Saturday, January 26, 2013

Past Deadline: What Flavour is Grey?

Here is this week’s Past Deadline, published in The Perth Courier on Jan. 24/13.
What flavour is grey?
My palate has not grown up. Or maybe it has. I dunno, but you can bet I am going to try to work it all out in this here space!
I’ve said before that I’ll eat anything as long as someone else cooks it. There are some limits to this – I mean, I won’t eat spoiled stuff or food that sets my mouth on fire and such, but I get a little thrill when someone other than me prepares a meal and takes away the dishes. Oh, yeah.
It makes me less picky. I mean, we’re talking about someone who, while in the hospital having her babies, thought the fare was just fine. Heck, someone brought me food three times a day and cleaned up afterwards. It was great!
I hadn’t really thought much about the refinement of my palate, but I was recently at a business-type event with about 300 people. It featured a buffet dinner in a large hall. There was quite a selection of food – from appetizers and salads to a variety of main courses.
I tried a little bit of almost everything and, really, there wasn’t anything I didn’t like. I shovelled it in gratefully because someone else made it, someone else cleared the plates and – even better – I didn’t have to pay for it or have a baby to get it.
The only thing that occurred to me as I ate was that it was nice to have some different veggies other than the usual assortment I stick to at home to please all the tender little palates there.
After the main course and before the dessert, there was chitchat at our table about the meal. One wasn’t crazy about the veggies, another found the food wasn’t hot enough, some gave it a tepid review.
I paused. I was content. Why was I content? What is wrong with me? Was the food warm enough? Were the veggies actually odd?
I just couldn’t think of anything in particular to say about the meal. I found it…fine!
It was time for the dessert table, which featured an array of fresh fruit, squares, tarts, cakes slices and tiramisu-type thingies.
I selected some fruit and checked out the cake slices. They were layered and looked very light – more like mousse. Some appeared to have chocolate layers, but I chose something with a greenish tint, thinking there might be some lime flavouring.
I got back to the table and everyone was chatting as we ate. As I tucked into the cake I noticed that, in the lighting at the table, it looked as if the layers were more greyish than greenish. Interesting.
Others noticed, too. “What flavour is that?” someone asked.
I chewed thoughtfully. I had no idea. It was light and sweet. I could taste a tiny hint of vanilla, but other than that it was just light and sweet.
“I honestly don’t know,” I said.
A few people seemed wary of the girl munching on the grey cake. To put everyone at ease, I assured them it didn’t taste moldy or bad in any way. We agreed it was probably just food colouring and moved on with our lives.
So, yeah. I eat grey cake and don’t give it much thought. Apparently I’ll eat what’s on my plate – warm or cold, strange or not – as long as someone else makes it.
Besides, when it’s a free, buffet-style meal for hundreds of people, how picky can you get?
Maybe my palate could use some refining, but possibly I’m also good at adjusting my expectation level. That could, for example, explain why the hospital food was a hit.
Or maybe I just need to get out more….

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Past Deadline: Resolutions Revisited

