Figuring out what I wanna be when I grow up.
Oop..I AM grown up...

Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year

image source

Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot...

When I was a very small girl, I am told, I pulled a lamp over onto myself.  I have the scar still on my left eyebrow.

When I was a teenager I cut my knee on a metal spike at a carnival.  The dark blood ran in a line down my leg.  My mother put iodine on it.  I thought that nothing could ever hurt as much as iodine.

When I was 6 my new sister came home from the hospital.  I ran nearly all the way home before my dad caught up to me and drove me the rest of the way.  I can see that small room still:  diffused sunlight through drawn curtains, calm and dim, and that magical new person sleeping softly in her crib, on her stomach.

My first pet, a black and white rabbit, chewed her way out of her chicken wire hutch, and we found her in the corner of the basement; little baby rabbits in the nest she'd made.  From then on we called her "Mama."

I am a young girl at school and it is my birthday.  I tell the principal:  "it's my birthday today!"  At recess he gives me a small gift:  a little tub of ice cream with a flat wooden spoon.  I am elated.

I am 17 and it is the day after New Year's.  On a winter walk with friends, I take the hand of the young man who has a crush on me, and I fall in love.

I am 20 and it's a Monday morning.  My boyfriend's mother phones to tell me he has died.  He has had cancer the entire time we were together.

In university I find myself skipping lectures often.  Nothing feels better than that freedom when I escape in my car. 

I meet my future husband in one of those lectures.  He is tall and quiet, but wears a white shirt with black skulls all over it occasionally.

After 22 hours of labour, with 3 hours of pushing, my son comes into the world, pale as ivory, with the cord wrapped around his neck.  I feel no alarm--only pain and exhaustion.  I can't imagine anything that could hurt more.

My mother urges me on during the labour.  She holds my hand and I'm so grateful she is there, because she is so strong of will and spirit.

I am wheeled into the intensive care unit, and parked beside the calm baby who is my son.  His little fingers curl around my finger.  I softly say "hello," and he turns his head to stare at me.  It is indescribable and surreal.  Snow falls outside.

After 10 hours of labour with 2 hours of pushing, no drugs and no epidural (not by choice), the doctor employs the suction cups and with a tremendous WOOSH my daughter arrives in the world.  My mother has been there again, and I cried when she arrived. 

At 5:00 AM that first night/morning after Ella is born, I give up trying to get any sleep, or put her down.  She will not lie in her bassinette.  She will not lie beside me on the bed.  She will not lie on a pillow between my legs.  She will only accept being in my arms.  "Okay," I tell her, "you win."

Just before her 86th birthday my grandmother dies.  At the graveside, unexpectedly, 3 small Polish women--like fairies--begin singing together; a beautiful lament in a language I do not understand. 

11 months later my mother dies:  13 days after we found out she has stage IV cancer, 5 months after I have finally moved back home. 

While in the hospital, the pussy willow sticks in a flower arrangement, have sprouted roots.  I planted them in a sunny spot behind my house, and they quickly flourished and became a small, green bush. I will wait for them to bloom in the spring, along with the yellow tulips and daffodils; a small corner of the garden in remembrance of my mother. 

It is New Year's Eve.  I have been on this planet for 38 years living this strange, horrible, joyous, sad, beautiful life.  I am going to be here for this new year, and many, many more, and I am thankful. 


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Random Stuff At The Homestead

* What is it with my 3 year old and clothes?  It's WINTER here.  That means it is COLD.  There are several inches of snow on the ground, and the wind that I feel whistling in the cracks of the (apparently) sub-par kitchen window is COLD.  I'm sitting in my little pantry here, clickity clacking away, and wondering if I should put a scarf on.  

The Man put plastic over both windows back here, and he even plasticized the old, no-longer-in-use pantry door to the outside.  So like I said, it's cold.  However, little Miss Fashionplate, has been coming downstairs in the morning dressed in a tank top and a mini skirt.  I, the broken record, keep repeating:  "ELLA, IT IS WINTER.  IN WINTER WE PUT AWAY OUR SUMMER CLOTHES."  She also takes all the clothes off every toy she owns.  Does she hate clothes?  Is it a 3 year old thing? 

* I was just reading that horrible library book to the kids again, which I hate, and they enjoy.  It's called Dog Breath, by Dav Pilkey.  Incidentally, the kids seem to love all the books I've brought home by him, but The Man and I hate reading them.  It's about a family pet, who is otherwise lovable, but has breath so bad nodoby can be around her.  The dog's name is Hally Tosis (drives me up the wall right there.  The 'HYUK' factor is minimal.  The 'YUK' factor--huge).  I had just gotten to the part in the book when 2 burglars creep into the Tosis home, when Jack stopped reading his "British Invasion" book and casually said;

"I'm a 'turd burgler.'" 

Made it all worth it. 

* One of the presents The Man got me for Christmas, was an enormous pair of fleece pyjamas.  The pants are red with white reindeer on them, and the top is this man-sized red rectangle with white trim around the neck and cuffs.  The size on the tag alone had sent me into a downward spiral of depression (is that how big he thinks I am?? Sniff!), but the best part was the first time I wore them, and the kids hopped into bed with us in the morning:

Jack:  "Mom, are you being SANTA CLAUS?" 
Me:  "Oh great." 

The Man:  "no, she's Mrs. Claus"
Me:  "yeah, that makes it better."
The Man:  "sexy Mrs Claus."
Jack:  "I think Mom's being Santa."

Me:  "I'm going to get dressed."

* Ella was doing a little reminiscing with me today: 

Ella:  "Momma, you're too fat for McDonald's Playland."
Me:  Sigh.  "Yeah, you're right, honey."

Ella:  "That skinny grampa had to save me."

For the whole story, read HERE.

* my sister and I have come to the realisation, that there appears to be one year in a child's young life, whereby he/she seems to be sick nearly CONSTANTLY.  The year Jack turned 3, he was sick from December till April--steady.  I had gone to the doctor's at one point in despair, when she informed me that a child will typically have 10 colds a year until they reach the age of 10 or so, and they will have a respite from being ill in July and August, when they're off school.  I have a theory that this is why a lot of kids visibly "shoot up" in growth during the summer vacation:  their bodies aren't being taxed by constant defense against GERMS. 

