Friday, 30 December 2011

Okay, Now I'll Talk About Boxing Day

Back home, December 26th is known as Boxing Day. It's a day when most people rip into the retail stores in a consumer frenzy to buy mass quantities of discounted items. I really, really hate Boxing Day for that reason. I won't deny the argument that where big ticket items are concerned, that special 50% off day can be a very rewarding 24 hours to patiently wait for. It's just not for me.

I especially hated it when Dan had a retail job at an electronics store and he was absolutely not allowed to not only have Boxing Day off, but also anytime in the week leading up to Christmas. This made it very difficult to plan Christmas with his mom and brother who lived four hours away and also had their own work schedules.

Also, I remember my sister Meghan working until 8 p.m. one Christmas Eve because she wasn't allowed to leave her store until everything was set-up for Boxing Day. And then on Boxing Day, she had to be in at work at 6 a.m., non-negotiable.

It really pisses me off, to be frank.

Why should people who work in retail have absolutely no time over the Christmas holidays to be with family or enjoy time off just because everyone else needs to run into the stores and dump the contents of their wallets in the cash registers?

Oh right.

That's the reason.

So back home I did boycott Boxing Day, but here in Switzerland there's no need: everything's closed anyhow on the 26th and when regular business resumes, guess what? All that same crap is still discounted 50% off anyhow and it will be until at least mid-January.

So how did we spend our shopping-free Boxing Day? Well, we went snowshoeing up in the mountains of course! This was the first time we'd been snowshoeing here, and it was a very different experience from what we were used to in Canada.

Back home, we used to regularly steal Mom and Dad's snowshoes and head outside the city limits for an afternoon of breaking our own trail. However, at the resort where we chose to snowshoe on Monday, the trails are already broken for you and you aren't allowed to veer off them. It probably would have been easier to just walk the trails with a pair of poles, but we had an amazing day in the sun and I got a few pictures.

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View from the parking lot

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Paragliders hitting the slopes

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It was a panorama of beauty!

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Family sledding area of the resort

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Footprints in the snow

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Dan, being his usual photogenic badass self

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I really like this picture.
I just don't know why.

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A very obscure look at where we stopped for lunch.
(Shh...don't tell, but we went off the trail a bit.)

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Dan's victory pose after he MacGyvered my pole back together.
Twenty minutes later my other one broke.

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A hibernating summer hut.

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So dear.

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All the blue was hurting my eyes.

So Internet, anyone out there know of any good places to snowshoe in Switzerland where you can break your own trail?

Do tell.

Otherwise...HAPPY NEW YEAR.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Okay, Now I'll Talk About Christmas

I don't want to leave everyone with the wrong idea that my entire Christmas was a bust because of the whole Postie disappointment. In fact, Dan and I had a really wonderful Christmas and I was properly spoiled. Which is just how I like it. I won't say I was spoiled rotten because I'm not Veruca Salt, but I was very lucky to receive a number of items I was hankering after.

However, there was no Bernese Mountain Dog puppy under the tree.

Again.

For the fifteenth year in a row.

So wait, scratch that.

Christmas sucked!

Okay, it didn't.

On the 23rd we went over to Dan's aunt's where we had a roast beast dinner (all right, it was roast beef) and I was, for the first time, exposed to how painfully slow the Swiss unwrap gifts; a family friend was there and she'd bought a few gifts for the hosts. After supper they each sat down to unwrap their respective gifts, and I have never seen such a meticulous unwrapping of presents in all my years. I was watching, and watching, and watching when all of a sudden 'ZZZZZZZZ' I fell into a boredom induced coma.

And to clarify, it was only three people opening one package each.

When I unwrap a gift, I tear it open. My greedy talons shred the paper so that I can quickly get to the good stuff underneath. If it takes me longer than 10 seconds to open something, it's probably because it's a damn big box. But that is not how Dan's family opens gifts. Oh no. Firstly, one piece of tape is carefully peeled off the paper and then everyone pauses to chat for a minute. Then another piece of tape is carefully peeled off the paper and again, everyone pauses to chat for a minute; this continues until all five pieces of tape have been removed. Now the tape is off and the recipient carefully folds back the paper to reveal the contents before pausing again to chat for a minute (and not about the gift yet, either). The contents of the gift are then removed and set to one side while the wrapping paper is carefully folded up and neatly pressed for future use. Everyone pauses to chat for a minute. FINALLY the gift is examined and then everyone chats around the dinner table for a further five hours.

EXCRUCIATING.

Thank goodness I didn't have to be there for the main event on Christmas Eve. After a couple of minutes of this agony, with twelve people left to go to open gifts, I think I would have had a Prosecco induced fit and I would have stormed their tree, thrown myself at their gifts, and ripped everyone's presents open for them. After the damage was done I would have found myself wild-eyed and crazy-haired crouched amidst a sea of torn paper, whilst everyone looked at me in shock and disbelief, wondering how they were going to properly bundle and recycle all those scraps of paper I'd just created.

