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To Wear or Not to Wear…Really, It’s Not A Question

<a href="https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/medical">Medical vector created by freepik - www.freepik.com</a>I don’t know about you but when I was growing up there were plenty of things I was told to do, or not to do which admittedly, I ignored. Looking back, I now realize of course, that I wasn’t always right and while rules might be made to be broken I probably shouldn’t have broken all of them. To be fair though, not everything I was told warranted the same level of adherence. Let’s face it. There was a modicum of exaggeration to some of these admonitions. For example, the vast majority of us who ran with a pencil, scissors, or sucker in our hand never actually lost an eye. I’m not saying it never happened. I’m just saying that it probably didn’t happen as often as the ‘rents led us to believe. And there were those that simply turned out not to be true. If I have to be honest, and I am nothing but honest, my children turned out to be way less trouble to me than I was for my parents. And even though I made my share of funny faces, my face never froze in time which, now that I think about it, might not have been such a bad thing. And I don’t ever recall either of my parents turning around to go home just because we were making too much noise in the backseat of the car. Nonetheless, I admit that there was a great deal of good advice imparted to me over the course of my life to which I did listen. I mean I never jumped off a cliff just because all of my friends did and, as a parent, I do now understand all those things they told me I would when I had kids of my own. 

Now I’m guessing that as a shallow person this COVID-19 debacle has probably not bothered me as much as it has others. I hate to say it out loud, but my life hasn’t really changed. I was never much of a gadfly so sticking around the house for most of the day doesn’t really bother me. I still have coffee everyday between two and three, albeit in my backyard rather than my local coffee haunt. And there are a plethora of Hallmark reruns to watch every night, which is fine by me. Old, new. Doesn’t matter. You and I both know they’re all the same anyway. I did start writing my new “I Am Not a Baker” blog (yup, unabashed self-promotion) but I procrastinate writing that one just as much as this one, so there’s that. There is however, one thing I do that I can genuinely say I have never done before. I wear a mask. 

I might be shallow but that doesn’t mean I’m foolhardy. At this point in the trajectory of the disease it would have been pretty hard to have missed the message that wearing a mask actually does save lives. Mine and yours. I know. At the start of this whole thing there was a bit of a PPE frenzy and masks were legitimately hard to come by. But now, everyone and their brother has dusted off their old “Singers”, reacquainted with bobbins and spools and started sewing up a veritable storm. You can pretty much get whatever style and colour you are looking for. There are funky masks, camo masks, masks with adjustable ear pieces, designer masks, kids masks, masks that double as scarves, masks made by artists, masks reinforced with copper. Well you get the gist. There’s no excuse. Sure, masks are not comfortable. They’re hot in an already hot summer. They make your glasses fog up and your nose run. They hurt your ears. Most of all, we’re simply not accustomed to wearing a mask. But here’s the thing. A mask just might save your life. And maybe your Mother’s and Father’s lives. And the lives of people you don’t even know. To wear or not to wear a mask? Seems to me it’s not really a question. 

Okay. I know. I might not have convinced you. So, I haven’t done this for quite some time but thought, for those of you still sitting on the fence, perhaps a top 10 list of the best reasons to wear a mask might just topple you over the edge. So with all due respect to Mr. D. Letterman, here’s my kick at the can.

Top 10 reason to wear a mask in the pandemic

  1. You’ll save a bundle on lipstick.
  2. If you decide to rob a bank at the spur of the moment, and I’m not suggesting that you do, you’re dressed for the occasion.
  3. You can make funny faces at people and they’ll never know. And if your face does freeze, who cares?
  4. You never have to smile at people you really don’t like.
  5. People you are trying to avoid probably won’t recognize you.
  6. It’s a great excuse to go shopping for an outfit to go with your new mask.
  7. You can pretend you can’t hear what someone says to you because, well they’re wearing a mask too.
  8. If you’re lucky, people might toss some candy into your shopping bag.
  9. You won’t have to carry a sign at your next protest. Just print your message on your mask.
  10. The  very best reason to wear a mask? You’re gonna save a life. And it just might be your own.

As Nike would say, just do it!

