Monday, December 29, 2008

Talk Amongst Yourselves

I'm still here....just busy drinking Screech and eating chocolate and playing with my new iPod. I'd show you a picture of it but I can't find the camera among all the empty eggnog cups.

I hope all your Christmasses were very merry, and that your New Years' will be happy ones...I will be back then-ish...I have a post planned for, I don't know, maybe Epiphany?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

It's comin' outta your hide, missy.

My favourite ornament, my beautiful bronze-coloured glass acorn, dropped by my four year old. 'Tis the season to forgive and forget, but I admit I am bearing a slight grudge in my heart of hearts.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Read 'em and eat.

Erudite Mondays at HalfSoled Boots
(Whassamatter, don't you know what day it is?)
Volume 7, Number 2, 3, and 4

Twas the week before Christmas and all through the kitchen
I was cooking and baking and moanin' and bitchin'

Oh, wait......I think somebody already wrote that poem.

Today I'm showing you three cookbooks I love. 'Tis the season for rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands floury, lads, so you should take a look at these.

First off is The Gingerbread Architect. FANTASTIC book for us gingerbread divas...even though this year it looks like I'll be reading about it more than actually doing it. Time, unlike my to-do list, grows short.

The Gingerbread Architect is a collaboration between a pastry chef and an architect, who present twelve designs for awe-inspiring gingerbread houses. The designs are all based on American architecture, and each includes a set of blueprints and exhaustive directions. There is an Antebellum Plantation house, a Cape Cod house, a Tudor Revival house, and my personal favourite, the Urban Brownstone. (It reminds me of Lizbon.)

The authors give all kinds of interesting tips on gingerbread house construction, from tinting the mortar icing brown (HOW COME I DIDN'T THINK OF THAT) to how to light your house from the inside. Get an eyeful of these photos, and if you have a gingerbread artist in your family, think about this book for a Christmas gift.

It's my photograph, not the book's, that is askew.

Next up: The Complete Canadian Living Baking Book. The author, Elizabeth Baird, is the no-nonsense Granny (or maybe mother-in-law) of every single Canadian. She urges you to try your hand at yeast bread, braiding a festive challah, weaving a lattice-top pie crust, and complicated pastries. She breezily states that Canadians are the best home bakers in the world - and makes a pretty good case for it, too - and I can imagine her waving a dismissive hand at anyone who tries to claim that, say, the Scandinavians are also very good.

Elizabeth Baird is the fondly stern Granny of my heart, for sure. She makes me want to grab her and kiss her on the top of her head, just to show her that I'm taller than she is. She's smack me one, though - she's feisty.

Mwah! Mwah mwah!!

The one thing about this book that is quite hilarious is the advice she includes, such as, in regard to Turtle Bars, "'s hard to stop at one, but you must." Then there's this finger-shake, "a small piece of this is totally satisfying". One wonders whether Elizabeth Baird is a little too concerned that we watch our figures. On another page, though, she says "don't deprive yourself of whipped cream on this cake", so I guess she loves us after all.

I want Granny to make this Plum Sour Cream Kuchen for me.

I think that if you wanted to teach yourself how to bake, or simply needed to improve your skills with an oven, you could do no better than to get this book. I'm so glad I have it, if only because it is completely stuffed with recipes, and with this one acquisition I have probably multiplied my recipe collection by about forty times. I've been thinking it over, and I believe Nigella Lawson's How to be a Domestic Goddess is the only baking book I value more...I'm so sorry, Granny....please don't hit me.

Which brings me to Nigella's new Christmas book. A thing of beauty is a joy forever, they tell me, and this book is a case in point. Nobody but me has even been allowed to look through it since I got it. I haven't finished feasting my eyes on the beautiful pictures yet, never mind the wry, fondly-written text and the mouth-watering recipes.

Maple Cheesecake, people, MAPLE FREAKING CHEESECAKE.

