Sunday, December 17, 2017

Winter Coat

A few years ago Charise gave me a white hooded coat which I have worn everywhere.

I would not have purchased this coat.

I have worries about spills and stains.

It is a no brainer that white is not a practical colour.

 But it was a gift and soon I was wearing it everywhere, and washing it when needed.

This is the coat I brought with me to Montreal, minus the hood. 

I was only staying three weeks. Catherine and Eric have made the welcome so warm, I have been here half of October and won’t return until January 9th. I need that hood.

I am outside often, walking Hebe home from school or going in and out of the subway 2 to 6 times a day. Hanging onto the banisters as I climb double flights of stairs, leaning my arms on well used chairs, brushing against the turnstile, leaning aginst the Opus card on the electrical reader, having the hem of my coat drag on the floor (as I sit on the chairs of the bus), all of this is as I am showing its toll. Still, I have no idea why dirt has climbed from the ring around my coat sleeve, up the inner seam of the coat and to the armhole seam.

Last night I was applying Naptha (the purest of soaps) to the long zipper, both sides of the coat, wondering if my knuckles could take the rubs that my mother used to use on a washboard.

This morning the coat looks as white as pristine as fallen snow and more clothing is in the wash, though a new crisis has arisen.

Eric and Catherine are on cleaning duty at the church. Catie, Rebecca and Thomas have gone to help someone paint their house. Hebe and I are alone. Alone and now the electricity has gone out. There was enough noise about it upstairs that I thought someone else had come home. But no. Hebe was working out her consternation at having the Gods of Electrical Power trump her happiness on the computer. She listened to me explain why I am powerless to get the electricity back.

Having her at the screen this morning was a joy for she was asking how to spell words that come up in games. I am going to make flash cards for those words – the words that lead to happiness when there is power. And these will be words she really needs to know (pirate and formal – she also needs to know what the word means, which is even more to the good).

Being home alone with her is fun. She is so mad about the power being out that I have once again become the dumbest grandmother. Hebe has closed the baby gate and shut the door to the basement to keep me contained in this lovely suite downstairs. When I went upstairs to check on her and found that out, I was laughing so hard that I had to lean against the wall. Closing a baby gate to control grandmother!

I am going to respect her boundaries.

Please, please, next time let me stay home from cleaning the church again and watch Hebe.


The PC Deal

At the grocery store, every time a customer buys over $250 worth of groceries they get a receipt -- 12 cents off per litre with a gas fill up. It is easy to run up a grocery bill over $250 with a family of 7.

And still come home and think you haven’t bought much to eat.

In fact Catherine doesn’t drive her car enough to make the fill ups equal the number of receipts she has beside her in the driver’s seat.

 I asked what she does with all of them.

She said that when she fills up her car, she takes her extra receipts and runs backward in the car line up, giving them to people who have lined up behind her.

That made me laugh very hard.

So me.


Kitchen Aid - an early gift

... a gift just for me ...
Catherine asked me what I wanted for Christmas.

I told her I wanted a heavy duty mix master, one that I could leave at her place and use when I visit her.

She let me pick it out. It is a Professional Series 5 Kitchen Aid. Making bread is going to be easier now.

I have only done dry runs with the machine, unpacking it, figuring out how to attach the beaters and how to move the bowl up and down.

I am making a list now of what I can make in the mix master. I want to get the price down to $1 per use before I leave here next month. I don’t really think I can make 300 items in the next 21 days, but at least I have set a goal.

Having the electricity black-out really hurt on Saturday. At least our family wasn’t cooking one of the turkeys for the ward party. Hebe’s two brothers came over to the house to hang out with Hebe on Saturday afternoon and then they went with us to join the festivities at the church. When they arrived at the house, one of them pulled out the pinball machine. The other took the Thomas the Train set and built tracks and bridges all over the large entrance and tracks that circled into the front room.

Then the daylight faded and the house was in the dark as we waited to go over to the church. Eric hadn’t been around all day to watch the boys at play. When he came in from work the house was dark and he tried to walk through those two rooms which were now booby-trapped with toys. I have to give Eric credit. He did not curse when he stepped on the wooden train tracks. I cannot remember what it was he said except I remember thinking, oh, so those are the words people use when they are stumbling and surprised.

