Tuesday, May 31, 2011

(Food) Adventures in New York City

Sometimes, it’s a wonderful thing to take a vacation from everything and just be able to do exactly what you want.

This weekend, I had that opportunity and I have to say it was perfect.

I spent the weekend in New York with my friend, Saz. We haven’t been on a trip together in years and after being friends for 20 years, we figured it was time again.

So, off to Manhattan we went.

The beauty of going back to a place you’ve been to before is that, most likely, the touristy stuff is out of your system. That was true in our case. While it’s nifty to see the Empire State Building and Times Square, we didn’t feel obligated to go up to the top of the building, see the Statue of Liberty or take a tour in one of those buses with the open tops.

Instead, we did exactly what we wanted which, I find, is the best way to experience a city.

We both arrived late Friday morning and we spent the first part of our day wandering towards NYU, stopping for New York pizza for lunch and enjoying a beautiful spring day. Then we decided to get half-price tickets to a show since we both like Broadway and it seemed like a good idea.

We had trouble deciding on which tickets to get. Saz and I are both fans of musicals and there were several we were open to seeing. There was also a play we’d both heard about that had Kiefer Sutherland, Chris Noth, Jason Patric, Brian Cox and Jim Gaffigan in it. It was called That Championship Season and was supposed to be good. Since the show was closing two days later, we finally reasoned that tickets to that would be our best option since casts like that don’t come along too often whereas musicals are always around.

Well, I think that maybe a musical would have been our best bet. While it was interested to see the actors live, it wasn’t a very good play. For one thing, there were two intermissions which was weird because the play wasn’t even two hours long. Also, while it was nice to see the actors working so hard to be stage actors, I felt a little tired to see how hard they were working. In all honesty, I felt like I was back in college watching actors try to be very serious and show their craft instead of, you know, just acting. It was a little painful at times. Also, there was a portrait of who I think might have been Teddy Roosevelt over the fireplace that was part of the set and I couldn’t help wonder through the entire play why they had a picture of Ricky Gervais hanging up because from our seats, eleven rows back, it REALLY looked like Ricky Gervais. Also, the play was rather…boring. It was all talk. At one point, I started actually hoping someone would die. Then, as things got a little duller, I started to fantasize that Kiefer Sutherland would morph back into Jack Bauer, grab one of the hunting rifles they had as props and liven things up.

Nevertheless, I’m glad I saw the play. I would always have wondered. I think Saz enjoyed it a little more than I did because she’s a little more forgiving.
Our next day, we had another low-key start. We did some shopping which is always a lovely way to spend the day. We did head over to where the World Trade Centre had been because there was a store we wanted to go to there but, also, having last been to NYC when the Twin Towers had been there, it felt right to go back. The site is under construction and it’s nice to see a new building going up.

During a break from our shopping trip, Saz and I discussed other things we could do in the city. At one point, we thought we might try to see another show on Sunday. Then we started talking about food since, you know, I’m a bit of a foodie. We finally came to the conclusion that we’d rather pay the money we’d have spent on theatre tickets on good food so, within minutes, we had a Sunday lunch reservation at Tom Colicchio’s restaurant, Colicchio and Sons, and a dinner reservation for the following night for Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill. As I’ve previously blogged, we already had reservations for that night at Babbo, Mario Batali’s restaurant.

I could probably blog for weeks about Babbo, honestly. It’s an unassuming little place, close to NYU. It’s crowded when you go in. It’s busy. You need reservations at least month before. Many a group was politely turned away by the concierge while we waited for our table.

When we finally sat down, the service began. It was flawless. We ordered the traditional tasting menu with the wine pairings and each course was introduced and the wine pairing explained. There were separate people to replace silverware, wine glasses and scrape crumbs between each course.

Then there was the food. As a Mario Batali groupie, I was expecting good food. Instead, I got great. Really great. Quite possibly the best thing I’ve ever eaten.

Here’s the menu for the foodies out there:

Course 1- Copa with Pickled Chili and Meyer Lemon
Course 2- Pappardelle with morels and thyme
Course 3- Duck Tortelli with “Sugo Finto”
Course 4- Pork Tenderloin with Asparagus, Cipolline and Grilled Lemon Vinaigrette
Course 5- Coach Farm’s Finest goat cheese with Fennel Honey
Course 6- Toasted Sesame Panna Cotta
Course 7- Salame di Cioccolato with brandied cherries
Course 8- “Torta di Orzo” with Malted Milk and Honey Gelato

Each course wasn’t huge- it was just enough to make you want more until the next course came along and wowed you. I’d be hard pressed to pick a favourite although the fresh made pappardelle with morels and thyme might one of the most amazing things I’ve ever tasted. However, the pork tenderloin and the panna cotta course might give it a run for its money.

This is not to say that everything else wasn’t fabulous. It’s like comparing a BMW to a Mercades: Both are excellent and have their merits but they’re not the same car and they can’t really be compared.

he wine pairings were perfect and each glass was enough sips to make you appreciate the pairing without being too much.

In short, if I could hug Mario Batali, I would do it right now for creating food that made me stop, think and truly appreciate how things are composed and presented. There’s a reason while he has the renown he has and I’m very, very thrilled that his food tasted as wonderful as I expected. When you’ve seen as many episodes of Iron Chef America as I have, there’s a certain level of expectancy and hope and I am very happy that Babbo exceeded my expectations.

Like I said, I could probably write a novella about Babbo but, well, I’m not sure anyone but me would read it.

After Babbo, we were too happy and keyed up to go back to the hotel. We wandered over to Bleeker Street to a music club a friend of Saz’s had recommended. The band that was playing when we arrived were very good- very Long Beach, California type of music. Unfortunately, they ended an a funk band took over.

I’m not a huge fan of funk. This band were good but they’re one of those bands that believes in jamming which means their songs went on and on and on. I think one of them lasted over ten minutes.

We left and headed back, exhausted, full and very happy.

On our last day, we headed over to Chelsea to have brunch at Colicchio and Sons. We were a little disappointed that they only had a brunch menu rather than their full lunch but it was pretty good stuff. I had a ricotta frittata with caramelized onions, arugula and honey. It was tasty but, well, it wasn’t Babbo. We ate in the Tap Room which is the more relaxed area of the restaurant. Maybe if we’d have gone in the dining room we’d have been more wowed. This is not to say it wasn’t good food. Saz had a burger that she said was one of the best she’d had. It…just wasn’t Babbo. It’s really like apples and oranges though and to compare the two really isn’t fair. Babbo is a special occasion, very very rare sort of experience. Colicchio and Sons is a place you go for a high quality lunch and a really good beer.

We spent the rest of that afternoon exploring the fabulous Chelsea Market and laying in Hudson River Park, drinking Prosecco and enjoying the beautiful day.

When we finally got up and moving again, we headed to Eataly- the Italian marketplace/eating place that was set up by Mario Batali, Lidia Bastianich, Joe Bastianich and Oscar Farinetti.

Eataly made me wish I had a kitchen, right then and there. It is a store filled with ever Italian ingredient you can imagine. Within the store, there are areas that serve food, all made from the same ingredients you can buy. There are meats, cheeses, produces, pastas, olive oils….aisle and aisles of them. While I could have spent a fortune, I restrained myself. The practicality of air travel is that it’s not practical for transporting fresh ingredients home and keeping them fresh. Still, I wandered, fondled a few ingredients and generally felt like I’d found my mothership.

During all this time, Saz was very patient. She enjoys good food but isn’t as into cooking as me. However, she indulged my foodie love with patience and laughing at how I couldn’t help but fawn over the mushrooms and 25 year-old aged balsamic that was being sold for $220.

We finally left Eataly with a t-shirt and a need for fresh air. We headed back to the hotel, took a break and then got ready for Mesa Grill.

Mesa Grill is not the same as Babbo. It’s much more relaxed. It’s a lot bigger or seems that way. It was very, very good.

I have to admit, I’m a fan of Bobby Flay so eating at his restaurant gave me a bit of the same thrill as eating at Babbo. Mesa Grill is southwestern in flavours. I decided that I wanted to be daring and finally try rabbit. Until I became a foodie, like so many people, I viewed eating rabbit as eating Thumper the bunny. Then I learned to appreciate food and now try to separate cartoon cuteness with the tastiness of meat.

The rabbit was cascabel chile crusted and came with toasted cous cous, fava beans, smoked red pepper sauce and queso blanco. It was, in short, absolutely delicious. It was almost a cross between pork and chicken. Saz had the green chilli cioppino which she, too, loved.

Our final review of Mesa Grill is that it was tasty. It still wasn’t Babbo but we didn’t expect it to be. Mesa Grill is more of a regular type of place, somewhere you’d go to get a craving fix. It was fabulous food but very approachable. Like with Mario Batali, I’ve seen Bobby cook on Iron Chef America and it was awesome to try some of the food I’ve seen him make. It was delicious.

That was pretty much the end of our NYC adventure. Three days goes fast, particularly when you measure it in food. Saz and I had made a pact when we arrived that we wouldn’t feel bad if we ate non-healthy food. Saz has been exercising and dieting since last year and has managed to lose 60 pounds. She looks great. She’s also been trying to eat well. Me, I’ve lost 15 pounds and try very hard not to eat too badly.

This weekend, we ignored our health-eating inclinations. It was worth every calorie. Granted, it means I’ll be eating lots of healthy stuff for a while but when you’re presented with heaven-on-a-plate like we were at Babbo, life is too short to care about fat grams and calories.

I was sad to come home though it’s nice to be reunited with the pups. They missed me and I missed them. I had a great time in New York. I had a great time with Saz.

However, as is the case with all good vacations, they must come to an end. So, here I am, back to reality and back to work a couple of pounds heavier and a few cares lighter.

It was worth every penny and every moment. How often do you get to say that?

Happy Wednesday!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Distracted Brians

It is very hard to focus on work the day before going on a fun trip. Naturally, this means that my day was far more busy than usual which, while having the added advantage of making time fly, also meant that I was a wee bit distracted and had to do a few things over.

For example, I accidentally type an email to a brain today. I was actually intending to type Brian but I accidentally called him brain. This is not good. Also, I was trying to send an email to our IT support person and I accidentally sent it to myself which did me no good at all.

