Monday, December 11, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: White Christmas

Right now, it is -5C with a windchill of -12C (that is 23F and 11F for those of you south of the border) -- and it's snowing outside. We've had a few flakes in the air over the past few weeks, but nothing that's stuck. I think that's about to change. ;)  And in my humble opinion, it's about time. ;)  After all, Christmas is just two weeks away! 

I was talking to my mother last night, and she said there's very little snow on the ground there so far -- although that is very likely to change by the time the big day arrives. December here in southern Ontario can often be green (if not particularly warm) -- but I have spent every Christmas of my life with my family, on the Canadian Prairies where I grew up, where a white Christmas is practically guaranteed. I can only remember two Christmases where we didn't have snow on the ground. The last time was in 1997 -- my beloved grandfather was still alive then (although he was gone by the next Christmas :(  ). He was then 85 years old, and my mother asked if he could remember another Christmas without snow. He couldn't. 

I know a lot of people moan and groan about the snow and cold -- and believe me, it does get pretty old by the time it disappears, usually sometime in March. (I loathe February and would happily accept a trip to the Caribbean or Florida or Hawaii then.) 

But I can't imagine Christmas without snow.  I've often said that if I ran the universe, it would start snowing on Dec. 1st, and then all the snow would magically disappear around Jan. 31st. 

How about you?  Is it usually a white Christmas where you live? 

You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here.  

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

He's baaaaccckkkk....

It's that time of year again... The Elf on the Shelf has taken my social media feeds hostage. :p

I expressed my loathing of the Elf in a post four Decembers ago ("Elf Yourself") -- and the passage of time has not softened my opinion. (With the possible exception of some of the more, shall we say, "adult" variations on the theme that I've seen & heard about that cracked me up, lol.)

If you have kids, do you also have an Elf on the Shelf? And if you're childless like me, are you as relieved as I am that you're not under pressure to take part and add one more thing to your daily to-do list, at an already-stressful and hectic time of year?? 

(Maybe this should have been my #MicroblogMondays post this week??  lol)

Monday, December 4, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: Brushing up my routine

I am so old-fashioned/analog sometimes. While I am grateful for all the modern conveniences we enjoy, I sometimes wonder whether all the gadgets we have complicate life unnecessarily. instead of making things easier.

Here's one example: toothbrushes.  When our former dentist retired about 10 years ago (he was in his EIGHTIES -- was a WWII vet who graduated from dentistry school in the early 1950s, & had been dh's dentist since he was six years old!!), the new dentist he sold his practice to presented us with fancy rechargeable electric toothbrushes (with charging cords & holders/cases that could be mounted on the wall) as "welcome to the practice" gifts on our first visit. It was a pretty nice freebie, I will admit -- but they were big clunky things and just looking at them and all the accessories & the tiny type of the included instruction booklet intimidated me. I'm a little embarrassed to say we never used them.

The hygienists kept asking us if we were using electric toothbrushes, though, and continued to recommend that we give them a try, saying they did a much better job of removing plaque. About 10-15 years ago, I saw some cheaper, smaller & less intimidating battery-powered brushes at the drugstore, so I bought us each one.  We gave them the old college try. No question, using it made my teeth feel smooth & polished in a way my manual brush never could.

But I couldn't help feeling like something was... missing. I knew my teeth were probably clean, but I didn't feel like I had DONE anything to them, KWIM??  I'd been brushing my teeth the same way, with a manual brush, since I was a toddler, and old habits die hard. Gradually, we both drifted back to using our manual brushes. 

We were back at the dentist last week for checkups & cleanings. Since our last visit six months ago, my teeth had inexplicably developed some embarrassingly bad stains, including a stain right on one of my front teeth that made me embarrassed to even open my mouth, let alone smile. Brushing vigorously with some baking soda had helped remove some, but not all of the stain. 

Thankfully, the hygienist was able to clean it up with a minimum of scraping & polishing. She asked if I was doing anything different with my diet (I drink tea every day, but I hadn't been drinking any more than usual) or whether I was using any new products on my teeth. I was: at my last visit, she'd noticed some inflammation of the gums around a recently installed crown, and recommended I use an antiseptic mouthwash to counter it. She told me she & the other hygienists have noticed that, in a small segment of the population (which OF COURSE would include me...!), certain kinds of mouthwash seem to increase the incidence of stains on teeth. Go figure. You think you're solving one problem, but in the process, you're creating another...!

She encouraged me to try a different mouthwash formula. And (just guess!) to use my electric toothbrush. 

Younger Nephew's wedding is coming up in a few months -- before our next checkup -- and I certainly don't want to have to hide my smile that day. :)  So I've switched to a different kind of mouthwash, to see if that helps -- and I fished my old electric toothbrush out of a dusty drawer. It still worked;  didn't even need a new battery.

