Friday, January 27, 2006

An open letter to the friends and family of musicians

Dear friends, family, and doddering old dears who live with my father at the old folks' home,

Musicians look at a lot of music. Not because we find it attractive on paper, but to perform the damn stuff. We do not feel the need to surround ourselves with the sight of printed music just because that's what we do.

So please do not shower us, pun intended, with umbrellas that are emblazoned with the first few words and notes to "Singin' in the Rain." And please, please refrain from grabbing every single brooch, pair of earrings, or scarf in a gift shop that makes you think of us because it has notes or clefs on it. I see several dozen, even hundreds of treble clefs daily; that does not mean that I yearn to pin one, encrusted in rhinestones, to my bosom.

In other words, take that cotton tote bag with "Music is my B-A-G" screened on it and, instead of giving it to me "just because", put it over your head, then breathe deeply. Just because.

Thank you.


A musician with too much stuff.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

I can't cook, but TV makes me think I can!

Hm. The results for all Toronto ridings on the prediction site I mentioned in my last post have been adjusted, and they show the NDP walking away with my riding. I'm still not sure; I think it could be close.

Tonight I made fast bolognese sauce from Giada De Laurentiis' Everyday Italian -- fast in that it took one hour instead of two. Not bad at all, even quite yummy, but I still prefer my two-hour recipe from an old spiral-bound gem from 1982 that I picked up at our church's sale o' stuff. It's the real deal, requiring milk, wine, and nutmeg of all things.

I love it. I was on an incredible Italian kick a few months ago, and was contemplating the purchase of a bunch of books, but realized that many are best reserved for, well, good cooks with time, patience, and willingness to chase down odd ingredients. So I've stuck with the two aforementioned books, because I'm really not that ambitious -- I'm just tickled to bits when I don't completely bugger up dinner altogether. I'm why Giada and Rachael were born. Yeah, I just picked up Rachael's first 30-Minute Meals book. I already own Get Togethers and her pre-Food-Network-fame Veggie Cookbook. It's goodies like those books, and those TV shows, that have given me the confidence to even bother.

I only buy these books because I watch the shows and think, "I can do that!" And lo and behold, I can. Not coordinatedly, but I can.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Election fun.

I'm not sure about validity of the formula behind it, but here is a site with predictions of how Monday's federal election will turn out, riding-by-riding. Thanks to Kelly for the link!

My riding is Beaches-East York, and the site puts the Liberal incumbent and NDP candidate in a tie for 38.1% of the vote, with the NDP candidate prevailing, presumably after a recount. Could happen. Lawn signs here are split, and I have to say that I'm confused as well. The NDP candidate is Marilyn Churley, a hand-picked East-end-loving leftist superstar of sorts. I think many Beachers are groaning, "Why her?" because she's a community and environmental champion that has the endorsement of both our city councillor and of David Suzuki, otherwise local voters would hold their noses and vote Liberal with no hesitation, only to help keep the Conservatives out of power. Churley's hot enough to put a big ol' wrench in that thinking. East Yorkers generally vote Liberal, though, and I predict that our Liberal candidate will prevail by a nose.

I still don't know how I will vote, and that's saying something. Maybe I'll move my oboe over a ouija board with one hand, and a rifle with the other, and see what I'm told. g-i-l-l-i-a-n-i-s-a-n-i-d-i-o-t?

There will be seven moons in the sky before our riding sends a Conservative to Parliament Hill, but I must note that there seems to be far greater support here for that party than I've ever seen before, and I'm not surprised.

I am surprised that the site suggests so little Green Party support in our riding.

I can't wait till Monday - not because I expect to be thrilled with the outcome, but because elections make me giddy, regardless. Whether I'm giddy with delight or with nausea remains to be seen.

Friday, January 20, 2006

My internet's back, and there's gonna be laundry.

I'm back. Being internet-less was a good thing, because I turned into a domestic goddess for two days; I cleaned, I cooked, I did laundry, and I practised (hardly the domain of a domestic goddess, but highly necessary nonetheless).

Tonight we had cauliflower soup from a Canadian Living cookbook. I have yet to go wrong with any of their recipes, and one needn't be a superfreakculinarygenius to pull them off. I also made a simple baked salmon from a Pointe au Baril community cookbook I got last summer, and it was all good.

Slowly but surely, I am getting my lazy arse back into cooking. Not sure where I fell off that wagon, but nutrition is so important to my pregnant self right now that it's crucial that I cook more. I need to fluff up my basic repertoire, using whatever recipes necessary, because I'm not yet a trustworthy scratch cook.

Mom: I love you, and I miss you, but why did you never teach me how to cook? Never mind; she was the queen of frozen fish sticks, and baked them with love.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Netless. Argh.

Our modem has died. It will taks Bell a few painful days of diagnostics to un-dead it. So now I'm doing what I hate, blogging in a public library.

I feel like my arm has been cut off. I can't count the number of times during the day that I thought, "Well, I'll just check that on the internet," only to remember that I was back in the 20th century.

