Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Bob Vila Is A Dreamboat.

A few weeks ago I read a biography of Grace Kelly.

SPOILER ALERT: she marries a prince and dies in a car accident. 

I enjoyed it so much I downloaded an audiobook about her and listened to it over the last few days while I gardened and tended to my house drudgery.

SPOILER ALERT: this book ALSO ends with her death. It also includes her marrying a prince.

Then because I had Monaco on the brain I watched the film Monte Carlo on netflix. It was very cute and there's a cameo by Catherine Tate.

SPOILER ALERT: no one dies in a car accident, nor marries a prince BUT all three main characters learn about being true to themselves. 

Other than immersing myself in facts about Monte Carlo -- for example, the citizens of Monaco are called Monegasques -- I've been reading books and magazines about kitchen renovations.

I hesitate to call our DIY plans "renovations." It would be more accurate to say we are "fixing broken and/or ugly shit in our kitchen." This list includes, but is not limited to:

1. replacing the deck railing around the stairwell,
2. removing the faux tile back splash,
3. removing the linoleum covered by the faux tile back splash,
4. buying new counter top,
5. replacing the bottom cabinets so the new counter top is parallel to the floor, and
6. installing a built-in dishwasher so cats no longer lose their toys under the portable dishwasher then sit next to the dishwasher looking pathetic(er).

Once upon a time I loved decorating and renovating. I even applied to a college program on interior design. Part of the application process was to audit a day of classes. In the first session the students were finishing up their term project: designing a restaurant. This involved creating sketches and blueprints for the the dining room and kitchen and choosing and designing uniforms for all staff, menu items, and the menu all around a central theme.  Most of the students spent the fifty-minute class colouring. COLOURING! Or rather: rendering the colour palette for their restaurants. But I remembered doing a similar project in grade 5 French class when we did a unit on food. This made me justifiably dubious about the program's value. I went home, made a few calls and tracked down five people who'd graduated from the program. Only one was working in anything even remotely related to the program: in the paint department at a Home Depot. I withdrew my application.

My home decor interest persisted for years afterward and I spent far too many hours watching HGTV and TLC and reading design magazines. The death knell for my interest came while watching an episode of Trading Spaces. I loved that show. Frank was my favourite designer. I hated Hilde. I was on the fence about Vern and Doug. I was pretty sure Genevieve spent far too much time sitting next to the paint thinner at Ty's workstation.

At the reveal the homeowner was nonplussed. Pushed by Paige for details, he admitted to liking the design, but said he'd be moving the tv back to it's original position.  Because the hookups for his satellite dish were on the original wall, and there were no power outlets anywhere close to the tv's new position. The penny dropped. Access to electric outlets determines where ALL my furniture goes. In magazine spreads appliances are seldom plugged in because designers are not concerned about practicalities LIKE ELECTRICITY! Wires are UGLY! Let's not use them!

I never watched another episode of Trading Spaces. Though the damage was already done: my house had a deep red accent wall and the living room was painted olive green.

I've become increasingly skeptical about the design and decorating industry. It's an exercise in frustration to read a design magazine (ie Canadian House & Home) that month after month trumpets only high-end products and lavish lifestyles that no middle class family can obtain without accruing substantial debt. Designers and publishers appear oblivious to the economic downturn. The housing market is too soft to justify lavish upgrades to houses as "investments."  Image should not trump practicalities (ie, front loading washers look nice but they stink up your house and your clothes). The rise and demise of trends -- especially expensive trends -- makes me roll my eyes and I find myself coveting white cabinets. White floors. White walls even.

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Here's my prediction: granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances are going to quickly fall from favour in manner of my mom's avocado refrigerator from 1977.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Once Upon A Time.

It's high time I wrote a memoir. Why not? All the other mommy bloggers are doing it. That one famous mommy blogger did it, so I will too. The first steps will be to cultivate talent, learn to use punctuation and mine my past for interesting stories that -- while outlandish -- have at their core universal wisdom.

Fuck that.

I'm going to start by choosing a title. Sadly I've not had an original idea since 1997, so I'm just going to borrow copy steal misappropriate steal the genius of another memoirist. Here are some possible titles:

Trek Shriek Whinge.
It'll be just like Eat Pray Love, but instead of 108 tales of self-discovery, I'll just ramble on about loving of Star Trek, being loud in public and writing about my hurt feeeeeeeeeeelings. As homage of the original, I will be travelling to Canadian towns that start with -I. With any luck the Chambers of Commerce for Innisfail, Irricana, Invermere, Iroquois Falls, Ituna, and/or Iqaluit will underwrite my expenses.

