Saturday, December 26, 2015

A Very Bubbe Christmas

May I presume that we all survived Christmas?  There were no casualties as a results of over-eating, over-drinking, or over-exposure to Michael BublĂ©?  

Excellent.  Well done, everybody.  I hope that your Christmas week fell somewhere in the range between fantastic and bearable, as close to fantastic as possible.  My week was good - generously filled with all the essentials of the season: friends, family, and food.  All my plans have gone well, and my gifts have been well-received.

The only thing that is not 100% is my Bubbe.  The so-called indomitable lady is not doing well.  Congestive heart failure has sapped her energy and landed her in hospital, as of last week.  Also, we (the family and her doctors) are not quite sure why, but she's gone a little loco in the coconut, just recently.  It could be the medications she's on; it could be oxygen deprivation; it could be her age finally catching up with her (99 and a half years is a long time to hang on to all of one's marbles); it could be the stress of being stuck in the hospital; or most likely it's all of the above.  Anyway, she has better days and worse days, but when I visited her on a worse day she said some pretty kooky stuff.

For example, she thought that the clock in her room was literally controlling her physical movements, and that she had to match the positioning of her hands to angle of the hands on the clock, or "they would apply a little discomfort.  Not pain, but just enough discomfort to make you have to move your hands."  So... hmm.  That's pretty weird.

She has been telling all of her family members for years that she does NOT want to be dependent.  She does NOT want to become a vegetable in a wheelchair.  She wants a nice, clean death, the kind where you put yourself to bed one night in your own home and then just peacefully slip away in your sleep.  Sure, who doesn't want that?  No one wants to be a shadow of one's former self, stuck in a hospital, connected to various tubes and machines, becoming paranoid and delusional and helpless to halt the process.

So, you know, it's difficult to watch.  We all knew that we'd have to lose her someday, but that doesn't make it any easier  It's anyone's guess how much longer she'll live, and at this point we're not necessarily hoping for a lot longer.  She's in God's hands now, as she always was, of course, although she would never see it that way.  

Despite feeling a bit uncelebrational on account of Bubbe's situation, I have done my best to drown my sorrows in roast beef with mashed potatoes, chocolate cake and pecan pie.  We celebrated December birthdays and watched the movie Elf.  So there it is.  Christmas was successfully accomplished.  Next: New Year's Eve.  Best wishes to everyone for 2016! xo

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Goose is Getting Fat

I haven't been able to drum up much enthusiasm for Christmas this year.

I don't mind winter.  I can put on a parka and tolerate waiting for the bus during a snowstorm.  I accept that it's not optional, so may as well make the best of it, right?  But Christmas... couldn't we have it every other year?

11 months in between the onslaughts of seasonal pop music, themed advertising, and consumerism masquerading as genuine sentiment is not enough, IMHO.  Frankly, the only thing that I look forward to every year at Christmas is my friend's homemade candy cane brownies.  They taste just as good as they look.  Better, even.

(Photo credit to my deliciously skilled friend.)

(By the way, I should mention that credit for the photos in my previous post, about Pandemic Legacy, goes to The Internet.  They were all stolen, because I don't have access to the game at home, and do you think my friends were going to let me spend time setting up a photo shoot while they waited when we could actually be playing the game?  Ha ha ha ha no.)

Conspicuous absence of a graceful segue....

Once upon a time, around a year ago, I accidentally killed Big Leaf.  Big Leaf was exactly what it sounds like, a big leaf.  I have a houseplant, species unknown or forgotten, that produces large leaves and the occasional bright red flower.  One leaf eventually grew so large that I felt it kind of developed its own personality.  I used to say Hey and high-five it when I walked past.  Then, one day, when I was doing some routine pruning in my window garden, I accidentally snapped Big Leaf's stem.  I felt so bad.

However, in time the plant produced a successor.  Meet the new Big Leaf.

It's not quite as big as the old Big Leaf... yet.  It's getting there.  I am already starting to bond with it.  You can bet I'll be more careful with this one.

Sunday, December 13, 2015


I have to rush off now to play Pandemic Legacy, because my friends and I are addicted to this crazy board game and we are playing it with all of our available free time.

If you've never heard of it, firstly, congratulations on being less of a geek than me.

