Friday, January 30, 2009

silly silly silly

Yesterday was Silly Lunch Day. Maybe you remember, my friends and I had one of these last year? Well, we did it again. It was really silly of us to wait for so long.

About a dozen of us got together. We wore silly clothes, told silly jokes, assumed silly names, and behaved in as silly a manner as we could think of at lunch time in a Burnaby restaurant.

Our silly names were very silly, like Monkeeta Fungus-Fizz and Bathilda Vein-Sauerkraut. There was a silly raffle, with tickets one for $1, 3 for 25 cents and 42 for 11 cents. The grand prize was a library book, The Idiot's Guide to Pro Wrestling. We gave the money from the raffle to our waitress for putting up with our noisy silliness. There was also a "Silly Lunch Expose" contest, where we guessed who did what silly thing in her past. Who would know that Dispsy Dorky Chucklefanny was a once candidate for Cherry Fiesta Queen? or that Boleo Blowbottom, at the age of 21, traveled through the US, following the Professional Bull Riding Association, landing up at the Pro Bull Riding Championship in Las Vegas?

There were rules of course. We all wore silly nametags with our silly names. Any person silly enough to call another by her real (not silly) name had to get up and go all the way around the table impersonating a animal called out by the others. I got to be a cat. We also had a chicken, two trapeze artists and a giant squid.

It was just the right thing for a dreary time of year. We laughed and laughed, and remembered that most of what's happening is pretty silly, so we might as well be that way too.

question: how silly are you?

mompoet (aka Nostrilia Scallybottom) - silly is good

Thursday, January 29, 2009

permanent homeless shelter (slow cooker version)

It looks like plans for a homeless shelter in Coquitlam are going ahead, but at an unreasonably slow place. This article in Wednesday's Tri City News indicates that the stumbling block is trouble getting a memo of understanding with BC Housing. We have the land and the building, the public will and the support of people all over Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, and Port Moody - and the homeless people needing a safe place to stay, where they can get help to more permanent recovery and housing.

It just doesn't make sense that this is being held up for procedural reasons.

We do have temporary shelters for the winter months, but sleeping on mats on a church floor, then going out to shiver in the cold from 7am-9pm is not satisfactory for our homeless community members. And what about the months of April - October? We know that people are living in tents in parks, and that they are sick, hungry, and sometimes victimized during night.

Hurry up and let's get this done!

question: why not?

mompoet - impatient

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Australia Day Celebration

Our Aussie friend Stephen invited us to his home for an Australia day celebration, complete with Lamingtons, Australia beer, meat pies, ACDC, the Australian National Anthem and a chilly flag-raising ceremony. I was the only person there dressed as a marsupial.

question: do you come from the land down under?

mompoet - marveling at the convergence of Burns, Oz, and Lunar New Year

"my first haggis" haiku

re-warmed on Sunday
warm, oaty mystery meat
Scottish Grandma food

question - have you tried it?

mompoet - I have met the haggis, tasted it, and live to tell the tale

Saturday, January 24, 2009

me and obama and chinese new year

I heard on the radio that Barack Obama was born in the year of the Ox, so I looked it up, and sure enough, Obama's birthday is August 4, 1961. That makes him just a few months older than I am, and he shares a birthdate with my sister, except she's two years younger than he is.

Growing up and older, there was a good part of my life when I was usually the youngest person doing whatever it is I was doing (taking certain university courses, hanging out with older friends). This was a comfortable place for me. I enjoy looking up to people, and being with people to whom I look up.

Simultaneously, as I grew, I unfurled these amazing leadership skills - that's not a brag, just a fact. I got used to the situation pretty early. People look up to me. At work and at school and in the community, I am often chosen (or volunteer) to organize, teach, mentor, herd, whatever is required to make sure a group gets done whatever they want to do.

