31 Dec 2011

Wishing You A Happy New Year From Jabba's Barge

I'm still gross and sick, so I'm spending the bulk of my time laying down while sniffling, hacking, consuming liquids, and having impromptu, drool-heavy naps. This activity, combined with my slug-like physique, has led me to dub the platform bed that I'm conducting this important business from as "Jabba's Barge". Maybe it's the Buckley's, but this all seems like a pretty accurate reflection of what's happening in my room right now (except instead of demanding the death of Han Solo, I'm simply satisfied with orange juice and Jane Austen films. That, and Patrick no longer fits into the metal bikini):



Sadly, this is how I'm going to be spending New Year's Eve this year: out with a pathetic gurgle.

Hopefully your New Year's Eve is more fun than that and that 2012 is your best year ever!

Thanks for reading the blog and I hope to see you next year! U kalle rah doe kankee kung!

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30 Dec 2011

I'm Home, I Have a Horrible Cold ...

... and the only reasonable way to deal with it is to lie in bed, drink orange juice and watch this:



Ah, Mr. Darcy. Is there anything that isn't made better by you?

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26 Dec 2011

Do They Know It's Boxing Day?

Greetings from San Sebastian, Spain!

Today is our last full day here before we ship off to Barcelona, so we hope to make it a good one. The plan is to take a look at the city from atop a great hill (that can mercifully be reached by some kind of pull car. Señorita Fatty here has been assured of this), eat pintxos, drink Getariako Txakolina, and perhaps pick up a few deals on some cute plates I saw for my next home décor project.

Yesterday was Christmas and it didn't feel particularly Christmas-y, but it was still great as it was spent with family: Patrick, my sister, my brother-in-law, and my parents. Awesome, no? As most of the shops and restaurants were closed, we spent the day exchanging little gifts, having mimosas (with real champagne, n'est pas), watching Apple TV movies, playing cards, eating chocolate and going on little walks.

A Christmas gift to my well-travelled dad (who refers to himself as "Uncle Travelling Matt" now and again) from his Muppet-obsessed daughters:


Mel and Ben with treats from Canada:

My pretty mother, modelling her new necklace - all before she had a chance to put on make-up and do her hair (but isn't she still lovely?):

My handsome husband, modelling his new beard (picture was also taken before he had a chance to put on make-up):

My sister and I are crazy in love. I act like posing with one's fist on her hip is somehow natural:

My whole family in San Seb on Christmas Day:


You see how we're all in coats? The weather here is nice, but, like, mild-September-day-nice to put it into a Canadian context. Still totally pleasant - but you can just imagine how crazyballs amazing the place probably would be in warm weather. Dreamy!

Blue skies, old buildings:

It was the birthday of the dude on top of that hill ....

... but we didn't go into one of these to celebrate it:

Rather, we went to a holy place more our style (my mom's maiden name is "Martinez", so this shot is perfect as at wilder points in our lives, "Bar" was each of our middle names, too):

Homemade vin chaud and playing a very classy, strategic, intellectually-challenging game from our childhood:

Hope your Christmas (however you celebrate or don't celebrate it) was happy and healthy!

Chat soon!

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24 Dec 2011

Paris Does Everything Better

This blog post is about Paris even though I'm in Spain now; that's partially because my first day in Spain was spent feeling sick and napping and pooping and basically acting like a miserable cow. I think it's my body's way of expressing that it's angry to have left France. I keep telling myself that, because the likely reality that I just can't drink wine and eat cheese like I used to is too sad to accept.

But anyway - Paris!

Even though it isn't snowy, being in the city around the Christmas season has been pretty cool as we've experienced different aspects of Paris we hadn't witnessed before. For example, they have these Christmas villages (Festival Noel) set up all over the place that sell cheap gifts and serve what is the Parisian version of carnival food.

You know how at North American carnivals, everything wrong in the world is combined, cooked in grease and then hilariously called "food"? The Parisian version is like this except made by people who understand the concept of shame. It's still "junk food", it just isn't filled with such obvious self-hatred. For example, the thing that we would call a "cheesedog" at the fair, in France consists of a fresh baguette and a sausage that has been smeared with dijon mustard and topped with melted brie.

Mouthgasm.

I wish I had pictures. We forgot our camera's USB cord at home - but here are some pics from other people on the Internet:

These are all from Soundlandscape's Blog:

Vin chaud! A very tasty hot wine that tastes quite a bit like sangria if you served it piping hot:


Chestnuts roasting on an open fire:

Can you imagine anyone at a country fair serving deep friend Mars bars in a chef's outfit?:
A booth:


The festival isn't the only thing the French do better - they also do 1950s Christmas tackiness better than us.

