Category Archives: daily deedle-deedle

Being Thankful, in Canada

Canadian Thanksgiving is organized so well. It’s the first weekend in October, so it kicks off the season with a big turkey dinner, which we eat happily, knowing we won’t be having turkey again for another two and a half months. In America, Thanksgiving is so close to Christmas that the leftover from the first holiday could almost furnish the next holiday’s meal. My husband doesn’t particularly care for turkey, so he’s thankful for the larger gap we have up north. Actually, we didn’t even have turkey on Thanksgiving. My mother is in Bermuda and she took her turkey dinner know-how with her. We had friends round and had fun snacking on appies, like an apple and goat cheese pizza that turned out better than I’d anticipated. I’m thankful for that!

I’m also thankful my sister’s family survived Hurricane Faye, which hit Bermuda with terrifying force. The home videos were scary, although they would have been scarier if there wasn’t laughter in the background. Their house is situated in a very sheltered location so they were quite sanguine. I’m thankful for that too.

Being thankful is on my mind as I recently watched About Time, which is one of those movies that reminds you to appreciate life. I’m also reading The Orenda by Joseph Boyden and oh my god I’m thankful I live in these times and this place and not the time and place in the novel. And here in the first world we do need to remember our many blessings and stop complaining about all our first world problems. One of our chefs is leaving and tonight he made the most beautiful, seasonal omakase meal for our family. I ate so much I’m going to have heartburn later. See? First world problem.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

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Summer Update!

My limited spare time has been taken up by practicing piano, as I had a piano lesson in July! My first in over 25 years. I was so nervous my hands were shaking and I made way more mistakes than I usually do. But it was extremely beneficial so I’m glad I did it. Many hours on Beethoven’s Sonata 17, the one Glenn Gould plays like his hair’s on fire and he can’t douse it until he’s through. Obviously I don’t play it that fast, but I’m working on memorization now and I think that will help with a lot of issues. I’ve now been working on this for 6 months! On and off, obviously, but still. My husband’s starting to feel he could probably play it himself by now, he’s heard it so much.

So that’s one reason I’m a bit behind on the blogging. We spent three weeks on Vancouver Island, which we call The Island, and it was gorgeous:IMG_8133

And we made cinnamon buns:

IMG_8170

But we had SO MANY guests. Too many. And when you have guests, you wind up making major breakfast, major lunch, and then a major dinner. For 15! So I had very little down time and that’s exhausting. It’s hard though; I love everyone who came, I’m happy to have seen them, but it was too much. Not sure how we’ll organize things next year but something has to give. I don’t think it’s cool to suffer through stuff that you can totally control and then complain about it later, but that’s essentially what I’ve just done. Sorry! Learn from my mistakes.

Next year’s resolutions:

  • Limit stays to 3 nights MAX.
  • Try to have only one family at a time.
  • Have Leftover Night and if people don’t like it then maybe they won’t come next year. Yes, we’re restaurateurs and we eat leftovers.
  • Let people fend for themselves for breakfast! Everyone gets up at a different time. Brunch once a week only.
  • Ask people to take responsibility for one meal. It’s nice that people bring food, but sometimes it’s extremely difficult to make a coherent meal plan with a lot of rapidly spoiling, diverse ingredients.

Pet peeves:

People who wander through and say vaguely, “Anything I can do?” before wandering out again. It’s annoying to have to be the general all the time. I have to think of tasks for people to do. That’s work in itself.

When people do something helpful but make more work for me in the end. Someone did dishes but didn’t rinse anything first, just got the sponge all clagged up with black grease so I had to throw it away. And you can’t complain! That’s the thing. Because people are Helping. But sometimes no help is better than some help. Like when people put my expensive Japanese knives in the dishwasher! OH YES THEY DID. And I can’t be mad when people are trying to be helpful. But I’m mad anyway, I just feel really guilty about it. You should see me smile with gritted teeth. But. At the end of the day, it’s all good, and I’m grateful to have wonderful friends and family who want to spend time with us! You take the good, you take the bad. I took the good, and now I’m kvetching here.

Now I’ve just come back from being a house guest at someone else’s beach cottage. Ahhh. That was fun! We stayed 3 nights – because that’s enough – and I taught my hosts how to make cinnamon buns.

