Friday, December 21, 2007

Words for Christmas

I really dislike the word biweekly. Now, normally I’m quite tolerant of words, as long as they spell themselves correctly, place themselves in sentences in a reasonably grammatical fashion, and hang out with the right sort of punctuation. And of course they must mean what they say, which is where we run into problems with the word in question here. You see, although when we’re speaking of years, there is a clear differentiation between biennial and biannual, biweekly can mean either every two weeks or twice weekly, so you tell me: what earthly use is a word like that?

There are certainly plenty of words in English called homographs, that are spelled the same but mean different things. But in most cases it is clearly obvious from context which meaning you are to take. I suppose if you just yelled, “Duck!” one might not be sure whether to hit the dirt or look around for an interesting specimen of waterfowl. And “Throw me a ball” could be ambiguous. Do I want a spherical object or a big dance party in my honour?

I just can’t imagine under what circumstances I would choose to use the word biweekly. If I tell you my cleaning lady comes biweekly, or I have to gas up my car biweekly, what do you glean from that? You have no idea how often these things happen. (Bimonthly, by the way, has the same problem.)

This could be avoided if we embraced the term semiweekly for twice a week (which is indeed what it unambiguously means) and reserved biweekly for every two weeks. But how do we go about making this happen? Any dictionary you consult today allows for either definition for biweekly. This is useless, people! Stop the madness and make yourself clear!

In an earlier blog, I’ve briefly touched on other words I dislike, for other reasons. But I must finish off here by telling you one of my favourite words. It’s abecedarian, meaning to do with the alphabet or, by extension, things of a rudimentary nature. When I first heard it, I thought it must be a relatively recent term and admired the cleverness of its coiner, but in fact it has been around since at least the Middle Ages. Such crystal clear derivation! Such a dandy word! It is my Christmas gift to you -- along with semiweekly.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

It's Beginning to Look a Lot...

Well, I have no specific topic today but I’ve reached the point, again, where I feel I have to say something lest my vast readership forget about me altogether. So I shall ramble.

First of all, I find myself astounded that it is December 1st. I have not purchased a single Christmas gift, and that is unprecedented. I have always made at least a start before December 1st, but this year that date suddenly came upon me without warning. Boom. 24 shopping days till Christmas.

But not really 24 days. This coming week I will be involved in a special work assignment that promises to keep me tied to my computer at least eight hours a day, so in fact I only have 17 shopping days till Christmas. But I won’t shop weekends or Christmas Eve, so that leaves me ten shopping days till Christmas. And out of any given ten days, I’m likely to have a migraine on at least one of them, so that leaves me at best nine shopping days till Christmas.

See how I can effortlessly work myself up into a complete frenzy?

Offsetting that negative freak-out, however, is a positive one. Scarcely seven weeks back from my last holiday and I already have my next cruise booked! Now, this is the lifestyle I have in mind! I’m off back to the warm Caribbean again at the end of February. There are endless itineraries for cruising the Caribbean area, and if one repeats some beautiful little tropic isles, well, who cares? It’s about the warm sun sparkling on aquamarine waters, the steel drum music, the flowers, the brightly-coloured fabrics, the brightly-coloured drinks o’ day…

This is what keeps me sitting at my computer working away. I work to cruise.

And in our neck of the woods, we have the first snowfall of the season today. Thank goodness we had the foresight to have our snow tires installed last week, just in the nick of time. RH always cleverly saves up a couple of routine things that need doing to our Accord, such as oil changes or mysterious tune-ups of one sort or another (I have no idea), because our Honda dealership will throw in a gratis tire change if you’re having something else done.

We’ve become very devoted Honda people. We have owned four (including VCCGirl’s), and we couldn’t be happier with the cars themselves, the organization in general and our dealership specifically. Shortly after we bought VCCGirl’s Fit with her recently, we got a call from the Honda head office surveying our purchase experience with the dealership. RH gave rave reviews in all areas but one: there had been a slight but annoying glitch in the filling out of the purchase papers. Some optional fee he had asked to have removed from the contract kept reappearing in the various versions of it and it was only due to his vigilance that VCCGirl didn’t end up paying it. The very next day, we got a call from the manager of our local dealership apologizing profusely for the inconvenience we had suffered. He had obviously received a blast from the head office almost immediately. It’s always a bit surprising when large corporations actually seem to take you seriously!

I guess that’s all the rambling I’ve got for today. It’s 3:30 p.m. and already starting to look like evening outside as the snow falls ever more thickly. It’s very pretty. It’s making me want to go crank up the Christmas tunes and start unpacking those boxes of decorations!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

An Unexpected Pleasure

I met my daughter’s new boyfriend for the first time today. Man, I hope I haven’t sent him screaming to move immediately to another city without leaving a forwarding address.

He came to pick her up for school at 8:00 a.m. I did not know he was coming until about 7:55 a.m., when my daughter so advised me just before closeting herself in her bathroom for final grooming procedures. No sooner had the door snicked shut behind her when a car pulled into my driveway and a slightly premature NB, being from the old school of manners, did not commence horn honkage but smartly jumped out and came to rap upon my door.

I called to the groomish daughter but she was doing a final pass-through with the blow-dryer and did not hear. NB had seen me in the living room window. I could therefore not ignore the fact that he was standing on my front porch in sub-zero weather. So I mashed down the million morning cowlicks of the hair on my head but was forced to ignore those of the hair on my legs. I gathered about me my ratty pink bathrobe, the miasma of my morning breath, and my dignity, and I opened the door.

Betraying not a flicker of dismay, NB stepped in and held out his hand, into which I was compelled to place mine, sticky with the half cinnamon bun I had just scarfed and portions of which were probably still adorning my teeth as I smiled a bit wildly at him. He then stood chatting with me just as if I looked like Jennifer Aniston on her best day. (Or even her worst. The point being, Jennifer Aniston is never caught looking bad. Jeez. I guess if you have to explain your pop culture references, that’s not a good thing.)

So I must say, I was charmed by the young man, in the few brief moments I got to spend with him before my daughter, catching on that he was here, catapulted out of the bathroom and down the stairs screeching, “I’m all ready! I’m ready to go!”

Actually, she didn’t do that. It just sounded good for the story. She, too, appeared outwardly perfectly calm about this first presentation of her mother to the NB. She may have then spent the entire drive to school describing to him the day she discovered she was adopted; I don’t know. But I was very proud of her graciousness in the moment.

I would like just the teensiest bit more notice next time he’s coming over, though.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The First Mention of Christmas


We’re scarcely halfway through November, but of course the Christmas hype begins the minute Halloween is over. It’s been making Grammar a bit cranky. Up until just a few years ago, I used to be a great sentimentalist about Christmas, but I have come, alas, to a time in my life where that is no longer so. I have joined the cranky ranks of Grinches who find the whole thing too much fuss and bother.

One of my sisters recently emailed me to discuss this year’s Christmas dinner. I come from a big family: my parents, blessedly both still with us, and three sisters, all of whom have spouses and children. Luckily my husband came from a very small and agreeable family, because the logistics of trying to get my family of origin together for Christmas dinners has always meant that his family takes whatever date and time is left over. My sisters have apparently had equally understanding in-laws, and as well, we have all continued to live reasonably locally. It’s been very serendipitous for my mother, who has always felt so strongly about having her entire extended family together for Christmas dinners. We have managed to make this happen almost every year.

There came a time when I would have preferred to give this up; the youngest generation kept increasing in numbers and by the time we reached a total of 18 people, I felt it was just getting too unwieldy a group, the event too much of a zoo. Grammar is an eremite by nature. I handle cacophony very badly. If I had wanted to sit at a dinner table with squadrons of people, I’d have joined the army.

Well, it can’t go on forever, of course. Half of the youngest generation are now grown-up. It won’t be long before they begin to marry and have children (and in-laws) of their own, and logistics, and likely distance, not to mention sheer numbers, must break up the old meta-clan. This will be, in fact, the third consecutive year where we will be missing one or more of our squadron. I know this hurts the heart of one of my sisters in particular, but it’s the way of time and the world, and we’ve certainly done better than most at staying together all these years.

I’m afraid I have no desire at all to play the hosting matriarch to the Grammar family as my own mother insists she has enjoyed doing all her married life. Once my kids are on their own, especially once they have their own spouses, RH and I plan to make a habit of spending Christmas seasons aboard a cruise ship, away from all the frantic activity. (In some ways, I married myself. We’re two happy hermits together.)

So does this make me unforgivably selfish? It’s an interesting moral question, isn’t it? We only get one life. To what extent do we sacrifice it to the happiness of others and to what extent do we do what makes us happy? Where is the line? Some would say that making others happy is what gives them happiness. To those people I say: fill your boots, and the line for beatification forms on the right. Guess I won’t be in it.

Instead, we’ll be the boring but usually appreciated elders who just disburse generous cheques to everyone for Christmas and make it clear we don’t want any gifts ourselves. Occasionally we might even invite a child and their family on a holiday-season cruise with us, to enjoy the food, décor and entertainment it has cost us only money to provide. Ho ho ho.

The extended Grammar family at Christmas Dinner. (But replace the flag with a TV screen showing a fireplace with a cozily burning log.)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Them Cellular Tellyphones


Today’s subject of interest to Grammar is cell phones. Cell phone etiquette is something everybody has strong opinions about, and it seems to me that this is one area that quite sharply divides the generations. My parents’ generation pretty much believes they are instruments of the devil, my children’s generation is working on a way to implant them permanently in their heads, and we Boomers in between like the technology but are not obsessed with it.

Accordingly, etiquette rules between these three generations will run the gamut from Use Only in Case of Emergency to There is No Place, No Time, no Circumstance where Cell phone use is not appropriate.

