Friday, April 29, 2011

Wedding Watching

A Royal Wedding Special Edition Blog

Did you get up before dawn to watch the Royal Wedding? (Or stay up late if you live on the west coast?) I did. I got up at 4 a.m., but decided it was more sensible to record it and went back to bed until 7:00.

It was 10 a.m. by the time I finished watching the whole thing.  I thought it was glorious – even though I watched many portions on Fast Forward. But then, I’ve been a royal watcher all my life. If you are less than a fan, this blog might not be your “cuppa tea,” as they say. If you are a fan, like me, read on.

What impressed you the most? Of course, I’m betting that everyone was impressed with the pageantry of it all, the smooth operation of the British public spectacle, the beauty of the young couple, the hats, the bride’s dress, again, her beauty, and the majesty of it all.

I had some particular favorites in the “Wow, that’s impressive!” category: the Archbishop of Canterbury’s eyebrows for one. The clarity of HD TV for another. I don’t remember Charles and Diana’s wedding as being this clear! In my mind, it retains a grainy, foggy, archival appearance.  The soaring Gothic architecture of Westminster Abbey never fails to impress. And the police line that led the crowd of thousands down the Mall and into the circle at Buckingham Palace I found to be especially impressive. So many people, all moving at once, all peacefully gathering for a joyous occasion.

And then there was the impeccable scheduling of the event. Every arrival timed perfectly, by the minute, all going exactly on time. That made me think about my Royal Wedding schedule, which follows, if you are interested. All times are in Eastern Standard Time:

3:59 a.m.          Asleep – really enjoying it.
4:00                 Alarm goes off. Stumble downstairs and put on the TV.
4:02                 Realize from the schedule posted on NBC that the ceremony isn’t until  6:00 – 2 hours away. Don’t think I can stand it.
4:03                 Set the DVR to record from 4:00 – 10:00.
4:09                 Get back into bed.
4:10                 Toss and Turn. Wonder why I didn’t just stay up.
5:30ish             Asleep again, I think.
6:53                 Wake up. Stumble downstairs again. Let the dog out.
6:55                 Feed the dog.
6:57                 Turn on the TV. Catch the live action just as the newlyweds are about to walk up the aisle after the ceremony.
7:24                 Watch the recorded portions – some on FF to get to the good bits.
8:02                 Take a break to make a cup of tea and get some breakie.
8:25                 Return to live action to watch the wedding party wave from the palace balcony.
8:37                 Return to watching the recorded portions and continue until 10:02.

Well, o.k. – not that impressive.

I think Prince William’s best moment was when he turned to see Kate (or is it Cate? She is Catherine with a “C”) for the first time. Either his microphone wasn’t on yet, or maybe he mouthed the words to her. But from reading his lips, I’m sure that he said, “You look beautiful.”  The word “beautiful” was clear as day. I totally choked up.

Her best moment, in my opinion, was when the two had said their vows and were standing at the altar. You could hear a great cheer rise up from the crowds watching the ceremony on giant screens outside the Abbey. She smiled and seemed to choke up a bit. I'd like to think that it was a wonderful second of clarity for her about what was actually happening to her right then and there. It was a, "I wonder how it feels?" moment for the viewer. Imagine. She will be Queen one day and with that cheer she understood that she now has British subjects who adore her and young husband. How amazing is that?!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Ken and I voted in the Canadian general election today, which is to say that we mailed it in with plenty of time to reach Elections Canada by the May 2nd voting day. We get to do this because we are still Canadian citizens and somehow Elections Canada still manages to find us in spite of our moves. They send us absentee mail-in ballots even though we have lived in the US since 1999. Apparently there are more than 1 million absentee Canadian voters all over the world. I’m impressed that EC keeps track of that many voters and their return ballots. Especially when you consider how often Canada has an election. I think we’ve voted in Canada four or five times since becoming US residents – certainly the 3 times in 7 years or whatever it is that Stephen Harper’s minority Conservatives have been brought down by no-confidence motions.

