I’m going to what feels like the Mean Girl of cities in a couple of weeks.
You know the one.
She’s all Chanel and couture and linen and lipstick. They speak fancy French there, not the regular, old, Canadian kind (and even my Canadian French is pretty patchy and rusty).
I lived in Europe with my family as a teen and then in my early and later 20s, on my own. But, somehow, I never got to Paris.
London and York and Cornwall, I love. Hamburg and Heidelberg, too.
But Paris, is a big old question mark for me.
Or, is it actually a REAL PLACE with garbage trucks, and people wearing pajamas in public, and bad cooks?
My parents went to Paris for a holiday when we lived in England, but for some reason, they didn’t take their teenagers with them. Who knows why?
I was too broke when I lived close by to get there, and my friends lived in Germany. So, I just kept flying over Paris, as if she didn’t matter one hoot.
Take that, mean girl!
But now, my German friends are living in Paris, in the ninth arrondissement. I think that means near ALLLLLL the Pain au Chocolat (one of the main reasons I’m even going to Paris), right?
And, I am slightly intimidated.
According to Canadian/US versions of Paris, I am prepared to feel inferior on a number of levels including my weight, my fashion sense (lack thereof), not to mention my (quelle horreur) love of patterned fabric.
French chic? Mais, non. Just call me “flabby, shabby chic”.
I am not sleek or sophisticated. I am much more inclined to the chubby and cheerful.
But, so is Ina Garten and she supposedly loves Paris, right? So did Julia Child and she was tall and awkward.
Vives les Tall and Awkward!
With a side of Still Too Many Shoes for My Suitcase.
Practical Man disliked Paris when he was there so he’s glad to be sitting this one out. Mind you, he dislikes ALL cities so he’s not really a neutral opinion. Instead, I am travelling with my sweet sister-in-law Roadrunner, who speaks Northern Ontario French as her first language at home. She’s never been to Europe. In fact, this is her first trans-Atlantic flight. Although she is fluent in the language, I’ve heard that Parisians can be quite cutting when it comes to The Canadian Form of French. My also fluent father was once asked in Paris where he learned his French and when he told them Canada, they said, “c’est domage (that’s too bad)”.
I do love me some vintage, flea markets, and sparkly lights. Someplace called The City of Lights seems to be a good city for that sort of tra-la-la.
Anyhoo, if you’ve been there, here are the questions I have about going to Paris:
- I expect there to be accordions playing in the background as we stroll around. But, should I be prepared with some Charles Aznavour on my playlist, just in case?
- Is there a “how not to overpack” Pinterest board for people who are not Marie Kondo or wearing exclusively Lululemon?
- If I can’t get rid of my vertigo before I leave and end up getting arrested because I’m wobbling down the streets like I’m intoxicated, will they bring me the French version of Bread and Water (baguette and Perrier) in jail?
- Is black the only colour people wear? What if I look more like “Widowed Nonna from a Godfather movie” than “Audrey Hepburn” in black?
- Where can I rent a Betsy bicycle or a moped so I can ride along the Seine with a baguette sticking out of the basket, humming La Vie en Rose?
- Is it wrong to have a pain au chocolat EVERY morning while I’m there? Wait, don’t answer that.
- Will my brain actually turn into a pretzel if I try to speak German (with our host family), Paris French (let’s face it, that won’t be possible), Canadian French (only slightly more possible), Bad French (definitely possible), and English (please direct me to the nearest pain au chocolat?) in one holiday?
- How many beautiful buildings can you drool on before they kick you out of the country?
- Ditto for Boulangerie, Patisserie and other “erie” windows?
It’s like a first date with someone way out of your league.
Or, as they say in Paris…
[nonchalant and chic expression full of fabulous cheekbones].
There was that time when I bought the REALLY expensive chicken by accident.
$75+ worth of On-Sale, free-range, raised-with-classical-music-in-the-barn-and-wearing-knitted-chicken-sweaters kind of chicken, instead of the On-Sale chicken for the non-fancy-pants folks.
So, I can’t be trusted in the grocery store.
