Friday, December 29, 2006

Post-Christmas is what makes me cynical

My name is Mimi, and I love Christmas. I love candles, and candycanes, and minilights, and trees. I love cards, and presents, and stockings. I love decorating my house. I love mulling wine and baking cookies and urging my loved ones to indulge. I love putting hand-crocheted red-white-and-green doodads on my winter coat. I love sending and receiving cards, and reading all the family newsletters. I love visiting with relatives and friends and being visited in turn. I love big sit down dinners and even bigger workplace cocktail parties. I love pointsettias.

Pretty much ever since I got over the final spike of adolescent greed ("All I want for Christmas is cash! Cash! CASH!!!"), I have really cherished the 'holiday season' for its bringing of light to dark times, its cheer and kindness in a gloomy month, and its resolute festivity in the face of a quite natural desire to hibernate the winter away. Indeed, I have readily seized the opportunity to say kind things to total strangers: Merry Christmas, have a great day, hope your shopping is nearly done, don't those look nice, hot chocolate'll really warm you, eh, what a great reindeer sweater! Christmas means my world--coffee shop, home, neighbourhood--festooned in green fragrant swags, in lights, in wreaths, simply to be beautiful. To bring good cheer. And who doesn't need good cheer when it gets dark at 4:45 in the afternoon?

I understand--I really do--that I'm a sap to imagine that Starbucks puts up wreaths to cheer up my day. Starbucks puts up wreaths to sell me things: good lord, they have branded a particular coffee as a limited offering 'Christmas Blend' (red bag for regular, green bag for decaf). Even the garlands on local lamposts appear only in the commercial district, purchased and maintained by the local merchants association, again presumably to kindle the shopping spirit. But for the most part, I can just enjoy the beautiful cheery things, can't I? Can't I?

Well yes, mostly I do, although it's the boundaries of the holiday that bring me down. It is crass, crass, crass, I think, to crank up the Bing Crosby the day after Halloween, when people are still wandering around in flip-flops. I vividly remember being handed my red 'holiday traditions' takeaway cup at Starbucks that day, and just reacting with visceral disgust: "It's too soon!" I thought, "you'll ruin it if you start too soon!" Mine is not an uncommon complaint, obviously. What could we talk about the first week of November if not, gosh-I-wish-we-celebrated-Thanksgiving-with-the-Americans-so-

Mostly I hold out for a December festivity. The tree goes up on December 1st, and I give myself license to live it up to the red and green fullest until ... well, until New Year's. This seems a sensible, intuitive end to the holiday 'season', does it not? Most people seem to book off that week as vacation, and Christmas and New Year's Eve are two fairly major celebration events. Children are off school. Many offices are not simply understaffed but shut down entirely. In fact, my family has always tended to concentrate most of our celebrations during this week, after Christmas and before New Year's, and I imagine yours must have too.

So. What has really started to depress me, beyond the now-cliched it-starts-too-soon lament, is that Christmas ends too soon. What really depress me are the braying Boxing Day ads: buy! buy! buy! Get what you really wanted for Christmas! Now it's time to shop for you! Santa screwed you over, but we've got a big sale! My memory is not so poor that I don't recognize these retailers as the same ones pushing a peace, love, and better-to-give-than-receive message a mere 24 hours prior. It's just so cynical. I have not managed to work my way down to the orange-laden toe of my Christmas stocking before the holiday is loudly derided, and the tinsel all cleared away in the name of yet another commercial holiday. Radio stations that switch from 24 hour holiday music back to regular programming on the 26th give me a similar feeling: such practices seem to indicate that once the presents are open, the holiday is over. Or once more, my local Starbucks: it is denuded of wreaths by the time I walk down for a little Boxing Day treat, some indie-rock darling having taken over the sound system from Bing and company.

By the time that everyone is finally able to just sit down and enjoy the holiday, rather than freaking out preparing for it, it. is. declared. done.

So here is my plea: can we start the windup just a little later? and keep the party going just a little longer? Because my calculated innocence is starting to wear a little thin. And I'll need all the energy and cheer I can muster in the seven weeks remaining until Valentine's Day.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Merry Christmas!

Hello ... here's a little Merry Xmas dispatch from our house. Hope it makes you smile ...

Santa! Santa! Santa! Santa!

Friday, December 22, 2006

This was what I was hoping for

Tonight, after I had come home from work and settled into what is becoming our family's evening routine, I had one of those moments that I want to remember. Nothing terribly special, but so pleasant and so ordinary that it just feels like an exemplary experience. The kind you imagine having when you are round and pregnant and daydreaming about, say, your first Christmas with as-yet-unborn baby.

