Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Gingerbread People

I love gingerbread at Christmastime. All year I look forward to making it and nurse secret fantasies of perfecting my dough recipe in, say, April, so that I can stash away balls of gingerbread dough in the freezer all year and have a ready supply come December. Of course, this never happens. When I want gingerbread, I have to start from scratch, and there is always that irritating line in the recipe: ‘chill overnight’. I always forget about that and then have to deal with disappointed Zoe who wants to make the gingerbread NOW.

Anyway. I am pleased to announce that I made some delicious (if I may say so myself) Gingerbread and would love to share the recipe with you.

4 cups all purpose flour –maybe more if your dough is too sticky.

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1tbsp cinnamon

1 1/2 tbsp ginger

1/2 tsp ground cloves (don’t get this one wrong or your mouth will go nice and numb)

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

12 tablespoons unsalted butter (or salted is fine too. This whole thing with unsalted butter – Whatever!) softened slightly and cut into chunks.

3/4 cup of unsulphered molasses (otherwise known as Fancy)

2 tbsp milk



Oven at 350.

Mix the flour, spices, salt, sugar and baking soda together. Add the butter and do that combining thing where you end up with a mix of dry ingredients and butter that looks like lumpy sand.

Then add the molasses and go crazy on that puppy until it’s all mixed up. Add the milk. At this point, you will have a gloppy mess and will question your own ability to count cups of flour. Just add some more. Dump in a cup and see if things improve. You can do it! I trust you! Not like my grade 6 Home Ec teacher. What was her name? She taught at North Saanich Middle School and was about 300 years old then so she is possibly no longer with us. Damn I can’t remember her name. Anyone?? She really had a huge amount of faith in our abilities and so challenged us by including in her curriculum such items as ‘Buttered Toast’ and ‘heating up Alphagetti’. The Alphagetti one was the best. I remember Dave Martins and someone else…(another Dave, I think) laughing so hard that letters were coming out of their nostrils. Mrs. Whatsit didn’t think it was that funny.

Once you have a nice dough going on, divide it in half and wrap that sucker up in saran wrap or wax paper and stick it in the freezer. Or you could roll it out, sandwich it in wax paper and freeze it that way but who has time to do that.

It is now probably close to 11pm so that gives you plenty of time to finish the laundry, clean the kitchen, make lunches, sweep the floor, write the 3rd proof of your graduate dissertation, carve a reindeer out of soapstone, and retrieve abandoned food items from around the house while your husband surfs the internet looking for an obscure accessory for his latest gadget. (Oh, I’m kidding. That NEVER happens) before going to bed.

After you have had breakfast, take out the dough  and let it thaw. You will probably forget about it for awhile. That’s Ok. When you finally remember the dough at 7pm, roll it out to about 3/4 inch think. This dough flattens slightly when you bake it so don’t roll it too thin. It will look like this:


The flour makes it look authentic, no?

Then go crazy with your cookie cutters, like we did.DSC05486



LOVE the pudgy hands :) And for all of you smart-asses out there who are right now thinking of a funny comment about how Zoe’s hands  don’t look any different than Jane’s hands, thanks very much, but I’m pretty sure I have heard all the ‘small hands’ jokes out there already.

When you are done cutting out shapes, transfer them to a non-stick baking sheet. If your baking sheet is so old that the term non-stick no longer applies, then grease it up and dust with flour and that should do the trick. Or you can use that new-fangled parchment paper but I’m afraid I’m old-skool and don't really know what that is.

Keep rolling out the scraps and cutting out shapes until it’s all used up.

Then stick them in the oven for like 15 minutes TOPS. Go read your kid a book. When you can poke their little tummies and they just spring back a little, they are done (the gingerbread people, not your kids). Take ‘em out, let them sit for a minute or so, then put them on a rack to cool.

DSC05489 DSC05488

Then eat them. Or store them in a cookie tin like I did except mine was a bit too small or I tried to fit too many in the tin and all their limbs broke off. I can now offer my guests a gingerbread head or a gingerbread leg, and my favourite, a gingerbread torso. Oh it all tastes the same in the end.


Thanks for reading,



Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Shortbread Stars

Those of you who know me will know that I don’t really like to spend more time in the kitchen than is necessary. I’m not one of these model mothers who bakes everything from scratch. Well OK that is not entirely true; I am a model mother. No, just kidding, I meant I  do like to bake from scratch, I just don’t bake very often. You won’t find me whipping up a batch of muffins Sunday morning or turning out pie crusts and fresh bread every other day. Note to mothers who do this: could you please stop, you are making the rest of us look bad.


So when I do decide to make something, it’s usually a big ordeal. Like yesterday for example when I thought I better do some Christmas Baking because that’s what you do at this time of year. Fortunately, I do have one or two good recipes up my sleeve and I figure once every 12 months is a good time to dust them off. Plus it makes me look good in front of my kids.

“We’re making shortbread” I declared to no one in particular. “And maybe Gingerbread if you’re good”. Family members appeared out of the woodwork and we got down to business.

Shortbread is intimidating if your husband’s family has Scottish grandmothers who baked-the-best-ever-and-so-don’t-even-bother-because-yours-will-never-be-worthy Shortbread. I went through a few recipes before landing on the one on the back of the Canada Cornstarch box. This one is a winner, according to the various grandmothers and husbands who taste-tested it. I tweaked it a bit this year and it’s even better: up the butter to one cup and then double the whole recipe because if you’re like me then you’re going to want to make them a little thicker and this way you can roll them out and cut them into fun shapes.

