Winter Wonderland

Okay, it’s not *quite* Wonderland out there, especially because to us Southern Ontarians, Wonderland is a place with a lot of fun rides and over priced chili fries.

This would suck covered in ice

This would suck covered in ice

But somehow, I’m not super pissed about the snow this year. I’m actually sort of….well I’m afraid that if I say I’m enjoying it I’ll get skewered by a foot long icicle – ’tis the way of the winter justice. I am surprised, however, by how minimally pissed I am at this most recent dumping of chilly, frozen flaked water all over my city.

It could be for a number of reasons:

– I have purchased, for the first time in many years, a ‘sensible’ pair of boots. Wedge heel. Fuzzy. Muklukish without being ugly. On sale. None of this ‘winter heel’ business for me anymore.

Fashionable, yet not retarded

– I have a nice coat. Not just a warm coat, but a nice, long, extremely pretty and in-style coat that makes me feel like I’m in Casablanca. Except, you know, with ice.

coat

Not this nice, but pretty close

– Up until this morning when I had to take a $5 taxi ride two blocks to the subway station, I had the transit schedule all figured out. This one might take some readjusting, but generally speaking I am able to leave my apartment right before the bus pulls up to the stop just across the street. Less than five minutes outside in the mornings? I can dig it.

Boourns!

– Indoor shopping. Toronto is used to the cold, and so there are a myriad of ways to get your shopping done, even grocery shopping, without ever having to step foot outside. Malls connect to the subway system, and once you get right into the core of the city, the PATH winds through most of the major buildings and transit, all without even looking towards the doors outside. Now if I can just find an indoor laundromat…

This is indoors, suckers! Mahahaha!

Toronto's PATH system: because the outdoors is for losers

– In the event that I do not find an indoor laundromat, I have discovered one that is even closer to my apartment than the one I’ve been using hitherto. I don’t even have to cross any intersections, which can be kind of dicey on my street. It’s a little more expensive and frankly not as nice, but it’s smaller, not as busy, plays classical music, and has no attendant. You’d think that would be a downside, but I prefer to not have people around when I’m out running errands or washing my undergarments.

– Toronto does have some rad winter stuff going on. And by the time I’m back here I’ll have someone who’ll actually be excited to attend such events even though we do, as Josh puts it, “turn everything into some weird abstract art thing.”

Cavalcade of Lights

Weird abstract art - still pretty!

 – I have a new weapon against the frozen, treacherous tundra that will be my sidewalks within a few weeks. It’s a phone number. You call it and tattle on all the lazy fucktards that didn’t shovel their snow, letting it instead be compounded into frozen footprints that are out to break my ankles every year. Seriously, I have developed this ridiculous fear of breaking my ankles. I will call that number fifteen times a day if I have to. I’ll call it on my own damn landlords. My ankles are grateful for my city’s well-spent tax dollars.

OW MY ANKLES!!! AND POSSIBLY KNEES!!!

– It’s a white Christmas! Surprisingly enough, we almost never get snow in time for Christmas. It shows up right at the beginning of January and clobbers our asses until Easter. And given that with a little luck this should be my last Canadian Christmas for a couple of years, I’m very pleased that the weather is going all storybook for me this time around.

My place does not look like this...but up the street it does!

– Money has been okay this year. I didn’t have to carefully plan each and every gift according to how many groceries I’d have to knock off the list. I was able to go out and buy exactly what I wanted without a second thought. Which does wonders for those last minute items, especially when Christmas is distressingly close to the rent cheque.

Damn expensive holiday!

And now the big reason:

– I told the Family to fuck off this year. Well not really, but I’ve never enjoyed the whole family holiday thing. And this year I said so.

Last year was a big deal. It was the last year my grandparents would be around before moving to Quebec, and my long lost cousin flew in with his fiancee from Vancouver. So for the first time in….possibly ever, that entire side of the family was together for Christmas. I went, even though I was ridiculously medicated and probably an embarassment. It was a big deal to me, and I went out of my way to get a little something for everybody, even the fiancee I’d never met. This year, I’m doing my own thing.

This year, I am going to a friends house for a Christmas Eve visit with her and the wee ones. I’ll wake up by myself – seriously, how is this some kind of tragedy? I don’t get it. I’m going to make sure I have a super clean kitchen the night before, and will make myself a really nice breakfast with mimosas and eggs florentine. I’ll say Merry Christmas to Josh if he’s around, and then make my way to the same friends house for a big gathering with her and her awesomely Greek family for what she is dubbing “Orphan Christmas.” There will be food, drink, and a related assortment of merriment. And since they’re Greek there will be more festivities for Orthodox Christmas later on. I’ll see my actual family in small, quiet doses on Boxing Day.

