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Searching For That Perfect Outfit

I don’t know if other women, out there in the universe, have problems finding a summer outfit for an outdoor wedding. Maybe I should restate that and specify women under the age of 40. There are a lot of fit, slender, tall females who would have no problems finding their perfect dress, skirt or top. But not every woman, regardless of age, wants a backless, plunging frontage, no sleeves garment. Most of all, I can’t envision any piece of clothing without pockets—not the shallow, fingertip ones or the decorative ones that are really no pocket at all.

One store I went to had a very helpful assistant. She hauled out what she thought would suit my coloring, height and size. The dress was sleeveless, with a front that would best suit a robust chest and a hemline that fell to my ankles. The hemline was suppose to be just below the knees.  Worst of all, there were no pockets.

“There’s no pockets,” I pointed out in a shocked voice.

“My dear, the material is much too delicate to include pockets. And if there were pockets, it would be mainly decorative. Ladies do not carry heavy items in their pockets and so wouldn’t need them.” As an after-thought, she added, “That’s what husbands are for. They have space in their pockets for their wives’ necessities.” Yikes, wait ’til I get home to my Hubby and tell him I need to claim space in his pockets.

I opted out of malls after searching through all the ladies’ wear. I decided to  try the independent boutiques. I still had time as the wedding was only 5 days away.

I enjoy shopping with best friends who need my . . .umm-mm, my discerning eye in giving an honest opinion plus my expertise in spending their money. That translates to a delicious lunch of lively conversation discussing the specifics of the perfect outfit while enjoying our faves in appetizers and desserts. On the other hand, I totally detest shopping for myself, especially with a deadline looming closer. Somehow, all the trendy shops seem to favor the Millennials. What happened to the Baby Boomers and GenX? I wandered into one shop that actually had possibilities. The dresses and tops were not sleeveless. They all had acceptable necklines–not at all scoopy, plunging or barely there. The dresses and skirts had pockets—deep pockets that were meant to be used. There were 4 slender young ladies in their early 20s who could model any of the outfits in the entire store. They were all eager to serve.

“Would you like some assistance in finding something?” said one

“No thank you. I’m just browsing,” I replied. But before long, I had 3 items on my arm and searching the racks for another piece that had caught my eye.

“Would you like me to put your selections in a dressing room for you?” asked another.

“That would be great, thank you,” I murmured, passing over the 5 items I had found.

“Now honey–when you have them on, come on out to show us how fabulous you look,” declared the third salesperson, flashing a sunny smile.

Horrified at this thought, I blurted, “Not going to happen.” And a voice from the next dressing room replied, “Ditto for me!”

In the end, I resorted to Plan B. I searched my own closet and decided on a posh silky culotte skirt with deep pockets and coordinating jacket. Forty-eight hours before the wedding, I bought a complimentary top that tied the whole outfit together. Looking back in a positive light, I decided it wasn’t finding the perfect outfit to wear but losing 5 pounds with the stress of shopping for myself.

I’ll just say one more thing. There was this perfect dress. It had short sleeves, a higher neckline and a fabric that draped well. Unfortunately, I needed to grow at least 5 inches taller and lose 10 pounds. I think the deciding factor was no pockets. This dress was at the wedding. It was worn by a tall, slender brunette and she looked spectacular in it. . . .

 

SUMMER HUGGER-MUGGERS

Summer is often portrayed as a time of family, friends, joy, weddings, barbecues, picnics, sunshine,  liquid spirits plus great food. But no one ever mentions that social gatherings can still include those pesky hugger-muggers. How can I explain my problem with hugger-muggers except to say, “I’m a hugger-mugger magnet?”

Don’t get me wrong. I like hugs and depending on who the “hugger” is, I give back good ones too. But, I only like to exchange hugs with people I know—Hubby, close friends and close relatives. My friend Rachel’s cousin, three times removed, doesn’t count as a close friend even though he is tall, tan and hunky. Marsh is a California life-guard half the time and a night-club bouncer the rest of the time. AND, he is definitely a hugger-mugger.

Hugger-muggers should be labeled as weapons of mass destruction. Seriously, these people should come with a warning tag as they can destroy a social gathering with their exuberant hugs. Marsh’s best friend, Tack—yep, that’s the name he responds to—is Marsh’s physical opposite. Tack is short, slightly rounded and cuddly; a lethal sort of cuddly. As the “hugger,” Tack gives a politically correct and inoffensive hug. Tack, the hugger, then passes along the “huggee” to Marsh, who stands beside him and gives hugs as only hugger-muggers do.