Still, in spite of that, I did manage to actually accomplish something today which I find to be a huge accomplishment. Even more so than usual. Of course, we have a slightly shorter day in the office today due to the fact that my boss scheduled a client appreciation event this evening and we all got to leave at 4:30 p.m.

Normally, I’d be excited about that because the event is a wine tasting and I love wine. However, it’s not the most convenient thing this time around. My smart thinking when I booked my ticket for New York back in February was to fly from my parents’ airport so that I could drive up to stay with them overnight and drop off the pups to spend the weekend with their ‘grandparents’. My flight leaves at 6 a.m. tomorrow morning.

I had planned on leaving work a little early so I could spend the evening with my parents before I left tomorrow. Then when I came home, I’d fly back through their airport, pick up the pups and be on my merry way.

And then my boss scheduled the wine tasting a couple of weeks ago and since it’s a client appreciation event, I’m required to go.

This now means that I will not get to leave for my parent’s until quite late this evening which means I’ll be late arriving at their house and I have to get up at 4:00 a.m. tomorrow morning.

Ah well, the best laid plans…right? The idea to fly from my parents’ airport seemed like such a good idea even if my local airport is Cincinnati and, ironically, I’m connecting through Cincinnati on the way to New York.

Nevertheless, I’m still rather excited and I’m very much looking forward to my trip. I’m going to try not to make it all about food but I think that might be difficult. I like food. Food is fun.

I’m sure I’ll have plenty of adventures to write about in my next blog but, for now, I’m signing off until Tuesday evening before my slightly distracted brain starts getting even more distracted.

And that time I meant to type brain, not brian.

Happy Friday and have a great long weekend. Thanks, as always, for reading!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Penalty of Kindness

So, yesterday, I blogged about feeling slightly guilty for not mowing Mr. Enormous Trousers’ yard for him and I mentioned that I tend to get taken advantage of for being nice.

I think if I’m going to put that out on the blogosphere, I really should stick by my decision to stop being quite so nice because, well, it happened again last night.

You see, when I got home from work yesterday, I noticed two things. One, Son of Dog Whisperer was running around in the street in front of his house clad only in a pair of swimming trunks and two) he’d set up a lemonade stand with two of his friends from down the street.

The swimming trunks thing wasn’t terribly surprising because it was hot although since there’s no pool too close by and he doesn’t have a hose in his garden, it seemed like an interesting choice of attire but I attributed it to the fact that it was hot. Also, I’d much rather have Son of Dog Whisperer running around without a shirt than Dog Whisperer himself because, well, let’s just say that Dog Whisperer doesn’t exactly have the sort of naked chest you want to see, well, naked.

The lemonade stand was something different. Son of Dog Whisperer had taken his little table and chair from inside the house and set it up outside with a Tupperware pitcher full of lemonade.

Normally, I walk the dogs when I get home but since it’s been so hot, muggy and sticky outside, I was already contemplating not walking them. Rory has taken to just sitting down in protest when she’s hot and she gets extremely irritated when I make her keep walking. Sookie, meanwhile just looks at me with a sulk in her eye and her tongue hanging out in panting protest. Then, when we get home, she spends the rest of the evening sprawling out in various positions on the cool piece of linoleum that’s in my entranceway just to show me she is, in fact, hot.

The trouble is, the dogs think they want to walk so when I don’t walk them, they have this habit of both sitting there at our regular sojourn time and looking at me as though to say , “are we going walking or what?” Every move I make is watched and it just takes one step for them to run to the front door, waiting for me to put their leashes on them.

Still, last night, I hadn’t planned on walking them because of the heat. Also, I’ll confess, I was a little crabby from a not-so-great day at work and wasn’t feeling very social and I knew if I went out with the dogs, I’d be accosted by Son of Dog Whisperer to buy some lemonade. This only aided my desire to not walk.

However, the dogs didn’t seem to like my plan and they went into their traditional “WHEN ARE WE WALKING????” stance. Also, I started to feel a little like the neighbourhood Scrooge. I mean, the kid was just trying to have a little business, right? That sort of enterprising behavior should be rewarded.

It’s just….well, how to say this without being mean….the kid is a little…odd. He often walks up to me, says something random and runs off. However, lately, he’s been becoming a little friendlier. He gave me a signed hockey puck because he thought he might be a famous hockey player on his team. Only afterwards did I find out from Wife of Dog Whisperer, he didn’t really have a hockey team. Still, it was a sweet gesture.

Thus, I began to feel mean for not wanting to give the kid 25 cents for a cup of lemonade. Sighing, I tucked a dollar bill and some quarters into my jeans pocket and then got the dogs ready for walking.

Sure enough, as soon as I stepped outside, I was accosted. “WannabuysomeLEMONADE???” the kids yelled at me. Son of Dog Whisperer’s friends live down the street and the little girl, who is about six, is a little too aggressive in trying to pet the dogs when we see her. She runs up to them “CUTEDOGGGIEEEEE” she yells as she simultaneously tries to grab them. The pups, of course, skitter away in alarm at this little human who doesn’t seem to understand that the dogs might not want to be grabbed. Her brother is a little less affectionate with the dogs. I think they might even be twins because they look about the same age.

Anyway, combined with Son of Dog Whisperer’s enthusiasm, the lemonade stand was definitely not deprived of hawkers. I promised the kids I’d get a cup when I came back around the block with the dogs.

It took a wee bit longer than planned because we ran into Larry the Potential Serial Killer. He was mowing his lawn and was very sweaty but it didn’t stop him from coming over for one of his a-little-too-up-close-and-personal chats.

By the time we escaped, we looped back around the block and I saw Son of Dog Whisperer running in someone’s yard, clearly scouting the territory for me to reappear. As I said, he’s a nice boy but he doesn’t have many senses of boundaries and has no qualms about walking through anyone’s yard, including mine. I don’t say anything because I don’t want to be one of those “GET OFF MY LAWN!” cranks but I find it a little irritating.

I finally got to the lemonade stand and was told it was both 25 cents and 50 cents a glass. The kids had a bit of an argument about how much to charge me. I decided to be nice and gave them a dollar and told them to keep the change. I took my lemonade and headed inside but not before Son of Dog Whisperer ran up to me and asked “So, what have you been up to lately, [Captain Monkeypants]?” It seemed like quite a grown-up question for an eight year old to ask a neighbour but I figured he’d been learning manners so I chatted with him and then he left me to take the dogs inside.

I sipped the lemonade but, as anticipated, it was Kool Aid and was very, very sweet and I couldn’t drink it. I decided to start making dinner so I was just getting my vegetables ready to chop when there was a thump on my door. I opened it. This may seem simple but with two dachshunds, opening the front door involves some quick maneuvering to make sure they don’t run out. Thus, I stepped outside and shut the door behind me. The little boy from down the street had gone and it was just son of Dog Whisperer and the little girl.

It seemed I’d been the winner in a drawing that Son of Dog Whisperer and his little female friend had created and I’d won both a free glass of lemonade and a Mormon pamphlet that I know for a fact and been lying in their front yard for a while during several storms. Thus, it was muddy and mottled.

Surprised, I said thanks. Then Son of Dog Whisperer said, “Fifty Cents, please.” I was surprised because usually ‘winning’ doesn’t involve paying for said prize, particularly when it’s not really wanted but at this point, I still thought it was cute and I handed over the fifty cents I had in my pocket.

With a polite “thanks”, the kids scampered off. I went back to dinner. Then, moments later, there was another thump-thump-thump on my door. They were back. This time with a half-empty can of root beer that I’d also ‘won’ in yet another drawing. This time, I didn’t have any change or dollar bills and I told them that. Dejected, they handed me the can and walked away.

Again, I went back to making dinner. Again, I was interrupted. This time, they rang the doorbell. This time, there was no pretense of my winning a prize. They just wanted money. I was a little surprised and I joked that I didn’t have any more cash since I used my debit card mostly. That was fine. The kids ‘took debit cards.’ I laughed and said, “Uh-huh, sure you do.” The kids wouldn’t let it go. They just kept on and on about me giving them money and my debit card. I finally got annoyed and said I had to go. The kids decided then to steal my cute little dog statue I have in my front yard and run off with it unless I gave them a dollar.

During this time, there was absolutely no sign of Dog Whisperer or Wife of Dog Whisperer and I was starting to get angry that not only were these kids being brats but, also, they were unsupervised brats. Finally, I went inside thinking that if I ignored them, they’d just get fed up and leave and I’d get my statue back later.

This was fine until they both decided to literally plaster themselves up against my front window doing that horrible thing that kids do and stuck their mouths on my window, sticking out their tongues and leaving my window all smeared. I was furious by this point. The dogs were going crazy and I was at the end of my patience. They kept yelling “ONE DOLLAR” and held up my dog statue. Finally, irritated beyond anything, I opened the door and gave them the dollar since nothing else was going to get rid of them. Just as I did, Dog Whisperer stepped out of his house. The kids grabbed the dollar and ran off and Dog Whisperer went inside before I could even mention what the kids had been doing.

I figured that was the end of it. I was just getting the food on the grill outside when my doorbell rang, again. This time, it was Son of Dog Whisperer by himself with some flash cards he wanted me to buy to teach my dogs to read. Fortunately, this time, Dog Whisperer was hot on his heels and I got a very sincere apology.

I suppose it was my own fault. I thought I’d be nice and give the kids the money to help teach them the value of ‘earning’ a dollar. After all, isn’t that the point of a lemonade stand? I shouldn’t have kept giving in to them. I know I should never have given them that last dollar because I was just encouraging them but since ignoring them didn’t stop them nor did it deter them, it seemed like the best option. My next step was going to be MY knocking on HIS door to talk to his parents and I had every intention of doing that.

I’m not ruling that out because I have a feeling that the kids are going to think of me as the sucker who gave them money. I am a sucker. I stupidly thought that being nice would simply be appreciated rather than seen as a ‘ooh, let’s get more money from her.” I know that they’re young but at the age of eight, I’d been taught that asking for money from anyone but my parents was unacceptable. If offered, I could take it but demanding or begging for it was a no-no.

I suppose there’s a lesson to be learned there somewhere. I’m just hoping that there aren’t any more lemonade stands cropping up in front of Dog Whisperer’s house for a while. If so, I will not be buying. In fact, I think I’ll hide in my house until it goes away which is what I should have done in the first place.

