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Pass The Christmas Cake and Remote Please…

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ME… preparing for Christmas!

Ah yes, Christmas in COVID times… a new life experience for all of us who live in the Christian world.

I’m gonna put down my TV remote now and share my guilt trip with you today.

If you can’t feel guilty at Christmas, check your pulse. A Charlie Brown Christmas will just have to wait (but I can listen to the music while writing).

This morning, I was having my twice weekly online 6:30 am tutoring session with my Syrian refugee friend (let’s call him Amir).

We sip coffee and latte together, and chat amiably (in English only – beyond hello, goodbye and thank you, my Arabic sucks big time… yup, more guilt) about our daily lives and the world, before diving into the day’s lesson.

Growing up, Amir barely glimpsed the inside of a classroom in Syria, and after 5 years in Canada, he still struggles hugely with the writing and reading parts of this silly English language we take for granted.

His literacy difficulties (Larry, have you thought that maybe it’s your teaching that is the problem?) hold him back in a major way from obtaining meaningful employment in this country.

The family of 5 (now 7) escaped the brutal Syrian/Russian troop incursions into their small agrarian town near the Jordan border, and arrived in this country having never uttered as much as HELLO in English, and never having felt the bitter chill of snow blowing past their faces. Difficult life? You bet.

Anyway, today – with his burgeoning bundle of English vocabulary – Amir told me the story of his friendly next door neighbour, a 50’ish year-old fellow with 2 young sons – one in Grade 7 and the other in Grade 2.

Amir’s 5 year-old son and the neighbour’s younger son play together often, racing their miniature RC cars in the driveways of the townhouse complex where they live. VROOM VROOM…

The man’s wife is in prison (reason unknown).

Just these tiny pieces of information tell you that the neighbour and his family, like Amir’s, must be in a difficult situation. Then…

Yesterday afternoon… a host of screaming emergency vehicles, blue and red lights flashing – police, fire department, ambulance… CORONER… descended on the neighbour’s house next door… a dozen responders in full uniform…

… an hour and a half later, the neighbour, the father, was declared dead, likely of a heart attack.

As the lifeless father was rolled out of the house in a shiny black, zippered bag, a family member arrived to whisk the 2 boys off to a new “home” in the local area. Merry Christmas little ones.

Even though I don’t truly count myself as a “Christian” today, I’ve lived my entire life in the cozy saturation of Christianity and the Christmas family; beautiful religious ceremony, music, and scents have filled me with nostalgia and warmth and an inclusive sense of belonging… a belonging to something weighty, magical and mysterious. It’s as much a part of me as my heart and lungs.

But with each passing year, and especially so at this time of year, I feel the burden of the discomfort of others (cue melancholy Sarah McLachlan song). This isn’t a bad thing, I don’t think.

It’s good because it tells me that I am experiencing a greater awareness of the whole.

No matter how young or old we are, the ability to unearth and display compassion for others is crucial, and whether it’s tied to a religion or deity doesn’t really matter. Empathy for others isn’t connected to Christianity or Islam or Judaism etc.

Those sounds of discomfort I’m hearing are emanating especially loud this year amongst many individuals and families who despair at the thought of little or no physical connection to family as they awake Christmas morning. It’s not part of our fabled Christmas scene.

Worse still is that Christmas will be even more challenging this year for so many who struggle on a daily basis in ordinary times. These aren’t ordinary times, you know it.

One example in my world: I can only faintly imagine the crushing hurt and thoughts of isolation surging up this year in many of the folks I’ve encountered over the years at the local soup kitchen… or those who can’t visit loved ones in hospitals and care institutions.

And it reminds me to my core of how fortunate I’ve been to have so many opportunities and so many creature comforts… you know… Peace on Earth and Comfort and Joy.

My challenges are infinitely smaller than a family of Syrian refugees living on this alien Canadian “planet”, or a pair of 2 young brothers who’ve lost their main parent and home, and will struggle through a Christmas season like no other.

You will likely find this hard to believe as you read along, but a few hours back I sat down to write this as a light, fluffy piece; a ditty of sorts about my guilty pleasure of watching The Great British Baking Show and this silly passion I hold for sweet food porn interlaced with lovely English, Irish, and Scottish lilts…

… but as so often happens, a tiny voice builds up to a crescendo inside me and crowds my space and finds a different message to write about (you know that speaking about these voices publicly could land you in a totally different space Larry?)

If you’re floundering with Christmas blues this year (and I hope you’re not, but if you or someone you know is struggling – Canada’s Crisis Hotline – 1-833-456-4566), my wish is that you can search your universe and find the positives, your Silver Linings Playbook to get you through …

Here’s my offering, a tiny token to help you along your peaceful trail… another country-style Christmas tune (written by my old bestie John Denver) I played and produced in my little home studio this week. HO HO HO…

The Blessing And The Curse … COVID-19 Version

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blessings-curses

Quick… TRIVIA Quiz…

What are the names of the 7 von Trapp family children in the movie THE SOUND OF MUSIC? (Don’t cheat… answers may be found at the end of this post).