* further to the last point, Ella has had a cough, nearly continuously (maybe with small breaks) since August.  The last virus she had was a doozy, and she was so grouchy I was ready to put my own head through the plaster wall:

Me:  "Ella, you need to eat some of your soup, so you can feel better in time for Christmas!"
Ella (with total contempt and disgust): "Who cares, YA WEIRDO."

* Poop on blankets always puts me in a bad mood.

* How does one teach their 3 year old to wipe from front to back when their chubby little baby arm doesn't actually reach their ass???  This is something of a puzzle.  Hm, I said, whattaya know about that...well, we'll try again in a couple of months

* this (by some miracle), may not be how I look, but after eating fruit cake, pizza, yummy cookies that my sister made, and scrounged chocolates from the kids, and sleeping in till 10 in the morning, and hardly getting a lick of exercise, this is how I feel:

you saw that movie "Blade" Didn't you?  Time to get back into those regular walks.  (Note:  this is not a real person, it's a really yucky character from the movie.  There, all better, right?)


Monday, December 27, 2010

How I Went Down the Toilet After Christmas

Tired much? 

Holy new Christmas slippers, am I tired.  How tired, you may ask?  Well, 38 year old me has morphed into 78 year old karen in a matter of hours.  Here is what I should have asked for, as far as presents are concerned:

1) WRINKLE CREAM:  something strong.  Something that eats away a whole layer of my face, and somehow magically leaves behind a shiny new layer of 20-something-year-old skin. 

2) a face lift:  Did I used to think plastic surgery was an extreme measure used to fight a natural process called "aging" which we women should simply embrace and not fear, even though Hollywood bombards us with daily images of the NEW and the TAUT and the HAWT?  Yeah, that was all fine and good until I started growing jowls.  Merry Christmas karen, you baggy old bag, you. 

3) whatever that stuff is that they inject into deep, deep lines:  What is that stuff?  Botox?  Restylane? 
* let me tell you a little story:  several years ago for Hallowe'en, I was a marionette doll.  I had a frilly pink dress, and I drew wrist, and elbow joints on myself, and drew lines down either side of my chin to make it look like I was a dummy (har har!)--you know; kind of a nutcracker doll effect?  Well guess what, now I just have those deep vertical lines down my chin.  At all times.  My Mom once laughed when I told her this and said there is an actual plastic surgery world term for this.  Oh wait...I just found it:  "marionette lines":


One of the hallmarks of aging around the mouth area is the development of marionettes lines. Also known as melomental folds, this groove or fold (some call it a rhytid or wrinkle but this is not an accurate term) is the transition of the more fixed chin tissues against which the more loose skin from the side of the face (jowls) falls over. While a facelift can significantly soften this fold by pulling back the overhanging skin, the most common method of treatment is non-surgical filler injection.Yeah.  Chicks LOVE that. 

So, how did this all happen?

* Well, Christmas is an insanely busy time.  I hosted dinner for 11 (including myself), and while I didn't make everything--which helped A LOT--I was busy for many days. 

* I didn't eat properly, and when I did eat, I seemed to only eat the following:

a) Christmas cake

b) fancy cheese (Applewood smoked cheddar, yo!)

Vegetables??  Fruit?!?  Surely you jest.  Oh the shame.

* I didn't drink enough liquid.  Water?!?  What's that?  I'd have a coffee at the beginning of the day, and sadly, that would be about it. 

But wait!  I invented my own cocktail over the Christmas holidays.  It was yummy.  Yummy-nummy in fact.  I figured the best way to get through the holidays is through cocktails!  Just wait till I unveil it to you.  You people are going to thank me. 

* I got even crappier sleep than usual, and if you all know me, you know how much I complain about/mourn/lament how little sleep I get (you can read some whining HERE and HERE, or in virtually every other post I've written) .  And what poor quality it is.  Well, it's been worse.  The Man has been a coughing factory for DAYS.  He caught the family bug, and well, he's a big man, and everything he does is bigger.  If he sneezes--huge (will actually make you angry from the sheer obnoxiousness of volume).  If he snores--forget about it.  If he coughs--the whole house knows. 

And so, on Christmas day, I hardly ate anything all day.  And then I ate all that yummy, lardy, buttery, whipped creamy food.  Then dinner was done, and I was sad, so I had my own signature cocktail.  And then I had it again.  And again.  And...well, nevermind. 

Then I woke up the next day and drove to suburban hell to have more Christmas with The Man's family.  Lots of dishes of chocolates around their house.  Deep fried shrimp hors d'oeuvres.  Rye.  Cola.  Another turkey dinner.

And VOILA! That cute karen who was wearing the fabbo electric blue satin shirt gets replaced by GRANDMAW JOWLS INNA SWEATER. Someone put the coffee on. Me too tired.

 Ah, the magical beauty of the holidays! 
 Look at that BRICK OF GOODNESS!  However, Christmas cake is NOT a good substitute for lunch.  While it is tasty, and probably offers up some iron, thanks to all those raisins, figs and dates, it also offers up one very special gift:  HEARTBURN
 Ah yeah--check out that bad boy.  I present to you:  "The Crusty Wife" (copywrite 2010 by me, karen Somethingorother):

* 2 parts amaretto liqueur
* splash of rye whisky (No "E" in Canadian "Whisky."  I knows how to spell)
* ice
 Look, I even took another, more artsy picture, just cuz it's so pretty

Hey there--who's looking SEXAY???  Is that electric blue SATIN you're wearing??  Why, yes, it is.  You likee?  (girls, whenever you get dressed up, always get your camera and snap a picture of yourself.  No, Don't be Ashamed or embarrassed to do it.  You'll be thankful for that picture when all those camera-happy idiots snap those sob-worthy pictures of you eating a cocktail weiner, before you even get a chance to brush the crumbs off your T*TS)

Oh my god.  Who is that old woman, and what has she done with karen???  And...why is she wearing karen's sweater, and drinking out of karen's mug? 


