Saturday, December 31, 2011

But I Don't Care for Sugar, Honey, if I Can't Have You. Or your 300+ CDs.

"We sure own a lot of depressing music," said Mr Wrath last night as we were culling CDs. We're bidding adieu to almost two-thirds of the 350 CDs in our collection.

Mr Wrath is right: a lot of the music we listened to in the 90s is very bleak. Was that an overall musical trend for that period, or does everyone enjoy depressing music in their late teens and early twenties, or were we oddballs?

We copied selected tracts onto iTunes, then stuffed boxes full of the Tragically Hip, Watchmen, REM, Tom Waits, Counting Crows, 54•40, Crash Test Dummies, Billy Bragg, Jayhawks, Victoria Williams, Matthew Sweet, John Lee Hooker, Márta Sebestyén, Waterboys, Ali Farka Touré, Pursuit of Happiness, Spirit of the West, Kashtin, Bob Wiseman, Spin Doctors, Stan Rogers, Violent Femmes, Vonda Shepherd, Rankins, 10000 Maniacs, Bruce Cockburn, Melissa Etheridge, Captain Tractor, Waltons, Eric Clapton, Joni Mitchell, Pogues and others. It feels like I am giving away my youth. Acknowledging that I no longer remember the names of a single Tragically Hip song, makes me feel much older than admitting that my hair is graying, my knees ache after a hike, and that there are three black hairs growing out of my chin.

The Great 2011 CD Purge was also remarkable because I learned that my husband owns four Sinéad O'Connor CDs. I don't think he's played one in the last 14 years, but the idea of Mr Wrath listening to Sinéad O'Connor sing "Don't Cry For Me Argentina" even once, makes me giggle. For his part, Mr Wrath did not shame me for owning a Celine Dion cd. "I WON IT OFF THE RADIO!" I said far too loudly and much too shrilly. Then I sang a few choice lines from "Je Danse Dans Ma Tête" and Mr Wrath ran screaming from the house.

Know what else is going away? Annie Lennox's Diva. In the early 90s every time a boy broke my heart I'd listen to (and sing at top volume)  "Walking on Broken Glass." I was -- obviously -- an overly dramatic ass. Listening to the lyrics now makes me cringe, but the video is rather amusing. Look at young(ish) Hugh Laurie!

• • • • •

Do you still have your CDs? What's the most embarrassing CD you own(ed)? Anyone have suggestions for reinventing old Ikea CD towers? 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Beginners Guide to Homeschooling: Books to Kick-Start Your Dreams of Homeschooling.

In September of 2008, Zarf -- having completed kindergarten at the local public school -- was to start grade 1. Klaxon was only four but, according to the British Columbia school act, ready to attend kindergarten for almost 20 hours per week.  But instead of trudging off to school for 181 instructional days, Mr Wrath and I kept them at home.

Prior to that day, I did a great deal of reading and researching and fretting about the options and alternatives available to us. Don't get me wrong. Mr Wrath was definitely involved in the process. But while we divide the household chores and parenting duties equally and according to skill, not sex, the bulk of homeschooling is done by or instigated by me.  It was me who trawled websites, checked out library books, and asked casual acquaintances if I could visit their homes and see homeschooling in action.

I sat down yesterday to write up a list of resources for a friend who's considering homeschooling her young sons. "This might make a good blog post," I thought to myself and start brainstorming topics. Turns out it's going to make for a good SERIES of blog posts. Today I'm going to start with...

Books to Kick-Start
(or Kill) 
Your Dreams of Homeschooling.

My three favourite homeschool books:

Family Matters: Why Homeschooling Makes Sense, by David Guterson
I'd always been intrigued by homeschooling, but this book helped affirm my beliefs. More importantly, it convinced Mr Wrath that homeschooling was feasible for our family.

The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook, by Dr Raymond and Dorothy Moore.
"Chill out, you're doing fine" is the theme for this book. I find it very comforting even though I'm not a follower of Moore's formula (unschool until age 8 to 12, then start more formal lessons).

The Well Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education At Home, by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise
Full of timelines and resources for classical education (personally, I wouldn't know a Latin declensions if it bit me on my gluteus maximus), it also has practical tips about scheduling lessons and timelines of skill development.

Books that I consulted and found helpful but don't recommend purchasing:

The Ultimate Book of Homeschooling Ideas: 500+ Fun and Creative Learning Activities, by Linda Dobson
Part of making the mental shift to homeschooling is recognizing moments for subversive learning. This book is great for showing how to find and exploits these possibilities.

Mary Pride's Complete Guide to Getting Started in Homeschooling by Mary Pride.
Disclaimer: Mary Pride is an anti-feminist, Quiverfull pioneer and her books are -- in my opinion -- propaganda for her ultra-conservative, political agenda. However, this particular title has great bare-bones descriptions of homeschooling educational philosophies (ie, unschooling, Classical, Charlotte Manson, eclectic, Montessori, Moore Formula, Reggio Emelia, unit studies, Waldorf and school-at-home).

So You're Thinking About Homeschooling: Fifteen Families Show How You Can Do It, by Lisa Welchel
I hummed "You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have the Facts of Life" the whole time I read this slim, pleasant book by the woman who played Blair Warner. This is a collection of a fictional accounts of different ways families incorporate homeschooling into their lives, with an emphasis on Christian education options. There's not a lot of meat here, but the book includes a list of resources about the homeschool theories was useful for finding more weighty treatments.

Books not explicitly about homeschooling, but worth a read to shore up opinions about formal education, and gender roles:

Queen Bees & Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends & Other Realities of Adolescence, by Rosalind Wiseman
Whenever someone brings up the "But what about socialization?" question, I think of this book and know that schools don't ensure a child is conversant in social niceties. Quiet frankly, I sometimes marvel that children emerge from 12 years of school with even the remotest notion of how to interact with other humans.

