Just Jump In

Get your feet wet!

Friday, April 28, 2006

In The Clouds

Sometime in January, I got a phone call from a friend. He's an architectural designer, and works mostly commercial buildings. In particular, he designs a lot of restaurants. He was designing a restaurant, and they decided they wanted a cloud treatment on the ceiling, so he called me to see if I'd be interested. I've never done clouds, but have always wanted to. I know how - there are at least 3 different techniques, and I have used one of them on a wall to make a cloudy look (but with pinks, peaches, and yellows - gives the effect of a sunrise). After talking about it for a few minutes to get some basic info (how big the ceiling is, etc), Mr Slamuri told me to figure out a price and put in a bid. I did a little bit of research, talking to the friend of a decorative painter. I decided to take the hourly rate of the more experienced decorative painter and cut it in half, then take the amount of hours I thought it would take (15) and add 5 (to give myself a little leeway). While thinking about this, I also called Mr Slamuri to find out what kind of restaurant, and what type of cloud look the clients wanted. For instance, if they wanted something natural or if they wanted something more whimsical. With the information in mind (natural look for a Vietnamese restaurant that would also have a fountain and some rock and bamboo), I put in my bid. I knew that there were several bids going in, so I wasn't too hopeful.

Well, I got the job. I was a little nervous (what if I screwed up?), but also pretty excited. I have done a lot of different painting techniques for our house as well as for friends. I even painted a friend's wooden entertainment armoire, so I was fairly confident. I received the e-mail giving me the go ahead towards the end of February. I called the contractor to make arrangements to get into the restaurant. I needed a couple of days back to back. I asked about Friday Feb 24. No, that was too soon. So was Saturday. Okay, I couldn't do Tuesday afternoon, but what about Sunday afternoon, all day Monday, and Tuesday morning if necessary? Fine, just call to arrange what time.

Sunday, Feb 26. In the morning, I call the contractor to arrange what time in the afternoon. He tells me that he isn't in town, so I can't get into the restaurant. I start to feel a bit panicked - what if I don't have enough time to do this job? I confirm with the contractor that I can have access all the next day. I suggest an early start - 8:00 am. He says "no, no. 9:30". Well, what else can I do? I agree.

Monday, Feb 27. I arrive at the location at 9:20, ready to unload. Great, there is someone inside. I bring my stuff in, and wait. Because it isn't the contractor, it's the electrician. And he's waiting, too. There is a lot of stuff on the floor, making access to the ceiling area difficult. I start moving things off to the side. Wasn't this supposed to be done? Wasn't this why I couldn't get in on Friday? Whatever. At 10:00, there is still no sign of the contractor, so I just decide to start.

Good thing I chose the technique that I did. The one I really think makes the best clouds would require at least 3 people, because you have to paint the basecoat with glaze, and keep it wet while playing in the clouds. This ceiling is too large and high, plus I don't have other people with me. And now that I've seen it, I realize it would be a bad technique to choose, since there are 4 large, square ventilation fans and 4 silver sprinkler heads in the area. I decide to incorporate one of the white fans into a cloud. One negative - they have painted the basecoat in flat. When you use glaze, there is a sheen (like an eggshell, nothing glossy), so the clouds will stand out more than I would like. Oh well. And the big problem - this ceiling is a raised square, with lighting concealed in the cove. But they have used fluorescent lighting, which distorts the colour, and kills any illusion of depth. The clouds are starting to look good, but every time I turn the lights on, they look flat. I keep layering paint. Finally, around 5:45, I have done as much as I can for the day. My neck is aching, as are my shoulders. I figure I'll come back to finish in the morning (more touch ups than anything - I have overestimated my hours needed). I call the owner, a tiny Vietnamese lady, to have a look. She is coming to the restaurant anyway, and will be there shortly.

She arrives around 6. She looks at the ceiling. And says "it's nice. But have you been to the Greek restaurant? My husband is the one who wanted the clouds, and he loves the ceiling at the Greek restaurant on Busy Road". Well, no I haven't been there in years. And it's very unfortunate that you didn't tell me that before I put in my bid. And I'm assuming that you didn't tell Mr Slamuri either, because that was information he would surely have passed along to me. Anyway, the husband comes to look, and he likes it, although he asks if I've been to the Greek restaurant. He asks if I can soften the edges of a couple of clouds (now that they are dry, they need some touch-ups). No problem. I do it right there and then, because I can't have access the next day - they are starting to frantically clean around me, because the health inspection is the next day. They will be opening with a private party on Saturday night, and opening fully to the public on Sunday. I do my touch-ups, with his smiling approval, and pack up. She writes me a cheque, and I give her a business card, telling her to feel free to contact me if there are any other touch-ups they want done. That night, I e-mail Mr Slamuri (who is on vacation in Florida with his family), just to let him know that the job is done, and the clients seemed satisfied. I did say that I wasn't as pleased with the clouds as I had hoped, but the fluorescent lights and the flat basecoat made a realistic effect very tricky to achieve. I also let him know that I had given my contact information to the clients in case they needed any further work on the clouds.

On March 17, I received an e-mail from Mr Slamuri. Seems that the owner wasn't too happy with the ceiling - could I check out the Greek restaurant, and see what I could do. I was panicking. Did I have to repaint everything? Would I have to pay back the fee? After talking to Mr Slamuri's wife, I felt better. No way was I to repaint. Touch-up as needed, but I did what I was contracted to do - I painted clouds on the ceiling. They had never mentioned the Greek restaurant clouds, so the fact that their clouds weren't what they envisioned was no fault of mine or Mr Slamuri. Okay. . . whew! I said that, with all the other commitments I had coming up, I would be unable to do anything until after Easter (the Greek restaurant is completely inconvenient for me to get to). No problem. FYI - the owner of the Vietnamese restaurant has not contacted me at all.

So, yesterday I was finally able to go to the Greek restaurant in question. I had been there once, very long ago, and could not picture the clouds. Sitting in the restaurant, I also could not picture the clouds. They have acoustic tile on two sections, and the rest of the ceiling is. . . white! There is one small, maybe 4x4 foot raised square section in the ceiling. Inside, it is painted a cerulean blue. And there are lights in the cove. They are very bright, white lights. And they give a bit of a cloud effect around the edges. Just to be sure, I said to the waiter "didn't there used to be clouds painted on the ceiling?". He glanced up with a puzzled look on his face, and said "I don't remember any." I tried not to laugh.

After finishing my salad and paying the bill, I headed out to my car. I couldn't wait a minute longer. I called Mr Slamuri, just to confirm that I was at the correct location. Yep. I filled him in. Both of us were cracking up with laughter. He's going to check it out, and until then, I don't have to do anything. He's also not going to mention anything until he's seen it, but if they owners bring it up, he'll be able to say "well, you see, you're really looking for some lightbulbs"! Too funny!! And I think I'm out of the commercial paint business - it's a lot more fun and way less stressful to do it for friends and family who don't send me on wild goose chases afterwards!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

What John Cusack Movie Are You?

I know, what's with the quizzes? But I love John Cusack, and I really love that movie!

