Monday, June 27, 2016

#MicroblogMondays: Is it over yet?

Three graduations last week (on top of the ones that were held earlier in June, and in May, in the States).

Four more days left in June.

Four more days of cap and gown photos, "I'm so proud" FB posts, "they are growing up too fast" comments, last day of school celebrations.

Dh's cousin's wife -- pregnant at the same time as me -- posted photos of her son's graduation last week on Facebook. It was a gut-punch like I haven't had in quite some time. I swallowed hard & somehow managed to hit the "like" button. But I could not bring myself to leave even a terse "congratulations" comment.

Infertility and stillbirth -- the gifts that just keep on giving. :p  

Little girl, I can only imagine you in your prom dress, and your cap & gown.  I would have been so proud too.

You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here      

Sunday, June 26, 2016

"Vittoria Cottage" by D.E. Stevenson

"Vittoria Cottage" is the latest book we're reading & discussing together on my online D.E. Stevenson group.  It's a typical DES read -- the literary equivalent of comfort food, or a nice cup of tea.

The plot, such as it is, revolves around Caroline Dering, a 40-something widow, whose life revolves around her three grownup children in post-WWII England. Picking blackberries one day, Caroline meets a mysterious stranger, Robert Shepperton, who has come to stay in the village. Of course she winds up falling in love with him -- but alas, he seems to have fallen for her visiting younger sister, Harriet (and Harriet for him).

Meanwhile, Caroline's son returns home from military service in Malaya, and her spoiled, headstrong older daughter becomes engaged to the son of a prominent local nobleman, against the wishes of both families. It's not much of a plot -- it ends rather abruptly, and in some ways, it's very dated.  I wouldn't say it's the best DES novel I've read, but the characters are well-drawn and endearing, and the writing draws you in to the story. On its own merits, it was enjoyable, and I'm having fun taking part in the online discussions.

While I wasn't entirely satisfied with the abrupt ending, there are two more books about the Dering family we'll be reading & discussing in the months to come:  "Music in the Hills" and "Shoulder the Sky."

ALI note: Caroline assists at a difficult delivery of a premature baby. And she has another sister who has no children. She is mentioned but not seen in this book, but I understand she figures more prominently in the next novel.  Hmmm...

This was book #10 that I've read so far in 2016.

Monday, June 20, 2016

#MicroblogMondays: Cookie monsters

I come from a long line of great cookie makers. Well, I don't know about further back, but my Grandma always had baked treats in the pantry (her antique hobnail milk glass cookie jar proudly sits on my kitchen counter), and my mother firmly believes there is no cookie like a home-baked cookie.

I baked a fair bit when I was first married -- cookies, coffee cakes, muffins. Peak baking time for me used to be pre-Christmas:  I would go into a frenzy of activity, mixing up one kind of cookie dough after another, every evening for several days in a row, refrigerating it, and then baking one pan after another on Remembrance Day, which was a day off work for me.  I'd whip up mini-loaves of fruitcake (which people actually liked! -- perhaps because I'd soak the fruit in brandy for several days first, lol), sometimes cranberry orange bread, and two or three or even four kinds of Christmas cookies.

But November-December was our busiest time of year at work, and what should have been something fun became just one more item to cram into the schedule. The house would be full of excess calories that we didn't need for weeks afterward, even after I hauled containers full of sweets to work, to BIL's house, and even home to Mom & Dad's. And after the loss of my little girl (due to join our family in November 1998), I found my heart just wasn't in it. My mom & I still baked cookies together whenever she came to visit -- but she hasn't been here in a while. And so I have barely touched my flour sifter or electric hand mixer or cookie sheets in recent years. Dh suggested my collection of baking pans was a prime candidate to send to the thrift store when we were downsizing our stuff in preparation for the big move to a condo. I recoiled in horror. (Men -- duh...)

Maybe that was the spark.  Saturday, he went out with BIL & the nephews. And I pulled out my baking pans and mixing bowls and the electric hand mixer, and went to work. And texted him that there were cookies in the oven. I don't know if BIL & the nephews had originally planned to come in when they brought him back home later, but the four of them walked through the door of our condo unit a few hours later.