Queen Bee Moms & Kingpin Dads: Dealing with the Parents, Teachers, Coaches, and Counselors Who Can Make--or Break--Your Child's Future, by Rosalind Wiseman
 A great exploration of how adults are a huge factor in the shit storm that is today's formal school system.

Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture, by Peggy Orenstein 
This book should be read by all parents, not just those with daughters. We will all reap the ill-affects of multi-national corporations teaching little girls that beauty trumps intelligence and stuff is better than substance.

NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children, by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman
Are we parenting with our eyes wide shut?

Why Gender Matters: What Parents and Teachers Need to Know about the Emerging Science of Sex Differences, by Leonard Sax
Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men by Leonard Sax
These books killed my long held belief that nurture trumps nature. But acknowledging the differences between the sexes does not mean we can't strive for equality between the boys and girls.

The Trouble with Boys: A Surprising Report Card on Our Sons, Their Problems at School, and What Parents and Educators Must Do, by Peg Tyre
I read this book in 2009, and when I talked about it afterward people scoffed. Then last year the Globe & Mail ran a six-part series called Failing Boys that exposed how the Canadian education system's gender bias neglects boys.

The Myth of Ability: Nurturing Mathematical Talent in Every Child, by John Mighton
We use literacy rates as a measure for a nations' educational success, but numeracy is just as important. Mighton is also the creator of the math curriculum we use with our sons.

"Are there any books about homeschooling in Canada?," you might now be wondering. As far as I can tell: no.  But there are some online resources: 

The aforementioned friend recommended a paper by the Canadian-based think-tank, the Fraser Institute. Home Schooling: From the Extreme to the Mainstream (2nd Edition) is an excellent information resource that explores how homeschooling in Canada politically, culturally and historically differs from and parallels the American experience. For more background, A History of the Modern Canadian Homeschooling/Unschooling Movement is also worth a read.

• • • •

Next up in my Beginner's Guide to Homeschooling will be tips about picking grade-appropriate, Canadian curriculum (that's fancy talk for books) that will keep your kids on track with their peers at local schools.

• • • •

Any books that helped you when you were considering homeschooling?  Please post your suggestions in the comment section of this post.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Shit Homeschoolers Love...

Homeschoolers love appropriating religious and cultural holidays for lessons. Which is why we made menorahs last week! It's Hanukkah, baby!






I even incorporated some musical appreciation into the lesson, by buying the newest Maccabeats single.

I'm also going to count this lesson as part of our physical education curriculum. We played the song 10 times in a row and danced the whole time.

Now I've got to get on with planning our Hogmanay lesson? I'm thinking we'll spend the day watching Gerard Butler films, eating deep-fried Mars bars, and talking like Shrek. What do you think?

Sunday, December 25, 2011

What Is Christmas With No Snow?

Fortunately my parents did not have their hearts set on having a quiet relaxing Christmas afternoon. Because the boys are downstairs screaming and squealing and jumping around as they play games on the new Wii system.

Since dinner duties are being managed by my mother and Mr Wrath, I've got fifteen minutes to complete Nicole's Five Quick Christmas Questions meme:

1. What is your favourite Christmas beverage?
I like to celebrate the festive season with a little beverage I call Not Eggnog. This isn't so much a particular drink, but an adjective I use during the Christmas season, ie Yes, I'd love a beverage just so long as it Not Eggnog, because I have not cultivated a taste for thick, phlegm-inspiring liquids with a hint of nutmeg.

2. What is your favourite Christmas song?
I will assume this is a matter of the favourite Christmas song I like to hear, because I do not sing. Not even at Christmas time.  For two weeks I've been listening to Rick Steves' European Christmas cd at least once daily -- it's my current favourite. But my favourite stand alone song is "Snow" from White Christmas.

3. What is your favourite Christmas movie?
Every year I make a point of watching White Christmas. Though it's not my favourite Bing Crosby Christmas movie. That honour would go to Holiday Inn. Alas I don't own a copy of Holiday Inn (WHY NOT?!, I am now wondering), so two weeks ago I sat down with the boys and watched White Christmas.

Other movies I watch around Christmas: You've Got Mail, anything with Cary Grant, The Family Stone, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, and Muppet's Family Christmas. We intended to watch the latter last night, only to realize that our VCR tape is kaput.

4. What is your favourite Christmas dessert?
My Nanny's cherry cake. Mmmm. Glace cherries. 

5. How long do you leave your Christmas decorations up?
The answer to this varies from year to year. I don't think we've ever kept the tree up until Epiphany -- this might be an argument in favour of a plastic tree. The last decorations to come down will be the boughs of greenery on the front patio. Those will be up till they turn brown, so about the end of March when the snow starts to melt.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Hark The Herald Vulcans Sing.

My parents are visiting. Just in time, too. Lest we be forced to suffer through Christmas with the Spock/Butterfly tree topper casting an unfestive, illogical pallor over the day. My mom -- who is super crafty -- fixed him up real good:

Every year my goal for Christmas Eve is to NOT shop. Today I washed the walls of Zarf's bedroom in anticipation of installing his new bookcase. The room really needs to be painted but he refuses because it would mean painting over the ladybugs that my mother -- I mentioned she's crafty, right? -- painted on the walls when we bought this house in 2003.

After the festive joy of wall washing, we went out cross-country skiing with my father. Earlier in the day my dad -- who is not crafty, but very sporty -- did a 30 kilometer ski workout. Hence the 6 kilometers we did with the boys was a piece of cake for him. For Mr Wrath and I? Not so much. So we will be celebrating Christmas by complaining about sore groin muscles. We like to keep things classy in the House of Wrath.

