Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas Everybody!

Well, it's 11:00am on Christmas Eve, and WH and I are still in our pajamas. We've had breakfast in bed, watched one entire disc from season 2 of The Office, cleaned the kitchen, pushed the laundry, and now we're sittin'. So far, a great day. Mama Cat and Baby Cat have done a lot of sleeping. The idea is to have as restful a day as possible in preparation for a long night tonight at the church!

Last night was Christmas dinner with my family, shared between our house and my brother's, which is just across the alley. We cooked the turkey and had appetizers here, and then marched the turkey across to their house for dinner. It was a delightful evening all around! We'll have just my mom and eldest brother for a quiet roast beef dinner on Christmas Day.

I wish you all peace and happiness this Christmas season.

Happy Holidays everyone!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Mama Cat and Baby Cat

I've wanted to blog this story for a while now, and I thought today would be as good a day as any.

Wonderful Husband is allergic to cats. Very allergic. Up until about a year and a half ago, I had resigned myself to the fact that I would not ever be a cat owner again (we always had them growing up). WH and I had a number of conversations about the possibility of getting a dog someday, and we had a freakishly tenancious Beta fish, so I wasn't particularly wanting for cats.

Until WH and I moved into our little old house, he lived in an apartment in the basement of the church where he is the music director. It was a great living arrangement, and the apartment had a nifty back yard, which WH and a friend had outfitted with a deck. In May 2006, a very large black tomcat appeared on this back deck, and took up occasional residence under WH's stack of deck chairs. About a day after he first arrived, so too did a much smaller black female. Both cats were clearly homeless. What we didn't realize at the time, but connected on later, was that somebody had abandoned both cats in a box on the doorstep of the church with a can of tuna. Remind me to rant another day about responsible pet ownership.

Both cats were very friendly, especially after we put out a can of chicken flakes for them. If either one of us sat down in the back yard, the little cat would jump up on our lap and purr away. I should clarify that despite WH's allergy, he quite likes cats, and I think we were both delighted by how social these two were. We went out and bought a bag of proper cat food. We probably should have realized at this point that we were big suckers, but in a faint-hearted demonstration of our iron will, we stated that we would continue to feed the cats, but they had to be outdoors. After all, WH is allergic.

WH phoned me at work the next day to let me know that both cats were sleeping peacefully on the couches in his living room. WH's heart was lost to the cats, especially to the wee female, and I have to confess that I was pretty fond of them as well. It was, however, entirely WH's call. After all, he's allergic. We went out and bought a litter box.

A few days after the intial introduction to indoor living, the tomcat disappeared for good. We had expected this, given that young male cats tend to be transient anyway. But the little female showed no signs of wanting to go anywhere but into a lap or onto a couch. We were adopted. WH sneezed a lot.

About three weeks after she made WH's apartment her home, our little cat's tummy began to expand outwards. She didn't get bigger anywhere else; it was just her tummy that grew. So we googled "How can you tell if your cat is pregnant." The first website we found said, "If your cat is female, unfixed and has been outdoors, she's pregnant." So we took her to the vet, and the vet laughed at us and said that yes, she was CLEARLY pregnant, due a mere three weeks later. We spent the next three weeks feverishly learning everything we could about kittens and mother cats and their care.

On the morning of July 1st, 2006, Mama Cat gave birth to five beautiful, perfectly healthy kittens. We cried when the first one was born. Three of the kittens were black like their mama, and two were white. Adorable doesn't even begin to describe them. It was amazing to see how instinctive Mama Cat was. She just knew what to do, all the time.

So, if you're doing the math, we had gone from zero cats to six cats in the space of about a month. We decided pretty early on that we were going to keep one kitten to be company for Mama Cat. Eventually, we chose the little while female. As she has grown up, her face, paws and tail have turned dark, so her colouring is like that of a siamese cat. We successfully found homes for all four other kittens.

WH's allergies have pretty much gone away, or at least, he's no longer allergic to our cats. We are a pretty happy little family of four.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Oh Good GRIEF.

