February 15, 2012

I have a strong name.  Susan avoided the “Jennifers” and “Julies” in my era, and harkens back to my Grandpa’s nickname for my mom:  Sooz.  (her name is Janet Elizabeth, and nobody remembers why my Grandpa called her that.  Weird).  My middle name is Leslie  – spelled in the male form – as I was named for my Grandpa Albert Leslie  (the same one who calls my mom Sooz), although he goes by Les.  And ****** was my father’s name, a reminder of him, and his parents and my Norwegian ancestors.  I like my name, I like the history of my name and I am proud of the people I am named for.
 
This story is about my Grandpa Les.  He was born in on June 20th, 1914.  He had 2 children (my mom is one of them) and remarried after the death of his first wife to gain 2 more.  When I was a child, my parents had moved away from their home town of Vancouver, and we lived about 10 hours away their parents.  My mom made sure that my brother and I had a good and solid relationship with all four of our grandparents.  We called about every report card, good test, new bike, new rock for our collection, whatever and whenever we wanted  (And this is before Sprint revolutionized Canadian long distance with their $20 monthly flat rate. . .)  So, growing up, I knew my grandpa.  He hates flying, so he would drive every summer to visit always stopping in Creston (one of the cities in BC with many many orchards) to bring my mom fresh cherries.  We spent many Christmases in Vancouver staying at my his home and when I went to university in Victoria, occasionally I took the ferry over to stay with Grandpa Les and Grandma Agnes. 
 
My grandpa is one of the strongest yet kind people I know.  He loves despite loss, he believes that everyone deserves the same respect and I remember too clearly lessons that he taught me in a way that only grandparents can.  Grandpa has passed these traits to his children and I hope that I too have these.  Grandpa has always been proud that he can take care of himself and his family – with emotional, physical and financial support.  When my mom had surgery several years ago, my 90 year old grandpa got on a plane (despite his fear of flying) to take care of her for a week.  Getting down on his knees to rub her legs during her recovery.  He has driven himself to the hospital when he broke his wrist (after laying on his stomach in a foot of water to unplug the drain in his driveway with his other arm).  When my uncle needed some help, my 94 year old grandpa figured out the bus/skytrain route and headed over to help with the backyard chores – after all he had just given up his driver’s licence a year or two before!  He also decided to pay for my uncle’s new roof – and to be fair, my mom got one too whether she needed it or not!  When my grandma Agnes was fighting Alzheimer’s, he helped her bake her famous sugar cookies with white icing so they could send a care package to me in university.  I loved every one of those slightly misshapened cookies.
 
I am flying to Vancouver next week to visit him.  I used to visit him in his house, then his condo, and now at his retirement residence.  (he insisted I take the bed last year, while he slept on the floor in the living on a blow up mattress.  Yes, seriously, I displaced my 96 year over grandfather from his bed.  I am that kind of person).  Our roles have changed, I no longer sit in his lap trying to grab the toothpick out of his mouth, or wait eagerly for him to give me $20 when he departed.  My grandpa is an old man now, and he struggles to do what he could do easily just a year or two ago.  He has graduated from a cane to a walker, has hearing aids, eyeglasses that don’t totally work any longer, walks slowly, forgets the words he wants for a story.  So it is easy not recognize the man I know as my grandpa, but he is still there.  I see flashes of that man all the time.  I see him in the way he ALWAYS answers the phone “WELLLLLLL Susan!!!”, and every birthday card signed by “The Ol’ Fart”.  We’ll not do too much, perhaps watch his beloved Canucks, join in the Friday night residence crib tournament, and have several meals together.
 