This looking up and being looked up to are simultaneous and mutually agreeable. In fact, I have the most difficulty side-to-side, relating to people on an equal level. Frequently I convert equal relationsips to something I can understand better by setting up an internal teeter-totter understanding about my peers. It goes like this: "She is an amazingly generous and hospitable person. I rely on her to get every detail right when we are taking care of people together. I have the ability to go with the flow in a hectic situation. I help her stay calm when things get crazy. "

All of this does connect to Barack Obama and me sharing a birth year. You see, for the longest time, people with authority and expertise upon whom I rely, and in whom I trust, have been older than me. My doctor, dentist, boss at work - they are (or were until recently) older than me, and I looked up to them because of this. Now I find myself more and more frequently looking up to people who are younger than I am. My doctor retired a few years ago, and my new doctor is just a bit younger than I am. My dentist? Same thing. My boss at work is pretty much the same age as I am. My Member of Parliament is older. My MLA is younger. The Prime Minister is only 2 years older (although he seems a lot older than that to me). I am getting used to being one of the older ones in every crowd. I guess it's good I'm working for another year at the seniors recreation centre. It helps me put age into perspective. Everyone there thinks I am very young.

I am delighted to be the same age as the President of the United States. And getting back to the year of the Ox, I can tell you, he is well equipped to be both a strong and appreciative leader, if you set any store by Chinese Horoscopes.

And I guess this means that my parents are now old enough to be the parents of a US President. But if they want that, they'll have to wait on my sister or brother because I'm not running. I've got ox work to do, with people who I admire and admire me, and friends with whom I enjoy mutually beneficial relationships.

Happy Lunar New Year, especially to the oxen. I think the world needs us now more than ever.

question: what is your Chinese Horoscope sign?

mompoet - the flower that grows through the crack in the cement

Friday, January 23, 2009

Movie Night

Andy and Alex went out to see Yes Man at the Theatre. Fiona worked on her video project for school. I watched a delightful movie that my friend Diane recommended. Children of Heaven came out in 1997, but somehow I missed it. I'm glad Diane told me to watch it. Made in Iran, it is sweet and seemingly simple story of a brother and sister who agree to share one pair of shoes when the sister's shoes are lost. It is a lovely, lovely film.

question: have you found any old treasures lately?

mompoet - glad that libraries and video stores have long memories

Thursday, January 22, 2009

yarn bombing

Two Vancouver knitters, Mandy Moore and Leanne Prain were featured on CBC Radio 1 this morning. They have a book due out in the Fall. I had never heard of this. Now I am hoping to see some knit graffiti soon.

For now, here's their blog. Be sure to keep scrolling down and see the bus cozy.

question: who would ever imagine?

mompoet - amazed and admiring

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Monday, January 19, 2009

Still here...

"Mom! you have not posted your blog for a long time!"

Okay, here goes...

Since I last posted I have:

  • hosted the Bingo Slam at Van Slam. My friend Lisa and I took on the personae of Bingo Dabber Betty and Edna Freezepot, the Bingo Ladies. Riffing on a cool idea we'd heard from our Slam Master Sean about a bingo slam in Atlanta, we crossed a poetry slam with bingo night and enjoyed a rough and tumble funny/artistic/silly alt slam evening. There's a YouTube compilation by our friend WD Fulton, but only go there if you can stand the sight/sound of Edna (that's my bingo lady character) dropping an F-bomb (swear word) in the first few seconds of the video. If you want to continue thinking that I am nice and virtuous all the time, don't look. Besides that though, there's samples of the poet's efforts to defy slam cliches and be as original and bingo-resistant as possible. Old lady hats off to my partner in bad taste, BD Betty, and the amazing poets of Team Tall, Team Short and Team Awesome.
  • recuperated from the first week back to work - I couldn't figure out why I was so tired going into week two, then I remembered, I was up at 5 each morning, and out past 9 every evening all week long. Luckily this week turned out to be more cozy-homey after Monday's excitement at the slam.
  • Saw The Wrestler with Alex. It's a very good movie. Alex was worried about me during the most brutal fight scene, but I reassured him I was okay. He is a very considerate person to see a movie with. What I loved about the movie was the theme of living it/faking it and how the line gets blurry sometimes so we aren't sure ourselves. The situation and characters swooped everyone in totally. There was a moment when I think everyone in the audience was holding his/her breath. Everything about this movie felt real. It's sad, funny, frightening and amazing.
  • Sewed on the costume some more. The fabrics are a challenge. Making someone look good in a velvet tea cozy is about the best way I can describe it. I'm making progress.
  • Put the Christmas ornament boxes away under the stairs (crawling where the spiders are born, oh, my favourite).
  • Went with Michele to see Les Yeux Noir at Capilano University on Sunday Night - frenetic, soulful, amazing gypsy fusion in French, Yiddish and Russian. I loved it. I love that Michele will go with me to see something knowing nothing about it except that it might be interesting.
  • Got into Wesley Stace's novel Misfortune after enjoying By George over the holiday. I love to read about a life so apart from my own, told by a storyteller so wonderfully gifted.
  • Took pictures of my rubber duck all over the place. I'm trying to win a trip from CityTV's BTV to Acapulco for Andy and me.
  • Felt sad about the death of Steve Sauve, an Ottawa poet and lovely man who I met when he came to Vancouver for the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word in 2005. Steve had a soft spot for women who wear glasses. That's just one of the reasons I like him. Tonight we had a moment of noise for Steve at the Vancouver Slam. He will be missed, and remembered.
question: so what have you been doing all week? (not checking my blog, I hope)

