Getting Behind Your Country

To say you are in love with your country is a statement not many would freely utter unless prompted.

But I love Canada. I love Manitoba. I love Winnipeg and all it’s quirky little personalities. Because yes, Winnipeg most definitely has a personality. It throws incredible weathery temper tantrums but when it is having a good day, we ALL get to bask in it. It has bumpy roads to nowhere but when you find one tucked away that not many others have been down you are treated to the spectacular beauty that it hides deep inside. It may not have mountains but if you get in a canoe and just paddle, you will soon find yourself in either the sweltering heat of the Amazon or the freezing cold of the Arctic ocean.

But I digress. Canada, as a whole, is often overlooked and underrated. I think that is why those who choose to live here get rather passionate when it comes to their undying support of the teams that reside within these beautiful (and un-walled) borders.

For me, there are 3 sports or events that have taken us to the international stage that have required my never ending and vocal support because when faced off against the rest of the world, the Big 4 or the mighty Americans, we have always been viewed as the underdogs, the automatic seconds, the chokers.

I’m talking the Olympics, tennis and NBA basketball.

I will be an instant fan of any Olympic sport that has a Canadian athlete participating in it and I will cheer like I have been following their story since they were 6 and their mom got them up in the morning to drive them to practice. I will tear up when they win and feel the heartbreak when they don’t and I will watch the medal counts like a hawk and mutter “ughhhh those Americans” when they sneak past us, which they inevitably do.

If you are a Canadian tennis player who has made it on to the scene, you will have our immediate and relentless support from the other side of our TV screen. Milos, Vasek, Genie, Aleks, Frank, heck even the veteran Daniel who, more often than not lately, is the last one remaining in a tournament left for us to cheer for. We desperately want to see you do good. And when Milos comes up against Djokovich or Murray, we cringe a little inside but do we whoop and hollar at every point he gets? Yes, yes we do.

We have just one NBA team here in Canada. They historically haven’t done too much to be memorable but in the last few years they have started to rise up and join the ranks of the big dogs. This year they made it through two rounds of playoff ball and in the last round, the deciding round, they fell to a giant. But what was so fantastic about that was that NO ONE outside of Canada had any faith that they would get to where they did. No one thought they could beat who they beat, game after game, night after night. They faltered, yes, and some will joke that hey, they’re Canadian, of course they choked. But while they were falling this entire country had their hands out to catch them and raise them back up to where they belonged.

So yes, I’ll be the one on the couch with damp eyes when our Olympic athletes take the podium in their red and white AND when they have to walk away with nothing. I’ll be the one on the couch with the damp eyes when our tennis players hoist the giant trophy in victory AND when they walk off the court first, proud but in defeat. I’ll be the one on the couch with damp eyes when our NBA team makes it to the semis when no one even gave them a second thought AND when they have to sit in their press conference and each fight over who’s fault it was that they lost because even if these kids weren’t born in Canada, they are Canadian now.

Oh Canada. The big little country that could.

our simple but beautiful flag

Oh Canada!

At My Nanny’s Table

I enjoy setting a nice table. Decor to match the theme. Fresh flowers somewhere in the room. The “nice” cutlery brought out. But I don’t even come CLOSE to how my nanny set the table. No one has.

The chairs, dark, old and somewhat rickety, padding added to make up for decades of bottoms firmly planted, all sitting snug to ensure everyone fit. And we all did.

First, a lightly padded layer on top of the table itself. Covered by a cotton table cloth of little design. It would be nothing fancy, no garish print or god forbid plastic of any kind.

The placemats were small and stiff and intended to more protect the wood of the table from the heat of the plate than a giant rectangle of plastic intended to catch the scraps of a messy eater because yes, the plates were always heated. The mats had printed images of hunting scenes from the 1920’s or castles with lush greens around them. We would always check to see which ones we were given and trade if the need arose.

The silverware, clean, shiny, laid out just right without being so abundant that it was confusing. The forks always seemed big and the dessert spoon and fork always sat at the top of the placemat. I can still see my Pipe sitting at the table when I would pop in randomly for lunch, cleaner and cloth in hand, shining up the silver piece by piece.

For the life of me I cannot recall what type of napkins there were but something tells me Nanny likely would have had cloth. I was a kid, I didn’t use napkins.

A short little vase sat in the centre of the table with some fresh flowers spilling out. Nothing ostentatious. Just some carnations, maybe lilacs from outside.

