Saturday, December 17, 2011

Therapy in a Can

Good morning faithful people who still check this page after a five month hiatus! After busyness, two computer break downs, and simply having nothing to say it's good to be back!

Today's story starts at lunch hour a month ago, when, after eating, my friends and I went to wander around Coles because we simply had nothing else to do. While perusing through my favourite aisles, my friend Judy came up to me greatly excited; she had found something amazing. Grabbing my hand and dragging me to the non-book part of the bookstore which I usually skip, she showed me what all the fuss was about:


For those of you who were not alive in the seventies, this probably means nothing. DoodleArt was a fad back in the day. You would buy a poster, usually quite detailed in content, and colour it in. It's like a colouring book for adults that you hang on your wall after.

Judes, who was by this point jumping up and down in her excitement, explained we could get together and have a colouring party at her house. The fever caught, and the two of us began debating which poster we wanted. Would sea creatures be more interesting than bugs and birds? Would butterflies look better on the wall than sea creatures? Finally, we settled on fairy tales, because it was interesting, had variety, and would look cool on the wall. With a special promotion for surprise discounts if you spent $30 or more, we pooled our bookstore finds and made the impulse buy, and on the walk back to the office, it was decided; one colouring date would not suffice to do our poster justice. Friday lunch hours would now be devoted to this craft.

The next Friday, Judes, Candy, Maddy and I all packed a lunch, and after checking schedules and realizing which board room would be available over the lunch hour, we set up over the empty table, claimed dibs on our favourite elements, and got to work.

As our poster making has become a regular thing on Fridays in some lonely boardroom, we met with mixed responses to our project; those who think it's strange and childish, those who think it's a wonderful idea because they did DoodleArt in the seventies, and those who just like to stop by our lonely little board room and make witty comments. Our favourite is still the partner who announced he expected it down by the end of the day. We've also discovered after an entire lunch hour is spent on a peacock's tail or a handful of dragon scales that our perfectionism is going to make this project take the whole year, or maybe last till our retirement, but we are more committed to our DoodleArt than ever, and here's why:

Colouring is actually a wonderful destresser.

Yesterday morning, I was feeling overwhelmed and cranky. I'd been working longer hours than usual and my head was feeling fuzzy. I was tired, starving, and ready for the weekend. Judes was slightly worse. We pulled out the poster and continued our work on dragon scales and peacock feathers. Suddenly, we both just felt so much better. We didn't even remember what we had to complain about, life was just better with a little bit of colouring.

To check out DoodleArt, click here.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Arrival

This is old news for some of you and belated news for the rest, but it's official:

I am a grown up.

That is, if growing up is defined by having a career-like job and health benefits, which is how I define it.

For the discretion of my employers, I am not going to name them here, but know the most important thing: I'm really happy working there.

When my sister Janine began her post-education job, she talked a lot about knowing you've arrived. Over the past month that I've been on practicum with the same company I now work for, and over the past three days I've officially worked there, I've been thinking a lot about the same thing. Here are a few of my little arrival moments, or more accurately, things that make me feel excited for the phase of my life I'm entering:

-I have my own cubicle, complete with filing cabinet, direct phone line, and partition wall that lawyers come and lean against when they have something new for me to do. I always get excited when I get to spin around on my chair from my computer to grab something from my filing cabinet.

-I am on a high floor of a tall building downtown, surrounded by other tall buildings. It has always been a childhood of mine to work on a top floor of a tall building. Every time I go into one of my boss's offices and see how high we are, I get excited, and a little thrill goes through me whenever I get in the elevator in the morning and hit the button for the top floor.

-my work e-mail has a signature attached with the company logo. Do not ask me why I find this exciting. I don't understand it either.

And the best part of life right now:

After three years of university wondering what I really wanted to do with my life, one year of business college where I literally had to drag myself out of bed and wondered on a daily basis why on earth I was putting myself through the grief of a school I didn't like, I've figured it out, and I love my job.

The other day I woke up and a thought occurred to me: I didn't mind getting up in the morning anymore. Once I got over the natural human battle of man over mattress, I was cheerful. I never thought I couldn't bear to go into work, I never think during the day that the week just needs to be over cause I can't stand for it to carry on. I like what I do. It's been years since I've been truly happy and certain about what I'm doing in my life. I'd forgotten how good it feels.

In a way, it still intrigues me. I started adulthood with dreams of changing the world by writing about it and working towards becoming a lifestyle columnist. Now I've found bliss as a legal assistant.

Sometimes, happiness is found by working your tail off to achieve a desired result. Other times, it's stumbled upon. My life seems to like the latter.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Allow Me to Introduce Myself. My Name is Cheesehead, and I am Adorable!

Have you ever been around a toddler who is just learning to say more words besides Mommy and Daddy? That is Edward right now. Quite often he will look at me, grab something, and name it with this self-satisfied grin on his face.

"Water!" he states as he holds out his cup for more.

"Sword! he cries as he runs toward me grinning with weapon raised.

"Door!" he declares as he runs ahead of me into my room and slams it in my face. His sweet little voice always keep me entertained.