You can find all kinds of websites that have some version of “The Ten Commandments of Cell Phone Use” (presumably all written by people over 40). In my opinion, you only need four simple rules. You may talk at will on your phone if:
1. you are in a place where it is not otherwise inappropriate to speak aloud;
2. you are speaking at the same volume you would to a person standing right next to you;
3. you are not ignoring someone who is there in person in favour of your phone, unless they have given you permission to do so;
4. you are not driving a car, unless you have a Bluetooth headset thingy. (I don’t know what they call those things.)

This means, for example, that I believe it is quite acceptable to speak on your phone on a bus, at a bus stop, in a restaurant (notwithstanding rule 3, above), or any other public place where people are speaking aloud. I fail to see any difference between two people sitting behind me on the bus having a banal conversation with each other and one person behind me on the bus having a banal conversation on his phone. Either way, I’m forced to hear it. Either way, it may be irritating, but if the one is allowed, I don’t see how the other can be considered rude.

I think it is okay to talk on the phone in your car if you have the hands-free Bluetooth thingy. Certainly it might be ideal not to speak at all when driving, but of course we all speak to our passenger(s) when we have them. I see no difference between doing that and speaking to a little doohickey attached to your ear.


Cell phone ringing is a separate matter. That certainly can be annoying and intrusive, especially if you’ve chosen for your ringtone something that only you could possibly think is cute. However, I think, first of all, that it is simply a fact of life we all just need to get used to, just as we got used to the noise of automobiles and airplanes and Musak in elevators and the myriad other sounds of modern life. Secondly, every cell phone has a vibrate option. Use it whenever possible.

The vibrate option even makes leaving your cell phone on at a concert or other public performance okay -- if you’re awaiting a kidney transplant and don’t answer it until you’ve hied yourself to the lobby.

Some of the Ten Commandment-type lists on the internet include not trying to impress people with your cell phone. This is an outdated rule. If you still think anyone is impressed by your cell phone -- wow! Congrats on coming out of that ten-year coma, dude!

While I do not go into withdrawal when my cell phone is charging or otherwise temporarily unavailable for use, I do believe they’re one of the best inventions of my time. I love the security and convenience of knowing I have a phone right at hand wherever I am, and I also just think it’s, well, way cool. It’s something I couldn’t really have imagined as a kid. Sure, the people on Star Trek had “communicators”, but they were from the 23rd century or something. It wasn’t something I ever thought about happening in my lifetime. I would have been less surprised by flying cars or jetpacks. (Where are those, anyway? Is anybody working on this?) And even Captain Kirk didn’t have a Bluetooth communicator that he could just stick behind his manly ear. When the crew of the Enterprise used their communicators, they always stopped and stood in one place as if they were at a payphone. It was as if the writers’ imaginations didn’t extend to the concept that if the communicator was mobile, the person could be, too.

Lastly, Grammar doesn’t even care if people use good grammar while talking on their cell phone. She doesn’t care about that at all. Grammar has a very fine understanding of the difference between formal speech and the vernacular and will fight to the death for an individual’s right to speak in the vernacular on their cell phone. (Well, maybe not to the death. Or even fight in any sort of physical way. Or even make a scene, really. But as I was hastening away from any sort of controversial situation, in my head I’d be thinking about your rights.)

So I’m clearly pretty liberal in my ideas about cell phone etiquette. (RH is a little crotchetier, and in fact refuses to get one of his own, although it doesn’t seem to stop him from borrowing mine every time he goes out.)

TTYL!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

A chat about showers, that goes nowhere

I was standing in the shower this morning, thinking, not at all surprisingly, about the subject of…showers. (Yes, that’s how much imagination I have these days.)

My mind meandered back to my earliest memories of personal hygiene. I seldom had showers until I was 11 or 12 years old. Prior to that, it was evening baths, every other night, and up until the age of eight or so, generally shared with a sister. Hair was washed once a week by mother. (We were assured that any more often than that and you were robbing it of its natural, essential oils. And by Saturday night, naturally, one’s hair was essentially oil.) You lay back in the tub to wet your hair, then mom shampooed it with a glob of God knows what from a vat of whatever product was cheapest, then you held a facecloth over your eyes while she rinsed your hair with cupfuls of the dirty, sudsy water from the tub. That’s how it was done, and not only in our house but in the home of pretty much everyone we knew. It was not something you questioned, any more than you questioned the absolute ineluctability of sitting at the dinner table until every disgusting, ice-cold green bean off your plate had made its way into your belly.

But by now, of course, I’ve been doing the shower thing for some 40 years, and about 80 per cent of the time it’s done on total automatic pilot. I find myself dripping on the bathmat, towel in hand, with no recollection of the actual event. I don’t know if I washed my hair, rinsed the soap off, or shaved anything. But I assume so, just as I assume, when I find myself parked in the Safeway lot, that I stopped at red lights and used my turn signal appropriately along the way. (My car has certain default places it knows to go to when it realizes its driver has disappeared to her happy place somewhere. It’s very good about it.)

About ten per cent of the time, the morning shower is sheer bliss. The mornings I wake up stiff or achy or chilly, or all of the above, stepping into that stream of hot water is nothing short of glory. Some mornings I could stay in the shower for hours.

The remaining ten per cent are simply a chore: the days where I feel lazy in the extreme, or unwell, and it feels like too much of an effort to be hygienic. But of course it is not optional, not in today’s North American society where if you smell anything like a human being, it pretty much guarantees you will not be treated like one, and where you can buy special oils to put into hair turned to straw by daily washing and blow-drying.

I have nothing to wrap this topic neatly up with. The preceding sentence, according to grammatical purists, should correctly read: I have nothing with which to wrap up this topic neatly. But either way, I got nothing. This is me, petering out…

Thursday, November 1, 2007

A little Weltschmerz

It’s hard to watch my young adult children as they agonize over work and school, crying and cursing and breaking out in enormous zits as they stress over deadlines and exams and so on. Their worlds are still so black and white, so filled with sound and fury. And they don’t yet get that it signifies nothing, because they have not yet experienced the bizarre and alarming Time Warp phenomenon. You know what I mean: that thing where you close your eyes for a moment and when you open them, it’s 20 years later and you’re all, like, “Whoa! What just happened here?”

They have no perspective. They don’t know that there is really very little that matters enough to lose sleep over because they haven’t traveled far enough into the Big Picture. (Although I suppose it could be argued that their current worries are in fact significant because it could affect whether they open their eyes at age 40 and find themselves vacationing at a five-star resort on a beach in Cancun or in an old refrigerator box.)

The young simply can’t grasp the concept of “this, too, shall pass”. This is their now, and that’s all they know. As far as they’re concerned, they’re facing an endless now of math tests and Christmas albums that have to be mixed by Sunday. For them, the future is still some hazy, faraway utopia where they imagine everything will be easier and better. They find it scary having to make all these grown-up decisions; they still think that every one of them is life-or-death. They believe that with age comes wisdom. (Hah.) They see most older adults freaking out less about things and figure that’s because we actually know what we’re doing and that they will someday reach that point.

We don’t know what we’re doing. It’s just that we know that at least 90 per cent of the time, it really doesn’t matter. Also, we’re just too tired to care a whole heck of a lot.

In fact, pretty much the only thing we really worry and stress over…is our children. What a funny old world. Now excuse me; I must go get another cup of coffee so that I don’t doze off and suddenly wake up to find myself 137.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

I'm not as think as you mean I am


When we returned from our wonderful trip Back East, everything was great around the old homestead except for one bit of sad news: VCCGirl’s beloved old clunker of a car had expired beyond any possible resurrection. She was very sad, and very frustrated because she had spent all the savings of her gap year work on it. She did have it checked by a trusted mechanic before she bought it, but had been warned there are no guarantees on a car of that age and mileage. And sure enough, a mere eight months later the thing is no more than a collection of parts. One of those Life Lessons.

And now, as a college student, she is only able to work part-time and thus not able to save much. So talks with The Parents ensued. There was no begging. We don’t do begging around here because it too often seems to come in a whiny voice, so we trained our children from a very early age that negotiation would take them a lot farther than begging. (Although I must say that occasionally I require just a little begging for its entertainment value.) So Ms. VCCGirl commenced some hard negotiating. Here are a few of the dozen or so points she included in her presentation:

(a) I often have work shifts immediately after school and would not be able to get there on time if I had to take the bus. I would have to change the shifts, which would inconvenience everyone at my workplace and make me less money.

(b) My school assignments often require me to visit various sites such as hotels and restaurants that might be difficult to get to in a timely fashion without a car.

(c) I often work until 10:00 at night, and the nearest bus stop is a ten-minute walk from my workplace through a very poorly-lit and crackhead-filled industrial area.

Now, of these, (b) was not a selling feature, (a) had marginal value, but (c) made her case for her, because it is, in fact, true. I’m not so sure about how many crackheads might actually be roaming the area, but even one would be too many!

Now, RH and I have always felt extremely strongly that children should be required to be pretty much financially self-sufficient once out of high school. We figure that after throwing vast quantities of our hard-earned money their way for 18 years, it’s then time for us to get to keep our money and them to realize that the only way they’re going to get anything is through the sweat of their very own brows. We especially had always told our kids that although most of their friends might be given cars by their parents (and that is, sadly, true), we would not be doing that. A car is not a right but a privilege you earn for yourself, blah blah blah. You poor kids got stuck with the hardass, ghetto, “welfare” parents.

However. We have been negotiated into agreeing to lend VCCGirl the money for a new car. We agreed for reasons of safety, and because she has established credibility as a hard worker. We know she will pay us back without fail. To me, it strikes a balance between the tough love of wanting to teach them to fend for themselves, and the natural desire of parents with money wanting to share the wealth with kids just starting out in life, when they really need it.

