Friday, December 26, 2014

It's not a toomah!

My Mom's leg lump has been resolved.

Thank God.

It turns out that the first doctor who looked at her was using an old, low-resolution ultrasound machine.  When she had her leg re-scanned by a better machine, the second-opinion doctor said that it's not a tumour, at all.  Definitely just a cyst.  It doesn't even require minor surgery at this point, or drainage.  It will resolve on its own over time.

So.  That was an emotional roller coaster I won't soon forget.  (Assuming that's the end of it, which I sincerely hope it is.)  As if Christmas weren't enough of a psychological minefield all by itself.

I'm glad that I have a bunch of time off work without many plans.  I shall spend it regaining my equilibrium.

I hope that you had a Merry Christmas!  Ken and I celebrated on Christmas Eve with my family, because it was my younger Bubbe's 94th birthday; and on Christmas Day we spent time with his family.  My new sister-in-law is a professional pastry chef and could easily be a... you know, a CHEF-chef too.  For savoury food.  Like roast beef with veggies and dressing and gravy and homemade Yorkshire puddings.  I never understood what Yorkshire pudding was all about until last night.  It's all clear to me now!  (It's about buttery fluffiness with a soft, hot middle.)  I almost didn't have room for my personal-sized, fully-homemade-including-the-perfect-crust apple pie.  My goodness, did we eat last night.

Today we visited my elder Bubbe, who will now tell you that she's 98 and a half, because you go back to counting the halves at her age.  As usual, she made tea, excavated some fossilized pastries from the back of her freezer and commanded us to eat.  We ate.  Elder Bubbe may be old and tiny, but you'd better do what she says.  She's fierce, and a marvel.

I guess that's it for the season.  Family members have been embraced, gifts exchanged, and bellies filled.  I think now I'll spend the weekend reading my incredibly absorbing book.  And sleeping.  That sounds about right.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Leg Lump

If you've never seen the movie A Christmas Story, shame on you.  GO SEE IT RIGHT NOW.  Do not pass go, do not collect $200.  Just watch it, because it is the best Christmas movie ever, and don't anyone try to tell me otherwise.

This is Peter Billingsley, who stared as Ralphie:

I got curious about him.  I wondered :What does he look like today?"

Here he is, having aged quite gracefully, I must say.  Looks like he didn't shoot his eye out after all.

If you know the movie, you know the leg lamp.

It's a testament to the staying power of the movie that more than 20 years after it was released, leg lamps are still selling well.  Good old leg lamp.

However, that is not what I have gotten for Christmas.  Unfortunately, my Mom has just discovered a pretty scary-looking leg lump.  She had it checked out by ultrasound yesterday.  It's not a cyst, and it's growing fast.  Dang.  

Is it just me, or does crap like this always happen around Christmastime?  November and December seem to be reliably dark months in all senses of the word.

Next step will be an MRI to see what we can see.  Until then... we wait.

Although I had to sit down when I first heard about what was going on, I'm feeling steady now.  I've been psyching myself up for something like this for the past couple of years.  I've been reminding myself that my parents are getting older, and that I need to stay strong if/when they start to go downhill.  If I fall apart for a while, I must put myself back together again before long.  Socks up, chin up, take one day at a time.  I'm glad I was at least slightly braced.

This may turn out to be nothing serious.  My Mom will probably need surgery to remove the Whatever It Is, and that might be the end of it.  She can recuperate at her Mom's house, where there are care workers on duty 24/7 already.  

Thanks in advance for your well wishes and prayers.  I know all y'all have my back! :-)

Sunday, December 14, 2014


The office Christmas party was almost a disaster, and it would have been on my head.  I am the party organizer, for the same reason that I do a lot of stuff at work: no one else wants to do it.  I don't want to do it either, per se, but it's not unbearably painful, so I don't object very loudly.

We share our Christmas party with another company, and have done so for several years.  This is because one professional who works part-time with us has his own company, but he's too busy to plan his own party.  His employees have always been a small and unobtrusive group; it was easy to absorb them into our party.  It saved him the trouble of organizing an event, and it helped fill the room when our own turnout wasn't great.

This year, this fellow expanded his business.  By a lot.  And didn't mention it to me.  I mean, I knew that he had added some locations, but I figured there were only a handful of staff in each new office.  I had booked the party room in June.  I was expecting 20-30 people from the other company.  They e-mailed me last week to say that they were sending 90.  Ninety!  My company only confirmed 65, including the plus-ones!  We were totally outnumbered.  I wasn't sure that we could all fit.

It was a squeeze to seat everyone in the venue I had booked, and still have room for a  buffet and a dance floor, but fortunately we managed it.  And hey, the party was super-fun!  No one got sloppy drunk.  My boss kept his often awkward and rambling annual speech to a minimum.  And I only sustained a slight injury to my right foot from dancing like no one was watching.  (As the hostess, I feel it is my moral responsibility to break the ice on the dance floor, and I don't care if I look a fool in the process.)

So there you have it.  A work event that did not involve any drama or calamity.  It's a true Christmas miracle!  Now, if only I could get my hands on some of those mini-quiche hors-d'oeuvres  at home, life would be perfect right now.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Everybody's Working On the Weekend

On Friday I tried on this sweater:

Alpacas!  (Or llamas, I suppose, it's difficult to tell, but "alpacas!" is more fun to say.)  Imagine my chagrin when I found that it didn't fit well.  Unless skin-tight arms with a baggy, flying-squirrel look to the torso is the next trend. 

