Saturday, August 31, 2013

Blanching broccoli: A MayB learning production

I have a love hate relationship with all things canning, freezing, and all things garden. For most of my childhood and early teens, my mother and I spent weeks and weeks dealing with the bounty of our shared garden. A co-worker of my father had an acreage where we had a garden.  It stretched as far as our eyes could see and caring for it took up most of every Saturday of every summer.

Did I mention how tough my childhood was? Seriously. EVERY SATURDAY.  Of my summer!!

The rest of the week was then spent shucking corn, snapping beans, shelling peas, and getting every vegetable known to man ready for freezing.

If I thought I hated weeding and picking, I hated this more. In fact, after one particularly harrowing time making apricot and peach jam, I didn't eat either for over 10 years.

But I digress.  Despite my horrific childhood, apparently I learned something.  I know.  Who knew?

So, when I was finding I could not get through all the vegetables we had on hand, I realized I needed to do something I hadn't done in years.  I needed to blanch and freeze broccoli.

Since many people didn't learn the art of freezing from their prison guard mother, I thought I would share so you too don't throw away vast amounts of vegetables.  As far as I know, this works best for things like: broccoli, cauliflower, greens, beans, corn, and the like.  You know, hearty stock.

First you prep your veggies the way you want them.  Then, get a pot of water boiling and another large bowl full of iced cold water.

See this?  It's a pot. 
Once the water boils, dump as many veggies as will fit into the water.  Keep them in there for about 1 minute, give or take.  (added: apparently 3 minutes is best!) Immediately transfer them into the bowl of ice water.  I did this by dumping them into a colander and then straight into the water from there.

Broccoli all cooled off.
From what I remember or understand, this stops the cooking process.  Why do we do this? I have no idea.  Mom always did.  I assume there is a reason.  Why do you make this so difficult? Once they've cooled significantly, I dumped them back in the colander.

Finally, lay out the cooling broccoli on dish towels until it's cool enough to put into meal sized bags.

Look at the pretty green things.

 Once the bags stop steaming altogether, toss them in the freezer.  When you need broccoli, pull some out.  It will be almost just like it's fresh!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Fiction Friday - Chapter 2

Chapter 2
As the box slipped through Anna's fingers, she shouted an incoherent curse and grasped at the edges for a better grip. As was her usual panache, this caused her to trip over her own feet and sprawl half across the box and the doorway.
"You look like you could use some help." A voice, with a trace of amusement, said from behind her. "Hopefully nothing in there was breakable?"
She sighed inwardly and blew her hair back from her face. She knew that voice.

"No, nothing is broken but my pride and my kneecap." She shifted to her knees and braced her arms on the box to haul herself up. She was nothing if not graceful, she thought. A hand came under her elbow and helped her to her feet. It was then she looked up at her helper.
"I’m hoping that both your pride and kneecap can be mended." Kade looked down at her as she wiped the dust and other unidentified ground particles from her jeans.
She couldn’t help but smile back at him even as she winced at the pain in her shin and the lasting mortification from the towel incident the day before. He had an infectious grin, she thought. Light brown eyes and an open face. Tall, she thought, which is always a bonus being that she nearly topped 6 feet herself. Brown hair, a little shaggy, with a lanky body and strong shoulders.
Hmmm. Strong shoulders.
"You look like you’re the kind of guy who couldn’t walk away from a woman in distress. Want to help me with the last few boxes?"
"Well, it wasn’t what I had in mind when I stepped out this morning, but I suppose I can help. Mind you, I didn’t think I’d rescue your dog yesterday either. It’s been a full week. However, watching you move the last one, I wonder how anything you own made it in one piece."
Anna threw her head back and laughed making quick strides back to the moving van. "I don’t settle for anything that isn’t hardy." She shot back over her shoulder.

"I can see that.  Where is your fine dog, Disaster, today?"  Kade followed close behind her, casting a look towards the open front door.

"After yesterday, I banished Troulble to the backyard when there is a chance he can run away or strip me naked."  As Anna listened to Kade chuckle she thought to herself that if she couldn’t erase the towel drop from existence, she could at least move on.  
He watched a moment as she stood at the door of the van, hand on her hip, contemplating the insides as though deciding which piece to do battle with next.
Kade chatted cheerfully as he hefted a box she pointed out to him.  He made his way back towards the house on the corner.  "I had wondered who was moving into the Spinster House. I am glad to see it being used again."

"I heard you say that before.  The Spinster House?"
"Yeah, that’s what it’s been known as for as long as I’ve been alive. Three of the nicest old ladies lived here for years until they couldn’t live alone any longer. The town librarian, my grade 12 English teacher, and the owner of the bookstore. I guess they were your aunties?"

They amicably moved boxes from the vehicle to the house while continuing their conversation.  Anna was impressed with how well they worked together.

"Yes, my father's sisters.  We spent a few summers with them, but my father travelled a lot so we didn't see them as often as we would have liked.  I didn't know much about their lives here."

"Word had it that all of them had a chance to get married, but chose not to or something terrible happened that prevented it. Then, of course, us kids all said the house was the reason. It’s cursed." Kade whispered with a wink.
"A cursed spinster house? That might change my desire to live here." Anna said facetiously. "Mind you, I don’t believe in curses, and I’m not looking for a husband, so I should be okay."