It’s a very interesting thing, discussing this subject with fellow parents of young adult children. Opinions on this amongst our friends are all over the map. At one end of the spectrum, we have more than one set of friends who believe that as long as their kids are in university, they will pay all their expenses. They don’t mind them working a bit to make some money of their own, but give them generous allowances so that their primary focus can be on their studies. Some also buy their kids cars (outright, not a loan) and insure them for them. I may not agree with all this, but I don’t argue its legitimacy as a parenting choice. It’s certainly a very common one.

At the other end are friends who have not given their children a dime since high school graduation. Their kids pay all their own university tuition, and even pay their own way if they wish to go on vacation with their parents. I don’t agree 100 per cent with this, either, although it’s the way I was raised. While I was in university, I lived at home for free and had very occasional use of the family car, but other than that, I was entirely on my own financially. I expected no different, in fact preferred the independence, and it didn’t do me any harm, by gum, ya whippersnappers!

Well, as parents ourselves, RH and I come in somewhere down the middle of this continuum. Our kids have RESPs to cover their education, so they don’t have to pay for that. In fact, we agree to cover anything that might come under the heading of required for school. (VCCGirl tried unsuccessfully to debate her car into that category.) This includes things like laptop computers and a transportation allowance equivalent to the cost of a monthly bus pass. (If VCCGirl chooses to drive and pay for parking downtown, the difference comes out of her pocket.)

We do agree with the tougher end of the spectrum that adult children pay their own ways for vacations, whether on their own or if they want to accompany us. But that’s not to say that we won’t, from time to time, invite them to join us on a trip at our expense, because we can afford to do so and it is our pleasure to treat them.

For everything else in their lives, they’re on their own. They’ve had no allowance since high school, and in fact The Lad pays us to live here because he is working full-time.

As I said, I find it a difficult balancing act. They can’t be handed everything on a platter; they must learn to make their own way, but we also want to help them as they start out in life. They’ll never (God willing) need financial help more than they do now, in these first few years of their adult lives, so it does seem silly to withhold it entirely just on principle.

And so we have contributed some studio gear for The Lad, and will offer a little assistance when he goes to buy into a condo this coming summer. And we will help VCCGirl buy a much newer and more reliable car than poor old Big Bertha and ask only that she pay us back as and when she is able. We’ll probably even knock bits off the debt for every birthday and Christmas and good grades and cute haircut…because we’re simply not as hardass as we have tried to convince our children (and ourselves!) that we are.

Post scriptum: I had a thought, a memory of my own first car, my gutless wee Chevette. I bought it as a single young woman and finally sold it as a married mother with two kids. It made my heart seize up a little to think that if VCCGirl buys a fairly new vehicle this time, she could be strapping my little grandchild into a carseat in it down the road a few years!


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggedy Jog


And now I am back from my trip and it was long enough that I was quite ready to gather the cozy quilt of my home life around me again. We often complain about all the endless chores involved with being home, but the little puttering things are really a joy. Opening the door to let the cat in and out as it demands. Putting on a pot of tea. Folding a load of warm laundry. Watering the plants. Making a batch of oatmeal cookies.

VCCGirl admitted that although she is All Grown Up and there is much to like about having the house to herself (her brother being seldom here anymore), she discovered how many things there are to miss about a mom even at her age. It is my pleasure to throw together a sandwich for her when she is running late, to tell her where her keys are, to move her laundry into the dryer, to prepare the dinners that mean home to her. I’m sometimes good at coming up with mnemonic tricks to help her study and we both missed that as she went through her first college midterms.

My real specialty with VCCGirl, though, is hauling her down off the ceiling with calm words and humour when she’s freaking out (although she tells me that sometimes I have a Tone to my voice that makes her crazier than ever. I am aware of The Tone. Sometimes I activate it on purpose. I mean, we have to have some fun now and then, don’t we?) The Lad asserts his sister is manic-depressive, and seems dubious when I tell him her symptoms are merely that of being female, which is not, at least most of the time, a mental illness. (Depends on how you classify PMS!) He says, “Yeah, but some days she’s all friendly with me and other days she seems to hate me!” Hello? You grew up with a mother and sister and have had several girlfriends, and you think that’s something unusual in a woman?? Better catch on to that one, son.

So anyway. Grammar is home, puttering around and being mom, and it’s a good thing.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Wednesday morning, Really Early

Good morning! It is 4:45 a.m. as I sit here in the internet cafe. There is one other insomniac in here with me. It is very quiet.

I think I am probably insomniac because I know it is my last day aboard the Grand Princess and I feel a need to maximize my conscious hours. Sigh. Besides, just before I woke up, I was dreaming about the Brady Bunch. Who wants to go back to sleep into that?? I was probably dreaming about the Brady Bunch because that was one of the themes played at our TV Theme Trivia competition yesterday afternoon. (Yes, of course we won it. Not sure we're so proud of that one, though.) Do you know how hard it is to get the Brady Bunch song out of your head once it's in there?

I don't know why I love cruising so exponentially more than any other kind of vacation I've taken. There is absolutely nothing I don't like about it. I love getting to know the cruise directors, those fun, upbeat people. I love my room steward, Jaime, who greets me by name every time he sees me in the halls (practically tugging his forelock as he does so. Yes, I love that.) and I love how the towels in my bathroom are always arranged in cute shapes. I love trivia games. I love finding live music to listen to almost anytime I want. I love that there is fabulous food available to me whenever I want, and that I had absolutely nothing to do with the preparation of it. I love being entertained when I want, and when I don't, I love reading in a quiet nook by a window, watching the water go by. I love that when I want any of these things, I do not have to get in my car and drive anywhere. It's all right here.

Of course I do miss my family and friends back home. But the same way some retired people are called Snowbirds because they live six months of the year at home and the rest in some sunny place, I would love to be a Cruisebird. It is a wonderful dream, unfortunately not backed up by sufficient wherewithal or an equally enthusiastic spouse. RH enjoys cruising, but he does not share my obsession with it.

And so, after a few days in Mt. Tremblant, I will be home on Sunday, back in realityland. But for now, I'm going to go get a cup of tea and curl up with my book and wait for the rest of my crew to get up so we can go explore Quebec City. Don't know what the weather is like out there because it's still too dark to see! But I think the forecast was reasonably good. Bye for now!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Tuesday, 2 p.m.

I've had a complaint about the brevity of my recent posts. That is certainly partly because I seem to be so busy, rushing from one activity to the next, but mostly it's because lately I've been having posting problems and am typing the same thing two or three times trying to get the information to go out there, and I'm afraid I get a little fed up. So the version you finally see is the Reader's Digest, Mach III version.

So today we are At Sea, or more accurately at the moment, At Gulf (of St. Lawrence). Although it is gloriously sunny, everyone is inside because with the windchill factor, it is perhaps 5 degrees out on deck. Despite this, the four of us have just played a game of shuffleboard, just to get some fresh air. But we were fairly hypothermic by the time we came in!

This morning we attended a culinary demonstration and enjoyed the dry banter between the head chef and maitre d', both of whom have worked on Princess ships for about 30 years, often together. After that, it was what has become our favourite activity: trivia! Being an at sea day, the place was packed. They made it a longer than usual game, and in the end it came down to a three-way tie between us and two other teams. The tie-breaker question brought us down to two teams. And the final question? Of COURSE we won! I know I'm harping on this a great deal and you all must be horribly bored, but we're just so tickled with this. My big contribution to today's game was that I knew a polar bear's skin is black. TL didn't want to buy that but I stood firm. (Easy to do since I was the one writing down the answers.)

Now, if I write what we're planning to do the rest of today, I won't need to update this blog unless something different happens.

There are two more trivias today: a Master's, coming up shortly, and a TV Themes one later this afternoon. Not too sure how we'll do on that one! In between, I hope to actually have a little time to read and do some crossword puzzles. Our last formal dinner tonight, so some primping time will be required. I also need to iron my dress pants, so there you go. I will actually be ironing while on vacation. Now, I COULD ask the room steward to do it, but I won't. I will iron my own darn pants.

Last production show tonight, so I will be scampering to get seats for that immediatley after dinner. That will be a chance to read my book, if no other time, as you need to be at these shows so ridiculously early to get seats this time round. After the show is the Newly-and-not-so-newlywed game. Don't know if we'll participate in that, but at least we'll watch.

Solomon asked if we have been in the pool, and the answer is no. It may have been warm enough the first couple of days of the cruise, but not since.

So that's it for Tuesday, I think. Tomorrow is our LAST DAY!!!! I think it's an excellent thing that we get a few days in Tremblant after this, though. It will help ease the transition from cruise to home.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Let's try This!

I don't have a lot of time at the moment because our show starts soon, but I'll try once more to give you a brief overview of yesterday in Sydney, NS. It was a beautiful sunny day there, but RH and I decided to stay aboard the ship as we felt we had recently experienced what Sydney has to offer. So it was very pleasant aboard the quiet ship, reading, doing puzzles, etc. When TL and Ms K returned from their tour in the afternoon, we played some shuffleboard and participated in the afternoon trivia game. Third production number show last night, fabulous as usual.

Today in Corner Brook, Nfld we unfortunately lost the sunshine a little and it was quite cold. Very quaint place. Rented a car and drove to Gros Morne (I think that's it) national park. Very beautiful. At one place we parked three foxes immediately trotted out of the woods, clearly expecting to be fed. They must recognize car engine noise as signalling people with food!

Crab legs night at dinner! Bananas Foster, fresh-made by the headwaiter, for dessert. (Yes, KCL, some of us like bananas!)