I may have a strong name, but I am not strong in the face of bugs.  I don’t find them miraculous, or marvellous, and the thought of spiders, bugs or anything being around me makes me uncomfortable.   The Lower Mainland (for those of you in the Ontario that is like saying the GTA but for the Vancouver general area.  Come one people, travel!  See the world!), has a bed bug problem.  Didn’t you know that?  Well, apparently they do.  At least that is what my mom called to tell me yesterday.  Immediately, I has visions of my luggage crawling with bedbugs and bringing them home with me to infest my house.  A couple suites at the my grandpa’s retirement residence have an infestation, including my grandpa’s.  It has nothing to do about cleanliness, but simply easy to pass through a building that all the residents eat, sleep and recreate in.  However, this was horrifying to him!  His granddaughter (I would dare say favourite granddaughter, although my cousin Michelle may have something to say about that), is coming to visit and he has an infested suite.  He called my mom in a panic, what else could he do?  He had already called in my uncle to help him vacuum and put down repellent, washed ALL of his clothes and sheets (that must have been an event in the laundry room).  He booked a fumigator with the residence management.  But it wasn’t enough.  He decided that he needed to book the “visitor” suite for me, he was going to pay for it, and he doesn’t want to hear anything about that..  That’s just the way it is going to be.
 
Did I mention I am proud to be Leslie?
 
February 15th, 2012 Extra-Ordinary Event:  Knowing once again that my Grandpa Les will take care of me and all of the others he loves regardless any obstacles in his way. 
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February 14, 2012

My brother calls me a hippy vegan.  This is in reference to our (well, MY) experiment of having a vegan diet in January for a challenge.  No eggs, no dairy, no meat.  I supplemented my diet with things like beans, lentils, and TVP (Textured vegetable protein).  Emile supplemented his diet with pork chops.  It was an interesting month, and I did alot more cooking than normal, and filled our pantry with all sorts of strange things.
 
It opened me up to a whole different array of foods that I did not normally eat and focused my attention on eating higher quality foods. 
 
Today, I was clicking on some links and ended up on a page full of smoothies recipes.  Really?  Who needs a smoothie recipe?  Throw in liquid, fruit, something frozen, maybe some flax-seed and you’re good to go.  But these were all green smoothies, with spinach or kale as a base.  Eww.  I don’t want to drink spinach.  I always turn my nose up at the helpful smooth-rista who wanted to add wheat grass to my smoothie.  Snickering. Who wants grass or grass like things in their smoothie?  But then my mind drifted back to the wilting 1/2 box of organic spinach in my fridge that I have been guiltily avoiding making eye contact with.  Emile is not home, so worse thing is it gets poured down the drain and I can avoid mocking.   
 
3 cups spinach, 1 banana, handful of frozen blueberries, a good amount of almond milk, 1 tbsp flaxseed, a squirt of agave syrup and some ice.  Blend her up!  Whoa, that looks horrible.  Hmmm.  Well, in the mouth and over the gums, watch out stomach here it comes.
 
February 14th, 2014 Extra-Ordinary Event:  Finding that green-based smoothies are really quite good. 