Not all hugger-muggers are alike. Some are grabbers who call it the seasonal salutation. Others are sneaky huggers who come up behind you, profess to know you, then hug and run behind another potential huggee.  At Christmas, these sneak-and-run huggers usually have a sprig of mistletoe handy to use as their excuse.

I don’t attend too many social gatherings but this occasion was the 60th wedding anniversary for former neighbors and good friends. I had Hubby and my visiting cousin, Rick, a certified accountant who looked like a 7-ft. linebacker. Tack and Marsh were there too.

“Hey, there’s a familiar face!” Marsh’s voice came from behind me.

“Hi Marsh,” I replied ducking behind my cousin just as Marsh reached to give me a hug and inadvertently grabbing Rick’s arm.

“Sorry,” Rick growled, “I don’t hug guys.”  Marsh looked up at Rick’s stern face and backed up, stepping on Tack. Tack was about to say something, took one look at “mountain-man” Rick and hastily backed away as well.

Needless to say, Rick was a popular man. The party was a huge success, enjoyable and fun. It was even better when two hugger-muggers left early.  On the way home, Rick commented, “That was a fun party despite the fact that I didn’t know anyone there except for you two. What’s with those two guys we met at the beginning? They didn’t stay long. I thought Marsh and I might have something in common.”

“Rick, you have nothing in common with Marsh except maybe to do his taxes,”  I replied, smiling at the memory of Marsh’s face when he encountered my gentle giant of a cousin.

THE REAL NANAIMO BARS

It always amazes me what sort of things end up on the Canadian stamps. It makes me wonder how I can get myself on the Stamp Committee to decide what should be the next eye-popping theme. The latest series of Canadian stamps to venture forth highlights our “National Desserts.”  I’m not sure who decides that as I never thought one way or the other that we had any particular Canadian desserts. But apparently we do and my province of British Columbia supposedly salutes the “Nanaimo Bar.” I’m not sure I agree with this choice even though these bars have always been around.

Nanaimo Bars were something Grandmas or Moms made and taught to their daughters. It was a dessert that always made an appearance in potlucks, church bazaars, get-togethers and even as a “saved-in-the-freezer-dessert emergency”.   Canadians know exactly how a genuine 3-layer Nanaimo Bar tastes with its base layer of butter, graham-wafer crumbs, cocoa powder and fine coconut base with a firm custard-like middle layer and topped with a slightly thinner layer of dark chocolate. Every family had its own version and every version was supposedly the best.

Nanaimo Bars are probably considered sugar overload and a calorific delight. This 3-layer treat is not a skimpy square. These bars are rich, sweet and hearty. Despite the postal service’s explanation that there are many versions of Nanaimo Bars, the one depicted on the Canadian stamp is not a Nanaimo Bar–it is an impostor. At this moment, there is a Canadian crisis as all the chefs, pastry-makers, grandmas, moms and yes, even politicians make their protests known and flaunt their true version of this delectable treat. This crisis has even caught the attention of the New York Times. Thanks to my friend, Emsch the Mensch of “Notes From the Cupcake Rescue League,” here is an article from the NY Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/22/dining/nanaimo-bars.html    And, if you want to sample this treat in the privacy of your homes, I am including the original recipe below. Just remember we all make our little changes here and there for the base and the filling but the base must be as high as the filling with the melted chocolate topping just a tad thinner. . . .

Nanaimo Bar Recipe:   Bottom Layer:   1/2 cup unsalted butter, 1/4 cup sugar, 5 tbsp. cocoa, 1 egg beaten, 1-1/4 cups graham wafer crumbs, 1/2 c. finely chopped almonds, 1 cup fine coconut.   Melt butter, sugar and cocoa in top of double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Stir in crumbs, coconut and nuts. Press firmly into an ungreased 8″x8″ pan.

2nd Layer:  1/2 cup  unsalted butter, 2 tbsp+ 2 tsp. cream, 2 tbsp. vanilla custard powder, 2 cups icing sugar  Cream butter, cream, custard powder and icing sugar together. Beat until light. Spread over bottom layer

3rd Layer:  4 squares semi-sweet chocolate (1-oz each), 2 tbsp. unsalted butter.  Melt chocolate and butter over low heat. Once cool, but still liquid, pour over second layer.  Chill in refrigerator until firm enough to cut into small squares.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STUFF THAT GIVES YOU NAGGING BRAIN TWINGES. . . . .

