn going and I listened impatiently to Carm's instructions. I waved him off, and jerked down the lane to practise on the back lawn, which was crispy and didn't have any hills. I nearly scraped my leg off on the barn and yelped in terror at the sudden appearance of a fence post before I realized that to go right, I had to pull left, and vice versa. Who the hell designed this stupid thing? Probably some divorced guy. A grasshopper sprang down my shirt and I decided the roll-bar and seat-belt weren't such bad ideas after all. Then I realized Carm had follwed me in his truck and was observing my progress.

"GO AWAY!" I screamed, but he got out of the truck, walked over and turned up the throttle.

"Makes 'er go better!" he shouted.

"I DON'T WANT TO GO BETTER!" I screeched, careening away from him. "MOVE THE DAMN TRUCK!" I pictured myself bashing my father-in-law's beautiful new vehicle and going down in the Lowry annals as the daughter-in-law too stupid to drive a zero-turn. Carm just smiled.

I lurched off in the opposite direction in a gasoline-powered huff, praying I would get around the corner of the barn and out of sight so I could die in privacy. Carm rolled slowly down the lane in the truck to check me out. I ignored him so hard I nearly drove into the alfalfa field.

26 close-calls, two massacred solar lamps and a deep desire for a sports bra later, I've got all the flat, non-foliaged parts of the lawn cut. It hurts to turn my head to the right and my throat is raw from screams of terror. I am also covered in a fine coat of grass clippings and I think I sunburned a nipple (Note to self: never wear a tube-top on a zero-turn). But now I've got a good frigging answer when D asks me what I've done all day. And I can even make the tractor noise to prove it.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Whatcha cookin'?

Now that I am a full-fledged housefrau, I have a little more time to concoct edible delights. You know, move past the jell-o-with-whipped-cream phase into more of a home-made-brownies-with-bailey's phase of cooking.

Lately, I've been pretending that I own a little bistro. Please note that I do not aspire to actually owning a bistro. I could think of nothing more horrifying than making people pay me to eat my sometimes dubious cooking. But when I'm in the kitchen, I day dream a lot, and one of my fantasies is that I'm the owner of a funky restaurant in Kinkytown and I'm being interviewed by some idiot on the Food network about my fascinating menu.

It often goes something like this:

Idiot from Food Network: So tell us about today's exciting features!
Funky Bistro Owner (aka Me): Well, in the summer we make both a hot soup and a cold soup -
Idiot: Uh Huh! Wow! Cold soup!
FBO: - and a choice of two daily salads that change every day -
Idiot: Wow! Cuz people really love salads!
FBO: (shoots Idiot a look of annoyance) - Yes. Right. So, we have favourites that stay on the menu permanently, like our chili, and we always offer a few gluten-free options -
Idiot: Oh yeah, my sister's totally into the gluten free movement, that's becoming very popular!
FBO: (fingering a sharp skewer) It's not a movement. People have gluten intolerances that make them sick.
Idiot: True, true, but it's a great way to lose weight, isn't it! I love these foodie trends!
FBO (skewers Idiot through heart, hides him in compost pile)


For some reason, having these imaginary interviews and restaurant fantasies inspires me to make different stuff for dinner. I picture myself in the bistro, deciding that today's special will be Thai-inspired, so I'll take the leftover BBQ'd meat from last night, slice it up and roll the meaty goodness inside delicate rice-paper wraps, along with whatever wilty vegetables I can find in the crisper. I'll whip up some peanut sauce (which is different almost every time I make it because I can't remember the real recipe, which came from my vegetarian pal who never writes his recipes down anyway), fry up some tofu, and there we go. Or I'll do a running commentary as I blend two recipes together for a batch of soup, throwing in spices that seem to fit, running out to the garden for a handful of dill or chives and pretending it's part of the organic meadow that magically grows behind the bistro. It's weird, but it works.

Yesterday, I made the "daily salad" specials: wild rice with apple, old cheddar, celery, onion and pumpkin seeds in a honey-dijon dressing, and an improvised raw broccoli/cauliflower salad with shredded carrot, marble cheese, green onion and bacon. Tonight I'm going to make curried summer squash soup, sourced from local farmers, which will be served cold or warm and comes with a side of toasted pita bread for $2.99 a cup or $4.99 a bow- um, oops.

Jade has caught me muttering to myself on more than one occasion in the kitchen; she doesn't say anything, just looks around to see who I'm talking to, and flounces out again when there's nobody interesting in sight. I've heard her having dozens of conversations with imaginary characters

- including the infamous "Mr. Ant" - so perhaps the apple doesn't fall far from the quirky tree.

And so far, I have not skewered anyone in real life.