mompoet - just checked again - yup, still here

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Gran Torino

Andy and I saw Gran Torino last night. Clint Eastwood directed and stars in this movie about a widowed Korean War veteran, living in Detroit. Eastwood's protagonist is not a sensitive new age guy. He's a grumpy old-timer who smokes and drinks too much, is on prickly terms with his grown sons and their families, estranged from his church community, and resentful of the immigrant population that prevails in his once white, middle class neighbourhood.

The story unfolds as gang violence threatens the safety of the neighbourhood, and Eastwood's character develops a grudging mentor relationship with the boy who tries to steal his car. The movie explores themes of faith, family relationship, urban violence and war.

Clint Eastwood is as remarkably wonderful as ever - still a powerful and compelling screen presence, now in his 70s. He also knows how to direct a movie. This movie is good storytelling that addresses big moral questions without seeming didactic or ponderous. Events unfold convincingly and the action kept the whole theatre responding together as the story unfolded. There was a fair amount of violence, but none gratuitous. I recommend it.

question: do you like Clint Eastwood?

mompoet - ps. he is still handsome as ever, and he sings during the credits

The Opera at the Movie Theatre

Mom and I saw the opera at the movie theatre on Saturday morning. It was a live simul-cast from the Metropolitan Opera Company in New York. The opera was La Rondine by Puccini, a love story with comic sub-plot. This was my first opera (not counting ones I had listened to on CD) and I loved it.

The performance began at 10am. We brought our own coffees to the theatre, having heard that the concession wouldn't be ready for us. We arrived just before show time, and were surprised to find the large auditorium mostly full. On the screen, we could see the audience filing in to the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City, for the matinee performance.

Just before the show began, we saw Renee Fleming, who is an opera star herself. She introduced the production with a short talk about background and history. Then we got a backstage glimpse of the maestro being called to the orchestra pit as the lights dimmed in the theatre, and the opera began.

The music was beautiful, and the performers were stunningly wonderful singers as well as fine actors. The story was easy to follow via an info sheet that we received on our way into the theatre and subtitles on the screen. Of course, the sets and costumes were spectacular. There must have been cameras everywhere, because it felt like we were on the stage, following every bit of the action up close. In this sense I think it must be a more intimate experience than actually being there, especially if you can't afford the best seats.

There were 2 breaks. During the first, short one, we saw sets being moved, and the performers moving offstage, then back into position for the second act. We watched them transform from their characters into ordinary people, then back again when the curtain came up. The second intermission was longer. It began with interviews with the principal performers. We saw Angela Gheorghiu and Roberta Alagna, who are married in real life, and played lovers in the opera, and also Marius Brenciu and Lisette Oropesa. They spoke about how they became opera performers and the experience of performing for the cameras and the audience for the live broadcasts. We also found out about a charitable program in the US that brings the opera to schools all over the country at no charge to the students. After that there was a 20 minute break during which many people in the movie theatre stepped out to the bathroom or got some popcorn from the concession stand.