To summarize the article above, the Toronto Catholic School Board has banned the Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass and its two sequels from school libraries for not being conducive to the Board's "governing values." A great deal has been written about the trilogy's so-called anti-religious themes, and about the author's atheism.

Let me start by saying, clearly, that I thought The Golden Compass was a wonderful, beautifully told story. The book is chalk-full of fantastic imagery, rich characters and deep imagination. I loved it.

But the issue is not about the quality of the story. And MY issue isn't really even about whether or not the books are anti-religious. My issue with this kind of book-banning, that is the kind that is intended to "spare" children from perspectives we don't want them to have, is that it assumes one really ridiculous thing. It assumes that our children are stupid. It assumes that our children will believe everything they read, that our children have no ability to separate reality from fiction, that a story can immediately overrun any other teaching that has been given to a child from the moment that child was born. It assumes that our children can't think critically, even that the act of thinking critically is bad. It assumes that children have no imagination.

It is a narrow-minded and short-sighted act, and it reeks of defensiveness.

And it BOTHERS me. I certainly understand that there are books/movies/TV shows out there that are not suitable for children, and I'm not suggesting that caution and care should not be exercised when deciding what children should be exposed to. BUT THIS IS A CHILDREN'S STORY, and a good one, at that. Yes, it's dark, and scary and frightening, at times. And the story is quite probably coloured by Philip Pullman's perspective on the world (and possibly on the church). But I have a hard time believing that he sat at his desk, hunched over, giggling to himself, saying, "Hee hee hee... I'll write this story and it will be clearly anti-church, and then all the kiddies will be atheists and then I'll take over the WORLD! BWAHAHA..."

If there could be a universal getting of a grip on this one, it would be good.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A few of my favourite things...

Taking on this list, courtesy of encouragement from Crazy Cat Woman. If you're reading this, consider yourself tagged. This means you, Crimson Rambler. So here they are:
  • The best husband a woman could ask for
  • The way Mama Cat and Baby Cat always need to be in the same room as one of us.
  • My nephew and three nieces
  • The combination of an evening at home, dinner we cook ourselves, and a nice bottle of red wine
  • The bottom of the ninth inning, runners on base, in a tie ballgame
  • Old game shows, like the Match Game and Password Plus
  • Recipe Books
  • Our new kitchen, especially our new dishwasher
  • Lists
  • Paganini violin concertos
  • Fairmont Hotels
  • The duet from Pearl Fishers
  • Driving my little red car
  • Polyphonic courtesy
  • A late night glass of Bailey's after a long busy day
  • Sleeping in
  • Walks through our lovely old neighbourhood
  • Any food that begins the phrase "... and dip": chips, veggies, crackers, etc.
  • Handel (and Bach)
  • Sushi
  • Memories of the last year; a new house, a wedding, a new husband, building a happy, happy life.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Laryngitis on a Monday Morning

So Friday morning I woke up with a little bit of a sore throat. I stayed home from work,hoping to get a head-start on feeling better by taking a rest day. Saturday showed no real change - still sore, but not serious. Sunday, I woke up with barely any voice at all, and today is worse. So much for my cunning recovery plan. A little laryngitis, anyone? So I'm at work today, trying to catch up from things I missed on Friday, but I'm not feeling very good about it.

The sore throat aside, we got a lot of our Christmas preparation done this weekend. The tree went up and got decorated, we finished most of the baking (only one kind of cookie left to go), and WH is at the mall this morning, fighting the crowds and finishing his shopping. I only have a few things left to get. We need to think a little bit about one last grocery shop before the weekend, but other than that and the little bit of shopping left to do, we're in pretty good shape.

Last night was our annual Church Choir Christmas Party. It's my favourite party of the whole year. The same couple host every year, and they put on an absolutely scrumptious dinner for all choristers and their spouses. After dinner, there is rambunctious carol singing. The party is always a GREAT time. Three years ago, at this part, I had far too much to drink. So did Church Choir's conductor. We were both being driven home by a mutual friend, and on the ride home we held hands for the very first time. Two and a half years later, I married him.

Romantic, eh?

