Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Reason #282 Inter-Library Loan is a Wonderful Thing:

Because it means I can spend an evening curled up on the couch with my husband, watching my favourite movie from when I was six, and finally being the one in this marriage who has actually seen the movie before.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Feed yourself well.

I love cooking. I don't think "love" is too strong a word; time to cook is one of the three things I look forward to the most about the weekends: Time with John, sleeping in, and cooking (may or may not be in that order).

For months before I graduated college, I was subject to the whims of a disturbingly bare, lackluster, outdated dorm kitchen, shared with dozens of girls who didn't clean up after themselves, and frequently stole bowls, pots, pans, and items from the refrigerator. Because I lived on the third floor, and the kitchen was in the lower level, I ended up trudging up and down four flights of stairs whenever I wanted to cook, arms piled high with pans, bowls, and ingredients. And besides, there was an odd smell emanating from the northwest corner - I investigated once, with almost suffocating trepidation as I checked behind the movable cabinet, suddely sure I would find a decaying corpse (I didn't, of course, but welcome to my imagination).

I hated that kitchen. I longed for my own space, one filled with light, beautiful colors, and smells -- delicious smells, this time around. No microwave from 1970, no gunky stove splattered with Rice A Roni from other residents two weeks ago, no pots with mysterious remnants stuck inside. Light, beautiful light. Colours - no more institutional decor! And beautiful foods releasing their scent into the air.

Ever since we moved here, nearly four months ago, I've been cooking, cooking, cooking. My favourite dimension of cooking, though, is sharing it with John - filling our house with amazing, warm, comforting smells, and nourishing the one I love.

And a few days ago, after a Festival of the Nations at work, I saw a thin strip of paper lying on the floor in the foyer. I picked it up, and it was the fortune from a Chinese Fortune Cookie:

Today is a day to nourish yourself.
Feed yourself well.

Our house smells amazing this afternoon. A large kettle of potato leek soup, simmering on the stove, redolent of warm bacon, thinly sliced leeks, chunks of potato, and white wine; it fills our home with the most cozy, lovely smells. It's almost time to take the pot off the heat - the potatoes are falling apart - let it cool, then puree it. It's been tantalizing us for about forty minutes now, and we can hardly keep away from it; we hover over it, spoons dipping repeatedly, tongues a little wrinkled from the hot broth.

I made a roast a few nights ago; nothing showy, but lovely - fresh rosemary and a little thyme breathing a delicious layer into the beef, red wine and smashed garlic adding another dimension; sunny carrots and earthy potatoes completing the dinner. I brought it to the table on my favourite platter, and then the apartment was silent except for the rapid clinking of knives and forks as we tucked into our food. A few minutes later, we surfaced. John was reaching over for another slice of beef, then paused, looking at me. "I wish you could make this for people back home. So they could taste the amazing food we get to eat." And my heart sang.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


I'm coming up on my two-month anniversary at my job. And I'm realizing that no matter how long I work there, it'll always be hard to get out of bed in the morning, leaving our cocoon of warmth. The last hour before I have to get up is my favourite - I sleep harder, because I've checked the clocks all night long and know that the alarms are (both) set, the bed is all warm and cozy, and John's always cuddly. It just makes it sting a bit more, this getting up and being productive so early, knowing that I won't be back home until the evening.

I wake up at least a dozen times throughout the night. Did you ever have that dream before a mid-term or final, the dream wherein you overslept, couldn't find the classroom, forgot your pen and blue book, didn't study, and failed the test -- and then wake up several times that night, paranoid that it was real, that you did oversleep? That happens to me every single night. My body wakes up at least once an hour, many times twice, checking the clocks, making sure that I set both alarms, adjusting the blankets (someone always messes them up), checking to make sure that John's breathing, counting down the hours until I a) have to get up, b) have to be to work, and c) counting the days until I have my weekend.

As an result, I'm always tired. Tired! This tiredness.