Last night, Jaima went out for dessert with a friend and I watched the kidlets. Edward declared to me that he needed a snack. I gave him a slice of cheese. Immensely pleased with himself, Edward proceeded to run around the house repeating to himself:


As he munched his snack, he started exploring other words. Placing a hand on his head, he told me, "Head!" Then he returned to his favourite snackfood:


With a grin that lets me know Edward knows how brilliant he is, he placed his cheese on his head and declared:


Isn't he adorable? Edward was so pleased with himself he stayed put while I took multiple pictures, and then was pleased to scan through my phone looking at the pictures, occasionally looking up at me, pleased and (pointing to himself) said his new favourite word;


I love my little Cheesehead.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Man Class Reading Materials

Last night I babysat my two-year old nephew while his family went to watch the Canada Day fireworks. Edward was asleep the entire time, so I took the opportunity to sit within earshot and pull out my laptop to get my writing done.

Do you know how much research is required to write a piece of fiction? It surprised me when I first started writing. For each chapter I write, I usually have a list of five or six things I need to research so I make sure they sound authentic. Multiple that by 26 chapters or so and I spend half my writing time researching. This is fine when I make the research list ahead of time, go to the library and have all my research ready to go, but more often than not, I start writing and then realize I need the background to make the details seem realistic, and do a hasty Google search for the info so I cab get what I need quick and keep going.

Last night, the topic I needed was building a fire. I have built many fires in my life, as recently as last weekend, so I am pretty well versed in fire building tactics. I wrote away happily, adding all the details of fire-making (and the frustrations it always includes) to make my scene realistic and compelling. Then my characters needed to start the flame and it occurred to me:

"Wait a minute. They don't have matches. How do you light a fire without matches?"

I hastily open my internet browser and typed "How to light a fire without matches" into Google. This was the top hit:

Given my previous post and the fact I am always fascinated with how guys acquire their mad man skills, I had to laugh out loud. After contemplating and researching the concept of the secret man class for seven months, I had inadvertently stumbled across their curriculum!

Take a look around the website, it's pretty entertaining and surprisingly educational. Not only did I learn how to start a fire with friction, I learned the art of opening a door for a woman, how to properly iron a dress shirt, and how to shoot a rifle.

For further reading on my favourite funny research project, check out the following pages on the Art of Manliness: How to Make Your Own Manly Bar of Soap; How to Bowl a Strike; How to Hail a Taxi Cab . . . Like a Man!; 22 Manly Ways to Reuse an Altoids Tin; How to Take Care of a Pregnant Wife.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

So Long! And Thanks for All the Fish!

This post seems long overdue, but for those who didn't already know through family grapevines, new and exciting things have been going on in my world. Firstly, after 60 weeks of counting down, I am done classes forever! Or at least until I have a midlife crisis and go back to school, but for now, formal education is done.

Secondly, and most significantly, I moved! Again! This has been my third move this year and tragically will not be my last, but it is still exciting because I changed cities. A whole three hours away from home too. I live in Edmonton, and have for the past two weeks! I am here doing my practicum and the plan is just to stick around after and find a job here.

My departure was bittersweet and slightly surreal. I admit, even now I sometimes forget I don't live in Calgary. There are many things I miss, but many more I look forward to. In commemoration of my time spent in Cowtown (also known as my entire life minus the past two weeks) here is just a sampling of the things I love and miss about my hometown:

-my library! Yes, obviously they have one of those here, but my library was always Nose Hill. It's where I grew up going. It's where I learned to love books. Plus I don't have a library card here and I'm feeling deprived.

-my regular jaunts around the Bow River, and the Bow in general. Did you know the North Saskatchewan River is actually a disgusting body of water? The Bow is beautiful and clean.

-playing ultimate in Bowness Park. One of my favourite things to do in the summer.

-Shakespeare in the Park. I was religious about going to this every summer, usually to all the shows and sometimes to the same one more than once. It's outside, it's Shakespeare, and you can bring a picnic. What more do you want?

-My places to eat. Spicy Hut, Diner Deluxe, Tandoori Hut, Sate Sub and Thai Boat. Also, other special little places like I Appeal. I miss my niche.

-Going for downtown lunches with Neen! My sister e-mailed me the other day to inform me she was going to Sunterra for lunch, our favourite place to meet up and grab a salad. I had done the same thing the day before at the Sunterra here, and we both mourned the loss of a tradition we now have to live alone.

-Knowing how to get places. I can drive to work, and home again. I consider it a major accomplishment when I can get there without taking a single wrong turn. I miss knowing where I am going.

-my institute teachers. They were all fantastic.

-my ward! I was in Foothills Ward for four years. My last Sunday there felt so strange and people kept hugging me. I was devastated and exhilarated all at the same time.

And most of all:
-my people! Family, friends, inside jokes. I miss Leah saying she's just peachy every time I ask how she is and then I say I'm splenda. I miss random dance parties with Colleen, or outings with Neen where I convince her to drive me places, I miss Lou and her magical brownies, I miss being weirded out by my brother as he races into the ravine dressed as a ninja. I miss my people niche.

And yet, don't feel blue, because life is fantastic! It has been only two weeks and I still don't have my feet on the ground, but here is what I love about Edmonton so far:

-living with the Fixsens. Being witness to brilliant moments in their kid's childhoods like the brilliant dinner conversation Jaima mentioned.

-my job. I love my job. Suddenly, all the tearing of hair and frustrations of school seem like not such a big deal.

-exploring a new city. I have the opportunity to find new places: new things to do every summer, new places to eat and shop, new places to go for walks and play ultimate, new people to meet and have inside jokes with. I get to create a whole new niche!

And something else truly terrific:
-I now live in the same city as the hat store.

So, so long Calgary! It's been fun, but I have found somebody else. But thanks for all the fish!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Secret Man Classes

Last November, I went to Preference (the church dance where girls ask guys). The night of the dance was cold, icy, and very snowy, so it should come as no surprise that when I went to pick up my date, my car got stuck in the snow outside his house.

