Road Trip!

For those of you who have been with me for the long run, or who may know me face-to-face as we like to call it these days, you are most probably aware that I don’t really like to fly. And that’s putting it mildly. It’s not that I don’t fly. For awhile there I was flying about once or twice a month, most often with the aid of my “mother’s little helper” (for those who don’t know) which, coincidentally, I typically got from my Mother. When I decided I could take on the task “cold turkey” I spent a lot of hours telling the person who was unfortunate enough to have randomly selected a seat beside me, that I used to take drugs to fly but now I get through the ordeal by talking incessantly to whoever it is that was unfortunate enough to have randomly selected the seat beside me. Realizing that wasn’t my best moment, of late I have resorted to minding my own business and plugging into a RomCom that I have hopefully seen less than four times in the recent past. It helps, but I readily admit that I still have a rather fragile relationship with the concept of flight. So it might not surprise you that the recent air tragedies have made me more than a little jittery about getting back on that horse even though I suspect the WestJet flight attendants have dropped the “let’s get this Boeing going” quip from their “welcome aboard”. The problem is I still, at times, have to travel, which means I have been giving some very considered thought to what could be reasonable alternatives to get me to where I need to be. Which, might I add, can be just a little challenging and involve one or more modes of transportation given that I now live on an Island.

My first thought, as I suspect would be the case for any true blue Canadian, was to get on a train. To be honest, if I had a bucket list (which I don’t) this might be one of the things on it. Crossing Canada on a train. Of course I first have to get on a boat, and then a bus followed by a subway to the station but, while perhaps a little cumbersome, still seems quite doable. Provided I can pare down my wardrobe to fit into one carry-on as the prospect of schlepping a full size suitcase up, down and over whatever obstacles I might encounter is not, at my age, exactly enticing. But I’ve heard the scenery is spectacular, at least until you hit the prairies. Then it’s not. Never mind. The food’s good, I can watch Schitts Creek and if I play my cards right I can snag a cabin for one. All this for just north of 3500 dollars. Yeah it’s a tad pricey but it only takes four days to get from here to where I need to be. Wait. Let me say that one more time. Four days.  Four very, very long days. Watching Schitt’s Creek. Ok, I’m not going to do that and I’m certainly not going to take a bus (I didn’t even have to research that one) so where does that leave me? You guessed it. Road trip! Although I have to be honest that I’m a little hesitant from the get go about this one too.

For some people a road trip is everything they have always dreamed about. You know how it goes ‘cause you’ve seen it on the TV. The happy couple loads up the bright, shiny, new SUV, buckles the kids into the backseat, loaded iPads in hand, and sets off on the adventure of a lifetime, with smiles the likes of which rival those in the whitest of white toothpaste commercials. They travel along the ocean byways, sun shining brightly in the deep blue sky with nary another car to be seen for miles. Along the way they stop at all of the interesting and fun “off the beaten track” places, become immersed in the local customs and cultures, meet the most engaging people, and always manage to find a quaint B&B that serves mouthwatering meals in a dining room with unobstructed views of the sun setting over the ocean. You can almost hear the waves and feel the breezes as you watch this spectacle from the comfort of your Lazy Boy. Makes you want to run upstairs, pack a bag, grab the family and get your own show on the road. Except we all know that’s not how it really goes. Especially for a shallow gal like me.

You see, for a shallow person a road trip, as are most things in life, is not about the journey. It’s about the destination. When I get into a car I want to get where I’m going and I want to get there fast. Mostly because a “real” road trip almost always includes wicked weather, long waits in world class traffic jams (have you ever driven through LA or TO ?), enough fast food to have a significant impact on your cholesterol count, and a series of hotels that remind me to heed my Dad’s bedtime advice to “sleep tight and not let the bedbugs bite”. Sure there are viewpoints and little out of the way artisans to visit but that would mean stopping and the last thing I want to do when I get in a car is stop. I won’t even talk about the restrooms one encounters along the way even though at this stage of the game those are the stops there’s no getting around. And now with all the texting and talking and general inattention paid by your fellow commuters there’s no guarantees. Not that there ever were. It’s just these days I don’t really like the odds. Road trip? Not if this kid can help it. 

