Monday, April 27, 2009

A whiter shade of pale

Have you ever been in Florida or Arizona in the winter months? And have you ever walked past a hotel, snug in your cardigan/jacket/windbreaker, and noticed very, very pale people cavorting in and around the outdoor pool in bathing suits saying things like, “I can’t believe how *warm* it is!”? Those people are Canadians.

I should know. I’m one of them. I remember December 2006, basking by the pool outside a Phoenix hotel while grounds staff wearing long pants and jackets wielded leaf blowers the other side of the ornamental fence. Christmas carols were playing, and my kids and I were jumping in and out of the emerald-green water of the outdoor pool.

Cut off from the sun and subject to subzero temperatures for long periods of time by our lengthy winters, Canadians (especially those like me, who are of British ancestry) on holiday in tropical climes will strip down to shorts or bathing suits as soon as the thermometer creeps above 18°C (66°F) and expose their blindingly white skin to both the elements and the locals with exuberant abandon. This is so prevalent (and we are so very, very pale) that the only way you can see Canadians lying on a nude beach, and avoid stepping on them, is to watch for them to blink. (Not that I'd know about the nude beach from experience, mind you, I'm just sayin'.)

This carries over into our behaviour at home. Long after our neighbours to the south are giving themselves sunburns while gardening, we are shovelling the last patches of snow off the lawn and onto the driveway to get it to melt faster (and believe me, the irony of that situation after a winter of doing it in the opposite direction is not lost on anyone). So when an unseasonably warm Saturday rolls around in mid-to-late April and the thermometer goes up to 27°C (84°F), tradition dictates that we purchase beer, fire up the barbecue, uncover pasty white arms and legs, and let the children welcome the warm weather with the annual rite of spring: the slip 'n' slide.

The sharp-eyed among you will notice that while there is no snow left on the lawn, there are no leaves on the tree yet either.

The Universe still has a sense of humour

This is the last song I heard on my MP3 player in the Radiology waiting room before my name was called to go in for my mammogram.

Bwahahahaha. Pretty apt, no?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

For XUP and Loth

Even lower primates, such as Ring-tailed Lemurs, know that toast should be buttered and eaten while hot.

(Click to enlarge. Do it. They're really cute.)

And so, to recap:

Acceptable toast-buttering:

Unacceptable toast-buttering.

Any further questions?

(Photo credits: adorable lemurs courtesy of a friend of a friend, thank you C&J; scrumptious hot-buttered toast (both multigrain and white), dripping with buttery goodness courtesy of my toaster oven and camera; cold, brittle, mutilated toast courtesy of an ad in the last LCBO Food and Drink mag, photographed by me.)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Carp to Belle River, a journey in random mode

Unlike the trip back from visiting family for Easter, the trip down was actually a pretty good one. The car was well provisioned with snack foods and juice boxes for the kids, and diet Cokes for me. The gas tank was full, and the MP3 player was charged.

I don't have an iPod, I have an RCA Lyra which has a very temperamental operating system that makes random mode about the only good way to listen to it. I loaded it up with songs that I like, and ones the girls like, and hooked it into the FM modulator so we could listen to it over the car radio. On the dot of 7 a.m. (well, more like 7:15, but still scarily on schedule) we hit the road. I pressed play.

7:17 a.m. Pulling onto Craig Side Road. Playing: I Wanna be Sedated by the Ramones.

  • OK. Not the most auspicious beginning-the-journey song. And I probably won't want sedation until at least Woodstock. Maybe London.
9ish. Hwy 7, somewhere near Tweed. Playing: She's got the Jack by AC/DC.

  • Alison [internal monologue]: Funny. A song about cards. I *think* it's about cards. [singing along with song]: "She gave me the Queen, She gave me the King, She was wheelin' and dealin', Just doin' her thing, She was holdin' a pair, But I had to try, Her Deuce was wild, But my Ace was high." [back inside head]: Yep, cards. Stop. Wait a minute -- I'm thinking maybe "the Jack" is a euphemism! "And if I'd known what she was dealin' out, I'd have dealt it back" Ooooh. Oh. Well, I'll be damned. It's a song about STDs. Probably should be "She's got the clap." Heh. Not cards.

  • Leah: What's this song about, Mum?

  • Alison: Cards.

9:20 a.m. Somewhere along Hwy 37.

  • Pull over to use the very user-UNfriendly playlist 'feature' to find some Taylor Swift for the girls. Love Story for Leah, and Our Song for Rachel. This takes about 15 minutes, but forestalls all the pouting that I could see coming when I looked in the rear-view mirror.

10:07 a.m. Turning off Hwy 37 onto the 401 at Belleville. Playing: Kiss by Tom Jones (his cover of the Prince song).