Without missing a beat, he jumped out of the car and told me he would push me out. He then proceeded to lean against the right side of my car just in front of the passenger side door and push from the side. I was so surprised I just stared at him for a moment before I remembered I was supposed to be driving the car out of the pile of snow. His bizarre technique worked like a charm.

When he got back in the car, I asked him how he'd known to push from the side. After all, if it had been me I would have pushed from the back, the front, and than the back again before maybe guessing to push from somewhere else. He didn't even have to look at my car to know where to push. What was his secret?

Sadly, he could offer no explanation. At least not one that I could follow. He merely shrugged and said he'd done this a lot. Well so have I! I live in Calgary, have been driving in snow as long as I have been driving, and get stuck on a routine basis. How had I not acquired his mad skills? I was more than a little jealous.

A few months passed, and I didn't think much of it. Then one evening in January, Janine's car got stuck in front of our house, sticking out into the road. She called me out from the house to help her push it. We pushed that car away from the curb from all possible angles on the hood, but it wouldn't budge from that one little icy patch it had created. We then decided to take the wisest course of action; we called Neen's fiance and asked him to come over and fix it.

No sooner had Ben arrived than he nonchalantly walked up to the car, pushed it from the back over the curb and out of the tricky spot. WHAT?! How did he know that? Again, didn't even look at it.

It was then that I realized what was going on. Both Ben and my date had acquired the same skill that neither my sister nor I could achieve. This must be a lesson from secret man classes!

For those of you who aren't in the know, secret man class is where guys go to learn those skills we assume are so easily acquired by the male population such as pushing cars out of snow, matching the correct nuts and bolts together without having to dig through every drawer and try every one, and how to cook meat with fire.

There are also of course, secret women classes. Here we learn how to tell the difference between chartreuse and emerald green, how to tell what fruit is good quality at the grocery store, and how to tell precisely how many more bay leaves are needed to make a pot of stew taste just right.

In my research on these two under the table institutions, I have begun to accumulate a thesis on their possible curriculums. So my question to the blogosphere is:

What skills come naturally to you from secret man/woman classes? What have you noticed your spouse it naturally good at that you simply cannot fathom?

Perhaps one day I will understand this phenomenon, but in the mean time, I will just collect stories, call my brother-in-law when my car is stuck, and advise guy friends on which are the good oranges to buy at Superstore.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Something to Giggle About

This past school year, I've been teaching Relief Society in my ward. Out of all the church callings I have ever had, it has been my favourite. There have been difficult lessons, awkward pauses where I suspect even if I did a tap dance people would still stare at me with the same dazed expression, and tricky topics; like when I had to teach my peers about drug addictions. However, none of my experiences relate to what happened to a friend of mine today.

Whenever there is a fifth Sunday in the month, we have a combined meeting of our Relief Society and Elders Quorum (ie - rather than split up for that one lesson block, the guys and girls are in the same lesson). Usually this is a chance for our bishop to teach us whatever he thinks we need to hear most that month. Today was a fifth Sunday.

Apparently, the bishopric forgot what Sunday it was, and so they assigned my friend Mike (who just moved into the ward last week) to teach the next lesson in the Gospel Principles manual same as usual. Upon arrival at church, the bishopric sees women filing into the Elders Quorum room, and suddenly remembers how many Sundays have already happened in the month of May. They pull Mike aside and tell him that he will not just be teaching the guys. The girls will be tagging along as well. What is Mike's lesson again? Oh yes. The Law of Chastity.

Welcome to the Ward, Mike! Sundays are always filled with lessons, inspiration, and moments of gratitude. Today I simply marveled at our way of welcoming the new guy, and profoundly gave thanks that I have never had to teach the most uncomfortable lesson in the book to a crowd of mixed gender twenty-something year olds of whom I know maybe a handful.

And for the record, once he stopped staring at the bishop in horror, Mike did an excellent job.

Friday, May 20, 2011

New Methods of Feeling Fabulous

When Prince William and Kate Middleton announced their engagement, I like everyone else, glanced over the articles and promotional photos in the grocery store checkout. When Janine brought home MacLean's commemorative issue, I poured over it. Studying the pictures, the stories and the wedding plans, there was one thing that Kate Middleton had that I really wanted.

Her hat. Every time I saw those photos of William and Kate walking along in that blue dress, I looked at that hat and sighed with envy. Man I wish I had a hat like that. It would define my wardrobe.

In contemplation of our future monarch's coming nuptuals, my friend Leah and I decided we needed to celebrate. We determined the best way to do this would be to PVR the wedding so we didn't have to have our party at three in the morning, invite all our girlfriends over, drink tea, and eat cucumber sandwiches. Dressing up was mandatory. Hats were recommended.

My dad of course told me it was a silly purchase, but I saw this as a perfect excuse to make one of my silly dreams come true. I remembered a store I'd visited in Edmonton called Head Case. It sells practical hats like toques, berets and cowboy hats, as well as an array of classy society hats. I have been eyeing those hats for years wishing I could justify buying one, but I could never think of anywhere to wear it. Leah's tea party gave be a perfect excuse.

On a recent day trip to Edmonton, I stopped by Head Case with my sister Katey. It didn't take us long to find it. It was exactly what I wanted. I hadn't got far out of the store before I started to doubt my purchase. Had I just spent money on something I only had an excuse to wear once? Was this going to be one of those purchases I regretted making because it took up space in my closet and moved with me from home to home until I started to hate it and threw it out? Suddenly I felt incredibly silly.