The Sound of Music (or to be really silly in these dark COVID times… it might be renamed The Sound of Mucous) has been a recurring theme in this house for the past few weeks. If you’ve never heard of or never *NOOOOO* seen the movie, this might be a good time for you to sign out of this post… just sayin’…

Since the oncoming rushing train we’ve labelled COVID-19 was introduced to us in the last couple of months, the entire world has had this sci-fi common experience of physical isolation, but definitely NOT social isolation.

This isn’t your great grandparents’ version of the Spanish Flu… *drum roll* … introducing the INTERNET! Have you heard of it?

The planet has adapted in many many ways to keeping our hands and expelled body fluids away from each other.

The friendly exchange of our body’s bacterial and viral biome with others has been our way of communicating, connecting and bonding with our family, friends and acquaintances for millennia.

Shake my hand, hug me, cheek buss, bum pat (SLAP… OK, this one is long out of bounds!)…

STOP! Do Not Touch! Anyone! Anything!

It’s tough and it can be slightly embarrassing or uncomfortable. It’s just plain weird to turn a lifetimes’ social learning and flip it on its head.

Which brings me back to The Sound of Music.

Early on in this isolation period, our family began a weekly Zoom get-together on Monday nights to have a Pub Trivia Night in Canada.

It’s a weekly chance to remind me why I didn’t get selected to join the Jeopardy TV family despite challenging the “Contestant Test”.

Physical isolation YES… Social Isolation NO…

In week one of our Zoom sessions, we posited the final BONUS question to our physically-distanced kids and partners: What are the names of the 7 Von Trapp family children in the movie THE SOUND OF MUSIC?

Despite some close attempts, no one quite accomplished the task successfully.

Then, once again, in week 4 of the family Zoom nights, our daughter posed the same question. And again, no one quite jumped over the high bar.

Furthering this Sound of Music theme that has been stuck in my little head… I finished up my online tutoring session with my Syrian friend this week by asking him to listen to a YouTube version of Julie Andrews and the 7 von Trapp children singing… My Favourite Things.

His homework quest was to listen to the spirited song and then write down all of the favourite things that Julie (ie Maria) and the children list in song. The good news is that he managed fine although he found Julie Andrews British accent a bit “dawwwnting”.

 

Our favourite things have changed now that COVID-19 has taken and taken.

We all have a sense of what we’ve given up during this enforced “Lent-of-Sorts”. There are myriads of sadnesses and laments over what and who has been lost.

My mind wanders this way and that… I was watching a TV documentary about country singer Garth Brooks last week. He calmly stared into the camera, slowly flipping his hands back and forth, and said, “Everything you want has a blessing and a curse…”

… and this led me to the Idea Sex concept of this week’s blog… to combine COVID-19 and My Favourite Things¬† (the curse and the blessing)…¬† granted, an odd combination… but folks… you’re dealing with an odd mind here… so….

… here goes…

These Are A Few of My 8 Favourite Things

COVID-19 Version

1. This one is easy … and clever too. The Coronavirus version of DO-RE-MI

 

2. Music. The needed push for me to quit procrastinating and spend some time not only playing and practising guitar (this is easy), but also the time to sweat through songwriting sessions (this is NOT easy!). Developing unique and interesting melodies is akin to running the half marathon for me… intense and exhausting but ultimately exhilarating. Does this sound more like a happy ending than a songwriting session?

3. Garden. Setting up a new low-water use irrigation system for the garden. The old 1990’s underground sprinklers are fabulous for soaking huge areas in huge quantities in water… but this is so 20th century thinking. Drippers and micro-sprayers use a fraction of the water and accomplish the goal of keeping everything lush, colourful and beautiful, just like my own peacock’s feathers (right, in your head Larry!)

4. Exercise. Re-discovering my self-motivation exercise gene. For many years, I’ve relied on spin classes, boot camp classes, yoga classes, organized runs etc, to get me out the door and sweating. Now I wake up (and it’s almost light now at 5 am!) and begin my own motivational self-talk session that eventually results in a salty sweat-stained set of shorts and T-shirt. Then I get out of bed. My beer and bread belly has only increased – you can’t see me, right? – marginally!

5. Cooking. Working harder and with more enthusiasm to broaden my ethnic cooking horizon. For many years, I’ve routinely alternated the style of cuisine I prepare… Indian, Italian, German, Moroccan, Thai, Peruvian, North American, and so on, you get it. My quest now is to expand on these ethnic directions by adding new dishes into the mix. Wanna try my Pad Thai Pizza, Prime Rib Ceviche, or Schnitzel Tajine?

6. Vegging. Yes, oodles of time where there are multitudes of streaming shows that entice and seduce like creamy smooth chocolate. My favourite indulgence recently is the Netflix mini-series UNORTHODOX… or is it Gossip Girl? shhhhh… Recent credible research suggests that binge-watching produces a surge of IgG and IgM antibodies biologically active against… absolutely nothing.