It’s not that I don’t like my family. I just don’t understand why every year we all rush through our Christmas mornings to haul our asses out to the suburbs in ridiculous holiday traffic to get to The Big Family Event by 2pm. Everyone bitches every year because the same aunt/uncle always show up late. I adore this aunt/uncle because they do their holidays their way. They open their gifts slowly and take the time to appreciate them, and show up to The Big Family Event when it suits them. The rest of us are usually in mid-crisis by this point. There is screaming and frantic organizing, paper thrown to and fro, gifts exchanged between cousins who don’t even know each other in ‘real life’. Food shovelled onto plates. I usually fill up on carrots and potatos. Every year I leave exhausted, cranky, shaky, carrying buckets of stuff that someone less fortunate could use far more than I, and I usually don’t remember who got me what. Then we all drive further into the frozen suburbs to visit even more extended family and stand around awkwardly. Everyone else seems to know how to do this, but I’m still lacking the ability to care about people I only see once a year. So I leave even more cranky, sleep deprived, with the general feeling of having been poked and prodded unpleasantly, and the lingering fear of “am I the only one who doesn’t know how to do this shit?” I do not enjoy these excursions.

Like this but with more panic and no Cousin Eddie

Also, I know you don’t really have to be religious these days, but what is this need to cram ourselves together in a room to celebrate what amounts to not much more than a giant shopping spree?

a christmas exegesis

As far as I’m concerned, if you’re not into the religious aspect of it, then the spirit of Christmas is more about little kids. Seeing them get all excited, hear stories about reindeer and gingerbread things. I’ve got one age-appropriate cousin that I never see, and all other cousins/siblings/etc. are well past the age of Santa. So I don’t see the point, especially when the little one has no idea who I am. My friends kids, on the other hand, run to the door when I visit! “Auntie Em, yaaaaay!!!” I am so all about that this year.

So!

I’m thinking that Christmas and winter in general is stressing me out far less this year because I finally feel like a grown up. I’ve got my shit together, I know what I’m doing, and I’m not overly concerned with how I’m expected to celebrate. I’ve got awesome friends this year and an awesome boyfriend next year (and this year, but especially next year.) The coming months are already filled with plans of adventure and I’m really looking forward to it. 2008 started off a bit rough but is ending fantastically. 2009 should kick even further ass.

I’ll see y’all there! And until then, I’m going to keep doing it my way.

Holiday Hootenanny

Ok, so we weren’t supposed to have any kind of ‘Holiday’ gathering at the office this year, over-PC’d or otherwise. Economy blah blah blah. It’s not as huge a deal as one might think – the nature of our business requires a very small staff. The majority of those around us are clients renting space. So while you’d be miffed if your roommates didn’t invite you to a Christmas party, it’s no big deal if your landlord skimps on the Seasons Greetings, dig?

Still, I was having none of it. To hell with my clients, I want a day or two to revel in my emerging domestic tendencies. I do a little breakfast thing once a month for the office. Its generally a thankless job but it provides a creative outlet and a break from the humdrum of complaints and photocopying. So I convinced the Boss Man and his cohort Talea to let me spend a little more of the company cash this month and holiday it up, yo!

So yeah, I slaved over an oven for a few thank yous, but I also got to take a day off work and bake all day. That means sampling all day.

Peep what I can do!

Sugar Cookies - Almost There

Sugar Cookies - Almost There

Sugar Cookies - Done!

Sugar Cookies - Done!

Sugar Cookies - Lots!

Sugar Cookies - Lots!

I made several dozen Sugar and Brown Sugar Cookies and used up the last of my sprinkles on the plain sugar ones for decoration.  They’re colourful and take up space – and who doesn’t love eating cookie bears head first?

Lemon Squares

Lemon Squares

My lemon squares are awesome if I do say so myself. I got basic recipe on AllRecipes.com somewhere, and made a few adjustments by adding tons of vanilla and almond. I’m starting to think I can spike them with rum too, but I’d like to remember Christmas this year. These are addictive.

By this point I’d been baking for about four hours. Break time!

chillin1

Chilling with my sexy man

Yeah, this is how Josh and I spend quality time together. Over MSN with a not-always-functioning webcam. Stupid technology. Thankfully the cams were working well on this particular night so I could chat with him while being able to actually step away and use my hands for baking instead of typing.

