Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Odds & ends

  • (Possible TMI alert.)  This weekend will mark exactly a year & a half since my last visit from Aunt Flo, i.e., six months out from crossing the rubicon into official menopause
    • So of course I'm spotting. :(  Nothing dramatic. No real blood. No cramps. Just some bits of dark brown matter when I wipe myself, not every time, but several times in the past few days. And a vaguely unsettled feeling in my abdomen, although that could be my overactive imagination/anxiety.  
    • Dr. Google advises that it is most likely related to a thinning of the uterine/vaginal lining -- but also that any post-menopausal bleeding should not be ignored. 
    • I need to call our family doctor's office anyway to see about flu shots, and whether they are scheduling annual checkups yet. (We originally had checkups scheduled for May. Because of COVID-19, those appointments turned into phone consultations to renew our prescriptions. The checkups were rescheduled for August -- at which point we were told to check back in October to see if they were taking appointments for physicals yet.)  So I will add this item to the list of things to ask about. 
    • Has this happened to any of you who are in the Menopause Club? 
  • COVID-19 case rates are skyrocketing hereabouts (in the province of Ontario, and the Toronto area in particular). :( They went from under 50 new daily cases in mid-August to just under 500 new cases on Sunday to more than 700 on Monday and back down to 550 today. (Woohoo?)  More than 300 cases have been reported in public schools since classes restarted. 
    • The Ontario Hospital Association wants the province to revert back to Stage 2 (from the current Stage 3), which would mean shutting down indoor dining & drinking at bars & restaurants, again -- i.e., patio dining and takeout/delivery only. It will soon be too chilly here for patios, and many restaurants say they couldn't survive another shutdown.
    • So far, all the province has done is lower the size of private gatherings (back down to 10 people), imposed earlier closing hours for bars and restaurants. Oh yeah, and closed strip clubs (!).  Meanwhile, they allowed casinos to reopen on Monday (!).   
    • And so here we are...
  • We made a trip to the bookstore this afternoon, and I picked up a card, some books (Sandra Boynton -- I adore her stuff!) and a soft stuffed toy for a Halloween goodie bag for Little Great-Nephew (he's still too young for candy -- although I may get dh to pick up a box of arrowroot cookies next time he's at the grocery store, lol). Also a card for his first birthday -- which is not until mid-November, but I figured I'd better stock up now while I can, just in case... If all else fails, some cash or a cheque in a card for his piggy bank will do just fine as a birthday gift, I'm sure. ;)  
  • The fabulous folks at The Full Stop podcast -- Michael, Sarah and Berenice -- have invited the childless-not-by-choice community to drop by for a Zoom based coffee (or any beverage!) and chat, every Saturday in October, starting this Saturday, Oct. 3rd, at 10 a.m. BST/GMT.  They're looking at October as a trial run and will then continue if the chats are well supported. These are free to attend and unrecorded. Register once, on the events page of the Full Stop podcast website,  and then drop in on any of the sessions after that.  

Monday, September 28, 2020

#MicroblogMondays: "National Daughters Day"??

Who gets to decide what (or who) gets celebrated on what day? Who decides what things/people should be celebrated, and when? 

I'm not talking about long-established/"official"/"Hallmark" or religious holidays that most people know about & celebrate (and sometimes get a day off work for), like Halloween and Christmas and Valentine's Day and Easter and Mother's Day, but these lesser-known ones that you primarily find out about because everyone is posting about them on social media.  

Case in point: Friday was apparently "National Daughters Day," and EVERYONE was posting/showing off photos of their daughters on Facebook & Instagram. Even my high school girlfriend, who lost her 29-year-old daughter in a car accident last fall, posted a couple of goofy old photos of the two of them together. Her grief over her daughter is accepted. Mine (for a baby nobody else ever saw, stillborn 22 years ago) is not. :(  I was soooooo tempted to post a photo of Katie's marker at the cemetery. Or, if I REALLY wanted to make people squirm, one of my precious hospital Polaroids of me holding Katie (you can't see her face, just the blanket). 

(I didn't. I didn't want it to look like I was fishing for sympathy.)(I'm saving it up for Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month/Day in October, lol.)  