It's on shopping trips like this that you need a sister or friend along to keep you in the right frame of mind. Katey asked me three questions:

1. Did I love it?
2. Did it make me feel pretty?
3. Had I made any indulgent purchases recently?

If my answers were yes, yes and no, I had nothing to worry about. By the time I was showing off my hat to my mom, I felt great again. Surely I could think of places to wear it other than Leah's tea party. I just had to have the confidence to pull it off.

The tea party was fantastic. Leah went all out, watching the wedding was fun, and I looked fabulous in my hat. The next day at church, we were all talking about how fun it had been and how much we had loved the excuse to wear a fabulous hat. We all agreed it was a shame people never wear hats in our society. Wanting to rectify the situation, we came to an agreement; the next time our ward had a lunch after church, we would all wear hats.

That day in sacrament meeting, our bishop announced the next Linger Longer would be the following week. We spread the word and gathered all the hats we had. The next Sunday, half the Foothills Relief Society was wearing hats. Most of us were too excited to wear them to wait till after our meetings. After some debate, we determined the correct etiquette allowed women to wear hats in church, and seeing our bishop had no objections, we wore them all through our meetings; sitting in the back row so we didn't block anyone's view. Did we get startled looks? Yes. Did the people in the other ward wonder aloud what was with the hats every time we passed them? Yes. Did everyone eventually smile and tell us we had some great hats? Absolutely.

We ran around all Sunday feeling fabulous in our hats. Every Linger Longer Sunday has now been declared Hat Sunday. The Foothills Relief Society is bringing hats back in style!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Hair Room

My house was built by a man who has difficulty growing facial hair. I can tell this because there are no electical outlets in either of our bathrooms.

When I first moved in in December, I was made aware of the fact that I woul have to blow-dry, straighten, and curl my hair in my room. This can be nuisance when you have limited outlets, shelf space of mirror space lining up with the other two, and I have all three. Doing your hair on your bed while consulting the mirror on the closet door across the room is a nuisance; especially when you are paranoid like me and always think that if you're not careful setting down your curling iron, you will set your sheets on fire.

When Janine moved out in February, we had no one to take her spot, and her room (the one next door to mine) was left empty. After about a week, I looked at my messy room and did not want to face digging my way through to an outlet so I could straighten my hair. Looking at the empty one next to me with an outlet in easy reach of the mirrored closet door, I figured why not, and set up camp with my flat iron inside. Because I am such a neat and tidy person, I decided to leave the flat iron there with hairspray, a brush, and several bobby pins for company. No one else was using the room right away, and if anyone came by to see the room, I would just move it quickly.

The situation was simply too convenient, and so, for the past few months, Janine's old room has been dubbed; the Hair Room - where it's only real function is a place to straighten, curl, and blow-dry.

I think I make use of extra space nicely. I mean how many people can boast that they once in their life had a room entirely devoted to doing their hair?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Lawyer Kate: There is No Nice Ring to It

I always like to make fun of stupid news. I really thought I had seen it all when Dickens' fictional orphan was exposed as being well fed; making a scandal out the line "Please sir, can I have some more?"

Then today happened.

I arrived at work to find the paper on the table in the back room. My coworker Delby and I like to do the crossword, but we don't like to pay for the paper, so our choices usually go to MetroNews and the Calgary Sun; which are both more of advertising catalogues than newspapers. Still, the Sun usually has a few updates on what is going on in the world. You can imagine my surprise then, when I say today's front page headline.

Apparently, there is a lawyer in Calgary who looks like Kate Middleton. A few people have stopped her on the street wondering if she really is our future queen. This also makes sense because if I was about to marry a prince in Westminster Abbey next week, I know I would be hanging out in Calgary.

According to the Sun, this lawyer's name is Kate, has long brown hair, and lives in a British-style house. That is where the similarities stop.

I am pretty sure I ranted about the non-newsiness of this for twenty minutes before I remembered it was just the Sun.

Then I came home and googled the story. Imagine my surprise when I found the same story reported by the Calgary Herald.

What I wonder the most is how this "story" even came to the attention of the media. Did Kate the Lawyer call the Herald and Sun and say "I look like Kate Middleton sort-of-not-really. You should abandon the federal election and other news do feature me." What the hay?

Seriously, we are in the middle of an election, the verdict was just given on the murder trial of two children, and yet the story we led with was a girl who looks like Kate Middleton but not really?

Oh Calgary.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

I Hope They Have These Brownies In Heaven

One night this week, my roommate Lou got home around 10:30; shortly after I arrived home and just as our other roommate Jessica was ending a date. Lou came home with a very important purchase; milk chocolate chips. Somehow through our conversation as we all summarized our days, the agreement was made that we would have to use them to make brownies right then and there.

I rushed to change out of work clothes and into pajamas covered with an apron, and when I returned, Lou had pulled out the brownie recipe she had just been bragging about. When I saw the title on the top of the index card, I did a double take.

Celestial Brownies?! Who names their brownies after heaven? I mean, always claim that salmon is the food of the gods, but really? Celestial Brownies? Just what was in this recipe?

Lou explained the story as we mixed together the ingredients. The brownies in the past had simply been called "Chocolate Chip Brownies," but then one day, she had been making them with a friend. This friend was just learning about our religion, and our take on heaven, or the Celestial Kingdom. When this friend first tasted these brownies she raved about them, describing them as a bit of heaven, and celestial-tasting. Naturally, a new, much more interesting name for these brownies was born.