Now, we have an excess of sour cream: in fact, an entire, unopened container, ready to expire.
Doesn’t that sound perilous? “Ready to expire”.
Refrigerator products are so melodramatic.
Anyhoo, I thought I could be trusted. In fact, I felt rather like Ma in Little House on the Prairie when I had a light bulb moment this evening about the nearly-dead dairy product.
I know, I thought. I’ll make Grandma Helen’s coffee cake.
She used to feed it to us for special breakfasts and it’s all brown-sugary and sour-cream-donut-y and NOT CHOCOLATE, so clearly suitable for breakfast because that’s a rule.
I rushed off on a surge of pride to tell Practical Man as these Ma-in-Little-House-frugal moments are rare from me. Grandma Helen’s coffee cake has lots of sour cream in it and would use up most of the almost-at-the-pearly-gates container.
While Practical Man was doing the garbage/recycling in the garage (and no doubt marveling at my frugal brilliance), I made my usual mess in the kitchen.
In addition to flour on the floor, nuts behind the canisters, and butter up my arm, while whipping up the batter, I managed to lift it out of the bowl to “clean” the beaters and they sprayed batter all over the entire world. There was some in my eyebrow, some on the backsplash, some on Mars, I’m pretty sure. And, it’s a sticky batter, this sour-cream extravaganza.
As in: not easily remedied before certain people come in from the garage.
But, I got that sorted (I think – this will explain the weird blobs you see on our light fixtures a few months from now) and grabbed the one-foot-in-the-grave, but un-opened sour cream container from the fridge.
I opened it and stopped short.
It looked funny.
White, like sour cream.
But, also not.
Kind of chunky.
Maybe it had already gone off?
Or, maybe, maybe, maybe…
I realized with a sudden taste of sour dairy in my mouth,
it was not drama-queen sour cream
highly-tricky-and-well-disguised-all-except-for-the-dastardly-label-oh-please-say-this-happens-to-you-too-won’t-you, COTTAGE CHEESE.
This is precisely, almost exactly like that time I was wondering why the ginger we had frozen in the freezer was so uncooperatively melty when I was trying to grate it.
(It was blobs of frozen garlic puree, hardy-har-har).
I have worked at an institute for higher learning for nearly 25 years. Honest.
Luckily, Practical Man had brought home a new container of sour cream this very evening.
So, instead of using up excess sour cream, I had to use brand-new sour cream so now, we have to buy some more.
And, I have to figure out what to do with on-its-last-breath cottage cheese.
I’m pretty sure I can’t be trusted though.
The cake is really good.
I have developed a new problem, recently.
I’m coveting cupolas.
Worshipping weather vanes.
I went to Vermont, you see.
“Verdant Vermont”, as Practical Man and I called it as we ooh’d and aah’d our way through the Spring countryside rolling hills.
We have been there before but this time, we noticed that it was very green.
We’re pretty sure this isn’t how “verdant” is pronounced but for this trip, we decided we should make it rhyme with “Vermont”.
Verdant Vermont, get it?
They are probably going to want to adopt it as a slogan, of course.
“Visit us in Verdant Vermont.”
We amuse ourselves easily, yes sirree.
That’s how you get to 20 years of wedded bliss, dontcha know.
All the verdant was probably on account of the torrential rain the day and night before. During the storm, we were very cozy in our vintage Boler travel trailer, alone in the campground. I am reading my way through my vintage Nancy Drew collection so I was deeply embroiled in The Mystery of the Bungalow (and wondering how one canoes wearing a dress) while I listened to the lovely sound of rain on the Boler roof.
A 13-foot trailer seems so luxurious after a lifetime of camping in tents and when it’s pouring sheets of rain outside.
Maybe the other campers didn’t have a vintage Nancy Drew book to antagonize and entertain them because they had all left. Even the ones in giant motor homes with big-screen TVs and walk-in closets. It seems that the first sign of inclement weather causes those campers to run home to a different big-screen TV and walk-in closet.
That’s okay because it means more ice cream for me.