(Someone commented on one post, "Gee, I have a lot of friends with daughters!"  TELL ME ABOUT IT.  :p)  

Someone on a childless forum commented something along the lines of "Why did Facebook have to create Daughters Day??"  (There was another comment to the effect of "pronatalism on parade.") I said I didn't think it (or any of these other made-up holidays) was CREATED by Facebook -- although people sure run with it there, and on Instagram. 

That got me curious -- so I Googled "National Daughters Day origins." As often happens with social media, the original purpose/meaning of the day/posting trend seems to have been lost/twisted.  One site I found suggested it may have started in India, where historically, there has been a stigma attached to having daughters & being a girl. There are still many countries where girls are denied an education, employment or even healthcare, where sons are preferred and given priority. Daughters Day is an opportunity to celebrate and encourage all daughters everywhere. 

It was also, apparently (depending on what calendar you checked): 

National Quesadilla Day
National One-Hit Wonder Day
National Comic Book Day
National Lobster Day
National Tune-Up Day
National Research Administrator Day
National Brave Day 
National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day 
National YogaFit Day 
National Research Administrator Day 
National Food Service Employee Day 
National Math Storytelling Day 

Who knew, right??  

Things get even more intriguing, though:  my question at the top of this post was "Who gets to decide what gets celebrated, and when?"  The answer is -- anyone can, really, although the reality is a little more complicated. There are several different "national day" websites. There's one that appears to be UK-based, National Day Archives, where you can apply to register your special day -- for a fee. (I wasn't able to find how much that fee would be, at least not without submitting an application, it seems.)  There's another that appears to be US-based, National Day Calendar. You can apply to have your special day registered and recognized by them too. Nothing is said about a fee, at least up front -- but due to a substantial backlog, they are only accepting requests from companies and organizations at this time. 

Personally, I'm marking National Daughters Day on my calendar for 2021... so that I'll remember to avoid social media on that day...! 

You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here 

Monday, September 21, 2020

#MicroblogMondays: It wasn't that long ago...

I was having trouble thinking of something to write for today's #MM post, until I saw Mel's, about the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and just how new and tenous some of the rights are that American women now enjoy. 

I didn’t realize until just a few years ago what a critical role RBG played in some of these cases (which also affected women in Canada and around the world). I grew up in the 1960s & 1970s, graduated high school in 1979, went to university 1979-84, got married and entered the workforce in the mid/late 1980s -- so I'm old enough to remember those days -- and I do think a lot of younger women don't know some of the history and/or sometimes take these things for granted. 