Kade hefted another large box. "I don't know. The rumour is now, the house will never be settled until three owners have found their true loves."

Anna shook her head in amused disbelief, "I think I will take my chances."  She shut the van door with finality, "Thanks for all your help though - physically and... accommodation wise. I best go rescue Trouble from the yard before he digs a hole to the neighbours!"

"Okay, but don’t say I didn’t warn you!"

Next: The shop

Thursday, August 29, 2013

A secret I don't mind

I don't like secrets. Well, that's not true. I don't like secrets kept FROM me. I love secrets when I'm in on them. I love knowing things that others do not. I love the newness of information no one else has up to that point.

I devour secrets. I love rolling those secrets around in my mouth. I chew on them, I taste each bit of juicy information they have to offer, and then I share that taste with others.

I cannot keep a secret to save my life.

This is a well known thing about me and, yet, people tell me things. All sorts of things! If they tell me in highest of confidence that I must keep it to myself, I will do my best. I will only share with people who cannot possibly know the person about whom the secret involves or with people who couldn't care about that secret nor would ever plan to verbalize it with anyone.

I also tell The Guy. Secrets shared with husbands do not count. They're like priests that way.  Well, that might not be entirely accurate either, but I'm not Catholic except by in-law. I just know they can't tell other people what is said to them. But they also can't have sex either, so husbands aren't quite like that.

Knowing I tell The Guy everything (for the most part unless it would make him so uncomfortable he would never look at the person the same way again), it drives me crazy when he keeps a secret from me. Especially when he TELLS me he has a secret.

I'm not one of those people who has to snoop for Christmas presents that are hidden. I don't even care to poke or shake or guess at those because there is an expiry date on that secret. What I hate is knowing there is a secret that I may or may not get to be made aware of in the near or distant future. The uncertainty is my undoing. What is it? When can I know? Why can't I know now? What is it?

What - for the love of all that is chocolate - is the secret????

Earlier last week, The Guy told me he had a surprise for me. That was it. No hint, no detail, no date, no nothing. When asked he would smile and change the subject. But he was thrilled with his secret. He nearly danced with joy in knowing he had me curious and I could not do anything to figure it out on my own.

Today, we had to run some errands. He treated each errand as though they were the orders from the CIA for his next assignment. Then he settled in to the evening like nothing was going on. I sat as calmly as I could and waited him out.

Then, the UPS truck showed up. The Guy bounded to the door and came in with a package he presented to me like a cat with a bird (but with less carnage.)  After fighting my way into it (I have chewed off all my fingernails by this time) I opened up to see a bright and shiny new laptop. A MacBook, no less.

We had talked about getting me a new computer. My current one was a disastrous purchase made 2 or 3 years ago. I thought it had been great when I picked it up, but overheating and software problems made it frustrating to work on. This is a dream come true.

The computer is currently transferring all my files to the new shiny Mac. I cannot wait to play with it. In the mean time, I will stare at it longingly while stroking it's silver exterior.  This might rival the time The Guy bought me a Coach purse while on a sports trip.

Now that I think about it, he just came back from a sports trip this weekend.

Hmm. Bribery?

Don't mind if I do!

Sorry this took me so long to post! It took me awhile to figure out how to work it!!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

I owe it all to my Mom and Mavis Beacon

I am working on a "project" where I need to prove my typing speed.  Once I have more solid information on said project, I will expand.  However, for now, I will just tell you I had to go and take a typing test from a recognized agency that will provide me with a certificate of my skillz.

Yes, skillz.  Typing be all gangsta, yo.

I was trying it out.  I will stop now.

It has often been suggested to me I have been in the wrong line of work.  Sure "helping people" is noble and all, but my passions lie in other places. I love to organize, to file, to photocopy! Don't even get me started on creating spreadsheets. SWOON!  I inherited all these dorky traits from my mother.  She went to secretarial school, aced it, became valedictorian, and then took over the world.

Despite my love of all things secretarial, I never took a typing class.  When I was in school we were moving from typing on actual typewriters (I'm THAT old) to using computers.  I learned how to make my Commodore 64 scroll endless "I love Brad"s across the screen but never learned proper finger placement for the keyboard.  I think I took Home EC instead.  You can see that has really served me well.

When my family finally got a computer at home I would have been about 15 or so.  We had three things we could do on that computer: use the word processor, play Hugo III: Jungle of Doom, or use the typing teacher tool by Mavis Beacon. (Aside: did you know Mavis Beacon isn't even a real person? CHILDHOOD RUINED.)

Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing was the only other thing on our computer.  Once I had rescued Hugo's girlfriend from the jungle, there was really little else to do but sit in front of Mavis and follow the instructions.  Words would fall out of the sky and you had to type them before they hit the ground.  It was all very exciting.

Might I mention, this was the early 90s.  We had nothing else going on.

Fast forward many years, I have used my Mavis born typing skills to create hundreds and hundreds of reports.  Co-workers have always teased me about my typing speed because most of them have done the hunt and peck variety of one digit typing.  Once, I even had a client yell at me for typing too loud and too fast while she gave me information.  I figured I was just average.