Anyway, gotta go see our comic pianist show.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Thursday

Hello! I want to first of all let you know that I posted a second blog yesterday -- not an edit to the first, but a second one (KCL is the only one who would care about that distinction, I think), but it has not appeared. I tried posting it again, but it still won't appear. That's happened to me once before, and the thing eventually appeared, in its proper chronological spot, long after I'd given up on it and blogged onward, so maybe that will happen this time. In any case, I can't remember a thing I said, so we'll have to hope so.

So, today. A nice busy one. It started early as we had to be on the tender to Bah Habah for our tour by 7:45 a.m. BH is a tiny place, only 5,000 year-round residents, but very pretty and right next to a beautiful national park. Our 2 1/2-hour tour took us around this park (whose name escapes me at the moment), stopping for little wanders at various scenic and woodsy places, including 1500 feet up atop Cadillac Mountain. That was kind of cool because we could look down at the Grand Princess far below, a little toy boat anchored in a pretty little bay. It was nice to do a nature-type tour after all these big cities. Ms K came with us on this tour, but intrepid TL went sea kayaking! (His muscles may have something to say about that tomorrow morning!)

The afternoon was all about games. TL made the grave tactical error of taking me on at Scrabble and then thought he could regain his self-esteem at shuffleboard but Ms K and I beat the guys at that, too. I finally got in on the 3:30 milk and cookies in the Conservatory (the upper level area above the covered pool). This guy travels around with a great tank of milk on his back and a hip container of paper cups, and dispenses milk from a hose! Cookie o' day was chocolate fudge. Yummy! Then it was time for today's late-afternoon trivia competition, which is immensely popular on this ship. We didn't win today!

French night at dinner. I had -- well, I think probably most of you can guess what my appetizer was. Yes, of course escargot. Then a pumpkin-turnip soup which I'm sure to some of you sounds vile, but was delicious. Then duck a l'orange. Then creme brulee. Rob had french onion soup, a salad, roast pork, and cheesecake.

I'm sorry. I'm a little distracted. There's a guy in the bar outside the internet cafe singing Hey, Jude at the top of his lungs. He is not an entertainer aboard this ship. And I use the term "singing" extremely loosely.

Okay. Now, the trivia is, as I said, popular on this ship, but it's nothing compared to the production shows. I arrived very early for the one last night because I like to get a good seat. I just take my book along and read while I'm waiting. The large theatre was already 1/2 full when I got there, 45 minutes ahead of time, and by 30 minutes before curtain, was packed to standing room only. I have never seen this before. In the past, 20 minutes ahead of time was always enough to get a decent seat. They did a different show tonight (unusual to have production shows on two consecutive nights!) and I scampered there immediately upon finishing dinner -- about 7:30 p.m. The show started at 8:45. The theatre was 1/4 full already, and SRO by 8:00. This is ridiculous!! I am clearly far from the only fan of this sort of entertainment aboard this ship, and the theatre is clearly not big enough! RH joined me for that show, a rock and roll retrospective featuring two of the singers doing an uncannily bang-on imitation of Sonny and Cher. TL and Ms K chose to see a comedian instead. Haven't seen them since it ended, so don't know how good he was.

I think the Hey Jude fellow may have been carted off. It's gone very quiet.

Anyway, that's it for today. I hope the blog with the rest of yesterday's info turns up soon.

Tomorrow -- St. John. The information booklet delivered to our room about this city advises us, among many other things, that Fredericton is the capital of St. John. Hmmm. We aren't doing a tour there -- kind of tired, by now, of getting up and boarding a bus. We'll just do our own thing.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Wednesday Evening

Hello! Yes, KCL, I know I could have done this as an edit to my previous blog, but I was afraid people who had already read that entry wouldn't think to go back and see if there was more, and I can't have anyone missing a single pearl of my wisdom.

So after lunch, I was peacefully reading in a quiet little nook in the Atrium and I took a break to scan today's Princess Patter to see what was on this afternoon. What should catch my eye but an ad for a special in the spa today: Called 20-20-20, you got to choose three of their services and have 20-minute mini-sessions of them. Huh.

Well, here's the thing. I had been forced to give up an afternoon shopping in Boston with Ms. K due to this one gigantic, infuriating, slow-healing New York blister. (I may be gaining a shipboard reputation as an eccentric because other than in the restaurants, I've been going barefoot full-time while aboard.) But anyway, had I gone shopping, I'd have certainly spent money, right? No question.

You see where this is going. I rationalized myself right back into the spa for a back, foot and scalp massage. Gosh, I was a happy little cruiser. After that, I settled back into my little nook with my novel. My hair was a tad oily, but very aromatic.

Big trivia game in the late afternoon. The Explorer's Lounge was filled with 20-25 teams of 4-6 players. Ahem. We won. Now, honesty compels me to confess we actually won fraudulently. We discovered only after everything was said and done, and trinket prizes handed out, that the team that marked our paper had ticked one incorrect answer in error. We didn't give back our prizes, though. We figured we deserved them for the handicap of Playing While Canadian.
Did you know an ant can live two days underwater? What the HECK kind of sadist tests that sort of thing???

On deck for sailaway. There was plenty of rail-room, as it was cloudy and quite chilly. Although not enough to warrant the heavy coat, scarf and MITTENS we saw one lady walking around in! (Must be from California.)

Italian night in the dining room. I had: an antipasto of shrimp, squid and mussels in a lemon mayonnaise; spinach salad; prawns in a spicy tomato sauce; and tiramisu with a scoop of zabaglione ice cream. RH had: a cheesy eggplant bake (it was called something more exotic, but that's what it was); minestrone soup; spinach salad; pot roast; some sort of spumoni-ish ice cream.

Next is the first big production show. It doesn't start for another 45 minutes but I'm going up there to score my seat. Love the big shows. Tomorrow: Bah Hahbah, Maine. See you then!

Wednesday

Hello, everybody! Are we already on day 3 of the cruise? Noooooooo! Still having a fabulous time. Yesterday we had room service for breakfast, then spent some time out on deck as it was a nice day. Sunny and about 18 degrees. Perfection.

In the later morning we took the tender ashore for our tour of Newport, RI. It was a 90-minute trip around a very pretty place. No buildings taller than eight stories (and only one of those). But mostly what we were looking at were the "summer cottages" of the rich and famous of the gilded age (or various gilded ages, or gilded families). These 25-30-room mansions were lived in for 7 or 8 weeks a year. Wild.

Back to the ship for a late lunch in Horizon Court (the buffet restaurant). The food on this trip is turning out to be excellent, as usual. I think we've only had one cruise where it wasn't. We're always amazed by how good the buffet food is. After lunch, RH went for a rest and I made my first visit to the spa, for a pedicure. Ahhhhh. That felt SO GOOD. (And she was very good about working around my still-healing blisters!) After that, the four of us sat around the Atrium for awhile, drinking tea and people-watching, until time to primp for the first formal night.

For the foodie fans: I had crab quiche; cream of asparagus soup; beef tournedos (SO good, VCCGirl!); chocolate-hazelnut souffle with warm sabayon sauce. RH had: crab quiche; beef consomme; halibut; some sort of cake (I forget); and a couple of the petit fours waiter Chalee "forced" upon him. Enjoyed the music in the Explorer's Lounge for awhile after dinner -- a trio playing pop stuff from the 50s-70s, as per usual for this lounge. Baby Boomer music. Very good. Then RH and I finished the evening with the viewing of a fairly lame comic/magician. (I believe TL and Ms. K went on to see a singer, but we were tired.)

So far today (it's 11:15 am as I'm writing this) we have had our 2-hour bus tour of Boston. It was interesting but we had a few annoying people on our bus. Some people who talked constantly, totally ignoring the tour guide, and a guy with a severe phlegm problem. Ewwwwww. So many beautiful old buildings in Boston. So much history. So much road construction. (But that made us feel at home!) We were glad to have an early tour even though it made for early rising because now we have lots of time this afternoon to enjoy our ship. The Grand Princess is aging a little, but it's a layout we have done several times previously so we are very at home here. And it's interesting to compare Princess with Celebrity now. Although service on Princess is very good, Celebrity does have them beat in that regard. But Princess is definitely a little more "fun". (Quite an older crowd on this particular itinerary, though. No wonder there's phlegm.) And the nickel-and-diming trend continues: you now pay even for a cup of coffee or tea anywhere but a dining room. Oh -- but there was a new thing yesterday: they came around the public areas about 3 pm with milk and fresh-baked, warm chocolate chip cookies! I missed out because I was pedicuring, but TL was very excited by this. I don't know if they'll do that every day, but I will be hanging around hopefully this afternoon!

This is not up to my usual writing style because I'm just writing on the fly. Usually I write my blogs in Word first and then cut and paste them here, but I have no access to Word on these computers. But I don't care. I have better things to do! So I'm off to find a cozy spot to read my book now. Another half-hour and it will be time to think about lunch, as we breakfasted so early... Mmmm. Lunch.

Chat with you later! Bye for now!

Monday, October 8, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Not that Canadian Thanksgiving was acknowledged in any way aboard ship, but somehow we managed to enjoy dinner, anyway!

But I must go back to the beginning and tell you about our New York weekend. We were picked up at JFK airport by a private car sent for us, and only us, apparently, by Princess. The driver was an older Greek fellow who, upon discovering this was our first visit to NYC, insisted on taking us a slighly scenic route to our hotel. No matter that it was 11:30 p.m. No matter that he actually didn't tell us anything about what we were seeing but instead expounded the entire 40-minute drive on Greek history and politics. It was neat to get our first glimpse of the city that doesn't sleep.
Our hotel, the Sheraton Towers, had a spectacular and gigantic lobby, but the rooms were no more than 3-star. Clean, nice. Adequate. (Excellent air conditioning, though!)