It was nothing really. Miss Baby was a little crabby, in the way that she tends to be around the supper hour, so we were doing our rounds of the house, her carried on my hip, looking to pass the time until her bath. We closed all the blinds on the main floor and said our goodbyes to the neighbours, the street, the backyard, and the traffic. We sat in the laundry room and sorted the loads, then watched and watched and watched in fascination as the glass-doored front-loading washer spun the socks and t-shirts first one way, then the other. Then one way, and again the other. We had a conversation with the baby in the mirror. We made sure that PCK had enough water in her dish. We wandered into the family room to say hello to The Dada, and as he was engrossed in his book, we had some quiet fun examining the Christmas tree.

Then we sat on the floor, and Miss Baby settled happily on her back, cooing at and chewing her Rudolf book, staring up at the tree. I settled down on my side at eye-level with her. She grabbed at my belt and rolled and arched, and chewed and cooed, and drooled and stared at the tree. I watched and cooed with her. Pynchon finished his book, and came over to nuzzle her neck and make her laugh.

That's it. Nothing special. Nothing spectacular, no new developmental milestone, nothing terribly photogenic or really noteworthy. Just Miss Baby expressing her little self and enjoying her Mama, her Dada her book, and the Christmas tree. And me, in the right frame of mind, and at the right angle, to really appreciate this for what it is. My family. Comfortable and content, all together, just being with each other.

It's the kind of thing I hope I'll always remember.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

"Hallelujah, Holy Shit! Where's the Tylenol?"

Thus spake the ever-harried every-Dad Clark W. Griswold at the climax of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, a chronicle of one man's big-hearted, ill-fated attempt to host a "fun, old-fashioned family Christmas."

Christmas Vacation is always the first holiday movie I watch each year because I find it enacts the perfect balance of holiday cheer ... and holiday angst. Its sweet idealism and aw-shucks goodwill are perfectly balanced by the sourness of holiday stressors we all suffer. It enacts the timeless Christmas ritual of optimism and cheer struggling hard against cynicism and exhaustion. And of course, the slapstick is killer: falling off roofs! and through ceilings! attacks by maddened squirrels! sewer gas explosions! Cousin Eddie's distressingly tight pants!

Griswold family adventures on a classic road trip, a holiday to Europe, and a visit to Las Vegas are chronicled in other Lampoon films, and go comically awry--but there's something about this Christmas version of the Griswold failure-to-meet-expectation-vacation that's particularly compelling. I think that's because everyone turns into Clark Griswold at Christmas, prey to misty nostalgia, a misguided vision of what will occur when all one's nearest and dearest are crowded together with too much food and too few bedrooms, an idealized notion of what the holiday should entail, and a strong sense of incipient buyer's remorse when we realize just how much we've overextended ourselves financially. There must be a reason that my local newspaper and every magazine I pick up is running terribly earnest articles addressing holiday dread: how not to gain weight, how not to fight with your family, how not to go broke, how not to get depressed.

To help make your holiday season more Buddy the Elf ("smiling is my favorite") than Clark Griswold ("Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, kiss my ass, kiss his ass, kiss your ass ..."), I hereby humbly offer you a series of posts on putting the fun back into the season.

PCK, 2005: "Seriously, you guys need to have a baby already. Leave me alone."

Be Honest; Plan it Out; Be Strategic

Paradoxically, the key to having the kind of relaxed, joyous, spontaneously fun kind of Christmas around our house has been to have A Serious Discussion about it in early December, and pretty much every morning and evening of the week between Christmas and New Year's. Basically, Pynchon and I lay out our desires for the holiday season, what we imagine will stress us out, what we'd like to avoid, and how we'll block out the time. For example, our first year in our first apartment together, it turned out we both just wanted to cocoon on the Big Week, but felt kinda festive enough to throw fancier parties in the leadup. So on Christmas Day, we ate frozen lasagne on the couch and watched A Christmas Story and Home Alone on TV, rehashing our December cocktail parties during the commercials. What a relief, considering I had almost dragged him up to my parents' for a Fun, Old-Fashioned Family Christmas! We were in our jammies all day, and spent the day by ourselves, in our own apartment. By way of contrast, this year, we decided we wanted to have my parents come to stay with us for a couple of days, and host my sister's family for a low-key dinner on Boxing Day-ish. Every year is different, so every year we negotiate, and our prime task is to figure out what we want as a family. Just the two--now three--of us.

The hard part of this, of course, is not bowing to others' expectations: your parents', your friends', your siblings'. I have to admit that we are very lucky to have quite pragmatic parents: mine don't really fuss much about these kinds of 'events', and Pynchon's are much more interested in the religious aspects of the holiday. No perfect-centrepiece Martha Stewart or dewy-eyed Clark Griswold wannabes in either of our families. Some of you are not so lucky, I know. Over here, what we have to be careful of are our own sometimes unrealistic expectations of what the holiday might mean. Right now we're being careful to remind ourselves that Miss Baby is six months old. Let's be honest: Xmas means nothing to her, really. For goodness sake, she can't even sit up yet. We'll try to enjoy this as one more Christmas where we can really spoil each other, and watch the magic develop for her next year.

