Follow that runaway train…of thought?

I used to believe that I spoke and had thought processes like other people.  I would ruminate something, I would say it out loud, the other person would reply and there you have it!  Conversation.  So imagine, to my chagrin, when suddenly my friends and (most) family members could not understand me.  They would tilt their head to one side and stare at me, quite perplexed.  It was like I was speaking a foreign language.  I would then continue to explain my thought process, step by step, and then they would open their mouths slightly and melodiously say, “ohhhhhh,” whilst nodding their heads.  What had happened to my talent for great conversation?

As I said before, I can hold conversations with anybody of any age, any gender, on any topic.  So it befuddled me when it appeared that I was babbling incoherently.  It occurred to me one day that there were certain people who completely understood me and what I was saying.  My sister was top of the list.  My mother too.  My dad, most of the time.  My niece, however, gave me THAT look one day.  I gave her a questioning look back.  She calmly asked, whilst politely puzzled:  “What does Baba (grandma in Croatian) have to do with a glass of water?”  At first, this bewildered me.  Then the AH-HA moment hit!  Get ready for this doozy.

First, let me ask if you have ever seen the show Gilmore Girls?  I LOVE watching this show!  Why?  The amount of fast-talking conversation is incredible.  They jump from topic to topic in seconds flat.  Basically, they talk like I do.  There is no desire to scrimp on words and get to the point quickly.  It’s about conversation and language and using all kinds of words and comparisons and leaping from one idea to the next.  That was what my AH-HA was about.  I was speaking quickly, and as I spoke a new idea would pop into my head.  However, I might not say anything aloud about it, but then my next thought would be spoken out loud leaving a possible gap in the logical conclusion.  Get it?  No?  Ok, here is the train of thought explanation of the “Baba and the glass of water story”:

Me out loud:  Baba is in so much pain with her hip, but she just won’t let anyone help her.  She has to do it all by herself because she doesn’t want to bother anyone.

Niece out loud:  I know, even when I invite them over for lunch she says it’s too much work for me and that I have so many other responsibilities so why don’t we just come over to her place for a meal.

Me in my head:  She has always been like that.  So stubborn.  That’s why we never learned to cook because she had to do everything.  Even her brother-in-law told me that she won’t even have a glass of water in his home, but she expects them to come to her place for elaborate meals.

Me out loud:  Not even a glass of water!

Niece:  *dumbfounded look

Ok…now you are caught up with how my brain works.  There are the inner thoughts that are constantly in motion.  It’s like there are trigger words people say to me and my mind grabs it like a football and starts running for the end zone.  With every yard I pass, a new thought gets attached to it.  By the time I get to the end zone I have left the football field and ended up on the soccer field.  See what I mean?

I decided to do some quick research about this special phenomenon of mine.  With my Google prowess I typed:  the difference between male and female thought patterns.  DING!  There is quite a variance between the gender brain functions and thought patterns.  I will summarize it quickly if you don’t feel like reading about it.  Scientists study four primary areas of the brain:  processing, chemistry, structure, and activity.  With processing, it appears that males use more gray matter than white matter and with females it’s the opposite.  The gray areas are localized and lead to those gents having more of a tunnel vision so they focus on one thing until complete.  The ladies, with their white brain, basically have their brain networking with the gray parts.  Thus, women are able to multi-task fantastically.  Both are good in their own ways.  The rest of the article was interesting, but being a multi-tasker, let’s get back to the story.

I then explained to my niece how my brain works…as you now also know.  I still continue to speak in this way.  One day at my parent’s place my mother was telling me and my sister about this lady in the village.  The story continued about some surgery.  Then it went to some doctor.  Then something about pills.  Then how awful THAT man is.  She was shaking her head in anger and the rest of us just looked at each other.  My father asked, “What man?”  My sister and I burst out laughing.  We were prodigies!  After a few precise questions we finally figured out who she had been talking about.  Her whole story had involved words like “her” “that lady” “that neighbour” and “him”.  Once names were attached to the pronouns we had the final answer.  Way more fun than Jeopardy, but just as challenging!

Fast forward a few months.  I was visiting my niece again.  I was regaling her with some fantastic story and when I stopped she smiled and slyly said, “I actually followed that train of thought almost all the way to the end.”  Kudos to her!  I am bequeathing her with the gift of pursuing that runaway train…of thought!

fullsizeoutput_22e9

 

 

 

“Chopped” Chef or…Chef Chopped?