Time to go to bed and start the whole cycle over again.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Throughout the weekend

I'm at a loss for words tonight, mainly from being humbled after reading Shauna James Ahern's new book, Gluten-free Girl: How I Found the Food that Loves Me Back...and How You Can, Too. The way she twines words together is indescribable. Her entire book is absolutely delicious, simultaneously humbling and motivating.

So, rather than trying to dredge up suitable words, I'll leave pictures.

First, a few of my favourite recently-thrifted things:

John, such a creature of habit (as am I) has half a glass of juice every morning -- before coffee, even! I saw two of these Declaration of Independence (other side of the glass) and Liberty Bell Bicentennial glasses, and had to get them - I knew my history nerd would love them. And I was right!

I am a sucker for small vintage plates. These are about the size of salad plates, and we've been using them for the past few weeks (and they were $0.49 each, as were each of the thrifted items in this post. How much better does it get?!).

And these, these might be my favourite.

This was the view through the window in our study yesterday. At my parent's house, the trees have been naked for weeks; yet in spite of the bursts of cold weather here, the leaves are still clinging to the trees.

And the view from our bedroom. My heart just thrills every time I see a tree that's such a glorious, vibrant yellow as this one, and I love getting to wake up to this view.

And yes, yes, I did hang up the Christmas lights. Lights: check. Pine-scented candle: check. Music: fetch Christmas CDs from library before leaving work.

I also knitted a hat this weekend, but the picture I took of it turned out horribly (I took it while I was waiting for the bus and discovered that the bus was about to pull up to the curb). So, until I get a different, better picture, I'm not going to put one up, as the hat's much cuter in life than this picture would have you think.

Things I'm looking forward to: Thanksgiving break (two days of work, two days off, one day on, two days off. !!!!).

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Six Things

1. Our weekend is finally here. Funny, how the last few hours of the last day before my break always go by the slo-o-o-owest. Plans for the weekend: Cooking (roast chicken, rosemary potatoes), baking (bagels? Molasses cookies), cleaning, laundry, studying (John), stringing up white lights around our apartment (me), cuddling (both, obvs), and knitting (me).

2. The weather here is colder now, and when I walk outside, the strength of the bitter wind takes my breath away. It's not even that cold, compared to where we come from, so apparently I've become a pansy since we moved here.

3. I shocked my coworkers today; I let it slip that some movies that most people consider to be "classics," I just can't stand. "The Wizard of Oz"? Creepy and disturbing. "It's a Wonderful Life"? Depressing! Are the thirty seconds of happiness at the end of the movie really enough to make up for the rest of it? I don't think so! "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory"? Really, the only thing I like about that movie is that my older brother looked like Charlie Bucket when he (my brother) was little. Gene Wilder? Purple velvet? Oompa Loompas? No thanks!

4. We're having Christmas here this year. My parents and brother are coming down the week before Christmas, spending a weekend with us; and John's mom and sister (and then aunt, uncle, and cousins) are coming here on Christmas Day to celebrate. I'm totally excited.

5. NEWSFLASH: We're getting a Real Christmas Tree. Hurrah!

6. It's been almost exactly three years, and I can still smell and feel London. I miss it so much.

White Tower b&w

Thursday, November 08, 2007

late-night thoughts from an emotional mind

John's upstairs, sleeping, and I should be, too. But lately, the days are seeming to go by so quickly - well, no. Not the days. The nine hours out of the day when I'm at work, generally go very slowly. The few hours of the day we have here at home at night, before we have to go to sleep, are the few that race by. I just wish there were more time. There are so many things I want to do, time I want to spend with my husband, and yet it seems like for 5.5 days out of seven, we just don't have enough.

The worst thing about getting done with a long day of work and coming home?

You work hard, go home tired, and then realize you have to start over the next day and do it all again.

I live for Sunday and Monday (our weekend, as I work all day on Saturdays; and John has an office hour Monday afternoon and class Monday night), the days we get to spend together, and I cook, clean, experiment with recipes (and without recipes), actually get enough sleep at night, praise him as he works on all his stacks of grad school homework, and sometimes, go thrifting. And as I pull myself through the week towards those days, each one that passes seems interminably long.