"Wow, it smells amazing in here," Younger Nephew said. I positively beamed as I watched them help themselves to one oatmeal chocolate chip cookie after another, still warm from the oven.

(Hillary Clinton's recipe, from the infamous 1992 election bake-off, lol -- whatever you might think of her politics, it's a great chocolate chip cookie recipe!)(She won that contest.) ;)

I may have had my reservations about moving here, but if you'd asked me what my ideal picture of living here would be, it would have been this: having my two tall, handsome nephews drop by to visit and eat freshly baked cookies from Aunt Lori's kitchen. :)  They totally made my day. :)  I only wish I could have done it sooner, when they were little. (Hopefully I will have the chance for a do-over with some great-nieces and nephews in the years to come... ;)  )

You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here     

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Odds & ends

  • My life is consumed with transitions lately, it seems. I still feel like we're not quite settled into our condo. Partly, I think, that's because we have furniture on order that won't be delivered until at least the end of the month. And we've been waiting to bring out & arrange our photos and other knick-knacks until then. (Yes, more boxes to unpack...!)
  • We did paint a couple of weekends ago (for those of you wondering, I settled on the blue paint), and that helped make the condo feel a little more our own.
  • Of course, the sofa we subsequently bought, from a fabric swatch, was more khaki/greenish than the grey/taupe-ish I expected -- and now I'm thinking I should have gone with the greyer shade of paint...!  :p  I am currently rethinking my colour scheme and the decorative knick-knacks I was planning to buy.
  • My body is also in transition these days.  I've been having some weird (peri)menopausal/gynecological stuff going on again lately -- cramping & spotting almost every day for well over a week after the main event of AF's visit (some days better/worse than others). (Thankfully, and knocking wood, things seem to have -- finally -- settled down again now.)  The ultrasound I had done in April raised no real alarms -- but the tech did note one area that was difficult to see clearly, where she thought there might be a slight thickening in the uterine lining. I went for my regular checkup with Dr. Ob-Gyn a few weeks ago and he thinks there's nothing to worry about, but he's agreed to send me back for another u/s in the fall for comparison, to ease my mind. 
  • We have been for gelato three times over the past three weekends. If I don't gain 300 lbs. living here, it will be a miracle.
  • A friend posted photos on FB of sending her son off to nursery school, 15 years ago -- and picking him up on his very last day of school Friday. It hadn't hit me before that he too is Katie's age & graduating high school this month. One more reminder I didn't need. :p  Two more weeks to go in June, and it should all be over, yes??!  :p 
  • It's Father's Day. We went to see FIL last night, I Skyped with my dad this morning, and left the rest of today's agenda entirely up to dh.  Which meant an earlier trip to the bookstore (natch! ;) ), a roast simmering in the crockpot for dinner (yum!), golf on the TV, and dh napping on the couch as I type. ;)   Ahhhh, Sundays. :) 

Friday, June 17, 2016

Remembering Mr. N.

Do you ever find yourself idly Googling people from your past, to find out what's happened to them?  I do -- and sometimes I'm not prepared for what I find.

(Like learning that my party-hearty idiot sort-of boyfriend from first-year university is now not only married (!!) but to a woman who is active in Christian women's ministry!!!  -- AND, to boot, is the father of not just one, not just two, but FOUR teenaged daughters!!  Karma lives!! bahahaha!!) 

I'm not sure what prompted me to Google my Grade 8 English teacher the other night -- but (perhaps because of his slightly uncommon last name) I found him in about two seconds flat. There was a photo. He was much greyer than I remembered, with a goatee (!), but it was definitely him. 

And he was dead. The photo was attached to an obituary. He's been dead for 10 years now.

I was taken aback. My first thought was that he was way too young to be dead. And he was. He was just 57 when he died. (I gather it was a sudden thing, as the obituary mentioned the family's "shock.")  Which means he was just (holy cow...) 25 years old when he was my teacher in 1974-75, more than (gulp) 40 years ago now.