February 13, 2012

Huntsville does not deliver mail directly to homes, instead there are community mailboxes for every street.  It works pretty well because you don’t have to worry about stopping your mail for vacation, there is a mailbox built right in for handy posting and it excellent for parcel delivery.  If you get a large parcel, they will place a key in your box to a larger mailbox that is large enough for a parcel.  You open the “parcel” mailbox, get your parcel, and throw the key into the mailbox (the one where you would mail a letter).  It cuts down standing in those long lines at Shoppers Drug Mart wondering why if there is 2 wickets, there is never 2 people working.
The “city” has nice modern boxes, the locks are built right in the door, and the post office assigns keys.  The post is delivered through a large door at the back that is the size of the entire community box and we have keys only to smaller doors on the front.  The hinges are smooth and the door opens sideways, making for easy retrieval.  Out in the boonies – where we live – the new community boxes slowly in and we have one of the old greenies.  Each individual box has a loop for your own lock, which you have to provide yourself.  But the post office will remove an unwanted and unknown lock.  Say if the previous tenants leave in the middle of the night taking your bird bath.  The greenie boxes have the hinges at the top and a little flap at the bottom to go over the loop.  In this case, the postal worker opens the large door at the front to inside mail, therefore, all the individual box doors are smaller than the box itself.
This is also a good point to give some advice.  If you live in Huntsville and need a lock for your postal box in the winter, do not get a lock that has the keyhole on the FRONT of the lock.  This leads to many days where your Maclean’s magazine, bill or late Christmas gift from your mother cannot be accessed because the howling wind has blown snow into the keyhole.  The below zero temperatures finish the job.   It doesn’t matter if it is pretty blue with a lovely matching blue key.  Get a bottom keyhole version or – like my neighbour has done – create a practical, if not attractive, lock protector using zip top bags and duct tape.
I also have a covetousness about skin care products.  I am convinced that I can buy line erasers, acne preventers, eyebag depuffers to increase my contentment with life.  Perhaps this is true, the problem is, you cannot find out because there is always one more that might hold the answers.  Fortunately, living in small towns, my limited access can easily contain my desires and forcing me to find such items on the internet.  This particular January, I fell in love with Pangea Organics facial products (thanks to some delightful samples) and decided to order the whole range.  Come on, if I ordered enough, I got free shipping and Acai and Goji Berry Mask.  Wowee!  Pangea Organics is a great product line, using glass bottles in some instances, and plastics in others.
I ordered and checked the mail as often as the weather would allow.   Finally, the temperature and the post agreed and after fussing with the lock and the flap and bending over to peek in the box – I saw the 6 sided brown box that we all like to see in the mail.  I reached in to take the box, and found that although it fit into my individual box, it could NOT fit through the door.  I turned it, I bashed the corners, I tried it diagonally.  Alas, contentment so close, but yet inaccessible.  Eureka!  I had an idea.   I had to take out the other mail and take off my Vancouver Olympic mittens and put them on the hood of my car.  This allowed me to open the box while was still in my mailbox and I could take the individual bottles out of the box without removing the box.  I stuffed all the items into my coat pockets and locked up the mailbox sensing products beautiful scent already.  I leapt back into car, and happily turned the car around, and got back on the road back to my house.  Soon, soon, beautiful skin, and contentment.
Whoosh!  What was that?  My red mittens!!  My mail!  Over the car, into the middle of the Road.  I pulled over and watched a tonneau covered truck run over my mittens – but I could still save them! I ran quickly out into the road when there was a break in traffic, and grabbed my mittens.  Quickly turned, increasing the centrifugal force on my pockets, causing me to dump half of my Pangea booty into the road.  Ack!!  I worked so hard for those.  Okay, grab the bottles, mail, mittens, back into the car.  Safe.
Whoa, thank god I am unemployed, otherwise, I would not have time to pick up the mail.
When I got home, I realized that one of the individual boxes was slimy and particularly scentful.  One of my beautiful products had broken in transit, I got it in my coat, on the mail, on my mittens, and as I have found out each mail checking  – in the mailbox. (Don’t worry, they replaced the broken item, no questions asked)
For two weeks, I have checked the lovely scented mail box to get our mail, and found it stuffed around the now empty box.  Each time, I thought, I need to get a knife, or leave a note for the postal person.  Oh, well, it works for now.
But today, the box was broken down, and neatly placed in my box allowing me to take it out through the door.
February 13th, 2012 Extra-Ordinary Event:  Finding my Australian Wild Plum & Willow scented mailbox fully accessible again without having to ask my postal person to take care of it for me.