The morning after the storm, I ate Ben and Jerry’s at 10:00 am, tra-la-la.
There was a factory and it was cultural experience so I had two scoops: fudge brownie something and chocolate peanut-butter something else.
I’ve never had Ben and Jerry’s ice cream before.
I might need to try it again to make sure I like it.
Then, we went to the chocolate factory nearby.
Perhaps you can see why I love Vermont.
So much tra-la-la!
We followed the windy roads and hunted for the covered bridges that were on the map.
We went up the super fun, seasonal road to Smuggler’s Notch and marvelled at the giant boulders all around that had been chucked down the mountain, probably by some demi-god having a temper tantrum.
And, I fell in love with all the houses.
I think there is a Vermont rule: no ugly houses allowed.
The Pinterest addict in me approves.
I also fell in love with the cupolas.
Ones with vents.
Ones with weather vanes.
I want one.
My kingdom for a cupola!
We have two sets of louvered doors in one of our (cupola-less) outbuildings, so now, I have dreams and plans for an upcycled cupola of our very own.
Practical Man is on the case. So far, he’s going along with putting a cupola on the workshop building.
That’s how you get to 20 years of wedded bliss, dontcha know.
But, I’m not sure I’m allowed to go back to Vermont.
I’m a wannabe.
Olympian, that is.
Because I’ll never, ever get there.
Case in point: I’m 2.3 times the age of most Olympians.
Not only that but, I cut myself getting dressed this morning.
I know not how.
I just know that I finished the process of swaddling myself in soft fabrics today, with cuts on my left thumb.
There was blood and stinging and everything!
You can see why the Olympics are definitely out.
I’d probably strangle myself with my skis.
But, I watch with enthusiasm.
And chocolate, of course.I am slightly frustrated though. We live in a rural area that has limited internet so we can’t stream anything. Therefore, when we turn the TV on, what we see is what we get.
Even though we have channels that span the country.
In my case, what I see always seems to be CURLING.
From Halifax to BC, that’s all there is: curling, curling, curling.
I am not a fan.
I know it’s practically anti-Canadian to say this, and it’s not that I don’t admire the incredible precision and skill involved, but all the chitty-chat in the ends and the yelling (HURRY HARD!) annoys me.
If I had spent my whole life training to be the brush-y person and then someone kept yelling at me with instructions, I’d be thinking nasty words in my head.
Worse than the nasty words I think when I find that curling is on AGAIN. The Curling Olympics, it seems like!
“Stop telling me what to do, rock-throwy person,” I would mutter to myself, “I’ve been using this brush-y thing since before you were born.”
Something like that.
Anyhoo, curling is also too slow for a wannabe such as myself.
I prefer the death-defying sports that I could never do.
I, a serious fainter and spinny person, who can’t get even dressed without wounding myself, fancy myself a skeleton athlete, slope-style snowboarder or ski jumper.
I am delusional.
Powered by dark chocolate.
Which is maybe what leads to the next thing I love about the Olympics:
Oh, I know it’s supposed to be all about feats of athleticism and stuff and of course that stuff is really cool but I also notice the costumes (gear/uniforms/whatever) and most fun of all: the Olympic words!
Like: Super G
and Bobsleigh (NOT sled? Enquiring minds wonder why.)
and Twizzles (my personal favourite).
I mean, who doesn’t like to say fun words like that? Even if we have no earthly idea what many of them mean?
You can’t say a word like Twizzle without smiling, can you?
It’s so accessible to us regular folk.
We may not be able to make our bodies twist in those ways, but we might be able to twist our tongues in the shape of a snazzy new word or two.
Do it with me:
Lutz, piece of chocolate.
Piece of chocolate, Twizzle!
It’s so tra-la-la.
Or, should I say:
It’s things like this that make it seem like the Olympics are for everyone to share.
Even someone who can’t put on a skirt without injuring herself.
I am loathe to admit it, but someone I DO. NOT. LIKE. helped me last week.
You could say I was a little desperate.
And, desperate times call for desperate measures, dontcha know.