With this guarantee, we concluded it was a very good idea to all stay up till midnight baking brownies even when we all had early mornings ahead of us. I love little roommate moments like this.

And to answer your question, yes; the brownies were very celestial-tasting. Here is the recipe, courtesy of Lou.

4 eggs
3 cups brown sugar
1 cup melted butter
2 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla

Combine ingredients and pour into a greased 9x13 pan. Sprinkle with milk chocolate chips. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes. These brownies are food of the gods!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Greatest Insult You Will Ever Hear

I hate swearing. Not only is it vulgar and rude, but it shows an alarming lack of creativity in vocabulary skills and insult slinging. Older books are always filled with much better insults.

Who didn't go around taking bites out of their thumb in people's faces after they read Romeo and Juliet in grade school? Who didn't want to burst out laughing when Caliban exclaimed, "You Banbury Cheese!" in The Tempest? Shakespeare is a master of insulting with style.

Right now, I'm in the middle of reading R.D. Blackmore's Lorna Doone. The story itself is engaging but sometimes when the narrator, John Ridd, goes into a two page explanation of his cows, I zone out. This pleasant line however brought me right back into the story when John is describing digging his sheep out of a snowdrift while his farmhands complain about the cold. I actually laughed out loud:

"Go, if you choose, all of you. I will work it out by myself, you pie-crusts!"

One day, I would dearly like to insult with this calibre. If only I had a flaky person in my life who needed calling out.

Any other brilliant insults out there?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Miracle Cure

A month ago, in the midst of Janine's wedding I got horrbily and disgustingly sick. I was at home and not sleeping. Instead I was coughing, aching, puking, croaking, and being all round completely miserable. This had been going on for a week when I was staying home on Friday and in the past five days, the luxury of being able to just curl up on the couch and get cozy had long since lost it's appeal.

Early that same morning, I had called my sister Katey to see if she had any remedies (her children, after all, had lovingly passed on the germs to me) and her best suggestion was to do something I enjoyed that was deliciously lazy, like watch all of Pride and Prejudice in one day. Normally that does sound like quite an appealing option; especially when one does not have to feel guilty about spending all day in front of the TV - but I was feeling too wretched to look Mr. Darcy in the eye and feel properly swept off my feet.

Lucky for me, living with roommates when you are sick has certain advantages. Number one: you have four people's movie collections to peruse when there is little else to do with your day, and consequently have less chance of getting bored.

I do not know what prompted the decision (my head was too fuzzy to really analyze) but I ended up watching The Day After Tomorrow. In terms of a quality movie, it is not one, but I strangely enjoyed myself, and here is why:

When you have the chills, feel disgusting, and haven't had a proper meal in days due to lack of appetite; when you are sleep deprived, can't get rest, and sound like a seven-foot man who has been smoking cigarettes since childhood, there are few things that make you feel better. You may have an entire basket full of rememdies, you may be chock full of vitmain C, and have taken dozens of hot baths, but mentally and emotionally, you are not well. You are sick of being sick, and do not see a light at the end of the tunnel. Are you ever going to feel well again?

When you are watching New York be flooded up past Lady Liberty's neck, and everyone is freezing and fighting for survival, plus Western civilization has been lost, suddenly, your lot doesn't seem as bad. The idea in front of you is the definition of hokey, but watching the world end in a dramatic fashion reminds one that this too shall pass.

I have now found my new go-to genre for when I am sick. Disaster movies are the only cure I need.

That, and vitamin C.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

We'll Do Whatever You Want to Do

When my dad plans a daddy daughter date, he is very thorough, and he has one philosophy he follows absolutely:

"Whatever you want to do."

On our last ski day together every run we went on was one I chose and he followed, I called the shots for picking lunch, stopping for dinner, and whether or not we would take the ski out. Whenever any decision came up, I chose, no matter how minor.

It should have come as no surprise then that when my Dad and I went to Los Angeles at the beginning of the month, I got to choose everything from the second I got off the plane. Did I want to be named on the rental car so I could drive around? Where did I want to go for dinner? It was only 8:30; what did I want to do right now?

Not only did Dad let me choose it all, he had compiled a very thorough list of all my options for the next day. He had details on many sights I could see, he had suggestions of places my sister and mom had shopped when they had been there, he showed me how to get around in case I just wanted to drive to the ocean and relax, he even had called my newly married cousin and asked if she knew of any YSA activities going on. All these options sounded appealing, and I was touched that he had given my entertainment so much thought, but I still wasn't entirely sure what I wanted to do.

The next morning, Dad woke me up with a smug grin on his face. He had found the answer. That afternoon, while he was at his course, I should go to an art gallery.

An art gallery! Why didn't we begin with that? Why hadn't I just looked up "art museums in L.A." when I was planning this trip? That is the best place for me to find hours of amusement.

The museum Dad had discovered was the Getty Museum and Villa; two collections of art made available by the trust fund of J. Paul Getty. After researching their website, I decided to go to the villa in the afternoon as they are only open till five, and suggested Dad and I swing by the museum that evening.

It was the best part of my trip. The Getty Villa is a replica of a villa from ancient Greece filled with Greek, Roman and Etruscan sculptures, mosaics, and pottery. Not to mention the beautiful gardens, balconies and amphitheatre surrounding it. I spent a blissful afternoon lost in Ancient Greek mythology until I looked at the time and saw I was already late to pick up Dad.

