Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Twelve Days of a New York Christmas

On the first day of a New York Christmas, I took a ride on a glimmering carousel next to a skating rink full of people watching a Quebec fir become a dazzling sight in white fairy lights.

On the second day of a New York Christmas, I shivered on a cold winter's with the Engineer, as we  sipped on hot apple cider at the Columbus Circle Christmas market

On the third day of a New York Christmas, I walked past the window's at Macy's.  Full of colour and imagination, for a moment I felt like the child I used to be, staring in wonderment at all the toys in the Eaton's window on a snowy Winnipeg street.

On the fourth day of a New York Christmas, I waited in line with the Engineer to get some ice time.  Skating below the famous glittering Rockefeller tree on a mild evening  and having a 'once in a lifetime experience' was worth the $56 admission price.  Thanks Engineer.

On the fifth day of a New York Christmas, I walked the dogs on a busy Brooklyn street.  Passing under the white lights of a tree stand, smelling of fir and pine; of Christmas.  It felt like an escape into a teeny tiny forest in the middle of a city.

On the sixth day of a New York Christmas, I watched the snowflakes on Saks dance and sing 'The Carol of the Bells'.

On the seventh day of a New York Christmas, I dragged the Engineer to Central Park for a Victorian Candlelight Christmas at Belvedere Castle.  It may have been a bit silly, but worth watching the orange full moon rise over the Upper East Side from the top turret - finding some peace in a overly busy city.

On the eighth day of a New York Christmas, we walked through the Brownstones in Brooklyn to take in all the lights, glitter and kitschy (or tacky) nativity scenes that light up the neighborhood.

On the ninth day of a New York Christmas, we fought the bustling crowds at Macy's in search of a silk scarf for the Engineer's mom.  Even though I may have had a stress-related asthma attack, I still delighted in the wooden escalator.

On the tenth day of a New York Christmas, I meet an old friend at Bryant Park for a hot chocolate with homemade vanilla marshmallows and look up to see the Empire State Building lit up in red and green.

On the eleventh day of a New York Christmas, I take myself to Rolf's for a hot mulled wine amongst the glittering lights of a thousand Christmas decorations.

On the twelfth day of a New York Christmas, I get on a plane to go home to my family.  

Leaving behind the busy, bustling, sometimes (most of the time) smelly but more often enchanting, city sidewalks to the quiet of the Canadian prairie.  This apple has definitely taken a bite out of me (in a good way). 

Monday, December 8, 2008

Let's Move In!

The Engineer and I never formally decided to move in together.  There was never the 'let's take our relationship to the next step' conversation.  In fact, I believe we never discussed it at all nor consider ourselves living together.  Even though for the past two months, that is exactly what we have been doing.

Obviously it is a living situation out of convenience rather than choice.  It's not like I can get an apartment for myself in New York and it would not really make sense.  I am just visiting therefore we are not living together.  We are both oddly traditional actually.  We want to wait until we are married before we live together.  That and we both own our rainy city homes, and both are very picky livers.  Okay, that might just be me.  I really really really like things my way.  And I really really really like living by myself.  I already know that someday we need to get a home big enough for me to have my own room.

That being said, the Engineer chose a place that is fairly big when he could have gotten a studio and I have purchased furniture that is decidedly mine (ie. pretty), so we are sort of living together.

They say that when a couple moves in together they learn so much about the other person.  I personally believe that I have learned more about myself.  Thanks to things the Engineer points out.  For example, I drink lots of milk.  I never really noticed before how much I go through.  It's a lot.  I may be 29, but I still love a big glass of milk and I drink copious amounts of tea.  I also have discovered that I go through lots of garbage in the kitchen.  I don't really like to fold my clothes right away but get mad when there is clutter on the bedroom dresser.  I have learned that only I can make a mess when I have cleaned the house.  That I do laundry more often than the usual person, that I hate doing dishes, and that I really like to do a whole bunch of nothing in the mornings.

I have also learned that I like having someone to say good morning to who is not my dog.  And that it's fun to work next to the Engineer.  And that he likes to do a whole bunch of nothing in the morning too, when he can.

I am glad to know that it won't be too bad when we are married.  I like this whole compromise thing.  As long as we choose my style of furniture and decor.  And that I have my own room.  And that the Engineer has his whole room where he can put paper wherever he would like to.  Why?  WHY does he hate the idea of file folders so much?  How could it possibly be better to lay paper down on every available surface?  Okay, calm Sarah, don't get excited.  Compromise. COMPROMISE.  Stupid word

Reasons to miss my car

Did you know that the subway is a public place?

This is a fact that some people in NYC need to be reminded of.  

Here is why:

1.  The other day when K and I were coming home from our fake bag excursion, we were on a packed F train headed for Brooklyn.  Luckily we got seats, she sat next to a chubby sleeping woman and I sat next to a little Japanese lady, who was next to two Italian grandmas.  Standing around us were many other women, it was as if it were a female-only car.  At my eye line was a big bum so I had to keep my gaze elsewhere.  Unfortunately my eyes are not far from my nose.

Reminiscing over our day's affairs, K's eyes suddenly grew wide and she grabbed her nose.  I took a breath in and quickly realized the problem.  Someone, very near, had let one go.  And it was STINKY.  K asked if it was me.  I would admit to passing wind but this was definitely not my doing.  K agreed that it did not smell like me (a sign that we are too close?).  Both of us sat there with our noses in our scarves. To be polite, this was the extent of our acknowledgment of the offence.

Then the Japanese lady next to me started to make quite the scene.  In Japan it is considered polite to make much noise when in conversation.  To prove you are listening you must 'ooo', 'ahhh', and say 'honto', therefore Japanese conversations always sound much more exciting than they actually are.  This makes the Japanese person very adept at making much noise to express themselves.  The little lady next to me started with some 'mmmphs' and then moved on to 'whews' while she fanned the air in front of her.  

This made me laugh.  Which made me look like the guilty party.

I glanced down further to the two grandma's - they were also snickering and covering their noses.  The women at the further pole from me were shaking their heads in disgust.  

I began to laugh even more.  G-U-I-L-T-Y

K whispered that they thought it was me.  (She also whispered that we were breathing in some strangers feces.  Would it be better to breath in the fecal matter of a friend?)

I shook my head at them all and told them it wasn't me and pointed to the sleeping lady next to K (who we think really did let the stink bombs fly) or the big bum at my nose.  This made them all laugh with me.

If this many people react to something on the subway you just know it is bad.

2.  While riding on the train home one day, I was enjoying the freedom of a nearly empty car.  Reading my book with my groceries sitting on the seat next to me, I delighted in the lack of farts in the air.  The car was practically empty.  So WHY did the girl who got on at the Carroll Street station sit right next to me?  There were dozens of empty seats!  But she looked normal, as if she could be my friend, so I felt that it was okay.  Until my reading of chapter four in Twilight was interrupted by a 'thh thh thh' noise.  I looked over at the space invasion gal who was checking out her teeth in her compact.  The 'thhh thhh' noise was her sucking food out of her teeth.  Honestly, couldn't she do that in a bathroom?  

3.  On the A train heading to Central Park one day I found myself squished against a very large Chinese guy, about my age, who had the audacity to pick his zits and flick the heads onto the floor.  Not before inspecting them for size and colour.  I almost barfed.

4.  One evening a man thought it was perfectly acceptable to cough, snort and spit his mucus into a cup (okay, this actually happened in a cab, but still a public place!)

5.  The stench of humans in a tube underground should remind everyone and anyone to SHOWER and use a fantastic device called deodorant.  And while you are at it:  a toothbrush never hurt anyone!

It may be fast and cheap, but the subway is the pits.  I miss my VW.

Not so Serendipitous



I have been wanting to visit Serendipity in New York since I (a) saw the movie and (b) learned that the specialty was frozen hot chocolate.  Frozen hot chocolate?  Such wonderment!  Such mystery!  Such crazy wait times!

I attempted a snack on my first visit to NYC on a cold rainy/slushy December afternoon and discovered the three hour wait time.  I kid you not.  Clearly every other tourist has also seen the movie.  My apologies if you have not seen the John Cusack loveliness that was nearly ruined by the always bland Kate Beckinsale (but thank goodness for Molly Shannon and John Corbett) which was named for this restaurant (even though I can't actually remember the restaurant in it).

Anyhoo, Serendipity 3 attracts tourists from around the globe, toting bags from Bloomie's and demanding the famous frozen hot chocolate along with other edible goods.  I thought it was only desserts here, but no, they serve everything to a point where they probably shouldn't.  More on that later.

Needless to say, I have always been curious and now that K was in town I had the perfect excuse to go.  After trying to see the lighting of the tree at Rockefeller (along with 3 million other people), discovering the magic palace on Madison that felt like a secret, and checking out the retro windows at Bloomingdale's, we wandered over a few blocks and entered the pastel spectacle.

Surprisingly there was a very short wait!  I should hope so as it was nearly midnight and tourists are usually in bed by this time so they can get up and wait in the TKTS line.  We were led behind two other girls who were about to be seated at the crappiest table ever.  But they spotted the table meant for us:  by the window and under the Christmas ice cream cone.  They were led instead to that one leaving us with the crap table.  Bitches.