Met up with the Lawman and Ms. K about 8 the next morning and headed out in search of breakfast. This was more a matter of choice than search, of course, as there were literally dozens of places to eat within 5 minutes' walk in any direction from the hotel. After breakfast we took a Greyhound bus tour of Uptown Manhattan. Sat in the open-air top of the double-decker bus in the lovely sunshine (and nice breeze!) and thoroughly enjoyed the 90-minute trip with a worldly and clever tour guide. We had to take a few detours because we kept running into little street fairs, and one parade. We wondered if this was because it was the American Columbus Day weekend, but it seems that this happens all the time, totally randomly. This day's parade we passed was for some sort of Korean celebration.

In the early afternoon we did some exploring on our own. To save RH's legs, we did some subway and cabbing, both very successfully. It was 1000 degrees underground waiting for the trains, but the cars themselves are air-conditioned. And we quickly got quite expert at the proper cab-hailing technique. Espy an in-service cab (and they come along constantly), and fling out one arm. Don't wave, flail, or vocalize. Just the arm. Works every time, and just feels way cool.

Unfortunately I became violently ill in the latter afternoon so RH and I lost some precious exploring time (because of course my darling husband wouldn't leave me) and also missed out on our Tavern on the Green dinner. Major bummer, but I was fine by the next morning. Just one of those stupid things.

So Sunday morning we did the Downtown loop Greyhound tour, a two-hour trip and also most informative and enjoyable. Then lots of slogging around on foot in the afternoon. (Thank goodness I packed lots of moleskin!) Between the bus and on foot, we saw pretty much every New York icon you can think of this weekend. We Did New York! (We only got to do one side of the famous 5th Avenue, though, because...there was a parade going down it. Something Polish this time.)

VCCGirl -- you'd go NUTS shopping here. A gazillion clothes stores, and all huge!

Sunday evening we had an early supper and then cabbed to the Schubert Theater for our Broadway show. (Which I'd have been a lot more upset to miss than dinner last night!!) We saw Spamalot, which won a Tony award in 2004, and quite deservedly, we think. It was hysterical, outrageous, totally non-PC. And it ended with a rousing audience singalong of "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life". We shared a couple of pieces of cheesecake after the show, but still couldn't find a free cab in the busy Broadway area when we were done, so decided to walk back. It was ten blocks, but the short north-south blocks, so RH was fine. Especially, he commented drily, at the pace we...um...shuffled most of it. Our route home took us through Times Square, and apparently everyone in town mistook October 7 for New Year's Eve. The sidewalks were a solid mass of humanity. But we sure didn't mind the slow pace, because although we had been through the Square a few times in daylight, seeing it at night...well, it's dazzling in the extreme. It's almost overwhelming. It's hard to breathe. I'm so glad I got to see that. I think shuffling through Times Square at night was the highlight of my trip to NYC.

So this morning we did one more quick walk around. (More of a limp-around, really, by this point.) Then Princess got us bussed out to the Brooklyn docks midday, and from the moment we got off the bus to the moment we stepped on the ship was no more than ten minutes. It would have been even less, in fact, if Rob hadn't misplaced his cruisecard within seconds of being handed it at the counter. After a few minutes of kafuffle, returning to the counter and so on, he discovered it in his back pocket. Now, the large black woman admitting guests to the gangway had observed this and decided to have some fun. After waving The Lawman, Ms. K and me through, she held up her hand to RH and commenced berating him in a loud, very Bronx voice. "WHERE is your card, sir? Do you HAVE a card? Do you understand the RESPONSIBILITY of this card, sir?" It was hilarous.

And I've gotta tell you, the minute I stepped on board, I was Home. I really could live on a cruise ship.

And so we sailed away from New York on a warm and sunny late afternoon, passing right by our final NYC icon, the Statue of Liberty. (I half expected the US national anthem to start blaring from the PA system. Thankfully, it did not.) We discovered at dinner that we have a great table for four by a window and two warm and friendly Thai waiters.

Now, Missy Moo. As per your instructions, I present you with my first dinner menu: lobster terrine; spring rolls; baked ham with a cranberry gravy; and apple strudel. RH had: spring rolls; cream of porcini mushroom soup; house salad; rockfish; and profiteroles with fresh berries. (I'm not going to recite TL and Ms. K's meals!) We all split a bottle of Pinot Grigio.

After dinner we participated in our first trivia competition. Didn't win, but did pretty well. (One of the questions was "Edmonton is the capital of what Canadian province?" We got that one right.)

So that brings us up to date. I'm going to close this off, then go listen to some music in the Explorer's Lounge for awhile before calling it a night. Tomorrow: Newport, RI!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Are we there yet?

Well, here it is the last Monday before our Big Trip. We leave on Friday, and thanks to a lull in work (and compulsive Virgoness) I am pretty much completely ready to go. The clothes are all sorted, clean, ironed and folded. (I will be wearing only the reject, not-good-enough-for-the-trip clothes between now and Friday.) The notes for the children have been prepared. So I’m completely ready to go, and I have no work. Can you say bouncing off the walls?

I can’t even burn off any energy cleaning house, because my cleaning lady is coming tomorrow and it goes against every fibre of my being to pay someone to clean an already clean house. No, she must earn her money by facing a pigsty or I’m not getting satisfaction. I’ve been known to screech at RH for, say, wiping something sticky off the kitchen floor the day before the cleaning lady comes. “Stop! Are you nuts? She’s coming tomorrow!!” I bellow. “She’s going to be cleaning the whole floor! You’re just wasting money!”

Of course I know this doesn’t make any sense. I can’t help that.

I’ve had a cleaning lady (well, a series of them, and one extremely stinky cleaning man) for ten years, which is also how long it’s been since I went back to work after being a full-time mom for a long while. A cleaning lady was the very first priority for me once I was earning my own money. (I couldn’t afford both that and a personal chef. It was a toss-up, but the cleaning won.)

The problem is that I have two completely different people living inside me when it comes to this sort of thing. There’s the side of me that could have been quite comfortable as a duchess in 19th century England with a very large staff. (Duchesses prior to the 19th century also had large staffs but I’m not willing to go any farther back in time due to other issues such as disease and general smelliness and things. And most duchesses subsequent to the 19th century don’t even have enough money to keep their estates from falling down around their heads and have to sell them to people like Elton John or Jo Rowling.)

Anyway, in juxtaposition with that duchess part of me, I have this annoying egalitarian streak which makes me feel guilty about having someone else clean my house. (Or it would, if I didn’t pay her such a lot of money to do it.) Back when I hired my first cleaner, one of my children made the grievous error of referring to her as “the maid”. I nearly bit the child’s head off. To my mind, “maid” was a term too suggestive of subservience. My offspring were forced to listen to a long lecture about how people who clean houses are no better or worse than anyone else. They are performing a service just as valuable and respectable as doctors or lawyers or hockey players or moms or any other important person.

But I didn’t say these were two equal parts of me. Of course the duchess part is stronger. You know that! Where RH feels it necessary to leave the house when our cleaner comes, I actually get quite a lot of enjoyment hearing and seeing her working around my home, doing the stuff I’m just too damn lazy to do.

Oh, I just got an email from my office. There’s work! Yay! Otherwise I would have degenerated to just typing: Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet……

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Olio

Good morning, Blog World. Today we have a mixed bag of thoughts and comments (as opposed to my sharply-crafted, single-theme efforts of previous dates. HA!)

Got another unflattering look at myself this past weekend. My office computer crashed on Friday afternoon, just as I had agreed to accept a large batch of work to do by Monday. I knew all my fellow transcribers were also loaded to the gunwales, and I reacted to this crisis the way I always do: I had a meltdown. Rather than even attempt to think of something to solve the problem, I just sat in front of my coolly unresponsive computer cursing and ululating and rending my garments.

Fortunately, I am blessed with a husband and his chip-off-the-block daughter who are calm and capable and also well-trained to leap into action when their wife/mother commences to ululate. Within minutes, it seemed, RH had rushed the ailing computer off to a repair shop, while VCCGirl smartly moved the den computer into my office. (All those cables and cords! She unplugs them with such careless abandon!) When the Word program on this computer rudely refused to allow me access, The Lad was called at work (by VCCGirl, not me. I hadn’t stopped screaming yet) and interrupted his session to try to come up with a solution. In the meantime, Friend Known as Katie had been prevailed upon to download my work, as my dead computer was the only one in this house with such capability.

It takes a village to calm a Grammar.

VCCGirl herself had a need for help this morning when she roused from sleep to see her clock-radio displaying the time of 8:10. This was dismaying because her work shift started at 8:00. Of course, she doesn’t waste time freaking out. She immediately called a coworker/friend who lives five minutes from the workplace and mobilised her to cover until VCCGirl could get there herself. Meanwhile, RH and I gathered together a travel mug of piping hot tea and some fruit and snacky things, and got her car warmed up and its windows cleared of heavy autumn dew.

Isn’t it wonderful to have family and friends to rally around when you need them?

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RH has been mocking me because I already have most of the clothes for our trip laid out atop our bedroom bookshelf, though we do not leave for 12 days. But if I hadn’t done that, I might have been wearing something crucial to the whole wardrobe matrix when I was rending garments on Friday!

We were recently notified by Princess of a change in our itinerary. It seems that the docking facilities in Charlottetown are under repair to an extent that will preclude stopping there, so instead we will be spending a day in and around Corner Brook, Newfoundland. This is fine with us as we have been to PEI quite recently, but never to Newfoundland. Unfortunately our travelling companions, the Lawman and Ms. K, were a little chapfallen (there’s your Dandy Word O Day from Grammar!) but I’m sure will enjoy exploring a bit of the Confederation’s youngest province with us.