It's based on plain old Pandemic, which looks like this:

That's a map of the world, with major cities marked as potential sites for outbreaks of disease.  The diseases are represented by cute little plastic cubes.  The rules are many and complex, but basically your job is to work together with the other players to cure all the diseases and save the world.  That's the neat thing about it; everyone plays together against the game, instead of competing against each other.

That doesn't mean that it's a peaceful, friendly game.  There is plenty of arguing about strategy.  Every move is potentially debatable, and often is.  Sometimes the arguing starts before the game even officially begins.  That's okay.  That's what makes it interesting.

Anyway, plain old Pandemic is fun, but the game makers kicked it up a notch with Pandemic Legacy.  It's a game set that comes with stickers, which you use to permanently alter the board or various cards after each game:

That's right!  Each game you play alters the scenario for the next game.  There's even a story that you work through as time goes by, printed in tantalizing little bits on these cards:

Sometimes the cards instruct you to open "secret dossiers":

(These have important information written on the reverse side, but they are hidden because SPOILER ALERT.)

Or even mysterious, numbered boxes:

I could tell you what's inside some of these boxes, but then I'd have to kill you.

Anyway, it's all very exciting, and no one wants to miss any of the action or revelations.  So when a text message invitation arrived inviting Ken and I to an unplanned gaming session this afternoon, we did not hesitate to accept.  

Have a great day, and watch out for coloured cubes; they might be contagious.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Things I Am Not Afraid Of

To be honest, I have been a bit anxious of late.  The things that I am afraid of have been taking up more space in my mind than usual.  For example:

  • Doctor visits, injections, and medical tests.  I got my flu shot two weeks ago, and then as soon as I got over the side effects from that (fever, aches, fatigue), one week ago, at an annual exam, I got my decennial tetanus vaccine update. My left arm has been continuously sore for two weeks, and has taken to asking me in a quiet voice "Don't you love me anymore?"  I still have to schedule, among other things, a fasting blood test, and my first ever mammogram.  At least a) it's not a prostate inspection, which would be even less pleasant, and b) I am apparently not yet ancient enough to require my first colonoscopy, so yay!
  • Subway train panic.  When I am under stress, my ability to cope with being in an underground tunnel diminishes.  Initially, I only start to sweat when the train stops in the tunnel, even for a few seconds.  Over time, that increases to an adrenaline burst any time the train even slows down to a suspiciously lackadaisical pace.  
  • Mistrust of elevators.  I have gone through phases when I would be willing to walk up many stories in quite unpleasant stairwells in order to avoid getting into an elevator.  I am not at that level now, however on a recent visit to my eye doctor I had the misfortune of riding on the freight elevator, which, for some reason, was the one cab which came for me at the time.  It was banged up inside and poorly lit like a Hollywood torture chamber.  I did get in and ride up to the sixth floor, but not without a fair bit of trepidation.
Things came to a head this week when a friend and colleague of mine returned to work after a surgical procedure.  She stopped in my office to chat, and launched into a description of what she had gone through during her recovery process.  She was only moderately graphic, and I'm usually not too bothered by descriptions of medical stuff, but because she's someone I care about I identified just a little too strongly with her experiences and ended up almost fainting.  She said "You should have stopped me!"  and I said "But people I care about are going to have surgeries and I have to learn to deal with it!"  Then I sat on the floor with an ice pack on the back of my neck for a quarter hour, feeling annoyed with myself.

Therefore, for the sake of my self-confidence, let us consider the list of things which I am not afraid of, as follows:

Spiders.  I have no problem sharing space with a moderate number of spiders.  They are playing for my team. They eat the bad bugs.  I don't consider this to be remarkable; after all, this is Toronto.  We are comfortably outside the range of black widow and brown recluse spiders.  The only tarantulas I ever meet are in pet stores or the zoo.  

This doesn't stop many people I know from freaking out about spiders.  At work I am on call to handle eight-legged visitors.  I'll pick up the spider on a piece of cardboard and escort it outside.  One time, when I didn't have any paper handy, I thought I would just scoot the spider into my palm to carry it out the door, but the arachnophobes watching me wouldn't allow it.  They were very insistent that touching the spider would be dangerous.  I humoured them because I was outnumbered.