I was out with Ken doing some minimal Christmas shopping.  This is the time of year when I'm most grateful for being Jewish.  The only people I have to buy for are those who inconsiderately have their birthdays in December, and the underprivileged kids who will be the recipients of the toy drive at work.

Although it's technically called a "toy drive", we've been told to provide appropriate gifts for teens and tweens, who may be a little too old for toys per se.  Last year I got a palette of nail polishes and another of lip glosses for the girls.  This year I wanted to get something for the guys.  It's difficult, because what can I successfully pick out for a 12-16 year-old boy?*

My first thought was a cool watch, but then I remembered that kids don't wear watches anymore.  Don't be such a square, grandma.  Alright then, how about a cap, in the style of LL Cool Joe?  But when I was confronted with a wall of caps to choose from, I realized I didn't have a clue which one to pick.  And trust me, I remember enough about middle school to know that the wrong cap would be worse than no gift at all.

I finally settled on a couple of wall calendars.  Sponge Bob, for the slightly younger fellow, and Dream Cars for the cool high-schooler.  Ken tried to talk me into getting the car calendar that included hot girls in bikinis.  As if!

Anyway, I brought the calendars in to work today, yes, Sunday, because I'm here babysitting the place while Miguel and Estaban clamber around on ladders wielding a huge, duct-sucking hose.  Everything is going pretty smoothly so far today, but I figured I'd better come in to supervise, because with this place, you never know.  For example, yesterday, in addition to the duct-cleaning team, a couple of guys from building management were in here playing around with the fire alarm system.  They were supposed to know what they were doing, but next thing I knew all the bells were ringing, and three minutes later I could hear sirens whooping as a big fire truck pulled up outside our front doors.   I'm pretty sure that wasn't supposed to happen.  Except that it's my workplace, so of course there's a certain amount of guaranteed drama and angst.  Oh well.

How's your holiday prep coming along?

*Note for Joey, and anyone else offended by gender stereotypes, yes, I know, I know.  If the toy drive organizers want to give the nail polishes to a boy and the car calendar to a girl, that's fine, they can go ahead.  Maybe it's better to say that I'm trying to cover all the bases, for kids of all identities and styles.  Better?  ;-)

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Artsy Craftsy Show

It never occurred to me that it was my responsibility at work to make sure that our air ducts got cleaned.  I mean, it's not something that I ever thought about.  Would you?  At our last two facilities, building management took care of all that jazz, and no one mentioned it to me when we moved in here.  But when the question came up as part of a health and safety meeting, I realized that it hasn't been done in the past four years.  And as the de facto Facilities Manager (basically it's up to me because no one else can be bothered) it became my problem.

To make a long story short, I finally managed to get a couple of quotes and booked the job for next weekend.  Which means that I have to work next weekend in order to supervise.  :-(  In order to compensate myself, I declared a couple of lieu days off, including this past Friday, which I used to go with my Mom to the One of a Kind Show, known to me as the Artsy Craftsy show.  Known to Ken as the Stuff White People Like show.

He's totally right.  Both the vendors and the shoppers are mostly white.  (Note to Americans: this is very unusual in Toronto.)  In fact, there were so many slightly overweight, sixty-ish women with the same dyed blond, cut short, parted on the side hairstyle that I had a moment when I wondered if I was in the Matrix and these women were like the hundreds of Agent Smith clones.

The booths fall into a few basic categories.  There's jewellery, stationary, clothing, fine art, knick knacks, and food.  Styles range from super-trendy (mugs with moustaches painted on, for example) to twee (delicate ceramic fairies posed in bonsai-sized gardens covered in glitter) to fashions for the aging baby boomer set.  My Mom, by her own admission, favours the twee.

I'm not sure what category I fall into, if any, but I didn't have to use much willpower to resist buying stuff.  Mostly I was thinking "Yeah, that's cute, but I can definitely live without it."  Super-trendy stuff actively irritates me.  Like: yes, yes, we know, moustaches on everything, whales, silhouettes of birds, WHATEVER.  Can we get a little originality over here?

I also felt a little sorry for the fine artists.  90% of them had done extremely similar oil paintings of trees.  Some of them were a bit more impressionistic, and others leaned more towards impasto, but essentially they were variations on a theme.  By the time I passed the tenth painting of a trail through a vibrant, sun-lit autumnal wood, dwindling to a single vanishing point, I wondered what the artists must be thinking.  It's like high school girls showing up at prom all wearing the same dress.  They should have called each other.

My mom splurged on a pretty, hand-smocked flannel nightgown.  That was her only purchase, except for a fresh, catnip-filled mouse toy for the cats.  For myself, I picked this electric-blue handbag.  There's something about the proportions that I find profoundly satisfying.

I had to fiddle a bit with the photo settings to capture the vibrancy of the blue.  The colour might be just titch off, still, but this is more or less it, believe it or not.  I like how it almost knocks your eyeballs out, but does so with elegance.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

I drawed a pikchur

Things at my work continue to be kuh-razy.  Our facility has recently been targeted by a couple of different regulatory bodies.  Inspectors have been in here with their proverbial white gloves on, checking every tiny detail and criticizing freely, as inspectors do.

