Wednesday 12 October 2011

Men and Competitiveness

Most men tend to be rather competitive. At no time has that been more apparent to me than since I bought my brand new pickup truck. I assume because a pickup truck is traditionally a man's vehicle, it threatens them when a woman drives one. Especially when it's not something that could be described as a 'lady's truck.' It's a V8, 4x4, extended cab, Chevy Silverado - more of a guy's truck. So, my truck has definitely brought out the competitive nature in some men. There was the guy I dated briefly. He kept apologizing for his 20 year old Ford Ranger. Then there was the man at church who asked me if I was still driving that "little truck," to which I replied, "It's not a little truck, it's a big truck." I have a male friend who keeps telling me what he would do if it were his truck. The other day, the ex stopped in (I still haven't figured out why he stops in. It's not exactly like we're bosom buddies or anything). During the course of the conversation, while I was cleaning and polishing my truck, he mentioned that the salesman at Ford couldn't offer him a good enough price for a trade-in on his truck. Now, there is no way he needs a new vehicle, but it wasn't till later that evening that I finally clued in and realized that he wanted to outdo me since I had just bought a new truck. He couldn't stand the fact that I have a 2011, while he only has a 2005. Finally there was the guy I just met and had coffee with. Knowing I own my own house and drive a brand new pickup truck, he told me that his jeep was top of the line, cost him $47,000 and he makes $130,000 a year, among other things. Insecure? Probably. Why can't men just appreciate my beautiful truck without competing with me over it? 
And more on the subject of men and my truck, this past Sabbath one of the men at church said that he noticed I hadn't washed my truck. Funny! He probably never notices what I wear, but he sure noticed that my truck wasn't washed! Let's face it, it is an eyecatcher.

Friday 9 September 2011

660 Curries: Raghavan Iyer: Books |

660 Curries: Raghavan Iyer: Books |

660 Curries and other wonders

Within the past couple of years, I picked up the cookbook 660 Curries at WalMart. It was not long after the movie Julie and Julia came out and I thought how cool that would be to work my way through this cookbook in a year and blog about my experiences. Approximately 2 curries a day, plus extras (biryanis, breads, pickles, relishes, raitas, and more, according to the front cover) and I could accomplish that. Saner thoughts prevailed, however, as I considered how limited I am for time, considering full-time work and part-time schooling. When would I have time to do all that cooking? And then there's the fact that I live alone, so would have to have company very often to eat all that food. And, while it was fine for Julia, living in New York City, to be able to find all those specialty ingredients, I live in rural Alberta, where East Indians are a rarity and it's even rarer to find nigella seeds or black chickpeas. And just because I like East Indian cooking doesn't mean I would be happy eating it every day for a whole year, though I could probably handle that more than certain other cuisines. 
The nice thing about East Indian cuisine is that it's very veg-friendly. There are a lot of vegetarian and vegan recipes. For most of the recipes in this book, Raghavan Iyer, the author, offers the option of using ghee or canola oil. There is a good-sized section on legume curries and a large section on vegetable curries. In the section on paneer (the only cheese endemic to India) curries, Iyer introduces the topic by saying that you could substitute extra-firm tofu for paneer.
Curry cuisine varies from one region of India to another and Iyer explains the background of many of the recipes, along with other interesting tidbits and tips, as well as the Indian (Hindi?) name of the dish. This makes for an enjoyable read. Included in the back is a glossary of ingredients to direct the uninitiated and uninformed, like me. It also has a Shopping Cheat Sheet which lists both English and Hindi names for ingredients and whether or not it would need to be purchased at an Indian store. 
The directions for each recipe give enough detail to guide those not familiar with Indian cooking in accomplishing a task (e.g. cook until the mustard seeds stop popping). The ingredients are listed in the order of their use in the instructions. The long list of seasonings for most recipes can be intimidating, especially since most of them are unfamiliar to the average North American. And the techniques for use are also often unfamiliar. While we are used to measuring a dried seasoning or chopping a fresh one, in this cookbook, you could roast, grind, cook in oil, all done to the same spice in different recipes. Iyer also includes a section on spice blends and pastes in the beginning of the book, so you can make your own fresh masala, which means "blend." However, I have discovered that premixed masalas can frequently be found in the Indian specialty stores, saving one the time and trouble of making it. When I used a recipe calling for Sambhar masala, I was able to find it premixed, but more recently, I was unable to find a Balti masala and had to make my own, following the directions in the book. This required roasting the whole spices in a dry frying pan, allowing them to cool, grinding them and then adding the already ground ones. If you choose to do this, a spice/coffee grinder is practically a necessity as the average blender cannot manage the fine grinding of spices efficiently. I was able to find garlic paste and ginger paste in one of the Indian stores, but they had vinegar in them and I wasn't sure how this would affect the taste and the end product, so I made mine from scratch. As I become more adventurous, I will probably experiment with the pre-made pastes as well. 
My personal recommendation for using this cookbook is to read the recipe thoroughly prior to starting and have all your ingredients ready beforehand: spices measured, produce chopped, etc. When you are cooking spices in a skillet, you don't have any time to be chopping up the next ingredient, so having everything all ready keeps things running smoothly and prevents burning the seasonings while you were getting the next item prepared. 
I will be writing more on my experience with individual recipes, including how I will be veganizing the meat ones (which will necessitate another cookbook review or two). 
Find the cookbook here: 660 Curries

Tuesday 6 September 2011

The First Cut Is The Deepest with Lyrics - Rod Stewart

I'm not a Rod Stewart fan, but I think his voice suits the message of this song better than anyone else I've heard sing it.