Although I don’t write about it much, I am a foodie.  I loved the Food Network…when it first came out.  It was great watching chefs showing you how to prepare meals.  I learned a lot.  What do I see now on the foodie stations?  Competitions.  I believe I have come up with a new concept that I want to pitch to the “foodie” networks.  (Note:  I should probably copyright this as someone is going to read this and steal my idea.)  A new cooking show that involves:  COMPETITION!  (I know, right?  A very novel and inspiringly new idea).

Before I reveal my superb revelation, think about all the competitive cooking shows on tv right now.  It’s the same trifecta:  1) Judges 2) Chefs 3) Time limit.  Who can bake the greatest cupcake in the shortest time?  Who can use the weirdest ingredients to make meals (again, clock is ticking)?

IMG_3306Which child can create exotic meals and desserts.  As time passes, I see that there are more and more cutthroat culinary shows being created.  I figured, why not jump on the bandwagon and create another show?  My genius idea came to me suddenly while I was watching Chopped

The gem of an idea began brewing in my grey matter whilst observing my toddler grandchildren eat.  An absolutely brilliant idea for a new show.  It follows along the same lines of the other challenging cooking shows so it should be accepted into the fold.  It’s dastardly and degrading and demeaning (the dream “D” formula for television shows).

Here is my idea:  You want belittling?  You want chefs to be tortured?  You want to watch failure to the umpteenth degree?  I give you Chefs Chopped!  Yes the new and exciting show where trained chefs prepare meals for a panel of toddlers.  You want a challenge?  I am throwing down the gauntlet.

Have you ever tried to feed a toddler?  Yes, there are many of you who have.  You know what it’s like.  Well, in the “olden” days it was basically like this:

Parent:  (*Puts pot of grub on table)

Children:  (*snarf / yum / gobble)

Conclusion:  Lack of food makes you eat everything without complaint.

AFTER DEPRESSION / WWI / WWII:

Parent:  (*Puts food in front of child)

Child:  (*through tears) I don’t like it!

Parent:  Whack!  Eat it or I’ll hit you again!

(Ahhh…the fond memories of my childhood)

After the beating era of life, came the more educated era where there were books and papers and magazines and shows FULL of information on how to raise the perfect child.  This included healthy recipes for feeding your perfect child.  After creating one of these wonderful masterpieces, the food would be placed in front of said model child.  After much begging and pleading, ketchup would be doused all over the nifty, fancy food so that Perfect Child would eat SOMETHING…ANYTHING!

Nowadays, it is even more difficult to feed your child.  Allergies, preservatives, organic or non-organic, pesticides, hormones, cholesterol, saturated fats, etc.  What can you feed your child?  Well, if you listen to ALL the stories out there in web-world, your child should eat…nothing.  Yes, it’s true.  There is no good food out there.  Well, there is good food this week…but next week it will be bad so best not to tempt fate.

“Fruits and vegetables are good right?”  Nope.  Fruit is full of pesticides and many children are allergic to certain fruits.  “What about the frozen ones?”  Yeah…well welcome to E Coli.  “My children are vegetarian (or vegan).”  Good for them!  They won’t survive the food devastation either.  I have done the research.  Between E coli, parasites, viruses, bacterias, hormones, pesticides, etc. there will be nothing nutritious left to consume.

fullsizeoutput_228b

I, so far, am very blessed and lucky with the kids and grandkids.  I have a few recipes that seem to generate happy smiles and full bellies:

  •  My homemade soup (with homemade noodles) has not killed or maimed any of them.  It is actually requested.  I get disappointed groans if it’s not on the menu.
  • Crépes – to be filled with whatever they choose (Nutella is winning this week)
  • Broccoli – this brassica appears to be a steamed vegetable they all agree on
  • Green beans – that, surprisingly, made the short list
  • Mozzarella – Sliced (not grated) however it must be made by Salerno
  • ANY pasta – lasagne, macaroni, fusilli, orzo…any pasta!