I’m really proud to send in my ballot. When we hear there will be an election – again – we check online to find out who’s running in our old riding (electoral district) of Delta – East Richmond, BC. We write in our choice for candidate and I assume that Elections Canada knows which riding we belong to because of the bar code on the envelope. If this all sounds foreign to our US friends, it’s no wonder. Elections are one of those things that distinguish Canadians from Americans. While the American system cranks up an election campaign the day after inauguration of the president-elect – or so it seems – the Canadian election period is only 6 weeks from start to finish. And, as Harper continues to prove, it can happen any old time anyone gets upset enough to topple government. Also we don’t actually vote for the Prime Minister – we vote for our Member of Parliament in our riding – unless we live in the same riding in which the party leader is running and this person’s party happens to get the majority of seats in Parliament. Ken and I have never lived in the same riding as a party leader, but we did live in Vancouver in the 80s when Kim Campbell, also from Vancouver, became Prime Minister (way before Hillary thought about becoming president!) But I think Canada’s first female PM was in power for only, what was it, a couple of months (?) before she experienced her own no-confidence motion.

Another distinction between US and Canadian elections is that when Canadians go to the polls, and as far as I know this is the same as when we left the country, we mark our choices with stubby golf pencils making X’s on tiny pieces of paper. Ken found this particularly amusing during that dust up over “chads” in Florida a few years ago. This voting process has an earthy, primitive charm that I think must be lost in those US voting machines with their slot machine arms, little privacy curtains and those “chads,” whatever they are.

Not that I’m trying to say that all things Canadian are better than all things American. I would be a very bad guest in this country if I didn’t love and admire many things. I love Canada and am proud to be Canadian, but I was a youth when Canada struggled to define its identity.  Those were the days when American TV was way better than Canadian TV (except for Hockey Night in Canada – the theme song for which, now lost in time, for decades provoked a reflex reaction to pour my Saturday night bath). As a kid this gave me the impression that “the States” was way more sophisticated than Canada. And as world powers go, that’s certainly still true.

When we moved to Buffalo, New York in 1999, though, I discovered gladly that I needn’t have grown up with that inferiority complex. All things seemed about equal.

Actually, I am frequently asked, as an ex-pat, if I can clarify the difference between us Canadians and Americans. I can’t. Except, we mark our ballots with a golf pencil and don’t regard the prime minister as the most powerful man in the world. Usually he’s just a guy hoping for a majority of seats in Parliament.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

You say Potato. I say Potahto

Ken and seem to talk about poop a lot these days. Specifically, dog doo.

Riley, our golden retriever, is 21 months now. Still a pup, really. We’re hoping for the maturity everyone assures us occurs at age two. He has been a darling puppy, don’t get me wrong. We’ve had a lot of fun with him. And really he’s been so eager to learn that training has been a joy for the most part. We have certificates from at least five different training classes to put on the fridge to demonstrate our pride in him. And any lapses he had in doggy etiquette were all within the realm of normal puppy behavior. So, although his appearance still causes little kids to ask if he is “Marley,” famous from book and movie as the “worst dog in the world” and, although Riley can sometimes be a bit Marley-esque in his puppy ways, we aren’t looking for maturity in behavior (although it will be nice to have a calm, grown up companion, we will be sad to see his puppy days ending.)

No, our hope is that his digestive system will finally grow up. Poor Riley (poor us!) has had chronic diarrhea since we got him at 7 weeks. We have a wonderful vet whom we trust and who has made Riley’s digestive tract his personal mission. Riley’s had tests for every possible cause, has been treated for all kinds of infections and parasites, and has been on food trials to determine allergies. There have been a few weeks or days in this time when he has been o.k., but nothing has agreed with him for long and we have been on high alert for any symptoms. “How was “business” this morning?” “Oh. Not too good!” Or, “Pretty good today! Good Boy, Riley.”  We call the vet weekly with poop reports. We can describe all kinds of subtle characteristics.  The vet thinks that Riley just isn’t absorbing nutrients. In humans this is called “slow gut.” Or maybe he has a doggy version of IBS. We’re not sure. He is as thin as a coyote and I tell people we meet that he’s a rescue so that they don’t think we’re starving him and call the SPCA on us.