Like enlisting the aid of someone you REALLY. DON’T. LIKE.
It all started when I decided to retire from my day job, which means that my dental benefits will stop soon.
You know how retirees always seem to say that they’re “so busy” and they have “no idea how they had time for a job, before”?
I figure that’s on account of all the brushing, flossing and swishing. I’m going to be spending a good part of my retirement brushing, flossing and swishing, yessiree.
Don’t want any cavities to crop up.
Cavities are expensive to us pensioners.
Mind you, I’ve only ever had one cavity before. But, I scared the pants off my dentist at the time, because I fainted after I got the filling.
And when I faint, I look dead.
My already low heart rate drops to nearly nothing. My already low blood pressure is non-existent. My skin looks grey/blue. More than usual, I mean.
You may have heard of Heroin Chic. This is Dentist Chic.
It’s a look!
And then, people attempt to stick a tube down my throat.
Totally unnecessary, but I guess when you appear dead, desperate times call for desperate measures.
I woke up just in time, tra-la-la.
My dentist looked grey too, after all the excitement but he’s not half dead like me, so no one tried to stick a tube down his throat.
My dentist is retired now. Recovering from the trauma of doing my filling, perhaps. Probably brushing, flossing and swishing. Not to mention golfing, cruising, and travelling (him, not me).
Cavities aren’t great for pensioners but I suspect that they are quite good to former dentists.
Now, I have a new dentist. He graduated two minutes ago.
I have reached THAT age.
Even though I’m retiring nearly 20 years early.
And, horror of horrors, I failed my dental exam.
I had to get two tiny cavities fixed.
On account of the impending loss of my dental plan, the new dentist said I should get them done now, instead of waiting for them to grow up into real cavities.
I wanted to ask him if I should wait for him to grow up into a real dentist, but he had a needle in his hand, so I kept my cavity-filled mouth shut.
Plus, I only have so much time for dental visits, what with all the brushing, flossing and swishing in retirement, you know. Best to get baby cavities taken care of, now, by the baby dentist.
During the filling, he was very patient and kind with high-maintenance me.
He was very slow to tip the chair back, lest I get my spinny vertigo.
He checked in with me frequently about how I was feeling, lest the “I look dead” fainting was overtaking me.
I didn’t faint, but I’m not too proud to admit that I had to use all my evasive maneuvers to prevent it.
And also, one I AM ashamed to admit.
Keep in mind that I can faint while cooking pancakes. I can faint while I’m sleeping. I take daily medication which mostly helps but not completely.
I’m such a joy to Practical Man.
He never complains. He’s my Mr. Darcy.
I’m not the least bit afraid of the dentist or pain or fillings. And my new dentist, like my former one, is really wonderful. It’s not his fault that he makes me feel like his mother.
But, my body is a big ol’ drama queen. The slightest hint of adrenaline and it tells my nervous system to go to DEFCON 5.
So, I ate a big, salty lunch and drank a bunch of water before Practical Man escorted me to my appointment.
I crossed and uncrossed my legs in the chair, trying to pump the blood back to my heart and brain.
I flexed my ankles back and forth and back and forth.
I huffed, like a woman in labour, to push my diaphragm so my blood pressure would go up.
I tried to concentrate on the Fixer Upper episode that was on HGTV on my in-flight TV (dental offices have gotten quite fancy, I’m telling you.)
Nothing was working.
I could feel my heart rate dropping into the Zombie Zone.
There was a loud buzzing in my ears (and it wasn’t the drill).
I was losing my vision (and not just the age-related kind).
And, I was already lying down (the usual advice from onlookers).
Desperate times call for desperate measures.
So, I did it.
I called on the one person I know who can raise my blood pressure.
The person who I find to be an unfortunately extremely visible and powerful, despicable human being.
I thought about HIM.
Not the Harry Potter one.
The Apprentice one. The can’t-say-anything-nice-or be remotely tolerant-or-empathetic one.
Lest you think I’m just picking on a politician, my distaste for him pre-dates his current role by decades.
I chanted his name over and over in my head.