In short, I would have ruined Christmas.

So good thing it was just Dan and I the day of, and so it was more than appropriate for me to just rip open all my presents with barely a glance at the card, leaving a messy pile of wrapping paper everywhere for a few hours, and then stuffing it all into a trash bag while simultaneously stuffing my mouth with turkey wellington.

It was a great day.

But now lovelies, FOR THE LOVE OF PUPPY DOGS WOULD SOMEONE PLEASE GET ME A GD BERNESE MOUNTAIN DOG.

Fifteen years I've been asking for one.

FIFTEEN MOFO YEARS.

Affectionately yours,

Veruca Salt

(er, I mean...Caitie)

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

It Was A Wrap, Until They Tore It Open

Oh December 28th, you are such a downer.

You're not nearly as mysterious as the evening of December 24th, you really aren't as bountiful and delicious as December 25th, and you aren't full of vigorous out-doorsy fun like December 26th.

I'm really sorry but you are just a tad disappointing.

But this year, December 28th, you can rest easy knowing that you aren't nearly as disappointing as the postal service. Internet, I have officially made the postal service and its disgruntled and sticky-fingered employees my arch nemesis. It's never seemed particularly enjoyable to have an arch nemesis, which is why I've avoided one thus far. Imagine all the negative energy exerted just because in order to have an arch nemesis one must, I assume, spend a considerable amount of time chastising this person.

What a depressing waste of time.

But it's unavoidable now. I have a faceless arch nemesis that takes the form of Posties.

And the reason for this unseasonal hatred? Oh, because one of my parent's presents was unwrapped, and also some of the contents of my sister Ais' gift were stolen from her parcel.  Merry Christmas! And also, because Meg's gift just never showed up at all. Which, yes, okay, mail getting lost is not exactly ground-breaking, but when these parcels were travelling together, and one gift was unwraped and one parcel had contents removed, it makes me highly suspicious as to the reasons why the other gift just never arrived.

And please, it's not like I was gifting them with exotic plants or firearms or rain forest centipedes. There was no reason these gifts would have been 'confiscated' if that's the official term for lost mail due to thieving employees. These were very basic, very cool, gifts.

I understand that I probably should have tracked the parcels, but you see while the presents themselves were all thoughtful and neat, the cost to track them outweighed the value of the parcels. Because I've never had a problem with mail getting lost before, I just sent the gifts as I always have: snail mail, weeks and weeks and weeks in advance.

So some faceless little Postie now has my sisters' gifts, and yesterday I went out and re-bought Meg's gifts and the part of Ais' that was missing. And tomorrow I try round two of sending out their Christmas presents, except this time I'll probably track them so that if they go missing again I will know exactly which postal office doorstep I have to leave a flaming bag of dog crap on.

Merry Christmas Postie, I hope you like your pilfered goods. I'm sure they'll be of great comfort when you spend eternity working in consumer Boxing Day hell, listening to Madonna's version of Santa Baby on endless repeat while an aggressive old man demands you give him a twenty percent discount on an already discounted $2.00 pack of razor blades.

Too bad those won't come in handy to end your pain.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Merry Christmas!

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I never managed to get around to sending out Christmas cards this year. So to all you dear friends and family who we have ever laughed with, adventured with, and shared meals with, we wish you the best of this festive season, which means laughter and memories and good-will towards neighbours.

And for you, who takes the time to read this online journal of trivial stories--a lot of which are about my cats, let's be honest--a very Merry Christmas and thank-you for reading.

Love,

Caitie, Dan, Cosmo, and Poppy

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Canadians Do It In The Snow


Play the drums, that is.



Christmas Gift Idea: Cooking Classes

Our last long weekend trip of the year was going to be Amsterdam. We ordered our guide book, imagined a day trip to Bruges, and considered booking accommodations at a B&B run by an opera singer. Oh it was all very exciting. The only thing we never actually discussed was when we were going.

I assumed the end of October.

Dan assumed the end of November.

And neither one of us told the other of our assumptions until mid-October when I realized it was time to sit down and book our flight and room since we were leaving in a mere two weeks!

Dan: "Two weeks? Aren't we going in over a month?"

Caitie: "What? Why would we go to Amsterdam at the end of November? It will be dreary and cold. Like Venice, only Amsterdam. Ick, November."

Dan: "But I didn't book holidays for October."

Caitie: "But...I don't want to take time off in November."

Oh yes, we really do win at travelling. I really wish we were more OCD about planning because I've said it once and I'll say it again, we know we're going somewhere, we don't really have a clear idea of when, and then one day we just...show up. But alas, our poor planning has finally caught up with us and I really did not want to go to Amsterdam in November.

