January 5th, 2016

The best condiments

10. Maple syrup

9. Chili sauce (the sort of the thing rural people make from their garden tomatoes and peppers and bottle; not actual chili)

8. Chutney

7. Balsamic vinegar

6. Pickled ginger

5. Applesauce

4. Raspberry jam

3. Marmalade

2. Salsa

  1. BBQ sauce

July 19th, 2015

Best job

When I was about five or six, I had maybe the best job of my life. My parents and I were getting out of our car, which was parked at the one intersection in my little hometown. I think we were going to the video store. A woman was walking along the sidewalk, a rarity in rural areas because so few places are walkable that everyone just drives everywhere. She wore a long black wool coat and from one of the hip pockets you could see the head of a small grey kitten peeping out. If you’ve met me, or really any small child, you’ll know that I was enthralled. The woman came over to me there on the sidewalk and told me she had to go into the bank, but you can’t take a kitten into a bank. Could I hold the kitten for her until she came out?

COULD I??? Of course I could. I would not get a kitten of my own until my seventh birthday, but I was quite confident I could handle the squirmy little fuzzball. So she handed it over and off she went. I think this scenario involved one of my parents having to forego the video store so that I could be supervised whilst I supervised the kitten. I can’t remember too much about the actual kitten interaction other than it was really soft and I was so happy.

The woman came out of the bank fairly quickly and apparently not realizing this was the best thing that ever happened to me (or, I know now, of course realizing exactly and being as delighted as I was) paid me fifty cents for watching the kitten. And took the little fellow back and off she went. I come from a very small town, where people often know each other, but not always because it’s near a bigger city and people come and go. I had no idea who that woman was and neither did my folks. As far as I know we never saw her again.

This happy little memory just popped into my head and, because I have a blog I can share it with you and so I have.

July 11th, 2015

Things I miss about being single

One month from today I will have been married to Mark for three years, and on that date I’ll probably post something about how much I love being married to Mark, and Mark in general. And I do–it’s almost unbearably cliche to say it, but he is actually the best thing that every happened to me. I’ll try to make an interesting list of reasons why that is the case, but of course there are some things I miss about my pre-Mark life so, one month ahead of that post, here’s this one:

–dumping my clean laundry on the couch and picking items to wear from it day by day until it reaches a manageable level to fold and put away
–always knowing how much cereal is left in the box
–being able to schedule events easily–if someone asked me if I wanted to see a movie on Saturday, I would think for a minute if I had any plans, then agree. It’s harder to remember plans someone else made and harder still to guess what they might be hoping for or planning but not yet mentioned. Plus, hooking up with someone romantically effectively doubles your social circle, because you get his too. I quite like all of Mark’s peeps, but there’s simply a lot more people to see now.
–sleeping like a starfish
–stirfried eggs, which Mark does not believe is a food, but I used to eat several times a week.
–singing myself to sleep, which I used to do when I had insomnia, but I figure is rude if there’s someone else in the bed.
–that wildly over-optimistic excitement of walking into a party or event and wondering if tonight I would meet “the guy”
–the way my friends’ boyfriends would be almost paternally nice to me as a way of making points with their girlfriends. Like fixing stuff around my place and driving me to stuff. I knew it was sad because I was the loser single friend, but it was still kind of adorable.
–no one knew how many popsicles I ate
–going to gym, then to bed without showering

July 9th, 2015

Songs that have been stuck in my head

I decided to keep a diary of all the songs that have been stuck in my head, because they are so varied and random. And they don’t seem to come from anywhere, it’s not like “Oh, I heard that on the radio at the dentist’s office.” Some of these I hadn’t heard in years until one day they began playing inside my head and wouldn’t stop. Most of them are terrible. What does this say about me?

Anyway, tracking them has taught me a thing or two about the whole “stuck in my head” thing–I tend to only hear my internal music when I’m doing something that does not require my full attention, like cooking or showering. If I’m working or reading, no aural landscape. Interesting?

Well, here’s the diary, starting with the very surprising song that triggered the project. If I can recall having heard the song recently or can think of another reason it’s in my head, I have put a * beside it–all the starless entries are inexplicable!