Heights.  I mean, regular, change-a-lightbulb heights.  I'm not about to sign up for the CN Tower Edge Walk or anything.  But it's surprising to me how many people will absolutely refuse to climb a perfectly stable step-ladder.  In fact, they don't even want to watch me climb a perfectly stable step-ladder.  This came up when the guy who used to change the light bulbs at my work got a new job.  I thought that surely someone else would volunteer to take his place, but it seems that most of the people I work with are genuinely terrified of the idea.  

I ended up doing a bunch of lightbulb-changing myself.  We do have a handyman, but he's not always in the neighbourhood, and sometimes it seems easier to just haul out the 8-foot ladder and take care of business myself rather than try to reach him on the phone and arrange for him to come in.  One of my colleagues got weak in the knees when he came around a corner and saw me up by the ceiling fiddling with a pot light fixture. Others want to "hold the ladder steady" for me, although it's rock solid without any help.  The triangle is the most stable shape in engineering!  But apparently I am a heroic figure for being willing to climb up there.

Public speaking.  Yes, I do get a bit self-conscious.  Maybe I have a flutter of adrenaline when I first stand up to speak.  But it's not the crippling anxiety that so many people face.  It was Seinfeld who said that at a funeral, most people would rather be in the coffin than giving the eulogy.  I've never given a eulogy, which would be particularly difficult because of the gravity of the situation, but other types of speeches aren't too bad.

So there you go.  I'm not a totally weak-sauce lily-livered coward.  What feats of bravery can you boast of?

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Royal Winter Fair, Part 2

Aaaaaand, we're back!  Remember where we left off last week?  We were in the cow barn, watching selected bovine divas get primped for the judges.  However, this lot had already done their competition.  They were relaxing, and resting on their laurels.  The cow in the middle had won a red ribbon, which was pinned to the wall above her.  Her name is Fireball Miss Tootsie Roll.

This cow is fascinating to me on account of her unusually furry belly.

But enough of cows.  They're okay, but if I had to choose between a cow and a horse, it would be a horse every time.  I mean...

My aunt, who rides and volunteers for therapeutic riding programs (for veterans, and special needs kids) informs me that when a horse's lower lip is relaxed and kind of dangly, it means the horse is happy.  I wish you could have seen the lips of these two horses wibbling and wobbling around.  They were obviously chillaxed.

Hello.  My head is just a giant nose with two eyes on either side.  BTW do you have any apples in your pockets?  No?  I'd settle for a carrot...

The horses were getting dolled up to perform in competitive exercises.  This fellow had his fetlocks freshly powdered.

Other horses had their hooves blacked so that they shone like patent leather shoes.  I love the sound of horses clopping on the concrete floor of the huge, echoey Horse Palace.  (That's the official name of the building.)  There are two levels, so sometimes you'll hear loud clip-clopping from overhead because there are horses on the ceiling.  

Finally, as promised, freakish veggies.  One of several giant pumpkins:

A terrifyingly carved "root vegetable":

(She's coming for your soul in the night if you don't pay proper tribute.)

And the Grand Finale, a mutant, world-record-breaking beet.

My hand is included for scale.

That's it for photos.  Important experiences I didn't photograph are:

1) A sheep herding demonstration by one tough-as-nails shepherdess and four border collies, who performed in turn.  The sheep also deserve a mention.  They did a lot of running.  My favourite part was when the shepherdess demonstrated how she could command a dog to bring the sheep to her, and it would attempt to obey even if she made herself a moving target.  The resultant scene was a middle-aged woman running around an arena, being chased by seven sheep, which were in turn being chased by a dog.  It was pretty entertaining.  (I was seated too far away to get a decent photo.)

2) The petting zoo, of course!  Where else can I get my fill of having my palm nuzzled by fuzzy goat lips? Another rhetorical question: Have you ever heard of a zebu?  They are a type of small cattle originally from South Asia.  The petting zoo had TWO baby zebus!  (And their moms.)  This is not my photo (my hands were too slobbery for photos), but this is what they looked like:

They could not. Be. Any. Cuter.  