So we decided to repurpose some of our travel funds to a staycation and one of things we decided to do was take a Thai cooking class.

Seriously, I can't recommend it enough.

Our class met on two Thursday evenings for four hours each night, and each night we prepared a full three course meal that included sitting down together in the school's dining room. The first night our instructor brought champagne to enjoy with dinner, and the last night one of our classmates brought some Thai beer to wash down on our spicy Gaang Ped Daang with.

It was such a warm temporary community and the food we made was absolutely delicious. It was also a really good chance for Dan and I to behave like grown-ups and prove we are capable of working alongside each other in a kitchen environment, because at home? I assure you we're not.

Dan: Why are you doing it like that? It makes more of a mess. Do it my way.

Caitie: I'm cooking dinner, and this is how I do it.

Dan: It makes no sense.

Caitie: Maybe some of us can't comprehend efficiency.

Dan: It's not efficient if you have a huge mess to deal with.

Caitie: Do you like eating the food I make?

Dan: Is this a trap? It feels like a trap. But you're....it's not....

Caitie: WE'RE ORDERING PIZZA.

Whenever we encounter couples who bond in the kitchen, Dan and I look at each other with sadness because that is not our reality. We bond over the dinner table, but the kitchen is an every-man-for-himself war zone. However, we cooked in harmony those past two Thursdays and it was really nice and we now have some great memories from that time shared in the kitchen.

Like how I wasn't convinced that the chili pepper was that hot so I ate a generous pinch of chopped chili and then spent the next thirty minutes quietly dabbing my weeping eyes whilst trying not to breathe fire all over my classmates.

And also, how good Dan looks in one of those long chef aprons that tie around the waist.

Anyhow, if there's a person in your life who loves to cook I would really recommend tying up a little gift certificate for a cooking class and placing it between baubles of their tree.

And since I can't obviously go on and on about how great the food was without sharing the love, here's a recipe we are both crazy about.  Fact: we've made this twice since class ended last week. It's good.

Chicken Satay with Coconut Peanut Dipping Sauce

10 wooden satay skewers - soak in water about ten minutes

600 g chicken breast (lay your chicken on your cutting board. Put your palm flat down over the top of the breast and run a sharp knife horizontally through the breast, splitting it in two. Now take your two pieces of breast meat and cut those into long, thick strips. Clear as mud?)

Marinade:

1 garlic clove
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tbsp (EL) heaping, of honey
2 tbsp (EL) fish sauce
4 tbsp (EL) peanut oil

* put all ingredients in a food processor and blitz. Put your chicken strips in a bowl, pour marinade over top and let everyone hang out and get to know each other for about thirty minutes.

Coconut Peanut Sauce:

1 tbsp (EL) heaped of brown sugar
70 g of peanut butter (just under a 1/3 cup)
200 ml of coconut cream
2 tbsp (EL) sweet-sour chilisauce
1/2 a stick of lemon grass (slice your lemon grass down the middle and using the back of your knife quickly tap the lemon grass a few times to release the flavour)

* put all ingredients in a saucepan over medium-low heat and let simmer away.

Assembly:

* Put your oven's broiler on
* Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and remove skewers from water.
* Thread your marinated chicken over the skewers folding up each chicken piece like it's a caterpillar, skewering the folds, then stretching the meat over the skewer (does that make sense?)
* Put your chicken under the broiler for seven minutes, then flip the skewers and give them another four to five minutes under the broiler.
* Put the skewers on a plate and sprinkle with fresh coriander (cilantro) and serve with the peanut dipping sauce.
* Remove the lemon grass from the peanut sauce before serving.

Enjoy!

Monday, 19 December 2011

Snow Globe Afternoons

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At last...

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...the snow fell this weekend.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Christmas Gift Idea: An iPhone

I am not really one for using my handy cellular mobile telephone device that often (please note that I used every conceivable description possible. Yes!).  In fact, the only time I really use it is if I know I am meeting up with someone imminently, and we might have to send a couple of texts back and forth. Most of the time my phone is lost and out of battery power.

I know this seems absolutely insane in this day of technology, but it's how I roll.

Considering I do not tote my phone around like a needed appendage, you have probably guessed this means I do not own a 'smart phone'; this is probably quite smart of me because I have dropped my current phone five times. It has split apart five times. I have put it back together five times. It still works. I don't know if anything with a fragile touch screen would have stood for such abuse, thus far.

So I have merrily been going about my days with my clunky little cell that is usually blinking its last bar of battery life, and I have been blissfully clueless about the fact that I 'need' an iPhone in my life. You read that right: need.