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

karen's Most Hated Christmas Songs

Okay, so Christmas music has been playing on the radio since approximately one second after Hallowe'en ended.  At first it was kinda exciting, right?  Ooo, Christmas songs!  Hooray!  Oh look--I think I just saw a snow flake!  You sang along with some, and you drove around in rush-hour traffic listening to others.  And then, it began to dawn on you:  a lot of Christmas music is actually bad.  Some of it is really bad, and some of it makes you want to leap out of your car and run screaming down the middle of the road, holding your head because your ears are BLEEEEDING!!!!!

It goes without saying that every year, there will be a whole sack full of recycled horror.  Some idiot is always going to try their hand at "The Christmas Song," and another moron is going to think they'll make "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" their own.  Some of these new versions will be so bad, you may actually throw up as you're listening to them.  Oh wait, perhaps this is just me we're talking about.  Perhaps you love Christmas music so much that you could listen to it 24/7 and not lose your mind.  Congratulations.

That is NOT me. 

13) Suzy Snowflake sung by Rosemary Clooney

Yeah, I feel it too:  like a little piece of me has died just by listening to this.  I happen to have this version on a cd, and both my kids love it.  More's the pity. 

12) Most Wonderful Time of The Year sung by Johnny Mathis

Mr. Mathis is probably a lovely man.  His singing style makes me want to yak.  Urrrgh!  That AFFECTED SINGING STYLE!  I can't take it!  I almost don't even want to continue with the list.   

11) Christmas in Hollis by Run-DMC

I have nothing against Run-DMC.  I can groove endlessly to "It's Tricky."  However, this tedious song somehow drags all the Chritmas spirit right out of me.  Yeah, just listen to "It's Tricky" instead.  Still dope. 

10) Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town by Bruce Springsteen

Me no likee.  I can imagine this song being played at some horrible party, and I already have a headache from too much wine.  And then Springsteen starts shouting. 

9) Twelve Days of Christmas by ANYONE

I have decided that this is the longest, stupidest, most tedious Christmas song ever.  A partridge in a pear tree?  Seriously?  Does this even mean ANYTHING TO ANYONE?  Fun to sing when I was 8, but now as an adult, half an hour later, I just never want to hear this song again. 

8) All I Want For Christmas (is my 2 front teeth)

I'm not sure who is singing this version, but I actually had it, when I was a kid, on a record called "Dumb Ditties," that had other fun hits like "Little Arrows," and "Jolly Green Giant."  I dare you to listen to the "kid" whistling between the empty space where his front teeth should be.  Then go pound something until the anger goes away.

7) I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus sung by John Mellencamp

Oh look--it's a horrible song made even more horrible by John Mellencamp--I mean Cougar--I mean Cougar Mellencamp...or whatever.  OMG I hate this song.  It's saturated with sticky-sweet cutesiness.  Oh, silly kiddies--Mommy's actually kissing Daddy, who happens to be wearing a Santa suit!  Tee hee!  Isn't it PRECIOUS?  No, it's not.  When I was a kid, I thought "Mommy" was smooching Santa, and why the hell would Daddy have a laugh over it if he happened to see them?  Blech. 

6) The Christmas Song sung by Mel Tormé

I can't say as I've ever been much of a Mel Torme fan.  His version of the song makes me nearly keel over from the super, super mellow (aka DULL) drawing out of this song, which in my opinion, should only be played on the radio, or included on any cd if the incomparable Nat King Cole is singing it. 

5) Merry Christms Darling by The Carpenters

Okay, for some reason I feel like a douche for even putting the Carpenters on the list, since every time I think of that poor Karen Carpenter wasting away and eventually succumbing to anorexia, it's just plain tragic.  THAT BEING SAID, I have always found their music sooooo sickening--like super thick syrup rolling endlessly down the back of my throat.  Actually, you can choose ANY Christmas song the Carpenters sang and plunk it in this spot.  It makes no difference to me. 

4) Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer by Dr. Elmo

NO--seriously, you HAVE to check this out because they appear to have remixed the song and made it EVEN MORE ANNOYING!!!  I know--you didn't think it was possible either! 

3) Please Come Home for Christmas by Bon Jovi

Yeah, like the GREATEST OFFENDER of the music world wouldn't be on my list.  As if.  Come on--someone has to slow dance with me to this with a finger stuck in their beer bottle, which they're holding behind my neck. 

2) Deck The Halls by Mannheim Steamroller

You know that stupid synthesizer Christmas song you hear every year on the radio, which instantly makes you angry and think "this is the stupidest, gayest, most retarded Christmas song ever!  I hate this song!!!!" but you never knew who created it?  Well, you're in for a treat, because this is it!!!

1) Santa Baby by Madonna

I hate this song so much, that I'm disappointed that there isn't a word that quite conveys just how much I loathe, despise, abhor it.  That voice, that cutesy-poo, horrible, idiotic voice!  ARGLGLURGBLOOPBLOOPHEHHEHHEH!!!!


Yuck.  That's enough.  I have to go take a shower now, and wash off the filthy feel of these horrid songs. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

Searching For Grandma's Pierogies Part 2

Friday, Early Evening
Frying onions...

The Man has just shuffled out of the kitchen with an exclamation of "OH MY EYES!"  He also took his glasses off and started rubbing like crazy.  I added another small onion to the pan, because it just didn't look like enough to me.  As I'm working along here, I'm trying to channel the spirit of my Grandmother, so I've been asking questions all along:  how much saurkraut--does this look right?  A little less?  More onion?  Yeah, I think so too... 

I think the whole thing is snowballing.  As I ponder making pierogi, and go loosely by the recipe in my Ukranian ladies' cookbook, I know that to make 4 dozen, I need 3 cups of filling. I feel fairly certain that I will have 6 cups of filling, or enough to make nearly 8 dozen pierogies.  96 pierogies.  Hmm...

I have made pierogies before.  A couple of times I made potato and cheese ones--and they were yummy.  Hence, the picture for my last entry.  My sister didn't know I had made them before, or forgot, or whatever.  So, when she saw that picture, she thought; "WHAT?!?  DID SHE START WITHOUT ME???"  No, that's an older picture. 

Hm, come to think of it, my eyes are burning too.  So much for scoffing at my husband.  I have to say though, the mingled smell of the saurkraut, the pork roast, and the frying onions is intoxicating:  hanging in the air like a memory, evoking a certain intangible feel of my Grandmother. 

