Monday, August 31, 2009

Not procrastinating

I'm a lazy sort so this rarely happens, but

I've triple-booked myself today.

And that's before factoring in my looming deadline.

No procrastinating for me!

Not even to look out the window at the pretty day or think about hair clips or slice up tomatoes for luxury snack with goat cheese or research new shoes for fall or get around to weeding the garden or... or... oh... no.

No procrastinating!

Friday, August 28, 2009

A bridge with a view

One thing I really miss about England is the hiking trails, so when I read recently about the Grand Trunk Trail in St. Marys, Ontario - it's a railway line that's been converted to use for hiking and biking and walking a dog - I thought I'd check it out.

I read that the view from that bridge was pretty special. I'd say Yes, wouldn't you?

This one made me think of Jane Austen:

Even the trail was breathtaking.

And not just because it was super steep on some of the edges. Seriously: paving, plus maybe an inch either side, and then slippy slidey down. You don't need much width for a train.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Summer in a snapshot

The other day I saw this scene and felt I was 7 again.

It absolutely sums up my childhood summers: solid provincial park architecture*, bright sun and blue skies with just enough cloud for contrast, lush green trees, and time to wander.

Really the only difference is that this time, I was on my way to a chocolate shop. (Plus, you know, that 'being older' thing.)

* in case you're wondering - yes, that gorgeous stone wall makes up one side of the public toilets. Nothing but the best!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I can haz cheeseburger

Or rather, too many cheeseburgers.

I don't typically eat a lot of fast food, being sensible about reserving my over-the-top fat and sugar intake for dessert, but amid all the road trips this summer I find I keep getting stranded at mealtime near someplace where burgers are really the safest choice. (We will not speak of the place where I attempted a tuna sandwich, or discuss how on earth it is possible to make tuna inedible.)

Of course, in places like that, the burger tends to be pretty awful too, but if you put even the ickiest of processed pretend cheese on top, it can be bearable. So I keep doing that.

And after a couple of weeks of feeling horrible as a result, I'm coming to the conclusion that it is, in fact, better to make sandwiches at home. Even if it does mean getting up even earlier than pre-dawn to do it.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Not baking

Okay, so the baking fell through yesterday. Dagnabbit! I was forced to clean out my closet instead, which was...well, odd. Every time I looked into the gaping chasms left behind I had questions. Questions like:

It's tiny, so how did I manage to fit 4 donation-ready garbage bags' worth of stuff I don't need in there?

Now that I have space free, do I really want a wrapping paper/craft center beside my socks?

If I do, can I really live on 2 (admittedly big) drawers' worth of non-sock clothes for all 12 months of the year?

And honestly - this is me we're talking about - is two trays of shoes anywhere near enough? Even though for the past 18 months I have only worn
a/ pink Mephisto sandals (summer)
b/ black mary janes (transition)
c/ black Blundstone boots (winter)
d/ New Balance running shoes (exercise)

Maybe it is enough and I should go farther and ditch the shoes I can't wear even though they are beautiful and cost a bomb, and slide in some yarn or office supplies instead. ????

and the ever-popular

Is this a good time to break for tea and biscuits?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Justifiable procrastination

Today was supposed to be this year's big reorganization day. I've been working toward it for about a week by throwing out everything that isn't screwed to the floor (i.e. the drifts of meaningless paper and 2-years-expired foodstuffs) and pulling together various organizational aids like boxes and hooks and other props.

I've even been thinking about sewing custom behind-the-door caddies for things like wrapping paper and tape. Please, somebody. Stop me.

However, all that will have to wait because a friend got behind with her essential-grade baking and I offered to take on some of it. She has one of those awful medical conditions that requires a highly restrictive diet to keep it in check, and she's limited to things like baked goods made with almond flour.

Aren't I noble and virtuous to help her? I assure you it has nothing whatsoever to do with sorting through cardboard boxes of junk versus smelling the awesome aroma of things freshly baked with almond flour. Nothing at all. Ahem.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Surprise ending

I thought I was ever so clever yesterday. All-day thunderstorms had been called for the Cute Town I was due to visit with a little party of friends, so I tracked down another Cute Town none of us had ever checked out, and which was coincidentally the only place in the whole province scheduled for sun.

All day long my companions thanked me for my quick thinking, because it really was the loveliest of lovely summer days, with great scenery, many happy discoveries in the way of museums and parks, AND a charity shop where I found - drumroll please - a bag of vintage buttons. Sounds boring, I know, but buttons are a hot commodity for the average crafty person, and vintage ones are as gold.

The day was so lovely, in fact, we left it late coming back, and as traffic slowed on the highway, we put on the radio for traffic and weather updates.