Tuesday June 23

–evening: “Nookie” by Limp Bizkit

–later evening: “Izzo” by Jay-Z

–going to bed: “Hold Me Closer Tiny Dancer” by Elton John

Wednesday June 24

–morning, in the shower: “Poor Cow” by Elton John*

Thursday June 25

–3am, awake for no reason: “Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)” by Shakira

–getting ready for work: “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift

–immediately after that: “Only Happy When It Rains” by Garbage

Somehow I don’t have any songs in my head on the weekend???

Monday June 29

–in the elevator leaving for work, “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town”

Thursday July 2

–in the elevator leaving for work (seems to be a popular time for songs to invade my brain), “Let’s Talk about Sex” by Salt N Pepa

Tuesday July 7

–getting off the bus at work “Sick of Myself” by Matthew Sweet

(Are you noticing there are fewer and fewer of these? I’m not forgetting to post them, the phenomenon is just diminishing. I wonder if this is like lucid dreaming, where the more you try to recall and control it, the less it happens…?)

–getting ready for bed, “Sick of Myself” by Matthew Sweet

Wednesday July 8

–morning, getting dressed, “Sick of Myself” by Matthew Sweet (I’m trying not to take this as a message from my brain–it’s just a really catchy song!)

–around 11:30pm, trying to fall asleep, “Rossland Square” (this song is noteable as being the first on the list that is in my current listening list, though honestly I can’t think of the last time I heard it outside my own skull)

Thursday July 9

–late afternoon, heading down the subway stairs after work, “Crocodile Rock” by Elton John (Geez, that guy is on here a lot.)

–evening, microwave frozen mango for a snack “You’re the One That I Want” by John Travolta and Olivia Newton John

All right, I’m going to end this hear because this exercise has been humiliating and proves no matter how much good music I try to shove into my brain, something in more core has lousy lousy taste. I want to think that truly complex interesting music is difficult to just play on a mental loop without thinking, but I’m not sure if that’s true. Maybe I am truly just a 90s mallrat in denial.

If you’re tempted into doing one of these mental-music diaries, I’d love to see it!

June 2nd, 2015

Things I feel awkward about

Oh, they are many and legion, the things I feel awkward about. In this case, I am not referring to social awkwardness, although those things are many and legion, too. Today I want to talk about experiences that weren’t awesome or terrible and that maybe I still haven’t fully processed–I just don’t feel exactly one thing about them and that is…awkward. These were all going to be separate blog posts and then I realized a) I won’t write that many blog posts in the next few weeks, and after a few weeks these topics will all feel irrelevant and b) they fit together this tidy theme. And so…things that made me feel awkward lately…

Career Day I usually agree to do just about whatever I’m asked if it gets me an opportunity to speak to young people. I’m at an age where teenagers and early twentysomethings won’t speak to me voluntarily at a party or even at work, but all my friends still have only little kids, so they can’t help me much with the zeitgeist (though they do help me get to swing on swings without anyone giving me weird looks). So I did a career day at UofT and it was definitely an awkward experience. I was on a panel on working in education, which was a bit weird as everyone else taught in some format. Youth today is much for savvy than I was in my uni years, and much more goal oriented. In part, they have to be–the job market it is tougher now than in 2001 when I graduated, and it was plenty tough then. I saw a lot of fear in the eyes of the people at the seminar, and I wanted to help them but I wasn’t sure how. One way they very much were like me in my youth is that they couldn’t really process the idea of jobs they hadn’t heard of before–teachers made sense to them, along with firemen and doctors and crossing guards, I’m sure. For those not playing along at home, I am a production project manager and that most definitely did not make sense to anyone there–I thought I explained pretty succinctly (and my job isn’t rocket surgery, as they say, though it’s pretty interesting/challenging) but most of the young folk were looking right through me. Hell, maybe they knew exactly what i was talking about, but just didn’t want any part of it. I did get a sense of the zeitgist (panic!) but other than that the day was kind of sad.