I don’t recall candles on the table. Only the one candle on the shelves behind the table that looked like it must be old fashioned because the holder part looked like a saucer and had the little finger hold so you could carry it and walk around. They only did that in the olden days.

Pepper came in a tiny pepper shaker and salt came in a wee dish with an even more wee spoon. I would get in trouble for playing with the doll size set, pouring the salt over itself.

If it was lamb there would be a mint sauce in a green glass dish with a spoon. If it was beef there would be horseradish in a clear glass dish with a spoon.

Everything came out on its own serving tray or bowl. Glass, china, silver. Nothing chintzy. You passed around and helped yourself and never would Nanny ever dare to provide you with a plate that already had food loaded on it. We chose how much of what item we each wanted. It was a family dinner, not a restaurant.

I remember there never being salad.

Pipe and one of us would clear the plates away and another one of us would help Nanny bring out the dessert. There would always, and I mean ALWAYS, be more than one option.

Most frequently, and if we were lucky, there would be treacle tart. Oh my god the treacle tart. There would, more often than not, be warm custard, perhaps a little cake that felt very heavy and very much not from a box, or little meringues with pineapple on top. She would sometimes do a pie with pastry from scratch and would moan about how the pastry didn’t work out, every time.

When we had all had our fill and my dad would announce that his sufficiency had been suffonsified, one of us would help Pipe clear away the remaining items from the table and create the long line of dishes to be done on the counter.

We would take the little orange contraption that both swept and collected the crumbs off the table and give it a whirl before placing it back on the little stand in the kitchen.

The table cloth got folded, same with the liner underneath. If there was left over food, we would go to the hall cupboard and rummage through bags full of twist ties, bags full of margarine containers, bags full of bags and find something to store everything in.

We made fun of Nanny for the twist ties. Every time.

Then, when one of us had helped Pipe with the dishes, we would all sit in the living room, surrounded by the haze of a room full of smokers, port or sherry in tiny glasses lining the coffee table, the candy dish decimated by little fingers, and we would talk and play the alphabet game until it was time to go.

I’m very glad that there was so little in the way of technology back then. And while it is indeed an absolute way of life now, I will work to get back some of what we had when we sat at my Nanny’s table.

It was all very much just like my Nan. Fancy, but not overly so.

close to nannys

Close to Nan’s  – needs a table cloth!

 

 

Summer Days

As the temperature rises (and unexpectedly rapidly drops, as we have recently experienced), the pull to be out of doors rises equally. The annual poke through the dusty bins that hid from the wintry wind in the safety of the shed begins anew and we find treasures long forgotten.

Deflated balls representing all sports, jumpropes and skipballs that likely will remain untouched by the soon-to-be teen, bits and bobs of the bicycle-part variety, frisbees and kites destined to spend the next 6 months in the back of the car for the just in case moments and impromptu park stops.

The garage will be void of shovels and snowblowers, replaced with lawnmowers and gardening tools, and bicycles will once again make getting out of the car a little tricky on the left hand side.

A quick once-over of the current state of our patio set leaves something to be desired. Bird poop from overhead target practice and enough spider webs to make even Charlotte jealous can be cleaned off but the rust on the frame work from seasons spent under a blanket of snow call as loud as the geese flying by for a full replacement.

So the search is on. Chairs, ideally stack-able for winter storage and preferably without cushions that I have to remember to take off when it rains or go collect from about the yard when our summer winds pick up. Table, large enough for 6 without having to pull a lawn chair over to accommodate all of the food offerings that don’t fit on the tiny bits of available space on the table. Umbrella, nope. We spent more time trying to corral that bugger in the wind that we did enjoying its shade and thus, it spent more time on the floor beside the table than upright where it belonged.

And so I wait, flip flops at the ready, cold drink and a good book on standby. Dinner al fresco every weekend. Coffee in the morning sun. Serenaded into the evening by the frogs and other critters.

Deck life.

We are hearty enough to withstand our Winnipeg winters. And as such, we are rightfully rewarded with our Winnipeg summers.

Summertime

Summertime, and the livin’ gets decidedly easier!

Where the Words Came From

The first thing I actually remember writing that ever earned any accolades, was a poem. The Charleswood Legion held a contest on Remembrance Day and I entered a poem and I won.