7:00 PM

The meat grinder--ugh.  I don't know if I had it hooked up 100% correctly.  What  a grotesque contraption.  I took the first piece of pork roast, shrugged--HERE GOES NOTHING--and shoved it in.  Then I turned the handle.  Eureka!  She works!  But, how come on some turns it makes this loud GROANING noise?  Also, what is that black liquid dripping out of the back onto the floor????

Next, saurkraut--oh, that's not going through well...hmmmm...

Next, mushrooms--on no, it's too slippery to push through properly!  Well, I'll just grab a handful of ground pork to put behind and help push it through.  Oh yuck, it's not plunging the veg's turning into some gross, pale beige sluicy paste

Ella:  "Mummy, I'm tired, I wanna go to bed."
Me, in a frenzy, trying to TURNTURNTURN the handle and get that junk through:

When I went to get Ella a moment or 5 later, she was putting on her own pyjamas. 

Oh good news!  If I turn the handle backwards it reverses the goop back up.  That's good, it won't be stuck.  I'm NOT looking forward to cleaning this thing.  Iccchh--no wonder people become vegetarians. 

8:00 PM

The filling is in the oven for the final roasting stage.

I started making this filling at noon. I didn't work on it non-stop, of course, but I'm still a little tired. The pork roast turned out the way I figured it should: tender, but a little saw-dusty. However, I think this is how it should be, because once the cabbage, mushrooms and onions are added, that will certainly give it some moisture, no?

Oh the doctoring I have done.  I was afraid to taste the filling after I put it through the meat grinder. I don't know--there's something about grinding everything, and that thing having some ancient greasiness built into it--I just imagined I was creating a listeriosis factory.  So, it may sound crazy, but I seasoned it by smell.  I mixed all the filling together but it didn't smell like Grandma's.  Not enough saurkraut!  However, I did NOT feel like cooking more for another hour.  Instead, I got out my food processor and ran some un-boiled saurkraut through that, and added it to the filling.  Then I added a ton of black pepper.  Now that smelled more like it!  Finally it met my needs, and I shoved my casserole dish FULL of filling into a 400 degree oven.  I'm only going by "feel" and memory here.  That's all I've got. 

8:25 PM
I just tasted a little of the roasted filling--it's so exciting.  It is right somehow--simply right.  Tears came to my eyes for a second.  I can almost imagine Grandma beside me:  squat, sturdy, barely 5 feet tall, with dyed pale blonde hair, a high-necked sweater and black polyester pants.  Suddenly years of family dinners, and visits to Grandma's house flooded my brain, just from that scent.

9:20 PMI am a genius.  I am a freaking pierogi genius.  And nobody will come over to sniff my meat.  Sigh. 


I have made the dough.  It will rest until 1 PM, and then the kids and The Man will be going out, and my sister and I can make pierogies in bliss and freedom. 

Nerdo (it's a sisterly nickname--no malice intended) arrives in high spirits and we are good to go!  She sniffed the filling, looked at me and said:  "That's it." 

When we started, we were of course, rusty.  Also, the filling is much more difficult to work with than a nice, glutinous potato and cheese filling.  It wants to just roll right off the sides of the little circle of dough.  This will take forever at this rate!  And then we discovered that if we squish the filling just a little in our hands (mm, sound yummy?) we can form a more compact, workable ball. 

Aim's pierogies are much prettier than mine.  Mine have a nice, utilitarian folded over edge, and hers are are all finger-twirled like little pieces of art.  Enh, who cares--I'm sure my Dad and The Man aren't going to notice.  My brother might, but then, he's got that eye for details.  We pause every now and then to do some ridiculous dancing, but Aim says that my "Muppets and John Denver" Christmas cd is "terrible."  Pfft, what does she know?  We both agree though, that the "Twisted Sister" Christmas cd that was bought for us is even worse.  Unlistenably (is that a word) bad in fact. 

At 4:00, even though we were on a roll, we ran out of dough.  "Well," said Aim, "maybe you don't have that much filling left?"  I took out the casserole dish from the fridge and showed her the startling amount of filling that was left.  Damn it, I'd just have to make more dough.  I only had enough flour to make the dough though. I would have none when it came time to roll it out.  Aim took one for the team, and headed off in the cold and snow to get another bag of all purpose flour. 

We already decided we simply had to eat some, both as a reward, and to see if they would be good.  I started cooking them just before my sister returned.  My biggest worry was that the dough would split, while boiling them, and I'd have a pot of boiling water, empty dough pockets, and filling frothing around.  However, as I held my breath and dropped them into the boiling salty water, they all hold together beautifully. 

*it should be noted at this point that once the pierogies are boiled, and swell up slightly, my sister's fancy-shmancy rolled edge wasn't even really noticeable.  Hee hee. 

I boiled them for 8 minutes.  Then, with my slotted spoon, I transferred them to my hot frying pan with sizzling butter.  I fried them until they were golden brown on each side, as Grandma did.  If I wanted to be totally authentic, I'd have fried up some onions first until they were carmelized, but EFF that. 

And then we tried them.  Aim says they were DELICIOUS.  I think they were delicious, but a) I was getting tired, b) I was analysing every detail so much, I could hardly taste them for what they were.   That being said, the dough was delicious, not thick and gluey.  The filling was wonderful--probably even a little more peppery than Grandma would have done.  The texture was a teeny bit different though.  It's hard to explain but maybe it had more of a shredded saurkraut texture if that makes any sense. 

Once the last ball of dough had rested and was ready to roll, Aim ended up making most of the pierogies.  I was dead, dead tired, and my quality was going waaaay downhill.  I suppose that rye and cola didn't help (it was only one, and we had to toast each other!).  I was DONE.  Finito.  Bye bye.  Finished.  We used up all the dough, and Aim left with a small freezer bag of filling--enough to make 2 dozen, I'm guessing.   So, she can pull that out of her freezer in a few months and make some pierogi if she's so inclined. 

My sister left.  I turned the cd off.  There was no noise in my house--no tv, no music.  I bagged the rest of the pierogies (we had been flash-freezing them on a large cookie sheet covered in parchment paper), and labelled the bags with date, and amount.  I sat down at the little kitchen table with paper and pen and tallied it up.  99 pierogies.  We had eaten 10, so 88 were left, but we'd made 99. 