7. Soul Searching. Having an intense internal conversation with my inner voices and demons where I play Trevor Noah or Jimmy Kimmel to myself. I earnestly ask myself all the questions I’ve always wanted answered: Why does Mom love my brother more? If I’m so GD handsome, how come no one ever asked me to pose for Playgirl magazine? Should I sue Keith Urban for plagiarizing my voice?

8. Toes. Yes, rediscovering long distant body parts is great fun and refreshes me on things like simple arithmetic (how many are there again?) and also … just what have my piggies been doing all these years since childhood? And why is my toe jam more like toe peanut butter? So many intriguing questions… so much time.

Thank you COVID-19. And finally …

*The von Trapp childrens’ names?

  • Liesl
  • Friedrich
  • Louisa
  • Kurt
  • Brigitta
  • Marta
  • Gretl

beefcake fav things

HOT? Maybe… but Definitely NOT on MY list!

 

 

 

So What’s Sexier Than This?

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bread sex

There’s titillating sex bubbling and rising in your kitchen.

I hope. But maybe not. I’ll tell you why in just a minute.

Look at that picture above.

It caused a controversy about 40 years ago, almost as if Hugh Hefner had splayed a *blush* buck-naked Centrefold Playmate across your child’s Grade 1 Reader.

Look closely again, what do you think? If you see (and maybe smell) the delicious sight and wafting aroma of freshly-baked bread just pulled from the oven… well… I’m applauding your Victorian mores and approach to life.

Jane Austen has taught you well.

But maybe… just maybe… like so many of the time this was published (I was an avid reader of Harrowsmith magazine in the early 1980’s), you look a bit more deeply and visualize a young, heaving-bosomed lass with a sexually-charged come-hither look and signs of post-coital flush in her cheeks – and is that truly a loaf of steaming bread cupped lovingly in her hands? – well… now you’re COOKING!

Soon, a flood of complaint letters got dumped on the doorstep of the humble Canadian publisher … “how dare you put such filth on the cover of a magazine that arrives in our mailbox for all the children to see… not even wrapped in kraft paper for modesty. Unfettered pornography!

hidden porn

Ah yes… we all know that sex sells. I’ll bet this was the magazine’s bestselling edition ever.

Now in today’s soc-iso world, it’s not only sex that sells (porn sites are overloaded… I’m told!)… but to my unprepared surprise, so does YEAST. Seductive whor’ish yeast.

SCENE: Inside local supermarket, weekday morning, 8 am….. only busy parking lot within 20 kilometres (OK, the Cannabis Store was doing alright too).

While other delicate shoppers socially-distanced-crammed into the toilet paper, sanitizer, and face mask aisles (there’s a face mask aisle?)…

… I cleverly, devilishly … snuck away to the far reaches of the store and the baking section where I knew no one … no one… would be congregating, much less mobbing.

I just needed to grab a small jar of yeast for my pizza doughs, cinnamon buns, hot cross buns, and the occasional loaf of bread I feel inspired to muck up … routine stuff I do on any given week ever… dum de dum…

Perfect… no congregation, no crowd, no throngs …

Holy Cabbage Patch Dolls!!! …

NO YEAST! WTF!

Four more supermarket stores later (I know… why was I not in an isolation chamber at home?)… and the same Sci-Fi story…

YEAST… SOLD RIGHT OUT!

empty shelf

I had naively figured that with all this isolation, much more yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae, to us lab nerds) would be irritatingly ensconced in the below-the-waist internal workings of overrun ladies locked away with laid-off lads and their overcharged libidos (a bit of liberal blog fibbing here, the yeast normally found in vaginal itch is of the Candida variety).

There could easily be a foreseeable glut of baby bellies in 9 months under these circumstances… the COVID KIDS… but “bread bellies”? Where are all the gluten-free crowds now?

The global and local ripples of the CORONAVIRUS are and will be felt in countless areas that no one would have ever dreamed. The school bell has decisively rung and the next classroom we enter in life will be quite different.

And sadly too, perhaps one day in the not-too-distant future, counselling office waiting rooms will be overfilled with adolescents and young adults… searching for ways of coping with their childhood traumas – the sweat-drenched nightmares of days and weeks spent with no homemade breads or buns, the heartfelt sorrow-soaked memory of their mother’s and father’s faces as they tell their young charges that because of the Great Yeast Famine, there will be no cinnamon buns today, and maybe not tomorrow or next week either.

The good news ending here (for me at least, it’s all about ME, right?) comes when I spotted my wife running out the front doors of a local WalMart store… jumping up and down, arms raised in a V of jubilation… a small jar of Fleischmann’s “fungal gold” clenched in each hand… START THE CAR!

Have I mentioned my charitable side lately? I would never stoop to hawking tiny envelopes of yeast to you online at exorbitant prices… no Sirree!

But I can offer a special deal to you on a 6-pack of my delicious Hot Cross Buns this Easter weekend at the low low price of just $69.69 (any subliminal sexual message there is in your dirty little mind).

More yummy fun than finding your happy ending while ogling the cover of Harrowsmith mag…

*apologies to the hordes of English teachers and other language buffs for the endless run-on sentences in today’s post. Difficult times bring on disastrous grammar gaffes.

buns bunny