Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Ugly Sweater Day

It's becoming quite popular. People gather to show off the ghastly sweaters their inlaws gave them for Christmas. This week, we had an Ugly Sweater Day at our newspaper. The winner would receive a couple of movie passes.

I thought I had it nailed until I flashed my neighbour and she said, "It's cute!" I said I'd wear it to her place on Christmas day if she thinks it's so cute.

When I got to work, I discovered another employee had chosen the exact same sweater, so we cancelled each other out. We made nice bookends, however, in the staff photo.

I suppose, like query letters, Christmas Sweaters are subjective.

Happy ChristmaHannaKwansika!

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Dear Santa, I want a plot for Christmas...

In the meantime, here's a little gift to my friends. This recipe has been a hit every single time. It's easy, universal, and festive:

Chumplet's Apple Cheeseball


1 package cream cheese

1 - 1 1/2 cups finely shredded sharp Cheddar cheese (white if you can get it)

Paprika (preferably smoked, but Spanish will do - fresh and red!)

A cinnamon stick

1 or 2 bay leaves

Worchestershire sauce or hot sauce (optional)

Garlic powder or ground spices (optional)

Mix the two cheeses, the sauce if you've got it (and any little savoury spices you like) together with your hands until well mixed.

Form it into a ball about 3 or 4 inches around, and shape like an apple, with a little dimple at the top. Use plastic wrap if you think it's too messy.

Roll the ball in the paprika until nicely coated and red. You can brush off any excess.

Stick a cinnamon stick in the top to represent the apple stem, and a bay leaf or two to represent apple leaves.
Put it on a small plate, surrounded with crackers, pita pieces or those little toasty slices with a nice knife. The first person to cut a chunk out will make it look like someone's taken a bite out of the apple!

My friends claim I came up with this recipe, modified from some other cheeseball, but I probably got it from a magazine. My friend Debbie asked for the recipe, and when she made it for family it was an instant hit. She passed it on to her daughter, who got the attention of her college dean's wife. Debbie appreciated the contribution so much she gave me that cute little leaf-shaped plate to put my apple on.


Oh.... and Merry Christmas if I don't check in before the Big Day. Busy, busy!

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

My Own Personal Marley

His name was Jesse. Jesse James. When we gave the moniker to that ten week old, wiggly Golden retriever with a couple dozen bald spots, we had no idea how he'd live up to his name.

My friend Mariella gave me a tip that her veterinarian was giving away a purebred Golden retriever. Gratis! His owners apparently gave him up because of his recurrent skin infection. They left the pup with the vet on the condition that anyone who adopted him should neuter him to prevent passing on whatever gene had caused his mysterious skin condition.

I, the stupid one with two preschoolers, jumped at the chance to take this unsocialized, un-housetrained ball of half-shaved fluff into my home in the dead of winter.

The vet gave Jesse his shots free of charge but I'd have to pay for the neutering when the time came. He also provided the first round of antibiotics Jesse would require to keep his skin from erupting into countless little volcanoes of ickiness. I'd have to pay for any subsequent prescriptions.

No matter. He was sooooo cute! Sure, he had bald patches all over his body, but he had real potential. His big brown eyes followed me everywhere. He crawled all over the kids with adoring glee. He pissed on the floor with reckless abandon. (There were also a few other emissions due to an allergic reaction to his inoculations, but we took care of that with some Pepto Bismol.)

He grew quickly. He was American bred, with a rangy physique and a dark red coat, unlike the boxy and blond Canadian Goldens. By spring he was already 90 pounds and well on the way to being an Alpha male. When I took him to the vet, I needed my hands free to root around in my purse so I hooked his leash around my ankle. He took the opportunity to vault after a cat and I flipped in the air and landed on my ass. I could almost hear the cartoony thweep and

He became adept at depositing humans on their butts. One day I allowed my brother to fetch Jesse from his dog run in the back yard. Buddy opened the gate and I glanced away for a moment. When I looked back, Jesse had my brother pinned to the ground and was in the process of giving him sloppy kisses.

Jesse didn't eat us out of house and home - he ate the house and home. He ate the wooden kitchen cupboard handles, the linoleum flooring, the wallpaper and a good chunk of paneling on the back porch. I got pretty good at using wood filler and matching paint. He even ate a tent that had been left pitched in the back yard. Well, not the whole tent. He shredded it into unrecognizable bits.

He knocked over the kids and then he happily gummed them, reducing them to giggles. His skin medication was more expensive than groceries. The only bright spots were his impeccable manners while on the leash during walks. He sat down at every intersection, came when he was called, and didn't pull.

Still, I finally cried "Uncle" and put notices up in the local pet stores. A nice older couple with teenage sons and a fenced yard came over and took Jesse for a spin around the block. I asked a hundred dollars as reimbursement for his neutering costs, and they complied. Jesse cheerfully accompanied them home.

He was just across town. I often felt the urge to visit him, but stopped myself. No, he had a new family now. Sometimes I heard a familiar bark and thought it was Jesse.

My brother has a new dog. He looks exactly like Jesse and he's just as goofy. His name is Homer. Go figure.

Image: My painting of the day Jesse left to meet his new owners. He was looking out the front window as if he knew his future.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Big Fish

One of my favourite movies (I should get the book) is Big Fish, a story about a son who has issues with his father's tall tales. He couldn't take his dad seriously throughout life, and near the end finds out the true value of a good storyteller, whether the stories are exaggerated or not.

Memoir writers draw from their own experiences to write their books. Maybe they keep journals, or some might have superior memories. Some of them have great stories to tell, like John Elder Robison's Look Me In The Eye. Others exaggerate and pass off their lies as truth.

Not all of us have spectacular lives to draw from, so we use our memories as building blocks to create fiction. A memoir can be a simple account of an interesting life, or jazzed up with dialogue and incredible detail.

How accurate can we possibly be if we are writing a memoir? While some authors can recall past experiences with crystal clarity, I have a hard time remembering what I ate for dinner last night. I guess that's why I'd rather use mere snapshots of my life as a resource for my fiction. That way, I can embellish to my heart's content. Within reason, of course.

How big is your fish?

Image: Ridley likes fishing shows and hockey.