February 12, 2012

I am a picky eater.  I don’t like alot of things:  mushrooms, tomatoes, liquid yogurt drinks, fla (Dutch pudding my in-laws introduced me to), meat eaten off the bone, Vienna Sausages, coffee, mashed potatoes, strong curry, fettuccine Alfredo, dairy products that the run off gets stirred back into (you know, when you open a tub of sour cream and that clear liquid is sitting on the top, and some people stir it back in and it gets all runny..  Ewww), grapefruit juice, olives, jasmine tea and strawberry or peach or blueberry yogurt. (this is not an exhaustive list).  It does present challenges in feeding me, I know.
I was at my friend Nancy’s house for breakfast this morning and she – being a hostess until the end (she will be refilling drinks at her own funeral) – has learned my palate, preferences and caters to them.  This is why I eat at her house as much as possible.  This includes dropping by on Saturday nights at 4:30 just to “check on the mail” or perhaps swinging by just to say hi on a Tuesday afternoon (when she was unemployed like me) just when her husband Rob was coming in for lunch.  “Oh, dear, don’t let me interrupt.  What’s that?  You have extra??  Well, in that case. . ”  Anyways, Nancy’s kitchen is extraordinary in its self, but this is an email about my Extra-Ordinary.  It’s full of every bottled condiment you can imagine, spices and rubs and sauces spilling from all sorts of drawers and cupboards.  At any given time, she’ll pull some seemingly random bunch of ingredients out some where and have dinner for her family of 5 (and guests?) on the table in 1/2 hour.
Back on track now. . This morning’s breakfast was traditional – eggs, bacon, toast, juice and tea (fortunately, not jasmine tea).  I nibbled at the eggs my husband had made (extra salt), limited myself to 2 pieces of bacon and savoured the hot, creamy sweet tea I had made with brown sugar because I can never remember where Nancy keeps her white sugar (and artificial sweeteners have no place in her kitchen).   The toast was made with whole grains and you could actually see the seeds and grains in the loaf and on the crust.  I could already see it was Perfectly toasted – no dark edges, no “top brown, bottom soft” issues seen sometimes.  And soft butter smeared into it just after coming out of the toaster.   Where it doesn’t sog the – centre, but simply softens and flavors it.  I got up to peer into the fridge for a topping for that toast.  I stared vainly into the shelves on the door, finding all sorts condiments that I didn’t know existed.  “Nancy, where is your jam?”, hoping amongst all of her treasures there would be some raspberry jam for me.  Perfect.  She showed me two jars “Blueberry, made by Megan (her daughter, of whom I didn’t know was a jam-maker)” and “Strawberry”.   Sigh.  Gloobs.
The problem with alot of the foods listed above is texture and especially inconsistent texture.  It can’t too thin, too thick, or most important – too inconsistent.  And hence my problem with Strawberry Jam, Strawberry Yogurt, Strawberry Rhubarb Pie, and all of the other products available with cooked or processed strawberries.  Gloobs.  Strawberries that are mushy, but not mushy enough to collapse completely like Raspberries are polite enough to do so.  And that is the problem.  Strawberries are one of my favourite fruits when fresh, but turn into a long overstayed, unwelcome house guest after cooking.    I have made Strawberry freezer jam (I learned it at my mother’s knee – she likes me to say things like that) and I love the flavour.  It’s like biting into summer.  When I make the jam, I tend to over mash and have even been known to puree it with a stick blender to avoid the Gloobs.  But then it is too smooth, like some kind of weird strawberry jelly.   I have never been able to get the texture just right.
I eyed the Strawberry jam suspiciously.  It was in a mason jar, and not a commercial product.  Ok, that is a plus.  I could not discern gloobs through the jar, but it was not clear like jelly.  Hmmm.  Perhaps I could dig around the gloobs.  Yes, that will work.  I returned to the table and picked up that perfect piece of toast, Opened the jar, and began to look for a gloob free strategy.  And kept looking – no gloobs. Spread it on my toast.  It didn’t need to melt like jelly, and no gloobs.  NO Gloobs!!  None, but yet some texture.  And the first bite was home, summer and love.  And so was the second.  Perfect.
February 12th, 2012 Extra-Ordinary Event:  The Gloob free, texture perfect Homemade Strawberry Jam on creamy buttery perfectly toasted whole grain bread.  With Sweet Hot Creamy caffeinated Brown Sugar Tea.