Now…meats, cheeses, fruits, vegetables, preferences vary as they get older (or basically, every 2 minutes).  Each week they decide what they like and don’t like.  It goes from the initial “YAY” whoop of joy to the “BOO” 10 minutes later when it’s on their plate.  Example:  “Can I have that apple?”  After two bites:  “I don’t want it,” and the subsequent attempt to put bitten fruit back into fruit bowl.  Next is the obvious grab for a different piece of fruit which eventually leads to cries of woe when they are informed that they must eat the two-bite-scarred apple first and THEN they can try something else.  Ahhhhh…the great adventures of toddler palate.

So, dear foodie channels, think about how fantastic this show would be!  Children smiling, waiting for their food.  Chefs cook and present their culinary masterpieces.  Suddenly, [camera zooms in] child starts deconstructing the plate.  Toddler Rule #1:  Thou shalt not let one type of food toucheth another.

fullsizeoutput_228c

Example of carrot invasion into broccoli territory

That’s why many children’s plates are subdivided.

Next:  Food allergies.  Must remove all fruit(s) that child is allergic to.  The eating finally begins and then the contorted faces of disgust and the “Ewwwwws” and “Yucks” start to be heard.  The Chef with the least amount of ewws and yucks wins!  The others?  Well if they haven’t run away or started convulsively crying…then they get chopped (like a karate chop hand coming down on their picture…haha!)  What an amazing show!  All done in the name of fun and supreme competition!  Yes, I give you Chef Chopped!

P.S.  Dear foodie networks, I am available evenings and weekends for a meeting to discuss my future in the television industry.  You’re welcome!

 

Diversity and equality…pizza anyone?

I have previously mentioned that I have a slight love of pizza.  Okay, okay, an absolute obsession.  Thick or thin crust.  Don’t care?  White or red sauce?  Either is great!  Types of toppings?  I’m open.  Cheese?  Mozzarella / feta / goat cheese…I ain’t picky.  Meats?  Any kind are fine.  Veggies?  All are welcome!  False, almost all.  I was in Croatia and got a veggie slice.  There was corn on it.  Not so great.  Picked off the corn and the rest was great!  Being a pizza fanatic I have found ways to eat pizza when the craving hits.  Today, I share with you, the diverse ways to satisfy your pizza craving.  As a bonus, I will share my newfound way of getting a pizza hit!

My mother would occasionally make pizza for dinner.  That enchanting smell emanating from the kitchen…yummy!  Pizza night was the best!  Our parents never ordered take out food.  We never went out to restaurants to eat so pizza at home was divine.  As we got older and started going out, the quickest way to satisfy a food craving at 1 a.m. was PIZZA!  We would order a pie and eat this deliciously, hot, and satisfyingly fresh piece of heaven.  Ah, nothing like pizza.  Then one day, my view of this indelible meal drastically changed.

IMG_2760

I was at work and realized I had left my lunch at home on the kitchen counter.  Hungry, I went to the nearby coffee shop and heard people ordering this thing called a “pizza bagel”.  A what?  It smelled like pizza.  It sounded like pizza.  New pizza heaven!  Crunchy bagel, tomato sauce, cheesy topping.  Needless to say, I became the hero at home when I reproduced this delectable feast.  Slice the bagel in half.  Toast it.  Top with pizza sauce, cheese and your choice of toppings.  Into the toaster oven and bake for about 15 minutes.  BAM!  Lunch was served.  I shared this tidbit with many a co-worker who were grateful for this wonderful and easy way to make pizza at home for their kids.

Then, one day, there were NO BAGELS!  Trauma!  Drama!  I had promised the kiddies pizza and now…well, I had to think of something quick.  I perused the contents of my fridge and inspiration came:  Greek pitas.  Pita bread pizza is so commonplace now, but I tell you, I invented this recipe!  The reason I like Greek pitas is that they don’t have a pocket.  They have a thin crust pizza thickness too.  That day, I pulled four pitas out of the bag.  I put them side by side on a cookie sheet and preheated my oven to 400 F.  Then I told the kidlets that they could put whatever toppings they wanted on their “very own, personal pizza”.  Who was the hero now?  Woot woot!  Yes, necessity is the mother of invention.

My pizza cravings have never subsided (obviously), but I have found ways to shake things up.  I make my own pizza at home with fresh pizza dough.  I still cheat with the pita bread or the bagel version if I have last minute guests.   Now, for my latest and greatest pizza version.  PIZZA EGG ROLLS!