Your Life is Like


A Nice Trip

Well, not so nice. Yesterday, I got a call shortly after the kids had headed off to school on the bus. It was the school secretary, calling to tell me that Clara had tripped and fallen on her way into school, and had a small gash on her forehead that should be looked at by a doctor. After confirming that my daughter was doing okay and not hysterical (a change for the drama queen), I quickly changed out of sweatpants, made sure I had her health card and her two favourite, small stuffed animals (Marty, the zebra and Penny, the dalmatian puppy), and headed out the door. On the drive to school, I called and left a message for my client's mom to let them know I may or may not be coming, due to Clara's injury, and would get back to them a little later. I also called my aunt to let her know that she would be picking up just one from the bus.

Once at the school, I parked in the no-park bus zone (I figured I was entitled - besides, it wasn't bus time anyway). The secretaries told me that Clara was doing well, and took me to see her. As soon as she saw me, her bottom lip pouted right out, her eyes welled up, and she said "Mummy" in a heartwrenching little voice as she threw herself into my arms. I think she was more upset that she got blood on her pants and her new shirt than about her actual injury. She was also worried that she might have to have stitches. A few years ago, Corwin had to have two stitches under his chin. He was brave, but Clara was very upset about it.

After thanking the secretaries, and asking that they let Corwin know that Clara was with me and doing just fine, we headed off to the doctor. Of course, our doctor was at a conference as of yesterday until Friday (it never fails!! Corwin had to get stitches at the clinic because our doctor was on holiday). So we had to go to the assigned clinic. We were seen quickly, and the doctor took off the band-aid. Wow - it was tiny, but very swollen and bruised, right in the middle of her forehead. And it was a good bleeder. He confirmed that it needed either sutures or glue, but they don't have the glue at the clinic and he thought that, cosmetically speaking, we should go to the Children's Hospital because they have they glue as well as a non-needle anesthetic for sutures. My reaction was "CHEO? Can't I go to Carleton Place?" (CHEO - the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario - takes forever!!! My policy is that unless the kids are going to be admitted, I won't go to CHEO. I go to a small hospital just outside of the city, and kids get seen quickly). The doctor wasn't keen - he thought that they would do a better job at CHEO if sutures were needed. So, off to CHEO we went. By this time, it was 2:40. We called Daddy to give him an update, and also called my client to cancel for that afternoon.

Once at CHEO, we went through triage - you know, all the same questions we had just answered at the doctor's office. They told us to have a seat, and we would go to registration shortly. There are big signs in the waiting room: CHECK WITH A NURSE BEFORE YOU GIVE YOUR CHILD ANYTHING TO EAT OR DRINK. I figured we'd get registered, then ask. I was getting hungry - I was just about to make lunch when I got the call, so hadn't had anything since coffee and a carrot muffin around 8:30 am. We got called to the registration room, answered all the pertinent questions, and Clara got her bracelet. I asked the nurse about food and drink, and I was told not to give her anything "Just in case we need to sedate her a bit. Don't worry, it won't be long." Okay, no problem. This was at 3:25. At 5:10, I asked again. Different nurse. She looked at me like I was nuts and said "for a tiny little laceration, why wouldn't you give her anything?" Well, because one of you told me NOT TO! Just then, another nurse came to get us. Yay, we were on our way.

Or not. We just got to sit in the hall of the main treatment area. Like the great Disney lie, just when you think you're about to get on the ride, you turn the corner and. . . there are another 20 rows of people. At least Madagascar was playing on the TV here, with volume, and Clara could have some water. At 6:00 (by this point, Madagascar had finished, and Shrek 2 had started), a doctor came to see Clara. And discovered that all the rooms were occupied (pet peeve - it says right on the suture room doors - SUTURE ROOM. DO NOT APPLY ANY CASTS OR SPLINTS IN THESE ROOMS. USE THE ORTHO ROOM. There was a kid in one getting a cast put on. And another kid with a fracture in the other!). So the pediatrician was going to check Clara's laceration in the hallway. Fine by me, both of us just wanted to get the show on the road. Of course, the doctor got paged. Thinking it would be hours before we saw her again, we settled in to watch Shrek meet his in-laws. A surprisingly short time later, the doctor returned, and a suture room was even available.

Poor Clara. Having the band-aid removed was pretty traumatic, especially because she had a fairly large, bruised bump underneath. I held her hands, and she also clung to Penny, the puppy. She had been brave all day, but in the examination room, her eyes welled up when the doctor asked her to lay down. Clara was so sure it was going to hurt, and kept asking "am I getting stitches?". We reassured her that it was just glue, but there is a needle on the end of the glue tube. Despite the doctor's promise that the needle wouldn't touch her, Clara was skeptical. And refusing to lie down. After a few minutes of explaining that the glue just drips through the needle, and there is a needle because they don't want a big opening like school glue, so it can go just in the cut and not everywhere else, she finally laid down. Two drips and she was done. Blue glue. And a piece of tape. We were out of there by 6:20. And home by 6:55. Oh, the kicker? According to the doctor, the Carleton Place Hospital would have been able to handle it just fine. We would have been home by dinner at the latest. Next time, I'm going with my first instinct!

When we got home, Corwin was so concerned about his sister. He kept asking her if she was okay, if she had needed stitches, telling her he had painted her a special picture at school, and trying to give her hugs and kisses gently. He headed up for his bath while she had a grilled cheese and chocolate milk, which she ate ravenously (not surprising!). After a quick bath for Clara, we got her snuggled up with her blankies to have some milk and a snack before bed. She and Corwin sat side by side to watch a bit of a movie, then off to bed to read a book. Clara was worried that her cut was going to open up and get blood on everything during the night. We convinced her that wouldn't happen, and she fell asleep, exhausted after a long day.

Monday, April 24, 2006

The Big Sleepover

Saturday was rainy, cold, and miserable. I know, I know. . . "April showers bring May flowers", and we did need the rain. I just wish it wasn't so cold (bitch, bitch, bitch!). Anyway, the kids had ballet, and now they know what they will be in the recital. The girls will be princesses, and the boys (all three of them) will be knights. Yes, the knights get to "slay" a dragon (some unsuspecting older dance student in a dragon suit). Clara is thrilled - "Princess" should be her middle name. And Corwin is so excited - his godfather has his Master's in Arthurian Legend, and his PhD in Mediaeval Studies. He is a professor of Mediaeval Literature, and even has a leather suit of armor that Corwin got to try on. However, Corwin just tells people that his godfather is a knight! Now he can be just like "Uncle Gerhard".

After ballet, we went to the first birthday party of the littlest offroader. She was covered in cake and having a great time. We arrived late (due to ballet), but at least she got to open her present before she headed off for her nap. Corwin had insisted that she needed the popcorn roller - again, I apologize for the incessant POP-POP-POP that you are about to experience, Amazon and Mr Slamuri! After we returned home, Daddy took Clara and Corwin to the store to get a few small camping articles that Corwin needs to go on the Camporee weekend with the Beavers. Their last stop was Rogers Video, where they each chose a movie to rent.