February 11, 2012

Today I went to Delta Grandview’s Fitness area for the last time.  They had taken out the “good” treadmills.  Now for those of you don’t know – and you know who you are – a treadmill is a fairly simply device.  Probably inventing just 80 years after the wheel.  It basically works by making the ground move backwards while you move forwards allowing you to stay safe away from the germ infested outdoors.  So the “good” treadmills just have a bunch of unnecessary features that are not really needed.  (Who’s kidding who?  A treadmill is a replacement for ground, which last I looked there is ample ground.  I wonder how that went at the product pitch meeting – “I have an invention that is a replacement for ground. .” )
 
They had also taken out the television and my key card didn’t work anymore so some helpful fellow had let me in.  I brought my iPod with me ramped with my new favourite song that features the lyrics “Going for Gold with Yamaguchi, It’s time for Hoochie Coochie” (yes, seriously), but forgot my headphones in car.  The “good” treadmills had a iPod port.  So, here I am locked in the gym because my key doesn’t work anymore and no TV, and no music (unless I pretended that I could feel the vibrations of it, but I am should Steve Jobs made sure that didn’t happen).  So, I decide to run anyways.  I quickly find that these “less than good” treadmills don’t have the distance settings I like.  I run for five minutes with the emergency “STOP” button calling my name.  (Does anyone but Biggest Loser Contestants really go flying off these things?). 
 
You have to understand, it was a big event, me going to the gym today, haven’t gone consistently since November.  So, all of these obstacles were enough to push me over the edge.  (my previous trainer told me that if you don’t feel like going to the gym, try just going for 20 minutes and you’ll probably stay for your whole workout.  Seriously, he didn’t know me too well). 
 
So, I trudged off to the showers hoping that nobody would be in the locker room ogling me, or forcing me to ogle them.  In the shower, I was feeling quite pissed off and sad.  Sad about Grandview’s last weekend, sad that I let all these petty obstacles stand in my way of actually burning more than 50 calories, and it hit me.  (Some of you know, my best thinking is always in the shower.  Love the shower.)  I need a “book of awesome” or “a happiness project”!  Maybe a blog.  But these have been done.
 
No, I Need a Daily Extra-Ordinary Keeper.  Everyday – need to find something extra-ordinary that happened to me.  And to keep me honest, I have to send it every day via e-mail.  Short, long, sardonic, weird, good, joyful, whatever, but Extra-Ordinary.  Recognize the things in my life that are different, exciting, fun, extraordinary, and good.
 
February 11, 2012 Extra-Ordinary Event:  Having a brain storm in the Delta Grandview Shower about barraging my friends and family daily with some random event that happened me.  (please don’t add me to your spam filter)

February 10, 2012

We have a cat.  Emile named him Beavis long before I got into the picture.  I probably would have chose something different, but I have never met any pet, human or anything but our cat named Beavis.
 
Anyways, Beavis is a strange cat.  With my current unemployed status, Beavis and I have become quite close.  We share secrets, we laugh, we cry, we dance together.  But there is one thing that has never happened. 
 
Emile has raised Beavis from a kitten bringing him up to be a thoughtful, playful, responsible man he is today.  And they share a bond.  Beavis expresses this bond through grooming.  If Emile is lying in bed, and Beavis is feeling especially loving, he will lick all of the gel out of Emile’s hair.  Yes, kinda gross, but obviously cats smell terrifically clean (if you don’t hate too much to get close), kinda interesting, kinda sweet, but kinda gross.  The only other person that Beavis has ever groomed was our friend Jeremy who has similarly short and coloured hair to Emile.  Beavis was staying with him for two weeks, and for some reason snuggled up onto Jeremy’s pillow and woke him up with his gentle lapping of Jeremy’s his hair.  Beavis was kicked out 12 days earlier than planned and Jeremy now sleeps with a shower cap just in case his dog Ty gets any strange ideas.
 
Well, last night, I was lying in bed, with a recently trimmed head.  And it happened – through our bonding and our love over the last couple of months – Beavis started licking my hair.  I was as still as possible.  It felt weird – kinda that pulling feeling that you get when you have your haircut with a straight razor, but with added slurping sound effects.  He didn’t like my longer hair, he kept getting it caught in his teeth.  He loves me, he REALLY loves me.
 
I washed my hair twice this morning.
 
February 10th, 2012 Extra-Ordinary Event:  Beavis the cat showing his love.