My last animal encounter of the fair was having my hand gently licked by a baby zebu's dark purple tongue.  I was tempted the tuck the calf into my coat and take it home with me.  But I didn't.  Maybe next year.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Royal Winter Fair, Part 1

Oh boy, you guys!  I went to the Royal Winter Fair with my Aunt!  You know what that means.  It's time for an ADVENTURES IN SPARKLAND PHOTO ESSAY!  (tm)

As soon as the streetcar doors opened at the fairgrounds, we could smell manure.  Who was doing all the pooping?  Let's go inside and see.  Starting with this fellow:

A mild-mannered llama who allowed visitors to pat his fluffy neck.  I waited my turn and got in there for some fuzzy lovin'.  Unfortunately I committed a faux pas by patting the llama on his head.  His ears went back and his human (the man in the blue shirt right behind him) said "Oh, I can see he's upset now," so then of course I felt bad.  Sorry, llama!  I didn't mean to annoy you.  There should have been a sign posted or something.

The Poo or False game of farm knowledge for children:

Answers were glued to the bottom of the (fake) cowpats.

This big bunny had some serious triple chins.  I guess she uses them as a pillow when she's sleeping.

For the past two years, I've gone to the fair on the first Friday that it's open.  I'm used to this one building being completely devoted to goats.  I love goats!  This year I went on the second Friday.  All the goats had gone home to their farms, and had been replaced by sheep.  I guess that's based on the competition judging schedule.  Oh well.  Sheep are pretty nice too.

Two friends sleeping nose to nose.

Here's my Aunt patting a wooly head.

Some of the sheep had been shorn.  In order to keep them warm in the somewhat chilly barn, some farmers had dressed their charges in sweaters or coats.  These guys looked a little weird with their hoods on.  I heard one lady say "They look like Klan members."  

Well, maybe a little, but they are black, so the similarity only goes so far.

This little girl was having a snooze.  She was dreaming and her little hooves were twitching.  I imagined that in her mind she was running across a sunny meadow full of clover.  Doesn't she look happy?  I wonder what she counts in order to fall asleep.

 After a considerable time spent on sheep appreciation, we moved on to the cow barn.

Look at those markings!  They don't look real.  If I hadn't seen the cows with my own eyes, I would have thought these were painted on.

The cow barn was busy.  Some of the ladies were being milked by mechanical pumps.  Others were being groomed for the judging ring.  If you haven't seen a cow at the "beauty salon", being primped by a team of humans wielding clippers, hairdryers, and brushes, you haven't seen everything.  

We didn't watch the cow contest.  We did see a little of the sheep pageant, just by virtue of being close to the judging arena.  The sheep had strong opinions about being made to stand in front of the judges.  There was a lot of loud complaining from the contestants, which was then echoed by their compatriots who were still waiting their turn.  My Aunt, who does volunteer worth with horses and is thus more of a farm expert than I am, said that the sheep were upset at being separated from the flock.  Poor sheep.  It's tough not understanding why about almost everything.

That's not the end, but I'm saving the rest of the photos for another post.  Stay tuned for horses and giant vegetables!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The County

I am out of town visiting with relatives in Prince Edward County.  This is my third time here, so I'm not nervous about taking the train like I was at first.  Nothing to be scared of here.

The upholstery on the train seats reminded me of video games, or a much-too-easy maze.  Find your way from the red dot to the blue dot, without getting lost!

The train ride was uneventful.  When I arrived at Belleville station, I was flooded with affection for my Dad when I recognized him walking toward me on the platform.  It had been so long since I'd seen him or my step-mom, I can't even remember when the last time was.  Months ago.  It was a happy reunion.

Today we took a trip to Napanee.  It was my first time riding on a ferry in a car.

It felt weird, nesting modes of transportation like that.  Like, imma take my feet and put them in this car, and take the car and put it on this boat.  What's next?  Float the boat into a space rocket?  Or hook it up to a team of camels and have them pull it along?

When the boat started, and I could see that we were moving, it was also weird to open the door and get out of the car.  I mean, one is not supposed to climb out of a moving car.  That is not normally a good idea.  But it's okay when you're on a ferry.

Napanee is a pretty, little, old town.  We had lunch and a wander up and down the main street.  We visited the local pet store, where we received a warm greeting from the welcoming committee.  There was this guy:

who, having established that I was a head-patter, sat down on my feet and would have been happy to remain there indefinitely; and a black-and-white Boston terrier who simply would not stay still long enough for me to snap a photo. 