This week, I scheduled my typing test and went in to take it.  I was nervous.  I had never tried to type in front of anyone for any real reason. I sat down and was faced with copying two paragraphs in a constant loop (much like my Commodore) for two separate 5 minute tests.

I sat down at a strange computer, strange keyboard, and strange surroundings.  I could only backspace and couldn't point and click onto a mistake if it happened way before.  I sat stick straight, breathed deeply, and put my fingers on the "f" and the "j".  I harnessed my inner Mom and Mavis mojo and went for it.

I came out with 62 words/minute on the first trial and 60 on the second.  Accuracy rate was 98%.  I left there with wings on my shoes and a feeling of accomplishment.  I can't do much else in life, but I can make the keyboard fly!

The Guy said he wasn't surprised I did so well.  He has seen me "angry type" before and is more shocked my keyboard doesn't burst into flames.

Next time, I will get really mad before hand and see if I can get my speed up to 70!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Go ahead, eat that cake: Post from the past

This post was originally published on April 2, 2009 at my old site Buggering Crap Monkies. It was featured on Five Star Fridays Edition 49. Once you read this story, you will know why I am still grounded.


The year I turned 11, my best friend lived next door. She was a year older than I (because I was so mature, you know) and this caused us all manner of grief. Her friends thought I was a baby, my friends thought she was a snob. But what did they know? I had a collection of Barbies with a full handmade wardrobe and she had a house that smelled like curry and an endless collection of Bollywood movies. We were happy with our arrangement.

Her birthday party that fall was going to be a lavish affair. She was anxious to where her party dress -- a white dress with frills and a big red bow. I was anxious to publicly announce our friendship and to eat cake.

I was devastated when she told me I would not be invited to the party. Her parent's would not allow her to invite just one child out of a different grade. She was allowed to invite all the students in her own class, but if she invited one of another grade, they felt they needed to invite all that grade.

As an adult, I understand. In fact, I condone it and implement the same type of rule. I hate when kids are left out. It is mean and cruel and parents should know better than to allow it. So, I get it. But at the time? I was heartbroken.

And then, I was mad.

The day of the party, I was determined. I wasn't going outside, I wasn't going to watch her and all her friends have fun and eat cake. I wasn't going to do it. I was going to be strong and protest my hurt feelings. However, despite my determination, somehow, I found myself perched high in the tall tree in my yard peering over into her yard like a stalker.

And somehow, I had my parent's water hose with the spray gun in my hand. As she leaned in toward her perfect cake, in her perfect white dress with red ribbon, with her perfect friends all crowded around her, I pressed down the trigger on the spray gun. And soaked the entire party.

I was cruel about it. I aimed the gun directly at her white dress with the red ribbon and soaked her. Then, I moved to the cake and on to the friends scattering across the lawn. I kept spraying as children screamed and adults started to search for the culprit. I only stopped when my friend looked up and caught my eye from my perch in the tree.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

I MayB a domestic goddess

I have never claimed to be a good house keeper. In fact, I acknowledge I suck at it. I firmly believe the saying "Mental illness is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results" applies to dusting.

That said, I've thought I improved my level of cleanliness in the last 4 years. I went from living in a way that could only be described as "hoarder chic" to a constantly tidy home. I blame my husband and his hatred of chaos and water spots for that.  Before I moved in, The Guy's house looked like a show home - neat, uncluttered, and spotless.  That was not me.  I used to be comfortable in mess and chaos. Now I cannot keep myself from tidying when I'm a guest in someone's home. Don't worry, when I do it I'm not judging you, I'm just dealing with my OCD issues.

*rocking back and forth muttering about clutter*

I thought I was a cleaner and better person. Sure, I wasn't super Mr. Clean lady but my house was relatively tidy. (By this I mean compared to all my relatives.)  I picked up after myself, I dusted once a week, I cleaned toilets!

I was proven horribly disgustingly wrong.

The day we cleaned out of our house was the day I realized I haven't changed a whole lot.  Even worse, we had a friend who is a supreme neat freak helping us.  Moving the bed frame revealed 4 years of dirt and dust bunnies.  The fridge had a congealed pool of UFG (Unidentified Foreign Grossness) which took our friend almost an hour to scrub out. The lazy-Susan had about 3 loaves of bread crumbs settled at the bottom.  And the stove... oh, the stove.

Our friend mentioned the oven was "self-cleaning" and how happy she was for that because of the level of grime. It was not until she mentioned how hot it got during the cleaning cycle that I realized I had no idea what she was talking about.  I had always cleaned the oven old school style -- spray foamy stuff, let it sit, wipe it out.  Isn't that self-cleaning? Isn't that why I only did it twice in the 4 years we lived there?

Um, no.  Apparently, the entire world knows that a self-cleaning oven is one you hit a button, it locks up tight, heats up to the temperature on the surface of Mars, and burns out anything and everything stuck to it. When I mentioned I had never heard of this, everyone present looked at me like I'd said I didn't know how to use toilet paper.

The friend patiently walked me through the steps of self-cleaning.  It was like discovering a whole new world.  She smiled indulgently as I watched the lock engage and the heat start to climb.  But I had to admit, I felt I had been robbed of this knowledge in the past.  How long had I suffered cleaning stoves when I didn't have to?  Where was I when these things came into existence?

Honestly? I was likely ordering take out.