That evening, we went out for fish and chips and had two things on our agenda; visit cousins and maybe stop by the Getty Museum. It was already getting to be on the late side, and I was having second thoughts about visiting the gallery. Had I not soaked up enough culture for the day? Would we even get there in time to enjoy anything? Wouldn't it be better to visit our family? I hadn't looked into many of the details of the museum online, was there really anything worth the trip? While I was hmming and hawing, Dad; the same dad who lets me choose anything and everything - made a final decision:

"You need to see the Getty, Elena."

Dad had never been there himself, but knowing me better than I know myself, he made a decision. We got to the Getty with a little over an hour to enjoy it. As soon as I saw the signs explaining the exhibits, I knew I had made the right decision.

"Rembandt, Turner, Monet?! Pisarro and Van Gogh?!?!? Oh why hadn't we come here the second my plane landed and just camped out on the patio?

Sadly we never made it to visit the Puentes and Ferreros. Instead, we ran from building to building and soaked up every work of art we could. Hitting the exhibits we cared about the most, we enjoyed lots of my favourite artists. It was like being a little kid at Christmas. I think I actually giggled with excitement more than once. This artwork actually gave me goosebumps:

Dad is a great person to go to museums with. Not only is he happy to spend hours staring at paintings, he does the come-look-at-this!-isn't-it'awesome as much as me. We stayed until the museum staff kicked us out, promising to return again sometime to spend a full day in the Getty. Or a weekend.

Needless to say, I am so glad Dad insisted we go. Thanks, Daddy.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

How Single Girls Really Spend Their Saturday Nights

Last week, I logged on to Facebook to find an event invite from my good friend Leah. The gathering had been titled, "The Imaginary Event." What exactly we were supposed to do at a party that only existed in our minds I don't know, but through discussion, those attending agreed that there was something we had to do at an imaginary party:
Build a fort.

As soon as this idea was presented, I started counting down to Saturday. As a kid, Neen, Peter and I spent an extraordinary amount of time building forts and camping out in our basement; each fort getting more elaborate as we honed our skills. When we built one with a tunnel entrance, entertainment centre and two stories, we knew there was no where to go but down, and so we retired from our fort building days. That was about ten years ago.

The fort builders were myself, Leah, Colleen, and Lindsay. We set up camp in Leah's living room with bedsheets, rearranged furniture, and whatever else we could find to keep our masterpiece together. We then spent the evening eating Indian takeout, and watching Bollywood (singing/dancing along included).

We discovered that hair clips are the best way to hold a fort together.
Who needs fancy rope and poles when you have a baseball cap and a banister?

We're already making plans for the next fort.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Trip to the Dentist in Sun n' Surf Land

This past weekend, I whimsically traipsed off to California to visit the dentist. And when I say whimsically I mean my dad called me a few days before and told me he'd bought me a ticket as there was an orthodontic specialist he wanted to see while he was at a course down there. Luckily, this idea had been tossed around before so I had an up-to-date passport and time booked off work, so this last minute trip could happen.

California has never been very high on my list of places I wanted to go. In fact, I always thought that I could never go there and be perfectly happy, but then I went to California. Now I see what all the fuss is about.

It's beautiful! Saturday while Dad was at his course, I had the chance to drive around a bit. After -30 temperatures in Calgary, it was heaven to drive with the windows rolled down, and step outside without a jacket. Plus seeing how green everything is, and driving down the winding roads through "mountains" just a few seconds off the freeway was incredible. As I looked around I wondered to myself over and over why I live in Alberta. Here are some highlights of the trip:

-Seeing the Los Angeles temple.
-Eating fish and chips right by the ocean at Neptune's Net. Nothing tastes better than fish that was swimming just that morning.
-Finding my way around in the rental car, getting lost, and driving along the ocean.
-Fresh waffles for breakfast with chocolate chips. This is something that can only be eaten on holiday.
-Going for blood orange frozen yogurt at Pinkberry. FYI - we are going there in New York.
-Going to the Getty Museum and Villa. Typically me, when I am in California for 36 hours I spend most of my time in art galleries. But more on that later.
-Seeing palm trees. I don't know why, but they always thrill me. And I am reminded of little Peter grabbing every coconut he could find on the ground in Florida, even when he had to get out of the car in the middle of traffic to do so.
-Driving down Decker Canyon Road. The sign at the turn off says, "Not recommended for Cars with Trailers," as it is like driving on a roller coaster track.
- Laughing at some of the Pleasantville-esque neighbourhoods near Thousand Oak, like Westlake. I do not understand the point of paying millions of dollars to live on a man made lake and then putter around said lake in a boat no faster than a paddle boat to visit your neighbours.
- The dental appointment. Unbeknownst to me, my appointment was not only with Dr. Hang, but with every dentist at the course as I was part of the lesson. Let me tell you, you have not lived until you have twenty dentists examining your teeth at once. Especially when one is holding a video camera over your mouth.
-Mostly hanging out with Daddy. He put so much effort into thinking of what I could do while he was in his course, was happy to look at art as long as I was, and the whole time we got to hang out together, let me choose whatever I wanted to do. Thanks, Dad.

I was sad to leave, but when our plane landed I looked out the window at the snow covered fields and just thought to myself; "Oh yeah. That's why I live in Alberta."

