Bacon…and other hazards

It’s a rainy Saturday morning.  Good news is that I’m alive and I’m breathing!  Best of all…there is bacon frying in the pan.  I love the smell of bacon!  (Hence the extreme importance of having inhaling capabilities.)  I love the way it transforms from soggy white and pink strips to brown, crunchy, salty yumminess!  (I was going to say “goodness” but I’m sure my pulmonary valve would slap me).  As I move in closer to the stove top to flip the strips…ATTACK!  The bacon fat pops out of the pan and onto my arm.  Ouch!  It burns!  And yet, I stay there to complete the task.  That got my mind racing and thinking about other kitchen hazards.

Over the many years of frying bacon I have built up a super-power immunity.  My fingertips have also learned how to pick up hot cooked items and transfer them to other vessels.  Again, it’s a built up resistance.  Some days I feel like Wonder Woman …then again, I don’t think she could handle bacon grease, but I digress.  Below are what I believe to be substantial culinary threats.

COOKING HAZARDS:

  1.  FRYING
    • Whenever you have hot oil in a pan or pot you are challenging the kitchen gods.  You believe you will not be besieged by fiery oil droplets and yet they are laughing at you saying “Oh yeah?  Bring it on!”  Frying bacon (yes, I keep coming back to this deadly onslaught) can lead to either arm burns or grease on your clothes that for some reason will NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER wash out.  Frying potatoes…a.k.a. french fries.  If the taters aren’t dry you are looking at water going into boiling oil and this ultimately leads to the oil boiling over onto your stove.  BEWARE!
  2. SLICING
    • Welcome to knife-dom!  I used to think that dull knives would be better to ensure I wouldn’t get cut.  Those darn machetes always found a way to make me wish I had shares in “Band-aid”.  I learned to sharpen my knives (and my skills).  Using a dull knife on a tomato is what led me to the divine art of honing my knives.  It also guided me to new lessons in advanced first aid.  I could cut myself, yelp in pain, get an adhesive bandage unwrapped, apply first aid cream to it and hog-tie it to my finger in 45 seconds.  Boo-yah!).   Knives actually slid off the super thin tomato skin and would ultimately impale me.  After years of thinking I knew how to use a knife I saw a preview for a movie called Julie and Julia and decided to actually find the first cookbook from Julia Child.  In this book Julia showed me how to hold a knife and how to cut and slice things.  Beginner stuff.  I am very grateful to this wonderful woman for saving my appendages.  For you new chefs out there, here is a good link on how to proceed with onion cutting.
  3. BOILING
    • I always believed that boiling was safe.  Yes I did understand that hot water could burn you, but unless it was poured on your skin directly it was safe right?  Yeah-NO!  I recall the day I decided to make home cooked macaroni and tomato sauce.   The pasta was on sale and the sauce was Ragu sauce.  This was definitely within my newfound culinary skills.  I put water in a pot.  I added salt.  I felt like a true wife/mother/chef!  I put the lid on the pot and waited for the water to boil.  It took longer than it should have because I kept lifting the lid to see if the water was boiling.  Hence the phrase “a watched pot never boils.”  Although an idiom about patience, I followed the true meaning…that darn water won’t boil while I’m watching.  Whilst playing with the kids I heard the pot lid clanging.  The water was boiling!  Yay!  I lifted the lid and promptly burned my wrist. Yes…steam is lethal.  You thought bacon fat was bad?  Steam burns last several days.
  4. BAKING SHEETS
    • I decided to branch off and learn to bake.  Cooking is more fun because there is room for error.  Lots of room for trial and error.  Baking?  Heck no!  There is a reason everything is measured to the minutest ounce / milligram.  My old oven had this wonderful ejection mode when pulling out the baking rack which catapulted super hot cookie sheets onto my awaiting bare arms.  To date only one major burn; an inch long and half inch in diameter.  THAT is my real life cooking tattoo.  Also a daily reminder of being careful when playing with fire.

I am sure there are many other hazards I could reveal to you, but then you would surely want to eat out daily or hire a chef to make your meals.  I have lived, breathed, survived many culinary challenges and I LOVE cooking!  I love hearing the click, click, whoosh of my gas stove firing up.  I know there are new adventures in foodie-dom for me.  One thing I learned from dear Julia Child was:

“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.”