It’s amazing how a brain can whirl at warp-speed when you are housebound, snowbound and feeling yuck with a stomach bug. Thank goodness, it all passed for Hubby and I, but I may as well vacuum those silly thoughts right out of my head—so, here goes.

Almonds, cherries, lemons, strawberries, cranberries, blueberries, peaches, plums, avocadoes, pears—I enjoy eating all of these, but have you wandered down the shampoo and hand/body lotion  aisle lately? Suddenly we are smooshing and slathering fruits and veggies in our hair and all over our bodies. When I was a kid, the only scents in our lotions and potions were vanilla or almond.  Now we have a whole salad bar and more. Why would wearing these ingredients be better than eating them?

Life is a constant learning experience and never more so than when we get older. I say this because my grandkids absorb new techie toys and things that gets them to Point A to Point B faster than their grandmother. It’s definitely in their genes—but not in mine.

In one of my recent writing seminars–a cozy class of five–we were asked questions about our writing interests, our goals and what we hoped to achieve by being in her “Marketing and Getting Published” class. As she wrote our answers on the board, we could see the emerging detailed analysis she had compiled on each of us. We were instructed to take a photo of our section of the board for a record of our progress.  Everyone whipped out their electronic notepad and/or Smartphones. I whipped out my senior phone as it had a decent camera. “Oh my,” exclaimed the instructor, “a real flip-top phone!”  Whaa-at?  Was she commenting on my phone?  Yep, she was, but I did get a decent photo and that’s what counted.

I guess the point I’m making is that I have my flip-top for emergencies. I have my basic desktop computer for email, internet access, my Word program, Photoshop and music. It’s very convenient to have a Smartphone with all your internet, email, camera and probably a mini-fridge filled with snacks.  Do I really want this?  Do I want to be bothered at all times on stuff that can wait ’til I get home?  Easy=peasy–that’s a “No.”

I love my car. I love the fact that I can jump into my car and take off. I like the fact that my car takes me anywhere and gets me back.  I absolutely hate it when there’s an alien noise that doesn’t belong. AND, it’s maddening when this infuriating voice at the back of your mind keeps nagging that the alien noise is important.  What’s even more maddening is that when you finally take the car to the experts, aka mechanics—the annoying alien noise has stopped.

Have you ever selected a video that sounds like it would be an exciting movie to sit and watch? Then, when you’re nicely tucked in your comfy chair, something  in the first 15-minutes tickled your memory. You wonder if you’re psychic or maybe  seen this movie before even though the title didn’t ring any bells. Hubby and I have done this a number of times. One of us would comment, “This looks familiar. Did we see this already?” And the other partner would say, “I don’t think so although bits and pieces do sound familiar.” By the time we are half-way through the movie, we decided we had seen it before. The worst of it wasn’t a few years ago, but only a few months ago when we actually saw the movie!  Guess we can blame that one on a senior moment—whatever that is.

Victoria is a city of art, books and food. Honest. I finally went for lunch in a tiny cafe with local art on the brick walls, books and magazines to peruse while enjoying a fantastic home-cooked lunch. Someone was clever enough to merge all of the above in one stop. My only complaint was that no chocolatier took advantage. The warm apple pie with the flaky pastry and generous cinnamon apple filling was superb but chocolate would have made an excellent finish. . . .

As I mentioned at the beginning, when you’re confined, the mind can be a whirling dervish. Hubby and I are both recovered from our alien bugs; the snow has long melted morphing into clear, but cold days and the active mind? I’ll simply say that hopefully, it will be a long time when anymore housebound days occur in this household.  And, if it happens anytime soon, I’m prepared with a pen and notepad, ready to take notes on further random and scattered thoughts. . . . .

 

SPACE

It’s a known and proven fact that “unoccupied space” will be filled and put to use before a person can say “cheezit!” I know.  I have searched for space (takes eons), found it (at long last) and filled it in less time than it takes to peel an apple, eat it and yes, say cheezit at the same time.

I know people who are space gurus. Who’s that, you say? Well, they are creative humans who cleverly maximize small spaces by incorporating fold-away furniture, built-in cabinetry and lots of camouflaged drawers and bins that can hide or hold a heck of a lot of “stuff.”

At one of our previous homes, I made good use of a bedroom that had a narrow alcove by a window. This alcove was just big enough to tuck a sturdy table that held the various pieces of my desktop computer plus a small bin that held pens, stapler, paperclips. As I got use to my space, more and more stuff appeared on the rare, bare surface of my table. After a few months, it was very clear I needed much more space for my writing. At our next “forever” home, I had the use of the dining room table for writing, but a make-shift space in the bedroom for computer, etc. I did get my exercise moving stuff from one room to  another and variety in working at different locations.