I was impressed with the grand scale, and the friendliness, and the business sense that this all makes. It seems like, through the broadcasts, they are doing a great job of making opera more accessible, while they generate good will and a larger paying audience. I am more inclined now to go see a live opera performance. If I'm lucky enough to go to New York I will try to get to the Met. I am certain that I will go back to the movie theatre for more live broadcasts.

I had the image of opera as something performed in another language, for a specialized audience, by cartoon character performers. But it was nothing at all like that. It was exciting, and beautiful and filled up my senses and emotions.

question: have you seen opera?

mompoet - so much to discover

Friday, January 09, 2009

small blessings

Back to work week has been survivable. It has been hectic. I have been out at a meeting or work every night except Monday. And on Monday I was out anyway, driving Fiona to singing class and dance lessons. Here's a short list of saving graces:

  • Monday night's driving included Andy. We took Fiona to her lessons and got some supper together in between, and watched the Canadians win the World Junior hockey championship.
  • The snow is melting. There's tons of rain, but I like rain. It's okay. And did I mention? the snow is melting.
  • The garbage truck came yesterday - its first visit since December 22. All week, a man in a bobcat has been scraping, dumping and gradually widening the roadways in our complex. Despite the constant melt since Monday, we still have 6 foot tall piles of snow outside of every house, but it's getting better, and finally good enough for the garbage truck to venture up our hill and around our corners - yayyy!
  • It was sandwich delivery day for our sandwich-making group yesterday. Before work, I took 150 sandwiches to our downtown eastside mission, and was met with such warmth and gratitude and gracious welcome, I felt lifted up and nourished. The downtown church has recently been given a temporary permit to house up to 150 people each night, so now it is a 21 hour a day operation. Most of the sandwiches come from suburban churches (usually 2 churches deliver every morning, each church taking 1 turn per month). With the snow, they have missed some of the usual deliveries. When I showed up with 150 sandwiches, the timing was just right (Thank you sandwich ladies for your good work!)
  • I got notification from the payroll department that this is my tenth full year back to work since my "baby break" so I get a "supplemental vacation week." That's a whole extra week off this year. Next time I'll get it will be year 15. I can use it now, or save it up. Hmmmm...
  • Tonight is the party for all of the volunteers who worked at our temporary homeless shelter in November. I'm organizing a potluck dessert celebration. It looks like the weather will hold up and not prevent us from celebrating, and I have lots of help with baking and setup. It should be a fun evening, nice closure on the project for this year, and a chance to say thank you to everyone for their contributions.
  • Tomorrow I will go to the opera - a simulcast of La Rondine from the Metropolitan Opera in New York, shown at our local movie theatre. This is at 10 in the morning. I hope it will be strange and delightful.
  • Soleil the dog goes for her second chiropractor appointment today. I'm hoping she'll get some strength back into her back legs, and she doesn't seem to mind the treatment.
  • I got out to two cycle classes this week, after a definite activity break over the holiday. It felt spectacularly wonderful to go flat out for an hour each time.
Every day something new, fresh delights and new adventures.

question: how is your back to work/school/life?

mompoet - liking what I'm back to

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

I am not a wimp (nor a whiner) but here's how it is

When I was a young adult, I joked with my friends about "suburban mentality." I grew up in the suburbs, and lived and worked there as a 20-something, but I felt a huge intolerance for people who said that they "don't go into the city." Going into the city meant a half hour drive or 45 minute transit ride (before we got light rail) to enjoy the parks, theatres, restaurants, galleries, nightclubs, shopping and events of our big city life. I had grown up going "into the city" to shop, see the orthodontist, go to the beach, attend workshops, and do any number of fun things. Who would miss that to live a limited existence in just Burnaby, Surrey or Port Moody? My friends and I thought this attitude was terribly provincial and dowdy.

I'm a little more charitable in my attitude these days. To each his own, I say. I still like to go to Vancouver whenever there's something there to do, or somebody there to see. It's still just a half hour drive from home, or a short skytrain ride after work or on the weekend. The suburbs are not that far away from the centre of things.