For example, take a look at this fantastically bizarre "spray tree" from the December 1957 Better Homes & Gardens:

Now take a look at what you can find in Paris - the same idea but in a glorious, over-the-top red!
From Art Girl's Guide to Paris
Le swoon.

We are now in San Sebastián, Spain - the Basque region known as a foodie and party capital of the world. The streets are filled with restaurants that specialize in pintxo, little tapas of every fantastic variety. I cannot speak the language at all, so there will be lots of grunting and gesturing toward things I want to eat. In other words, I'll be acting as I normally do.

Ciao for now!

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22 Dec 2011

Things You Should Know About French Fashion

Image source:
http://easyfashion.blogspot.com/
  1. Everyone (men and women) knows how to wear a scarf. It is never lazily tied in a knot in front of your neck, like how yours truly dares to venture out into the world. It is expertly draped in ways that look effortless but aren't - should you be a North American trying to recreate the look.
  2. They hem their pants. If you see a scuffed pant leg, it is a sure sign the person is either homeless or a tourist.
  3. Unless they're wearing a sweater and jeans, you can bet the outfit has been seen by a tailor. "Why wear something that isn't for me?" is the rationale de nationale.
  4. The final touch to the perfect, tailored, well-thought Parisian ensemble is to urinate in it. That's the only explanation I can come up with for the persistent (and I mean persistent; from every Metro station to the most Jesus-y corners of the Louvre) waft of eau de peepee that I kept smelling everywhere I went. I figure wetting yourself is like tucking a carnation into your jacket lapel - it's the extra touch of effort that gets one noticed.

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20 Dec 2011

La Vie Ne Suce Pas (Or Something Like That)

It's not the most amazing or flattering picture of Patrick and I, but what's fantastic about it is that it was taken yesterday in this city on top of this thing:

It's early in the morning here now, but the day is already filled with promises of pain au chocolat, a visit with Mona Lisa, and many, many glasses of stupidly affordable champagne.

Wee!

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15 Dec 2011

And I Would Do Anything For Love ...

I'd run right into hell and back.

I would do anything for love,

I'll never lie to you and that's a fact.

But I'll never forget the way you feel right now,

Oh no, no way.

And I would do anything for love,

Oh I would do anything for love,

I would do anything for love,

But I won't do that:


No, I won't do that:

Image Source: Betty Crocker fruitcake ad (back cover of Woman's Day, December 1957)

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14 Dec 2011

Our Half-Assed 1950s Christmas & Why I'm Going to Ohio Next Year

Of all the places in the world that are on my travel wishlist, I can't pretend Columbus, Ohio was included - until now. Thanks to my Twitter friend Jodi, I've just learned that this fall the Ohio Historical Foundation plans to unveil a fully functional, totally authentic, super dreamy 1950s home as part of a project to educate people on how Ohioans lived in that decade. I have a feeling that if I walked into this, I'd go into full-blown 50s Housewife Experiment mode faster than you can say "sleeper cell":



Roadtrip?

But that's nearly a year away ... what am I up to now? Getting out the holiday decorations, of course! As you might recall, we did a 1950s Christmas last year, so I was all jazzed to break out the vintage and vintage-inspired holiday décor again this year.

Alas, a small and very gross-looking problem was revealed when I took out the paper garland:


When you're sliding into first and you feel something burst ...

Blarf. Perhaps someone out there who has more than a foggy Grade 11 understanding of chemistry can help explain this, but it seems like the glue holding the white pieces of crepe paper together oxidized (?) into a most unfortunate colour. And since the song does not say "deck the halls with boughs of shit stains", I decided not to use these. To quote The Great and Powerful Snooki: Waaah.

Thankfully, my darling aluminium (or aluminum - as spelled on the packaging) tree and mercury glass ornaments appeared free of anything that could be interpreted as a bodily secretion:

We rearranged the furniture so that I could put the vintage Christmas tree in the window as to ensure the neighbours knew that we were the weirdos on the block. Mission accomplished:

And with the colour wheel and rotating stand flipped on, it just gets better and better. Every time I turn those on, this song goes off in my head. Camp-a-rific!:

(You can see the tree in motion in this nerdtacular video I created last year.)