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

There's No Place Like Home . . . Except Grandma's

While staying at my grandparents for Janine's wedding, Grandma showed me the following:

Grandpa found this while cleaning out a closet. Apparently they've held onto these rules made by Grandma for all these years. I find it especially interesting considering the "little guy" mentioned in Rule #2 is my almost 18-year-old, 6'3" brother. All the same, this note makes me feel nostalgic. It reminds me of many good memories running around Grandma's yard, playing with the "horse" Old Paint (a wooden barrel), climbing up that swinging rope ladder with surprising agility, and then racing into the playhouse Corabell Cottage for Teddy Grams.

These rules she gave us seem like great rules for a Grandma's house, and for life in general. Number 1: Have fun, and last of all; Remember you are loved.

Grandmas really do know everything.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Unexpected Happiness

On the eve of my sister's wedding, we went out for Chinese food. This broke with tradition in that usually we spend the eve of Redd weddings at the local 50s pizza diner, but sufficed because it was a place for the family of the bride to congregate before the big day and eat more then we wanted. Naturally with our dinner we were given fortune cookies, which though disgusting in terms of taste, provide amusement when reading the mass produced predictions inside. This Friday, my cookie told me the following about my future:

"Traveling to the south will bring you unexpected happiness."

Normally I do not take stock in what the fortune cookie company has to tell me, but this is the second time that I have gotten this fortune. The first time was at my ward Christmas party, and my friends there could think of all sorts of ways I could fulfill this fortune. The second time round, my family had just as many good ideas.

So, I am going to take a vote. To find my unexpected happiness, I have the following interpretations of traveling south. Tell me which one is the most likely to bring me joy and how it will do so, and I will let you know how it goes.

1. Ward hop to Fish Creek Park Ward in the Calgary South Stake

2. Move to Provo, Utah

3. Take a spontaneous holiday to somewhere south such as Mexico, Italy (where I am actually going), or the Caribbean.

If you have any other interpretations of how my fortune can be fulfilled, I would be happy to hear those too.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Shower Juice

This week I have been stressed out, cranky and egging on my countdown till July when I can:

a) graduate;

b) not have to work at my job anymore;

c) start living in the real world (fingers crossed); and

d) go to Italy!

This process has been going on for months, and sometimes it goes much slower than I want. Sometimes I simply cannot bear another day of class and counselling stubborn dieters. A few of those days happened all in a row this week.

Why is this an interesting thing to blog about? Because it got better! Like most of the time in life, the ugly was made better by a small bit of pretty.

Last night after work, I went to Janine's second bridal shower, hosted by the mother of one of my best friends; Chloe. Sis. Evans is famous (or infamous) for her bridal showers; this is the third one she has thrown for a Redd girl - plus many others. While all these occassions blur together in my memory, all of them have a certain element that is distinguishably Cheryl Evans.

The Shower Juice.

This is seriously the best beverage I have ever had. It is a fizzy fruit juice with so many berries and fruit in it you have to drink it with a spoon. Bananas, blackberries, pineapple and blueberries all in one cup; what more could you want?

My not-so-spectacular week was made better last night when Sis. Evans announced that she would throw away any leftovers, so everyone had to take home a box of leftovers. After foisting a box of quiche, cake and fruit upon me, Sis. Evans gave me a very special present.

My very own bottle of shower juice. I will have to ration it accordingly.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Divine Voicemails

Do you ever zone out while waiting for someone to answer the phone and then forget who you're calling when they answer? I do all the time.

A big part of my job is to call my clients when they've taken an extended absence and figure out how they're doing and how many cheats they've made that have caused them to avoid me. Basically this means I spend a portion of everyday talking to people's voicemails.

It's happened several times that when I connect with this voicemail, or the rare live person that I start talking and can't remember who I'm calling, so I have to glance down at the file and remind myself who I am talking to.

With zoning out I have also completely forgotten what kind of call I'm making. A few years ago, when I was a receptionist, I called a girl from church and got in touch with her voicemail. My message went something like this:

"Hey Tera, this is Elena from Dr. Redd's office calling . . . oh no wait, I am not at work. Tera this is Elena, your visiting teacher. Give me a call when you get this."

Kinda embarassing, but yesterday out-awkwards that message by a long shot. While making calls and talking to a plethora of voicemails, things can get pretty routine. While making yet another call, I got my client's voicemail. We will call her Betsy. Betsy's voicemail has one of those long messages that makes you wonder if you will ever get to leave a message, and having already had an exhausting and stressful morning, I completely lost track of where I was and what I was doing. When the beep sounded, I started to pray into Betsy's answering machine.

"Dear Heavenly Father, We thank th. . ."

I caught myself before I went much further. What was I doing? Was I that close to leaving a prayer on Betsy's machine? What do I do now? Dang, it, I was still recording. Taking the only rational course of action, I hung up, waited an hour, left her a real voicemail, and hoped Betsy didn't see her diet counselor and the person who misdialed her looking for God were not calling from the same number.

Has anyone else ever had such a disastrous phone message?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Bachelorettes for Married Women

Janine is getting married in just under three weeks. She has two people who have graciously offered to host her bridal showers, and does not see the point of making her close friends wear matching dresses for the sake of standing in the same photo, so I have very little to do. Wanting to do something anyway, I offered to host Neen's bachelorette party.

From the very beginning, we knew this was going to be the most unbachelorette-ish stagette this world has ever seen. We are non drinkers, non wild party people; our idea of a wild time is to drink Coke Zero. This became even more apparent when we reviewed the guest list.

Janine and I decided that it would be best to have the party this past weekend, when one of our sisters was planning on being in town. The other guests were decided to be another sister who lives in Calgary, and Janine's best friend Aurora. Incidentally, both Katey and Emily are married with three kids, and have newborn little boys. Aurora celebrated her one year wedding anniversary last August. The only truly single woman at this staggette was yours truly.