Next post: book reviews!

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Samurai and Ninja

Our kids take Japanese language lessons. They’ve been learning the language since they were two when they started at an immersion preschool, and we’ve always had Japanese-speaking babysitters. Now our Japanese-speaking sitter is more of a tutor which is good because I don’t speak Japanese at all. My husband does speak Japanese, after ten years in Japan and another ten years of arguing with Japanese chefs in our restaurants.

The teachers in the school are lovely, and the girls enjoy their classes. I’m amazed by what they are learning – my 9-year-old is already learning kanji, the complicated characters that express an entire word or concept. There are many strokes to each character and you have to do the strokes in the right order.  They also learn about Japanese customs and traditions and history. It’s great.

Japanese schools are big on parent participation, which is fine, except that I never know what’s going on and just stand there with uncomprehending eyes and a frozen smile while I wait for Justin to translate what’s going on. Everyone else speaks Japanese – at least the moms do (when there’s a caucasian dad who speaks Japanese he usually speaks it a lot just so that everyone knows that he speaks the lingo – show offs).  Many of the kids are half-Asian, with a Japanese mother and a Canadian father, so these sessions work for them, but they don’t work for me. So I attend, reluctantly, and am constantly mystified.

Yesterday’s demonstration was no exception. The topic they were expositing was “Samurai and Ninja.” Or, “Killers and Assassins” to my western mind. Totally appropriate for kids age 6-10! But Samurai and Ninja! Pretty exciting. I’m sure people were disappointed that there was no hara-kiri (ritualized suicide) demonstrations but time was limited, so. We did learn what foods samurai and ninja ate (yes to rice and fish, no to hamburgers and spaghetti). Then the kids recited Japanese tongue twisters and the adults were encouraged to also recite tongue twisters (me, frozen smile, polite refusal). I don’t know what this had to do with samurai or ninja but a lot went over my head.

The climax of the demonstration was when we used black garbage bags to make ninja costumes for the kids. It’s basically an engineers’ raincoat: you cut a hole for the head and arms, cut a strip off the bottom for a belt, and you’re good. We made ninja headgear with a garbage bag cut in half and then folded into a triangle. Laid atop the head across the forehead with the point to the back, and then the sides folded against the cheeks, crossed under the chin and tied behind the neck, they were adorable.

One small thing I noticed though. I’ve seen The Last Samurai and I’ve read Shogun, so I figure I pretty much know everything there is to know about ninja. I could be wrong, but ninja were quiet, right? Because you never heard so much rustling in your life. It was the sound of an army walking through dry autumn leaves. These ninja could not sneak up on a marimba band. So I’m guessing the garbage-bag costumes were not exactly authentic. But like I said, I didn’t really understand everything that was happening.

But they were so sweet:

Ninja

I didn’t want to have the kids’ faces in here for obvious reasons.

So: we learned that ninjas didn’t eat spaghetti, it’s fun to see your kid dressed as garbage, and I didn’t have to perform a Japanese tongue-twister.

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Calling 911 on a Monday Morning

I was checking my email this morning while Justin took the girls to school. Ten minutes later I heard a lot of shouting and went to the front door to check it out. It’s a quiet neighbourhood and I’m just as much a looky-loo as the next person. Also one of the shouting voices sounded like my husband’s.

I opened the door to find the hedge in front of the house shaking and two heads bobbing up and down on the far side of it. I called out, “Should I call the police?” and Justin yelled, “Yes!” The other man was shouting incoherently and they were struggling. I couldn’t wait to find out what was happening.

The next looky-loo after me was a neighbour one block over who was loading his truck for work and heard all the shouting. He came over to see what was going on and if he could help. I went for the phone and stood at the door dialling 911. I’m afraid I was a bit incoherent on the phone because I didn’t know how to describe the situation to get an appropriate response. “Ah, my husband is struggling with a man I don’t know in front of our house.” 911: “Do you want police?” Me: “I think so.”

At this point the man took a wild swipe at my husband with his computer bag. I was rather shocked as a computer bag, if it contains a computer, can really hurt you, but the swipes were more of the flailing kind. It was clear the bag was heavy, so if he’d managed to connect Justin would have been in some pain, but the bag was clearly heavy enough that it was difficult for the man to aim with any accuracy. Hence the wild flailing; the bag described uneven ellipses in the air that came nowhere near Justin. This was when I noticed that the man was a bit older than Justin. It took me that long because the stream of profanity issuing from his lips was really worthy of someone considerably younger.