Here are just a few of the advances women have made during my lifetime. I've written about some of these things before, but they're stories worth retelling, I think. (I did a bit of Googling to prod my memory, and found a lot of things I had forgotten, too!): 
  • I remember the battle over the Equal Rights Amendment in the U.S. in the 1970s, and the historic nomination of Geraldine Ferraro as vice-president on the Democratic Party ticket in 1984.  I remember Sandra Day O'Connor becoming the first woman justice on the U.S. Supreme Court in 1981, followed by Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 1993. 
  • There was a Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada in the late 1960s. Its 1970 report identified a host of laws and policies that discriminated against women. By 1977, the federal government had implemented over 80 percent of the report’s recommendations. 
  • When a new Canadian constitution and charter of rights was being written in the early 1980s (when I was in university), women's equality rights were initially not included. There was a huge uproar, and equality rights were enshrined in the new charter that came into effect in 1982. 
  • The first woman to sit on the Supreme Court of Canada, Bertha Wilson, was appointed in 1982. Eight other women have been appointed to the court since then, including Beverly McLachlin, who served as the court's first female chief justice (2000-2017). Four of the nine justices are currently women, making Canada's Supreme Court among the world's most gender balanced. 
  • Murdoch vs Murdoch (1973) is a famous case that I remember from my growing-up years. Upon the breakdown of her 25-year marriage in 1968, an Alberta woman named Irene Murdoch sought a half share in the ranch property held in her husband’s name, to which she had contributed years of labour. The case went to the Supreme Court of Canada, which denied Mrs. Murdoch's application, saying her labour was not beyond what was normally expected of a ranch wife. The subsequent uproar over the decision led to substantial reforms to matrimonial property laws across the country over the next several years, giving husbands and wives equal rights to property acquired during the course of the marriage.
  • Prior to 1983, it was legal in Canada for a man to sexually assault his wife. 
  • Although some limited provisions for pregnancy & maternity leave existed previously, current maternity/parental leave laws & structures didn't really come into being until 1983. They've been expanded several times since then. 
  • Legislation providing redress for victims of sexual harassment was introduced into Canada's Labour Code in 1984.
  • In 1980, a year after I graduated high school, the Royal Canadian Air Force began accepting women as pilots. One of my high school classmates joined the air force around that same time and became a pilot herself. She wasn't the first, but she was still among the first half-dozen or so women to achieve that position. She flew Hercules transport jets for several years before leaving the military.  
  • A woman has never been elected prime minister of Canada -- but we did have one. Kim Campbell became the leader of the federal Progressive Conservative party and thus prime minister when Brian Mulroney stepped down in 1993. She called an election a few months later and lost, but she's still in the history books as our first female prime minister. 
    • Similarly, the first female provincial premier in Canadian history was Rita Johnston, who served as Premier of British Columbia for seven months in 1991 after she won the leadership of the governing Social Credit Party. The party was defeated in the subsequent general election.
    • The first woman to become premier by winning a general election was Catherine Callbeck in Prince Edward Island in 1993.
    • To date, just 12 women have served as the premier of a province or territory in Canada. 
    • The only one currently serving in that role is Caroline Cochrane, Premier of the Northwest Territories, who assumed office in 2019.
  • The Employment Equity Act, which applies to federally regulated employees and requires employers to identify and eliminate unnecessary barriers that limit employment opportunities of women, aboriginal/indigenous peoples, visible minorities and people with disabilities, was passed in 1986. 
  • The large Canadian bank I went to work for in 1986 had only allowed women to join the pension plan 10 years earlier in 1976. 
  • During my first week of work, one of the older women took me aside and told me, “We don’t wear pants here, dear. What if the chairman saw you?” (!) This was 1986, not 1956!
    • I can remember being at a banquet in one of those early years and one of the executives (male, of course -- they were almost all men back then) practically patted me on the head and said to one of the other men there, "this little girl here..."  I was in my late 20s at the time. I decided that I wouldn't say anything because he WAS an executive and older than my father, but if anyone younger than my father ever said anything similar...!
    • The first female branch managers, both at my bank and at any bank in Canada, were appointed in 1961, the year I was born (two on the same day). 
    • I knew the first female senior vice-president and first woman executive vice-president (there has never yet been a woman president), and I vividly remember the day I saw one of the women vice-presidents, visibly pregnant, and realized she was very likely the first woman executive at the company to give birth and take maternity leave while holding an executive position. This would have been in the early 2000s. 

You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here.  

Friday, September 18, 2020

"So Close to Being the Sh*t, Y’all Don’t Even Know" by Retta

Confession: I've never watched an episode of "Parks & Rec" on TV (although I've certainly heard of it). So I didn't have a clue who Retta was when "So Close to Being the Sh*t, Y’all Don’t Even Know" was chosen for the next read in our Gateway Women online book club (criteria:  no children or pregnancies as major plot points, and definitely no miracle pregnancies).  

Sometimes your book club chooses a book you would never have picked up otherwise -- and you're pleasantly surprised or even wowed by the introduction to a great new author. Of course, sometimes, you and the chosen book just don't click. ("The Three Weissmans of Westport," I'm looking at you....) 

Despite my lack of previous knowledge of Retta &/or "Parks & Rec," this was, happily, a book I enjoyed. Retta (real name: Marietta Sirleaf) grew up in New Jersey, the child of immigrant parents from Liberia, and attended Duke University, with the goal of attending medical school. She never did write that MCAT exam (although she says it's still an option...!): she started doing standup comedy while still a student, won a Comedy Central competition and wound up moving to Hollywood with dreams of starring in her own self-titled sitcom. 

That hasn't happened (...yet!), but she did land a co-starring gig on "Parks & Rec," which lasted seven seasons, as well as other TV & movie work. Besides dishing on her Parks & Rec co-stars, she has some hilarious tales to tell that involve Robert Redford, Robert Pattinson, Jon Hamm and Michael Fassbender, among others. Not to mention confessing her addictions to coffee, designer handbags, social media, "Hamilton," and LA Kings hockey (!).