For the last month and a half we have been cooking potatoes for our boy.  He eats 2 cups of mashed spuds (not the packaged instant variety) twice a day. To this we have gradually been adding prescription diet, low fat, low residue, high nutrient canned dog food in increasing amounts (plus enzymes, probiotics and powdered clay.) So far, the potato diet has been yielding the right effect. (I’ll spare you the details.) We buy a lot of potatoes. I love those sales for 2 ten pound bags for $5.00.  I even bake our very own potato chips (sans oil) so we can treat him for being a good boy. He now knows the word, “chips!” and will come running if we call him, “Riley! Chips!”

So many kind friends have given us their suggestions for fixing Riley’s problem. It seems as though there are a lot of dogs out there that have had digestive issues. Many people have said it got better when the dog turned two. We’re keeping our fingers crossed. But I keep watching for potato sales in the meantime.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Now that cell phones are everywhere, owned by everyone from seniors to teens to, it seems, toddlers (“OMG, I am SO over day care!”) I don’t find it as odd to hear publicly broadcast private conversations anymore. Not so long ago I found it startling to encounter someone on the street, talking loud enough for all to hear, even though they were alone – until I’d notice the phone plastered against their ear. “Oh, it’s one of those phones!” I’d think to myself, “Ha! That’s really goofy!”  In those good old days, I found it jarring to overhear a private conversation in a restaurant or at a meeting. Things were written about it in magazine and newspaper columns about manners, for heavens sake.

Not so much now. Maybe we’ve all become used to it. Although, I still can’t quite believe the woman I was standing next to in the Walgreen’s pantyhose aisle recently who was giving someone on the other end of her cell a blow-by-blow description of her recent pelvic exam. Surely some things ought to be private. I winced, but couldn’t help listening anyway – it was the auditory equivalent of not being able to turn away from viewing a car wreck.

Maybe the cell yell will become obsolete when texting takes over. I wouldn’t miss the public conversations. I would, however, miss hearing a sign-off that I began observing a few years ago. It’s common among moms. I figure they are moms because they say things like, “NO, you are NOT going to Amy’s house until you’ve done your homework!!! It’s NOT negotiable!!” Pause. “Love you!” 

The sign-off, “Love you!” is always in sweet sing-song voice, two notes, light and lyrical. “O.K., I’ll pick you up at soccer practice. Love you!” Or, “Give your brother a peanut butter sandwich. Love you!”

I’ve heard so many moms doing this that I started listening for it and began to wonder: is it a trend? Is it phone-in parenting? Is it guilt? As in, “I’m not there right now – do as I say – but I love you.” Is it a simple replacement for, “Bye!” Or “See you!”?

At first I thought it seemed so casual. Not like in the movies, when someone works themselves up to declaring, “I love you! You light up my life.”  It’s more carefree than that – maybe even a bit careless. Yet, as I've heard it so often, I now find it charming and reassuring. As though regardless of anything else, these kids know their mothers love them. How nice. A kid needs that.

When I was a kid, my parents only told me that they loved me when I was being punished. “We smacked you because we love you!” Or, “We made you go to your room for the last hour because we love you!”  The logic escaped me. I always figured, “Yeah? If you loved me, you’d let me watch the last half hour of Bonanza!” (Seriously, for years I was only allowed to watch the first half hour because bed time, strictly obeyed in our house, was 8:30. I could only imagine how all those episodes ended. Adam, my favorite Cartwright brother, was written out of the series before I could even see a whole episode with him in it. )

I have only said “I love you” maybe once on my cell. I barely use my cell phone. I regard it as an emergency device. And so it was about 9:30 a.m. EST on September 11, 2001 that Ken and I spoke on our cells. I was in the car. He was downtown at work. We called to tell each other that we were aware of what was going on. That we were o.k., but scared and no matter what might happen, we wanted to tell each other, “I love you.”  Maybe that’s why “Love You!” ends so many calls. Life is so unpredictable. You want them to know that you love them.  Maybe it’s a habit I’ll develop.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


April 5, 2011
Rolling Thunder

I bought a rolling pin the other day. It isn’t a deluxe, gourmet model that might help me morph into Martha Stewart. It’s pretty ordinary really: heavy, with wooden handles and non-stick coating on the roller, $7.99 at Bed Bath & Beyond. It will be serviceable enough for its assigned purpose.