  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup softened salted butter. Do not even consider using margarine. If you do, I cannot be held responsible for the bad luck that will befall you.


Sift together the cornstarch, icing (powdered) sugar and flour. Or not. Whatever. Just mix it together already! Who has time to sift anything anyway.

Cut the butter into chunks and work it through the flour mixture with your fingertips until it looks like a flour mixture with bits of lumpy butter in it. Then you can start squeezing it into a soft smooth dough. Don’t overdo it. Or better yet let your kid do this part. Their pudgy little hands look so cute…


Throw down some flour and then roll out your dough with a rolling pin. Don’t roll it any thinner than 3/4 of an inch. Seriously! It’s better this way. Cut out whatever shapes you want.



Place 1 1/2" apart on a cookie sheet.


Bake 300' for 15-18 minutes at which point you will open the oven door and declare that they can’t possibly be done yet. They are. Take them out now! Leave them to cool for a bit and then carefully transfer them to a wire rack to cool. After 30 seconds, you will forget about letting them cool for any longer and will want to eat one. Go ahead! 


That’s what I’m talking about. It’s all about the comfort, people. All about the comfort.
Stay tuned for my favourite gingerbread recipe coming soon.

Thanks for reading and happy baking:)



Wednesday, November 18, 2009

What? You’ve never had S’mores before?

I’m sitting in a folding chair outside at Goldstream Park. The smell of dead salmon wafts past me mingled with the ash and smoke from the fire, which is struggling a bit in this damp weather (the fire, not the dead salmon). It’s not exactly raining…well…OK, it’s raining. But just lightly. The cedar trees tower over me and I can just make out the top of Mt. Finlayson above me through the swirling mist. It looks wet up there and I can see rock faces slick with water. Across the fire pit my daughter Zoe is enjoying a marshmallow as only an 8yr old can. She is simultaneously licking it and melding her soul to it and clearly enjoying every second of it. A stainless steel cup of water sits on the fire grate ready for the licorice fern root that Jacob is peeling.

I have been dragging my kids to Goldstream Park every November since they were little. At first we would stand and stare at the salmon as they limped upstream like so many zombies with bits falling off them and huge chunks of flesh missing. In the last few years, the fish have only drawn minimal interest from the kids. I mean, really, how many half-dead salmon can you look at before they all start to look the same. And they have each been on a bazillion field trips led by well-meaning teachers who, if they had checked with last-year’s teacher would have learned that the kids had been there done that. And the year before as well. But whatever. When we go, it’s not about science as much as it is about sitting around a fire, defying mother nature, and eating huge quantities of marshmallows, hot dogs, and most importantly, as many s’mores as possible. Salad & fruit is replaced with Graham crackers and chocolate, milk with hot chocolate, and the only vegetable in sight is ketchup. It’s all good.

We usually undertake this venture by ourselves but this year we invited some friends along. We got through the hot-dog/hot chocolate/roasting marshmallows part without incident, except for a moment when our Bulgarian friend, Jivko, decided the fire needed some attention and proceeded to fan it with great gusto, scattering ash, embers and smoke everywhere. Good thing it was raining or he would have started a forest fire.

Note how the chairs empty as the fanning increases…

 DSC05384 DSC05385DSC05386

That’s Heather on the left, barely visible through through the swirling ash and smoke, and Jiv on the rightDSC05391

After a few minutes of staring at the fire while the various children dusted themselves off and roasted marshmallows, and Chewbacca the dog tried unsuccessfully to navigate his way through chairs and legs without getting completely wound up, I declared it was time for s’mores. “What is this s’mores?” said the Bulgarian. “You know, s’mores…marshmallows, graham crackers, chocolate…Like as in ‘God that’s delicious I want s’more'…?” I said. Heather and I tried in vain to explain them. I was floored. This was a crime! At this rate he was probably also about to tell me that he had never heard of toques, Neil Young, or Anne of Green Gables. And he couldn’t play the immigrant card either as he has been in Canada for 20yrs.

He still gave me a look like I had three heads and said something to the effect of “No and I don’t know what you are talking about.”  Apparently they don’t do s’mores in Bulgaria. Whatever. I was going to start into a big explanation but I decided instead that a demonstration was in order. For those of you who are also unfamiliar with this most excellent of North American traditions, here’s how it works:

Start with a fire


Then lay down your first graham cracker


Stick a marshmallow on that baby


Add some chocolate and another graham cracker and slap the whole thing on the fire and let it melt…

And may I just say here that you must not be stingy with the chocolate. Mothers and fathers everywhere, just chill out and turn a blind eye when your kids stick a huge chunk of chocolate on that bad-boy. It’s all part of it. If you don’t use enough chocolate, your s’mores will appear neat and orderly. This is wrong. s’mores, by nature, are messy and must get all over your face or they don’t taste as good.



Yes! That’s what I’m talking about!

At this point further discussion was rendered impossible as our mouths were full of chocolate, marshmallow etc. There was a line up for the s’mores maker but fortunately the kids kept themselves occupied roasting the perfect marshmallow while they waited their turn. At the store, I had wondered that perhaps 800 marshmallows was going to be too many but it turned out to barely be enough. The girls did themselves proud, and the parents were pretty good too:




Nicely browned.



Good work.