Fast forward to movietime. Still raining, kids post-bath and in pajamas. Clara announces that she wants to sleep in her sleeping bag. I say no, because the outside material is slippery, and she'll slide right off the bed. I suggest that she can cuddle up in the sleeping bag to watch the movie before bed, and this news is enthusiastically received. Of course, I bring Corwin's sleeping bag up, too. Get them set up - Clara on the chair/ottoman and Corwin on the couch. I also produce Jiffy Pop, which I saw in the grocery store a few weeks ago and thought they would get a kick out of. It just seemed like the perfect night for it. We all gather around the stove, with my husband asking "what is that? No really, what is that?" The gas burner is on, and I'm shaking, and shaking, and shaking. . . the kids are getting bored, Corwin is wondering if this takes "two hundred hours" before it pops. Their interest is waning, they start to disperse then suddenly. . . POP!!! POP. . . POP. . . POP-POP-POP!!! Squealing with excitement, they gather 'round, the husband's doubts proven wrong ("this isn't gonna work"). Finally, the popping subsides, and I mentally have my fingers crossed (please don't let it be burnt, please don't let it be burnt), and we pop the foil with a fork. Woo hoo - perfect popcorn. The oohs and aahs from the kids are too funny - it's like I did something magic! They each get their bowl of popcorn and settle into their sleeping bags to watch Mighty Machines (Corwin's pick - Clara's Barbie Mermaidia will have to wait until another day).

Finally the movie is done (did I really need to know that much about commercial airplanes?). Clara announces - again - that she wants to sleep in her sleeping bag. Fine, if she sleeps on the floor. Corwin, too (of course). Then: "Let's have a sleepover in my room, Corwin! It will be just like camping!" Okay. But there are rules. No fighting. Any fighting and you're back in your own bed, no more sleeping bag. And it's time to sleep - you can whisper for a few minutes, but it's getting late, so you need to go to sleep. Agreed? Agreed.

So I put a big comforter down on the carpet (a little extra padding is always welcome) and got them snuggled in with their pillows, sleeping bags and blankies. Pushed the on button on Twilight Turtle so they could sleep under the "stars", and kissed everyone goodnight. We heard a little noise about a half hour later, and checked on them. Corwin had gotten up, gone to the bathroom, and climbed back into his sleeping bag. They were both a bit hot, so I turned the ceiling fan on low. Checked on them about a half hour later - they were still whispering - but once the Twilight Turtle went off, they were out. And slept until 7:30, very excited about their first "sleepover"! They're already planning the next one for Corwin's room next weekend.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Coffee and Cleaning Products

Many, many thanks to Lola, who just brought me some lovely gifts. Pink Grapefruit Countertop Cleaner from Williams-Sonoma!!! A Pottery Barn catalogue!!! (the husband will not be impressed, I'm sure) And a Grande Mocha Valencia from Starbucks. Full fat, lots of whip (instead of my usual non-fat, no whip, or light whip if I'm feeling decadent). Gotta go sip, daydream, and clean my kitchen!

It's Not Easy Being Green

You Are Kermit

Hi, ho! Lovable and friendly, you get along well with everyone you know.
You're a big thinker, and sometimes you over think life's problems.
Don't worry - everyone know's it's not easy being green.
Just remember, time's fun when you're having flies!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

A Musical Dilemma

Well, I survived Easter. Not just dinner with the in-laws, which turned out to be quite enjoyable as the oldest sister didn't make an appearance. I also made it through all the singing. Lots and lots of singing.

In January, I finally got up the nerve to audition for the choir at our church. We've been going there for almost 12 years, and I thought of joining early on, until I learned of the audition requirement. And I don't sing alone in front of people. The irony, of course, is that I'm a music therapist, and sing with my clients all the time. For me, though, that is very different. Singing with my clients is not performing, and it is the process that is important, not the product.

I actually suffer from performance anxiety. I originally entered university in a performance stream, with flute as my principal instrument. Playing in wind ensemble, concert band, or orchestra, I have no problem with solos because they are a part of the music overall, and I remain seated. Even playing the piccolo, which is so exposed, is not threatening. However, take away the rest of the musicians and make me stand up - I become a nervous wreck. I end up hyperventilating, because I don't use all of my air, but still breathe in the places that I am supposed to. I have never managed to stay for the applause - I just leave the stage as soon as I'm finished playing (I have to, my knees start buckling). Singing in front of people is even worse - I freeze up and sound very croaky. Vocal techniques class was a nightmare. I ended up switching my major to music history. I still played in wind ensemble and orchestra, but didn't have to do the whole recital thing. And then I did my Master's and equivalency in music therapy, where I use my flute very little.

The church that we attend, St John the Evangelist, has an amazing music director. In addition to playing the organ and piano, he also plays the harp. And composes/arranges music, as well as conducts The Strings of St John's. We frequently have other musicians playing during church services - oboe, brass, flute, handbells, timpani. The choir currently has 53 members, and has toured in Great Britain, as well as recording several CDs. You can imagine how intimidated I was by this, and there was no way I was going to offer to play the flute, or to audition for the choir.

So, fast forward eleven and a half years. We know the music director quite well. In addition to being extremely talented, he's truly a wonderful person. Corwin and Clara (but particularly Corwin) absolutely adore him. Corwin had been asking when we could have Gordon for dinner, so we finally arranged a date. Gordon and Gaston came over and we had a lovely dinner, the kids had a fabulous time showing Gordon around (their rooms, their toys, all the Christmas decorations, etc), and Gaston was thrilled to speak French with my husband. So, with the kids tucked in for the night, the four adults were enjoying a glass of wine in the family room, and Gordon asked me if I was ever going to join the choir. I confessed to being intimidated by the audition, at which point he burst out laughing. Apparently, we had covered most of the audition process - he needs to know the person a bit, and to be sure that they can read music and make the time commitment. The only other thing required is to sing "Silent Night", simply for him to get an idea of vocal range. I said I'd think about it. A few days later, I arranged to meet him and sing "Silent Night". I was SO nervous that I was shaking, but I managed to get through, and now I'm a second soprano.

I've really been enjoying reading music again - for work, I mostly play guitar, so I read chords to new songs. I'm also in a recorder ensemble that Gordon organized, which is fun but frustrating, since I keep reverting to flute fingerings. All this has gotten me playing my flute again, and I've been realizing how much I miss it. It wasn't until April 8 that I realized quite how much I miss it. The choir, in addition to singing at church on Sunday mornings, also does a few concerts each year. During Holy Week (the week before Easter), there were three performances of the John Rutter Requiem, and a few other pieces. Gordon was conducting, and the Strings of St John's were accompanying us, and also playing Spring from Vivaldi's Four Seasons. I missed a combined rehearsal when I was away in CT, so the first time I sang with the orchestra was at the dress rehearsal. And it was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do.