Worst case scenario, I can always hook up with my granddaughter Kennie and we can make food into art.  XOXO

macaroni art

 

New illness revealed…

Everyday there seems to be some kind of new disease taking over the world.  I do believe I have discovered a new illness.  It is quite uncomfortable and irritating, and it usually clears up after a couple of days.  If I am correct, and this is a new disease, then I shall be famously known as the woman who discovered, diagnosed, and provided the remedy for the infamous Croatianitus (pronounced:  kro-aye-shun-eye-tis).  What is Croatianitus?

I am sure most of you have heard about Tinnitus.  It is a ringing or buzzing in your ears that only you can hear.  Croatianitus is something similar, but in an opposite way.  Instead of hearing the buzzing in your ears you find that you really can’t hear at all.  There is a pressure built up in your head, sort of like having your head wrapped up in a cotton ball helmet.  When people speak to you, you can see their lips moving and perhaps some sound will break through the fogginess, but your actual capability to hear normally has been adversely affected.

What causes Croatianitus?   This condition is most often brought on by being in public places with Croatians.  These are a jovial and entertaining group of people.  They prefer loud music and even louder conversations. This friendly group of humans started out in Croatia.  From there, emigration began and they moved to many different countries all over the world!  They brought their sense of joie de vivre with them and settled in cities where there were others of their kind.  Their raucous laughter and joke telling was studied in order to record their decibel levels.  After numerous studies, dB showed them way above healthy levels…closer to “shot gun” deafening.

I have been studying this society for quite some time now.  I have attended their marital rituals and other religious ceremonies.  I have been invited to and frequented other social events including annual group performances which showed their softer side.  Colourful, cultural dances and the vocalizing of historical songs.  All is well until their show is over and the socializing begins.

It appears very harmless.  Oftentimes you will move to a different room and sometimes even a different location.  Having completed their ceremonies, they become lax and free-spirited.  They congregate and speak.  This is symptom number one of Croatianitus.  You believe you are in a regular conversation, however, when this group forms you will find that they begin speaking at a dB (decibel) level of perhaps 30.   Very safe.  As more of them enter the room, there are more in-depth discussions beginning.  In order to be heard, the repartee of each mini-group grows in loudness.  Suddenly, you notice that the traditional music has begun playing in the background.  When did that occur?  You are already beginning to notice a difference in your hearing.

Symptom number two is when you realize that you yourself have begun to annunciate and speak louder.  This is an automatic self-preservation tactic.  In order to be heard above the din you must assimilate with the masses.  You lull yourself into a false sense of security at your ingenuity.  Little do you realize that as the seconds and minutes tick by, you have gone from “normal-speaking” person voice to the “Croatian” speaking voice.  This voice is at least three times louder than your normal speech and you feel comfortable because the “Croatians” smile at you happily and proudly as you have adjusted in order to join their world.

Symptom number three is the most fatal one and oftentimes is mistaken for tiredness or regular tinnitus.  After cavorting with these cheerful and partying persons, it is time for you to go home.  You start to say your goodbyes but you can’t hear your own voice.  After much analysis I believe that this is the reason why these people give big hugs and double cheek kisses at the end of the night.  No one can really hear them, and it is said that actions speak louder than words, so this is their way of showing you their joy and gratitude for your attendance.

Remedy for Croatianitus is a bit of a longer process.  It is all about patience.  You will notice that your ears will continue ringing.   The buzzing will stop, usually by next morning.  The newfound deafness could take up to a couple of days to clear, but you will get there.

The best way to ensure you don’t become prone to this illness is to limit exposure.  After intense study on this group, I have found that a two-hour maximum exposure limit will allow you to hear in about one hour after departing their company.  Anything longer than that and you are looking at the three day rule until full recovery.

How do I know all about this?  I myself am a Croatian.  I chanced upon Croatianitus after moving out of my parent’s house.  As mentioned previously, there were six of us in that house and the Over-Talking (a.k.a. “speaking over another person while they are still talking” because we didn’t consider that rude).  We knew we had to speak louder in order to be heard.  THAT was our training ground.  There was no “excuse me” or “pardon me for interrupting” it was survival of the fittest, or in this case, the loudest.

After departing the humble abode of my youth and moving in with Wiseguy hubby, he started lowering the volume on the tv set one night.  He asked if I could still hear everything.  I could. He lowered it again…and again…and again.  Surprisingly, I could still hear every word being said.  THAT was when I first realized there was something unique about being nurtured (trained) in a Croatian home.

EPILOGUE:  It has been five hours since departing my last Croatian function.

  •  Congregating time after concert = 2 hours.
  •  Hearing in my right ear = returned after 2 hours.
  • Hearing in my left ear = returned after 4 hours.

