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?
Last weekend, I had a day when I wished I were a guy named Larry.
Let me explain.
Years ago, when I had a job working for people with intellectual disabilities, I had two clients named Larry and Ronald.
Those aren’t really their names, of course, because that sort of thing is confidential, but, what you need to know is that Larry and Ronald were brothers, who lived together in a two-bedroom apartment. Their elderly mother had passed away recently and they lived among her many, many possessions, as well as their own and seemed to be managing their bachelor life just fine (other than eating nothing but hamburger patties for 3 meals a day, 7 days a week).
Larry, the younger brother, loved gadgets and machines. He (and his late mother) had collected record players (6) and cameras (they had everything from a Brownie to a Polaroid to a Disc camera to a Nikon SLR) and fans (29), among other things.
Larry liked to take things apart to see the insides of the gubbins and how they worked, so all of his many, many gadgets and machines were in bits and pieces. Larry was better at taking things apart than putting things back together, it seemed.
Anyhoo, to get to my point: one day, their landlord called and said that their apartment was a fire hazard because of all Larry’s and his mother’s junk, not to mention the 29 fans and the evolution of cameras and that we needed to get rid of some stuff pronto, or he would serve an eviction notice.
I hightailed it over to Larry and Ronald’s and began the process of trying to respectfully negotiate the removal of some of their treasures–some to storage, some to charity, some to garbage. These were adult men, after all. They had a right to live among their junk.
Heaven knows, I do.
But, only until the roof over your head is in jeopardy, I figure.
The conversations went something like this:
“Larry, do you think you need 5 vacuums?”
(Larry looked at me with sadness in his eyes.)
“Maybe you don’t need five, Larry. What do you think?”
“Well,” Larry stammered, “I need one.”
(Pause and puppy-dog eyes.)
“And, Ronald needs one.”
(Pause and puppy-dog eyes.)
(Pause and puppy-dog eyes.)
“What if one breaks?”
So, I managed to give away 2 vacuums, leaving Larry and Ronald with 3 vacuums, which is apparently the perfect number for a 2-bedroom apartment and no one who vacuums.
Last weekend, I was wishing I had the foresight of Larry.
I killed the vacuum.
Dead, dead, dead.
And, there were no spares, no sirree.
But, I do live with Practical Man so after explaining how the vacuum had inexplicably, mysteriously perished on my watch after a mere 15 years or so (maybe I shouldn’t vacuum, whot, whot?), he set to work.
In the meantime, I gnashed my teeth about having to spend hundreds of dollars on something as boring as a new vacuum.
While I was grinding off my teeth, Practical Man went about breaking into the vacuum.
There were no screws to remove anything to get at the gubbins inside on account of it’s very vintage to want to re-use and fix things you already own.
Maybe you have wondered at times why I called this blog, “A Vintage Life?”
These are some of the times and the reasons, why.
I mean, seriously, have you ever seen the inside of a vacuum when it wasn’t in Larry’s apartment?
But, in our modern “green” society, practically no one fixes stuff anymore so why would you need to get inside something to look at what might be broken?
Y’know, unless you are Larry or Practical Man?
Practical Man somehow figured out how to break into the vacuum, without…um…breaking it.
I’m not even sure how that happened since it’s 98% plastic.
Crazy, mad, skills, that man has.
He came back from the workshop and announced that the motor was fine, it wasn’t the relay (I nodded and tried to pretend I vaguely recalled something about relays from O-level Physics) and that he figured it was the switch.
I could barely hear him over my gnashing of teeth.
Vacuum shopping – blah, blah, I thought again.
Maybe I could console myself over having to spend hard-earned moulah on a boring vacuum by buying a nice yellow one, I reasoned.
Have I mentioned that I’m the yin to Practical Man’s yang?
Meanwhile, he was looking online for switches but they were expensive and likely imported, meaning more expense and duty and exchange, etc etc.
So, he found an electronics vacuum shop (someone spent hours working on that name, I bet!) And, when we got there, he did something oh-so-vintage and awesome:
He pulled out the wiring schematic he had made for the vacuum:
Isn’t it adorable?
I love science-y people.
So do guys in vacuum repair shops who almost never, ever meet a bona-fide Practical Man.
The guy’s eyes practically fell out of his head when he saw the hand-drawn schematic.
And voila! New switch for $15.
Today, he installed the new switch, fixed something else that also turned out to be broken and the vacuum is now put back together and very much ALIVE.
Also: Not. Thrown. Away.
Also: Not a Boring, Blah Blah Blah Expense.
But, we still only have one.
Not one for Ronald, too.
Not one, in case one breaks.
Thank you, Practical Man.
It’s October, so my Christmas list is well overdue.
Of course it is.
Santa is so demanding.
And, lest you think this is all a tad early, let me inform you that Costco has been Christmas-ing since August, yes indeedy.
There are entire aisles you can Deck the Halls in, wearing your flip-flops (we can’t generally wear flip-flops during the ACTUAL festive season in Canada).
There are buffalo-checked Christmas doo-dahs as far as the eye can see (I try my best to avert my eyes back to the free samples they give out at Costco, which it’s really important to keep one’s eye firmly upon so as not to forget the real reason we shop at Costco).
Practical Man does not approve.
Of the Christmas doo-dahs, I should clarify.
He’s a free-sample fan, though.