A few weeks before, I realized that there would be flutes - it is a full orchestra, so the Strings of St John's are augmented for occasions such as this. Just for fun, I asked Gordon if I could get a copy of the flute part, and he gave me copies of both 1st and 2nd. So I'd played the parts a bit. It didn't prepare me for the overwhelming emotion that I experienced, though. I had to pinch my knuckle hard every time the flutes would play during the rehearsal to keep myself from crying. It was almost a physical longing to be playing my instrument, not to be singing in the choir. I do enjoy the choir, but if there was a choice, I would much rather play the flute. I managed to get through the rehearsal, and all three performances (Sunday April 9, Wed April 12, Friday April 14). Thankfully, the orchestra was not part of Easter Vigil, or Easter morning service, and the choir didn't have as much to sing for those. Yesterday, I spent about 2 hours in the middle of the afternoon practicing my flute. And on Friday, I'm getting together with the harpist (not Gordon) who plays with the orchestra. We're going to work on some flute and harp stuff. Just for fun. Maybe it will lead to me playing more, and getting over this performance anxiety that has been plaguing me. Because I'd rather deal with a little gut-wrenching stress before performing than not to play at all.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Good Question

Corwin : Why do they call it Good Friday, Mommy? It should be called Bad Friday, because it's not a very nice day.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Parent or Referee?

There are days that I should just put on the striped shirt when I wake up. The arguing, yelling, pinching, pushing, hitting, and crying starts the moment that they are both out of bed. What is the deal with this? Why can't they just love each other?!

The fact that I am an only child probably means that my tolerance for this sort of behaviour is lower than most. I never fought with anyone over my toys or where I sat ("I want to sit on the couch!" "No, that's MY spot!"). Frankly, the arguing over the most ridiculous and minute issues is driving me crazy. The whining that "Corwin took the train I was playing with" /"Did NOT!", or "Clara made a mess and won't help clean up" has made me understand why some species eat their young. Granted, the fact that they are twins means that they are at the same developmental stage, providing a few more challenges. I can't very well say "you're older, so you know better", since three minutes age difference is pretty insignificant. The biggest problem is that Corwin is so much bigger than Clara. At five and a half years of age, Clara is tall, but petite - somewhere between 38 and 40 lbs. Corwin is even taller, and weighs about 59 lbs. He looks like he's about 7! This major weight discrepancy leads to some interesting issues. Such as, Corwin can pin Clara very easily. She doesn't like it (who would?), so she pinches him. And it escalates from there. Argh!

Happily, as they get older, they are using their conversational abilities more and more. It is mostly when they are tired that the physical altercations take place. And they do play together very well. It's fabulous that they can now play "Trouble" or trains, or colour together without needing constant supervision. If discord occurs, often a little separation will do the trick (such as "why don't you take your Barbies to your room, then Corwin has space to drive his trucks?"). I guess it would be delusional to hope that they live in peace and harmony all the time. Although it would be very nice. I can always hope. Until then, I'll be wearing my referee shirt - and possibly breaking out the whistle!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Weather Forecast

Here's an update. Sunday's weather forecast is calling for 11 degrees and sunny periods. That's an improvement from yesterday, when they said it would be 11 and rainy. But we're still 4 degrees shy of my sister-in-law's "required temperature".

Well, we got a call last night. Guess she's been looking at the long range forecast, too. Her oldest son will be working (they assumed that the recreation complex where he works would be closed, but apparently it isn't), so he will not be at dinner. And as for her, "we always knew that my attendance was questionable, and I don't think it's going to be warm enough for us to sit in the backyard, so I won't be coming either. Thank you for the invitation, but our family won't be attending". First of all "our family"? I thought that we were part of that, and her parents and sisters, etc. I guess not - it's like she's been invited to dinner by friends, or strangers, even. I think "we" won't be coming would have sufficed, but. . . whatever! (this knee-jerk reaction to her terminology can also be attributed to something she said a few years ago, when she was being her selfish self, that "my family is dead." Meaning her husband. Yes, a big part of her nuclear family died, but aren't the rest of us good enough? We've tried to support her and her children, to be there for them, to help her through the tough times of being a widow with young children, but she insists upon clinging to the past, and not in a healthy way.)

The second reaction I had was "is she nuts?" Even if it was warm and sunny, does she think I'm going to serve Easter dinner out on the deck? I understand about sitting outside prior to dinner, I do realize she has allergies. But however warm it is, dinner will be in the dining room. So we have also told her that she is welcome to come just for dinner. I don't mind if she eats and runs, but it would be nice for the whole family to be together. No, no, can't do it, blah blah blah. I really think she expected dinner in the backyard, maybe on paper plates. Or how 'bout a tailgate party on the driveway? We can put the patio furniture in the garage in case it starts to rain! Now there's a classy picture for Easter.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Champagne Taste. . . Beer Budget!

I have been cursed with expensive taste. I say cursed because it means that when we are looking for something, I inevitably choose the most expensive item, and it is usually not in the budget. In the same way, I have learned not to order anything that is "market price" at a restaurant. Same goes for the daily specials - if the server does not state the price, it may be safer to order off the menu (hearkening back to a Mother's Day dinner when I was 15, and said "sure, I'll try the caviar").

I honestly don't try to pick the more expensive item. It's not like I look at all the prices and choose the higher one. Case in point - when I was getting pricing for our ensuite tub replacement (unplanned - the original cracked and leaked - that's another story in itself) last fall, I also had to price a new faucet and taps for the tub. There is a whole display wall of faucet and tap sets at the plumbing supply store, but none of them have the cost labeled (because there are different finishes available which alter the cost, and also the prices are different for consumer vs contractor). I told the sales associate that I was looking for a reasonably priced faucet, hoping that she would point out a few that fell within the parameters. But no, she asked me to choose a few that I liked. When I told her that it wasn't a good idea, because I would almost certainly pick the most expensive, she laughed and told me to pick one from each line (American Standard, Moen, etc). Fine, I decided to play. I picked one from each of the four major lines that they carried. And she was shocked. Two of the four were the most expensive, one was second, and the other third. I managed not to say "I told you so".

I must say, though, that I have become very creative at achieving the high end look I am inspired by with less expensive pieces. For example, our family room has a Pottery Barn look that was mostly purchased at IKEA. And our dining room buffet and hutch was inspired by a Century piece that cost $10 000. We found an identically styled one for under $2000, which left enough to purchase the dining room table and chairs! Sometimes there is no alternative - there is only one Grohe LadyLux Cafe kitchen faucet, but I managed to keep the cost somewhat reasonable by choosing the least expensive finish. Sometimes I think of how nice it would be not to have to budget, to be able to afford the high-end pieces that I like. But then I wonder if we would appreciate them as much. It's quite satisfying to look at a room and see how well the overall look matches my vision, yet to know that it hasn't broken the bank. So bring on the decorating magazines (to which I have a more-than-mild addiction). And then let me loose in IKEA and Homesense to recreate the look for less! It's actually kinda fun.

Monday, April 10, 2006

May I Introduce You To My In-Laws?

The wise person would say "no, thanks" and run, as far away as possible.

Since you're still reading, I'll assume that wisdom has not come to you yet! Seriously, they aren't that bad. Overall. And since we've been married for 12 years (as of May), and together for almost 19 (as of October), I have had a lot of time to become acclimated to their. . . shall we say, quirks. Let me tell you, there are quite a few of those quirks, but I won't dig too deeply here.