Modern (In)conveniences

I studied History at University.  A diverse plethora of history.  Some courses were about countries (i.e. Germany, Africa, Canada, et. al.).  Some were about timelines (World Wars I and II).  The one course that intrigued me the most was about social history.  This was the history of people.  We studied people in society, how they lived, what their jobs were, how many children they had, what they ate, etc.  I was fascinated by this version of history.  One day, during a tutorial about comparisons between life in the 1800s and life in the 1900s, my professor asked the question,  “Was life harder in the 1800s or the 1900s?”  What would you say?

I recall seeing pictures of women carrying buckets of water from the nearby stream.  They had already spent part of the morning bringing wood to make a fire so they could heat up the water to wash the laundry.  No easy task I am sure.  They would start the fire.  They would bring out a huge cauldron of water.  They would place it over the fire to heat up to boiling so that they could dunk all the stinky clothing into that vat.  Then, they would use the Washboard…scrubbing up and down and up and down to clean whatever dirt and stains were on there.  It was one designated “wash day”.  From there it went to hanging all the clothes on the line to dry.  Yes, there was this rope that the clothes were hooked up to in order to hang around and air dry.  Once finally dry, they would said clothing from the line and iron it.  Yes, in the olden days, everything was flattened with heat by an iron.  Day of washing done.

Now, back to my professor’s question:  “Was life harder in the 1800s or the 1900s?”  I gingerly raised my hand and said, “It’s harder now.”  Gasps of amazement rang out throughout the room.  Mutterings of “how she can she believe that’s true!”  “She has no idea what she is talking about.”  Finalizing statements.  My long, lean, string-bean of a professor looked me square in the eyes and asked, “And what makes you arrive at this conclusion?”

I replied, calmly, “We have washing machines and dryers.  We have microwave ovens.  Now we are expected to do more than usual in less time because we have all these conveniences.”  I stated emphatically.  “You used to be able to take a day to do the laundry.  Yes, it was hard to do everything by hand…carry the water, light the fire, wash the clothing by hand, but now you are expected to wash, dry, fold the laundry.  Put the laundry away.”  Then I continued whole-heartedly, “But laundry is not a whole day event.  You still have to make breakfast and lunches and dinner.  Shopping for clothing or groceries.  Taking children to school and/or after school activities.  Walk the dog if you have one.  Prep lunches for next day.  Get your notes ready for next day’s meeting.  Bathe the kids and get them to bed.  Plan and prep for the next few dinner meals.”  I paused.  “I know it was not easy living in the 1800s.  There was no running water.  There was fear of being attacked.  There was always fear of illness.  But nowadays we seem on the run all the time and more and more people are getting burnt out.  We sleep less.  We fret more.  Due to modern conveniences we have less excuses to explain why things aren’t getting done.”

I normally didn’t speak this much in class, but for some reason I felt strongly about this topic.  I wasn’t embarrassed, which I normally would have been because I always worried that my answer would be wrong.  My prof looked around the room, smiled, “you’re correct.”  Shut the front door!!  What??

Yes, he went on to explain that although there were many, many hardships in the colonial days, our modern times and modern technology had actually increased stress and tension in society.  We try to multi-task to the umpteenth degree and end up tired, exhausted, and feeling like failures.  I really was right!  I was vindicated!

Modern technology has made us the worst kind of slaves.  We have enslaved ourselves.  We have to be better, stronger, faster than anyone else.  I love speaking to people who have released themselves from the tyranny that they have created in their lives.  Nothing is THAT urgent.  We may be stuck in traffic and the stress of being late is actually making us hyperventilate.  However, I want you to think about this phrase the next time this happens, “Is someone dying?”  Sounds strange perhaps, but really, if no one is dying then it is not that urgent.  True?

I will admit that I love my modern gadgets.  Especially being a kitchen junkie I have many modern toys.  My latest “ease machines” are attachments for my Kitchenaid…fresh pasta!  Mmmmm…yum yum!   My Baba (“grandma” in village speak) noodles are the grandkids’ favourite!  Nothing inconvenient there.  Salut!