The police arrived, everyone was interviewed, and here’s what all the fuss was about:

We are one of the few houses in the neighbourhood to have a driveway. But I also have a Honda Odyssey, a longish minivan. If people park too close to either side of the driveway, and especially if someone then parks on the street across from our driveway, I have a terrible time getting in and out of the driveway and hence into the garage. The van is just too long. Plus, if someone is parked that close to the driveway I can’t see oncoming cars. Justin has placed our garbage bin just in front of the house on the left side of the driveway to prevent cars from parking on that side. Plus, it’s convenient on garbage day. It’s not the most aesthetic arrangement but it works. But people do park very close to the other edge of the driveway and that’s the worst for me because that’s the direction in which I’m usually heading.

I’m not a draftsman.

So this man had parked his car very close to our driveway, well past the 1.5m stipulated by the Parking Authority of Vancouver. Justin was right there when he did it, so he politely asked him to move his car. The man’s response was “F*** off!” and he shoved Justin.

Now it’s important to remember that you can’t manage in the restaurant business if you have no self-control. Justin has had ten years of dealing with difficult guests, guests who get drunk and belligerent, and he’s very good at it. He somehow gets them all calmed down and then they’re best buddies after that.

But. Total ranting aggression on top of rude parking behaviour? That’s not on. So that’s why all the shouting and pushing and dancing in the hedge and eventually flailing and then police cars and witnesses.

I didn’t get to relate my side of things, which is kind of disappointing because I think I would be a great witness. And nobody got driven off, in handcuffs, in the back of a police car. Basically, it’s not a felony to be rude and a jerk. Fortunately, it’s also not a felony to overreact a bit to rude jerks. So it was kind of a wash. I had another look out the front door to see everyone telling their side to the police officers and I’m pretty sure I saw some uniformed eye-rolling. Tempest, tea pot, etc., etc.

But we haven’t had this much excitement since the time Justin, a notorious night owl, got up at 5:30am to catch our newspaper thief. It turned out to be an older lady who seemed a little bit demented, so he felt bad and brought her home to her husband, but still, justice was served, sort of. That was a lively morning too.

I feel a bit bad because he wouldn’t get so upset with people parking inconsiderately if it wasn’t for the fact that I make a HUGE fuss when people do that and I can’t get out of the driveway. I never catch the people either so I just vent to Justin. He was totally primed for this morning’s action. Knight, shining armour, etc., etc.

I was wondering if Mr. Bad Parker was ordinarily a nice person and Justin just rubbed him the wrong way. But another neighbour recognized him and said that she’d seen him cycling on the seawall. He nearly sideswiped a woman with a baby stroller and when the woman said something to him he let loose a stream of profane aggression which he must have always at the ready. So I guess he’s one of those people to steer clear of in general.

I always wonder about people who seem to need to do whatever they want, whenever they want, regardless of the impact on their near neighbours. They don’t seem to care when they annoy, inconvenience, or endanger others. What is this? When you live in a city, cheek by jowl with other people, it’s part of the social contract to not annoy other people. Playing loud music? Annoying. Don’t do it. Having a dangerous dog running around biting people? Not good either. If you need to do this kind of thing, you need to live out in the woods like the Unabomber. But in cities, we all have to get along. The reason that both Britain and Japan have such elaborate social rules is because they’re small countries and people live in close proximity. In order to keep from killing each other, they devised all these courtesies in order to make everybody comfortable. It’s nice when everyone knows the rules.

North America being the melting pot it is, the rules are imported by every incoming group, so there are so many different sets of manners that it’s hard to keep everybody comfortable, hence more clashes. So many misunderstandings! The Asians are all taking our shoes off when we enter the house. The Italians and French kiss you many times on the cheeks when they greet you. The Aussies wonder why the drinks aren’t coming out fast enough. It’s really hard to make everyone happy!

I don’t think today’s incident was a culture clash though, it was about someone being obnoxious about annoying people, annoying someone who’s all about the rules.