The crap table was crap for a few reasons:  
#1  It was not next to the window under the pink ice cream cone
#2 It was right next to the busing station and therefore loud
#3 It smelled like ketchup and garbage

Due to the fact it was late and the restaurant was clearing out, I asked our waiter (politely I must inform you) if we could switch seats to the other empty table by the other window with the magic ice cream cone.  He looked and it and said "It's meant for six to eight people".  I replied "are there six to eight people waiting for it?".  He huffed and told me we would have to talk to the host.  Seeing as the host who had led us to the crap table apologizing for its crapness was nice, I knew we would be by the cone in no time.

But the host that came was not our host.  He was asshole host.  He rudely, and I mean rudely told us that we could sit downstairs at the very front.  He repeated very front twice which told me that was the naughty table where people sat waiting for good tables (it was right by the front door and line-up that was non-existent at this time).  He really was quite the a-hole about it.  Aren't customers supposed to be right?  Aren't we supposed to get golden treatment?  

Two girls across from us were SLOWLY paying their tab.  It wasn't all their fault they were slow.  Although they couldn't do math or figure out how to use credit cards, it was also the fact that the slow, surly waiter didn't take their bill back right away because he felt more inclined to play 'tic tac toe' with the other waiter.  At this point, I was just trying to look forward to my frozen hot chocolate.  But nothing irks me more than bad service, especially in a place called Serendipity.    The fact that I could smell garbage and banging was going on behind my head didn't help.

The nice host came back upstairs and I nabbed him.  Another table had vacated while the two girls figured out they could each pay $10 using cash, quite the concept, and we asked if we could move over there.  Immediately and without question, he took us over.  Well, almost right away, our surly waiter had to slam ten dirty dishes in the tray behind my ear causing me to flinch and shoot him a dirty look before we got out of our chairs.

Seated in a much nicer area, albeit not under the pink Christmas cone, K and I proceeded to order our frozen hot chocolate and teas.  I peered around me and realized that we were definitely in tourist town.  Or in the case of our friends to the right, fat American town. Okay okay, I know that sounds horrible and bitchy.  It totally is.  But honestly, the two girls next to us were sort of popping out of their clothes as they stuffed a FC each (K and I shared one) down their throats and added the empty dishes to the pile of 10 dishes already on their table.  I kid you not.  

They also were the type to lick their fingers after eating and requested to see the menu to take stuff home for breakfast. Under my breath, I may have said 'more like for the subway ride home'.  I also couldn't help but notice the stench of the table next to us. Maybe it hadn't been the busing station after all.  Maybe the whole restaurant stank.  K agreed that although the dessert is divine, it is always mixed with the scent of bad chicken terriyaki or old burgers.  Yum.

I must say that the frozen hot chocolate was super yummy.  In fact I would love to have it again.  But if that means going back to Serendipity where the staff clearly should be working at a state penitentiary with those attitudes and the usual wait times run over an hour, I guess I will just have to look at the pictures. . . . 

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Fake Bag Brigade

My friend K is currently visiting me in the Big Apple, and our plans of museums and shows were quickly thrown out in favor of shopping.

K is pretty much a shopping professional and digger, whereas I tend to wander around aimlessly hoping something will jump out at me.  Knowing that I had K by my side I decided it was a good time to walk Canal Street in search of the perfect fake bag.

In the past, and really every other moment besides shopping, I am the boss.  When traveling with K, I am the one who tells her where we are going and what we are doing.  She happily follows along with no complaints and I think actually enjoys my stern leadership.

How the tables have turned.

I do not like (a) crowds (b) people who yell and (c) bartering therefore Canal Street is like my version of hell.  I was surprised to find that there are actual store fronts housing the fake goods, I sort of expected the bags to be on tables in the middle of the street.  I was also not prepared for the people who walk by me and whisper 'Chanel Gucci Prada' as if I was some sort of designer drug addict.  So because of all this overkill on my senses K had to lay down some ground rules.

#1 Separate your cash and only have small bills.  

#2 Don't actually show interest in anything

#3 Pick an amount you would pay for an item and do not pay a cent more than that.  If they won't do it, just walk away.

Got it.

Oh, and she said we needed a code word to tell each other we liked something.  I suggested the phrase 'I want steamed buns' because we were in Chinatown and I did, in fact, want a steamed bun.

I suggested we should also have a code word for 'let's leave' so that we knew when one of us wanted to leave.  She told me to say 'let's leave'.  Right.  Got it.  Sometimes I over-think things.

I was terrible.  Really terrible.  Firstly, when I saw something cute I exclaimed with a little scream.  The price went up $10.  So K made me leave that stall and reinforced our code word and the rules. 

Again, when I saw something cute I would yell out 'I want a steamed bun!' which made the store people look at me like I had turrets.  When K looked at me holding a bag with the woman right next to her and said 'how much do you like this bag' (once again, the less excited the less you pay), I smiled, nodded, and said very loudly:  STEAM BUNS.  The woman caught on.

K also has no problem leaving when the price she wants is not given to her.  I kept apologizing and explained that I would get in trouble.  Plus they yell at you.  I kept saying 'sorry' and K kept telling me to shut up.  As we left one store, the woman screamed at us for wasting her time and that we were ungrateful for her deals.

I have never seen K take such a leadership role.  She calmed me down when I would hyperventilate at the crowds or at the enormous selection (I also don't like too much choice).  She cooed to me to go slowly, just take it all in, then focus on the colours I like and next the shapes.  

But after an hour of this, it was time to leave.  I felt relieved not only in that I would be able to breath again, but that I would once again be the boss in the relationship.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Would You Like Fries with That? Or Grape Jelly?

I am the first to admit that I am not the best orderer at restaurants.  Not that I am like Meg Ryan's character in When Harry Met Sally but I can be a bit indecisive.

The problem comes from loving food so much, I just can't make up my mind.  I like to know what all my friends or family is ordering before I decide.  I also like to mix and match items on the menu.  For example:  that wild mushroom found in the risotto?  Could I have it on my veal?

But there comes a line to the mix and match.

I felt it was finally time to enjoy a New York classic:  the bagel.  This city is full of deli's and street carts offering up said dish and I have never ever eaten one.  So today was the day.

Firstly, I couldn't decide exactly which bagel to eat.  I felt I should be on the healthy side and at least have multi-grain, but then traditional is really the way to go when eating a traditional food.  Then again, the onion one also looked good.  I chose sesame.

Did I want it toasted?  Ummm, I think so.  Well, then again I like the chewy goodness of an untoasted bagel, but what the heck, it's 10am - toast it!  And I would like plain cream cheese please.

With strawberry jam.

They only have grape jelly.  Ugh.  Grape jelly?  It comes out of a squeeze container.  But I really like the mixing of the cream cheese with the sweetness of the jam so sure, why not, grape jelly me up.

As I stood there waiting I realized that the traditional New York bagel should really be served my favorite way:  with smoked salmon.  I absolutely love love love lox on a bagel with capers and onions.  So of course I decide that this is what I now want.

I interrupt the deli man in the midst of cutting my bagel and switch my order.  He smiles and tells me this is no problem.  He passes the foil wrapped traditional lox bagel across the deli counter to me, and I take it, smiling at the fact it is toasty warm in my hand and that I really love bagels.  What a New York moment.  I take a second to savour it before stepping outside on busy Broadway on my way up to Macy's at 34th (miracles happen there I hear).

Gently I unwrap the foil and take a bite as if it were a sandwich and quickly recoil in horror.  I look down and realize my first New York traditional bagel has gone terribly terribly wrong.  This will teach me to switch orders halfway through the guy making it.

Why?

Because he had made me a lox, cream cheese and grape jelly bagel, that's why.

This mix and match was a mix and hurl.  

The secret?  I ate it anyways . . . . 

Sunday, November 30, 2008

That Old Black Magic


Here in the good old United States of America, they follow grand traditions set forth by their fore fathers.  Eating turkey in November because the pilgrims did it (even though I think the Canadians have it right in October - I mean doesn't the last week of November run too close to Christmas?  Spread the turkey love people!), watching a parade of giant balloons because a very old department store wants you to go shopping, and finally, the crazy sales associated with Black Friday.

Fact:  Black Friday is called Black Friday because it is when the stores go from being in the red to being in the black

Fact:  People wake up and go to sales starting at  - are you ready for this? - FOUR IN THE MORNING!  FOUR!!!!!!!!!!  That was JC Penny.  Macy's and Target were five, much more humane.

Fact:  People who get up early and wait for the sales at already cheap stores like Wal Mart should gain some perspective.  Especially when you break a glass window and storm into the store, stampeding over an employee and killing them.  This actually happened in Long Island.  It's horrific and tragic.  My thoughts are with the family and definitely taught me the lesson to stay away from people at Wal Mart - they are clearly crazy.

I wasn't really wanting to be a part of these crowds on Friday, as last year's accidental experience with the Engineer at an outlet mall north of Seattle taught me to fear people and sales, but I was sort of curious what the crowds in New York would be like.  And seeing as a friend was in town, I just couldn't resist.  This is my story of Black Friday.

Century 21:

Century 21 is an upscale department store that is like liquidation world for Prada.  The crowds at this store are crazy on a normal day, Black Friday was clearly catastrophic.  But I needed a wallet so I pushed my way through, picked the cheapest one I could find (a whopping $8.97!  Woohoo!) and pushed my way to the cashier.  Here is when trouble started.

#1.  The price tag was actually not attached to the wallet, but inside the wallet.  The girl rudely told me that she 'don't know if thats true girl' and said to get another one.  My friend graciously offered to push his way to find a replacement.  In the meantime she yelled at me to STEP ASIDE STEP ASIDE

#2.  On having the attached proof of the price of the wallet (take that bitch) she scanned it in, and I handed over my credit card.  Chewing her gum she informed me that my card was not working and I was 'gotta pay with somethin else'.  