Hope you have a great Christmas. This 100% kid friendly video should help:


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Warp Speed Wednesday: Vulcans We Have Heard on High.

My goal for this yule season was a new tree topper. Ideally it would've been a steam punk-inspired robot made from re-purposed items we used in our ongoing basement renovation. But I wasn't skilled enough to strike a balance between aesthetically-pleasing and not-too-heavy-to-be-suspended-on-the-top-of-our-fir-tree.

When I admitted defeat last week, I started to play around with the idea of a more Trek-centric tree topper. The results were abysmal:

Feel free to laugh.  Don't mind that I'm over here in the corner crying with the shame of my apparent uncraftiness. I'll be the first to admit this doesn't look like a Spock/Angel. At best it looks like a Spock/Butterfly. Either way it doesn't fill me with the Christmas spirit.

I'd feel a lot worse about this, if I didn't have a bellyful of Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Stars, courtesy of Terri B from Tip of the Iceberg. They're heavenly. Unlike Spock.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

And The Bells Were Ringing Out For Christmas Day. The Parade Of Ornaments Continues!

This is my favourite Christmas decoration of all time:

Presently these skates are hanging in our front hall. Like many of the decorations from yesterday, these were done by my mom.  She is very crafty.

Two funky wall-hanging Santas she made: 

The mater also made the two cloth Santas on this shelf. The other Christmas decoration is some kind of fussy little vinaigrette decanter painted like a snowman. The wooden toys and mancala live on that shelf year round, and I think they're lovely.

I also have ornaments made by Zarf and Klaxon:

I'm still using up the 1000 popsicle sticks I bought 7 years ago. I got a VERY good deal on them, but there are just not that many ways to use popsicle sticks before you lose your freakin' mind.

"You like metal ornaments, but Dad prefers cloth ones, like these old-fashioned Santas." observed Zarf on Saturday, as we decorated the tree. Alas the old-fashioned Santas are from my childhood and now he's given me the gift of feeling old.

But Zarf is correct, I do like metal or pewter ornaments. Sometimes my Nanny buys me a pewter ornament that commemorates an aspect of Newfoundland culture, like this one:

This is St Thomas' Anglican Church (located in St John's, NF) and it was built in 1836.

"Here is the ornament that my Nanny bought at great personal sacrifice to her everlasting soul," I say to my husband every year, as I place it on a tree "Wasn't it nice of my Nanny to acknowledge your unseemly Protestantism by purchasing this bedeviled ornament?" Mr Wrath agrees, and will invariably comment that it is the SECOND best gift he's ever been given by my grandmother. He says the BEST present she's ever given was for our wedding. She purchased a year of prayers said in honour of our marriage by an order of cloistered, Catholic nuns.

This ornament is as large as my head. Zarf bought it for his brother three years ago, because he believes that BIGGER is better. Ah. Boys and their balls. What is a mother to do.

I get a bit freaked out by angels. So there are only two on our tree. The one above I bought for Zarf's first Christmas (The ornament I bought for Klaxon's first Christmas broke long ago). Below is an angel I bought in London in 1997.

This ornament came from Germany in 1975:

I still desperately want a green Tyrolean hat. I have never wanted those pigtails.

Here's a robot that is adorable:

Of course I have to have at least ONE Star Trek ornament on the tree.

THAT'S IT. Save for the tree topper. But that will have to wait until tomorrow...

Monday, December 19, 2011

May Your Days Be Merry And Bright. Part 1 of My Ornamental Extravaganza.

In this town we are always guaranteed a White Christmas and a White Easter. I'm trying not to think about the latter and concentrate on getting the house ready for the former. These decorations are helping:

 Zarf and Klaxon did the obligatory pre-fad gingerbread in a box craft last week. This year I used a Made In Canada product. In the plus column: the houses smell like real gingerbread, the candies were not rock hard. In the minus column: the icing wasn't  sticky enough. Next year we'll either buy the Made In China kits or add white glue to the icing.

 I picked up this classic 70s ornament at a garage sale. He makes me smile.

 My kids can't agree on whether the Santa calendar is counting DOWN from 25, but going UP the tree, or whether we should move the stocking down from the star until we reach December 25th. I'm staying out of it, and amusing myself that every time the other leaves the room, his brother moves the stocking.

I have a proper (c)hanukkiyah but it's super-sized and the cat would just knock it over. I put out the temple menorah just as a symbol of Hanukkah, plus it doubles as a Kwanzaa kinara.

The wooden Santa is another thrift store find that I keep because he's not a Coca-Cola Santa.

This is a Santa my mom made. He hits bad children with that stick is my theory.

Another mom-made Santa. He's made with wood from an old cabin on my dad's wood lot.

I'll continue this holiday decor parade tomorrow when I show off our ornaments. But here's a sample:

Klaxon made this when he was four. It's called "A Tim Horton's Coffee Cup that Someone Threw Down In A Snowbank." It's very festive, yes?

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Last Team To Arrive May Be Eliminated.

After 30 days, 20 cities, 4 continents and 12 weeks of hearing Phil Keoghan butcher the pronunciation of "spa," the Amazing Race concluded this week. As we've done since late September, the family piled onto the chesterfield to watch the finale together. The memory of the night is a little bit tarnished because my nine year old son is now asking questions about genital warts.