Ah well, you learn something new every day, right?

Happy Thursday!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

You Can Tell a Lot by a Lawn...

The thing with taking the dogs for a walk every night unless it’s raining is that I tend to notice the subtle changes in my neighbourhood.

We’ve been walking fairly regularly since the end of February. We’ve watched as winter turned slowly into spring. The ice-covered winter lawns began to thaw and the green began to show through. We watched the bare trees grow their first buds which gave way to blossom which are now full covers of leaves.

It’s interesting to watch the change of the seasons that way.

We also notice who has changed things on their houses. You can tell a lot about the occupants of a house by the small things. For example, it’s pretty easy to spot the retired folks because they have the type of lawns that require a landscaping company. They have quaint little ornaments in their front grass and flags that show the season. They never leave the flag up too long. Their decorations go up just at the right time. Then there are the proud homeowners who do their own mowing and they do it often. They attempt for the same neatly created lawn that the landscaping companies provide but it’s never quite as tidy.

Then there are the homeowners like me who like to have a tidy lawn but, well, we have other things to do. I try never to let my lawn get too long but there are days when I simply don’t have time to go measure the grass and try to make sure it’s the perfect length.

And then there are the people who just don’t like to mow. Some of them are renters as my disdainful neighbour once pointed out. In some cases, when they are a renter, it’s not their fault. They rent someone else’s house and the landlord has an agreement where he/she will mow the lawn as part of the rental agreement.

This, of course means, that the tenant doesn’t own his or her own personal lawnmower because there’s no need. They become reliant on the landlord to do so and when he/she doesn’t show up, their grass gets long.

Of course, there are other types of renters: These who just don’t cut their grass unless they’re to the point where they know they can’t avoid it much longer. My next door neighbour, Mr. Enormous Trousers, is one of these.

Mr. Enormous Trousers is married to a nice lady I will call Mrs. Enormous Trousers. They’re a very nice couple. They love my dogs. They make a point of stopping and talking to us every time they see us. Mr. Enormous Trousers is ok. He chats and then goes inside. Mrs. Enormous Trousers is very, very chatty. She tells me a lot about her family and her problems and her life. I don’t mind hearing it but when, like me, you have just promised a nice walk to your two little dachshunds and then, as soon as you head outside, you stop, it’s a little inconvenient. Both Sookie and Rory try to be patient with Mrs. Enormous Trousers but they’re not good at standing still immediately after getting to be outside on their leash.

Anyway, Mrs. Enormous Trousers has told me the ins and outs of Mr. Enormous Trousers’ health issues. Apparently, he used to be Mr. Even More Enormous Trousers but he’s lost a lot of weight. Also, he has bad knees and a bad bladder.

The point of my telling you this is that I also know they have two daughters and a son. One of the daughters is recently pregnant and this, Mrs. Enormous Trousers, was a bit of an unexpected ‘surprise.’

Mrs. Enormous Trousers has also told me that it’s very hard for them to get their lawn cut because Mr. Enormous Trousers also has a bad back. Thus, he can’t always mow. I haven’t quite figured out why Mrs. Enormous Trousers doesn’t mow because she doesn’t seem to have so many woes but, usually, when needs must, it’s still Mr. Enormous Trousers out there mowing.

Now, here’s the thing I don’t get. They have kids. Their kids are very healthy. They are also all above the age of 20. One of them still lives at home and she is not the pregnant one. Now, if I lived with my parents and my dad had health issues, wouldn’t the natural thing be to offer to mow the lawn?

Not so with this family, alas. In fact, when I was out mowing on Friday, clearly sweating in the heat and not feeling very chatty, Mrs. Enormous Trousers came over and had me stop the mower simply to tell me how well my mower mowed and, perhaps, I could just keep mowing on over to their lawn.

She said it with a laugh but I could tell there was some seriousness there. I contemplated it, briefly. It would have been a kind gesture and I generally do try to make those when I can. It’s just that my fear was that if I did it just once, it would be one of those things I’d feel like I had to do all the time. Also, I think they might actually expect it.

It’s not that I don’t like doing nice things for people but I’m not fond of mowing to begin with. Also, mowing takes gas which I was low on anyway. Finally, well, they have other people in their own house who can mow the lawn. In my case, I only have two dogs inside and the only way I could get Sookie and Rory to mow would be to coat the lawn with bacon and hope they pulled up the grass at the same time they grabbed the bacon.

I did feel bad. The kind thing to do would be to help them out. If they were completely stuck and they had no way of getting the lawn cut, I’d definitely help. I think I also might be a little oversensitive about it anyway: I tend to be a bit soft and I’ve been taken advantage of before so I’m a little more careful now.

Perhaps I’m talking about it to assuage my guilt. I’m definitely not someone to walk away from a person in need but we’re talking lawnmowing here. Besides, on the other side of Mr. Enormous Trousers is Wayne. Wayne is a neighbour I’ve only recently met. He just bought his very own industrial mower and he’s offered to cut my lawn for a small fee. Since I just got a new mower, I didn’t take him up on his enterprising offer but I can’t help but think he’d do the same for the Enormous Trousers’.

In the end, the boyfriend of the pregnant daughter came by and cut their lawn the morning after I did mine. I didn’t feel so bad then.

By the time he was done mowing, their lawn was as short as mine. It was hard to tell they were renters. The only evidence is the very long clippings that spray onto the sidewalk and reveal how long their grass actually was. This is a telltale sign of a renter, at least according to my chatty and slightly snobby neighbour, Mike of the Rather Large Backyard.

I prefer to think it may be the sign of someone whose lawn mower exploded or someone who simply doesn’t want to mow. You never can tell. There’s always a story behind every long lawn. Sometimes it’s simple and sometimes it requires a long conversation with Mrs. Enormous Trousers to find out why.

Either way, walking the pups in the neighbourhood is often an adventure, no matter what time of year.

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Power of a Storm

When I was a child, I was terrified of thunderstorms. I would dread them the way some people dread going to the dentist. I would listen to the weather whenever the weather was warm, just in case. I would have little superstitions that I felt warded off storms.

When we did have storms and I was young enough, I'd run to my parents bed and crawl under the covers with them. If they weren't in bed yet, I'd sit with them until the storm was over.

Then came the day when my dad got fed up of me being so terrified of storms and he made me go outside during a storm. I was very frightened but he managed to prove in that moment that a storm was just a storm. After that, my fear abated and I no longer dreaded storms.

Nowadays, for the most part, I love thunderstorms. I love the majesty of them and the power they have to clear the air after a string of muggy days. I love the comfort of being inside when the storm is raging and I'm able to watch the lightning and rain from safety.

Then there are the storms that still have the power to scare me just like the one we had tonight, for example.

I knew it was supposed to storm and when the sky started clouding over, it was obvious we were in for a thunderstorm. Since the pups are a little skittish about storms, I decided to change my routine and hop in the shower before the storm hit. That way the pups and I could sit together and enjoy the thunder.

It's amazing how quickly storms can arrive. I was in the shower when I heard the wind pick up. There was a rather alarming howl that began to echo through the small window in my bathroom even though it was firmly closed. Then the tornado sirens went off.

There's nothing that can put an end to a peaceful moment quicker than a tornado siren when it's fighting the sound of a hungry howling wind.

Needless to say, I was alarmed enough that I finished my shower quicker than you can imagine, hopped out and realized that the storm was not only here but it was a bad one.

The wind was blowing so much that the house was shaking. The tornado alarm was blaring. I didn't know whether we were just having wind or there really was a tornado. It's hard to tell because the sirens go off when the possibility is there. It's a little hard to tell if they're telling you there is a tornado there. Given the sudden strength of the storm and the speed of the wind and the fact that there were tree branches blowing by my window, I decided that it would be safer to act like it was a tornado.

The pups and I headed for our 'safe' room- the little bathroom with no windows in the middle of the house. Just as we got there, the sirens stopped. The wind had dropped a little so I decided to take a chance and turn the TV on.

The signal was spotty but it seemed that we'd had the worst of the storm. From that point onwards even though there was some pretty insane lightning and some rather goosepimple inspiring crashes of thunder, the storm started to die down.

The pups and I cuddled together on the sofa, watching the weather, just in case but the danger was definitely over. In the end, it turned out that we hadn't had a tornado but instead, we'd had 65 mph winds.

I felt a little silly afterwards for my fear. I think that often happens when you get scared- afterwards, you feel a little foolish.

Nevertheless, I'm glad that it wasn't a tornado and that it was just a very severe storm. If it taught me anything it's that no matter how old and wise you feel, certain things have the power to turn you back into a frightened child, even for a moment.

I think there's definitely a lesson in that. Also, I think I'll pick when to take a shower more wisely next time.

Happy Tuesday and thanks for reading!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sunny Days Were Here Again!

Once again, I write this as the weekend is waning and the workweek is looming closer. As always, I wish it was reversed but, unfortunately, I have no figured out a way to reverse time.

Nevertheless, as weekends go, this has been a nice one. We managed to have 2.5 days with both rain and sunshine. It was a welcome treat. I even managed to get my lawn mowed on Friday night as well as do a little weeding. It's a welcome treat to wind up a productive week with a productive evening outside that culminates in sitting back at the end of it all with a class of wine and sitting outside, smelling the freshly cut grass.

Wine seemed to be the order of the weekend. I spent Saturday with a friend in the little town where I used to live before I bought my house. They were having their annual wine tasting and arts festival. All of the wineries were local to Ohio so it was nice to sample some different blends. It was a beautiful, warm sunny day and I think I honoured in the best way possible: drinking wine, sitting outside and spending it with good company.

Even though I ended up sunburned, it was worth every bit of pink flesh. Besides, being British, it's not like it's a shocker. Even if I did put on the 45 spf sunscreen, I still manage to burn. Tis the nature of being fair skinned.

Today, I took advantage of the sunshine this morning and the pups and I got an early start. We took a long walk around the neighbourhood at the very beginning of our day. I love doing that: The dew is still fresh on the grass and most people aren't out and about. It's peaceful. There were, however, a very large number of squirrels out and about foraging for thier breakfast. Sookie and Rory were delighted by this. Sometimes, I'm amazed by the squirrels' dexterity- one manage to run and climb up a tree while holding on to some type of metal can. It was quite interesting to watch.