For example: we have a large waiting room/lobby.  There are two doors leading from that lobby out into the wide world, and both are clearly visible and marked with illuminated EXIT signs.  From any point in the room you can easily see at least one door if you're willing to turn your head.  If an evacuation of the building were required, I don't imagine that anyone would have any trouble finding the exits, unless perhaps they were 100% blind, in which case one of the staff assigned to the evacuation team would assist them.

This is not good enough for at least one of the regulatory bodies.  The inspector insisted that we must post a map of the lobby on the lobby wall with the paths to each door clearly marked.  Really?  Is that honestly necessary?  You think that if the fire bell rings someone will, instead of proceeding to the clearly marked exit, pull out their reading glasses and inspect a map?  Well, whatever.  You don't get anywhere by arguing with these people, so we posted a map.

However.  That was not good enough.  The inspector came back and insisted that the path to the doors on the map be printed in RED.  For the love of...  Fine.  We reprinted it in red and reposted.  This was deemed to be satisfactory.

Do you think I'm making this up?  I wish I were making it up.  Truth is stranger than fiction, and I guess the inspector needs to prove to his boss that he's doing his job.

So what's the good news?  I drew this guy.  I'm pretty proud of him, even though one of his eyeballs is twice as big as the other.  Every once in a blue moon I get inspired to do a sketch.  This is from a photo of James Baldwin.

I think his hand turned out well.  That's my favourite part of the sketch.  It looks a bit stippled because I scanned it as a PDF and then converted it to a JPG and that's how it turned out.
Ken thinks it's scary.  I left it on his desk so that he could see it, and when I came in the room he had turned it face down.  Sure, it's a little intense, but that's why I liked the photo!  That and all the interesting lines around his eyes.  What do you think - does it scare you?

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Coat

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine gave me a coat that doesn't fit her anymore.  It's a funny thing about being a small grown-up; I still get hand-me-downs.  My friend was emotionally attached to this coat, and sad to be giving it away.  She didn't want to simply donate it to charity.  She wanted to give it to a Good Home.  I accepted the responsibility.

The coat looks a lot like this:

However, for reasons unknown, it has no buttons.  It has button holes, but nothing to put in them, nor any sign that it ever had buttons attached.

The first thing I did was take it to be dry cleaned.  (And to have the shoulder pads removed, because I have relatively broad shoulders already so the shoulder pads were total overkill.  It made me think of a quote from What Not to Wear, when Stacey said something like "Foxy lady?  More like boxy lady."  Anyway...)

When I went to pick the coat up, the lady behind the counter gave me a funny look.  I didn't understand why, until she started apologizing for the fact that the dry-cleaning facility had unaccountably lost all the buttons off my coat.  She told me that she was going to call the facility tomorrow about the problem, and offered to fix it for me, clearly trying to defend herself from my fearsome customer's temper, when I started to laugh.  

I explained the situation: that the coat had no buttons to begin with.  She was visibly relieved.  I told her I was sorry for not pointing out the state of the coat when I dropped it off.  I think it nearly gave her a heart attack.  She explained to me in broken English how astonished and confused she was when she realized that the coat had come back to her buttonless.

"Why?"  She asked me pleadingly, gesturing towards the coat, "Why no buttons?  How lose buttons?"

Good grief.

This coat has become quite the drama magnet.  In my determination to successfully rehabilitate it, I went shopping online for buttons, and ordered a style that I thought would be just right.  Six little buttons, for a grand total of $3.19 CAD, before shipping.  I figured they'd show up in my mailbox in a couple of weeks.

Well, it couldn't be that simple.  Firstly, the button vendor sent me e-mail updates at every stage of the process.  My order was received!  My payment was received!  The buttons are packed!  The buttons are shipped!  I have never received so many status updates for any online purchase.  Still, they seemed to take an awfully long time to get here.  I wasn't sure why, because most things ship to Toronto from just over the American border.

Finally, on November 10th, I received a notice that Canada Post had tried to deliver a package but I wasn't at home.  I had to go pick it up at the post office.  The little sticky note they left me said it would be available "Tomorrow after 13:00 h".  Fine.  No problem.  I stopped into the postal outlet on the way home.  But it was closed.  Whu...  Huh?  Why?  It's open later than that, isn't it?  On weekdays?

Except that it was November 11th.  Remembrance Day.  Right.

So the next day I went back, and showed my official government-issued photo I.D. and signed my signature on the dotted line in order to take possession of this precious little envelope of buttons.  Which could easily have fit into my mailbox.  Silliest shipping overkill ever!  At least I found out why they had taken so long to get to me.  The envelope was postmarked "Hong Kong".

The coat has gone back to the nice Asian lady to have the buttons attached.  I have every confidence that it will come out looking great.  (After all this, it had better.)

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Royal Winter Fair

The Royal Winter Fair crippled me.  Seriously, I can barely walk.  I think I pulled a hip flexor running for the streetcar on the way there.

This would not have happened if the Fair had not printed incorrect transit instructions right onto my ticket.

The ticket offered several routes to the fairgrounds on public transit.  Normally I would have taken the Bathurst streetcar, but the ticket said I could catch a 509 shuttle bus from Union station, and I thought that would be faster.