This was just a few years after the heyday of the hippies -- and he WAS a bit of a hippie -- certainly in comparison to the other, older teachers we had. A classic early baby boomer, I guess. He wore his hair longish (as a lot of young guys did then). There's a photo in one of my yearbooks of him playing his guitar in class, although I don't remember him doing it myself. We used to sometimes make fun of him for trying to act young & hip -- of course, at 13-14 ourselves, he certainly seemed old enough to us. 

But he was a good teacher, and his class was probably my favourite that year. I don't remember much of what we read, but I do remember "Cue for Treason" early that fall. We wrote a lot of short stories, for which he gave out "Silver Pen Awards" (I got several of them). We did a newspaper project, which whetted my appetite for a career in journalism. We had to make an appointment to come talk to him after regular class hours about the books we were reading, several times during the year (no problem for me, of course...!).  At one such session, he told me his mother had read the same book I had just read, & had given his sister the same unusual name as the heroine.

I was new to town/the school that year, a shy, gawky 13-year-old (what a horrible age), and he was always very kind & encouraging, particularly when it came to my writing. Yes, I probably had a bit of a crush on him ;) even though he wasn't classically handsome, and my 13-year-old self would have been horrified at the thought. ;) 

He co-coached our drama club the following year, when I was in Grade 9 and my sister was in Grade 8 -- we did a one-act play that won first prize at the local arts festival that year -- and then I went on to high school and didn't see much of him after that. He seemed like a perpetual bachelor, but he I heard he did eventually get married, & his obituary listed two children.

I remember writing a note of thanks several years ago to my high school English teacher. (Once I got to university, I realized just how much better prepared I was than the vast majority of my class and dorm mates, who didn't have a clue about how to research or structure a proper term paper, let alone citations -- thank you, Mr. P!) It was something I had meant to do for a long time, and I am so glad I finally did it, before he retired.

I wish I had done the same for Mr. N., while he was still here.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Right now...

Right now... (an occasional meme): 

Reading:  Beginning "Vittoria Cottage" by D.E. Stevenson, the next book we're reading & discussing on my DES online group. It's hard to find a paper version, but I managed to get an e-book through Amazon. However, because I don't have a Kindle (I do have a Kobo), I will be reading it via Kindle app on my cellphone & laptop. This should be interesting...! 

Watching:  EuroCup soccer. (Well, dh is.)  Soccer is huge in the GTA, including the predominantly Italian-Canadian community where we're now living, and there are lots of flags flying from car windows these days. Our condo building is on a major thoroughfare, and we expect to hear a lot of honking car horns whenever Italy wins a game. 

Listening:  To the rattle and hum of construction equipment -- again. They took a break the last few days (Saturday, Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday), for some unknown reason. It was funny how quiet it seemed around here!

Drinking:  Iced tea with lemon. Ahhhh, summer! :) 

Eating:  For dinner tonight: tortellini in chicken broth with some peas thrown in for veggie content. Easy, filling & tasty. 

Wearing:  Yoga pants have finally given way to wearing shorts & T-shirts around the house, and capris & sandals outside. Yay!! 

Wishing: That the rest of our new furniture would hurry up and arrive. But it likely won't be here until at least the end of the month. :p  

Loving:  Our new condo. (The novelty still hasn't worn off, lol.)

Wondering: Why the drivers around here are so completely nuts. :p  (It seems like drivers everywhere are pretty awful these days, but I think the locals here take the proverbial cake...)  