The basic overview. I am an only child (no disparaging comments, please!). My parents recently celebrated their 40th anniversary. Yes, they drive each other crazy at times, especially since my dad retired, but they are still happily married. They travel, go to the theatre, and my mother cleans, cooks, and gardens. My father reads, plays "Roller Coaster Tycoon" on his computer (again, I'm sorry, Mom), sometimes cooks (after which my mother cleans, since my dad doesn't do as good of a job as is required - see previous post), and he is also in charge of cleaning the basement and the basement bathroom (which he does, "once a month, whether it needs it or not." You can imagine my mother's response to this - again, see the previous post). They live just west of Toronto (about a 5 hour drive). They visit every 6 weeks or so to spend time with the grandkids, and we visit them as well. Everyone gets along well, and we're still trying to convince them to move to the National Capital region (my mom says it's too cold in the winter. I agree, but if I have to be stuck here, why shouldn't they?). My husband also has a good relationship with my parents - he and my dad sometimes golf, and go out to dinner.

Enter the in-laws (quick, what's the difference between in-laws and outlaws? Outlaws are wanted!). My husband's parents are ten years older than my parents, but act even older than that. They are still married. They are VERY Catholic (they go to church every day). My husband has not been to Catholic Church since before we were married (not including weddings, funerals, and baptisms). We do go to church - Anglican (Church of England/Episcopalian). Imagine how thrilled his parents were! They are very opinionated, especially my father-in-law. Actually, his is the only opinion - he will not listen to anyone else's. I usually smile and nod, unless they say something so stupid or fundamentally against my beliefs that I speak up. Last summer, I got into a disagreement with him about same-sex marriage and the fact that a Justice of the Peace was fired because he refused to marry a gay couple who had a marriage license (hello, it's the law, and he's not a religious leader!!! What would happen if he refused to marry a biracial couple?). I was polite, the FIL wouldn't listen, and because I disagreed with him, he wouldn't look at me for the rest of the day. Whatever!

My husband has three sisters, all older. Eight, ten, and twelve years older. His sisters have all been married. They have all been divorced. They have all remarried. The oldest is widowed, the youngest is divorced a second time, and the middle was divorced a second time, married a third, and separated from him for a couple of years now (divorce in progress, I just don't ask the details). That's the basics. Where it gets interesting is that they ALL live in the area. All.Of.Them. And we have another holiday coming up.

This past Christmas, we hosted dinner at our house. It's been years since they all came (well, not the oldest sister, but we're getting to that). The only other time was the year we moved into our first house - 1997. Since we've been married, we alternate a bit, but I hate doing Christmas at his family. First of all, I have issues with the smoking. I'm very allergic, and I end up with bronchitis, and on inhalers and antibiotics. And I don't get a whole lotta respect about it. The worst was 1995, the second Christmas that we were married. All of his sisters were there, and two were married at the time. The oldest was widowed (irony - her husband died of lung cancer from SMOKING). She doesn't smoke, but both other sisters, their husbands, a niece and her boyfriend, and a cousin and her husband did. It was DISGUSTING, and every time I tried to open a window, someone would close it and say it was too cold. Hmmm. . . better a little cold fresh air than inhaling carcinogens against my will! At least now, since we've had the kids, I've put my foot down regarding the smoking - outside, or we won't be there. And it's only one sister, a niece and her boyfriend who still smoke (well, the ex-husbands probably do, but they're doing it elsewhere).

The other reason I can't stand Christmas dinners that they host is that they cook the turkey the day before and reheat it in the microwave. Can you say dry? Also, everyone has to bring a dish. Call me a food snob, but I can't get into this. I like to plan the menu, and make the food when I'm hosting. I don't view holiday celebrations as pot-luck. You never know what people will bring. Back in 1995, I wanted to bring the cranberries I make. I was assigned a shrimp ring. You know, the frozen kind that involves no cooking. I LOVE to cook. I asked my husband's aunt about bringing the cranberries as well, and she said okay. Well, she may have said okay, but she went ahead and made hers anyway, and put them ahead of mine on the table. Good thing I like cranberries, because basically the whole batch came home. The real kicker? The youngest sister was assigned the stuffing and a vegetable. She brought Stove-Top and frozen peas and carrots. Why the hell she couldn't have brought the shrimp ring is quite beyond me!

So, there's an overview of the family. And we've now been asked to host Easter dinner. We have the space (currently, the youngest sister is in a one bedroom apt until her townhouse is built; the middle sister just sold her townhouse and she and her son are living with her daughter and the daughter's boyfriend until she moves into her new apartment. The MIL and FIL have a basement full of both daughters' things stored until moving days. This is an issue because we eat in the basement - don't ask. And the oldest sister has the space, but never offers. EVER). No problem, I would have offered, but didn't want to overstep any boundaries since we had just hosted Christmas. This is where it gets fun.

The oldest sister is pissed off because it's at our house. Keep in mind that she won't host anything - last year we asked her to do Mother's Day, and she said she couldn't because her patio set was old so she had to throw it out, and her barbeque blew up and she couldn't get anything new until July. Oo-kaaaa-y. Who said anything about a barbeque? And why does it have to be outside? Guess who ended up having it? Yep, we did. Well, she doesn't like it here because we have a dog and she's allergic. Hmmm. . . forgive me for the lack of sympathy, but when I declined to go to a restaurant years ago because I didn't want to get sick from the smoke, she asked if I knew that there was medication I could take. Yes, I could prevent an asthma attack, but what about the bronchitis? And as far as I know, there ain't no medicine that prevents lung cancer!

It isn't as though I haven't made an effort. A couple of years ago when we had a family dinner for Corwin and Clara's birthday, I was sensitive to her allergies. We have hardwood and tile on the main floor, and two area rugs. A few days before the dinner, I rolled up the rugs, and washed the floors really well. I also vacuumed every day (upstairs, too) for the week before, but not on the actual day, because that can stir up allergens. I did wash the floors on the day of, and also had the windows open (this was early October). All this because I know that it is not the hair but the dander from the dog that causes the reaction. We also kept the dog in another room. Well, within five minutes of arriving, she was complaining that she was having difficulty breathing. And she had taken her powdered Ventolin inhaler the moment she walked in the door. I have friends with severe allergies, and they all think that there is more of an emotional component to her attacks. As in, there are real allergies but stress exacerbates the severity of the attack.

So she probably won't come. But she might. She'll let us know. . . two days before. Two days. When I mentioned that I needed a bit more time than that (you know, to allow for grocery shopping, table planning - if there are more than 10, I'll need to plan to set up an extra table, arrange chairs, etc), she was annoyed. And now she has e-mailed my husband to tell him that she will only come if it is at least 15 degrees Celsius outside. Is it wrong to hope for 9 degrees and rain? See, it's not so bad to be an only child!

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Who Are You Calling a Neat Freak?

Anyone who knows me is already familiar with this fact. For those of you who haven't been to my brick home (as opposed to my virtual home, right here), I will let you in on the secret. I'm kind of a neat freak. Okay, I am a neat freak. And it's not really that secret. What you have to understand is that, in comparison to my mother, I am a complete SLOB!!!