I exited Union station, and waited around for a little while for the bus, but there was a lot of construction on the road, and I had a feeling that this was not the place for a bus stop.  Sure enough, after a little searching, I found a well-hidden bus-stop post that was marked with an out-of-service sign.  Scrawled onto the sign was a barely legible message about an in-service bus stop a few blocks south at Front Street.

I walked down to the Front Street bus stop.  I saw a few #6 buses going past in the wrong direction, but no #509s.  When a #6 bus pulled up, I asked if the 509 would be along soon.  "Oh no, ma'am.  The 509 shuttle bus was temporary while track construction was being completed.  It's no longer in service.  Go around the corner to the streetcar stop to get the 509 streetcar."

Right.  Fine.  Off I went around the corner.  Pretty soon a streetcar pulled up.  I have to admit that I did not look at the route sign on it because 1) it didn't occur to me that other streetcars might stop there, and 2) it was my first sighting of a brand-new, low-floor, all-the-fancy-bells-and-whistles streetcar that has just been introduced to the city.

It was a very nice, smooth ride.  I got as far as Spadina, and at that point we turned north.  It was a 510.  No no no!  Dammit.  Got off the streetcar.  Walked back to Front Street.  Walked west about half a mile looking for a streetcar stop.  Finally saw a 509 - passing me at speed, just as the stop loomed into sight.  I waved to the driver and ran for it.  I caught the streetcar.  I made it to the fair.  I ignored the steadily increasing pain in my right hip for hours because after all that I was going to enjoy the fair even if it killed me.  Getting home was not so good.  I am now effectively crippled.  But.

It was worth it!

Disapproving hen disapproves.

This six-month-old cow was totally into licking my coat sleeve.  It couldn't be all that tasty... or is there something I've been missing?  *Licks coat sleeve*  Nope, that cow was just crazy.

Jade the goat (above) was a snuggle-muffin.  All she wanted to do was hang out and get scratchy-scratches and neck rubs.  I could have spent all evening with her.  I only left because her owners showed up and wanted to take some of the goats out for a shower and shampoo.

"I am a hungry goat.  I will stick my head all the way inside this delicious bag."

Pig bums are silly.

There were auctions happening.  The one in the main arena was for cattle, but there was a smaller one for pigs.

The Fair was selling alcoholic beverages at its refreshment stands.  I had to wonder if any city people ever show up, get drunk, and buy a pig for their tiny condo.  That would be interesting.

The Horse Palace was very dark, so I didn't get a lot of great photos there.

"I haz fancy sox."

I found a few sociable horses who wanted to hang out with me.  Of course the best part is their velvety noses, but there was one pretty pony who was into getting a full rubdown.  She was all "Yeah, yeah, a little to the right.  No, lower.  Yeah.  There.  Okay, now the other side."  (Pause for more rubbing and scritchy-scratching.)  "Okay, now the other other side."

Sheep strikes a pose.

This little cow (still relatively a baby) had a fancy halter with bling on it.

The Beef Team.  "Does this straw make my butt look big?"

I also met a cow called "Destiny Overload So Fancy".  Wow.  So Name.  Very Emphasis.  I am now considering changing my own name to something equally glamorous.  How about "Sparkling Crimson Fancy-Pants So Classy"?

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Halloween etc.

First, a photo by request.

DarcKnyt wanted to see the infinity scarf arm-knitted for me by my sister, so here it is.  I like it so much I have assigned it a permanent place hanging from this doorknob, so that I can appreciate its warm colours and cozy texture every day.

Second, a photo brag.

I picked this pumpkin at the store, hauled it home in my granny buggy, designed it, and carved it; all by my very own self.  I don't think I've ever done a whole pumpkin from start to finish before.  (Usually I design and Ken carves, but he was too busy/tired this year.)

*Pats self on back for trendy owl accomplishment.*

Third, me in a panda suit.

This was an impulse buy.  As I was in a streetcar, rolling along downtown, en route to meet a friend, I spotted some amazing onesies in the window of an Ardene.  I was so taken by them that I made a point of going back after my coffee date.  Selection was limited (the elephant suit, complete with trunk, was no longer available in my size) but I was completely satisfied with this panda option.

I wore it while handing out candy to the neighbourhood kids, although it hardly seemed to register with them.  They were too busy trying to peer into my candy bowl to see what goodies they were about to score.  However, I did get some appreciation from the accompanying adults.

The fleece onesie is so comfortable; I can totally see myself lounging around the house in it on cold winter weekends.  It was so warm that I would only flip the hood up when answering the door.  If my furnace ever fails on a very cold day, this is what the furnace repair technician will find me wearing.

I have more leftover candy than I wanted.  I should have given all the kids two treats, instead of just the older ones.  Oh well.  Extra chocolate in the house isn't an insoluble problem.  I'm sure I can figure out some way of getting rid of it.  (Like this hole in my face. *om nom*)

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Autumnal Glories

How can you tell that the weather has turned?

1)  EVERYONE on my RSS reader list has updated their blog this week.  That's the first time I can say that since the last snow melted in the spring.  Good show, people!

2)  I am grateful for a birthday gift knitted for me by my sister: an extremely fluffy infinity scarf in beautiful, warm fall-leaf colours.  When wound twice around my neck it covers me almost up to my nose, which is much-appreciated when I have to stand for half an hour in a cold wind at the bus stop because traffic is horrible.  (I.e. frequently.)  An interesting fact about this scarf is that my sister did not use knitting needles.  She knit it on her arms, like this:

Neat trick!  What's next - leg knitting?  Whole-human knitting?  Where does it end?