Of course there are people near and dear to me who have iPhones, but I've never paid much attention to the phone because they were just using it to fire off emails or text messages or Facebook updates. Why would I need such a thing? I have my occasionally handy cell for texting, and my computer for all other forms of Internet usage. It seemed unnecessary.

But last night, that all changed.

I was shown the error of my ways.

The consumer fire monster did a tap dance on my heart and soul and I am forever changed. And this morning I am a hollow shell; half the woman that I was last night. And I don't think that I will be complete until that I have that rectangular little phone taking up residence in some crumby corner of my cavernous purse.

And what's the reason for this change, you ask?

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It's because of this!
(photo courtesy of our friend, Sam)

The iPhone camera, my friends! Think of how many opportune cat pictures I have been missing out on!

Sam took some wicked cool pictures of Cosmo with his phone, and showed us some other pictures he'd taken on a trip to Munich, and I was all, "But...I...why....how...iPhone...camera...amazing...texture...apps....cute Cosmo....;lakhdgkhada."

That last articulate mashing of keys was my brain trying to figure out why I haven't bought an iPhone yet. And in case you're missing the point on why I need the iPhone it's strictly for its camera and all the cool apps that go with it.

Can you hear me Santa?

iPhone = iNeed.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Christmas Gift Idea: A Tattoo

I know, I know I can hear all of you.

What is she thinking? That's the worst idea I've ever heard! I never want to play Secret Santa with her! This is a TERRIBLE idea.

TERRIBLE.

And I can see the mothers and fathers out there, their hands tucked tightly under their arms with their lips pursed in a thin line of disapproval.

No one's tattooing my baby! I don't even care if my baby is 45 years old and has male pattern baldness. I will not allow it!

But hear me out. This suggestion is probably more in line with buying yourself something for Christmas or else surprising that certain someone that you know really, really well and know they want a tattoo but for reasons that probably come down to being a chicken, haven't gone and done it yet.

It's a cool idea for the person you know will be receptive of it, and I have a little elf visiting A Cait's Life today to share with you all her own tattoo experience.

Internet, here's my sister's experience with finally getting her tattoo.

***

Aislinn, I recall you've always been interested in tattoos. Is it fair to say that we can attribute this fascination to one AJ McLean of the Backstreet Boys (that tattooed bad boy you inexplicably had a crush on when everyone knows Kevin was way better), or a certain high school rebel who flipped hamburger patties at Wendy's and was the drum player in a band?


Hmmmmm......I guess you can say that I've always been in favour of a little bit of edge!  I don't tend to gravitate to the 'clean cut' type if that's what you're asking!

 
You've been interested in getting a tattoo for years, what made you decide to go for it now?


Yes, I have always liked tattoos, and wanted to get one myself.  Besides the fact that I'm extremely indecisive (what kind of tattoo should I get, what should it look like, where should I put it, how big should it be etc...), I'm also a huge procrastinator!  I've been thinking about doing it for a few years, and one day I just woke up and though "today is the day!"  I went to the tattoo place a few hours later and made the appointment!  That's how it is with me.  I have to do something the very moment it strikes me, or I will probably go ahead and put it off for another few months!

 
Your tattoo is the phrase 'beautiful dream' and wraps modestly around your ribcage. Can you please tell us why you decided to have this phrase tattooed on your ribcage, rather than the Chinese symbol for 'wooden spoon' or 'garbage truck' stamped onto your lower back?


Well Caitie, as much as I love a good wooden spoon (they're so useful!) and the sound of a garbage truck first thing in the morning, the phrase 'beautiful dream' is actually the meaning of my name in Gaelic.  I decided to have it put on my ribcage because I didn't want it to be visible when wearing a gown to an elaborate ball, or when meeting the Queen for example.  I want to know that it's there, but I don't want to splash it all around and get in peoples faces with it!  Also, I wanted to give my name a bit of credibility!  Growing up, my name was mispronounced once or twice.  My name is properly pronounced ACE-LYNN, but for some reason I was called ASS-LYNN (thanks a lot substitute teacher), ALYSA-LYNN, ANSLEY, and my favourite, just AAA.......mumble mumble mumble.  AKA: WTF is this person's name?????  My name is a real name people!  See?  It even has a meaning!!!!!



 
Do you laugh at people who have butterfly or Tweetie Bird tattoos? Or the Bacardi Bat on their ankle? For the record, I do.


I don't laugh.....hard.  I mostly just wonder if they wake up every day, and see that damn yellow bird all stretched and faded and think "maybe getting a tattoo when I was 16 wasn't the best idea."

 
Did you go to the tattoo shop on 4th Avenue that has the intimidating and non-conforming operational hours of: "Open: When we get here. Closed: When we leave."?


No, I actually went to Eye Candy Ink Tattoos up on Notre Dame!  I highly recommend it!

 
Was your tattoo artist a Kat von D type?