#3.  About to take out the cash I had, the cashier next to her told her to type in my numbers.  This is the following conversation:

My cashier:  I don't wanna punch in the numbers.  She can pay with somin else.

The other cashier:  You just bein lazy girl, punch in the numbers

My cashier:  Then i have to get authorization. I don wanna.  She can pay wit somin else

Me:  Actually, I want to pay by credit card.  I'm not from here and it costs me a lot to take out cash (lie)

The other cashier:  yeah girl, it's the holidays you can't be lazy now

My cashier:  (huffs and punches in my numbers)

The other cashier:  Girl, it's just the beginning of the holidays.  You gotta change your attitude.

My cashier:  Don't be talking to me about attitude.  I'm tired and if I don wanna do somin I ain't goin to (roughly throws my card back, I sign the computer thing)
Sign there now

Me:  I did already

My cashier:  GLARE

Me:  Oh I don't need a bag

My cashier:  GLARE

Other cashier:  It's store policy, you have to leave with a bag

Me:  That's bad for the environment

My cashier:  (shoves bag at me)

Other cashier:  Have a nice day

Me: (smile at other cashier) to my cashier You have a fabulous day now, you have been so wonderful to meet!

End Scene

Macy's:

As we walk randomly through the store, suddenly we are yelled at by a store clerk that we are walking the wrong way.  Confused, we look around:  aren't we in a store?  How can you walk the wrong way?  The clerk yells again and asks what part of wrong way don't we understand?  Apparently Macy's during the holidays is like driving a car in Manhattan.  There are one way aisles, stop signs and turning signals if you want to change lanes.  Also, the spots next to things to buy are coveted, sort of like rock star parking.

FAO Schwarz:

I don't know how the service was.  Why?  Because there was a line-up to get it, stretching down from the door to the street, around 59th Avenue ALL the way to Madison where it curled again towards Central Park.  I kid you not.

The Fried Chicken restaurant:

The customer ahead of me ordered a bucket of chicken, a box of mashed potatoes, fries, gravy, four cokes and some biscuits.  When the girl asked her if it was to stay, she replied 'I hardly think I am going to sit down and eat a bucket of chicken by myself' to which the surly worker said 'I don't know your life bitch'

I thought this was the country of customer service?  I mean didn't The Gap invent the greeter and the overly friendly manner?  Isn't TGI Fridays famous for its nauseating happiness and cheer?  Can't the service meet me halfway here?  When I go into a store looking for a specific item, the employee should not shrug and keep folding clothes - shouldn't she go look for it herself?  GAH!

Like Shari said on The View:  what's the point and going out and supporting the economy by spending money,  helping to save jobs in the stores if the sales assistants whose jobs we are spending money to save treat us like crap.  

Black Friday has left a black taste in my mouth.  And the sales weren't even that good.  


Friday, November 14, 2008

Enchanted

I am the first to admit that this Big Apple has not always been the most sweet to me.  My first visit, I 'liked' the city - after all how could one not the first week of December when Christmas is most charming?  I was the perfect tourist:  carriage ride in Central Park, food from Zabars, eating Magnolia cupcakes in the west village (by the way - Crumbs cupcakes are far superior to Magnolia. I should know,  I have done much market research).  I left thinking that New York was as exciting as they say, but not in a huge rush to come back.

Then there was the spring of this year (you can read about it in the May section) in which stomping the concrete in wedge heels with my best friends proved to be fun but I still did not feel that 'zing' people talk about.  I still could not compare New York to my love for London or Paris; it was still just a big, dirty city.

My first few days (okay, even perhaps weeks) of being here with the Engineer, I thought that the Big Apple was still dirty, was still a bit smelly, and was still too fast for my prairie girl feet.  I tried to convince the Engineer that we should try to settle in Revelstoke because it is so pretty and tranquil.  I missed the fresh Rainy City air, the ocean, the mountains.  I couldn't believe that there was no where in New York to simply escape to nature and recoup (because I do that all the time in Rainy City).

But then I stayed for a few more days . . . 

They say one of the best things about Rainy City is that in one day you can be skiing on a mountain and by the evening walking on the beach.  That is true and wonderful about Vancouver.  But it suddenly dawned on me:  In one day in New York you can be looking at Starry Starry Night by Van Gogh, see Kristen Scott Thomas or Katie Holmes on Broadway, and then run into a member of SNL on the subway home. In one day you can meet your favorite chef, act in a film via movieoke, and watch the sunset from the Empire State Building.  I am pretty sure this city has it all.  In one day you can eat knishes on the Lower East side, cheesecake in Midtown, and tapas in Soho.  Why did it take me so long to see that?

Don't get me wrong, I still love the quiet fresh air of the west coast or the peaceful small town in Alberta I grew up in, but I finally, finally became enchanted with New York.

It crept up on me.  With each new day that I did something out of the ordinary, I got closer and closer to not noticing the odd sewer smell because I was looking up at the Chrysler Building enshrouded in fog. Or I found peace in the middle of Broadway and 34th where I sat eating my fresh salad from Pax, looking at the Macy's Christmas lights.  I no longer heard the honking of horns, just the quiet you can actually find in a city.

I realized it as I was rushing down blocks of busy bodies and looked up.  I noticed I was in New York and I was  . . . happy.  I mean where else are there places devoted entirely to macaroni and cheese?  Macarons?  Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches?  Gluten-free risotto restaurants?  Sugar free bakeries for people on cleanses like me?  Wine stores filled with crazy free wine-tastings (how to pair Chinese food with wine)?  Okay, clearly one can see that I may be influenced by all my food choices.  I should be fat by now.

So I guess I am falling in love with the Big Apple.  Taking a big bite out of it, some would say.

  Big cities are big, noisy, smelly, loud but with time, patience and pure enchantment one will eventually find a piece of them to call home.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Dance Dance Revolution

Part of my new New York life, is my new New York gym. I know it is just an American chain but it has been on Sex and the City and is the funnest place ever to work out. They have the best classes in the world – trampoline aerobics (can’t do it though), ‘wings’ yoga, which involves circus like tricks on a hanging swing (some would say I shouldn’t do this one), and my new discovery: African Dance.

I’m not going to lie to you. I was a bit nervous about this one. After all, I live in Brooklyn between two projects and nearly everyone I see is African-American. I was totally expecting the class to be full of AA women with actual booties and really good rhythm. To my surprise I found I was a blonde among many, save for three AA ladies. Great, I am totally going to rock this class.

Wrong. As soon as our instructor started moving with the beats of the drums, ALL the other blonde girls did as well. And even though they had no hips or butts, they still found the beautiful rhythm and movement of the African beat.

I looked like an Orangutan on crystal meth.

I tried my best to wiggle my hips and stomp my feet all the while gracefully moving my arms in the opposite direction. The effect, like I said before, was a crystal meth laced Orangutan who had eaten too much sugar.

I was so bad that when we went in lines, no one would go behind me. She also made us split in to two teams – my team was only 8 big and full of the bad dancers. It was torture.

But the most fun torture I have yet to endure. As much as I was terrible, I had such a great time and sweated like, well I suppose, an Orangutan.

I was having so much fun until the end of the class when we all had to stand in a circle and the dance one by one in the centre. This completely freaked me out so I pretended that my knee had popped out and hid in the corner.

I may be willing to look like a crazed monkey in a group but no way am I going that while people are actually watching.

Doesn't Anyone Work in this Town?

After three weeks of being in New York, I have finally settled into my writing life. I may have been hiding for the first few weeks in my bed, the seasonal change affects me like that. But the other day I emerged, excited and ready to write.

The problem is: where? I love to work at home but I really love to explore the city and find cozy coffee shops that inspire me. Unfortunately, finding a café in New York City is like finding deodorant on a hippie.

Obviously the city is full of coffee shops and cafes, Friends made that statement with Central Perk. The problem is this city is also full of people. People who don’t go to an office and work. People who go to cafes and sit for hours and hog seats so that real writers like me can’t get a seat.

Honestly.

Three days in a row, I have had to walk block after block with my backpack (a laptop is better on your back this way), in the cold, looking for a place to sit. I try my best to avoid Starbucks because I have this at home. And I don’t like their coffee. But on day three I had to relent.

Starbucks it was. And things happened at this Starbucks that I have never seen before.

On my left, there was an actual catfight over a table. Okay, maybe not a catfight per say but a definite rising of voices and odd gesturing. An upper-west side woman who looked constipated and held her lips as if she had a lemon in her mouth shouted at three Japanese ladies trying to sit together. Not only was there a language barrier, but a manner-barrier as well. New Yorkers have none, Japanese have too many. The ladies lost.

On my right, three girls, as in maybe ten years old, sat with their grande non-fat hot chocolates, super expensive Starbucks sandwiches and school bags talking about boys and braces. They were actually well behaved and soft-spoken little girls. It just took me aback to see them sitting there like little grown-ups, caffeine-addicts in training, pouring mounds of sugar in their hot chocolate.

And in the corner, a little old lady cleaning her teeth in her coffee cup.

I swear this city has it all. And more. Maybe too much more . . . .

Jamie Oliver and the Case of the Accidental Shoplifter

The great thing about New York is that, well, that it’s New York. Everything happens here. Everyone comes here. There is always something to see or do. So when I read that Jamie Oliver was making an appearance at the Union Square Barnes & Noble I couldn’t help but wish he were something to see and do.