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FKK and I recently came up with what we think is a brilliant business idea, so if there are any entrepreneurs out there, listen up. These days there are many people who work from home, as well as increasing numbers of retired Baby Boomers at home much of the day. Everyone knows how successful ice cream trucks are in the summer (obnoxious repetitive tinny music notwithstanding). Why not have a roving coffee truck, bringing designer coffees and tasty pastries around the neighbourhood at appropriate morning and afternoon coffee break times? Does this not seem like something that would be instantly a huge success? Now, if you choose to take up this idea, FKK and I don’t expect any royalties. However, we would really like it if you called your business, including all future franchises, Jolly Mr. Beverage. We have our reasons.

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And finally, I watched a YouTube of Robin Williams on Letterman the other day. Turns out his son has a degree in Linguistics just like Grammar does. (Williams’ son, that is. Letterman’s son is only about three years old, so that would be a tad precocious, even for Hollywood. Or especially for Hollywood.) When asked what one does with a degree in Linguistics, Williams quipped: You open a Sentence Repair Shop. To the rest of the world, this was a tiny tidbit of comedy. To me – a dream! A Sentence Repair Shop! How fun would that be??? Sigh. Jolly Mrs. Sentence.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Hands up all those who have not bought a house recently

Househunting is a hard gig. As most of you know, we thought we had found our new home this past week. It had everything we wanted, was on a lovely quiet street not far from our current home, and had many wonderful(-looking) updates inside.

There was a great flurry of activity as we offered and counter-offered, agreed on a price, spoke with lawyers and banks, and jumped into major high gear in an effort to get our current place totally ready for marketing before leaving on our vacation in three weeks.

And then there was the big let-down when the house inspection revealed a number of major flaws in the place, certainly more than we were willing to accept for the agreed-on price, but in fact even more than we were prepared to deal with rectifying at any price. The entire basement suite in the house, brand new and beautiful, turned out to have been installed by unskilled amateurs. A lot of it would have had to be redone. We were offput and the deal was kaput.

And so we keep looking. But in the meantime -- we leave on our big holiday three weeks today!! So much still to be done, so really, thank goodness we haven’t just bought a house! There’s a trip to Bellis Fair to be made for a last hunt for sparkly outfits. There are beauty appointments to be booked (sigh. One tries). Dry cleaning to be taken in. Your entire wardrobe has to be laid out on the bed and combinations and permutations considered. Practice packing then ensues. More dry cleaning may be necessary. And then, of course, it must all be laid out on the bed again. If you are a man reading this and think I’m making this up, locate the nearest female person of pretty much any age and ask her. Seriously. We have to do this.

Then there are notes to be composed for idiot offspring who couldn’t possibly be expected to perform such complex tasks as putting out the garbage, bringing in the mail, locking the door, feeding the cats and flushing the toilet if not left detailed instructions pertaining to these activities. (Not to mention genuinely complex instructions about taping my TV shows!)

In our basement-clearing frenzy of late, we advised The Lad that the drum set he inherited from his grandpa had to be dealt with. He dusted it off and polished it up and did some repairs, then began checking online and with experts he knows through work, and discovered to all of our astonishments that it is worth several THOUSAND dollars! Apparently its particular make and model is considered a Cadillac of vintage drum sets. We had no idea! He does not intend to sell it at this time, however, but instead, after having it properly refurbished, will install it in his studio at work to attract high-caliber session musicians. The Lad is admirably devoted to the task of expanding his career, and has indeed been doing so quite successfully in the past few months in particular.

And on a final note, VCCGirl is enjoying school thus far. Her Accommodations instructor is hot, her Tourism instructor is a stand-up comic, her Math instructor is a dead ringer for Albert Einstein (and a bit of a potty-mouth), they’ve been playing fun icebreaker games in Communications, and they’re learning to pour shots in Food and Beverage Operations. What’s not to like?

These are two of VCCGirl's actual instructors. The one on the left is the Tourism teacher. I don't think you need me to tell you who the one on the right is.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Grammar and the Metaphorical Hill


51 years ago today the world gained a syntax savant, identified throughout the years by various names such as Pussycat, Go-to-Your-Room, Sheljar, Lundi, Lovebug, Mom, and latterly, Grammar Moses. Grammar’s pappy, Solomon, sent her a lovely birthday poem which suggested that when I “cross over the hill”, he’ll “love me still”.

Oh, I have crossed. I have made it up the spring side of the hill, which is carved with measured steps but full of prickle-bushes and boulders, causing detours large and small. Many loving hands helped me navigate that slope to the summerlands atop the hill.

I found two babies on the spring side of my hilltop, and, setting them upon their own hills and showing them how to climb, I moved swiftly across my summer meadows. Reaching the far side, I looked back and saw my children nearing the top of their slopes, marching strongly with characters made fit and confident by the challenges of the upward journey and surrounded by friends.

So now I’m headed down the autumn side, and have discovered that it’s very different from the slow and winding upward trek. This slope is coated in slick, rainforest-damp moss and I’m on the bobsled to winter.

Well. All one can do is dig in one’s heels and enjoy the ride and the beautiful fall scenery as long as it lasts!

I’m moved to hillside metaphor by my own birthday, but also by VCCGirl, my younger and last baby, heading off this morning for her first day of college. As she drove away in her old red car, a bundle of nerves and anticipation, I clung to the doorframe to stop myself running down the street after her. No, wait! Mommy has to come with you! You won’t know where to park! You won’t know how to find your classrooms! The other kids might be mean to you! You were only in kindergarten a few days ago -- how can you be driving off to college????

I know I’m very lucky, though. I am lucky firstly that her college is 20 minutes’ drive from our house and at the end of the day VCCGirl will come back to me. I am lucky secondly (and indeed it is one of the greatest blessings of my life) that we have a close and confiding relationship, and VCCGirl will happily sit down with her old mom and share all her first impressions of instructors, courses, and potentially datable classmates. Although it may seem like a fall day outside, I’ll be reliving spring with my daughter. What a great birthday present!

Friday, August 31, 2007

The Nest of Moo


So we’re back to the cool weather today after a pretty nice week. On Wednesday RH and I had a lovely lunch down at the Quay. We sat outside and watched the Seabus trundle back and forth and thought how perfect the temperature was. But then I was working in my office at about 4:00 p.m. and it all of a sudden became very hot. I don’t know what the meteorological explanation for this would be, but it was quite peculiar. Now, interestingly, I could have said something about a climacteric explanation for the heat and it could have worked whether you know the proper definition of that word or just think you do!

One of my fine sisters recently critiqued my Aug 22 blog. She noted that it was a milestone birthday for RedCarGirl (who, as of Sept 4, will morph into VCCgirl) and yet I scarcely made mention of this. Well, indeed. Missy Moo is apparently what we call Unclear on the Concept. My blog is by me, about me, for me, which is why I will never have enough readers that advertisers will be clamouring for space in my sidebar. (Alas. No one has ever clamoured for space on my sidebar.) I have said it before but I’ll say it again: my blog is totally self-indulgent. I write what I feel like writing, and RCG’s 19th birthday was not, actually, that big a deal for me.

I mean, it’s sort of in the middle, isn’t it? 18 is a big birthday: you’re a Canadian adult. 20 is a big birthday: you’re no longer a teen. 21 is still, if somewhat atavistically, a big birthday. (You can drink in Las Vegas!) So 19, well, yes, you’re a BC adult. You can sign legal documents (like your own cell phone contract, for example!) But her 19th birthday was much more about going out with her buddies than anything to do with Mom. My role in the day began and ended with cupcakes, a large cheque, and a hug from my grownup baby girl.

Sister Moo is much less blasé about events in her own children’s lives at the moment. Though three years my junior, she is farther along the Empty Nest path. She will shortly be losing Offsprings 1 and 2 simultaneously. Moo 1 is taking a gap year and heading off to do wondrous good deeds in darkest Africa, and Moo 2 has her bags all packed for Queen’s University in Ontario. Although she still has The Lad at home, Missy Moo’s is a house that has always been bustling with activity and it will seem very, very quiet without Les Girls. As Moo put it, you spend the better part of two decades making it your life’s work to teach your children to be independent, and then when they head off to do just that, you want to cry, “No, wait…I’m not done yet!”

Have a great trip back East, Mr. and Mrs. Moo and Moo 2! We’re looking forward to hearing all about it -- maybe Moo 2 will have a university blog going? Have fun!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

It's the Most Wonderful Day of the Year


Well, folks, my favourite day of the year is almost upon us! Yes, I’ll confess: I like Labour Day better than any other statutory holiday. When I was very little it would have been eclipsed by Christmas and Easter (and Halloween and my birthday, neither of which are stats but should be), but not by much, and I didn’t have to be very old before Labour Day came to the fore.

As my father was a professor, our family life always revolved around the academic calendar. Labour Day meant Daddy back after a summer of working away from home. Labour Day meant a return to order and routine, and I’ve always been such a cliché little Virgo. Love the order and routine.

*NERD ALERT* Once in school myself, I discovered that I loved the place. Thanks to a fairly strict mom, I was well-behaved (at least outside the home!) and I was eager and interested and not entirely stupid, so teachers tended to like me. I anticipated with excitement the first day of school every one of the 17 years I attended one.

Summers to me always meant horrible hay fever, as well, although that has mitigated a great deal over the years. The antihistamine I took for it as a child, however, was nectar of the gods. It came in a big dark-brown bottle. The neck was encrusted with the sugar the medicine was loaded with. The liquid was the colour of the Caribbean Sea. I can’t describe the flavour, though it happily remains in my sense-memory. Unbeknownst to my mother, I used to go into the pantry and help myself to a spoonful pretty much every time I sneezed. Or maybe she did beknow it and just enjoyed how sleepy it must have made me.