My mother irons sheets - SHEETS!! That you lie down on and wrinkle. I don't iron anything if I can help it. She irons t-shirts to work out in. Oh my God - I will leave a pile of clean laundry to be folded in the laundry basket upon occasion. For days. I try to get it folded, but on the mountains of laundry days when load follows load and I'm busy with the kids . . . oh, well, we live with a few wrinkles. And when I was younger and she still ironed my clothes, my Mom ironed my JEANS. Yes, I had a crease down the front of my jeans. Perfectly pressed Jordache jeans. How embarrassing. When she decided that it was time for me to start ironing (grade 9? 10?), it wasn't an option. I was not allowed out of the house without ironed clothes. But I rebelled, oh yes I did - I refused to iron my jeans. It's sad that my major act of rebellion in my youth is all about pressing and steaming.

My favourite house cleaning activity is vacuuming. I enjoy it, it is actually relaxing and a bit of a workout at the same time. I take umbrage with people who refer to it as "passing the vacuum". In my opinion, "vacuum" is a verb. Yes, it is a noun that describes the necessary machinery, but the act is very definitely more than just "passing" the vacuum. I mean, people don't say they are going to "pass the lawnmower", do they? If you don't work up a bit of a sweat, you aren't doing it right! We have a dog, and there is dog hair, so I vacuum more than the average person. Before we had kids, I used to vacuum almost every day. Now, it's every other or every third (we also have hardwood, and the husband prefers to Swiffer, so it just depends who gets the tumbleweeds of hair and dust first). For my mother, vacuuming is also a verb. She does it every day, sometimes twice a day. And we're talking using attachments every day (I'm a little more lax in the attachment department). I remember when I was a teenager and she would vacuum at 8 am on Saturday mornings, bumping my door as she'd clean the carpet in the hall. It drove me nuts - couldn't it wait an hour or so? I think part of it was also to get me out of bed - she's not big on sleeping in. That may be why I am the one who vacuums at our house. I don't mind if the husband does it, but I can't be home - the sound of the vacuum cleaner running is like fingernails on a chalkboard unless I'm the one operating it. Lately, though, the idea of the Roomba is somewhat seductive. If I could be certain that it wouldn't terrify our neurotic dalmatian, who is already afraid of the vacuum, I'd pick one up. Although, I'm starting to think that it would be worth the trembling dog to get a Scooba. Wouldn't it be bliss to have your floor freshly washed - without having to do it yourself? (Okay, I admit, the husband does the kitchen floor more than I , but I'm the one who washes the hardwood. And there's more hardwood.)

Then there are the bathrooms. I clean the bathrooms, my husband cleans the bathrooms, and overall we manage quite well. The sink gets cleaned the most - toothpaste and shaving whiskers get taken care of daily. Don't even get me started on the amount of cleaning we do in the kids' bathroom - they think toothpaste is an art medium, and the sink and counter are their canvas (a PEA sized amount of toothpaste. PEA, not GRAPE!! ARGH!!!). The toilets are frequently scrubbed, particularly in the ensuite. That "Fresh Shower" spray is a great invention - just spray after showering and it keeps the shower stall clean. And the tub. My tub gets cleaned about twice or three times per week. I soak in it every night. The kids' tub gets cleaned a couple of times a week as well. I draw the line at my mother's method, however. I refuse to get out of the tub smelling like whatever lovely bath products I have soaped and soaked with, put on matching lotion. . . and then clean the tub with bleach-y cleaner. So I then smell like bleach. Yet this is exactly what my mother does. Wouldn't it make more sense to wait and clean the tub before your next bath, if you feel the need to have it clean to bathe? Oh no, then it would remain dirty for 23 hours, and that can't be allowed!

I realized that I truly was a neat freak on Aug 23, 1992. My husband (fiancé at the time) and I had arrived back at my apartment in Miami after I had been home for the summer. Unfortunately, Hurricane Andrew was planning on arriving later that night. We made some preparations, such as filling all my pitchers and bowls with water, moving the furniture away from the windows, and making the bed. I hadn't been at my apartment for several months, and it was a bit dusty, so I began to clean. When the husband asked what I was doing, I told him that I was cleaning because if something happened, I wouldn't want anyone to think that I kept a dirty apartment. As the words were coming out of my mouth, I realized how ridiculous I sounded. Really, if something happened, there would be water and leaves and mud and rubble and shattered glass everywhere. No one would know or care that my apartment wasn't immaculate. Since then, I have tried to curb my obsessively clean tendencies, armed with the knowledge that I am far less neurotic about it than my mother. I think I have succeeded, and here's the proof.

Last night my parents, my husband, and I were sitting and chatting in the family room. They are here visiting for birthday celebrations, and to spend time with their grandkids. My mother began to talk about my childhood after I jokingly said something about ironing. I knew part of this - that when I was little (old enough to play outside, young enough for naps - 2?), while I napped, she would wash the outfit I had worn in the morning, and it would be hanging out to dry, then ironed and put away on the same day. What I hadn't known before - she would clean my little white boots - twice a day. And WASH the shoelaces once a day. Wash.The.Shoelaces. Really. She wasn't kidding - I asked. So, vacuuming every other day? Doesn't seem quite as insane* now, does it?

*not to imply that my mother is in any way insane - she just cleans a lot. What sucks is that she used to clean my baseboards when she would visit, but since we had the kids, she does stuff with them instead. And my baseboards (mostly) stay dusty.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The Rest of the Story

As you can imagine, Friday was a bit of a write-off. I spent the lunch break during the course napping and drinking Gatorade. The second half of the course was hit and miss. Petunia's portion was great, very interesting and informative. And then there was the other guy. Who was, shall we say, arrogant? An idiot? He just pissed me off, and I was glad to get out of there. I really wanted to attend another session, but I was SO tired (very little sleep, and no food that day may have been factors), so I went to chill out in the room. I dozed a bit, and Pearl hung out for a while, until Berly (formerly K.) arrived. Pearl headed off to her session, and Berly and I chatted. We looked into dinner plans. I really just wanted rice. NOT Chinese food fried rice, but a nice rice pilaf, like you get as a side dish at Italian or Greek restaurants. Or even Red Lobster. Well, Meriden's restaurant selections are somewhat. . . lacking. Fast food, fast food, Ruby Tuesday (and the idea af salad repelled me), Friendly's, and a place called Lido's Pizza. Lido's apparently had very good food - pasta and pizza and calzones, and other Italian dishes. Hoping that they would have rice, we headed off.

The five of us - Pearl, Berly, Petunia, Peaches, and I - were seated quickly. Lido's was pretty busy, and it smelled great, but food was just not appealing (hmmmm, could this be the jump start to a great diet?). The menu held a wide variety, but no rice. I finally settled on baked ziti, but should have asked for something off the children's menu, as I managed about a tenth of it. Oh, well. (fyi, the calzones were the "good" kind, like you get in Western MA with the sauce on the side, according to Pearl). We all headed back to the hotel, and had a pajama party in Peaches and Petunia's room, where Clary B (their adorable 19 month old lab/corgi mix) entertained us.