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Yoga for Hockey Players

My husband and I work out twice a week with trainers – it’s the only way we’ll do it. When you have an appointment, you make the time. But we’re aware that we should be doing at least one other activity every week. I thought yoga would be a good supplement to our program and the trainers thought so too.

Here’s the thing about yoga: I don’t want any philosophy.  I don’t need to be told what to eat or how to think. I’ll laugh when something is funny. I don’t mind the breathing thing but it only takes me about 30 seconds to figure it out. I just want to stretch and move from pose to pose in a fairly swift manner because I’m easily bored. I don’t want to breathe in and breathe out and breathe in and breathe out for fifteen minutes. Inside my head one big scream just builds and one day it’s coming out. Not very yoga, I know. Apparently this means I need it more than anyone.

I tried Bikram yoga a few times but the high temperature caused me to nearly faint on one occasion. On another occasion I got so dehydrated I got a terrible headache afterward. On all occasions I’m put off by the fact that the temperature in there is so high that it’s essentially turned all the sweat into steam and I’m breathing in the steam of other people’s sweat, OMG OMG OMG. Bikram is popular so the classes are usually crowded; this means your head is usually in fairly close proximity to someone else’s feet. You’d think people would get pedicures. Also, the heat, the moisture, and the fact that they run many classes per day makes you wonder about the state of the walls. I bet there’s some black mold in there. Sometimes the rooms are carpeted! They literally squish with moisture.

So, no Bikram. No Kundalini. I haven’t tried Ashtanga or Power or Hatha yoga yet because I haven’t been able to find a class to fit my schedule.

I found out about a yoga called Yoga for Runners – apparently it’s a no-nonsense yoga and this sounded good to me. So we dropped in on a class.

 

This is Justin doing yoga, only not so flexible. Or in a tux. I couldn’t find Ken’s board shorts and the girls have him dressed to get married. Again. We have about 50 Barbies and only 3 are male so you do the math. It’s like Bountiful only with snazzier clothes; check out Ken’s pink tux. (If you are not from B.C., “Bountiful” is a town in British Columbia run, essentially, by a Mormon-ish cult. Like all cults, the main thing is the older men securing all the young girls for themselves. Our Bountiful scenario here is actually not accurate; in Bountiful they would have have given Justin Bieber five bucks and a peanut butter sandwich and run him off and Ken and John Smith (from Pocahontas) would be running the show.)

Back to yoga.

We spent a lot of time sitting on our feet, it was like one long Japanese tea ceremony. We would then go into a downward dog, then plank, then do a slow pushup, then downward dog again. Lots of this. We got up on our knees once:

Justin Bieber is actually pretty good at yoga

But that, plus some lunges, was it. Oh, and sometimes we lifted one leg off the ground:

John Smith can really maintain this pose

The instructor was good – very self-deprecating, funny, and he was very responsive when people seemed in pain. He spent a lot of time with Justin (not Bieber). I heard the words “rotator cuff” a few times, and my hands were actually killing me from all the pressure. (I think I’m getting a little arthritis in there. After a session of Beethoven at the piano my hands go all stiff and clunky.)  It was hard for me to remember to breathe properly because I was so worried about my husband; it was difficult to refrain from checking to see if he was ok. Waves of pain were emanating from the mat on my right.

Finally we got to go into “corpse” position for about 10 minutes. Justin was asleep after about 2 minutes; I could hear his breathing change.

Verdict? Well, we’re not runners, so it was probably best for actual runners. I liked the instructor but I wish we had moved into more poses. So I’m going to keep looking. I have a few leads and will check them out. Justin needs Yoga for Hockey Players; he’s incredibly stiff. He makes the Ken doll look like a Beanie Baby. Also, he injured his shoulder a year ago playing hockey and informed me the day after yoga that it felt like it was injured all over again. This is, of course, my fault.

Justin is going to try Bikram.

 

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Had to change my theme again!

I realized that my chosen them, Twenty Ten, was inserting my “About” blurb at the end of every post. This seems gratuitous, unnecessary, and as it’s hard-coded in I can’t do a thing about it.

So yet another theme.

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Theme change!

I changed my theme to reflect the fact that I’m no longer on vacation….I thought this looked a bit less relaxed and groovy. September looms.

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