We're considering a new career path for us both, down the road: becoming certified to teach high school (I'm considering elementary education). Weekends off, reasonable hours, and, best of all, summers off. Time! Time to be had together! Time to travel! Time to spend with our children! What a novel idea!

I think a part of what is making me feel so confined right now is the fact that this schedule keeps up relentlessly. How do people do it for years on end, go to the same job, day in, day out, maybe a few vacation days a year? Are they not panicking inside? But I know I have to do this for us. I know that this, at least, is temporary. There are so many marrieds who have conflicting schedules, and it is so hard for them to be able to snatch any precious moments together. I am so blessed to have John, and I know that I would do this for years if I had to, for us. And then I think of my Dad, and how he's done hard physical labour all his life, and wonder how on earth he's done it for all these years, worked year-round, hard, heavy, terrible work. And then I realize...it was for us. His family. Because he loves us. And then I remember that that, truly, is why I do what I do; very different work, but the same mentality. I'm not doing it for me - I'm doing it for something bigger than myself: I'm doing it for Us. And really, shouldn't love be the reason? It's amazing.

And I'm tired and very emotional, and finally off to bed.


Wednesday, November 07, 2007


Just in order to rent and watch "Sicko" tonight, John opened up a new account at Blockbuster (it's on the opposite side of town from us). I'd never watched a Michael Moore video in its entirety, and I've always been pretty skeptical of him, anyway. I sat on the couch, flipping through a book of knitting patterns, not at all interested in the movie...for the first ten seconds. "Sicko" was riveting. Yes, Michael Moore is known for exaggerating and embellishing the facts. But this movie is very well done, and highlights truths about our nation's healthcare.

Compared to so many others, John and I are very, very lucky. I got hired fairly quickly after college -- four months, but two after we moved here; and as I work for the state, we have very good health insurance. We do not, however, have free health insurance (oh, I wish!), and I recently found out how lacking the plan is in the area of expectant mothers. (No, not me. Not yet.). Basically, any dream of having a generous maternity leave, time with which a mother bonds with her new baby, recouperates from the birth, and gets a schedule and routine settled with the baby...has been completely shattered. Rather, the mother gets six weeks off, at the end of which time, if she has not come back to work, her job is no longer guaranteed to be waiting for her. The only bonus during this unpaid leave is that the job will make the health insurance payments in her stead. There are so many problems with this type of plan. It forces the mother to work up until her due date, for if she leaves work early, then she has a shorter amount of time with her baby after he or she is born (additionally, many daycares will not accept babies under the age of six weeks, thus it is imperative that the mother not begin maternity leave until right before the baby is born). The time she is away from work is time that she cannot contribute to the income of the family, so not only does she have the emotional stress of birth and bringing a new baby home, but also has money - or, rather, the lack thereof - on her mind.

How horrid!

Shortly after I found out about that, I was rereading one of my favourite books, about an American woman and her family who relocate to France. The author, while living in France, becomes pregnant and goes through the entire pregnancy and birth under French healthcare. Tests, tests, tests. Free. Maternity leave in France?

From AngloINFO Riviera:

Women are allowed 16 weeks maternity leave in France. You will receive an allowance during maternity off time. This time can be split to before or after birth as you choose. You must notify your employer by registered letter with delivery acknowledgement enclosing the proof of pregnancy and expected due date. If any problems are anticipated, the employer should be notified if you expect to be away from work for an extended period. By law, your job must be kept available to you. Maternity leave is also allowed to fathers.

Continuing the thought on parental leave:

If you choose to stop work or work part time after your maternity leave you are entitled to a parental leave (congé parental d'éducation). If you have more than one child and have worked for two out of the last five years you are entitled to an Allocation parentale d'enfant. The congé can be renewed until the third birthday of your child.

Now, John and I just have to decide where to move. Canada? England? France?

Monday, November 05, 2007

(not cool enough for a title)

I can hardly believe it's November already. The weather here, so much more mild than we're used to, has lulled us into a belief in an eternal Autumn. Tonight though, it's blustery, leaves swarming from the trees and through the night, highlighted as they blow and swirl under the street lamps, caught up in gusts of wind.