Here’s my other recreational activity:

Eventually, they approved of the cranberries

Eventually, they approved of the cranberries

The bunnies! They turned their wiggly noses up at the dried cranberries at first, but eventually when I wasn’t looking they decided to like them.

Back to work!

I spent all of Wednesday running back and forth between my kitchen, Honest Ed’s for bakeware, and the local Metro for a ridiculous amount of baking ingredients. I lugged so much sugar and flour up my ridiculous winding stairs that my ass literally hurts. I’m baking, and my ass hurts. Fantastic.

These are the last two pictures I managed to take before I fell into a sugar-based daze that I’m only now coming out of:

mmmmmmm delicious...

mmmmmmm delicious...

mmmmmmm delicious side view

mmmmmmm delicious side view

These. Are. SO good. I’m not quite sure of their name, but they shall henceforth be known as Fantasmic. Fantasmic in bar form. Super buttery shortbread on the bottom, brown sugary caramel ooey gooey oh-fuck-its-melting-everywhere-gimme-a-spoon deliciousness in the middle, and chocolate-peanut-butter-cranberry goodness on top. You can’t eat more than two of these. Well, you can eat as many as you want, but chances are the paramedics will find you twenty minutes later huddled in a corner with drool and butter all over your silly face.

And um, yeah. I ate several. Not to mention I was under a bit of a time constraint, because everything always takes three times longer than you think it will. So I spaced out at this point and forgot to document the shortbread topped with hand whipped cream and berries. As well as the cranberry walnut cookies and the rice krispie squares.

Anyways, it was a magnificent spread. I threw it all in the boardroom and topped it off with a nice assortment of fruit and cheese to lighten the sugar-shock a bit. I wanted to throw on a Christmas movie at the last minute, but Shoppers across the street with those $9.99 dvd’s didn’t have anything even remotely holiday-oriented. Littlest Hobo something or other, and that just wouldn’t do. So the shindig was held to the soundtrack of “Oooh, yes I’ll try one of those, I – oh wow. These are SOOOOOO good!” Which was the only thing I needed to hear amidst the occasional “What, no wine?”  (“Um, it’s noon.”) and “Where’s the burgers?” to keep me happy.

Also, my uber boss showed up. He’s quite nice but very nerve wracking because while being  nice he’ll discretely brush up against a wall and judge you based on its cleanliness. If he picks up a piece of marketing propaganda placed on a table and asks “Why is this here?” the answer is always “It’s not!” *toss* You know the type. So I was out to impress and impress I did. He ate enough of those Fantasmic things that the sugar sent him into the most hilarious state I’ve ever seen. Very concerned with his appearance he rarely indulges in sugar – hadn’t, he confessed, for about six months. That he took seconds, thirds, and then some for the road was a compliment indeed. I’m pretty sure that by the end of the day he thought he was a hummingbird.

And now, at the end of a week long stretch of prepping, baking, hauling and coordinating, after being up until 1am Thursday/Friday to get the last of the shortbread done and spending all of Friday fussing and organizing (eating various forms of sugar because I forgot to feed myself real food) rushing and cleaning, and then attending an impromptu family-friend art event (What? Where the hell did that come from? That was this week? Who am I? What’s a hypotenuse?) followed by a Stitch n’ Bitch today, I am finally home and I’m starting to think that I’m the hummingbird.

I.

Am.

Pooped!

I go now. I go to the couch and the tv and the bed. I sleep. Then I wake up and clean like a madwoman – but I shall pay that no mind tonight! Tonight I kick my feet up with some reheated pizza, and I don’t want to see any more shortbread for a good long time.

By which I mean probably tomorrow night.

Quick Political Update!

The Governor General has with great sensibility suspended Canadian Parliament until the end of January, at which point the Conservatives will be bringing their planned budget to the table. I think then, not now – only seven weeks after the election, is the best time to judge whether or not Mr. Harper has in fact ‘failed’ this country.

While I may be left wing for the most part, I voted Conservative for a reason. I am strongly opposed to the idea of being told what is best for my country without being consulted by those who wish to be in charge of events, policies and procedures that will directly affect my daily life.

If you are too, go here.

I would also strongly encourage you to write or call your local MP with respect to this issue, regardless of your opinion on the topic.

There are places in this world whose citizens are not allowed to speak up. We are fortunate enough to have a voice in this country. Use it.

Shove THIS Up Your Democracy!