But he is married. As am I, nearly. So I had to settle for simply seeing him.

I love Jamie Oliver. I just could squish him I love him so much. I love his accent, I love his messy cooking, I love his passion, I love how he says things like ‘bake until it looks delicious’ (this has unfortunately led me to eating half-baked strawberry meringues), I just love love love him.

My friend and I trudged early to the bookstore and settled ourselves neatly in the second row (well, technically third but the front row barely showed up, so we had a very clear view. Actually I did. My friend had the blue monster in front of her so her view was a bit obstructed – too much of Jamie’s cooking perhaps?) two hours ahead of time. I rifled through his new cookbook making odd noises as the recipes made my tummy growl, and perhaps drooling a bit on page 189 (a Pimm’s and Strawberry concoction). I debated actually buying the book, as online it was $23 and in the store it was $38 – hello highway robbery? I wondered if Jamie’s signature was really worth $15 in these tough times.

The closer to 7 it got, the more nervous and excited I got. I had planned on asking a question and this made me want to throw up. Gee whiz, I have met celebrities before (okay, maybe only one), why was this one making me a nutbar?

When they ushered Jamie in, there was an audible gasp (me), someone yelling ‘he’s so cute’ (me) and a general giggling among the women and gay men (me and many many others). He is soooooooo cute in real life! He wore jeans, his little converse slip-on trainer things, and a windbreaker-ish jacket (he is so cute!) just like he does on his shows. And then he talked. I could listen to that southern-Brit accent forever. He talked about how his new cookbook was inspired by growing his own veg and fruit, and working with local farmers to get meat and grain. Keep this in mind.

Question 1: Does he find inspiration in American cooking? Yes, he is learning and is doing a new 8-part show about cooking in America. He started in Louisiana and is going to Arizona, New York (to our house for Thanksgiving hopefully), Chicago, and other places that I forgot.

Question 2: Does he support community growing in America? Ummm, he didn’t know what she meant. Local farmers basically. HELLO? He clearly supports that you MORON; didn’t he just talk about that for his inspiration??

Question 3: Do you like Korean food? Once again, a wasted question from a nervous girl who took ten minutes to ask her freaking question. The man eats ANYTHING and likes pretty much everything, clearly he will like Korean. Grrrrrr

At this the question period ended because there were so many of us getting our books signed. Boo! I didn’t ask my question!

So I decide to go up with my non-purchased book, just so I can meet him and have him call me ‘darling’. Then I would dump the book on a shelf and buy it online.

As I waited in line, I was so nervous/excited my knees were shaking. With each step closer I got more and more like a teenager. I felt the same way I did when I was 14 and met Kurt Browning at Eaton’s after school.

I was the next in line standing near to the security guard and I couldn’t help but tug at his arm and whisper ‘isn’t he cute?’ The security guard didn’t even acknowledge me. At least back home that would get a smile. Here they just think I am crazy. Oh wait . . .

Anyhoo, by the time I got to Jamie I was a nervous wreck. At first all I could blurt was ‘HI’! He looked at me and waited for more. I told him about my travel show and asked him where I should eat in London. He gave me a list but when I went to write it down I discovered I forgot how to hold a pen! GAH! He actually was giving me quite the list so this assistant lady told me to leave. Then I asked him about the rumor that he is opening up a restaurant in Rainy City. He told me no. This made me sad.

In my excitement and elation, I rushed off the stage (without saying thank-you) and promptly left the bookstore with my friend, clutching my newly signed Jamie at Home.

It wasn’t until I was three long blocks away that I realized I had not paid for the signed cookbook. For one split second I was totally, completely intending on marching back to B & N to pay for it. Then I thought about the $15 difference and decided that I would give money to Jamie’s charity instead. B & N didn’t really need my money. So I got on the subway and went home to call my mum.

I am a Buddhist. I know this is going to bite me on the ass one day.

Bad Boys Bad Boys

The Engineer was off to a hockey game the other night, and I was quite happy to cozy in for the evening with the dogs, a steaming mug of tea and my latest pick from Netflix. I was just beginning to truly enjoy season four, disc three of The Office when I hear a strange noise outside: gunshots. At first I thought (or hoped) that it was a car backfiring, but when I heard the car backfire eight more times I was pretty convinced it was a gun.

Not one to panic, I merely continued to laugh at Steve Carell’s antics thinking that the gunshots had happened far away. I also suspected that my overactive imagination had merely made up the gunshots because I am in Brooklyn and that is what happens here.

Then I heard one round of sirens.

Text the Engineer.

Second round of sirens.

Call best friend.

Third round of sirens.

Call my parents.

At this point I am still pretty calm, thinking that the shooting was at least ten blocks over. So I start washing my dishes while talking to my best friend on the phone. We are sort of laughing about the ‘shooting’ when I hear the fourth round of sirens accompanied by the sound of a helicopter. I shut the tap off, stand up a bit straighter and tell my friend I will call her back. The boys are afraid of the helicopter and are running around the apartment jumping and barking, making me even more nervous.

I open the window in front of my desk and crawl out onto the fire escape to find that the helicopter is directly above my street, shining its’ light brightly on my block. The street is crawling with New York’s finest, both in uniform and in suits. My next-door neighbor is being questioned by one of the boys in blue. I call the Engineer and tell him that the eight to ten ‘backfires’ I heard, were, in fact, gunshots.

I decide this is the safest time to walk the boys, as my street is full of NYPD. Okay, that may not be the complete truth. I was nosey.

Outside we went, where to one end of my street there were cop cars and that yellow homicide tape that you see in cop shows and to the other, life as normal. My neighbor (in her leopard print flannel PJ’s) filled me in on the situation by holding up her hand in a gun gesture and shooting her index finger. I told her I thought it had been gunfire but really far away. Nope, she said, at the end of the street.
So we walked to that end of the street. All the while me telling the boys to poop so it looked like I was out for a real reason. I ran into a cop who was flashing his light under cars. He smiled and said everything was all right but had I heard anything? I told him I had and that the gunshots seemed to be in two different sections – as if the shooter and stopped and ran a bit further. He then asked what caliber of gun I thought it was, how high pitched each shot was and some other gun gibberish. Confused and slightly taken aback, I told him that they sounded like gunshots. He gave me a bemused smiled and asked me if I had ever heard gunshots before. I shook my head. He seemed to think this was sweet.

Another neighbor of mine came walking down the street and asked the cop what had happened. He told her and then informed her that the body ‘fell’ right at the end of my street. She too was in shock, and whispered ‘did he D-I-E?’ The cop shook his head and said that he only had a couple of bullet wounds (only a couple! Well, I suppose I heard 8-10 shots, clearly the shooter was lousy) but that they had ‘spent a lot of money on him’. To which, again confused, I asked ‘Why? Are bullets expensive?”

The cop and my neighbor slowly turned their attention to me and informed me (as if I was an idiot) that this phrase means there were drugs involved. Oh.

Here are some things that New York has taught me. One: I live near a gang. Two: They live in a thing called ‘The Projects’ (Wow, so Jenny from the block really does exist). And Three: There is such a thing as a ‘gunshot virgin’ to which I am no more.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Thing About Old Friends

I'm just going to say it.  

I am a very popular person.  I have lots of friends.

There it's out there.  

Well maybe you guessed it when I told you I have been a bridesmaid to eight people.  I don't want to put on airs, it's just a simple fact:  I have lots of friends.  I have always had lots of friends.  Probably because I am an only child.

I have new friends, old friends, smart friends, red-headed friends, Greek friends, Prairie friends, school friends, work friends, foreign friends, local friends, friends with dogs, friends with cats.  The list goes on.  So I know about friends.  And there is one pocket of friends that I think is especially special:  the old ones.

I mean the really old ones.  Not as in, they are eighty like my Aquafit friends, but the friends who have been around for a couple of decades.  I have two in the 20-year range (who I have both been a bridesmaid to) but I have only one friend that has been with me for a quarter of a century (yes, I realize this is close to the friends of 20 years friends, but I the difference between 4 and 9 is great, and she has been my friend since I was 4).

When I was a little girl on the farm, I had a pretty idyllic childhood (not that the city one was not, but the country does have its charm).  Idyllic in that my school had skating days on the local pond, that we could go berry picking in the field next to us, and that my BFF lived on a massive farm with her seven siblings.  To an only child on a smaller farm, her life seemed foreign and magical.

The days I would spend with her on her farm were AWESOME.  We would play all day (and the day seemed to have a billion hours) in the playhouse, on the trampoline, in the house next door that belonged to her great-grandmother but was now empty, in the hay bales, and by the creek in the cow pasture.  The days were filled with snap peas from her garden, chasing cows with the quad, and lying in the grass and watching the sky drift above us.  Through the night we would giggle about boys at school and sneak cookies.

Then I moved away. But we still wrote every week and when I went home to my grandma's we would always have one magical day on the farm.  By the time we hit our early-twenties, she got married and started a family while I moved to the Rainy City to become an actress.  Our lives could not be more different.  But thanks to the wonders of facebook, we now can keep closer tabs on each other and communication is a bit easier.

This is not the point of my now long story.  The point is, that just last week, I drove down to her home and had a very lovely visit.  She now is a mother to five, count them - FIVE, children.  All of whom are minnie-hers, absolutely adorable, and totally well behaved.  We sat in her backyard, under the tall oak trees, drinking iced lattes, talking about our childhood and what happened to all our friends, with her kids playing around us.  She turned to me and said "I love this!  We haven't seen each other in years and I don't feel awkward at all.  It's just normal."  And that's what it was.  Just normal.  