I'm so ready for November, though. I'm ready for colder weather, for snow waltzing past the windows; for baking cookies, listening to Bing Crosby, and stringing white lights around our apartment.

We're considering purchasing a fake Christmas tree this year. I use the word "considering," even though it's almost a done deal, because part of me inside screams and dies every time I even think "fake Christmas tree." It would be much easier, less hassle and -- you can see I'm still trying to justify even the idea to myself -- because our apartment is dry and we have no Real Vacuum Cleaner...and I can just picture myself using wads of duct-tape to pick up all the dry needles. If we do get a fake tree, though, there are a few stipulations:

1.) There must be quality pine-scented candles burning during all waking hours.
2.) The tree can't look too fakey (I'm choking on my cynical laughter); i.e. it can't be white (there shouldn't be a need to even write that - but someone, okay, John, suggested it. White? White tree? Crazy!)
3.) It must be covered with white lights and ornaments, trying to hide all fake branches.

Have any of you ever had a fake Christmas tree? What do you do with it? What made you decide to get it?

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Photo Vignettes from Sunday Afternoon

Doesn't he look studious? Please note the remote, just next to his hand, ready anytime we hear a burst of yelling from the apartment next door, meaning that something exciting/bad happened in the Patriots/Colts game, the studious look is shattered as he un-mutes the tv and joins in the jubilation/disappointment.

Dress: New, on clearance; marked down from $36.00 to $3.60. Necklace: Vintage, free-thrifted (lifted?); it was my Mom's when she was my age.

Mexican Lovebirds. From Mexico. Obviously. Nestled (haha, nestled) together on our living-room endtable.

Gluten-free Pumpkin Spice Muffins:

Friday, November 02, 2007

Two years and counting...

From this:

To this:

And this:

Then this:

Exiting the church

And, now, this:

It just keeps getting better and better. Happy two-year anniversary, baby! I love you.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

An Ode to Accomplishment and, again, strange dreams.

Lately, with getting another year older (at least, I hope that's the reason), I've had innumerable flashbacks to my childhood. Things I hadn't thought of for years; memories that had lay dormant for so long I wasn't aware of their existence. And thinking back to the little girl I used to be, I realize how important it is for me to have the motivation and courage to do what I've always wanted to. It's not impossibly inaccessible; it would just take passion, effort, and a lot of committment (and really, doesn't marriage have those exact requirements, as well? And the marriage area here is amazing - I love, love being married). In another 23 years, and another 23 after that, I don't want to look back and still wonder what would've happened if I'd tried to pursue my dream. I have John, his love, and his support.

So here I am. I'll practice. I'm working up the courage. I'll give it my all. And we'll see what happens.


Almost every night, I have ridiculously vivid, strangely violent, horrific dreams. Two nights ago, the first night back here in our apartment after our trip (and oh, I can hardly tell you how good our bed and pillows felt!), I dreamed:

I am having a normal off-work day, putzing around the house, when I feel something brushing my left elbow. I look down, and there it is, like a tiny transparent hot air balloon, tethered to the outside of my elbow. It has the look and consistency of a blister, but in an inverted teardrop-shape, waving gently in the breeze, and a bit bigger than my thumbnail. My arm itches, and I reach to scratch, but even as my fingernails graze my arm, my heart catches in my throat, and I stare, horrified, for along the three pink tracks my fingernails just brushed, sprout more miniature balloons. Starting out tiny, like the seed of a tomato, then growing rapidly, noticably, until they are all the size of the first. I panic, fear and horror welling in my throat, and as I turn to get help, I notice more of these tiny blister-balloons tethered to other parts of my body. If I bump into anything, more of these balloons appear; if something even lightly touches my body, they spring into existence.

I wake up with panic filling my throat and mind, and hold my left arm up close to my face so that my glasses-less eyes can inspect and, by the weak beams of the night-light, ensure that my arms aren't, actually, covered with miniature balloons.