Yes, decided to air Gardasil ads on a television show that is watched by children. It was never very likely that I'd agree to injecting my children with Gardasil's vaccine for HPV. Now I'm even less inclined.  I make decisions about vaccinations based -- not on fear-mongering advertising campaigns from large multinational corporations, but -- on recommendations from Health Canada. Crazy, right? Also Gardasil (a Merck product) is now targeting men because women are not buying their vaccine OR their ad campaign. So why are they continuing with the same inappropriately-graphic, dumbed-down, ineffective commercials that's failed to lure females?  I don't know. What I do know is that CTV (a Bell Media company) should be more sensitive about the commercials they run during family-friendly shows.

As for the show itself...

[[SPOILERS TO FOLLOW. In point form.]]

I don't like Ernie and Cindy. She's totally a product of the Tiger Mom philosophy and her smug declarations of her perfection were tiring. Plus she and Ernie verbally abused that poor cabbie in Thailand (Leg 5) and it was ugly. Their vague plans to start a charity with their million dollar prize appear to be less about doing good in the world, and more about setting themselves up as the CEOs of their own non-profit organization. With hefty salaries, I assume. And they won't be giving money to TERRIBLE taxi drivers in third world countries who want to charge the going rate.

Of the final three, Amani and Marcus deserved to win based solely on the fact that they always remained cordial to one another. Other civil couples were Ron & Bill and Bill & Cathi. These were the three teams I also loved the most.

Do Americans not know TinTin? I can understand not getting the Thomson/Thompson or Dupont/Dupond reference, but none of the four teams knew TinTin!

I was so glad Tommy and Andy were eliminated before the finals. I felt badly about this (they did win six legs, after all) until they did their exit interview and Tommy was a big sook. He let Andy do all the talking and just looked pissed off. When Ernie and Cindy won, the camera panned the other teams, and Tommy again looked like he'd been sucking lemons. Way to be ungracious, dude. Yes, dude, you are totally a dude-wad.

Granted the viewers were manipulated by the Amazing Race editors. There was nary a mention of Tommy and Andy's faith for the first four episodes, and then it started coming out in awkward soundbites. Of course, I'm of the personal opinion that you can't expect people to be tolerant of your faith (or lack there of) if you don't display the same courtesy. It's hard to like Tommy when you contrast his dismissive attitude toward Buddhism, with Jennifer (who said she would behave in the Buddhist temple like she'd want people to behave in her church).

Rabbit show jumping looks like so much fun! I wonder if you get to eat the loser?

Zac Sunderland seems like a really nice kid. Too bad his father's an ass. A perfect ass. The most successful, accomplished, erudite, well-coordinated, self-absorbed ass in the history of ass-dom. I'd sail around the world solo too, if it meant getting away from Laurence Sunderland. The ass.

The Belgian body building segment was comedy gold. I think all the women were totally brave for agreeing to put on those orange bikinis.

I haven't watched The Amazing Race in years. The last season I watched losing teams on non-elimination rounds were forced to forfeit their money. This resulted in teams having to beg for cash. My nerves and morals could not stomach the sight of privileged people begging for money in developing nations. At some point in the ensuing seasons, this rule was refined. Now the teams don't get MORE money, but they can retain their existing funds. This still meant Liz and Marie had to depend on the kindness of strangers (and their blonde good looks) in Thailand, but at least they did it with dignity and sensitivity toward the local culture.

I can't wait for Season 20. Assuming CTV is done traumatizing my children. And me.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Warp Speed Wednesdays: Have Yourself A Merry Little Trekmas.

Last Wednesday, Klaxon came down with a stomach bug. He rallied on Thursday, just as Zarf's cold/flu amped up to stay-in-bed-all-day-with-the-cat level. Friday, Mr Wrath took the day off and coincidentally I caught Zarf's cold (with a side order of fever). By Sunday, Klaxon was sick with the same thing, so on Monday he celebrated his eighth birthday with cake, Lego, a new pocket knife, tissues and tears. "I don't want to be sick ANYMORE!" was his lament.

Ditto, I said.

Even today none of us are feeling 100% (though Mr Wrath still hasn't succumbed to our germs) and I'm trying to distract the boys with Christmas activities, movies, crafts and music.

When the Christmas music gets a little too much, I play this 24 hour long clip of the Enterprise engines idling.

It makes me feel very zen-like. Which is vital during the holidays or when you're sick OR when you yell "COVER YOUR MOUTH" for the 4 billionth time.

Merry. Freakin'. Christmas.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Today's Topic: My Doughy Bits.

Several people requested my recipe for pizza dough. I use a variation on a recipe included in Crazy Plates by Greta and Janet Podleski.

I'm a bit nervous posting this. Please, please, please don't get mad at me if you hate the outcome.

22 mL of quick rise instant yeast (approximately 1.5 tablespoons) 
30 mL of honey (about 2 tablespoons) 
2 cups warm water 

30 mL of olive oil (2 tablespoons) 
4 to 5 cups of flour (unbleached all purpose white or multigrain) 

Put the yeast, honey and water in a large bread bowl. Forget about it for 10 minutes until it's good and frothy. 

Pour in a good chug of olive oil. 

Add a cup of flour and stir until combined and smooth. Add another, and stir until all the lumps are out. Add another cup of flour and combine. By this time you'll have a sticky paste. Add another cup, and if it's too thick to stir with a utensil, dump it out on a floured surface and kneed. If the dough is still sticky add more flour. 

Kneed for about ten minutes. 

Return the dough to the bowl, pour in a chug of olive oil so the surface is coated. Invert another bowl over top and put your dough someplace warm for 20 minutes. 

Come back, Kneed. Cover the dough with the inverted bowl and leave. 

Come back in 20 minutes. Kneed. Cover. Leave. 

Come back. Kneed the dough and divide the dough into even amounts. I usually get five balls that are smaller than the head of a new born baby. Keep in mind: my sons had HUGE heads at birth, so this is a very imprecise measurement. 