After our walk, we spent the rest of the morning outside. While weeding is an uphill battle, I did manage to clear an area big enough to plant my zucchini and tomato plants. I also managed to get my herb garden cleared of weeds and plant a few more seeds.

Unfortunately, it was very hot. It's the type of heat and humidity that builds up before a huge thunderstorm. Eventually, it became too much to work outside and the pups and I retreated indoors where it was cooler.

The thunderstorm just arrived. We're having a torrential downpour at present and the thunder is booming away. Even though it means more rain, I don't mind this time. I'm a big fan of thunderstorms like this and it's somewhat soothing to hear it clatter away.

We're supposed to have more storms tonight. It seems like a good way to wind up a weekend. Even though I'd much prefer sitting outside with my glass of wine, there's nothing that says that can't be an indoor activity.

Besides, even though tomorrow means another workweek has begun, I really can't complain. It's a short week for me. I'm off to New York on Friday to spend the weekend with my friend Saz. It's been 20 years of friendship for us and I can't think of a better way to celebrate.

And next week is also a short work week too so, really, I can't complain that this weekend is going too fast when next week is a four-day weekend for me.

It's just that I enjoy weekends so much...but then, who doesn't?

Happy Monday!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Simple Reminders...

Today was one of those days where, no matter how badly things are going, you realize someone always has it worse.

My day began at work as it usually does: We have a daily staff meeting to discuss who is working on what and what our priorities are. Unfortunately, this was the meeting where I had to announce that not only had two of my people quit yesterday but one of my candidates didn’t want a job.

This is never a good way to start the day. Even though it’s not my fault the consultants quit, it feels like I did something wrong. It doesn’t help that my boss and the other account manager in the office are stressed that we now have to replace my candidate. In short, I felt like I was lousy at my jobs.

So, one of my tasks was to try to replace the consultant who quit with no notice. This situation did not make me happy. Rather than be professional and call me to tell me he wasn’t happy, he couldn’t afford the gas and he was going to try to get his old job back he instead signed a contract with his old company before he told me he was quitting. Thus, even though I asked for him to provide us with a weeks’ notice, he couldn’t.

You can see why I was both upset and frustrated. Fortunately, I had a resume from another candidate with a similar background to call. So, I called her.

It was then that I realized that my bad day with irritated account managers and low work-esteem was really not that bad. You see, this poor woman had been laid off two years ago. She’d been trying to find jobs but, unfortunately, she’s an older programmer and technology is evolving. Thus, there is less and less need for someone with her skills. As a result, she’s currently living with a friend because she’s homeless. Prior to getting laid off, she’d been laid off at two prior jobs.

Talking to her made me realize that I was incredibly lucky to have a job. I already knew this, of course but having it affirmed is always a good thing. Things can always be worse. Way worse.

By the time I got off the phone with her, I wanted to give this poor woman a job. She’s running out of unemployment and she really, really wants to work. She could easily do the job I was calling her about and I want her to get it.

Unfortunately, it’s not my decision. The way it works in my office is that when I find a candidate, I have to present her to the account manager who is in charge of the position. This is easier said than done when dealing with this particular account manager. She worries constantly about little things and looking bad and thus, she hesitated when I told her my candidates tales of woe. She doesn’t think she can get this woman a job because she hasn’t worked in a while. However, she knows as well as I do that the market has been horrible and there are lots of people looking for work.

I can’t do anything about it. Even with a good reference, I don’t think she’s going to help me out with my candidate. This, unfortunately, happens a lot. It’s one of the few things I don’t like about my job- both me and my fellow recruiter spend hours finding candidates for positions. We phone screen them, interview them in person and then present them. This takes a lot of time.

Unfortunately, it only takes a few minutes for my account manager to say, “I don’t think so.” Many times they’re right and, even in the case of my Virtually Homeless Candidate, she might be right.

It’s just that I’m a softie. This is why I end up with a pile of resumes from desperate candidates who just want a job, any job. I can’t say no because I want to help them.

This is probably not very good. However, even when I’ve tried to change, I still can’t really say no because I don’t want to say no. I want to help them. I’d want someone to help me.

Unfortunately, in the world of IT recruiting, there are times when I’m going to have to say no. I’ve done it but I don’t like doing it. Sometimes, it’s easy- particularly when the candidates aren’t very pleasant or, worse, are greedy. Case in point, yesterday, I called a consultant who I’d spoken to just a couple of weeks ago. Back then, he was looking for a job and wanted $70K a year which, for his skillset, is very reasonable. Just two weeks later, he’s found himself a cushy little short term project that pays well. Short term projects do pay well because there’s no overhead fees for the company. He now feels as though he’s worth at least $70/hour and, ideally, “should be making $75/hour”.

I’ll do the maths for you on that. If he had a job that paid $75/hour that was fulltime, his equivalent salary would be almost $150K. Given that he wanted under HALF of that two weeks ago, methinks he might be in for a rude awakening when this contract is over and he realizes that while he’s good at his job, there are a lot of other people out there who are better and way more affordable.

Sorry I’m blogging so much about my job this week. It’s been one of those weeks. On the plus side, I actually saw the sun today! It came out for ten minutes. Yes, that is all…ten minutes. Yet it was ten minutes we didn’t have yesterday.

I’m hoping that next week will be a better week, workwise. Yet, even if I have another week full of quitters, disappointments and gloomy days, I will remind myself: Life could be far, far worse. I do, after all, have a job and, what’s even better, I like it most of the time.

But, really, what more can you ask for in a job really?

Happy Friday and have a great weekend!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Almost Sunshine

I think I might have seen the sun today. It was brief and it was filtered but, for a few brief minutes, I think the gloom tried to go away.

Of course, it didn't go away. Instead, the sun went away. Then it rained. The end.

Just kidding. If I ended the blog there, anyone who is even a slightly regular reader would probably fall off their chair in shock at the mere fact that I wasn't rambling.

Tomorrow, we're supposed to actually see the sun for real. I'm holding out a little hope, I must admit. This lack of sunshine is making everyone crotchety and cranky...not just me.

I suppose I could argue that maybe I really am the crotchety cranky one and I'm projecting but, well, for once, that's not true. My entire office has been bickering all week. Case in point- our youngest account manager was yelling at our branch administrator to buy chewing gum with sugar in it. She usually buys sugar free gum. She was getting rather angry with him about it. Of course, I helpfully stepped in and told our young 'un that there was a nice cannister of sugar in the kitchen and perhaps he should stick some of that in his mouth when he chews the gum but that didn't go over very well.

We don't seriously bicker in our office. It's actually quite like sibling bickering. Mostly, it's sort of endearing although sometimes, as in the case of siblings, there are times when I'd quite like to throw something at someone elses' head but it's all done with fondness.

Actually, we're a little spoiled in our office anyway. I mean, not only does our branch administrator provide gum for us but she also buys Coke and Diet Coke and Mountain Dew for the boys as well as microwave popcorn, large pretzels and Cheeze Nips.

I find this all rather nice. The 'boys' in the office tend to take it for granted. When I explain that at my last job we had to pay 35 cents for a can of drink, they think my old office was cheap. I'm not going to say they weren't but, honestly, I didn't mind having to pay. For one thing, when something isn't free, you tend to think before you indulge. Because I get Diet Coke for free at work, I drink it almost every day.

All in all, my office is a good place to work. Even on days like today where two of my candidates decided to quit their jobs and another one turned down a position we were offering him, I like my job. Granted, it would be nicer if everyone stayed in the jobs I found for them forever and people were lining up in the street to work with me but, being a realist, I celebrate the small triumphs such as finding someone a job who really needs it and being able to make sure that someone's contract is extended.

As I always say, it's the small things in life that make it worth celebrating. On gloomy days like today, yesterday, the day before that and the day before that, I find that finding something to celebrate is necessary. In my case, it's that I had a productive day even if it wasn't the most successful. One of my 'quitters' is a man who's finally found a permanent job and though I'll be sad not to work with him anymore, I can't help but be thrilled for him that he's going to have some stability. That's something I think worth celebrating even if its not really a triumph for me.

I'm hoping that tomorrow, I'll be able to celebrate seeing some real, live sunshine. If not...I'll try to find the silver lining on the rather heavy cloud deck that never seems to go away.

But I'd rather it was sunny. Even for a little while.

Happy Thursday

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Thinking of Seattle...

I won’t whine about the rain anymore. Granted, it’s raining again but I’ve convinced myself that this is what it’s like to live in Seattle and to celebrate, I drank a lot of coffee.

I’ve actually always quite fancied going to Seattle. It just seems like an interesting place. I think it might be because it’s supposed to be a lot like England but, also, it just seems to be pretty nifty. Plus, my good friend Saz was there on a business trip last week and she said they have an awesome market called Pikes’ Place Market where you can pretty much buy every ingredient known to man.

Also, I like coffee. Seattle has coffee. I think that means I should go there someday.

I used to travel a lot more when I was a bit younger. This is partly because I had a job as an International Market Research Analyst so I got to travel. I didn’t do too much international travel there. This was because when we had to do an international market research study, we’d figure out what country we needed to do our study in and then hire another market research company to do all the work. Then we’d slap our logo and label on the report and give it to our client. I did get to go to twice though. Since I was the token British person, my boss would send me. I liked that. I was supposed to go to Paris once because I’d sort of exaggerated the fact that I spoke French when I’d applied for that job. Fortunately, it fell through and I went to London instead. I was relived. I had been studying French by using tapes but I hadn’t progressed much past the “Where are the toilets?” and “Where is the wine?” stage of my education.

I also travelled a bit with my family. When I was in college, my dad went through a road warrior phase and bought an RV. My younger siblings and I would go with him and mum on trips down south. My older brother never went because he didn’t want to and my parents thought he was responsible enough to stay home alone. Since he was over 18 at this point, it made sense.

Still, I got to go. Mostly, it was quite fun at first. There was the time when we got stuck in an RV park in Alabama during a minor hurricane. That was a wee bit alarming because an RV isn’t exactly the most sturdy and weatherproof place to be. However, by the time we got to Alabama, we were told that it was too late to miss the hurricane so the best thing to do would be batten down the hatches and wait it out.