(Image attribute: <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/medical”>Medical vector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a&gt;)

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I Am Not A Baker – Coming Soon

As you can well imagine it has been rather difficult to write a shallow blog during this pandemic. Admittedly, the impact of COVID-19 has not (yet) had a major effect on my life. To be brutally honest, it has been frighteningly easy for me to confine myself to my home and to connect with others primarily through Zoom, Facebook, Google Hangouts, Skype and that old fashioned mode of communication, the telephone. Yes it’s true, I still do have a landline. Sure it’s been hard to give up my grocery shopping habit. Thursday used to be a big day in our house what with the delivery of all the flyers. Now it’s one trip, in and out, sales or no sales, and I thank my lucky stars I am able to continue to stock my pantry with what I need. But I am painfully aware that for many life has taken a dramatic downturn financially, physically and emotionally, and I do not for one minute want to minimize the sadness and suffering our friends, family and those we do not know, are feeling right now. Our world has turned upside down. Everything has changed. The most common and perhaps accurate description I’ve heard is “it’s just weird”. I think there is some consensus that at any moment Mr. Rod Serling will step out of the shadows to pronounce we have now entered “The Twilight Zone”. Unfortunately it seems we are binge watching the episodes. 

The thing is, as a retired shallow person, writing my blog has actually occupied a fair bit of my time. There’s the thinking about what to write, the writing, the procrastinating, more writing, the online Bingo games in the middle of the writing, the editing (yes, I do edit), the searching for and finding an appropriate pic and finally, the putting the whole damn thing into WordPress. And without all of that I have to admit I’m a little lost. Normally I’d manage to wile away a few at the local cafe but in the “new normal” there’s only so much time I can spend encouraging my broccoli and cauliflower seedlings to “keep up the good work” as I sip my tea in my own backyard. Fortunately a couple of years ago I discovered that not only do I like to eat my cherry cheesecake, I like to make it too. Me and Doug Ford. Who would have thought! 

Yep. It’s hard for even me to believe that the first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is think about what I might bake. Well that’s not exactly true. The first thing I do is go to the bathroom but you don’t want to hear about that. And now with little else to occupy my time, these days all I want to do is bake. Got a recipe for Beer Bread? I’ll run down to my local speakeasy and grab myself a brew. Morning Glory Muffins made with Red Fife flour? Got a pantry full of that. Cookies? Just give me a sec to source some organic, fair trade semi-sweet, dark chocolate chips. Never mind there’s only two of us to devour all of these goodies. The pandemic has awakened my baker within. There’s only one problem. 

While I love to bake I am the first one to admit that I am not a baker. And I know this because I spend inordinate amounts of time watching real bakers bake on baking shows. The ones where they compete against each other to see who can construct a cake that recreates most of downtown Manhattan, including a proportionately correct replica of the Statue of Liberty, while incorporating chili powder and olives, the “secret” ingredients concocted by their particular panel of sadistic judges. If you have never witnessed this spectacle you must. What you will quickly discover is that these people are master’s of their trade. To say they know what they are doing is tantamount to saying the Pope believes in God. Or Trump lies. But I digress. There are no measuring cups here. No teaspoons. No tablespoons. Not a hint of a written word anywhere. You won’t see these guys checking the old cellphone to decide if it was one egg or two. They just know what they are doing. Or watch Mary crush it in her kitchen. Now I love Mary but I need to know how it is that she can make a three course meal which includes a delectable desert, without ever getting one teeny, tiny speck of oil, or a little smudge of flour on her always fashionable and never protected, frock. For goodness sake. Even her hands stay clean!

As you can guess, nothing like this happens in my kitchen. And I have to think this is the case for many of you, especially those who have recently become part of the pandemic baking craze. So I’m starting a new blog. For people like us. The ones who find themselves wondering how it came to be that there was still an egg on the counter when all things were said and done. Did I take out an extra or just forget to put this one in? Who check our measures not twice but many multiple times. Who follow instructions to a tee. Who know that a 15 minute prep time will somehow mysteriously expand to about an hour and a half. Who didn’t know what the heck Red Fife flour was until last week. It’s the truth about baking. For those of us who bake but are not bakers.

Don’t worry. It’s not the end of the shallow blog just the beginning of something new.

I Am Not A Baker. Coming soon. Watch for it on WordPress.

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I Finally Figured it Out!

I love baking. I don’t think I have to tell you, at least those of you that know me, that these are  three words I never thought I would utter. And if you don’t believe me, just ask my children. They are the ones who suffered through the late evenings when I was compelled to at least attempt to fulfill my duty as the “muffin mom”. You know. The one who must provide muffins for the entire class on an appointed day which, from what I can recall, was the third Thursday of each month. Honestly, I have tried to block this whole episode from my mind because here’s what would happen on the rare occasion when my husband, who was by any measure a very competent baker, was not available to take on the task. 