Not at all!  My tattoo artist was Clay Walker (no, not the 1990's country singer), who was awesome!  I would go back to him for sure!

Did it hurt?


That's like asking if eating salt and vinegar chips with a paper cut on your finger stings.  Yes!  But to be honest, it didn't hurt as much as I thought it would.  Getting a tattoo on your ribs, or any area with bone underneath, is going to be more painful.  The whole thing took about ten minutes all said and done!

 
Tattooing is definitely something that is becoming more mainstream amongst Canada's younger generations. When we were floating down the river this summer, I observed dozens and dozens of our peers with tattoos and it's becoming quite the norm to see young men with tattoo sleeves, and girls with large murals on their backs. Why do you think this is? I personally point a finger at David Beckham and Angelina Jolie.


I think that tattoos are just a way for people to express themselves a little bit more permanently than say a new hair style.  Tattooing is not taboo like it used to be, and pretty much everyone has one!  The more mainstream tattoos becomes, the less people are afraid of them, and the more curious they become.  Unfortunately, some people are a bit careless about it (see question 5, regarding Tweetie Bird and the Bacardi Bat tattoos).

 
Do you agree with the idea that sleeve tattoos are now the Wal-Mart of rebellion?


No, not really.  Sleeve tattoos are just a certain look that some people want to go for, or they're the type of person who has lots and lots of tattoo ideas in their head and thinks, why not just make a sleeve out of it?  I think a sleeve tattoo is something that you should build on over time though.  Not just go in one day and get an entire sleeve done.  It usually ends up looking kind of lame and pointless.

 
Lastly, here's a virtual high five for finally doing what you've wanted to do for years (Though dangit! Why didn't you do it when I was home so I could have watched!?). I think your tatt (am I cool enough to use that word?) is wicked awesome and I love it! Do you have any advice for anyone who is toying with the idea of getting a tattoo, but are unsure if they should go for it?


Do it!  When I was toying with whether or not to do it, one thought I had was "do I want to permanently mark my body?  Do I want to lose that level of pureness of just being in a totally natural state?"  But honestly,  I don't regret it at all!  If you're unsure, stick to something small, and in a spot where it will be covered.  Maybe steer clear of say, a neck tattoo :)  But only do it if in the back of your head, you know you really want one.

 ***

There you go Internet.

Christmas Gift Idea: a tattoo.

Trust me, it's a gift they'll never forget.

(Unless they get it lasered off, then maybe...)

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

A Festive Glow

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Don't mind the crumbs in the background, my birch baskets are shedding fake snow.

I'm glad for it because after the sideways rainstorm we had today, I'll take snow any way I can get it.

Even if it has to be fake.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Christmas Gift Idea: A Bottle of Brew

Okay this might not be a good idea for the teetotaler in your life, and it's not the most original of suggestions, but otherwise a really nice bottle of wine or scotch or case of artisan beer is where it's at. And please, this isn't meant to be a gift for the college drunk in your life who doesn't know the difference between a box and a bottle; this is for the individual near and dear to you who likes to kick back with a beverage that has been supremely distilled and/or aged.

And this recommendation isn't in the spirit of trying to be pretentious or make you and yours look like fancy-pants who turn their noses up at cheap imitations. The fact is, the more a person learns, appreciates, participates in and gets to enjoy something, they eventually start to want the quality product. A quality experience. This goes for everything from sport, clothing, food, to beverages. And in our house, it's Dan's taste for scotch that is being refined.

My Bup--my grandfather--is the scotch man in our family, and he likes the stuff that will keep you warm when you're camping, duck hunting, or sitting around the Christmas tree with those you love. The first time that Dan ever met my extended family, Bup got him absolutely pickled on scotch. You may think it's odd for your grandpa to get you drunk, but, well, he also got my sisters and I pretty loaded at a family wedding one year, and none of us can remember the ceremony. He's a bit heavy handed when he mixes drinks. Anyhow, back to Dan's initiation to my family.

It was a late fall day and my dad had just retired; he had a whack of collected papers that needed to be disposed of, so the family made a day of it and we went to my uncle's property where a bonfire was started so the papers could be burned. We girls were inside, and all the boys were outside. Occasionally I'd peek out the window to see how Dan was doing, meeting all the men-folk for the first time, and it seemed to be going well: they were all standing around tossing back drinks and building a huge fire.

How very safe and non-redneck of us.

Later that afternoon they came inside and all 6'5 inches of Dan collapsed and sprawled across my uncle's living room floor. He was done.

"Caitie....Caaaiiiittttiiiieeee....." Dan hissed, lying on his back with an empty glass rolling beside him. "I don' know wha ta doooooooo."

"What do you mean you don't know what to do?" I laughed.