The bearded dragons were surprisingly sociable.

Lin's Barber Shop cum Art Gallery was a neat little storefront.  Lin paints all his own signage, like this price list:

Very Norman Rockwell-esque.  

And that was about all the excitement that we could find in Napanee.  It was plenty enough for us! 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The good, the bad, and the Bubbe

I hope that all y'all had a good October 31st, whether or not you celebrate Halloween.  The weather in Toronto was ideal for trick-or-treating: relatively warm, windless, and dry.  My "costume of the evening" prize goes to the boy who dressed as a turkey dinner.  He wore a table top (covered in a red-and-white checked cloth) over his shoulders, with his head sticking through a hole in the middle.  He wore a plate as a collar and a roast turkey hat.  The table was set with plates, napkins, cutlery, and several side dishes in small serving vessels.  Give that boy ALL of the candy!

I am enjoying the weekend, but niggling work worries are never far from my mind.  One of my bosses popped into my office on Thursday, and, without much of an explanation, announced that the number of staff I am employing is "extravagant" and that we must immediately begin ruthlessly cutting hours.  Upon enquiring further with my other boss, I learned that a lawsuit we are embroiled in is the problem.  Although no one believes that the claimants have any good cause to seek compensation from the business (except the claimants themselves and their lawyer, of course), the cost of protesting our innocence via lawyer$ is sucking up a large portion of our cash flow.  

Now I have to consider firing one of my dear staffers who has been a loyal and hard worker for many years.  (Yes, I could fire someone less senior, but 1) there's a cost-per-hour consideration and 2) it's way more complicated than you even want to know.)  I haz a sad.

In an effort to distract me from my anxieties, Ken took me to the fancy mall for lunch and window shopping.  It was super-effective.

Versace always wins for Fierce Factor, in my opinion.  I mean, look at these totally unwearable shoes.  Are they not absolutely the most chic ever?

How about these laughably impractical boots?  So awesome.

Don't worry.  Versace does NOT reserve all the bling for the ladies.  Far from it.  LL Cool Joe, these shoes are for you.

Speaking of bling, Birks' estate jewellery section (of course they don't called it "used"; that would be so gauche) had these spectacularly ugly Canadian flag brooches in ruby and diamond.  I would like to know who they used to belong to.  Clearly someone with terrible taste.  Think of the beautiful pieces you could buy for that amount of money!  I mean, I'm a proud Canadian and all, but this is taking it too far.

 Oh, and if you're going to a baby shower anytime soon, I found this Fendi sweatshirt for a 1-year-old for $320.  Some people really have more money than they know what to do with.

Just when I was feeling all relaxed, having spent Halloween with friends, and eaten several fistfuls of tiny candy bars, my cell phone rang.  It was my 99-year-old Bubbe's assisted living facility looking for a family member.  At 10 pm, this couldn't possibly be good.  I braced myself for catastrophic news.  Fortunately, she was neither dead nor hospitalized.  She had fallen a couple of times that day, and it's their duty to inform someone.  The bottom line at this point is that she's not quite herself, and she may have had a small stroke.  However, she still hasn't run through all of her nine lives, so she may yet survive to celebrate her 100th birthday.  She's only got 6 months left to reach that milestone.  Go Bubbe!  You can do it!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

News that makes me want to drink booze

You will remember that I recently hired an assistant for the pickiest old man on the planet.  It wasn't easy, but I found a bright, young girl who was willing to put up with his ridiculous demands and his temper tantrums in exchange for a chance to get her career started.  There were a few times that she showed up at my office door in tears after he shouted at her, but my co-workers and I gave her all the support we could to enable to her continue.  He complained often and bitterly about her lack of experience (remember - he insisted that I hire someone young and fresh out of school because he wanted to start with a clean slate), but really there's no pleasing him.  No one would have been good enough.

Shortly after this new assistant settled in, the old fellow had a falling out with the owners of the company, and departed.  For a few weeks it was up in the air as to whether or not he would return.  I assigned the assistant to a filing project to keep her busy for a while.  But it seems that he's well and truly gone.  On one hand, I'm relieved.  On the other hand, I feel badly for the assistant.  I'm looking for a way to keep her employed.  It would be a shame to lose her, now that she's trained and showing so much promise.  I have a strategy to get her on board full-time (remember - he insisted that she work strictly part-time hours because he was too cheap to pay for our employee benefit plan).  We'll see how that goes in the next few weeks.