Klout Scores I had the opportunity to go to a seminar on how to land a book contract, and even thought I actually already have a book contract (and I can’t say enough hoorays about that) I went–it’s always good to know more about the business, and I wasn’t doing anything else. It turns out I learned a tonne, because the author who was speaking has an American agent and submitted her book to only American houses. It is VERY different over there. (Also, I should point out that the speaker, Rachel McMillan was so incredibly charming and well-spoken that it was worth the hour just to listen to her, and I will defo buy her book when it comes out!)

Anyway, to publish in the States is a very different thing, it seems, than publishing in Canada, and one of the differences is how many things other than an author you need to be. Skilled marketer and respected influencer are two; the presentation touched on Klout scores, which are a measure of how known/respected/influential we are on the inter webs. All of us, even if you don’t register for Klout or look into it, you are still out there, with our certain amount of influence in the world.

I’m really into quantifying stuff so even though I’d like to pretend I don’t care about Klout scores, of course I set off immediately to find mine out. It was a 10/100, which I felt sort of bad about but resigned to, but it turned out it took a few days for the data to feed into the system–now I’m a 52. On the one hand, that’s a bare pass; on the other, Rachel said influence begins at 35. I don’t even know if telling you this is appropriate in polite company–is this like revealing my weight?

Christina Kelly Has a Blog It’s called Fallen Princess and I love it even though it makes me squirm. If you’re not familiar with this writer, she was one of my heroes back in the early 1990s when she wrote for Sassy. When Sassy, the best and weirdest teen-girl magazine I’d encountered crashed and burned, I was already 16 and basically ready to leave the teen-girl mag world behind and actually, gendered magazines full stop, so I missed out on the rest of Kelly’s career there–she went on to Jane, YM, Elle Girl…and apparently did good work at all. For some reason, even though the Sassy writers put a lot of their personalities into their writing and I loved them all, I didn’t attempt to find out where they went or what they did next. Actually, I do know why that is, if I’m honest–I read them as fictional characters, and when Sassy ended, the novel I was reading about these people ended.

At that point in my life, the first person was verboten in anything but novels–everything for school or even the student paper or the yearbook was supposed to be this weird unbiased unreferenced speaker. The first glimpse I got of self-referential journalism and criticism–the world that would become the blogosphere–is via Sassy. And Rose-coloured is actually where you can hear the greatest influence of that kind of writing; if you follow the link above to Fallen Princess, you’ll hear a voice that echos distinctly around here.

Christina Kelly was the tougher, scarier one at Sassy–known for her sarcasm and being in a rock band. I thought she was an amazing super-adult, and I dreamed of having her life while simultaneously knowing I’m not cut out for a rock-and-roll lifestyle and I don’t understand sarcasm. And honestly, I’ve done a lot of amazing things in my failed attempt to become the person I imagined CK to be in 1994 (that’s a tough sentence to get right, but I think I got it), so the result was excellent.

But now, having stumbled upon this blog, I’m startled to discover that the target has shifted and Kelly, while still a charmingly brusque and funny writer, is also a suburban full-time mom, Girl Guide leader and yoga-doer. She still sounds like an excellent person to meet for dinner, but I no longer wish to be her. Maybe I’m just older and no longer wish to be anyone other than myself (which is true) but also I think this is a good lesson that people change and life changes and you’re not always on the road you think you are on. Or something.

I don’t really have an issue with the suburbs or the yoga or the Girl Guides, but I’m distinctly uncomfortable with the regularly-bubbling-to-the-surface subtext of the blog, which is that it is f–king hard to be a writer. I found this Non writer post kind of heartbreaking, because it is such a well written (right until it trails off onto another topic, but such is the license of blogs) meditation on not writing. But the post I Am Actually an Actual Feminist Housewife is probably the best post on the blog (and yes, when I found out Fallen Princess existed, I did go back to the first post and read it straight through like a novel–I often do that. Maybe I sort of wish everything was a novel.) It’s so complicated and honest and when you finish reading it, there’s no designated response, no obvious, “right on!” or “what you should have done” or anything–you just need to think about it.