I Know Why the Inside Cat Howls.
Birds. He wants to eat the uncaged, singing birds flying passed the window. This title might be better suited to a chapter rather than a whole memoir. A very short chapter.

A Million Little Pieces of Lego All Over My Living Room Floor. 
Suck on it, Oprah.

Lola's Bargains.
In manner of Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes, I'll write about my mom. But without all the poverty, the dipsomania and the disfunction that made McCourt's book such a downer. Instead you'll learn all about my mom (the titular Lola) and how she scores the BEST bargains at garage sales.

Tuesdays With Mort.
Every Tuesday I will watch an episode of Murder, She Wrote featuring Cabot Cove's Sheriff Mort Metzinger, then I will ruminate on how he's JUST AS CLEVER AS JB FLETCHER!!!

Girl, Interrupted By Screaming Children. 
I haven't had a complete thought since the birth of my...what was I saying? What am I doing? How did I get here?

Dreams From My Father: A Story of  Not Inheriting His Love of Hockey. 
Just like Obama, I will use my memoir to unnerve xenophobic white people in gated communities in the American South. Can I base an entire book on my deep-seated aversion to hockey? No. But I could always branch out to tell stories about sulking in my room because my dad is watching the hockey game and refusing to let me change the channel so I can watch a repeat of a Star Trek episode.

Dress Your Family In Gortex and Polar Fleece. 
The adventures of a northern Canadian family who get rained on every time they go camping.

Nan and Nancy.
365 Days of me reinterpreting and performing Nancy Sinatra's These Boots Are Made For Walking. When this gets turned into a movie, I will NOT be played by Amy Adams.

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Which one do you like best? Let me know, because the sooner I pick a title the sooner I can get down to writing can select an appropriate font.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

You Light Up My Life.

My Victoria Day long weekend was notable for several reasons:

1. it did not snow,
2. no one on my street had a raucous party, and
3. I used spray paint for the first time.

Here's what my lamp looked like prior to Sunday morning:

(Please note: the lamp is straight. It's the floors that are crooked.)

Ten years ago we moved to this town and rented a tiny townhouse. On the first night we realized there were no light fixtures in the dining room and living room.  We had packed only the bare essentials, leaving 90% of our belongings in our old house while it was on the market. The bare essentials did not include a lamp. Mr Wrath bought this one the following day on his way home from work.

I hated it. It was a lacklustre grey with orange paint sponged-on to create an "antique" finish. After the old house sold (7 months later) and we bought our current place, the lamp was relocated to the basement. It was used as extra lighting when we were painting rooms, or was stored in the utility room. I kept meaning to send it to the town's thrift store.

Then last summer we became cat owners. The delicate, candlestick lamp in our living room kept getting knocked over by our boisterous kitten(s). Out it went, and the ugly-but-not-tippy torchiere came back up stairs. That's when I noticed that the cast iron base had an art-deco look to it.

I decided to paint it. Mr Wrath wanted green. I wanted blue. So we compromised, and did it my way. (HAHAHA! I guaranteed my husband is not going to find that last bit funny.) Afterward he did concede that he liked the TARDIS blue I'd picked out:

What do you think?

What should I spray paint next?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Butterfly Effect Is To Blame For This Chaotic Post.

If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me to blog about insects or bugs, I'd  be -- WAIT A MINUTE!? No one has ever asked me to increase the creepy crawly content of my blog. That's crazy. And rather insulting. For the bugs.

Now I'm rethinking my plans for this post. The prudent thing -- in terms of increasing my visitor stats -- would be to tailor my content to mirror the search terms people use to arrive here. This weekend someone popped in by searching for "men showing crotch bulges." Finally -- something to mention in my university alumni profile.

I'll try and photograph and/or wax eloquent about bulgy crotches tomorrow, for now here are photos of the caterpillars that are presently living IN my house:

This is from two weeks ago.

These are from two days ago:

While composing this post someone came to my blog searching for "the many hairs of janeway." I don't know what this means, but I do know that "The Many Hairs of Janeway" would be an excellent name for my all-Moog-synthesizer band.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Mad For Science.

Dear Blog Friends,

Next Tuesday -- and the Tuesday after that -- please remind me to check on the worm jars Zarf and Klaxon set up yesterday. Science investigations are only worthwhile endeavours if we remember to check on our results.

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In January I followed through with my stated goal of FINALLY buying a magazine subscription for my sons.

I bought dig, an archaeology magazine for kids. We've received four editions so far and the boys have enjoyed every one. I was concerned that it would be too America-centric for us. It does assume  the readers know imperial measurements (as Canadians, we are only fluent in metric) and are familiar with US geography and history (a minor matter since my extensive viewing of American television has given me the basics), but it definitely does not have Rah-Rah-Rah-God-Bless-America! overtones and covers a wide array of international sites and global history.