I haven’t purchased a rolling pin since Ken and I got married in 1977.  That one is a sleek, Scandinavian wooden stick; no handles, no roller, just one piece of beautifully carved maple. At the time, it suited my just-graduated-from-design-school sensibilities when I was determined to follow the modernist edict to fill my home with purely functional, but beautiful objects – preferably designey and over-priced. It isn’t heavy – it simply relies on the motion of hands rolling dough with a bit of body weight thrown behind it. It still feels like an organic, artful object every time I use it. It’s a keeper.

I have had only one other rolling pin in my 34 years of married life – one that a friend gave me when her mother died. As my friend sadly disposed of her mom’s worldly goods, she looked for good homes among her foodie friends for the kitchen utensils. This was a nice sentiment and I felt an obligation to keep this particular rolling pin in service. But it got left at the back of a drawer for too long during my “pies are the devil’s work” phase. It developed a bit of mildew which put me off ever using it again and, although I felt a pang of guilt and said a small prayer for my friend to forgive me, I threw it out in one of our moves.

This newly purchased rolling pin won’t see kitchen duty. Instead, it will be put to work reducing the cellulite that sits on my thighs like un-punched-down bread dough. I recognize the irony. It was baked goods that put the doughy fat on my thighs in the first place. But my personal trainer, E.T., insists that daily rolling will break down the toxins stored in these fat cells and ultimately help to get rid of them. Exercise, weight lifting and stretches are all in the equation, of course, but I’m willing to BELIEVE  and roll my thunderous thighs to urge any transformation that might be possible. I just won’t be using my Scandinavian pastry roller for this task.

E.T. (her nickname) is German-born and is a 4-time World Body Building champion. Now she devotes herself to training private clients and to teaching fitness classes to aging boomers and seniors who recognize the need to stay supple and strong. She really knows her stuff – body mechanics and how to do exercises safely for maximum benefit. So I’m inclined to try the miscellaneous hints and tricks she suggests.

If you’re tempted to try this yourself, just in case it works, remember to roll one way only – toward your heart.  And you’ll probably want to rinse the rolling pin off before making a pie.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Sure Sign of Spring

Sure Sign of Spring

I love spring. And like most other people, I love all the gentle signs of warmer days ahead. Little green leafy bits popping out. Perky spring flowers in bright sunny colors. Birds chirping madly at 6 a.m. Windows open just a crack at bedtime. Enough daylight at 7 p.m. so there is no need to turn the dining room light on for dinner.

One of my favorite spring rituals, though, is throwing out the blizzard food. To me, this is the ultimate sign of spring, when I can let down my guard and think, “Well, winter is over, isn’t it? Yay.”

I have to be reasonably confident that we won’t get another shut-the-city down, lose-power-for-five-days, up-to-your-knees snow storm again until next season. Only then will I root to the back of the fridge for the ham labeled Cook or Freeze by April 6 that I bought back in November.  Only then will I give the giant cans of Campbell’s chicken and dumpling soup to the Boy Scouts for their food bank drive. Then, and only then, will I toss out the petrified casseroles that I’ve packed in plastic containers and stuffed into the freezer way back in late fall, early winter. 

I never recognize what’s in these packages. I seldom think to actually label them when I put them in there.  Each one is a mystery, coated as they are by a hoary layer of freezer burn. Oh, they aren’t that mysterious really. I have a fairly standard repertoire of casserole dishes involving macaroni dishes and risottos. Soup made from the holiday turkey. I know generally what’s in there. Delicious when freshly made. But none of them looking too good anymore.

My husband thinks this is quirky. He refers to the freezer as the Yeast Museum because I have a tendency to toss the heels from loaves of bread in there that I save up (you never know when you might want to make croutons, or stuffing!) Anyway, his point is that we only live a mile from the nearest grocery store. We could walk to get supplies if we ran out of food.  

If I have to admit it, I know when I put these dishes in the freezer that they will never be consumed. After the first go-round some leftovers lose their appeal. They go into the freezer instead of being thrown out right then and there. I do this thinking, “This dish will be good for blizzard food!” But deep down, I know I am only delaying the demise of good food.

When I admitted to a dear friend that I do this, she said, “Oh, thanks for saying it! I thought I was the only one who did that!”

So, its sunny today and the daffs are blooming. It’s probably safe to throw out the casseroles tomorrow.  Or next week.  Or make museum labels for them.