This idea came to me when the restaurant chain, Kelsey’s, had a summer special of reuben spring rolls.  Yes, they took the reuben sandwich filling and put it in a spring roll, fried it up, cut it in half and there was a mustard dipping sauce on the side.  Incredibly yummy and crunchy.  I took that idea and came up with:

PIZZA EGG ROLLS!

Egg roll wrappers are thicker than spring rolls wraps.  You can purchase egg roll wrappers in the produce section of any grocery store.  The spring roll wrappers are usually only found at Asian markets / grocery stores.  Egg roll wrappers are easier to work with.  They are thicker so not as easy to tear and you don’t need to have a damp cloth over them, like spring rolls, because they won’t dry out while you are filling them.  Genius right?  Thank you.

THE PROCESS:

First you grate up mozzarella and chop up pepperoni into small cubes.

IMG_2323

Next, in a small bowl, make an egg wash  (one egg and a bit of water and with a fork mix, mix, mix).  After that, take an egg roll wrap and put it in front of you so that it is sitting like a diamond.  Put a dollop of pizza sauce in the middle.

IMG_2325

Add some mozzarella and some pepperoni bits on top.

IMG_2326IMG_2327

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take the bottom corner and cover the toppings.  Tuck that corner slightly under the filling.  Then take the left corner and cross over into the middle.  Do the same with the right corner.

IMG_2328IMG_2329fullsizeoutput_208f

On the top corner, brush some of the egg wash.  This is like licking an envelope closed (for those of you who have ever had to seal an envelope.  I’m showing my age again).  It will seal the egg roll so that it doesn’t open up while you are frying.

IMG_2331IMG_2333IMG_2334

Put that flap into the middle and put your newly rolled pizza egg roll onto a parchment lined cookie sheet (they get kind of sticky so it’s easier to peel them off for frying if they are on paper.

IMG_2335

I have a deep fryer so I fry them in there, but if you are using a pot, make you sure you put in enough oil so that it will cover your egg rolls.  Heat oil to 340 F (170 C).  Put in about 4 egg rolls (in a small pot or 6 in a large pot or deep fryer).  If you put in too many the oil cools off quickly.  Since they float, you might have to flip them to get an even crunch all over so best to have only a few to deal with.

Once they turn a lovely shade of tan / brown remove them with a kitchen spider or a slotted spoon.  Place your wonderful new delectable creations onto a cookie sheet with a cooling rack on it.  This helps to let more oil drip off AND the egg rolls aren’t sitting in their own greasiness getting mushy.

img_23362.jpg

If you are feeling brave, or are not averse to getting your tongue (or the roof of your mouth burnt) take a gloriously, satisfying bite.  The crunch of the egg roll, stretchy mozzarella cheese, the yummy tomato sauce, the bits of pepperoni.  Mmmmmmm.

IMG_2337

Once these cool, you can freeze them for up to three months.  They can be reheated in the oven on 400 F for about 12 minutes.  You can also take them out of the freezer and put them in the fridge to thaw.  Reheating would only take about 6 to 7 minutes.  The kids get impatient and just microwave them for about 40 seconds.  Not as crunchy, but still satisfying.

With regards to the filling, you can customize it as you would any pizza.  Peppers, onions, olives, pineapple…the pizza egg roll is your oyster.  You can even have a marinara sauce to dunk them in. If serving as bite size appetizers, cut them through the middle on a diagonal once reheated.  They will look colourful and smell absolutely fabulous.

I hope my newest pizza obsession is something you will try.  Very versatile.  Very portable.  Very customizable.  So many great options.  Yes, diversity and equality…found in pizza.

Just One More Please…

I am sure you will recall my story about my peculiar “crack” addiction.  Shopping at Sephora or The Crack Store as I refer to it.  Besides being addicted to beauty creams and magic lotions and colour palates for my face, there is one other thing that I just realized I can’t get enough of.  No, no it’s not kitchen appliances (though THAT would be a good guess and also a great story for another day).  As I was vacuuming today, I went room by room by room by room (you get the idea) and I noticed one of these in each room.  Whenever I saw one, I glowed with joy and happiness to see their cuddliness there…just waiting for me to snuggle in.  What was this resplendent item?  A baby blanket.