I also ordered a Canadian-published science magazine: YES Mag. In April it occurred to me that we'd still not seen a single copy. I tried sending an email to the subscription "department." When that was bounced, I check the website:
Fuck. They shut down FIVE DAYS after taking my money.

I called Visa. Alas, more than 89 days, the allotted time for a cardholder to raise a dispute with a vendor, had passed since I gave Peter Piper Publishing my $27.94. They can't help me.

Is there any recourse? Have any other subscribers to YES Mag or Know (its sister publication) been given refunds? Has YES Mag's parent company Mad Science Group (a Montreal-based franchise company that hosts science-themed education parties and presentations) offered anyone compensation? Want to recommend a science magazine for kids?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mother Of All Days.

My Mother's Day involved a little bit of gardening, a little bit of canoeing, a good deal of relaxing and zero cooking.

Not a bad day overall. 

Oh -- and I called my mom and wished her a Happy Mother's Day.  

What did you do?

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[ This creek is a 10-minute drive from our house. ] 

[ Winter hasn't quite ceded it's grip on the lake. ]

[ Mr Wrath and the boys gave me new deck chairs
The chairs bring a touch of class to the yard, but
make my spool table look even shabbier than usual. ]

Friday, May 11, 2012

"Mr Smith, I Need You."

Today feels like a Saturday. Mr Wrath had the day off and he spent the morning doing chores and running errands. He had the winter tires swapped off both cars, which is risky. It's only May -- it might snow again.  Then he did yard work and kept the boys entertained. I puttered about the kitchen making bread and baking granola all the while watching Remington Steele. I love 80s detective shows. They're my version of comfort food.

Not only have I lost track of the days, I didn't notice the time. Suddenly it was 7 o'clock and I hadn't even thought about making dinner. Through the miracle of frozen leftovers (turkey meatballs for some of us, lasagna for others, slices of fresh bread for all) dinner was compiled, served and eaten by 8. Just in time for us to watch an episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures.

We discovered the series this last summer. Initially I was apprehensive about watching it, because I'm a complete wimp when it comes to scary shows. I have a love/fear relationship with Doctor Who.  It isn't so much scary as it is unnerving and (more importantly) British! For every nice, sweet, un-unnerving British show like Heartbeat, All Creatures Great and Small, or Fawlty Towers, there are dozens that freak me out. As validation of this theory I offer up the British expression "behind the sofa," which is used thusly:

As soon as I hear the intro song to Doctor Who I hide behind the sofa and don't come out till the end credits roll. 
I store a packet of hob-nobs behind the sofa, so I have something to occupy myself while my husband watches Sherlock or Spooks or Top Gear. Jeremy Clarkson is the devil.  
 Know what show never forces me to quake behind the sofa and sob? Time Team -- it is the anti-Wallander. Also the anti-Primeval. Remind me not to be such a bitch next time I rant on about mindless, formulaic American television shows like Three and a Half Men

The crazy thing is that as much as the shows I just listed scare me, I still love them. Well, not Three and a Half Men -- that's a piece of irredeemable, corn-filled crap. Also Jeremy Clarkson isn't REALLY the devil. However, I bet he'd be all handsy if I ever found him behind my sofa.

The Sarah Jane Adventures is a Doctor Who spin-off series and is aimed at children. Despite this I often have to leave the room when it gets too intense. "Tell me when it's not scary!" I will call out to my sons who have NOT inherited my wimpy ways. Perhaps they've been a good influence on me, because I've started watching Torchwood on Netflix. But only during the daytime, and only when I'm on the elliptical trainer.  Torchwood is conducive to exercising because the creepier the scene, the more furiously I move my arms and legs.  It's the healthier alternative to hiding out behind the sofa with a box of hob-nobs. And Jeremy Clarkson.

So what did you do today?

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And just for the sake of being random...

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Patrick Stewart Excitation.

It's been over a week since we returned from the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo. I suspect that the statute of limitations on blogging about it  has lapsed. Or at the very least: the statute of limitations on reading blog posts about the CCEE has lapsed.

Either way, I hope you'll tolerate one final post about that weekend.