Monday, August 19, 2013

By our powers combined

My family has terrible luck. When I hear about "the luck of the Irish" I often think people must have been using the term sarcastically.  Irish luck includes: famine, war, drinking, fighting, poverty, the English, and death.  My family is not much different.

If there is money to be lost, my family will lose it. If there is something priceless to be broken before it can be sold, my family will break it. Last clean shirt? My family will dirty it.  It's what we do.  My husband's family tends to be the opposite.  If there is money to be made, they will double it. Own land? Something will be found there.  Decisions made are the right ones.

I have often said that marrying The Guy came with a good dose of balancing out the negative that is my family legacy. I lost money on house sales, broke priceless things, lost important documents, etc. Until I got married.  Now, I still make dumb financial and life decisions, but the impact is tamped by the fact my husband makes good ones.

Until now, his luck has been enough.  However, I have realized that - while he has improved the lot my life has had - I may be dragging him down.  My troublesome karma (for lack of a better word) is strong enough to mess with otherwise promising things.

As I've mentioned before, we are building a house. We started this process many months ago when The Guy accidentally stumbled upon a plan that suited our needs, a contractor we really liked, a cost we could afford, and a lot to drool over.  He brought these to me and I agreed wholeheartedly it was a stellar idea.

What we own: a pile of dirt, scrap wood, Tim's cup, and a sold sign.

When we started the process, the contractor told us that "if everything goes wrong from day one, you will be in your place by January at the latest".  Oh what wise words. He shouldn't have tempted the fates.

We went to sign the papers, but my job was threatened. We waited, it sorted itself out, we moved on.  We got the plans drawn up to send for approval. Two weeks later, we had to redo them. Two weeks after that, we had to resubmit them. The next day, all but one person who could approve the plans moved out of the office.  Six weeks later, we had signed plans.

By then, the foundation guys were on other build and we would need to wait. BUT I WANT IT NOW!!

The Guy drove by the other day and we had a great surprise! The foundation hole is completely dug out.  I spent the weekend asking anyone who would listen if they wanted to "see my hole".  One co-worker stated she did not and teased my question sounded a lot like sexual harassment.

See? See my hole?
This hole means, as soon as the foundation guys are ready, we will have foundation.  Then we will have a framed house.  Then a closed house! Eventually we will have AN ENTIRE HOUSE!!

Mind you, I'm still involved in this process, so it means more things will go wrong.  At least it makes life interesting!  Well, that's what I tell The Guy.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Fiction Friday: Chapter One - Kade and Anna meet

Spinster House Book 1 Chapter 1

The woman’s scream is what got his attention.


Kade Johnson stopped what he was doing and listened. He wiped his hand across his forehead with his gloved hand, and started down the ladder where he’d been scraping paint off the window sill. If someone was screaming for trouble, the least he could do is see what it was all about. He walked across the grass and, as he stepped onto the street, came into direct contact with said trouble.

A bundle of energy and black fur slammed into Kade's legs and fell away. The energetic dog’s tongue hung out the side of his mouth, his ear flipped over the top of his head, and his eyes shone bright with mischief. Kade couldn't help but return the happy look to the dog whose tail was thumping madly and settled down on his own haunches to scratch the dog behind his flipped ear.

"Trouble! I swear I am going to…" A woman stopped dead in her tracks to stare at Kade and the still-vibrating-but-no-longer-running dog. Kade moved his attention from the dog and went to speak.

Nothing came out.

The woman standing before him was clad only in a towel. Her light brown hair dripped down around her shoulders and her feet were ensconced in plastic gardening shoes. She looked wet as a drowned cat and mad as a trapped badger. Apart from that, she was tall and pretty cute. Kade smiled in way of greeting. "This," he said gesturing to the black ball of energy, "would be yours?"

The woman began to look embarrassed. A red flush crept up her cheeks as she considered the situation. She was standing in a towel in front of a stranger. The woman stared at Kade mouth open and took the sight in. Kade knew what she saw. He was well over 6 feet tall, solidly built, wearing jeans with a worn tool belt slung across his hips.  He was also looking up at her from his squat as he scratched her dog while she wore only a towel. Flustered, she grabbed at the towel where it was joined above her breast and said the only thing she could in the situation.

"Trouble, I am going to shoot you."

Kade smothered a quick smirk and looked down at the dog. "He’s been causing some problems, I hear? At least, I assume he is the trouble you’re looking for."

The woman’s face softened at the comment and shook her head. "Yeah, he’s my trouble -- in name and in behaviour. I heard him escape the house as I was getting out of the shower. If I don’t catch him before he gets too far, he is tough to find and tougher to clean off. Thanks for catching him. I should get him home."

She leaned down to grab Trouble’s collar. At that moment, Trouble chose to jump up and give her kisses. He hooked one paw into her towel and another onto the side of her face. Trouble licked her face from one side to the other and dropped back to the ground, trying to take the towel with him. She shrieked, Trouble barked, and Kade laughed out loud.

"How about I bring him home for you?"

"Thanks. I think that’s a better idea. I live one block over."

Kade hooked Trouble around the middle and hauled him under one arm. Trouble weighed about 18 pounds but wiggled like he weighed 40. Kade readjusted his grip and stood up. "I’ll follow you."