 

One Step at a Time…

“…One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind…”  Thank you Neil Armstrong. Neil will always be remembered and quoted for saying this phrase when this astronaut landed on the moon.  It is a phrase that can be applied to many phases of our lives.  The most memorable comparison for me is when I get informed that any child has gone from crawling to walking.  Yes…one small step…

I am sure you have noticed a trend in my writings regarding children.  I am amazed at their tenacity.  I adore their independence. I marvel at their simple wisdom.  We adults oftentimes lose perspective of our lives because we have been educated.  We are taught to follow certain paths in our schooling.  From kindergarten to elementary school. From middle school to high school.  Perhaps we have advanced to College courses or even University.  Education is very important and yet I admire the free spirit of the young.  Don’t get me wrong, being brought up by universal standards of quality (and the wooden spoon of “tough love”)  I can now appreciate even more the wonderful open qualities of youth.

It was repugnant to me when my parents would refer to me as the “Pepsi” generation. I believed it was supposed to mean something like “you are so spoiled you don’t drink water, you drink Pepsi.”  I still haven’t really figured it out, but it sounds about right.  (Note:  my parents never purchased name brand so that is why I assumed this was something they heard and adopted).  Anyway, every generation goes through the “you have no idea what it was like when I was growing up.”  To be fair to my parents, they were right.  They were raised in a village with many many siblings (no, not 4 or 5…try 8 or 9).  Schooling was done by grade 3 due to farming obligations.  They worked hard to make their lives better and better for their children.

Wiseguy and I had started our lives in a less-than-prominent-societal situation.  We fell in love (so cliche), but it was true.  We moved into an apartment.  No real funds.  First and last month’s rent.  No furniture….seriously….no furniture.  A room on the 11th floor of an apartment building with a wonderful balcony.  Our view of the sky was magical.  There were no buildings around us.  We could actually see the CN Tower in Toronto from our balcony is Mississauga (yes, that is a city in Ontario, Canada).  Yes, we were that weird couple that got together for love and not money.

So, our lives as a couple began as one small step.  We found each other.  We became best friends.  We knew that we could live as a family.  We decided to throw caution to the wind and move in together.  A simple one bedroom apartment.  A small starter home.  We married a year later.  There were many doubters.  There were many personal and family consequences.  Again, we decided to do what we thought and believed was best for us.  Many doubted. Many disbelieved.  There were those beautiful few who believed in us and they are always remembered and special in our hearts.

The years have passed, sometimes feeling slow but nowadays feeling so quick.  We have raised 3 beautiful children.  We look at our wonderful grandchildren and I am in awe whenever I see them.  I was once asked why I quiz children and “bother” them.  I honestly answer, “I don’t bother them.  They are smart and I LOVE hearing their answers.”

Children are magnificent!  I can tell you honestly that what they think about is waaaaaay more interesting than what you have to work on at work.  Their minds are agile and fresh and ingenious.  You used to think like that until you got pigeonholed at school.  Think the same.  Act the same.  Behave the same.

Yes, our world is comprised of structure and rules.    I am not saying this a bad thing.  However, sometimes thinking and behaving “abnormally” can be fun!  Grab a box of crayons and a colouring book but DON’T colour inside the lines.  Oh I know there are new colouring books for adults…very intricate and detail oriented.  Your mind goes CRAZY if you colour outside the lines.   Even better, get a children’s colouring book and colour a monkey purple and green and pink.  Believe me, not colouring to “specific norms” will feel really weird and almost heart wrenching.  I slowly got over the “brown monkey” syndrome when I coloured my monkey green and yellow and my granddaughter said, “Here, add some pink to his head.”  Hmmm, sharing and good advice from the eyes from a child.  Monkey can be different just like people are different.

I just received a text (yes, I am a modern Baba a.k.a. grandma in Eurospeak) that my youngest grandson took his first steps yesterday.   Little “Jumpin’ Jack” will be one on May 19th so Mr. “I’m-on-the-move” has decided that there are too many adventures in life that he needs to explore and got his groove on early.  Congratulations little JJ (Jumpin’ Jack!)  May your new elevated levels of adventure be as fun and exciting as you hope them to be.  May your bumps and bruises heal quickly.  May you always know that every adventure you undertake will always start with one step at a time.

 

 

 

Crack…for Elders

Although I am not a drug user…not a smoker (anymore…another story).  I actually don’t know what drugs are out there.  I learn, unbeknownst to me, by watching CSI or some other crime show.  I hear about these things called “Mary Janes” which I always believed were shoes.  Then there is something about “roofies” which I learned about from watching the movie “The Hangover“.  I always figured they were the jumper kids that have that amazing ability to bounce around from rooftop to ground.  Amazing!  Then I heard about this thing called “crack”…I had heard about Cocaine but “crack” just reminded me about childhood jokes about bums.  Literally…your bum bum.  Oh yes…I am the original Polly-Anna (for those who grew up on the Disney Sunday afternoon show you will understand that reference.  For those who didn’t, I am the girl (now grown up woman) who was shocked that people I knew injected or smoked stuff that I only saw criminals getting jailed for on tv.  Oh yes.  That was and is me.  Please note:  I do not judge.  Marijuana is pretty commonplace nowadays although it is illegal.  And cigarettes are now renamed and buried behind metal cabinets.  There are real daily “crack” substances that are not illegal and yet can lead to many financial foes…and this is my story.