I put down my pen and sobbed. 

Christmas Dinner, 1976

"Okay People!  EAT!"

When Grandma said that, you'd better get to that table.  So, everyone converged at once. I always felt shy at this point.  "Mom, where should I sit?" I asked, just above a whisper. 
"I don't know!" Mom said annoyed, "just pick a chair!"

So much food!  There were platters overlapping platters overlapping bowls:  meat on a stick, traditional bread stuffing, cranberry jelly--still with the lines of the can on it-- cut in slices, pickles and olives, soft hamburger stuffing, cut into large cubes, kapusta, slices of polish sausage, potato and cheese pierogi, meat pierogi (everyone's favourite), pickled mushrooms, canned button muchrooms with fried onions, a salad tossed in oil and vinegar (way more oil than vinegar), a large dish of corn, thick mashed potatoes, gravy, buns, and last, and certainly least; the world's driest turkey.  All of the other food was always delicious, but Grandma suffered from poultry paranoia, and that bird had been cooking since about 6:00 that morning.  Everyone only takes a token amount of turkey.

The adults have wine, and I have a tall glass of whole milk. My youngest aunt always drinks Pepsi.  Everyone chats and jokes, and it's noisy and lively, and the food is so good.  Grandma doesn't eat though.  She sits in the kitchen and has a cigarette, and then she returns to the dining room to hover around the table with that angry look on her face. 

"Eat!" she urges.  "Everybody eat!"  She shakes her head at everyone.  "You don't eat much!" she says, with what seems to be near-disgust.  "Karen," she says (and it sounds like "Kedden"), "you don't eat nothing!"  Oh but I have been, and I'm nearly stuffed.  I particularly love the meat stuffing.  It's soft and salty, savoury and delicious. 

After dinner there is jell-o cake--everyone's favourite.  A dreamy, creamy layer of white with little blobs of all different coloured jell-o sits on a sponge cake base. When the eating is done the women immediately clean everything up, scraping plates, washing endless dishes, smoking and smoking and smoking.  The turkey carcass sits on the kitchen table next to a heaped plate of turkey meat.  The men sit on the couch dozing and watching TV.  Grandma would get angry if they even offered to help. 

Mom gets angry when my brother and I whisper to her if we can go home yet.  She's just starting to have fun because all the dinner work is finally over.  She loves being with her family.  Sometimes I think she loves being with her own family better than she likes being with us.  She has lots of laughs with my oldest aunt.  Finally we put our boots and coats on, which is good because that means my brother and I can get into the freezing vinyl-seated station wagon, go home and play with our new toys, which we've been dying to do all day. 

We say "goodbye," I give my Grandma a kiss, and another Christmas is over.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Searching For Grandma's Pierogies Part 1

I am in my Grandmother's kitchen.  Of course, it's my kitchen now, but it is much the same as when my Grandma was alive, except the busy floral wall paper is gone, and there is a new fridge and stove.  I was a bit sad to get rid of her stove--her stove with one oven rack, and nobody knew where on earth the other rack disappeared to.  The stove that made all the delicious Polish food we enjoyed over the years:  the yeast buns with apple filling, the wonderful yeast breads (one with nut filling, one with poppy seeds, one plain, but a little bit sweet), "meat on a stick," potato soup with sour cream and dill... But now that stove is gone; taken away from the front of our house by the man trolling around town with his pickup truck. 

Thus far I have browned the small pork roast, and it is cooking on top of the stove in a little water.  That's not how I would have thought to cook it, but my aunt told me that Grandma "boiled" it.  On another burner, the saurkraut is simmering in a large pot.  I drained it, rinsed it, added a little water and butter, and hopefully after a while it will taste familiar.  At some point today I will fry onions in butter until they are soft and golden, but not carmelized. Then I will put the meat, onions, saurkraut and cans of mushrooms through the meat grinder.  And then I will roast the lot, hoping for some kind of magical taste amalgamation. 

And it's all a mystery. 

A million questions have floated to the surface:  how much saur kraut, how many cans of mushrooms--1, or 2, do I add some of the mushroom liquid from the can, will the roast become tender, or will it just turn into sawdust???  When I went to the store to buy a jar of saurkraut, suddenly I was confronted by various kinds:  one listed only cabbage and salt in the ingredients.  One was cured with white wine.  One had shredded carrots in it, and was cured in vinegar.  Also, the one with carrots was the only one that was a "product of Poland."  Well, Grandma and Mom were all about vinegar in their food, so surely this one had to be closer to the right kind.  However, Grandma cooked with saurkraut fairly often, so surely she had a preference.  But what brand did she like? 

Am I just imagining it, or do I have a real memory, faint as a feather, of someone saying; "Grandma liked the saurkraut that had the shredded carrot in it, but she couldn't always find it."  In the end will it all come down to proportion?  How does one obtain a recipe from a woman who never measured anything by measuring cup, but by eye?  "Oh you know," she would tell you, if you asked for a quantity; "little bit, not too much." 

Tomorrow I will make the dough, and my sister and I will have a day of rolling pierogies. 

This could be a disaster.

Christmas Day, 1976

I am 4 1/2 years old and my brother is 9.  My sister won't arrive until 1978.  We have all come to Grandma's house for Christmas dinner.  Everyone's there:  my two aunts, my uncle, My Aunt C.'s husband.  Grandpa is still alive.  He's a tall man, very European-gentleman, who never talks to me much, but smiles and calls me "Princess," which sounds more like "Preencess."  The back entranceway is crowded and small, so my Dad waits until we get our shoes and coats off first, all the while the horrible white poodle is snarling and snapping and bearing teeth at us, until Grandma shouts; "shut up you stupid!  Such a stupid dog!" 

The house has all the usual smells, that hit you in the face as soon as you come in the door:  onions fried in butter, tangy cabbage, turkey, meat on a stick, hamburger "dressing," and cigarette smoke. 