This was a fun, light, easy read (and not a baby in sight. The closest it came to mentioning children were Retta's bewilderment over being called "Mom" on social media -- supposedly a compliment, but she says it made her feel old. And, when talking about her efforts to eat better: "I gotta be honest, at this point I want Krispy Kreme more than I want children."). Retta's voice and personality were evident in every page, and now I want to go watch some "Parks & Rec" and see what I missed out on the first time around.  :)    

3.5 stars on Goodreads, rounded up to 4. (Lisa, who runs the GW book club, recommends the audiobook version, and it would probably be great in that format!) 

This was Book #35 read to date in 2020 (Book #2 finished in September), bringing me to 117%!! of my 2020 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 30 books. I have completed & now exceeded my challenge goal for the year by 5 books, and am (for the moment, anyway...!) 14 (!) books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2020 tagged as "2020 books." 

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Odds & ends

  • It's World Childless Week, and there is SO. MUCH!!! great stuff to read, watch and absorb. Frankly, I'm having trouble keeping up with it all... but it's a good problem to have, isn't it? Check out the WCW website.... new content is being posted there every day this week. A couple of highlights so far: 
    • I recently learned (via Gateway Women & World Childless Week) about a new support site/blog -- Peace & Joy (Again) -- specifically created for the Canadian childless audience (although of course the content is relevant to childless women everywhere!). Last year, GW's Jody introduced me via email to Susan, the site creator/author, who lives about an hour away from me. She & I had a lovely coffee & chat together in the spring of 2019, and we were planning to meet up again this past spring, at a point midway between our homes, before COVID-19 intervened. I've added her site to my list of resources in the sidebar here... check it out! 
    • Tuesday was WCW Diversity Day, and I sat in on a Zoom webinar about childlessness as a workplace diversity issue. (As Jody Day has said, "We're the biggest diversity group that HR has never heard of.")  Two employees from Bristol University in the U.K. (a woman AND a man!) talked about how they created a workplace policy on childlessness as well as an employee resource group for childless/free employees that's now serving as a model for other organizations. I've always thought the Brits were miles ahead of us in North America on these issues... hope other employers will follow their example! (All WCW webinars are being recorded and are available on the WCW site, as well as on YouTube.)
    • Yesterday was Aging Without Children Day, and Jody Day hosted a Zoom gathering of "elders" -- older childless women, aged mid-50s through mid-60s. It was a simply fabulous hour of conversation that I only wish could have lasted longer. As I commented, they deserve their own talk show.  :)  Check out the recording on the WCW site!  
    • I'd never heard of Mypoint.tv before this week, but several people have used it to put together short videos for World Childless Week.  British broadcaster Bibi Lynch talked about her own experiences as a childless woman, along with some commentary from Gateway Women's Jody Day. There are other videos about WCW themes posted below Bibi's. Have a look! 
  • New COVID-19 daily case rates here in Ontario,which had at one point dropped below 100 per day, have spiked back up to more than 300. :(  Parties have been identified as major source of infection (!), and in response, the premier has reduced the size of private gatherings allowed in the hot spot areas of Toronto, Ottawa & Peel Region, and set stiff new fines for violations. Kids are still going back to school this week, but over 50 schools have already reported staff and/or student infections. Sigh...
    • Dh has started stockpiling staples on his weekly grocery runs (canned goods, pasta, cleaning supplies, etc. -- and, yes, toilet paper, lol) just in case there's another lockdown imposed, and we're going for haircuts again soon... while we still can...! 
    • The more I think about it, the more certain I am that I'm not going to be able to go "home" to be with my family for Christmas this year... and the more angry I get about it. The virus can't be controlled, of course -- but people's behaviour can -- and it's making me FURIOUS that people are out there partying and not making good choices and not wearing masks (or not wearing them properly -- hello, cover your nose, please...!) -- while I've been holed up at home, trying to be extra careful and do the right thing for more than SIX FRICKIN' MONTHS... so far!!   
  • Today is the first day in at least a week that I can (finally!) see some blue sky among the clouds. It's been horribly grey and overcast -- not only because of cloud cover, but also because of drifting smoke & ash from the wildfires on the west coast -- more than 4,000 km/2,400 miles away! 
  • My L.M. Montgomery Readathon Facebook group will begin discussing "The Blue Castle" next week (which I reviewed here).  Part of the fun of the readathon is following along as volunteer readers read each chapter on videos posted to YouTube. After watching/listening to others reading from the past two books we've discussed, I decided to take the plunge and volunteer to do a video recording of myself (gulp) reading a chapter (Chapter 10, to be precise). I don't especially like the way I look or sound on video, but I love this book & decided I wanted to take part.  (I figure I can always do multiple takes until I'm either satisfied or my voice gives out, lol.) I'm waiting for instructions & haven't recorded my chapter yet... wish me luck!  