And after I use it, I give my teeth a quick going-over with my manual toothbrush too. I figure it doesn't hurt -- and it makes me feel better somehow. :)  Maybe doing both will help me stick to the new routine this time around.

How about you?  -- Electric/power or manual toothbrush? 

You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here.  

Friday, December 1, 2017

Right now

Right now... (an occasional meme, alternating from time to time with "The Current"):

Not believing: It's December!!  A little over three weeks to Christmas (and less than that until we travel to be with my family).... eeekkkk.....

Counting: The days until we head out to spend Christmas with my family. (And the days I have left to get my shopping done before then...!) 

Redecorating: Katie's niche at the cemetery. We visited there today and swapped the fall-themed decorations for Christmasy ones. 

Reading:  I just bought & started Jann Arden's new book, "Feeding My Mother," which appears to be part cookbook & partly the story of dealing with her mother's Alzheimer's disease. Jann is a national treasure here in  Canada -- a multi-talented singer/songwriter, writer & media personality (to name a few of the hats that she wears). I was lucky enough to hear her speak earlier this year, and adored her earlier memoir about growing up in rural Alberta, "Falling Backwards" (reviewed here).  

Margaret Atwood's "Alias Grace"  (and the TV miniseries adaptation) are still on my to read/view list. 

(Some) other recent purchases/additions to the TBR pile (!):  

(Very much doubting: Whether I am going to meet my goal of reading 24 books in 2017... although I still have a few weeks to go, & I do usually manage to cram in a few books over the Christmas holidays...! I have finished 17 so far;  Goodreads helpfully informs that is 4 behind schedule...!)  

Watching:  Lots of figure skating on the weekends (Grand Prix events;  final coming up shortly). Still watching "Designated Survivor," although more out of habit than anything else (season 1 was much more exciting).  Looking forward to a binge session of season 2 of "The Crown" on Netflix shortly...!  ;)  

Eating:  Very carefully these days, after one too many bouts of gallstone discomfort lately. :p  Hoping to get through Younger Nephew's wedding this spring, and then will talk with my dr about the pros & cons of possible gallbladder removal surgery. 

Drinking: Chamomile tea or ginger ale, when my gallbladder starts acting up. 

Listening:  Christmas music! :)  We are hoping to put up & decorate our Christmas tree this weekend... our usual soundtrack for that activity includes: "A Charlie Brown Christmas" by Vince Guaraldi;  "A Merrie Christmas to You" by Blue Rodeo (beloved Canadian country-rock band) and "Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas" by Ella Fitzgerald. 

Wearing:  My new/recently purchased down winter jacket.... wonderfully lightweight yet still warm. (I kept my older, heavier jacket for really cold days, extended time outdoors & Christmas visits home.)  It looks really cute on me too. ;)  The (quite literal??) downside?  Little feathers. Everywhere. All over my clothes & the seat of the car where I sit. Yikes!!  (I've never had a down jacket before -- is this normal??) 

Buying (besides books, lol):  Christmas gifts!!  The Little Princesses will each be getting an outfit and a new pair of PJs from Gymboree (same designs, different colours), as well as two fondly remembered books from my own childhood: "Ramona the Pest" & "Beezus & Ramona" by Beverly Cleary. 

(Still) wondering:  If/when Aunt Flo will make her next appearance... it's now day 118 (and counting...!).  Technically, I am about 1/3 of the way to 365 days = officially being in menopause. 

Hoping: For a decent's night's sleep, one of these days... :p  

Enduring:  The endless roadwork on the highway that runs directly in front of our building. Traffic here is nuts enough as it is, and this just makes it worse (if such a thing is possible...!).  

Looking forward: To another royal wedding (as well as William & Kate's royal baby!) in the spring! :) 

Feeling:  Startled to realize that it's actually December, a little stressed by my to-do list, but happy the Christmas season is finally here!  

Monday, November 27, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: Royal engagement (pass the Kleenex...)

I was out most of today, but before I left this morning, I caught the announcement of Prince Harry's engagement to Meghan Markle, and their brief photo op at Kensington Palace. (I plan to watch the TV interview later.)  Much to my surprise (and dh's bemusement), I found myself getting emotional and wiping my eyes as I watched the happy couple give huge smiles for the cameras, show off Meghan's ring, and then exit, arm in arm.

"Why are you crying??" dh asked.  I couldn't quite explain -- I wasn't quite sure myself. But when I thought about it, I could think of several reasons why I might have reacted the way I did.

First, I love royal weddings (who doesn't??) -- I don't think I've missed one since Princess Anne's (her first marriage in 1973, when I was 12). Another wedding, another link in the chain extending back into my past.

