I am a Snob

I confess: I am a snob. Not an everything snob, just a few things snob.
I love clean grocery stores. I will pay extra just to go there. I tried, I really did try to do my regular, everyday, basic-staples-in-the-pantry in a cut price, bargain store but it didn't work. After a few weeks, my eyes fastened on the dirty floors instead of the price tags and I just couldn't do it any more. Bring on the clean! bring on the bright!
My other snobbery is the Folio Society, a publishing house based in London (UK) specializing in beautiful books, the kind that could be passed down as heirlooms.  It actually is relative to aging because it is relative to my aging. It's only in the last few years that I am comfortable spending that kind of money on a book and only then because I don't spend on other things. I don't 'do' clothes. I petted a $2000 dress several years ago but owning one is not on my bucket list. I don't 'do' jewelry, either. A few pretty things, mainly gifts from my family  and my collection is complete.
So, that brings me back to the book. The Folio Society ships from England; that Royal Mail insignia is my first little thrill! Then, there's the wrapping. Those books are so safely cocooned for their trip across the Atlantic, I swear you could ship fine china in their boxes. Not only are the books not just overwrapped in paper, they are boxed and bubble wrapped and paper wrapped and that's before the shrink wrap which protects the slipcase.
Am I there yet?

Just one of many treasures 

Sometimes, the book is not revealed for days. Why not enjoy that Christmas present feeling for a while? When it is finally opened....what joy! what fun! Ah, the aroma of fine paper and quality ink! Or is it the aroma of quality paper and fine ink? All I know is that somehow a beautiful book embellishes even a really good story. The Hobbit was never so exciting in paperback.
It's possible that my snobby hobbies may come to an end soon but at this moment in time, I'm enjoying every trip to the clean, well-lit, superbly stocked grocery store and reading my members-only literary catalogue with my hand firmly on my credit card.


Some Small Things of Loveliness

There are large things of loveliness like the Aurora Borealis, the enormous flocks of Canada Geese during migration, or the doctor telling you that you don't have cancer and then there are the small ones. The small ones are so plentiful, and sometimes so fleeting; we just have to remember to value them.
A bouquet of flowers a propos of nothing, just arriving out of the blue.
A manila envelope full of fridge art, from faraway grandchildren.
A sticky kiss embellished with runny nose from a sick toddler.
Being told by a complete stranger that you have magnificent eyebrows.
A bed filled with pets on an ice cold morning.
A freebie from the photo book people.
Finding a 5 times folded twenty dollar bill in the laundry.
Having a rhubarb harvest after 5 years of nothing.
Going for lunch with really nice people.
Holding hands with your true-love after 100 years of marriage!!!
(And so on....)
Your list won't be the same as mine and that's OK. However, please make a list even if you keep it only in your head. Just make sure that you can pull it out periodically and look at and add to it. You might be pleasantly surprised at the number of treasures you actually have. 


Rilla of Ingleside

I'm reading a WW1 book called 'The Middle Parts of Fortune" by Frederic Manning. I'm reading it very slowly because I really don't want to know who dies in the end. It is a very slow, sad book and I'm so glad I discovered it.
There are now three and a half WW1 books in my library. This one, 'All Quiet on the Western Front' by Erich Maria Remarque, parts of Ernest Hemingway's 'Collected Short Stories' and 'Rilla of Ingleside' by LM Montgomery.
'Rilla of Ingleside' is quite possibly the most understated Canadian book ever written. It remains half hidden as young adult fiction for girls, or obscure Canadiana, never shouted from the rooftops as wow! reading.
When I first read it, in 1974, I was already a huge fan of Montgomery's Anne and only 23 myself, not too old to turn my nose up at a teenaged heroine. My gain.
This book should be on reading lists everywhere; it is the face of civilian stoicism and unremarked upon heroism in a time of war. It is a chronology of maturing. It is without flash and dash. It could be a companion to 'Gone with the Wind', it's flip side, so to speak.
Just as Pearl Buck (The Good Earth) spoke for China all those years ago, so LM Montgomery spoke for small town Canada and though her focus was Ontario and points east, I don't think that small towns differ all that much. Where there is adversity, there is a rallying spirit.
Where there is a challenge, there are hidden depths.
True, Rilla will always appeal more to girls and women, but if boys and men read it they might find girls and women easier to understand. If young people read it, they might find themelves beginning to understand sacrifice. Not the obvious kind of shattered bodies and minds but the silent kind of growing up too fast and grieving for one's parents grief.
I do believe I've read this book 10 times, and in this year, the 100th anniversary of that war, I will read it again.