The reason we have friends is so that they can help us become better people.  They teach us lessons and show us ways of living that inspire us and help us live our own lives.  It's a nice circle.  As we sat there, smiling and laughing I felt refreshed and energized by the lesson (and lessons) she was teaching me. 

 #1 - Old friends, no matter how often you see them or talk to them, know you from the beginning and will help remind you of where you come from (so you can go back when you get lost)

#2 - Money isn't everything.  Sometimes in Rainy City I get caught up with the car, the house, the clothes.  But something must be said for maybe not having a ton of money, but enough to eat well and stay at home with a family that loves you.  I don't think I have ever seen anyone as happy as my friend who just loves her life with her whole heart (and looks about 20 - maybe that's why?)

#3 - Do what you love.  My friend has done some cool things - like work in a hospital with nuns in Africa helping deliver babies to women who had been genitally mutilated.  But at a young age, she really knew that what she wanted more than anything was to be a mum.  So she did.  And she is happy happy happy.

I drove home with a sense of peace and a smile on my face.

That's the thing about old friends:  they are always there when you need it most (even if you didn't know it).

Splish Splash Fitness

Due to the fact that my knee was knocked out in the early part of the summer (at a wedding of all places) I have not worked out for two and a half months.    I need to get back in the swing of things but ever so slowly, therefore I thought perhaps the pool was the best place to go.

I convinced a bride friend of mine that Aquafit at her local gym was the way to go.  In Cowtown, her gym is the biggest and best - full of young and old.  I was hoping to debunk the myth that aquafitness is only for old people.  I was wrong.

We were late in getting there so as we rushed in and Mrs. L scanned the pool area (the adult pool area) looking for our class, I happened to spot them first.  We only had enough time for me to turn to her and say 'I am really really sorry'.  Our class was in the training pool, as in training to be a duckling, duck, dolphin pool.  And we were the youngest 'ducklings' by about 30 years.  

The thing I love about older people is that they love us 'young-uns' and they all smiled as we jumped into the pool.  And by jumped I mean splashed as it was three feet deep.  They told us to go up front to the 'deep end' - maybe 3'10''?  So here we were in our bikinis (I was on vacation so only had my ruffly deal that kept coming up around my nipples all class.  Besides, we're in our twenties and childless - we don't have one pieces yet!), surrounded by a graceful woman with white hair in her seventies, an old punjab lady wearing a shower cap, a lady in a bright red bathing suit who wore her glasses the whole time, and two women who were, ummm, how do I say, rather buoyant.

Aquafit is suprisingly tough, don't let anyone tell you otherwise.  You are using the water as resistance which makes lunging and jumping back and forth quite difficult.  So difficult that Mrs. L got a blister on her big toe from trying to keep hold of the pool bottom.  Pretty sure she is the only woman in the universe of Aquafit to get an injury.  

Unless you count water up your nose and a near drowning to be an injury.  I took a pretty good head dive when I tried to jump over my noodle like a skip rope.  I know that I am an uncoordinated gal but come on!  I fell head first into the pool making all the other women snicker as I bobbed up like a drowned rat.  Clearly I was too tall for the pool and my top heaviness made me topple over.  That is what I will tell myself anyways.  The Punjab lady kept having to show me what to do, including how to jump without risking one's life.  Aquafit is where the seventy-year-olds have us beat - they know the drill.

I also enjoyed the seventy-year old men sitting in the hot tub across the pool taking in our performance.  Watching the hot old birds get fit.  It's like the bar for old people.

By the time we got out, I was pooped.  I looked like I was pooped too.  With mascara running down my face and my hair plastered to my head (they make women coming out of the pool hot on TV.  It's a myth).  All the old ladies asked if we would come again.  Come again to be humiliated in the pool and get more blisters? Sign me up!

And bless their hearts, they thought we were going back to school after class.  That's the best thing about Aquafit:  even though you may have just turned 29, you will always be the youngest person in the class . . . 

Monday, September 1, 2008

An apple a day . . . .

Wow, has this summer flown by or what?  It's hard to believe and yet they told us this would happen:  each year that we get older, the faster the time will fly by.

Kids are going back to school tomorrow.  Not that I envy them having to take annoying classes like math and science or writing essays, but I always feel a bit nostalgic at this time of the year.  I see the kids running to school with their new backpacks and their first day of school clothes and I get the pang.  

I loved the first day of school (yes, geek central here).  I love love loved getting new school supplies that smelled of fresh rubber and wood.  Flipping through new notebooks that were empty and waiting to be filled with a new year of knowledge.  The new backpack that was still clean and had no banana residue at the bottom.  And the new lunch box.  Remember in the eighties when we had those plastic dealies with pictures of our favorite TV-show characters on the front?  With the Muppet babies or Barbie?  On the inside our sandwiches would neatly stack and the thermos was held by a strap in the top part of the lid?  Those were the days.  I loved picking out a new lunch box every year.  Odd for me though, I was the kid who went home for lunch.

My mother used to get so angry at me for insisting on a new eraser when I still had half of one from the previous year.  Pish.  New year, new eraser.  

If I was ten, tonight I would have filled my backpack (after laying out all my new supplies on the dining room table the previous week for inspection), picked my 'back to school' outfit and would be lying in bed for the anticipation of a new year, new teacher and getting to see all my friends everyday.

But I am not ten, I am twenty-eight (with only a week left!) and tomorrow I have to work, pay some bills and walk my dogs.  No lemon scent of school floors (that only last that first week) or choosing seats next to my best friend.  No text books being given out.  No new kids to scope out.  No new grade to show that I am getting older and therefore better (when did we start freaking out about getting older?).  

I'm also envious of the university-aged kids.  When I go back to my old campus now I feel like an impostor.  I walk the familiar grounds of a school that was my home for four years, but it now belongs to new students.  Like being an alien or the foreign student.  Oh University, how I miss watching the leaves slowly turning, scarves blowing in the wind, and feet rushing from building to building between the ten minute gap. 

For heaven sakes, I still go by the school calender and I have been out of school for over five years!  Then again I was in school for nearly twenty years.  No wonder there is such an adjustment when we graduate.

The Engineer goes back tomorrow too.   I am not in the Big Apple, otherwise I would pack him a lunch (in those new fangled un-fun lunch boxes they sell now) and walk him to school - and then promptly go shopping in Soho.  Is that what mothers do when their kids go to school?  Run to the mall and get pedicures?  Wait a minute, I think I like the sound of this new wave of school-dom.  Your kids get to go and learn all the crap they will eventually forget, leaving you for a blissful, quiet six to eight hours of nothingness.  I like it!

Ahh, who am I kidding?  Sign me up for an apple and get me a bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils.  School is the best!  

Happy learning kids!

Friday, August 29, 2008

A Place Called Home

With the Olympics over (what do I watch on TV now?), the Engineer off to grad school in the Big Apple, and all my friends back at work, the Rainy City felt a wee bit lonely.

I decided to bundle the boys into my Volkswagen and head for the hills (ie.  the Rockies) and go home.  Odd isn't it, that although spending 8 years in the Rainy City, I still call my parent's house home?  The house they live in now isn't even near where I grew up!  They just moved into Cowtown from a small farming community so this house is literally brand new to the family.  And yet it is home.

That is nice, for my mum.  But will my home ever be home?  I suppose when I get married and have kids of my own, the home that I build for them will be home.  Meh, it will be home for them.  I think your parent's house will always be home.  

Comforting thought, for some, anyways. Maybe the idea of spending more than one night under your mother's roof is too much.   I know that for most, spending the night under your mother-in-law's roof is definitely too much.

I always revert to being a child when I am at home.  It's ridiculous.  At my own house, I make my bed, put my tea cups in the dishwasher, sweep my floors.  Here? Nope.  I also cook my dinner and clean up after it.  Here?  Nope.  I let my dad bustle around in the kitchen last night and ate the mussels, then went back to the couch.  I sleep in.  I don't shower until noon.  Lazy bones.

It's nice though, to always have a home to come back to.  Even when you are in your sixties with kids of your own who are grown. Or maybe my mum just did a good job.

I am going to make a lasagna to show my appreciation.  I wonder where the pan is . . . . 



Friday, August 22, 2008

I can't watch! I can't watch!

The Olympics are definitely a new obsession.  I haven't been this obsessed since 1992's Norway Olympics and I have never been into the summer ones.

Oh God, the stress the stress!  I have stayed up three nights in a row (Beijing is a bazillion hours ahead of Rainy City) to catch my favorite, Adam Van Koerverden in the kayak.  I could barely watch as he started to race and then hid behind a pillow as I saw him fall back.  This is the guy expected to win the Gold and he came in 8th in the 1000m.  Poor Adam.

The worst thing about Olympics is watching dreams shatter.  The camera followed him and you could see his dissapointment as he held his head in his hands.  The worst part though, was that he had to be interviewed RIGHT AFTER THE RACE!  GAH!  He has won every single race to get to the final so he was supposed to win this one, all the reporters were ready.  But instead of a celebration he looked like he was about to cry and apologized to us.  APOLOGIZED!  I just wanted to take that big, muscular body in my arms and tell him that he has nothing to apologize for.  And possibly cop a feel of his biceps.

This is why I hate watching sports - you get invested, stress out and then hide behind a pillow.  The Olympics are amazing when you see the win and the smile, they are horrific when you see the pain and anguish.  No wonder the world is tuned in.