The woman turned and headed up the block with Kade following and Trouble’s tail beating fast against his side. "Now, I seem to know Trouble’s name, but not yours. Considering I’m carrying your dog, we should likely amend that. I’m Kade."

"I’m Anna. Anna Ross." She swiped the wet hair off of her face and turned her green eyes to Kade. "I just moved into the neighbourhood yesterday. You’re the first person I've… met."

She led him up to a house on the corner and gestured. "This is my place. My sisters and I inherited it." Kade's eyes followed her direction to a simple cottage house. It had painted siding, a stone path, and little shrubs under the windows. It showed well the care it had received in its lifetime, but also was starting to look a bit weathered.

"You moved into Ms. Hope’s old place. I heard she had passed away last year. Didn't know who was going to move in. It’s a great little house."

"Thanks, I have always loved it. I didn't get a lot of chance to visit, but it holds good memories. It was owned by my aunts – my father’s sisters. The last of them, Aunt Hope, died early last Spring and they left the house to me and my sisters." Anna walked up the path to the house and opened the door. She motioned for Kade to put Trouble inside. He dropped Trouble on the step and ushered him through the door gently with his boot.

"There. Safe and Sound."

Anna brought the door almost to a close and they both watched as Trouble instead nosed his way through the curtains to look out at them longingly.

"For now. Until the next time he figures his way out. I love him, but he makes life interesting sometimes. Thanks for your help." Anna stuck a hand out to Kade. He took it in his and appreciated her grasp was solid and warm. Just like he thought she would be.

"Not a problem."

She entered the house and turned to close the door when Kade said to himself, "I always wondered who would be the ones to move into the Spinster House."

Her look of surprise told him she heard his mumble. In her bewilderment, she lost grip on both the door and her towel. Suddenly, it was Kade's turn to be startled.

Next: Chapter 2

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Post from the Past: "Wonderfully Made" or "How I learned about sex"

This was originally posted at my site Buggering Crap Monkies on May19, 2009. It was mentioned in Five Star Friday Edition 56. It is still one of my favourites.


In my house, we had a book. In this book was the secret to life. It was written in 1967. I am not sure why it was in my house because none of us kids needed it until 1982 or so. This means, of course, my mother learned about sex in her late teens. From this book. It is a wonder we were ever born.

Here it is. The inside page of our book. Look at how happy they are! All dressed in their finest casual clothes to learn about life and growing up. Look at how progressive they are! She is carrying her own books. And she's showing ankle!

The first chapter of the book describes the life of the average boy and girl. See the illustration below. Boys play with cars. Girls learn to sew. See how happy they are?

"Growing as boys and girls". 

Next we learn where babies come from. Did you know? Babies grow in little orbs that float. And they smile. The whole time!!

Mom and Dad with floating space baby.

But how does the baby get into the floating orb? A baby is created when a loving husband and wife decide to forgo the twin beds for a night of snuggling and other things you do not need to know anything about.

Men = snakes. Women = sunspots.

Now we will learn about the productive system.

Women make babies. This is because they have ovaries. There is nothing else about the woman's reproductive system that will be of any interest for you. Cli- what?

Don't worry about it. It's supposed to be a mystery.

The man's reproductive system is very complex and important. Notice how many things we have names for! Do not take notice of the size. Size is NOT important.

Very, very important thing to understand.

This is how babies grow.

Babies grow in toilet seats. They always look like babies. ALWAYS.

Don't worry, ladies. It doesn't hurt a bit. 
Men, go grab a cigar and pace. You don't need to be here for this!

As soon as the baby is born, the mother should be fully and neatly groomed. She can ask for assistance from other females, but this is strictly her responsibility. The husband might assist in putting the dishes on the table, but this is only in times of desperation.

Nipple. Nipple!!! LOOK AWAY!!!!!!!

Children grow up so quickly. Women will grow up wearing dresses and having cute hair. They will eventually wear high heels - but only when they are adults. Breasts will also grow, but not so much as you will notice them. A woman's waist should always remain the same size. So should her feet.

Boys will grow into Star Trek captains who play football.

And finally, "Preparing for the Future". Men, put on your suits and get out into the world to earn some money!! Women, get those aprons pressed! You have some work to do!!

I can't wait until my children ask where babies come from.

Conversations with Grandma: I'm not the favourite

Grandma loves me. Of that I have no doubt.  However, if I was ever going to have second thoughts about it, this visit would have been the time. 

Grandma had a health scare in July and her already terrible short-term memory issues have become a bit more concerning. Knowing Grandma has a 15 second recent button on her memory (it's like a conversation with Dory from Finding Nemo) I decided to call her the day before I was to arrive for a visit.  I spoke with her and was pleasantly surprised she knew exactly who I was and even remembered to ask questions about our recent move.

Forward to 16 hours later.  I walk in the door of her apartment and, after 30 mins of visiting, she tells me my sister Ky called yesterday and said she was on her way to visit so I couldn't stay long.  Being that Ky lives in another province and I hadn't heard anything about an impromptu visit, I realized right away Grandma was now confused about my visit.

When I assured Grandma it had been me who had called yesterday, she looked very serious. "Oh. I guess I shouldn't have said you could come. I was sure it was Ky."  