  • Yeah, I know. Mega cheese. But this song is like Roquefort -- horribly stinky, but very enjoyable in small quantities.
11:25 a.m. Hwy 401, going through Oshawa. Playing: Three Pistols by the Tragically Hip.
  • I'm freshly caffeinated, back on the highway after a drive-through, riding the coffee buzz with a Timmie's large (double double, of course) in my hand, Lake Ontario looking so blue to my left, rocking out to this song, and it suddenly hits me that I couldn't feel more Canadian if the girls were wearing hockey jerseys and eating poutine in the back seat, while Margaret Atwood rode shotgun with a beaver on her lap drinking a Keith's.
12:33 p.m. Hwy 401, cruising through Toronto. Playing: What is Love by Haddaway.
  • This song comes on and I start to laugh, remembering downloading it one night after a couple of glasses of wine. I tell the girls that they have to shake their heads to the side in their seats like in A Night at the Roxbury (which started from this Saturday Night Live skit). They've never seen the movie, but I demonstrate, and they get right into it, and the three of us are shaking our heads in perfect unison, when I look to my left and see the driver of an 18-wheeler watching us and cracking up. I wave.
1:21 p.m. Hwy 401, just past Cambridge. Playing: Learning to Fly by the Foo Fighters
  • I look at the speedometer. Oops. 130 km/h! Good thing I haven't seen any OPP since Port Hope, I was flying.
2:30 p.m. Hwy 401 near Chatham. Playing: Detroit '67 by Sam Roberts.
  • Wasn't 1967 the year of the Detroit riots? Ironic, seeing as there's a riot breaking out in the back seat. Someone did something horrible, like breathe the other one's air, or take up a nanometre of the other one's side of the seat.
3:30 p.m. Belle River, Ontario, my sister's driveway
  • I'll take that sedation now. Make mine a glass of red.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

What a long strange trip it's been

I'm just dashing this off quickly before I head for bed. I have a longer, much better post describing my trip from Ottawa down to Windsor percolating, and maybe I'll get to write it tomorrow. Instead, you get a few random thoughts about my trip home today. All 13 hours of it.

Things I learned today:
  • I need Mapquest. Seriously. It sounded easy: pop off the 401 at Burlington and meet Josie for lunch. In reality? Overshoot Burlington while looking for the QEW instead of 403. Finally exit on Eglinton Ave. and have to backtrack, appearing an hour late for lunch.
  • Those small paper bags from Tim's that a single donut comes in don't hold much vomit. Also, they are only waterproof for a short period of time.
  • My sister shells out for the good Ziploc sandwich bags, not the cheap ones.
  • Good sandwich bags can hold a fair bit of vomit in a pinch, and don't leak.
  • Leah gets carsick.
  • Alternatively, Leah has the stomach flu. The jury is still out at this moment.
  • I have amazing friends. Josie waited an hour for me to show up, fielding my increasingly frustrated phone calls with good humour. She let Rae eat most of her lunch when Rae's pizza was not to Rae's liking, and entertained Rae while Leah and I made several trips to the ladies' room. And she let us borrow the couch at her office for Leah to rest a while before I put the poor girl back in the car.
  • My life is totally ruled by Murphy's Law.

Catch you tomorrow. I'm off to bed.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Move over, Fellini

Last Sunday it rained. It was dreary and cold, and Rae was playing over at Kate's, so Leah was bored. Crafts soon palled, as did the TV, and for once Lemony Snicket failed to enchant. What to do with a bored nine-year-old? Why, introduce her to movie-making, that's what.

Inspired by XUP, and her sarcastically funny films An Evening at the XUPs and XUPs Go Shopping, I fired up the computer, went to Xtranormal, played around with it for a few minutes with Leah, figuring out how to work things, and then left her to it. She wrote, produced, and directed two short films.

The results speak for themselves.

Set in jarring juxtaposition against the disparate backdrops of a sterile suburban tract house and an idealized Japanese landscape of blooming cherry trees, these intertwined examples of her ouvre show clearly the existential angst of living in constant conflict with a younger sister.

In the first film, Me and Rae, the fact that Leah appears smaller than her younger sister demonstrates clearly the Jungian underpinnings of the eternal sibling rivalry. In the second film, Me and Rae II, the roundness and fuzzy amiability of the Leah and Rachel teddy bears and the beauty of the fairytale setting contrast with the harsh way the two characters treat each other. Both films, however, do show the sisters reconciling, perhaps indicating that peace is still attainable in a hostile and uncaring world.



Truly a cinematic tour de force. Of course, being her mother, I could just be biased.