Nigella is the Elizabeth Zimmermann of cooking. She is with you in spirit, leaning over your shoulder and pointing out things in her book, or in your food, or in your life in general, that you might have overlooked. Her style of writing is charmingly conversational and utterly appealing. She is my favourite cookbook author by far, partly because one can read her books from cover to cover as if they were fiction or, more accurately, a letter from a friend. It makes it so easy to remember what's in her books, as well as making it much more likely that I'll try a recipe when she has chatted me up about it.

Mince pies - haute cuisine, only appreciated by the truly haute. Such as myself.

As to Christmas, Nigella's philosophy is that a certain amount of fuss and bother is necessary and inevitable for us to feel that a celebration is taking place, at all. She does give heaps of advice on practical things like timetables though, to minimize the Christmas kitchen-angst.

See the caption on the mug?

Generally speaking, her approach to food is unfussy and prosaic, very taste-based - I find her recipes fairly reliable. The cakes I don't care for, being a North American - British cakes tend to be dry for my taste. Everything else, though - very keen. I can particularly recommend her glorious roast potato recipe, which involves goose fat and butter and is what the angels eat cold out of heaven's fridge.

Oh roast potatoes how I love thee.

Nigella Christmas is a lovely book. It is packed with good advice and chatty writing, and also looks great on my coffee table. It has joined Domestic Goddess, Feast, and Nigella Express on the bookshelf, and is a wonderful addition to my collection.

Now I'm hungry, so I'm going to go bake something. After all - we Canadians are good at that.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


I didn't have such a great day yesterday, after putting up that post. First, my friend came over in the afternoon and said gravely "I read your blog."

"The one about the rat?"

"Uh huh. Y'know that U-cut guy? [pause] That's my dad."

A few hours later Mr HSB came home from work and we had a little talk about loyalty, and perspective.

So let me lay it all out, here. There's a word for the little events that happen in my life, what strikes me funny, and what strikes me irritating - material. I may or may not choose to use it, but it's all there for me.

Authorship works like this. The event happens, I process it, and I relate it. Then you comment. The incident itself is A, the story I tell is Y, and the comments are Z. The processing is what takes it from B to X, and by the time it gets there, the event itself may or may not be recognizable. For example, U-Cut Tree Dude, while sticking to his price, was completely friendly and not mean or rude. And Mr HalfSoledBoots is not supposed to handle things like litter boxes, or rodents, or dead things. There are health issues around his transplant. But doesn't the other way make a better story? Yes. Absolutely.

A little poll.

I can understand that some people might like a warning before they appear in glorious technicolor on Half Soled Boots. So, for anyone still looking for the perfect present for Shan, may I suggest this?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Let's see what Google Adsense does with THIS.

--Caution: bad language, graphic violence, and mature themes. --

Today was tree day, only Mr Half Soled Boots was feeling a bit unwell, so I ended up taking the kids out to the U-Cut by myself. I took the dog too, for some reason, and ended up dealing with a steaming pile in the middle of the tree lot. Luckily I was carrying a J-Cloth in my pocket and they had a very handy utility ditch running along the edge of the acreage, between their property and the next. You do what you have to do and if it's not in a garbage can, at least it's not either in my coat pocket, or stuck to anyone's shoe.

After 35 minutes trudging around trying to picture all these trees, individually, in my living room, I found a lovely Grand Fir, not too bushy and not too tall. I like my trees to be natural-looking, rather than overly cultured. We marked it with the ribbon provided, and I went back up to the house to get the saw.

At the house I saw a sign that the Douglas Firs were $25, but the Grand Firs were $30. I had exactly $26 in my pocket, but I'm friendly and nice and I'm lugging two cute little girls and an adorable dog, so I liked my chances. I said to Tree Dude, "I found a Grand Fir that'll be perfect, but I didn't realise they were more and I have $26 in my pocket." He ruminated, admired Piper, and then said to me "You can just go get more money and come back for the tree later."

