It has been a SLOG. Travelling for work involved grueling days - up at 6am, in meetings all day from 8am to 5pm, then packing up, going to the airport, hopping on our tiny charter plane and then going to the next destination, checking into the hotel around 8pm. I didn't really get the hang of how to travel with this group until mid-week, at which point, after consecutive nights of indigestion from eating dinner at 9pm, I came up with a quasi-solution that involved wolfing down my lunch in 15 minutes, then going for a walk so that I might grab something I could eat on the plane and then have a reasonable digestion window before going to bed. Travelling with my clients meant that I had to be on all day, every day, and even though my threshold for being "on" is high - I am, after all, master of the inane questions-based small talk - being in anonymous hotel rooms without the benefit or "your" stuff or "your" people wears on you.
I did get to do some fun things. Like:
Win $20 at blackjack at the casino in Windsor. UGH! Gambling is so FUN! Why is it so fun?!? My heart was racing and I had to make a decided effort not to spend my whole night there.
Marvel at how Robo-Cop-y Detroit looked across the river.
Order $20 worth of Johnny Rockets and eat it in my bed in my pajamas uninterrupted.
Northern Ontario is a mess. After sitting through a bunch of deputations, I totally get why everyone hates Toronto and the Greater Golden Horseshoe. The discrepancies between infrastructure funding up there versus down here are appalling. First Nations communities who are the potato in the hot potato game between the various levels of government, high unemployment, high addiction and homelessness issues, sectors with razor thin margins that are being pushed beyond the limit. I felt for these companies and industries, who are trying to create jobs, being squeezed by pressures from well-intentioned labour and environmental policies. It's really a conundrum - there are no easy answers at all. But I do think it's important to at least attempt to view things through a rural/Northern lens when we're developing public policy. In the same way that I think it's important for urban advocates to understand and journey to the outer reaches of our city (and don't give me the whole, "I don't travel north of Bloor" parsimony) before they go ahead and propose policies that work against people who can't bike to work and don't want to. This myopic tendency is a thing, and it's a thing that we have to work against, in order to build and nurture the relationships that are going to create the impetus for change.
After my eye-opening week abroad (I also got into green smoothies while I was away - so for real: travel does change you), I came back to work and have just been in head-down, beast mode trying to summarize over 300 oral and written submissions and then turn that into a draft report, after two days of local hearings. It's been a sedentary marathon. My butt's been glued to my desk chair and my muscles have definitely atrophied, but my deadline is insane and this is just what you gotta do to facilitate the democratic process, 'naw mean?
In the midst of all this I was contending with that fundraiser family dance I'm organizing (done this past weekend - YES!), and my parent council commitments, and dealing with static from weirdoes in the service of my parent council commitments. Like, people are cray. There's no way around it. I'm the "volunteer coordinator" which means that I signed up for this new role and got no direction. Fine, I can deal with that. I set up this spreadsheet and aggregated volunteer names but the list isn't robust because at the Big Yam's school, parents in charge of certain activities are very proprietary about "their" lists of volunteers. Which is weird, but okay, I can deal with that, too, I guess?
Anyway, someone wanted me to send out an email to ask for volunteers. I do, with a nice italicized message underneath my name saying that if you don't want to be on the list, just email me. This broad emails me and tells me she never asked to be on the list and that according to Canada's new anti-spam legislation I can't email people who haven't asked to be emailed, blah blah blah and then she links the Anti-Spam FAQ in the email. Da fuuuuuuuuq?!? I research for a living, you b! Don't test me! So I fire back an email and say, no problem, I'll remove you from the list, sorry for the inconvenience, I don't think that calling for volunteers constitutes the "commercial activity" the legislation is referencing. Warm regards, me. Then she WRITES BACK. BECAUSE PEOPLE ARE CRAY (remember how I told you that? Still true.) "Regardless of what the legislation says I still don't want to be on the list." Oooookay. I didn't respond to that email (BECAUSE I'M NOT A PSYCHO). THEN! Four days later, she emails me AGAIN! She forwards me this thing and says, "I checked and you're right, requests for volunteers aren't considered spam. I still don't think anyone should be on this email list unless they requested it." (Italics mine). At this point, I'm like, YOU'RE spamming ME! Why can't you just shut up?! Why do you care about having the last word with the volunteer coordinator for our kids' school? Are you seriously so inept that you don't know how to ignore and/or delete the one email a month (at most) you're getting from me?!?! I DON'T HAVE TIME FOR THIS BULL!
I just can't.
Leftover picture from when we went to Lolly's farm over the holidays.
Sick Twin B
So we watched the movie Dope on the weekend, which is a fun, awesome movie that speaks to everything I'm into. I'm super into teen caper movies (teen comes into ill begotten gains, uses it to their own advantage to shine on some adults, hilarity/wisecracking ensues) which I'm convinced is a genre, but when pressed by the Dotytron, I couldn't think of any other examples (The Secret of My Success)? I'm almost positive this is a thing. I'm totally obsessed with all the style in the film, but particularly, Diggy's (the girl on the right, above). Her outfits were amazing and if I were 20 years younger, I would totally go for it. The costume designer went for an overtly 90s aesthetic, so if I were 20 years younger, I would have been period-appropriate, though I don't think I had the style sense or body confidence to put things together with half as much panache. The movie is like Attack the Block - teens, of a very particular type (in this case, geeks, in Attack the Block they were chavs), get in over their heads and meet some characters as they hustle. I loved it.