What kind of Practical Man would he be if his favourite thing was not anything, preceded by or followed by the word, FREE?
He never eats the free samples – he gives them to me, like some kind of Snack Saint. He doesn’t snack and did I mention that he’s kind of annoying, sometimes?
Lovely, but annoying in a Snack Saint sort of way.
Or, maybe Snack Santa.
But, festive flourishes (even with free snacks for his beloved) before a respectful observance of Remembrance Day (Nov 11)? Now, them’s grounds for grunting and Rick Mercer-esque rants.
I don’t disagree.
It’s only October, merchants! My Hallowe’en costume is barely out of my head and onto the sewing machine, yet.
But, Practical Man still wants my Christmas list early, early, early.
He’s not a huge fan of all the commercialism and forced gifting that comes with the season but, he does like to make someone happy.
“You know that I don’t go in stores after the beginning of November,” he warns in a Bah Humbug sort of voice.
Who cares about that when everyone knows that Santa doesn’t shop in stores? Santa has elves making things in workshops and eating gingerbread, dontcha know. They don’t shop at Costco (unless they are snackers, in which case, who can blame them?)
Ho, ho, ho.
Still, on account of their too early Christmas hullabaloo, I wonder if Costco has been listening to our conversations about overdue Christmas lists? Like a George Orwell, big-brother-is-watching-you kind-of-creepy, Santa?
Oh wait, that’s Siri and Okay Google. Neither of which we use and yet…
I’m feeling spooked.
Which would be fine because it’s nearly Hallowe’en: the season of spookiness.
And what with my distraction about whether my non-Siri/Okay Google devices are listening to my conversations without my permission, it’s a bit difficult for me to think of what I want for Christmas.
Except maybe a vintage, Fisher Price hospital, complete with X-ray machine and working elevator.
Because, every woman in her 40s needs one of those, right?
And peace on earth, wrapped in buffalo check flannel.
Except, not yet.
Because it’s wa-a-a-a-y too early for Christmas-y stuff.
So says Practical Man–and me.
But, not Costco.
There is a type of person who aspires to live in weird places.
Like, a lighthouse, say.
Or, a converted barn.
Yes me, but not just me. There are other weirdos about.
Behold the Tiny House movement.
Naturally, I would love a Tiny House.
Of course, a vintage Boler is really a kind of Tiny House.
Arlo Guthrie memorialized the cool, weird house back in the 1960s with his song, “Alice’s Restaurant” in which Alice, Ray, and Potcho the Dog lived in an old church.
My dad introduced me to the song when I was about 12. As an adult, my friend and fellow Alice’s Restaurant fan, Bamboo Guy, even owned a church that was very swoon-y. Bruce Cockburn lives there now and how cool is that?
I’ve wanted to live in a church ever since.
And, even before.
In fact, my fascination with weird houses manifested itself as a child when, with every snowstorm, I attempted to build a house made from snow.
Unfortunately, I never learned the Inuit tradition of igloos (although I tried to build one many times!)
Usually, it was just me and my sister with shovels and soggy mittens, making a hole in the snow bank at the end of our driveway and trying to pretend that the result was a cozy as a Hobbit house.
In a melty, collapse-on-your-head kind of way.
My mother was concerned (as all Canadian mothers were) that the snowplow driver would kill us, by accident, with all that gallivanting at the street side.
That meant, my other option was an old margarine container in the back yard.
I would pack the snow in the container tightly, then tip it out carefully on the ground.
Sometimes, it was that dumb sugary snow that wouldn’t hold together.
Boo, hoo, hoo.
Other times, it was close to Spring and my “bricks” had a lot of leaves and twigs in the mix.
It marred the pristine, crystalline, margarine beauty I was going for, but I tried to just pretended it was mortar.
I wonder if Frank Lloyd Wright ever had these kinds of issues?
I’d lay out the floor plan: kitchen here, library here, secret passageways there.
My projects always seemed to cover the whole back yard.
Not one able to keep to minimalism even then, no siree.
Which meant that either I got discouraged, or the snow melted before my margarine-tub-formed walls were more than about ankle height.
As an adult, I drag Practical Man around to look at every weird building I can find.
Yesterday’s schoolhouse was very fun.
Built in 1847, it counts as “very old” among buildings in Canada.
It was kind of in the boonies, of course, since that’s where country schoolhouses tend to spring up.
It still had slate chalkboards.
Be still my heart.
There were tin ceilings in what used to be the girl’s and boy’s entrance foyers. Oh yes, they were of a time:
And the original schoolhouse lights (SIX!):
Swoon-y swoon, swoon.
As you may have observed, it even had a bell tower.
Ding, ding, ding!
Minus the bell, but I’m sure we could remedy that.
Alas, it had a bidding war planned for Monday and about 10 years of hard labour involved after purchase.
Boo, hoo, hoo.
One of the things stopping me from buying some of these weird buildings (besides a usefully-practical Practical Man) is their one-room schoolhouse size.
Since we can’t usually afford the life-size ones that don’t have 10 years of hard labour, I’ve been collecting small buildings.
Fisher Price vintage ones.
I’m sure you guessed that’s what I meant, since I have no children and I’m pushing 50.
They do take up a bit of space, as you can imagine.
So far, I have a castle:
an A-frame Cottage:
and perhaps best of all,
the School house:
This Schoolhouse was the perfect price and size.
It even has a bell in the bell tower.