Thursday, December 13, 2007


Michael Vick.
Marion Jones.
Barry Bonds.
The 60-80 players rumoured to be named in today's Mitchell Report, on steroids in baseball, including Roger Clemens..

Sigh. This is awful. I have so many questions (far more than I do answers) about the general blanket of misbehaviour, criminality, lack of morality, ethics, character in professional sports. And I know that people in other professions do bad things too. Doctors do bad things. Lawyers do bad things. University administrators do bad things. And I know that there are athletes out there that do great things. So it's not fair to make sweeping generalizations. But why does it feel like there are so many more athletes out there doing bad things than there are good?

And as a sports fan, what do I do about it?

I love sports. Baseball is the clear favourite, but there are very few that I don't have some appreciation for. I love hockey; I enjoy watching football (both CFL and NFL); I don't watch much basketball but I keep an eye on the highlights and on the progress of the Raptors; I think that soccer is a beautiful sport with incredible global importance; I enjoy watching tennis and golf (and am learning to play the latter); I can watch the Olympics forever; I even keep an eye on racing, stock car and open-wheel.

And I want to keep doing all of that. I can't bring myself to be one of those people that turns their back on the sports they love, just because players (and coaches) are behaving badly. To me, the solution is to be a better, more active fan, not a less active one. Go to more games. Cheer louder for the athletes who are playing hard. Boo louder for the athletes who aren't. Go to minor-league games, if you can't stand the pro leagues. Support ethics and good-sportsmanship in young athletes. For God's sake, don't shout nasty things at your kids' coaches and don't punch other kids' parents. Instill in your children a sense of pride in honest accomplishment and a sense of satisfaction in positive attitudes.

If you love the game, support the game.

The game is beautiful.

Even when the participants are not.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


I've been tossing this idea of Motherhood around in my head for the last little while, not directly because of any immediate plans that WH and I have to start a family, but more because I've been an interested observer of my friends' and coworkers' babies for some time, particularly in the ways that the mothers of (especially very young) children treat each other.

The competitiveness and the one-up-manship between mothers astounds me. There seems to be a push to be, or at least appear to be, the most put together, the most capable, the most current and the most knowledgeable in the land, and the feelings and dignity of other mothers is an acceptable expense in the competition. The woman who taught our marriage preparation course said that she never felt so judged, so "examined" as she did when she was pregnant and subsequently caring for her infant daughter. Almost every woman she met had an opinion, a piece of advice, all of it unsolicited, about how she should care for her own child.

The thing that is so SILLY is that, despite outward appearances, every mother has had THAT moment - that poop-covered, baby crying, food-all-over-the-wall moment - when she felt like she couldn't cope. Most women have had more than one of these moments, I'd reckon. And I'd also bet that most mothers have had a series of moments in which they and their children were perfectly in sync, and mothering seemed a natural gift.

I think there are a couple of truths that get lost in the hustle-bustle of our "BE A BETTER YOU" kind of world.
-Every child is different than any that came before. So is every mother.
-There is no single RIGHT way to parent. There is good parenting, in thousands of forms, and there is certainly poor parenting, but there is no one, single, correct way to raise a child.

I think this topic is particularly sensitive for me because I wonder, often, what kind of mother I'll be. Wonder Hubby (who will be a fantastic father) and I talk a lot about how we want to raise our children, and I'm learning to be faithful that I'll just know, or feel, what's best for my kids, and when I don't, I'll know who to ask. Failing those two things, we'll continue to be smart, and figure it out. We'll have good days and bad days. Some days we won't be the best parents in the world and we'll make poor decisions. But we will have our children's best interests squarely in our minds all the time. And we will love them like nobody else can.

And I think that no matter what unsolicited advice or opinions or commentary we get, I'll just need to learn to take deep breaths, smile as genuinely as possible, and say thank you.

I can give 'em the finger later, when they're not looking.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Christmas Preparation

Major concert commitments for December 2007. DONE.

Anything having to do with Christmas. STILL TO DO.


Off tonight to start the Christmas shopping experience after a long conversation with WH on the weekend about how, exactly, we wanted to get our preparations done. I think it's all workable, but my enthusiasm for the shopping part of it is minimal. Never mind, we have a plan, we have a list, we'll figure it out.