Here is the latest “Past Deadline,” published in The Perth Courier on Jan. 10/13.
Resolutions revisited
As I write this, we are about a week into the new year and I feel inclined to provide an update on how those fantastic New Year’s “Revolutions” are working out.
Or not working out, as the case may be.
I decided to do this in part because it is snowing again. See, last week I wrote about snow and how much I like it in the winter. One of the brilliant gems I uttered was this: “Another reason I prefer snow is because it’s easier to get the kids outside. It has been awesome lately for fort building – those chunks of snow make great blocks.”
It all sounds very good, and the theory is solid, but the practice is proving to be, well, let’s just say my kids rarely decide on their own to just go outside – they usually have to be told. This is especially true for the oldest one, who sometimes needs to be pried away from the computer. (To her credit, Girlchild recently built a beautiful snow girl and snow dog who gaze happily at me when I am at the kitchen window.)Image
On a bright sunny day near the end of the Christmas break, I herded the youngsters outside by suggesting we build a snow mountain in the back yard that they could slide down. This led to a second snow pile that Girlchild used to make a fort. Suddenly the magic and versatility of snow was revealed and they spent two hours outside. You’d think they’d been living in Florida for the last decade.
I saw something on the Interwebs recently – can’t remember where – that said: “When I was a kid I only had one toy. It was called ‘outside.’”
So true. This is such a lost generation. It is up to us to teach our children “the Old Ways,” and that means opening the back door and gesturing broadly to the back yard. “Look, little ones! Grass! Trees! Flowers! Birds! Fresh air! Take these sticks and build something! Take this broom and pretend it is a horse and ride it! Stare at the clouds! Climb a tree! Make a mud pie! Ride a bike!”
I know I have no one to blame but myself for letting it come to this, although I also know I am not alone. Many parents are tackling the “nature deficit.”
That all said, I am inclined to add an addendum to my resolutions: “Get the kids outside!” My goal is for them to want to choose to go outside – not for it to be a chore that Mommy makes them do. And maybe that means unplugging a few screens around the house and meaning business about it.
Wish me luck.
As for the rest of the “revolutions,” my progress on that front has been…well…poor. I am going to blame the holidays because, as I write this, the kids are still off and routines are disrupted. Our sleep patterns are weird and we are still confronted with a variety of Christmas goodies lying around. It would be a crime to waste them.
Still…my pants are shrinking. I have to do something about this because a new wardrobe will break the budget. By the time you read this, I hope I will have done some form of decent exercise every day this week – something other than shovelling.
Also, here’s another addendum that was glaringly omitted from the list: “Eat less.” Seriously. Get a grip, woman! The number on the scale is startling!
The remaining resolution was “Don’t freak out in the face of change, conflict or difficulty.” Perhaps I should amend that to add: “but DO freak out about not going outside, not exercising and not eating less.”
Okay, everyone! Let’s go make a snow fort!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Past Deadline: The Great Goop Storm of 2012

Here’s this week’s “Past Deadline,” published in The Perth Courier on Jan. 3/13. Does shovelling count as exercise for my New Year’s resolutions?
The Great Goop Storm of 2012
“Snow. The final frontier. These are the voyages of the shoveller Stephanie. Her continuing mission: to uncover old, existing pavement, to seek out various porches and sweep off satellite dishes, to boldly go where she always goes after it snows….”
I’ve said it before – I don’t mind winter, even though I am not an avid winter sports person (“avid” and “sports” seldom go together in a sentence for me). I live in a part of Canada where winter is winter and I’ve come to expect snow. It brightens up the place and makes it pretty in the dark months.
The shovelling part can kinda stink, though.
As I write this, snow is gently falling on what undoubtedly would have been a snow day if the kids were in school. It is the second biggish winter storm, but the snow is about 500 times lighter than the first one.
Y’all remember the first storm before Christmas? The one that featured all manner of goop falling from the sky?
That was heavy stuff!
I loved how the first layer was freezing rain and water with a top layer of very wet snow. As you dug down to scoop up a small shovel-full (because a big scoop would either a. weigh 245 pounds and hurt your back or b. break the shovel), you were greeted with that layer of sticky watery goop at the bottom that actually stuck to the shovel.
Clearing porches and driveways and sidewalks (oh my!) was no easy feat. My shoulders ached for a good two days. (Thank you, ibuprofen.)
Foliage also needed rescue. Cedar hedges that withstood the Great Ice Storm of 1998 fell victim to the Great Goop Storm of 2012.
In a typical winter, we shake the snow off the cedar hedge that surrounds my in-laws’ backyard once or twice as it builds up, but this storm required urgent action. Boychild and I went out, armed with rakes, and clawed huge chunks of frozen goop off the hedge.
After that, my hands ached for about four days. Jeepers, it stinks getting older!
My other favourite part of that particular winter event was the next day. The town plows came through in the night and the temperature started to drop, so the next task was to remove the frozen ice boulders from the end of the driveway.
I felt as if I were working in the Silver Queen Mine – chopping away at icy rocks and hauling them off a bit at a time. Black powder might have been more effective.
Despite the achiness of the occasion, I’m still happy to see snow instead of freezing rain. I worry that as our climate changes, we’ll see less of this brightness and more freezing rain and darkness. Given my history of falling and busting my butt on indoor stairs, I’d rather not take chances with icy ones.
Another reason I prefer snow is because it’s easier to get the kids outside. It has been awesome lately for fort building – those chunks of snow make great blocks.
I am also trying to groom (mostly unsuccessfully at the moment) a pair of assistant snow shovellers. Seems they were much keener to shovel when they were younger, but I haven’t given up. Boychild tried to help with the Great Goop, but it was pretty heavy and he didn’t last long. (I felt his pain.)
I wonder how I will feel about snow in a decade or so when the assistant shovellers are grown and I’m that much older and achier?
Hopefully I will still view it as that frontier to be explored. Best to live in the moment I think….