The pressure these people are under is incredible.  To apologize for letting his country down?  NO!  And for heaven sakes, he's from Canada.  Clearly we are still going to love him and all our athletes, we're nice.  Unlike other nations that practically abuse their athletes from a young age.  Not mentioning any names . . . . China

Wow, times have changed.  In 1992, when Kurt Browning fell and lost his gold, my mum and I sent him a TELEGRAM.  Telegram!  All we have to do now is sign Adam's wall online to let him know how hot he is . . .  whoops, I mean how good at sports he is.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Go for the Gold . . . and the speedo

I have suddenly become an Olympic addict.  I love tuning in and seeing what new lengths the athletes are pushing themselves to each day - unfortunately when I tune it, the sport is often something I find terribly uninteresting, like softball.

I have always been a fan of swimming.  Until this year that is.  Some weirdo has deemed that full body suits are more ergonomically speedy.  I say phooey to that.  The whole point of watching swimming is to watch the speedos!  Technically, I frown on speedos in society - unless they are worn strictly in competition.  ie.  The Olympics.  They do not belong on a chubby Dutch man on a Thai beach accompanied with a bum bag.  They do belong on the long, lean, muscular body of a swimmer.  Mmmmm, Michael Phelps anyone?  It's okay to talk like this, even the Engineer has a man-crush on the guy.

I have also discovered the kayak event.  Not one to usually like watching that sort of thing, I couldn't help but notice the Canuck cutey, Adam van Koeverden.  What's not to like?  Men powerfully paddling, the sun glinting off their tanned, strong man arms.  Drool.

Okay okay, I know the Olympics are more than eye candy.  They are amazing feats in human determination and dreams being realized.  Blah blah blah.  

I was especially glued last night to the pole vaulting in which the Russian lady, Isenbayeva, broke her own world record.  This woman is a rock.  She ran with her big pole and not one bit of her shook!  Even in slow motion as she arched over the pole, her abs, butt and thighs stayed firmly in place.  Bitch.

And it was really exciting when she finally made it on her third try with only 10 seconds to go.  I jumped out of the  . . . .  couch.  And spilled my ice cream dish.  Nothing makes you feel fatter than the non-shaking, toned Olympians.  

I think that is what the Olympics are about (not the feeling fat bit):  cheering for people who are pushing themselves further and further.  Total inspiration.  It doesn't matter what country you are from (even though my heart does swell when I hear our national anthem), what matters is watching dreams come true.  Pure joy on the faces of those who work hard to get on that podium (or just to the games for crying out loud!).   I cheer for those who don't even qualify past primaries - I mean heck, they're there right?

Today I discovered a new sport in which we won silver:  the trampoline!  Ummm, hello?  Sign me up!  I could totally be that person!

Who am I kidding?  I would be so distracted by the swimmers that I would probably miss my own event . . . .

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Shower Curtain

The Engineer and I are moving in with each other on a semi-permanent basis.  He has moved to the Big Apple and I have remained in the Rainy City.  The plan is for me to go every other month, for a month; hence the 'semi-permanent' basis.

With moving in comes a whole new set of relationship discoveries:  who does more laundry, how long does the other tolerate dirty dishes in the sink, who has better decorating taste, etc.

I actually have no idea how the Engineer decorates - as his own home here was shared and not really decorated in any particular style.  I myself am only really discovering my decorating taste - but I know what I like and what I hate.

So came up our first 'semi-permanent-moving-in-together-decorating' fight.  And it wasn't even a fight.  It was more of a "I hate that, take it back and I'll pick one out" discussion over our shower curtain.  The Engineer came home with a  - oh god - world atlas printed shower curtain. Ugh.

I am sure no man would understand this, especially not my Engineer, but three girlfriends who have heard this story have groaned audibly when they hear the words 'world atlas shower curtain'.  I think the problem is this:  shower curtains with world atlases, dancing pigs, and flamingos all belong in the home of a student.  Yes, the Engineer is a student but a grad student.  Shower curtains are meant to be calming and make a bathroom a sanctuary of peace - not a study item.

Bless his heart though, I love him for making himself at home, I just have to help him a bit.  So apparently he didn't like me flat out telling him I hated it.  Apparently this whole compromise thing means we have to agree on things.  I wish he would just compromise that I have better taste.  Alas, that will not work as he is as stubborn as I.  He said that he both have to like something.  Well, I didn't like the Atlas - so it went back.

Instead, I found a shower curtain on CLEARANCE from Pottery Barn (see?  at least I am going for clearance).  I liked the pattern, somewhat busy but nice, and let the Engineer pick the colour.  He chose blue.  I would have gone with grey but whatever - I compromised, he compromised.  That's how a relationship works right?

I am going to try my best to be less anal, but he has to give me the space to create a nice home.  Just because we are only there for two years does not mean we have to live in a hovel - especially when I work from it.  A home is your safe place, your heart, your comfort zone.  It has to be pretty!

Sheesh, if that was the fuss over the shower curtain, I fear the day we pick the dishes . . . . 

Thursday, August 14, 2008

My Friend, the Cow

As a bridesmaid, I have seen many girlfriends walk down the aisle, look into the one they loves' eyes, and vow to stay together for better or for worse.

But what comes after the marriage?  You got it:  the baby carriage.

Three of my gal pals who I have played bridesmaid to, are now mothers of little girls.  My oldest friend is among them.  

We have been friends since the tender age of 8, but really solidifying our friendship at 11 when I spent a week at her cottage.  We bonded over our shared love of Anne of Green Gables and Paul Christie (or was it Brent Hobday?)

Nearly two decades later I stood up for her on her wedding day and then became 'auntie' to her adorable little girl.  I went to visit them last month in Toronto and discovered things that one can only discover when someone who is your sister, or like a sister as I am an only child, has had a baby.

Knowing someone for as long as I have known her, makes it a bit easier to say things like "what happened to your nipples?" or "they had to put stitches where?"

Not that I stared at my friends' boobs, they just happened to be right there, practically in my face.  Baby M was not latching on that day and I simply looked over when Ali said "come on M, get it".  Get what?  I think I recoiled somewhat as I discovered that the 'thing' baby M was supposed to get was the 'thing' formerly know as Ali's nipple.  It had been replaced by some alien formation that resembled a large swollen cookie.  At my shock, Ali nodded and said that yes, this is what happens to ones nipples when one breast feeds.  Oh.

I was then informed of the stitches that comes when one gives birth.  Excuse me?  Readers, I am not that dumb, I know there is some tearing.  But when I hear the phrase 'stitched up like a turkey' I can only run to my nearest doctor and request a lifetime supply of birth control.  STITCHED UP LIKE A TURKEY?  GAH!  This isn't even Ali's phrase!  It's her doctor who said it!  Shouldn't he have a better bedside manner?  No woman should ever hear those words.  

Later in the evening, Ali's hubby was helping me on my computer.  I was paying close attention to his words when I became distracted by an odd sucking noise.  I looked up, and there was Ali on the couch, an odd contraption at her breast and her holding a remote in her hand.  She looked at me and said flatly, "I'm a cow".  I nearly fell off my chair.  She pumps her milk so that dad has some bonding time with baby M - which is sweet.  But I had never seen a pump in action before, well I have, but only on an actual cow.  The resemblance was uncanny.  I was in hysterics.

Having a baby takes all the modesty out of you.  Never before in our two decade friendship would Ali (a) show me her breast (b) talk about her nether regions as if they were some country in Europe or (c) discuss the consistency of poop but here she was doing all three.

I stood back and watched her:  feeding her baby who has her eyes and saw something way beyond the cow pump and alien nipples.  My best friend is a mom.  The way she looks at her baby makes me feel like she joined a club to which I am not a member.  I love my mum and I love my boyfriend and I love my dogs.  But I don't love anything the way Ali loves that baby.

So even in the embarrassment and discomfort that childbearing brings, it has also brought something else to my friend that is magical and lovely, and mysterious to me because I don't know what it is . . . yet.  

Welcome to the world baby M!  

The Pooches

The thing about watching Oprah is that one is often inspired to change their lives.  This is how she has made billions.  I should have known to look away from the set one rainy afternoon when Oprah and Lisa Ling warned viewers that the content would be disturbing.  But did I?  No.  The end result?  I now have two dogs.

The show was about puppy mills - you can imagine the horror - and I was entranced. Oprah stated that from now on she would no longer buy purebreds but rescue dogs instead, and I too felt the call.  I spent hours scouring the Internet to find out about puppy mills and humane societies, finding a way to help.  My way to help came in the form of Mr. Mop.

I went to a website (www.petfinder.com) that matches rescue dogs in your area.  I love bichons and found an adorable photo of a little bichon mix up in the North West Territories.  In a patch of snow there stood a white dog, with long hair resembling a mop (hence the name), one ear cocked staring at the camera.  I could hear his little voice crying 'take me home'.  I melted.  I enquired about him and didn't hear a peep.

In the next few days, my then casual dog mission led me to a puppy that would later become Brooklyn.  A breeder saves mum dogs from puppy mills and this little guy was part of her litter.  I called her up, just an inquiry, and within five minutes I agreed to take him home.

The Engineer was more that perturbed (see:  'The Doglema') when I called him at work to inform him of my rash decision.  

The weeks went on and I prepared for the arrival of the puppy. I spent hours looking at his photo, reading dog training books at the library and going to pet stores in preparation.  I decided on the name Brooklyn to mark the move (see:  "My Apologies") and started talking about the new arrival with lots of excitement.  