That is not to say I hadn’t written anything noteworthy prior to that, but it is my first piece that I can recall being read by people other than myself, my teachers, or my parents.

My mum showed me a little newspaper that I had made when I was much younger. It’s adorable and likely factually accurate in the way any 6 year old’s newspaper would be.

The next thing I remember is another poem that I wrote in Grade 12 that my teacher took issue with and actually called my mum about. My mum, being the amazing author and wicked wordsmith that she is, marched down to the school and skewered that dude like a shrimp on the barbie.

Beyond that, I wrote in many an unfinished journal, left poems scattered about like leaves, and grew my fascination with books that stemmed from endless childhood summers spent competing in reading contests at the Charleswood Library.

Many moons later, when I was a nanny, I found a local parenting newspaper and decided it was lacking something. I wrote to the editor and pitched my idea. It wasn’t just parent’s that were scouring your publication for things to do with these kids. It was nannies and daycare workers and teachers. So I earned myself a lippy little column that I would now call cringe-worthy. It turned into more of a “don’t do this if you have a nanny because she’ll hate you and leave” column and was my venting place for all things parenting that I didn’t have the guts to say to the parents who had left their child in my care.

Beyond that, a few published pieces here and there and endless blogs to post my prose seemed to sum up my writing life. Random and rambling, unfocused and many times unread, the blogs were a creative outlet that had no clear direction and no clear meaning but at the time, selfishly served their purpose.

Till now. 

I still love words. I still love books. I find enough on the internet to drink in all the information I need. I read about things that I normally wouldn’t. I write about things that I normally wouldn’t. I appreciate well thought out pieces. I acknowledge beautifully written ideas. I share. And I take in.

I love the patience of written words. I love that the written word gifts people with time and the opportunity to take a moment, to think about their reply, to respond with thoughtful and useful information. I love that the written word gives you a moment to colour your thoughts, to say more than you could or ever would out loud.

And so I muddle on, piecing together thoughts, stringing together sentences that try to tell a story or prove a point or embrace an idea. That movie script, that novel, those first drafts? They may never see the light of day.

Write them anyway.

 

William Wordsworth

Or the screen!

Surprises and Getting Back Into Things

Nearly two weeks ago I surprised McK with a trip to Toronto. I had kept this trip a secret for nearly 4 months, telling next to no one about it for fear that they would trip up and let even a tiny morsel slip.

When she woke up that morning, thinking she was going to school, she was oblivious to the butterflies in my belly. I played the morning ritual out like it was any other day. Wake her up at 7 am. Drag her out of bed at 7:10. Listen to her wash her face and brush her teeth and wait for the “Can you come straighten my hair” call. I chatted with her while we fussed around in the bathroom, like it was any other day.

She sat at the island like she always does. “Juice?” “Sure.”

Then, as it by some weird stroke of magic, I just HAPPENED to remember that my friend Leslie sent us a video and hey kiddo, you should watch this.

And then I saw the confusion in her face, the furrowed brow that appears when she is trying to work something out that makes no sense to her initially. She has had it for years. A look of “I should know what’s going on but I don’t”. Suspicion. Confusion. All emotions rolled into one.

The video ended with Carter and Leslie talking about meeting us in Toronto for a concert by one of her current favourite bands, The GazettE. I asked if she’d like to do that, like to go to Toronto. She looked a little giddy and said YES. Then, because I don’t think she realized the immediacy of it all, I told her it was that day, that we were leaving in a half hour to go to the airport and no, she would not be going to school for the next three days.

More furrowed brow.

“But…I’m not ready!”

Oh yes you are. I had it all taken care of. And off we went.

It was awesome. 

It reminded me how much I loved planning things for people I care about. How much I loved going to new places. How much I loved coming home.

It was very, VERY hard getting back into the swing of things once we got back. Its been a week now and I am starting to feel like we are back into our routine. Odd how 3 days away during the week can throw you off like that. Doesn’t typically happen when you venture out over a weekend because those were days that are meant for exploring.

But disappearing for half a week when you should be at work and school? That is scrumptious. And hard to recover from.

Alas, lunches don’t make themselves, groceries don’t appear in the fridge by magic, laundry doesn’t suddenly become clean all on its own. We are back and we are gearing up again.

And yes, I am planning more stuff.

Of course I am.

Downsizing

When most people speak of reducing clutter and simplifying their lives, they often refer to it as downsizing. Getting rid of the car. Buying in to the tiny house craze. Going minimalist with your furnishings.