Peaches and Petunia also gave me my birthday present, which was awesome! The background story - when we were in Austin, TX for a conference, I saw a t-shirt that I wanted. When I went back, the store wasn't open, even though it should have been, and I couldn't wait any longer or I would miss the shuttle to the airport. Peaches' brother, Orca (who lives in Galveston), tried to get me one, but couldn't find any. I figured that I would have to go back sometime to get a "Fuck Y'All, I'm From Texas!" t-shirt. Peaches recently posted about it, asking if I'd found one, and someone posted a link where you can order them. Cool, I figured I'd order one in the future, and posted to that effect, saying that "Fuck Y'All, I'm From Texas" has more zing to it than "Fuck Y'All, I'm From Ottawa". Peaches apparently disagreed, and I am now the very proud owner of a "Fuck Y'All, I'm From Ottawa" t-shirt. Red, with white lettering - decidedly Canadian. One caveat - Clara and Corwin are starting to read, so I'm trying to decide if I will sleep in it and change early, or wear it to the gym - I think the gym might be the way to go (should certainly get a laugh from the Senator - she's not, really, but works for one, and you know that it's the woman who's the brains behind the politician!). Anyway, a little while later, we were all yawning so we headed to bed. Before midnight. How sad is that? What happened to my fab weekend away? Friday night was going to be the drinks and dancing night, staying up late, a real girls' night out. Damn flu. Looking back, I think we would have been disappointed in the severe lack of nightlife in Meriden anyway.

Next morning, feeling far more like myself, Peaches and I headed off to the Big Apple. My first time!!! We stopped at an IHOP for a bit of breakfast. Sadly, they didn't have potato pancakes on the menu. Not that I would have been able to eat them. I managed my side order of bacon, and about a third of one pancake. Then we headed back to the highway. We made good time to New York, and it was pretty amazing to see the skyline as we approached on I-95. The Empire State Building! The Chrysler Building! And, of course, the traffic! Actually, it wasn't too bad - it was stop and go for a bit, but we got to our exit fairly quickly. We parked in Brooklyn, in front of the former apartment of Peaches' friend (who actually got married at Grand Central Station - how cool is that?). We wandered towards the subway, pausing often to admire the daffodils and hyacinths, and all the flowering trees. It was so warm that we left our jackets in the car.

We descended into the subway, and bought our metro passes ($7 US unlimited one day pass - a good deal). Someone had a little difficulty getting through the turnstile. And no, it wasn't Peaches (We later saw the sign "keep to the right or you will lose your fare". It would have been nice if the warning was more timely). Anyway, I was let in by the surly subway guy (Probably thinking "tourists!"), and we were on our way. We took the A train (the A train!!) to the Brooklyn Bridge stop, and climbed the stairs in order to walk across the bridge into Manhattan. Unfortunately, about a thousand protesters with placards against the deportation of Muslims had the same idea. While we thought theirs was a worthy cause, we just didn't have that much time to fritter away, so back down we went. At this point we discovered that there were no express trains stopping at that station due to construction. So we ended up spending quite a bit longer underground than originally intended. Peaches felt bad about it, but I figured that it was all good, and just part of the true New York experience. Finally, we made it to Grand Central Station.

Grand Central Station is beautiful. You can tell that many other city train stations have been modeled after this design, including Union Station in Toronto. As Corwin and Clara are obsessed with Madagascar , Peaches took a couple of pictures of me in front of the clock, and the grand staircase. Then we headed out into - the rain. What? It was sunny! But that's what happens when you spend such a long time underground - the weather even has time to change. At least it was just a light rain, a few drops here and there, as neither of us had any rain gear or umbrellas. Next, we made our way to Times Square.

Wow, the amount of neon in Times Square is amazing. It has to be seen in person to appreciate the vividness of the colours - TV doesn't do it justice. We looked for the Naked Cowboy, but it was still kinda rainy, and a bit chilly to be wearing just skivvies - oh well, next time. We went into Sephora to ask directions, and I ended up buying Lip Venom for my skinny little lips. It's supposed to make your lips plump up, and Peaches swore it was working on me. I also bought false eyelashes - I've always wanted to try them, and now I can. Directions and cute little Sephora bag in hand, we headed back to the subway, enroute to Lexington Ave.

When we emerged from the depths, it was sunny once again, and we enjoyed our stroll to Serendipity, where we put our name on the three hour wait list. Yes, THREE hours. Apparently, when Oprah says she likes something, everybody has to try it. We hadn't heard about Oprah's endorsement, though. We had been talking about movies the previous evening, and I mentioned that I loved Serendipity, the movie. During the drive to NY, Peaches suggested that we could go to the restaurant. Until then, I had no idea that it was an actual place, not just a setting in the film. They told us to check back in an hour and a half, just in case. We headed up the block to Dylan's Candy Bar. It was extremely crowded, but very fun. Peaches bought herself some chocolate-covered gummi bears, and I bought five Dylan's chocolate bars to take home (5 different flavours), and a Bit'O'Honey bar. FYI, the gummi bears may sound disgusting, but are actually pretty good (thanks for sharing, Peaches). With some time to kill, we continued walking, crossed Madison Ave (no, I didn't browse or shop - that would be a whole day in itself), crossed Park Ave (and we may have seen a real New York Nanny - man, they have some high-tech strollers in NY!), and ventured into Central Park. We found a bench and sat, enjoying the warmth of the sun, and the ducks on the pond, the view of the stone bridge, and the flowers that were blooming. We also had a blast people watching. Soon enough, it was time to mosey back.

Once back at Serendipity, it wasn't long before we were seated upstairs. We both decided that we needed some real food in addition to their trademark Frrrozen Hot Chocolate, but didn't want anything huge. We both settled on a very healthy choice - french fries. Yes, french fries and ice cream. No, neither of us is pregnant! You'd be amazed at how good a combination this actually is. And ironically - this was the first thing I was able to finish and fully enjoy since my gastro incident! All hail the french fry! Bow to the Frrrozen Hot Chocolate! (oooh, baby, it is DIVINE).

Satisfied and a bit tired, it was time to leave the fairy tale city and return to the barren tundra of Meriden. The subway back to Brooklyn was uneventful, but took FOREVER - just service problems and re-routings because of construction. We made it to the car and were on our way. Big kudos go to Peaches, who had to drive through a construction zone across a bridge - hemmed in on both sides by those cement barricades. Nicely done!!

Back at the hotel, we hung out in Peaches and Petunia's room. Pearl and Berly had departed in the afternoon (planned), and Bert had arrived for the evening and overnight. It was a quiet evening, but enjoyable because of the company and the cocktails (in my case, Magic Hat Brewery Number 9 beer - thanks, Petunia!). The next day, I had another 5 hour course. Unfortunately, Bert got a migraine, so she headed home (and made it safely, thank God - driving with a migraine is not recommended). She and I will just have to plan a catch-up in between conferences - it's been too long! And Peaches and Petunia (and Clary B) drove me to the airport, where I headed back to the Great White North. With surprisingly more cash in my wallet than I had anticipated. Nice!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

"Remember When Corwin Had the Flute?"