When the way is clear, my Dad comes in.  He is wearing his "bubble" toed brown and tan shoes.  They have no treads on the soles to begin with, and because he has tracked in a little snow, the second he hits the laminate floor, he slips foward and shoots straight down the basement stairs like a toboggan.  I see him sprawled out on the basement floor, and he's laughing, but everyone else is HORRIFIED, even though he's okay.  Well, my Mother is laughing. She can't help it--she always finds this kind of thing hilarious.  After a bit my oldest Aunt will join her.  I begin to cry.  "My poor Daddy!" I lament. At the top of the stairs he gives me a hug, groans a bit and tells me he's okay.  There is another funny story about those shoes:  one time Dad is "over the river" at a bar with my uncle, and he sees a smouldering cigarette on the floor, so he makes a move to stomp it out.  However, the cigarette gets stuck to his shoe and begins to melt the sole, and then nearly sets the shoe on fire.

I am wearing a short dress with tights.  The crotch of the tights always seems to be somewhere between my body and my knees.  In the kitchen the women are very busy bustling around getting food ready.  They look "all business."  The men are in the living room having drinks out of cut crystal highball glasses.  Whisky.  There is also Grandpa's homemade "hooch," which is only drinkable when it is "cut" with cherry syrup. There is, of course, no concern about having to drive home afterward, so the drinks keep coming, although everyone is a little tired from all the drinks that were had the night before.  My brother and I sit, wedged together, beside my Dad, on Grandma's ugly couch.  Even though it's supposedly in style, it is yellow with black stripes, and made of a nubbly terry-cloth like material, and I have always thought it was very unattractive. 

The women continue to bustle around the kitchen, like organised bees in a hive, the kitchen window steamed from boiling potatoes and pierogi, they whirl around stirring things, bringing platters to the dining room table, pausing every now and then to take a puff on their cigarettes. 

Finally the dining room table is overflowing with food.  Grandma says in a tone that sounds more like a warning than an invitation:

"Okay people!  EAT!"

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Allow me to reiterate about how much I


It's snowing like mad out again, and it's cold.  It's frigging cold.  Let me see's
-8 degrees Celsius, but it feels like -17 (or 1.4 degrees Farenheit, if that means more to you).  How do they arrive at this "feels like" number???  I would be more inclined to put it this way:  "-8 degrees C, feels like SHIT...yeah, that's right, I actually swore (* in my blog, that is--when I'm alone in the car, I turn into salty sailor karen, and I likes it that way.  The kids, sadly, hear me exclaim "SHIT!" all the time, and recently I tried to soften my bad ways by saying "SHITE" instead, which Jack loved so much, he has to wistfully remind me of that word every now and then:  "Hey Mom, remember when you said 'shite?' Chuckle, chuckle, chuckle."  Sigh).

After walking Jack to school, then shovelling the driveway this morning, with the scarf and the hat and all the gear on, I came in the kitchen, sat down and slowly the sweat evaporated from my body.  And left me frozen.  Yes, I was frozen, and had an OVERWHELMING URGE to climb into my bed and go to sleep.  I have no idea how I fought that feeling off. 

I usually take Ella to the local early years centre with my sister and my little niece on Tuesday mornings.  I decided not to be a total wimp, and with a great sob, I started getting ready to head back into the cold.  Ella had brushed her teeth and was just downstairs about to put her boots on, when she started doing that HORRENDOUS HACKCOUGH that she does.  So, she's downstairs hacking away:  "AAAAAY-HEH!  AAAAAAAAAAY-HEH!!!!" and then The Man said:  "oh, Ella!"  And then Ella was crying.  Turns out there are people in this world who are can actually throw up if they cough hard enough, and Ella is one of them.  After Ella hurled all over her clean shirt and the kitchen floor, she came upstairs happily to get a new shirt, while The Man gagged loudly downstairs as he cleaned up the hurl. 

Sorry, but TOTALLY HILARIOUS.  He said "it" was "bits of baloney and phlegm."  Yes, I know: you didn't need to know that.  You're thanking me for sharing that information.  I can't help it though; I find throwing up and throwing up stories to be completely hilarious.  Does this make sense:  barfing is SO horrible that it's funny??? 
image reference

By the time Ella got a new shirt, and we got into all that extra clothing, we were really getting late.  Then, after I cleaned the car for 5 minutes, we were even later.  Then, as we were inching through the neighbourhood to get to the main road, and it was a total white-out, and the streets were wicked slippery, I had a total temper tantrum as only PMS/Winter Hating karen can:


Man, I hate winter. 

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Deep In The Heart Of PMS Country...

Conan the Barbarian, of course

I've already given my husband the warning:

"For your own safety today, I advise you all to give me a WIDE BERTH."

* From "The Phrase Finder":
'A Wide Berth'


A goodly distance.


'Wide berth' is most commonly found in the phrases 'keep a wide berth of', 'give a wide berth to' etc. It was originally a nautical term. We now think of a ship's berth as the place where the ship is moored. Before that though it meant 'a place where there is sea room to moor a ship'. This derives in turn from the probable derivation of the word berth, i.e. 'bearing off'. When sailors were warned to keep a wide bearing off something they were being told to make sure to maintain enough sea room from it..."

Isn't the computer fun, peeps???

For breakfast I had pizza and Doritos.  Breakfast--you know:  the most important meal of the day?  And now I'm floating facedown in a cup of coffee.  Every time I succumb to this sodium/fat/msg-laden crap, I hear the same chirpy PMS advice rattle through my brain:

*avoid salty foods, as this will make me turn into a human water balloon
* avoid sugary foods, as this will make my blood sugar rise and fall like a rollercoaster ride
* avoid caffeine as this will only make symptoms worse

But, I've added my own rule to the end of that, which TRUMPS all the others:

* do whatever it takes to avoid lopping off heads like that dude in Highlander.

So, I had the zesty cheese chips and a slice of pizza.  I considered washing it all down with some egg nog, but I'm not a total animal, so I had some freaking apple juice instead. 

Apple juice.  Why do children love it so much?  Why, as it becomes apparent that I HAVE to go for groceries today, is apple juice the only juice left in good supply?  No orange juice.  No antioxidant-rich berry juice.  No, just apple juice, which I will NEVER like again after surviving all those years with childhood illnesses, nursing a cup of room temperature apple juice or gingerale.  I should also note that it took years before I liked Canada Dry Gingerale again.  Years. 