In recent days, the snow has made me cautious about going places from which I might not get safely home in reasonable time. Tonight I had a conversation with my friend Lisa. Lisa and I are planning to host the Van Slam Bingo Slam next Monday night. I had to tell Lisa that if there is a big snowfall I will not be able to come. I will have to cancel and leave her on her own to host the event. I have a car with 4 snow tires and I feel pretty confident driving in the snow, but I have some challenges about getting home in the snow. I feel like a big weinie, but here's the situation:

We live on a hill. When there's more than a bit of snow on the ground, the road up the hill gets slippery, so slippery that my car will not go up the hill. At the bottom of the hill there is a highway.

Solution #1 Drive almost all the way home and park at the bottom of the hill.
There are about 10 parking spots on the road going up the hill. I have parked there sometimes when I have not been able to drive up. I park the car and walk home. I rescue the car the next day, or whenever the snow melts.
Problem with solution number 1: The snow has accumulated over the past 2 1/2 weeks to the point where there is nowhere to park. The snowplow has left mounds of heavy compacted snow, 2 to 4 feet deep and reaching reaching a few feet out from the curb. Some people have shovelled spots for their cars, but they don't want stuck people parking there, and the spots fill in every time it snows again. There's another road, up above our house, accessible by another route, but the parking situation is equally bad up there.

Solution #2 Take the bus
Sounds good! I have my bus pass, we have 15 minute service a short walk from home. I have no "suburban" hangups about using transit. I try to use the bus whenever I don't need the car during my work day. The kids take the bus to school and university every day.
Problem with solution number 2: The bus is no longer running in our neighbourhood. At first we thought it was because of the snow, but it turns out, the bus can't safely make it around all of the cars that have been illegally parked far out from the curb along the bus route, and not dug out or moved between snowfalls. The bus whizzes by on the main road and skips our neighbourhood,

Solution #3 Walk out to the main road and take that bus
Exercise is good for us, and having a bus come into the neighbourhood is a luxury. Just walk out to the main road and catch the big bus.
Problem with solution #3: On a typical day, it's just a 10-15 minute walk to the bus stop on the main road. The kids and I do it all the time, whenever we don't want to wait for the local bus, which goes to 1/2 hour service outside of peak times. But this snow has piled up on the sidewalk along the busy highway that is the route to the bus stop. Our choice is to wade through knee deep heavy thawed and re-frozen snow for a about a kilometer, or to walk out on the highway and jump into the knee-deep heavy thawed and re-frozen snow whenever a car passes (about ever 2.5 seconds). Not safe. Not fun.

So I'm stuck. If I go out on a winter night and it snows, or if the snow is melting and it gets cold and freezes and gets icy, I have to stay in Vancouver all night. And while my family could cope with this, they prefer that I come home.

So I find myself acting like those silly suburbanites who I reviled so readily in my youth. At the threat of poor weather, I cancel my plans, rush home and stay put. Suddenly my own safety, and the safety and ease of mind of my loved ones takes precedence over adventure and cultural enrichment.

Luckily, it is only temporary. In the meantime. I'm crossing my fingers for a warm, rainy Monday evening so I can go host the BINGO SLAM!

question: do you go into the city?

mompoet - I love and accept you, either way

back to work haiku

twelve neighbours wait on
both sides of the street for the
bus that didn't come

Saturday, January 03, 2009

green lasagna and thai roast chicken thighs

Here are a couple of recipes from our New Year's Eve supper. It's snowing again, and I have been sewing all day, with breaks for cooking. With the snow, I certainly have had plenty of time inside to cook, and family and friends around to enjoy it.

Thai Roast Chicken

2 lbs chicken thighs or drumsticks (bones in, skin optional)
1/4 cup lime juice
2 Tbs soy sauce
2 Tbs vegetable oil
3 Tbs Clubhouse Thai seasoning powder

Marinate the chicken in the lime/soy/oil/seasoning mix for 2 hours or longer. Arrange on 2 parchment-lined cookie sheets. Roast in a 350 oven for an hour or until golden and crispy.

