Wednesday, December 31, 2008

5 questions before the year ends

I hope you don't mind if we conduct this interview in my pajamas.
I certainly won't mind if you read this in your pajamas. In fact I would be honoured. I'd know that you are probably relaxed and feeling cozy.

I have sufficiently recovered from whatever nasty bug invaded my body over the last week. It wasn't pleasant, and I will not gross you out with details. Besides, I'd just as soon not think about it anymore. It might come back, and I am willing it far, far away.

Now, XUP has agreed to 'interview me'.

It’s a fun, co-operative interview exercise where fellow bloggers can email you asking to join in and then you have to email them back with 5 interview questions - things you’d like to know specifically about them. Then they answer the questions on their blog and invite other bloggers to join in which means they have to come up with 5 questions for those bloggers.

Her blog is so entertaining and informative, and you never know what is going on in her head from one day to the next. So I was really curious as to what she would ask.
Here's what XUP wants to know:

1. Have you ever been so insanely "in love" that you thought you would die without the other person?

It is worse when that relationship ends and you start thinking life is not worth living anymore. And years later you realize you didn't really 'like' that person as much as you 'loved' them. While together, I don't think I thought about it that way. Maybe I'm not insane enough? Doesn't mean I wasn't foolish, though.

2. If you could change one thing about your physical self, magically and without surgery, what would it be?

I would have soft, supple, slightly oily, flawless, darker hued skin. No more of this dry, flaky, itchy, redness that I suffer with now. I'd still buy luxurious hand creme, though.

3. All the celebrities have suddenly become homeless through some natural disaster affecting only celebrities. They need to be billeted for a week in the homes of regular folk until their mansions can be rebuilt. Who would you sign up to billet?

Ellen DeGeneres. She seems to have this capacity to make herself right at home wherever she is. And can easily amuse herself, so would never be needing me to entertain her. She would make me laugh and we'd act all silly and drink mojitos. She would likely also come bearing gifts.

4. You are self-employed and seem to enjoy the freedom and even the challenges. If you were offered an office job that would be routine, not too interesting but with good people and full-time and secure job would you take it?

I do miss the commaraderie with sharing an office space with people you meet daily, and benefits would be nice to have...but no. I like that my days are so unstructured, it allows me to continue with my favourite pasttime of procrastination. I would have to become very disciplined and buy office clothes and smile at people and develop a telephone voice. It would be too drastic a change.

5. Are you looking forward to your next birthday? Why or why not?

I'm not bothered, either way. My family doesn't really 'do' birthdays except as an excuse to get together for dinner but we all live so far apart and having a winter birthday, even that doesn't happen very often. We make a fuss over the milestones, and I was actually excited about turning 50 last year, so 51 is a bit nothing. I'm looking forward to Freedom 55, though. (do I need an office job to quit to enjoy it like in the commercials?)

So, if you'd like to play along, here are the rules:

Send me an email saying: ”Interview Me” (see my profile page for address)
I will respond by emailing you five questions. I get to pick the questions.
You can then answer the questions on your blog.
You should also post these rules along with an offer to interview anyone else who emails you wanting to be interviewed.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

a not unusual day

I don't make New Year's Resolutions. Simply for the fact that I know I won't keep them.

I do try to find something positive in all things that happen, and am pleased when I can do that when things go wrong. Like finding an earring while looking for lost paperwork. Or meeting someone pleasant when dashing out to the store for a missing ingredient for the planned dinner.

I have annual professional dues and insurance payments that must be made before December 31st every year. And every year, I manage to not get the cheque and paperwork mailed out in time. For 14 years, I have had to drive into Toronto to go in person to make sure that these payments and signatures are date stamped as received before December 31. The fine for being late is exorbitant enough that one will move heaven and earth to be on time.

So, since I already know that I will not be on time, I have gotten it in my head that I will simply make this an enjoyable outing and a chance to wander around an area of the city I don't normally see. This year, I decided that after walking around Yonge and Eglinton since it was just past 3pm I would stop off at Yorkdale on my way home to wait out the rush hour traffic. For those who are not familiar, Yorkdale is a huge shopping mall (1.6 million sq ft and 250 stores). It is conveniently located just off the highway and has its own exit. It also has its own subway station, a GO station and a bus station.