Almost immediately, I felt my blood start to boil (or at least, get lukewarm, being half dead as I am).
The point is, it worked.
I didn’t faint.
But now, I need an exorcist.
Who knew retirement was going to cost so much?
In case you haven’t figured it out by now…
I’m a weirdo.
Weird–for reasons too numerous to count–when we are not on Daylight Savings Time anymore. We’re losing daylight with every turn of the calendar, my friends. Focus on the precious hours of sunlight and stoke up those sunshine cells while you can!
Today, the weirdness refers to the fact that I’m nearing 50 years old and I still have a living grandparent.
She turned 91 yesterday.
Happy 91st birthday, Grandma Verna!
91 going on 61.
She’s always been my Movie Star Grandma, but I didn’t officially think of her that way until my friend, Corvette, pointed it out.
My wedding to Practical Man was the first time Corvette had ever met my Grandma Verna. This is what Grandma looked like on our wedding day:
Doesn’t she look like what Princess Diana might have looked like, had she been able to reach a luxurious age and attend our wedding?
No disrespect to the late Princess, but who needs Diana when you have our Grandma Verna? You can sort of understand why Corvette gave her the Movie Star moniker.
That would make me the Movie Star’s granddaughter, tra-la-la.
I think I skipped the Glamour gene, so I’ll take my glamour by association, yes indeedy.
Grandma’s 91 now, but she seems 61 and she’s full of sass.
She drives all her friends around in her immaculate car.
She passes her driver’s test every two years and to my knowledge, she’s never left the right blinker on for miles and miles on the highway.
She celebrates Happy Hour with some red wine, most days, along with one friend or another and they giggle like a pair of 13 year olds.
She has a great giggle.
It’s hard to catch it in a photo, though. She hates getting her picture taken so you have to sneak up on her all Secret Agent-like.
She lives, alone, in a lovely, lake view apartment (NOT a senior’s residence, retirement villa, or old-age anything).
I covet her apartment and fabulous style.
Isn’t that written somewhere, “Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Grandmother’s Apartment and Fabulous Style?”‘
She does all her own banking and noticed recently that there was $3.76 missing from one of her accounts and boy, was there (rightly so) a hulabaloo at the financial institution that day!
“Most seniors wouldn’t even notice that they were being ripped off,” she told me, “I have to stick up for all of us.”
She’s kind of the Ever-Ready Bunny of Grandmothers, our Grandma Verna, that is, if the Ever-ready Bunny was WA-A-A-A-A-Y more stylish and had red patent ankle boots and a matching scarf.
These boots are made for Grandma, make no mistake.
Except, instead of batteries like the Ever-Ready Bunny, Grandma runs on swimming and one hour of her daily “stories” on TV.
Many of my friend have parents in their 80s or 90s, so having a grandmother who buys the same shoes as you do, is a little unusual.
Hence, the weirdness.
Even weirder: I had four grandparents and a great-grandmother and a great-grandfather, until I was in my 20s.
I even had a great-GREAT grandmother, until I was 11.
She was my grandpa’s grandmother! How weird is that?
Also, very lucky, dontcha know. Those of us with grandparents really are the luckiest people.
But, Grandma Verna suddenly had a medical incident this week.
No sparkly dresses in sight, like the one she was wearing last year on her 90th:
It could have been a lot worse and we’re hoping she’ll make a full recovery.
She’s out of the hospital, after only 2 days, and recuperating at my parent’s house.
She’s doing the crossword puzzle in the paper and reading all the birthday cards she’s been getting, for days.
But, she fainted this week so she’s a little unsteady and using a walker to get from room to room, at the moment. She’s sleeping a lot and tires very easily.
Sounds a lot like me, in fact.
She’s a little less Snazz and a little more Snooze.
Definitely, like me.
Not that this will last forever, but suddenly, she seems closer to 91 than 61.
That’s perfectly normal, of course, after an illness.
Just weird, for her.
So, now we’re both weirdos.
Get well, Grandma.
I hope we get to be weird together, for a long time to come.