This is how I imagine a conversation with my PMS Brain would sound:

PMS:  heat up that pizza
karen:  isn't it a gross waste of energy to heat up the oven for ONE piece of pizza???
karen:  okay, okay!
PMS: mmgoodmmph mmph chompchomp pizza good...oh no
karen: what?  What's the matter?
PMS: this pizza slice isn't going to cut it.  WE NEED MORE FOOD
karen:  okay! Okay!  Calm down!
karen:  Should we be eating those for breakfast?
PMS:  yeah, it's SO much better if you eat them at bed time, dough head.
karen:  sigh.
PMS: mmgoodmmph mmph chompchomp zesty cheesy chips good
karen:  yes, they are good, and they're making me feel...happy!  CHOMPCHOMP--
PMS:  what the hell do you think you're doing?
karen:  I'm eating these chips
PMS:  oh my god.  You're disgusting.  What are you doing eating nacho chips for breakfast.  FRUIT, WE NEED FRUIT.  Seriously, you should be ashamed of yourself.

So, as I was eating my horrible breakfast, and being left (mercifully) alone, I was musing again about recreating my Polish grandmother's pierogi.  This will be the 2nd Christmas without grandma, and everyone has Grandma's own creation of pierogi filling on their minds. 

* pork roast, boiled until soft...then, put through the meat grinder
* saur kraut boiled...and then...through the meat grinder
* canned mushrooms...meat grinder
* fried onions
* loads of pepper...
* make dough with the recipe in my Ukranian Ladies' cookbook...

ponder, ponder, ponder...
I have the meat grinder too.  Grandma's meat grinder.  It's some heavy, industrial, no frills little contraption that I'm supposed to clamp on to the end of my table for use.  My brother asked me what I think of it.  I told him that using it will make me feel like even more of a carnivore than I already am.  Sheesh.  Hey, there's even an ancient tubette of some mystery meat that Grandma failed to clean out of one of  the little holes.  Yeah, exciting, right? 

It's soothing thinking about it though.  And let me tell you, I'm in a not so soothing state of mind.  Little Ella's been hacking up a lung (pardon that ugly expression) for days now, so every time, during the night, she hacked, I woke up.  Hack, awake.  Hack, awake.  Y'dig? 

Yesterday at breakfast time, The Man was standing attractively in his pyjama pants with no shirt on.  He goes to karate twice a week, and I pointed out to him that he had more "cut" to his muscles thanks to that (He'd be displeased to know that I'm even typing this, but the point of it is not about HIM, but about my hyperbolic response).  He then did an easy flex and turned his stomach into a four pack.  And I said; "isn't it nice that when men have children come into their lives, their bodies don't have to change?  Isn't that great?  You know, YOU PEOPLE should thank me.  You should thank me EVERY DAY." 

Ha ha ha, I'm a picnic, aren't I?

It is now 1:11 on a Sunday afternoon.  Ella has been cooped up in the house since Friday.  Jack has been having a youtube festival all weekend, and even now is tapping his foot impatiently for me to get off the computer.  The Man appears to be coming down with something now and I am nearly debilitated with the need to stick a pen in my eye and end the angst. 

And so I end this rant with a question:  how far can a half tank of gas get me?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

And On A Side Note...

Miss Hot Body doesn't live across the street anymore. 

The house gets rented out, and the owners live beside us.  So, during the summer a 20-something couple moved in.  The young woman had skin that was a lovely shade of coffee with cream, was slim with long legs, large enough bosoms (don't ask me what 'large enough' means.  I'm a girl, and I only mention this as part of the noteworthy details), and walked around in very short shorts, skimpy tank tops, skin tight jeans, etc.  Also, she was very nice and friendly to boot. 

Today I saw the new tenant getting out of her car:

- brown curly/fuzzy hair cut in a shoulder length triangle
- baggy red track suit with pants tucked into knee-high FUNCTIONAL black winter boots
-non-descript asexual winter coat

And so peace and order has been restored to the neighbourhood :)

(oh don't look at me that way--I don't need to feel any more  PUSHING FORTY FEELING FIFTY than I already do)

myspace layouts

Wrapping Paper?!? Ugh!

Brown paper packages, tied up with strings...
image source
Image Source

Image Source

First of all, why not consider, NOT wrapping as many presents as you can???

But, if you must wrap....

Why not try brown kraft paper???

Come on--
you can't tell me those presies don't look fabulous.  Don't they have a rustic, old-fashioned kind of charm?  Isn't there something pleasing about that clean, brown paper?  Now, what if I tell you that brown kraft paper is mostly composed of recylcled paper already, and when you're finished having that un-wrap-a-thon on Christmas morning, or whatever holiday you choose to open lots of gifts, wouldn't it be nice to scoop up all that paper and put it IN YOUR RECYCLING BOX???

You know that most of that coloured wrapping paper we all love can't be recycled, don't you?  Just consider something new, exciting and recyclable this holiday season.  Now, some of you ladies who read my blog are very crafty and creative indeed, and you certainly have a way with a ribbon. 

*I promise to not buy any coloured wrapping paper this year so I don't add to garbage mountain. 

I'm going to my local paper/office supplier, and picking up a giant roll of brown kraft paper to wrap all my presents.  Actually, I wrapped all my presents in brown paper last year--all except my own little family's.  This year, however, (and pardon the cheesiness of this) I'll have a BROWN Christmas!  Okay, terrible joke.

AND, if I don't wrap presents, I am going to use re-useable gift bags.  So, think about the garbage mountain that is created every holiday season. 

Here's a good article about trash

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

If I Make It Through The Holidays, It'll Be A Christmas Miracle

Dear Mom,

Christmas is making me nervous.  Real nervous.  I've started getting those vague, out of nowhere, intermittent knots in my stomach again.  I attribute this to the holidays.  I think I kind of realised it before, but just took it in stride how the "world" around me smothers itself with Christmas-ness.  I suppose I knew this, let's not be naive, after all--I've been complaining about the red and green onslaught following RIGHT on the heals of Hallowe'en for years now.  Every time I get in my car, I see the decorations all around.  At night the lights twinkle on front yards.  When I went out to do a little shopping the other night, the Christmas music was playing non-stop.  Did you ever realise just how sentimental Chritmas music is?  Well, it's a killer.  Every year for the past several years, I would buy a few new ornaments to go on my tree.  Every time I picked up a little package of ornaments this year all I could think about was how much you always loved my tree, with the white lights and the sparkling ornaments.  You said it was "magical."  So, I put the new ornaments back.  I walked across that parking lot, and it was cold, and dark, and the wind was blowing.  I see signs saying "Christmas Miracles" everywhere, but I don't feel it this year. 

