New Years Eve is Cancelled.

I was looking forward to the door hitting 2009’s ass on the way out, but I, and almost everyone I know, it seems, is too sick to go out/go to someone’s house and see the damn year off properly. I was even going to go all out and buy some ready-made appetizers and everything.

It hasn’t been my favourite year, 2009. Lots of death. Lots of illness. Lots of problems in people’s lives. Nice babies have been born, but that’s about it. And that’s my year-end review.

2010 is welcome to show up on schedule. I’m really ready for a new year.

Present Redux.

So E got home from Regina laden with presents for me from his folks. He also opened his presents from my dad. Results: Mixed.

From my dad for E: Chocolates and a check. Because nothing says, “I’m a socially retarded, terminally angry guy in his seventies” like a gift that has no thought in it. The money is nice. As Bo says, “Dad likes to give us money because then he doesn’t have to tell us he loves us.”

From his folks for me: A box of New York Times crosswords (Awesome) some soap from Shoppers Drug Mart (puzzling), a black cardigan (pretty cool) and a shirt that is pre-wrinkled, mostly polyester, and the colours and pattern of a sudden, spasmodic gastric incident.

Do you guys think it’s ok to exchange it? I always feel weird about exchanging a gift, but I am never going to wear that blouse, even if the only other option is going topless. I would rather walk down Broadway with my boobs in coconuts than wear that shirt. Nobody needs to see that.

Christmas Club.

I was a little concerned when Sandii broke her arm a couple of weeks ago. She’s my co-cook at Jim’s and I worried about not having her expertise. I still needed her to look at the cranberry sauce and make sure I was doing it right, but with everybody helping out, we all managed to produce an enormous feast. With everybody doing all the jobs instead of our usual ones, it reminded me of the Breakfast Club monologue:

“You see us as you want to see us, in the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a gravy maker. And a timekeeper. And a potato masher. And a sprout tester. And a Yorkshire pudding maker.

Does that answer your question? Sincerely yours, Christmas Club.”

It was awesome. I felt slightly guilty having so much fun with E in exile in Regina. When I talked to him on the phone, it sounded like he was channeling Morgan Freeman in this eerie, calm voice. Turns out his parents were hovering. Right. There. Because they don’t have a cordless phone and there was no way to get away.

But he’s home and on the couch and we’re watching space shows. We’re going to go eat leftovers a little later.

Life is just fine.

Driving Stick.

Today I drove E to the airport to spend Christmas with his parents in Regina, where it was a mere -24 degrees today. Why he has gone without me to watch his back is a long and complicated story, but not the one I am here to tell.

I drove him in his 1976 Volvo, the beast with standard transmission and Armstrong steering. Except for a six-block trial run about a month ago, I have not driven standard for over five years.

In my head, he was going to drive to the airport and then I would manage to get the car home with minimal embarrassment in the lurching-and-lugging department. In reality, I got into the driver’s seat and failed to start the car. “Oh, it starts better in neutral,” he said. What?

Then I scared him to death with my driving. I revved too high, and I didn’t push the clutch in far enough a couple of times (Swedes must all be tall. I can’t push the clutch in enough without pointing my toe!). He had his teeth on edge the whole way to the airport. Which is kind of funny, because I felt I was doing fine.

At one point he was saying something about the revs. I snapped, “That’s just numbers to me. Do you mean you want me to keep the tach between 2500 and 3000? Because I’m doing this by sound and feel.” It was mean and hypocritical, but I was busy letting my body remember how to drive stick.

You know what? All those reflexive hand-and-foot twitchings over the past five years driving the Co-op’s automatic cars? Turns out I can still drive stick. The body doesn’t forget. Let’s just hope E forgets his terror at me driving his car.

Anne of Green Gables.

I’m watching it on TV right now. E is out talking music with an old friend in town for Christmas shopping, and the choice of TV channel is mine.

I didn’t realize how much they had shifted events around. I suppose the last time I saw it I was about 12, and I was a much less critical viewer than I am now. And although I am still loving the movie, I’m hating the shifts in events.

This is the peril in loving a book. Sometimes I can even get enraged by how a movie is treated onscreen.

I have read the Anne books probably once a year, starting from about Grade two, so I know what happens pretty well. I know the language verbatim in some places. More, I know the pictures in my head, and when they are different from the actions in the movie.

I love Anne of Green Gables. She is part of the reason I spent so long willing my hair red when I was younger. What, that can’t happen? I must have just naturally gone from mousy to red(dish) with no input from my wishes? You know nothing. I totally wished my hair red. No, I did!

I also love how Anne rises from adversity. Even now, I can learn a lot from her determination and good grace. If it’s a silly disaster (dying her hair green, for example), Anne wallows and then makes the best of it. If it’s a serious disaster (Minne May may die of croup) Anne acts swiftly and decisively. I’d like to think I was like that, too.

Hm. I think I’m going to watch Part 2 tomorrow. I may send E out into the cold to watch it in peace, too.

Shortbread.