It took me 47 minutes to find a parking space. On the upside, it was in the first row just outside one of the main entrances right at two of the stores I wanted to shop at. That would make it easier to remember which entrance I had parked at, so no interesting tale of a lost car this time. By this time I desperately needed coffee and food and sat down at the first place I found. This allowed for people watching. Lots of people watching. Lots of people with lots of bags and packages. I counted my cash and headed into the throng. Disappointed that the bookstore didn't have any of the items I was looking for I headed over to the new Crate and Barrel that I have wanted to check out since it opened in the fall. It was far better than I had expected and I was seduced by their wares and their festive items deeply discounted. But, I resisted. No need for Christmas themed tea towels, or more candles ... and where have all these people come from??

Three hours later I left with nothing.
Except a headache.

It took 15 minutes to get out of the parking lot, but the good part was the sign on the road to the highway that said "401 westbound, express and collectors moving freely".
Good. That would mean only 45 minutes more to get home.

Because, I also left the mall without finding the washrooms.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Sunday, December 28, 2008

a calm after the storm

aaargh.....blogger ate my post twice!

later, I will have to go out on the balcony and replace the carpet and pick up the shards of the terracotta pots that broke in the wind storm we had today.

When I got up this morning at 2am it was a balmy 15C. By 7am the wind started kicking up its heels and by noon the Skyway was closed due to the more than 100km/h winds.

So, my appointments cancelled, I stayed in my pyjamas and watched the Dr Who Christmas Special on youtube thanks to another blogger who showed me the way to happiness. Oh, I will miss David Tennant. (and I do wish him a speedy recovery - my cousin went to see Hamlet today in London, without him) But I can watch these episodes over and over and still find something that was missed the previous times. And, still laugh. That is important when Cybermen are invading.

Now, it is time for my midday snack.

I have been dying to show off my latest acquisition and have been waiting for good light, but can wait no longer. See what Frogdancer sent me? Lovingly made for me by her own little hands. (see how much she loved making these here)

click on image for closeup to see detail.
and yes, that is the last bit of Toblerone.

a beauty and a dilemma

I ask you, is this not the most beautiful tube of handcreme you have ever seen?

It is nice to have the creme in a tube so as to be able to squeeze out every last morsal.

Yet, such a shame to crush the beauty.

and winter skin cries ...


Friday, December 26, 2008

Scarlett and Bianca update...

yes, Scarlett has grown 2" in 2 days!!
and Bianca is ready to explode into blossom any moment
just in case you didn't believe the yardstick!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

it's still winter

I'm feeling just a wee bit disoriented.

Not just because I still have this nagging head cold that refuses to move on.
It's only Tuesday. Is it not Christmas Eve yet?? I feel like I should be doing something to get ready and yet.....

The gift exchange with friends and the family Christmas were all on the weekend. I've even eaten all my portion of leftover ham and sweetpotatoes and stuffing and creamy, cheesy potatoes. It is too late to mail any cards I didn't get around to mailing (again, I am so bad at this mailing thing). And I am definitely not going out into that mad rush of frantic shoppers when I clearly do not need to.

Hmm, maybe another nice cup of tea and wild blueberry pie while I have a think of what to do next.

and watch my Amaryllis grow.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Merry Christmas

To all who celebrate Christmas in Winter

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Merry Christmas

To all who celebrate Christmas in Summer

Friday, December 19, 2008

Scarlett grows a storm



a storm and a mouse

I dropped the keys on the counter.

"It'll be a bit before I can get to your car" said the mechanic, "I have to finish up this one first".

Well, no problem. The Pier One across the parking lot and the Chapters across the street were the main reasons I came to this location for the oil change and transmission flush.

"But it should be done by 3pm, for sure"

"Oh dear" says I, as I leave the cold garage and sprint across the street. That leaves only 2 hours. I can easily spend that much time and more in a bookstore.

I first checked out the gifts and shook my head at the exorbitant prices. Then I checked the status of the Moleskins, and was dismayed to see there were no day timers left. My plan may not work out after all, but there is still Indigo, and another Chapters in Oakville.

Next was a wander down the centre aisle, where I picked up books, flipped through pages, tried to think of something suitable for the last 2 people on my list. When I got to the end wall, before turning back to wander the side aisles, I noticed a large selection of the same book in several covers. Interesting, I thought. I picked up a copy. Something seemed vaguely familiar.