The author, with her masterpiece. Well, part of it anyway.

And, in the one and only time when s’mores are ever like half-dead salmon, there comes a time when you have had enough. We packed everything up and, in the semi-darkness, made our way to our cars. The fire was still burning cheerfully as we left and I felt kinda sad leaving it, thinking of all the yummy things we could be cooking over its coals. Actually, I had that thought for about 4 seconds before realizing that I had consumed more calories than a small army and would not need to eat again. Ever. Zoe confirmed this thought in the car by declaring the bag of marshmallows ‘gross’ and that she couldn’t even look at it. Strangely enough, she was back into them the next day. She actually asked if she could have one in her lunch. I think she was confused by my campfire enthusiasm that one minute flared up and told her she could and should eat as many marshmallows and as much chocolate as possible, and the next, had died down and was admonishing her for even thinking about them. Oh well. Sorry! Can’t be the model mother all the time. And if you’re inconsistent from time to time then it just helps them all the more to appreciate you when you are consistent. Or something. Whatever. Anyway.

So if you, like my friend Jiv, have been in Canada for 20 yrs and never had s’mores before, there’s still time. I would be happy to come along and demonstrate for you. And Jiv will probably want to come, too, if this last picture is any indication….

Yes, they were that good.


Thanks for reading!



Thursday, November 12, 2009

Coffee Virgin, Tea Lover


I am, it must be said, addicted to tea. I am either making it, drinking it, or looking longingly into an empty cup and I probably  drink far too much of it throughout the day.

I have never been a successful coffee drinker, although I always wanted to be. I would watch enviously as my friends and roommates morphed from half-dead zombies to perky, chipper playmates after their morning coffee. Sucking back another cup of tea, I would wait impatiently for a kick of energy, but it never had the same effect. This was likely due to the fact that I brewed tea much like my mother which consisted of holding a tea bag in a cup of warm water for 2 seconds and then adding a cup of milk and no sugar. The warm milk would override any boost provided by the miniscule amount of caffeine and effectively send me back to sleep.

I was a coffee virgin until a trip to Guatemala when I was 19 and had my first coffee experience. I was staying with a lovely couple, Anna-Maria and Marco, in the suburbs of Guatemala City. They had a tiny house with a huge coffee plant in the front courtyard. On my first morning I stumbled bleary-eyed into the kitchen. Anna-Maria took one look at me and pressed a warm mug of something dark and divine-smelling into my hands. I took a sip, then another, thinking this smells like…like…coffee! I drank the whole thing and then another. I wanted more. It was the warm glow that spread through me, I think, that did it… I had many a delicious cup of Guatemalan coffee while I was there and I pretty much convinced myself that I had become a coffee drinker. “God I need a coffee'” I would say in the morning, pretending to be more tired than I actually was just so I could impress my friends with my new adult behaviour.

I carried on like this until I returned to Canada. One day shortly after I got home, I found myself in the presence of a couple of hardened coffee drinkers. They were CUPE union officials and these guys could drink. Wielding paper cups of drip coffee, they deftly gesticulated this point and that argument without spilling a drop. We were in a coffee shop ‘celebrating’ my win at an arbitration session over a job when they ordered me a coffee. I sat there smugly waiting, recalling how the old Jane would have asked for tea, like a wimp, but this new Jane would have no issue with coffee. Now, in Guatemala, you can practically watch as they pick the beans under your nose, roast them, grind them and then brew it up for you. In Canada, they do not do this. I am not sure exactly what they do, but somewhere along the way, they have added the ‘remove coffee flavour’ step and also the ‘add ground up burnt shoes’ step, the ‘add greasy oil slick from side of highway after a rainstorm’ step, and the ‘add extra caffeine’ step. The cup of coffee I had that day was so vile, so far removed from the delicious cups of divine I had so enjoyed in Guatemala, I could hardly understand it.

I suffered through the cup, barely able to choke it down, said a hasty good-bye and went home. Over the next few hours, a storm brewed in my system. At first I just felt a little more hyper than usual. Then I started to get the shakes. Then I became anxious and started worrying about silly things like what had I done in grade 7 that so upset Lori Birdsall and why had I worn those stupid boots to school in grade 5 and had it been me who had left the chicken coop door open at my friend Jennifer’s house in grade 4 the night all her chickens got out. That sort of thing. Pretty soon I was outside and climbing up a rocky outcropping just outside our house. Kent found me there shaking and rocking back and forth declaring that my death was imminent. Shortly thereafter I threw-up. I don’t really remember much after that. The next day I felt like I had been hit by something really big, like a ferry.

Suffice to say, I could no longer enjoy a cup of coffee.  I do still feel a slight tug of envy when someone shows up at work with coffee for everyone. They hand them out with an air of intimacy usually found only between lovers “Billy, here’s your super-fat non-skinny tripple-dipple latte with a shot of curry powder and a side-sprig of asparagus. I also remembered you like a sprinkle of burnt shoe and I brought you some extra sugar with that”. Wink Wink. Bill will give Debbie a look of sheer love like she has just brought him kryptonite or something and say “Oh! Oh THANK YOU, Debbie. I’ll get yours tomorrow. What a DOLL you are.” When they get to me they shrug and apologetically say something like “I wasn’t sure what you….do you…ummm…do you even drink coffee?”.