We did. It was very windy and rainy and loud. Fortunately, we didn’t blow away. I’m glad it was just a minor hurricane.

Then there was the time we went to Texas and didn’t get to the RV until after dark. When we woke up the next day and went outside, there were these sand dunes all over the place and lots of scorpions and scary spiders.

Then there was the time when I was interning in Maine during my college years and my family went camping in the RV to Florida without me. They went to Disneyworld. Naturally, I wasn’t there for that trip even though I had been wanting to go there for years. It’s ok mum, I’ve mostly forgiven you all for that. I mean just because when I went in the RV with you and the rest of the family, we went to Florida but didn’t go to Disney World, it’s ok.

Just kidding. I’m over it. Besides, I moved to L.A. and got to go to Disneyland a lot. It wasn’t quite the same but it did make up for it.

Then, of course, there was the time I actually did move to L.A. and my parents and I drove out there and then, when I came home, my friend and I drove back to Indiana. This means I saw a lot of the U.S. I had never seen before. Combined with my internships in Maine, one to which I drove rather than flew, I’ve pretty much seen most of the country.

Except Seattle. Which is the whole point of this blog today. Actually, I’ve never seen the Pacific Northwest at all. When I was actually working for the market research company, my friend Saz had to do a report on the Salmon of the Pacific Northwest for a legislative-y type of job she had and it inspired me to write a story about the Salmon of the Pacific Northwest but, well, that’s pretty much the closest I’ve come.

Although I’ve eaten plenty of salmon since then. I’m a big fan of salmon.

I also watch “Grey’s Anatomy” which is set in Seattle. However, watching “Grey’s” doesn’t exactly inspire you to live there because if you believed that show, it would be the single most important place for rare medical events ever. Just to name a few: trees growing in lungs, babies that grow in intestines without any fluid, men who eat doll heads, people who get little fishes that swim up their penises and live inside the human body, people who literally turn into fossilized trees and people who a) get impaled by a tree, b) fall out of trees or c) get knocked out of trees because they’re staging a protest. In the world of “Grey’s Anatomy,” trees are evil.

So, I’ll ignore the “Grey’s” take on Seattle and just keep it on my list of places to go to someday. After all, I’m experienced with rain and I drink coffee. I drink a lot of coffee.

Which, actually, you can probably tell from reading this blog. Note to Captain Monkeypants: Do not drink so much coffee when blogging, it inspires randomness.

However, at least I’m not complaining about the rain.

Still...maybe I do need more coffee.

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, May 16, 2011

I Need Sunshine on a Cloudy Day

I miss the sun.

It’s funny- I always complained that there was too much sun when I lived in L.A. and I missed non sunny weather too much. Now it seems, I’m unable to be content and now I’m complaining that I don’t like the rain.

The thing is, I do like rain. I like it a lot. It has a place. It’s necessary to make things grow. I’m just a little fed up of it. We haven’t had a real spring sunny day in a very long time. Last week, when the sun did actually shine it was on a very hot, muggy day that didn’t feel very springlike at all.

Today, we have a constant drizzle. It’s grey. It’s cold. It’s very un-Maylike. I’m a little sad about that. I like spring because it’s refreshing and pretty and green.

This spring, so far, has been grey, wet and green. It hasn’t been very refreshing.

I keep trying to see the bright side of all the rain. It’s not that it’s even good for the garden because the garden is so saturated, there’s nowhere for the rain to go. I’d say that it was nice to have an excuse to stay inside but I don’t want an excuse to stay inside.

Still, whining doesn’t help the fact that the sun isn’t supposed to shine much this week and, so far, the weather for the weekend is yet more rain.

It also doesn’t help the fact that I think everyone in this corner of the world feels the same way. Still, things could always be worse. Given the flooding down south and the tornadoes in Alabama, I think we’re pretty lucky.

It’s actually amazing how much the weather affects our moods though, isn’t it? In October, we welcome the first real ‘cold snap’ of the year and the dropping temperatures and welcome the autumn chill so we can start wearing warmer clothes, drinking hot beverages and enjoying the pumpkin-infused Fall. Then, by the beginning of January after the glow of the holidays is over and all that’s left is a stark new year, we’re longing for warmth and sunshine.

After a period of greyness like we’ve had, I’ve noticed that almost everyone feels the same way: sluggish, slightly crotchety and irritated that we’re being deprived of time outdoors. After all, here in the Midwest, we spent December through March inside because it was too cold and snowy/rainy to go outside. By April, we want to embrace the springtime.

It was ok in April. Though we got fed up of rain, the saying goes “April Showers Bring May Flowers.”

It’s just that May seems to have forgotten the flowers and is continuing with the showers.

I feel like a toddler that has been trapped inside too long. I want to run around, tilt my face up to the sunshine and smell the lilacs. Instead, my lilac bush appears to have given up and died because the roots got too wet. I’m sad about that. I had about two days of blossoming lilacs and they the bush started to go a rather alarming shade of dying green. I want to sit outside on my patio and feel the cool Spring evening start to move in on the warmth of the day.

Still, there is one bright side to all this rain: There’s always hope for a sunny tomorrow. When the sun does shine, we appreciate it more. This is why, in my neighbourhood, at the mere hint of sunshine, the cacophony of a hundred mowers rises into the air.

In the meantime, some people actually have decided that drizzle and light rain is a perfectly acceptable accompaniment to mowing and the sound of a lone mower often accompanies the greyness. The kids on my street have started playing outside when the rain is light, wearing raincoats and playing their normal games. I suppose there comes a time when you realize that the rain isn’t going to stop but it shouldn’t stop you.

Maybe that’s what I need to take from this. I need to get myself a pair of non-leaky wellington boots and a rain jacket and ignore the fact that the rain is coming down. After all, when it’s wet, the weeds come up a little easier and it’s easier to dig.

After all, that’s how the world has functioned through the centuries, right? By adapting and evolving. So, maybe I’ll adapt and evolve and pretend that I live in Seattle where it rains a lot.

In the meantime, I’ll just keep up that hope that, maybe, just maybe, it won’t be raining tomorrow.

Happy Tuesday!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Rainy Days and New Shoes...

I'm hoping I actually get to publish my blog today. I wrote one on Friday and tried in vain to publish it but, alas, my blogging site was down all day.

I'm trying again tonight. Hopefully, I'll have more luck.

It's one of the Sunday evenings where I can't believe that the weekend is over. It feels like it was just beginning on Friday when I came home, kicked off my shoes and enjoyed some down time with the dogs.

Now, I've finally finished cleaning my house, am finishing up the laundry and I feel like I've barely had time to do half the things on my mental list.

Ah well, that's the nature of weekends. Unfortunately, this was another rainy weekend. It's becoming a little frustrating that since spring began, we've had maybe one weekend where it didn't rain and that was right at the very beginning. It's a nuisance for us gardeners. I currently have a forest of weeds in what I was planning to make into my vegetable garden and it's simply too wet to get out there and do anything about it. In addition, I have a patio rug and furniture that I've yet to set out because we haven't had more than two non-rainy days together in weeks and I have an unused firepit that I bought on sale for $35 just sitting in the box.

In short, I'm completely sick of rain. I know I'm not the only one. My parents' have had rain too and my mother is starting to get frustrated that she can't get outside to work on the weeds and do some planting.

Still, each weekend I have a little seed of hope that this will be a nice one, this will be the weekend I will Get Things Done Outside.

I'd also settle for finally getting to lay my Tuscan vinyl tile in my redecorated room but, alas, I can't have rain for that either since it's the passageway to the pups getting outside and them walking in and out with wet and muddy feet on my attempts to tile would not work.

So, I wait and I shop. This weekend, at least, I shopped. I finally feel satisfied that I have a decent selection of summer sandals. The problem I found is that when I lived in California, I could wear casual footwear to work, even flip-flops. So, I built up a lovely collection of flip-flops. Then, I moved to Ohio and worked for a very casual software company where I could wear flip-flops. Now, it's my third summer back and I have a new job where I can't wear flip-flops. My sandal collection is quite sad. I had a go-to pair of sensible but stylish sandals that I bought at K-Mart over ten years ago. They finally died at the end of last summer with the straps coming detatched and the soles falling off. The only back-ups I had were a pair of sandals I bought from the Naturalizer store in a mall that went out of business over ten years ago. I think I bought the sandals a few years before that.

So, given that a pair of black sandals is a pretty necessary staple in a business-casual wardrobe, I went on the hunt. I also decided a pair of white ones would be useful as would a natural coloured pair that could go with either casual capris or a nice skirt.

I was successful in my shoe shopping. It took a while and after finding my black sandals, I was having trouble with the other pairs. When I lived in L.A., my roommate/good friend was always my shoe-buying companion. We both liked shoes. We both liked to shop. Whenever I was looking for something very specific, it was always my friend who spotted them in the muddle of shoes. So, when my luck was down on this shopping trip...I called her. Lo and behold, her shoe-karma works, even from 2000 miles away. Literally, within ten minutes, I had found the perfect shoes for my needs and they were all on sale. In the end, I managed to get four multi-useful pairs of shoes for a whopping $80. I was pleased.

There's nothing like a successful shoe-buying trip to make you feel like a rainy day isn't such a bad thing. As for the rest of my weekend, I spent it cleaning avidly and organizing. I finally decided it was time for a purge o' the lotions.

I think most women will know what I mean. Lotions and body sprays and other 'girlie' products are a universally acceptable gift. They're fun to have. They're fun to give. Thus, most of us, over the years, build up a collection. In my case, it's a mix of lotions and scents that were either gifts or I bought myself at Bath and Body works.

The thing is, over the years, they go a little nasty. Thus, there comes a time when you have to do a purging o' the lotions and go through your collection to see how long you've actually had some of them. In my case, many of them I've had for, uh, maybe ten years and, well, it was time.

Sometimes, something as simple as a good purge can make a rainy day feel productive and, in my case, that's exactly right.

Thus, I found ways to spend the rainy day. The pups have contentedly been working on the chew treats I had stored for them on rainy days. I find if Rory has a project, such as a filled chewy bone, it stops her little tantrums of boredom and keeps her busy.