That Damned Grocery Bill!

This is not a food blog! However, periodically, it could be a blog about food. Like today.
When the today grocery bill for 2 people is higher than the 4 people bill of 15 years ago, and the 2 people involved are gong to retire soon, I think it's time to be bold and start looking at different ways of cooking. The funny thing is that an awful lot of old becomes new again.
My hobbyhorse has become legumes and pulses. Legumes are the plants and pulses are.....the little bits that we eat. You thought I was going to go on about perfume points!

Pulses include peas, beans and lentils, and we have been eating them for 13,000 years! Isn't that exciting?
As a tidbit, the Lebanese introduced lentils to Canada around the time of the depression. While the drought was killing off our wheat, it was providing some very good growing conditions for this little nutritious powerhouse. As a result, Canada is now the world's leading exporter of lentils and Saskatchewan (the province that's so easy to draw and so hard to spell) is the leader of the pack.
I'm so surprised that the legume/pulse section of most grocery stores is so small. I'm also disappointed that there isn't a recipe section close by to teach people what to do with all that lusciousness lying around, practically free.
As an FYI, there's a website for lentils: lentils.ca which has all kinds of recipes, and some great blogs: onehotstove.blogspot.ca , for example.
We need to be bolder and take our tummies to places they have never gone before....vegetarian cooking, back to Lebanon and Asia. Actually, older German cookbooks have generous numbers of pea & bean recipes.
Not to forget homemade pork and beans and the recipe for that is on the back of the haricot bean package.
I don't deny that some of these recipes are a little bit fiddley but that's the beauty of retirement; we're supposed to have more time to spend on the important things. In my life, cooking is a fun activity, so it's not as challenging to seek new food worlds as it would be for someone who sees cooking as a chore. So, realigning chore↓ and cooking↓ to cooking↑ and fun↑ might be one of the first priorities of retirement.
Let's cook great things and share them with our friends and family and talk about people who have way too much spare time and spend it blogging.


Dentist Day

Today was dentist day. It is (a tiny bit) thrilling to be able to say that I am no longer terrified of the dentist. While going to the clinic is not something I would rather do than, say, go out for lunch, it is now something I would rather do than shovel manure.
Everyone there is very friendly. Of course they are all fixated on flossing so we have reached a small agreement; no one asks me if I floss daily and I do not  lie. The dentists have adopted a cat; it makes for nice easy conversation.
The dental office of my childhood was the stuff of nightmares...the black chair, the mysterious drawers full of torturing instruments, the gigantic needles. My childhood dental visits were not 'a good time'.
Things improved somewhat when the old dentist retired but unlike him my fears did not; they grew into a nerve bending phobia. Visits to any DDS were preceded by days of emotional upheaval.
Things change. Suffice it to say that the most horrible happened and I survived. Tada! Cured! Fears banished!
My favourite dentist movie is 'Little Shop of Horrors'. Remember Steve Martin as the sadistic dentist? Remember Bill Murray as the masochistic patient?  My favourite dentist question is: Who would you rather marry? A dentist or a hairdresser? I don't believe there is a dentist song.
The good thing about the aging mouth is that there aren't as many cavities. The not so good is that there is always maintenance. At least now my visits are calm ones.