There's no tree at your house yet this year.  I haven't got the courage to go over and open those boxes of ornaments and put them up. This year Chritmas kind of feels like those melancholy late night drives through a neighbourhood I'm not familiar with:  cold and quiet, with coloured lights silently blinking--all colour and beauty, signifying nothing.  

Monday, December 6, 2010

Monday Morning, With Really Stupid Hair

It's snowing.  It's snowing A LOT.  I could even be hyperbolic and say, it's coming down in GREAT @$$LOADS.  Oh wait, is that hyperbole or just good old fashioned grouchiness...must ponder this...

Anyhow, there are those of you out there who peer out your window and see the snow coming down like crazy and you get excited.  You giggle, and clasp your hands with joyous anticipation, and if you could, you would clap your hands together as you did when you were a little kid and say "ohgoodygoodygoody!!!"  And then, filled with that child-like SNOW LOVE, you might even go put on a Christmas cd, and get out that 500th box of Christmas TCHOTSHKES, and cram them on to that last remaining square inch of your home that isn't festooned with Christmas goodness.  And then you'll stand back, and admire, cradling your hot chocolate with the marshmallow melting in it, and feel that MAGIC SPOT, somewhere between your gut and your heart, that you've ALWAYS HAD at this time of year, that is strong, and resilient and can never be stamped down by LIFE. 

And all the while, the snow will continue to fall, fall, fall, and you won't care that you just finished shovelling the freaking driveway, and the snow plow jerk just came by and built you a nice three foot wall, which if you try to throw your car in reverse and BLAST ON THROUGH will result in you being stuck with 2/3 of your car on the road, and 1/3 on the driveway, so for the next five minutes you'll have to RRRRRR backward, then RRRRR forward, then RR backward, and RR forward, etc, etc.  All the while you'll be steaming up the car, and you won't be able to see out your back window, because a) you're totally frustrated, and b) you're SUPA SWEATY HOT from the cumbersome thick coat, hat, scarf, and gloves you've been forced to wear.  Finally you'll get out of your car, and try to dig your way out with that crappy shovel you have that's really only good for pushing feather-light drifts of snow--not the wet, fifty pound sludge we have here. 
But, it's either that snow pusher piece of crap or your ten pound garden spade, which is really only good for chiselling through ice. 

Oh, and your back will be sore tomorrow when you wake up from shovelling the driveway.  You're not 20 anymore, and if you've popped out a few kids, there are some magic bones and connective workings down there that never properly melded back together again. 

I don't begrudge y'all your Christmas spirit.  If you must know the truth, I envy it. I too once had the spirit of the holidays deep in my guts.  Sadly, I think a good chunk of it got trampled out the first time I worked Christmas in the casino.  Pretty hard to be cheery, as I imagined my family sitting cozily at home eating cinnamon buns, while some jerk with a cigarette dangling off their lip shoved a $5 bill at me and grunted:  "TOKENS."  Not, "Merry Christmas dear, may I have five dollars worth of tokens please?"  No, no, none of that.  And perhaps there were some of those ever-present slobolas yelling; "LET'S GET ANOTHER WINDOW OPEN HERE!" because it was freaking busy, and all I wanted to shout was:


I also envy people who see the snow falling endlessly and say something asinine like; "AWESOME!  I'll be able to ski soon!  Wicked!  I can't WAIT to get my skis out!"  You might also be the type of look-on-the-bright-side-glass-is-half-full type of person who'll cheerfully say; "I like this snow better than the rain."  Well let me tell you, I do not.  I never have to shovel the rain.  I never have to scrape the rain off my windshield, and the rain doesn't get tracked in the back door in little surprise clumps that soak my sock. 

This morning, after a ten minute wrestle, helping Jack get into

1) snowpants

2) winter coat with hood zipped back on
3) boots
4) waterproof mittens
5) scarf
6) hat
7) brand-spanking-new winter boots

and then, when he was finally dressed, I shoved on my own boots and assorted winter gear.  All the while Jack's outside saying; "MOM, hurry UP!  COME ON Mom!  Why is Mom TAKING SO LONG?" we were 2/3 of the way to school when Jack asked; "are my shoes in my bag?"

I think you know the answer to that question.

Trudge back home, get the shoes, shuffle on back to school, get a "late slip," help the boy get all that stuff with his teacher and the education assistant who helps Jack out (lovely woman by the way), and then I shuffle on back home.  I pulled the hat off my sweaty head, took one look in the mirror and saw that thanks to saturating snow I had a large blob of mascara under my eye (that was more than likely there whilst I chatted with the teachers) and really, really stupid hair.

It's still snowing.  

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Book You Should Read

In my last post, I alluded to the struggle we all at one time or another have faced when dealing with a doctor, or someone else in the medical world.  Incidentally, one thing I really enjoy about blogging is the comments section, where we all get to have a lot of laughs and some really good discussions.  So, in the comments section of the aforementioned post, after talking with y'all, it suddenly occurred to me that I had read a book in the past year that is such a wonderful story of a mother's struggling against all odds, and specifically, against the medical world, when her young son suddenly seemed to exibit symptoms of a debilitating form of Obsessive Compulisve Disorder. 

Saving Sammy - Curing the Boy Who Caught OCD is a book I could literally not put down.  It was riveting, heart wrenching, and had me on the edge of my seat wondering if this poor boy would ever get better.  In fact, the book made such a huge impression on me that I emailed the author, Beth Maloney, and she even emailed me back.  I now receive the updates she sends out to everyone who has emailed her.  Can you imagine--an author actually emailing you back?!? 

Please check out the link above, to get a small synopsis of the book, and to learn more about Beth, and her ongoing battle to bring awareness about "PANDAS"

The book is highly readable, and whether you're a parent or not--you won't forget it. 

Now, go to your bookstore or library and get that book!  After you read it, please let me know if it made the same impression on you as it did me. 


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