Now, the rainy day is a rainy evening and Monday draws slowly closer. Maybe it was because last week, I had a long weekend but this time around, I'd be more than happy to take another Monday off. That would be a grand plan but, alas, I must go to work. Work pays the bills and helps me buy shoes on my rainy days off.

It's a vicious cycle but it's one I can live with because, well, I like being able to buy new shoes on rainy days.

Happy Monday and thanks, as always, for reading!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Sticky Weather...Bad Moods

I hate it when I wake up in a bad mood. It never bodes well for the day.

It was one of those hot, sticky nights we usually don’t get until July or August. Even though I caved at put the air conditioning on for a couple of hours in the evening, the house quickly got hot and neither I nor the pups slept very well. We tried sleeping with the windows open but Sookie, ever alert, woke up at the sound of any abnormal noise on the street outside and it was hard to get back into a slumber.

It didn’t help that I had one of those dreams that felt like a movie and I was disturbed when I woke up. I don’t remember the details but had something to do with a secret government facility that kept and raised children in captivity to see what would happen if they were trained from birth to do specific functions like eat stones and things. They would torture the captives by blasting some type of evangelist sermon. There was some man who found the secret facility under the ground and he ended up breaking in and rescuing one of the captives. The rest wanted to stay so they stayed. The head of the evil operation was Laura Innes who is the actress on that show, “The Event” who’s an alien. She was also on ER as a cranky doctor.

Anyway, so you can see why sleeping wasn’t very relaxing. When I woke up, I had a headache and just generally felt tired.

The headache went away but I felt like the whole day passed in some kind of haze. I was yawny and my head felt swimmy.

The humidity outside doesn’t help, either. It just adds to the sluggishness.

As a result, I passed the day quietly in my office, getting work done but not joining in the social camaraderie of my coworkers. As a result, they all wanted to know if I was ok. This is very thoughtful of them but it’s hard to explain that some days, you just feel like being solitary and not being social.

It wasn’t a terribly social day in the office anyway. We have some days, particularly when the boss isn’t in, where we’re horrible about working and at any given time, we gather and start talking and laughing about something.

Today wasn’t one of those days though some of us did have a wee bit of gossip via email about our newest employee who doesn’t seem particularly fond of working. The thing is, when he does work, he’s very good at it. He’s got one of those ‘salesman’ personalities where he can sound like an expert even when he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

It’s just that he doesn’t really work that much. He manages to find reasons to not be in the office- he has appointments that no one can really confirm but no one can really disprove either. He has a lot of sick children. Well, actually, I think he has two children but they’re sick a lot. His wife is also sick a lot. He goes home sick a lot.

When he is at work, he can often be found watching television on his phone. This is what we were e-gossiping about today. I had noticed he was doing this last week and my fellow recruiter didn’t believe me. Today, my fellow recruiter saw our naughty employee watching TV. Now he believes me.

I’m wondering how long our lazy employee will be around. He’s not doing too badly but he’s also obviously not nearly as motivated as the rest of us. I think he likes having a job. I just don’t think he likes the work part of it much.

This was pretty much the only discussable thing in the office all day. Thus, it wasn’t just a slow day for me, it seemed.

The rest of the week is supposed to be hot and muggy. I’m not happy about this. I like spring. So far, spring has been very, very, very wet. Now it’s very, very hot and very, very muggy.

Even when I took the normally enthusiastic pups for a walk, it was clear I wasn't the only lethargic, sluggish one. We cut our walk short because Rory started sitting down in protest every few steps. Then, when Sookie started to join in, I realized it would be easier to go home. It wasn't just us, either. One of my neighbours was walking his beagle across the street from where I stood, trying to persuade the girls to get moving. The beagle decided simply to lie down in the middle of the pavement. The man tried very hard to get the dog to stand up but the beagle was not having it and it simply just lay there, looking up at his master, panting. His owner did finally get him to stand up but it clearly took effort. I tried not to smile but it was comforting to know that the heat was affecting everyone.

I want a few more weeks of spring before we’re sweating every time we move. Now that the ground is finally drying up, it’d be nice to get outside and pull some of the weeds before the heat becomes too much to bear.

According to Mr. Weatherman, it’s supposed to cool down for the weekend. It’s also supposed to rain, alas.

So, it seems my weeds may grow bigger, the ground may stay soggy and I must find things to do indoors. Fortunately, I really need to do some shopping this weekend- I pulled out my summer wardrobe last night and I realized that most of my clothes are at least 5 years old. I could really use some replenishment. Most of my clothes still fit thanks to the fact I was determined to lose some weight but they’re also faded and worn.

There…that helped. The thought of shopping definitely can help take away a bad mood. Perhaps if I get a good night’s sleep, tomorrow will be better.

Here’s hoping there’s no more government experiements in my dreams.

Happy Thursday!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Muggy Musings

Today is the first really hot day we’ve had in a very long time. Unfortunately, the heat is of the humid kind which means that the minute you walk outside, you feel as though you’re in a sauna.

I’m not a fan of humidity. Yesterday was a lovely spring day where it was warm but breezy and there was very little humidity to be found. Today, we’re in danger of storms so the humidity is piling up and making everything feel a little ominous.

It does feel stormy out there. I hope we get a giant storm, even though it means rain. I love to listen to them rage at night. Of course, the dogs don’t necessarily agree. Sookie will calmly snuggle up closer to me and hide under the covers whereas Rory will jerk awake, sit bolt upright at the first crash of thunder and then proceed to also get under the covers, usually sitting on Sookie in her rush to hide and ending up on top of my chest.

It’s quite hard to sleep like that though it is rather endearing. I’ve noticed that the dogs don’t seem to consider me much when it comes to sharing the bed. They definitely like to cuddle up to me but it’s usually in whatever position they find comfortable and it doesn’t matter if I find it comfortable. Often, I wake up to find that I have two dogs laying sprawled horizontally across the bed and I’m creeping closer and closer to the edge of the mattress.

Sometimes, one of the girls will push the other off the bed. We’ve had a couple of incidents in the night where Sookie has knocked Rory off or vice versa. I usually scoop the surprised pup back up on the bed where she sits in an embarrassed, indignant hunch until I lie back down . At this point, the offended dog will turn her back on me and move far away from me and the other pup. Of course, by morning, she’s back and curled up close.

Still, even with the occasional nocturnal Shuffling O’ the Dogs, I still am thankful that my pups are old enough to sleep through the night. My sister got a new puppy- it’s a peculiar looking thing with very long legs and a tiny body. It’s only nine weeks old which is the age at which I got Sookie and Rory. She’s going through crate training and getting up regularly to let her outside.

I’m glad those days are over for me. Many a night was I awoken by a frantic puppy that was licking me to wake me up because she REALLY needed to go outside. This was fine some times. They’d go out, do their business and we’d shuffle back to bed. On rainy nights, it wasn’t fun. For one thing, they didn’t like to go out in the rain so I’d have to go out to encourage them to go and give them a reward if they did and, secondly, we’d all go back to bed wet and soggy.

I do miss the early days of puppyhood. Like many things you see every day, I don’t realize how much the dogs have grown until I look back at puppy pictures. To me, they look the same. Then I look at photos and I see the little five pound babies who are now 14 lb adults.

They still act like puppies though. Last night, I watched them torment Dog Whisperer’s beasts who were driving me a little potty as I sat outside and tried to blog. My girls decided that since the beasts were already barking, they’d at least give them a reason to bark. Thus, Sookie proceeded to tear along the edge of the fence, get the beasts excited to the point where they started fighting and then she’d calmly break away and sit with Rory and watch.

Part of me was highly entertained and satisfied. Part of me felt a little bad that my dogs were just contributing to the normal racket that the stupid dogs provide. I’ve got to the point if I’m just outside sitting, I can ignore them. However, if I’m doing something like, say, shearing the long grass down by the fence and Dog Whisperer lets the dogs out, it annoys me because the dogs throw themselves right at the fence where I’m standing and growl at me. Then they bark. And bark. And bark. And since Dog Whisperer refuses to acknowledge the noise, I end up giving up.

I’ve mentioned it to Wife of Dog Whisperer who muttered something about bark collars and negative reinforcement but, so far, there’s no sign of the collar and the negative reinforcement seems to consist of a weak, “Fred, No!” from the back door. Occasionally Wife of Dog Whisperer will be more proactive but it’s simply not consistent enough for the dogs to grasp that it’s NEVER ok to act like a homicidal, maniacal barking fiend. Unfortunately, as I learned with Sookie and Rory, you have to keep doing something in order for the dogs to learn.

Still, for all their dog issues, at least my neighbours are nice. They loan broken lawnmowers and Wife of Dog Whisperer is nice to chat to when we both have time. Son of Dog Whisperer is a nice little boy even if he is a little…odd. He’s stopped staring at me so much and now talks to me. He often accidentally hits his ball in my garden but I figure my retrieval and return of the ball is penance for all the times my friends and I would do the same thing to our neighbours when we were kids.

Besides, walking around the neighbourhood with the girls in the evenings, I see that there are lots of houses with lots of yappy dogs so it’s not just me. Granted, I REALLY wish that strange dogs that aren’t on a leash would stop chasing us and making us flee but, well, it makes me more alert even if it is a little terrifying. It’s happened three times now and I really don’t like it. I feel like an idiot when I run away but when you have a full-sized German shepherd lunging at two terrified dachshunds with no weapon or defense, all you can do is run.

Although I think I am going to start carrying my little squirt bottle again. Just to be safe.

Ah well, at least life in my neighbourhood is never dull, even on hot and muggy days!

Happy Wednesday.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Taking a Day Off Does Wonders...

Sometimes, it's nice to take a day off from everything, even Mondays.

Today, I had a day off. It was a planned day off but it was a much needed vacation day and it put the week off to a lovely start.

I also took a day off from blogging. While I love writing this blog, sometimes I do debate giving it up just because it is a little bit self-indulgent and sometimes, I write crap. Then I remember that the reason I blog is so that I do, at least, get some writing time in each day which is something that, for a writer, is important to do.

My day off was because I knew I was going to have a busy weekend and I didn't want to rush back into reality straight away. I spent the weekend at my parents. It was the annual Citywide Garage Sale day in their town and, as has become our annual tradition, I went out and about with my sister and brother-in-law.