Pioneer Moms

Since it was International Women's Day on Saturday, I started thinking about the women in my life, especially my mother and mother-in-law. Both women emigrated from Europe in the early 50's, completely unprepared for their new lives.
I used to think of those young wives as brave because they left their native countries but for most of them it didn't take bravery at all, just a mad faith in one's ability and immortality; hadn't they survived the war?
The bravery comes after; the brave act was in the staying. Both these women, by the time the 50's rolled around, had been living in modern homes with running water, flush toilets and electricity. There were buses and trains for everyday travel. There were surfaced streets. There were a lot of people around and those people were all close together.
The brave act lay in the fact that those two women and countless others did not run screaming into the night. The brave act was, after shedding the tears or even while shedding them, they carried on. My mother-in-law was a city girl and while she told a funny story, it could not possibly have been fun to arrive in a Western town and sink past the entire suede high heeled shoe, right up to the ankles in mud. From cobbles to mud. From brick to log home. She became a pioneer without in the least expecting it.
Halifax, Immigration entry
My mother had a bit of respite and started her new life in a city but that lasted not even a year and then she, too, began pioneering. Wood stoves, no bathrooms, no potable water.
Their big advantage was their youth. They were both too young to have accumulated many worldly goods, they were healthy, they were resilient with youth's elasticity. There was always tomorrow and there were enough tomorrows for them to be able to make something of themselves. Lucky youth!
Not so lucky for the people our age, the ones who at 60 had lost everything and had to move to a new country. I cannot imagine how hard that must have been, is still being for so many. No, I do not know how you feel; I just know that I am probably not grateful enough for my untumultuous life. The next time a bus is late, I promise to be happy that there is a bus at all!


I Just Do Not Get This.....

There are things I just do not understand. Most of these non-understandable things, I accept. Cash registers, quantum theory, sines and cosines. They work; they are; fine.
There are things that I disagree with, oppose, celebrate that they no longer exist, but I understand. Women as the weaker sex (just because they didn't do those dreadful broadsword wielding exercises, yeah, they were weaker), illiteracy and innumeracy (keeping the chosen few up and thumbs down on everyone else), public hanging, (it was supposed to be a deterrent), and so on and so on.
There are other things, though, that rattle around and refuse to go away. They pop up in insomniac moments.
What's up with debtor's prison?
A plan of Newgate, London
Why would you put a guy who owes you money into jail? Wouldn't it make more sense to get the guy a job so he could pay you back? If the idea is punishment, the place was a town; the whole family could live there. Maybe that was the punishment....your wife on your case 24/7! "OMG look at the size of those rats! Charlie's got a nice place for his family, why can't you get a bigger cell? Check out those fleas, yada, yada, yada."
By all accounts it was a terrible place, but I still don't get it......
Long skirts. Why would you wear them all the time? Especially if you're poor? You could make 2 pairs of pants out of one skirt. The Chinese women wore pants, in fact, high born ladies wore them. Very sensible. Not only are skirts more expensive than pants, they collect dirt, and vermin, and water when walking around the unpaved streets of a medieval town. Who thought of this?
All I can say is: Lamebrain. But really, almost as much Lamebrain to all of us for putting up with this nonsense for so long.

These troubling things, on a scale of 1 to 10 rate about .0001, I know, but they, among other curious thoughts, keep me amused and harmlessly occupied in my sleepless bed. They obviously also keep me occupied when I should be dusting!