It might be the best thing to happen to me in a while, though. Our apartment is clean, and I can practise without succumbing to the itch to research diapers (yes, it has come to that) or Filofaxes (Filofeces?), all because I can't check Epinions, Amazon, eBay, Bloglines or LJ obsessively.

I did get a Filofax, by the way. It is the most beautiful one ever - the Pocket Cavendish in burgundy. I got it on sale, as it was discontinued, and I got the warm squidgy feeling of supporting a local business by buying it in a brick-and-mortar shop that specializes in organizers, pens, and nothing else.

Ta for now. Back to my webless abode I go. I guess I'll have to talk to old Whatshisname. :-P

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Bad food blogging, complete with horrid photography. Cheers.

I'm falling down on my half-baked, not-very-articulated mandate of blathering on about cookbooks. In truth, I have gotten sick of them. Sick of their taking up space, sick of their recipes requiring ingredients I don't have in my pantry. Besides, now that I'm pregnant, I'm intolerant of inefficiency. I want to eat NOW.

Even during the height of my cookbook obsession, I felt like I was indulging in wasteful frivolity that flew in the face of the Depression-era-based "make do" attitude inherited by my parents from theirs. I would visit my cousin who would put on a perfectly fine dinner, only to find out that the only cookbook she owns is the same Better Homes and Gardens plaid binder job from the '70s that my mother and grandmother used. I have both of them now - two copies of the same binder, because how could I choose one and toss it out if either Mom or Grandma used it? - and still refer to it when I need to know how to cook a damn turnip.

So, now it's time for me to "make do" with the eighty or so cookbooks I own. Hah. I need to get back to cooking, for our health and for our savings. I will keep it simple, and generally healthy. Occasionally, I will fall into the mid-century canned-good trap just to get food on the table. It won't be pretty. In that spirit, as I lurch back to the '60s, I present tonight's special: Peg Bracken's Skid Road Stroganoff from The I Hate to Cook Book:

yummy? For God's sake, don't click the photo.

Award-winning it ain't. Bite me.

There are a couple of Canadian cookbooks I want to investigate: Emily Richards' Italian Express and Rose Reisman's Weekday Wonders, but will only buy what I can't live without. Right now, that's nothing but ice cream with chocolate sauce, and a bathroom within twenty paces.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

I'm getting my husband back!

This is a very happy day for us. It's my husband's last day at his life-sucking bank job. In about two hours, I will drive downtown and help him clean out his desk.

He has been working seven days a week since September, because he's at Teacher's College full-time, Monday to Friday, and has been working at the bank all weekend. He's stressed and tired, but he's been far more good-natured about all if it than I ever would have been. I commend him and am grateful; he didn't have to stay there as long as he did, but he stuck it out long enough to receive his final bonus, which will help us get through the next few months, and he put in enough part-time hours each week to allow us to keep full-time medical benefits until now.

Now we'll live off our savings and my so-called income, and use the University's benefits to see us through until summer's end. We will be fine, but his sacrifice until now is one of the main reasons for that.

The timing is perfect; he will be finished school about three weeks before our baby is due, and have much of the summer off, so he can do all sorts of Dad stuff. In the meantime, he will at least have weekends. Finally. That should make a difference to his stress level, give him more time to complete assignments, and allow us to spend more time with family and with each other.

I'm a little weepy. Damn allergies.

Anyway, I'm proud of you, sweetie. I'm grateful to you, and I love you.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

In which Le*h McL*ren sells me a Filofax.

About Globe columnist Le*h McL*ren. She went to my high school, was two years behind me, and I only knew who she was because she was one of the best singers by far in our school's homegrown rock opera version of Alice in Wonderland. She will never have heard of me. As I slogged away in the pit orchestra, she, the Queen of Hearts, strutted about convincingly in a little red dress with a heart-shaped cutout in back. I thought she was damn cool, remembered her, and was charmed, years later, to see that she could write, too. An essay of hers on irony that was printed in the Globe a few years ago is a favourite of mine, and I'd love to read it again if I could find it.

Why have I put asterisks in her name? Because I suck, that's why. I don't want anyone searching for her and arriving at this post. There are too many bloggers who hate her utterly, have erudite reasons for doing so, and write much better than I do. I'm a shallow gal, and I likes me my Le*h, and I might just be ashamed to admit it. I do want to throttle her occasionally, but I'm not a member of the I Hate Le*h McL*ren club by any stretch. Her columns are a guilty treat for me, and I'm damned if I know quite why. Perhaps it's because she appeals to my inner shallow, acquisitive snob, writing regularly about various little indulgences to which I would love to treat myself, if I could afford it. Like hip yoga gear, or a meal at a posh restaurant, or a farm near Cobourg. Or a Filofax.

Oh, I'm bad. A little over a year ago, a cellist friend of mine whipped out her PDA to show me pictures of her cat. Until then, I had never thought I'd have or need a PDA; it seemed a nifty tool for corporate types with money, or for rich, gadget-obsessed teenagers. But here was a poor, freelance musician, just like me, with a PDA! Suddenly, my reality was altered, and the Realm of Possibility opened wide. If she needed one, surely I did too! I had cats, right? I liked playing Text Twist, and with a PDA I could do it on the subway! I needed a personal organizer anyway, for all my millions (ha) of gigs and contacts and stuff. Why not make the move?

