Monday, February 29, 2016

Hivey Hilde After Hours

It's happened to me before. Some of my friends say they have this  problem all the time. For varying reasons, aches, pains, worries, people are awake at odd hours. I have not often been cursed with this afflicton. In fact, just the opposite. I can usually fall asleep almost anywhere, anytime. Not so for the last several weeks.

I'm told this causes problems with growth hormones. That would partly explain the ever shrinking senior frame. Mental capacity declines with lack of sleep. Again, explains a lot.

Perhaps it was the excitement of what was surely our first snow and being able, even at this age, to create as snow person with my daughter last week. Perhaps it's the latest drug that's been added to my arsenal. Or maybe, it's the mysterious spots which have been annoyingly itchy on my body. Who knows? For whatever reason, I'm awake. I tossed and turned for an hour before admitting defeat.

Screens aren't supposed to help with insomnia, I disagree. There's something soothing about being able to sit here and spew the weird and crazy thoughts that go through my head at three a.m. I suppose there are other options...warm milk, sleepy time tea, Tylenol PM (wait...already took two), reading the latest night stand novel. But I opt for this...a blog after midnight.

Thus far, the months of January and February 2016 have been interesting if nothing else. On the second day of the year, I developed an unusual and horrifying affliction which looked something akin to the Otrivin cartoon eye ad.

For no reason of which I was aware, my eyes swelled beyond anything imaginable. Lids and bottoms were red, purple, puffy, itchy, wrinkly and just plain scary. I've searched on the internet but have as yet to find a photo of anyone's eyes as hideous as mine were.

They got uglier and itchier with each day until I was ready to rip them out of my head. I thought this was the worst of it until I developed spots on my arms...hives no less. Then I got spots on my legs, my torso and probably on my scalp.Very uncomfortable. No amount of allergy medicine or eye drops seemed to diminish the problem. I couldn't go out, but when I had to, makeup almost made the look more frightening.

As always, when something happens to us at this age, we wonder whether this is it. Will this be the thing that eventually kills me? I hadn't thought that way about these hives, not until a couple of nights ago. My first waking was accompanied by moaning and groaning (mine), sore joints that felt as though someone was dousing them in acid, ankles that could only have been garotted, a stiff jaw (teeth clenching), and shaking, even shivering. I drifted off briefly only to wake up again with a stomach pain that said, "You haven't eaten in a week." Only problem was that I had.

Tonight, my entire body was covered in hives. I could barely walk and lying down to sleep was unimaginable. I can only deduce that trying to recline in a nest of fire ants might produce a similar effect. In order to avoid having my bed combust, I got up and am here.

Now as I sit, I'm wondering how much I'm shrinking from lack of sleep. Wondering how much my mental capacity will decline from the same problem. Wondering whether this is it, or whether there's a simple explanation for two months of hives. Hopefully, I'll find out soon.

On the bright side, being housebound is helping me organize things...a start. It also is helping me realize that I can't die yet. This is all too much of a nightmare to foist upon unsuspecting relatives. I hope at least that some of my silliness gives them a laugh or two as they deal with all my junk.


Thursday, February 25, 2016

Very Last First Time

If it has not as yet become obvious, I have a huge love for children's books. Some are full of mystery and fantasy. Others stretch the imagination. Many are educational, carry a message, or teach us about other cultures. There are those that are inspirational in their themes and content. Finally, there are a few, just a few wonderful books that contain combinations of several of those elements.

One such story is that of Eva, an Inuit girl who lives in Northern Canada. Written by Jan Andrews, the book "Very Last First Time", tells the tale of how the Inuit gather mussels at the bottom of the sea in the wintertime. This activity is not only dangerous but an essential food source and integral part of their survival. 

Eva has always accompanied her mother to perform this rather daunting task. The book tells about her experience and how it feels and looks when she does this by herself for the very first time.

Some of us have vivid memories of things that we achieved for the first time. Some events aren't recalled at all. Some of these times may have involved accomplishments or experiences. Some may have been pleasant, frightening, or an adrenalin rush. Nonetheless, the events that we remember best, were probably firsts in our lives.