Then I realized just how long I've been watching royal weddings (eek), and how many. And I suddenly felt very old. :p

I thought about Harry's parents' wedding, and everything that came after that -- and how happy Diana would have been to see this day. Diana was the same age I am -- meaning that, in a different life, Harry could have been my son. (Gulp.) I thought, briefly, about my own little girl, who will never be a bride, and the lifetime of milestones that we've missed out on with her.

I thought about how, not that very long ago, a marriage between a British royal prince and a divorced, biracial American actress could never have happened. I thought about King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson, and Princess Margaret & Peter Townsend, and how far we have come since those days.

And I guess I was happy to see Harry happy, and finally find the right girl, after several previous romances didn't work out.

(And, quite possibly, I'm just a sentimental sap, lol.)

Congratulations to the happy couple! :)

You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here.  

Friday, November 24, 2017

Odds & ends: The aches & pains edition ;)

  • American Thanksgiving is always kind of an odd day to be online, when you're a Canadian and already had your turkey and pumpkin pie and declarations of gratitude a month & a half ago. I kept refreshing my tab pages yesterday for new Facebook and message board & blog posts that never popped up, people south of the border being otherwise occupied with food, family & football. ;)  It suppose it's a little how non-Christians might feel on Christmas Day. ;)  
  • I banged my head on Wednesday afternoon -- I bent over to pick something up as we were going into a store -- and brought my head up on the handle of an automatic door that was closing.  OW.  
    • I'm feeling a lot better today, although it still aches now & then.  
    • Besides an ice pack and ibuprofen when we got home, I decided to try the Peppermint Halo essential oils roller by Saje, which is supposed to work miracles on headaches.  I don't know if it really helped, or if the minty tingling just distracted me (lol), but it did feel good & smell nice. 
    • This is not the first time this has happened to me (although it's far from the worst):  
      • (1) The first time I remember being hit in the head was by a neighbourhood kid with a baseball bat (accidentally) when I was about 6 or 7.  I remember crying and going home -- but kids are resilient, and hey, I was walking and talking, so I guess I was fine. 
      • (2) The second time was when I was 18 & the car I was in -- being driven by my friend's dad -- was rear-ended, giving both her & me whiplash, and I banged the back of my head against the edge of the backseat/on the back window ledge of the car. I suppose we should have gone to the hospital to get checked out, but we were en route (and already late) to the closing ceremonies of the Canada Winter Games -- and, being young and foolish, we didn't want to miss it, so my friend & I hailed a cab while her parents stayed with the car to sort things out with the other driver & with the police. I remember my head hurt so bad that night I wondered whether I was going to wake up in the morning. (Spoiler alert: it's almost 40 years later. I did.)  
      • (3) 13 years ago, almost exactly at this time of year, I was vacuuming the bathroom in the basement of our house. I was bent over to get into the corners behind the toilet, brought my head up & cracked it hard on the knobby end of the towel rack. I watched the Grey Cup (Canadian Football League championship game -- this year's is on the this weekend) that afternoon with an ice pack pressed to my head. It ached for days afterward. 
      • (4) 10 years ago, dh had one of those "club" things that locks onto the steering wheel of the car to deter theft. He was taking it off & swinging it around to drop into the back seat of the car -- at the same moment that I happened to lean over in that direction. CLUNK. At first, I didn't think it was that bad, but within a few minutes, I realized it hurt. A lot. I probably should have had dh take me to the hospital to get checked out -- and I did get checked out by our family dr a few days later when the aching still hadn't subsided. He was a former professional baseball player, and he didn't seem too concerned. Nevertheless, it was months before that achy feeling disappeared.  (That was the worst.) 
    • Today, we know a whole lot more about concussions and their lingering effects. I'm not an athlete, and I know people who have had far worse concussions. But I also know that the effect can be cumulative and effects can still show up years later, which does worry me sometimes. :(  
  • Between my allergy to tomatos and my gallstone issues, it's getting increasingly hard to find stuff that's "safe" for me to eat, especially when we eat out.  I think that, in the new year, I am going to have to bite the bullet & (a) investigate having my gallbladder removed and (b) get another referral to my allergist & do an oral challenge test. 
    • It's been almost 10 (!!) years since I started having issues with eating tomatos & tomato products (ketchup, salsa, tomato sauce, etc.). I last saw my allergist not quite two years ago, and had some scratch tests and bloodwork done that (promisingly) showed little reaction to tomato. The next step was probably to do an oral challenge (i.e., slowly eat a tomato in increasing-sized portions in her office while being monitored for any reaction), to determine whether I'm still tomato-sensitive (I did one about five years ago and, encouragingly, I managed to eat almost an entire tomato before a hive popped up) -- but that was right around the time we moved, and I never did follow up.  
    • I'm just a little leery about having my gallbladder out, because (a) I've never had surgery of any kind before (unless you count having my wisdom teeth out?) and (b) my great-grandmother died of complications after gallbladder surgery when she was just 44 years old. Granted, that was in 1928 and in a small, rural hospital -- I think medicine has probably come a long way since then. Plus she had NINE CHILDREN to look after (the oldest was 26 & the youngest was 11 -- my grandfather, somewhere in the middle, was 16), plus her husband, two hired men and a farmhouse. No running water or modern conveniences in those days, either. As my mother sometimes says, no wonder she died young...!
  • I recently bought a pair of Skechers shoes after hearing rave reviews from several people, including both SIL & dh.  They make all kinds of running shoes, etc.  The ones I got are slip-on canvas walking shoes. OMG... So. Comfortable!!  My feet are nowhere near as sore & tired now when we come home from walking around a mall (on those hard concrete/tile floors) for a few hours. They even have wide widths, which is a must for me. :)  