Oh well. Looks like I’ll be back in those friendly skies sooner than later. Better give my Mother a quick call. I’m thinking she might have a little something to help me out.

 

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The Art (maybe science?) of Grocery Shopping

I learn a lot from TV. Which is a good thing since it seems to take up a significant part of my  evenings. And it’s not just the news shows I learn from. Although I do. I mean who doesn’t turn to Mr. Anderson Cooper to catch up on the ongoing shenanigans (is that too forgiving?) in those United States of America? Or Ms. Lisa Laflamme for the ones in our own country for that matter. And while I find the comings and goings of the world at large compelling, I also like to spend a little time each day with Ms. Stacy Ross and Mr. Ben O’Hara learning more about what’s going on right here in this little hometown of mine. Because it’s pretty important to know exactly which neighborhoods that recently, and frequently I might add, sighted cougar might be prowling around. The thing is, anyone who knows cougars knows that they really don’t want to find themselves face-to-face, looking into those big, green eyes, no matter how beautiful they might be. So it’s important to know. But as any shallow person can tell you, there’s more to TV than just the news and thankfully, so much more to learn.  

Take Madame Secretary for example. I know. It’s not really the White House but it could be. After all, this is a show that helps us understand how things work in the upper echelons of  government. So what if everything always seems to turn out hunky dory? That’s probably what would actually happen if politicians were better actors and could pretend they actually cared about someone other than themselves. Or how about that Amazing Race? What a way to see the world without having to spend hours waiting in lines, getting on and off planes and struggling to decipher a menu in an unfamiliar language which could result in finding oneself hungry while sadly staring at a plate of veal kidney stew. Who needs it when in the span of one hour you can travel through two, maybe three countries, visit all of the tourist highlights and more, while never having to leave the comforts of your own home. And let’s not forget that all you have to do is watch a few episodes of Survivor to learn that you never want to be stranded on a desert island with a bunch of strangers. But even though, as you can plainly see, there is much to learn from the news and the shows, there is even more to be gained from watching the commercials.

So let me tell you what I have recently learned from commercials. It seems there are now a number of services that provide people with all of the ingredients needed for an evening meal, measured out and delivered to the door, along with an easy to follow recipe. All that’s left to do is put the stuff together and presto, in just 30 minutes there’s a gourmet meal on the table. Never mind that you don’t know what an “Open-faced Halloumi sandwich” is or whether “Tofu Larb Lettuce Cups with Sticky Rice” will tickle your fancy. One way or the other you’re going to come out of this looking like a gourmet chef. Sounds perfect, doesn’t it. Unless, of course, you are me. Because, and you may know this or you may not, not only do I not cook most nights which makes this service a little redundant but, and this is the honest to god truth, I love to shop for groceries.

That’s right. Give me a fistful of flyers and a stack of reusable grocery bags and I am one happy camper. And because I know not everyone shares my enthusiasm for gathering food I thought I would take this opportunity to share some tips that just might improve the experience for you. I like to think of it as the art (maybe science) of grocery shopping. 

Tip 1: There’s some homework to do. Start with the flyers. Some online, some paper. The good news is these all come out on the same day. There’s no bad news.

Tip 2: Make some lists. As many as you need because you’ll be compiling the best deals in each of the stores. Don’t worry. No one’s going to hold your hand to the fire. You’ll find stuff in your cart that’s not on your list but nonetheless, it’s a good place to start.

Tip 3: Make a plan. You have to visit each of the stores on your lists but there’s no point going hither and yon. You’ve got a lot of ground to cover so be systematic and do your best to limit your mileage. Just remember to visit the store with the best deal on ice cream last.

Tip 4: Shop. It’s not that hard. Get yourself a cart, make your way up and down the aisles and don’t get too distracted or overwhelmed by the plethora of choices. There might be 43 flavours of Cheerios but you only need one. Make like a shallow person. Don’t dwell.

Tip 5: Check-out and pay. Remember when your Mom and/or Dad bought you that toy cash register and a bunch of fake food to go with it? You had hours of fun pretending your were a cashier and all your stuffies were your customers. Well now most stores will let you check out and bag all of your own stuff. It’s still as much fun as it was when you were a kid. Except now it’s for real.