Well, no, Debbie, I don’t. I gave it up after it mistreated me. I found a new lover. After the coffee fiasco, I went running back to tea. I learned how to brew it properly (good tea, boiling water, 5 minutes, cream, sugar, stir, ahhhhh) and now I can never go back. Within a few minutes of a nice cuppa, that  lovely warm glow works its way through my body and I’m feelin’ fine. Add someone I love opposite me at the table sharing the pot and it’s all good.

So all you coffee drinkers out there, I know it does it for you so stick with whatever works but if you ever get tired of burnt shoes, come see me; tea is one love I don’t mind sharing.


Thanks for reading



Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Do not ask me what is for dinner or I will be forced to kill you…

I’m standing in the kitchen, one hand on my hip, the other holding the cupboard door open. My eyes narrow as I stare at the same can of beets that has been there for 4 years. Not you again. Why is there always a can of beets in my cupboard? Look just to the left and you’ll find a can of pinto beans that have been there since 1962. They came with the house. And, yes, there is that same can of red kidney beans that has been there almost as long.  I hate kidney beans and their mealy blandness. Who cares if they have 468% of your daily riboflavin requirement or whatever it is. They just sound and look gross.  My tired brain conducts a pathetic search of my on-board recipe bank for possible dinner recipes comprised of beets, pinto and kidney beans, and fails. DSC05362

If someone had told me, and I mean really laid it out for me, that by becoming a parent, I would be responsible for thinking up, creating and serving three meals a day to three people other than myself, who would regularly complain about said meals, I suspect I would have rethought the whole commitment. Like, really, WTF? Meal preparation is one of those things about which new parents just do not have enough information. Forget marriage preparation, it should be ‘How to Feed Everyone but Yourself’ classes.

Up until the moment of committing to parenthood, food preparation is actually fun. You and your partner wander around a market at 2pm on a Saturday afternoon, laze the rest of the day away, then create a gustatory masterpiece at 9pm that night which you then enjoy, just the two of you, with no interruptions. This scene is so far removed from the reality of feeding young children that it’s almost cruel. We mothers dole out servings of cereal that yesterday were just fine but today provoke the kind of reaction usually observed bedside at a particularly bad hangover. We sigh as our children fling bowls of peas across the room. We bite our tongues when our young daughters declare that today’s menu items ‘don’t really taste that good’. ‘Oh is that right’ we want to say. ‘Is that a fact’. We hold back the rest of those evil thoughts and instead warm up the leftover Mac & Cheese from yesterday. My kids are Mac & Cheese junkies. Apparently that is the one thing I can make that they just sit down and eat without sighing first. Slaving away over west coast chicken with wild chanterelles, baby bogweed sautéed lightly with essence of blackened dandelion leaves, accompanied by a coulis of lettuce, rainwater and wild duck spleen, on a bed of rat’s ass pate with squid-ink and cucumber sauce just doesn’t seem to be worth the effort anymore.

Back to the cupboard, and nothing has changed. My eyes scan the second shelf: rice, taco shells, cereal, pasta. It reminds me of a friend of mine who, in university, would ask every night ‘what’s for pasta?’ We would laugh hysterically. I still do laugh hysterically but it has a slight maniacal edge to it now. Is it wrong, I ask myself, to serve pasta for dinner 9 nights in a row? If you change up the sauce, and shape of the pasta, will they be fooled into thinking it is something different than last night’s dinner?  Millions of Italians can’t be wrong…My eyes rest on a bag of linguine and I start making stuff up: linguine al fresco con beetinis et pinto et kidnini? Maybe not. I will not make Mac & Cheese again tonight I declare to no one in particular. The can of beets winks at me.

I back away from the cupboard and sink into a kitchen chair. My 13yr old comes into the room looking hungry. He has obviously grown again in the past 5 minutes and is probably wondering what’s for dinner. Do not ask me what’s for dinner or I will be forced to kill you I think to myself. He rests a hand on my shoulder and reaches into the cupboard for a handful of crackers. Silence. Then ‘Mum can we have Mac & Cheese for dinner?’

After dinner, plates eaten clean, I hear Zoe say to Jacob ‘I love macaroni cheese’ and I think, yes, so do I.


That’s what I’m talking about...


Thanks for reading



Saturday, November 7, 2009

Lemon Gin

I do feel sorry for first-borns. I’m one myself and I’m sure that I, too, was the subject of many parenting blunders unwittingly carried out by my mum and dad as they stumbled blindly through my adolescence. It’s only now that I’m a parent of a 13yr old that I understand precisely how little they did know, and exactly how challenging this whole parenting thing can be.

Take the teenage party, for example.

I was invited to a 15th birthday party for my friend ‘Heather’. My mum and I ran into Heather’s mum in the grocery store one day before the party. ‘Mrs. R’ gave her assurance that she would be home all night and my mum was not to worry. Little did we know that ‘home all night’ meant comatose on the couch with a joint in one hand and a beer in the other while Heather’s two older brothers and all their friends whooped it up. I’ll never forget walking through their house, stepping over puddles of spilled beer and around teenagers in varying states of inebriation, wondering where exactly Heather’s mum might be so I could let her know that a) someone had thrown a planter of geraniums in the pool and it looked like the fuchsia basket was next, and b) one of Heather’s brother’s friends had just vomited into her car through an open window, the unfortunate consequence of too much lemon gin consumed in too short a time period and now making a re-appearance.