If I knew what was happening, I would sooo be yelling right now ...

Do I sound like a total grinch yet? I don't mean to: I love Christmas. I can hardly wait for December 1st to roll around, so I can break out the Johnny Mathis Christmas album (seriously). Tomorrow I'll tell you some of the things that bring me joy in the season ...

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Teeny Tiny Tyrant: Triumphant!

My The Mama was going to write you a post about how to actually enjoy the holidays, but she is too tired, and besides, I, Miss Baby have assumed control of the household.

Do not assume from the big purple bags under my eyes and my deep and soulful expression that I am one super-exhausted baby. Well, don't assume that I will sleep. Because I won't. In fact, to make this point perfectly clear, last night I got up at 10:15, 3:10, 3:50, and 5:15 before starting my day at 7:06! Yes, that's four wakeups. The Mama and The Dada were very surprised and, I think, impressed by my new talents: unswaddling myself, skooching up to the top corner of the crib, wedging myself there in a blanket tornado, and then yelling. I got a lot of practice doing this last night, so I'm pretty confident in this area now.

Because of the wild success of my night-time tour de force, I figured I deserved a bit of a break this morning, so I napped for almost two hours! This was a real surprise to The Dada, who didn't dare nap himself for longer than 30 minutes for fear of not hearing me get up at 32 minutes like yesterday, the day before that, and the day before that. He's getting tireder and tireder as I get perkier and perkier. Wheeeeee! The Dada, you didn't get the memo about today's long nap? My bad ...

As for The Mama, she tried to sleep in this morning but I yelled way too loud and often. Ha ha, The Mama! I wanted her to come to the kitchen and play with me and The Dada and she did! Hooray! And I smiled and drooled and cooed and was happy. But The Mama and The Dada both looked like they had been hit by trucks. So I woke them up with a giant liquid poopie explosion! Nothing like an entire outfit change to cheer up the morning! Before, their eyes were half closed. After, their eyes were half-closed and watering. Yay!

The Mama says she'll be back tomorrow--she's slumped in the corner muttering something about 'so tired ... left boobie milk in cooler on desk ... at work ...' and The Dada is leaving with her office keys. Good luck! Bwah-ha-ha-ha ...

Monday, December 18, 2006

Happy Birthday, Roxie Tardis

Roxie Tardis is our silver, four-door, 2005 Toyota Echo sedan. She is one year old today, the proud bearer of 25,894 kms worth of trips to and from work, to and from play, and to and from family near, far, and really far. You never forget your first--and Roxie Tardis is the very first new car either of us has ever owned. 'She' is the first car, in fact, that I have ever purchased. The name? Well, Roxie is a name Pynchon had long desired to bestow on any vehicle that would replace his (subsequently our) 1995 azure blue Chevy Cavalier. And Tardis, well, that's the name of Dr. Who's enormous spaceship: you know, the one that is a phone booth on the outside but a whole world on the inside. It seemed so appropriate once we saw the size of the trunk: it's a subcompact car, into the trunk of which we can fit our enormous stroller, the Pack'n'Play, the giant nursing pillow, two soft-sided suitcases, and my computer bag. Yowza!

Oh, Roxie, our meeting was fate: you were the last car on the lot, of the last model year of the Echo ever made. How I wanted you! I had done all the research online, and the only bad thing anyone ever said about you was that you shimmied in high winds. Well so do I, so who am I to judge? You had air-conditioning and a stick shift, which were my two requirements, and you were on 'sale', a whole $200 below sticker price. Toyota, apparently doesn't have to have deals to move cars. Our Cavalier, Mary Jane, buckled under 250,000 accumulated kms: her A/C konked out, rust patches marred her shine, and the headlights were nowhere near so reliable as her 'check engine' light. When we asked what she would bring as a trade-in, the dealer offered a free tow. With a baby on the way, we clearly needed to upgrade our ride.

Roxie, you were everything we hoped for: big enough for most of our needs, and small enough for our inner city driveway as well as our environmental conscience. Your seats are high enough off the floor and off the ground that a massively pregnant woman can get in and out with dignity, if not grace, and that new parents can heft a car seat in and out with ease. A full tank of gas never costs more than $40, and can take us nearly 800 km. You are cute but practical, a reliable but humble exemplar of sensible automotive engineering. And we like shifting gears by hand! Vroom!

Go Oilers Go!

So tonight, I raise my Dubonnet Manhattan to you, Roxie Tardis. 12 payments down, 48 to go ...