"Ever time I finish ma glass.....Bup fills it up again," he moaned, now trying to climb into a chair. And then, as if he heard himself mentioned, in strolled my jolly Bup to fill up Dan's empty glass for the seventh time that day.

"Seeeeeeeeeeeeeeee" Dan whispered, "I don' know wha ta doooooo."

After that day, and once he recovered from a wicked bad hangover, Dan took a decided interest in scotch. As the years have progressed, he has acquired his own preferences in a bottle of scotch beyond the familial obligation to drink Famous Grouse, and he has an interest in learning more about the different products; so, one day last month we hopped a train and went to Thun so that he could check out a specialty scotch shop.

And this, my invisible Internet friends, is where you can really make sure you're selecting a special Christmas present for that important someone: go to an expert. Go to someone who specializes in the product and who can listen to what your palette has been exposed to thus far and can recommend from there the next option you can graduate to.

I myself do not have a taste for scotch so  I was content to browse the store and take pictures while the lady in the shop asked Dan what he'd drank so far, decided what flavours he'd likely benefit from trying next, and then chose a selection of scotch that he could sample from.

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One corner of the store.

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Dan's samples.

And if you can find an expert who insists on letting you try the product, well that's obviously even better. The afternoon was informative for Dan, and the lady nailed it in terms of selecting a range of flavours that Dan would like. They were all to his taste, and he chose to buy a bottle of the scotch on the left.

It really was quite the experience, and it's one I'd recommend if you know of someone who wants to expand their knowledge and you live anywhere near a specialty shop, or can find a willing expert via the Internet.

Christmas is a special time of year, so if you can help a loved one further their keen interest, or relax with a rare treat, it really does make their season bright.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Christmas Gift Idea: The Mighty Furminator

I have spoken a few times about the fact that our sweet Poppy girl is a perma-shedder. It honestly would be a lot more annoying if she didn't look like this.

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I'm damn cute, bitches.

In addition to being unbelievably sweet, this year she has also turned into a huge cuddler. She's been a part of our little family for six years now, and she's always been rather aloof. But this year she has been born again as a warm, purring, little feline that loves nothing more than to stretch out on your chest with her head tucked under your chin, purring and purring and purring.

However the problem with her being born again as a cuddler is that our clothing has never looked worse. And when we're not around to cuddle? Not a big deal in Poppy's world: she just snuggles into our discarded clothes, which really translates to meaning she sleeps in my clothing because Dan always folds his and puts it away whereas I toss mine in a heap on the floor. Earlier this year I had my black wool winter coat lying on my bed and when I remembered to hang it up a few hours later, the damage had been done. Her long white hairs were burred into the jacket and nothing I did to remove them worked. So I had to take the jacket to the dry-cleaner, and the lady picked up my jacket between pinched thumbs and index fingers and handled it like it was a bag of bio-hazard feces. It was mortifying. Even worse was I had to try and explain in stilted in German that my cat and slept on it, which made her look at me with wrathful judgment that implied: why would your jacket be lying on a bed and not hanging in a closet?

Our only saving grace in maintaining the illusion that we were winning  the battle of Poppy's blowing coat is that she loves being brushed: by Dan. She hates it when I brush her. So we'd be able to pick a few hairs off and consider ourselves victorious that those hadn't end up on the floor.

So when I was home this summer, I popped into one of my favourite pet shops after work just to have a browse. As I admired the SPCA kittens, and the little budgies, and the rabbits, I worked my around to the display of cat toys. As I meandered over, I swear that a beam of light shone from the heavens and I heard the angels sing that joyous anthem that Harold and Kumar heard when they finally made it Whitecastle: before me stood a mighty display of FURminator cat brushes. 

I was saved.

Why it had never occurred to me to buy this particular tool before, I have no idea. I eagerly rushed over to the display and then nearly choked when I saw the price. What the...$60 for a cat brush? Was this a joke? As I pondered the price, a sales associate clad in her khaki safari duds came over and cheerfully asked me if I needed any help.

"Um, yeah. We have a cat that sheds like crazy, and I was considering buying this brush. But you're charging $60 for it."

Unfazed by my thrifty disbelief, the girl made her sales pitch. "I know it seems like a lot of money, but it is the best. Seriously, you'll be amazed at how much excess hair this thing can pull off. It doesn't shave the cat, it just removes all the excess hair that's already come loose."

"But, it's $60 dollars. I don't even own a hairbrush that expensive."

"You know what, there are knock-offs out there, but really they don't do as good a job as this one. I'm serious, I have the knock-off and I have this one and this one is just better."

Then she went on to explain the double blade to me, and yaddy yaddy yadda.

"Listen, if I buy this I can't return it. I don't live here. So you are 100% guaranteeing me that I will be satisfied with this. That I will not be upset that I spent $60 dollars on a brush."

"I am seriously guaranteeing it."