 I wish I had that control.


Christmas Music Surrounds Us

 ... title page of Handel's
autographed score ...
From Rebecca:

 I put on the Messiah this morning, thinking, “hmm… what are my favourite 3 or 4 pieces here?” since I have asked that question of others.

I had only got through the overture, and into the first few refrains of “Comfort ye”, and the tears were sliding down my cheeks.

I had the flashback I often have to sitting at church in the Bow Valley Chapel (on our usual front pew location) beside Arta (I am sure I was not yet 10) and listening to someone do a song from the Messiah.

I could see tears slipping down her cheeks, and couldn’t figure out why: the song was not all that impressive to me….

Makes total sense now.

Never sure what part of it is in the words, or the music, or the past, or experiences of life, or of memories of singing with others, or all the various efforts to somehow capture the feeling of the ineffable, or thinking about the processes of composition, of all the hard work of “making” things in the world, or of performing them?


Friday, December 15, 2017

On Making Chocolate-Chip Cookies

Rebecca Jarvis wanted to take home made chocolate chip cookies to her volleyball party.

She laid down for a nap this afternoon and when she woke up, she thought it was already the day after the party.

 She self-corrected on that notion and came downstairs to make the cookies, but leaving the cooking close -- a couple of hours before her event was to begin.

Everything was going well. Well, perhaps maybe not that well. Catherine’s plastic 3-cup measuring cup has gone through the dishwasher so many times that the detergent has eaten away the red measuring lines on the cup. That is problematic for a new cook in the kitchen

And when measuring ½ a cup in a one cup metal container Rebecca and I had to figure out which ½ of the cup was the one we would really want to take.  I thought what we really wanted was just a 1/2 cup measuring unit, but there was not one to be found.

We couldn't get this outside fast enough!
At any rate, the butter and brown sugar got creamed, the flour and chocolate chips were added to the batter and we got the parchment paper on the cookie trays.

As she was working, Thomas came into the kitchen to make macaroni.

Catie arrived next to warm up last night’s birthday dinner. 

Catherine hadn’t eaten all day and she put her Arctic char in the microwave.

Five adults now squeezed in the same kitchen, all on different food-making agendas.

Catherine was doing double duty with Hebe, giving her a bath and at the same time noticing that the water in the bathroom was backing up.

 So she began to take out the drain and try to get the water running again, to no avail.

 It was just one of those days when unplanned for events started piling up.

I am still soaking the plate in our
favourite cleaner, trying to save
it, but I think it is headed for 
the recycling garbage.
Rebecca and I were working on a tight schedule.

We baked the chocolate chip cookies and then put them outside to cool, one of us standing guard at the window so that the squirrels didn’t take them away, and the other one of us timing the batches of cookies still in the oven.

 I was multi-tasking kitchen clean up as well, doing dishes at the same time and I wondered what the putrid burning smell was. I checked the cookies in the oven and all looked well. I wondered if the stove top had been turned on accidentally and nothing seemed to be wrong there. When Rebecca came back into the room I confirmed with her that something smelled like it was on fire. That is the moment when we noticed that instead of pressing the button on the microwave to start the timer, that the cook cycle was on instead.

When we opened the microwave, the top of the plastic food cover was melted and the size of the hole was about fist size. We could not tell what was on the plate under it, except that it was a blackened mess.

“Oh no, my mother’s Arctic char,” gasped Rebecca. “I didn’t mean for that to happen. And she hasn’t eaten all day.”

--now a flat plane of black bubbles ---
At the same moment, Eric called from work, for he was the recipient of the left-over food from an office party and needed a ride home.

As well, he was motion sick and hardly able to complete the day on his feet. The two of them decided to drop off the food at another Christmas party where he was to be Santa Claus but which he could now not attend because of the video he had watched had made him so sick he had to head for bed.

And when he came in the house to go to bed, the smell of the Arctic char, which I shall now call Arctic char-char, was not the most welcoming experience for him.  Nor for the rest of us.  Catherine and I took turns trying to return the house to a fresh air experience.