Dubonnet Manhattan
* 1 1/2 oz whisky
* 1/2 oz Dubonnet
* several dashes Angostura bitters
* two cocktail cherries

Combine whisky, Dubonnet, and bitters in a shaker half filled with ice cubes. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with cherries. Or, if you're me, tonight, combine all ingredients in an old-fashioned glass half-filled with ice cubes. This way, I can nurse the drink longer and have it remain cold. And also, show off some more fancy glasses:

Voila the drink itself, with assembled ingredients. I ought to have pursued that career in booze-styling, clearly ... Anyhow, a straight-up Manhattan is made with sweet vermouth instead of Dubonnet, but I find that drink looks watered down, and not nearly so pleasingly caramel as this version. I like this as a winter cocktail: the whisky and the colour of the drink strike me as warming, and the cherries are a nice touch after a hard day. If you save them for the end, they will be nice and whisky-soaked. Yum!

Here's another thing to celebrate: pursuant to yesterday's post, I can report that things are much better, or at least easier to deal with, over here. Sure, Miss Baby got up at 6:15. But I went to bed at 10pm! So maybe she still doesn't like baby cereal, but you've all helped me strategize a fruity remedy. I made it in to work with all the proper equipment, in nice pants, and with a matching number of breasts and breast-pads! At work, I felt pleasantly competent, and accomplished a number of starting-to-worry-me tasks. Tonight I heard zero teakettle screeches from Miss Baby, but many coos and gurgles. There was laughing. We had a wonderful evening together. And bedtime? Miss Baby toddled off to sleepy-land peaceably and of her own accord.

My Manhattan is making nice ice-cube clinking sounds in its glass, and I'm going to catch up on my blog reading and call it a night.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Life in the trenches

Well, Internet, it's been a weekend of parenting, which pretty much means a weekend of moments of joy interspersed among periods of routine and punctuated by exclamations of frustration. I'm trying to think of a clever or touching or funny story to tell tonight, but I'm just really tired from the weekend of parenting and I'm all outta clever. Instead, to go with tonight's Dubonnet Manhattan, random highlights from the parenting trenches.

1. Miss Baby had her 6 month checkup and needles on Friday. She's long and lean and healthy and developing on track, but has got some eczema and so I feel like a bad mother (I know this isn't my fault. You know how Mommy-guilt works). She hollered for her needles but cheered right up afterwards, and then when we came home she and Pynchon had a two hour nap. To put this into perspective, on Thursday, it took her four naps to clock a total of two hours sleeping time. We both wondered if she could get needles every day.

2. Miss Baby has shifted her wakeup time in the morning from 7:20-7:45 to 6:00-6:20. This is making a big difference in the quality of my thinking, my capacity to do my work, and my ability to stay up in the evenings for grownup time with Pynchon. It also means that Pynchon and I alternate being with her and napping in the wee-early-morning, so hardly see each other before noon. I realize this is a regular, perfectly-normal baby wakeup time. But the adjustment is haaaaaarrrrrd over here.

3. She doesn't like rice cereal (two brands) or oat cereal. At least I think she doesn't. I can only get one or two part-spoonfuls in her mouth before she's arching, complaining, turning red, and protesting. I have visions of fussy eaters haunting my nightmares. Please tell me I'm overreacting. (It could be the sleep deprivation.)

4. Miss Baby giggles now when you tickle her. It's simply too adorable.

5. Also adorable is dribbling water over her in the tub, and watching her concentrate and try to grab the stream with her little outstretched hand. She's absolutely fascinated by the stream, and can't figure out why she can't grab it. But she also seems to like the way it feels. Warms my heart.

6. She babbles a lot more, throaty, spitty 'grrrs' and 'huwahs' and 'bzzzgrts' and 'ahhhhs'. This slays me, and I lavish her with praise and happily blow raspberries back at her.

7. However, she has also discovered how to make a high-pitched, high-volume whiny noise like a teakettle at full boil, and can make it for minutes and minutes on end. As it turns out, this sound grates on my very soul and turns all my mommy-love to vinegar. Doesn't really bother Pynchon, but it's just killing me. She's not whining from any displeasure, usually: she's just rocking the new noise. God, I hope this phase passes soon. I hate being so annoyed and frustrated. I want more #6!

8. I'm so frazzled from #7 and #2, that I'm making stupid mistakes all over the place. This morning, I packed up all my gear to go to the office to make up for time spent visiting and going to the doctor last week. Then I left the pump in the vestibule. And then the cellphone in the car in the far-distant parking lot. Also, getting ready to go was such a slow process that I've not had a shower, put any makeup on, and threw a sweater over the shirt I wore to bed, and tied my hair back with elastics I grabbed off the Saturday Globe. I look and feel like a hobo. I made it to the office with one breast pad, and one kleenex stuffed in my bra. Nice.

9. For the second night in a row, Miss Baby and I have had a bedtime battle involving screaming (her) and hiding in the basement (me). I really don't like that. It's such a wrenching end to the day. I'm ashamed to admit it, but here goes: at bedtimes, I'm actually afraid of my baby. Afraid of the screaming. Afraid she'll get up at night. Afraid she won't go back to sleep. Afraid I'm not doing the right things to help her sleep, doing too much of too little.

