Sunday, June 29, 2014


It was barely 3 months ago that I told you about my friend Val the Bingo Queen having lost two friends within one week.  In case you don't remember, the Grim Reaper was to blame, not any bad behaviour on Val's part.  It wasn't the sort of thing that anyone can take in stride, but she did her best and has been getting on with life since then.

She just found out that one of her best friends, a wonderful, big-hearted man with a ready smile and charming sense of humour, has pancreatic cancer. In case any of you are unfamiliar with pancreatic cancer's ugly face, it's basically a death sentence.  This fellow, who I've met many times over the years, is 59 years old.

Val is 46 years old, but at the rate her friends are popping their clogs she may as well be in her 80's.  Alternately, she could be living in a country at war, with an active occupation and aerial bombings.  It boggles the mind, and the spirit, when so much loss arrives within such a short span of time.

On top of that, a gentleman that we both work with has been fading away before our eyes due to rapidly progressing heart failure which is causing his other organs to shut down.  I'm not sure if he has turned 70 yet.  By the time he had all the symptoms to qualify for the heart transplant waiting list he was too sick to be a candidate for surgery.  He's been told not to buy any green bananas, and good luck.

As recently as a few days ago he was showing up at work, using a pair of cross country ski poles as walking sticks, and shuffling around in his office "doing paperwork".  I'm not sure what he's able to usefully get done, since he's not getting much oxygen to his brain anymore so he's not thinking clearly.  I only hope his wife had the heart to hide his car keys, because he was driving himself around past the point when he could do so safely.  It's bad enough that he's shuffling off this mortal coil; he shouldn't take any innocent bystanders with him.

So that's what's up, and it gets to the point where it's impossible to ignore and one has to talk about it. So here I am talking about it.  These things do happen, yes, but I am awfully sad about it all.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

BBQ Report

My workplace hosts two staff events per year for team-building purposes: the Christmas party and the summer barbeque.  I am in charge of planning for both, because no one else can be bothered to do it.  Fortunately, the planning is fairly simple, especially for the BBQ.  This year it consisted of telling the venue how many guests to expect.  Every other instruction was covered by "Do everything exactly the same as last year". 

The Christmas party is a little more complicated, only because I also have to hire a DJ.  (LL Cool Joe, the job is yours if you want it; just say the word.)

I'm not super-keen on either event, although I do enjoy the Christmas party a bit more because of the dancing.  I'm not much of a party animal, never have been, and frankly I see more than enough of my colleagues at work.  I can't relax at either party, in part because I'm in charge of anything that might go wrong, and in part because I have to basically maintain in my work persona all evening.  Given my druthers I'd probably stay home and watch an insightful documentary on TV instead.

Obviously I'm not the only one who feels that way, because last week's event attendance was poor.  Maybe around one third of the people I work with showed up.  I'm told that a lot of people don't appreciate the location, which is not easily accessible by public transit, however, interestingly, no one has taken up the challenge to find an alternate venue.  When I tell them that I'm open to suggestions, their silence replies that they're exercising their right to complain without contributing to the solution.  My boss likes the inconvenient venue.  It's easy for me to issue the "same as last year" instruction to them.  So until someone scouts an alternative, we'll be there.

It all went off without a hitch.  The weather cooperated.  The buffet-style dinner seemed to pass muster.  In the final analysis, I'd call the evening a success.

At one point I clambered over a concrete barrier rather than ask three people to push their chairs in so that I could pass them.  I landed so hard on my right foot that I bruised my heel.  I've been limping ever since, so in addition to my tender foot, my leg and back are hurting because I've been walking funny all week.  I have a massage booked soon, and I am counting down the hours.  I guess I am now an old lady and I should comport myself accordingly, without clambering.  Where's my senior's discount?

If you'd like to keep track of how long you'll be waiting until you get my report on the 2014 Christmas party, here ya go.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

A Visit to Toronto Island

Ken and I took the ferry to Toronto Island yesterday.  It was the perfect day for it.  Not too warm or too cool.  I managed to get away without sunscreen because I wore long sleeves and a big hat.  Hooray for not being sticky!

Amazingly, there weren't very many other people on the island.  It was remarkable. I'd all but stopped going because the crowds had gotten so thick recently.  When there aren't people absolutely everywhere, the pastoral beauty of the parkland is stunning.  (Click on any photo if you would like to see a bigger version.)

If you squint at the photo above, you can see a hint of lake at the horizon.

Gorgeous, right?

We walked the boardwalk from Ward's to Centre.  View looking out:

and looking ahead:

Centre Island is where the amusement park is.  It's all very small-scale and twee, with old-fashioned-style rides, like the swan boats.

We saw goslings and ducklings, thus:

And at Far Enough Farm, one of the attractions, we befriended some goats.