So the awkward thing is that I’d like CK to write more for publication so I could read it, but I also think I’m happy for her that she’s comfortable making the choice not to…for now.

September 17th, 2012

What Is Pirate Cake and How Do You Make It?

So here’s a post that has nothing to do with anything that’s been going on on this blog. On Saturday I made a Pirate Cake for my husband’s birthday and, when it went horribly wrong, I asked for help on Facebook forgetting that Pirate Cake is not an actual thing and people would be confused. They were, along with very supportive (and the cake survived, though it was darn ugly) and curious. So here is what Pirate Cake is and how you can have one too if you like, for anyone from Facebook or anywhere else that cares.

I grew up in a house without “bought cookies,” so though I learned about–and pined for–Oreos in the schoolyard, I am not familiar with some of the more esoteric brands. My husband, on the other hand, is obsessed with Pirate Cookies and when we got together they were often in his cupboards. They are flat dry oatmeal cookies sandwiches around peanut-butter frosting–same general idea as Oreos, but different flavours. They’re really good.

I like to bake, and once he suggested I *make* Pirate Cookies. This made no sense to me because they are so good in their manufactured form, but I did it anyway, and they’re also really good. The big advantage to making them yourself is that you can have as much frosting as you like.

Then we made Pirate Cookie Blizzards (and will be drafting a letter to DQ shortly) and, for a birthday a while back, I invented Pirate Cake. I bet you can guess what it is–an oatmeal layer cake with peanut butter frosting.

It’s delicious, and pretty easy, and if you’re not a moron like I am you’ll make sure the bottom layer is level so that the top layer doesn’t slide off at an angle and endanger the whole operation. This is not a healthy recipe, but I guess it does have more fibre (oatmeal) and protein (peanut butter) than your average cake.

WORD OF WARNING: Remember that I am a person who did *not* take the above precautions about the level cake base, and therefore should not be trusted to give advice. And yet, people did ask, so here you go–caveat emptor.

Oatmeal Cake
(This is a low-fat version I found that is identical to the one in Joy of Cooking except for slightly less fat. I’ve made both and they taste the same, so you might as well use the lighter one and have more frosting instead.)

1 cup quick-cooking oats
1.25 cups boiling water
6 tablespoons margarine (I use butter)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 eggs (I use egg substitute because it’s both lighter and pasturized–you can eat the dough without fear of salmonella)
1.33 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
0.5 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
0.25 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Pinch cloves
(I always omit the cloves, and next time I think I’ll omit all the spices–doesn’t completely jibe with the peanut butter)

1. Mix oats, boiling water and margarine/butter in a large bowl, stirring until margarin/butter is melted; let stand 15 to 20 minutes. Mix in sugars and eggs. Mix in combined remaining ingredients.
2. Pour batter into greased 13×9 pan (or in this case, two round layer pans) Bake at 350 degrees until a toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean, about 35 minutes (way less for the layer pans–start checking at about 20 minutes). Cool on wire rack 10-15 minutes.

When the cake is completely cool, you can ice it (if you don’t know what a mess you can make icing a warm cake, consider yourself lucky).

Unfortunately, my recipe for peanut-butter icing isn’t a real recipe with measurements or anything, since I invented it. You just kinda eyeball and taste until you feel confident. You’ll always end up with too little or too much, too, unfortunately–try to err on the side of too much.

Take a tablespoon of butter and 0.25 cup of peanut-butter, and leave them at room temperature until they are soft. I use the all-natural peanut butter, but you can use whatever–if you get the processed stuff, you might not need the salt mentioned later. Obviously, smooth pb would work better here, but if you make a mistake at the grocery store (I have) it can still work out ok.

When they are soft, squash them together with the back of a spoon. Add a bunch of icing sugar–half a cup–to the mixture, and squash that in. Then when you can’t add any more sugar, add a splash of milk (I use skim, but whatever will work) until it gets really runny. Then add more sugar until it gets really powdery. When you get close to what you perceive as the right amount of icing, taste, then throw in a dash of salt and taste again to see if you are happy with that. Then try to balance out the milk/sugar ratio until it looks like the consistency of icing.