It was a very disappointing year as far as the sales went. All three of us came home with very little to show for our day spent traipsing from sale to sale. I don't know if it's because it's a bad economy and people are desperate to make a little money but much of the stuff was the sort of thing that really should have been put in the rubbish rather than sold. I know the old adage "someone's trash is someone else's treasure" usually is true but, in this case, it was really just...trash. For some reason, there were a rather large amount of people selling baggies full of hotel soaps and shampoo. That was a little...odd. I mean, sure I know they technically paid for them in the price of the hotel room but, really, those things are FREE. Thus, selling them at a yard sale is just a little bizarre and presumptuous.

There were also a lot of houses selling those "As Seen on TV" products that have one specific purpose and one purpose alone such as quesadilla makers, waffle cone makers and quick burger cookers. It's fun to see those because you know they were probably gifts that seemed like a good idea at the time but end up taking up a lot of space and being somewhat useless.

Even in spite of the poor show of worthy buyings, the day was fun and it was nice to spend time with my sister and meet her new puppy- a Brussels-griffon that slightly resembles a pug-faced alien.

The rest of my weekend was spent planning, prepping and cooking the Mother's Day dinner I was making for my parents.

It was a big task but, overall, I had a blast doing it and it turned out pretty well. It was a five course tasting menu as follows:

Amuse Bouche- crostini with Fourme d'Ambert*, shaved pear and toasted walnuts.

Appetizer- Grilled asparagus with prosciutto, parmesan crackers and lemon-garlic aoili.

Soup- Cream of zucchini with gorgonzola

Entree- Salt roasted black grouper with fresh herbs (mum) or pan seared Kobe sirloin (dad) server with roasted fingerling potatoes and pea puree.

Dessert- Chocolate eclairs with fresh cream and an assortment of European cookies.

There were also two wines and dessert aperitif.

It was a fun menu to plan and make. I wanted my parents to have a meal that they'd feel like was a treat. Overall, it was all about the timing and making sure everything was prepped and ready to go.

I think the meal was a success. My dad managed to eat two bowls of the soup and three eclairs in addition to the other courses. Mum seemed to like it and it made me feel like a real cook. The hardest part was making sure that when one course was being served, the next was being "fired" (to use a chef term (thanks, Tom Colicchio and Top Chef)!). That way, by the time the previous course was finished, the next was cooked, still warm and plated.

It was a challenge. Having a soux chef would have been nice but, at the same time, it was fun to get to do it all myself and see a good result.

I will admit I was rather tired when the dishes were washed and we were sitting down watching "Game of Thrones." It was a good tired though, one that made me feel like I accomplished something.

It was also for that reason that I'd already planned to take today off. I didn't want to have to cook and drive home to make it back to work and I wanted to have some time to just hang out with my parents and relax.

That mostly happened. With the exception of Rory having eaten something that disagreed with her that resulted in some rather vigourous vomiting, it was a nice day. I suspect she had a drink from my parents pond. Not pleasant to see or have to clean up. She's ok now.

We're back home after a nice day. The grass is mowed and I'm actually sitting outside writing this since it's actually not raining and is a lovely sunny evening.

In short, it's been a good Monday. I don't say that very often so I'm glad to say it when it does happen. Tomorrow, it'll be back to work and the daily grind but, for now, I have a few more hours to enjoy a day off.

I'd say that there are far worse things in life!

Happy Tuesday and, as always, thanks for reading.

*Fourme d'Ambert is a delicious, creamy French blue cheese that is my new favourite even if it is a wee bit stinky.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The (lack of) Patience of Captain Monkeypants...

Today, the sun is actually shining. This is actually quite a remarkable thing since we’ve only seen glimpses of it over the past 5 days.

It’s lovely out there, just the way Spring should feel. It makes me feel restless to sit in my office and have to work when there are so many things to be done outside.

Still, tomorrow is Friday and I think that’s a rather nice thing. This has been a muddled week. Some days have dragged, some have whizzed by. It seems like I have nothing concrete happening but a lot ‘perhaps’ and ‘maybe.’

I’m not very good with ‘perhaps’ and ‘maybe’. I like definites. I’m not particularly patient though I try quite hard at times. I don’t really like to wait for things. I like things to be done and tidy and ready to move on.

As I said, I do try to be patient. I’ve finally got myself to the point where I can mostly wait for the microwave to finish before pulling it out 24 seconds early. Ok, that might be a bit of an overstatement. What really happens is I now wait until there’s only eight or nine seconds left.

Eight or nine seconds may not seem like long to wait. However, for an impatient person like me, they’re quite a long time. Also, I assume that it’s not long enough to make the food much hotter than it already is so I stop the microwave. Granted, this generally leads to the fact that the microwave clock is now displaying :08 instead of the time and I’ll have to cancel it later but, well, it’s an improvement over how I used to be.

I’m also better about waiting for things. I’m a person who hates to be late. Thus, often, if I have a tight window of time where I need to get something done or I’ll be late for something else, I get a little stressed. Unfortunately, most of the time, regardless of where you are, you have to wait. Take, for example, doctor’s office. Raise your hands (or comment) anyone out there who goes to a doctor and is immediately taken in, prepped and seeing your doctor within 5 minutes of your arrival? How about 10 minutes?

I thought not. I think the worst, for me, is when I go to the “Lady Doctor.” There’s nothing more frustrating, stressful and uncomfortable than going through the usual weight-height and blood pressure check and then being instructed to change into a horribly thin paper gown in a freezing cold room and being left to wait.

So you wait. And wait. And wait. For me, I try not to get too stressed but after about 20 minutes, I can’t help but wonder if the doctor has accidentally forgotten me. What’s even more annoying is that while there is a plethora of reading material in the actual WAITING room, there’s usually nothing to read while you’re sitting there gowned up, freezing cold, slightly nervous and waiting.

The irony is that it’s not like you’re actually waiting for anything pleasant. Knowing that when the doctor shows up, you’re going to be subjected to a rather uncomfortable procedure that involves getting up close and personal with a speculum is not like a prize for all that waiting.

I’ve become more patient in these situations. I’ve stopped almost biting my doctor’s head off when she does show up. I’ve stopped my blood pressure from getting too high because I’m angry and frustrated that I’m waiting. Instead, I simply tell myself that there’s nothing I can do about it unless I want to get dressed and leave and have to do this all over again some other time. It’s just the way things are. It would be a nice idea to get a national (or international) law in motion where patients have a right to see a doctor within a reasonable waiting time but, well, it’s not very likely. It’s all very well for companies like Dominos pizza to say “30 minutes or less or it’s free” (though I’m pretty sure that’s not true anymore) but doctors aren’t like pizza. They don’t show up to your house when you order them.

They used to, actually. I remember as a child the doctor would make house calls. So did vets. Nowadays, alas, you have to go to them. If it’s an emergency you can pay a fortune to be rushed to the hospital in an ambulance so the doctor’s can attend to you but it doesn’t work the other way.

Anyways, my point is that I’ve become more patient with age. I still wouldn’t say I am a very patient person but I’ve become more zen when I have to wait. I still don’t like sitting in that cold office with that horrible robe on and feeling humiliated because I’ve been abandoned but I’ve stopped getting upset about it because there’s simply nothing to be done. I just have to wait.

That’s how things are this week at work. I’d love to get some solid answers about if my candidates will get a follow up interview. I’d like my wavering candidate to say that he’ll accept the job I’m offering him. I’d like to find out if my other candidates stand a chance.

However, all I can do is wait. My control freak nature wants to push things along.

Ah well, as I keep reminding myself...there's only so much I can control. The rest of it...well, I'll just have to wait.

If only waiting were my strong suit...

Happy Friday, Happy Mother's Day to those of you who are mothers and to everyone, have a great weekend...

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Food, Glorious Food!

I haven’t had a food blog in a while.

This is actually pretty amazing given how much of my thought processes are devoted to food. I won’t share it with you because it’s a bit ridiculous but, well, let’s just say that whenever my brain is not focused on something specific, it tends to go to food.

It’s actually quite amazing that I’m not a 600 pound blob. I did get a bit blobby there for a while but fortunately thanks to self-discipline, I’ve managed to lose a little of the blobbiness. Also, it was most likely also due to the fear of my blobbiness showing through when I shed my winter clothing in all of its fabulous camouflaging layers in favour of a far less forgiving summer wardrobe.

Currently, my food obsession is due to the fact that for her mother’s day present, my mum is letting me cook dinner for her and my dad. I’ve decided to do a 5-course tasting menu which translates as five small courses. Since I want it to be surprise for her, I’ll wait until next week before I reveal my menu but needless to say, I’m a little too excited about it.

Planning a meal like this is a lot of fun for me. Not only do I get to plan the menu but I also get to go shopping for the ingredients and make out my time table. Then I get to cook.

This sounds a little nerdy but the fact is, I do know this and as I (and GI Joe) always say , knowing is half the battle.

I’m planning a menu that is geared towards my parents’ taste. It’s simple flavours that require a little complexion in cooking which is my favourite way to cook.

I still find it ironic that just a couple of years ago, my idea of cooking was to open a jar of spaghetti sauce and serve it with premade garlic bread and a bag of salad. Nowadays, I refuse to buy a jar of sauce- it’s so much easier to make your own and way tastier. Also, I’m a snob. I like to chop the veggies for the salad. I like to make my own garlic bread.

Nowadays, thanks to the wisdom and guidance of Mario Batali, Top Chef and the Food Network, I now am in love with cooking. It’s fun. It’s therapeutic.

And, best of all, you get to EAT. I love to eat.

So, planning an elaborate meal is a treat for me. I’m very organized, I think. I have a little notebook that I use. It’s actually a handmade notebook that my good friend at RadLinc crafts made for me. It’s very useful. I write down my ideas for the meal first. Then I figure out my ingredient list. Then I plan the shopping and where I need to go to get the ingredients. Finally, I figure out what preparation is involved, the schedule for cooking and how long it will take.

It sounds complicated. It is, I suppose. Yet it works. My mother and I employed this method during our last two thanksgivings and it made cooking for 14 people much, much easier. It’s very micro-manager-y but, well, whatever it takes.