• • • • • • • •

There were 2 components to this year's Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo. There was a general conference held at the BMO Centre from April 27 til April 29. We bought 3-Day passes so we could attend panels, check out the vendors, and soak up some nerd-centric culture. The CCEE also hosted a separate evening panel called "TNG EXPOsed" on April 28 that showcased the cast of the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. We did not buy tickets for this event. After 10 years of parenting I was confident that my "Young Children Do NOT Enjoy Watching Adults -- Even Famous Adults -- Sit Around and Talk" Hypothesis would be validated in the form of cranky, misbehaving children. My theory was proven correct when my fidgety 8-year old requested we leave the Wheaton/Burton/Spiner panel before it concluded. Regardless I was disappointed to realize I wouldn't see Patrick Stewart (aka Captain Jean-Luc Picard) because his conference panel was scheduled for late Sunday.

After we were shut-out of the BMO Centre (aka when we hung-out with a seething quagmire of nerds in the BMO Centre parking lot because the Calgary Expo organizers oversold the venue and put lives at risk) we took a ride on the C-Train (THANKFULLY small town kids are easily amused). Later we went to the hotel pool. Then I met up with Nicole & "HappyGeek75." It was great to meet some of my imaginary friends in real life. They're just as charming and funny in person as they are online. Plus they have shiny hair and smell like freshly baked waffle cones! ALSO I DRANK ALCOHOL! They helped me forget that I was disappointed about missing Captain Picard.

When they went home, I staggered back to our hotel room, and Mr Wrath, the Wrathlets and I left the hotel in search of dinner. Here's a thing you might not know about downtown Calgary: there are zero "family friendly" dining options. After 20 minutes we resigned ourselves to eating at the Palliser's dining room and headed back toward the hotel.

Today Sir Patrick Stewart is better known for his film and television work, but he got his start in the theatre. Which means he knows how to make his voice carry and he's not afraid to behave theatrically in order to get his point across. For the benefit of the audience up in the balcony. Or for the people trying to get around him and enter the Palliser Hotel and who didn't necessarily expect to see an angry senior citizen carrying on. Or for the benefit of Marina Sirtis who was standing next to Sir Stewart and was aware that he was making a bit of a scene.

For the last ten days Mr Wrath and I have been perfecting our Sir-Patrick-Stewart-Is-Standing-On-The-Street-Gesturing-Wildly-And-He-Is-Pissed impersonation by recreating the scene we witnessed:
Patrick: No, Marina. I BLOODY WELL am going to say something about it!
Marina Sirtis: Patrick, I really don't think it's the appropriate time to -- 
Patrick: NO! I'm going to bring it up tonight at the show. I want to say it. It's time we talked about this, Marina! It's been too long! We need to get it all out in the open!

At this point we entered the hotel lobby and couldn't hear the rest of the conversation. But first we walked by Wil Wheaton and his snazzy blazer! And I did NOT reach out and touch him! Also please note: I didn't touch Patrick Stewart. Though I could have because I was centimeters away from him. There was a time when I would not have passed up the opportunity to touch a strange man. Especially a strange FAMOUS man. That's some real personal growth, self.

• • • • • • • •

What was Sir Patrick upset about?, is the very logical question posed by the scene we witnessed. I have no idea. I watched clips from TNG EXPOsed on YouTube (hence the delay in writing this post), but it doesn't appear like Sir Patrick said anything heated. Should I just assume that Marina Sirtis channelled Counselor Troi and talked him down? Did Michael Dorn sit on Sir Patrick till he agreed to hold his tongue? Or did Michael Dorn literally hold PATRICK STEWART'S TONGUE!? Who knows? Any theories?

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Edited May 23, 2011.

Here's a photo montage from the night:

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Awkward Elevator Ride Deviation.

After formulating the Patrick Stewart Hotel Amenity Algorithm (which correctly predicted that the Palliser Hotel would be hosting the very disappointing, extremely frustrating Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo's celebrity guests) I set about creating the 'Awkward Elevator Ride Deviation.' This predicted that the standard amount of shame and awkwardness I feel while riding the elevator to and from the hotel pool in my bathing suit would increase exponentially if there was a celebrity in the elevator with me. Hence I purchased a bathing suit cover-up from Sears.

On Friday night after briefly checking out the BMO Centre we decided to visit the Palliser's pool.  I got on the elevator. With my children. With my husband. With my bathing suit cover-up from Sears. With Katee Sackhoff from Battlestar Galactica.

"We're going to the pool. That's why we're dressed like this," is how I greeted Ms Sackhoff and her friend as they stepped into our carriage.

"I was wondering." she replied.

"I thought I would mention this, lest you think that wearing bathing suits is customary formal attire for a Friday night in Canada and you are now racked with fear that everyone in Calgary will know that you are a foreigner." 

"Thank God you let me know."