Thursday, November 23, 2017

"Meow! My Groovy Life with Tiger Beat's Teen Idols" by Ann Moses

Googling articles about David Cassidy's sad passing this week, I stumbled on an article on CNN.com with a very familiar name in the byline -- albeit one I hadn't seen nor thought of in well over 40 years.

Ann Moses worked for Tiger Beat magazine (and eventually became its editor) in the late 1960s & early 1970s. In those pre-cable, pre-Internet years, monthly magazines like Tiger Beat, its sister publication Fave, and New York-based rival 16 Magazine, were the main connection that teen & pre-teen girls like me & my sister had to our idols.  Stuffed full of glossy photos and breezy stories with headlines like "Davy's Life Story!"and  "Shhh... 24 Hours with Dino, Desi & Billy," these publications fed us critical information such as David Cassidy's favourite colour and Bobby Sherman's thoughts on going steady. (Serious journalism this was not.)

"Meow!  My Groovy Life with Tiger Beat's Teen Idols" details Ann's years of hanging out with and writing about the biggest teen idols of the day, including Paul Revere & the Raiders, Dino Desi & Billy, the Monkees, Bobby Sherman (who wrote the foreword for the book), David Cassidy and the Osmonds. Still a teenager herself when she started working for Tiger Beat in 1966, Ann became a regular fixture on the sets of our favourite TV shows, such as "The Monkees," "The Partridge Family," and "Here Come the Brides," cooked chili for the Osmonds at her apartment, and was in the audience when Elvis made his famous comeback special in 1968. In her spare (!) time, she dabbled in somewhat more serious journalism with a regular column in England's New Musical Express (NME). 

In short, she was living our dream. :)  

Those were simpler, much more innocent times, when a handwritten note could get you backstage to interview the Dave Clark Five for your college newspaper, and when you could share a hotel bed with a member of Paul Revere and the Raiders & not even have him try to kiss you. As you might have suspected, though, most of the guys Ann wrote about were not quite as squeaky clean as they appeared to be in the pages of the magazine. Wives, live-in girlfriends and babies were kept hidden or very much in the background. David Cassidy's dog went by "Sheesh" in the pages of Tiger Beat, but his full name was actually "Hashish." "We were in the business of making dreams, not crushing them," Ann explains.  She smoked pot with members of the Raiders and later Peter Tork of the Monkees, lost her virginity to a former Mouseketeer, and had her heart broken by Maurice Gibb of the BeeGees -- on her 21st birthday, no less.   

The story ends with Ann's departure from Tiger Beat in 1972.  Even though she loved her job and was extremely well paid, she quit when she learned the (male) editor of Rona Barrett's Hollywood, another magazine from the same publisher, was making twice as much money as she was, even though (thanks to Ann's leadership) Tiger Beat was making far more money.  (The excuse, of course, being that he was married and had a family to support.)  Perhaps my one quibble about the book is that I'd have liked to learn more about her post-TB life. We do learn that she and her second husband adopted two sons, that she now lives in Arizona, and that she still gets together occasionally with Laudy Powell and Sharon Lee, two other TB-ers whose names I well remember. 

I downloaded this book from Amazon to the Kindle app on my phone last night and finished reading it this morning :) -- one of the speediest reads I've had in a long time. It's not a long nor complicated book, and it might not be quite as interesting to anyone who didn't live through those days, but it was a fun nostalgia trip for me, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. :) 

This was book #17 that I've read so far in 2017, bringing me to 71% of my 2017 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I am (still!) currently 4 books behind schedule to meet my goal. :p  ;)