I located Mrs. R. stretched out on the couch, eyes half-closed, silly grin on her face, a pipe smoking away in her hand, and a bottle of beer nestled in the crook of her arm. Our conversation went something like this:

Me: “Mrs. R? It looks like John has maybe thrown-up in your car…”

Mrs. R: (blissfully) “Hey everybody, Jane’s here! Everyone say ‘Hi’ to Jane!”

Me: “Ummmm Hi. Mrs. R. There’s a couple of your planters in the pool, too, but John appears to have…”

Mrs. R: (merrily) “Do you have something to drink? Hey, someone get Jane a drink!”

Me: “I’m good, thanks, but I thought you might want to know about John as it’s your car that…”

Mrs. R: (cheerfully) “I’d get you one myself but I’m into this couch and I’m not going anywhere!”

Me: “Ummm…your car…”

Mrs. R: “Hey! How’s your mother? Did she stay? Is she here?”

I didn’t stick around long enough to tell her that my mother would likely rather slide bamboo shoots under her own nails than attend this party.

Fortunately even we kids were sufficiently unimpressed with the evening’s events that we self-regulated and left the party on our own accord, one of us calling a parent and deftly suggesting that we would meet them at the bottom of the driveway as it was quite steep (so thoughtful!). We skipped out of there before Heather’s mum really scared us and started ripping the labels off the cans in her own cupboard in some kind of misguided act of solidarity with the teenagers hanging out in her kitchen.

I was quizzed the next day by my mum about how things had gone and why we were all home early. I said something about there being too many people there. Later I heard her on the phone to the mum of one of my friends who had an older brother. They were discussing all the kids in our neighbourhood and who could be trusted. I know now that she was squirreling this info away, just waiting for my younger brother’s long dark teenage years ahead.

I’m not sure I have a game plan for when Jacob starts attending parties. He’s been to a few already but nothing like the ones I used to attend. I’m sure I’ll blunder through it, just like my mum did, but hopefully armed with a bit more knowledge than she ever had. Like I’m pretty sure she didn’t know about lemon gin for example. I guess she couldn’t really have anticipated the state of Heather’s mum either. And that’s the bit that worries me. What don’t I know now? I might think I’ve got it all figured out but there are clearly going to be some info missing. I also know that today’s version of Lemon Gin is probably a whole lot more dangerous. (Although there was that warning on the label about possible blindness which we never actually knew about until later as we were too drunk to read it.) I just don’t want to learn this stuff the hard way. But I’m not sure there is another way.

So when Jacob is invited to a party and tells me that ‘their parents will totally be home’, I’ll probably drive right to the end of the driveway to drop him off and I may just head right on into the living room and see exactly what ‘at home’ means. And they don’t make Lemon Gin anymore, right?

Thanks for reading



Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Too Close to the Singularity

Sorry my postings are so sparse right now. I seem to have fallen into a black hole of time and am having trouble getting out. Things will settle down soon (right) and I will stop neglecting you...
In the meantime, as it getting close to Halloween, may I suggest you cuddle up with a good Zombie book or movie. My favourite Zombie movie is Shaun of the Dead ("this one's got an arm off!")and I also highly recommend Zombieland ("Any regrets? Well, probably Garfield"). If you prefer books, World War Z by Max Brooks is very informative. I also enjoyed Pride and Prejudice and Zombies; the illustrations are particularly good.
So catch up on your Zombie culture and trivia and I will be back shortly with my next blog which will may or may not have something to do with Zombies.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Slut Clown vs. Diamond Sparkle Princess Zombie

Today I had the pleasure of visiting Value Village in search of some important accessories for Zoe’s Diamond Sparkle Zombie Princess Halloween costume. This is the first year she has embraced the whole ‘Halloween is Scary’ thing. Until now, she has always been a ‘nice’ witch or a ‘happy’ bride or something benign like that. Those of you who know me will remember that I do have a bit of a fascination with zombies and so you will understand how excited I was to hear the addition of the word ‘zombie’ to ‘Diamond’, ‘Sparkle’, and ‘Princess’. In my world, Halloween is meant to be scary.  I like to see their eyes widen as they take a few steps backwards away from the severed arm I have strategically placed on the ground. Nothing wrong with that. Let’s face it, the rest of the year we’re falling all over ourselves trying to make things pretty and nice; we can mix it up a bit at Halloween.

I usually enjoy my visits to the VV Boutique, as I like to call it (if you say it with a French accent it is even better). I have been known to find a few excellent deals in my time and I’m proud to say that Zoe has acquired this important trait as well. A trip to Value Village is usually one of our favourite things to do together and we love to congratulate each other on our finds.

I’m sorry to say there was not much congratulating on our most recent visit which we spent looking for long white gloves for Zoë's costume. This was my second trip there in 5 days. Our first visit had yielded up the Diamond Sparkle Princess costume but we had to make a return trip as half the costume was missing. I guess we had been lucky on our first visit as the costume was on a rack located outside of the main costume area, and so we didn’t have to go into the fray, as it were. On our second visit, we were forced deep into the bowels of the Costume section. And what a nightmare it was.

I feel comfortable saying here that Value Village has pretty much ruined Halloween costume shopping for me. The costume area is laid out like a fire-trap first of all and you risk your life by going in there in the first place. There were several of us mums in there in various states of decay. You could tell who had been there the longest by the grey pallor of their skin and the zombie like yawns that distorted their faces. We dragged ourselves up and down the aisles, mouths hanging agape, arms outstretched as we wretchedly searched through the piles of cheaply-made accessories and costumes.