Now, you may be wondering, “What is so special about a baby blanket?”  You may also be wondering, “What is a baby blanket?”  I shall explain both.  I call my “throw” a baby blanket.  You see, blankets are larger and are used for covering such things as beds.  My “throw” is half the size of a blanket, but it is still soft and cuddly and has all the characteristics of a regular blanket.  Why are they called throws?  Well, I guess decor persons would “throw” them onto a chair for a pop of colour or to add chic-ness to a room. To me it sounds like someone is throwing away a comfort cloth.  So, logically,  I have decided to rename it a baby blanket.

There are electric blankets and there are wool blankets and there are cotton blankets.  What makes my baby blankets special?  They have that soft cashmere feel to them.  Your hand smooths over them and you can feel the tiny little fibres brush languidly against your palm and fingers.  It’s like the peace you get with yoga, but without the stretch.  No downward dogs here.

B-blankets are personal sized.  Room for one and no more.  Well, maybe one adult and a chihuahua.  Then again, two children could snuggle under one.  These are helpful at bedtime if one person doesn’t need many layers of warmth and you do.  Wiseguy and I have a King size bed (oh glory be!) and he doesn’t like being buried under mountains of blankets and comforters.  Solution?  My amazing new fake chinchilla wee blankie!  It is 100% fake chinchilla and also 100% polyester!  It is incredible how soft this man-made plastic throw is!  It feels like lamb’s wool on the one side…warm and knotty like a real wool blanket except no itch to it.  The other side is even more cool!  Literally…more cool.  That chinchilla soft fur feel, but it’s cool to the touch.  Incredible!  How do they make these!

Ok, besides the fact that my winter hands need a good manicure, observe the soft, cushy, cool blue layer.  Seriously…does it not look like blue-dyed fur?  Yet it is not!  Totally fake.  You can also see the fake lamb’s wool too!  Honestly, it’s incredible!  So why I am writing about fake fur blankets…ahem…baby blankets?

img_2006

As mentioned previously, I never really realized how many of these wonderful little snugglers I possessed.  I have this lovely ice blue one which is my latest acquisition.  It definitely reminded me of Elsa from “Frozen”.  I went through a brown phase.  A really large brown phase.  I believe I have three different brown bitty blankets.  I have an uber soft navy blue one and there is an off-white one somewhere in my humble abode.  Why do I keep purchasing these throws?  They are portable hugs!

I have been a hugaholic all my life! When I meet people for the first time and, if it feels right, I go right in for the hug!  Blankets are usually too large to be able to swirl around you and somehow transform into a comfortable warming position.  They usually awkwardly overhang and some part of your body gets left out.  With a mini-blanket you can quickly yank it up in the air and it will swiftly land on your person in the most pleasant and accommodating hug-type position.

As you can see, there are many great features to the semi-blanket:  perfect size, lightweight, fabulous feel, colour variety, fits one and all.  They also make great housewarming gifts.  Who would NOT want to get a petite blanket?

The cold weather has set in.  It’s nice to know that the days are getting longer.  We will be heading into the worst of winter and happily looking forward to the days of spring.  I am very pleased to have my plethora of small blankets to warm my winter-worn body.  I lazily sit down on the couch and curl my legs up under me.  I pull the blankie off the back of the couch and wrap myself in it.  Happy.  Content.  I grin with joy.  I know Wiseguy is happy that I have all these woolies in each room.  He is ecstatic!  (Not really…but he has told me NO MORE!)  Sadly, the feeling is short lived.  I am watching tv and I see the new spring colours appear that would definitely brighten up one (or many) of my rooms.  So many new potential fuzzy hugs to have in each room and I have luxurious space for them!  I am sure that Wiseguy would LOVE to have more colourful, soft, cuddly, fuzzy, love blankets.  Right?  Dearest….sweetheart…love of my life… JUST ONE MORE PLEASE!

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way into the New Year…

Here it was, a few hours before the New Year and my little heart was going pitter-patter with nervousness.  I am sure everyone has their tradition regarding the coming year, but I have this quirky superstition that whatever I am doing last in the “old year” will be a representation of what my life will be like in the new year.  So, here it was, 2016, and I was having a fantastic time hanging out with wonderful friends.  We were shooting darts or playing Euchre and for some reason, I still felt like there was something not quite right.  Playing games is a good way to start the new year but I felt I needed more.  Then…it happened!