I chose to believe her, she gave me a discount, and I bought the FURminator.

Internet: if there is someone in your life who goes absolutely bat-shit mental over shedding animals, you need to buy them this and stick it under the tree or in their stocking.

It's amazing.

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This first time we used this, we pulled a bag of hair off her. To clarify: that is a bag of hair that was already loose and would have ended up all over our rug, our chairs, our clothes, and likely in my morning yogurt. As Dan gently brushed away, we were giggling in crazy disbelief.

I mean, holy shit...A BAG OF HAIR.

As the weeks went by, the more we brushed her the less hair came off. And we noticed a difference. Seriously, our black area rug was black again; we didn't need to vacuum every day; I could eat breakfast without consuming Poppy hair.

We were free!

This was worth what I paid for it, and it will make a great gift for that OCD person in your life who can't handle shedding pets. And I guarantee it will provide Christmas post-turkey fun for the whole family. Just gather around the family cat or dog, brush gently, and be prepared to be absolutely gobsmacked by how much shedding hair will come off.

Though the best thing to find under the Christmas tree is of course our Poppy.

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But she's all ours.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Reason to Celebrate

It's that time of year again when, if you're lucky, you get to pause and realize how fortunate you are. That despite the little stumblings of the day-in-day-out grind, you have it good.

My pause came yesterday when I realized that for the first time in years I was having a pain free day. So a fun fact about me is that I have arthritis, and have had it for most of my twenties even though it wasn't officially diagnosed until four years ago.

I have been living with daily pain for so long, it's just my normal.

For years and years, no matter how many chiropractic or massage appointments I went to, it hurt to turn my head, it hurt to stretch open my jaws, it hurt to walk in bare feet, and it hurt to lift my shoulders. And it was a mystery why. Maybe it was that horse riding accident? Maybe it was that car accident? Maybe it was because despite always being in pain, I still tried to be as active as possible which meant my body wasn't healing?

But when my knees randomly swole to twice their normal size, and the swelling persisted for over a month and I couldn't walk, I finally got an answer. Though admittedly it wasn't one I wanted: arthritis.

So I've been trying to have it treated for four years and after moving here I had another frustrating flare-up and the doctor put me on some new meds to see how things would go. I definitely felt a lot better being on them, but there was always one joint that was still sore. But one body part being sore as opposed to all of them? That is a huge improvement.

My doctor started to wean me off the drugs because they are really, really harsh but I'm not considered to be in remission. Things are still bubbling and brewing below the surface like a volcano waiting to ruin everyone's flight plans, but I don't have as much pain.

And yesterday?

I had none.

I crouched down without thinking about it, and then instantly shot right back up again. You see, I'm not supposed to be able to crouch down. It always hurts. But yesterday I just did it. After I popped up I cautiously crouched down again, and I could. And then I realized that nothing hurt.

And I was happy and so, so incredibly thankful.

Today my elbow is sore again, but it doesn't matter because yesterday it was fine and tomorrow brings so many possibilities.

Monday, 5 December 2011

I'm Ready for December

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I made my first seasonal batch of gingersnaps on Saturday night so that we would have a festive snack to munch on while we listened to Christmas tunes and decorated the apartment.

Today, only four pillowy soft snaps remain.

At this rate my jeans are still totally going to fit at the end of the month, don't you think?

Friday, 2 December 2011

A Taste Of Home

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I just happened to be browsing the selection of tea at Coop, when what to my wondering eyes should appear but a box of amazing tea (but sadly, no eight tiny reindeer).

Yes, that's right. Lipton's figured out a way to put the essence of my homeland into a triangular shaped tea bag. Not a big deal. I think this just means we're totally tea-stars now. We'll try to stay down earth, but I can't make any promises.

NOW BRING ME SOME POUTINE TO EAT WHILE I SIP THIS TEA.

(Oops, sorry. That didn't last long, though I can't be blamed: Jenny from the Block wasn't very convincing either.)

So Internet, what's your tea done for you lately? Don't feel bad if it hasn't catapulted you into tea-stardom. We can't all be delicious and amazing.

Right Jenny?

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Santa's Little Helper

I was cleaning off my memory card, and look at what I found.

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Oh hello, I'm just hiding in the wrapping paper.
Since you can't see me, go away.

The tacky blotting of 80's colour is my own little experiment in Picassa, a program which I have recently discovered. Anyone have a photo of themselves holding a rose? Can I interest you in removing the colour from the rest of the picture, but still keeping the red rose, rosie? It makes for such a timeless picture.

Or better yet, I could blur the picture so you look like you're in a hallucinogenic dream.

Also timeless.

Anyhow, I'm getting off track. I took this picture two weeks ago when I was wrapping my family's Christmas gifts. The wrapping festivities were assembly-line style wherein I would wrap the present in Christmas paper, then dance it over to Dan and he'd cover up the package in brown post wrap.  The system would have worked perfectly if not for the peanut gallery (Dan) mocking my wrap jobs.