Ice the cake. Decorate with whatever. Keep in mind that the icing will be beige, and not attractive, so you’ll want to decorate as much as possible. It’s occurred to me that I could use cocoa to dye some of the icing a richer brown, which I could then pipe onto the cake to decorate it, but I have never actually bothered to do that.

As you can see from the photo above, I tried to write “Mark” in chocolate chips, and it took me two lines for 4 letters, and also part of the R slid over the side when the top layer started drifting. This is basically as ugly as a cake can be and still have people willing to eat it, but Mark loves me and I love peanut-butter icing, so we tried it.

IT WAS SO GOOD!!

Enjoy!

July 10th, 2012

Word I Irrationally Despise

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted a grammar or usage rant here at Rose-coloured, the reasons being (a) people hate them and (b) I’ve calmed down. I think the calming was due in large part to my brief stint teaching in high schools a couple years back. There’s nothing like being exposed to young people on a regular basis to convince you you are not as smart as you think you are. Also, the youths do cool stuff with language, and I’ve grown to appreciate it more–just yesterday, I was expounding on how interesting it is when they drop the “m” in random and make it a noun–“That guy is such a rando!” Useful, no?

Also, on the part (a) front, those rants just made me sound bitchy and pedantic, and we could all do with a bit less of that, I think.

Well as I’m doing dissolving my prejudices against certain types of language, there are some things that are technically correct that I still CAN NOT DEAL WITH. Do you have those? Words or turns of phrase that you irrationally despise, though they actually do just fine at conveying what they are meant to convey? I had a colleague who loathed the word “amalogomate” because “it sounds like bugs having sex.” You can’t really argue with that.

My most loathed word is the seemingly innocuous “sip.” I think it sounds disgusting, I think people use it to be fey or sexy, and the alleged sexiness is in itself disgusting, or else because they don’t know how to conjugate the word “drink” (that’s another post, however, the sort of post I don’t write anymore, allegedly). Generally I think “sip” is the worst word in the world. Grr. Blech.

Let’s try to get to the root of the problem. What does “sip” actually mean, anyway–how is it different from “drink”? Well, Canadian Oxford says it meant “to drink in one or more small amounts.” Whereas drink just means any amount. But for practical purposes, in prose writing, is there really any difference between, “He nodded, sipped some coffee, and began to speak,” and “He nodded, drank some coffee, and began to speak”? Well, the first one sounds ickier, but otherwise I feel they are identical. No one is going to think he slammed down the whole cup without the nuance of “sip” are they?

I don’t think I ever liked this word, but I can pinpoint where it all fell apart completely–the use, in a romance novel, of the phrase “sipping kisses.” I believe this is supposed to imply a series of small kisses, but to me it sounds like drinking saliva or somehow liquifying the other’s face. It’s just the worst thing ever. WORST THING EVER.

So what’s your most loathed word?

June 24th, 2012

Two nice things happened

I’ve spent the bulk of the past few days having mild food poisoning, so it wasn’t the best weekend of my life. But a few nice things did happen. Let me share, in case you too have food poisoning or other things you need to be cheered up about.

1) I was on the top floor of the Bay, headed for the down escalator, which was blocked by a woman trying to carry a heavy, awkward foldup stroller and lead her toddler daughter by the hand onto the escalator. Toddler was having none of it, and the standoff blocked my path. At first, they were just going to move aside, but then the woman asked if I could help her. I said sure, and waited for her to hand me the stroller. Instead, she hefted it onto the top step and said, “please take my daughter down the escalator. She is scared.”

Well, me too–for one thing, I know I am not a psycho but it’s not printed on the outside of me and what if this woman does this on a regular basis until she finds someone who is. But secondly and more pressingly, the little girl has started to cry. I took her hand, which soothed her somewhat, and when I stepped on she looked *really* worried but then followed me one stair later. But the second escalator (we were on the fourth floor to start) she balked. The mother was already half a flight down and the girl began to sob (I would put her at barely 2, I think). I gestured frantically at the mom. “Should I pick her up?” The mom, growing ever smaller in the distance, shrugged.