Our family did not go away anywhere for summer vacations, except camping, which I despised. So unlike many people, going away was not a pleasure I ever associated with summer. I’m not sure whether the reason our parents did not take us away on holidays was a financial thing or just sheer horror at the prospect of having to deal with four endlessly bickering princesses somewhere away from home. Although I could totally understand the latter explanation, that surely can’t have been it because the one major trip we did take was a driving expedition all the way across the country where they were stuck with us in a station wagon or tent trailer 24 hours a day.

By the time I was a teen, my loathing of summer was well underway. Then, as now, I was of the opinion that temperatures above 22 degrees Celsius are unfit for human habitation (although in those days it would have been 74 degrees Fahrenheit). I hate insects of all kinds, especially those so prevalent in the summer that bite and sting.

Most of us mourn the day when we lose the magic of Christmas, when Santa is exposed and cynicism starts kicking in. I mourned terribly the loss of the magic of Labour Day when I had very small children. I watched the bigger kids in the neighbourhood march off to school the next day, while my squalling darlings remained in my house, exuding things from every orifice and chanting their mantra of “mommymommymommymommymommymommy” every hour they were awake. (Yeah, yeah, yeah. LOVED my babies. But those first few years of motherhood are brutal and anyone who says otherwise is lying through her teeth.)

However, of course they eventually joined the marchers to school. And then they grew up and didn’t go to school anymore, and once again there was no particular meaning to Labour Day. But I still love it. I love going out on a late-August day that is warm and sunny, but the quality of light, the angle of the sun in the sky, promises autumn is on its way. I love waking up at 3 a.m. feeling chilled and pulling up that extra blanket. Whether you are operating on the academic calendar or not, there’s something about Labour Day that makes everyone sort of settle down. We’re heading back to the time of order and routine. Back to sweaters and eiderdowns and the only annoying insect being the housefly.

Of course, we’ve got to get through leatherjacket (crane fly) season first. Don’t you just hate those things?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

My Day Off

Yo, homies! (Wherever they are at this moment, my children are cringing and not knowing why.) There’s been another bloggage gap here. I have been still, yet, always busy with work. I have worked almost every day of the month of August thus far. They load me up with files, then email me saying, “Hold off on that stuff; here’s some rush stuff.” I have no sooner begun the rush stuff than they email saying, “Put aside the rush stuff. Here’s some rush-rush stuff.” Which is soon, inevitably, superseded by “rush-rush-super-rush” stuff. (The turnaround time for RRSR stuff is: Unless you get that file back to us in approximately three minutes, a kindly old woman who is the sole support of 117 crippled family members back in Butflapistan might be inadvertently deported. But no pressure.)

Anyway, it’s been that sort of month. I finally told my office I would be taking two consecutive days off and even if it means the total collapse of an entire Third World country, not to bother attempting to contact me as email originating from them would be ignored, as would phone calls (yay, Call Display!)

But that’s not really why I haven’t been blogging. I simply have no conversation. Can’t think of a thing to say. So, as I am otherwise completely uninspired, today you’re all just going to have to suffer with An Account of My Day Off.

Ahem.

Took one (1) cat to the vet for annual checkup and shots. Cat weighs 14.2 pounds and, at age three, needs to start eating food labelled “mature”. Why isn’t human food labelled “mature” instead of “lite” or “lo-cal” or “tastes like crap”?

Made 24 chocolate cupcakes with green icing as ordered by daughter whose birthday it is today. She took them to her place of work, where many people will negate their workout-o-day by eating my extremely immature cupcakes.

Went to the grocery store, where it took twice as long to check out as it used to because the baggers can’t figure out how to load the reusable sacks I take with me. Keep plastic out of the landfills/ enrage person behind me in line. IQ of baggers not my fault! Well, and I suppose it didn't help that, having a week or so ago changed the PIN for my debit card, it took me a minute or two to recall what I'd changed it to. I swear the laboured firing of my rusty neurons was audible.

Went to the library, my favourite second home for over 45 years. I did a quick rough mental estimate of the number of books I have read in my lifetime and came up with a likely conservative figure of 6,000. Now, certainly some of these would be books I have read more than once, some by choice, some because I just don’t remember having read them before. Maybe I'm really only reading the same 11 books over and over and over...

[There was a brief article in the paper today about a man who woke up one day at age 70 and couldn’t read anymore. It wasn’t a stroke; he was otherwise perfectly fine. He could even write, but then was unable to read what he had just written. Written words appeared to him as if they were in another alphabet, like the Cyrillic, or hieroglyphics. Isn’t that weird?]

Did two loads of laundry.

Totalled up what I have earned thus far this month and felt very jolly.

Went for a walk. Many people have complained about this summer we’ve been having. Personally, I’m thrilled. A whole summer of days that never get above 20 degrees is my idea of heaven.

Read. Did two crossword puzzles. Surfed the internet.

Prepared a shepherd’s pie for dinner.

…Okay, okay! In the interests of full disclosure: removed the plastic cover from an M&M Meats frozen shepherd’s pie and bunged it in the oven. Neither birthday girl nor her brother is here for dinner and RH and I happen to LIKE M&M shepherd’s pie. And I intend to make FROM SCRATCH a nice tossed salad to go with it.

…Okay. The lettuce is pre-washed, pre-torn, and pre-mixed with other salady stuff. But I will cut up other stuff! I really will!

Aren’t you glad you read my blog today?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

You're the One, Ooh Baby

In a few days, a dear old friend of mine will be celebrating her 30th wedding anniversary. Happy, happy anniversary, Jaynut! A few weeks ago we attended the first of what I am calling the Next Generation weddings, as the children of our friends and friends of our children begin to take the plunge.

I’m so lucky that my little circle of friends comprises people who have all been happily together for a quarter-century or more. It makes me ponder why we have been so fortunate, or wise, or just how it is we managed to successfully find The Right One. And as I watch the current batch of young people navigate the relationship waters, suffering the painful breakups and awkward dates, I want so badly to be able to give them that perfect piece of wisdom that will help them know when they’ve found The One.

Of course, because my memory is still reasonably intact, I know perfectly well there really isn’t anything I can say. When you’re in love with someone, even if everyone around you knows he isn’t right, there’s nothing in the world that will convince you of that. He’s yours and you LOOOOOOOOOOVE him, warts and all. No matter how immensely ginormous those warts are. All over his body. No matter that he beats you with a stick every other Tuesday. (I hasten to add that in this I do not speak from personal experience. I never dated, much less fancied myself in love with, anyone who had either warts all over his body or beat me with a stick. At least not literally.)

The one and only way any individual will ever know the difference between The One and the Rest of Them is by finally meeting The One. And then you go, “OHHHHHH. Okay, then.” Until then, you won’t know, you can’t know, and no one can tell you.

But still, it doesn’t stop me, as a mother, from trying to give my children advice. Of course not! My kids have been doing the dating dance for quite a few years now (my son since he was about…um…fetal) and I’ve considered various techniques I could suggest for recognizing The One. But I think maybe the best is something I said to my daughter on the ending of a relationship a few months ago. And it’s this: In the nearly 27 years that RH and I have been together, there has not been one day, one hour, one MINUTE, that I have doubted that I come first in his life. Through all the vicissitudes of marriage, my belief in this has been pure and absolute and unwavering. And no one should be walking down the aisle with anyone who has ever doubted that about their significant other.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

For now.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Oh, and also...

Happy Birthday, Mom of Grammar!

You haven't changed a bit!

Park it Here

As I was nipping my cute little Fit car into a narrow parking space the other day, it brought back some embarrassing memories of my early days as a driver and I’ve decided to share them with you, Blog World.

I got my driver's license when I was 17. The legal minimum age then (as now) was 16 but my mother was adamant that this was at least two years too young. Being a teenager, of course, I took this terribly personally. My journal is full of raging in CAPITAL LETTERS and hosts of exclamation marks about how she TREATED ME LIKE A BABY!!!!! and had no idea HOW MATURE I WAS!!!!!!! My father, on the other hand, had a very laid-back attitude about driving (he would later scoff at the professional lessons I paid a fortune for my own children to take), and had I forced the issue, my old-fashioned mother would eventually have allowed her husband to overrule her. But I sensed that she felt strongly enough about this that she would not concede without a battle, and I didn’t want to be responsible for a fight between my parents. (Firstborn thing again!) So we ended up with a compromise.

I got my learner's permit in the fall of 1973 and went out driving with my father perhaps a dozen times before taking, and passing, the test for my full license. There was no minimum time requirement between obtaining your learner's permit and testing for the full license. The examiners in our Kerrisdale Motor Vehicle Branch invariably took the same quiet, local route for the tests and of course we all knew from other kids at school exactly what that route was, so we were well prepared for it. I had a driver's license without ever having driven downtown or on a freeway, or for that matter, parking in a parking lot.

I had practiced parallel parking because that was required for the test, and to this day I am a terrific parallel parker because the car I learned to drive on was a Pontiac station wagon that was approximately 150 feet long. (I exaggerate only slightly.) If I could parallel park that, I could parallel park anything.


However, the first time I went to park in a lot was after I had my license. It had never occurred to my father, when he pronounced me fully capable of operating a motor vehicle, that I would be so completely lacking in any sense of basic physics that I would not realize that you cannot turn a car, and especially one that is 350 feet long, 90 degrees on a dime, as it were. I could not understand why I could not just pull up perpendicular to a parking space in a lot and execute a sharp L-shaped turn neatly into the space. Furthermore, having found that this didn't work, I was unable to figure out what to do to solve the problem. So for a long time I would happily parallel park on a side street blocks away rather than attempt to park in a lot.

Yes, I am horribly embarrassed but determined to confess that it took me years -- years -- to finally figure out how to turn a car into a non-angled parking spot. I know, for example, that I was 22 years old when I first began working full-time. A coworker and I were required to take a company car and go to a meeting at another office. She asked if I'd mind driving and, anxious to appear one of the grownups, I agreed. However, when we got to the building and I saw the parking lot was full except for one lone space the approximate width of a stalk of celery, I gave up on any pretense of savoir faire. I stopped the car, got out, and made my incredulous coworker park it.