Who is the Queen of the Slightly Awkward Elevator Banter? ME! I was smooth. I was clever. I was mildly amusing! I did not squeal (out loud) when I realized I was close enough to touch Starbuck. More importantly: I did NOT touch Starbuck. I am so impressed with me! Based on this tweet, Katee was also impressed with me:

Oh, Katee. You're so right: it does take courage and strength to walk around in public in a bathing suit cover-up from Sears. Thanks for the validation.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

How My "Patrick Stewart Hotel Amenity Algorithm" Saved Our Weekend.

"This doesn't look like our kind of hotel," my ten year old son 'Zarf' said on Friday. "This place is fancy. We are not fancy people."

(I didn't take this photo of our fancy hotel.)

We were standing on the front steps of The Fairmont Palliser Hotel in Calgary waiting for 'Mr Wrath' to get to the front of the valet parking line so we could check-in to our room and head over to the Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo.

(We were on the stairs to the left side of this photo of the Palliser entrance.)

Zarf had a point. I'd chosen the Palliser because my 'Patrick Stewart Hotel Amenity Algorithm' indicated that it was the hotel most likely to host the celebrities attending the Calgary Expo. I was about to explain this to Zarf and his 8-year old brother 'Klaxon' when I glanced over my shoulder.

"Levar Burton is standing right behind us. He played Geordi on The Next Generation." I half-whispered to the boys.

"Which one is he?" asked Zarf.

I opened my mouth to say "What the hell is wrong with you? How can you not recognize Levar Burton? You've watched Star Trek: The Next Generation hundreds of times, and the only actor you wanted to see at the Expo was Levar Burton.  Here's a hint: he's the black guy -- the ONLY black guy standing on the street."

I deserve a lot of credit for censoring myself. No. Not credit. I deserve a breeding pair of unicorns, whose offspring I would sell for millions of dollars and then I'd just move into the Palliser Hotel full-time. Of course, it was self-serving to stifle that response. Firstly, because Mr  Levar Burton is American and might not know that "black" is the term Canadians still use to describe people of African descent. If he overheard me, Mr Burton might be offended. Secondly, Zarf is verbose and logical and if I'd used the term "African-American" I'd have spent the next three-days explaining the history of American slavery and the etymology of terms used to describe all racial or ethnic groups in the whole world. By that time, it would be highly unlikely that Mr Burton would still standing 2 meters away from us.

While I formulated a more politic response (in my defence we'd driven 1400 mind-numbing kilometers and I was not at the top of my game),  Mr Levar Burton stepped onto the side walk and turned toward the big-ass, luxury, shiny SUV in the valet parking lane (parked in front of our big-ass, not-luxury, 8-year old SUV). As he passed, he made eye contact with both of the boys, gave them a wave, smiled at me and said, "Hi there!" and climbed into the SUV.

Before I could melt into a puddle of 39-year old fan-girl goo, I locked eyes with the man following Mr Burton into the car.

"GOOD AFTERNOON TO YOU!" said Brent Spiner in a very loud, very cheerful -- but admittedly random -- British accent.

The third person into the waiting vehicle?

Marina Sirtis.

She popped into the car, then stuck her head back out, "Denise, are you coming with us? There's plenty of room." That's when I noticed that Denise Crosby was standing next to me. How long had she been there? I don't know!

Ms Crosby demurred as she'd been told to wait for the next car.

"Stay here." I said to the boys and dashed over to our car. "Don't you dare rear-end the vehicle in front of you." I said to Mr Wrath. "Half the cast of The Next Generation is in there. If you harm one hair on their collective heads all of Geekdom will come after you for their pound of flesh."

I returned to the boys (who'd watched several non-celebrities offer to give up their seats in the SUV so Denise Crosby could ride with Marina Sirtis et al over to the BMO Centre -- it was so very Canadian).

By this time a parking valet was getting the bags out of our vehicle and taking the keys. Mr Wrath bounded out of the car to join us. My husband is an extremely competent, self-sufficient, manly fellow. He knows about chemical reactions. He whips up gourmet meals out of next to nothing. He uses power tools. He does crossword puzzles in pen. He navigates whitewater in a canoe (provided I'm not screeching "OHMIGOD! WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE!" in his ear). But the sexiest, most masculine thing Mr Wrath has ever done is cut-off Michael Dorn. YES! Mr Wrath stepped in front of Micheal Dorn as he exited the hotel.  MICHAEL DORN broke his stride because of MY HUSBAND. Rawr!

And as he watched Mr Dorn join the others, Zarf announced loudly "Okay, now I know why you booked this fancy hotel."

"YES! It's because I'm a genius." I said with 100% accuracy and 0% humility.

By the way, this was not the only time my 'Patrick Stewart Hotel Amenity Algorithm' prevented me from Hulk Smashing all of Calgary after the Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo screwed up.

Stay tuned...