Roll out your dough as thin as possible, transfer to a cookie tray lined with parchment paper. Fancy it up with toppings of your choice. Bake each pizza for 12 to 15 minutes in a 450ºF over.

A few notes:

I don't add salt to my dough because once you add deli meat and tomato sauce, it's not necessary.

I like crispy crust, which is why I roll it thin and why I add so much olive oil.

If I'm making meat & cheese, raspberry or nutella buns (also shown on that earlier post), I'll throw them together after the pizzas are cooked. Turn the oven down to 350ºF, wait 20 to 30 minutes and pop them in the oven until brown.

Did you notice that I flip back and forth between metric and imperial? My measuring spoons are metric, but my measuring cups have both systems. The original cookbook favoured imperial in the recipes, but metric in the nutritional information. Canadians are flakey, I've decided.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Getting Busy in the Kitchen at the House of Wrath.

Is Friday pizza day in your house? Judging from my informal survey of twitter users, pizza is standard fare for most families on Fridays. Mine, included.

Because my children recoil in terror at the sight of a frozen pizza, we usually make our own. Once or twice a year we will order take-out pizzas. When Zarf was three we went to a pizzeria in Jasper, Alberta. He was incredulous at the notion of eating pizza somewhere other than our kitchen. "We are in a pizza store!" Zarf yelled fifty million times in the course of our meal.  Now I find this anecdote amusing, but at the time I cringed as he greeted every new customer with a hearty, "HELLO! This store sells only pizzas. And you get to eat them. IN. THE. STORE." Less amusing was him getting sick later that night. In our tent trailer.

I will make a million pizzas at home for a million years if I never again wake up to someone vomiting on me and my sleeping bag at midnight.

Here's tonight's pizza:

This was suppose to be mushrooms, Italian sausage and spinach. But when I went to blanch the spinach I found this:

Notice the bruising on the leaf? That's because when I spotted it, I squished the leaf to ensure the little fucker was dead.

This is the second time I've found an insect in my spinach. The first time I was lifting a leaf to my mouth when it fell off the fork and landed upside down on the table. That's when I spotted the yellow and black caterpillar. It took me a long time to go back to eating salad.

 I love pizza as much as my sons, especially in bun form:

I make extra dough, roll it flat and layer on meat and cheese. Then I roll the dough back up and slice it. I cook it in my mini loaf pan once we're done making pizzas. We'll have these for lunch tomorrow with a small pot of pizza sauce on the side for dipping:

Sometimes -- like tonight -- I'll make dessert, too. Tonight I made roll-ups using raspberry jam, dark and white chocolate chips.

They were so good. Good enough to make me forget -- at least for a few minutes -- that I very nearly ate an insect tonight.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Warp Speed Wednesday. Now on Thursday!

Yesterday was not -- as I thought -- Tuesday. It was Wednesday. Which means that today is not Wednesday, but rather Thursday. Which means two things:
1. that I need to consider using this newfangled invention called a calendar, and
2. I'm late with my weekly Star Trek post.

I hope I didn't keep anyone waiting with bated breath. Or even non-bated breath, for that matter.

Did I mention that I went to university with Castle star Nathan Fillion? Approximately 48010 people just rolled their eyes because I frequently mention that I went to university with Castle star Nathan Fillion. But it was a large university and I never actually spoke to Nathan Fillion while we were both at the University of Alberta in the early nineties. However I did frequently watch him perform in Theatre Sports and stalked him through HUB mall. Good times.

Needless to say I love the show Castle. The writing is clever, the dialogue is witty, Stana Katic's wardrobe is awesome (side note: her hair is way too high maintenance to be believable), it's not too gory, Castle is the only male lead role on television today who doesn't require psychiatric help and a regime of mood stabilizing drugs, and former Star Trek actors occasionally make appearances. Examples to follow:

Penny Johnson Jerald is the precinct's new captain, Victoria Gates. She portrayed Cassidy Yates on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Did you recognize Beckett's therapist? He's a smooth-foreheaded Michael Dorn, aka Worf from The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. His voice is sublime.

This concludes today's lesson in The Subversive Presence of Star Trek in Mainstream Media. Have a good not-Wednesday, everyone!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

All Hail The Kale.

Many months ago I issued a challenge to my favourite vegetarian (and complete non-Trekkie) Nicole. I would make and EAT her kale chips, if she would watch the Star Trek movie reboot. Immediately after this, British Columbia commenced some sort of kale embargo and I was unable to procure any. Until Sunday, when I found some at my local grocery store.

Our family averages two or three vegetarian meals a week. It took me a while to come around to eating vegetarian dishes. My initial attempts were lack luster. I have three bits of advice for anyone wanting to experiment with vegetarian cooking:
1. cultivate a taste for ethnic food. We eat a lot of meatless curries, tagines and stir fries.
2. learn to like beans. If you are making a stew or casserole, decrease the meat and substitute in lentils or chickpeas. Beans are the gateway drug to vegetarian eating.
3. stay the hell away from recipes created by Mollie Katzan or the Moosewood Collective. Vegetarian dishes that are weak reinterpretations of classic meat-centric meals are best left to patchouli-scented, baby-boomers who are too old to know that grated carrots are gross. Mollie Katzan must have huge forearms from spending her whole life grating vegetables.

This experiment didn't start off well. When the kale was in the oven, the smell was reminiscent of my neighbour burning his lawn clippings. After the allotted two hours of cooking, they tasted like tahini and lemon juice and salt, which is a good thing since this is what I rubbed all over them The last ingredient was my own substitution because I didn't have  "nutritional yeast." Nutritional yeast is not easy to procure here. Even if it was, I'd hesitate to buy any because Nicole informs me that it tastes "meaty."