Now just a word about these lame-ass costumes, if I may. WTF? I remember when you could go to Value Village in search of a costume and actually find something cool. Employees had gone to the trouble of going through the racks of clothes for sale and had actually pulled out items that could be used for various costumes. You did have to use your IMAGINATION and work at it a bit but in the end you had something pretty good. Now you may as well leave your imagination in the car. You won’t need it and in fact you may do better without it as you take your pick from a bazillion pre-assembled, bagged costumes. And such selection! And such Class!


Value Village, where exactly are you going with some of these costumes? Since when did Halloween turn into a bad Burlesque show? Adults, you go crazy, but in my world it is not, I repeat NOT ok to sell a costume, for a young girl, that looks like it belongs in the back room of Monty’s (the costume, not the young girl). I can only assume that someone back at head office really took the time when he (or possibly, but unlikely, she) was pouring over the catalogues. I can just see it:

VV: “Yes, hello, is that Inner Slut Costumes? It’s the VV Boutique. I’d like to place my order for Halloween costumes”


Inner Slut Costumes Order Desk: “Yes go ahead”


VV: “Yes from the women’s collection I’ll take 200 of the teen ‘Vixen Pirate’, 200 teen ‘Frisky Witch’, 200 teen ‘Slut Clown’, 200 ‘Orgasmic Ghost’, 50 ‘Skanky Sorcerer’, 50 ‘Housekeeper Hussy’, 50 ‘Busty Bunny’ and  500 mixed from the ‘Trash-it Up’ collection.


Inner Slut Costumes Order Desk: “And will you be needing anything from the Children's Collection?


VV: ‘Yes, please, I’ll take 100 of the ‘Red-Lace up Pirate’. Is that the one with the pint-sized fish-net stockings? Good. And 50 ‘Teen Pirate’ and 50 ‘Go-Go girl’. ‘Please add 100 ‘Naughty Angel’ in toddler sizes please, and can you throw in 100 of the ‘Raunchy Grim Reaper’ and 100 ‘Trashy Goth Fairy’?


Inner Slut Costumes Order Desk: ‘Anything for the men?”


Bob: “Yes, please, I’ll take 100 Normal Ninja, 100 Plain pirate, and 100 ‘scream’ face masks.


Inner Slut Costumes Order Desk: “All done!”


Bob: “Great! thanks! Oh and one more thing, could you drive over all the costumes before we get them and could you be sure to go through and pull out half of each costume? Thanks, Inner Slut!”

It’s certainly scary, but for all the wrong reasons. I was dismayed to see a group of teenage girls, barely 14, holding up costume after costume from the aforementioned list. Nothing like a 13yr old girl dressed up in a corset, ripped stockings, a skirt that could also be used to bundle broccoli, and a whip. Pretty terrifying if you are a parent. What exactly is the point of cobbling together a few bits of trashy fish-net, a black body suit and some scraps of red lace, throwing in some pieces of plastic, and calling it ‘Strumpet Skeleton’  or something like.  And if you really want to be a ‘Skanky Sorcerer’ and you think that you are going to look anything like the model wearing the costume, think again. Half the time only a few pieces of the costume in the picture are included (as I learned with the Diamond Sparkle Princess ensemble) and the rest of the time, they are so cheaply made that they are falling apart (as I also learned with the Diamond Sparkle Princess Cape which looked more like something you would put on the end of a Swiffer and dust your ceiling with than a princess cape). Disappointment-in-a-Bag strikes again.

The only thing good about the trip was that I was disgusted enough to snap out of my zombie state and re-reanimate back to my normal, if slightly enraged, state. ‘Nice costumes’ I muttered to the employee on duty in the section. She was dressed in something that may have been called the ‘Dirty Devil’ costume herself so it wasn’t surprising to see her look completely confused. I gestured to the huge pile of costumes and paraphernalia that lay all over the floor and was about to mention that it was a bit hard to find stuff when I noticed she was holding a set of ‘Red-Neck Teeth’ in her hand. I then also noticed that she herself was missing most of her front teeth. She then noticed that I had noticed both of these facts and suffice to say an Awkward Situation ensued. I doubt she was planning on using the ‘Red-Neck Teeth’ for her own advantage, but the possibility had presented itself nonetheless. She quickly moved on and I, feeling more like an asshole and less like a zombie, grabbed Zoe and got the hell out of there. It  was a moment of humanity in what was otherwise a seething pit of Halloween Smut and it snapped me out of myself long enough to realize that not everyone had the luxury of cushy jobs and dental programs and that she probably didn’t want to be there either with a bunch of bitchy zombie mothers demanding this and that while their offspring ransacked the joint.

So we headed home gloveless and later on Zoe poured fake blood all over the front of the Diamond Sparkle Princess Zombie gown and dabbed black make-up around her eyes. She finished the look with a splash of fake blood around her mouth that dripped effectively down her chin and neck. She looked appropriately scary (although she also looked adorably cute at the same time but I wasn’t going to tell her that). ‘Mumma can you teach me how to walk like a zombie?’ she asked.   Boy could I ever.