Not me.

Downsizing to me means getting rid of the stress. Buying in to the “me time” craze. Going full-on-comfort with your furnishings.

Downsizing need not leave you feeling empty, like you have lost your “things”. Clearly it means different things to different people but in my mind, if you can eliminate the items/people/tasks that added clutter and disorganization to your mind, then you have downsized. You have reduced. You have simplified.

This holiday season I enlisted a few close friends to fall in with my new plan of rethinking the way I did Christmas. Back on my About page I mentioned the conversation I had with a customer many years ago and finally decided it was time.

There were three rules:

  • No gifts over $10, if any, to see how far a tenner could go.

  • If you could make it, bake it, or create it, it was fair game and the sky was the limit.

  • And we would do something together with our kids that somehow made this crazy world a better place at some point within the year.

And it was probably the best Christmas I have had in a long, long time. Not only did I get to unleash my creative beast, but I got oodles of my favourite cookies, hand made woolly items for cold winter days, and snacks for miles!

I have decided to carry that into all holidays and birthdays with my amazing tribe of women. I cannot thank them enough for bringing a dose of fun and creativity back into the holidays with me.

It did feel weird though, to not have a closet full of random presents that I had to try and keep track of for a month or so. It also felt weird not to stop and buy, buy, BUY leading up to Christmas.

When you are actively NOT buying, it becomes very easy to see why you actually DO keep buying right up to the big day. You lose track of what you have. You see that one more perfect thing. You figure oh its only a few bucks. And before you know it, you have more than you need, more than they’ll use, more than is necessary.

So a challenge to you all then. I don’t expect everyone to go all Martha Stewart right away, but give some thought to downsizing your holiday stress. Is there someone in your world who might actually appreciate a handmade item, no matter how decidedly UN-crafty it may end up looking? Do you have a friend who has told you they LOVE your baking? Does your partner keep mentioning wanting to volunteer together at a local event?

Let that be your gift.

 

How do you think you can simplify a stressful holiday season? Got any great tips on easy-to-make gifts, baking hacks, or cool craft ideas? Share in the comments!

A Letter to Myself

No. This isn’t the type of “letter to myself” you have come to expect from the internet. No lessons to my younger self. No resolutions sent to my future self. Rather, its an in-the-moment-note to me right now, so the me-who-is-busy-later won’t forget.

If you took a peek in my sent folder, I would hazard a guess that the highest volume of outgoing emails are directed at this chick, right here. I write myself notes all day long. I write them in the morning when I am fresh out of the shower and had to keep repeating the one thing I didn’t want to forget as I rinsed out the conditioner until I could dry my hands enough to unlock my phone and send the email to myself. I write them while I get my kiddo ready for school in between making her hot chocolate and changing out her lunch items because “grossssss  mommmm!”. I write them when I am safely parked while waiting for her to ever-so-cautiously cross the road to get to school.

I write them mid-invoice payment, mid-travel booking, mid-meeting planning because if I don’t write them down that instant, they are gone.

I don’t think I have a terrible memory. In fact, I’d say its quite the opposite. I can remember how to get somewhere by noticing the sign painted on the side of a building. I can tell you what you wore to a certain occasion 4 years ago. I can remember facts and figures about multiple sports and multiple players at any given time. But if you want me to remember to put the boots in the car that someone wants to buy from me off Kijiji in the morning or to check the Funko Pop website to see if the have The Outsiders figures, into an email it goes. (Yes, those were literally my last two emails to myself.)

I get that this won’t work for everyone. Some people can’t be bothered to write stuff down, on paper OR keyboard. Some people can remember the mundane little tasks like picking up dish soap or looking for ski goggles.

But me? I want it in writing.

I want to see that I have one unread email that tells me what I am supposed to do next.

These emails to myself are yester-years little scraps of paper. Some tidbits get added to the calendar (just like my mom used to do), some get taken care of and deleted, some get replied to over and over again as more items are added to the list.

But nothing gets forgotten.

my-memory-is-so-bad-how-bad-is-it-how-bad-is-what-quote-1

She’s digging in her purse for her scraps of paper!

 

With so much seeming to go on at the same time, and a bunch of tasks that are perhaps not date-focused enough to need a calendar notification, how do you keep track of everything? Leave a comment up near the top and share your tips!