Things that should be described as meaty:
1. bacon,
2. other bits of animal flesh,
3. political or theological discourse, and
4. Russell Crowe, circa 2009-2010.

But not YEAST.

Mr Wrath declared the kale chips "interesting."  My sons were not enthusiastic. Klaxon (age 7) declined to sample one. "You're not going to trick me into eating that by calling it a chip. It's cooked lettuce." Zarf (age 9) was curious as to why vegetarians would even cook kale. "It's not like there's meat in potato chips," was his main issue.  Good point.

My conclusion is that I probably won't make kale chips again. They tasted fine, but it took two hours to cook/dehydrate and I'm not THAT patient. They were very delicate so there's no hope for combining them with dip. When I brushed my teeth about twenty minutes after snacking on a few, the spit and the brush came out green. The kale also turned my tongue green and it stayed that way for hours. That was a bit unnerving.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Mr Wrath Has Moves Like Jagger.

Despite living in this town for 9 years, I often feel like I don't know very many people. Friends have largely given up passing on gossip to me because I'm forever saying, "Who are we speaking of again? Do I know this person?" Generally I only know people who:
a. drive the same car as me (this accounts for four other people),
b. are library patrons or employees,
c. are associated with the cross-country ski club or speed skating club,
d. work with my husband (and even then it's not a given that I know their names),
e. once threatened to kill their dog for my benefit after myself and two girlfriends complained that the dog was behaving aggressively toward us on a regular basis (okay, this only happened once, but I still think badly of this nutbar whenever I see her. "Just put your dog on a fuckin' leash!" my friend G. yelled at the woman and I will forever love G. for having the grace, style and attitude to look like a badass while pushing a stroller ),
f. work at the dog kennel or vet and take excellent care of my pets,
g. work at the bank or grocery store or rec centre or dental office,
h. have lived on my street for longer than two years (this is how long it takes for new neighbours to imprint on my brain), or
i. have children the same age as my two sons.

This weekend I engaged in two activities that made me realize that I do know a lot of people.

The aforementioned speed skating club is having a raffle and we were at the mall selling tickets on Saturday for two hours. Turns out I know lots of people and many generously bought tickets from our table.  I felt like I did have a social circle. 

Also we were very impressed with Zarf. He took a clipboard and walked up and down the mall selling tickets. There is no way myself or Mr Wrath would have had the confidence or initiative to do this at age 9. Shit. I'm 38 and found it uncomfortable to passively sit at a table and sell tickets.

The second social-life affirming outing was Mr Wrath's office Christmas party. On twitter I mentioned dreading this event, and several women commented that they'd love an opportunity to dress up and have an evening of sophisticated, adult-only dining and dancing. While this is not EXACTLY how I would classify an evening at the Legion (knotty wood wall panelling FTW!), I did enjoy myself. I wore high heels. Sure they were only two inches, but that's high for me. Mr Wrath even consented to dance with me. This is impressive because:
a. I'm a energetic, but spastic dancer, and
b. he holds a position of authority at his workplace and it's got to be tough to go back to work on Monday knowing that you are now going to be called "the guy whose wife makes Elaine from Seinfeld look smoooooooooth."

Sweet fancy Moses, indeed.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Bras. Wiis. Me Behaving Badly. Advent. This Is My Post For Today.

Did you mark the start of December by adhering to the long held Canadian tradition of cleaning out your underwear drawer to make room for your new bras? Because that's what I did.

I ordered four new bras from the Sears' website, and seventy-five percent of them are keepers. It's the BEST way to shop for bras. Even if I lived in a town with a store that stocked good quality bras, I'd still use the site. Trying bras on at home is much nicer than dealing with poorly lit, filthy-carpeted, department store change rooms. Plus Sears stocks the brand of bras that fit me best: Warner's.

This almost makes me forget that I spent most of November being very angry with In late October, the Sears price for a Wii console was on par with other stores and -- fearing a price hike as Christmas approached -- I ordered one for my sons. In fact, the opposite happened. Days later the Wii price on dropped by $90. Adding to my frustration, the console was late arriving.  After two weeks, I called Sears' customer service line.

I'm going to briefly pause my narrative and confess to a shameful habit that I have. Whenever I call a 1-800 number line for a Canadian company, I chant "Please don't let the operator be a twenty-something francophone boy. Please don't let the operator be a twenty-something francophone boy. Please don't let..." in my mind. I would feel badly for this unfair bias, and for these young men who are victims of the Trudeau-era dream that bilingualism would be the key to success for Canadians, if only they weren't so dismissively rude and extremely unhelpful.

When I called Sears I was connected to a woman who, I assume, was a recent hire. My query was off-script, and she floundered, unable to answer my questions despite someone whispering prompts in the background. Fair enough. Or rather it would've been fair enough except that she tried to end our five-minute call by saying, "Your item should arrive in three to five business days. Thank you for calling Sears. Is there anything else I can help you with." I'm ashamed to admit this, but I went all twenty-something francophone boy on her ass. "How can you help me with anything else when you did not help me in the first place?" was my opening line and it only got uglier.

I will again briefly pause the narrative to confirm your suspicions that I am a rude asshole. I am frequently a rude asshole.

The Wii did show up -- in three to five business days, no less -- and I picked it up and returned it without leaving the depot. I went home, reordered the exact same console for $149 and waited. During the eleven days that I waited for the second Wii to show up, guess what happened? GUESS!? dropped the price to $119. Did I call and demand that Sears credit me the $30 reduced price? Did I re-order a third Wii console at the new-new price?

NO. I did not.

Because my kids were panic-stricken that they were never getting a Wii.

Because my husband was tired of me raging about the cost of a Wii.