Speaking of that side of my family, I forgot to warn you about Pickle-ball.  Yes, Pickle-ball.  Do you think I might be kidding?  Maybe silly, whimsical Spark is imagining things?  I don't blame you, but Pickle-ball is real.  It's a sport somewhere in between badminton and table tennis, played with equipment and rules that are supposed to make it less strenuous than other racket sports.

Warning: Don't be fooled!  Pickle-ball is supposed to be easy on middle-aged bodies, but my dad and step-mom were both suffering from pickle-ball injuries when I visited them on Thanksgiving weekend.  Soon there will probably be an exposé: "Study shows epidemic of pickle-ball problems.  FDA investigation to follow."  You heard it here first.

What else is new?  Nothing, and it's great.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Thanksgiving in Bloomfield

I went to Bloomfield to stay with relatives for Thanksgiving.  The weather was mostly like this:

Wow, right?  At least for us city slickers who almost never get to see a horizon free from concrete clutter.  Some of you are probably saying "Pshaw, I see views like that every day of my life, in my rural paradise."  (I'm looking at you, Granny Annie.)  In my experience, however, this view is outstanding.

So is this one:

We went for a walk on an almost-deserted beach, crossing paths only with a handful of other humans, and some very happy dogs.  The sand was covered in little shells.

If you walked down by the waterline, it felt like you were crunching along an endless field of potato chips.

My family's house in Bloomfield is a new purchase, and they have only just finished decorating it.  I think it looks great.

My step-mom's art graces the walls.  She's a talented painter.  I like these bathing ladies.

As one does on Thanksgiving, we fed our faces.  Thanksgiving dinner was cooked at home, however I was treated to meals out at a variety of local eateries.  This squirrel sat next to me at The Regent, jealously guarding his nut.

We also did sight-seeing.  This is the view from Lake on the Mountain road.  That's Quinte Bay down there, with ferries gliding serenely back and forth.

Quinte Bay again, much improved by my sister's enthusiastic presentation.

Right across the road, literally steps away, is the Lake on the Mountain.  Maybe it's not exactly on a mountain, but it's clearly several hundred feet above the bay.  According to the signs by the water, geologists have not yet figured out how the lake formed up there.

Much is made of the mystery.

We could have gone shopping in a number of local businesses, which were all open for the long weekend, hoping to suck dollars out of tourists' pockets.  However, if there's one thing I get more than enough of in Toronto, it's opportunities to shop.  We skipped all the retail except for this one place: Surfer Girl.  It sells hella big ornamental doodads, things that no one in Toronto would have space for.  Here you can buy something at an appropriate scale for your multi-acre front lawn.

Like this set of five-foot-tall Tiki masks.

Seriously, you have to click on that photo and take a good look at the dog statue in the lower right corner.  That pooch totally looks like it's on crack.

Our last Hurrah was at Drake By the Lake, for brunch.  I went all out and ordered the Fried Chicken on a Pecan Waffle with Chile-Spiced Maple Syrup.  It was one of the best things I've ever eaten, no word of a lie.  The weather was a little cloudier by then, but the view from the dining room window was still amazing.  Picture the tree branches blowing in the wind, and frilly, white waves rolling in onto the shore.

Only a few hours after brunch, I was getting off a train in Toronto, navigating crowds at Union station, and wondering if I'd have time to do a load of laundry before setting my alarm for work the next day.  Long weekends are never long enough.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Thought Processes

I figured out why Canadian Thanksgiving comes 6 weeks earlier than American Thanksgiving.  It's a harvest festival, right?  And Canada is (on average) further north, therefore the harvest occurs earlier.  *checks Wikipedia*  Yes, got it in one!  Happy Canadian Thanksgiving.

I'm always pleased when I can figure things out.  Neurological science has shown that learning new things or figuring things out actually boosts the dopamine (reward/happy chemical) level in our brains.  So, there: if you didn't already know that, I just made you happier.  You're welcome.

I have not been able to figure out what to write on my parents' anniversary card.  It's been ambiguous ever since they split up for four years, starting in 2008, and then reconciled.  My mom says that she doesn't know how to count which anniversary it is anymore.  Are you supposed to count the separated years, when they almost got divorced?  Are you supposed to start from scratch on the date that they moved back in together?  Is it acceptable to write "Happy Anniversary!  Can't believe you've been together for (n + 1) years!  Way to go!"?

I also get confused by the etiquette of waiting for a bus.  In downtown Toronto, in my experience, people mill around in a chaotic herd by a bus stop, and when the bus arrives they approach the door in as aggressive a manner as possible without actual shoving or making threatening eye contact.

Let's take King and Bay as the epicentre of Toronto's nasty, money-grubbing, type-A-personality workforce.  The further one goes from that centre, the more courteous people are.  One you're into the far suburbs, it's like being in a different country.  (Sweden, perhaps.)

I live in a grey area.  It's at the city limits. Thirty years ago it was a suburb, but it's gotten busier and is now more of a mid-urb.