First let me explain that the school my children attended was full of men and women whose lives were dedicated to ensuring their families would never be subjected to anything that resembled what we have all come to know and love, junk food. And in this case, you should define “junk” in the broadest sense of the word. Consequently, it meant that muffins entering the classroom were not only to be devoid of common allergens like nuts, or peanut butter (something I could of course understand and get behind) but also had to exclude that most basic of all ingredients, white sugar. In addition oil had to be replaced with something less toxic like homemade applesauce, and it goes without saying that chocolate chips were strictly forboden. All of which were the only fallbacks I could rely on to make something even remotely edible emerge from my oven. So typically I would do my best to put together ingredients that would be acceptable to the most discerning folks, sample the results, and then head to the nearest 24 hour supermarket (the only place that would be open by the time I was done) to pick up a couple dozen of whatever they had left at that time of night. Preferably with bran. At that point, all that was left to do was remove the packaging, place the muffins in a couple of heritage looking tins (a gift from my Mother) and read my kids the riot act should they be foolish enough to breathe a word of this to anyone.

Now my lack of baking prowess comes at no surprise, at least to me. Simply, I wasn’t from a baking family. Perhaps it’s because I have three brothers who were raised in the day and age when boys only entered the kitchen to eat. Or maybe it was because my Mother, who was very good at very many things, was definitely not good at being a baker. My earliest and only memory of baking with my Mom was the one day, a long time ago, we shared space in the kitchen to demonstrate to the rest of the family that, given the chance, we could make a cake and maybe eat it too. We were wrong. I will admit that my Mom’s turned out slightly better than mine but, from what I recall, that wasn’t saying much since I have a vague memory of banging my little cake on the counter in an attempt to break off a slice. But why dwell on the past when the future holds so much promise. 

I’m not sure I can pinpoint the exact date and time my metamorphosis took place. Well maybe I can but I’ll save that for later. What I do know is that when we moved to this little Island we now inhabit full-time we were blessed with what by most standards is a fairly large kitchen with ironically, a rather large island and a great big oven. Even I knew that this was every baker’s dream. The only thing missing were the tools required for the job and, of course, the baker. The first was an easy fix as I rushed to my favourite store to purchase what we all know is the quintessential baker’s appliance, the stand mixer. I was pleased to be able to acquire this tool in a lovely blue which matched my colour scheme. Because who was I kidding? I knew this would be a mostly decorative device. And it was, until one day a couple of ladies from my walking group suggested we get together to make some rugellah. At my house. Well why not I thought. I have the space, I can get the ingredients and most importantly, I have a heretofore never used, colour coordinated stand mixer. Let me just say, the rest is history.

To make a rather long story just a tad shorter, from that day forward I never stopped baking. Now I bake muffins and loaves, cookies and brownies and, believe it or not, even bread! (Well to be fair, I’m going to try to bake bread today). Some of what I bake is great, some is ok and some is best delivered to the ducks. But good or bad I just love baking. And apparently, now that we are all responsibly staying in our homes, so does the rest of the world. I know this because a day doesn’t go by when someone I know (or portend to know) doesn’t post a pic of a delectable treat they have spent hours slaving over a hot oven to make. And that gave this shallow gal an idea.

Perhaps at this point I should mention that while I love to bake I’m by no means a baker. What that means is I don’t have a clue about the chemistry of baking. I don’t know what baking soda does, or why I have to add salt, or whether or not I need to bring my eggs to room temperature, and if I do, what difference that might make. Hence the only thing I can do is follow a recipe to the letter. Let me tell you, I’m no Auntie Fanny (get well soon!) when it comes to culinary pursuits. So here’s my idea. Since we are all home and we are all baking maybe you could take some time to share your fav delights with all of us. And since I already have a blog with a small but loyal following, I am more than happy to volunteer my services to compile and post any that you send to me.  If you know my email address send them there. If you don’t, you can post them in the comments here. And if you can figure out any other way to get them to me, well you can do that too.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not converting the shallow blog into a baking blog. No way. It just occurred to me that after all this time I have finally figured out a way to get other people to write this thing for me. Come on! You must know by now that even bakers can be shallow.