Because I am totally paranoid that my name has been added to Sears' master list of "Asshole customers who we make speak to that Francophone Kid with the Ph.D in cultural-anthropology who has a huge/rude chip on his shoulder and $175,000 of student loans."

And because the Wii arrived yesterday. Finally.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Warp Speed Wednesday: A Lexicon of Lingo.

My husband and I have a mixed marriage. I am a trekkie. He is normal. We've been together fourteen years, and -- while still not a trekkie -- he now has a working knowledge of the Star Trek universe.
For anyone else just entering fandom, or in a relationship with a fan, I've created the following list of Trekkie terms:

United Federation of Planets -- it's like the United Nations, but with more one-piece jumpsuits. Earth is a charter member of this league of planets located in the Alpha Quadrant of the Milky Way galaxy. Member planets must have independently achieved interstellar spaceflight, have one planet-wide government and agree to adhere to certain governance principles and philosophies.

Starfleet -- the military arm of the United Federation of Planets, whose main mandate is peace keeping, scientific study and exploration. The ships and space stations featured in the Star Trek television shows are part of Starfleet. Starfleet ranks (ie Yeoman, Ensign, Commodore, etc) follows the conventions of the American and British navy.

Prime Directive -- key principle of Starfleet that forbids interference in an indigenous culture. It's meant to prevent colonial domination of civilizations by the United Federation of Planets.  This edict doesn't apply to sexual relations, however. Kirk might not be able to stop a society from going to war, but he can have sex with their women-folk.

Captain's Log -- a narrative tool employed frequently. It's like a blog, but more awesome.

Pon Farr -- the Vulcans are a race who eschew any display of emotions except for a period once every seven years when their biological urges impel them to put on a Kenny G cd, light some scented candles and make sweet, sweet illogical love.

Holodeck -- rooms used for recreation, research, and training where light and energy are harnessed to create or recreate three-dimensional environments or dynamic characters. No doubt invented by a  pornographer.

warp speed -- rate at which ships travel faster than light.

impulse drive -- slower than warp speed, used within planetary systems.

dilithium crystals -- power source for the warp engines.Will break/fracture/rupture/whatever at critical moments.

Gene Roddenberry -- creator of the franchise.

Berman-Braga -- want to earn props with your Star Trek loving mate? Make an insulting quip about Brannon Braga and Rick Berman, producers and writers of the franchise following Roddenberry's death.  You might not agree with the popular assertion that they made Star Trek a tepid, neo-conservative shadow of it's former radical self, but don't let that stop you from ragging on these two. It's FUN!

neutral zone -- buffer zones between Federation space and other political factions or empires that are not members.

Transporter --  people use these to disappear and reappear at different locations.  

Mirror universe -- appears in TOS, DS9, and ENT, this is an alternate/opposite reality to the main Star Trek universe. Mirror story lines show a vile, treacherous, violent version of the galaxy. There are lots of beards, and exposed midriffs in Mirror universe episodes because these things are inherently EVIL.

Do you have any words to add? Or terms you want defined? I'm happy to help.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Younger is Not a Synonym for Better.

This annoys me:

For one thing, contrary to the label this is NOT a book. It's just a two-hundred page catalog of products and services, sold on the magazine rack. It costs as much as a book, but it's still a magazine that you will chuck within 3 weeks.

Secondly, the cover model is Jenny "I hate science and want your kids to die of measles" McCarthy. She is ridiculous and dangerous.

Thirdly, I KNOW that makeover shows and articles are really about looking YOUNGER, but I appreciate the artifice of that goal being implied not stated. I'm all for tips on looking better (although I prefer articles about diet, exercise and fashion to ones about serums, operations, and pills), but I'm trying to make peace with looking my age.  It wounds my approaching-40 soul to see a magazine blatantly equating younger with better.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Story Telling.

I love stories. Be they in book form, or television, or film, or blog posts or...well, you get the picture. I love narratives. But recently I've come up against a stumbling block that impedes my enjoyment of my plays.

I realized it last week when I was watching an episode of Monk. Sharona went undercover as a nurse employed by a criminal Monk is investigating. A few days later, I turned off an episode of Murder, She Wrote -- even though I knew the outcome of the case -- because Jessica was masquerading as someone other than herself. Last night I watched Mrs Winterbourne. I knew the premise of the film, I knew that there was going to be a happy ending, but I was feeling too anxious. I fast forwarded to the last 15 minutes of the movie, confirmed the outcome, than rewinded and watched it at my leisure.

I'm becoming a big suck. When did this happen?  I'm okay watching a cop (ie Beckett on Castle), or operative (ie Sophie on Leverage), but if some amateur (especially a woman) is working clandestinely, or pulling a scam? I'm all twitchy and sweaty.  Am I over identifying with these characters? Why am I nervous? GAH. Am I becoming sensitive? Where will this end? If I can't stand the suspense in a romantic comedy, what's left for me?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Warp Speed Wednesdays: Child Labour at its Finest.

 For our homeschooling language arts lessons, I frequently have the boys write books reports. "Zarf" and "Klaxon" write very detailed initial paragraphs explaining a book's opening chapter. Then their energy and interest wanes and they sum up the bulk of the story in two very brief, very vague sentences.

To give them a better idea of how to correctly summarize a plot so your audience isn't completely befuddled, each boy watched and wrote (and edited) an overview of a Star Trek episode of their choosing. They gave me permission to publish their work on this blog.

• • • • •

Plot synopsis of the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Thirty Days."
By "Klaxon,"age 7.

Captain Janeway demotes Lieutant Tom Paris to the rank of Ensign. Two security guards escort Tom to the brig.  A couple of days later, Neelix comes to the brig and gives Tom his meal and a padd. Tom starts and deletes two letters to his father. Then he starts one long letter to his father. He talks about how he got in the brig.