What I am enthusiastic about, and getting more so, is the baking. This is really the first year that I've had the kitchen facilities and my wits together enough to make some significant holiday baking happen. So it's gonna happen! As a shower gift, I received the Company's Coming exhaustive recipe book for COOKIES, and I've been inspired by all the possibilities. I've also, for the moment, certain that my cookies will look like the ones in the pictures of the book. This is a delusion that I'm enjoying, so NOBODY SPOIL IT!

I've also begun to make some plans for the post-concert New Years party that we're hosting for choir members. The trick with this party is that the choristers will be hungry, and will want to eat something of substance, so chips'n'dip ain't gonna cut it, at least not on their own. At the same shower mentioned above, I also got the Company's Coming COMPLETE Entertaining Book, so WH are working our way through that to pick good (and simple) and tasty things to prepare. As WH will be in rehearsal for much of the week before, and I will be at home, I'm feeling quite confident that we can put on a nice, elegant bash with lots of good food.

Now that I've logged all these plans on my blog, I feel like I've committed to them. We'll see how we do!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Tra la la...

I predict a great weekend, and here's why:
  1. It's supposed to get a little bit warmer, which will be a welcome change.
  2. We get to spend an evening with The Nephew this evening. The Nephew is 10, and is a very, very neat kid. He's also all full of sass, which makes me laugh.
  3. Tomorrow is a friend's Christmas Party. I like parties.
  4. We are singing the Vivaldi Gloria (twice) on Sunday. The Vivaldi Gloria is a really fun sing, and I know that many other members of Chamber Choir feel as though they've performed it enough now, thank you, but this is my first crack at it. And I'm excited.
  5. The evening concert of the Vivaldi represents the last concert of the season for WH and me. This is, perhaps, the earliest that we've ever been finished our concert commitments before Christmas. We are both tired, and ready for considerable rest.
  6. The funding for transferring my job from contract to permanent was approved yesterday. Can't beat that for good news!
  7. Mama Cat and Baby Cat have slept right through the night consistently for about the last week or so. When they sleep through the night, WH and I sleep through the night. This is good for all concerned.
Gloria in excelsis deo,
et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis!

Thursday, December 6, 2007


Let this day, and it's dreadful history, continue to be a spark igniting talk and action rising up against violence towards women.

Peace be with you, friends.

All a muddle...

It's all miscellaneous today, and scattered...
  • Last night was the one night at home for the week, and very nice it was too. We had nice salmon steaks with curried rice and asparagus, a nice bottle of wine, and I baked cookies for dessert. They make mint-chocolate chips now, so the cookes were mint-chocolate chip cookies.
  • The bill came in for WH's car repair this morning: a whopping $1400 for a new fuel pump. This sucks.
  • The caroling yesterday didn't go as badly as I thought it would. Nobody has yet reminded me of the awesomeness of the choir they USED to get. In fact, the only comment we got at the time was, "Sing faster." I don't think that caroling is really up these people's alley.
  • I forgot my coffee at home this morning, and was not happy with the purchased replacement. Harumph.
  • I am responsible for the office's holiday charity drive for one of the local shelters. The folks in this office are good givers, and last year I delivered almost 100 items to the charity. I haven't even sent this year's email yet, and the box is already full. Bless them for their generosity.
And on we go...

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Mid-Week Grumps

Today is the office Christmas party. Which will be lovely, I'm sure. There will be nice food, and I think there will be wine (yum), and it will be a nice opportunity to sit socially with co-workers that I don't often chat with.

The part of the lunch to which I am not looking forward is caroling. Chorus volunteered herself to lead the singing of Christmas carols. This volunteerism is the culmination (or continuation?) of a long and moronic discussion amongst staff of the office about what "entertainment" we should have at the Christmas lunch. You see, a couple of years ago, we hired one of the university choirs to sing at the Christmas lunch. I wasn't working here at the time, but apparently the choir was lovely. About 80% of the people really liked them. But the other 20% were indignant that nobody had recognized that not everybody LIKES choirs, didn't we know, and we should do something more... "fun" for entertainment. So last year, we didn't book the choir, and I, along with a few co-workers led some carol singing. And then the folks who had liked the choir took the liberty of approaching me after the lunch last year and saying things like, "No offense, but last year we had a choir, and they were REALLY GOOD," and "Did you know that we hired a choir last year? Maybe we should do that again next year."