It took me a moment to recognize the mouse. What little of the trailers I had seen didn't look as thrilling as Ratatouille or Shrek, but I love animation, so I started to read to see what this was about. People were pushing past me and reaching over me to get to the shelves. I found a less busy corner to stand and read. Then I found a table. With a mocha something or other, I continued to read, keeping my eye on the time and the long line snaking through giftwares to the checkout. When my 2 hours was up, I left my table and joined the queue, having time to read 3 more chapters (they are very short).

A truly delightful tale.

And with a winter storm on its way, I doubt I'll be heading to any movie theatres for the opening night. Good. I have enough time to finish the book. And I think I know a 30 year old who will also enjoy the tale of mouse who loves a princess.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

St Nicholas begats Santa Claus

St Nicholas was apparently a very shy bishop and and was known to travel mostly at night. Once, so a legend says, he wanted to leave some money for a family without being seen, so he dropped some coins down a chimney where they landed inside a little girl's stocking. St Nicholas, in continental Europe, became all about gift giving whereas Father Christmas, in Britain, was still about merry making and feasting.

Having the two combined, was too much for the Puritans who succeeded in having him and Christmas banned. Apparently there was an awful lot of drunkenness and overeating of mince pies and looting of houses if the merry makers were refused entry. They also didn't like that St Nicholas was a 'saint'. He seems to have survived in Northern Europe during the Reformation because he had moved beyond the Church and was so beloved. In Europe, his feast day, December 6th (or the night before), is the main gift giving time over Christmas, December 25th (or the night before). The Netherlands is the only Protestant country to maintain the legend of St Nicholas. The Puritans certainly didn't bring him along to the New World with them.

After the American Revolution, the New Yorkers who stayed, glad to be rid of the British, remembered with pride their nearly forgotten Dutch roots and made St Nicholas the city's Patron Saint. Pretty soon the satirists got into the act and caricatures and poems were appearing. St Nick, or Sinterklaas as he was affectionately called in Dutch, changed from looking saintly to a portly Dutch guy with a pipe. The poem 'Twas The Night Before Christmas' sealed the image of this un-St Nick-like Santa Claus, as did the cartoons and drawings that were based on this entirely made up tale. By the 1920's Santa's image had become more consistent and by the time Coca Cola had hired an illustrator for advertising, gift giving had become a huge phenomenon what with mass production and importing and this was just what was needed to symbolize the gift giver. He became more and more associated with commercialism and less of charity.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Father Christmas

I was looking for a funny vintage Christmas card for my Monday post ... and became sidetracked. Mostly, I got sidetracked by Santa. And Father Christmas. And St Nicholas. There are so many variations and permutations of this soul over the centuries. His image has changed greatly, from his outfits to his weight, even his attitude. The one constant seems to be his flowing white beard. It all started with my wondering about his coats of many colours - blue, purple, green, brown, red. What a fashion statement he was!

In reality they are not one and the same person.

First up: Father Christmas.

He has been around a very long time. He wasn't called Father Christmas then, of course, because he originated as a pagan figure. Don't we get all our best religious festivities from the pagans? He represented the coming of spring and appeared mid-winter wearing a long, hooded green cloak, and a wreath of holly, ivy, or mistletoe.

When the Saxons invaded, they added their own solstice tradition of Father Time (or Old Winter or King Winter as he was also known) and an old guy would be seen representing him by dressing up in a long, hooded fur cloak and wandering from house to house to be welcomed with food and drink. It was thought that if you were kind to Father Time you would get something good in return (a mild winter, perhaps? or an early spring?). Then came along the Vikings who, with their God Odin, celebrated their own mid-winter as Jultid by dressing up as one of Odin's 12 characters Jul. Odin was a little heftier than Father Time and eventually the once svelte Father Christmas becomes bigger. He changes into a blue cloak and gets to ride a horse and was claimed to have magical powers to know whether people had been bad or good, dispensing gifts to the good and punishment to the bad.
Finally, the Normans came along and brought the story of a 3rd century bishop with them. St Nick came all the way from Turkey and was especially kind to the poor and to children.
So we have a figure who evolved from one who would bless your winter to someone who paid attention to your deeds to someone who loved children.

...the story of St Nicholas and Santa Claus continues.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Amaryllis One and Two

and I haven't even watered them yet!