And oh dear, it seemed the thunderstorms were now coming our way, fast, and came complete with severe thunderstorm warnings that were quickly upgraded to tornado watches and then tornado warnings (which are apparently a step up from watches and mean that one could happen at any moment.)

The radio people sounded terrified, frankly. One of them later said that she and others spent some time under their desks because of the wall of windows that threatened to break under pressure from the tornado they saw touching down outside their building.

And there we were in a car on a highway surrounded by other cars and projectile-ready construction materials, rain suddenly falling in sheets and huge lightning bolts and flashes appearing around us every few seconds, and the danger area being extended every few minutes to include us no matter how far we'd crawled since the last report. Even the meteorologist was saying he'd never seen a storm like this in his entire career.

And yet - we seemed only to follow the storm. The weather was bad, but not nearly so bad as what the radio people were describing from a mile off. They had black skies with zero visibility owing to the heavy rain, while ours were grey-green and wet but manageable. Apart from ten minutes' wait in the driveway before the lightning cleared up enough to let me get into the house again, we were entirely unscathed.

Just before bedtime, when I'd calmed down, I remembered my exciting button find. And I unpacked the bag, and you'll never guess what was in it.

The words on three are too worn to make out, but I knew what they were the moment I saw the safety pin that was holding them. See that gold one in the bottom right corner? The reverse reads:

St. Christopher
Our Protector
Guard Us
From Danger

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The butcher, the baker...

Well, actually there isn't a baker in this story about my awesome local butcher who could probably be my son, which is depressing, and yet sort of encouraging because how many guys that young are willing and able to landscape and cook?

And as an added bonus, he can remove any necessity for me to think about cooking. I'm not a bad cook, but I'm a pretty fabulous baker, and consequently I'd always rather do that.

Hey, there is a baker in this story after all!

Okay, I'll stop yammering and get on with yesterday's splendidness:

Me: You know, I'd really like be a grownup and cook a meal today, but it's so hot out. I'm thinking I won't even be able to walk anything home without it spoiling on the way.

He: How 'bout marinated flank steak? It's vacuum sealed so it'll be fine to get home. Broil it on a cookie sheet for 7 minutes - 4 one side, 3 the other - and it won't heat up your house. Take this one, you'll have leftovers and you won't have to cook at all tomorrow.

Me: Done and done.

Me later: Wowza. Do I really have to leave leftovers?

(and also, Note to self: don't put parchment paper between steak and a cookie sheet when broiling. Yikes.)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Mischief managed

HA! Take that, life!

In spite of all the curveballs thrown at me this week, I have actually managed to pull off all of a three-part proposal in plenty of time before its deadline.

I feel invincible!

(and also very very sleepy. Still have to get to the courier shop before I can have a nap, though.)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Deadline day

I've been supremely lazy the last few days - not something I say very often - even though I've had an important project in the works for a few weeks that isn't coming together. Today is the make or break point that will determine whether I meet the non-negotiable deadline, and I am less than well-equipped to speed through it, having had a pan scrapings' worth of sleep last night.

Lesson learned for the millionth time: never leave till tomorrow what you can do today, no matter how beguiling the weather is outside.

(unless what you can do is really not that important. In which case, live it up!)

Monday, August 17, 2009

A grand day out

I went for a classic Sunday Drive yesterday and stumbled across some beautiful parks in Burlington, Ontario. The roads running along the lake from Oakville down into Hamilton are lined with expensive and beautifully landscaped homes under leafy canopies, and they also link a number of fabulous green spaces along the Waterfront Trail.

My personal favourite was the Paletta Lakefront Park, which includes the Paletta mansion (circa 1930) and its grounds. I don't see how you could ever know there was a Depression on, living here:

Here's the view from that terrace:

Don't be deceived by the gorgeousness of the grass. It's been well loved by a contented flock of Canada Geese and you sure don't want to go traipsing across it.

The manicured lawns give way to a wooded area with a path, by way of this bridge:

I took that photograph from the wooded side, where the shade was most lovely, but the view from bridge itself was stunning:

And, on the other side:

The trail follows the course of this creek. Along the way I spotted a duck:

And I followed it for a while.

And then I went home to look at real estate listings again.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Getting messy

Things are getting kinda messy around my house, owing to blurred borders between the ongoing Purge Fest and simultaneous Deadline Scramble, not to mention fallout from the now-completed municipal garbage strike, with which I won't bore you.

It all comes down to a four-letter word you never, ever want to hear at the start of a weekend:


I've already been through the house a zillion times hunting for possible bookshelf space, but I'm one of those hopeful people who thinks that eventually the creativity fairy will come and zap a light onto the perfect overlooked spot.