Mountain goat shows off climbing skills:

Regular goat shows off begging-for-treats skills:

We also met Billy the gruff goat, who at first scared me by aggressively head-butting the fencing around his enclosure.  I would not have willingly stuck my fingers through the fence after his display of machismo, but two brave/foolish girls did, and it turns out all he wanted was to have his face and neck scritchy-scratched.  Once they left, he turned the other cheek so that I could scratch that side.  Silly Billy!

After Far Enough Farm, we agreed that in fact we had walked Far Enough, so we reluctantly headed back to the ferry dock.  It's bizarre that such a place can exist minutes away from the dense downtown core of the city.  

Thank goodness that it does.

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Dinner Party, Part 2: The Frenzy

Only one thing went wrong; my basil wilted.

In the confusion of preparations, the delicately packaged fresh basil ended up squashed under a bunch of celery in the fridge.  When I pulled it out for use in the tomato-sweet-corn salad, it had gone all dark and squishy.  That was rather disappointing, but easily remedied with dried basil flakes.  The finished product was slightly less pretty than I'd envisioned, but just as tasty.

Other than that, my mom's 70th birthday party dinner was a success.  It went by in a blur.  My main memory is of hands reaching for plates and bowls as people served themselves second and third helpings.  Honestly I was not able to relax and enjoy it; I was on the edge of my seat the whole time, watching for platters that needed to be refilled and anticipating the next thing I'd need to do.  Worrying that I should have bought a second loaf of caraway rye bread.  But at least all of my guests were happy.

Once dessert was served and consumed, I finally relaxed.  And realized that I'd been running on adrenaline.  I was suddenly completely exhausted.  I honestly would have liked to boot everyone out the door as soon as the slowest eater put their fork down after finishing their slice of birthday cake.  Fortunately, as my parents don't own a dishwashing machine, my step-dad had agreed to pay my bubbe's professional caregiver to wash the dishes.  That was a huge load off my shoulders.  But I knew that I still had to clear the table, put the bridge table and all the extra chairs back into the basement, pack up leftovers, etc.  OMG.  I just wanted my bed.

Anyway, finally everything got done and I was free to leave.  Ken was at home nursing a bad cold, so my step-dad offered to give me a lift.  He praised my work on the dinner, and then told me "Welcome to the grown-up world."  Well, maybe I was just tired and cranky, or maybe he was INCREDIBLY INSENSITIVE AND SEXIST for implying that, despite my job in which I carry more responsibility than many people ever have in their whole careers that BECAUSE I AM FEMALE I DON'T GRADUATE TO WOMANHOOD UNTIL I'VE PROVEN MYSELF IN THE KITCHEN.


So I gave him crap for that comment.  He acknowledged the double standard. Then we kissed and made up.  And then I finally arrived home and slept happily ever after.

My mom called me the next day to say she was absolutely thrilled with her party and had a wonderful time.  Mission accomplished!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Dinner Party: Part 1, Prep

Look at me!  So prepared for my mother's 70th birthday party that I have time to blog just a few hours before I'm going to be serving dinner!  *pats self on back*  All I have left to do before I call a cab is make the tomato basil salad.  (I am putting this off until the last minute because I want to minimize the wilting of the basil.)  I even remembered to take my mom's expensive gluten free buns out to thaw last night so that she doesn't have to gnaw on them and get brain freeze.

What's that?  Your buns are also gluten free?  You have two of them, and they aren't expensive?  Oh, stop being so saucy!  ;-)

I have handled this gig, of catering my mom's party in to her house (my home being too small to accommodate 12 guests around the table), by being super-organized.  In fact, I approached it with the same project-management strategies that I use at work when I have to do something like move the entire business to a new location.  I made a calendar.  I wrote down STUFF in it.  I did the STUFF.

My project started on Thursday when I went to Toronto Kosher to buy cold cuts.  I could have gotten to my mom's house early to put a roast in her oven, but why bother when I can buy roast beef, pastrami, turkey roll, and cajun roasted chicken AND they will slice it for me at no extra cost?  I had been warned that kosher meats are more expensive than regular meat, and so it was.  $60 later, my fridge smells like a Jewish deli.  So I bought fancy mustard and rye bread to serve with it.  Caraway rye, even.  Am I Jewish, or what?

One point which I observed in the Toronto Kosher parking lot: my people are terrible drivers.  Or at least terrible parkers.  Therefore I maintain that my lack of driving ability is genetic.  (Just ignore all of my relatives who drive perfectly fine, including the two who were professional pilots.  My theory is sound!)

I made another special trip on Friday, to Goodbye Gluten.  Guess what they sell?  Did you know that gluten-free baked goods are double to triple the price of regular baked goods?  This party has been kind of expensive.

I cooked all afternoon and into the evening yesterday... and now almost everything on my to-do list is checked off!  So off I go now. I'll let you know how it goes.