Furthermore, Emily needed to stay at home with her boys as her husband had a work function, so any plans to go out were kaiboshed. We decided to relocate the party to Emy's home on the other side of the city so all could still be present.

After spending most of Saturday at a funeral, our family was exhausted. Katey and I returned to our parents home ready to go to bed at 4:30, and we still had this party to sort out. In efforts to keep things simple we opted to order pizza and have it delivered to Emily's, bring salad ingredients and Martinelli's, and play games.

Problem #1: Where should we order pizza from that is on the other side of the city? Dad suggests a place that sounds delicious which he says is near Emy's house.

Problem #2: The pizza place has no delivery man tonight. I am guessing this has something to do with the snow and bitter cold. Not to be thwarted, I place an order for pickup and tell Katey we will pick it up on the way there. We have been assured the location is on our way.

Problem #3: After navigating ourselves a half hour out of our way on snowy roads in bad traffic, we arrive at out pizza place to discover that they only make individual size pizzas. If only someone had told me before, I would have ordered more than two for five people. The traffic the rest of the way to Emily's has Katey and I declaring that our two dinky pizzas better be made of gold for all the trouble they've caused.

Solution: We call Emily on our way over to inform her of the dilemma. She runs out to get more dinner and bakes the leftover chicken wings and tostitos in her freezer to top it off. Not my shining moment for hostessing to be sure, but the night was so mellow, it didn't even matter.

The remainder of the evening was uneventful. We visited, played with the little boys and played Apples to Apples where our winning adjectives shaped our characters to be reminiscient of a redneck, low level thug, high school cheerleader, character from a Dickens novel, and a mouldy teddy bear. We called it a night at quarter to 11.

It was by no means a stagette, but it was a gathering to celebrate the coming marriage of our beloved Neenie. Not a wild night, but great memories nonetheless.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

On My Back Porch Looking . . . For a Place to Stay Cold

You know you live in Canada when . . .

You use your back porch as a deep freeze.

The past week Calgary has been bouncing from a lovely -23 all the way up to a balmy -16 with windchill. This has made life fun whilst driving to Cochrane on a snowy, windy night and catching the train at 7:30 every morning. The adventure that takes the cake this cold spell however, happened at home.

Tuesday afternoon I went grocery shopping. Among my groceries was a box of chicken to stick in the freezer. When I got home and realized that there was positively no room in our fridge freezer for said chicken, I found myself in a pickle. Our deep freeze is in the garage that is kept very secure with a padlocked door. One roommate parks in this garage, so naturally when her garage door opener broke she took the key for this door and kept it in her car for a while. When her opener was fixed, she repeatedly forgot to bring in the key. When I was unpacking my groceries, she was at work.

For the first time since the snow began to fall, I was genuinely thankful for this temperature. Any other time of year I'd be running the risk of wasting 2 kg of chicken. That day, I plunked it down on my back porch and there it staid perfectly frozen until we were able to coordinate the return of the key yesterday.

Reason #54 to love winter.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Miracle of the Corn Starch

I love to bake and cook. For some reason I have never been able to fully explain, I have always been weirdly fascinated with watching as sugar, butter, flour and eggs can combine into something delicious.

One of my favourite parts of cooking is adding that one ingredient that makes the insignificant looking mixture transform and start to look like what it's supposed to be. Like when you cut the lard into the flour mixture and it starts to look like pie crust, or when the coconut milk gets mixed in with the paste and it actually starts to look like curry, or the cornstarch is added to the pudding and it starts to thicken and bubble.

In my writing life I have been working my way through my second draft; a project that has been in the works for over a year. My story has improved dramatically from the first time I finished it in April 2009, and I have learned a lot since then. Characters have been added, protagonists have improved, I've changed from first-person to third-person omniscient and the story has received much more substance.

Yet, try as I might, I hadn't gotten it to that point yet. It wasn't what it was supposed to be; it was still just eggs and sugar. In fact, it had been stuck in the confusing not-sure-what-this-even-is stage for what felt like an eternity.

The week before Christmas I had an unexpected afternoon off. As Janine was done exams she was home as well, and we visited while she wrapped presents. As often happens when we hang out by ourselves, I started talking about my book.

My concern was this whole lack of key ingredients. I was proud of what I had, it was well written, but it was just fluff. I couldn't think of why anyone who was not related to me would care about my story, and I couldn't think if how to make it compelling.

My sore spot that day was one scene that didn't make sense. As I went over what I was considering changing with it, Neen gave a few suggestions to shape all my ideas into one good one. When writing notes, I was astonished that this solution solved several other small problems I had noticed. From there we came up with more ideas as to how this new and improved scene would tie into everything else, and from there it was like connecting the dots. No sooner had I fixed one scene than I came up with the way to solve the plot.

I had my corn starch! The plot thickened and actually became pudding rather than sugary milk with lemon zest. I started writing, spent my Christmas break plotting, and can't wait to get into my third draft.

I'm amazed now this idea didn't occur to me before; it seems so obvious, but I suppose that is just another way good ideas are like corn starch. Without it things can be tasty but never what you want. Then you add that little white powder and suddenly everything falls into place and you wonder how you ever missed it in the first place.

Can not wait to do my writing today.

NOTE: I understand this blog or any blog about my writing would make much more sense if you knew about the story in question. For those who are wondering, know I do not talk about the contents of my book here for intellectual property purposes.