I had to play with the brightness and contrast so you could see the first picture more clearly. I had intended to take another when I woke up this afternoon and was shocked! to see how much they had grown in 5 hours. Which, admittedly, isn't as dramatic in the pics as in real life.
So meet Scarlett (right) and Bianca (left)

Friday, December 12, 2008

amaryllis, turtles

At least when Otis sheds, I don't get turtle hairs all over my clothes.
But, we do have to deal with this: HE IS STILL GROWING.
Turtles shed their shells during growth spurts. In anticipation of a lazy hibernation, his body will be busy getting even bigger. Great. He should really be living within his means and that means is a 36x17x15 aquarium.
See that darker square in the centre of his back?
That is where one of these came off.
Something's gotta give, they are like fingernails and very thin and almost transparent. Tortoiseshell ornaments will also peel if they get too dry. But we don't have any of those, do we?!

In other news, it is now official that Lonesome George will have no progeny this time around as all the eggs have been verified as infertile. But, he has to deal with this: another turtle (tortoise, actually) that is 176 years old. Apparently Jonathan posed for a picture with some Boer War soldiers and he has been outed as the oldest of his particular species. Not sure how he was recognized - Boer War? So George could have many more years of interference in his social life.
Every time I hear of aged turtles, I give an inward sigh ... how long will Otis decide to keep growing?


I don't have a Christmas Tree, but I do have some twigs I decorate. And I have a plant stand I use for poinsettias and storing small gifts on so that as I buy them, I can easily remember what I have bought (yes, I have been known to forget. sad, isn't it?). And this year, I was given an early present of TWO Amaryllis. Now their growth spurts and the way they shoot up with such magnificent majestic blooms are a joy to watch.

I need to find a good spot for a photo shoot to chart their progress.

I also need to pick up some stuff left lying on the floor and get my laundry bag downstairs to the laundry room.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Auto XP

For all of us who feel only the deepest love and affection for the way computers have enhanced our lives, read on.

At a recent computer expo (COMDEX), Bill Gates reportedly compared the computer industry with the auto industry and stated, "If GM had kept up with technology like the computer industry has, we would all be driving $25 cars that got 1,000 miles to the gallon."

In response to Bill's comments, General Motors issued a press release stating:

If GM had developed technology like Microsoft, we would all be driving cars with the following characteristics:

1. For no reason whatsoever, your car would crash........ twice a day.

2. Every time they repainted the lines in the road, you would have to buy a new car.

3. Occasionally your car would die on the highway for no reason. You would have to pull to the side of the road, close all of the windows, shut off the car, restart it, and reopen the windows before you could continue. For some reason you would simply accept this.

4. Occasionally, executing a maneuver such as a left turn would cause your car to shut down and refuse to restart, in which case you would have to reinstall the engine.

5. Macintosh would make a car that was powered by the sun, was reliable, five times as fast and twice as easy to drive - but would run on only five percent of the roads.

6. The oil, water temperature, and alternator warning lights would all be replaced by a single 'This Car Has Performed An Illegal Operation' warning light.

7. The airbag system would ask 'Are you sure?' before deploying.

8. Occasionally, for no reason whatsoever, your car would lock you out and refuse to let you in until you simultaneously lifted the door handle, turned the key and grabbed hold of the radio antenna.

9. Every time a new car was introduced car buyers would have to learn how to drive all over again because none of the controls would operate in the same manner as the old car.

10. You'd have to press the 'Start' button to turn the engine off .

PS - I'd like to add that when all else fails, you could call 'customer service' in some foreign country and be instructed in some foreign language how to fix your car yourself!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Lights by the Lake

am having trouble uploading the video...
more photos on my photoblog Sightlines

Every year at this time our city puts on a Festival of Lights. Last night was the official opening for this highlight of the Christmas Season. This year there are over 80 light displays, many of them animated. They change slightly from year to year, but here is a sampling of the mainstays.

First up, we have the Guards. There are 32 of them looking out over Lakeshore Rd.
(probably the only bit that looks better during the day)

Down the steps into the Park and we have a Nativity

Further along there is this

and for some reason, the Eiffel Tower
(11 tries at getting it with its top lit up!)

Your carriage awaits - you can see a little bit where the
horses legs move. The dolphins are flying through
the air into a splash behind the carriage.

I went out after work first thing this morning, but my fingers were too frozen to get more than a couple dozen shots and these were some of the best. I'll try again to actually get some animation.