Fast forward to now. This “forever” home has a den. It is a separate tiny room that initially looked enormous for my needs. Hubby generously declared it was all mine. There was even a small closet that could hold bins of files. But as I moved my stuff in, it was obvious Hubby needed space too. Our previous home had a large garage that was roomy enough for our car plus a decent size workshop for Hubby. We decided to share the den’s small closet and some of the den’s space for his chest of tools as well as the bits and pieces of his various projects. Ikea shelving was installed  and two book cases found a home. It seemed I now had loads of room for all my reference books, research files, notebooks and anything else I wanted to keep.

Today, I looked at my desk with piles of correspondence and manuscripts stacked on its surface. A tray meant to hold current work is overflowing with material for editing. And yes, I need more space. Now that we are more than halfway through February, I contemplate purging some out-of-date news clippings, magazines and books to create some new space. . . or maybe not.  How can I be sure that whatever gets tossed in the paper garbage and/or shredder won’t be needed the next day?

Theoretically, there should now be more space on top of my desk, cupboards, closet, shelves and bookcases as more room is made for new stuff in the approximate 10.5 months left of 2019. . . .And knowing that there’s 10.5 months to fill all that luxurious space again before we start tossing out more old stuff.   . . .Sigh.

Wait, it all depends which calendar is used. The Chinese calendar just began its Year of the Pig and that gives an extra month to fill any vacant space. . . .that’s a good thing, right?

 

 

HURRY SLOW

I first wrote this piece in 2012 and have revised some minor bits, but honestly, things haven’t changed–still the same old, same old. . . .)

Have you ever noticed that the more you hurry, the slower you get?  It’s true, especially in lineups.

I went to my bank. The lineup had only three people in front of me. And checking out the tellers, I could see that two of them were just winding up their business. The lineup would be a quick moving one. No. It was unbelievable how everything slowed down when I got to the head of the line. I’m sure I could have bought and sold some stocks if I had some; moved my meager funds around the world and had a long, leisurely lunch with the bank prez.  See, just when you think you’re ahead of the game, you’re suddenly behind.

Last week I was at the supermarket and with my five items, headed for the Express Lane. That’s the lane that allows 7-items or less and is a cash-only lane. There I was thinking it was my lucky day because only one person was ahead of me. Yep, you guessed right. That person had 15-items she had already unloaded on the counter and her debit card at the ready. The cashier gently pointed out that this was the cash-only express lane that accepted 7-items or less; but, because there was now a lineup of six customers behind me, the time and trouble reloading her stuff into the basket and shuffling her off to another lineup was more trouble than it was worth. Then the lady had to search her ginormous satchel to find her wallet.  So, rather than being 10 minutes ahead of myself, I was now 10 minutes behind.

And how about my experience at the department store? I barely stepped inside the door and there was my one and only perfect wool sweater—the right style, the right colour, the right size.  Of course I wasn’t going to leave it!  I grabbed this perfect sweater and ran to Customer Service. There were two cashiers, cheerfully and merrily working away, so the lineup though long, was moving quickly—until it stopped at the lady in front of me. Suddenly, the cashiers weren’t looking so cheerful or merry and neither was working very efficiently anymore. Three dreaded words when you’re in a lineup—Exchanges and Returns.

It seemed a lady was returning an item that was the wrong size and colour. She wanted to exchange it for another item she had found.  Straightforward enough. No.  There was paperwork. Cashiers have to kill 20 trees to show the paper trail of a return and credit this to her account. Then a new sale, but the new sale was more money and the lady wanted the same discount as the returned item. Well, that cashier was going to be tied up for awhile. We turned our attention to the second cashier. Her customer showed a minor flaw in the sweater she was purchasing and wanted a discount. The cashier explained the sweater already had a considerable discount and the pulled thread could be easily remedied with the use of a crochet hook. There was a lengthy discussion on why the customer didn’t own a crochet hook and she didn’t see why the store couldn’t discount the $100 sweater down more. It didn’t matter when the cashier patiently explained the sweater was already reduced to $14.99. All of us in the lineup wanted to cheer when the cashier plastered this smile on her face, gritted her teeth and suggested the customer forget the purchase and move along.

See, more proof that just when you think you landed in a fast lineup with a quick get-away, you inevitably can put down roots, waiting for your turn to come up. And, from my experience, don’t look for the shortest lineups—they’re usually the longest. I think that’s why supermarkets have all the snacks, chocolate bars and magazines near the cashiers—nourishment and entertainment as well as clever sales to people held up by short lineups.