Friday 2 September 2011

Just another one-date wonder!

Went out with a new guy a few nights ago. We ended up talking for hours. I thought we really clicked and that he was actually interested in me. Then I called him last night. Note that I called him, he didn't call me. He told me a couple of times that the date had been interesting. Interesting? What woman wants to be told that a date with her had been interesting? If I was preaching a sermon or teaching a lecture, you can say it was interesting, but for a date? Tell me you had a good time, it was fun, you enjoyed my company, but don't tell me it was "interesting." He also said that he had been very tired after staying up that late. Join the club. So now I'm tiring and interesting. No one held him at gunpoint and made him stay that long, and for the record, the conversation was not one-sided. So, I told him that I hope I hadn't bored him. I also apologized for keeping him out that late. Yes, after I said a couple of times that I had enjoyed the other night and his company, he finally said that he had enjoyed it, too. And he did say that he felt bad that he had kept me up late when he knew I had to work the next day (he didn't) and he thought he had been the one keeping me up, not the other way around. (I thought it was mutual and that we had both enjoyed the conversation as well. Shows what I know...). But it left me feeling like he regretted spending all that time with me, that I had just imagined any interest he felt towards me and that I'm right back at Square One. (I think that's a mall in Mississauga - maybe I should be there). I also reminded him that I have all next week off (hint that I'll have time to spend with him), and that I would probably go into the city where he lives (I live in a rural town) one day next week (broad hint that we could get together). But he didn't take the hints. So, what am I to conclude: that he's dense or that he's really not interested after all (or maybe he changed his mind after he had time to reflect on things)? Or maybe both... 
Just another one-date wonder, for which I am well known. 
I think I am just going to give up on men and dating altogether.

Sunday 28 August 2011


It's very hot outside and I'm in the process of repainting my deck, so, rather than put my coveralls on over jeans and a T-shirt, I just put the coveralls on. It's still hot, but the coveralls are at least baggy, so allow for air circulation. The man next door came out into his yard and said, "Why are you wearing coveralls when it's so hot?" I replied, "It beats wearing jeans." He said, "Yeah, but why don't you just go to Wal-Mart and get some cheap sweats and a T-shirt." I fail to comprehend how sweats could possibly be cooler than my coveralls. Then it dawns on me that he doesn't realize I'm only wearing coveralls, and not wearing them over something else. So I told him. I suppose maybe that was TMI, as he gave me a strange look and walked away. Maybe men don't ever wear their coveralls without any clothes underneath.
Then my niece came over to ask for my help with something. So I went over to her place with my coveralls on and my hair still in it's unkempt ponytail. Her middle boy took one look at me and said, "Aunt Laura?!?", both amused and puzzled, as he had never seen Aunt Laura looking like that.

Friday 26 August 2011

Tinker freaked out - again!

This time I was already in my bed, snuggled down, waiting for sleep to overtake me. Not a pleasant experience when your body is settling into a state of relaxation and suddenly a one-sided cat fight erupts in the living room. I'm quite sure Mystery had been in the bedroom with me, so once more, I knew he wasn't responsible either for the noise or being the catalyst for the noise. Both Mystery and I headed for the living room to discover Tinker at the window again, only this time she wasn't caught in the curtains. Then she headed for the window in the dining room. I looked out both windows but couldn't see anyone or anything unusual. Whoever or whatever it was, was obviously long gone. It's not like it's the first time another animal has wandered through our yard, so why she chose to make such a fuss about it 2 nights in a row is beyond me. If it happens again tonight, she might have to sleep in the basement. I swear that cat is schizophrenic. I told you she is weird.

Thursday 25 August 2011

Tinker has a temper!