Monday, September 14, 2020

#MicroblogMondays: Small pleasures & annoying things

Small pleasures: 
  • Cooler temperatures & less humidity (finally!) = able to have the balcony door open more often. 
    • (Annoying thing: ...but also more grey skies/less sunshine.) 
  • The first fall colours beginning to peek out on the trees. 
  • Lots of great hair days since we resumed getting haircuts in July. :) 
    • (Annoying thing: Hardly anybody witnessing it, since we're mostly at home...!) 
  • New videos of adorable Little Great-Nephew (10 months old this week!) on social media over the past few days: at the apple orchard with his parents, pushing around a walking toy, standing proudly unassisted for a few seconds (before plopping to the ground, lol)... 
  • Starting new book discussions with all of my online reading groups. :) 
  • Lots of great viewing & reading to look forward to over the next few days with World Childless Week

(More) Annoying things: 
  • Having to lecture my soon-to-be-80-year-old mother (AGAIN!) about WEARING A MASK when she goes grocery shopping. 
  • Knowing that, after 6+ months (and now heading into the colder/darker months of fall/winter), we're still nowhere near done with COVID-19 yet. 
  • Not being able to think up anything more original for #MM this week. ;) 

You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here.  

Sunday, September 13, 2020

It's World Childless Week!

Just a quick reminder that World Childless Week starts tomorrow!  Stephanie Phillips and a stellar roster of champions have put together a fabulous week chock full of things to read, watch and participate in. Have a look at the Events page to see what's available to you! 

Karen Malone Wright and Laura LaVoie of The NotMom actually kicked things off today with a Facebook Live chat with Gateway Women's Jody Day. The video of the chat is available on the NotMom Facebook page as well as their YouTube channel.  

Enjoy! :) 

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Back to school (and other odds & ends)