Then one night I had a new message in my inbox:  Mr. Mop was available.  Oh god.  The idea of two dogs was ridiculous but my heart went out to this poor little mutt up in the Arctic.  I decided to call just to see what the chances were of his adoption.  It turned out that Mr. Mop had a bit of an unfortunate past.  His owner treated him like a husky, meaning he had been left to roam around the snow-covered tundra all winter with no love.  He had been caught by the dog catcher several times and finally his owner refused to pay the 'bail'.  Up north, everyone wants big dogs and Mr. Mop was having a hard time finding a home.  Gulp.

I called my biggest dog advocate, little K,  for advice.  She convinced me to take him and we would find a home for him here.  The stars had clearly lined up as the shelter could transport him to Edmonton but not all the way to Rainy City.  Luckily, Little K's mom was driving out from Edmonton the next day and was willing to pick him up.  Within minutes, Mr. Mop was organized to board the one plane flying out of his hometown and I was now a mother of two.

I know this story is long but hear me out.  

My intentions were good:  find Mr. Mop a home when he arrived.  He did find a home:  mine.  Mr. Mop turned out to be a bichon crossed with jack russell.  Adorable, sweet and with eyes that would make even the coldest hearts melt.  In fact, everyone, and I mean everyone loves this dog.  He is so full of personality and spunk.  I have offers all the time from people who want to take care of him.

At this point, the Engineer was ready to leave me (and the dogs) and things got a bit sticky.  I couldn't imagine giving Mr. Mop away as I had fallen so in love with him.  And when Brooklyn arrived, I couldn't resist his teeny tiny cuteness.  It was the Engineer or the dogs.  But luckily the pooches wormed their way into the Engineer's heart and I never had to make that decision.

Yes, two dogs is crazy.  Yes, I travel a ton which leaves things a bit difficult.  But I just got back from an hour long walk around the seawall on a beautiful sunny morning. I NEVER would have left my house before 8 (make that 11) if I didn't have to let my dogs pee.  Now I love it.  I love going outside.  I love meeting all the other dogs and their owners - it's such a community.  I love people stopping me to play with my energetic pups.  I love taking them to the lake and teaching them to swim.  I love feeding them and bathing them and playing with them.  I would even go as far to say that I love picking up their poop (only because I am so proud Brooklyn is finally housebroken!).  I simply love my dogs.

I think everyday should be a dog day - they just make life a bit sweeter.  So thanks Oprah for inspiring me to rescue two little guys who needed a home.

Where's your dog?

P.S. I have to give a wee mention to the dog that first made me love dogs: Molly Dog Groundwater - the best dog a girl could have growing up - I hope she is having fun chasing squirrels in doggie heaven 


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

My Apologies

Wow, I have really fallen off the bandwagon with my vow of writing every few days.  It's been a month!  I apologize faithful readers (mum) for being a lazy girl and drinking iced mochas rather than sitting at my laptop.

Granted, there have been a few distractions this summer that have made my life a little wacky (more so than usual).  Firstly, I solved the 'doglema' and got a dog.  Then I got a second dog.  If you can do math then you just figured out that I am a proud mama of TWO little dogs!  That means two walks, two bowls of food, two bags of POO (I obviously did not that that through)! It all comes down to Oprah; but that story is for another day.

Secondly, the Engineer and I are going through a big fat move.  He has decided to go back to business school in the Big Apple, which leaves me in Rainy City:  single once again.  I am going half time, however,  so all is well. 

If you are keeping score that means I now have two dogs, one Brooklyn address, two closets (!!), and an airpass that takes me from coast to coast.  The life I lead eh?

Thirdly, it has been wedding season.  A slow one for bridesmaiding  - the only one this summer has been in the tropics - but a busy one for guesting.  Three in one weekend!  THREE!!! GAH!

But enough of the excuses and back to the blog.  There is so much to catch you up on:  from friends that have turned into milking cows to the joys of decorating decisions with the Engineer to ethnic weddings.  Alas, now is bed but don't fear faithful reader (ie. friends who are bored at work) because Stella is back and the follies just got follier . . . . 

Stay tuned

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

British Boobs

Where do we get our boobs from?  I got my eyes from my mum.  My hair from my mum.  My skin from my mum.  My hips from my mum.  My boobs from my ?

I just watched an episode of 'How to Look Good Naked' - that British show that makes women feel good in their own skin - and learned a fun fact:  British women have the biggest boobs in Europe.  

Ummm, I disagree.  Well, actually I don't.  British women do have the biggest boobs I have ever seen.  

Why do I bring up the British?  Because I am 100% Rule Britannia, Anglo-Saxon, white-skinned, bad teethed (I had braces though), tea loving British.  My mum was born there, as was her mum, and her mum.  My father's family hails from Scotland, like northern, have never seen the sun, Orkney Islands Scotland.  I have a British passport.  But what don't I have?  That's right!  Big boobs.  

I have teeny tiny, albeit perky, A-cups.  So if British women have the biggest breasts in Europe, then something happened on the boat over here.

Both my grandmothers had incredibly large breasts.  I mean BIG.  Long after my maternal grandmother's death, my cousins and I were perusing photographs of her together.  After one or two shots we all paused.  I said, "Okay, who's going to say it?"  My older cousin said, "Grandma had huge knockers".  That's right, huge.

The British side that still lives in England are big breasted - maybe it's in the water?

But me?  nothing.  So where do we get our breast size from?  What gene?  Where did I inherit them from?

I haven't outgrown my bras that I first got at 13.  For a long time I was upset about this; and even am a bit sensitive today.  But watching the end of this naked show where they are showing lots of older women's boobs, I am sort of happy mine are always going to stay in the same spot.

Rule Canada via Brittania!  It makes everything smaller.  Except my thighs.  Now that is unfair.

Tropical Vows

I have just returned from Cuba where I was bridesmaid #7 to a very good friend.  This was my first destination wedding and I must say:  It was AMAZING!!!!

Seven days in a tropical paradise with some of your greatest friends while meeting new friends and family, is pretty wicked.  I don't know if I would want to get married at a destination though.  It was awesome for us, who had the freedom to do as we wished and eat dinner with who ever we wanted.  I am not so sure I would want to be the bride or groom (well obviously not the groom, they don't get the dress).  

Not only are both sides of your family with you for an ENTIRE week in ONE resort, but you also have dozens of friends with you who ALL want to see you.  The pressure we put on this girl was beyond anything.  She doesn't live in Rainy City anymore, so of course the rain girls wanted her to play with us.  The Cowboy people wanted to see her (even though they can see her anytime!! Clearly this shows how cool she is), her family wanted to see her (they live in China, I understand the need), his family wanted to see her (they also live in Rainy City and LOVE her) - so this poor girl was unable to just BE.  Or maybe she was and it is me making this up.

Anyhoo, our trip to Cuba was fun times had by all.  Although it was stinking hot.  Here are my top five of the good and the bad:

Top Five things AGAINST having a tropical wedding:

1.  It is really really really hot, so all the groomsmen look like they have run through a high powered sprinkler.
2. It is really really really hot so that when the bridesmaids cry, their make-up runs and it looks like a stream running down their sweaty cheek (okay, this was me)
3.  It is really really really hot so that the bride is dying in her dress and her good girlfriends make her 'spread em' (don't worry, she was standing up) and fan her nether regions (I discovered this technique in Havana while sitting at a table, that fan works wonders)
4.  It is really really really hot so that when the men sit in their khakis and spread their legs and a bridesmaid happens to look down she notices a sweat mark where she has never seen one before
5.  It is really really really hot so that a bridesmaid falls asleep in a lounger by the beach while all her friends are still dancing

Top Five things FOR a Tropical wedding
1.  Ummm, the tropics
2.  Saying your vows on a beach with aqua blue water
3.  again, the tropics
4.  Having an excuse to walk down the aisle to Bob Marley
5.  Being so hot that it is okay to end the night in the pool and/or ocean

All in all, having all your best friends, family and family friends begging to spend time with you for a week, bonding with each other so much that when they get off the plane in Rainy City they are all sad to say good-bye, and having the time of your life in the tropics outweighs the ball sweat.  GO TROPICAL WEDDING!!!!

Congrats T & L!!

My Blonde Roots

Sometimes I find that my brain malfuntions - and it is highly embarrassing. Perhaps the problem is that my mouth works faster than my brain and I should just wait until it catches up.

The worst habit I have is saying the wrong words. And with this I realize I have turned into my mother. My mother often says things incorrect. For example she has called 'La Senza' 'La STenza' for years. I correct her but she has failed to learn. 

I am similar - except it isn't the same word. Okay okay, maybe there are some words. Like facade.  I always say it wrong.  I have to say it three times before I get it right.  

On our recent trip to Cuba I made several mistakes.  On the first night I popped my knee out of its socket and I did it on a stage in front of people.  The next day, as the Engineer rolled me past the stage in my wheelchair (yes readers, you heard correctly) I said: "Here we are at the site of the problem".  But bless the Engineer's heart; he can somehow understand me.  He knew that I meant,  "Here we are at the scene of the crime".  

The whole popping out the knee and inability to walk properly made me even more klutzy than usual.  When this was commented on I replied by saying, "Yes, I am really tricky".  Tricky!  How do I confuse that with klutzy?

At Christmas I call the last present the 'Piece de renance", so now the Engineer always says that phrase to make fun of me.  