Thanks for reading



Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Oxygen…I need oxygen…

I don’t know about you but I’m pretty sure mornings are going to be the death of me. I may be an old lady by then, but it’ll still be a morning that will do me in. I’ll be late for an early tai chi session or stitch n’ bitch or something like that and my elderly lady friends, wondering where I could possibly be, will call in at my house and find me slumped on the sidewalk beside my car, one shoe on, a tea bag in my hand, my face frozen into a puzzled expression (one that you might have on your face while trying, unsuccessfully, to understand why you are trying to unlock your car with a tea bag). When the lady friends go into my house to call for help and have a restorative cup of tea, they will find my keys in the kettle. They will shake their heads and say to each other how I was never very good in the morning.

I can remember being a small child and wondering why it was that I was always being rushed out of bed. What exactly was the hurry? I would overhear my mother saying things like ‘She really needs her sleep, this one’ or when I was invited for a sleep over, she would warn the hosting mother that I was ‘hard to get out of bed’. Later, when I became a lifeguard, it was only under the most dire of circumstances that I would agree to work an early bird shift. First of all I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to get up at 5am and jump half-naked into a pool of cold water, and secondly, I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to be much help to anyone in my half-asleep state anyway even if they did get into trouble. And those early bird swimmers are so chatty! They want to talk about everything from last night’s game to the latest political shenanigans, to their current medical conditions. My one-syllable grunts did nothing to deter them either.

Chatty early bird: ‘Good morning sweetheart! Did you catch the game/show/news last night?’ Boy that minister/goalie/gal sure messed up the play/lines/etc.

Me: guh

Chatty early bird: ‘You know each time I see that sort of thing I say to myself, Chuck, you called it! And you know, they really must think that we’re all a bunch of dummies if they think we’re gonna buy that line about the blah blah blah. Don’t you think? As I said to my Joan, I could see that one coming a mile away blah blah blah

Me: nurg

Chatty early bird: ‘Well, nice talking with you. I better get on with it! No time like the present! Early bird catches the empty lane! HA HA HA HA! I’ve got to get the kinks out of my neck from when I changed the tires on the car before I came here this morning. The 10k run usually does it but this morning it didn’t work. You take care now!’

Me: weh

And with that I would wake up enough to go and check the pressure on the O2 tanks again just to be sure that they hadn’t lost any pressure since the last time I checked 5 minutes ago. This would give me a chance to suck back three more blasts of straight 100% O2 that I would inhale like it was the last thing on earth. That would revive me for long enough to scan the pool for bodies before dropping back into a semi-conscious state.  All I can say is that I am very lucky that there never were any emergencies. I’m pretty sure I was the very last resort to call in for these shifts. The bottom of the barrel, so to speak.

So it’s really no surprise that I still can't handle mornings very well. Except now, I have, inexplicably, three extra people to sort out in the mornings. How did this happen? Was I not paying attention? My typical morning goes something like this:

6:00 have dream where tall (well, taller than me anyway) dark stranger is making dinner

6:15 tall dark stranger has moved on to unloading the dishwasher

6:20 tall dark stranger is finishing the reno

6:30 tall dark stranger is talking about the latest interest rate increases. Why would he do that? Now he is talking about stocks. WTF, Tall dark stranger? Get back to the kitchen and make me tea!

6:31 realize that tall dark stranger is actually the radio announcer. Feel deep sense of loss.

6:54 wake up like a spaz upon realization that 20 mins has passed. Heart palpitations and cold sweats.

6:55 bolt downstairs to wake up 13 yr old Jacob, banging on 8yr old Zoe’s door on the way. Yell hello to husband (who is actually on the ferry to Vancouver).

6:56 overfill kettle, turn on burner, scramble around for breakfast items.

6:57 yell at Jacob to GET UP and then go back upstairs to have shower.

7:04 remember that I turned on the burner. Try unsuccessfully to get anyone’s attention. Run downstairs soaking wet and half naked to turn off burner. Realize that kettle was not turned on either.

7:05 go back to shower to rinse conditioner out of hair. can’t because Jacob has gotten up and is in the shower. Whatever. Get dressed.

7:10 crack eggs onto the pan. Make tea. Forget tea bags. Add tea bags after the fact.

7:11 a serene Zoe calmly enters the kitchen, dressed, hair done, reading a book.

7:20 Jacob wanders into the kitchen in a towel holding one sock. I suggest he get dressed.

7:21 burn toast.

7:22 realize that burner is still off. Mainline tea in the hopes that it will wake me up.

7:25 attempt to sit at table and eat breakfast with kids.

7:28 Zoe asks me if that is how I am going to wear my hair today. Sprint upstairs to do hair. Realize hair still has conditioner in it.

7:32 announce to all concerned that really we should go soon.

7:33 Kent phones to say hi. He is at the breakfast buffet on the ferry. Make a note of this fact for future consideration. It’s Ok. He’s not reading this anyway. Well? Are you? Nope. See.

7:35 Jacob wanders into the kitchen with a pen and a piece of paper. He announces that he is just going to do his homework.

7:40 practice Bhutanese Mountain Method of deep-breathing to promote calm and relaxation.

7:41 Bark out orders to the effect that we really NEED TO GO NOW.

7:43 look for keys

7:45 look for keys

7:46 observe children waiting by the door. look for keys

7:47 find keys in hand.

7:48 get in vehicle

7:49 get out of vehicle and into one that starts

7:50 drive down road

7:51 drive back to house so that Jacob can get his backpack, sports bag, and lunch.

7:59 arrive at Middle School where Jacob informs me that he is playing Prospero in The Tempest that day at 1pm at the the Royal Theatre or something like that and not to be late. Right.