10. Saturday, Pynchon and I decided to abandon the housework and the chores and the renos and such and just enjoy the nice weather as a family. So we went for a nice 'family walk'. And it was the right thing to do.

I don't mean to be a Whiny McWhinington, but sometimes, it's not all roses, as you are all certainly aware. I know that my recent posts have all been chipper and fun and such--I don't want you to get the wrong idea that I have my shit together 24/7. I totally do not. And this weekend, I'm really feeling it.

Now, I think I'm going to eat my microwaved mac-and-cheese dinner, make my Dubonnet Manhattan, and retire to my bed with the latest Harper's and the dregs of my drink. Drink story, photos, and recipe tomorrow, when I will hopefully once more have my shit together.

Mama, no one believes that I am a Dinkus McFinkus. I'm too cute.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Lost shaker of salt ...

Yes, I'm wasting away again in Margaritaville. Tonight's drink is tequila-licious, offering me (and, by extension, you) a bit of the tropics in a cold December rain. (My shiver just now might be the chill, or it might be the near-miss Guns 'n' Roses reference. Brr!)

Ah, the margarita ... commenting on my martini post, Mad Hatter noted that she always thought of me more as a Margarita girl. And yes, she would know. That's right, Cinnamon Gurl, unaware of each other's blogginess, it turns out that Mad Hatter and I have only this week happened upon each other in the momosphere, but are actually already well known to each other in real life (as it were) for almost a decade. We first met in 1997: she has been a mentor and a friend to me in the offline world, and we have lived as close as 3 blocks from each other, and as far away as 3 time zones. She scared the bejesus out of me here when she coyly called me out, and asked me to figure out her identity: how relieved I was to pop over to Under the Mad Hat and to realize who she was! Obviously, mommy bloggers blog about personal details of their lives: if you happen to know a mommy in the offline world, and you happen to trip over her blog online, she'll likely be pretty easy to identify.

Fortuitously, we 'met' online just as she was heading to my part of the world to visit family. So this morning it was a meeting of the bloggers, the babies, and the husbands. Here are Miss M and Miss Baby, chillaxin' on the couch:

While the children are thus occupied, let me tell the tale of the Margarita. It was actually Mad who introduced me to this drink: indeed, I must confess that I bought my bartender's guide to match her own, largely to get this recipe. I told you she was a mentor! A dress-up party at Mad's former abode was the scene for my introduction to this extremely boozy concoction. It was so tasty! But so strong! I was totally bombed after two drinks, and wobbled around on my high heels, giggling, while feathers detached from my boa and insinuated themselves into every corner of Mad's apartment, to the extent that every time she vacuumed for the next several months, the feathers continued to fly ... Sorry 'bout that :-) But it was a great outfit, non?

So in honour of a renewed friendship, and of dishing about life in the blogosphere, and of healthy and happy babies, and of Mad's family's hard Christmases hopefully now well past, I raise a Margarita:

* 2 oz tequila (silver gives a nice green drink; gold a slightly browner drink)
* 1/2 oz triple sec or Cointreau (any kind of orange liqueur, really)
* 1 oz lime juice
* lime wedge or slice
* coarse salt

Combine tequila, triple sec, and lime juice in a shaker half filled with ice cubes. Shake. Strain into a Margarita glass (um, or a cocktail glass) that has been rimmed* with salt. Take off feather boa and high-heeled shoes. Drink.

Please note this is no frilly margarita: no sugar, no slush, no (ugh) strawberries. This is not a drink for the faint of heart. You've been warned.

* to rim the glass: rub the lime wedge around the rim of the glass to moisten, then dip glass into salt (put the salt in a thin layer in a saucer, to not waste as much salt ...)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Stirred, not shaken

... a martini, that is. Because you're not supposed to have 'shaken' and 'babies' in the same post :-)

Pynchon has made me a martini tonight. He is actually more of a girl-drink kind of guy--you know, sugary things, with umbrellas in them. And anything with a cherry in it, really. Or beer. Sometimes, but only with steak, a vodka martini. Anyhoo, this is about my drinking, not his. The point is that Pynchon doesn't drink martinis, but he does make them for me. It is just one more of his fine qualities that has me wondering what I ever did to deserve such a husband.

Our first year here after moving cross-country for my new-prof job, he often made it home from the office before me. And one evening, after I had had a particularly hellish day, and was staring down the barrel of a pile of poorly-written business writing assignments, I came home to discover the whole apartment aglow with candles, a martini carefully made, covered with Saran Wrap, and chilling in the freezer, and a romantic and peaceful dinner of Kraft Dinner with red pepper keeping warm on the stove. There was some sort of soothing jazz on the stereo. You can imagine that I just melted on the spot.