The people I commute with operate with conditional courtesy.  They queue up at the bus stop, and if the bus pulls to a halt with the front doors in the correct spot, at the head of the queue, they will file into the vehicle like well-behaved schoolchildren.  However, if traffic is backed up, and the bus does not pull up right to the stop, but opens the doors one car-length back, the queue dissolves.  You might think that, like a snake, the line would move to the doorway in an orderly fashion, but no.  In this case, all bets are off, and everyone from every part of the line makes a run for the door at once.  I don't understand why this happens.  Can someone explain it to me?

(One more thing I do understand: a piece of dark lint on the floor that looks like a bug will "run away from you" as you walk towards it because of the breeze created by your moving feet.  It's not actually a bug, but you'll have to lean way down to double-check that because its insectoid appearance is so freaky.)

Sunday, October 5, 2014

A Variety of Treats

Two weeks ago, I went out for a walk on a sunny afternoon.  I chased this butterfly around for 10 minutes before I managed to capture it in a photo.  (Click on the photo for a bigger version, so you can see the pretty spots on the butterfly's wings.  I wish that it had been a wee bit less shy, because I would have loved a closer-up snapshot.) 

It was warm out. I got so sweaty running around after this butterfly that I stopped to get water from a public drinking fountain.

I present to you these triumphantly phallic plants, basking in the sunshine.

On that hot, late September day, it seemed like summer would last forever.

Unfortunately, that was an illusion.  Yesterday, fall temperatures blew in on the wind.  When I went downtown to the Annex (a Toronto neighbourhood) to meet a girlfriend, I was sad to see that the ice cream store had shut down for the year.

I waited for my friend at Future Bakery.  I love their big windows that let in tons of natural light.  They also make a tasty decaf latte.

I perused the goodies display case.  A cute little girl-toddler approached alongside me, and was so excited by all the treats that she starting yelling and beating her hands on the plexiglass.  I feel you, sister.

There was pie.

There was cake.

There was even pie-cake!

After 20 minutes of waiting, I texted my girlfriend.  Turns out she had forgotten about our date.  :-(  Or not exactly; she knew we were supposed to meet on Saturday, but she didn't clue in that "today" = "Saturday".  Oh well.

Since I was already downtown, I took the opportunity to go see the Alex Colville exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario.  I spent over an hour there, taking it in, and I loved it.  Here's an example of his work:

 When I was done with the gallery, I went into a nearby Chinatown bakery for a snack.  Their selection wasn't as appealing as the options at Future Bakery.

No, I don't know what a meat cookie is, and I didn't ask.  I bought a small walnut butter cake for $1 and got crumbs all over my chin.  It may not have gone as planned, but it was still a very good day.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Always Something

Well, this is unusual.  Normally I can't tell you the details of what's going on in my work life because everything is super-top-secret.  This time I can't talk because one major problem has gone totally public, therefore stating what's going on could identify my workplace and compromise my anonymity.  I just can't win, can I?

Suffice it to say that something happened; the news media picked it up; and therefore everyone at my work totally freaked out.  Fortunately, I happened to have taken this past week off as vacation before the news hit.  Unfortunately, I ended up having to do some work from home.  Fortunately, this helped to address the problem without my having to be in the currently horribly tense atmosphere of the office.  Unfortunately, I am heading back to work on Monday.  Fortunately, I still have a job.  Unfortunately, some people are saying that this problem may put us all out of work in short order.  Fortunately, I believe that the negative attention will blow over pretty soon and we'll all be fine.  Memories are short, right?

Often I find that the worst part of many small-to-medium sized problems is the collective emotional reactions of the people around me.  I often have to do as much or more work dealing with peoples' moods as I do solving the actual problem.  It seems like people feel a moral imperative to ensure that everyone around them feels as bad as they do.  If you're not worried, they'll blast you with their fears until you start to show signs of anxiety.  I guess misery loves company?  

The options available to someone who doesn't want to be swayed into the worry camp are limited.  Ignoring the worriers often results in them redoubling their inflammatory efforts.  They need you to agree with them so that if they can't feel secure, they can at least feel right.    Often it comes down to a choice between ignoring them to the point of rudeness OR telling them to zip it OR spending your own already taxed emotional resources reassuring them.  It's frustrating.

I may not have been at the office, but remember, I work for a family business.  I can only escape a certain amount of the madness by going on vacation.  The rest follows me around wherever I go.

Oh well.  At least I got enough quality me-time to get my head together about this particular problem.  I'm ready to go in tomorrow and deal with whatever comes my way.  We might go out of business?  Okay, that's not ideal, but I can get another job.  Other bad stuff might happen?  Sure.  Maybe there's a dormant volcano under the building and it's about to blow up.  Whatevs.  We'll burn that bridge when we get to it.  Want to try to freak me out?  Go ahead.  But be prepared for me to tell you to zip it.  If you don't have something supportive to say, don't say anything at all.  

Monday, September 22, 2014

Fancy Pantsy

I've been meaning to show you guys this cat burger for ages.  I found it on a newspaper box.

Anyway, today's story is about a trip downtown to meet my lawyer.  Yes, you hear me right.  My lawyer.  I have my very own fancy-pants lawyer as of this week.  It's enough to make you say:

In fact, these cups of breakfast cereal were on sale at Richtree Market in the Eaton Centre, where I killed some time after arriving downtown early.  Really?  This is your brand message?  It got a laugh out of me, but it seems kind of risky, in terms of its capacity to offend people.  What do you think?