8:14 arrive at Jr. School. accompany Zoe to Quad area. Notice that I am wearing my gardening clogs. Whatever.

8:20 back home to change my shoes. Notice that burner is STILL ON.

8:30: leave house for work.

8:32 come back to house for lunch

8:35 leave house for work

9:00 get to work. Check messages. There are already two messages from Jacob: he has forgotten his homework on the table, and his production is actually at 10am instead of 1pm and it’s in Sooke.

9:10 Close my eyes and think of tall dark stranger…

And so, with various permutations and variables, this is how my weekday mornings roll out. Where is the 02 tank when you really need it. Perhaps, Kent would suggest, if I wasn’t up all night blogging…


Thanks for reading-



Thursday, September 24, 2009

These are the people in my neighbourhood…

I think I may live on the best street ever. We moved to Clare St. in 2002. It was our 2nd house purchase and there was just something about the place that I loved. We moved in and, with one exception that I will not go into here, were warmly welcomed to the street by all our lovely new neighbours. I was super happy to learn that there was already a boy Jacob’s age on the street and lots of other kids to play with.

It didn’t take long for us to realize that we had really had landed on a gem of a street. That first year we attended a block party, with all the neighbours, held in two back yards joined by gates. Many of the backyards on our street have gates linking them up. It’s a great thing and such a little thing, really. Then, three years ago, we all decided we should do something to celebrate Fall. We already had a Christmas carolling night, a New Year’s Eve street gathering, a late spring block party, and numerous other informal get-togethers including a street mosaic making workshop, a street sign workshop in which we cut out various animal and child shapes, painted them, and stuck them around the street to alert drivers and to get them to slow down, and a street book box where we drop-off books and pick up new ones. A Fall Fair seemed like an ideal addition to our repertoire of community building events. There is no shortage of energy for community-building on our street.

The first Fall Fair was such fun that we did it again last year, and this year we celebrated our 3rd Annual Fall Fair under beautiful sunny skies.

We started with a bike parade



Then played with a huge castle of boxes. DSC04853

There were bubbles:



and a game of street hockey. There was also the annual tug of war with East vs. West (West won thank-you very much) and North vs.. South (South was cheating as per usual and ‘won’ again).



And then the fire truck showed up. With the firemen. And, no, there wasn’t an emergency, we invited them. They are so great with the kids and really friendly with everyone, letting the kids climb all through the truck.


Mr. February in the Clare St. Honorary Fireman’s Calendar. Hey it’s a good idea.

This year, they brought out the hose and let the kids shoot it at the street.

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What can I say? I do love a fireman with his hose…

The firemen told us they like to practise with their hoses regularly. And even though they are just the 1.5” hoses, I would just like to say here that they are welcome to come and practise on our street anytime. No, really. I insist.

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Even the kids had a good time.


After the cupcake walk (mental note to self – need music for next year as a group of parents lamely droning our way through ring- around-the-rosy over and over made the whole thing a bit funereal rather than celebratory but who cares really. Right, Finley?)DSC04943

Then it was time to get ready for the BBQ Dinner and, of course, the Fall Fair Exhibition. There were a number of categories but all you really need to know is that we are all winners here on Clare St. Especially me and my blackberry jam which won best preserve, and Zoe who won for best cookies and something else that escapes me right now.


Various other neighbours were also recognized for their excellence in baking pies and desserts, growing the largest carrot, best cornucopia, best bread, wine, etc etc. If you can find it on our street, then chances are good there was a category and a ‘winner’. Thanks to Phil for organizing the exhibition and for bringing in a ‘New Era in Transparency’ for judging the exhibition. Hilarious.





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Then it was time for dinner:

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at which point the band arrived.


Leon (that's him on the left) lives at the end of our street and teaches most of the men folk on Clare how to play the guitar. We loved his new band Lucky in Love. They played a short but awesome set of standards and original music. There was even dancing. With the crisp light of early evening and the lovely singing, it was a magical moment.

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By then we were ready to eat all the dessert and pie entries.

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The desserts were amazing. I especially enjoyed the Butter Pie with Plums. You just can’t go wrong if you use at least 2 lbs of butter, throw in some flour & sugar, and a few plums, and bake that baby. I think this is is how Gloria made her butter pie, or whatever it was called. Actually, WHO CARES what was in it, or how she made it, it was delicious. When in doubt, throw in more butter.

And did I mention the other pies were outstanding, too. Yum. And also the butter pie.


What kind of street party doesn't have a fire in the middle of the street? It’s become a tradition to haul out one of the neighbour’s chimineas. We all sit around it trying not to catch on fire as sparks and embers jump and swirl around us. It’s quite lovely, and a good source of roasted marshmallows which seem to materialize out of thin air as soon as the fire is lit.


Then it was time for the Walk-In Movie held in the driveway of one of the houses on the street. The garage door was a perfect place for a screen, and the sloping driveway was the perfect  place for the kids to watch Wallace and Gromit. Sleeping bags, pillows, popcorn and hot chocolate competed the scene.


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It was the perfect end to a perfect day. After the movie we hustled all the kids to bed and then enjoyed some kid-free time around the fire-pit.

I am so grateful to all my lovely neighbours for making our street such an amazing place. So much community in such a small place! You are all so lovely and I consider myself blessed to be surrounded by you.

Thanks for reading,