Again, last week, in the middle of his very first week of full-time, stay-at-home Dada-ness, he surprised me with just such a kindness. I came home from the office to the sparkle of the outdoor Christmas lights as I walked up the street, a quiet house filled with candles, and a note pointing me to the freezer. In which I found my martini. Pynchon was putting Miss Baby down for nap #4, and he wanted me to relax. It was just so very kind and thoughtful.

The martini has become my signature drink in the half-decade or so that I have been drinking them. I adopted the drink in a bid to be cool and sophisticated. Worldly. Jaded. Maybe I was feeling brittle. The martini is spare, no-fuss, cold. It is a serious, uncompromising, straight-up, astringent cocktail. It is James Bond's drink. But every time I drink one now, all I can imagine is how much my husband loves me. How very kind and generous he is. And how he's willing to stand at the kitchen sink and shake the brine off wee little olives just to make me happy. You might as well plunk four or five cherries, an umbrella, and maybe one of those little pirate swords in it, for all the street cred this gives me now ...

(I know, I know. Now you're all reaching for the tequila, to cut the saccharine of this post. I'm not maudlin from the booze! I haven't sipped it yet!)

Dry Martini:
* 1.5 or 2 oz. Bombay Sapphire gin, right out of the freezer
* tiny dribble of dry vermouth
* 2 President's Choice Mammoth stuffed olives

Combine gin and vermouth in a cocktail glass. Spear olives on a tooth pick, after shaking all the brine off them. Plunk olives into cocktail glass. Sniff. Sigh. Drink.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Return of Le Petit Sommelier

Yes, tonight's booze is once again a glass of red wine! Because I can't drink a whole 'single-serving' tetrapak of wine in one evening or I will be drunk. How do I know? Well, because on one memorable occasion about a month ago, when Miss Baby screamed for 90 minutes solid while we went through her bedtime/soothing routine, I paged Pynchon at the gym (which I never ever do, and which caused him to imagine that one or both of us was in hospital or that the house had burned down), and told him to come home or one or both of his 'ladies' would have sailed through the window.

In between hanging up the phone and going back into Miss Baby's room, I chugged the better part of a petit sommelier, figuring I had at most another 15 minutes of duty before I could legitimately collapse in a drunken heap. Which I did.

But that was a special case, obviously. Under normal circumstances, it takes me two days to polish off the 250ml of wine in the glorified juicebox. So tonight is night number two. I must confess: because the wine comes in tetrapak, I invariably give it a good shake before I open it. Force of habit.

Point to celebrate: Miss Baby had her first bit of rice cereal today, or as I prefer to expess it, her first bit of non-boobie food. I'm pleased as punch that I managed to build a good strong 18 pounder with nothing but boobies, and so a little wistful that I now share nutritional duties with Beechnut. But check it out:

The Dada practices his aim

Monday, December 11, 2006

Full of boozy goodness

High on life.

I like to drink. Rarely to excess, but frequently. Often to be social, but more often alone or at least keeping my own counsel. I love the warm smell of whiskey, the sharpness of a really cold martini (gin, very dry, two olives with all the brine shaken off them first), the drying bitter tannin of red wine, the sharp but sweetish bubbles of champagne. A cold craft beer on a hot evening, or with a veggie burger and a load of fries. Mulled wine on the stove all New Year's Day. Egg nog with spiced rum and sprinkled nutmeg, in a crystal glass clinking with ice cubes. Tequila shot with a friend, for the ritual of salt-shot-lemon, and for the warmth and aftertaste of the drink itself, its sense of devil-may-care. Whiskey sour when I'm feeling Dorothy Parker-ish. Tom Collins when I'm feeling J. D. Salinger-ish. Seagram's Wildberry cooler when I'm (extremely rarely) feeling highschool-ish. A Dubonnet Manhattan (two cherries) after Miss Baby goes to bed and Pynchon has lit a fire and we're setting up the Scrabble board.

As I say, I like to drink.

This was an acquired habit. I had to learn how to drink. My birth father was an alcoholic for years and years before dying suddenly of a heart attack at 57: it was like he committed suicide in slow motion. My stepfather, still in his twenties when he took up with my ten-years-older mother, was for much of my childhood a weekend drunk who was sometimes found on the kitchen floor in his underpants on Sunday mornings. On the very fringes of the incrowd in highschool, alcohol seemed to me to make people into vomiting morons who spent vast sums on illicit booze only to end up passed out in the shrubbery, or driven home by the cops, or, in one memorable instance, sent to the hospital for a stomach-pumping. I was an avowed teetotaller; not hard to imagine how I remained on the far fringes of highschool society. In university, too, booze did not seem to bring out the best in my acquaintances, and Toronto was expensive enough without buying drinks with money I could instead spend on black lipstick or an asymmetrical haircut at House of Lords.