Grandma with her two favourite girls: Vicki and not me.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A five day journey: dogs and their people

I used to make a regular travelling loop throughout Western Canada.  My immediate family, all choosing to flee our home town about 5 years ago, have settled all over the country and (now) the world.  I am a definite home body and being married has made me more inclined to stay home because I have someone I like hanging out there already.  Of course, this means I do not see my siblings nearly as often as I would like. If I had unlimited money I am sure I would go visit them all all the time, but I do not. At least that is what The Guy keeps telling me.

This weekend, I was able to head on a quick trip to get some much needed family time.  You would think I would have remembered to take pictures of said family while I was out and about.  You would be wrong. I came home with 17 pictures. All of dogs.  While this is not uncommon for me (in fact, each major trip I take has an entire album of dog pics) I am starting to realize I have a definite problem.

Road trip! 
My name is MayB and I'm a dogoholic.

Today, I will only be able to show you pictures of the dogs who live with everyone I saw.  Meh, people aren't that cute anyway.

Montel and I hopped into my Jeep and hit the open road.  We stopped and spent the night with my good friend NewHeart (aka Cheryl) and her dog, Stella. Stella is about the only dog I did not get a picture of because she and Monty decided they DID NOT LIKE EACH OTHER, so we spent most of our time trying to keep them from brawling.  Only after I walked them the next morning did they realize they could be in the same space amicably.

Friday, I drove another 1.5 hours to see Grandma.  She lives at a place for old people which is good because she's 93.  She spent the entire time telling me she thought my sister was coming and seeming all too disappointed, but that is a story for later.

I took Grandma out for lunch and then we went to my uncle's home where Grandma's dog, Vicki, has lived since Grandma moved.  Vicki thinks Grandma is AWESOME and all others come second. Here is the story of how Grandma and Vicki got together.

Vicki is worried about why you are watching her.
Once I had thoroughly worn out Grandma, Monty and I headed out to my brother's home another 4 hours off. It's been over a year since I have seen either him or his wife and I wish we hadn't waited that long.  They live the closest to me (a mere 8.5 hours away) so you would think it wouldn't be quite so tough.

My favourite thing about seeing them (apart from actually seeing them) is the dog park that exists in their home town. I make them take me there as often as possible when I visit. Sometimes I let them take the dogs too. It is a 3 mile expanse of trees and river and paths that make me salivate with jealousy over our large half-fenced-in field that floods for most of the year.

Macie and Porter get ready to run.
Porter stands like a person.
We walked all the paths, let the dogs play in the river in as many spots as they could find, and visited with other owners also out taking advantage of the beautiful park. Like my SiL said "No one is angry at the dog park!"  It's true.  Even my normally grouchy and anti-social mutt extraordinaire was frolicking.

Monty had a dang good time. 
After 4 fun filled days away, Monty and I loaded our tired behinds into the Jeep and headed home. Another 10 hours later (we stopped once more to visit my cousin and her boys midway,) we stumbled across the threshold to our little home and fell asleep immediately. 

You can always tell the best vacations because you need a holiday after you return.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Post from the Past: Successful marriages are built on a freshly made bed

This story was initially posted on July 30, 2009 on Buggering Crap Monkies.  Since I am going to visit Grandma this week, I thought it fitting to repost one of our finest moments together.  


While in North Battleford, I had ample opportunity for Grandma to give me all kinds of tips on marriage, living together, and a successful life of a wife. Oh Grandma. While this was very helpful in the 1800s when you were born, but a fair bit of it doesn't much apply now. For the most part I would nod and smile, but after 2 weeks I was getting just a little cranky.

One night as I was getting ready for bed, Grandma came into my room at the end of the hall and tsked at my room. Bed unmade, clothes scattered everywhere, books askew, pillows on the floor, dog dish leaning precariously on a high heeled shoe.

"You will try and keep a better house when you're married, won't you?"

I explained to Grandma that likely I would be tidier in my house because I would have places to put things and I would be able to do so easier.

"And, you'll make the bed every day?"

"No, probably not."

She gasped audibly as though I had announced I would be feeding The Guy baby seals for supper every night and lining the yard with their little, bitty seal bones. She flung a bony hand to her chest and clutched at her nightdress. "But you must!"

I have to admit, I have a little rebellious streak that encourages me to torture Grandma by being more disagreeable than I would normally. It is the streak that prompted me, at 23 years old, to announce I was not only not getting married, but would shack up with a lesbian. I like to give Grandma the vapours. Sometimes it is out of amusement to myself and sometimes it is just plain meanness.

"Grandma, if he wants the bed made every day, then he's going to have to make it."

Grandma was horrified. I think she was a little heart broken. She looked as though she had personally failed at making me a good woman. She fluttered around the room at a loss for words. She asked again. Was I sure? Yes, I was not going to make the bed every day. Grandma looked defeated. Finally, she pleaded with me -- for the sake of my marriage.

"But, if it really pleases him, you will change this thing for him, won't you?"

I tried to explain the way The Guy and I planned to handle things. Things that were important to me in the house, I would do. Things that were important to him, he would do. The things we hated, we would share. It would be a participatory thing. We would compromise. We would only change things for each other under agreement and with discussion.