  • Suddenly, fall is in the air. The weather has been noticeably cooler and less humid, albeit still mild enough to be quite pleasant most days. We spent a peaceful, lazy Sunday (recuperating from our day with Great-Nephew, lol) with the balcony door wide open, and very little outside noise. Ahhh!  
  • Today is the traditional first day of school in my province -- and some kids are heading back today, although the rest will trickle into classrooms (or onto Zoom calls) at staggered times over the next week or so, depending on what options their local boards are offering and what their parents have selected. (Although my social media feeds have been flooded with "first day" photos from friends & relatives in the U.S. for a month already!) 
    • This year, of course, on top of the usual "back to school" hoopla, there's the added layer of COVID-19 and endless anxious conversations around that for the last several weeks: "what's your school district doing? what are the options being offered? are you sending your kids or keeping them at home?"  etc. etc. I must say, I do NOT envy parents (or teachers!) who have to make these difficult/impossible decisions!!  But the constant buzz-buzz-buzz is hard to ignore, and adds yet another layer to an already difficult time of year for those of us who are living without the children we wanted, yet subjected to endless conversations about other people's families.
    • Last year, I came up with my own "first day of school post" on social media.  ;)  I decided not to do it again this year. It doesn't seem right to make light of things when there's so much anxiety & tension around the return to school this year. (Plus, it's a wee bit  overcast & chilly this morning (14C/57F at 10 a.m.) to be sitting on the balcony, lol.) But... there's always next year, lol.  ;) 
    • A couple of CNBCers I follow on Twitter responded to a Twitter post from a UK company that grants parents an extra day off on their child's first day of school. While there were many kudos and words of effusive praise in the comments, there were also a few comments from childless/free people asking whether the company would also grant an extra day off to its employees without children. ("Hello... what about us??")(Seems fair enough to me...!) 
    • In a similar vein, the New York Times examined long-standing tensions between parents & non-parents in the workplace and how they've been exacerbated during this pandemic -- specifically in the context of Silicon Valley tech companies. There are currently more than 1,500 comments on the article, and while there are the usual cries of "selfish!" (on both sides of the coin), I thought the level of discussion was actually pretty thoughtful and even-handed, at least among the comments I read (specifically in the NYT Picks and Reader Picks categories). Several astute readers pointed out that if fingers are to be pointed, they should ultimately be pointed at the companies and their human resources policies and benefits.  
  • Apparently, one of the wildfires that's sadly ravaging southern California right now (covering more than 7,000 acres) was sparked by a pyrotechnical device set off at a gender reveal party (!!).  If you HAVE to have a gender reveal (and I know a lot of people question their necessity in the first place...!), there are a lot safer ways to announce "pink or blue"!  
  • In the "TMI" category, I found out while scrolling through Facebook this week that a(nother) high school friend is going to be a first-time grandma, and a friend from our support group already is. (This was within the space of a couple of minutes.) Another high school friend recently welcomed her SIXTH grandchild -- born on her wedding anniversary. Happy for them, of course, but... :( 
  • In the sad & sadly growing category of "my childhood musical heroes are dropping like flies," Ian Mitchell of the Bay City Rollers died this past week. :(  He was just 62. No cause of death was given but I saw several Twitter posts that mentioned throat cancer (likely smoking-related). He was just 17 when he joined BCR in 1976, and stayed with them just 7 months... but during that 7 months, he took part in recording the band's "Dedication" album (here in Toronto), and toured with them across North America that summer -- including a stop in Winnipeg on August 15, 1976. It was my very first concert, age 15 (my 15th-row floor ticket cost all of $6.50). We waited with a small group of fans outside of the arena for the band to arrive -- the limo did not stop but zoomed past us into the underground garage -- but we captured a fuzzy photo of  Ian, smiling and waving at us from the back window. He looked completely terrified the entire time he was onstage, barely heard amid the din of hysterical, shrieking teenaged girls, poor kid. He was a cutie... thanks for the memories. <3 (More of my Roller-related memories here.)

Monday, September 7, 2020

#MicroblogMondays: Tomato time

After three weeks without seeing little Great-Nephew (now 9.5 months old!) :(  we got "the call" to come over on Saturday afternoon. His parents had to go out to run some errands, but his grandparents were already occupied "doing the tomatos" -- i.e., processing tomatos and canning them -- making jars & jars & jars of tomato sauce to replenish the shelves in their "cantina" (uninsulated/cold storage room in the basement). Hence, the call. 

(BIL said he was "calling in the B team," lol.  That's a remark that *could* be hurtful, depending on my frame of mind -- a reminder that we'll never be "the A team," right? -- but I know BIL didn't mean it that way -- and hey, sometimes it's a relief NOT to have "A team" responsibilities, right? ;)  ) 

Before he left, Older Nephew set up the high chair in the garage where BIL & SIL were working. I fed Great-Nephew part of his lunch there, flipped through a few books with him and then (when he started getting a bit restless) took him for a walk in his stroller, while dh walked the dog alongside of us. We were both relieved that he seemed perfectly happy to spend time with me & dh -- although obviously, Mom & Dad rule, and Nonno & Nonna come a close second, lol -- and the grandparents were right there if we really needed them (albeit obviously preoccupied with other things just then). 

Some background: Late August/early September is "tomato time" in the predominantly Italian community where we now live. The supermarkets hereabouts keep up the springtime garden centre structures in their parking lots and, at this time of year, the racks are filled with bushel baskets full of ripe, red Roma tomatos instead of plants and seedlings and bags of mulch. (Also grapes for wine making.)(I keep wanting to get a photo of this someday -- it's quite a sight -- although of course, I'm not at the supermarket much these days...!). Dh noticed a huge increase in the traffic going in & out of the supermarket parking lot the last time he went to get groceries & figures this is why...!  

When dh was a kid, the tomatos (softened first by stirring them together in a big tub/vat over heat) were fed through a grinder by hand (with everyone taking a turn at the crank). These days, many families (including BIL & SIL) have motorized machines that separate the seeds & skins from the pulp and juice and spits them out into big tubs. The finished product is poured into clean, sterilized jars (perhaps with a couple of basil leaves for flavouring), sealed and then heated in a vat of boiling water to create a vacuum seal.