So.  Canada has a new prime minister!  That's pretty exciting.  My feelings about Justin Trudeau are that he seems to be a nice guy who doesn't really have a clue about politics.  I didn't personally vote for him.  He said too many dumb things during his campaign, in between his (literal) juggling acts and photogenic smiles. But it did make me happy that he won; it's sweet that Canadians were willing to give an inexperienced nice guy a chance.  Optimism won out over cynicism.  Maybe he'll do okay.  Only time will tell.  We'd just all better hope that he has savvy advisors.

The Toronto Blue Jays came this close to winning the World Series for the first time since 1993.  The city was so psyched!  Toronto and GO  (Government of Ontario) buses had "Go Jays Go" signs in the windows or on their LED readouts.  I'm not much of a sports fan, but it's fun when a home team is doing well and everyone gets into it.  Too bad that the team didn't quite make it all the way this year.

There is at least one actual blue jay that I see regularly on my way to work.

(stolen photo)

It's super-pretty, and doesn't seem to mind what the baseball score is.  So that's all good.  I will enjoy its company... (*checks Wikipedia to determine its migratory patterns - apparently none*) all year round, if I'm lucky, maybe even into hockey season.

That's it for the news tonight.  Tune in next week for more.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Heat Is On

Yesterday I wore my wintriest down-filled parka, and turned on the furnace for the first time.  We even got a little snow.  This is all a bit shocking, because my mosquito bite welts from a day in September when the high was 33C (91F) have only just faded.  On the bright side, all the deciduous trees in the city are looking very pretty.  (Conifers will have to wait until December for their day in the sun).

Ken and I tried a new ramen restaurant, because there's nothing better on a cold day than piping hot fatty pork soup.  The food was decent.  The ambiance was cheerfully chaotic.  Instead of a kitchen, there was an open cooking area, complete with boiling cauldrons of broth, surrounded by bar-style seating.  Every time the door opened to let customers in or out, everyone on staff yelled a traditional Japanese greeting.  Considering that the place was jam-packed full, with constant turnover, there was a lot of yelling.  This against a background of top-volume electro swing.

I gave my soup 7.5 out of 10, with points off for excessive saltiness and slightly undercooked noodles.  Ken gave his a more generous 8.5, probably because he prefers his food saltier and his noodles more al dente.  There's no pleasing everyone.

I am studying for a new project.  In addition to my usual Saturday evening board/card game date, we are adding a role-playing game meetup on Fridays, starting in November.  I have played Dungeons and Dragons in the past, as in, nine years ago, but the details are foggy.  Therefore, I ordered the latest edition of the player's handbook, which has this handsome cover art:

Yesterday, at Game Night, my more gaming-devoted friends plunged into a highly technical discussion of the ins and outs of the latest rules and their plans for the upcoming adventure.  I tried to follow, but most of it flew over my head.  When asked how far I had worked up my character's backstory, all I could say was that I'd just read Chapter 1 and I was pretty sure I was going to play a gnome.  Clearly I have some homework to do.

Anyway, since you guys seem to like my photos, and since I haven't taken any really relevant photos lately, here are some irrelevant photos.  I snapped them a couple of weeks ago at Lawrence West subway station.  The Toronto transit system is not renowned for its beauty, but it does have its moments.

Bonus photo of wrestler figurines from a comic book store in Kensington Market:

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Happy (Canadian) Thanksgiving

It's a long weekend!  Hurray!  Even better, Toronto is enjoying warm and sunny weather at a time of year when it can't be taken for granted.

Ken and I are celebrating our liberation from work and illness (we shared a cold for more than a week) by joyfully puttering around the city with no schedule and no goals.  We have been wandering inside, outside, and to meetings with friends, singing in the car along the way.  (Current car-aoke favourites are Billy Joel's "Uptown Girl" and Joe Jackson's "Steppin Out", which I love for many reasons, not least of which is the glockenspiel solo [starts at 3:07 in the linked video, if you're interested].)