I remember my first time riding a bicycle. Why wouldn't I remember?  It was a huge deal until I crashed unceremoniously into a curb. I was attempting to negotiate a right turn onto a ramp at a south Ajax strip mall. Nobody ever told me that I had to turn the wheel into the curb. I picked myself up and looked sheepishly around to see if I was noticed. I didn't care that I was scraped and bleeding. All I was  hoping was that nobody witnessed this twenty three year old woman riding a a bike for her very last first time.

What other firsts do people remember...a first date perhaps, the first day on a new job, the first time giving birth, the first time driving? How about first time in a kayak going over rapids, the first time hot air ballooning, scuba diving, or mountain climbing? It doesn't always have to be a huge event, nor does it have to mean that there'll be a second time. The thing is, the first time will never happen again will it?

Today, as I was walking through our mall, I saw a pillow in a store window. I wasn't certain whether it was for sale or not, but that's never stopped me. I negotiated a deal with the sales person and off I went. What a wonderful reminder of a great book, and the many firsts in our lives. Sometimes, we take their relevance for granted. Other times, we settle into a routine of safe, sameness and forget that there's much more in the world that, no matter what our age, we can discover and experience for the very last first time.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Free, Cheap, Coupons, or Sale

As the title says, I rarely purchase anything that isn't free, cheap, on sale, or for which I have a coupon. I'm referring specifically to food. That's not to say I won't splurge on a specialty item from time to time, but for day to day consumption, that's my philosophy.

On January 12th, I wrote a blog, Dipping Dollar Does Not Mean Deteriorating Diet. Since that time, I have seen and heard innumerable complaints from people about how terrible food prices are and how they can't afford to feed their families. That was inevitable.

I won't turn this into any kind of judgemental commentary. It's far too easy to resort to saying, why don't those same people give up smoking, liquor, their trips to the dollar store for useless junk, or whatever their source of enjoyment might be. It's not about those things, and I don't think it's not necessary to give up much of anything. To me, as I mentioned before, it's all about effort and planning. There are many parts of this country and other countries where people would love to have our options and prices, when it comes to groceries.

Today, I gathered my coupons (clipped while watching people complain about food prices on t.v.) In my opinion, you should always do something valuable in addition to watching t.v. (another topic...I digress). I flicked through to check expiry dates and off I went to Walmart and Metro. Foodland has been erradicated from my list since they are a bit far and have also jumped their discounted produce prices to $1.49....who are they kidding? That's $1.50 in real money. Outrageous.

First stop as always, the discounted produce shelves. Saturday morning, the shelves were stocked. People ambled by, cursory glance, then pushed their carts past rapidly as if they'd just seen a toxic substance. In fact, they were snubbing their noses at the bargains as if they were frequenting an establishment other than Walmart. This isn't Whole Foods or some trendy juice bar in the Beaches people! (I don't care, I still call it the Beaches)

I was most excited to find a $1 package which included not only a very nice tomato, but also an English cucumber, a whole stem of fresh garlic, and a package of pearl onions. Once again, I also espied a $1 cauliflower and four green peppers for  $1.  Jackpot! After this essential first stop, I moved on through the aisles....bread $1 off coupon; one get one free; dish soap, large size on sale for $3 and I had a $2 off coupon. And so it went until I was satisfied that I had retrieved the best bargains.

At Metro I did just as well....on a Saturday morning no less!  Mushrooms (the exotic kinds) for $1. Avocadoes (always available) 5 for $1. Woohoo....guacamole. (Not to be confused with whack a mole). The many packs of grapes were tempting but I decided they contain too much sugar and I'm not good with eating just a half dozen delicious, red, juicy, grapes. There were also the ever available, never ending carrots and potatoes...didn't need any today. produce purchases for today look like this. Why not try my shopping method? As they say, "The Thrill Is In The Hunt". Now I'm off to create some meals for the week.
Here's a yummy sweet potato recipe I thought I'd share. Got it from a lady at a meeting I attend and it's amazing and simple. Sweet potatoes are often on the discounted shelves but even if not, they are kind of cheap and of acceptable content.

Zingy Baked Sweet Potato Fries for 2 people

Preheat oven to 425.