“3…2…1…Jump!” I heard everyone yell.  I jumped excitedly off the couch, waving my hands in the air and landing happily on the floor.  This was my fantastic leap into the New Year!  I was also 7 years old.  My parents had let us stay up late so that we could do this exciting thing!  My mother had made homemade pizza (we weren’t take-out OR delivery people).  My aunts, uncles, and (YAY) cousins had come over for this new adventure.  I recall the big joke my dad had made with regards to my eating habits:  “Ha ha!  It took you two years to eat a slice of pizza.”  Too true!  I started a slice of pizza (I was a super, super slow eater.  Nothing like the Hoover-eater I am today!) and I finally got to finish it after my super bounce.  What a memory!

As a teen, I was lucky to go out with my older siblings.  We went out to fancy banquets / dances for New Year’s Eve.  There would be a fancy three-course meal and afterward there would be endless dancing.  There was the obligatory nervousness due to the desire to find the best dress, matching high-heel shoes, fancy jewelry to be worn that evening.  Quite the show!  Quite the excitement!  Quite the fun for one evening!  Year after year we looked forward to this event.  Then marriage and children came along and the procedure changed.

As new parents, instead of going out for the evening, it was time to invite other new parents over and hang out while the kids either played together or were put to bed early.  A quiet evening with some munchies and chit-chat.  5…4…3…2…1.  Happy New Year!  Quieter, but still fun.

Fast-forward again and you see children breaking away from their parents to do their own thing.  The parents would either have fun continuing their pre-toddler tradition of a banquet hall or they might even stay home.  Parents worried about their children, but pretended they did not.  Children…ahem…adults…not worrying at all since they were invincible. 5…4…3…2…1. Happy New Year!

This is a footnote of what life was like for me every New Year’s Eve.  As I grew older I realized the beauty of life and how incredible each coming new year was.  I also gave up on resolutions.  I found that these best-intentioned goals seemed to dissipate, usually by…um…January 14th.  I finally decided that I would focus on that last hour of the old year to predict my new year’s fate.  Why?  Not sure, but it seemed like a genuinely great idea at the time.  This brings us full circle back to December 31st, 2016 and when IT happened.

We had congregated in the kitchen. Nine minutes to go.  Here we were, all gathered together, awaiting the dawn of the new year.  I sat there nervously, pensively.  Why?  Well, my weird (unique) thought-bend of “last actions of previous year permeating the new year” were beginning to haunt me.  Yes we had had fun! Yes we were surrounded by friends!  Something was missing and I didn’t know how to fix it.  Then, a funny thing happened on the way into the New Year.

“Amanda is still up,” said H.

“Who threw up?!” queried B.  That was it!  I broke out in fits of laughter.

“No,” said H, “Amanda is still up.”  I was done for.  I was laughing hysterically.  Literally laughing out loud (the real LOL).

Suddenly Wiseguy yelled “HAPPY NEW YEAR!!”  We looked at him like he was a crazy man.  The time on the stove clock showed a minute to midnight.  He pointed to the television which showed all these lovely people happily kissing and embracing each other.  Not only had we missed the countdown, but we had missed the actual jump into the New Year.  Were we upset?  Heck no!  We all hugged afterward and wished each other all the best in the new year.

Me?  I was beyond ecstatic.  I had desired a sign to show me what the 2017 year would be like based on my interesting definition of “old versus new” philosophy.  I was so grateful to be laughing hysterically from 2016 into 2017.  This was something very new for me.  So far my jaw is going to need therapy from all the laughing I have been doing.

P.S.  I did feel short-changed a bit in missing the countdown.  Imagine my surprise and supreme gratefulness, when my friends and I got to do a repeat countdown!  We watched as New Orleans counted down (an hour later) into the New Year.  I love this life!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!   May you wake up happy every morning.  May you look out and enjoy what you see daily.  May you appreciate all the good that you have in your life.  May you smile everyday.  Even when your life seems impossibly hard, believe that everything that happens is leading you to something brighter and better.  Life is beautiful and so are you.

 

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.

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.