Voyager came to a planet which was a large ocean and no land and is the home of the Moneans. The planet's atmosphere is destabilizing and the Moneans ask Voyager for help stabilizing their planet's atmosphere. Tom takes the Delta Flyer down to the core of the planet.  They discover that the planet is held together by a three-thousand year old gravity generator. It is failing because of the power plants that the locals were using.

The locals wouldn't listen to Tom's idea of how to keep the planet from falling a part.  Tom went with one of the Moneans down to the planet in the Delta Flyer. Tom fired at a power plant, but Voyager fired at him.  Voyager damaged the Delta Flyer and diverted Tom's torpedo down into the depths of the ocean. Captain Janeway was mad at Tom for disobeying orders and sent him to the brig for thirty days. Ten days after Tom finishes the letter to his father, Tom's thirty days in the brig are over.

I like this episode because you don't get to find out who built the three thousand year old gravity generator. I like mysteries.

• • • • •

Plot synopsis of the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Twisted."
By "Zarf," age 9.

The point of this Star Trek story is about some sort of subspace ring which consumed the ship.

One day on Voyager, the senior officers were celebrating Kes' birthday on the holodeck. She was two years old, and her species only lives for nine years. There was a transmission from the bridge, but when it came down one word kept repeating and getting deafeningly loud. When Chakotay, Janeway and Paris tried to go up to the bridge they ended up going to three different decks and then wound up back at the holodeck. The decks were rearranged and the crew was confused and lost. Tom Paris and B'Elanna were finally able to get to Engineering. They tried to make a site-to-site transport to the bridge but they ended up back on the holodeck.

Meanwhile, Harry Kim and Janeway tried to use the Jefferies tubes to get to the bridge.  When they opened an access panel, Janeway touched the subspace ring's energy which was green and wavy. A few seconds after they got her arm out, she passed out. Harry got her back to the holodeck. When she comes out of her coma she is speaking a different language. Neelix has vanished. The crew used their tricorders' data to make sense of what is happening to the ship. The map they make comes up all strange and twisted. They eventually find Tuvok and he explained they'd entered some sort of ring of subspace that is twisting the ship. The crew tried to create a tetrion shower to stop the ring from spreading further inside the ship. It does the opposite of what it is supposed to do.

A few minutes later they were all crowded up in one room, and that room was starting to dephase and twist. Once the whole ship was immersed, the ring was instantly gone. Janeway could speak English again and the ship was restraightened. The only thing different was their computer database was copied and 2000 gigabytes of data were added to their computer banks. The ring was some species' way of communicating.

I like this episode because it's a mystery. You never find out who created the ring and the new data is never talked about again. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Hot Men, Part Deux.

As a follow-up to my last post, I'm giving Jenifer an early Christmas present:

• • • • •
If these came in adult sizes, I'd ask for one for Christmas:

I mean the recliner, obviously. I don't have any desire for a super-sized or regular-sized baby.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Hot Men on a Cold November Night. A Post In List Form.

Bradley Cooper is cute. He reminds me of a Golden Retriever. He's shiny and friendly. When you enter his house, I bet Bradley Cooper runs over to greet you. It is flattering that Bradley Cooper -- with his straight teeth, sleek coat, bright eyes, and breath that smells of eucalyptus and peppermint -- is so very interested in you. But your happiness is short lived. Someone else enters the house. Bradley Cooper turns his back on you and greets the new person with the same outlandish degree of zeal and focus (but now he has drool hanging from his chin). It's not personal. It's just Bradley Cooper's nature. Bradley Cooper is a cheerful, inveterate crotch sniffer.

And Bradley Cooper doesn't deserve the title of People Magazine's Sexiest Man Alive. Actually, I didn't care for anyone on that list so I followed in the footsteps of Beck and Hannah and wrote:

My List of Male Celebrities Who Have Gravitas and Hence Make Me Swoon and Bring The Sexy Wherever They Go:

(Where ever possible, I included "grey beard porn." YOU ARE WELCOME!) 

1. Chris Pine. When I look at Chris Pine I have sin in my heart. And fire in my loins.

2. Alexander Siddig. He gets prettier with every passing year. I wish he would show up on my doorstop and repay that compliment.

(at this point I'm going to implement a Star Trek actor boycott or else the list will consist entirely of Star Trek actors. Patrick Stewart! Avery Brooks! Zachary Quinto! Robert Beltran! Jonathan Frakes! Connor Trinneer! Michael Dorn!)

(Edited on November 17 @ 4PM -- I couldn't resist. I'm adding the following photo collage.)

3. Jon Stewart. "Drop those smarty pants, Jonny!" would be my idea of foreplay.

4. Pierce Brosnan. Instead of blogging, I am going to write Remington Steele erotica. Sound good? 

5. Neil McDonald. Big words + liberalism tempered by real-life experience + sexy scowl and furrowed brow = the real reason I watch CBC's The National.

6. Colin Farrell. He's the list's token bad boy. But he's a bad boy who, with the love of a good woman, will become a good boy.

7. David Tennant. Trust him. He's a doctor.

8.  Dylan McDermott.    Dermott McDylan.    Rooney McDermot Muldylan.  Dermot Mulroney.  THIS GUY:

9. Ron Livingston. "Dumped Carrie Bradshaw via Post-It note" was what I typed into Google because I couldn't remember his name. I loved him best in Defying Gravity.

10. Gerard Butler. He was very sexy as the dad in Nim's Island.

Honorary Mention: Rex Murphy -- WHAT?! He's probably really, really good at pillow talk. I'm sure it would be educational and FILTHY!