Tip 6: Check out your savings. If you have paid attention they should be pretty substantial. Of course in some cases you might need a store savings card to get the best deals. If you don’t have one, just ask. They’ll be happy to oblige. Yes, I know they use it to track what you buy. So what! If you use the internet (and you do because you are here) privacy is pretty much a moot point for you anyway.

Tip 7: Get home, put everything away and know you’ll be able to feed yourself and whoever else you might feed for at least a little longer. And really, what could be more rewarding than that?

I know. Now you’re thinking this shallow gal has way too much time on her hands. Well that could be true. But if you ask me, it’s a whole lot better than finding an Halloumi Sandwich on my plate for dinner.

 

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I’m with you Marie!

As a shallow person you might expect that I would be inclined to wholeheartedly embrace the latest and greatest trends and crazes that have popped up sporadically over the past few decades. Seems to me that makes some sense. I mean following the crowd simply to avoid the “Fear of Missing Out” should rightfully be an integral part of a shallow person’s disposition. Embedded in the DNA. But not this shallow gal. To be frank I have lived a life that, while not exactly dancing to my own drum, does try to avoid falling prey to the flavour of the day. Just ask my sister-in-law. She’ll tell you I wore my high-waisted “Mom” jeans long past their due date. And now that they appear to back in style there are none to be found in my closet. Go figure. You’re talking to someone who has had the same hairstyle not just for the better part of this decade but the preceding one as well. At any given time it might have been in vogue or not. Honestly, I wouldn’t know or really care for that matter.

To be fair, I did wear a cowboy hat (no, I wasn’t the only one) for the better part of the ‘60s but never was there ever a pet rock, beanie baby, cabbage patch doll or Tickle Me Elmo in my home. I have steadfastly resisted both the Instant Pot and, more recently, the sou vide cooking crazes and I have not once entertained going on the Paleo diet. Not convinced yet? Well perhaps this will help. I can’t recite even one sentence written by Deepak Chopra or Malcolm Gladwell nor quote anything by Maya Angelou. Mission accomplished, I would say. So you can only imagine how shocked I was last week when I found myself falling lock stock and barrel for what just might be the the most popular cultural phenomenon of our time. Perhaps not our whole time, but at least for the next 6 months. And unless you have been living under a rock, as apparently I was until about two weeks ago, you will know that the only thing I can be talking about is the “life changing magic of tidying up” by the one and only Marie Kondo.

I know. It surprised me too. I mean who would have thought that tidying up could be so captivating? That devising a new way to fold a T-shirt would inspire a bevy of devotees to swear their lives have truly been transformed now that they no longer stack, but rather “file” their clothes away in the drawer. But perhaps, like me until recently, you don’t know. Haven’t heard. So let me explain. Ms Kondo has taken the world by storm with her books and a Netflix show that encourages all of us to divest ourselves of our possessions that no longer bring us joy. We do this by handling each and every item we own and deciding whether or not it sparks joy in our lives. If it does, great. If not, out it goes. Just like that. Well not exactly. Because this whole process, from start to finish is rather spiritual. So before we start we say a prayer to become one with our home and then we thank each and every item, before we toss it of course, for having been a part of our lives. I suspect for good or for bad. Which might not always be easy. Not sure about you, but I won’t get much pleasure from thanking that old skirt of mine for pointing out that at some point in my life I actually had a 24 inch waist. Or the sad reminder(s) that I never should have worn horizontal stripes. Ever. Or the stark reality that I actually wore a cowboy hat for the better part of the 60s. Nonetheless there’s something about this approach to life that appeals to me. Because it’s simple.

That’s right. It’s just so simple. And that’s why I can wholeheartedly get behind this current craze. You see, as a shallow person I don’t really like to dwell. On anything. If I can find an easy way to make something happen, well I’m gonna jump on that. Especially if it means making my life oh so much better. I mean let’s face it, meditation can take up a good part of the day and exercise, well that’s a never ending story. But this. This you do once and bam! You’re done. At least that’s what Ms Kondo tells us. Unclutter our spaces and we unclutter our minds, lives and (admittedly this is just my take) our very souls. So, if throwing out a few shirts, tossing a book or two and shredding some long forgotten papers is going to bring me joy and transform my life, you bet I’m going to jump on that bandwagon. Sign me up. I’m with you Marie!