Green Lasagna

9 whole grain lasagna noodles
1/4 cup fresh goat cheese
1/2 cup pesto
1/4 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese

Spinach Cheese filling
2 cups ricotta cheese
1 pkg frozen chopped spinach - thawed and excess water squeezed out
3 eggs
2 Tbs flour
salt and pepper

Whisk ingredients together.

White Sauce
2 Tbs butter
2 Tbs flour
2 cups milk
salt and pepper
Melt the butter. Mix in the flour. Over medium heat, stir in the milk. Stir over low/medium until sauce thickens. Add salt and pepper.

Cook the lasagna noodles in a large pot of boiling water to just barely done. Drain and pat dry on a towel. Grease a 9x13 casserole or cake pan and heat oven to 350F. Assemble lasagna in the following layers:

1) 1/2 cup of white sauce spread over the bottom of the casserole dish
2) 3 noodles - side by side to cover the bottom of the dish
3) half of the spinach cheese filling
4) half of the pesto and half of the goat cheese, dotted around
5) 1/2 cup of white sauce
6) 3 more noodles
7) remaining half of the spinach cheese filling
8) pesto and goat cheese (all that's left)
9) the last 3 noodles
10) final 1 cup white sauce to cover the top

Bake at 350F for about 45 minutes, then remove from the oven, and sprinkle the top of the lasagna with parmesan cheese. Return to oven for 15 minutes more. Lasagna is cooked when it is bubbly around the edges and slightly golden on top. Let sit outside of the oven 15 - 20 minutes before cutting and serving. (This makes a lot of lasagna, and is simpler than it sounds). Can be assembled one day ahead and stored in the fridge until you're ready to cook it.

That's all for now.

question: what do you like to cook?

mompoet - chicken caesar salads for supper tonight

Thursday, January 01, 2009

something about 3 weeks at home

I have been on vacation for a couple of weeks, with a few more days stretching out ahead of me before I must return to work. I have been fortunate to be able to take this extended stretch of days for the past few years at Christmas time. It feels very good.

Our family Christmas plans are always simple. We don't go overboard decorating or buying gifts, and the Christmas meal is small but delicious, with just a few family members. Our visiting and entertaining is informal and small group also, and we leave lots of time to "make it up as we go along."

Looking back, I can say that the most unexpected aspect to this vacation has been the weather. It began snowing before I started my vacation, and has snowed periodically, with enough accumulation, that it has had an effect on our lives every day. I have spent more time shoveling in these past couple of weeks than I usually do in an entire winter. The snow has also made us pick and choose where we want to go, and what we really need to do, and has resulted in even more time at home. I love this. The family relaxes. We watch a dvd or read, or take turns with the internet. I cook some delicious breakfasts and suppers. We catch up on our sleep at night and in daytime naps. It is good.

I have done a bit of organizing around the house - just a couple of cupboards and shelves that have been bugging me because I know there are things in there I cannot see, and things that we do not need and can get rid of. Unfortunately, this tidy-out phase has coincided with a lack of recycling and garbage service to our complex, due to the snow on the hill. So I have some accumulation of stuff to go out to the trash along with things to be picked up by charities. Luckily our carport shed is not heated along with the house, so the trash can wait there, double-bagged, until the garbage truck comes.

I have been out to see a couple of good movies - Benjamin Button and Marley and Me. I have also gone to see a fabulous production of Guys and Dolls at the Gateway Theatre in Richmond. We have postponed our trip to the Panto at the Metro Theatre, but we'll try again tomorrow night. I have read 2.95 novels, and will certainly finish the third tonight and very possibly read one more before I go back to work.

We have got together with friends, neighbours and family for suppers on several evenings, enjoying the company of people we love very much. We made it to church on Christmas eve (despite the snow) and I've made it all but one Sunday morning. This is my favourite time of the church year, a soul-nourishing time to spend time together with my faith community.

I have a couple of projects to work on in the final days of vacation: a costume to be sewn for Fiona, and some organizing to be done for the volunteer celebration that I'm planning for the people who helped with our shelter program at the church in November.

As the end of vacation nears, I feel rested and energized. My balance is restored and I know that I will return to the regular routine with enthusiam.

question: did you have a restful holiday time?

mompoet - leisure cells restored to capacity