I’m sorry, but I have this weird tendency to just space out and completely forget events sometimes. It’s not until I find myself in the kitchen staring at a bottle of ketchup that I remember wanting grilled cheese. And when I complimented Talea on a cute pair of pyjamas, she reminded me that they had been a Christmas gift – from me. I can be forgetful. However, I’m pretty damn sure that we just had an election.

Oh wait, I’m totally right. We DID just have an election. Like, YESTERDAY.

So in case you live in America or under a Canadian rock, here’s the shakedown. We’ve got the Conservatives in power right now – right wing. And for their entire duration in office, the Liberals – our scandal-ridden nigh bankrupt left – have been nagging and bitching and criticizing. You suck! quoth the Liberals. We’ll call another election! We’ll team up with those super-left NDP guys over there, we outnumber you! But they pissed and moaned until the Conservatives finally called the damn election themselves – and won again! The Liberals lost more seats than before!

If I’m not mistaken, that’s a pretty clear sign that we’re not interested in the Liberals right this second.

But now, Stephan Dion, leader of the Liberals, who was supposed to be stepping down, has decided that Canadians are stupid. Apparently we can’t make choices for ourselves, and so the Liberals have decided to team up with the NDP to form a Coalition government.

This isn’t throwing in a vote of nonconfidence and starting another election – letting Canadians decide who they really want. This is waltzing in and taking over office, telling Canadians what we ought to be doing. This is like Canada saying “Hey mom and dad, I’m going to major in Interpretive Dance!” and mom and dad saying “Hells, no! You’re throwing your life away! Here’s your pre-filled law school application!”

There are two things wrong with that. Firstly, Interpretive Dance is probably more reflective of the Liberal party right now, since they can’t seem to make asses or elbows of themselves – not to mention a nil career. So it’s more like “Hey mom and dad, I’m going to law school!” being answered with “Hells no, you’re joining the damn circus!”

The second thing wrong here is that life-choice-muddled 17 year olds aren’t allowed to vote. This right to an elected government is being taken from clear thinking legal persons – from Canadian citizens.

Ummmm, quoi?

The last time a coalition government took over was about 90 years ago. Kinda tells you something, doesn’t it? I can almost see it happening back when we were a fairly new nation, still quite divided and maybe not the clearest of thinkers – underage, you could say. I like to think we know what we’re doing by now.

Apparently we don’t.

These are the guys arguing:

I won the election

I won the election

Sore Loser

Sore Loser

French is special, dammit!

French is special, dammit!

Piggy-Backing Hippie

Piggy-Backing Hippie

Uhhh, bit of a side note on that last one, Mr. Jack Layton there. If you don’t recall, I’m actually quite the left winger. Go hippies. This is the guy I normally vote for. But this time, I really couldn’t risk having this crybaby Liberal in charge of my country. The NDP never win anyways – sure maybe they could have if all us doubters had been convinced, but this time I needed a sure thing. I voted for security.

I must say, however, that this was quite a beneficial move on Mr. Layton’s part. Because even though it’s been agreed that it would be Dion in charge, Dion doesn’t exactly seem like the type of character to tie his shoes with much success. Layton would have quite a sweet behind-the-scenes position of power. Not cool, but well played.  

Carrying on.

Basically, it rests on our Governor General. Who? I know, I know. The position is mostly ceremonial, a lingering nod to our imperial roots. It only becomes significant a few times a century. Say, every 90 years or so? I like to think Canadians are well versed in our own political structure. There’s no “The Newfoundland or such as” for example. But even a good majority of us don’t know much about our Governor General, because it frankly just never comes up. Unbeknownst to many, the Governor General is in fact our Head of State.

So when the shit hits the fan, and oh has it ever, it rests on these shoulders.

gg-michaelle-jean

Surprise! We're progressive too!

This is Michaelle Jean, and she’s technically in charge. I may not like it, but that’s how it is. From what little information is around, she seems calm and level headed. I hope she’s calm and level headed enough to realize that while we have maintained a parliamentary connection to the Queen, we are Canadian. When we vote it’s our voice. To take that decision away from us, for a country to silence its own citizens, is nothing less than a failure of democracy.

I’m demonstrating against this. Despite my hippiness, you may be surprised to know that it will be my first such rally. I’m more of the quietly demonstrative type – I don’t wave signs, I quietly recycle, sign petitions. But this is too important. So I’m speaking up.

And then, I’m getting the hell out. I’m getting the hell out anyways because it’s best for Josh and I if I move down south for a little bit. But the timing couldn’t be better, because I certainly don’t want to be around for this.

I’ll come back when this country has it’s head screwed on straight again.