Our Putz village, compliments of the workers in "Occupied Japan", also made a reappearance. I should really get some white-wired lights instead of these green-wired ones; it sort of looks like my village is surrounded by festive barbed wire. Ah well, but I like it all the same:



And besides that stuff and a few vintage angels and a bottle-brush tree strewn about here and there, that's the extent of my holiday decorating.

Meh?

Well - I'll probably do a bit more for our big dinner on Saturday, but I can't say I'll bother with this interesting find from the December 1957 issue of Better Homes and Gardens:

Nothing says "happy birthday, Baby Jesus" like a pineapple made of newspaper. Or a flaming turkey ushered in with a song. Or a flaming cabbage at a cocktail party. Ah, the things you learn.

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13 Dec 2011

A Holiday Suggestion for the Hysterical

If you're one of those people who believes there is a war on Christmas going on (to which my usual reply is either tackling a Christmas tree or waterboarding anyone with a manger on their yard), I found an ad in my December 1969 Woman's Day magazine that should help you out.

All you need to do is emerge from the kitchen with this flaming turkey in your hands on Christmas Day, and I assure you, you will hear shouts of "Jesus!" and "Oh, Christ!" and perhaps even "Call a priest!":

Brought to you by everyone's favourite gourmet, Wrigley's Spearment Gum.

Hallelujah!

I'll understand if you want to skip the suggestion of singing "Happy Turkey" to the tune of "Happy Birthday" as suggested in the ad; but I'll also respect your beliefs if The Flaming Turkey Song quickly becomes a cherished family tradition as well. The bird, after all, did die for us.

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7 Dec 2011

My Somewhat-Sexist-1950s-Inspired-Home-Décor Theory

When we bought our home this summer, I was really excited to get to clean two bathrooms instead of just one decorate and buy some new furniture. I had the same IKEA couch for 11 years, and while it was fine and will continue to labour under our asses for years to come in the basement, I really, really wanted something new for our furniture-less front room. And so, like everyone in North America who has a vagina and way too much time on her hands, I got all obsessed with Pinterest and pawing the Internet for ideas.

But the things that really got me thinking were my 1950s materials. It wasn't the specific design suggestions that got my old noggin thumping, but the way everything in the magazines seemed to point out whether something was masculine or feminine. Boy things and girl things were clearly defined - even when it came to food (remember the post from the 50s Housewife Experiment that talked about making meals for husbands with "masculine tastes"?). As you can imagine, home décor choices were discussed in a similar way. In fact, one article I read in The Bride's Reference Book titled "The Masculine Bill of Rights" specifically lays out what men like in home furnishings and advises women not to get too carried away with "feminine" details. Like so:


A man needs furniture large enough to accommodate his binge drinking.

Clearly, this advice to respect the Masculine Bill of Rights fell onto deaf ears for some. Here's a 1955 ad from Armstrong that features pink linoleum floors, a pink rug, pink walls, pink curtains, pink canopy beds (two of 'em!), and pink furniture that might have you wonder if a giant Barbie was about to walk through the door:

The picture above is why articles like "The Masculine Bill of Rights" were written. And maybe those articles worked because we don't see ads or rooms that are that unabashedly girly anymore. That is, unless it belongs to a little girl with a princess-obsession. But an adult woman? Or a married couple? As if.

While we still identify some décor items as feminine or masculine, I think a lot of everyday people (or maybe just me?) try to appease everyone in their home by turning to items that feel gender neutral. We don't go for those "feminine" prints or pieces because we worry they'll look childish or silly - as if we haven't outgrown our little princess ways. Or we worry that by having something "girly", even something small, we will somehow upset our male partners - as if a simple floral bedspread could make a man uncomfortable.

But the problem with gender neutral décor is that it's often really, really boring. Unless it's a super fun and eccentric piece that defies gender, it can come across rather personality-less. This doesn't mean that it's not nice looking, it's just ... rather forgettable. You can see what I mean when you look at the pictures of our condo:
Yes, part of the blandness is the never-ending IKEA, but the neutrality of the place also lent to the whole 'meh' factor. In looking back at those pictures, I found that the ones I liked best were the ones that had rooms with flowers - a nice unmistakably feminine touch.