FOODIE INFLUENCES

I enjoy reading a wide range of books and things.  It could be mysteries, romance, biographies, adventures, thrillers, sci-fi, cozies, cookbooks and even advertisements. I especially enjoy reading stuff that includes tasty descriptions of fantastic meals and desserts—definitely desserts.

Recently, I read a short story about this detective, on the search for a mysterious killer who targeted short, bald men with bad taste in ties.  Throughout chapters 1 and 2, the detective was also seeking the perfect cinnamon pecan roll. By the time I reached chapter 3, his search for this tasty coffee treat far outweighed my search for the killer’s identity.  I had the perfect recipe for cinnamon pecan rolls and didn’t waste any more time reading about it. Within the hour, Hubby and I were inhaling the nutty cinnamon aroma and enjoying a plateful of warm pastry wrapped around buttery brown sugar, cinnamon and roasted pecan bits.

The next book was an entertaining historical thriller set on San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf in the 1920s. The main character owned a bar that attracted a number of dubious characters. The main attraction at this bar was a beautiful jazz singer who was also a fabulous cook. Her seafood platters were works of art. Her ginger, garlic seared rockfish was indescribable. The same could be said of her legendary sauteed lemon prawns and the fresh lobster meat tossed in a hot wok, sizzling with sesame oil, ginger and hoisin sauce. The sound of her singing and the aroma of her cooking brought the crowds in—after all, these were customers who appreciated a happy chef and great seafood along with their beer. I can’t remember what the villain was doing, but there were 2 days Hubby and I enjoyed every morsel of our “seafood diet.”

The book after that was a gentle cozy—nothing violent or gory or bloody. It was set in England and was a tale of a misunderstanding between two wealthy families. That was the period when I whipped up teas worthy of serving in a proper English manor: dainty salmon and cucumber sandwiches;  light-as-air scones served with Devonshire cream and strawberry jam; petite cheese and/or baby shrimp quiches; miniature lemon or almond tarts.

Once a month, I would meet with my critique and support group of 3 other writers. Over the years, we each evolved into our own niches—mine usually involved quirky characters and food of some kind. It was my turn to read a bit from one of my on-going stories:

Mina’s thoughts of why Bayley was killed,  flew out the proverbial window, when she smelled peanut butter cookies baking in someone’s kitchen. She had been actively searching for the perfect peanut butter cookie and this smelled like it might be the winner. She could practically taste the peanut butter in a cookie that was crisp on the outside, slightly moist and tender in the inside. It would be a simple, unadorned, pure peanut butter cookie that would not be dressed in chocolate chips, sprinkles, peanuts or anything else. And best of all, the cookie would not be ‘flavored’ with peanut butter but have plenty of that ingredient in the dough. The scent of baking was drifting from the nearby ‘Koffee Kupp’, the perfect place for coffee, cookie and thinking about a killer.

“Well, what do you think?” I asked my group.

“Hope you brought along a supply of those peanut butter cookies ’cause I’ve suddenly developed a real craving for some!” and the others simply nodded in agreement.

Val’s book, set in the Old West, told of the hardships that pioneers went through, traveling to their new homes. Her description of hunting buffalo or deer was very detailed including graphic how-to’s  of skinning the animal and cutting the meat into pieces that could be roasted or stewed. Val’s  diligent research on this didn’t appeal to me as much as the thought of apple pies, baked with cinnamon and brown sugar; hot buttered biscuits served with strawberry jam and warm, crusty bread, eaten with the roasted meat.  I think that was when I made my pot of beef stew, served with hot bread and enjoying a slice of warm apple pie for dessert.

My current book, written by Vivien Chien, is an entertaining mystery involving a smart and sassy heroine, who manages her parents’ Chinese restaurant. I’ve enjoyed reading both her books, “Death by Dumpling” and “Dim Sum of All Fears,” and definitely looking forward to the next Lanna Lee mystery, “Murder Lo Mein.” And of course, I’m ready to tackle my share of shrimp dumplings, pork sui-mei, rice rolls filled with prawns, barbecue duck, stir-fried broccoli with shitake mushrooms, egg custard tarts and so much more. After all , this is the beginning of Chinese New Year and food is always the main event along with family and good friends. I found myself making shrimp dumplings and steamed barbecue pork buns.

I honestly didn’t think that what I read, affected what Hubby and I ate–at least, not until Hubby peered over my shoulder to ask, “What are you reading?”  And then, very casually, “What are they eating?”