We went to the Bazaar of the Bizarre, an artsy-craftsy show with a Halloween theme.  There were a lot of zombie-themed wares, such as miniature blood-spattered cleaver earrings.  There was even a gentleman there selling hand-crafted BDSM leather gear.

When Ken and I stopped at the leather table to verify that yes, those things that looked like ball gag harnesses were, in fact, ball gag harnesses, the salesman was quick to jump in with his pitch.  All ball gags are not created equal, FYI, and his are made of special silicone that can withstand heating to blah blah blah degrees whatever.  We aren't in the market for any of this stuff, but we're always game to learn some new fun facts, so we stayed and listened.

I allowed the salesman to demonstrate the sturdiness of his leather wrist cuffs (sold in pairs, complete with hardware so that, with a couple of sturdy o-rings screwed into a door frame, one can be securely dangled like a drying ham).  However, I drew the line when he offered to let me try on the "scold's bridle".  (His didn't look exactly like this, but this is close enough.)

Wikipedia  states that this is an instrument of punishment used primarily on women.  It locks onto the head so that the tongue depressor bit makes speaking impossible.  Often the "curb-plate" (tongue depressor) was studded with spikes.  (The model available for sale today had interchangeable plates, so you could go for spikes or no spikes, depending on your whim.)

Ugh.  No thank you to devices designed for torture and public humiliation.  Moving right along...

Not everything at the sale was a total horror show.  There was a lady there who makes handmade dolls.  She did have one zombie doll, but the rest were normal, and adorable.  Since my 99-year-old grandmother gave me some birthday money with her usual instructions ("Get yourself something you don't need!"), I decided to treat myself.  

Here is my new friend.

Isn't she sweet?  Yes, that is a bunny on her dress.  She is 6" tall, and when I got her home I realized that she matches my bedspread with uncanny accuracy.

I have not named her.  If you want to make any suggestions, the comments section awaits.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Everything Could Have Been Worse

I had a pretty amazing weekend planned.  I was going to take Friday afternoon off work, hop on an eastbound train, and spend the weekend with my father and step-mom at their lakeside home.  We were going to celebrate my birthday with a fancy dinner; I was bringing a board game to play with them; and most exciting of all we were going to go on the annual tour/open house of the local cement factory!  Including a quarry, and machines that grind up big rocks into smaller rocks!  I really wanted to see that.

Unfortunately, I got sneak-attacked by a virus on Thursday.  Around 4 pm my throat started to feel a little funny.  Immediately I plunged into that denial phase we all know too well:  "I'm not getting sick!  It's just a little irritation from the air pollution/thing I ate/lady's stinky perfume."  By 7 pm I could barely keep my eyes open.  I was just. so. tired.  And my nose was running.  I had to admit that considering Ken had been sick with a cold since Monday (oh yeah, that!  which I had so conveniently been ignoring) it was impossible to deny the fact that I was now indisputably SICK too.

Bah.  Not fair!  I had already looked at the website for my fancy birthday dinner location and chosen  what I liked from the online menu.  (Rabbit ragout, for the record.  I know, bunnies are cute, but YOLO, right?)

However, it could have been worse.  I could have not gotten sick until I was already on my way there, which would have been a lot less convenient for everyone.  I don't want to lie around sneezing at someone else's house, and they probably don't want me there sneezing on them.

Also, I could have gotten sicker.  Ken has been down for the count with this bug for a week, and it's been way hard on him.  He's been battling brutal sinus headaches and a runny nose that just won't stop.  I have been walloped much more gently.  I don't have a lot of nasty symptoms; it's mostly just wanting to sleep 13 hours every night and then nap most of the day.

I was able to get 75% of the cost of my train tickets refunded.  Heck yeah.  My imaginary didn't-actually-happen train trip only cost me around $40 at the end of the day.

Finally, I'm already starting to feel a little better.  I left the house today!  Ken and I went to the mall and walked around for like, a couple of whole hours before I started to feel like I needed another 13 hours of sleep!

It has just occurred to me.  Consider the symptoms: sleeping 18 hours per day, wanting only to lie on the sofa, getting up only to eat and bathe...  This may not be a virus after all.  I may be turning into a cat.  Wow.  Well.  If you don't hear from me again after this, send tuna and catnip.  Meow.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Indomitable Bubbe

My sister is awesome.  I met her for lunch at a restaurant yesterday.  When it was time to pay, this is what she took out of her pocket:

I asked her:  "Who's Andrew, and won't he be missing his wallet?"