Here is a feathery, expensive shoe by Oscar De La Renta.  (I walked through the shoe section of The Bay on my way out.)  I guess floof is in for fall.

The lawyer meeting went well, insofar as any meeting with a lawyer can go well.  If you're an average person meeting with a lawyer, it's usually because things have gone wrong.  However, this particular lawyer is either a brilliant sociopath who totally pulled the wool over my eyes, or a warm, sweet-natured guy who will be a pleasure to work with.  This was our introductory meeting.  He comes well-recommended.

Fun fact about the Scotia Plaza building where we met: it has double-decker elevators.  At one point the car I was in stopped for no apparent reason and the floor number display said "Serving Another Floor".  That means the other car was loading/unloading passengers.  Very cool.

I will call the meeting "successful" because my lawyer and my step-dad's lawyer went over every painful detail of the case, pushing on just about every bruise in my psyche, and I got through it without bursting into tears or having a panic attack.  Believe me, it wasn't easy.  I managed to keep my big girl socks pulled up for the whole 90 minutes.  If I could tell you the details, you'd understand.

After the meeting, I took myself out for lunch, and then to the Victoria College annual fund-raising book sale.  That was a nice way to unwind.  I love the interior decor in the Old Vic building.  It's got all of my favourite colours.

Monday, September 15, 2014


There is a saying in New Age circles that is best illustrated thusly:

(Artwork by me.  Please, hold your applause.)

I went outside my comfort zone because:
  • My sister is an actor; and I want to support her career and the avant-garde theatre group she works with.
  • My father (the biological one) invited me to see her play with him and it seemed like a good opportunity to spend some time together.
  • Speaking of "some time", this play is four hours long.  Yes, FOUR HOURS.  (Including two intermissions, so I suppose technically that makes it 3.5 hours long.  Still.  That's a lot of play for your dollar.  Who can resist value like that?)
  • I wanted to experience "the magic".
I'm not a theatre buff.  I prefer to experience cultural events at a remove, so that if it's too loud I can turn the volume down.  Or, in the case of a festival, I can leave when I feel I've had enough.  Being stuck in a small audience for several hours does feel a tad claustrophobic.  However, so long as I'm sitting on an aisle I'm fairly content.

Well, this play...  How can I describe it?  It's a well-known Shakespeare play, re-made to explore the most violent, horrible aspects of the plot.  The subtitle should be "Everyone dies".  Right from the get-go, there was an abundance of unrestrained shrieking, sobbing, and full-contact (thumping, crashing) fights.  This, in combination with random creepy images projected onto the mostly-white set, was unnerving.

For sure, it was a great play.  The staging was creative.  The acting was convincing.  The plot kept my interest.  There were moments of much-needed comic relief.  At one level, I truly enjoyed it.

At another level, (the sensitive flower level), I found it challenging.  Every scream, even the ones I could kind of see coming, made me jump in my seat.  The fights got my adrenaline pumping.  At a visceral level, I didn't feel safe.  I kept having to remind myself that it was just a play, and that everyone was fine.  I was fine.  My Dad was sitting right beside me.  That creepy, howling old lady was actually my sister. 

If the play had been half as long, I probably could have endured it.  Unfortunately, just before the second intermission there was a surprise self-harm scene complete with (fake) blood, and that was it for me.  I realized that I needed to get out and get some air or I was going to faint right off my chair.  Somewhere in between the onset of cold sweats and actual loss of consciousness, I managed to slip out as quietly as possible.  Thank heaven I was on the aisle.

I staggered through the lobby and out the front door, where it was blessedly cool.  I sat on the front stoop with my head between my knees for quite some time.  At one point I sensed a presence, and looked up right into the impassive eyes of a large dog.  The man on the other end of the leash wanted to get into the building.  He said "Oh, is it as bad as all that?" to me, but I was only able to weakly smile at him and put my head back down.  Then I felt the dog's body jostle against mine as they squeezed past me through the door.

Fortunately, second intermission came right at the time I felt well enough to stand.  Also fortunately, my father felt that he had had enough of the play (even with his hearing aids helping he was having trouble understanding some of the dialogue), so we left.  By then I was in such a mood of wanting to tough it out to the bitter end that I would have tried to stay, but that was a bad idea.  I wasn't thinking clearly.  It was for the best that we called it a night.

It's very frustrating to be sensitive.  I truly would have liked to stay to the end, if I could have controlled my lizard-brain's anxiety reflex.  The upper layers of my brain were fascinated by the political machinations and powerful imagery.  Darn it, lizard-brain.  Why won't you trust me?

Monday, September 8, 2014


Now that I am getting to be an older lady with wrinkly elbows, I'm starting to think about retiring.  As in: it might be nice to do it someday.  Preferably before I die.

I have always been more of a saver than a spender, so I have a few dollars tucked away in a savings account.  I finally came to the conclusion that I'd better do more with said dollars than let them slowly melt away under the hot glare of inflation.  I mean, yes, I do earn a paltry point or two of interest in this savings account, but it's not going to be sufficient for me to retire prior to death, which really is my strong preference.

Over the years, I've gone through bouts of enthusiasm during which I research the world of finance.  I have read books, websites, and been lectured at length by my step-dad.  However, just about the time I was feeling ready to put a toe in the financial waters, BOOM the 2008 crash happened.  LOL, nope!