I confess that I have my own “crack” hit.  It’s not smoked.  It’s not stolen but it sure makes a hit on my bank account.  I was introduced to a store called “Sephora”.  I researched the name.  It means “bird”.  That would mean freedom to most, but for the makeup hound, Sephora is like a gambling casino.  You walk in.  Beautiful people greet you and they are ready to help you in any way possible.  It is like a dessert wanderer walking into a bar and asking for water….any water….and then you are advised that you are in the Holy Land and any kind of water you want is there for you.  They will help you in any way possible.  You get a little basket.  They walk you through temptation.  They even apply the the sacred ointments upon your skin.  You feel like a goddess!  All your imperfections will be annihilated.  All your wrinkles will be forlorn.  You will have less wrinkles, your skin will glow.  You will sleep better.  Your eyeballs and earlobes will  breathe better.  Ok…I’m making that up…but seriously….they are incredible!  You will feel so remarkable spending $200.00 there because they understand and know what you would like to look like and feel like.

Then one day, this sheep, who realized she had to spend surreptitious amounts of funds, was asked quite bluntly by a three year old, “Why do you wear makeup?”  To which I replied, “to look beautiful?:   The smarter of us replied…yes…the three year old:  “You already are beautiful.”  Ahem…excuse me?  I must admit I am not a vain person.  I have gone from a size 6 to a size…plus oops…and been fine.  My face…very different story.  I started with a simple mascara that my aunt sent to me as a gift which my mother forbade me to wear.  I borrowed makeup from girlfriends at school and accidentally forgot to wipe it off before I got off the bus one day.  My  sister, bless her heart, got me a blush compact for my 14th birthday.  Now I was armed with both blush and mascara (and Chapstick…so cool).  I had never heard of moisturizer, face wash (lucky if a ever got a zit).  So my routine as a child…nothing.  Yup, quite simple.

Aging…for some reason, we women aren’t allowed to age.  Not sure why.  I started using expensive “crack” moisturizer and then foundation and then bronzer and then other stuff and realized that I wanted to be old and wrinkly.  I love my laugh lines.  Those lines mean I have laughed a lot and enjoyed life.  My neck is wrinkly because I am getting older.  There are now four beautiful happy and excited grandchildren in my life under the age of 6.  I am aging and I don’t want to be preserved.  I am allowed to be comfortable in my own skin.

Note:  Having said that, I will admit that I will NOT let myself go grey yet.  I have been greying since I was 20 years old but colouring my hair from red to blonde to brown to purple makes me feel happy and adventurous.  When I decide I’m ready for grey I’ll go whole hog.   I will not feel bad when I take a selfie and see all my wrinkles.  I used to feel like I was 23 years old, but times have changed.  Now I feel like I’m 45 which you is pretty good because I am actually going to be 47 in a few weeks.

So, why am I sharing this with you?  I believe that many women have the same dilemma.  We believe in the secret (sacred) serum…the elixir of youth.  Ads, magazines, movie stars, etc. etc.  What is a woman to do?

My very own opinion:  Do what makes you feel happy.  I will not preach that you shouldn’t follow fad diets.  I will not judge you if you prefer cosmetic surgery.  I will not judge you if you love “makeup crack” as much as I do.  In the end, life is a journey that should be filled with happiness.  So, if the “crack” you have doesn’t leave you broke then go for it!  We only live once.

P.S.  I LOVE  SEPHORA!  Yes, although it reads like I wish I was never there…my problem.  The staff there are wonderful.  The quality of the products are the best.  The staff are superbly friendly and well trained.  Kudos to the Sephora company.  Started in France and have arrived in North America.  Your store layout and your knowledgeable staff set you apart.  (note:  I have worked retail and truly appreciate good service.  Yours is phenomenal).

P.P.S. To my dearest husband.  Yes, I have makeup “crack” or “crackup” addiction.  Luckily, I have finally purchased all I need.

P.P.P.S.  Note:  You might like some of their great products…let me know if you are interested….I have a bonus points card.  (smiley face)