Her reply was:  "Andrew is my wallet."  As in, her wallet has a name, and that name is Andrew.  When I burst out laughing, she told me that once she also had a toothbrush named George.  So yes, for the record, everyone in my family is weird.

For instance, take my 99-year-old grandmother, a.k.a. Bubbe.  Her mind is in great shape, but her body, not so much anymore.  She gets around with a cane and a walker, and she tires quickly.  She doesn't do more than one or two stairs at a time.  So when she decided that she wanted to travel out to West Lake to see my father and step-mom's new house, and was insistent that she would take the train by herself, we were all a bit dubious.

Eventually it was arranged that she would bum a ride out to the house with someone else who was making the journey, and on the way back she would take the train with my sister.  I let her know that if she called ahead, Via Rail would arrange to have whatever assistance she needed ready for her.  I had previously seen a wheelchair-bound passenger lifted off the train on a little scissor lift.  Sure enough, that was how they got her onto the train in Belleville.

My Bubbe was very pleased to have two hours to chat with my sister on the train.  When they arrived at Union station in Toronto, the last stop, the Via staff wanted to clear out all the passengers and luggage before they dealt with Bubbe.  Even my sister was asked to wait on the platform.  So Bubbe ended up waiting by herself in the train for quite some time while everyone else disembarked and the scissor lift was rolled into place.  

When the staff were finally ready to move their special passenger, they got back onto the train... and she wasn't there.  They walked all up and down the car looking for her.  She wasn't in any of the seats, or in the washroom, or (thank goodness) on the floor.  Finally they figured out that while they were taking their sweet time getting the lift set up, she ran out of patience and somehow got herself down the stairs out the back door, at the far end of the car.  She was waiting for my sister just down the platform.  

As my sister said, that is so Bubbe!

P.S. I said last time that I would tell you all about my birthday, so here goes:  It was great.  I got lots of love and cake; plenty of gifts and cards.  Thanks for all your good wishes!  :-)

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Birthday Time

Hi kids!  I hope that you are all doing well and having a good weekend.  I'm having a great time with all my birthday celebrations.  For that reason, I am taking the week off from blogging.  I'll catch up with all y'all next week.


Sunday, September 13, 2015

Mall Walk

When in doubt regarding what to do on the weekend, Ken and I go for a mall walk.  It's too hot in the summer?  Rainy in the spring or fall?  Snowy and freezing in the winter?  A walk in the mall is just what the doctor ordered.

Vaughan Mills mall, large and suburban, gives us plenty of room to stretch our legs and lots of good people-watching.  We usually park by the Bass Pro shop, and walk through the hunting and fishing sections on our way to the main mall.  The sign at the entrance is held up by a couple of bears.

One of them is proud and happy because he has a fish.

The other one looks grouchy.

I hate this stupid job.  My paws are tired, my back is killing me... this sign weighs a ton.  I complained to the bear union, but they're not doing a damn thing for me.  They probably spend all my hard-earned dues on honey for their meetings.

Mom was right.  I never should have moved to the big city to get a job.  I thought I could make a career for myself, but I couldn't overcome all the anti-bearism.  I should have stayed in the woods, scratching my belly and eating lumberjacks with maple syrup.  *sigh*

So, what's on trend for fall?  Black, grey, and other dark colours, for starters.  Like every fall.  Bah.  How boring is that?

Also, sack-like tops meant to be worn with leggings by tall, skinny girls.  I mean, some of the tops literally look like two rectangles of cloth sewn together, like a big pillowcase, with holes for a head and arms.  This is the type of fashion that makes it easy for me to keep my money in my wallet.

However, there was some interesting footwear on display.  In case you didn't know, Dr. Martens are back in style.

Now that's what I call colour!  The boots on the left are post-modernistically self-referential.

It's a boot with a print of a boot on it!  If you've ever wanted boots on your boots, your wish has been granted.

There were also ice-cream cone shoes.  On sale from the summer collection, of course.

We didn't end up buying anything except a snack.  But that's okay.  I can enjoy a good mall walk even if I don't make any purchases.  Window shopping is fine with me.