Past Deadline: The Revolutions of 2013

Here is the final edition of “Past Deadline” for 2012, published Dec. 27/12 in The Perth Courier. Happy New Year, everyone!
The Revolutions of 2013
As one year winds down and we head into a new one, it’s time to reflect on those New Year’s Revolutions and see if I did what I said I was going to do and hatch a sinister plan to do a whole bunch of stuff in the new year.
Some years I get quite aggressive with my “live well and save the world” promises. Other years I strive for achievable goals, such as “stop eating sugar straight from the bag.” (No problem!)
Let’s reflect on the results of 2012.
Last year I opted to return to an exercise resolution. This was particularly important given the fact I have a Stupid Foot™ that collapsed in 2011, compelling me to abandon some of my favourite types of exercise.
Well, that resolution was a spectacular fail! Even though the foot feels better, it is not better enough for running. Walking seems to have fallen off the roster, too. The stationary bike has been idle. The swimming pool has only seen me as a spectator.
Clearly, this needs to be addressed, and fast. Exercising – actually doing it – is the number one item for 2013, assuming the world hasn’t ended, of course.
On a better note, I am pleased to report that, for the most part, I maintained an aggressive Hair Management Program™, which is to say I tried to avoid looking like a skunk when all the white hair started to show up. Not much of a life-altering, world-saving resolution, however, it is important to celebrate small achievements in order to bolster morale.
Maintaining a skunk-free image is incentive enough that I don’t actually have to indoctrinate it – so I’m not going to bother including it for 2013.
The third one from last year, however, bears repeating. It was “Don’t freak out in the face of change.”
I have learned to accept that change is constant. Some change is good. Other change – not so much. How we deal with it is the important thing.
A big example – something that has affected so many people – is the economy. Jobs are lost, positions are changing and people have to do things differently. The only thing you can really do is find a way to make it work.
I’m going to keep that resolution because it is a work in progress, and I am going to add “conflict or difficulty” to the end of it.
Sometimes we find ourselves in roles that attract conflict and difficulty and, in my experience, flying off into orbit does not necessarily help the situation. (It is also not very practical – space missions can break the budget.)
Under the “difficulty” category, I have found this “not freaking out” thing to be important when it comes to deadlines, too.
For example, every December a whole bunch of work deadlines converge for me, like planets aligning, and there’s not a darned thing I can do about it. So, as December approaches, I complete as much as I can in advance, then take a deep breath and bury myself in an intense workload for two weeks or so, knowing as I go that there will be light at the end of the tunnel. Adrenalin, momentum and coffee keep me going. My family has learned to ignore the crazy lady at the desk.
The December deadline thing is probably as close as I will ever come to running a marathon. Unfortunately, that type of marathon does nothing for muscle tone and does not count toward the exercise resolution.
There you have it. No new revolutions, just recycled ones. That’s all the “change” I can handle!
Happy New Year, everyone! And please save the world – it needs our help.