Last night as I was in the bathroom getting ready for bed, I suddenly heard a cat yowling and snarling and growling in the living room. Mystery, who had been in the bathroom with me, and I both headed for the living room to see what was going on. Now, I admit that Tinker has never really liked any other cat but Midget. She will growl at Mystery for the mere offense of being on the same bed as her, and swat at him as he walks by. But Mystery had been in the bathroom with me, so I knew he wasn't the catalyst of the commotion. Could I have inadvertently let in a neighbourhood cat or some other creature? I didn't see how it could be possible, as I had not propped any doors open during the day, but what else was causing the uproar? Arriving in the living room, I realized that I did not want to confront an intruder - feline or otherwise - without being able to see clearly, so I headed to my bedroom, grabbed my glasses and put them on. Back in the living room, I approached Tinker, who was in front of the picture window. Not seeing any other creature, I noticed she had claws on both front paws caught in the curtains. Tinker has always had problems retracting her claws and has gotten stuck in furniture, carpet and clothing. I released her and she promptly returned to her usual self, her usual voice, rubbing against my leg and begging for attention, which she got. Note that I do not say "normal self" as Tinker is not normal, she is weird. I have known my cats to growl at another cat that they saw outside the window, but never to create such a hullabaloo. And the picture window was about a metre above the ground, so I doubted another cat outside the window was the cause. Was she having a temper tantrum because she'd gotten both front paws attached to the curtain and couldn't release herself? That wasn't fear she was displaying, it was hostility! Tinker has been known to call out in fear or uncertainty in the middle of the night. I'm not sure if she wakes up and doesn't know where I am, so she starts calling out in distress. As soon as I call to her, her voice changes to her usual voice and she comes running to the bedroom. Not sure why she can't figure out, after living with me for 9 years, that if it's the middle of the night, she can probably find me in bed. She does this occasionally during the day as well. And, once again, when she hears me respond, she changes to her "happy voice" and comes running. However, when she was hung up on the curtains, it was not her distress call she was using. Maybe she thought that nasty curtain was attacking her and she was trying to retaliate. I am still shaking my head over how she managed to get both front paws caught in the curtain. Anyway, we all survived. 

Wednesday 24 August 2011


One day, as I was sitting in my home office, I suddenly heard a cat calling in distress. The fridge was making an incredible racket (I think it was in distress, too, as it died not long afterwards), yet above this din, I was able to hear a cat, or rather a kitten as it turned out, crying. I rose and went through to the kitchen and looked out the window. There on the sidewalk in front of the house was a young kitten, meowing forlornly. And thus Midget became a part of my life. That was in the year 2000.
Midget was a highly intelligent cat with major cattitude. What joy and unconditional love he brought to my life. He has been there for me through some of the worst times in my life - my divorce and all its ensuing emotional fallout, the disastrous rebound relationship, estrangement from my daughter, the death of my brother, living in the Stinky Towel Motel for 3 months... He has been a wonderful friend - sleeping under the covers with me, licking me when there was no one to kiss me, and just making me feel special to another living creature when there was precious little else to make me feel special. He was very forgiving, even about "the rebound" who didn't like cats in the house (next time, the cats get to pick my dates). 
I never picked Midget up much because he had a painful tendency to hold on with his claws, but in late July, I happened to pick him up and was shocked by how much weight he'd lost. With 3 cats in the household, I wouldn't really notice if one wasn't eating much. He'd hadn't really appeared to be ailing much, but cats hide their suffering well. Blood tests ruled out diabetes, renal failure and thyroid problems, but revealed an alarmingly high white blood cell count. In the absence of any evidence of an infection, the most likely diagnosis was cancer. I enjoyed his company as much as possible for what little time we had left together. He continued to climb up and down the stairs, though I kept food, water and a litter box on both levels so he wouldn't have to, until the end. However, watching him, I realized he was suffering more than he let on. I wept every morning and evening and often in between, knowing that I would soon be losing one of my best friends.
Last Sunday evening, he wanted to be let outside, so I went out with him, along with his 2 feline siblings. He didn't go far, mostly just resting in the yard. Then I picked him up and carried him around for what I knew would be his last visit in our yard. Monday afternoon, I took him in for his final visit to the vet's. They were incredibly compassionate and understanding in the vet's office. They had me prepay so that I wouldn't have to return to the waiting room after his death. They had already asked me if I wanted to be with him (yes) and what I wanted to do with the body (take it home). They wrapped him in a fuzzy blue blanket (Midget loved fuzzy fabric) and took him to insert an IV catheter, then returned him to me and took us to their conference room. This was a much more comfortable and less "clinical" room than the exam rooms. They allowed us some time together to say our good-byes. Then the vet came in and gave the injection and Midget passed peacefully to his rest. They provided me with a cardboard casket to bury him in and let me keep the blanket to keep his body wrapped in. Then they let me out the back exit so that I wouldn't have to go through the waiting room. 
I dug his grave in the side yard, under the shade trees, not far from my bedroom window. Expending the physical energy was therapeutic for me. Next spring I intend to plant lily-of-the-valley and maybe a fern on his grave. Meanwhile, I painted "Midget 2000-2011" with some flowers and grass on a big rock for his gravestone. I'm no artist, but he at least has something to mark his place.
I'm crying as I write this. It is so painful. He has left an aching void in my life and I miss him terribly. 
While there is nothing in the Bible to say that our pets will be in heaven, there is also nothing that says they won't be there. The Bible does say, "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9. So, I believe God will give me my cats back in heaven, and I'm looking forward to seeing Midget again.