I agreed cordially, put the kids in the car, and drove 500 meters to the garden centre where they had already done the cutting for me and also they take Interac. Scroogy U-Cut Tree Dude can stick his Grand Fir, far as it'll go. Talk about putting the X back in Christmas - he made me wish I hadn't bothered with that utility ditch at all.

So I bought a Doug Fir, lifted it onto the car, tied it down, and drove home. Then I untied it, carried it into the house, checked the height and realised it needed to be about 10 inches shorter. At this point Mr HSB was leaning against the living room wall, drinking coffee and watching me. He remarked, "You'll need to cut that off. You should use the reciprocating saw, it's out in the shed. I think it still has the long blade on it from the summer."

"Yes. Um....can you do it?"

He looked at me curiously. "Why? I'm cold. And you still have your boots and coat on."


Then he says, "While you're out there, check the trap."

I went out there. It was about -10. I opened the shed and eyed the corner where the trap usually is, and saw this.

I marched back to the house, stood in the doorway and, knowing full well what was coming, announced to Mr HSB, "We got a rat. Want me to deal with it?"

He seemed surprised that I'd ask, and said by way of confirmation, "And try to salvage the trap - it's our last one."

I reached past him and got the camera. He said as I was walking out, "Gonna take a picture of the rat or what?"

"I'm taking pictures," I said, "because the blog is not going to believe what you are making me do." [caution: link is to a yucky dead-rat picture]

I did, after all, manage to salvage the trap. Little Remy didn't bleed at all, so hopefully his cronies will approach the trap without smelling.....well, smelling a rat is what I was going to say.

I reset the thing, trying to be careful, but of course at one point I wiggled the little yellow thing and WHAM. All three fingertips of my right hand. I yelled "OW FUCK" and the only person in the neighbourhood who didn't hear me, apparently, was Mr HSB. He was still calmly sipping coffee in the rocking chair when I slammed back into the house and strode to the bathroom, shouting "WHEN MY FINGERS THAW THAT IS GOING TO HURT SO BAD." He had the decency to follow me in there and look concerned as I disinfected my rapidly swelling hand, as if that makes up for everything else. I was so angry I took a self-portrait so you can see my mad eyebrows. I think I wore this expression for over an hour, judging by the lactic acid buildup in my forehead and cheeks.

And it all just makes me wonder, how much is a sex change operation anyway? Because I might as well get on with it, the hard part's done - all that's left is acquiring the ACTUAL parts and I will officially become what I apparently already am: a man.

Though if I'm a man, I am maybe one of these men, because I can deck a mean hall.

And what does it mean that I am now identifying myself as a gay man trapped in a woman's body? Maybe I should save myself the cost of the surgery and all those pesky drugs and just leave things as they are, if the alternative is going through all that hassle just to be essentially the same as I am now, in charge of all the unpleasant tasks, and sleeping with guys.


Hi Mum!

Now I'm having a bit of down time after the rather annoying day. Tomorrow there's this sort of party I've been invited to, for mums and kids, at 9.30 in the morning, so hopefully I'm not too hung over with all the rum and eggnog I'm imbibing at this moment while admiring my glorious Douglas Fir and cradling my former hand in my lap.

At least I can still type.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Post something. ANYTHING.

The Advent calendar is done. I haven't put the numbers on yet though - too busy. I just pinned them to a crocheted chain and hung them up. After Christmas, when I'm taking everything down, I'll decide on a nice arrangement, pin them in order, then do the numbers.

It's snowing outside - first of the year. Just last night I finally remembered to stop at the kids' consignment place and buy the snowsuit I had picked out for Charlotte. I never did manage to get a sled though, which is too bad because once the snow falls people remember they need them, and sleds become impossible to find.

The kids have just spotted the snow falling, so they are clamouring to bake something. I have to go clear up the kitchen and make room for gingerbread rolling.

Monday, December 08, 2008

No harm in trying.