It is late evening now.

Just another happy Friday night for us at the Jarvis house, although the evening is not over.  Catherine has gone out to shop for Draino, though her own plumber told her not to waste her money on that product -- just use plunger power.

So far, that hasn't worked.



Gibby's Front Gates in Old Montreal
When the valet brought our car to us at the end of the evening,
it was strange to wonder how many horses and carriages had
pulled away from this spot hundreds of years ago.
Eric, Catherine, Catie and I stepped back in time when we entered Gibbys, housed in a magnificent 200-year-old building / stable in Old Montreal.

This was Catie's 18th birthday choice, a charming restaurant that boasts historic stone walls, original beamed ceilings, and a cozy fireplace.

A big yes to excellent food, superb service and a warm atmosphere.

The food was served on pewter dishes or on simple white dishes that were monogrammed with Gibby's logo, the stable gates.

The only down-side of any restaurant experience is the level of the noise.  Yet we leaned in towards each other and carried on a lively conversation of our own.

I told Catie that I could predict ahead of time that her dad would order a drink.  His was cranberry mixed with gingerale, which I could not have predicted.

... before the customers arrive ...
And Catie's drink covered all the pink hues, beginning at the bottom with a dark rose colour and then the colours rising to the top until there was just a gentle pink.  Beautiful.

A good time was had by all.


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Extinguishing Angel - an afterward

I had to do it to myself -- I just had to see The Exterminating Angel.

The New Yorker gives a small review, a review so dense that I had to read it out loud.
Luis Buñuel’s absurdist 1962 film “The Exterminating Angel” skewers the comforts and complacency of the leisure class by forcing a group of guests to endure a never-ending dinner party that slowly drives them mad. Thomas Adès, in his gripping operatic adaptation, turns Buñuel’s quiet, Surrealist satire into a psychological horror show. The music is filled with sinister foreboding, brutalist percussive noise, jagged vocal lines, and fleeting wisps of romance, and Tom Cairns’s production fences in the well-heeled guests with a cold, monumental threshold that’s far removed from Buñuel’s luxurious yet cozy interiors. The singers work together like a crack theatrical ensemble, and Adès conducts the orchestra in a blistering performance.
I had such a good time watching the show.

 A scene from Thomas Adès’s “The Exterminating Angel,”
based on the 1962 Luis Buñuel film,at the Metropolitan Opera.
Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera
I had prepared myself with lots of reviews, but probably not enough of them.

I was telling Eric about what made me laugh in the opera because previous to my seeing it, he had sent me a link to "The Hotel California" and told me that he thought the show was probably a cross between that song and Waiting for Godot.

Eric got the opera without seeing the show.

My biggest laugh came in the script where someone asked why the standards we desire (like having a table formally set with silverware) have dropped.

And the answer to the failed standard was something like, oh, the United States is setting the standard for us now.

Now that is a pretty funny line in an opera.

I would  have prepared 19 other questions and answers if I could have found anyone who wanted to take a quiz after the show for $$$$.

I did get to the theatre a bit early -- maybe 20 minutes.  One man was sitting at the very back and called to me, "I guess it is just you and me today".  I said, "We could go out and have coffee together for the next 10 minutes, but we can just chat here as well".  He told me how wonderful The Met Live performances are but that he usually just goes to New York to see the productions.  He has only seen about three of them in the cinema.  We chatted back and forth until other patrons began to arrive.

The seats were reserved -- I had to pick the exact spot where I wanted to sit.

Because the theatre was empty people were sitting in any spot.

Then someone on my row who had reserved that seat online came and asked them to move.  "Does it really matter when there are so many seats."

"This is the spot I paid for."

"Moving is such an effort when it doesn't really matter," replied the woman in a white puffed coat, stretching her arm out, while pointing to other seats.  The patron who had reserved the seat just stood her ground quietly.

Meanwhile a woman in an ankle length black opera coat was climbing over patrons, one by one, to find her seat.

I thought a Buñuelian absurdist event was shaping up before the movie even started.