Sometimes, I think it might have been fun to be a chef. Then I realize that it would not only involve having to work your way up in restaurants where you’d work with arrogant chefs who aren’t exactly the kind and cuddly type. I mean, just listening to Gordon Ramsey shout “YOU F-ING DONKEY!” and watching the cheftestants on “Top Chef” and their horrible behavior is enough to put me off for life. Granted, it’s a cooking competition so they’re not at their nicest but some of those chefs are MEAN.

I’m a realist. I think if I had my own little cafĂ© where I had a changing menu that wasn’t too extensive would be fun. However, it’s not likely to happen because restaurants are hard work, no matter what the size. Also, while I adore cooking at home, I think the bloom would fall off the rose quickly if it became a ‘job’ and not a hobby.

So, I’ll stick to my pretensions at home and leave the restaurant cooking to real chefs.

Still, I do enjoy getting to cook for other people. It’s a lot of fun and it’s nice when they like what I cook.

Also, if I steal ideas from cookbooks, it’s forgiven for a home cook. Apparently, according to Gordon Ramsey, it’s a cardinal sin for a chef. I’ve seen him berate restaurant owners more than once for using cookbooks on Kitchen Nightmares. While I still use cookbooks, I’ve started to branch out and focus on ‘flavour profiles’ rather than straight recipes. This basically means knowing what works with food combinations and what doesn’t and then working with that. It’s a learning process but it’s definitely something I’m enjoying learning.

I don’t like Gordon Ramsey. I think that might be clear. While I think he probably is a good chef, I don’t like the way he shouts at people. I don’t like that he gets VERY close to them and makes them look at his sweaty face so he can Teach Them a Valuable Lesson. I also don’t think he makes very good Yorkshire puddings but that’s sort of irrelevant. Finally, I don’t like that sometimes on Kitchen Nightmares, he uses his high falutin’ chef ways to insult people instead of stopping to think that maybe what they were doing wasn’t necessarily wrong but just different to what he knows.

I digress. Anyway, I also don’t like that Gordon insulted my beloved Mario Batali. That’s probably really why I don’t like him. Mario taught me to cook so he is my Yoda. He doesn’t know he taught me to cook but that’s ok. I’m happy just using his fabulous recipes and techniques to make good food.

I’m actually also excited because at the end of this month, my friend Saz and I are taking a 20th ‘Friendiversary” trip to New York. Obviously, we’re celebrating 20 years of being friends. I actually managed to get us a reservation at Babbo for a decent time. Babbo, of course, is Mario Batali’s restaurant. I know he won’t be cooking there but it will be enough for me to eat from a menu he created.

In short, if you haven’t figured it out, I love food. This is why I blog about it quite a lot and why I think about it so much. It’s something to share and something human beings all have in common: We all need to eat. It’s a universally safe topic for most people. It represents culture. It represents geographic region.

It represents humans. I think that’s a pretty cool thing.

Happy Thursday and thanks for reading!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Sometimes a Wrench in the Plans is Good

It’s yet another rainy day today. I won’t waste time moaning about it because there’s little that I haven’t said already.

On the plus side, it was another quite busy day at work which is always pleasant and makes time go by fast. I’d say it was a day without any major homeowner issues but I did manage to drop a shampoo cap down the gaping hole in my bathroom sink in which a plug is supposed to go and now it’s stuck fast and the sink is completely blocked.

You might wonder why I had a shampoo cap and how I managed to get it stuck down my sink. Well, the shampoo cap belongs on a bottle of shampoo and I was trying to unscrew it and it flew off and landed in the hole. The hole is where the plug is supposed to go but I have one of those old 1970’s sinks with the metal button between the taps that you push and the plug theoretically goes up or down.

Unfortunately, my plug only goes down and then in seals so tight it requires some difficult maneuvering to unseal it from the hole. This makes it difficult to wash your hands because a bowl of water inevitably collects in the sink and then you have to try to get the plug out which is made quite difficult by the fact that there’s water in the sink.

So, I leave the plug out. I have tried substitute plugs like those rubber ones you get at Lowes but, alas, my plug hole remains a Cinderella without a perfectly matching shoe.

Actually my plug hole is more like a gaping mouth ready to eat anything that comes its way but it’s usually not a huge problem.

Unless it’s a shampoo cap which is just the right size to completely clog the sink. I did some research online regarding sinks. It’s stuck in the ‘tailpipe’ of the sink and to get to it, I have to remove the ‘p trap’. Aren’t you impressed with my sink knowledge?

I hope to attempt to move the p-trap and get the cap out myself. I’m told I just need a pipe wrench, a bowl and some patience. I have a wrench and a bowl. I’ll work on the patience.

Still, given the week I had last week, at least this latest calamity is my own fault. I’m not proud of my clumsiness but it’s just part of who I am. I always wanted to be one of those graceful women who seemed to glide around and never had a hair out of place and managed to not spill coffee on herself once a day but, well, I didn’t turn out that way. I’m a woman who tends to have a bit of a messy ponytail, some type of coffee stain and the ability to trip even while wearing flat shoes.

So, really, a shampoo cap wedged in the sink really isn’t something that I can say, “I can’t believe I did that.” I mean, I actually did groan and say, “I can’t believe I just did that” when it happened but, really, it was a false statement: Of COURSE, I can believe I did that. I’m the person who destroyed the connection between her toilet and the water connector in my old apartment in L.A. because I was mopping vigourously and I accidentally whacked the pipe-tube-thingy and it split open. I’m also the person who puts IKEA furniture together backwards 95% of the time, even when I’m following the pictures correctly.

Still, in the grand scheme of things, after having written this blog earlier in the day, the shampoo cap turned out to be a minor problem on an otherwise cloudy and gloomy day. I stopped by Lowes after work and aquired a nifty pipe wrench. It's one of those things I never thought I'd own and now do. Life is odd that way. It's the same reason I now own a hacksaw and a drill.

The niftiest thing is that though the wrench cost me a whopping $10, with the help of it and a bucket and a little arm muscle, I managed to get off that pesky p-trap, remove the shampoo lid and my sink is working fine. It's still a hideous mustard colour but it's highly functioning again and that's what counts, right.

So, all in all, today hasn't been bad, though it's been rainy. I learned a lot about the anatomy of a bathroom sink. I saved a lot by fixing a minor plumbing calamity myself instead of calling a plumber. While it may not be world peace or some ginormous world changing event, to me, it was a day where I conquered a minor problem with the help of a wrench. I consider that a success.

And, for me, it really was a case of throwing a wrench into the plan and having it turn out right.

Sometimes it's the strangest things that make life feel good.

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Another Rainy Monday

Oh, but it’s a gloomy day out there today.

The sun tried to peek out once around lunch time but before that and after that, the skies have been grey and it’s done little but pour with rain or threaten to pour with rain.

We’ve had so much rain lately that even I’m fed up with it. I usually love the rain. After all, it’s one of the reasons I wanted to move back from L.A. Ironically, it’s quite depressing to have sun all the time and to know without absolute certainty that even though it’s a little cloudy in the months from May-September that it’s not going to rain and, if it does, it’ll be a few raindrops that are just enough to make the dusty cars look terrible. I got fed up with sunshine all the time. I know, I know- readers who are in the wet and soggy Midwest (including my mother) will laugh and say I was crazy. However, try it sometime. It’s like getting to eat your favourite food for every single meal, whenever you like. Eventually, it stops being your favourite meal and you yearn for something different.

This may explain why I’m tired of the rain. For the past two weeks, we’ve had five days of rain to every two that are sunny. It’d be nice if that flipped and we’d have two days of rain and five days that are dry.

Still, as the saying goes, into every life a little rain may fall. In our case, it’s been quite a lot of rain but, well, it makes the grass green, the seeds grow and all that. It also makes my garden a soggy mess and depresses my dogs.

It’s hard to have depressed dogs. They sit around and mope. They sigh a lot. They enter a drowsy state of ennui. It’s actually not a little unlike my mother when it’s been rainy or snowy for a while (sorry, Mum!).

The worst thing is- and my mother does not do this- is that both Sookie and Rory seem to hold me personally responsible for the fact that their outdoor playground has become a mass of soggy muddy puddles and every time they go out, this wet stuff falls from the sky and soaks them.

It’s hard to explain to a pair of dachshunds that I do not control the weather. It’s actually quite hard to explain anything to a pair of dachshunds for any length of time. Rory tries to understand. She looks at me with alert eyes and does that adorable little head cock that dogs do when they recognize a word. In Rory’s case, her favourite word is “treat”. Her second favourite is “dinner.” This would explain why, when I took the girls to the vet on Friday for their annual check up and injections, I discovered that not only was Rory a whole pound heavier than Sookie but if she gets much heavier, I have to put her on a diet.

Rory used to be the smaller of the two dogs. Methinks that her preference for doggie ‘junk’ food over nutritious doggy food is not a good thing. Methinks I have to limit her snacks even more than I already am.

Anyway, back to the rain. The dogs are fed up with the rain. Rory does attempt to stay active. She often runs around and has a good chomp on a toy. Meanwhile, Sookie goes into a state of malaise where she lies on the sofa and refuses to move. She prefers to sit on my lap. I prefer her to sit on my lap except for times when she’s ventured into the rain out of necessity and returns, wet and muddy. These, of course, are the times that Sookie prefers to sit on my lap because it’s warmer.

When it does stop raining and both dogs deign to go outside, they immediately go to the infamous sewer grate. After the rain, there are fun happenings there- there is the sound of water streaming many feet below us and, even more exciting, there is a pipe that is cascading water down from the surface level to the stream below. The dogs find this absolutely fascinating. They find it so fascinating that whenever we go on a walk, Rory must investigate all the sewer drains to see if they, too, are doing interesting things.

I’m a bit tired of sewer drains. Fortunately, if I provide the pebbles, Rory has figured out how to drop them into the drain herself now. It’s weird but I figure it means she’s not Up To No Good. I’m sure the sewer department would disagree but, hey, they haven’t had to chase her after she’s got out of the worlds’ smallest hole in the fence.

It looks like both tonight and tomorrow will continue to be wet so there won’t be much sewer drain activity or any outdoor activity of any kind until at least Wednesday.

It just means that I’ll have a couple of sulky dogs on my hands. I’d like to make them understand that I can’t control the rain but, well, even if I did, they’d still blame me.

They are dachshunds after all.
Happy Tuesday!