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Some things change…some don’t

Just in case you are wondering, I may not have written anything for awhile but I’m still here.  Which is not so unusual. I mean I’ve always written this blog in fits and starts. Mostly fits but you have to admit there is a consistency to my sometimes longer that expected absences. It’s not because I’m so busy. It’s just that after 5 years it’s not always easy to come up with an idea. Something to write about. Which is about the same as it’s always been. Or at least for the last few years. But I’m also still here. Here in my home on this little Island of mine. If you have been following along for awhile you know that around this time each and every year I make my way down the left side of those United States of America to spend time at the beach. And you know how much I love being at the beach. Which, I can only imagine, leaves you wondering why. Why I’m still here. Well it’s just that while some things stay the same, others do not.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m good with whichever way the cookies crumble. Because sometimes having things stay the same is a good thing.  Like our Bandit. I know you hate to ask at this point but our cute as a button kitty, now in the 20th year of making our home her home, is doing just fine.  Well about as fine as an almost 20 year old kitty can be doing. Granted, while she spends a good deal of her time sleeping in her bed, my bed, the guest bed, really anywhere she pleases, when awake she is still as loving and cuddly as ever. So what if she can’t hear a lick? She’s happy almost all of the time and that’s what really counts. Suffice to say, she’s the same and we’re happy about that. Even if it means that other things are not. You see, the older she gets the harder it is for us to leave her, hence the change in our plans this year. I suppose this is a  prime example of how some things stay the same while other things don’t. Which of course, as oft happens when it comes to writing this blog, got me thinking about more things that have changed, and haven’t

Coincidentally, (and I’m sure it was since I don’t think the Facebook people have the ability to actually read my mind, yet) my dear online friends (some of them are real too) started to post pics of themselves from today and some time before today. Actually 10 years before today to be exact. And before I could say jack robinson everyone and their dog (literally) were posting “then and now” pics of themselves. It was a “thing”. The “10 year challenge” and who isn’t up for a challenge? Particularly one that doesn’t involve climbing, running, jumping or pouring ice cold water on oneself. At first blush I figured it was best to sit this one out, at least for the time being. I mean, did I really want to put my 10 year younger self side by side with my now much older self? If I did, what might people think? Heck, what might I think? It seemed to me that as long as you can fool some of the people some of the time, that’s good enough. And since the last photo I posted on “the Book” was of me and my 103 year old Mother, I was already doing pretty well in what I would like to dub the “30+ year challenge”.

And then it hit me. The shallow gal knew exactly what to do. Of course I should post a pic. It just had to be the right one. You see, I quickly realized  that the people who chose to participate in this exercise were people who actually thought they either looked better or, at the very least, the same as they did 10 years earlier. I mean, why else would anyone subject themselves to the kind of scrutiny that such a pic in Facebook is sure to bring? Especially now that the “haha” emoji has become an option. Let’s face it. Who’s going to post a pic of themselves that highlights 10 years of neglect? Hello everyone. I’d like you all to see how much I’ve gone downhill over the last 10 years. Not gonna happen. The solution was clear. All I had to do was find a 10 year old pic where I was not at my best, and pair it with a really good current pic. Problem solved. The hair, the eyes, the smile. Everything appears to be the same. Unfortunately, you can’t fool all the people all of the time and the neck never lies.  Because, and you probably know this already, some things simply can’t stay the same.

Now I have to skedaddle. As it turns out it seems we are going to make our way to the beach after all and I have a few last minute items on my “to do” list. For starters I need to clean the house, figure out what to take, iron, pack, go to the bank, book hotels, get the cat some food, and probably another 40 or so errands I haven’t thought about yet. I’m leaving pretty soon so I suppose I should get started. Yeah, I know. Some things stay the same forever.

 

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Yep, It’s Cold Outside

As a shallow person you might imagine that I have mastered the art of small talk. And you would be right. To some extent at least. Honestly,  there are many times when I really don’t want to talk to anyone about anything. But when I do I can usually figure out something small to talk about. Especially these days with “45” and all of his hijinx. Can’t get much smaller than that. But there are better things to talk about. Like pets. It’s pretty easy to make small talk about a pet, particularly when you happen to have one that’s 19 years old. There’s a lot to be said about growing old no matter who/what you are. Just ask my 103 year old Mother. She’ll tell you a thing or two about it. And not that I would ever try to equate the two, but both make pretty decent conversation starters. If, of course, it’s a  conversation you actually want to start. However if, unlike me, you don’t have longevity to fall back on, evidently you can always talk about the weather. Because, it seems, that’s what Canadians (and I’m guessing) Americans do. Although, I must admit, I have never really seen the point.