THIS. BOOK. OBSESSED. Remember Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl? In that book, the protagonist wrote fanfic (that was peppered throughout the novel) about these two characters, Simon (a mage) and Baz (a vampire and mage), who were from this Harry Potter-like series written by a fictional author in the Fangirl world. Well, Rainbow Rowell, being the amazing creature that she is, took those characters and wrote a book about them, in her own voice, and it was SO FREAKIN' GOOD. I squee'd my way through the whole thing, savouring pages with gay romance and kissing and quips, and then as soon as I finished it, picked it up and read it right through again. A book that should have taken me 2 nights to read, I stretched over a week (twice!) because I loved it so. The characters were fully-realized and the dynamic between Simon and Baz is the perfect antagonistic stuff of teen-beat dreams. It's like Buffy and Spike, Riggins and Layla, Veronica Mars and Logan Echolls. There's a strong female friend, Penelope, who is even better than Hermione because she's got more of a sense of humour and is more overtly misanthropic. People have dismissed the world of Carry On as Harry Potter fanfic, but I disagree. It's its own thing, which is what makes it so addictive. The story is self-contained and the narrative is compelling - it falls a part a bit near the end - I'm not clear on what we're supposed to think of the principle villain, but notwithstanding my love of British magician boarding school tales (and make no mistake: Rowell knows what makes for good British magician boarding school tales [read: she includes a lot of food descriptions]), I would have read a single volume for each year of Simon Snow at Watford (their Hogwart's). The modern world is acknowledged (they have cell phones), and all in all, the romance was delightful and the supporting characters are fantastic and feel real.
I've read a few gay romances and they never did anything for me, and I was beginning to worry that I was too heteronormative to handle it, but based on the HOURS I spent looking up Simon and Baz fan art and additional fanfic, I can report that I was just waiting for the right story and the right characters and Rainbow Rowell served them up to me on a platter. I can't recommend this enough. One of my top books of 2015/16 (it was released in 2015) for sure.
Dead. Seriously. So hot.
I can't even. Thank you, teenage girls everywhere for pouring all your frothing, hormonal, tentative sexual energies into making Simon and Baz fanart/fanfic. You are treasures, the lot of you.
I went from reading that (twice!) to tackling Jonathan Franzen's Purity (for academic book club, obviously) and seriously? Like, what is this? Is this white privilege in book form? Because that's how it feels to me. I can't even (in the bad way). Now I'm at the 20% mark and am somewhat committed to seeing it through. UGH.Here's what we've been eating for dinner, lately:
After a long week and a weekend that felt even longer, I warmed up a coconut bun and put it on the dining room table. I went to supervise the Big Yam practicing piano for about 1 minute, and when I came back to retrieve my treat, I saw that Twin A had stuffed the ENTIRE thing into his mouth. He looked up at me, and through a mouth full of ill begotten gains, said, "I ate it all." This is kind of what it sounded like, but his cute, soft voice was even cuter muffled through a coconut bun filter.
Bi bim bap. I bought the thinly sliced ribeye that's in the freezer section of Chinese grocery stores (for hot pot) and mixed it with purchased kalbi marinade, stir fried it, and then added thinly sliced carrots, mushrooms, and snowpeas with a touch more marinade and piled this on top of rice. Topped with a fried egg and sesame seeds, this was a very budget-friendly weeknight dinner (total cost was about $20!)
More budget weeknight dinners - French onion soup and croque hermaphrodites (ham and swiss with a fried egg on top)
Sunday supper a few weeks ago was meatloaf - sauteed brussels sprouts (which Twin B strangely loves), and a sweet potato-cauliflower-yukon gold mash. Things my kids hate: mashed potatoes. I don't get it.
Another budget weeknight meal - sausage and peppers (sear Italian sausages, then bake on a tray with sliced peppers, onions, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with oregano and chili flakes) served up with soft mascarpone polenta (done in the slow cooker), and sauteed rapini. My kids hated this meal, but I loved it.
Lately I've been craving retro 90s, 2000s desserts like creme brulee and molten chocolate cakes. I don't know why molten chocolate cakes fell out of favour, but there's really no reason why? Who doesn't like an underbaked, warm, gooey brownie topped with ice cream and salted caramel sauce? Clearly not me, judging by my nightly consumption of one such dessert.
Budget weeknight dinners: Hawaii edition. Steamed rice, topped with fried spam, a fried egg, with canned gravy on top = moco loco. Hawaiian people are geniuses.
I was all inspired by my Discerning Coyote friend so I pulled my 9 year old (!) sourdough starter out of the freezer where it's been for 3 years (!) and brought it back to life. I made two ugly loaves that tasted pretty good, all things considered (all things being: I was rushed, I subbed wheat bran for wheat germ, my starter is sluggish, I didn't have a razor blade to cut the tops, and I was rushing like whoa).
Yesterday was pancake Tuesday, so we had Swedish pancakes with lingonberry preserves and maple syrup and bacon from the Mennonites, which is the very best bacon in the world.