Sneezing:  My seasonal allergies are acting up again lately, probably as bad as they've been for a few years. Lots of sneezing, sniffling, raw throat, itchy eyes, the works. :p  Saw my allergist last month and she gave me a prescription for Reactine, which she thinks is better than the Claritin I've been taking for years. It's double the strength of the over the counter version -- I've just been taking half a pill and I'll admit it's been fairly effective.  It's also cheaper than buying anything over the counter because I can claim it on my supplementary medical insurance. ;)

Planning: Our summer vacation -- including (gulp!) our first major road trip together!!  We've done some major road trips together with my parents, but not with just the two of us. The longest drive I think we've ever taken was a day drive around the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton Island in 2010, which took us about six hours. And it took us about four hours to drive to Cape Breton from Halifax. This will entail a lot more driving and longer distances than that (eeeekkkk). I've been telling people it could be the most fun thing we'll ever do together, or the dumbest -- most likely a bit of both. Guess we'll find out...! 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

"Big Girls Don't Cry" by Rebecca Traister

I so enjoyed reading "All the Single Ladies" (reviewed here) that as soon as I was finished, I picked up an earlier book by the same author, Rebecca Traister:  "Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election That Changed Everything For American Women." 

The election Traister writes about here is the 2008 U.S. presidential election, including not only the story of Hillary Clinton's historic but unsuccessful campaign for the Democratic Party nomination, but also of Michelle Obama's critical role in her husband's campaign (and how she had to downplay her own considerable accomplishments to make herself -- and him -- more palatable to the broader American public), Sarah Palin's rise to fame as John McCain's running mate, and other ways that women affected the contest. What did it mean to be an American woman and a feminist in 2008? Traister explores this question thoroughly.

The story of the 2008 election is framed by Traister's own experiences and observations as a young feminist writer. She began the year as a John Edwards supporter. She didn't especially like Hillary Clinton and, like so many others, found herself wowed by Barack Obama (or, perhaps more accurately, by Michelle Obama) -- but by the time Clinton conceded defeat to Obama...
I looked around at the people waving their flags, hoisting their kids, and cheering for her. My phone began to vibrate with calls from my mother, my cousin, my girlfriends, all watching from their homes. As Clinton stepped off the stage, I saw a text from Geraldine. "I am completely losing it," she wrote. It was then that I lost it too. Sprinting from the press area, where Clinton's reporting squad were saying their goodbyes after months on the road together, I found space behind a pillar. Next to me was Matt Drudge, who seemed not to realize or care that I was stupidly sobbing. I was so tired. Tired of caring so much about a woman I hadn't meant to care about at all. Tired of arguing with my friends. Tired of being angry at people I'd never been angry at before. Tired of being identified with Hillary even when I didn't like her. Tired of resisting the fact that maybe I did like her quite a lot. (page 203)
Reading this book now, eight years later, in the middle of the primaries leading up to the 2016 election, I had the weird sensation of deja vu, or history repeating itself. Clashes between two different generations of feminists? Check. Outrageously sexist remarks from other candidates and media commentators? Check. Controversial statements by Gloria Steinem? Check. Frat-boy types running the leading male contender's campaign? Check.  Ad nauseum commentary about Clinton's "likeability" (or lack thereof)? Check.

Coincidentally, I happened to be reading the very page describing Clinton's pre-convention concession to Obama, with the famous quote about the glass ceiling with 18 million cracks in it, on the morning after Clinton clinched the 2016 Democratic Party nomination (which was exactly 8 years to the day later). I remember tears rolling down my face as Clinton moved to make Obama's nomination unanimous at the 2008 convention; my eyes welled up again as I watched this latest, even more historic moment. 

If you believe that it's high time America had a woman president -- or even if you're not convinced that having a woman as president would or should be a big frickin' deal -- or that that woman should be Hillary Clinton -- read this book. You might not change your mind -- but you WILL find yourself thinking.

(In Canada, we've already had a female prime minister -- albeit we've never actually had one who was elected to the job by voters. Kim Campbell became prime minister in 1993 by virtue of winning the leadership of the Progressive Conservatives, the governing party of the time, after Brian Mulroney stepped down as prime minister and party leader.  Her tenure as PM lasted all of four months:  the party was decimated in the Oct. 25 election, in which she lost her own seat in Parliament, and she resigned the party leadership shortly afterward. Several women from a number of different political parties have also been elected as premiers of several Canadian provinces over the past 25 years.)

This was book #9 that I've read so far in 2016.