For me, to learn to drink socially or even at all was a real mark of maturity: it meant regretting my father and stepfather while not so forcefully rejecting them, and it meant not judging my friends by the standards of these problem drinkers. I was learning to live and let live, and that other people's indulgences were their escape. I also had to learn to abandon a little bit of the high moral ground the teetotaller can believe herself to occupy, and to learn to give up a little bit of my precious control--maybe I might get silly and fall asleep with my makeup on. That might be okay. I learned to drink wine with dinner, to enjoy a gin-and-tonic when out on the town. When I started my PhD, I even learned to like beer, because a bar diet of gin-and-tonics can quickly bankrupt a girl.

The summer that I studied for my candidacy exams (three, three-hour written exams on the topic of "What Really Smart People Should Know, So You'd Better Study Your Arse Off For Five Months, Imposter") I joked to my friends that if I was going to drink alone, at least I would do it in style. I bought a cocktail shaker and a bartender's guide. Every payday, I bought a new kind of alcohol: gin, vermouth, triple-sec, whiskey, Dubonnet, bitters, rum. I tried new cocktails: margaritas, sours, collinses, mint juleps, manhattans, cosmopolitans. It was great fun. I had one drink probably three nights a week. It was great. I learned a lot about spirits and mixology and the history of the cocktail. I tried to match my drink to whatever novel I was reading. I bought cocktail glasses, old-fashioned glasses, highball glasses. I came into fancy beer steins and pint glasses. I received gifts of thrift-store crystal tumblers, of the tin cups for mint juleps. I came to adore the rituals, the smells, the tactile pleasure of mixing a drink, seeing it in the perfect glass, and enjoying its taste. The buzz, of course.

I like to drink. So this week, I bring you, a week of alcohol: one drink per night, with photo and recipe where appropriate, and a story about booze.

Tonight the drink is red wine--'le petit sommelier', or 'wine in a tetra-pak', bought because Pynchon doesn't drink red wine, and I can't finish a bottle before it turns to vinegar. It is served in a massive wine glass, our 'wedding crystal' that came free as part of our Carribbean wedding package. Enjoy!

Do not put wine on your computer. Notice the gazillion year old Dell in the background.

Glass shown 1/10th actual size. If you fill it, you will fall over.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Names, part two

You may already have read that Miss Baby is named for her maternal great-grandmother, 'Hortense', and that it took some time for her (well, me, really) to grow into this name.

Names: they're complicated, as anyone who has ever been married or divorced, or the child of remarried divorced people, or later-married people well know. Last names, of course, are usually what's at issue. In my case, I carry my stepfather's last name, as does my mother, largely because in the small town where we lived, to have my father's last name would always link you to him--and you'd never be able to write a cheque anywhere, or get phone service hooked up. I remember getting teased a lot at school, in grade 3, when my mom remarried: it was so unusual then to have a divorced mother, a remarried mother, and then to take a new surname! I guess we didn't want to look like a 'weird' blended family. Nowadays, everyone is surprised that I have my stepfather's name. Still, when I got married, I kept this name, 'my' name, because I've lived with it for more than 20 years, have a passport proclaiming it my own, have published and created a professional reputation under its banner. Pynchon has his name; I have mine. Miss Baby has Pynchon's last name--doesn't bother me a bit. It's her name. Anyhow, she is named for my grandmother, and she also bears my middle name, so it's not like I've left her unmarked by me and 'mine', if you will.

But that's not what this post is about! (Thought the length thus far might make you doubt ...)

This post is about Miss Baby's given name, and how I've somehow turned into my mother, and made the curse of my name her own, in a second generation 'whoopsie.'

Here's the thing. I also have a french given name, something antique that no one francophone has named their kids for about 65 years. So it's french but not cool with french people. Also, it has an anglicized pronunciation--in fact, there is an English version of my name. But it is also pronounceable in French. This means (sigh) that no one who hears it pronounced can spell it properly, or even recognizes the French spelling as a reasonable variant. On the flip side, no one who sees it spelled can figure how to say it properly, which often leaves me in the awkward position of re-anglicizing my name when well-meaning people call me by the french version--which is, of course, the way my name is spelled.

Confused yet? Basically, I have an old-fashioned french name, that is by convention (my mother's) pronounced in English.

I have bestowed this linguistic mess on my daughter: she has an old-fasioned french name, pronounced (following the practice of her namesake) in English. So no one who sees it written pronounces it correctly, and no one who hears it spoken can spell it.

I always hated the awkwardness and confusion of my name, and the inference from confused interlocuters that it was somehow a sub-par 'made up' name, and now, goddammit, my daughter will never get found in the database at the hairdresser, will always have to spell her name twice for people who don't pay attention the first time she starts to speak it, will be described as 'ununusal' and will be explaining to francophones why her french name is to be pronounced in English. Mangled addressed admail. People trying to avoid addressing her directly until they hear the pronunciation. And it's not even the same name as mine! And I never saw this coming! And it's confusion and awkwardness all around!