Grandma just stood there staring at me. You could see the words forming in her mind "How will they ever make it?" I conceded defeat. I knew I could have this conversation in circles for hours and she would never understand why I wouldn't just change something because it was what The Guy wanted.

In a soft and reassuring voice I said "I will make the bed more often, Gram. Don't worry."

Now, every morning I wake up, I am in a constant struggle between rebellion forcing me not to budge a sheet on the bed and utter guilt because Grandma is convinced we're heading down a long road where The poor Guy will have to deal with a disastrous wife and a messy house.

One with wrinkled sheets even.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Downsized: Why I'm really happy with only a third our belongings

I started downsizing our belongings the minute we started the process for building our new home. The house we lived in was too big for just two people and one needy dog, so we started looking at plans for less floor space. What we came up with was a home where the overall house was bigger, but we would live in less of it.

Let me explain.

Since we got married, The Guy and I have talked about getting a rental property. We have a few good friends who have properties and are really happy with them.  Had we thought about this option prior to buying a house, I think we would have chosen differently, but in our situation (our house couldn't be adapted for renting) it meant one of two things: 1) buying a second property, or 2) moving to a different location with a rental option.

Nothing we looked at really fit until earlier this year when The Guy stumbled on a plan layout for a new build that would suit our needs.  Ample living space and a full legal 2 bdrm suite in the basement.  We will go from living in 2,500 sq ft total to 1,400 sq ft.  That meant getting rid of one entire bedroom set, an entire living room set, and a lot of our unnecessary storage (read: my family's stuff!)

When we decided we would sell our house sooner rather than later, we knew we would have to live for about 6 months with bare essentials. I sorted through all our belongings and thought about what I could and could not live without.  I planned and packed accordingly.

Now we are in a little rental house that is too adorable for words. We unpacked kitchen essentials, bathroom necessities, clothing musts, and... not a lot else.  A few days into the house and I am feeling settled in a way I haven't for awhile.  I have what I need and not much more.  Yes, there are a few things I have stored I am kicking myself for not bringing with me, but I am learning I can likely make do.

Less really is more.

By the end of 6 months I might feel differently. You may find me in our new house rolling around on all our belongings like Scrooge McDuck.

Monday, August 5, 2013

My little Grandma

This week, I am taking an excursion to see my Grandma.  She is 93 years old and we never know how much longer we have with her.  She's a spitfire of a woman with a stubborn streak a mile wide and a need to feed you every moment while you're with her while simultaneously commenting on how much weight you've gained since you were 19.  She's a kindhearted woman (whose filter has all but disappeared in the last decade, hence the weight comments) whose home served as a haven for most of my mother's generation of friends and mine. 

Grandma's response: Why do people insist on
taking pictures of old people? We're so wrinkled!
I've always teased Grandma and told stories about the bizarre things she has said and done (I come by these weird things honestly.  I swear it's genetic!) and I have taken her under my wing as best I could since my mom died.  She's become precious to me and makes me regret the teen and early twenty years when I was too cool to sit and visit an old lady.

The only real disagreements between her and I have been - me working in a career I didn't want to give up to have babies, and the time I told her my husband would have to make his own bed in the morning if he wanted it made so badly.  Now every time I don't make the bed, The Guy tells me he's calling Grandma to tattle.

In the last decade, Grandma has become more and more forgetful.  First it was just stories she couldn't remember telling you, so she told you them a lot.  Talking to her was like talking to a goldfish -- 15 second reset button.  However, up until the last 2 or 3 years, she lived alone and had no problem taking care of herself even if she couldn't remember her own dog's name.

Grandma is an old school lady.  Grandma is all about house and home and making friends into family.  Everyone calls her Aunt Bea and she used to know every single person, who their parents were, who they dated, and what was going on in their life.  Now, she's not entirely sure who anyone is and this frustrates her to no end.  I tell her it's more important that we remember her, but she's not convinced.  

Her health has been more precarious lately and she's been very down about it.  Between my sister and I, we call her a few times a week just to check in.  My brother and his wife went up to visit her recently too. My sister in England and my dad in Ukraine are just hoping she hangs out until they get back, but she warned them she wasn't making any promises.

I am so glad she is part of my life and that I can be part of hers. I hope she hangs around for a long time.  Knowing how stubborn she is, she will be here long after the rest of us are gone.  She won't know what's going on, but she will tell you the story about how someone keeps finishing her puzzles while she's at lunch and she's maddest because they are really good at it!

Grandma always hopes to leave an important legacy behind when she goes.  Little does she know, it's going to be in the form of a tell-all book my sister and I plan to write about her and her more outlandish enterprises.  She will haunt us both!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

And then its head popped off

(This post originally appeared at my father's site The Blog Fodder on July 11, 2013. It was this story that made me realize how much I missed writing and how I really needed to share the strange things that happen to me.)

I often come upon adventure when I take my dog, Monty, for a walk.  You would think we would avoid getting into trouble on one of the three routes we take daily, but more often than not, that isn't the case.  There was the time a pack of dogs left their yard and circled Monty doing nothing to him while he screamed as though being murdered.  There was the time he chased a small car into a snow bank and then looked back to me as though he had caught me a great prize.  He weighs 18 lbs, but he gets me into more trouble than most full grown people I know.

But I digress.  This tale is not about Monty, although he was present, it's about another animal. A bird.