"Doing the tomatos" is often a family affair -- grandparents, parents & kids/grandkids and sometimes aunts, uncles & cousins, all pitching in. Drive through any neighbourhood around here on any weekend at this time of year and you'll see them, gathered in the garage amid stacks of bushel baskets, with the machines whirring & the smells of tomato and basil wafting through the air. (It's usually done out in the garage or yard because it can make quite a mess -- bits of tomato were splattered everywhere!  BIL used the garden hose to wash down the cement garage floor & driveway once they were finished.) Dh was happy to help with Great-Nephew, of course, but otherwise has no desire to participate -- he says he got enough of it as a kid -- and of course, I'm allergic to tomatos anyway. :p  (No wonder I sometimes feel "othered" in this community, right?! -- I'm not a parent, not Italian and I can't even eat tomatos/sauce...!)   

Still, it was fun to finally watch how it's done (after 35 years of marriage!) -- and, of course, spend some quality time with the world's cutest little great-nephew. :)  

You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here.  

Friday, September 4, 2020

Summer re-reads

Two of my online book groups finished their current discussions this week. I've already read & reviewed those books here, but I've been following along as we read & discussed these books, chapter by chapter, and (as I mentioned a while back), I figure a re-read still counts as another book read. ;)  

My D.E. Stevenson group just finished reading & discussing "Katherine Wentworth," which I previously reviewed here.  I find there's a whole new level of appreciation that gets added to a book when you discuss it with others. The plot provoked conversations about stepfamilies, class differences, the meaning of personal freedom versus controlling families and more. I now find myself hankering for a month-long vacation at a cottage by a lake/loch in the Scottish highlands, like Katherine's... ;) (a girl can dream, COVID notwithstanding...!). My original Goodreads rating of 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4, still stands. :)

Next up: "Amberwell" (which I already finished and reviewed here). We've already plotted out the schedule for several future reads/discussions, including the sequel to "Katherine Wentworth," "Katherine's Marriage," and the sequel to "Amberwell," "Summerhills," later this year/early next (and "The Young Clementina" thrown in for some variety...!). 

*** *** *** 

My L.M. Montgomery Readathon group on Facebook just finished our summer-long discussion of "Jane of Lantern Hill" -- appropriately, since the plot involves Jane discovering the delights of a summer on Prince Edward Island, reunited with her long-estranged father. I eagerly gobbled up this book -- an old favourite that I hadn't revisited in many years -- when it was first announced (reviewed here), and have been following along with the video readings of each chapter and subsequent discussions. My original rating of four stars still stands (possibly 4.5, albeit not quite 5).  Next up (starting Sept. 21st): "The Blue Castle," another of my LMM favourites, which I've already read & reviewed here

These are Books #33 & 34 read to date in 2020 (Book #9 (!!) finished in August & Book #1 finished in September), bringing me to 113%!! of my 2020 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 30 books. I have completed & now exceeded my challenge goal for the year by 4 books, and am (for the moment, anyway...!) 14 (!) books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2020 tagged as "2020 books." 

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Right now

Right now... (an occasional meme, alternating from time to time with "The Current"). (Explanation of how this started in my first "Right now" post, here. Also my first "The Current" post, here.)

August was Full Month #5 (going on 6!!) of life in the age of COVID-19. (How is it already September?? So much for summer...) Between the heat & humidity, the ongoing (NOISY) roadwork behind our building and, oh yeah, COVID, we hardly even had the balcony door open this month, let alone ventured out of the house. :(   On top of dh's usual weekly forays to the supermarket for groceries and for takeout dinners on Saturday nights, we treated ourselves to gelato once, ventured into the drugstore once and to the bookstore twice. We celebrated Younger Nephew's 28th birthday at BIL's early in the month (on the deck outside, somewhat socially distanced -- although the birthday boy had to share the limelight with little Great-Nephew, who was clearly the star of the show, lol) and went there for coffee one other time, where Great-Nephew again provided the entertainment. :)  We also got our second COVID haircuts (the usual six weeks after the first ones) and marked 22 years since the loss of our Katie by taking flowers to the cemetery.  