I scooped up the tiny thing, pressed her cheek to mine, and said what I say to the cat when he freaks out, “You’re fine, nothing to worry about here, totally fine.”

AND SHE STOPPED CRYING. This is what superheroes feel like. We went peacefully down the escalator after that. Her mother did not seem aware of the amazing feat that had been accomplished, but still thanked me profusely when I handed back the little one.

2) My beloved and I have been going to the same falafal/schwarma place once a week for about a year, always being served by the same very nice fellow who remembers our orders and tries hard to make small talk despite the fact that he clearly has a hard time with English words that are not falafal/schwarma toppings.

On Saturday, I went to pick up dinner alone (finally over the poisoning and excited to eat solid foods again). He asked after Mark and for whatever reason I told him we’re getting married, which he was pleased for and said is a good idea. I said, “Are you married?” and he said, “Of course!” I guess they don’t let you wear rings when you work with food?

Anyway, from this he went on to ask me where I’m from. I get this a lot, and hate it, but I do like this guy and I knew why he asked. We look a lot alike, him and me, as Semitic peoples often do, but we’re not all the same and occasionally that can be an issue. But after rebuffing my attempt at “from Hamilton,” he seemed relatively calm about the “Jewish” answer.

He turned out to be from Morocco, which I hadn’t been expecting. I asked him if he spoke French and he said yes. So very tentatively, I said, “Moi aussi. Un peu. Seulement lentement.”

Honestly, if you’ve ever heard me speak it, you know my French is basically crap–weirdly accented (I learned a lot of it from a woman whose first language was Chinese) and ungrammatical (I took a class on Quebecois slang, which imprinted itself rather deeper than it should’ve). I have a mid-size vocabulary and can generally make myself understood, but it’s a sad struggle. And of course, now I’ve lived in Ontario for a decade, much worse.

I have *never* had anyone praise my French more, or react with more genuine delight at my mangled conjugations. In the course of our brief chat en francais, it emerged that English is his *third* language, French his second (after Arabic) and he is much more comfortable in it. Indeed, he spoken very beautifully, without even a scary accent to throw me off (I have a hard time with accents even in English, actually).

I think he was just dying to have a somewhat normal, comfortable conversation in a language he can relax in, in the midst of what must be a long trying day in a language he can’t relax in. It was really nice to feel a bit of a connection there, across the counter.

***

Little things, but both really made my days. How was your weekend?

November 9th, 2011

Rankings

(this made sense in context, actually, kind of, but I like it even better without)

RR: Do the rankings!
MS: The rankings? Of what’s most important?
RR: Yeah! Do it!
MS: Well, you. Then Evan, then the rest of cat-kind.
RR: Yeah?
MS: Then the Giller Prize. Unless it is a year you or I are nominated for it. Then we flip the Gillers with “the rest of cat kind.”
RR: Yeah?
MS: Am I getting this right?
RR: Seems fair. Then what?
MS: Then what?
RR: What comes after the Gillers?
MS: I dunno. What else is there? We haven’t talked about anything else all night.

October 31st, 2011

Deathmatch? On the Rose-coloured blog?

Yep, it’s true–I’ll be a part of the Literary Deathmatch this Sunday evening, along with co-combattents Dani Couture, Carolyn Black, and Grace O’Connell. If you’ve hung out with me at literary events before and witnessed my hugging patterns, you’re probably wondering when I stopped liking those people and, of course, I haven’t–they are all awesome humans and writers and I in no way wish to see them die.

But it’s going to be a fun night with cool people, and I heard rumours that at the last Toronto LDM, there was a cupcake-throwing contest, which sounds as hilarious as it does non-literary. Anyway, as usual, I got sucked in by my desire to do what the cool kids are doing.

If you aren’t familiar with LDM, here’s an amusing video–you see why see why I couldn’t say no? And here’s the link to Sunday’s event details if you’d like to come out and enjoy the silliness (or just try to eat a cupcake before they all get thrown).

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