My dad has one request this Christmas: Family recipe shortbread. I tried the very vague, handwritten recipe. (Written verbatim from my grandmother’s oral recipe. I can still hear a whisper of her voice when I read it.)

I made a test batch, and took it to my taste-testers. The mechanics at Tremblay said it was excellent. Hoagie (my mechanic is named after a sandwich!?) said it was the best shortbread he could remember eating. But there was something about the crumb that was a little too tough. So I tried again using regular flour instead of bread flour (I guess my grandmother meant all-purpose flour instead of pastry flour, but called it bread flour?) It’s pretty much perfect. It’s the taste of my childhood.

I’m proud of myself for deciphering the vagueness of the recipe. I think my dad is going to love it. He has his low-fat life, but I think if he rations this shortbread, he is going to be fine.

I cook and bake to show people I love them. I think Dad is going to feel loved. Or at least, he’ll know that the shortbread family recipe will live on.

Chocolate-Covered Bacon?

So yesterday I was hanging out at the Fringe, talking with John about the perfect twice-baked potato. We agreed on chives, butter, sour cream, and cheddar in the mix, and we both wondered if bacon would be nice too. I’m pro-bacon and mentioned that bacon is good with everything.

At that point, Matteo, who feels the need to contribute to every single conversation, said, “No. Not chocolate cake. Bacon doesn’t go with chocolate cake.”

But then both John and I got thoughtful. You could have the sweet and the salty thing which is so nice. But maybe the texture would be wrong. “How about just dipping bacon in chocolate? A nice dark one?” I wondered. Sandii leaned in, nodding. “With a touch of maple.” John’s eyes got big.”Nice!”

So have our taste-buds gone insane? Or does chocolate-covered bacon sound kind of delicious?

Mid-December Random Stuff.

I think I finally figured out links!

Yesterday night I had to explain New Moon to an eleven-year-old girl who didn’t understand a lot of what was going on in the book. She had never heard of LOLcats, or I would have shown her this which has me giggling every time I look at it. Thanks, Rachel!

I am still deeply amused by PANCAKES as well. E informs me that I can make an audio file of it, and I just might.

Also, one of my students gave me a Christmas pudding. I guess I’m feeding it to the orphans, although I have never cooked one before and I now have Pudding Anxiety, as well as Holiday Mood Disorder.

That’s Christmas sorted, though. Dad stays on the Island, Bo goes to Toronto and then to New York for an Important Philosophy Prof conference, and I cook for the orphans in the neighborhood.

Lots of people pity our family because we are so bad at togetherness. But Dad doesn’t seem to be eager to spend Christmas with Bo or me. I think it makes him miss Mom too much. Bo’s wife is in T.O. for Christmas. And me? I’d rather not make Dad sad, and my gravy and Yorkshires make the orphans happy. So I am best deployed to Jim’s kitchen, where I can make Christmas dinner for a bunch of people I care about, drink some wine, and be a part of the community I love and rely on. As far as I’m concerned, that’s not pity-worthy. That’s the point of being human.

Student Night

That was awesome! Our belly dance class danced our last (for a while, anyhow) student night tonight. We all danced our hardest and our best. My favorite part was the after-show impromptu dancing: No script, no rules. Hilary slung a borrowed coin belt on Els’s daughter, and she shimmied with the rest of us. I’m so glad the Sunset Grill could host us for this one.

I remember poking my nose into the very same venue some fourteen years ago, having come to dance class for about six weeks. I was astonished at the beauty and poise of the dancers, and when our teacher beckoned me to go up on the dance floor with all the other dancers, I was terrified. All those people! Looking at me!

Tonight was different. Apart from a few jitters, I was fine. My fellow classmates probably noticed the hiccups while I was dancing, but I think, overall, my solo went well. And with the group pieces, well, I’m always going to be a little confused. But on stage that small, who can tell?

It was just wonderful!

Eggnog WIN!

Sometimes the elements of the day combine to become so much more than the sum of their parts.

12:50 PM, Tremblay’s spare parts room. I select an ice scraper that needs to go to a car in my neighborhood. Look for the code scanner thing the boss assures me is easy to use. Liar! Norm, who could give a bull seal a run for its money, shows me how to use the scanner on the car. Okay, it is sort of easy. I pocket the scraper for later. Then, several mechanics laugh at me for doing a little “What, what, wait, what?” dance in the parking lot as I talk to the boss.

2:26 PM, my classroom. I get a call from my landlord who offers me some whipping cream he’s not going to use. It’s in a cooler on the porch. I decide it is a sign from the universe and pick up rum to make eggnog.

9:15 PM, my kitchen. I take a sip of eggnog. Wow! The Good! Mmm, evening of eggnog and Smartfood. Calorific, but I am mighty fortified.

12:07 AM, email from Melissa. She had the car that needs the scraper. I venture out. Eggnog protective wall of cream and egg and rum means I have plenty of energy for the task, plus I can’t feel the cold!

A Good Day. I think that might be why eggnog was invented. It’s like super-extra fortification against cold and damp and apathy.

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