And yet somehow, here I am again, with carol books and word sheets all copied to lead carols over lunch. But I swear to the Most High, that the first person who reminds me that "One time, we had a choir and they were awesome," is going to get my thumb, right in the eye.

How's that for Christmas spirit?

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

An Adventurous Evening

Yesterday evening promised to be one of THOSE evenings... Two different rehearsals for two different choirs for two different concerts this week at the same time plus a choir photo for one group, all of which necessitated getting out of the house in good time last night, fed, with four separate music folders (two for WH and two for me) and two choir outfits (one for WH and one for me) through the un-ploughed streets to the concert hall where, mercifully, both rehearsals were taking place.

We managed not too badly. But by the time we were finished rehearsing with the Symphonic Choir, changing into our Chamber Choir outfits, getting our picture taken with the Chamber Choir, changing back into comfy clothes and doing another 2 hours of rehearsal with Chamber Choir... I was exhausted.

So you can understand that it was a bit of a bummer when we got in the car, at the end of it all, and WH turned the key in the ignition, and the car made a sputtering noise... and would not start. It was 10:00pm, we'd been in rehearsal for four hours, and it was -25C outside.

These are testing moments. I think we handled it remarkably well.

We phoned the local Vehicle Emergency Response crew, for which I have a membership and therefore receive free service, gave the dispatcher all the information, and she quoted us FOUR HOURS as the response time (see above re: time of night and temperature). She was, however, kind enough to put a "Risk of personal injury" note on the call, as we really didn't have a warm place in which to wait. The Battery Truck arrived five minutes later. Sadly, even he couldn't get old Healy to start (WH's car; named after Canadian composer Healy Willan... we're geeks). So he called the tow truck to take the car to WH's mechanic, and we took everything of value out of the vehicle, called a cab, and went home.

Mercifully this morning, the car had arrived safely at the Garage. They'll look at it this morning and let us know what the problem is. We hope it's not expensive, or we might be giving each other a new fuel injector for Christmas. Happy Holidays, baby!

Monday, December 3, 2007


I love Advent. I just love the way it FEELS. There always seems to be a renewed energy in church when Advent comes along, after the 793rd Sunday in Pentecost. People are warmer towards one another, smiles are broader, more genuine. And the music... Last night was our annual Advent Lessons and Carols service, which is one of my highlights every year. The service alternates between readings, Advent carols sung by the choir and congregational hymns. And every hymn is a favourite - "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel," "There's a Voice in the Wilderness," "Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending," Hark, A Herald Voice is Sounding," "On Jordan's Bank," and so on. Between the regular morning service and the Lessons and Carols in the evening, it's a busy day for WH, and as new Choir Librarian, for me too. There's a lot of rushing around thrusting pieces of musical paper at people. After the service we all troupe downstairs for the traditional Advent potluck supper, complete with mulled wine. Mmmmm... mulled wine. I managed to throw together a potato casserole THING yesterday afternoon between the Sunday service and choir rehearsal, so I was able to enjoy the potluck guilt-free (which doesn't always happen).

By some miracle, WH and I will be finished our Christmas concert season by next Sunday, so we're in to the last stretch of craziness this week. Four hours of rehearsal tonight, a Christmas Pops concert with the local orchestra tomorrow night, regular church choir rehearsal on Thursday night, dress rehearsal on Saturday morning for two runs at the Vivaldi Gloria on Sunday afternoon and evening! And then everything is fairly peaceful, with the exception of the usual Church Advent and Christmas commitments, up until New Year's Eve, when WH is singing a concert. We have offered to host the post-concert party (and New Years count-down) on that evening, so I'm busy thinking about what deliciousness we might serve. Mmmmmm... mulled wine.