To all you people who are obligated to buy me a Christmas present:

I would really like to have a DVD of the Muppet Christmas Carol.

Thank you.
PS: Good luck in Vancouver, Renee. I'll be thinking of you.

Saturday, December 06, 2008


I'm issuing a formal apology for the ads now appearing on this site, which are touting "No More Pub!c Hair EVER". It all comes of talking about waxing strips - I won't do it again.

Unless, y'know, it looks like something you might be interested in, in which case click away.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Good evening, Renée. Are you in any pain?

I started Christmas cleaning today, and the whole tragic farce reminded me of the rigorous grooming we girls undertake before the first swim every summer: there's a lot of catching up to do. I go through vacuum bags in December at approximately the same rate as I go through waxing strips in July.

I made a chai latte yesterday, and Em wanted some, so we went to the buffet to choose a demitasse cup for her. AND FOUND THIS.

Care for a close-up?

No sign of any other disturbance, and no one has opened this cabinet in like a month. It's a complete mystery to me, though I suspect that my friend, who deeply covets this cabinet, has put a hex on it so it spontaneously smashes my china at random intervals. She's trying to get me to give it to her and tells me that the hutch will not be happy until it finds its rightful home. I'm thinking of knitting one of these with curly black hair - see how she likes it when I run a few red-hot needles into her little woolly gullet.

Piper is nine months old now. Mr HSBoots happened to read the contract we signed when we bought him, and apparently we promised to neuter him by 7 months of age. But with Christmas coming up and the trip we just took but haven't yet paid for, I'm eyeing up that rubber mallet and Xacto knife. Or I suppose I could just tie 'em off with one of these ouchless elastics that keep clogging up my beater bar.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Late as usual

We're back from the States, and what a surreal experience American Thanksgiving is. I felt all disoriented, with Christmas decorations and turkey and whatnot, and it not even December. Never mind Black Friday, which we observed sum, lots of people, long lineups, mediocre deals. Maybe I went to the wrong stores but I don't think 50% off is worth getting out of bed at whatever ungodly hour some of these people turned up. I was hoping for bins full of $15 iPods but they were nowhere to be found. I was also wondering whether I'd see someone get trampled to death, which is not unheard of on Black Friday, but on the whole the crowd seemed orderly enough. And people in Puyallup are very friendly - they chat to you in line-ups.

It was so great to see my family though, and to hang out with everybody for a few days. Much fun was had by all, and so was much beer and rich food. Plus, I got to meet another blogger, my brother's friend KingJaymz. He and his wife came from Portland for Thanksgiving and it turns out QueenJaymz is what is known as a Dark Horse - doesn't say much, except "ante up" and "high flush" and "Shannon, if you're out of chips you can have some of mine." My butt still hurts from the (metaphorical) spanking I got from her.

Thanks, everyone, for your comments on my last post and for pointing out that I missed a few holidays in my "holidays" definition - it was very WASP of me to leave them out. I will amend all my, um, "holiday" cards to read "Merry Chrismukkahkwanzaadanstice"*.

We got home last night, and I spent an hour putting together this Advent calendar I bought last year at Munro's. I had put it away and forgotten about it for a year, and even though it was a couple of days late I was compelled to see it completed. It's a little punch-out paper Weihnachtsmarkt where the numbered trees and buildings open so you can put treats inside. Excuse the blurry photo. It seemed fine while I was taking it...

And the hat and mitten Advent calendar would be finished except I lost a hat or two. They'll turn up as soon as I bind off their replacements, I know.

I finished the Cross-Country Chullo and will provide pictures once it is blocked. It was a fun little knit, didn't take long and turned out nicely.

Amy and Mark, I had a great time at your house. Thank you so much for your hospitality and, Amy, thanks for contributing two mittens to the cause.


* "Chrismukkahkwanzaadanstice" - Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, Solstice. I'm sure I'm still forgetting some.