I investigated the possibility of buying real estate.  I don't want to flip properties, so I was considering being a landlady.  Having heard some tenant-from-hell horror stories, I thought it would be best to do it through a management company.  Then, having further investigated and heard some management company horror stories, I gave up on the idea entirely.

In the end what convinced me to proceed with investing was learning that stocks, collectively, and historically, go up an average of 10% per year.  Therefore, unless something drastic changes, it makes sense to invest in a well-diversified mutual fund(s) and/or index fund(s) because in the long run they will beat the snot out of even the most generous "high-interest" savings account.  The thing is to just be brave, shove the money in there, and not even look at the numbers for 20+ years or so.  The daily ups and downs won't matter in the long run.

I am super-proud of myself for figuring out how to set up an online trading account through my bank (not a simple procedure) and starting to use it.  I had a lot of help from Investopedia.  For example, if you have to figure out what a currency-hedged ETF is, that's the place to start searching.

Not this kind of hedge:

Or this kind of hedge:

But this kind of hedge.

I completed my first transaction last week.  I'm still trying to figure out the well-designed but necessarily super-complicated website.  I'm keeping it as simple as I can, for now.  I'm pretty sure it's better than spending all my cash on lottery tickets, is all I can say for sure.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Little Updates

The diet worked.  I lost two pounds off my belly, and I am once again a lean bean.  I'm happy about it and feeling extra-vain, which is  fine by me.  I'll take it for as long as it lasts.

My hair is growing out nicely (from pixie cut to... until I decide it's long enough).  I was getting frustrated with my stylist's plan for growing out the layers, which seemed to consist of growing the sides but leaving the back kind of short and choppy.  I want it LONG-long, so that I can braid it and put fun little doodads in it (bows and clips and suchlike).  None of this angled-bob nonsense.  Give me all-out, flowy Rapunzel locks!    Finally, we agreed that it's time to let the back grow out too.  It's just past my ears now, and headed south fast.  I see doodads in my future.

Also in the hair department, I am firmly committed to baking soda and apple cider vinegar in place of shampoo and conditioner.  My hair hasn't been this smooth and well-behaved since I was a kid.  A little dab of coconut oil goes a long way if it gets a bit too dry.  It's actually "wavy" instead of frizzy now.  Awesome.

The lawsuit in my workplace has not yet been resolved.  It still sucks.  It's still putting a strain on my family relationships, because it's a family business.  I still wonder at least once a week whether it's worth the stress.  However, on account of I'm going to inherit the mess in a few years no matter what, I may as well stick around and stay informed.  That might make it a little easier when my step-dad pops his clogs and I have to sort out his estate.

I'm looking forward to a birthday in a few weeks.  I'm going to be 42, which is excellent.  I have been waiting to be this age ever since the early 1980's, when I read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, in which 42 is stated to be the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything.   What does this actually mean?  Your guess is as good as mine, but it makes me happy.

That's about it for news, which is fine by me.  Enjoy your long weekend!  I'm enjoying mine.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Steampunk Fair

I went to a Steampunk Fair this weekend. 
According to Wikipedia, "steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction that typically features steam-powered machinery, especially in a setting inspired by industrialized Western civilization during the 19th century."  Picture people dressed in turn-of-the-century clothing, gizmos made of clockwork-type gears, and general whimsy.  If you're still confused, check out these photos of the fair, or Google "steampunk" and check out the Images.
It was the first year for this particular fair, although there are plenty of others to be found.  Therefore, it was a modest affair, with a dozen or so vendors, and some scheduled entertainments, such as Victorian-era belly-dancing (don't ask me, I have no idea), and the very-exciting making of SPONGE TOFFEE from scratch.  (Scratch = sugar, water, corn syrup, and baking soda.  All the magic is in the baking soda.)  Yes, I did get to try the sponge toffee, but from an earlier batch that had been cooling for 2 hours. SAFETY and COMMON SENSE, I haz dem.
I didn't take a lot of photos, because, I don't know.  I didn't feel like it.   Sometimes I'm just not in the mood for photos.  I was into experiencing the fair without the filter of my phone.  Anyway, cell phones are totally not steampunk.
I did take a few shots inside the Historic Zion Schoolhouse, on whose grounds the fair was being held.  The schoolhouse was built in 1869, and has been restored to its approximate appearance in 1910.  There were some original posters on the walls, such as this map that has seen better days.

My favourite was the Physiology poster.  Here is a stomach, in good health.

And here, the stomach of an inebriate.  You can see that it is dark and full of wiggles, showing the evil nature of alcohol.

Alcohol will also give you a creepy, drooping gaze.  Smoking may give you cancer, which looks like little bits of paper.  The anatomy is a bit off, especially those square vertebrae with hieroglyphs on them, but it is surprisingly wise for people of that era to be aware of the dangers of tobacco.

A photogenic cow, having its weight estimated.

When estimating the volume of a pile of grain, one must use a different equation depending on whether the grain is in a cone-shaped pile, heaped against a wall, or stored in a flared crib.  Good to know.

I didn't wear a costume to the fair, because I don't have one.  I had no idea that just about everyone there would be in full gear, from hats, to boots, to a teacup and saucer in a custom-crafted leather holster. (A proper steampunk character must always be prepared for a cuppa, apparently.)  Maybe next time?