And so when we were creating the room in our new home, I specifically went for things that struck me as masculine or feminine. It needed a him or a her-ness to it. Eventually, we pulled the place together. Our couch reminded me of a nicely tailored men's suit. The curtains are bold yet undeniably feminine. The teak coffee table is simple, but definitely on the butch side. And our area rug is like a woman's colourful makeup palette. (I had a naughty 'rug' joke lined up there but decided to take that high road I keep hearing about. I just want you to know that.) I should probably change the lampshades to something with more colour and I realize I need to fill our bookcases in a more appealing way (it feels rather lacking) - but I love the direction it's going! It all looks way nicer when the sun is shining in, but here are some pics:


And you know who pointed out the rug to me in the store? Patrick. Because it turns out that if you have a nice balance of things (respecting that whole Masculine and Feminine Bill of Rights), dudes balls don't actually shrivel up around pretty stuff. In fact, they really quite admire it.

If I get my act in gear, next post will have some pics with our Christmas stuff up. You just know that aluminium tree is making a return appearance.

In the meantime, tell me about your home décor theories and practices!

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3 Dec 2011

35 Facts About My Parents That I'm Going To Share With The Internet Whether They Like It Or Not (Because They're Not The Boss Of Me Anymore)

35. It's my parents' 35th wedding anniversary today!
34. My mom's name is Marie-Paule, but she just goes by Marie to appease the anglophones of Alberta.
33. My father's name is Joe, he has always gone by Joe, even though in his high school yearbook he's referred to as "Joey". He claims he has no idea why someone would have written that.
32. In my mom's high school yearbook, she was given the nickname "Lips". She claims it's because she has big lips, but we all know that isn't true.
31. I mean, this is what she looked like back then. You just know she was beating the boys off:


30. With a stick. WITH A STICK, you sickos.
29. But surely my dad was quite the catch, too:

28. Uh ... anyway ... they got married in a tiny ceremony at city hall. They had a party at their home afterwards.
27. The bride was 19. She wore a white dress and gigantic glasses.
26. The groom was 26. He wore a velvet clip-on bow tie.
25: See for yourself:

24. It was the 70s.
23. Evidence:

22. They lived in a town that looks like what every American thinks of when they think of Canada:

21. Back then, they did weird things for fun:

20. And wore a lot of short shorts with sandals with other people who wore short shorts and sandals:

19. But then after a couple of years, they ruined it all:

18. Parenting did not always come naturally:

17. But despite that, they decided to have another kid and this weirdo showed up:

16. And because no one used sunscreen back then, their older child turned into a little Mexican. The couch stayed the same:

15. See - no sunscreen!

14. It got to the point that the little Mexican eventually turned into a small Indian woman. And the couch still stayed the same:

13. They celebrated many Christmases together and styled their children's hair into festive mullets during the winter months to make up for their lack of ethnically-confusing suntans:

12. Now that the family had conquered style, Marie decided to finally get a new couch. Actually, she just reupholstered the old ugly one. This was right around the time the eldest child's looks peaked and she started to look Italian, while the younger one had turned into a boy:

11. But Marie and Joe kept up the glamour; Marie with a can of hairspray a day and Joe with his promise to not let his beard get all "I-am-the-leader-of-a-cult" again ...

10.  ... like it had been in the '80s:
9. And Joe and Marie kept on living it up with things like curling at MacDonald Island, hanging out with their friends, and working at companies that make Al Gore cry.
8. Eventually their children grew up and moved away and Marie and Joe had nothing left to live for celebrated this by moving into a whole bunch of houses - first to Edmonton, then to Saskatoon, and finally settling in Okotoks.
7. They've retired and now do lots of travelling, especially to areas of the world that allow them to let it all hang out:
6. But when they're home they like to do the very opposite of what I like to do, and that's go outside and not eat. They especially like it if this outdoorsy-ness involves hiking up the side of a mountain:
5. But they also do things that I can relate to:
4. And during all this time and despite all the challenges - like cancer, stresses of raising a family, 80s fashion experiments, and jerk children who spill family stories on the Internet like the time Marie went nuts and threw out ALL of the children's toys - they actually still seem to like each other.
3. You can even see it in other people's wedding pictures:
2. They are such a nice couple and such nice people that even when their silly children talk to each other on Skype they say things like, "how cute are Mom and Dad?" and "I love how they're still in love" and "they really showed us what good marriage was" and "I can't believe how lucky we were to have them as parents". It gets even more mushier and smooshier than that if one or both of the children has been drinking.
1. Everybody who knows them, and even some of the people who don't (right, Internet?), wish them a very happy 35 years of marriage and many, many more happy years together.

We love you.

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Need words? I'm a Toronto-based freelance writer who injects great ones into blogs, websites, magazines, ads and more. So many services, one lovely Jen (with one 'n').

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