A Paul Bunyan Kind of Day

Most of my friends are old enough to remember Paul Bunyan and his blue ox, Babe. They have drifted out of popular culture these days but I think that this winter has been cold enough to reprise them.
Paul Bunyan was a giant of a man, an amazing lumberjack, always accompanied by Babe. He lived mainly in Minnesota but had travelled extensively throughout the northeastern States, probably causing havoc with that gigantic beast and huge ax of his. 
My favourite story is the one of the very cold winter. It was so cold that when people spoke out of doors, their words froze. When the weather got warmer, no one could even hear themselves think, all because of the thunderous noise caused by all those words thawing out! Like this morning.
I shake my head at those 'good old days', remembering the wood stove, icy feet, inadequate winter wear. It was cheaper to heat than insulate way back when. A lot of houses were insulated with newspapers; no wonder they burned down so quickly! Conventional wisdom decreed that our coats should be heavy; I'm sure a lot of you remember those 50 lb. garments. And boots! Rubber galoshes with not a warming particle in them. There are days when I secretly worship at the altar of Enbridge; do people really know what it's like to heat with wood? Chopping aside, what about the dirt? the bugs in the house in January? and last but not least, the burn injuries? Never considered that, didja? An MD in the North did a study......lots of burn injuries.
A realistic compromise must be out there, somewhere. What if we pay just a little more as long as the money goes to infrastructure? Safer pipelines and all.
I like to be warm; I like my water lines to not be frozen and I'll bet all of you do, too.


Regrets (Part Two)

There are always regrets; I simply do not believe that we are capable of making perfect choices. Is there not a poem about the path not taken....and the not taken one, even if the other is a gorgeous path, is the one we regret?
My big regret is that I don't have a degree. It's not that I didn't have the university experience, or that I lack an education.  It's taken a while but I finally realize that is, quite simply, that I don't have that piece of paper hanging on my wall.
My favourite mathematician, Blaise Pascal, says we build big houses not for ourselves but mainly to impress other people. It's very probably for the same reason that we hang things on our walls. I know I would! I would go to a professional framer, put down my money and say, "Fly at 'er." which is ungrammatical and terribly idiomatic and means exactly what I would want it to mean at that moment. Then it would arrive back at my home, and I would take a selfie with the framed proof of my accomplishment right next to my smiling, albeit, somewhat middle aged face and send that off to all our friends. That would be in the future.
If I would have gone to university as a young woman I probably wouldn't have had all those children. Which ones would I not have had? Would I even have met my husband? Would I be healthier? Would I be better off financially? Even that is a maybe.
At 60+, I am realizing
that all life is a maybe. Every path taken moves us along to another crossroads, another choice and ultimately, to another decision. We need to remind ourselves that for the most part our decisions weren't terrible ones and we still have time to remedy one or two that we really, really regret. Or we could just sit down with ourselves and have a little talk and come to the conclusion that what we thought was so important, turns out to not be that big a deal after all.


Regrets (Part One)

I confess to a certain envy of my mother-in-law's mild tyranny. She was utterly convinced that we would hop to it when bidden, completely lacking in doubt about our unflagging obedience when summoned! Naturally, as adults , we found this to be unfair and selfish, over-entitled, as it were. Also naturally, we did not always 'hop to it'. This was met with either wrath or martyrdom. Both good weapons, designed to make you feel guilty or more guilty. Take your pick.
Not a Christmas Eve went by that did not see us all assembled, in our finery, AT HER HOUSE. Nor did we often refuse coffee and cake for birthdays, feasts at Thanksgiving and Easter, champagne lunches on Sunday. If our beloved mother/mother-in-law so ordained, it was almost always so.
I'm sure I wasn't the only one to deeply resent this infringement on my adulthood. I resented so bitterly that I swore never to inflict these behaviors on my own children. Now check out the title.
How could I have better managed things, so that there would be a bit more of 'snapping to attention' but without the resentment? Is such a thing possible? Will our own children ever regret not seeing more of us? Will they, in a weird logic-defying twist, blame us for not insisting?
In one of my Russian short stories, the family is gathered after church, in the daughter's garden, and the visitor asks, "Is it a party?" One of uncles turns to him and replies, "No, it's Sunday."
How lovely, how unrealistic. Our family lives so far apart, is busy, has no servants, cannot just jump on a plane at a mother's whim but believe me, there are moments when I wish......

circa 1949