A bird I had to kill.

Monty and I were on our walk, minding our own business (as we do), when a City truck drove by.  I thought nothing of it and carried on my way until the truck slammed on his brakes and swerved to the side.  I turned to look and saw a small bird lay on the road.  The two had obviously collided leaving a clear winner.

A middle aged man stepped out of the truck with panic on his face.  He looked like a 70s hippy throw-back with long silver hair and handlebar mustache.  He warily approached the bird and explained he had tried to avoid her, but the bird had swooped right into his tires. 

She was a small robin with a mottled brown chest and a badly damaged lower half.  She breathed heavily, gasping for air, as she lay dying in front of us.  The city worker's eyes began to mist and a single tear rolled down his cheek as he offered to take her to the Humane Society for help.  I assured him it was too late for that.  She was in her last moments. 

The man was overwrought and stood dumbfounded at the little life ending in front of him.  He looked to me for guidance and I found myself offering to take care of her.  To end her suffering so as to end his.  He agreed to hold Monty's leash (thank God the dog had not decided to be brave and eat the poor bird.  I think that would have been the end of the man altogether.)

I had two waste bags in my pocket for the dog and used them because I'd always been told birds carry disease.  I contemplated the fact I had no idea if this was true, but I wasn't taking the chance.  I draped one bag over her body and one over her head.  I picked her up gently and decided the most humane thing was to break her neck.

Being a city girl, I have never done this before. I assumed it would be simple.

I gently twisted.  And twisted.  And twisted.  The bird's head just kept turning while she just kept living. 

I started to panic. Not only was I not helping to end the bird's suffering, I was just torturing the poor thing.  

I was about to give up when I pulled out instead of twisted.

POP! The head came clear off the bird. 

I quickly put the bags back together so the tormented man wouldn't see the mess I made and ran to the garbage bin a block away to disperse of the corpse I had mutilated.  I returned, assured the man it all went well and was not his fault, and walked as fast as I could away from the dump site.

I immediately messaged my sisters to tell them of the horror.  They assured me I was a hero, despite the decapitation.

Next up, chickens.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

I MayB not that bright

Being that moving day is always stressful, The Guy and I thought it best to leave the mutt at his sister's for the day.  His mom lives there and they don't hate each other entirely so it would be less stress for him and me to have him out of the way.  He's been a little stressed since we started this packing and moving and selling the house thing (back in May) so I thought this would keep him from pooping in every room just to make a statement.

Montel enjoying the outdoors for a brief period of time.

I messaged my SiL and asked if we could dump Monsieur Montel at their abode for the day.  She readily agreed and asked if I had the code and the keys.  Yup.  I did.

Nope.  I did not.

Well, I had the keys. And technically, I thought I had the code.  But, in this day and age, everything has a code and my brain has limited remembering capacity.  I mean, I know the home phone number of parents of a client of mine from 15 years ago and I know the addresses where one of my homeless guys has lived over the years, but my SiL's alarm code?  TOO MUCH FOR BRAIN TO HANDLE.

I took Monty (who btw knows something is up and is not pleased with it, thank you very much) for a car ride.  We got into the house well enough and then I punched in the code.  Nope, that's our house's code. Try again.  Nope.  Try again.  Nope.  Wait, I know it.  Nope.

And again and again until the alarm started shrieking.  Now, Maddy (Monty's mom and SiL's dog) makes a break for wherever she feels safe because WHAT IS THAT NOISE? and Monty stands and looks at me expectantly, knowing I will fix it because that is what humans do.

To be fair, I've been working nights, had a migraine of epic proportions, and had slept 2 1/2 hours.  But that's not the point.  I have completely forgotten the number.  Entirely. Gone.

Then the house phone rings.  I run, grab the phone, and answer it while desperately trying to get The Guy on the phone. I reach his mother and beg for the code while I accidentally hang up on the Alarm Systems people.  I am sure the police will attend immediately and arrest me.

I haven't even showered and I'm going to go to prison.

My MiL tells me the code, I enter it, and the house goes blissfully silent but for the ringing in my ears.  No wait.  That's the Alarm Company calling back.  I talk to him and explain what happened.  He asks for my name and then explained I would have to tell him the code I just entered so he would know it wasn't a fluke.

You think I could remember it? Nope.

Please make me a cake with a file in it.  My hearing is next week.

Our house is a very very very fine house

Today, we will be moving from the home we have lived in for just over 4 years.  It is the first house we lived in as a couple, the house where we learned how to combine our lives, and learned what it meant to be married to each other.  It is the house where we have hosted family and friends, the house where we have weathered sadness and loss, where we have had laughter and joy.

When we arrived in this place, it had a yard full of 6 ft tall Russian thistles, a paint colour only described as "ill skin", and an unfinished basement.  Now that we leave, it has a gorgeous yard (work entirely done by The Guy), a gorgeous basement (work entirely done by someone else), and brand new paint colours we took 3 years deciding on.

I am excited about what the future will hold for us.  We are heading towards the unknown which is equal parts exciting and scary.  Though, if you take my stomach's word for it, it's mostly scary.  We move into a rental for a few months until our new house is built.  The next six months or so will be a huge learning curve for us.  I can only hope we get through it without being too beat up.  

So here we go.  Onward and upward.