At least, unlike my name, Miss Baby's does not feature any accented characters. The hell of that will be described in a future post. Likely entitled 'Names, part three'. Stay tuned. Let's just say I'm developing a strong sense of linguistic nationalism because the bureaucracy of this country can only partially cope with a paltry, innocent little é ...

Friday, December 08, 2006

whup-WHOMP, whup-WHOMP

You may recognize in my title the telltale sound of the breastpump: three times a day, for ten to twenty minutes at a go, the whup-WHOMP, whup-WHOMP ties me to my Miss Baby, now at home with Pynchon while I pick up the pieces of my academic life at the office.

whup-WHOMP, whup-WHOMP, whup-WHOMP, whup-WHOMP, whup-WHOMP.

Initially, I looked on the pump askance: I considered it a mommy-replacement device, likely because my desire to have Miss Baby drink from a bottle owed largely to my increasing desperation to get a little distance from the milk vampire, in ways I simply couldn't when she was eating every 90 minutes every day. The pump, that is, was marking me as a bad mommy, because it indicated my desire to get away.

Soon, though, as my return to work loomed nearer and nearer , I rethought my attitude to the pump: now, since it was unavoidable that Miss Baby and I be separated for eight or nine hours during the day, was it not a testament to my motherly love that I would still work hard to provide her with Mommy-Milk in my absence? In this case, the pump marked me as a good mommy, one who sacrifices personal dignity and time to hook herself up to a milking machine for the benefit of absent baby daughter.

This was all fine and good for most of the first week back at work.

But I keep forgetting to pump.

Here's the thing: I have no reason not to pump. I have a private office, with a door that both closes and locks. My schedule is my own to devise, and I come and go and set my own day as I please. The pump is sitting right beside my desk. And yet. It's usually a throbbing boobie or a call from the home front that actually makes me lift up my shirt and set the whup-WHOMPer in motion. So now I'm all worried about messing up my milk supply, which is a practical concern. Less practical is the return of all the guilt and anxiety and self-recrimination: how could I so totally forget baby daughter as to allow myself to get caught up in my own thoughts? Her Bad Mother describes a gruelling scene of similar selfishness, and while not waving back at your baby is much more heartwrenching than developing sore boobies, both cases promote in the unlucky mommy a real sense of shame at her own selfishness.

Here's what I'm not supposed to admit: sometimes, at work, I get so caught up in what I'm doing--reading, or writing, or completing petty paperwork, or organizing ideas--that I forget all about my baby. It's at once so obvious and normal, and so guilt-provoking and heartcatching. Sometimes I forget. But I always always come back to remembering.

Sigh. It's astonishing how I can find stuff to feel guilty about, non?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Drug bust next door?

On Sunday morning, Miss Baby cut us some slack and snoozed her way to a 100 minute nap, so I thought I'd get all festive and start on the Christmas cards, leading to the following scene at our dining room table.

Note all the requisite elements scattered around the little space I've left myself to scribble: snowman decoration, coffee in Xmas mug, address book, stamps, assortment of cards, multi-colored pens. The breast pump component up in the right corner might seem overkill, but hey--I had a lot of cards to do, and who knew how long that nap was going to last? :-)

However, I soon became too distracted to work. Because when I turn my head to the left and look out the window, I see this.

Yup. Two squad cars. There's another one you can't see. These were soon followed by an ambulance, and the spectacle of three officers and two paramedics warily circling the building, and then finally disappearing into it after about half an hour. Eventually, the paramedics reemerged with a really drunk guy, whom they drove away in the ambulance. We're still pretty sure it was some kind of drug bust because, well, we've seen it before. In the house across the street. If you look at the top of the rightmost pane of my dining room window, you'll see a house with a purple porch. Grow-op! Busted last year. Squad cars aplenty, and a police trailer to haul away evidence. And, best of all, a sandwich board announcing the shutting down of a drug house. During the bust! Is nothing advertising-free?

Anyhow, thought you all might like to share in this weekend's excitement, and figured I ought to offer something good, having been offline for so long. (Computer now fixed. Hurrah!) And Merry It's Almost Xmas Time!!!!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Powerbook is sick! Woe is Mimi!

Hello small band of actual returning readers ... My computer, a beloved 15" Mac Powerbook is in the shop, because I updated the software, attempted to reboot ... and got ... nothing. So now I'm on Pynchon's gazillion year old Dell and all my thinkings and stuff are on the Powerbook. Please direct your collective thoughts towards the speedy recovery of the Silver Bullet.

Oh dear. And this has made me much behind on my blogging:
* I went back to work on Friday!
* Pynchon's a stay-at-home Daddy!
* I have a post about my feet to share with you!
* I have photos of the drug bust next door

(Alpha Dogma, this last is for you -- there's another photo of the interior of my house, and its lovely wavy-glass original windows ... overlooking 3 squad cars, an ambulance, and the Sketchy Triplex Next Door. To help you love your seventies burb :-) )

More soon, Steve Jobs willing ... sigh ...