Now here's the thing about me: I really, really put a lot of effort into trying to decide what to buy people for Christmas and birthdays, but then I put no effort at all into wrapping the gift. I can't help it! It seems like such a waste of time trying to make something look pretty that's just going to be ripped open in 3.2 seconds. There was a point in time when my family could look under our Christmas tree and tell just by how a present was wrapped, if it was from me or not.

Does the parcel have a balling up of extra paper at both ends of the box? That one's from Caitie.

Does the parcel have three different colours of wrapping paper covering the box because someone can't figure out how much paper to cut? That one's from Caitie.

Is the parcel void of bows or ribbons? That one's from Caitie.

Does the parcel have clean lines, curling ribbons, and a neatly printed card? That one is not from Caitie.

Here's a question: does the poor wrap job void the gift of special meaning? No seriously, I want to know. Because if so, I guess I need to learn to try harder. Or, you know, give the presents to Dan to wrap.

So to illustrate just how differently we operate, you need to understand how different our gift wrapping stations looked: my station had sheared off razors of paper everywhere, a roll of packing tape dangling off the side of the table, and a blue pen leaking ink everywhere; Dan's tidy station had extra paper carefully placed to the side, squares of tape already cut and hanging off the table for easy use, and no leaking stationary.

He is so Swiss! I swear they teach them this stuff in school. In fact, Dan said they used to have to write in fountain pen for one penmanship exercise, and if they didn't blot the extra ink it would smudge and they would loose marks for being untidy.

OMG! I think while he was a Swiss schoolboy diligently practicing tidy penmanship I was a Canadian schoolgirl sounding a battle cry before wildly rolling down the school's sledding hill, wearing a dress, trying to beat my friends to the bottom. Sometimes I feel like I'm a perfect heathen next to Dan's Swiss roots.

So given all this, I handed Dan the last of my parents' gifts to wrap in post paper and he held the package in his hands and shook his head sadly from side to side. To paint a picture, the gift is wrapped in two jagged pieces of mismatched paper and there's a lot of tape holding it together.

"You know sweets," he sighed in weary resignation while glancing at my wrap station, "at this point in our Swiss adventure I have stopped hoping for your seamless integration. At best I can only hope for peaceful co-existence."

Standing before him still in my pajamas with crazy bedhead sticking out everywhere, I wiped an inky hand across my nose, watched our Canadian barn cat death roll himself into the remaining Christmas wrap and start shredding it to bits, while I replied: Huh? What do you mean by that?

Monday, 28 November 2011

Zibelemaerit

Today was the Onion Market in Bern, and I have got a few pictures to share with everyone. I missed the market last year because I was in transit returning from my cousin's wedding, but I've heard from a few people that it's quite the event and one should try and catch it. Last night Dan and I were lounging around making plans for today--his last day of holidays--and trying to decide when we were going to hit up the market.

"Well you know Cait, some of the vendors are set-up and selling their goods as early as 4 a.m."

Then I blinked.

A lot.

"I am not going anywhere at 4 a.m. unless it's to be shuttled to my private yacht off the coast of France."

"Okay, how about 6 a.m. Everything is open and in full swing then; everyone who has to work tomorrow will catch it then before they go to work."

"Do you even know me at all?"

We ended up showing up today at around 11, and it was packed. Honestly, maybe it's worth going early just so you can actually have a chance to browse the wares being sold at the vendor booths because really for most of the time I spent there I just felt like I was a cow in a chute, being pushed along the streets. If you stopped moving or tried to veer sideways to a booth, you got trampled. So needless to say I didn't really check out a lot of the vendor stands, most of which were selling (because this is an onion market) braided ropes of onions, though there were a lot of different wares being sold too. Dan and I were more interested in the food carts and it was fun to be part of the crowd, eat some divine garlic bread, and sip hot gluehwein.

The first thing I noticed though, when stepping off the bus, is that the streets were absolutely carpeted in confetti; this brings me to the one thing you need to be prepared for: kids (teens and tykes alike) walk around with bags of confetti and plastic hammers that make a squeaking sound. The point is they reach into their bag and throw handfuls of confetti at your face, rub it into your hair, and then bonk you over the head with the plastic hammer. It seems quite violent and unnecessary to me, the Canadian, but Dan said it's tradition and he used to be one of the little terrors holding a squeaking hammer and bag of confetti.

Of course, today he was rather immune to it because there was no one tall enough to throw confetti at his face, rub it in his hair, or hit him over the head with a squeaking toy hammer. I had to take a few for the team.

It was really fun.

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Though next year, I'm going to team up with a kid so I can do some confetti throwing of my own.