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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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It completed me

I’ve always had a healthy skepticism about technology. It’s not that I don’t use technology. Like many I rarely leave a room without some sort of device attached to my hand. And I’m certainly not a Luddite (although I would have been proud to be one in the day) as I spent the later part of my career (yes, I am that old) devoted to making learning online the best experience it could possibly be for those who wanted that experience. But that doesn’t mean I buy in holus bolus to every knicknack or gadget that promises to make my life oh so much better than it already is. “Cause, if I might say so, my life ain’t so bad right now. Besides, how often do you invite the latest and greatest into your life only to discover that without a millennial in the house there’s no possible way to figure out how to make it work? Sure they showed you what to do in the store. But get the thing home and without all that fluorescent lighting nothing looks the same. As for me, you can bet your bottom dollar that, if there’s an “app for that” I’ll take a “pass for that“.

It’s not just figuring stuff out that’s the problem. There’s the whole over promising thing too. Like the self park feature on my car. Pretty exciting, eh? I mean all you have to do is press this one little button and lo and behold, the next thing you know you’re on the sidewalk waiting for the car to finish up and hand you the keys so you can be on your way. At least that’s what I thought it would do. Then I find out the car doesn’t actually find the parking spot for you. It just parks the car and what’s the point of that?  I know how to park a car. The problem is driving around the corner 15 times with the false hope that someone might actually leave just at the moment you sidle up to their spot. Or waiting for the person who has been sitting in the driver’s seat for nigh on 10 minutes (n reverse, I might add) before you realize they clearly have just broken up with their partner and are now calling each and every one of their friends to commiserate about the bum and how they never should have put up with all his/her nonsense in the first place. Fellas, It’s finding the parking space that’s the real problem. When you get that one worked out, call me.

Having said that, every once in a while something comes along that’s right up your alley. Something that fits like a glove, is on target and hits the proverbial nail on the head. Like those rather spendy noise cancellation headphones that you dithered about buying and then wondered what all of the anguish was about the very first time you wore them on a five hour flight and realized you no longer had to listen to the person beside you crunching on chips or worry every time the pilot “dinged” the flight attendant. Your logical self knows she probably just has to use the bathroom but there’s that niggling feeling it could be something else and at 39,000 feet “something else” can be a little disconcerting. Best not to hear at all which makes those buds worth their weight in gold. Then there’s that new fangled device that lets you see who’s at your front door without actually having to be anywhere near your front door. If that means not having to run down the stairs to find out there’s yet another person who wants to paint my “just been painted” house then, as Martha would say, it’s a good thing. But as good as those might be, neither can hold a candle to the hi tech wonder that has recently come into my life. If you ask me, it’s not even a horse race.

As you can probably imagine I spend a fair bit of my time at a computer, much but not all, dedicated to sending and responding to emails. It’s not that I don’t like writing emails. It’s just that so often I say the same thing over and over and over again. Like me, I’m sure that you have thought to yourself “if only there was an easier way”. “If only this computer could read my mind and finish all of my sentences”. Well my friends, you are in for a very pleasant surprise! The other day as I was typing away, much to my amazement my computer started typing all on its own. That’s right! Before my very eyes it was anticipating what it thought I wanted to say and then said it. Without any help at all, it completed me. At first I wasn’t all that receptive to this rather personal intrusion. My immediate reaction was “how do I get rid of this pesky little feature which is clearly something new from those Google peeps?” After all, it can’t possibly actually know what it is I want to say, can it? The truth is, it can’t but the reality is that, most of the time, what it had me say wasn’t so bad. I could live with it. And so it was that I decided to let the computer say what it thought I should say. Rather than the other way around. Which makes a lot of sense if you are a shallow person like me. I mean if it’s willing to do the work why the heck would I not let it? In most cases what I was going to say wasn’t really all that much better anyway.

Of course as it oft does, this got me thinking.  Why just emails? Why not let the computer finish all of my sentences everywhere? I gotta say it would make writing this blog a whole lot easier and I’m pretty sure that my computer could learn to be as shallow as I am in no time at all.

Yeah. Now I’m just gonna sit back and watch that skepticism of mine fade away.

PS: Thank you to the person who left the Starbucks mug on my doorstep. Just a guess but I’m thinking it must be someone who reads this blog as otherwise it was a very uncanny random act of kindness. Gotta admit. The last time I was in Saskatchewan I don’t think there was a SB, let alone a mug dedicated to the “Breadbasket of Canada“. It is very much appreciated and a wonderful addition to my collection!

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