It’s not that I don’t care about the weather. Anyone who knows me well knows that this sleek “do” of mine requires a fair bit of tampering and has a significant dependence on blue skies and very low humidity. Even the slightest of mists will cause these strands to go awry and there’s nothing worse (to me at least) than making my way to some fancy, shmancy party only to discover that my carefully coiffed hair has transformed into something that I’m quite sure would have made a rather comfortable home for Joey, my dearly beloved but very long ago gone, pet budgie (may he rest in peace). Suffice to say, it is very unlikely you will find me out frolicking in the rain. But other than my hairstylist, who really cares about my first world weather problems? It just seems to me that, whether we like it or not, weather simply does not make for great conversation. As a matter of fact, I find the whole notion of our collective obsession with weather rather disconcerting. For a couple of, perhaps, unrelated reasons. Let me explain.

Who doesn’t spend oodles of time watching, listening and googling weather reports?. As a regular TV news fan I see people who have selflessly dedicated their lives to showing us all manner of weather patterns each and every night. There’s maps covered in solid, dotted and dashed lines, some curving, some straight, some just going around in what appear to be endless circles. And to what end? Why on earth do I want to know that it’s sunny and 80 degrees in Florida when I am sitting on my couch, shivering under my blankets? And, as much as I hate to cast a dark cloud on their predictions, we all know that many a time the weatherperson is simply wrong. I mean who hasn’t woken up to what was supposed to be a bright and sunny day only to find the rain pouring down and, as a result, no chance you’re gonna fulfill your promise to take your ten year old nephew to the go-kart track? Somehow the prospect of seeing “The Return of Mary Poppins” just doesn’t cut it with him. Although if I must say, it is a very delightful movie and something every parent should keep in their back pocket for a rainy day. But I digress. The thing is, how helpful is it to know what the weather will be tomorrow or seven days down the road anyway? I mean in most cases, who can change their plans? It’s not like I could say, “Oh darn! Wednesday’s going to be rainy. Guess I’ll just have to stay home from work so my hair won’t get frizzy.” Besides, in this part of the world we all know you can wait 15 minutes and the weather will change. Seems to me if you really want to know what the weather’s like it’s best just to open your door and step outside. Guaranteed you’ll be 100% accurate, for that moment at least. So why, may I ask, would anyone want to talk about something as unpredictable as weather?

Not only that but, in case you missed it (icymi) people seem to treat weather as a blood sport. And I can say that having recently spent 38 years in one of the northernmost cities in this country of ours. Just try talking to me or one of my compatriots about the weather. Because, when we say “yep, it’s cold outside”, believe me, we know from where we speak. Have you ever spent an entire month getting to and from work, school, grocery shopping, and just about everywhere else knee deep in snow with temps hovering around the -40c mark? Without factoring in the wind chill? Do you know what happens to your skin, nose, ears and just about every other part of your body in that kind of cold? Have you ever looked outside your window and thought that someone had forgotten to mention you had landed on the moon? You get the drift. When someone from this little Island of mine complains about a chill in the air ‘cause the temps have uncharacteristically fallen slightly below the freezing point you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll call, raise them 50 bucks and take the pot on this hand.  Seems to me there’s a lot of one-upmanship going on when it comes to weather and who knows what kind of trouble that can lead to? There’s a pretty good chance that amidst all of your chin wagging about the cold you’re going to run into a climate change denier and I, for one, don’t want to be around when the resulting mayhem ensues. Which is why it seems to me that it’s best to avoid the weather topic altogether.

So for this season of light, joy and happiness take my advice and do your best to talk about anything but the weather. If you’re at your wit’s end about what to say you can always revisit my blog. With a few notable exceptions I’ve pretty much provided you with 5 good years worth of topics. Think of it as my little holiday gift to you. You’re welcome.

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