I am a clever girl, just not good with words at times.  

The worst and most embarrassing example unfortunately highlighted the fact I had been skipping theatre history.  During my days of theatre school, I may have skipped the 10am theatre history class after nights of performing on stage.  I copied notes from my friend and showed up on a Friday.  At the time we were learning about Goethe.  Notice the spelling.  So I had tons of 'Goethe' in my notes and suddenly my teacher can't shut up about a dude named 'Gerta'.  After about a half hour of this confusion, I turn to my friend and asked her who the hell "GOETHE" was.  Dear God, no wonder my teacher hated me.  *note:  he hated all the BFA actors for some reason

Numbers make me even more confused, I need to learn to shut up before I open my mouth.  While walking the dog tonight (yes, the dog-lema has been solved), we walked past a beautiful house that was for sale.  I picked up the brochure and scanned for the price.  The cost of the house was a whopping $9 498 399!!!  I stopped, confused, and then said, "Is this house almost a billion dollars?"  The Engineer nearly peed himself laughing.

I need to keep my thoughts to myself.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Signs to Stop the Wedding

Over the years of being a bridesmaid and being friends with other habitual bridesmaids, I have heard horror tales of weddings that are doomed. Therefore, I have compiled a list for my loyal reader of signs that you should not have a wedding (elopement yes, wedding no). If you are suffering from any of these signs, I encourage you to sell your wedding dress for two plane tickets to Las Vegas pronto.

Signs you should not have a wedding:

1. The stress of your wedding gives you IBS

2. The financial stress of the wedding puts your father on anxiety medication/panic attack medication/heart medication. Any medication really.

3. Just mentioning your groom-to-be's name causes you to burst into hives (reconsidering your relationship is a strong possibility)

4. The husband-to-be is a drug dealer (ummm, cancel marriage in general here)

5. Your parents plan on selling their generations old land in Europe on which cork trees grow in order to pay for your wedding.

6. Your parents plan on selling their home and moving into a one-bedroom condo in order to pay for your wedding

7. You are going into debt on top of the $25K student loan, car payment, and mortgage you already owe to pay for your wedding

8. All parents are divorced, some are remarried, all hate each other and your fear that your mother will attack your dad's new wife with the cake knife causes nightmares and an ulcer - this is a pretty good indication that you should not have a wedding

9. The groom's father is dying from a terminal illness but your need to walk down the aisle in a white dress overrides your husband's need to have his father see him get married (perhaps it is time to re-evaluate your priorities)

10. Your two families hate each other Capulet/Montague style and there is a possibility of gang/mafia/Godfatheresque warfare at the reception (how did you even get this far?)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

To Have or Not to Have

Do you find that before the big day, the bride is on a quest to make herself as beautiful as possible? That she goes to extra lengths she would never ordinarily go because she is saying some old fashioned vows? Some brides are so ridiculous that they don't even look like themselves on their wedding day; practically scaring their husbands-to-be.

One bride friend grew her hair long, even though she has never had long hair in her life. And the day after the honeymoon she cut it off. True, she looked pretty but not what she looked like everyday. She regretted the hair growth.

I am a bridesmaid next week in Cuba for the loveliest bride ever. She is so sweet that she is terrified of doing what she wants for her big day in the fear she will offend someone. Cuba Bride is naturally very pretty and she doesn't wear much make-up. We did a field trip to MAC to get her a bride palatte that looked natural and yet 'done-up'. I thought this would be the extent of her bridal day beauty routine. But she called me the yesterday to ask if she should get fake nails. I practically screamed at her. Oh wait, maybe I did.

The point is, this girl is NOT a fake nail kind of girl. It would look absurd and she would never have them again. She just needs a nice manicure. Fake nails require ridiculous upkeep and they ruin your nails. My poor friend was a bridesmaid to a terror bride who insisted ALL bridesmaids have matching fake nails. MATCHING FAKE NAILS!!! WTF? She has naturally strong, healthy nails but for the next year she had to repair the damage that was done to them. Not to mention $100 down the toilet.

So why do bride's insist on changing themselves for the big day? I know I know, it's the same reason I am going to the tanning salon and have ended up with a purple bikini line (perhaps that should wait another day): those photos last forever. You want to look your best. I fully intend on shedding 10 pounds and getting my hair done when I get marries. However, usually when I get my hair done I look back at pictures and cringe.

Which brings me right back to my original point . . . to have or not to have fake nails? To cringe or not to cringe later in life?

At the end of the day, and after forty years, are you really going to care? Probably not. Cuba Bride - I'll paint your nails for you!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Dog-lema

You are either a dog lover or not.  

I fall into the former camp.  I have always loved dogs - well there was a brief cat loving period but it ended when my cat got run over - and have always had dogs.  My first was a sheltie named McTavish who was with me in my early life.  He let me crawl all over him and pull his hair.  

Then there was my grandma's dog, Blackie, a border collie.  He was there for my walks in the wheat fields  and always wanted to be patted, which I would do even though he was a bit smelly and quite matted.  

Finally, there was Molly.  Molly Molly Molly.  I got her for my 11th (or 12th?) birthday and after a long and wonderful life, she passed away a little over a year ago.  

I begged my parents for her.  When they finally relented, I scoured the paper everyday for a dog (this was way before all those designer dog stores were around) and found her for $100.  I called all weekend with no answer.  On Sunday night, when the people finally picked up (after being away for the weekend - the paper ran the ad early) I hung up without saying a word.  I made my mum call back and we arranged to go over right then and there.  

As much as I like to think she was my dog, she was clearly my mother's.  It was mum who walked and fed her, mum who let her sleep with her, mum mum mum.  So Molly ended up being my furry sister.

Since moving to Rainy City, I have long wanted another dog.  But there were so many things stopping me:  I felt like I was cheating on Molly, I was broke, I had a crazy schedule, I travelled.

Well, now things are slightly different.  Molly is gone and I will always miss her, but I am no longer cheating.  Dogs are not that expensive and I am no longer that broke.  My schedule is actually okay, I am at home all the time, or most of the time - and if on set, dogs are welcome in the trailers.  I still travel.  But I don't leave for months at a time like I once did.

I am ready for a dog - but terrified at the same time.  My mother thinks it is too much responsibility, but the idea of a routine is actually exciting.  I should really start getting out of bed at 8 anyways (I need to train it to sleep in).  Dogs are great for depression, I can go off my little pink pills and use the routine and care of a dog to get through tough times.  Dogs can also travel quite well, and New York is a dog friendly city.

The Engineer is not a dog person.  And as much as he wants to be happy for me, he is not.  He is an Engineer after all, and engineers tend to think way more with their heads than their hearts.  They also tend to come up with all of the potential problems rather than the potential greatness.  I suppose that is why they pay him the big bucks.

I have a dog-lema.  I want one, I feel I am ready for one, but the big supporters in my life are not too thrilled about it.  

And then there is the traveling factor.  But I can figure that out can't I?  Besides, they let dogs in England now . . . . .  and every Best Western.


The Bridesmaid Types

There are several types of brides:
1.  Psycho bride
2. Laid-back bride
3.  Indecisive bride
4.  Bride with a wedding planner
5.  Forgetful bride

And just like brides, there are different types of bridesmaids.  I am on wedding #7, so I feel by this time I now know the different types quite well.  Here they are:

1.  Dictator Bridesmaid.  This is the maid who likes to do the job good and fast, with military precision.  She takes on the tasks the bride has given, barks out orders, and reprimands the others when they mess something up (even the grandmother of the groom).  She prefers to work in assembly lines or teams.  This is the girl who gets the job done.  Sometimes this maid may be worse than the bride and turn into a bit of a bridesmaidzilla.  But she'll calm down eventually.

2.  The Organizer Bridesmaid.  Not to be confused with the Dictator.  Although similar, this Organizer is the gal who plans the showers at her home, the stagette, and any other wedding related activities.  She likes to run around town, gathering the perfect little items to make her home wedding-shower-ready and planning menus.  She calls the Dictator often, who in turn will get all the cheese and fruit cut properly.

3.  The Fashionista Bridesmaid.  This is the girl who gives the loudest opinion on dress choice and colour schemes. But this is okay as the other ladies trust her in this department - they will listen to her when she convinces the bride to choose black dresses for a New Year's wedding for the glamour factor.  She is the one to pick out which colour parasols the gals will carry, what shoes look best, and she will apply the false eye-lashes on all the women for the Big Day.

4.  The Happy-Go-Lucky Bridesmaid.  This bridesmaid is just happy to be a bridesmaid.  She'll go along with whatever the bride (and the above bridesmaids) want.  She'll show up to showers and stagettes with ice in tow (or whatever they need her to pick up) and just smile lots.

5.  The Anti-Wedding Bridesmaid.  This is the girl who is a bit of a wild card.  The bride asked her to be in the wedding party because she is a good friend, both are excited in the beginning but it turns out that this girl could care-less about wedding talk/stuff/parties.  She'll be the last one to answer any of the emails or add her two cents.  On the day, she smiles and has a great time, but up until then she doesn't do much for the bride.  She will surprise you when she kicks over the MOG or flower girl to catch the bouquet.

Sometimes these ladies will clash.  They may even end up in different 'camps' and not really mesh well together.  This is what happens when you put females in tight-fitting dresses, you can't expect them all to love each other or be happy at all times.  

You can fall into one or more categories.  Or you may be type 1 for one wedding and type 5 for another, it just depends.

All that really matters is that you make sure you have nice hair on the day and get some cake.