And when I say perfect, I mean not the spaces over the doors, which I keep licking my chops over and then coming to my senses about. Never mind the fact that I'd need a step stool to get up to them; I can guarantee the hardware would fail just as somebody is walking underneath. And that would be really messy.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

trains... traaaaains...

(What railway zombies say.)

I went to an electric railway museum the other day.

As you can see from this picture, I got to ride in a rather fancy one that pulled up alongside another less fancy one now doing service as an ice cream shop... something I feel a good deal more vehicles could be doing in their spare time. I mean, really. Think about it!

The 'closed' sign in the window of said ice cream shop wasn't such a terrible heartbreak, as it was about 10am and I gave up on ice cream for breakfast about 15 years ago - I got sick of it ruining me for anything else for the whole rest of the day. But even if it had said "OPEN! Come in and get the best ice cream of your life!" I wouldn't have gotten off the train I was on, because a huge storm was brewing and at the moment I took this picture, the sky was as dark as it gets a few minutes after the sun sets.

The rain hit as we were halfway back to the station, and huge flashes of lightning blazed as we pulled in. We dashed back into the gift shop about 2 minutes before more lightning took the brightness level to high noon and struck the museum's transformer.

No power, no trains.

And no credit card purchases! Good thing the very cute postcards were just a dollar for 30.

And there you have it: a short story about a train museum that tells you absolutely nothing about trains and an awful lot about me.

(but if you do want to know about the trains, I can tell you about them another day. My favourite parts were how a bunch of teenagers came to start the museum and why the land it's on was available when they needed a place to park their railway stuff.)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Goddesses of summer

When I was out yesterday I noticed quite a number of women doing variations on the Greek goddess look - strapless column-type dress to the near-ankle with ankle bracelets, flat thong sandals with zero arch support owie owie owie -

okay, I'm not even interested in these details, so why would you be?

The point is:

So many of them!

I was impressed by how sensibly they had dressed for the weather (which was super hot) and wondering whether they had called each other when they were getting dressed that morning, but the friend I mentioned them to later said

Sooooo last year!

Which means that I am officially and totally out of the fashion loop

and maybe even old.

Well, at least I'm not a grownup.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Back on the balance beam

I do my best to balance my life but man, it's hard! It's like I'm built to be completely absorbed by something and do nothing else for months, and then move onto something else that invariably builds on a tiny component of the thing I just finished with.

Sadly, indulging such preferences does not lend itself to cooking, cleaning, socializing in any way, or partaking of much exercise, and then I get run down and subject to colds and flu and let's face it, that's not fun either. So I decided it's time to throw myself back into Healthy Living Mode.

Yesterday, I:

cleaned out about a year's worth of debris from the kitchen and pantry so there would be sufficient space for my triumphant return to bread baking

went to the gym for 35 minutes of perky music and Dr. Phil, who was Not Lecturing some poor 18 year old girl with an abusive boyfriend she thought was just soooo dreeeeamy she was bound and determined to marry him stat, even though she had just miscarried their baby (which reminded me why I don't watch much TV and also, how nice it is not to be 18 any more and also, how tragic it is that so many otherwise sensible women, 18 or not, are totally taken in by emotionally abusive men, GRRRRR) and

hit the grocery store to buy such chocolate and chip replacements as pitted dates and oven roasted beet slices.

And then I took acetaminophen for the knee I put out on the elliptical trainer. Now that's balance.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Make a friend date

Over the weekend, I ate some of those delicious candies whose wrappers have messages printed inside - you know the kind; the ones that are meant to simultaneously uplift and distract you from the calories you are consuming, so you will eat more and buy more etc.

(Not that I'm cynical.)

I dismiss most of these messages. I mean, "Be high maintenance?" How is that a recipe for peace and contentment?

But the 'make a friend date' wrapper is sitting with me. I think it means 'spend time with friends', but two days later I'm still wondering which buddy I could coerce into a romantic evening with some attractive person or other. And how to complete said coercion.

They really are very bossy candies, aren't they?

Friday, August 7, 2009

Where I would be if I couldn't be here

I would be in England.

Unfortunately I really REALLY don't enjoy flying (or perhaps it is better to say I don't enjoy being reduced to a quaking, weeping wreck before so much as boarding the plane; I've been known to burn off sedatives from the stress while rocking back and forth in the departure lounge.)

But if I could do it

(or had the money to sail on the Queen Mary 2)

I would be in England on a walking tour, stopping for cream teas and allowing some lovely days for London and its beautiful parks and museums and then back to the countryside for tours of estates and their gardens. I had an amazing year doing quite a lot of that shortly after I finished university, and an amazing holiday doing far from enough of it many years later, before the whole flying thing became impossible. Where I live is pretty, but the English countryside is... well. Yum about sums it up, especially at this time of the year.