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I feel like some of these answers will be repetitive from previous months, since not a lot has been going on... but here goes! 

Reading: I seem to have rediscovered my reading mojo again this summer!  I read 9 (!!) books in August (all reviewed on this blog & tagged “2020 books”):  So far this year, I've read 33 books, bringing me to 110%!! of my 2020 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 30 books. I have completed & now exceeded my challenge goal for the year by 3 books, and am (for the moment, anyway...!) 14 (!) books ahead of schedule. :)  

Current read(s):   
  • "Hoax" by Brian Stelter
A few recently purchased titles (in both digital and paper formats):
Watching:  Too much news. :p  Some documentaries on PBS & CNN (including a lot of mindless stuff about the British royal family, lol). Movie theatres are open again, but neither dh nor I have any desire to go there yet -- although we usually go to early Sunday afternoon matinees, which are generally not very crowded. (Eating theatre popcorn is half the fun of going to the movies, and how do you do it when you're supposed to be wearing a mask??) I took part in a couple of Zoom/Instagram Live events, including a lecture sponsored by the art gallery where I have a membership, and a couple of author interviews. 

(Dh is switching back & forth between an NBA basketball game and NHL hockey game as I type, with no spectators in either arena. This may sound very un-Canadian, but hockey in August just does NOT cut it for me...!) 

Listening: I haven't listened, because there are no full episodes yet, but (via Jody Day of Gateway Women) I just learned about a new podcast for childless & childfree women in Australia & New Zealand called (un)Ripe Community. I'm sure those of us living elsewhere will find it applicable too. ;) 

Following:  UNfollowing is more like it lately...!  And I have a feeling I'll be doing more of it before the year/U.S. election is over... :p  :(   (Heaven help me if we wind up with an election here in Canada this fall too...!)  

Buying (besides books, lol):  I couldn't resist splurging on this stunning sterling silver Byzantine bracelet from my favourite jewelry maker. :)  Now, to have somewhere to wear it!! (around the house with my shorts & tank tops really doesn't cut it with this one...!) 

Eating/Drinking:  Our takeout dinners this month included some of our favourites:  chicken fingers & fries, rotisserie chicken, Chinese food, and wood-oven pizzas. 

Wearing: Masks, more than ever. They are now mandated in all common areas of our building, as well as all indoor public places hereabouts. (Not that I've been getting out of our unit much, but...!) I am glad I got a couple of those multi-packs of masks from Old Navy (even if they took forever to get here...!). They have been well used. 

Walking:  I'm embarrassed to admit we didn't get out walking at all this past month. :(  It was, for the most part, just way too hot & humid on too many days (& threatening rain or raining on the days that it wasn't). Maybe once the cooler autumn weather arrives, we'll get back into the habit?    

(Fortunately (?), our annual physicals, which had been postponed from May to August because of COVID, have been postponed again -- I was told to call back in October to see if we can schedule something for November. So I still have a few more months before I'm subjected to an official weigh in and blood pressure check...!) 

Wanting:  Nothing much in the way of material things right now. A little more variety in the day would be nice, and it would be nice to see Great-Nephew a little more often -- but, pandemic, so beggars can't be choosers... 

Trying:  To be a little more "zen," live in the moment and not fret too much about the future -- things that haven't happened yet and things I can't do much about changing anyway. 

Loving: The slightly cooler (more fall-like) weather these past few days (& thus having the balcony door open all day).  

Missing:  Little Great-Nephew. :(  (Two weeks+ since we last saw him. :(  )  My parents. :(   Family & friends generally.  Aside from BIL & his family, we don't do a lot of socializing, but when we do, it's usually in the summer. And summer is almost over...

Feeling: Somewhat claustrophobic at times. :p  Less and less hopeful (as school reopenings under less-than-ideal pandemic conditions loom on the very near horizon -- and, judging from what's been happening already in the States, where schools have already started opening in many places), that I'm going to make it home to Manitoba to see my family for Christmas. :(  It would be the first Christmas I've ever NOT spent with them (like, SIXTY Christmases!), and while it's not something I want to think about (and not something I thought I would HAVE to think about until both of my parents were gone), I feel like I have to start considering the possibility & imagining what a stay-at-home Christmas -- in the age of COVID & social distancing -- might look like... :(