So, the journey to CT went well. Cleared Customs without any hassle, including the dreaded "were you ever denied entry into the US" question that has been haunting me for 11 years now. My flights were mostly on time (10 minutes late from Ottawa to DC, landed early in Hartford. Naturally, the gate was taken up by another plane, so we had to sit - what IS the deal with that? I could see 4 other vacant gates!), and . . . trumpet fanfare, please . . . my bag arrived, too! Pearl (formerly known as G.) was there to meet me, and we headed off into the wilds of Connecticut.

Along the way, we decided that driving an extra 45 minutes (from Meriden to Darien) to have dinner at The Melting Pot would be a good idea. Pearl called her mom to look up the address and directions online, which was very funny. Her mom COULD NOT find it on Google, so was looking at a listing of ALL the restaurants in the entire state! She kept saying it wasn't there (under M), and Pearl kept saying "look under T, for The". Finally, we had the info. Of course, we had missed the exit by this time - Pearl took the exit that I indicated, but then branched into the wrong lane (remembering the "turn left" part of the directions, not the "at the traffic light" part). So, we were on Highway 15, headed towards New York quite by accident. We took the first exit to turn around, and what an exit!!!!!! I have NEVER in my life seen such a sharp turn while exiting a highway! It was almost 90 degrees. Where logic dictated it should gently turn, the sign was there, and we almost met it close up! Pearl managed to turn, and we giggled like fools about the CT urban planners. Finally got to the hotel, checked in, and then headed out for the 45 minute (55 minute!) drive to Darien. It was uneventful, and full of lots of chatter, since we hadn't seen each other in a whole year. We found the restaurant with no problems and were only a few minutes late for our reservation (we had called to check their hours, since a 45 minute drive to discover that the place is closed is less fun than it sounds).

The Melting Pot. "Dip into something different" is their slogan. The ambiance is fabulous (perfect for a romantic date, but also a great place to catch up with a friend, since the booths are so secluded). Pearl and I ordered a cocktail each, and perused the menu. A friend and I used to go to the one in Miami when I lived there, and we usually ordered just cheese fondue (well, it would start that way, but we always got chocolate fondue for dessert) because the whole meal was just too expensive. Pearl and I decided to splurge! The cheese, the salad, the main, the chocolate. All but the salad are fondue, done at your table. Very nice. We chose our cheese (traditional Swiss), our salads, our cooking style (coq au vin - the traditional oil is just too heavy), and would get the chance to choose our chocolate (9 choices!) later. We relaxed and chatted and sipped our cocktails. We ate cheese fondue. We ate salad. We were full. What?! Yep. Too late, I remembered that it is a LOT of food for two people - THAT'S why we used to get just cheese and chocolate. The main course came. We cooked and ate some beef, some seafood. We were very full. We had to choose our chocolate (the original - but we were really very full). We continued to cook the beef, planning on taking it back for the next day (if there was a fridge in the room). The chocolate came, surrounded by strawberries, pineapple, pound cake, marshmallows, bananas, brownie chunks, and cheesecake. We each had a piece of fruit dipped, then a second. That was it - TOO FULL!! So, we loaded up the takeout carton with the sweets and drizzled the chocolate over. Paid, headed back. It was not a pleasant drive.

Pearl and I had eaten too much, and our tummies were not happy. Never a comfortable feeling, I haven't done something this foolish in a very long time (drinking too much? Even that has been over a year). Then I felt nauseous. Really nauseous. We pulled over. I breathed deeply, it subsided. What was this? This had never happened to me before! Twice more on the ride home, I had waves of nausea but managed to overcome them without even pulling over. The last one was the worst, and I even felt dizzy. I just wanted to get into bed. Finally, the hotel.

Once in the room, Pearl brushed her teeth and dropped into bed. My stomach was so sore, and I thought that a hot bath might help. I soaked for about a half hour, until I started dozing off in the tub. Pulled the plug, started drying off and it was all over. The nausea had won. Ugh. Several bouts later, I washed my face, brushed my teeth and crawled into bed, hoping to feel better in the morning. Only to get up hourly to trek to the bathroom. AT least I was no longer vomiting, but it still wasn't fun. And my legs were achy, arms too. . . . . No. . . . . It couldn't be. But eating too much just didn't explain all the symptoms. I had the stomach flu, the same flu from which my son bounced back so quickly the day before (yeah, 'cause he gave ME all the damn germs!!). I started to feel panic - what if I couldn't make it to the course at 9? I HAD to go, that's why I was there (not to mention needing the credits to maintain my board certification).

At 5:45 am, the sun was shining brightly through the drapes that we had forgotten to close as I staggered back from the bathroom yet again. Pearl woke up and asked if I was okay. I replied "Remember when Corwin had the flu?". And Pearl said "what?". It took a couple of repeats before she got it - somehow, she thought I was asking "Remember when Corwin had the FLUTE?". After the initial confusion, she offered to get me Advil and ginger ale. She went to the car to get the Advil, but realized she was out, so she drove to three different gas stations before she found one that was open. And she brought back not only Advil, but Gatorade (5 flavours). She's my hero!

What a way to start the conference. And I did manage to get through the course. Fifteen credits down, eighty-five more to go! (by 2011 - I have some time).

Now Presenting. . .

. . . the technologically advanced Canada! If you look to the left, you will now see links. After some discussion with Peaches, who told me she found herself WRITING CODE (I kid you not), I figured I could muster up the courage to cut and paste. So I did. No injuries to the computer, the blog, or even my sanity (I mean, no stress, no swearing - I'm amazed at myself). Enjoy!

Monday, April 03, 2006

Home. . . Is Where the Laundry Is

Yep, I'm home! WITH my luggage, which traveled with me for the entire trip - what a concept. And now I have my mountain of laundry. And the kids mini-mountain. And some from Hubby, not to mention that I've gotta change the beds. That's what it all boils down to - you go away, and there's gonna be laundry!

I figure that it will be easier to write several posts regarding my escape to CT. Overall, it was a good conference and the hotel was nice (clean, pleasant staff, decent sized rooms). However, if you've never been to Meriden, CT (or even heard of it), there's a good reason for that. It's not exactly a destination location. As in: there is NOTHING there (no offense to the good people of Meriden). The hotel is literally in the middle of some technical park. I swear the conference planners do this to make you attend sessions and not go shopping. Ha - like that would stop me! Actually, I'm sad to say that I never did get close to Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn or Restoration Hardware for my semi-annual daydream-a-thon, where I walk around the stores and just touch things, and get inspired by decorating ideas. I usually buy something small at W-S, like Herbes de Provence, or Mulling Spices (or Counter Spray, it's SO awesome, but most people don't understand the ecstasy inspired by cleaning products, so I tend not to rave about that too much). I know, I know, we have all three stores in Toronto, and when we visit my parents I sometimes get to go, but it's not the same, and there's no guarantee that I'll even have time. I did, however, manage to stock up on Bath & Bodyworks stuff. I even added a new scent to the collection - Black Raspberry Vanilla. And replenished my Coconut Lime Verbena products, so I'm happy. (and smellin' good!)

So, since there wasn't much in the To Do department, Peaches/AJWP and I went to New York. Actually, I should say that Peaches was heading to New York and allowed me to tag along, since I've never been. She drove. We parked in Brooklyn. Their daffodils and flowering trees were in bloom. More to come!