Wash sweet potato, cut off tails (the pointy parts on the ends) and cut into wedges. I use one sweet potato for two of us and I leave the skin on.  Feel free to use more (increase spice amounts) if you're super hungry or have people lurking around your house for dinner.

Get a baggie, Glad bag, produce plastic, or reasonable facsimile. Put in a tablespoon of olive oil, 1/4 tsp. cumin, 1/4 tsp. cinammon, a pinch of cayenne (or more if you like a burned throat), salt. Drop in your potato wedges and shake, shake, shake (the more you shake, the more calories you burn).

Place wedges upright on Pam sprayed baking sheet and place in oven for 20 minutes or so. Remove from oven and enjoy.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Red Is Best

There's a children's story entitled "Red is Best" by Kathy Stinson, illustrated by Robin Lewis. I'm not certain whether it's the simplicity, the illustrations, or my complete agreement with the sentiment that appeals to me most. I like the book. I like red.

Although many things have changed over the years, my love for the colour red has not. Since it's Valentine's Day, I thought it only fitting to write about this most vibrant and sensual of colours. So here's a senior person's version, my version, of Red is Best, entitled, what else?

                                                           Red Is Best...Hilde Edition

Some older people don't understand about red.

I like my red pajamas best. They're cozy and warm and suitable for all kinds of activities. I can cook. I can clean. I can go to Walmart, the gas station, or Tim Horton's in my red pajamas and not feel out of place. In fact, I'd probably be the envy of the sleepwear attired crowds. I like my red pajamas best.
I like my red scarf best. People say, "Hilde, quit wearing your Silent Night scarf. Christmas was over two months ago." But I don't care what anyone says. My scarf is bright and cheerful and keeps me warm. It's the perfect complement to my jacket. Besides, I can reverse it and nobody but me will know that my scarf is secretly singing and celebrating. I like my red scarf best.

I like my red cape best. It's soft and stylish. It envelopes me in a cozy warmth like a fuzzy blanket. It makes me feel tall and slim because tall and slim people usually wear such items. It helps me remember friends, good times, the mini vacation, and the place it was bought. It reminds me of the person who said, "Go for it. You're only as tall as you feel." I like my red cape best.
I like my red car best. Red cars are bold and daring and make a statement. Red cars aren't boring and dull or conforming. Red cars don't blend into the pavement. Red cars say, "I am woman. Hear me roar." Red cars help you dream, plan, and imagine. I like my red car best.
I like my red shoes best. Red shoes can be sensible or avante-garde, Red shoes shout, "I'm not gone yet!" My shoes are scuffed and worn and enjoyed. My shoes are low heel, no orthodics as yet, and comfortable. They have been places, experienced things, and all have amazing stories to tell. I like my red shoes...all my red shoes best.

I like my red dog best. She's rather small, whiny, and furry. She makes a great snuggle buddy and tolerates me. She's not Clifford the big red dog. She's Amber, the small reddish Dachshund. I like my red dog best.
I like my red roses best. They smell wonderful and look beautiful. They brighten a dark dreary day. They help remind me of the beauty in the world, the warm sun, and the seasons ahead. They tell me that someone thought of me and loves me. I like my red roses best.
I like red, because red is best. Happy Valentine's Day.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Painting For Absolute Beginners - Week 5 &The End

During our fifth week, we were introduced to other types of media. Note how savvy I've become with the lingo?

We had a demonstration using watercolour pencils. Good thing too because I had been dipping the ones I owned into water...incorrect! I couldn't imagine how else they would work. Now I know. The right way to use these is to draw and colour, then wet the work using a brush and water.

Next, we were shown techniques for the use of acrylic paints. These are very vivid and lovely and can also be thinned with water for a paler, watercolour type of look. Brushes, trowels, pretty much anything can be used to apply paint.

After viewing this, we sat and painted our fruits of the week...with watercolours. I had brought a pear and a lemon...not challenging unless you don't like the colour yellow. I doubt I put enough layers of paint on the page. On the other hand, my paper was starting to turn back into pulp. Bring on the hair dryer!
During our final week, we were unleashed. "Create an abstract", we were told. We were each given a tray of acrylics. I thought mine looked like a clown and so I got a slow start ...too busy playing with the clown.