To this day I am still a bit skittish about what I consider narrow parking slots, but I have, for some decades now, known how to maneuver a car into them! But -- loving the Fit!

Friday, August 3, 2007

Profane or Not Profane? That is the Question.

I’ve been meaning to comment about the fact that in two recent blogs, I used the F-word with all its letters in place, no asterisks acting as proxies. Although with the under-30 generation it has become mainstream, for most people older than that, who are still pretty much running things (except the internet!), it is still preferred that the F-word not appear in all its naked glory.

One of Grammar’s loyal readers has commented that he finds the f-word one of the ugliest in the English language. He doesn’t specify why. I don’t think it can be strictly an acoustic thing, or he would find the words truck and duck and cluck just as distasteful. Perhaps it’s that he believes it’s an ugly word for a beautiful act. Well, given that this particular loyal reader is Grammar’s father, I’m not going to get into any sort of discussion of the relative beautifulness of The Act, but I don’t think it matters, in any case, because the word as used today is simply an extremely versatile expletive. It does still mean The Act, but only peripherally. So it surely can’t be ugly for that reason.

I think that it can only be considered ugly because we’ve had a few hundred years of conditioning to believe that it’s the depth of profanity. But that’s a pretty random thing. It could happen to any group of letters. I personally think there are very many uglier words in English. For example, I can’t STAND the word borborygmus. The word itself is both visually and aurally ugly and if you look up its meaning, that doesn’t help. I think the word slave, as a noun, is an ugly word, as is pedophile. There are other words that I will not put into print, not even with asterisks, that I think are so much uglier than the f-word.

Believe me, I am with you in not caring for casual use of this word. However, and perhaps this is the linguist in me again, it is just a word. To me it seems the height of absurdity to believe that rendering it in print as f*** protects us from its vulgarity when obviously anyone over the age of six instantly sees the full word in their mind’s eye and hears it with their mind’s ear.

In my blogs, it seemed to me especially silly to beat around the bush when I was using it to make a very specific point about its effect between the generations. I was not flinging it about gratuitously as an expletive from my own mouth, as it were. I have, however, chosen in this particular blog entry to avoid spelling it out. I waffled on this; there are a lot of F-word mentions and on the one hand if I’d spelled them all out, it might have desensitized anyone inclined to be appalled and taken its place as just another word. However, the over-30 fuddy-duddy in me won out and decided that so many f***s in so short a space would be too jarring. And so I have protected us all with specious asterisks and hyphens!

It’s possible that the hip-hop generation’s own children will take on a nouveau Puritanism and send vulgarity back to the bathroom walls, but I doubt it. I predict that in less than ten years, you’ll see the F-word spelled out everywhere. Already you seldom see its companion, the S-word, in an asterisk-substituted form.

I am not alone in this opinion, obviously. When I was researching whether the S-word had yet appeared naked in any mainstream newspaper (it has), I came upon the following facetious picture. It made me laugh, and I hope all you fellow fuddy-duddies out there will agree and not be upset that at the very end, here, I've allowed profanity in my blog again!

Thursday, August 2, 2007

New Harrison Resort Fan

Our room was in the tower on your left. In the 6x3 grid of windows facing the lake, we were three up from the bottom, middle window.

We are back from our brief sojourn in Harrison, and I’ll tell you right off: it was too brief. We could happily have stayed another day or two. I have learned from this that reading online reviews is in fact not a fair or dependable way to judge a place.

Our room was beautiful. The staff were warm, friendly and efficient. The food was great. The hot mineral pools were bliss. The beach was clean and not at all crowded (although I wouldn’t care to be there this weekend). We did not leave the hotel grounds the entire time; there was no need to.

I had not been to Harrison in decades and I had forgotten what a splendid spot it is. We were lucky enough to have a lake-facing room on the fifth floor, so our view was beautiful. We spent hours just relaxing on our balcony, watching the quiet lake, the forested hills, the snow-capped mountains. It was idyllic.

The lake was remarkably quiet because although the resort rents sea-doos, the riders thereof are required to go some distance out past a certain marked point in the lake before revving them up. Closer in were only pedal-boats and silent, electric-powered bumper boats (very popular!).

Now, I would recommend that if you’re going there, to book a room (as we did, just by luck) in the East Tower. It is the newest, and farthest from the pools, and so keeps you well away from the noise therein. Some rooms in the main building and West Tower are directly overlooking the pools; in fact some ground-floor rooms are mere feet from them and their patio chairs easily mistaken for public pool furniture. You would not want one of those rooms -- well, I wouldn’t! If you like the idea of being able to just step out your door into the pool area, then of course such rooms would be ideal.

One of the complaints I read online was that children freely used the pool designated as Quiet Adult Only and no one policed this. We only saw a child in this pool once: a (quiet!) toddler in its mother’s arms, for about five minutes. It is indeed a lovely peaceful oasis, isolated from the other pools by a wooden walkway and surrounding trees. It is about four feet deep with a cement bench all around that you can sit on so the water would come up to your shoulders, and just soak.

The East Tower is also the building where the breakfast buffet restaurant resides, so that’s handy.

As part of our package deal at the resort, we got a dinner at their Copper Room restaurant. The décor and ambiance of this venue is little changed from its inception some 80 years ago. You could just picture flappers and their beaux come out from Town on the train to “take the waters” and dine and dance. The little round tables boasted fine linens, silver and china. The waiters were tuxedoed. A live jazz combo played what they called cocktail music and many people made use of the large dance floor: older people who actually know how to dance; younger couples shuffling from one foot to another; merry children. The food was imaginative, beautifully-presented and delicious, and this from RH and I, who are not easily impressed in this regard. We went back the second night, and the maitre d’ remembered our name.

So there is my review of the Harrison Resort. As long as you are not hurting for money, I highly recommend it. (Our room lists at $250 a night and the Copper Room is extremely expensive.) And don’t take on-line reviews as gospel! (Except mine, of course.)



Monday, July 30, 2007

Castles in the Sand


Well, I got my last couple of work files completed this morning and have fended off any more. RH and I are off to the grandly-named Harrison Hot Springs Resort and Spa tomorrow for three days of relaxation -- we hope. I’m a little dubious. I made, perhaps, a mistake in browsing a few online review sites to see how the hotel rates, and unfortunately it doesn’t do very well. Lots of complaints about Motel 6 rooms for Hyatt prices, excessive noise all night long, unresponsive staff, poor food in the restaurants. I was also unhappy to read that unless you booked spa appointments at least four to six weeks ahead of arrival (which I did not), you wouldn’t get so much as a plucked eyebrow.

However, this trip is by way of using a gift certificate RH received as a retirement gift, so if we hate the place, we just won’t stay. It isn’t as if we’re travelling far. And if nothing else, the sand castles will be there for viewing, which should be fun. I’ve never seen them in person.

However, if we don’t stay, I’m not letting my office know I’m back, so mum’s the word!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

My Computer and Me

Have I mentioned I love cruising?
Today I really do have no theme to hang an entry around, but if I go too long without writing here, I lie in bed at night imagining these legions of fans, sitting forlornly by their computers, every so often clicking the link to Grammar’s blog and shedding perhaps a tear or two when they see the same old headline of days gone by.

Okay. Probably not so much, eh? But allow me my fantasies!

This week I have been continuing with much work, blah blah blah. Same old thing. There is great turmoil in my office. People with seriously ill family members, people on leave mourning deceased pets, people on holidays… Sometimes it seems to me as if the poor frazzled clerk in the office and I are the only two people running this company at the moment. I am able remain largely unfrazzled, mostly because I am, thank goodness, at a distance and don’t have to go in there and can just stolidly plug away at things at home. Also, perhaps, because the weather has been co-operating and it has not been excessively hot. And we're almost halfway through stupid summer! Yay!

What has been a lot more fun this week has been putting the finishing touches on the arrangements for our big October trip. I don’t know how many travel agents there are these days compared to ten years ago, but I think they’re a dying breed. No one I know uses them anymore. Our trip this fall is a bit involved and complex, but I've had a blast using the internet to put the pieces together. It is not only easy, but empowering to take charge of things, comfortable that the prices I'm paying are appropriate as I browse Expedia, Travelocity, review sites, etc.

We will be starting with a few days in New York City. (Online: flights, hotel, Broadway show tickets.) We will depart from there on a ten-day cruise which will end us up in Quebec City. (Online and some phone: cruise, shore excursions, cruise line notified of our flight arrangements so they can pick us up.) We are then spending several days in Mont Tremblant, apparently a very attractive Whistler sort of place in between Quebec and Montreal. (online: accommodation in Mont Tremblant ) We are going with our great travel buddies The Lawman and Ms K, so there’s been lots of co-ordination going on, as well. This is almost as much fun as the trip itself!

I booked the flights into JFK and out of Montreal directly with Scare Canada, who offered prices as good as or better than I could find anywhere else. I found two things quite interesting as I did this. First of all, the flights from here to New York and from Montreal home are both listed as exactly five hours and 19 minutes. Don’t you think that’s a bit freakish? Secondly, amongst all the myriad and arcane taxes and fees one resignedly pays on top of the ticket price, I was bemused to find one listed as “US Agricultural Fee”.

US Agricultural Fee. My dear heavens. What on EARTH does that have to do with flying in an airplane? And what will they think of next? The mind boggles.

And finally, I must confess that nearly the most fun of all is choosing my plane seats online. They display a layout of the aircraft for your flight, with cute little people sitting in the seats that are already taken. And when you select your seat -- poof! -- a happy little green person pops into the one you’ve chosen! Seriously, what could be more entertaining than that?