And now that I've said that, I will return to more realistic holiday planning.

(psst - check out this vacation rental site and, oh dear, this one. If only Harry Potter were true and I could just Apparate.)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Siberian traffic signage

Ian Frazier has another article in The New Yorker this month, which is always good news to me because I loooove his writing and know absolutely nothing about what he writes about until I read it. This one is about driving across Siberia and here is a new thing I learned:

Stop signs in rural Siberia look just like the ones in the rural U.S.

except for not having bullet holes.

(Why this is noteworthy: though I definitely do not live in Siberia, I have never in my life even imagined the possibility of a stop sign with bullet holes in it. Apparently I have not traveled enough.)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Playing dressup

I've been wanting a little pinafore dress for a while - the kind you can wear on its own or over a T shirt and short pants as a kind of big apron - and I was actually considering sewing one which would have been


since I do have quite a bit of writing I do want to get around to in the next six or so weeks.

Then the other day, having recovered from a the worst imaginable 24-hour headache, I went out for supplies

to a grocery store that recently introduced a line of clothes

and spotted just the pinafore dress I had been thinking of right on the end of an aisle

(in my size!!!!)

and bought it.

It is made of black cotton jersey and reminds me of the mangled up lump of little black dress Kinsey Millhone used to keep in her car in the early entries of Sue Grafton's alphabet series (does she still have that? I stopped reading around M... really must catch up.) Like Kinsey's dress, this one will do about anything - even bathing-suit cover-up-age, which will come in handy as I expect to be swimming a little in the coming weeks.

And it looks downright pretty with this little embroidered pin from tinyhappy.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Music Mix(up)

Problem: Long Car Trips = Potential Mood Disasters

Solution: Fresh music mixes.

Problem: I always volunteer to be the one to pull these together, a task to which I am suited because I am focused and persistent enough to spend days on the job and not at all because I ever listen to the radio anymore - at least, not to the kind of stations that cater to drivers lulled to sleep by classical recordings or mellow jazz.

Solution: iTunes, where you can trawl through user playlists and popular song charts and get recommendations based on what you used for the last car trip.

Problem: iTunes is stingy with its sound clips.

Solution: YouTube, where you can look at official videos or - forgive me but HORRORS - somebody's upload with visuals of the lyrics or a photo montage or their own version of a video.

Problem: Funny or perplexing or otherwise engaging videos often make me want a song I might not otherwise ever get past my travel buddies.

For example - with all due respect to Mariah Carey - there is no way Touch My Body would fly, unless maybe Jack McBrayer was singing on the track as well as acting in the video.

Another one that did pass muster once they saw the video - it being too ballad-y in isolation - is Fallin' For You. Again with a comedian being cast in the video to good effect.

I myself enjoyed After The Love Is Gone well enough, especially what I think may have been the cameo by That Guy (is his name Bruce?) who writes everybody-in-LA's jokes, but the song kinda stands on its own.

Come to think of it, dance music is pretty good in a car. I'd forgotten about liking Saturday Night - old enough to be new again really - and got some good hair ideas from the video.

100% Pure Love is a catchy tune at a good pace for running, if for some reason nobody else likes it in a car... not that I'm too worried about them putting me out of same - for my music selection, at least.

(in fact, sometimes I throw something in even after the driving member of our little crew shudders through the teeny tiny iTunes clip. I have faith in the lengthier version of I'm Not Your Toy, for example.)

Other times I follow instructions, as with the very clear one to acquire Boom.

Also, Paper Planes, which is a pretty broad break from all the love stuff, what with the gunshots and all.

A less drastic break is Little Secrets. This one isn't a video, but it's such a fun tune - I liked (and bought) a lot from Passion Pits and think it will all sound especially fine driving over hills.

And now I will stop, because I have 16+ hours of playlist to get me through a month's worth of minibreaks, and I expect you have other things to read today than what I think of all the others, yes?

Monday, August 3, 2009

Civic holiday

Today is an official holiday where I live, which means I can hear the birds singing on this clear morning (and not construction vehicles or buses.) The sun is shining through the leaves on the trees surrounding my yard, brightening the greens of some and leaving the others dappled, or dark. And the air! it's cool again, with just a breeze to carry it to you so you barely have to raise your head for the kiss.

One must begin such a day with a freshly-baked chocolate croissant, of course, and the hot morning beverage of one's choice.

So I am.

Later, I will bid goodbye to my finny friend Bruce, who has been such good company in the kitchen. Isn't it nice that rain won't fall into his bowl as he makes his short journey home?