So I did. After weeks of painstaking internet research on finding The Best Possible PDA For My Needs, Budget, And Exacting Quality Standards, I settled on a bottom-rung Palm Zire with the capacity to store photos, function as an mp3 player with a memory card, and transform my life into one slick operation.

Over one year and $250 later, I have used it only as a datebook, note pad, address book, and calculator. Not one cat picture, game or mp3 has graced its memory. It's just a datebook that requires constant recharging, and I am forever losing its charger.

Le*h's column this week extols her newest posh accessory: her Filofax. Now, I'm not quite as dreadful an organizer as she, and I have only left reminder messages on my own answering machine once or twice in my life. Generally, if I'm afraid of forgetting something, I'll write it on my hand. Shut up. But she has delighted in going back to basics, and seduced me with the notion of fine, soft leather, posh stylings, and the pleasure of putting ink on paper. Oh sure, any old paper organizer would likely do. I carried a clunky Quo Vadis from Grand and Toy for years, but it never turned me on like the thought of Le*h's Filofax does.

Besides, now I know that she would think I was a dork for having a PDA:

I know lots of people with Palm Pilots, but every time I see one of them tip-tapping the screen with one of those fake plastic pens, I cringe. To my eye, the Palm Pilot doesn't look contemporary at all. It looks clunky and on the cusp of being outmoded.

Well! Sold! Almost. I do like having that calculator around, and it's much more user-friendly than the calc on my cell phone. But it's not like I'll chuck my PDA immediately. I think I'll just go to a store and stroke some Filofaxes until I know what to do. If one of them has a pocket that's just right for a mini calculator, I'm doomed.

Damn, that was long. So sorry. I do take off a bit when I'm avoiding cleaning.

In which a pregnant lady dreams of looking like a Bud Girl.

I've been Googling images for 'Bud Girl' before I've even had my coffee. And no, it's not like that. There is a Budweiser poster in our local pub, and when we were there last week I couldn't help but notice that the girl had my colouring and very good hair that might look rather fine on me. Dark blonde highlights, like I had five years ago before an overzealous stylist made me too blonde, and long layers. Not too tarty at all.

My right hand alone is typing this; my left is engaged in teasing out another immense knot at the back of my head. I'm tired of this, and feeling frumpy, but I might still chicken out. I need to study this Bud Girl for a good long time before I do anything I regret.

So next time we go to the pub, my camera's coming with me, and I'm taking a picture of that poster. I hope a) that it's still there, and b) that no one see me doing it. 'Cause that would be embarrassing, even if it put a smile on my husband's face.

I may have been born in the city, but there's still no gettin' the Sudbury valley out of me.

Friday, January 06, 2006

This is not a knitting blog.

I knit a swatch! It looks like ass, but I knew it would. Alright, so I had to consult three sources and resort to a video just to learn to cast on (I'm a visual learner. Shut up.), but I did it, and in front of the hockey game, no less! That was crucial; if I can't knit with the game on, there is simply no point in my knitting.

This blog needs more photos, I've decided. I was going to resort to gratuitous cat shots, but now that I have some honest-to-Pete bad knitting to show off, I sheepishly present:

The photo is small for a reason. I added two, er, "bonus" rows early on and had a moment of moment-ness when learning how to cast off, so it looks like a cat chewed one corner.

Did I mention that I'm not a bad oboe player?

That's all you're gettin' out of me for a while. Until then, have a gratuitous cat shot.

Now I'm going to clean my glasses with my swatch. Farewell.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Looking ahead

The New Year always makes me wistful. We have much to celebrate and anticipate, but each New Year we celebrate is a year further away from my mother. Yes, I know, she's still with us, etc., etc. I feel like more earth is tossed on her grave, however, each time we clink glasses, sing Auld Lang Syne, and flip over the calendar.

This has the makings of a good year. Baby on the way, husband applying to work at various school's exciting! I can't even say where we'll be living in a year, but I look forward to seeing what the future holds in that regard. A change might be excellent. Of course, having had my car broken into last night just fuels that sentiment. Another story. Never mind.

I think I'd see more of the best things about Toronto if I didn't live here. We'd make more of our visits, and see more wonderful cultural offerings, and do all the things we're too busy or lazy to do here and now when it's all right under our noses. I say that because I read some journals of folks who live outside of the city, and when they come to visit it, they do things that make me think, "I wish I'd seen or done that." The city has a lot to offer, but my sense of how it feels to live here has changed over the past few years as crime rates have risen, house prices have skyrocketed, pollution has worsened, and the streets and subways have become woefully congested. The husband agrees. We both grew up in sleepy suburbia, and even the neighbourhood I grew up in has changed wickedly, and I wouldn't feel like I was going home if I moved back there.

But who knows? If my husband gets a job in our local board, we might just sit tight.

Either way, I look forward to seeing what happens next. For me, that's pretty damn good.