I messed with my paint until I got bored. I ended up with colourful globs before I decided to create something that more likely could be found in the movie "The Rocky Horror Picture Show". What can I say? Limited attention span. ( didn't smoke during pregnancy or ever in her life).

Then came the dreaded critique..."It's alright", said the instructor politely, rather than tell us what he really thought.

Time to use something else now. After a brief lesson in the care and feeding of pastels, we were set free with three pastels each and told to go for it. I hate pastels. I have a terrible history of pastel art lessons, both oil and chalk with children of varying ages. There is no way of using pastels without making a mess...huge mess...on paper, on arms, on legs, on clothing. Big mess! Did I mention pastels are very messy?

I soon realized I was not going to be trying many of the pastel techniques...nope, nyet, nein, not happening. Instead, I made a chubby Bob Marley and overpainted with thinned out watercolour. That was my experimentation. A watercolour background normally goes first, but hey...ever heard of pastel resist?
Finally, so that we all might go home with a reasonably successful piece of art, we were given a step by step instruction to create this. Lovely, and this one was made by our instructor.
Mine wasn't quite finished (and won't be), but ended up looking like this.
 What can I say? It's alright.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Fluent, Except When I'm Trying to Gut Someone

I probably shared at some point that my teen mom unceremoniously ripped me from the bosom of my birth land when I was a mere two years old. I was one of many Pier 21 immigrants. With a wooden trunk made from leftover coffin wood (I'm not sure whose), and the clothes on our backs, we travelled across the sea. We left a town where the dialect can only be described as the Newfie of Germany (no disrespect intended toward either my hometown or the most magnificent of Canadian provinces).

Some would argue that the language you learn first, stays with you. I would argue, nonsense. In my younger years, I remembered a few words of questionable accuracy and even more disturbing taste. These were often interspersed with what soon became my main language, English. My family's one visit to Germany when I was a child, did nothing to help me regain any confidence in the lost language.

For various reasons over the past decade and a half, I have visited Deutschland almost every other year. (Note my Germanic "Deutschland". Impressive eh?) . At first, I was nervous about attempting to converse with anyone in the public sector, never certain whether I was using correct terminology or a corrupted, even rude version of a word. I often asked if they spoke English first, before struggling to assemble a thought in German. When I was forced to make the effort, it usually sounded pretty good. Then, I'd be sure to fish for compliments by explaining that I don't really speak the lingo. Eventually, and fairly quickly, I became what I would describe as fairly fluent.

I decided that perhaps the language you learn first, doesn't necessarily stay with you, but is familiar and sitting in the hidden recesses of the brain. The sounds, the intonations, the phrasing may be ingrained during your formative language development years, and even though they're not used, can be retrieved when needed.

I found it curious that some of my relatives, all of which had now moved away from the original hometown, had developed different dialects. Each one spoke in a unique way, and yet we all laughed over certain words, and phrases we remembered from the past. What made it even funnier was that their children and grandchildren had no idea what we were talking about much of the time. So the peculiar words from my childhood weren't so terrible after all.

In return for their hospitality, I liked to treat people to a restaurant meal during my visits. The last time I was there, my cousin's wife was finally brave enough to take me aside and speak to me. She made me aware that a phrase I had used on every trip up to now, was not quite acceptable and clearly didn't translate as I had imagined. At that moment, I discovered that it's not only Google translator that comes up with ridiculous offerings when I use their function. I also learned that it's not always a good thing to try to translate a word or phrase verbatim.

Who knew that when I offered to "take people out" in German, it had a different, more disturbing meaning? Not only that, it's not even what you might think. Apparently, I was offering to eviscerate, clean out, or fleece people. Wow, I had choices...each one worse than the last. The only choice I didn't have was to treat them to dinner.

Hopefully, I'll remember this small linguistic detail on my next visit. Who knows, perhaps someone will even clarify some of my other awkward turns of phrase. On the other hand, maybe they'll just compliment me on what surely can be considered almost fluent German.